Down And Dirty – Qualifying With Kithkin

Visit the StarCityGames.com booth at Grand Prix Denver!
Thursday, July 24th – Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed PTQs continue apace, and the Faerie menace rumbles on. While the smart money is on the Fae, there are those players who refuse to run with the strongest deck in any particular format… and Kyle, with Kithkin, is one of them today. Kithkin took down the whole PTQ, and Kyle relives his tournament in typical Sanchez fashion. Of course, the day isn’t all plain sailing, and there’s the obligatory twist at the end…

I had a PTQ to play in this past weekend, with absolutely zero games of Block Constructed under my belt. I also didn’t exactly want to put too much effort into the format until Grand Prix: Denver. I didn’t want to play Faeries, and all the other decks look like garbage. Merfolk is stupid, and is still just a toned down version of the Fae. Elementals looks really fun, but the manabase isn’t something I wanted to gamble on for an eight round tournament with a very important eight-man single elimination queue at the end. Quick n’ Toast type decks are equally miserable, and are even worse suited to deal with the more synergistic tribal decks… it doesn’t have that cohesive “click” like the better decks. I also wanted something simple, and when I stumbled upon a bunch of APAC Plains (the one with all the bad ass sunflowers), I couldn’t help but lean toward some Kithykins.

Honestly, the land is really what decided it for me. When else am I going to have a chance to play with such a cool-looking land? White decks don’t come around that often for me, so I gotta sport my favorite Plains when a random opportunity comes up.

I didn’t really know what a Block Kithkin deck looked like, other than those GP decks from the beginning of the season. So I took to some forums and browsed the PTQ Top 8s to find the cards I liked and didn’t like, and came up with this hybridized brew.


I really wanted ten one-drops to abuse opponents that falter, rather than the usual seven-nine split between ones and twos. People don’t have much respect for Harrier, but she’s a one-drop that turns into a double pronged removal spell whenever you want to send the hobbit-like humanoids into battle. She’s also extremely handy at negating some of Makeshift Mannequin’s card advantage, slowing down a Faerie assault led by Mistbind Clique, and scoffing at Shriekmaw’s scary status.

Four Forge-Tender also seemed pretty obnoxious, so instead of running two or four like most people I went for the three-of with no testing. But I didn’t expect many Firespouts, as San Antonio usually sticks to aggro decks so I’d be looking at mostly tribal match-ups

Oblivion Ring just doesn’t feel good right now, and Crib Swap is a much better replacement since it has the ability to deal with Sowers at instant speed, while being immune to Cryptic Command’s bounce and main deck enchantment hate. The added “removal” of Harrier also put a little less importance on running actual spells, which will give you an extremely consistent flow of dudes to keep slamming down on the table. The Wrath effects that are currently in the format aren’t available in the most popular decks other than Firespout, which ceases to be a problem once you have a sizable enough army out. Flooding the valley with guys isn’t actually that bad an approach; however, it becomes much less effective when Eventide becomes legal thanks to Soul Snuffers.

I already have plans to use him in a control deck featuring Turn to Mist at GP: Denver. I’m not sure about the other 52 yet, but odds are Cryptic Command and Oona will be suiting up as well. Maybe some Reveillarks too? Seems like the best strategy that isn’t hindered by Snuffy.

All the other numbers are probably expected, except perhaps the Liege split. The GW Liege is a huge body on his own, and I didn’t want to be restricted to having all of my Glorious Anthem creatures dying to Firespout / Inversion / Lash Out.

I didn’t want to bother with Mirror Entity or Militia’s Pride since they are a little too fancy for what they’re worth. Entity dies to every removal in the format, and I’d rather have the resilient GW Liege. I’ve never been a fan of Militia’s Pride, and it’s a bit too slow for this deck. Three mana initially to get a 1/1 is the biggest stat that detracts me, but it’s also a card that leads to clunky curves since you’re dropping an enchantment instead of an actual threat.

I also didn’t want Surge of Thoughtweft. However, in hindsight it might be better in the Kithkin mirror than Brigid. A leaner spell that replaces itself, it has the advantage to come out of nowhere, unlike the four mana Big Brig. My deck looks most like Jelger’s, since his is the only other on the market featuring ten one-drops.

The sideboard isn’t anything new, but I liked it for my expected metagame. I really wanted to hammer the Kithkin mirror, so seven slots went to the narrow Pollen Lullaby and Brigid. Neither of them are that exciting in other match-ups; however, it’s pretty tempting to board in Lullaby against other tribal decks. I didn’t really feel like I needed to, since it could slow me down when I was looking for all my pistons to be flaring.

The Crib Swap, accompanied by a pair of Last Breath, completes my removal suite, necessary against decks with Sower of Temptation while also being handy additions opposite the scarce Doran followers and other key tribal critters. Burrenton makes up the case set for games 2 and 3, and Wispmare gives some game against Bitterblossom and the occasional O-Ring.

The singleton Austere Command isn’t supposed to be techy or anything. I’ve just always felt that extremely linear aggro decks like this one each deserve a miser’s Wrath in the sideboard against similar decks. It’s a card you don’t want to see two of, and you don’t really have the sideboarding space to bring two in anyway. But one is easy enough, and it just so happens this Wrath variant has a host of options attached to give it a bit more value. The sad thing is that I think I picked that up from Flores. I’m not really sure, but I think I read an article where he argued for singleton Wrath variants in WW sideboards. It might have been Zvi… darned memory is shot these days.

Keep in mind that the above was nothing more than my immediate view on the format. I’ve since come to appreciate the subtle beauty in the Fae’s utter dominance of its era. I can’t wait for Extended season to swing around, when the Fae annihilate that format as well. The Faerie deck was already on the rise last season when it sported a Top 8 in Austin. Now that Morningtide and Bitterblossom are legal, we can add Spell Snare to the core Fae clique along with some possible Counterbalance, Top, and Chrome Moxings. One of the neat things about the Fae list is that the curve works extremely well with Counterbalance/Top, since it’s a stairway up to Mistbind Clique.

Round 1: Aaron Tobey with Merfolk

I had the pleasure of playing against a good friend and PT veteran Aaron Tobey. Whenever you go to a PTQ you can always pretty easily identity the top five players in the room, and Tobey would certainly make that group. Tobey started getting serious about Magic about the same time I did a few years back, and I remember those first PTQ days when I’d see Tobey at every tournament. He rattled off six straight PTQ Top 8s in his first six PTQs, and really hasn’t done much since. He attended PT: Kobe with me, and has hit up multiple Grand Prix tournaments since, but he’s always been a more unlucky than good. This is something to which a lot of us default as an explanation for our losses, but for Tobey it’s actually legit. The guy’s really unlucky, especially against me.

He was playing Merfolk this time, and he informed me that he’d tested this match up a million times on MTGO, and that he was a slight favorite.

Anyway, action kicked off and I had a lethal Kithkin curve. His Fish weren’t too friendly in the early going, and they must have been hiding in one of those underwater castles. He tried to recover with a pair of Sower of Temptation, but Crib Swap came out of nowhere to blow him out.

While sideboarding he mentioned that I become a slight favorite when I take the crappy O-Rings out for the streamlined Crib Swap. I brought in Last Breath and Crib Swap for the Forge-Tenders.

Game 2 came and went while Tobey mulliganed and was forced to use his pair of Cryptic Commands much too early in the game to stay alive, thanks to another fierce fleet of Kin.


Round 2: Cory Estrada with Elementals

Elementals is really quite the deck. The manabase is all over the place, with Red being the focus color for neat critters like Smokebraider, Incandescent Soulstoke, and Flamekin Harbinger to solidify a bunch of crazy cards in all the other colors.

He started out with Harbinger into Smokebraider but didn’t seem to have too much else to do with his mana. He Shriekmawed me, but I still had enough forces to trudge through to get the dubbya. It was almost like he was mana screwed this game, but he had enough mana to cast everything. Maybe he got stuck with a bunch of Horde of Notions in his hand, but it appeared as though he had ample mana and plenty of cards in hand so I’m just not sure. I put him on Firespout at the time since I did have a Forge-Tender in play, but I wasn’t even sure that his deck played it until Game 2.

I took out all my Mirrorweaves here since it appeared as though he’d be packing a bunch of removal next game, in exchange for a fourth Forge-Tender, Crib Swap, and Austere Command.

The next game was much like the first. He went for Smokebraider again and started slinging removal at my guys in the form of Shriekmaw, Nameless Inversion, and Firespout until his hand was empty. I got a Spectral Procession and Cloudgoat Ranger in play, and he didn’t have any way to answer the flying assault.


Round 3: Maximus Herrera with Faeries

Maximus is actually the judge that accidentally screwed me over during a PTQ Top 8 in Austin a few years back. I was playing Julien Nujiten’s Dredge Atog list from his back to back GP wins and Maximus here was table judging. I went to the restroom after game 1, when he randomly announced that I had boarded in Ghastly Demise and Pernicious Deed opposite a mono-Red guy.

Redemption would take three years to come to pass, but redemption has no watch and knows no length of time, other than the time it takes to claim justice.

Game 1, I win the die roll and have a slow start with no one-drop. I manage a Knight of Meadowgrain on turn 2, followed by Spectral Procession. On my End Step, while I’m putting my Spirit tokens in play, Max kicks himself and acknowledges a huge mistake he’s made. With only UB up I assumed it was Broken Ambitions, and played around it for the remainder. He couldn’t keep up with the Spirits and was soon overwhelmed. Turns out he did have the Broken Ambitions and he would have won if he’d used it on the Procession, due to chaining three Cryptic Commands at the end to stay alive.

Game 2 I mulliganed to five.

Game 3 I had another trip to Paris, but still had all the best Kin to cover for me. Stalwart into Cenn into Meadowgrain + Windbrisk Heights into Wilt-Leaf Liege.


Round 4: Hunter Burton with Merfolk

Another Merfolk match, and another one of the top five players in the room. Hunter has been to several Pro Tours, and attends any GP within flying / driving / swimming distance. He was one of the American fools who made it out to a Euro GP last year, and is a recently inducted member of the Texas Guildmages. This is a historic club that dates back to ’94, and includes notable members such as Brent Kaskel, Neil Reeves, and David Williams.

Game 1 was too easy, with a nice Kithkin curve followed up with Crib Swap for his Sower and a lethal Mirrorweave on the following turn.

Last Breath and Austere Command came in for Forge-Tenders. I didn’t want to bother with Lullaby since Merfolk doesn’t feel like a terribly aggressive deck, and I’m fairly confident I can outrace them on dry land.

Game 2 he didn’t draw White mana the entire time, but I was faltering on critters myself. He eventually got to seven or so mana, still with no White, and four or five cards in hand, when my guys started enrolling for combat. A few more turns passed, and he still didn’t have a White mana or Cryptic Command to buy some more time.


Round 5: Zach T. Krizan with Merfolk

These Merfolk matches are really good for Kin. The only scary card they have is Cryptic Command, and they need way too much power on the board to accomplish anything without it.

I don’t really remember too much about this match, but he was playing Merfolk, I was playing Kithkin… it’s a good match-up for me, and I won this round. I think I remember having some problems with Sygg this round, but that could have been against any of the other Fish I played.


Round 6: James Fischer with Faeries

James is a fellow I played en route to my Austin / San Antonio / Houston / El Paso Heavyweight City Championship Title of the World. Speaking of which, why the hell is our city region so big? El Paso to Houston is 750 miles, ten hours, or an expensive plane ticket.

Game 1 my Kin curve out, while his Fae sent out Bitterblossom. Spectral Procession made Blossom look stupid, and I continued the bash through the Blossom while he used Broken Ambitions and Sower to slow me down. I didn’t have the Crib Swap, but it didn’t matter as I was able to use my Spectral Procession tokens to activate Windbrisk Heights to Mirrorweave my freshly-played Wizened Cenn and seal the game.

Wispmare, Last Breath, and Austere Command came in for Forge-Tenders and Mirrorweaves.

Game 2 James came back in full force, using Scion, Mistbind Clique, and a pair of Cryptic Command to obliterate me before I could get anything going.

Game 3 was much like the first. He countered my first Spectral Procession, but the next two resolved, which enabled a Cloudgoat Ranger to pop out from underneath my Hideaway land. He flashed Incremental Blight but lacked a fifth land to cast it. I also had a Thistledown Liege in my hand, so the return attack after the Blight wouldn’t have been too pretty either way.


Ahhh, it feels good to be King. 146 people showed their ugly mugs to play some Magic, and now I’m just one of three who is guaranteed into elimination bracket play. But there’s still two long rounds of drawing to take place, so I did what anyone in my undefeated position would do…

I took off to chill with some non-Magic friends!

The other two 6-0’s are buddies from Houston, so I didn’t worry too much about the outcome of the situation. They agreed to draw with me if we got paired, and if I was down-paired I’d concede to whoever I played. Simple, right? I even had my buddy Mandee looking out for me. I also finished this round with twenty minutes to spare, meaning I’d have an hour and a half if I wanted to be back before round 8, and roughly two and half hours if I wanted to just come back for the Top 8.

So I made the fifteen minute drive to my buddy’s place and hung out for an hour when I called Mandee to find out the situation. He informed me that they’d posted three pairings since I left!

Wait… what?!? That means the Top 8 has started! I rushed back to my car and sped back to the event site.

When I walked in, everyone had cleared the main room and was playing in the room off to the side. Uh-oh.

I checked the round pairings, and it had me playing at table 2, but when I checked the other pairings inside the other room it said I was at table 1. I went to the top tables and everyone was sitting around.

“What happened?” I inquired.

“We’re drawing this round”, James Davis assured me.

“Cool, what round is it?”

“Seven still, it just started.”

“Huh? I left an hour and a half ago and it was going to start soon.”

“Yeah, they had three repairings. The first happened twenty-five minutes into round 7.”

Apparently DCI recorder had paired a group of people with fifteen points against twelve pointers, down-pairing half of the people in the five-win column. The TO instructed everyone to keep playing, but when further problems emerged he was forced to repair after having several people turn in round 7 results.

This caused many people who thought they won to make it into Top 8 to lose during the repair. After the first repair they had to do another to straighten things out again when table problems emerged. And the third was caused by someone who misreported in round 6 and finally noticed it.

So I’d left the Magic scene for over an hour, and no time had passed whatsoever. Pfft. Does this stuff happen at your PTQs too?

I goofed around a little, unwilling to leave the site again, stumbling in and out of a Type 4 game, a SSE draft, and several games opposite Faeries in preparation for Top 8. It’s so boring when you don’t have to play Magic. Everything runs in slow motion and the rounds take thrice as long.

Top 8: Merced D. Salinas with Faeries

Merced is a new face to me, but I recognized him from playing in the Eventide Prerelease. I remember thinking of him as a skilled player who took his time when we were playing Limited, so it wasn’t strange to see him battling here. I was later told that he’s known as one of the worst Faeries players on the planet, but I didn’t see any crucial misplays when we played.

Goldmeadow Stalwart, Wizened Cenn, Spectral Procession, Spectral Procession, Plains, Plains, Mutavault.

Wow! Awesome opener, and I’m even on the play.

I lead out with Stalwart and Cenn while he counters with Bitterblossom. On the critical turn, on which I needed to draw a Plains, I didn’t… instead, I dropped Mutavault and kept bashing. He killed the Cenn with Nameless Inversion, and I still couldn’t find a third Plains. I got him down to single digits when he Championed his Bitterblossom to his Mistbind, but I had a Goldmeadow Harrier to hold it off and Stalwart was still at bat. A couple more hits and I was still stuck on three lands, now with three Spectral Processions in hand along with Cloudgoat Ranger, Crib Swap, and a Liege.

Unfortunately I never got there, and once he got to Cryptic Command mana he had the game all wrapped up.

Wispmare, Last Breath, and Austere Command came in for Forge-Tenders and Mirrorweaves.

Game 2 I was on the play again, but took two trips to Paris, lacking any lands in the top thirteen. My opener for this one wasn’t too bad… at least I had some lands.

Rustic Clachan, Plains, Goldmeadow Harrier, Crib Swap, Knight of Meadowgrain

I tried to curve out on this one, only to meet a Nameless Inversion for my Knight, and I started getting waterlogged with one-drops. Goldmeadow Stalwart was first off the top, which met a Spellstutter Sprite. Another Harrier was again met by another Spellstutter Sprite, and when I finally drew a third land for my Spectral Procession, he had Mistbind Clique during my upkeep.

He was stuck on Swamp, Swamp, Island, Mutavault though, so I thought I had an outside chance if he was stuck with uncastable Cryptic Commands and Sowers. I just needed to start drawing some gas before his Clique caught up with me.

But he didn’t… he just brought out three Mistbind Cliques and Peppersmoked my Harrier. My undefeated Saturday was trounced by the stereotypical mana screw/mulligan situation, and I fell back down to the depths of PTQ shame, but that’s our game, and there’s no one to blame. I just couldn’t cut it with the Kin.

Andy Banas was the champion that day. A red-headed upstart from SA, Andy is taking his first stab at competitive level Magic, and he got there with a Kithkin list of his own design.

The Kin’s future doesn’t look too bright. Soul Snuffers is a format-defining card, and there isn’t a good answer to it. It malforms the board when it comes in, and will continue to wreak havoc from the grave with cards like Makeshift Mannequin around. This guy is pretty exciting, since it also causes serious problems for Faeries, and doesn’t have the awkward mana cost like Cloudthresher.

Now my attention has to be turned to Standard and Nationals. It felt really good playing an aggro deck this weekend, so I’ve been looking at R/G Warriors, but I haven’t had any consistent builds yet. Radha in combination with Flame Javelin, Incinerate, and Lash Out seems perfect for what I want to do. But do we put Bramblewood and Imperious with her? Or do we keep it Red with some Stigma Lashers and Magus of the Moon? Keldon Marauders and Obsidian Battle-Axe? Or Goyf n’ Garruk? Manabases can be greedier than ever, so how greedy do we wanna get?



Top 5 Picks

1) Alexisonfire – This Could Be Anywhere in the World
2) New Found Glory – This Disaster
3) Good Charlotte – The River
4) Armor For Sleep – Stars In Your Eyes
5) Chasing Victory – Wolves