Giant Solifuge and Stuff I Wish I Did Better

I wrote another article on sideboarding this week, over at TCGPlayer.com

The article was generally well-received but per usual with these kinds of examples-laden, detail-oriented articles I always end up with things that I wish I had added but forgot to, or didn’t think of until after I had submitted, or whatever.

Luckily I have a highly trafficked blog where I can add the odd DVD Extras (P.S. you’re reading it).

Osyp pointed out on Twitter…

Aside on Osyp on Twitter.

Basically I have been stealing everything worthwhile — ultimately including this blog post — from things Osyp said on Twitter. Examples include #FloresRewards (if you haven’t signed up for #FloresRewards yet… you should), and my most recent #FloresRewards video / Feat of Strength [chocolate peanut butter buckeyes]. By the way these went over quite well at Jonny Magic’s tonight.

If you’re not following Osyp on Twitter yet… you should.

http://Twitter.com/OsypL

End aside.

Anyway, what my man Osyp said was that I should have called out the URzaTron sideboard as a good example of what we were talking about in the sideboarding article. In case you don’t know, URzaTron was a deck that Osyp used to make Top 8 of Pro Tour Honolulu (Heezy’s). The main deck was mostly designed by me, with Osyp, Andrew Cuneo, Josh Ravitz, and Chris Pikula on the team. But the important part — the Giant Solifuges — were Osyp’s doing.

This is the deck list:

URzaTron – Osyp Lebedowicz

4 Izzet Signet

4 Compulsive Research
2 Confiscate
4 Keiga, the Tide Star
4 Mana Leak
4 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
4 Remand
2 Telling Time
1 Tidings

4 Electrolyze
1 Invoke the Firemind

1 Blaze
2 Pyroclasm

1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

4 Shivan Reef
4 Steam Vents
2 Tendo Ice Bridge
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

sideboard:
4 Annex
4 Giant Solifuge
2 Pyroclasm
2 Repeal
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
2 Smash

The cool thing about the  main deck (in case you didn’t notice) is that there were no double mana requirements… Just the one Invoke the Firemind. The Giant Solifuge sideboarding swap actually broke that rule (but like I said, Osyp made that part… which was in all honesty the best part of the deck).

The philosophy of this deck was that it went Over The Top relative to the rest of the metagame. You play Keiga or Meloku… What is the other guy supposed to do, even?

The deck was typically the beatdown, even if it looks like a control deck. It used the Counterspells (as Eugene Harvey explained) simply for time management, but it was all about setting the tempo of the game with its superior threats. The Giant Solifuges allowed the deck to obtain greater speed when faced with decks that had comparable or more powerful end games. Really inspired, not-obvious work by Osyp.

The part of the article I wanted to address myself (that is, without Osyp’s prompting) was around enhancing the practicals section at the bottom. I’ll do so now.

Rebels – A modern example might be Pyromancer Ascension. People who are not really intimate with the deck might only think of it as a Pyromancer Ascension + Time Warp [functionally] infinite combo deck. LSV recently talked about siding out Time Warps in some matches. We have seen transformational decks around Polymorph (JVL actually had that in the very first version he showed me, before we even had Call to Mind). Even semi-transformation around Kiln Fiend might count here, but in any case we have examples where one or both of the core “combo pieces” (one of which is the namesake) might be removed in order to reposition the deck while sideboarding. While it is not purely a sideboarding execution, the genius of Gerry Thompson’s hybrid Thopter Foundry / Dark Depths deck was rooted very much in the flavor of this philosophy. His deck, while on its face was much more like a Vampire Hexmage / Dark Depths deck, exhibited exactly the flexibility of “I guess I can side out all my Rebels if you are just going to aim at them”, which allowed for the equally powerful Sword of the Meek combo to kill them to death while they stared at a hand full of Repeals and Ghost Quarters.

G/W – Something interesting here is the ability to create a corner case. Something that I have always been cognizant of when designing rogue decks is how to produce a corner case, push the opponent into it, and then win 100% of the time that this comes up. Most of these examples work around decking, actually, and the G/W one is no different. Despite the presence of extraordinarily card advantageous threats like Decree of Justice and Eternal Dragon, it is theoretically possible to deck the G/W deck. The deck did a lot of cycling, and the Eternal Dragons could be overcome by a combination of Pulse of the Fields and maybe Scrabbling Claws. In addition to facilitating the semi-transformation, Darksteel Colossus makes it almost impossible to deck the G/W deck… In fact, the G/W deck can play to deck the opponent, if it came down to it; but a more realistic position would probably be having tons of mana and playing and re-playing Darksteel Colossus over and over again.

Kuroda-style Red – Something to be wary of with these fancy sideboarding switches is the control of information. For example, in real life, we were out-thunk by Heezy and Neil. They had a different sideboard than the then-default, and moreover, Heezy was aware of our sideboarding strategy, which in turn, allowed them to apply a sweep-capable sidebaord switch in the face of our supposedly unbeatable anti-Blue sideboarding strategy. A recent example might be Little D over Ma in the Top 8 of Amsterdam. Ma theoretically had a 90% matchup v. Little D, but Little D executed the sweep with his Relic of Progenitus switch-in, which impaired the effectiveness of Ma’s Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks. In theory had Conley been looking over Ma’s shoulder, they could have executed a couner-Nassif sideboarding strategy that would have blunted the effectiveness of the Relic plan… But insted, Little D was in a position of liking the Relic so much he kept a mana light hand just because there were Relics present.

Critical Mass – The holy grail of Constructed Magic is to be the beatdown and the control simultaneously. That makes it impossible for the opponent to Execute on a Who’s the Beatdown equation. Generally speaking the optimal sideboarding strategy is to position yourself as both the beatdown and the control if possible. Both Brian Kibler’s Rubin Zoo deck and the Mythic Conscription deck exhibit qualities of seizing both beatdown and control capabilities. Talk to Kibler about Rubin Zoo. If you draw Wild Nacatl, you win on speed; if you don’t, you slow play and win on power. Play the Mythic Conscription deck. It is just like Critical Mass against control… It does the same thing they do, but faster due to Lotus Cobra and so on. Meanwhile, it is also the fastest, most powerful, attack deck thanks to the speed of Sovereigns of Lost Alara. While neither the Naya or the Bant decks discussed in this subsection rely on sideboarding, you can see how they can play either role, fluidly, and in some cases both simultaneously. For example against another Zoo deck, Kibler could go first, play a 3/3 on the first turn (beatdown), trumping a Goblin Guide or Kird Ape, attack the face, and then play lockdown with the Grove of the Burnwillows combo (control), until locking down the game entirely with Baneslayer Angel (a really controlling beatdown). Poor beatdown.

Well, that’s most of what I wanted to say about that.

LOVE
MIKE

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2 comments ↓

#1 Roeher on 09.22.10 at 11:20 pm

Nice piece, and I can’t agree more on your analysis. I’ve always respected your opinion as a theorist and designer. I can’t wait to see what your first big choice of this season is, as I vividly remember the last iteration of Big Red, and wonder if such a crazy thing is possible in the new world.

#2 MTGBattlefield on 09.23.10 at 10:01 am

Giant Solifuge and Stuff I Wish I Did Better…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

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