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Updating Caw

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About Jonathan Randle

Jonathan Randle
Jonathan Randle

After an 8 year break from Magic I won English Nationals at my first attempt in 2008. Since then I've made made the top 8 of Nationals 2010, Grand Prix Birmingham 2008 and Worlds 2010. I have a deep passion for control decks and have a reactive, stoic and philosophical approach to the game.

  • 52 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Top 8 Worlds 2010
  • Top 8 GP Birmingham 2008
  • Great Britain National Champion 2008
  • Top 4 Great Britain Nationals 2010

Updating Caw

Since I last wrote about Modern Caw, it has grown on to become one of the top decks in Modern. It has undergone some changes, which are predominantly due to changes in the meta. This is what happens though, a deck comes along (Caw) to tackle the dominant deck (Jund), which then forces Jund to either adapt or simply decrease in popularity, then Caw makes its own changes to adapt to the new meta. As such, most players have moved Kitchen Finks to the sideboard and have included the Steelshaper's Gift package. Here are two of the latest lists of Caw that have been popular:

CawBlade by ArsenalMunch

CawBlade by Marco Orsini-Jones

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Usually there are 4-5 cards difference between player's lists, for example some still play Remand over Leak, a few might play Probe, and War and Peace over Fire and Ice. Shackles might go back out of vogue as more people play artifact hate, there are many factors that can cause slight ripples in decklists, but the heart of the deck is always the same - 4 Squadron Hawk, 4 Snapcaster Mage.

But this article is about updating CawBlade - meaning post Dark Ascension. Here is where I am now with my version:

I haven't had much time to test this direction yet, but the games that I’ve played I’ve been happy with, and I think, in theory, it could be the way to go. Firstly, there are no Squadron Hawks. While I think Hawk is probably the best creature in the format, Lingering Souls might just be better. I don't think one should be afraid to try and upgrade, even a card as good as Hawk, and Souls is a truly amazing one. Now you have access to pretty much 12 Hawks, and in a way which is much less vulnerable to counterspells and discard. The fact that you can stagger your creatures is also really important, as it allows you to play around Wraths, much in the same way Hawk did and unlike Spectral Procession. The problem is mainly that it costs 3 mana, which does start to clog up when you look at the artifacts and Cliques. I am very much open to cutting all of the equipment altogether, but that really pushes you to the extreme control end of the spectrum which I’m not sure is the place to be at the moment (we will have to see how the meta develops).

I've stuck with Remand over Mana Leak, mainly because I still think it is superior in this deck. You need to make sure you keep hitting land, and it's always decent with Snapcaster, but its hidden power is against other flashback spells. Should one choose to remove the equipment, then it's probably better to go with Leaks since without pressure, Remand becomes weak, but with pressure then there is little you actually want to hard counter. Remand is also superior vs. Tron and the mirror, which are two of the most popular decks.

In this version, i.e. the one with the equipment, Thirst for Knowledge becomes a very nice card to have. Due to the fact that you have a quasi-tutor package of artifacts, they are all there to serve different purposes. Consequently some of them will be pretty bad against some decks thus making them great outlets to maximize Thirst. It's one of the best card draws in the format and flashing it back is pretty easy to do. Should you not have an artifact to discard, then Lingering Souls also helps gaining a real advantage through the spell, and enables you to outdraw the mirror, or keep up with pure control decks. I would definitely consider playing two, but should the equipment go then Thirst might have to go too.

Here are some of my sideboard guides;

Mirror

In:

Out:

Tron

In:

Out:

Jund

In:

Out:

Storm

In:

Out:

Twin

In:

Out:

Tokens

In:

Out:

Melira Pod

In:

Out:

Affinity

In:

Out:

I didn't go in to much depth here because the list is quite experimental. I’ll certainly reply in the comments when I’ve done more testing, and will try the deck without the equipment. The deck is really strong against this field with the only weak area being the token strategies that may pop up. I've moved back to Mindbreak Traps due to the rise of Tron and the anticipation that Storm may increase since the printing of Faithless Looting. I no longer think that you need dedicated hate such as Damping Matrix, Suppression Field, Linvala etc. in the sideboard. The deck just needs a couple well timed instants to take all these decks down and that too is reflected in my sideboard plans. I'd rather be proactive and if I’m going to tap out I’d prefer it to be only once, and that's for Lingering Souls.

CawBlade is an extremely versatile deck and you can easily shift from one end of the spectrum to the other. It seems that the slower end is where it’s heading but should things change then Caw can most certainly adapt to that change - unlike a number of other more rigid decks out there. I'm looking forward to seeing results coming in from GPs and PTQs now that Dark Ascension has been released and I do think that a lot of other people will think of replacing Hawks with Lingering Souls.

One thing I have found with Modern Caw is that it is much, much more difficult to play than the Standard version. There are simply many lines of play, and mana is much tighter. This deck takes a heck of a lot of practice, and I’m going to put in the hours myself to try and refine this, fairly rough list. If I was going to remove the five card equipment package I’d probably add three Mana Leaks, a fourth Vendilion Clique and a Sun Titan but with that many slots available, and such a dramatically different game plan, then that too would need a lot of testing to get right. It's quite a funny situation really. The argument against Swords is that you don't really need them as your Hawks/Spirits will get you there any way and the Swords are win more cards. But once you remove the Swords from the deck, is it worth playing the 1/1s or are there better spells you can play if you are going in the direction of the much more controlling style deck? Perhaps it is just better to be more consistent and move back to a couple of Feast and Famine and take out the cute tutor package? I'll be trying out all these ideas and more as I have a feeling upcoming Grand Prix will throw out a whole host of new decks and new tech.

I can't at the moment see what else Dark Ascension will bring to Cawblade, but Lingering Souls could certainly prove to be a very powerful upgrade. Given now that one may be lightly splashing black, it could be that there are other black cards that could start to factor in, but I’m skeptical at the moment. Let us know what you think should happen to Caw now and which end of the spectrum it should go - aggro -> control. I think the important thing now is to first judge the metagame and build accordingly, but to always make sure that the deck doesn't get too clogged up as you want to be playing more than one spell a turn. Lingering Souls creates this risk, so some sacrifices must be made in other areas. One thing is for sure though, Caw is one of the top decks in the format now, and is only getting stronger.

Jonathan

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