Saturday, May 24: 11:37 a.m. - 1.21 Gigawatts
by Nate Price
What has happened to Magic? I mean, seriously!
Am I late for the Urza's Destiny Prerelease?
What's this "stack" I keep hearing about?
Am I about to party with Prince?
Thanks to Lorwyn block, tribal decks are back with a passion. It's like ten years ago, when I was routinely winning our kitchen table multiplayer games with my Elf deck. Have you ever had a Priest of Titania and Awakening fueled Ritual of Subdual in play? I have, and it's glorious. What about getting the pipe dream of turn one Manta Riders, turn two Lord of Atlantis, and turn three Unstable Mutation and Sunken City? Been there, done that, and I cherish the memory of it. However, time progresses, I decide to try to play competitively, and I learn that these decks don't do so well against Oath of Druids or Rec Sur. So I became a man, and I put away my childish things.
Reigning World Champion... Kai Budde?
Now, Lorwyn has arrived, and my childish things have finally caught back up with me. Look at the format. We are at Day 2 of a Pro Tour, and the following conversation can be heard:
"So, how did last round go?"
"Man, my Faerie deck got stomped by this Elf deck. I swear he had to have had twenty creatures in play."
"Yeah, my Goblin deck just ran over my opponent's Merfolk deck."
These are the top players in the world, and they're playing decks that are like tuned versions of the decks I've got sitting in my long box at home (if you have a long box, you know what I'm talking about). Magic's partying like it's 1999, and everyone's invited. So saddle up, grab your Dragon deck, and get ready for the time of your life. Again.
Saturday, May 24: 2:38 p.m. – A Player’s Perspective
by Tom LaPille
I started this Pro Tour as a player on Friday morning, but a disappointing record on Day 1 meant that I came back to the site today as part of the coverage team. I’ve been asked to write about my preparation and the developing metagame from the perspective of a player. The metagame’s composition was still murky as yesterday’s action came to a close, but after walking around the tables during the first round of today’s play the picture is becoming clearer.
I began my preparation for this tournament with the elephant in the format: Faeries. Everyone seemed to think it was the best deck and that the only important question was whether it could survive the inevitable hate. My own perspective on this was a little different. After playing the Gerry Thompson / Ben Wienburg list of the deck in both of the StarCityGames Standard open tournaments two weekends ago, I thought that the deck was very close to a pure control deck. As such, the most common hate cards didn’t scare me that much. Squall Line and Cloudthresher were good against flying creatures, but from the perspective of a control deck, people boarding in the equivalent of Wrath of God against me was not a deal-breaker.
The problem I had was that I just didn’t feel like the deck was that good. I found it to be extremely dependent on having Ancestral Vision and/or Bitterblossom on the first two turns, and without those the deck seemed pretty mediocre. In hindsight, I was right about the opposing sideboard cards not mattering much, but I was wrong about the deck’s inconsistency. Many Pro Tour luminaries including Kenji Tsumura and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa are playing it this weekend and having plenty of success. The jury is still out on whether Faeries is still the straight-up best deck, but it’s still a major player, and the sideboard hate has not kept it down. Regardless, I wasn’t winning with it, so I had to move on.
My next project was red decks. Evan Erwin made the Top 8 of the $2000 StarCityGames Open with a Chris Nighbor-designed red deck, so I got to work on Mountains. Gerry Thompson suggested that I try splashing green for Tarmogoyf and Kavu Predator to combat Kitchen Finks and Primal Commands, but after trying lots of different mana bases I determined that there was no way to satisfy all of the requirements I had with a mana base that supported green and had less than twenty-five lands. Grove of the Burnwillows is cute with Kavu Predator, but it’s embarrassing to give your opponent life. Fire-Lit Thicket is great after turn one, but it won’t let you play a first-turn Tattermunge Maniac. Furthermore, playing green meant that I could only play five or six manlands, and I was very attached to playing the full eight in the mono-red list. The combination of all of this caused me to give up and go back to mono-red.
I ran into Chris Nighbor himself Thursday night. Upon learning that we both were playing red, we immediately disappeared to a secluded location and started brewing. I think that our maindeck was about as good as mono-red maindecks go, but my sideboard had issues, and I played against a lot of Kitchen Finks, Primal Commands, and Burrenton Forge-Tenders. I ended the day at 3-5 and out of the tournament, while Nighbor barely scraped his way into day two at 5-3.
However, there still are players having success with red decks. The top twenty-four players after Day 1 included Hall of Famers Rob Dougherty and Darwin Kastle playing red-green with Kavu Predator and Guillaume Cardin with a more controlling mono-red build. I had Everlasting Torment in my sideboard to deal with green decks’ life gain, which is something that I was extremely unhappy about, but I felt that I had no other choices. In contrast, the Your Move Games list has Kavu Predator to fight life gain as well as enormous creatures like Greater Gargadon and Countryside Crusher to fight green decks, although it contains only a set of Mutavaults as manlands. Cardin, on the other hand, boldly chose not to sideboard anything to specifically deal with gained life. Results indicate that these are better things to try than playing situational enchantments.
If I could start the weekend over again I would play Manuel Bucher’s five-color Quick ‘n Toast deck. The combination of Reflecting Pool and Lorwyn‘s Vivid lands enables multicolor play beyond anything in recent memory, and I knew before the tournament that there was probably an awesome deck out there that used those lands to play a million colors. Manuel Bucher found that deck. It is filled with some of the very best cards the format has to offer, and on top of that the deck is fun! There’s a video deck tech with Bucher up already, and the list is very strange to look at, but that doesn’t compare at all to how wild the deck is to see in practice. Have a look at this:
Here, Manuel has played Mind Shatter for six off of two Reflecting Pools, a Vivid Grove, a Mystic Gate, and a Fungal Reaches that previously had four charge counters on it. His opponent was playing a similarly midrange blue-black-green Mannequin control deck that two fewer colors, and having to play that quasi-mirror without a hand is a recipe for disaster. It took Manuel a while to actually win the game after that, but the outcome was never seriously in question. I’ll be anxious to see how Bucher and the French players playing his deck do—could this be the hot Regionals tech? Keep following the tournament with us and we’ll all find out together.
Saturday, May 24: 3:10 p.m. – Twists and Turns
by Dane Young
The rumors of the Standard format’s death have been greatly exaggerated (thanks, Mark Twain). Despite comparisons to Affinity, Faeries have not monopolized the weekend. Looking around the top tables early in the second day, several archetypes are thriving.
The fae are responsible for putting 29 players into the second day, making up almost 22 percent of the field. Lower numbers than expected, if you believed the hype.
Doran, Merfolk, Black-Green Elves, and variations of red decks checked in at around 10 percent each. There is some room for innovation in the red decks, as proven by Tsuyoshi Ikeda’s Shaman version. Not only is he playing the Shaman lord Rage Forger, but also newcomer Intimidator Initiate to jump-start the beatdown. Ikeda was fighting on table 4 in Round 10.
The Reveillark archetype has caught many players off guard this weekend. Most players thought that, given the popularity of Faeries, Reveillark would not be a common choice. Second-level thinkers, however, played the metagame and decided to show up with variations on the powerful combination deck. It has been appearing in the hands of many Japanese players and hasn’t fared near as badly as some expected.
Midrange red-green, aggressive green-white, and blue-green-black Makeshift Mannequin decks are the next most popular.
Manuel Bucher, the brains behind Remi Fortier’s Pro Tour–Valencia-winning deck, concocted Quick’n Toast, a five-color good stuff deck powered by four copies each of Vivid Creek, Vivid Grove, and Reflecting Pool. After ten rounds, four of its pilots—Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Manuel Bucher and Olivier and Antoine Ruel—are in 1st, 11th, 41st, and 84th, respectively.
Saturday, May 24: 3:43 p.m. – Ghosts of Tsuyoshi
by Ted Knutson
No Constructed Pro Tour would be complete without a Tsuyoshi Fujita deck list. The Japanese master is not present in Hollywood this weekend, but he did send two completely different deck lists to the event, one piloted by cousin Osamu Fujita and the other by Pro Tour–Prague winner Takuya Osawa. Both decks made Day 2 in the event, and since we couldn’t talk to Tsuyoshi to get his thoughts on the decks, I figured we’d just present them to you here in the blog and let you come to your own conclusions.
Takuya Osawa - 0-4 Deck
Pro Tour-Hollywood 2008
Osamu Fujita - Affinity Elves
Pro Tour-Hollywood 2008
Saturday, May 24: 4:29 p.m. – Crazy Mana Bases in Standard
by Tom LaPille
Standard as it exists right now is the largest it has ever been, thanks to Coldsnap and the two-block structure of this year’s sets. This means that there is a staggering variety of nonbasic lands around, and Pro Tour deckbuilders have been taking full advantage of them here this weekend. The question now isn’t if there’s a way to cast all of your spells; the question is what it will cost you to cast them. Will your lands do damage to you? Will they come into play tapped and slow you down? Will they gain your opponent life? We’re going to have a look at two decks from this weekend that do surprising things with their mana.
Tyler Mantey - Doran
Pro Tour-Hollywood 2008
Tyler made the Top 8 of Grand Prix–Philadelphia this past March with a Doran deck in Extended, and his loyalty to everyone’s favorite Treefolk legend has rewarded him with an 8-3 record going into Round 12. His Doran deck is solidly in three colors, and he needs all three of those colors beginning on turn two. This isn’t too tough, since he has twelve lands that make black and nine that make white as well as four Birds of Paradise. To be able to play spells of three colors very quickly, Tyler has to play a ton of lands that cause him pain. Caves of Koilos, Llanowar Wastes, Horizon Canopy, and Murmuring Bosk all hurt him in exchange for smoothing his colors. Gilt-Leaf Palace can sometimes help, but Tyler only has seven Elves in his deck after counting Nameless Inversion and Chameleon Colossus, so it’s not as reliable as it is in a dedicated Elf deck. The real work of color-fixing is being done by the painlands.
In return for all that pain, Tyler gets access to some really impressive cards very early in the game. Birds of Paradise into a turn two Doran, the Siege Tower is about as scary as the first two turns get in this format, and Tyler also has access to the other most feared turn-two play: Bitterblossom. Dipping into white lets him play Oblivion Ring, an underappreciated card that hasn’t really seen much Standard play before. The rest of the deck is similar to the straight green-black Elf decks, but for Tyler, having the extra power that white gives him is worth taking a little pain.
Like most green players this weekend, Tyler also is getting more than just mana out of his lands thanks to the nonbasic land dream team of Pendelhaven and Treetop Village. Neither of these cards have been part of the hype this weekend, but that’s only because everyone already knows how incredible they are. Many a Treetop Village has been seen happily rumbling into the red zone, and Pendelhaven is so good with Bitterblossom and other token creators that even decks that have no use for green mana (such as Faeries) are playing one or two copies.
Guillaume Wafo-Tapa - Quick 'n Toast
Pro Tour-Hollywood 2008
On the other end of the spectrum sit the Vivid lands, the Shadowmoor filter lands, and Reflecting Pool, which offer you all the mana of any colors that you could possibly want as long as you can wait a few turns for it. As mentioned before, Manuel Bucher is the brain behind this deck list; Guillaume Wafo-Tapa dominated Day 1 with it, and although he has picked up two unintentional draws since then, he is still in great position to make the Top 8. Ignoring the lands, the sheer variety of the mana costs in this deck is mind-blowing. In the maindeck, we have three Cloudthreshers and four Cryptic Commands. and ? No problem! There are also five black instants plus some Firespouts that dip into red. The sideboard gives us cards of the remaining two colors, with Wispmare and Teferi’s Moats in white and a singleton Detritivore in red.
Manuel Bucher had these lands in play at the end of his third game in Round 10.
This is all possible thanks to the five-color land dream team of Vivid Creek, Vivid Grove, and Reflecting Pool. That’s right: half the lands in this deck make all five colors. Eight lands that come into play tapped is an awful lot, but in exchange for that this deck can play literally any card in Standard. Need a long-game plan and maybe a Primal Command-searchable bullet for other midrange decks? Splash some Mind Shatters and a Detritivore. Ground creature attacks got you worried? Teferi has a Moat you might be interested in. With eight lands that come into play tapped you won’t be playing too many spells on turns one through three, but in exchange you get to play any card you want for the rest of the game, and that is power.
There’s also tons of room for customization. Do you think you have a better idea for a sideboard card than these Pro Tour superstars? You’ve almost certainly got the mana to play it, so you might as well try it. Playing no basic lands whatsoever does introduce some weakness to Magus of the Moon, but presumably that’s why they included a few Slaughter Pacts. Moving forward, if Magus becomes an important concern you could take a page out of Gerry Thompson’s book and play a full boat of Murderous Redcaps in the board. Your black mana may be gone when they have a Magus, but you’ll have plenty of red mana, and that suits Redcap just fine.
Saturday, May 24: 5:16 p.m. – Layers Upon Layers
by Nate Price
I’ve had quite a bit of time to wander around the gaming floor between my musings. Watching me walk the tables is a lot like watching a bird sitting on a fence. Every other second my head jets in a new direction, always on the lookout for something cool to write about.
I was blessed with a doozy towards the end of Round 12. I wandered up to a table where a black/red tokens deck was matching up with Reveillark. As I approached, the board for the token deck was fairly impressive. Grave Pact, a suspended Greater Gargadon, two Mogg War Marshal tokens, a Knucklebone Witch, and a Mudbutton Torchrunner just oozed possibility. Watching situations like this make my head hurt. There are just so many things to do, and even more things that happen when you do them.
The story would be pretty cool if it only involved the interactions from those cards. However, his opponent had a Reveillark and Venser, Shaper Savant in play. He also had a Mulldrifter, Riftwing Cloudskate, and Body Double in his graveyard. Situations like this also make my head hurt. I get that feeling you get when you eat ice cream too fast. I’m literally frozen with indecision.
When the Reveillark player attempted a Sower of Temptation, my head went from hurting to full on Scanners explosion. Creatures were sacrificed. Creatures came back from the dead. More creatures died. I think I died at one point, but the Reveillark brought me back. I’m not really sure, to be honest. At this point, I was still trying to pick up the pieces of my brain from the surrounding floor. After collecting the last skull fragments, I looked at the board to see a veritable army for the Reveillark player, and a rich, unguarded landscape for his opponent.
Reveillark 1, Grave Pact 0