Hey everybody! Before I begin I'd like to give a short introduction for those of you who don't already know me. My name is Harrison Greenberg and I was born and raised in Florida; I currently reside in Orlando. I've played Magic for the past eight years and got my competitive start in the Junior Super Series where I did quite well. Eventually I moved onto the PTQ scene and won invites to PT San Diego and PT San Juan during the 2010 season. After taking a break for a few months I decided to come out of retirement and hit the scene as hard as I could for the rest of this year by playing in every StarCityGames.com Open. For the rest of 2011 expect to see me on “The Road” almost every weekend and coming to a city near you.
The StarCityGames.com Open in Atlanta GA this past weekend was the last leg of an adventure that lasted six weeks and took us from one end of the United States to the other. While it was an uneventful weekend for me—besides battling 75% of my waking hours—I was glad to see Edgar Flores finally get his trophy and parade it around.
Before I dive into the Standard format I'd like to share a different “pro tip.” This story is about a couple of my local friends David Sharfman and Mikey Letsch whose room I shared this weekend in Atlanta. Friday night after all of us arrived in the city pretty late Sharfman and I got hungry and decided to take the car down the street to the Taco Bell for the new “12 Tacos for $10” deal.
Afterwards we both hopped into our beds and started eating our tacos while Mikey and our other friend tried to sleep. Mikey and Sharfman were sharing a bed and tacos weren't the cleanest thing for Sharfman to be eating at three in the morning. Within five minutes Mikey had jumped out of the bed and onto the floor furious that Sharfman was getting his creamy taco sauce all over the bed. I laughed it off and finished my tacos before crashing assuming Mikey was overreacting. The next morning I looked over at Sharfman's bed—and taco sauce was everywhere with stains covering a one-foot radius from where Sharfman was eating. So for all of you out there looking to secure a bed all to yourself a late-night taco snack might be your best bet!
The conclusion of the Atlanta Open shows us a few things that might not be obvious. We had talented winners in both formats with either being among the top picks to win their tournament. Edgar Flores is a sheer master of U/W Caw-Blade. He has been playing the deck for months and knows it better than almost anybody else in the world. Jesse Hatfield on the other hand knows the Legacy format like few other human beings. Between Jesse and his brother's accomplishments with their Hide Tide deck it is a wonder that anybody else even enters these tournaments—they are at such a huge advantage over the rest of the field. These results demonstrate that practice really does make perfect and intimate knowledge of the format that you are playing is a massive edge that will help you win the tournament.
While everyone understands that knowing your deck and the format is important and there are many players that stress the significance of that understanding many players still try to switch to a different deck the night before a tournament. My suggestion is to pick a deck and stick with it until the format experiences a drastic change or you start to see that you aren't having enough success with it. With few exceptions it is correct to find a deck and learn it in and out. Play against a gauntlet of decks and learn each matchup like the back of your hand.
Another tip I can offer is to playtest both with and against the other decks in the format. This becomes a lot easier when you have a playtesting group who all want to play different decks; you can easily switch decks with your friend and learn how his deck plays. This will teach you what all of the decks in the format do. Each one has a different game plan and knowing their plan as well as your own gives you the added advantage of predicting their lines of play over the course of the game. These small advantages can put you over the edge at a tournament pushing you from the x-3 bracket into the x-1 bracket.
These small tips and tricks are all important because they explain my success this past weekend in Atlanta. For the fourth week in a row I played the G/W aggro deck that I like to call Jumanji. Here is the list:
- 1 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 1 Phyrexian Revoker
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 1 Obstinate Baloth
- 1 Soul's Attendant
- 4 Squadron Hawk
- 4 Vengevine
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
This deck premiered in a Deck Tech with Lewis Laskin back in Edison and we worked on the deck diligently for that tournament and for this one. It started with a nearly identical maindeck but I've changed the deck over the weeks by altering the sideboard to fix its good and bad matchups. For those of you who don't know this deck revolves around Fauna Shaman and Vengevine—but that isn't the only way that the deck works. After the deck premiered in Edison I've seen many people playing versions of this deck and I have tried commenting to them about their changes but to no avail. On paper the deck appears to just use Vengevine to kill your opponent with a Fauna Shaman outlet but that's only one element of the deck. Most people are used to looking at a deck with 30+ creatures and assuming that it is an aggressive deck but this deck doesn't play like that at all. It surprisingly plays like a more controlling deck using card advantage and longevity to gain a significant advantage—you just use your creatures to kill them.
Fauna Shaman is the most interesting card as it is the most versatile “tutor” in the format. Being able to search for creatures these days might as well let you search for whatever you want because their various abilities allow you to do nearly anything you could think of. The number of times that I have used my Fauna Shaman over the past four weeks to get a singleton far outweigh the times that I have searched for a Vengevine. The only way that I can describe this deck to you is by relating it to a better-known deck from the past. This was another deck I had success with a few years back and it also used creatures to control the game with a creature tutor. This is the decklist:
- 4 Bloom Tender
- 1 Chameleon Colossus
- 1 Cloudthresher
- 4 Flamekin Harbinger
- 3 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Incandescent Soulstoke
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 4 Reveillark
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 4 Smokebraider
- 2 Soul Warden
- 4 Horde of Notions
This deck worked nearly the same way as that of its current Standard counterpart using utility creatures to react to the opponent. Once you'd gained enough board position you would win with your beaters. I feel like the current Standard deck gives you so many more options that trying to decide which bullets to run each week gets harder and harder. This is where it comes down to knowing the format and knowing what your deck does against the rest of the decks in the field. This week I decided that playing an Obstinate Baloth would be a great choice against aggro decks like Mono Red and also a trick against the format-defining Sword of Feast and Famine. Using this trick can throw off your opponent's math and give you an edge against arguably the best card in the format.
Baneslayer Angel is a superb reactive card that can singlehandedly win you games against the Mono Red decks and sometimes even Boros. The strangest choice in the deck is the Soul's Attendant which was included because we needed the best one-drop white creature in the format. Without knowing the format or my deck I would've chosen a card more like Loam Lion or Elite Vanguard—but the deck needed a more reactive card that could help you live an extra three or four turns against the aggressive decks in the format regaining a lost board position or even just giving you the extra turn it takes to land your Baneslayer Angel and end the game.
The sideboard is the most intriguing aspect of the deck. For a deck that has 31 creatures main and Lead the Stampede it may seem like an awful lot of spells to be playing in the sideboard. When the deck was originally conceived it was having a huge problem with the red decks and Primeval Titan-based decks—I found that there was no good answer to the latter other than Journey to Nowhere. While this strategy “works” I discovered that even just one trigger of the Titan gave my opponent enough advantage to get ahead of me. We went back to the drawing board and found out that other than countering the card the next best thing we could do was deny them access to it completely in the form of Memoricide. While it's a little unorthodox to play a black sorcery in a G/W creature deck it was the best and purest answer to the card in the format. Between Lotus Cobra Birds of Paradise and six fetchlands to find a Swamp I found a way to make it work.
To beat the Mono Red and Boros decks we added a playset of Kor Firewalkers to the board as they usually cannot beat the card and it gives you enough momentum to win the game. Leyline of Sanctity is the best card in the sideboard as it's good against both of the decks' bad matchups and has tested very well in combination with the other sideboard cards that you are playing. The card slows down Valakut and when you take out their Titans they will often have no other way to win. Leyline also works well with Kor Firewalker against the red decks—if you have both of those cards in play against a Mono Red deck then they will be locked out of the game completely.
With my 75 worked out almost perfectly I'm excited to go back to Dallas this weekend for the Grand Prix with this deck. It'll be a nice challenge to try my luck in a different tournament structure than a StarCityGames.com Open. While I am currently at home rather than on “The Road” I'll sign off by saying that I hope to see you in Dallas. If not then I'll see you at your local StarCityGames.com Open when it comes to a town near you!