Flores Friday – A Matchup and a Mashup for Regionals

Visit the StarCityGames.com booth at the Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC Magic the Gathering Regionals!
Friday, June 6th – In this two-part Regionals article, Mike throws the Merfolk deck at Charles Gindy’s Pro Tour Winning Elves build, piloted by Josh Ravitz. He then moves onto an interesting Blue deck that draws on the power inherent in a number of strategies and attempts to thrash them together for fun and profit. Is this the deck with the strength to carry you through Regionals unscathed? Read on to find out!

Part I: A Matchup

“I think I would like to be Elves this time.” – our hero

“Neg.” – Josh Ravitz

Young Ravitz and I returned to the battle between waterlogged fishy smelling Blue and White weenies and lithe but inexplicably horned pointy eared toymakers. This time Josh was Gindy.dec rather than Shuhei.dec (we agreed Gindy’s deck was the better, pregame).

Josh played first the first five games.

Our hero, you know, heroically got him two of the five. Bam! Merrow Reejerey your face! On the draw! Back to loving Merfolk.

I – and when I say “I” I mean Merfolk – played the next five. We split the first two and; I stole Gindy’s deck and insisted on finishing out the set from the Green side, which was less wise than it seemed at the time given that Josh was slated to go first the next three in a row (poor timing). Josh got the 2-1 on the play… finishing the set at 5-5.



How enlightening!

Josh really liked the play of Merfolk on the last three games, and I think he is on Merfolk now, actually. That said, going first is very important in this tempo-oriented matchup, and Josh went first in all three games of his 2-1 set finish.

One of the things we figured out – which is the exact opposite of what I wrote last week – is that Ancestral Vision is actually really good in Merfolk, and not mediocre / bad at all. The thing is, in the Pro Tour finals deck, there are only two Ancestral Visions, so you never get to play it in a spot where it will end up being devastating. Because you are on a “play a Cursecatcher” plan, you end up suspending Ancestral Vision on something like turn 4, and the game inevitably ends before the Vision lets you see three cards into the future. However, if you slide back to the full four, all of a sudden you are suspending on turn 1 more often (sorry Tidal Visionary one-drop play), it becomes relevant – and therefore good – more often.

From the other side of the table, Gindy’s deck has probably received more attention from Internet writers than anything else recently (and probably predictably so). I think that it is a very good deck. If I were going to play a stock archetype deck, with no reservations, it would be Gindy’s deck. You definitely want the fourth Profane Command (Josh won something like half his games topdecking Profane Command), and Garruk Wildspeaker is the weakest spell unless you follow through with your murderous intentions on the Boreal Druid. However, what the deck seems to want is about one more Pendelhaven and a reliable way to hit second Black more often (you know, for when you need it to play the game-winning Profane Command). This isn’t to say that the deck is actually tight on mana… just that Pendelhaven is awesome on the attack, and sometimes you just need some more removal mana.

Part II: A Mashup

I made this deck the night before the Pro Tour. I was going to call Osyp & co. about it but I figured they would kill me (Andre was good enough in his article earlier this week to not include the deck we all thought – until Osyp’s wing actually tested it, that is – would be The Next Big Thing). It’s kind of tap-out Blue, kind of classic Standard Wafo-Tapa Teachings, and more than a little Mannequin.

I only tested against Faeries to start – Gerry Thompson version with Nameless Inversions – and this deck has a nice advantage against that strategy. It has multiple things going for it:

1) Aeon Chronicler is actually one of the best cards in the format against Faeries. Aeon Chronicler is so good that we eventually added the fifth and sixth storage lands in order to get the first or second turn storage land, pump, pump, fourth turn suspend draw. When that occurs you more than often win, regardless of whether your opponent has Ancestral Vision, Bitterblossom, whatever. The Aeon Chronicler warps in at card advantage that is much faster and more immediate than an Ancestral Vision, and it is initially resistant to any Rune Snag (at this stage) and most Spellstutter Sprites. Therefore it is Cryptic Command or no, and Cryptic Command is easily dealt with if that is the proposed solution. Of course, there is the matter of Terror, but you can defend against that if you want to (probably not successfully, but in harassing fashion), and you actually want to bleed Terrors so that you can stick…

2) Teferi. Teferi is very good! If you stick this card (or often if you simply Mannequin it back) you tend to be in a very winning position. The Faeries deck is usually at a loss in the short term if Teferi manages to hit the board, and then its hand will be full of non-flashy “flash” cards and worthless counterspells. Of course, the ability to suspend future Aeon Chroniclers at end of turn or play instant speed Elementals is very nice, but the decent body and Mind Twist-like effect are just fine, thanks.

Anyway, this deck is at an advantage against that version of Faeries. The problem is that after the Pro Tour it is reasonable to believe that players will adopt Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa version of Faeries, which replaces the mediocre (in matchup) Nameless Inversion with the bam! wop! smash! Vendilion Clique, which is just fantastic in the matchup. The alteration of just one card transforms the matchup from favorable to pretty significantly unfavorable. Faeries is still a winnable against Paulo’s version, but I think you win less than 40% of Game 1s. Little plays like “Clique your Tendrils” are just heartbreakers. You end up having some dumb Shriekmaw that can barely hit anything in his deck instead of an awesome Tendrils.

Tendrils is awesome?

Like Aeon Chronicler, it’s a little surprising… It’s not like anyone plays either card anymore!

You can simply brain a Bitterblossom token and get to a healthy life total and just race… his Bitterblossom. Well, not really, but it feels like that. When you have one of the big Blue fives online, even relatively briefly, the Faeries player has to be very aware of the tempo of the game: Typically you will get attacked with reckless abandon because his options are a little thin (particularly in games where you get a Chronicler… it brains for something like nine, gets scared, and you manage to stick a Teferi and he hasn’t drawn a second Terror yet). A Tendrils with Teferi in play is tremendous tempo. When you have the mana to start flashing your Mystical Teachings you can often write down how the next three turns are going to play out; when you lose, it’s usually because your plan involved finding a Tendrils you already cast. Embarrassing, believe me.

This deck is very good against Elves. You’ll lose when you get mugged by some kind of fast Chameleon Colossus (conveniently Protection from Tendrils of Corruption) but there aren’t a hundred different draws you’ll lose to, the way you can lose to a deck like Faeries. If it’s just guys, or even a Thoughtseize followed by guys, you are at the advantage due to your combination of fast creature kill, fast card draw, and ability to field a reasonable clock quickly.

Don’t forget that you can easily get Aeon Chronicler to 8/8 or even larger on the opponent’s turn if you need to brawl with a biggie sized Chameleon (back side of Mystical Teachings, Teferi out a Mulldrifter, Mannequin a Mulldrifter).

The weirdest card is obviously Academy Ruins (no artifacts). I never finalized the sideboard but I was going to play at least one Triskelavus and possibly some Grim Poppets; Josh wanted Razormane Masticore, for the same reasons everyone else has ’em:

According to Josh, he wasn’t doing very well (versus BDM playing Fujita Red, if I recall) against Magus of the Moon decks. Magus turns off Urborg, meaning it turns off Tendrils. Apparently this deck can’t weave 1/3 of its web with Magus in play… I dunno. Whenever I was in that spot I had three Islands in play, an 8/8, and bonus Commands.

The biggest complaint I had in testing was the number of Urborgs. You either get zero (not enough) or all three of them. We tried to jockey this around with the Tolaria West and all that, but that part of the deck just never fit right. So you win with two dead cards in your hand a lot (because we went the Aeon route, we couldn’t really fit Careful Consideration to fix).

A week ago I was 100% on this deck, but I probably won’t play it at Regionals. Not because it is so much worse than anything else (I actually think most of the decks I’m considering are pretty near each other in value), but because of my well known deck ADD. As I said, I made this before the Pro Tour, even… At the time of this writing I’d guess that I am going to play an as-yet undesigned tap-out mid-range control deck. Obviously.

Some Other Stuff…

For Regionals, the correct deck to play is clearly Paper. Remember, you don’t actually have to win the tournament to “win the tournament” because Top 4 is a real goal. You don’t actually have to play a short eight-man tournament, only one round, so being caught with the wrong archetype is less lethal than it regularly is.

So what is Paper?

I think that varies Region to Region based on what Rock is. I still think Faeries might be the most commonly played deck, though it could easily be Elves.

What you don’t want to be is Scissors. I think that with its fine showing at Hollywood, Scissors is in particularly bad position for Regionals this year because not only is it going to have to contend with Rock, but people are actually going to be packing sideboard cards for the latest in Scissors because now they’ve seen that it is good.

In any case, good luck at Regionals. This is neither here nor there but I have always done best, regardless of format, with tricky decks that were at least somewhat Black creature decks, whether they were Hatred with mana control, Napster (trickiest Black deck of them all), or The Legends of Team CMU last year (this is part of the reason I liked the Teachings half-Mannequin deck… It’s also tap-out Blue!). Even my nearest miss non-Top 8s were Black creatures, viz. MBC in 2003.

Whatever you choose to play… good luck.