Deconstructing Constructed – The PTQ Season: Results and Technology

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Tuesday, June 24th – Now we have a better idea of what to make of the current Block Constructed format. Unfortunately for many people, it seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Faeries is the top dog in Top 8 appearances and wins, and it seems like that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Now we have a better idea of what to make of the current Block Constructed format. Unfortunately for many people, it seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Faeries is the top dog in Top 8 appearances and wins, and it seems like that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Part of this can be blamed on the young format and the number of people who simply brought over their already existing Standard Faeries deck at no cost. However, the numbers don’t lie – beat Faeries or go home. This is likely even more important than beating Kithkin now, simply because you’re more likely to see Faeries in the Top 8 and be forced to play against it, possibly multiple times, to win the tournament. At least you can hope to either play it only once, or mise a match win, versus simply being a supposed coin flip in the most important match.

Results so far from week 1 (and partial week 2) of the PTQ season – 12 PTQs total, 4 being foreign:

PTQ Winners (total of 13, because the Naples PTQ was a two-slot):

7 Faeries
2 Five-Color Control
2 Kithkin
1 Merfolk
1 G/B/U Midrange

Supposed winners from this weekend that I can’t confirm:

Philly: Faeries

I know other people are covering these types of lists, but I notice a number of the foreign qualifiers are being ignored, and I figure seeing these results on Tuesday is a bit more helpful than Thursday night or Friday. I have to admit I was a bit surprised at seeing the sheer domination of the Fae decks, since I figured it’d be a more even split in wins between Kithkin and Faeries, but that isn’t the case. The much prophesized Coming of the Elementals also seems to be behind schedule, although once the full week 2 results are in, that might change.

From the reports I’ve seen so far that actually mention the metagames of various PTQs, the format is basically as you’d imagine. Fae and Kithkin are the top 2 decks in popularity, and there are still a small number of supposed skilled players rocking Five-Color Control in various forms to take advantage of the creature-heavy, ‘We don’t need to actually draw cards!*’ philosophy of the top two. Which reminds me… where are the accelerated control decks packing a real amount of counterspells? Since the big stupid Green monsters seem to be the best “mana-in performance-out” for the cost, I expected more people to try things along those lines. Especially after the performance of a few Merfolk decks, which won largely on the back of Stonybrook Banneret and many counters.

* This isn’t to say these decks don’t have ways of generating actual card advantage, obviously. Rather that if you do run them out of cards, either the legitimate way or by means such as Mind Shatter, they have few ways of recovery in the face of a board presence. There’s no way to regain quantity again, so it’s always topdecks or bust.

Speaking of Merfolk, I think a proper look is in order.

U/W Merfolk by Matt Langford
1st: Nebraska PTQ

8 Island
3 Plains
4 Wanderwine Hub
2 Mystic Gate
2 Reflecting Pool
4 Mutavault
4 Merrow Reejerey
4 Stonybrook Banneret
3 Sower of Temptation
2 Sygg, River Guide
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Sage’s Dousing
3 Ponder
4 Cryptic Command
2 Mirrorweave
3 Negate

4 Oblivion Ring
4 Wispmare
4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
3 Pollen Lullaby

Show of hands… how many people tried this type of deck and honestly thought it had no chance without Lord of Atlantis helping out? Welcome to the club, my friends… I had the same feeling. Instead, this build really attacks decks out of left field by actually challenging any relevant spell on the stack with 11 counters and 4 Cursecatcher, which means this deck actually runs more ways to deal with sweepers and cards like Bitterblossom before they do harm than any other aggro-control or control deck. Negate can be especially annoying when you consider how many huge spells there are in Block, and how badly many of these decks need to resolve them to actually win.

Stonybrook Banneret also is amazing in this deck, allowing it to make some rather annoying turn 3 and 4 plays thanks to Sage Dousing and Adept. To be honest I was constantly amazed by my opponent’s letting it live for any amount of time since it let me abuse the two drops a lot easier while keeping counter mana open. That’s probably one of the most notable changes in general plays with the deck: you can afford to play a lot of small guys simply because the opponent has to respect your ability to stop any play. If they don’t, by the time they actually start resolving relevant spells, they’ll be in quite the hole life-wise.

The deck doesn’t have the greatest Kithkin match, if they are on the play and get a quick jump out the gate, simply because most of your creatures are small and you won’t have time to counter relevant spells. However, if they have a slower run or you get out to your own quick curve on the play, you can stop the biggest threats via counters, and all it takes is a Sower of Temptation or a slight creature advantage, and you can deal with the small dorks they have floating around after that. In addition, if they attempt to use Liege to trump you, they have to worry about getting crushed by Merfolk’s own Mirrorweave on the backswing, which has come up on occasion.

Some of the similarities to Faeries had me thinking about just how controlling this deck really is. Although certainly if Merfolk loses the die-roll and can’t answer Bitterblossom soon after, it’s placed in a very awkward position. However, on the merits in a creature-on-creature fight, you have a number of small advantages you can press. The ability to consistently stop Cryptic Command is a big deal, and Stonybrook Banneret can get really obnoxious for a Faeries player. In addition, it can become very difficult for a Fae player to come back if you curve out against them. Cursecatcher, Banneret, and Merrow Reejerey is a small army that can poke with Islandwalk damage and hold the fort open for counters, not to mention tap potential 2/2 blockers on the Fae side.

Although I like the deck, I’m not going to go say you should drop what you’re doing, bin the Fae deck, and switch over. Rather if you were the person who really loved Standard Fae because it could be played like a legitimate control deck, here you go. Throw in some Oblivion Rings to the maindeck and you have the equivalent of a U/W Control deck. The only card I wanted to fit in sometimes was two Oona or Twilight Shepherd, simply because I found the games went long sometimes and you really wanted a finisher of some sort. You could play a normal game and hit six land in play and after you run low on cards, that’s when you’d like to trade the small pings for a single smashing blow.

Sideboard-wise, the deck is pretty content here. You could run the Kithkin plan of boarding in Reveillark for the longer attrition wars I mentioned, along with the normal board. Or if you wanted to get a little tricky, you could run something like Turn to Mist, which fizzles spot removal, Mirrorweave, and anything annoying enchant-creature wise like Shield of the Oversoul.

As far as the lists for the popular archetypes go, I keep waiting to see a break somewhere and yet all the decks are pretty much the same. Boards differ, and there are a few maindeck considerations that may or may not be better than they were around the time of the Grand Prix, but otherwise the stock lists for every archetype really are the exact same decks you’ll be seeing in tournaments.

There are a few exceptions, such as the Merfolk deck and the G/W Aggro deck that was shown from the $1300 Block Constructed Event at Neutral Ground, now with the horrible name* of Barkshell Bombshell. Basically the deck is a worse Kithkin deck in the aggressive sense, but runs a few cards that basically take advantage of many of the flaws seen in control decks currently in the format.

* Seriously when did we go from over-generalizing decks like Rock and Red Deck Wins to just incoherent messes of words like this? The site I got the list from had a much better name for it: G/W Aggro.

Tom Nugent

4 Cloudthresher
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Safehold Elite
4 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Gaddock Teeg
2 Elvish Hexhunter
4 Shield of the Oversoul
3 Barkshell Blessing
3 Oblivion Ring
9 Plains
4 Mosswort Bridge
9 Forest
2 Wooded Bastion

2 Prison Term
1 Oblivion Ring
3 Medicine Runner
3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
4 Seedcradle Witch
2 Elvish Hexhunter

I tend to cringe when I look at the deck, because it basically ignores why Faeries and Kithkin are just demolishing the swiss to get to the Top 8 and plays the same slow yet efficient do-nothing cards I liked pre-GP. There are some things to like, such as the use of Barkshell Blessing to not only be the useful combat trick, but save a Gaddock Teeg from Firespout as an example. In fact, the main two things this deck has going for it is how much it trounces the best sweeper in the format, and how it abuses Teeg. Speaking of which, Shield of the Oversoul on Teeg is basically GG against every control deck in the format, since they have no way to remove it from play. The Commands are shut off, and they can’t kill it via damage, Inversion, or Shriekmaw; that basically only leaves Crib Swap and Oblivion Ring, both of which see limited play at the moment.

That said, is the deck all that good? Eh. I wouldn’t want to play it against Faeries, trying to race with large sorcery speed men that basically only come one at a time. Especially if Teeg isn’t in play, in which case Cryptic Command is still a huge blowout. Four Cloudthresher is also hardly enough to keep a swarm in check if things get out of hand, and they often will since the pressure won’t be put on too quickly. Against control I can expect them having a huge number of issues with the number of Persist creatures, Gaddock Teeg, Shield of the Oversoul, and Blessing involved here.

By the way, has anyone else noticed how easy it would be to convert this deck into Kithkin with Green? Remove some of the slower guys for the smaller but quicker Kithkin dorks, keep Teeg anyway because he’s a Kith and ridiculous against control, and maybe keep Cavaliers around for the mirror and beating up Firespout decks.

As for my own crazy contraptions, there is one that I don’t think is necessarily good, but rather the concept has some potential if a few of the kinks are worked out. Basically a rebuild of the Furystoke Giant — Token decks from Standard mixed with a little White token producing action.

2 Puppeteer Clique
3 Furystoke Giant
4 Murderous Redcap
4 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Marsh Flitter
2 Makeshift Mannequin
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Spectral Procession
4 Bitterblossom
3 Ajani Goldmane

5 Plains
3 Swamp
3 Windbrisk Heights
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Marsh
4 Vivid Meadow
3 Graven Cairns

Essentially, the design is to abuse the maximum amount of tokens possible over your opening five turns and then threaten insta-death on the opponent with Furystoke Giant or Ajani instead of Mirrorweave. Good old token beatdown works as well, but I’m just saying the optimal plan would be Furystoke Giant, tap six tokens, blow target opponent up. I find some interesting design space here, because cards like Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession are decent at playing defense for a while, and the sheer number of token producers means trading or getting hit by sweepers only negates 1/3rd to half your actual strength since any of 12 cards can make a fresh army. Mannequin reinforces that, and the Persist creatures help the defensive end while being annoying in their own special ways.

This deck could be refined, and I plan to do so and see what happens in the future, but I thought it was different enough from the norm while being based on some of the same principles that existing decks in LBC are built on. As always, best of luck to you if you plan on attending qualifiers, and feel free to post results in the forum for this weekend’s tournaments.

Josh Silvestri
Team Reflection
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom