Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #99: Regionals — Decisions, Decisions

My past few articles have recapped the metagame. I’ll do that once more. In addition to the decks from previous Regionals, I have collected over one hundred top 8 decklists from Regionals that have occurred this month. That information is as current as anything you can get. It is time to decide what deck to play.

By the time this goes up, U.S. Regionals will upon us. It is time to decide what deck to play.

Actually, you should have decided a month ago. You should have been testing that deck all this time, and have been spending the last two weeks playing sideboarded games. You’ve done that, right?

Sure. You probably finish term papers two weeks early, as well. Freak.

For everyone else, it’s decision time. It’s a tough choice – I know, I’m in the same boat. Here’s what I know, and I’ll follow that with some additional information to make that choice even more difficult.

My past few articles have recapped the metagame. I’ll do that once more. In addition to the decks from previous Regionals, I have collected over one hundred top 8 decklists from Regionals that have occurred this month. That information is as current as anything you can get. Here’s the breakdown:

Ravager Affinity: 37%

R/W Slide: 14%

Tooth and Nail: 14%

Goblin Bidding: 11%

Red/Green: 7%

U/W Control: 6%

Mono-Red Goblins: 4%

MWC: 2%

Elves: 2%

Everything else showed up only once, or not at all. Clerics, a deck that had several appearances in the early events, has dropped off the earth. G/W Control has had a few near misses. Mono-Black, either a control version, Lynch Mob or Rat Deck Wins, has been absent. On the flip side, maybe it is time for a comeback, since I’m not seeing many Karma’s in sideboards anymore.

Here’s a deck by deck discussion on the decks that have been played.

Ravager Affinity: 37%

Some things don’t change. Ravager Affinity is still powerful. It still makes up about one-third of the metagame. You will face it at Regionals. If you bring it, you will play the mirror match.

Ravager Affinity has three main builds. Here’s the classic:

Ravager Affinity by Tommi Vainikainen. Winner, Vaasa, Finland.

4 Glimmervoid

4 Vault of Whispers

4 Great Furnace

4 Darksteel Citadel

4 Arcbound Ravager

4 Arcbound Worker

4 Frogmite

4 Myr Enforcer

4 Ornithopter

4 Disciple of the Vault

4 Welding Jar

4 Skullclamp

4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria

4 Pyrite Spellbomb

4 Shrapnel Blast

This is the speed version. It doesn’t really care about what an opponent is planning to do – it just wins before the opponent does it. Sixteen lands, two colors, practical mana curve that tops out at two, this is about a quick as the deck can get. Damping Matrix – game one, it either wins first or dies.

A few variations have frequently appeared in the straight Red/Black version. Some decks run a couple Arcbound Stingers for more evasion. Atog still appears, although it isn’t that common. Blinkmoth Nexus provides evasion and, with Modular counters, serious beats. (Yes, the modular counters stay at end of turn – but if you are thinking of playing this deck at Regionals and you didn’t already know that, reconsider your deck choice.) Slobad has even shown up, on occasion, as protection and as another means of sacrificing artifacts to trigger the Disciple of the Vault.

Some Red/Black versions cut a couple threats for some maindeck artifact kill, typically Shatters. Lessening threat density in a seriously aggro deck is dangerous, but so is Damping Matrix.

A second version splashes Green, usually via Tree of Tales, but sometimes with Talismans as well, and maindecks Naturalize or Oxidize. Naturalize is an answer not only to Damping Matrix and opposing Skullclamps, but to Slide’s enchantments, Oversold Cemetery, Ivory Mask, and a host of enchantments played by tier three decks. Oxidize kills artifacts other than Welding Jar (think about it.) Maindecking artifact kill (and having more in the sideboard), is a plus in matches, but going three colors does mess up the mana. More importantly, the Tree of Tales frequently replace Darksteel Citadel, which means that Akroma’s Vengeance kills Glimmervoid. This version is better against most of the field, but it really suffers against White control decks.

The other major variant splashes Blue – occasionally for Thoughtcast, but more importantly for Mana Leak, either maindeck or sideboard. These versions also sacrifice Citadels for Seat of the Synod, but Mana Leak is an answer to an early Vengeance. These decks can also play Annul from the sideboard, although that is not all that common.

Overall, the most common decklist from recent Regionals has been straight Red/Black, with 0-2 maindeck artifact kill cards. The Green splash version is slightly less common, while the splash Blue occurs even less frequently, but still often enough to be significant.

R/W Slide: 14%

Although a lot of pros dismiss this deck as not quite good enough, Slide keeps putting up numbers. It is still second to Affinity in top 8 slots captured, and still ahead of anything else. Expect to see it at Regionals, both because it is solid and because a lot of players have experience playing it. A lot of good players don’t playtest for Regionals, so they may not be experts with Tooth and Nail or Affinity, but those players learned Slide last year, during the block PTQ season.

The most common versions all run maindeck Damping Matrix for affinity, Spark Spray for Disciples and Goblins, plus the all-powerful Wrath of God. And so on. I did a card by card analysis late last month, and the typical deck hasn’t changed much. One difference seems to be that fewer decks are running Obliterate or Decree of Annihilation – presumably because they expect fewer control decks.

Tooth and Nail: 14%

This is the one new deck that has stepped up since last month. It has gone from fringe deck to tier 1, posting more top 8s and more wins this month that Goblin Bidding or any control deck other than Slide. It is common enough that you can expect, based purely on averages, to see it at least once in an eight round tourney – and again in the top 8.

The first decision in building a Tooth and Nail deck is choosing between the Urzatron (Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Tower) or the Cloudpost / Temple of the False God setup. That decision is pretty simple – you play the Urzatron. Urzatron is slightly more resilient in the face of land destruction, better turn 2, and it does not help your opponent in the mirror. The mirror match is no longer unlikely – Tooth and Nail decks have arrived.

In the past few articles, I have done card by card analysis of various archetypes. It’s Tooth and Nail’s turn. I break down the twenty Tooth and Nail decks that have made top 8s in a recent nationals or Regionals. As before, I list the card, the total number of decks that ran the card, and the average (mean) number of copies those decks ran. For example,”City of Brass: 3, 2.0″ means three decks ran City of Brass, and they ran an average of two copies.


City of Brass: 3, 2.0

Cloudpost: 5, 4.0

Forest: 20, 5.4

Mirrodin’s Core: 4, 1.8

Mountain: 16, 1.3

Plains: 3, 1.0

Shivan Oasis: 9, 3.6

Stalking Stones: 10, 1.0

Temple of the False God: 1, 4.0

Tranquil Thicket: 7, 1.4

Urzatron: 17, (all ran full sets)

Wooded Foothills: 8, 3.0

two decks ran random lands, like Elfhame Palace

Fireball: 15, 2.8

Lightning Greaves: 4, 1.8

Mindslaver: 14, 2.7

Oblivion Stone: 19, 3.8

Oxidize: 12, 3.7

Planar Portal: 5, 1.0

Pyroclasm: 13, 3.2

Reap and Sow: 17, 3.9

Sylvan Scrying: 20, 4.0

Talisman of Impulse: 13, 3.6

Tooth and Nail: 20, 3.8

eight decks ran random other cards – everything from Talisman of Unity to Skeleton Shard and Scythe of the Wretched.

Akroma, Angel of Wrath: 7, 1.0

Darksteel Colossus, 20, 1.6

Duplicant: 4, 1.0

Leonin Abunas: 9, 1.0

Platinum Angel: 19, 1.6

Ravenous Baloth: 4, 2.5

Solemn Simulacrum: 11, 3.5

Symbiotic Wurm: 5: 1.0

Triskelion: 7, 1.3

Vine Trellis: 7, 2.9

Viridian Shaman: 9, 2.4

five decks ran random critters, including Bosh, Elvish Aberration, Fierce Empath and the like. Two identical decks ran four copies each of Myr Retriever.

The deck has come a long way since I first wrote about it. The decklists vary here and there, but there do appear to be two different builds. One uses more creatures, including some Shamans, Vine Trellis, Solemn Sims and so forth. The other uses control cards and just four creatures: two Platinum Angels and two Darksteel Colossi. That later creature mix appeared a number of times. However, all the builds vary here and there.

I didn’t try to analyze sideboards. They are all over the place. You can do it, if you want. You can get all the decklists, including sideboards, on the StarCity Type Two decklist page.

I have talked a bit about matchups before. The mix of Oblivion Stone, Pyroclasm, and maindeck artifact hate like Viridian Shaman and Oxidize can really put a hurt on Ravager. Pyroclasm and Oblivion Stone can mess with Goblins and Goblin Bidding as well – and Akroma doesn’t hurt in that matchup, either. When facing U/W control, Mana Leak isn’t too amazing against a deck with a ton of mana, and you can bait counters. The really bad matchup, however, is against R/G and mono-Red land destruction. In fact, I am wondering if the comeback of R/G in recent weeks is mainly due to the increase in people playing Tooth and Nail. Nothing helps an archetype make top 8s like people giving it byes – and Tooth and Nail is close to a bye for LD.

Goblin Bidding: 11%

I’ve talked about it before. I’ve played it in tournaments. I’ve played against it in tournaments. It is a very good deck. It wins. I just hate the deck. I hate the whole archetype.

I’ll keep this short. Bidding is not great against Tooth and Nail, but it is more consistent than Tooth and Nail and it wins when Tooth falters. Damping Matrix hurts the deck, but unless that card resolves, it seems to beat control. I don’t really know the Slide matchup well enough to be able to know who should be favored – I think it comes down to Damping Matrix again. Red/Green seems to have game against Bidding, but it depends on the build – and I’m not sure the builds that beat Bidding beat anything else.

If you know how to play the deck, it is still a reasonable choice. Just make sure you have the timing and stack rules down cold. Goblin Bidding is an easy deck to misplay – and an easy deck to beat when the pilot misplays it.

Red/Green: 7%

Red/Green has made a comeback recently. It has even won some tourneys. However, I cannot tell if that is because some players are getting lucky, or if the archetype really works. I wish I could get hard data on how many R/G decks were played at these tourneys – if one to three players typically show up at a Regionals with R/G, and one makes the top 8, that’s good. If an average of fifteen players show up with R/G, and one makes top 8 once in a while, the deck’s a bad bet.

I like R/G. I have tried to play this archetype a lot, and have built different versions. I cannot get one to work. Other people keep emailing me saying they are having a lot of success. I just don’t know. In theory, Contested Cliffs and beasts is a great combo – it’s beatdown and board control in one handy package. Burn spells plus cards like Naturalize is solid support. And LD is still a great way to stunt your opponent’s growth. I just wish it won more consistently.

I expect the deck to appear in fair numbers at any Regionals. I expect a few to make it through the early rounds, because any build has good matchups and lucky players will face those decks. I expect R/G decks to be a source of wonder – if my opponent plays Forests and Mountains, I won’t be too surprised to see nearly anything hit the table. I have seen everything from Arc-Slogger to Hunted Wumpus and Hammer of Bogardan to Demolish show up in decklists – along with even weirder stuff.

U/W Control: 6%

This deck packs some of the most powerful cards in the format, and couples them with card drawing, counterspells, and some amazing finishers. That is a pretty decent deck concept. Wrath of God is still the most amazing anti-creature card that isn’t restricted. Akroma’s Vengeance just destroys decks. Pulse of the Fields is great. Mana Leak is, well, the best counter available. Eternal Dragon and Exalted Angel are still solid, and Decree of Justice is still an amazing finisher. Thirst for Knowledge and Concentration are good card drawers. Wing Shards is good. Damping Matrix is great against the tier one decks. Having a sideboard with Annul and CoP: Red is pretty dang fine. Your mana is solid, with Coastal Tower, Flooded Strand, Ancient Den, Seat of the Synod, and a Talisman that hits both colors.

The problem with U/W isn’t that you are short of playable cards. It is that you have about sixty playable cards – plus lands. The trick in building U/W is to cut only those cards that you need least – and that depends on what you end up actually facing. It is easy to build U/W wrong.

Here’s a hint for sideboarding U/W against Tooth and NailBribery. No – the card Bribery. Look it up, think it over.

A lot of pros and writers have declared U/W dead, and pointed out its weaknesses. No matter how many obituaries get printed, however, U/W control keeps nabbing top 8 slots. I also expect a few players to bring this to Regionals – but I fear it more than R/G. Unless control is really being hyped (and it isn’t), the people who bring U/W control decks are the long-time players who know how to play control decks. Fear them.

I would love to play U/W control, but I am a slow player. That’s a problem with fifty minute rounds. If I draw early, which is not unlikely, I can expect a lot of control on control matchups in the x-x-1 pairings. Control on control matchups are slow to start with, and being slow myself will lead to more draws. You want your draws in the last two rounds – not rounds 2 and 5.

Mono-Red Goblins: 4%

Mono-Red beatdown has made a come-back. Mono-Red is basically Goblins without Bidding. Mono-Red goblins is a bit faster, and builds like Dan Paskins, with Shrapnel Blast, are seriously dangerous. They don’t have dead draws, like pulling Patriarch’s Bidding early. On the flip side, they don’t have the great late game that Bidding provides.

Bidding is a great answer to control decks – especially to Wrath and Vengeance. When W/x control was a huge part of the metagame, Bidding was better. To the extent that the metagame has changed, the mono-Red version looks good – but I’m not sure how far the metagame has actually changed.

I’m not going to describe how to build or play mono-Red Goblins. [author name="Dan Paskins"]Dan Paskins[/author] wrote that article already – read his. I don’t give advice on playing inside when Shaq is around, and I don’t write about goblins when Dan Paskins is saying the same thing.

Everything Else

I’m afraid that all other decks can be described as Tier 2 at best. A couple archetypes have managed to capture one or two top 8 slots, but that’s all. Mono-White control is still around, but doing no better than fringe decks like Elves. G/W control has powerful creatures, great board sweepers, life gain and artifact removal, but it isn’t winning anything. G/B Cemetery is another powerful archetype, and a personal favorite, but wins FNM far more often than it wins big events. Ponza wins online, but not Regionals or Nationals.

In those few events where full deck breakdowns are available, all of these Tier 2+ decks show up, but they don’t make top 8. That probably says it all – they are being played, but they don’t win.

I’ll close with some random deck lists. Here’s the one G/B deck that has done well this month. Good luck to those of you with the balls to play it – I’d be afraid of the mana screw. At Regionals, you have to win a lot of rounds. Conceding one or two to mana screw means you had better win every other game. I’d rather play a deck with”just win” draws, not”just lose” draws. And I like G/B.

B/G Cemetery: Larry Martin, Winner, Glasgow, Scotland

4 City Of Brass

11 Forest

7 Swamp

4 Wirewood Herald

4 Ravenous Baloth

3 Viridian Shaman

3 Twisted Abomination

3 Bane Of The Living

2 Viridian Zealot

2 Nekrataal

1 Elvish Aberration

1 Caller Of The Claw

4 Birds Of Paradise

4 Death Cloud

4 Skullclamp

3 Oversold Cemetery


2 Viridian Zealot

1 Viridian Shaman

4 Withered Wretch

4 Persecute

4 Oxidize

And here is the weirdest deck in this month’s top 8’s – and versions appeared not just once, but twice.

ELVES!! Visa Vallivaara, 5th-8th place, Oulu, Finland

4 City Of Brass

4 Wooded Foothills

1 Mountain

8 Forest

1 Viridian Shaman

1 Gempalm Strider

1 Caller Of The Claw

4 Wirewood Herald

4 Wellwisher

4 Wirewood Hivemaster

4 Bloodline Shaman

2 Elvish Pioneer

4 Elvish Scrapper

4 Birchlore Rangers

2 Fireball

4 Intruder Alarm

4 Skullclamp

4 Chrome Mox


4 Oxidize

3 Viridian Shaman

4 Electrostatic Bolt

2 Scattershot

2 Sparksmith

Why did this deck win? I have no idea. I like Intruder Alarm decks, and have written several articles about the card, but it seems really marginal in this metagame. Running elves in a field defined by Wrath of God, Goblin Sharpshooter, and Starstorm seems dumb.

Elves. Twice. I would really like to know how many people / how many rounds these decks faced. I once made top 8 in a GP Trial where the total attendance was nine players – it is possible that these tourneys were so small that top 8 wasn’t that hard. I really have no idea. However, I do remember that two Elf decks made top 8 in France, and attendance at that tourney was 130 players – which is eight rounds. You don’t T8 after eight rounds just by luck. But to do it with Elves?

Sometimes I really don’t understand this game.

Good luck at Regionals.


[email protected]

PS: So what will I be playing. No idea – and I have a conflict Regionals weekend. I will be trying to grind my way in at Nationals. And, no, I don’t know what I will play there either.