Today marks the last Masters Gateway, as players battle through a single elimination tournament, fighting for a spot in the Masters and the guaranteed $2000 that goes along with it. Obviously, most players would be more inclined to prepare for the Pro Tour than the Gateway, so historically "stock" decks are plentiful. There are usually a few creative, innovative decks, but they're scarce unless the format is not established. Back at the Chicago Gateway, Australia's Ben Seck played a unique Reanimator deck, and today he has yet again created a deck that has caught the attention of the convention hall. It's a white-red Astral Slide deck that is very similar to the Standard builds, with one striking difference: Fluctuator. This powerful artifact lets him cycle through his deck even faster, triggering Astral Slide for free and Lightning Rift for one mana total. The addition of Urza's Saga cycling lands makes the deck even more powerful.
Seck: Back in Australia, everyone thinks Fluctuator is banned! For some reason the banned lists are kind of murky, especially for a card like Fluctuator. There were a lot of people here yesterday and today who told me they thought it was banned. With all the cycling in the new set, there seemed to at least be some sort of synergy. I only started brainstorming with the deck about three or four days ago. Going with the basis of the Standard deck, it just kind of evolved from there. The biggest advantage you get is Fluctuator, obviously, and the addition of twelve cycling lands between Blasted Landscape and the red and white ones.
Sideboard: Is the basic goal the same as the Standard deck, or are there any differences?
Seck: It's just much quicker. Fluctuator is really crucial to this deck. The Standard deck has (Exalted) Angels, and I have no Angels maindeck. Basically, because Angels are too slow in this format for what they need to do. I have too many lands that come into play tapped and things like that. I found that against Lackey or any sort of Sligh, (the Angels) just never got to unmorph, and Astral Slide is pretty much a luxury against that deck. You don't have time to cast it, you have to cycle Slice and Dice and Gempalm Incinerators first.
Sideboard: Can the deck go off pretty fast with Lightning Rift once you get Fluctuator out?
Seck: Once you've stabilized the board with the Rifts or the Slide, and you have a Rift down, you can kill them within two or three turns without having any pressure on you. The good thing is, the Rift is creature control as well as the win condition.
Sideboard: You have some random cards in the deck too, like Radiant's...
Seck: There's two Radiant's Judgment, two Scraps and one Clear. Basically, I needed to find two-mana cycling cards that would work well with Fluctuator. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any point if I were running cards from the Standard cycling deck like Akroma's Blessing and cards like that. So I was just looking at the metagame, and looking at which cards could possibly be used. Clear, there's only a single one, but if you have Fluctuator out and you need to get rid of a (Pernicious) Deed, you can just search for it. Fluctuator is like a cheater card. Scrap is mostly against Cursed Scroll if I can't stabilize, but in theory it's good against Tinker. That's a minor thing though. The numbers of Scraps and Clears are pretty arbitrary.
Radiant's Judgment is actually not too bad in this format with people running (Goblin) Goon, blue/green has Roar tokens and Arrogant Wurms, Spiritmonger if they decide you can't kill it and Ravenous Baloth. There're quite a few targets for it. Then you have Disciples of Law, which are basically a metagame call. What I've found about this Masters is that I think a lot of people haven't done much work for it. So, they default and go to Sligh or blue-green, and this deck's best matchups are theoretically against those decks. It's not that great against Rock since Pernicious Deed pretty much destroys it. But, Rock isn't a popular deck and if you face it, well, this is a Gateway so you're going to have to make some calls somewhere.
Sideboard: What happens if someone Counterspells or destroys the Fluctuator?
Seck: I didn't have Fluctuator in the second game (of the first round, which Seck won.) It just works like a normal Slide deck. It's a little faster, it has Mox Diamonds, but Slide decks can work without Fluctuator. If someone decides to attack the Fluctuator, they can't attack a Slide or Rift. They can attack one part, and the other part of the deck will kick in.
Seck: Initially when I started building the deck, it was all about trying to get a quick kill with Stoic Champion. You could go first turn Stoic Champion, second turn Fluctuator and just kill them, nearly straight up. It just didn't happen that often. They weren't very good in many matchups, and a lot of times you just needed more cycling cards or whatever. So what I've decided to do is have a bit of a transitional sideboard. All of the cards kind of work well with the deck anyway. Flametongue Kavu can obviously do four more (with Astral Slide), Stoic Champion can be big, I have True Believer which is my only concession if I do play against a Rock deck. It protects me from Edicts, Duress and Cabal Therapy. Exalted Angels are just good.
Sideboard: Anything else our readers should know?
Seck: The deck choice, I'm not sure how stable it is in the long term. In the current tournament scene, I think it's a viable deck choice. For the people watching at home, if they want a fun deck to play, this is it.
Sideboard: Yeah, I could tell. You were smiling the whole time last round.
Seck: It doesn't matter if I actually do well with this deck. Historically I used to play a lot of funky decks, and then as I started getting more success in general with Magic, I became more conservative with my deck choices. Just recently at (Australian) Nationals, I went 6-0 in the draft, and 0-4 for the first rounds of Constructed. I played blue/green, because I only needed two wins and a draw (to make Top 8). I've decided, well look, I might as well go with what I know and play a funky deck. Even if I don't do so well, at least I'll have fun along the way.