Down And Dirty – The Top 10 Decks of 2009

StarCityGames.com 10K Open - Los Angeles

Tuesday, December 22nd – Kyle looks back at the Constructed decks we’ve loved and lost this past year, highlighting his personal choices for the Top 10 Decks of 2009. From Faeries to Jund, from Naya to Colfenor’s Plans, they’re all here. What deck will stand astride the rest at the top of the Constructed heap? Read on to find out!

Throughout 2009, 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 decks of 2009.

Honorable Mentions

This is in my top five favorite decks I’ve ever built, and one of the most fun decks I’ve ever played. Despite the critics, it was by far the best deck in the Standard format at the time, steamrolling all the fringe decks while having a good matchup opposite Five-Color Control and fair game against the downtrodden Faeries. Most importantly, I’m just happy that Colfenor’s Plans saw some love. It’s more profitable than casting Cruel Ultimatum, since at four mana as a seven-for-one it outweighs the seven mana eleven-for-one sorcery. It played the best removal with Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt, and the best card draw with Esper Charm and Colfenor’s Plans. It had Cryptic Command, and even Ajani Vengeant with a Baneslayer Angel sideboard route. Vendilion Clique is one of the best Blue creatures ever made, and coincidently in my Top 5 favorite creatures of all time alongside Teferi, Eternal Witness, Triskelion, and Steamflogger Boss (Oh, you’ll rue the day that contraptions come to fruition!). I thought about putting Plans as the number one deck for awhile, but I couldn’t do that to the deck builders who actually got there with their brews.

Oli masterfully piloted this unique brew, originally created by the polished rogue deckbuilder Jon Louckes, to a sleek Top 8 finish at French Nationals. This deck’s fluid approach is streamlined by the numerous artifacts that have enters-the-battlefield draw abilities which are used to find more artifacts, along with Open the Vaults to produce some sick turns involving Time Sieve. It uses Pollen Lullaby, Time Warp, and Cryptic Command to push the game longer, and eventually sets up a turn where you can Open, take an extra turn with Time Sieve, drop Tezzeret, pump him up to five loyalty, Time Warp or Time Sieve again, then kill them with an ultimate artificial explosion.

Casting a Regal Force was never this good. This loony combo is a Standard play off the Extended version that dominated Pro Tour: Berlin last year. Despite being a Standard deck, this often felt like playing a completely different format. This deck flourished in a time where main decking full sets of Volcanic Fallout and Zealous Persecution was the norm, and this deck had a unique toolbox of ways to answer the Faerie-focused firearms. Primal Command along with Ranger of Eos gives this deck a pair of extremely potent tutors that enable you to set the combo up through a Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender while stockpiling the combo elves in your hand. Kenji’s Top 8 with this deck at Japanese Nationals spotlighted this deck as one to beat, which then led to another incidental rise in Faeries since there were then more decks around that lost to reactive decks with counters.

This is one of the mementos we have from the Block Constructed format that never was, which is sadly why it gets eschewed from the Top 10 decks. This deck did in fact dominate Pro Tour: Honolulu, catapulting a pair of Americans, Brian Kibler and Paul Rietzel, into the Top 8. In the end, Kazuya Mitamura was the one who was laughing down from atop the Pro Tour Volcano at the foolish Americans and their artificial toys, but his deck was pretty boring except for the fact it looks freakishly similar to modern day Jund lists…

10. Jund by Kazya Mitamura & Marijn Lybaert

Despite this being a Block Constructed deck, it surprisingly contains upwards of thirty main deck spells that are the same as today’s Jund lists. This deck is chock full of two-for-ones, which basically makes it a severely upgraded Rock deck that usually looks to one-for-one the opponent then play good creatures to finish the game. The White splash is a bit much, and this deck is nothing compared to the Jund lists from Worlds…

Jund definitely deserves to be higher on the list, but I just don’t like the stupid deck. It’s not quite as dominant as the Faerie flocks of 2008, but it does rival it in terms of number of supporters. Marijn’s list is the best version, with Mind Rot and Caldera Hellion coming off the bench as unconventional options you probably wouldn’t expect.

9. Jund Mannequin by Brad Nelson, Brett Piazza, and Conley Woods

I had this list in the honorable mention section for awhile, but these guys absolutely dominated U.S. Nationals, putting all three of the decks pilots into the Top 16! I’m honestly not a big fan of the deck, since it’s pretty slow and clunky, but at the time when you’re battling against Faeries and Five-Color Control, you don’t need to come out of the gates quickly. This deck is the epitome of greedy as, much like Jund, it looks to make literally every card a two-for-one. If you draw enough spells, you’re sure to win the game since you’re getting so much more value out of all your cards, while they have to get an above normal spell-to-land ratio draw to win if they can’t take you out early while the deck is still setting up.

8. Naya Lightsaber by Andre Coimbra

This Mike Flores deck claimed the World title, so who am I to refuse it a Top 10 slot? I honestly think the deck got lucky with its wins over Jund, but Coimbra is a well deserving champion despite having an “off” year. My real distaste with this deck is how “stock” it is. It’s a Naya deck, no real surprises. Big dumb creatures and efficient removal. AjaniV is there to back it up, and the sideboard is there to overwhelm the Jund players. The mana is clunky, the curve is a little whack, and the card advantage spells are all four-drops. Of course, it does have arguably one of the best creatures of all time at the top of the curve, so everything you do before that is really just exhausting their resources until the Angel swoops down to slash some throats.

This sliver kid sleeved this brew up to a 7-1 record at Nationals, essentially making it the best deck at the tournament. However, he didn’t have a chance to truly showcase it because of his anchor of a draft record that sunk him into the Top 16. This was the real beginning of Naya Lightsaber (in my opinion), and this is also a deck that didn’t get much recognition despite being a Faerie-flogging beast. Sure, it’s another dumb creature deck, but it’s a focused dumb creature deck, and its curve is better, with Figure of Destiny giving you a diverse one-drop that makes use of extra early lands.

7. Dark Depths by Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa

This was the surprise combo deck at Pro Tour: Austin, and its top supporter is none other than the U/B control master: Pee-Vee Herman. Honestly, I’m not sure if the Dark Depths was really the center point for this brew. It was probably just a disguise so he could board in those Bitterblossoms against those unsuspecting combo stoppers. Has this guy ever not made Top 8 at a tournament in which he’s played Bitterblossom? I bet those Bitterblossoms are also hella-played and have bends in them like Dave Williams’s Accumulated Knowledges… that’s probably the real reason he never misses a Top 8! Either that or he trains against thirty-foot long Anacondas, wrestles monster Arapima, and duels opposite poison-clawed Jaguars in the Amazon on the daily, which makes make Top 24 at every freaking tournament he plays a little easier. [Kyle’s only joking, folks! — Craig, amused]

6. B/W Tokens by Mandee Peralta

This was the winner of the first PTQ of the season, and the reason Faeries had to wait until Caves of Koilos rotated out to regain its spot as the best deck. Zealous Persecution was prime against those silly Kithykins, Faeries, and Elves, and this deck had some of the best token generation we’ve seen in all of Magic. Sure, there were cleaner versions rolling around, but Mandee was the one who brought the resurgence of B/W Tokens into focus with the addition of Zealous Persecution, and made the revolutionary inclusion of Knight of the White Orchid over the former GerryT standard of Knight of Meadowgrain.

This deck was sadly mutilated by the rotation, where Honor of the Pure replaced Glorious Anthem and there was no Caves of Koilos substitute, but before it left it was the best deck in Standard for a good few months.

5. Super Naya Zoo by Tomoharu Saitou

This was the last great deck from Ye Olde Extended. Saitou closed that Extended book in true Japanese dominant fashion by taking down the last two Grand Prix tournaments with the dumb aggro deck. He didn’t have Knight or Ranger main deck in the previous one, but this streamlined update was the last in a terrifying line of fetchland Zoo decks over the years. This build even came equipped with a Fire Whip to slash at any incoming elvish combos, along with Madame Planeswalkerette Supreme Elspeth jumping out of the board.

4. Seismic Swans by Joel Calafell

This was placed so highly because it was the breakout deck for the last month or two of competitive Grand Prix play. That, plus any forty-one land deck that can put multiple people in a Top 8 is worth a hearty dose of recognition. This was one of the first Cascade combo decks giving a preview of what Cascade was really capable of, offering a unique kind of consistency unlike we’ve ever seen in non-Blue decks. This is also the only deck I’m aware of that actually played every Vivid land, so it earns two very shiny medals for its efforts. This deck also won that breakout Grand Prix in Barcelona. The success of this deck is what prompted the Faerie dominant Grand Prix: Seattle the very next week, and it also didn’t see any love in Sao Paulo, which makes it a clear “hit and run” type deck that didn’t stay on the scene very long.

3. Rubin Zoo by Brian Kibler

Rubin and Kibler took this deck to a pair of Top 16s, with Kibler being fortunate enough to advance to the Top 8 while the deck’s creator sat and cheered on the sidelines. Kibler did the deck justice and ran the 3-0 sweep in the finals after scratching through two matches that reached the nerve racking game 5. This was also heralded as being the most successful deck on the Pro Tour during 2009, and by the numbers one of the best ever, boasting a 30-6 combined record (83%!).

2. Faeries by Ben Lundquist

Sigh… It got best deck in 2008. However, I couldn’t give it the honors of being the best deck this year. If you want the full lapdance on this new, creative, innovative, off the wall, rogue deck, check out last year’s summary. I’d rather rent a condo in Cedric Phillips armpits and make a living of trimming his licorice-colored locks than write about this deck again.

So, the best deck of 2009 is……

(*excessive drum roll*)

1. Five-Color Control By Shuuhei Nakamura

Who would have thought when Vivid lands were released that they’d completely warp Standard for the following two years? Well, in all honesty it was Reflecting Pool that made them the fearsome five-colored fixers they came to be, but the chicken couldn’t have arrived without the egg, y’know? This deck wasn’t fun to play, it wasn’t fun to play against. However, it was wicked awesome to hate! Anathemancer became the zombie he isn’t today because of this deck’s Cryptic power. I’d like to think that we all learned just how greedy we could be this past year. Casting Cryptic Command, Cruel Ultimatum, Ajani Vengeant, Identity Crisis, Great Sable Stag, Wrath of God, Esper Charm, and Elemental Appeal, all in the same deck, is no easy feat, and we all grew a little bit. We learned not to ask what we can do for our mana, but what our mana can do for us! So we sat back, drew lots of cards, killed lots of creatures, drew some more cards, played more enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands than ever played in the history of Magic, then cast an obnoxious seven-mana spell rightfully entitled “Cruel.” Life isn’t good, but it could have been worse, right?

2009 is the year of the tap land, the year that Blue was nearly taken down by all the other crappy colors, and the year that Standard made a serious comeback with the extravagant SCG $5k Open series. Don’t call it a comeback though, because this coming year will be bigger than ever. Here’s to the sixty card horizons we’ve yet to reach, here’s to the tropical locations with sunny beaches, and here’s to all the information the Internet teaches. And screw Wizards for taking damage off the stack and killing the little kid in me that loved to double Armadillo Cloak a Troll Ascetic. What am I supposed to tell my grandkids now? They’ll call me senile when I tell them I used to be able to gain fourteen life in one attack step…

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading…