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Live Coverage of 2004 English National Championship

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The letter O!ut of a field of 146 competitors comes an incredibly varied Standard metagame. There were eight different major archetypes, and a host of rogue decks, several of which under the control of highly skilled players. By the end of the tournament, we'll have some clues about which decks are really the best in the field, but after the first three rounds, there was no consensus among the players as to which decks are the best.

The four most common decks were blue-white control, Goblins, affinity, and Astral Slide. While the top four make up two-thirds of the field, no deck alone made up a quarter of the field. Following closely on the heels of the control and beatdown decks comes combo (Tooth and Nail, and Ironworks), and land destruction (Ponza and Obliterate). Rounding out the field are the rogue decks, including decks built around Ion Storm and March of the Machines.

32 Blue-White Control Decks
32 U/W Control

Akroma's Vengeance, Condescend, Decree of Justice, Wrath of God, and Eternal Dragon. No real surprises there. Affinity and Goblins' loss is blue-white's gain, as the aggressive decks can't recover from a Wrath nearly as well without the card advantage provided by Skullclamp. March of the Machines from the sideboards helps against Affinity and Ironworks, and Disrupting Scepter is for the mirror match. Many people had put Stifle in the sideboard, but a lot of the better players ran it in the main deck instead.

23 Goblin Decks
13 Goblin Bidding
6 Green Goblin
4 Mono-Red Goblins

In a move that will surprise nobody, Dan Paskins played a mono-red Goblin deck. However, most other players believed that the Goblin Bidding deck is the best, as it can recover from Blue-White's board sweepers.

21 Affinity Decks
21 Affinity

While the exact build of the Affinity decks varied greatly, the best version at this tournament substituted Cranial Plating for the now-banned Skullclamp. Things are going badly for you when your opponent's Ornithopter hits you for 20.

21 Cycling Decks
11 G/W Slide
6 R/W Slide
2 R/W Rift
2 R/W/G Slide

Cycling was a surprisingly popular choice for the tournament. Of the cycling decks, the green/white build with Eternal Witness, Viridian Shaman and Solemn Simulacrum was the most popular. Cycling (especially green-white) was a risky choice, as Goblin Bidding and Ironworks are almost unwinnable matchups.

12 Krark-Clan Ironworks Decks
8 Iron Incubator
3 Iron Desire
1 Iron Disciple

The Fifth Dawn set spawned a second new deck type (G/W Slide was its first) with the introduction of Krark-Clan Ironworks. It's unlikely that the best-tuned Ironworks deck has been built yet, but this tournament showcased three different routes to victory.

Combo 1: Myr Incubator. Makes 20 1/1 Myr, and beats the opponent into a pulp. Or, it can remove all the land from the deck, and win with Goblin Charbelcher.
Combo 2: Mind's Desire. Plays a huge number of spells, and then wins with either a massive Brain Freeze or a Tendrils of Agony.
Combo 3: Myr Retriever and Disciple of the Vault. The deck wins with two Retrievers and a Disciple, cycling through the Retrievers to cause an infinite loss of life. There might only have been one of these decks in the tournament, but Henry Stern terrorized the Future Future League for months with a very similar deck.

8 Tooth and Nail Decks
8 Tooth and Nail

With the Eternal Witness, the Urza lands, and Ravenous Baloth all making appearances, Tooth and Nail went back to its roots. The loss of Skullclamp hurt what was once the best deck in the format, although it still appears to be a fine option in post-clamp Standard.

8 Land Destruction Decks
6 Ponza
2 R/G Land Destruction

Ponza. It never really goes away.

Obliterate

7 Obliterate Decks
5 R/U Obliterate
1 Mono-R Obliterate
1 R/W Obliterate

Blow up the world. A pretty simple plan, really. Most people's plan B was to use blue card drawing and countermagic. Quentin Martin's plan B revolved around Seething Song, Rorix Bladewing, and Arc-Slogger, which is much more fun.

16 Assorted Decks
3 March of the Machines
2 Mono-B Weenie
2 Mono-B Control
2 Ion Storm
2 G/W Control
1 Mono-W Control
1 Charbelcher
1 B/G Death Cloud
1 R/G Beasts
1 Minds Desire Twiddle

Notable decks in the rest of the field included several black decks with Death Cloud, an interesting Ion Storm deck, and a March of the Machines deck designed to beat Affinity.

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