Tribal Thriftiness #25 – Anti-Aggro Options for Regionals

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Thursday, May 29th – With single prices on some cards approaching orbits previously only known to the International Space Station, Dave takes a look at some of the new, proven decks from Hollywood that can be adjusted to meet the more down-to-earth budget. Plus, dragons! Who doesn’t like dragons?

By now, no doubt you’ve seen or read some mention of the big Standard Pro Tour event that happened this past weekend, the event that was supposed to be dominated by Faeries and was eventually won by Black-Green Elves. The tournament went a long way in determining what the new metagame will look like come U.S. Regionals in a few weeks, and I think that, even if you’re a budget player, if you’re contemplating playing in Regionals, there’s a lot to be gained from the results.

And in addition to shaping what other people will be playing, there also were a couple of control-style decks that can easily be adapted for a budget player.

Rare Cost Summary (maindeck):
Grove of the Burnwillows ($6.00 x 4 = $24.00)
Chameleon Colossus ($15.00 x 4 = $60.00)
Cloudthresher ($7.50 x 3 = $22.50)
Grim Poppet ($1.50 x 1 = $1.50)
Primal Command ($7.00 x 2 = $14.00)

In all honesty, that’s not bad for a modern Standard deck. Compare, for instance, Charles Gindy winning decklist, with full sets of Tarmogoyf (still $50) and Thoughtseize ($20) and Colossi … not to mention the Profane Commands ($10).

Marijn Lybaert Red-Green Snow deck put him in the Top 8, but is clearly designed to beat up on Faeries first and foremost. To that end, he ran both Cloudthresher and Firespout maindeck, with Magus of the Moon ($7.50) and Pyroclasm to add in from the sideboard. The maindeck Faerie-specific cards didn’t help him, unfortunately, in his Top-8 match against Reveillark – but as the metagame will undoubtedly still be defined by Faeries, and now Elves and Merfolk, this anti-beatdown deck remains a solid choice for Regionals.

For those of us on an especially stringent budget, can we cut the cost down even further?

Chameleon Colossus appears to be the biggest chunk of change, and as a hard-to-remove threat that can end games quickly, he is a hard one to replace. You could possibly run the currently-out-of-favor Tenth Edition reprint, Troll Ascetic ($10), in his place. Both survive your own Firespouts and Pyroclasms (as well as your opponents), and both evade the Black removal in the format like Terror and Nameless Inversion. Sadly, the Troll gets chumped by Bitterblossom tokens all day long, but needs must when the devil drives.

Cloudthresher is practically an imperative to winning the Faeries matchup. Faeries, as a deck, is not going away any time soon, so you’ll really need to maximize your chances to completely clear their board (and sometimes get yourself a big monster at the same time).

Changing out Grove of the Burnwillows into Karplusan Forest (also $6) doesn’t make any sense from a financial standpoint, but you could opt to cut them and add in the last two Highland Wealds, filling out with basic Snow lands.

From the sideboard, the Tarmogoyfs and Garruk Wildspeakers ($20) need to be changed out. Options include: filling out the Pyroclasms for Elves and Merfolk; Guttural Response for control matches; additional Faerie Macabres for the Reveillark matchup.

Another anti-beatdown option is the “Quick ‘n’ Toast” deck that Guillaume Wafo-Tapa played:

Rare Cost Summary (maindeck):
Grove of the Burnwillows ($6.00 x 1 = $6.00)
Mystic Gate ($10.00 x 2 = $20.00)
Reflecting Pool ($10.00 x 4 = $40.00)
Sunken Ruins ($11.00 x 2 = $22.00)
Yavimaya Coast ($6.00 x 4 = $24.00)
Cloudthresher ($7.50 x 3 = $22.50)
Oona, Queen of the Fae ($5.00 x 1 = $5.00)
Cryptic Command ($20.00 x 4 = $80.00)
Slaughter Pact ($4.00 x 2 = $8.00)

Again you can see the Cloudthresher / Firespout package dedicated to beating Faeries, this time paired with half of a Makeshift Mannequin deck. Yes, that’s a lot of rares, but the main costs are the manabase and the Cryptic Commands.

To replace the costly Cryptic Commands, you have a bevy of countermagic at your disposal. No, obviously, none of them are going to be as versatile as the Command, but they aren’t going to cost you twenty apiece, either. Ideal candidates are probably Cancel as a catch-all counterspell fitting into the multiple-Blue mana cost slot, or Remove Soul, which is close to a straight-up counterspell in today’s creature-heavy environment. An argument could even be made for Mystic Snake ($2.50), who plays well with the Makeshift Mannequin side of the deck.

As for the manabase… well, the deck wants triple-Blue for Cryptic Command and Oona, and at least double-Green for Cloudthresher. That’s very greedy, and the Reflecting Pools are the lands that tie it all together, acting as painless Cities of Brass once you get a Vivid land out. With the Cryptic Commands needing to be replaced, however, I think it is possible to swap out the Shadowmoor lands that were necessary to provide part of the UUU. Options include the appropriate Tenth Edition painlands (Adarkar Wastes and Underground River, both $7) which you might have just lying about, but I think the argument could also be made to just run basic lands in those slots. The White from the Mystic Gates is solely for sideboard cards, and the black from the Sunken Ruins is for paying Slaughter Pact’s cost.

The sideboard is in need of little rearranging. Teferi’s Moat is $2; Mind Shatter is $2.50.

I like both of these deck options. I’m not the Green beatdown player I used to be (as mentioned a few articles ago); I’m much more of a “board control” player now. I like to have the options and the answers, rather than posing a set number of questions, I guess. I’m not about to jump into the “cool kid’s group” and start playing those annoying Faeries.

But… my inner Timmy still has a voice.

There’s a third option here. Not necessarily “anti-aggro” in the sense that the first two decks were; there’s no mass removal to clear a board of Elf tokens or Merfolk. But it has the ability to race, especially against decks that have no ability to say “no” to what it wants to do. Sadly, there were only three of these decks in the Pro Tour, and not a single one made Day 2 so I could have an updated decklist for my article. Oh well, the one from the recent Star City 2K event certainly works fine for me:

Rare Cost Summary:
Lotus Bloom ($8.00 x 4 = $32.00)
Bogardan Hellkite ($10.00 x 4 = $40.00)
Knollspine Dragon ($2.00 x 1 = $2.00)
Pyromancer’s Swath ($2.00 x 2 = $4.00)
Dragonstorm ($5.00 x 4 = $20.00)
Spinerock Knoll ($2.50 x 4 = $10.00)

I think, now more than ever, that with the introduction of Knollspine Dragon into this deck, that Pyromancer’s Swath is less and less useful. Yes, it allows you to have a nice combo with Grapeshot, but once you Dragonstorm, you should be able to fetch enough burn with the Knollspine Dragon (as your last Dragon) to finish off your opponent, even from a Dragonstorm for three. I think the slot would be better served by running a mass-removal spell, like the sideboarded Sulfurous Blast, in the maindeck. The Blast can be used at your opponent’s end-of-turn to force them to counter it, allowing you to go off the next turn a little more confidently. (The third card I’d remove is most likely a Tarfire.)

I really like the addition of Pact of Negation ($6) as another weapon against anyone who wants to muck about with your combo, but Faeries especially. There’s nothing more satisfying than stopping their Spellstutter Sprite or (especially) Mistbind Clique for zero mana, all the while increasing the Storm count.

Options for cutting costs: None, sadly. With the rotation of Seething Song with Tenth Edition, Lotus Bloom becomes more necessary to going off early, and of course the Hellkites are kinda the whole reason the deck works as well as it does. You could potentially cut down to three Dragonstorms, but I don’t recommend it. The nice flipside here is that, if you were interested in playing Dragonstorm a year and a half ago when the Blue-Red version ruled the skies, you probably have a good bit of the core of the deck already set aside.

So there you go: three potential anti-aggro options for Regionals. If you aren’t interested in beating face with the creatures, or it just isn’t your style, these three decks offer some proven success while being adaptable to your budget.

Next week I may take a little break from budgetary talks as we approach Regionals – I’d like to talk about the deck I will have settled on by then, hopefully, and about my own process of picking a deck for a tournament.

Until then…