It’s still early days for the MD5 metagame, and I’m a bit short of decklists.* However, I can give you the breakdown of the results so far (92 decks** making T8). I will also do a card by card count for Mono-Green T8 decks, and do a very short report/analysis on the Mono-Green I took to T4 in a thirty-eight-player GPT last weekend. I’ll do more card by card breakdowns after GP: Orlando – you can request your favorites in the forums.
Here are the results going into the July 15th weekend. I am including results from GP: Zurich, eight PTQs and three GPTs that had at least thirty-three players.*** As I get more results, I will probably eliminate the GPTs. Results are shown as archetype, number making T8, percentage of all T8 decks.
Tooth & Nail
U/G Tooth & Nail
R/U March of the Indestructibles
Here’s my analysis of the metagame, going into GP Orlando:
Tooth and Nail has the most slots so far. It is very powerful – something I’ve known since I first started playing Stompy Stomp. However, neither Mono-Green Tooth, nor G/R Tooth should be considered for”best deck.” There is a better deck, but most people haven’t found it, yet.
What is it? The best deck in the field is U/G Tooth and Nail.**** U/G Tooth and Nail combines the raw power of T&N with countermagic like Condescend, and card drawing like Thirst for Knowledge and/or Serum Visions. (Thirst is better.) It is underplayed, but I don’t expect that to last beyond GP Orlando. That’s my prediction (and I’m submitting this article before the GP starts, so we’ll see how that prediction fares.)
Ravager Affinity is still popular, and is still strong despite all the hate. It can explode or draw a couple Disciples and win with life loss, even as the hate chews through its artifacts. Moreover, many people have the cards, the experience with the deck, and the confidence in it to play it, despite the hate. More importantly, as T&N rises, the amount of Affinity hate – maindeck and sideboard – will drop. Affinity is not dead, and its stock looks to be rising.
Mono-Green was my choice for a fun deck in a GPT, since I knew I wasn’t going to Orlando. It has a lot of power, eats Affinity for breakfast and has game against most common decks (although U/G T&N is a bear.) I’ll do a card by card breakdown later.
Mono-Red: Based on my local experience, this deck is extremely popular – almost half the field brought Big Red variants to last weekend’s GPT. It is solid, playable and cheap, but I don’t think it is a reliable choice if you want to qualify. In our GPT, fifteen Big Red decks arrived, but only one made T8. Still, expect to see it at Orlando, and face it at your local PTQ.
U/G Control: Eternal Witness and Crystal Shard are nifty, but I think U/G Tooth and Nail is just better. GP: Orlando should resolve that question.
U/W Control: This is a powerful deck, but not broken. The best builds seem to be the Pristine Angel, Leonin Abunas, Vedalken Shackles versions. As always, few people chose U/W control decks, but those who do can usually play a damn good game of Magic. U/W punishes mistakes, but rewards skillful play and playtesting.
The rest of the decks are a smattering of interesting archetypes, but these have not been very successful recently. I think nearly anything can be played to success, provided you know the deck very well, but only those mentioned above will be common. My recommendation for a test gauntlet would be:
Mono-Green Tooth & Nail
U/G Tooth & Nail
U/G Shard Control (fading?)
U/W Angel Control
We will see how these predictions shake out in Orlando.
Mono-Green Tourney Report:
A card by card breakdown of the eight Mono-Green decks that have made T8 so far follows my (brief) tourney report. Or just skip ahead to the next bold heading.
The local store had a GPT at 10:30 on July 15th. I hadn’t decided what to play as of 8am that morning. I had been carrying around a U/W Pristine Angel / Shackles deck, but wasn’t convinced I knew it well enough. I had a U/G Tooth laid out on my desk that morning, but it was sixty-five cards and wasn’t sure how to cut it. Since I was running short of time, I built Mono-Green, since I knew I could play that, had played versions in Type Two and elsewhere, and figured it would be fun.
Quick note: I wasn’t planning on going to Orlando, and my goal was to enjoy losing the rating points I earned at Nationals, so the main criteria was a deck that could be fun to play and not require too much thinking. Mono-Green is like that.
I arrived early (since Ingrid was head judge), and helped set up. Then I sat around with Barry (who has the same criterion for choosing decks: he was playing a White Bringer / Mindslaver deck with a cool sideboarding plan.) We were helping Justin throw together a White Weenie deck. We weren’t the most competitive group in the room – well, we choose funky decks, but we can play. Barry’s losses were all really close, and Justin and I both made T8. Justin made Top 2 – hopefully he’ll write a tourney report.
19 Forests (should have been 20, cutting either Glissa or a Sylvok)
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
3 Sylvok Explorer
3 Viridian Zealot
4 Eternal Witness
4 Viridian Shaman
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Fangren Firstborn
4 Molder Slug
1 Glissa, Sunseeker
4 Predator’s Strike
2 Beacon of Creation (all I could find that morning)
4 Tel-Jilad Justice
3 Creeping Mold
3 Sword of Fire and Ice
Round one was a mirror match, but I had two Predator’s Strike, and Eternal Witnesses to bring them back. I literally ran him over. Game two came down to my Fangren Firstborns and Nexi – and Predator’s Strike that kept the Firstborn alive to attack a second time. By that time, my stuff was unstoppably big. He had bugs from his Beacons of Creation – I had 4/3 Witnesses. Not a contest. I sideboarded out the Oxidizes and a couple Shamans for Karstoderms and a pair of Swords of Fire and Ice. Sword of Light and Shadow would have also worked fine – the goal is to get the Swords on a Blinkmoth, then gain some card advantage.
Round two was against Affinity. Jasper really knows how to play affinity, but he didn’t have his usual insane start. I Oxidized his turn one land, and his turn 2 land, and Shamaned a Welding Jar turn 2, and cast Eternal Witness and Oxidized something turn 4, and so on. I sided out a pair of Fangrens and three Ascetics for the Tel-Jilad Justices and the fourth Oxidize game two, and it wasn’t close. We played a couple for fun, and the only threat he ever got down – a turn 2 Somber Hoverguard – died to a Blinkmoth Nexus with Predator’s Strike.
Round three I played against Mono-Red control. Troll Ascetic was burn proof, but still killed Arc-Slogger with Predator’s Strike. These games were tight, but the attacking forces, pumped by a Fangren Firstborn that lived through a whole turn, proved sufficient. Electrostatic Bolt was a pain (I announced my turn 2 Sylvok Explorer with”cast Bolt Catcher” – and it did), but I pulled through. Sideboarding consisted of pulling the Oxidizes and Shamans for Karstoderms and two Swords.
Round four was against Affinity, again. See round two. Short, brutal, and completely one-sided. Sixteen maindeck methods of killing artifacts, plus Witnesses to use them all again, is a lot. And I have five more in the sideboard. Affinity only has a chance if they get a Disciple out immediately, and generally need a second shortly thereafter.
Round five I played against G/B Death Cloud. I was a bit slow, and he wasn’t. I mulliganed a one Blinkmoth, no forest hand, then a no land hand, and my first creature was a Shaman. He played a Mirrodin’s Core, Bauble to open, and a Solemn turn 3 – and a Death Cloud to clear my hand and board turn 6. He had three land and a creature after the Cloud – plus an Eternal Witness in hand and two in the graveyard. I sideboarded in three Karstoderms (Echoing Decay resistant) and the Swords (Death Cloud resistant) for some random stuff, and it still didn’t matter. He Terrored my Firstborn, so I couldn’t get much offense going before he managed a Death Cloud.
Round 6: ID. I had spent the time between games playing 5Color, instead of paying any attention to what others were playing, so once I did the math, I offered an ID. My opponent was happy to accept: he had seen my deck, and was playing Affinity.
Round of Eight: U/W Control.
Game one was decided, in retrospect, by winning the die roll. I won, and played a turn 2 Sylvok Explorer before he could possibly Condescend. Turn 3 I played a land, and a second Explorer (with one land and the other Sylvok untapped.) When he didn’t Condescend, I beat for one. Turn 4 I played a Blinkmoth and a Fangren Firstborn, still using the Sylvoks to protect against Condescend. He tapped out for a Pristine Angel on his turn, but I sent the team and Predator’s Strike allowed the Firstborn to live and Trample over the Angel. He cast a second Pristine, but I cast Eternal Witness to retrieve the Predator’s Strike and he conceded.
I sideboarded in the Sword of Fire and Ice and the Karstoderms, but I can’t remember exactly what I sided out. I think he won game two, but I won game three with some very fast beats. Viridian Shaman killed a Shackles, and eventually I got down two Fangrens, a Zealot, a Shaman, a Witness and some Blinkmoths. He tapped for Pristine Angel, at something like thirteen life and with Pulse of the Fields mana open, but I attacked with the crew. With two Fangrens coming, I added twelve counters to my attackers, and killed him without even having to use the Predator’s Strike my Witness had retrieved.
How important was Predator’s Strike? It won a lot of games, mainly because of the trample. I sent a Troll Ascetic, equipped with a Sword of Fire and Ice, into a Pristine Angel. The Strike meant I trampled over, so instead of regenerating and bouncing, I dealt damage, plus extra damage and a card off the Sword. Critical.
The Round of Four match had me paired against U/G Tooth and Nail. That was the deck I thought about bringing – but chickened out on. Both games***** were very close – with me being about to kill him and him topdecking Tooth and Nail to get Leonin Abunas and Platinum Angel on the last possible turn both times. At that point, the games came down to me trying to draw Molder Slug (and resolve it, since he played Condescend) before he could get Darksteel Colossus. Since he has Tooth and Nail and Thirst for Knowledge to dig with, he found his win condition before I even found a Molder Slug.
I sided in Creeping Molds, to try to kill his Cloudposts, but that wasn’t very efficient. I killed the first three he played, but still could not outrace him. I also sided out some Molder Slugs to go for speed – a very bad mistake. I need to find a better sideboarding plan for this matchup. Bloodscent might be an answer, and/or Sculpting Steel.
Next weekend we have a real PTQ in the area. I may run this again, but I’m not sure. I will probably run U/G Tooth & Nail or U/W Angel Control. Mono-Green is more fun, but Tooth and U/W give me more chances to outplay and outthink opponents. Of course, if I have a really rough week at work, I’ll take to the woods again. I can’t play control if I’m tired and still unwinding.
Mono-Green T8 Decks: Card by Card Breakdown
I will try to do periodic card by card breakdowns of favorite decks. In each case, I list all the cards played in the nine Mono-Green decks that make the top eight, and for which I got decklists. I’ll list the maindeck cards as follows:”cardname, X, Y” where X is the number of decks playing the card (max. 19) and Y is the average (technically, mean) number played. For example, assume that seven of the nine decks analyzed ran Spore Frogs. Of those, five ran a full complement of four, while the other two ran three each. That gives an average of 3.429 (24/7), so it would appear as”Spore Frog: 13, 3.4.”
Forest: (all), 20.7
Blinkmoth Nexus: 8, 3.9
Troll Ascetic: 9, 4.0
Viridian Shaman: 9, 3.8
Eternal Witness: 9, 3.7
Fangren Firstborn: 9, 3.4
Molder Slug: 8, 4.0
Viridian Zealot: 7, 3.6
Sylvok Explorer: 5, 4.0
Tel-Jilad Chosen: 5, 3.2
Glissa Sunseeker: 4, 1.0
Predator’s Strike: 7, 3.9
Oxidize: 7, 3.6
Beacon of Creation: 6, 2.8
Tel-Jilad Justice: 2, 4.0
Echoing Courage: 3, 3.0
Pulse of the Tangle: 1, 2.0
Chrome Mox: 1, 4.0
Sword of Fire and Ice: 1, 2.0
Sideboards: This gets trickier, since many decks park the extra copies of some cards here (e.g. the fourth Oxidize.) I will list spare copies first, then list sideboard cards, number of decks running them, and the average (mean) number, plus comments.
The following cards were fourth copies stowed in the sideboard: Oxidize, Fangren Firstborn, Predator’s Strike, Tel-Jilad Chosen, Eternal Witness and Echoing Courage. One deck ran three Oxidizes sideboard and none maindeck, while another did the same with Molder Slug.
Karstoderm: all, 3.3 (usually 4, but also 3, 2 and one deck sideboarded just one.)
Creeping Mold: 3, 3.3 (marginal anti-tooth tech.)
Tel-Jilad Justice: 5, 4.0 (I’m not sure that you need this anymore, even against Affinity)
Bloodscent: 5, 1.8 (Coming through!!)
Sword of Fire and Ice: 5, 2.4
Ouphe Vandals: 4, 2.3
Sword of Light and Shadow: 3, 1.7 (anti-Angel tech.)
Sculpting Steel: 2, 3.0
Duplicant: 2, 1.5
Nourish: 1, 3.0
Wayfarer’s Bauble: 1, 4.0
Some decks ran single copies of certain sideboard cards, including Rude Awakening (cool card, but how often does Mono-Green get that much mana?), Damping Matrix (just one?), Engineered Explosives (anti-Myr tokens, I guess, but just one?) and Ferocious Charge.
I have started card by card databases for the other major archetypes – I’ll do more once we get GP Orlando results.
* If you know of any MD5 T8 results and/or decklists posted anywhere on the web, please send me a link. Or email the decklists. Or whatever. Any help will be much appreciated.
** A surprising number of web pages only list seven of the top eight decks, and some just certain decks. In one case, I only found names for five of the T8.
*** 33 or more players means 6 rounds, and that should make the T8 reasonably meaningful.
**** Yes, it only has two appearances in my listing, above, but some additional appearances may be hidden in the generic Tooth and Nail lists. I list it separately – others don’t, and if all I have is a list saying T&N – 2, Affinity – 1, Big Red – 2, etc., I can’t tell if those T&N decks are G, G/r or G/u.
***** All three games? I think we played three, but I only remember the loses completely.