Yesterday's Standard portion of the Canadian Nationals brought an interesting mix of deck archetypes together in competition. Although 50% of the decks fell into one of three major archetypes (Blue Control 15.3%, Living Death (13.8%) and White Weenie (20%), There was no clear "Best Deck". This was an excellent forum for skill, as there were many relatively new deck types, including the Bargain-based combo decks and Gary Krakower's black control deck.
Archetype 1: White Weenie
This deck type took up 1/5 of the field and was heavily sideboarded against, with many decks sporting Dread of Night in the sideboard to deal with the fast, aggressive weenie rush. The deck deals well with almost all threats, and the MVP of this deck is Mother of Runes which allows it to defeat Death as well as Mono-Blue. Many players chose to follow Kyle Rose in abusing Waylay after it's ruling at the US Nationals, effectively giving White a Ball Lightning-like card.
Archetype 2: Blue Control
This deck is bears resemblance to Draw-Go, Forbiddian and the Donais Canyon Stasis deck, combining elements from all 3. Combining a plethora of counter-magic with the power of Capsize and usually including Theiving Magpie for card advantage, this deck makes it very difficult to get anything on the table. When there is a threat, it drops a Tradewind Rider or Masticore, and cleans the board off so that it can march over with no opposition. Top 8 Competitor Bruce Marsan took this deck to a 6-0 result during the Standard portion of this year's Canadian Nationals.
Archetype 3: Living Death
This deck, played by Brian Seldon at the US Nationals is famous for filling the graveyard with creatures and Deathing them back into play. This deck has an amazing synergy even without the Living Death. Death's primary strength is in it's ability to deal with almost any threat, and to fetch the answer using it's super-creature-tutor Survival Of the Fittest. 2 Finalists in the Canadian Nationals are playing Death variants, Ryan Fuller and Jeff Cunningham, with Cunninham also posting an impressive 6-0 record.
Archetype 4: Suicide Black
This deck is well known for it's ability to spit out a few cheap creatures early and then casting Hatred for the win. This deck's primary strength is speed, with very few decks able to handle it's furious onslaught. Notable people playing this deck at Nationals were Jeff Fung, Terry Tsang and Finalist Marc Rajotte. Rajotte posted a 5-1 record in the swiss portion of Nationals.
Archetype 5: Bargain-Combo
While Combo decks have been around since the dawn of time (does anyone remember the Lure-Thicket Basilisk Combo?) they have in recent years become major forces to deal with in the tournament scent. Most notable of these combo decks is the Pros-Bloom deck that Mike Long took to victory at PT:Paris and the High-Tide deck that dominated the last round of Extended qualifiers. The next generation of Combo decks are including Yawgmoth's Bargain, with Blaze or Stroke of Genius for the win. The deck uses Bargain to draw a lot of cards, Delusions of Mediocrity to draw more cards, artifacts like Grim Monolith, and Turnabout to generate enough mana to kill. These decks seem to be inconsistent, even though 3 different people rode them to US Nationals Top 8 last week. Finalist Gab Tsang achieved a 4-2 record in the swiss, while Gary Wise, playing the same deck posted a 0-4 record before dropping. While no one doubts the deck's ability to pull off spectacular wins, it may not have the consistency to remain a strong force in the tournament scene.
Archetype 6: Trade-Blossom
Another older deck type, this archetype gained popularity during the Rath-Cycle qualifiers for PTRome. Top 8 Competitor Jurgen Hahn also included Awakening in his deck, to capitalize on the power of Capsize and Whispers of the Muse. This commonly known deck uses Capsize and Tradewind Riders to control the board, and counter-magic to protect itself.
Archtype 7: Black Control
This deck archetype is very similar to pre-sixth edition Necro, using Powder Keg, Edict and Cursed Scroll as Removal, Duress and Stupor to decimate the opponents hand and a few large creatures for the win. Krakower started Skittering Horror and Western Paladin, while teammate Matt Vienneau used a single Nightmare in addition to the other creatures. This archetype did very well, with only a few people choosing to use it in the Standard Portion of the Swiss. Krakower went 4-2 and Vienneau posted a 5-1 record.
The top 8 players are as follows:
Ryan Fuller - Living Death
Jeff Cunningham - Living Death
Bruce Marsan - Mono Blue Control
Jurgen Hahn - TradeAwake
Marc Rajotte - Suicide Black
Jason Simard - Suicide Black
Gab Tsang - Zvi Bargain
Gary Krakower - Control Black
Unlike US Nationals, there is no single deck that appears to dominate the field or the top 8. With 6 different archetypes in the top 8, there will be a good field of competition. A look over the top 8 decklists does reveal 1 interesting fact: 6 out of the top 8 decks had Masticore in either the main deck or the sideboard. Both Hahn and Cunningham considered it for their decks. Hahn stated "There are so many things that can go into a Trade/Awake deck that you have to cut and slash everywhere. It (Masticore) just didn't make the cut". Cunningham had a different view on the matter: "It seems to me that most times when a Death deck goes for Masticore, it's because they need a beat-down creature, and I think Deranged Hermit is better for that." The top 8 promises to be an entertaining and exciting play-off.