Throughout 2007, there have been a host of innovative and brilliant 60-card configurations that have defined the various formats in which we’ve played. Today I’d like to take an excursion into the not-so-distant past to recap and pay tribute to the top decks of the year, along with the pilots that took a simple idea of success and crafted it into lasting memories and achievements. Ladies and gentlemen, these are the Top 10 Decks of 2007.
10. Mono Red – Block Constructed – Raphael Levy
The second Pro Tour stop of the season was in the tranquil and secluded Yokohama, Japan, with the format being Time Spiral Block Constructed. Raphael Levy scrapped his way to the top of the standings and cemented his post Hall of Fame year with a Pro Tour Top 8. His deck of choice was a tight little joint that Julien Nujiten and John Pelcak had been tinkering with: Mono Red. With its overwhelmingly favorable matchup opposite the dreadful Mono-White Weenie deck that had obliterated the MTGO scene, it also had a fair matchup against the other monsters of the field, with its one-dimensional flurry of cheap creatures and busty burn.
Although Levy didn’t win the tournament, a large number of Mono Red decks flooded the PTQ circuit and began taking home Blue Envelopes with free air fare and passes to Valencia inside. Tomoharu Saitou won Grand Prix: Strasbourg shortly after with a very similar list, proving the deck could remain a power player in the format by making several adjustments to accommodate for the rise in Teachings decks post Yokohama.
Success in the Red house didn’t last long, however… after a month of play on Magic Online and results from PTQs pouring, in it seemed everyone had Mono Red’s number at Montreal. Then in a split second, all of the Mono Red decks were missing, replaced with a hearty dose of Pickles, Teachings, and Goyf-based strategies.
Forever lost in the metagame shuffle…
9. U/B Mannequin – Standard – Olivier Ruel
- 4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
- 4 Phyrexian Ironfoot
- 4 Riftwing Cloudskate
- 4 Epochrasite
- 1 Venser, Shaper Savant
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 4 Shriekmaw
The rise of Mannequin decks occurred at the end of the 2007 season, where it acted as a lighthouse to a foggy States metagame, taking home the second highest number of titles out of all the archetypes (Elves was the most, but I refuse to put any degenerate tribal themes in my Top 10, so piss off you angry elvish nerds). It’s extremely versatile and well-rounded creature base, and handy synergies with Mannequin and “comes into play” abilities, will often drown its opponents in card advantage until the deck virtually wins all by itself. With so many creatures that generate card advantage or severe tempo gain, it is very hard to combat a deck with so many avenues of options.
Often when decks like this emerges, the creature decks will start to shine a bit brighter since their clock is generally quicker, and their spells are more focused to deal with small-sized creatures. But Mannequin has the complete trump card in Damnation that can savagely strip an overextended board of Tarmogoyfs, Mogg Fanatics, and Elephant and Beast Tokens. This, combined with the relentless tempo and card advantage used to gain a foothold against control decks, make the Mannequin a fine 60 card choice for any blind tournament given its inherent flexibility.
GP: Krakow was next on the Standard horizon, where Olivier Ruel took the power of 187 to the elimination rounds, eventually falling by the wayside. Still, whenever a top level player takes a well-designed deck to the highest levels, many will sleeve up his exact 75 at the next tournament they play. After all, if it’s good enough for the most successful Grand Prix player in the history of the game, it’s gotta be good enough for me to battle Donald Chang and Frederick Chaves at FNM.
Its real power has been felt in the shaky grounds of Magic Online, where it continues to see a tremendous amount of play in Standard queues as well as Premier Events.
8. Mono-Blue Pickles – Block Constructed – Kenji Tsumura
- 2 Willbender
- 3 Brine Elemental
- 1 Fathom Seer
- 4 Riftwing Cloudskate
- 3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
- 4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
- 2 Venser, Shaper Savant
Pickles had been around since the tail end of the 2006 season, when BDM first thought up the deck idea, and had posted Top 8s sporting both Green and Black at PT: Yokohama and GP: Strasbourg, before eventually finding its crowning construction in the tiny humble hands of Kenji Tsumara in Montreal. This deck falls under the same scoring system as the Ruel Mannequin deck from above… whenever a top level player does well with a very good deck, people will then play that deck religiously. There’s no problem with this; in fact, many a metagame have been formed by this not so astonishing feat, and for the remainder of the PTQ season Mono-Blue Pickles would be a dominate force in the hands of amateurs, proving its incredible power by earning airfares.
The real power of the deck is its flexibility while playing. In the control matchups, you will often not make a play until you resolve a Teferi late in the game and sneak the lock of Vesuvan Shapeshifter and Brine Elemental into play during the opponent’s end step. However, against the creature decks this deck could hold its own by playing a flurry of three-mana 2/2s that will make the opponent think twice before attacking or blocking.
The PTQs weren’t the only play area that was affected by Kenji’s Pickles, but it seemed like every Magic Online Block Constructed queue or Premier Event had numerous Pickley players reaching for success. Adam Yurchick was the next with a big innovation on the archetype, when he won a PTQ by sideboarding in Damnations to be cast off Urborg, Tomb of Yawgamoth and Dreadship Reefs, swinging any of the previously shaky creature matchups in his favor. The look on the G/W/R Kavu Predator opponent’s face when dear Adam swept away a big Green team of Kavus, Goyfs, Elephants, and Enforcers must have been priceless.
7. Relic Teachings – Block Constructed – Luis-Scott Vargas
Luis Scott-Vargas was a part of an incredible three-man team, including Level 5 and 6 mages Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa and Paul Cheon, that sported near identical decklists and propelled them to the top of the standings at GP: San Fransisco. They all played the same deck, it won the tournament, and it completely dominated the tournament.
Although this was the last event in the Block Constructed season, the Relic Teachings decks are surprisingly still fully flourishing today. World Championship nearly-man Patrick Chapin is a tremendous advocate of the power and consistency of Relic Teachings, and has documented countless articles discussing the optimal and most precise builds of the extremely diverse archetype.
The truth is, with such a precise engine to obtain whatever card you need for any given situation, along with Damnation to cover the creature decks, coupled with a manabase that can be stretched to include any number of colors, the build options are near infinite. It can be sculpted and tweaked to fit any metagame in the history of Magic and hold its own on all accounts. It really is the most difficult-to-build deck in the history of Magic. There. I said it. On the record.
Another much more relevant side effect of the popularity of this deck is the rising trend of arthritis caused by registering this deck at major events. Some versions have included as many as 50 different cards in the maindeck and sideboard combined. In fact, when compared to some of the basic aggro decks that contain only 18-22 different cards, it really is pretty embarrassing to think about all the extra time all those Relic Teachings losers spend writing their decklists. Which is exactly why I refuse to raise this higher than #7 on my list.
6. Levy Zoo — Extended – Raphael Levy
- 3 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
- 1 Savannah Lions
- 4 Kird Ape
- 2 Wild Mongrel
- 4 Grim Lavamancer
- 4 Boros Swiftblade
- 4 Watchwolf
- 2 Jotun Grunt
Yeah, hard to imagine that happened nearly a year ago…
GAWD, TIME FLIES!
Seems like just yesterday everyone was talking about Levy. Levy in the HoF. Levy won GP: Dallas. Levy won GP: Singapore. OMG, Levy Top 8’d Yokohama too?! Levy is in the POY race? Levy Strikes Back! Levy for President?! Levy in Space?! Return of the Levy! Levy just donated his spleen to a one-legged orphan who had several heart operations at birth to correct a deformity that will stop him from ever having a normal life?!
No more Levy in the headlines.
Limited launched, and Levy was found lounging lazily about The Louvre*.
Yeah, where is he now?
Oh… Level 6?
Jeez, when did that happen?
Domain Zoo completely exploded and everyone and their uncle Carl hopped on the Zoo bandwagon and it sprung up as the tier 1 aggro deck of choice. Then he won another flippin’ tournament with the deck and it skyrocketed into the stratosphere of tier Levy, and the one-legged orphan lived to see another sunrise.
5. Counterbalance Goyf — Extended – Remi Fortier
This tournament will go down as the first Pro Tour that was won using the best creature in Magic, and at the eager hands of Remi Fortier with an interesting fish-esque deck that plays all the best cards from recent Standard and adds Chrome Mox and some fetch lands as seasoning. The deck had been an MTGO favorite leading up to Valencia, and it surprised no one that Remi won by playing two-mana fifty dollar bills.
This is also a very good example of the continuing power and playability of Counterbalance, which has been showing up infrequently ever since it appeared a little over a year ago. I can’t help but think how bad decks like this are for Magic. If you take a brief glance at the mana of all the cards in his deck, you’ll notice that after sideboard Remi could possibly need UUGRWB out to actually cast all the spells in his deck. And its not like these games are going long… he will need almost all of that by turn 3 at the latest if it wants a shot at winning.
Still, in the coming weeks in preparation for Extended again, this will be a’ starting point for deck decisions. I really wish Wizards had placed Extended at Worlds instead of Legacy, to give us PTQ players a little guidance and a better starting point for deck ideas and metagame predictions.
4. Slivers – 2HG Draft
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Benalish Cavalry
1 Essence Sliver
1 Knight of Sursi
1 Lymph Sliver
2 Mesmeric Sliver
1 Poultice Sliver
1 Screeching Sliver
2 Shadow Sliver
1 Sinew Sliver
1 Telekinetic Sliver
1 Veiling Oddity
1 Bonesplitter Sliver
2 Homing Sliver
1 Llanowar Empath
2 Reflex Sliver
1 Spinneret Sliver
3 Two-Headed Sliver
3 Virulent Sliver
2 Erratic Mutation
1 Judge Unworthy
1 Mana Tithe
1 Momentary Blink
1 Piracy Charm
1 Wipe Away
1 Dead / Gone
1 Flowstone Embrace
1 Orcish Cannonade
1 Pact of the Titan
1 Shivan Meteor
While this is technically two decks, for all intents and purposes they function as one, like the pistons of a extremely well oiled machine that is ready to pump massive amounts of black hot liquid throughout the hard dirty metal of a magnificent six cylinder, with the primary focus of getting as many slivery creatures into play to boost their kin.
Personally I feel like the whole Sliver strategy was extremely overhyped, which highlights the difference between the best decks of ’07 and the top decks of ’07. To be a top deck it has to have a meaty story behind a well executed concoction, and few stories this year were as meaty as the Sliver Kids. Seriously though, everyone and their mother was talking about how smart these amateurs from NJ are for just drafting Slivers. Perhaps I’m just a bit bitter, but it just all seems overhyped to me.
It’s not like the idea of putting a bunch of them together hasn’t been around since freakin’ Tempest.
And sure, you could always make the argument that the Virulent Sliver was a hidden gem in the TPF 2HG Draft format. But I have a hard time believing two young thrill seekers from NJ dodged their way through the epic temple of the Pro Tour draft tables and navigated their way through trap doors and such to find the prized secret that Virulent Sliver is good in multiples in Sliver-heavy decks. Then on their way out Van Lunen trips over a stray vine which triggers an enormous spiked flaming rock ball thing that falls from the ceiling, that somehow gains enough momentum in the process to chase the Sliver Kids down narrow hallways with poison darts flying over their neatly well-gelled hair, scratching their Abercrombie shirts and American Eagle jeans that were torn when they bought them, barely making it out the trap door in the bottom that leads down to the sewers (a.k.a. the real World) where they would perish in the face of a Giant Malaysian Crocidile that has a taste for Jersey meat.
3. Mono Red Dragonstorm — Standard – Patrick Chapin
- 4 Shock
- 4 Incinerate
- 4 Dragonstorm
- 4 Rite of Flame
- 4 Grapeshot
- 4 Lotus Bloom
- 3 Rift Bolt
- 3 Pyromancer's Swath
- 2 Tarfire
Starcity’s own Patrick Chapin teamed up with Pro Tour: Honolulu Champion Mark Herberholz and eight-time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Gabriel Nassif to form a sixty-card formation that was built to impress. Inspired by a side event at Grand Prix: Daytona two weeks prior, the savvy veterans worked together to find the most optimal version before handing it to Hall of Famers Robert Maher and Jon Finkel, along with poker superstar David Williams.
By fusing Dragonstorm and Bogardan Hellkites onto a Mono Red Aussie Storm list, and throwing in Spinerock Knoll as a powerful Impulse-like land that allows you to throw a Dragonstorm on the field at a fraction of the cost, Chapin and crew seemed to have concocted the perfect deck for an unsuspecting metagame. And after five rounds of Standard play, all six players boasted 4-1 records, with the deck being the talk of the tournament.
No one at the 2007 World Championships had a clue what has happening, and by the time they figured out how to combat it they had already lost to a flurry of cheap burn spells that most blind magicians wouldn’t even consider playing. Shock has always been one of those cards that has always been around but never seemed to find any sort of role to play due to superior alternatives for cheap burn spells. In this deck, however, it performs a critical role as being a very cheap way to pump up the storm count and lower the opponent’s life total to help out whatever storm cards you’re ramping for to finish the opponent quickly. Not to mention it becomes four damage for one mana when Pyromancer’s Swath is on the board.
The true impact of this deck has yet to be felt, but I’m sure given its inexpensive cost and lack of hate currently it will become a big role player in the Standard metagame to come. Eventually warping the format to mandatory sideboard slots to deal with the random storm deck that took Worlds by… uhh… storm**?
2. U/B Teachings – Block Constructed — Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
This is where it all started. If this deck hadn’t won the Pro Tour we wouldn’t be where we are today. It would have never dominated the Block Constructed season, and would have never swept into Standard to become a top tier deck. Although the decklist has undergone many changes, the core of Mystical Teachings, like its cool cousin that disappears at family reunions — Dralnu – which premiered at Worlds last year, has remained intact.
Sitting here now, it is still quite hard to convey the absurd level of flexibility and difficulty it takes to both build and play decks like this. Many times when playing with aggro decks you can afford to throw in some misers cards for potential blowouts down the line, but here every single card in the maindeck and sideboard has to be carefully calculated and evaluated to maximize the effectiveness of the deck.
Chapin and I have written several articles detailing the extreme versatility in both building and playing the deck… however, neither of us ever stumbled upon the 100% correct decklist. The idea that a deck could have an answer for every possibly situation that could arise is what I’d like to call a Cotton Candy Fantasy.
Cotton Candy is awesome. It’s pink. It’s got a ton of sugar. It’s sweet, and it easily dissolves in your mouth upon contact with your saliva. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has hazy fantasies of jumping into a giant cotton candy machine. Everyone has them, and everyone dreams of having the perfect deck that has an answer to every possible situation. But the reality is that there is no cotton candy machine the size of a mid-sized mini van, and there is no perfect deck will all the answers.
That said, Teachings is as perfect a deck that has ever been built, and will forever hold 2007 as the year it gave a lot of people cavities.
1. Hulk Flash — Legacy – Steve Sadin
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Carrion Feeder
- 1 Karmic Guide
- 1 Body Snatcher
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 4 Protean Hulk
- 4 Sensei's Divining Top
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Mystical Tutor
- 4 Force of Will
- 4 Daze
- 1 Echoing Truth
- 4 Flash
- 1 Massacre
- 4 Chrome Mox
- 4 Counterbalance
Flash has been the most hyped deck and discussion topic during the entirety of 2007, and deserves to be number #1. The card Flash has only been legal for one pro level tournament since its errata earlier this year, and it won the whole thing. But the true strength of the Flash deck was the attention it brought to the Legacy community and the format as a whole.
Before the drama and excitement of GP: Columbus, Legacy was always regarded as that special cousin who you just don’t talk about or acknowledge. You still give him Christmas presents every year, but those presents are never used to their full potential or utilized properly, since no one wants to take the time to teach Larry how to play with a Barbie Dream House, or explain why all the Barbie dolls pre-1997 don’t have underwear, but all of the post 1997 dolls have tighty whiteys with small flowers engraved on the rigid plastic.
When GP: Columbus hit, pros traveled from around the world to take a shot at an easy Grand Prix. The format was defined and innovation took place, but the raw power of the Flash deck plus a little salt n’ peppa from the Counterbalance / Sensei’s Divining Top combo crafted a credible champion.
The truth is that GP: Columbus taught us a valuable lesson about older formats and why they should be respected, but it also brought the community together under one flag. The flag that loves to slay other mages by using pieces of cardboard peppered with bloody images of mythical beasts and powerful weapons spearing the heads of those in our way.
We may be a pretty obscure market, but it’s our market, dammit! And I’d stand alongside any of you before those weirdos who like to hang themselves from their piercings or wrap large golden rings around the necks of all of the women in the village to elongate them to a suitable length to attract a desiring male.
I’ve really been watching way too much NatGeo lately***.
Thanks for reading,
Top 5 Picks
1) Electioneering – Cold War Kids
2) Exit Music (For A Film) – Brad Mehldau
3) Stay Another Day — East 17
4) Maiden Voyage / Everything In Its Right Place – Robert Glasper
5) You – Christopher O’Riley
* Geddit?! Because he’s from France. The Louvre. Paris.
** Anyone else notice that they had Uri Peleg pose in front of a freakin’ Christmas Tree after winning the World Championships?****
*** And the idiots broadcasting don’t even remember to censor the boobies!
**** Psst… HE’S JEWISH!