Two Weeks, Three Decks

Hello again everyone. We’re hot off the tails of Gencon, Grand Prix Denver, and the ARG Invitational in back to back weeks. For me these weeks have been a blur of travel, preparation, seeing friends, and playing Force of Will! We’re getting deep into spoilers at this point, and Worlds 2018 is coming up shortly, so these past two weeks have been my personal farewell to Lapis + Reiya New Frontiers. From here out I’m looking and working on New Valhalla Cluster Constructed and post-rotation New Frontiers. Still, I have 2 weeks of play to talk about, 3 decks to share, and an 11-2-1 (Win-Loss-Draw) combined record between these events and decks, so lets dig into it.

First up, my list from Gencon. For Gencon, I wanted to play something a little more rogue than my picks for Denver, so I went back to a Reiya list I’d theory-crafted for an article a while back, and made some updates. The original list was looking to dig heavily into white, using a combination of Reiya’s naturally large flying body to play a Resuscitating Will J-Ruler aggro plan. That original list was powerful and proactive, but was pretty linear and had fairly weak early turns, often being well behind by the time Reiya could judgement. I decided to blend it with the cards I like from the Darkness, Wind, Fire Scarlet list I wrote on a few weeks back to both give it a more robust plan of attack and shore up it’s low levels of interaction. I tested this hybrid list some against my teammates, and bounced the list against some of my friends for unbiased feedback and input (thanks Brandan and Ryan), and sleeved up this beast:

The deck’s plan is fairly straighforward, as I wanted to keep the proactive nature of the original Reiya list intact. The plan is still to present evasive threats that shirk off removal as often as possible, so turns 3, 4, and 5 are almost always devoted building your own board (unless you are in a match against a much more aggressive list, where you need to play back a turn so you can weave in your cheap interaction with your threats, taking a more midrange-control role). It may seem odd to start in the mid-to-late turns when describing the list, but it’s important to have this in mind to utilize turns 1 and 2 best. If we want to go Grimm, into Inheritor Lapis, into Judgement holding up a 1-will interactive spell with no acceleration, our first couple turns need to set the stage for this. This list has a lot of cheap interaction, with 22 of our spells costing one will or less. This makes our goal the first two turns to fire off 3-4 pieces of interaction, minimizing opposing board development and stripping opposing hands of the limited number of spells that effectively interact with the threats we present.

Put all that together, and this list is one of the most resilient proactive lists I’ve played this season. Our threats are all flying, have some level of resistance to removal (capping at full barrier), and we only need a small number of cards to execute our gameplan; to execute our plan a we need 2 flying threats, 3 cheap early spells (with glint having remant online naturally), and then a last 1-will spell to use during Reiya’s judgement turn. That’s a total of 6 cards of our opening 5 plus 4 draw steps. This gives makes it easy to draw to that plan consistenly, gives hands room for redundancy to dodge discard, and makes maximum use of our will. This also leaves minimal room for comebacks from your opponent. After putting them off-balance early, the threats in this list put them on the clock to lose at Turn 6 regularly, giving them a scant few draw steps to try and come back, and room for multiple points of removal at the top of the curve (Rieya’s activated ability, Arrival of the Hero, Final Battle, and Sword of the New Moon) and a couple cards and full use of our will to protect the closing turn from last ditch efforts. This is also a deck that plays with a significant information advantage. Seven pieces of hand disruption, along with remnant on 4 of them, means that you will often play with very little unknown about your opponent’s hand.

That said, this list isn’t without weaknesses (or everyone would be playing it already), so it’s important to understand those too. First, while the the body size of our threats, combined with their ability to fairly quickly make paying life awkward, makes them less weak to Final Battle, we still have a very limited number of impactful threats. A well placed Final Battle can leave you scrabbling to reach, so keep an eye out for it in early disruption, and consider pacing your threats a bit if you suspect they’ve drawn one (and prior information makes it seem possible to do so).
Second, this is not a deck with a very late game. It’s intended to consistently and efficiently perform in the early and mid turns, and sacrifices card advantage to achieve this. Each turn from 6 on will see opposing decks likely to gain advantage and pull away from your ability to close.
Lastly, this deck is very focused game 1, and as such suffers a certain amount of risk in a few specific game one scenarios. Against dedicated aggressive decks, like Kirik, your game one will be VERY tight, leaning a little bit on good draws to let you see a couple pieces of actual removal from your limited maindeck supply (too much discard and cancel effects will leave you behind and make it hard to turn the corner). This gets a little easier after sideboard, with a full 10 cards coming in to shore up your games 2 and 3 (more on the specifics of that further down), but game one will be at a disadvantage there. Time Spinning Witch is similarly tight, with us looking to tap out on several middle turns, and only discard to meaningfully interact with her in game one. Laurite comes in to augment discard in later games, and Blood Ritual comes in to augment our closing speed, but you’ll need to get good value of hand disruption to make progress game one.
These issues also put some extra onus on the pilot when playing the deck. While our gameplan is fairly straightforward it falls into the same trap aggro decks often fall into, where it’s efficiency and sequencing needs can punish misplays and make each decision point wide-impact. Your mulligan decisions and interaction on the first couple turns will set the course and scenario for your entire game, especially since you’re unlikely to interact again until turn 5. That said, it’s immensely rewarding to good pilots, and feels crushingly powerful when executed correctly.

As mentioned above, this list has a very focused game 1, and as such sideboards pretty heavily in certain matches. So, let’s go over the plan for certain matches.

Against Scheherazade:
Out
-1 Sword of the New Moon
In
+1 Blood Ritual

Here, we’re pretty much setup in game one the way we expect to need for the match. As such, we’re only making a minor tweak. We use a decent amount of our mysteries early and Gill and Grimm both refuel us for later Glints, so we just want to mitigate our reliance on Mystery counters a little bit, so we lose one sword. Blood Ritual insulates vs losing a Gill to Final Battle, and do a lot of damage combined with Resuscitating will, and also just speeds up our clock a bit, since Sherry is arguably the best long game deck around right now.

Against Kirik Rerik:
Out
1 Thought Control, 2 Faerur’s Spell, 2 Severing Winds, 1 Grimm of the Crimson Moon, 2 Flourishing Hope, 1 The Final Battle, 1 Flourishing Hope
In
2 Dark Riding Hood, 1 Miscalculation, 3 Naughty Child’s Chastising, 3 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, 1 Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid

Here is the match where we sideboard the hardest. Discard and Cancel’s both have purpose in this match, but we end up dead in the water with too much of either drawn. So, we trim some of each to make room for more removal, including a small amount of incidental lifegain. We’ll cap that off with Laurite and Last Days as more impactful green interaction. This should give the mass of effective interaction to line up sequences involving lining up paired turns of 1-will interaction and 1-turn behind threats (be sure to mulligan for more 2-drop threats in your opener)

Agaisnt The Time Spinning Witch
Out
1 Sword of the New Moon, 2 Faerur’s Spell, 1 Severing Winds
In
3 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, 1 Blood Ritual

In this match, we’re simply trading out cancels, which TSW can both play around and has natural resilience agaisnt, for Laurites. This combines with our maindeck hand disruption to let us interact heavily with their game. From there, it is a matter of practice against TSW lists to know what cards to discard and what turns interaction is needed.

Against Gill, the Gifted Conjurer
Out
1 Miscalculation, 3 Sword of the New Moon, 2 Arrival of the Hero
In
3 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, 1 Blood Ritual, 2 Dark Riding Hood

Lastly, we have a select control list. Our removal is less good here, so we trade it out for Laurites and more threats. If the specific control deck you run into is less ability-happy than Gill (and Laurite is thus less valuable) keep the Arrivals first, as they can be free and also double as protection from damage based removal.

That covers our first list from these couple weeks, so let’s move on to list number two. This list was my backup list for Grand Prix Denver, and the list I played on Day 2 after the first round of Top 8 for a 4-0-0 record in side events. This list is a Time-Spinning Witch list based on merging some of the unique aspect’s of Stephanie Shaw’s list from Grand Prix Collinsville with what I feel are the strengths of the more standard Dinosaur lists for TSW.

This list’s intended curve is to play an Idol on turn 1, Ayu (or the Fiethsing) on turn 2, then sequence Distortion of Time into Dinosaur Summoning or Summoning into Distortion (depending on whether you are on the play or draw). Ayu may seem odd in here, but she’s a flying clock that comes down before you begin skipping turns, getting in free swings, and she also steals or kills a reasonable number of creatures in the current format, including The Last Audience, Majin Dark Elf, small Pig, Tama, Laurite (just to get chump blockers out of Mosasaurus’s way), and Sacred Elf.

The plan B for this list, borrowing from Steph’s list, is to leverage a lot of early interaction to manage your opponent some, then stick Inheritor Gill. Once you stick him, each recovery skipping effect gets to staple an extra 1000 damage to itself. Gill also gets to consume Red Leaves, which TSW gets to activate without using stones, to up the clock and make Final Battle out of life range quicker.

In this version of TSW, the main deck is very dedicated to following one of these two routes to victory, both of which boil down to “stick some evasive threats, then start dinosauring and skipping turns”. I wanted to be more proactive in Game 1s, since my higher threat density leaves limited space for interaction, and balancing different kinds of interaction among limited space can lead to a higher occurence of “wrong answer to match the current threats” syndrome. As such, there are broad answers like Dragon Lord’s Breath, Severing Winds, and Faerur’s Spell (notably, 2 of those 3 can also be threatened by an Idol on tapped out stones). So, lets dive into the sideboard plans for this list, since it gets a lot more reactive after sideboard. You’ll need to tailor your sideboard and plans to your given meta, but this guide should give you an idea what the list is trying to do in Games 2 and 3.

Against Scheherazade:
Out
-2 Laurite, Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, -2 The Dragon Lord’s Breath, -2 Red Leaf, -1 The Distortion of Time, -1 Dark Impact, -1 Dinosaur Surfacing
In
+3 Glint of Insight, +2 Grimm of the Crimson Moon, +2 Millenia Bond, +2 The Final Battle

Here, we’re augmenting the Gill aspect of the deck, acknowledging that Sherry will make us go longer. Glints will help us hunt out Final Battles and gain some card advantage. Grimm comes in to be extra Ayus and Gills at a different point in the curve, while also increasing our likelihood of Remnant playing Glints. Millenia Bond augments the Faerur’s Spells and Severings maindeck to let us interact with all of Sherry’s cancels and answers.
We’re cutting Laurite, as he’s been historically bad against Sherry, though keep an eye out for Null Pages in Game one. That’s been picking up in popularity recently, and may merit cutting something else and leaving in 2 Laurites to fight back if you start running into it a lot. We also. cut a lot of targeted removal to lean more on Final Battle and Dino-Rider to punch through wide fields.

Against Kirik Rerik:
Out
-2 Faerur’s Spell, -2 Severing Winds
In
+2 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, +2 Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid

Pretty simple changes here, dumping several cancels for Laurites (a better cancel here) and Last days, a hybrid cancel/resource denial. I cut pretty deep into Faerur’s Spells and Severings, since I’ve never gotten a ton of use out of Faerur’s Spell in this match, and can’t afford to flood on them, and every Kirik I run into plays around Severing a lot. If you feel like you need more severing, cut one Fiethsing instead of the second Severing.
The plan post-board is to simply stifle their early plays with bounce spells while drawing cards, setting up a Dino-Rider to clean up the board and hit them in the face. From there, you start skipping turns to leave them off balance until they’re all done.

Agaisnt The Time Spinning Witch
Out
-3 Severing Winds, -4 The Dragon Lord’s Breath
In
+2 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, +3 Glint of Insight, +2 Millenia Bond

TSW is largely immune to Severing and The Dragon’s Lord’s breath, so they’re easy cuts, netting us more interaction. This is an odd fight, where both players want to land huge game warping effects, but get absolutely blown out if caught tapped out. As such, several cards form key importance. Laurite is the most important card here, as all your powerful effects (and theirs by nature of the mirror) are Automatic Abilities, and as such Laurite will often grant you the opening you need to leave your opponent unable to stop you from landing a big effect (or protecting yourself while your tapped out after landing one). To pair with this, the second most important card will be Idol of Magic, giving you a way to represent Laurite without needing to keep stones recovered. After that Millenia Bond is backup answers to Dinosaur Summoning or opposing Faerur’s Spells, and Glint is simple a great way to get information and create an opening to land a Dinosaur or Distortion.

Against Gill, the Gifted Conjurer
Out
-4 The Dragon Lord’s Breath, -3 Red Leaf, -2 Dinosaur Surfacing, -1 Dark Impact
In
+2 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, +3 Glint of Insight, +2 Millenia Bond, +2 Grimm of the Crimson Moon, +1 The Final Battle

Alright, bunker in for the long game. Fortunately, we’re a naturally threat dense deck, and adding Grimm to the mix gives us a critical mass of threats to continue applying pressure through waves of interaction and removal. From there, it’s a matter of cutting all our resonator interaction for hand disruption and cancels. This will be a long game. Pace yourself and focus on the Gill half of the deck. Your almost gauranteed to get Laurite’d the first turn skipping effect you try, so don’t rush it out there and give them a free turn to sculpt their hand/graveyard. This is also the reason Dino Surfacing is cut in some numbers here. You just aren’t landing it ahead of schedule with any likelihood. Instead, focus on using early turns to either disrupt their hand or using Distortion’s front half to groom your own. Then slowly bleed them of answers with Flying threats and hard-cast dinosaurs. Then you can go for your Distortion God Arts and Mosasaurus’s when you can fight on the Chase to protect them. This is also a match where the J-Ruler side of TSW is very important, as she’s particularly hard for Gill to deal with.

Last up, we have my list for GP Denver itself. I took this list to a 4-1-1 finish (taking 8th in Swiss after breakers). It’s based on a mix of Team Outer World’s Sherry lists from Collinsville, mixing in some of Jean-Paul Clintworth’s list, then adding on Light as a third color.

Since this list is largely in line with what we expect from Scheherazade, I want to focus on why I chose to add light to the deck and how those cards performed. First and foremost, I wanted access to Twin Blades of Hope and Despair. For those who’ve forgotten this card, it’s a quickcast chant for (W)(B) that gives target resonator you control +600/+600 and target resonator your opponent controls -600/-600, then inverts itself. Its backside, Sword of Fate, is a chant for (W)(W)(B)(B) that either destroys target J/Resonator or returns a resonator with total cost 5 or less from your graveyard to play. It’s seen little play since printing, but has been a personal favorite of mine, and I’ve included one or two copies in many decks since it was printed. It’s always been a powerful card, but can be awkward at times, requiring both side to control a resonator to play it. In preparing for Denver, it seemed like it was particularly well positioned to me. -600/-600 is the perfrect amount to destroy opposing puppet masters, and you can use it prior to recovery to allow the minimum window to be down two will. It also plays particularly will with The Last Audience, turning it into a 600/1300 your opponent is required to swing into on its own, and an 800/1500 if you have puppet masters. You can also shrink opposing Patrolling Guard Dolls to turn it into a 500/500 that must swing into your 600/1300. Much like several other players also did with intervention of reality that weekend, the +600 DEF also became a relevant answer to Final Battle. By this point many players are savvy enough to account for 400 extra DEF when using Final Battle, to cover Rapid Growth, and having access to 600 pump that doubled as a kill spell turned several such turns back on my opponent.

While the front side was the primary reason I played this card (I played the back side only about 1/3 times I played the front), the threat the back side represents is real. It hangs as a free, card-wise, kill spell, or can bring back a Patrolling Guard Doll, Eve, or Inheritor Gill. The destroy target J/Ruler was also excellent insurance against non-Sherry decks, giving me a point of interaction outisde of Final Battle for J-Rulers. This card perfromed great for me all weekend, and I can’t recommened trying it out enough.

The next B/W card is a little better known, as Gill Lapis, Usurper of Maddening Power has seen spotlight in Top 8 lists already, but I liked where he was positioned right now. A 600/700 with precision can help fight for Puppet Master advantage. He also gives access to a singleton copy of Flourishing Hope in the main to insulate against opposing Final Battles, and gives access to a nice little answer package in the sideboard.
The last of my maindeck white cards is a single Schrodinger’s Observation. This tech card is here taking advantage of the format’s reliance on Final Battle and Faerur’s Spell as answer everything cards. Given the size of threats in this list and Sherry’s ability to force a long game, it’s very common for players to put themselves at 1500-1800 life, letting this spell just close the game on the spot. Since it can’t be affected by Faerur’s Spell, that just leaves Blue Sherry lists able to really answer it, and I didn’t expect to see many of those in Denver. Even if it doesn’t end the game on the spot, it can put your opponent dangerously close while pulling you out of reach, or setting you up to afford a second final battle to push through combat.

Putting all this together, you have a Sherry list with a lot of powerful tools for the mirror, and access to a lot of flexible sideboard options to help against other matches (and this is the US, you’ll run into quite a few non-mirrors in any event that goes more than a few rounds). So, here’s how I sideboarded at the event.

Against Scheherazade:
Out
-2 Laurite, Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, -1 Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid (from the extra deck)
In
+1 Blazer the Legendary Thief, +1 Heteroclite Excalibur/Grimm of the Crimson Moon (depending on the specific Sherry list), +1 Evil Elemental Uprising (into the extra deck)

Quite light sideboarding here, as this is the matchup the main deck is built to handle. There are a few necessary maindeck cards aimed at other decks though, so there is a small influx of extra answer and threat. Several builds of Sherry are running around. I ended up bringing Excalibur in against a Red build heavy in Valentinas and Blazers, and grabbed Grimm against other builds to be another sticky threat, removal, and rebuy my Glints.

Against Kirik Rerik:
Out
-2 Faerur’s Spell, -2 Severing Winds, -1 The Final Battle
In
+2 Miscalculation, +1 Naughty Child’s Chastising, +2 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian

The quickcast dolls, last days, and Shades in the main already go a long way towards winning this match. Several cancels come out (which is pretty much my standard operating procedure against Kirik at this point) for some removal and incidental lifegain. This is a side-matchup where Twin Blades performed better than expected. It was good against Sylvia, but also suprisinly good against Pia when sequenced before my recover phase. The back side also came in clutch a couple times, clearing out Kirik before he could use all his Strength Counters as burn, letting me turn the corner sharply.

Agaisnt The Time Spinning Witch
Out
-4 Severing Winds, -1 The Final Battle, -1 Faerur’s Spell, -1 Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid (from the extra deck)
In
+2 Laurite Seven Lumiaries Astrologian, +1 Blazer the Legendary Thief, +2 Miscalculation, +1 Resuscitating Will, +1 Evil Elemental Uprising (into the extra deck)

This is a match where I have little to side. I didn’t expect there to be a large showing from TSW at Denver, after her decent but non-Top 8 showing in Collinsville, so I didn’t want to devote a lot of sideboard space to her. We’re just depending on Laurite, hand disruption, and Sherry’s natural power here. This is hypothetical though, as I didn’t run into TSW at the event.

Against Gill, the Gifted Conjurer
Out
-1 Story Speaker Eve, -1 The Final Battle, -1 Thought Control, -1 Twin Blades of Hope and Despair, -1 Last Days of a Powerless Dragonoid (from the extra deck)
In
+1 Blazer the Legendary Thief, +1 Resuscitating Will, +2 Grimm of the Crimson Moon, +1 Evil Elemental Uprising (into the extra deck)

Here, we’re just increasing our threat density, and improving our Story Deck. This is a spot where ENW Gill Lapis shines, as we can keep access to Thought Control without flooding on it, against a match where our opponent often has a lot of very bad elementals in their hand we won’t want to waste a card discarding. Resuscitating Will comes in for him to find, letting our big flier close much faster.

Well, it’s been a crazy and fun couple of weeks, and I’m quite happy with how all of the above lists performed. From here through rotation it will be time for hypothetical deck buidling, so I hope you look forward to some fun, completely untested brews.