Crush of Tentacles – Beyond the Top 8

Two different Crush of Tentacles decks were top performers at the New Jersey Invitational (though neither made Top 8, due to Modern)

“Send to Sleep”
-Patrick Chapin

Patrick is half-referencing one of the cards in one of the two 7-1 (or better) U/G Crush of Tentacles decks from last weekend’s Star City Invitational in New Jersey… But he’s also kinda sorta playing on words.

Is Standard super boring right now?

Mike moves to convince his podcast partner that Standard is in fact super open, interesting, and ripe for optimization. Here are some decks that might get your creative juices going…

U/G Crush by William Moore

4 Den Protector
4 Elvish Visionary

4 Anticipate
2 Summary Dismissal
4 Pieces of the Puzzle
4 Crush of Tentacles
4 Part the Waterveil
4 Explosive Vegetation
4 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
2 Nissa’s Renewal

3 Blighted Woodland
4 Lumbering Falls
9 Forest
8 Island

4 Jaddi Offshoot
4 Revealing Wind
3 Dispel
4 Negate

U/G Crush by Zac Elsik

4 Den Protector
4 Elvish Visionary
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

3 Anticipate
4 Crush of Tentacles
2 Oath of Nissa
1 Nissa’s Renewal
3 Part the Waterveil
3 Send to Sleep
4 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
1 Sight Beyond Sight
4 Explosive Vegetation

1 Blighted Woodland
8 Island
9 Forest
4 Lumbering Falls
1 Skyline Cascade
1 Yavimaya Coast

1 Summary Dismissal
3 Noose Constrictor
2 Clip Wings
1 Void Shatter
4 Jaddi Offshoot
1 Orbs of Warding
1 Display of Dominance
2 Dispel

Esper Control by Shaheen Soorani

4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Emrakul, the Promised End

1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Narset Transcendent
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis

1 Anguished Unmaking
1 Coax from the Blind Eternities
4 Oath of Jace
1 Ruinous Path
3 Transgress the Mind
2 Dark Petition
4 Languish
1 Silumgar’s Command
1 Ultimate Price
4 Grasp of Darkness
1 Descend upon the Sinful

4 Choked Estuary
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Plains
4 Prairie Stream
4 Shambling Vent
4 Sunken Hollow
5 Swamp
2 Island

1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Summary Dismissal
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Fathom Feeder
1 Ruinous Path
2 Infinite Obliteration
1 Dragonlord Silumgar
1 Murder
2 Negate
2 Duress

Shaheen Soorani — sometimes touted as the most successful Invitational player in Star City history — might not have made Top 8, but he did go undefeated in Standard. Unsurprisingly, Shaheen’s “Esper” solution is actually two decks mashed up with two different decks (i.e. right in Mike’s wheelhouse). It’s also basically a B/W board control deck — an established quantity in Standard — splashing for Jace, Oath of Jace, and… Coax the Blind Eternities?!?

Find out why Coax the Blind Eternities is more than just a three mana tax in Shaheen’s deck (despite there being all of one Eldrazi card in his sideboard) in “Crush of Tentacles – Beyond the Top 8”:

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Conspiracy: Take the Crown Exclusive Preview – Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise, one of the most iconic cards in the history of the game, is back in Conspiracy: Take the Crown

Birds of Paradise is a powerful card that has quite a bit of history to it (going back, as it does, all the way to Alpha). We all know this is one of the strongest creatures of all time, Magic’s original redundancy card, and a key contributor to countless championship decks.

Instead of selling listeners on Birds [because, let’s be honest, why would they need to?] Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores share some of their favorite Birds of Paradise stories.

Take a short trip down memory lane (and hear about Mike’s favorite bluff) in “Conspiracy: Take the Crown Exclusive Preview – Birds of Paradise”:

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Distended Mindbender Takes Center Stage

Distended Mindbender
In Robert Santana’s Jund Delirium, Distended Mindbender takes center stage (and two cards from your hand)

Check out Robert Santana’s new Jund Delirium:

3 Liliana, the Last Hope

1 Emrakul, the Promised End
2 Distended Mindbender
1 Mindwrack Demon
3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
3 Pilgrim’s Eye

3 Languish
3 Traverse the Ulvenwald
2 To the Slaughter
3 Fiery Impulse
3 Kozilek’s Return
4 Grapple with the Past
3 Vessel of Nascency

6 Forest
4 Swamp
1 Mountain
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Smoldering Marsh
1 Cinder Glade
4 Evolving Wilds

1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Languish
1 Fiery Impulse
1 Duress
1 Dragonmaster Outcast
3 Transgress the Mind
1 Ultimate Price
2 Pick the Brain
2 Den Protector
2 Pulse of Murasa

At first glance you might be asking yourself what the red is for. Just Fiery Impulse? What a weird splash; I mean, you can just play Dead Weight at B, right? And help your Delirium even more?

… Oh yeah, Kozilek’s Return is one of the most powerful, format-bending, cards available! The one Mountain laces together the powerful Emerge strategy (with Distended Mindbender filling in for Elder Deep-Fiend) with the B/G Delirium color combination alongside the supremely powerful red sweeper.

Kozilek’s Return, Languish, and Fiery Impulse work together in this deck in a way that is very hateful for Bant Company. What is a Bant Company deck supposed to do if it has Collected Company — or even both Collected Company and Spell Queller — in hand when the opponent casts Distended Mindbender (with Kozilek’s Return in the graveyard)? Do you cast Collected Company there? The Kozilek’s Return is going to sweep you. Do you cast neither? The Distended Mindbender is going to take both the good cards out of your hand.

Spell Queller is little to no insurance against this deck. Spell Queller Languish; go ahead… Santana’s deck is going to get you with Fiery Impulse at just the right time to maximize the Languish, later.

This podcast teaches you “the most important thing about Wretched Gryff”, talks about the most Top Level Podcast deck ever (Grixis Cat), and discusses customizations in Bant Company, too! All this in “Distended Mindbender Takes Center Stage”:

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Elder Deep-Fiend into Elder Deep-Fiend (into Elder Deep-Fiend)

Elder Deep-Fiend
Elder Deep-Fiend is one of five Eldritch Moon cards that have completely revolutionized Standard

After a pair of weeks that saw a Spell Queller-fueled Bant Company and a retro-inspired G/W Tokens take early crowns at Star City Games Standard Opens, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon became a showcase for a number of new strategies, many of which were centered around Elder Deep-Fiend.

Turbo-Emrakul, by Owen Turtenwald

1 Chandra, Flamecaller
3 Emrakul, the Promised End
3 Elder Deep-Fiend
1 Wretched Gryff
4 Gnarlwood Dryad
3 Pilgrim’s Eye
2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

4 Gather the Pack
4 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
4 Kozilek’s Return
4 Grapple with the Past
2 Corrupted Grafstone
4 Vessel of Nascency

3 Shivan Reef
4 Yavimaya Coast
1 Mountain
3 Island
7 Forest
3 Game Trail

2 Dispel
1 Coax from the Blind Eternities
2 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Den Protector
2 Fiery Impulse
2 Invasive Surgery
1 Summary Dismissal
1 Clip Wings
1 Negate
2 Shaman of Forgotten Ways

Elder Deep-Fiend is a transitional card in Owen’s deck. It buys time and can be a powerful threat… But it’s not the end game for this deck. Owen uses Pilgrim’s Eye as his preferred Elder Deep-Fiend setup man, which is subtly important. Pilgrim’s Eye is an artifact. It’s perfect in every way, actually… A three mana creature that generates card advantage into chaining into a “four” mana “seven drop”. The basic land undoes the inherent disadvantage of the Emerge mechanic, but getting an artifact into the graveyard (and for that matter an artifact creature) makes Emrakul, the Promised End that much faster.

Owen’s deck is all about Emrakul, the Promised End. If he can buy enough time with Elder Deep-Fiend, Emrakul will win it. That is the bet.

Temerge by Andrew Brown

4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Primal Druid
4 Matter Reshaper
3 Shaman of Forgotten Ways
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
4 Wretched Gryff
1 Lashweed Lurker
3 Elder Deep-Fiend

4 Gather the Pack
4 Grapple with the Past
4 Kozilek’s Return

4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Shivan Reef
4 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Lumbering Falls
1 Woodland Stream
4 Forest
2 Island
1 Mountain

4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
2 Noose Constrictor
2 Radiant Flames
2 Kiora, Master of the Depths
1 World Breaker
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Eldrazi Obligator
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
1 Thought-Knot Seer

Elder Deep-Fiend has a completely different role in Andrew Brown’s deck. Rather than Emrakul being “the thing” in this deck the Deep-Fiend itself is not just a transitional card but a potential end game lock.

This deck wants to chain Elder Deep-Fiend into the next (and next) copies via Sanctum of Ugin. It is quite feasible to Time Walk the opponent four or so times, attacking for 20 with massive tempo generators. Sometimes you just draw multiple copies; sometimes Grapple with the Past keeps your Eldrazi flowing.

It is pretty natural for Elder Deep-Fiend-based Emerge decks to be Temur. Green is the best setup color due to cards like Grapple with the Past or mana accelerators like Primal Druid or Nissa’s Pilgrimage. Elder Deep-Fiend itself is colorless (but requires blue mana).

Rounding out Temur is of course Kozilek’s Return.

It is difficult to exaggerate how compelling Kozilek’s Return is in this format. It ruins all the small creature decks, and the fat casting costs on Wretched Gryff; Emrakul, the Promised End; or of course Elder Deep-Fiend buy this card back famously.

We didn’t have access to all of our usual recording equipment this week. (Slight) apologies on sound quality this week.

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The Tragic Arrogance of Osyp Lebedowicz

Tragic Arrogance
Osyp played three, Three, count em THREE copies of Tragic Arrogance in the main deck of his G/W tokens;ind out why that was awesome.

Thanks Eldritch Moon! Mike is happy that that stupid G/W Tokens deck is no longer top dawg in Standard!

Um, Mike…

Turns out that longtime friend, Pro Tour and Grand Prix Champion, (and notable troll storyteller) Osyp Lebedowicz cleared out last week’s Standard Open with — you guessed it — G/W Tokens.

But Osyp’s version of G/W Tokens, despite playing absolutely no new Eldritch Moon cards, was innovative and ingenious.

G/W Tokens by Osyp Lebedowicz

4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Hangarback Walker
4 Archangel Avacyn

4 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

4 Oath of Nissa
4 Dromoka’s Command
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Evolutionary Leap
3 Tragic Arrogance

4 Canopy Vista
9 Forest
4 Fortified Village
7 Plains
1 Westvale Abbey

1 Clip Wings
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Declaration in Stone
2 Lambholt Pacifist
2 Linvala, the Preserver
2 Stasis Snare
1 Quarantine Field
1 Aerial Volley
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer

Notable in Osyp’s list is the presence of two main deck copies of Evolutionary Leap but the aforementioned trifecta of Tragic Arrogance. There are a number of reasons this is so innovative and effective:

  • Tragic Arrogance costs five mana – I know! Weird, right? But going up to five is actually subtly advantageous in Standard if the dominant interactive card is Spell Queller. Simply, you can’t Spell Queller Tragic Arrogance.
  • It goes over the top – We talked before about using five casting cost creatures like Archangel Avacyn or Ishkanah, the Grafwidow to the same effect [against Spell Queller]. That’s fine… Tragic Arrogance trumps other big stuff, especially in this deck.
  • Tragic Arrogance is wildly asymmetrical in this deck – Since Osyp’s G/W list has enchantments like Evolutionary Leap, artifacts like Hangarback Walker, multiple Planeswalkers, and different kinds of creatures it can retain quite a lot of material post-Tragic Arrogance; much more, typically, than the opponent will.
  • It forces the opponent to sacrifice – Unlike Planar Cleansing or Radiant Flames, Tragic Arrogance outdoes the defense of Selfless Spirit or Archangel Avacyn. Take that, interactive creature defense creatures!

This G/W retro-win headlines this podcast but Mike and Patrick also go over big moves in G/B Delierium, Bant, a resurgent look at Eldrazi Displacer, and the first big appearance of Crush of Tentacles. Check it all out in “The Tragic Arrogance of Osyp Lebedowicz”:

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Spell Queller. Just… Spell Queller

Spell Queller
Spell Queller is performing exactly AT expectation… If you expected it to completely redefine the format.

When was the last time a new card hit Standard and made such a dramatic impact, across so many archetypes? Spell Queller is “only” a rare but is already outperforming most playable mythic rares in terms of secondary market value. Oh yeah, it is also both headlining and making multiple archetypes; and forcing opposing decks to re-think their basic assets.

Spell Queller versus, um, spells

Spell Queller is good against cards that cost four or less mana. That’s not a big surprise (that’s kind of just what the card says). Yes, if the Spell Queller is removed, the opponent can get the card back, but there are [at least] two problems with that:

  • Spell Queller is a great offensive drop, generally surrounded by other great offensive creatures. This is the big one. Players are cutting their Jaces for Selfless Spirit in order to promote flying, attacking-oriented themes. That means that even though you can potentially get your card back, Spell Queller decks are designed to put you on the back foot. You might not have the time to recover.
  • Some cards stink when they come back off of a Spell Queller. Radiant Flames. Painful Truths. Most counterspells, most of the time. Barf, barf, and barf again! Converge spells lose basically all their flavor when they come back. “Deal zero damage. Draw zero cards.” -Spell Queller

Spell Queller with Duskwatch Recruiter

Duskwatch Recruiter was already a good card, generally played as a three-of (if not four-of) in Bant Company decks. Mike speculates that Duskwatch Recruiter will get even better in the coming weeks and months. Can you imagine how hot that three open mana will be after dropping a turn two Duskwatch Recruiter? You can leave it up to Spell Queller the opponent (if he casts a spell); and just draw an extra card (probably a Spell Queller, let’s be honest) if he doesn’t.

Spell Queller and… Noose Constrictor?

One of the most interesting moves of the weekend was the adoption by Andrew Boswell of Noose Constrictor in G/W Tokens. Is Noose Constrictor awesome?

Actually, no.

But it does have reach.

Noose Constrictor is a key role player that G/W now needs just to block Spirits; Spirits, you know, like S—- Q——.


Lots of results, lots of decks in this week’s episode:

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Either Way… Splash Bloodhall Priest!

Bloodhall Priest
Bloodhall Priest… How are you not into the new Inferno Titan, man?

Mike isn’t sure if Vampires should play mono-red [madness], or mono-black (to make sure they can madness out and abuse Voldaren Pariah). Patrick has a different take: Instead of playing purely black or purely red, black should splash red and red should splash black.


At least if you are dead set on Vampires… Bloodhall Priest is just too good!

Let’s check out the range on Bloodhall Priest:

  • Worst comes to worst? Bloodhall Priest is a 4/4 for four mana with no real drawback. That’s not bad!
  • Bloodhall Priest is a bit Obstinate Baloth-ish; that is, it is a 4/4 creature that can come down via discard… After all it has a madness discount.
  • As a topdeck, Bloodhall Priest can act like a Murderous Redcap… But at twice the size. Later on, it is not difficult for this creature to completely take over the game. As long as you have no cards in hand, Bloodhall Priest can do a very tidy Inferno Titan impression, killing small creatures left and right

And it’s not like it’s off-theme! In addition to being an actual vampire for either black or red vampire choices, the fact that this card has madness gives it a natural synergy with either Furyblade Vampire (red) or Cryptbreaker (black). madness Madness MADNESS!

There are lots of other black and red cards, zombie-themed cards (in addition to and instead of vampires cards) removal, and potential sleepers all discussed in this podcast. Give “Either Way… Splash Bloodhall Priest!” a listen to find out what Mike Flores and Patrick Chapin have to say about Eldritch Moon, still before the first Top 8 breaks:

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Floor, Ceiling, Bedlam Reveler

Bedlam Reveler
Bedlam Reveler has a low floor… But also an amazingly high ceiling!

One of the nice things we learn in “Floor, Ceiling, Bedlam Reveler” is that Mike doesn’t know what “a low floor” means, apparently. Patrick explains the — frankly common — metaphor and also how the low floor-high ceiling range applies to this great new Eldritch Moon creature.

Make no mistake: The floor on Bedlam Reveler is slow. Its base cost is a blubbery eight mana. It can cost an awful lot of mana for a mere 3/4… And if you have more than three cards in hand? This Devil Horror can bedevil you, horribly.

But when Bedlam Reveler is good? It’s so good.

When Bedlam Reveler is on, it is both cheap and powerful.

It’s like a red [“Red-red,” -Mike] Tarmogoyf… But that draws three cards.

Or, it’s a Treasure Cruise — really, look at it — that leaves a 3/4 body.

That 3/4 body in fact has prowess… Meaning that if your Bedlam Reveler ever faces off with a real Tarmogoyf it is dicey that the green version will ever dare tangling with it. The ability to grow during combat can be just too scary.

Bedlam Reveler can play nice with Monastery Swiftspear, blue cards, and even free “pump” spells like Mutagenic Growth. Can you imagine attacking into an open Mountain with a first turn Monastery Swiftspear, drawing out a Lightning Bolt? “Mutagenic Growth?” That’s like countering their best card and forcing them to take four at the same time… By the way you’ve still got a Monastery Swiftspear.

Bedlam Reveler is going to be good in Standard but possibly really scary in larger formats. Modern and Legacy are both on the table with their Lightning Bolts (and blue cantrips).

Patrick and Michael talk Bedlam Reveler, tons of additional red cards, red vampires, black vampires, and revisit the colorless emerge wing of Eldritch Moon in “Floor, Ceiling, Bedlam Reveler”. Give it a listen!

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Liliana, the Last Hope Joins the Gatewatch

Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, the Last Hope might be everything you ever wanted in a three mana planeswalker.

Liliana joins the Gatewatch in Eldritch Moon! And by her nickname (“the last hope”) it seems like our Emrakul-opposing heroes might really need her help! But how about you? How can Liliana, the Last Hope help out your chances at winning in Standard?

  • [+1] Liliana, the Last Hope gains loyalty with an ability that is already better than the one boasted by Jace. This ability absolutely mows down small creatures, can help you keep pace with the Plants in G/W Tokens, and might even invalidate the Standard version of White Weenie!
  • [-2] Liliana, the Last Hope has a built-in card advantage ability, which is not trivial. The fact that this ability is only [-2] means that you can play Liliana and immediately use this ability without losing her. A Liliana, the Last Hope with a single loyalty can still be valuable, and you might have already gotten card advantage! A creature that you are actually aiming for is probably more valuable than a random card off the top of your deck; and remember, if you slot Liliana into one of Standard’s black control or midrange shells you might be getting back Goblin Dark-Dwellers! Boom.
  • [-7] It is important to note that this ability scales quickly, and that the Zombie tokens enter the battlefield untapped.

The only real question is whether you want to play Liliana, the Last Hope first… Or her Oath:

Oath of Liliana
Oath of Liliana will bedevil opponents on turn three.

How insane is Oath of Liliana in an Orzhov Control deck? Turn three Oath of Liliana, turn four Gideon? Double 2/2 defenders, anyone?

Oath of Liliana is an all right card to begin with (capable of killing an opposing creature) and you don’t have to get paid off by 2/2 creatures very many times before it starts looking abusive. Gideon into Ob Nixilis into Sorin, anyone?

Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J Flores discuss Liliana, the Last Hope; Oath of Liliana; and a number of other flashy cards from Eldritch Moon in “Liliana, the Last Hope Joins the Gatewatch”. Give us a listen:

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Fortune’s Favor is Our Eldritch Moon Preview!

Fortune's Favor
Fortune’s Favor is a nuanced new card from Eldritch Moon. Where does Top Level Podcast think it will find a home?

Fortune’s Favor has a ton of stuff going on:

  1. This card is way — way — better than Inspiration. Even if you take an [inferior] face-up pile, that is just as many cards as Inspiration… And you will be putting more cards in your graveyard. Remember: Inspiration was close to good enough (if not good enough) for Standard for years.
  2. Bluffing! Mike thinks this is a great articulation of bluffing in Magic; sometimes you’re going to have to give the opponent a truly great pile, but if you play this card right, you can tie the opponent in knots.
  3. We don’t think there is a single, consistent algorithm for splitting Fortune’s Favor piles. Patrick thinks one of his default splits will be three up / one down (with the one being the best card sometimes, the worst card sometimes, and something else sometimes). He wants to dare the opponent to take the face-down one!
  4. This card will make it super easy for some decks to get Delirium. Mike thinks that cards like Descend Upon the Sinful will come online quickly thanks to Fortune’s Favor, enabling two-color control decks in Standard. A turn six or seven Emrakul, the Promised End will also be trivial to set up.
  5. You can always get a pretty good tonnage of cards. Want two cards? If you don’t care what they are, you’ll even get three sometimes.

Where can Fortune’s Favor go? Here are some ideas:

  • A Blue Skies deck… Fortune’s Favor can play best buddies with Docent of Perfection or Niblis of Frost, enabling them to out-pace even great offenses.
  • (Like we said)… A U/x control deck; could be U/W, B/U or something else.
  • A B/U Zombie deck; Eldritch Moon presents too many recursion or value opportunities for us to ignore this awesome line! Use Fortune’s Favor to fuel Haunted Dead or Gisa and Geralf for more and more card advantage.
    • Find out even more at “Fortune’s Favor is Our Eldritch Moon Preview!”

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