Hi, remember me? I haven’t written for a while and, to be honest, I’m not sure when I’ll be writing again but US Nationals is just too important to miss out on. Of all the Nationals it has the most big names and outside of the continental championships, Pro Tours and Worlds it’s probably the toughest tournament in the world. Any tournament of such quality can teach us a lot about the best decks and the meta-game but I haven’t seen a breakdown of the Standard portion of the event yet. So I’ve decided to take a look at what the best and brightest of America’s players decided to play myself.
Below is a quick breakdown of the decks played last weekend as listed on the Sideboard:
36 R/G Beats
24 G/W/U Wake
19 U/G Madness
16 Mono Black Control
9 R/W/G Slide
7 G/B Cemetary
4 G/W/U Beasts
3 B/W Slide
2 B/W Clerics
3 B/U/G Spec
A further thirteen rogue decks were posted and they were a very mixed bunch indeed. Everything from old favourtites like UZI and U/W Punisher to newer decks like Bulletproof Monks and B/W Zombies.
If anyone is surprised at all but one of the decks at the top they need to get out, play more Magic and spend a little more time remembering what they’re playing against. Five of the top six decks are well known and much written about. On the other hand, Zombies is a new addition. Obviously a lot of Pros considered it to be a good bet, and looking at the top eight decks Finkel and Kibler both played it but the top eight decks aren’t necessarily the best.
Below is a list of the players who managed to go 5-0 or better over the two days:
2. Gabe Walls, 5-1-0 playing R/W/G Slide.
4. Michael, Turian, 5-1-0 playing R/G Beats.
7. Joshua Wagener, 5-0 playing R/G Beats.
8. Jordan Berkowitz, 5-0 playing R/G Beats.
10. Craig Krempels, 5-0 playing G/W/U Wake.
11. Rick Chong, 5-0 playing R/W/G Slide.
13. Antonino De Rosa, 5-1-0 playing R/G Beats.
19. Eric Franz, 5-0 playing Zombies.
20. Matt Linde, 5-0 playing G/W/U Wake.
23. Patrick Miller, 6-0 playing Zombies
26. Gabriel Carleton-Barnes, 5-0 playing Psychatog.
31. Jay Tse, 5-0 playing R/W/G Slide.
38. Chris Pait, 5-0 playing G/U Threshold.
52. Brad Taulbee, 5-0 playing Psychatog.
66. James Davis, 5-0 playing R/G Beats.
As you can see only half of the top eight went 5-0 or better in Standard, something you might expect in a tournament based on two formats. Depressingly for those of us who like to see a little innovation, R/G Beats is by far the most consistent deck, even taking into account the huge number of people who chose to play it. Slide and Wake did very well given the lower, but still high, numbers that started playing them on day one.
Surprisingly only one player managed to win all six rounds with his Standard deck and it was one of the new breed of decks: Zombies.
Zombies played by Patrick Miller (6-0).
4x Withered Wretch
4x Nantuko Shade
4x Rotlung Reanimator
4x Graveborn Muse
Other Spells (19):
4x Cabal Therapy
3x Chainer's Edict
3x Unholy Grotto
2 Engineered Plague
3 Visara the Dreadful
4 Braids, Cabal Minion
1 Chainer's Edict
2 Shambling Swarm
Partick’s deck is simple and focused: Make zombies (and clerics) and win. He has enough creatures to drop a few early and start the beats and plenty of creature kill to make sure they get through. Once his opponent starts to control the board Patrick can use Mutilate to wipe everything away and leave him with an army! Duress and Cabal Therapy help to keep Wake, Tog and Slide under control and Corrupt can top up his life against R/G Beats or Goblins and more often than not acts as a timely finisher.
Boy do I like this deck. It has its problems sure, Circle of Protection: Black being a big one, but the sideboard helps it around those and also has a handful of spells that normally grace MBC’s sideboard. I don’t know about you but this one’s getting built up and added to my gauntlet straight away.
This deck will suffer a little when 8th edition rotates out with the loss of Duress, Corrupt and Engineered Plague but it’ll still survive until October 20th when Mirrodin rotates in and Nantuko Shade, Chainer’s Edict, Cabal therapy and Mutilate all leave us for Extended.
I’m not going to look at all the 5-0 decks, so don’t worry, but I will look at one or two more. There’s no point looking at all of the R/G Beats decks as they’re all, within a handful of cards, the same: Make green men and win. Similarly so much has been written about Psychatog over the last two years I’ve nothing to add here that hasn’t been said a hundred times. There are a few decks I would like a quick look at.
Red-White-Green Astral Slide played by Gabe Walls (5-1-0).
4x Exalted Angel
2x Krosan Tusker
2x Teroh's Faithful
Other spells (24):
3x Wrath of God
4x Lightning Rift
4x Astral Slide
4x Lay Waste
3x Slice and Dice
4x Renewed Faith
4x Secluded Steppe
4x Forgotten Cave
4x Tranquil Thicket
2x Wooded Foothills
2x Windswept Heath
2x Nantuko Monastery
4x Dwarven Blastminer
4x Moment's Peace
Gabe too went undefeated in Standard and I suspect his final round draw with Jonny Magic was an ID. Gabe then took his deck and defeated Michael Turian and Jordan Berkowitz before loosing in the final to Joshua Wagener. If you’re a good player and you want to play Slide this is the deck you should be playing. Forget R/W, forget B/W and throw U/W out the window and forget it ever existed.
Slide has always had an easier time against creature decks and, as you can see, Gabe seems to have decided that his main deck is probably good enough to win against creature decks and loaded his sideboard against Wake and Tog. With Lay Waste in the main deck he gets to destroy Wake’s blue producing lands, and Boil gives him even more Island kill. Epicentre too works well as, once he has Threshold he blows up the world and wins with an Angel — Tog isn’t going to cast Upheaval with no land... Disenchant helps against the mirror and Wake too.
This build looses little when 8th edition rotates in — Disenchant being the only card we wave goodbye too — but what is more impressive is that the framework of the deck is left intact post Mirrodin (as you’d expect). Come November whatever you build will need to be able to cope with something like this deck.
Green-White-Blue Wake played by Craig Kemples (5-0).
3x Exalted Angel
Other Spells (31):
2x Mirari's Wake
3x Memory Lapse
4x Deep Analysis
3x Renewed Faith
4x Wrath of God
3x Cunning Wish
3x Moment's Peace
4x Krosan Verge
3x Skycloud Expanse
1x Elephant Ambush
1x Krosan Reclamation
1x Moment's Peace
1x Exalted Angel
1x Ray of Revelation
1x Ray of Distortion
1x Flash of Insight
1x Circular Logic
Craig finished highest of all the Wake players and it’s interesting to note that he’s playing with Angels in his main deck. Whether he expected the meta-game he got to play in or not it’s a great choice in such a creature heavy environment. His build seems a little light on counter spells — only playing six main deck — but he can get them back thanks to Flash of Insight and Cunning Wish and, thanks to Wrath of God and Moment’s Peace, probably doesn’t need too many early on anyway.
Against other control decks has has a lot of card drawing and card selection, which help shim set up for the inevitable win but, even given all of that, this is no deck to pick up and play. Unless you really enjoy annoying your opponent and thinking very hard indeed I’d steer clear of this one — good though it may be.
I’ve picked this out for one reason, and one reason alone. Look what happens when 8th edition rotates in. Look at the cards it looses: Counterspell, Memory Lapse, Brushland and Opportunity. It’ll be interesting to see if the deck can survive for the few short weeks it will have left until the rest of its cards rotate into Extended. I for one doubt whether Mana Leak, Rewind and Remove Soul can really fill the gap.
Remember kids: In September Control decks get the shaft. You have until 20th October before, presumably, some new, good counter spells show up in Mirrodin. I’d make the most of it if I were you.
Scourge has just become Standard legal and all of the decks gain a few cards that may, or may not, be good enough to swap into the decks. There are also a few new decks that you’ll have to take into account but if you took a bona fide US Nationals deck to a tournament tomorrow — I think that’s as good as you can probably manage.
Good luck to all those playing the European Championships in London this weekend, especially the English.