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The best decks of the PTQ season continue to evolve.

Rock On!

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PT Atlanta Champions Nova
(Gab Tsang, David Rood, Gabriel Nassif)
The Pro Tour was this past weekend. For those of you who didn't follow the coverage, you can check out the smiling faces of victorious Nova here. Anyone who has ever wanted to hear the dulcet tones of yours truly's voice rather than merely imagining them narrate such classics as "Finding the Tinker Deck", "The Old Switcheroo", or "Mental Magic: Proactive Flashback" rather than simply imagining the said can do so at the above link as well; like at PT Columbus, I did the Sunday webcast coverage with Randy Buehler. The Top 4 was an exciting one where Gabriel Nassif, Magic's reigning Player of the Year, graduated from "best player never to win a Pro Tour" to... well... Let's just say that the now-bareheaded Yellow Hat just lost one of his many nicknames.

The side effect of a Pro Tour weekend is that, because many players on the team that brings you Swimming with Sharks spent said weekend grinding out event coverage, we have a smaller pool of deck lists to examine for this week. The weekend of March 12 gives us data on only three Top 8s so far (though I'm guessing that many more will be updated on the decklists page by the time this article goes to print). From that limited information, I can only say "Rock On":

THE FLORES FILE

Can't get enough of Mike Flores? Check out his views from Pro Tour-Atlanta in The Flores File:
Day 1: Defining "Team" and "Sealed"
Day 2: Information and Perspiration

And you can also listen to his commentary during the Sunday Top 4 Webcast!
The Rock **111
Goblins *111
Red Deck Wins 1111
Mind's Desire 111
Sneak Attack 1
Draco Explosion 1
U/G Opposition 1
Reanimator 1
Psychatog 1
U/G Madness 1
Aluren 1
Temporary Solution 1

Over those three Top 8s, The Rock leads all decks in Top 8 appearances and claims two of the three PT slots.

The last time this column focused on Bryn Kenney, it was the weekend of Pro Tour Columbus. Kenney battled to the Top 4 of the Last Chance Qualifier there and took home (or back to his hotel room, I guess) a slot to the Extended Pro Tour. He followed up his first professional event with a standout finish in the Columbus Amateur Challenge the same weekend. At PT Columbus, Bryn ran mono-green Tooth and Nail; this time around, he added black for the beatdown Macey Rock to take Harrisburg:

Bryn Kenney / The Rock

1st Place - Pennsylvania - Harrisburg - 3/12

Kenney's deck is essentially a more streamlined version of Grant Struck's GP Top 8 deck, which we looked at last week. He goes for better resistance to combo and control (by playing a fourth Mesmeric Fiend) and is less dependent on inconsistent synergies. With only one Pernicious Deed, Kenney has to rely on his Vampiric Tutors to get that particular answer, but has a more consistent overall game plan with triple Diabolic Edict and a second Sword of Fire and Ice to punch through.

John Pehlke's deck represents the flip side of the face of B/G, showcasing the exact contrast that we highlighted in this archetype last week:

John Pehlke / The Rock

1st Place - Indiana - Indianapolis - 3/12

With the maximum number of copies of both Sakura-Tribe Elder and Wall of Blossoms in the early game, Pehlke's deck is very much a control deck. He makes a change that all of us have thought of -- but most were afraid to pull the trigger on, I'm sure -- and removed Birds of Paradise from his Pernicious Deed deck. There's nothing like ramping up the mana for Pernicious Deed with Birds of Paradise... just to blow them right up. Pehlke makes up for the missing staples with two sets of two drops that remove a little bit of Treetop Village's "comes into play tapped" sting and help stabilize the paradise free mana base... With nothing that costs G on turn one, there is no downside to playing the Treetop Village first.

The unique element of Pehlke's build is its focus on a creatures (and lands) sideboard. With three Living Wish main, John plays essentially the same game all three duels. He can access almost every card in his sideboard from game one, and can use Living Wish as a hoser in certain matchups.

Though John has access to 1+2 regular old Engineered Plagues (likely a boon against the surging Goblins), Urborg Shambler is a look at the same strategy with a lot of cool upsides. It can come out in game one against Aluren (hosing Cavern Harpy) via Living Wish; it is attached to a 4/3 body and can double as a beatdown threat; it is an incidental answer to a deck like Suicide Black that, while viable, wouldn't normally demand specific answers in a format that includes more than 20 other viable decks.

In addition, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa is a little seen card that has powerful synergy with Pernicious Deed. With this card, The Rock can turn the Nevinyrral's Disk-like Pernicious Deed into half an Armageddon, too. Land is just about the only thing that can live through a Deed, and by turning some number of lands into creatures prior to popping the Deed, Kamahl takes out even those permanents. With sufficient mana, Living Wish can allow a Rock player to dodge the opponent's hand destruction and set up a turn to take almost absolute control of a game.

Nick Little / Squirrel Opposition

3rd Place - Indiana - Indianapolis - 3/12

I had to read Nick Little's deck list three times before I realized what was going on with his Minamo, School at Water's Edge. With no legendary creatures, I figured it was just worse than an Island in an environment that includes both Dust Bowl and Wasteland. However, Minamo can untap legendary PERMANENTS... including other Legendary Lands.

Minamo works just fine as a "second Gaea's Cradle" to break the Legend Rule by, ironically, playing a DIFFERENT Legendary Land to take advantage of the redundancy.

Though U/G Opposition decks have shined in many formats, from GP Memphis in the hands of Dr. Mike Pustilnik to the US National Championships in the hands of Eugene Harvey, this version, with its Swords of Fire and Ice, is similar to Satoshi Nakamura's deck from the recent PT Columbus.

The goal of U/G Opposition is to generate an imbalance on the board, usually via cards like Deranged Hermit that generate multiple creatures via a single spell, and then use Opposition to lock down the opponent's permanents. Given enough Walls of Blossoms and Squirrel tokens, Opposition can stall any number of threat creatures and, eventually, every land the opponent controls too. Without Static Orb, this is only a "soft" lock, but it's one that most decks have problems escaping.

One of the decks that WOULDN'T have many problems with Opposition is Red Deck Wins. With no Static Orbs preventing an untap, that deck can float mana on upkeep to use Cursed Scroll and instant speed burn to win regardless of being slowed down on the table. Because of that, Sword of Fire and Ice fills many holes. This card speeds up the clock, turning even Birds of Paradise into four damage a turn that can't be stopped by all-too-red burn cards. Like we saw in Trinity Green last week, Chalice of the Void out of Little's sideboard is a powerful answer against both red and blue opponents. On one counter it holds off Cursed Scroll, Lava Dart, and Grim Lavamancer shenanigans; on two, the Chalice puts the kibosh on Sapphire Medallion, Sunscape Familiar, Snap, and Brain Freeze.

By the time this column goes to press, the following link will have a lot more information than the three Top 8s I've highlighted here. I'm guessing Goblins will jump past The Rock when the dust settles, at least in terms of Top 8 reps; from my hazy vantage point at two in the morning, the Saturday PTQ in Atlanta looked to have something like five Goblins players slugging it out for the Blue Envelope. I guess the only way you can find out for certain is to click here.

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