Entries from March 2009 ↓

Excuses, Excuses

As you know I didn’t test the Slide deck I played yesterday at all.

So I did not receive an early birthday present of a plane ticket to Pro Tour Honolulu.

I played precisely the deck I posted previously:

3 Engineered Explosives
4 Spark Spray
3 Path to Exile
3 Life from the Loam
3 Edge of Autumn
3 Lightning Rift
3 Astral Slide
2 Wrath of God

4 Kitchen Finks
2 Loxodon Hierarch
2 Cloudthresher

4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Secluded Steppe
3 Forgotten Cave
3 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Flagstones of Trokair
2 Forests
2 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
1 Stomping Ground

SB:
4 Lightning Helix
3 Duegar Hedge Mage
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Plow Under
1 Eternal Witness
2 Ajani Vengeant
1 Path to Exile
1 Cloudthresher

Things that I would have gotten from testing:

  • Familiarity with the mana base: I made similar small mistakes throughout the day. I don’t think any of them ever affected the outcome of games, but they were still embarassing / lame. This deck has three dual lands and five basics. I kept breaking Windswept Heath during the middle turns and… (you know where this is going)
  • Ability to play more quickly. Especially at the beginning of the tournament, I kept going to time (see below). Worrying about the clock definitely affected my play overall.
  • Preserving my threats. A couple of times I ran into these situations where I kept Dredging my threats and then pulling useless Flagstones of Trokair with my card drawing. I’d say that this might have cost me my match with Gabe Carleton-Barnes, but I think that matchup is hopelessly difficult
  • Specific knowledge. Um. Plow Under is just worse than the Eternal Witness that I cut against other Loam decks! You Plow them, they just Dredge the lands, etc. LOL

Anticlimax: I finished 5-2-1 in a PTQ that should have been nine rounds of Swiss. The draw was first round. I just didn’t play quickly enough. I was in commanding position but found myself in extra turns with a total of three damage sources left in my deck. The losses were 1) very difficult pairing, and 2) the realization of my now-justifiable fears.

Round 1: Hybrid Domain Zoo

Game One:
He started off on a 1/2 Tarmogoyf and a Kitchen Finks. I didn’t feel particularly threatened and played Astral Slide. I actually had the opportunity to Slide his ‘goyf and Path his Finks, but like I said, I didn’t feel very threatened so I let him hit me. This was partly because of his choice of land configuration: He had Overgrown Tomb, Sacred Foundry, and basic Plains in play. Instead I let him get me for four and passed to my fourth turn to play Loxodon Hierarch. He showed me Mana Tithe (+2 to ‘goyf), Steam Vents, Might of Alara, and Tribal Flames. As psulli would say “Lesson learned.”

Sideboarding:
-2 Cloudthresher
-3 Lightning Rift
-1 Path to Exile
+2 Ajani Vengeant
+4 Lightning Helix

Game Two:
I got a two for one, Time Walk, and three life out of Ajani Vengeant. Completely lopsided game.

Sideboarding:
-2 Ajani Vengeant
+2 Path to Exile

Game Three:
Back on the draw in Game Three, I did not feel that I could reliably crush him with Anjani Vengeant again. He had two Mana Tithes in hand at the end of Game Two, so I just wanted the fastest response cards that were the least likely to get gotten. My strategy was fine but here is a good example of lack of testing. See #3. I should have left at least one Lightning Rift in my deck. It’s slow and does nothing before middle Stage Two, but you kind of need a way to win. Ditto on Eternal Witness. He played lots of Hedge-Mages throughout Games Two and Three, and Eternal Witness would have been useful. I tried to do the math to kill him to death with Lightning Helix but he had one too many life points thanks to top decking a Kitchen Finks on turn two of five (basically the only card in his deck that would have saved him). Then he pulled Lightning Helix to stay alive anyway… This is one of those games where I was actually scouring my graveyard to see if I had a Spark Spray left ūüôĀ

FAIL: #2 and #3

0-0-1

Round 2: Kithkin

Super nice opponent. I played next to him much of the day due to our acquiring early draws and he seemed like one of those quality people who are nice to play at tournaments while still being competitive.

Game One:
I drew nothing but Path to Exile. I don’t know how else to explain this one ūüôā

Sideboarding:
-2 Cloudthresher
-2 Lightning Rift
-3 Path to Exile
+2 Ajani Vengeant
+4 Lightning Helix
+1 Eternal Witness

Game Two:
He had a powerful offense of Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers-boltstered beaters. I made an embarassing play of pointing Lightning Helix at a Duergar Hedge-Mage with Umezawa’s Jitte… But it was 4/4. He had a gigantic amount of damage coming every turn but I had some Kithchen Finks and Astral Slides and kept most of the hellfire off. He conceded at about 19 life when I showed him my hand, including a ton of cycling lands and a Lightning Rift, so we could finish.

Game Three:
We went to time again, but my Witness was able to Slide me a hand full of Lightning Helixes and I burned him out from double digits as the extra turns went by. We only got there because of his willingness to concede Game Two.

1-0-1

Round Three: U/G/W

I played against my friend Gabe Carleton-Barnes playing U/G/W Control (Adam Levitt’s deck… not Bant Aggro-Control). This is a miserable matchup for Slide, by the way.

Game One:
Gabe played all four Ancestral Visions, starting quite early, so he had a lot of surplus cards. Therefore he was able to mise me with three Stifles. On the first two occasions, our Finks battled and he Stifled my persist triggers. On the third, I played the “evoke Cloudthresher with Astral Slide in play” trick to run around Mana Leak but he Stifled the comes-back-into-play trigger.

Basically early on he had his first two Visions plus threats. I had some less-than-exciting plays and finally draw Life from the Loam with about 30 cards left in my deck. Then I proceeded to Dredge threats. Game switched gears and just played to deck me. He had more than enough Cryptic Commands at this point to ensure the plan.

In-between games Gabe slid me a Cloudthresher that had been removed from game by the concert of my Slide and his Stifle, preventing me from presenting 59 cards. Who does that?

Game Two:
We had basically zero percent chance of finishing three games. Didn’t matter because Gabe crushed me again. My draw was pretty slow and he used the Stifles to tempo me again. He decided to “play the beatdown” despite being the Blue deck, and that worked out for him.

1-1-1

At 1-1-1 with five rounds to go, I was pretty sure that I couldn’t make Top 8 even with five wins (this PTQ should have been nine rounds), but I didn’t have much choice but to try!

Round Four: B/G Loam

I always thought that this matchup would favor B/G Loam, but Josh had previously explained to me that it is a pseudo-mirror (especially Game One) but that you have the enchantments, which are absurd breakers. The main scary card is Worm Harvest. Basically as the game goes long they can produce a large amount of power each turn and the Slide deck has a limited number of Engineered Explosives and so on with no control about what is going to the graveyard via Dredge. That means that the matchup is essentially a long race. Can the Loxodon Hierarchs and Kitchen Finks (in conjunction with Astral Slide) race Worm Harvest? The damage going very long has to come from Lightning Rift as the Worm Harvest tokens make racing on the ground impossible.

Game One:
Went long (unsurprising). He got Loam first but didn’t do much interesting with it. He took a little damage from his lands; I managed his creatures. Eventually I stuck a Lightning Rift and raced his Worm Harvest with some wiggle room.

Sideboarding:
-2 Cloudthresher
-2 Path to Exile
+2 Ajani Vengeant
+1 Eternal Witness
+1 Plow Under

Game Two:
He got a very fast Loam… and completely failed to find lands with it, burning Dredges for no value. He flipped a Worm Harvest but had no lands in the graveyard, so it was doing zero. I had plenty of time to play Plow Under (which ironically “turned on” his Loam)… But he was way too far behind on board development to exploit it. I may in fact have gone ultimate with Ajani this game.

2-1-1

Round Five: B/G Loam

I played against Nicky Fiorillo, younger brother to Grand Prix and Pro Tour Limited standout John. Nicky is always a super nice opponent, and this match was no different.

Game One:
Typical long game of neither one of us doing anything… Both of us went to Loams, but I had Lightning Rift uncontested; raced the Worm Harvest.

Sideboarding:
-2 Cloudthresher
-2 Path to Exile
+2 Ajani Vengeant
+1 Eternal Witness
+1 Plow Under

Game Two:
Put simply I drew all six Enchantments and had two Slides in play even though Nicky dealt with the first four. I had decent Loam action for a while but Nicky got my Loams with Extirpate, putting me in a kind of topdeck mode once he started making ten Worm Harvest tokens or so.

Meanwhile I was accumulating counters on Ajani Vengeant. The game went to a point where I ripped a cycling land and had double digits worth of Worm Harvest tokens staring across the table. If I could kill all but two, I could explode Nicky’s board the next turn while holding him off with my Kitchen Finks and Hierarch (and double Slide). I ultimately cycled four or five times to hold of the attackers, the finale being an Edge of Autumn cycled off a now-dead Wooded Foothills.

3-1-1

Round Six: Slide mirror

Game One:
He got Loam going first; I Exploded his Lightning Rift before it could do any damage. We went kind of back and forth for a while, him getting a fair amount of damage in, before I could find Loam. Then I realized that all I had to do was stay alive; very slowly I started building my life total with Kitchen Finks (eventually sent to Exile), Loxodon Hierarch (same), and another Finks. It became my plan to deck him as he was three cards ahead from earlier Loam cycling; this worked out.

Sideboarding:
-2 Cloudthresher
-4 Spark Spray
-2 Wrath of God
+2 Ajani Vengeant
+3 Duergar Hedge-Mage
+1 Eternal Witness
+1 Plow Under
+1 Path to Exile

Game Two:
We didn’t really have sufficient time for a second game. So I just sideboarded super defensively: Cards to fight his Enchantments, tons of creature defense just so I couldn’t possibly get blown out in the early game. Worked out.

4-1-1

Round Seven: B/U Faeries

My previous match against Slide reminded me a lot of my Top 4 match in the New York States I won a few years ago: A control mirror match where both players are capable of ample life but where damage nevertheless matters. I won Game One with decking there, too.

But the thing I was afraid of — the reason I wanted to play an attack deck from the beginning — was that I didn’t want to collapse in the second-to-last round of Swiss when I was overall playing well. That is exactly what happened in this match.

Game One he got super lucky with a Stifle to stop me from blowing up his lethal Jitte + Spellstutter Sprite attack; my next card was Life from the Loam, which would have destroyed him.

Game Two I didn’t play optimally (mostly I sacrificed the wrong land to Edge of Autumn, pulling into a Cloudthresher with only three Green-producing lands in play, but one newly in my graveyard). Still, the matchup was good enough… Only thing is that he wouldn’t concede, even though I was going to obviously win that turn (I just wanted every second).

Game Three was one of the worst errors I’ve ever made. To make a very long story short, he drew Relic of Progenitus, but I defended Life from the Loam with a cycling land (still losing most of my cycling lands). Then he drew a second. I didn’t have much but I had Edge of Autumn. The only thing is that I brain farted and elected to SLIDE OUT HIS VENDILION CLIQUE while I was at it. Take three damage, or win the game? I lost the Loam and lost about ten turns later. Needless to say this was SO frustrating as I was poised to be in a playoff for Top 8.

4-2-1

Round Eight: Naya Hybrid Assault

His deck was pretty interesting… Wild Nacatl, Tarmogoyf, Countryside Crusher; Life from the Loam + Seismic Assault.

Game One his draw was just much better than mine, then he played Seismic Assault and Loamed me to death.

Game Two I defended his creatures pretty well and went ultimate with Ajani Vengeant.

Game Three his heart just wasn’t in it (didn’t realize he was still in prize contention). I had to play pretty well to win when I did, despite that… It was a repeat of Round Two when I used Eternal Witness to gather every possible cycling card (with double Lighting Rift in play) and Lightning Helix to burn him out.

5-2-1

It stinks that I finished one match out of elimination play, punting the Top 8 on one of my best matchups. Slide out your Vendilion Clique? Really? Still managed to get out of there with several draft sets in prize support.

Yay?

Well, that was my PTQ this time around. I like being right, but I dislike losing because of fatigue, making such a solitary match-dropping error on a knee-jerk “why not avoid three damage” mistake. I still would have had to win Round Eight (which I did in real life); with even a little practice, I think I could have avoided the draw and possibly my second (and Top 8-costing) loss… But could have should have would have.

Discuss, etc.

LOVE
MIKE

Audible – The Legendary 3am Deck

It’s not 3am yet.

But I am calling the audible I think.

Partly due to every single person I know committing their Tarmogoyfs I am switching to a different Naya-colored deck, Osyp’s Slide deck!

In case you didn’t read Osyp’s PTQ winning report, here is the deck:

3 Engineered Explosives
4 Spark Spray
3 Path to Exile
3 Life from the Loam
3 Edge of Autumn
3 Lightning Rift
3 Astral Slide
2 Wrath of God

4 Kitchen Finks
2 Loxodon Hierarch
2 Cloudthresher

4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Secluded Steppe
3 Forgotten Cave
3 Windswept Heath
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Flagstones of Trokair
2 Forests
2 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Temple Garden
1 Stomping Ground

SB:
4 Lightning Helix
3 Duegar Hedge Mage
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Plow Under
1 Eternal Witness
2 Ajani Vengeant
1 Path to Exile
1 Cloudthresher

I cut one Eternal Witness from the sideboard to play a Plow Under. This is to give me another weapon in the mirror (hopefully in conjunction with that Eternal Witness).

Getting picked up at six… So good night!

LOVE
MIKE

UPDATED:

@grat9717 reminded me to wear the World’s Greatest Tee Shirt tomorrow. I might have forgotten!

Follow me on Twitter
(Follow Garrett while you’re at it)

How Card Advantage Works, Part 2: Picture of Consistency

Literally a picture of consistency… or in this case, inconsistency:

I have gotten a lot of comments about this screen shot.

What the heck is going on?

Why did I put that in the blog post?

Huh?

Imagine if you will that this was your hand and board, instead:

  1. You are attacking with a Firebrand Ranger.
  2. You have three basic Mountains in play.
  3. Your hand is two basic Mountains and an, um… Tribal Flames (there is no burn spell bad enough to use a stand-in).
  4. Your opponent is at 19.

Really?

How bad is it?

You would be hard pressed to win against a well-built sealed deck with those tools only.

And while “cards in hand” have a non-zero value if for no other reason than you can bluff, that is what was depicted in the previous post’s screen shot.

So why am I bringing this up? Surely there is something productive to talk about beyond “Blood Moon is good against Zoo.” And there is! Zoo is just a perfect example.

I told Josh today that I took out one of the Sacred Foundries from the Zoo deck I listed last time around and replaced it with an Overgrown Tomb. This was night and day better than the previous version, just one card different. Why would this be, and why would I have previously played two Sacred Foundries?

The bonus to this deck from having an overgrown Tomb is simply that it can run another set of “opposites” to cast spells. Zoo is a much more challenging deck to play that it seems at first glance, to a novice. The reason is that in most Zoo games you will have access to 10-13 mana total… That is over the course of the whole game. So you have to make sure you have lands that can cast your spells.

A two land combination that functions pretty well together is Sacred Foundry plus Overgrown Tomb; not the best, but pretty well. Ironically, Sacred Foundry ha[d] no natural partner. If you only have two lands, you are likely to have an extra source of Red, but be unable to play half your hand.

To wit:

Godless Shrine goes with Stomping Ground.

Temple Garden goes with Blood Crypt.

And now… finally…. You have the option to play Overgrown Tomb and Sacred Foundry. Of the three combinations, this is the worst. You can’t play Lightning Helix and you can’t pump Viashino Slaughtermaster. But the reason I didn’t have it is that I was phoning in my mana base reminiscing about pre-Berlin testing, when Overgrown Tomb couldn’t pump Figure of Destiny. It’s the worst land in the deck, but not applicable to this¬†deck.

Anyway, point being, if you get the wrong lands early, even though you have access to ten to twelve taps… You don’t actually get to cast a lot of your spells.

And when you can’t cast a spell… It’s almost like it wasn’t there at all.

  • Why don’t we play Nicol Bolas in Zoo?
  • Why are fast decks with low mana costs consitently better performers than ponderous mid-range decks that play a lot of weird and expensive stuff?
  • Why did I cut some Incinerates from Naya Burn, replacing them with Tarfires?
  • Why does Cruel Ultimatum leave a bad taste in GerryT’s mouth?

The answers to these questions aren’t all exactly¬†the same, but they are pretty closely related. In essence, the value of a card is very closely correlated with our ability to utilize it. We don’t play Nicol Bolas in Zoo because it is essentially impossible to cast; ever drawing it would be a mulligan.

Why are fast decks with low mana costs consistently better performers than ponderous mid-range decks yadda yadda yadda? Because if the slower deck stumbles, it loses more than a potential land drop: It loses the efficacy of the cards in its hands. On balance the fast deck “stuck” at two lands will usually be able to knock over an entire city, let alone slow mid-range opponents. Time¬†is also an issue. It doesn’t matter if the slower deck is packing Future Sight or just Future Sight cards.

So card utility — an element on which card advantage¬†inextricably relies — has to do with one three-letter word: Now.

We don’t play Nicol Bolas in Zoo because we can’t cast it now¬†(well… in this case, ever).

Fast decks with low mana costs consistently out-perform ponderous mid-range decks because the fast decks can typically use their spells now whereas the ponderous decks often have their hands clogged, doing nothing, for many turns. When they are mana screwed, fast decks can usually still play a lot of their spells; on balance, the slower decks go from being unable to play their spells this turn to being unable to play their spells ever. Why? Because the game is over and they are dead.

Why did I cut some Incinerates from Naya Burn, replacing them with Tarfires? This one is subtler. I could usually play the Incinerates… But because the Naya Burn deck would often have to operate with only two or three lands in play, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to play the Incinerate and¬†something else. That took immediate¬†utility away from me (even a little bit)… But with three mana I might be able to play a Tarmogoyf and get a blocker out of the way with a Tarfire so I could get in for three the same turn. In a format like Extended — which is essentially all about racing, in so many matchups — not being able to play the right spell this turn¬†might as well be like being unable to play that spell ever.

The thing that I like best about this line of thinking is that there are immediate practical applications.

The most obvious one is how it might affect your mulligan algorithm.

Now a lot of us play with general rules like “you have to keep every hand with two lands” … Let’s see how those theories work out when we think about how many cards we functionally¬†have, based on our ability to cast our spells right now.

(These screen shots are all courtesy of my Domain Zoo deck. Deck list at the bottom.)

This opening hand is about all you could ask for. You go and get Overgrown Tomb with the Bloodstained Mire and lay out a 1/1. You are striking for three on turn two thanks to the Sacred Foundry. This hand can’t fundamentally pump the Viashino and can’t cast Lightning Helix… But you don’t have Lightning Helix.

This second hand isn’t too bad. I know that your instinct is to not Mulligan it. That instinct would be correct. But there is a very concrete reason why you wouldn’t mulligan it. When you mulligan, you are trading this hand for a six-card hand of unknown quantity. This is a six-card hand that’s actually pretty good (you have about a one-in-four chance of speculating it into a full-on seven-card hand with the right topdeck).

Six card hand? Huh?

To wit:

The “seven” card hand only has the immediate utility of a six-card hand. With an Overgrown Tomb the natural land to go and get is a Sacred Foundry. You can’t play Lightning Helix with those lands.

This next “six-card” seven-card hand is a little bit worse than the previous one. I’ve already grayed out the Might of Alara. You actually get to play Lightning Helix for the first time, but with no Green mana you can’t play the Might of Alara. I would not mulligan this hand because you actually have some action… But unless you get to Green, you not only can’t play the Might, you can’t pump the Viashinos (so you basically have some Firebrand Rangers). It goes without saying that the Tribal Flames is a mere Volcanic Hammer… But there’s nothing wrong with that, expressly.

This hand is obviously poop. Clear mulligan – no action due to having no lands. Let’s examine the mulligan hand:

You would have to deeply consider going to five cards on this one. Of the six cards present, two are completely grayed out and I did a little half-thingie on the Wild Nacatls (no one is excited about a 2/2). I would be more inclined to keep this hand on the draw. 

Just something to think about:

  • You have a little bit better than a one-in-three to draw a¬†land on your first pull.
  • Unless that land is a Blood Crypt or a Blood Crypt proxy such as a Bloodstained Mire or Wooded Foothills — NOT a Windswept Heath — the marginal utility nothing to write home about (by the way a Windswept Heath can’t get a Steam Vents, either). So now you are down to 16% to pull the land “you want” on your next pull.
  • If your hand doesn’t improve quickly, you are certain to lose to any competitive Extended deck.
When we talk about “doing the math” … This is what we are talking about. Are you better off with an unknown five-card hand or one of the above percentages? I would be hesitant to mulligan… It would depend on more than a screen shot in the abstract.

So when we talk about consistencyI think that these black-and-white images are what we are talking about. The decks we think of as less consistent play with functionally less card advantage, at least from an opening hand perspective. Now usually they are paired with greater power… There is no doubt that a Zoo deck that can attack for lethal damage on the third turn is “more powerful” than a ho hum Naya Burn deck that needs the stars to align very nicely in order to get a fourth turn concession (not necessarily kill), but at the same time, its ability to set up those kinds of draws with so many five-card openers means that it might have certain disincentives for play.

Think of the decks we complain about most in terms of “more mulligans” … A lot of those decks only play 20 lands (or not even 20 lands). Unless they are Elves (a deck of all one drops) these decks often have problems getting past Stage One (“basically manascrewed”)… And even a modest Stage Two deck will habitually beat a manascrewed opponent.

One more time for the road:

2 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Dark Confidant

4 Lightning Helix

4 Might of Alara
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl

4 Kird Ape
4 Mogg Fanatic
1 Seal of Fire
1 Tarfire
4 Tribal Flames
4 Viashino Slaughtermaster

1 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Godless Shrine
1 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

sideboard:
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Duergar Hedge-Mage
4 Ancient Grudge
1 Volcanic Fallout
4 Ethersworn Canonist

Next:

How Card Advantage Works, Part 3: How All-in Red Works

That, or my deck for this weekend… One of the two!

LOVE
MIKE

How Card Advantage Works, Part 1: Bad Decks, Good Theory

Ironically these terrible decks I made last week will ultimately produce a very nice and useful model for card advantage that you may not be using at present. Really!

It might not be all-inclusive, but I am pretty sure it will change how at least some readers look at card economics.

To begin, I made some bad Extended decks.

Inspired by LSV in Kyoto, I decided to make B/W Tokens in Extended.

Really!

I mean B/W Tokens is a competitive deck in Standard, and recently the Philly 5K champion showed us that you can translate Block Kithkin to an easy Extended Top 4 (and if he hadn’t lost to Osyp’s infinite creature control, I’m guessing Corey could have beaten Josh and his Fae in the finals)… Fae is an Extended Deck. Kithkin can be one. Why not B/W Tokens?

Here is the first iteration:

3 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Bitterblossom
2 False Cure
1 Ghost-Lit Stalker

3 Beacon of Immortality
4 Eternal Dragon
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Path to Exile
3 Proclamation of Rebirth
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Spectral Procession

4 Fetid Heath
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Godless Shrine
2 Mistveil Plains
4 Plains
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Windswept Heath

sideboard:
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Thoughtseize
4 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Proclamation of Rebirth
3 Wrath of God

I decided I wanted to hybridize three major principles:

1) Three-for-ones. Two-for-ones are so passe. I played many cards that can single-handedly trip a Windbrisk Heights, viz. Spectral Procession and Ranger of Eos.

2) Martyr Combo. I figured that as long as I was running Ranger of Eos for card advantage, I might as well go and get the bestest available ones, and splash in some copies of Proclamation of Rebirth. At last check, Fae was the most popular Extended deck, and I wouldn’t be frightened of Fae with Rangers, Martyrs, and Proclamations at my beck and call.

3) False Cure combo. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the combo is Beacon of Immortality + False Cure. I pulled this off one time, ever. In a game I was just going to win with Dragon beatdown anyway.

The dream was to get in there with Windbrisk Heights to complete the False Cure + Beacon of Immortality combo. This never fit together and I think I won a total of one match with the deck.

This version was going nowhere so I tried one with Ghost Council of Orzhova. I have a soft spot for the Guildpact mobsters (especially Teysa), so I tried to make it a little bit differently.

4 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Bitterblossom
1 Ghost-Lit Stalker

4 Ghost Council of Orzhova
1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion

4 Eternal Dragon
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Path to Exile
2 Proclamation of Rebirth
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Spectral Procession

4 Fetid Heath
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Godless Shrine
2 Mistveil Plains
4 Plains
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Windswept Heath

sideboard:
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Thoughtseize
4 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Proclamation of Rebirth
3 Wrath of God

Like in my Pro Tour Charleston deck Teysa can do some damage with token teammates.

Between the two builds I don’t think I took down an actual match. That means they are probably pretty dismal.

But I decided I could try to resurrect a different old deck. This time I went for Gaea’s Might Get There.

2 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Dark Confidant

4 Lightning Helix

4 Might of Alara
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl

4 Kird Ape
4 Mogg Fanatic
1 Seal of Fire
1 Tarfire
4 Tribal Flames
4 Viashino Slaughtermaster

1 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Godless Shrine
1 Mountain
2 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

sideboard:
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Duergar Hedge-Mage
4 Ancient Grudge
1 Volcanic Fallout
4 Ethersworn Canonist

Gaea’s Might Get There was a respectable deck, and Viashino Slaughtermaster is offensively just better than Boros Swiftblade in a deck like this one.

Sad to say I have only ever completed the turn three big swing one time, but stuck on two lands, was only capable of striking for 10. I lost that game to Swans when he locked me down with a Blood Moon the following turn (though I “got there” match-wise, eventually).

I am not hugely in love with this deck, and if you asked me today what I would play at the next PTQ, I would for certain speak the words “Naya Burn” … But this strategy definitely has legs. The reason I like it less than the somewhat similar (though admittedly “less powerful”) Naya Burn is an issue of consistency.

Consistency is a word that gets batted around a bit in Magic (especially with regards to opening hands evaluations)… And thinking about this consistency was the catalyst to this three (or so) part article set on card advantage.

Intrigued?

What do you think about this screen shot?

Fabulous winks!

LOVE
MIKE

Deckade Proofs Have Been Approved!

… Apparently.

It was news to me!

For those of you who didn’t know we have been sold out of Michael J. Flores: Deckade for a little while now but Matt and Brian have apparently completed the next order (at least according to this blog post over at our best friend blog Top 8 Magic).

… And you know what that means!

That’s right: Clear and unrelenting hard-sells from YT post-in and post-out ūüôā

Speaking of posts, I have a nifty two- or three-parter coming up starting, um, tonight I think.

It’s about how card advantage works (and here you thought you knew).

More later.

Best.

LOVE
MIKE

Biasing Fae

You may have seen Josh Ravitz’s Faeries deck from the Top Standard Lists in the Pro Tour Kyoto coverage on the mother ship (congratulations to the great Gabriel Nassif by the way).

4 Bitterblossom
4 Peppersmoke
3 Thoughtseize

3 Broken Ambitions
4 Cryptic Command
2 Jace Beleren
4 Mistbind Clique
4 Sower of Temptation
4 Spellstutter Sprite

3 Agony Warp

6 Island
4 Mutavault
4 Secluded Glen
4 Sunken Ruins
3 Swamp
4 Underground River

sb:
1 Agony Warp
1 Fathom Trawl
2 Flashfreeze
2 Glen Elendra Archmage
3 Infest
2 Jace Beleren
1 Loxodon Warhammer
2 Puppeteer Clique
1 Thoughtseize

This is how this deck came about:

On Monday when the Star City lists and thereabouts came out online Josh wanted to chat about decks like EsperLark but I told him that I could not imagine playing one of those decks over just Faeries… If I were going to play a Blue deck, it would be Faeries over any of the Blue Reveillark variants (prevous to this the plan was to run Blightning Beatdown with eight Protection from White creatures in the sideboard). Josh was of course coming off of his excellent PTQ finals 9-1-1 in Edison, NJ where he ran circles around every Faeries mirror match opponent that he faced.

Our assumption was that the most popular decks would be Faeries, Boat Brew, and Blightning Beatdown (in that order), and an assumption of a good matchup with Reflecting Pool Control; we got some of the popularity percentages wrong, but at least knew what the top decks were going to be.

My argument was that no version of Fae was going to be advantaged against Blightning Beatdown in Game One… Why not play “all the cards that are good agaisnt other Blue decks?”

So that’s how we got to our version of Faeries.

4 Sower of Temptation
This was a number that I really pushed for: We knew there was going to be a lot of Boat Brew, and we knew that the Boat Brew matchup would improve (in R/W deck’s favor) from a difficult pre-Conflux expectation due to Path to Exile. Mistbind Clique, previously, was the roughest card out of Fae for these decks… but four Sowers is an absolute nightmare out of Fae for Reveillarks.

3 Agony Warp
This looks, I know, like a card that should improve the matchups we decided to throw away main (Blightning Beatdown, nothing spectacular in particular against Kithkin), but we positioned it for one reason: Agony Warp is one of the best cards from getting out from under the other guy’s Bitterblossom.

3 Broken Ambitions
This is the number of and card we selected for the auxiliary permission spell. Basically they all suck, but this one can silence both a Bitterblossom and a whatever else (say Mulldrifter) with flexibility.

2 Jace Beleren
Reflecting Pool Control in particular has issues with active Planeswalkers. I wanted a way to draw cards main, plus there is the curve issue (see Thoughtseize, below).

4 Peppersmoke
Like I just said – we wanted a way to draw some extra cards in this post-Ancestral Visions era. 4 Peppersmoke is the strange cousin of 4 Sower of Temptation… Scanning the entirety of the Top Standard Lists, we were the only ones that ran the quad starting, and certainly the only deck with this doubled up configuration. The reason? We wanted to play all the cards that are awesome against Blue decks… Sower of Temptation is the Reveillark nightmare, 4 Peppersmokes give us an edge against other Faeries decks.

3 Thoughtseize
And this is the finale to our “forget about trying to beat Blightning main but fight Blue” idea… Think about facing this curve with whatever deck…

  • Turn 1 Thoughtseize
  • Turn 2 Bitterblossom
  • Turn 3 Jace Beleren
  • Turn 4 Mistbind Clique

Does any other deck have a comparable best curve?

So Josh asked what we are supposed to be sideboarding against beatdown (after chuckling, of course, at our heavy anti-creature main that isn’t supposed to be great against attackers)… The answer was of course… FATHOM TRAWL!

I wanted something to tap out for, under the notion that Blue decks don’t beat decks like Blightning Beatdown with permission. Fathom Trawl is a nice card to tap out for… fills the grip with stuff like Flashfreeze ūüôā

We rounded out Agony Warp, Jace, and Thoughtseize; Loxodon Warhammer being the cousin singleton to Fathom Trawl.

Puppeteer Clique was Josh’s idea. Seemed pretty awesome. I’ll have to ask Josh how this worked out against cards like Mulldrifter and Reveillark.

Did I mention “congratulations Yellow Hat?” What a great finals with LSV meeting Nassif in a battle of two of the game’s best.

I’m sure you guys have your own takes on how you should build a Faeries deck… But these were the ideas behind our approach.

LOVE
MIKE