At the end of Day One, we, your humble coverage slaves, were toiling away in the word mines of the dusky coverage room. Oblivious to the world around us as we struggled to make our fingers work after a long, hard day of bringing you the bestest, most grammared Pro Tour coverage possible, we were slipped an innocuous looking piece of paper.
Matthias Hunt 6-2
Kyle Stoll 7-1
Brandon Nelson 4-4
Matt Nass 5-3
Jason Schousboe 4-4
Shahar Shenhar 7-1
Michael Hetrick 6-2
Ricky Sidher 6-2
Andrejs Prist 6-2
Josh McClain 5-3
We had no idea what this laundry list of names and numbers was until it was explained to us that there was a little team based out of dual hubs on the west coast and Minneapolis that was quietly tearing up the Pro Tour. They called themselves Team Panik, and they now had our attention. There were some very good names on that list. Matthias Hunt is the reigning Rookie of the Year, Shahar Shenhar has won two Grand Prix this season, Matt Nass has a Grand Prix win under his belt...this team definitely had some skill. And they had rattled off a combined 30-18 record in the Block Constructed portion of the tournament with an innovative Red-Green Midrange deck that seemed perfectly poised for the field at hand.
After a long night's sleep, and rejuvenated by a refreshing can of Fanta con zumo de naranja, I slipped away to speak with Matthias Hunt about his team's deck. Based on the results from Magic Online, the best deck in Block Constructed before the inclusion of Avacyn Restored was clearly the highly aggressive White-red Humans deck. Capable of throwing out legions of creatures and toasting opponents with copious quantities of burn, the deck gained even more tools with the release of Silverblade Paladin and Zealous Conscripts and seemed poised to dominate the Pro Tour.
And then people found this funny little deck with Forests, Plains, and Mountains, and the whole world got flipped upside down. The Wolves and Angels decks that I'm sure you know by now have dominated this Pro Tour were built as a response to White-Red Humans. Bonfire of the Damned blows puny Humans up. Huntmaster of the Fells tosses two blockers out and provides a touch of life gain, all while getting to blow things up if he flips. Angels completely negate burn and combat. The deck just shreds White-Red Humans.
But Hunt and his crew weren't concerned with that when they set about finding a deck for this tournament. For them, there was only one card that mattered: Wolfir Silverheart. "When it came to beating the White-Red Humans deck, we found that removal was not effective. Their threats are too good, too fast, and required too many different types of answers. The best way to do it was to play a bigger threat, and I think, at this point, that most players began to realize that Wolfir Silverheart was one of the best cards in this format. Wolfir Silverheart answers White-Red Humans. So we came up with the goal of finding the best Wolfir Silverheart deck. We had a White-Green deck similar to the Channelfireball deck, but more of a 'walking anthems' version, we had this Red-Green deck, and we had Three-Color. The reason we didn't go with the last option is that we wanted to cast Strangleroot Geist on turn two. That's something that none of the heavy color decks could do. It's great against control, it's a good double blocker against White-Red, and it's terrible against Three-Color. When we got to the site and found out that Three-Color was so popular, we went back and basically played a bunch of mirror matches and came up with some interesting sideboard ideas."
The deck functions under the premise that you need to play bigger creatures than your opponents play, and it uses Wolfir Silverheart to ensure that. It has a good amount of mana acceleration, just like the Three-Color deck, running Avacyn's Pilgrim and Scorned Villager to power out Huntmaster of the Fells and a fast Wolfir Silverheart. In the most common matchup against Three-Color, Hunt believes that the game is mostly posturing until someone lands a Silverheart. "You're kind of trying to jockey for position. You both have eight mana creatures, you may Pillar of Flame them off, you might try to Bonfire of the Damned for one each other. The other thing you can of is if you can get an early Huntmaster of the Fells you can flip it to kill a mana creature, but only when you're really far ahead. Garruk Relentless is good for fighting off mana critters, too, and a flipped Garruk is really hard to deal with. They have them too, though, so you have to be careful and make sure to keep Kessig Wolf Run available in order to pump whoever Garruk wants to fight."
Their sideboard contains an interesting plan to reinforce their deck against both White-Red Humans and Three-Color: Tree of Redemption.
"The biggest thing that you're trying to do is get a Tree online. It's great against the decks we want to beat, and we have this neat little interaction between Increasing Savagery, Silverheart, and Tree, where the goal is to add between four and nineteen toughness to a Tree, and you'll set your life to that every other turn. In addition, you create a lethal blocker. We realized during testing that about 70% of games against Three-Color were reaching this state where you start tapping your Trees for life gain, not to mention that they're lethal blockers, and you just hold them at bay. Eventually you win because we've got four Abundant Growths and a lone Nephalia Drownyard in the board, and you mill them out. It's gotten a few raised eyebrows, to be fair. This is ambitious, but we have won matches off this plan."
Raised eyebrows or not, the results stand for themselves. Here's Hunt's list: