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Careful Consideration – Greetings from Austin!

Pro Tour: Austin is this weekend, and roughly 600 people will trickle in over the next day or so, trying to keep their Extended tech under wraps, while grinders like me will be playing Standard in the Last Chance Qualifier to try to pick up the last four slots in the Main Event. For those who don’t get in via LCQ, there are PTQs for both San Diego and San Juan this weekend plus a whole host of other side events. Going to a PT is generally a lot of fun even if you aren’t qualified, and Austin is, by all accounts I’ve heard, a great city to spend time in (although my experience in the few hours I’ve been here have been mostly getting chewed on by various insects and melting and/or catching on fire from the heat).

Thursday night is all about Standard, as that is the LCQ format for all Pro Tours this year, making this the second big Standard tournament of the new season, the first being the Philadelphia $5000 Open last weekend.

Like most formats early on, there are holes that can be exploited, as decks are often inefficient and not optimally built. I feel that you can take advantage of these weaknesses by examining the strategies people are playing, then take a sideways strategy that people aren’t ready for. As these sideways attacking decks become known and people can prepare for them, it’s probably best to switch to whatever the best overall deck in the format is.

For example, a combo deck or a very linear deck like Turbofog won’t do well in an environment where people know about the deck and are prepared for it, but those linear decks are great at sneaking up on an unprepared field where even if people are aware that Turbofog exists they are likely not to have the utility cards to best attack that matchup.

The other way to attack decks early on is via their mana bases. I love cards like Molten Rain and Goblin Ruinblaster because people are stretching their mana bases and are not running the correct numbers of lands, so you can steal free wins just by blowing up their land and punishing them for a bad mana base.

With those principles in mind, let’s see if we can find the holes in the decks from the $5000 Open.

There were a lot of Jund decks, and they’re largely the same. For sake of ease, I’ll just take the top list (the winning one):

Jund

How to attack it:

Okay, there’s a reason why this deck placed well, with five of the top eight slots in the tournament going to Jund aggro decks. The deck is pretty well-designed as is. Sprouting Thrinax is a pretty good answer to any removal that’s not Celestial Purge or Path to Exile, and Broodmate Dragon is the best finisher around this side of Baneslayer Angel.

You can go after this deck in one of two ways: Play lots and lots of removal, spot and otherwise. Gavin Verhey’s control deck is a good example of this, as it plays Wretched Banquet, Lightning Bolt, Terminate, and Chandra for spot removal spells, and plays Pyroclasm as mass removal. Even with Thrinax popping back three 1/1s, it’s hard for a creature to stay on the table and have a huge effect before a Sphinx comes down on the table to block. Kill everything on sight and get to Cruel Ultimatum is not a bad strategy against Jund decks.

Even so, the sideboard is pretty rough with Ruinblasters, Duresses and Thought Hemorrhages, plus the maindeck Blightnings. The other way to attack it is to just fog, fog, fog the ever living daylights out of them.

Jon Loucks’s Time Sieve deck is fairly well-positioned against these types of decks. Though Time Sieve did lose Pollen Lullaby and Elsewhere Flask, Safe Passage is a reasonable replacement for Lullaby, and while losing Flask hurts, it doesn’t make the deck unviable. There might be a better mill/stall/fog strategy that doesn’t involve Time Sieve or Open the Vaults, but the basic philosophy of the deck remains intact, even if the execution is not as strong. I do like Magosi, the Waterveil in situations where you have enough mana to play two fogs and have the two fogs in hand (which shouldn’t be hard to do if you’ve got Howling Mine/Font of Mythos going). Skip a turn, fog a couple of attacks, and then have the extra turn in your back pocket to do whatever when you’re going off and chaining turns together with Time Sieve and Time Warp.

The fact that it is a linear strategy that essentially shuts off every card in their deck except for Maelstrom Pulse makes this a way to surprise a Jund opponent who won’t be as well-equipped.

On to the second place list:

Boros

Weaknesses: Pyroclasm, Fallout, Infest, Jund Charm. There are four Harm’s Way in the board, but if they don’t draw the Harm’s Way, they are going to be thwarted by any of the played sweepers in the format (Day of Judgment as well, I suppose). Sure you can play around mass removal to a point, but at the same time, it’s still a vulnerability for the deck that doesn’t have a lot of resilience if a Pyroclasm effect resolves, save for Ranger of Eos to recoup back some of the card advantage.

Also, I agree with Paulo Vitor when he says that Goblin Guide is not a very good card for exactly the same reasons he lined out. Paraphrasing, he said essentially that he’s not very good when there’s a ton of cheap removal running around, and fetchlands allow you to look at the top card of your library and let you shuffle it away if you want, sort of like a Scry 1. But most importantly, he wrote:

“One of the reasons aggro decks are good is that they capitalize on your opponent having any kind of problem – too many lands, too few, a bad curve. Though Goblin Guide will not do much to help those who have few lands and were not drawing them anytime soon, it will help them in every other situation.”

I couldn’t have put it any better. It also has the potential to undo mulligans, and the card advantage you give your opponent is not worth the drawback. (I realize I said something similar about Path to Exile, but you’ll notice that Path got less and less played as the last Standard format closed out, as people realized that its role was really only for certain deck strategies. I think people are probably overplaying Path right now in the post-Zendikar Standard and that we’ll see it phase out of decklists to some extent as the format matures.)

It’s also a creature-based/damage-based deck, so a foggy deck that takes a lot of turns should be able to push through. They have more burn, but absolutely no disruption to the fog strategy (unlike Jund, which has Pulse, Duress, and Thought Hemorrhage to keep the fog player alert and on his toes).

RDW

Weaknesses: With Knight of Meadowgrain and Burrenton Forge-Tender out, this deck has a chance without running into a two- or one-drop that blanks a lot of their cards. Probably the best way is to use instant speed removal to kill their hasty guys and survive long enough to play a Baneslayer Angel (untapping with her should make things much more difficult for the RDW pilot). I could also see playing Volcanic Fallout against this deck, since although it does deal damage to both players, being able to eat a 7/1 and basically gain five life (or more if they have another creature on the board like Geopede or Goblin Guide).

There’s probably too much burn to fog people out here. Sorcery speed spot removal is generally going to be no good either. If people aren’t playing Fallout, I rather like this deck (although cut and paste all above objections to Goblin Guide and put them here as well). There’s not a ton of life gain running around and no Forge-Tender or similarly annoying protection creatures (or ones with first strike) aren’t seeing a lot of play, save for Vampire Hexmage. Valeron Outlander doesn’t do anything about trample.

And finally, we have Vampires:

 

I’m pretty sure Wizards started the development of this set long before the Twilight books and movies became popular, but it’s great serendipitous timing on their behalf. If I ever do play this deck, I want to really play off the vampire fan angle. I haven’t read the books or seen the movie, but maybe I can fake it. I would also like to incorporate glitter somehow, and adopt other traits of a 14-year-old girl. Then when I attack with my creatures, I can quote the book and say creepy things like,

“Your soul is so beautiful, so pure. I want to lick your eyebrows genly. While you sleep.”
(Or whatever the lines are from the series. Chances are my opponents won’t be familiar with the lines either, so as long as I sell it, they’ll probably believe me.)

Anyway, I do like the Vampire deck for non-angsty teenage girl reasons and I think it might be the best deck against the others because it does so many things well. Vampire Nighthawk is an extremely good creature and Vampire Hexmage does a fantastic job of blocking trampling 7/1 and 6/1 creatures while also doubling as a way to kill Planeswalkers. It also fights Putrid Leech well if you have a Disfigure in your hand without having to play the game of “priority chicken” (that is, where you block their Leech with your 2/2 with a removal spell in hand and sees who blinks first. If they pump the Leech and you don’t have the removal spell, they 0-for-1 you. If they don’t pump and you don’t have a removal spell, then you made a pretty good trade. If they pump and you do have a removal spell, you can kill the Leech in response and 0-for-1 them. If you use the removal spell before they pump, they can pump in response and blank your spell. With first strike, they have to pump and hope you don’t have a removal spell if they want to kill them, increasing their risk while making yours essentially zero).

Bloodghast is also a very annoying creature to play against, and I like playing as many fetchlands as possible when running him.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, garlic, holy water.

Or”¦you can fog them out a lot of the time. They are creature-damage based and not burn-based, so you should be able to hold them off with a few Wraths and Safe Passages. Mind Sludge is annoying, but foggy decks should have some number of Negates to deal with that, as there aren’t many other cards to worry about.

These may ebb and flow as the Standard format matures, and we’ll know more after the LCQ lists come in this weekend (hopefully with my name somewhere in the top four).

Yours Texanly,
-Zaiem

zaiemb at gmail dot com
zbeg on Twitter

29 thoughts on “Careful Consideration – Greetings from Austin!”

  1. Well I still have Vithian Renegades in my Jund deck as a carry-over from Block, so there are no problems with those silly Time Sieve decks. I don’t understand why people run Thought Hemorrhage, it’s just such a bad card.

  2. Z-Dawg, I gotta say you’re not really giving my Bushwhacker list a fair shake. I don’t particularly care for Christian Calcano’s version from the 5k, but he DID take home like half a Grand with it. My site’s got the current version that I consider almost well-tuned, so check it before you wreck it.

    I want to mainly correct you (in a friendly way of course!) on how to beat Bushwhacker. Sweepers DO NOT do the job. Good BBW players will not commit more than 2 guys to the board, and if they do, they’re not good at the deck. It’s very hard to verbalize how it goes down, but in general, sweepers don’t really do enough.

    You want to beat Bushwhacker? Play Kazandu Blademaster, Vampire Nighthawk, Baneslayer Angel, Rhox War Monk, Deft Duelist, and hell, any 2 power 2 drop with first strike. That’s how you beat the deck, plain and simple.

    Now, the deck will transition into an aggro-control deck for game two when you play those kind of cards, boarding out some sub-par stuff to bring in Wraths and more removal, but that’s another topic entirely.

    Basically, everyone and their mother is misunderstanding how to play with and against Bushwhacker and I wanted to set the record straight. The deck is CERTAINLY beatable, but sweepers are just not how to do it. While you 1-for-1 with slow sorcery-speed sweepers, Boros is building up an Alpha Strike from Hell in its hand. Lifelinkers, first strikers, and creatures with big butts are what really halt the deck’s progress.

    Kelly Reid
    http://www.quietspeculation.com

  3. People run Thought Hemorrhage because its a catch all solution to unforeseen problems. Run into an unknown combo deck that you have no way to stop? Hemorrhage out the main piece. Running the mirror? Hemorrhage out Bloodbraids. Hemorrhage out Baneslayers. You don’t have to try to guess whats in the person’s hand, in fact, I’d never go that route. I use Hemorrhage as a means to take away my opponent’s strategy (or the best card against me) before they can use it. I actually Hemorrhaged in the mirror in Philly for Bloodbraids quite often (and never lost a game that I did).

  4. The article was informative, but I feel that it skipped an important deck. Planeswalker control is an entirely different beast than the aggro decks described, and it was not mentioned at all even though it placed top 16 at the 5K. Thanks for the pleasure reading, and good luck.

    @Brady — Thought Hemorrhage is a good card because it picks a card that you are afraid of out of the other guy’s deck and puts it all copies of it in the graveyard. It lets you answer that threat on your time and not theirs. You don’t have to reserve mana and a counter for it when it shows up, and you can even lightning bolt them if they have it in their hand. What isn’t to like?

  5. Nobody is running SB slots as a catch-all. When you make it that high in a tournament, each SB slot has been pondered over-and-over. He had a reason for it.

    My educated guess would be to rip Cruel from the match-up or tech against anyone running Ranger of Eos (which were in several other top decks going in).

  6. Michael: If you have spare mana, time, and card to play Thought Hemorrhage in the Jund mirror, you would have won either way. Just saying.
    Thought Hemorrhage is a bad card against everything but decks that cannot win once it resolves.

  7. good thing i didn’t have to pay for this… where is your lcq list? the whole article you lead up to a time sieve / fog deck but then don’t provide a list. peole have FNMs to play. in addition, i dont think Valeron Outlander has any relevance against red, nor do i think you are killing a 7/1 and a geopede very often with fallout, unless they don’t have a fifth land. but by that time the geopede has already done 6….. On a positive note I do agree that path is overplayed, but you have to be able to answer the angel.

  8. Ok, don’t mean to be a stickler (or a complete jerk), but

    “If they pump and you do have a removal spell, you can kill the Leech in response and 0-for-1 them”

    this is a 1 for 1, non? one spell for one creature, unless you count 2 damage as a spell, but then it’s just a 1-2.

    So yea, putrid leech is a b*tch.

    Anyway, GL in texas!

  9. I imagine Valeron Outlander —> Vedalken Outlander.

    Also, when you use a removal spell on a putrid leech, it is a 1 for 1, not a 0 for 1. The only 0 for 1 possible is when the leech pumps to kill a blocker and they don’t have the removal. That’s a kill that didn’t cost cards. Using disfigure… used disfigure. 😛

  10. When I turn my Vampires sideways, I think of Let The Right One In or Thirst, but threatening to lick my opponent’s eyebrows could be a good strategy too.

  11. Amazing article. I don’t think I’ve seen an article like this that shows you how to attack each deck in the meta. I really feel that I understand these decks a lot better coming from this perspective rather than an author trying to sell me on the merits of a deck.

  12. This is like the 10,000th article I’ve seen analyzing the Philly results. Get something new or don’t bother. An analysis of your LCQ deck would’ve been nice.

    I normally enjoy your articles but this one felt like a cop-out.

  13. dowjonzechemical

    Zaiem,

    My wife is from Texas. If you get a chance to eat out for breakfast, try Meegus (sp?). It is awesome!!!

    GL, man. I think if your article is concluding that you should play Turbo Fog (which it kind of sounds like), just watch out for all of the Pulses out there or find an alternative to borderposts.

  14. “This is like the 10,000th article I've seen analyzing the Philly results. Get something new or don't bother. An analysis of your LCQ deck would've been nice.”

    Unfortunately there isn’t a forum where all the magic writers get together and “pick” a topic so that no one steps on anyone else’s toes. Just because everyone on SCG wrote about Philly this week doesn’t mean that it is totally unreasonable for Zaiem to have taken a crack at it for this website.

  15. I feel like you’re either underestimating a lot of these decks or you’re testing against bad players, because your analysis of each deck’s weaknesses and how to attack them seems very off. I’ve tested pretty extensively against a friend running a pretty optimal fog build who may or may not be better than me as a player, and every sligh-based deck crushes it pretty comprehensively.

  16. Noooo, now my fog deck is no longer secret.

    On the other hand, its nice to see that someone else seems to think that it is a good idea for the piles of aggro decks that are running around these days. I run a few maindeck counters, but my sideboard is mostly just counters and purges to deal with jund and random burn decks. Those matchups are winnable, with safe passage, hindering light (yes, hindering light), negates and other counters, maybe even an obelisk of alara, its could be hard for burn to overcome. its tough, but winnable

  17. Oh this was crap and if you got paid for writing this then well I and in the wrong line of work. For real please for our sake do not write some crap like this unless the title is I don’t know anything about standard. First of all you talked about the 5k decks that have been talked about like 5times. Then you didn’t say anything new? Like everyone knows about jund and how to beat it from last season and crap. Uhh it just makes me not want to click on your articles. And PV and you are both wrong about Goblin Guide. First of all in that deck you almost never play him t1. So on t2 when you play him you beat for 2 plus whatever your 1 drop was so lets say its the 2/1 guy. thats 4 dmg t2 plus you see what there next draw is. So I mean you get to look at the top card for like ever cuz they never want to kill him. If anyone has played Wacker then they know no one ever kills guide.
    So if lets say he doesn’t die then we can maybe reword Goblin Guide to say hmm like 1r deal 6 dmg to target player they may scry 3? Is that fair to say? you could almost say 8dmg for scry 4.lol
    And if you would like to prove that he is crap then we could I guess test? Maybe ML since I know other people who think guide is bad also plays there often?

    Also Zaeim you know this was trash bro… The staff here at Channel Fireball also know it was a crapy peice.

    I would like the staff here maybe to try to defend this if they want?

    And yes I am bad at spelling and grammer.lol No need to flame

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  19. I have had someone board Thought Hemorrhage in against me in the Jund mirror match, and I was just incredulous. I’m not sure what he was thinking. He also boarded in Duress, and even though he almost missed with it it did help him decide what to name with Thought Hemorrhage. Maybe that’s the idea here? It just didn’t really do anything for him, I was losing the game either way to mana screw. It would have been better for him to use that four mana on just about anything else.

  20. Yeah no reply from Zaiem or from the staff here at channelfireball? I would really like to hear from someone up top maybe Zaiem’s boss. And yes boarding in Hemmorage in the mirror is retarded.

  21. Goblin guide is good I was the guy who got 3rd with the red deck and goblin guide was the best card all day. The card advantage they may gain is irrelavent cause when you play this deck your opponent will always have card advantage on you cause you will be playing your hand as fast as you can And most of your creatures go to the graveyard after they attack. But when your opponent dosent reveal a land it gives you valuable information, this deck can lose to alot of cards if you don’t see them comming (baneslayer) but if you see it on top of there library you can hold back your burn or change your play inorder to find a way to beat your opponent. There were many times when my opponent would reveal a lightning bolt and I had the decision next turn to play either a ball lightning or a hell’s thunder. Him revealing the lightnig bolt gaveme one chioce I won many games off the information I gained from goblin guide, it allows you to know exactly what to play around.

  22. Sorry about the non-comments…I’ve been away from the hotel room all day doing Austiny things. Having a great time in Texas (which is something I never thought I would say). Austin is a very, very crazy city. Crazy!

    Anyway, I may have underestimated the power of the Jund. I’ll have more thoughts next week on it.

    LCQ didn’t come together, mostly due to not testing enough with the deck I did play and card availability for what I didn’t play. The dealers in Austin were pretty bad, as in not having cards that people needed. I ended up not having the cards I needed for the PTQ on Saturday, which also cost me a match. :-/ Pretty frustrating.

  23. i would ignore them too. dude is a moron. like, ok, its not nearly as polished as it could have been, but its free and it still provides a fair amount of useful information. people on the internet are god damned retards. give them a fish, and they take a mile haha.

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