Inside the Metagame: Regionals 2004 – Cemetery Cloud

I have been talking mostly about stock decks for this series, but as we are getting closer to Regionals I want to take some time to look at some of the more interesting contenders. While this deck should only represent a small portion of the metagame, it has a certain”rock-like” appeal that may draw some of the aggro-control players over, since aggro-control has pretty much been reduced to Green/Red. In a world full of blazingly fast aggressive decks and sluggish, but powerful control decks, the Aggro-Control deck sort of got lost in the shuffle. Luckily this deck has a lot of game against the respective decks in the Metagame, and it is a valid contender.

I have been talking mostly about stock decks for this series, but as we are getting closer to Regionals I want to take some time to look at some of the more interesting contenders. While this deck should only represent a small portion of the metagame, it has a certain”rock-like” appeal that may draw some of the aggro-control players over, since aggro-control has pretty much been reduced to Green/Red. In a world full of blazingly fast aggressive decks and sluggish, but powerful control decks, the Aggro-Control deck sort of got lost in the shuffle. Luckily this deck has a lot of game against the respective decks in the Metagame, and it is a valid contender.

I am not sure of the origins of this deck – it was brought to my attention by Nick Lynn of”Beverly” fame. At first he claimed to like it, and then he claimed to not like it. Perhaps this is why his Beverlyness is now widely known throughout the land. At any rate, I liked it. After some time fiddling with the deck, I can say that it is a solid build that could be modified in a number of ways depending on what you want to be better against. Here is the list, so you know what I am talking about:

3 Chrome Mox

7 Swamp

4 City of Brass

9 Forest

3 Viridian Shaman

3 Viridian Zealot

4 Twisted Abomination

4 Skullclamp

4 Ravenous Rats

4 Ravenous Baloth

4 Oversold Cemetery

3 Nekrataal

4 Death Cloud

4 Birds of Paradise

At heart, this is a traditional Oversold Cemetery deck (if there even is such a thing) that abuses the power of Skullclamp and Death Cloud. There is another Death cloud deck that can be seen here that does very different things, but would probably appeal to the same people:


This deck has a very modular design, meaning that it is easy to change based on what you think will be popular in the metagame. Afraid of Affinity? Add more Viridian Shamans/Zealots. Worried about control? Throw in some Cabal Interrogators. Dumb creatures with good abilities are the name of the game. As long as they can do something useful when they come into play and live long enough to chump block or get Skullclamped, they will fit in fine… and this is a deck where having one toughness is a bonus.

Against beatdown decks your plan is to throw guys in the way long enough for you to cast Death Cloud. After that it will be much easier to breathe, since this will put at least a temporary halt on the assault aimed at your dome. There will be some games where you will simply 187 them out of contention (when neither parties draw Skullclamp) with Ravenous Rats and Nekrataals. Normally this would not be enough to hold off an assault of Goblins, but Ravenous Baloth really helps even out the equation. If you want more Wrath-like effects, you could try Bane of the Living, but it is a bit slow to halt the creature decks of today. Still, it is surprising how many creatures a Skullclamped Viridian Shaman would hold at bay… I guess any creature wearing a Skullclamp that didn’t die yet can be scary.

Against control decks, your best friends are Ravenous Rats, Twisted Abominations, and Oversold Cemetery. If they can’t find a good way of dealing with the Cemetery, all the creature control in the world won’t help them. Most control decks will try to Akroma’s Vengeance it away. This works out very nicely for your Twisted Abominations, since they can regenerate through the Vengeance. Death Cloud can be a nice monkey wrench to throw in their plans, especially against Slide – hitting their cards and their lands is rather devastating.

This brings me to Death Cloud. It is great against Control, and its great against beatdown. It is just always great. Kinda like Skullclamp. Okay, so maybe not… but the Cloud also acts as an interesting answer to Skullclamp. It doesn’t deal with the Clamp, but it deals with the extra cards they have drawn, and any extra creatures they have popped into play. It just levels the playing field right back down to zero. Of course, if they have a Clamped creature at the time the Death Cloud rolls into town, they will be left will a little something for their trouble, but what can you expect… no card can really negate the power of Skullclamp fully.

The fact of the matter is that this deck has two very alluring strong points:

1) This deck uses extremely good cards with very powerful effects. Just look at the roster: Skullclamp, Death Cloud, Oversold Cemetery, Birds of Paradise – need I go on?

2) This deck has great sideboard potential. I have not explored all the sideboard options, but it is very nice to have a deck that can support both Oxidizes and Cabal Interrogators.

Think about it – this deck has weapons against the entire metagame, while using powerful game-swinging cards to boot. Few of the decks in the metagame do that. Most rely on lots of fast and efficient creatures with a combo/finisher element or some sort of continuous board control card advantage and high mana production to pull through. This deck just says,”Hi, I play better cards than you.” While the best decks don’t always play the best cards – in a wide-open environment like Regionals, there are more factors supporting the theory.

Also, you get a chance to play with Ravenous Rats and Twisted Abominations, I mean, who can pass that up? I know I can’t. It will be hard to force myself not to play this deck at Regionals… it just is too much fun!

Let’s go through the Matchups:

Vs. MWC and U/W

These have been lumped together again because this deck might as well be blind to the difference. The only cards worth countering are Cemetery and Death Cloud (and Skullclamp), and the Cemetery and Clamp are rather easy to sneak under countermagic. If the Death Cloud gets countered, it’s no big deal, you were just going to use it to hurt their mana anyhow. It works better as a threat to force them to keep mana open anyhow. You plan is to get some annoying creatures on the board – it doesn’t matter what they are, as long as they provide some sort of clock. Ravenous Rats are the beaters of choice, but anything (including Viridian Shamans and Nekrataal) will do. Don’t be too hasty to Clamp away all your creatures. If you have a Cemetery, go ahead, but ideally you will be doing three to five damage a turn through some device – Clamped Viridian Shaman is my favorite, since it spits in the face of any Wrath. Try to hard cast your Twisted Abominations if possible, as they are strong against Vengeances and force them to have an actual Wrath.

Now it is hard to say, but they might have Damping Matrix or Culling Scales between main/board. The Matrix isn’t really a problem, and it will most likely get Viridian Shamaned away eventually. The Scales can be a real hater, since it can kill your Oversold Cemetery. Luckily, between your three Shamans and three Zealots, you don’t have many targets other than these. For this reason, I would still keep some in after board. Also, Boarding in Cabal Interrogators is likely to make them frown. When you have Interrogators plus Rats, their hand is nothing but a memory.

Vs. Slide

Slide is much more difficult than the matchups above because Slide is based on creature control, and this deck is based on creatures… slow creatures. The math says this is bad for you. Luckily, Viridian Zealots kills enchantments, so it gives you better hope against Rift and Slide. Once again, they do not have many ways to stop your key powerful cards, Clamp, Cemetery, and Death Cloud. Using Death Cloud against this deck as a two-way Armageddon/Mind Twist is more effective than it is in the above matchups. Still, you will need the dork-clock-engine, putting some of the funnier pressure on your opponent. Beat them down with a Ravenous Rat, a Nekrataal, and a Ravenous Baloth. They might laugh, but they will also die in 3 turns if they don’t do something…and Sliding out Rats isn’t going to help them (sliding out Nekrataals might though…watch out for this). You can Sideboard in Stabilizers here to make your life easier. While you would rather have a creature to SB in, I think that this matchup is dire enough to warrant the slots if you feel like your local metagame will be packing a good amount of Slide.

Vs. Goblin-x

Goblins is a nice matchup for you. They are not quite as fast as Affinity, so their creatures are a bit easier to contain with your rag-tag team of dorks that do stuff. Ravenous Baloth is your savior – just when they think they are making progress, the Baloth hits the table and they cry. Nekrataal is also very effective against them since, you can kill their Piledriver and then block another Piledriver, taking all the steam out of their team.

You shouldn’t have much problem keeping Clamp off of the table. They might draw a few cards first, but that’s life. The two cards to watch out for are Goblin Sharpshooter and Patriarch’s Bidding. Bidding is that scarier of the two, but both can do things that makes your dorks quite an unimportant factor in the game. Needless to say, Death Cloud with”x =opponent’s team” will almost always win you the game, and it will also probably make sure they will never get to five mana for Bidding. You have to be kind of careful about the life loss that Death Cloud does – it is easy to forget and essentially kill yourself with it (in the same vein don’t forget you can”Fireball” their dome with it).

For sideboarding – it sounds a little strange, but Noxious Ghoul can really help against the Bidding, that and a Twisted Abomination coming back from the grave when you name”Zombie” will effectively force them to kill you with Sharpshooters – not an easy thing to do, considering you have plenty of guys to block early and Ravenous Baloths.

Vs. Affinity

It seems like more and more people are jumping on the Ravager Affinity bandwagon now. It will be funny to watch them all fall off. People, take my word on this… Affinity is not as good as you think. It can do some degenerate things, but it does not do them all the time. That being said, this deck probably has Affinity as one of its poorer matchups depending on what kind of draw they get. Much of the time you will be able to halt them with your six two-for-one artifact kill creatures, and then begin to bring them back with Cemetery. You can usually finish them off with a Death Cloud equal to the number of guys they have (after killing some off). This will often leave them with a Skullclamp in play with no guys or lands and two cards in hand. Baloths also make their life hard, since they are basically a burn deck these days.

One interesting thing to keep in mind is you should not Clamp away your Birds – you are going to need them to block Ornithopters. This creates an awkward situation for the Affinity player in the”if I put everything on the Ornithopter I win” situation, changing it to”I win in two turns,” and leaving them vulnerable to a Viridian Shaman or Zealot. Your little Birdy can be the thin line between winning and losing.

You can bring in Oxidizes from the sideboard to good effect, but I would bring in more Viridian Shaman/Zealots first. Choose creatures over spells whenever possible in this deck. They might have Slobad to annoy you; except that Slobad isn’t really all that annoying (Welding Jar is almost strictly better). Just try to keep your life total high to prevent being Ravager/Discipled out. Recurring Baloths with your Cemetery is advised. Bringing in Smothers is on some level better than, Oxidizes because you can kill Disciples and Ravagers with them, plus they are useful against Goblins as well.

Vs. R/G

This is not a great matchup unless you can get Cemetery and Twisted Abomination or Nekrataal going. Alas, when these two mid speed decks butt heads, the one with Contested Cliffs comes out the winner. Still, I wouldn’t worry about this at all. I don’t think too many people are crazy enough to play Red/Green beasts and land destruction. It is just suicide against the metagame. Even so, you could make this deck better against R/G if you wanted to by adding more creature control elements, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Vs. Zombies

This is another matchup seemingly made more difficult because both decks operate on similar levels. They both gain card advantage through creatures and enchantments (Phyrexian Arena and Graveborn Muse). However, Zombies’s biggest threat is that of a large Consume Spirit, not something very threatening in the scope of Skullclamp and Death Cloud. So in the end, while this matchup looks like it could go either way, usually it will go your way by a landslide. You will just reach this critical mass where Zombies just are not able to handle the power of your cards. It is decent to sideboard in the Cabal Interrogators here as well – watch out for Smothers from the peanut gallery.


This deck is a bit risky to take to Regionals, but will provide you with a decent chance against the field and be a lot of fun to play. I recommend it for players who enjoyed the Rock and the old Cemetery decks. You should watch out for Scrabbling Claws, since many decks will have it in the sideboard for White, but they work well against your Cemetery as well. The best part about this deck is that you can mix and match the creature base to however you see fit. Have fun!

Until next time, Get inside the Metagame,

Nate Heiss

Team CMU

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