The Atlanta StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open was a fairly disappointing tournament for me. I decided to battle with my trusty BW Tokens deck into a mediocre finish. I started off strong at 4-1 but lost a crucial game 3 against my friend Chris Greene in Round 6 and he went on to dominate the rest of the tournament with his ridiculous aggressive Jund deck. To be honest the tournament wasn't as fun for me as I had hoped. It seemed like almost every game I won or lost was completely one-sided involving me or the other person to land their "nut draw" and just blow the opposition out of the water. The BW deck doesn't interact much with the opponent and takes very little skill to actually play. Mulliganing correctly and deciding what order to play your cards or how to play around your opponents' cards seem to be the only real decisions you have to make. The deck is really strong and even placed two identical lists into the Top 8 of GP: Sao Paulo but I don't think I'll be playing it again anytime soon.
I'm not sure how to say this....but here it is: GW Elves Combo. Out of nowhere this deck split in the finals of the Starcitygames.com $5000 Standard Open in Atlanta. The field was completely unprepared for the deck and everyone he played got completely blown out. I'm pretty sure the pilot didn't lose a single match all day and was continually the talk of the tournament in the later rounds. For reference here is his list:
- 2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 4 Ranger of Eos
- 4 Regal Force
His sideboard plan was genius morphing from Combo into a pretty standard aggressive elf deck against decks that were resilient to the combo. Cloudthresher Finks and Chameleon Colossus are all huge threats for decks like Faeries to beat and siding out your slower cards like Primal Command against Faeries was probably his game-plan. One card that seems to be missing is Dauntless Escort. A great tutor target for Primal Command Dauntless Escort allows you to overextend and protect your team from a Wrath of God keeping you invulnerable until your next attack phase. This is also assuming you haven't drawn your entire deck and Primal Commanded your opponent's lands to the top of their library (or at least not all of them). The deck can go off very early without disruption from the opponent and can win through plenty of hate since it sports 4 Ranger of Eos and 4 Regal Force. I'm a pretty big fan of this deck but it seems to be hated out pretty easily much like the version from Extended last season.
The glaring weakness of the deck is its inability to finish off the opponent in a timely fashion as well as your inability to easily deal with Wrath of God. You can recover but it puts a huge damper on your plans especially if you are light on lands (which happens a lot since you are playing 18). Also if you are unfamiliar with the deck you could easily make a mistake that costs you the match. Knowing exactly how to count up the mana on Nettle Sentinels and Heritage Druid untapping to gain mana via Manamorphose while figuring out what cards to tutor up via Ranger of Eos as well as using Primal Command to maximum efficiency can all be very difficult to sequence without making a mistake. Much like the Extended version there are a lot of activated abilities and triggered effects to keep up with making punting a very real factor when battling with the deck. I wouldn't suggest playing this type of deck unless you have playtested it through and through and feel comfortable piloting the deck against 8+ wrath effects after boarding. The deck is very good and even won a larger MOL tournament on Sunday night. I would expect this deck to jump in popularity both on MOL and live tournaments in the very near future at least until people figure out how to beat it.
In case you haven't gotten the memo BG Elves is good again. After qualifying 4 people for Honolulu at the LCQ's people seem to be respecting the deck a bit more than they used to. Maelstrom Pulse gives the deck a lot of breathing room against Seismic Assault as well as a handy tool for battling against tokens. Here is my current list that's been doing very well recently on MOL:
- 4 Chameleon Colossus
- 3 Civic Wayfinder
- 4 Imperious Perfect
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
The strongest points of this deck are the 2-drops. Putrid Leech and Wren's Run Vanquisher are just insane threats for their cost. You can kill your opponent in a very short amount of time with these two threats alone and they are mostly invulnerable to Volcanic Fallout (using Leech correctly). Previous incarnations of the deck were playing Chameleon Colossus and Wilt-Leaf Liege but I think that is just wrong. I replaced Liege with Imperious Perfect as he fits your curve much better and is absolutely ridiculous against other aggressive decks. He pumps your squad and also makes 2/2 bodies to overrun your opponent with little green men. You are the best aggressive deck for combating combo having disruption in the form of Maelstrom Pulse and Thoughtseize while also having Mind Shatter and Pithing Needle in the sideboard. Maelstrom Pulse is the card that puts the deck over the top but the rest aren't bad either.
Your matchups are mostly favorable in the current metagame. You are Swan's 2nd worst matchup (behind Faeries) and you have decent matchups against Faeries as well as most other aggressive decks. Your creatures are larger and your removal is usually more efficient. While B/W Tokens can be a difficult matchup there are a plethora of sideboard options available and it is by no means unwinnable. Pithing Needle on Ajani or Windbrisk Heights is a good way to keep your life total manageable until Warhammer goes online and Cloudthresher can mop up Procession tokens before they get too large to handle. You have the edge against Bloodbraid decks because they can't handle Chameleon Colossus but they do play two spells for the price of one so don’t underestimate their ability to change gears and bash you. On top of that you have a few "get out of jail free" cards like Profane Command and Loxodon Warhammer to completely turn games around in your favor. I'm sure a lot of people will want to cut Loxodon Warhammer from the maindeck but I beg you to reconsider. Having a singleton Loxodon Warhammer may be random in the maindeck but having two after boarding can swing BW Token matchups in a hurry as well as being an out to red decks in game 1 if you are falling behind. I'm never unhappy to draw the Warhammer and I would recommend playing at least one and possibly two in the maindeck.
The sideboard is tuned for battling two strategies: combo and aggro. Midrange is not your strongest matchup as cards like Reveillark put a beating on you. However you still have cards like Mind Shatter to blow them out if they ever decide that tapping out is the right thing to do. Cloudthresher can also crush unwary Reveillark opponents that try to swarm with Sower of Temptation and Mulldrifter and give you a great card against one of your tougher matchups: Faeries.
Deathmark is a card that I would not consider playing less than four of in the sideboard. Kithkin Elves Bloodbraid and Doran are all crushed by this card as it is such a huge tempo blowout. It can kill virtually any creature in these decks for 1 less mana than the creature cost to cast at the very least. Kitchen Finks comes in against similar strategies as he is a great defender and can provide valuable turns against an opposing Chameleon Colossus. Many people have suggested such cards as Snakeform and Tower Above to deal with opposing Colossi but I don't think either are good enough to warrant play in the board as they are extremely situational cards. Snakeform may prove to be correct but right now I'll stick with Kitchen Finks since he is better against other matchups.
And finally we come to Pithing Needle. Needle is a card that I have hated with a passion for a long time. However in a world full of Hideaway lands and Seismic Assaults it definitely has value. For GB Elves the name of the game is efficiency and Pithing Needle is the pinnacle of efficiency for shutting down combo decks that rely on permanents with activated abilities. A single Needle can crush Swan's hopes of ever being in the game as you will usually overwhelm them without much resistance. They could sideboard into the Countryside Crusher and Maelstrom Pulse version but then they are much easier to handle because they are no longer a combo deck. Maelstrom Pulse is definitely MVP in this matchup since it destroys anything they might be bringing in from the sideboard to combat your green monsters as well as Seismic Assault or Swans of Bryn Argoll.
Overall I think the deck is sound and has few weaknesses. It can be very aggressive while disrupting and removing threats from play and the creatures are resilient to the format's best removal. You even have 8 manlands to battle back after Wrath of God and Chameleon Colossus to seal the deal against any deck that can't remove him from play. GB Elves has a lot of late game power for a deck that attacks on such an aggressive curve and is one of the reasons why I love it so much. It gives you the ability to outplay your opponent while also taking away their ability to be aggressive. In almost every match GB Elves is the aggressor and that is something not a lot of decks can safely say.
Last but not least we come to Jund Aggro. Chris Greene piloted this to a win (or split) at the Atlanta $5K last weekend crushing me (and everyone else) in the process. Here is his list:
- 4 Anathemancer
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Boggart Ram-Gang
- 3 Chameleon Colossus
- 2 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 4 Wren's Run Vanquisher
I don't really know what to say about this deck as it is basically 3C Blood with a much more aggressive curve than that built by Patrick Chapin. This may be the evolution of the deck but Chris's list is extremely greedy. Noble Hierarch giving your creatures Exalted is a bit more powerful than being a 1/1 Llanowar Elf or so I've been told by Chris Greene himself. Being an elf seems important to me since it affects eight other cards in your deck (Vanquisher and Gilt-Leaf Palace). I would think that Llanowar Elves would be a better fit for the deck but I could easily be wrong. I have no experience with the deck but was completely mud-stomped by it in the 6th Round of the $5k. This is very close to his list from the Mobile PTQ last week where he made Top 4 and lost due to mulligans and stalling on two mana. Saturday he proved just how strong his deck was by crushing with it all day. The deck is a bit of a gamble because you can get very awkward draws but it is really fun to play and is one of the most aggressive decks I've seen in the format thus far. I would recommend working out a few of the flaws in the manabase but the deck seems solid and I wouldn't change much about it if I were battling in the Boston $5k this weekend. While the tribal lands might seem awkward they are actually amazing since they allow you to play all of your spells while taking very little damage via cutting Painlands. You also don't have to play too many "comes into play tapped" lands like Savage Lands to have a good mana draw.
With the return of little green men turning sideways you can bet I'll likely be battling with one of these three decks over the next week or so. I haven't decided which one I like best but all three have their merits and have the potential to completely crush your opponent. The shock value and surprise factor of GW Combo Elves may be gone before the weekend is here but I'm sure you'll get more than a few free wins because your opponent has no idea how to play against your deck. The same could be said for the Jund aggro deck since it has been fairly off the radar and plays differently than the tradition 5C Blood build that has been doing well. With all of these things in mind I can only say one thing: play 4 Deathmark in the sideboard.
strong sad on MOL