Down And Dirty – States Locked Down

States is coming!
Wednesday, October 29th – States is coming, and Kyle Sanchez is here to get your States Locked Down. Today’s Down And Dirty sees Kyle bring us three interesting decklists… the first is his version of Five-Color Control, the second another greedy control strategy, and the third a funky fresh Elemental build. He also brings us perhaps the oddest Sanchez Gallery to date…

I’m not loving you, the way I wanted to. And what I had to do? I had to run from you. But I’m in love with you! But the vibe is wrong… And that haunted me all the way home. So, you never know. Never, never know until it’s over, love. Until we lose control: system overload.

Screamin’ no no no no no…

I’m not loving you, the way I wanted to. See, I want to move, but can’t escape from you. So I keep it low, keep a secret code. So everybody else doesn’t have to know.

So keep your…

Your States locked down.
Keepin’ your States locked down.
Your States locked down.

With Champs on the horizon and a year’s worth of free entry fees into any GPs and PTQs on the line for top prize, it’s my goal to win States this year. I’ve had my head completely immersed in Standard since Shards came out, and I feel that I have a pretty good handle on the format despite my pitiful FNM performances of late.

I tried Faeries, only to run into fearsome fishy fellows round after round after round.

I tried Five-Color Control, only to be crippled and crushed by Kelpie round after round after round.

I even tried Flamekin, but fell fast to Firespouts from Five-Color Control round after round after round.

It’s been a pretty depressing few weeks just North of the border, but I fully intend to pick up the pieces to push and plow my way toward the prestigious prize.

The above three lists are my top contenders for the crown right now, and dismissing my foolhardy Kwest infatuation, they are all highly tuned and tested.

My premise behind these lists is that I don’t want to be playing some stupid aggro deck that loses because the opponent draws a healthy number of removal/mass removal spells. And I don’t want to be facing down a Runed Halo with three Hell’s Thunder in my hand either. I don’t want to play with creatures with scales or fur. For a States tournament, I feel it’s best to have a plan for all those decks, and be as greedy as possible to eliminate free wins due to mana screw or mulligans, and have enough options to out play my opponents. This means lots of card drawing, ways to deal with creatures, and ways to deal with decks that don’t play creatures.

The first deck is my take on Five-Color Control. I’m on the GerryT side of things when evaluating Cruel Ultimatum; it just isn’t necessary. However, I can’t respect a Mulldrifter with no Mannequins aboard, so I look to get my card drawing kicks from Tidings and late game Oona’s Grace shenanigans.

Grace in particular is a pretty awesome option for control decks right now. Usually you’ll set it up with either nine or twelve mana and chain through a good chunk of the deck before finding a Finks or Faerie to finish them.

The striking differences between my list and what’s out there already is the inclusion of Tidings and Resounding Thunder. Tidings is strictly more powerful than Mulldrifter when cast for five-mana, and it draws enough cards that you can pretty reliably chain through your entire deck going from draw spell to draw spell, killing all their dudes/countering all their spells in the meantime.

Resounding Thunder is an alternate kill condition that strengthens problem matchups with early creatures for which I have to have an answer, like Gaddock Teeg, Wake Thrasher, and Figure of Destiny. It’s the perfect game plan opposite control decks as well, since it compares favorably to Urza’s Rage, being an uncounterable way to deal a good chunk of damage. Against Faeries this plan is exemplified by their life loss spells of Thoughtseize and (more importantly) Bitterblossom. It’s also fairly easy to get in eight damage with Kitchen Finks/Shriekmaw, and I’ve finished many games by super cycling Thunder during their end of turn before finishing them off with another super cycle during my upkeep. With the recent rise in Jace and Ajani Vengeant, Resounding Thunder also provides a way to deal with otherwise troublesome Planeswalkers.

It’s pretty absurd how good Kitchen Finks is in a control deck. After he’s died once, I’ve found it a pretty common play to bounce it back to my hand with a Cryptic Command while countering one of their spells, a.k.a. the complete nut-buster. This also works with Shriekmaw, but every time I do it with Finks I feel like I can’t lose the game.

Some of the numbers may look a little funky, like two Bant Charm/Remove Soul, but I really wanted at least eight countermagic spells in here, and with Cryptic taking four I decided to split it between Charm and Remove Soul since I don’t want less than five two-drops in this deck. Charm really goes a long way at cleaning up the percentages in here, since it makes early spot removal spells number seven and eight alongside Resounding Thunder and Shriekmaw. There are also six board sweepers and nine card drawing sources other than Cryptic Command, so the percentages are all pretty clean and distributed to give me a good range of spells to outplay my opponents.

This is my idea of a perfect States deck. A main deck skewed toward dealing with the inevitable and numerous aggro matchups expected, with a plan to outmaneuver Faeries and five-color.

The sideboard is still in the works, but Counterbore is something that definitely needs to be in there. There are a ton of recursive tactics being employed right now, and Counterbore puts them all out of business. Oona’s Grace, Reveillark, Mulldrifter, River Kelpie, Makeshift Mannequin, being able to take out the center-point of someone’s card advantage engine is a key part to winning post board games in this format.

With so many people realizing Memory Plunder’s full utility, it feels like there are more Blue instants flying around these days, which basically means it’s an amazing time to buy stock in GRP (Guttural Response). It’s also something that opposing multi-colored control decks likely won’t expect, and makes resolving Counterbore and Tidings that much easier on turn 6. That’s my plan for other control decks at least. Usually Firespouts, Wraths, and Shriekmaws come out in matches like that, which makes me wonder if a Wake Thrasher sideboard plan would be viable considering everyone else is doing the same thing.

For aggro decks I look to use Condemn and Firespout to keep their troops from rallying, while Battlegrace Angel looks to negate any potential end games that plan to aim burn at my dome. I’ve been testing Runed Halo in that spot for awhile, but Battlegrace is just flat out better since it provides a kill condition and will likely gain some life the turn you play it, assuming a Finks or Maw are roaming the grounds. Angel also gives the option to go “aggro” in the mirrorish matches where they’re likely to board Wraths and removal out, so she really gives the sideboard a lot of utility.

Against aggro decks, the Oona’s Grace plan takes a little too long to implement so I usually take them out, along with Oona and all the Esper Charms (if they don’t have any Oblivion Ring). Charm usually ends up being a “discard two” the majority of the time, which hasn’t been that exciting. You also have an overwhelming amount of removal post-board, so I’d rather rely on Tidings to re-up on cards since you’re pretty safe with Condemn mana up when you cast Tidings, which makes it function a lot like Guttural Response.

Still, perhaps the slow drawn-out control deck isn’t what you should be aiming to play. There are a ton of good greedy creatures out there that all have perfect synergy with Makeshift Mannequin… perhaps a control deck aiming to be as greedy as possible is the right tune to sing, which is what the second deck list looks to accomplish.

With Kitchen Finks, Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, and Vendilion Clique, there will be no shortage of good consistent cards to bring back from the cemetery. All of which have extremely useful roles against all of the popular contenders in the current format.

When you’re not playing a creature or Wrathing the board, you’re looking to keep Cryptic Command / Makeshift Mannequin / Esper Charm / Remove Soul mana up, which gives you a variety of options that present a lot of different angles to play around tricks and outplay your opponent.

This deck doesn’t have a master end game plan, it just looks to out-attrition the opponent the entire game by playing a lot of good spells at profitable times. You win by attacking with the same attrition-filled creatures that make such great Makeshift Mannequin targets, and this makes a good baseline for the type of greedy decks you’ll have to beat in this format.

The sideboard has fewer good cards that are more focused on general matchups. Runed Halo is a beast opposite any Red decks, while having value against all the leading tribal decks like Kithkin, Treefolk, and Zombies. Glen Elendra is another excellent Mannequin target that can’t quite cut it in the maindeck due to its slow awkwardness against decks with creatures, but is the biggest boss that you’ve seen thus far when facing down all the Five-Color Control variants. And just like Kitchen Finks, it will Persist itself back into play whenever Mannequin brings it back, giving you an extremely potent way to attack the slow decks.

Since this deck is sticking to three colors, rather than bothering with all that extensive Vivid nonsense for just Firespout, Infest makes the cut to bring in a few more board sweepers to handle hordes. I’m also not sure what it is about me, but I always want 6-8 Wrath effects in this format. They always end up being “just” two for one’s, which is awesome when you’re de-cluttering critters, but I still feel like I need a few more of ’em in this format due to all the creatures in the mix right now. And even if you don’t have as many Wrath effects, we’re stuck in an era where the aggro decks have to hold back when they have two good threats out due to the high number of quality mass removal spells.

That’s how the good ones should play, anyway – this is States after all, so we can definitely expect to get a four or five for one out of the first board sweeper we play each time, which makes the excess ones a touch less valuable. But I suppose it’s always better to prepare for the prepared opponents, right?

To finish out the board, we have three Memory Plunder as Cryptic Commands five through seven, because really, who the hell wants eight? Since you’re boarding Wraths out for these a lot of the time, it doesn’t hurt the curve very badly, and I don’t really mind having opening hands with four four-mana instants and three lands in the slow matchups.

The third list is a Bloom Tender Elementals list I’ve been working on that is just as greedy as the deck prior, if not greedier. Gift of the Gargantuan is perfect in this deck due to the constant necessity of land and sheer volume of creatures. It also functions as a way to find the more critical critters in here, like Horde of Notions and Reveillark.

Bloom Tender and Smokebraider look to make your turn 3 play much more inspiring, ranging from Fulminator Mage plus Gift of the Gargantuan then blowing up one of their lands to the mighty Horde of Notions, although it is more commonly an Evoked Mulldrifter. Either way, if your turn 2 mana accelerator stays alive and you have a decent draw, you’ll often completely crush them.

You have several paths to victory, but eventually you want to get a Horde of Notions and Bloom Tender in play to start some sick Elemental recursion. Flamekin Harbinger, Mulldrifter, and Gift help bring all the tools together in consistent manner, while Shriekmaw/Fulminator Mage play defense, and Bloom Tender/Smokebraider give you severe mana advantage. A championship team lineup if I ever saw one.

From there you can get really greedy with some Reveillark shenanigans and Horde of Notion’s recursion ridiculousness, which usually leads to all of their lands/creatures/dignity being destroyed, and me having to discard eight cards during my cleanup.

Some games, however, call for a much quicker solution, and that’s where Torrent of Souls comes in. Sure, this deck does happen to only play on its own turn, and Makeshift Mannequin might be better suited here. But Torrent of Souls can steal games out of nowhere, and reinforces the power of all the 187 Elementals while making all your mana producers sudden offensive threats.

The sideboard is another good reason to play this deck. Makeshift Mannequin makes sure all of your big dudes will get into play somehow, and perks up in value slightly with the addition of Realm Razer and Tidehollow Sculler. Usually Torrent of Souls, Shriekmaw, and some light shaving on Horde, Reveillark, and Harbinger are the side-outs.

Firespout is another great option for this deck, since you really just need to buy a little time against the aggro decks before you overwhelm them with card advantage and finish them with a Torrent.

Now keep your States locked down,
Your States locked down,
Now keep your States locked down…
You lose.

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