Magical Hack – Spotlight on States: Rock Your State

Are YOU ready for States?
It’s funny how telling one week can be, in the world of Magic: the Gathering. While the professional world was torn between a Grand Prix in Brisbane and the Invitational in Essen, a certain little event was run far from these other two on the distant shores of the New World that seems to have distilled a lot of the thoughts and discussion about the Standard format. Some look at the decklists and say, “Elves? Really?” I know I did.

It’s funny how telling one week can be, in the world of Magic: the Gathering. While the professional world was torn between a Grand Prix in Brisbane and the Invitational in Essen, a certain little event was run far from these other two on the distant shores of the New World that seems to have distilled a lot of the thoughts and discussion about the Standard format. Some look at the decklists and say, “Elves? Really?” I know I did. (Really.) But rather than discount flukes or define trends off of one small data point, as far as the winning deck is concerned, I think we should be looking at the metagame at the top tables there and compare it with what was being discussed in weeks before.

Going into the home stretch, the most-discussed decks were all G/W Gaddock Teeg aggro decks and R/g Sadin Update decks… aggro decks. Some discussions focused on Cryptic Command / Mystical Teachings decks, originally unfavored due to the fact that Gaddock Teeg does nasty things to four-mana spells… and a quiet respect for Shriekmaw began growing in the minds of those who were testing the format. Shriekmaws became more prevalent in the better decks, and immunity to Shriekmaw is a quality worth having. And as inevitably happens, after the initial hubbub over the aggro decks wore down to a mere roar, it seems the Islands have crept back into Standard. Look at the Top 16 decks from this past weekend’s StarCityGames.com $1000 Standard tournament:

1. G/b Elves! (Really!)
2. U/G/w Blink-Snake
3. U/G Scryb and Force
4. U/W Control
5. U/R Aggro
6. U/W Control
7. R/G Big Mana
8. Goyf Rock
9. U/W Pickles
10. B/G Rock
11. Mono-Kithkin
12. Elves! (Really!)
13. R/b Aggro
14. U/W Pickles
15. Slivers! (Really!)
16. U/B/x Teachings

About half of these could be considered aggro decks, if you wanted to blur the lines of what counts as an aggro deck… but more than half of these decks ran basic Islands. You’ll note that, except for the oddity of the mono-Kithkin deck, none of these decks look like what had been thought about in the starting weeks of discussing Standard. But along with all of the rest of the results, I noted one particularly interesting line of commentary… “Aggro decks with Garruk Wildspeaker were demolishing aggro decks without Garruk.” Let’s look at the various options Garruk provides:

Garruk Overrun
2GG, Untap two lands – Suspend 1.
Creatures you control get +3/+3 and trample until end of turn.

Call of Garruk’s Herd
Put a 3/3 Beast token creature into play. Put another 3/3 Beast token into play during your next turn, and put another 3/3 Beast token into play during the turn after that.

Garruk’s Awakening
0: Untap two target lands. Use this ability only on your turn and only once per turn.

When players first began trying to evaluate planeswalkers, they were tough to figure out. Three of them cost five and thus require a lot of work to really be playable in Constructed, right off the bat. Two of them cost less, and thus are worth considering… but one of those comes in the color best able to defend itself against attacking creatures by blocking, and just happens to come with the option to make a blocker right off the bat to defend the card itself. If you hadn’t heard the news on Garruk Wildspeaker yet, well… let his availability and price tag speak for himself. Webites and stores everywhere have been increasing his price and still selling out… if you think StarCityGames.com’s price is a fluke, eBay more or less agrees with it, and on the week leading up to States it’s proving more and more accurate that Garruks are selling at any price because it is poised to jump into play on Saturday.

… And as near as I can tell, I was the first person on the Interweb to suggest playing four of them in any deck, regardless of any detractors saying “Planeswalkers? Really?” three weeks ago. Rather than pat myself on the back, I’m sort of kicking myself for not having bought or traded for my Garruks then… but that’s what I get for knowing I was going to miss States this weekend, and thus didn’t need to get cards for a deck. At least I picked up my Tarmogoyfs back when they were still under ten dollars… or at least I did before Steve Sadin left them on top of Matt Boccio’s car at Nationals. (He’s promised to replace them. I guess making Level 3 improves one’s gaming budget for such mishaps. If so, Flores would have the Rishadan Ports he lent Jon Finkel for Napster back by now… though I suspect there are those salivating at the chance to test this theory with Zvi hitting the Hall of Fame, as he was notorious for losing cards.)

I was told last week that this week’s article was going to have to be all sorts of special, because our Theme Week is not Kithkin, nor Planeswalkers, but instead States Week. A good theme, for… well, the week before States. I’m personally more interested in Limited, or at least I was until the tempting thought of winning $20,000 in the “Win a Car!” tournament at Worlds entered by scopes, so other than a bit of fidgeting around I wasn’t really testing much Standard. With a greater need to bulk up on Standard, then, I started with an odd decklist…

4 Aeon Chronicler
4 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
4 Coalition Relic
4 Mind Stone
4 Wrath of God
4 Careful Consideration
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
2 Resurrection
2 Austere Command
8 Snow-Covered Island
5 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Boreal Shelf
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Urza’s Factory
2 Mouth of Ronom

My advice for States? Don’t play this deck. Hours of testing confirm that this is the correct deck to not play at States. There are others you shouldn’t play at States, but if I talk about why you shouldn’t play Turbo-Fog at States, I’ll risk embarrassing myself like this fellow here did. Bring popcorn and your sense of humor before clicking. For more amusement, examine its parent thread for logical fallacies about why Turbo-Fog is the ideal deck to play for States.

Thankfully, I’d asked Craig to keep me in touch with what everyone else was writing for our Theme Week, so I could make sure I still have something relevant to discuss when Friday rolls around… and it would seem that the Black-Green deck that started picking up a lot of steam through the Nationals season and survives the rotation mostly intact was untouched and unloved by my fellow writers. And to think, I’d even already worked on the deck… other than stepping on J. Evan Dean’s toes with his “Running with Golgari” article on Tuesday, I could provide the results of my work and my testing without being invalidated by the authors between when I post my article and when it appears the following Friday. However, I can’t quite call it “Tarmo-Rack” anymore, since it proved true that The Rack was the worst card in the deck and thus needed to be cut for a more durable threat… and one that was better at not just attacking but also could maybe block as well, to help my Garruks out. But if you change just one pesky letter…

Now, there are a few peculiar card choices here… but I feel they have a lot to do with how the metagame at States should be playing out, as we leave the original Rack deck along the way to become something more akin to an Aggro Rock deck. Let’s step through a few of those card choices here and be done with it:

1. Garruk? Really?

He’s nuts. Really. Price tags have crept up into the “Cashseize” range, proving that Garruk Wildspeaker is a house and a half when it comes to providing tools for an aggressive deck. That he is (effectively) Legendary is hardly of concern, as you’re happy to suck him dry for three stupid elephants or use him as a Suspend – 1 Overrun… and it is vulnerable, against a variety of opponents. He’s a powerful force waiting to be harnessed, and hey… if he dies, you have an Elephant already, and he pumps your Tarmogoyfs, right?

2. Riftsweeper

I originally had Ravenous Rats in this slot, but found I wasn’t impressed by the numerous 1/1 bodies in the deck, and Ratting my opponent wouldn’t have been as good as having a real spell instead. It seems that a lot of States decks will have either Greater Gargadon, Riftwing Cloudskate, or Aeon Chronicler, all of which are handily nabbed by Riftsweeper before they get to do anything useful. It helps that it counts as an Elf for Gilt-Leaf Palace, has a better body for attacking and blocking than the Rats did, and has a higher baseline “low impact” (1/1 < 2/2. I <3 Math) but also an absurdly impressive "high impact" when he does his thing. The environment seems poised to take advantage of him as a Ravenous Rat, and I’m happy to let him do his thing.

3. Troll Ascetic

This is by no means a common play for these sorts of decks at the moment… content as they are to have less Green mana than Black, to favor their cards like Smallpox… they use Call of the Herd instead. I’m already playing more Green than Black to favor Garruk Wildspeaker, and having a creature that seems invincible against targeted removal (especially Shriekmaw) and can own the board is a wise choice. Invariably, decks like this tend to start with Call of the Herd, as you’ll not in the predecessor lists… and just as invariably that choice is usually wrong. In a world full of Shriekmaws, Troll Ascetic lives to fight another day.

4. Shriekmaw


5. Tarmogoyf

Obv Obv.

6. Augur of Skulls

… Okay, that joke is dead. Ravenous Rat isn’t good enough, but two cards for two mana is good even if it has to jump through a hoop or two in order to get there. That it also has a useful body on defense doesn’t hurt either.

7. Masked Admirers

This is another one of those contentious choices, which made it in initially to be tested as just another Elf to help justify the use of Gilt-Leaf Palace… and it just happens to provide an awfully potent late-game when the game grinds out that long. You don’t want to spend four on a lot of cards, but what seems like a Hill Giant that includes the word “draw a card” is good enough even when games don’t go long. It hits the curve and fills an excellent role to make up (at least in some small part) for the fact that Dark Confidant is gone from Standard forevermore, and even a little bit of help is appreciated.

8. Thoughtseize


9. Stupor

Obv. Obv. (Oops, I did it again…)

10. Nameless Inversion

Early creature kill is important to have, and sometimes a Last Gasp is the right card. That it also happens to help your Tarmogoyfs doesn’t hurt either… but really you want a removal spell that isn’t limited by the target’s color, and you don’t want to pay a lot for it.

11. The Manabase

You’ll note that there are no Forests in this deck. We have the ability to avoid splash damage on Forestwalking Elves, and have chosen to do so… mostly because it also fixes our mana in other regards, as the loss of Overgrown Tomb was felt. Some reaching was needed to make good use of its replacement (Gilt-Leaf Palace) but those reaches were proving worthwhile in the first place, and the benefits of good mana have in testing outweighed any presumed costs. We get extra attackers with Treetop Village and the ability to cash a land back for a card as the game goes long, though four Canopies seemed to make Green mana too painful next to the four Wastes… three has seemed sufficient benefit at a lessened risk. You have one more Green source than Black, thanks to the fact that there are plenty of double-Green spells, with the only double-Black spell in the sideboard (along with a second copy of Urborg). While a bit of thought is needed to plan your land-drops around the up to eight comes-into-play-tapped lands, I found little to no actual problem with the mana configuration.

Now, as to the cards I know will be looked at for their absence:

1. Smallpox

A fine spell, but the benefits of disrupting the opponent with it come at the cost of disrupting yourself. Dark Confidant helped to break the symmetry of it by being an excellent post-disruption plan; its replacement wants to keep that extra land in play, and not lose a creature of its own in the process.

2. Haakon, Stromgald Scourge (… also, Oona’s Prowler)

Haakon plus Nameless Inversion equals Nameless Inversion with buyback. It’s a wonderful concept… but you have to look at it through a few levels of scrutiny, to see if it’s really what you want to be doing. Any card choice has its opportunity costs, for starters, and the opportunity cost of Haakon is putting cards that allow you to discard him at minimal cost or fuss into your deck. Smallpox is one… but running Smallpox, great as it is for disrupting the opponent and pumping your Tarmogoyf, is less effective as the format gets more controlling and has this nasty habit of getting in the way of casting Garruk. Four mana isn’t hard to get to in a deck with 23 lands… requiring five lands because you lost one makes that task much harder. Oona’s Prowler is another, but I was growing very weary of too many creatures that died to Mogg Fanatic, and I found I could never, ever block effectively with a Prowler… so even as a good card it’s still not perfect by any measure.

In addition to the opportunity costs of playing Haakon in the first place, let’s look at how massive the benefits are. If you want to resurrect Knights alongside him, you can add this as an effective anti-control countermeasure for restocking after removal spells… but this means on top of adding creature drops to let you discard him (Oona’s Prowler) you also have to add creature drops to sit next to him in what is already a rather busy two-slot. Without those benefits, which aren’t necessary since just buying back a black 3/3 is pretty good, you’ve got repeated Inversions to look forward to. One large portion of the metagame can largely ignore this – control decks don’t have to worry about repeated use of Nameless Inversion to answer their finishers, if all they have to do is answer Haakon first before winning the game somehow. The other large portion of the metagame can easily race these benefits – your ideal curve is two-drop into discard Haakon, Haakon as your three-drop, use Nameless Inversion twice on turn 4. All of this work so far has gotten you a second use of Nameless Inversion, if everything has gone perfectly including drawing a fourth land and drawing Nameless Inversion.

The idea of locking down the game is great, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way even with your best draw, and that’s presuming your opponent has no answer to it besides racing. Racing is darned effective from the decks that are actually vulnerable to repeated use of Nameless Inversion; not gunning for a cute combo is just a much better plan. Play good cards, not cute cards, it’s a rule to live by.

Add to that the fact that your opponent responding with a removal spell such as Incinerate or Oblivion Ring suddenly makes your “combo” too slow, because instead of affecting the board you’ve twiddled your thumbs… well, let’s just say I don’t see the value of Haakon in a deck that is not already designed to buy the kind of time he requires to really make use of him. He may very well be great as a singleton Teachings target, findable after Teferi resolves… but I am certain that out in the real world, “fair” decks designed around playing him and Nameless Inversion will find he’s not worth the design constraints and the effort it takes to really benefit.

3. The Rack

The Rack requires a certain amount of discard and card flow that previously worked well because Dark Confidant could take a board position where both players had traded heavily and exhausted their resources and run away with it, giving certain benefits to The Rack as a repeatable damage source. Dark Confidant is gone, and while the discard is still present in comparable form, the other cards in the deck just work better if they can attack… and block. The Rack was situationally solid but absolutely useless if you draw the wrong half of your deck, and the main card advantage engine in the predecessor worked excellently with The Rack. Its replacement does not, instead favoring things with power and toughness.

How To Play It

There isn’t a lot of complexity to the deck; it likes to attack, and it puts in good work cutting off the opponent’s remaining cards after the first few turns. There’s some power cards that you’re likely familiar with… Tarmogoyf and Shriekmaw, plus Troll Ascetic calling from back in the day. There’s some power cards that you’re less familiar with… notably Garruk Wildspeaker, who shouldn’t take you very long to convince you of his power. The key trick to know is what role you should be taking with your opponent, and that depends clearly on whether they are aggressive or controlling. If your opponent is aggressive, you’re controlling; if your opponent isn’t aggressive, you should be. This is more or less the same role as any other Rock deck, so it’s pretty easy to figure out. Let’s look at the matchups:

Kithkin Beatdown

Against the Kithkin you have to keep up with their damage early with your removal spells, but you have the ability to take 19 damage before your life total becomes relevant. Your Tarmogoyfs will be huge while their Tarmogoyfs… aren’t in their decks. Your creatures have a distinct size advantage so long as you can control their pump spells, putting a priority on Glorious Anthem and Ajani for your game 1 Thoughtseizes, as only Tarmogoyf will always have an advantage over the little White men.

+4 Damnation, +1 Urborg, +3 Slaughter Pact
-4 Thoughtseize, -3 Stupor, -1 Masked Admirers

If your opponent is specifically G/W and thus has Gaddock Teeg, you might want to reconsider siding in Damnation… then probably do it anyway, it’s not like you don’t have a pile of removal. The strategy of “kill all their men” remains true, except now you don’t have to trade one for one against them.

Depending on who plays first, you may want to cut Riftsweepers instead of Stupor and Masked Admirers, to keep sufficient pressure on their hand before deploying Damnation. I definitely don’t like Stupors playing second, though, and find even despite the extra land that with four fewer Elves my Gilt-Leaf Palaces came into play tapped more often than I liked… not the biggest problem, on the play, but it could be a more serious concern on the draw. You can also meet in the middle and cut the two Admirers and two Riftsweepers to keep your Stupors in, but I don’t see much point in holding onto them at all while on the play. Masked Admirers can still be quite good in a game that you are intentionally sending into the later turns.

This could be more simplified if you see a Suspend spell out of them, like Ivory Giant, but that was Block Constructed and this is Standard so the chances of that should be slim.


Elves is basically a Black-Green version of the Kithkin deck, as far as interaction is concerned… they don’t have dangerous enchantments for you to worry about, but do have creature removal like Eyeblight’s Ending. Play it exactly the same way, gaining board advantage and budgeting out which of their creatures get to stay alive, and things will go well. Unlike the White deck, they have Garruk, and can deploy it before you can deploy yours; yours may have to play as a removal spell for theirs. As for sideboarding, the plan remains the same as against the Kithkin deck, it’s just that their creatures are a bit better than the Kithkin guys.

+4 Damnation, +1 Urborg, +3 Slaughter Pact
-4 Thoughtseize, -3 Stupor, -1 Masked Admirers

Just like White, whether you are cutting Stupor or Riftsweeper might depend on whether you are on the play or the draw, as you can afford to be more controlling and have fewer Elves for your Palaces when you are on the play… which might be suicide on the draw.

Sadin Update

… Unlike the prior aggro decks, this one can threaten your life total outside of the red zone, which changes things quite significantly. Worse, they also have Tarmogoyf, so you can’t expect to lean on Tarmogoyf too much to blunt an attack. Game 1 is reasonable but not especially favorable; if you can manage your life total and control their fat men, they have nothing but 1/1s… but if you can’t control their fat men, they will kill you, as they’re absolutely huge. Racing is right out. What you’re actually doing is racing to conserve your life total and your board position, trying to live long enough to build up board advantage. Game 1 is not quite 50% in your favor; post-sideboard games bring in the right tools and make the game much more favorable.

-4 Thoughtseize, -3 Stupor
+4 Spike Feeder, +3 Slaughter Pact

Between Riftsweeper and Slaughter Pact, you can manage Greater Gargadon very effectively; likewise, between Slaughter Pact and Shriekmaw you can manage their Tarmogoyfs while yours grow out of reach from their spells. Just spend whatever you have to, to prevent yourself from getting hit by their creatures, and don’t worry about being tricky keeping Augur of Skulls alive: whatever removal spell it requires for them to kill it is an acceptable trade, and if they don’t kill it you cash it in immediately for two cards. Waiting around with it when you have less than, say, six mana or so is putting too much value in the card. You’d love to get two cards with it, but forcing the opponent to spend early-game mana to kill it instead of developing their board is still good as it points that removal away from Garruk or a more relevant creature. Likewise, don’t put a lot of thought or time into trying to protect Garruk; they’re Red, so you can’t. Just deploy the Beasts and see how many you get, in the face of Moggs, Marauders, and the plethora of burn. They can’t really play an attrition war against Green fat, so force them to try and the game is yours.

Spike Feeder putting a counter on your Tarmogoyfs so that you trump theirs feels like winning. However, getting hit with Threaten feels like losing… and generally is, if they have Greater Gargadon. Deploy your Riftsweepers as a high priority to clear the Gargadons, to avoid this problem. Nameless Inversion on Keldon Marauders or chump-block with Riftsweeper to prevent three damage during the attack is the exact sort of right play you want to make with this matchup… though if there’s a 1/1 Goblin friend alongside, it’s better to take three in the early game and kill the friend than it is to let a repeating damage source live. Survive the first few turns with a reasonable life total and don’t do anything stupid to throw away your Tarmogoyfs and it should work out fine. I’m always nervous playing this one, because Red decks can be quite good, but they usually have an awful lot of 1/1s that can’t win a fight against 3/3s, and playing smart against the Red deck will see you through the matchup.

Of course, as discussed last week, I haven’t been playing very smart lately, so the matchup may be better than I think.

U/B Teachings

This matchup is pretty solid for the B/G deck, as they are generally weak to discard and weak to Treetop Village / Garruk / Troll Ascetic. Work their hand early and often to cut off their early responses, preferentially killing effective countermagic (especially Cryptic Command) and maintaining aggression with the cards that give them such problems in the first place. Your lack of graveyard hate will be a problem if you give them time to, say, find Haakon plus Nameless Inversion (still readily answered by attacking with Troll Ascetic) or Shriekmaw plus Grim Harvest… so don’t give them time.

-4 Shriekmaw (presuming no good targets; most lists have just one Teferi as far as cards that are actually vulnerable to Shriekmaw)
+2 Grim Harvest, +1 Stupor, +1 Urborg

You don’t really need the extra land, but it’s generally better than a Shriekmaw that doesn’t do anything besides kill your own creature and might just Strip Mine their Urborg at an inopportune (for them) time, making it better than randomly adding a Spike Feeder and somehow trusting that a Grey Ogre will swing the game. The 24th land makes your Grim Harvests better, as it gives you another avenue for pulling through a late game and capitalizing on the threats that really matter by re-using Trolls, and helps to make sure you can deploy Garruk on turn 4 instead of turn 7.

U/W Control

This matchup is like U/B Teachings but far easier; your Shriekmaws do something and their level of sheer tricksiness goes far, far down… after all, you don’t have to worry about them using their graveyard as a resource, and can just strip the hand and attack with your control-hassling threats like Troll Ascetic and Treetop Village or the Wrath-proof Garruk Wildspeaker. U/B can keep you on your toes because they have powerful recursion elements; U/W might have Triskelion/Academy Ruins for recursion at most, and shouldn’t get the mana to use it in the face of your early discard. These decks are more likely than most to have Aeon Chronicler, so keep that in mind when deciding between the threats in your hand if you can hold a Riftsweeper for a bit longer… and give serious consideration to not showing Riftsweeper off your Gilt-Leaf Palace in order to keep it a surprise that you’re playing them main, as giving them that information makes it easier for them to play their Chroniclers correctly instead of just walking them into Riftsweepers.

-4 Nameless Inversion
+2 Grim Harvest, +1 Stupor, +1 Urborg

Again, Grim Harvest goes in (as does a land) to replace otherwise do-nothing cards. Your Shriekmaws will kill creatures now (like Purity), and you don’t have to worry about them trying to trick you with Shadowmage Infiltrators out of the sideboard now that you’ve taken your removal out. The game shouldn’t go especially long, but if it does the Grim Harvests give you late-game inevitability, and helps to restock threats like Troll Ascetic that dodge Oblivion Rings. Just like against U/B, if you cut off their countermagic with Thoughtseize you’ll have permission to do what you want with the rest of your discard, cleaning out their hand then destroying them with your threats.

U/G/W Blink

Decks of this sort are what make me so glad I have Troll Ascetic instead of Call of the Herd; I have an impossible-to-handle threat, instead of just some elephant readily negated by a Riftwing Cloudskate. Riftsweeper is huge in this matchup, stopping the Cloudskates before they start, and blunting a tempo-positive play on their part with your own instead. The real trick is to put on pressure early and often and force them to react to what you have in play, allowing your Nameless Inversions to trump their Momentary Blinks instead of the other way around. It’s better to do nothing than to walk into a Blink, and again you should be leaning on Troll Ascetic quite hard to get the work done. They have a tempo strategy which falls apart if you just attack them and don’t let them use their tempo-stealing effects to the best of their ability, and keeping a firm eye on tempo yourself (plus not walking into Mystic Snakes if you can avoid it, and never letting them get to Blink it) makes their life miserable.

-3 Stupor
+3 Slaughter Pact

Slaughter Pact is perfect for advancing this strategy. It’s the ideal response to a Momentary Blink as it is always free and thus still works while you’re tapped out casting spells. It also happens to be amazing at killing Tarmogoyf, who can get quite large in your deck with Tribal spells and Planeswalkers, and their Tarmogoyfs have this bad habit of getting in the way of everything. The focus of the game remains the same: apply a bit of discard pressure on their hand to keep them off balance, and aim to apply aggressive pressure so that you always have untapped mana (… or at least a Slaughter Pact in hand) whenever they try to make one of their tempo-oriented plays with Momentary Blink.

As for beating other decks, well, the tools should seem obvious. The general philosophy of what goes in when should already be apparent. Against decks that are soft to Damnation, you ratchet back your perspective to focus on casting it before deploying your own threats, and while you are likely taking out Thoughtseize you have to figure out whether Stupor will be too slow to matter or just what the doctor ordered. The Urborg is more or less married to the Damnation, as you’ll want an extra land and the extra strong Black source when you’re bringing it in. Against decks that just want to brawl with creatures and aren’t specifically Shriekmaw-proof, Slaughter Pact goes in for whatever’s least useful against them, which may often be Stupor.

Against Red decks, you’ll want to find room somewhere for Spike Feeder, and watch your life total with a healthy paranoia… just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Also against Red decks you play around Threaten like nobody’s business, so deploy your Riftsweepers at the first opportunity and don’t overextend in an aggressive push into Threaten. You aren’t racing… you’re the control deck.

The fourth Stupor is there for controlling decks to push the discard strategy when it’s at its strongest, and the two Grim Harvests are there for any matchup where the game should be going long: not just control decks of the Wrath / Damnation variety but also for consideration as a tool in matchups with a similar bent as your own deck’s. In true Rock-like fashion, the Harvests (alongside the Masked Admirers) let you do powerful things in those grueling long-game attrition wars, whether it’s against removal-heavy control decks or just similar decks to your own. If it feels like you’d have been happy to draw it game 1, or got a lot of mileage out of your Masked Admirers game 1, it stands to reason that Grim Harvest will probably be good in game 2. If it doesn’t feel like that game 1, and you can’t specifically point to bad cards you want out of your deck or don’t want to bring in from your sideboard, leave it be.

Thankfully this isn’t an especially hard deck to play… and as it draws upon both The Rock and Tarmo-Rack as its immediate predecessors, the knowledge to play it correctly is already around to some degree. The main innovation comes from the specific use of cards that aren’t currently trusted, like Garruk Wildspeaker, but who are absolutely bonkers when they do their thing. Black-Green in some variety is one of the more popular “quiet” decks on the metagame radar, so don’t discount it just because you haven’t heard a lot about it… there will be plenty of them around at States (or Champs, if that’s your flavor).

I’ll be available to answer questions in the forums or via e-mail for much of the day, but unfortunately leave for Chicago as of late afternoon… if you’ve a desire to hear more about the deck, or just want to pick my brains, I’d suggest doing so prior to 4pm EST if you’d like a response. That said, I’m more than happy to discuss the deck with anyone interested in playing it, so message away if you’re looking at this as a possible choice for States.

Sean McKeown
smckeown @ livejournal.com

PS: “Project Tara” is still on, though we’re in the last few days of voting and things are down to “outside shot” for getting her into the top five at the end of voting. Reposting from last week:

A friend of mine, a female gamer from Connecticut named Tara, is part of a contest held by V Magazine to find the next hot modeling talent… and it seems that vote fraud and cheating has run rampant as people tried to set up bots and other ways to hack the vote illegitimately. They’ve since corrected for the “how did she get twenty thousand votes in a day” problem, making actual votes count… and thankfully, actual individual people voting once every 24 hours is a legitimate means of voting regardless.

So if you’d be willing to help a little to rock the vote legally and do a good turn for a female gamer, please click the link and enter your vote. If you’re willing to do a bigger favor, the voting continues till the end of the month and you can vote once every twenty-four hours… so if you’d be willing to save that as a bookmark and vote repeatedly, that’d be even more awesome. I figure if Ferrett and Craig can plug their webcomics, which might in some way eventually profit for them, nobody’d be hurt if I mentioned this, since there is little to no chance I might directly profit from this whatsoever. (Said female gamer friend is married, after all. Sorry if that disappoints… please click the link anyway!)