Down And Dirty – Spotlight on States: My Final Article

Are YOU ready for States?
Continuing our Spotlight on States series, Kyle Sanchez walks us through three distinct Standard strategies, two of which are currently fighting for final favor regarding his 75-select this weekend. He also takes the opportunity to say goodbye, as this is his final Monday article for StaCityGames.com… but don’t worry, Sanchez fans, I’m sure he won’t be gone for long…

The time has come for me to move on to bigger and better things, so I must bid a fond farewell to this Monday article. My biggest regret is that I will no longer have the pleasure of sharing the day with Chapin, as we formed quite the tag team, and were always at the top of our respected categories. His tight deck analysis contrasted well to my goofy stories. His premium content reflected my, well, not so premium ramblings, and his beautiful partially-shaved head played counterpoint to my full head of curly locks. Sanchez n’ Chapin, a duo that will go down in history, much like Timon and Pumba. The problem is that Pumba (Chapin) is the one everyone remembers, and Timon, while “cool” in his own right, just can’t compare.

Like in that fight scene at the end of Lion King versus the misled Hyenas. Timon was running around pretending to beat them up. Every once in awhile he would step on their toes, or do something irrelevant. Then Pumba comes crashing in, smashing Hyena’s left and right with his powerful tusks. It’s not even close… and Pumba has those wicked farts that can clear out an entire water hole.

Sure, you could make the argument that Timon’s name comes before Pumba, but if it wasn’t for Pumba taking the tail end, that animal duo would have disappeared much like Ren and Stimpy.

Still, this is no time for tears. My fond farewell will be spent going Down and Dirty taking a look at this complicated States metagame, and giving the decks I’ve been going back and forth with deciding which to play, along with a random Elemental deck. The random Elemental deck is there to fill the quota, but the other two have been well tuned, and I may just end up flipping a coin to decide which to pilot. Plus, Craig said I had to put more than one deck in my article since Feldman beat me to the punch on calling dibs on the G/W/B Teeg deck.

This first deck is one that I’ve worked on the least.

The one shining thing I love about this is it’s one of the few that can truly abuse Thorn of Amethyst versus Teachings decks in the sideboard. Thorn is possibly the best card in print versus Teachings decks, and finding a good aggro deck that can support it after boarding is rare. Although the Kithkin deck can probably afford it. You also have the one-mana Terminate with Skred after board for the other aggro match-ups. However, I’m not sure how much it will help. Usually this deck will have to get a little lucky to take matches against other aggro decks, because all of the Elemental decks cards are very susceptible to removal.

Still, this deck is super bunz… it’s way too clunky and inconsistent to be taken seriously. Sure, it has the chance of a turn 4 kill or something, but those draws are few and far between. You have to hope your opponent has no disruption of any kind, and this deck doesn’t have any good answer to the Haakon combo, which is a huge issue for all the aggro decks in this format.

I’m honestly not even sure why I’m putting this deck in the article. No one in their right mind would play Elementals. They are about as useless as Tiago Chan at a Two-Headed Giant Grand Prix that had Day 1 canceled due to flooding.

Erm… that ones been used already.

Nice job at the Invitational, brah. Just remember the small guy with the curly hair who helped you get there.

I can’t put into words how exhausting it’s been putting the kind of hours I’ve put into testing, discussing, and thinking about this deck. Change a card here, change a card there, add another one-of, re-figure the manabase, ask myself do I really want three Urborg? Whenever I tackle a deck, I go out of my way to try and perfect it for the perceived metagame. This is a insanely hard task, and with this deck, where you literally have every card in Standard at your disposal, I’m beginning to think there is no “perfect” Teachings list.

This list has been through Mulldrifters, Sun’s Bounty, Venser, maindeck Haakon, Bogardan Hellkite, Wydwen, one maindeck Disintegrate, Aeon Chronicler, Beacon of Immortality, Cryptic Command, Detritivore, Razormane Masticore, awkward Pickles numbers, Bottle Gnomes, and the most expensive sideboard in the history of Magic featuring full sets of Tarmogoyf, Gaddock Teeg, and Thoughtseize. And I’m back where I began… three weeks later, and I’m only a few cards off the version with which I started testing.

It’s so infuriating, and I’ve never been the guy to get mad or lose his cool. But this deck has driven me to the point of insanity.

Here are some of the carefully deliberated and extensively tested notes I’ve taken while considering the core of a Teachings deck:

3 Relic, 3 Lens, 2 Mind Stone

If you have a lot of main phase cards you want to play, compared to the more permission heavy versions, you want 3 Coalition Relic, 3 Prismatic Lens, and 2 Mind Stone to provide the right amount of mana selection. There were several lists I saw that sloppily put in 4 Relic and 4 Lens. This is completely wrong, and goes against what the deck is – a very versatile control deck with answers to anything your opponent could throw at you. You want eight artifact mana sources. You want to reliably play a two-mana accelerator on turn 2 or 3, situation depending if you have a two mana counter. This leaves three slots for the Relic, which is the right number since drawing two in your opening hand without a two-mana accelerator will usually lead to a very clunky draw.

61 Cards

This has been the most controversial topic that I’ve discussed with other people. The thing is, every game you do the same thing. You play lots mana, kill all their dudes, and draw lots of cards setting up for the late game where you generally just kill the rest of their guys and draw even more cards. The entire deck is built around that plan, and as such is very focused and well distributed. When the classic 60 versus 61 card debate comes up everyone naturally leans toward 60 because, simply put, its the bare minimum you are allowed to run, and you will build you deck to run optimally at 60 cards. This logic gets thrown out the window when playing a Teachings deck because adding a one-of Mystical target can completely turn several matchups upside down. The importance of the one-of is huge, and since the deck is so consistent at what it does (thanks largely in part to Careful Consideration), adding the 61st card doesn’t take away from the overall consistency enough compared to what it adds. That is why I believe all Teachings decks should be 61 cards, simply because there is no reason not to have that extra card for which to tutor.

Rune Snag

I’ve already told you what a headache it’s been to find the most optimal build for this deck, but it was Patrick Chapin who turned me on to Rune Snag when we were discussing the archetype. His version is very close to mine. Before I talked to him, I had four additional one-ofs in the slot of Rune Snag: Venser Shaper Savant; Mulldrifter; Beacon of Immortality; and Momentary Blink. I was having trouble filling the gaps in the Teachings mirror and Rune Snag seems like the perfect way to both protect your card draw from their potential counters, and counter their card draw to keep them out of the game. Beacon of Immortality also hasn’t been doing the job for me lately. While cute, I hardly ever wanted to actually search for it with Teachings. It was an awesome card to have in your opening hand, but other than those rare scenarios it just won’t save you against the majority of the aggro decks out there.

Mulldrifter was another one of Patrick’s innovations, and I really liked it in combination with Grim Harvest. I just couldn’t find another card to cut, and it also falls under the “never want to Teachings for it” since you have to commit two Teachings to it, with the first fetching a Teferi. Momentary Blink performed the role of a random card that can completely blow your opponent out sometimes, but without Mulldrifter it became a little less exciting. However, it did a very good job of protecting Teferi from Maw’s n’ Pacts.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge

I’m a buffoon. For the first ten or twenty games I played with the deck on MWS I had two Haakon maindeck, playing it completely wrong the entire time. I thought that while Haakon was in your graveyard you could play the Knights whenever you liked… imagine how disappointed I was when I learned you actually have to cast the thing and have it live before you can blow up the opponent’s army. Still, it is a backbreaking combo for those unprepared, and I feel its best utility is a sideboard card.

Shimian Specter

The Teachings matchup is a migraine in itself, but this is the one card that can completely turn it upside down if protected. One of the sub-goals of the Teachings mirror is to have seven cards in your hand at all times, and this guy slices through that tactic like a 7th grader with a scalpel dissecting a bull frog. For the post-board Teachings matchup, you want to another slow attrition game by boarding in Detritivore or Extirpates. Shimian trumps them both, and is “cheap” threat that will win you the game uncontested.


This has been a highly discussed land slot in this deck. Some feel that it’s not worth it, but I like to have the advantage of being able to blow up other Legendary lands like Academy Ruins, Urborg, or even the occasional Pendelhaven. It is one of the keys to winning game 1 through Triskelavus, since you essentially have two Academy Ruins or a second Urza’s Factory, or even another Mouth of Ronom if you’re up against a Teferi control deck. It plays whatever role you need.


There are some versions that choose to play Tarmogoyf as a very cheap creature, to both hold the fort and get the job done. As the Goyf craze is dying down people are realizing that he’s just a vanilla dooder. In a deck like this you really want every card to do multiple things, and Tarmogoyf just doesn’t get it done. Plus, there is a ton of removal in the format, with the addition of Crib Swap, Oblivion Ring, and Shriekmaw all making maindeck appearances across the board, and he just isn’t good in a removal heavy format.

Cryptic Command

There are an equal amount of decks that try and fit Cryptic Command in this deck, with the primary argument against the Command being the mana restrictions that come with it. In all honesty the mana is no problem at all, and whenever you need to have the mana to cast the Command you will have it. The major restriction about this card is that it costs four mana, which makes opposing Teegs much better, and this deck has no reason to play the one-for-one permission game. Sure, you can argue that Command is a two-for-one in most situations, but I’d much rather tap out for Careful Consideration nine times out of ten. With so many cheap threats in the current format, spending your four mana – and having a non-productive turn – to counter a Tarmogoyf and draw a card just isn’t worth it. I’ve tested with Command a lot, and I’m deeply in love with it, but I just don’t feel it’s right for this deck. The U/W Pickles deck I talked about last week is a very strong fit for the Command, so if you’re a Command-happy freak you should check it out.

All in all, this deck is probably the best archetype for the upcoming format, or any format for that matter. The core of the deck remains solid, but the one-ofs can change to fit any metagame, which is what makes the deck so good. The one huge downside is that, like the Gifts Ungiven deck from Kamigawa block, it takes a very long time to execute the kill if they have any sort of defense.

The Sanchez Gallery








Many famous (or at least notorious) German players are around as well. From the very best to the… worst. Here we see a friendly handshake between Pro Tour-Valencia runner-up Andre Müller, who’s currently the world’s highest-ranked player (composite: 2133), and Christopher Eucken, the lowest-ranked player (1226). Eucken even proudly announced that he will soon get his Limited rating (1048) into the area of three-digit numbers. He is on a journey to unfathomable depths no man has ever seen before.

I personally have a war going on inside of me about deciding which deck I want to play more… the very solid yet very slow Teachings deck, or the following little number:

This will probably in the ballpark of the 75 I will take to States this weekend. The deck is completely absurd. With the lack of Confidant, the TarmoRack deck lost a lot of steam, and the Harbinger is the perfect answer. I’m also really hesitant to play a deck with a lot of discard at States since it tends to be an aggro-dominated format, which is why I opted away from Augur of Skulls and Stupor. Control decks just have too much on their plate right now, and compensating for all the pitfalls in the format is insanely hard to do, so I’m gonna hope my opponents misbuild their deck and punish them with Thoughtseize.

One slot in particular that has been bothering me is the four Woodland Changeling. You really want a two-drop there, but there just aren’t any good contenders. Augur of Skulls is cute, but will be a very low impact card, and most of the times completely useless unless paired with Saffi. Mire Boa and Thornweald Archer both die to Mogg Fanatic, and there just aren’t any other good two-drops in that color. As much as it saddens me to say it, Augur il-Vec might not be that bad a card for that slot. It doesn’t block, but the four life and the three points of shadow damage when Doran is in play might not be that bad. Plus, if you pair it with Saffi you will gain eight life! There’s no way R/g can come back from a life swing that big. I feel like I’m trying to talk myself into playing it, but I just really don’t know what’s to become of that two-slot.

I am very happy with the rest of the deck. It took me awhile to figure out that Gaddock Teeg is the worst creature for States. I’m gonna make a bold prediction that at least two-thirds of the States metagame will be aggro. That’s really not so bold of statement, but I wanted that sentence to sound really dramatic. But really, if an opponent ever plays Gaddock Teeg against me I will give him a high five. Sure, it stops Garruk, but otherwise it’s just a 2/2 for two. I guess I can’t really be one to talk, with Woodland Changeling in the deck. I may just break down and put Gaddock back in the maindeck, sideboard the Garruks, and move a pair of Loxodon Warhammer to the maindeck. I honestly don’t know. I wish I could offer some more conclusive data, but this deck’s options are wide open.

What I do know is that the Treefolk chain is totally worth it. This deck has such a huge edge against other beatdown decks, and I seriously think it might be more favorable than most Teachings decks. Doran is almost impossible for most decks to deal with barring a two for one, and he pumps Tarmogoyfs, and reduces Shriekmaw, along with providing a very healthy pump to the singleton Treefolk monsters of Deadwood and Timber Protector. Both of which have been fantastic in testing. Saffi in particular has been pulling more than her weight.

Not only does she provide Damnation protection for Tarmo and Doran, but when she’s paired with Shriekmaw she can produce a one sided Wrath of God effect, along with creating a sick recursive engine with Deadwood Treefolk.

Think about that for a second…

Saffi plus Deadwood Treefolk.

Game over, man… game over.

The Rootgrapple may seem a bit weird, but I for one don’t want to be blown out by opposing Planeswalkers or Teferi’s Moat, so its one of those painful one-ofs that you hope you never draw, and hope to tutor for at least once on the day to get some kind of utility from it. I really wish I could play Teferi in this deck, as being able to play Harbinger at instant speed would be a huge bonus, so perhaps there is a decent U/G Treefolk deck out there. The Treefolk Harbinger in particular seems to be at the top of the Harbinger class. It has an extremely cheap cost, and a plethora of very good targets makes it a very big addition to any midrange aggro decks that want to overpower aggro while staying streamlined against control.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from playing this deck on MWS is the value of Thoughtseize Management. Most people tend to run it out there as soon as possible to disrupt the opponent. This is wrong, at least for this deck. The main problem card for this creature-heavy deck is Damnation and Wrath of God. Everything else is irrelevant, as those are the only cards that can actually disrupt the deck’s game plan. Instead of using it on turn 1, save it for the turn before a Wrath effect would come out. That way you give your opponent more opportunities to find a copy to make the Thoughtseize worth it. Also, they are much more prone to dig for the Damnation when they don’t have one, so you could stop them from digging for a second copy because they felt safe with the one they had in their hand.

The sideboard is pretty self-explanatory. Extirpate is for Haakon, since it’s the only reliable way to actually remove him unless you catch them with their pants down with a Crib Swap. Most of the time, assuming your opponent is playing correctly, they will play Haakon with Nameless Inversion mana up to kill it in response to a remove from the game effect. It is also a semi-important card in the Teachings matchup, to remove all their Careful Consideration or Mystical Teachings, so boarding in a couple for that matchup is a good idea. I found myself stabilizing around 8-13 life against the R/g decks depending on the draw and painlands, but I’d still rather blow them out with a Loxodon Warhammer to lock that matchup down, even if it doesn’t exactly play nicely with Doran. It’s still the best way in the format to gain a crippling amount of life repeatedly.

Well, that’s all I got. I don’t have a snappy or witty ending. Good luck at States, have fun, eat breakfast at McDonalds, and don’t take prisoners.

Thanks again for reading every Monday,


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1) Videotape by Radiohead
2) Where My Ring by Bart Crow Band
3) La Banilieue by Beirut
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5) The Nights Disguise by Votolato