Building Blocks: A Virtueless World

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After my last article went up, Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue were banned. I celebrated this decision heartily, and was amused at people who didn’t play Block Constructed arguing vehemently on Twitter that it was unnecessary. Intangible Virtue and Lingering Souls were the best things you could do in Block Constructed hands-down. Finally the format opened up, so people can start shaping this format in a more natural way, without WotC yelling at them through cards too powerful not to play.

Unfortunately, ban times are always on a bit of a delay. Though the announcement was made on the 20th, the bans didn’t actually go into effect until the 28th. This left me with a week where everyone was playing a dead format. And so, without a way to test post-banning Block, I decided to just make a bunch of tickets playing GWB Tokens. “When in Rome…,” right?

Unfortunately, a side effect of the bannings not going into effect right away is that I have much less preparation time to find a deck, playtest it, tweak it, and then finally record a Daily with it. So instead of a Daily today, we’re going to look at what people have been playing with during the first four days or so of post-banning Block.


Every deck in the format right now is, to an extent, an “obvious” deck; there’s nothing particularly new or wacky. That’s to be expected this early in. However, three decks stood out for me, illustrated by the conversation I had with anyone who would ever talk to me about Block from March 20th to March 27th:

Friend: Hey Lee, what’s going to be good in Block now?
Me: Well, most likely an aggro deck. My bet is on Boros as it’s the most played by far, with Werewolves and Zombies dragging behind.
Friend: But what about control?
Me: It’s fine I guess, but I don’t want to play 1-for-1-removal decks AND have to contend with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Also, hard to predict what specific answers you will need week one of an untested format.

Eventually as people kept asking me (local people qualified for Barcelona know me as the guy who spends too much time on Block), the conversation degraded into:

Friend: Lee! What do I play in Block?
Me: Boros. Werewolves and Zombies are okay, too. Definitely not control.

So how right was I? Eh, about a .500 batting average. Boros wasn’t a particularly hard shot to call, as Hellrider is still an insane card in the format, and is featured in Boros, one of the few aggro decks with good threats and a dual land. It’s no surprise Boros is the most played deck. 7 of 13 decks that placed in this Daily Event, for example, are Boros aggro decks, and most Dailies are like this one.

Other versions play Stromkirk Noble (good in the mirror!), run Rally the Peasants for more Hellrider-esque effects, or are more white-heavy with Elite Inquisitor and Loyal Cathar. I’m not sure I like the white-heavy versions right now. Because of vigilance, they are good in aggro matchups that aren’t the Boros mirror, like Werewolves or Zombies (Exception: Loyal Cathar is deathly allergic to Moonmist). But those decks aren’t nearly as popular as the corresponding control deck that populates the format right now:

Last time we saw this deck, it was being played with the most wrath effects possible to combat tokens: Curse of Deaths Hold, Blasphemous Act, Sever the Bloodline, and so on. Now it’s just being played as a removal-heavy control deck, very similarly to the Innistrad-only Jund deck. But now we have Huntmaster of the Fells and Dawntreader Elk added to the mix. I’m actually not a big fan of this deck. I’m sure it performs fine, but I don’t like how fast the deck can just fall behind to red-based aggro decks, stabilize, and then die to Devils Play or Brimstone Volley. I’m sure the deck can’t lose against something like Green-White Humans, but that deck is barely being played right now. You have to have a pretty good draw (multiple Huntmasters) before you can beat the average Hellrider, I feel.

That said, if control is your thing, I would turn to BBD’s more planeswalker-oriented control deck:

People are forgetting that Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is still one of the best cards in the format. It’s only problem is it fits in a somewhat awkward color combination. But with GWB, you can play both enemy-colored duals, Garruk Relentless, and you’re trading in Jund’s Brimstone Volleys and Huntmasters for Elite Inquisitors and Mentor of the Meek. The Mikaeus here may seem odd, but all of the creatures in the deck just exist for a supporting role or as a deterrent to aggro decks; you’ll be winning all of your games with various vampire, wolf, and spirit tokens. Mentor of the Meek is a card I like especially and what puts this deck above the Jund deck in my mind. Jund can draw all the 1-for-1 removal hands pretty easily with Dead Weights, Brimstone Volleys, and Tragic Slips, and just run out of gas because they played a threat you couldn’t deal with. This deck plays fewer straight-up removal spells, and instead tries to accrue card advantage and board position with planeswalkers and Mentor. Who says Tokens is dead!?

Speaking of Sorin:

Zombies has a fair number of adherents online, but none interests me so much as this list by KennyK… mainly because KennyK is my friend Thomas, who suggested adding Sorin to Zombies. Though the Zombies pilot’s mana suffers a bit, Sorin is well worth the trouble. The middle ability is the most frequently used in order to push in the last bits of damage, but making vampires gives the deck an inevitability it didn’t have previously. I was paired up against BBD in a Daily a couple days ago in my test run with this deck, and I managed to pull out a game solely on the back of Sorin cranking out vampires to match his Garruk’s wolves, and eventually ultimate-ing to steal his Garruk, and from there the game was mine.

I will admit though, that this deck needs a bit of work, especially the sideboard. Going forward, I want to try a sort of transformational sideboard into a more control-oriented deck, sideboarding out all creatures except for the 1-drops and Geralfs Messenger.


The only predicted tribe we’re missing is werewolves! There haven’t been many Werewolf decks performing well in the post-banning environment, which I find interesting. If there’s one thing werewolves are good at, it’s punishing bad deck construction and slow starts. Apparently, just Mayor of Avabruck and Huntmaster of Fells are good enough at that on their own, without need of Immerwolf and his buddies.

An old favorite that has been having a surge of popularity recently is Splinterfright:

I haven’t tested this deck recently because of its abysmal (read: unwinnable) matchup against Sever the Bloodline decks (both control and Zombies). However, if this deck beats Boros consistently, it might be worth taking a look at if the other control decks on the list don’t suit your fancy. Zerserdar takes a leap with this deck and plays red for Devils Play, Faithless Looting, and Rolling Temblor, instead of the more traditional black splash for Unburial Rites and Sever the Bloodline. I’m not sure about Devils Play (you usually win by leaps and bounds, not inches), but I’m a big fan of Faithless Looting in a deck that wants cards in its graveyard and specific cards in its hand.

So right now, what would I recommend? Honestly, BBD’s Junk deck seems to be doing some of the best things in the format without a glaring weakness to the format’s first hurdle: Boros. Barring that, Boros is still a very good and well-tested deck if you don’t mind playing the mirror a bunch. Or you can build your own brew. You never know what might prize in some of these Dailies…

And on that note, happy brewing!

Gard on MTGO
@leemcleo on Twitter

-Lee McLeod

  1. My brother and I went 3-1 with a 5 color reanimator deck in a daily. huntmasters/drogskol reavers/flayer of the hatebound/unburial rites. Fun times.

  2. I have played a million different decks and the junk walker deck has still been the best performer for me. It is honestly very clunky and the mana is pretty gross but the power level is so high it keeps winning anyway.

  3. Nobody is talking about GW humans in block. I’ve been cleaning up in the 2-mans with it lately. I splash black for a little removal – but I’m not sure how necessary that is. The deck has a more explosive early game than Boros and can out grind most control decks. Maindeck curses can be problematic but WG offers lots of answers to curses if the meta moves more heavily in that direction.

  4. @Robin

    Can you list the deck? Wouldn’t have the same exact start as boros except, boros gets better at turn 4? The mana base in GW is not as good as Boros. Either, way Im always up for playing something different. Post the list.

  5. The major benefit of GW is that you get to play with anthems in a block world suddenly largely devoid of them (mayor and township). Your starts are slightly better than boros, since you can more reliably attack with a 3/3 Champ on T2 thanks to mayor. Unless they expend their reach on your creatures you quickly outclass them in size thanks to anthems. If you ever activate a township at board parity (or better) you win since they have to start blocking.

    I played Boros a ton pre-banning and don’t find the mana to be much worse at all in this deck. The double/triple red costs in boros cause that deck to play more red than it really wants. Pilgrims and the fact that you are usually casting 2 drops on turn 3 means that you usually have at least on grace turn to play a tapped land where it doesn’t hurt you.

    4x Champion
    4x Pilgrim
    4x Doomed Traveler
    4x Mayor
    4x Gather the Townsfolk (maybe only 3?)
    3x Fiend Hunter
    4x Garruk
    2x Sever the Bloodline
    2x Slayer (a current meta call – werewolves were hot last week)
    2x Increasing Devotion
    1x Geist Honored Monk
    1x Mikaes the Lunarch
    Doing this from memory basic land counts are fuzzy
    Weighted in favor of plains because your pilgrims don’t accel you to 3, they accel you to 4-5. 3 Township. 3 Chapel. 4 Cemetery. 25 lands.

    1x Fiend Hunter
    4x Tribute to Hunger (I hate stalker so much that I play this, but its probably wrong)
    3x Grafdigger’s Cage – keep going back and forth between purify
    2x Kessig Cagebreakers, (an all star vs. control, or dredge decks whose gnaw send the game long)
    1x Mentor of the Meek
    2x Ray of Revelation
    1x Nauralize
    1x Sever

    Thalia has been in and out, Slayer replaced a couple of copies of her recently and as I said above Tribute is awful but a lot of people seem to be trying to get free wins off of stalker in the 2-mans so I play them. The list needs to shift toward anti-control in the SB for daily event play, but I haven’t had time for dailies lately.

  6. @Robin: I did mention GW humans in passing, but I didn’t give it its own section because people just aren’t playing it in dailies (or, at least, aren’t doing well with it). I don’t think it’s a bad deck, but I think it’s good draws are comparable to Boros. Which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but your late games are drastically different. GW’s reach comes primarily in Garruk and Township (which is to say, your late game relies on board position). Boros’s late game is pretty much just burn spells. GW is in general better against creature decks because of its ability to just “go bigger” than them, but Boros is muuuuch better against control. I don’t want to be playing GW against the Jund deck after a Blasphemous Act resolves, for instance, but I don’t mind being Boros in that situation, because I’m always drawing live into a possible Devil’s Play.
    I also think GW is a little more consistent than Boros, mainly because you have a lot of redundancy in threats, whereas Boros has a lot of games where you need to attack with Hellrider or else Boros falls behind too quickly.

    tl;dr: GW is board position vs Boros’s burn. Take your pick, they’re both fine decks.

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