The Great Champs Experiment: Part 9 – My Deck for the Kentucky State Champs

We’re a few short days away from Champs, and everyone should be settling in on a deck choice, be it Flores hot new tech, one of the very good decks from the StarCityGames event, or a unique homebrew. I’ve had my deck for a few weeks now. I’ve been tuning it, trying to make it hum against what I expect the metagame to be in Kentucky. I’m excited for the event; after three tests on Friday, I get a weekend to relax and see if I can run my streak of top 8 finishes in the state to a fourth year…

Wow! I never thought that this series was going to come to an end! We’re a few short days away from Champs, and everyone should be settling in on a deck choice, be it Flores hot new tech, one of the very good decks from the StarCityGames event, or a unique homebrew. I’ve had my deck for a few weeks now. I’ve been tuning it, trying to make it hum against what I expect the metagame to be in Kentucky. I’m excited for the event; after three tests on Friday, I get a weekend to relax and see if I can run my streak of top 8 finishes in the state to a fourth year.

I care about this tournament a lot. I know there is nothing on the line except pride (well, two hundred dollars to the winner is also up for grabs in Kentucky), but it’s nice to play in a new format. I’ve been able to take advantage of my past success, and these were my rules for my own deck for the weekend.

1. Mass Removal is a must.

This may only affect Kentucky, but the years that I have had success all of my decks have had something in common. They played a mass removal effect, be it Wrath of God (Astral Slide and Firemane Control in 2003 and 2005.) or Death Cloud (2004) In a new format, aggro decks have often been the best, and mass removal punishes the players that want to take to the red zone.

2. You must play some sort of Disruption.

You have to play something that messes with the opponent’s game plan. Astral Slide had targeted removal, and made the combat step somewhat of a nightmare for the opponent. Death Cloud would often rip apart the hand and land base of my opponent. You get the picture.

3. The cards must have utility uses.

Lightning Rift was not good by itself, but when cycling cards were added, you had a nice little draw and damage engine. Eternal Witness was fantastic at getting back lands, and Firemane Angel came back over and over again.

These are all vague statements about the Kentucky area, but I have feeling that they are true to just about any other state.

I guess the introduction is complete, and it’s time now to reveal what I am going to be gaming with all weekend long. It’s nothing too terribly original, and it does have some pretty shifty matchups, but it does house aggro, and that is pretty important this weekend.

This list may look very familiar, and it should be familiar to anyone who looked at the Top 8 results at the StarCityGames event. Brian Smith played a very similar list to this one. I have made a few changes to the list (I got the rough list from magic-league.) and this is the final version. Let’s take an in-depth look to what I am running, and see if I can offer and insight to the deck.


The land base is fairly stock: Islands, Plains, Fountains and Wastes, are all a must for the current Blue/White decks (obviously). However, many of the Blue/White decks that I am seeing are playing Boreal Shelf. I had to ask myself… why? Why would I want to play with a fifth “comes into play tapped” land? I could come up with no reason. Calciform Pools have been insane in that slot, as it often allows to me to out-mana the other control decks. Ever cast an Akroma off two lands that did not involve Oath of Druids or a Reanimation spell? I think not!

Urza’s Factory is a great win condition in the long game against control decks, and is a threat that only Faith’s Fetters, Trickbind, and Ghost Quarter can stop. Seven mana is a lot to invest on a 2/2 man, but when you guaranteeing a man every turn the card is worth it.


Akroma: Best White Finisher ever.

Sacred Mesa: So I was feeling kinda blue that Meloku rotated out, and then I saw this bad mamma. It’s no Clouded Mirror of Victory, but the Pegasus engine is the closest thing we have. This is a great finisher against control, because it can potentially end the game quickly with a mass amount of men, but also dodges mass removal quite well.


Mana Leak: Why Leak over Rune Snag? I wish I could run both, and as it stands I may end up sliding four copies of the Coldsnap counter in as well. I feel that Rune Snag is superior to the Leak, but only after the first copy is cast. I want something that will counter a land destruction spell with two elves left up, or make my opponent tap three more. I’ll more than likely end up playing Rune Snag in this slot though. I am sure I’ll catch The Fear, and wish that my opponent pays four more for a spell instead of three.

Remand: Yes, it’s without a doubt the best non-creature spell for Blue, but sometimes I just wish that this was Memory Lapse. In theory, would it not be better to actually make the opponent find another copy of that key card instead of just letting them cast it again next turn? Would Rune Snag or Mana Leak be better here? Maybe, but not while the Suspend mechanic is so new. I personally do not like Remand, as I want my countermagic to actually make it hard for my opponent, not make it a time issue. I’m also an old man, and stubborn to a fault.

Cancel: Eh, it’s a hard counter. What else do you want from me?

Removal Effects

Condemn: One of the reasons this deck has a good matchup against control is based on this card. Who cares about the extra life when you are attacking for six in the air? This is also the best answer to an opposing Akroma (outside of Wrath.)

Wrath of God: When every man in play has to die to make sure you get to untap for the next turn, this is the card to do it.

Faith’s Fetters: I remember last year when I first discovered this card. I was made fun of… why play an obvious Limited card in your deck? Why not? It shuts down monsters, Factories, and Jittes. (Oops, Jitte is no longer a worry.) We were wrong on the initial assessment of Fetters (and by we, I mean my team, and by my team I am pretty sure I mean me.)

Repeal: I’m not sure about you guys, but I like one-mana answers to Call of the Herd tokens, Assembly Worker tokens, and Thallid tokens.

Card Draw

Think Twice: Over Whispers? Really? Yeah I’m not up for running head first into a Teferi. I hear that guy is bad for the mirror match.

Careful Consideration: Over Tidings and Compulsive Research? A good friend of mine, Jason Williamson, suggested this card while we were at a tournament in Lexington, and it seems to make sense. With Tidings, you were going to discard at least two cards anyway (you know that cleanup step thing in the turn.) so why not use a cheaper instant version of the card? It has worked so far for me.


Shadow Of Doubt: Against Dragonstorm, they just wasted a bunch of their key cards to do nothing. Seems pretty fair to me. To be honest, I cannot think of many other matchup in which this will see play.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir: Who’s the man now, dog? This guy is a foil to the control matches and makes sure that your important spells resolve while stranding all the countermagic in your opponent’s hand.

Draining Whelk: Also for the control mirror, but this may end up being Rewind or Swift Silence. What drew me to Whelk is countering Akroma. In the control matches, this guy is often going to be a 7/7 beater, and a fast clock that also happens to counter an Angel or Dragon or really big man. I’m in love with this card.

Circle of Protection – Red: Against Vore they have to use their bounce to attack this, and save countermagic for Condemn. Against the burn decks they now have to win via the critters. Against Loxodon Hierarch… it does nothing. Another foil to Firemane decks.

Sacred Ground: Vore and Wildfire, obviously. Great against the KarstenBot deck. (Worst inside naming ever.)

Okay, onto some matchups, and then onto some audible decks, in a section I call… “what I talked myself into playing if I do not play the deck I picked and tested.” [Catchy! – Craig.]

Solar Pox
This is the most important matchup, as it just won a huge event, and players will try to capture some of its success. The best part of this deck is how powerful it is, yet not any average Magic player can pick it up and play it well – it’s a very skill-intensive deck. It has an original draw engine, and the same reanimation principles of the original list. If you can keep Haakon off the board you can stifle the engine, but eventually they will draw what they need. You need to save Condemn for Akroma, and Repeals for Haakon. The match is not too terrible, but it will demand tight play from the Blue/White player to win. Countering Compulsive Research and Peace of Mind may be needed in spots (remember that you really want the Legendary guy to stay out of the Yard.)

In: Draining Whelk
Out: Faith’s Fetters

With Whelk you have an answer to Angels, and another Mortify target, which will keep the instant off your All-Star – Sacred Mesa. I’m keeping Wrath of God in because it at least gets the Hussars and Haakon off the board.

Firemane Control
Another deck that had success is the Dark Firemane, which takes out the counter magic of Traditional Firemane decks, and brings in hand disruption and Phyrexian Arena. This match will be hard for you, as Firemane recursion is a bad thing, and Arena, if encountered, lets them out-draw you. You have to counter the Arena at any cost because you will get buried in their card advantage.

In: Draining Whelk, Circle of Protection: Red
Out: Wrath of God

Again, Whelk is your homeboy, making himself a 7/7 in the process of temporarily dealing with an Angel.

This deck, long thought dead, is not; it’s still very good. If you are going first, you should not lose as long as you can keep up the land drops, and have the countermagic to protect your land. Condemn can be an All-Star in the matchup, but Akroma is going to win this game for you.

In: Sacred Ground, Circle of Protection: Red

Out: Wrath of God, Faith’s Fetters.

After board it gets better because of the enchantments.

If they get the Urzatron early it makes your countermagic useless (outside of Cancel.) and this can make the game unfair for you. Hellkite is the finisher in conjunction with Sky Swallower (Simic) and Wildfire will also give you fits. Akroma is good here, as is the Mesa, as you can float mana in response to Wildfire and make a boatload of tokens after the spells resolves.

In: Teferi, Sacred Ground, Draining Whelk

Out: Wrath of God, Faith’s Fetters, one Condemn

You get more men, more countermagic, and Wildfire Protection. If you are feeling saucy (read: no Green splash), bring in the Circles for the other Remands as well.

Both play the same way, except just one uses burn in place of land destruction to disrupt the opponent. Cryoclasm is a beating against you, but you have plenty of tools to deal with these aggro decks.

In: Sacred Ground (Karsten), Circle of Protection: Red (land destruction)

Out: Careful Consideration

Take out the card draw because it is the most expensive non-creature or removal spell in the deck. Honestly, I think if you are casting a spell like this against aggro you have already won (see, stubborn old ways again… I hate being old.)

What I talked myself into playing if I do not play the deck I picked and tested.

These lists are here just in case I get a severe case of The Fear and decide to back out of playing the UW deck that I have tested so much. It’s not that I am afraid of playing it, but I do want to have fun as well as doing well, and some of these decks have a powerful engine, or a card that I like a lot. (Sadly, my favorite card now seems to be Draining Whelk.)

Here are the other three lists that I am looking at.

As I wind up the series, I want to thank everyone for the input, and for reading. I wish you all luck, and tune in next week to see if I can go for a fourth straight year, or if I am watching the Top 8 from the sidelines!

Thanks again!

Joshua Claytor

Written while listening to Hellogoodbye