The Standard metagame is often an enigma to most people. Since it is not really used on the Pro Tour or for any qualifier tournaments, it is left to the masses for them to mold it to how they see fit. There are two exceptions to this every year. The first is the State Championships, and the second is Regionals.
Well folks, Regionals is right around the corner. The Regionals metagame will look similar to the metagame for States with a few changes from Darksteel. The decks that Darksteel will yield will undoubtedly pop up soon after Pro Tour: Kobe shows us what the pros will do with the new cards, but until that time I will go over a few of the staple decks in the environment that wont be much affected by Darksteel. Each week I will bring you a standard deck that will be a factor in the metagame. The first of these decks is W/R Slide – a deck that has been strong since Onslaught was printed, and was cemented as a top deck at Pro Tour: Venice.
The goal of this deck is to deal with all threats while gaining card advantage and building a giant mana base – eventually winning with recursive Eternal Dragons or Decree of Justice. Slide will annihilate just about any creature-based deck. This is its main advantage in the format with several creature-based decks running around. The primary method of dealing with such critters are Wrath of God, Starstorm, Akroma’s Vengeance, and Lightning Rift. Astral Slide can also be a temporary solution to creatures, but it is usually better saved for your own creatures – Sliding out a Morphed Angel into an unmorphed Angel is an old, but very effective trick. Also, it is nice to keep your guys removed from the game while you are busy casting Wrath of God or other creature sweeper effects – like Obliterate.
Here is the decklist:
2 Temple of the False God
4 Secluded Steppe
4 Forgotten Cave
2 Decree of Justice
2 Akroma’s Vengeance
3 Exalted Angel
4 Wrath of God
4 Eternal Dragon
4 Renewed Faith
4 Spark Spray
4 Lightning Rift
4 Astral Slide
Some versions will vary from this – people might play more Decrees of Justice or more Akroma’s Vengeances. Some people might play Gilded Light in the maindeck (good versus Disciple of the Vault, Mindslaver, and mono-black control decks, but cycles if needed). Some people might use Akroma, Angel of Wrath or Decree of Annihilation. Overall this is the core of the deck if you should want to play it or prepare against it.
The standard plan for beating decks it to cycle for the first couple turns while playing land (hopefully one of your cycles will be Eternal Dragon) or Lightning Rift/Astral Slide, if you are lucky enough to have them in your opening hand. Clear the board of creatures and keep your life total high. Then sit back and relax while you burn their dome with Lightning Rift over and over. Your opponents may begin to wonder when you are going to run out of cycling cards for your Rift, that you seem to be carelessly wasting on burning their face. Unfortunately for them, with twenty-eight cycling cards in your deck, you will probably not run out any time soon.
For every card you cycle, you have about a 50% chance that you will draw another cycling card. This percentage goes down as you cycle more cards into cycling cards, but it still remains rather high. Also, with Eternal Dragon, you will never run out once you build up a strong mana base – just bring him back and cycle away for more fun and profit. Temple of the False God will help immensely when trying to reach this point in the game.
The only other general note that should be made about this deck is that if you are going to play it, study up on your timing rules and learn the tricks that can be done with Astral Slide – the main one being the end step slide… if you remove a creature in the end step, it won’t return until the next player’s end step. Other interesting notes are that if you Slide out an Angel, there will be no life gain even if damage is on the stack. Do your homework!
Matchups Versus the Metagame
Slide is great versus the creature decks, but against control – you may find it lacking. The biggest threats that Slide has against Blue/White are the Astral Slides to save its own threats from Wrath effects, Eternal Dragons (usually to combat other Eternal Dragon), Decree of Justice, and the Obliterate. Sometimes you will have the ability to burn them out quickly with Lightning Rift, but this isn’t always the case. Control decks these days don’t have a lot of ways to deal with Lightning Rift other than countering it (sometimes difficult) or casting Akroma’s Vengeance or Mindslaver. The way the Lightning Rift games boil down is you get them to a somewhat low life total, and then they draw the answer, play it, and you find yourself without any good ways left to win except with Decree of Justice.
Overall this matchup really isn’t that bad, since you will often have the Decree-threat after knocking their life total down a bit. It is also very hard to deal with sliding Angels and Dragons while worrying about Rift. A lot of this matchup will come down to how many Akroma’s Vengeances or”Disenchant” cards the U/W deck draws. Most of these games will be long battles that will end in lots of soldiers via Decree cycling.
The one trump card Slide has if anything goes really wrong is the Obliterate. Just beware of a Decree of Justice cycle… they can float mana until after it resolves and just wreck you. If you really have a ton of mana, you can float mana of your own and use Starstorm to counter this. On the same note you can use Obliterate to your advantage with Astral Slide – making your creatures disappear just long enough to evade the Apocalypse.
I would consider sideboarding in Gilded Light against the decks with Mindslaver – you can really get devastated if they Mindslaver you and make you blow all your answers that you have been holding the entire game. Another good sideboard card is Hammer of Bogardan. Scrabbling Claws is okay for the Eternal Dragon battles as well.
This matchup is about the same as the U/W matchup, except a little easier because they lack counters. If they have Weathered Wayfarer, make sure you kill it! You can’t let this deck or the U/W deck get out multiple Cloudposts/Urzatron. Once again prepare yourself for the long-game.
This is a good matchup. Like I said before, if there is one thing that Slide is good at, it is beating creature decks… however Goblins has a way of getting lucky and winning. Don’t ask me how or why, but they have a strange way of just getting the job done against all odds. [Hasted creatures. – Knut] If you have a mana hiccup or just get a mediocre draw, sometimes this deck can come out of the gates super fast and just bash your face in before you can say”Renewed Faith.”
Now there are a couple variations of Goblins running around – some are more geared towards a Red Deck Wins build with Slith Firewalkers and Stone Rain. Other builds are more traditional”Skirk Prospector out the Warchief” kinds of decks. Luckily your plans against both of these decks are very similar – there are three main things to remember.
Wrath their face.
Keep your life total high.
Wrath their face again.
You have essentially eleven Wrath of Gods in your deck – Wrath, Starstorm, and Vengeance. Don’t be afraid to use them. Try to hard cast those Renewed Faiths. Cycling them is not going to gain you enough life to stay out of danger. Kill everything and anything that moves. Try to not take any damage. Slide out those Piledriver, Clickslithers, and Slith Firewalkers when possible. Buy yourself the time you need to wear them down. The worst feeling in the world is when you finally wear them down to no cards and no guys, then they rip two burn spells right off the top for the win. Don’t be that guy – Keep your life total high.
You can sideboard lots of things for this matchup if you want them. Slice and Dice and Pyroclasm will give you even more Wraths if you want them. Circle of Protection: Red is a popular choice – making it very hard for the Red decks to do anything productive at all, but some of the decks are sideboarding in Goblin Charbelcher to get around the COPs. Still, be very careful not to die to Clickslither!
Vs. White Weenie
White weenie is like the Red decks without the bite. Some of their creatures are pesky and refuse to die (like Silver Knight), but these can be dealt with easily through Wrath of God. They might have better card drawing now with Skullclamp when Darksteel becomes legal, but you can wear them down just the same. Slide just generates too much card advantage, and White Weenie doesn’t threaten you with burn. The most annoying thing will be their Equipment, since it makes every threat into something that you have to deal with. When they get a few pieces of Equipment out it might be a good idea to vengeance when they play their next threat since it will put them at square Zero. If they run the Leonin Shikari and Lightning Greaves combo, then your task will be slightly more difficult – just Starstorm the Shikari away and continue.
I do not think it is really worth dedicating any slots to this matchup – if anything a third and fourth Vengeance should do nicely.
Ah, Affinity. So many incarnations, yet all the same. There are basically two versions of Affinity running around – with a whole lot of versions that lie somewhere in between the two. The first version is beatdown/combo oriented with lots of zero-mana artifacts, Atogs, Disciples of the Vault, Shrapnel Blasts, and Grab the Reins. Some even run Second Sunrise. The second version of Affinity is more control-ish, with counters like Mana Leak, Override, and Assert Authority, among others.
The control versions are usually more successful in Standard, because Affinity needs to have an answer to Akroma’s Vengeance or it just scoops. And by”scooping” I literally mean scooping – the Affinity player will place all of their permanents in the graveyard by the end of the turn – creatures, artifacts, lands, you name it. They will all go away when Akroma says no. Because of this, Slide’s goal when playing against Affinity should be to try to live long enough to cast Akroma’s Vengeance. My build only has two Vengeances, but having the other two in the board will help in several matchups, this being the most important of them.
Besides the race to blow up their world, Slide will generally try to stay alive by killing as much as possible. You are at an advantage against the aggro decks because often you have a Slide out, which prevents them from doing anything too degenerate with their Atog or Arcbound Ravager (with Darksteel). The other thing to watch out for is Disciple of the Vault – this guy gets really nasty if you are planning to cast Vengeance – he is often at least eight points directly to your head. Kill it as quickly as possible… you have plenty answers to a 1/1 in your deck.
Against the control version of Affinity, use your Slides wisely – they are likely the only thing that will prevent your face from getting beat in by Broodstar until you Wrath. If you can manage to resolve a Vengeance, well good game – but you can bet the farm that they will be saving every last counter they have for it. If you can wait until you have nine mana, it is usually correct, since that way it makes Mana Leak worthless unless they have two.
The other thing you can have in the sideboard besides more Vengeances that really helps versus both versions of Affinity is Wing Shards – they cast tons of spells before attacking and it nullifies the Greaves advantage. [Personally, I’ve taken to running 4 Shatter and 3 Detonate in my Slide sideboard, and crushing every Blue mana source I see, but I’m sure everyone won’t have as heavy an Affinity metagame as I do. – Knut]
Another creature feature deck that Slide is happy to see. Go nuts killing their stuff, just watch out for those Gempalm Polluters. Once again, the same rules apply as with Red. The only other thing you need to watch for is the Bidding. You might also take a few extra beats from Rotlung Reanimator tokens, but in general you should be able to stave off death long enough to wipe them out of resources. Be careful about Cycling your Dragons if you actually want to cast them, Withered Wretch will make short work of them.
You can Sideboard in Karma or Circle of Protection: Black if you want, but neither is wholly needed. Ivory Mask is another multi-purpose card that could see use here, as it stops Consume Spirit and Polluters from targeting you.
There are a couple R/G deck running around out there, but most of them are weak. The two incarnations are Beasts and Land Destruction, both of which are slow and clunky. This being said, you have to be careful – even though they are slow, their creatures are big, and therefore hard to kill with Rift action. You will have to rely more on your Wraths in this matchup.
Eternal Dragon will become your best friend, getting you the crucial lands you need and eventually coming down as a stout blocker. Exalted Angel also shines in this matchup, although she can become endangered if Contested Cliffs are involved. The best advice I can give you is play like all your lands will be blown up the next turn, because often they will be. There are some R/G decks that are more reminiscent of the old Wild Mongrel/Anurid Brushhopper decks, but I would not worry too much about those. Against all those decks you have better tools for victory – just play it safe and you should win.
Vs W/R Slide Mirror
The mirror match is extremely painful. It becomes very hard to cycle anything because your opponent will also have a Rift or Slide in play. Your best bet is to play for the very long game, with Dragons, Angels, and Decree of Justice. Your ultimate goal is to Obliterate while having your creatures slid out. Most of the game will just be a lot of waiting around while you amass threats in your hands. Save your Starstorms for their end step Decrees. Use your Vengeances wisely, the best use is usually to remove an Astral Slide. And watch out for Akroma! She’s tough to stop!
Scrabbling Claws will help you out in the Mirror – if you are neutralizing their dragons they will find it hard to stabilize. Just be sure to not play out the Claws until there is a dragon in the graveyard, lest it be Vengeanced away.
Well, that is about it for Slide. While often not the most popular deck, Slide is always very threatening! I would recommend checking it out or at least preparing against it for the Regionals metagame. Obviously, the best sideboard card to have against it is Stabilizer, but it is rather narrow in its uses.
Feel free to talk about the deck and the matchups in the forums.
Until next week, get inside the Metagame.