1st Place, TMD Open V
Playing Control Slaver
1 Platinum Angel
4 Goblin Welder
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Cunning Wish
1 Lava Dart
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Jet
1 Sol Ring
1 Black Lotus
1 Lotus Petal
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Library of Alexandria
4 Flooded Strand
4 Volcanic Island
1 Lava Dart
3 Red Elemental Blast
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Platinum Angel
3 Rack and Ruin
2 Blood Moon
3 Arcane Lab
Yep, it happened again. Control Slaver is the new Combo. Last year’s autumn Waterbury tournament was all about combo and Control Slaver.
And then the most recent…
2005-01-15 Waterbury (200)
1. Intuition Control Slaver
2. Intuition Control Slaver
3. Bad Meandeath… I mean TPS
4. Meandeck Tendrils
5. Traditional, a.k.a. Shay, Control Slaver
6. Modified Control Slaver
7. Rector Trix/Tendrils
8. Staff-Metalworker combo
Well then. That wasn’t even the end of it – there were four more Control Slaver builds with a 2/2 split between “Traditional” and “Goth”. Combo put up another good showing with TPS making yet another Top 8, joined by Meandeck Tendrils (Yeah, yeah, stop your laughing. I’ve seen you playing with it, so knock it off) along with a archetype thought to be long past deceased – Rector Trix with only the good ole’ Illusions/Donate kill.
If it weren’t for Control Slaver’s domination of the Top 16, I’d say we have a good thing going. Now, I know that there are countless other events in the world with completely different representations of each archetype, but for our purposes, Waterbury is the best indicator of things to come. If you take a look at the statistics for the rest of the world, TPS and Tog are putting up much higher numbers than Control Slaver. The only Control Slaver to Top 8 in Europe was in Venice in mid-January*, and it didn’t even play Mindslaver!
* Thanks for the great statistics Phil!**
** Phillip Stanton: Yet another reason to go Premium!
Why is it that Control Slaver has taken the Northeast by storm? Prior to Rich Shay repeatedly high showings with his creation, Psychatog was the control deck of choice. Thanks to member of Team Shortbus, Marc Perez, Fish scared the s**t out of America’s control players, a.k.a. the Psychatog players. Fish completely changed the metagame. Workshops came back with a force and Tog pretty much dropped off the map, well, at least the map of New England’s Top 8s. Control Slaver is much more resilient to Fish’s Wastelands and was able to deal with Null Rod to a point where it, along with very strong sideboard cards debuted by none other than Rich Shay, such as Lava Dart and Old Man of the Sea (He’s a Marid!), Control Slaver was able to climb to the top of the hill to become The Deck to Beat, knocking Fish from the perch it held for quite some time.
2004’s GenCon Vintage Championships was won by Control Slaver, with the Top 8 dominated by Goblin Welders. It seems that there isn’t really a particular deck that’s the big target lately, but one card: Goblin Welder.
What influence will this have on StarCityGames.com Syracuse stop of their 2005 Power 9 Series? Syracuse’s location puts it within a reasonable range of all of New England and will also be easier for those mysterious players in the great white north: The Canadians. I have no clue what the Canadians have up their sleeves, but I know that two of the most popular decks in the current metagame in the Northeast are Control Slaver, of both Goth and Shay flavors, and Bad Meandea… er, TPS. Both of these decks pack a powerful punch and have been shown themselves to be solid contenders for the past year or so, with both making countless showings in the elimination rounds of tournaments all over the Northeast.
Canada has a formidable squad that will be attending this event***, but the majority of the event will be comprised of those wacky New Englanders who are starting to live up again to the “New England <3’s its Control” stereotype that really wasn’t true for so long. What can you expect the most of as a result?
Control Slaver and TPS (I got it right that time!)
*** You punks had better show up
New England generally doesn’t have Workshop decks taking the top spots, but they have been on the rise as a result of its power to slow down combo decks through use of Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void, and the dreaded Trinisphere****. My predictions in mid-January for the last Waterbury called for a lot of Control Slaver and Workshops. My predictions were dead on regarding Control Slaver and 5/3 did land itself two spots in the Top 16. When walking around the event I saw plenty of Workshop decks playing on the 100(!) tables needed to support the huge turnout of 200 Vintage players from all over the region and beyond. Throughout the day I heard a lot of complaints about how “Oath is supposed to be dead!” or “I HATE TRINISPHERE OMGWTF!!!!111oneeleventhousandonehundredeleven!!”, so I can only assume that Oath showed up in fairly good numbers.
All day long, the top tables were dominated by Control Slaver with the countless mirror matches making the rounds drag on forever. My guess is that Workshops were hated out sufficiently to keep them out of the elimination rounds for the most part. If only some brave soul had played White Weenie, Samurai of the Pale Curtain would have wrecked house! A good deal of Control Slaver players, Rich Shay included, decided to maindeck Triskelion, which proved all day long to be a heavy determinant in the outcome of the mirror match.
**** And I don’t want to hear a word about restricting Trinisphere
In my quest to learn more about the enemy, ie. Control Slaver, I had a conversation with Rich a few days ago about sideboarding and Control Slaver in general:
Carl Winter: Hey Rich
Rich Shay: Hey Carl! What’s up?
CW: Not much. I was wondering if you could give me some insight into the CS mirror sideboarding procedure?
CW: Interesting. I had always thought siding out Welders would be really good, seeing as how you can make their Darts dead, then use their Welders when you Slave them to fuel your lock.
RS: Well, now it gets interesting. I always leave mine in, but there are those who cut some. ELD does, but the real problem is Lava Dart, so yeah, cutting Welders will make Dart a dead draw, but on the other hand, your risk losing the “Welder War” if you skimp on them.
CW: Interesting. The remove Welders/Add Darts sort of reminds me of Accumulated Knowledge mirrors; You want to make stuff of theirs dead while keeping your stuff useful at the same time.
RS: Well, lately I’ve been boarding up to two or three Darts, though my lists are constantly changing, but I always keep my Welders in. Sometimes they won’t draw Dart and you can cast one after Slaving them.
CW: I see. What’s your opinion on Goth Slaver?
RS: Well, Goth Slaver is like Control Slaver on training wheels. Not playing with Yawgmoth’s Will puts you at a real disadvantage in the mirror.
CW: So Will is really important in the mirror?
RS: In testing Goth has only beaten Control Slaver two out of ten games, and basically the game goes until one player activates Slaver or casts Yawgmoth’s Will. Goth only has one of those two options.
CW: Yeah, Will is ridiculous.
RS: Will is insane. I think Goth Slaver is terrible. Like, this isn’t me loving my baby – I’ve changed my build before based on others’ ideas, like Windfall’s Tutor. After testing it and trying it though, Goth is just too slow and underpowered. People like it because it plays more like Tog, which is easier to play in general.
CW: Right, right. The ease of play was always the allure of Tog.
RS: Being easy to play doesn’t make a deck good though.
CW: Well, simplicity is deceptively powerful.
CW: I think few can.
RS: If you read my tourney reports, half my games end with “And then I resolved Yawgmoth’s Will
CW: That is a good plan indeed. Now, how is the matchup between Slaver and TPS?
RS: You know, I haven’t tested it in a while. I played a number of games against Matrix some time ago, and won just about every game.
CW: Matrix’s version was really weird if I remember correctly, playing Darksteel Colossus, etc.
RS: As for the Deathlong match, when I test with my friends, I win when I’m playing either deck in the match, so I can’t really say. But in the Deathlong vs. Control Slaver match, I just win.
CW: So, anything else?
RS: With regards to the Control Slaver mirror match, I cut Platinum Angel and the 26th mana source, along with the extra add-ins, depending on your build.
RS: Here’s a story from yesterday where I scrubbed out of a tourney: I lost to SX (Meandeck Tendrils). He mulliganed to five, did stuff, passed. I Tinkered for Platinum Angel on turn 1 with Force of Will back up, and still died.
CW: That’s rough
CW: I see.
RS: Sadly, people are starting to maindeck Dart like I did at Waterbury on Day 2.
CW: One last thing; Old Man of the Sea, good or no? I remember them being a house two Waterburys ago.
RS: No, not now. The decks it’s good against, like Fish, have been killed off by Workshop decks.
CW: Great, thanks a lot, Rich. I’ve gotta get going, so I’ll see you later
RS: Sure, no problem.
I learned a lot from our short chat. At one point Rich likens Goth Slaver to Tog which begs the question: What makes Slaver better than Psychatog? It’s fairly straightforward: Slaver has much more draw, a much more powerful and synergistic strategy with regards to its draw engine and kill cards, and also has access to most of the sideboard cards Tog does while also being able to run Blood Moon thanks to its high basic land count.
There are a lot of powerful cards for the Slaver mirror match, but it seems that it really just boils down to one casting-cost red spells: Goblin Welder, Lava Dart, and Red Elemental Blast. I used to think that Old Man of the Sea was the nut high in the mirror, but if your opponent is boarding in Red Elemental Blasts, if you’re trying to win the “Welder War” and you aren’t using Lava Darts, you’re going to have a really hard time winning.
So what effect does the mirror match factor have on the rest of the metagame? The splash damage from trying to kill opposing Welders will kick Fish in the junk, and Red Elemental Blast is just solid in general. Most people tend to pack 2-3 Red Elemental Blasts along with the occasional Duress with some Lava Darts tossed in the mix to round things out. This leaves plenty of room left in the board to fill it up with Rack and Ruins, Arcane Laboratories, Fat Artifact Men, and more versatile removal like Echoing Truth or Engineered Explosives.
It has always been my impression that Goth Slaver is superior to Shay Slaver, and while the results agree with me, Rich’s point regarding Yawgmoth’s Will really brings my opinion into doubt. It’s obvious that Yawgmoth’s Will can just win a game, but this is even more apparent in a Control Slaver mirror. Goth can drown you with their barrage of card drawing, but Shay Slaver still has most of the toys they have with a bit more room to play things such as Duress or Triskelion to even things out. Leaving it at just that the mirror should be really close, but having access to Yawgmoth’s Will completely changes the way the game is played. If a Shay Slaver player is able to keep back their Underground Seas and other non-Goth cards in a mirror match, they may be able to catch their opponent off guard with them having dealt with your Welders only to have them come back in a cascade of dead Moxen, swarm of Welders, and their own array of card drawing spells.
So what will people decide to bring? Rich’s point about Goth being similar to Tog leads me to believe that there will be mostly Goth there, so that’s probably what you should be gunning for when planning on what to bring in against Slaver. If Rich is correct and Traditional/Shay Slaver does in fact have an advantage over Goth, expect to see it at the top tables. Otherwise, get ready to watch a lot of Intuitions flying around with hands packed with Accumulated Knowledges that people are far too afraid of playing out of fear of the dreaded “AK Mirror”.
Enough on Control Slaver, my advice: Just play White Weenie and watch the Slaver player CRY when you plop Samurai of the Pale Curtain in play with Sword of Fire and Ice on it. It’s a lot of fun, I assure you. As for the rest of the Mana Drain-based control decks, Tog did peek around, but didn’t that much of a splash, and 4CC took a Top 16 slot, so at least the one I predicted was there.
On to the ever-popular Mishra’s Workshop
5/3, one of Team Shortbus’s more successful creations, has proven its strength and continues to do so, only to be trumped by another Shortbus monstrosity: The Riddler, brought to you by the twisted mind that is Eric Miller *****. I’m not sure how much Riddler to expect in Syracuse, but I’ve heard little tid-bits about people playing it (as can be expected after a new deck wins a large tournament), so it will most likely be there, but I think 5/3 will be the Workshop Aggro deck of choice. This isn’t just based on how good/bad each deck is – I just think that people will be more comfortable with the more established 5/3, and the fact that you need both Mishra’s Workshops and Illusionary Masks may keep a lot of potential Riddler players restricted to something else.
***** I’ve never met Eric, so I’m not saying something bad about him, he just seems to be really good at designing Workshop decks.
Stax hasn’t been making the showings it was prior to GenCon, but that’s more than likely as a result of the powerful aggressive aspect of 5/3, coupled with 5/3’s relative ease of play. It’s still been out and about, but with a lot of those Control Slaver players boarding Rack and Ruins, both decks will take a big hit and need to prepare heavily for that matchup. Now just isn’t the time for Stax in my opinion. The environment has gotten to the point where the speed of the average combo deck combined with the very powerful Rebuild utilized so effectively by TPS, means Stax just can’t keep the game locked down in time or for long enough, despite the raw lock power provided by Trinisphere.
Speaking of TPS, combo made about the splash – discounting the horrific failure of SX – that I had expected with the added surprise of Rector Trix making it back into the limelight. As much as I hate TPS, its ability to utilize Force of Will and reliably cast Rebuild means it is able to handle most of the hate thrown at it, especially with the recent addition to many lists of Chain of Vapor to handle Arcane Laboratory. My combo deck of choice (Yes, I hate SX, I admit it), MeanDeath, is also able to use Chain of Vapor, and thanks to Xantid Swarm, is generally able to resolve it against the player using Arcane Laboratory. Hurkyl’s Recall is very strong against Workshops and Control Slaver if you are stuck on the defensive, giving you a turn’s reprieve when they try to Weld in their Mindslaver. I’d talk about SX, but it’s been talked to death and it’s generally considered to be a retired archetype. Note I didn’t say dead, but with the hate people have been boarding against combo as of late, it has a very hard time despite its very high turn 1 kill percentage.
I think combo’s main weakness is the strength, speed, and resiliency that modern Mana Drain control decks have. Belcher generally just falls apart to Force of Will and has even less of a shot once Mana Drain is online. Both Belcher and MeanDeath are able to use Xantid Swarm, but they get snuffed by Lava Dart meaning that the classic, “Leave removal in or risk having dead cards” dilemma comes up again which is always fun to watch. A tip: They generally board in the Xantid Swarms anyway. I know I’ve never not boarded in Xantid Swarms (I love double negatives). Regardless, combo is faster than ever before and definitely has the tools to make a splash. I don’t expect a lot of it, but what does show up I’m certain will do well.
Where will Null Rod be?
I don’t remember seeing a lot of Null Rods at Waterbury, but that’s probably because they were drowned in a sea of Mindslavers and Goblin Welders. I remember playing against it one round when playing in the last Waterbury near the end of the event which, unfortunately, put the final nail in my coffin, taking me out of contention for the elimination rounds. It really isn’t that good against Control Slaver based solely on the fact that Goblin Welder is still able to bring back Fat Juicy Men to stamp on little fishy feet.
What will we see from Betrayers of Kamigawa played in the event? I’ve heard whispers of Ninja of Deep Hours getting in some play in various Fish builds, but he seems terrible. Yeah, they can kill your Curiosity’d dude, but who plays removal anyway?
Where does Dragon fit in to this? Well, with Canadians making the trip, it’s almost a gimme that Dicemanxx will be playing Dragon, so you can expect one at the very least. I’m pretty sure that there will be a good number of people playing it because it was so “easy” to build in the old 1.5, now known as “Legacy” (Worst. Format. Name. Ever.) Dragon is fast, consistent, and its Bazaar of Baghdad based draw engine is matched only by Control Slaver’s Thirst for Knowledge – only you can counter Control Slaver’s engine. Wasteland use is at an all time low, allowing people to play weirder and weirder mana bases.
So, what do I expect? The pecking order I think will be something as follows:
The major contenders:
15-20% Control Slaver
10-15% Workshop (Stax and 5/3)
5-10% Other Mana Drain based control (Tog and the like)
Those are the big fish, you’ll probably see the following, albeit in far lower numbers:
Cerebral Assassin, David Lawrence’s baby
Meandeck Tendrils a.k.a. SX
Oath, Meandeck or otherwise
Meandeck Europe (Now with Intuition and Accumulated Knowledge!)
Extended Reanimatorish type decks
****** My spell checker wanted this to be Burlington soooooo bad.
As for breakout decks? I’m not sure what I’ll see from the non-Meandeck end, but I’m surprised there aren’t more decks trying to abuse Bazaar of Baghdad and Mishra’s Workshop. There has to be some sort of combo application for Mishra’s Workshop, and the day that Workshop, Bazaar, and Mana Drain join forces is the day I… do… something. And it won’t be pretty either. Eastman’s Cerebral Assassin looks very solid and I won’t be surprised to see some people take a shot with it.
This will be an event where as long as you are a sharp player with a solid deck, you’ll still need a ton of luck because almost everyone else will be on the same footing you are. This was the case with Waterbury, and Meandeck attempted to take advantage of that. It didn’t work so well for most of us, but Justin Walters, a.k.a. Saucemaster, became the SXMaster and was able to, after a round two loss, demolish everyone in his way to the semifinals where he was finally taken down.
What should you be packing in your sideboards? Control Slaver players, get your Lava Darts ready because you’ll be playing a mirror match nearly every other round. Workshop hasn’t been out as much as of late, but I’d still make sure to keep the usual cards such as Rack and Ruin, Seal of Cleansing and Annul to deal with those Chalice of the Voids, Sphere of Resistances, and Trinispheres, keeping in mind that you’ll need to keep the casting costs of your removal varied so that you don’t get owned by Chalice of the Void. Please, please, please someone play White Weenie! I swear that I’m not metagaming against it, and you just have the most savage men ever against everything in the field. No one will though, and the results of this event will prove that White Weenie would have wrecked house. Lets go through the list of cards you have at your disposal:
Alright guys, I think that’s all I’ve got for you for this event. What I find so wonderful about articles written by my team is that there’s that huge guessing game of “Are they just trying to manipulate us and give us misinformation?” despite the fact that that hasn’t happened since the Paragons of Vintage, a.k.a. not Team Meandeck, spread the “Hulk sucks” propaganda before GenCon ’03. But, take it as you will, and if nothing else, prepare for playing against Slaver. No matter how you use it, the deck out-powers most of the decks in the format and has the resiliency to handle almost any hate thrown at it.
Good luck and enjoy Syracuse, it’s really a fine town with an awesome mall and the best bar and grill ever (the Dinosaur Bar and Grill). They have like, the best BBQ sauce evar. Also, Altered States has an amazing Italian restaurant next to it and the servers are all wicked hot. Like, my friend Israel (The large black man in a pink shirt from my pre-release report) spent more time checking out the staff than eating.
Member of Team Meandeck