With Philly far behind us now, I've had to find something else to do with my time other than play infinite Kamigawa Block Constructed online. As I wasn't one of the lucky ones to secure a Saviors beta slot on MODO, I can't focus as much as I'd like to on CBS drafting for London (London! Hell yeah baby, PT Home! Woooooo!), so I've had to find something else to do with my time. No, not the very obsessive ways of the World of Warcraft, nor have I decided to go out into the "real" world and get myself some sort of life or job. I've been looking, like the rest of you out there, at Standard.
One thing I find is that most Pros do not do is play enough Constructed Magic. Although most do some testing for Block and Extended Tours, when it comes to that time of year where we have to get up and play in our Nationals, we get even more complacent. We dust off our pitiful card collection, dig up the last Block's deck, realize that it's in the same sleeves as the deck you just played in Philly and ram the two together and hope that something good emerges. For most of the lazy Pros out there, this might be a pretty accurate description. In fact, I bet most people stop at the finding the old deck stage and settle for playing that. I remember a conversation I had with Sam Gomersall before last year's Nats, it went (very roughly and with likely fabrications) thus:
Q: Salutations, how's testing for Nats going?
S: Happy salutations to you, Nats is soon?
Q: Ya-huh, next week...
S: How bloody homosexual! (said as Englishy as possible) Is Ravager still legal?
Q: Yeah, you don't even have to change it, the build from block is still hot.
S: Guess, I'll play that for a lark then. Cup of tea?
He didn't end up playing it, but wished he had. I was in a similar position a few weeks ago. I was severely bored of Block and bored of what everyone seemed to be playing in Type Two. I didn't have any Standard cards online and as it's quite expensive to buy a deck outright - I wanted to shop around to see what I liked, what was good, and hence, what I would buy. I was working my way through match replays in a Standard premier event that qualified people for the recent IPA thing, and playing a mirror matchup(!) in the semi finals was what I thought of as a COOL.dec. It embodied everything I wanted to play at Nationals this year - something fun, something controlly (easy to beat bad English people when you give them options), something that played my favorite artifacts of the moment - Mindslaver (best card ever), Oblivion Stone, Solemn Simulacrum (most balanced card ever?) and Sensei's Divining Top (slowest card ever?). I also wanted to play the Urza's land that Tooth sports. Because of my prior inclination to play with those cards, I played Tooth all the way through Mirrodin Block, and 4 Slaver in my Nats deck last year. I love that card soooooooooooooo much. Anyway, here's the bit you really care about, the bit you scrolled down to without reading the scintillating banter, the deck list:
*The School is for Boil protection only... good luck untapping your Slavers.
Before I go into the deck any deeper, and before people leap ahead to slag me in the forums, this is not my deck. It belongs, as far as I know, to tori3 and maa on MODO. Who they are I do not know, and they didn't want to disclose a decklist when I messaged them, so this is one I worked out from watching their games (and after testing changes), but theirs is the original deck idea, and I have just jumped upon their bandwagon.
The first thing that strikes you about this deck is what it looks like. It looks like Tooth and Mono Blue have been mashed together in a similar fashion as that mentioned above. It plays much more like the latter though, keeping mana open for counters as it slowly draws and Scryes its way towards the complete Tron. This deck is cool, it's retro, it's control and it's phat. Triskelion is a house against Green and Red and playing four of him is Old Skool. In the long run it is possible to set up an infinite recursion lock with Slavers, thanks to Skeleton Shard and Arcbound Reclaimer. However, with more testing both of those cards and the Fabricate used to find them might get cut as they are normally deadish draws, often best discarded to a Thirst.
To follow on from that thought, I really haven't done much testing with this deck, maybe only 20-30 matches. What that has allowed me though is to get a good feel for the deck. The original version played Staff of Domination (complete turds, I assure you), maindeck Aether Spellbombs (not too bad), and a few more one-ofs and less things like Oblivion Stone, plus sub par things like Culling Scales in the sideboard. The combo bit of the deck may well be redundant, and might well be better off replaced with Wayfarer's Baubles, another Slaver, another Solemn and maybe some Spellbombs and Duplicants. However, the Shard is often quite neat to secure your late game against Red and random decks, as it lets you constantly recur Trikes or Solemns to end the game very quickly. The cutting of the combo and the addition of Baubles opens new doors to the deck, letting it play Shackles now that the Swamp is gone and with more virtual Islands.
The deck plays every matchup differently, or more correctly, wins each matchup differently. The early game is always the same, countering and drawing until the Tron comes together or your threats overwhelm them. Against the faster decks, like Green beats, Red and WW, an early Oh Stone is often needed to keep alive and the Trike's prove their worth a hundredfold. If you ever drop back to back Trikes against Red, you'll know what I mean. It's almost as good as when they tap out for Jinxed Choker after boarding and you untap and play two Sun Droplets - it's that good. Blue control is an easy matchup, as you play the same kind of spells but your manabase is just so much better, as are your threats. They tap out to force through a Magpie or to cast an almost irrelevant Shackles and they can't stop the Slaver that comes right back at them. Tooth is your most difficult opponent, as their lands are much more efficient and they have more threats. The Quash and Annuls help after boarding, but you are still fighting an up hill battle. It's the worst matchup that I've yet tested.
This deck has potential, but the list here definitely needs work. Things like Baubles need more considering, as does the "combo" and the number of Oh Stones main. None of the decks in Standard except Tooth actually feel tier one right now, giving this deck a chance as it feels like a borderline tier one deck. The best thing this deck has going for it is that its is sooo fun. Using six-mana artifacts like Slaver and Trike comes with a lot of feel good factor.
The sideboard is also something that needs some more work. Some things are set in stone - like the Sun Droplets. That card is so good against the over-popular Red decks of the now that their place is guaranteed, giving you the ability to survive the early game with enough life for your bombs to win through, and two in tandem are game. The Annuls are equally versatile, coming in a lot more often than you'd think. The Truths are a multipurpose tool, for dealing with things that spring up as problems like Damping Matrix and the like, it is also hot against beat down decks and ggs vs. Beacon of Creation. The Acquire, Slaver and Duplicant all do the same task by coming in as big threats in the slower matches especially Tooth. The Quashes are my personal experiment at the moment. I think they just have to be better than Time Stop as they are cheaper and can therefore be used against the Scryings, Reaps and Plows that Tooth utilizes after boarding.
Well, I hope this article has done what I meant it to do - provide an introduction for a refreshing and fun alternative to Regionals this year. This deck is good and, mainly due to the Top and scrying interactions, difficult and challenging to play. I was going to write this article in a week or so after the one I was currently working on was finished, but Knut hurried it to print with the Regionals looming so soon. We figured that it would be better to allow you more playtesting time now, as opposed to a last-minute article with a more thoroughly tested deck the day before Regionals.
Luckily, printing it now does at least allow me to hype my next one. In a tribute to one of Tim Aten's articles, I got my friends to pick their coolest creature ever printed and write a bit about it, so look forward to reading that in a week or so. What is the coolest creature ever printed? What is the 197th coolest?
Tune in later,