Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to take a look at the latest Top 8 decklists from the StarCityGames $1,000 tournament this past weekend, see what hit, what missed, and how two new archetypes could be set to make out with $5,000 come February 23rd at the StarCityGames Open.
So in the Top 8 decklists you’ll find two almost entirely new builds: Bitterblossom Control and Rogue Aggro. Both have their quirks, their newly minted technology, and their downsides. We’ll also take a look at the winning build, from none other than Chris I-Win-$1K’s-and-You-Better-Deal-With-It Woltereck.
So let’s get started on what makes these decks tick.
The first is Bitterblossom Control. Here is the decklist:
Now it’s no secret that Bitterblossom is a good card. It’s also a dangerous card against aggro. One life lost per turn is dangerous against any deck but a control deck, and so this deck has many ways of disrupting the aggro goodness. First up it plays Epochrasite, a card that frustrates aggro players to no end. Deal with him once, deal with him for the rest of the game. There are no good or highly-played effects that removes creatures from the game, and when it comes back into play as a 4/4, it tends to stick around anyway.
It also plays four copies of Siege-Gang Commander. Now this guy has been getting pretty popular as of late. He was also seen as a 4-of in both copies of the top two G/R Big Mana decks. What makes him so powerful? Well, the easiest way to explain him is the same way that my buddy Chris Mellard described Profane Command when he first heard about it: It’s good when you’re behind and when you’re ahead. That’s about as good as Magic cards get sometimes, and while it’s disappearing from Extended Goblins decklists, the Commander looks to have a hold on Standard for quite some time.
Moving on, it plays three planeswalkers. Lilana Vess has been seeing plenty of competitive play recently, but Chandra Nalaar is a new one. I certainly approve of her showing up, as she can slowly whittle away a life total or become an incredibly annoying and reusable removal device. Mind Shatter sees its competitive debut in this deck, as a 2-of for demolishing your opponent’s tempo or pride, depending on how much that X is. Damnation is of course a control staple, and Mind Stone gives you acceleration in both mana and cards, depending on when you need it.
It only runs two copies of Mutavault, like the winning deck did as well, and it seems to be a solid and scary control deck. So what is it lacking? Why didn’t it make it to the top? We’ll discuss this issue and more once we’re done looking over the decks.
The next completely new archetype is Rogue Aggro from Chris Wallace. He has a lot of components featured in Patrick Chapin article on Rogues, but includes some really interesting selections like Marsh Flitter, and Bad Moon makes its way to a Top 8 for the first time in what feels like many, many years.
The Rogue suite usually features a combination of Oona’s Blackguard, Morsel Theft, Frogtosser Banneret and Oona’s Prowler. This build does not include Noggin Whack, either in the side or the main, and I found the two Earwig Squads to be most appealing. Bitterblossom shows up here as well, producing Faerie Rogues who are pumped by Oona’s Blackguard, and Marsh Flitter can give you some ridiculous plays by producing 2/2 Goblin Rogues who cause your opponent to discard a card when they connect.
This build also correctly uses four Mutavaults. I’ll just go ahead and say I’m campaigning that every deck you build for the next two years will not only require four of this manland, but that each article or forum post about your decks must explain its absence. Some say that it may be overhyped, but I say manlands that work with any tribe or simply 2/2’s that work with any build are worth playing. It’s not the second best manland in existence for nothing. Hell, Mishra’s Factory can even tap to pump it! Wow!
So Rogue Aggro certainly has its charms. But what about the winners?
Both decks in the Top 2 slots were G/R Big Mana builds. One from the ubiquitous Chris Woltereck and other from the closest thing that the East Coast has to a rising star, Kenny Mayer. Comparing these two builds you’ll see a few differences: First, Woltereck’s build has two Mutavaults. Sorry, had to mention it. Secondly, Chris ran two Molten Disasters and an extra Tarmogoyf and puts all of his Chameleon Colossus in the sideboard, while Kenny runs three Colossus main. I for one favor Colossus in every deck that has Green in it, but you can’t argue with success.
That said, why Molten Disaster? A few episodes ago I spoke of my Big Country deck, the one that featured Countryside Crusher, aka Ross Perot, and I based that deck from other powerful G/R Big Mana decks that did well at Worlds. Molten Disaster seemed like a card that worried about weenies, whereas Chameleon Colossus simply got bigger than everything else and killed your opponent. That’s great for Rogue Aggro, which doesn’t have a single non-Mutavault creature to block Colossus, but not so great for U/B Faeries, another Top 8 contender.
So why did these decks prevail and others not? Was it just bad matchups, was it card selection, was it mana problems? You never know when the best deck in a Top 8 was really the guy who got knocked out in the quarters due to a few mulls to five. However, I think I got a few ideas as to why the two new archetypes featured here didn’t do as well as they could have: Life gain. Yes, that little corner of Magic strategy that we often leave behind, life gain is incredibly important against decks like G/R Big Mana that can serve up 7/7 Elementals at the end of your turn or grind you out with Garruk.
In the sideboard of Rogue Aggro you’ll see four Tendrils of Corruption. I’m sure they came in handy, and I would seriously consider moving them to the main. However, the Rogue deck has Morsel Theft, a six point life swing, while Bitterblossom Control has… nothing. It has a single lucksackian Loxodon Warhammer in the side, and I hope you find it fast against a deck like Red Deck wins, whose pilot will be high-fiving his buddies when he hears what kind of matchup he has. Mind Shatter all you want, but those Faerie Enchantments will slowly kill you while he can keep ripping burn spells.
There’s also the question of what is not in the Top 8. Where is the Floresian Feudkiller’s Verdict? What happened to Momentary Blink? Sure, we have a Makeshift Mannequin deck in there, but that little White instant that causes so much mischief is missing.
But where’s Countryside Crusher? I mean, you can’t have a card that good, with art that awful, and not see it somewhere. Perhaps it’s just not needed? Perhaps it’s for Aggro Loam and no other archetypes? There’s a lot to be said for old men who do powerful things, but Countryside Crusher not being here makes me wonder if it’s just not found a home, or if it’s not good enough, or if it’s simply too hard to find.
Speaking of good Red cards, I’m disappointed to not see Taurean Mauler show up somewhere. Why wouldn’t this guy be good enough for Red Deck Wins? He’s no Siege-Gang Commander, but he’s incredibly difficult to kill and gets really scary really quick. Whenever a card makes an opponent think twice about playing a spell, that’s a card I like to play. This one is on the downslope from its original $8-$10 value, and I wait for the day when he sits on top of the standings.
What about Project X 2.0? Well, speak of the devil and he shall appear. In a recent Japanese Grand Prix Trial, the following deck made second place:
This wacky little number goes infinite in a strange way. I’ll take Benjamin Pebbles-Mundy’s explanation and illustrate it for you:
Let’s say you start with Mirror Entity in play and Reveillark and Riftwing Cloudskate in the graveyard. You play Body Double and copy Reveillark. You put a large number of Mirror Entity activations for X=0 on the stack. The first one gives you a Reveillark trigger, which you use to bring back Body Double and Riftwing Cloudskate, bouncing one of their permanents. The next Mirror Entity trigger resolves, giving you another Reveillark trigger. Again, you bring back Body Double and Riftwing Cloudskate. This gives you as many bounces as you had Mirror Entity activations.
Now the trick is, actually explaining that to a judge. For that one, I’ll leave it to you to figure out.
So that’s where the format stands, and it’s certainly wild and woolly. Which deck will you choose, and which decks are missing? I’m excited to see what comes out of the deckbuilding forums, the feedback, and all of the other Standard tournaments around the country this week. I’m gearing up for what should be an ass-kicking time at the StarCityGames $5,000 Open, and hope you’ll make it out there for some awesome Morningtide Standard action.
So until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin, tapping the cards so you don’t have to.
Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written while still trying to understand that stupid Project X combo.
Title — “Cheer It On” by Tokyo Police Club
Morningtide Standard — “Bodies” by The Smashing Pumpkins
Bitterblossom Control — “New Soul” by Yaem Naim (Yes, the Macbook Air song, hush, it’s awesome)
Project X 2.0 — “Weapon of Choice” by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club