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By: Umii, Mike Patterson
Mar 24 2008 12:04am
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Morningtide Release Events are finally over, and Constructed PEs are firing again.  For Vanguard, last weekend was the final chance to play your favorite avatars before the hotly debated avatar changes
become official on March 26th.  A number of people played their favourite Mirri and Heartwood decks once more, before the avatars went the way of the dodo.  Two people played Reveillark combo/control decks, one using the Mirror Entity avatar rather than Loxodon Hierarch (as I mentioned in my last article) to initiate the combo.  Finally, in a development reminiscent of Newton and Leibniz independently discovering calculus, a number of people combined the new Rogue cards with an old avatar to make a powerful deck:

NekRoGaal:

NekRoGaal
a deck by Umii

Mana (20):
4x Mutavault
1x Pendelhaven
4x Simian Spirit Guide
7x Swamp
4x Auntie's Hovel

0-Drops:
4x Prickly Boggart
4x Nightshade Stinger

1-Drops:
4x Oona's Blackguard
4x Frogtosser Banneret
4x Oona's Prowler
4x Stinkdrinker Bandit

2-Drops:
4x Bad Moon
4x Thoughtseize
4x Earwig Squad
4x Noggin Whack

As I said, a number of people independently rediscovered this avatar, including Th00mor, and Lance20DX6.  As the Morningtide Release events were running, I remember chatting with a friend about new Morningtide cards and the avatar changes. When we turned to the Heartwood avatar nerf, when I jokingly mentioned combining the Nekrataal avatar with rogues.  Then I stopped myself, and thought, "Wait a minute, that's not a bad idea."  For the rest of the release events I gathered together the cards I would need, and tuned the deck.  In watching Saturday's Premiere Event, I noticed how each player made variations on the theme of the deck, so I will break down my version card-by-card:

Simian Spirit Guide

Since most of the deck costs two mana or less, I think you can get away with only twenty mana sources.  Furthermore, you only have a few "expensive" spells, so the ability to play spells a little more quickly with the Spirit Guide helps.  I have changed the number of Guides in the deck, since getting black mana for Thoughtseize and Noggin Whack is important, but four is the default.

Prickly Boggart and Nightshade Stinger

The basic goal of playing the deck is to empty your hand by turn two.  With the Nekrataal avatar, these rogues become free, and both are evasive for triggering Prowl.  The key question in looking at "zero-drops" is choosing how many to play.  If you are feeling aggressive, it might be tempting to including Knucklebone Witch or Festering Goblin.  They are not rogues, though, and in the end don't help you win much faster, if at all.  You are going to win either by decimating your opponents hand with Oona's Blackguard and Noggin Whack, or by attacking with Stinkdrinker in play.  Non-rogues help neither of those causes.

Frogtosser Banneret

One of the three key cards to the deck, this furthers the goal of emptying your hand by turn two.  It makes Stinkdrinker Bandit free after prowling, and makes Noggin Whack and Earwig Squad cost .

Oona's Blackguard

The second of the three key cards, the Blackguard is the linchpin of the deck's first plan of attack: decimating your opponent's hand.  If you can get two creatures into play following the Blackguard, your opponent's will discard two cards per turn, while taking five damage.  Followed up by Thoughtseize or Noggin Whack, your opponents should not have any cards to play.  The Blackguard is one vulnerability for the deck, along with Stinkdrinker, in that the rest of the deck's creatures are fairly small.

Stinkdrinker Bandit

The final of the three key cards, the Bandit can win you the game on turn two with the right opening hand.  You will normally have three or more creatures in play by the end of turn one, and it is easy to attack for ten or more damage on turn three.  Even better, a lot of the rogues are evasive, and make triggering the ability easier.

Thoughtseize and Noggin Whack vs Morsel Theft

These cards are the auxiliary cards for the discard plan.  Combined with the Blackguard, the hope is that your opponent's won't be able to play spells.  I have heard some players criticize these cards, saying that you want to be as aggressive as possible.  However, I don't see how other aggressive cards will win the game that much faster.  Using Morsel Theft as an example, three life and a card is pretty inconsequential (Noah Weil discussed this in detail at wizards.com).  In comparison, Thoughtseize and Noggin Whack can generate card and tempo advantage.

Oona's Prowler vs Auntie's Snitch, Squeaking Pie Sneak, and Exiled Boggart

I've always felt like Oona's Prowler is underappreciated.  It's an evasive 3/1 two-drop, and in this deck is a one- or zero-drop.  In contrast, Auntie's Snitch costs one mana more for the same power, is not evasive, and can't block.  Certainly, the recursive aspect of the Snitch is appealing, but this deck never wants to get into an attrition war.  As for the Pie Sneak and Boggart, they are just extra creatures in a deck that already has enough of them.

Earwig Squad

This is the deck's only fattie, and the only scary card for an opponent by itself.  The Jester's Cap is a bonus, and will help in the Reveillark matchup.  There is little reason not to play this.

Bad Moon vs Shared Animosity

Since you're already playing so many creatures, it's only natural to include some "force multipliers" like Bad Moon.  The question is which one.  The biggest difference between these two spells is that Shared Animosity costs three mana in a deck where everything else costs two or less.  Shared Animosity can certainly win the game faster, but that extra mana makes it prohibitive.

Top Eight:

I didn't play this week due to other plans, and since I was hoping to keep the deck under wraps until the Mirri nerf came through.  In the end, the three players I identified playing NekRoGaal went 10-6, primarily due to Th00mor's 6-1 record.  The Top Eight was:

paososo99
cwllc
Vainis
mikeman29
Podlos
Th00mor
_Tachikoma_
The_zzz

Mirror Entity UW Reveillark
Mirri GW Aggro
Loxodon UWr Reveillark
Jhoira GB
Chronatog Free Stuff
NekRogAal
Heartwood Elves!
Slumming It

Perhaps rumors of Dakkon's dominance were greatly exaggerated.  As further evidence of the deck's strength, Th00mor won the Top Eight in a walk.  We shall see in the coming weeks how the metagame develops once the spectre of Mirri and Heartwood are gone.  Dakkon decks are especially powerful in defined metagames when they can include sideboard cards in the maindeck (like Pyroclasm or Sunscour, without having to worry about dead cards.

Historical Deck of the Week:

The Nekrataal avatar was popular once before, during Kamigawa-Ravnica Standard.  While I never played the deck, Bennie Smith wrote about his version:

Kobolds Attack!
a deck by Bennie Smith

Land (12):
4x Brushland
4x Temple Garden
4x Tendo Ice Bridge

0-Drops
4x Bile Urchin
4x Festering Goblin
4x Ghost-Lit Stalker
4x Gnat Miser
4x Nezumi Shadow-Watcher
4x Plagued Rusalka
4x Rag Dealer
4x Thoughtpicker Witch

1+-Drops:
4x Dark Confidant
3x Orzhov Pontiff


Utility Spells:
2x Cloudstone Curio
4x Glimpse of Nature
3x Sensei's Divining Top

The deck plays as a one-card combo with Glimpse of Nature, which allows you to draw a card for every free creature you play.  Then, once you've emptied your hand and cluttered the table, you can play Orzhov Pontiff for two mana, to give all your critters +1/+1.  I'm not quite sure what Cloudstone Curio is for, although they allow you to replay Orzhov Pontiff if you want to.  This deck was only briefly competitive in between when Hell's Caretaker-Kamigawa dragons decks thrived, and Kamigawa rotated (Nekrataal was a Visions release avatar).  It is different from NekRoGaal in that Kobolds Attack! overloads on free critters while NekRoGaal is not afraid to include a few larger ones.

That's it for this week.  I look forward to seeing what people design in the coming weeks now that the old constraints (Mirri and Heartwood) are gone, and there are new targets in Reveillark and NekRoGaal to take aim at.

0 Comments

by Anonymous (Unregistered) 67.180.77.17 (not verified) at Mon, 03/24/2008 - 01:20
Anonymous (Unregistered) 67.180.77.17's picture

Cloudstone Curio in the Kobolds Attack! deck lets you draw your entire deck.