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Adventures with Mono-Green

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The letter I! have been practicing Magic 2011 Standard like crazy on Magic Online.


What did I ever do before Magic Online?

One match I got demolished by a Mono-Green Ramp deck. The first game was very competitive, but I made an error with my Realm Razer during a Primeval Titan standoff (I was playing Naya Fauna Shaman if you hadn't figured it out already) and my opponent was able to, you know, search up and cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn all in the same turn. The second game was less exciting ... for me, that is. He or she hit two pieces of acceleration—a first turn Joraga Treespeaker into a second turn Overgrown Battlement—and that set up, you know, a third Emrakul via Summoning Trap.

Needless to say, I was fuming.


Of course, I had had the same idea too. I love Eldrazi Temples like almost no other mage, but it still sucked to be on the receiving end of the A+ number-one-super-combo.

Apparently Pol Urós had had the same idea, too. He finished sixth at last weekend's Spain National Championship!

Pol Urós's Eldrazi Green
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 Spain National Championships


We will talk about the other seven decks of course, but this week I decided to take the Urós deck for a spin. I played eight two-man queues with Pol's deck ... it's not the same experience as a "real" Pro Tour Qualifier or Premiere Event, but I still love playing the two-man queues. You get tournament experience, your opponents generally have "real" decks, and everyone is trying their hardest to win.

I originally set aside time for seven matches, but ended up running eight (more on that below). Let's see how the Urós deck ran!


I got super lucky to win the first game. Super lucky insofar as my opponent didn't kill me (I have played a lot of Ascension, and I like playing against Forests with that strategy for the most part).

He or she did play a Khalni Garden in the first game, so I assumed it was a Polymorph transformational sideboard. Regardless, I sided in my enchantment-kill package on the theory that I didn't have a lot of ways to interact with my opponent if he or she were running Polymorph, but if it didn't transform, I would be able to slam-bam quite efficiently.

Game 2 was super depressing. Though he or she got a quick Emrakul, I felt like I should be able to compete; my opponent had only 5 life and I had a Baloth on the battlefield. Almost anything off a Summoning Trap would be good enough to pull it out ... I got a, well, nothing. I whiffed.

Game 3 my opponent "randomly" cast Into the Roil on one of my two Overgrown Battlements. I was pretty sure I knew why. Yep. Naturally, he or she drew Khalni Garden (turn one) and Polymorph on turn four for Emrakul. I had a Summoning Trap that would have gotten me an Emrakul of my own to deuce, but the Into the Roil did its work.



Basically I just got blown out.

My opponent had the super-quick Allies draws; I had the chance to All Is Dust one of the games, but a Lightning Bolt kept me from, you know, thinking too much.



This deck had some Mythic elements, but seemed more like the Emeria Angel decks of the past. He had Baneslayer Angel as well.

Game 1 was not competitive, but Game 2 I felt like I had a decent draw ... two lands, an All Is Dust, two Cultivates, two Summoning Traps. I discarded twice before casting Cultivate, and then died. This was really a shame, as he or she was completely committed to the board and I had the mana to cast All Is Dust the next turn.



Zero-three? What the!?!

This was not going the way I wanted at all! I had never had so poor a showing to start in the one-on-one queues. I had to win the next four in a row in order to finish better than 50% ... and I am actually usually pretty happy when I can go four in a row with my favorite decks.



Game 1 my opponent played a Scalding Tarn and passed. The next turn he or she cast Lightning Bolt in order to avoid discarding. This game my opponent cast all four Lightning Bolts before scooping to my Baloth.

The second game was even less competitive than the one where my opponent never played a second land, if you can believe it. I correctly put him or her on Pyromancer Ascension (justifying my anti-enchantment sideboarding), and luckily my opponent went first, playing a Halimar Depths.

That's right: I said it was lucky he or she went first!

I cast a turn two Overgrown Battlement. My opponent thought a moment and ran out Mana Leak. I countered with Summoning Trap for Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre.

Finally got one! I don't care how I got one, I got one (don't pretend like you don't know what I am talking about).



The first game I milked his or her board development with Walls and Baloths. He or she naturally drew the Cunning Sparkmage and had the Fauna Shaman to set up the Stoneforge-Mystic-into-Basilisk-Collar combination. I just wanted to hit land drops and play out my creatures to buy myself some time. Then ...

All. Is. Dust!

My opponent came back with a top-decked Cunning Sparkmage, which took out something awesome (I don't remember what it was, but it cost six or more mana).

I had to cast All Is Dust for the lonely pinger before cleaning up with one of the insane big creatures that this deck plays.

In the second game I had an interesting draw. I figured I would win by using All Is Dust after an over-commitment. I drew Obstinate Baloth and decided to just try to race my opponent's Vengevine. He or she had two mana-creatures and cast Manabarbs.

I often wonder what percentage of the time a Naya deck wins on Manabarbs. I had two Obstinate Baloths on the battlefield (i.e. 8 free life) and quickly put my opponent into a position where he or she could no longer attack. Even if I had to kill Manabarbs, I had All Is Dust, Eye of Ugin, Eldrazi Temple, and Overgrown Battlement on the 'field; meaning I wasn't going to take a lot of damage if I did have to kill it.


Coming back! Two to go!


In the first game I "stalled" on Eye of Ugin. It was a weird stall for most decks ... I had a bunch of lands in play but I couldn't do anything because my hand was so expensive. If it had been another land, particularly an Eldrazi Temple, I feel like I would have won. I would have had the jump in the Primeval Titan fight. Instead my opponent had a Titan, ramped to multiple Valakuts, and did me in.

The second game I got fourth-turn Emrakul.

The third game was the insane one. This was my opponent's graveyard at the end of Game 3:


I thought I had the third one free and clear with my acceleration, trumping the opposing Siege-Gang Commander, but my opponent flipped Summoning Trap into Avenger of Zendikar and immediately played Evolving Wilds, generating a ton of 2/3 creatures.

I had to do very pressure-filled math with a pair of Overgrown Battlements and a Primeval Titan on the 'field. I was probably dead if he or she just played a land. I thought long and hard about if I should attack or not.

I had access to a ton of mana ... Should I tap my Battlements to cast a Terastodon defensively? Though I had a lot of mana, to cast Summoning Trap I would have to tap a Battlement. Should I cast it, wait for combat, or what?

It turns out my opponent didn't have a pre-combat land. I had to block very precisely so as to stay out of Siege-Gang Commander range. Certainly my Titan rumbled with his or her Avenger.

The dust cleared and my opponent said, "Go." I activated Eye of Ugin at the end of his or her turn; Siege-Gang Commander shot down my wounded Titan, but I got Emrakul. I think he or she might have had it if a Wall had been shot instead. There was no way to know my only land in hand (which I would have needed if he or she took down three mana with a Battlement) was Khalni Garden.

The amazing thing is that while I had a hard-cast Emrakul, I still hadn't won! Time Walk, annihilator 6—putting the opponent next to dead wasn't the same as "dead." I still cast my Terastodon defensively, essentially producing four blockers.

whew.

Even.



I had what I felt like was a powerful opening hand with tons of acceleration but only one action spell. As it was, I had a fourth turn Summoning Trap. I did not whiff ...

I got an Overgrown Battlement.

My only other action spell this game was an Obstinate Baloth, which was quickly shot to death. At the end of the game was this:

Hand: Forest
Battlefield: ten Forest, three Khalni Garden, Everflowing Chalice, two Overgrown Battlement, three 0/1 Plant Tokens
Graveyard: three Cultivate, Summoning Trap, Rampant Growth, Obstinate Baloth, Tectonic Edge

Second game I got a quick annihilator from Summoning Trap.

In the third I was just down one piece of acceleration. The terrible thing about a deck like this is that often you will have a hand that looks explosive, has some stuff to do, but ultimately generates no action. I think I had three All Is Dust at the end of this game, a Primeval Titan, and an Eldrazi Temple on the battlefield ... couldn't cast any of it and I got gobbled up by my opponents one action spell (a Primeval Titan).


Having only played the match-up twice I am not sure who is favored between Red-Green Valakut Ramp and straight Green Eldrazi Ramp, but I can tell you the Red-Green deck has the more lethal Titan. Red-Green's Titan will just kill the other deck's Titan with one attack (either one or two Valakuts in place, searching up two Mountains for as much as 12 damage), if not the opposing player.


I decided to give the Eldrazi Green deck a chance to make it to even and played an eighth queue.


The first game I held out with Obstinate Baloth in my hand, but died to sheer inconvenience. I had All Is Dust for my opponents three Megrim + Liliana's Caress board; he or she cast Burning Inquiry and managed to take out my All Is Dust but leave me with the Baloth in hand; I took, like, 100.

The next two games were much simpler. I had a super cheap hand in the second and just hard cast two Baloths; my opponent couldn't really make me discard.

In the last game I had some enchantment removal and great acceleration. I hit Primeval Titan into Pelakka Wurm into the Butcher of Truth, always leaving mana open to drill an enchantment if need be.

Winner!


At the end of three or four hours of game play, I was up two ratings points, and had a fun run to share with you; just sorry it wasn't a more triumphant story.

This deck has lower performance than I would typically like in tournament queue testing. It has the problems most ramp decks have—you can draw all your acceleration and miss a Summoning Trap, or you can "only" draw one piece of acceleration and fail to cast a significant spell. The deck really needs two pieces of acceleration to function properly, and therefore is liable to "draw its cards in the wrong order" more than, say, Red Deck Wins. That said, you really can't argue with second-turn Emrakul, and there aren't a lot of other decks with that kind of blistering potential.

How about the rest of the Top 8?


Naya Fauna Shaman

Aníbal Carbonero's Naya Fauna Shaman
Standard - 1st Place - 2010 Spain National Championships


Spain's winner played a toolbox Naya deck. All told, three noncreature spells—two copies of the archetype's favorite Planeswalker, and then just a Basilisk Collar to go with Stoneforge Mystic and Cunning Sparkmage, all laced together with Fauna Shamans.


Bullets included:

Carbonero did not play Dauntless Escort main, but he did have it in his sideboard. This card, in combination with Sun Titan, allows the deck to essentially ignore Day of Judgment effects (even more than "just" having Dauntless Escort), plus attack into whatever it likes every turn (you can sacrifice and continually re-buy the Escort with Sun Titan).

Fauna Shaman Bant Decks


Andrés Labat's Vengevine Bant
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 Spain National Championships


Both decks run a Fauna Shaman + Vengevine combination, and can search up Sovereigns of Lost Alara for Eldrazi Conscription.

Labat's deck played both Mana Leak and Squadron Hawk from M11. Squadron Hawk immediately quadruples itself, and can therefore act as ample fuel for Fauna Shaman.

Rather than playing four Squadron Hawks, Vazquez ran a singleton Ranger of Eos to refill his hand and set up Vengevines.

Boros Bushwhacker

Juan José Rodríguez's Boros Bushwhacker
Standard - 4th Place - 2010 Spain National Championships


Great to see the return of an old classic! (Or at least a "classic" from earlier in this season.) The addition of Stoneforge Mystic allows the Boros Bushwhacker decks to realize more landfall offense via singleton Adventuring Gear.

Red-Green Valakut

Alberto Romero's Red-Green Valakut
Standard - 3rd Place - 2010 Spain National Championships


The whole point of this deck is to stick Primeval Titan to set up Valakut + many Mountains. Each attack with the Titan (forget a moment it is also a fatty amongst fatties) will set up 3-6 damage, depending on how many copies of Valakut you have on the battlefield (or are searching up with the Titan).

Most versions of Red-Green Valakutdon't play Bloodbraid Elf, or necessarily Lightning Bolt. These cards give the deck different opportunities to interact; for example, Lightning Bolt lets the deck put a hole in a Fauna Shaman that might otherwise serve to lock down the game over the course of a few careful trips between the library and the graveyard.

The deck has a very clear mana-control sub-theme. I love Lavaball Trap and I am wondering why more decks don't try it; it might not be as powerful as Destructive Force ... but it is attractively one-sided.

Runeflare Trap

Alexis Martínez's uneflare Trap
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 Spain National Championships

Main Deck

60 cards

12  Island
Mountain
Scalding Tarn

24 lands


0 creatures

Font of Mythos
Howling Mine
Into the Roil
Jace Beleren
Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Runeflare Trap
Temple Bell
Time Warp
Twincast
Unsummon

36 other spells

Sideboard
Burst Lightning
Dragon's Claw
Flashfreeze
Ricochet Trap
Spell Pierce

15 sideboard cards




The idea behind this deck is to use Howling Mines to set up the cost savings on Runeflare Trap, turning it into quite the cheap Storm Seeker; and then to turn it lethal by adding Twincast. Ideally, this sequence will occur after several turns of Temple Bell-fueled Time Warps.

I know. I hate having to respect the opponent's Howling Mine too (so great to get those free extra cards) ... but in this case, it is often a necessity.

White-Blue Control

Carlos Moral's White-Blue Control
Standard - Top 8 - 2010 Spain National Championships


Another Top 8, and another finish by White-Blue Control. This one was built around Sun Titan, with lots of individual decisions, like Jace Beleren, Oblivion Ring, the many Tectonic Edges, or even the solo Scalding Tarn all essentially for that Sun Titan's buy-back potential.

Just one thing Brian David-Marshall pointed out to me, in general (for when you are playing against the updated White-Blue decks): They tend not to have a full supply of the cards creature-decks hate. Two Day of Judgment and two Path to Exile are increasingly the stock includes. No different here.

Seven-and-a-half different decks across Spain's Top 8? M11 looks to be continuing one of the most diverse Standard formats in recent memory. Good luck, whether your field of battle is the next National Championship, or "just" a Magic Online one-on-one!



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