Seb is back with another piece of Premodern prose. Enjoy! / Martin
The meta seems to be shifting in Premodern, which is nice to see in a format with a static card pool, aside from bans and unbans. Premodern’s neighbour format, 93/94, has the same predicament and only uses cards from the years it’s named after. We might think we should be able to find the best deck, but Magic is a complicated game. For example, if a lot of red is played, you can always tick up that number of Circle of Protection: Red in your sideboard, right? This is a super-secret tech.
In 93/94 the best deck is most likely “The Deck”, but in Premodern there is no correspondence. We can pick out cards at their face value and find some powerful stuff. The Deck is abusing the restricted cards in all colours, but is essentially a white- and blue-based control deck. Mikael Magnusson used a somewhat similar approach when building his 4-Colour Control deck (an early version can be found in the decks section). Swords to Plowshares and sweepers hopefully keeps the board clean and Wall of Blossoms stands in the way for a lot of the early creatures. Absorb and Counterspell together with Fact or Fiction, Impulse and Accumulated Knowledge let’s you interact, refill your hand and only play spells on opponents turn. A classic draw-go setup.
Gaea’s Blessing is a sweet addition that keeps you going for as long as you want to. I actually lost a game with 4-C Control recently just by being silly and stupid. I had four cards left in the library and played a Fact or Fiction, and my opponent split into an empty and a four-card pile including a Gaea’s Blessing. I figured I would not even be able to pick the empty pile so I just scooped em’ up. You live, you learn.
If decking your opponent is not your way of winning, Decree of Justice is the way to go. Playing four colours also gives you a great access to all the superb sideboard cards that can really shut down the opponent. Teferi’s Response is noteworthy here since Wasteland can give you a stumble when your deck has a high number of non-basics. The best part is that it destroys Rishadan Port and Mishra’s Helix too.
We had a minor tournament in Stockholm earlier this year (read my report here) in which Mr. Magnusson participated with this updated list:
The most important changes in the main deck is the addition of the two versatile Fire // Ice, an Akroma’s Vengeance and a Humility. Humility is great against all the gobbos and elves running around and shuts down all enters-the-battlefield effects of creatures like Deranged Hermit. This is probably one of the reasons why the Wall of Blossoms had to go. Akroma’s Vengeance is solid in a meta with Tinker and other artifact based decks. It’s also a sweet trump against Enchantress and other shenanigans that might mess up the board. The miser Lat-Nam’s Legacy lets you shuffle in a Gaea’s Blessing or some unwanted cards in game one. If we scan the changes among the lands Seafloor Debris is a cool little trick that enables your Reflecting Pools. Regarding Dust Bowl, Mikael stated after the tournament that it shone and solely won him some games.
Mr. Sundberg has made a big impact with new brews but this time he decided to sleeve up a classic UW Standstill deck with some techy choices. Lands is a cool archetype that also uses Standstill and lately we also have seen Jeff Ecklund use it in his UR Stifle-Nought aka Dreadstill deck that made an impact on the tournament scene here. Dreadstill is more of a combo/aggro deck than the UW version of “Landstill”. The UW deck thrives on not doing anything and working through Standstill with cards such as Mishra’s Factory and cycling Decree of Justice. As Martin mentioned in his deck archetype walkthrough, Stifleing a cycled Decree of Justice is in some ways a mirror breaker. Stifle has a variety of uses in Premodern since Wasteland might be a problem and it hits some combo finishes. Erik opted to play a pair of Stifle in the Swedish Nationals, but keep in mind that Yawgmoth’s Bargain was still legal at that point, with Academy Rector being an important target. Now we have Devourer Combo to think about too, but nevertheless, catching the opponent during a fetch is the best feeling in the world.
And then you see your opponent’s shoulders slump and something dies in their eyes.
Aaanyhow. 4-Colour Control plays a lot of land, and Landstill too. You really want to play a land each turn after you play that Standstill. Then you get to deploy a big Decree of Justice or, as in Sundbergs build, you can start Dust Bowling the hell out of your opponent’s lands leaving him with fewer resources when Standstill eventually cracks. Landstill usually leans heavily on Standstill to draw you more cards, but you must be able to sweep away the early threats in order to do that. In 4-Colour Control you have a more varied assortment of cards that refill your hand, with Accumulated Knowledge and Intuition to get you over the top. If we would see these decks battle out, I would still give it to the Standstill deck because of the extra Decrees and Dust Bowl. But then again, after sideboard, who knows? If we would see Teferi’s Response on that Dust Bowl activation…
Playing Landstill, you really need to go down on colours since you play a lot of colourless mana sorces. That’s a reason why we see Mana Leak. The deck is best when it’s interacting at least on turn 2 and that’s also why it has fewer lands coming into play tapped. Some older versions of the deck have used Cunning Wish and I’ve also seen versions with Enlightened Tutor. Tutor let’s you fetch cards like Standstill, Seal of Cleansing, Powder Keg and Humility. You also get more leverage out of many precious cards from the sideboard, so I do think that plan is worth exploring, as it gives you “extra” copies of each of your hate-cards. Maybe if we combine it with Mikael’s tech and add Lat-Nam’s Legacy we could make it work?
Regarding the sideboard, most of the control decks we have viewed seem to have in common a few things. Sligh has been coming and going in the top spots of every major tournament so far, and to take a recent example, two out of the three Sligh decks in the Northern Swedish Championships made top 4. Blue blasts are needed. They give you the cheap interaction you need, and in particular they quench those pesky Goblin Lackeys barking at you on turn 1, wanting to invite his friends over too.
You have to sit down and think about what you might meet if you’re playing a tournament. Personally, I think Warmth is a good choice alongside maybe a Circle of Protection: Red if you want to have game against Sligh. You can consider playing Chill but it’s probably better if you are more aggressive yourself. You might give Propaganda a go if you want to slow things down and are expecting a lot of aggro creature strategies. Dream Tides is an option, but you probably need to be able to destroy it if you want to win with Decree. The 4-C Control deck has the possibility of playing Slice and Dice or even Pyroclasm. I don’t like Powder Keg, as it is a very slow and situational card, but playing UW you might need it in this case.
In a tournament a few years back, I was watching a match that went to time. On the very last turn we saw a player trying to string together a win with his Psychatog deck, playing spell after spell, while the opponent sat there leaning back and just waiting for it to be a draw.
– I might manage to get there!
You need some graveyard hate, and the go-to card is Tormod’s Crypt. Light of Day is an interesting choice if you expect Suicide Black or Psychatog decks. I would probably play Aura of Silence or an Energy Flux if I was expecting the Devourer Combo deck or Tinker decks. Null Rod is an option here, too. Cursed Totem is a worse version of Humility in my opinion, but it’s cheaper, and maybe at the point where you can cast Humility, Wrath of God would do the trick anyhow (I am looking at you elves, grinning and standing there all smug with your pointy ears). Yes! and you might want to play a Hibernation if you expect a lot of green doing silly stuff.
And there we have it. Sitting on counterspell after counterspell and knowing you have already won the game is a feeling that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. If you haven’t, give it a try! And if you have questions or rude remarks, share them won’t you? e.g. in the Premodern Facebook group!
‘Til next time!
-– I am Seb.