Well, my super-top-secret Regionals deck has already started leaking, but that's okay. I was going to write this article about it anyway, now that I have decided to get back to my roots and Innovate. A week and a half ago my friend, up-and-coming Pro Phil Cape, gave a copy of a slightly dated version of my Korlash deck to a friend of his, Bryan Upham, who made Top 8 at the StarCityGames $1,000 Standard tournament. I have been working on this deck since the first day I saw Korlash, and have brought it to a place where I am confident that it will take a position as a standard archetype in the post-Future Sight world of Standard.
Rather than risk beginning the article with a dated list that could potentially lead to a violation of the prime directive, I will simply link to the list Bryan played here. I will discuss choices that I had played or considered before, below. First, my current build, the list that I will be playing at Regionals (which I am actually considering playing at despite my rating, if only because I have such an edge on deck, I have tested so much, and I would enjoy the times.)
Before I get into what isn't in the deck, let me start with what is.
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
Korlash is an incredibly powerful finisher that can control the game early, provide card advantage, fix your mana, and is just all around awesome. Compare to Nightmare, a card that has been known to make the cut every once in a while. Regeneration is about on par with flying; however, Korlash cost 49856304 mana less to play. In addition, Korlash's grandeur ability is nuts. A Kodama's Reach that costs no mana, is an instant, and pumps his power and toughness? It even puts them both into play. Korlash even has the special ability of being a legend so as to not tempt you into over-committing to the board.
The backbone of this deck is the Korlash, Dimir House Guard, Rise/Fall engine. House Guard can get you more Korlash, and Rise/Fall (which you definitely cannot House Guard to...) can recycle your House Guards or Korlashes with value. Many may think it is crazy to play only three House Guards, and it was the final cut, but there is only room for so much at the three-spot, and Compulsive Research is certainly the better of the two.
The House Guards are the tutors that provide the consistency this deck needs. Sometimes it is not enough to just draw extra cards with your Blue and to make your opponent discard his hand. The key bullets are Detritivore versus control, Persecute versus combo, and Tendrils or Damnation versus aggro. In addition, it is very common to get Foresee when you have more or less already stabilized. In addition, using the House Cat to set up the Korlash engine is a good way to ensure tremendous mana development.
Sideboarding brings the ability to transmute up Nightmare Void against Dragonstorm (which you may want rather than Persecute, due to Ignorant Bliss). Also, retrieving your Leyline of the Void is a key element of the Dredge match-up. Both of these match-ups will be covered below.
Finally, it cannot be overlooked that the House Guard is not the worst finisher known to man. He has evasion and cannot be Tendrils'ed. In addition, he rescues you from the awkward position of a Korlash that is Temporally Isolated or Fettersed. Besides, 2/3 holds off plenty of potential attackers. For serious!
Rise/Fall is the final key component to the primary synergy of the Korlash deck. As talked about in my articles about the Rome deck and the Melanie deck, Rise/Fall has been a weapon of choice for me for over a year now. Korlash.dec takes full advantage of both sides.
The Fall aspect that has made Rise/Fall famous is still one of the best disruption spells in the format, and is a true beating versus Dralnu and Dragonstorm. An early Rise/Fall usually secures enough time to set up a game-winning Persecute versus Dragonstorm.
However, the Rise side is what really fuels the Korlash deck. It is a tool for recurring your card advantage engine if desired (whether Chronicler, Detritivore or Korlash), or retrieving a tutor to solve whatever problem you currently are facing. In addition, it bounces a man, buying you the time you need to play your man or your tutor. Remember, if you need to, there is no shame in Rise/Falling your own man (especially if you are going to follow with Damnation...).
Finally, remember that you can return a creature in your opponent's graveyard to his hand if you are so inclined. For instance, if your opponent gets to activate his Thought Courier and dredges once, he may end up with a Grave-Troll in his bin and his Courier in play. You can bounce both, slowing him by at least two turns, which may be what you need to race Dredge with your 7/7 Korlash.
Damnation is obviously key to controlling the aggro match-ups. Not too much to say here. Typically you want to keep one in against control and all four in against Dragonstorm.
Tendrils is vital all around. Versus aggro, you obviously need to be prepared to Tendrils your own man to gain 9 if needed. Versus Dralnu, you need to be able to kill Teferi (although Teferi isn't particularly good against us, it is annoying that it can allow them to play men as an instant). Versus Dragonstorm, it is important to keep your Tendrils to set up the play of Tendrils the Dragon (or your own man) then Damnation.
The Twisted Abomination is certainly the weakest card in the deck. I just wanted to be able to play with a little bit more mana without as high a risk of complete mana flood. Thirty-one mana is a lot, even with the nine Blue card drawers. He gets sideboarded out against a lot of people, so if you are looking for a card to cut for the 4th House Guard, this is where you should probably look. It is cute with Rise/Fall, though.
Aeon Chronicler is the second-best creature in Standard (Kird Ape, obv...). In addition, he is the card drawer of choice, especially in a deck that loves to tap out. Quite possibly the only person who loves the Chronic more than me is the edt, who has been known to run Chronicler in Dragonstorm (he suspended it for three against me on the second turn once...).
Compulsive Research is the other best card drawer in Standard. Again the drawback has always been the need to tap on your turn. Korlash cares not at all. This card allows you to play half mana and not get flooded as much. Possibly the best card in the deck.
Detritivore is a key element of your plan to disrupt your opponent's game plan. Many decks just pack to Detritivore, what can I say?
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: a couple are nice to boost Korlash, etc, but with seventeen other Swamps, they are hardly vital. From the latest ruling I got, I understand you can beat Blood Moon with one if you drop it second.
Urza's Factory is a nice back-up finisher, but you really don't want to get stuck with multiples. It usually doesn't come to it, but it is nice to have the option.
Nine Swamps and one Island = enough basic land to make me laugh in the face of Blood Moon (sometimes... Blood Moon is still a beating versus Korlash). The Island is important as you just need a little more Blue mana, and you certainly don't need any more Red or Black mana that aren't Swamps.
In the sideboard, The Last Gasps are the most important cards. They are so key to the aggro match-ups that 2 Volcanic Hammers have been included as bad Last Gasp #5 and #6. In addition, they are all amazing against dredge (hit their enabler ASAP).
The fourth Tendrils is obvious versus aggressive strategies.
The Persecute and Detritivore are just to boost you against anyone that is vulnerable on those fronts.
Nightmare Void is for Dragonstorm and some permission decks.
The four Extirpates are primarily for Mystical Teachings decks. I hate losing to Mystical Teachings. Any other form of card drawing can be overcome with hand and land destruction. Mystical Teachings dodges all that. In addition, they are randomly amazing against people like Dredge or Project X.
The three strongest cards against the Korlash deck are Blood Moon, Persecute, and Mystical Teachings. We combat Blood Moon with ten basics, two Urborgs, and six Signets. We combat Persecute with nine Blue card drawers (they have to name Black most of the time). We need the Extirpates to combat the Teachings, obviously.
I am not using Bottled Cloister because it sucks with Chronicler, and a lot of people play Repeal. I don't use Clutch because House Guard is just better with Rise/Fall. I don't use Remand because I like to be able to always tap out. Repeal doesn't do what I need. Pyroclasm doesn't kill Kird Ape. Karoos are not good with my curve or my Korlash. Skeletal Vampire is too slow, as is Debtors' Knell. Gravedigger is cute, but just not quite strong enough. You anticipate needing to Detritivore a lot. You can Rise your Gravedigger and Korlash ten land in to play like it is nothing, however. Sudden Death is the wrong casting cost for removal in my deck. Muse Vessel is weaker than Persecute. Demonfire is just a little excessive. In addition, I wouldn't mind a Nightmare Void main, if there was to be a ton of Dragonstorm. Still, I couldn't find room.
On to the typical match-ups. First we have Gruul. It is really quite simple and very easy to translate over to other aggro match-ups. Just take out four Rise/Falls, the Detritivore, the Persecute, and the Twisted Abomination. Bring in four Last Gasp, two Volcanic Hammer, and the Tendrils. This sideboard plan is true for many matches. You are a little soft game 1, but strong games 2 and 3.
Versus Dralnu, you take out two Tendrils, two Damnation, three House Guards, for Persecute, Nightmare Void, Detritivore, and 4 Extirpates. You are a little strong both before and after sideboarding, as long as you don't get wrecked by Persecute. Mystical is annoying game 1.
Versus Dredge you take out four Rise/Fall, Detritivore, Persecute, Twisted Abomination, and four Aeon Chronicler. You add Leyline of the Void, four Extirpates, four Last Gasps, and two Volcanic Hammer. You are maybe 20% game 1, but ruin them post board.
Most sideboarding choices are fairly intuitive, once you know the basic plans. Overall, there are not a lot of glaring holes in the Korlash deck's game plan. As I said, Blood Moon, Persecute, and Mystical Teachings are bad news. In addition, Chronicler and Detritivore are very strong against you, but not the end of the world. A strong choice, I recommend you shuffle it up and give it a go. Even if you don't run it, Korlash will be present at Regionals. No question about that.
Let's see, some news... my RIW teammate Paul Nicolo made Top 8 at the Grand Prix in Ohio, running good ol' Threshold in the Legacy. Watch for him in the year to come. RIW Hobbies is the breeding ground for the best new wave of players in Michigan.
Michael Flores and I are planning to elope later this year.
The new Nine Inch Nails album is off the hook.