Watching the Meta-Morph

Beating the Hawk...

By Matt Rogers                               26/5/11

As always with a new set, new ideas spring to mind in all of us and we are left with one question: “How does this affect the Meta?” New Phyrexia has seen the metagame shift violently, but perhaps not in the way we had all hoped for. Valakut is no longer an option, and its regular Top 8 appearances have suddenly halted; a fact I’m personally happy for. Valakut was a deck I tested and tried too many times, never sure of its power. Vampires is still a mystery, fighting its way to a Top 8 appearance in Star City Open Louisville. Caw Blade is still flying high, much to my own dismay. But Darkblade seems to be stepping out again, with that pesky discard that we all hate so much. I originally thought Caw Blade would evolve completely into Darkblade to help combat the feared mirror match. This weekend’s Star City Open Louisville showed us just how prominent Darkblade is with it being 4 of the Top 8 decks, not to mention another two U/W Caw Blades in there. We have to wonder: “What is the metashift? Are Caw Blade and its variants going to continue to run rampant over the format? Has there really been a change?”

                                                                                                                            Wanted for crimes against the standard environment...

 

Over the recent weeks, I’ve been testing, testing, testing. Trying to climb the mountain of defeating Caw Blade. I got into brewing some interesting, albeit terrible ideas. It’s important to look back in time, to when Caw Blade was just showing itself and remembering: What the heck was it that beat this deck? Elves were my favourite choice for tearing down Caw Blade, with other aggro decks (mainly RDW and Goblins) following behind. This was because it first came out with no Gideon Jura or Day of Judgement. Aggro was hell for the deck until it made this change. Once again the metagame has shifted, and Gideon Jura and Day of Judgement no longer appear in most lists. The Star City Open from this weekend saw little of each card across the top 8, with only one Gideon Jura and two Day of Judgement appearing in all main deck lists and few in the sideboards. So maybe aggro creature decks are worthwhile again?

I looked at Elves and then at the old mono green Eldrazi, then back and forth a few times. Suddenly Elfdrazi was born. This deck allowed ramping into Eldrazi at incredible rates. Turn 1, Forest & Llanowar Elves. Turn 2, Eldrazi Temple & Elvish Archdruid. Turn 3, Eldrazi Temple & Primeval Titan. Turn Four, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. So you won’t always draw god hands? Well that’s fine, because all the ramp spells you will play cost you only one mana. It will seem like every time you kept a Primeval Titan hand, it will always be out by turn four. I was getting excited with this deck until it tested against Darkblade. Until then, the Caw Blade matchup had been good for the deck. The problem appeared with Darkblade: their discard left you with a bunch of useless mana elves and no Ezuri, Renegade Leader to make them worthwhile. The times that they didn’t have discard, Go for the Throat and Dismember took care of all your ramping capability. With Darkblade so prominent right now, I felt this deck could not be worth any more of my time so I threw it in. Here is the list for any of you who are game enough to try it out:

14 Forest

4 Tectonic Edge

4 Eldrazi Temple

1 Eye of Ugin

2 Khalni Garden

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25 Lands

1 Terastodon

2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

1 Viridian Corrupter

1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader

1 Fauna Shaman

4 Primeval Titan

4 Elvish Archdruid

4 Joraga Treespeaker

4 Arbor Elf

4 Llanowar Elves

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27 Creatures

4 Summoning Trap

4 Green Sun’s Zenith

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8 Spells

                                                                                                                      Infinite life outside of a Commander deck, what a novel idea...

 Seemed like I was back where I started, the old solutions are definitely not the new solutions. I had to look into other areas. This is where I see Phyrexian Metamorph and its key placement in the infinite life combo (Leonin Relic-Warder, Souls Attendant/Suture Priest & Phyrexian Metamorph, for all those behind the loop). I know everyone sees the mono white Soul Sisters as the infinite life deck, but I think there’s something much better in G/W life gain. The reason for this is it presents more than one option. This deck sees the addition of Vengevine/Fauna Shaman combo, giving the pilot far more choices and making the deck more flexible. Vengevine/Fauna Shaman has always been known as a positive combo versus any sort of control deck, and it’s no different here. The Fauna Shaman also plays its part in fetching your combo when you don’t have it, laughing in any red deck’s face and setting a daunting challenge for anyone else. This deck also has sufficient survival against Pyro/Deceive/Twin or RUG with Deceiver Twin combo. Soul’s Attendant makes their combo useless, not to mention when you sideboard in Spellskite, giving the combo a terrible hit rate.  The reason I like this deck is because it gives Caw Blade and Darkblade a good run for their money. Vengevine/Fauna Shaman forces Caw Blade backwards, giving you more time to combo off and allows you to deal out powerful punches.  The key is how the deck naturally doubles with artifact removal. Leonin Relic-Warder and Phyrexian Metamorph will leave your opponent with little-to-no artifacts, leaving Caw /Darkblade with only Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Squadron Hawk and Inkmoth Nexus. The option of sideboarding in Divine Offering should take care of their slow infection and then your only worry is a Jace’s ultimate, something that shouldn’t be too hard to handle given you’ll have complete board control. Now, I’m aware that Caw/Darkblade doesn’t go down so easily, and rightly so. But throughout my testing, this deck seems to have a very positive matchup for either variant. This deck is definitely a Meta-Hater; it has a positive percentage against most decks in the format but no auto-win matchups.  It’s powerful in the format right now, as it presents a lot of creatures along with a fairly handy combo. I would definitely recommend playing this deck for PTQ.

4 Mirran Crusader

4 Phyrexian Metamorph

3 Vengevine

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Stoneforge Mystic

4 Fauna Shaman

4 Leonin Relic-Warder

3 Soul’s Attendant

1 Sun Titan

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32 Creatures

1 Birthing Pod

1 Sword of Body and Mind

1 Sword of War and Peace

1 Batterskull

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4 Other Spells

4 Forest

4 Pains

4 Stirring Wildwood

4 Sunpetal Grove

4 Razorverge Thicket

4 Tectonic Edge

24 Lands

1 Vengevine

3 Beast Within

3 Apostle’s Blessing

2 Batterskull

1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast

1 Spellskite

1 Obstinate Baloth

1 Kor Firewalker

2 Divine Offering

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15 Sideboard

                                                                                                                                                             The Craig Dougall Solution

 

Another great option versus Caw blade right now are Red decks. As I said before, Gideon Jura and Day of Judgement have fallen out of the current lists. This makes playing fast, spell active red decks with Goblin Guide definitely viable. Batterskull does prove a problem for red decks, but a strong sideboard plan with 4 Shatter/Crush and 4 Manic Vandal should solve this problem. Of the current red decks, I would personally choose RDW over Goblins, Kuldotha or any other red deck as they don’t take advantage of the amazing power the new Shrine offers. I don’t see a lot of hate for red decks right now looking at SCG tournaments, so if you like throwing fire around this is something I would advise playing for PTQ.

4 Ember Hauler
4 Goblin Guide
2 Spikeshot Elder

10 Creatures

4 Koth of the Hammer

4 Planeswalkers

2 Arc Trail
4 Burst Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
4 Shrine of Burning Rage
4 Staggershock

22 Other Spells

10 Mountain

4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Tectonic Edge
2 Teetering Peaks

24 Lands

Sideboard

4 Combust
4 Crush
4 Manic Vandal
3 Mark of Mutiny

 

So, with Auckland PTQ this weekend, I feel the metagame sits in a precarious balance. There is a window currently which allows powerful creature aggro in the format as long as you can find ways to answer artifacts and your mirror in the board.  I feel any aggro deck could Top 8 this weekend, and I advise you to do so. With the discard-heavy Darkblade running rampant, combo decks such as Deceiver Twin and Soul Sisters are powerful but are too inconsistent to give you a good enough chance. Caw Blade and Darkblade, as much as I hate to say it, are still powerful and will be a good choice this weekend. My only advice is finding your own board plan; any current net decklist will likely leave you chasing your own tail. Good luck to you all this weekend! I hope it all goes well for you and you don’t get mana screwed!

 

-Matt Rogers     

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