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Aburame Shino

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Aburame Shino's Corner

Analyzing the Metagame Part 2
May 19, 2006

    Last week I began covering the decks that you may or may not end up playing against at this year’s Regionals. While I talked about quite a variety of playable decks, I only managed to scratch the surface in the big scheme of things. There are still a ton of strategies the opponent could use to defeat you, and not all of them can be predicted as easily as me looking at the format and going “The opponent’s going to play this, this, and this.” With the release of a new set comes the release of new strategies. Whether these strategies are viable or not is still to be decided, but I will do my best to explain how these decks may or may not do.

Flying Fish

Flying Fish, as I have named it, is a Blue/White deck that incorporates the use of small flying creatures such as Suntail Hawk and Lantern Kami, which makes Pride of the Clouds a large beatstick which can become larger than the Kamigawa Dragons if left unchecked. The deck also uses creatures such as Azorius Guildmage to stop the opponent’s creatures and Transmutes, and cheap counters like Mana Leak and/or Remand (some builds use Hinder and Disrupting Shoal) to stop the opponent’s cards from ever hitting play. All in all, it’s a deck that looks kinda like White Weenie but with more counters.

This deck is pretty easy to build when you take a good look at it. This is another “dump your hand and turn sideways” kind of deck, so beating it shouldn’t be too big of a problem. If you want to beat this deck, go with a field wiper spell like Savage Twister or Pyroclasm. Both of those cards will be able to wipe out the opponent’s field, even a very large Pride of the Clouds because you’ll more than likely end up killing all the small fliers, which brings Pride of the Clouds down to a 1/1 or 2/2, which will be destroyed by the damage already sitting on it. Wrath of God will also get the job done, but in these cases I believe Pyroclasm would be a much better choice since it’s cheaper than Wrath of God and less likely to be countered by a Mana Leak when you don’t have enough mana open.

Flying Fish has a tendency to want to try and run you over really quick while leaving cards open for occasional counters, and while I personally don’t think the deck is going to be a contender at this year’s Regionals, don’t be surprised when you see it in action. Now the reason I say the deck isn’t good is because of our format. This deck is starting to look like Boros Deck Wins, which people said was going to be a powerhouse at States last year, and while it made the most Top 8s at States it couldn’t really pony up to the hype and won very few of the tournaments it placed in. So, in my opinion, don’t expect this deck to not see play, but also don’t expect it to be a deck that you should have problems against.

IzzeTron/URzaTron

Based off of last year’s Urza Blue, Izzetron is a control deck that abuses the mana acceleration of the UrzaTron in order to generate a ton of mana which is filtered into expensive cards that they normally wouldn’t have been able to cast simply by dropping an island or a mountain every turn. Cards such as Confiscate become much cheaper, along with Tidings, Keiga, Repeal, and even burn spells like Demon Fire or Blaze, which can be thrown at you for seven damage early in the game.

Beating this deck can be quite a nuisance if you’re not prepared for it, although there are a few strategies you can use to beat this deck. The first is to play land disruption in the form of Stone Rain, Demolish, Eye of Nowhere, or Boomerang. If they can’t get the tron fully assembled, then they will have a very large disadvantage against you in the long run (not like there’s a deck that isn’t immune to Land Destruction anyway). Another way you can beat the deck is to throw their kill spells back at them in the form of Parallectric Feedback. If the opponent’s blazing you for twelve, make sure they take thirteen damage for it. That way the opponent will be less likely to attempt another X kill spell for fear of it wiping them out unless they have a way to back it up.

Fungus Fires

This is another deck that has fallen off the face of the earth. Since it was quite a powerful deck at the beginning of the year, don’t be surprised if it returns. By abusing the power of Sunforger, the deck would pump out tokens with Vitu-Ghazi and equip the tokens, putting the opponent on a four turn clock and giving the deck enough strength to destroy any dragons that might try and get in the way. And if the opponent tried to do anything fancy, they could unattach the Sunforger and fetch a Lightning Helix, Char, Devouring Light, or any other card that the player feels will assist them at that particular moment. The deck also runs fatties in the form of Firemane Angel, a creature that can’t be permanently destroyed unless you remove it from the game; Godo, which can grab you your Sunforgers and attack for an extremely large amount of damage every turn; and even Tatsumasa in some builds, which not to dissimilar to Firemane Angel can only be destroyed permanently if you manage to get rid of the equipment or remove the token from the game.

Beating this deck is difficult if you don’t know what the key cards of the deck are. Mainly this deck falls apart to Faith’s Fetters and Pithing Needle which are attached to or naming Vitu-Ghazi. If the deck can’t pump out tokens every turn, it’s much more difficult for them to get their broken equipments attached to creatures. Both those cards attached to a Sunforger can also seriously screw up the deck’s tempo since they won’t be able to tutor for any solution cards and will have to wait until they draw them. Another way to beat Fungus Fires is to simply outmuscle them by dropping big creatures like Kokusho every turn. If your creatures are larger than the creatures in Fungus Fires, then you’ll have good odds of beating them down. Just be wary of their removal or you might not be able to recover in time.

Roxodon Hierarchy/Beach House

Roxodon Hierarchy is a deck based around big fatties and efficient spot removal, not unlike The Rock decks of old. With powerful creatures like Loxodon Hierarch and Ink-Eyes it can easily out fat any of the other decks in the format. Back that up with Faith’s Fetters for efficient whatever removal, Mortify and Putrefy to get rid of any creatures that may end up bigger than theirs, and Phyrexian Arena to abuse the life gain that you get from Hierarch and Fetters, and you’ve got yourself a whale of a deck.

Anyone can tell you you’re not going to outmuscle this deck unless you’re going into the game on the mirror match, simply for the fact that they’re running the biggest creatures that are efficient for their casting cost with game-devastating effects. The only way you can seriously affect them is if you run removal, and a lot of it. The deck can’t play big creatures forever, so if you Putrefy, Mortify, Char, Fetter, Wrecking Ball, etc. their fat they’ll have to resolve to using their Vitu-Ghazis as a win condition, which can be a nuisance given the proper conditions. The only recurring threats you’d have to worry about are Debtor’s Knell and Grave-Shell Scarab, both of which are very deadly win conditions if you let them get out of hand.

Rakdos Aggro/Control-Aggro

There are many different versions of this deck floating around, a lot of them versions similar to that of Orzhov Control-Aggro. With cheap and powerful creatures like Rakdos Augermage, Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, and Dark Confidant backed up by cards like Seal of Fire and Cry of Contrition, Rakdos Aggro is a deck that has the potential to be really powerful. Currently the only version of the deck I’ve tested against is my buddy Jake’s, and I believe that he hit the hammer on the head with the proper build, even though I think he should cut the Guildmages since he rarely uses the abilities.

Like most aggro builds, the deck falls apart if they dump their hand too fast and you cast a board clearer effect. An early Pyroclasm can spell doom for the Rakdos player if they don’t yet have an Umezawa’s Jitte in play to keep their favorite weenie alive. The deck also has a very hard problem getting around Paladin en-Vec since it has protection from both red and black, not to mention the first strike which is strapped onto the card just to rub it in the Rakdos player’s face. It’d get even messier if the en-Vec player dropped Worship, but that’d be unnecessary since multiple copies of en-Vec should win you the game anyway.

Greater Gifts

Greater Gifts is a deck that revolves mainly around the two most broken Dragons in the Kamigawa block, Kokusho the Evening Star and Yosei the Morning Star. Alone those cards are extremely powerful, but the deck takes that one step further by throwing Goryo’s Vengeance and Greater Good into the mix. Not only does sacrificing one of the Dragons mean you’ll gain a huge card advantage over the opponent and thin away the useless cards, but it also means a reanimated dragon won’t get removed if sacked to the Greater Good, the ability will trigger, and the game will swing into your favor. Typically this is done to abuse Yosei’s ability which gives you basically a free turn over the opponent.

Beating Greater Gifts isn’t as easy as beating some of the aggro decks that you’ll run into, because this deck is strictly combo-control. One of the ways you can at least give the opponent a hard time is if you use Cranial Extraction to remove their copies of Yosei the Morning Star from the game. That way the opponent will not be able to pull a lock on you and leave you in a terrible situation. Playing Faith’s Fetters or Pithing Needle on Greater Good won’t necessarily stop the deck, but it will slow them down quite a bit. Another way you can at least give yourself one-up over the Greater Gifts player is to throw down an Ivory Mask. That way you can’t be targeted by Yosei’s ability and they’d have to skip their own untap step since they’re the only legal target for the ability.

Ghost Dad

Ghost Dad is build to annoy the opponent with the searching capabilities of Tallowisp. In the typical build you will only see four creature enchantments being used (three Pillory and one Strands of Undeath), but the fact that the deck can get them so efficiently and quickly is what makes the deck powerful. A majority of the nonland cards in the deck are either Spirit or Arcane, so it is not hard to trigger the “Spiritcraft” ability on the Tallowisp to fetch a game-winning enchantment to either be played on an opponent’s creature or pitch to a Shining or Sickening Shoal, which would allow them to get another enchantment and completely null the Shoal’s disadvantage of losing a card to play it for free.

While the deck may seem like it’s got a lot of power behind it, the deck is actually quite vulnerable. Once they are done grabbing their enchantments with Tallowisp, the card does nothing more than sit out there and defend, while occasionally attacking. That’s where you can come in with Mortifies to destroy the opposing Pillories and completely moot the ability. This deck is also quite weak to decks that revolve around “comboing out” such as Heartbeat Maga since they won’t be able to get enough attacks in to defeat them. Just make sure you watch out for Cranial Extraction and Pithing Needle when they go to Game 2, since those cards can shut down your chances of winning easily.

Alright. So now I’ll win Regionals! :D

Just because you have a good idea on how to beat the top decks in the format doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to incorporate that properly into your strategy. I’m sure there are still a lot more decks that I haven’t mentioned that you might end up running into. It takes a lot of time to figure out the perfect build you can use in order to win your matches, and if you don’t do it properly it could backfire on you. Watch the decks and the players carefully. See how they play the deck, and use that knowledge to your advantage.

I will be heading to the Chicago Regionals in the outfit in my picture, so if you are going there and would like a bit of help feel free to talk to me. I’ll be more than happy to help, as long as you’re not asking how to beat my deck. :P

E-Mail: OrconStores@yahoo.com
AIM: OrconStores

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