I have a love/hate affair with States. Winning States was a big deal to me when I was younger. Winning a PTQ meant about as much, and I was at that point where I really wanted it and hadn't yet tasted victory. I even managed to get second at all three States events in one year! While clearly those were very above average finishes, it remained very disappointing. With the prize structure often being free PTQs for a year to first and two boxes for second, it was very disappointing for me to come so close so many times. Hopefully this year I can avenge that little kid who wanted it so bad and get the monkey off my back—or (more likely) just get second again.
We finally have some tournament results to look at. I love brewing for a new format in the dark, but I also like looking at what other people have been working on. With two whole weeks of results, we finally have a pretty good idea of how the format is shaking out. The big new player in Standard is Wolf Run Ramp, and Solar Flare seems to be dying down a bit as people realize that it's not as good as advertised. With this in mind, I may be switching to G/W Planeswalkers for this weekend's event.
Last week I wrote about the deck I played at the MTG Grudge Match tournament in Philadelphia, and you can find that article here. Just a quick update: the feature match videos can be found on YouTube instead of GGsLive. Anyway, I talked about how I made that deck. I was very certain that I wanted to play the white and colorless cards in that deck in whatever I played. Just for reference, I was dead set on playing the following in whatever I ran.
I set about searching for a good color to complement those cards. The easiest color to go with was blue. I don't know that this was correct, however. I knew it was safer, and without infinite time to test and a very unknown metagame I decided to run it with blue. However, I had wanted to work on a list with green. As you can see, with those cards you really need some cheaper cards to go with all of your five, six, and seven-drop cards.
This led me to a new list:
Allow me to offer a quick breakdown of the deck.
Rampant Growth: These help solve problems in the early game by speeding you towards your planeswalkers and other powerful effects. I was really torn between running Mana Leak and Rampant Growth going into Philadelphia because I felt both were really good support spells in the deck.
Karn Liberated: This card is one of the best finishers in the format, if not the best finisher. I was very excited about playing it, and it did not disappoint. Being able to kill other planeswalkers, various Titans, any annoying lands, Swords, or even an Oblivion Ring is huge. He is also really hard to kill once you +4 him. I could very well see myself adding another copy to the deck in the near future.
Elspeth Tirel: This seemed like the best cure to Liliana of the Veil when I thought about the format. The fact that it's one of your better cards in every matchup is also pretty cool. Elspeth is by far the hardest card in the deck to play with—you want to get value out of it against decks with Oblivion Ring by making guys, but it's often better to be threatening its ultimate.
Gideon Jura: I have been torn between running two and three for a while. In U/W it might be better to run two, but I think with the addition of Garruk Relentless making tokens, adding a third is the right course of action. Forcing them to attacking into your tokens is really important. He also Fogs well for a turn, allowing your Elspeth Tirel to reset the game.
Garruk Relentless: This is one of the most exciting new cards from Innistrad! Without Lightning Bolt in the format, it's even safe to play. Try to imagine casting Rampant Growth into this guy—it's as good as you would imagine. He does a great job creating blocks for your other planeswalkers and plays very well with Elspeth Tirel. Unlike other decks that I have seen sporting him, this one does not do a great job of flipping him and taking advantage of that. However, he's just fine on his own and searching up a Wurmcoil Engine is still powerful enough to win most games.
Oblivion Ring: The best answer to pretty much everything. While it doesn't kill lands or hexproof guys, it will handle any other problems you have. You can even use it on your own planeswalker and then ultimate Elspeth to get it back!
Timely Reinforcements: By far the best card against Mono Red and other red-based aggro decks, as they really struggle to beat a single copy and almost anything else. It's not great against the control decks of the format, but it's reasonable enough at making some random blockers on occasion.
Day of Judgment: I don't know if a Wrath effect has ever been positioned as well as one has right now. A large portion of the field is filled with aggro decks, and the major control player is Solar Flare which wants to win with Sun Titan bringing back Phantasmal Image bringing back something else, giving it two (or more) six-power creatures. Even U/B wants to win with Grave Titan. I made the mistake of not running four of these before and will be running four this weekend at States.
Wurmcoil Engine: Nothing seals up a game against red like this. He's one of the hardest cards to race since Baneslayer Angel. On top of all that, when he dies you get two 3/3 creatures to continue fighting with! Why this guy does not see more play now is beyond me.
Gavony Township: You have a very large number of token producers, so running some of these seems like a natural fit. If Wurmcoil Engine wasn't so good I would be inclined to run a creature-less build, as you can easily finish games in a hurry with this land. Most of the time you will have three or more tokens in play, and being able to pump them all for five mana is a pretty sweet deal. The fact that it adds colorless is a bit of a problem, especially when you want to run Ghost Quarter as well.
Ghost Quarter: I had Inkmoth Nexus in this spot for quite some time, but had to switch over with more and more people running Kessig Wolf Run. That card is a huge problem for this deck, so you're forced to run a few Ghost Quarters. It's possible that you can get away with two and add an Inkmoth Nexus back into the deck, but without having four it gets quite a bit harder to poison them out.
Making the sideboard is a bit trickier—I don't know what I will want to play until I do some scouting Saturday morning. I will say Tree of Redemption seems like the real deal against red, and another Timely Reinforcements and another Karn Liberated will likely eat up two spots. I could see another Garruk being played if control concerned me, but first I would want to max out with four Mayor of Avabruck. I don't think many cards are as good against the control decks as this one. I still like having an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite in the board for Birthing Pod and other decks like humans. Some number of Gut Shot or Mental Misstep are likely worth playing as well. Surgical Extraction is another card that I don't really want to play, but I think I still need to have a couple to beat Solar Flare. Again, it really depends what you're expecting to fight against, but I would pick from those cards for the most part to make a solid fifteen for your metagame.
Overall, the deck has been performing well. I was very pleased with how good Gavony Township was against some of the midrange decks in the format, like Solar Flare. Rampant Growth vs. Mana Leak still seems to be a coin flip. Both are really good and both have a few good compliment cards in the same color that the other doesn't. I don't know which version of the deck I will play this weekend, but I do know that if you want to win your 2011 State Championship, you would be wise to consider playing one of these decks.
This week I also wanted to write about Innistrad Limited, since that's the current PTQ format. This past weekend, I had the unfortunate experience of going 5-4 in a local PTQ. While this result is quite poor, I did learn quite a bit about the format. I tried to build my deck too much like I was playing 2012 Sealed, or even Scars Sealed. This turned out to be a huge mistake.
The first big problems were with how I built my deck. I played way too many fair cards, including Walking Corpse. I ran him thinking that I wanted to have another zombie for my Ghoulraiser. I tried to play too many cute card advantage games with my deck instead of just focusing on the solid green creatures I had access to. I lost far too many games trying to drag it out with two Forbidden Alchemy finding some of my finishers, and I messed around with some very mediocre 2/2 creatures all the while falling behind to their better guys. Even when I finally did hit one of my rares, it would often die right away or be outclassed.
The moral of the story is that when your deck does not have a bunch of really premium finishers, it's often better to just go with a solid curve of above-average creatures. I wish I had not forced myself to play black just to play a Bloodline Keeper and flashback my Forbidden Alchemys. I would have been much better served trying to kill them a bit faster with the reasonable horde of green monsters that I chose to ignore.
The second problem I noticed when I built my deck was the lack of cheap spells. With all of the Werewolf cards floating around, I should have considered keeping my curve lower. I think Geistflame is the best red common in large part because of its ability to stop your opponents from flipping their Werewolves on their turn. Cards like Caravan Vigil are actually quite good for this reason. I lost two games to turn 1 Reckless Waif! In one of them, I had a turn 2 and 3 play, which would have negated most of the damage it did by preventing it from flipping or at least forcing him to miss a drop on his turn. Instead, my Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy did nothing to stop the beating I was receiving. Normally, one-drop spells have been very poor in Limited, but in this format they're worth quite a bit more than in the past.
Overall this format is quite a bit faster than I had previously thought for both Sealed and Draft. I can't wait to get some more games under my belt this weekend, as I will be drafting all day with many good friends while trying to take home the title. For all of you battling this weekend I wish you the best of luck, and I hope this article has helped you in your quest to take home the title!