Faeries wins! Faeries wins! FAERIES WINS!
That said, for those of you who haven’t read the coverage, if not for a missed Treefolk Harbinger attack (Doran was in play) we’d likely have a different champion and I’d be prancing in the streets. So all hope has not been erased… yet.
In some ways I’m still saddened that this format has boiled down to Faeries versus Everything. I had hoped that, despite the lack of nice things we received from Eventide*, the format would grow a little more… and yes, I realize that a number of decks have been developed that supposedly have even-to-good Fae matches. Red of the Sligh or Rage Forger types are both supposed to beat Fae most of the time, especially if the Fae player doesn’t know the contents of the decklist. Last week BPM mentioned that the Elementals deck he was showcasing had a solid Fae match. Kithkin I’ve always thought had a respectable, although nothing special, Fae match, which gets better with Figure of Destiny and Unmake.
* Consider for a moment… the two decks that made it to the finals had exactly six Eventide cards between them. Four of the decks in the Top 8 ran four cards or less from Eventide.
Other deck variations such as the Bitterblossom Merfolk builds, PV’s UBG Merfolk, and Feldman’s Counter-Elves all have decent matches against Fae, especially if the opponents don’t realize the big threats to anticipate in time. Quite a lot of these decks’ successes come from attacking the Fae deck with much of the same disruption Faeries uses to disrupt and dissect its own opponents. The threats are different in major ways, but once Fae homes in on them, it becomes easier to deal with. I know a number of games I lost in testing simply because I either wasn’t expecting Chameleon Colossus from a Merfolk deck, or didn’t play around it enough. A similar situation happened with the Counter-Elf deck where, after a few games, my mind was boggled about exactly how many of X and Y threats my opponent actually had.
Other than the doom and gloom and slight sadness that the format’s two most popular decks at Grand Prix: Kobe were still Kithkin and Faeries, and that the Fae eventually won the whole shebang, there were a few nice changes to the overall metagame. Other than the Red decks which seemed to be in nearly every featured match, there were two Doran Rock decks sitting in the Top 8, which should draw some interest.
Top 8, Grand Prix: Kobe 2008
Top 8, Grand Prix: Kobe 2008
Both of them had a very similar creature base featuring the Green trio starting to show up more and more in block decks: Wren’s Run Vanquisher; Doran, The Siege Tower; and Chameleon Colossus. All three are well-costed for their size, can play effective offense and defense, and are immune to at least some sections of removal in the format. Treefolk Harbinger is notable as a card that had largely fallen out of favor in the format, but makes a return here. Apparently more ways to find Chameleon Colossus and Nameless Inversion is a good thing!
Both decks are aggressive, but Takagi’s version takes this aspect a little further by precluding the elements of reach via Leaf-Crowned Elder and instead added another drop on the curve in Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. Cavaliers is a respectable threat against the Fae overlords in some respects, being able to survive an Inversion and otherwise hitting for 3. Not to mention against other decks Vigilance can be a real downer when trying to attack with a small swarm of tokens or a few Elementals. In a way, Firespout may have been the more reasonable call for Kobe (versus the set of Thoughtseize found in Yoshimori’s build) considering the amount of Kithkin and Red running around.
Most importantly, both decks have a few common themes. The first is that they have an actual curve going on. Yoshimori has 7 spells on turn 1 and 4 Vivid lands he can choose to play, then 8 creatures and 4 Inversions on turn 2, and then Doran. Takagi has 4 spells and 4 Vivid lands on turn 1, 8 creatures and 4 Inversion on turn 2, and then Doran and Cavaliers on turn 3. Each game they have a legitimate shot at playing something each turn, and aggressive starts with large men are one of the few proven ways of putting Fae on the back-foot and keeping them there. Another is that no creature in the deck dies to Peppersmoke or a single blocking Bitterblossom token, and many of survive Firespout / Inversion / Fluffy Marshmallows. The final interesting aspect is that the decks focus on just smashing the opponent rather than actively disrupting them. Faeries, Five Color Control, and many of the other popular / semi-popular decks in the format would rather have some sort of major controlling aspects to their game-plan, most involving Cryptic Command. These guys ignore that completely and just focus on playing men and clearing the board so a Doran can throw an opponent into a wall.
I’m really impressed with these newer more aggressive aggro-Doran overlords, and I expect them to have a romping good time fighting against the scourge of Fae across the globe. That said, I mentioned Feldman’s Counter-Elf deck earlier and I want to present my own version of it. There were some solid design choices I really liked in there, but others just bothered me. Working under the basis I still needed to contain some of the control cards to count the deck as â€˜counter’ anything, this is what I ended up with:
- 2 Cloudthresher
- 4 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 2 Shriekmaw
- 3 Treefolk Harbinger
- 4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
- 4 Chameleon Colossus
- 4 Wolf-Skull Shaman
Later this week I’m sure Feldman will unleash his new version of the deck, but for now I focused purely on getting another big threat into the deck (Hi, Doran!) and adding a little bit more removal. [Sorry Josh, the schedule turnabout means that Richard beat you to it this week… – Craig, amused.] The Treefolk Harbingers were blatantly stolen from the Japanese aggro lists earlier, replacing my thoroughly awful Devoted Druid* in the deck, which not only gives me some tutoring power but a decent wall. If you manage a Wolf-Skull Shaman into play, it triggers off 23 other cards which is pretty quaint. Basically it’s an Elf and gives you some more action going on aggro-wise against decks like Fae and Red, over something like Imperious Perfect or Scarblade Elite.
* I kept hoping they’d be good, especially because I had Oversoul of Dusk over Thresher for a while. But, no dice. Not even the oversized novelty fuzzy ones.
As I said, I could be heading down the wrong trail here, but I’m pretty sure Doran is such a beating you have to run him. Full disclosure though, I’m biased since before Regionals I wanted to run the same kind of deck in Standard.
As for the rest of the Top 8 in Kobe, three decks are Faeries and hence need no additional commentary. Another is Kithkin, which even with the new additions have been talked about ad nauseam. Two are Red decks, which I’m not exactly sure what to tell you about except “Awesome.” There’s more to say than just that, but mostly the many reports of Smokebraider + Rage Forger + other dorks makes it hard to think you won’t see a uptick in the amount of Red played at the normal qualifier. Thunderblust showed up in force, even though some of the Japanese pros seemed to regret it in retrospect.
Of course, one of them didn’t run the Elemental sub-theme and actually looked closer to an R/B aggro-control deck with all the removal it was packing, but that’s a story for another week.
I know, kind of a cop-out, so I’ll leave you with a different R/B deck, one featuring Necroskitter. One of my buddies on IRC, Draconis, listed me an interesting version I had never seen before. He made Top 8 of his local PTQ and then lost to Faeries, but regardless I can now share the deck with you.
Thomas Reeve — Skittles
The rest of the comments on this deck will be from Thomas, so enjoy!
The biggest single blowout plays were against Merfolk, which featured one Soul Snuffers stealing 2 Cursecatcher, 2 Silvergill Adept with Skitter; and against Elementals – my board of Necroskitter and Soul Snuffers, his board of 2 Reveillark with a Sower in the bin. He attacked with both ‘larks, I Puncture Blast the first Reveillark, he returns Sower to try to steal Necroskitter, and I Puncture Bolt the Sower with its trigger on the stack to steal it and his other ‘lark. Good times.
Made Top 4, lost to Fae in the semis – not helped by HJ distributing decklists, which completely killed any surprise value. The Fae matchup is the one that I was looking at ways to improve, and following the PTQ I think I’ll be swapping out Dusk Urchins for Fulminator Mages. Urchins rarely lived to draw more than a card or two, and having a strong play on turn 3 against Fae, and another guy that’s good to Mannequin against them, would help a lot.
Other obvious considerations – fitting something like Crib Swap or Snakeform (probably the latter) into the sideboard to deal with Chameleon Colossus more reliably. Puncture Blast neuters it pretty well, but it would be nice to board up to more than four answers against decks like GU Merfolk. Against blue decks with Colossus, you should seriously consider not stealing it with Necroskitter even if Blast plus Snuffers gives you the opportunity, as they may just Cryptic it back to hand and replay it, which is… awkward. Otherwise you basically need to keep stealing guys to feed to it, or chump with Mutavaults etc.
Matchups-wise, weenie decks like Kithkin and Merfolk were pretty much blowouts. Plenty of targeted removal, plenty of sweepers, and the nail in the coffin is that they don’t just have to rebuild their board; they have to fight past their old board. Puncture Blasting a Cloudgoat Ranger with a Skitter in play is absolutely backbreaking. I’d probably add another Puppeteer Clique to the board, and probably cut one Firespout.
Personally I think if the Fae match can be shored up a bit, this may be one of the most powerful and fun strategies in the format to play. Next week we’ll be taking a closer look at the R/B Aggro-Control from Kobe, and possibly the Necroskitter deck, as well as anything else of interest that hits the radar. Until then…
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom
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