Rhox Meditant Again

Believe it or not, “Primal Command I Guess?” was supposed to be part of “The Return of Chameleon Colossus!” but “Primal Command I Guess” got really long, and “The Return of Chameleon Colossus!” … um… also long-ish!

And then there was that whole thing about the fight scene on 8th Avenue 🙂

Long story short, I actually made a Rhox Meditant-based deck the same night that I started working on the Cascade deck from “Primal Command I Guess?” … It was weird. I won the first ten-ish matches and got bored already; plus there were all those Bloodbraid Elf mirrors. So I decided to borrow a feather from Saito’s cap and go with Rhox Meditant for additional card advantages / Bloodbraid Elf trumping.

Rhox Meditant falls kind-of in the Civic Wayfinder camp. One of the reasons that Civic Wayfinger decks like Jund Mana Ramp are so effective against Five-color Blood et al is that Civic Wayfinder pre-empts and profitably matches a Bloodbraid Elf. The Civic Wayfinder has superior speed to the Bloodbraid Elf and trades with it heads-up. The Civic Wayfinder goes and gets a card; the Bloodbraid Elf goes and gets a card. Which card is superior? It’s hard to say. Sometimes a Boggart Ram-Gang is better than a basic Swamp. Usually the basic whatever the Civic Wayfinder gets is 100x better than whatever the Bloodbraid Elf gets (this is in-matchup we are talking about). A Boggart Ram-Gang is a real threat, but a Putrid Leech might or might not be. A Maelstrom Pulse might be relevant, then again might not be.

Rhox Meditant is very similar to a Civic Wayfinder. It is not of superior speed to a Bloodbraid Elf; it is of equal speed (which is kind of superior speed when you go first). It is, however, of superior size. Yes, six is bigger than five. But more importantly, it has exactly enough power to down a Bloodbraid Elf and exactly enough toughness to weather a Bloodbraid Elf. Therefore it counteracts the Bloodbraid Elf’s body, and more; as for the bonus cards? Usually the Bloodbraid Elf will have the upper hand; a Rhox Meditant is not a Civic Wayfinder: There is absolutely no “aim” to it. But then again, when you topdeck a Rhox Meditant under pressure, you are probably happier to see it late in a game than a Civic Wayfinder.

That said, as an anti-Bloodbraid Elf deck, this one plays both 🙂

Rhox Meditant Deck aka Slow Cascade version 1.2

4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Rhox Meditant

4 Civic Wayfinder
2 Primal Command

4 Exotic Orchard
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
4 Forest
4 Jungle Shrine
1 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Savage Lands
1 Swamp
1 Wooded Bastion

sb:
4 Anathemancer
4 Cloudthresher
2 Primal Command
4 Aura of Silence
1 Volcanic Fallout

Why is it version 1.2? The original version had main deck Behemoth Sledge over Primal Command. I was seeing the efficacy of Primal Command in the other deck, and was playing it in the sideboard of this one. However Behemoth Sledge seemed like a good addition to the strategy based on wanting to ramp up bodies of Civic Wayfinder or Rhox Meditant (not huge), or giving Enlisted Wurm trample (double huge).

This was changed from version 1.0 for the following reason…

You know how we guru masterminds always say to make the tightest play, you know, while rubbing our fictitious beards? Well in at least one case I didn’t do so and it cost me.

I won about ten matches with this version, against a variety of decks, and only lost one. This is how I lost it:

I am playing against a Five-color Bloodbraid Elf variant. His fifth color comes out the very last turn of the first game, where he Counterspells my game-winning Enlisted Wurm, taps my team, and kills me. “Game winning” is kind of in quotes because it could have been Naya Charm and it would have done the same thing. Anyway his super cool innovation was Blightning. Blightning is really impressive with Sygg, River Cutthroat (turn two Sygg, turn three Blightning is a kick in the jones), and Blightning is superb off of the Bloodbraid Elf.

So it is the deciding game. My mana has come out really strange. It’s like turn four and I am planning to play a Kitchen Finks to stabilize. My plan is Bituminous Blast into Enlisted Wurm based on the Finks stabilization. He has a lot of cards due to playing Sygg into Blightning, then Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram-Gang. But I think that I can stabilize with a Finks, get some nice value on the Bituminous Blast, and then put the nail in his coffin with the Wurm.

But then I draw Captured Sunlight.

Why couldn’t it have been Bloodbraid Elf?

So I am thinking to myself… Kitchen Finks is an irrelevant blocker that gets me two-to-four, soaks up a little, buffers my life total, really just bridges me to turn five.

But Captured Sunlight? I get four life up-front and I am just going to flip a three anyway (probably). I have 13 cards I can flip (there is a Kitchen Finks in my hand). If I flip one of the three Kitchen Finks, I am way ahead on the Captured Sunlight. If I flip a Civic Wayfinder I am about even, at least if he doesn’t have a Bituminous Blast. If I flip a Maelstrom Pulse that would be pretty cool… Probably a little better than if I flipped a Civic Wayfinder, but not tremendously better. Because I was 11/13 likely to flip a non-Behemoth Sledge.

How likely am I to win if I play the Kitchen Finks?

It’s hard to say.

I have a plan.

I think I am going to win.

I have lands. I have multiple Cascade spells. He only has maybe four Counterspells in his deck. That said, he has really powerful cards. He has already gotten me for a three-for-one and an additional plus-one due to Sygg, Blightning, and his board. But I have a plan and I think that I can win this one… But it’s not certain. For sake of argument let’s say that I am dead even (I am probably a dog, to be honest). But for sake of argument say if I make the Kitchen Finks play I am in a position to dig in my heels and win half the time.

Let’s say if that’s true that Captured Sunlight into Kitchen Finks — which is a clearly superior play — puts me way more likely to win due to a bigger cushion in life total… 65% over 50%.

We agreed that a Civic Wayfinder (slightly worse on the board, but with an arguably more significant life delta, plus the obvious card advantage) is about even. So 50% again.

Captured Sunlight into Maelstrom Pulse is very similar to playing a Kitchen Finks. We gain life (twice as much initially) but we also get to point at the guy we want to kill, and kill him (I probably would have picked Boggart Ram-Gang). This removes the possibility of his getting short term Bituminous Blast advantage that also prevents us from making the block we want (he can attack with just Boggart Ram-Gang and Sygg the following turn and leave us with no blocks if we go Finks and he goes Blast). So it is 55% over 50%.

But what about Behemoth Sledge?

We never win if we flip Behemoth Sledge.

You know how this story ended up. Otherwise why would I have removed Behemoth Sledge, and with it, any chances of ever flipping a Behemoth Sledge?

Did I get unlucky?

Yeah, 2/13 is not particularly likely.

But how unlucky did I get?

People bet their mortgages on 15-16% every day… and sometimes it’s right (with the right amount of value on the line). How about in this case?

I laid out a table with the estimated percentages we discussed, the likelihood of play X or Y occurring, and then a point value based on the chance to win times the likelihood of occurring (so for example with Kitchen Finks I have a 50% chance of winning 100% of the time, so it gets a value of .5). Are you surprised to see this?

Ka-pow!

Even though 23% of the time I increase my chances of winning from 50% to 65%, my overall chances to win suffer when I go Captured Sunlight rather than Kitchen Finks. In fact, they suffer to the tune of 3%.

Just something to think about the next time you go for that “cool” play instead of the consistent, tight, one you were thinking about until it actualy came time to execute.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading (actually an early Father’s Day Gift): Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1 <-- exactly what I wanted 🙂 P.S. Imagine we didn't have Behemoth Sledge in our deck at all. This is what our table would look like instead:

About 1/3 of the time we end up about as good (Civic Wayfinder) and about 2/3 of the time we end up in better position than when we play Kitchen Finks. So if there is no Behemoth Sledge dramatically dragging us down with its 0% likelihood of winning, the right play changes quite clearly.

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6 comments ↓

#1 Jeranimus Rex on 06.19.09 at 8:24 pm

Wow, I really wanna play a G/W ramp deck now, may be splash for Bloodbraid elf, but otherwise this is just cool to look at.

Though I think I should focus more on getting all my pieces for Jund first.

#2 Slov01 on 06.20.09 at 5:01 am

You quote your chances of winning percentages to 2 decimal places. This is clearly an estimation; a sensible error analysis would make the final 3% figure less significant. I agree with the point you are making, but not your argument!

#3 admin on 06.20.09 at 6:04 am

@Slov01
Yes you are technically correct.

However if it can change one’s mindset from “I got unlucky” to “my decision looks to be less productive in the long run” than isn’t that a better place for a player to be, mindset-wise?

#4 Colin M on 06.23.09 at 6:42 am

My (minor) problem with your analysis here is that you’re over-emphasizing the expected value of the probability of winning (0.5 vs. 0.47) when really the reason for the “play tight” heuristic is to minimize the standard deviation (error bars) on your estimate.

Said another way: the probabilities you give of winning in each case are just intuitive estimates, given what you know about your own deck and what you’ve learned about your opponent’s deck after playing him for two games. Both these estimates are subject to error, but the first one is dependent on only one source of error (probability of winning given that you play Kitchen Finks), while the Captured Sunlight play is subject to multiple sources of error (probability of winning given that you pull Civic Wayfinder, probability of winning given that you pull Kitchen Finks, etc.)

So even if your math came out to P(winning) = 0.5 for both cases, I’d say the Kitchen Finks play is a better one because there is so much more uncertainty in your estimate of the Captured Sunlight play. In order to override the additional estimation error inherent in the Captured Sunlight play, I’d say your estimate of P(winning) for the Captured Sunlight play would have to beat the estimate for the Kitchen Finks play by at least 10%.

#5 admin on 06.24.09 at 3:00 pm

@Colin M
It doesn’t really matter that there ARE estimates.

We can call all of the estimates “1” if it makes you happy (some positive number). For sake of argument I will gloss over the possibility of the Captured Sunlight plays various having different win expectations. For now everything is “1”.

So if you play Captured Sunlight, your EV is only .85 because of Behemoth Sledge. What is important is the 0 effect of the Behemoth Sledge. The positive expectation that you can get with 2/3 of the other Captured Sunlight variations is nonzero but they are merely illustrative. Don’t worry about the estimations – the important things are the likelihood of pulling x, y, or z and the 0 attached to that z. That math 1 / .85 (versus 1 / 1 in the case of no Sledge… though obviously imprecise) is clear.

#6 Five With Flores » Steward of Valeron dot dec & My Files by Zvi on 07.07.09 at 8:51 pm

[…] have a PTQ coming up. I am probably going to play my two-for-one Cascade deck as detailed in Rhox Meditant Again (ironically with no Rhox Meditants… replaced them with Ajani Vengeant), but I wanted to work […]

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