Down And Dirty – Going For The Gold: Elemental Updates

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard open Comes to Philadelphia!
Wednesday, November 26th – The StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open is fast approaching. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, then Kyle may have the deck for you. He’s updated his popular Elemental build, powering out Horde of Notions on turn 3 for some truly sick starts. Intrigued? Then read on!

My friend showed me pictures of his kids,
And all I could show him was Standard deck lists.
He said his daughter got a brand-new report card,
And all I got was a foil-promo Woolly Thoctar.

And my head keeps spinning,
Can’t stop having these visions,
I gotta keep with it…

So… uh, this is a big week. Kanye’s new sucky CD came out, and I have a Going for the Gold qualifier to play in. While the first clearly has nothing to do with Magic, it definitely affects the mood I’m in while writing. The boy’s had a bad year, but making a CD whining about it isn’t the way to go. All the songs sound the same, and the raps aren’t quick enough for my taste. I knew something was up when Love Lockdown was the first song he released, but I was hoping it was the slow song of the album. Nope. Every song sucks.

Going for the Gold, on the other hand, is an exciting new last-second trap set by Wizards to lure you to Memphis for Worlds. I’m looking to get caught this weekend, and have a new updated Elemental list to share. I really like the last few moves that Wizards has made in the grand scope of things. Supporting the reconstruction of States, those wicked Jace vs. Chandra decks, and the upcoming PT schedule.

It’s been a decent little run… however, the Grand Prix locations are pretty atrocious. Other than the Legacy GP, there’s no Midwest GP’s. There’s Tampa, Minneapolis, Boston, LA, and Seattle, but nothing centralized at all. Just another prime example that Wizards hates us middle men, and another example of favoritism towards cities on large bodies of water.

And I’m still waiting for Grand Prix: San Antonio. It’s really absurd that my city (the 7th biggest in the republic, hrmph) hasn’t had a big event. Meanwhile, Austin, while awesome in its own right, gets a freaking Pro Tour?

Tsk tsk.

Elementary My Dear Ajani

4 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Grove
4 Primal Beyond
4 Reflecting Pool
3 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Graven Cairns
3 Sulfurous Springs

3 Smokebraider
4 Bloom Tender
4 Mulldrifter
3 Horde of Notions
3 Reveillark
4 Fulminator Mage
4 Flamekin Harbinger
1 Shriekmaw

3 Torrent of Souls
4 Makeshift Mannequin
3 Ajani Vengeant

3 Firespout
4 Guttural Response
3 Liliana Vess
1 Spitebellows
1 Cloudthresher
1 Mind Shatter
1 Realm Razer
1 Crib Swap

There’s been a bit of a makeover since the last brew. I drafted Ajani to the squad to enhance both the LD route, which compliments Fulminator Mage by being able to take out basic lands while being an awesome threat against aggro Mages. He keeps all the usual suspects at bay, such as Kitchen Finks, Figure of Destiny, and Demigod of Revenge, and will often takes out a pair of Fish or Kithkin on his way out. I’ve also really liked having a way to gain life to recover from slow starts.

I’ve tried Crib Swap and Nameless Inversion, but I don’t think they do enough in this deck to warrant main deck spots. They are just more one-for-one removal, and I’d much rather just board in Firespouts instead of Inversions, and have a single Crib Swap to search out when facing opponents against which it could be handy. Shriekmaw is more than enough to handle the Kithkin or Fishy attack force when combined with a Mannequin or Torrent of Souls. They can only take so many two-for-ones before they roll over and croak.

There were five big decks that stayed at the top of the metagame from the states results: Kithkin, Fish, Mono-Red, Five-Color Control, and Faeries, and this deck has awesome plans against each of them.


Game 1 is a toss-up. If the Shriekmaw train gets going, there’s nothing they can do to deal lethal short of a heavy Spectral Procession/Cloudgoat Ranger draw. Cloudgoat is often negated by Fulminator Mage, so he rarely comes into play. Main deck Ranger of Eos is very good, but hardly a card to be scared of, since the best they can do is a Forge-Tender to Fog Horde for a turn and a Figure of Destiny.

Ajani Vengeant, combined with all the creatures in the deck, can create a pretty hard wall for the little dudes to break through, and all of the attrition creatures just get better as the game goes longer. The goal is to grind them down then finish them off whenever it’s easy. A turn 3 Horde expedites the process, but isn’t the best thing to do if they’re sporting Oblivion Ring.

The early Kithkin rush will always deal a fair bit of damage, but it’s nothing to worry about most of the time. Smokebraider and Bloom Tender always survive, which means I have far more awesome starts than they do and don’t have to worry about too many tricks over the course of the match.

-1 Fulminator Mage, -3 Torrent of Souls
+3 Firespout, +1 Spitebellows

Torrent can blow them out of the game, but I’d much rather bring down my curve and improve my early game and rely on the deck’s inevitability to carry me later on. Expect O-Rings, Ranger of Eos, Unmake, Elspeth, and other bad irrelevant cards on their end.

Other than the bad Forge-Tenders, they really don’t have a good answer to Firespout. Creature stalls happen a lot in here, which usually result in all of their lands getting blown up by Fulminator Mage/Horde of Notions. This is where Spitebellows is particularly useful. He can swing for a pretty sizable chunk, but can’t be chumped without taking the Bellows out, resulting in the eventual two-for-one. Doing this every turn via Horde of Notions creates an extremely light lock that they either need to answer or lose.

If they are playing a non-basic-light version with only Windbrisk Heights, cutting Fulminator Mage entirely is a decent option to maximize the Elementals spells. Cloudthresher would have to come in as an answer to Spectral Procession, and from there I’d also add a Crib Swap and a random Realm Razer. Those basic Kithkin lists don’t come around often, but some are just committed to the anti-LD plan.


This is another match where I feel pretty comfortable. They will usually have six to ten counters in their deck, supported by moderate card draw and a host of small crappy creatures with tribal synergies. They don’t have much early damage or disruption other than Remove Soul/Sage’s Dousing, so again the Bloom Tenders and Smokebraiders will produce buckets of mana unhindered. From there you just play powerful spells until they die. It’s really just that simple. If they start mounting an offensive threat, Shriekmaw with Mannequin will keep them in check.

Just like Kithkin, they don’t have an answer to all the attrition creatures. Given there are so many different colored creatures in this deck it makes it very hard for them to break through with Sygg effectively, but if they’re sporting Loxodon Warhammer there could be some problems.

The serious threat in this matchup is Cryptic Command. They can build up and tap my team a couple times and swing for the win pretty easily, so keeping the fish out of the water is essential. The LD route also stops them from getting too much going if their lands are susceptible.

Sideboarding (UW)
+3 Firespout, +4 Guttural Response
-2 Reveillark, -2 Horde of Notions, -3 Torrent of Souls

Sideboarding (Mono U)
+3 Firespout, +4 Guttural Response
-4 Fulminator Mage, -1 Reveillark, -1 Horde of Notions, -1 Torrent of Souls

Sideboarding (Relic)
-3 Torrent of Souls, -3 Reveillark, -1 Horde of Notions, -4 Fulminator Mage, -1 Makeshift Mannequin
+3 Firespout, +4 Guttural Response, +3 Liliana Vess, +1 Realm Razer, +1 Mind Shatter

After sideboarding they could have a ton of different things coming at me. Relic of Progenitus has been rising in popularity, which means this whole deck turns to poo. For those occasions I’ve been boarding into the Liliana package which hybridizes the deck into Liliana control… this eventually leads to Realm Razer being the finisher of choice after Mind Shatter wipes their hand away.

There are two Horde left in the deck simply because the opportunity to Liliana Hordes a couple of turns in a row was something that kept coming up as a favorable play, especially when Bloom Tenders are involved.

The Merfolk decks just don’t have a consistent enough game plan from my view to stop the chains of huge spells this deck can produce, and after boarding Guttural Response levels the playing field.

Mono Red

This is a scary one. Mono Red is the deck that can beat anyone out of nowhere, and has many powerful explosive draws that Elementals can’t handle. For one, you can’t rely on Bloom Tenders or Smokebraiders, which means the deck slows down by about a turn and a half. And against an aggro it’s extremely devastating. On top of that, the Fulminator Mage LD route is invalidated by a manabase composed of twenty-plus Mountains.

The only certainty in these games is that the Red deck is going to try and deal damage every turn. Flamekin Harbinger for Shriekmaw is the only reliable plan to lean on, but it only works against the first half of the Red decks curve, taking care of Figure, Ram-Gang, Stigma Lasher, but being completely useless opposite Demigod or Gouger.

Reveillark is the late game critter to lean on, especially when combined with multiple Mulldrifters, which is how many of these games go. There’s nothing I can do about their direct damage, so my goal becomes to stop whatever creature damage I can by using Reveillarks and anything that has the option to block. By using Reveillarks, Harbingers, and Mulldrifters I’ll be able to control my draws fairly easily.

Ajani Vengeant can help tame a Demigod or Gouger and will soak up a Flame Javelin or a pair of burn spells, but keeping Reveillark on tap is the key to winning game 1 here. After exhausting them for a few turns and amassing a small team of Tenders and Braiders, Torrent of Souls becomes the win out of nowhere card that steals the game. This plan may not sound very consistent, but it buys right into their line of attack and will almost always work to take them out.

-4 Fulminator Mage
+1 Crib Swap, +1 Spitebellows, +2 Firespout

So the sideboard isn’t so great? The game plan is still effective enough, and picking up some more removal in exchange for dead cards is a good enough swap. The absence of Primal Command in the board means leaning on Ajani Vengeant to gain some life is critical.

Same plan as game 1. Use Reveillark to keep a virtual lock on combat damage while setting up for a lethal Torrent of Souls. Unwilling Recruit may make an appearance, which is pretty devastating if Horde or Reveillark gets nailed, so playing around that is a brutal challenge to be aware of.

Five-Color Control

This is one of my favorite games to play, as they are always so helpless. Fulminator Mage can’t be contained and will rip apart their mana like a scalding knife slicing off the arm of a man made of butter. Ajani is another new LD spell that also wreaks havoc on them, and building up to an ultimate from the fiendish feline isn’t farfetched.

Their Wrath effects are pretty useless against me, Esper Charm will rarely do any discard damage, I never have to attack into Comdemn, and Bant Charm can’t stop Torrent of Souls or Ajani. All of their cards are just bad against me, other than Cryptic Command, of course.

-2 Horde of Notions, -1 Shriekmaw
+3 Guttural Response

If they have any graveyard hate, like Jund Charm or Relic, it’s a very effective tactic to board into the Liliana package.

-3 Torrent of Souls, -2 Makeshift Mannequin
+3 Liliana Vess, +1 Mind Shatter, + 1 Realm Razer

Negate and/or Memory Plunder are the only other troublesome cards from their board, so the Vess sideboard plan isn’t as reliable unless they are making room for Relic/Jund Charm in their sideboard. Some are going as far as to include Jund in the maindeck; however, those are few and far between right now, although it is a trend I’d expect to increase.

These are the games where the fat attrition trio create a soft lock by offering continual land destruction, card draw, and blockers to stop Cloudthreshers, Finks, and possibly Colossi. Mulldrifter, Reveillark, and Fulminator Mage are the perfect tools to dismantle Five Color’s forces. This is where the true Elemental power is, not in a turn 3 Horde of Notions or those loser Mono Red versions.


Faeries used to be an awesome control deck, but then it lost Ancestral Visions. Now it compares more favorably to a Fish-like deck, using efficient beaters backed up by permission and disruption. Vendilion Clique is a big headache here, not only because it’s the best way to remove a card, but he’s also a good sized clock when combined with another couple fliers. From there the game is only a Cryptic Command away from being over.

The Fulminator plan is in full effect for these games, with most Faeries players only including a small handful of basics. They have many more counters than the other control lists in the Top 5, but little to no card draw to back it up. This makes the fat trio just as important here as opposite Five Color Control, and will lead to consistent card advantage.

The big problem here is that Faeries can win out of nowhere, and when I say win out of nowhere I mean they can lock you down for a couple turns with Mistbind Clique or Cryptic Command and get in enough collateral damage to squeak out a win. I’ve found Ajani surprisingly useful here, since he can lock down a Mistbind Clique as well as a random basic land. Another good Ajani option is tapping something down for a turn, then follow it up with a pair of Lightning Helix to the Fae players dome to severely alter the Bitterblossom race.

+1 Cloudthresher, +3 Guttural Response
-1 Torrent of Souls, -1 Shriekmaw, -2 Horde of Notions

Horde is a hoss, but he’s not the ticket to success, he’s just the train. Cloudthresher is the goal for games two and three. Just get one into play, that’s all you need to do to beat Faeries. Combined with the LD and card drawing engine they have too many bases to cover and whichever one breaks through will lead to a cataclysm effect that ties in the other two.

If they try and battle the Mulldrifters and Cloudthreshers to race, Fulminator Mage will turn their lands to waste. There are just too many good cards for them to counter and Cloudthresher shuts down any racing options they were hoping for.

While the Top 5 decks don’t have many places to use the Liliana package, it’s extremely useful against many of the fringe control decks that look to abuse non-Elemental engines of their own. Planeswalkers, Big mana Jund and Naya decks, and Reveillark are other places I look to exploit Liliana into Mind Shatter into Realm Razer.

Good luck to anybody going for the gold,


Top 5 Picks

1) Heartless — Kanye West
2) Coldest Winter- Kanye West
3) Welcome to the Heartbreak — Kanye West
4) Fake Plastic Trees — Alanis Morissette
5) Money (That’s What I Want) — John Lee Hooker