I’m not sure what I was expecting when going through the top 32 Standard decks of SCG Nashville, but I can’t say I was pleased. Mono Blue Devotion won, without playing any cards from Born of the Gods, and a bunch of pre-established archetypes littered the top of the Standings. Brian Braun-Duin’s Bant Walkers list seemed pretty spicy, but I suspect its inclusion in the top 32 has more to do with Braun-Duin being a monster than the deck being good. I know innovation takes time, and that we’re only a few weeks into a new format, but I was quietly hoping to see Maze’s End sneak into the top 32 with the inclusion of Kiora or Sam Black’s UW Auras deck make a real showing. Or maybe the issue isn’t with innovation but rather power level. So far, it seems like Born of the Gods sort of sucks in terms of constructed playability. Owen Turtenwald recently wrote in an article that BOTG was a “weak set” and for once I think he may have been putting it mildly. Oh well, at least Chromanticore exists now and I can quietly fantasize about bestowing this winged beast on an Soldier token or something.

Anyway, the story of SCG Nashville seems to be that everyone was gunning for Mono Black Devotion. With the printing of Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow, Mono Black was expected to be the best deck in the format right out of the gates. Yet despite this, Mono Black only had one spot in the top eight, whereas Orzhov Control (packing four maindeck Blood Baron of Vizkopa) had two spots. Furthermore, the top 16 was full of UWx Control decks that seem to match-up pretty well against the the Mono Black Menace and RG Monsters which I’ve been assured has a good Mono Black match-up despite not intuitively appearing so.

For this week’s article, I wanted to try out one of the BW Control lists in the top 8 of SCG Nashville, and I opted to play Dylan Harris’ third place list:

Harris' Orzhov Control

Harris’ Orzhov Control (0)

Creatures (14) (14)
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Desecration Demon
Pack Rat
Obzedat, Ghost Council

Planeswalkers (2) (2)
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Lands (25) (25)
Godless Shrine
Orzhov Guildgate
Temple of Silence

Spells (19) (19)
Underworld Connections
Bile Blight
Devour Flesh
Hero’s Downfall
Ultimate Price
Whip of Erebos

Sideboard (15)
Lifebane Zombie
Dark Betrayal
Doom Blade
Erebos, God of the Dead
Merciless Eviction

There was also another BW List in the top eight that opted to play Alms Beast over Desecration Demon in the main. While I find this intriguing, I can’t think of too many situations where Alms Beast is better than Desecration Demon, especially since the Beast doesn’t have any form of evasion. I suppose the Orzhov Popemobile is better against the aggro decks where they can tap down Demon to get in the red zone, though I haven’t seen too many aggro lists floating around in this meta. Perhaps, I’ll make the switch for my article next week, employ a little empirical science to figure out why Jessie Butler worships the Beast and not the Demon.

Anyway, I don’t think the Harris list needs much explanation in terms of card choice. The deck plays a lot like Mono Black Devotion, except that instead of Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Nightveil Specter you get Blood Baron, Obzedat, and Elspeth. While I do like the “Oops I win” aspect of Gray Merchant, this BW list has a lot of must-deal-with haymakers that allow you to get back in the game when you’re behind in ways that Gray Merchant just can’t do. Plus, Blood Baron is awesome against Mono Black and most non black decks have a really tough time dealing with a resolved Obzedaddy or Elspeth.

Per usual, I played at Pandemonium’s Wednesday Night Standard event. These are my games:

Round 1—Nick with RW Devotion (2-0)


If anyone is keeping track, Nick holds the record for person I’ve played the most in the course of writing Ensnaring Cambridge. While we routinely have pretty lopsided games, with one of us mulliganing into oblivion at least one game in the round, Nick is a gracious opponent who always obliges my requests to take a picture of the board state before packing up. Thanks for being cool, Nick. Also, I like your sweater.

Game one, Nick mulled to five which is about par for the course as far as our games go. Nick actually came pretty close to killing me, knocking me down to three, before I played a Whip of Erebos and gained enough life to stabilize with two Desecration Demons and a Mutavault.


+1 Merciless Eviction
+4 Doom Blade
-3 Underworld Connections
-2 Bile Blight

Ok, honestly, I’m not sure what Merciless Eviction is even doing in the sideboard, but I brought it in to potentially deal with problematic enchantments like Purphoros, his hammer, and Chained to the Rocks or to wrath the board when I’m behind. Doom Blade kills every creature in the RW Devotion deck so it comes in for Bile Blight, which isn’t as flexible, and Underworld Connections which feels a bit risky against a deck that can deal a ton of damage out of nowhere with Fanatic of Mogis and Stormbreath Dragon.

Game two, I disrupted Nick’s early plan with back to back Thoughseizes and then resolved Obzedat into Elspeth. I did mistakenly forget to exile Obzedat, which allowed him to be chained up to the rocks, but Elspeth and her soldiers proved to be enough.


Round 2—Ian with Mono Black Devotion (1-2)


Ian had been doing a lot of testing with Mono Black Devotion and was very familiar with the BW match-up. Despite me feeling that I should be favored, because Blood Baron, the games were really complicated and I believe that Ian was able to grind out a win because of his experience playing the deck.

Game one, I was stuck on four lands for quite some time while Ian hit all of his land drops thanks to an active Underworld Connections. Ian drew eight cards with the connections over the course of the game and I was buried in card advantage with no Blood Baron to speak of.


+2 Dark Betrayal
+1 Erebos, God of the Dead
+2 Duress
-4 Desecration Demon
-1 Ultimate Price

Desecration Demon is easily killed by the bevy of removal in Mono Black and Ultimate Price is easily the worst of the mainboard removal, so they get sided out for Dark Betrayal, Duress, and Erebos.

Game two, I managed to resolve a Blood Baron despite Ian thwarting my earlier attempt to do so with Lifebane Zombie. While Blood Baron was certainly doing work, the fact that Ian played an Erebos meant that I wasn’t gaining life and was, at any moment, dead to a top decked Gray Merchant. Luckily that didn’t happen and we shuffled up for game three.

Game three, I had to go all in on the Pack Rat plan after Lifebane Zombie sniped a Blood Baron from my hand. I nearly closed out the game until Gray Merchant put him out of harm’s way and I stupidly attacked to put myself dead on board. This is what that looks like (I am at three life):


Round 3—Justin with UBw Mill (2-1)



Justin was playing a mill deck he brewed up with stuff like Psychic Strike, Pilfered Plans, Ashiok, and Jace, Memory Adept.

Game one, Justin countered every relevant threat I played and even managed to Quicken a Drown in Sorrow to kill my Mutavaults. After a very long game of draw-go, Justin stuck a Jace and milled me out in two turns.

+4 Duress
+1 Erebos, God of the Dead
+1 Merciless Eviction
+1 Lifebane Zombie
-3 Devour Flesh
-3 Bile Blight
-1 Ultimate Price

This match-up feels much better after board where I side out all of my irrelevant removal for additional disruption/card draw. Lifebane Zombie isn’t particularly good here, but I would much rather have a threat than a kill spell that doesn’t hit anything.

Game two, Justin countered some of my early threats but couldn’t stop me from resolving Erebos and two Underworld Connections. After drawing a bunch of cards without fear of dying to damage, I stuck an Elspeth he couldn’t deal with.


Game three, after Justin mulled to six, I hit him with three Thoughtseizes in a row, taking all relevant counterspells in the process. I once again managed to stick an Elspeth and Justin had to scoop up his cards in fear of the ultimate.


Round 4—Rex with RB Minotaurs (2-1)



Rex was also playing his own brew, a RB Minotaur tribal concoction with some new Born of the Gods cards in Fellhide Spiritbinder, Ragemonger, and Mogis, God of Slaughter.

Game one, I played an early Pack Rat, killed a Rageblood Shaman, and was shocked by Mogis a couple of times before running Rex over with my crooning pack of rats.


+1 Merciless Eviction
-1 Ultimate Price

I was unsure of what removal to side in or out as the mana costs of his creatures varied so much. Dark Betrayal kills Ragemonger and Kragma Warcaller but doesn’t touch Rageblood or Boros Reckoner whereas Doom Blade has the exact opposite problem. I decided to just bring in Merciless Eviction since I had been wanting to cast one all night.

Game two, Rex got some beats in with Rageblood Shaman and Fanatic of Mogis while slowly pinging me away with his Godly Sulfuric Vortex, Mogis. Once I dropped down to three, not even my Elspeth could save me from his angry horde of disgruntled labyrinthine workers.

Game three, Rex killed three Desecration Demons in a row before I was able to slam an Elspeth on an empty board. He didn’t see a removal spell in the next two turns and the game was over.


I finished out the night with a 3-1 record, which would have been pretty satisfactory had I not lost the one match-up BW is supposed to be pretty good against. Moving forward, I’m going to try out the Alms Beasts in place of Desecration Demons, not because I think it’s a better fit, I don’t, but because I’m open to the possibility that I may be surprised. I’d also like to try some Sin Collectors in the board for additional cards to side in against control.

That’s all I have for this week. As always, thanks for reading.

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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