To the surprise of no one (many?), I played my G/W deck at the Edison PTQ last week. The modifications were medium minor:
- 4 Cloudthresher
- 4 Gaddock Teeg
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Safehold Elite
- 1 Twilight Shepherd
- 4 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
- 4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
Main deck I took out the Elvish Hexhunters and played the fourth Oblivion Ring and the Twilight Shepherd (which seemed medium awesome). Sideboard I got tricked into taking out Turn to Mist, mostly in favor of Pollen Lullaby… Crib Swap was on the brain for lots of people (originating with Gerry Thompson) and I decided to join the bandwagon; Turn to Mist would have been better than all, and I should have stuck to my guns.
I ended up going 0-2 in unenthusiastic fashion, losing to Kithkin both times!
First match I was stuck on three, which wouldn’t have been that big a deal, but I was all threes (including triple Shield of the Oversoul), so I could only play out one thing at a time. He had three tappers and three Oblivion Rings, and my deck is pretty much all guys, so… Eventually he got me with a Cloudgoat Ranger.
Second game was a combination of awesome plays and minor mistakes (mostly his). At one point I had to run out a Cloudthresher on Evoke even though I had six, so that I could qualify for Mosswort Bridge and flip out a Pollen Lullaby so I would not, you know, bite it. I came back. He made a couple of small errors (he didn’t tap my Twilight Shepherd pre-combat, not realizing it had Vigilance… stuff like that), until I made one that actually cost the game. He had Pollen Lullaby and topdecked a bunch in a row, and was in position to win with Cloudgoat Ranger. In he came for five (lethal). I had a strange choice. I had a Cloudthresher in my hand to eat it, but then again he had an active tapper. What to do? If I spent 100% of my mana on the Cloudthresher, I was pretty sure he would just tap it, so I would lose. I elected to use two of my lands to flip out a Wispmare and hope he screwed up and forgot it had flying or something; at least I would be able to bluff with four lands open. I was forced to unveil either his Lord or a Knight of the Meadowgrain (each was hiding under an Oblivion Ring); I went – as most people would, knee-jerk – for the Knight. Luckily he didn’t tap the Wispmare, even though the Cloudgoat Ranger was lethal up top. Okay! I have a lethal attack. Why didn’t I let the Lord go? Stupid Knight. Cloudthresher not lethal. Defeat from the jaws of victory. Horrible. I didn’t notice when I was all in that I was going to lose my Teeg; I slaughtered his squad on the attack but he stayed over two, and suddenly he could play Mirrorweave for the kill. Why didn’t I let the Lord go?
Next up was Nicky Fiorillo (standout John’s younger brother) in the 0-1. First game I got. Second game I screwed up (Nicky even gave me the take-back). Third I went to Paris and got stuck on five with three awesome sixes in hand for about three turns too many. 0-2.
I read in a report from one of the Philadelphia area Top 8 players that he would have run the Witches main deck (I cut them for Heartmender, as you know), but they would have been awesome in the two matches I played. I lost to being overloaded by tappers, more-or-less, and the ability to get a Twilight Shepherd, or even just a Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, [back] online and past a tapper seems just bonkers in the matchups where the Witches were originally positioned. This was a case of getting a little cocky about a matchup where I hadn’t done sufficient testing on my own, and throwing away the right tool prematurely.
I was pretty down on the deck at that point, for obvious reasons (losing 0-2 to my best matchup especially), but at least I had the chance to hang out with awesome people all day. Ben Lundquist was 1-2 with Faeries, and we got to play a lot waiting for our friends to scrub out. I think we put in more than twenty games. I also got two against Conrad Kolos before the tournament started.
Based on these, I have decided that Kithkin is not in fact the easiest matchup for G/W. Faeries is.
I lost a total of one game.
Maybe Ben will jump onto the forums and declare that he was tossing them for kicks for a few hours? I don’t think he will. G/W is certainly not perfect, but Osyp has a theory that Faeries is just the best deck. If that is true and Faeries attracts even more players, I think that G/W gets better. G/W just beats Faeries repeatedly and mercilessly.
For a while, I didn’t understand why that was.
Yes, Gaddock Teeg is awesome in the matchup.
Yes, G/W can tempo Faeries out, steal games with Cloudthresher, or just watch the other guy die to Bitterblossom.
Yes, Faeries can be overwhelmed by threat after threat after threat, just like Fires could sometimes topple Eye-Go despite the better-than-solid B/U matchup back in 2000.
But those aren’t the reasons it is favorable in the long run.
I can’t believe this never came up before. Actually, it must have, but Faeries is advantaged in most matchups so maybe we just didn’t notice.
There is no Ancestral Visions.
In Standard, Faeries ends up in the exact same spots as it does in Block, but suddenly it peels three extra cards and has more than enough cards to win; not so in Block. In Block, if Faeries is behind to a Cloudthresher, it has to solve the problem with multiple cards; in Standard, that is also true main deck (barring Terror, which is not in the Block version), but Faeries gets a bunch of cards for free all at once; that is, here are a bunch of cards to kill the Cloudthresher.
After numerous games between me and Ben, we mixed it up with some Block 2HG. I was joined by PNaps, and Ben played with Mike McGee. G/W and Faeries versus Elementals and Faeries. The Faeries should have been evenly matched, but Elementals – I thought – was the bullet for G/W (it turned out from our testing at the PTQ, you know, after being eliminated, that G/W actually wins more than it loses main deck… somehow). To make a long story short, we had the definite edge, with me swinging with some kind of awesome G/W guy covered with Shield of the Oversoul, McGee with nothing, and Benny a Smokebraider. End of turn, PNaps fired Nameless Inversion at the Smokebraider.
What are you doing?!?
He had four lands!
What does it matter?
It means it’s not hurting us! McGee might have a…
Yep. It was Sower of Temptation.
PNaps! You’re so awful!
A few hours later, PNaps had won the PTQ with Faeries. I’m guessing he was more careful with his Nameless Inversion and that he owes is Blue Envelope to those crucial moments of 2HG.
Osyp, PNaps’s primary playtest partner, says Faeries is the best, and that Faeries beats G/W more than 8/10. I would caution that Osyp is an impressive and compelling Teller of Tales. That said, a reason they might think that is because the version PNaps played has Thoughtsieze main in lieu of Broken Ambitions. This is very good in the mirror, but even better versus G/W. Think about it: Not only can you pluck Gaddock Teeg before it hits play, even on the draw, but you have an advantage in opportunity cost; the Thoughtsieze Faeries doesn’t play Broken Ambitions, so it can’t draw a dead Broken Ambitions when Gaddock Teeg is already in play.
Based on the games I played, I think G/W still has a nice advantage. Speaking of PTQ winners, this was confirmed by new Facebook friend Jeff Szelzki, who messaged me that he won the Montreal PTQ with the G/W deck. His only loss in the Swiss was to Faeries (which he beat repeatedly in other contests), and he really had to nut up when that same player sat across from him in the tournament final for the plane ticket; Jeff got there.
Jeff was kind enough to answer some questions about his experiences with the deck (more or less the same ones I asked Gabe Carleton-Barnes a week ago).
1. List, pls tks:
2 Wooded Bastion
4 Mosswort Bridge
4 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
4 Safehold Elite
4 Gaddock Teeg
2 Elvish Hexhunter
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Kitchen Finks
3 Barkshell Blessing
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Shield of the Oversoul
2 Elvish Hexhunter
4 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Guttural Response
4 Pollen Lullaby
3 Turn to Mist
2. What decks did you beat in the Top 8?
Top 8: I Beat Faeries 2-1
Top 4: I Beat Mono-Black 2-0
Top 2: I Beat Faeries 2-1
3. What decks are a cakewalk for GW / what is the major incentive to playing GW?
This is the only deck in the format that has game against any deck. “Cakewalk” I would refer to as a deck with 100% win percentage, and I don’t believe in this specific Block that any deck has a 100% percentage over anything. Faeries is still ridiculously consistent and insanely powerful, and Elementals, Kithkin, etc. can simply pull Affinity wins from nowhere, just like any other deck. The incentive to play this deck, compared to other decks, is that this deck has specific silver bullets versus a lot of strategies in the format, which give an advantage against the majority of archetypes. Gaddock Teeg is insane in so many situations, either versus Faeries or in general. As everyone would guess, Cloudthresher is 75% Good Game versus the most played deck in the format. There are a lot of positives in playing this deck rather than choosing Faeries and facing mirror matches 40% of the time. There is power in this deck… it might look like a pile, but results from both Mike Flores testing and from actual PTQ Top 8s prove this deck is definitely a contender, and not a mere fluke.
4. What was your toughest matchup in testing?
I honestly didn’t do much testing. I saw the list and liked it, and ran it the day of the PTQ. I was aware of the Block metagame from attending PT: Hollywood… for some reason I decided to attend the Pro Tour while unqualified, and I approached both PTQs as a spectator. That helped me pick a lot of Block Constructed knowledge. The hardest matchup by far is Faeries, due to either being Blossomed out or Cliqued out, which happened in numerous lost games at the PTQ. You just have to run the deck as it is meant to be played and push through counters, and if Teeg hits you’re that much better in your attempt to win. Beyond Faeries, the other decks in the format I find rely on their manabases a lot, therefore you can control how the games go. Of course, Kithkin doesn’t fall prey to that problem… I was somewhat fortunate to not play Kithkin at all, as you said you 0-2’ed the Kithkin matchup and I’m sure I would’ve followed suit.
5. What deck, if any, did you lose to during the day?
I lost to Ben Fanjoy [Faeries] in Round 3, bringing me to 2-1, and I faced him in the finals and beat him 2-1. A lot of the Faerie matches were somewhat close, yet when I won I had a very steady handle on board position the majority of the time. I was pretty fortunate, as my Top 8 and Top 4 matches were finished before Ben’s, which allowed me to get some much needed rest, and fatigue set in on him with minor errors throughout the finals. The whole day, my only loss was to Faeries, and my 9 wins were against: 5 Faeries, 1 Mono Black, 1 mirror match, 1 Elementals, 1 Mono Red.
6. What card was your MVP?
Everyone is probably automatically thinking Gaddock Teeg, yet honestly, Turn to Mist is beyond MVP. That card is so good versus Sower and anything that should belong on your side of the table. I saw a lot of Sowers during the day, and it is an outright insane trick, yet can win matches so easily with Thresher alone versus Faeries. It’s pretty evident that nothing can compare to Turn To Mist, as a lot of people are basing decks on Mistmeadow Witch. The Mist is an instant version of that card.
7. Why did you select the GW?
I selected the GW deck due to it being talked about for the majority of the Block season after PT: Hollywood. Last year, your GW Haterator deck posted reasonable results, therefore I trusted in your skills. I read your report and took your sideboard, saw Turn To Mist, and then proceeded on my way. This take on the sideboard was very intriguing, and I was debating on whether to attend, and what to play, but you made a lot of good points in your articles that were crucial to my eventual choice. I insist that I am also an “aggro” player, rather than control, and I was never going to run Faeries, even if my life depended on it; due to Melissa’s win (with Faeries) I was expecting a lot of Fae, and I was right… maybe it was just my day to finally win a PTQ.
8. I assume if you had it to do all over again, you would play the same deck… But what changes, if any, would you make if you had to run it back?
I would obviously run this deck again if I had to redo the PTQ, although the four Pollen Lullaby and four Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender were rarely used. The Lullabies were only boarded in versus the mirror, and the Tenders were against Mono Red, although I doubt they were 100% necessary. I would most likely keep the four Pollen Lullaby, yet I’d have to think very hard about the four Forge-Tenders as there are a lot of options left open for the sideboard. Heartmenders could be relevant, but I would target Faeries as the matchup in which I need that extra boost. G/W already has some game against it, yet it never hurts to have more ammunition if 60% of your matchups are against Faeries.
Before I go, I’d like to thank Dan Lanthier for lending me this PTQ winning deck!
With Jeff’s win, my disappointment with G/W after my 0-2 (been there before!) was more or less erased. However, if I had to play again, I would probably go with Elementals. Elementals was the deck that I was originally most interested in working on, but I kind of made G/W on a lark (I always make G/W), and it turned out to be pretty good, won the NG $1,300, made a couple of Top 8s, and I became emotionally attached. I rarely play the same deck twice, and for me on a reload, the idea of Harbinger, Smokebraider, Horde is just too sexy to not try… once.
Eventide is likely going to be legal the next time I get to play. Very likely I am going to have Overbeing of Myth on my team; it actually doesn’t have any of the things going for it that make me love Aeon Chronicler, but it has such a can-do Aeon Chronicler spirit, I am pretty sure I’d succumb.
In other news, Faeries won every PTQ I know of last week, barring Jeff’s finish with G/W. If the format devolves into Faeries versus anti-Faeries… You know my position on this.