All Over the Place

Posted in Top Decks on June 3, 2010

By Mike Flores

This week is going to be an eclectic review ... a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. And that is because the results are all over the place!

Last week's Pro Tour–Amsterdam qualifier tournaments featured a wide variety of different qualifying decks; same format, more excitement, the Last Chance Qualifier down in San Juan featured four different—and in some cases "hot new"—strategies.

Finally, we'll take a quick dip into the PT results. My good friend Paul Jordan is going to do his usual statistical thang; but given how exciting some of the Block decks are—and how some of those strategies can be translated to the more mainline relevant PTQ format—they are probably worth a blink or two as well.

Let's go!

Once again, Jund looks to be the deck to beat—the most plane tickets to Amsterdam (damn!), as well as the most Top 8 appearances.

Mythic Conscription—still quite a monster; close on both counts. It is possible the raw numbers that Jund is putting up compared to Mythic is based on the relative costs of the decks (one of them is pretty cheap, one of them is about as expensive as they get).

Red-White-Blue Planeswalkers turned the tables on White-Blue Control—multiple PTQ wins versus ... um, no PTQ wins—even on appearances.

The decks that did best that week were all tried and true format favorites; let's have a look at some of the close calls:

Michael Lampert's Naya

Download Arena Decklist

Check out how Michael Lampert's version turned back the clock!

We still have Vengevine as the centerpiece of a 28 creature deck, but Michael eschewed the Ranger of Eos / Wild Nacatl package for some higher impact threats ... Not only did he give Ajani Vengeant another home in the format (besides Red-White-Blue Planeswalkers, where Ajani is the lone card that makes the entire deck different), but he brought back Woolly Thoctar!

Great shades of Coimbra, Batman!

Tristan Case's Gruul Haste

Download Arena Decklist

Tristan Case came within one match of a trip to Amsterdam with the deck that all of us have had scribbled in the back of our idea notebooks. When Ball Lightning was spoiled last summer, many players had the Dave Price classic as a natural partner to the already popular Bloodbraid Elf. Tristan finally laced the two—or shall we say eight?—haste creatures alongside twelve more little beaters who ignore summoning sickness. Only Plated Geopede is the slow poke in this beat down deck (but what a slow poke it is).

Case ran even more haste-ology in the sideboard, the better part of the Devastating Summons + Goblin Bushwhacker combo, alongside Goblin Ruinblaster.

James Wise's White-Blue Control

Download Arena Decklist

Mnemonic Wall?

What do you get back?

Whatever you like, I guess!

Pulling back Martial Coup or Mind Spring layers "I win" over "I win" and even just putting a Negate or Deprive back in your hand can hold a game that you are already winning (mayhap one where you've played Martial Coup or Mind Spring already).

It will be interesting to see if the style of White-Blue Control like Wise's will pick up popularity or the predominantly permission-less, more mana efficient, strategy will continue to be the white-blue flavor of choice.

Hung Ngu's Mono-Green

Download Arena Decklist

This is kind of a prequel to one of the sections we will look at below. Hung Ngu brought back Eldrazi Green with one of the first looks at Joraga Treespeaker that we have seen in Standard success. Nest Invader and Kozilek's Predator are fine cards on their own, but become quite impressive when the normally 0/1 Eldrazi Spawn tokens start, you know, actually killing people with the help of Eldrazi Monument and Overrun.

    PT–San Juan Last Chance Qualifier Results:

Jörg Unfried's Jund

Download Arena Decklist

Corey Byington's Naya

Download Arena Decklist

Darin Minard's Mythic Conscription

Download Arena Decklist

Tom Martell's Next Level Bant

Download Arena Decklist

Of the decks that earned Last Chance Qualifications in San Juan, only Next Level Bant hasn't been discussed—in some cases to death, and others in this very article.

Next Level Bant is a Vengevine-centered give-and-take of a deck originally designed by Patrick Chapin and Matt Sperling; this version was modified from the Grand Prix–DC build by Martell himself. You can check out a video of Tom talking about his changes here:

So how does this deck work?

Next Level Bant's best matchup is White-Blue Control and its kin; Tom played against White-Blue Control or Red-White-Blue Planeswalkers seven out of a possible nine rounds.

The deck is designed to grind out a White-Blue deck with Vengevine card advantage, but can also match a White-Blue deck's top end with essentially the same planeswalker suite—Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Gideon Jura, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor—keeping even with the best part of the opponent's game.

Given the spread of the cards, Next Level Bant can obviously play a variety of different game plans.

You can hide behind Wall of Omens.

You can use Sea Gate Oracle to smooth out your draw (or hide behind it if the opponent is bringing with a mere 2/1 or 2/2). Due to its ability to manipulate your hand, Sea Gate Oracle is also a fine card to assist in Vengevine recursion.

This deck plays a full twoScute Mobs. Against removal poor decks or slower decks (after their removal has been overloaded, especially), these "one" drops can get very big.

A new card that Tom added to the Next Level Bant card mix was Oust. This is much better than Path to Exile against cards like Birds of Paradise or Lotus Cobra (and sometimes even threats along the lines of a Putrid Leech). You really don't want to be accelerating the opponent when his or her creature is a mana producer, but the tempo you can generate by screwing up the top of an opponent's deck (and ultimately forcing him or her to re-tap for a creature that is much less exciting after turn one or two) is as attractive as, say ... Blake Lively.

Okay! Let's switch formats to Block.

Remember, Block lacks the Alara powerhouses like Blightning and Bloodbraid Elf, and the Magic 2010 superstars like Baneslayer Angel ... but it still has a lot to teach us. Block formats past have given us the prototypes for our Green-Blue Madness and Affinity decks, our Astral Slides and any number of other Standard—and sometimes even Extended—standouts to-be.

These decks may also give us a hint as to how we can contain Jace, the Mind Sculptor and other mythic planeswalkers when Bloodbraid Elf is no longer available.

    Eldrazi Monument Decks

Ben Hayes, 30 points

Download Arena Decklist

Ben Hayes and eventual Top 8 competitor Noah Swartz were PT–San Juan's only 30-point Constructed competitors; both of them played four Vengevines, four Wolfbriar Elementals, and at least a couple of Eldrazi Monuments.

Hayes dipped into blue for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Into the Roil, and Unified Will to build in to or hold the lead that his green spells would eventually close.

Noah Swartz, 30 points

Download Arena Decklist

Noah Swartz played a true standout of the format featuring a number of strong Constructed finishes; a product of Zvi Mowshowitz's Team Mythic, this version of Eldrazi Green was defined by Beastmaster Ascension. The initially unassuming enchantment can actually pick up seven counters fairly quickly, and turns every Nest Invader token or 1/1 Arbor Elf into a Dragon-sized bundle of trouble.

(An identical mono-green deck was played by Top 8 competitor Brad Nelson.)

    Comet Storm

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, 24 points

Download Arena Decklist

There are a lot of obvious things about this deck. There are 28 lands; lands are good with Lotus Cobra and Oracle of Mul Daya (not to mention Avenger of Zendikar); lands—lots of lands in play—make Comet Storm potentially un-fun (at least for the other guy), because an spell like Comet Storm actually gives you something to do with all that mana. But the really soul-crushing interaction?

Oracle of Mul Daya + Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

That's right: You can stack the top of your deck with two of those 28 lands with any given Brainstorm, then play them both. No, I don't know how many card advantages that is with even one activation. No, I can't count that high. The Oracle even keeps you even on mana when you are "stuck behind" a Vapor Snare.

Can you imagine being "stuck behind" Halimar Depths or Kazandu Refuge with this Elf Shaman on the 'field? Some disadvantage!

(The same deck was played to one less Constructed point by Top 8 competitor Josh Utter-Leyton.)

With another look at blue-red-green—and combining many of the themes we have looked at so far—finalist Guillaume Matignon.

Guillaume Matignon, 24 points

Download Arena Decklist

Andrea Giarola, 23 points

Download Arena Decklist

Top 8 competitor Andrea Giarola represented one of the format's popular options, Devastating Red. This version has the full-on Goblin Bushwhacker + Devastating Summons combination and many of the well-worn landfall threats.

Cool addition in the sideboard is Tuktuk the Explorer. I can't actually imagine something more annoying for a green deck to face from a red Deck.

Jeremy Neeman, 22 points

Download Arena Decklist

Jeremy Neeman's deck is reminiscent of so many different decks ... his colors and top end Gideon Jura and Jace, the Mind Sculptor remind us of a Standard Red-White-Blue Planeswalker deck; he even has a light counterspell suite!

But the Stoneforge Mystic / Adventuring Gear / Kor Duelist portion of the deck are almost White Weenie in their outlook. And then out of the sideboard, we have the Naya-like Cunning Sparkmage + [single] Basilisk Collar combo! Any red deck can technically play this better-than-Royal Assassin combination, but once again Stoneforge Mystic is setting up the necessary equipment.

Kor Skyfisher combines with both Stoneforge Mystic and Sea Gate Oracle for more and more 187 action.

Daniel Gardner, 24 points

Download Arena Decklist