eing on the Pro Tour coverage team means I get to have a hand in naming decks as they rise to the surface of the standings over the course of a tournament. Personally, I have always been of the school that prefers a more whimsical deck name, but of late there has been an increasing shift toward more literal ones. Just look at deck names from recent events and the trend is pretty evident. There is little question about what you are going to be looking at when you click on a link to a utilitarian name like Red-Green Valakut in Standard, Blue-Black Faeries in Extended, and Merfolk in Legacy.
The worst culprit when it comes to the crime of anti-whimsy is the most prevalent deck in the current Standard format. I am talking, of course, about Caw-Blade. This is a deck that is going to define this era of Standard. Ten years from now, when Bella Flores is holocasting the latest edition of Top Decks and educating her viewers about the history of Standard, people are going to wish this deck had a more clever name.
Gerry Thompson's Caw-Blade
Standard – Star City Standard Open Los Angeles
By now you know what to expect when you sit down with or across from a Caw-Blade deck. The main plan of attack as always is to deck an opponent with metalcraft-enabled Screeching Silcaw courtesy of the twelve artifact blades in the deck. Bladed Sentinel does double duty as a means of providing metalcraft and locking up the ground game. You have a little bit of an Allies sub-theme with Hada Freeblade and Kazandu Blademaster and then the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't synergy of Hero of Bladehold along with Blade of the Bloodchief. Your opponent can either block the ever increasing army of Soldier tokens and fuel your equipped creatures or they can eventually succumb to the Hero's recruitment efforts.
It is a sinister creation that attacks you on multiple fronts, and Gerry—while he did not originate the deck—had been innovating it virtually every weekend at the Star City Open Series. Several weeks ago you could hear a murmur go through the room in Edison when he cracked a Marsh Flats for a Swamp to Doom Blade an irritating Wall of Tanglecord. In less than a week his black splash in Caw-Blade has been adopted by FNMers everywhere.
Gerry was at it again heading into Los Angeles. Never content to rest on his laurels—and no doubt thinking about the Tier 2 Hawk-Sword decks that have been floating around lately—his deck is now sideboarding a red splash. Bladetusk Boar has little trouble slipping past the red zone to kill a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and since Gerry was already dipping into red there seemed to be little reason not to add a little more metalcraft synergy to the deck with the Blade-Tribe Berserkers.
Sigh. I just wish the deck had a more clever name. Not that this is something new. If you go back through the years there has always been a struggle between whimsical and utilitarian deck names. One of the worst culprits of the latter is elder statesman and deck builder extraordinaire Brian Kowal. Just look into the recent past at his Boat Brew and you find a format-defining deck with one of the most literal names anyone can recall.
Brian Kowal's Boat Brew
Winner, Magic Cruise Qualifier
With recent printings of Everflowing Chalice and Elixir of Immortality, Legacy mixologists have been talking about shanghaiing an upcoming tournament with an updated version, but for the time being we will talk about the classic Boat Brew. There had been some controversy surrounding the deck at the time as several players captaining versions of it were debating the addition of cards like Living Airship; Predator, Flagship; and the tournament staple Skyship Weatherlight. The thinking was that Ghost Ship opened up deck building options to include flying ships, but purists insisted that any and all ships in the deck must be seaworthy.
Going back a little further into tournament history we find another deck-building genius at the helm—although "holding the leash" is probably more appropriate when discussing Billy Moreno's Dirty Kitty. If not for a misplayed Mudhole by Osyp Lebedowicz at Worlds in Paris, the deck would likely have carried at least one player into the Top 8 of that event.
Osyp Lebedowicz's Dirty Kitty
World Championships in Paris (Missed it by that much!)
Billy was living in New York City at the time and I got to watch him playtest and fine-tune this list in the weeks leading up to Worlds. Billy has always been highly regarded for his transformative sideboards and I still remember his "aha!" moment when the legendary Cats and Dogs Living Together plan occurred to him to deal with decks sporting protection from red in Games 2 and 3.
"Basically, I had the original idea for the deck while I was battling with Firecat Red Deck Wins while my friend's actual cat was all up in my business, rubbing on my legs like they do, and occasionally just walking across our game," said Billy Moreno of his original inspiration for the deck. "It just clicked that a deck built around cats could be so disruptive to people's game plans, especially if the cats were dirty, mangy, blistering, etc. From there the hairball was rolling downhill. The main deck just fell together. For the sideboard, I really wanted to switch it up, because some people are cat people and you don't want to play into their sick, creepy life style. For them I've got a transformational plan, because anyone whose deck can handle the annoying main-deck cats is unlikely to be prepared for the sideboard—no one does cats and dogs. And if they've figured that out, they deserve to win."
Going back even further in Magic history to the very first of the so-called "net decks," we have perhaps the most literal of all the deck names. Just look at some of the cards that were played in it. What does the gruesome inevitability of The Fallen, the irritating swarm of The Hive, the resulting synergy of The Abyss, and the huge vanilla flavor of The Lady of the Mountain have in common?
If you are an aficionado of the golden age of Magic you know that I am referring to the word "the," which was the cornerstone of Brian Weissman's The Deck that was very much the definite article when it came to describing Vintage (a.k.a. Type 1) Magic back in the day.
Brian Weissman's The Deck
I have gone all the way back to the start of modern deck design but I have been circumnavigating perhaps the most literally named deck in the history of the game. The deck was created by Wizards of the Coast's own Paul Barlcay back when he was still a hungry Magic player. I am talking of course about Full English Breakfast.
Paul Barclay's Full English Breakfast