by Kim Eikefet
2000 Pro Tour Chicago is the first major tournament to use Standard with Invasion. However, the metagame was more or less defined before the Pro Tour started as the States Championships used the same format. In New York this year, rebels dominated the Masques Block Constructed, and the rebels seem to be back in a large number for this Pro Tour.
Either alone or combined with other colours, the rebel chain can be pretty lethal. If one of the searchers recovers from summoning sickness, chances are that the table will soon be swarming with white creatures in all shapes and sizes.
Just like in New York, Warren Marsh chose to play mono-white rebels. "I'm confident playing it. It's an okay deck, and I didn't want to play Fires," Warren says. He picked the deck four weeks ago, and since then he's been tuning it by adding Chimeric Idols main deck. "I went mono because I got access to Dust Bowls and [Rishadan] Ports. If I add other colours, you don't get those lands. But there is a lot of rebel decks here, and a lot of people play cards to beat it like main deck Rebel Informers and Tsabo's Decrees. So this shouldn't be a good Tour for me," Warren thinks. He hoped to go 5-2 with this deck, but he wouldn't put money on it.
Mattias Jorstedt and Mattias Kettil from Sweden went with rebels as well, but they splashed blue in their deck for three Power Sinks. "It's an aggressive rebel deck with a lot of searchers and no fatties," Jorstedt explains. "A lot of other decks try to kill all the searchers, so when you play a lot of them, there is a chance you might just draw Lin Sivvi and play it. We had a mono-white version that was really good, but then we lost against Flashfires and Tsabo's Decree. So we added seven blue/white lands as a protection against Flashfires, and we added three Power Sinks."
Kettil had some bad luck and lost against the mirror matchup in the first round. Then he won the second match before losing again to his worst matchup - Blue Skies with Rising Waters and Wash Outs. Jorstedt, on the other hand, was 3-0 in matches and 6-0 in duels after three rounds of play. He didn't regret at all adding the blue to the deck, in fact he figured the deck would do really well in the format. "I hope to go 6-1. There are more rebels here than I expected, but that's pretty good for us as not many players had four Lin Sivvis or Rebel Informer main deck," he says.
Erno Ekebom, Tuomo Nieminen and Tomi Walamies from Finland chose to play CounterRebel, a rebel chained spiced up with a mixture of countermagic and card drawers. "Why not?" Erno says when asked why he chose the deck. "We didn't have any other decks," Tuomo grins. Tomi on the other hand, was the one who created the deck. "I like its chances against ordinary rebels, Fires and blue/white control, and those are the three decks I want to beat. If you look around, then you see a lot of those decks," he explains.
After two rounds of play, Erno and Tuomo were both 1-1 while Tomi had a 2-0 record. Still, Erno doubted that the Finns would do particularly well in the Pro Tour. "We don't play constructed that much. We hate this format," he says.
Finland's controversial player, Arto Hiltunen, didn't have faith in the CounterRebel deck though. So he picked blue/white control instead, and after two rounds, he was 2-0. "I think the CounterRebel deck might have mana problems. They play a lot of counterspell with two blue in the casting cost, and they don't have as many card drawers as blue/white control. I think this deck is safer. Besides, I don't want to play slow control decks," Arto adds.
Arto was not the only one who chose to play white and blue control. In fact, retro is in, and a lot of players picked old style control decks with Wraths of God, countermagic and big flyers. "I would play rebels except from that I don't feel confident with it. Blastoderms are really big while rebels are really small. I like the idea of controlling the game, I like countering and attacking," Gary Wise says.
Gary didn't believe that his deck would have a chance of winning though. "I don't think you can win a Pro Tour of any format with a control deck, but my goal is not winning. I just want to play well, have fun and see what happens," he claims. Then again, the format doesn't particularly exite him, and as States had the same format, Gary lost a lot of the enthusiasm about playtesting - the field was already established. "I would have liked it more if States hadn't happened," he admits.
Nicolas Labarre compared his blue/white control deck with CounterPhoenix. His Blinding Angels worked as both a kill card and a creature control card, just like the Shard Phoenixes did in the CounterPhoenix deck. "I have a control deck with a lot of drawers, and it's typically my kind of deck. I tested it enough to realise that it beats most other decks, I just needed an anti control sideboard, that should be enough," he says. Indeed, Labarre has some special sideboard tech, but he didn't want to reveal it.
White blue and white seemed to be the most popular colour combination, green/white had sailed up as one of the hot decks before the Pro Tour. Jakob Janoska chose to play a green and white deck. His deck also had a retro style as it was much like the good, old ErnhamGeddon decks with creatures and Armageddons. "I chose the deck because I'm comfortable with aggro-control. I have no [Rishadan] Ports or Dust Bowls. I felt that people would play Tsabo's Web and so I felt that Geddon would be better," he explains. Jakob's deck held both Disenchants and Wax/Wanes and he was happy to see a lot of blue/white in the field. "My deck is very good against rebels," he smiles.
Jakob is a part of the new team Kobrakai. Kobrakai consists of him, Brian Kowal, Zvi Mowshowitz, Seth Burn, Scott Johns, Adrian Sullivan and Brian Selden, and so Jakob got to test a lot before the Pro Tour. In good, old Jon Finkel style, Jakob estimated his chances of making the top 8 to be 45 percent. He also figured that his chances of making money would be 90 percent as he had splits with a lot of people.
While the blue/white control decks and the green/white FattieGeddon decks are retro, not many decks are more retro than Millstone. And that's exactly what Janosch Kuehn chose to play. "I didn't playtest a lot, so I came here with decks that weren't very good. I'd found everything on the internet. But I flew here with two friends, and one of them had a Millstone deck. So I decided to play a similar deck. I really like to play defensive decks and control. The deck has only two Millstones and no creatures main deck. And I can't lose if I win the first duel," Janosch explains.
On the other hand, he can't win either if he loses the first duel. "I lost last round 0-1 because I wasn't able to win the second duel," he admits. Still, Kuehn reckons that the deck is okay in the field. "I've heard that there are CounterRebel decks here, and that might be a hard matchup. I'll have to Wrath to kill just one searcher, because once one hits the table, they all come out."
Fires entered the field as a new and hot deck during States, and it has been one of the decks to beat during playtesting. The deck is based around the enchantment Fires of Yavimaya, and combined with mana accelerators and big, green fatties like Blastoderm and Saproling Burst, the deck can deal a lot of damage really quickly. Mike Pustilnik felt that the deck was good enough for him to play it in the Pro Tour as well, although he lost confidence in it the day before the Pro Tour. "I thought it was the best deck, then I playtested heavily against control and I lost most of the matches. But I had to go with the deck I know," he says.
Still, Pustilnik was 2-0 after two rounds of play, and his deck did in fact have some special tech. "I splash white for Aura Mutation," he reveals. "I think there are a lot of dangerous enchantments that has to be dealt with, like Parallax Wave, Saproling Bursts and even Crusade. The card is never dead, I can Aura Mutation my own Saproling Bursts as well. It's a solid card that is never bad, and sometimes it's very, very good."
Pustilnik believed that the deck could run into problems versus control. "Blinding Angel is a very big problem unless I get off to a very fast start. "It shuts down my entire offense. I have three Ghitu Fires to kill them, but those decks have a lot of counterspells," he concludes.
In spite of the problems against control, the two Pro Tour Champions Jon Finkel and Casey McCarrel both chose to play Fires as well. "Why not, I'm sure it doesn't suck. That's why I play it," Finkel says. After two rounds, he had a 2-0 record. Casey, on the other hand, was 0-2. "I mulliganed four times, I had bad draws and bad matchups," he explains. The two of them didn't test a lot though, and none of them knew the deck's good or bad matchups. But Finkel figured he would go 5-2 the first day. "I lose to mono-blue with Glacial Wall though," Casey says - one of his losses came after his opponent dropped two of the 0/7 walls.
The mono-blue Glacial Wall deck was created by none other than Adrian Sullivan, and he was one of the players who chose to use the deck in the Pro Tour as well. "I first started out trying to make Big Blue," he explains. Big Blue was based on Control Magic, Wall of Air, Air Elemental and a couple of Mahamoti Djinns, and sometimes it also packed Ancestral Memories and Browse in order to draw into the few counterspells of the deck. "It was pretty logical that Fact or Fiction would be better than Ancestral Memories, and Accumulated Knowledge could be like the additional card drawing of Browse," Sullivan says, also comparing Thwart and Foil to the good, old Force of Will.
The deck evolved a lot from there though. "Wall of Air was good. They stopped Blazing Specters and killed little rebels if I had two walls. So it looked good at first, but then I played against Fires," Adrian says. That changed everything. Adrian needed the walls to be bigger as a Wall of Air did nothing to a Blastoderm, and after a short while, he discovered Glacial Wall. "I laughed at first, but then I realised that it is very, very cheap," he smiles. The next step in the evolution of his deck was to remove some of the library manipulation for some bounce. "Wash Out isn't like disk, but it is a huge set of Time Walks. With two Wash Out, two Repulse and four Glacial Walls I can let spells resolve while I hit them for four with an Air Elemental. If they cast more threats, then I Wash Out. They will normally spend three or four turns building up, and then they're dead."
GOT THE SPIRIT
Nether-Go was another decktype that made an impact in the States Championships, and Carlos Barrado from Spain chose to use the deck. Based around countermagic and Nether Spirits, the deck counters most threats and uses the Nether Spirits as both a blocker and as a finisher. "I think the deck wins against red/green Fires and blue/white control, and I think those decks will be the most played ones. But I've seen many rebel decks, and that's not a good matchup for me," he says.
Barrado's tech was four Memory Lapses. "You need fast counters, because all you need is to have four mana to play Fact or Fiction and you've won. Lapse slows your opponents down," he smiles. Barrado figured that he could go 5-2 and make the second day with his Nether-Go deck. "It's a good deck."
Three Japanese players also chose to use Nether Spirits in their deck. Tsuyoshi Ikeda developed a deck that he called Counter-Bribery which used countermagic, a lot of library manipulation, four Briberies and two Nether Spirits for the kill if their opponents didn't play any creatures. "I think the deck is fun, I enjoy it. When I use Bribery, my opponent's face is very funny," Ikeda grins.
While Ikeda's two friends, Tadayoshi Komiya and Michihisa Onoda both were 2-0 after two rounds of play, Ikeda himself had a disappointing 0-2 record. "In the first round I played Onoda. I taught him how to play the deck, and he beat me. Then in the second round my opponent cast Armageddon, and I didn't have a counter."
Ikeda thought that the deck was pretty strong against most decks, but he had to admit though that the deck is weak against rebels. "I didn't think that there would be many rebel decks, so I took out most of the sideboard against rebels. Now I regret that!"
Most tournaments see a couple of rogue decks, and David Williams was one of them. He and Bob Maher, Jr. had playtested together, and they both ended up playing a deck that combined Blue Skies with the Ankh-Tide combo. "It seemed like all the other decks were rock/paper/scissors, they all lost to one deck. I wasn't comfortable with that, so I played this deck, which beats a turn one [Ramosian] Sergeant. It's also really good against blue/white, and I knew a lot of pros would play blue/white. The deck has a chance to beat every deck, because they all have flaws," Williams says.
After three rounds, David Williams was 1-1-1, but he still liked the deck a lot. "I played two blue/white decks, and I beat the first. I lost to green/red because I didn't play a fourth land. But that happens," he says, hoping to go 5-1-1 but expecting to go 4-2-1.
Darwin Kastle of Your Move Games also chose to play a rogue deck. He made a blue and black Merfolk deck with Crypt Angels. "I thought most people would play rebels, green/white or green/red. I have Wash Outs and Crypt Angels against rebels, and then I have Marauding Knight and Perish in the sideboard. So I think I have a deck that should beat most other decks," Darwin says.
After two rounds of play, he had already beat two rebel decks. "I don't think anyone's prepared for what I'm playing, as this is not a known archetype," he says. "So I suspect I won't get any mirror matchups, which I don't like - it's lame. And I also think I have an advantage as people don't know what is in my deck."