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It's the 2008 Regionals Rundown!

Redcaps and Recaps

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Editor's note: We incorrectly identified the number of Nationals qualifiers from the Japan events. The tables below reflect the corrected data.

The letter T!his year we have a wide number of deck lists and Top 8 data from Canada, Japan, and of course the United States to discuss. If the blue and white boxes (below) seem a little strange, remember that all eight participants in one of Canada's Top 8s will get the nod to Nationals, that here in the States only four players get invited per Top 8, and in Japan it’s four in some cases, while in others just two lucky players make the grade (it's variable by attendance). Based on the data I had available, for this article, I broke down the qualifying decks by country, then aggregated them for the long view on Standard.

Here they go:

Canada

Reveillark variants
Merfolk
Elves
Faeries
Doran
Green-White Oversoul Oversoul
Green-Red Mana Ramp
Green-Red Midrange Aggro
Black-Red Rogue
Black-Blue Control
Juniper Order Combo
Mono-Red Aggro
Mono-White Control
Rites of Flourishing
Warriors

Japan

Reveillark variants
Faeries
Green-Red Mana Ramp
Merfolk
Black-Red Tokens
Doran
Elves
Black-Blue-Green Mannequin
Green-Red Aggro
Juniper Order Combo
Mono-Red Aggro

The United States

Faeries
Merfolk
Elves
Reveillark variants
Green-Red Mana Ramp
Doran
Black-Red Tokens
Juniper Order Combo
Green-Red Midrange Aggro
Dralnu
The Rock
White Weenie
Zur
Green-White Oversoul Oversoul
Mono-Black Control
Quick 'n Toast
Green-Red Aggro
Knoll Storm
Mono-Red Aggro

All Together Now

Faeries
Merfolk
Reveillark variants
Elves
Green-Red Mana Ramp
Doran
Black-Red Tokens
Green-Red Mid-Range Aggro
Green-White Oversoul Oversoul
Juniper Order Combo
Mono-Red Aggro
Green-Red Aggro
Black-Red Rogue
Black-Blue Control
Dralnu
Mono-White Control
Rites of Flourishing
The Rock
Warriors
White Weenie
Zur
Mono-Black Control
Quick 'n Toast
Black-Blue-Green Mannequin
Knoll Storm

There were few big surprises. Faeries was the top-performing deck in the United States, and a top contender in both Canadian and Japanese Regionals, making it the overall top deck for the 2008 Regionals. Rounding out the top decks were Elves, Merfolk, and the aggregated Reveillark variants, then chased by Green-Red Mana Ramp and Doran... You know, more or less the top decks from the Top 8 of Pro Tour–Hollywood (but with Faeries in its "rightful place" as the number one deck both in terms of Top 8 appearances and qualifying players, rather than the 8th-place singleton sneaking into the Quarterfinals, as it was at the Pro Tour).

Because we've spent so many articles going over some of these more well-known decks, I decided for this one to discuss some of the interesting dissenters outside of the Top 4, including some non-tribal, non- (or at least "less") linear decks that might be interesting to play for those looking for a competitive option outside of Elves, Faeries, or Merfolk.

Juniper Order Ranger Decks


Some of the Juniper Order Ranger decks actually played Reveillark as well, but I lumped them together with one another rather than with the more Reveillark-focused Reveillark variants. For illustrative purposes I selected Simard's deck, which has no Reveillark allegiance.

Basically, the Juniper Order Ranger negates the -1/-1 counter associated with Murderous Redcap or Kitchen Finks when it comes into play via persist—the opposing counters cancel out and are removed. So the basic combination is to have Juniper Order Ranger in play and Greater Gargadon suspended (that Greater Gargadon is really getting around these days!); now you play Murderous Redcap or Kitchen Finks. Sacrifice it to Greater Gargadon. It comes back into play with a -1/-1 counter, which, as we've said, is negated by the Juniper Order Ranger's +1/+1 counter, meaning when you sacrifice it to Greater Gargadon (still with the first sacrifice's removal of a suspend counter on the stack!), it will once again return to play, under the same pristine conditions. As such, you can easily deal infinite damage or gain infinite life depending on which persist creature you drew.

Of course, this deck is serviceable as a midrange positional deck as well. It has lots of nice "regular" cards such as Chameleon Colossus on offense or Firespout on defense; Primal Command is a fine catch-all or it can get you the missing creature you need to complete one of your two three-card creature combinations. Glittering Wish, too, can find a Juniper Order Ranger in the sideboard–that, or a Redcap.

Green-White Oversoul Oversoul

Erick Holstein
6th Place - Saskatchewan - Regina


One of my favorite strategies in this format is this Timmy take on green-white (in certain cases essentially all green and only incidentally white) made available by the hybrid Green or White Mana cards out of Shadowmoor.

These decks have awesome threats which they can bolster with Shield of the Oversoul. Now, when I first saw that card I didn't realize what it did or what its Constructed implications were, but having played against it once or twice, I now feel that it is a worthy inheritor to cards like Armadillo Cloak... and because it is typically attached to creatures like Safehold Elite or Kitchen Finks, Shield of the Oversoul may in fact be better!

The offensive curve on the green-white deck is pretty impressive. You can be attacking with a 4/4 on the third turn thanks to Shield of the Oversoul, or you might just go great two-drop 2/2, Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Wilt-Leaf Liege... attack with a 4/4 and a 5/6.

Because of the fair number of persist cards in this deck, Heartmender is probably better than it looks. Even if it isn't doing its thing, it is often a 4/4 for four mana via either Shield of the Oversoul or Wilt-Leaf Liege.

The Rock

Todd Brewick
4th Place - Colorado - Denver


One of the more refreshing deck lists—especially for someone used to seeing wall to wall Imperious Perfects and Civic Wayfinders, Wren's Run Vanquishers and Boreal Druids—was Todd Brewick's. Todd's deck is a much more classic take on The Rock... still the same colors as the modern Elves decks, but rather than being really tribally themed, he played a bunch of good cards that fit well together.

While Brewick's deck has the typical Gilt-Leaf Palace into Llanowar Elves, his second-turn card advantage engine is Ohran Viper rather than one of the Grey Ogre Elves, and he plays all kinds of solid aggressive cards with essentially no tribal allegiance (Tarmogoyf, Shriekmaw, and so on).

Todd's Bitterblossom tokens can actually trample over other people's thanks to Loxodon Warhammer, and he seems to have a much more well-rounded proactive game plan, topping up on Garruk Wildspeaker and Profane Command (which are, admittedly, reminiscent of Elves despite not being tribally stamped).

Dralnu


Just when you thought every Sunken Ruins in Standard was a precursor to a Bitterblossom, a deck like Jonathan Benson's, with 28 big lands and a proud and legendary lineup of five- and six-drops appears to punctuate the sameness of black and blue control.

This deck is right out of Wafo-Tapa's nightstand note book, very reminiscent of his last year's Teachings deck, pure control... almost classic.

This Dralnu deck has a fair amount of instant speed card drawing and selection. It can answer basically anything but a Vexing Shusher with Cancel and the like, and the combination of Mystical Teachings and Tolaria West give Benson a wide array of Silver Bullets. Remember, Tolaria West can obtain the singleton Pact of Negation or Slaughter Pact just as easily as Mystical Teachings.

Zur


Now on the subject of Oona, Queen of the Fae and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir—and legendary Wizards in general—we come to Nathan Zamora's Zur the Enchanter deck.

I think you will agree that Zur is just the most exciting thing ever.

When you attack with Zur, you get to do a little something, then you attack again, and you get a little something more, then all of a sudden you've locked out the entire game! Typically you will Zur out a couple of Oblivion Rings for free, then Steel of the Godhead to pull out of damage danger. Sacred Mesa is there as a bullet, a threat, and a trump for the ubiquitous Bitterblossom.

The Zur deck is also a "regular" Wizards deck with Oona, Teferi, and of course Vedalken Æthermage. That last guy doesn't just cycle to whatever Wizard you need at the time; thanks to flash, he is also one of the format's best solutions to Chameleon Colossus. Wait for them to go mostly if not all-in on mana, and pow! He is returning a Sliver—possibly an 8/8 Sliver with protection from black—to hand as a tempo-generating Time Walk.

Green-Red Midrange Aggro

Leighton Rother-Seale
7th Place - Saskatchewan - Regina


In case you hadn't seen this one before, this big take on green-red was the weapon of choice for Sliver Kids Jacob Van Lunen and Chris Lachmann, Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz, Hulk Flash's Steve Sadin, and Jamie Parke at Pro Tour–Hollywood.

Conceptually it is a big green-red threat deck... It can come out fast with a first turn mana accelerator into a Countryside Crusher or Magus of the Moon (to smash Faeries and a number of other nonbasic land–reliant decks), follow up with Chameleon Colossus, and even drop the Deus of Calamity.

Grove of the Burnwillows is fine in this deck, whether or not it had access to Kavu Predator... The deck deals extremely large packets of damage, so 1 or 2 points back from the Grove will not typically mean a whole heck of a lot.

Rother-Seale's take on the sideboard was to play even bigger (though maybe not the biggest... at the Pro Tour they went so far as Shivan Dragon). Loxodon Warhammer can make one of his large creatures hit for 3 more, and Cloudthresher, no matter what else you want to say, has a huge body, naturally.

Black-Red Tokens

The last deck I want to talk about today is Black-Red Tokens. If you watched the Pro Tour–Hollywood coverage, during the video segment where Randy Buehler and Brian David-Marshall go over Stuart Wright's Black-Red Token deck, Randy indicates that he has never seen a deck like Stuart's, and Brian gets a little sad and quiet, and doesn't say anything. The reason is that Brian had actually seen quite a similar deck, and recently, in the hands of one of his Top 8 Magic employees, Matt Ferrando!

Matt made Top 8 of the 2007 Northeast Regional Championships and actually did one better this year, advancing a match and advancing to U.S. Nationals. He did so with his version of Black-Red Tokens. Even more impressive, one of the other three slots in the Edison tournament went to Jack Calvi, also playing Black-Red Tokens, a player who worked with Matt on his deck... After a long day of Swiss and elimination Magic, the Black-Red Token deck in the Northeast had only lost to itself!

Matt Ferrando's Black-Red Tokens
Top 8 Northeast Regionals 2008


The main differences between Matt's deck and the versions you may have seen before are the black spells, specifically Rite of Consumption and Profane Command. Rite of Consumption is an alternate finisher in this deck, especially when combined with a big threat like Nantuko Husk, and Profane Command is the all-star complement to Greater Gargadon. While the Tokens deck's Profane Commands might not seem as impressive as those pulled off by some other decks, they are always very exciting. Even minor plays like Profane Command for one, returning a Mogg Fanatic against Faeries or Profane Command returning Mogg War Marshal to set up three sacrifices enabling Greater Gargadon can be huge in context.

This deck seeks to set up a good board position, typically clogging up the field so that the opponent cannot attack for fear of disastrous blocks or tremendous damage coming on the swing back. One of the deck's major advantages is that it can go lethal from seemingly innocuous board positions, due to Profane Command's ability to give a creature like Nantuko Husk or Greater Gargadon fear while pushing through a little extra damage. Moreover, it is just very good against Faeries, the top deck in the metagame, due to the combination of Shadow Guildmage against Bitterblossom and Magus of the Moon against Mutavault &c.

This deck really seems like the kind that would reward practice, intimate knowledge, and more than a little math. Ferrando said that, for example, he had a tight game against Elves where his opponent was on 20 and he only had one card in hand, where he was holding off a potentially lethal Chameleon Colossus with the lowly Kher Keep. Luckily for Matt, he was sacrificing each turn's Kobold token to one of his two Greater Gargadons, so he was getting a little value. Then all of a sudden he ripped the modest Mogg War Marshal and realized he had—or would have—just enough permanents to warp in both of his Gargadons, give them both fear, and attack for lethal... with a little help from the Profane Command he was holding. Many games for this deck involve getting paid off for good long-term plans and turning seemingly worthless boards to wins with Greater Gargadon from nowhere, judiciously positioned Profane Commands, or the seldom-seen Rite of Consumption.

The additional Rite of Consumption is in the sideboard for the mirror, other red decks, and so on. Often a red opponent will put a lot of effort getting Ferrando to a low life total. Putting a lot of eggs in the Rite of Consumption basket at the right time—typically that short window right before your opponent is going for the kill—can be very productive; not only do you not die when you gain 10 or so life, but you can put the opponent on tilt! Not only did he have to work so hard to get you where he had you, now that you've gained a bunch of life, he almost has to start over, or at least try to topdeck some gas.

For those of you interested in giving a shot to a deck that is a little bit different, Matt suggests trying Marsh Flitter in the Murderous Redcap slot (he only drew it once in the tournament) and making room for either a second Furystoke Giant or third Marsh Flitter as you make your tweaks. The deck seems to be very good against most creatures, but less so main deck against opponents like Reveillark. Luckily Matt has a very aggressive sideboard of Thoughtseize and Extirpate for those bad guys.

Good luck.

Have fun.

And congratulations to everyone who qualified for their Nationals last week!

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