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Some New Top Decks

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The letter F!or the beleaguered columnist, as well as for the simply intellectually curious, this week is a joy. I speak of course of intellectual diversity. No, no, not the new column name (not the column name specifically, anyway), but the second-to-last (or so) week of Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block PTQ results:

Kithkin
Merfolk
Faeries
Quick 'n Toast
Mono-Green
Mono-Red
Kelpie
Tokens
Burnt Toast
Elementals
Multicolor Quillspike

Yes, of the four PTQ Top 8s that we can see before us, Faeries claimed one fourth of the available Blue Envelopes... but for the first time in many weeks—stretching back almost the entire season—it wasn't a Faeries-dominated week. In fact, not only did Faeries not plant its fly-winged flag into fifty percent (or so) of the available Top 8 slots, it didn't even finish first in Top 8 appearances. Does this seem a disproportionate expression of joy? I mean, it's not Dredge we're talking about, is it?

On top of that, this week reveals any number of new and interesting decks to explore, littering the Top 8s with different takes on Mono-Green (who'da thunk?), a new multicolor combo deck, and even a semi-transplant hybrid from the recent developments in Standard. All-in-all, a number of wonderful topics to explore.

... but not until we've dealt with Standard.

This past weekend gave us a Standard Grand Prix out of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Top 8 was among the most star-studded in recent memory, featuring some of the absolute top players in the world, the reigning Player of the Year, a Pro Tour Champion (make that two, counting the aforementioned Player of the Year), and multiple national champions and Pro Tour Sunday veterans.

But this isn't The Week That Was. Here at Top Decks, we roll 'em like so:

Demigod
Merfolk variants
Quick 'n Toast
Elves
Reveillark

The All-Demigod Finals

Tomoharu Saito
Mono Red - Grand Prix Copenhagen 08


Many players don't recall—not that it was that long ago—that it was Tomoharu Saito (along with fellow Top 8 competitor Shuhei Nakamura) who put this model of the Demigod Red Deck Wins—with Ashenmoor Gouger as the unique element—on the map, just a couple of Grand Prix back. From the fan perspective, it's nice to see the Player of the Year getting paid off with a premiere event Top 8 with the deck now that so many have found success at the Nationals level with the model.

Of course Saito has evolved with the times, adopting Skred over Shock (with the commensurate modifications to mana base) as well as Figure of Destiny (which was not always available to the archetype).

Saito lost only two matches with his Red Deck all Grand Prix, but the second one was to this man, in the finals:

David Larsson
Mono Red - Grand Prix Copenhagen 08


Take a closer look at Larsson's first-place Red Deck. Not only does he have all four copies of Unwilling Recruit in his deck (including one main), his creature model is quite different from most Demigod decks. David played six two-drops, but the really unusual thing is his three-drop. No Magus of the Moon! Most players consider Magus of the Moon a—if not the—reason to play the Red Deck in Standard, but David went with the hasty Boggart Ram-Gang in that slot. This aggressive drop proved much stronger than the Magus in-matchup when Larsson was faced with Saito's mirror in the finals.

If you look closely at the sideboard, you will see that Larsson didn't even play any Maguses anywhere. Instead his sideboard went a little old school, bringing in Greater Gargadon. Greater Gargadon is an awesome combo with Unwilling Recruit. In a true red deck, Unwilling Recruit is just straight up better than Threaten, offering quite a bit of potential damage for essentially no drawback. With Greater Gargadon suspended, Unwilling Recruit doesn't just give you a spare attacker, it acts as a removal spell, too (you sacrifice the stolen creature to your hungry Gargadon).

William Cavaglieri
Full Fat Merfolk - Grand Prix Copenhagen 08


The reigning Italian National Champion followed up his innovative Torrent of Souls deck with a green-blue take on Merfolk reminiscent of some recent Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Top 8s.

Cavaglieri's deck has many of the typical accoutrements you would see in a Merfolk deck but takes advantage of them a little differently. Second turn Stonybrook Banneret? That might mean third turn Chameleon Colossus!

Bogardan Hellkite or Platinum Angel?



Wafo-Tapa, one of the players who originally put Quick 'n Toast on the map, returned with a vengeance in Copenhagen, utilizing a list similar to what we have seen Olivier Ruel battling with across the globe. There's that Platinum Angel! (But Guillaume restricted himself to 60 cards, shaving several numbers and arriving at three Mulldrifters, two Mystical Teachings, and no Makeshift Mannequins.)

Wafo-Tapa's hybridization of Quick 'n Toast and Teachings (his previous signature) led to the inclusion of some favorites from Time Spiral Block, such as one Haunting Hymn and one Imp's Mischief in the sideboard (both are Mystical Teachings-eligible). Remember, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir can be found with Mystical Teachings, and makes every creature so searchable... and the singleton Cloudthresher starts out that way.

Philipp Summereder indicated that Bogardan Hellkite was a key asset in his version. Remember, the Hellkite has flash and is therefore fundamentally friendly with Mystical Teachings. Arbiter of Knollridge is an import from the Wizards deck... basically a ton of free life when playing against a beatdown deck. Generally speaking, a good beatdown deck will pressure a Quick 'n Toast player's life total pretty significantly in the first ten turns, but will itself go unscathed until the control deck can establish itself and start turning the tables; as such the beatdown deck will often be at a full 20 life when the Arbiter gets played. Pretty cool, huh? It really helps when your combination of Vivid lands and Reflecting Pools lets you play basically everything from White ManaWhite Mana to Red or Green Mana toBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana.

Shuhei Nakamura credited its being Elf Week last week here at magicthegathering.com with his deck choice, but our guess is that it was actually a fair amount of technological innovation put into the Elves that prompted the switch (back) to black and green. You see, Shuhei was not that long ago on the same Red Deck Wins that Saito used to establish Ashenmoor Gougers, but just before that, he was black and green in the Top 8 of Pro Tour–Hollywood, albeit with a significantly different version of Elves.

This deck seems heavily metagamed against the red decks... Kitchen Finks main, plus a suite of removal cards tailor picked to battle the red arsenal. Murderous Redcap and especially Eyeblight's Ending are appropriate, the latter being one of the few black removal spells that can cleanly take down Ashenmoor Gouger, Demigod of Revenge, or Oona, Queen of the Fae (all of which are both black for Terror and bigger than 3 for Nameless Inversion).

The entire Top 8 is available here. Enjoy!

Okay, back to Block...

In a world with lightning-quick Kithkin and so many sophisticated blue decks, it's a wonder any Mono-Green made Top 8s... but this week there were actually two!


Ben Strickland
4th Place - California - Sacramento - 8/23


Both of these decks showcase the power of efficient creatures, even in a format dominated by essentially three decks, two of which are largely blue.

Landriz's deck plays a subtle combination that is sometimes found in mana ramp decks: Fertile Ground plus Garruk Wildspeaker. Note that if you play a second turn Fertile Ground, you can play a third turn Garruk if you have a third land. Then bammo! Garruk can untap two lands (one of which has Fertile Ground on it) for a three-drop as well. Might I suggest Kitchen Finks? Creakwood Liege is an unusual choice, even for this deck, which has few black creatures. Between the Liege and Garruk, Landriz seems to have a monopoly on 3/3 token production.

Jason Lambeth
3rd Place - Georgia - Augusta - 8/23


A combination that neither of the straight green decks played, but that has a lot of potential in Block if not wider formats, is Devoted Druid plus Quillspike. You can lay down a Druid on turn two, then untap and play Quillspike with it. Now depending on your draw (and the opponent's complete inability to resist your wiles), you might have the win right there.

You see, Devoted Druid is a convenient source of -1/-1 counters and green mana, the two things that Quillspike needs to increase in size. Therefore, you can keep tapping a Druid for Green Mana, putting a -1/-1 counter on it, then consuming both with the Quillspike, as many times as you like. You can either actually hit the opponent or sacrifice the arbitrarily large Quillspike with Rite of Consumption for a kill that doesn't require heading into the Red Zone.

With yet another innovative take on the format is Robert Cash, with a tokens deck:

Robert Cash
7th Place - California - Sacramento - 8/23


Robert played many different types of token generation, from the Kithkin-class Spectral Procession and Cloudgoat Ranger, to the unbeatable Bitterblossom, to little-seen options like Cenn's Enlistment to produce token threats. So what does he do with them?

Thanks to Italian Nationals, Torrent of Souls is a key method of actioning token creatures, giving them an Overrun-like bonus while activating newly produced tokens (as from that turn's Bitterblossom trigger); the other big way in Block—as evidenced by a confident four-of—is Furystoke Giant. Furystoke Giant can quickly turn a board full of tokens into a game-ending Fireball (probably just more mana-efficient).

So as you can tell, there are a number of options that you can play in the last week of Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block PTQs besides Faeries, Quick 'n Toast, and Kithkin. The judicious application of Cloudthresher—and the option of a combo kill—make green the wild card that might just produce in the final week.

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