Cardboard Confusion and the Almighty Tempered Steel

By Chris Bewley


Well, after trying to figure out what to write about and coming up with nothing, I have figured out what to write about. I’m going to write about trying to figure out what to write about!

Which in other words, is nothing.

Or that I still don’t actually know. So let’s converse! A brainstorm session of sorts. Let’s talk about, hmmm, how damn confused I am with this format. Don’t get me wrong, it’s THE most open format I’ve ever played in and I began playing in Shadowmoor. I really do not believe that there is a single Boogeyman deck in the format, rather a few great strategies. These strategies are: UB control, Valakut, Splinter Twin and whether my boyfriend PV wants to admit it or not, RDW and the Almighty Tempered Steel. (With the latest Caw Blade decks also being quite strong)

I have learned many things over the last few weeks. One of these is that Magic and it’s strategies are very, very opinion-based. Sometimes we cannot prove that “ReD IS tHE best DEcK!!!!” or “Tezzeret is THE most powerful card in Standard” (Quote, Chris Bewley.) There really is no point in proclaiming “you’re wrong” and “UB Control is terrible because it loses to RDW”, these are just opinions. Opinions are great but they in all reality are just that: Opinions. A person simply cannot try and declare a best deck in such an open format and expect their claim to be well received. Yeah, it’s true that Red generally beats U/x Control. Most people would agree that Valakut loses to Paul Gumbly’s latest sick mill brew, and in a control mirror it’s probably not a good idea to tap out without counter backup. It’s when someone says that UB control is rendered utterly unplayable because of RDW’s existence, or that Splinter Twin sucks because it folds to removal that I get my gears a little ground. Not as much as having to watch a Michael Bay movie marathon, but a little annoying nonetheless.

So please have an open mind with what is good and what isn’t. Yeah, mono blue thirtysix creature beatdown deck may actually be terrible, but if the deck in question is Valakut…please, don’t say it sucks because of its inconsistency. Valakut doesn’t suck, and that’s the truth. Listen to your friend’s opinions and advice, no matter how “stupid” or “wrong” it may be. Maybe they know something you don’t? Maybe you aren’t the best player in the world. Hey, even Paulo Vitor refuses to accept that Tempered Steel is a top tier deck. Keep an open mind and, probably most of all, test! That way you have personal experience. Nothing worse than writing off a deck like Tempered Steel and getting wrecked by it round after round. How embarrassing.

I hope this doesn’t come off too bitter or discouraging, because I’m saying this all with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart ;) This article too, is simply opinion. So it is of course, up to you to discern what really is or isn’t correct. I think I’m just saying in such a beautiful world of this wide open meta we live in, when it comes to deck choice, there may not actually be a right or a wrong. A yes or a no, and it is most definitely not a black and white format.

So what type of format is it? Lets have a look!

As I say, I don’t think that there’s a “I guess I’ll just play Jund” deck in the format right now. I’ll tell you what, it’s definitely not Star City Games Cinncinati Top Eight “Jund”(decklist can be found here-Editor) I have been testing and playing around with UB Control since the dawn of the new format and I see that it’s  strong against Valakut and Splinter Twin, which I think are the two decks to beat outside of the mirror.  Then again the sheer quantity of aggro decks that would oppose my UB strategy would eventually be my downfall. When I do test against RDW I really do get it handed to me. And by “it” I most certainly do not mean the victory. Yeah, yeah I could just side in Wurmcoil Engine but it just doesn’t do the trick. They’ll block, kill their guy in response me all day long.

So here I am with a deck that I love, with these fantastic, or so I’ve been told, matchups against two titans of the format, Twin and Valakut. Well, Twin I repeatedly wreck til the sun comes up but Valakut can just do what Valakut does and smash me in the face with an eraser, chase me with a stapler and staple my Grave Titan to a stack of paper. How many people will play Valakut? I don’t know. How many people will play RDW? I have no idea. (Heaps.) Is UB Control still good? Yes, but times change and so do metagames. It’s only been a few weeks since the Chinese UB dominated Nationals, where we had zero Valakut in the top 8, but already it’s a different world. Caw Blade is a deck. Tempered Steel is a deck. “Thing” is a deck. (Just kidding, for an insight into my barning and “sense of humour” check out the latest article from PV’s Playhouse on Maybe if our Nationals were the same world as the Chinese Nationals, UB Control would be fantastic! Unfortunately it is not. The same world, that is, metaphorically speaking.

We have had, as I touched upon before, the first M12 Standard event, held by Star City Games, in Cincinnati, USA. A new brew of Caw Blade that has been doing the rounds online ended up going all the way. Now this deck has a plan similar to the old menace that wandered the land of Standard until quite recently, except it’s probably even faster and has even more dudes for you to try and deal with, while trying to figure out how to stop four flying, sword carrying birds getting high fives from a hot blonde babe on a horse, Hero of Bladehold. So really it plays out like Shards block Jund. No, that’s not a joke. Oblivion Ring actually is Maelstrom Pulse wearing a fake moustache. It really has good matchups against everything except RDW, and the Almighty Tempered Steel. Here’s the list that won the SCG Open if y’all were curious.

Deck: Caw Blade SCG
Tim Pskowski Sideboard
2 Sword of Feast and Famine 4 Kor Firewalker
4 Blade Splicer 2 Celestial Purge
4 Hero of Bladehold 3 Flashfreeze
4 Squadron Hawk 3 Mental Misstep
1 Sun Titan 1 Stave Off
2 Oblivion Ring 2 Day of Judgment
2 Dismember
4 Mana Leak
3 Spell Pierce
1 Elspeth Tirel
2 Gideon Jura
4 Preordain
4 Island
4 Plains
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Tectonic Edge
60 Cards 15 Cards
 Display Deck Statistics

A pretty well put together deck, which has the same dress sense as original Jund, has a lot of synergy and can end the game very quickly if a Hero is left unchecked. This one will be well represented by UW fans nationwide come Nationals, so take heed!

I will not be playing this deck. I still do not know what I want to play, but I’m definitely getting close to having a good idea. I’ve narrowed it down to this: UB Control, if I can convince myself that I won’t face too much aggro. Splinter Twin combo (because I really think that it can beat everything except black cards) or the Almighty Tempered Steel. I didn’t say Valakut because I have played that last Standard and Extended seasons and it’s not her it’s me. I just want to play something new, but Valakut is a gosh darn mother father house of a deck. Don’t worry about that! Just worry about what to do when you’re facing it. I also didn’t offer up RDW as an option because I fear its fragility. Simply put, it can die to itself- waaaaaaaait wait, one second RDW fans, I’m not a hater- sorry, it can die to itself, much like ANY deck could, via flooding or lack of land, but I really find that if you do start off slow, there’s no coming back, and I’m not even going to talk about how much lifegain ruins your day. I’m sure we all know the pros and cons of this. Anyway, RDW may feel like a “free win” deck, but it is just not the deck for me. So with what I’m not playing out of the way and two of my three maybe’s briefly covered, what is left?

Woo woo woo you know it!


Deck: Winner Japanese Nationals
Ryuuichida IshidaSideboard
3Contested War Zone2Celestial Purge
4Inkmoth Nexus4Kor Firewalker
11Plains2Mental Misstep
4Glint Hawk4Shrine of Loyal Legions
3Porcelain Legionnaire
4Signal Pest
4Steel Overseer
4Vault Skirge
3Glint Hawk Idol
4Mox Opal
4Tempered Steel
 Display Deck Statistics

Nope! You are not seeing things. This is the Japanese National Champion, Ryuuichida Ishida’s winning decklist. This is the deck that no one wants to face. No one! Not RDW. Not UB Control. Not Valakut. Not CawBlade. Not Splinter Twin and not Vampires! (Also a viable deck). This is the deck that put two people in the Top 8 at Japanese Nationals, two people in Top 8 at the previously mentioned SCG Open, and if you want, you can take away the Steel Overseer and there’s your block Pro Tour winning deck piloted by LSV because “all the other decks just lost to Tempered Steel”. Now don’t get me wrong, this deck is probably the worst culprit out there for losing to itself, but at the moment, it’s probably the best deck at winning, Period. I mean, it just starts off so fast. Dispatch is actually ridiculous and you can run off one land like a one armed sprinter runs off of two legs. (Still mega fast.) This deck is scary and I like it. There will definitely be hate out there for this deck, more and more as every second passes in fact, but at this rate I think this is the one for me…=( Much like LSV was saying in Nagoya, it really seems to beat everything). Sometimes you really will have your hand on the battlefield by turn two and it is totally a risky strategy, but I think that the rewards it reaps are surely worth it.

So I think, the meta is pretty healthy. I was always in favour of Stoneforge Mystic getting the axe and not so much Jace, the Mind Sculptor but now that he’s gone, aggro is really going to town. I really believe that you could play anything, it could even be brew o’clock, and I’m not talking beer. (Put it down Gehring…come on bro, it’s 10.30am.) Bring your Birthing Pod, bring your Lashwrithe, heck! Why don’t you bring a Scrambleverse and we’ll call it a party! Ding! Dong! Jace and his girly friend are dead and we are all free to live out our dreams in the form of cardboard combat!

This will most likely be the last you’ll hear from me till Nationals so look out for the “guy most likely to have the most fun at Nationals” in that awesome city we all know and love, Auckland.

I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading! God Bless and see you there!

Chris Bewley