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By: Umii, Mike Patterson
Jul 02 2008 9:32pm
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Shadowmoor has arrived!  Like everyone else, I drafted until my head was swimming with hybrid mana symbols, and I thought of how much I'd like to put -1/-1 counters on my everyday enemies.  And then, once I had my fill, I turned my attention to everyone's favourite niche format, Standard with Vanguard.

It has been over two months since a Standard with Vanguard Premiere Event has fired, so the metagame has presumably been frozen like a caveman.  The last Vanguard events fired just after the Morningtide release events, and two new decks swept the format: Nekrataal Rogues and MonoG Maro.  Both of these aggro decks are capable of consistent turn three kills, effectively forcing control decks out of the format (Dakkon Pickles and GB Jhoira, for those keeping track).  The third key pillar of the metagame was Slumming It, a Rumbling Slum based burn deck that can burn low-life decks out by turn three. Lurking on the fringes was the one combo/control deck potentially fast enough to react to the aggression in the format, Free Stuff Chronatog.

In considering the Vanguard metagame, one last thing to remember are the recent avatar changes which nerfed the Mirri, Ashling, and Heartwood avatars.  No significant change was made to one of the other popular avatars, Dakkon Blackblade.  There was some controversy over whether Dakkon should have been nerfed as well, since it was able to survive in a format with other degenerate avatars.  However, Dakkon did not make Top Eight in the last few Premiere Events, so perhaps Dakkon justly did not deserve attenuation.

Improving the Old

With that said, lets consider what Shadowmoor brings to the dominant decks of the format.  I have linked to previous articles covering each deck in depth if you need the refresher.

NekRoGaal (Nekrataal Rogues): This deck revolves around cheap black creatures, especially rogues.  In its original form, there was still room for a few more creatures.  Unfortunately, Shadowmoor's vanilla cheap black creatures are basically chaff: Smolder Initiate, Sickle Ripper, Manaforge Cinder, and Oona's Gatewarden.  There is, however, a little more hope in the form of Sygg, River Cutthroat and Inkfathom Infiltrator.  Sygg basically acts as Honden of Seeing Winds.  Generally, though, NekRoGaal will end the game before you can draw more than a card.  Inkfathom Infiltrator is somewhat more interesting, in that it has one more power than Sygg, and its unblockability enables Prowl.

Slumming It (Rumbling Slum burn): Here, we are looking for any sort of efficient burn.  On the plus side, there is Flame Javelin, one of the most efficient burn spells ever.  On the down side, Shadowmoor is literally bereft of anything else.  Scar and Puncture Bolt are basically useless, and the only creature of interest, Tattermunge Maniac, may never get past the aggro decks' defenses.

MarAggro (Maro MonoG Aggro): Normally, this deck would be on the lookout for efficient cheap creatures (Rhys the Redeemed?) and graveyard recursion (Squee, Goblin Nabob, Reach of Branches).  However, Shadowmoor includes the untap symbol, which fits in perfectly with Maro's tapping theme.  While a majority of the untappers in Shadowmoor are in white and blue, there is one colorless one: Pili-Pala.  Pili-Pala may make a perfect complement to (Scryb-Ranger), and let Maro decks squeeze out a little bit more damage than before.  Devoted Druid also offers possibilities.

Dakkon: While Dakkon has not done well lately, it is always one or two narrow,sideboard spells away from contention.  With the format being dominated by aggro and burn, the most important spells are cheap board sweepers and life-gain.  Here, Shadowmoor finally provides the goods in the form of Firespout and Kitchen Finks.  Firespout provides redundancy over Pyroclasm, or perhaps a way to clear the board of a second wave of attackers.  Kitchen Finks, on the other hand, buys you a few life while putting your opponent on a clock.

One Harvest:

Besides the cards, Shadowmoor also brings with it two new avatars, Murderous Redcap and the Reaper King.  Murderous Redcap reads, "Whenever a creature comes into play under your control with a counter on it, you may have it deal damage equal to its power to target creature or player."  Doing a simple search for "counter" in Standard shows that there aren't very many of them.  Murderous Redcap may have been deadly with Bloodthirst or Graft in Standard, but in a game filled with -1/-1 counters, it will probably roam the sidelines.

The Reaper King, on the other hand, is intriguing (see picture below for its text).  It is obviously geared towards multi-colored decks, and fortunately all hybrid cards are multicolor.  The only question is how to design a deck in such a fast format, and how to get around the -1 card of the avatar.  Here is my solution:

One Harvest:
a deck by Umii

10 Forest
4x Karplusan Forest
3x Gemstone Mine
3x Fire-Lit Thicket

Creatures (20):
4x Tattermunge Maniac
4x Seedcradle Witch
4x Elvish Hexhunter
4x (Rhys the Redeemed
4x Scuzzback Scrapper

Pump (12):
4x Giant Growth
4x Might of Old Krosa
4x Barkshell Blessing

4x Rift Bolt
4x Shard Volley

In designing the deck, I knew that I wanted to play one- and two-drops exclusively.  When I looked at all of the hybrid one-drops in Shadowmoor, I noticed that five of the eight are green.  This redundancy allows you to play one 3/3 on turn one, and two more on turn two.  By turn three, your opponents could be staring down nine points of power.  With so many creatures in the one-drop slot, you don't have to play any two-drops.  Backing up the creatures is the usual assortment of burn and pump, which let you end the game that much quicker.  In goldfishing this deck, I found it had an average 3.5 turn kill, competitive with Maro and Rogues.

The upside of playing so many one-drops is that it lets you cheat on land.  This also avoids the drawback of starting with a six-card hand, since the deck is mostly functional off of one land.  While not ideal, one land will allow you to play two-three decent sized creatures, and still be able to win by turn five.  To ensure color consistency, I included three each of Gemstone Mine and Fire-Lit Thicket.  With so few of each card, you should be able to avoid getting color- or mana-screwed.

With the release events crowding out constructed events, that's all I have this week.  Hopefully after the release events have finished, and MTGO v3 matures, Standard with Vanguard tournaments will fire again.  In the past they have been scheduled for Saturday morning, so look out for them.  The format is in a state of flux, waiting for innovative ideas, and most of the good decks are cheap and fun to play. Hope to see you in a tournament soon!


by Reaper9889 at Thu, 07/03/2008 - 01:50
Reaper9889's picture

That's not really competing with Maro. Maro is t2 vs that deck (above 50% I think) and t3 vs. nearly anything else (Ive played 20 or so matches with 5 games lasting more then 3 turns - Mirror mainly. Mirror always seames to be wierd in vanguard). I suspect that pili-pala is to slow for the current interration of Maro - you do not want to wait 'till turn 3 to hit hard and if you did tower above might be even stronger...

Devoted Druid is ok tho (t1 on the draw: forest, topter, 8 cards left, t2, forest, Druid, tap to pump the topter +6/+6, untap, pump itself, untap, pump topter, untap pump topter, untap pump topter and so on. All in all you will end up with a 16/18 turn 2 which takes out Nektrall and King. You could exchanges the topter with one of the other 8 one drops and do the same - well it does not have flying tho but is abit more stable if the game goes to turn 3).


by Umii at Thu, 07/03/2008 - 10:51
Umii's picture

Like I said in the article, it has been really hard to test decks in individual matches.  Also, I am not an expert on Maro, so I'm not sure what its individual matchups are like. I can see how Maro COULD win on t2 some percentage of the time, but I have a hard time believing its more than 25% (of course this is all dependent on starting life).  This is just the best Reaper King deck that I could come up with.  It may have a bad matchup against Maro since all of Maro's creatures are bigger.  It may even be better for Maro to play defense since they have the biggest creatures, and avoiding losing is more important.

 I'm looking forward to the return of PEs so we can actually test these.  I have some ideas on how to deal with all the aggro decks.

by Reaper9889 at Fri, 07/04/2008 - 06:14
Reaper9889's picture

The reason maro got a over 50% t2 kill is that they start with 9 cards. If they got druid+1 drop they can make t2 kills. If they get Topter and some other 1 drop + Ranger they can make t2 kills. If they get Auger + Topter + Bridge from below they can make t2 kills... There are a few t2 kills in that deck. I think they all in all get over 50%