In 2004, Julien Nuijten won the Magic World Championship with a GW Astral Slide deck. The win cemented Nuijten as the rookie of the year and as the youngest person to ever win a pro tour event. Nuijten was 15.


Though I was older than Nuijten at the time—I had just turned 17—the fact that a kid could win the biggest Magic event of the year was inspirational to me. Here was a kid who couldn’t even sign his name properly, triumphing in the top eight over guys like Gabriel Nassif and Kamiel Cornelissen. It made me think that maybe if I focused a little bit more on Magic, I could finally win a match against Tom Guevin,  the pro tour veteran who terrorized my LGS at the time.

Though Nuijten’s age and skill level were remarkable at the time, it was the GW Slide decklist itself that still resonates with me today. The deck is a thing of beauty:

WG Slide 2004 World Championship

Creatures (12)
Viridian Shaman
Eternal Witness
Eternal Dragon

Spells (23)
Wrath of God
Renewed Faith
Astral Slide
Akroma’s Vengeance
Decree of Justice
Plow Under
Wing Shards
Rampant Growth
Lands (25)
Secluded Steppe
Tranquil Thicket
Windswept Heath

Sideboard (15)
Rude Awakening
Scrabbling Claws
Circle of Protection: Red
Plow Under

For those unfamiliar with the deck, it is a control shell with Astral Slide as engine and additional control element. With Astral Slide in play you could  repeatedly blink Viridian Shaman to blow up Cranial Platings (Affinity was like 30% of the meta at the time) or Eternal Witness to grab a cycler and keep the slide going. The deck won with the recursive Eternal Dragon or with a giant Decree of Justice.

The only thing this deck was missing for me was Lightning Rift. Lightning Rift and Astral Slide are the peanut butter and jelly of cycling strategies. Astral Slide could flip up your morphed Exalted Angel or temporarily exile an attacker and Lightning Rift could shock your opponent at the same time. It was an enchantment marriage blessed by Serra herself.

Ever since piloting the GW Slide and RW Rifter decks of yore, I’ve wanted to recreate that cycling magic. Unfortunately, Rifter is not really a competitive Legacy deck, the cards aren’t Modern legal, and it seems a bit ambitious to try to build an EDH deck around Lightning Rift, Astral Slide, or cycling in general. Then I heard about Tiny Leaders and I realized in this 25 life one-on-one format, I could once again live the cycling dream. Both Astral Slide and Lightning Rift cost three CMC or less so no problem right?

The problem I found right out of the gates is that the win conditions of most old Slide lists, aside from Lightning Rift, cost more than three. Eternal Dragon, Decree of Justice, and Exalted Angel are no go’s in this new format. Futhermore, a lot of the control elements in the deck cost more than three, just about all white wrath effects, including the cycling Akroma’s Vengeance, were also out. To top it off, a lot of cyclers I’d want to play also cost more than three, despite cycling for less; that means no Slice and Dice, Deadshot Minotaur, or Jungle Weavers. Fortunately, since the days of Onslaught/Mirrodin standard, Wizards has printed plenty of good blink creatures, a few new cyclers, Life from the Loam which works really well with cycling lands.

I sat down to build a deck this week with cards I had scattered in my collection. This is what I came up with:

Tiny Leaders—Marastral Slide

General (1)
Marath, Will of the Wild

Land (20)
Arid Mesa
Clifftop Retreat
Drifting Meadow
Forgotten Cave
Jungle Shrine
Razorverge Thicket
Rith’s Grove
Secluded Steppe
Slippery Karst
Smoldering Crater
Stomping Ground
Tranquil Thicket
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Instant (9)
Akroma’s Blessing
Naya Charm
Lightning Bolt
Renewed Faith
Spark Spray
Sunfire Balm
Swords to Plowshares

Sorcery (4)
Devil’s Play
Edge of Autumn
Life from the Loam
Martial Coup

Enchantment (4)
Astral Slide
Lightning Rift
Oblivion Ring
Sterling Grove

Creature (12)
Avacyn’s Pilgrim
Elvish Visionary
Llanowar Elves
Wall of Roots
Elvish Mystic
Blade Splicer
Eternal Witness
Centaur Healer
Knight of the Reliquary
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Wall of Omens
Stoic Champion

We have 13 cycling cards in the main deck, about 26%. If we look to Nuijten’s list for guidance, 20 of his cards, or 33% cycle. Ideally, I’d like to play a Guilded Light to perhaps mise a win against a combo deck and a Lull  as an additional fog effect that cycles. The addition of these cards would bring us up to 15 cards or right around 30% cyclers, which seems more than reasonable. Here is the breakdown of the rest of the deck:

Ramp: I actually have no idea the appropriate amount of ramp to have in a deck that maxes out casting cost at three. However, given that we do have a lot of three drops we’d like to play a turn early and could use additional mana later in the game to activate Lightning Rift, I like playing a few mana dorks. If I had a Birds of Paradise laying around it would be in the deck, right now I’ll have to stick with the elf crew: Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Llanowar Elves, and Elvish Mystic.

ETB Creatures: Since Astral Slide is a good way to blink our own creatures we have a few cards with into the battlefield abilities. Elvish Visionary and Wall of Omens draw cards, Centaur Healer gains life, and Blade Splicer makes dudes. Kitchen Finks and Reclamation Sage should ideally be in this list, I just couldn’t find any.

Life from the Loam package: Six cycling lands and Life From the Loam means that we get to cycle through our deck while also triggering Astral Slide and Lightning Rift. Since we’re putting a bunch of lands in the graveyard, I wanted to also try out Knight of the Reliquary. Though his power and toughness waxes and wanes while in the middle of Loaming back lands, this card will generally be bigger than just about everything on the field anyway. I like the idea of also including a Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows package in here since we’re likely to find both pieces while cycling/dredging through the deck.

Removal: Though Astral Slide/Lightning Rift and cyclers are fine at removing most threats, I wanted a few catch all removal spells to make sure I could get to the point of the game where I can just sit back and cycle. Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolt are efficient removal spells while Naya Charm and Oblivion Ring deal with most problematic permanents. Lastly we have two sweepers in the form of Starstorm and Martial Coup.

Finishers: In the event that Lightning Rift has somehow been banished to the aether, this deck can win with dorky creatures or via a giant Devil’s Play, or a giant flash-backed Devil’s Play for that matter. Oh yeah, and I guess Marath, the general of the deck, can also close out games too. I mean, if you’re into playing your commander.

I managed to get in a few games with the deck against a friend’s voltron style Daxos of Meletis deck. I won our set of games pretty handily though he refused to let me have Astral Slide in play for more than a turn in either game. He’s kind of a jerk like that.

This is my first Tiny Leaders deck and I haven’t built a real sideboard given that my meta currently consists of one friend and my little brother. Regardless of my inexperience, I’m really jazzed on the format and am looking to continue building new decks. If anyone wants to play some games in the Boston area, get at me.


At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities and plays guitar in an indie-pop band.

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