Arcane Teachings – Topic Trio: Standard, Block, Vintage

StarCityGames.com has the cards you need for your 2008 Magic the Gathering Regionals deck!
Tuesday, June 3rd – We’re in a busy period of Magic right now. We’ve just had a Standard Pro Tour, and Regionals are fast approaching. Last weekend saw a Block Constructed GP, and the upcoming Pro Tour season is the same format. And Vintage… we all know what’s happening there. Today, Tom LaPille looks at all three disciplines, and suggests the deck he’d play at Regionals if he weren’t leaving to work for Wizards of the Coast…


If I were playing at Regionals, I would be playing this:

This is very, very similar to Charles Gindy list from the Pro Tour. I cut the two copies of Garruk Wildspeaker for a fourth Chameleon Colossus and Profane Command, since he is bad against Faeries and Reveillark and not exciting against Merfolk. I prefer Nameless Inversion to Terror because I like growing my Tarmogoyfs and being able to play Wren’s Run Vanquisher on turn 2 every time. I cut a Kitchen Finks from the sideboard for the third Primal Command because I like making Reveillark players’ graveyards disappear.

I know that this deck isn’t super techy, but it’s full of awesome cards, has really strong synergistic interactions, and the Pro Tour results demonstrate that it’s good. Furthermore, it doesn’t have obvious weaknesses to commonly-played sideboard cards. The other cool thing about this deck is that I can recommend it to anyone because it’s just a straightforward pile of creatures and spells that anyone who has ever played Magic seriously should know what to do with.

There are a number of things I really love about this list. The first is the manabase. All eight available manlands are present, which is possible thanks to maxing out on Civic Wayfinder. The deck only has eleven Black-producing lands, but Wayfinder will find you the Black mana you need by the time you need it. In exchange for a little bit slower colored mana, this list gives you the full set of Mutavaults on top of the set of Treetop Villages, which is just incredible. That was part of my excitement about the Red deck, and I guess I should have tried harder to make it happen in an Elves deck because it’s just as awesome here as it was there. With all eight manlands, you’ll always have some extra creatures waiting in the wings to join an alpha strike or keep pressure on after a mass removal spell.

Four Chameleon Colossus is another detail that makes me very happy. Gindy said on Sunday at Hollywood that he wished he had played the fourth copy, although he didn’t specify where it would have gone. Colossus is a very important card against other Green-Black decks and against Faeries. Against other Green-Black decks, the only way it can die is an opposing Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and you can keep that from happening with your removal spells. Against Faeries, Colossus is a huge threat because it dances right past Bitterblossom tokens. Even in places when the card doesn’t have tactical applications, it’s just really big, and thanks to the four Civic Wayfinders it’s not rare to be able to do sixteen in one hit with it.

The one opposing deck that I expect to see significant play at Regionals that you may have a problem with is Reveillark. The Elves deck isn’t slow, but it’s also not fast, and it gives the Reveillark deck plenty of time to set up devastating late game plays. Your best hope against Reveillark is to just kill them as quickly as possible, since if the game goes late they will go infinite on you with Greater Gargadon and you will be dead. Happily, I don’t expect a ton of Reveillark. The deck is complicated to play and not particularly flashy or exciting so I think it’s safe to try to dodge for eight or nine rounds. Even if you don’t dodge it, the matchup isn’t unwinnable by any means and you have one match in the swiss to give.

Block Constructed


I’m confused by the Kithkin decks that made the top eight in Birmingham. For example, this list won the tournament:

Perhaps the most exciting thing to me about that deck is that it has way more fake spells in its lands than any other deck in the block. Windbrisk Heights and Rustic Clachan are great lands that no other deck has access to, and, as I have written about before, that’s really pretty awesome. Each Windbrisk Heights gives you a full extra card, and with a little help from a Spectral Procession or a Cloudgoat Ranger its requirement should not be hard to achieve. Rustic Clachan is a little less exciting, but it’s essentially costless to play it instead of a Plains because you’re going to have a ton of Kithkin early when you want to play it untapped and later on you weren’t planning on playing it tapped anyway.

The thing that confuses me is that some players choose to play quantity of lands that is on the low end of reasonable. The list that won the Friday PTQ in Hollywood had an anemic twenty-three, while the Birmingham-winning list had only twenty-four. I see this deck as being a spiritual successor to the Goblin deck in Onslaught block constructed in the sense that it is a creature attack deck that has an actual curve, as opposed to a classically low-slung white weenie deck. Thistledown Liege and Cloudgoat Ranger cost four and five mana respectively, and those are some of the deck’s best threats so you’re going to want enough lands to play them on curve. Onslaught goblins decks settled on twenty-five lands to support full sets of Clickslithers and Siege-Gang Commanders, and the only relevant nonbasic land it could use to fight flooding was Goblin Burrows. Kithkin, on the other hand, has the awesome lands we were just talking about as well as Mutavault. This means that you can play more lands than normal with the understanding that some of them will act as spells. My editor assures me that having three white mana on turn 3 for Spectral Procession is extremely important, which explains Jelger’s mana base of twenty six lands with four Clachans and Heights but only three Mutavaults. However, fellow top 8 competitor Jonathan Randle lived on the wild side and ran the same mana base with the fourth Mutavault over a Plains. Time will tell what the right number of Mutavaults is, but I’d be surprised if it’s right to play any less than twenty-five lands total.

On a side note, everyone who plays Block should do some rules research on exactly what a Mirrorweave can do. The Grand Prix: Birmingham blog contained these two strange examples, but I’m sure there are more corner cases out there. Let’s suppose that your opponent is attacking you with a Mutavault and a bunch of other creatures. If you Mirrorweave the Mutavault, all other creatures in play become unactivated Mutavaults; since they are lands and not creatures, they are immediately removed from combat and stay tapped. This turns the Mirrorweave into an effective fog, and although it’s a little weird it does make sense after some thought. Not everything makes complete sense, though; if you have a Kitchen Finks out and Mirrorweave it while a Mutavault is activated, the Mutavault will become a Green and White creature named Kitchen Finks that has Persist and costs 1HH, but is a 2/2 and has all creature types. This is because the Mutavault’s own characteristic-setting effects are applied after the Mirrorweave’s copying. Really. This stuff is wild, but there will be Mirrorweaves flying all over this round of PTQs so you should probably learn it.


I’ll be the first to tell you that I absolutely hate Faeries. This is because others have lots of success with it, while I think it is miserable to play and don’t win ever with it. Despite this, lots of people will still play the deck in PTQs, so if you do choose Faeries as your weapon you would be foolish to not build with the mirror in mind. Happily, the Faerie decks in the Top 8 of the Grand Prix have all adopted Broken Ambitions and Ponder as part of their spell packages. Ponder is great for the mirror because it helps you find a Bitterblossom for turn 2, which is basically the only thing that matters there. Broken Ambitions is a reasonable substitute for Standard’s Rune Snag, and lets you stop opposing Blossoms on the play. If you want to have even more of an edge in game 1 of the mirror, maindeck some Thoughtseizes. These aren’t quite as good in Block as they are in Standard since Sunken Ruins doesn’t cast it on turn 1, but it’s still the best you can do. Pro Tour: Valencia champion Remi Fortier’s list from the finals of Grand Prix: Birmingham is fairly representative of what you should be doing:

Some people have argued that a good player should not play Faeries in a PTQ because the mirror is too random, and I sympathize with that. However, I stated repeatedly that I would have played Faeries at Hollywood if I felt like I knew how to play it, even though the mirror was random, since I thought it was the best deck. Is this inconsistent?

I argue that it is not, for a number of reasons. The first reason is that in Block Constructed, the variety of opposing decks is much lower. It would not surprise me to see a third of a block PTQ playing Faeries, and as the tournament goes on the concentration of Faeries should only go up because it’s one of the two established best decks as opposed to one of many viable options as it is in Standard. Therefore, you are more likely to play more coin-flip faerie mirrors in a PTQ. The second reason is that I don’t think I’m exceptionally skilled compared to the average Pro Tour competitor, while I have strong evidence that am pretty awesome compared to a PTQ field. Pragmatically speaking, I would rather play a coin-flip mirror against Wafo-Tapa or Chapin than a skill-based mirror, but I’d rather play the skill-based mirror against an average PTQ competitor. The third reason is that you can lose matches at a Pro Tour and still do well. Paolo Vitor Damo Da Rosa snuck into the Top 8 at Hollywood with four losses out of sixteen rounds, but winning a PTQ requires that you lose at most one match in six to eight rounds of swiss and none in the Top 8. This makes flipping coins for matches extremely dangerous. On the other hand, if you think you’re not as good as the rest of the players in the room, playing faeries to guarantee coin flip mirror matches all day may be a reasonable idea.


Brainstorm is restricted
Flash is restricted
Gush is restricted
Merchant Scroll is restricted
Ponder is restricted*

Hello there, Island. It’s time for you to go. Get out. Seriously, we don’t want you here anymore. Please try not to get anything on the walls on your way out. I have opinions about this, but now that you know what I’m about to go do this isn’t the appropriate place for them. Instead, we’ll talk about what it means for the format.

For the past three months, the best decks in Vintage by far have depended on Fastbond and Gush. My colleague Adam Prosak put it this way: Fastbond just gave Vintage a second copy of Yawgmoth’s Will, in the sense that it was another card that immediately won you the game when you cast it. In decks that played four each of Merchant Scroll, Brainstorm, Ponder, and Gush, it was pretty hard to cast Fastbond and not immediately win by going through lots of copies of Gush, finding Yawgmoth’s Will, doing it again, and then casting Tendrils of Agony. Alternatively, one could assemble a Painter’s Servant and a Grindstone and deck the opponent instead. The actual method of the kill was almost academic; it was Gush and Merchant Scroll that enabled everything.

Given that everyone who played Blue was doing that, all of our previous motivation for playing Blue decks is gone. The only unrestricted Blue card that excites me now is Mana Drain. Force of Will is important and will be played in Blue decks, but it’s not even that exciting anymore because there isn’t a critical mass of nonessential Blue cards to remove to it. The best draw engines in Blue are, as strange as it sounds, Intuition plus Accumulated Knowledge, and Thirst for Knowledge. If you want cheap deck manipulation in a Blue deck, can I suggest Sensei’s Divining Top? It won’t be abnormal to start with a land, a Mox, and a Top, and when you do that you can start filtering pretty quickly. Top should fit right into existing Control Slaver decks and synergize well with Thirst For Knowledge, if they still work without Brainstorm.

Everything other than basic Island escaped this round unscathed, however, which means that everyone’s favorite Vintage nonbasic lands Mishra’s Workshop and Bazaar of Baghdad are going to get a lot better. Brainstorm and Merchant Scroll were the main ways that Blue decks were able to dig for cards like Hurkyl’s Recall and Yixlid Jailer to beat those decks, and now that natural resistance is gone. However, the Workshop decks as they exist now are very distorted to deal with Fastbond decks, so we will definitely see some changes. Dredge decks with Bazaar are unlikely to change, and just get much more frightening. If Blue decks adopt Sensei’s Divining Top, look for Workshop decks to fight back with Null Rods.

See that in the corner over there? That’s Dark Ritual smiling and plotting its triumphant return. Storm decks have been exclusively based on Gush as of late, but that is likely to change now. Decks like Grim Long are historically good against Workshops. They are also pretty good against Mana Drains decks. Finally, about half the deck is restricted, which means that the Cabal Therapies from dredge decks are not so effective. It remains to be seen if they work without four Brainstorms, but I think this is a very good starting direction.


I will be in attendance at Ohio Valley Regionals in Columbus, Ohio on June 7, but I will not be competing. I can’t play in Nationals for obvious reasons, although I hope I’ll still get to go as part of the Wizards entourage. Furthermore, I graduate from The Ohio State University (yes, The) on June 8, and there are some graduation-related events the evening before that I want to attend. I’ll be at the site until about 4:30pm; if you want to cube or chat with me before I disappear from the Midwest for an undetermined period of time, this may be your last chance. Stop by and say hello!

In the meantime, the weather today is cold. Good luck at Regionals!

Tom LaPille