States 2006: Top 8 Overview, Going Undefeated, Getting Disqualified, and Rogue Highlights

States is my favorite time of the year in Magic. New cards, new possibilities, and rogue decklists that may not be so rogue anymore by the time the champions are crowned – what’s not to like? I can’t help but obsessively review the results, studying the different archetypes, identifying new sideboard tech, and searching for rogue decklists. By rogue, I mean different, unexpected, or underrepresented. Anything outside the norm.

I finally broke my VA States slump, opening up with a 6-0 run in games. I called my fiancé after round 3 and told her that “the kid was back in action.” She warned me that every time I call her at events it results in a sudden turn for the worse. I assured her that this was a different day. Then I drew my next three matches and was out of contention for Top 8.

But that wasn’t enough for me. Rabid with ambition and seeing that my opponent also wanted to end the match decisively, I agreed with my final round opponent to roll a die and call evens or odds, winner taking the match. A judge caught us and disqualified us both for deciding a match through a random mechanism. What a humiliating and stupid way to end a tourney that began with so much promise.

The worst part was that a judge made me sit in the corner and write down what happened. I felt like I was in elementary school again, only this time I was much more embarrassed. Message to the wise: Don’t go for the random decision on a draw. It’s against the rules. It’s a mark against your integrity as a player, and one way or another you’ll feel sorry. Either you’ll carry around the shame that you cheated and got away with it, or you’ll get caught and be shamed publicly. Both are equally bad and uncomfortable.

I apologize for my actions, and offer myself up as the poster boy for why cheating is wrong and foolish.

Moving right along, States is my favorite time of the year in Magic. New cards, new possibilities, and rogue decklists that may not be so rogue anymore by the time the champions are crowned – what’s not to like?

I can’t help but obsessively review the results, studying the different archetypes, identifying new sideboard tech, and searching for rogue decklists. By rogue, I mean different, unexpected, or underrepresented. Anything outside the norm.

I actually crawled through every single link for every single deck that made the Top 8 in the US of A, as Borat would say. Speaking of our favorite Kazakh reporter, you have to see this film. It is the most uproarious and insightful comedy I have ever seen. Sasha Baron Cohen is a master at staying in character and he pulls off jokes that you never thought were possible on the big screen.

Back to Magic. So, I looked at 320 decks and fit most of them into fairly neat categories. At a glance, we have:

Ghazi-Glare: 34
Dragonstorm: 25
Solar Pox: 25
Solar Flare: 24
Boros Weenie: 20
G/U Aggro: 19
Boros Weenie: 16
R/W/U Firemane: 16
U/R Wild Tron: 14
B/W Control: 11
Zoo: 11
R/G Aggro: 10
R/W/B Firemane: 10
B/W Rack: 8
G/R LD: 8
Howling Martyr: 7
Vore: 7
Rakdos Burn: 5
U/G/W Control: 5
Fungus Fires: 4
G/W/B Beach House: 4
Mono Green Aggro: 3
B/W Aggro: 2
Mono Blue Snow: 2
U/R Snow Control: 2
U/W/G Blink Control: 2
U/W/G Control: 2
White Weenie: 2
B/G Aggro: 1
B/R Aggro: 1
B/W/G/U Control: 1
Mono Black Aggro: 1
Reanimator: 1
R/W/U Aggro: 1
R/W/U That Girl: 1
U/B Control: 1
U/W/R Chapin Burn: 1
U/W/R Eminent Domain Update: 1
W/B/U Battle of Wits: 1
Zoo W/G/R/B: 1

Yes, it’s easily one of the most diverse metagames ever. Plus, those numbers cheat quite a bit. For instance, there were tons of different versions of U/G Aggro, from the Flores build to Scryb and Force and even Critical Mass updates and a version that tapped into the Snow theme.

While many of these decks are recognizable or were expected, I feel obligated to take some time and recognize some of the unexpected decks that did well. In other words, these are the cool and unexpected decks that I should have played.

For the record, I played an updated version of W/G/B Beach House Control very similar to what Luis Neiman piloted to first at the Top8magic mock tourney. I built it the night before States because I didn’t have time to practice and it seemed like it had great game against aggro and Solar Flare.

My only changes were the addition of a few bounce lands and putting Call of the Herd in the board instead of Circle of Protection: Red. I sided the Calls in for every match-up. They should have been maindeck. I needed more pressure, especially against control.

But I digress, let’s get to some of the rogue builds that are interesting and powerful…

Howling Martyr

While Rakdos Burn, G/R LD, and B/W Rack were all on the radar – all putting comparable numbers of people into the Top 8 – no one was talking up this archetype leading up to States.

Howling Martyr MWC Tron – KS – 3
Howling Martyr MWC Tron – KS – 6
Howling Martyr MWC Tron – OK – 7
Howling Martyr MWC Tron – CA – 8
Howling Martyr MWC Tron – SC – 8
Howling Martyr R/W/U Firemane – IN – 5
Howling Martyr U/W Snow – KY – 7

Overall, this deck did not fare well once it showed up in the Top 8, only breaking into the semi-finals once. Of course, you have to balance that by the fact that its unlikely that this archetype was played by very many people. I also suspect that the deck’s surprise value was greatly diminished by the time only those final rounds remained.

The best example of the deck appears to come from Kansas, where Shane Houston and Shawn Houston played identical decklists to 3rd and 6th place, respectively. A nearly identical list captured 7th in Oklahoma—an interesting regional trend.

Surprisingly, the deck has solid game plans against aggro and control.

Versus aggro, you’ve got the hallmark White removal tools, Condemn and Wrath of God backed by an infinite life engine (Proclamation + Martyr). For the uninitiated, sacrificing a Martyr with a full grip (seven cards) amounts to 21 life. In other words, beatdown needs to kill you all over again.

The deck also features surprising resiliency against control. Right away, you have the Wayfarer card advantage engine that also sets up the Tron mana engine. Then you’ve got all the uncounterable capabilities of the deck, namely: Urza’s Factory, Proclamation of Rebirth, and Chronosavant.

What I really like about this build is that it has two solid ways to defeat your opponent, damage (often in the form of a ridiculous Storm Herd) and decking (Mines and skipped turns with Chronosavant).

Two of the big weaknesses of this deck are combo, and burn-heavy decks. You’re too slow against the former, and Howling Mine is a real boon for the latter. Conveniently, Ivory Mask solves both problems, so it’s no wonder that is shows up in full force in the sideboard.

Here is an interesting variant of the archetype:

Firemane Angel seems like it has to be better than Chronosavant, and Enduring Renewal provides another combo with the Martyrs and Children of Korlis.


We all knew that this was the deck that lost the least following the arrival of Time Spiral, but at the same time people were debating – sorry Stuart Wright – whether or not this is even a great deck to begin with. The following player followed the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That’s right. Simply swap out Eye of Nowhere for Boomerang, gaining a better spell overall at the cost of a little Vore food. Time Spiral? We don’t need no stinking Time Spiral – at least not in the maindeck.

In the sideboard, we finally do see the new set make a small appearance. Serrated Arrows gives the deck a permanent answer to Soltari Priest and Sulfurous Blast sweeps away weenies even better than Pyroclasm.

Like with the Martyr decks, it’s hard to really analyze these numbers.

Vore – KY – 1
Vore – MS – 2
Vore – HI – 3
Vore – AZ – 4
Vore – NY – 4
Vore – AZ – 6
Vore – TX – 7

I can speculate on a few reasons for the success, though. Vore has some unstoppable openings against Control, which seemed to show up in force at this year’s States, and the Time Spiral anti-aggro cards in the board go a long way in fighting back against tough hyper-aggressive matches. Plus, in general, lots of aggro decks are running extremely tight manabases and everyone is cheating on land thanks to the bounce lands, making good old Stone Rain and Demolish that much better.

For a less traditional (real) update of Vore, check this out.

Ancestral Vision and Cyroclasm look a little strange as three-ofs. One of them is only good when you have time on your side (basically, if you don’t suspend it on turn one or two it’s pretty bad in this deck), and the other one can be a dead draw. No problem. They both make Magnivore happy and you can always pitch them to Compulsive Research.

I particularly like the sideboard with tons of hate versus pro-Red creatures, the totally underrated Annex against Tron and Control, and numerous one-ofs that – while situational – can be game-breaking.

Fungus Fires

This deck is even more “dead” than Vore. Fungus Fires? WTF? Isn’t that circa 2005? Maybe, but Time Spiral gave this deck some surprisingly excellent tools.

Fungus Fires – MS – 1
Fungus Fires – NE – 2
Fungus Fires – NE – 6
Fungus Fires – ND – 8

Similar to the success of Howling Martyr, this list put two guys, Levon Bahener and Luke Goodwin, into the Top 8. Levon came very close to winning the whole damn thing. While Nebraska isn’t exactly known to be a tremendously challenging state championship, surely these identical maindecks are doing something right.

Looking at the Time Spiral angle, three cards enter the maindeck: Flagstones of Trokair, Sacred Mesa, and Sulfurous Blast. None of them leap out as something that would suddenly make this forgotten archetype more viable, but each of them when examined more carefully represents a subtle powerful addition.

This is a deck that loves mana. We’re talking 23 lands – three of the Karoo variety – plus five Signets and four Wood Elves, making a grand total of 32 mana sources. The only Standard deck I can think of that ever ran more mana sources than that is Fires of Yavimaya, and even then six of its lands were really land destruction effects in disguise.

Proactively, Flagstones thins out your mana in the late game; if you play all four Flagstones, you’re effectively thinned six lands out of your deck instead of four. Double Flagstones is also a fabulous color fixer. As a bonus, the Stones also help you defend against Smallpox.

Sacred Mesa is the perfect late-game finisher, capable of overwhelming opponents in just a few turns, but staying in theme and punishing targeted removal spells just as well as the City-Tree and Firemane Angel.

Finally, we have Sulfurous Blast. Thanks to Sunforger, this is basically a tutorable Wrath of God against all Weenie decks, and it doubles as a finisher when you’ve already expended Char and Lightning Helix.

Overall, Fungus Fires is a sitting duck for combo, but it plays very well against aggro and puts up a respectable fight versus control. I particularly like the Desolation Giants in the sideboard as Wrath #5 and #6.

Mono Blue Snow

I had written this type of deck off entirely. With Flash and Flashback and shadow creatures making a return I just didn’t understand how a deck like this could stand a chance. At least two players were served well by this deck.

Mono Blue Snow – NY – 6
Mono Blue Snow – MS – 7

My favorite example comes from New York. Technically, the deck splashes Black, but the splash is very minor, coming in the form of two Frost Marsh and three Dimir Signet to support the flashback cost of Mystical Teachings.

This list is brilliant. Let’s start with the basics: mana. While 25 lands and three Signets may seem like a lot, what it really means is an extremely consistent manabase without the cost of flooding. Seven lands (Scrying Sheets, Mouth of Ronom, and Urza’s Factory) represent a card drawing engine, removal, and an uncounterable win condition as much as they represent mana. Even if you have mana glut, it can be dumped into Compulsive Research, Draining Whelk, Mystical Teachings, and Rimefeather Owl.

The rest of the deck can basically be divided into counters, card drawing, and win conditions. The counter selection doesn’t require any explanation, but the drawing is more subtle. Basically, all the drawing is sneaky like a ninja. Repeal and Remand cantrip; Scrying Sheets doesn’t take up any real space in the deck, and Mystical Teachings and Whispers of the Muse can easily be cast at the end of turn. Only Compulsive Research is a clunky sorcery. This is a longwinded way of saying that the deck is very robust in drawing cards – nineteen cards – but at the same time this focus comes at a virtually negligible cost in business spells.

Eventually, the deck gets around to winning the game. Teferi is a powerhouse against control, ambushes attackers, and fits the draw-go theme. Draining Whelk fits similarly, stopping an opponent’s threat and at the same making it unnecessary to tap out main-phase for a threat of your own. Finally, there’s the giant Owl. Seven mana is pretty steep, but this is one of the few creatures in the format that can knock Akroma, Angel of Wrath out of the skies.

The sideboard has a great selection against aggro (Spell Snare and Phyrexian Ironfoot) and Tormod’s Crypt versus Firemane Angel and all the decks that like to reanimate fatties. Once again, though, I’m worried about combo. Shadow of Doubt will not stop Dragonstorm’s Gigadrowse at end of turn.

This Girl

I don’t need to acknowledge the power of this deck, because Mike Flores has already done just that, with a tournament report to boot. For those premium members, you can read about it here (and if you’re not on premium, you can at least view the deck here. Note that the deck was designed by Brian Kowal. Flores did an eloquent job summing up the deck’s plan against the metagame; I paraphrase, but the gist of it is that you crush aggro with life gain and removal, versus control you have recurring Angels and uncounterable Demonfire, and against Solar Pox you beat the deck’s namesake since you have Firemane Angels to discard and Flagstones of your own.

So goes another State championship. This year represented a record number of diverse decks a unique combination of success and failure for me at VA States. Who knows what next year holds, but it will be tough to top the former and I can guarantee that the latter will not repeat itself.

Take it easy and thanks for reading,

[email protected]