The Cream Rises – Your 2004 Regionals Metagame

I was going to call this article”Flores spilled my f***ing deck!” but that seemed petty and childish, so the current title says it all.

Here I Go

Here I Go

Here I Go Again

What’s ma weakness?


Okay then…

– The Ballad of Tooth and Nail

Welcome to the most infuriating Standard format I’ve ever encountered. In years past, I would have had one or two decks I felt completely comfortable running, and I would have had them a week ago. This year, I have a deck that I was (mostly) comfortable with until yesterday, when I read [author name="Peter Jahn"]Peter Jahn’s[/author] article and realized a bunch of you fools will be playing Tooth and Nail decks, in spite of the fact that every pro I know (with the possible exception of Antonino and people who don’t know/care about Constructed like Tim Hoyt Aten) thinks that Tooth and Nail is way too inconsistent to run at Regionals.

Of course, you guys don’t necessarily follow”Pro” opinion, which is a good thing. Mostly.

While I was busy writing the above paragraph, Flores submitted his article, effectively spilling the deck I was planning to play for Regionals to the whole world. Complete with secret sideboard plan! Thanks, Mike. Big ups! [Insert string of curses here.] It’s not like this is anything new, since I’ve let readers choose my deck the last two years, but just like States… I thought I had a rogue deck, and suddenly I didn’t. Anyway, enough with the complaining, on with the analysis.

Trends That Don’t Make Sense

For those who haven’t been checking in on Peter Jahn stuff this spring, he’s been tracking Regionals Top 8 data from foreign lands. These are his latest numbers:

Ravager Affinity: 35%

Tooth and Nail: 16%

R/W Slide: 13%

Goblins 13% (Goblin Bidding: 9%; Mono-Red Goblins: 4%)

R/G Beats and/or R/G LD: 6%

U/W Control: 5%

MWC: 2%

Red LD: 2%

Elves: 2% (3 elf decks this month!)

G/B Cemetery: 1%

G/W Control: 1%

Other: 4%

There are two numbers there that stand out. The first is the sudden presence of Tooth as a force in the metagame, and the second is that Slide continues to do surprisingly well, in spite of the fact that most people have written it off as ineffective in combating the two-headed menace of Ravager and Goblins. I’m going to kick things off by looking at both of those decks and giving a brief overview of what else you should expect to see on Regionals Saturday.

Men of Steel

I’m sure I’m going to offend some of you by saying this, but Tooth and Nail is a bad deck. I consider a deck to be bad if it is wildly inconsistent, and that’s just what Tooth happens to be. Yes, I’m the guy that tried to push the idea that it might be good on the front page for about a week when nobody would believe me (and I was right, it is viable), but the problem here is that it’s a pseudo-combo deck with a soft lock and a low threat density. Take a look Sakari Carsten’s deck from Finnish Regionals and you’ll see what I mean:

2 Darksteel Colossus

2 Platinum Angel

3 Fireball

4 Mindslaver

4 Oblivion Stone

4 Oxidize

3 Pyroclasm

4 Reap and Sow

4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Talisman of Impulse

4 Tooth and Nail

4 Forest

1 Mountain

4 Shivan Oasis

1 Stalking Stones

4 Urza’s Mine

4 Urza’s Power Plant

4 Urza’s Tower


1 Darksteel Colossus

4 Defense Grid

2 Duplicant

4 Dwarven Blastminer

1 Fireball

2 Planar Portal

This deck doesn’t have the soft lock, it’s not particularly effective at clearing the board (Oblivion Stone is not Vengeance or Wrath) and it has five real threats (Fireball/Colossus) and six more”kinda” threats (Angel/Slaver). The problem here is that if you don’t get Tooth, you have no pressure on your opponent. Yes, the deck is super-awesome when it works, but there were too many times in testing that you would need to draw any threat to put your opponent away, and all Jim or I would draw would be more acceleration, and we’d die as soon as our opponent recovered. You’d sit there like”Look ma, I won the game!” and then the deck would take it away from you. Veeeeery frustrating.

Anyway, since I know it’s hella-fun to play and that some of you are in love, I’ll post a Zvi’s Red version that I would consider playing at Regionals if I weren’t so pissed off from testing the thing and losing. I’m not sold on the Sphere here and would probably tech the mana base to run more Red and Pyroclasm, but hey… I’m not playing this, so feel free to ignore me.

Red Tooth by Zvi

1 Bosh, Iron Golem

1 Darksteel Colossus

1 Duplicant

2 Leonin Abunas

1 Platinum Angel

1 Symbiotic Wurm

4 Vine Trellis

4 Chromatic Sphere

3 Fireball

3 Oblivion Stone

4 Oxidize

4 Reap and Sow

4 Sylvan Scrying

4 Tooth and Nail

1 City of Brass

4 Forest

1 Mountain

1 Stalking Stones

4 Urza’s Mine

4 Urza’s Power Plant

4 Urza’s Tower

4 Wooded Foothills

Sideboard 1

4 Damping Matrix

1 Darksteel Colossus

4 Mindslaver

4 Pyroclasm

1 Viridian Shaman

1 Viridian Zealot

Zvi’s Alternate Sideboard (notice the mirror match and Mono-White tech)

1 Duplicant

4 Dwarven Blastminer

2 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Fireball

1 Naturalize

2 Plow Under

1 Pyroclasm

1 Symbiotic Wurm

1 Vine Trellis

1 Viridian Shaman

Slide It In

Right to the top… As I mentioned above, Slide has been faring surprisingly well outside the U.S. My opinion is that the deck remains solid against an open field, but is it solid enough to play at Regionals? The short answer is,”maybe.” If you are a long-time Slide player and feel comfortable running the deck, then maybe it’s the right choice for you. I will say that any Slide listing worth its salt is playing Pulse of the Fields in the main at this point, and is seriously considering Wing Shards.

Here’s a build I got from the formerly-infamous-and-now-merely-much-reviled Phillip Samms of Canadia:

4 Eternal Dragon

4 Lightning Rift

3 Damping Matrix

4 Wrath of God

2 Akroma’s Vengeance

3 Slice and Dice

3 Renewed Faith

3 Spark Spray

2 Decree of Justice

3 Wing Shards

3 Pulse of the Fields

4 Secluded Steppe

4 Forgotten Cave

3 Temple of the False God

8 Plains

7 Mountain


4 Shatter

2 Duplicant

2 Gilded Light

3 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Wipe Clean

3 Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

The problem with this deck? You guessed it…”it can’t beat Toof.” How annoying. The matchups against the aggro decks are solid though, and like most Slide decks, it gives you the opportunity to outplay your opponent. Neeeeext!


Yes, there are two varieties of Goblins, and in our testing, both are equally viable. Paskins Red (as most of us have taken to calling the mono-Red versions) is a little bit faster and probably better game 1 against Ravager, while Goblin Bidding is a bit better against the control decks. Both decks board in a bunch of hate for artifact decks, and both decks destroy Tooth and Nail on a pretty regular basis. I’ll post my own (slightly) updated version of Paskins Red here, and follow it with Seth Burn Bidding list.

Paskins Red

14 Mountain

3 Blinkmoth Nexus

4 Great Furnace

4 Goblin Piledriver

4 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Warchief

4 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Skirk Prospector

3 Clickslither

2 Sparksmith

3 Chrome Mox

3 Shrapnel Blast

4 Skullclamp


4 Molten Rain

3 Stone Rain

4 Electrostatic Bolt

4 Shatter

Seth Burn Bidding

3 Gempalm Incinerator

3 Goblin Grappler

4 Goblin Piledriver

4 Goblin Sharpshooter

3 Goblin Sledder

4 Goblin Warchief

4 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Skirk Prospector

4 Sparksmith

3 Patriarch’s Bidding

4 Bloodstained Mire

4 City of Brass

12 Mountain

4 Swamp


4 Echoing Ruin

4 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Gempalm Incinerator

2 Insurrection

4 Shatter

Both of these decks are great, and you have my full approval if you want to run either of them. Just have them home by midnight. If you’re skittish about the Worship plan with Paskins Red (or if you”have the fear” as Dan would call it), then put two Insurrection in your board like Seth has. Aside from that, turn the little Red men sideways, and remember to do Sharpshooter tricks whenever something goes to the graveyard. Playing the Gobrinsh isn’t rocket science, but you can’t exactly sleepwalk through your matches either.

Ravager Affinity

I’m going to be brief about this deck and not provide a decklist, since a) I assume you already know all this and b) Jim has worked on Affinity much more than me and will provide the best list in his own article.

Unlike last year, when I felt that anyone running U/G Madness was asking for trouble (note: No U/G decks made the top 8 in the Mid-Atlantic Regional where I played), I think the most-hyped deck this year really is the best deck. It’s also the hardest pure aggro deck to play that I’ve ever seen. The amount of action going on and the resource management battles that you have to play with this deck are enormous. A missed point or two of Disciple damage or an incorrect decision in what to sacrifice to Arcbound Ravager can easily equate to a game loss.

Anyway, those of you playing Ravager, I wish you the best of luck. You will face a lot of hate on the day, but you also have a deck built to withstand it, provided you play well enough.

Oh, do yourself a favor and stick Dwarven Blastminer in the sideboard. It is a wrecking ball against half the control decks and all the Tooth decks in the field (thanks, Seth).


When thinking about this Regionals, there are a series of interesting questions to consider before settling on the final build of whatever deck you choose. I’ve outlined the things I’ve pondered in the run-up to Regionals below, and while I’ll answer some of them with my metagame predictions, some of them won’t be answered at all until after all the results from U.S. and Canada Regionals are turned in.

1) Tooth and Nail – Pretender to the Throne?

As I stated above, I haven’t tested a build of Tooth that I’ve been happy with, and most of the better players I’ve talked to feel that Tooth is too inconsistent to do well in a ten or eleven round tournament. That said, it did fine in a Block Pro Tour with almost twice as many rounds, and the results from other countries indicate that this deck has some momentum behind it. I think the percentage of Top 8 appearances you will see with this deck will drop from the 16% listed above, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it occupy 10% of the total slots or so. That’s not bad for a deck that most people were completely writing off two months ago.

Double Darksteel Colossus will probably retain the Tag Team Belt for toughest f***ing creatures to deal with until they retire. Those bastards take more damage than Mick Foley and Mark Coleman combined, and still come back swingin’, but they are only slightly more exciting than Cain and the Undertaker and they don’t have a flashy entrance. You take the good with the bad, I guess.

2) The Oxidize Conundrum

Four-color Affinity is probably the most versatile of the available builds, but (and this is a Dom Deluise-sized but), you lose a lot of consistency by including the Green. Consistency (or the Floresian ability to mise) is crucial to make it to the mythical X-1-1 plateau you need to reach in order to qualify for your respective Nationals tournament. Therefore, many players are dropping the Green in favor of running R/b/u Ravager Affinity, because the choice is between Thoughtcast or Oxidize, and four out of five dentists still prefer drawing cards to fighting plaque.

Once you drop the Green, you get to include Darksteel Citadel, making your matchup against Control better, and you bring cards like Shrapnel Blast, Slobad, and Welding Jar back into play. I think most people are moving away from the Green version, and that the artifact removal you will see coming from Affinity decks will be mostly Red.

2a) Welding Jar Makes a Comeback

If opposing Ravager players stop running Oxidize, then Welding Jar suddenly becomes a much better answer to removal you will see in the mirror, as well as possible Akroma’s Vengeance and Astral Slide beatings you might take from the White control decks. It has the nice side-effect of speeding up the Affinity side of your deck by a turn as well.

2b) Is Damping Matrix Back to Being the Solution?

If Ravager decks drop their artifact removal from the main, does Matrix suddenly become great again? Most control decks don’t want to give Ravager and Goblins a target for their artifact removal in Game 1, but if they don’t have any in Game 1, Matrix makes a comeback faster than Antonino can down a plate of lasagna. Most Goblin decks have removed the maindeck artifact hate in favor of creature hate, and even the teched out three-color Ravager builds seem to max out at two Shatters in the main. Hell, you could even play the sideboard shuffle and take the Matrices out for games 2 and 3, leaving the aggressive player with dead cards in their hand, while you sideboard in additional pinpoint answers.

3) How Much Control?

U.S. Regionals are notoriously hateful at the top tables, especially on the East Coast. Since Ravager is”the best deck,” many of the best American players will tend to opt into decks that beat Ravager at the expense of other matchups. Most pros I’ve talked to will probably end up playing a Goblins deck with a ton of sideboard hate, but there are some players out there that are willing to risk everything on just beating the two aggro decks (Ravager and Goblins). If these control players show up in force, it will radically skew which decks do well, since Tooth and Nail actually has a great matchup against the control decks, but tends to get thumped if it has to face a lot of Ravager and Goblins. Analyzing the top 8 trends after Regionals should be interesting stuff, even if we won’t have the information about how many of each deck was actually in the field.

4) How Vile is the Vial?

Zvi’s the only guy who swears by this card, but in the absence of an article by Kai, Zvi’s probably the most metagame-skewing writer out there. Will his readers side with him in the belief that Aether Vial actually has a place in Affinity, or will they follow the common wisdom and leave Aether Vial out of their decks in favor or”good cards?”

5) The Goblin Sideboard vs. Ravager and Friends

Let’s face it, the Goblin matchup with Ravager isn’t particularly great. If Ravager goes to work with Clamp and gets some big kids on the board, the Goblin player will have some issues. However, after sideboarding, the percentages flip-flop, and things suddenly become very difficult for the Affinity player, because unlike dedicated hate decks, Goblins will put you on a fast clock while they are picking apart your creatures. It will be interesting to see how the matchup for these two decks plays out over the course of the weekend, since I fully expect them to be the two most populous decks at Regionals.

The Regionals Metagame

I have learned over the years to wait on making a full metagame prediction for Regionals until the week before the event itself. If you predict the metagame a month in advance, you typically end up with egg on your face, due to the effects that National tournaments from outside the U.S. usually have on U.S. Regionals. Since Wizards changed the schedule on us though, and most of the major Nationals tournaments are now post May 1st, there was no”Wake effect” on the U.S. metagame this year. How very odd. What follows are my percentages for what I expect the entire field to look like for May 1st.

30% – Ravager Affinity

20% – Goblins (Two-thirds Bidding, One-third Dead Red)

15% – Tooth and Nail

15% – W/x Control

20% – Other

Ravager will be all over the map, since everyone has a slightly different final ten cards, but it’s pretty obvious what you should expect. Fear Mana Leak out of the sideboard, since it’s back in favor now. Some folks think 30% may be a little low in predicting the actual Ravager attendance, but I think the deck has lost a bit of steam since the early Regionals and players are finally figuring out how to adjust to it. I think most players who have tested will probably run a Red version of Tooth and Nail as opposed to the White, since the Red just gives you a more complete game plan.

The White/x decks are tougher to predict. Four weeks ago, I would have suggested Slide would occupy the lion’s share of these decks, but now I see a much more even split among Slide, U/W, MWC, and Flores’s W/g *grinds teeth*. U/W is good now because Tooth and Goblin Bidding have a greater proportion of metagame than they used to (those decks dislike counterspells), and U/W players have figured out how to use Pulse of the Fields properly. If you don’t know what to expect from Goblins by this point, I can’t help you.

As for the”Other” category, it includes R/G hate, Ponza, Mono-Black Aggro-Control, Cemetery/Cloud, and the usual randomness you’ll see at Regionals. None of these decks has a huge following (shut it, Nathan and Jarrod), but if they get the right matchups, they are capable of having good days. Giving the Other category only 20% probably is underestimating how many rogue creations will show up at Regionals, but the distributions of the major decks should be about right.


Every year, I wonder if some great rogue deck that I don’t know about will make an appearance, and almost every year it does. I don’t think it will hold true for this year, since the metagame as it currently exists is nearly impossible to crack. You have 2.5 Tier 1 Aggro decks that all run differently you have to contend with (Paskins Red and Bidding have different plans to beat you, so I gave Goblins an extra half), and then you have to avoid the splash damage of decks that are trying to deal with the aggro menace. In addition, there are frustratingly few answers to just one Darksteel Colossus, so a second one from Tooth and Nail is sure to cause headaches.

I had hoped to find the time to work fun stuff into this article, but alas, that won’t be happening unless I’m the only thing I publish tomorrow. I wish you all the best at Regionals, and feel free to say hi to me if you will be in Baltimore on Saturday. I’ll be the guy with the face.

Ted Knutson

The Holy Kanoot

Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2


If you play the deck Flores listed yesterday (and it has a very good matchup against Ravager and is solid against everything but Tooth), please play a different sideboard. Keep the Tooth/Colossus plan and the Sacred Ground, but consider running a Duplicant or three to help out with Cain and The Undertaker and do what you want from there. The rest of my slots are currently occupied by Silver Knights, but that’s bound to change (Damping Matrix?). I’ve got a shoehorn with teeth for this friggin’ sideboard, but even then, there’s still only so much you can pack in there, though Plow Under is not your answer.