It was late in the game, and you knew you that time was almost up. The game was going to be over if you couldn't put it away soon. It had gone well so far, and you did a good job of controlling the board, and although most of your resources were used up, you knew you still had a chance to take it down. There was one lonely Squadron Hawk holding your final position. This was it: if you did not draw something, this turn would be your last. Was there anything you could draw to get out of this situation? A removal spell would buy you a little time but you really needed to just finish the game. You did have a Sword of Feast and Famine in your hand that you could never play safely with out risking getting blown out by Spell Pierce.
What luck! That was the best thing you could have drawn. Play Puresteel Paladin, play Sword of Feast and Famine, draw your card, then proceed to obtain your thirteen free mana and win the game. Thirteen free mana what? Well, that's how broken Puresteel Paladin is. Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Body and Mind, two Flayer Husks, a Sylvok Lifestaff, and two Mortarpods total thirteen mana for all of their equip costs. You might think that this is a rare occurrence to form Voltron like this but it actually happens quite frequently.
Last week I wrote about the blue white Puresteel Paladin Deck that I named Voltron. I thought the deck was interesting, but I was not planning to play it at the StarCity Games: Pittsburgh 5k. Not being able to find any sleep the night before the event, I found myself still thinking about forming Voltron in a constructed event. Laying there, I just thought about the different matchups for the deck. I was pretty happy with almost every match. The one I was worried about the most was Valakut, but it seemed like that deck was getting hated out by the majority of the other decks. Once I made the decision to play Voltron, I fell asleep quickly, confidant about my choice for the next day.
Since I already had a rough outline, it was not hard to put the deck together in the morning before the event. Luckily the event site was only ten minutes from where I grew up, so I did not have a far drive and knew exactly were I was going. One of the things I thought a lot about when I couldn't sleep was how I was going to be able to answer some specific problem permanents like Sword of Feast and Famine, Tempered Steel, Birthing Pod, and basically any planeswalker. The answer I came up with seemed so obvious that I couldn't believe that no one else had thought of it: Oblivion Ring. Lots of other decks were playing it, so why not Voltron? It was not dead in any match and it solved most of the problems I had with the deck. I had no clue how I was going to fit Oblivion Ring into the deck but I knew I had to find room somewhere. The deck list is so crammed for space that there are not a lot of cards you can change.
Here's the list I registered for the 408 person Standard event on Saturday.
Most of the changes I made were to the sideboard. I was not content with the one I had posted in the article nor the ones other players were running, so after some quick thinking, I changed half the cards. Timely Reinforcements is better than Kor Firewalker. That is my opinion, of course, but after you think it over, it is quite obvious. First of all if you have played against this card, you know how powerful it is. Second, you can bring this card in for multiple matches, whereas Kor Firewalker you cannot (obviously deriving most of its usefulness against Red decks). I am not sure the third Oblivion Ring is necessary. Sometimes it was quite good and others I felt it could easily be something else. If Revoke Existence did not deserve a place then certainly the third Oblivion Ring would be an easy inclusion. Revoke Existence is important in the Tempered Steel match and the fact that it also costs two mana is quite relevant. They basically come in anytime there are hard-to-deal-with permanents that aren't planeswalkers. Hex Parasite is almost a free spot in your deck. If your opponent has planeswalkers, side out one Flayer Husk for the one Hex Parasite. Sometimes it will win you the game and even if they don't have a planeswalker that game, he is still a guy that can hold equipment. The two planeswalkers proved to be quite important and came in for matches that were not quickly won. Their purpose was to have something to sideboard against Vampires. Trust me when I say that Vampires has a hard time with both of those guys. If you know the matchup, then with whichever deck you are playing you should come out victorious. The two planeswalkers swing the match a lot in your favor though.
What about the main deck? I never really liked the one Accorder's Shield or the one Swiftfoot Boots that I replaced it with. Not owning a second Mox Opal made that an easy cut also. I don't actually like the second Mox Opal either in case you were curious. You don't ever want a second one and sometimes you don't even want the first one. The reason not to cut the Mox is because sometimes, it simply wins you the game. A fair bit of the time when you draw it you can trick your opponent by, out of nowhere, obtaining metalcraft with the Mox. The extra mana is sometimes useful, but it's the metalcraft enabling that matters for Dispatch, Puresteel Paladin, and general sneakiness. Just like the Mox, the reason for the Inkmoth Nexus in the deck is often just to help obtain metalcraft. Sure, it is helpful as an actual creature once in a while, but that's usually reserved for blocking. I did not win a game all tournament with poison damage if that tells you anything. The Nexus can tap to activate itself, allowing you to use any of your metalcraftyness.
My actual tournament experience was rather unfortunate as I did not do as well as I would have liked. So, rather than depress you with a story filled with play mistakes and heartbreak, I thought I would share the important things that I learned from the experience. Whenever you switch to a new deck right before a tournament, you must be prepared for less than ideal play. After all, if you have never played it before, how can you be an expert?
The aggressive decks I played against were Vampires, two Tempered Steel decks, and G/W aggro. In any of these matches, and Red Deck Wins as well if you have to play against it, you must become the control deck. It is not a hard role to assume. You have living weapons, Squadron Hawks, and equipment along with solid removal spells. What the aggro players don't realize is how much life you gain with this deck. You have Sword of War and Peace, Sylvok Lifestaff, and the most important card in the deck...
I don't think the secret is out yet but Basilisk Collar is what makes this deck a contender in the metagame. All you have to do is equip your Basilisk Collar to your Mortarpod token and you kill any creature in play. Usually you block one creature to prevent the combat damage and during declare blockers, sacrifice the token to kill the real threat. That trick with Mortarpod saves you so much damage. Trinket Mage and Preordain help you find whatever pieces you you need to assemble your pinging death machine. Once you have a Puresteel Paladin in play, you can make your whole team into death pingers to put the game out of reach for your opponent.
The Tempered Steel match can be particularly tough but hopefully you have a turn two Mortarpod to keep their team small enough that, once they play the Tempered Steel, you don't have to take too much damage. They do not have many ways to kill your Puresteel Paladin so as long as you are not going to get run over your card advantage should take over the game. I won both of my matches against Tempered Steel and, even though it can be quite close sometimes, the match is definitely in your favor.
The green white deck was just terrible for me. I thought we were going to draw the match because of how long game one took, but I managed to turn a difficult game into a win. Game two he blew me out with Creeping Corrosion as a three-for-one. Game three was pretty quick though; when I had a terrible draw, he blew up my equipment, and he had a second Hero of Bladehold that I could not deal with. Overall any deck like this should be an easy win, but it's hard to win any game when you don't have mana.
I included planeswalkers in my sideboard for a reason and that reason was to beat the Vampires deck I played. He did not know the match as well as I did, so I had a clear advantage. The planeswalkers game two really sealed the deal. This match made me feel so much better that I am on the Voltron side rather than the Vampires side. Unless Caw-Blade really does take over the metagame again, I think Vampires time has passed. In my opinion, the other decks in the format are pretty rough for Vampires to deal with.
I played against two combo deck during the weekend. One is relevant to everyone and one is not. RUG Twin Pod is relevant to everyone whereas Blue Green Acidic Slime/Clone/Genesis Wave is not. He called the deck Bant Acid Wave. Apparently there were also a couple Venser, the Sojourners as well but I never saw them. This is perhaps the worst possible match I could conceive of and I still almost managed to beat him to stay in contention. Unfortunately, I could not find any flyers or green swords game three and he knocked me out of the tournament. Has anyone else noticed a trend that I play against the most random decks that are present at the tournament? It makes my life interesting but sometimes I wonder how well I would do if I did not have to play against dedicated hate decks like this.
Anyway, onto the relevant match in RUG Twin Pod. My opponent did not have very good hands in this match but it is a tricky one. You do not want to sideboard too many cards but this was one match were I was glad to have the third Oblivion Ring in the sideboard. Even the Flashfreezes should probably stay in the sideboard because they have lots of blue cards you cannot counter. It made me wonder if the Flashfreezes shouldn't be Mana Leaks instead. I still am not sure about that one. Setting up your Mortarpod plus Basilisk Collar is important but this match almost played out similar to one of the aggro decks in how you play against it. Make sure to find an Oblivion Ring if they play their Birthing Pod because once it is active you are most likely out of the game.
Caw-Blade. This is once again the deck to beat but now it is very beatable. The games will be close and you need to play tight but they are all winnable. As I said last time, don't get blown out by Spell Pierce. In fact, play the game as though if they Spell Pierce something you probably lose the game because, honestly, that is what happens. If you run any of your swords into a Spell Pierce you are going to have a rough time winning. Just wait for a safe time. Be patient. I did not do this and got caught up in drawing a card from Puresteel Paladin. RESOLVING A SWORD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IN THIS MATCH. Make sure it resolves and you usually win. You can deal with anything they do so just take your time and resolve the sword. They will do everything they can to stop you from doing this but it is not that hard because they have to play spells or they will die to all your little guys attacking them. I really like Kemba, Kha Regent in this match. The games usually go long so you should be able to play around Mana Leak and then equip him up. Kemba, Kha Regent is a great way to beat Caw-Blade.
The hard part about playing against this deck is the sideboarding. How you sideboard really depends on what version of the deck they are playing. If they are playing Hero of Bladehold, you should probably be bringing in the third Oblivion Ring and maybe some Dismembers. If they are playing a version with less creatures, you should probably be bringing in the planeswalkers. Regardless, you should bring in the Hex Parasite because it can blow them out at no cost to your efficiency.
My best advice especially for the Caw-Blade match it to play some games against it. Testing is always good but really needed in this case.
In the tournament, I played against two Caw-Blade decks and I should have beat both of them but, as I mentioned before, I was not patient in the second match with my Sword of Feast and Famine and that cost me game three.
One final notes for this week. Dispatch is rediculous. It is like Path to Exile in that you rarely can play it during the first three turns of the game, but when you cast it, it feels like cheating. They get no land and don't gain any life. It is almost always active during the game and was so good for the entire tournament.
Until next time, Unleash that Voltron Force!
p.s. If you have any good stories from this or any other deck, I'd love to hear them in the comments.