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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Jun 10 2008 10:56am
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Grand Prix Birmingham

 

Victoria Square in front of Birmingham City Hall

Welcome to the Highlight Reel and a look at the world of Lowryn / Shadowmoor Block Constructed.  With the Pros just coming off Pro Tour Hollywood, many did not have the time to properly prepare for this event.  But given that the defining deck of PT Hollywood, Faeries, plays almost exclusively Lorwyn cards, everyone was expecting this archetype to dominate the metagame once again.

Find out which other decks survive the transition from Standard to Block, and given another week to play with Shadowmoor, which new decks arise.  Follow along as 578 players looked to battle their way through 14 rounds of Swiss and onto a Top 8 featuring 2 Pro Tour Winners, a Team World Champion, and a Hall of Famer.

 

 or Less the Same

So last week at PT Hollywood was all about Faeries; and as you can see from this week's metagame breakdown, Faeries was still the most played deck.  This time it was only 18% of the Day One field, compared from 27% at Hollywood.  But unlikeHollywood, where its percentage of the field went down at every cut; at GP Birmingham, Faeries made up more and more of the field: Day One, 18%; Day Two 38%; and Top 8, 38%.

Colors Deck Name Number Day One

Faeries

18%

Kithkin

16%

Ten Commandments

9%

Elementals

9%

Doran

9%

Elves

6%

Aggro

5%

Rogues

3%

Burn

2%

Mannequin

2%

Aggro

2%

Aggro

2%

Control

2%

Other

8%

 - Made Day Two   - Made Top 8

 When we take a look at the decklist, you can see why the deck translated so well from Standard to Block.

 From the Standard cardpool, the Faerie deck only loses Ancestral Vision and Rune Snag, which are replaced with Ponder and Broken Ambitions, respectively.  Making up 38% of the 64 player Day Two field, meant there were a lot of Faerie mirror matches.  Counter to conventional wisdom, many times the player who played Bitterblossom first lost.  Now, if you have Bitterblossom and you're opponent doesn't, most likely you're going to win.  But if you play yours first, and your opponent is able to play his own a turn or two later, and clog up the skies, then the lifeloss you incur first could end up being your downfall.

To combat the Faeries, we had Manuel Bucher's Block incarnation of his breakout Quick'n Toast deck from PT Hollywood.  We have a Deck Tech of the Block Version called Ten Commandments thanks to BDM and Kenneth Ellis.

 Earlier versions ran a full ten Lorwyn Commands, thus the name; but now that number has been reduced to eight.  Sans Wrath of God and Damnation, in this format the player lookijng to Wrath is forced to play the six mana Austere Command as the alternative.  The deck still packs the maximum number of Cloudthresher and Firespout wipe out Faeries.  But other than that, it plays the Mannequin-card advantage game with the likes of Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, and Kitchen Finks

Without Body Double, players have had to learn to be more fair with Reveillark.  The best use of Lark in Block seemed to be a five color Elemental that goes all out playing Horde of Notions.  The most successful deck of this type was piloted by Raphael Levy.

 Between Flamekin Harbinger and Smokebraider, the Elemental player has a toolbox that lets him search for and then play any needed answer.  You've got card advantage, creature kill, and enchantment removal; all searchable and all on a stick.  Now that's a fun deck.  Of course being five colors, it relies heavily on the Lorwyn Vivid lands, the Shadowmoor Hybrid lands, and Reflecting Pool

A couple of other Standard decks tried to make the transition to Block, including Elves and Doran.  But Elves are far less explosive without Turn one Llanowar Elves or Boreal Druid, and Doran just isn't that easy to cast without Turn one Birds of Paradise.  No, there was really only one more deck of consequence from this tournament, and that deck was White Weenie Kithkin.

Kithkin was the second most popular deck to start Day One and had an impressive three spots left come the Top eight.  This White Weenie deck has been brought to you today by the Shadowmoor cards Mirrorweave, Spectral Procession, and Thistledown Liege.  These cards have given the WW player that which he has always sorely lacked, i.e. the ability to finish.  Is your board stalled?  Well play Mirrorweave on a lord such as Wizened Cenn or Thistledown Liege and make all your creatures instantly huge.  Did you board just get Wrathed away?  Play that Spectral Procession, Attack, and flip over whatever you were hiding under those Windbrisk Heights and you should be right back your way of establishing board position.  Again, with the Wraths, the only board sweeper the Kithkin player really has to worry about is Firespout because Austere Command is just way too slow.  Over the weekend this deck proved itself to be consistent, powerful, resilient, and fun. 

  Wishlist

 I kinda chuckled when I read Devin Low's article from this week, Shadowmoor's Impact on Standard.  In the article he's telling us to look at how many Shadowmoor cards saw Day Two play at PT Hollywood, and how great that is.  Because he thought it was really hard for Shadowmoor cards to find spots in decks since Standard has so many sets in it right now.  Well in Block, Shadowmoor accounts for just under 40% of the available cards, and I would argue that outside of the mana fixing of the lands, the top decks are still all Lorwyn-centered, and Shadowmoor was really just supplementing the Lorwyn tribe decks. 

Shadowmoor is still fresh and hasn't been fully vented online yet, but Shadowmoor will never exist in a format without Lorwyn.  It rotates with Lorwyn, and it just seems that the syngery of Lorwyn is always going to overshadow Shadowmoor.  With that said, after the Pros have had two tournaments to play with Shadowmoor, here are the top cards I'll be looking out for to augment my collection during next week's online Shadowmoor release.

Mirrorweave
Shock

  1. Mirrorweave - This card has all kinds of crazy interactions that are both fun and powerful to play with.
  2. Kitchen Finks - Between Persist and Lifegain, this is the card that has been holding back the  Burn decks.
  3. Hybrid Lands and Reflecting Pool - Above all else, what Shaodwmoor does have is color fixing.  These duals are elegant and painless, and Reflecing Pool is just going to be a must for the next year and a half in Standard.
  4. Monocolor Hybrid Cards - Flame Javelin is just the most flashy card of this cycle right, but Beseech the Queen, and now Spectral Procession have both been shown to have their uses.
  5. Liege Cycle - These cards are fun, and in the right situation very powerful.  There interaction with Mirrorweave has already let a lot of players win games out of nowhere with one unblocked creature.
  6. Firespout - In most cases its a customizable Wrath for 1.  Just get it.

... anyway, back to the tournament.

Top 8

As you could see from the metagame breakdown, there were 4 different decks that made the Top 8.  There's a representative for each archetype already listed above in this article, but if you want to see the different iterations of the deck, you can view the complete Top 8 decks here.  This Top 8 featured Pro Tour Seattle Winner Jelger Wiegersma, Jonathan Randle of England, and Lee Shi Tian of Hongkong; all playing Kithkin.  Pro Tour Velenica Winner Remi Fortier, Antti Malin of Finland, and Matthias Künzler of Switzerland; all playing Faeries.  Former Team World Champion member Manuel Bucher playing his Ten Commandment deck, and last but not least, Hall of Famer Raphael Levy with Elementals.  You can find all their player profiles here.

Quaterfinals

Antti Malin (Faeries) vs Remi Fortier (Faeries)

Turn 2 Bitterblossom by both players.  Fortier casts a Mistbind Clique in Malin's draw step, but Malin floats the mana and plays a Scion of Oona.  With the Clique on board, Malin is forced to play defense as the Bitterblossoms knock down both players life totals.  Malin tries to tap down Fortier with several Cryptic Commands, but Fortier has the answers in the form of his own counterspells to take Game 1.  Game 2, both players double mulligans to start.  Malin casts a Scion while Fortier lays down a couple Mutavaults.  Malin casts a Clique with Fortier tapped out following a Scion and Bitterblossom. Fortier counters Malin's Bitterblossom, and his army of 2/2 flyers is enough to take the game and advance 2-0.

Manuel Bucher (Ten Commandments) vs Jelger Wiegersma (Kithkin)

Bucher's deck is designed to beat Faeries, unfortunately for him, his quaterfinal opponent is not playing Faeries, but Kithkin.  Game 1, Wiegersma has Wizened Cenn, Spectral Procession, and Thistledown LiegeMirrorweave the Liege, and Bucher finds himself down 0-1.  Second game was not as quick, but just as lopsided.  Bucher had to Firespout several times to hold off the Kithkin, thereby clearing his own board.  With both players out of gas, it was Wiegersma's Mutavault that finished the job and he advances 2-0.

Lee Shi Tian (Kithkin) vs Matthias Künzler (Faeries)

Not much coverage of this match.  Tian fell behind 1-0 before coming back to even the match.  Then in Game 3, Tian used Thoughtweft Gambit to undo the damage by Kunzler's Cryptic Command, clearing the way for Tian to alpha strike and take the match 2-1.

Raphael Levy (Elementals) vs Jonathan Randle (Kithkin)

Levy had Flamekin Harbinger into Smokebraider as early defense against Randle's Kithkin.  Levy then cast Reveillark and Horde of Notions.  Randle forced some trades, but Levy's Shriekmaw was able to get in for 6 points of fear damage as Randle played out Cloudgoat Ranger, but had no way to force anything through.  Game 2, Levy gets Turn 3 Horde of Notions off a Smokebraider.  Randle had the Crib Swap to send the Horde packing, and got Levy down to 6 life off of several attacks from Wizened Cenn-enhanced Kithkin.  Nameless Inversion gets rid of the Cenn.  Randles sends in the team to force some trades, and gets a Cloudgoat Ranger out from under a Windbrisk Heights.  Levy traded the Ranger for two Mulldrifters, and a Festercreep (sideboard tech) cleared away the Kithkin and Sepctral Procession tokens.  Now out of gas, Randle could only chump a Cloudthresher for several turns until falling to Raphael Levy, 2-0.

Semifinals

Raphael Levy vs Lee Shi Tian

Facing his second Kithkin opponent in a row, things were looking good for Levy when Tian got stuck on 2 lands in Game 1 and couldn't muster a defense against Levy's army of Elementals.  Game 2 saw a couple of early trades, but Tian played Spectral Procession to get ahead, and a Goldmeadow Harrier to tap down Levy's Smokebraider, leaving Levy short on mana.  Between the Harrier and a Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile, Tian was able to force through enough damage to even the match at 1.  For Game 3, Levy had to mulligan and Tian came out with a Goldmeadow Stalwart and Harrier to start the beats.  Levy was in trouble with mana issues, but Levy finally cleared the board with a Firespout.  Cloudgoat Ranger by Tian was met with Nameless Inversion and evoked Shriekmaw to leave just 2 Kithkin tokens.  But Spectral Procession from Tian gave him enough creatures to attack, activate double Windbrisk Heights, tapping down Levy with a Thoughtweft Gambit, and win the game.  Lee Shi Tian advances 2-1.

Remi Fortier vs Jelger Wiegersma

Turn 1 Goldmeadow Stalwart for Wiegersma.  Turn 3 has Mirror Entity by Wiegersma, and Fortier responds with a Scion of Oona.  When he gets the turn back, Fortier has a Sower of Temptation to steal the Mirror Entity.  Spectral Procession by Wiegersma holds off the Faeries for a turn.  Dual Spellstutter Sprite counter Wiegersma's threats and start dealing 4 damage a turn through the air.  Wiegersma tries Cloudgoat Ranger, but Cryptic Command says No, and Fortier takes Game 1.  Wiegersma starts off Game 2 with a couple of beats from small creatures, but is unable to apply much pressure in the early game.  Mistbind Clique by Fortier taps down Wiegersma in his upkeep.  Cryptic Command and Broken Ambitions stops any comeback for Wiegersma.  Fortier plays out another Clique, and 8 in the air is enough to take Game 2.  Remi Fortier advances 2-0.

Congratulations to Lee Shi Tian, Winner of GP Birmingham!

Finals

Remi Fortier vs Lee Shi Tian

Fittingly, the finals feature a match between the two dominant decks of the tournament: Faeries vs Kithkin.  Fortier has to mulligan to start Game 1.  Tian has Harrier then Knight of Meadowgrain.  Fortier finds Bitterblossom as Wizened Cenn lets the Kithkin smash for five.  A second Wizened Cenn gets counters by a Sprite.  A Stalwart is added to Tian's team, and Surge of Thoughtweft allows Tian to force through enough damage so that Fortier sucuumbs to Bitterblossom on his next turn.

Game 2, Stalwart Turn 1 for Tian, Turn 2 Bitterblossom for Foriter.  Then Knight Turn 2 for Tian, Turn 3 Mutavault and Wizened Cenn, while Fortier does nothing until EOT Scion.  As Tian attacks next turn, Fortier goes with Vendilion Clique and Tian responds with Thistledown Liege.  Fortier must chump until he plays Incremental Blight to weaken Tian's army.  Tian comes back with a Spectral Procession, he attacks with the tokens and a Mutavault.  Fortier continues to chump, but has no way to remove his Bitterblossom and the life loss does him in again.  Lee Shi Tain defeats Remi Fortier to win GP Birmingham 2-0.

Top 20 in the 2008 Player of the Year Standings 
Following Grand Prix Birmingham

Ranking Player Points
1 Shuuhei Nakamura* 34
2 Jon Finkel* 28
3 Mario Pascoli 27
3 Jan Ruess 27
5 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 26
6 Charles Gindy* 25
7 Raphael Levy 24
8 Martin Juza 21
9 Nico Bohny 20
9 Olivier Ruel 20
9 Manuel Bucher 20
9 Marcio Carvalho 20
9 Marijn Lybaert 20
14 Joel Calafell 19
15 Paul Cheon* 18
15 Yong Han Choo 18
15 Brandon Scheel 18
15 Robert van Medevoort 18
15 Yuuta Takahashi* 18
15 Mateusz Kopec* 18

* 2008 Event Winner

Player of the Year Race

Shuuhei Nakamura just missed out on back to back Top 8s by finishing 10th, but those 3 Pro points he earned now puts him 6 points up on the rest of the field.  Both Martin Juza and Marijn Lybaert finished Top 16.  Guillaume Wafo-Tapa had a solid Top 32 finish, along with Mateusz Kopec on a weekend that saw a lot of Pros in the Top 20 of the PotY standing have high finishes.  The biggest mover was Raphael Levy, who moved up to 7th, and is now just 4 points out of second.  

 

We've got a couple of weeks until Grand Prix Indianapolis for a limited event, so see you next time.

 

1 Comments

by hamtastic at Wed, 06/11/2008 - 09:22
hamtastic's picture

Great article!  I really wish that they wouldn't have found out how awesome mirroweave was until AFTER it was out on MTGO.  :(  That could have been a jank rare priced card... *sigh*

Thanks for keeping us up to date with why our card prices are doing crazy things...