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By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Feb 04 2008 1:51pm
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After a brief break from Classic with last week’s limited article, I am again focusing on the huge card pool and vast potential available in our online Eternal format.  A couple of weeks ago, Kaxon placed in the top 8 of the weekly PE with a 4-color Threshold deck.  I asked if he’d skipped Red to move into Black and White, ala Pat Chapin’s World’s build.  He said that he had kept it, and added white for Swords to Plowshares.  He was undefeated in the Swiss, then lost in the top 8 to Burn.  He mentioned in his deck summary on Classicquarter that he was slightly frustrated by this loss, as he felt well-positioned in that fight. 

I didn’t like his list in this format, simply because I feel going four colors is asking to lose to burn.  He did have maindeck Disrupt to give him extra cheap ways to fight

off the Red deck in game one compared to many builds of Thresh, but he had no Hydroblast in the side, and that is probably the best card for Blue-based decks to bring in, cheaply negating spells.  I felt like his Four-color build and no Hydroblasts in the side, or life-gain of any sort made him a dog to a Burn-based deck.

I’ve been wanting to build a non-Red Thresh deck for a while, but UGr Thresh has been the best version.  To bother with a non-Red build, the deck would need to be close enough in performance to the Red version for the factor of opponents not knowing your full list to be worth it.  An example of this is my B/W Deadguy builds.  Each time it, or a variant has succeeded, at least a minor, but substantial change has been made to the MD, and a re-vamped sideboard has been made.  People have had success with it switching to BWG, while retaining all the good cards and adding Tarmogoyf to up the power-level of the deck and present some element of the unknown.

Another example of the power of the unknown is Gainsay’s Elves! Deck from a few weeks ago.  At first glance, he ran a janky deck full of bad cards and Skullclamp, proving that adding Skullclamp to any creature deck can let someone win.  However, given a second thought, his deck is much more than JUST Clamp.  I was talking with Sti (Stuart Wright) about what he would want to play if he played in a Classic PE.  He mentioned that if he did play in one, he’d want to play a deck built to abuse Skullclamp.  This deck accomplished that, but it had several other aspects that I would like to point out.  First, the disruption base is very respectable, with Duress, Thoughtseize, and Hymn to Tourach all showing up at various points.  Second, HE HAD THE FORMATS BEST FAST MANA!  Compared to Vintage, we have almost no fast mana, with Chrome Mox, various Dark Ritual effects, and Lotus Bloom being our primary effects.  He ran eight Llanowar Elves/Fyndhorn Elves and four Birds of Paradise, for a whopping TWELVE semi-fast mana.

Even aside from his mana-men, he had the formats best mana (aside from maybe Black Red Goblins) with Fetches, Overgrown Tomb, AND Gilt-Leaf Palace to have access to eight duals, more or less, four at no pain-cost, and still staying two colors, preventing mana-screw 95% of the time.  Finally, he had all sorts of utility creatures and beef to finish the job off.  Tarmogoyf, Ravenous Baloth, Hypnotic Specter, and Eternal Witness were all solid threats in their own ways, plus they could all Jitte up (yea, he had that too…) and Clamp up.  Finally, probably the coolest part of his deck was Essence Warden, which allowed him some long-game against decks like Flash.  For example, a turn one Duress, managing to get Flash from the opponent’s hand isn’t that scary.  However, when he follows that up with “Essence Warden, Birds of Paradise,” and then next turn, around the time the Flash player is tutoring for his Regrowth, drops Eternal Witness for Duress again, and then next turn a Hymn to Tourach for good measure, the deck can actually build it’s life-total beyond what Flash can do.  If Flash has to switch to the back-up plan of Phyrexian Dreadnought, it will be tough to set up through the discard, and even tougher to protect from Smother and the like.

While Gainsay’s deck isn’t super-strong as a known archetype, it does about all you can ask of an aggro-control deck while being mostly unexpected.  People don’t typically pack a sideboard with four Engineered Plague and the like.  This is the effect that I was trying for with a new Thresh build.  This isn’t to say it has to be a total unknown.  I mean, between Goyf, Nimble Mongoose, Brainstorm, and Force of Will, we are starting with strong cards.

I started wanting to play no more than three colors.  Beyond that it feels like you take too much pain in a format that still has seen some Affinity, plenty of Burn decks, and Mono-Black all in top eight play recently.  Give up too much life, and you ask to throw away at least one match a tourney.  Next, I wanted to have at least a couple of elements that people wouldn’t be prepared for.  By that I mean that once they see the deck in action, they may know what is going to happen, or what cards I play, but they won’t be preparing for the deck ahead of time.  I want to out-meta-game the meta-gamers, if you will.  Gainsay did this perfectly.  Who plans for ELFCLAMP of all decks?  Three weeks ago, three Flash decks ended up in packs, because they hadn’t made many appearances recently, and people were building their sideboards “appropriately”, feeling like while they COULD have a stack of SB cards to fight Flash, it wasn’t very common, and they’d rather show up other matchups.

The White version of Thresh seems like a solid example of this.  It trades the game-ending power of Lightning Bolt for the incredible Swords to Plowshares, loses Fire/Ice which often just pitched to FoW anyway, and gains Mystic Enforcer, an absolute house against Black decks (ya think?), and another threat to drop.  I actually am not a big fan of the Enforcer, but he does end games quickly, and is evasive.  I resolved to run four to start with, to see it as often as possible, so I could get a feel for how useful it is.  Next, I wanted to revamp the mana-base.  Thresh has a great mana-base, albeit very tight.  It runs 17-18 lands, relying on Brainstorm and Ponder to search them up, then drawing more gas than other decks the rest of the game, due to the combination of draw/filtering from the previous mentioned two spells, and fetchlands.  Since I’m running something that costs two more mana (the Enforcer) than any of UGr’s deck, I wanted to bump my land-count up slightly.

I needed a way to increase my lands while not flooding or having them doing nothing.  My solution was to try out two Treetop Village and a Nantuko Monastery.  This would give me two man-lands that still tap for Green, and one man-land that comes in untapped.  These aren’t the final numbers by any means, but it was a solid starting point.

So, my list looks something like this. 

UG/w Thresh
Classic deck suggested by Walkerdog
3 MysticEnforcer

Other Spells
4 Brainstorm
4 Counterspell
3 Threadsof Disloyalty
Forceof Will
4 Swords to Plowshares

It’s not particularly exciting, but seemed durable.  I ran a few test games.  The two Treetop Village were houses.  With three-car garages and hot-tubs.  The Nantuko Monastery was less wonderful.  It probably should be another Village, Faerie Conclave, or maybe just another good instant such as Force Spike.  I liked the slightly bumped up land with the man-lands quite a bit overall, but that may just be a preferential thing.  You really shouldn’t be screwed by them any more than you would without them, as you’re simply adding them as EXTRA land, rather than removing basics for them. 

Here's a quick walk-through of my testing build.  Opponent drops an Island and passes.  I have Breeding Pool, and he will Brainstorm on my EOT.  I Brainstorm in response, which was stupid.  He untaps, fetches a Watery Grave, and points (Thoughseize) at me.  I'm a bad player.  He takes Force of Will and leaves Nimble Mongoose, two Threads of Disloyalty and a Counterspell.  I personally take 'Goose everytime time, but FoW isn't a bad choice, especially if he's combo of some sort.  I drop a fetch and the Cobra-Killer.  He plays a Mishra's Factory, which is trouble for my little 1/1.  I play an Island, and he pops a Impulse on EOT.  I'm still a bad player who blows a Brainstorm here.  He plays Factory number two, but oddly doesn't attack.  I Ponder my options, then play a land.  He Impulses again.  He plays land and passes back.  Still not sure why he's not attacking.  He plays a land, and it's my turn again. 

I have Nantuko Monastery, and Ponder, then Goyf.  He has the Spell Snare (it's in the contract).  He attempts to Seize my Thoughts, and I Counter that Spell.  He the drops a Goyf and a fetchland.  I hit him with my insect, then pass back.  Not sure why he's afraid to attack.  He has Psychatog (with a relatively small graveyard) and a Goyf.  Spell Snare obvs, in the contract, etc.  I drop Treetop Village, and attempt to plant Threads of Disloyalty within the Llurghoyf mind... but he stops that through sheer Force of Will.  I drop my own Goyf and pass back. 

He has a top, and nothing else.  I Threads his Goyf, and start beating down.  He kills my Mongoose with his pumped up Factory, and my Goyf with his pumped up Tog, but blows his GY load in the process.  He tops into nothing.  I beat down with two lands and a Goyf.  He takes.  He tops again.  I attack again and he scoops.  This game didn't do much to show of the White, (although Swords would've been nice at any point here) but it did show off my real all-stars, my man-lands.

The Mystic Enforcers, as everyone else probably already knows, just are too slow.  They’re good when they’re good, but AWFUL when they’re bad.  Honestly, it is just too expensive, even with the bigger mana-base.  I wanted to try out a few other cards in its place.  First was Aven Mindcensor, as it still evades, is instant-speed, and can mess up other’s decks plans.  Next was Serendib Efreet, for much the same reasons that I tried Enforcer, but he is easier and faster to play.  Samurai of the Pale Curtain is one of my favorite cards in Classic, although he’s a little too reliant on WW.  Finally, Meddling Mage is fantastic if you have them.   One interesting thing to come out've this was the fact that Treetop Villages (which are my personal favorite) and Faerie Conclave were fantastic.  Despite the downside of coming into play tapped, they just seemed gassier than most spells I'd run in their place.  Monastery wasn't quite as fantastic, but won a game (it beats Jitte!).

I cut my Enforcers, and tried the Efreet first, as I was most excited about him.  He won a couple of games straight-up as my Goyfs would hold the ground forces back, and he’d go over the top for the win.  He was also “useful” as something to pitch to Force of Will.  Really though, he costs a little too much.  Treetop Village continued to be stellar.  I dropped the Nantuko Monastery, as the colorless mana it produced, and having to have Green AND White mana was too much of a hassle.  Aven Mindcensor did the job very nicely, probably better than the Efreet oddly enough.  The difference was that I didn’t have to tap out that three mana on my turn, rather, I could do it on their EOT, and he would serve not only as more pressure, but a mildly disruptive element.  Meddling Mage was slightly better than the Mindcensor, but not as much better as I expected.  They do the same thing more or less, while the Aven has the ability to be evasive. 

I was reading IceAge4Life’s article around this point, and realized that _MAJOR_ had already placed Top Eight last week with UGw Thresh, so I guess that makes this version a little more expected.  I do have a second list I’ve been playing around with that has accomplished my dual goals of winning and being unexpected.  It’s pretty basic UG Thresh, with a few tweaks, and my new preferred man-land utilizing mana-base.  It goes like this.

It is by no means perfect, but hybridizes many of the trends we’ve been seeing over the last month or so in blue.  You have a good counter-base of course.  Then a solid Landstill base (Eight man-lands and the requisite Standstills), and can side that out into a Trinket Mage toolkit for Counter-Top or a Tormod’s Crypt or EE Silver Bullet.  It is a lot of fun to play, and probably my favorite deck right now.  Disrupt I took from various people wanting more ways to fight Flash (and counter-wars in general), and Threads of Disloyalty is pretty much my favorite cards against aggro these days.  Trickbind or Stifle are good alternatives to LLotV in the sideboard.

You have good game against the aggro-control environment that we're in right now, and can easily beat irritating Landstill decks at their own game.  Against aggro-control, you're the control deck.  Threads and Factories are your main "removal".  Against Burn, you have the option of siding into Counter-Top, or just sitting back and taking as little damage from your lands as possible.  You really want to Disrupt them once or twice and laugh.  Threads are sided out of course.  Black discard is slightly tricky, mostly just a deck you need to play tightly against.  Disrupt is money again here, at least the first time. Then you get the to slow down to try to play around it, which is just as good as countering their spells really.  Keep Factories in the event of Pox/Smallpox, as often-times they just man-land you to death after blowing up both player's hands.  After board, you have more Disrupts (much like against burn) and Trinketmages to help gain actual Card Advantage, plus Tops and Counterbalance.

Flash requires tight play to beat, but really, you have Aces against all their Kings.  Game one you have ten possible turn one counters, and even more as you can drop mana.  You have Threads for the Dreadnought plan, and your sideboard has all sorts of juice to beat them however you want to.  Finally, against Landstill, you often REALLY want him to resolve a Standstill.  I would go as far as to tap out regularly to try to bait one out, then ride your eight manlands over his.  It is sometimes wise to "miss" landdrops by holding your man-lands back.  He thinks he has the advantage, and suddenly you've played your man-lands out multiple turns in a row, and now have more than him.  Side out your Standstills for the Trinketmage and Counter-top package.  This is another match-up that Stifle shines in, if you do want to have it in your SB.  Stifling a Decree of Justice can be life-saving. 

 Finally, this week's PE was cancelled due to a server crash.  I am holding out hope for a re-scheduling to sometime during the week.  This bring up an interesting point.  Since the Holiday 3X PE, which drew nearly fifty people, Classic PEs have been consistantly drawing around forty people to each event.  This led me to think about whether Classic might support two PEs a week.  I laid the question out to the Classicquarter forums, and the response was positive.  Next, I took a small polling of convenient times.  Weeknights, sometime between 5PM and 6PM PST seemed popular, and Saturday sometime that wasn't night-time seemed to garner some votes.  I would like to propose a possible start-time of 6PM PST, on Thursdays.

This would give West Coast folks a chance to get home and log in, and would start before it was ridiculously late for the East Coast, with the added bonus of only having to make it through one day of work on short sleep if you do well in the tourney.  I would like to hear what times and days would be best for you, my awesome audience.  Also, if you have suggestions or comments on the decks, let me know! 


by MagicStop (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 02/06/2008 - 07:51
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Thursday, 6 PST is good for me. I'm on the east coast (NC), but would be willing to stay up for another PE. A small price to pay for some extra classic tourney love.

Heh by walkerdog at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 08:37
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Hey Whiff,
I don't think his list is bad or anything, I just am uncomfortable with running 4-5 colors right now due to the pain you take.  The second we have real duals I'll probably play a lot of UG/bw thresh ala Chapin at worlds, since I shouldn't have to take as MUCH pain at least.  I see what you're saying about weakening the top-decking, but I really don't mind too much as I still run the deck manip (brainstorm/ponder) and have top in the side, plus, the additional lands, while some CIPT, are all creatures.  I will take what you said into consideration though.  Thanks and I appreciate the complements.

thoughts by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 02:39
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4thly unfortunatly  a second pe will most likly happen on saturday until we can support 4-5 a week. the reason i think this is that you said have a tourny starting around 6pm pst. now this would be great for any one living over in that time zone . but what about shumks like me. we have to start a 5-8 hour tournament at 9 at nite? a more fair solution on a week day would have to be 4pm pst. as i could see playing in a 7pm start time tourny and poping off to sleep around 1-2 am if i do well. but how will i wake up if i do that same tourny 2 hours later? and whatabout the other countrys around the world?


by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 16:09
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i am gonna remember the baiting thing for when i play you.

Sounds good by walkerdog at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 17:05
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At that point I'll win due to the stuff I'm tapping out for?  Heh.

oops by MagicStop (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 19:58
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Just wanted to let you know that you left out the Stand Stills in the last deck list, although you mention them (and it's called TreshStill :D )

Cool ideas... thanks for the good stuff! 

yea, I'm an idiot by walkerdog at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 22:23
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I'm dumb, I do that.  I would like to give props to Jamuraa and JX for their hard work (linking and editing) in the article.  But yea, the list is good if you add standstill.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 02:21
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so anominity will not save me here as i will just say that i am whiify penguin on modo so there, now you know where to direct your hate mail.

1st off very nice article i enjoy your style of writing and the quirky dialog while "in game " walkthrus happen.

2ndly as a proponent of thresh in all its builds i have to disagree with your asertaion that kaxons list will lose to burn . the reason we added white in the first place was to combat burn in the sb via cop:red which is a lot more usefull then hydroblast. also the addition of stp gave you optins to send a goyf farming so that you may live.

3rdly Your list looks pretty cool. i wouldnt want to play it . but at the same time i would not like to play against you either.and as a side note i really wouldnt classify this deck as thresh but as a control deck because not only do you have citp tapped lands you have 22 which will severly disrupt your topdecking game that makes thresh so good. aslo threads md is a great idea, just hope the meta dosent shift on you or your stuck w/ 4 dead cards in the md.

anyways great article and keep em coming.

by urzishra (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 14:13
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I would love to see a thursday morning event for classic..that way I could get in on the action.. sundays are just hard for me to do mostly because I have to go to work at 4 (which is about the time they are in the middle of the event) anyways.. good article and I found some interesting ideas I may put forth to my decks.. good job.