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Deck Tech: The Rock

 

Spiritmonger
In a format that was supposedly filled with turn-3 combo kills and reanimated monstrosities, it seemed inconceivable that a five-mana creature would ever be of consequence. It was a given that Morphling would not be a player in this format, and if "the best creature ever made" stays at home, it bodes ill for other mid-game bombs.

But if you look at the top tables here at Pro Tour – Houston, all you see is Spiritmongers in the red zone.

Spiritmonger, a card more or less dismissed during its two-year lifespan is Standard, is the marquee monster in the surprise Extended deck of this event.

"The Rock," a name given to the deck by its inventor Sol Malka several seasons ago, has drifted quite far from the original Phyrexian Plaguelord/Deranged Hermit base that was good back then. Instead, it is built around what are arguably three of the most powerful spells available today.

Malka did update the deck over the past few seasons to include the Apocalypse powerhouses 'Monger and Deed. But for this event, it seems that every major team was working on a version of the deck, and several slightly different versions have turned up here.

Vampiric Tutor, Duress, and Pernicious Deed are still the lynchpins of the new versions of this standby, and with the loss of Swords to Plowshares and Force of Will, the latter two are the best control cards in the format. Combo decks pall at the prospect of losing a card to Duress early in the game, and beatdown decks often cannot recover from a board-wiping Deed. And Vampiric Tutor allows the right card to be found at the right moment, including several silver bullets.

One of the biggest recent additions to the deck is Judgment's Cabal Therapy, which is the "smart players' Duress." Knowledge of the metagame and the field pays off when playing the card, and two- or three-for-ones are not uncommon with it. Combo cannot handle decks that can effectively Duress them three times in the first two turns. A popular trick has been sacrificing Yavimaya Elder to flashback the Therapy, which nets the controlled two basic lands.

Besides the ubiquitous Birds and Elves, the rest of the decks' creatures vary. Some players are opting for Spike Feeder and Ravenous Baloth for life. Some use Spike Weaver for defense. And some are still relying on the Plaguelord and the Hermit. Players seem to be split on the usefulness of Living Wish. After round 8, Darwin Kastle was in first place with a one Living Wish version, Alex Bakopoulos was in second with a three-Wish version (and no Vampirics), and Ken Krouner was in tenth with 0.

Sideboard options include: Coffin Purge and Planar Void against Reanimator, Naturalize vs. a host of problems, and several other one-of's to Tutor for. Krouner also has four Phyrexian Negators that he can bring in against creature-light decks like Psychatog.

One other innovation with the deck is the addition of white, mainly for Vindicate. Gab Tsang is one player playing such a version.

This deck is the real deal, and seems to be the one thing consistently keeping combo decks in check. And if Spiritmonger is roaming the Earth, the format is probably a healthy one.

Darwin Kastle
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

60 cards

Dust Bowl
Forest
Llanowar Wastes
Swamp
Treetop Village

23 lands


Birds of Paradise
Llanowar Elves
Spiritmonger
Yavimaya Elder

14 creatures
Cabal Therapy
Chainer's Edict
Diabolic Edict
Duress
Living Wish
Naturalize
Pernicious Deed
Vampiric Tutor

23 other spells
Alex Bakopoulos
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

58 cards

Dust Bowl
Forest
Island
Llanowar Wastes
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Treetop Village
Volrath's Stronghold

24 lands


Birds of Paradise
Deranged Hermit
Llanowar Elves
Spiritmonger
Yavimaya Elder
Yavimaya Granger

18 creatures
Cabal Therapy
Haunting Echoes
Living Death
Living Wish
Pernicious Deed
Vampiric Tutor

16 other spells
Ken Krouner
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

58 cards

Dust Bowl
Forest
Llanowar Wastes
Swamp
Treetop Village

23 lands


Birds of Paradise
Mesmeric Fiend
Ravenous Baloth
Spike Feeder
Spike Weaver
Spirimonger
Vine Trellis
Yavimaya Elder

21 creatures
Cabal Therapy
Diabolic Edict
Duress
Pernicious Deed
Vampiric Tutor

14 other spells
Gab Tsang
View a sample hand of this deck

Main Deck

60 cards

Dust Bowl
Forest
Llanowar Wastes
Plains
Swamp
Treetop Village

22 lands


Birds of Paradise
Krosan Tusker
Llanowar Elves
Ravenous Baloth
Spiritmonger
Yavimaya Elder

24 creatures
Duress
Engineered Plague
Living Death
Pernicious Deed
Vampiric Tutor
Vindicate

14 other spells


Aaron Forsythe was a professional Magic player and Internet columnist prior to leaving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to join Wizards of the Coast. His first duty here was Content Manager of this very website, a job that required him to do actual work as opposed to playing games all the time. So when a position opened in R&D, he jumped at the chance. He is now director of Magic R&D, and still plays Magic in his free time when he's not busy playing Magic.



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