Timmy Goes to Venice

Posted in Learning Curve on March 26, 2003

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.

What happens when you have a format with almost no counterspells and little efficient removal?

Timmy runs wild!

This past weekend in Venice, Italy, the competition at the Pro Tour seemed more like it was being played in someone's living room than in a decades-old former casino for a $250,000 purse. While most of the faces at the top tables were familiar, the decks they were playing were positively unexpected. Every time you turned around someone was telling a tale about attacking with Akroma, Angel of Wrath on turn five, gaining life with Starlight Invoker, or making a Dragon with double-digit power and toughness—and those were just the Top 8 decks.

Onslaught Block Constructed seems to be all about bigger being better. Sure, sure… there was an Astral Slide deck and three Goblin decks in the Top 8 but all of those decks couldn't reach for the fatties in their sideboard fast enough. I heard multiple players comment that if they had it do all over again that they would opt for a mono-red build with Avarax and Rorix Bladewing maindeck in place of cheap Goblins. Let's face it—Sparksmith isn't killing any Dragons any time soon!

Explosive Vegetation

The breakout card for the tournament was Explosive Vegetation—it was featured in three different Top 8 decks. In addition to serving as a mana-fixer it teamed up with Wirewood Elf to accelerate players into turn four monsters like Silvos—with an extra green left over to regenerate—or the much talked about 17/17 Kilnmouth Dragon—in a game not won by the Dragon's controller no less. That player—Darwin Kastle—had even more mana acceleration in the form of Goblin Clearcutter.

Exalted Angel seemed positively tiny when her big sister hit the board. Akroma, Angel of Wrath was a featured player out of the sideboard of the winning deck and there were two—with another in the board—in the fourth-place deck. Akroma was such a powerful threat that a number of decks were forced to resort to unusual methods to deal with her when she hit play. The method most players opted for was Oblation—I saw more than one Pro Tour veteran turn the card around and read it—certainly not a card anyone predicted would see play at this event.

So will Timmy run roughshod on the Standard (Type 2) environment at you local Friday Night Magic tournaments, the Junior Super Series, and upcoming Regionals tournaments?

The answer is unlikely.

The reason that players were able to play the cards they did can be attributed to the lack of any good counterspells or hand disruption in the Onslaught block. Complicate was the closest thing to a real counter available in the format. While Jon Finkel did play with Complicate in his deck as a splash of blue in his Astral Slide deck there was not much countermagic and—in fact—very few Islands in play the whole weekend. On the other hand, there are more than enough counters running around in Standard including Counterspell and Circular Logic.

In the Standard format, Duress and Cabal Therapy will be able to strip Explosive Vegetation out of player's hands in the first few turns. Blackmail was the only comparable spell but was deemed too inconsistent to disrupt the early game. Chainer's Edict and Innocent Blood also stand in the way of the early monster although Bird of Paradise or Llanowar Elves can always take one for the team.

There was a major post-Legions Standard tournament in Venice that might give you an idea of what to expect in the coming months. It was a Last Chance Qualifier for the Pro Tour the night before the big event. More than 250 players competed through nine grueling rounds of Swiss style play to cut to a Top 8 single elimination round. After that round the four remaining players were invited to compete in the Pro Tour only a few hours away! MagicTheGathering.com's own Aaron Forsythe did a breakdown of the decks that saw play and it includes the Top 8 decklists here.

Green-red and blue-green ruled the day but a Beasts deck did make top 8. There was also a Beasts deck in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour. When you add Richard Garfield's undefeated record with a Beasts deck at the Wizards Invitational to that mix, you have to wonder if that is the deck to beat in the coming months.

If you are one of the many players that complain about counterspells and hand destruction ruining your fun you might want to give Onslaught Block Constructed, complete with its Angels, Dragons, Beasts, and Goblins a whirl! Below are the Top 8 lists from the Pro Tour. Extensive coverage of the event can be found on the Sideboard website featuring familiar writers including Aaron Forsythe, Randy Buehler, Josh Bennett and myself.

Each week I try to cover the basics of this game but next week I will be tackling a topic that is decidedly non-basic (duh… try and guess what that is!) See you around the next Learning Curve!

Osyp Lebedowicz – Winner

Download Arena Decklist

Tomi Walamies – Finalist

Download Arena Decklist

Jordan Berkowitz – Semifinalist

Download Arena Decklist

William Jensen – Semifinalist

Download Arena Decklist

Gabriel Nassif – Top 8

Download Arena Decklist

Darwin Kastle – Top 8

Download Arena Decklist

Akihiro Kashima – Top 8

Download Arena Decklist

Mattias Jorstedt – Top 8

Download Arena Decklist
Brian may be reached at learningcurve@wizards.com.

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