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Silvestri Says – Green Beans

With another week in the books, we go into a metagame that, while not defined, has shown some clear go-to deck shells. Mono-Red proved it wasn’t a fluke or a budget consideration and is a full-on tier one deck that needs to be respected. It also showcased that while [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] are relevant, they aren’t the endgame of the format by virtue of existing. You need a solid surrounding cast for them to accomplish anything.

Meanwhile GW decks moved toward… Flash?!? Surprisingly, green has gotten enough flash cards that it actually has real play when it isn’t in its main phase. The green decks that chose not to get tricky instead chose to maximize the number of dudes they were playing. Let’s take a look at some of the finer details.

The Green Movement Strikes Back

This weekend in Cleveland was a showcase of everything fair, good, and green in the world. Well probably not everything, just a hell of a lot more diversity than last week in terms of successful archetypes. Islands were beaten down quite badly by Forest decks, but still lived on in the hearts of a few pilots.

I wouldn’t put a ton of stock into either tournament setting long-term metagame trends. At this point the only thing I think everyone can agree on is that Mono-Red will continue to be a legitimate top tier archetype. Even if it turns out other tier one decks knock it firmly out of top tier status, it’ll remain a competitive and popular choice for the low cost and free wins it’ll eek out.

For now let’s look into the trees to find the Forest.

Naya, Ian Barton, Top 4 SCG Cleveland

[deck]Main Deck
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Experiment One
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Domri Rade
3 Advent of the Wurm
2 Brave the Elements
4 Forest
2 Mountain
5 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
1 Arbor Colossus
2 Boros Charm
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Savage Summoning
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Unflinching Courage
2 Wear Tear[/deck]

The mana base for this deck scares me and I’m amazed at the spread of mana costs in the deck. Not only does it have green and white 1-drops, but it also has [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] right next to [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]. This is the kind of deck where if my opening hand doesn’t contain a shock I’m going to have to mulligan on principle.

Of course, by having this type of mana we aren’t hamstrung by limiting our early drops when we do hit the mana right away. Every creature showcased is either a great deal on their stats or has a very relevant ability. [card]Brave the Elements[/card] is no slouch in terms of trickery, although I’m surprised to not see [card boros charm]Boros[/card] or [card]Selesnya Charm[/card] in the deck. It would go nicely with the theme of trying to cast spells, and potential blowouts remain high.

This is the kind of deck where I’d be scared to get hit by [card]Peak Eruption[/card]. In fact, while it has lots of sweet creatures, it surprisingly has little aimed at red decks. You’ll notice almost all the other decks in the Top 16 have hate cards aimed squarely at red—[card]Unflinching Courage[/card], [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card] and [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]. Ian only has a pair of [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] in his board to help out the team.

Since the deck didn’t have scry lands, I already had 95% of it on Magic Online so I gave it a whirl. While the mana wasn’t as terrible as I imagined it to be, I definitely wanted at least 2-3 extra GW lands in the deck. [card]Domri Rade[/card] also wasn’t on time nearly as often as have grown accustomed to. I wouldn’t mind swapping 1-drops, focusing the early land drops on that specific color and covering some of the other colors with non-basics. Splitting them heavily among green and white is just too awkward for any hand with a basic Mountain.

Also, while I liked the Mono-Red match when I was curving out, I died way too often to [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] for my taste. With few ways to interact on the board, they can often just sit there and blast you for 5-8 with each one. You can’t attack them with the team if you’re already on the back foot and you can’t knock their devotion down. On the plus side, this is the easiest match to fix by adding life gain and actual removal spells.

Chris Renner, Stompy, Top 4 SCG Cleveland

[deck]Main Deck
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Experiment One
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Kalonian Tusker
4 Boon Satyr
4 Reverent Hunter
2 Deadbridge Goliath
4 Nylea, God of the Hunt
2 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Kalonian Hydra
20 Forest
4 Mutavault
Sideboard:
2 Fade into Antiquity
3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
3 Mistcutter Hydra
4 Nylea’s Disciple
3 Time to Feed[/deck]

Of course, the absolute easiest way to deal with mana problems is by simply going one color, and the easiest way to deal with threat density is to run all of them. I really love how this deck deals with removal—it’s the classic plan of just throwing more dudes at the problem. When the deck sequences correctly it’s close to unbeatable, and [card nylea, god of the hunt]Nylea[/card] and the 5/5s give the deck a way to recover from Verdict. Post-board, introducing [card]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/card], [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card], or [card]Primeval Bounty[/card] can all be very obnoxious for a UWx deck to deal with.

On the other hand, the lack of tricks is awkward—the opponent can always figure out the optimal blocks or sequencing against you. This often won’t matter against the majority, but against the removal-heavy attrition decks sometimes you’ll be begging for anything that lets you rewrite the script. This is where Stompy is lacking sometimes—there simply isn’t a lot of play, so if your hand isn’t good enough to get you there you end up losing while the opponent is at 2 life.

Tweaking this deck, the only thing I’d want is [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card] or a similar threat in the main deck. [card]Kalonian Hydra[/card] plays well with everything in your deck, but it’s still a 4/4 that dies to nearly everything when it first hits play. [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] also deserves a place in the sideboard to help deal with [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] and other obnoxious flyers. Of course, I’d also highly consider just playing red for four [card]Domri Rade[/card] and start from there.

That’s how linear this deck is—splashing for [card]Domri Rade[/card] may make this deck better than sticking with mono-green no matter how you build it. If you were trying to do things with [card]Predator Ooze[/card] and Shrine, that’s one thing, but we can’t do that. So why not get the best planeswalker for your deck, help out your Verdict match, gain some board interaction, and open up your sideboard?

Erik Finnegan, 1st SCG Cleveland

[deck]Main Deck
4 Boon Satyr
3 Dryad Militant
4 Experiment One
4 Fleecemane Lion
1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Advent of the Wurm
4 Call of the Conclave
3 Rootborn Defenses
3 Selesnya Charm
3 Unflinching Courage
10 Forest
7 Plains
2 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
Sideboard:
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
1 Centaur Healer
2 Druid’s Deliverance
3 Glare of Heresy
1 Hunt the Hunter
2 Pithing Needle
1 Rootborn Defenses
2 Sundering Growth
1 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Unflinching Courage[/deck]

As I stated in the opener, having a bunch of flash options give this deck a bit more play to it. Combined with [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card], things can become a very scary guessing game with midrange or control decks. Obviously, aggro doesn’t care what silly trick you have, especially the ones with 2 toughness. Of course [card]Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice[/card] and [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] can turn that around real quick.

This is probably the most reasonable of the GW decks I’ve seen for an open field. It’s slanted against Verdicts with the maindeck [card]Rootborn Defenses[/card] and slower curve, but still has plenty of cards good in each individual match-up. This is a weird GW deck that values resilience over everything else and I’m a little perplexed by just how in the middle this deck is. The gulf between Mono-Red and Jace is pretty huge, so to find a deck riding the line is interesting.

Like I said last week, I love [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and even though I think most of the filler sucks, here’s hoping Voice, [card]Boon Satyr[/card] and [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] are good enough.

Regardless of how good or bad you think these decks are, one thing they will be is popular. Players love decks like these and I saw my local free Standard with about 35 tables absolutely flooded with them. I see no reason why States or Opens will be any different for the players just looking to have a good time smashing with creatures and Gods.

Island, Ho!

Island decks took a big hit this weekend, but the top decks don’t showcase anything unbeatable. If players took the results last week and tweaked their decks toward fighting control mirrors, I’m not surprised at this end result. It could also be that Worcester simply had a far larger quantity of skilled blue players than elsewhere and that gave us those week one results.

Looking at the Stompy and Selesnya decks making up a good chunk of the Top 16, [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] is still very good. What it may be time for is to push harder on [card]Essence Scatter[/card], [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], and [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] for the straight UW decks. Maindecking a blocker like [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] may also be worthwhile if you worry about being behind the 8-ball against aggressive plans. [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] still bricks every major Forest deck I’ve seen from getting to the end game, and protecting her seems to be the #1 goal in these matches.

Of course, we could also get a little help from our friends…

[deck]Main Deck
2 Archangel of Thune
4 Frostburn Weird
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Thassa, God of Waves
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Detention Sphere
4 Azorius Charm
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Essence Scatter
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
9 Island
8 Plains
Sideboard:
3 Master of Waves
3 Negate
1 Gainsay
1 Archangel of Thune
2 Aetherling
2 Blind Obedience
3 Rabid Hybridization[/deck]

This is an offshoot of a [card]Master of Waves[/card] deck I had been working on after reading Mark Nestico’s article on it. I found that skewing my deck around Master wasn’t really doing it for me, but I liked many of the individual pieces for it. Using [card]Master of Waves[/card] as just a blue stand-in for [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] was perfectly fine with me though.

Against red decks, Master fills the board and provides a blocker that simply cannot die. Green decks can handle it by bashing through, but I found Master could typically take a pair of creatures down unless they were all Smiter-sized. If you ever play back-to-back Masters though, boy do things get out of hand. [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] also pairs up nicely with anything that can create multiple tokens and [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] is so good right now that I’m probably going to maindeck it in normal UW.

Additionally, if you want to play normal UW, you may want to consider copying William Jensen from week one and adding [card]Prognostic Sphinx[/card] to your main deck. If you get to attack with it, you’ll rarely ever run out of gas and it provides a defender against [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] and [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] if necessary. Honestly I’m pretty done with [card]Aetherling[/card] unless the metagame skews back toward control strategies. I won’t argue against one, but Elspeth just wins so many of the same games and dominates creature matches in a way [card]Aetherling[/card] can’t match.

Brief Thoughts on Mono-Red

When talking about red aggro, the kicker for me has to be that the deck is arguably better than it was pre-rotation. We received substitutes for nearly every card and you can argue cards like [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] and [card]Fanatic of Mogis[/card] are simply better than what we had. Certainly against other creature decks I prefer Fanatic over suiciding my entire team to force through [card]Hellrider[/card] damage.

What I’m finding is if I’m not playing against a Verdict or a heavy black deck, a lot of decks just don’t have enough interaction to force you off devotion. Even in the red mirrors, most decks are only playing 8-10 removal spells! I’m bringing this up because the RDW mirror is the most common match on Magic Online currently. You may be better off starting off with 14-16 kill spells instead of bringing them all off the bench. Sandbagging with [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] and [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] makes a lot more sense when you can’t randomly get domed for a million.

Midrange Makes a Move!

Andrew Morrow, Top 8 SCG Cleveland

[deck]Main Deck
3 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
4 Desecration Demon
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
4 Sin Collector
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Blind Obedience
3 Devour Flesh
3 Doom Blade
3 Hero’s Downfall
2 Pharika’s Cure
3 Read the Bones
3 Thoughtseize
1 Whip of Erebos
4 Godless Shrine
4 Orzhov Guildgate
5 Plains
9 Swamp
4 Temple of Silence
SIDEBOARD
3 Glare of Heresy
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council
1 Pharika’s Cure
2 Pithing Needle
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Thoughtseize
2 Underworld Connections
1 Whip of Erebos
2 Yoked Ox[/deck]

This is my favorite black midrange deck to date and while I prefer [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] over [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], I can’t quibble with too many of the fine details. After playing against [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] in some looong control vs. black mirrors, I have to say grinding this plan out is really rough. Opponents buying back [card]Sin Collector[/card] and Ghost Council is pretty much the worst-case scenario for a Revelation deck. Not that [card]Desecration Demon[/card] doing a [card]Ball Lightning[/card] impression is much more appealing to me.

Against red this deck probably gets destroyed game one unless it can 1-for-1 straight into Blood Baron. The key with black decks is you need to respect the early game and play plenty of early removal, specifically [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card]. Cure is important because killing a creature and gaining 2 life negates the life loss you find in other places. Often with this deck you can afford to drop very low and then stabilize with a 5-drop or Whip plus [card]Desecration Demon[/card]. Cure helps get you to that point instead of dying because you spent 2 life to [card]Thoughtseize[/card].

Outside of that, it has a hefty discard package to interact with non-creature decks and the five-drops have to be dealt with immediately. Looking at the deck the only real flaw I see with it is that it has the classic half-a-deck syndrome that usually plagues non-green midrange plans. [card]Read the Bones[/card] helps with this a bit, but there’s just nothing stopping you from drawing a bunch of blank removal and a handful of 1-for-1s against a Revelation deck. Or hands with a bunch of five-drops and no way to live long enough to get you there.

I’m not really sure what the solution is or if one even exists. [card]Trading Post[/card] is an idea for more life gain against red, and if there were a few other artifacts to run it could recur [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] so it wasn’t useless against control. If we didn’t go that deep, [card]Tithe Drinker[/card] is another card that doesn’t crush the mana base and hits early. In the end, the answer is most likely finding a curve that works and just accepting that sometimes you’ll draw bricks and lose. After all, not every color can have a Jace, Domri, or Chandra to anchor the deck.

Dan Musser’s Junk Midrange deck was cool for many of the same reasons and he went out of his way to work on stabilizing the mana issues. It still feels like a massive dog to [card]Burning Earth[card] and not having as many discard spells means that it’ll have a tougher time against Revelations. Aggro though needs to work a lot harder thanks to the number of value bears and [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]s it can throw up as brick walls. It also takes full advantage of this creature approach by abusing [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] and Whip against decks that try to race.

Final Thoughts Before The Pro Tour

If people make a conscious effort to avoid playing red, despite the obvious strength, then I fully expect decks like Esper and Grixis to be huge at the PT. These decks can absolutely dominate the green aggro and midrange decks with [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], and [card]Far // Away[/card]. They also function better in control mirrors than straight UW thanks to having access to black removal.

Grixis in particular is a deck that has received no airtime, yet with many of the same best cards as Esper. The only card without a direct swap is [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] and thanks to [card]Opportunity[/card], Ashiok, Chandra, and Jace, Grixis doesn’t get punished nearly as badly as you’d expect. It also has access to the only three-cost mana rock the majority of people could ever stand to play—[card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card]. For decks that have to run 26-27 mana sources, but want more in control mirrors, Keyrune is pretty much perfect.

As for a plan against the midrange decks, good luck beating [card]Master of Cruelties[/card]. It blocks down the majority of the format and it only takes a timely [card]Far // Away[/card] to clear the board of blockers. [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] and [card]Devour Flesh[/card] may still snag it, but realistically only Downfall will still be in the deck post-board. Besides, you can run discard to clear the way for your Master, it isn’t like you need to slam him on turn five.

As for other options, straight GR still has a great curve and a wonderful selection of threats. [card]Domri Rade[/card] and [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] are nearly on par with Jace when you take into consideration the primary goals for their respective decks. I think the key failing with many players is they simply aren’t putting enough consideration into what exactly they want to accomplish. Yeah, [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] is a good Magic card, thanks for that. Now do I want to go heavy red, heavy green, or ride the middle a la Naya as much as I can?

[deck]Main Deck
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Boon Satyr
3 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Domri Rade
3 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
11 Forest
7 Mountain[/deck]

Well one way or another, the Pro Tour should be an eye-opener for the format. Good luck to the #pardeetime crew, TeamCFB, and I look forward to watching the coverage!

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: josh.silvestri@gmail.com

Bonus Deck

[deck]Main Deck
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Syncopate
2 Dissolve
2 Essence Scatter
2 Rapid Hybridization
2 Voyage’s End
2 Supreme Verdict
4 Azorius Charm
2 Selesnya Charm
4 Advent of the Wurm
4 Boon Satyr
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Mystery
3 Forest
3 Plains
4 Island
Sideboard:
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
2 Detention Sphere
1 Selesnya Charm
1 Simic Charm
2 Negate
1 Dispel[/deck]

Planeswalkers? Why worry about planeswalkers when you can just end-step a giant guy and smash them? Multiple Flash decks were built on this principle and while we lack [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] to make the threat truly effective, playing this deck against people who don’t expect it gives you a nice edge. You can also sideboard into a scary UWG tap out deck throwing haymakers if you want or simply up the countermagic and anti-aggro like I have here. This is the kind of deck that’s good for a weekend or two and then needs to go back to the drawing board.

Bonus Podcast

Due to a mix-up, this didn’t quite get uploaded on time, but I still wanted to share a podcast I did with Eric Levine as the Theros spoiler was still coming out. Check it out if you’re interested:

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