Constructed Criticism – Attacking the Enemy

Visit the StarCityGames.com booth at Nationals!Wednesday, July 15th – Just tell yourself: attack the enemy. I must find a way to beat them. If you do this, then you will. The first step to defeating your enemy is to figure out who or what your enemy is. In this case, Kithkin is the enemy. Think back to a time long forgotten, where Kithkin ran rampant, but were easily defeated via Firespout. Those days have long since past, but now it seems time for a comeback. Viva la Revolucion!

Just tell yourself: attack the enemy. I must find a way to beat them. If you do this, then you will. The first step to defeating your enemy is to figure out who or what your enemy is. In this case, Kithkin is the enemy. Think back to a time long forgotten, where Kithkin ran rampant, but were easily defeated via Firespout. Those days have long since past, but now it seems time for a comeback. Viva la Revolucion!

What can I say about this deck? It just smashes aggro decks. What’s left to say? It’s definitely a blast from the past, as this list rehashes a few old favorites together in one machine built specifically to prey upon decks that attack for 2. Plumeveil, Firespout, and Wall of Reverence put a huge beating on anything attempting to get into the red zone. Firespout can even flow freely while the opponent is under Honor of the Pure, unlike Volcanic Fallout. Will I be playing this deck at Nationals? I’m not entirely certain, but there is still a lot of playtesting to be done. But I do know that I am in love with this deck!

If we look closely at the decklist, we can see many similarities between this deck and the one piloted by Gabriel Nassif to victory at Pro Tour: Kyoto. It had a lot of tools that led to Gabe’s ultimate victory over one of the game’s current juggernauts, LSV (playing aggro), but this deck has a few interesting twists up its sleeve. Broodmate Dragon just doesn’t do enough anymore. I repeat, Broodmate Dragon does not do enough. Kithkin can easily race Broodmate, as they will likely make a thousand dorks and just trade 10 damage for 2 creatures. Either that or they will use Path to Exile to get their guys in there a bit more efficiently. In most of these scenarios, the culprit is likely to be Spectral Procession, which can easily be dealt with by using Cloudthresher. Spectral Procession is a great card and is not easy for any deck to handle, as it will force you to spend a turn and a card in order to keep it off the table, whether that be Firespout, Cryptic Command, or Broken Ambitions. Cloudthresher gives you a few extra easy outs to stopping this early aggression via Evoke, dealing two damage to all fliers. On top of that, he works very well with the Makeshift Mannequin package.

Cloudthresher is also another great threat against Faeries, which is your worst matchup by a mile. Broodmate Dragon lacks in this department, as having flash is a huge upgrade in the battle of the six-drops. With the deck leaning on a Makeshift Mannequin package to help deal with an onslaught of weenies, as well as giving the deck a bit more reach, Cloudthresher just seems to fit much better than Broodmate Dragon as a whole. Your game 1 against Faeries is probably incredibly difficult to win, but having a way to actually win the game against them, and probably coming as a surprise, Cloudthresher has more than earned his slot in Five-Color in the past. This new archetype is much more able to survive the early game, and dropping a Broodmate Dragon on turn 6 is no longer immediately necessary to not die.

One huge hole in the functionality of this particular deck is a lack of Esper Charm. Without Esper Charm, you don’t have a lot of ways to deal with Bitterblossom. On top of that, you also don’t have as much card drawing as former versions of the deck. But Esper Charm puts a huge strain on the manabase, and it always did, basically making you unable to play filter lands that don’t tap for UBW, which makes casting Cloudthresher much more difficult. It also makes Firespout a harder spell to cast since you’ll often want to hit the ground and skies with it. With these two things in mind, Esper Charm is a great card but probably not the right fit in this deck.

What you are losing is not as amazing as what you are gaining. Makeshift Mannequin is a very underrated card right now, and has a long history of dominating decks that have a hard time dealing with 2-for-1’s. Kithkin is one of those decks, and I’m looking forward to reanimating a Shriekmaw mid-combat and completely blowing my opponent out of the water. If you are a fan of blowouts, then this package is probably right for you! On top of that, you have more creatures that function as utility spells as well as win conditions.

A lot of decks have a hard time dealing with fear creatures that have a significant attack power. Shriekmaw can clock your opponent quickly, and you could win out of nowhere via Cruel Ultimatum after just a few attacks with the 3/2. Returning Shriekmaw with Cruel Ultimatum might seem like overkill, but doing so could often swing games in which Wilt-Leaf Liege is proving to be an annoyance. Shriekmaw gives you a lot of reach against GW Tokens, being able to take out an annoying Dauntless Escort or Wilt-Leaf Liege so that your other removal can take down the rest of their team. Being able to cost 1B or 4B with a body attached has always been good, but recently not good enough. I think now is the time for Shriekmaw to make a comeback, and this deck is a great fit for him.

Five-Color has always had Kithkin’s number, and now is no different than a year ago in Lorwyn Block Constructed. You have the same tools for defeating them that you always did, but utilizing them is the key to beating them. I really think that the Mannequin package is stellar, and hope it will catch on soon. No offense Cedric, but I really don’t want the best deck in the format to be “attack for some damages.”

Here are some sideboarding strategies for Cheese Toast:

Faeries: +4 Volcanic Fallout, +4 Great Sable Stag, -4 Firespout, -2 Hallowed Burial, -2 Wall of Reverence

After sideboarding, you have some cards that they just can’t deal with. Stag and Fallout are monstrous against Faeries, and having both should help you win more than your fair share of games. Of course, they can get the nut draw of Thoughtseize into Bitterblossom that could wreck you, but you still have ways to deal with their aggressive draws with Plumeveils and Cloudthreshers. Eight uncounterable spells is a lot against a deck that so strongly relies on its counterspells to take control of the game, not to mention a deck that relies on a card that continually deals damage to its controller. One major loss here is Esper Charm, as this is the matchup where Esper Charm gets the most value. Discarding cards, destroying Bitterblossom, or drawing 2 are great options to have, but Cloudthresher is a fine man and should not be underrated. In tandem with Volcanic Fallout, you could easily surprise your opponent and kill them out of nowhere if they tap out at an opportune time for Jace or Sower of Temptation.

This matchup revolves around their ability to disrupt you while they build an incremental advantage with Bitterblossom. If you can put them on the defensive, often you will gain enough time to take control of the game. However, don’t be a fool. This is not a good matchup, and you will need to play tight and have a good draw in order to win. Game 1 is nearly impossible, and I would expect them to have just as many sideboard cards that blow you out as you have cards that blow them out. Puppeteer Clique is a monster against you, and a lot of Faeries lists are playing 2 or 3 in the sideboard. I would recommend playing around that guy at ALL costs, as he will end the game upon resolution if there is a single Cloudthresher (or sometimes just Mulldrifter) in the graveyard.

Against Kithkin: +1 Hallowed Burial, -1 Wall of Reverence

There aren’t a lot of sideboard options for this matchup, as you are virtually pre-sided against them. They can’t handle very many of your spells, and you should hope to get paired up against this matchup all day. I wouldn’t recommend siding in Volcanic Fallout, as a single Honor of the Pure can blank them entirely (unless you draw multiples). Firespout is great because it does what you need it to do even if they do resolve an Honor of the Pure. Weaker players will likely side in Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders to try to prevent you from destroying them with Red sweepers, so having more of them would probably be bad for you, and give them a way to beat you if they get a really aggressive draw. Hallowed Burial is great, but slow. Hopefully you’ll be able to stall early and get them later in the game once they play a Cloudgoat Ranger or Spectral Procession.

The most important thing to remember in this matchup is that they will likely not overextend into any sweeper effect from you. You should rely on your walls to build an impenetrable defense while you take control of the game with Shriekmaw and Cloudthresher. I would recommend using Firespout aggressively if your hand contains Hallowed Burial, as they will likely think you are out of sweepers and overextend in the next few turns. If your opener contains Firespout, Plumeveil, and lands, it should be very difficult for them to win.

Against GW Tokens: Same as Kithkin.

These two matchups play out in a very similar fashion. They will play creatures, and hope to overwhelm you before you can do anything about it. The only difference is that your Broken Ambitions are absolutely incredible in this matchup. They are relying on spells that cost 3-5 to win the game, where Kithkin uses those as a backup plan behind a flurry of one- and two-drops. Your spells have much the same value otherwise, but GW Tokens can fight back from Firespout much more easily than Kithkin. Both Dauntless Escort and Wilt-Leaf Liege prove to be real problems, as they save their team from Firespout, while providing value in bodies for attacking and blocking. You should pray that your opponent attacks with their Dauntless Escort into a Plumeveil, otherwise you’ll probably need to topdeck one of your Hallowed Burials to take control of the game. Volcanic Fallout is a bit better in this matchup, as most GW lists won’t play Honor of the Pure, but I’m not exactly sure what to side out. Your other spells are great against them, and only further testing will prove the information necessary for me to decide the best plan of action.

Against Red Aggro decks: +1 Wall of Reverence, +2 Celestial Purge, +3 Runed Halo, (depending on the build) -4 Firespout, -2 Hallowed Burial

If they are relying on creatures like Tattermunge Maniac and Jund Hackblade, you can leave in the Firespouts as they should prove amazing. However, most lists will probably play Ball Lightning and Hellspark Elemental, making Firespout pretty poor. If you leave in Firespout, I would recommend taking out Makeshift Mannequins and some Broken Ambitions, as they are much less important in this matchup.

This matchup is all about attrition and staying out of burn range. After boarding, you’ll have 3 Plumeveil, 3 Wall of Reverence, and 3 Runed Halo to fight off their early pressure, which is where they have the advantage. Celestial Purge gives you a solid removal spell (especially against Unearth creatures), as well as a way to deal with Manabarbs or Everlasting Torment if they stick. In the case of your opponent playing Everlasting Torment, make sure to try to name burn spells with Runed Halo since you won’t be able to be targeted by them. Otherwise, their creatures will just have free reign over your life total if they manage to play a mid-game Torment if you choose to try to save yourself from a random creature. I don’t expect Demigod of Revenge or Anathemancer to be popular, but if you see them (or expect them) then Halo is just nuts against both. Not only do you deter their initial attack with those creatures, but you also stifle their added late-game value by shutting down their Unearth and recursion abilities.

The Red matchup might be tricky, as I’m not quite sure just how powerful Ball Lightning is yet, but I’m assuming a few triggered effects from Wall of Reverence should seal the deal. If they are planning on attacking, you should be fine. If they plan on burning you to death, your sideboard should help a lot. Overall, I wouldn’t mind getting paired against them too much.

As far as Nationals is concerned, I’m still unsure about what I’m playing, but I really like the look of this deck. Faeries is, and will probably be, the default deck of choice if I can’t break the format, but I just don’t think they can handle a world where aggressive decks cover the top tables. Perhaps with enough Agony Warps and Peppersmokes they’ll be able to withstand an onslaught of tokens or Ball Lightnings, but relying on an enchantment that deals you damage just seems like a liability when every deck is trying to kill you as quickly as possible (much like Phyrexian Arena used to be). Faeries is still a powerful deck and will probably be popular at Nationals with the better players. Fortunately for Faeries, Honor of the Pure makes Volcanic Fallout much worse, but decks now have access to Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout. These two cards just crush Faeries if drawn in multiples, and should not be taken lightly. Knowing me, I’ll decide what I want to play the night before, stay up all night building the deck, and get absolutely no sleep.

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.


PS: If you aren’t in the mood to play Five-Color or Tribal, feast your eyes on this!

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Magma Spray
4 Lash Out
4 Flame Javelin
4 Volcanic Fallout

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Hellspark Elemental
4 Ball Lightning
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Bloodbraid Elf

2 Savage Lands
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
4 Rootbound Crag
12 Mountain

3 Chaotic Backlash
3 Manabarbs
4 Dragon’s Claw
3 Windstorm
2 Pyroclasm

The sideboard is a bit sketchy, but I really wanted to incorporate Backlash and Manabarbs since I believe White aggro and Five-Color are going to make big showings at Nationals, as well as upcoming PTQ’s. At this stage in the Red deck’s evolution, Anathemancer is getting worse and worse as more decks revert to basic land strategies, mostly to get more value out of the new dual lands, but also to dodge getting blown out by Anathemancer. Ball Lightning is a very powerful creature *coughburnspellcough*. I am under the impression that every Red-based aggressive deck should play Bloodbraid Elf, and this one feels very powerful. You will probably have a bit of trouble handling the little White menace, but you definitely have game. With the maindeck Fallouts, as well as the sideboard Pyroclasms and Backlashes, you’ll be much better off than usual.