Jul 12, 2010

Peasant deckbuilding and the metagame

Dear Anonymous,

As the word count of my reply was nearing 500, I realized that answering your question would take more words than I anticipated. For reference, this is what you asked:

Hey Martijn,
it would be great if you got some time to write an blog article about the metagame in the moment.

Which decks do you think are tier 1 or 2 and why?

What does a peasant deck need to perform constantly well?


You're asking a lot of questions, so let's start with the first.

The Metagame

Seeing as the metagame continually shifts, since a good deal of players is prone to switch decks between tournaments (like me for example), it is hard to predict what exactly will see play on any given night. Right now the metagame is a healthy mix of aggro and control strategies. Notably, pure combo decks have been missing lately, but I do not nesessarily think that's a bad thing. There are viable combo decks out there, they're just not popular with the players.

MBC clearly is on top of it at the moment, since it is best in this creature-oriented metagame. When the metagame shifts again though, expect MBC to post less stellar results. Ultimately it's a matter of checking the tournament results and deck lists to know what's hot and what's not. Certain players like me and Julius will probably switch decks often, while other players like Jan and Maarten are more likely to stick to a select few strategies.

The Peasant Gauntlet

Since the metagame shifts so often, it is hard to say if a deck is tier 1 or tier 2, since that depends on what the others are playing. Personally I'm more interested in a gauntlet to test my decks against multiple different strategies. These are the decks I would most like to test against, all of which I think have good odds at winning a tournament, given the right metagame.

For aggro, there are two decks I want to test against: Boros and WeeBee. Taïga looks strong, but I think Boros beats that deck every time because it matches threats and gains life at the same time. White also has the best sideboard cards of all colors, imho. The heavy burn component makes sure you test against that strategy as well.


4 Keldon Marauders
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Plated Geopede
2 Aven Riftwatcher

4 Burst Lightning
3 Chain Lightning
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Incinerate
2 Isochron Scepter (U)
3 Lightning Helix (U)
3 Searing Blaze

3 Evolving Wilds
9 Mountain
5 Plains
3 Terramorphic Expanse

SB: 4 Hallow
SB: 3 Martyr of Ashes
SB: 2 Circle of Protection: Black
SB: 3 Smash to Smithereens
SB: 3 Oblivion Ring

WeeBee is a little more controlling, with more evasion and recursion. Instead of burn it has a strong discard theme and better lifegain, which means it is better positioned against some deck in the field than Boros.


3 Dauthi Horror
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Lone Missionary
4 Chittering Rats
4 Vampire Nighthawk (U)
2 Wispmare
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
1 Stormfront Riders (U)

4 Bonesplitter
2 Unearth
4 Hymn to Tourach
3 Unmake

2 Kabira Crossroads
5 Plains
12 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse

SB: 4 Disfigure
SB: 4 Hallow
SB: 2 Disenchant
SB: 4 Holy Light
SB: 1 Unmake

The control decks in my gauntlet would be MBC, Tortured Existence and WU Thopter Control. MBC is the king of control decks in a creature-oriented metagame, but I might have mentioned that already. It has strong lifegain, nasty disruption, and positively unfair card advantage if left at a comfortable life total. The downside is that it can be hated out fairly good with Circle of Protection: Black or even Karma.


4 Crypt Rats

2 Expedition Map
3 Innocent Blood
4 Consume Spirit
4 Diabolic Edict
4 Drain Life
4 Hymn to Tourach
3 Unmake
4 Tendrils of Corruption
3 Necrologia (U)

2 Cabal Coffers (U)
23 Swamp

SB: 4 Relic of Progenitus
SB: 4 Tanglebloom
SB: 2 Wrench Mind
SB: 1 Stench of Decay
SB: 1 Unmake
SB: 3 Pewter Golem

Tortured Existence is also a very strong strategy. Sure, it has a weak point because it's so reliant on the graveyard, but you need to play your Relic of Progenitus very carefully or it won't help you avoiding a loss.

Tortured Existence

3 Spore Frog
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Wall of Roots
3 Crypt Rats
1 Eternal Witness (U)
4 Golgari Brownscale
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Heartstabber Mosquito
2 Ondu Giant
3 Wickerbough Elder
1 Battlefield Scrounger
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Ulamog's Crusher
1 Artisan of Kozilek (U)

4 Tortured Existence
3 Sylvan Library (U)

11 Forest
11 Swamp

SB: 1 Spore Frog
SB: 3 Grim Harvest
SB: 3 Nausea
SB: 3 Night Soil
SB: 3 Nourish
SB: 1 Crypt Rats
SB: 1 Wickerbough Elder

WU Thopter Control is a superb deck that doesn't see enough play here. It's win condition is impossible to fight against for a lot of decks (even Relic of Progenitus is not very good here), and it has counters to protect you and your combo. Ancient Grudge is not your friend though (maybe a case for Taïga after all?).

Schepijs rightly points out that aggro can be a problem if they are too fast and you fail to find your combo in time. Rest for the Weary might be a good idea for your sideboard, and Safehold Elite also helps a lot! I'm also inclined to make room for maindeck Preordain. It gives you something to do on turn 1, and finds the combo sooner.

WU Thopter Control


2 Sword of the Meek (U)
3 Thopter Foundry (U)

3 Condescend
3 Counterspell
3 Muddle the Mixture
4 Rune Snag

1 Echoing Truth
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Deep Analysis

1 Azorius Signet
4 Mind stone
4 Fieldmist Borderpost

2 Bant Panorama
1 Esper Panorama
14 Island
5 Plains

SB: 2 Tormod's Crypt
SB: 4 Blue Elemental Blast
SB: 1 Circle of Protecion: Black
SB: 1 Circle of Protecion: Red
SB: 1 Echoing Truth
SB: 2 Mine Excavation
SB: 4 Safehold Elite

Despite the banning of Demonic Tutor and Demonic Consultation, I think there are four really good combo decks at the moment. The best, in a vacuum, is probably Dirty Kitty. It is consistent, explosive, but also very reliant on Fecundity and its */1's surviving. In a metagame that's prepared for the deck it will lose a lot of 2nd and 3rd games. If the metagame is not prepared however...

Dirty Kitty

1 Goblin Bushwhacker
2 Goblin Sledder
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Tinder Wall
1 Wild Cantor
1 Goblin Recruiter (U)
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Goblin Matron

4 Lotus Petal
4 Rite of Flame
1 Grapeshot
4 Fecundity (U)
4 Seething Song
4 Empty the Warrens

8 Forest
10 Mountain

SB: 3 Flaring Pain
SB: 4 Nature's Claim
SB: 4 Wrap in Vigor
SB: 2 Red Elemental Blast
SB: 2 Hurly-Burly

Arcane Tide, though I am still proud of the list, is not a deck people like to play against, so I leave it at home nowadays. It also just fizzles sometimes. That being said, it is a very powerful deck that can goldfish as early as the 3rd turn.

Arcane Tide

1 Evermind (U)
4 Brainstorm
1 Gigadrowse
4 High Tide
4 Ponder
4 Preordain
4 Reach Through Mists
2 Dampen Thought (U)
4 Ideas Unbound
4 Merchant Scroll
4 Peer Through Depths
4 Psychic Puppetry
2 Stream of Unconsciousness (U)
1 Oona's Grace

17 Island

SB: 4 Disrupt
SB: 3 Gigadrowse
SB: 4 Hydroblast
SB: 4 Mystic Remora

The third combo deck is Elfball. Though reliant on small green man, and thus as prone to sweepers as Dirty Kitty, it can also proxy as an aggro decks, which means it's the only combo deck with a plan B. Also, you can run Temporal Fissure instead of Kaervek's Torch to bypass white's damage prevention completely. That strategy means attacking with small men is your only plan though, but that's a lot easier when your opponent has no permanents in play. Note that the following decklist is rather old, since it's been a long while since anybody played this deck. Matthijs did play an interesting variant with Channel for a while, but that deck focused more on the Channel + Fireball combo, using elves as a secondary way to gain mana.


4 Birchlore Rangers
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Heritage Druid (U)
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Nettle Sentinel
3 Quirion Ranger
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Priest of Titania

1 Chromatic Star
2 Fireball
1 Instill Energy (U)
2 Kaervek's Torch
4 Land Grant
4 Manamorphose
4 Distant Melody

11 Forest

SB: 1 Kaervek's Torch
SB: 4 Magnify
SB: 2 Sandstorm
SB: 2 Echoing Truth
SB: 3 Naturalize
SB: 3 Nourish

The fourth combo deck I would test against is Eldrazi Reanimator. I think a good decklist has yet to be developed, but putting a turn 2 hasty Eldrazi onto the battlefield is a very strong strategy. Of course those are ideal strategies, and Tormod's Crypt and Relic of Progenitus hurt, but you should at least make sure your deck can handle an Eldrazi entering play that early. Or accept the occasional loss of course.

Eldrazi Reanimator

4 Hapless Reasearcher
3 Merfolk Traders
2 Vodalian Merchant
4 Ulamog's Crusher
2 Pathrazer of Ulamog (U)

4 Lotus Petal
4 Duress
4 Careful Study
4 Preordain
4 Ponder
3 Reanimate (U)
4 Dragon Breath
4 Exhume

8 Island
6 Swamp

So, those are the decks I would run in my gauntlet, though obviously other decks are capable of good finishes as well, like the MGE deck I played in June's tournament. It's often a turn (or two) slower than Eldrazi Reanimator, but also a bit more consistent and it doesn't depend on the graveyard. Moosebite is another good deck, which struggles in the current metagame, but has already won a tournament in the past. If you want to include a good midrange deck to the gauntlet, this is good choice.

That being said, if your deck performs well against a good portion of the above decks, you have a good shot at winning a peasant tournament. But what about that last question, what does a deck need to perform well?


Ultimately there is no one thing a peasant deck needs to perform constantly well. Since most decks are disrupted by one deck or another, you are bound to lose games sooner or later. I do design my decks with a few thoughts in mind though, since even though you can't perform constantly well, you can at least make sure your deck perfors well in an average metagame.

1. Burn decks will always be around.
I usually try to run some lifegain to make sure I can beat burn.

2. Big monsters must be dealt with.
The Eldrazi made this point more important than ever. If you can't handle a 3rd- or 4th-turn Eldrazi, you are going to lose games with no permanents on the table.

3. A lot of small creatures will wear you down.
Holy Light, Nausea/Shrivel and Martyr of Ashes are some of my favorite tools to fight those pesky hordes of */1 creatures.

4. The graveyard is a powerful resource.
Tortured Existenc is one of the best decks, and it is not the only deck that abuses the graveyard. I never fail to sideboard Relic of Progenitus.

Well, that certainly was enough for an article. I hope I answered your questions to your liking, and I hope you had a good read. Until next time, have fun!