Double or Nothing: Bath’s English Nationals Qualifier

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of running one of the first English Nationals Qualifiers in the country. The turnout was lower than expected, so only forty-nine players sat down in round one, giving the lucky top six players a chance to go to the English this year. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit I have to share with you from this qualifier is that not a single Ravager deck qualified in Bath. It was hated right out of the game.

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of running one of the first English Nationals Qualifiers in the country. The turnout was lower than expected, so only forty-nine players sat down in round one, giving the lucky top six players a chance to go to the English this year. One slot is awarded for each complete eight players.

The six qualifying slots went to the following players:

1. Tu Nguyen (U/W Control)

2. Steve Easton (Tooth and Nail)

3. Alistair McClare (R/W Slide)

4. Manveer Samra (R/G Land Destruction)

5. Dan Paskins (Goblins)

6. Nicholas West (Tooth and Nail)

Check that list again, go on. What’s it missing? Ravager that’s what. Not a single Ravager deck qualified in Bath. It was hated right out of the game. Below is a breakdown of the decks that made up the field:

Ravager Affinity 14 (29%)

R/W Slide 6 (12%)

Goblins 5 (10%)

Tooth and Nail 3 (6%)

White Weenie 3 (6%)

U/W Control 2 (4%)

Goblin Bidding 2 (4%)

Zombie Bidding 2 (4%)

G/B Cemetery/Death Cloud 2 (4%)

Elves 2 (4%)

R/G Land Destruction 1 (2%)

A further eight decks made up the remainder of the field including an Arcbound deck, a G/R anti-artifact deck (Viridian Shaman, Molder Slugs, etc). The most interesting were two decks built around indestructible artifacts and March of the Machines with Oblivion Stone and Black removal spells to keep them alive.

The Ravager decks that were played were a mixture of decks straight off the ‘net, slightly modified net decks, and original builds. The top Ravager build came in at eighth place with five wins and two losses and was almost identical to a deck that came forty-third on the day!

No single feature stood out amongst the Ravager decks. Decks without Blinkmoth Nexus did just as well as those with – although almost all played Ornithopter and four Shrapnel Blasts. Some decks played Blue mana for Thoughtcast and some dropped it for main deck Shatter. The key difference between the decks was the skill level of the players. It sounds obvious, but the better players with Ravager decks did much better than those players who’d just picked it up because they heard it was good. At the top tables I saw many, many fewer mistakes with Ravager. The best thing you can hope for when you sit down is to play someone who’s just picked up Ravager and has no idea how to play it.

The most successful deck of the tournament is obviously Tooth and Nail. Three players played the deck and two qualified. One was undefeated after five wins and two IDs, here’s the deck list:

Tooth and Nail played by Steve Easton:

Creatures (15):

4 Viridian Shaman

3 Solemn Simulacrum

2 Platinum Angel

1 Triskelion

1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Elvish Aberration

1 Fierce Empath

1 Vine Trellis

Other Spells (22)

4 Sylvan Scrying

1 Chalice of the Void

1 Pyroclasm

2 Fireball

3 Oblivion Stone

4 Reap and Sow

4 Tooth and Nail

3 Talisman of Impulse

Land (23):

6 Forest

1 Mountain

3 Wooded Foothills

1 Mirrodin’s Core

4 Urza’s Mine

4 Urza’s Power Plant

4 Urza’s Tower

Sideboard (15):

4 Naturalize

2 Pyroclasm

2 Chalice of the Void

2 Flashfires

1 Duplicant

1 Symbiotic Wurm

1 Oblivion Stone

1 Mountain

1 Leonin Abunas

Steve’s main deck has plenty of artifact hate and key cards against all the matches he was expecting to face. I was a little surprised to see one Vine Trellis and three Talismans instead of four of one or the other and a little surprised to see Leonin Abunas in his board. Remember, Steve didn’t lose a match all day. Nic West’s qualifying deck only differed by three cards, but had a very different sideboard.

U/W Control also did well, as one of only two decks won a slot. Its pilot, Tu Nguyen, has been playing U/W Control for a long time and adjusted an older deck for the expected meta-game:

U/W Control played by Tu Nguyen:

Creature (2):

2 Eternal Dragon

Other Spells (33):

4 Complicate

4 Mana Leak

4 Rewind

4 Wrath of God

4 Concentrate

4 Akroma’s Vengeance

4 Decree of Justice

3 Wing Shards

2 Pulse of the Fields

Land (26):

3 Temple of the False God

7 Plains

9 Island

3 Flooded Strand

4 Coastal Tower

Sideboard (15):

3 Scrabbling Claws

4 Circle of Protection: Red

4 Annul

2 Damping Matrix

2 Pulse of the Fields

Tu did very well, only losing one match all day (to Ravager), and only losing that because of severe mana screw. How did he win? Well, he has more counters than everyone else and, playing around the Complicates and Mana Leaks slows people down. Wrath of God and Akroma’s Vengeance really hurt most of the Affinity builds, because they can’t counter the Wrath and a Vengeance two turns later normally finishes them off. The real star for me was Pulse of the Fields. I watched Tu abuse this card game after game to keep him topped up on life and stay alive. In one game, he went from nearly dead back up to twenty life and kept a spare Pulse in hand just in case! One important point of note is that Tu is playing no main deck Damping Matrix.

The most popular deck that qualified anyone was Slide. On average, the Slide decks present finished much higher than the Ravager decks. Slide finished around eleventh on average whilst Ravager finished around twenty-seventh! A fairly typical build was taken to third place by Alastair McClare:

R/W Slide played by Alastair McClare:

Creatures (6):

3 Exalted Angel

3 Eternal Dragon

Other Spells (27):

4 Wrath of God

2 Akroma’s Vengeance

3 Starstorm

3 Damping Matrix

4 Spark Spray

4 Renewed Faith

4 Lightning Rift

3 Astral Slide

Land (27):

4 Forgotten Cave

4 Secluded Steppe

2 Temple of the False God

8 Mountain

9 Plains

Sideboard (15):

4 Electrostatic Bolt

4 Echoing Ruin

2 Mindslaver

3 Wipe Clean

2 Obliterate

Decree of Justice has fallen from favor, as Slide’s important battles now seem to be in the first few turns when the Decree is just an expensive cycling card. This also explains how U/W Control did well, as this build of Slide is designed to beat the quick decks, not settle down for a war of attrition against an even more controlling deck. If the U/W player can keep the Rifts under control, they have much better chance to win than against older versions of Slide with less dead cards against them. Even with Rifts, the game becomes very hard to win when Pulse of the Fields enters the fray.

The last deck I’d like to cover is Goblins. It seems that a lot of people thought Goblin Bidding would be a big show and came with mono-Red Goblin decks. They have just as good a game against Ravager, but are almost pre-side boarded against the Bidding decks. Many Goblin players chose to splash Green for Naturalize or Caller of the Claw to help out against Wrath effects and COP: Red, but one famous Red player stuck to his guns and qualified with the following:

Goblins played by Dan Paskins:

Creatures (28):

4 Skirk Prospector

4 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Piledriver

1 Sparksmith

4 Goblin Warchief

4 Goblin Sharpshooter

3 Clickslither

4 Siege-gang Commander

Other Spells (12)

4 Shrapnel Blast

4 Skullclamp

4 Chrome Mox

Land (20):

4 Great Furnace

4 Blinkmoth Nexus

12 Mountain

Sideboard (15):

2 Furnace Dragon

3 Sparksmith

4 Shatter

2 Electrostatic Bolt

4 Molten Rain

The Ravager decks that Dan played against couldn’t cope with the reusable damage from Sparksmiths and Sharpshooters combined with the spot removal of Shatter, Shrapnel Blast, and Electrostatic Bolt. I saw Dan decimate his opponent’s board in more than one game, often only leaving a lone Glimmervoid and Spellbomb in play! The Mox speeds up the deck by a turn, but with Skullclamp you can be less worried about the card disadvantage.

Going through the deck lists I pulled out a few more titbits for you before I sign off:

In forty-nine decks and sideboards there were twenty-one Stabilizers. If someone played them, they most often played three. They were mostly played by Ravager or Goblin (Bidding) players.

There were twenty-three COP: Reds in evidence, used exclusively by U/W Control and Astral Slide. No one played less than three if they played them, but some of the top decks managed with none at all, preferring bucket loads of mass removal.

On average, after boarding, each deck could play nearly seven anti-artifact cards that can kill any artifact. Some (the White Weenie deck) let down the field with a handful of Altar’s Lights, but the Green-based decks often ended up with twelve or more (Naturalize, Oxidize, and Viridian Shamen). Slide decks had no less than eight (including Akroma’s Vengeance). I am including Annul in this statistic as well as Obliterate… Boy, do people hate Ravager.

The day went smoothly for us judges, as there were very few rulings questions. The toughest game was a Goblins vs. Ravager game when there were three modular triggers, three Sharpshooter untap triggers and a Shatter and Sparksmith activation on the stack. The Goblin player won that one – who needs Black mana?

Good luck at your Qualifiers, may you do as well as you deserve.


Jim Grimmett

Team PhatBeats.