The Regionals Primer

Posted in Feature on April 23, 2004

By Alex Shvartsman

Regionals is the greatest opportunity to play Standard most of us get all year. Sure, there are Nationals and Worlds where the format is played at a much higher level – but Regionals is the most important and largest Standard event that is open to the public. Most of the people who are reading this article plan on attending, so I will do my best to update you on what are the best decks you might face – or play – out there.

While theorizing about the best deck is fun, nothing beats actual playtesting. Therefore all deck lists I am going to present to you here are going to be decks that actually qualified for Nationals. There were several Regional championships in Japan on the weekend of April 17-18, and the deck lists I present to you come from that tournament.

1) Ravager Affinity

Tatsuya Hirata, winner of the 2004 Kanto Regionals 2, Japan

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There is a number of ways to build an Affinity deck, but its core remains the same – you rely on Arcbound Ravagers to win you the game and back them up with a core of inexpensive artifacts. Affinity literally dominated Japanese regionals, placing several players in each of the top 8's.

What's particularly attractive about Tatsuya's deck is his sideboard. With so many mirror matches to play, the plan to bring in four Seething Song and three Furnace Dragon seems extremely solid. The rest of his sideboard choices are good too – Pyroclasm helps against Goblins and Mana Leak against white-based decks. Tatsuya built a very tight sideboard that does exactly what sideboard is meant to do – concentrate on improving your matchup against the most popular archetypes.

2) Tooth and Nail

Takamichi Takeda, 5th place, Kanto Regionals 1, Japan

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Sekine Takeshi, 4th place, Kanto Regionals 1, Japan

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Here are two very different versions of Tooth and Nail decks for you to consider. Although they take different paths to achieve their goal, the goal remains the same. Generate mana as quickly as possible to cast an early Tooth and Nail with entwine. Then, based on the situation either put a Darksteel Colossus and some other ridiculously large monster into play, or play a Platinum Angel / Leonin Abunas combo and watch that goblin deck squirm.

Few pundits would claim this to be one of the top archetypes at the moment – but playtesting (aka Japanese Regionals) proves otherwise – there were numerous Tooth and Nail decks in each of the three top 8's which to me proves the deck's viability.

3) Goblins

Kazuya Mitamura, Kanto Regionals 1, 6th place

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably heard by now that Skullclamp is ridiculous. While it is even more ridiculous in Affinity, it is quite dumb in Goblins too. Traditionally Goblin decks rely on pure speed to win the game – if an opponent is still playing eight-nine turns into the game, you have probably lost. This deck is a lot better at the late game. Should an opponent survive your initial onslaught, you can always draw plenty of extra cards with that Skullclamp and win off of a giant Patriarch's Bidding, putting enough Goblins into play to go off with a Sharpshooter/Sledder combo. If you are a beatdown player at heart and cannot afford a set of Arcbound Ravagers, this is probably the deck for you.

4) Mono-White and Blue-White Control

Jo Hiroki, 3rd place, Osaka Regionals, Japan

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Control decks remain a solid choice in this metagame. There are two paths to follow – either play blue-white for the added advantage of being able to counter your opponent's spells, or monowhite for a more solid mana base and a Wayward Wayfarer engine.

The ability to counter a spell is quite attractive in the metagame where most players are not building their decks with that in mind – as was the case in the past before Counterspell was removed from the environment. Look at the Tooth and Nail deck for instance – being able to counter just that one sorcery takes most of the bite out of the archetype.

5) Other Decks

Four archetypes described above are likely to be played by an overwhelming majority of players at Regionals this year. However, there is still plenty of room for creativity. Let's take a look at a couple of deck lists that you might not have expected to see in this article:

Tetsuro Shimono, 5th place, Kanto Regionals 2

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Remember the land destruction decks that became briefly popular when Mirrodin first came out? Well they are still out there and clearly deserve another look. The list above isn't the best LD deck you can build – I especially question the wisdom of playing Hunted Wumpus in a resource denial deck – but the fact that this list succeeded in the field of the abovementioned four archetypes proves that you should be giving Land Destruction another look.

Taiga Kubota, 3rd place, Kanto Regional 1

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Mono-red control defeated a field of Affinity decks in Kobe, so why not adapt this strategy to Standard? This player did that, and his result was achieving a third place at Regionals. Clearly, another archetype worth a second look.

These decks are just a small sample of what is possible if you put your mind to it – the current metagame is not as developed as it could be yet by far. I know of at least two archetypes which were mentioned to me in private that are clearly solid yet have not shown up on the radar of the general Magic populace – so they are out there for you to discover.

Special thanks to Yoshiya Shindo for providing these deck lists.

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