Flores Friday – Snap Judgments Continued… Now with Free Deck Lists!

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Friday, April 18th – Earlier this week, Mike Flores took us through some of his initial thoughts on the exciting Constructed cards on offer in Shadowmoor. Today, he continues where he left off, and spices things up with a few preliminary deck lists and ideas. If you’re looking for an edge in Shadowmoor Standard, here’s the perfect place to start!

This week I decided to pepper the review with some deck list ideas I have been having with the new cards. Any testing is pretty light at this point, but I think there are some decent jumping off points. Shadowmoor looks to be awesome in terms of Constructed playability.

Flame Javelin

Mine from the mother ship this week. Obviously awesome. Better than Char in some decks, a kind of oddly playable Mouth of Ronom in others. One thing I didn’t think about originally – and I don’t know how much this will matter for most burn decks – is that Flame Javelin is a non-bo with Gaddock Teeg. It is a functional three that weighs in as a six, or to paraphrase my oldest and dearest friend when we were at University together “Mike looks like a heavyweight… but drinks like a lightweight.” The opposite, actually, for Flame Javelin.

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Kitchen Finks

So, Kitchen Finks versus Loxodon Hierarch (versus Spike Feeder?)…

I remember Spike Feeder being the best card in The Rock, but the matchups were all some kind of beatdown deck or some deck that tried to deal exactly 20 damage (life loss, actually), so that was probably a product of its time more than being an objective best card. No one – not even Jeroen – has been rising up with fists to play Spike Feeder in modern Standard.

My gut says Kitchen Finks will be an All-Star sideboard card but not a main deck staple unless we see a significant upheaval in the Standard mix (say, a huge migration from Blue to Red Decks in the wake of Tattermunge Maniac and Flame Javelin), which is strange given my best card memories of Spike Feeder in The Rock, because Kitchen Finks is the superior offensive threat all by itself.

The comparison to Loxodon Hierarch is mathematically quite similar, surprisingly. Loxodon Hierarch is typically worth two real cards, usually, and if the opponent is a Red Deck, another two cards (minimum), plus sundry virtual card advantage. A Char (or Flame Javelin) will trade straight up for a Loxodon Hierarch, but those three mana spells are the Red Deck equivalent of a Mulldrifter evoked – essentially two spells – and when the opponent’s burn is one of those, Kitchen Finks is actually better. In matchups where the Finks is relevant, it will typically trade with value twice, two real and two fake cards. The differences are that Kitchen Finks saves you about three mana to play whereas the Hierarch has some indeterminate virtual card advantage upside, the “Moat” effect, his ability to stare down other Green creatures, not to mention the seldom used but nevertheless often relevant regeneration clause.

One possible positive is that I don’t think there are many illusions about the Finks main deck, whereas we all played Hierarch main in the right colors. Given the tenor of the current Standard, Loxodon Hierarch wouldn’t really be very good, but a lot of middling players would not know to side him out because he’s so damn efficient (think about that clunky four versus Mistbind Clique and Time Walk prowl). Weak argument? Maybe!

For Standard, when Finks is relevant, it’s going to be a real headache. You can’t easily Shock it out of the way to make room for Gargadon… You need more Shocks or risk a chump block. I can actually see this over Hierarch in the Reaper King sideboard (see below), where Hierarch didn’t actually make the cut in the alpha build.

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Reaper King

I think this card is awesome. Without being able to analyze the manabase possibilities for Standard in their entirety I am going to refrain from speculating too much for that format, but Reaper King seems like an awesome catalyst for revisiting my Extended Domain / Sunburst (the deck I started working on about a year ago rather than the more popular – and likely soon to be defunct – Domain Zoo), which never really found a foothold in the wake of more powerful Green strategies at the time such as Loam, and the advent, this year, of faster and more durable combo decks such as Dredge.

With the large amount of rotations that we know are coming before next year’s Extended events, I think that there might be a gap once again for mid-range Green to be a successful strategy. Here is my first draft of a Reaper King deck (using only cards that we know about, of course):

Fear the Reaper

3 Engineered Explosives
4 Etched Oracle
4 Reaper King
3 Sword of Fire and Ice
2 Umezawa’s Jitte

3 Bringer of the Blue Dawn
4 Remand
4 Thirst for Knowledge

2 Putrefy

4 Farseek
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

2 Breeding Pool
2 Murmuring Bosk
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

1 Engineered Explosives
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Gaddock Teeg
4 Ancient Grudge
4 Dwarven Blastminer

I like this strategy because all the bombs are creatures (so they dodge Gaddock Teeg), and technically cost a million or so mana so they dodge Counterbalance.

Given the fact that the Counterbalance Blue decks probably aren’t losing anything but Counterspell, it might be important to sideboard some kind of Boil… I’ve taken some test draws on Apprentice and this deck seems very fun, but some of the first two or three turn sequences can be a little slow.

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Witherscale Wurm

This creature is a 9/9 for six mana. That’s basically enormous, past Spectral Force even; sure, other creatures can wither him, but he’s going to smash basically anyone to death and as soon as he can connect, he is going to have all his counters wiped away anyway.

One of the things that I did wrong when I was first analyzing Champions of Kamigawa card Sensei’s Divining Top – a card that grew up to be one of my favorites after I gave it many public beats – was to look at the card too much in the abstract. People play Loxodon Warhammer in Standard. Solar Flare decks play Loxodon Warhammer, not just Green mid-range decks (which also play Loxodon Warhammer). Witherscale Wurm is not going to have a lot of difficulty trampling over little guys.

Also, this card is a simply unreal topdeck after an attrition war, more than twice as effective as the aforementioned Spectral Force.

The only question is how choked six is going to be for Green… If it’s even remotely open in color combinations with spot creature kill, Witherscale Wurm should be a steady candidate for Standard.

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Twilight Shepherd

I am giving this one Thumbs Up because it is obviously awesome… I just don’t know what to do with it yet.

To really get the maximum value out of a card like this, you actually want to have a bunch of creatures (or whatever permanents) and play Wrath of God so that when you play it you can get all that card advantage. Given the tenor of the creatures you would typically play in a deck capable of WWW mana, topping up on Twilight Shepherd can be… strange.

Or… You can play Twilight Shepherd just to be Twilight Shepherd in a Wrath of God control deck. You Wrath, you kill all his guys, get your 5/54/4 back. That is pretty good against regular creatures but probably outclassed by ‘lark and Mannequin control elements.

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Puncture Bolt

For a while one year it looked like at Regionals there would be a fair amount of gating. Fleetfoot Panther was doing pretty well in testing (Richie Frangiosa in particular loved a “Fleetwood” Panther), and we had a couple of decks based on returning Flametongue Kavu with Horned Kavu.

It turns out there was almost no gating at Regionals (though Shivan Wurm became moderately popular as the months went on due to its sheer size in the mirror). So all our anti-gating preparation with instant speed removal didn’t really amount to a whole lot.

I know there are a lot of -1/-1 counters in Shadowmoor, but enough that they can make this card really worthwhile for sixties? Puncture Bolt just seems a little Limited in scope and efficiency. I’d rather have Sudden Shock every time (at least given the breadth of my experience at this point, which is obviously incomplete), and no one even plays Sudden Shock.

Thumbs Down

Midnight Banshee

Big. Monstrous. Black. A bully with that Wither clause. Probably pretty hard to kill. A Spirit, which undoubtedly makes Ben Peebles-Mundy grin (It’s in your colors, Ben!). Kills lots of everything else (but sadly not Bitterblossom tokens). Still… It should be a fine finisher for some decks. No Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves will likely live, which makes some decks’ topdecks embarrassing when they are staring down a durable 5/5. Might not be the best control finisher, but probably will be a minority adoption; better in mid-range (just play Black or hybrids, I think).

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Conspire or no… Actually… “No” works just fine.

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Deus of Calamity

And he’s a Spirit? (I always look for stuff like that to figure if Deus of Calamity might make sense in Spirit StOmPy or something like that.)

6/6 for five is just enormous. Trample built-in? I just don’t see going wrong with this creature. He’s a little inflexible but that just comes with the times, I think. [(g/r)(g/r)(g/r)(g/r)(g/r) is the kind of thing that Jamie probably both loves and hates at the same time depending on the perspective.] We can assume that sufficient tools will accompany the Deus (this is the new age of Graven Cairns) and make him much easier to play.

When Shivan Wurm came out Rob Dougherty said that that 7/7 for five was one of the best creatures that had ever been printed. (g/r)(g/r)(g/r)(g/r)(g/r) is not really that much harder to get than 3GR in the kind of decks that would have wanted to play Shivan Wurm way back when, and will possibly be going Deus today. Plus there is the issue of the gating (that is, no enforced gating this time around). My point is that Deus of Calamity is only one power and toughness smaller than Shivan Wurm, and balances with an absolutely insane ability.

I was actually working on mono-Green for post Shadowmoor Standard before I saw this card working on this article. Here’s a revised pass:

Scryb & Force Again

2 Loxodon Warhammer

4 Deus of Calamity

4 Boreal Druid
4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Cloudthresher
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Ohran Viper
4 Scryb Ranger
4 Spectral Force
3 Stonewood Invocation

22 Forest
1 Pendelhaven

2 Loxodon Warhammer
2 Pithing Needle
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Riftsweeper
3 Seal of Primordium

Actually, it will need even more revision… I borrowed the Scryb & Force combo from 2006-2007 and have to consider the possibility of Witherscale Wurm still. I don’t see most of these fatties outpacing Cloudthresher due to Faeries, yet even though this is an offensive deck I am wondering if Birds of Paradise isn’t better than Boreal Druid due entirely to Deus of Calamity, which is just the most awesome thing ever to grace the five slot.

I am not sure if twelve elves (Llanowar Elves, Boreal Druid, and Chameleon Colossus) are a significant enough number to play Lys Alana Bowmaster; of course, moving to Birds of Paradise answers that questions almost entirely. Another sideboard possibility (albeit for completely different matchups) is Groundbreaker.

Probably could use some Tarmogoyf. What’s new? That part is Osyp’s job.

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Prismatic Omen

I’m prepared to be wrong on this one…

I just don’t see for spending a full card on this effect when I am capable of running G on the second turn. How many of these are you going to run? Is there a combo deck that would want to play this?

Thumbs Down

Oracle of Nectars

I am giving this Thumbs Down on principle despite the fact that there are probably decks that can’t possibly beat an active Oracle. Can you really afford to tap all your mana every turn while getting attacked, presumably with tempo under the other side’s arm? Too good at 2/3? 1/3? 1/4?

Thumbs Down

Spawn writhe

This card probably qualifies for full on “out of hand” if you play it Viper-style on the second turn off of any of the three available first turn accelerators. Trample is fantastic that early in the game because the follow up Spawn writhe will have the same spawning ability, you know, written on it. I don’t really have anything else to say about this card.

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Torrent of Souls

Is this what it has come to?

My Thumbs Down is tentative because I don’t know about any legitimate tools; even in Extended there is no more Sutured Ghoul. I just don’t see it on this one. Five is a lot, especially when we have a wealth of really good options on four including both the instant classic Makeshift Mannequin and the battle proven Dread Return. If some kind of automatic lethal appears (“If only I had a way to give this 20/20 haste!”), all this changes, of course. Five is still a lot.

Thumbs Down

Murderous Redcap

I didn’t like this at all, but Paskins gave it a rating of four so I started thinking about it. For what you are really trying to do this card compares pretty nicely with Thornscape Battlemage, which is a card I always try to play. There are a lot of nice two-for-ones that you can play in Standard… I decided to try to mod the Columbus Red Rock with Murderous Redcap playing a role (when ZevAtog was gaining popularity, Jon Sonne also tried to make a two-for-one deck with Red and Green in Standard with lots of 2/2-ish creatures on four). Here’s a pass:

1 Grim Harvest
2 Makeshift Mannequin
4 Shriekmaw

4 Fulminator Mage
4 Murderous Redcap

4 Birds of Paradise
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Cloudthresher
4 Thornscape Battlemage
4 Wall of Roots
4 Yavimaya Dryad

4 G/R Graven Cairns Thing
2 Forest
2 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Murmuring Bosk
2 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

The Black in this deck is a little painful, and the Gilt-Leaf Palaces stick out like sore thumbs. I’d actually like one more source of Black but cutting any more Treetop Villages is offensive to me, even just as an idea.

This deck probably needs more Tarmogoyf, and for that matter, Bitterblossom.

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Mana Reflection

Originally I thought you could drop this one with Dramatic Entrance at the end of your opponent’s turn (which could be the functional equivalent of a free twelve mana Seething Song on your next turn), but no such luck. Still, Mana Reflection is one-sided, which means your opponent doesn’t automatically get 8+ mana. You, of course, are meant to win the turn after you play it.

One of the things that is awesome about this card is that it works with the inherently Green mana acceleration cards like Birds of Paradise; in the past Green decks had to eschew these options due to their non-bo status with, say, Heartbeat of Spring.

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Knacksaw Clique

I’m not sure what deck, exactly, plays Knacksaw Clique. It’s a little cute for the brutal offensive CounterSliver that is Faeries… Maybe some more middle-set control decks might want this combination of decent toughness and a game winning ability. Surely Knacksaw Clique would be a brutal game winner in a Blue-on-Blue non-attack oriented mirror, say sideboarded.

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Good luck to anyone playing in the Prerelease!