If the Regional championships were being held this weekend, do you know what deck you would be playing? Is it going to be something fun because you’re a casual player that likes to cast Eater of Days and Stifle the come into play ability? How about something aggressive so you can maximize the amount of relaxation you get in between rounds of the grueling all-day tournament? Maybe control is the way you want to go, dominating the board until your hapless opponent is frustrated and out of options. True, you get less time to eat, smoke, or hit on chicks in between rounds with control, but you know how to play it, and play it well. Maybe you hope not to run into aggressive decks or land destruction strategies, and want to play something based on Mind’s Desire. Whatever you choose to play at Regionals, you have to be well informed, and hopefully I can present to you a version of Astral Slide that has been devastating in my own testing.
The biggest problem out of Darksteel is not the lack of tournament quality cards. No, I’d say the biggest hassle out of the set is one of the greatest tools ever given for aggressive decks. Skullclamp is sure to cause many a headache over the Regional season for the control player. Your mass removal spells may turn into smaller Ancestral Recalls for your opponent, refilling their hand while you are backpedaling and trying to stabilize. Thankfully for you, there is a powerful tool in the current metagame to control this Equipment nemesis.
Anyone who played Onslaught Block Constructed will be able to tell you how good Astral Slide is against decks that have creatures in them. They can follow that up with how good Lightning Rift is against creatures as well. Yeah it seems like I am saying stuff that is public knowledge and I am doing it to bring a point up.
With Skullclamp coming into the field, many players are saying that White decks have no chance of performing well this Type Two season. How can you blame them? Skullclamp is a nightmare card, and will win more games then it should. It is just four cards out of sixty though, and this version of Slide packs more then enough to make the powerful uncommon a non-factor.
What I want to talk about quickly is why I am not playing some of the cards that should have a place in this deck. I’m not saying that these cards have no place in the deck before Regionals, the version I have presented is the one that I have been testing for sometime now, and has undergone several changes in the past weeks.
Cards I Am Not Playing
Originally in the first build, I feel that the need to cast Vengeance on the fifth turn has increased immensely. Temples rely on other lands to be useful, but so does the Cloudpost, and it comes into play tapped. If Weathered Wayfarer were taking a slot in the main deck, I would certainly run them.
This card may have been the hardest to cut, as it is very good in the creature heavy environment, and may end up making an appearance in the main deck again. It gets to kill things in response to the equip ability, but in the end, the I felt that there were better cards to have in the main.
Out of all the cards that I am not playing this is one of the ones that I really want to have in the deck. It’s very good against Bidding, often times killing two goblins after the sorcery resolves. However, against every other deck in the format, this card does not do enough.
Phyrexian Arena, Worship, Astral Slide, and Lightning Rift are all cards that you could see over Regionals weekend. Chances are if you see Arena or Worship, you can sit back a little bit and just try to win. You have three answers to these enchantments main, and I can not justify removing more important sideboard cards for this one.
If you play against DNA, chances are you lost that round. The Desire deck that Jimmy Bean put on StarCityGames.com is your worst non goblin matchup. You’re gonna need the opponent to suck a lot in the matchup, and flip up every land in the deck when they start to go off. Yeah, I know this card stops Tendrils in the matchup, but why add a card that helps against such a narrow matchup? [Because Mindslaver is a pain in the ass as well? Damping Matrix does shut it down though. – Knut, asking what everybody else is asking like,”Dude, no Scrabbling Claws?”]
Now, on to the cards that I am using in the deck. After such an exciting few paragraphs about the cards I am not playing, I bet you’re very excited to see what I am playing. (Yeah, that’s a lie.)
Cards I Am Playing
Secluded Steppe / Forgotten Cave
Cycling lands that go in the Red/White cycling deck. Four of each, because you’ll need cyclers. True they come into play tapped, but how often are you actually playing something on turn 1 with this deck?
Temple of the False God
If this is your fifth land, everything is right with the world. If this is your second land, chances are you should have shipped the hand back. This accelerates you one full turn, and can allow you to cast Exalted Angel, and more importantly, Akroma’s Vengeance on turn 5. Or maybe Wrath of God and cycle a card?
When you absolutely need to have that source of White, this guy is your man, making deliveries on time like some kind of fantastic United Parcel Service. He is one of the key tools against control, being a recurring threat and all. He can be one of the few creatures you get out of the graveyard when Bidding is cast. We’ve had just about a year to figure out how good this creature is, I can not justify it with words anymore.
4/5 flyers with Spirit Link allow you to win games that you have no business winning. Now I know how Geordie feels when he writes Limited reviews. Faeries crapping rainbows in my brain indeed, sir.
Your main deck answer to Skullclamp, cycling cards in response to the equip activation causes your opponent to tie up precious resources, and will sometimes stop them from casting other important spells. Of course better players will make you cycle during their combat step, which can leave them free to do whatever they want in their second main phase. At least they will not be casting any Goblin Warchiefs and attacking if they use this plan.
Often times this will kill a creature and draw you a card for about three mana. This is decent card advantage, or so I hear. It can help you stabilize the board a bit after a Bidding is resolved, but unless you have unlimited mana available to kill everything, expect Goblin Sharpshooter to deal five to ten points of direct damage to you.
Wrath of God
Regardless of how many Skullclamps are in the room, this is still the best mass removal spell ever printed. On average this card trades for four creatures, and may get more, if your opponent is under the impression that they have to put everything into play to have a chance.
This card may or may not end up being the wrong choice, as some people will feel that Slice and Dice is better in the format now. I’m not one of those people yet. I firmly believe that Starstorm is better for the following reasons. For the same costs (I’m talking differently here, Cycling first and then Casting) you get one card off of Starstorm, and one card and kill a couple dorks with Slice and Dice. For six mana, you can deal four damage to everything in play, but with Starstorm, you get it at instant speed. That has to be better then Slice and Dice right?
If Shatterstorm were in the format, I’d just play it, because that is what I want Vengeance to be, a card that destroys all Artifacts in play. The additional bonus of killing off creatures and Enchantments is just golden. I feel that this card can be cut if Affinity is not heavily played in your format, because there are better cycling cards and you already have a glut of mass removal in the main. If you find there is not enough Affinity to support this card, remove it, and add Spark Sprays, or maybe more Renewed Faiths. You can always side this in against Affinity. As it stands now though, Affinity is one of the most played decks in Kentucky, so I have to run it.
A great cycler that gains you two life, and can give you a small cushion in the life race.
Decree of Justice
Make some blockers, Rift a guy, and Slide one out is one of my favorite uses for this card. Feel free to make some angels though, if you need to end a game in a hurry.
Decree of Annihilation
Yeah this card seems to be a bit too slow in the current format, but I cannot tell you how many times I have cast an Angel on turn 5, only to turn around cycle this Armageddon on turn 6. This card makes it a near hopeless game for Goblin Bidding when it resolves, as they will not be able to cast Bidding and kill you in time. It’s great against Control, as it keeps them from countering your good cards, and against Affinity, it kills three artifacts when cycled. The times I have hardcast this card, I have always lost, and that makes me sad.
Now I know what you are thinking here. Why, why are you running this card in the main instead of more cyclers? Here is the best answer I can give you.
Damping Matrix shuts down a lot of goodies.
The list goes on and on, but these are just some of the cards that I have shut down in my own testing. It’s been the most important addition to the deck since I have started to test for Regionals, and I think if you test with it, you’ll see how good it really is!
Circle of Protection: Red
Stops the hoard of goblins that try to pound your face in. I’ve also been siding this in against the mirror match where more games are decided on the strength of Lightning Rift then any other that I have played.
Ends the threat of Land Destruction decks taking away your most precious resource. Turns every land destruction card into a dead draw.
One of my favorite cards in Mirrodin, this card can take a losing game and make it one that you were on the winning side for ten mana. When this card comes in from the board I am often siding out Matrix, as Mindslaver is much better than Matrix in the mirror and control matches.
Pulse of the Fields
This card is golden! Keeping you in the goblin match up for several turns after it should have ended. It’s also good against Aggro Affinity, Zombies, and any other decks with creatures as well.
Now, we come to the matchup stuff, you know where I test some, and give you all the results. I’m rather pleased with some matches, and others, I got a little bit discouraged with.
Goblin Bidding (5-5 pre 7-3 post)
Before Skullclamp was printed, you were able to Wrath or use other mass removal with little retribution. With the powerful new artifact hitting this deck, now you have to be careful with all of your removal, as you do not want to let your opponent trade too many creatures for cards. Lighting Rift, Wrath, and Matrix are all pretty important in the first game. It is a toss up match, and I still feel as if the Bidding player can simply win by tapping five mana and casting Patriarch’s Bidding.
The post boarded games are a little bit better, as you have access to Circle of Protection: Red and Pulse of the Fields for the second and third game. Sulfuric Vortex can be a pain if your life gets too low. Side out the high-end cyclers (Annihilation for one) and bring in these six cards.
GroATog (6-4 pre 8-2 post)
The first game is surprisingly easy for you to win if you survive past the first four turns. If Disciple of the Vault becomes too much of a factor, you have to use hardcast Renewed Faith to stay alive. Astral Slide can be one of your best buddies in the game. Wrath and Vengeance get to clean up their side of the field, and your Air Force will win you the game. Arcbound Ravager and Atog are both guys to watch out for game one, and protect yourself against the former. Even if the Ravager gets blocked, you can be certain that the Ornithopter coming above you will grow and smack you hard.
After board you get the powerful Shatter (I never thought I would call Shatter powerful – I feel like I’m living a lie) and if you feel the need, Pulse of the Fields. You need to side out the ineffective Decree of Annihilation, and some of the other slow cyclers such as Starstorm. You need quicker answers to turn two 4/4s and potentially huge Atogs. Astral Slide, Wrath of God and Akroma’s Vengeance all get a high value placed on them in this matchup.
Mono-Black Aggro (8-2 pre, 6-4 post)
The version of this deck that I have been testing is the one that NJX put on our own forums here at StarCityGames. This particular mono-Black deck is a lot of fun to play, and I think can be a contender if it had more game against Slide. The amount of Wrath effects here is almost too much for this deck to compete against. However it is not a match you can sit down and play on autopilot. If the opponent is main decking the Dross Harvester it is a bit worse. Wrath away, but watch out Lightning Greaves. Slide is very important in this matchup, and Lightning Rift will control the small creatures that come at you.
When boarding, it is important to remember that Persecute will come out and sometimes wreck you. You do not have to sideboard much for this matchup, though you may want to bring in Mindslaver, as it can do some heavy damage to the opponent. Sadly most of the games I lost after boarding were because of Persecute resolving. It’s actually a harder matchup after the sideboard comes into play.
Blue/White Control (7-3 pre, 9-1 post)
I’m not even sure if people play this deck anymore. If they do, chances are they missed the memo, as the aggressive Skullclamp-based decks make it nearly impossible to win. If by chance you get paired against this, know that the matchup is strongly based on how quickly you get Lightning Rift into play. If it is quicker than turn 3 chances, are you’re going to win. Cycling Decree of Justice is fairly important in this matchup as well. Decree of Annihilation also plays a crucial role in making certain you keep your advantage.
After board, take out some the dead cards, such as Akroma’s Vengeance (you’ll need Starstorm to counter any potential Decree of Justice), and Damping Matrix also can come out. Mindslaver most certainly comes in. Sadly with the board built almost exclusively to battle against aggro decks, you may find yourself drawing worthless cards in the matchup. Also this is a long, drawn out match, so be prepared to sit in the same chair for a very long time, and beware of draws if you lose game 1.
I’m fairly certain that I have missed some matchups, but the ones that I covered will be the decks you need to know about (With maybe the lone exception of the Blue/White control.) when preparing for this season’s Regional Championships.
Until next time, make some guys, Rift a dork, and Slide another.