Finishing Fourth at GP Atlanta with R/G Valakut

Friday, January 28 – After planning to run Faeries in Atlanta, Christian switched decks twice before landing on what he thought was ‘just a Standard deck’ at first; R/G Valakut proved to be much more.

Hello, everyone, my name is Christian Valenti, and I just recently top 4ed Grand Prix Atlanta with what I would call the breakout deck of the
tournament. Here’s the list I piloted to my first-ever Grand Prix Top 8.

The story of the deck began one week prior to the GP at a PTQ in my hometown of Nashville, TN. I was 100% on Faeries, certain it was the best deck. I
craved another Pro Tour invite, having qualified for both PT Austin and PT San Juan. I read all kinds of articles on Faerie builds and game play, then
made sure I playtested it myself. It seemed that I was right; Faeries was in fact the best deck by quite a margin.

So I took it to the seven-round PTQ and started 3-0, a seemingly standard opening to a tournament.

In the fourth round, I played against one of my very good friends, Bobby Graves, who was on Mythic. Bobby is awesome, and it was certain to be the
defining match of the tournament. The first game began as well as any Faerie player could hope for. I started with a turn 2 Bitterblossom whilst he had
two mana and a Birds. I shipped. He slammed his third land and played Chameleon Colossus.

The game teetered on for a few turns, as I picked at him with my Faerie tokens and a Mutavault. The game came to a point where I had Scion of Oona and
was chump-blocking and squeezing as much damage as I could, and I realized how fragile this game was. I considered my options and decided I had no
other way to win the game. I needed him to not have countermagic, and I had to draw back-to-back blue creatures followed by a Scion to do exactly
enough damage over the course of the next three turns.

Three turns later, and that was exactly what happened! Bobby and I share the same friends, and we all realized how incredible that game had been.

On the surface, I got very lucky, which is obviously true, but there is something else to be taken into account. If, at any point in the game, I’d
given up or not attacked with a Mutavault, taking my countermagic down for the turn, I very easily could’ve lost that game.

As the fates would have it, our second game was uneventful, and he missed a ton of land drops, allowing me to advance to 4-0.

After such an impressive match, I was assured that I would coast into the top 8 from there; however the next two rounds came along and had other plans
for me. With no real story to tell, I lost the next two rounds by not playing as crisply as I mostly certainly had in my round 4 match.

Here’s what I concluded: I, who have never been very fond of playing blue decks in any format, finally decided I wanted to play the best deck, but the
fact of the matter is that although Faeries was the best deck then (still might be), it just didn’t match my play style. I also realized for the first
time how incredibly difficult Faeries is to play.

Something I excel at is coming up with a game plan on how I want to approach a certain game of Magic, depending on the cards in my hand and what I
think my opponent may have. That certainly is a valuable skill for any player, but with Faeries, your plan has to be able to adapt all the time. So
many things can change throughout a game when playing Faeries, and it’s unbelievably difficult to play the deck at a high level for so many rounds of

I set my sights on Atlanta fully expecting to play Naya. I’ve always been far more comfortable playing either aggressive creature decks or combo decks,
and I just assumed Naya was the best deck at the time for beating down.

As we arrived, I signed up just in time for what I believe was grinder six on Friday night. I played against some great guys and played some very good
games of Magic, eventually falling to a mutual friend of mine and Jason Ford (congrats!) in the finals.

Although I seemingly cruised into the finals of that grinder, something didn’t feel right to me. It seemed as though people were ready to fight Naya,
since it had been doing so well.

I eventually wandered over to the other side of the room where I saw the friends who I’d be staying with for the weekend talking to Chris Andersen, who
was hyping up his R/G Valakut deck to anyone who would listen.

Now, I love Chris to death, but he’s always over-hyping his decks – which I consider to be a good thing; if you’re not excited about your deck,
how do you expect other people to be? Needless to say, I disregarded him at first, saying I wouldn’t be caught dead playing a Standard deck in an
Extended tournament.

As I watched a few games, I became very impressed and realized that Scapeshift made the deck anything but “a Standard deck.” It was actually insane.
Going up to the room, my friends and I were discussing the decks we were going to play in the event; Bobby Graves (I know, him again) and myself were
both on either Naya or Valakut.

Given that Valakut had an obviously good matchup against aggro, I wanted to see how its matchup was against Faeries. We tested the matchup against
another friend of ours piloting Faeries, and we realized that we had too many must-counter spells for them. We could accelerate mana to the point where
Mana Leak and Spellstutter Sprite were almost useless in the mid to late game. Finally, we recognized the potential Chris had been talking about all
along. The deck had the tools to beat every deck in the room, and on Saturday morning, all of us playing the deck knew it was something special.

Sideboard guide:


+2 Volcanic Fallout

+2 Spellbreaker Behemoth

+4 Guttural Response

+1 Prismatic Omen

-3 Lightning Bolt

-4 Harrow

-1 Avenger of Zendikar

-1 Khalni Heart Expedition

This is by far the most transformational matchup you’ll play against. Cutting the Harrows is pretty standard since having one countered is disastrous.
Lightning Bolt is certainly a fine card against Faeries in general, but you have to remember we’re a combo deck, not a control deck, so by process of
elimination, Bolt is one of the worst cards in our deck against them.

The Avenger costs a million mana, and even though we bring in the Behemoths, that’s to resolve Primeval Titan, which wins us the game. Avenger might
win you the game, assuming they don’t have Cryptics and manlands to kill you anyway.

The two Spellbreaker Behemoths really are just amazing! It’s so common to play one on our third turn after a ramp spell on turn 2, and it
singlehandedly supports our plan A and provides a plan B just as well, since a 5/5 will just kill them if left unanswered.

The Prismatic Omen is even better against Faeries then other archetypes; its resolving means you theoretically don’t even have to resolve another spell
during the game, since your lands will kill them before they can attack you to death with manlands and Faeries, etc.

The Volcanic Fallouts play an important role that I’d like to discuss. In a control deck, you’re always trying to make them commit more creatures to
the board before playing your wrath effect.

Please keep in mind while playing that you’re a combo deck! It doesn’t matter if they have 40-power worth of guys on that last turn; you’re
going to beat them anyway if you have the goods. Think of it like this: the Fallouts aren’t an uncounterable way to clear their board; they’re an
uncounterable way to gain you life.

Finally, Guttural Response is the least useful card, considering it really only counters Cryptic Command (you should make Mana Leak irrelevant anyway),
but the problem is that card is so devastating that it’s a necessity.


+4 Obstinate Baloth

-1 Avenger of Zendikar

-1 Prismatic Omen

-2 Volcanic Fallout

The Baloths serve double duty, as they block pretty much every creature in the matchup and gain a relevant amount of life. Not to mention they protect
your hand from Blightning pretty well. The Fallouts are all but dead against Jund, and if you can resolve an Avenger, you should be winning the game
anyway. The Prismatic Omen is the tricky one here. They’re more than likely going to overvalue their Maelstrom Pulses anyway and assume Omen is more
important than it actually is.


+1 Volcanic Fallout

+1 Scapeshift

+1 Prismatic Omen

-1 Avenger of Zendikar

-2 Primal Command

This matchup is 100% a race! You’re adding the Omen, which is effectively just a ramp spell, the fourth Scapeshift, and one of the remaining Fallouts.
Again, we’re cutting the Avenger, as it just doesn’t pull its own weight. The Primal Commands are in a weird spot. On the one hand, gaining life and
finding a Titan is extremely powerful; however most of the time, you’d just prefer another ramp spell, so you can kill them faster with either a Titan
or a Scapeshift.


+4 Obstinate Baloth

+1 Scapeshift

+1 Prismatic Omen

+1 Primal Command

-1 Avenger (I’m seeing a pattern here)

-2 Volcanic Fallout

-2 Cultivate

-2 Khalni Heart Expedition

This matchup is also a race, although quite a different one. Against Naya, you have no long-term ways to keep their guys off the board between Woolly
Thoctars and Vengevines; you generally have to beat them while they have a ton of power on the board, waiting to attack you.

In this matchup, that actually almost never happens. They don’t actually have that many threats, so Bolting a key creature and playing some Baloths
will generally get the job done. Not to mention playing a Primal Command, gaining seven, and going to get another Baloth is pretty demoralizing for

The Fallouts are actually horrendous here. The fact that it might kill one of their creatures doesn’t make up for the fact that you’re still doing two
damage to yourself and wasting three mana. If you’re spending three mana in this matchup, the spell better matter.

Cultivate and the Expedition are very similar in that they’re just too slow! If you tap out for a Cultivate, they’re ecstatic that they just get to
throw all kinds of Bolts and creatures at your face. You really need to be proactive in this match and not be afraid to mulligan a hand that looks good
but doesn’t actually gain you life or put a reasonable clock on them.

U/W Control/4CC

+4 Guttural Responses

+2 Spellbreaker Behemoths

+1 Prismatic Omen

+1 Primal Command

-3 Harrow

-3 Lightning Bolt

-2 Volcanic Fallout

Finally, we get to leave in the Avenger! The cards that are bad here are the removal spells and the Harrows. Having a Harrow countered is such a
nightmare, and the Bolts and Fallouts just don’t do anything.

The same Guttural Responses that are there to stop Cryptic Commands in Faeries serve overtime here, as they also might hit Esper Charms or Negates. The
Spellbreaker Behemoths are still amazing and represent a valid win condition, assuming they cut some of their removal.

Similarly against Faeries, the Prismatic Omen is a two-mana threat that will win you the game if it resolves. The Primal Command is
interesting here because although it’s a rather clunky spell, we need reasonable ways to remove Runed Halo from the battlefield. You should have no
real trouble resolving one if you play to it with your Gutturals, etc.


Going forward, I honestly believe a version more similar to Ben Stark’s is better against the
environment. The deck is very explosive, and that’s one of the qualities you want to abuse the most.

As you can see, I only played one copy of Prismatic Omen in my main deck because it was more of a value card. It was nice to have, but we didn’t need
it to combo; however, what we missed is that it plays extremely well in the games against the blue decks, which warrants extra copies for sure.

I’d be more inclined to cut the Lightning Bolts before anything else. Bolt is a very efficient spell, but the deck really wants to play a tapped land
on one and a ramp spell on two, making me believe Fallout just fits the bill better currently.

Also, getting your opponent to 18 while killing a guy or two is very relevant, seeing as how it requires you to only need seven lands to kill them as
opposed to eight with a Scapeshift.

Avenger was pretty unimpressive all day, and I wish it had just been another ramp spell. It’s a fantastic plan B, but the deck just didn’t need one. I
think preparing for some Runed Halos and Tectonic Edges is just a better plan than devoting slots to over-costed creatures.

I highly recommend playing this deck in some of the upcoming PTQs for Nagoya. It’s very powerful, consistent, and allows you to steal some games you
have no business winning!

I can’t wait to read the forums and get all the great advice from you guys. As of right now, I’m pretty new to the writing scene and would love to
become a regular writer if given the opportunity. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Cvalenti90 at gmail dot com or message me on MTGO
at Cvalenti90.

I hope you guys enjoy!