There’s less than a week to go before States. You should have already chosen your deck. You should be very comfortable with it, and know it inside and out. You should have developed sideboarding strategies, and have a good idea of not only what comes in, but what goes out in each matchup.
The worst mistake you can make, just before a major tournament, is to change decks. New decks are alluring, but you must resist the temptation. A few Pros can take a brand new deck and win with it, but us mortals need to practice with the deck first. Even when you find a new world-beater, like those listed below, you need to resist. Be strong. Don’t give in.
You must resist the allure of decklists like:
The Honden of Death
4 Horobi, Death’s Wail
2 Kumano, Master Yamabushi
4 Honden of Infinite Rage
4 Death Pits of Rath
4 Electrostatic Bolt
4 Yambushi’s Storm
3 Magma Jet
2 Night’s Whisper
2 Cranial Extraction
2 Barter in Blood
2 Hammer of Bogardan
2 Chrome Mox
4 Urborg Volcano
This is probably the ultimate creature control deck. It not only has Horobi and a lot of targeting, it also has board sweepers like Yamabushi’s Pyroclasm combined with Death Pits of Rath. It even has a neo-Abyss in Honden of Infinite Rage and Death Pits of Rath. In addition to Kumano and Horobi, it can also win the long game with Hammer of Bogardan recursion. (Yes, Death Pits and Hammer are both in Eighth Edition. Who knew?) That’s pretty rare, however, as Kumano and Horobi are both good beaters.
It is very hard to keep any creature – except Darksteel Colossus – on the board against this deck. It has both Horobi and Death Pits, meaning that you have a lot of cards that slay anything that is targeted with direct damage, and the effects come in both the “beatdown” and “immune to Wrath” flavors. Death Pits leads to some amusing results, including Yamabushi’s Storm killing both Leonin Abunas and Platinum Angel at the same time. A quick note: I’m playing Yamabushi’s Strom over Pyroclasm – or going 3/1 – because the remove from game is good against Eternal Witnesses, modular and so forth.
I tried both Vulshok Sorcerer and Granite Shard in the deck. Vulshok was a nice pinger, but double Red was a problem early, and she wasn’t that useful later. Granite Shard is nice – immediate removal with Death Pits and immune to the effects – but it does take splash damage from all the artifact kill. Maybe sideboard, or just one maindeck in place of a Barter in Blood. (Barter is there to kill Darksteel Colossus.)
The Chrome Mox is also vulnerable to splash damage, but the deck frequently draws multiples of cards you don’t want many of (Death Pits, Horobi, etc.) so it’s worth the slot. Wayfarer’s Bauble or Talisman of Indulgence are also possible, but not necessarily better. The Mox seems to be best – but you need to know the deck to know what to imprint, and when. As I said, it is way to late to audible into a new deck, even if that deck does have good matchups against the field. Speaking of which:
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Horobi is pretty good against Affinity, when you back it up with a lot of targeted removal. Provided you draw a Storm, Magma Jet or Electrostatic Bolt early, you will probably have no problem living long enough to get Horobi down and targeting active. Then you win. After sideboarding, you still win. Most builds of Affinity I have seen in the last month run nothing that can kill enchantments and practically nothing that can target, while you bring in Relic Barriers or Night of Soul’s Betrayal (see below). Losing this matchup usually involves misplaying the deck badly, or having a double mulligan followed by color screw against the Affinity God DrawÂ™.
Tooth and Nail
There are only two cards that frighten you: Darksteel Colossus and Rude Awakening. Those two, however, are pretty scary (if only Pyroclasm were an instant!) That’s why I have two Cranial Extractions maindeck, and two more in the side (assuming you can get them. No, wait, it’s too late to change decks now!) Assuming that you have Horobi beatdown going early, or Death Pits out, Extract the Colossus. Once they get close to Rude Awakening mana, if you think they might have it (e.g. you saw it earlier when Extracting Tooth or Colossus), Extract Rude Awakening.
With the exception of the pro Red and Black Auriok Champion, this deck kills creatures. Lots and lots of creatures – even things like Troll Ascetic and Kodama of the North Tree. Yamabushi’s Storm doesn’t target, and Death Pits of Rath doesn’t care if it is a 6/4.
This keeps popping up, and it gives me some headaches. Rude Awakening is relatively immune to the deck’s removal, and Echoing Truth kills Horobi. Once the U/G deck gets Witness recursion going, it gets hard to get a win condition through. You can throw all the burn you want at their head, but game one can be tough. Game two gets better, because you can bring in Night of Soul’s Betrayal and Scrabbling Claws, or Nezumi Graverobber. Note that Graverobber and NoSB are not a combo.
Sideboarding Tech: Night of Souls Betrayal. It has a slot in the sideboard here because it plugs two serious maindeck problems. It does kill Disciples, Ravagers and Workers, but that’s just a side benefit. It is also about the only way to deal with the Auriok Champion / Worship problem, but that’s also just a nice side effect. More importantly, it stops Eternal Witness recursion, since the Witness dies to state based effects before they can Echoing Truth it. It also really slows Rude Awakening – Rude Awakening with Entwine is not a win when the lands just attack for one. Night of Soul’s Betrayal is also an answer, albeit not a great one, to Ironworks’s Myr Incubator.
Night of Soul’s Betrayal is pretty serious tech, but you can’t be adopting tech like that two hours before States and expect to do well. You don’t want to waste the hours and hours of playtesting you have put in.
If you haven’t put in those hours, then you probably aren’t a totally anal, fixated on winning, ultra-competitive jackass.* You are probably one of those people who love winning with rogue decks, or having fun with strange combinations more than winning with the best net deck in the format.
If you are one of those people, then you might as well play something like this:
Because Life is Good
3 Auriok Champion
4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
3 Auriok Salvagers
2 Leonin Abunas
4 Ghostly Prison
4 Wrath of God
4 Ethereal Haze
2 Raise the Alarm
2 Pulse of the Fields
2 Beacon of Immortality
3 Isochron Scepter
2 Staff of Domination
1 Scrabbling Claws
4 Sunbeam Spellbomb
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
There is no reason this should work, but it appears to do so. The reason is that it presents so many strange and wonderful ways to win – or, more properly, not lose – that opponents often misplay. Moreover, many decks have no answer against a deck that can drop an untargetable Isochron Scepter with Ethereal Haze. Other decks have no way to race Ghostly Prison / Pulse of the Fields. More importantly, many decks may not realize – until way to late – that this deck’s main win condition is decking the opponent with Beacon of Immortality. Raise the Alarm is only really there as a random way of beating Affinity, and because Auriok Champions and Raise the Alarm on an Isochron Scepter is too cheesy not to include. Reciprocate might be better, both against Tooth and elsewhere.
Matchup Analysis: Affinity
Tough game one, if they get a fast draw. I have considered maindecking Purge, since Purge is nice, and Purge on a Scepter – well, basically, that is going to win the games you would win anyway. Purge is icing – the cake is Samurai of the Pale Curtain. You really need a Samurai of the Pale Curtain game 1. With one in play, you will likely win. Without it, you have trouble. Gain all the life you can, Wrath when necessary, and good luck. (Actually, I have one piece of tech I can’t share that would help, but I got it from someone who may play it. If you find it, it helps.) The good news is that, if you can get a Samurai down early and a Hazy stick, you win. Affinity can’t do anything about it. Post sideboard with Purge, you are in much better shape.
Matchup Analysis: Tooth
In this matchup, it is better to have maindeck Reciprocates than Raise the Alarm. Either way, you want to get your life totals up, because this is a mess. If you can get Abunas, Scepter and Haze going, their only answer would be to Mindslaver you, then have Abunas attack into a fattie and die, then Oxidize the Scepter. Hopefully, by that time, you will have so much life you can kill them with Nexus, Alarm tokens, or deck them if they aren’t smart enough to do Colossus tricks. This matchup really depends on the build: you can beat almost anything except Mindslaver and Kiki-Jiki / Sundering Titan. The best sideboarding tech seems to be bringing in Scrabbling Claws for the Witness problem, and Reciprocate for the other beaters. Staff of Domination can also lock up things like Darksteel Colossus and even Kiki clones, but I don’t really have a good answer for Kiki-Titan games – maybe Sacred Ground?
Matchup Analysis: U/G Control
U/G Control has the potential to be the worst matchup, because they have Rude Awakening and a way to bounce Ghostly Prison, but you can sucker them… Gain a lot of life with Spellbombs and so forth. U/G decks are slow, and will generally wait to ensure a win with Rude Awakening. You can use lifegain to stay just ahead of them – and don’t show an Ethereal Haze until they cast Rude Awakening and attack. Then Haze. Bait counterspells with the Scepter – and if they allow it, imprint something useless, like Raise the Alarm, because they can bounce Abunas and kill the Scepter. The secret is to get way ahead on life, resolve Scrabbling Claws if at all possible, then eat their graveyard. With a bit of luck, you can. You may also be able to get to a huge life total – 100 plus is not unlikely – and at that point you deck them.
Matchup Analysis: Other decks
Creature decks are pretty easy to deal with – slow with Prison, gain life, Wrath, lock with a Hazy Scepter. In theory, a rat / discard deck could be a pain, but the pro-Black Auriok Champion should be a help. Other Rude Awakening decks need to be able to kill Ghostly Prison before you get to a zillion life. Not likely.
Sideboard stuff : Razormane Masticore and Kami of Ancient Law to transform into “fast beatdown” – and to answer Intruder Alarm or similar silliness. Scrabbling Claws to deal with any Eternal Witness decks. Ivory Mask for discard and Mindslaver. Two more Auriok Salvagers for anything except Affinity – they bring back Spellbombs and Scrabbling Claws.
Like I said, you never want to change decks at the last moment. However, if you are dead set on ignoring this advice, then I still would avoid this pile. My playtesting is minimal – it seems to work, but that could just be a fluke. Personally, I think this deck is like the old TV show “The A-Team.” Remember the quote “I love it when a plan comes together.” The plan here seems as idiotic as the ones on that show – but it does come together a lot more regularly than I would have believed. Amazing.
So, one last time. States is here. Playtest your deck a final few times. Playtest against the most likely decks, and playtest sideboarded. At least half your games will be played after sideboarding.
Do not change your deck now. It is way too late for that.
Do not make a last minute decision to play one of these decks. Ignore my claims that they beat the metagame. Resist the temptation.
It is too late to change.
But if you do, good luck!
* Not that I would disparage such people in any way, of course. Some of my best friends are jackasses.