Winning With The Little Guys

“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have
wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness.”

"Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his
judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness." –Zephaniah 36:02

"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." –Matthew 40:05

(I actually don’t know if I did the whole chapter:verse quoting there
correctly. But rest assured, I will eventually get around to speaking of the Meek. I will only speak of Planeshift in passing and at the very end. You can thus consider this an oasis from the Planeshift reviews. Come ye and rest oh weary… Dangit… That Bible stuff got me feeling all funny.)

So I won my first mini online tournament the other day. It was exciting
stuff. Along the way I beat Nether-Go, Counter-Rebels, Blue Skies and Fires with my quirky little Type II deck. In celebration, bouncing around my study with arms raised – I even managed to pull a calf muscle. In fact, I was so pumped up that I promptly entered another mini the next day. After three hard-fought games against a Skies deck, I lost in the second round (for
those of you not well-versed in the wonders of online tourneys, they tend to
be single-elimination). Ah well. Sometimes Magic is like that.

Still, a 5-1 tournament record against the top decks out there was good
enough for me. After all, it had been a looooong time since I had approximated anything that even remotely resembles competitive play.

And I did it with a deck of my own creation. That alone is worth discussing. So amidst a stale environment and the fervor of a new set release, here is the tale of my little (dare I say "meek"?) deck.


Before the holidays I decide to peruse the cards in the Type 2 environment
and find one that was a) fun, b) good, and c) underused. I found, um… Squirrel Wrangler. Hey… Wait! Don’t go flipping to the Planeshift reviews yet! This is just the original concept… Calm down there, bucko.

Here’s what I realized about Squirrel Wrangler:

Let’s say I have a Llanowar Elf, five land on the table and a Squirrel
Wrangler. That’s a reasonable scenario, I think, and actually fairly conservative. At the end of my opponent’s turn I pay six mana, sac three lands, and get six 1/1 squirrels. Then I untap, drop a land, pay four mana, sac another two lands to pump my little critters and attack for… what? Twenty? Wowzers. That’s pretty cool. And I would be attacking with SQUIRRELS! There is a lot to like about killing your opponent with squirrels. (Next best thing to weasels — The Ferrett)

I tried the following deck:

Rocky (flying squirrels… get it??)

4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Stampede Driver
4x River Boa
4x Squirrel Wrangler
3x Blinding Angel
2x Vine Trellis

3x Wax/Wane
3x Skyshroud Claim
3x Meekstone
2x Worldly Tutor
2x Collective Unconscious

4x Brushland
4x Rishadan Port
3x Plains
11x Forest

Not bad, actually. There are some neat synergies there. And not
surprisingly, Squirrel Wrangler was the card that won me the most games. With the Claim and all of the mana critters, I could easily just wait around until it was time for a big squirrel-fest and then go crazy (as squirrels are wont to do). Blinding Angel turned out to be huge, since it gave me the opportunity for said waiting.

In the end, the bright little idea to include Blinding Angel cost me my beloved Squirrel Wrangler. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Another card turned out to be really, quite unexpectedly, powerful and that
card was Meekstone. Meekstone shut down Fires’ big monsters. It frustrated Blue Skies to no end. Meanwhile all of my little beasties merrily went about their business under Meekstone without missing a step.

Best of all: Nobody expected it, nor were they prepared for it.

The deck obviously wasn’t perfect. For one thing, there were a LOT of
one-toughness fellas just waiting to be Earthquaked. Or Simooned. Or Massacred. Or Perished. My fragile creatures became more and more of a concern the more I played. Then Mike Mason started spouting off about his GOD deck and how great Earthquake was. Meanwhile I was sitting at my computer screaming, "Shut up, Mike! Stop it! Save the Squirrels!"

There was also the mana-flooding problem. Squirrel Wrangler was there to
clear up any excess land, but once my opponent figured out what I was doing the Wrangler just got countered or killed right away. It was a little TOO focused on the Wrangler, and didn’t survive without the crazy druid very well.

Finally, the Wrangler and Angel kept bickering about who was the feature card. I often found myself wondering whether to go for the squirrel-kill or to cast an Angel instead. Because you can’t do both. And if the squirrel-kamikazi for some reason doesn’t work, the Angel will NOT be making an appearance. Over and over and over again the choice between which strategy to pursue for the win felt like an either-or. For a couple of games I took Blinding Angel out of the deck and lost horribly. Taking the Wrangler out, meanwhile, allowed me to focus on more early damage-dealing.

If there is one thing I hate, it is when the card I decide to make a deck around becomes obsolete through playtesting.

I eventually reached that critical decision-point that deckbuilders reach…
Do you keep a card because it is sentimentally good, or to make way for cards that win games and that everyone else is playing?

Since I knew I wanted to enter an online tourney soon, I begrudgingly set
Squirrel Wrangler aside. For the record, I still think it’s a good, fun and
underused card. There’s a deck to be made with Squirrel Wrangler in it, trust me. Just not this one. Sad.

Instead, through no fault of my own I assure you, Meekstone became my fun
and underused card on which to base the deck. A strange feature card, to be sure. But in an environment in which creatures are the rule and non-Rebel weenies are forgotten, Meekstone turned out to be a fine maindeck choice. And personally I’m rather proud to build a green deck with Meekstone.

Besides, now I could play with Armageddon, Blinding Angel, and Meekstone all in the same deck. If that’s not a theme deck, I don’t know what is. Let Mike Mason play GOD all he wants… I’m taking the side that will INHERIT the earth. Boo ya!

As an aside, I think Mike’s deck is great. You should give it a whirl. The
deck is both competitive and fun to play. He recently made noises about taking Primal Clay out of the deck. I capped my hands over my ears and started singing loudly. I tried to explain in calm tones that Primal Clay was one of my favorite parts about the deck. I may have lost Squirrel Wrangler, dammit, but don’t take away Primal Clay, too!


Here is the deck I brought to the two tournaments and some explanation of
the card choices. The deck ended up looking like a regular G/W ‘Geddon deck, but with some fairly striking peculiarities.

the meek

4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
4x River Boa
4x Chimeric Idol
4x Pincer Spider
4x Charging Troll
4x Blinding Angel

4x Wax/Wane
3x Meekstone
3x Armageddon

4x Brushland
4x Rishadan Port
4x Plains
10x Forest

4x Aura Mutation
4x Kavu Chameleon
3x Tangle
2x Last Breath
1x Meekstone
1x Armageddon

The result of all of my Meekstone nonsense is a decidedly mid-range deck.
The strategy against virtually every opponent is to drop early threats, ride the early damage until it’s gone and then mop up with Blinding Angel. Armageddon, like the Angel (and Meekstone, too), prevents decks from responding to this particular strategy.

The creature mix is highly diverse and a little bizarre… against some
decks the River Boa will be the key to victory. In others, it will be Pincer Spider or Chimeric Idol. Charging Troll is fantastic against some decks and overcosted in others. Blinding Angel is either vital or superfluous. The trick to playing the deck is knowing what is going to win you the game and what is simply a diversion. This means that the timing of what-comes-when is striking in its importance – almost moreso than any deck I’ve built. It is thus not a deck that plays itself, which is odd for a deck trying to bash an opponent with creatures.

Enough of generalities. Here is a more in-depth look at the card choices…

Birds of Paradise – The Birds are splendid for so many reasons it’s silly.
They give a mana boost, smooth out the mana-mix, don’t die to Earthquake, speed the recovery after an Armageddon… And on and on. That said, I usually lead with Llanowar Elves on Turn 1 if I have a choice. If something is going to get whacked I would prefer it be the Elves. Besides, the Elves give the possibility of a second-turn attack in the way the Birds don’t.

Llanowar Elves – Also splendid, for the same reasons Birds and Elves are
nifty in Fires. And like Fires, the Elves give an opportunity for early offense if needed. Unlike Fires, the Birds and Elves are not necessary for survival in this deck because there aren’t a plethora of mana-heavy spells here. This means the Elves are slightly more expendable early and can move to the offensive faster. It also means that while Simoon stings a great deal, it is not necessarily a game-breaker.

River Boa – Because the this deck tries its darndest to a) keep the mana
curve relatively low, and b) keep Meekstone a one-sided effect, the River Boa is the perfect two-drop creature. So many decks today use Islands that the Boa is more often than not unblockable, and it is one of the best anti-Blastoderm cards around. If there is a downside, it is that I have now listed twelve one-toughness creatures with Fires decks packing Simoon against the mirror-matchup. As I said, this can be awfully frustrating. Just be sure that the mana critters are willing to throw a regeneration shield around the Boa with their dying breath.

Chimeric Idol – Usually one of the prime threats for opponents who use
Wrath-like effects. It also becomes the most dangerous cards during games 2 and 3 in many matchups because it is immune to Perish, Wash Out, etc. So many decks now are forgoing artifact control for enchantment control (including this one, but shhhh!) that often the Idol will survive longer than before. Then again, that means more people use Idols, which then slants decks against artifacts again. Sigh… it’s all so complicated. Still, Chimeric
Idol is just too good not to use as long as there are Elves and Birds to help regenerate the Boas and Trolls.

Pincer Spider – The first "Huh?" spell in the deck. Thank God. Can you imagine me building a deck without using something like this? But I’m not just trying to be different; I think Pincer Spider is an overlooked gem. It blocks all of Blue Skies’ threats except Troublesome Spirit (and it _will_ block the Spirit when its kicker is paid). It also blocks Blinding Angel, which is a huge plus for a combat-based deck. It’s fast enough to slip through counterspells. And, of course, it ignores Meekstone. I will
admit that in some instances the Spider feels silly to drop… And Fires is
one of those instances. But it’s hard to build a deck that can beat both Fires and Blue Skies, and doing so means picking some odd spells for your spellbook.

Charging Troll – The unfortunate replacement to Squirrel Wrangler. I
eventually conceded that the Troll was a better fit than the poor Wrangler, even if he didn’t like squirrels as much (the Troll did grunt something about "lunch," but I tried not to listen). There is the occasional time when it taps because of regeneration and gets stuck under Meekstone, which is admittedly annoying. But it is yet another Blastoderm solution and
can kill Lin Sivvi (even with Crusade on the table… Keen!). Charging Troll doesn’t have the game-ending potential of the Wrangler, but I get laughed at less, which I guess is a good thing.

Blinding Angel – I go back and forth whether 3 or 4 Angels is the best
number for the maindeck. Against most decks, the Angel wins the game all by its lonesome, and the damage the other creatures provide just means fewer turns for an opponent to draw an answer. Against a few decks–usually control decks–it feels a little more silly to have 3 of these in my hand. Still, since they beat Fires, Rebels and Skies almost singlehandedly I think it’s best to err on the side of caution. Besides… I’m not entirely sure what I
would do with that extra slot. Maybe one more Forest if I really thought
about it. For awhile I had three Trolls and three Angels to include two Tangles. That worked okay, but having only two copies of non-redundant cards in a deck is not the path towards Consistency.

Wax/Wane – I like this card because it gets used about half the time as Wax
and about half as Wane. This shouldn’t be the sign of a good split card necessarily, but it makes me happy nonetheless. Wax is good for dealing the last couple points of lethal damage or for saving a critter from damage (and killing an opponent’s), and Wane is of course essential against spells like Saproling Burst and Parallax Wave/Tide. Of course this means I have
no artifact removal in the maindeck, but I clearly am not too concerned
because I have none in the sideboard either. In my mind, the only artifacts to fear these days are Idol and Ankh of Mishra. I can kill Idol in combat and can work around Ankh easily because of the Birds, Elves, and cheap threats.

Meekstone – Who knew when I set out to make a Squirrel Wrangler deck that I would end up with a Meekstone deck? This card is TOO amusing in today’s environment. Fires shuts down. Crusade becomes a liability. All of Blue Skies’ primary threats fall over. Of course, the inclusion of Meekstone means I have limited my own creature selection. Blastoderm, Noble Panther and Jade Leech might show up in a normal G/W deck, for example.
I have even managed to avoid using Armadillo Cloak, which is a shame. But given my win-loss record, I can’t say that I’m sacrificing a huge amount by limiting myself with Meekstone.

Armageddon – I resisted including Armageddon for a long time because then it would become a plain ‘ole G/W ‘Geddon deck. Why is that a problem? Well, for a deck that started out being built around Squirrel Wrangler, it is a bit frustrating on a personal level to see the gravitation towards an archetype. Unfortunately, when the Wrangler finally made room for Charging Troll, the deck suddenly screamed for Armageddon (not literally, though that does make for a funny picture). It helps that Rebels was the deck’s previously weak matchup, and that problem got solved a bit with Armageddon. It may look odd to have Armageddon in a deck with only twenty-two land. But keep in mind there are actually thirty mana sources and the mana curve, on average, is pretty low with twenty cards that cost two mana or less.

BrushlandBrushland is perfect in this deck; it smooths out the mana, but
is not used so much as to worry about the loss of life. More often than not, it works fine as a source of colorless mana. I did not include Elfhame Palace for obvious reasons – the deck has eleven things it wants to do on Turn 1 to set up an accelerated Turn 2. City of Brass is tempting, but although colorless mana is fine I do end up tapping my lands a lot, and so it
would hurt too much.

It’s odd to me that by not using Elfhame Palace, I am essentially building a pre-Invasion two-color deck… And Masques was generally considered a monocolor-only environment. I’m using Invasion for what – Charging Troll? That’s the only gold card, and substituting Disenchant for Wax/Wane wouldn’t have been terribly bad. If you needed any evidence that Urza block was too fast, it can be found somewhere in the fact that multicolor decks are viable again, even sans Invasion.

Rishadan Port – A big "duh" card. Do I really need to explain why I think
this card is good? In an aggressive deck it slows (or sometimes downright prevents) an opponent from responding to my creature rush. It taps Islands to prevent good spells from being countered. It shuts down attempts to recover from a ‘Geddon. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I am extremely happy Wizards printed Tsabo’s Web and Teferi’s Response, but you have to be kidding me if you think those would prevent me from using the Port here.

Plains – Just enough to reliably cast Blinding Angel early, but not enough to
slow the deck’s heavy green bent. The Plains usually get used in conjunction with the Port to tap lands when they aren’t casting Angels. It would just seem funny to have the Meek not able to live on the Plains, don’t you think? Am I grossly stereotyping the Meek here?

Forest – There needs to be enough green sources of mana to drop a first-turn
Elf or Bird. After that, there needs to be enough to offer up regeneration shields for the Boas and Trolls. The deck could probably stand to have one more Forest, maybe in place of the fourth Blinding Angel.

Got all that? Good, then you should have no problem whatsoever deciphering the sideboard. In games 2 and 3, the deck suddenly becomes highly aware of spells like Wash Out and Perish. It suddenly needs to focus on ground forces or air forces, but rarely both. There are also some dead cards (including Meekstone) in the Rebels matchup that need to be addressed. All of these factors led me to the following sideboard…

Aura Mutation – Do not think for a moment that these replace Wax/Wane when sideboarding. Instead, they give the deck 8 ways to say "buh-bye" to that pesky Burst or Wave. Oh, and let’s not forget that those two enchantments give you six and four extra creatures, respectively. I have found little else as satisfying as Mutating a Saproling Burst. Call me crazy – except you in the back, freako.

Kavu ChameleonMeekstone doesn’t work too well against most things
passively blue. Thankfully, the ‘Stones and an Angel are happy to step aside to make way for this uncounterable fattie. Note that if played right he’s highly resistant to Wash Out and Perish. Not many people play black right now – but for those who do, these likely replace the Charging Trolls to make Perish less devastating.

Tangle – This card can be an absolute wrecking ball against Fires, Rebels
and Skies. Usually it is the coup-de-grace before your own killing blows, but sometimes it will buy you the extra turn you need to stabilize the board. I clearly prefer the former use to the latter, because my top-decking skills have atrophied considerably. And if your opponent happens to be relying on Blastoderm, you suddenly have no less than fifteen answers for ’em.

Last Breath – Not the most powerful of sideboard cards, but Last Breath does
remove Lin Sivvi from the game. And Blinding Angel. And Nether Spirit. And Pyre Zombie. And two mana is hard to argue for something that can do all that. Two copies probably aren’t enough to drastically sway the game in my favor after sideboarding, but they do help.

Meekstone – Because fatties are sure common these days. Who needs those good power-to-cost ratios? Feh.

Armageddon – Because control and Rebels players hate them, and these are the players I most enjoy frustrating.


I am acutely aware that I’m discussing this deck at a time when everyone is
quite happy with their NetDeck and looking towards Planeshift, thank you very much. I admit that the only reason for my posting the deck in the first place was because I have now moved on to the new spoilers myself and knew I wouldn’t be changing "the meek" anytime soon.

To tickle your brain (and mine), it’s worth looking at the Planeshift
spoilers and thinking about how this deck might change with the new environment. If I make any prediction, it is that cards like Phyrexian Scuta and Warped Devotion mean that black decks are suddenly back in the Type 2 mix. Which means, sadly, so is Perish. Ugh.

Based on the various spoilers floating around (and keep in mind that I am
writing this one day prior to the prerelease so don’t know the ACTUAL cards), here are a few cards that may or may not make "the meek" viable for the new Standard:

For the maindeck…

Thornscape Familiar – One of the primary holes in the deck as it stands now
is the noticeable lack of 2-cost spells. And while the Pincer Spider may be a
reasonable choice now, there are a lot of benefits to dropping the Spider for Thornscape Familiar instead. Now Armageddon hurts even less. Charging Troll costs three mana and Blinding Angel costs four. Wow does that sound nice. Of course the deck would now be overloaded with one-toughness creatures which would drive me crazy. There’s a solution somewhere to that
problem, I just know it.

Ancient Spider – On one spoiler this card was listed at 1GW instead of 2GW.
I highly doubt a 2/5 first-striking spider would cost three mana. As a three mana creature, this obviously fully and completely kicks Pincer Spider’s butt. For four mana, it would have to be more important than Charging Troll, which is hard to argue. If Troublesome Spirit becomes truly dominant, I can see making a case for this as a metagame choice – but just barely. I guess it’s nice not to be affected by Meekstone, though.

And for the sideboard…

Aurora Griffin – I have seen this creature’s power and toughness listed at
2/2, 2/3, and a whopping 3/4. I’ll take the most conservative guess and say it’s a 2/2. (Absolutely correct — The Ferrett) With the Griffin this deck suddenly has a bit of an answer for Wash Out and Perish. Against Perish, it can be hugely influential. Against Wash Out, it makes decisions about which color to call a lot more difficult (especially since the Griffin can target opponent’s permanents). The real question is whether the deck has enough white sources of mana to make it worthwhile.

Gaea’s Herald – My oh my, am I excited about this card. While it doesn’t
solve the Wash Out problem against blue, it does make those nasty counterspells a lot less spiffy. I have heard the concern with this fella is that he will cause green mages to overcommit to a creature rush too quickly. While this is a legitimate concern, it also means my River Boa can ALWAYS come out to play. Wheeeee!

(Oh – and for that Squirrel Wrangler deck, look no further than Primal Growth. With the Growth and Skyshroud Claim, unleashing the squirrels may just be a feasible way to beat an opponent yet. Hello… Molimo!)

There is also always the possibility given the new dragon lairs that "the
meek" could find room for a third splash color. Doing so might make room for either Treva’s or (more likely) Rith’s Charm. But adding either blue or red to the mix makes my head spin in a way that is awfully disorienting. For now, let’s just say I concede it is possible to add a third color, though I have no idea what to add or remove.


My little Meekstone deck went 15-2 in playtesting games (counting only the
Above configuration), which is about on par with its tournament performance. This suggests to me that it is a definite possibility as a metagame choice if you are feeling daring and silly. More striking is that even with Fires, Rebels, U/W and now Blue Skies dominating tournaments, there is still a lot of room for creativity. Those four decks create an
environment in which Meekstone looks surprisingly strong and is, at the very least, a worthy sideboard consideration.

This article also lets you know that I am back playing tournaments again,
for better or for worse. I’ll still try to make a viable Dragon deck (and now Squirrel Wrangler has me somewhat on a mission), so there is no worry about ever facing me in a normal match. But this also means I will likely spend less time with Planeshift generating 100,000 decks and more time finding a few good quirky ones. You have been warned.

Have fun generating new ideas for the new Standard.

Oh, and don’t forget to seek meekness, whatever the hell THAT means!

Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar
"doctorjay" on IRC