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The Solution Part 1

Zvi Mowshowitz

Most of the time Solution decks are thinking about how to minimize the worst case scenario, because the deck is favored to win if something bad doesn't happen.

The Solution is a paradox. It was created on the basis of Crimson Acolyte, and it no longer uses them. It was designed to be a foil for a metagame that no longer exists. It was horribly underpowered, and yet it survives and even prospers. Red-green was never really a mystery, but why does this deck refuse to die? It refuses to die because the deck was misdiagnosed. The Solution was never a pure metagame deck. If it was, it would never have done as well as it did let alone survive afterwards. It is my firm belief that every deck that does well does well because it is a good deck, not just because it may have been a good metagame choice. Every winning deck can justify its existence in the abstract. This one is no different. It was considered a metagame deck because only the existence of Crimson Acolyte allowed it to round out its sixty cards in the absence of Apocalypse and Spectral Lynx. While most of the deck's card choices are basically forced due to a lack of good alternatives, this deck turns out to have a lot of synergies and should be taken card by card. Where that will come in handy is in sideboarding the deck. In nearly every matchup, it will look like there are about 65 cards that belong in the deck. Something will need to get the axe. Part one will deal with the deck's creatures. Two decklists to refer to are mine and Brock Parker's. Mine is taken from Grand Prix-Denver, his from Grand Prix-Santiago:

Zvi Mowshowitz

Main Deck
Sideboard
9 Island
6 Plains
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Coastal Tower
	
4 Stormscape Apprentice
4 Meddling Mage
4 Spectral Lynx
4 Galina's Knight
4 Voice of All
	
4 Repulse
4 Absorb
4 Lashknife Barrier
2 Exclude
2 Disrupt
	
1 Dromar's Cavern
3 Gainsay
3 Pure Reflection
3 Unnatural Selection
2 Exclude
2 Disrupt
2 Aura Blast
	

Brock Parker

Main Deck
Sideboard
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Coastal Tower
1 Salt Marsh
9 Island
6 Plains

4 Meddling Mage
4 Galina's Knight
4 Spectral Lynx
4 Voice of All
3 Stormscape Apprentice
4 Repulse
3 Exclude
4 Absorb
3 Disrupt
3 Fact or Fiction
2 Pure Reflection
4 Gainsay
3 Aura Blast
3 Crimson Acolyte
1 Stormscape Apprentice
2 Samite Elder

Stormscape Apprentice: This card holds a special place in the format as the only one drop that sees actual play. Many players have been removing one copy and putting it in the sideboard, and I would recommend against that. If anything, Apprentice is stronger than before due to the addition of black mana. Almost nothing other than Voice of All has protection from blue, which means that the Apprentice can lock down any creature that it wants. That allows The Solution to contain more expensive threats while keeping its mana curve down. If the issue is taking full advantage of the mana curve or otherwise keeping up on tempo, the Stormscape Apprentice is a steal at one mana. It can be put out virtually for free and then saved until it is worth activating. In creature battles, it is clearly invaluable. Against control decks, many will try to use a few big creatures or use Nightscape Familiar, either of which is well worth containing. Putting the Apprentice out on the first turn is a free gain of tempo that will result in a lot of damage before the time can be found to contain it. In situations where the board gets locked down, it can drain the opponent. The downsides are that if it has nothing worth locking down it does only one damage a turn and the vulnerability of overcoming to the board, problems which overlap. The Apprentice's inability to do more than one damage forces the commitment of more creatures to the board, and its one toughness means that it will become vulnerable to Fire/Ice and other mass removal. It is however relatively resilient against Void. There are places where the Apprentice gets taken out, but it requires very careful and complete knowledge of the opponent's strategy. If someone tries a transformation sideboard and sideboards in big creatures, the Apprentices could be the only line of defense other than Absorb left in the deck.

Spectral Lynx: This is the card that let The Solution survive. Even without its regeneration ability, it's still definitely a worthwhile creature even if it doesn't mix well with Lashknife Barrier. For versions without much black mana this works the same way as Stormscape Apprentice's black ability does. If it comes up, great, but it's just icing on the cake. Apocalypse is overpowered that way. Protection from green is a great ability. The most important thing is not to see the Lynx as a sacred cow, especially in versions without a lot of black mana. Against nongreen decks, it should be sideboarded out if it is otherwise vulnerable, the biggest reason being Fire and Ice. The deck has four Meddling Mages that never come out and four Galina's Knights that rarely do, so trimming a few of these won't cripple the supply of attackers or the mana curve. Remember that the deck worked without them. Still, I would very rarely pull all four and normally leave in at least two. If the deck runs a full complement of Salt Marshes, then it basically doesn't leave. Another question is how aggressively to risk Spectral Lynx, and my answer would be that it should be risked aggressively except for situations involving Fire/Ice. Early on, stopping to protect them will be too time consuming. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be held in favor of a Galina's Knight if mana can be saved on the next turn, but it should very rarely be held in favor of playing nothing unless the reason is potential exposure to Flametongue Kavu. That's one of the great nightmares for a deck like this, having to decide what to do about a potential Flametongue.

Galina's Knight: Times have changed since PT-Tokyo, but the best removal is still red. Decks still manage to randomly win games they never had any right to win simply because the opponent couldn't remove Galina's Knight. Even better is when they can't remove two Galina's Knights. Nowadays people consider the Knight when building their decks, so there's going to be some sort of answer. Often, the answer is countering it with Exclude or otherwise, or bouncing it with Repulse, or sometimes the use of Spite/Malice or Pernicious Deed. Red-green just tries to go right through it. Lashknife Barrier helps Galina's Knight immensely, because it goes from trading with random green bears to beating them in a fight and makes them live through Thornscape Battlemage. It's odd that being protected from direct damage makes damage prevention even better, but many red burn spells have points of damage to spare. Galina's Knight can be sideboarded out the same way as Spectral Lynx, in matchups where its special ability is meaningless and there are too many cards to bring in and not enough to take out. Again, one major concern there is limiting the damage from Fire/Ice.

Meddling Mage: This is the bear that never gets touched. There's no question that it's great, the question is how best to use it. The short version is to ask what card you don't want to see RIGHT NOW, or if there is no card like that which card will wreck you, and more often than not that's the right card to name. Keep an eye out especially for cards that would kill the Mage and generate card advantage at the same time. If the Mage is annoying enough, most decks will find a way to remove it, especially if it spends its time stopping big bombs rather than smaller problems like Fire/Ice. Against decks that use similar cards, generally it's best to find a card they almost certainly have and you don't, my favorite with the two color version being Dromar's Charm game one. When the end is near, a card can be chosen that goes in both decks, especially Repulse. When sideboarding, plan for a card to name. My personal favorites include Repulse and Exclude. When the opponent's deck type is still unknown, aim more to prevent disaster than at making sure that the Mage doesn't name a non-existent card. It's really not a big deal if the Mage misses. Without Crimson Acolyte, the Mage is basically impossible to protect anyway. However, when it won't hurt too much try to wait before playing the Mage. An opposing island is especially worth waiting a turn on, but if necessary there's already a very good bet: Fact or Fiction, which no longer belongs in the deck. Other spells that can be counted on for decks with the right color of mana and that are good enough to name include Fire/Ice, Undermine and Kavu Titan. Keep a special eye out for Domain decks, where naming the right card (Collective Restraint) is most important.

Crimson Acolyte: It's not in the deck anymore, but that requires an explanation, especially since many people still have it in their sideboards. Originally, Crimson Acolyte was justified in two ways. First, almost all the opposing decks were using only red removal. The only exceptions were Thornscape Battlemage and Void, and a Meddling Mage on the potential problem card would be protected by the Acolyte. This theory clearly no longer holds, with Repulse everywhere in the format along with a wide variety of other good answers. The second reason was that there was nothing it was fighting for slots with, and with Spectral Lynx out there now, it is suddenly fighting with some very good cards. Whenever Crimson Acolyte is sideboarded in, a great creature ends up getting yanked to make way for it. It's also been weakened by the need to tap out for cards like Lashknife Barrier and the more painful white mana sources. The card definitely still has its charms, but justifying the space has become extremely difficult. For example, Brock Parker's decklist from Santiago continues to support the card but does so by sacrificing among other things the third Pure Reflection, the fourth Exclude and the third copy of a mirror matchup card, his choice being Samite Elder. Ignoring the choice of Fact or Fiction over Lashknife Barrier, this decision was basically to cut single copies of cards to get what he needed. Without the Barrier, the Acolyte becomes more necessary. The basic principle involved is there has to be some reason why the creatures in The Solution are better than its opponent's creatures in the long game against aggressive red decks. All of them having protection from red is one way, giving them extra toughness is another. As I'll mention later under Fact or Fiction, there is a place where they would be useful but giving up the slots is still highly questionable. What saves this card as a valid option is actually the interaction it has with Pure Reflection in control matchups.

Voice of All: The final creature is the other Constructed worthy creature in white-blue. A lot of people at the lower levels are even trying to sneak this into Standard decks, but there the competition is too fierce. Here there's nothing else worthwhile. Things are so shallow that cards like Sky Weaver and Tower Drake get considered, and that's pretty shallow. Voice of All gives a ton of decks fits for different reasons, with the rule of thumb being when in doubt name red (or in non-red decks, blue). Red's still the king of removal. In decks with blue in them, a balance has to be struck. The opposing flyers are one color, the potential removal is another. In the mirror matchup, the question is whether to name blue to get around Repulse and other bounce or white to fight other Voices. In general, I think that game one the right answer is white, but after that it has to be blue to guard against Unnatural Selection (at least once this article has been read), unless it's looking likely that you can use your own Unnatural, which means you want it targeted. Most of the time Solution decks are thinking about how to minimize the worst case scenario, because the deck is favored to win if something bad doesn't happen. However, in matchups where that isn't true (for example, Price's Denver deck) the opposite is true, and the Voice is another place to gamble along with everything else. It's vital to play not to lose when the long term game is good and to win when the long term game is bad.

Samite Elder: This is the other potential sideboard creature people use, designed for the mirror matchup. With a Galina's Knight or Meddling Mage, it taps to give all creatures you control protection from white and blue. Since the deck only has eight blue creatures, it will only be consistent in giving protection from white. Of course, that's still good enough to protect all creatures in the deck from all creatures in another Solution deck, and it also works against most other decks containing white. Clearly this is a worthwhile card, and until I thought of Unnatural Selection, I was strongly considering using them. It's actually a question of just how valuable having protection is in the long run, and the one game I saw this card out, its controller lost. It makes all creatures unblockable, but that probably just opens up a counterattack. An opposing Voice of All will still get through. What it came down to for me was whether this or a Selection would win in a fight. My conclusion was that more often than not the Selection would, since the opponent would lose every creature I drew and every duplicate he drew, and the Elder can't win games by itself. Finding room for both is next to impossible. An argument can (I guess) be made for a mix given that Unnatural Selection isn't cumulative, and the argument for the Elder says that it leaves the deck without Aura Blast targets. Some people do sideboard them in.

Benalish Heralds: This is sort of the rouge card, and if it gets into the deck, it goes into the maindeck. The theory here is that a Heralds left on the table will win the game through its extra cards while it holds the ground against an army of bears. Lashknife Barrier improves this plan, because not only does Flametonge no longer kill it when the Flametongue comes into play, it doesn't kill it in combat either. Again it's doubling for the Crimson Acolyte. The problem is that Solution doesn't really have this kind of time. This boils down to whether the Heralds will let a Solution deck win games over the long run that it would otherwise lose. If that's true often enough this makes sense. It certainly makes more sense than Fact or Fiction to me.



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