The Road To States 2002: Part The First

Lo and behold! States, the favorite tournament of scrubby Pro Tour wannabes such as yours truly, is coming up shortly. And it’s never too late (or too early) to start thinking about what deck I’m going to play this year. May I present two decks for your pleasure?

I was thinking about doing an Onslaught overview. But everyone and their grandmother does that, and half the predictions people make are dead wrong. (Who can forget Dream Halls being called the”worst card in the set”?) While it is a tempting way to kill a few pages, I’d rather start looking at possible decks to build using Onslaught.

And lo and behold! States, the favorite tournament of scrubby Pro Tour wannabes such as yours truly, is coming up shortly.

It’s never too late (or too early) to start thinking about what deck I’m going to play this year.

My first deck idea starts with the monster that is the Grinning Demon. This fellow laughs at that puny Juzam Djinn. Laughs, I say! Phyrexian Scuta? Pshaw!

What kind of deck does he belong in? Something beatdown-oriented, clearly. I started looking at mono-black, and found a workable frame. The deck takes its cue from the creature-heavy”Pirates” deck from OBC, although (and here I go into Stephen Jay Gould territory again), it probably is a closer descendant to the Ted Knutson B/G”Martha Stewart’s House” deck, which saw some play around Regionals last year. The Grinning Demon fits in where the Spiritmonger goes (which the Demon doesn’t laugh at, incidentally), and the addition of Rancid Earth over Call of the Herd gives you a good chance of getting the Earth/Braids/I-win-you-lose draw.

MiB v1.0

4 Duress

3 Cabal Therapy

4 Mesmeric Fiend

4 Nantuko Shade

4 Rancid Earth

3 Grinning Demon

4 Braids, Cabal Minion

3 Ichorid

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Smother

21 Swamps

2 Cabal Coffers

The deck is pretty simple: Early hand disruption with Duress and Cabal Therapy (but I wish I could have found room for Blackmail), a solid creature base that hits the mana curve nicely (counting the Demon with the morph cost) and solid removal in Chainer’s Edict and Smother.

Mark my words: Smother is going to totally change the environment. Wild Mongrel? Dead! Roar of the Wurm? Dead! Nantuko Shade? Dead! Psychatog? Dead, dead, all dead! The day of the weenie has passed; all hail the fatties! (Somewhere, Jamie Wakefield must be smiling.) The recursive power of Ichorid will often end up being your finisher.

Unfortunately, the trouble with this deck can be summed up with four words: Circle of Protection: Black. One of those hits the table; it’s pretty much all over but the shouting.

There are a lot of options for splashing a color; using red for Flaring Pain to negate damage prevention, blue for bounce and/or counters, green for Naturalize and white for…

Oh, never mind. We don’t need white for Disenchant anymore, do we?

With the Apocalypse cross-color pain lands leaving the environment, getting access to an off-color splash becomes more difficult. Red and blue are easy to splash with the 7th Edition pain lands, Odyssey filter lands and Torment”tainted” lands… But you’d have to add City of Brass or Grand Coliseum to have enough multicolored mana sources in the deck if you wanted to splash green or white.

Sidling over to blue, let’s look at the revamped Kai Budde card: Voidmage Prodigy.”Prodigy”? Hell, this guy’s a frickin’ genius. This, good readers, is going to be the Call of the Herd of the set – the $20 rare-out-of-the-pack people are tripping over. Don’t laugh if this becomes the first foil since Urza’s Legacy to sell for over $100. I kid you not: StarCity’s selling them for twelve bucks now, and I would jump at that price. Go order!

For those who haven’t seen the spoiler…

Voidmage Prodigy UU

Creature – Wizard


UU, Sacrifice a Wizard: Counter target spell.

Morph U (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)


Sweet Jeebus! You don’t even have to tap it to use the ability! And the morph ability as well? Man alive, this card puts the”bah” in”bah-roken.” It’s a good thing that Unnatural Selection is leaving the environment – does anyone see the potentially broken combo of Unnatural Selection, Voidmage Prodigy, and Squirrel’s Nest?”My Squirrels are like really really smart…”

Hey, there’s an Extended deck idea! But we’re not here for Extended; we’re here for Standard.

To make this card good, we need some Wizards. There are scads of Wizards when you add in Onslaught, 7th Edition, Odyssey, Torment and Judgment. Some of them suck. Some of them have the potential to fit into the deck nicely. They include:

Finkel is too good not to include, so the Shadowmage makes the cut. So does the one-drop Hapless Researcher (“Oh, bother; if I’m not being sacrificed for one thing, it’s another”). You could potentially make for a bounce deck with Constables and Temporal Adepts, but that might be a little too cutesy. I do, however, like the Crafty Pitmage and Disruptive Pitmage.

Including the Shadowmage Infiltrator means the deck is U/B. Starting from there, we have a solid core of Wizards to fuel the Kai engine:

4 Hapless Researcher

4 Voidmage Prodigy

4 Shadowmage Infiltrator

2 Prodigal Sorcerer

I tried some other cards in Tim’s slot before settling on him: Grim Lavamancer would have been good, but fitting red mana into the deck would have wrecked the mana base – and Disruptive Pitmage is too slow. It came down to Tim and the Adept, and the squirrel-killing Wizard won out.

Add in some counters and bounce spells:

4 Counterspell

4 Aether Burst

A little bonus kill:

4 Chainer’s Edict

The tricky part is coming up with the quality card drawing spells. We don’t have Fact or Fiction – but we do have Read the Runes, which is somewhat similar. This is a tricky card, but you should be able to get two or three cards off of it. It can be used with combat tricks to sacrifice something already going to the graveyard, or you can empty your hand of lands and refuel with more counters. Or you can just sacrifice lands to it. Anything that has the words”Instant” and”Draw X cards” in it has the potential to be seriously broken (see Genius, Stroke of).

I wish we had Brainstorm in the environment, since I want to include the new Flooded Strand in the deck and you would get that great Brainstorm/shuffle interaction you had back in the days when the Rebel chain ruled Standard. We don’t have that anymore. If I chose to play with some of the Onslaught cards with the Spire Owl ability, like Information Dealer, then I’d go with Predict. Deep Analysis is also some good, albeit a sorcery. Peek is at least a cheap cantrip that gives you a little information to go with it.

I tried Trade Secrets, but that basically ended up giving my opponent just as many cards as I was getting. In the end, I’m trying these cards.

4 Read the Runes

4 Peek

The mana base is solid, although it may be a little low at 23 lands:

4 Underground River

4 Polluted Delta

4 Darkwater Catacombs

9 Island

2 Swamp

We have three slots left, which is a good place to put in our finisher. True, with this deck, there’s a good chance of Finkel and Kai going the distance… But we need something big, something nasty, with which to deliver the coup de grace. Guiltfeeder is a possibility, or maybe Fat Moti. Or maybe something from Onslaught. Or maybe…oh, no…

Not him.

Not Dr. Teeth.

Yep. Why not Psychatog? This li’l guy loves Read the Runes as much if not more than Fact or Fiction.

This Psychatog deck eschews Upheaval in favor of the higher base of counters, removal, and insane card drawing. And damned if it doesn’t work, too! Engineered Plague scares me, though, as that card will completely wreck this deck. Wow, what are the odds of that card being played in post-Onslaught Standard?

I haven’t even really thought about a sideboard yet. There’s so much in Onslaught that’s turning the metagame on its head that I have no idea how good cards like Ghastly Demise or Deep Analysis are going to be anymore as sideboard cards. But the more I play this deck, even in this untuned first-pass form, the more I think it could be dangerous.

Really dangerous.

There goes my”always play aggro at States” theory.

Dave Meddish

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