Jason Chapman



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1.7.03 - Astral Slide

A Short Rant

In last weekís introduction to my article Pojo-sama indicated that PEZ is perfect for novices. He is absolutely right. The format is easy on the pocket book and avoids many of the complex Rares that have odd and non-intuitive interactions. It is the most accessible form of the game. However, it is equally well suited for experienced and competitive players. The fact that it tends to be cheap even though it uses cards from old sets is perfect for the old school players who donít want to get involved with buying all the expensive new sets. The deck building constraints are also best taken advantage of by competitive players who pride themselves on creative deck building. Certainly decks like ProsTides and the deck in this article arenít suited for newbies although many Peasant stand-bys, like Stompy and White Weenie, are. No players are left out and as more conventions and casual leagues adopt Peasant tournaments there is more and more to offer from this format. To sum up: it is perfect for the new players but also offers unique challenges and advantages to experienced veterans.

Peasant Slide

The most popular deck right now has got to be Astral Slide. After its showing at States, and subsequent internet publicity, this is a deck that everyone is talking about and no one can ignore. Far be it from me not to jump on the bandwagon. In all fairness, I must say that there are some writers who continue to deride this deck type. They do have a number of valid points, most notably the weakness to non-creature decks like Wake. Since I believe in the deck, and since this article is about Astral Slide, these people can go stuff themselves (in the nicest way possible, of course). If you donít know about the Astral Slide decks go read one of the many articles that is floating out on the electronic aether, a basic familiarity is assumed in this article.

Of course, PEZ only allows for 5 Uncommons (of which Astral Slide is one) and the rest of the cards must be commons. In addition, the metagame for PEZ is very different than for type II. Overall, decks are either creature based (Stompy, Sligh/Deadguy Red, and White Weenie) or they can deal well with creatures (Black Control). Okay that isnít so different from the current format but the speed is, mostly because of the mono-colored nature. Obviously some changes need to be made to Astral Slide.

The first thing that has to go is the Exalted Angel. In traditional builds this 4/5 flying beat stick comes out for only 3 mana, and a Slide, and also helps the deck stabilize its life count. There is simply no replacement available in the bargain bin (except maybe Ancestorís Chosen, amazing if you can get the mana, the synergy with Astral Slide is just too good) which forms the PEZ arsenal. Besides, this deck will be very different, I promise.

Secondly, Astral Slide deals so well with creature decks not just because of the Slideís power but because of the insane amount of mass removal these decks pack. Too bad all the usual suspects, except Slice and Dice, are Rare.

Third, the other Cycling side of Astral Slide is its cousin Lightning Rift. Because these are both Uncommons we canít pack 4 of each like the standard decks do. Between this and the second consideration it would seem like the deck loses all of what makes it good for dealing with creatures, the bread and butter of PEZ life.

Lastly, most builds of Astral Slide are 3 colors, a big no-no in PEZ since there is little access to multicolor lands.

Okay, at this point we have completely gutted the deck. You may even be asking yourself, ďWhatís Left?Ē Well, PEZ has access to those good old Urzaís cycling cards that didnít get reprinted. As a result, we can run almost double the number of Cycling cards the regular deck does. PEZ also forces us to make some different decisions which allows us greater flexibility and ingenuity when designing the deck. I will eventually post Astral Slide decks for all 5 colors in the archives here at Pojo. And I will also present one of those decks here - guess which color combo now, but first I will share some of the tips and tricks that you should use in your own builds.

Astral Slide is a mana hog. The deck simply wonít run well with fewer than 24 lands, I know because I tried. It likes 26 or more. That is okay since most of the lands Cycle. Donít think, however, that you donít need a good supply of the good old fashioned basic lands. At least 12 of the lands should be of the basic variety so you donít fall a turn behind for the entire game, unless your deck can really swing back late or if you have no early drops. Also, PEZ players have two different sets of Cycling lands to choose from. The Urzaís lands Cycle for 2 colorless, the new lands Cycle for 1 mana of the color they produce. If you arenít running 4 of each you have to have a way to choose which one to use. My suggestion is that the 2 colorless Cyclers are less advantageous than the cheaper ones, unless their color is a splash color in which case you are better off with the colorless cycle cost.

Beyond deck building, knowing when to play and when to Cycle lands is very important to playing the deck correctly. I donít have a hard and fast rule for this, you have to use your own judgment. My advice is that until you hit enough mana to cast the most needed spells in your deck that you donít cycle your lands unless necessary. By designing your decks with few double color spells you can help yourself out and allow yourself to Cycle all lands of a certain color after the first comes into play. Of course, knowing when to Cycle and when to hold back on non-land spells are important decisions as well.

Just as most Astral Slide decks revolve around Cartographer for free draws PEZ Slide decks can pull similar tricks (since Cartographer and his brethren are commons) . The most basic in PEZ is the inclusion of Runes of Protection and Auramancer. I have experimented with this trick and I have found it not much to my liking. I believe it takes up too much space from the business end of the deck, is not as necessary when more than half your deck are cycle cards, and isnít as good in this faster environment. It can be useful nonetheless and it fills the critical role in the Astral Slide builds of refilling a diminished hand. If you go with the Auramancer, I suggest running 3 RoP: Red, 2 RoP: Green, and 1 each of the White and Black versions. Although over costed, Scrivener and Anarchist are both useful 1 ofís since these serve the same purpose and can rescue Miscalculation/Renewed Faith and Slice and Dice respectively. The creature Cyclers seem weak so the Gravedigger is not the best of the bunch here. If, however, you play Green it would be very beneficial to include the Cartographer combo since this is the best of all these cards.

As I have said before, over 50% of your deck should be Cycle cards, these will probably all be spells or lands. All the creatures in your deck should have a Comes Into Play ability or a Leaves Play Ability. There are two exceptions. Soul Warden is a good 1 drop for many of these builds and it will gain a lot of life for you as creatures pop in and out of existence. Also, cards that use counters, like Spike Feeder and Icatian Javelineers, are good choices since counters will be replenished when they are sent down the Slide.

Well, I think that is most of my advice, if Iím forgetting something important e-mail me and let me know. And with that we are on to my deck build, did you guess the right color?

The Dark Slide

3 Teroh's Faithful
2 Faceless Butcher
2 Ravenous Rats
3 Mesmeric Fiend
2 Crypt Rats
1 Highway Robber
3 Radiant's Judgement
2 Swat
2 Unearth
4 Renewed Faith
4 Expunge
3 Astral Slide - Uncommon
2 Demonic Tutor - Uncommon
3 Plains
8 Swamp
4 Secluded Steppe
4 Drifting Meadow
4 Polluted Mire
4 Barren Moor

As with all Astral Slide decks, this deck requires skillful play choices and rewards players who think ahead and make the right moves. If you donít practice with it you should expect to lose. It is equally strong against both creature and creatureless decks and has some neat tricks. As with many Astral Slide decks, if you hard cast too much of your hand you will have no way to refill (This deck doesnít use the Auramancer or Gravedigger combos) even though you can move through your deck with alacrity. Keep this in mind but donít let it worry you so that you become paralyzed and let the game get out of control. Your goal in the early game is to get out the Slide as soon as possible with the right land in play, cast the Crypt Rats and the Fiend/Ravenous Rats, donít be too stingy with the rest of the removal either, to avoid an early loss but be more careful with the Faceless Butcher before you have Astral Slide, 6 mana (except against Green since it doesnít run removal), and a cycle card in hand.

The Terohís Faithful, as in the regular build, are there for a nice life gain when needed. I would have preferred using the Peasantís choice of Temple Acolyte which is superior but only allows for the life gain when played from your hand. Pulling a mid-game Faithful or Renewed Faith is frequently critical as you begin to stabilize from an early game that favors your opponent.

Faceless Butcher is a great removal card for many decks but especially potent in this build. In early testing he almost got dumped from the deck since his drawback of returning his victim to play when he is removed from play comes into conflict with the Slide. Stop me if you know the answer. As Johnny Lai, a writer for Card Shark, pointed out to me, however, there is no drawback just an added bonus. When you cast the Butcher, he comes into play and his affect - remove target from game, return it if the Butcher is removed - goes on the stack. If you target him with Astral Slide while his ability is still on the stack he is then removed from the game himself. His ability then resolves removing his target from the game and setting up the triggered ability that watches for the Butcher to leave play. The trigger, however, is too late and, since it canít look back in time, the creature will never return to play again (Rule 406.2b). Oh yeah, the Butcher then comes back into play at the end of turn when you can Slide him again with the same results!

Ravenous Rats and Mesmeric Fiend are the two cards that defeat non-creature decks and extras should be included in the sideboard. The Mesmeric Fiend is preferable to the Rats since the same trick that works with the Butcher works on this guy and you get to pick the card. In this deck it is like having a reusable Duress.

Crypt Rats are another standard card for Black Peasant decks and as one of the only mass removal cards in the format it lives up to its expectations in all of those decks. The downside to these Rats is that when they explode they kill themselves along with both friends and foes. With the Astral Slide, however, they need never kill themselves or their friends and there is nothing worse than having a board clearing effect that returns over and over to threaten your opponent.

Highway Robber is additional life gain and a nice way to sidestep CoPís. Since his is a Comes Into Play ability bouncing him with the Slide is always good for a 4 point swing.

Radiantís Judgement, Swat, and Expunge are all targeted removal cards that cycle. Expunge is the most powerful but both of the others serve important roles as well. In PEZ, you are more likely to use Swat but the Judgement has more slots in the deck because it has a single color casting cost and when you need it you need it a lot more than Swat.

Unearthed is a nice Cycling card in this deck although it doesnít fetch a lot of the best creatures. It will fetch a Crypt Rat if you had to blow one early or a Mesmeric Fiend/Ravenous Rat since they come out early and tend to die.

As with all Astral Slide decks there are 4 Renewed Faith in this build. It is consistently a good card for this deck allowing extra survival when stabilizing, an emergency life gain, and a Cycling card all in one.

This deck gets a lot of hard work out of the Demonic Tutor and it is this card which lends a degree of flexibility to this deck which puts it above and beyond other Astral Slide decks. I almost went with 3 but that would drop the Slide count to 2. Having multiple Slides is just good since each one resolves separately when you cycle a card, it is also extra insurance against Disenchant.

Last but not least is the Slide itself. Black is probably the only color that should attempt the 3 Slide build, unless you go Red with Lightning Rift. At this point, I really donít know what I can say about the Slide that hasnít been said. It is good, use it.

Lightning Rift

I almost forgot that I had promised to cross post this deck from the PEZ Group on Yahoo. It was designed by Johnny Lai, not myself. I should make mention that I donít worship Johnny but I do consider him a friend and he is a very smart and very active PEZ player and we have often bounced ideas off each other which is why his name has come up so often. Same thing goes for a number of players on the Yahoo Group, you guys know who you are and that Sol Ring still sucks in your deck ;)

4 Terminate
4 Firebolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Rift
4 Sicken
4 Swat
4 Expunge
4 Solar Blast
3 Flame Jet
1 Slice and Dice Ė Uncommon
4 Lightning Rift Ė Uncommon
4 Barren Moor
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Smoldering Crater
4 Polluted Mire
4 Mountain
4 Swamp

There is a pretty good account of this deck on the Group so I wonít cover it here. This is a good deck for people who are not comfortable with the soft sly play style of the Astral Slide builds and want a quick, easy, and efficient way to blow things up and play around with Cycling. Although it uses Cycle cards, this deck is like the antithesis of Astral Slide.

Well, there you have it, Astral Slide and one Lightning Rift deck for Peasant Magic. As I said before, the other decks will be posted in the archives and the blue version is actually surprisingly good as well. I have been meaning to write an article about beating Prosperity-Tides for a long time and who knows, I may even write about that next week.

Jason Chapman - chaps_man@hotmail.com




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