Rogues around the World

Posted in Top Decks on November 20, 2008

By Mike Flores

So we have spent a fair amount of time talking about some of the more mainstream decks in the Standard format, including the really big Cryptic Command decks like Reflecting Pool Control and the Fae; and the beatdown suite, including the Red Deck, its cousin Blightning Beatdown, Kithkin, and/or other White Weenie decks.

This week I wanted to highlight some of the more unusual decks out there, that while a bit left-of-center, are still quite viable, and in fact, are actually winning tournaments all over the world!

First up is a "Boat-Brew" by my old Righteous Babe teammate Brian Kowal.

Brian used this inventive homebrew to win a spot on the Game in the Gulf cruise.

Brian Kowal's Vengeant Reveillark

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There are three main themes going on in this deck:

1. The Ranger of Eos Engine

The primary forward-moving plan in this deck involves choosing a number of cards eligible to be plucked out of the æther with Antoine Ruel's Invitational card, Ranger of Eos. The primary candidates are Mogg Fanatic and Figure of Destiny. Figure of Destiny is of course one of the most popular threats in Standard, and is even played in Extended Zoo decks. This card has humble beginnings but can rise to Akroma size to win the game all by itself. Its companion, Mogg Fanatic, is one of the most popular one-drops of all time. Though a little on the outs in the popularity department right now, Mogg Fanatic is a key tool against the dominating Fae deck in Standard (last week Pennsylvania State Champion and
Fae expert Brett Blackman called it a "two-for-one"). Finally, Brian played a lone Burrenton Forge-Tender, the embarrassing 61st card. This card is not something you necessarily want to draw in every matchup, or in every game, but it is a one-card insurance policy against Firespoutand a superb tool against Red Deck Wins.

2. The Reveillark Synergies

Many of the creatures in Brian's deck were chosen for their size up front ... specifically, they have 2 or fewer points of power. Murderous Redcap, for instance, was chosen as the deck's nod to spot removal. It is slower than a Lash Out and can't even slow down a Demigod of Revenge, but as a 2-power creature, Murderous Redcap has long term synergies with Reveillark. Siege-Gang Commander is a fine threat in and of itself, but can have completely worn out the opponent's defensive capabilities by the second time around.

3. The Mana Acceleration

This deck plays essentially twice the mana acceleration of any other deck in the format. Mind Stone can help put the deck in Ajani Vengeant position on the third turn ... and you know how I feel about Knight of the White Orchid. There are some matches where you will silently pump the fist at losing the die roll, and Knight of the White Orchid can actually exploit the fact that this deck runs a little light on lands.

Brian feels that Ajani Vengeant is just about the strongest card in Shards of Alara, and while we think about it primarily as a weapon for thumping Five-Color Control decks (they are often creature-poor and have difficulty attacking a planeswalker), Ajani is just fine against, say, the Red Deck. Think about it: You can ding a Boggart Ram-Gang with the "Lightning Helix" ability on Ajani, and the opponent will still have to send a burn spell in Ajani's direction, or will probably lose to its time management sooner rather than later.

All together, this deck attacks from several different angles: early pressure, Ranger of Eos card advantage, Reveillark card advantage, and sticking a planeswalker whenever the opportunity arises. Combined with the massive number of 1/1 and 2/X dorks that can muck up the Red Zone and block potential threats to Ajani's wellbeing, it can be a difficult deck to overcome, especially if you are not prepared for it. Few opponents will be.

Here is a short video I made on the topic of Brian's new deck:

Now speaking of Ajani Vengeant... Let's take a look at Nathan Braymore's Planeswalker deck.

Nathan won the OMG! Games and Collectibles event we discussed last week with the unlikely combination of Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Chandra Nalaar, Garruk Wildspeaker, and of course the fairest one of all, Ajani Vengeant:

Nathan Braymore's Planeswalkers

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Sideboard (15)
3 Cloudthresher 4 Condemn 2 Relic of Progenitus 2 Unknown Card 4 Guttural Response

Nathan's deck, which is reminiscent of the Fellowship of the Ring deck featured during Pro Tour–Berlin, is a classic example of hating anyone and everyone.

For the most part, the true control decks are vulnerable to planeswalkers; these decks, full of Firespouts and Condemns, are simply not optimized to deal with this particular type of permanent. The planeswalker decks supplement the rest of their card space with—how do we say this—all kinds of ways to kill creatures.

Nathan's deck ran not just Wrath of God but Hallowed Burial, Naya Charm, and even Oblivion Ring (which can kayo other people's planeswalkers). So the forward-moving parts of this deck are all about planeswalker offense; the balance is creature defense.

This deck has a tremendous amount of acceleration. In addition to the Mind Stones we already espied in Brian Kowal's deck, Braymore's planeswalkers can ride Fertile Ground for acceleration and additional synergy (turn-two Fertile Ground not only makes turn-three Garruk Wildspeaker, but Garruk can untap that Fertile Ground-enhanced land for even more free mana, turn after turn).

Rob Johnson of OMG! Games and Collectibles was kind enough to furnish us with a complete set of Top 8 deck lists. His event unfolded thusly:

Red-Green-White Planeswalkers
Faeries
Red Deck Wins
Red-Green-White Mid-range (“Razzorz”)
Merfolk
Five-Color Control

Ian Woodley's Razzorz

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Ian Woodley presented some of the strongest cards from Alara's Naya shard and combined them with a planeswalker sub-theme that allowed him to attack his opponents from multiple angles.

Woolly Thoctar is a card we don't see very often, but it seems like a gigantic beating. 5/4 for only three mana? This one is bigger than Ravenous Baloth for one mana less. Thanks to Birds of Paradise, this gigantic threat can be in the Red Zone on turn three.

But the really exciting card in this one is Realm Razer. We have talked a lot about the game-winningness that is Cruel Ultimatum in Five-Color Control, but Realm Razer does a lot of the same job, arguably more, for a little less mana. You drop it—potentially with Guttural Response backup in Game 2—and the opponent might not be able to play spells ever again, let alone actually win the game. After this big Armageddon-type effect, you can clean up with your Chameleon Colossus or Thoctar, and crush the enemy in just a couple of attacks.

The rest of the Top 8:

Charlie Chan's Faeries

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Sideboard (15)
4 Infest 4 Negate 3 Eyeblight's Ending 4 Flashfreeze

Cameron Wilson's Red Deck Wins

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Charles Xie's Merfolk

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Steve Patelakis's Red Deck Wins

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James Vance's Cruel Control

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Samuel Tharmaratnam's Faeries

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Another new-look tournament winner from the recent weeks is the Bant-centric winner of the Gravesend Champs in the UK, which was featured by Brian David-Marshall over at Top8Magic.com. BDM is ever one for the clever names, and called Ian Walters's Stoic Angel deck "New Girl" ... kind of after "This Girl," the Brian Kowal-designed Lightning Angel deck I used to win New York Champs two or three years ago.

Ian Walters's "The New Girl"

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This deck is a synergistic combination of largely Bant cards, many or most of which are both green and white.

Being both green and white, creatures like Rhox War Monk and "The New Girl" herself Stoic Angel benefit greatly from teaming with Wilt-Leaf Liege. Now Wilt-Leaf Liege is itself an interesting piece of the metagame puzzle. A few weeks ago we were cheerleading the Blightning Beatdown strategy (and I still love that strategy) ... but it should be pretty clear that Blightning would have a rough go of it against this volume of defensive, big back-ended, life-gaining creatures ... especially backed up by Wilt-Leaf Liege, which is hell on the signature card, Blightning, itself.

Wilt-Leaf Liege is also very powerful against the card we have been fixated on from a strategic standpoint for the majority of our Standard discussions, Cruel Ultimatum. Can you imagine the horror a Five-Color Control player would experience if you sacrificed, say, a Kitchen Finks and discarded one—or more—Wilt-Leaf Lieges?

This deck also sports Cryptic Command! Due to its more efficient creatures, unlike most Cryptic Command-packing decks in Standard, I think that if it has a lead, The New Girl can simply seek to remain the beatdown by protecting its squad with Cryptic Command rather than necessarily holding at least one for the opponent's Cruel Ultimatum (but of course many games will dictate just that).

Having played Ian's deck a couple of times, I would respectfully suggest some tuning of the mana base. The New Girl has a huge number of Yavimaya Coasts, Adarkar Wastes, and so on, and I found myself—especially against beatdown decks—in a position to lose close games due to drawing too many of these pain lands.

Still ... a very synergistic and enjoyable deck to play. There are a good number of games when you have the initiative where a beatdown player can simply never keep up with all your life gain. Stoic Angel herself is quite the asset in my experience, a solitary attacker even without the true exalted stamp.

For the more visually inclined, here is a short video I made on Ian's Bant beatdown (ish) deck:

For a couple of Five-Color Control decks, three looks at the Red Deck, and a pair of tribes, here are the remaining decks from the Gravesend Top 8:

Matthew Moate's Mannequin Control

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Aaron Cadwallader's Doran Control

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Richard Plummer's Elves

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Sam Stokes's The New Red

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Dan Prentice's Red-Green Beats

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