From Left Field – The Unseen Angle

Okay, it’s been two weeks and we’re already all sick of AstroGlide decks. R/W, G/W, G/R/W, B/W – we’ve seen it all. Or have we? What if we told you that someone was trying to make a U/R cycling land destruction deck that Slid Aven Fogbringers for bounce and denial? THOUGHT so.

Much hype has been made about the "AstroGlide" (Most horrible deck name ever – Not The Ferrett) deck, which gained its fame in the deep recesses of E-League’s Master tournament, and is a history which doubtless many of you know well. I’ll not bore you with repetition; instead, I will make a stand in saying that I firmly believe there is a better, as yet (mostly) undiscovered version of the Slide to be had – a little toy I like to call Land Slide.

Standard Slide decks are R/W in composition – which I find to be slick, but faulty. Glide is, at its heart, a control deck; your goal is to control the traffic of all creatures on both sides of the board while chipping away at your opponent’s life total. The problem that immediately becomes clear at this point is that it’s fairly rare for a control deck to succeed for long without the control colour: Blue. While mono-black control has recently been successful, it is beginning to falter, as black is notoriously vulnerable to enchantments – and as such, more or less rolls over and scoops to Compost, Circle of Protection: Black, and pretty much anything that’s not a creature, because aside from discard effects and a single Haunting Echoes, MBC just doesn’t have a clever response to threats of the intangible persuasion.

(I would say that the recent rise of Mirari’s Wake control decks and Monoblack, combined with the current weakness of blue counters, indicate that perhaps Wizards is steering us away from blue-based control decks. Furthermore, Astroglide doesn’t necessarily need counters if it has alternate methods to protect its win conditions {the Slide} and methods of mass removal {Slice and Dice, Wrath of God, any Disenchant effect}. I think this deck as presented here is actually less controllish, as it has a lot of stall cards like Renewed Faith and Choking Tethers that do not actually affect the board position without a Rift or a Slide in play… But it is a new approach, and thus worth taking a look at – The Ferrett)

Without further ado, allow me to present and analyze what I feel to be an improved deck for the Astral Slide/Lightning Rift deck. A word of warning; this is going to be discussed as a work in progress, a springboard for ideas. I will not pretend that it is perfect or infallible and thusly immune to improvement.

Land Slide

3 Forgotten Cave

3 Lonely Sandbar

3 Secluded Steppe

3 Island

4 Flooded Strand

4 Plains

5 Mountain

2 mana

4 Lightning Rift

3 mana

3 Renewed Faith

4 Astral Slide

4 Complicate

4 mana

3 Choking Tethers

3 Lay Waste

3 Solar Blast

3 Wrath of God

4 Aven Fogbringer

6 mana

4 Slice and Dice


2 Circle of Protection: Green

2 Disenchant

2 Morningtide

4 Counterspell

2 Auramancer

2 Words of Worship

1 Cloudchaser Eagle

Running twenty-nine cycling cards (which for most intents and purposes say "Deal two damage to target creature or player and remove target creature from the game until end of turn" in addition to their normal text), this deck throws blue into the mix for purposes of tempo, control, and rather cruel 187 tricks. Many of the cards in the deck have an obvious place and use and have been seen in other Slide lists, but there are a few choices which are new, odd, or both, and may need explaining.

First off, the mana base runs twenty-five land, which I feel is necessary as you really don’t want to miss a land drop for the first five or six turns if it can be helped. Nine of the lands cycle, and for the love of Hell, please don’t cycle them all at the beginning of the game – you might actually need them for mana. Again, this is at heart a control deck and should run a similar mana base.

Why am I avoiding painlands and City of Brass/Grand Coliseum? Very simply I don’t like bleeding for mana when I don’t need to, and the fetchland only stings me once for using it. City of Brass is just a bad card to play unless no one in a twenty-mile radius knows what "Opposition" is. Grand Coliseum might be a fine replacement in the right situations; however, I feel the deck is running enough "comes in tapped" lands as is and does not warrant putting in a tenth. You’re welcome to disagree with me, of course.

Complicate is an addition from blue, which allows you to not scoop to several things you otherwise might; it’s surprisingly good… Even a little countermagic can make a deck much better.

Choking Tethers is primarily a tempo card. You can use it when going first to tap an opponent’s mana dork of choice during their second upkeep to maintain a tempo advantage if you haven’t drawn a Lightning Rift opening hand. It can also serve as a fog effect for one or four would-be attackers, and stall the game.

Lay Waste is a questionable main deck choice by many standards, and some people may be more comfortable with Aura Extraction. I include it for several reasons; Squirrel Nested lands and Cabal Coffers do not approve of it, it cycles for two colourless mana – which allows you a chance at fixing a slightly "off" land draw – and it can gain a tempo advantage against any deck.

Solar Blast may also lift some eyebrows, and in fact I have considered replacing it many times. This card can be bad in a couple of ways; double symbols in its cycling costs and working out to a miscosted Zap when cycled. However, more often than not, I’m playing it in conjunction with Rift, which generally makes it pretty good. I’ve also considered Lightning Surge or Lightning Blast for this slot. I’m freely open to criticism.

The last maindeck card which would surprise and/or confuse most is Aven Fogbringer. I’ll be here when you finish looking it up.

Now, with that out of the way, the astute amongst you have already recognised the card’s potential without my further yapping. For the benefits of the non-Zvis amongst us, the Fogbringer does indeed provide only a minor tempo advantage in an overpriced body at first glance.

But here’s where the tricks come in: In combination with Astral Slide, the Fogbringer becomes cruel and deadly; you can cast it, bounce an opposing land, and then cycle a card at the end of your second main phase. The bird returns at the end of your own turn and sends another land back to its owner’s hand. Not impressed? Do it again at the end of your opponent’s second main phase so that it returns at the end of their turn as well. If they can’t handle it with their rapidly-dwindling mana base, it’s a scoop. Should you so manage to put two birds and two Astral Slides on the table, the effects are cumulative; i.e. you can cycle one card to make both birds duck out for a smoke break.

Lastly, the birds themselves are Wizards, which may gain you control of random Thoughtbound Primocs.

That aside, I might point out that there’s still a good argument for running two Exalted Angels in the deck if you’re less impressed by the Fogbringer or need to do a life race.

Sideboards are a heavily metagame thing (and something I can rarely play five matches without changing), but I’ve included a suitable sideboard for the format in which I play. The Circle has an obvious use; they stop random green things from hurting you until green draws a Naturalize. You can use this stall time to do cute things like win.

Disenchant is this environment (or some variation thereof – some like Cleansing Meditation) is vital for Mirari’s Wake, Riptide Replicators, mirror matches, and disillusioning the younger generations.

Morningtide is your best way of dodging opposing Haunting Echoes. However, you can also try to play around the Echoes; see the end of the article.

Counterspells are good to bring in when you need just a little more control, and Auramancer is so good in this deck that it may be maindeckable over two Lay Wastes if you’re willing to dip down to twenty-seven cycling cards.

Words of Worship goes in against speedy red things, where it can help you stall out a win. Your goal is turn 2 Rift, turn 3 Shock their Blistering Firecat, turn 4 start winning. Always leave a cycling card + mana ready for a Firecat, and if things get hairy, skip the draw and stall for 5 life.

Cloudchaser Eagle is primarily good in the mirror because it is recursive with Slide. Keep in mind that it must destroy someone’s enchantment, even if that means your own, so don’t Slide it needlessly.

Sudden Impact, while not present in the sideboard I’ve presented, may make an interesting choice for winning after you’ve been hit by one Disenchant effect too many; you can still bounce land with the Fogbringer to fill up their hand and throw one of these, or simply sideboard it to annoy Upheaval users (see: UZI).

Lastly, I should point out that it may not be a terrible idea to look at Cunning Wish with a slightly different sideboard (particularly one without Circles) depending on how much you are impressed by toolbox tricks.

A lot of the deck’s success hinges on how you play it – and while this is of course true for any deck, particular attention must be paid to Astral Slide. Don’t forget that as well as abusing comes-into-play abilities, it can be used for removing opposing blockers in the case that you feel the need to swing with a Fogbringer, or fog an attacking creature. Also, it kills token creatures – and should you be morbidly curious, it can turn a morph creature face up. In fact I have a W/G version of Slide based around that; however, I am not as confident about that deck as this one, though I may post it later as a (semi) viable alternative.

Also note that that cycling cards which have effects when cycled are optional, which some people forget. If your opponent is at two life, feel free to cycle Complicate to target your own spell, then activate the Rift for that last two damage.

This deck has no weaknesses in the form- oh, wait, this isn’t Terminator. I won’t lie to you; the deck has potentially bad matchups with Wake, UZI (or, really, any deck which chooses to run Upheaval, a multiple-Complicate candidate if ever there was one) MBC (actually just Haunting Echoes), and any random pure control deck that may crop up – something which thankfully seems unlikely any time soon given the current pool of countermagic.

What it’s strong against is virtually everything else currently in the field – although some feel that this is based solely on the surprise value of the deck, I believe that there may be some staying power involved with the deck. Astral Slide will almost certainly shape the face of Block Constructed, if not Standard.

A few words about the MBC matchup; Lay Waste the Coffers if at all possible, as soon as possible; you don’t want to see what they do with them. Hold Complicates for Mind Sludge, Echoes, and/or Corrupt – and especially the first two. Board in the Counterspells and do everything in your power to not fall victim to Echoes. Cycle redundantly when possible – i.e. if you’ve cycled one Slice and Dice and are holding another and a Secluded Steppe, cycle the Slice and Dice so as to keep one more set of usable cycling cards.

When sideboarding, try to reduce the number of four-ofs as best as possible; Wraths are out, as is Slice and Dice and a Slide to make room for two Disenchants, two Morningtide and four Counterspells. You’ll want to keep some Slides in for dealing with Replicator tokens, and one Disenchant each for Replicator and Mirari. Fogbringers do not go out unless you are ridiculously confident in Lightning Rift. Despite the amount of removal MBC runs, it’s worth trying to keep the Fogbringers alive, because most of their removal is sorceries – and any time you dodge removal with a Slide, you get to bounce one of their lands – they hate that, trust me.

This is a winnable matchup if you play it smart. In particular be careful about using Renewed Faith; you probably don’t want to do it before Echoes unless forced to, as you do not want all copies of it removed. Against MBC it can give you those last vital turns you need to seal a win.

Here’s the part where I’d put a whole bunch of crap about me if I were delusional enough to believe that you actually cared.

I’m not.

Rivien Swanson

TheRogue on EfNet

E-mail to [email protected] for feedback, suggestions, praise, or death threats. Cash accepted, too.