The overwhelming threat of Goblins, and one cannot minimize that threat, has defined the metagame. It seems to splinter neatly in three, with Goblins being public enemy number one, and Slide and Mono-White Control rising to meet it. With that rigidly defined a field of best decks, the door is opened to exploit that. As the saying goes, “Overspecialize, and you breed in weakness.”
Below are four decks that broke convention with the promise of slaughtering Goblins while maintaining a strong game against the other big two. Perhaps they have the potential to become environment-defining themselves, or maybe they serve as a warning that no deck is unbeatable.
Chris Benafel’s Crazy Vegetation deck
Borrowed at the last minute from “some child”, this deck definitely has a Timmy quality to it. Huge gamebreaking spells and using three colors, its as mana hungry as any of the other control decks, with more stringent mana requirements. After boarding in Silklash Spider it needs access to triple red, triple blue and double green. Despite its ugly appearance, Benafel insists that it’s not nearly that bad. He’s enjoyed smooth draws most of the weekend. The same was not true for Gabe Walls and Peter Szigeti, who played the same deck but failed to make Day 2.
The deck follows the Vegetation pattern of “play big spells, win” but it has something no other deck in the format does: Countermagic. Starting the full complement of Complicates and Discombobulates, it can catch control decks with their pants down when they finally go for one of their few dangerous spells. They like to play the waiting game, and this deck boasts all the power of the long game with disruption to stop the opponent. Future Sight is a real kick in the banana basket.
The real kicker to the deck is its hood ornament: Form of the Dragon. Against goblins, if you survive to put out a Form, your opponent’s only out is usually triple-shock, barring some crazy Siege-Gang Commander Skirk Prospector action. Survival is usually not a problem, thanks to Shock, Starstorm and Slice and Dice. Benafel claims it’s an easy matchup. Sulfuric Vortex makes it harder, but that’s what Naturalize is for.
Ben Rubin’s Mono-Black Control
Rubin was reticent to talk about this deck, originally posed by Brian Kibler early into playtesting and then modified prior to the tournament. Coming into the weekend, Rubin wasn’t sure what he’d play. He knew he wanted to beat Goblins, so he picked up this black monstrosity. Look at that removal line: Smother, Infest, Decree of Pain, Death Pulse. After boarding it gets Fester and Noxious Ghoul. It even runs Blackmail over Unburden, because it’s better against Goblins. Unfortunately, Rubin hasn’t been beating Goblins this weekend, something he describes as “embarrassing”.
Against the control decks it has a lot of creatures they have trouble dealing with, like Twisted Abomination, Graveborn Muse, Visara the Dreadful and Undead Gladiator. That helps to make up for some of that dead removal. Cabal Interrogator and Head Games come out of the board to wreak havoc. They’d better have that Oblation on turn three, or they’ll find their hand severely understocked.
Alex Shvartsman’s “Bad Form”
Talking about crazy decks, take a gander at this Mono-Red Control deck. Designed by Dave Chin and Lucas Glavin, it too resides on the principle that Form of the Dragon is game over for Goblins. It takes its hate a little farther, though, running a burn package that would make any red mage happy, even Gempalm Incinerators! Though game one is good, it gets even better after boarding, because Bad Form brings in Sparksmith, and the Goblins deck will usually have subbed out its Incinerators and Smiths, so it can dismantle the opposing team. Goblins’s best bet is to beat down with Goons, but even the double Goon draw can be beaten. The deck’s performance speaks for itself. Of the five players that ran it, three made Day 2, and one played for Day 2 and lost.
Mono-White is the deck’s worst matchup, but Shvartsman claims that even that is at around 40%. Even with their Silver Knights and Dawn Elementals, they can find themselves being burned out with a quickness. After boarding the deck adds some big men, and the all-powerful Misguided Rage. The littlest Stone Rain, even when it’s bad it’s good. Even if the opponent wants to give up a Rift or a Silver Knight to keep their lands, that’s still pretty good. To be sure, Shvartsman would play Stone Rain over it in a heartbeat, but as he says: “This would be a whole different format if Stone Rain had been in the block.”
Mono-Red Control, "Bad Form"
Bob Maher’s Red-White Control
The so-called “Slideless Slide Deck” was actually designed by Brian Kowal, who Maher compliments as “totally busted in Block Constructed”. Kowal was the man behind Dave Williams’s PT Tokyo Top 8 deck, and this time around he drew strength from partners in crime Joel Priest and Dan Flood. Maher asked for a deck that could beat Goblins and Beasts (“Not that there are any Beast decks here.” – Bob Maher), and Kowal handed him this deck.
Being Red-White Control, it boasts a lot of cards in common with Slide, particularly because Lightning Rift is so powerful. It differs in that it lacks Slides and Exalted Angels. Looking at a lot of pro opinion, such as that of the peerless Zvi Mowshowitz, Exalted Angels were coming out a lot of the time. That tipped things off that they might not have a place in the deck after all.
Against goblins you have so much action in the first game, between Silver Knights, Wing Shards, Starstorm and Vengeance, and then from the board come four big Shocks. Those are also huge against Mono-White control’s Weathered Wayfarers, since that guy is ridiculously bad news. Against control you also have Decree of Annihilation to help win the mana war, as well as a pair of Temples. Maher put it best when he described the deck as “Rock Solid”.