Deck Analysis

Posted in Event Coverage

By Alex Shvartsman

Unlike the Blastoderm-happy U.S. Nationals Top 8, Junior Super Series boasted a variety of archetypes, and only one copy of Fires. The archetype abuses the already powerful Saproling Burst and Blastoderm cards with Fires of Yavimaya. Those two cards are somewhat balanced by the fact that eventually they go away. The three casting cost enchantment from Invasion speeds up the deck considerably, allowing its caster to squeeze the most out of their creatures. Side benefits of Fires of Yavimaya include being able to save a creature in combat or deal extra damage, when it is sacrificed for its pump-up effect, or significantly weakening an opponent's Wrath of God - since any creature that resolves will get a chance to attack at least once.

To continue with a large creature theme, Shivan Wurm's disability is virtually cancelled by the deck's mana acceleration (Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves) and various creatures with powerful come-into-play abilities such as Flametongue Kavu and the Battlemage. Further mana acceleration is provided by Thornscape Familiar - a somewhat rogue choice on Ashkar's part.

It is common for Fires players to splash white for sideboard cards and kicker ability on the green Battlemage. Ashkar opted for splashing black instead. He did not play Duress - perhaps the best black splash card in this scenario. Instead, he used black mana to help activate Thunderscape Battlemage. Whereas Thornscape Battlemage is an excellent card in Fires, capable of taking out Static Orb as well as acting as a guilt-free Flametongue Kavu, Thunderscape Battlemage is almost as good. It is a solid card in the mirror match as it can destroy Fires of Yavimaya or Saproling Burst, and the ability to make an opponent discard two cards is useful against any archetype.

If Ashkar's deck is of the best known archetype, the most rogue was the deck played by David Dimalanta. Akin to last year's "Red Deck Wins 2000", it is a mono-red strategy filled with cards that do not look like much - but it is meaner than it seems.

goblin raider

This particular deck was first seen at a Neutral Ground Grudge Match qualifier, where Dave Price made it into the finals. Mono-red has the tendency to get played a lot, whenever it is at all viable. Such was the case here - Price's deck was met with enthusiasm, copied, and played in various events - including US Nationals and the JSS. The philosophy of this deck is quite simple. Cast creatures very early on (Kris Mage and Goblin Raider reprinted in Seventh Edition being the key early drops). Use fast burn to take out an opponent's mana creatures. If creatures are lacking, send burn straight at the opponent's head. Skizzik replaces the once-popular Ball Lightning as the larger creature, backed up by Chimeric Idol and Flametongue Kavu. This archetype is easy to hose - there is a number of cards it just cannot deal with, such as Story Circle or even Saproling Burst - but the deck wins its matches based on sheer speed and firepower - it is better equipped to punish an opponent for a slow start than most others.

Another aggressive deck making it into the top 8 this year is Meddling Rebels, played by Matt Boccio. Very similar to the archetype played by team Rejects in Pro Tour Chicago, it replaces Power Sink with Meddling Mage.

Whereas control decks use the Rebel engine to eventually get out a large monster (Ramosian Sky Captain or Jhovall Queen), Boccio's deck is about the "Bears" (2/2 creatures for two mana). His idea is often to overwhelm an opponent, while the option of gaining card economy with his rebel searchers is there for when he needs it. This archetype used to need Power Sink to handle some of the nastier anti-rebel spells such as Flashfires, Tsabo's Decree and Wrath of God. Meddling Mage does a great job at that, while providing an additional 2/2-for-two body.

Boccio's deck has no counter magic, but it boasts an array of utility spells - Reverent Mantra, Parallax Wave and Disenchant help take care of various problems. Mirror matchup is made weaker by Boccio's unwillingness to spare a slot for Rebel Informer in the main deck, but there is one waiting in the sideboard.

David Cox is representing the Nether-Go archetype in this top 8. It is a black-blue control deck that relies heavily on the hard-to-remove Nether Spirit - as a way to slow down opponent's creatures early on and win the game later. Virtually every other card in the deck is there to establish and retain control of the game. There are ten counterspells (some versions play even more!), a number of card drawing engines - Probe doubles up as a card drawer and a way to hurt an opponent - and a number of direct or indirect removal spells such as Vendetta and Recoil.

David Cox is playing with several additional ways to win the game. On top of his three Nether Spirits, there is Bribery, capable of taking control of something like Mahamoti Djinn or Rith in some circumstances, and a pair of Millstones. NetherGo has been slowly losing ground to the more versatile blue-white control decks, but it is still an archetype that is present and powerful, as proven by Cox.

James Hollister chose to combine the best of both worlds, playing a Black-Blue-White Probe-Go deck that combines the power of black control spells with versatility of white. His victory conditions include three Nether Spirits and a Millstone. While similar to Cox's deck, it also has Last Breath and Wrath of God, far superior to creature control spells available in black. Hollister's color combination allows him to play a pair of Dromar's Charms and even Dromar The Banisher in the sideboard.

The most popular deck in this top 8 was Merfolk-Orb, navigated by three competitors it also won the tournament. A deck based on Static Orb/Opposition combo was first seen at the Argentine Nationals, but it was truly noticed after two copies placed in the top 8 of German Nationals a week prior to the JSS finals. Team Godzilla, featuring Kai Budde, Zvi Mowshowitz, and Ben Ronaldson among others designed the version from Germany. Just two days later, Ollie Schneider won UK Nationals with the same deck.

static orb

Orb-Opposition was an instant hit. It was the first truly new archetype since Seventh Edition became tournament-legal, and saw plenty of play between US Open, US Nationals, and the JSS. The three decks in the top 8 were all mono-blue (some versions have been known to splash white or black), featured an array of creatures, commonly using Lord of Atlantis, several types of Merfolk, Temporal Adept and Prodigal Sorcerer.

An aggressive "Fish" deck seems to rise up in the metagame every year or so, designed to beat the prevalent archetypes of the day. So it was this time, with one notable change. Instead of a large number of counterspells, the deck would use Opposition and Static Orb as its control elements. With inexpensive creatures and spells that allow caster to return Islands back to his hand (Gush, Thwart, Daze), Static Orb hardly hurt its caster - but it is an excellent card against Fires, control, and most other decks in the environment. Opposition with two creatures in play would allow the player to completely eliminate an opponent's draw step. You could also tap your own Static Orb at the end of an opponent's turn to untap all of your permanents, while not letting an opponent out of the lock.

Junior Super Series featured a wide array of deck types, played well by the young pros of tomorrow. Although this tournament is often overshadowed by the U.S. Nationals, JSS decks are often well-worth examining and will better represent the current metagame at the local store level.

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