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Author Topic: Night's Whisper Control Slaver  (Read 25973 times)
Zherbus
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« on: August 11, 2014, 09:41:10 pm »

Note: This is not a primer. It is not complete and is ever-evolving. What this actually consists of is anecdotal Vintage views, followed by where we've seen this archetype round out so far. It exists to answer questions and is expected to pose many more. This is a starting point for what I hope to be valuable discussion.

Background and Introduction

For an exhaustive and historical look at Control Slaver, read Rich Shay’s primer located here: http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=15900.0

When I came back to Vintage, one of the first thing I noticed about the modern breed of Vintage metagame was that decks were impacting the game by turn one to two at the latest if they were following an ideal plan. Gush would be online, Oath would be resolved, Dark Confidant would be on board, Bazaar would be triggering Dredgers, and Sphere effects would have been piled on to the board.

It’s for this reason that Vintage has seen such a surge in creature based tempo strategies. Where the common backbones of Legacy such as Stoneforge Mystic, Deathrite Shaman, and Delver of Secrets would have been outclassed by unrestricted Ponders and Brainstorms in Vintage, we find ourselves in the age where unrestricted creatures are now better than the unrestricted options in spells.

This has brought an interesting dynamic to Vintage, where the games were always capable of wide swings and impossible comebacks, are now largely following the Legacy mark of established tempo. Many decks including BUG Fish, the U/W Variants, and Merfolk exist to make your early game a nightmare by establishing an overwhelming advantage that they simply need to ride out.

What Vintage has to oppose these tempo-driven strategies is often degrees of linear strategy. MUD and Dredge can be shut down easily enough with the right draws in sideboarded games, but given enough turns to recover, they can crawl their way from behind. Control Oath can do a better job than it’s Burning cousin to actually force an Oath of Druids to resolve, but lacks a meaningful draw engine to provide it much reach into the late game, especially when it’s handing it’s opponents extra men to beat face with.

So where does that leave control?

In 2005, I posited that Control, by definition, should be a metagame deck. The card considerations should be reflective of the decks it expects to face. And that much was partially true for many of the control decks I saw amongst the Vintage metagame. While decks like Grixis control had Lightning Bolts to remove the more common threats in Vintage, with the ability to recast them and other broken spells with Snapcaster Mage, they either ran a low-impact draw engine or none at all. This means that it doesn’t have a good way to break out of the prison that is the top of the deck.

Control isn’t successful by riding the topdeck mode and answering threats on a one-to-one ratio, nor does it earn wins by not covering a large amount of ground of the decks landscape to execute one of its combo finishes. Even the stronger lists that contained Dark Confidant could fall flat after a short amount of time because of all of the removal that exists.

The reasoning is simple: All of the aggro-control lists are running Abrupt Decay, Swords to Plowshares, or Lightning Bolt because of, in large part at least, each other. When you run Dark Confidant out as one of only 5-7 creatures including your tinker target, you have to expect that by being it’s only real target, those removal spells will find them. You cannot win every counter war.

Also consider, that MUD is the elephant in the room. It’s a very large hammer that swings hard and fast. If you can’t deal with it, you find yourself playing very few turns without the benefit of playing creatures through Thorn of Amethyst and keeping your permanent count notably higher for Tangle Wire.

Control decks were still powerful Vintage decks in that they contained powerful cards in acceleration, Tutors, Tinker, Yawgmoth’s Will, and Time Vault as well as a respectable disruption suite. But control, as an archetype, was not as reliable as it once was.

The printing of Dack Fayden brought Control Slaver players new hope. It filled the role of a restricted Thirst for Knowledge in that you could dump your high-cost artifact bombs into the graveyard for Welder abuse. What it didn’t do was provide the card quantity that TFK did, nor dig immediately as deep. It served, to great effect, heavy influence on the board against MUD and the occasional out-of-the-hand theft of a Tinker’d out Blightsteel Collossus. But sadly, all we really saw out of Control Slaver builds were more control decks that were stretching themselves too thin in the face of tempo driven Dark Confidant engines, Gush-induced Elemental token-fests, Oath’d Griselbrands, or Stoneforge Mystics without summoning sickness.

That was until Ben Kowal, a fellow returning relic of Vintage, championed the Night’s Whisper draw engine. I talk to Ben a lot and I admit that I was skeptical of the draw engine. I really could not see past Gush and Dark Confidant being the best two at the time. I’d love to sit here and write that I saw it coming and I knew it all along, but I didn’t.

Kowal NWCS
2 Goblin Welder
2 Dack Fayden
2 Baleful Strix
1 Mindslaver
1 Myr Battlesphere

4 Force of Will
3 Mana Drain
2 Duress
1 Mental Misstep
1 Spell Pierce

4 Night's Whisper
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Time Walk
1 Tinker
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Brainstorm
1 Ponder
1 Fire/Ice

1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Pearl

1 Library of Alexandria
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Strip Mine
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Misty Rainforest
3 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
1 Island

SB:
1 Flusterstorm
1 Darkblast
1 Mountain
2 Yixlid Jailer
2 Massacre
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Ingot Chewer
3 Grafdigger's Cage

It took him doing well with the deck, while I was frustrated with the overwhelming 50% neighborhood of win ratios of every deck I played. I’d scoured the entire gauntlet and tried nearly everything, exhaustively, in testing and playing, online and on the playmat.

With some moderate success with some control lists, I was really looking for something more. I was not used to walking into every Vintage match with that minimal of a confidence level. With Ben’s deck being something I could at least see myself piloting well, I crafted it up card-for-card.

The first five or so games I played, it piloted pretty well and saw a few small areas where I could make play improvements as I grew to understand the deck more and more. Soon my conversations with Ben Kowal tapered off and I set to make the deck my own, using his shell as a guide. I made some cuts and made some changes to the sideboarding to help against a questionable RUG Delver matchup.

I played the deck constantly and had finally felt I was operating under a control shell that gave me the same comfort I once had with the XcControl deck that I championed for so many years before. In testing against the gauntlet on the playmat locally, I’d never lost to any deck in the gauntlet. Online, I’d gone on to win a number of 2-mans, two 8-man events, and 2 daily events leaving me with a 20-2 record in prize matches, until splitting with Rich Shay in the finals. We played out the match, a very identical mirror, and I lost a very exciting 3rd game where we both threw each other into topdeck mode, trading evenly until the bitter end. And that end, I’d hoped, would have been my Tinker to summon my robot minions. His topdeck mode was better, holding Brainstorm. Brainstorm saw Yawgmoth’s Will. Yawgmoth’s Will eventually lead him to Time Walk and Dack Fayden, forcing my robotic general to betray me.

Rich and I immediately set about talking about the deck, its nuances, and card slots exhaustively for hours. He’d told me he had a similar track record with the deck. We knew this was the real deal. What started as conversation about what sideboard cards were necessary, what our disruption suite should look like, and overall deck composition, we ended that night with a nearly identical listing at 73/75 of the same cards between us.
What Night’s Whisper had done was given us Dark Confidant on loan, with a more immediate effect. To dig two cards deeper with a Bob, we’d have to go through two upkeeps. Two turns is a long time in Vintage and an even longer time when it eats fire and isn’t actively digging you deeper through the deck.

Enough about the background, on to the cards!

The Deck

//Deck Inevitability
2 Goblin Welder
2 Baleful Strix
2 Dack Fayden
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Mindslaver

The above are pretty self-explanatory about how they function. Baleful Strix pulls overtime in the main deck by allowing for minimalist removal, digging deeper into the deck, and finally as a re-usable Welder option in select cases.

While Myr Battlesphere serves as the way most games will be won, Mindslaver exists to finish the game out in an alternate manner given the board state. I have played without Mindslaver and have instead cut another card slot for Time Vault/Voltaic Key.

Vault/Key is a cost-efficient package that will close out games with tutoring and a superior board lead, which is very nice. The cost comes at drawing one completely dead card at times (which can be on par with Mindslaver) and one card that often does very little. Voltaic Key can be nice to generate extra mana with artifact acceleration or draw extra cards with Top. More often than I’d have liked, drawing one of the two cards in an opening hand without support to use them resulted in opening hands being a functional mulligan to 6. Even worse, it made already mulligan’d hands worse.

Even with a discard outlet in a resolved Thirst for Knowledge or Dack Fayden, Time Vault and Key do very little on their own, while Mindslaver or Myr Battlesphere provide a threatening presence while merely resting in the graveyard.

Goblin Welder is one of those cards that people tend to over-estimate in the early game, but can be absolutely devastating late game as a lead closer or even as the comeback kid. Still, nobody likes seeing these resolve or even remain on the board. Without a supporting cast of cards, I am more than happy using it as a Duress for Mental Misstep, knowing I have another one I can find later if I need to provide its abuse.

//Tutors

1 Mystical Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Tinker

This is all basic stuff here, but I’ll use this moment to talk about Merchant Scroll. One point that can be made in its favor is that it’s always live since it can get Fire/Ice. I am not a believer in that card without a Gush engine. With Night’s Whisper already a sorcery in the deck, it’s often been at odds with operating with the primary draw engine.

The ability to get Ancestral Recall is greatly diminished in the modern days of Vintage due to the presence of Mental Missteps in the early game and I’ve never been a fan of using it to get a counterspell, only to reveal to my opponent what he has to play around when I pass the turn. Where others are running the Homelands playable, I am running a second Mana Drain (as noted below) and have been quite happy with it.


//Disruption

1 Pyroblast
3 Mental Misstep
2 Mana Drain*
4 Force of Will

I started out running Kowal’s exact disruption suite. I never personally had any problems with it, but I found the times I was able to use Mental Misstep were absolutely critical and it was by sheer luck that I happened to have the one copy in my deck.

The one notable here is the singleton Pyroblast. This is a Rich Shay call that I completely got on board with. With removal suite being the FoW-removable, cycling, tapping Fire/Ice over the relatively narrow Lightning Bolt, we lacked a maindeck way of dealing with Jace, The Mindsculptor or Tezzeret. This filled that roll, while providing another way to force through threats by keeping the counter number at a lean ten.

//Anti-topdeck mode

1 Ponder
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Night's Whisper
1 Brainstorm
2 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Jace, the Mindsculptor
1 Yawgmoth’s Will

Ponder, Brainstorm, Ancestral Recall, and Time Walk are obvious includes for any deck that can generate blue mana. Thirst for Knowledge is nearly just as obvious, being inexpensive to cast, at instant speed.

Jace is on the top-end of the curve and occupies that slot alone. Fact or Fiction is a good card, but it’s not Jace. It’s often a 4 CMC Impulse for a card you want that likely will come with a land, while the rest of them are relegated to the graveyard. This card is very good in redundant decks, like U/W, just like it was incredibly potent back in 2001 in Mono-Blue.

Gifts Ungiven is a card that can be used to great effect, but falls short in utility and potency to Jace. With Gifts being restricted, it’s not advantageous to build great Gifts piles into the deck and ends up doing something similar to Fact or Fiction.

I’ve spoken on the merits of Night’s Whisper at length, and find it a great source of card advantage. The engine is simply one where it provides an instant boost at a reasonable cost. The major difference in what I am running over the norm is a second Sensei’s Divining Top.

Top is a card that is relatively underrated in Vintage. Many games in Vintage can be viewed in terms where if both players can make it past the point where hands have been fired off, the player who sees the more impactful cards first will generally cement a lead. Having an early Top gives you so much more access to cards and decision trees that give you the higher likelihood of cementing that lead. While it doesn’t generate card advantage directly, it enables a key strategy of NWCS, which is to see as much of your deck as possible. It is incredibly difficult to lose a control match where you have a Sensei’s Divining Top and your opponent does not. And if you do lose, review that game and it’ll be a challenge to see where a decision tree did not go wrong.

//Removal

2 Fire/Ice

As the deck generally performs in a way that it needs to remain agile enough until it can execute its coup-de-grace kill, or establish resource dominance, Fire/Ice remains an ideal solution. With Dack’s ability to deal with artifact fatties and Baleful Strix serving as an attacker stall or removal magnet, the biggest threats in the format to worry about are ones which break those trends. Fire/Ice deals with Dark Confidant handily, as well as Delvers, Pyromancers, Deathrite Shamans, and most any hatebear. While Fire cannot kill a Trygon Predator, pre-board, NWCS is far from naked with Pyroblast and Baleful Strix.

It is of minor note that in the seldom occasion of getting a Dack Emblem, both Pyroblast and Ice serve to steal an opponent’s permanent.

Izzet Charm is also a fair card to run in that it also does two damage and pitches to Force of Will. I prefer Fire/Ice because it doesn’t force me to commit to red early on and the ability to cycle to tap down a creature or land on the opponents turn is pretty strong and reliable functionality, even if it doesn’t have the ability to be a UR-costed Spell Pierce.

Nihil Spellbomb is also a beautiful card to run, though I choose not to. It helps tremendously in the mirror and gives you a small out against Dredge game 1. The primary selling point is that it shuts off an opponent’s Yawgmoth’s Will (and Snapcaster Mage), but at a less immediate pay off. Where my second Sensei’s Top is in my list, Nihil Spellbomb would be in its place.

//Mana
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Emerald
3 Scalding Tarn
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Polluted Delta
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island
1 Island
1 Swamp
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Strip Mine
1 Library of Alexandria

The main noteworthy configuration of this manabase are the fetchlands. All of the fetches can find any of the dual lands, of course. Five of them can find the basic Mountain postboard, four of them can find the basic Island, and three of them can find the basic Swamp.

While blue is obviously the most important at its core, the ability to get a basic swamp enables the deck to execute its draw and tutoring plan against any deck packing a full complement of Wastelands.

Strip Mine falls in like with flexibility of answers, as it provides a rapid answer to a Library of Alexandria, Mishra’s Factory, and Cavern of Souls. I prefer that flexibility, but if I were to ever want to increase the colored source of mana, I would consider a third Underground Sea in this slot.

Library of Alexandria absolutely fits here. It doesn’t just win games on the draw, as this deck has plenty of ways to draw back up to seven mid-game. The deck does run 6 draw spells, a Jace, and a Welder/Strix.

//Sideboard

3 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Pyroblast
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Pyroclasm
1 Mountain
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Flusterstorm
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Shattering Spree

NWCS is a combo-control deck. A key to that assertion is knowing which of those roles you will take in a given matchup. Against something like Hatebears, you take a commanding role of the combo deck. That goes for any matchup where they can’t say no and aren’t immediately threatening to win. This means that the deck will have to be nimble enough to switch roles mid-game.

For example, if you are sitting on Nihil Spellbomb against Dredge, the plan shifts from ‘not dying’ to closing the deal before they can dig themselves out. Much is the same for MUD, in which case you’ll want to make sure that you’ll be able to cast spells first, then win with those spells.

General Matchups

I am not doing a sideboarding guide here because few decks are ever completely stock. Does this MUD list have Revoker? Does this Oath player run Tezzeret? Is this UW player on a FoF draw engine? Is the Caverns player a dedicated creature list like Humans or is it simply augmenting a Trinket Mage powered list?

What I can offer is some general tips here.

Vs. Control Oath – I’ve tested two, three, and four Grafdigger’s Cage against Oath and three is the number that NWCS can get away with. Game one revolves around plan A of Keeping Oath off the table, and plan B, going for a punch with Myr Battlesphere upon the first opening.  Game 2 affords you a little bit more time to overwhelm them with card draw, as they don’t run an engine themselves. Abrupt Decay is a real threat to your Cage plan, so don’t rely on it to be a silver bullet. It’s only there to buy you time.

Vs. Burning Oath – Much like the Control Oath matchup, except with many flavors being unable to say no. The offset is that they are a Tendrils deck and can go off in a blink of an eye. Being unable to deal with your threats reliably affords you to become much more aggressive with your game inevitability.

Vs. Snapcaster/Bob Control – You will see more cards than they do as long as you keep Bob under control and keep Snapcaster from trying to give Ancestral Recall another shot.

Vs. MUD – This matchup is already pretty solid pre-board, but the addition of such an onslaught of artifact destruction and the mountain for mana stability generally cements it. Unless they completely lock you out on Turn 1, you’ll be playing cards which are an incredible headache against them.

Vs. BUG Fish – This is one of the more tight matchups where the Mountain helps against the Wasteland barrage and cleans up with red removal backed up with the potent Flusterstorm against such a mana light deck.

Vs. RUG Delver – This matchup depends on a lot of big plays. Draw go isn’t a game that you can afford to play here, but the sideboard is loaded with many utilities to reset the board state. This deck is the only deck that will generally draw less blanks than you. Aggressively fetch to thin out the deck and try to avoid using Pyroblasts on Delvers and save them for Trygon Predator and Gush.

General Sideboarding

It’s generally easy to see what cards would be helpful from the sideboard to bring in. Where the challenge often lies is with what to cut from the maindeck. I’ve seen people play the list and bumble through sideboarding in ways that merely cut cards that are perfectly good for cards that are marginally better. Proper sideboarding is the cornerstone of winning all matches. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself when making those evaluations.

Mystical Tutor and Vampiric Tutor – Is the best game plan you have going to revolve around finding and resolving specific cards? Are you playing against a deck that can’t say no and the most direct route to Victory is to find Tinker? If this is the case, then these cards have obvious tremendous value. However, if the best route to victory is to establish resource dominance and to grind out card advantage, the card disadvantage tutors are a fair card to consider cutting.

Baleful Strix – Does this do anything in the current matchup beyond cantripping? You want a flying deathtouch creature against a great many decks. Against something that doesn’t care so much (Tendrils, Oath), this is likely a safe cut.

Mental Misstep – It’s safe to cut this against Workshops. You don’t care if they resolve Grafdigger’s Cage.

Pyroblast – Another obvious choice against decks with no red targets.

Dack Fayden – Is the inevitability of playing the Welder game a viable concept here? Obviously his thieving ability is good against MUD and the mirror, but how viable is this plan against BUG Fish when it’s easily removed, has no steal targets, and is feeding a very hungry Deathrite Shaman.

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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2014, 02:33:14 am »

Thank you Zherbus for this great report!
I'm looking forward to play this deck as soon as I can thieve the time (examination-mode atm).
See you on the dack side of september.
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2014, 03:02:39 am »

Dack Fayen doesn't really get eaten by DRS...

Nice report/primer/Lack of better word. Interesting read.
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2014, 03:09:41 am »

Dack Fayen doesn't really get eaten by DRS...

Nice report/primer/Lack of better word. Interesting read.

He was talking about the cards discarded to Dack, not Dack itself.
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2014, 04:20:50 am »

Great read and work, thx a lot.

I really love the inclusion of the basic Swamp, this is one of the first steps I made as well, as you don't need double blue that often and fetching early on black mana is key in this deck, even against mana denial decks. To further reduce your depandancy on blue I could see one Duress/Thoughtseize replacing one of your mana drains.

I would love to hear a bit more about the exclusion of Gifts Ungiven as it seems pretty flexible especially in a deck with Welder.

Also I am not sure about the exclusion of Vault/Key. You are totally right on both of the combo parts being dead draws, but in my eyes this is the price you pay for such an efficient and mana light combo. Confidant-Grixis has played the combo quite successful over the past years and has the slower draw engine. You can set it up much quicker with this deck and protect it even better with Welders. And isn't Slaver a two card combo as well, as you usually need Welder to trick him into the game? Hardcasting or Tinker for it and then activating it seem pretty slow.

Anyway, this are just a few thoughts that came to my mind while trying this deck out. Again, great build and writeup.
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2014, 06:57:50 am »

Hey Steve,

a good read for sure, and an interesting concept that I just didn't have time to explore myself. In the past weeks I was busy working with Night's Whisper in a Storm shell though, and I'm amazed there already. My feeling is that the card will perform even better in a control list - you have more stable mana sources after all, and shelling out a Dark Ritual to play a Night's Whisper is not too impressive. I always thought about Whispering in the past, especially as it's some kind of "instant cash-in" when compared to Confidant, but I didn't see it when Dack entered our world.

#side note#
What I'd been trying prior to seeing Kowals list was working with Accumulated Knowledge together with Dack. This was promising me a Manabase that would just rely on Red and Blue, und just the minimal Black for Tutors + Will or in some tests no Black at all - it was not enough. The metagame was too fast for Intuition into triple AK and the pressure of a Deathrite Shaman was too much. I could never profit as much as you can easily do with Night's Whisper. I love the two-color approach, but no draw is just gonna loose, and Dack's filtering without raw card advantage is just meh.
#end side note#

So, regarding your list, my first thought would emphasize a lot what Phele said. I don't know if it's because we're both in the German mindset of winning fast and dirty with Time Vault + Voltaic key, but I'd not turn it down quickly. I found Slaver too clunky most of the time when I played the other versions, and I think that especially with a double Top setup you'd be golden to find that Key early on. it's just as good as a Night's Whisper then, costing a bit more but colorless. I see the downside of not having something that is easily discarded early on - but for me closing out the game quickly is very important, as well as "just getting lucky" when playing under tournament conditions. With the single Jace, you have an alternate route to victory when you go infinte, and stealing one part from your opponent from time to time and having the other one available is just nuts =)

Apart from that, I love the Maindeck, love the pyroblast especially and the Manabase seems just so much more stable thtn a usual 3-color base. What I don't like is the sideboard with too much emphasis on blue matchups in my taste with another two blasts. I'd cut one for sure for the fourth Ingot Chewers, as I never left home without the full playset for years - just too afraid of our good Workshop players ^^ But of course, that is metagaming...

And one more thing: I was probably one of the biggest advocates of the Maindeck Spellbomb in Grixis, and when I see double Welder it is even harder for me to say this, but: You don't need the Maindeck Dredge hate any more. The deck is not solid enough in the current meta, and unless you are playing Champs (where Dredge will be played in huge numbers anyway) it is just not worth it. A few weeks ago I'd have maybe said that 4 pieces against dredge is just not enough, but today it seems ok...
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2014, 09:21:54 am »

I've been playing so no-stakes rounds on mtgo with a similar shell with some consistently good results.

The main difference being that I still include the Vault/Key combo.

Even with Slaver and Battlesphere it is nice to have a real "I win" button, though you do have to cut some of the extra consistency with fewer support cards.
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2014, 01:30:23 pm »

Thanks for the comments, everyone. It's been nine years since I've written anything  lengthy on Vintage, so it's nice to see I can still write something somewhat enjoyable to read.

Re: Gift's Ungiven

Many people confuse Gift's with card draw. While it'll net you two cards, what it is more akin to is committing too early if it's not the right time to cast it. That would be like going all-in right after the flop in Holdem. Sometimes, it's great and will accelerate some victories, other times it's setting you up to remove some of your best in-deck options much too early. It's a very powerful card, but it adds a layer of situational play to a deck that very much tries to keep that at a minimal. I don't run it, some people do.

Re: Vault/Key

I did just fine running that combo. It'll work out fine a lot of the time. I explained why I prefer not to, but in a deck that really has it's available space limited by the decks core inevitable strategy, I wanted to save the 1 slot for another card I'd always want to see. Part of the decision to remove it was an influx of BUG Fish packing Null Rod in the online metagame.
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2014, 07:05:48 pm »

I can understand no vault and key as they would suck alone BUT if your running two tops then key plus top is still great. also you mentioned that fact or fiction was at most times just an impulse so... why not just run an impulse or limduls vault? with the strong mana base limduls seems to be a strong play with whispers and jace. just my thoughts.
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2014, 08:08:13 pm »

Quote
Re: Gift's Ungiven

Sorry to jump at this Z, but this whole part is pretty confusing.

Quote
Many people confuse Gift's with card draw. While it'll net you two cards,

Actually you get two cards, but it only nets one card.  Also, the rest of the draw in the deck (accept for Ancestral and bad FoF piles) only nets that same amount.  It is absolutely card advantage.  Obviously it's broken because it's also tutoring.

Quote
what it is more akin to is committing too early if it's not the right time to cast it

I can't see defending this claim.  Granted we're a long way from 4x combo gifts lists where they were set up to resolve Gifts early and often.  But Gifts is basically infinitely customizable to the game state.

This is also why I don't really agree with the Hold 'Em analogy.  In that scenario in Hold 'Em the key is whether your opponent has enough info or whether your hand is good enough.  With Gifts resolving your hand just gets ridiculously better, no matter how early it is.

Quote
adds a layer of situational play to a deck that very much tries to keep that at a minimal

I'm hoping you can unpack that.  What it sounds like is that Gifts is a high risk/reward card, which IMO is besides the point.  Granted it's hard to resolve vs. fluster/pierce/etc, but it's certainly worth it.  And I can't imagine running FoF instead of it.


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« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2014, 08:49:21 pm »

To reiterate, regarding Gifts, I don't see this as a black or white issue. NWCS is a deck that sets up for a win outside of it just going broken, and playing a Gifts at the wrong time affects a lot of options to achieve that set up by firing off too early. I don't run it because I don't want to draw a card that isn't always ready to go no matter when I draw it. I play the deck so that every card drawn is an option that goes towards the goal of dominating the games state, recovering from one, or winning from a dominant position. I find Gift's to be loose in those situation, especially when Graveyard manipulation isn't an option.

You gifts for good cards and if you don't achieve at least a virtual win from those you were able to get, you can find yourself with less in-deck options. Sometimes it sets up an insane Yawgmoth's Will and sometimes it absolutely neuters it.

I just haven't liked it that much in the list, but I would run it over FoF. I also haven't hated it, and have done some amazing things with it in the deck. I run neither also because at 4 CMC, neither card is Jace. In fact, we're playing with lists running a second Jace over the consideration of bringing Gifts Ungiven or Fact or Fiction back.

And Serra collector, those are all fine options. Preordain is a fine option. However, space is minimal. The deck already runs lean on counterspell quantity for a control deck (usually 1-3 less than other control decks), the core functionality of the deck takes up an unmodest 6 slots as it is, which puts other filtering cards as options to replace other draw and filtering cards. I can see very little situations where anything else deserves a slot over Ancestral, Brainstorm, Ponder, Sensei's Top, Night's Whisper, or Thirst For Knowledge.

Really, what people want to do is make it more broken, which is understandable. What we were going for was something more consistent. I've run every variety and they all do work beautifully, but the nuances of the harder matchups made us crave more consistency.

Also, closing minor points: Although they do draw cards, I do not consider a draw engine to be Jace or Gifts. I find them to be paths to victory, much in the same vein as Yawgmoth's Will. As fast as this format is, I find dominance after surviving the storm of the first few turns absolutely critical. This drives me to be very picky about cards that are hard to leverage that position. 4 CMC cards and cards that do nothing are tripping points to that.

For example:

Kowals list runs Slaver, Battlesphere, FoF, and Gifts. That's four cards that are not guarenteed to be effective on turns 2-3 (which I consider to largely be the momentum tipping point of this deck). That's not bad.

This list runs Slaver, Battlesphere, and Jace. Its 1 card better in that situation.

The list I ran with Vault/Key ran Vault, Key, Battlesphere, and Jace. That's back up to four cards, with the exception of whether Key can be leveraged with Top, Sol Ring, or Mana Crypt and whether the mana situation deemed it viable to do such.

I'm definitely not trying to speak with hyperbole about these decisions, but trying to explain my thinking of why I choose the slots that I do. I have very hard opinions, set in absolute granite, about some things in Vintage, but I believe these points to be reasoned and point-of-view driven. I'm surely open to a YMMV stance on Gifts and Vault/Key, as I've run those in the list just fine as well.

Great discussion guys, let's keep it going. Smile
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« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2014, 11:01:08 pm »

Thank you for the write up.  list is interesting.

I remember running Control Slaver with unrestricted Thirst for Knowledge back in the day.

I find it hard not to run Key Vault especially when you have Top to combo with Key and Black Tutors to find the combo but there is quite a bit of BUG Fish online.

Why Duress?  Life loss from Thoughtseize too much in combination with Nightwhisper?

Would Snapcaster be worth trying or is that just greedy trying to Snapcaster Night's Whisper would be too much life loss?
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« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2014, 11:26:42 pm »

Thank you for the write up.  list is interesting.

I remember running Control Slaver with unrestricted Thirst for Knowledge back in the day.

I find it hard not to run Key Vault especially when you have Top to combo with Key and Black Tutors to find the combo but there is quite a bit of BUG Fish online.

Why Duress?  Life loss from Thoughtseize too much in combination with Nightwhisper?

Would Snapcaster be worth trying or is that just greedy trying to Snapcaster Night's Whisper would be too much life loss?

I won't pretend to answer the other questions, but I know that I've run Duress before as it can't be misdirected. I'm guessing that + the life loss is the reason?
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« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2014, 01:05:19 am »

I find it hard not to run Key Vault especially when you have Top to combo with Key and Black Tutors to find the combo but there is quite a bit of BUG Fish online.

Like I said, it worked out well enough. But once you get to the nuances of tuning, you really do crave more flexible slots.

Why Duress?  Life loss from Thoughtseize too much in combination with Nightwhisper?

The duress build was Kowal's original build. Rich and I opted not to use it for the time being.

Would Snapcaster be worth trying or is that just greedy trying to Snapcaster Night's Whisper would be too much life loss?

Funny you should mention that. Originally, I ran 1 Snapcaster to try to capitalize on just that. However, it ended up getting the cut. Going forward, Rich and I have added a bolt over a Fire/Ice and are playing with Snapcaster with a better result versus aggro-control. There's more to report once we iron out some details.

Like I said in the beginning, this is ever evolving. Smile
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« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2014, 02:23:00 pm »

I won a Black Lotus running a Vintage deck with four copies of Night's Whisper. It was an Oath of Druids deck, but, still — Night's Whisper will always have a special place in my Vintage heart because of that. Smile

I'm glad to see this black sorcery is gaining some popularity in the current metagame. I saw several during the Eternal Extravaganza event. I've always thought it was a good inclusion in virtually any sort of Vintage deck that could reasonably cast it, perhaps even something obscure like a Junk Hatebears deck.

As of right now, I'm running Preordain instead of Night's Whisper, which, clearly, is not comparable, but is better suited for what I want to do with my current build. The thought of bringing Night's Whisper back crosses my mind every so often. Maybe this will inspire me to sleeve some up again sometime soon.
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« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2014, 05:53:17 pm »

I won a Black Lotus running a Vintage deck with four copies of Night's Whisper. It was an Oath of Druids deck, but, still — Night's Whisper will always have a special place in my Vintage heart because of that. Smile

I'm glad to see this black sorcery is gaining some popularity in the current metagame. I saw several during the Eternal Extravaganza event. I've always thought it was a good inclusion in virtually any sort of Vintage deck that could reasonably cast it, perhaps even something obscure like a Junk Hatebears deck.

As of right now, I'm running Preordain instead of Night's Whisper, which, clearly, is not comparable, but is better suited for what I want to do with my current build. The thought of bringing Night's Whisper back crosses my mind every so often. Maybe this will inspire me to sleeve some up again sometime soon.

Whoever thought of that must be a genius.  Wink
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« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2014, 04:15:56 pm »

While there's been some interesting discussion about LoA, I was curious about the inclusion of strip mine. I've played about 25 matches on modo with a very similar list, and I'm having trouble understanding why 1 strip mine is correct. As you mention, it is of course good for dealing with LoA/cavern. Maybe my inexperience is the cause, but I have never tutored for the strip mine.

Assuming this is basically others' experience, combining:
1) It is (almost) never tutored for
2) The difference between this and a wasteland rarely comes up
3) The deck plays no wastelands

makes me wonder why 1 strip mine, and not something like 0 strip mine or 1 strip mine 1 wasteland seems so universal. As far as blue control decks go, it seems fairly unique to play 1 strip and no wastelands.

Also, thanks to everyone who contributed to the list.
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« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2014, 04:25:09 pm »

Strip Mine does four important things -- which is to say, it hits four important lands: Cavern, Bazaar, Workshop, and Library. Strip Mine is a maindeck-worthy hate card for Dredge and for Shops. I've also tutored for Strip Mine against Library. We don't have any other way to handle Library in the deck, short of trying to win the game right away, which we often can't do. So, why not Wasteland? As with many Vintage cards, having access to the first copy is much more important than the second. So, we run one. And if one, we might as well run the strictly superior Strip Mine.
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« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2014, 04:37:35 pm »

Strip Mine does four important things -- which is to say, it hits four important lands: Cavern, Bazaar, Workshop, and Library. Strip Mine is a maindeck-worthy hate card for Dredge and for Shops. I've also tutored for Strip Mine against Library. We don't have any other way to handle Library in the deck, short of trying to win the game right away, which we often can't do. So, why not Wasteland? As with many Vintage cards, having access to the first copy is much more important than the second. So, we run one. And if one, we might as well run the strictly superior Strip Mine.

Thanks for the reply. Let me perhaps ask a question that gets more directly at what I was after: why does this deck play strip mine but FoF/Spirit of the Lab control does not? Is it mostly the black tutors, the increased number of UU cards? Hopefully this isn't going too far off topic.
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« Reply #19 on: August 18, 2014, 04:38:13 pm »

In the original post, the number of counter spells was referred to as "lean". Does this mean that if you could you would play additional counter spells? Or does the fact that you have a reasonable number of threats in the deck plus a strong card draw engine mean that you feel you are getting adequately ahead and can therefore afford to run fewer counters than some other decks do?
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« Reply #20 on: August 18, 2014, 04:45:37 pm »

Jeb, it would be perfectly fine to play more counters in the deck. There is a fine argument to be made for running 3 or 5 copies of Mana Drain, for example. I just had difficulty casting Night's Whisper while leaving two blue mana open.

As for why this deck wants Strip Mine while Dance Magic Dance did not. The lack of tutors in DMD means that one-ofs are much less potent in that sort of deck. Swords to Plowshares means that Cavern is much less a problem for DMD than Control Slaver. And Control Slaver is less concerned with keeping all of its lands on the table because it doesn't have eight four-drops to ramp into.
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« Reply #21 on: August 18, 2014, 08:16:13 pm »

Jeb, it would be perfectly fine to play more counters in the deck. There is a fine argument to be made for running 3 or 5 copies of Mana Drain, for example. I just had difficulty casting Night's Whisper while leaving two blue mana open.

As for why this deck wants Strip Mine while Dance Magic Dance did not. The lack of tutors in DMD means that one-ofs are much less potent in that sort of deck. Swords to Plowshares means that Cavern is much less a problem for DMD than Control Slaver. And Control Slaver is less concerned with keeping all of its lands on the table because it doesn't have eight four-drops to ramp into.


I got some funny looks the last time I tried to run 5 drains. Triple Tinker into Vault + Key + Rod of Ruin was pretty strong, though.
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« Reply #22 on: August 18, 2014, 08:38:51 pm »

That should be 3 or 4 copies of Mana Drain...
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« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2014, 12:00:04 pm »

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« Reply #24 on: August 20, 2014, 09:59:41 am »

Quote
Gifts is not a card that is particularly good at creating an advantage, it is a card that shines when it is lethal and only when it is lethal

I really don't understand this view.  Kowal basically said the positive version of this.  My take is that people really need to stretch out their spectrum of game-states.  If I have four mana, I ALWAYS want to resolve Gifts Ungiven.  You can do so much with the card, including a pile that will build an even game state or small advantage into a victory.  It will do this even rather late in the game when you don't have much gas left in the deck.

There are metagame considerations (eg, if your store is full of flusterstorm), but there is no lacking capacity in the card itself (at least not in this list).


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I got some funny looks the last time I tried to run 5 drains. Triple Tinker into Vault + Key + Rod of Ruin was pretty strong, though.

You ever meet the guy who optimized to 3x Ancestral Recall?
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« Reply #25 on: August 20, 2014, 10:19:44 am »

You ever meet the guy who optimized to 3x Ancestral Recall?

Cutting the 4th, 5th and 6th was clearly a mistake.
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« Reply #26 on: August 20, 2014, 03:15:13 pm »

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« Reply #27 on: August 20, 2014, 08:53:28 pm »

In my experience Gifts is very good in the deck. You can fetch general brokeness or setup a kiler Yawg. Will or just win if you have an active Welder. I just feel that Snapcaster Mages would make Gifts even better. Maybe find room for two?
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« Reply #28 on: August 20, 2014, 09:56:39 pm »

Gifts Ungiven is a great Magic card. It is a card that you can build a deck around, with cards like Recoup. However, that tends to mean running a full set of the card, and that is not an option for us. Instead, we can at best use Gifts as a broken four-drop. I wouldn't call Gifts Ungiven incorrect by any means -- but I also wouldn't consider running it myself.

Gifts Ungiven is an optimist's card. When you have a Yawgmoth's Will that is about to happen, then you win the game. When you have an active Welder, you win the game. When you have huge piles of mana and a Hellbent opponent, you can win the game. But you know, I am not interested in that. I don't want cards with high upside at four mana. If I did, I would just play Hidetsugu's Second Rite.

Instead, for four mana, I want cards that shut down gameplans. I want cards that can be a powerful play when things aren't going well. And I most of all want my four-drops to be cards that don't require more mana to be go. After testing both Olivia and FTK, I'm sold on FTK being the better card, despite its being less flashy. Likewise, at four mana, I'd rather have Jace than Gifts.
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« Reply #29 on: August 21, 2014, 10:17:39 am »

Am I right in saying that Baleful Strix is mostly used as a defensive creature in this deck (on account of its having flying and deathtouch)? If that is true, I would expect that it would get worse as more people play more cards like Abrupt Decay or Lightning Bolt. Do you think that permanents which are defensive are the way to go? Or is it better to try out additional (defensive) removal spells like Lightning Bolt?

I guess this is related to what Zherbus noted earlier when he said he'd been testing Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage and had been having more favourable results v aggro-control decks. I'm just wondering if this is because permanent removal is become a bit more common in the format or if I am missing something.
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