I am not the Wizard of Oz. I am simply a man, out from behind the curtain with some decks. I’m a DCI Tournament organizer and I run tournaments. I have access to a plethora of”I’m going to Regionals!” type players of differing quality and also access to a few others (like Matt Schmaltz) who are qualified for Nationals on rating and are considered one of the top players in the St. Louis area. I have a lot of cards and build a lot of decks. I’m going to tell you what I know and what I’m thinking about with regard to Regionals ’04.
“The Monster” – Green/Black
I call this one the monster for several reasons. The current incarnation of Standard Green/Black is playing the format’s strongest spell in Death Cloud. You know what it does. It’s Mind Twist, Wrath of God, and Armageddon all rolled into one mana hungry package. The card sits in the proper quadrant of the metagame clock – that being the mid-game massive reset button quadrant with its kin Jokulhaups, Obliterate, Wildfire, etc – that it bears a look in the current beatdown-oriented metagame.
The second reason that I call it”The Monster” is because it is going to lure you under the bed for hours of rampant playtesting, only to chuck you into its gaping maw to masticate when you actually take it to Regionals. Everything [author name="Mike Flores"]Mike Flores[/author] said about the deck is true. Almost. You will sit and look at your deck, hoping to mise that third Black mana source just a tad too often. You’ll get run over some by Ravagers and Goblins. You can’t worry about that too much, because that’s a Titanic-sized boat. You will also top deck that third Black source and jump up screaming,”I’m a viener!” And you will win some games without the Cloud off of some of the other crazy synergy this deck can pack.
The fact is that the deck is both difficult to build properly and difficult to play, although this version, with the massive reset of Death Cloud, is easier to pilot than some of its forebears. For example, it wasn’t until late in this past Extended season that Zvi Mowshowitz laid bare the fact that he was just getting around to understanding how the deck’s bigger, badder cousin actually happened to win its share of games through hand disruption, board resets, and eeking out card advantage. And that’s what Green/Black creature based control does. It eeks along and eeks along till it finally eeks out a small position of inevitability. Or (currently) gets the three sources of Black mana it wants.
As to building the deck? Well, the problem is basically one of tailoring. Jarrod Bright would like to claim that the deck is a”natural” deck, whose appearance was easily spotted and preordained by the card pool, but the full truth about the standard Green/Black deck is that its only good when its been tailored into a well-defined metagame, and even then there are troubles to be expected when the metagame shifts. Recently in the forums, I was told that the deck had never had a moment since Oversold Cemetery appeared with Onslaught. I countered that the deck had had a moment, though it was certainly short-lived. Last year, the deck was climbing in the European qualifiers until about the time Wake appeared. Then the deck swooned.
This illustrates one of the points I’ll be trying to make about the deck. What happened about a year ago was that while we could fashion a version that was almost downright rude versus the pair that was U/G Madness and Psychatog, and you could pull almost even with Red/Green or Goblins, the deck wound up just rolling over to Wake. Any major overhaul done to make that matchup near favorable made the lose its edge versus previously good matchups. At that point it wasn’t worth the time to continue tweaking it. Death Cloud changes this some, but probably not enough. The point is while it may have been a”natural” deck, it is not naturally or inherently great any more than any other deck The deck looks good in part only because Ravager and Goblins appear to be such a big part of the metagame, and the fact that the deck’s Black element works well against W/x control.
Anyway, having some history with the deck, I finally got around to working on it in part because Mr. Schmaltz showed up at the house with a version he started flopping. What follows is basically his version with some made tweaks by yours truly. We’ve played the deck four times in three tournaments that I can remember, taking two firsts, and two quarterfinal spots. I lost the mirror in the tourney in which we both played the deck. From these tourneys, and the time that I have spent playing, practicing, and studying the deck, what I’ve come to conclude is that the deck is quite favorable against Affinity, is around even with Goblins (depending on version), struggles with Tooth and Nail, and should wind up favorable to W/x, although there are obviously many varied versions of White-based decks. I haven’t taken scrupulous notes. I do know offhand facts like I’m 8-2 in matches versus Ravager Affinity.
Death Cloud Cemetery
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Vine Trellis
4 Ravenous Baloth
4 Viridian Shaman
4 Festering Goblin
4 Death Cloud
3 Oversold Cemetery
3 Aether Vial
3 City of Brass
The first point to be made is that Aether Vial is very, very good in this deck. At the point that you have Vial, Cemetery, and then run a good Death Cloud you’ve made a play on the order of resolving Akroma’s Vengeance against Affinity. Aether Vial does a lot for the deck. It lets it deploy its creature-oriented mana acceleration earlier, at instant speed, in response to a spell or at end of turn, which also allows for mana to be kept open for deploying other cards like Skullclamp, Smother, or Festering Goblin. It alleviates mana color problems for casting just about every creature in the deck, and especially for deploying such creatures as Baloth and Nekrataal at instant speed.
Let me talk about a couple of the other cards.
This card is very good against either of the preeminent beatdown decks. It can accelerate you into a several third-turn plays, holds off a great many opposing attackers of note (helping buy you time until the mid-game), and helps to power even bigger Death Clouds. Initially this card was Chrome Mox, but we found that Aether Vial was pushing the deck towards too few creatures, and the 0/4 wall was better. The big-butt mana producer is extremely annoying to beatdown, as it either lengthens the game by repeatedly holding off damage, or by soaking up powerful resources when it is removed. It also makes a more interesting Skullclamp target than you might think.
This card early makes some of the better Goblin and Ravager cards freeze in their tracks. He likes to take out that Arcbound Worker, Goblin Sharpshooter, Sparksmith, or early Arcbound Ravager or Disciple of the Vault. In tandem with Skullclamp he can be particularly devastating, drawing you cards while picking off your opponents own best Clamp fodder or 1/1 troublemaker. This card basically replaces Bane of the Living, with a much better earlier deployment cost while retaining some of the effect.
Most of the other cards I feel are rather self-explanatory or are Cemetery staples. Skullclamp has benefited the deck mightily, as it has almost any deck in the environment. One of the things that this deck strives for is to win the opening battle for Skullclamp superiority. As mentioned, Festering Goblin is one part, while the other is the four main deck Viridian Shamans. This sometimes has a downside, like when you have the only artifact in play and don’t wish to break it, but the cost, in my humble opinion, is worth the gain. As most already know, this guy is gold in the Affinity matchup and in tandem with Cemetery can make things really rough for the Affinity player.
Baloth is just solid with all of the Green-oriented mana acceleration plus Aether Vial. The killing play is having Vial set to four and active Baloth recursion. That this can happen with no land for anyone is certainly worth noting. It’s also rather rude to go card shopping this way with a Skullclamp or better yet, Skullclamps. The following sequence (which I’ve accomplished many times), should show you the power available to you: Return Baloth. Play Baloth with Aether Vial. Attach two Skullclamps. Sacrifice Baloth to gain four life and draw four cards. Play stuff from my hand. Go.
Smother helps stall against the early beatdown game and is necessary to counter flying critters loaded up with Ravager counters and certain goblins.
The sideboard is always the thorn in my side, but four Oxidize has been standard, plus the fourth copies of both Nekrataal and Smother plus a couple of Viridian Zealots. Matt played Plow Under in his sideboard, while I still use Cabal Interrogator.
Tooth and Nail is a problem. The only very good card you have against them is Death Cloud itself. Both Plow Under and Interrogator work in this matchup as well as versus White control – the latter only works if they haven’t deployed Damping Matrix. I thought about slipping in perhaps a few copies of Barter in Blood, or one could go back to Bane of the Living for that matchup. It isn’t terribly pretty if they make their play and get a pair of Colossi, since your only course is to be preemptive with cards like Death Cloud, Interrogator, Plow Under, etc. Fortunately, all of these cards are also good to board in for the W/x control matchups.
So there is”The Monster.” It’s probably not quite as good or as bad as it would seem your fellow netizens would like you to think. If you are interested in taking it to Regionals, get a lot of practice in with both piloting the deck and praying for a third Black mana source. Or win the Skullclamp battle. Frazz likes that plan.
My most regular testing partner, Johnny Meyers, wanted to put together a Green/White control deck. Well, he put together a deck that wasn’t quite so control-looking but more a grand pile of the best cards that Green and White would offer. Pile. There, I said it.
Then he went off and couldn’t be stopped, winning seventeen games versus the top of the gauntlet including Ravager, Goblins, and Tooth and Nail. It wasn’t till we pulled out the elf deck I built for my wife that we could stop him (with Caller of the Claw).
The deck looks something like this.
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Vine Trellis
4 Ravenous Baloth
3 Molder Slug
4 Plow Under
4 Exalted Angel
2 Eternal Dragon
3 Decree of Justice
4 Akroma’s Vengeance
4 Wrath of God
4 Windswept Heath
3 Tranquil Thicket
3 Secluded Steppe
3 Temple of the False God
When Johnny first ran his Green/White ideas by me/ I said that it seemed that the problem in building Green/White control was that the deck had little to no manipulation, and you’d have to make all of your card advantage off of several cards like Wrath, Vengeance, or Decree. That didn’t seem like it would be enough. Well, when he built the deck, it didn’t really come out as a control deck either. The deck couples mana acceleration and fixing with power creatures and sweeping spells. One of the things about Regionals is that if you don’t know what to take or are worried about something, anything, then play a deck with Akroma’s Vengeance. It answers everything but indestructible creatures.
The mana is pretty darn good, despite the fact that you are looking for early Green, then for both WW and GG. Hint: You probably should put that first cycle land into play tapped. Watch what you grab with Windswept Heath. And you don’t have a lot of Plains to fetch with Eternal Dragon. You should get very good sideboard options for the current metagame.
For my part, I just tried to move the deck along with some cycling and numbers adjustments.
Lets look at a few matchups in a theoretical light.
You have a lot of problem cards for them and acceleration to get them deployed. Trellis. Baloth. Slug. Angel. Wrath. And finally, their general bane, Vengeance. Sideboard? How much artifact hate would you like? Oxidize is a no-brainer, and one can go as high as you’d like from there.
It’s almost the same story. Trellis and Wrath. Baloth. From the sideboard you get CoP: Red.
Tooth and Nail
The worst stuff you can do to them is Plow Under and then play Molder Slug. They don’t like that guy, because he runs off their artifact men. You can get hosed by Mindslaver, but in this matchup, Ivory Mask is likely a sideboard option for both this reason and some great Fireball pointed at your dome.
We may have some problems here. It’s likely that they outclass you in spells for this matchup. Your only really good card is Plow Under, and if they are U/W, you need to try and bait them into that. Interestingly, one might make a play for Aether Vial in the sideboard here.
Look, I’m not touting this as some Regionals uberdeck. It is solid and easy to play. The sideboarding shouldn’t be to tough for you. Vengeance should be an answer to just about anything, especially some offbeat, combo-packed into rogue.dec. It carries a suite of creatures that, if deployed and not answered, are a lot of trouble – especially Exalted Angel, and here she’s backed by mana acceleration and fixing.
Tooth and Nail
I built this as an experiment…
Green/Black Tooth and Nail
4 Tooth and Nail
1 Darksteel Colossus
1 Platinum Angel
1 Leonin Abunas
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Diabolic Tutor
1 Oblivion Stone
4 Vine Trellis
4 Chromatic Sphere
3 Rampant Growth
3 Reap and Sow
4 Sylvan Scrying
2 City of Brass
It was built on the premise that Diabolic Tutor would let you do whatever you wanted to do more reliably, and that Infest was pretty good versus the two beatdown decks. It should be noted the mana is a little troublesome, especially in timing with Infest. Pyroclasm is superior, except that one can’t Welding Jar out from an Infest. I imagined creating a discard sideboard, which I felt would help against control and in the mirror. I thought Smother might be nice too. We could think of other things I’m sure, like Barter in Blood, etc.
I played this deck in one tournament, where I won ten games in a row only, to get smoked in the finals by a Ravager deck that boarded in Grab the Reins and threw my Colossus at my head. Ouch!
If I were going to go a more traditional route, I’d run this G/r version.
G/r Tooth and Nail
4 Tooth and Nail
2 Darksteel Colossus
2 Platinum Angel
2 Leonin Abunas
3 Oblivion Stone
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Vine Trellis
4 Reap and Sow
4 Sylvan Scrying
3 Temple of the False God
Nothing ground shattering, just built with card numbers I like.
I’ll be at the Plains Regional in Lincoln, NE playing who knows what.
My wife has been making friends with a few Midwest shop owners. She’s now a salesperson with a hobby distributor. Thanks for asking about me.
It’s been a while since I’ve written. In December, I somehow injured my back and right arm at the computer in such a way that typing for any length of time became an almost intolerable pain. It is just now that I’ve gotten to the point I could do this article.
My wife got laid off last August, and in part because of that, we had to sort of close my shop, Green Dragon Games in DeSoto, MO. It was a sad day. As a business, it is down to running a few tournaments in my garage. That’s not much of a business…
At some point I hope to detail of lot of what happened with that, how I felt about things, and why I had to close it. Suffice it to say, if you live somewhere outside of a big city and you have somewhere local to play, I can almost guarantee you that prices aren’t too high, that the person doing it is doing it for some reason other than just the money, and that you’d better be cool and say a prayer of thanks for what you’ve got. Help the man out. Pick up your trash. Say thanks. Pay where you play, and play there as often as you can. It is still highly proper to get those singles you can’t find anywhere else right here from StarCityGames.com.
And Good Luck,
Still operating at a transfer rate of 22.4 kbps somewhere in the boonies…