Down And Dirty – Nationals Options Unlimited

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Thursday, July 31st – In the second of our Pre-Nationals Metagame articles, Kyle Sanchez looks at a selection of the wacky and wonderful builds out there that hope to put a crimp in the style of those packing more conventional fare. Some of the builds are updates on the old Sanchez favorites, while some are fresh off the block. Looking for something off the beaten path? Look no further!

Welcome to Nationals.

By the time you’re reading this, unless you’re a night owl or an early bird (depending where in the World you are), Day Zero of U.S. Nationals has already started. It’s Thursday, and hopefully I’m somewhere in the stratosphere sipping on some Sunny D. This format is really awesome. There are so many angles that you can attack in the format that I’m not sure why anyone would play the streamlined Fae. Yeah, it’s the best deck. Yeah, it has all the best cards. But this format is far too big to be dominated by the predictable pint-sized pinchers… there are too many other good options.

I have no problem playing the best deck when it’s around, but there’s just something about playing Faeries that I feel diminishes my manly nature. I like to build things with my tools. I like to drink beer, hug on girls, and spit tobacco in the face of anyone who openly questions my beliefs. I like to wrestle bears and help elderly women cross the street. I don’t like to play a bunch of skittish one-toughness flying flunkies that only win because people don’t have a good answer to Bitterblossom.

Testing for this Nationals has been extremely tiring, but exciting nonetheless. There are simply too many strong possibilities to look at, with unlimited manabases and more Standard cards to play with than ever… how can it be that an extremely obvious and basic UB deck holds the crown? Below are some of the more exciting decks I came up with. However, I am unable to share some lists due to a silence clause in several teams’ testing contracts.

I could write an article on each of these decks. Some I already have, but I just wanted to briefly cover each deck and sum up its high and lows points.

Ah, my bread and jam. I’m not going to play Wizards at Nationals, but this is the latest brew of the deck for those who care. Inkfathom Infiltrator gives you an exciting way to race the Fae’s Bitterblossom. Dragon’s Claw and Consign to Dream buy time against the Red decks, while Consign doubles against Rock style decks sporting Doran and Chameleon Colossus. Wrath finally made the main deck due to all the fringe decks mostly revolving around creature-based strategies.

There’s really not much else I can say about this deck, I’ve talked about it a milli here, here, and here.

This has been one of my favorite sock puppets of late. It takes three of the top 5 creatures in Standard and throws them together in an awkwardly configured rock-looking brew. Rune Snag and Thoughtseize get Doran and Zur into play while protecting them once they’re down. I’ve always tried to keep the enchantment package for Zur as tight as possible to avoid random draws with an assortment of do-nothing enchantments. Three O-Ring, Two Steel, and one Knollspine is my pick for the most efficient package. Some others in the Zur department have sworn that enchantment-packed decks to have the right artillery for any invasion, sometimes sporting upwards of twenty possible targets.

The sideboard is aimed to deal with creatures by boarding in removal spells along with Harmonize to outlast and outblast the opponent, while Guttural Response clears the way for the gamebreaking Mind Shatter to resolve opposite more controlling tacticians. Zuran is a fine choice for Nationals; however, I’m looking for something a little more powerful. Despite my best efforts, this deck is still dead in water if it fails to draw or cast Zur or Doran, and most of the time it would take both to get the job done. Reveillark goes a long way at sustaining them both, with Mulldrifter adding card advantage to the mix. But I’m not too confident in this deck’s capability at a tournament like Nationals.

It’s eight spells kill conditions, seven spells card advantage, eight spells permission, and six spells removal. This is a pretty even divide between four different types of spells, which causes the occasional cohesive issue. It has a little bit of everything along with universal answers like O-Ring and Firespout, but it can be done better. Wall of Roots’s decline is also one of my main reasons for switching. He just doesn’t do what he used to, with all these Wither critters rumbling around. You can’t soak up as much damage through Roots as you could before, which is really sad because it’s the most versatile mana accelerant available.

This is the evolution of Zuran, which led to the eventual absence of Doran, replaced by more Zurs in the form of Vedalken Aethermage. Ben Lundquist is more experienced with Zur than most, and we made very similar versions of this deck prior to Hollywood. It looks a lot like Nathan Zamora Regionals-winning deck; however, the numbers are a bit cleaner than Zam’s. It doesn’t have a single Eventide card, and for good reason. They all suck. Rise of the Hobgoblins is cute and all, and extremely practical, but I’d rather keep my hands dry of Eventide nonsense in an attempt to spite Wizards for their hybridized shenanigans.

This deck really is something special. It incorporates two of my favorite decks from the past few months and shoves them together in a creamy blend in true Dromar fashion. Zur is the head man of course, but Oona has his back if things get out of hand. If they can’t do it, Bitterblossom will almost always get the job done. I knew of the obvious synergies between Thoughtseize, Bitterblossom, and Arbiter of Knollridge when I first made the Wizard deck, but not until the Quick n’ Toast manabase lightened up my life was I able to piece them together.

Imp’s Mischief post-board is my best answer to Fae right now. Thoughtseize? Sure! Bounce draw with Cryptic Command? Ding! Ancestral? Yoink!

This isn’t anything special, just a stock Red list with Puncture Blast over Lash Out and a strictly Red curve to accentuate Figure of Destiny and Demigod. It’s a little on the heavy-set side compared to some of the other decks right now, but its damage-per-turn ratio really kicks in around turn 5 and 6 when burn spells, Demigods, and Kithkin Spirit Warrior Avatars start flying around. I didn’t do much testing with this deck, since I’d rather play with…

This was one of my starting places when I began testing for Nationals. With all these new tribes running about, everyone forgot about the religious sliver sect that dominated Time Spiral Block just a year ago. They got Mirrorweave to form a team of Virulents or Sinews, which will kill the opponent one way or another. I’ve actually accumulated 81 Poison counters before. They come out viciously quick, and with Dormant to keep supplying dudes and Firewake to give them haste while Gemhide enables them as mana producers, it feels more like a combo deck.

That said, this deck isn’t a tournament contender, but it was cute enough that I thought I’d include it for giggles. The draws for this deck are much too randomly decided, with few ways to outplay an opponent.

I’m really not sure why more people haven’t looked at Saffi for Standard. She’s the perfect chick… cute and humble while willing to take the bullet for anything that has sex organs and a creature type. She’ll make room for Mulldrifter to Meditate. She’ll fall for Fulminator to Dwarven Landslide. She’ll crumble for Cloudthresher to get a giant 7/7 beatstick that dealt them four damage already and wiped out all their Air Elementals.

Did I mention that when her and Reveillark get it on, they become inseparable? And when Minister Gargadon ties the knot between the two, all it takes is an alive-or-dead observer like Mulldrifter, Fulms, or Redcap to draw your entire deck, blow up all their lands, and deal them infinite damage? And you’ll still be left with a 9/7, 4/3 flier, 2/2, and whatever fourth leg you want. Saffi + Reve is legit, yo.

Bloom Tender credit goes solely to Billy Moreno, who believed in the little 1/1 even when naysayers paraded about. When your board advances just a bit he can add a plethora of mana to enable the combo several turns sooner.

This is one of my front runners in the Decks to Play category. This little number is all kinds of good, with a fairly standard aggressive elf core coupled with Heritage Druid to pump out a lethal Disintegrate if the ground becomes clogged. Gilt-Leaf Ambush and Hunting Triad add a lot of power to the deck, pumping out multiple pets each to pinch the opponent. The light Red splash enables Magus of the Moon post board against every deck in the format. Aten wants to move it to the main, which I may very well do prior to playing. Most likely replacing Puncture Blasts for the Magi.

Coat of Arms out of board gives you a nightmare card for Red decks and will find it much harder to kill the herd with mass removal like Sulfurous Blast or Firespout. The interaction between Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid is also noteworthy, since he acts like an additional mana every time you play a Green spell. When you get multiples out, things start to get stupid and giant Disintegrates begin to form.

The real strength in this deck is its one-drops. All of these are sizable threats down the line that add cumulative damage to the board. There are other builds that concentrate more on the Roar of the Crowd / Elvish Promenade synergies.

A pretty stock list, but it never really had the chance to evolve from playtesting. Disintegrate worked a little better for me, since it had the utility of being able to clear out blockers like Kitchen Finks, and didn’t have the downside of being a completely dead card when you’re losing.

This was another one of Moreno’s earlier ideas. He had a completely Mono-White build, but it eventually evolved into this deck. Runed Halo is one of the best cards not being played right now. It’s a proactive way to answer most spells you need to worry about these days. Seismic Swans has zero ways to deal with a resolved Runed Halo on Seismic Assault, although that’s not the reason for its inclusion. There hasn’t been a card quite like it before, which explains the hesitation from most, but it’s more efficient than Pithing Needle. It doesn’t deal with the same spells Needle does, but it acts like Lobotomy in most cases if they don’t have main deck enchantment hate.

One of the best ways to analyze a new format is to look at the available tutors, and this deck plays two overlapping tutors: Zur and Idyllic Tutor. The enchantments in between aren’t the most dominating cards in the format, but they’re all good answers to the cards being played right now. The kill conditions of this deck are also really greedy, both being immune to the most popular forms of removal. The Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender / Pariah combo is also pretty cute opposite the herd of Red decks.

We dismissed this one about a week ago because it just couldn’t keep up with all the hyper aggressive aggro decks that Eventide helped out. It feels like there are more one-mana two-power creatures in this format than last Extended season. I honestly feel Faeries might be a little behind the curve now, but I supposed only time will tell. I’m probably wrong, and Faeries will probably win Nationals.

Unfortunately I can’t share some other promising lists due to agreements amongst testing partners, but let’s just say Kithkin might be getting a new twist, Storm decks still aren’t safe, and Zur is the best creature in the format. I’ve narrowed my decision down to four decks. I just have to decide whether I want to attack with Zur, Boggart Ram-Gang, Uktabi Drake, or Nettle Sentinel.

I’m inbound for Chi-town…


Top 5 Picks

1) A Milli – Lil Wayne
2) I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure It Out – Elliott Smith
3) Broken Joystick – Adam Green
4) Por Que Te Vas? – Kahimi Karie
5) 500 – The Proclaimers