Peebles Primers – Spotlight on States: Beating Down With Gaddock Teeg

Are YOU ready for States?
Our Spotlight on States series continues apace today… Benjamin Peebles-Mundy takes us through some of the ways in which you (or your opponents) can beat down with the kidney-stealing Kithkin Advisor Gaddock Teeg. BPM brings us five decklists in total: two dedicated Kithkin builds, two that rely on the non-Kithkin Green/White guys, and one decklist that’s sufficiently off the beaten path. G/W Aggro has a fine pedigree of late. Will it be enough to capture your State Championships?

If you’ve been reading articles or even just testing for States on your own, you’ve probably come to realize that two cards define the upcoming Standard format: Gaddock Teeg and Shriekmaw. The focus of my article today is to try to lay out the options for anyone who wants to beat down with Gaddock Teeg at States this weekend.

There are two ways to take a Green/White Aggro deck, and that choice revolves around how heavily you feel like running the Kithkin theme. If you look at the surface, the Kithkin cards all seem to work very well together, giving you options for Isamaru, Anthem on a Bear, and so on. The problem is that these cards all really want you to pack your deck with more Kithkin, and the pool of available cards is so strong that you may decide that the payoff is not worth the cost.

If you want to go with the non-Kithkin approach, you’ll likely be leaning heavily on the Green/White decks from the past block format. However, you gain the Core Set bonuses of Troll Ascetic and Llanowar Elves, and everyone’s favorite Lorwyn two-drop.

Green/White with Kithkin

This deck is all about maximizing the hits you can make. Hitting for massive damage starts with a 2/2 for one White mana, but that only happens when you play a full boat of Kithkin. Quick math shows that twenty Kithkin to reveal will give you about a 95% shot, sixteen will give you a 90% shot, and twelve will give you an 80% shot. You can then think about this in one of two ways: either you will count the three other Stalwarts in your deck (because, after all, you can reveal one to another), or you will not, because you want to make sure that you can always cast the second one on the cheap too. Of course, you can also ignore these numbers and just play as many Kithkin as you can get your hands on.

We start out with at least eight other Kithkin pre-built into the deck: Gaddock Teeg and Wizened Cenn. We are, after all, talking about Teeg beatdown decks, and if we’re going to play Kithkin, we’re definitely going to play the one that comes with built-in Glorious Anthem. Our options are:

Goldmeadow Harrier – He’s a tapper, which isn’t too complicated. He’ll hold off something huge, both stopping you from dying and allowing your littler men to swarm through the hole. The important piece for this tapper is his low mana cost, which will allow him to take better advantage of Wizened Cenn and possible Militia’s Prides.

Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender – Even if Shriekmaw and Gaddock Teeg are the format-defining cards, I think that the most popular deck at States is going to be Red/Green. Yes, Char rotated out, but the deck is still very fast and very powerful, and it’s familiar to a lot of people. The Forge-Tender is absolutely amazing against Red/Green, making combat a very poor idea in most situations, and threatening a Saffi-esque protection shield for any creature you deem more important than this one.

Amrou Scout – A 2/1, when you have options for a 2/2 with First Strike, is somewhat underwhelming. Even worse is the fact that your deck is a Kithkin deck, not a Rebel deck. However, Changeling works well with the Scout, and the ability to fetch up a Mirror Entity is not something to dismiss immediately. At worst, the Scout can fetch more copies of itself, which is fine if you’re trying to come back from a Wrath or simply keep gas in hand in case of one. He also gives you the option to put Bound in Silence in your deck and search up some Pacifisms.

Knight of Meadowgrain – Without any backup, the Knight is still a fairly strong threat that can attack into many potential blockers, whether they’re Mogg War Marshals, Morphs, or any of the other assorted small men that are likely to show up this weekend. On the other hand, when he has backup, whether it’s Wizened Cenn, Glorious Anthem, Griffin Guide, or Stonewood Invocation, he becomes a true force. At a certain point, the only cheap creature that can stand up to him is Tarmogoyf.

Mirror Entity – A Limited bomb, for sure, but not necessarily the strongest card in Constructed. I feel like this creature has his place because he gives you a way to use excess mana that you might have lying around in the late-game, something that you probably won’t have a ton of ways to exploit. At worst, he still threatens a combat-based Fireball.

Militia’s Pride – This is a card that I haven’t heard too much about, and it’s one that I absolutely love. Against decks of all flavors, adding two to four guys to your attacking force each turn is going to be amazing, and if you decide to take advantage of cards like Glorious Anthem and Mirror Entity, the Pride can spit out creatures that are extremely formidable. Another big upside is that you can do a whole lot of damage to a Wrath of God deck without committing too many actual cards to the table; their Wrath might kill four or more creatures, but it will often only kill two real ones.

Personally, I feel like the best path to take, if you decide to play a Kithkin deck at all, is to go whole-hog and try to complete the swarm-style offense. I like to play a bunch of Kithkin and then pump them up to epic proportions and try to run my opponent over. There are multiple different draws that produce a fourth-turn kill against a goldfish, and that can go a long way when you’re racing against Wrath of God. To this end, I suggest

However, many people have a common complaint about that deck: there is no Tarmogoyf. The problem with Tarmogoyf is that he’s not a Kithkin, and each Kithkin you remove from the deck weakens the others. However, it’s hard to deny that one Tarmogoyf is better than one Kithkin, and so if you decide that the payoff is worth it, you’ll want to make sure that your Goyfs are worth playing.

The above list doesn’t really have very many cards that go to the graveyard. Sure, your creatures will probably die at some point, and you might even cycle a Horizon Canopy, but it’ll be a stretch to get your Goyf up to more than a 2/3 or 3/4. So we’ll have to make some cuts to find good Instants and Sorceries.

As far as instants go, my personal favorite is Stonewood Invocation. The guaranteed damage that it provides goes a long way towards making up for the lack of burn spells in Green/White, and it’s one of the scariest cards that you can play against a control deck. However, it suffers from its high cost; Gaddock Teeg won’t allow you to cast it. If you’re okay with that, as many people are, then you can just go right ahead and jam it into the deck. However, it’s worth considering an abstractly worse card, Surge of Thoughtweft, before you make up your mind. The Surge has a few benefits: it’s Tribal, so it will pump your Goyf more than Stonewood Invocation will (as far as being in the graveyard is concerned), it’s castable under Gaddock Teeg, and it will almost always draw a card. Beyond those two, the next obvious choice is Thrill of the Hunt, which is often two counterspells in one card, a very potent effect.

Sorceries are less plentiful. The standard consensus is that Call of the Herd is the best way to put a Sorcery in your graveyard, but the problem is that you’ll be very tempted to then take that Sorcery right out of your graveyard again. You can also run Edge of Autumn almost exclusively as a cycler, even giving you access to the old Edge/Flagstones trick, but I think that Call of the Herd is a better idea. The final option that I’ve often thought of going with is Sunlance, but I think that that card is better out of the sideboard. Your mileage may vary.

When you’re cutting some of the Kithkin, the ones you want to cut are the ones that rely most heavily on a critical mass of Kithkin being in play. To that end, I think that the cards you’ll want to take out are Militia’s Pride, Glorious Anthem, and Mirror Entity. You’ll slow the deck down a little bit, sure, and you’ll lose Wrath resilience without the Prides, but you can offset that slightly with Saffis. That brings me to:

This deck loses some of the straight-out-of-the-gates punch of the previous deck, but it gains many individually stronger cards by making that sacrifice.

This version of the deck has six different Kithkin cards, and so still retains a lot of the synergy of the all-Kithkin, all the time deck. However, cutting much further into the core of the deck will result in the pieces each becoming so weak that they are no longer worth the space they’re taking up. Therefore, looking at potential non-Kithkin builds is also very worthwhile.

Green/White without Kithkin

In much the same way that the Kithkin decks could either be built for sheer speed or individual card power, the Green/White decks without Kithkin can go in similarly different directions. You can run decks modeled after the Block Predator decks, where you don’t have much to do on turn 1, but can follow up with a 7/7 Trampler, 5/5 Untargetable, or any of many other heavy hitters. On the other hand, you can start out with mana elves and lead into second-turn Trolls and Elephants, topping out on Griffin Guide and Stonewood Invocation instead of Mystic Enforcer.

My testing partner for States decided a while ago that he preferred the non-Kithkin flavors of Green/White, and he suggested the following deck:

His goal with this deck was to do the best that we could at putting a hard-to-handle creature out there, and then backing it up with Griffin Guide and Invocation. Tarmogoyfs, Calls, and Calciderms can hold the ground while Serra Avenger and any guy with a Griffin Guide sail over the opponent’s Mogg War Marshals and various Kithkin. Against control decks, you have multiple untargetable creatures, two-drops that seriously mess with their gameplan, and cards that come out quick and hit hard.

The manabase is slightly awkward for sure, and this is a side-effect of the deck’s curve. Treetop Village and Llanowar Reborn are both very strong lands, and are both cards that I think belong in the deck. Having four of them (in whatever combination you’d like) has been fine for us; you only have four one-drops, and when you hit them, you can often just play a two-drop on turn 2 and sneak your sleepy land in then.

You can, as I said above, also try to update a Predator deck for the new Standard. Grand Prix: San Jose offered the baseline, and I have tinkered with it a bit to fit in everyone’s favorite Kithkin.

The manabase was the biggest change, gaining Core Set painlands and being able to shed the clunky Expanses and Vesuva. I really do not like overloading on lands that come into play tapped, but the drawback of playing lands that don’t come into play tapped is that they tend to deal you damage. Missing a curve-drop because the land you draw off the top is a Terramorphic Expanse might cost you the game, but taking three damage from your Brushlands might also cost you the game. If you’re like me, and really despise Terramorphic Expanse, then you’ll like the above manabase. If you can stomach tap-lands but don’t want to deal with self-inflicted pain, then you might want to stick with the Block manabase.

The fantastic-in-Block Riftsweepers came out to make room for Gaddock Teeg, I cut Dead/Gone for the Tarmogoyf-friendly (and opponent-unfriendly) Tarfire, and I sacrificed the Edge/Flagstones trick for Griffin Guide. Griffin Guide was cut from the Block lists, along with Call of the Herd, because of the massive danger of bounce spells in that format; I don’t think you need to worry as much about bounce in Standard, but if you expect to see a high concentration of Vensers at your local States, you can always revert any of the changes I’ve made.

I think that, as you go down the page, the decks go from being a cohesive unit of pieces that reinforce each other to being a package of extremely strong cards that can just run someone over. Each of these options has its own set of upsides and downsides, so it’s really up to personal preference which deck you decide to play.

Something Completely Different

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a Changeling aggro deck on the MiseTings pages. I talked to a friend, and apparently a similar deck had shown up on Magic-League recently. The idea behind the deck was to take advantage of all of the undercosted creatures that relied on their tribe for the cost reduction by playing Changeling spells. Imagine a deck with multiple two-power one-drops, three-power two-drops, Gaddock Teeg, and burn:

This deck pushes the limits with its tribal drops, having only eleven Elementals, eleven Elves, and fourteen Kithkin to reveal. However, the fact remains that this is often enough, and that the deck comes out of the gates faster than almost everything else around. The deck’s big problem is that it’s more difficult to beat other aggressive decks when you’re taking as much damage from your lands as this deck does. However, it’s almost certainly the best of the bunch at abusing Tarmogoyf, and Gaddock Teeg is extremely frustrating to play against when the same deck is spitting out tons of creatures with power higher than their casting cost.

Sideboard Options

None of the decklists that I posted came with a sideboard. I understand that sideboards are extremely important, and I understand that most people out there are looking for advice on this specific topic, but I’ve decided to bundle all of the cards together into one group instead of building a specific board for each deck. I think that this is a better way to look at things both because many of the sideboards would have had overlapping choices, and because it’s certainly worth considering cards that won’t necessarily make the final cut.

Thorn of Amethyst – This is my pet sideboard card at the moment, and I’ve even tried to include it in various maindecks in the past few weeks. The card slows many control decks down dramatically, making it extremely difficult for them to cast two spells in one turn, which turns around and buys you the time that you need to end the game. It’s not the greatest second turn play you can make, since it doesn’t attack for three, but dropping it onto the table (along with a one-drop) on turn 3 can really put your opponent in a hole.

Disenchant – On the one hand, you can look at this card as a sort of Stone Rain, taking out Prismatic Lens, Coalition Relic, and Coldsteel Heart. More accurately, though, this card is just a catch-all for the problem that you didn’t think of. Come up against Story Circle without Militia’s Prides to break through? Disenchant it. Run into Razormane Masticore? Disenchant it. It’s not the flashiest card out there, but it will carry its weight.

Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, Soltari Priest, White Shield Crusader, Paladin en-Vec, and Mystic Enforcer – Protection from Red and Black are very good right now, with Pro: Red putting a huge dent in the Gargadon decks and Pro: Black taking advantage of all of the Shriekmaws and Slaughter Pacts people are packing to stop Gaddock Teeg. Depending on what direction you decide to take your deck, some of these guys might be in the maindeck, but there’s a very good chance that some of the others should be in your board, too. Knight of Meadowgrain isn’t the greatest card in the world against Teachings, but White Shield Crusader can actually be fairly difficult for them to stop.

Honorable Passage – If you have both the Forge-Tender and Soltari Priest in your deck, then you’re probably already far enough ahead that you won’t need to cover yourself with Honorable Passage. However, if you don’t have those cards, the Passage can be absolutely amazing against Red/x decks of all flavors; Passaging a Gargadon swing can win the game in one shot.

Sunlance, Crib Swap, Bound in Silence, Oblivion Ring, and Temporal Isolation – These are, in my opinion, your best options for creature kill out of the board. I think that Crib Swap is the one you want, unless you’re running Amrou Scout, because it handles everything and it handles it permanently. Oblivion Ring is also a good contender, but it suffers from being as disruptable as Bound in Silence and Isolation. The upshot, though, is that it can handle something that you didn’t see coming, as long as that something isn’t a land.

Thrill of the Hunt – This is one of the best cards that you can have in a pseudo-mirror, where creatures of approximately equal size will bounce off of each other. One Thrill lets you survive two fair fights or trade up on two unfair ones in aggro matchups, and it can stop two Nameless Inversions or Strangling Soots in control matchups.

There may be other cards that you’ve decided on that I didn’t mention; there are tons of options that I didn’t cover. Hopefully, though, this gives you some idea of what I consider important areas to cover out of the board of any of these decks.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

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