Building Blocks: An Innistrad Block Memorial

This time last year, I had just finished in the Top 8 of Nationals. I knew that, despite my success, I had played poorly in the tournament and needed to improve, so I needed to play more Magic. Unfortunately, there were no stores in my locale which were home to a consistent Standard-playing community. I mean, every store featured drafting because rafts are very popular (“Don’t have to buy $500 decks!”), but I was very confident that I didn’t need much help on my Limited game – basically the only type of Magic I had played for six years. So I turned to Magic Online in order to improve my game.

Now, I had been playing MTGO for a while, but I had never really built up a collection for it before. I would just draft, or buy a Standard deck and hope that it would stay good for two years because there was no way I was going to buy another one (this never happened). So I decided when Innistrad came out, that I was going to build up a collection, and playing Block seemed like the best way to do that.

After all, why do people play Block?

1. It’s cheaper than Standard, and an easy intro to next year’s Standard
2. Grinding Block DEs is another way to get QPs and packs for a more experienced player.

My goal was the first, then the second. And it worked, to an extent. I ran through a bunch of Dailies and bought a TON of Innistrad block cards to bolster my collection. I did get very lucky when Dark Ascension came out: Intangible Virtue decks, specifically the GWB Planeswalker-Lingering Souls version, were absolutely bonkers. I neglected many hours of schoolwork in exchange for making a lot of tickets. Avacyn Restored saw me lose a bunch of tickets due to how many good cards to buy were in the set, and then more in the DEs when I could no longer play durdle control decks that worked so well in the Innistrad and Dark Ascension eras.

Why do I bring this up? Well, because now Block is basically dead.

There are no more Block tournaments, other than Daily Events. There are no GPs, no PTQ season, and no Pro Tour to make people care about Block. The format is also complete; it can’t get any better from here, or change all that much, because there are no more sets to look forward to. It is also summer, meaning that you could potentially take most of your Block deck, add a few cards from it, and then play it in Standard. But, most importantly, Innistrad Block Constructed is a very boring format. I mean, look at the World Magic Cup decklists. Every single deck is Jund. If I were to make videos week after week to reflect the Block metagame, I’d be playing Jund week after week. Against Jund. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Okay, so now that Innistrad Block is dead and gone, and that more information on Return to Ravnica has come out, I’m really looking forward to the next Ravnica Block. However, there’s still more than a month before that’s going to happen, maybe more if Wizards has another little delay on Block Dailies like they did for Innistrad Block (for those of you who don’t remember or just never knew, Block Dailies weren’t available for Innistrad Block until a week or two after the release of the set online). So what am I going to be doing in the meantime? Well… Standard, I suppose. That was the goal: build up a collection in order to play Standard. And since Block exists to provide a picture of what ‘next’ Standard is going to be, I might as well take all the old Block decks I enjoyed playing and try to translate them to Standard. I’ve done this already once with the Miracle deck, but now I’m going to keep trying to do it for the other decks I enjoyed. But, this is a goodbye piece of sorts, so let’s just go ahead and look at all the memorable decks from Innistrad Block Constructed.

Various Flavors of Burning Vengeance

You can check out one I played at
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/87625.

Burning Vengeance was actually the first deck people ever tried to play in the format. That’s what you get when a very obvious, intrinsically powerful build-around-me card is in the set at uncommon. The deck never really took off, though, and sort of died because it was too hard to keep up with the fast aggression of Boros and their Instigator Gangs. The deck made a resurgence when Garruk Relentless was added to it, but died again once Dark Ascension came out and Intangible Virtue just beat all other options. Avacyn Restored, with no flashback cards, offered very little reason for Burning Vengeance to continue existing, and you no longer see the deck today.

Standard portability?: Right now, no. There are too many fast and furious threats, and Burning Vengeance thrives off a slow environment. You need a bit of time to set down your 3-mana enchantment, then more to fill up your graveyard so you can use your Burning Vengenace. That’s not the situation in Block right now, and it definitely isn’t the case in Standard, so Ravnica had better bring something pretty hefty to the table if this deck is to remain viable.

The Boogie Man – RW Humans (Boros)

You can check out a version that Jack9002 piloted at http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/124071.

This was the second deck of the format, Burning Vengeance barely edging it out as the first. Unlike Burning Vengeance, however, its popularity and power only surged as the second and third sets came out. Dark Ascension gave the deck Hellrider to replace those clunky Instigator Gangs, which also went well with Lingering Souls, as it turned out. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was also a significant thorn in the side to control decks in the format. Avacyn Restored gave the deck the final burst of power, though, with Lightning Mauler, Restoration Angel, Silverblade Paladin, Riders of Gavony, and Bonfire of the Damned all making significant splashes. Boros was only brought down when people realized that it couldn’t beat a quick Wolfir Silverheart, and Jund promptly rose to the top.

Standard portability?: Absolutely. Right now, you have all the cards from this block, plus Mirran Crusader and any sort of configuration of Swords of X and Y you’d like. It sees a few 4-0s and 3-1s here and there in the Standard Dailies currently. After rotation, the deck will probably rise up again because proven aggressive decks are always very popular at the start of a new format (see Tempered Steel, Mono-Red).

Curse of Deaths Hold Decks (previous-Jund, BUG, Grixis)

You can find several versions at
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/87404,
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/89780, and
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/134449.

The Jund and BUG removal-centric decks emerged just to crush Boros and the Invisible Stalker decks over and over again. BUG fell out of favor rapidly due to the adoption of Faithless Looting once Dark Ascension came along, at which point Jund underwent a change to anti-tokens Jund. Once Lingering Souls was banned, the Jund decks shifted to their original roots of just playing one-for-one removal. When Avacyn Restored came out, however, removal-based Jund was wiped off of the face of the earth when it was discovered (by Kibler) that Falkenrath Aristocrats and Wolfir Silverhearts were better reasons to play Woodland Cemeterys. Grixis rose up and took its place, armed with the full arsenal of Curse of Deaths Hold and Fettergeists. Deck does mediocre, showing up from time to time currently.

Standard portability?: Jund-removal, no. There will never be a reason to play a nonblue control deck in Standard as long as Snapcaster lives there; Snapcaster Mage just provides way too much value. I can’t really see BUG doing too well either because it has no access to Bonfire of the Damned. Grixis could do work, but not now. (Hopefully after rotation, where both Izzet and Rakdos will be showing up. I’m sure Mr. Chapin will let us know.)

Token Decks (GW, RW, GWB)

You can find versions at
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/95901 and
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/95905.

GW Tokens was an early deck, nearly hand in hand with Boros. The deck was fine, but it’s horrible mana and need to play 4 Gavony Township led it to never gain too much popularity. RW Tokens only existed briefly, while Lingering Souls was still around, but it was the most popular deck of that era due to its cheap effectiveness. Hellrider and Spirit tokens enjoy each others’ company, especially with any Rally the Forces waiting in the wings. GWB was a deck very contingent on there being very few sweepers in the format, and it would just overwhelm its opponent and not care what the opponent did to interact with it. It completely dominated until Intangible Virtue-Lingering Souls were banned.

Standard portability?: GW is fairly portable now, but there’s really no reason to go an Intangible Virtue route, and when you have so many mana dorks and strong 3-drops (Mirran Crusader, Blade Splicer, etc.), you don’t want to waste your time stopping to cast Intangible Virtue. There have been a few RW tokens decks in Standard recently, modeled mostly after smi77y’s original builds with Shrine of Loyal Legions and Rally the Peasants. As for GWB, I played one the other day that was heavily planeswalker-based; and a Junk Planeswalker deck has seen success in the past, boarding in Intangible Virtues for extra defense, meaning this is still viable right now.

Zombies

You can find a version piloted by total_tool at
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/133345.

This deck didn’t really go through that much of a transformation. Dark Ascension, i.e. Gravecrawler and Geralfs Messenger, came out and Zombies was born. Avacyn Restored brought an increased shift to Blood Artist interactions, but the deck never saw a huge degree of success.

Standard portability?: This deck is actually pretty variable for a “tribal” deck. Gravecrawler, Diregraf Ghoul, Geralfs Messenger: after those three, you can throw pretty much whatever you want into the deck, tailored to your liking. This deck was never actually that good throughout its entire history in Block, but it has seen a lot of Standard play, and is easily the most portable out of all of these archetypes.

Reanimator Decks

You can check out a version piloted by jojoseef07 at
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/134061.

These decks were some of my favorite to play in Block, which is funny because their tenure was so short. There was basically nothing worth reanimating for most of Block’s history. When Avacyn Restored came out, though, you had Griselbrand and Angel of Glorys Rise, and both played differently! Neither one ended up being all that impactful in the end – thanks, Grafdiggers Cage! – but they were some of my favorite decks in Block Constructed.

Standard portability?: Griselbrand is one of the best fatties printed, and Unburial Rites is one of the best reanimation spells in recent memory. I’m sure something will come together at some time. There isn’t much at the moment, but I’ve seen a couple of BW Reanimator decks pop up here and again.

The Current Jund (and Naya, to an extent)

For a version piloted by Ricky Sidher, check out
http://decks.mtgoacademy.com/Deck/144441.

Midrange galore! This deck has completely dominated Block for a little over a month now, in various forms – with and without Restoration Angel, with or without Falkenrath Aristocrat. The distinguishing feature of the deck is the big guy: Wolfir Silverheart. There’s not a lot in the format that kills it, and it instantly makes two very large threats. The only thing that really beats a Wolfir Silverheart is another Wolfir Silverheart, hence the metagame we see now.

Standard portability?: It seems pretty slow and clunky for current standard, where we have such streamlined decks like Delver and the UB or RB Zombies decks. Post-rotation, however, when Delver will be much less of a factor, I could see some sort of Wolfir Silverheart deck running and smashing people into the ground.

*****

Okay, that’s about all I can muster for now. This article has been fairly long, so I apologize for my rambling. I just thought Block Constructed deserved a little send-off and a trip down memory lane before I could move on. You might notice that I missed a couple of decks, such as Werewolves. This is because those decks either weren’t very popular or weren’t impactful. In the cast of Miracles, I’ve already covered that. As for one specific deck, it’s because I’m planning on playing it next time (a la Standard), and I didn’t want to give away too much on it! You can probably figure out what it is just going by my archives – it is one of my favorite decks in Block. Hopefully I’ll see y’all then!

Lee McLeod
@leemcleo on Twitter
Gard on MTGO

*****

PS: AUDIO NOTES

Hey! I’ve had some audio troubles in the past. I thought I had fixed a majority of the background noise last week, but I did not actually talk louder or stop the clacking – of which I’m not sure what the source is. I apologize for these, and I’ll try to work on them more going forward. It’s not my goal to just lose a bunch of people because I can’t figure out how sounds work. So I’ll continue working on it (I promise!); just try to bear with me while I get it figured out. I appreciate the patience.

 
  1. An interesting idea would be if lingering souls and/or intangible virtue were unbanned – would that shake up the “one deck” solved meta at all? I realise the format’s probably been forgotten about at WoTC by now, for good reason, but would be interesting to see.

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