Bottoms Up

Astral Slide decks have been on the rise lately both at the PTQ level and at the World Championships. Today Flores shows you the version of Slide that he’s been running and fills you in on his latest tournament performance with the deck.

I was going to play a B/G/W cycling deck similar to the one I played at Los Angeles (and re-tuned by the great Pat Chapin), but after reading the Worlds Coverage for Day Three, decided to give Astral Slide a whirl, at least in testing (I had initially put Josh and Osyp on Ben Stark’s Slide deck and we started making changes about a week prior to Worlds during the Thanksgiving “off” column week); right before Worlds, I gave Josh and Osyp the B/G/W deck, which was testing well… I hadn’t talked to them between Monday and when the coverage went up near the end of the week in the U.S., so I had to assume that they figured something out on their testing side and elected to go with the initial cycling decision of Red over Black.

Before we continue, the Bottom-Up Slide deck:

Bottom-Up Slide Test Deck List:

3 Eternal Witness

1 Farseek

3 Krosan Tusker

2 Life from the Loam

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Lightning Rift

4 Astral Slide

2 Decree of Justice

3 Eternal Dragon

4 Renewed Faith

4 Wrath of God

4 Forgotten Cave

5 Forest

1 Mountain

3 Plains

2 Sacred Foundry

4 Secluded Steppe

3 Temple Garden

4 Tranquil Thicket


2 Naturalize

4 Plow Under

4 Boil

3 Disenchant

2 Nomad Stadium

This deck differs from Ben Stark’s deck in the following ways:


-1 Rampant Growth

-1 Swamp

+1 Farseek

+1 Temple Garden

This flows from the subsequent sideboard removal of Cranial Extraction (only Black card). Cranial Extraction under-performs against Heartbeat (second worst matchup), and it’s the only reason there is a Swamp in the deck.

Originally, Josh was championing Rampant Growth as able to fetch basic Forest (and make Eternal Dragon stronger as a corollary), but I think that the ability to get Sacred Foundry and more lands overall just makes Farseek the more versatile singleton.


-4 Cranial Extraction

-1 Naturalize

-4 Kataki, War’s Wage

+4 Plow Under

+3 Disenchant

+2 Nomad Stadium

Plow Under is actually as good or better than Cranial Extraction against Heartbeat and doesn’t stretch the mana. In addition, Plow Under is useful against the deck’s real worst matchup: Tooth and Nail. Don’t Laugh! It was a more-or-less post-Standard Tooth and Nail that kept my B/W cycling deck out of Day Two in Los Angeles. You would be surprised at how many Extended powerhouses have problems with the “make nine mana” miser deck.

With the loss of Kataki, I wanted to beef up the more agnostic anti-artifact cards, and thought that a five-pack of Disenchants and Naturalizes was the way to go. I went three Disenchant and two Naturalize due almost entirely due to <strike>which ones I had in Japanese</strike> the fact that I had added a lot of GG to the sideboard and wanted to balance out the mana requirements rather than being slave exclusively to my ability to draw Forest.


[edt] Isn’t Nomad Stadium bad because it makes you take one damage to tap it?

[michaelj] Isn’t Pulse of the Fields bad? You Can’t Tap It For Mana At All!

Pulse of the Fields can be overcome by a wily Boros player just by breaking a land to make his Sacred Foundry come into play untapped (-3 relative). This made the card decidedly less broken against beatdown than against the beats in certain formats past, and Boros happened to get Fiorillo in a previous PTQ. Conversely, Nomad Stadium has no such limit; a lot of the time in testing you Loam up three cycling lands and don’t really want to play one. Nomad Stadium fills your land drop requirement even if you don’t want to tap it for mana. In the beatdown matchups, a lot of the time you are not focused on spreading your mana to the limit so much as making it impossible for them to burn you out, so you don’t care if you cycle two versus three or five versus six times in a turn because the number of turns required for you to win via cycling card advantage is not a limiting factor, your life total is.

Though I had never tested Slide exhaustively, I had a basic understanding of how the deck worked. I decided if I could login to MTGO and play and win three matches versus three random opponents, I would just play Slide in the PTQ.

MTGO Trial Round One: Mono-White Control

This guy actually wins the prize for “least pleasant” opponent I’ve ever had on MTGO. He was playing an Onslaught Block-inspired White Control deck (Sadin won like 100 PTQs over Slide players with this three seasons back). I dropped the first game but showed him Eternal Witness + Astral Slide and Plow Under in Games Two and Three.

In between terrible song lyrics and calling me a “newb,” he did nothing but complain about the quality of his draw in Game Three, stating that he had not drawn a creature in nine turns. I tried to explain to him how if he had drawn nine consecutive creatures it wouldn’t actually have mattered because I had Slide/Witness and had drawn a Wrath, but he would have none of it and was inveterately unpleasant. Also he was the loser.


MTGO Trial Round Two: Red/White Aggro

Ronfar from the forums watched my first match and we battled. He brought the R/W Shrapnel Blast deck that he has been pimping in the forums to the fake Trial table, with exactly the results you would assume. Game One he dropped his hand and I showed him a Wrath (though I don’t know if he had another reasonable play). Game Two I hard-cast my Renewed Faiths and used Life from the Loam for three recursions of Nomad Stadium before getting the scoop.


Slide was beginning to look a little too good, but that would be solved by MTGO Trial Round Three: Tooth and Nail, right?

MTGO Trial Round Three: Tooth and Nail

Game One he made an UrzaTron on turn 4 with Top in play and I didn’t feel like playing it out.

Surely this game would get me out of playing Slide, right?

Always pack pachyderms.

Game Two I played about as poorly as possible. I had five for five (or maybe even five on four with Farseek) for Plow Under… I just had to play it right. The correct sequence was Forgotten Cave into untapped Sacred Foundry and the Plow, but I dropped the Foundry (tapped!), meaning I had to cycle to hope for an untapped fifth mana (didn’t happen). To make matters worse, he Reaped my face, requiring another 1-2 turns and a little help from the Loam to get to five. He had the Tron out but no Top, so I resolved Plow Under and got the scoop.

To be fair, I probably had it because I could set up recursion in two (though not infinite recursion), but his scoop seemed as premature as mine Game One.

Game Three I cycled desperately every turn and hit Plow Under on five, getting the scoop again.

Ugly, maybe… but nevertheless the 3-0 I told myself I needed to switch. Slide it was!

Friday Night, I made sure to call Sadin and Julian (master trader, generally fine young lad, and New York State Champion… over yours truly) to tell them I was switching (they were on B/G/W Chapin-cycling). When they told me they were sticking to the deck, I requested for Sadin to buy me two Nomad Stadiums because I – like everyone else on the planet – didn’t realize they would be good, and didn’t have any left over from Odyssey.

To make a long story short, Sadin said he would buy them but forgot, and I got stuck with two Pulses in the PTQ. To be fair, I should have had Elephants. I discussed the limitation of Pulse against Boros with Josh pre-Worlds, and we decided Elephants were better than Pulse. It is kind of my own fault (cue foreshadowing) that if I were going to lose to having no Stadiums, I had the wrong alternate “gain four” in my board.

Final Decklist:

Round 1: Boros

This one was pretty simple. A young lad attending one of his first tournaments, this Boros Guildmage had a reasonable deck list… if this were a Standard tournament… with no sideboards. That said, Game One should probably have gone to him as I didn’t have Wrath and he was pressuring me with tons of guys, a Glorious Anthem, and an active Jitte. I noticed he took his counters off of Jitte sloppily and all at once on turn 4, so let him do it again on turn 5 and responded with cycling and two Rifts.

Especially as he had no sideboard, he had no shot Game Two when the Pulses came in.


Round 2: Nightmare Mirror

Game One

This was was pretty impossible to start; he drew two Rifts to my zero and had maindeck Elephants and no Wraths (“hey, I’m killing creatures with Rift already”). I didn’t really know what to do as he also out-drew me on Renewed Faiths 2-0.

If you know anything about the mirror, when you get past the draw dependent elements (i.e. who has more Rifts), the tactical advantages come out of stuff like hard casting Renewed Faith for time advantage. He didn’t play it that way, but I was a million miles behind from every other aspect, from deck construction to draws. To make a long story short, Game One was impossible.

Game Two

I looked at my opening hand and figured I couldn’t lose (four lands, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Plow Under, and Eternal Witness) and ripped another Plow on turn 4.

Game Three:

See Game Two.


Round 3: NO Stick

I tested this matchup a lot with my Dave Price Fan Club teammate Tim McKenna and it seems dismal for Rift/Slide. Like basically Slide has no answer to… any threat. Even when you can swindle an Angel to death with Lightning Rift you can’t realistically race Lightning Helix on a Stick. I don’t know what that means, though, because Osyp got all his wins on Day Three of Worlds against NO Stick, and this particular matchup wasn’t close.

Game One

I resolved… my threats. I baited a couple of times and suddenly had Slide/Witness online, which led to Loam and two Rifts.

Game Two

I let him tap out for Fact or Fiction so I could Boil him for three Islands, then Naturalize his remaining Ancient Den.

This matchup seems to favor Slide after boards. You can easily screw NO Stick out of 3+ Islands with one card (with them running only run 6-7 Islands total), which keeps them off of Counterspell and Absorb for the forseeable future. The fact that you have five slots that can attack either NO Stick’s primary threat (the Stick itself) or a primary mana source for only two mana is insane for bait sequences, or to help resolve a more important spell or sequence (Slide for instance). Really all these strats are just there to get down Witness/Slide, which might as well be Abunas/Angel once you have even a small lead and access to two cycling lands.


Round 4: Boros

Game One

He won the flip and got an insane aggro draw. Turn 1 Isamaru, turn 2 Savannah Lions and Grim Lavamancer, with more two-power guys to come. By the time I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel… I realized it was actually Lightning Helix times two (his last two cards in grip obviously) hitting me for exactly six.

Game Two

I boringly won.

Game Three

I kept a three land hand with no Forest, knowing I had 3 Dragons, 4 Thickets, 3 duals, and 5 basics – essentially 15 primary Green sources – to stabilize. Fast forward to some ridiculous turn, possibly six, where I die to an Auriok Champion (i.e. a 1/1 that is synergistic with my Pulse of the Fields) wearing Jitte. I of course have three equally 1/1 (and Jitte Suppressing) Sakura-Tribe Elders in hand. Bad beat.


Round 5: Gifts Rock

Game One

I keep a seven-lander. He is Rock so I cycle into gas with essentially no pressure on me. He shows me the alleged big bomb of Haunting Echoes… Which kind of just makes it more likely for me to draw one of my four Rifts. My hand when he Haunts me for such power as Wrath of God and Life from the Loam includes seven cards, four of which are Forgotten Cave, Secluded Steppe, Tranquil Thicket, and (my other) Life from the Loam.

Game Two

I get Haunted again, this time under Baloth pressure. I eventually get two Rifts out, but he has Genesis going with Eternal Witness and Cabal Therapy, which should be scary as my only remaining cycler is Forgotten Cave. To make a long story short, I draw Forgotten Cave the turn after I draw Life from the Loam (which cannily dodged Cabal Therapy) and put him to -3 through the Beast, to the wonder of all onlookers.

This game was interesting as I had actually essentially already given up. Do you ever get in that haze where you cease caring about a tournament? You don’t become hostile or angry or anything… a wave of apathy just comes over you and all the fire disappears. That’s what happened after the Echoes facing Baloth and I had to consciously snap myself back into the game, into not conceding. I had 14 minutes left in the round and was on six with him bashing with Witness + Baloth (and second Baloth access). I figured it wouldn’t hurt to make him actually do me… Good thing given the outcome, huh?


Round 6: Bobby Burn with Tribal Flames

Game One

He shows me a sum total of Sensei’s Divining Top, Bloodstained Mire, and Overgrown Tomb before scooping.

I play Rifts on turns 2 and 3, and he didn’t think his double mulligan hand would get through that.

Game Two

I have no idea what his deck is, but having played him before, put him on some kind of beatdown (he is always WW though once he was RDW). It turns out he has all Mahers and Kird Apes but just doesn’t draw them. Game Two, I Slide his Maher out correctly so he never draws an extra card and eventually start looping the life gain.

His draws were garbage both games, though he said he could repeatedly have put me on 1 in Game Two, just not 0.


Round 7: Wild Zoo

So I about jump out of my chair when Top 8 is on the line and my opponent is… Zoo. This should be a great matchup for an anti-aggro deck, so obviously I choke.

Game One

He mulligans; I show him Wrath of God and hard cast Krosan Tusker.

Game Two

I draw three Rifts, three Slides, no cyclers. No. As in none. I actually drew two or three cycling lands but I had to play them all down because they were the lands that I got. No Wrath, either.

Game Three

I cycle thirteen times and desperately hold on with Pulses, but draw no Rifts, Slides, or Wraths. Any one of those 12 cards and I make Top 8, given the rest of my draw (two Witnesses and two Pulses along with 10+ cyclers), but alas, kolderson got me.

I think that I couldn’t have done a single thing to play better tactically, but it bears mention that I drew one Disenchant and one Naturalize in Game Two, and two Disenchants and one Naturalize (i.e. everything) in Game Three. He had no targets it turns out, but I think you have to bring in some anti-enchantment and artifact cards in any beatdown situation due to the possibility of Pyrostatic Pillar, Sulfuric Vortex, or something really nasty, like Stabilizer. McKenna says that I should have gone down to two for Game Three after seeing no targets in Game Two, and maybe he’s right. Then again I’d be kicking myself if I got stabilized out in Game Three with a random Krosan Tusker I had sided out in my hand.

This is actually a tough question to answer. When you are playing a mechanics-based deck that has glaring weaknesses, how do you approach the potential sideboard inefficiencies with no knowledge of the opponent’s strategy? On balance, I didn’t side out any of the key cards that I was missing, being Rift, Slide, or especially Wrath, so it’s not like I was hurting myself from that perspective (though a couple of Soldiers to chump might have been nice).

In any case, even one Elephant would probably have won that last game… and I drew two Pulses. Nice deck.

Sour grapes, yadda yadda yadda; bad beat.


Round 8: The CAL

I am the top guy at 15 points, and there are rumors of a 6-2 making the break. I inform my opponent Mario that I can’t offer him anything, but that a win given my breakers would be much appreciated. He says he’s more of a “concede with lethal damage on the stack” kind of guy, and we go to war.

Game One

This one is close, with attrition going on both sides. I’ve tested the matchup a ton of times, and know that the CAL has the edge in Game One because Seismic Assault + Loam is more mana efficient than cycling into Rift, plus I have no breaker for Solitary Confinement at all; to get any legs out of the Lightning Rift advantage, Slide has to drop the Red enchantment early… and in this game, mine didn’t show up until very late. It goes down to the last turn, with both Mario or I able to win depending on how that last turn rolls… At the end of Mario’s turn, I cycle into a Rift, and on that last turn, I can drop either one or two Rifts (ripped the second). I am one card short of lethal with one Rift and one mana short of lethal with both. I drop both and hope for an error; Mario doesn’t give me one, and instead shows me the Confinement to win on two.

Game Two

Mario pressures my now-Wrathless deck with a string of Loxodon Hierarchs, making the life issue a bit annoying, but I have double Rifts to overcome the 4/4s and their triggers without issue. Slide/Witness comes online as well, but is not ultimately necessary to the win.

Game Three

As you might assume given the ponderous speed of our decks, Game Three began with precious few minutes left. Mario got a string of Hierarchs bashing my brains out such that I had to go Slides just to stay alive. This put him on a fairly insurmountable life total given the number of turns we had left (being “extra turns”), but on turn 5 I think I showed clear advantage: I had four mana for Loam and two land cyclers plus five more mana for Plow Underand a grip of three Plow Unders; this would give Mario a ton more life… but also keep him off of new cards for several turns (he didn’t have Loam yet) while I would be drawing 3-4 cards per turn – some of them threats – and eventually making drops. To his credit, Mario picked ’em up.


I finished 11th.

Next time I’m going to run either Slide with Starstorms or Elephants or possibly that Ichorid Rizzo deck. Is it a bad sign if you start 0-3 on MTGO and then want to switch to an erratic deck with 17 lands, no beatdown to speak of, and no card advantage?


Tony – Loams, Dragons, Slides, Witnesses, and good times

Steve – Foundries

Tim (prodigalt, not McKenna… though this Tim did bash McKenna in Round Four) – Gardens

Mario – Round 8


Pulse of the Fields – Eat some peanuts.