Important stuff to discuss today. T-minus one day to U.S. Regionals, also known as The Most Grueling Day In Magic. I was all prepared to do a big blowout article like I usually do, bringing your ass fully up on all the latest tech… Until I read [author name="Scott Johns"]Scott Johns[/author]‘ article yesterday and realized he covered everything. No really… Like freaking everything is in that article. Nice of the”new guy” to come in and steal a brother’s job, you know what I mean? Jeez, Scott, leave a little for the rest of us next time, ummkay?
(And this from the guy who grumbled that my articles were a little too long back when he was running MagicDigested.com. Some people…)
What you guys don’t realize is that Scott and I are really the same person, except for the fact that I’m funny (well, okay, I’m really just moderately amusing), and he’s been on the Pro Tour many, many times. Seems like a fair deal, right?
Regardless, since Scott did all that work, you are now required to read his column. If you haven’t done so, then go on. Shoo. Get over to that there link there and get your read on. This is invaluable knowledge, kiddies, and Scott is the treasure vault. It’s okay; I promise I’ll still be here when you get back.
Now that you’ve been brought fully up-to-date on what the metagame looks like, I’m going to take a look at how to attack each of the decks Scott covered. If you wanted to go about disrupting their game plan, how exactly would you do it? Which cards will help you do it? And which cards are just a pain in the ass for those decks to deal with?
Think of it as a matchup primer without the matchups. A crash course in crushing your opponent. A camp of killer card combinations. Or just something else for me to write about since Scott stole my thun-dar.
Oh, and while we’re on random pet peeves (or, as Becker would say,”I’ve got something stuck in my craw“), the next time somebody tells you that their sixteen articles from the last three months provide”the definitive guide to Regionals,” feel free to ignore that claim. If you read the articles in that series from the early days, you would get a completely different impression of how certain decks look and how matchups play out than current information provides.
Remember, gentlemen; the Magic metagame changes weekly, and expecting two-month-old articles to pull you through is not going to cut it. The real”definitive guide” work has been done by Kai and Flores on the Sideboard and Scott and yours truly on this site, and the articles I’ll be referring to provide a fine supplement to our discussions, but don’t do much guiding at all.
Okay, one last thing before I get to the meat of this article (and who doesn’t love a page and a half of preamble? Don’t answer that…) we’re gonna try a new thang today with the nuts: Theme Music. Full credit goes to my man Grif for the idea… He figured that I talk about music with some frequency on here and I listen to it all the time when I’m writing, so why not set the stage with some background jams while you read? So I decided to steal it from him and run with it. I’ll post the songs you need to download at the beginning of the article and note when to queue the songs inside the article – so if ya’ll want to follow along, feel free.
- Let Me Clear My Throat – DJ Kool
- Ignition Remix – R. Kelly
- Sure Shot – The Beastie Boys
- This One’s Gonna Bruise – Beth Orton
- The Floor – Rooney
- Run On – Moby
- ATLiens – Outkast
- Music Cue: Make you Clap – Sean Paul and Busta Rhymes
We now commence with our regularly scheduled article…
Song Cue: Let Me Clear My Throat
God, how much things can change in a week. Last Monday, I knew what things would look like at U.S. Regionals – there would be three major decks, three decks with medium impact, and a smattering of smaller decks that would make some Top 8s, but wouldn’t be a huge factor in the metagame. Then Dutch Nationals brought Wake back into the fray in a fierce way. English Nationals featured not one, but two oddities in the Top 8 in Bullet-Proof Monk and some stoopid B/W Slide deck (just kidding). Then the MODO Worlds qualifier happened and you get a flood of U/G plus Wake, Elves!, B/G Cemetery, and CMU Tog (which is like no other Tog deck discussed in the last three months, but is very similar to Robbie Auchter’s build from VA States).
As a brief aside, why are English Nationals always so freaking strange? First of all, we never seem to get all the decklists from that damned tournament – or not until well after the fact, anyway. (Though this is not so dissimilar to what happened at Pro Tour: Venice, I suppose. Knock, knock; anybody home, Sideboard folks?) Second, every year it features strange and wonderful creations in the Top 8 from those warped minds of the Brits like Bulletproof Monk and Do Not Try This At Home. I love those guys!
However, I have to ask – do these things occur because they live on an island? Or because of the country’s proximity to both Scotland and Ireland? Or maybe due to a millennium of fighting with the French? Personally I have no idea, but I’m starting to blame Ali G.
While we’re discussing Ali G, do not miss the Ali G translator found here. Save yous some squid and buy cards from Star Turf or something.
The point that I’m trying to make is that we’ve gone from an environment that featured three major decks (R/G, U/G, and Tog), three middle decks (Beasts, Slide, Sligh), and sundry small ones to an environment that features two major decks (U/G and Tog, which I think will show up quite a bit more than Scott stated in his article), and a seemingly unlimited number of decks that will show up, but in what numbers one can’t be sure. I tried to figure out how one would metagame this environment and my head nearly exploded.
Regardless, I’m going to try and hit all the known decks and give my opinion on how to attack their game plan so that you can come out victorious in the end.
Music Cue: Sure Shot – The Beastie Boys
Cuz I got mad hits like I was Rod Carew! Aww yes indeed it’s fun time…
You must keel zem – keel zem awl. Actually, killing them all isn’t a requirement (it’s a nice bonus), but slowing their speedy asses down definitely is. If you can do it, your primary focus should be on the Madness outlets, as Circular Logic and Arrogant Wurm are the hardest cards to deal with in the deck. Your mindset should be that you are not a discount outlet, and therefore everybody pays full price! Your other option is to crush their graveyard again and again, and make certain that they don’t get to draw cards from Deep Analysis, they don’t get to create 6/6 Wurms, and their kids stay groundpounders.
For the mirror match, you need to have Wonder and would like them not to have it. Merfolk Looter is by far the best means of achieving this. Find a non-janky way of killing their Merfolk Looter and you have potential to win some serious dollah bills.
Music Cue: Ignition (remix) – R. Kelly
For reasons I’ll explain, I’m going to separate Tog into two different camps, but attacking the deck is essentially the same.
If you’ve played it, you know that CMU Tog from the Magic Online Worlds Qualifier plays differently than all the other Psychatog builds out there. When I’ve tested the deck, it actually felt a lot more like playing an Extended Tog deck, where the point is to open the door for a very big and nasty Dr. Teeth as quickly as possible. Because of the way CMU Tog churns through its deck, it feels more like you get to run Gush and Fact or Fiction again instead of just Future Sight and Concentrate. You draw cards, counter the important parts of their hand (which you get to see because it runs Peek), and put through a lethal Tog post-haste.
It still runs Upheaval as a backup plan, but if you are running the deck right, you’ll need it a lot less than the anti-creature versions of Tog. The deck is diesel – but if you haven’t tested this specific version yet, I would recommend leaving it alone until after Regionals.
Regardless, the method for trying to break either deck is very similar. It starts with the enchantments (Compulsion and Future Sight), because these are the most effective ways for them to get to the cards that they want. If can you keep Compulsion off the board against a normal Tog deck, you stand a much larger chance of winning than if you let them cycle through their chaff to get to their wheaties.
The second avenue for attack is through hand disruption. Making certain they can’t counter your important threats is still a smart idea, but making certain they can’t drop an Upheaval or Tog on your noggin is even more important. Those are all the threat cards that Tog possesses, and if you can neutralize them you will win. It’s not a simple thing to do, but that’s the plan to keep in mind.
The final avenue to focus on in taking Tog apart is destroying their graveyard. Unfortunately, most of those methods are either Black or come at sorcery speed, which means they aren’t going to be played all that much or are easily countered. Nevertheless, if you can manage to force Psychatog to stay a 1/2 beater, you will stand a much better chance of pulling out a victory in the end.
Problem Cards: Smother, Ray of Revelation, Cabal Therapy/Duress, Phantom Centaur, Beast Attack, Glory, Circle of Protection: Black (particularly against CMU, because it forces them to Upheaval you out)
Music Cue: This One’s Gonna Bruise – Beth Orton
Yeah, it doesn’t fit the rest of the mix, but I wanted to work the song in. Destructively sad and haunting, it’s been on my playlist for six months now.
Make sure that their kids don’t get to keep their Dumbo Pants, stop the elephant brigade, and stay out of burn range. Beware of Ensnaring Bridge after sideboard. It’s a simple plan, but the deck puts it on you so fast that keeping the pain down is a real problem, especially if they pack late-gamers like Phantom Centaur and Blistering Firecat.
Also, don’t listen to the hype about it being a dead deck. If you like it, be secure in the fact that Denzel is still Ray Allen’s dad, and with the right matchups you can still Q.
Music Cue: The Floor – Rooney
As usual, every time I work on twerking a deck for Regionals and then put it up for a vote, my deck comes in second. I can deal with this, since I’ve been successful with the choices of my readers in the past, but it does wound my pride a smidge. For the record, if I were playing Beasts this weekend, I would be playing this list:
3 Phantom Centaur
3 Exalted Angel
3 Wild Mongrel
4 Ravenous Baloth
4 Anurid Brushhopper
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Living Wish
4 Call of the Herd
1 Sungrass Prairie
2 Contested Cliffs
2 City of Brass
3 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Contested Cliffs
1 Nullmage Advocate
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Exalted Angel
1 Silklash Spider
2 Ray of Distortion
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Beast Attack
2 Circle of Protection: Black
Note the change of moving Phantom Centaur to the maindeck in place of Glory (which is good, but sometimes clunky – and this build still leaves you with four chances to Wish for it), the switching up of the Ray count (concessions to Mirari and Ensnaring Bridge) and the addition of Circle of Protection: Black to the board for the CMU Tog and MBC matchups.
Beasts decks are designed to be pure pain. When playing the deck, you have to understand how to efficiently use your mana to cast threats or you’ll lose. It’s that simple. Casting a turn 3 Exalted Angel and morphing her on turn 4 is not considered a solid plan here if you have other threats that you could be putting on the board. Running this deck is the exact opposite of a U.S. war plan, as you want to crush your opponent as quickly and effectively as possible on the ground and then bring in the Air Force to mop up.
That said, there are still areas to focus on in order to slow the deck down and make certain that you have the most time to effectively deal with their threats. The first place to concentrate is on their mana creatures, as they provide a jump-start to getting the big kids into play and they smooth the mana base of the deck (which isn’t bad, but can sometimes use help). If you counter/kill/burn out their mana critters, then the deck will suddenly have to play fair in terms of tempo – and playing fair is not something that any good deck wants to do.
The other way to beat this deck is through air power. U/G is a real problem for this deck because they can get damage in through the air, while Beasts can only attack on the ground unless they have time to get an Angel up and running. This is the real rationale behind running Reprisal – and since U/G will be the most popular deck this weekend, the reasons for running it still stand. If Beasts can stabilize the early game, then it’s a non-stop hit brigade, as the threats just keep coming.
Problem cards: Problem creatures, as the deck only has removal if they have four-plus power or a Cliffs and a Beast are on the table. Wrath effects, Wonder, Haunting Echoes, Burn on the mana creatures.
Music Cue – Run On – Moby
The Slide versions running Nantuko Monastery are light-years beyond the regular R/W builds that we have been faced with previously, but the potential for mana issues increases dramatically as well. I still feel it’s a better build because the game plan doesn’t rely as heavily on enchantments, but those of you who fear color screw will probably want to stay away.
The primary angle of attack against Slide decks is to take down the enchantments. If they can’t keep Lightning Rift on the table, then they have to rely on their creatures to kill you – and if they can’t keep Astral Slide on the table, then they can’t protect their critters. Between this deck, Tog, MBC, and Wake, the thought of maindeck Disenchants has re-entered my head with some force… But the cards are worthless against U/G and Beasts, so they stay in the sideboard for now.
The second particularly effective method for attacking Glide is by countering their limited threats (though there are a lot more threats in the newer R/W/g builds), but that goes without saying. Up the threat count and you increase your game against Tog, suddenly taking an unwinnable matchup and turning it into a fistfight.
The last method of attacking Slide is through Haunting Echoes. No other deck is as susceptible to this card, and getting it off almost always equates to a win for the home team. Unfortunately, Haunting Echoes is Black, meaning most decks won’t have access to it.
Music Cue: Make you Clap – Sean Paul and Busta Rhymes
I’ll confess that I would have been perfectly happy if this deck had remained in the background, as no matter what deck I’m playing, I always seem to lose to it when money is on the line. It went from a fringe deck to possibly the best choice against an aggro field (and a severely-weakened Tog deck) in the space of two weeks, thanks mostly to its success at Dutch Nationals. Wake presents a real problem for decks that were previously focused on overwhelming Tog and winning the aggro mirror match.
So what do you do to beat this silly thing and their seemingly infinite mana and army of beefed-up Heffalumps?
Well the first thing that I’d do is make certain Compulsion never, ever stays on the table. Screw the Wake – the Compulsion is where the engine of this deck resides and it must be crushed and stay crushed at all costs. If you kill Compulsion, the deck will die on gluts of mana like Chris Farley at an all-you-can-eat sausage buffet. Keep it off the board and you stand a chance.
The second card that must not resolve (or stick around, at the very least) is Mirari. If they don’t get to keep Mirari in the board, they don’t get to copy Cunning Wish, meaning they can’t keep Wishing for Elephants, meaning they’ll run out of steam. Once again, it makes you wish U/G were running an enchantment or two just so you could have maindeck Disenchant effects.
The last way to take down Wake is to control their graveyard and go to work. If they can’t use both sides of Moment’s Peace and Deep Analysis, and their Circular Logics become easy to pay for, they will have serious problems going off before you kill them. A lot of people I talked to didn’t understand this concept, but try it for yourself and see.
Of course, none of those answer the Exalted Angel problem, but there are other decks using that card already, and if you don’t have a game plan for it you will have a long day.
Problem Cards: Withered Wretch, Enchantment/Artifact Removal, Hard Counters
Music Cue: ATLiens – Outkast
I wrote this deck off a couple of weeks ago because I didn’t want to fight through ten rounds of Compost. Then R/G hate popped up in force and half the Composts disappeared. Then Seth Burn showed me a build that looked a lot less fragile than any I had seen before (that I can’t post because it’s OPT (Other People’s Tech)), and I was suddenly back on the bandwagon.
Hand Disruption, Tutors, Massive Creature Kill, and Corrupt… What’s not to like? Apparently very little, as the buzz on the street is that this deck will see a lot more play this weekend than anyone anticipated.
Leaving Visara alive isn’t a particularly strong plan either, but she’s a lot harder for most decks to deal with. Thankfully, they only pack one or two of her most of the time, so it’s not like you have to fight through Medusa and her sisters.
Genesis is a solid idea for creature decks until he gets Echoed away, and Gigapede is diesel as well, since he eats removal for lunch and comes back for more. Me? I like Gigapede and Beast Attack, and hoping that I don’t leave them enough time to set up – but that’s because I’ve been playing Beasts.
The other real option for causing problems with this deck is to get an Echoes off on them with a Corrupt in the graveyard. Regardless, MBC will be back this weekend and the deck will be solid, so you’ll have to play tight to win or hope they get Coffers screwed.
Black/Green Cemetery and Reanimator
These are the last of the major decks I expect to see this weekend (and yes, I will cry if somebody sits down against me and plays RobD’s Elvish Soultiller deck… How awful is it to know that you have to kill Birchlore Rangers whenever they rear their ugly heads or you could meet a very abrupt end?), the way to hate them both out is to crush their graveyard. If they can’t resurrect their children, then they won’t win… It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, both decks generally pack more than a few options to deal with graveyard hate.
For Reanimator, the second way to hurt the deck is by packing bounce. It’s hard enough to get the kids into the graveyard for that deck, but watching yourself Reanimate it and then seeing the big nasty pop right back into your hand is plus double unfun. Unsummon in U/G means that Reanimator is on shaky ground this weekend… Unless, of course, the U/G players decide to remove the bounce now that R/G is submerged beneath metagame hate. Me, I wouldn’t take that bet – and I don’t advise you do so either.
The other way of hating out the Oversold Cemetery deck is… Killing the Cemetery. If you get rid of the Cemetery, it becomes an underpowered Braids deck – which still isn’t fun to play, but is a lot better than a deck that crunches all the removal your deck can pack while looking for more.
Cemetery also has more than a little trouble dealing with large amounts of burn, as it does rely on keeping some smaller creatures on the board early in order to maneuver its way to a win.
All right, folks – I had to move this week and The Ferrett put me on a strict deadline today, so I have to apologize and say that’s all for now in this specific article. However, I’ve got a lot more to write about before this weekend, including which deck I’ll be playing from my”Choose My Regionals Deck” Contest, The Kitchen Sink, and a new installment of the Obligatory Chick Section. I’ll be posting all of that over in the forums for this article, so make sure you go visit and enjoy the extra flavor.
“The damage is done, so I guess I’ll be leavin’…”