Wow, what a weekend. Evolution 2k9 has come and gone and Diago ‘The Beast’ Umehara is once again champion after besting Justin Wong in Street Fighter 4, oh wait. Right this is a Magic site, my bad, still getting hype after watching the finals and making plans to attend and play in the 2010 Evo. While the biggest fighting game tournament was going on, a number of other champions were crowned around the world as a multitude of Nationals took place along with a couple of other high profile money events.
So we now have four major Nationals results in for post-M10 standard, what the results have borne out aren’t entirely surprising, but quite a bit more varied than I expected. So the metagame looks to consist largely of Combo Elves, Kithkin, Faeries and 5cc; with Jund and Red being around to wreck unprepared players. 5cc was probably the biggest surprise for me, since without a clear metagame to work against and the loss of Wrath of God it seemed to be in a tenuous position in Standard. Multiple high level players made it work though and it’s a good starting point for future endeavors with the deck.
Some data points from the Aussie, Jpn, Singapore and Spanish Nationals.
Top 8 Placements:
Elffinity: 5 (1 win)
5cc: 4 (2 wins)
Cascade Aggro: 4
Kithkin: 4 (1 win)
B/R Aggro: 2
5c Aggro: 1
Sanity Grinding: 1
Mannequin Control: 1
G/B Elves: 1
Surprisingly enough, Faeries once again reigned supreme in regards to the number of Top 8 appearances. However unlike previous times when I’ve collected data and sighed at the Fae dominance, you’ll note the critical 0 in the win column. Instead the weekend largely saw Kithkin show up and do reasonably well for being the big target coming in, 5cc perhaps had some dirt thrown on it a little early and Elffinity basically lived up to it’s full potential with the addition of Elvish Archdruid. The most unique deck of the weekend probably falls under Nicastri’s Mannequin control deck or Albertus Law’s take on the formerly deceased Sanity Grinding deck. Let’s take a look at that right now.
Mono U Mill
Sleep and Time Warp were some nice additions to the deck and gives the deck even more options than just trying to fog for time or cascade into potentially non-lethal Grindings. Instead you get a slightly weaker version of the Turbo Fog approach while keeping the combo win viable. Although I have yet to test it, with this many counters and Vendilion Clique post-board I can’t imagine it not destroying Combo Elves and having a decent shot against slower control decks.
So where do we go from here? Well I was thinking something along the lines of Cascade Control being the bees knees, despite losing the LD plan which kneecapped control and combo. Losing Wrath of God really didn’t change much, since Hallowed Burial fills the space versus Kithkin, Jund and Elves nicely. You still have the mini-sweeper in Volcanic Fallout and if that doesn’t work for you, just switch it up to Maelstrom Pulse*, which is probably just better now anyway. Sure you may not have that many relevant plays, but once you get going it’s difficult to stop the wave of momentum the deck gets.
*Every time someone runs out turn 2 Honor of the Pure to stop Volcanic Fallout, I die a little inside. To top it off, the card isn’t even that good against Elves combo. Basically it stomps the bad / quick hands and loses if they have any of the actual non-Elf cards in the deck on turn 3/4.
This is where I was going with my Cascade Control adventures. Against aggressive decks you have a bunch of solid creatures to trade with while packing plenty of spot removal, Fallout and Hallowed Burial. Of course even though you crush the average aggro deck, that left you wide-open against Faeries, which meant a new plan had to be cobbled together to deal with that. The idea post-board against Faeries is to turn into a more aggressive Cascade deck, winning almost entirely with burn-esque effects. Think of Great Sable Stag as a better Sulfuric Vortex, and then combine it with Volcanic Fallout, Bloodbraid Elf and Blightning for pouring on the offense.
I’ll explain a few of the odder choices in the deck, but I won’t go into too much detail since unfortunately this deck might already be outdated in the current metagame. Plumeveil is just better than Finks against Jund, Kithkin and Magma Spray red players. The only place you really want to use them to attack with is against Faeries and that only matters G1, because after that you’ll board out your 3cc stuff for Stags anyway. They also combine well with Wall of Reverence to become Voltron and buy at least 3-4 turns unless they Path / Pulse ASAP.
Baneslayer Angel started off as an experiment moreso than anything else, as I wanted to see if it was powerful enough to support Enlisted Wurm or outclass Broodmate Dragon. Angel was strong, but obviously couldn’t live up to the insane hype it generated. Many times it died to Path to Exile, Maelstrom Pulse or Doom Blade and it was a big tempo sink to drop it on turn five or six and watch it get taken out. Flip-side of the coin was that if Baneslayer lived through two untap steps it was nearly always a game-win regardless of board position. Gaining 5 life a turn while having a four turn clock or making attacks very unprofitable for the opponent is pretty solid from a control perspective. It compares well to Exalted Angel, with the obvious downside of being unable to split the cost over multiple turns. Still Broodmate is better in matches that don’t involve a billion creatures crowding the field.
Cryptic Command is a huge strain on the mana and might not be worth the stretch. However the mana without painlands is going to mostly consist of Vivids / Trilands / Filters anyway, so the benefits to minimize color commitments just didn’t seem to be there at the time. After a decent number of games I can safely say that Cryptic does probably not maybe sort of belong in the deck. I have no idea. Cryptic is absurd, but it’s hard to get an objective idea of how much it skews certain mana draws and how many games I’d win / lose if Cryptic was something else. At this point I kind of like running it just so I can scare opponents when I hit 5 mana into playing into the Cryptic / Bituminous Blast game.
Great Sable Stag and some number of Wall of Reverence are the only cards I’m sure are worth the slots in the sideboard. Kitchen Finks is pretty awful outside of the red match and if they run Spray it’s just worse than Plumes. Maelstrom Pulse is there because it’s better than Fallout in the aggro and midrange matches, but I’m not sure if that’s a good enough excuse for justifying minor upgrades. Blightning wasn’t in my original builds, but I ganked it from the Cascade control decks from Alara block when I started to realize how much of a dog I was against control, plus it helped beat on Faeries.
The biggest problem and one I don’t know how to address, is the giant hole it has against decks playing to win, but not using the attack step to do so. I can’t ever beat that awful Open the Vaults combo deck, because all it does is goldfish me and I only have Cryptic Command to interact in any meaningful way. Against Combo Elves I have a bunch of spot removal, but that’s really my only chance, to keep stomping on them with burn and Pulses while cascading into more. Sometimes this plan works and other times they play a Forge-Tender and you die on turn 4 being unable to do anything since you lost the die roll. A couple of Broken Ambitions and Essence Scatter would go a long way to fix this, but the deck isn’t really suited for it unlike Shuuhei’s build.
Combo Elves isn’t really that resilient though, you can usually get there with a couple of spot removal spells and a ‘finisher’ of sorts. Not necessarily killing the opponent, but something like Identity Crisis or Mind Shatter will do the job just fine. If you can deplete their hand after keeping the board mostly clear, you’ve basically won. What happens is even if they can get the mana engine back on track, they have nothing good to cast with it. If they topdeck Ranger of Eos and Regal Force, I guess you got me, but otherwise keeping Heritage Druid and Elvish Archdruid dead backed by discard means you just win.
Here’s another example of how you can build Cascade Control, this is Steve Sadin’s from the Kentucky 5k this weekend, where he finished in 3rd.
If you don’t want to go with Cascade and want to rock a non-creature deck, apparently 5cc is still legit although Mulldrifter strikes me as horrific right now. Kithkin should probably try and make room for quad Canonist in the maindeck if Combo Elves makes a big push in numbers played, because that match is just complete garbage for the white player. If they can’t resolve a turn 2/3 Canonist they might as well scoop, because the Elves player is going to win unless you’re Osyp in the finals and mulligan to five. Red with Ball Lightning is garbage and actually red in general is looking pretty grim right now, unless you’re a certain poster on the SCG forums in which case it’s the best deck ever and 2/1 creatures for R are just too sick. Otherwise you lose to life-gain backed by anything with walls, combo that can race, Kithkin and a host of 50/50 or 40/60 matches against bigger creature decks.
Although I don’t have the OMG TECH for you, hopefully this simple recap along with exploration of a deck that was still flying under the radar will give you some ideas for your own standard deck choices. Right now the format is very open, although if I had to choose a ‘best deck’ Elffinity definitely has the most power and can do the best job of modifying itself against most types of hate and Faeries post-board. The only problem now is everyone gunning for you, but I’m sure that won’t stop some from beating down with 50 points of Elves. Best of luck to those attending U.S. Nationals this weekend!
Email me at: joshsilvestriATgmailDOTcom