Cascade Pulse (an Alara Reborn Standard deck)

While my site has been down in the past week, I’ve been having a lot of fun with a cascade-centric control build. This design came about because I challenged myself to move away from the midrange, which is an area I’ve tended to live in lately. I intuitively appreciate the midrange because I like being able to shift modes between control and aggression, but I think being stuck in any one playstyle is (1) bad for my development and (2) kind of boring, whether I realize it or not. Thus, I decided to push myself in one direction or another, and the first place I went was control.
Cascade Pulse is a five-color control build that started as an attempt to merge planeswalker control with cascade control, with the idea that as many of the cards as possible should represent card advantage, either on the same turn or over time (I still love AJ Sacher’s description of planeswalkers as epic spells that let you keep playing spells). What I ended up with is a control deck that leverages powerful card advantage to achieve control relatively quickly. It’s good against a reasonably large swath of the field, and if I were heading off to a Standard event soon, I might tune this, concoct a metagame-appropriate sideboard, and bring it.
Click through to the extended entry for deck list and commentary.

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2010 hits

With the set almost completely (if not necessarily reliably at all times – where’d that Lotus land go, eh?) spoiled, I’m definitely thinking about what I like in M2010. As a player who started in Beta, I think they’ve done a good job of cleaving more toward iconic, generic-and-cool fantasy elements for this new core set. The theming is stronger, there are fewer cards with random, hard-to-place names, and in general the set has more playables than we’ve come to expect from a core set.
I’ll take a look at individual cards in the spoiler-rrific extended entry, specifically addressing rares that interest me, since, as always, I’ll be buying a full common/uncommon 4x playset, and then picking out individual rares to purchase.

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…and we’re back.

The blog was having some issues over the past week, but should be back up and running now. I’ll probably make some incidental comments on the spoiled M10 cards in the near future, and I have a cascade control deck list I’ve been enjoying, for anyone who still has a pre-M10 PTQ coming up (or an FNM, if your FNMs are Standard).

The wrong tool for most jobs (a PTQ report)

In developing an appreciation for an idea, sometimes we want to factcheck ourselves to make sure that we are not in love with the idea beyond the point of reason, or, conversely, that we have not misapprehended the situation such that our good idea turns out to be, on the whole, bad. While I wouldn’t advocate setting aside your creativity out of fear of having made a bad choice, I think it’s good to be able to evaluate those situations where you have badly mismatched your choice to the event.
Or, to put it another way, 1-2-2.
Over in the extended entry, I’m going to take a look at a deck choice that turned out to be sorely mismatched for our area, and reflect on how it represents not just a mismatch, but also an incorrect approach to a core component of the game.

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A 10-PTQ weekend

I’ll be heading off to the second Northern California PTQ of the season tomorrow, a mere two hours away in Sacramento (at least it’s not a busy drive when we get to start at 7am on a Saturday).
This weekend features ten PTQs worldwide.
In North America we have:
Little Rock, Arkansas
Sacramento, California
Denver, Colorado
Indianapolis, Indiana
All on the 20th.
In Japan we have two PTQs on the 21st, um…somewhere. I can’t read Japanese.
In Europe there are two PTQs on the 20th:
Aachen, Germany
Hamburg, Germany
Finally, there are two PTQs in the Australia and New Zealand area, also both on the 20th:
Auckland, New Zealand
Perth, Australia
Looking at what I just wrote, I’m amused that in North America I’m listing cities and states, whereas in Europe and down south, I listed cities and countries. Of course, my state has more people than Australia and New Zealand combined, so maybe that’s fair.
Good luck to everyone attending PTQs this weekend. If you haven’t tried a PTQ before, I recommend giving it a go (and check out BDM’s weekly column for some good advice from judges on what to do if you’re attending your first PTQ).

Needle time?

I’ve had a sort of on-again, off-again appreciation for Pithing Needle in the current Standard season. I ran two main deck at Regionals, and then stripped them out of the deck entirely for the following PTQ only to add them in on the day.
Pithing Needle is an interesting card. It’s a generic solution to a swath of problems in Standard, but it’s also often a terrible topdeck because you needed to do something other than shut down an activated ability to win the game. Still, there’s a certain appeal to dropping a first-turn Needle on Windbrisk Heights against a tokens player (something I’ve done before).
So, with this little debate running in my head, let’s take a look at the questions and possible answers over the in extended entry.

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STE is still good

Amidst all the discussion about the combat changes in M2010, one of the big complaints has been that removing “damage on” devalues cards like Siege-Gang Commander and Sakura-Tribe Elder. The counter-argument, of course, is that many of these cards were good before damage ever found the stack (cf Mogg Fanatic), and that you actually pick up some interesting cost-benefit decisions now instead of the brain-dead “put damage on, sacrifice” before.
Patrick Chapin spoke about this in his most recent SCG article:
Under the old system, when a Savannah Lion attacks and I have a Sakura-Tribe Elder, there is only really one play. Block, damage on stack, sac. This is the same play that every