From Right Field: How To Get Ready For States

Neither of these decks are groundbreaking. I mean, where are all of the Onslaught cards? But you gotta remember that sometimes, new cards just don’t help certain decks. Look at PTQ Chicago in 2000: Fires decks were all the rage. But what won the thing? A good, solid Rebel deck. Invasion didn’t give Rebels anything… But it also didn’t take anything away.

So I’ve been helping a couple of friends get ready for the State Championships. I figure they already have a huge handicap in that they think that I can somehow help… But if they think I can help, that’s their problem.

Me? I get free DiGiorno’s pizza and Vanilla Coke out of it, so I’m all good.

It was unanimous that we wouldn’t be playing any of the so-called established decks whatever that means once a whole block rotates out. Okay, what it means is that none of us would be playing version of Quiet Roar, U/G Madness, or mono-black control. At least, that’s how it started out. As with all plans of mice and men, things often go awry.

Boy Scouts and Fonzie will both tell you to be prepared: Pros and high-level amateurs working on post-Onslaught Standard decks will say that they’re just going to find the best cards and build the best decks.

Well, bully for them!

Then, there’s folks like me: I wanna try to build decks around cool cards. And I wanna play my own design. I also won’t have the money to splurge for $100 worth of Onslaught rares before November 1st. So, I can forget decks that start with eight fetch lands and four Blistering Firecats. Me, I’m going for what I have and what I can easily and cheaply get in the next couple of weeks.

Finding the commons and uncommons isn’t hard and then all you have to do is get the rares that you need. The trouble is getting the rares in time for States… So I’ll be testing updated versions of some of my old favorites.

I’d let you in on the Ultra-Uber-Secret Tech of my testing partners… But they’d ban me from the free pizza and soft drinks. Instead, you get the inner workings of my fevered mind. Make sure to get your vaccination first.

All Aboard The Cuh-Ray-Zay Train!

The first deck that I wanted to see if I could modify for States was my mono-white Birds deck from OBC. The reason was quite simple: It wrecked everything in OBC.

Of course, no one believes that. To retread a tired movie catch phrase,”Show me the DATA!” Well, I can’t. Not enough people played the darn deck during OBC season. If they had, they would have seen its power. Alas, it was a white deck. Just saying”white” will often make people turn away in disgust almost as quickly as they would if you were to chew up a bean burrito and then say,”Have you ever seen a train wreck? It looks like this: aahhhhh.”

The birds deck was powerful, though… And the people who tried it were rewarded. People sent me e-mails telling of making the Top 8 without losing a single game. The early birds didn’t mind dying, since they pumped up the Soulcatcher’s Aerie. Soon, their brethren would be huge. There’s not a whole lot more fun than killing your opponent with a flying 7/7 Suntail Hawk that cost one mana to cast. The deck also ran Morningtide in the maindeck. Most OBC decks could not deal with having their graveyard ripped away. It’s very satisfying to follow up your opponent’s second-turn Quiet Speculation with a second-turn Morningtide.

But, Standard after Onslaught is going to be a different animal. Or so I’m told. Everybody keeps telling me that people won’t care about their graveyard as much.

Really? If this is true, where are these decks that don’t care about the graveyard? Let’s run down our playtest gauntlet:

  • QUIET ROAR: Uh, yeah, this cares about it’s graveyard

  • GW THRESHOLD: Yeah, like they don’t care if you rip Genesis and/or Glory out of their ‘yard and strip them of Threshold. Sure.

  • MONO-BLACK CONTROL: Chainer’s Edict becomes a one-for-one trade. And Skeletal Scrying shrivels up and dies.

  • MONO-RED: This one doesn’t seem to care about the ‘yard… But Morningtide eats Firebolts and makes Grim Lavamancers much less scary.

  • MONO-BLACK BEATS/REANIMATOR: There seems to be a lot of Reanimation going on. Again, Chainer’s Edict shows up in this deck. Undead Gladiator goes bye-bye.

  • UW MOBILIZATION: Um, this one’s going to depend on whether or not it runs Circular Logic. If it does, the ‘Tide is good.

  • PSYCHATOG VARIANTS: Don’t believe the hype. ‘Tog ain’t dead, and you will see it at States. Rolling the ‘Tog player’s ‘yard is A Good Thing.

In other words, I’m playing Morningtide maindeck. If I happen to face a deck that just truly doesn’t care about its graveyard, I’ll deal with that from the sideboard.

As far as Standard is concerned, my birds deck gets three great additions: Sage Owl, Skyshroud Falcon, and Reprisal. I can’t brag enough about these guys; if they were my kids, I’d have pictures of ’em in my wallet.”Oh, that’s Sage Owl. He’s first in his class again this year. And Skyshroud, she’s the best athlete in the school. Probably gonna get a scholarship, though she may just jump to the pros.”

These are all huge additions to the deck. Sage Owl stacks up those next four draws: I can’t tell you how important that is in a weenie deck. If you already have enough land, for example, put them at the bottom of the four cards. Skyshroud Falcon doesn’t tap to attack. Do you realize how important that is? I cackle like a Halloween witch whenever I’m attacking with my 6/6 falcon that I can then tap to play the second half of a Battle Screech.

Reprisal takes the place of Vengeful Dreams. While the Dreams has the advantage of removing a creature from the game, the creature has to be attacking, and you have to have at least one extra card in hand. This wasn’t a problem during OBC, and it doesn’t seem to be one now… But Reprisal is more of a sure thing. Give me a four-plus power creature, and I’ll squish it dead.

Of course, Vengeful Dreams could hit multiple attackers. Oh, well. Give a little, take a little.

So, what does the deck look like now? It looks like this:

For The Birds


4 Adarkar Wastes

3 Island

2 Seaside Haven

15 Plains

CREATURES (and spells that make ’em) 23

4 Suntail Hawk

4 Skyshroud Falcon

4 Soulcatcher

4 Sage Owl

3 Lieutenant Kirtar

4 Battle Screech


4 Soulcatcher’s Aerie

4 Reprisal

3 Morningtide

4 Keep Watch

[ALTERNATE MANA BUILD: If you can afford them and you can get them, use four Flooded Strands and drop an Island and three Plains.]

Notice that the only Onslaught card that made it in was Seaside Haven. When you have a bird that’s going to die in combat or to Mutilate anyway, why not draw a card, too? You draw a card and pump up Soulcatcher and his Aerie all at the same time.

I’m not going to bore you with meaningless play statistics. You just have to try it for yourself. When you start winning consistently against the so-called Tier One decks, you’ll be convinced.

Marvin The Martian Wuz Here, And He Wuz Soooo Angry

Another deck that I came up with (as, I’m sure, many others did, too) was an Anger-based deck. As far a typical creature abilities go, haste is nasty. Many of the spells that people rely on right now to rid themselves of creatures are sorceries: Innocent Blood; Chainer’s Edict; Wrath of God. Creatures with haste are like direct damage spells against mono-black control. By the time they’ve dealt with the creature, it’s already hit them once. Add in a fistful of direct damage spells, and winning is a fairly quick affair.

When I showed the OBC version of this to my friend Bill Bryant, it was a red/green deck. Bill, you must know, adores Zombie Infestation. He plays it in Extended decks. He plays it in blue/green decks. His theory is that it’s just one more color, and it facilitates Madness.

He’s so fond of this card that he turned my elegant red/green deck into a three-color monstrosity using Tarnished Citadel…. in OBC! Do you understand how reckless that is? And yet, he finished the Swiss portion of a PTQ as the second seed. (Karl Allen, Tennessee’s State Champ for 2000, was in first with the mono-white birds deck. Karl’s only loss in the Swiss was to the Angry Zombies deck.)

While three colors was simply monstrous in OBC, it’s pretty easy in Standard. The key, though, is that we have to have a Mountain in play. Anger’s no good without a Mountain in play! That means that we won’t be using Sulfurous Springs and Karplusan Forests. While they’re great for getting out of color-screw, the lack of a Mountain on the board would be monstrous… So we have to be careful about the mana.

The easiest thing to do would be to run four each of Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mire, the green/red and black/red Onslaught fetch lands, respectively. However, that’s about $80 worth of cards, even if they are available immediately from any good Magic store… Say, StarCity?

But instead, we’re going to run nothing but basic lands. The reason we can do this is simple; we don’t really need black mana. While it will be nice to have black for an Infestation, the Infestation is a very, very small part of the deck. Yes, it facilitates Madness. And it is oh-so-nice to be able to ditch Anger and an Arrogant Wurm to make a 2/2 zombie and a 4/4 trampling Wurm on turn three, attacking for six… But it’s not what the deck strives for.

What the deck strives for is the play that helped Bill win a pivotal match:

TURN ONE: Forest.

TURN TWO: Mountain, cast Wild Mongrel, ditch Anger and two Rootwallas to the Mongrel, attack with the Mongrel and the two Rootwallas for seven.

It’s turn two, and your opponent is at thirteen. At this point the correct play is deciding whether or not you’re going to offer to split in the finals.

But going back to post-Onslaught Standard, we haven’t really gotten anything that adds to the deck. Except maybe for Chain of Plasma. If your opponent chooses to copy the spell, you can also copy it, discarding a card.

Hey, another Madness enabler! But I don’t like it. Why would I give my opponent a free direct damage spell? I know, I know: You’re thinking,”But it’s not free. They have to discard a card.” Exactly. For the cost of a useless land, they can pick off one of my precious creatures or throw it at my head.

So I won’t be using that card.

Which brings us to the decklist for the new…

Angry Zombies!


2 Swamp

11 Forest

10 Mountain


4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Anger

4 Phantom Centaur


2 Zombie Infestation

3 Rites of Spring

4 Fiery Temper

4 Violent Eruption

4 Browbeat

[ALTERNATE MANA BUILD: If you can afford them from StarCity, use 4 each of the Wooded Foothills and Bloodstained Mire, dropping by 4 each the Forest and Mountain.]

You see, there are beatings. Like the 372-run 8th inning that The Angels dumped on The Twins to win the American League Pennant. Then, there are beatings… Like this deck.

Interesting Violent Eruption Math:

Did you know that one Violent Eruption can kill four Blistering Firecats? It’s true!

Turn And Face The Strange Changes

I know. Neither of these decks is groundbreaking. I mean, where are all of the Onslaught cards? You gotta remember that sometimes, new cards just don’t help certain decks. Nor do new cards mean that old decks are washed up. Look at PTQ Chicago in 2000: Fires decks were all the rage. But what won the thing? A good, solid Rebel deck. How could that be? Invasion didn’t give Rebels anything.

True, but it also didn’t take anything away or add anything that particularly hurt Rebels.

These things are all true for these two decks, too. Sure, you might try to add Gustcloak Harrier to the birds deck… But the mana there is already tight. You could try to add Airborne Aid… But Keep Watch is a cheaper card-drawing spell as well as an instant. Plus, this deck can’t support any more four-casting-cost spells.

Now, take a look at the Angry Zombie deck. Do you want more burn? You do? What do you take out? Creatures? Would you feel comfortable with a beatdown deck that ran fewer than twenty creatures? Better yet, what do you put in? You already have four copies of the two best burn spells right now; is Chain of Plasma that good? What about Shock? For the same price, Fiery Temper played via Madness gives more damage.

The Song Retains The Name

These two decks are consistent, threatening, and handle a lot of what’s out there. And that’s why these are the two decks that I’m thinking about taking to States.

That and the fact that they’re cheap.

Last But Not Least, A List

States and Regionals are the two well-attended tournaments that most of us ever get to play in. There are going to be a lot of great players at States. You need to make sure that you’re not giving anything away. Here’s what you need to do other than practice your deck:

    1. GET PLENTY OF REST Don’t stay up until 4 a.m. testing and making last-minute changes so that you can drive for three hours to get to the tourney. You need your mind to be clicking on all eight cylinders for upwards of twelve hours. Go to bed at a normal hour, and get up in time to have breakfast.

    2. BRING REAL FOOD, NOT CANDY Don’t just bring candy to get you through the day. You need real food something with protein. I’m not saying that you wanna pack egg salad; that would be nasty. But don’t just bring candy and then eat chips all day. My food of choice is chewy fruit granola bars.

    3. TAKE A SHOWER You’re gonna get stinky enough as it is. Don’t compound matters by showing up all nasty.

    4. AIM FOR THE BOWL Another in the nasty chain (CHAIN OF NASTY Miss target toilet. Target opponent may fart. If he does, he may copy this spell and miss the toilet, too.) There will be men’s restrooms and women’s restrooms. The women’s will hardly be used; the men’s rooms will be over-crowded. Please, hit the bowl. Someone may have to, you know, sit down later. And it may be you.

    5. USE PEN AND PAPER Don’t keep score with dice. The guy next to you will get ticked off that his opponent just beat him with Skirk Commando, smash the table, and change the score. Pen and paper not only prevents this from happening but also allows you to be able to track the life totals. This has prevented more than one argument in my games.

    6. CALL A JUDGE Don’t be casual about calling judges. The men and women judging this thing will get a whole whopping box of cards to judge this thing. At $100 a box, divided by twelve hours, these folks are getting less than $8.50 an hour to help you. So, don’t call them for every little thing. But do call them. When your opponent draws an extra card, don’t just say”Show me the card and go on.” Call a judge. Doing the wrong thing in an effort to be nice can get you a warning, too.

    7. BE NICE Not just at States. Always.

That’s all for now. Please, stay for the second half of our double feature THE THING THAT ATE STATES

Chris Romeo

[email protected]