City Champs are finally taking place this weekend, and, like many others, I’m looking for the right deck to play. Usually I find myself watching Magic Online replays when I’m looking for new deck ideas, but replays continue to be disabled. Without Magic Online, I didn’t know where to look for new Standard Constructed ideas, but StarCityGames ran another one of its Open series, and the Top 8 lists are now ready for everyone to pore over.
The focus of my article today is the pair of decks that made the finals of the Open, but something else initially caught my eye. Since two Faerie decks met in the finals of Grand Prix: Shizuoka, people have pretty much conceded that Faeries is the most powerful deck in Standard, and yet the two Faerie decks in this Top 8 found themselves eliminated in the quarterfinals. Standard’s newest popular deck, Merfolk, also put two copies into the Top 8, and one of them even made it to the semifinals. I’ve read in the forums that people have heard enough about Merfolk to last them the rest of their lives, so I’ll just skim over the pertinent information in the two Merfolk decks.
The higher-finishing deck of the two did run White, giving it access to Mirror Entity and Sygg, River Guide. The lower-finishing deck stuck to the mono-Blue plan, and brought more than double the number of counterspells to the fight. Both versions of the deck ran sideboard Pongify, which I haven’t seen before, and both ran the maximum number of Sower of Temptations in the maindeck. Three-drop Sowers is one of the biggest attractions I have to the Merfolk deck, so I’m not surprised to see that four has become the consensus number.
The decks that I really want to talk about today, though, are the two highest-finishing decks in the tournament. Doran Rock has been around for quite a while, and so has White Weenie, but each decklist brought something new to the table that I hadn’t seen before. I want to start with the runner-up:
- 3 Icatian Javelineers
- 4 Field Marshal
- 3 Goldmeadow Harrier
- 4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
- 4 Knight of Meadowgrain
- 4 Wizened Cenn
- 3 Cenn's Tactician
- 3 Kinsbaile Borderguard
Most White Weenie decks that I’ve come across recently have been purely Kithkin decks. This one doesn’t deviate too far from those roots, but it’s not a Kithkin deck in the same way the others were. This one takes advantage of the Soldier lord, Field Marshal, even though it contains eight creatures that are unaffected by the secondary creature-pump guy. The fact of the matter is that the thirteen one-drops and seven three-drops are all Soldiers, so even if your Wizened Cenn isn’t getting a power boost, your first turn Goldmeadow Stalwart is still swinging in there for four damage. The first strike it grants is also very relevant, as other tribal decks are becoming more popular.
Wizened Cenn also takes a small hit in terms of effectiveness, since it no longer powers up every single creature in the deck. However, Field Marshal and Icatian Javelineers certainly seem like worthwhile inclusions to me, and I’m not surprised to see that it was a wise decision to shave some Cenn’s Tacticians and Goldmeadow Harriers to allow for the presence of these two. Not only does the pinger stop Llanowar Elves or Boreal Druid from getting out of hand, it’s a huge nuisance for the Faerie opponent, who can’t simply run his Scion of Oona into play with no fear that it might die. It might not be the greatest answer to Bitterblossom, but it’s quite powerful against most of the other cards in what was once Standard’s most successful deck.
The sideboard is another part of the decklist I find myself liking a lot. When I first saw the Kinsbaile Borderguard deck a couple months ago, the sideboard was a huge mess. Just about the only thing it seemed sure of was that it wanted four Mana Tithes against the slower decks, and some sort of creature to bring in against Red opponents. However, the StarCityGames.com Open finalist’s sideboard features Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender instead of Soltari Priest, and this seems like quite an upgrade to me. While it might not kill the opponent as fast as Soltari Priest all by itself, it takes advantage of Wizened Cenn and may even wind up killing the opponent even faster. The Forge-Tender can also sit and block all day long, while Soltari Priest can only swing for the fences. Finally, the one-drop can sacrifice itself to save you from a lethal burn spell or to save your side from a sweeper like Sulfurous Blast. Extended players recently found that Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender was good enough to make the Top 8 of a Grand Prix, so I’m not surprised to see it make the Top 8 of a Standard tournament.
The new sideboard also features Ronom Unicorns, which are actually relevant against quite a few decks out there these days. It’ll stop Teferi’s Moats that Blue/White players (like Reveillark) often have lurking in their own sideboards. It’ll save you from Pyromancer’s Swath and keep Bitterblossom from flooding the board with 1/1s. With applications against many of the top decks in the format, the inclusion of Ronom Unicorn seems like a wise decision to me. The last element of the sideboard is Temporal Isolation, which has always been a great answer to problem cards like Chameleon Colossus and Doran, the Siege Tower. You probably won’t even feel too bad about slapping it on a Wren’s Run Vanquisher, though Field Marshal should let you just power right past that particular problem.
However, even with all of these developments, the deck of the day was not White Weenie. The winner of the tournament was piloting an old favorite of many:
This deck seems to resemble the Green/Black Primal Command deck that I talked about after the Amateur Championships that took place at Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur. That deck played a more controlling game, and featured many utility creatures that this one does not. However, it was the first time I’d seen Primal Command in a winning decklist, and the Green Command is the link that these two decks share.
Since that day, I’ve come to respect this particular Command quite a bit. I usually find myself playing Reveillark, and getting my third land Plow Under’d while the opponent searches up a Doran to smack me around with has happened more than I’d like. In the later stages of the game, I’ll find myself racing with 2/2 flyers and assorted bounce abilities, trying to complete my combo, when I’m getting hit with a mini Plow Under that happens to add two turns to my clock. While Primal Command might not pack the exact same game-ending punch that Profane Command does, it’s certainly a card that I believe is worthy of a place in Standard.
This deck doesn’t really play around with a toolbox that it can access via Primal Command, it just plays some of the best threats you can find, usually a turn early thanks to Birds of Paradise, and hopes that one or more of them live to batter the opponent into submission. Last week I mentioned that one of my favorite ways to win Standard matches these days is to just play bomb after bomb until the opponent is finally dead; this deck can drop Tarmogoyfs, Dorans, Garruks, and Bitterblossoms over and over until the opponent loses to one of them. And, of course, if none of these guys manage to stick, there’s always the option to Fireball the other guy and regrow a Tarmogoyf while you’re at it.
Again, I really like the way the winner’s sideboard is put together. While it’s not the same model of simplicity that the finalist’s 4/4/4/3 board was, each card included in it serves a purpose that seems quite important to me. I’d say that the average testing gauntlet should include Faeries, Green/Black (both aggressive and control), Reveillark, Merfolk, Mono-Red Burn, Dragonstorm, Mono-Green Elves, Big Mana, and with the completion of this tournament, White Weenie, and this sideboard has good options against all of those.
There are extra Shriekmaws, an additional Primal Command, and two Damnations to bring in against the creature decks that try to kill you as fast as possible. There are Mind Shatters and Mwonvuli Acid-Mosses to hit the midrange decks with (it’s nearly impossible for Reveillark to beat a third-turn Acid-Moss if they don’t lead with Mind Stone). There are Chameleon Colossuses to threaten the other Rock decks, and there are Cloudthreshers to clear the skies. In other words, you’ll never find yourself up against an opponent you aren’t prepared to tune your deck against.
I might not be able to make it to my City Champs, since it’s hundreds of miles from where I live and where I qualified, but if I did, I would seriously consider playing one of these two decks. I’ve been a die-hard Reveillark fan ever since I first heard about the deck, so the idea of switching decks hasn’t often crossed my mind, but these lists are very powerful and somewhat unknown. It’s always good to play a deck that has the power to overwhelm your opponents, but it’s even better to do it when you also have the element of surprise on your side.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM