Deconstructing Constructed – Super Kithkin and The New Kids on the Block

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Tuesday, August 26th – This weekend I rocked my last PTQ in NorCal, and other than a very long and boring drive up and the worst freeway on-ramp I’ve seen in a long time (more on that later), the PTQ was a pleasant experience. I have all the Top 8 lists, and some of them are doozies, including Mono-Green Elves, a Furystoke Giant deck, and a Merfolk Toast hybrid.

This weekend I rocked my last PTQ in NorCal, and other than a very long and boring drive up and the worst freeway on-ramp I’ve seen in a long time (more on that later), the PTQ was a pleasant experience. I have all the Top 8 lists, and some of them are doozies, including Mono-Green Elves, a Furystoke Giant deck, and a Merfolk Toast hybrid. Meanwhile, I lost in the last round with my own version of Kithkin.

Now that the introductory blurb to suck you in is over, we can go on to the sick tech and a brief tournament report. I ended up rocking my version of Kithkin after talking it over with the boys in IRC and my buddies Justin and JP. Here’s the list that I ran.

First things first, I think this deck is sick beats, and one of the better things you can play in the format. Second, I cut Knight of Meadowgrain for the field because JP mentioned it and, upon reflection, in many games of Kithkin I found it was pretty miserable outside of the mirror (off curve draws), MRA, and sometimes Merfolk. That said, Goldmeadow Stalwart is also miserable in the deck, since it’s complete garbage if you don’t curve out. So it comes down to one thing… would you rather rock 12 one-drops and take advantage of the fact that you can now pump Figure on turn 2 and likely have a second play, or go one-drop into one-drop Windbrisk, or have the slight advantage of Knight in those two matchups.

Meanwhile, look at what else I’m running in the maindeck instead of Knight and Liege. I get Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, which is a must-have considering the number of decks splashing for Firespout now. I also get to load up with maindeck Stillmoon Cavaliers, which are great in both the mirror and against Faeries. They also have some value against Doran and other niche decks, thanks to the myriad of abilities it gives you. The extra Ajani Goldmane in the maindeck is also a big deal in beating Soul Snuffers and the mirror match, not to mention being decent overall.

Most of the sideboard was garbage, there’s no doubt about it. The cards that were relevant all day were the 4 Moonglove Extract, because the extra removal was absolutely huge in the aggro matches. Killing Sower, Lords, Stillmoon, etc. are all of real importance, and being able run eight removal spells is pretty amazing. Beckon Apparition was also one of the rare correct choices I made, as it results in a complete blowout when used against any deck running Makeshift Mannequin or Reveillark. In testing, many games were won against UB Control by removing a Shriekmaw, Snuffers, or Mulldrifter in response to a Mannequin. The best part is they can’t really play around it, since a large part of their game plan basically comes down to retracing cards or gaining card advantage by using Mannequin.

Wilt-Leaf Liege was a card I brought in against other aggro decks and the UB Control deck (to absolutely destroy Raven’s Crime*). It isn’t a great choice, but it isn’t immediately killable via most spot removal, and the 4/4 body plus Crusade effect has served me far better than Thistledown Liege had in the maindeck. Knight and Mirrorweave in the board were both awful, and I only ran them because of card availability issues.

* Oh man, does Toast want these against Raven’s Crime. It basically says if you don’t have a Shriekmaw shortly, you’ll be very dead. Especially when UB players are willing to keep 5-6 land hands with Crime against you.

If I were to rework the board, it’d look something like this:

4 Moonglove Extract
4 Crib Swap (Anti Doran, Chameleon Colossus, and Necroskitter)
3 Beckon Apparition
3 Reveillark
1 Stillmoon Cavalier

You might think I’m going a little removal crazy here, but the fact is we only came up with an 11-card “ideal” board at first. Unlike many, we don’t feel Wispmare is really worth the slots. Yeah, if they run out turn 2 Bitterblossom and you Wispmare it you blow them out, but who really does that anymore? Heck, I know a few Fae players who board out Bitterblossom, and their results are roughly equivalent, if not better, than the ones who keep it in. From a Kithkin standpoint, Bitterblossom is only a real threat if they have the really important control cards in hand as well. BB not backed by Sower or Clique is basically worthless, even a Scion only means they can trade with your own tokens or small donks. If they lay a turn 2 Bitterblossom, all it means is I can now go Figure of Destiny — Evolve it into Figuresaur without fear of Peppersmoke.

So that leaves me needing a way to deal with the creatures Extract can’t. Necroskitter is also getting to be a big deal for you Kithkin players, and trust me when I say you don’t want to be held back because you don’t have an Unmake in hand. The longer you have to wait, the more damage you miss and the more time they have to find Soul Snuffers and end you. Crib Swap gives you answers 5-8 to the card and a host of uh… ‘utility’ in more niche match-ups where big honking creatures rule the day. Alternatively you could use something like Runed Halo, but it doesn’t stop Skitter and I prefer the proactive approach against these guys. Alternatively if you’re more afraid of the mirror, just rock Pollen Lullaby… the card is still fine, just really narrow.

Tournament Report

I think 140ish players showed up, so eight rounds. Big thanks to the judges and Conan for giving me the Top 8 lists, and special props to Eric Levine for printing them instead of me scrambling to cam-phone them. Apologies if I messed any names up or scrambled any match details, I got up at 7:30am and didn’t get home till 1:30am when I then ate dinner and crashed. All my opponents were pleasant and gracious guys, and for the most part I had a lot of fun bantering throughout the day.

Round 1: Eirik Aune (finished in Top 8) playing UB Control

3 River Kelpie
3 Raven’s Crime
4 Mulldrifter
4 Shriekmaw
4 Soul Snuffers
4 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Puppeteer Clique
4 Cryptic Command
2 Snakeform
1 Profane Command
2 Nameless Inversion
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
6 Island
5 Swamp
4 Secluded Glen
4 Sunken Ruins
2 Reflecting Pool
4 Mutavault
1 Springjack Pasture

2 Unmake
3 Biting Tether
1 Profane Command
3 Necroskitter
2 Festercreep
4 Thoughtseize

Game 1: I play like a donkey and overextended while he’s stuck on one Black-producing land, even though I know he likely has Snuffers. He puts up token resistance, but I have an army and he doesn’t. I win with seven creatures on the board and holding double Cloudgoat Ranger in hand. I knew there was a reason I liked this deck!

Sideboarding: I brought in the Lieges and Beckon Apparitions

Game 2: Eirik trades spells for my creatures for a while, and then the break comes when I have a small army on the table and he attempts to Mannequin back a Shriekmaw. Out comes Beckon Apparition and leaves him facing down a horde of flying spirits and a few random 2/2s. He doesn’t have an answer, and scoops them up.

This is actually a pretty garbage match for Kithkin if the UB player draws a good mix of Black mana and spells. It isn’t outright terrible, because you can make a swarm the turn after you swept, but they have a lot of creature-based removal and, as a result, ways to reuse it. Necroskitter is also big frowns if they happen to see it. Facing down your own Cloudgoat is never a fun experience.

Games: 2-0
Matches: 1-0

Round 2: Robert Cash (finished in Top 8) playing Stokin’ Tokens

4 Reflecting Pool
4 Fetid Heath
4 Ancient Amphitheater
1 Vivid Meadow
3 Vivid Marsh
4 Windbrisk Heights
2 Rugged Prairie
1 Plains
2 Swamp
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Marsh Flitter
3 Shriekmaw
4 Cloudgoat Ranger
1 Raven’s Crime
1 Cenn’s Enlistment
2 Torrent of Souls
4 Spectral Procession
4 Bitterblossom
4 Nameless Inversion

4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
4 Firespout
3 Guttural Response
3 Faerie Macabre
1 Shriekmaw

So this is the sick token deck I totally forgot to write about last week, because it didn’t make Top 8. Well, this week it did make Top 8 and beat me along the way, so now I didn’t forget! The deck comes from Robert Cash, Nathan Ward, and Nick Disanto. Personally I love this thing, as it has a lot of the reasons I decided to play Kithkin in the first place, but has added to them and threw in a way to break stalemates. Against control every single threat is actually two or more, and Torrent of Souls is a giant kick in the nuts if they don’t have the counter. Post-board they can bring in ways to clear out the opponents’ board or save their own. Anyway, more on this later… now back to the scheduled program of me getting my butt whooped.

Game 1: He plays many tokens. I am on two land. I die.

Sideboarding: I’m lost as to what would actually be good here.

Game 2: We get into a brief creature stare-off, and then he drops Furystoke Giant and wrecks my entire side of the table. The game ends a few turns later.

Games: 2-2
Matches: 1-1

Round 3: Joe, B/W Edge of Divinity / Mimic deck

Game 1: He missed an attack early with Nightsky Mimic which costs him as there’s an awkward turn at the end of the game where he can’t force me to go all-in with blocks and I can strike him back for lethal as a result. .

Sideboarding: Moonglove Extract comes in.

Game 2: He has to mulligan into oblivion.

Games: 4-2
Matches: 2-1

Round 4: Joseph, Kithkin

Game 1: He has me on the ropes for a while with a pair of Knight of Meadowgrain and Wizened Cenn (then later two) while stuck on three land. Thankfully a Stillmoon shows up and is able to slow the bleeding, allowing me to get Windbrisk Heights online and flood the board with tokens. I then draw Ajani like a champ, and two vigilance-fueled attacks later, the game is over.

Sideboarding: I board in my own Knights, Extract, and Liege,

Game 2: I get an early curve draw and Ajani, he gets a slightly slower start and has his own Ajani

Games: 6-2
Matches: 3-1

Round 5: Adam Loraine, UW Merfolk

He says he likes my articles, which means I’m probably going to get beaten, because that always seems to happen when people mention that.

Game 1: We trade a few early creatures and I eventually get him to two life, with a Figure of Destiny and Stillmoon Cavalier to try and protect my 10 life versus double Reejerey and a Sygg. Another Merfolk drops down, taps my dorks, out and I die.

Sideboarding: In come some Moonglove Extracts to deal with Banneret and Sower. I also bring in Liege, which is probably miserable, but bigger than anything in their deck.

Game 2: I draw something like six removal spells between my opener, topdecks, and Windbrisk Heights Hideaway. Despite this the game is really close, because I see three creatures (this includes token producers) the whole game. My swarm of Spirits eventually get there.

Game 3: We only have 10 minutes left for this game and we end up much like last game. I kill most of his relevant guys and it ends up being his four Merfolk representing lethal if he gets Cryptic Command against my swarms of Spirit tokens representing lethal if I draw Liege or Ajani Goldmane. Neither happens in a relevant time frame, and so I play for the draw in extra turns… no rips help either of us, and we draw.

Games: 7-3-1
Matches: 3-1-1

Round 6: Noah, playing 5-Color Merfolk

I’m paired down this round, versus Noah, who remembers playing me and drawing at our Extended PTQ last season in one of the most awkward matches I’ve ever played (Ideal versus Goblins).

Game 1: I make tokens. He mulligans. CLOUDGOAT SMASH.

Sideboarding: In come some Moonglove Extract to deal with Banneret and Sower.

Game 2: He hits double Firespout and I see no Forge-Tender.

Sideboarding: I re-sideboard, bringing in Liege for some extra sweeper help.

Game 3: I manage to knock out a turn 4 Colossus with Moonglove Extract, and he can’t get anything relevant going except a small amount of Cryptic Fogs before dying.

Games: 9-4-1
Matches: 4-1-1

Round 7: Name I missed, playing Mono Green Elves (A copy of the Top 8 list)

4 Briarhorn
3 Chameleon Colossus
3 Cloudthresher
4 Heritage Druid
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Imperious Perfect
3 Wolf-Skull Shaman
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Snakeform
16 Forest
4 Mosswort Bridge
4 Mutavault

3 Firespout
3 Guttural Response
2 Masked Admirers
4 Primal Command
3 Tower Above

I remembered most of this deck from the last time I played it; i.e. at the last PTQ against Ben Strickland, who actually made Top 8 with it this week. So congratulations to him for sticking it out with this deck. It looks surprisingly bad and outdated at first glance, but it combines a number of cards that have either been overlooked or unconsidered outside of Limited play. It has the traditional Elf rush and early beatdown, but can keep them alive longer than usual with Snakeform and Briarhorn… meanwhile, using Heritage Druid, it can still just power out multiples or a huge guy like Chameleon Colossus or Cloudthresher early on. Nettle Sentinel powers up Druid even more, allowing for multiple taps early in the game while still beating as an Isamaru the rest of the time.

The deck just overpowers most with its good draws, although it doesn’t seem to have a real strong Kithkin match. Some Fire-Lit Thicket and perhaps a Manamorphose or two could probably fix that, allowing Firespout’s Red side to be activated.

Game 1: He keeps a land heavy start and draws absolutely no help the whole game. I win after about 8 turns.

Sideboarding: Some Moonglove Extract over Stalwart I think. I’m too confused by the Forests and Mutavault to bring in anything else, and I get the idea he might be Quillspike combo.

Game 2: He gets two Vanquishers and a Briarhorn early, which dwarf my forces and quickly drop my life.

On the first crucial turn of the game, he attacks me with Briarhorn and both Vanquishers, with Imperious Perfect powering them up. He has four land in play. My side has a Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender and two Wizened Cenn on it; I’m on 10 life and have four Plains in play. My relevant cards in hand are two Cloudgoat Ranger. He’s shown me Cloudthresher in Game 1 and obviously some amount of instant speed pump.

After some thought, I trade Forge-Tender off with Briarhorn and take 8, dropping to 2. I don’t die immediately, which is great, I draw, slam a Cloudgoat and say go. The next turn when he comes over again, I go ahead and attempt to kill both Vanquisher, but he has the Briarhorn to save one. I drop another Cloudgoat and a Figure down the next turn. He has no real response and I get in for some damage (finally). After he makes enough dorks with Imperious Perfect, he goes back to trying to kill me and swings with Perfect, a token, Vanquisher, and a Heritage Druid. I have exactly four blockers (4/4 evolved Figure, Cloudgoat, and both Cenn) and three tapped Kithkin tokens. I make my blocks to keep everyone but one Cenn alive. He casts two Snakeform, one on my Cloudgoat and one on a Cenn. As a result all my blockers except Figure die, but he’s now tapped out.

I untap, make my Figure into super Akroma, and swing in for exactly lethal. Phew.

Games: 11-4-1
Matches: 5-1-1

Round 8: Ellis Edmunds (made Top 8) Mono Red Aggro

4 Flame Javelin
4 Puncture Blast
4 Lash Out
4 Tarfire
4 Demigod of Revenge
2 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
3 Stigma Lasher
4 Vexing Shusher
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Auntie’s Hovel
4 Graven Cairns
12 Mountain

2 Guttural Response
1 Wild Ricochet
2 Unwilling Recruit
2 Spitebellows
2 Necroskitter
1 Spiteful Visions
1 Nameless Inversion
1 Chaotic Backlash
3 Soul Snuffers

Ellis is someone I know, so this sucks, but it has to be done.

Game 1: I see two Forge-Tender by turn 3 and throw one down off a Windbrisk a couple of turns later to rub it in. Shockingly, I won.

Game 2: Necroskitter + Soul Snuffers = GG

Game 3: I mull to six and keep a questionable hand instead of taking a spectacular mulligan to five. My Figure meets Tarfire and my next relevant play is Ajani #1 and Ajani #2. After finally ripping some gas, I start to make a game of it, but Demigod and a Figure that threatens to go ultimate force me to throw out a bad attack to get use of the Unmake under my Windbrisk Heights. I lose shortly after that to Demigod + Lash Out.

P.S. Your board was still a bigger pile than mine! Heh.

Games: 12-6-1
Matches: 5-2-1

Thus ended my playing for the day. I’m going to go ahead and list what won the PTQ, and then list the rest of the top 8 in the forums when this article goes live.

The winner of our PTQ was Standish Choi with what we affectionately dubbed ‘Jankfolk,’ but is basically Five-Color Merfolk of sorts that can board into a collection of removal that looks like Toast.

Standish Choi, Five-Color Merfolk

4 Secluded Glen
4 Wanderwine Hub
4 Flooded Grove
4 Vivid Creek
3 Vivid Grove
2 Mutavault
3 Reflecting Pool
4 Stonybrook Banneret
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Silvergill Adept
2 Sygg, River Guide
4 Chameleon Colossus
2 Sower of Temptation
2 Faerie Harbinger
1 Mirror Entity
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Cryptic Command
4 Nameless Inversion
1 Crib Swap
3 Sage’s Dousing

4 Recumbent Bliss
2 Hallowed Burial
3 Firespout
3 Wispmare
2 Cloudthresher
1 Sower of Temptation

At first the list boggled me, but after a bit of thought the deck seems reasonably strong. Chameleon Colossi are very good threats, Reejerey brings an effect to the table that can become very obnoxious if not dealt with, and the Banneret effect is huge. The other notable thing about using the Merfolk is they tend to play offense and defense equally well, especially when backed up by sets of Cryptic Command and Inversion. The post-board plans has to be the really impressive thing. Against any deck packing large threats with swarms like Doran or Elves or something, he can bring up to 10 ways to take care of them. Against a deck like mine, I’ll have to deal with at minimum five sweepers and an extra Sower from the board. Against control he already has early threats, a few big guys to smash face, and seven counters.

For me this Top 8 was notable because instead of the usual Kithkin and Faeries hordes we only had one of each make the final table. Meanwhile, three decks that most people hadn’t really seen (full Five-Color Merfolk with the mass removal board, Token.dec, and new Elves / Ramp), along with some other underrated archetypes like UB Control and UW Merfolk, all had their day in the sun.

For anyone with PTQs left, or folk planning on attending GP Manila, the field ended up being a lot more open in the last two weeks than at any time previous. If forced to pick a set of decks to run, I’d pick one of the following:

Kithkin (Prefer Stillmoon Cavalier maindeck)
Stokin’ Tokens
UB Control (but I’d run white for Wispmare to deal with Bitterblossom)

I guess, simply on the strength of performance, I’d say you can’t really go wrong with Merfolk (5c or UW). That said, it wouldn’t shock me now to see a deck like Elves or Doran do well, simply that those tend to be the ones I have the most confidence in. It’s too bad we couldn’t have 2.5 months of this instead of what we got this Block season.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
E-Mail me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom