SLC Punk: Another Regionals Article
By Jeff Phillips on June 10th, 2008 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
Editor's Note: This article was originally written before the recent Regionals and includes an updated section at the end of the tournament results.
Regionals is this weekend, and, like most of you, I’m still trying to figure out what will happen at mine. So I thought I would share my thoughts with you. Buckle in, and let’s take a walk down Prediction Lane. (Two streets over from Memory Lane, but it’s a one-way running the other direction.)
First, let’s look at the Was-the-best-deck-but-people-think-it-isn’t-but-it-might-still-be-the-best-deck that is Faeries. A lot of people think that since it didn’t do well at Pro Tour: Hollywood, it must not be as good as supposed. I would venture to say those people are wrong. Faeries is still very good. There’s a reason it was considered the best deck in the format. It is. And now that its power is at least somewhat lessened in the view of a number of players, I think there will be less hate. And that, dear reader, makes it easier for Faeries to make a resurgence. I expect somewhere between 15 and 20% of the field at any given Regionals to be Faeries. So make sure you keep your NOST (Non-Obvious Secret Tech) for Faeries in your sideboard, because the odds are, you will play 1-2 matches against them this weekend. Personally, Faeries is one of the decks I’m still considering playing. Assuming I’m not needed for emergency volunteer/judging work, that is. Why, you might ask? Well, it’s a good deck for one, and two, I’ve played a lot of games with it. I know it inside and out, and I like playing it. Never underestimate the power of being experienced with a deck. I would rather play a good deck I know very well than a great deck I’m only acquainted with.
Here is my personal Faeries build:
Pretty standard list. I chose Terror over Nameless Inversion simply because it gets more and doesn't boost opposing Tarmogoyfs. Ponder is the one card that looks out of place. That's for one reason and one reason alone. Ponder helps you in the early game. Not only does it replace itself, but it lets you know what's coming in the next two turns (if you don't shuffle), which greatly increases the quality of your play. Or, it can shuffle your deck if you Ponder and see junk for the next three cards. It's a bit more random, but I'd take a random 3 draws over a bad 3 draws every day of the week. Ponder is also stellar in the mirror, giving you just the edge you need to take the match. Given the popularity of Faeries, that is a very notable distinction.
Next on the list is the up-and–coming Black-Green deck that won the Pro Tour, Elves. Winning a Pro Tour can do tons for a deck's popularity, and Hollywood was no exception, especially being Standard and right before Regionals. I expect to see just as many, if not more, elf Decks than faerie Decks at Regionals. Call it a lemming culture. If you want to make a Rogue deck, those are the two decks to do it against. A modified elf deck is another of the three decks I’m considering. I really think that Black has the best options against the meta-game right now, so were I trying to trick out a deck (or a sideboard, but we’ll get to that later), I would definitely be choosing Black.
Here’s my elf Deck, “Elves Presley”: (Because, you know, elves, rock, King of Rock. Yeah, it’s kind of lame. Leave me to my bad puns.)
Some of these choices are pretty obvious. Chameleon Colossus, Profane Command, and Tarmogoyf are all obvious. Civic Wayfinder is good for both mana acceleration/fixing and finding those basics to help you fight through Magus of the Moon. I chose Nameless Inversion over Terror because he pumps the Tarmogoyf and helps get Gilt-Leaf Palace and Wren's Run Vanquisher online. If necessary, board them out for Slaughter Pact. Kitchen Finks are great for life-gain and blocking, and Garruk Wildspeaker is still great. I love using him to make my Profane Commands either a) bigger or b) leave extra mana open for Rune Snag. The landbase is pretty standard from the Pro Tour versions. I only have 22, which is tight; but with Llanowar Elves and Civic Wayfinder, I feel comfortable with it.
Now we come to the third deck I’m considering, Mono-Red Burn. "What?" you cry? "Didn’t you just say 'I ' in the last paragraph?" Yes, I did, and yes, I do. But this deck doesn’t give a crap about the Metagame, using fast creatures and burn to the dome as a finisher. It might as well be playing solitaire, because you don’t really care what your opponent does. Typically, I know if the game is going to be won or lost by turn 5. Why would I play this, considering it’s so different from the other two decks? Well, frankly, it’s fun. There’s no stress in running this, and it’s Magic just like you played when you first started playing. “Rarr, attack, rarr, burn! Wheee!!!” It’s also mono-colored, which means fewer mana issues. Also, it’s quick. At my Regionals, there is no Lunch Break. Meaning in round 3, I can win or lose in 5 minutes and go for food. There’s a lot to be said for being well-nourished. But here’s the last reason, and it’s strictly personal: I’m already going to Nationals to work for WotC, so I might play this because I don’t have any invitation-related reason to win. Don’t get me wrong, I still will be trying like heck to win; but with a plane ticket and hotel room in the bag already, I’m going to support our newly formed team (Shameless Plug for The Unknown Team) and have fun.
So, without further ado, here is “Artificial Christmas” (see, because the Snow lands are just a bluff. Fake, snow, yeah, more bad puns. Chris Millar is my master now.)
Again, this deck doesn't give a whit what it's playing against. The goal is 20 damage in as few turns as possible. On a good draw, it can accomplish this as soon as turn 4. I have the Magus in the maindeck purely for Metagame reasons. I expect a metric ton of non-basic lands, and therefore I expect to need the Magus far more often than I wouldn't. This will hopefully give my game 1 percentages a decent boost. Other than that, it's just the best aggro creatures and burn spells in the format. As for the land, Keldon Megaliths gets the nod over Ghitu Encampment because it can go to the dome. Too often you are on your last leg, and the Red Zone is all gummed up. Keldon Megaliths doesn't care. To the dome, Sir. To. The. Dome. The sideboard is a little odd. I haven't had as much time to test it, but given what I have, it performs well. Vexing Shusher and Guttural Response are obviously for the Blue matchup, which will typically be Faeries. However, it can work well against the [card=Reveillark]'Lark, too. Sulfurous Blast is your instant-speed Pyroclasm, the pseudo-Wrath effect for this deck. Keep in mind, it also hits players, so it may be used as a finisher too. Lash Out and Shock are just more burn options, in case you're playing against a weenie deck and expect the Red Zone to be stalled earlier than usual. Another option I mulled, but didn't use, is Browbeat. Browbeat is a great way to either force through the last damage or fill up the tank with some gas. I personally don't have any, but it's a very intriguing option.
I would expect to see this deck at Regionals, if only because it's so dang cheap to put together. Magus is the only rare main deck, and the Shusher is the only rare in the board. Plus, if I knew a newer player playing at Regionals, I would recommend this. It's fun, not very frustrating, and is the most forgiving deck I can think of.
You’ll notice that for Artificial Christmas, I have a sideboard, whereas for the other two, I don’t. That’s because I wanted to talk a bit about sideboards. Mainly, the cards I think should definitely be in Sideboards, if you're in Black:
1. Slaughter Pact: Surprise kill is incredibly effective. Slaughter Pact has been used to clear blockers for the final swing, or as surprise removal to counter Mistbind Clique in rare situations. And now, it can be used to kill Magus of the Moon. The Magus is one of the best potential cards in the format, given the extreme use of Non-Basic lands. Having an answer to that is always a good idea.
2. Extirpate: I have not seen any Extirpate love lately, and that worries me. Extirpate is awesome against Reveillark and good against just about anything else. I’ve even considered main-decking them. Have a problematic card? Find a way to get it to the graveyard (discard, removal, counter, whatever) and "BAM!" Take all of the copies out of the game. A friend of mine is running Mono-Black Control. It involves pretty good matchups, but Chameleon Colossus just wrecks him. He has to hope he can get as many or more Damnations than they get Colossus. Not anymore. Extirpate in the sideboard means he just has to get rid of one, and then all the rest go bye-bye. Distress/Thoughtsieze can also take care of that.
3. Damnation: Speak of the devil (pun intended, of course), mass removal can be so good in this creature-heavy format. Especially as I see even good players over-committing to the board quite a bit. This can be a quick way to stop a lot of shenanigans, and a reset board can often be good for you, especially if you know it is coming. Particularly, I like this for Faeries, as both Mistbind Clique and BitterBlossom means you should be ahead on creatures. This can be a devastating swing of the game in your favor.
So, what will I be playing? I’m still not sure. I have another player leaning towards “Artificial Christmas,” but he didn’t have the Magi as of the last time I saw him. I may loan him those, and play one of the other two. And of course, there’s still some other deck options. (I won’t be playing them, but let’s cover them anyway. I won’t have decklists, just some basic comments.)
Reveillark: Hate it. I know a lot of people think this is the new best deck in the format, but I think not. Only 18 people played this deck at Hollywood, so the numbers aren’t very good for scientific purposes. Furthermore, Faeries were the deck keeping this in check, and I still think we’ll see Faeries. Finally, Extirpate for the win? Split second is your friend. Read Zac Hills’ article here for even more reasons against ‘Lark. I can’t say it better than he did.
Fish: Very compelling. In the (is)land of Blue, the mage with Islandwalk is unblockable. Sygg, Lorwyn edition, is very powerful and gives you great options in the face of removal. Also, it's very versatile, giving protection against Red for the RDW builds. I haven’t tested this matchup very much; and given some good NOST, this could be a surprising rogue build that gets some play. If you’re playing against it, keep one thing in mind: Lord of Atlantis works on your changelings as well. Also, remember the other ability on Nameless Inversion? The one where it loses all creature types? Yeah, that can be devastating.
Doran the Explorer: I have to say, I think Doran, the Siege Tower can still be very powerful. could easily be an altered elf deck, carrying a lot of the same tech, and a 5/5 for to boot. But, given Magus of the Moon, I think the Manabase stretches a bit too much. My NOST for this deck, which I’ve been running for a while to great effect, is Treefolk Harbinger. Run three of them, and you now have effectively 7 Doran. Already have Doran in hand? Go fetch a Murmuring Bosk. Don’t need either one? How about fetching up either Chameleon Colossus, or, if those have been Extirpated away, get another Treefolk Harbinger. A 3/3 for that tutors up another one of itself? Yeah, I could get used to that. Just keep one in your hand, in case you need to tutor up another Doran.
Quick ‘n Toast: More a function of its pilots than the deck, in my humble opinion. I don’t think many Regionals players will be capable of piloting this correctly with such a short turnaround.
So I played Faeries. I expected to see Reveillark, despite my beliefs in its failures. And we saw a lot of them. I played one, and whooped it rather easily. However, I didn't perform very well at all (I have some sort of infection, and we left home for the venue about 6:30 in the morning), and to top it all off, someone stole my deck off the table after round 6. So, I didn't even get to finish. I believe I was 3-2-1 when I had to drop. So, to whoever stole my deck, you're a jerk. To everyone else, I'll be working at Nationals at the Learn-to-Play booth. Come by and say hi, if you get the chance. See you in Chicago!
(For you readers who love a blow-by-blow, I may do a tournament recap from my notes if I simmer down a bit. I'm still a bit steamed.)
By Jeff Phillips on June 10th, 2008 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
About Jeff Phillips
Jeff Phillips is currently a student at ISU, majoring in Business, Journalism, and Philosophy. He has fulfilled a number of contractor positions for Wizards of the Coast, and has played Magic since Alpha.