The Longevity of Dragonstorm
On the heels of Worlds 2007, players and strategists alike are finally getting what we've wanted since States - an undeniable list of what is playable in this hectic Standard format. Most people could have seen a lot of what made the top tables coming from weeks away - that is, that Green and Black have the best cards right now between Thoughtseize, Garruk Wildspeaker, Tarmogoyf, Oona's Prowler etc... so it's not much of a stretch to see Green/Black midrange decks filling up the top tables. Green/Black Elves, the first "dominant deck" to emerge for Standard a month or so back is clearly still a viable option. And control, the archetype that will never ever go away, still resides a slot in the Top 8, in the form of a Mannequin deck.
But the one deck at the top tables that few were expecting (judging by the deck's success) was Dragonstorm. In what is still a very young format, we already have a clear viable combo deck for play.
Below is Pat Chapin's 2nd place decklist from Worlds 2007.
|Dragonstorm 2.0Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
4 Bogardan Hellkite
3 Rift Bolt
3 Pyromancer's Swath
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Rite of Flame
12 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Spinerock Knoll
4 Molten Slagheap
4 Fungal Reaches
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Empty the Warrens
2 Ignite Memories
3 Sulfurous Blast
2 Wheel of Fate
First, a quick aside to those who aren't familiar with the new deck - instead of building up a storm count and quickly ritualing out a Dragonstorm via Rite of Flame or the now-unavailable Seething Song like previous builds, the new builds of Dragonstorm attempt to use Spinerock Knoll to "hide it away", and then unleash a barrage of damage from the lowly Shock to Incinerate to Rift Bolt all in one turn (to meet the hideaway cost of the Knoll). After dealing a quick 7 damage, they can cast a Dragonstorm with a storm count of at least 3 - due to those burn spells.
Of course, Dragonstorm is a card that costs 9 mana, so in order to minimize the chances of it being "dead" within your hand, the deck runs all available on-color storage lands and any usable rituals, i.e. Lotus Bloom and Rite of Flame. As opposed to the old build, which attempted to just go off on turn 4, the new build aims most often for a turn 5 win... however, with a full complement of burn, it can take out most opposing Green or Black early game threats, such as Oona's Prowler or Birds of Paradise (which prevents the early rush this deck would normally be weak to), which means this deck has an easier time going off a little later than its predecessor.
Also, this deck has dropped the Blue splash - with no Gigadrowse in the format, the deck has little reason to play it, after all - instead opting for a "backup" win plan via Pyromancer's Swath and Grapeshot, backed by a few burn spells and a ritual or two.
So how good is this deck? Is it a potential threat for the coming months? Or will it be more like Poison Slivers, a surprise deck that takes the field by storm (sorry) and then quickly loses mass popularity?
1: Addressing the Biggest Singular Problem
The deck has one obvious problem right off the bat that is blatantly obvious - it is only one color. Since there is no fallback color (or even a splash), the deck has some resounding weaknesses.
Story Circle: White's perennial pain-in-the-glutes. By slapping down this card, a White mage practically ensures victory in the first game. A burn suite will always be foiled by damage prevention, as it is almost always cheaper or more effective (or both).
Fortunately, Dragonstorm has a very viable answer to Story Circle - Pithing Needle. This Tenth Edition reprint is sure to become a staple in Dragonstorm boards if Story Circle picks up, as it is probably the cheapest answer Red has to combat it.
It's rather appropriate that this card is from Scourge, seeing as
how it never seems to go away...
It's rather appropriate that this card is from Scourge, seeing as
how it never seems to go away...
Trickbind: What's to say? This card was a pain for the old Dragonstorm decks, and refuses to go away. This card is actually the biggest concern for the future of Dragonstorm, as the current builds have nothing - board or otherwise - that can deal with this card.
As time goes on, if Dragonstorm progresses as a viable deck, pilots may consider using the Black splash afforded by Molten Slagheap (and perhaps Graven Cairns) to run some sort of pinpoint discard to attempt to nail this card - although running Thoughtseize into a counter wall may not be the best idea. Running Thoughtseize would help in the mirror also, and is an option to be at least considered, nonetheless.
Riftsweeper: Deceptively annoying. You might think "Well, he's going to side in Riftsweeper, so I'll just play around it - he'll certainly hold it waiting for my Rift Bolts and Lotus Blooms, so I'll just play carefully."
Now you run into the old 2-for-1 dilemma - from the other end. Cards like Riftsweeper, Viridian Shaman or Nekrataal have come-into-play effects that essentially generate a 2-for-1 - they get rid of your guy and put a shorter clock on you. But if you try and wait for them to play it - surely they'll play it soon, right? - they'll merely hold onto it. They're willing to sacrifice a little tempo because they know just as well as you do that hitting that Lotus Bloom might delay Dragonstorm for another 3 turns - or perhaps keep a Rift Bolt from letting you plow into that magic 7 damage for a Spinerock Knoll Hideaway.
Again, discard might help here, but your best bet is probably to just play a slower game. True, you'll have to play more of a control-style game, but if you know that they won't play that Riftsweeper, then you can practically make it a dead card by waiting it out - just be wary; if they play one turn 2, chances are they're holding another.
It is very probable that if Dragonstorm is going to survive the long haul, it will need to splash a color (most likely Black or Green, with help from storage lands).
2: The power of the combo
Combo decks' lifespans are judged on how powerful the combo is. If the combo is extremely dependent upon something in order to be effective, such as Bridge decks utilizing a lack of metagame graveyard hate, then they are sure to fall quickly in weeks after their inclusion into the metagame. If the combo can fight through whatever hate is thrown at it - like the Dragonstorm decks of last year - then it can stay a constant contender no matter the aggro, control, or other combo decks around it.
The main "combo" of this deck is the Spinerock Knoll + Dragonstorm combo. The combo itself does nothing without the 7 damage, which can be difficult to force through a counter wall - or damage prevention. However, the deck is versatile enough to feature the Swath / Shot combo, along with Empty the Warrens and Ignite Memories board to help out against aggro and control matchups, respectively.
To summarize, the deck features many "combos", as well as burn suite that can put Garruk down hard and fast. However, the initial combo lacks a lot of independence, as do many of the secondary ones - so this deck likely looks to be a deck that will sway in popularity with the metagame.
In testing, this deck has proven to be resilient. Like it's predecessor, it is able to topdeck a win seemingly from nowhere. It is definitely a top-tier deck for the moment, but with no answer to Trickbind and a major obstacle in Story Circle, this looks to be a deck that cannot survive the hate.
Dragonstorm will certainly be a popular local choice for some time, after its success at Worlds. However, it is doubtful that this deck will be able to withstand the kind of pressure and hate that made Dragonstorm 2006 so powerful.
Living in Rogue (The Best Deck You'll Never Play)
Part of going rogue is not playing the good decks. Or the good cards. If a card shows up online in a Magic tournament, you shouldn't play it. Basic lands are off-limits to a true rogue, as are most cards with art on them. Clearly, the Dragonstorm list above isn't rogue, as some "Pat Chapin" guy played it at Worlds.
So if you want to play a tried-and-true winning deck, sure, you could go play Dragonstorm, but where's the creative spark involved in playing that? After all, half of the fun of going rogue is creating and masterminding an original deck - something that a netdecker can never claim.
However, rest assured, even in a diverse setting such as the current Standard metagame, there are plenty of unused cards worthy of being put in decks. Takeno's Cavalry, Nourishing Shoal and Blue-Eyes White Dragon are all cards not seeing play in Standard right now.
Then a light went off. I got scared a little, but luckily, my generator soon kicked in.
Then I thought of something: I could combine them all to make a new rogue deck!
I had to think of a common link between all three of these amazing cards, so as to play a totally new and rogue deck archetype to surprise the entire metagame. So I studied each card from the ground up, and tried to figure out how to maximize their potential.
Takeno's Cavalry can help you kill off opposing Beerdrop Kamis while using it's immense Bushido boost to hold off Piles of Steaming Crap. Be wary though, as those have Stink 3, and those Negative Death Smell counters can quickly accumulate.
It is also a very efficient beatstick, offering 1 whole power for only ! I haven't seen this kind of power since Magician of Faith was banned, so this is clearly a sign of power creep waiting to be exploited.
Nourishing Shoal is amazing if you can get 300 Forests into play, gaining you 298 life for one card! However, since I am a true rogue, Forests are off limits as they appeared in a deck featured recently called "60 Forests". I've included a sample decklist, although it's hardly rogue - so I'm not going to play it.
One of the many ways 60 Forests can beat you.
|60 ForestsMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
The Power Nine
|Crushing Sideboard Tech|
15 Snow-Covered Forest
That setback means I can't use Forests... however, no one has ever played Wrap in Vigor in order to generate Green mana (to my knowledge), so in went the first 300 copies I could buy!
Blue-Eyes White Dragon is a fatty that Jamie Wakefield seems to have overlooked (probably because it is Yellow instead of Green). It has a tremendous power and toughness of 3000/2500, making it bigger than current threats such as Tarmogoyf or Mountain. While it costs eight Star mana, I figured I could just use 27 Double-Colorless Energy and smooth out the base, so I added those in too.
I quickly added 13 Takeno's Cavalry, 9 Nourishing Shoal, and 1 Blue-Eyes White Dragon (you only need one finisher after all, otherwise he isn't really "finishing"). They probably seem like random counts, but they aren't... those happen to be how many of each that I own.
Then something hit me. I don't know what it was, but someone is very lucky I never found out, because I would have hit them back with my trade binder (as I was raised to do).
Then I thought of something else: I now had a 350 card deck!
However, I knew from playing other card games such as Poker that 350 cards was a little too much, so I cut 151 Wrap in Vigors and added a Kadabra. Since many people have discussed "purple mana" being created in the future, I figured I'd soon be able to play him, and surprise everyone with my ahead-of-my-time knowledge!
I also needed a Personality Card, since I didn't already have one. I always had a thing for Piccolo, so I added as many different poses of him as I could find.
Next, I needed to smooth out the early game. Since Blue-Eyes would carry me through the late game, I decided to add 72 Pawns to the mainboard and a Queen to keep Piccolo entertained. He didn't look too happy, and kept shouting something about "Dragon Balls"... but since this wasn't the time or the place for him to develop an odd fetish, I told him to shut up and shot him in the face with my Heavy Blaster Pistol.
Lastly, I'd been hearing about something called a "Wild Card Game". Well, I'm never one to shoot down an idea - hell - I'm rogue! So I was recommended to add an Eli Manning to my bench (and happily did so).
The following was my new pet deck. I had to try it out for real.
|Blue-Eyes Nourishing EliMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
1 Dead Piccolo
1 Marble Queen
13 Takeno's Cavalry
1 Blue-Eyes White Dragon
72 Glass Pawn
1 Heavy Blaster Pistol
149 Wrap in Vigor
27 Double Colorless Energy
Pictures of Fish
9 Nourishing Shoal
1 Eli Manning
1 Ace of Spades (THE Ace of Spades)
Half of these cards are so rogue, even autocard hasn't heard of them! Go ahead, click a link - Wrap in Vigor is borderline, but we're using it for mana, so who cares?!
The deck has a great game against everything. End of story.
Against aggro, you bring in Eli Manning to throw a quick slant pass to the newly-positioned Takeno Spikes (who currently has Utana Vid cast on himself, thusly not appearing in the decklist). Against control, you take out the Heavy Blaster Pistol in favor of the Ace of Spades, because it kicks ass. Fast.
It wouldn't be fair for me to give you a deck without giving you a tournament analysis, would it?
Treetop's comin' to bust a sap in yo' ass.
Treetop's comin' to bust a sap in yo' ass.
Round 1: Curtis (Mono G-Units)
I sat down to play, and my opponent began calling me "judge", which I thought was nice of him. He must have been a little hard of hearing, because he kept yelling it. It was kind of embarrassing... and I felt bad for the both of us after that warm, fuzzy feeling of being called "judge" quickly turned into a warm, throbbing pain in my head.
During the course of our pregame shuffling rituals, the kind man who let me pay to enter his tournament said I could not play with my deck. I was most offended, as I knew that given a chance, I could play it better than anyone.
The man then said that I was disqualified, even though I'm finally down to 165. I told him I took offense to such derogatory slang, and he told me that if I wanted to be an idiot to go play outside.
Round 2: Outside (White/Green Used Tissue)
My next match was not subject to round time, and thank goodness. This guy (presumably so) was just sitting there for a long time. I neglected to mention that I could see his hand, but I was taught that it was rude to stare.
He played a White Tissue and (presumably) passed the turn.
I decided to keep a hand of 7 Wrap in Vigor, since I would only need 142 more and a Nourishing Shoal to put this one far out of reach. I played a Wrap in Vigor, at which point he responded with Gust of Wind. I didn't have any basic land on my bench, so I sadly informed him that it fizzles and that Wrap in Vigor remains as my active Pokémon.
This Gust of Wind, for some reason, also removed his Tissue from the game, as it sailed across the parking lot and into a car. He didn't go and get it, so I called the match on a technicality.
Well, I took the deck to a 2-0 finish, due to a win against Green/White Tissue and what the store owner kept reminding me was a "bye" in round 1. I'm stoked about taking this deck to a large-scale tournament, and would be interested in feedback (unless your feedback is stupid).
Would you make any changes? I might have overlooked something, but on second thought, I didn't.
Sound off in the forums, and remember the spirit of the Rogue!