A mere two days after the events of Sixteen, the world was already changed. Star City $1500 Open decks went up on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, Ironman David-Marshall was in the country again, brandishing deck lists from the so-called Lord of Magic tournament – a Japanese event I had never even heard of – with pedigrees like Asahara, Yasooka, and Suzuki. It was almost like MTGO 8-Mans. By Tuesday night, the second Top8Magic.com mock tournament of the pre-Champs Standard hit Neutral Ground, with seventeen players bashing each other for four rounds of Swiss. He should have been lagged, but Brian was spoiling for a fight.
In the slim hours between the Boros Deck Wins victory in Sixteen and the opening bell Tuesday night, I had discovered a little deck called Solar Pox. I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now. Solar Pox was, how shall we say, a splash of cold water if not a slap in the face. I dumped the Rakdos matchup at 0-6. Monday afternoon, Julian, Josh, and I were all on the same page with a G/W deck (with secret and sick sideboard) that united the best elements of our U/G deck with, um, bigger men… and Josh and Julien pretty much hate each other. That deck was something like 1-4 or 1-5 when I switched Apprentice files. One game I looked at the board… Two Elephant tokens in play, two Stonewood Invocations in hand. Surely there was no rip that… okay maybe Angel of Despair… the one Skeletal Vampire?! Are you kidding me?! Block, block, three in the air, kill ya. Okay. I just ran a tournament for this format. I don’t know nothing, do I? Not absolutely nothing, right? Abe Boros got the first one. Yeah. Hope. I love a Boros… Not so much as four games in ten.
Ten years ago I was sitting at a Grey Matter Conventions PTQ, a wide smile across my greasy mug. In those days I wore a jacket and tie to PTQs, and more than that, forced my entire retinue to do the same. Worth Wollpert had made the long trek to Philadelphia from Chardon, OH, but had no luck and dropped early. My old friend, the man who was maybe the most instrumental in my early game, asked to see my deck. He raised an eyebrow at the Sulfurous Springs… Rituals… Skull.
“What, you couldn’t think of your own deck?”
Six hours later, I was holding my first Blue Envelope.
A week after that, Worth made Top 8 in Akron, OH, with “my” Necropotence deck, knocking out edt in the Top 8 (poor Eric… I beat him in the Top 8 on the way to my win with the same deck). He lost the all important Top 4 match in the two slotter but qualified, thankfully, on rating.
“What can I say?” asked Wortho. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em?
Julian, the defending New York State Champion, and I always play the same 75. Scratch that. When be beat me in the finals last year, we only played 74 the same. Steve Sadin tricked Julian into playing a second land in his sideboard where I had a Meloku. We both respect the Blue cards, but don’t actually like countering things. If you give us the chance, we’ll tap out for a Meloku, a Keiga, a Yosei, whatever. We may have invented siding out as many counters as possible we hate them so much.
Julian will push for Boros whenever he can. He will push for Boros Fury Shield whenever he can. Julian was undefeated at Regionals with Boros, but lost in the Top 8 to Ben Lundquist Tron-Wildfire (same deck that dealt me my first Swiss loss). He ended up grinding in with Solar Flare.
“I’m playing the Solar Pox deck,” he said.
“I’m playing it!”
“I’m playing it!”
“You hate Solar Flare.”
“It’s not Solar Flare, it’s Solar POX. In fact, I’m renaming it KarstenBotDIRebuy, because, you know, it rebuys DI… Anyway, if I don’t play the Solar Flare, I’m taking your paper and not telling you what your sideboard is.”
“But I like this deck.”
Was I actually fighting over who got to play Solar Flare? I hate Solar Flare! Solar Pox, though, more than just showing all of my short list decks the front of its hand just long enough to get the back of its hand into position, is the realization of everything Aaron Forsythe and Brian Schneider have been trying to push with their visions of Magic development. This is not a deck that adds Call of the Herd to an already robust U/G Aggro deck or just tries to run around the missing Genju of the Spires in Rakdos. Solar Pox, for its similarities to Solar Flare, is essentially a synergistic union of many new Time Spiral cards with Frank Karsten’s Haakon engine. In the end, we agreed (did we?) that Julian would get the Solar Pox and I would play our Boros deck. We would play whichever deck won the tournament Saturday.
First of all, it’s well known that I love a Boros. With Boros winning Sixteen, I thought we should have a copy in the mock tournament. I think this list is actually pretty awesome and am tempted to play Boros on Saturday even though I didn’t win the mock.
I won my first two, including a win over Loxodon Hierarch, but got unlucky in the third. I won a game 1 over G/R/W Snow with Hierarchs and Ironfoots (basically the nightmare) but somehow dropped both of the next two, though I thought I should win them both on LD tempo draws. In the third game I lost to the Gemstone Mine 100% (I had to take out a lone, tapped Weald, but couldn’t echo and couldn’t play my next Riders), and didn’t draw any burn cards. Any burn card and I won game 3. I still don’t know how I lost game 2 (it was probably my fault, not the Garrison’s).
I lost in the fourth round to maindeck Circle of Protection: Red (otherwise had him to -4 on overload damage), won Game 2, and I think I actually won Game 3 (we had a life total disagreement of one vitally important point, and I gave it to him). Anyway, I had already declared that I didn’t care if I won or not after forcing my opponent Mason to Condemn a naked Icatian Javelineers.
If you want to play beatdown, I think this is a very good list, though the sideboard is kind of stainsy. I sided Cryoclasm in all four rounds. I think the deck wants a third Disenchant, or maybe even four, because of Serrated Arrows and Phyrexian Ironfoot. I had visions of peeling Threaten when Mason tapped out for Rimefeather Owl. I didn’t.
One note: Pacifism is 100x better than Temporal Isolation if you are running Soltari Priest (I know, I know, I switched). Don’t make the automatic “isn’t Temporal Isolation just better” mistake. It’s not a mistake, I suppose, if you play Mistral Charger; check yesterday’s results to see why you might want to make the switch.
Akira Asahara is the prototype “insane” Japanese rogue. When you think about crazy Japanese deck choices, about people splashing Tooth and Nail in their Balancing Tings decks, or making Constructed Unplayables run circles around tournament Staples… you might not know it, but you are probably thinking about Akira more than anyone else. The finest moment of my Magic career was the first day of Pro Tour: Charleston. You might assume it was because I didn’t lose on Day 1 of a Pro Tour, which was admittedly nice, but that’s not the memory I am talking about. I had beaten Akira fairly quickly and our collective four teammates were trying to decide the outcome of the match. Steve Sadin was deep into his match against Jin Okamoto, and laid down a sideboarded Hill Giant. Asahara had to pick it up from in front of Jin and actually read Tibor and Lumia. The living legend of Japanese Rogues, the Form of the Dragon, Snow Ideal, and Rector Aluren innovator, had to read one of our cards. I got that warm and fuzzy feeling, like drinking hot chocolate in sub-zero weather. It didn’t hurt that we got that one.
BDM came back from Japan with a stack of crumpled papers. One of those was the very cool, very different, list from the Lord of Magic finals. Akira finished second in a field of superstars with a Dragonstorm deck that… that… leaves me short of words. Look at it yourself:
Before you make any judgments on this deck, which does not look like any Dragonstorm deck you have probably seen, please keep in mind that 1) Akira finished second in a tournament featuring players with names like Arita, Ishida, Yasooka, in the same Top 8 as the innovators of major Standard decks like Ghazi-Glare and Solar Flare, and 2) this deck seems phenomenally difficult to play without a lot of preparation.
Billy’s builds much better.
You look at these lists, the lists from the Standard event at the PT, and the StarCityGames $1500 lists, and you realize what a wide-open format this is going to be. I am pretty sure that by the time Worlds rolls around we will see scores of viable decks.
If you’re hungry for last minute Japanese tech, you can get at least five of top the Lord of Magic decks and some key decks from the mock tournament at the Top8Magic Podcast for this week.
The big winner of the tournament was the incomparably cool Luis Neiman. Luis paired off against young Julian Levin at 3-0 or 4-0 or whatever. Neither of them had lost a game to that point. Julian was running with our Solar Pox, but Luis had a strange choice (from my perspective at least): Beach House Update.
I also want to thank BDM for stepping up and running these mock tournaments at Neutral Ground, since they’re actually a great way to gauge the field going into a big tournament. He even ponied up his foil DCI Eternal Dragon from PT Kobe as a prize, which was gravy. I would’ve played even if he hadn’t been offering a prize, but I’m certainly not complaining!
I was initially doing a lot of trash talking about Luis’s deck, but reading his short interview a couple of times actually has me half-convinced. Since we started doing mock tournaments one year ago, the results have been pretty telling for any mock tournament’s winning deck. Pre-Champs we came up with Jushi Blue. Pre-Grand Prix Philadelphia, Deadguy Ale won and no one believed it was good. Could Son of the Beach House be the next unlikely champion? I know you’ve only got a few hours between now and tomorrow, but don’t be surprised when somebody else who copied Luis beats you at Champs.
After several weeks of playtesting, I have come to the conclusion that this may be the first truly blunt format in the Magic history. I can’t figure out an angle where I can find an edge. Last year I tested five decks. Five. I tested Boros, straight White Weenie, Gifts Ungiven, Critical Mass Update, and Jushi Blue. We messed around with Ninjas and Heartbeat and some Fungus Fire but mostly I stuck to five decks. This year I’ve tested something like thirty decks, and none of them seem that much better than any others. Rakdos is sick against what I predicted to be the top of the metagame, but has no game against Solar Pox. U/G is the control killer, chopping every Solar Flare and U/W control deck into pieces with its Moldervine Cloaks and unearthed Chars. U/G has big problems with Rakdos and Glare of Subdual. Solar Flare will be out in force, and is ahead against new kid on the block Solar Pox. Solar Pox was a stunning new discovery, but after reading it a couple of times, I think I buy Luis’s arguments for the Beach House matchup.
Me? I am pretty sure there is no edge, but there are certain things I like and certain things I hate about deck choices. Therefore I am definitely playing Solar Pox Update, Beach House Update, Budget Boros Update (now with four Boros Garrisons and zero Gemstone Mine), U/G Aggro, Rakdos, or this new Golgari Mid-range deck I made based on my Charleston Bats deck. I think about “what could have been” in Charleston literally every day, but somehow forgot how good Skeletal Vampire is. Wow.
This is one of the few times that you really should play what you are most comfortable with rather than The Best Deck. I think Solar Pox might be the best, but it has serious holes, as do all the options.
Good luck tomorrow, no matter what deck you run.