Peebles Primers – Two Eye-Catching Standard Strategies

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard open Comes to Philadelphia!
Tuesday, November 18thThe StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open comes to Philadelphia in a few weeks. In preparation, Benjamin Peebles-Mundy looks at a pair of the more unsung strategies blossoming from the recent State Championship tournaments: Bloom Tender Aggro and Planeswalker Control/Combo. If you’re looking for a deck with the element of surprise, look no further!

The Top 8 decklists for most of the State Champs events are now posted for all to see, and the big story is one everyone has heard before: Faeries. When I first started poking through the decklists, simply starting at the top of the list of states and working my way downward, I thought that I would see nothing but Faeries. However, after the initial drudgery, more and more interesting decks began to pop up. My article today is about two that caught my eye.

First, though, I want to mention something that I found amusing. Prior to States, Tim Aten had mentioned to me that he was thinking about putting together a deck with four Reflecting Pools and fifty-six singletons. I’m not sure exactly what goal he had in mind, but I do know that he was at least somewhat interested in showing that there was not a huge difference between two Five-Color Control decks that disagreed on a few slots. Tim didn’t wind up playing his deck, but the winner in Alaska may have been listening in on his brainstorm sessions. While Jia Wu did not go quite as far as Tim intended to (he played multiples of two Vivid lands, Cryptic Command, and Esper Charm), he still had a whopping forty-one maindeck singletons, and fifteen sideboard singletons. Assuming that he was doing it just to be noticed, I wanted to make sure that he was.

Bloom Tender Aggro

While there was another three-color aggressive deck that I saw during my search through the winning decklists, the one that I really took notice of seemed to be built around Bloom Tender. With Figure of Destiny, Woolly Thoctar, and Chameleon Colossus, it’s not like the deck requires the Elf to play out its game, but man oh man does Bloom Tender send this deck into overdrive.

If you’re not exactly sure what it is about Bloom Tender that makes it so awesome, I’ll fill you in on the detail you could be missing: if you control a Hybrid Mana permanent, you’re going to get both colors of mana out of your Bloom Tender. This means that a first-turn Figure of Destiny followed by Bloom Tender will let you produce six mana on your third turn. You could use that mana for something “unexciting”, like two Woolly Thoctars, or you could just toss Realm Razer into play and beat your opponent about the head before they even manage to start playing their game. It’s not hard to imagine just how big a hole that is for a deck like Five-Color Control; without Condemn they are almost drawing dead.

While Dan Huffman is likely much more knowledgeable about his creation than I am, I do want to walk through the rough game plans for the various big matchups you can expect to see: Faeries, Kithkin, and Five-Color Control.

Versus Faeries – Given the showing that Faeries put up during States, I doubt that anyone will argue against the statement that this is the most important deck to gun for if you pick a deck. Luckily, the Bloom Tenders have proven their mettle in this arena, as Dan had to dispatch a Faeries deck to take home the trophy.

Decks around the world are playing things like Kitchen Finks because they’re good against aggro and can put pressure on Faeries. The Bloom Tender deck has them for the same reasons, but Kitchen Finks isn’t the only way to apply pressure. In fact, Finks is really the least frightening aggressive play that can be mustered; Woolly Thoctar is going to come out to play on the same turn with a bonus of +2/+2. Figure of Destiny, Chameleon Colossus, and Realm Razer all help pile on and run over the bad guys.

Bitterblossom and Mistbind Clique are the usual answers to aggressive decks, allowing the Faeries player to stabilize either on the power of chumpblocks or the power of an instant-speed 4/4. These are both quite powerful plays against the Bloom Tender deck, but this aggressive deck has a few more tricks than your average Zoo. If you get the quick hits in but find yourself being held off by the Faeries late-game, you can play your own pseudo Cryptic Command (Naya Charm) to tap their side and finish them off. This play might easily deal ten damage when they think they’re setting up to stabilize by playing an Upkeep Clique.

Versus Kithkin – There are two different kinds of Kithkin draws. There are those that attempt to come out of the gates with a curve of individual creatures, building up to an army of 3/3s on the third turn, and there are those that try to go over the top of the average defense with Spectral Processions and Cloudgoat Rangers enhanced by Ajani or Mirrorweave. If you are up against the first variety of draw, you will be able to simply outclass the opponent; you don’t need to work too hard to have your three-drop tangle with a 3/3. However, the all-token draw will be considerably harder to deal with. Your blockers will be less effective and your fatties will be less impressive; try to seal the deal with Naya Charm.

You can see that Dan saw this problem coming, as he’s packing four Firespouts and four Pyroclasms in the sideboard. These cards help to deal with the token swarms, while letting your biggest creatures survive unscathed.

Versus Five-Color Control – It is this matchup, presumably, that justifies the inclusion of my least-favorite land in Dan’s deck: Mutavault. We’re playing a game that involves Woolly Thoctar, Figure of Destiny, and Naya Charm, and we’re still running four lands that tap for colorless mana. However, those Mutavaults alongside Treetop Villages can be a huge problem for Five-Color Control.

After all, you can have draws that come out of the gates blazingly fast. Even without a Bloom Tender, your first-turn Birds might imply an attack for five on turn 3. Five-Color Control is going to be leaning very heavily on its sweepers to try to come out ahead, and having eight manlands helps make sure that that plan isn’t a problem for you. Of course, if your opponent taps out for a Wrath of God, you might be able to fully punish them with a Realm Razer.

Similarly, your Planeswalkers can do a lot of good here due to the difficulty that Five-Color Control has in removing them once they’re in play. If you can get a swing or two in with your monsters, Ajani might be able to get the job done just by doming for six, instead of by building up to his Ultimate and killing all of their lands. All in all, this deck has quite a few ways to punish a big tap-out answer to the initial rush of power.


I gather that the Planeswalker deck first burst onto the scene at the Last-Chance Qualifiers for Pro Tour: Berlin, but the first time that I really heard about it was when a friend was relating the story of his loss in the finals of his own State Championships. While Connecticut isn’t reporting their decklists at this time, Missouri was home to another win by the Planeswalker deck.

It’s not too uncommon for a deck to sport two, three, or four copies of a Planeswalker as an additional way to put pressure on the opponent. This time, though, the Planeswalkers are not an additional source of pressure, but the primary one. Two of them can create creatures, two of them can kill creatures, and all of them can kill players.

Creatures swinging back at you are the primary way your Planeswalkers tend to die, so it should be no surprise that the non-Planeswalker spells in this deck are aimed squarely at creatures. Six sweepers, four Oblivion Rings, and four Kitchen Finks aim to hold off the swarm until the Planeswalkers have set up to defend themselves, or simply to kill the other player. Oblivion Ring is chosen over other possible spot removal spells because it can answer a Bitterblossom as well as an Ashenmoor Gouger.

Like the Bloom Tender deck, this one sports Realm Razer. However, instead of playing it as an answer to Wrath of God or a way to discourage big sorceries from the bad guys, this deck plays it as a way to increase the power of the Planeswalkers. Sure, it takes lands to get your allies into play, but once they’re in there, you really don’t need (many) lands to execute your game plan. You can bet, though, that your opponent does.

Interestingly enough, last week at FNM, Nick Eisel and his friend Andrew Brown simply would not stop talking about their take on this new archetype. Instead of playing completely as a control deck, their version aimed to combo out with Fertile Ground, Overgrowth, and Garruk. (Incidentally, I am surprised that the Planeswalker deck above chose to use Mind Stone instead of Fertile Ground.)

The “god draw” for this deck starts with Fertile Ground into Garruk and Overgrowth on the third turn. From there, you can cast Time Stretch on turn 4, and a Liliana will let you win at your leisure. Of course, that won’t happen every time you play the deck, but degenerate draws are not as uncommon as you might think.

Savor the Moment is, like Overgrowth, a pretty trashy card that shines in this deck. If you have Garruk out, you might think of Savor as something like Call of the Herd, in that you’ll get an extra Beast token (and a free card from your draw step). You can also use Garruk to give yourself at least a little bit of an untap step to work with. All in all, you’re not getting a Time Walk, but you are getting something much better than you might otherwise expect.

The main problem that this deck has right now is its inability to regulate its draws in any way. You have the god draws that combo-kill on the fourth turn, or at least good draws that go broken very quickly, but you have no way to stop yourself from drawing an opening hand of three lands, two Liliana Vess, Time Stretch, and Condemn. I would not say that this deck is ready for the prime time just yet, but I think it’s an idea with a decent amount of merit. At the very least, it should be a fun deck to kick around at FNM.

The next Standard Open, in Philadelphia, is coming up in just a few weeks, and the Bloom Tender or Planeswalker deck might just be enough to derail me from my Reveillark addiction long enough to play something else in a Standard tournament. No matter what I play, though, I’m making sure that only a true emergency will keep me from attending this tournament.

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