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By: whiffy penguin, George Efelis
Jun 06 2008 7:33pm
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Arcane forces swirled around the imposing figure that stood silently over looking a small village from his perch on a windblown cliff. The man standing there watching was the battle mage Almon. Clad neck to toe in fitted boiled leather armor with a travel worn cloak blowing away from his soldiers in the updraft he looked nothing more then a simple ranger. Until one would notice the sword that he carried belted to his side in an elaborate  sheath. The sheath it self was suple  black leather with silver runes etches all across the surface. The runes glowed with a faint energy as if he had captarued moon beams and they were leaking out. Straight chestnut hair fell to just below his chin, whipping around in the wind. Scowling he saw a beacon light coming up from the town followed shortly by two short blasts of a warning horn. He had been seen. Eltrich forces crackled like lightning up and down the length of his body. Some would say that he looked very akin  to an angry lightning wasps nest, but then there are none alive today that have seen Almon when he is ...... 

 Oh my did I blank out and start writing fantasy instead of stratgy? Sorry about that guys my mind was wandering I spouse, the lack of classic is getting to me I think. Anyways.... in the lunch box today im going to cover how to start becoming a better player or just polishing up some of your playskill a bit with helpful tips and how to succesfully fill out those 15 cards that make or break match ups.

First off i'd like to talk about how to increase your awarness to the format and as a side effect your playskill. I beleive the most important think one can do when aproaching any format is to obtain knowledge. Simply put the more you know the better you will do because a player that is well versed in the subteltys and nuiances of a format will enevitably do well in it. The first thing i did and suggest to anyone I stroll across that has an interest is, to go over to www.classicquarter.com. This site is dedicated to the growth of the format and is headed by an enthusiast who put a very real hand in shaping classic into what it is today.  While your there you will have access to top 8 decks of all the PE's starting around the release of Master's. Along with those you will find helpful articles on many different facets of classic, as well as a healthy forum community who are constantly working on ideas for the format to be more fun and simply grow its userbase out to a larger level.

After heading over there I would click on over to www.starcitygames.com and peruse the Unlocking Legacy articles as it is the closest format in regaurds to speed and deck design. Also www.themanadrain.com has a legacy devoted forums called the mana leak which will  help build your awarness of archtypes. The reason I suggest these is short of playing all the myriad decks out there untill you gain an understanding of the format, reading theory and stratgy about it will at least aquaint you with it . I use this in conjunction with my playtesting to help push my odds into the winning percentage.

Secondly start building yourself a network. Networks are fantastic as if you can get yourself into one you will be able to bounce ideas, theorys, and playtesting sessions off of each other. The single best way to start a network is to join a clan. With inclusion into a dedicated clan your experience in the format will skyrocket. There is a huge gap inbetween a pick up game in the TP room and a dedicated group of playtesters. Also many serious clans have a website with  some forums, here they will be able to chat about there format and most will have a secret clan forum where you will be able to work on breaking it. Other resources that a clan or tighly nit network will supply are what decks are being pioletd by whom in a PE and the abilaty to play other decks or tweak an existing one through the loan of cards. I am not advocating that you join a clan to bum a decklist, but if you are in one there is a high chance that you will be able to borrow a few cards or heck even a new deck to playtest with. This way you will be able to see how a new list plays out, and where it may need some adjustments from conseption to field test before ponying up the loot to build it for your own. When you have a few pairs of eyes paying attention to a PE, you will be able to flesh out a list of the archtypes present for the day and be able to go into a match knowing what your opponent is playing. This is huge as it will affect your entire game plan. You will know if you need to muligan and what your best stratgy for the early turns is going to be. Hopefully you opponent wont have the same insight giving you a decided edge in the match up, unless he's playing the foil to your deck.

As for actually playing you will want to pick a deck that compliments your playstyle best. I spent at least  a week and a half before deciding that R Thresh was the right deck for me figuering that I enjoyed the playstyle of the list emensly and that I would be stuck with it as my only classic deck untill I could start breaking into the PE's. There are many decks in every archtype to choose from. The  best way to go about building is to take an existing list that has proven itself in a tournament setting and tweaking it to fit your play style .  I am not against rouge design and do not advocate "netdecking" but if you want to do well you should start with a proven list, and as you progress in the format you will be able to start deckbuilding with the right angles of attack in mind.

Practice practice practice. The more matches you play the better you will know your deck. It is paramount that you be able to play your list the right way since a large number of matches will be based on what archtype you drew for the round. Knowing how to play the deck is one thing but knowing how to play it against several archtypes and deviations within each archtype is something you will only gain from playing these matches over and over. I've been playing Thresh for 8 months now and I still see all kinds of plays that I haden't seen before just because the more I play it the better I am at seeing the trends in what cards I draw and in there order.

When building your side board you have to figure out what you want as their are different types of sbing stratagies. The most popular and almost universly adopted method is to have cards that will help you in your bad or 50/50 matchups and then cards that are geared to "the best deck". You could also be playing a wish board or silver bullet board if you have MD tutors. Combo decks will usally play a sb devoted to hating the hate that will come in against them, or play a transformative sb to hopefully throw the opponents game plan askew. I pesonally like to test and tweak my deck to the point where my SB is going to come in and give me a hand with the tough matches, and a few cards that will hose overall stratgies. I will raerly try to fit in sb space to fringe decks even if they have my number. For example I rarely run any SB hate to dredge in my thresh builds. The deck has got my number and i dont want to devote 4-7 sb cards to beat it when I need those precious slots to help win against RDW, Thresh, landstill, etc.. The dredge matchup is almost unwinnable MD and it shows up so infrequently that I dont worry about it and just play match up craps hopeing for no snake eyes to roll up. I figure that i'll show you the overall best cards to make your 15 and how to apply them broken down by color. I got this list from the classic quarter's tournament data base veiwing all the top eight decklists and noting the cards that make them.

Pyroblast is, I feel one of the higest played cards in the sb. It can answer blue's defences for the low price of 1 mana. This card can really help push through threats against landstill and thresh. It will aslo counter Flash's key card. You can use it to blow up Counterbalance or Threads of Disloyalty. Meddling Mage takes a bullet letting any of your blanks turn back on. Blast  fills a very important role in that it makes decks running FoW play fair because now you have the abilaty to protect your guy while he's on the stack. Red is rounded out with Ancient Grudge and Shattering Spree coming into an affinaty heavy meta.Pyroclasm dosen't get as much play as it deserves mostly because not many people are adventurous to try out goblins. I feel that the emergence of Elfclamp as a real deck in the projected meta as well as Bitterblossom starting to garner some attention, you should keep this card in mind when tweaking your board. A pair of moon effects in Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon will generaly be used to cripple greedy manbases but are normally only found in red heavy decks. Last but not least is Pyrostatic Pillar, it's usally found in RDW sb or R/G agro as a way to punish combo decks and to make it so that almost every counterspell from the control player is going to serve to the head makes this an attractive card in the race orientated burn decks.


Theres not much for green in terms of sb cards .  But grip is a widly played card, it gives Thresh and R/G agro a chance at blowing up potentially cripaling cards such as Moat and Counterbalance with very little that an opponent can do to stop you. Grip will also give you a shot at destroying Pernicious Deed or Engineered Explosives if your opponent passes priority. That is actually the only green card played in winning lists going back till October. Other cards i feel should be considered are Trygon Predator who is pretty much a grip with legs. He serves the same role but has an added benefit of being pitchable to Force of Will. Xantid Swarm is a card that makes it in Legacy and Vintage to help protect a combo deck and I see no reason why it  couldnt be aplied to Classic.  I expect three Shadow Moor cards to make it into SB's once there digital. Vexing Shusher and Guttural Response are not truly green cards but they can be played for green mana. The response will only find a home in decks that dont have or want access to red. In red it is just a weaker Pyroblast and most decks dont want five or more. It does however help other decks compete against counterspells. Shusher I feel is almost main deckable as he is a 2/2 body regardless and if he survives he can blank a Landstill or Thresh player's hand. I also beleive that Wheel of Sun and Moon or from now on Wosam will make it  in as well. It gives green and white the abillaty to play an on color leyline that can be cast for two mana as opposed to four. Wosam also has the added function of putting fetch lands back into an opponets library negating the card advantage normally involved. You could target yourself to stop Sensei-Sensei from ruining your day as well.

Krosan Grip

Leyline of the Void
This is the most widly played SB card in the format. It is very good at what it does and every deck could play it if they chose to. The reason lotv is so good is that it comes down for free and uncounterable as the game starts, and it is not symetrical. The presence of this card is enough to keep Flash and Dredge decks at bay since it cripples there game plan.Lotv also has "splash damage" on Thresh ,Affinaty, and any deck trying to abuse skull clamp or other grave yard shenanigans. Black's role in the side board is to usally force through or rip apart a combo other wise Duress and Thoughtseize would be in the maindeck already. Most combo decks run really tight on space for their lists and if they play black they usally shelve the discard to the sb so that they have a better game one against an opponent who dosent have access to his hate. Extirpate fills a similar role but it makes used copys of a card dissapear from there owners library . Split second almost insures that what ever you want gone will be removed. Echoing Decay is an option for combo to off Meddling Mage's but dosent seem necerary. The last card I consider is Engineered Plague, it will give you an out against Elfclamp or Goblins should you run into them. It has an added bonus of hitting clerics negating an insta kill from 17 or higher life against flash or ruining a (Revilark) flash's kill by keeping the Mogg Fanatic off the table. And lastly it will make Bitterblossom a one life a turn liabilaty.
 Threads is probally the best answer to Tarmogoyf because you get to keep there copy.It is very important to note threads because it will win goyf wars but will also wreak all kinds of havoc on Fish,Pale Ale,and Stflenaught. It is also an answer to up coming Vexing Shusher.Hydroblast is no where near as powerful as its red counter part but it is an effective tool against RDW stratgies, letting you counter there burn for the same cmc and blow up any red men you may be looking at. Hurkyl's Recall is an affanity hoser and a pretty decent one but not the best.The rest of blue is split between keeping combo down or keeping it going.Arcane Laboratory is a great way to shut down storm combos or Bomberman giving you time while they try to remove the game altering enchantment. As a throw back to Stifle they made another one with split second.Trickbind is used much the same way stifle is to stop a combo's trigger kill with the added bonus of making sure it's target stays countered. On the flip side we have Chain of Vapor and Echoing Truth both working to remove what ever card is giving combo  fits whether itsMeddling Mage, lotv, the aformentioned lab, or the soon to be seeing sb's wosam. Truth as a bonus  removes redunt hate so that you wont need two bounce spells for a pair of lotvs.
Threads of Disloyalty
Circle of Protection: Red
 I think it's funny that white has the higest concentration of side boardable cards but is the second least played color main deck.Cop: red is the number one bullet to the red menace that preys on Ravinica shocklands, it is fast and effecient buying you time to nail a threat down and take control.Sphere of Law does a very good impression  but it's mana cost is very high at four. The sphere will not erase the damage either just reducing it. Pulse of the Fields may be better then cop: red because of the flexabilaty. Just casting it twice can put you in the drivers seat against RDW but against fast aggro it almost keeps your life total above 10 making your job very easy.Circle of Protection: Green is a nice little surprise against thresh making it so that they have to win through bolts to the head. Kataki, War's Wage, Serenity, and Aura of Silence all are potential affinaty hosers. At the moment Kataki is the strongest card but as we get more old sets I feel serenity will rise up as a thoruolly more useful card. And once again we end the color with combo love/hate cards. First up for the love side is Orim's Chant ,playing this will give you safe passage to start goldfishing, but then again it can be played mid combo to derail you as well. Sneaky tricksy Orim. She prolly got her ideas from  Abeyance  the original but  weaker by comparison because of the little 1 next to the little sunbrust in the upper right. Lastly for the helping hand is (Demistify) which is a one mana permanent answer to lotv.On the hindering part of the scale we have Samurai of the Pale Curtain and True Believer both twarting combo, the fox by pre emptivly twarting it (and thresh) and the cleric by making your self untargetable to their win condition, what ever it is.  Rule of Law rounds out the list, it is same as a lab except that being in white it gives you options of beatdown whilst they look for an answer. 
Ah the lobotomy needle, making mages forget how to use their cards since Saviours was in standard. The heavyest use of needle as gotta be in decks packing burn, making sure that there opponents will not be able to use there cop:'s to make your spells go away. Seriously Pithing Needle is very versatile . It will turn off counter/top combo's by making Sensei's Divining Top a one mana paper weight. Mishra's Factory is a colorless land instead of a win condition, the two most popular board sweepers are rendered useless. Skullclamp is dead and so many other things. It shines in Trinket Mage decks as a bullet to the most important stratgie your opponent is applying at the time,  but being colorless gives anyone the oppurtunity to mess with another mages plans.Null Rod is an option against heavy artifact use, consider affinaty or sensei-sensei, for two mana you can shut them down. There are some better options but this is colorless and will probaly pick up in terms of usefulness over the years. Tormod's Crypt is a bullet against dredge with splash damage against thresh and bomberman. Funny enough it is actually better at combating thresh then dredge with out any help. With a second crypt or a sacrificial out let the abilaty to hose  dredge goes up. Meekstone is intersesting in that it should be very good but a majority of the field chooses not to run it. I guess thats because a majority of the field also runs Tarmogoyf but seriously it is wonderful at locking down thresh. Dodecapod is pretty awsome against discard but thats about it,if your weak to it thought he will swing games in your favor since you just got a free 5/5.Sand Golem however may be a better choice as it gets around Smallpox and the previous guy dosent. Engineered Explosives will usally reside in the maindeck but if space is tight it is also a great sb card. It is most used to just buy some time for a control deck to set up but can be used against token creatures and with the right manabase can blow up just about anything you want. A nice little tip for the explosives is you can pay X to be whatever you want as long as you inflate it with just one color, for example i play an explosives for W and 3U making my sunburst two but the cmc is now four getting around Counterbalance. The last card on the list is Boseiju, Who Shelters All a card which was found in almost all the flash decks and in  Enduring Ideal as a way to shut down an opponents counter grip or balance, forcing the combo through.
Pithing Needle

These are by no means the say all end all list of SB candidates but rather the ones that have proven themselfs time and again in a competitive setting. What does that mean for finge cards such as Compost, Choke, or Boil? Nothing I guess, I wanted to present this list of some forty odd cards to show you guys in one place what you have to work with or against. Being that these are the most popular choices for each color you can figure out how to build with them in mind. I'm hoping that by "calling these cards out" it will help deck development grow and mature by possibly finding a new hate card to throw into the meta. After all isnt succseful tournament magic just finding the right list for the day and not the best list? Let me know what you guys think and post some SB ideas that werent mentioned in the replies section if ya like. 

Until next week this is the Whiff peacing out. I'll hope to see you here in seven.


solid<< by whiffy penguin at Sun, 06/08/2008 - 14:51
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thx there buddy. Bob Dole for president.

Solid by walkerdog at Sun, 06/08/2008 - 01:37
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I'm Bob Dole and I endorse this article.

Hurkyl's Recall? by DRAGONDUNG at Sat, 06/07/2008 - 09:06
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I honestly dont think there is a better Affinity hoser.  Once you hit them with that its pretty much gg.  Esp if your patient and wait till they sac out.