Cook’s Kitchen – GP Ghent Results & Analysis
This past weekend was the European Grand Prix for 2012, in Ghent. A Grand Prix won by something I know a bit about – STORM! It was piloted by Timo Schünemann. Although unlike my list, Timo was playing an ANT variant and not T.E.S. When looking at the top eight finishing decks from the event there are mostly expected decks and some surprising exclusions from the top 8. We’ll get to the exclusions in a bit, for now, let’s look at the top 8 decks:
Even though he was playing ANT I’m glad that Timo took it down while slinging some Ad Nauseam. The main deck looks pretty standard other than a few things. A one of Chrome Mox isn’t exactly the norm, neither is the protection package. One of the big differences between T.E.S. and ANT is that ANT doesn’t normally play Chrome Mox. ANT tries to have a longer, more stable game in some match-ups whereas T.E.S. keeps the same game plan versus all decks. In order to have that more stable game plan ANT uses more lands in the slots that T.E.S. has Chrome Mox. It was interesting to see the one-of Mox inclusion.
Looking at the protection package there is Gitaxian Probe, Cabal Therapy, Duress and a singleton Inquisition of Kozilek. I don’t like Gitaxian Probe in ANT. There are a couple of reasons, the first being that ANT is a bit slower of a combo deck than Belcher or T.E.S. Playing Probe in the early game could make the card useless by the time the deck is able to go off. What I do like about Probe is the ability to quickly gain Threshold for Cabal Ritual and being easy to flashback from Past in Flames. I understand the synergy that Probe has with Cabal Therapy, but on its own Cabal Therapy is rather weak. Yes, it can hit Thalia or Force of Will, but it doesn’t see the Green Sun Zenith in the opener that’s going to find Gaddock Teeg or the Counterbalance that’s coming down on turn two. I believe that some number of Inquistions and Thoughtseizes would’ve better filled the role.
While I’m glad to see that this list is playing Burning Wish, I think the sideboard plays too many non-sorcery cards. The Dread of Nights I don’t believe are very good but I continue to see them in ANT sideboards. Just one of the card doesn’t stop a Gaddock Teeg or AEthersworn Cannonist. If people were only playing Thalia as hate-bears I could understand, but not when there are other options. Not to mention that most lists play three Qasali Pridemage! A creature that lives through Dread of Night AND destroys it. Grafdigger’s Cage isn’t as desirable as people would think against Reanimator. An ANT player may catch the Reanimator player off guard with it for game two but game three they have the option of siding in Show and Tell to just ignore the graveyard hate.
At first glance this list seemed fine to me. Now after reviewing it, there’s some cause for concern. I’ll start with an opinion that I wrote an article about – Stoneforge isn’t good right now! I would be running Geist of Saint Traft. Probably I would run a list similar to the decks that did well in Atlanta. But if I were to run Stoneforge Mystic, I would be running a Sword of X and Y. Only an Umezawa’s Jitte and Batterskull appears weak to me, especially since Stoneforge is a four-of in the deck! What startled me is that there are TWO Karakas in the main deck! Two. Not one for the main deck for cute Vendilion Clique tricks and another in the side for Reanimator and Sneak Show. Seems ridiculous to me.
Only Three Force of Will in this metagame is questionable to me. Even with Spell Pierce and Thoughtseize. The random Engineered Explosives should probably be the fourth Force of Will. If someone really wanted to keep the Explosives cut the second Karakas for an Academy Ruins to provide the recurring threat of being returned.
UB Show and Tell
I am baffled that this deck made the top 8. Was no one playing counter spells or discard and Surgical Extraction? Meddling Mage naming Show and Tell? It’s frustrating seeing a deck so poorly designed do so well. It’s a one trick pony. If the deck cannot find one of its four–ofs in the main deck it just loses.
The transformational sideboard is cute, but is it really enough? I don’t believe so.
The deck is a mixture between Sneak Show and Reanimator, but I don’t believe that it does anything better than either one of the other two decks.
Reanimator has the ability to put the creatures in the graveyard and reanimate as the primary goal, then as a back-up plan Show and Tell them into play. Sneak Show at least has Sneak Attack! This deck is all Show, no Sneak, no Reanimate… Alright, that doesn’t work. But you get the idea. The game plan is too narrow and I don’t see the sideboard being as effective as it seems.
I just don’t understand how this made the top 8. I just don’t.
Glad to see Combo Elves continuing to do well. It’s a deck I almost have completed. When looking down the list, the first thing I find awkward or weird is three Gaea’s Cradle. Initial mana sources are a big deal with this deck and hands become easy mulligans with only a Cradle for mana. Next is Pendlehaven, I’ve yet to use this card other than to tap for a green. I’m going to suggest that it’s a one-of Cavern of Souls to tutor for with Crop Rotation against blue decks. To round out the mana base a bunch of Forests. Why are some Snow-Covered? Why are there no fetches? To avoid Stifle? I’m confused.
I continued down the list saying, ”This looks about right” until I got to the two Ezuri, Renegade Leader. This is interesting to me. I considered one over the main deck Viridian Shaman that most lists play. Without Viridian Shaman, the deck loses to an Umezawa’s Jitte pretty badly. Which caused me to keep the Shaman. I’ve been running Mirror Entity due to its ability to turn Wirewood Symbiote into an Elf and bounce itself and draw off of Glimpse of Nature. But the ability to be put into play from Green Sun’s Zenith is very good. Without the need of white mana, it’s probably right that Birchlore Rangers went down to two. I’ll probably be adding a one of Ezuri to my list.
The sideboard looks good for the most part. I would however, like to see something better over Scattershot Archer. Too cute in my opinion, I don’t know if that card would ever be relevant.
These lists are pretty similar for the most part except for the color splashes. When comparing the two lists, the first major difference I see is the argument between Counterspell versus Counterbalance. As much as I hate Counterbalance and the people who enjoy playing it. If push came to shove and I had to choose between one of the two, I’d be running Counterbalance. The deck is already running Sensei’s Diving Top, why not live in Valuetown and get a couple of more spells countered for the same amount of mana?
The other big difference I see is the numbers on win conditions. Three Snapcasters or two and two Vendilion Clique? I’m going to vote for Vendilion Clique, the deck is already running a Karakas and it can actually get in there to win a game. In order for Snapcaster to win a game, the game must already be over, the deck is just waiting on a win condition. Vendilion Clique is faster and has evasion. Faster and evasion could be used for Entreat the Angels! I would play two of this card, one seems too random for my tastes. It’s the one card I truly feared this past month playing against Miracles with RUG Delver. The deck can’t deal with it if it resolves. Maverick can, but more than likely it’s going to win the game if it’s for at least three angels.
Both lists were packing three Jace, the Mind Sculptor, the difference was one was playing an Elspeth. The white Planeswalker is good, there’s no question there. However, in a deck with so few creatures the value of the card goes down. It’s simply a four mana token generator for the most part, which isn’t terrible. But an Entreat the Angels in that slot bringing Entreat up to two copies would’ve been better.
To play the Standstill package or not? Not. It’s just not necessary to ruin the manabase even more in an already three color deck by playing Mishra’s Factory. What does the deck really gain from playing Factory? It can be slightly more aggressive but the deck could’ve done that already by playing some number of Vendilion Clique. It can block creatures well, so there’s that. But in a deck with 3-4 Terminus, Swords to Plowshares, and Snapcaster Mages is blocking really needed? Probably not, use your face.
The most interesting difference between these two lists is the color splashes out of the sideboard.
Thoughtseize vs. Red Elemental Blast (Thoughtseize wins) Nihil Spellbomb vs. Sulfur Elemental (Sulfur Elemental wins)
Thoughtseize is just the better card at the moment. Taking non-Blue cards such as Sneak Attack, Gristelbrand, Ad Nauseam, etc. Being proactive has huge advantages in the deck since everything else is reactive. There’s also the information aspect that gives Thoughtseize the extra boost over Red Elemental Blast.
Nihil Spellbomb could easily be Tormod’s Crypt, but since the deck was already in black I understand its inclusion. The added benefit of hard-casting Surgical Extraction is nice too. But having Sulfur Elemental out of the sideboard is nice against Maverick, keeping their Thalias off of the table in a deck full of non-creatures is rather important.
If I had to pick one of these lists to pilot tomorrow, it’d be the UW splash black Miracles.
Well, this is a Junk list – that’s for sure. I think the lands in the deck look fine other than the fact that there’s no basic Forest. But then again, I’m not sure it’s needed. What does the deck need to cast for just a green mana. If the deck was in some short of Crucible Wasteland lock, it would be fine using a land as a Lotus Petal.
Nine creatures seems a bit low, even with the three Lingering Souls. The forth Liliana should probably become a second Tarmogoyf. A thought that I had and it could be a bad one, but why not Terravore over Tarmogoyf? Seems awesome to me. The deck puts plenty of lands in the graveyard, between Knights, fetchlands, Mox Diamonds, Wasteland, and Life From the Loam. Then there’s your opponents lands! Two Terravore could be a serious threat in a deck like this.
Another small change, the fourth Sensei’s Diving Top, I’d probably make it a second Thoughtseize. In a deck like this, there’s no real way to dispose of too many tops. There’s drawing a card and searching or dredging with Life From the Loam (A singleton).
When glancing at the sideboard, I’m left a bit confused. Ghastly Demise? Engineered Explosives? Someone tell Tristan that the Junk colors just happen to be the same colors that meet the requirement for Pernicious Deed. Deed is just too good to not play when playing black and green. Ghastly Demise over Path to Exile is something I may just be missing. I might be forgetting about something, but the ability to always remove the creature over sometimes just seems huge to me. Color restrictions and possibly not having enough cards in the graveyard make Demise the lesser choice.
I’m happy to see the continued play of Cavern of Souls in Maverick. With a large number of the creatures today being humans or changed to be human through errata there’s no reason to not be playing Cavern.
The argument I’m having in the back of my head while reviewing this list is why Aven Mindcensor over more Qasali Pridemage and Scavenging Ooze? I’ve never been a fan of the bird, I don’t think it’s ability is effective enough to warrant any slots. The one reason this is still an argument is the fact that it’s a bird – it flies. Evasion is something Maverick lacks and Exalted creatures plus flight is very good. Something people could learn from M13 limited. That said, I still think the third copies of Pridemage and Ooze would be better than Aven Mindcensor.
If you’re going to run Stoneforge Mystic, I’m fine with it only having two copies. I ran a similar configuration in a local last week with two Umezawa’s Jitte and a Sword. I choose Feast and Famine over Light and Shadow. Swinging through green creatures is kind of a big deal, I understand wanting to have protection from Swords to Plowshares. Let’s be honest though for a second, the return a creature ability is more cute than useful. It had to be countered and then not removed from the game via Swords or Path. Forcing the opponent to discard a card improves the decks bad match-ups. Combo.
Garruk Relentless is interesting. It’s in lists from time to time, I’ve never played it myself. I’ve found that it dies to too many creatures in Legacy to live and flip. I’d much rather Garruk be a second Elspeth.
What does this mean for Legacy?
Where were RUG Delver/Canadian Threshold, Sneak Show, Reanimator, and Dredge? For these decks being within the upper tier, they didn’t do so well. Out of the entire top sixteen there was one RUG Delver/Canadian Threshold deck and the others were nowhere to be found.
A very odd top 8. For all of the people who are very “Ban!” happy on all of the message boards? Why weren’t these decks successful in Europe?
Sneak Show’s uprising is looking like it’s because people weren’t prepared for Griselbrand combo. People have adapted, part of the adaptation was players picking up Reanimator. The natural foil to Sneak Show, being able to proactively and reactively interact with Sneak Show was huge. Not to mention, the deck was just as fast. With Sneak Show’s numbers down, Reanimator hasn’t done as well (as it had been) in recent events. Dredge has been getting hit by splash hate from Reanimator. The trickledown effect here is huge.
Then there’s RUG Delver/Canadian Threshold, I don’t even know what to say. The deck has a fine UW Miracles/Esperblade match-up and it does well versus combo and Elves. Poor players? Bad match-ups? I just don’t know.
The results of the European Legacy Grand Prix Ghent 2012 are in! Ghent was an interesting top 8. The format continues to look healthy even though some of its prominent decks were absent .
Well that’s all for this week, come back again next week! Until then, keep storming!
Bryant Cook on MTG the Source