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By: Rasparthe, R.A. Sparthe
Nov 15 2008 9:52pm
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I have always enjoyed this time of year.  You might think its because of the beautiful season here in the northern latitudes.  The beautiful leaves changing, crackling fireplaces to roast chestnuts over, a cup of hot chocolate with marshallows bobbing invitingly.  But you would be wrong.  It rains alot during the fall and if we get lucky it turns to snow, or even better, freezing rain.  Without fail, some deviant juvie hall delinquient sneaks up onto my porch and smashes by pumpkins into a billion rotting chunks.  When I wake up in the morning its dark.  When I leave work its dark.  Every raining, damp, dreary day is just a harbinger of even worse to come when ol' man Winter rears his ugly head.  Those pretty leaves aren't changing color for fun.  They are dying.  I'll likely ride the 'pass the head cold' rollercoaster and not just once.

But its not all bad.  Obama thinks I'm worth it.

Oh, and we have a new set.  If you didn't know that Shards of Alara was released then check the globe.  Africa isn't a country.  Shards of Alara Block Constructed is just in its infancy right now and no one is paying it any attention except for yours truly.  That is why I like this time of year for Magic.  Block has been reset and its always interesting to see what new and interesting decks pop up.  Rogue decks and even the 'I-got-TIX-I-got-the-Dream-I-got-60-draft-cards' decks that can barely string together three consecutive land drops (Okay, it was probably just me) take a stab at the queue and even PEs.  Staying on top of metagame can be profitable at this time of year, doubly so if you can pick the winner.

Block should also be interesting this year because the way the set has been designed almost forces you to follow one of the five available Shards.  Which of the Shards will dominate the others?  Will a non-Shard deck emerge?  A five-color monstrosity?  Control?  Aggro? 

The first Block Constructed PE was run on November 9 so we have some answers for you.  Which Shard won the very first Block PE?

Why, Esper of course.

AlexLer - 1st Place - Nov 9

                        23 Lands

 4 Arcane Sanctum
 1 Crumbling Necropolis
 2 Esper Panorama
 6 Island
 5 Plains
 1 Seaside Citadel
 6 Swamp

                   16 Creatures 

 2 Master of Etherium
 4 Sanctum Gargoyle
 3 Sharuum the Hegemon
 3 Tidehollow Sculler
 4 Tower Gargoyle


                  19 Other Spells

 3 Agony Warp
 1 Courier's Capsule
 3 Esper Charm
 3 Executioner's Capsule
 2 Infest
 4 Oblivion Ring
 3 Tezzeret the Seeker


 3 Dispeller's Capsule
 1 Executioner's Capsule
 3 Hindering Light
 2 Infest
 3 Relic of Progenitus
 3 Scourglass


The deck uses a bit of early game disruption with the Tidehollow Sculler and Esper Charm in a pinch. It runs quite a bit of removal, notwithstanding the Scourglass in the board, and can recur a good deal of its threats with either Sharuum the Hedgemon or Sanctum Gargoyle. It has card drawing, a Lord creature, and even some beef. It seems like a solid setup. Have we found the deck to beat in the very first week?
No. Unfortunately I see some problems for this deck. I am not surprised it took the very first PE because without a previous metagame it is solid. The spoilers are the sheer amount of Esper-hate cards in Alara. The reprinted Naturalize, Dispeller’s Capsule and Volcanic Submersion ensure that every Shard has access to artifact hate. In addition, both Necrogenesis and Relic of Progenitus can turn off most hopes of recurrence for the deck. When no one knows what to expect from a format decks like this can be successful. Unfortunately, their success will earn sideboards full of answers. I would bet that Esper may find itself tossed aside once the metagame solidifies. 
Second and third place were taken by Bant decks. In all, in the Top 8, there were three Bant decks, two Esper, two Jund and one Naya. Interestingly, Grixis was missing completely.
The next day another PE, this time a RGD qualifier, was played out. Naya took the top honors this time around.
BigSteve0034 - 1st Place - Nov 10

                  24 Lands

 5 Forest
 4 Jungle Shrine
 5 Mountain
 4 Naya Panorama
 6 Plains

               24 Creatures

 4 Druid of the Anima
 4 Feral Hydra
 4 Ranger of Eos
 4 Steward of Valeron
 4 Wild Nacatl
 4 Woolly Thoctar

                 12 Other Spells

 4 Ajani Vengeant
 4 Naya Charm
 4 Oblivion Ring



 4 Caldera Hellion
 4 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
 3 Magma Spray
 4 Naturalize

BigSteve0034 won using the surprising beef of Naya.  The engine for this deck appears to be Ranger of Eos. It’s an easy tutor for twelve of the creatures in the list and each of those creatures can easily become a nuisance. That kind of speed can be hard to counter especially if the creatures are out of Infest or Jund Charm range. Wild Nacatl hits 3/3 easily and Feral Hydra can go even further.
Esper again reaped high rewards with three decks in the Top 8, Naya two, two more for Jund and one Four-Color creation that took eighth place.
The third and final PE this week was on the 11th of November. So which Shard took the top place? A new champion? Five-Color come into its own?
Heitkamp - 1st Place - Nov 11


                   23 Lands

 23 Plains


               23 Creatures

 4 Akrasan Squire
 4 Battlegrace Angel
 2 Knight of the Skyward Eye
 4 Knight of the White Orchid
 1 Ranger of Eos
 4 Sighted-Caste Sorcerer
 4 Sigiled Paladin


                 14 Other Spells

 2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
 4 Excommunicate
 4 Oblivion Ring
 4 Sigil of Distinction


 4 Dispeller's Capsule
 3 Knight-Captain of Eos
 4 Relic of Progenitus
 4 Resounding Silence

Shards be damned.  That’s right. Mono-white.  The Shards have one common problem between them. Despite the Tri-lands and the Panoramas they are still three color decks and will randomly just lose to color screw. This deck doesn’t have that problem. Its all-star is a sleeper hit, Battlegrace Angel which, with the inclusion of a well-timed Sigil of Distinction can often win a game in a single turn or likely two. Still, it also has its problems. Infest and Jund Charm can absolutely wreck the board as every creature but the Angels die to them. It can also have problems dealing damage if an opponent simply picks off the Exalted creatures as they attack.
Too me the even more interesting fact can be found in the Top 8. The Mono-white won the PE, Bant took second and third. In total there were three Bant decks, three Naya decks, a single Jund (which likely helped the Mono-white), and the winning White deck. Grixis was yet again absent and a viable decks seems even harder to find than a job in the auto industry. Esper? Esper? Where did you go? Fully half of the Top 8 decks were running both Relics and Naturalize/Dispeller’s Capsule. It only took three days but the hate showed up.
So that was the week that was in the Block. Some very interesting developments and I’m sure more to come as the format matures into the next small set. I wasn’t surprised to see so many Shard-aligned decks but did like that bucking the trend saw some success.


For those keeping track here is the deck breakdown in the Top-8s by Shard. I do recognize that this is rather simplistic.  I have lumped together the decks by Shard no matter what type or style they are.  The Naya deck that won the PE on November 10 ran a much different game plan from many of the fat Naya decks others are using. It is simplistic but until the field focuses a bit it helps to see the trends in the metagame.  I am heartened to see that, with the exception of Grixis, every Shard is well represented.  It may be a sign of balance throughout the set and an indication the developers of Grixis Shard are hanging their heads in shame.  But it is only the first week and much to early to make any calls like that.
If you want to see all the decks that hit the Top 8 this week, click here.





by Lord Erman at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 07:59
Lord Erman's picture

For the Naya deck you wrote: "The engine for this deck appears to be Ranger of Eos. It’s an easy tutor for twelve of the creatures in the list..."

I see 8 one drop creatures in that list, those being 4x the hydra and 4x the cat. A simple and small mistake which has no bad impact on the whole article itself, but still wanted to mention.


by Rasparthe at Sun, 11/16/2008 - 12:02
Rasparthe's picture

You are of course right for some reason thought the Druid was a one drop as well and were using it to accelerate the mana.  Thanks