I’m fairly certain that Bronchitis is the work of the devil. Being unemployed, and waiting for school to start this semester (yep, I’m a twenty six year old college dropout), getting sick was one of the worst things that could have happened to me. No insurance means expensive doctor visits, which in turn means to an expensive drug, which in turn means I’m miserable. So I’m sick, that’s fine… so I’m out almost two hundred dollars, things could be worse. The extra amount of free time (you know, since I have so much money to spend, and I go out almost every night… now that’s sarcasm) that I have been gifted with has been invested on researching Magic, and most specifically the Standard format. I have seen a lot of decks over the past week or so, ranging from the Standard Izzetron powerhouses, to Orzhov, to random decks like Blue Green Arcane.
That deck packed Kodama of the Center Tree.
I’ve long been impressed with the originality of the Japanese. They can take any format, build a deck to break it, and soon put the format on its ear. With the Japanese Regionals going on in the past few weeks, some sturdy information has come out in regards to the Standard format. I searched a couple of websites for results and finally came upon the Tokyo Regional, and saw what I though was a very interesting deck in the Top 8.
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 3 Llanowar Elves
- 3 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- 4 Wood Elves
- 2 Kodama of the North Tree
- 2 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 4 Loxodon Hierarch
When I saw this deck, I was instantly reminded of what I played at Grand Prix: Minneapolis last year. These sixty cards reminded me a lot of Accelerated Bombs, and I had been trying in vein for almost two months to make that deck work in Standard. I was wrecked by just about everything with my version of the deck, with the exception of the aggressive decks of Standard. Maybe I packed it full of the wrong men, or too much countermagic, but no matter what I tried the deck just did not seem to click. I threw it on the back burner after about fifty matches against Heartbeat and Izzetron. I only won about three matches out when I tested with my version of the deck.
I decided to fire up the good old Magic Workstation and test this deck out for a while, and have been doing so for the past week. The results have been great to say the least, but when I was playing the deck I started to notice a disturbing trend. Sure, I would have a lot of land search hanging out, with my Elders and Elves, but sometimes the deck would just overflow with counterspells, and I would be drawing them instead of decent threats. I was losing games that I thought I should have been more competitive in because of a stray Mana Leak hitting the hand when I needed to draw a blocker.
With that trend in mind I set out to find a solution, and the next couple of days I tested more, and concentrated to find something to make the deck click a bit more.
The first thing I thought about was running Supply / Demand. It has great synergy with Glare, and the Demand side can retrieve the aforementioned enchantment, or Hierarchs, whenever I needed to grab them. This turned out to be a little to slow and was rejected. I tried Chord of Calling – Craig swears by the card – and the instant worked out great whenever I drew it, but I hated to have to hold men back to cast the huge convoking spell. I finally thought about Congregation at Dawn, and found it was fantastic. Who likes to get twelve life against Gruul? Who likes to get Meloku, Keiga, and Kodama against Tron? (Um, yeah, I know… not that good a Congregation.) I slide two Congregations into the deck in place of a Jitte and a Glare, and start to test even more.
I was winning a lot more against the fast decks, just based off the twelve life that the parade of elephants would give me.
I was still having a tricky time against control. Most of the control decks have far too much targeted removal, and my important dudes would meet the wrong end of every Putrefy and Mortify in existence.
I looked at all the GWU cards in Standard and came up with a short list of beaters that I might want to include in the deck.
- Yosei, the Morning Star was proving to be great against the Green-based control decks, and against the Phyrexian Arena decks of the format.
- Indrik Stomphowler was doing well against the same decks just because I could search him out, and kill off an Arena or a Jitte of my opponents.
- Arashi, the Sky Asunder was fine, but I decided he was indeed better off in the sideboard.
- Windreaver was the best option against the targeted removal decks, because I could return him to my hand and make them waste removal.
Has anyone else noticed that up until this point I have completely overlooked Simic Sky Swallower?
Yeah, I felt pretty dumb too when this card was suggested by one of my friends.
I put two of him into the deck, removing a Meloku and a Kodama. Somehow there is a part of me wanting to put a Windreaver in here, but for now the guy is going to hang out in my trade binder a little while longer.
I completed the maindeck to my liking, and think that I did indeed improve two of its weakest points: the “targeted removal” problem, and the “running out of gas” problem. Now I needed to work on the sideboard.
I already knew that Arashi was going to remain in the sideboard, as I needed someway to deal with Dragons, Leviathans, and Melokus. Naturalize was another natural auto inclusion, as it gives me an answer to Arenas, Jittes, Heartbeats, and Annexes. Carven Caryatid was something I toyed with taking out, considering that I do have a lot of early blockers, but I kept them in because they, you know, actually kill things from time to time. I have eight of my fifteen slots figured out, and the last seven proved to be quite difficult. I went ahead and replaced the sideboarded Keiga with a Windreaver, and I was down to six needed slots. Gifts Ungiven and Life from the Loam both seemed really good, but Gifts was not providing any more card advantage that Congregation was already giving me, so I took them out. Life from the Loam as a single copy was not impressive. I’d rather have Sacred Ground.
Turns out that the card is pretty okay against the Magnivore decks.
I put two of them in, and wanted to have a hard counter against Tron and Heartbeat, so I upped the number of Voidslime to the max. Voila! I now had a completed sideboard and everything.
Let’s take a look at the completed list!
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 3 Llanowar Elves
- 2 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- 4 Wood Elves
- 1 Kodama of the North Tree
- 2 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 4 Loxodon Hierarch
- 2 Simic Sky Swallower
That, my friends, is the deck I would play if I were going to try to grind in US Nationals later on this month. Sadly, unless I get my student loan money, I’ll not be playing this deck until the Three Thousand Dollar Kentucky Open, which will be held before Coldsnap is legal…
Let’s take a look at some opening hands that I generated with this build of the deck. We’ll look at five or so, and see what it takes in the opening seven to make this machine run.
Opening Hand 1
This is typically what you want your opener to look like. You have early blockers and land search to smooth out the draws, and disruption with Mana Leak. Congregation in the opener is fantastic, as you get to see what your opponent is playing, and then set up your strategy for the long-term game.
Opening Hand 2
You can make a point to play this hand against control. However, against the Eye of Nowhere decks you are going to be wrecked on their turn 3. Against the faster decks of the format, you can toss this back… though you still have a turn 3 blocker and a turn 4 elephant.
Opening Hand 3
Nice cards, but you can still run into mana problems. On the draw, you keep this hand. On the play, you toss it back.
Opening Hand 4
I like this hand, especially if you are playing first. You get to cycle through Remands and keep threats off the board, so you should be sitting pretty by the time Keiga comes online.
Opening Hand 5
Yep, you keep this hand. The possibility of running out turn 3 elephant and turn 4 Meloku looks nice, and normally is. So what if they deal with the Elf? You still have plenty of blockers and plenty of threats that your opponent must deal with.
When I tested this deck, I tested it against what I felt were the best five decks in the format. Izzetron (and its Simic-packing brethren), Gruul, Heartbeat, Magnivore, and Orzhov (This also includes Ghost Dad and Husk variants.)
First up, let’s look at the Tron decks in the metagame. Everyone should be familiar with these by now, as they are the scourge of the MTGO queues. You get to play Tron and counterspells and big fat dumb dudes.
Playing first and having an opening hand with countermagic and land search is something you do want. You need to be able to apply quick pressure to them, and still be able to develop your own board. Preboard, this match up is not favorable. You have Glare in the main, and that is a dead card by most accounts. To win game 1 you have to have numerous things fall in your favor. They have to mulligan, they have to hiccup on mana, and they must fail to draw a threat. An important thing to remember is to keep GW up in case of Wildfire if you have a Hierarch in play.
In the post-board games you are going to be bringing in the Naturalizes (great against the Signets the deck packs), Arashi (that way you can deal with the flyers the deck has), and Voidslime (extra countermagic never hurts). You will be taking out Glare of Subdual, Umezawa’s Jitte, two Meloku (you really want your men to live past Wildfire), and two Mana Leaks.
Post board 50%
These changes help make the match up post-board more of a coin flip. Having the extra counters help against their huge spells. If you think they have sided into the Annex version, save your Naturalizes for that enchantment. Arashi shines in this matchup, as the channel ability can wipe their entire team while leaving you with a squad of beaters.
Congregation targets for preboard are Simic, Keiga, and Meloku I feel those are the best, and post board, try Simic, Keiga, and Arashi.
Preboard 55-60 %
The fastest, most consistent beatdown deck in the format almost has little to no game against this powerful deck. Yes, it is true that they can just get a hand full of dumb burn spells, and burn you out of the game after attacking for five on turn three and eight on turn 4. Congregation shines, and normally gets you three copies of the life-gaining elephant man, and Glare (when it sticks) messes up their attack phase. I am pretty sure that this is one of the better matchups for the deck, and as long as you are not keeping suboptimal hands (hands where Wood Elves are your first play), you should be fine.
Post board 60-65%
You are going to be bringing in Carven Caryatids, and you will be taking out Sky Swallowers and a Keiga. You want the early blockers, and want to take out the lumbering men that cost six or more. The extra blockers help, even if the percentages are lower then one would expect for such a great matchup.
Having eight maindeck counterspells helps, but again this is a matchup where Glare of Subdual is a dead draw. You have no real disruption outside of the counterspells, and if you can counter their Heartbeats and keep up pressure you should win the game. However, that was much easier for me to say than it is to actually do. Congregation helps to keep pressure up, and again I would suggest getting the elephants. That makes it harder to combo out if they resolve.
Post board 50-55 %
You are bringing in Naturalize and Voidslime, taking out the Glares, Sky Swallower (or Keiga if you think they are not going with the man plan) and the Llanowar Elves (I know they provide mana acceleration, but in testing keeping the Jittes in the main actually helped to race them in case the combo kill was staying in).
The matchup improves with the addition of four more counterspells and the enchantment removal. If you are sure they are going with the man plan you can leave the Naturalizes in the board and keep the Elves in.
With the amount of land search you have, you are almost invalidating all of their targeted land destruction spells. Glare again is suboptimal in the main. You want to play around Wildfire as long as the elephant is in play. Make sure to leave blockers back if there is the possibility of a massive Vore coming to the dome, but if the matchup plays the way it should (i.e. you are drawing lands and playing Elders and Wood Elves), you should be able to handle it. Keiga, Sky Swallower, and Hierarchs are important Congregation targets here.
Post board 60-65%
Hand in Hand 60-65%
Ghost Dad 60-65%
The two aggro decks are your most favorable matches, Mortifies will often be targeting men, and the Glares get another chance to shine. Hierarch is important to regain some of the early life lost from the aggressive one drops. Meloku is fantastic here, providing some more absorption from the attack phase.
Husk is a different story altogether. It might have something to do with the disruption coupled with the combo kill, or it might just be the fact that Promise tokens are really good against the deck. Glare doesn’t do much in the late game. You may be outpaced by creatures, sometimes by an almost two-to-one margin.
In all three matches the sideboarding is similar. You are bringing in the Walls, and I have been taking out the Wood Elves. You need a blocker that will not only provide some sort of extra card but will also kill something besides Plagued Rusalkas.
The match percentages do not change much after board.
After reading this, I have presented a deck that is strong against the aggressive decks that are sure to be popping up at Nationals, but has a hard time against Tron and Heartbeat. I would recommend playing this deck if the format was really aggressive in your area. It’s a nice aggro-control deck, and I think it has a real shot at being a contender in the pre-Coldsnap era of Standard.
Thanks for reading, and leave any feedback in the forums.