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By: Umii, Mike Patterson
Nov 09 2007 10:14am
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This past weekend, the Standard with Vanguard Premiere Event was an IPA QT, and I am happy to say I was one of the lucky eight to qualify for IPA.  Going into the tournament, I expected a metagame consisting primarily of the decks I mentioned at the end of last week's article: Oni, Mirri, Chronatog, and Heartwood.  Given that, and my win the previous week, I again played the Dakkon UW Control deck I featured last week.  To my surprise (and delight), the metagame was much more diverse, showing a number of people put creativity into their decks.  The one deck in the swiss that caught my eye was a Bg discard deck using the Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni avatar, somewhat similar to the TarmoRack decks of Standard.  The Ink-Eyes avatar grants you two abilities: a free "Thoughtsieze" to start the game, and the ability to reanimate creatures from your opponents graveyard.  I had thought about building an Ink-Eyes deck when it gained a card during the avatar revisions in September, but realized that most decks don't play creatures I'd want to reanimate (e.g. Oni plays niche creatures like Sheltering Ancient while Mirri plays a lot of mana elves).  The pilot of the deck, Vindicate, often just used his avatar's ability to steal Martyr of Sands from his opponent's graveyards, which I'm sure was disappointing.

The other deck that caught my eye in the swiss was a Squee-based Enduring Renewal combo deck.  It generated an infinite amount of storm using recurring Wild Cantors, and then finished the game using a Grapeshot or Bitter Ordeal.  The Squee, Goblin Nabob avatar's +3 cards, and tutoring made assembling the combo fairly easy.  The deck, however, has two huge downsides.  First, it can take a long time to generate the necessary storm to kill an opponent, at least twenty for Grapeshot and more than forty for Bitter Ordeal, granting you plenty of opportunities to make mistakes.  Secondly, many people are prepared for storm-based combo decks using Hatching Plans.  Squee plans decks can play through the hate using Remand or other counter-spells, but the Enduring Renewal based combo has no blue protection.  Some form of Enduring Renewal combo may become popular after the rotation of Hatching Plans, but at the moment, I don't see much of a place for it.

Unlike last week, where a variety of avatars made top8, this week five of the eight slots were taken up by Dakkon avatars:

2x UW Dakkon Control
2x Dakkon Dredge
1x Dakkon Swarm
1x Braids BR Fat
1x Squee Plans
1x Momir Dredge

The Dakkon Dredge decks are modified ports from Standard, smashing together the best cards from blue and green decks like Llanowar Mentor and Magus of the Bazaar.  The Dakkon avatar's ability to play cards as land prevent the deck from being color screwed, and allow it to access the most powerful cards of each archetype.  I must admit I severely underestimated the Dredge decks, but the tournament results show their power.  Unfortunately, these decks revolve around dredge cards, and will be effectively dead when Ravnica rotates.

The Braids deck won the event, as it has a good matchup vs most Dakkon-based decks.  Reaper9889, the designer of the deck, graciously provided it:

Braids Fat

by Reaper9889

Land (24):
3 Gemstone Caverns

1 Island
4 Izzet Boilerworks
2 Mountain

4 Rakdos Carnarium

2 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Watery Grave

Sorceries (8):
4x Pyroclasm

4x Damnation

4x Akroma's Memorial

Creatures (24):
4x Angel of Despair
4x Blazing Archon
4x Bloodfire Colossus
4x Grozoth
2x Nicol Bolas
2x Nullstone Gargoyle

4x Simian Spirit Guide


In general, Braids decks include as many incredible creatures as possible to take advantage of the avatar's ability to cheaply put creatures into play cheaply.  Early Braids decks packed the usual suspects like Akroma, Angel of Wrath, and Bogardan Hellkite.  As you can see from the card choices, Reaper designed the deck to be especially disruptive towards creature decks.  Blazing Archon, Damnation, Pyroclasm, and Bloodfire Colossus will halt almost any creature assault.
Beyond creatures, Nullstone Gargoyle can slow down the semi-popular Squee Plans combo decks, and Nicol Bolas can clear people's hand.  Grozoth is especially good in this deck becuase it acts as a "draw 7" that fetches archons and gargoyles.

Another advantage of the Braids deck is that it is fairly resilient to common forms of hate.  It can protect its own creatures with Akroma's Memorial, and can survive common hate cards like Suppression Field by simply playing more land.  Counter spells are basically useless against the avatar's ability.  The downside of Braids deck are that they are midrange decks vulnerable to strong aggro decks.  Oni decks should have multiple creatures on the table by the time Braids can even play a spell.  Mana control strategies (Heartwood Blink decks) may also be effective, since destroying a karoo sets Braids back over a turn.  Braids decks are heavily reliant on the bounce-lands to allow them to have four mana in play by turn three, so it will be interesting to see what designers use the avatar for when Ravnica rotates.

The other deck that surprised me in the top eight was the Dakkon Swarm deck, which used tokens in combination with Gaea's Anthem, Overrun, and Haze of Rage to end the game quickly:

Dakkon Swarm
a deck by Mr Slippery 39

Land (4):
4x Gruul Turf

Creatures (24):
4x Birds of Paradise

4x Uktabi Drake

4x Llanowar Elves
4x Mogg Fanatic

4x Greater Gargadon

4x Mogg War Marshal

Instants and Sorceries (32):

4x Fists of Ironwood
4x Incinerate
4x Overrun
4x Scatter the Seeds
4x Gaea's Anthem
4x Haze of Rage
4x Sprout Swarm
4x Summoner's Pact

I played Mr Slippery twice during the tournament, losing both matches in three games.  While the deck requires attacking with creatures to win, it is extremely resilient to normal control strategies.  Whenever I would play Wrath of God, he was often left with tokens at the end of the turn from Mogg War Marshal or Scatter the Seeds.  Then he could simply untap and Overrun me with whatever tokens he had left.  If the tokens weren't enough, Greater Gargon is an extraordinary single threat that has proven itself in both Time Spiral Block Constructed and Standard.  As I've repeatedly said before, the Dakkon avatar prevents the deck from ever mana flooding, and lets the aggro strategy play through, rather than around, any creature control most decks have.

Mr Slippery also had a very aware sideboard including Split Second spells Sudden Shock and Sulfur Elemental to prevent Martyr of Sands mischief.  His sideboard also included Boom/Bust for control decks that may not be able to stabilize afterwards.  Following the Armageddon, he could simply play lands again, while the opponent may be mana-screwed.

Going into the last week of Standard with Vanguard featuring Ravnica block, I think any deck must be prepared to face a new metagame featuring Dakkon, Dredge, and of course Dakkon Dredge decks.  Dredge decks are fairly easy to design against by simply including graveyard hate.  Dakkon decks are more problematic, as they can be relentless, never being mana-screwed and never topdecking land.  All the Dakkon decks I've featured are not probably fast, and probably average a goldfish kill of more then five turns.  This leaves open the possibility of winning before they do, either by playing Oni Aggro, or perhaps trying out a burn deck, like the ones from the past featuring the Rumbling Slum avatar.  Another opportunity to exploit is that most of the decks in the top eight feature creatures, which Mirri feasts on.  Whatever you decide to play this weekend, I hope these metagame overviews have been helpful.  Next week I'll tackle the Ravnica rotation, and how it effects common archetypes.


by Umii at Thu, 11/15/2007 - 11:25
Umii's picture

I agree Braids is a really great choice in a Mirri-heavy metagame like the one at that 3x.  Mirri lost a lot of popularity after it lost a card in the avatar revision, which I think is strange given that it is still extremely powerful.  I played the Mirri-Braids matchup a few times, and always felt like I was THIS CLOSE to pulling it out, but it is really hard for the Mirri player.

 Jhoira decks did make t8 a bunch of times.  I always thought they were a joke deck until I played Mirri against Mikeman29.  All he needed to do was last a few turns and then eventually he topdecked a WoG effect and that was the game.

Are you still going to play Braids decks moving forward? 

by Reaper9889 at Wed, 11/14/2007 - 14:27
Reaper9889's picture

Oni decks should have multiple creatures on the table by the time Braids can even play a spell.


Back when oni was a problem it tried to solve it by going (prefarebel) turn 1 land and then drop a karoo of a Simian Spirit Guide EOT turn 2 akroma memorial t3 Blazing archon. But most of the time I had it tuned Mirri ate Oni alive and since this deck ate Mirri it was pretty easy to win.

Mana control strategies (Heartwood Blink decks) may also be effective, since destroying a karoo sets Braids back over a turn.


The problem with mana control is that you can't use it then Braids got 2 mana open since it invites a bounce land to the rescue (that and the the second is anytime you can play an instant and not like the third (only as a sorcery)) and then it doesn't have that you got the other problem, namely that the braids player has managed to land a threat which meanes that you problery should consider dealing with that instead.


Braids is proberly one of the few decks that got a good matchup vs. the chronatog deck (without running life gain) since that deck got an awfully hard time dealing with Nicol Bolas (its black so no black pact, it got above 4 toughness so no (Soul spike), if it got haste - see the memorial - (Sunscoure) isn't even that efficent).


Btw. the deck is designed to be hard on creatures since if you ain't running creatures the abillities from braids should win the game on its own (well most of the time anyway).


Iam pretty sure that it's only bad matchups were Oni (because they sometimes would have to much gas to handle - match up problery around 60/40 to them - if you get memorial + archon you win (they do not have any outs vs that - archon can be bounced with stingscourer)) and Johira (I never saw a tournement deck around it tho but alot of the spells can kill single creatures which is a problem for a deck that tries to win with 1-2 creatures on the table at a time). Lucky Oni died after Mirri came (and didnt come back then that died since they lost a card) and Johira was never a tournement deck.


This is ofcause my view of the decks but I played in a lot of test games and 2 tournements with the finnished version (The finnished version added alot of power vs ecspecially creatures (board sweepers and so on) - I had to much other things I needed to do the other weeks) - the IPA qualifier and a 3x a couple of weeks before that. The decks I met were very different - Mirri had 6 in t8 (I suspect there must be a good deck somewhere still with that avatar since they were all pretty different and eg. 1 of them had thrown his deck togther ½ an hour before the tournement) in the 3x and the last was chronatog - which I had screwed up vs. in the first rounds. Anyway I won both.

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