Half and Half (and Half)

Posted in Learning Curve on June 9, 2004

By Brian David-Marshall

Brian David-Marshall is a New York–based game designer who has been involved with Magic since 1994, when he started organizing tournaments and ran a Manhattan game store. Since then, he has been a judge, a player, and one of the longest-tenured columnists on DailyMTG.com, as he enters his second decade writing for the site. He is also the Pro Tour Historian and one of the commentators for the Pro Tour.

So my local base of players is split into three camps. There are the players who are either qualified for US Nationals or are planning on grinding into the tournament. They are focused on the current incarnation of Standard and still have to grapple with the soon to be departed Skullclamp. The other two camps are looking forward to June 20th when Skullclamp leaves and a whole new batch of cards rotate in.

One group is made up of the Friday Night Magic Standard crowd. They are looking forward to building new decks without the constraints of Skullclamp in the format. Wrath of God becomes a lot more attractive once it does not give your opponent a two card advantage. The other group is scrambling to figure out how they are going to get to the Pro Tour now that Skullclamp has been removed from the Block constructed equation. The decks from Kobe were supposed to serve as guideposts but without Skullclamp they find themselves standing on an unmarked road that bears little resemblance to where they expected to be at this point.

I am going to take a look at three different decks in the three very different formats. Not surprisingly, all three decks feature green for the powerful artifact removal available in that color. Affinity mat be losing Skullclamp but it is gaining Cranial Plating and is not going to be leaving your local metagame anytime soon. Krark-Clan Ironworks will also fertilize another crop of artifact decks in the coming months, keeping the need for green on red alert.

If I were going to play at US Nationals the deck I would choose would almost certainly be some variation on Elf and Nail. The deck not only has terrific match-ups against most of the field but it is a ton of fun to play. Rather than muck around with Urza lands and Cloudposts this deck relies on Forests and Vernal Bloom to accelerate its mana. It also abuses two of my favorite cards in Wood Elves and Wirewood Symbiote. Those two cards in play with Vernal Bloom and a mana creature allow you to play out up to six mana in a turn!

Elf and Nail

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One of the advantages this deck had when it took the top spot in Seattle was that the deck was completely unexpected and there was nothing else like it. Now most players consider the deck one of the top choices for US Nationals and some adjustments need to be made in anticipation of the mirror match.


Machine-gun indeed!

One of the cards that gives this deck problems in the goblin decks is Goblin Sharpshooter so I added Garfield's goblin to the deck with one Mountain and four Wooded Foothills to support it in addition to the Birds. The goblin allows you to shoot down opposing Birds and Symbiotes in the mirror and works very nicely with the untap target creature ability of your own Symbiotes.

The other card that I added for the mirror was Fangren Firstborn—four copies in the sideboard to swap out for your Vernal Blooms (you never want to play one in the mirror). Since you are playing against a deck with no mass removal and not much of an early game you transform into a green/red beatdown deck with your Symbiotes, Birds and Wood Elves all growing to menacing size in just a couple of attack steps. Even if your opponent uses Duplicant on them he only gets a 1/1 or 0/1 in return.

My deck would look something like this:

Goblin, Elf, and Nail

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I'm still not sure about the Chrome Mox and I have not tested this deck beyond the playing card stage versus goldfish. I have proxied it up to do test draws but since I will be at Nationals to do coverage and not as a competitor I have not spent a lot of time on the deck. I can tell you that I would almost certainly be playing this or some other variant on the Elf and Nail deck if I was going to Nationals.

As for Standard after the June 20th rotation of Fifth Dawn. Mike Flores played a green-white deck at Northeast Regionals that becomes more powerful with the banning of Skullclamp. It does not gain much of anything in Fifth Dawn but should be able to hold its own against most decks it will face. Mike did not do well at Regionals due to the fact that he made a last minute sideboard tweak in anticipation of there being more Tooth and Nail than there actually was. He added Duplicants and took out Sacred Grounds from his sideboard.

His first match of the day was against a green-black Death Cloud deck and even though he pulled out the match it illustrated how Mike's day was going to play out. He would set himself up for a dominant long game and he would be devastated in one turn by a Flashfires or Death Cloud.

Green-White Control

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If Mike could go back in time the sideboard he would have played with would look like this:

3 Sacred Ground
3 Tooth and Nail
2 Darksteel Colossus
2 Gilded Light
4 Naturalize
1 Duplicant

“Any deck with Gilded Light has a chance to ruin the Ironworker's day.”

I have already written about another green-white deck last week with Astral Slide and Eternal Witness. I still like that deck very much but this deck is another path you can take in the wilds of the new Standard. It absolutely demolishes Affinity in a three game set and without the power of Skullclamp the match-up tilts even more heavily in your favor. I don't know how well it fares against the new Ironworks decks but any deck with Gilded Light has a chance to ruin the Ironworker's day.

The final deck I want to look at today was one that cruised under the radar at Kobe despite earning its pilot over three grand and finishing in sixteenth place. A similar build also placed Romaine Clere in 21st and earned him better than $2,000.

Stupid Mono Green

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This deck can only benefit from the banning of Skullclamp in block constructed and could benefit from the addition of Eternal Witness. As you may have figured out by now I really like the Fangren Firstborn and just use powerful artifact removal as my excuse to play green. In a constructed format without a Wrath effect that sees much play this not-so little beast should be very powerful. Skullclamp kept him in check so far but if you are going to play in the block constructed qualifiers that begin in July Stupid Mono-Green might not be such a stupid choice.

Next week: I'll talk some more about Block Constructed as I prepare to Rollerblade to Columbus in July!

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