TOP TEN CARDS FROM INVASION: A SECOND LOOK
Well, Bennie stole my idea. He made a lot of good points in his article earlier this week (link it up, oh Ferretty One), but you know I’m still going to have two cents to throw in. Please note that this is in relevance to Standard only – we’ll get to Extended here in a short bit.
My votes for a restructured Top Ten:
FACT OR FICTION: Present in just about every deck that could run it (and even in one State Champion Blastogeddon deck, which relied on Birds to cast it!), this card surely is living up to its reputation. I had one Fact or Fiction that turned over two Recoils, two land, and a Squee. I was getting three cards no matter which pile I picked, and three cards for four mana is pretty good in my book, not to mention the fact that it helps you dig for the pieces you need. Is Fact or Fiction broken? It’s definitely good, and gets better in proportion to the non-good-ness of your opponent, but in the end, it’s still just bent, not broken.
URZA’S RAGE: The Rage surprised no one and was a big hit at States, even to the point where I heard tales (hopefully tall ones) of someone Raging out their opponent with two Chills on the board. With the long, drawn-out nature of the games today, the uncounterable, unpreventable damage of the Rage gets around almost all of your opponent’s protection to smash him for the last few points. It used to be that against Red, you couldn’t let yourself get to around eight without expecting to be double-Fireblasted out of existence; now, blue mages will have to be wary of getting below ten life. Don’t despair, though, noble readers – I also heard a couple of fun stories about avoiding the Rage, including one player Undermining it (with his opponent at two life) and winning before the Rage resolved, and one player surviving a Rage by trying to counter it with Absorb. Speaking of those two…
ABSORB AND UNDERMINE: Both of these new gold counters were very good. Undermine was played in both the Nether-Go style control deck, and the blue/black Fish decks, where Absorb was played in the blue/white control decks. There were a lot of people looking to trade for Undermines in Edison – even the lone dealer there had sold out of them.
THE TAPLANDS: The new lands live up to their billing. While the Ice Age painlands are still being played, having access to eight lands that produce both your colors of mana has really smoothed out the mix for two-color decks. A lot of three-color decks were also made possible by these guys (including B/U/W 3c-Fish, R/B/U discard including Borg-2K, and W/G/R ‘Geddon decks like the one Bennie Smith played). With the Extended season in full swing, it will be interesting to see if two-color decks will use these in addition to the traditional dual lands. (I’m bettin’ not – The Ferrett)
FIRES OF YAVIMAYA: Blastoderm, without argument, is awesome. Fires of Yavimaya makes him the only creature you need. Okay, that may be stretching it a little, but this gold enchantment is still making a huge dent in the Type II scene, winning nearly a quarter of the US State Championships. Look at all this thing does, too – it gives Blastoderm another swing, lets you play mana critters for free (essentially), gives you the ability to launch a surprise counterattack, and then even sacs to do the last couple of points. At three mana, this baby comes down on turn two with enough mana acceleration, and that means your turn-three Blastoderm comes out ready to fight.
NOBLE PANTHER: Seems to be becoming a secondary creature of choice in G/W BlastoGeddon decks. Because the new lands and the mana critter base smooth out the mix so well, the casting cost is a non-issue, and the ability to first-strike away guys like Skizzik (not to mention any chump blockers) is certainly a bonus.
SCORCHING LAVA: The second burn spell in the Top Ten, this guy saw a lot of play, not only in the maindeck, but also in the sideboard. It took care of Nether Spirits, as well as River Boas and Pyre Zombies. I wonder if it will see any use in Extended when you can use it against Academy Rector?
JADE LEECH: With Kavu Titan in the set, why did Jade Leech see so much play? Mostly because of the prevalence of Parallax Wave, which effectively neuters the Titan when he comes back into play. Because of the mana acceleration available to G/x, Jade Leech’s drawback became negligible, and having another 5/5 beating stick to choose from made the offense that much stronger.
ROUT: Instant-speed Wrath of God? Thanks, don’t mind if I do. U/W control decks were able to play as many as eight Wraths, enabling them to completely control the board. It may not take out artifacts or enchantments, but it did fill the void left by Nevinyrral’s Disk (and Powder Keg, to some extent).
KELDON NECROPOLIS: With long, drawn-out battles and huge creature standoffs, this Legendary Land became central to pushing through the last few points of damage. Even though its cost is much higher than Rath’s Edge, the Necropolis found a home in chucking those useless mana-accelerators once their impact gone. And for two damage, no less. I’ve seen a LOT of people bad-mouthing Keldon Necropolis, but it seriously belongs here (as it is another uncounterable source of damage).
THE NOT-SO-TOP TEN
With every upside there must be a downside. Which cards were heavily hyped leading into States, only to be left mostly in binders at home?
BLAZING SPECTER: Not only did this guy not live up to his previous billing as”the new Hyppie,” but he was one-upped in most decks by Abyssal Specter. Why? Two reasons. The one-color casting cost allowed Abyssal Specter to be cast more reliably, and the three toughness meant it was protected from the two-point direct damage spells that were present in abundance (Shock, Seal of Fire, Assault/Battery, Scorching Lava).
TEFERI’S MOAT: Because of the dual-colored nature of most decks in the format, it became necessary to play more than one Moat out in order to give yourself solid protection. Problem was, most decks weren’t playing more than a couple to start with. The fact that it didn’t protect against Chimeric Idols or Blinding Angel or Troublesome Spirit was, well, troublesome.
And now, with all that information under your skull cap, feel free to sit on it for awhile, unless you happen to be lucky enough to be participating in PT: Chicago. As you know, us lofty highbrow muckity-muck writers have a tendency to focus on the Qualifier format at hand, and that happens to be…
We’ve already gotten a good indication of what the metagame looks like, what with the Master Series at PTNY and three Grand Prixs already, not to mention the fact that we’re already two weeks into the season. Just looking at the four big tournaments in this format, you can see that there’s a WIDE variety of decks that are not only winning, but carrying their players into the Top 8. Trix and Tradewind-Survival, both heavily played in the Masters, have continued to make showings, as well as perennial favorites like the 5-color Recurring Survival, CounterSliver, Sligh, Oath of Druids, and Stompy. Three-Deuce is back as well after its solid freshman outing last year, and Pandenaught is”sorta” back, this year as a Replenish-based combo deck with Saproling Burst (called, originally enough, Pandeburst).
So what does Invasion add to all this?
Hardly anything at all.
So far, it looks like only Fact or Fiction has really cracked into winning decks, and only spottily at that. There was one Sterling Grove in an Oath deck, but that’s gotta be an oddball. For the most part, it seems that people are playing pretty close to the same decks they played last year.
Where’s the Coalition Victory deck?
As you probably know by now, I have a tendency towards offbeat decks, and so now, as is my wont in life, I give you…
STUPID GREEN (AND ???)
During last year’s Extended season, I attempted to bring back one of my favorite all-time decks, Stupid Green. I got a lot of input, most of it bad, including emails from Rob Kinyon and Seth Burn – the creators of the original Type II version. The final verdict was that Stupid Green didn’t really have a place in that particular Extended season.
For newer players without a hands-on experience of this deck, let me start by giving a little introduction. Stupid Green was, in essence, a mono-green control deck. The core of the deck revolved around re-using a number of Green’s CIP and special-ability creatures (like Uktabi Orangutan, Wall of Blossoms, Wall of Roots, Spike Feeder, and Spike Weaver), until finally being able to deal enough damage to your opponent (via Cursed Scroll or Eladamri’s Vineyard mana-burn) to win out. However, I am leaving out one crucial creature, and this guy worked both ends of the deal:
Since I know half of you will have to look it up, here he is:
One on end, the Beests are 5/4 tramplers for four mana; on the other end, their”drawback” allows you to reuse the CIP guys, or to refresh the counters on your Spikes. Nowadays, the drawbacks on the”five-power-for-four-mana” guys are things like”I die in four turns” or”I let your opponent whack you in the mouth,” and trample seems to be a quality they reserve for 1cc 1/1 elves.
In any event, the deck can lock down creature rushes pretty well, with two different types of walls for early defense and the Spikes for late game heroics. And because a turn-one or two Elf can perpetuate a turn-three Wildebeests (and feed its upkeep), the potential to swing an early beatdown puts pressure on the control decks.
I enjoyed playing this deck so much when it was Type-II legal that I worked on a replacement for it using Umbilicus. Umbilicus was nice because it was still a two-edged sword – you got to reuse your most important creatures while your opponent was being disrupted (instead of damaged). However, it never got off the ground due in large part to its weakness against combo, plus losing some key early defensive cards like Wall of Roots. Last year I tried to bring the deck back around, but the deck relied on Eladamri’s Vineyard for both early mana and late damage, and there were too many decks that could use that GG without any problems, and I never found a suitable replacement.
So once again I’m pulling it out, and this year it’s coupled with the question:”If you could splash a second color in Stupid Green, what would it be and what would you add?” Assume you can search out at the very least a couple of lands in your chosen splash color using either Land Grant or Wood Elves. Would you add Tropical Islands for Fact or Fiction? Would you add Taigas for Urza’s Rage? Would you keep it mono-green, but add one of the Kicker beasts like Thicket Elemental or Verdeloth the Ancient?
Here’s a good prototype for us to start with:
I’ll take up all the responses and post next week with any results I come up with, along with the other Extended decks I’m working on. Until then, take care!
Dave Meeson, whose Borg name is still”Zero of Four”