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By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Mar 25 2009 10:44am
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This week I didn't expect to play.  Saturday night came around though, and I had a fever.  It wasn't too terrible, only like 100.5, but the people at work had me go to the hospital and they didn't want a contagion around them.  I had tested a little during the week, and hated every deck I was playing.  First, I'd done a couple of queues with UBW Countertop, from my previous article, but people were crushing it.  It wasn't that they were playing awesome, although I might have been playing badly, but I was getting destroyed.  Next was some RGW Zoo; a pretty stock list.  It was alright, but just tended to fold to combo way too much.  You'd start out with a two or three-power one-drop, hit them, drop a Goyf or burn them, and they'd go off.  I had Teeg, and he helped, and sideboarded Ethersworn Canonist was a contributor, but I didn't like the list very much.  It also seemed to lose to mid-range junk like Loam way too frequently to feel any confidence in.

Next up I tried out a UGW list.  Part of the problem I've been having is that I want to play Tarmogoyf, but I hate the mana in the decks he goes in.  With UGW, while you're missing the 2nd-best dual (Tropical Island, natch), you still have Tundra and Savannah to smooth things, and that helps you get away with Breeding Pool, even though you still wrack up two or four more damage to yourself than you normally would.

Here is the list I'd been testing.  I hate it.

Awful UGw midrange
I hate this deck so much. I wasted too much time on it. I want to throw up talking about it.
4 Trinket Mage
4 Tarmogoyf
8 cards

Other Spells
4 Daze
4 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Force of Will
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Counterbalance
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Brainstorm
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Vedalken Shackles
1 Relic of Progenitus
24 cards
3 Snow-Covered Island
3 Breeding Pool
2 Academy Ruins
3 Windswept Heath
1 Snow-Covered Forest
4 Flooded Strand
3 Tundra
1 Seat of the Synod
20 cards

Dark Confidant 

Guess what's missing...


I should probably have some Trygon Predators to work as another threat, and Sower of Temptation is still wonderful, but I just hated the deck.  I hate shock-lands, I hate not having Dark Confidant in a deck like that, and I felt like I should have re-worked it to a Standstill and Factory/Wasteland mana-base... but mostly I just didn't want to bother with it.  Krosan Grip along with the two Green men isn't quite enough to bother running a terribad deck.

I tried a UW Aether Vial, Standstill and Faerie build.  It was actually better than I expected, and randomly crushed some decks.  Spellstutter Sprite is pretty grand, you have all of the best cards for a Landstill mirror, Aether Vial was banned in Standard and Extended for a darn good reason, etc.  I started off with Trinket Mage in the deck, as a nice tutor and beater, but he was so bad for what the deck was doing.  Here's how I ended up, although this is by no means a finished product.


Decent VialStill deck
Tends to roll over randomly though
4 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Ninja of the Deep Hours
3 Aven Mindcensor
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Sower of Temptation
2 Glen Elendra Archmage
17 cards

Other Spells
2 Umezawa\'s Jitte
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
4 Standstill
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Æther Vial
12 cards
1 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Mutavault
3 Wasteland
2 Snow-Covered Island
2 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand
4 Tundra
21 cards

Spellstutter Sprite


Let's go over the matchups I've played with this deck.  Combo tends to be pretty easy.  You CAN lose to the nuts combo hand, but so can anyone.  Between the three sick counters, Clique putting away kill-conditions, Mindcensor wrecking Tutors, and keeping up counter mana while plopping out guys with Vial, it's pretty good for you.  Control matchups tend to go much the same, although it's a lot of:

"Turn one Vial, got the FoW?"


"Cool, Daze?"

"Eww, gg."

These kind of early battles tend to be pretty game-ending.  Standstill is another card that can really wreck them, even if they are a Standstill-built deck, because you have the Wasteland and Mutavault (or arguably Factory, which I kind of like better, but didn't hook up my Spellstutters of course), along with Vial to make it worse.

Thresh is a battle.  Vial is pretty amazing, as is Sower, and you can win games off the back of Mindcensor in response to a fetchland.  On the other hand, sometimes they drop a Mongoose on turn one, another on turn two for two Mongeeses, and you didn't play Vial... then they (Stifle your land), Wasteland another, and you lose like that.  Explosives and Threads are pretty decent from the sideboard.

Burn is hilarious.  They can't deal with Sprites, Jitte, Archmage, etc.  When you lose, it's due to drawing almost nothing, but it's pretty rare.  Dragon-Stompy is a lot the same... you run plenty of basic lands, have solid creatures, and FoW/Daze/Sower/Swords/whatever for their fat men.  The 2/2s don't really matter, and the only thing they really hit with an early Chalice of the Void is POSSIBLY Vial (if you didn't just play it) and Swords.

Aggro-Loam tends to beat you up and kill you.  It's not a very good matchup, and while you CAN win, it's not very common.

The only other deck I tested it again was 0-land Belcher, and that's actually a really tough game.  While you have a big edge in counters, if they're running Pact of Negation, it's a counter that laughs at you.  As long as they win that turn, there's no downside, and they can overload you with mana on Turn one or two, ignoring your Dazes with Simian Spirit Guide and Elvish Spirit Guide, and then have Pyroblast for game two.  That said, it's about as close to "fair" as you have to get against combo.  Other combo decks just fold up the cards and go home most games.

I just didn't have faith in my deck, so I went back and changed up CounterTop a little Sunday morning and ran with it.  Here's my list:


I cut Sowers.  I love them, but they ARE kind of slow, and I wanted a fat threat against aggro.  Therefore, I brought in a singleton Phyrexian Dreadnought and three Stifle which are also solid against Wasteland.  I'm going on a tangent here:  Wasteland has warped Classic deckbuilding.  There are three degrees of playing Wasteland in your deck:  none, some as random extra lands, and building them into your deck as a true threat, such as with Life from the Loam, Crucible of Worlds and the like.  Personally, I've gotten away from Waste-heavy decks because one Needle leaves you with a bunch of colorless lands, and I like to cast my spells.  However, even if you don't run any, you have to still remember it and build your deck in a way that it can beat Wasteland.  In my mind, the best way to beat Wasteland is extra basic lands.  I like to run at least two of my main color's basics, and maybe one of each of my support colors, depending on what I use them for. 

Another tangent:  Necropotence has warped classic.  Now, we all knew it probably would, but the meta seems fairly healthy.  The warping that occurred is not particularly BAD, just something I noticed recently.  Spell Snare is no longer played.  It shows up now and against, but before Daze supplanted it (and this is a contributing factor of course), it was the second-best counter, winning Counterspell battles, Goyf wars, and stopping Burning Wish.  Now, it doesn't hit much in Necro, and had to be dropped for Daze (although it might have been anyways).  The other thing is that Merfolk went from a non-entity to being a top deck on the strength of it's matchup with Necro.  It has evolved to run threats that can kill non-Necro decks such as Wake Thrasher, but before Necro, it didn't really exist.

Back on track, I upped my Engineered Plague Count, because it is awesome.  As I've said in the last article, tribal themes are showing up in Classic, so we might as well respect that, right?

Round one, I was paired with AndersT.  You might remember him from round 5, with Elves! last week.  Game one, he blew me out.  I had a Force of Will at an optimal time, and tried slowing him down, but then he got Earthcraft, Skullclamp AND Nettle Sentinel and went goofy.  I scooped after he drew a couple times... and he said he fizzled.  I might have been able to win after that, but I kind of doubt it, as my hand was terribad.  + 4 Plague, +1 Pithing Needle, - 1 Relic, -1 Shackles, -1 Nought, -1 Stifle.

Game two I had the Plague in my opener.  I let him have Fyndhorn Elves on turn one, and then Essence Warden turn two.  Turn three he either had Earthcraft or Skullclamp.  Regardless (I'd like to say irregardless, it's more fun, but I'd have grammar Nazis telling me it's not a word, or that it's actually "not regardless", etc), I ran out a Force of Will to counter it, and he only had an attack with the Warden.  I dropped the Plague and fairly quickly won.

Game three I don't believe I had the Plague right away, but I had a counter, Explosives, and Pithing Needle, along with Top to dig.  I plopped the Top turn one, and on my second turn, found Plague in my top three cards.  However, he had gone turn one Nettle, turn two something and on turn three ran (Squirrel's Nest) out.. Turn four, I believe, brought a couple of

1/1s.  I untapped and drew Engineered Plague, and played it.  He lost two men, and had a 1/1 Sentinel left.  He tapped out to play Skullclamp (uh-oh...) and then (Earth Craft) on one of his three lands, then went to untap the Squirrel's Next land with his Sentinel via Earthcraft.  I had the HEROIC Stifle to stop him from going Infy and then drawing infy with Skullclamp.

I untapped and blew up the Nest with Explosives.  He didn't equip Clamp to his man, simply attacking for one and passing.  I dropped a Trinket Mage to get a Pithing Needle, and played it naming Clamp.  He made Squirrel tokens and played a Wirewood Symbiote.  Not an Elf.  Wow.  After a few turns of draw-go, he started attacking with three tokens a turn, doing two to me as I'd Abyss one with my Mage each time.  I found a Counterbalance and played it, then a Top.  Finally I dug into Dark Confidant and started drawing some gas.  I found Engineered Explosives, and then Academy Ruins, blowing up his tokens every two turns.  I found another Plague naming Squirrels so I could leave Explosives be, and finally another Plague on Elves, to which he scooped.

At the same time a clan-mate played against Jimdownside, who was with Gobbos.  Taking my advice on Plague, he had sideboarded four, and wrecked him games two and three, drawing a comment of "whatever" after he had two in game three.  The next round this same player got blown out by 0-land Belcher and told his opponent he would never beat FoW.  Both stories gave me a chuckle.

In round two, I had Lukinhas.  I didn't know what he was playing.  I kept a hand with a basic Island and Plains, and he opened with a turn two Magus of the Moon, to which I kind of chuckled.  Since I didn't have to bother with not casting my spells, I rolled him over fairly quickly with a bunch of 2/2s.  The only slightly tricky part was when he played Chalice at one, stopping me from using Swords, but I used Trinket Mage to fetch the EE for 0 to blow it up. -1 Relic, -2 Daze, +3 Hydroblast.

I had a hand with a basic swamp and two non-basics.  He had the turn two Moon effect, and I died after ten hits from Magus.  Yuck.  The next time I kept a hand with Underground Sea and a Flooded Strand.  I had Swords to Plowshares in my hand, along with other good cards.  He had no play turn one, so I fetched a basic plains, played my Sea, and dropped Bob into play.  He played the stupid Magus.  I untapped and Bobbed into FoW (OUCH!).  Then I played a fetch and a Top and passed the turn.  He had a ritual into Arc-Slogger.  I kind of wanted to let it resolve and simply Swords it, but he had one mana up to kill Bob, so I blew the FoW, then took out his Magus with Swords.  Bob gassed me up, and I stuck a Vedalken Shackles, then a Trinket Mage.  He played out Gathan Raiders, and I dropped another Island and stole them, bringing the concession.

Solid start at 2-0.  In round three, I had Phaedrus, with no-FoW Mer.  I won G1 with him keeping a 1-lander, then having it backfire when I have the FoW for his Vial, then another for his Silvergill Adept.  I had two Bobs going, and the sheer card-advantage, with beatdown, overwhelmed him.  -1 Relic -2 Stifle -1 Nought + 4 Plague

Game two was "the mer game", Cursecatcher into Force Spike, Daze, and two Wastelands.  I couldn't find MORE mana and lost.

Game three was really close.  I fought to stablize against his Cursecatcher and Adept, but when I tried Nought + Stifle on turn four, he had Daze, Force Spike, and the Catcher, and then a (Merrow Reejery) to grow his man and Mutavault.  I dropped Engineered Plague, and tried to find removal or counters to force an Engineered Explosives through, or even MANA just to get around his crappy 1-mana counters.  I found NONE of these, and no more Plagues and died.  The next card was a Plague.  This was frustrating.

I got matched up against Prolepsis9, who usually has UGx.  Game one I got the early CounterTop setup, and rode it to an easy win.  Bob was huge, filling my hand, but mostly it was Counter-Top, winning the psuedo-mirror.  He had black and white  in his deck for Dark Confidant and Swords to Plowshares.  I do not like this setup as it seems too vulnerable against Wasteland and aggro, but it worked for him.  -1 Nought -2 Stifle +3 Threads.

Game two he had a Dark Confidant, while I had two Threads in my hand.  One turn three, he had a second Bob, which I stole on my turn.  He untapped and Gripped the Threads, then revealed another Grip off Bob...  how lucky.  I used Threads, and he used Swords on the Bob I took.  Then he dropped Trygon Predator to prevent me from setting anything up, and I scooped.

Game three he had Top and I didn't.  We stalemated after 4-5 turns, but Top let him dig into Counterbalance, then men and I drew lands... along with two Swords to Plowshares.  Blech.  I felt like I got unlucky, but his build is strong against mine if he hits his mana... which he did.

After round 4, I have the best breakers of the 6-point players, so while I'm concerned, I think I'll be alright, and everyone is telling me I'll make it if I win.  I'm against Chuu, who usually is a Burn variant of some sort.  I take some fire to the face, and set up CounterTop by turn three.  He is able to push a little damage through, but I quickly stick Bob and draw a bajillion cards... no lands though.  I beat down a little, counter a little, and grind him down slowly.  He has Mishra's Factory, but I Swords it, mana-screwing him with just one Mountain, and kill him.  -1 Relic -1 Shackles, -1 Daze + 3 Hydroblast

He gets some quick burn in game two, dropping me to 10.  I have to let him have some freebies, but then get CounterTop going.  He plunks away, forcing a spell through here and there as I'm again mana-light, sitting on three lands.  I'm stabilizing, but at four life.  I chip away at his life, but he has a Factory to stop my aggression.  I have to find something to deal with it, and then he has Fireblast and I'm dead.

I have Hydroblast, Daze, and CounterTop in my opener.  I keep it and run the Top out.  He has a Fanatic that I untap and kill with the Blast to limit the bleeding.  He has a Factory and passes.  I play Counterbalance.  He burns me, then passes his next turn with a second Factory.  No attacks?  Free life for me?  Sure!  I have the option to StifleNought here, but opt not to to keep mana up to run my engine.  Instead I play a second Top.  He tries a Flames of the Bloodhand on EoT.  That's better than attacking for three for free?  I guess?

I Force that nonsense, then drop consecutive Trinket Mages to start beats.  He tries a Lightning Bolt.  I try putting a Top on top of my library, and he has Ancient Grudge for that Top.  I let it resolve as the next card down was Stifle, to counter the Bolt, and I still have a Top.  I knew there was a reason I didn't want to drop a Nought yet!  Eventually though, I float a 2CC spell on my library and Nought.  He tries Grudge, and it is countered, and that's game.

I make T8 at 3-2 with awesome breaks... wait, I'm NINTH.  Due to one of my opponents losing this round (just one?), someone jumped me for the 7th spot...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! and the 8th spot went to someone who already had 9 points the round before.  I was pretty irritated.  If anyone has corrected recollections of any of our matchs, please post them.  Replays are still down!  My memory is alright, but not great, so I may have muddled or mixed up some plays.  Congrats to the T8.  One last note:  the T8 had three Mer decks... maybe more people should be siding in some Plagues!


0-land belchar by Salgy at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 13:39
Salgy's picture

yeah Randel Flag's belchar build is pretty nice and devastating

Tiebreakers by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 16:48
Anonymous's picture

By winning your last round, you pushed up Phaedrus' tiebreakers, and earned a 2-3 opponent to lower your own. I guess you can lose for winning. Also, it looks like the 3rd place guy played the same opp twice: osmanozguney, unless there was another osmanoz-something that dropped and isn't appearing on the standings.

The standings are after the by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 17:23
Anonymous's picture

The standings are after the top8. So it is normal that the guy played the same opponenet twice. Once at the last round before top8 and once in the first round of top8

Completely agree on by blandestk at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 20:42
blandestk's picture

Completely agree on Wasteland, it's totally true. Good write up.

Thanks guys by walkerdog at Wed, 03/25/2009 - 21:53
walkerdog's picture

I did brainfart that winning hurt my breakers. I guess it was just obnoxious that I'd missed T8 going in with good odds. Thanks for the comments, and for reading.

all I can say is that go by runeliger at Thu, 03/26/2009 - 10:11
runeliger's picture

all I can say is that go JXClaytor for top8ing that event.