This week in PTQing for Berlin

Three more PTQ top eights appeared this week, although apparently after Mike Flores’ most recent Swimming with Sharks column. He covers “one and a half” of them in his column, but there was some interesting material in the remaining builds that he didn’t have a chance to address.
As always, you can read the collected decklists here.
The most notable trend from the top eights is the lack of Kithkin, and the concomitant lack of maindeck countermeasures against Kithkin. In this most recent batch of PTQs, we see people preferentially putting their mass removal into the sideboard. This feels like a hopeful thing to me, as I find that having to account for a lot of Kithkin opposition really skews my prospective decklists. That said, this is exactly the kind of metagame thing that can swing back and forth week to week — after all, if too many people decide not to bother really stopping Kithkin, it suddenly becomes a tremendously good deck. Again.
In the extended, I take a look at three decks that caught my eye. We have Utility Horde, featuring a collection of useful creatures riding on a wave of Faerie Rogues from the Blossom, Primal Elementals featuring a ton of elementals and four Primal Commands in the maindeck, and Elf Party, an Elf deck that features many non-Elf party guests.


Raczka Utility Horde

24 Creatures:
Scarblade Elite
Kitchen Finks
Murderous Redcap
Chameleon Colossus
Mulldrifter
Shriekmaw
Cloudthresher
11 Spells:
Bitterblossom
Nameless Inversion
Profane Command
25 Land:
Fire-Lit Thicket
Forest
Gilt-Leaf Palace
Reflecting Pool
Sunken Ruins
Swamp
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
15 Sideboard:
Cloudthresher
Firespout
Guttural Response
Midnight Banshee
Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
Puppeteer Clique

David Raczka’s third-place finisher from the enormous PTQ at Indianapolis breaks away from the standard five-color build we’ve seen so far in this PTQ season to focus on even more utility creatures, reach, and a swarm of Faerie Rogues. During my scroll through the decklists, the first thing that caught my eye was the Bitterblossoms in a non-Faerie-non-Doran build, but after looking through here, David has clearly made some solid choices.
All his creatures do something other than just (to quote Zac Hill) “attacking and blocking.” The Colossus is perhaps the most prosaic, being simply a pumpable pro-black guy. Over half the creatures do something as they come into play, and the Scarblade Elites let you reuse each Nameless Inversion as an additional kill spell, along with reusing each dead Colossus, Elite, or Redcap. Synergy.
We see the Firespouts in the sideboard, sharing space with Midnight Banshee and Puppeteer Clique. I’m not sure why the Banshee’s there — is it to carve up Kithkin builds, or against Persist? Notably, the Banshee mutilates half the creatures in your own deck, which is a touch unfortunate.
Kim Primal Elementals

29 Creatures:
Flamekin Harbinger
Festercreep
Smokebraider
Wispmare
Incandescent Soulstoke
Mulldrifter
Reveillark
Shriekmaw
Horde of Notions
Cloudthresher
11 Spells:
Nameless Inversion
Makeshift Mannequin
Primal Command
20 Land:
Fire-Lit Thicket
Graven Cairns
Mystic Gate
Reflecting Pool
Sunken Ruins
Vivid Crag
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Wooded Bastion
15 Sideboard:
Festercreep
Firespout
Makeshift Mannequin
Shriekmaw
Sower of Temptation
Sunken Ruins
Wispmare

Alex Kim’s sixth-place finish at Indianapolis came with this quirky-at-first-glance elementals build that looks to abuse eight tutors and multiple return effects to get maximum value out of the elemental tribe. The first thing that caught my eye here was the paucity of lands — with only twenty, Alex is relying on Smokebraiders to get him up to speed, and most likely on Evoke effects to let him live through the early game against particularly aggressive decks. One imagines the early game is some progression of Harbinger into Smokebraider into whatever (possibly Soulstoke, as you can start throwing Drifters and other creatures with comes-into-play effects onto the field as soon as Soulstoke comes online).
I wonder at the durability of this approach. Whenever I played against an elementals deck at the first two PTQs at Hollywood, I just killed Braiders and Stokes on site.
The quadruple Primal Command is interesting — this is the first time I’ve ever seen that in a maindeck (I only ever topped out at three in any of my builds). The confluence of lifegain and tutoring for elementals seems particularly nice given how this deck hopes to work.
Once again, we see the mass-sweepers in the sideboard.
Elf Party

28 Creatures:
Scarblade Elite
Wren’s Run Vanquisher
Kitchen Finks
Chameleon Colossus
Masked Admirers
Mulldrifter
Shriekmaw
Oona, Queen of the Fae
7 Spells:
Nameless Inversion
Profane Command
25 Land:
Forest
Gilt-Leaf Palace
Reflecting Pool
Sunken Ruins
Swamp
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
15 Sideboard:
Cloudthresher
Eyeblight’s Ending
Incremental Blight
Puppeteer Clique
Thoughtseize

I’m calling Justin LaRose’s seventh place finisher from the Philadelphia PTQ “Elf Party” because it’s a sort of “elves with friends” build. Clearly, it has the basic, basic spine of an Elf deck, with Vanquishers and Admirers, as well as the Scarblades to once again get multiple uses out of Inversions and such. Much like one of the Elf decks seen in Standard in Regionals, it includes Mulldrifters for card advantage. It expands this pool of friends to include an Oona, some Ouphes, and Shriekmaws.
Yet again, sweepers go in the side, where we see four Incremental Blights. We also have the Puppeteer Cliques, and I have to admit I’m not sure when this deck sides those in.