How Did the Worlds Decks of '94-'04 Work?
By Leonard Q Brookes on April 20th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Dr. Tom, HKKID, Morgan Coke and Qwerty
Zak Dolan - 1994
Yes, this deck won Worlds. At first you might think "WTF!!! O_O how the hell did that win Worlds?" You could credit it to the poorer deck design of the time, but at the time decks were starting to be consistent with lots of four-ofs and such. This deck fought its way through a field of decks that, given the card pool, was very competitive. (Well, it was Worlds!)
This deck is going to be harder to explain than many decks simply because of the mass of one and two-ofs in the deck. Because of this I will stick to its core principles.
The aim of this deck was to drag the game out into a very long and tedious game causing its opponent to concede, and if that did not work it would use a Serra Angel to do the job. It controlled the board by using cards like Swords To Plowshares, Winter Orb, Stasis, Meekstone and Old Man of the Sea. These cards helped drag out the game in a field of fast red/green and white/green decks. It also had the full plethora of Power 9 cards, as did many decks at the time.
Well it’s more focused than Zak Dolan's deck of 94…. barely . Again it is another deck that controls the board forcing a longer game. Unlike Dolan's deck it could become offensive early with Hypnotic Specter and Mishra's Factory. In longer games the Sengir Vampires could win a fattie battle because they could fly.
The deck, in theory, will have removed the hand of the opposing player with discard like Hypnotic Specter, Disrupting Scepter, Hymm to Tourach and Mind Twist. Just using hand denial wasn’t enough, hence the eight cards used to control other creatures. Dance of the Dead allowed the recursion of your creatures that had been destroyed, the Hypnotic Specters in particular. They also allowed the theft of your opponent's creatures you had destroyed or forced them to discard.
Finally, the deck used Zuran Orb to prolong the game even further (it was restricted later that year if memory serves) and The Rack to punish the opposing player even more after the discard had taken effect.
It's at about this time that you can see decks becoming more focused. This deck was made to counteract one of the most famous decks in magic, Necro, which was a black beats deck (mainly with Protection from White creatures), that attacked the opponent's hand while replenishing its own with Necropotence.
Like its Necro counterpart, Chanpheng's deck ran the full complement of eight pump knights (Order of Leitbur and Order of the White Shield) and four White Knights bringing the total to twelve creatures with Protection from Black. The Phyrexian Warbeasts could often trade off with a black pump knight because of its 3/4 power and toughness. It topped its creature base off with the old staple Serra Angel.
The four Swords to Plowshares and single Reprisal helped to deal with decks like ErhnamBurnem and ErhnamGeddon. The deck also played cards like Armageddon and Balance, both of which could really punish the already mentioned Necro. Another deck of the time was based around Stormbind; the four maindeck Disenchants helped deal with this troublesome card.
And finally we come to the mana base. Apart from the Plains, Chanpheng's deck contains eight cards that were staples at the time: four Mishra's Factory and four Strip Mines (which were later restricted). The former is an aggressive card that was only kept in check by the latter. The Strip Mines also kept cards like Kjeldoran Outpost and Lake of the Dead from dominating.
It's worth noting that the deck list above should contain four Adarkar Wastes but due to a screw up they weren’t listed and Chanpheng was forced to play 15 Plains instead of 11 Plains and 4 Adarkar Wastes.
At its heart, five-colour black is a black aggro deck utilizing cheap creatures like Black Knight, Fallen Askari, and Knight of Stromgald. The flanking and the first strike gave an excellent edge when attacking.
After this enters the Mirage-block "187" cards. Man-o'-War was one of the defining creatures at this time; if you played blue there was a good chance you would be playing four main deck. Almost the same could be said about Nekrataal in black. Coupled with Shadow Guildmage five-colour black gained a replenishable source of creature control by just bouncing 187 creatures (with the Guildmage) and removing the threats to your creatures.
Reinforcing the removal, five-colour black used Contagion and Incinerate to remove creatures from play and let its men through. At the time Kjeldoran Outpost was a constantly recurring card; this was also the season that four- and five-colour decks really took off. Thus the Choking Sands were an ideal choice to play main deck because it was rarely a dead card (only vs. mono blue).
We come to the mana base, because the deck was mainly black. As long as each land other than swamps could produce black, it could still effectively pump creatures out and maintain an aggressive stance.
Almost the entirety of Selden’s Deck revolves around the abuse of Survival of the Fittest, Recurring Nightmare, 187 Creatures and creatures that replenish when they come into play like Spike Weaver. This deck eventually led to the banning of Recurring Nightmare.
For permanent control, RecSur used 187 creatures like Nekrataal and Cloudchaser Eagle fetched by Survival of the Fittest. These creatures were then put into play either with the multi-colour mana base or reanimated with Recurring Nightmare. Because of this creature base, RecSur could tutor up an answer for almost any card in Standard at the time.
Cali could also go for a fast kill by fetching Spirit of the Night and then reanimating it in the same way. It created card advantage by the use of the 187 creatures. When it needed to draw, it could simply cycle two Wall of Blossoms in and out of the graveyard via Recuring Nightmare to draw cards.
Setting up it also used Scroll Rack to draw better card quality and then activate Survival of the Fittest to shuffle away the lower quality cards. Seldon also opted for the two maindeck Lobotomy and two Firestorm. Firestorm gave him a way of dealing with aggressive creature decks like Senor Stompy and Tempest Sligh; it also gave a way to dump creatures in the graveyard if a Survival Of The Fittest was not on the table, allowing early reanimation. Lobotomy got rid of other people's Recurring Nightmares and other pesky cards like Cursed Scroll and Capsize.
In a Worlds T8 with three different mono-green stompy decks, two Ponza decks, and two mono-black control decks, Wildfire Control was a real beast.
The artifact mana, supported with Voltaic Key, gave Wildfire Control a speed unmatched by other decks of its era, and access to plenty of mana following a Wildfire. This quick mana translated into second turn Masticores and Covetous Dragons, essentially ending the game against an aggro opponent on the spot.
Against the black decks (as well as the mono-blue that was popular at the time) Mishra's Helix worked nicely in combination with the artifact mana to lock an opponent out of his lands. When Helix was followed by Wildfire, and then a Karn, well, those games didn't last very long either.
In many ways this deck is similar to the Wildfire Control deck of the year before. It can easily be broken into three different parts: blue spells, win conditions, and artifact mana. The mana-producing artifacts (and the Voltaic Key that made them produce even MORE mana) got Tinker off to a very fast start. The speed was accented by Tangle Wire which forcibly "tapped down" an opponent's lands.
The win conditions of Tinker were quite powerful. Masticore and Phyrexian Processor were the primary win conditions, with the former shooting down entire armies, and the latter generally churning out 10/10 tokens. Even if you were able to kill the Processor, you still had to have an answer for the 10/10. Phyrexian Colossus (who works nicely with Voltaic Key) was the "painless" win condition when needed. Also worth noting is that Tinkering for Crumbling Sanctuary would buy several turns against aggro decks, even if they had plenty of blockers for the 10/10 tokens.
Tinker is one of the few decks to have made a huge impact on Magic in every format. Aside from winning a world title, the deck made a very smooth transition to Extended where its key components found themselves in an on again-off again relationship with the banned list. Finally with Mirrodin and the coming of Platinum Angel and others, Tinker was banned for good. Versions of Tinker (typically based now around Mishra's Workshop mana, and the unrestricted Goblin Welder) are still quite dominant in the Vintage scene.
The 2001 metagame was dominated by three decks: Fires, Rebels (and the counter-Rebel variant), and U/W Control. Also making marks in the metagame were Nether-Go and Opposition decks often featuring the added punch of Static Orb. Tom van de Logt's deck is an effective answer to this metagame.
Note the Plague Spitters in the maindeck. Using a Dark Ritual to power one of those out on the first turn would cripple a Fires deck, which relied heavily on Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise to accelerate into troublesome cards like Blastoderm and Saproling Burst. Note also its effectiveness against Rebels, as it neuters the early drops that were so vital to the chain. It's also extra damage against control, making the Spitter a very good choice against anything. The deck could also disrupt control strategies by playing Duress on the first turn, then using a Dark Ritual to ramp up to the hasty Blazing Specter on the second turn.
Creature control comes from Terminate, the uncounterable Urza's Rage, the aforementioned Plague Spitter, and Flametongue Kavu. Crypt Angel returns saucy creatures like FTK and Blazing Specter should they die. Land control, a key part of Standard at the time, is in the form of the omnipresent Rishadan Port. The well-built sideboard provided a healthy mix of additional answers against aggressive and controlling decks.
To many, Psychatog is the epitome of a well focused modern control deck. A deadly blend of counterspells, removal, and card drawing, Tog was well suited to dragging the game out long versus even the fastest decks of its era, and winning via sheer card advantage. In additon to the support spells, Doctor Teeth himself is cheap to cast, and can absorb tremendous amounts of combat and burn damage before he expires.
Cunning Wish offered the deck unparalleled diversity, giving it access to hosers like Hibernation or Mana Short in game one. The ultimate threat at the end of the game was Upheaval. It not only negated any board disadvantage the tog deck had, but when was floated, and an Island played, the Psychatog could be cast off the floating mana, and a madnessed-out Circular Logic would stop whatever one-mana plays the opponent had.
Perhaps the most notable thing about this deck was the lack of tech. At the time, Psychatog was THE deck to beat (taking a full ¾ of the top 8 slots). However Carlos went 8 and 0 against other Psychatog decks, winning not by teching out with cards like Lobotomy or maindecked Duress, but by having a superior understanding of the Psychatog mirror, and how to win it.
Worlds 2003 was in the unique position (for a Worlds tournament) of being the first tournament since the release of a major set. The most recent T2 high level tournament had been Grand Prix Bangkok a month before. However, in Bangkok 7th Edition was still legal, whereas 8th Edition was the legal core set a month later at Worlds.
Cunning Wake itself is a White Blue control deck, with a small amount of green, mostly for the incredible power of Mirari's Wake. The extreme mana advantage provided by untapping with a Wake in play was generally enough to win most games, and would later inspire the Vernal Bloom based "Elf and Nail" decks of last year.
Cunning Wish was a multi-purpose tool, both fetching cards from off the sideboard and well as cards removed from the game via flashback or Flash of Insight (not included in Zink's deck). There was also a neat trick with Mirari where you could Fork your Cunning Wish, fetching a card removed from the game as well as a previously removed Cunning Wish. This gave the deck literally infinite access to Krosan Reclamation, and via Reclamation, access to the entire rest of the deck.
In 2004, the Worlds tournament (and the rest of Standard and Mirrodin Block Magic) was in the grip of Affinity. If your deck could not post at least a 50% vs. Affinity, you were generally advised to pack it up and go home. If your deck did better than 50% vs. Affinity, people figured you were making up your results or you had no game whatsoever vs. anyone else.
One deck that did hit 50% or better against Affinity and had game vs. the rest of the field was G/W Slide. The combination of mana acceleration and recurring artifact destruction proved to be too much for many Affinity decks to handle in the course of Julien's march to the Worlds title. The four maindeck Viridian Shamans and only one maindeck Plow Under show just how much this deck was geared towards beating Affinity before all others. Equally important to the deck's success against Affinity though, is the namesake of the deck, Astral Slide. Being able to "reset" the counters on a giant Ravager, Ornithopter or Nexus was a real boon for the Slide deck, since it could simply kill modular creatures, then remove the tokens, no matter where they went. Much like the "Sleight Knight" deck that won through a field of Necro in '97, the '04 Slide deck was built to defeat Affinity first and foremost, then use an Eternal Witness/Plow Under lock to finish off anyone who wasn't playing with artifacts.
The power of Slide always revolved around having more resources than your opponent, whether that was mana, cards drawn, or effects. When Fifth Dawn came out and added Eternal Witness to the deck, the results were dramatic. Suddenly every card in the deck could be cast an infinite number of times. This is where the true power of the deck comes from, whether it's repeated Wrath of Gods and Wing Shards against Goblins or Oxidizes and Akroma's Vengeances against Affinity, the raw power of endless recursion coupled with massive card drawing and mana acceleration proved too much for all other decks in the '04 Worlds Tournament.
Thanks To:Iloveatogs for the banner; SneakyH for Deck lists, Dr. Tom, Hkkid and Morgan Coke for post '98 deck descriptions and Binary and Goblinboy for editing
Oh and thanks to you for reading it!
By Leonard Q Brookes on April 20th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now