A couple weeks ago my brother, Eric, pitched the idea of playing a Maxpoint Silver event at Phyrexian Games in Leominster, MA. While I’m not usually willing to drive an hour for a smaller TCGplayer event, this one happened to be near the town we grew up in, and last year Eric split the top four of a Gold event at this place while playing Goblins. This may be Eric’s proudest Magic achievement, or would be had they spelled his name correctly, but alas Erik Massak was given the accolade. To my brother’s credit, he has embraced the “K” and started using it at any Magic event that requires a decklist.

Anyway, Eric convinced me to play in this thing and then called me to bail the day before the event. He had been playing Red Deck Wins, perhaps trying to relive his goblin glory days, but hadn’t been having much luck in the wins department. I convinced him to come over the night before the event and audible to another deck. With the help of our mutual friend Nik, I put together BG Devotion and Eric agreed to play the deck. We used Adam Koska’s exact list from GP Vienna:

BG Devotion

Creatures (17)
 Pack Rat
 Nightveil Specter
 Erebos, God of the Dead
Desecration Demon
 Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Spells (18)
 Golgari Charm
 Abrupt Decay
 Ultimate Price
 Devour Flesh
 Hero’s Downfall
 Underworld Connections
Lands (25)
 Overgrown Tomb
 Golgari Guildgate
 Breeding Pool
 Temple of Mystery
11  Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Mistcutter Hydra
Doom Blade
Underworld Connections
Dark Betrayal
Erebos, God of the Dead
Lifebane Zombie
Pharika’s Cure

We chose this deck, over Mono Black Devotion, because of the amazing removal suite in Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm. While BG Devotion certainly has a worse manabase than the Mono Black list, with fewer Mutavaults to boot, the added utility of the flexible removal makes up for this. Abrupt Decay kills problematic creatures while also blowing up Detention Sphere and Underworld Connections. Golgari Charm just does everything you could ever want a spell to do, including saving your creatures from Supreme Verdict, killing Master of Waves and his elemental crew, and destroying the otherwise unbeatable Assemble the Legion.

One last thing about my brother before we get this thing going, he calls his group of friends “The Wolfpack.” If you go to his apartment you will find wolf memorabilia including, but not limited to, blankets, posters, and statues adorning the living room. For this event, I was made an honorary member of the Wolfpack and chose to wear a  T-Shirt with some animals on it to commemorate this special occasion. We even took a picture before the event:


Before talking about my games with UW Control, I want to spend a minute on Phyrexian Games. The store does a terrific job of running these events and provides ample space for 50ish people. They even have pretty reasonable prices on singles which they also sell online. My only gripe with the store is the name. Whenever I think of Phyrexia, I think of this article written awhile ago by The Ferrett where he talks about why it’s kind of weird to root for the Phyrexians.  Basically, the Phyrexians are like the Nazis of the Magic Universe, they practice eugenics and strive to systematically wipe out anyone they deem inferior or weak. Now, I know this is a card game, and that the Phyexians are fictional bad guys, but why would you name a store after such a deplorable race of creatures? Why not Mirran Games? Skyship Weatherlight Games? Tolarian Academy Games? Fblthp Games? The guys who run the store don’t seem like Social Darwinists or plague carriers, nor do I imagine they want to project that image, but alas, it is a Phyrexian Games sign that beckons you into the store—a veritable Gate to Phyrexia.


Anyway, I played the same list from last week. One card off from Huey Jensen’s exact list  from GP Dallas:

UW Control

Spells (34) (34)
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Jace, Architect of Thought
Azorius Charm
Detention Sphere
Elixir of Immortality
Ratchet Bomb
Sphinx’s Revelation
Supreme Verdict
Lands (26) (26)
Azorius Guildgate
Hallowed Fountain

Sideboard (15) (15)
Fiendslayer Paladin
Jace, Memory Adept
Last Breath
Pithing Needle
Ratchet Bomb

Round 1—Dan with Rakdos Midrange (1-2)


Dan came to the event equipped with his own Rakdos Midrange brew and ended up making the Top Eight. Dan’s deck ran some of the usual Rakdos Aggro suspects in Rakdos Cackler and Spike Jester but instead of topping the curve at four with Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, Dan ran Stormbreath Dragon, which was really bad news for me. We went to three games but Dan was able to overpower me with his hasty creatures while I searched in vain for an answer and never found it.


+3 Fiendslayer Paladin
-1 Quicken
-2 Dissolve

Looking back on this sideboard plan, I’m pretty sure it’s wrong. While Rakdos Aggro just can’t beat Fiendslayer Paladin, Dan could go over it with Stormbreath Dragon or through it with Exava. In retrospect leaving in all the countermagic would have been a better plan since Dan had a lot of must counter threats. My unfamiliarity with Dan’s deck definitely affected my game play this round for the worse.

Round 2—Brian with Boros Tokens (2-0)


Brian is a local judge who obliged my request for a picture with this awesome pose. Brian was also playing a brew, something a friend of his came up with, that I would describe as Boros Tokens. The deck seeks to abuse Purphoros by having a bunch of ways to generate creatures; Heloid, Sunhome Guildmage, and Assemble the Legion. The deck protects its creature army with Boros Charm, takes out opposing creatures with Chained to the Rocks, and even gets to play Warleader’s Helix.

Despite the fact that Brian had a bunch of indestructible gods that could give my deck a really difficult time, it felt like I had all the answers in these games. Game one, I managed to protect my Jace, ultimate him, and win the game with Elspeth + Purphoros. Game two, I used all four Detention Spheres on his godly threats and countered any attempts to Wear//Tear them. I ended up winning after hitting him a bunch of times with Mutavault.


-2 Quicken
+1 Ratchet Bomb
+1 Pithing Needle

Pithing Needle comes in to stop Heliod, God of the Sun and Sunhome Guildmage while Ratchet Bomb answers the deck’s myriad tokens.

Round 3—Erik with BG Devotion (1-2)


Not only was I playing my brother in a match that determined top eight contention, but the winner of this match would end the longstanding tie we’ve had in sanctioned games. Going into this match, we were 4-4-1 against each other. Unfortunately, my brother, Erik, now with a “K” in his name, took down this match. While UW Control has a favorable match-up against Mono Black Devotion, BG Devotion is a much worse match-up for me. Erik was able to blow me out twice in these games with Golgari Charm in response to Supreme Verdict and continually destroyed my Detention Spheres with Abrupt Decay despite the fact that I had counter back-up. I ended up siding out my Detention Spheres in the last game to completely blank any Abrupt Decays in his deck, though this proved to be sort of silly since Detention Sphere is still a very good answer to Pack Rat and can provide breathing room whenever Erik didn’t have Abrupt Decay or Golgari Charm in hand.


+1 Pithing Needle
+3 Fiendslayer Paladin
+3 Last Breath
-4 Detention Sphere
-1 Ratchet Bomb
-2 Azorius Charm

As mentioned above, this sideboard plan is just wrong. I think it’s better to just sideboard the way you would against Mono Black and do your best to anticipate and play around Golgari Charm and Abrupt Decay. If you’re wondering about the sideboard plan against Mono Black Devotion, keep reading, I play against the deck in the next three rounds.

Round 4—Zach with Mono Black Devotion (2-0)


Zach was a gracious opponent despite the fact that I drew very well against him in these games. On two separate occasions, Zach Thoughtseized me, took the card that disrupted his game plan the most, and then on my next draw step I drew the card he made me discard anyway. We had two interesting judge calls this game, one by Zach where he asked if the cards cast off Jace’s ultimate came into play simultaneously. Rather than just give us the ruling on Gatherer,”You cast the cards by putting them on the stack one at a time, choosing modes, targets, and so on. The last card you cast will be the first one to resolve,” the judge explained in the most roundabout way possible that they came into play simultaneously but that the active player chose the order they went on the stack. The next judge call, by me, met another long winded response by the judge. I wanted to know whether I should name Underworld Connections or the land it was enchanting with Pithing Needle if I wanted to prevent my opponent from drawing cards. I was 90% sure I needed to name the land but wanted to double-check. The judge made me rephrase my question into a yes or no question and when I did so he told me he couldn’t tell me but could give me the oracle text. He showed me the text. I said I didn’t understand why he couldn’t answer the yes or no question, “If I name swamp with Pithing Needle, can my opponent tap his land to draw a card and lose a life?” He said he could answer the question away from the table. I then gave him a confused look and said that I didn’t mind my opponent knowing the ruling as well, we both understood what I was trying to do, besides it was no longer secret knowledge. At this point, the judge answered my yes or no question by saying, “Yes, if you name swamp your opponent cannot tap an enchanted swamp to draw a card.” Zach and I both shrugged our shoulders and continued playing.


+1 Pithing Needle
+3 Last Breath
+1 Aetherling
-4 Azorius Charm
-1 Quicken

While Azorius Charm is fine in this match-up, most of the time I’d rather have a hard removal spell for Nightveil Specter, Pack Rat, Gray Merchant, or the very hard to kill Mutavault. While Last Breath doesn’t deal with Desecration Demon, the clunky demon can be verdicted, sphered, or countered, so it’s not too big of a deal that you can’t put it back on the top on an opponent’s deck.Aetherling comes in since they have removed most of their creature removal post board and Hero’s Downfall is not very good against the shapeshifter. Pithing Needle comes in for Erebos, Underworld Connections, and Pack Rat.

Round 5—Peter with BW Devotion (2-0)


Peter was playing Mono Black Devotion with a white splash for Blood Baron of Vizkopa but didn’t seem to be on the BW Control list that Gutierrez won GP Dallas with. While Blood Baron is pretty good against UW Control, I was able to Verdict away any that snuck through my counters. Game two ended up being a very long affair since Peter managed to climb to 44 life after hitting with Blood Baron and having two of his Mutavaults Last Breathed. Regardless, I finished the game at 30 life after drawing 23 cards off of my Sphinx’s Revelations. Peter scooped to a Jace ultimate.


+1 Pithing Needle
+3 Last Breath
+1 Aetherling
-4 Azorius Charm
-1 Quicken

While Blood Baron is a pain, it doesn’t really change the game plan at all. I still like the Mono Black Devotion sideboard plan here.

Round 6—Garrett with Mono Black Devotion (2-1)


Ah yes, another round against Mono Black Devotion. Regardless, Garrett was a really nice guy and a good Mono Black pilot. The first game I buried him in card advantage and the second game he buried me in Rat tokens. Game three, Garrett started off the first three turns with two Duresses and a Thoughtseize. While that was an insane start for him, he ended up getting stuck on two lands and I was able to Divination my way back into the game. I resolved an Elspeth when he had just played his third land.


+1 Pithing Needle
+3 Last Breath
+1 Aetherling
-4 Azorius Charm
-1 Quicken

My 4-2 record was good enough for ninth place, with my brother edging me out for the last spot in the top eight. I knew going into the last round that I wouldn’t make top eight even with a win, but ninth place just always feels bad. Erik ended up losing to Rakdos Midrange Dan in the quarterfinals.

We finished the night with celebratory/consolation Chinese food and a trip to the mall to take some photos for my mom’s Christmas present. I will leave you all with a picture of my brothers and I wearing matching green cardigans:


Happy New Year!

At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor at PAX, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and keeps a blog about pro-wrestling.

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