2004 United States National Championship Feature

Posted in Event Coverage on June 18, 2004

By Ted Knutson

Furnace Dragon

The Red Army with Zvi Mowshowitz
Zvi Mowshowitz is running the Red men today. When asked about it, he reacted as if there was never really a question. "Well for starters, there aren't really any clever decks out there to play, so we decided to run something consistent that had a good sideboard. Goblins gives us access to Furnace Dragon, and Furnace Dragon just beats Affinity, which after you've looked at the field seems like a very good thing.

Plus, Seth Burn was testing with us (and actually attended the event), so there was an obvious Red bias there anyway. I'm very happy with Goblins today… they've served me well in the past (at Worlds and Grand Prix: Atlanta last year), and I'm 2-0 so far."

W/g Control with Brian Kibler
Brian Kibler is playing a W/g control deck today that was originally developed by Mike Flores and Seth Burn in their Regionals testing, and has since been adapted by Brian for Nationals competition.

Kibler: "This is the only deck I seriously tested. I never want to be the one with a target on my forehead at a major tournament, so that ruled out Goblins and Affinity. I strongly considered playing Big Red for a while, but then the Japanese Nationals results came in. After Fujita won with Clickslither and Goblin Goon in his maindeck (both of which are very difficult for Red to handle), I ruled that out.

The White deck is very powerful, which is something that can't be said for a lot of the metagame decks. A lot of those decks can beat the big two, but they just lose to other random decks that you might encounter. The only deck I really don't want to play against is Elf and Nail, because you can't beat a Wood Elf backed up by a Wirewood Symbiote. You at least have a chance against everything else though.

As for the changes I made, the Purges in the sideboard are amazing. Naturalize isn't even good… it generally just kills a Welding Jar, and you don't always have the Green you need to cast it. Sacrificing the ability to potentially kill a Skullclamp is worth it to stabilize the board and give you more time to draw into a Wrath.

The other big changes to the deck are the Renewed Faith and Decrees of Justice in the maindeck. The Faith is good because it allows you that extra bit of time to cast the big spells and win the game, and all this deck usually wants to do is live an extra turn or two and it will stabilize. The Decrees came in for Akroma last night because it's a lot more versatile than Akroma, and Decree can do things before you have eight mana, which seemed important.

A lot of the decks out there have hands full of dead cards against you, which is probably the biggest single advantage of the deck. Plus players who haven't played against Pulse of the Fields seem to have a really hard time, because they either burn low enough so that you can abuse them with Decree of Justice, or you get extra time through Pulse recursion. I'm 2-0 right now, so it's a good start, but overall I really like this deck."

Elf and Nail with Osyp Lebedowicz
Joe Black (as he is known to his fans) chose to run with the big dogs today and is playing the Skullclamp-abusing variation of a standard Tooth and Nail deck. When asked about what attracted him to playing the deck this weekend, this is what he had to say.

Osyp: "This is the first deck we started testing. I mean, at the beginning, we knew there were really only three decks: Goblins, Ravager, and Elf and Nail. At the time, it wasn't as popular as the rest and when we started testing, we figured out that Elf and Nail is harder to hate out. I knew I was going to play a deck with Skullclamp in it, and when I tested the deck it did very well, so that old me.

Vernal Bloom

It has a good match against Affinity, decent against Goblins. Playing Elf and Nail is better than playing the mirror match for either of the other two decks, so it seemed like the right choice. Plus, if you play the Elf and Nail mirror, it's a lot easier to outplay your opponent, since there are a lot of choices to be made, and I feel I can make those choicer better than anyone else.

As for tech, we just tried to work out the right numbers. We've got three Triskelions and two Duplicants in the main. Duplicants are there for the Japanese Goblins deck, which includes Clickslither and Goblin Goon, two cards that are hard to deal with otherwise. We've also got Explosive Vegetation and Mindslaver for the mirror and other control decks.

The overall construction is similar to the original Elf and Nail decks. There are a lot of decisions to be made. A lot of people still don't understand the Goblins matchup right now either, but I'm not going to explain why until after the tournament is over, since there are still four rounds of Type 2 left."

Why does the deck have such a good matchup against Affinity?
"There are two ways to win against Affinty. You either get an early Vernal Bloom and Tooth and Nail, or you get the recurring Wirewood Symbiote/ Viridian Shaman combo. Those two mini-combos let you lock up the game early. You can flood the ground early, so the only two cards we really care about are Ravager and Skullclamp, and if they aren't able to burn you out, the matchup itself is pretty easy."

Do you think you made the right choice for the metagame?
"We figured few folks would switch from what they played at Regionals, so we chose the deck guessing that we'd have an excellent matchup against most of the field if everybody played Ravager. We also figured that Japanese Nationals wouldn't have a huge effect on people's deck choices, since it's never really done that before. Right now it looks like there are a lot of Affinity decks out there, so things look good. We'll see what happens in the later rounds."

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