Augur of Bolas, the hidden King of the Sea

Augur of Bolas, the hidden King of the Sea

Let’s cut the chase right from the start: in this article I’ll talk about how Augur of Bolas (AoB from here on) shapes the Pauper metagame and why, in my opinion, it would be worthy of a ban.

The following string of unsolicited and personal opinions will revolve around three main topics:

  1. What is invalidated by AoB?
  2. Its role in the current most successful archetypes;
  3. What would the format be like without the Merfolk King? In other words, what would change in the case it was banned?

Let’s dive straight into it.



Speared by Its Majesty’s Trident

A card is worthy of ending up getting hit by the infamous Ban Hammer if it meets particular requirements. One of these is definitely “oppressiveness” – that is, not making many (perhaps too many) archetypes viable competitively.

This small side effect not only restricts metagame boundaries, but might eventually lead many players to distance themselves from the format, i.e. the ones piloting the decks that become “unplayable”.

I remember – not without a bit of melancholy – the era of Peregrine Drake: you could play aggro, tempo and unique decks such as Aura or Affinity, but you would have never dared playing Tron and midrange decks. It didn’t matter how much hate you packed, and how much prepared you could be from the maindeck: if you had a minimum of self-respect, you knew very well that you were at least a step behind Drake in any way possible. That was the matchup that you would have always struggled with, save for extremely lucky pairings. Always.

Going back to the Merfolk King, here’s what is stifled by its omnipresence.

 

Aggro decks

«I play my trusty 2/2 creatures and start to swing with them. Sounds good!»
«I play my two-mana dork that will block one of your pieces for days to come and maybe add a Lightning Bolt/Snuff Out to my hand.»

Doesn’t sound too fair, does it?

Two-for-ones are the order of the day in Pauper. Gush, for instance, isn’t certainly the nightmare of every aggro deck, so much so that Gush Players hope to see at most one copy of the card in those matchups. A card advantage piece does not tipically bother aggro decks too much; however, a two-for-one that impacts the board and costs a measly two mana is a whole different story.

Some might argue that a 1/3 is insignificant against aggro decks and that Stompy can solve the issue with Rancor, Hunger of the Howlpack and whatnot. However, the problem doesn’t only lie in the Merfolk providing a two-for-one effect at a very discounted cost, but in the fact that such weapon was given to blue decks. Delver – yeah, you guessed that right- is one of its main beneficiaries. To put it shortly, the deck used to suffer aggro decks much more than it does now with AoB. Delver can now afford the luxury of having fair chances against hard-hitting creatures already from the maindeck without even being particularly equipped to fight those matchups. In other words, AoB has covered one of the historical weaknesses of Delver decks: their structural weakness to consistent aggro decks such as Stompy.

Time ago, Mono-U Delver would tipically hope to avoid facing Stompy. In modern times, UR Delver can face the matchup with some peace of mind.

Time ago, UB Delver was not a very viable concept due to aggro decks being tough to face without red. In modern times, the Merfolk King makes ends meet and allows you to have shots at winning where you could only hope to nail resolutive sideboard cards or double-Delver nut draws.

In modern times, having a shot against aggro with Delver is no longer a dream – it’s the norm.

Ninja of the Deep Hours

In the pre-Bolas era, the “tempo” archetype was identified by one and only incarnation: Mono-U Delver. Besides relying on the usual “protect the Delver” plan, the old ruler of the format aimed to snowball many games thanks to an early or midgame Ninja protected by bounce and counterspells of various kinds.

Ninjas have lost a lot of their potential since then. A 1/3 creature that can land as soon as turn two threatens to weaken the whole Ninja plan – also considering that bouncing opposing Augurs isn’t really the best plan. Bolas is different from a typical way to remove Ninjas, such as a burn spell. The Merfolk is a proactive play that prevents Ninja from cashing in addition to providing important cards – all of which, once again, at a measly two mana.

Having landed a Ninja with counterspell backup isn’t no longer a recipe for guaranteed success: one has to keep in mind that each resolved Augur of Bolas might be a roadblock for future Ninjas down the line. Without a plan to clear the way of pesky Augurs, Ninja might turn out to be a mere cantrip + self-bounce spell.

In regard to the Mono-U vs UR Delver matchup, the difference between the two decks doesn’t only lie in the presence/absence of burn spells. Rather, it lies in not being able to consistently snowball the tempo advantage or cards off the strength of Ninja for the mono-colored deck (also) because of Augur of Bolas. Mono-blue can only hope to get the advantage thanks to multiple well-timed Spellstutter Sprites or Spire Golem(s) that go all the way.

Edict effects

UB Alchemy and MBC have always relied on edicts to complete their suite of removal spells. Chainer’s Edict is the most important of them, as it can produce a two-for-one in the late-game. However, playing edicts in the new metagame is quite lackluster: not only they can line up poorly against Boros due to Thraben Inspector and Battle Screech, but even against Delver flavors they might be clunky due the omnipresence of – you’ve guessed it right – Augur of Bolas.

Attrition wars

In any matchup where card advantage and favorable trades are the key to victory, AoB poses a huge threat if coupled with Ninja of the Deep Hours.

Take the UR Delver vs Boros matchup, or just a UR Delver mirror, as an example. If a player resolves an AoB and the opponent has no good blockers (which could be removed by burn spells anyways), the opponent is faced with a dilemma where no outcome is good.

The safest option is to remove the Merfolk from the field immediately, as it might represent a three-for-one even if Ninja does not connect: a replayed AoB would still provide more cards, becoming more than the initial two-for-one it was. However, if a burn spell is used on AoB right away for fear of this happening, its user will have one less piece of protection against other future Ninjutsu shenanigans or Spellstutter Sprite.

In a nutshell, AoB is not a simple two-for-one in these matchups, but a two-for-one that can easily snowball the game due to Ninja. In Skred mirrors, it is basically the best card to enable one’s own Ninjas and the best card against opposing Ninjas. Can you guess which is the only play that results in us not falling behind to an Augur played by our opponent? Playing our own Augur!

The fact that the power level of one card depends for better or for worse on another and that the only non-counterspell answer to a strong card is playing the same card yourself sounds like a vicious circle to me.

 


All hail the Fish

After having seen which strategies are somehow invalidated by AoB, we now take a look at the decks that play it: UB Angler and UR Delver, but also UW Tribe and UR Kiln.

 

UR Delver

As mentioned, Augur plays a dual role in the red-powered Delver deck: roadblocking aggro decks – thus making up for a slower manabase – and being the best play in the mirror and midrange matchups thanks to its sinergy with Ninja of the Deep Hours.

Augur is also quite important as an additional “cantrip spell”. It increases the built-in card selection of the decks that play it, allowing to “spin the wheel” one more time to find removal spells or sideboard sweepers against aggro decks/Elves, counterspells vs Tron and Gush against other midrange decks. The increased selection also lies in the fact that choosing an instant or a sorcery among the top 3 cards is tipically preferable to drawing a random card, except when mana screwed.

Another niche utility of the Merfolk King is found against Affinity, where in addition to stalling Frogmites, it can tag-team with Lightning Bolt to take down 4/4s without going down on cards. In other words, Augur upgrades the removal suite of the deck by acting as a pseudo-removal spell for four-toughness creatures. Whoops, another weakness covered!

In a nutshell, AoB truly enabled UR Delver as a competitive deck by giving it all that was missing before: a two-drop that does pretty much everything except getting you out of mana screw. UR was not playable as a Delver deck in the past, but only as a Flicker incarnation due to the lack of such an aggressively costed good creature.

 

UBxd (previously known as “UB Angler”)

This archetype has always had the problem of finding the balance between cantrips, counters, removal and card advantage cards. No solution to such conundrum seemed possible, because even if you found the right configuration for a certain matchup, that would have likely also been wrong for at least other three matchups.

AoB provides the deck with the flexibility it needed. It acts as a jack of all trades: it blocks Ninjas and aggro dorks for which further removal would be necessary, and propels the deck to the mid-game by digging for cantrips and/or Gush. And if that wasn’t enough, it makes it easier to find narrow, yet strong sideboard cards such as Shrivel versus Boros Bully or Hydroblast versus Burn.

The only thing that Bolas can’t find in the deck are lands and threats. However, it can do so undirectly by grabbing Preordain and friends. To recap: even in this deck AoB turns out to be the missing piece and the “perfect glue” to cover a broad range of matchups.

 

The other Augur decks

In UW Tribe and UR Fiend, AoB plays the very important role of lightning rod for Edict effects. The two combo decks have always been historically ill-equipped to fight this type of removal spell, as it makes no sense to play narrow countermeasures such as counterspells for sorceries. Once again, the Merfolk covers such weakness by insulating a threat from future Chainer’s Edicts while also spinning the wheels. Additionally, it can dampen the race of aggro against these decks, therefore giving them that extra turn necessary to find the missing combo pieces.

In other minor decks like UB Alchemy or oddball incarnations of UR Control, Bolas plays the useful role of “value wall” against small critters, allowing one to save maindeck slots otherwise devoted to removal spells for more counters, manipulation and card advantage.

 


A future return to the past

For all the reasons mentioned so far, AoB has proven to be the missing piece for many archetypes, enhancing them and even covering many of their natural weaknesses.

What would happen in case of a return to the past, though?
What would change if Wizards decided to limit the consequences created by dangerous downgradings by banning AoB (and maybe Palace Sentinels) in the first place?

I believe the answer would be a more varied and less stifled metagame, able to breath more without a card that is so solid that it covers the natural weaknesses of Blue-based decks. This is what would change metagame-wise, in my opinion:

Mono U Delver’s return to the high tables: not that Mono U is now a bad deck, but UR Delver and Boros Monarch definitely give fits to one of the few true tempo decks of the metagame;

Bx decks become more playable: without more AoB punishing edict effects and enhancing Ninjutsu sequences, top8ing tournaments for MBC and UB Alchemy players might become easier.

A more tempo-based UB: today’s UBxd would survive by replacing Augurs with Elusive Spellfist. This would make the deck more tempo-based (and classy!) and less oppressive in the metagame, as its mid-game power would suffer from the switch.

Balls-to-the-wall aggro thriving again: playing aggro with a massive presence of Augurs around feels quite suicidal – as if the omnipresence of Prismatic Strands in the format wasn’t discouraging enough. If you remove AoB from the equation, aggro is once again a force to be reckoned with in the competitive metagame. Burning-Tree Emissary – a card whose only fault was to be downgraded together with the tyrannical Merfolk – would finally be back.

UR Delver “dies”: this could be the only loss from this hypothetical ban. Such false-tempo deck would cease to exist competitively and could very well evolve into UR Flicker, equipped to deal with Tron in post-board games.

It’s also worth noting that such return to the past would only be partially comparable to the pre-downgrade of AoB state of things, as cards like Seeker of the Way, Lead the Stampede, Burning-Tree Emissary would still be there to mark a difference from how Pauper used to be back in 2017.

To sum it up: tempo, aggro and black-based decks would likely increase with no more midrange decks disguised as tempo decks dominating the metagame – a gradual shift that was made possible by Augur of Bolas among other things.

I really hope that Wizards will support the format more by intervening to improve the variety and competitiveness of the metagame. I am confident that banning AoB would be the turning point towards a better Pauper.

Original article by Pietro Bragioto (Crila Peoty)
English translation by Picelli89
Report – Dinrova Tron – Top8 Paupergeddon Milan 2019

Report – Dinrova Tron – Top8 Paupergeddon Milan 2019

Hey everyone, Alessandro Moretti here from the Top 8 of Paupergeddon Milan 2019!

I ended up with a 6-1-1 record with Dinrova Tron after losing to the eventual winner of the event who played Red Deck Wins.

I opted to play Dinrova Tron for a couple of reasons: it’s easy to play (/s) and the one I enjoy the most, plus I wanted another good placement with the deck.
It was an additional plus the fact that the deck is well placed in the meta-game (since Boros is pretty popular) as long as you setup the deck accordingly.

These are the Top 16 lists.

I’ve been playing this list since basically November 2017, with a few changes when needed:

Dinrova Tron by Alessandro Moretti, Top8

Lands (23)
Bojuka Bog
Island
Remote Isle
Swiftwater Cliffs
Unknown Shores
Urza's Mine
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Tower
Thornwood Falls

Creatures (8)
Mnemonic Wall
Mulldrifter
Dinrova Horror

Spells (29)
Condescend
Forbidden Alchemy
Ghostly Flicker
Mystical Teachings
Prohibit
Pulse of Murasa
Rolling Thunder
Expedition Map
Prophetic Prism
Crop rotation
Moment's Peace
Doom Blade
Echoing Decay
Dimir Signet
Exclude
Compulsive Research
Unwind
Fire//Ice
Sideboard (15)
Ancient Grudge
Electrickery
Hydroblast
Moment's Peace
Pyroblast
Dispel
Lightning Axe
Doom Blade
Fangren Marauder
Ulamog's Crusher

During the swiss rounds I faced:

  • Boros Monarch 2-0

  • Izzet Blitz 2-0

  • UB Alchemy 2-0

  • Burn 2-1

  • Elves 1-2

  • UB Delver 1-1

  • Rakdos Monarch 2-1

Of these matches Boros, UB Alchemy and Burn I would say I was favored, Izzet Blitz and Rakdos unfavorable while Elves and UB Delver can go either way based on how the games unfold.

I’m sorry because I don’t recall the names of my opponents due to sleep deprivation, but if you want them added to the report just say who you are!

Now, onto the matches themselves.

Match 1: Boros Monarch

The match-up is generally favorable for Tron because even with a weak start you can get back into the game.
The main things to watch out for in the match-up are:

  1. Palace Sentinels

  2. Sideboard cards already in the main deck (such as Relic of Progenitus, often seen in Italian deck lists)

  3. A very aggro start with a ton of burn spells.

Game 1

Not knowing what I was up against I keep a slow hand, but luckily for me he has no red mana in the first few turns so all he does is Kor Skyfisher on turn 2 and Glint Hawk on turn 3.
Little happens until my 6th/7th turn when I find the third Tron land and between draws and tutors I end up with the Mnemonic Wall + Dinrova + Flicker loop.

Side in/out

Playing defense against Monarch is often wrong given we play a limited amount of removal and virtually no answers to a Monarch emblem.
We take for granted that out opponent will play something like 4 Pyroblast and 2 Relic of Progenitus to limit our sources of Card Advantage and counter-magic for Palace Sentinels.

Since Boros doesn’t usually start off very aggressive, I like to dilute the answers to aggro and play some aggressive cards myself.

  • -2 Fire//Ice: a pretty mediocre card since most of his dudes have 2+ toughness

  • -1 Doom Blade: since it’s only really useful against Kor Skyfisher, I’d rather have something else while keeping Echoing Decay for Battle Screech

  • -1 Ghostly Flicker: not really an amazing cards on its own, drawing multiples isn’t really good especially after a resolved Relic of Progenitus that will force us to play around it.

  • +2 Ulamog’s Crusher: one of the aggressive cards I was talking about. I play 2 copies to deal with exile effects on their part if they Journey or Oblivion Ring it early, while also hoping to play one in the first few turns off a quick Tron.

  • +1 Ancient Grudge: Relic is still an issue. I’ll hardly ever target lands: only when I get the Dinrova Horror loop going to speed up the process.

  • +1 Fangren Marauder: it helps with slowing them down gaining 5 life for every card they draw off a Clue token or at the very least will eat a couple burn spells that aren’t going to my face.

Game 2

I start the game pretty well with an early Tron and double Dinrova Horror with Mnemonic Wall.

The first Horror will be dealt with by a Journey to Nowhere after bouncing a Boros Garrison, the second one will target that Journey while I keep his aggression at bay with trading, Echoing Decay and the game will soon end after I Mystical Teachings for a Ghostly Flicker to keep him out of mana.

MVP

Match 2: Izzet Kiln Fiend

One of the historically worse match-ups for Tron.

The deck is too fast and we lack early answers to his game plan and game 1 is always lost even if played well.
This time tho my opponent is really unlucky.

Game 1

I keep 6 or 7 while he mulls down to 5.

All I see is a few cantrips, a Gitaxian Probe and once I Condescend one to keep him out of the game he concedes without showing me the second color.

Side in/out

Since I don’t know what my opponent is actually playing, I’m guessing either UW Tribe, UB Delver or Kiln. I opt for an hybrid sideboard plan, keeping in mind UB Delver because it is the most likely deck given the recent evolution of the meta-game

I don’t recall the card-for-card sideboard, but I was playing Dispel, Lightning Axe and Pyroblast.

Out goes Moment’s Peace, Exclude, Unwind and maybe Prohibit (3 mana cmc counters are bad and have been subbed for more efficient answers).

Game 2

I keep a decent hand with a couple of answers and mana to play them.

When I see the red mana I turn pale.

On his 3rd end step an Alchemy of mine eats a Pyroblast but my opponent isn’t too sure about the play.

He then goes for a Nivix Cyclops that I let trough having 2 Pyroblast in hand.

On my turn a Pyroblast resolves and the Cyclops is gone, then comes a Kiln Fiend that will probably kill me but I draw a Lightning Axe.

At that point my board is Power Plant, Mine, Gainland, Island, Shores and my hand Crop Rotation, Lightning Axe, Pyroblast.

I can either discard Crop Rotation to Lightning Axe with Pyro backup or Crop for Tower, Lightning Axe with 6 mana, the problem is if Crop gets Dispelled, I’m done.
I opt for the second choice and turns out in my favor.

Then comes and unexpected Thermo-Alchemist that doesn’t do much, despite my opponent having a full grip.

I save a Doom Blade for more threatening creatures that won’t come, since he keeps doing nothing and concedes soon after killed by mana flood.

MVP

While this kind of matches against them is NOT the norm, our best cards are Hydroblast, Pyroblast, Doom Blade and Lightning Axe.
The match-up verges on surviving by playing as many removals and as much colored mana as possible.
Completing the Urzatron isn’t a priority unless we need to speed the game up via mana and card advantage.

The worse cards are for sure Dinrova Horrors and costly counter-magic and to a certain extent Moment’s Peace too since our opponents will most likely side some amount of Flaring Pains in.

Match 3: Dimir Alchemy

The match-up usually favors the Tron player already and I’m playing an higher amount of counter-magic which is a good place to be in to avoid a draw due to time constraints.
Not entirely sure of the matches, I might have details wrong.

Game 1

The game stales for quite some time as expected for the match-up until I manage to loop Horrors to delete his mana base.

Side in/out

Having no actual race nor burn spells Alchemy will rely mostly on Gurmag Anglers to close the game along with a mix of card advantage and removal. Which is fine for me, since the engine of Flicker Tron is much better.

With that in mind, anti-aggro cards will go in favor of additional counter-magic and answers to Gurmag.

Game 2

Nothing happens barring a turn 2 (or 3?) Duress from him, followed by a Mulldrifter on both sides that trade in combat.

A couple Augur of Bolas show up but Pulse of Murasa, Mnemonic Wall and recursive Mulldrifter keep me ahead and he concedes when I Dinrova Horror his Gurmag to his empty hand.

MVP

In this match-up we are always the control deck and have a shell better suited to do so, having more mana, better engine and better late game.

  • Exclude: not going down cards to answer a Mulldrifter or Gurmag is huge.

  • Pyroblast: answering with 1 mana to his 5 mana sorcery (Mulldrifters or Probe) is also huge.

  • Unwind: another match where being able to use counter-magic and then Teachings or Alchemy is key to keep ahead.

Match 4: Burn

With Dinrova Tron or Murasa Tron, Burn is quite an easy match if played correctly.

Having no removal will put you at a disadvantage, but playing as little as 4 will make the games much better being able to deal with Thermo-Alchemist, Firebrand Archer and Ghitu Lavarunner although the latter isn’t particularly good against Flicker Tron.

In all 3 game we both keep very good hands showing why both decks are at the top of the meta-game.

Game 1

His Gitaxian Probe on turn 1 depresses me a bit because I thought I’d have to play against another blue-based decks but I cheer when I see him Lava Spiking me.

I keep with 2 out of 3 Tron lands and naturally draw the 3rd one.

My line of play is Mine-Plant-Prism and Tower on my 3rd turn. I then crack Map for Remote Isle with Mystical Teachings in had.

On the other side just Lavarunner and double Curse of the Pierced Heart.

On my 4th turn I’m at 6 life and my only line of play is to Teachings for Pulse to recover Remote Isle in my turn, hoping none of his 3 cards in hand is instant speed burn.

When I attempt the play, they burn me with Lightning Bolt + Fireblast.

Side in/out

Post side we need to slow him down as much as possible to reach a mid to late game where we can Pulse of Murasa back to a comfortable life total.

An early Urzatron is irrelevant in the match-up since we need colored mana to interact with them

Game 2

I god-hand him with natural Tron on 4th turn with evoked Mulldrifter and Pulse of Murasa.

I Pulsed at least three times this game while removing all his Curses with no problems.

Game 3

I keep with Mulldrifter, Gainland, Urza’s Tower, Hydroblast, Dispel, Doom Blade.

Proceed to draw the missing Urza Lands.

Same as the previous game, I have a pretty good hand with double coloured mana by turn 4.
After trading spells and creatures for a few turns I end up with a low life total but I’m able to Teachings for a Pulse of Murasa to seal the deal.

MVP

Match 5: Elves

The match-up is usually unwinnable barring incredibly lucky draws or playing a different setup with Flame Slash, Lightning Bolt and Electrickery since it’s a race to who can go bigger the fastest but Tron is just too slow.

The removals I play are geared tot he Delver and Boros match-up but I can luck out and draw as many as I can.

Game 1

Another god hand with natural Tron and Prism, to fuel a Rolling Thunder cleaning Priest of Titania, Birchlore Ranger and Quirion Ranger that looks like the safest line of play.

On the next turn I Doom Blade a Lys Alana Huntmaster.

My opponent folds when I counter his last card in hand: Lead the Stampede.

Side in/out

Siding is pretty easy: get rid of all the counter-magic and cram as many removals and Moment’s Peace in there.

We also need to account for Viridian Longbow, Spidersilk Armor and cards like Mob Justice, Gruesome Fate or Harsh Sustenance.

Wellwisher isn’t a problem in real life like it’s on MTGO since it won’t stop you from winning quickly.

Game 2

I keep a greedy hand with Gainland, natural Tron, Remote Isle and Moment’s Peace but nothing else relevant.

I proceed to forfeit around turn 7 when an unanswered Ulamog’s Crusher has the best of me and my board.

I only draw Doom Blade, Expedition Map and a Mnemonic Wall in the whole game.

Game 3

This has been the worse of the 3 games, never finding the 3rd Urza land nor answers for Ulamog’s Crusher.

I kept with Moment’s Peace but didn’t draw the right answers to fight Elves.

MVP

Match 6: Burn

Another easy match-up

Game 1

It’s over on turn 4 due to natural Tron that allows me to Teachings for Pulse of Murasa and win off that.

Game 2

I keep with 2 lands, Dimir Signet and multiple answers.

2nd turn Thermo Alchemist survives so I can play Dimir Signet and is followed by a 2nd Alchemist that will meet Hydroblast + Doom Blade on my 3rd turn but with no land drop on my side.

The game continues with me finding more lands (no Tron) in the classic URx Control vs Burn match-up where I trade counter-magic for his damage while drawing cards whenever possible.

I tap low to play a Mulldrifter while on a safe life total that will net me something like 10-12 damage over the next few turns.

We reach a point where my opponent is top-decking and I let 2 Curse of the Pierced Heart resolve because I can keep up with Pulse of Murasa and gainlands.

I close the game with triple Mulldrifter beat down and a Fire//Ice to finish him off.

Match 7: UB Delver

I know what he’s on since we played close the turns before.

I think my UB match-up is good.

He thinks his Tron match-up is good.

Let’s see who’s right!

Game 1

I keep a good hand with card-draw and at least two lands, while he wastes the first couple turns with cantrips.

On the 3rd turn I have two different Urza lands, untapped Thornwood Falls with Crop Rotation, Mulldrifter and Prophetic Prism in hand.
I reckon that leaving him more time to set up a race while I do nothing won’t be optimal so I risk the Crop Rotation that resolves, followed by Prism and Mulldrifter.

This quickly puts me in the driver’s seat and my opponent realizes quickly that I’m too far ahead and concedes.

Side in/out

I’d usually side in Ancient Grudge but this time I want to focus on removal and counter-magic for this match-up, adding a second Doom Blade since an early Delver is their best win condition

Game 2

I keep my 7 with a few gainlands and some card draw, giving my opponent some credit and knowing he most likely sided Daze out.

Urzatron is far to come, around 7th turn, but I can quickly solve Delvers and set up my game plan.

The first Gurmag Angler is dealt with via Lightning Axe, the second one with Dinrova Horror.

During all this, my opponent is on 10 due to Mulldrifter beats.

I misplay trying to trade a Gurmag that I try and Echoing Decay after blocks, but my opponent has double counter-magic and I just lose the Horror. After this, my opponent plays a Relic of Progenitus with me out of mana.

Since I wanted to kill Gurmag because I was afraid of going too low on life total I should’ve played that differently and Echoing Decayed before blockers, that led me to forget about the possibility of a Relic of Progenitus that late into the game.

Relic will basically be the card that wins him the game on the spot since when he untaps with it in play, it exiles 2 Forbidden Alchemy and a Mystical Teachings that made me die to a bit of flood and no ways to generate any answer or card advantage.

Game 3

The 3rd game starts with only 10 minutes left on the clock which means I’ll probably draw this one out.

I’m forced to keep at 6 due to time constraints with a single land and Dimir Signet but luckily the Scry shows me a land on top.

He goes double Delver, I answer with double removal.

The game goes on for a while with weak hands on both sides until a Gurmag Angler is answered with a Dinrova Horror.

When time is over I’m at 5 and I just block and remove creatures and chimp like a madman.

On the last possible turn he’s on 2 Angler and I’m with Dinrova, Mnemonic Wall and another piece I don’t remember.

He needs a Snuff Out to get trough with a Gurmag Angler but both the draw for the turn and for cracking a Relic give him nothing useful and the game ends in a draw.

MVP

The match-up isn’t one-sided as some may think.

It’s a very interactive game focused around trades of resources, where Tron aims to generate card advantage and buy time while UB Delver needs a quick race.

The most threatening card in the match-up is probably Delver since it attacks one of Tron’s weakest point in the game: the first few turns where we set up.

Which in turns makes Gurmag Angler much more threatening.

  • Lightning Axe: the cheapest answer to Gurmag that doesn’t force me into another color

  • Dinrova Horror: UB Delver doesn’t have answers to it and it always buys us a bit of time by slowing their race

  • Fire//Ice: tapping mana in upkeep against a deck that plays with 2-3 lands at most can be quite backbreaking.

    Fun fact: I once killed double Delver in another event.

Turn 8: Rakdos Monarch

This midrange deck is designed to prey on Tron archetypes because it keeps attacking the hand and graveyard, but I played the match-up extensively on both sides and know that my best bet is overkill card advantage and Rolling Thunder.

Game 1

I keep with 2 lands, Map, Prism but my Map gets Duressed, followed by double Chittering Rats, Raven’s Crime, Blightning and Liliana’s Specter.

While this happens, I keep on building my Urzatron and chain Pulse of Murasa into Mnemonic Wall to keep me safe for a while.

The game turns on its head after my opponent plays a Bojuka Bog that exiles Rolling Thunder, a Pulse and the second Wall.

I manage to keep a Pulse of Murasa, Ghostly Flicker and Prohibit in hand that allows me to avoid him playing a Thorn of the Black Rose while I draw multiple cards a turn with Flicker on Wall and Prism.

He quickly concedes soon after.

Side in/out

I will only win if I either put too much pressure on him or if I chain too many Mulldrifters.

Post board he’ll probably be on Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb, Pyroblast and/or Rancid Earth (and eventually the real threat: Okiba-Gang Shinobi).

  • +2 Ulamog’s Crusher: not the best card in the match-up but something they can’t kill with Pyroblast and has chances to live more than a single turn.

  • +2 Hydroblast: I need some more countermagic for Blightning that really hurts early on.

  • -2 Moment’s Peace

  • -2 Fire//Ice: I could’ve kept these in but they just tap Gurmag Angler and can’t kill Thorn of the Black Rose

  • -1 Ghostly Flicker: my board will most likely be empty so I won’t really have many uses for it.

  • -1 Doom Blade.

Game 2

5th turn Thorn of the Black Rose with Pyroblast backup.

‘Nuff said.

I concede quickly after.

Game 3

Shame this game wasn’t streamed because it was kind of unbelievable.

I get hit by:

5 Raven’s Crime

3 Blightning

3 Chittering Rats

2 Liliana’s Specter

2 Duress

I end up with an early Urzatron but my hands is already empty, I end up stealing his Monarchy somehow and keeping his board as empty as I can.

The first Crusher comes when he’s on only 1 Chittering Rats, I’m ready to move it to the graveyard but weirdly enough it survives.

I tell him «Now I’m expecting a Thorn of the Black Rose».

And here we go: Night’s Whisper first, Thorn of the Black Rose, go.

My turn: I play Mulldrifter and I draw the second Ulamog’s Crusher

The first eldrazi just die on thorn, he second went discarded via Blightning. :'(

I get out of that with a couple Mulldrifters, Mnemonic Wall and becoming the monarch in quick succession.

Shortly after my opponent is on 14 life, I have 13 mana with Power Plant and Rolling Thunder in hand.

I can either clear the board and deal some damage to him, keep both in hand, got to 3 life from his attack and hoping for a good top deck even when my opponent has Raven’s Crime in the graveyard.

I decide to luck it out by going to 3 life, he plays Raven’s Crime once and I discard Urza’s Power-Plant keeping only Rolling Thunder in hand.

My only out tot he game is Urza’s Tower.

Promptly I draw one and Rolling Thunder him for 14. Sweet victory.

MVP
  • Anything that generates card advantage is key in the match-up

  • Bojuka Bog because Raven’s Crime.

Top 8

Awesome! Brand new play mat for me!

I really hope to face Burn or some other decent match-ups in this quarter final.

Instead I face RDW which is probably the worst match-up I could find in this Top 8.

Hoping for some quick Echoing Decays and Moment’s Peace, I shuffle up.

Quarterfinals: RDW

Game 1

Unknowing of what my opponent’s playing, I keep a slow hand with just some card draw and a couple counters with 3 lands.

He goes turn 1 Goblin Cohort, turn 2 Goblin Cohort with no land drops, nothing on turn 3.

I opt not to keep mana up for Condescend and play a mana rock, but he draw the second land and goes Burning-Tree Emissary and Valley Dasher and I lose soon after.

Side in/out

I just need cheap, quick answers to aggro and that’s it.

Game 2

I keep 6 cards with Hydroblast, natural Tron, Thornwood Falls, card draw.

He starts with 1 drop into Valley Dasher, I Hydroblast the Dasher.

I follow it up with Doom Blade, Echoing Decay and some lands but no black mana.

Swift dead.

MVP

Not sure if there are cards that can effectively swing the match-up much other than Moment’s Peace and Hydroblast, the best option would be Stonehorn Dignitary because it circumvents the Flaring Pains they probably play.

Other than that, just hope they draw badly.

Conclusions

One last paragraph to give my last impressions about the whole tournament: the environment is growing bigger and bigger and while I played forward and won more games I clearly felt the players getting better and better.

Even Burn players were pretty good, for as much as one can be playing Burn.

Despite that people were calm and friendly, like every other Italian tournament.

I was pretty happy to see old and new faces and knowing interesting people.

I guess I can now go back and try to achieve my bachelor.

Original article by Alessandro Moretti (AdeptoTerra)
Translation by Niko Leporati (Jiaozy)
Augur of Bolas, the hidden King of the Sea

Augur of Bolas: il re nascosto dei mari

Andiamo al nocciolo della questione senza troppi fronzoli: in questo articolo parlerò di come Augur of Bolas (AoB da qui in poi) dà forma al nostro metagame e del perchè, a mio avviso, sarebbe meritevole di Ban.

Questa valanga di opinioni non richieste e personali andrà a travolgere 3 vallate:

  1. Cosa viene invalidato da AoB?
  2. Ruolo di AoB nella sua schiera di archetipi più vincenti;
  3. Come sarebbe il mondo senza tritoni, ovvero cosa cambierebbe nel caso di un suo Ban.

 

1) Sotto il Tridente di sua Maestà

Una carta è meritevole di finire sotto il famoso “Ban Hammer” se soddisfa dei particolari requisiti: uno tra questi è sicuramente l’oppressività, ossia non rendere giocabili competitivamente molti archetipi, forse troppi.
Questo piccolo demerito non restringe solamente gli orizzonti del meta ma diventerà colpevole dell’allontanamento di molti player dal formato, giocatori degli archetipi diventati “ingiocabili”.

Ricordo, non senza un velo di malinconia, l’era di Peregrine Drake: potevi giocare Aggro, Tempo e mazzi singolari in stile Aura o Affinity, quello che non potevi assolutamente mettere nel portamazzo erano i mazzi Tron e Midrange.
Non importava quanto hate e come buildassi i main settati: se avevi un minimo di amor proprio, sapevi benissimo che eri minimo un passo indietro a Drake, Mu che avresti sicuramente trovata in sala salvo slalom olimpionici, sempre dietro.
Sempre.

Tornando a parlare di Re Tritone, ecco cosa viene soffocato dalla sua presenza:

 

–  Aggro:

Gioco il mio onesto 2/2 Random ed inizio a girare il board, sembra onesto!
Gioco il mio AoB che bloccherà un tuo pezzo per i giorni a venire e magari mi aggiunge alla mano un Lightning Bolt / Snuff Out, non sembra molto fair…

I 2×1 sono all’ordine del giorno nel panorama Pauper, vedi Gush che non è di certo l’incubo di ogni aggro tant’è che i Gush Player sperano di vederne una al massimo nel MU: una carta che genera vantaggio carte all’oppo non dà troppo fastidio ad un aggro, ma un 2×1 che impatti il Board e che costi solo 2 mana è tutta un’altra storia.

Qualcuno potrebbe obiettare che un 1/3 in board a costo 2 non sia nulla di chè contro un aggro e che Stompy può risolvere il problema con Rancor, Hunger of the Howlpack e compagnia bella, il problema non sta solo in questo tritone che fa il 2×1 a un costo risibile.Il vero problema è che ad avere accesso a questa possibilità siano mazzi Blu, Delver in primis, che prima di esso soffrivano Aggro enormemente di più: ora possono permettersi il lusso di giocarsela già di main senza essere settati contro aggro in specifico.In poche parole, AoB copre una debolezza storica dei mazzi Delver: la loro indisposizione strutturale nel fronteggiare aggro consistenti come Stompy.

Un tempo Mono U Delver cercava di schivare Stompy, ora UR Delver può giocarsela con una certa tranquillità; una volta UB Delver era impensabile, anche per il fatto che aggro era un problema senza il rosso, ora c’è il tritone che fa quadrare i conti e che permette di giocarsela dove prima si osava a malapena sperare in una carta da side risolutiva o in una partenza da sogno in stile doppio Delver.
Ora giocarsela contro Aggro non è più un sogno, è la norma.

 

–  Ninja of the Deep Hours

Nell’era pre-Bolas, l’archetipo tempo si identificava in un solo archetipo, ossia Mono U Delver. Oltre alle classiche partite protect the Delver, il vecchio re puntava a snowballare molti Mu grazie ad un ninja early o in midgame protetto da rimbalzini e counter di vario genere.

Ora con AoB, ninja ha perso molto del suo potenziale dal momento che un 1/3 risolto di secondo, mette in seria discussione tutto il piano ninja considerando anche il fatto che giocare bounce-spell su AoB avversario non è il massimo. Bolas è diverso da un qualsiasi botto su ninja che ne invalida il card draw: il tritone è una giocata proattiva che, oltre a fare vantaggio carte di qualità, impatta il board impedendo determinate giocate all’avversario.

L’oppo non è più al sicuro sninjato protetto da counter, l’oppo dovrebbe counterare ogni nostro Merfolk prima di far ninja per permettersi il piano snowball; altrimenti ninja diventa un oneroso auto-rimbalzino che cantrippa.

Il vero problema del Mu Mono U Delver Vs la controparte UR non è la sola presenza dei botti, ma il non poter snowballare una posizione di vantaggio tempo o carte grazie a Ninja in maniera consistente: il giocatore monocolor deve sperare di raggiungere in qualche modo un consistente vantaggio carte grazie a multiple Spellstutter Sprite o che Spire Golem possa carriare il game, rimane sempre la speranza che l’oppo non veda AoB o se li veda counterare.

 

–  Edict effect

Da quando esiste il Pauper UB Alchemy e MBC hanno fatto un discreto affidamento sugli editti per completare il parco removal, soprattutto Chainer’s Edict che in late diventava un 2×1. In questo meta giocare editti è abbastanza stupido: tra Thraben Inspector e Battle Screech non sono consigliati contro boros, nemmeno contro Delver.decks son così performanti per l’onnipresenza di AoB.

 

– Midrange

In un qualsiasi Mu dove il vantaggio carte ed i trade favorevoli sono la chiave per la vittoria, AoB presenta una minaccia di dimensioni enormi qualora fosse accompagnato da Ninja of the Deep Hours. Prendiamo come esempio il Mu UR Delver vs Boros o semplicemente un Mirror di UR Delver: se risolvo un AoB e l’oppo non ha bloccanti convincenti (che comunque potrei rimuovere con i miei botti), l’avversario si trova davanti ad un dilemma dove nessuna uscita è vantaggiosa.

La giocata più safe è rimuovere subito il tritone dal campo, in quanto quest’ultimo se sninjato rappresenterebbe un 3×1 nel caso ninja non connetta in quanto AoB rigiocato farebbe ancora vantaggio carte diventanto qualcosa più del 2×1 iniziale.
Tuttavia, usando il mio botto su AoB, non sono stato “solo” vittima di un 2×1, ma non ho più il botto per future sninjate avversarie oppure per giocare attorno a Spellstutter Sprite.

In poche parole, AoB non è un semplice 2×1 in questi MU ma, grazie a Ninja, un 2×1 che può degenerare facilmente snowballando il game.
In pratica AoB è, allo stesso tempo, la carta che smorza i ninja avversari e l’enabler più forte di ninja: ninja “è alla mercè” del re dei mari.Indovinate qual’è l’unica giocata nel mirror, escluso Counterspell, che ci fa uscire senza svantaggi da una giocata dell’oppo di AoB?
Giocare a nostra volta AoB!

Ora, il fatto che il power level di una carta dipenda sia nel bene che nel male da un’altra (ninja e AoB) e che l’unica risposta non-counter ad una giocata forte sia giocare la stessa carta, mi sembra un serpente che si morde la coda.

 

2) All hail the fish

Dopo aver visto quali tattiche di guerra sono in qualche modo invalidate da AoB, andiamo a vedere la sua posizione all’interno dei mazzi dove viene giocato, ossia UB Angler e Ur Delver in primis, ma anche UW Tribe e UR Kiln.

 

– UR Delver

In questo mazzo svolge il duplice ruolo di contenere gli aggro, andando a sopperire ad eventuali rallentamenti per la manabase, e a rappresentare la miglior giocata contro mirror e midrange grazie alla costate minaccia di ninja.

Molto importante anche il suo ruolo come peschino aggiuntivo, nel senso che lascia al player un maggior angolo di manovra nella card selection consentendo di girare ancora la ruota e cercare removal o wratte di side Vs Aggro o Elfi, Counter vs Tron e Gush contro altri Midrange.

Quindi oltre ad essere un 2×1 che impatta il board e  può degenerare, offre anche card selection spesso quando rivela 2 o più opzioni ed in molti casi, tranne in episodi di mana screw, scegliere instant o sorcery tra le prime 3 è preferibile dal pescare una carta random.

Un’altra utilità di nicchia dell’inquilino marino la riscontriamo contro Affinity, dove oltre che a bloccare una early aggression di Frogmite si combina efficacemente con Lightning Bolt per traddare un nostro 4-4 senza andare in svantaggio carte: virtualmente quindi nel MU, AoB upgrada il nostro parco removal raggiungendo il 4 di costituzione.
Ops, ho coperto un altro angolo debole!

In poche parole, AoB ha dato vita nel Pauper competitivo a UR Delver dando al mazzo tutto ciò che prima mancava: ossia un drop a 2 che fa essenzialmente ogni cosa salvo tirarti fuori dalla manascrew, in passato UR non era giocabile Delver ma solamente nella versione flicker proprio per la mancanza di in drop così basso ed incisivo.

 

–  UB Angler:

Questo archetipo ha sempre avuto il problema di trovare l’equilibrio tra peschini, counter, removal e vantaggio carte; un enigma che non vede soluzione perchè anche se trovate l’esatta miscela per un determinato Mu, quella miscela non andrà mai bene per minimo altri tre Mu…

AoB fornisce al mazzo la duttilità di cui aveva bisogno, fungendo praticamente da slot Jolly: blocca il terreno da ninja e pezzi aggro per i quali sarebbero necessarie ulteriori removal e non fa morire il mazzo nel midgame continuando a scavare per peschini o Gush, rendendo alla stesso tempo più consistenti sidate determinanti come Shrivel contro Boros Bully o Hydroblast contro Burn.

L’unica cosa che Bolas non trova nel mazzo sono le lande o le minacce, alle quali può arrivare comunque indirettamente rivelando peschino in stile Preordain; resta il fatto che anche qui AoB si rivela essere il tassello mancante ed il collante che perfette il giusto adattamento per ogni Mu.

 

– Altro:

In UW Tribe e UR Cane, AoB svolge il fondamentale ruolo di parafulmine per editto: i due mazzi combo sono sempre stati storicamente scoperti in questo angolo in quanto non ha senso mettere countera stregoneria o onerosi counter secchi di main, ribadisco anche che il tritone è una risposta proattiva ad editto ossia io lo gioco e mi faccio il 2×1 mentre resto protetto da un futuro Chainer’s Edict.
Da non sminuire anche il fatto che il tritone riduce la race di aggro ai nistri danni, regalandoci quel turno in più necessario per il completamento dei tasselli della nostra combo.

Essere un cantrip overcosted ma coprire allo stesso tempo gli angoli deboli dei combo, ossia editti e ninja, sembra un buon affare, forse troppo.In altri mazzi come Ub Alchemy o strane versioni di UR Control, Bolas ricopre l’utile ruolo di muretto value vs pezzi piccoli e ninja consentendo di non dover maindeckare un numero eccessivo di removal in favore di un maggior numero di counter, manipolazione e vantaggio carte.

 

3) Un futuro ritorno al passato

Per tutti i motivi sopra citati, AoB è risultato essere il tassello mancante per molti archetipi, potenziandoli e coprendo anche molte loro debolezze naturali.
Ma cosa accadrebbe nel caso di un ritorno al passato?
Cosa cambierebbe se la Wizzy tornasse sui propri passi bandendo i suoi pericolosi esperimenti di downgrade, AoB e Palace Sentinels in primis?

Si avrebbe un parziale ritorno al passato con un meta più variegato e meno oppresso, senza una carta così solida che copra i naturali punti deboli dei Blu based:

– ritorno di Mono U Delver ai tavoli alti: non che Mono U attualmente sia un pesce fuor d’acqua, ma UR Delver e Boros Monarch tagliano decisamente uno dei pochi mazzi tempo fuori dal meta che conta;

– mazzi Bx giocabili: senza più AoB che punisce gli edict effect e che sblocca sninjate fatali, MBC e UB Alchemy potrebbero tornare ad aspirare concretamente alle top 8 dei vari tornei senza favori divini;

– UB più tempo: l’odierno UB Angler Delver sopravviverebbe adottando la build con gli Elusive Spellfist, ciò darebbe maggiore poesia al mazzo rendendolo più tempo e meno opprimente nel meta levando a quest’ultimo una certa dose di consistenza nel midgame

– Aggro senza paranoie: giocare aggro con una massiccia presenza tritoni in giro è un metacall suicida, come se la presenza malata di Prismatic Strands nel formato non fosse abbastanza avvilente.
Se si tolgono gli AoB dall’equazione, aggro diventa effettivamente una fetta del meta competitivo dimostrando al meta la potenza di Burning Tree Emissary la cui unica colpa è stata quella di essere downgradata in contemporanea al tiranno AoB;

– UR Delver muore: questa potrebbe essere l’unica perdita da questo fanta ban, questo finto tempo cesserebbe di esistere nel competitive e potrebbe evolversi in UR Flicker settato post side per fronteggiare Tron;

Il ritorno al passato, come accennavo, sarebbe solo parziale rispetto al mondo pre downgrade di AoB perchè resterebbero carte come Seeker of the Way, Lead the Stampede, Burning Tree Emissary a sconvolgere il vecchio formato.

In sintesi, aumenterebbero i mazzi tempo, aggro e a base nera senza la presenza nel meta di Midrange camuffati da tempo che esercitano nel formato un influsso di onnipotenza che solo una carta come AoB poteva conferire loro.

Spero davvero che la Wizzard supporti maggiormente il formato intervenendo per migliorare la variabilità e la competitività del metagame, resto fiducioso che un Ban di AoB o Palace Sentinels sarebbe la svolta verso un Pauper migliore.