Peebles Primers – Reveillark at Regionals

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Wednesday, June 11th – Benjamin Peebles-Mundy likes Reveillark. Of that, there’s no doubt. However, after the shenanigans at Pro Tour: Hollywood, with Reveillark coming from nowhere to place two decks in the Top 8, would the long-ignored combo deck be the right call for a diverse Regionals metagame? BPM sleeved up his seventy-five, and went to find out…

Two weeks ago, I talked about why it might have been a good idea to run Reveillark in the Pro Tour, even though many people predicted a very hostile field. Regionals, of course, is not the same as the Pro Tour, and in addition to having a different structure, it was clearly going to present different decks as competition. However, with all the talk of how good Elves, Doran, and Reveillark are today, it seemed to me that things were only getting better for Reveillark.

With this in mind, I took “old” two-color Reveillark to Northern New England Regionals this past weekend. Talking to various friends and teammates scattered across the country after the end of school, I came to the conclusion that Regionals was going to present a field that was very soft to Blue/White Reveillark. The reasoning behind this came in three pieces. First, Reveillark is good against your average aggressive deck. Second, Reveillark is very good against your average midrange deck. And, third, Reveillark is powerful enough to have game against whatever rogue Regionals strategy we might run into. In addition to all this, I thought that I would have a large edge in any Reveillark mirror match.

This brings me to something that’s been bothering me for a while. Since the end of the Pro Tour, I’ve heard people talking about the Reveillark mirror match with the same tone they use for the Faerie mirror match. The few people who think that you can actually buy an edge seem to believe that you do this by tossing some Faerie Macabres into your sideboard and catching the other guy when he’s going off. On the other hand, I think that the way to win the Reveillark mirror is the same that it was before Shadowmoor was printed: bounce the other guy’s lands. Instead of waiting for them to get so far along that they’re going for it, just lock them at three or four mana all game while you continue to develop and push ahead. By the same token, I think that RG Big Mana players should not be attacking with Faerie Macabres but with third-turn Acid-Mosses. When you’re playing these midrange matchups, you just want to go big while keeping the other guy small.

As for the actual tournament, it was a blast. I usually don’t like Massachusetts tournaments as much as those in the Ohio Valley simply because I have fewer friends out in this neck of the woods, and Magic tournaments are great places to hang out with friends and have a good time. However, I was never hurting for someone to chat with, and many of my opponents mentioned that they read my articles and were hoping to see themselves in print in a few days. All in all, despite showing up to the site on my own, it was not a lonely place at all. I told my opponents at the Holiday Inn that I was going to write a report if I obtained a reasonable record. I did, and so I will.

The Deck

The question I heard most often was why I played only two colors. With Gargadon providing a much safer sac outlet than Mirror Entity, as well as one that worked very well with Sower of Temptation, most people believed that the Red versions of the deck were much stronger. I believe, though, that you gain a large number of benefits by playing only two colors, most of all the twelve basic lands and zero tap-lands in my list. I didn’t think that I would be able to dodge all of the Magus of the Moons and Vensers in the room, so I wanted my mana to be rock-solid. I also love Mirror Entity more than your average guy, as it often gives you the win even when it doesn’t give you the combo.

Still, there are some elements of this decklist pulled from the Hollywood results. The most important, I feel, is the swap from maindeck Aven Riftwatcher to maindeck Sower of Temptation. Aven Riftwatcher might gain you four life (or more with Blink or Reveillark), but it comes with built-in death and a small body, and I think those downsides are too great. If you cast a Sower of Temptation on a Chameleon Colossus on turn 4 and then lose it to their Skred or Incinerate while you’re tapped out, you might not be impressed. However, the attack that they miss gives you just as much life as chumpblocking with the Riftwatcher would have. And, of course, the times when Sower doesn’t immediately die are beautiful.

On the other hand, most of the Pro Tour lists discarded Riftwing Cloudskate, while I have increased their numbers in my list. This is a nod to the fact that I thought I would be playing against big aggro and midrange decks. When you’re under attack from one-mana 2/1s and the like, Riftwing Cloudskate is just too slow to matter, but when you’re facing down four-drops and five-drops the Cloudskate is extremely powerful. If I thought I was going to go into a room filled with the fastest of decks, I wouldn’t run the Skates, but when you think you’ll have breathing room, they’re very strong.

Lastly, some quick hits. I ran Careful Consideration instead of Bonded Fetch because the Consideration does in one turn what the Fetch does in four, and does it at instant speed. I realize that the Fetch lets you cycle your deck when it’s the only combo piece you have, but I didn’t think I would have that problem with four Mulldrifters, four Cloudskates, three Sowers, and two Vensers. I ran Calciform Pool instead of Mutavault because I didn’t think that Mutavaults alone would allow me to beat Merfolk and because Calciform Pool is very good at letting you “get there” one turn ahead of time when you’re under pressure.

The Tournament

Round 1 — Mono-Green Token Elves
I knew I was up against some form of Elf-Ball when he led with Heritage Druid, but I didn’t know exactly how much until he dropped the new Rhys, Hunting Triad, and Elvish Promenade. I had a Wrath of God to stay at a healthy fourteen life, but he came back with a second Rhys and a Hunting Triad. He was stuck on four mana, though, and so he could only play a Jagged-Scar Archers without the mana to make a token as well. I had a Sower in hand that I had been planning to use on the Rhys, but with the Archer in play, I had to steal it immediately. Upon doing so, he untapped, dropped a fifth land, and cast Overrun to come across for twelve damage. I chumpblocked and went to five. Over the next few turns I dropped Cloudskates and Vensers to hold off his Rhys, and plucked him down to thirteen life. However, at this point I had to hold back with all my men because he was threatening to be able to double his tokens and swarm over me. On the turn before he was going to make six more tokens, I drew a Mirror Entity and killed him with my flyers.

I sideboarded out my Cloudskates and a Prismatic Lens for three Crovax and two Moats.

He again opened with Heritage Druid, but he didn’t have anything at all for the second turn, and then only had an Archer for the third turn. He eventually managed to get off the ground with a Llanowar Elves, a Gilt-Leaf Ambush, and an Elvish Promenade, but I just dropped Crovax into play and wiped his whole side. He cast a one-drop on his next turn, and when I told him it was dead, he packed it in.

Round 2 — Black-Green Elves
The first game went very poorly for my opponent, as he led with a tapped Gilt-Leaf Palace, a Mutavault, and a Bramblewood Paragon (good so far), but then just a Wren’s Run Vanquisher without any land on the third turn, though he did show a Civic Wayfinder. With the Wayfinder stuck in his hand, I Wrathed his side after he dropped a Llanowar Elves on the fourth turn, leaving him with just a Mutavault for action. When he just animated and attacked for two, the game was all but over. A Reveillark on my turn drew the concession.

I boarded out two Cloudskates for two Moats.

This game went much better for him, as he led with a Llanowar Elves and an Imperious Perfect, and then had more action in the form of a Profane Command to kill my fourth-turn Mulldrifter and swing with fearful men, but he announced the Command before animating his Mutavault. When we called a judge over to the table, he was allowed to back up and animate his Mutavault, which I didn’t resent at all. However, I had a Wrath to stop the attacks, and then another when he tried to rebuild. I finished up with random 2/2s before he could find the next Profane Command to kill me.

Round 3 — Mono Green Gauntlet
I knew what my opponent was playing before starting the match because I’d overheard him talking to his opponent the previous round. Therefore, the chatter began with “please don’t Acid-Moss me.” He said that he couldn’t make any promises, so I asked him again. He said that he wouldn’t if I asked a third time, so I did.

Unfortunately for me, he was lying. While he didn’t accelerate into it with Wall of Roots or Search for Tomorrows, he did play a fourth-turn Mwonvuli Acid-Moss after I tapped out for an Evoked Mulldrifter. I rebuilt my mana while he dropped out a Gauntlet, and then put a Verdeloth and a host of Saproling tokens into play when I played a five-drop. I Wrathed his Verdeloth but he had more gas in the tank while I dug deeper with a Body Double and a Reveillark. He kept up the pressure, though, so I had my back against the wall. However, I drew a Careful Consideration which gave me a Mirror Entity, and completed the combo.

I boarded out my Sowers and two Cloudskates for my Moats and Pacts. It took me a little while to decide on Sower, but it seemed as though it simply didn’t do enough; stealing Verdeloth wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and Cloudthresher and Oversoul are very hostile for him.

He started this game off with a Suspended Search but no Acid-Moss, so I had the mana ready for a Pact when he went to play his first Gauntlet with three mana up. From there I tried to do a little without walking too far into Cloudthresher, and he used Primal Command to find Thelonite Hermit and shuffle away my graveyard. This let me feel safe to drop Teferi’s Moat into play, which I think put him on Primal Command or bust. He had a Morph that could attack and a life advantage, so he started to burn Cloudthreshers just to deal damage. However, I eventually drew into a Venser to trade with the Morph and a Reveillark to put pressure on him. He went for another Gauntlet which I could have Vensered, but I didn’t because he floated some awkward amount of mana and I wanted to see what was coming. When he followed with Oversoul of Dusk, I blinked my Reveillark to bring back Venser to bounce the Oversoul (from the stack). My attack for six put him dead on board, and he didn’t have a Cloudthresher to block.

Round 4 — Blue-White Merfolk
He led with Cursecatcher, which made my first-turn Island slightly awkward. It was made even more awkward when he followed up with a second-turn Lord of Atlantis and an attack for two. I ramped with a Prismatic Lens and he dropped a Mutavault, a Silvergill Adept, and swung me to fourteen. I just Evoked a Mulldrifter and then took my beats down to seven, ready with Wrath to try and stay alive. However, he had a second Cursecatcher, so his Lord and Mutavaults killed me.

I boarded out two Cloudskates for two Moats. I wasn’t exactly excited about Moat, but if I could stick it then it was clearly going to be good.

His early game started with Adept revealing Lord of Atlantis and then Merrow Reejerey. I Wrathed those two away, but he played another Reejerey. I bounced it with Cloudskate, and he replayed it. I drew two with Mulldrifter, and he dropped a Banneret and an Adept, though I had to remind him to draw his card, which gave him his land drop for the turn. I played another 2/2 flyer, and he hit me harder than I expected with a second Bannered and another Adept. I played Body Double copying his Adept that I had Wrathed long ago, which would give me lethal damage if he played the Lord of Atlantis he had been revealing. However, when his turn brought three Lord of Atlantis with it, I was the one who was dead.

Round 5 — Green White Aggro
He started with just lands until a third-turn Kitchen Finks, and then put Shield of the Oversoul on it. I bounced it with Riftwing Cloudskate, and he played a Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers. He attacked me for three and replayed his Kitchen Finks. When he dropped Wilt-Leaf Liege and swung, I used Venser to bounce the Cavaliers and block the Finks, and then untapped and Wrathed. When he started to rebuild, I had Sower to lock him up, and then I completed the combo.

At a certain point he revealed his hand by accident, so I knew that he had maindeck Oblivion Rings. With those alongside Primal Commands and Shield of the Oversouls, I decided I didn’t want to sideboard at all.

Game 2 was never close, though I managed to embarrass myself when I cast a Body Double post-Wrath. My graveyard had only a Sower of Temptation, while his had an Oversoul, a Kitchen Finks, a Wilt-Leaf Liege, and a Birds of Paradise. Both sides of the table were empty, though he had two Treetop Villages. I put Body Double into play and said that I wanted to copy Kitchen Finks, but my opponent used Faerie Macabre to remove the Finks and his Oversoul. Not wanting a lowly Birds, I chose to copy my Sower even though it was just a 2/2. After taking a hit down to twelve, I woke up and realized that, for some reason, I had chosen a 2/2 flyer over a 4/4 blocker. This was largely irrelevant, though, as I continued to play gassy card after gassy card, and he eventually died when I turned my board sideways after dropping two Reveillarks.

Round 6 — Red-Green Big Mana
Game 1 was one of the least interesting games I played all day; he didn’t come out quickly enough and by the time he had assembled any pressure at all, I was comboing him out.

I boarded out an assortment of one-ofs for three Pacts and two Moats. My problem was that I wanted the sideboard cards in, but I liked all of the cards I had in the main. Faced with this, I trimmed one Wrath, one Mind Stone, one Sower, one Cloudskate, and one Mirror Entity.

While my opponent lamented his chances, I mulliganned down to five and kept a hand with two Plains, two Considerations, and a Body Double. I didn’t play a land on the third turn (after drawing the case Consideration, a Pact, and a Venser), but my opponent had an on-schedule Colossus. I missed again and went to twelve. I drew a Gate and went to four. I drew a Wastes, and then had Venser to bounce his Colossus and buy myself a turn. I then Sowered the Colossus and used Pact to save it from Skred, and it seemed as though I might win. Of course, a Firespout took out my side and gave him back his Colossus, and I died.

In the third game I found myself staring down a Magus of the Moon, but he had to contend with a Teferi’s Moat set to Green. I played Riftwing Cloudskate off my two Islands, bouncing the Moon man, and the two-point race was on. However, when he started to cycle Edge of Autumns, I took my chance to ambush the Magus with Venser. I protected it from Skred with Pact, and traded with the Magus. This left me able to cast all of my spells while he tried to dig for an answer to the Moat, but I found Reveillarks before he found Primal Command.

Round 7 — Black-Green Token Elves
I thought I was playing my first repeat match of the day when he led with a Gilt-Leaf Palace and a Bramblewood Paragon, but I quickly learned that I was wrong when his third turn brought two one-drop Elves (including Heritage Druid) and a Thoughtseize to take my Wrath. I drew a second Wrath but chose to instead Evoke Mulldrifter, and my opponent played out Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Elvish Promenade, and Gaea’s Anthem now that he “knew” the coast was clear. When I Wrathed him, holding six cards to his zero, the game was over.

I boarded the same way I boarded against Mono-Green Tokens: Cloudskates and a Lens out for Crovax and Moat.

For game 2, we both had slower draws, though I again had a Wrath to set him way back. I followed up with a Sower and a Reveillark, but I didn’t have much else, so it was a problem when he played another Elf and Gilt-Leaf Ambush before casting Overrun. I blocked one guy with Reveillark, and another with Sower and the token, and he chose to assign all of the damage to his token so that I couldn’t regrow Sower, which put me to seven. I later had to use the Sower to trade with a Mutavault, and it was his token and Village against my empty board and hand. I drew Crovax though, so I thought I was set until he drew and played Imperious Perfect. I drew land after land while he amassed tokens. Finally, he animated his Village, dropped Gaea’s Anthem, turned all of his guys sideways, and said “I hope you didn’t draw Venser.” I cast Venser, bouncing the Anthem, and blocked his Village and Perfect. I took three, down to four, but all of his guys died and he was left with just the Anthem against my Crovax. I drew a Mulldrifter, which gave me another, and then the game was over.

Round 8 — Red Aggro
A look at the standings showed that there was a very good chance that anyone with 21 points after this round would be able to draw into the Top 8; at worst, only one person with 22+ points would miss the cut.

We were deckchecked, and while we waited for our decks to come back, a spectator started talking to me about my Reveillark deck. I didn’t really mind too much, since my opponent knew who I was and so I assumed knew that I was playing Reveillark, but I found out after the match that he actually thought I was playing Faeries when we sat down. Either way, he led with a Tattermunge Maniac and a Keldon Marauders while I mulliganned down to five. I made a game of it, but I was at four life before I really even started to play, and he just cast a Flame Javelin to kill me.

At this point I realized that I just hadn’t given myself any way to win this matchup. I had completely discounted small aggro, and while I had four Forge-Tenders to help out, I didn’t really have a good plan against his deck. I boarded out Cloudskates, Sowers, Blinks, and a Lens for three Wispmares, three Crovax, and four Forge-Tenders.

I again mulled, but managed to keep six this time. Something was clearly up when he led with a Grove of the Burnwillows, though he did have another 2/1 to follow it. I figured it out when he dropped Mutavault and Kavu Predator. When the second Predator hit the board and I didn’t find a Wrath, I quickly found myself dead to the 7/7 and 5/5.

Round 9 — Red-Green Big Mana
I was pretty glum at this point, knowing that I was just playing for points and packs, and not a shot at Nationals. However, I was roused from my gloom when I heard that I was playing against my actual first repeat: Big Mana.

We each got off to a pretty decent start, though I was surprised to find my opponent without a second-turn accelerator. Still, when he hit four the gas kept coming, so I’m not too surprised. When I built up a good base with Sower and Cloudskates, he cast a GGG Firespout to kill my side without harming his Finks. However, I had a Consideration, a Wrath, and more gas in the tank, and so he kept casting guys while I cast guys that did things. Eventually I assembled the combo, demonstrated that I knew what I was doing, and we moved to game 2.

I again made the swap of five one-ofs for Pacts and Moats.

He again didn’t play a two-drop, which was good for me because I’d kept a slow hand myself, with no plays until my fourth turn Consideration. I slowrolled it until the end of his turn because I would have to discard three either way, and not mainphasing it allowed me to represent Venser, which caused him to not pump his Colossus. I traded one Wrath for the Colossus, but then got hit by Magus of the Moon with just UUW available to me. Safe behind his Magus, my opponent dropped Wall of Roots and Colossus number two, but I had a Lens in-hand to enable Wrath. I Evoked a Reveillark even though I knew that he was going to Faerie Macabre me — someone in the audience suggested after the match that I should have hardcast it and used a Blink I was holding, but I said that I valued the Blink more than the Reveillark at this point — and so my Reveillark went to the grave and my Mulldrifter and Cloudskate went away permanently. He passed yet again, and so I cast a second Consideration, and followed up with a Reveillark with two mana up. He had Mouth of Ronom but just passed the turn, and so I swung. When he went to Mouth my Reveillark, I cast Blink. He let me trigger my Lark and then Macabred my targets, but I responded with Venser, so he used a third Macabre to stop me from making any headway. However, this left him exposed as truly having no gas, and he was unable to stop the Venser and Reveillark from taking him down.

The Top 8 wound up being a clean cut at 22 points, and I finished in 10th, just behind my fourth-round opponent.

Overall, I think that my deck was a great choice for the room, though the decks I played against were more aggressive than I thought they would be. I found myself sideboarding Cloudskate out often; I knew that he wasn’t going to be great against the faster decks, but I still think that it was a good choice for that tournament. After all, my first-round table of eight featured five Reveillark decks. However, most of those players were out of contention early, and the last Reveillark deck that I knew of besides my own fell out by round 5.

If you’re still looking for a Standard deck to play, whether it’s for your own Regionals outside the U.S. or just for FNM, I think that this is a very good choice. It’s still very difficult to beat Faeries, and Merfolk is almost as bad, but Green decks of all flavors tremble before you. The only change that I would make is to replace Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender with Kitchen Finks; the Forge-Tenders can be all-stars against Tattermunge Maniacs and the like, but they’re very small and much worse if your opponent is playing cards like Tarmogoyf alongside their quick drops. Meanwhile, Kitchen Finks gives you a big blocker with lifegain attached, and interacts very well with Body Double. There is even an infinite life combo with the Finks, despite the fact that it looks like you wouldn’t be able to do so with a printed power of three: when Body Double dies (as Reveillark), bring something random back along with the Double, but copy the Finks. When the Body Double (as Finks) dies, Persist will bring it back so that you can copy Reveillark again. Even as a 3/2, Body Double will let you keep going, and so a little work gives you another combo.

Either way, if you’d like to talk about card choices or matchups I didn’t cover, or even more in-depth strategies for those that I did, please feel free to drop me a line. And, as always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM