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By: Arnnaria, Sean Costales
Jun 06 2008 7:33pm
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Welcome to Pure Standard!

Pro Tour Hollywood has come and gone and Standard has shifted to include Shadowmoor.  The top decks featured very little Shadowmoor and the archetypes that dominated the top 8 were the same archetypes prior to Shadowmoor being released: two Reveillark decks, two Elves! decks, a R/G big mana deck, a Doran deck, a Merfolk deck, and a Faerie deck.  Some have suggested that since Shadowmoor was not available online, people weren’t familiar with the set and willing to incorporate the cards into the deck.  I disagree with this sentiment.  I think the reason Shadowmoor was ignored was because the set is fundamentally weaker than the other sets currently in Standard.  However, Shadowmoor or no Shadowmoor there are still some fundamental lessons we can learn from Pro Tour Hollywood.  In this article, I’ll discuss some of the things we can learn about current Standard from this star-studded event. 

Lesson # 1: The best deck isn’t always the best deck.

The consensus going into the tournament was rehashed again and again by Magic theorists across the web: Faeries is the best deck in Standard.  If you haven’t played the deck, it’s easy to dismiss it as another tribal deck competing against mainstays such as Elves! or Merfolk.  However, if you have had a chance to shuffle up and play with the sixty card beast you know how powerful it can be.  Morningtide gave the deck its back-breaking enchantment of Bitterblossom and since then the deck has been all but unstoppable.  However, the pros at Pro Tour Hollywood were expecting it and designed their decks accordingly.  Only one Faerie deck made it into the top eight, and that deck barely squeezed itself in due to tiebreakers.  Despite about twenty percent of the field playing faeries, the “best deck” of Standard didn’t show itself to be as impressive as it has been in the past.  So, what happened? 

When you’re the best deck in Standard, chances are other decks are going to be designed to beat you.  Cloudthresher and Crovax, Ascendant Hero) were in the maindeck or sideboards of four of the Top Eight.  Thoughtseize, a card that can stop a second turn Bitterblossom, also appeared in four of the Top Eight decks.  It was apparent just by looking over these decklists that they had Faeries in their crosshairs.  The best deck in Standard became one of the weaker choices to play in this tournament because all the other players were gunning for it.  Does this mean Faeries is dead?  Not by a long shot.  Now that people think that Faeries isn’t doing so well in the metagame, they might become lax in their deck choices and the metagame might shift again to a format where Faeries are quite good again.  However, the lesson we learned here is fairly obvious: if you are the proclaimed “best deck in Standard,” you’re going to have a lot of hate coming your way.

Lesson # 2: Going rogue can give you an advantage

Heading into day two the big story of the event was Guillame Wafo-Tapa.  He stood undefeated with a deck that nobody had heard of before.  The deck was a five color control deck that abused Reflecting Pools interaction with the Vivid lands from Lorwyn.  Everybody wanted the list so they could playtest against it and figure out how to beat it.  Guillame Wafo-Tapa went undefeated in Day One, and had an impressive showing in Day Two.  He was one win away from making the top eight.  The name of his deck was “Quicken Toast” and here was his decklist: 

Quick 'n Toast
Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Creatures
3 Cloudthresher
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Mulldrifter
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Wall of Roots

Other Spells
4 Careful Consideration
4 Cryptic Command
3 Makeshift Mannequin
4 Rune Snag
2 Slaughter Pact
3 Firespout
Lands
1 Dreadship Reef
2 Fungal Reaches
1 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Mystic Gate
4 Reflecting Pool
2 Sunken Ruins
4 Vivid Creek
4 Vivid Grove
4 Yavimaya Coast

Cryptic Command

 

If you had the same initial reaction to the decklist that I did, you might think that the deck looks like a mess.  However, in the hands of a skilled player like Wafo-Tapa it was just what the doctor ordered.  Not only did the deck run circles around nearly everyone he played, it was a rogue deck that no one was expecting and that gave Wafo-Tapa the advantage in most of the games.  If you’re a competitive Standard player, you should have all the archetypes of the format memorized.  By turn three, based solely on the lands your opponent has played, you should be able to deduce what deck he or she is playing.  However, if you have no clue what your opponent is playing, you’re going to be at a loss. 

Nothing is worse than playing against a deck that you don’t know.  It throws your game off as everything they cast is a surprise.  A good rogue deck gets the advantage over other decks because nobody will know how to beat you, nobody will know what your win condition is, and nobody will know what key spells they ought to counter or prevent you from playing.  This isn’t to say that all rogue decks are good; a rogue deck still needs to be a good deck in order to gain the advantage.  But, I put money on the fact that Wafo-Tapa went undefeated in Day One in large part to his opponent’s not knowing how to play against this five-color monstrosity.  The lesson will learned here is an important one: a good rogue deck gives you advantage against even the most prepared of players. 

Lesson # 3: Archetypes are resilient

Some might look at the top eight of Pro Tour Hollywood and be disappointed at the lack of Shadowmoor: where is Seismic Swans or Project 420.5n?  What happened to the mono-green aggro deck?  Or even the combination of Enchanted Evening and (Patrician’s Scorn).  I look at the top eight of Pro Tour Hollywood and see resilient archetypes that have stood the test of time so far, and will continue to shine even when Eventide emerges.  The same is true for when sets rotate out: the best decks in Standard are those that have done well in Block Constructed.  Archetypes are tested and true and “netdecks” emerge for a reason. 

Lesson # 4: Only the cream of the crop will see play in Standard

There’s a lot of good cards in Shadowmoor, but only the cream of the crop will see play in Standard.  Shadowmoor added an about additional three hundred cards to the play field, but with so many sets currently in Standard, only the top six to ten cards will see any play.  The same will be true for Eventide, only the best cards will see any play in Standard.  I expect to see more Shadowmoor when Shards of Alara comes out and Time Spiral Block, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight rotates out.  This is especially true for the Shadowmoor hybrid lands, as Future Sight will rotate and take away the good duals that it has.  However, until Time Spiral rotates, I expect some of the marginal Shadowmoor cards not to see any play. 

Lesson # 5: Be ready to deal with Magus of the Moon

Magus of the Moon is showing up in nearly every maindeck that is running red.  The Magus shuts down all those fancy non-basic lands that are popular in the mana bases of the top decks.  In fact, I think the reason Wafo-Tapa’s deck runs Slaughter Pact is a way to deal with the Magus if it is able to hit play.  Faeries are also dead in the water against a resolved Magus.  Some Faerie players were running Murderous Redcap in the sideboard as a way to destroy the Magus if it enters play.  Magus of the Moon turns all your non-basic lands into mountains, so Murderous Redcap can be paid for with 2RR against a resolved Magus.  If you can’t play Slaughter Pact or Murderous Redcap, then you need to have some solution to this game-breaking wizard. 

Join me next week when we’ll have more Shadowmoor fun.  (I promise.) 

Sean Costales

Arnnaria on Magic Online

andredomino@gmail.com

3 Comments

by nayr626 at Fri, 06/06/2008 - 20:48
nayr626's picture

Good read.

by PieterV (Unregistered) 213.119.11.116 (not verified) at Sat, 06/07/2008 - 05:41
PieterV (Unregistered) 213.119.11.116's picture

"If you can’t play Slaughter Pact or Murderous Redcap, then you need to have some solution to this game-breaking wizard"

 Note: if magus of the moon is the problem, murderous redcap is always a viable answer. Like you said, you can always play him for 2RR.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 68.51.241.151 (not verified) at Sat, 06/07/2008 - 12:03
Anonymous (Unregistered) 68.51.241.151's picture

can this decklist consistantly beat elves?