Deep Analysis – Five Color Beats in Block Constructed

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Thursday, June 19th – With the Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed metagame seemingly solidifying around Faeries, Kithkin, and Five-Color Control, Richard Feldman is suggesting a different strategy: Five-Color Fatty Beatdown. Today, he shares his exciting list, plus informative deck evolution data and comprehensive sideboarding plans against the three main offenders. Will this deck be the next big thing in Block? Read on to find out!

While talking to Adrian Sullivan about the merits of Horde of Notions, I stumbled across an idea. What if I just played a five-color fatty beatdown deck with all the best fat in the format?

The first draft looked like this.

4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Vivid Grove
3 Murmuring Bosk
4 Ancient Amphitheater
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Meadow

4 Leaf Gilder
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Smokebraider

3 Doran, the Siege Tower

4 Chameleon Colossus
3 Brion Stoutarm

3 Horde of Notions
4 Cloudthresher

3 Shriekmaw
4 Nameless Inversion

The deck is structured to play as many oversized creatures as possible. Smokebraider and Leaf Gilder accelerate out things like turn 3 Chameleon Colossus, Brion Stoutarm, hardcast Shriekmaw, and even Horde of Notions (depending on which accelerant you draw). As always, Smokebraider makes turn 4 Cloudthresher a possibility.

The deck has no one-drops, largely due to mana considerations. Twelve of the twenty-three mana slots are devoted to Vivid Lands and Reflecting Pools, leaving only four Gilt-Leaf Palace, four Murmuring Bosk, and three Ancient Amphitheater as lands that can potentially tap for mana on turn 1. That makes for eleven lands that could, I guess, summon the two Green-White hybrid Elves on turn 1, but leaves Thoughtseize with only eight lands that can cast it turn 1, Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender (assuming I wanted to play him) with only seven, and eight for mono-Green one-drops as well. Overall, it doesn’t seem that the one-mana mark is something I should plan on utilizing for this deck.

There were a couple of questions I asked myself after assembling this list. Will the colors work? Am I playing enough mana sources, or possibly too many? Are eight two-drop accelerants really worth it? Is fast fat enough to beat Kithkin and Faeries?

I jumped into the fray against Faeries and ended up 7-3. Not a bad start! I played a few random games against Kithkin and went 4-1. Excited, I sent the list out to a couple of people for feedback.

Derrick Sheets immediately commented, “seems like Kithkin on the draw will be tough.” A reasonable point; I’d won most of the coin flips in the quick 4-1 set. I decided to test the theory by doing ten games on the play and ten on the draw against Kithkin.

On the play, I went 6-4. Disappointing compared to the earlier 4-1, but still in the green. On the draw, though, I went 2-8. Thoroughly miserable, and now below 50-50 even considering the 4-1 start.

Part of the reason for the abysmal showing on the draw was the lack of board sweepers and one-drops. Often the Kithkin deck would open with a 2/2 Stalwart on turn 1, Wizened Cenn or Knight of Meadowgrain on turn 2, and then an Oblivion Ring for my two-drop, leaving me at 8-10 life with only lands on the board going into my third turn. Contrast that with my on-the-play options, where I can lay a 3/3 Vanquisher to stand in the way of their Stalwart before they even get to attack with it the first time.

Lacking one-drops, I could at least punish the Kithkin deck on turn 3 for overextending with a Firespout (assuming I have Shriekmaw or Nameless Inversion if they have Forge-Tender), but currently I just get behind and end up in Frown Town.

Another part of the problem is that the build I was testing against had 4 Forge-Tender main. I have heard these are falling out of maindeck favor, as only Firespout and a few select Elementals even notice its text in the post-Birmingham metagame. However, it is certainly a huge beating against Brion Stoutarm, which is otherwise my best way to recover from an early board deficit. Nothing stings more than setting up the Cloudthresher Launch (evoke Cloudthresher, activate Stoutarm in response; opponent’s life goes down by nine, mine goes up by five, PS: clear out your Spirit tokens) only to see it thwarted by “sac my Forge-Tender”.

Theoretically, the best part about this build was its ability to attack Quick n’ Toast. Essentially the only things in my deck that die to Firespout are the two-drops, so even turn 2 Leaf Gilder, turn 3 Brion Stoutarm (or Smokebraider into Chameleon Colossus, or whatever) leaves the opponent with a mere one-for-one instead of a real board sweeper. Likewise, Kitchen Finks trades with few of the deck’s creatures; only Smokebraider, Leaf Gilder, and Vanquisher can be deterred from attacking by it, and Vanquisher is easily rejuvenated by Nameless Inversion or Shriekmaw to put the Finks down to 2/1.

Testing said otherwise, with a disappointing 4-6 result in Quick n’ Toast’s favor. On one hand, the result seemed skewed since I only kept one seven-card hand in the entire set and mulliganed to five in nearly half the games (the deck did not mulligan noticeably many hands in the previous 25 games against Faeries and Kithkin), but on the other hand, the 4 victories I did get were due to either my getting a nuts draw or Quick n’ Toast being screwed.

At this point it seemed that Faeries was going to be a good matchup, Kithkin would be rough, and Quick n’ Toast would be close. I didn’t want a bad Kithkin matchup, so I tried out a few sideboarding strategies.

It quickly became clear that Firespout was incredibly strong against them. Their turn 1 guy, turn 2 guy, turn 3 Cenn draw on the play turned into a rout in my favor whenever I had Spout and they didn’t also have a Forge-Tender (and I didn’t also have the Nameless Inversion). The fact that Firespout killed off a couple of my guys didn’t really seem to matter, though it was in brainstorming early drops that lived through Firespout led me to discover Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers.

To my knowledge, the Cavaliers have only previously appeared in synergy-based beatdown strategies alongside Wilt-Leaf Liege and the like. However, my manabase is conveniently set up such that every single land in the deck taps for either White or Green – without needing to use a Vivid counter – so including the card would be trivial from a mana standpoint. (As would Oversoul of Dusk, interestingly, but I haven’t thought of any worthy applications for him yet.)

The Cavaliers caught my eye for several reasons. First, they operate a bit like Plumeveil against Kithkin, sitting back on defense as early as turn 3 and scaring off basically the entire Kithkin force unless they have two separate pump effects. Next, they can attack back with Vigilance – a fantastic quality when they are so big on defense – and can even do so when the Kithkin have four power in blockers if I am holding Nameless Inversion. They survive a Firespout from either myself or from Quick n’ Toast, and they do it all while being an Elf to increase the consistency of Wren’s Run Vanquisher and Gilt-Leaf Palace.

It seemed that the only matchup where the Cavs would not be excellent was Faeries, so I fit them into the maindeck. While I was at it, I went ahead and added Firespout main as well. To do this, I decided to lower the deck’s mana curve a bit, and make it more amenable to Firespout, so I cut the Leaf Gilders and replaced them with the fourth Murmuring Bosk and three Cavaliers. I also removed the three copies of Horde of Notions and two Shriekmaws to fit the fourth Cavalier and a full set of Firespouts. (As Shriekmaw, Firespout, and Nameless Inversion are all comparably atrocious against Quick n’ Toast, I thought it would be fairly suicidal to include all three against that deck.) Finally, I took a look at the new list and realized that without Horde of Notions and with only two Shriekmaws left, Smokebraider did not have nearly as many cards to activate compared to the first build; as such, I replaced him with Leaf Gilders and set off to test.

A quick 4-1 against Kithkin showed that the deck was hardly incapacitated by these changes, and seemed to show improvement in an unfavorable matchup. (Naturally, more than five games would be necessary to determine this more conclusively.) To make sure my changes were not killing my chances against Quick n’ Toast, I started up a set against them.

At 1-6 with normal mulligans, I decided to abandon ship on the testing session.

None of the games were even close. The one I won, QnT mulled to five and never got off the ground. In all the others I was always dealing a moderate amount of damage, but never enough to overcome Kitchen Finks. QnT always had plenty of time to draw cards, and was therefore never short on answers. Remember how in the previous testing session most of my wins came from my own nuts draws? By removing Smokebraider and Horde of Notions, I had effectively removed my ability to win via a nuts draw. Smokebraider into turn 3 Horde, or turn 4 Cloudthresher, had been one of my best ways to steal a game before. Now, I had to do ridiculous combinations like turn 2 Vanquisher, turn 3 Doran, turn 4 Colossus, just to stand a chance.

For next week, I’m going to try a revised build that incorporates everything I’ve learned so far about the deck. I’m going to fit Smokebraider, Horde of Notions, Firespout, and Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers all in at once, to give myself the best possible chance at simultaneously taking on Faeries, Kithkin, and QnT. Here’s the list.

The Oblivion Ring in the sideboard is a placeholder, as I haven’t yet thought of anything worthwhile to put in that slot yet. With that caveat, preliminary sideboard plans are as follows.

Versus Faeries:
+1 Cloudthresher
+3 Shriekmaw
-4 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers

Shriekmaw from the board gives me some extra answers to Sower of Temptation, and will also allow me to kill Mistbind Cliques again. (I am amused to note, however, that after boarding out Cavaliers, the only creature in my list that a 4/4 Mistbind Clique can block without dying is Smokebraider.)

Versus Kithkin:
+3 Shriekmaw
-3 Horde of Notions

When I lose this matchup, I almost always do so in the early game; substituting a two-drop in for a five-drop (especially when the two-drop can also be a two-for-one five-drop) should help with this.

Versus Quick n’ Toast:
+4 Thoughtseize
+3 Crib Swap
+1 Doran the Siege Tower
-4 Firespout
-4 Nameless Inversion

Unlike Nameless Inversion, Crib Swap can actually take down a mid-combat Cloudthresher, which already makes it far more useful than its replacement. The fact that it also has Changeling means my Changeling-powered mana base is not substantially disrupted, and the fact that it removes the target from the game makes it more effective against Kitchen Finks and Makeshift Mannequin. This is also the one matchup where I definitely want the fourth Doran, as QnT packs enough removal that I don’t have to worry about it being stranded in my hand while Spirit or Faerie Rogue tokens chump block the one that’s in play. I won’t consistently cast Thoughtseize turn 1 in this matchup, but that’s acceptable; sometimes it’s more important to nab the topdecked counterspell on turn 5 before casting Chameleon Colossus than it is to hit something else on turn 1.

I’m interested to see where this deck takes me. It’s got broken draws, a ton of undercosted fat, and so many colors that nearly anything is fair game if I want to try it out. Next week I’ll find out if this new build passes the test against Kithkin, Faeries, and QnT.

See you then!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
[email protected]