The Magic Show #121 – Elves! & The States 2008 Metagame

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Friday, November 7th – Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re looking at the meltdown of the Extended metagame and the return of States to the national stage. From Faeries and Five-Color to Reveillark and the rogue decks, we take a look at what you’ll be sitting across from tomorrow and what you can do to finish the event a champion.

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re looking at the meltdown of the Extended metagame and the return of States to the national stage. From Faeries and Five-Color to Reveillark and the rogue decks, we take a look at what you’ll be sitting across from tomorrow and what you can do to finish the event a champion.


Well, as they said, you can’t spell Elves without LSV. Luis Scott-Vargas brought home the title, and I can’t be happier for him. He’s a fantastic guy who works hard at finding the best deck and playing it to the best of his ability. While his opponent may have metagamed the format by including silver bullets like Orzhov Pontiff and Goblin Sharpshooter with which to wreck the mirror, Scott-Vargas went the route that killed the quickest.

So how does it work? Quite simply, it appears that Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel accidentally broke the entire Extended format. This combination allows you to create oodles of mana, untapping Elves along the way, using draw spells like Glimpse of Nature or the demoralizing Regal Force fuel you onward all the while untapping those Nettle Sentinels when you play any Green spell. Summoner’s Pact gives you the ultimate tutor engine, and after you chain enough Elves together you use Birchlore Rangers to get any color mana, then kill people with Storm cards like Brain Freeze and Grapeshot.

Sometimes you don’t even need to combo off. Umezawa’s Jitte can come in from the sideboard to demolish the mirror and kill people a turn or two slower than usual via the red zone.

Other builds, like those of the runner up, feature Chord of Calling and the silver bullet sideboard package. While this is cute, it can give you a much slower deck that doesn’t consistently kill people on the second turn like LSV’s did.

Yeah… so… what do we do about it now? I’m not sure ‘if’ banning something is up for debate at this point, but rather ‘when’ Wizards bans something. Pfft, and here I thought Time Spiral Standard Faeries was a problem? You take away one ridiculously annoying artifact and subsequent mondo combo with Counterbalance, and suddenly the format is Turn 2 Combo versus Things That Aren’t Quite As Good, Fast, or Efficient.

While I absolutely hated the CounterTop combo, the deck, and am glad Sensei’s Divining Top is banned into oblivion, I recognize that its powerful combination kept a lot of stupid things in check. Like, for example, a deck composed almost entirely around one-drop creatures that can untap once and kill you. Last year you’d simply say that an opponent could drop a Sensei’s Divining Top on Turn 1 and on Turn 2 if they have the Counterbalance the Elves player better have the Naturalize or they’re probably out of it.

Am I saying we should un-ban Sensei’s Divining Top? No. Not at all. This card, again, made every single match of Extended in which it was featured take about 20 minutes longer than it should.

However, my guess is Nettle Sentinel has to go. Nettle Sentinel is the engine upon which the deck goes from unfair to broken. Taking out Nettle Sentinel from Extended doesn’t completely remove Elves as an archetype, either. But for all intents and purposes, the deck was exploited to its furthest possible extreme thanks to Nettle Sentinel’s ability to provide turn 2 kills with its Summoner’s Pact interaction. I expect to see Nettle Sentinel on the Extended banned list come December 1st, 2008.

So congratulations again to Luis Scott-Vargas for not only breaking the format but for giving us our third U.S. Pro Tour Champion in a row! That’s just incredible. We’ve had a line of standouts this year, with Jon Finkel triumphant return, Charles Gindy breakout performance, and now Luis Scott-Vargas, adding to his long list of accomplishments not just a Pro Tour Top 8, but a victory.

Now all eyes look to Tennessee, as the final Pro Tour of the year happens in Memphis. I’ll be there for the sights, sounds, and personalities of Magic in just a few weeks.

Your States 2008 Metagame

Okay, States is finally back in action. Yes, you demanded it, so now we have to show Wizards of the Coast and the Tournament Organizers who stuck their neck out for this that it was worth it.

Before I get into it, let’s go over the prizes. Now I know there aren’t any ridiculous Extended artwork goodies this go around the Top 8, but the playmat is gorgeous and the participation foil is still nice. Remember, this was thrown together by the Tournament Organizers, and Wizards participation came afterwards, long after the window to create a custom Champs foil had passed. So if this year is good next year, we’ll probably see these goodies return.

Regardless, the big prize is that winners will basically have all of their Premier Events paid for an entire year! This is huge. I don’t know about you, but hundreds upon hundreds of my dollars each year go to paying entry fees in various tournaments. This prize is the gift that keeps on giving. While a $75 foil would’ve been nice, I would much rather be content by removing premier event entry fees from my Magic budget for the upcoming year.

So: Standard. What can you expect?

Faeries (20-25% of the field)

The elephant in the room. The deck that doesn’t die. Faeries is simply incredibly powerful. They were designed to impact the metagame, but even now it feels like too much. Maybe it’s my intense dislike for the deck when it was really over the top with access to Ancestral Vision and Rune Snag. Nowadays it’s nice to not have to be scared to death Turn 2 of that inevitable counterspell, but Broken Ambitions still looms.

This deck has been discussed to death, so I’ll just say that your best bet to fight it is probably Mono-Red or Kithkin. With Kithkin doing so well lately, my guess is that Fae will be packing Infest in the board to completely wreck Kithkin’s day.

Five-Color Control (20-25% of the field)

The other tower of power. While it has a tough matchup against Faeries that gets closer to an even matchup the better at Magic you are, it will crush virtually any deck that expects to win with guys attacking in the red zone. First turn Llanowar Elf is like signing the match slip for this deck. First turn Goldmeadow Stalwart is much the same. This deck is a card advantage machine, taking the best spells in Standard, throwing in every Vivid Land and Reflecting Pool they can and making it work.

The way to beat Five-Color is with Planeswalkers. While Ajani Vengeant has gotten plenty of good press recently, Elspeth, Knight-Errant is getting some acknowledgement as well. Her two ‘plus’ abilities are nothing to scoff at, and Five-Color Control has very few ways of dealing with a Planeswalker who can protect itself.

Mono Red / Kithkin (10-15%)

These are the aggro decks du jour. Mono Red works by using one card to deal three or more damage. Kithkin work by dealing damage early and making one card turn into multiple threats.

My suggestion for Kithkin would to be to go Green/White and fit in Gaddock Teeg and have your sideboard or maindeck Wilt-Leaf Lieges at the ready for Cruel Control. Nothing is more demoralizing that having a Cruel Ultimatum resolve against you, but nothing is more heartening to have a 4/4 or two 6/6’s left on your side afterwards. Remember, you execute spells in the order they’re written, so if you only have one card in hand and that card is Wilt-Leaf Liege, after your opponent plays Cruel Ultimatum you’ll have a Wilt-Leaf Liege in play.

Reveillark (10%)

You can’t get away from it, and there are always those who love the 4/3 Elemental who could. The latest entry is from Kyle Sanchez, who in StarCityGames Premium completely deconstructs his latest Elementals deck, one that of course features Reveillark. Whether it’s an Elementals package, a ‘classic’ Reveillark with Mirror Entity and Mulldrifter, or ‘land destruction’ Reveillark featuring Fulminator Mage and a playset of Makeshift Mannequin, you must have a plan to deal with this guy. My guess is you’ll only have to play this deck once in the tournament, but you must be prepared to battle it.

The most powerful tools you have against a Reveillark deck include any graveyard disruption. For Five-Color Control that tends to mean Jund Charm. For other decks, the versatile Relic of Progenitus is a possibility, sliding into any sideboard and coming down long before any counterspells could stop it.

The Rest (25%)

I could sit here and say I think 5% play this or 8% play that, but beyond the base percentages of established archetypes, I think you’re going to see a little of the following decks at States in varying amounts:

– Bant Control. This is very similar to Five-Color Control with Cruel Ultimatum but it tries to win mainly with Pancake Flipper into Rafiq of the Many. This deck is much better when it uses Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

– The Five-Color Planeswalker deck. This deck is incredibly fun to play and is a blast when it’s firing on all cylinders. It features no less than fourteen planeswalkers, including playsets of Chandra Nalaar (the most underrated planeswalker of them all), Ajani Vengeant, and Garruk Wildspeaker. The last two are singletons of Sarkhan Vol and Elspeth, Knight-Errant to finish your opponent off. This deck takes advantage of Treetop Village, a land that is incredibly potent and powerful in today’s metagame but is seeing very little play. It also has the Johnny-tastic Rings of Brighthearth to kick things in high gear. The problem with this deck is the mana is clunky and it can give you some really weird draws. Nothing like the three lands, double Chandra Nalaar, Sarkhan Vol, Naya Charm. Awkward.

Quillspike Combo. It’s out there, it’s ridiculous, but you can’t let sneak up on you. Remember: Without a Devoted Druid, the deck is just a clunky aggro deck. Kill that guy, make sure it stays dead, and don’t get blown out by Profane Command.

Ajani Vengeant decks. These come in all shapes and sizes. Some feature five colors, some just feature Red and White, such as the Vengeant Weenie deck. This isn’t really Kithkin and it isn’t really Mono Red. It just kinda… has burn, weenies, and a planeswalker. So…yeah.

– Jund Mana Ramp. This is a deck that’s kind of under the radar but worth thinking about. It uses both Fertile Ground and Rampant Growth to play Garruk Wildspeaker and follow that up with Double Dragon (a.k.a. Broodmage Dragon) for the kill. In the meantime, it packs a full set of the underrated Jund Charm, makes Resounding Thunder a fantastic late game topdeck with all of its mana, and finishes it off with Violent Ultimatum.

Here’s my own personal build:

– Elves. It’s a forgotten archetype, but Troll Ascetic on Turn 2 followed up by Loxodon Warhammer is No Joke. Chameleon Colossus is still bad news for Faeries, and sometimes your opponent won’t have the Bant Charm or Wrath of God needed. And even when they do, equipping a Loxodon Warhammer to a Treetop Village is always good times.

I’m sure there are other archetypes, such as Doran, Sanity Grinding, or Tokens that I haven’t said anything about, but again, I think you’re looking at a Five-Color Control / Faeries metagame and the tools to defeat both of those decks are iffy at best.

My suggestion? Play Kithkin with Green so you can run Gaddock Teeg as I mentioned before, but you always want to run one other silver bullet. The kind that makes Five-Color Control, and even Faeries when you’re on the play, cower in fear: Thorn of Amethyst. Siding out your Spectral Processions for this monster allows you to crush a Five-Color deck that was sure to win with that fourth turn Wrath of God that now has to wait a dread extra turn. On the play against Faeries, making them pay three mana for Bitterblossom or five for Cryptic Command is tough, and Gaddock Teeg stops any Broken Ambitions shenanigans.

While I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to play this year, I’m thinking some mixture of this sounds about right. That, or just play Cruel Control because I’m used to it.

So this is it folks: States is here, and let’s take advantage of it. If you live in the United States and Canada, get your butt to mtgchamps.com and let’s do this. Because if this year is spectacular, I can assure you big things will begin happening regarding the Champs program world-wide, and what next year’s event could possibly bring.

Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards… so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorangeproductions dot com