Deconstructing Constructed – Block Chatter and a Regionals Report

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Tuesday, June 17th – Today’s Deconstructing Constructed contains talk on Block Constructed, Vintage and the new metagame, and an entertaining Regionals report from guest writer April Yu!

Now that Block Constructed season has officially begun in earnest and the first few results have come trickling in, we can get a better idea of what the format will be until new breakthroughs are made or Eventide is released. And the winners are…

Kithkin and Faeries.


I’m sure that’s not it. From what I’ve heard from second hand sources and forum chatter, a G/B/U Rock-ish deck with Nath of the Gilt Leaf, Scarblade Elite, and Mulldrifter took the PTQ in Columbus, and Merfolk won the Nebraska PTQ. However, by and far the most common decks I hear making Top 8s and winning outright are Kithkin and Faeries. Is this really a surprise? You have to figure 50-60% of the field was going to be some combination of these two decks. They really aren’t that expensive, and at least in the case of Kithkin, they are brain-dead easy to play.

As for the rest of the PTQ Top 8s, I hear reports of Five-Color Control almost getting there and then falling to Faeries or some such nonsense. I expect this to continue for a while until someone enters the Konami code and has a version of control that consistently smashes Kithkin and doesn’t just scoop in the face of turn 1 Thoughtseize*, turn 2 Bitterblossom. Decks supposedly already do this, but the testing data from the people I talk to is all over the place. The problem is that a lot of the clever decks just get completely shredded by Kithkin, and you basically have to sell out to beat them with most decks. All the control decks have the same issue of only winning when they start consistently hitting six mana spells.

* How underplayed is this card right now? It hits Bitterblossom, the best cards in Control, and it isn’t bad against Kithkin.

From most reports and the few PTQs with definitive Top 8 lists, the average seems to be three Faeries decks per Top 8. The most amusing play relayed to me so far comes via the semi-finals of the Boston PTQ, Peebles (5c) versus Melissa De Tora (Fae). Although I don’t have the specifics, the gist of the play was Puppeteer Clique returned Cloudthresher, Clique died and came back via Persist which returned a second Cloudthresher, which finished off BPM’s Plumeveil in play. She then swung for 14 with the Threshers to finish him. This is pretty much the most epic usage of Puppeteer Clique I’ve ever heard, and it makes me sad that I never got to do it in testing when I first tried the card.

Here’s a quick run-down of what I’ve heard win thus far in the season (not counting pre-GP PTQs):

4 Kithkin (includes an Italy 234 man PTQ)
3 Fae (Includes a Netherlands PTQ)
1 Merfolk
1 G/B/U Rock-ish thing

If people know a definite result for a PTQ, feel free to throw it in the forums or in an e-mail to me.

That’s really it for Block Constructed this week. I’ve been busy looking for a new job, and testing hasn’t shown anything brilliant that everyone has been missing. Next week should be a lot more illuminating as far as work on particular archetypes goes.

For Vintage this week, the only deck that’s been on my mind has been Goblins. With many of the faster decks being pushed out of the metagame, and Shops plus Dredge supposedly getting a huge boost, it seems like a great time to bring out the Little Red Men. Consider that Earwig Squad is still devastating against the control and combo portions of the field, and Dredge is basically a bye with sacrifice creatures, Wasteland, and either Faerie Macabre or Extirpate post-board. Shops have always been a practical bye for the deck, which is a plus, and realistically nothing they bring in post-board trumps your ability to use Shattering Spree and ruin them.

This is my current Goblins test list.


1 Tin Street Hooligan / Goblin Tinkerer (I prefer Hooligan, but we run Vial, so…)
1 Stingscourger
3 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Earwig Squad (Numbers will be adjusted based on how much combo and Oath is around)
4 Goblin Ringleader
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Mogg Fanatic / Skirk Prospector (Funny story… Fanatic hoses Welder and Ichorid, but Prospector also hoses Ichorid and is better in the general sense, since it can power out your Goblins with RED mana, which is oh so important for the deck. I prefer Fanatic, but we’ll see)
4 Aether Vial (This card certainly gets better when Mana Drain comes back)
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mana Crypt
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus

1 Strip Mine
3 Wasteland
4 Mountain
2 Taiga
2 Badlands
4 Wooded Foothills
2 Bloodstained Mire

4 Cabal Therapy / Null Rod (Since Therapy may be less sexy depending on what decks end up using as one-ofs and four-ofs)
4 Red Elemental Blast
3 Shattering Spree
3 Extirpate
1 Stingscourger

Earwig Squad is still the bee’s knees for this kind of deck… it just isn’t quite as amazing as it was pre-format shift. Of course, that’s a good thing in the sense that you won’t typically get blown out before getting to use it. Otherwise you have tutorable answers for literally everything that gets thrown at you, at least from an on-table perspective. You still goldfish most non-combo decks pretty effectively with Piledriver and crew, and with Brainstorm MIA I think a number of people won’t change their mana to be resilient enough against an early rush + Strips.

Of course, Oath is still likely to be a contender in the new format, and you don’t have any easy ways of beating them other than Squad. So everything isn’t honey and roses in the new meta, just most things. Speaking of the new metagame, people have to really think about what old decks to bring back from the dead. The Cerebral Assassin idea has some merit, but you probably shouldn’t dig up every single old Long variant you had and automatically assume its going to be the nuts now. I could insert my insane Army of Squirrels deck here, but obviously that’s being saved for the Vintage championships this year. It runs basic lands, Intuition AK, and a two-card combo kill… it can’t possibly be bad now!

And now a Regionals report… Hehe, so you remember that I mentioned I didn’t bother going last week? Cookie for you! So instead of my awesome report of ‘slept a lot,’ here’s April Yu’s report. Yes, the same April from other articles. And yes, it is written in the 2nd person. Why? Most likely because it is awesome and there needs to be more like it. And on that note, we begin.

I don’t do short stories, you know.

“Uh, yeah, I don’t even know if it’s a real report.” – April Yu

Why didn’t you scoop a turn or two earlier? Your friends will ask. You know that ended up costing you the match, right?

It’s 7:30am and Richard is already awake. He suggests McDonald’s. You’re not hungry. You knew you shouldn’t have gone out the night before, but you just turned in your senior dissertation and wanted to celebrate. You didn’t really plan on drinking that much.

Let Richard eat his McBreakfast in the car as you drive to San Jose. Try not to let the smell make you nauseous. Should have gotten more than 2.5 hours of sleep, or so the aching body says.

Arrive at the tournament center in San Jose. Discover Magus of the Moon is sold out, curse, buy the rest of your sideboard (3 Everlasting Torment, 1 Dragon’s Claw), register your deck.

4 Lotus Bloom
4 Rite of Flame
4 Manamorphose
4 Pyromancer’s Swath
2 Empty the Warrens
2 Ignite Memories
4 Grapeshot
4 Shock
4 Tarfire
4 Shard Volley
4 Rift Bolt
8 Mountain
4 Spinerock Knoll
4 Fungal Reaches
4 Molten Slagheap

4 Fortune Thief
4 Dragon’s Claw
2 Ignite Memories
2 Empty the Warrens
3 Everlasting Torment

Now you wait. Review mistakes you made during decktesting. Don’t forget to charge your storage lands, check. Do the math, don’t miscalculate mana or damage, check. You don’t finish reviewing because Round 1 pairings are up.

Find your name. Notice that there’s 54 pairings. Wait, that’s it? Just 108 players? Wasn’t there over 300 last year?

Everyone went to Sacramento this year, you overhear someone saying. Apparently they all had the same idea, thought we’d be too crowded here. Oops.

Your Round 1 opponent is playing some version of a Red deck. You don’t see very much of it in Game 1, as you combo off by turn 4 or so. Something like this happens: suspended Lotus Bloom comes into play, suspended Rift Bolt comes into play, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Pyromancer’s Swath, Tarfire, Grapeshot FTW. You were skeptical about running only 20 lands, but it works.

What do you mean you didn’t storm off during Game 2? Your friends will ask. How did you win?

Game 2, it’s turn 4; you’ve played two Spinerock Knolls, but haven’t drawn into any storm cards. Or any other land cards, for that matter. Look at your hand: Shock, Shock, Shock, Rift Bolt, Shard Volley, Shard Volley. Don’t even think. At the end of his turn, double Shock him. He’s at 16. Turn 5, draw your card, and laugh. It’s Rift Bolt. Suspend the two you have and pass the turn. He drops Stuffy Doll.

Turn 6, Rift Bolts come onto play. He’s at 10. Draw your card. Hallelujah, it’s a Tarfire. Patron Saint Craig Jones is watching over you. Tarfire, Shock, and he falls to 6. He doesn’t do anything during his turn.

Turn 7, your hand consists of two Shard Volleys. Your two Spinerock Knolls are your only sources of mana, and he’s completely untapped. Stay put. End of your turn, he Skreds Stuffy Doll and does other fiery things to it. You drop to 7. He’s tapped out.

Double Shard Volley. Game.

Rounds: 1-0-0. Games: 2-0-0.

30 minutes left in the round? That went by fast. Draws have a penchant for you, however unrequited. Cross your fingers, perhaps you picked the right deck after all.

You should have knocked on wood, your friends will say.

Round 2 goes pretty much like Round 1, except you managed to get storm going both games.

Rounds: 2-0-0. Games: 4-0-0.

You sit down for Round 3, but your opponent is not there. He arrives just before you’re told to begin. A judge walks up to your table, says to him, “This is the conversation you don’t want to be having,” and whisks him away.

Wait. Shuffle your deck. Wait. Shuffle. Wait. The judge brings your opponent back, says he mis-registered his deck, gives him a game loss.

From what you see of his deck, you guess he’s running Mana Ramp. You can’t really tell, though, because around turn 5, it’s Pyromancer’s Swath + Ignite Memories off Spinerock Knoll FTW.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Your opponent asks.

“I’m sideboarding,” you say. Duh.

“But it’s over,” he says. “You won the match.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

Rounds: 3-0-0. Games: 6-0-0.

It’s around 2pm, you’re walking around, you’re feeling light-headed, and now you’re sitting down.

STFU, you say to your stomach. GTFO, you say to fatigue.

Round 4, you’re paired against a 13-yr-old kid. He is loud. He talks a lot of smack. He makes fun of you for being a girl. He is loud. The players next to you ask him to tone it down. He is very loud.

Man, I think I would quit Magic if I had lost to that kid, you friends will say.

You’re on the draw Game 1, after taking a mulligan to 6. He drops elves. You don’t do much for the next two or three turns. He drops elves, lots of elves, elves that make his elves bigger elves. They turn sideways. Your turn, topdeck a land, look at the board, calculate next turn’s damage, scoop.

Take out 2 Ignite Memories, 2 Empty the Warrens. Add in 4 Fortune Thieves.

Game 2, you keep a better hand. You look up, check in with your opponent. He’s still loud. Drop a Spinerock Knoll, grab a Grapeshot off it. Look up, check in with your opponent. Yep, still loud.

Several turns later, you’re doing the math. A level 5 judge is watching your match. You’re talking to yourself a lot. The kid is still loud. He asks the judge a lot of loud questions, in the form of, “Do I have to answer that?”

“No,” you say. “I’m talking to myself, you don’t have to answer anything, I’m not asking you anything.”

“Do I have to answer that?” he asks. He’s still loud.

“Answer this,” you say. Rite of Flame, Pyromancer’s Swath, Rift Bolt hardcasted, Tarfire, Shard Volley, activate Spinerock Knoll and Grapeshot FTW.

You mull to 6 again Game 3 and keep a hand with Lotus Bloom, 2 Spinerock Knolls, and some mediocre cards.

Turn 1 Spinerock Knoll hits Mountain, Mountain, Manamorphose, Spinerock Knoll. Uh, okay. Turn 2 Spinerock Knoll hits Lotus Bloom, Pyromancer’s Swath, Pyromancer’s Swath, Fungal Reaches. Right.

He drops lots of elves, again. Turn 4, he’s got seven 1/1 elves out, which you can take. He drops… Coat of Arms?

Rounds: 3-1-0. Games: 7-2-0.

You flip over your next draw, Fortune Thief.

I have no answers to that, the kid says. I would have had to scoop. You jump the table and knee him in the face, or so you would imagine doing.

You curse Patron Saint Craig Jones. He is no longer watching over you.

Before going into Round 5, find out that a significant portion of the 3-1 bracket is made up by Team Santa Cruz. Fail.

Round 5, your opponent is playing Merfolk. This is how it goes: Game 1, you lose. Game 2, you lose.

Note: Kill Stonybrook Banneret. Turn 3 double Merrow Reejerey is bad news. So is having all your spells countered.

Rounds: 3-2-0. Games: 7-4-0.

You’re turning into the 2005-06 Lakers during the first round of the playoffs. You had a 3-1 series lead, but you’re losing momentum. And remember what happened to the Lakers – lost the next three games in a row and got themselves eliminated by the (far more awesome, more talented) Phoenix Suns. Be the Suns. Don’t be the Lakers.

Your Round 6 opponent is playing Reveillark. Combo off early Game 1 and combo off early Game 2. Or not.

Game 2, Two Mountains, one Molten Slagheap with three storage counters, one Lotus Bloom in play. Sacrifice Lotus Bloom into Pyromancer’s Swath.

Your opponent plays Venser, Shaper Savant.

Quick math tells you that you don’t have enough mana left to go off. Pass turn. Several turns later, you’ve stored enough mana to try and go off again.

Remove storage counters. Re-play Pyromancer’s Swath?

Your opponent shakes his head. Rune Snag. Quick math says you don’t have enough mana left to go off. You don’t want to discard your entire hand, especially since you have a second Pyromancer’s Swath in it, so you let Rune Snag resolve and pass turn.

You have reached the point of diminishing returns. You should have scooped. Instead, you keep playing; keep working on building your storage land back up.

Turn 17 (or close), Pyromancer’s Swath?

Rune Snag.

Scoop. Finally.

It’s Game 3, you’re on turn 2 or so and hear, Time! Active player, finish your turn…

Turn 5 of the additional turns, the last turn, you do quick math. He’s at 16 life and you can deal him 14 damage. You can deal 16 on the next turn, but it is not meant to be. You should have scooped Game 2 earlier.

Rounds: 3-2-1. Games: 8-5-1.

Never take anything an opponent says or does personally, your friends will say.

Round 7, this is the last round. You’ve long been out of Top 8 contention, but Top 20 gets prize. You’re currently at 31. Check your tiebreakers. 59%. You find yourself suddenly rooting for the 13-yr-old.

Your opponent is playing elves. He hates your deck. He tells you this many times. Loud 13-yr-old child was delightfully pleasant by comparison. Game 1, he gets you down to 7 life before you combo off. He hates your deck, he would hate to play it, and he hates playing against it. He hates losing to your deck because it’s not fun to play against. You sit on a bunch of mana and then kill him in one turn. He hates your deck as much as the kid is loud.

Shrug. Stay quiet. Perhaps even apologize. Really, what are you supposed to say when your opponent won’t stop telling you how much he hates your deck? A deck you happen to love, almost as much as you loved Heartbeat Harvest?

Game 2, he gets you down to 2 life before you combo off. Your opponent still hates your deck. This time, you do apologize. For some reason, you don’t want him to be pissed at you. You let him know you had top-decked the Pyromancer’s Swath, and had you not, he would have won that game. You’re trying to make him feel better.

Stop rubbing salt in the wound, he says.


Rounds: 4-3-1. Games: 10-5-1.

Top 20 gets prize. You finish 24th. But all news is not bad: three of Team Santa Cruz makes the Top 8.

April Yu and Joshua Silvestri
Team Reflection
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom