Posted in Feature on August 21, 2008

By Mike Flores

Michael Flores is the author of Deckade and The Official Miser's Guide; the designer of numerous State, Regional, Grand Prix, National, and Pro Tour–winning decks; and the onetime editor-in-chief of The Magic Dojo. He'd claim allegiance to Dimir (if such a Guild existed)… but instead will just shrug "Simic."

This week we are going to do a split personality of an article, half covering Standard developments from some additional National Championships, and half returning to the lands of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor for the weekly PTQ update.

Let's start with Standard.

The Great Britain National Championships


Dr. Chris Stocking

Murderous Redcap
In honor of Elf Week, I elected to start with Dr. Chris Stocking's deck... which is anything but a stock Elf deck.

Stocking has a number of unique customizations going on in this list, including seven main-deck persist creatures. Kitchen Finks is not so unusual—many pros consider it the best card in Shadowmoor—but Murderous Redcap in an Elf deck is pretty far afield of the typical spell suite. Stocking made room by moving Thoughtseize to the sideboard and removing recent fan favorite Civic Wayfinder completely off the island... err... Forest.

This Elf deck—in the main at least—is built on a similar model to Sam Black's from the U.S. National Championship, that is, not dissimilar from Charles Gindy's deck from Pro Tour–Hollywood, but with no Garruk Wildspeaker and many Terror-like effects instead. However instead of the essentially ubiquitous Nameless Inversions we see in so many decks Elf, Faerie, or other, Stocking went with Elf-stamped Eyeblight's Ending instead. So... Elves?

Jonathan Randle

The Great Britain National Champion Randle was "too hot to handle" with his Faeries deck. Major customizations were not that custom this time around. Again we see Scion of Oona, de facto Faerie lord, back in the mix (at U.S. Nationals, Shadowmage Infiltrator made a brief appearance in the slot), and the swing spells this time included 2 Remove Soul, Nameless Inversion (the Terror that can team up with Secluded Glen), and 2 Slaughter Pact (a main-deck concession to Magus of the Moon).

Randle proved that Faeries is still a major contender despite the rise of red in Standard, around the Internet, and in National Championships around the world.

Matteo Orsini-Jones

Pyromancer's Swath
Here is a deck that hasn't seen a huge amount of online coverage, Swath burn combo. This particular version is built on a similar model to the Innovator Dragonstorm deck that rocked the 2007 World Championships—that is, it is a Storm combo deck utilizing Spinerock Knoll as an additional enabler (see below)... just without the Dragonstorms.

Instead, Orsini-Jones ran many other storm spells, all the big red ones, between main and side. A typical setup for this deck might be to suspend Lotus Bloom, later Rift Bolt, let the pair warp in, Rift Bolt dealing 3 damage, and putting two spells on the storm tally. Then come main phase, it might be Lotus Bloom into Manamorphose (a painless extra spell), then Pyromancer's Swath and a "mere" Shock. The Shock is 4 due to the Swath, meaning 7 with the earlier Rift Bolt, meaning that the Spinerock Knoll that has been sitting off to the side since turn one is not online. Flip... It's Grapeshot! What a disaster. Let's see... Lotus Bloom, Rift Bolt, Manamorphose, Swath, Shock, Grapeshot itself... With the Swath, that's... in the business, more than enough. Good game.

Russ Davies

Here is an interesting take on a common strategy. Davies's "Good Old Rock" is anything but the typical Rock deck. This deck has a tremendous amount of land-search mana acceleration, including a minor snow theme (Into the North for Arctic Flats). For a fairly ponderous polychromatic deck, it seems like hell on the red deck—Kitchen Finks, Primal Command, and Warhammer all... though Warhammer and Doran may border on non-bo.

Into the North
Loxodon Warhammer

All of the Great Britain National Championships Top 8 decks can be found here.

The Netherlands National Championship


Only three kinds of decks made Top 8 in the Netherlands, which almost hearkens back to an earlier and simpler time. Speaking of hearkening back, did you check out who made a triumphant return to top level Top 8 play? It was none other than former magicthegathering.com colleague and World Championships finalist Frank Karsten!

Frank Karsten

Frank made what can only be considered an extremely reasonable choice in main deck: a Demigod red deck very similar to the one Michael Jacob used to win the U.S. National Championship a few weeks ago.

That sideboard is... unusual. But similar to a comment Frank made of Wessel Oomens as playing a "highlander" red deck, there isn't a bad card in the bunch; and while less consistent, maybe, than a conventional 4/4/4/3 sideboard (especially for a Red Deck), Frank's probably didn't require a lot of sideboarding, and the wild number of one-ofs could create some very heinous corner case situations (Dragon's Claw in the mirror, and so on).

Dutch Champion Tom van Lamoen went with an extremely innovative version of the Swans of Bryn Argoll deck.

Tom van Lamoen

His "Swans" deck just has Swans... No Seismic Assault (which is typically used for the Seismic Assault + Dakmor Salvage [+ Dakmor Salvage] three-and-a-half card combo). In this deck, Swans just seems like an awesome, next-to-unkillable Skies flier that gets along with many of Tom's red spells, both offensively and defensively.

A more straightforward Swans deck—and simultaneously a quite innovative take—was taken to a great finish by Ruben Snijdewind.

Ruben Snijdewind

Zur the Enchanter
This deck obviously runs what we would typically think of as the "Swans" combo—that is, it gets out a Swans of Bryn Argoll and a Seismic Assault, then starts discarding lands to ting the Swans to draw two cards. It draws until it can find a Dakmor Salvage, which can then be dredged as one of the draws; dredging Gaea's Blessing makes decking essentially impossible... Once the deck can set up two Dakmor Salvages it can continually damage the Swans to draw cards, net, and discard to damage the opponent with the Seismic Assault (two draws, two Salvages to draw, carry on).

Like many Swans decks, Ruben's played numerous search spells, such as Beseech the Queen, to find key cards / combination pieces. In addition, Glittering Wish is an additional overlay that allows the deck to find not only Swans of Bryn Argoll... but Zur the Enchanter!

Now Zur the Enchanter is something very new and exciting, qualifying Ruben's deck as a hybrid control-combo deck. In addition to his Swans combo, Snijdewind can set up Zur to attack, grab the Steel of the Godhead, and dominate offensively.

Conveniently, Zur can also complete the Swans combo by obtaining Seismic Assault.

All of the Netherlands National Championships Top 8 decks can be found here.

Some interesting stuff in Standard, I think you will agree.

Okay, split to Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block.

The Week's PTQ Top 8s

Quick 'n Toast
Elemental Hybrid
Stillmoon Cavalier
The blue envelopes this week went to top decks, the same blue decks that have been dominating most of the season, Faeries and Quick 'n Toast. Please feel free to peruse either the Top 8 deck lists here or recent installments of Swimming with Sharks for our commentary on Faeries, Quick 'n Toast, and Kithkin.

The main delta that we have seen in recent weeks is the inclusion of Stillmoon Cavalier—even main—in some builds of both Faeries and Kithkin. Stillmoon Cavalier is a powerful threat against both decks... Faeries has a very hard time dealing with one once it is already in play (they can't interact with it with Bitterblossom, and it can typically fight every blue creature in Faeries and survive). Stillmoon Cavalier is very good both in and against Kithkin; most of the same things that make Stillmoon Cavalier dominate Faeries goes double against Kithkin. Interestingly, the uptick in Stillmoon Cavaliers actually makes Doran better (no longer quite a "pump" Knight) ... and kind of worse (Stillmoon Cavaliers blocks Doran forever).

The Demigod decks this week both incorporated black. Consider:

Brett Coggan

Axel Jensen

Brett Coggan's third place deck is very similar to the one Owen Turtenwald played to a nice finish at Grand Prix–Denver a couple of weeks ago. Built on the core Demigod red deck model, this deck has most of its interesting pieces in the sideboard.

Soul Snuffers (like Festercreep) is the sort of black removal that can give the red deck a lift against Kithkin; cards like this are effective against Spectral Procession and can help deal with the nightmare of Burrenton Forge-Tender.

Soul Snuffers

The most remarkable thing about Axel's deck is the large number of dual lands. In addition to the twelve "black" lands (and I am counting Reflecting Pool here), Rugged Prairie is present to make Unmake an easier play. Mono-red, splash ... Only in Shadowmoor!

I would like to highlight a couple of genuinely interesting and / or different decks that were successful in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Brandon Tabaldo

This deck is a core Elementals deck, mostly... The cool thing is the inclusion of Doran, the Siege Tower. Doran is of course one of the most efficient and powerful threat creatures printed in recent years, but the problem with him has always been the prohibitive mana cost... Well, Elementals is already chock-full of Vivid lands and Reflecting Pools, so mise well.

The inclusion of Doran, the Siege Tower is compelling thanks to the synergy with powerhouse Reveillark. Ka pow! No power on a Doran.

Steve Edelson

Sorcery (6)
2 Thoughtseize 4 Raven's Crime
Tribal instant (2)
2 Nameless Inversion
60 Cards
River Kelpie
This is a really interesting deck that includes River Kelpie. While the deck has a pretty "Mannequin" feel to it, but the inclusion of River Kelpie makes it something a little special...
  1. River Kelpie has a natural synergy with the evoke mechanic and Makeshift Mannequin (or Profane Command) ... Mulldrifter draws three cards, Shriekmaw moves from Terror to Annihilate with no incremental mana cost.
  2. Both River Kelpie's persist and that of Puppeteer Clique make opposing attacks sticky.
  3. And then there's Raven's Crime... By now you know that Raven's Crime can be devastating, even when all it is doing is trading late game lands for your precious spells. But with River Kelpie in play, Raven's Crime actually feeds itself!

Not surprisingly, Faeries continues to dominate a good amount of Block success, but there continue to be some very exciting and different options to play that can still be competitive in the format.

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