You Lika The Juice? – Follow-up on States, and Reveillark

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Wednesday, February 20th – I loved Reveillark the minute I saw it; I love recursion, and I especially love the progress Wizards has made in giving fans of creatures a good number of ways to fight the menace of Wrath of God and Damnation. Saffi Eriksdotter, Deadwood Treefolk, flash creatures, Epochrasite… Reveillark was a potent addition to the suite of creatures that give a lot of resistance to mass removal.

Before I get into the main body of the article, I wanted to touch on a few things. First – Jonny Magic wins another Pro Tour! I know sometimes I seem to come down hard on the Pro-centric bias over at Wizards, and it may seem like I have a beef with Pro Magic, but as a certified Magic fanboy I get as excited about the Pro Tour as anyone. As a long-time player of the game, Jon Finkel is all wrapped up in my Magic nostalgia – he was out there kicking ass and winning Pro Tours as I first got the competitive bug and started hitting the PTQ circuit. Seeing him win a Pro Tour feels like a Very Good Thing to me… so many players who have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame view Magic as a thing in their past that they’re proud of and they’re thrilled to have the honor and now the opportunity to come play now and again… but it’s still a part of their past. They’ve moved on, moved past Magic… but then there’s Jon Finkel, who still loves the game and is very much interested in keeping Magic alive in the here and now. I’ve played Magic nonstop since cracking open my first Unlimited starter deck back in 1994, and I’ve seen a lot of friends lose the fire and walk away from the game. Seeing Finkel keeping that spark alive gives me a big goofy grin across my face.

Next, following up on my rant last week about losing States/Champs… I wanted to give a shout out to Peter Jahn, who made some excellent points in his Yawgmoth’s Whimsy column last week. The biggest point he brought up is the fact that the United States is facing a recession, and toys and games — Hasbro’s bread and butter — are likely going to take a hit as consumers tighten their belts. As fans of the game, we want Wizards and Hasbro to remain economically viable so they can continue to provide us with a product we love.

Continuing on, the Magic Player’s Union met with representatives of Wizards of the Coast for some Q&A on recent significant changes to Organized Play, including the loss of a Pro Tour and nuking States/Champs. Sadly, we haven’t gotten the takeaway yet from the representatives from the Player’s Union, but reading the write-up on Magicthegathering.com’s Pro Tour—Kuala Lumpur coverage, here’s what I took away:

• States was cut because it failed to bring new tournament Magic players. “States and Champs just had very low attendance compared to other events we can support, so essentially players are voting with their dollars and their attendance.” According to Wizards, the total attendance at all the States amounts to only 3-4% of total tournament players out there.
• Implementing programs to bring in new tournament Magic players is a priority.
• The goal of the Pro Tour program is to improve the reach of tournament play at the grassroots level.
• More emphasis on regional support for certain areas.

These takeaways are a little harsh to someone like me, a consummate States player. If pressed, I’d categorize myself as “casually competitive” and I’ve always more or less assumed that there were a pretty huge number of players like me out there, who like to compete but for whom the fun of the game is the biggest factor. From my perspective, States has been a huge success, year after year after year, and is a Really Big Deal. But apparently the numbers say otherwise. Of all tournament players, there are only 3-4% who go to States; so the only thing I can conclude is that… most tournament players aren’t as competitive as me. Bennie Smith is on the competitive cutting edge?! I’m no Spike! That’s pretty much mind-blowing, folks. I think we’d all do well to put that in our pipe and smoke for a while before we get all riled up.

It seems pretty clear to me is that Wizards is doing a major overhaul in their approach to Organized Play. Up until now we’ve had what I’ll term a “trickle down” approach, with the Pro Tour as this beacon of Magic perfection that all competitive Magic players should want to aspire to. In that hunt, they spend lots of money on cards and lots of time reading, practicing, and traveling to climb the necessary rungs to get on the Tour. So, spend $X,000 on the Pro Tour at the top of the pyramid, and all the people at the bottom of the pyramid will spend a lot more trying to reach the top.

Apparently there has not been enough trickle down to make Wizards’ bottom line warm and fuzzy. So some trickle down money is likely being shifted over to the grass roots, a “get out the player base” effort. What will that entail? Who knows. We do know it won’t be States/Champs as we — a tiny fractional “we” (sniff) — recognize it. My hunch is an expansion of the “Play More, Get More” variety, like perhaps more Magic Player Rewards and improved Friday Night Magic promos. I figure City Champs is going to get a boost; if they’re smart, they’ll open up City Champs to the public, so that anyone can go play in them, and change the City Champs Qualifiers into Trials for byes to the main event.

Also, the “regional support” comment made me think Wizards might offer more support for TO-run “big events” like Star City’s $5K Standard tournament in Charlotte this weekend. What if they roll out big events that are run as “flights” like prereleases are, where there are more prizes given out to more people?

You know how Wizards has been making alternative art promo cards for participating in Grand Prix and Pro Tours? I think it would be smart (and very cool) to offer cards like that to local “big events.” My only request is to make them non-foil, because there are a lot of people out there who do not like to play with foil cards in their decks (such as myself, and just about every single foil promo card I have has ridden in my trade binder indefinitely). Making them alternative art, textless, or full card art would be perfect by itself; save the foil ones for the high level stuff, please.

Bottom line, I suspect that players like me, and those who are even more “fun-oriented” than myself, will end up being pleased with the upcoming changes once they’re rolled out, changes designed to keep me buying product and supporting my local stores even with the recession nipping at my wallet. My only hope is that Wizards moves quickly in at least giving us something concrete soon; several of my close friends are incredibly angry and cynical about this whole thing, and leaving them dangling for too long could do some lasting damage to them as loyal Magic customers.

Okay, just so that I don’t end up spending two weeks on issues, let’s move on to actual “playing the game” type of stuff.

The Sudden Spoiling of Standard

I know playing Reveillark fair is for chumps, but…
Bennie the chump

This is what I prefaced an email to my buddy Jay before tossing him another Reveillark decklist for his critique. You see, I loved Reveillark the minute I saw it in the Morningtide spoilers; I love recursion, and I especially love the progress Wizards has made in giving fans of creatures a good number of ways to fight the menace of Wrath of God and Damnation putting the squeeze on creature lovers everywhere. Saffi Eriksdotter, Deadwood Treefolk, flash creatures, EpochrasiteReveillark was a potent addition to the suite of creatures that give a lot of resistance to mass removal. I acquired a playset of them online, and cracked two more out of my boxes, and quickly started working out a couple of different decks for it. First of course was an upgrade to my TurboBlink deck, since targeting Reveillark with Momentary Blink is pretty darn sweet. I also used the card as a lynchpin for a deck with 4 Wraths of God and 3 Damnation in it (along with a host of Wrath-proof all-stars like Saffi Eriksdotter and Epochrasite).

Turns out, I’m a chump. I know on the premium side, a few authors have talked about the “Beautiful Skies” Reveillark combo deck that popped up on the metagame radar from a Grand Prix trial soon after Morningtide was legal. If you haven’t seen it, allow me to show you the sickness:

Basically, you need this set up to “go off” — a Mirror Entity in play, with a Reveillark and a Body Double between the graveyard and the board (either one in either spot). Then you can activate Mirror Entity for zero some number of times, making the Entity and Reveillark/Body Double into 0/0 and dying when the last activation resolves. The Reveillark leaves play trigger hits, bringing back Body Double (which copies the Reveillark) and some other low power creature – ideally Riftwing Cloudskate, bouncing one of your opponent’s permanents. You do this for however many permanents your opponent has in play so they’re left with nothing on the board and you end up with a Body Double copying Reveillark, and Mirror Entity. With your opponent never having more than one permanent in play – and the Entity pumping your attack to two 5/5s or more – the game should end pretty quickly.

Since then, it’s popped up in some other Grand Prix Trials, at Neutral Ground’s recent Standard tournament, and at the $2,000 Amateur’s Challenge at Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur. I finally got to playtest against the deck this weekend and it was completely disheartening just how good the stupid deck is. It made my TurboBlink deck, my Shaman deck, and my TurboWrath deck look like I was running in molasses while the combo Reveillark deck was greased lightning. Apparently Rogues (with its fast attack and disruption) can beat the deck, and so does a Guile deck with umpteen million counterspells. I’m not particularly interested in either one of those strategies. So why not play Reveillark combo? The thing that drives me nuts is that I’m a big fan of fair recursion. Remember “Classic Dredge?” I absolutely loved my Dredge deck from States a few years back, and it made my heart sick once Bridge from Below was printed and the deck turned into a combo beast. With people gunning for combo Dredge, there was no point in trying to play a “fair” Dredge deck that would be even more susceptible to the countermeasures. Reveillark combo is going to do the same sort of thing on the sort of “fair” creature recursion that I’m a fan of. Man, stop printing these combo enablers and just give me Oath of Ghouls or Oversold Cemetery, mkay?

Anyway, if I make it to the Star City $2K in Charlotte this weekend, I may just go ahead and play the stupid Reveillark combo deck in a case of If You Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em. One last deck I want to try out though before giving in to the Dark Side is a Warriors deck. Fellow Star City geezer Carl Wilt dropped me a Mono-Green Warriors build that looked pretty sick, but playing a good number of Elves means there’s no reason not to splash some Black into the deck, right? We all know how great Profane Command is already; killing a blocker and reanimating a Warrior who can immediately pick up an Axe and attack sounds like some serious good times! What other Black cards should we add? I naturally figured that Prowess of the Fair would be a no-brainer, since it makes elf WARRIOR tokens when your elves die. But as I bemoaned the Reveillark combo deck problem and searched my brain for answers, I came upon a possible solution:

Yeah – Sudden Spoiling! In response to the first activation of Mirror Entity, drop Spoiling, with its lovely Split Second, and it strips away all abilities of the creatures, so they die and nothing happens. Don’t you think that’s not a bad answer? Man, it’s the last hope I have for playing something fun.

A few notes on the card choices:

First, after 2.5 booster boxes opened, I only have one Mutavault. This irritates me greatly. That’s why I have only one in this deck. If I had more I might play more (especially since you can use as a Champion target for Unstoppable Ash).

I’m torn between Garruk Wildspeaker and Overrun. Overrun ups the “oops, I just won” factor, but Garruk is much more flexible (and can let you kick up a pretty big Profane Command later on). What do you think?

Initial results with the deck gave me a really cool feeling, much like seeing Finkel win another Pro Tour. I played a version of Fires of Yavimaya back in the day, and Obsidian Battle-Axe feels a lot like Fires. The creature you cast the turn after Battle-Axe tends to hit ridiculously hard.

Of course, cooling my jets some are the results from the $2000 Amateur Challenge at this weekend’s Pro Tour. Nearly 20% of the participants played… Black/Green Elf Warriors, and none of them made Top 8?! If a deck played by 20 percent of the field was any good, you’d have to work hard for none of them to make Top 8 wouldn’t you? I’m hoping that maybe Sudden Spoiling is the missing link to push the deck over the top, but I’m definitely worried.

So what did make Top 8? Two Blue/Black faeries (facepalm), a Reveillark combo deck, Black/Green “Damnation Control,” Mannequin, Dragonstorm, Goblins, and a Doran deck. Quite a diverse mix actually.

Two of the decks looked interesting to me. Here’s the “Damnation Control” deck:

Sam Shi Xian – Semi-finalist
$2,000 Amateur Challenge – Standard

4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Snow-Covered Forest
6 Snow-Covered Swamp
4 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Civic Wayfinder
1 Cloudthresher
1 Masked Admirers
1 Shriekmaw
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Tombstalker
4 Wall of Roots
4 Damnation
3 Harmonize
4 Mind Stone
3 Nameless Inversion
3 Primal Command
2 Profane Command
2 Sudden Death
3 Thoughtseize

3 Cloudthresher
3 Extirpate
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Riftsweeper
2 Shriekmaw
1 Thoughtseize

This feels even slower than the mid-range decks that I tend to like, so I’m not sure how this deck is at fighting the combo decks. Reveillark seems particularly resilient at fighting hand destruction, and I’m not sure that three sideboarded Extirpates are enough. I dig Primal Command, so I find its inclusion here very interesting. Four each Wall of Roots and Mind Stone means that this deck ramps up to four mana on turn 3 pretty consistently.

Here’s the Goblin deck:

Lim Teng Chek – Quarter-finalist
$2,000 Amateur Challenge – Standard

4 Auntie’s Hovel
7 Mountain
2 Mutavault
4 Sulfurous Springs
5 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Frogtosser Banneret
3 Knucklebone Witch
4 Mad Auntie
4 Marsh Flitter
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Siege-Gang Commander
2 Dead / Gone
4 Incinerate
4 Shared Animosity

4 Deathmark
3 Shriekmaw
4 Stupor
4 Thoughtseize

Pretty standard stuff, though Shared Animosity is something that looks very interesting in this archetype. Marsh Flitter has been getting some love in the Rogue decks, and here it is flitting around a dedicated Goblin deck alongside Siege-Gang Commander.

I’m still unsure what I’ll be playing if I make it down to Charlotte this weekend, but hopefully I’ll make a choice and feel comfortable with it as the week wears on. What would you be playing? What do you think of Sudden Spoiling to fight the Reveillark madness?

Okay, seeing as I’m already overdue getting this in to Craig, I’ll go ahead and sign off for this week. Take it easy!


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