The Gigantic Regionals Primer





It's Regionals Time. Regionals is a format where anything and everything comes out of the woodworks. Last year's regionals was the baptism of Elf and Nail, the last nail in Skullclamp's coffin, and featured a first place Mono-Black Clerics deck... All in the two-deck metagame of Goblin Bidding and Ravager Affinity! Just to make things more complicated for Regionals this year; US regionals are a mere five days after Saviors of Kamigawa hits the tournament scene, so we've got no Pro Tours or Grand Prixs to netdeck from!

Contents
1:
12
Control Decks
2:
12
Mono blue
3:
12
Blue Green
4:
12
Black Green
5:
12
Mono Black Control
6:
12
Four Color Hana Kami
7:
12
Five Color Control

8:
12
Aggro Decks
9:
12
Mono Green
10:
3
White Weenie
11:
3
Red LD

12:
5
Combo Decks
13:
4
Tooth And Nail

14:
4
Useful Threads



Control
Mono Blue Synopsis
The deck that just won't go away... Market research shows that people hate getting stuff countered, so Counterspell gets pulled from the Core Set, and Boil, Defense Grid, and Boseiju, Who Shelters All arrive. However, two simple mistakes in the form of Vedalken Shackles and Meloku, the Clouded Mirror turn out to be serious bombs and singlehandedly transform MUC into the top deck of the pre-Saviors format. Pithing Needle has more than a few wondering how strong this deck will be, but even if it turns out to suck, MUC's status as "former king" will give it quite a showing at Regionals.

How To Play It
The biggest gain of Mono-U is ironically its biggest weakness. Pithing Needle offers the blue deck a way to shut down potent equipment without ruining your own Vedalken Shackles and Melokus. Even against Tooth and Nail, the needle can name Mindslaver or Oblivion Stone. Annul looks better than ever maindecked, since having an answer to a first turn Needle can easily swing a game. Twincast is possibly worth a slot or two, but I'm not really a fan.

How To Beat It
It may be in the top tier, but Mono-U is very vulnerable to a hate-packing opponent. Because Mono-U relies so heavily on Vedalken Shackles and Meloku, a humble Pithing Needle can be very effective, and easily maindecked. Boil is the second best hoser around, and if it resolves the game is generally over (barring the deadly Spectral Shift). Of the generic hosers, I tend to prefer Defense Grid the mosst, because it is a turn faster than Hinder, and makes your Plow Unders that much more effective.

Blue Green
Synopsis
Mono Blue control meets Eternal Witness. The old anti-Affinity deck is back in full swing, packing the best of both worlds. With the green mana acceleration, Witness, and Rude Awakening, it's a faster, more versatile deck than Mono-U, but it still packs up to 10 maindecked counterspells (depending on metagame), and the Meloku-Shackles suite to boot.

How To Play It
If you don't already have them, you should go throw 3 or 4 Oxidizes into your UG deck. Artifacts are at an all time post-Ravager high, and killing them is good. It's functionally similar to a Pithing Needle, except that it can take out an opponent's Needle, which can be VERY important. Stampeding Serow makes for an interesting Saviors addition. Serow has good synergy with Eternal Witness, but I'm putting my money on the "not worth it" side of that discussion.

How To Beat It
In general, your best option for beating UG control is to keep steady pressure on your opponent's life total. Umezawa's Jitte in particular is great for dealing with those irritating 1 power blockers, as well as killing off Meloku. Pithing Needle works best if you're naming Vedalken Shackles. Sundering Titan and Plow Under are also relatively effective, as the former wreaks havoc on the precious manabase, while the latter hinders (no pun intended) the opposing tempo quite dramatically.

Black Green
Synopsis
Black Green control has been quietly fading out of sight ever since Ravager got mugged by R+D. Despite that, it's officially getting my vote as the sleeper deck of this year's Regionals. BG gains quite a bit from Saviors, most notably Pithing Needle and Kagemaro, First to Suffer. The former is the most broken card in the set, while the latter is just a big fat beater/removal spell who has good synergy with Night's Whisper.

How To Play It
Your most immediate goal is always to ramp up to tons of mana ASAP. Once you reach six, seven, or fifteen lands, you can start thinking about winning. Death Cloud is the most lethal of your spells, but I've often found Kokusho, the Evening Star, and Kagemaro, First to Suffer to be more effective at killing any opponent not using Vedalken Shackles. Shackles can be real problems for you, so name it first with Pithing Needle. Essentially, this is the same deck it's been for the last two years, only without the need for Ravager hate.

How To Beat It
While the strengths of BG control haven't changed, neither have its weaknesses. Sundering Titan is still an auto-loss, and Bribery is a close second. The deck has a fairly difficult time winning if you take out the Kokushos, so be sure and hit Bribery with Cranial Extraction if you're packing them. The BG manabase is suprisingly weak early on, and a quick Plow Under or LD spell can be trouble. This is very risky however, becaunse once he hits 3-4 mana and has access to Kodama's Reach and Solemn Simulacrum the LD goes essentially dead.

Mono Black Control
Synopsis
Synopsis
Oh how the mighty have fallen. From Haunting Echoes and Nantuko Shade to... well... a deck that still has Swamps. The biggest motive for playing Mono Black is that you can maindeck Damping Matrix. You could do worse than taking Mono Black to Regionals, but you could probably do better too.

How To Play It
Modern black is all about two things: Damping Matrix and big fat creatures. Yukora, The Prisoner is nothing more than a giant hunk of fat. But when you take away access to Umezawa's Jitte or Illusion generation, a 5/5 chunk of fat is a very dangerous thing indeed. Matrix forces the hand quite a bit in deck design, (it would be nice to use Wayfarer's Bauble for example), but the only thing you have that loses effectiveness to Matrix is The Walking_Mutilate.

How To Beat It
Unless you're playing Mono-U, it's best to try and play beatdown here. The black deck has a tough time with multiple Plow Under hits, espescially if they're coming behind Troll Ascetic beats. This is one of the matchups where Viridian Shaman really pays dividends (over Viridian Zealot) because it knocks out the Damping Matrix. Bribery is also insanely strong, as the black deck greatly resents losing a Kokusho the Evening Star. Last but certainly not least, if you're foolish enough to be playing with Plains, Karma is THE ulitmate sideboard threat.

Four Color Control
Synopsis
Four color is a hybrid of the Gifts Ungiven based control decks of block and the UG control decks in Standard. The defining feature is the ability to Gifts Ungiven into the Hana Kami/Ethereal Haze/Souless Revival (spliced onto Haze) lock. Gifts Ungiven makes 4cc the most versitile deck in the format, and a rather tricky deck to just pick up and play. Important to note is that with the relatively low white and black count, despite the name - it is difficult to use Etched Oracle in four color control.

How To Play It
If you don't already know how to play UG or 4cc, it's probably best if you don't try to learn them by regionals. Your general goal with 4cc will change depending on the matchup. Against aggressive decks such as mono green, your best bet is to try and establish the Hana Kami lock as soon as possible. Aside from a double Plow Under, Pithing Needle, or an opportune Hokori, Dust Drinker, aggro decks in general have a difficult time breaking the Hana Kami lock.

If you are playing against a control or combo deck, the most effective strategy is to revert to a UG control deck. Gifts Ungiven is very effective here as well, allowing you to fetch the specific one ofs (like Cranial Extraction or Twincast) that you need.

How To Beat It
Because the common Hana Kami lock requires six mana, it is relatively simple to disrupt using Plow Under, or other mana disruption. Also a Pithing Needle breaks the lock for good. Once you are out of the woods on the Hana Kami lock, you adopt the same strategy as you would with regular UG. Keep constant pressure on your opponent to make defensive plays, and run him out of resources.

Five Color Control Synopsis
Four colors good... Five colors better? Right? Five color control is actually a GUB (generally in that order) deck which "splashes" a few lands for Bringers and Sunburst. It has the dubious honor of being the only deck in the format capable of supporting Etched Oracle, and depending on who you talk with it is either the top "new" control deck in the format, or just a random piece of junk.

How To Play It
As with every other control deck in Standard, your immediate goal is to establish a mana base. Forests are obviously your top priority because you need green mana to cast your land fetching spells. After that, you have to look at your own color requirements to determine what lands to tutor out next.

Your long-term goal is to take advantage of the fact that your spells are generally more powerful than those of your opponent. Gifts Ungiven can find some nasty win conditions like Rude Awakening or Bringer of the Black Dawn, as well as all the utility spells you need.

How To Beat It
More than any other deck, 5cc is very vulnerable to LD, especially the almighty Plow Under. This is highly effective in game 1, but it often results in Sacred Ground showing up for games two and three. Most five color decks are weak against aggro, espescially aggro decks that can kill an Etched Oracle. If you prefer the slow method, both Bribery and Vedalken Shackles can cause severe problems for the deck as well.

Aggro
Mono Green
Mono Green BeatzMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
22 Forest
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Troll Ascetic
3 Kodama's Reach
3 Iworami of the Open Fist
2 Beacon of Creation
3 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
3 Kodama of the North Tree
4 Blanchwood Armor
4 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Plow Under


Mono Green Control(ish)Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
20 Forest
1 Swamp
3 Viridian Zealot
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Eternal Witness
4 Troll Ascetic
3 Wood Elves
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Plow Under
4 Sword of Fire and Ice
2 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
3 Beacon of Creation
3 Umezawa's Jitte
3 Pithing Needle



Synopsis
Mono-green comes in two distinct flavors: Tubo Mana and Beatz. Turbo Mana wants to accelerate out the forests as fast as possible, to take advantage of cards like Beacon of Creation, and greatly relies on equipment to make a legitimate threat out of the creatures. Beatz relies on sheer size, emphasizing the upper half of the green mana curve.

How To Play It
With either deck, your primary goal is to kill the opponent as quickly as possible. Because there are very few WOG effects in the format, you want to simply cast as much of your hand as possible and smash face for the win. Blocking may occasionally be necessary, but for the most part you just want to play creatures and turn them sideways.

How To Beat It
The old wisdom was that the easiest way to beat a mono G deck was to simply drop a Meloku and block the green mage into oblivion. Unfortunately, with the advent of Arashi, the Sky Asunder, Mono-G now has an uncounterable method of destroying him and his illusion horde. Vedalken Shackles is still rather effective, provided you can deal with the Pithing Needles. You can always try and race the green mage, although unless you're playing the mirror this is generally a losing strategy.

White Weenie
Synopsis
White Weenie has the dubious honor of being the only deck on my list that I've written an article explicitly telling people not to play. But that was pre- Pithing Needle. White Weenie has always been fast, and full of evasion. Now it even has a way to survive a Vedalken Shackles. White Weenie gets another batism by fire at regionals this year. As an added bonus, it's cheap, and even a former Ravager Affinity player can figure out how the deck works.

How To Play It
Play creatures, turn them sideways. Play equipment, attach it to creatures. White Weenie is the easiest deck in the format to play. It has few or no combat tricks, and if it's not attacking, it's losing.

How to Beat It
Pre-Pithing Needle White Weenie would almost always scoop to a number of different threats... Vedalken Shackles, Meloku, the Clouded Mirror, Tooth and Nail (fetching Vamp + trike), even the occasional Arc Slogger was typically bad news. But that was all pre-Needle. All those cards are still very effective against WW, you just need to have an Oxidize first. Then again, artifact hate in general has always been very strong in this matchup, since the white dudes are woefully underpowered without their equipments.


Mono Red
Synopsis
Designed to be a predator in the mana-hungry environment, most mono-red decks focus on a low manacurve, supported by land destruction spells to punish the notoriously low land counts of other decks in the format. Thoughts of Ruin from Saviors appears to be the biggest gain, although the symmetry of the effect may end up causing more problems than it's worth.

How To Play It
The goal is to play a single threat (Slith Firewalker and Zo-Zu, the Punisher work best), and follow that threat up with as much land destruction as possible. Quite often, a single Slith or Zo-Zu will be enough to finish the game if left unchecked. If not, you can follow up with Pulse of the Forge and recurring Arc-Slogger burnage.

How To Beat It
Mono red decks in general run very few threats. This means if you have a deck with very cheap answers (like Terror or Mana Leak), you can often push the red mage into a position where he has fewer threats than you have answers to them.

Otherwise, your best bet is to try and ramp up a manabase as fast as possible. Zo-Zu, the Punisher isn't very impressive if you've already got 8 lands in play, and Stone Rain looks even worse. Fecundity is often a strong play off the sideboard, as are Circle of Protection: Red, Sacred Ground, and any other mana acceleration you might own.

Combo
Tooth and Nail

Synopsis
Ahhh... remember back when Ravager Affinity first got shipped up a blind alley and mugged? When the forums were all abuzz with mistaken predictions, about how the metagame would be just Tooth and Nail versus anti-Tooth and Nail? Tooth and Nail never really turned into the powerhouse that people were predicting, but it is still a relatively strong deck, with overall good matchups.

How To Play It
This sounds really old hat by this point in the primer, but it's all about mana. For Tooth and Nail more so than any other deck, because you need to hit 7GG to win. The argument about Triskelion versus Platinum Angel has taken an interesting twist. With Pithing Needle everywhere, the Angel sounds like a far better defensive strategy, except for the fact that almost every green deck is also including Arashi, the Sky Asunder.

How To Beat It
Generally in game 1 you simply have to kill your opponent with speed. Most decks aren't adequately prepared to handle a Tooth and Nail with just the contents of the maindeck, and few are able to out-counter the green deck. The best strategy for post-sideboarded games generally begins with mana disruption (Temporal Adept, Plow Under, or Hokori, Dusk Drinker all work great) and ends with Cranial Extraction. Cranial Extraction really isn't neccesary, although it will go a long way towards making a Tooth survivable. Sacred Ground is often useful for decks with three or more colors, because it takes all the venom out of Sundering Titan. Last but not least, be smart with your Pithing Needles. Mindslaver is generally a very good bet, and often Oblivion Stone is a good second choice.


Whew...
It's a big metagame after all. This is only intended as an introductory level heads up to what's out there. Between now and Regionals, you've got to master your deck against each of the matchups presented above. That's a lot of testing, and not a lot of days to do it. Get started!


Threads you might want to read

What Deck Will You Be Playing At Regionals?. It's a poll. I wonder how accurately this will predict the metagame. Anyways, go vote.

Serious Casual, Seriously: The article is slightly dated, but it's the best source of five color information and strategy I've managed to find. It's also the only time I'll plug one of my articles in the links section.

Official Thread, mono Green Beats: Both the beats and controllish versions are discussed here. Lots of good information here, and (unfortunately) a few nincompoops.

Official Thread, MUC: Yup... Island still hasn't been banned. Personally I like the list in this article better than any of the recently posted decks in the thread, but feel free to try them out.

The Ponza Thread: Depending on who you talk to, this may be the most popular deck at Regionals ... Definately worth reading up on.

Official Thread BG control: If you don't understand why Death Cloud is good, just ask these guys.

Official Thread, WW: They weren't very receptive to my anti WW article, but the thread is as good a source for WW info as you can find.

Official Thread, UG control: Has good 4 color control info as well as everything UG.



As always, you the readers are highly encouraged to post your comments, links, and debate my deck choices. Thanks for taking the time to read, and have a nice day.

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