Constructed Criticism – The Green Monster: A $5K Report *Top 8*

Read Todd Anderson every week... at StarCityGames.com
Monday, November 16th – Last weekend, my wife won the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open. I didn’t do so bad myself, and feel I owe you guys an explanation about why I chose the deck we played, and why I didn’t play Jund or Team America. Here is the story.

Last weekend, my wife won the StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open. She’s planning on writing a tournament report, and hopefully she’ll get a spot in a Feature Article on sometime in the next week or so [She’s up today! — Craig]. However, I didn’t do so bad myself, and feel I owe you guys an explanation about why I chose the deck we played, and why I didn’t play Jund or Team America. Here is the story.

Last week or so I saw a few different versions of Elf decks on the Mothership for Standard. They looked interesting, so I got the cards for it and decided to run it in a few 8-man constructed tournaments. Here is where the deck started:

4 Llanowar Elves
2 Druid of the Anima
4 Nissa’s Chosen
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Nissa Revane
2 Overrun

4 Kazandu Refuge
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Oran Rief, the Vastwood
9 Forest
3 Mountain

4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Acidic Slime
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Seismic Shudder
1 Overrun

This deck seemed pretty amazing to me at first. Bloodbraid Elf was a bit unimpressive, mostly because the cards he cascaded into were always random dorks. However, he still helped power out Oran Rief, the Vastwood, and made Nissa Revane’s ultimate ability very spicy. Even though I liked this deck so much, I felt like it was just a bit too slow. The Kazandu Refuges were glacially slow, and having too many non-basics made Rootbound Crag that much worse. Additionally, the basic Mountains were pretty bad, but necessary to efficiently cast Bloodbraid Elf. With all of the good things going the deck had going for it, I kept finding myself losing to faster Boros Decks, or more resilient Jund decks that played Mind Rot and Jund Charm in the sideboard. I kept trying different sideboarding techniques and different sideboard cards altogether until I found a suitable version that I liked. Then Willy Edel smashed my brains in with Eldrazi Monument.

Fast forward 30 minutes later and I’ve convinced Willy to give me his decklist. We have a long conversation about the deck, certain card choices he had, and building a decent sideboard. Luckily, this deck was pretty fresh, and people didn’t really know much about it. Those that knew about it were expecting Overrun instead of Eldrazi Monument, and those that were expecting Eldrazi Monument prepared for a format where very few existed. I’m not quite sure just how many people ended up playing with this deck at the Nashville $5K, but it wasn’t very many.

When I was talking to Willy, the first thing I asked was, “Why Ant Queen?” His reply was simply that Ant Queen is unbeatable when paired with Eldrazi Monument. Hrm. Interesting. I asked him why he wasn’t mixing up the Monuments with Overrun to keep his opponent off balance. His response? “Eldrazi Monument is bananas.” After taking a long hard look at the deck, I decided that I would make it better. His sideboard was in shambles, and a few cards from the maindeck looked a bit off as well. He originally was playing 23 lands and 4 Eldrazi Monument, which I was pretty unsure of. I felt like if I drew lands, there wasn’t much chance of losing. Also, drawing multiple Eldrazi Monuments can be bad, but drawing the first one is rarely bad. This made me decide to cut it down to 3 in the Maindeck, and just sideboard the fourth one in against decks playing Day of Judgment, as a way to blank entire removal packages.

After testing and tuning, here was the final decklist:

4 Llanowar Elves
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Nissa’s Chosen
4 Elvish Archdruid
3 Great Sable Stag
2 Master of the Wild Hunt
3 Ant Queen

3 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Nissa Revane
3 Eldrazi Monument

4 Oran Rief, the Vastwood
20 Forest

1 Eldrazi Monument
3 Pithing Needle
3 Mycoloth
2 Windstorm
4 Acidic Slime
1 Great Sable Stag
1 Mold Shambler

This was the list I wanted to play, but unfortunately the dealers had failed to bring Windstorms to the tournament. There is a typo on the decklists for my deck, but Kali’s was the one posted above. Even at the beginning of the tournament, I was sacrificing cards from my deck for hers. Maybe it was fate. Maybe I just knew she was going to win. Anyways, my decklist played 3 Fog in place of 1 Mold Shambler and 2 Windstorms, which could end up being better overall. Fog is pretty amazing against the Ball Lightning deck, and not bad against Boros Bushwhacker. I could see replacing the Pithing Needles with them, since I sided in Pithing Needle in exactly one match, and I never drew it.

After getting off work on Friday night around 11pm, I came home to a drafting wife. Nice life. Around midnight she decided to go to bed, but I had woken up around noon and was not tired in the least. I decided to play with the deck some more on Magic Online, seeing if there were any potential sideboard cards I was missing, and figuring out some of the sideboard plans against popular decks. Jund was the big man on campus, but I was almost Pre-sided against Jund with Great Sable Stag sitting in the maindeck. I would usually just side in the 4th Stag and 4th Eldrazi Monument and side out 2 Elvish Archdruids. If they were playing a much slower version of Jund, I could side in Acidic Slime to keep them off of their Broodmate Dragons or possibly even Bituminous Blasts.

Around 2am, I tried to lay in bed and get a few hours of sleep, but to no avail. After about 30 minutes of tossing and turning, I got on the computer to play a bit more. The alarm rang at 4am, and we got ready to go over to my friend Blair’s house, where we would carpool to Nashville. After getting dressed and showered, I hear a knock at the door around 4:45am. I open the door only to find my friend Mike Eidson standing there, decked out in a leather jacket. I can tell he hasn’t slept. I can also tell something is not right. “Are you drunk, Mike?” His simple yet hilarious reply was, “No… yes.” We had a quick laugh and he came inside while we finished getting ready. Mike is a long-time friend of mine who has played Magic for many years. He has a Grand Prix Top8 under his belt, but he’s been out of the game for quite some time. He claimed that after reading an article I wrote about how there are “no good Magic players to play against in Birmingham,” he felt it was his duty to step up to the plate so I have a good playtest partner. We’d been testing for weeks with Boros and Jund, but had recently been testing the Eldrazi deck in the last few days. He liked the Eldrazi deck, but we just didn’t have enough cards to build 3 copies of the deck, let alone two.

After packing a bag to stay the night in Nashville (there was a PTQ the next day), we headed out and drove quickly to Blair’s, who was not yet out of the shower when we arrived. Slacker (j/k)! After having a few beers, at 5am, while Blair was getting ready, Mike and I had adequately prepared ourselves for the long journey to come. Kali was not amused, and decided to sit shotgun while Mike and I had our fun in the backseat. Mike was particularly annoying, as he is prone to be while drunk, but softened up after a few hours in the car. Kali got some sleep, and I was rawdogging it with Red Bull and zero hours of shut-eye.

We arrived at the event site with about an hour to spare, which left me just enough time to build an entire copy of the Eldrazi Green deck. We had put together one entire copy, but I decided Kali needed to start filling out her registration sheet and what not, so I went off to find my friend Will to loan and/or trade me the remainder of the deck that I needed. After haggling and losing 20$ in cards later, I had a deck and was registered for the tournament. Mike played Jund, because we had a copy for him and it was a pretty solid deck. He had tested a lot with it and felt comfortable playing it as well. Blair had settled on his pet 5-Color Cascade deck that he’d been working on for weeks. It was pretty good, but I felt like it really lacked that something special. Unfortunately for Blair, he played against a kid in Round 1 playing 16 maindeck land destruction spells. Sorry Blair!

After an hour of scrambling for cards and getting everyone registered, the tournament began. I felt confident in the deck and walked over to my table.

Round 1 against Boros

My round 1 opponent started the match by saying how nervous he was. This was his first big tournament, and it really showed. He was playing Boros, probably a good version, but he wasn’t playing his cards to their full capability. When he led off turn 1 with Goblin Bushwhacker, I was pretty surprised and relieved at the same time. My turn 2 Elvish Visionary met a burn spell, but I kept playing larger and larger threats. He used Lightning Bolt to kill my 1st Nissa Revane, but had no answer to the 2nd one, since he had wasted the earlier spell to kill an Elvish Visionary. One I played an Eldrazi Monument, he was packing it in.

Game 2 went much worse for me. He led with a few Goblin Guides, and my draw wasn’t fast enough to stop them from eating my life total. After he had removal for my first 3 creatures, I was just dead.

Game 3 I was on the play and had an accelerator. He didn’t have any early gas, so I was able to set up a lethal Garruk on turn 6, on top of an Eldrazi Monument.

One thing to note is that I think Boros is a pretty questionable matchup for the deck. Their draws can pummel you if they have their Landfall guys backed by removal spells for your mana producers and Planeswalkers. If you expect your field to be full of Boros, then I probably wouldn’t recommend this deck.


Round 2 against BGW Midrange

I knew my opponent from playing around Alabama. He’s a very nice guy, and I’m glad to see him attending more events. I lose the die roll, and he leads off with Steppe Lynx. He plays a land and attacks me for 2, then plays Knight of the Reliquary. I am a bit behind on the board, but I play out my Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid into Ant Queen. After I land an Eldrazi Monument, I pray he doesn’t have an answer. He scoops after a few turns of attacking with giant monsters. Game 2 is the complete opposite of game 1. I mulligan into a pretty weak hand, and he actually kills me with 2 Steppe Lynx and 3 Fetchlands. He follows those with a 5/5 Knight of the Reliquary, followed by Baneslayer Angel. Game 3 I’m on the play, and while he leads with yet another Steppe Lynx on turn 1, I’m able to outrun him with mana accelerators. He uses Maelstrom Pulse on my initial Elvish Archdruid, but I get Nissa Revane going, and just beat him to death with an Eldrazi Monument.


Between rounds, Mike and I decided to go find a television that was playing the Alabama vs LSU college football game. He’s a big Alabama fan, and I’ve been getting into football over the last few years, so I was quite happy when the hotel that was attached to the convention center had televisions playing the game in the lobby. Mise. This would be a mid-round ritual for some hours to come.

Round 3 against Jund

My opponent ended up making the Top 4, and his draws here did not disappoint. Game 1 I have a really good hand, but he is able to kill every creature I play, while playing Bloodbraid Elves into Blightnings twice, killing Nissa Revane twice. After he destroyed my hand and my board, I was easy pickings for his Broodmate Dragon that slammed down on turn 6. Game 2 was much more in my favor, as I played Oran Rief, the Vastwood and used it to supersize my Great Sable Stag. Jund’s only real outs against that is to have two Lightning Bolts, or Lightning Bolt + Block with Bloodbraid Elf. Luckily, he was just dead to the Stag that I played in game 2, and scooped when I played Eldrazi Monument. Game 3 I ended up taking a mulligan, and kept a 6 card hand with 2 mana accelerators, Oran Rief, and Great Sable Stag. I powered out a Turn 3 4/4 Stag, but when he played Bituminous Blast into Bloodbraid Elf into Lightning Bolt to kill the 4/4 Stag and my other beater, there wasn’t much else I could do against his horde of Sprouting Thrinaxes.


Between rounds, Mike and I continued doing our Football ritual, and scampered off to watch the game. Kali informed me that she was 3-0, and felt really good about her chances with the deck. Mike was also 3-0 with Jund, and was feeling good about the deck he was playing. We had decided to maindeck Mind Rot in the Jund deck to have six virtual Blightnings. Mind Rot isn’t the best card, but it does exactly what you want it to do.

Round 4 against Mono-White Control

This matchup isn’t the hardest, just as long as he doesn’t have Baneslayer Angel before I get Eldrazi Monument. In game 1, he plays a few Knights of the White Orchid, but can’t really hand my turn 3 Nissa Revane into my turn 4 Garruk Wildspeaker. He plays a few Day of Judgment, followed by Baneslayer Angel. He actually can’t race my team with his sole Baneslayer Angel, and decides to attack into a Planeswalker of mine before casting a Martial Coup for 5 soldiers. I am able to untap, play a few creatures and Ant Queen. After playing Elspeth, he decides it is better to attack me than a Planeswalker. I’m able to play Eldrazi Monument and finish off Elspeth, while continuing to build up creatures with Ant Queen. He scoops a turn later.

Game 2 I cast a pretty early Eldrazi Monument, and he has no answer. He sits behind a Baneslayer Angel and gains some life, but I’m able to play a Master of the Wild Hunt and a Nissa Revane, solidifying my lead on board.

After this round we are all starving, and decide to hit up the Quizno’s in the lobby of the convention center. Unfortunately, they have the ability to charge $10 for a Sandwich, Soda, and Chips, but I gladly pay for the convenience. I’m lazy. We go check the score of the game, and find that Bama is down 7-3 going into Halftime. I have a feeling we’ll come around and take the game back. Kali lets me know she is 4-0 with a squeal, and head back to the tournament room.


Round 5 against 5-Color Cascade Control

This deck isn’t very similar to that of the two decks that made the Top 8, as his list contains plenty of removal spells to go along with his cascade spells. He’s playing Day of Judgment, Ajani Vengeant, and Lightning Bolt to compliment his control spells.

Game 1 he plays a turn 3 Blightning, but I’ve already played a Great Sable Stag and a Master of the Wild Hunt. After he Blightnings me, I cast Nissa Revane, and he groans. My hand still has Eldrazi Monument, so I’m feeling good about my chances. The game ends up being much shorter than I expected, as he taps out for a Captured Sunlight, only to get Monumented on the following turn.

Game 2 is a drawn out affair. He has brought in more removal, and has a pair of Blightnings to finish off my two Nissa Revanes. I get him down to 2 life, but he has multiple Captured Sunlights to stop my what would be lethal Great Sable Stags, only to let my own Eldrazi Monument eat my creatures. I made a pretty huge play error here, as I actually just forgot Captured Sunlight was in his deck, and figured my Great Sable Stag was lethal on the following turn with the Eldrazi Monument in play. When he played another Captured Sunlight, my Monument Time Walked me, eating my creature in the process and leaving me with an empty board and a hand with land and more Eldrazi Monuments. A pair of Bloodbraid Elves played cleanup.

Game 3 was the most ridiculous game of Magic I have played in a long time. I don’t remember every gory detail, but suffice it to say that this deck has an incredible amount of gas. He played, and I’m not exaggerating, every single card in his deck that costs less than 4 mana. That included 4 Esper Charm, 4 Blightning, as well as a plethora of removal spells. After he ran out of things to cascade into, his bigger spells had much less impact on the game. My infinite creatures with Nissa Revane and Garruk Wildspeaker were more than enough to take the game after I ran him out of ways to deal with my board. On the final turn of the game, he cast Bituminous Blast into Kathari Remnant into… nothing, and extended the hand. It was a well fought game.


Round 6 against BWU Control

I saw this guy’s deck the round before, as he was sitting next to me. His deck was pretty cool, and featured Disfigure, Path to Exile, card draw, and counterspells. He relied on Planeswalkers like Jace Beleren and Liliana Vess to do his dirty work, all while he built up cards and defense behind Wall of Denial and Sphinxes aplenty. He played both Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Sphinx of Lost Truths, but he had no real way of dealing with active Planeswalkers other than attacking with expensive monsters. Luckily my deck can play these bombs as early as turn 3, which I did both games.

Game 1 he uses Disfigure to put me a bit behind, but stalls on 3 lands himself. He sits behind Wall of Denial while I build up resources, and uses Negate to counter my Nissa Revane. Luckily I have a backup, and resolve an Eldrazi Monument when he taps out for Sphinx of Lost Truths. He tried to play another land in the same turn, but I pointed out to him that I made a comment about lacking a second White source when he played his Drowned Catacombs that turn, and he agreed, then conceded.

Game 2 he had all the answers in Flashfreeze, Negate, and even had Path to Exile for my Ant Queen. Luckily I had a 2nd Ant Queen, for which he had no answer. I noticed that he only had 1 White mana source, and wasn’t able to cast Day of Judgment, so I used Acidic Slime to kill it and put him completely out of the game. A few swings later and he was packing it in.


I hear from Kali that she is 6-0 after this round, and I’m super proud of her. Mike has ended up going 4-2 after starting 3-0, and is a bit disappointed. He stays in anyways, and decides to try to make Top 16 and win $100. We go watch some football but head back to the tournament room just in time for the round to start.

Round 7 against Jund

My opponent leads with Savage Lands, and I’m pretty happy that my hand has Great Sable Stag in it. I use it to stall his attackers, but eventually get a 2nd Stag into play. This allows me to become the aggressor, and I play some Planeswalkers that get Lightning Bolted, but not before gaining me a few creatures. Oran Rief makes them a bit too big for him to attack into, so he casts Bloodbraid Elf and passes the turn after Terminating a 3/4 Nissa’s Chosen. I untap and play Eldrazi Monument for the win.

Game 2 is much of the same, except I get to make my Stags into 4/4’s. On the next to last turn, he has 1 card in hand, and I decide to put him on a one-turn clock. If he has a burn spell or Bloodbraid Elf, he kills me. Otherwise, I use Eldrazi Monument to put him on 1 life. He doesn’t have anything and scoops after attacking me to 2 life.

Kali has a feature match this round, and crushes some guy playing the “mirror,” but splashing white for Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring. The same guy makes the Top 8, so he is obviously good. I liked the white splash in testing, but felt like the mana was just worse, and made the deck much slower than it needed to be. Kali advances to 7-0 and can draw twice into Top 8.

Round 8 against Jund (E. McKenzie)

I play a friend from Atlanta playing Jund. Once again I get the Oran Rief into Great Sable Stag draw, and play random dorks until he runs out of gas. Once I’m sure he’s used most or all of his removal, I land an Ant Queen for which he can’t race. His Broodmate Dragon sits on defense, but can’t do anything when I finally topdeck Eldrazi Monument after 2 turns of draw-go.

Game 2 he mulligans into a 2-land hand on the play. Luckily, I’ve sided in Acidic Slime and take out his land on Turn 3 with Elvish Archdruid. He never draws another land and gets run over by green monsters.

7-1 and hopefully I’m able to draw into Top 8. Kali draws with her opponent and is 7-0-1. Mike is still 6-2 and can probably make money with a win.

Round 9 against Chase Lamm playing 5-Color Cascade (the good version)

This is the final round, and we’ve all discovered that it is very unlikely for anyone to draw into Top 8. Kali gets paired down and plays against someone who can’t draw. If she loses, she might not even make Top 8! However, she is playing against Jund, and just face-crushes the guy. She was willing to draw with him, but he was just in a bad situation where there was nothing he could do.

Chase and I get “randomly” deck checked, but this is actually a blessing in disguise. Around us, we discover that no one is drawing into Top 8, except for a guy that is in 12th place to start the round. He says that he really needs $100, and he doesn’t care about Top 8. His opponent is in 3rd place, so he basically just knocked himself out of contention. We find out that if everyone plays it out, we can draw into 7th and 8th place. We decide to wait a bit and see what happens in the other matches, playing our games at a reasonable pace. He beats me game 1, but stresses that he really doesn’t want to knock me out of Top 8. After some convincing, I tell him that we’re both a lock once we draw, as most everyone else has finished their match, including my wife who has knocked out one of our competitors. Had she lost, then there was no way we could draw into the Top 8. We made sure everything we were talking about and doing was legal, since a penalty here would be very stupid. We did nothing illegal and nothing was ever offered. We were just gentleman about our situation, and the best came of it. My opponent ended up making the finals, and I made the Top 8.


After the swiss, I’m pretty exhausted. I’ve had no sleep in about 36 hours, and discover that I have to play Kali in the 1st round of the Top 8. Since she hasn’t really had any big finishes, I really wanted her to win the tournament. I’m not a selfish person, and more so when it comes to my wife. I want her to succeed in her ventures, and a win at this tournament would mean much more to her than it would to me.

We sit down for Top 8, but Evan Erwin informs us that he’d like to talk to us about the deck, since it is a fairly new deck and very off the radar. You can see everything on the Magic Show from last Friday (hopefully). He even decided to film our match, editing out the boring parts.

Top 8 Quarterfinals against Kali playing the mirror.

What you guys probably don’t know is that I actually expected this deck to be more popular. I didn’t invent the deck, but I did help create our version. I even sideboarded Mycoloth for the mirror, and boy would it come in handy here against Kali.

Our match is covered here.

She bashed me in 3 games, but I didn’t want to beat her. It would have been a hollow victory anyway, as the money is going to come our way no matter what happens. That’s one great thing about being married: sharing finances. The games in the mirror come down to who draws Eldrazi Monument and a creature producer. Literally nothing else matters, as the game usually ends immediately after one person casts it. It is pretty similar to Bitterblossom in Faerie mirrors, in that if one person draws it and the other person doesn’t, the game is very unfair. However, in this matchup, there aren’t discard and counterspells to prevent such a card from landing on the table. I even considered playing Naturalize in the sideboard, but it is much too narrow.

I wanted to use this tournament as a testing ground for my deck, as it is the deck I’m planning on playing at Worlds during the Standard portion. Gindy and Adam could potentially change my mind with some outrageous concoction, but I really am in love with this deck. It provides some of the best card advantage in Standard, and has a card in the deck that literally pushes an “I win” button about 90% of the time that you cast it. What else can you ask for a five-mana spell?

When you are reading this, I should be in Rome, so wish me luck at Worlds. I’ll hopefully have an article written about my exploits sometime next week. Thanks for reading.

strong sad on MOL