The current wave of U/G Opposition decks are wonderfully simple creations that do indeed live up to the cliché that they”build themselves.” Remarkably simple to put together, I’d call them”this year’s Fires,” as they’re insanely consistent and have no glaring weaknesses.
At this year’s Invitational, some players decided to go with U/G Opposition decks using Odyssey‘s high-powered green flashback token generators – which has since been called”Elephant-Opposition.” Chris Benafel’s is probably the most basic version:
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Mystic Snake
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Call of the Herd
4 Beast Attack
4 Fact or Fiction
Brian Kibler main deck version was identical, save for replacing four Repulses with four Spellbane Centaurs, which gave him the edge in the mirror match and against any other decks running heavy blue… Which happened to be just about every deck at the Invitational.
Wily guy, this Kibler.
If you’ll pardon the Mowshowitzian style of deck breakdown — is”Mowshowitzian” a word? Well, I guess it is now — it’s probably the best way to break down the construction of the deck.
Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves: Quick, what do Fires and Opposition have in common? They’re both remarkably consistent on getting to three and four mana ahead of an opponent, they seldom get mana screwed, and they run both Elves and Birds. The mana accelerators ramp up the deck to higher casting cost spells quickly and guarantee – or at least make it highly unlikely – that the deck will get mana screwed. Over fifty percent of the deck produces mana.
Also, late-game Birds and Elves are not considered a”dead” card, as they would in other decks that utilize them… For as long as there is an Opposition in play, any creature becomes an instant Icy Manipulator.
Opposition: The card the deck is obviously built around. Back in the Urza’s Block days, a turn four Opposition followed by a turn five Deranged Hermit usually spelled the game, as the Opposition player could rapidly begin tapping down lands or creatures before bringing in Masticore for the kill.
Ah, for the days of an environment filled with insanely overpowered rares.
Opposition can, depending upon the board conditions, accomplish two things: One, it can achieve a powerful soft-lock of tapping down all an opponent’s lands during upkeep, giving the Opposition player total control of the board – or two, tap opposing blockers so creatures can come through for the kill. Sometimes, it’s a combination of the two, denying an opponent that precious second or third color they need for a few turns while creatures work on his life total.
Call of the Herd and Beast Attack: These are the two cards that make the Opposition deck shine in the current Standard environment. Opposition decks can, on a not-uncommon draw, drop a turn one Elf or Bird, turn three Call of the Herd, turn four Opposition and have mana on turn five for a Mystic Snake or Beast Attack.
Just as Deranged Hermit provided a five-for-one advantage with Opposition in play, the versatility of getting two 3/3 Elephants and two 4/4 Beasts — which can be cast as instants — for only one card provides a similar advantage. Add to the fact that they are token creatures and that they can be re-used from the graveyard, opponents are not going to want to waste a valuable card on something that will just be re-cast the next turn, essentially netting them a one-for-zero card dis-advantage. Wasting a counter or burn spell on a reusable spell may only buy an opponent time, not table advantage.
But unlike Hermit-Opposition, Elephant-Opposition has a better chance of winning if Opposition never hits the table, given the general beefiness of its creature base. The deck can easily overwhelm an opponent with an army of 3/3s and 4/4s by the midgame. A turn three 3/3 Elephant provides early beatdown against control and defense against rush decks; a turn four or five Beast Attack will wipe out most any attacker and live to tell the tale.
Counterspell and Mystic Snake: It’s a blue control deck. Of course there are going to be four Counterspells here. Same with Mystic Snake. It’s blue, it’s green, it’s control, what better?
Again, the Snake synergies well with Opposition in play, when it becomes a Counterspell and Icy Manipulator, and if the deck is running additional bounce spells, like Repulse, it becomes a reusable counterspell.
Fact or Fiction: Yes, we know that this card is insanely broken. With the flashback spells in the deck, it can skew an already good split into an essential four-for-one. Stay with me here: Let’s say the Opposition player peels off a turn four Fact or Fiction revealing Forest, Island, Call of the Herd, Mystic Snake and Yavimaya Coast. The obvious choice would be to put the Call of the Herd in one pile and the Snake in the other. If the player takes the pile with the Snake, they’ll still get to use the Call of the Herd once. If they take the Call, they’re getting two 3/3s.
Kind of a”damned if you do, damned if you don’t” proposition.
Fact or Fiction gets the deck to the cards it needs faster, and it’s still the best card drawing spell in Standard at present, so it definitely has a place in the deck.
Add in the mana base of twenty-four lands providing green and blue mana in remarkably equal proportion and that gives us 56 cards, leaving room for four more cards.
This is where it gets interesting.
Repulse: Benafel chose to go with Repulse in his deck. A solid if unspectacular choice, but he’s always been overly enamored of that card. You could make a case for the two-for-one and non-creature-bouncing capabilities of Rushing River, but the cantrip nature of the card makes Repulse the superior choice here.
Spellbane Centaur: Kibler chose to play the metagame and maindeck the Centaur where Benafel chose to have it in the side.
At States, if the metagame is shaping up to be a heavy blue environment, then Spellbane Centaur is an excellent call. Not only does it totally skew the mirror match in your favor, but it turns normally powerful cards like Repulse, Boomerang, Recoil and Dromar’s Charm into that much chaff in your opponent’s hand.
At worse, he’s a three-power body for three mana, so he’s not totally useless against a non-blue deck.
Syncopate: This card may get more attention depending upon how much cards like Call of the Herd and Beast Attack see play as we get closer to States. It’s the only card in the environment that’s capable of shutting down flashback spells. It’s got the same pluses and minuses as its ancestor, the venerable Power Sink, so keep that in mind as well.
You really can’t go wrong with either choice here. Personally, I would go with the extra warm body and put in the Centaur. Your mileage may vary.
But before you start bidding up all those Call of the Herds on eBay, there’s another Opposition variant that eschews the flashback creatures and instead depends upon the token-generation of the Enchant Land, Squirrel Nest.”Squirrel-Opposition” is a more controllish version, depending less on the beefy creatures and going for more of a hard lock with Opposition, totally shutting down an opponent with massive numbers of Squirrel tokens and then, well, nibbling an opponent to death with 1/1s.
As the flavor text of Squirrel Wrangler states:”Gnawed to death. Bad way to go.”
If you think a spell that gives you two 3/3s is good, then how good is a spell that can create a nigh-infinite amount of 1/1s?
There’s an old adage about an infinite number of squirrels at an infinite number of typewriters will eventually make a really big mess that someone will have to clean up. Worth remembering.
The advantage to Squirrel Nest is not only does it produce 1/1s for offense and powering Opposition, but they make fine chump blockers until you can establish board parity. True, it does require having a free land or two to keep tapping, but mana production is seldom one of the deck’s problems.
The version I’m testing looks something like this:
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Mystic Snake
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Squirrel Nest
4 Spellbane Centaur
4 Fact or Fiction
The flashback creatures have been replaced by four Squirrel Nest and more control — two Syncopates and two Repulses – and I have chosen to run Spellbane Centaur in the main deck to add a little protection from the other hordes of blue-based decks out there.
Both decks have similar sideboarding options. Kavu Chameleon, Gainsay, and the previously-mentioned Spellbane Centaur against other blue decks, Jungle Barrier as an effective stopper against Sligh and other fast beats decks, and the often game-breaking Divert. Wash Out, too, is effective against Sligh and white weenie decks.
There are a few cards worth mentioning that the deck does not like to see, mostly the type of thing seen in the mirror match. Anti-enchantment cards like Orim’s Thunder and Aura Mutation can be annoying (albeit not gamebreaking), and Pyroclasm is the bane of Squirrel-Opposition. If Syncopate gets wider play, it will be something that has to be watched for.
Is Opposition the crème de la crème of decks for States? I’m tempted to give it the crown, but we still have the swimsuit competition to go.
Regardless, it’s one of the heavy hitters that’s going to be at States in large numbers. Either play it or be ready for it.