Down And Dirty – Dissecting the Mega-Magic Weekend Standard Decklists

Read Kyle Sanchez every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, May 15th – With the shadow of Pro Tour: Hollywood breathing down out necks, it’s time to get serious with the Standard metagame. Today’s Down And Dirty sees Kyle Sanchez take us through the highs and lows of the standout decklists hailing from last weekend’s Star City Games Mega-Magic Weekend, How will results there impact the upcoming Pro Tour?

My frog has a blister and my mother bongs bells. The text on her lapel reads “Everything’s Swell.” Two days passed in my mucky mire. All alone to live out my plucking desires. Chantel, Carina, Sarah, Morgan. Ashley, Kayleigh, Cat, and Jordan. Tara, sweet Tara, you’re epidermis is showing. Cover up quick before you become boring. Orange bottoms, blond tops, crying in the corner, you better stop. Drink a beer, girls come near. Show the cash, you’re out of there fast. Swerving home doing eighty-five, steady now, do it right. No time to play it tight, sit back n’ relax and take your time. I’m soaring, flying, jumping through hurdles, trying, dying a little more inside everyday.

It’s hard to believe that Pro Tour: Hollywood is next week. Something about this tournament is going to mean a lot to me… however, I’m not sure at what turn. Will a good friend claim glory? Will I live out my dream of grinding in with Wizards? Will I lose interest in Magic and instead retreat into the hills of California? Will I meet a girl named April with a surfer’s body who is lusting for a curly-headed playa? Will I make good on my debt to Tim Aten from our bet on Grand Prix: San Diego last year? Will all the Magic players unite to get our bball on in a massive pick-up game on a crisp Saturday evening?

I’ve never been so excited for a tournament in which I’m not even playing! Thankfully it’s my best friends birthday that weekend, so even if I don’t do well in Magic I’m gonna hit it up hard in HWood with my homeys.

There’s still a lot of Magic to discuss, and a lot of information to review from the StarCityGames.com Mega-Magic Weekend. Let’s start out with the 5k, and the deck that won both of the major Standard tournaments.

The 4-4-4-4-4-4-1 manabase is pretty cute, but I’d rather have 4-4-4-4-4-3-2.

I don’t know Alex Bertoncini, but he sure had everyone’s number this past weekend. And perhaps most interesting is that it’s nothing new. He played the best deck in the format, slightly tuned, and won both times. There are some numbers in this deck that I’m not sure I like. Three Cryptic Command is somewhat insulting. It’s the second best card in the deck, and you’ll always want extra copies. Perhaps he was budgeting, but that gives him no excuse for his Sunday win given that he won $2000 the day before.

The two Pestermite is quite brilliant. Everyone was arguing about Clique versus Mite versus Terror versus Nameless Inversion, but Alex got to squeeze in Terror while keeping the desired six three-drops. However, if you are aiming for just three-drops, and are only planning on playing two, I think the Clique is definitely arguable here. I’m no Faerie master, for good reason, but I’d personally rather play with Clique as its effect on the game is a little bigger given his added power and the potential to take away Sulfurous Blast and Cloudthresher.

His sideboard is pretty straightforward… however, I’m not sure how necessary, or good, Bottle Gnomes are for this deck. They seem to be in complete opposition of how this deck functions, making the deck slow down to play its spells on its own turn… LAME! However, it does provide a good amount of defense. He’s pretty much the bring-in Ben Wallace, who also doesn’t really fit into his team’s game plan, but does such a good job at being a huge paint presence that you can’t not play him.

The rest of the sideboard shows clean and crisp numbers, unlike the random three-of Command main deck, and splitting his four-card removal suite down the middle with Peppersmoke and Slaughter Pact. I’d rather have a 4th Terror than a 2nd Pact because, much like the Bottle Gnomes, Slaughter Pact stops you from playing during their turn, which is the most brutal feature of the Faerie deck. Maybe I’m wrong… I mean, he did win both of the freaking tournaments. His numbers could have been a bit cleaner, thasallumsayin’.

Another Faeries in the finals…

BB has been on my radar since I whined and trained with his Momma en route to GP: Richmond a few years ago. She is a kind lady who loves her son and shared stories with us about her hippy days when Brett was in the bathroom. Brett, in the meantime, has gone from JSS superstar to that little kid who goes to all the U.S. GPs and made Top 8 in San Diego last year. He’s still on his way up and has the kind of dedication that makes dolphins sweat. And he’s got the best looking deck in the Top 8.

His manabase is much better than Bertocini’s, sporting only two of the sometimes clunky Faerie Conclave, and the recommended two Pendelhaven. He also has four copies of every spell in the deck except Pestermite. He’s not trying anything fancy in the main deck, just going for consistency and his more powerful cards to win the game.

His sideboard, on the other hand, is much more techy than the main deck. Fledgling Mawcor is a beast in the mirror, and can wipe out any kind of an advantage that a Bitterblossom would usually supply. There’s the usual spot removal of Nameless Inversion, and sweeping Damnation, along with the typical Thoughtseize. Flashfreeze, on the other hand, seems wacky. Most decks you’re going to bring them in against are going to have Vexing Shusher and Guttural Response. Shusher can be answered with spot removal, but giving them more Guttural targets just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it’s in there to bait Gutturals so Cryptic Command will resolve, but that’s a bit of a stretch, and there’s gotta be a better option against R/G decks than going up to ten counters.

Hmm. That’s a lot of Forests. Couldn’t squeeze one more Pendelhaven? Or a Treetop or two? Horizon Canopy? That scared of Big Fulms?

Here we have a Mono-Green Aggro deck that has a weak starting curve, only one one-drop and eight two-drops. There are some really good three-drops, and some busty four-drops that enhance all your previous creatures. There is a color theme revolving around the efficient four-drop Wilt-Leaf Liege, playing slightly underpowered creatures like Safehold Elite and Heartmender for synergy. To support all of these dudes we have another color-orientated spell that gives you Wrath protection and evasion in Shield of the Oversoul, along with Overrun as the “I WIN!” card.

This curve is too clunky for my taste in Standard right now. You’re too slow against the control decks, and their tempo cards like Venser, Cryptic Command, and Rune Snag will tear this deck up. You have a lot of game against all of the aggro decks due to the oversized creatures, but you’re still slower than them by a mile, which is quickly caught up by a Finks or Cavaliers on defence.

I never trust the 3-3-3-3-3 sideboards. They look too neat and completely thrown together. Unless of course he tested, and figured out that you’d want to board in a five mana 5/5 when you’re only playing 22 hard sources and an already clunky curve.

This deck really has it all. A potent curve that starts with either a Bird, a Village, or an Edge of Autumn plus Flagstones. It decides whether it’s going to play the prohibitive aggro deck opposite a control deck, the aggro deck, or the aggro/control deck on turn 2 with a wide selection of options which include well over half the total spells in the deck. Turn 3 you can combo with Fiery Justice, repeat turn 2, or drop a Finks. Turn 4 is most interesting, because you can repeat turn 2 twice, drop a Garruk and repeat turn 2, or bring down a Derm. I can safely say that if Spell Snare was printed in Coldsnap, rather than Dissension, this deck would be completely out of business.

Stonecloaker brings back Finks, protects Teeg, and saves Derm’s life, but the deck is a little mana light to be pulling of Cloaker tricks while playing a spell in the same turn. But thankfully this deck has some other good tricks to mask Big Stones. I would like to see some more Last Breath in this deck though, a shame Mulldrifters aren’t wandering around anymore looking for Reveillarks.

His sideboard isn’t five three-ofs, but its arguably as bad. People need to decide what they want and do it. Plan a date, paint a book, do something with your life.

I was thinking about dropping a Deus on someone in Hollywood, but this deck drops ’em better than I could ever imagine. Bird into Wall into turn 3 Deus? Wow, that’s fast as poop. I think I’d rather have more Llanowar Elves than Wall of Roots though. For one, Garruk is a potent weapon that can be enhanced by the swap. For two, you will curve out better. For instance, turn 3 Deus isn’t ideal, by that time the opponent will have enough lands to do stuff. Ideally I’d like to play turn 3 Land Destruction, turn 4 LD, turn 5 drop a Deus. To do that you need a turn 1 mana producer. Two Wall of Roots may feel awkward, but two Elves in this deck looks even stranger when you think about it.

Flame Javelin does not belong. Whatever happened to Incinerate/Lash Out? Four mana for four damage stinks, and don’t even joke about getting RRR in this deck. I also see no point in running Mountains at all. I’d like to see a couple of Grove of the Burnwillows, since its downside isn’t that impacting and it turns into a Mountain post-Magus.

His sideboard is really only twelve cards, which is a shame, because you’re actually allowed to play with fifteen. I’m in love with Raking Canopy, and I’m looking for an excuse to play Green decks because of it. Finks out of board feels a lot better than maindeck Finks, for some reason; not necessarily in this deck, but in general. Finks just feels like a sideboard card, even if it is better than Hierarch (who also feels like a sideboard card to me). Naturalize is also a bit out of place. If I were playing a dedicated RG LD deck I’d want some Fatty Boom Booms in the sideboard so I’d have a fighting chance against any small aggro decks. Spectral Force! I’m not sure what Macabre is for… It’s hardly good against a decent Swans player, and who cares about Persist dudes? Am I missing something?

You can always tell when a player has been playing a deck for a long time, and if I had to guess, Jarvis has been playing Elves since the moment Lorwyn hit the shelves. He bought his four Gilt-leaf Palace and has cruised them through FNMs, adjusting the deck all the while. That’s where the awkward numbers like 1 Boreal Druid and 1 Civic Wayfinder come from.

There’s really not much to say about this deck. It plays dudes, kills creatures, and exudes the typical Rock-mindset that mindless mages have fallen for time and time again. It feels so good when you’re playing this deck; there’s just so much interaction with the opponent that ends in your favor. You kill their dudes, you attack them, you kill more of their dudes and attack them some more. You get to rip cards out of their hand and attack with your mana sources. I love me a Rock deck, but it’s always the kind that tricks you into believing you’re winning the game, when your opponent could rip “that” card off the top at any moment and destroy you.

The sideboard is much of the same. He has a small Primal Command package which comes in for the more long lasting games where tutoring up a Shriekmaw or Finks can be a devastating play. I would like to see a third in the board… I’m sure he’d like one too but couldn’t find room and didn’t want to dilute his extremely heavy Faerie sideboard plan to force the issue.

This is my pick for second best deck in the Top 8. So many of the numbers are clean, well thought out, and justified. Just like Jarvis, he starts his curve with Llanowar and Treetop. Depending on the turn 1 play you can follow up with a three-drop or just run a two-drop out there. From there all of the deck’s removal and creatures are within casting distance, and you can adapt your game plan to whatever the opponent is doing. The difference between the Fuentes and Yu builds are that Fuentes made room to make the two-of slots better. Garruk has been decreasing in uses due to the pint-sized fliers roaming the metagame, and Fuentes noticed this and made the appropriate cut.

His sideboard is much more focused than Yu’s, finding room for the 3rd Primal Command while having more Faerie hate. No Riftsweeper, but that just means that he will have more Finks against the Red aggro decks. It’s really intresting to see the way these Elf Rock decks evolve. Since Worlds, Packmaster has slowly declined and declined, much like Garruk, but the deck still stays strong due to the formidable aggressive creature base.

Mmm… Merfolk! And another deck that made back-to-back Top 8s in the hands of the same pilot. I really don’t like Banneret, but Mirrorweave is all kinds of crazy good, and Cursecatcher finally gives this deck that spectacular one-drop that it was missing. He gives you so much more reach to get through Faeries, making them wait for one more mana to Rune Snag or Cryptic Command you. It was like the Hornets with no Chris Paul before… Well, not exactly, but I tend to think of one-drops as Point Guards.

I’d rather have Ancestral Vision in this version than Ponder. This deck can play a semi-long game without having to worry about killing the opponent until he missteps due to the high impacting counters. Usually, you plan to put out a few dudes and back them up with counters. Once you’re out of counters the opponent will either have to kill you or kill the dudes in play. When that happens you can drop all the dudes you were saving up. There is also the possibility of a combo-kill with Mirrorweave, but that won’t happen until later in the game due to it being a two-of, which might not be right in the first place. Sure, you can’t expect it to resolve against Faeries. But if your Merfolk are unblockable you will straight up kill the opponent every time you resolve it.

Merfolk Assassin is cool, but hardly right for the current metagame. You can’t expect to sit down across another Merfolk player more than once in a tournament. You could make the argument that Merfolk decks will rise to the top in a Faerie field, and that the Assassins are there as blowout cards for the later rounds. But really, once Merfolk rise to the surface they have a hard time breathing and battling against the land mammals.

That’s the top 8 decks from the 5k, and all of them look like mean metagame contenders. All of them have “plans” for Faeries, whether it be to outrace them with a big Trampler, to board in eight board sweepers, or the techy Mawcor. To be fair, this was a fluke Top 8 for a lot of these deck lists, and I believe a true depiction of how Hollywood Standard will be was the Top 8 from the 2k event the very next day.

1st – Faeries (repeat)
2nd – Faeries (GerryT version)
3rd – Red Deck Wins
4th – Faeries
5th – Faeries
6th – Faeries (GerryT)
7th – Merfolk (repeat)
8th – Dragonstorm

I’m not going to go through all the Faeries lists, but the best of the bunch was the much-discussed GerryT joint:

This is the list to beat going into Hollywood. GT raised and set the bar. Here’s the best deck, now beat it. But even in this cluttered Faerie Top 8 there were a couple of Red gems to behold.

It’s really tragic that every Red deck with a light curve and burn will have to be called Red Deck Wins.

Evan* is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and his deck list shows it. He wants to attack and burn his opponent’s hemorrhaged dome. Meat & Potatoes would be such a good deck name too. Not just for this deck, but for any deck EvEr plays. This is also a very good baseline Red burn deck to keep in mind, and it’s even sporting Everlasting Torment. Apparently he didn’t read GerryT’s article last week.

Magus of the Moon is killer right now, but the Faerie decks have already made the necessary adjustment to counteract it with no worries. Not only can they Rune Snag/Cryptic Command/Spellstutter Sprite it, but now they also have Terror + Nameless Inversion. That’s twenty cards! GG Magus, nice knowing yah. Time to switch back to Villages, Goyfs, Moggs, n’ Gargs.

Knollspine Dragon is purdy darn cute. For instance, if you can only manage a Storm of two or three, you can go get a Hellkite and Knollspine to refuel your hand. Or if its stranded in your hand you can set a Rift Bolt or two up and drop a Dragon that Ancestrals when he comes into play.

I do feel like this deck is getting sold a little short by only running two Swath. I went on a long Dstorm streak at the begining of the year, and because Swath is much more disruptable than the Dstorm combo, people will tend to board in stuff like Seal of Primordium and Krosan Grip. So I’d always board them out for Empty the Warrens/Ignite Memories/Wheel of Fate, depending on the situation. It’s an option that I found essential to playing around the Dstorm hate and coming out victorious.

They say that “the tournament prior to a tournament is the most important tournament.” Actually, they don’t say that, I just made it up. But it sounds pretty good, right? Still, the tournament prior is what shapes the next tournament, and this being the biggest tournament prior, what kind of trends can we expect in Hollywood?

– Faeries in force.

– Red decks lose.

– Rock decks win, sometimes.

– Man-lands run rampant.

Magus of the Moon is ready to be removed, much like anything you throw at them.

– They’re so small they make hard targets.

– $35 Bitterblossoms?

– PT: Faeries?

Hollywood, here I come!



Top 5 Picks

1) True Blue – Bright Eyes
2) Lujon – Henry Mancini
3) Aldrei – Benni Hemm Hemm
4) A Lack of Color – Death Cab For Cutie
5) Going To A Town – Rufus Wainwright

* An EvEr Sanchez production in the future?