Sullivan Library – The Wisconsin $3000 Tournament

On Saturday, March 28th, the StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open Tournament Series comes to Indianapolis! This fun-filled weekend includes the SCG 5K itself, a Game in the Gulf Cruise Qualifier, a Pro Tour Qualifier, tons of side events and more!
Tuesday, March 24th – Last weekend, Adrian entered a $3000 Magic tournament in Wisconsin. Today, he shares his thoughts on his Sealed pool before moving onto an in-depth analysis of the successful Standard decks. With the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open this coming weekend, it pays to be prepared!

I did not win the Wisconsin $3,000 event in Madison this last weekend.

It would have been one of the best opportunities to win a tournament like this. I was hungry to go to a PTQ instead, but this was not in the cards. A part of it was that there was a $3,000 tournament in my backyard. Many of the stalwart PTQ road warriors just wanted to stick around rather than make the trek down to St. Louis (congratulations and condolences to Richard Feldman on yet another Top 8), or to head over to Detroit (congratulations and condolences to Patrick Chapin on his finals). I don’t blame them.

In many ways, it would be an easier event. Many of the Illinois players who might go to the $3k might get sucked away by either PTQ. The same can be said for the Iowa players. In addition, there was the nature of the “split-format” the event; tournament organizer Steve Port (of Legions Events and “Game in the Gulf” fame) had held a vote on the format that the $3k should be run, and the votes were so close, he’d made the event a two-parter. If, after round 2, you wanted to jump into the “secondary” event, you could “buy back in” and try your hand at the second event. The second event was going to be Standard, which meant that there would be some pulled from the Limited main event, but it also might have an interesting effect on the field.

Say at the end of round 2 you’re playing with a 1-1 record, and your deck feels weak. At a PTQ you might try to grind it out and hope for the best, but at this event, players might be more apt to just buy back in, and try their hand at the Standard. In some ways, this makes it potentially possible that an X-2 could actually Top 8. In addition, some of the area’s better players were off on their world tour — congrats to Brian Kowal, Gaudenis Vidugiris, and Sam Black on their slew of GP Top 8s these last few weeks.

Some people thought that this was going to make the event a total pushover, but as Ben Rasmussen quickly pointed out, that was a completely premature statement; there were at least 5 players in attendance with GP Top 8 experience, and literally almost 20% of the field had some Pro-Tour experience. It was kinda crazy.

I stayed in the sealed until the last round. My deck was okay. I liked it, but it wasn’t really crazy as many other decks in the field seemed to be. The format was three packs of Shards of Alara, and three packs of Conflux. In a lot of ways, it just seemed to have far too many chances of creating incredibly overpowered decks. One sealed deck had 9 playable rares in the pool. Another had 7 good burn spells just from the Shards portion. My own seemed lackluster in comparison.

Here’s what I played:

Wretched Banquet
Puppet Conjurer
Tidehollow Strix
Zombie Outlander
Blister Beetle
Esper Battlemage
Rockslide Elemental
Grixis Charm
Soul’s Fire
Kathari Screecher
Drag Down
Sanctum Gargoyle
Spore Burst
2 Exploding Borders
2 Traumatic Visions
Extractor Demon
Child of Alara
Obelisk of Alara
Cavern Thoctor
Obelisk of Grixis
Obelisk of Naya
2 Bant Panorama
1 Esper Panorama
1 Rupture Spire
4 Swamp
5 Island
1 Forest
1 Plains
1 Mountain

Sideboard: *denotes commonly boarded in

2 Nacatl Outlander
Hellkite Hatchling
Rip-Clan Crasher
Thoughtcutter Agent
Rhox Bodyguard
Knotvine Mystic
Vagrant Plowbeasts
Vectis Agents
Sprouting Thrinax
Mana Cylix
Obelisk of Esper
Bone Saw
Rhox Meditant
2 Welkin Guide
Angel’s Herald
Gustrider Exuberant
Soul’s Grace
Asha’s Favor
Aven Squire
Nacatl Hunt-Pride*
Lapse of Certainty*
2 Canyon Minotaur
Maniacal Rage
Ridge Rannet
Toxic Iguanar
Molten Frame*
2 Undead Leotau
2 Dreadwing
Ad Nauseam
Salvage Slasher
Dreg Reaver
Corrupted Roots
Jhessian Lookout
Memory Erosion
Steelclad Serpent
Grixis Illusionist
Vectis Silencers
Tortoise Formation
Brackwater Elemental
Gift of the Gargantuan
Soul’s Might
Mighty Emergence
Keeper of Progenitus
Beacon Behemoth
Sacellum Archers
Cylian Elf
Matca Rioters*
Sylvan Bounty*

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how I built the deck I almost built a Red/Green based aggressive deck, but I was pretty sure that despite the nice early elements of the curve, that the format wouldn’t reward my pool building that kind of deck. Instead, I made my deck with the goal of trying to have something potent in it, and trusting in my manabase. My mana felt quite solid, though I would have preferred to have it be a smidge more consistent; I never felt like I got punished for consistency, though. In general, I felt overwhelmed by good cards from my opponents. Every player I lost to played well, and had great cards. Many times, if they had made a mistake, I could have capitalized on it, but they didn’t give me the opening.

On the Constructed side, in the end, only 44 players duked it out for the $1k that would be paid out in that format. Here was the metagame (thank to Steve Port for access to the lists, as I catalogued them):

Five-Color decks: 8
Boat Brew: 5
Faeries: 4
Tokens: 4
Dark Bant: 3
Blightning: 3
Merfolk: 2
Vengeant Weenie: 2
Planeswalkers: 2
Others: 11 (including, Swans, Doran, Quick n’ Toast, Howling Burn, G/W Beats, Husk/Thrinax, R/W Burn, Painter/Backlash, Aggro-Bant, Esper-Lark, and Thoctor Beats)

In the end, things came down to the following Top 8 (thanks to Pete Jahn for compiling these):

1st Seed — Final Standing: 5th
Rob Thatcher — Boat Brew

4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Rugged Prairie
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Plains
3 Mountain

4 Ajani Vengeant
4 Spectral Procession
4 Mind Stone
3 Path to Exile

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Fulminator Mage
4 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Reveillark
3 Ranger of Eos
2 Mogg Fanatic
1 Flamekin Harbinger
1 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender

2 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
3 Banefire
4 Wrath of God
1 Wispmare

2nd Seed — Final Standing: 1st/2nd (split)
Chris Orsinski — BW Tokens

4 Caves of Koilos
4 Fetid Heath
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Plains
1 Swamp

4 Glorious Anthem
4 Spectral Procession
4 Bitterblossom
3 Ajani Goldmane
3 Terror

4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Cloudgoat Ranger
3 Murderous Redcap
2 Knight of the White Orchid
2 Knight of Meadowgrain

2 Stillmoon Cavalier
3 Puppeteer Clique
2 Celestial Purge
1 Ajani Goldmane
3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Head Games
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

3rd Seed — Final Standing: 3rd
Tyler Passow – Faeries

3 Underground River
3 Sunken Ruins
4 Secluded Glen
1 Faerie Conclave
4 Mutavault
1 Reflecting Pool
5 Island
3 Swamp

2 Sower of Temptation
3 Scion of Oona
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Mistbind Clique

4 Cryptic Command
4 Bitterblossom
3 Broken Ambitions
2 Jace Beleren
3 Agony Warp
3 Peppersmoke
2 Thoughtseize
2 Terror

2 Countersquall
2 Thoughtseize
3 Infest
1 Peppersmoke
2 Flashfreeze
1 Remove Soul
2 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Sower of Temptation

4th Seed — Final Standing: 1st/2nd (split)
Justin Meyer — Doran/Dark Bant

4 Murmuring Bosk
4 Ancient Ziggurat
3 Treetop Village
2 Brushland
2 Yavimaya Coast
1 Caves of Koilos
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Adarkar Wastes
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Swamp

4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Rhox War Monk
4 Tidehollow Sculler
3 Rafiq of the Many
3 Gaddock Teeg
2 Kitchen Finks

3 Nameless Inversion
2 Path to Exile
1 Loxodon Warhammer

3 Guttural Response
2 Kitchen Finks
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Path to Exile
4 Scattershot Archers
2 Terror

5th Seed — Final Standing: 6th
Neil Milligan — BW Tokens

4 Caves of Koilos
4 Fetid Heath
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Reflecting Pool
2 Mutavaults
2 Plains
1 Swamp

4 Glorious Anthem
4 Spectral Procession
4 Bitterblossom
4 Terror
3 Ajani Goldmane

4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
4 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Marsh Flitter

3 Stillmoon Cavalier
2 Puppeteer Clique
1 Ajani Goldmane
3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
2 Head Games
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Path to Exile

6th Seed — Final Standing: 7th
Alex Muhich — R/W Kithkin

4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Rugged Prairie
2 Rustic Clachan
4 Windbrisk Heights
10 Plains
1 Mountain

4 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Figure Of Destiny
4 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Knight Of Meadowgrain
4 Wizened Cenn

3 Glorious Anthem
4 Path To Exile
4 Ajani Vengeant
4 Spectral Procession

3 Burrenton Forge-tender
2 Ranger Of Eos
4 Reveillark
3 Elspeth, Knight-errant
3 Banefire

7th Seed — Final Standing: 8th
Kyle Ripp — Boat Brew

4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Rugged Prairie
4 Windbrisk Heights
3 Reflecting Pool
4 Plains
4 Mountain

3 Mind Stone
3 Path to Exile

4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Murderous Redcap
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Siege-Gang Commander
2 Reveillark
1 Flamekin Harbinger
1 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender

4 Galepowder Mage
4 Celestial Purge
4 Guttural Response
1 Banefire
1 Reveillark
1 Path to Exile

8th Seed — Final Standing: 4th
Derek Munden — Cruel Control

4 Sunken Ruins
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Creek
3 Vivid Meadow
3 Vivid Marsh
2 Cascade Bluffs
2 Exotic Orchard
1 Mystic Gate
1 Vivid Crag
2 Island

1 Celestial Purge
1 Terror
4 Volcanic Fallout
2 Pithing Needle
4 Broken Ambitions
2 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Cryptic Command
4 Esper Charm
1 Liliana Vess

3 Mulldrifter
3 Plumeveil
3 Wall of Reverence
2 Broodmate Dragon

1 Remove Soul
2 Infest
2 Negate
1 Scourglass
1 Celestial Purge
4 Scepter of Fugue
2 Wydwen, the Biting Gale
1 Wrath of God

If we break this down to “merely” those that saw play in the Top 8, we get the following:

Five-Color decks: 4th place (8 players)
Boat Brew: 5th and 8th (5 players)
Faeries: 3rd (4 players)
Tokens: 1.5th and 6th (4 players)
Dark Bant: 1.5th (3 players)
Vengeant Weenie: 7th (2 players)

Other: 18 players playing archetypes with no Top 8 representation.

If we look at these six decks, it looks shockingly like what the “virtual Top 8” of the Actual Opposition Standard Top 8 from Kyoto. This isn’t much, but it does help confirm the veracity of those results. In some cases (Brian Kowal’s roommate Kyle Ripp, for example), the player played the same 75 cards (or at least 73-74) as from those Actual Standard winners. Finalist Justin Meyer, for example, played the exact same 75 as Brian Robinson, and Alex Muhich the exact same as Cedric Phillips.


Five-Color is slightly underrepresented, but certainly well-within standard deviations. In addition, many of the lists were very rough, probably played by people who were tinkering with the lists, without much in the way of testing. Add to that the difficulty in playing this kind of list for many players, and it isn’t surprising that this Nassif-variant made Top 8, even if overall, the most popular deck at the event was less represented than various Windbrisk Heights decks.

Boat Brew:

There is a certain crew of successful pro players who’ve dissed on this deck as just “a bad version of Tokens,” but again and again, this deck continues to perform. With only five people playing the archetype, and two people in Top 8 (and two more in Top 16), this deck just keeps rising to the top. Some players report that the archetype has troubles with Faeries, and if that is the case, they were certainly helped out at this event by the very small number of players choosing to run the little winged menace. Whether Tokens is better, or Boat Brew is better, at this point, it largely is determined by the particular build of each deck. Suffice it to say, Boat Brew continues to pile on evidence of being one of the dominant decks in Standard.


Splitting in the finals, Tokens-pilot Chris Orsinski reportedly want to play for the full prize, but was eventually talked into a favorable split instead, sparing his opponent yet more delay in his four-and-a-half hour drive home. Both Orsinski and fellow Tokens player Neil Milligan had different takes on the deck, and neither played lists that conformed to LSV’s. Milligan cut Kitchen Finks for Marsh Flitter, and Orsinski found room for Murderous Redcap, and split his Knight of the White Orchids with Knight of Meadowgrain. While the core of this deck remains constant (multitudes of aggressive/token generating spells, combined with Anthems), there is a little bit of room in the details. Perhaps most exciting to me is Orsinski’s sideboard of 3 Puppeteer Clique, reminding me of old-school Faeries boards from Block PTQs.

Dark Bant:

Justin Meyer took Robinson’s fantastic finishing deck from Kyoto, didn’t change a thing, and just crushed. This deck actually might be the most exciting result to come out of the Wisconsin $3k, if you ask me. Robinson’s deck looked like it could be powerful, certainly, but it really didn’t have much in the way of back-up data to help prove that the deck was good. While Meyer felt pretty negatively about his finals matchup, it seems to me that a more focused sideboard would solve a lot of the problems that he expected from it (perhaps Infest?), if not all of them. This deck is a good reminder that the big issues of many of the Kyoto decks is that their sideboard work was largely based on “best guesses” for the meta. At this point, we have our meta — the time for best guesses is over.

Vengeant Weenie:

Yet more vindication for the archetype that Cedric Phillips version of the deck, which he still loves. Incredibly, only two players actually played the top-performing archetype from Kyoto, and the player who chose to play Ced’s build just rock-n-rolled their way to the top. The sideboard of this deck still makes me smile, as it can almost perform a pure transformation into a quasi-Boat Brew Red/White. The loss in the quarters to Faeries makes me wonder if success with the deck isn’t also hugely related to knowing exactly how to play each matchup; I’m deeply confident in Cedric, for example, having tested all of the matchup and knowing how to play boarded, but I know that I wouldn’t have the same results, having only played about 50 or so game ones with the deck.

All of this speaks, then, to what you can expect to see at the StarCityGames.com Indianapolis $5000 Standard Open. To my mind, it’s going to be the combination of the virtual Top 8 from the Actual Opposition Standard Top 8 from Kyoto, with some people drawing inspiration instead from the final placement of finishers, despite no real rational reason to do so. This keeps the field itself rather small.

One of the things to understand, though, is that there is a fair amount of wiggle-room in these archetypes. Whether we’re talking about Boat Brew, B/W Tokens, Faeries, Five-Color, or what-have-you, there is a fair amount of differences between builds. One thing to recognize is just how radically different that the decks can be. Boat Brew is a particularly good example of this: compare Brian Kowal’s list to many of the others — his lack of Ajani Vengeant was pointed. These changes can radically change matchups. With such a defined metagame, if you have the time, you should definitely take the time to play against varied versions of these lists.

One of the things I’ve come to in my modifications of my own decks trying to deal with this largely static metagame is that while you know your enemies, they are pretty uniformly powerful. As such, you want to maximize your own deck’s pure power (a la my Game Theory Marketplace theory from years back), rather than try to be a foil to them. With that in mind, my current Red deck has slightly shifted, becoming all the more like Matt Hansen’s Iowa State Championship Red deck than it was before:

The more I tested the deck, the more that I felt like I needed a slightly more stable two-drop, and that the 24 land was sufficient (I had had my doubts, since I had slightly upped the curve by including Fallout). The deck’s main was deeply solid, I knew, but I wanted it to have the capacity to steal wins from theoretically difficult moments in the game. That fourth Stigma Lasher seemed to be the big way to do it, even if it would die to my own Volcanic Fallouts.

With all of the Unearth available in the main and board, siding Banefire for Five-Color actually seemed underwhelming. At the same time, many games would get out of control with Cruel Ultimatum. Losing access to Everlasting Torment seemed like a bad call. With only two, you could expect to draw it by the time most mid-games came around, and they would be helpful in joining the Lashers here.

Unwilling Recruit remains the go-to card of choice for any deck that is expecting to attack you with big guys. It’s particularly exciting to steal a Rhox War Monk and swing in with your Lasher and their Monk on turn three. Lash Out also comes in for many of those matchups, though I keep considering replacing it with either Magma Spray, Shock, or Puncture Blast.

Chaotic Backlash is there, largely to steal games away from any of the Windbrisk Heights decks that have gotten out of control. While Volcanic Fallout can often bring these games back under control, sometimes it can’t. Backlash is your backup plan.

Overall, I’m excited for the current Standard, and I’m looking forward to heading to the $5000 Standard Open. Expect to see me slinging either Red, or something more off of the radar entirely.

Until next week…

Adrian Sullivan