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By: jamuraa, Michael Janssen
May 07 2008 11:35am
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Standard Deviations - Free Premier Event

It's May in Minnesota, and that means that it is finally warming up. We had what I hope to be our last snowfall last weekend, and from now on it's just some rain and a lot of sweeping of the sand. This week has been a little tight, mostly because there are suddenly deadlines at work, and of course it's the end of the semester at school, so everything is coming at me full-speed, there's nothing to do but sit around and procrastinate the things that need to get done. MTGO is usually my prime influence when creating things to do that will help me avoid the things I need doing, but there weren't exactly a lot of things to do this week. Constructed eight man queues were down for a lot of this week, although they are back up now and I might try my hand at them later this week.

Premier Events are apparently right out - they did a test on them this weekend and I was lucky enough to play in one. These are the "free" Premier Events that you don't see that often - they still require that you produce product up-front, but when they finish they pay out exactly what you put in when the tournament finishes. There were about five sealed tournaments, but those filled up really quick - funny how free cards will do that. The constructed PEs filled up much more slowly, so I was able to borrow a few tickets from fellow writer Arnnaria and I was rearing and ready to go. I think my event eventually filled, but some of the other events weren't that lucky. At any rate, it was an easy way to get a few practice rounds in with a deck that I have been looking at lately and was keyed into by CavemanLawyer who played it in an earlier "free" Premier Event to a Top 8 showing:


Friggin Elves!
Standard-Morningtide Deck piloted by CavemanLawyer
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Boreal Druid
4 Llanowar Mentor
4 Imperious Perfect
4 Heritage Druid

Other Spells
4 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
4 Hunting Triad
4 Elvish Promenade
4 Coat of Arms
4 Overrun
15 Forest
1 Pendelhaven
4 Mutavault

Llanowar Mentor


CavemanLawyer describes this deck as "a stupid combo deck at heart", and I would agree. The typical turn four kill is done by emptying your hand with the help of a ton of the mana elves. Usually you want a Gilt-Leaf Ambush or Imperious Perfect on turn 2, something that I would find out a couple rounds late. One of the new parts of this deck is the inclusion of Llanowar Mentor instead of the previous Bramblewood Paragon. The Mentor creates more elves, and gives you something to do with later-drawn lands which are basically useless in this deck after you hit about 4 lands. You can also pitch extra Coat of Arms when you already have one on the table or it is not advantageous for you to play it at the moment. I wasn't playing exactly this deck because I was short a couple of cards. Specifically I was short on the Door of Destinies, so I tried to make the sideboard a little better against the mirror by putting in a couple Naturalize. I also didn't have the full set of Squall Line so I put in Cloudthresher instead. Normally I wouldn't substitute a six-mana creature instead of a instant, but the effect is the same against Faeries at four mana thanks to the evoke and if I can cast the body, more power to me. Of course, I never saw them when I had sided them in so it was a moot point anyway.

My performance in the tourney left a little to be desired, but I put the blame squarely upon myself of course. I was proven to be the best player EVER by getting the BYE in the first round. This of course means instant stardom, oh wait, no it means I got to sit around for an hour putzing instead of playing Magic. Oh well, at least I was 1-0. By the time the second round came along, I had apparently forgotten how to mulligan this deck, because I kept a hand of a couple Forest, Llanowar Elves, Boreal Druid, Coat of Arms, Overrun, and Imperious Perfect. Now, this would look like a good hand to most, but having two of the five-drop win conditions in your hand with this deck is a really bad idea. This deck needs gas, gas, and more gas. I could win with this hand against some, but only if I start drawing more creatures, and soon.

My first round, erm, second round opponent was playing Faeries, pretty much the standard build from what I could tell. The only difference I could detect was the inclusion of Terror over the more typical Nameless Inversion. Given the marked lack of black creatures being played lately, with the notable exception of Shriekmaw and some of the goblin decks out there, I think it is a good addition. I don't know if it will be good in Shadowmoor standard because of the addition of the hybrid cards which makes a lot more black things than normal. Then again, I think that the black creatures (even the hybrids) are a little weak compared to some of the other colors available, but more about that when we are a little bit closer to the release on our beloved, month-late MTGO.

The games played out pretty much exactly as I would expect them to play. I got a slow start in the first game because I kept a hand with two "win conditions" in it - Overrun and Coat of Arms. The opponent got out a Bitterblossom and started pumping out elves, including a Scion and a Clique just for my enjoyment. All of my guys were still puny because I hadn't drawn any effects. He was hitting me from his fliers and whittling me down a little - I had about 18 life and then I did some math and decided that I could win the game by casting Coat of Arms and going in for the win. So I plopped down the flag and passed the turn - and I because I am such a PRO AT MAGIC, my friendly opponent bashed for the win with his suddenly 7/7 air force. The second and third games I actually decided to suck it up and not suck for a while, and I also got the draws that I needed, with the opponent getting bad draws or something because I ended up attacking with Overrun for game two and if I remember right, doing something similar in game three. This catapulted me into the six point bracket, and I was feeling pretty good despite my complete gaff. Lesson number one about playing Friggin Elves!: Coat of Arms affects your opponent's creatures as well, and flying monsters is bad.

My third round opponent was playing Kithkin, which is a deck that comes out of the gates really fast. On the fourth turn he had made something every turn, curving out nicely. I ended up drawing into a second Imperious Perfect, and had put both of them on the board on turns two and three. This meant that I had the upper hand, my 3/3 creatures staring down his little 1/1s and 2/2s, even if they had first strike. My opponent's deck was powered up with some of the new Morningtide cards though, and a Kithkin Zephyrnaut started getting triggered and flying over my Elves, who were helpless to do anything about it. As a sort of bonus, both of my Perfects were taken care of with a pair of Oblivion Rings. Lesson number two about Friggin Elves!: once you're behind on the board, pack it up, you're not going to recover.

Game two I had the nuts draw: Llanowar Elves, Perfect, Hunting Triad, Overrun, Heritage Druid and a couple lands. This is the kind of hand you want to see. I did what every rightful person should do in this situation and Cast everything in my hand, making a bunch of Elves pretty full of themselves and all happy to smash little pint-size Kithkin into the ground. It was over almost before it began. In game three, I don't really remember what happened in the actual game, but I do remember that I was out out of commission by a Sunlance to the Perfect that I made, and a Door of Destinies which was set to Kithkin making everything huge on the other side, including the pair of Zephyrnauts which triggered to fly over the heads of my army of tokens for the win.

In the fourth round, I was faced against one of the most interesting decks that I have ever come across in a Premier Event, and that is because I had created almost the same deck myself and played it a few times in the casual room, convinced that it wasn't of tournament quality. Then again, I was in the 2-1 bracket of a free Premier Event, so who knows if I would have ever been up against this deck in a bon-a-fide PE. I'll attempt to recreate the deck, with apologies to the person who I played in the PE if I get something horribly wrong.



I'm not going to try to guess the sideboard, but I did notice some Flashfreeze in games two and three. I was true to my form of playing, I kept a hand which had only a little gas and two finishers, both of which were Coat of Arms. Of course, when you are playing in a standard tournament where most of the recent cards are based around tribal things, casting Coat of Arms may actually do you more harm than good, something which I learned the hard way back in round two, remember? They ended up being dead cards in my hand as my opponent got out an early Sage of Fables which started pumping a bunch of his tokens by just a little and making them just a bit more annoying. Game two was more of the same, with the recursion of Summon the School playing a pretty decent role when you are generating two and three tokens a turn just by tapping two of your Stonybrook Schoolmasters.

I was firmly out of contention for making the top eight at this point, but I decided to continue playing anyway just for some extra experience with the deck. Round five and six are kind of blurry in my mind at the moment, but I did end up winning one of the games because I remember ending up 3-3 at the end of the day. One of the two rounds was against Faeries again, and I got trounced this time, having almost every one of my spells countered by a Spellstutter Sprite and a couple of the Imperious Perfect killed by Terrors once again. Faeries against this deck is supposed to be favorable, so I am pretty sure that I am playing it wrong in some way or another. My constructed rating wasn't really affected by this much, I am still sitting at a very non-respectable 1562. One of these days I will pick up a deck that is good, and I will pilot it correctly, and I will put my rating back where I am told it belongs above 1600. I was getting tired and the school work was looming, so I ended up logging out so I didn't get a good track on what archetypes the top eight was comprised of.

As a kind of strange postscript, I played this deck a few times in the Tournament Practice room, and won about half the time against a variety of decks. It is very much like a fickle combo deck, when it has the nuts you win every time, and when it doesn't, you just flounder around a bit until you either find the piece you are looking for, or you die. I would recommend it as long as you can get in some testing before you start so you can recognize the hands that you really want to play versus the ones that you want to ship. This deck has undergone a couple of changes since I initially was tipped to it by a friend and it was published a few times on some of the sites around the web. It has yet to make a good appearance in the world of physical magic I believe, but if someone knows of a tourney where it did well I would be happy to hear about it.

In the coming weeks, the focus of the paper magic players will be squarely upon the new Shadowmoor standard, but we are stuck on MTGO with just Morningtide until we get a good update which will probably come after Premier Events start working well again. I'll try to bring in some of the juicy news for the readers here, and keep tabs on the new stuff. I hear that there's a nifty deck featuring none other than Juniper Order Ranger that is doing decent. Maybe next week we will have a set of Premier Events for myself and everyone else to play in. Lately I've been a little down on MTGO, mostly because it's hard to find a pickup game and the other craziness that is required of me lately. The program is still without Premier Events, and it seems like it's been forever since I've been able to give you a decent metagame breakdown. At any rate, whenever they come back up, good luck in the PEs!


Feelings redux by djdark01 at Thu, 05/08/2008 - 20:35
djdark01's picture

I agree with Jam here.

By the way, I didn't say anything except that you were negative and still are.  You didn't bruise my feeling in the least, like I said...  the entire time we were playing I was wondering about Llanowar Mentor.

To clarify, I think I'd either play with Paragon or I'd splash for some blackness.  In fairness, I would try testing Mentor out I suppose to try and understand the benefits too.

re: Doran deck -- regardless of what you think it worked well for me and has continued to do so.  I like it and enjoy playing the deck.

Card Values and Feelings by jamuraa at Thu, 05/08/2008 - 17:08
jamuraa's picture

Regardless of the amount of abuse that anyone dishes out, we're all here to play a game and have some fun.  If you're not having fun playing the game, you need to check your priorities.  There are various different ways to enjoy it, but in the end you need to be getting the value (and that means fun) out of the game. Insulting other players and being a general ass makes the game worse for you and for your opponent.

As far as playing Damnations in a Doran deck, there you need to make a metagame decision.  If you are coming up against quite an aggroish metagame having a couple of damnations maindeck can be advantageous, because Doran is very much moving towards a mid-range deck with Oblivion Ring and Nameless Inversion being included in the main nowadays.  If you can wreck your opponent, drop a Ohran Viper and then outdraw the guy who has everything on the table, it is a very powerful effect.  I would be testing it first.

The upsides and/or downsides of Mentor are debatable, but it is the alternative card to Paragon, and it needs to prove it's worth, not the other way around.  I've played the deck with them in and out - I think the deck might actually be a bit better with it because of the ability to create more tokens.  On the other hand, the Paragon is quite a good card that you can get out on turn two with another mana elf drop.  Lately I've been thinking about putting Wren's Run Vanquisher in the spot because it might give the deck a little more late-game push, and if you don't have a third elf in your hand on turn two you are in bad shape anyway.

Deck requires a fair amount of experience by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 05/07/2008 - 13:35
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Cavemanlawyer here, nice to see you wrote up the deck.  It certainly has a lot of explosive potential, but as you said, I think the key is recognizing which hands are keepers and which to throw away.  Ideally I like to see 2-3 1 drops, 1-2 token producers, 1 win con, and 2-3 land.


The deck can win without the combo, but it is much more difficult.  As you point out, once the deck loses a certain amount of tempo advantage, its best to just pack em in.


Regarding Door of Destinies:  this card is pretty insane and necessary as sb material.  Against anything with red based board sweeping and removal (Sulfurous blast etc.) I will often drop a mana producer turn 1, then nothing until I get my door out, this makes every threat I drop a must answer and makes me much less vulnerable to their mass removal.  

 Good writeup, I am glad you are trudgin along even with the instability on the v3 client and lack of replays.  We need more people in the community to share info and get more of these types of articles up!

negative about Damnation in Doran by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 05/08/2008 - 13:09
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Last time I checked, Doran was an aggressive beatdown deck that has a decent mid-game due to the size of the monsters and bitterblossom.  Mass removal in the form of Damnation is not typically played in such decks, so I was certainly surprised to see it.  Was I negative?  most likely. 


Now you admit to playing TWO damnations maindeck.  This is another example that shows me you are amateur hour.


Check your feelings at the door when you play Magic.  If I say something to you that seems offensive or rude, it is intended to put you on tilt, make you mad at me, and generally distract you from the business at hand.  


Finally, you say Mentor is no good, but provide no example of a card that would be better.  What a waste of space. 

Llanowar Mentor by djdark01 at Wed, 05/07/2008 - 18:54
djdark01's picture

I played against CavemanLawyer in a queue with my Doran deck.  I wasn't really impressed with the inclusion of Mentor at all.  He seems to slow for an aggro deck.

During our match, he was very negative too.  Mostly due to me playing two Damanations main decked which has worked well for me so far (helped me win the game quite a bit).  While the entire time I couldn't figure out why anyone would be playing with Mentor in standard.

"One of the new parts of this deck is the inclusion of Llanowar Mentor instead of the previous Bramblewood Paragon. The Mentor creates more elves, and gives you something to do with later-drawn lands which are basically useless in this deck after you hit about 4 lands. You can also pitch extra Coat of Arms when you already have one on the table or it is not advantageous for you to play it at the moment"

It seems to me like there could be a better card to place in the deck than for this, imo.

I liked the article though 

by Evilgouki (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 05/07/2008 - 17:27
Evilgouki (Unregistered)'s picture

Another great write-up, I look forward to your articles every Wednesday.  Elf Ball is definitely a great deck, in my casual testing, with the right opening hand you can consistently look for a turn 5 win.  I go with the version with Bramblewood Paragon and the synergy it has with all promenades and hunting triads.  With 2 paragons out, you can pump out 3/3 tramplers, which, when coupled with overrun or Garruk can provide that quick victory.  I will try out the mentor version to see how that stands up.

I also really like the merfolk deck. I've played against it before in casual and it can be a veritable beast once the right cards in place.  Removal seems to be a problem however though, and can hurt you badly if your key pieces get taken out early and you are top-decking for another combo piece.  I will build it and try it out through, thanks for the list.

 Looking forward to the next installment of Std.Dev (Sigma!?)