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Business is About to Pick Up

Everyone was wondering if Darksteel was going to have any major affect on the standard tournament scene.  I think we have a simple, yet resounding, "YES!"
We all knew that goblins were a good deck.  We also have to deal with the fact that they got a little bit better.  Goblins are good.  OK...NEXT!
Maybe the new weenie surprise is the return of the elf decks.  Yeah, they love the good ol' Skullclamp too.  OK, so the problem we have here is that goblins are lurking around every corner.  This scares the elves a little bit.  But at the same time, the elves seem to beat up on Affinity.  This creates a very interesting scenario.  I guess elves are OK if they have Steely Resolve or some spell giving creature bonuses to stop their creatures from dying to the Goblin Sharpshooter.
Look at the above paragraph.  I've made mention of the deck we all hate to play against.  Yep, Affinity.  This deck was only OK, but now it's received a huge boost.  Don't worry about Affinity decks countering your spells anymore.  The popular thought on these decks is that the good ones don't run counterspells any longer.  Truthfully, why should they.  The new versions pack a lot more damage that can take you by surprise.  With help of Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager, they bring the beats bigtime.
Make no mistake about the Arcbound Ravager by the way.  This guy is the real deal.  There are some arcbound decks that use this guy.  The Ravager offers a lot of options to the decks that it is in.  You have to be a bit wily to stop this angry artifact man.  If you see one hit the board early, don't take him lightly.  That dude can seriously cause issues later in the game.  Strange as it is, the Arcbound Ravager is arguably more important than Broodstar is to the deck.
What other cards are making a mark? are some good ones: Leonin Shikari, Sword of Fire and Ice, Auriok Steelshaper (OK, he's Mirrodin).  Waitaminute.  These are all in the same deck.  White Weenie is definitely rearing its ugly head again.  There are still some arguments over which version of this deck is the one to be worried about.  There are some with Exalted Angel, some with Dawn Elemental, and some with both.  Who knows what's going on with these decks?  I certainly don't.  You can expect to see a few popping up at a tournament near you though. 
Then of course, there is the expected Blue/White Control.  The only cards of popular use that this deck seemed to have gained are Pulse of the Grid and Pulse of the Fields.  If you take another look though, Pulse of the Grid isn't even in that many versions of the deck.  It's actually turned out to be a little weak.  However, Pulse of the Fields has turned out to be quite good. 
White is definitely en vogue this season as the control color of choice.  There are Monowhite decks and even Green/White control decks.  Both of these pose a reasonable threat.  The only downside these versions of control have is Patriarch's Bidding.  If you are playing either of these, you have to be real careful when trying to play around bidding or it could be game over. 
Green isn't stuck out there alone though.  Green/Red beats seems to be making an appearance on the tournament scene.  This is mainly in the form of Beast-based decks.  These guys pack a punch.  The life gain in conjunction with Contested Cliffs can be really lethal.  Many people aren't giving these big beasts a second look, but I'd rethink that.  All it takes is a Ravenous Baloth to the dome a few times to change your mind.  I think anything with green in it right now is taking advantage of both Troll Ascetic and Viridian Zealot.  Also, Green/Black Recursion, a.k.a. Cemetery, a.k.a. The Rock, should also fall into the category of green decks that you need to be on the lookout for.
One of my favorite surprises as of late are the mono-red landkill decks.  Now, these don't look like your normal monored decks.  These include cards like Avarex and Arc Slogger.  No, I'm not joking.  These decks are being played and are serious business.  They are cheap to build and easy to play.  This makes them perfect for the average Regionals player. 
And finally, there are still black decks trying to fight there way to the top.  Right now, there are two popular decks using black.  The first is monoblack control.  This deck is a pretty easy one to figure out.  It has lots of creature removal, only a couple of creature finishers, and of course Consume Spirit.  The other black deck is the ever popular Zombie deck.  Zombies did get the help of Nim Abomination, so that it now has the ability to fight with sizable creatures early in the game.  Both decks are trying to make use of Greater Harvester.  Neither of these decks seems to have busted open any tournament scenes, but it doesn't mean that they can't.
I think it's really neat to see that the two latest Magic sets can have such a large impact on the tournament environment.  There are a lot of singles that move for all of these tier one decks and a ton more that are hot movers for the tier two decks.  Even casual players have found cards worth buying up from recent sets. 
Right now, the power level of the Standard environment is the highest it's been in a while.  I will even put myself out there and say that it's the strongest it's been since Invasion Block was standard legal.  That's been quite a while.
Anyway, before I forget, let me handle my column's weekly business.
Let's open up with a Bad Play of the Week.
This one comes to us from Martin Lankester:
I was playing a casual game and I was playing mono black zombies. I had just killed a Phage, the Untouchable.  This was great since I had five zombies and a Gravespawn Sovereign on the table.  I thought, "Oh yes!  If i get the Phage, I can kill him and win since he doesn't have any creatures." So I make a plan to tap five zombies and steal my opponent's Phage.  When I get Phage under my control, my opponent points out that I just lost.  I was quite ashamed.  I got laughed at quite and lot and I have never made that mistake again since.

This week I am offering a bonus feature of a SECOND...that's right, all for the low cost of $0, a SECOND bad play of the week.
This one comes to us from Jessee Evans:
I'm Playing a B/U Rat Prison of my own design, my opponent is playing G/w Control with Troll Ascetics.  I've lost game one and I know that only 4 of his cards worry me: the Troll Ascetics.  I cannot stop them if I don't counter them, I have no other outs against the Trolls and he got 2 of them game one.  I board in extra counters to deal with them.
Game 2, I take my 6th no-land mulligan in 4 rounds, my 3rd double mulligan.  I let this frustrate me, and it throws me off my game as you will see.  I keep Island, Mana Leakx2, Boomerangx2.
Turn one is mine, Island, Go.
He Plays forest, Birds, Go
I rip Delta, Play it, Sac for Island, say go.  (first mistake, should bounce birds to regain some tempo or not sac the delta yet or both)
He Lays a Plains and Plays a Troll Ascetic.  The guy next to me starts on a "how lucky" rant, I turn and agree with him, untap my lands in disgust ready to concede.  THEN I remember my 2 mana leaks. 
Well, here's hoping I can learn from it and that it at least made you laugh.
I've noticed that several people remember their worst plays a lot better than their best plays.  This is a good thing in some regards though, since players can learn from the mistakes that stand out and embarrass them a little. 
I was sitting around thinking about this a couple of days ago and I wondered why the good plays are harder to remember.  It's because it's simply harder to identify a good play.  Sometimes, you make the only play that seems logical, so it doesn't stand out.  But sometimes a perfectly timed play can set up the game winning spell.  Everyone also has a slightly different opinion of what constitutes a good play.  Almost everyone's description of a bad play is the same.  No real strategy lies in this fact.  It's just an interesting tidbit of information to wrap your mind around.
I also noticed that I've been focusing my card of the week choices on mostly constructed play (more specifically, standard).  So this week, I'm going to give you two cards that are both good in Mirrodin Block Limited.
Card #1:  Chromatic Sphere
This card is a bit unassuming.  If you are playing a monocolored deck and come up short a card or two, this is a great space filler.  Drawing that extra card is almost as effective as playing one less card in your deck.  If you are playing multiple colors, it's just one more way to ensure that you have the mana that you need when you need it.  The extra card just becomes a luxury at this point.
Card #2:  Leonin Bola
This a card that I always see the good players putting into their limited decks (myself included).  I think that the less experienced player passes on this card because of sheer lack of understanding of how best to take advantage of it.  This is a card that requires patience.  IF you fall back into a game plan of using the Leonin Bola, you don't really want to get aggressive except for when you are ready to deal the deathblow to your opponent.  IT can be a great tool.  It can clear a nasty block out of the way.  You can take your opponent's option of using a specific tap required ability to use.  You can stop a scary creature from coming at you.  There are a lot of things you can do with this.  Just take your time and play around with it.
My strategy tip of the week this week is a greatly overlooked bit of information (in more ways than one).  You need to review your facts.  If someone comes up to you and says that Deck A beat Deck B 80% of the time or better, examine the results closely.  How good is the players giving you the information?  What versions of the deck ware we talking about?  Who was playing each deck?  Those are all important things to know.  When someone walks into my store and reports testing results, sometime I give them a second look.  Other times I look at the strength of each deck involved.  And there are still other times that the variables involved are so drastic that I ditch the information altogether.  Relying on bad facts is a quick way to end up ill prepared for a major tournament.
And on that note, I'm all done here.
Until next time,
DeQuan Watson
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