Feature Article — Fabiano at U.S. Nationals

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He placed third in the Storyteller Ballot for this year’s Invitational, but he was the choice of many a pro player. His stories are, if you believe all you read, a work of genius. He’s fun, frivolous, and fiery… and he plays a mean game of Magic to boot. Gerard’s debut article takes us through his personal 5-2 performance at in the Standard portion of this year’s U.S. Nationals. Welcome aboard Gerard!

Ever wanted to play the best Standard deck ever at a tournament?

Yeah, me too… but I never managed it, until this year’s U.S. Nationals. My good friends Antonino De Rosa and Ben Rubin managed to put together one of the best decks I have ever played, and in my opinion it was the best deck to show up at Nationals.

I am going to give you a walkthrough about each round I played, some matchup data, and the changes I would make to the deck.

Before I go any further, here is the decklist I played. Yes, Antonino played it too.

At first glance, you can clearly see the “combos” and (as my friend Andrea Santin would say) the “nombos.” First, let us look at the combos
Combo 1 — Nantuko Husk with Epochrasite / Keldon Marauders / Mogg War Marshal / Fatal Frenzy / Threaten / Kher Keep.

(First, I am aware that there is only one Husk in the deck. After playing seven rounds, I came to the conclusion that there should be two, or even three.)

Ben Rubin has a theory that the more copies of the same creature you have in your deck, the more the creature loses its value. For example, many times having two Psychatogs in play isn’t much better than having one (if you have a Smother or similar to clear the way). The first Tog in play is valued at, let’s say, 300 Value Points, which is high on this made-up scale. When you add the second Tog, you’re at 400 Value Points total. That is why many of the best Tog decks only played three Psychatogs, and not four. What if Meloku the Clouded Mirror was not a legend… having two in play wouldn’t be all that great. Sure, there might be a better example than Meloku, and they can kill your 2/4 powerhouse, but I’d rather have a Meloku and a Merfolk Looter than two Melokus. You get the point.

Continuing with that point; the deck, up until the night before the tournament, had lots of “three-ofs” rather than “four-ofs,” so you can be sure that my final list will be slightly spread on the numbers.

Combo 2 — Greater Gargadon with Fatal Frenzy / Mogg War Marshal / Keldon Marauders / Epochrasite / Kher Keep / Threaten. You should get the point by now. Any sacrifice effect is good with Threaten, and it’s always good to have the option of throwing away your Dark Confidant if you are low on life. Scorched Rusalka is also a key factor to the deck.

The only real Nombo is Dark Confidant with Greater Gargadon.

Before Nationals, we had our friend Daniel Gardner from England playtest our deck. Since he got punished for spending too much money on MTGO, his mom took away his account. Instead, just went to SNM (in England they have Saturday Night Magic instead of Friday Night Magic [News to me… – Craig, amused.]). He managed to win back-to-back events, Racking up a 4-0 record in the Swiss both times before splitting the finals for a total of 10-0. Daniel isn’t the best player, so with those results we were impressed.

Enough with me not making any sense… here is the round by round coverage of Nationals.

Round 1 — Alex
Alex is a good friend of mine, and we were playing the same deck card-for-card. The mirror match is pretty bad, and it seems to be luck-based. The most important factor besides luck is whoever draws their Husk, as it’s the best target for Fatal Frenzy and can become lethal very quickly. Not having to play around Terror or Slaughter Pact is key. Since the mirror match isn’t too relevant (the deck isn’t played that often), I’ll move onto some other decks.


Round 2 – Zac Hill
Zac is a good guy and a great writer and his playskill is on a level that can be matched only by Mr. Matt Schmaltz. He was playing some four-color control deck, with some copies of Wrath of God, Loxodon Hierarch, and Remands. To be honest, I was a little scared playing this matchup, because if he takes control of the game it would be tough for me to come back. My main plan was to get a Dark Confidant down and have it stay in play.

Game 1: I won the “me guessing what tool and color he was thinking of” game. It is a good way to get to play first, and an even better way to pick up girls. I could tell Zac would fall for it… you simply have them think of a tool (without telling), then have them think of a color. Once they have it in their head. You tell them they were thinking of a “Red Hammer.” They will be shocked that you got it right, and then the rest is much easier. I could tell Zac was worried after I got it right, and knew I would always have the read on him.

Game 1 I got the Greater Gargadon/War Marshal draw, followed by double Keldon Marauders. He dropped pretty low on life, paying for his dual lands and not doing much but playing Mind Stones and Compulsive Researches.

I decided to bring in Magus of the Moons, Terrors, and the Avalanche Riders. This game was a blow out. I dropped a Dark Confidant, then a Magus of the Moon, and it was good game.


Round 3 – Some guy
It’s pretty good when you have to play a guy you don’t know. Often (in my case) that means they are not a pro, and most they likely have less experience. He was playing the Gabe Walls Blink deck, and I figured this match up would be a joke. Not like a “Want to go to the pirate movie with me? Its rated “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” joke, more like a “say ‘picture a punctured pimple’ ten times fast” joke.

Game 1 saw me drop an early Dark Confidant, and he just lost to the card advantage. Game 2 brought in the MVP – Magus of the Moon. I should have had four in the board.


I was 2-1, and it was onto the draft! Since this is a Standard article, I’ll just share a story instead of boring you with tales of a soon-to-be-dead format. In brief, I went 5-2 in draft, leaving me 7-3 going back into Standard.

The De Rosa Story…

Location: Yokohama
Year: 2005
Who/What was involved: Gerard Fabiano, Antonino De Rosa, Japanese food, and one lucky Japanese guy on his way to work.

This story takes place during Worlds in 2005. We’re in Yokohama, and its Friday night. We had just finished the final day of individual play, and Antonino De Rosa and I were walking home disgusted that we’d both lost in the last round. I was done for the tournament, but Ant, being the National Champion that year, still had some Magic left to play. It was pretty late so he wanted to get some sleep, but being the big man he was, he was also pretty hungry.

Since it was so late and this was Japan, we didn’t have too many options available. We ended up at this little food stand near our hotel. I should’ve known something was sketchy since the guy serving our food was missing most of his teeth. The food ended up being beyond awful… rotten eggs in spoiled milk topped off with raw fish straight out of Yokohama harbor. I couldn’t eat it, but Ant, being hungry, powered through.

Later that night, at around three in the morning, I woke to a cold chill coming from Ant’s side of the room. Ant was standing, throwing what looked to be his boxers out of our forty-story window.

He claimed to have pooped his pants, and he didn’t want the smell to infiltrate the room.

Ant’s giant boxers must have looked like a parachute floating down to earth to some poor man on the street… a brown-stained parachute.

Later that night, I woke up again to a cold chill. This time it was Ant’s bed linen.

All in all, it was a pretty bad night for the American National Champ…

As a side note, the Storyteller Invitational Ballot was fun. However, Wizards refused to post Cedric Phillips’s video. Luckily, it can be found here

Back to the action…

Round 11 – Paul Cheon

Paul won Nationals last year, but I wasn’t scared. He isn’t even the best player on his team. That title belongs to one Samuel Stein. Sam Stein is probably my favorite Level 2 player in the world. His claim to fame was when he made Top 8 of JSS in 2004… ever since then he has been making his way to the top of the PTQ standings.

Here’s a random funny link.

Paul was playing this deck:

This would have been a good matchup for me had I known their decklists. Since I didn’t, I played right into Crovax and lost the match because if it. You want to bring in your spot removal, and Magus of the Moon / Avalanche Riders. Paul beat me in two games, and both came down to me not knowing his deck list. That is one of the benefits of being creative and playing a rogue deck.


Round 12 – Dave Irvine

David is great player and looks as though he will reach Level 3 this year, something he’s deserved for a while. He was playing a R/W/U Angel deck.

He beat me down fast in game 1 with double Lighting Angels; I boarded in the same cards as before: the land disruption and some spot removal. Game 2 takes forever and it gets real tricky. He is on two life, but I know he has a Lighting Helix (I was 99% sure… I had the read), and he’s holding another random card. He knows I have a Char, revealed by Bob. I am at three. So he can’t Helix me, and I can’t Char him. We then both draw something like five lands each, in a row, until I draw a Greater Gargadon. I suspend him, and sac my lands to attack for the win. He attempts to Helix me, but I show him the Char and he scoops.

With only four minutes for game 3 we play ultra fast. I get a great start, but time is called. Dave, being the good man he is, looks at the current board and admits it looks very bad for him, and scoops without me even having to ask. A stand-up move, man.


Round 13 – Morgan Douglas

He was playing a U/B/W Solar Flare deck; this matchup is great, since they have about six Wraths, which are really bad against your Epochrasites, War Marshals, and Gargadons. Besides that, this is just another deck that has big problems with Magus of the Moon, especially in combination with Shattering Spree to kill their Signets.

I beat Morgan easily. He mulliganed, like most three-color clunky decks are prone to do. I managed to deal him early damage, and kept the threat of a hasty Gargadon coming into play at almost any time. And if his 5/5 Angel of Despair came into play, I was ready with Threaten. A classic unwinnable match for Morgan.


Round 14 – Some guy

He was playing the Saffi Combo deck Project X, but in all three games his deck played out like The Rock.

Game one I was dead on board the following turn, with my only hope that he blocks my Husk with a single Wall of Roots (rather than multiples). This would let me sacrifice all my guys and win with Fatal Frenzy. It happened just like that, I won a game I had no business winning.

Game 2, for the first time in seven rounds, saw me take a mulliganed. Not to six, but to four. It was pretty clear it would happen sooner or later, so game 2 was a waste. I think I lost on turn 5 or so.

Game three was important… if I won, I would make Top 20. Thankfully, Magus of the Moon was here to save me again. I use a Mogg Fanatic away to kill his Dark Confident, and then drop Magus of the Moon. And that was game.


The tournament was a lot of fun. I got pied in the face by Osyp. and got to make a great video. If you’ve not seen it yet, you can find it here.

I hoped you found my article useful! To round off, I’ll show you how the deck should look if you were to play it now:

That’s all from me, but I hope to be back soon. Thanks for reading!


Okay, so THIS guy has paid for his draft...