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A too-short look at 2007 States / Champs.

Too Many Archetypes!

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The letter T!he following article is based on about 25 reporting 2007 States / Champs events from the United States and Canada... Significantly less than half the possible results for even just North America, but still producing at least 38 different sorts of decks. I'm an ambitious guy, but I'm not going to try to cover every one of those archetypes in this article... The point is, there were quite a few coming out of Time Spiral / Lorwyn Standard Champs and States.

You can view all the decks for your own research and curiosity here.

Without further preamble, our results:

Elves! Variants
Black-Green Midrange
Greater Gruul
Blue(-Black) Pickles
Doran decks
Merfolk
Blue-Red-White Blink
Snow White variants
Faeries
Skred / Stuffy Doll Red
Mono-Black Control
Green-White Aggro
Black-Blue Mannequin
Green-Red Overrun
Teachings variants
Black-Red Goblins
Blue-White Control variants
Black-Blue (non-Teachings)
Black-Green Discard
Blue-Green Midrange
Big Green-Red
Mono-Green Big Mana
Blue-Green-White Blink
Blue-White Blink
Black-Blue-White Blink
Predator variants
White Weenie Variants
Blue-Red-White Angel control
Red Deck Wins
Black-Red Aggro
Reanimator
Mono-Green Aggro
Green-White Control
Mono-Black Aggro
Black-Blue-Green
Blue Snow control
Walk the Aeons
Blue-Green-Red Planeswalkers

New Cards

Numerous Lorwyn cards finished in this year's Top 8 decks. The most prominent of these were probably the planeswalkers (all five saw Top 8 play), and among those, Garruk Wildspeaker and Chandra Nalaar seem to have found heaviest adoption.

Lorwyn black seems to be a marquee creature color in this format, providing top control and beatdown options both, played in a wide variety of decks. From the control side, Shriekmaw is unconditionally tops. The evoke poster child put the black in Black-Blue-White Blink, helped to inspire at least one new archetype (the Mannequin deck), was played as heavily as four-of in Mystical Teachings, and pitched in for numerous aggressive creature decks, too. On the other side of the new cards spectrum, Oona's Prowler may prove to be the scariest offensive two-drop in the format (other than Tarmogoyf, of course). The Prowler was a Faeries mainstay and saw play in discard and a fair number of other decks.

The Prowler's Faerie cousin Sower of Temptation appeared in quite a few blue decks, from Pickles to Blink. The Sower is kind of a new take on Control Magic, highly vulnerable to red removal, yes, but absolutely brutal for opposing Blue-Green, White Weenie, Green-White Kithkin... any decks that need their beaters but have little or no true creature removal.

One of the challenging things about sorting through all of these decks is the question of where to divide them. For example, the top two most popular decks this weekend were black-green midrange aggro or control and Elves variants (almost all of which were also black-green); on top of those two, I segmented a third group as "Black-Green Discard" ... So what distinguishes one deck from another?

Formerly Known as the Golgari Trio

Angel's deck is a good example of what I would call Black-Green Midrange. It isn't purely aggressive; it has card advantage and elements but doesn't really try to control the game. It draws some cards, it forces you to discard some of yours, it attacks, it blocks, it blows up the world, cracks the graveyards with A Villainess, and gains a few life points... You know, kind of like The Rock.

This approach is quite different from Dan Cato's Michigan winner. The two black-green builds have cards in common... but the specific card decisions in Dan's deck are so much more acute to a linear strategy. Llanowar Elves and Boreal Druids try to accelerate the deck's development... and they can set up Wren's Run Vanquisher... or they can Voltron together with pump lords Imperious Perfect and Elvish Champion. The deck obviously has discard elements (Thoughtsieze main... Other Elves decks have Stupor or Nath of the Gilt-Leaf), but I drew the line at the presence of The Rack.

Gabe FormyDuval

Where the first deck of this trio does a couple of different things, and Dan Cato's deck tries to swarm you with synergistic Elves, this deck really just makes you want to throw cards away, then punishes you appropriately. It has a lot of two-for-ones in Augur of Skulls and Stupor, persistent discard in Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, and a reset button in Damnation. FormyDuval's deck can win quickly after emptying your hand, either with The Rack or one of the many solid two-drops... Tarmogoyf and discard seem like they would be on naturally friendly terms (one fuels, one finishes). Oona's Prowler has some subtle synergy... If the opponent doesn't have any cards, there isn't much keeping it off of three power.

Between these three styles of decks, black-green midrange decks as a block seem to be the most popular in the current Standard. Just a quick note... Eyeblight's Ending is a good card, and very solid with especially the Elf-centric version (you can reveal Eyeblight's Ending to help out Wren's Run Vanquisher on the second turn).

Pickles: Still Awesome

The end game of this deck is still based on locking the opponent down with Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter. You can flip the Shapeshifter every turn, copy the Brine Elemental, stack the trigger all over the opponent's untap, and win at your leisure. In order to get there, you can harry with standard blue control elements—bounce, theft, or permission.

Yurchick's Ohio winner is a nice blend of the new and the old. He borrows Pickles as a concept, including the late PTQ season innovation of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth + Damnation out of the sideboard, but adds a fair number of new cards to the deck list. Cryptic Command is one of the scariest tools given to blue (and I mean blue) in recent months, and Faerie Trickery may soon become a tournament staple. Why? Depending on how the format shapes up, blue players are going to have to expect and come prepared to deal with Masked Admirers.

For One Thing, Tarmogoyf Now Kills Tarmogoyf (and Vice Versa)...

Doran, the Siege Tower is an awesome new centerpiece to Thomas's Kentucky winner. The card is impressive in play, the deck implementation quite inventive. Thomas can open on Birds of Paradise and drop Doran on the second turn. Even Birds of Paradise, the littlest creature in all the planes of the Multiverse, can successfully crash with Doran down! Ohran Viper, generally good, becomes a genuine "3/3" legbreaker.

One of the things that really jumps out is the six-pack of planeswalkers in this deck. Who plays more than one version? If you haven't had a chance to play against planeswalkers—particularly Garruk Wildspeaker—yet, let me clue you in on something: they're pretty much a nightmare in play. Even when you have the means to deal with them, they end up being Time Walks aimed the wrong way or at least soaking up a bunch of your cards in hand.

As with many Green-White-X decks, this one runs an Edge of Autumn / Flagstones of Trokair engine; Eyeblight's Ending isn't heavy on interactions, but it can help Gilt-Leaf Palace come down with no drawbacks.

One of the things that I really like about this deck is that it's basically a brand new archetype that does not push a single linear in an obvious way. I can't wait to try Doran out!

Plains Matters

Most of the Snow White decks look like Adam Case's Mississippi winner:

This kind of deck can be murder on the beatdown. Condemn, Porphyry Nodes, Wrath of God, and Story Circle all main? Consistent mana? You might not even need the Adarkar Valkyrie + Martyr of Sands combo to get done what this deck wants to get done.

Now check out Manitoba winner Rickard Hedlund's variation:

This deck adds exhaustion to the strategy... Gaea's Blessing for me, Jester's Scepter for you! The unique element here is obviously Dawn Charm + Pollen Lullaby + the Howling Mine setup; in theory their cards matter very little whereas you can Fog forever... which is even worse for beatdown than the ordinary version. Don't forget that while this deck probably doesn't want the true control matchup, Howling Mine makes usually frightening dedicated card drawing like Shadowmage Infiltrator look pretty flaccid.

Bill Stark Strikes Again

Coming off his Grand Prix–Columbus Top 8 with Mono-Black Aggro, TCGPlayer.com editor and event coverage contributor Bill Stark recently published a new and exciting deck: Skred Red.

Bill actually lost a mirror in the Iowa finals. His deck is extremely powerful, with huge red threats and some of the best defense currently available in the game. How does control approach this deck? All Bill has to do is gain any small advantage, and then it's pow! Split second on Molten Disaster. Sorry white. Sorry blue. Sign here. How does beatdown get through Stuffy Doll? Is that a rhetorical question? That's kind of a moot point, actually. Skred and Molten Disaster are some kind of lethal combo with the Doll. This is a deck of big swings; it can go from defense to combo kill in the blink of an eye, from mana development and slight hassling burn to endgame Demonfire... at the end of the opponent's turn... like you wouldn't necessarily suspect.

As with many new decks, this one packs a planeswalker. Worst-case scenario, Chandra Nalaar is a fair sized Flametongue Kavu; best case... They're dead. They're all dead. And it's bloody. And magnificent. Ten ya, brah.

Faer-ly Good

Faeries tribal seems to be the linear analogue to the Doran deck, that is, rather than being an update to a preexisting deck like Greater Gruul or Mystical Teachings splashing some Tarfires or planeswalkers, Faeries is a completely new deck, with no roots in the previous Standard or Time Spiral Block Constructed... even if it is functionally an update to the family of Merfolk, CounterSliver, or most accurately, Blue Skies.

For a black-blue deck with permission, this deck is almost single-mindedly offensive. Schmidt ran eight one-drop Faerie evasion beaters with the goal of beginning the race on turn two. From there he can drop more Faeries on turn two (such as offensive superstar-in-training Oona's Prowler), or hold back with two open. If all that happens to the opponent is a Rune Snag one-for-one followed by a 1/1 to the jaw, he should count himself lucky; this early in the game, he is wide open to humiliation via a beautiful (winged) woman... Spellstutter Sprite was made for the turn-two windmill slam.

From there the Faerie deck has the liberty to play some weird hybrid of pure CounterSliver and Teferi-style flash tempo ninjutsu. Mana need never be completely exhausted on the main; the Faerie high end all comes down at instant speed. Scion of Oona can appear end step to set up a power-boosted attack the next turn or in response to targeted removal. Mistbind Clique is the kind of card that, according to Zvi Mowshowitz, "you might play even if it didn't have flash" ...but with flash, the Clique is one of the most annoying significant threats ever printed. Like Scion of Oona, the Clique can "counter" a removal spell (in this way, it is almost the opposite of every other Lorwyn tribal champion)... Its Mana Short capabilities are just gravy, and appreciated.

A.K.A. Poorlash

A couple of weeks ago, Brian David-Marshall and I were finishing up our Lorwyn set review on our Top8Magic.com podcast. We got to a card called Dauntless Dourbark and, I don't know, I cracked. I actually became very angry. Here is the green Korlash! Why does the black Korlash have a built-in Kodama's Reach and the green one... I don't know... It eats a Shriekmaw, I supposed.

Somewhere between being simply incensed and brought back to my senses by the even-steven BDM, I realized there might be a good "Forest matters" deck hidden in the Standard Treefolk... especially upon figuring out that the Dourbark is still pretty good. BDM and I started fleshing out a deck based on a Time Spiral Block deck given to us by 2007 Wisconsin States finalist Brian Kowal. The result (and a nod to the origins) is Poorlash.dec.

I ended up chickening out of playing Poorlash.dec even though it tested quite well (check out the deck list below and you will see why); however a surprising number of listeners got behind the idea of creating 90+ power in Saprolings per turn and posted some impressive Top 8 finishers last weekend, though none took a first place. I am choosing Ryan Rusaw's 3rd place finisher because he had I believe the highest finish of the group, playing exactly the posted deck, possibly because he was the only Poorlash advocate with access to sufficient Snow-Covered Forests (!!!).

Forests really do matter in this deck due to the Dourbarks and Gauntlet of Power... You want as many as possible. That means only one Scrying Sheets and only two Mouths (you will typically be able to afford up to four of each, plus cards like Pendelhaven and Treetop Village, in straight green control). Into the North and Garruk Wildspeaker really stretch the Scrying Sheets functionality... You hit quite often and often play like you have two in play, even though there is only one in the deck.

The strength of this deck is its ability to present a relentless amount of power every turn. Against Teachings in testing, I often looked over to see three Damnations and a couple of Shriekmaws down... and could still show two 5/4 Masked Admirers if not thirty-plus 3/3 Saprolings every turn. The secret is the Mirari's Wake-like Gauntlet of Power. Just run it! Even if they're green! Few opponents will be able to match Poorlash's volume or quality of threats, and most green opponents will just have some weenies to show.

Ultimately, Poorlash can be a tricky choice in the present climate. It murders most of the old decks and some of the projected newcomers for this weekend, viz. White Weenie / Kithkin... But in a world where Elves Forestwalk, it might be a scary choice with only two copies of Mouth of Ronom to fight. Poorlash takes advantage of a mightly Garruk Wildspeaker, but because it is only one color, often finds its back against the wall against black-green and blue-green Garruk decks with, black-green basically the most popular color combination in the format. That said, no other deck can match Poorlash's offense, relentlessness, or raw power (in both senses of the word) unmolested, not even Teachings.

Black-Blue: Still the King?

Embarassingly, New York States was not one of the tournaments that reported to Renton, so I don't have those deck lists handy to discuss. However the finals was Grand Prix standout Jim Davis with Teachings over Chris Mascioli with newcomer the Mannequin Deck. So basically, there should be at least one little blue box next to Teachings up top; BDM suspects, and I suspect that he is right in saying, that the Dimir colors have not ceased to be tops given their one-two punch of Damnation and everything represented by the color blue.

BDM is going to feature more discussion of this deck with interviews tomorrow, but here is a brief rundown. Mascioli got the deck from Gavin Verhey, who credits up-and-comer Jonathon Loucks and some local Northwest forums with the deck's genesis.

It seeks to abuse evoke with three copies of Grim Harvest, generating tons of long-game card advantage. Against creatures Shriekmaw is a mass murderer; against slower decks, Mulldrifter is a near-infinite source of cards in hand. After boards, the deck can go "dancing Gnomes" against Red Decks, and exhaust control with Mournwhelk recursion. In the early game, Epochrasite and Phyrexian Ironfoot hold the ground while everything else falls into place.

Here is a version that got second at Colorado States, in the hands of Chris Otwell:

Whew!

I can't believe I didn't touch on even half the decks in this one! In the coming weeks, we will flesh out Standard more with Magic Online counts as Lorwyn hits digital Dominaria, hopefully a report from this week's Grand Prix in Krakow, Poland, and (I'm crossing my fingers here) some Lorwyn updates to the Deck-o-Pedia.

Enjoy the week.

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