The New Constructed

Posted in Feature on July 1, 2004

By Alex Shvartsman

This is a very exciting week for constructed Magic fans. The evil Skullclamp is gone, Fifth Dawn is legal for tournament play, and there were not one but two major events offering up the latest winning decks in both Standard and Block formats. This week we've got a ton of deck lists and one of the worst Bad Plays I've seen in a while. Enjoy!

U.K Nationals

The England National Championship was the first major showcase for the new Standard and the results are definitely exciting. First, to no one's surprise, Affinity reared its head yet again. Successful Affinity deck lists look pretty much as though players did nothing but replace Skullclamp with Cranial Plating. This new artifact is not as versatile as Skullclamp, but it still looks quite powerful.

Affinity may be here to stay, but so are its rivals. John Ormerod won the tournament with a Tooth and Nail build very similar to the versions that showed up in Japan and elsewhere prior to players discovering the Elf and Nail variant. Ormerod did not use a single Fifth Dawn card but his deck did consider the metagame changes. For example, four Mindslavers are there to help combat the new popular archetypes – blue-white control and Ironworks.

John Ormerod

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Speaking of Blue-White control, this archetype is back with a vengeance. It was one of the more popular decks at the tournament and two copies of it made top 8. It remains to be seen whether this archetype is one of the best in the current metagame, or was simply a popular default among players who did not know exactly what to expect from the new cards. The most interesting control deck in top 8 was not Blue-White however. It was a Blue-Red Obliterate-Darksteel Gargoyle build navigated by Neil Rigby. Also of note is the lack of any Ironworks decks in the top 8, though a number of them were played in the tournament.

Neil Rigby

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This deck is sporting twelve counterspells – the highest concentration of this type of card seen in a successful deck since Counterspell itself left the format. Rigby's plan is simply to counter or burn things long enough to play out a Darksteel Gargoyle when he reaches seven mana and then Obliterate on the following turn, destroying all permanents except his unkillable 3/3. Rigby defeated the only Goblin deck in the top 8 to earn himself a spot on the English national team. Second place went to Paul Willis (Affinity).

Ormerod's name may not be as familiar to many of the newer players, but the pros know him as one of the best deck builders in the world. Ormerod, Warren Marsh, Ben Ronaldson and Tony Dobson first made a name for themselves when they developed a highly innovative Cocoa Pebbles deck for Pro Tour: Chicago '99.

Cocoa Pebbles

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Over the course of the next year and a half, this London-based group established itself as a source of many of the top tournament decks. They've alternatively worked on their own as team Hampton Court Palace (Ben Ronaldson works as a tennis instructor at the palace and lives on palace grounds) or with other high profile pros, including the likes of Zvi Mowshowitz and Kai Budde.

Best known as a deck builder, Ormerod also has a very impressive list of professional accomplishments. He earned top 8 finishes in PT Mainz and '01 Worlds, as well as a second place at GP Manchester. He has also made top 8 in European Championships. With Ormerod at the helm of the U.K National team, they will be a force to be reckoned with in San Francisco in September.

GP Zurich

Manuel Bucher, Champion GP Zurich ‘04This tournament served up a curve ball as its top 8 features only one familiar name – Frank Karsten placed fourth with Affinity. While this top 8 lacked star power, it did not lack talent or creativity, showing off some pretty interesting decks.

Just as it happened at the side events of U.S. Nationals, green control was proving itself to be a very viable, powerful archetype. There were a number of different builds, but the general idea of combining some of the format's best creatures with high quality artifact removal seemed to do the trick. Four green decks made top 8, one of them splashing a touch of blue for Echoing Truths and another playing blue heavily (more on that later).

Affinity was represented by two decks. A blue-red control deck (basically Red control with some countermagic, March of the Machines and the Thirsts) made an appearance, and a Cloudpost version of Tooth and Nail played by Swiss rookie Manuel Bucher won the tournament.

What I really want to talk about, however, is the deck that took second place.

Italy's Matteo Cirigliano may have broken the format. He built a deck that is completely different from anything else I've seen in this format, a deck that looks deceptively simple, but a deck that seems to just dominate the format. He went undefeated through eleven rounds of Swiss (he had 2 byes) and intentionally drew in the final round, entering top 8 as first seed, and only mana problems kept him from winning in the finals (he already won the same matchup in the swiss rounds).

Matteo Cirigliano

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This Blue-Green deck is capable of infinite recursion via Eternal Witness and Crystal Shard. Being able to keep re-playing Viridian Shaman wins many matchups on its own. Triskelion and Solemn Simularcum are very effective as well. Lack of maindeck Duplicant is suprising, but it appears in the sideboard. Cirigliano definitely deserves the credit for coming up with the most innovative constructed strategy so far this year.

Brazil Nationals

Although not as interesting strategically due to their Nationals taking place before Fifth Dawn became legal, it is worth mentioning the results of a championship from a country that already produced one world champion!

The most interesting thing about this tournament was a total lack of Skullclamps in the top 8! Finalist Elton M . Fior explains: “The field generated so much hate against the top decks, that not a single Affinity or Goblins made it through. Nick Ng, for example, opened the first day 6-0, but wasn't able to go better than 2-4 playing Affinity and was out of the top 8.” Instead, the top 8 was comprised of 3 red control decks, 2 GW control decks, 2 UW control decks and one Urzatron Elf and Nail.

Osvaldo Barbosa

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Elton M Fior

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Brazil's national team is led by Barbosa, for whom this is a first major career finish, but it also includes Fior (who placed fifth and ninth over the last two years and now finally qualified for Worlds) and Sergio Fialho, who is the finalist of GP Sao Paulo.

Special thanks to Elton M. Fior for providing most of this information, and congratulations to him on his excellent performance!

Argentine National Championship

Like in Brazil, the popular decks had a tough time winning in Argentina. There were no Goblins or Affinity in the top 8 there either, and only two of the decks featured Skullclamp. The national team consists of champion Mauro Kina, Lucas Ramirez and Matias Bollati. Kina apparently won with a U/W Proteus Staff deck, defeating Ponza in the finals. Bollati made the team with U/W Control.

Mauro Kina

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Raise the Alarm is an interesting choice for this deck. It is a good answer to Goblins, able to stave off some early damage, but it is also food for Proteus Staff (along with Decree of Justice tokens), an activation of which is guaranteed to put a Colossus into play.

Special thanks to Adrian of the Argentinean Magic site

Finnish Nationals

Courtesy of Johanna Knuutinen:

“The Finnish Champion 2004 is Jussi "Mozzie" Timonen!

Tomi Walamies - PT Venice ‘0384 of the invited 96 players showed up for this event. Notably absent were Tomi Walamies (who did show up later to write match reports and present the trophy to Timonen), champion of the past three years, and several other veteran players including Tommi Hovi, and Arho Toikka from last year's national team.

This year's team consists of Jussi Timonen, Max Lehtinen and Andrei Häyrynen.

Jussi Timonen is perhaps best known for being "Mozzie" on Magic Online ("Mozzam", however, is a completely different person). Before Magic Online he was a casual player, but in recent years he has done quite well in local events. He won a last chance qualifier for Nationals 2003, but chose to judge instead of playing. Worlds will be his first Pro event.

Decklists can be found here:

Standings, match coverage (more will be added later), other information:

No Ravagers in the top 8. Here is a deck breakdown for the whole event:

Goblins 19
Ravager 16
U/W Control 9
Tooth & Nail 8
B/G 5
R/G Beasts 5
Elf & Nail 5
Big Red 4
Slide 3
Retract.dec 3
Elves 2
Other 5”

U.S. Nationals Bad Plays

Courtesy of Jordan Murari:

“The first bad play I witnessed was during one of the Standard Grinders

This was the second game and 2 Affinity Decks were facing off, the winner of the match got a spot in Nats the next day. Well Josh Lytle was up a game and had a 7/7 Skullclamped Ravager in play, he attacked put his opponent to 7, cast a Frogmite and passed the turn. Josh was at 8 life. His opponent had 1 Vault of Whispers, 2 Great Furnace, 2 Darksteel Citadel in play. Well, his opponent draws his card for the turn and then says "You have me" drops his hand on the table revealing the double Shrapnel Blast in hand and signs the match slip...ummm....good game?

Hunted Wumpus
The second bad play comes from Round 2 of the Standard portion of Nationals on Day 1. I was playing against R/G Beasts. I played Elf & Nail. I had a pretty good board position with a Vine Trellis and 3 Elves in play. Intending to storm in for a ton of damage next turn I dropped a Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and passed the turn. My opponent had 7 mana open including a Contested Cliffs. On his turn my opponent played a Hunted Wumpus, and I put Duplicant into play off its ability. My opponent Cliffs Kamahl with the Duplicant on the stack and since I'm tapped out killed him, then I imprinted the Wumpus and had a 6/6 beatstick to ride to victory game 1.

So we started playing Game 2. My opponent used Rampant Growth to accelerate his mana and on his third turn played…ANOTHER HUNTED WUMPUS!! So I casually dropped the Darksteel Colossus in my hand into play and I now had a huge monster before my third turn. Well I beat my opponent quite handily when he helped me put my best creature into play quite early.”

Got some Magic news, a Play of the Week or anything else you feel belongs in this column? Please use a link below to drop me an e-mail.

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