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By: jamuraa, Michael Janssen
Nov 12 2008 10:54am
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We're back, yes, earlier than you might have expected due to the pre-Alara wrapup which appeared earlier this week. While that one was a bit special, I think this one will be more consistent. This time we cover the chaos which happened to the standard daily events directly after the rotation. It's not exactly consistent, but lately it has been settling down again. We'll see old archetypes stick around, new archetypes spring up from nothing, and modifications to the decks that lost some cards. Since we have three weeks worth of stats, there's a double serving of decks today as well!

Rotation brings many changes with it, and it may be a little hard to follow the meta for a couple weeks still, even though Alara was released and the three old sets were invalidated in standard almost a month ago. In fact, this week we have uncategorized decks sitting second in the statistics. The chaos that comes with rotation is one of the most interesting and fun times for someone like me who tries to keep track of the decks that people are playing. The main reason for this, in my mind, is that there are so many changes, so many cards that you want to hate that are now gone. Everyone feels free to make decks that do whatever you please in order to win the game - the whole game becomes just a little more like the game you played in your high school gym, or at the small town Friday Night Magic.

So how do you decide what to play if you're completely baffled in a meta like this? Well there are always the old standbys. We've been gifted with a Block format which just ended that is four sets big, and most of the decks which were strong in the block format which are still powerful even without any changes at all. Kithkin decks are holding strong in the meta, some of which are playing with absolutely no Shards of Alara cards. You also see in this week's meta a few of the Elves decks which are mostly block Elves decks just ported to Alara Standard. Once you can show that it's at least competitive in the format, you can go a little more crazy and evolve the deck to include new cards.

Using the Kithkin deck as an example, there are plenty of new cards in Alara that could be useful. Knight of the White Orchid is pretty decent, giving you a one-time mini-Tithe effect and being a decent beater or defender himself. Stillmoon Cavalier is also an excellent "weenie" which can even evade with a little bit of mana, and is being played in a lot of decks evolved from the Kithkin block decks. Ranger of Eos is also just begging to be used in a Weenie deck. Of course, you could go all out with new cards too. Remember the "minor" tribes that were in the Morningtide set? One of those tribes just got a whole lot of new members - enough for a proposed deck:

Doubling Knights
Standard-Alara deck suggested by Michael Janssen
Creatures
4
Kinsbaile Cavalier
4
Knight of Meadowgrain
4
Knight of the White Orchid
4
Sigiled Paladin
4
Stillmoon Cavalier
4
Thistledown Liege
4
Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
4
Wilt-Leaf Liege
32 cards

Other Spells
4
Unmake
4
Oblivion Ring
8 cards
Lands
20
Plains
4
Windbrisk Heights
24 cards
 
Kinsbaile Cavalier

This deck is also of course tribal legal with 32 Knights, which makes it even more fun to play. It's probably not as good against some of the more recent decks in the Standard format though. Of course, this deck might even be a bit better if you removed the Kinsbaile Cavalier that inspired the deck. As the format evolves, we'll see less and less rogue decks in the metagame, so take your time now and create that crazy deck - you might even be the creator of a new star deck which I track in the next three months.

Statistics for Standard PEs: 10/21/2008 to 11/4/2008

This week we have almost three weeks worth of standard meta to look at, which is surprisingly only 8 events. Given that one of those weeks was the Alara release events week, I am not really surprised. We have only 72 top eight spots because of the low number of events - in comparison, before Deviations had it's hiatus it was not uncommon to have almost double that number of events in a week. I don't have attendance statistics for you this week for all the events, but there was an average of XX players for the events that I do have. I'm hoping we will get more events coming every week with some of the promotions that we see, or I will have to do a bit more in coverage.

 

This infographic is similar to the graphic from the pre-rotation wrapup, but I'll explain a bit how to read it just in case some of you missed it, and because there are a couple changes - in this graphic we have information about the placings as well. Each bar's length represents the total top eight placings for the entire time. Inside each bar is the first place in red, second in blue, semifinal showings in black and then quarterfinal showings in grey. In this week's graph only, we also have some in gray which are unknown. Next to each bar is a timeline of the top eight showings of that deck, with the most recent event on the right. The placings are colored the same as in the main bar. I'm trying this for a few weeks to see how it all works out, and I'm interested in your comments on this type of infographic.

In this first report of the Alara season, we have a pretty clear winner, with faeries taking a significant portion of the field, and winning outright the last four events, with second place in a couple of those events as well. Faeries are quite resilient, mostly because they are not losing much. We'll take a look at what got replaced later. The rest of the obvious tier one is made up of Windbrisk Weenie of one style or another, but mostly making showings earlier in the switchover and not being as popular more recently. The third deck in our nascent tier one is the Cruel Control deck, which just happens to be a Mode deck this week.

In the next tier we see Token Elves, still pumping out a bunch of green guys and then pumping them up with the multitude of lords available, and Esperlark, the new version of the deck focused around Reveillark which uses Tidehollow Sculler and some other decent creatures and actually plays well considering it's three-color-ness. Demigod Red is still around, but not making a strong showing. We round out the ones on the graph with more traditional Elves decks, using just good cards such as Wren's Run Vanquisher. Merfolk is in the bars because it made a strong showing pre-rotation, but there was only a single top eight spot for it in the last three weeks.

The rogue deck makes a strong showing in the chaos, making them in aggregate second for the stats we run. One that I thought we might see a bit more of is the Fellowship of the Ring deck, which was featured in a deck tech from Wizards in the Pro Tour Berlin coverage. Notable rogues this week include a Kithkin deck which includes a significant amount of red for useful spot removal like Flame Javelin and Incinerate as well as a showing of the new planeswalker Ajani Vengeant. Also there was a variant of the previous Reveillark deck with the addition of Tidings for some draw now that we have lost the great Ancestral Vision. Zombies made a showing as well, with a deck making tokens and utilizing the new unearth mechanic in order to pump up the Nantuko Husk. Doran, the Siege Tower made an appearance with a update using the new Mesmeric Fiend, Tidehollow Sculler. Another rogue used Ajani Goldmane, a bunch of token generators, and Torrent of Souls in order to make a single big attack for the win. Ajani makes another showing in the rogues this week as well with a deck featuring a lot of "must-kills" in Countryside Crusher alongside Taurean Mauler.

This week we have a double helping of each type of deck, and we're featuring the most popular deck and the new hotness this week for the mode.

Mode of the Week: Faeries

Faeries, it's the deck archetype that just won't die. It's the winningest deck this week, and the first mode today. This deck has been in the spotlight for so long that we already have a number of articles with it as a feature. As such, let's focus on the changes that have been made to the deck after the rotation.

The first card that I would like to focus on is Agony Warp. I'm going to go out on a very short limb here and say that this is the best common that this set has to offer. For two mana, you don't only get the -3 toughness that you normally use Nameless Inversion for, but you also get -3 power anywhere on the field that you want, lowering the damage in an attack step significantly. Next up is the replacement for the draw spells, Jace Beleren. It's essentially an extra card for three turns for three mana, and if you don't mind giving your opponent one every other turn, you can draw crazy good anyway. However, with three in the deck you can expect to get a couple in hand. At three mana it's the cheapest planeswalker printed so far, and honestly it is worth it.

Other changes from the pre-Alara fae decks is more creatures - at the end of the last standard season we were seeing decks with as few as ten creatures in the deck, relying solely on Scion of Oona and Mistbind Clique. The Vendilion Clique is making a strong showing in the new standard, with some versatility in allowing you to cycle a card in your own hand for three mana or get rid of a crucial combo piece or maybe that Cruel Ultimatum that you are fearing, which brings us to the other mode for this week.

Mode of the Week: Cruel Control

Welcome to the new standard, with the new five-color control. This deck takes it's name from Cruel Ultimatum and the card deserves it. Originally there were more copies of the namesake card in the deck, but they have been thinned out more recently in favor of more cards that you can play in the early and midgame. The ultimatum itself is a titanic game swing - ten life and six cards even forgetting the creatures. If you get one off, you are going to win.

This deck has a manabase that is pretty flexible - it's not uncommon to have access to two mana of any color of your choice on turn two. It looks a lot like the lands that you would see in a version of Toast. I can't say that I expected to see Springjack Pasture in any of the decks at the top tables this season at all. It also sports more than the normal amount of land, with 26 it's almost half of the deck - you're not going to be screwed when you play that many.

This deck plays as a straight control deck, with Cryptic Command and Wrath of God controlling the board and the spells respectively. Esper Charm helps refill the hand at the end of turns when you need more cards, helps retain your card advantage, and even is decent against Faeries as it takes out that Bitterblossom that hit the table just a little too early as you were setting up. The Bant Charm does double-duty against creatures and as a win in the counter-war if you want. Remove Soul is a card that I expect to see a bit more of now that we lost a lot of counters including Rune Snag, as it takes out the spells that you actually care about early game, which are almost all creatures.

Nucklavee may seem like a strange choice for the deck, but it allows you to set up a infinite counter lock in the late game. You cast Nucklavee and return one of the Cryptic Commands that you played earlier to your hand, and then cast it using the counter and bounce in order to bounce the Nucklavee back to your hand. Rinse and repeat, if your opponent is down to a single card each turn they really have no win condition from there on out.

The sideboard includes one of my favorite new cards, Glen Elendra Archmage. The mage from the glen gives you a couple of counters for four-mana sunk cost and one mana each, and the counter is essentially uncounterable itself since we don't even have Trickbind in the format anymore to stop it. Coming in from the side is also Resounding Thunder which can do some major damage if you're cycling it, getting in that last few damage you need to win.

Outlier of the Week: Violent Control

Speaking of cards which cost 7 colored mana, this week's first outlier also takes one of the ultimatums given to us by alara to the max - it just chooses a different one. Violent Ultimatum has four words of rules text to the thirty that you get with it's Cruel cousin, but it is no less swingy in the grand scheme of things. This card can take out any three cards on the other side of the board, including any planeswalkers that you might have waiting for you. It can easily deprive a deck which is really greedy on the mana side of at least one color if not more than one, and makes it pretty difficult to keep a set of creatures on the board.

PHILAPHUNK played this in one of the last events that we have in this week's article, and I approve of the construction wholeheartedly. It's got a set of lands which are not too greedy, given that there are a bunch of Rampant Growth to find the basics that are sitting around, and a set of filter lands. It also has a full playset of Fertile Ground waiting. This deck pretty obviously wants to play out the Chameleon Colossus and control the board enough to be able to send it into the red zone a couple of times. The other side of this is the control suite that it is using in order to do so, with the ultimatum as the show piece, but happily backed up with a set of Pyroclasm and the Jund Charm which does a pretty good impression of Pyroclasm number five when it needs to. Resounding Thunder makes another appearance, putting your opponent out of their misery when you have a ton of mana on the board, and giving you a card as a bonus. I've been playing a bit in the tourney practice room and I'm seeing this deck being evolved a bit, I wouldn't be surprised if I see it again soon.

Outlier of the Week: Painter's Backlash

Painter's Backlash
Standard-Alara deck as played by joao_luzardo
Creatures
4
Figure of Destiny
4
Kitchen Finks
4
Knight of Meadowgrain
1
Knight of the White Orchid
4
Oversoul of Dusk
4
Painter's Servant
4
Stillmoon Cavalier
25 cards

Other Spells
4
Chaotic Backlash
4
Spectral Procession
4
Unmake
12 cards
Lands
4
Battlefield Forge
11
Plains
4
Rugged Prairie
4
Windbrisk Heights
23 cards

Chaotic Backlash

The astute among you may have noticed that I didn't mention one of the entries in the graph this week, and it's because it's the outlier. Painter's Backlash is a deck type that I am really excited about because it represents a combo-like deck which has the potential to just blow out the opponent in one turn. The deck has made some waves by placing well in some of the top paper tournaments and I thought I would see more of the deck online to be honest.

This deck has a number of cards with really good synergy together - most of these revolve around the Painter's Servant which will turn on a lot of the other cards in the deck. If you name white or blue, you can combine it with Chaotic Backlash to give the opponent quite the shock - double the amount of permanents they have in play actually, including the lands and creatures. You know you're just waiting to play it against some player playing Token Elves and deal them hundreds of points. The fun doesn't stop there though, if you name Blue, then your Oversoul of Dusk has a protection against every card played in the game. Even the Stillmoon Cavalier is not too bad, coming out of the box with protection against white and black, so you can easily pull a similar trick as you did with the oversoul.

Beyond the combos with Painter's Servant, it looks alot like a Kithkin Windbrisk Weenie deck, and plays a lot like it as well. One card that I would like to point out and I think is possibly a bit underplayed is the Runed Halo. This card is one of those cards that you need to know the metagame to be able to use to it's full potential, because you need to know what card to name on the other side. You can name (Chamelon Colossus) or Mistbind Clique, but you can't name Faerie Token, because there isn't a card named like that. But if you know the card you're most likely to die from, say Cruel Ultimatum, you can name it and then feel just that much better. It's also mirror tech, with naming the Chaotic Backlash making the mirror a lot easier.

Well that's all we have for this week, if that's what you can say about five decks (although one is probably weak) and three weeks of data. For those who are itching for even more decklists, every event is listed with full decklists:

 

We'll be back on schedule with one week for every week of metagame starting next weekend, so keep reading and more importantly keep playing in the PEs, some of which now have an Ravnica block special tournament they are feeding into. Maybe this will help increase attendance, then again maybe not. Until next week, good luck in the PEs!

2 Comments

Missing information by jamuraa at Fri, 11/14/2008 - 14:57
jamuraa's picture

The information which is missing - the number of players in the events that I could track - is 26.  I forgot to add it in the final draft, sorry.   This isn't a lot of players, but that's because this period was very hectic.  There are more consistent numbers this week.

good by Anonymous(Unregistered) 89.212.234.201 (not verified) at Fri, 11/14/2008 - 13:04
Anonymous(Unregistered) 89.212.234.201's picture

Tnx, useful as always