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By: jamuraa, Marie Janssen
Dec 26 2007 1:25pm
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We hear those sleigh bells ringing and the annoying bells at the grocery store, and that must mean that it's Christmas time. There is nothing to fear about this holiday time though. The Premier Events are rolling along just as before, and I, as plump as old St. Nick, sit down on my chair to check out the replays. I think that my complaints from last week were heard by someone, as there are more different decks at the top this week.

Last week I talked about the top tier of decks - the strongest decks that consistently show up in any top eight that I have a chance to gander upon.  However, these aren't everything about the meta that there is to glean.  Some decks are good enough to last a bunch of rounds in the swiss, but they just don't have the oomph to hit the top eight a lot of times during the week. I like to call these types of decks Invisible Masses. They are Invisible because they don't show up in the standard metagame checks - in this case top eight replays - and they are Mass because they show up a lot when you are playing the Premier Event. One such example in most metagames is the Reanimator deck. The main idea of any Reanimator deck is to put a lot of big, expensive creatures into the graveyard, but then put them into play by casting a reanimation spell like Dread Return or Makeshift Mannequin. Reanimators have been around since the beginning of magic, when you could do the deed with white's Resurrection. It seems like Reanimator is sitting on the cusp in this standard season, showing up in large numbers in the swiss of the standard Premier Events. Because of their very nature, Invisible Masses show up in crazy numbers in the swiss rounds, but then they lose two and people drop out. They are not quite top tier, but anyone who plays a lot of Premier Events had better have a plan against these Invisible Masses.

Statistics for Standard PEs: 12/19/2007 to 12/25/2007

There were a total of eleven Standard PEs this week, giving us eighty-eight Top eight spots. Every Standard PE from Wednesday December 19 until Tuesday December 25 is accounted for with the exception of the 11pm CST PE on the 25th due to its late start time. Six of the eleven events this week were split in the finals, with the other five playing it out. This was surprising to me because every single event was split last week.

Winner - Split - Second - Semifinals - Quarterfinals

Colors Deck Name Placings Percentage
Doran Rock 13% (-3%)
Elves! 13% (+3%)
Big Mana 10% (+2%)
Snow Big Mana 9% (+2%)
Mannequin 7% (+4%)
Spine Storm 6% (-1%)
Rock 5% (-5%)
Goblins 4% (+2%)
Faerie Stompy 4% (+1%)
Pickles 3% (+0%)
Mana Ramp 2% (new)
Snow Control 2% (-5%)
  Blink 2% (-1%)
  Reanimator 2% (+2%)
Sonic Boom 1% (-2%)
Tokens 1% (+0%)
Kithkin 1% (-2%)
  Other 6% (+4%)
  Dropped / Timed Out 1% (-1%)

This week, we saw a lot of shift in the metagame as we see a levelling out after the craze that Worlds was into a greater number of decks vying for the top spots. The most apparent shift from looking at these numbers is the shift away from the Rock and Doran Rock decks into the more traditionally good red-green mana ramp decks. Mannequin also made some solid gaining. Knoll Storm continues to lose top eight spots, but this week came to a split in the finals of a match which was very interesting. It may be possible that the Knoll Storm deck is incredibly hard to play correctly and just now people are coming into the knowledge and playtesting required - I don't think that's the case though, as it doesn't make repeat top eights with the same pilots every time.

The big gainer this week is Mannequin, which gained two top eight berths despite there being less spots available this week than last week - after last week's losses, it has regained some of it's footing. The big loser this week is blue-white snow control, which lost most of it's spots. When I was testing the deck, the hardest matchup was the Big Mana matchup, and the increase of those decks this week could be strangling the snow control out.

This week's "other" category is quite diverse - included this week was a blue-white-green control deck using Walk the Aeons, an interesting blue-black control deck, a mono-black Korlash control deck, what looked like a red-blue version of Tokens, a dual-tribe Elves and Kithkin aggro deck, and a mono-white control deck.

Mode of the Week: Mannequin

4 Faerie Conclave
3 Mouth of Ronom
4 River of Tears
4 Snow-Covered Island
6 Snow-Covered Swamp
1 Urza's Factory
4 Underground River
4 Epochrasite
4 Mulldrifter
4 Phyrexian Ironfoot
4 Riftwing Cloudskate
4 Shadowmage Infiltrator
4 Shriekmaw
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
Other Spells
3 Damnation
4 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Profane Command
2 Bottle Gnomes
1 Jace Beleren
2 Mournwhelk
3 Nameless Inversion
3 Pithing Needle
4 Thoughtseize
Makeshift Mannequin

This week we are starting to run out of decks which are truly at the top of their game in the meta right now. Mannequin has had some ups and downs in recent memory, but has made a resurgence this week, coming in at the fifth spot below Big Mana and most of the black-green decks. Mannequin was the big star coming out of States this year, the deck that everyone was talking about as being pretty great.

Whoever created Mannequin took a look at the namesake, Makeshift Mannequin and then took a look at all of the creatures in Lorwyn which had some type of useful ability that happened as they came into play. Lorwyn had a whole race of creatures on it's world which shared the Evoke mechanic, which is basically useless without a comes-into-play trigger on the card. Mannequin abuses these comes-into-play abilities by casting the instant-speed reanimation spell whenever it needs. The most common targets from the grave are Mulldrifter for more cards and the Shriekmaw which shows up in more and more decks lately, making it one of the most played uncommons in the format today.

The deck also includes a lot of control in the form of Damnation mainboard, which the Epochrasites in the beatdown are pretty big fans of, coming back into play with three buffing counters. This build, which came from Worlds this year, also includes a set of discard in the sideboard, some of which has been gaining online as well. It also includes a set of card advantage in Shadowmage Infiltrator, alongside the Mulldrifter mentioned before. It also includes in it's toolbox the Riftwing Cloudskate which can bounce any annoying thing back to the hand. The Profane Commands which are included act as yet another reanimation spell in a pinch as well as getting there for those last few points of damage and hitting a creature on the board.

One interesting variant which is seen frequently is the addition of some white mana sources in order to add Momentary Blink to the mainboard. Blink allows for the deck to even further abuse the comes-into-play abilities by evoking an elemental and then blinking it in order to make it stay around and get two times the advantage. It also saves creatures from non-mass removal and can be played twice for the price of one card in the deck thanks to the flashback.  However, don't try to use the Blink on Mannequin creatures as the sacrificing trigger will go on the stack on top of the Blink and the creature will be headed straight for the graveyard.

Mannequin definitely has staying power in the metagame, surviving long past it's creation date, and variants keep showing at top eight spots in each week.

Outlier of the week: Green-White Mana Ramp

Mana Ramp nofxdarkside2
4 Treetop Village
4 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Snow-Covered Forest
4 Brushland
4 Horizon Canopy
3 Mouth of Ronom
3 Mystic Enforcer
2 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
4 Wall of Roots
Other Spells
3 Search for Tomorrow
4 Primal Command
4 Wrath of God
4 Harmonize
4 Condemn
4 Oblivion Ring
2 Coalition Relic
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
2 Ajani Goldmane
1 Evangelize
Akroma, Angel of Wrath

This week I saw a most unique take on the Big Mana archtype. It took the generally red-green decklist and turned it on it's side into Selesnya territory by throwing out the red and bringing in the white. The deck controlled aggro adeptly and sent Dragonstorm back to it's room. This deck was piloted by nofxdarkside2 to two semifinals finishes this week. I reconstructed this list as best as I could given the games seen, with a couple hints from the creators.

I talked to the pilot and creators of this deck in order to get some insight on their motives. The creators of the deck (nofxdarkside2, built the deck with input from a friend.) created it when they were faced with playing the standard mana ramp (big mana) against the now-popular Spine Storm deck, and they were getting beat consistently. They then tried to use white over red, thinking that they would be able to bring in Rule of Law and Story Circle -- both of which are in the sideboard for this deck. This made the Storm decks quite the easy matchup. The star of the deck in their opinion is Akroma, Angel of Wrath, which is very good in almost all the matchups which are big in the meta, as it is impossible to kill with spot removal. Primal Command is also just crazy in this deck, tutoring up an Akroma to hand whenever she is needed, as well as putting a land on top of the Knoll Storm's deck when he is wanting to draw some more gas. It also functions as removal for plainswalkers with Garruk Wildspeaker seeing a lot of play in both red-green Big Mana and the black-green decks.

I asked what the hardest matchup for this deck is, and nofxdarkside2 thought that it was against mono-blue control with Guile. However, he said that it is not an unwinnable matchup, with sideboarded cards like (Mwonvoli Acid-Moss) helping by keeping the Guile player off their mana. I also enquired about the singleton Evangelize in the main deck, and got a response that it is excellent in the late game, when it can be cast every turn with buyback in order to slowly remove the creatures. He sees a lot of reanimator decks in the swiss of PEs and stealing their creatures is quite the loss for them.

This deck also runs both Ajani Goldmane and Garruk Wildspeaker, both of which are very good, and nofxdarkside2 said he couldn't choose one as better than the others. Indeed he has won many of the games by staying ahead in life with Ajani's gain two life abilities, and then putting down the big avatars. He said it is particularly good against Elves! as they tend to run Nameless Inversion over Eyeblight's Ending. I asked about the lack of Tarmogoyfs in the deck, and he replied that they weren't that good in the deck, because there is a distinct lack of the Molten Disaster which is present in the red-green version. Using Wrath of God to wipe the board, the bigger creatures can't be saved alone.

The meta decided to level out the playing field this week, and more decks are squeezing into this big standard format than ever before. I'd be interested in hearing of decks other than Reanimator that are Invisible Masses - feel free to comment. Until then, good luck in the PEs!


Good job! by tangucho at Wed, 01/02/2008 - 14:20
tangucho's picture

Great article jamuraa. GW big mana gives interesting options.

I would give a try to quagnoth instead of Enforcer MD and Eyes of the Winsent SB to improve match against MUC Guile.

I´ve noticed the absence of (Arctic Flats) in the deck. It could be useful if it is used insted of Relics ...I dunno. Its a very interesting build and fun to play. I will give it a try with 1 singleton Sacred Mesa instead of evangelize (molten disaster resilient tokens! yay!

Fantastic by hamtastic at Thu, 12/27/2007 - 11:24
hamtastic's picture

Awesome article jamuraa, as usual.

With articles like these here there's almost no reason for an MTGO'er to visit the main magic webpage anymore.

Keep up the good work!