I just wanted to make sure I got up the deck before tomorrow AM for those who are interested.
Not much commentary on this (need to get my beauty sleep), but I decided after the events of Sixteen Again on ChannelFireball.com that I needed to speed up my defensive speed.
Barely Boros lost [perhaps predictably] to beloved Naya Lightsaber, and the other Boros deck won it all.
That led me to believe that Act of Treason would not be the right tool for this tournament. There is relatively little worth aiming an Act of Treason at in the other Boros deck, and against Lightsaber, it’s probably worth it just to point a Plow rather than a Threaten at the big babe.
Plus, Sean McKeown offered me the use of his Baneslayer Angels for my sideboard.
Selling out much?
Yeah, but I plan to win tomorrow, and all the decks that did best in my testing had Baneslayer Angels.
This is the 75 I plan to sleeve up manana, provided I can find Lightning Bolts:
Act of Treason ∙ Evan Erwin ∙ Petr Brodzek ∙ Baneslayer Angel (and lack thereof) ∙ Beating Jund Decks ∙
… and Act of Treason
I’M SO GREAT.
In fact, “I’m the Best!” [-Toad]
Okay, that’s out of our system.
Let’s move on, shall we?
I was planning to play Naya Lightsaber at next week’s New York State Championship, but now that the cat’s out of the bag… Yadda, yadda, yadda. Naya Lightsaber was for sure the best deck to play at the World Championships (just read the coverage… I told Andre I was “100% sure” this was the case), but I am not likely to be sleeving it up next weekend.
Okay: Full disclosure: Like you, I might have problems picking up four copies of Baneslayer Angel in time. So… Time for an alternate way to win.
I immediately switched, mentally, from Naya to Red Deck Wins when I realized a paucity of Baneslayer Angels was going to be a possibility. Right after setting foot back on American soil, Evan Erwin called me, and when I said I was switching gears to Goblin Guides, he steered me in the direction of Petr Brodzek’s deck, which was a 5-1 perfomer on the first day of Worlds:
2 Chandra Ablaze
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Quenchable Fire
2 Volcanic Fallout
4 Path to Exile
The first thing that you probably notice about this deck list is its insane mana base. Four Terramorphic Expanses, four Naya Panoramas, not a Teetering Peaks in sight.
Having played this deck about 30-40 matches at this point, I can say that I am quite happy with Petr’s mana base; the deck shell is quite excellent. My main point of customization was / is the inclusion of Act of Treason to the main. You can read why I feel like this is the right thing to do, and a tasty way to do it, here.
1 Ajani Vengeant
1 Act of Treason
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Volcanic Fallout
4 Path to Exile
Here are the incentives and so on as I see them.
This deck always beats Jund.
This deck always beats Fog.
This deck has action against most of the reasonable decks in the metagame.
I have been batting pretty well with Barely Boros [BDM came up with the name, in case you hadn’t already guessed]. My original theory was that it would be a decent, if not fantastic, choice against Naya Lighsaber (smash them for a ten-point swing when they tap for Baneslayer Angel)… But even when you pull that off you don’t necessarily win. So far, Naya Lightsaber seems like it might be the worst matchup for this deck.
On the other hand, Jund is super easy. If people persist in playing Jund in “one-third of the metagame” numbers, that actually paves quite an easy road for the deck. BDM was kind enough to humor me in some Barely Boros testing earlier this week, which you can check out over at Top 8 Magic here (plus, all the surrounding Podcasts).
Every session I do with the deck has been pretty encouraging; though none have been flawless (one of the defining characteristics of Naya Lightsaber early on was its long streak of “never losing”)… The down side of this deck is that when I have one black mark on a session, it is often the result of Naya Lightsaber, itself.
Anyway, here are the stats from the last go-round:
Game the First:
He opens up on Lacerator; I play Goblin Guide and elect not to attack. My attacking can just be a profitable exchange for him, but if he doesn’t attack and I don’t attack, I am “winning” thanks to the Lacerator’s Carnophage-ness. He figures this out and attacks (obviously I trade with the +1). He follows up with Lacerator; I follow up with Guide. Same dance.
There is a little stumbling on my part, after which I play a Plated Geopede. Annoyingly he has a Gatekeeper of Malakir. I was actually sandbagging him, so this is super annoying. He follows up with a Bloodghast, but I Earthquake the pair before there is any attack.
So… Zektar Shrine Expedition.
I pull the trigger, fully expecting I will have to Lightning Bolt it to avoid some kind of embarassing life swing. But somehow Somehow SOMEHOW… It connects. Really? How the heck does that happen?
You can’t really lose if you connect with one of those.
Game the Second:
I have a burn heavy hand that keeps him off guys and kills him as a kind of dirty combo deck.
It’s all Volcanic Fallouts and Lightning Bolts, you know. Dan Paskins would be proud (plenty of overload). Not a lot of interactions this game.
I stall on two but have a pair of Goblin Guides (and no Lightning Bolts). All my Guides give him lands. Did I mention I was stuck on two? Dead dead dead.
Just demolished him on tempo. I chose to go first.
El… Whatever three would be:
He drew three Hell’s Thunders. Hell’s Thunder is like the third best card in the mirror. I have Blightning as #1 because I never beat it Red-on-Red, and Ajani Vengeant has to be the second best (due to the life swing, especially when you can snare a guy and steal an attack). But Hell’s Thunder is probably the third best. Obviously if you can stick a Zektar Shrine or Elemental Appeal, that has a high hand-in-hand with the dubya, but that isn’t really very easy to do with all the Lightning Bolts, Burst Lightnings, and Volcanic Fallouts that the opponent is sandbagging until the end of turn. Hell’s Thunder on the other hand is a somewhat smaller packet of damage that is very hard to stop. Like I said, he had three of them. Man down.
Archive Trap Trap Deck
He set off two Archive Traps on a second turn Path to Exile… Which just set up a bunch of Hellspark Elementals (very embarassing); the Path not only gave me the “card advantage” but the mana to realize it. I won with about seven cards in library.
He sided in Deft Duelist, which was super awkward because I didn’t go all out with the Volcanic Fallouts. I actually always forget to do that! Why!?! It is good against Blue, right? Anyway I gunned one of the two Earthquakes I left in so I looked like a genius &c. (which is really what we’re going for here). The game was closer than it probably seemed from his side of the table. Deft Duelist!
I just about packed on turn one when he played a Soul Warden and I had no Lightning Bolt. Then he ran it into my Plated Geopede. I have never done that, but I have certainly run guys into Vampire Hexmage. Gotta read the Firstest Strikesies, paps!
This match didn’t really count because… Well, among other things, he left in Luminarch Ascension. As you may have guessed, it hit the battlefield on turn the second… and failed to ever accrue a counter. I really didn’t know what was up so I waited to kill him in response to Angel’s Mercy.
It would have been mad… um… irony-ic if I had packed to that Soul Warden.
The first was a kind of a nice fencing match. I juked him with a super fast 7/1; he tapped his Crumbling Necropolis to respond, and I stuck Ajani Vengeant.
We went back and forth for a while, but he peeled back-to-back Blightnings to empty my grip (the second one actually stole a Lightning Bolt and a Burst Lightning when I had 5-6 mana in play), plus the Ajani!
However I had a sufficient life lead to eke out the last two points of damage. Probably from an unchecked topdeck.
I actually got off ultimate on Ajani this game!
I kind of wasn’t paying attention, though. He floated in response and had Magma Spray, which ate my Unearthed Hellspark Elemental. I was watching Notorious out of the corner of my eyes, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have fallen for it.
I couldn’t really lose after blowing up six lands, though… 🙂
So anyway, that was the last five. And no Jund this time around (though like I said, Jund couldn’t be easier); okay, the G/W deck probably doesn’t count.
Good deck, though.
And 100% Baneslayer Angel free (if not Baneslayer Angel resistant).
One of the first things I tried to test was Black instead of White in this strategy. I mean if Act of Treason is good, Slave of Bolas has to be super good, right? Blightning, as well, seemed like a huge upgrade to the spell palette. The problem was… White does quite well across the board, whereas Black never wins (ever). I lost multiple fights in a row to the Fog deck (unlikely at best)… But multiple in a row? You can’t necessarily argue with that action. As BDM pointed out in the Podcasts, the Barely Boros deck is quite servicable against Fog, if for no other reason, the ability to consistenly blow up all their lands.
Nissa Revane ∙ Dependencies ∙ Andre Coimbra ∙
Top 8 Magic Destiny ∙ … and Nissa Revane
I know I have hinted at this notion of bending Nissa Revane a couple of times… From Top Decks to here on the blog. The joke is that you can’t really break Nissa (she isn’t that good)… But you can certainly try to break her, and get halfway to your goal; hence, the bend.
Most of what I have to say about Nissa pre-dates her spectacular finishes at the recent Star City $5,000 tournament by the Andersons et al, so you can actually make the argument that Nissa is breakable. My original position, though, was that even if she is good, she has some undeniable problems. Consider Blightning.
Start scratching your head.
Think about Blightning, or Lightning Bolt, or… whatever. Nissa can be a profitable 2/3 machine (kind of like “make a 2/3, force the opponent to discard a very good card”) but her super normal vulnerability makes it very difficult to keep her on the table. Ergo, difficult to really “break” her.
If you are dead set on playing a Nissa deck, you would probably consider Kali Anderson’s deck before the one I advocate later in this post, but there are still some interesting things to talk about (especially the history surrounding this deck in time, and the domino effect it created for me and eventually Andre Coimbra).
For Reference: Eldrazi Green – Kali Anderson
3 Eldrazi Monument
3 Ant Queen
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Great Sable Stag
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Master of the Wild Hunt
4 Nissa Revane
4 Nissa’s Chosen
2 Noble Hierarch
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
4 Acidic Slime
4 Great Sable Stag
3 Path to Exile
This Nissa Revane deck might be a little outdated based on two different implementations of separate strategies that have come since (the Eldrazi Green deck as an alternate Nissa Revane deck, and Naya Lightsaber as a better Naya deck), but the reason I figure it is interesting to talk about (still) is the notion of dependencies.
I think that for the past 16 years we have been approaching the idea of deck design — all of us, or most, anyway — from a fundamentally flawed perspective. I have been developing an alternate theory for how all decks are built (which sheds light on what should be the best decks, I think), but that is a topic for another time; I just want to focus on one principle of deck design for now, that of dependencies.
Dependencies are the tax that get tacked onto decks for the privilege of playing certain cards. For example the cards Flooded Strand, Arid Mesa, Ranger of Eos, and Nissa Revane are all compelling cards, and all have certain dependencies attached to them. The first two cards do almost nothing without a Plains to find, and the latter two don’t do quite nothing, but they are certainly below the power curve if they don’t have some kind of Mogg Fanatics and Nissa’s Chosen to work with.
Dependencies are why Marsh Flats and Verdant Catacombs are so much worse in Standard where you have to play actual Plains, Swamps, and Forests, relative to Extended, where you can actually get a Mountain of sorts with either card; just look at the mana base of a Domain Zoo deck: It might have fewer than ten mana producing lands, total… But will rarely, if ever, get caught with its pants down on the mana dependencies. Each non-mana producing land can get a variety of different lands in the deck, with tremendous overlap; even if there is only one Blood Crypt, say, a variety of differnt lands would be able to find it. In Standard, we have a much more difficult time tuning mana bases built around these lands because if we have four Arid Mesas, we probably have to play a bare minimum of four to five Mountains and Plains to justify… and even then, we will often get caught napping on mana. The games in Standard simply take longer, so we are more likely to draw deeper, and therefore, see more of our decks, et cetera.
Any Nissa deck has a fundamental set of dependencies on Nissa’s Chosen. Even if you don’t play all four copies of Nissa Revane, you probably play all four Nissa’s Chosen, because otherwise, Nissa is even less bendy than ususal.
In this deck I elected to try to go for a very explosive Ultimate on Nissa, and crammed my deck full of Elves that I thought might help do the job.
Playing Red was important to me because of the potential to his all my Elvish Archdruids and all my Bloodbraid Elves in a single turn. The possibility for that combination is arguably the strongest of all the reasonably costed Planeswalkers: 20+ damage coming in from a single effect. That was what had me geeked on Nissa… So I invested in Elves well beyond Nissa Revane’s fundamental dependencies.
The result was a playable but far from optimal Naya deck.
I originally tried straight G/R until I realized that I was just going to get blown out by Baneslayer Angels if I didn’t have them myself. However at the same time, I realized I could play arguably the strongest of the Planeswalkers, Ajani Vengeant, in my Nissa Revane deck (go figure). While the Nissa deck itself was not ready for prime time, it certainly set the stage.
I was quite excited about this deck and ran a several hours long playtest session with Brian David-Marshall at Top 8 Magic. You can listen to much of it. These sections have specifically to do with the Naya Nissa deck:
Later in this same session we played the Conqueror’s Pledge deck that Evan Erwin was advocating at the time. I loved Evan’s concept but disliked the implementation, and somehow decided that I was going to go from a creature-based Conqueror’s Pledge deck to a nearly creatureless Planeswalker-Tokens deck. Here is another look at Nissa Revane:
3 Ajani Goldmane
4 Baneslayer Angel
2 Conqueror’s Pledge
4 Day of Judgment
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Martial Coup
1 Oblivion Ring
4 Graypelt Refuge
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
3 Path to Exile
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Celestial Purge
4 Luminarch Ascension
2 Martial Coup
1 Path to Exile
I wanted very much for this deck to be any good.
I played it and played it… But it wasn’t.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything. Between the two decks we actually learned quite a bit… Which resulted in the now-wildly successful Naya Lightsaber.
From the Naya Nissa deck, we got the double-up land destruction package (still BDM’s favorite bit), which eventually helped Andre Coimbra win the World Championship.
The second deck actually taught me to be less fancy. The G/W Nissa deck is so motherloving fancy. By the time I pared down to what became Naya Lightsaber, all the frills were gone. The G/W version showed me what a dead end a Nissa deck with no exciting Ultimate could be; this, in a sense, transformed into Ranger of Eos, which has its own dependencies, but especially in the case of Wild Nacatl, bore dependencies with very low costs indeed. Ultimately I just pared down to the best cards, trying to deploy them in the fastest, most consistent, way possible. The end result: The best deck and a World Champion in my friend Andre Coimbra.
If you dial back to the podcast referenced above, hit up Part Seven (I told you the session was some hours long). BDM and I finish playing with Mono-Cascade (Black Baneslayer) and BDM of course loves it (what’s not to love)… But the last thing we talk about is Andre calling me up for a deck for Worlds. At that point, I hadn’t yet designed Naya Lightsaber… and I don’t know that I would have if not for hanging out with Brian that night. It was really a combination of things… Mostly testing out ideas that weren’t good enough — but were in compatible colors, doing less broken if somewhat more consistent things with Bloodbraid Elf — that got the ball rolling.
I hope you’ll join me in congratulating our 2009 World Champion!
Punishing Fire ∙ Grove of the Burnwillows ∙ Brian Kibler ∙
Cursed Scroll ∙ Ben Rubin ∙ … And Punishing Fire
I am really supposed to be working on this week’s Top Decks right now, which includes some Extended analysis as we approach the 2009 World Championships… But that led me to some personal Extended exploration that I thought I would share with my faithful blog readers.
Of course, like any fan of the game, I went bananas over the Ben Rubin / Brian Kibler Punishing Fire “Zoo” deck that won Pro Tour Austin. Just a great deck, and the bazillionth implementation of the collaboration of that wing of the Underground that has produced, well, the Sickest Ever deck of all time, among others. Their Naya-based Punishing Fire Zoo deck was of course reminiscent of Tomoharu Saito’s exciting finish to last year’s Extended Grand Prix tournaments, but involving bigger thinking.
I often write about how the best deck designers are so successful by killing their darlings… You know, how Dan Paskins went Shrapnel Blast in his straight Red Goblin deck, or how the patron saint of Red Decks, Tsuyoshi Fujita, cut Goblin Piledriver for Goblin Goon… Really not-obvious stuff that distinguishes the designer, differentiates him from the mean, and proves how much more effective his design is than the default.
For Reference: Rubin Zoo
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Lightning Helix
3 Qasali Pridemage
3 Noble Hierarch
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Punishing Fire
3 Baneslayer Angel
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Path to Exile
4 Arid Mesa
1 Ghost Quarter
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
2 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
2 Treetop Village
In this case the big thinking looks to be the interaction between Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows.
Grove of the Burnwillows
This two card combination is strong on its face; it is essentially a one damage net for three mana, and inexorable over a long game. You can give the opponent a life per turn but wipe away his ways to win (for example, your opponent is playing Faeries and has nothing bigger than a 3/1)… You can’t really be stopped over a long game without graveyard removal
Go back and read what I wrote. Not “is” but “looks to be” … Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows is among the most powerful effects in the Rubin Zoo deck, but I feel like the really big innovation was the inclusion of Baneslayer Angel in the strategy. It might not seem brave… But playing a five drop in a Zoo deck is anything but obvious for Extended. After all, this is a format where some players went Steppe Lynx and many thought Woolly Thoctar too expensive to play!
This post is really about Punishing Fire, though, not the Baneslayer Angel end of the Rubin Zoo deck.
I was watching The Magic Show, and Brian said something that really hooked me. The Punishing Fire combination is compelling on its face, sure, but the DragonMaster created an analogy to Cursed Scroll that got the wheels turning.
Cursed Scroll is a card that I have won many tournaments with (though primarily in Black)… I was a huge proponent of Red Decks for Extended a few years back… So this opportunity seemed like a decent window to revisit the strategy.
To be fair Red never really went away. We have just exchanged it for The Lightning Bolt Deck in recent years. The mighty Saito himself played a version of the Lightning Bolt deck, albeit featuring Goblin Guide over Spark Elemental. I am suspicious of a Goblin Guide in general, but it seems particularly out of place in an Extended Red deck. The advantage of the Lightning Bolt Deck over Naya Burn, Naya Zoo, or Rubin Zoo (if the Lightning Bolt Deck can be said to have one) is its ability to ignore creature removal. All of the creatures come with an expriration date (Spark Elemental, Keldon Marauders), or can evaporate at will (Mogg Fanatic); this really makes Threads of Disloyalty or in particular Path to Exile much less attractive to play. So in short, I like Goblin Guide even less than usual in the Extended Lightning Bolt Deck.
My initial design came much more closely to an update to the traditional Red Deck Wins model, while still owing allegiance to the Lightning Bolt Deck:
2 Arid Mesa
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Great Furnace
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Stomping Ground
1 Pithing Needle
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Ravenous Trap
4 Ancient Grudge
2 Lash Out
Somewhat surprisingly, this deck has more than held its own in Extended practice. I’ve actually had more problems with Standard-legal cards like Bloodbraid Elf (card advantage) and Knight of the Reliquary (sheer size) than the fast and powerful Extended strategies.
I haven’t lost to any Dredge-oriented decks yet (though one embarassing match I got my opponent to 1 in Game One right before being locked out by the Shield of Emeria); I won Game Three with a well-placed Threaten on a Dark Depths token (apparently he was hybridizing or sideboarding Vampire Hexmage… I smoked him with my sideboard graveyard removal in Game Two).
The most rewarding matchup was against a Cascade-Restore Balance deck. I won 2-1, stealing the first and winning the third outright. In the first I was dead in two to a Phyrexian Totem (he had played two if not three copies of Restore Balance in the first)… then I topdecked Pithing Needle to buy me the three turns I needed to play Rift Bolt and Shrapnel Blast (thanks for all the help, Pithing Needle!). In the third I just played to empty my hand, which made Restore Balance much less fun for him. Burn seems very good against that strategy.
Elemental Appeal was of course my Firecat, but it is a bit awkward with Blinkmoth Nexus… I decided my sacrifice lands weren’t doing enough as I wasn’t playing with Plated Geopede, and I could either run Ancient Grudge just off of Grove of the Burnwillows or not at all. Threaten was looking more and more attractive main deck, anyway.
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Great Furnace
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
12 Snow-covered Mountain
1 Pithing Needle
2 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Ravenous Trap
4 Ancient Grudge *
4 Lash Out
* Provisional… Could be a Shattering Spree or some other awesome card, like Isochron Scepter.
I was very surprised at how effecrive these decks have proved so far.
The question, really, is whether they are worth exploring since we know we can just play Rubin Zoo, which has not just the most powerful combination in this deck, but also a top end that includes Baneslayer Angel (and a bottom of the curve that includes Tarmogoyf). I talked to Ben the week after the Pro Tour, and he pointed out that unlike many other Extended formats, in the current one, his Zoo deck is actually composed of many of the most powerful cards! … That is a hard argument for a knowledgeable Magician to argue away.
That said, the combo-like double Shrapnel Blast draw might be enough to make this a viable option. We’ll just have to wait and see… and draw burn spells.
Goblin Guide ∙ Act of Treason ∙ The Genius of Gabriel Nassif ∙ Dodging Baneslayer Angels with Red Decks ∙
Why People Play White Weenie Decks ∙ … And Goblin Guide
It’s not that my love affair with Cascade is over or anything, but I guess I am past the point that I was in just-pre-Zendikar when I just wanted to play the one deck all the time. This week I have played a variety of decks, obviously the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle decks (primarily the R/W version), and now Red Deck Wins.
If you are a medium-long (not even genuinely “longtime”) reader, you know that I have for some years loved a Red Deck and like theorizing about and tweaking Red Decks. Red Decks have a kind of music that other decks — not even Blue — have, and their own kind of card economy. In a Red Deck you can win with Rage Weavers (with not a Black or Green creature in sight, mind you), and infuriate your betters with a well- (or even poorly-) placed Mogg Flunkies.
So the same Top Decks article that set me on the Goblin Assault version I wrote about a day or two ago set me on some Red Deck builds that were played around the country’s Zendikar Game Day[s].
If you read that Top Decks you know that I felt — especially in the versions with Arid Mesa and Scalding Tarn — that these decks should run Plated Geopede. Plated Geopede is just so powerful; and when the opponent is a little slow on the draw, or is forced to play a second turn Rupture Spire, you can just whack them for 25% of their starting life total. Or, if you are a miser, you can push it to close to (or even over) 50% … on turn three!
That is what makes Red Decks special. They have a kind of different card advantage we today call The Philosophy of Fire, where we can translate cards to damage to units of the opponent’s life total (typically two points to a card), rather than translating cards to more cards, as we do in the usual course of card economy. Check out the third match, below, for a hot window. Literally hot.
Okay, here’s the part you probably care most about: The Deck List…
1 Act of Treason
3 Dragon’s Claw
4 Goblin Assault
3 Punishing Fire
I’ve played this deck a couple of nights (on and off); tonight’s session was pretty good [for the Red Deck]:
Act of Treason
I typically dislike three-of. However there are some cards that I play — or have historically played — as three-of across the board. Those include Cranial Extraction and most recently Ajani Vengeant; but Act of Treason (which we used to call Threaten) seems like a very good three-of. I took my inspiration for the inclusion of this card from Gabriel Nassif’s Goblins tribal deck from Pro Tour Venice. Act of Treason is a really good card in this kind of deck in this kind of a format. There are certain boundaries that hold together any format. One of the boundaries of this format is Baneslayer Angel; most decks that don’t play Baneslayer Angel will probably have a hard time with this kind of a Red Deck; those that do will whew as they hit their fifth land drop and tap out for the Angel. What can he do about this? He’s a Red Deck… I mean maybe he can spend a Bolt AND a Burst on it, but even then… ACT OF TREASON WHAT THE!?! And then… d/c.
It’s like a three mana Elemental Appeal! Pretty good in this deck; you may have noticed that there is a Haste sub-theme to this version… Ball Lightning is one of the classic, fundamental, Haste creatures. I wanted to add his modern inheritor, Bloodbraid Elf (the two projected to get along quite famously, maybe)… but I couldn’t get the mana to work. So straight Red we stayed, and Ball Lightning has to be “just” the Ball Lightning. In this kind of a deck it is roughly a Concentrate 🙂
I honestly didn’t realize that this card was strictly better than Shock. I just thought it was a good card. I was perfectly willing to play Seal of Fire and Tarfire in Extended; what an upgrade! It’s like the Shattering Pulse of, um, you know, Shocks. Burst Lightning represents the clean one-for-one, and on big kicks, it’s like an, I dunno… five mana Divination.
This is the last card I added to the deck, even after I ran the Act of Treason / Punishing Fire 3/1 split. I wasn’t 100% sure it was worth it, but after a few dozen games, I have come to realize it’s basically a Blistering Firecat… Which is interesting because I never played Blistering Firecat in my Red Decks, even when everybody else did. Which is why I always won the mirror 🙂
I hate attacking with Goblin Guide. I stone can’t stand it. I cringe as I wait for the opponent’s Revealed Cards window to appear. But you know what? It isn’t that bad. Usually. Sometimes it’s atrocious. But it’s not Constructed Unplayable, which was my original assessment. I actually side out the Guide quite often, but it is a fine main deck card, particularly on the play. In case you were wondering.
This is probably the card I side out the most. It is just not that good in a lot of matchups. However, being Haste-y, and being Red, it is a perfect fit! Also it is a dream killer, particularly against foes packing a Rupture Spire or some similar.
I have always loved this card. It’s actually better than Ball Lightning against other Red Decks (doesn’t die to an un-kicked Burst Lightning, or even a full-on Bolt). Being un-coutner-able on the blowback would make this super duper against Blue decks, if, you know, they existed.
This card was basically the inspiration for this deck. As I said back in my original podcast pre-Zendikar previews, I see this card as very Wild Mongrel-ish. It lacks the Savage Bastard’s Black Lotus-like Cheatyface-ness, but offensively? They are quite similar. Just so-so by its lonesome, Plated Geopede can inflict massive, in a single strike. An Arid Mesa makes it a match, at least briefly, for Baneslayer Angel herself!
This card’s inclusion (and three-of sideboard compliment) was originally designed as a freebie measure agaisnt the Refuges (and Baneslayers)… But to be honest, I think I’ve re-bought one maybe once.
Goblin Assault is very good, but the others have been uncastable. I brought Manabarbs in in one of my matches tonight… but not well.
The games went pretty much the same way; his first play was ye olde Lotus Cobra; I burned it with a Burst Lightning; he followed up with some kind of a Hydra. I had to read that jazz a couple of times before burning it (afraid it was going to wreck me &c.). Then I beat him up and burned him out.
In the second, I won by Threatening the said Hydra. And by “Threatening” I mean the new one. Act of Treason. You know!
I won the first game, somehow (don’t remember). I guess that’s why we have Five With Flores videos 🙂
The second game I sided in Manabarbs; which was awkward as he operated with three Borderposts for most of the game. I scooped stuck on three lands when he hit a kicked Sphinx of Lost Truths.
The third game was a good showcase of what makes Goblin Guide good, particularly on the play. I had my Guide in the Red Zone on the first turn. These are the cards he revealed before eventually killing my Guide: Path to Exile, Esper Charm, and Sharuum.
Even if the opponent draws lands, Goblin Guide can be a potent first turn attacker; for instance, do-nothing decks may be forced to discard.
The first game I went to six and he went to five. He stalled and I won with just THREE cards: Hell’s Thunder, Elemental Appeal, Elemental Appeal.
I lost the second to a mis-play. He exposed a turn two Kazandu Blademaster, which I could have killed with Punishing Fire… But I elected to get in Threaten-style. I guess I blanked on the fact that he was just going to destroy me with Harm’s Way. It was actually Brave the Elements.
So I never got rid of his Blademaster and it put a real crimp in my plan. I got ground out from there 😐
The third was also decided by an un-killed Blademaster. He opened on a mulligan, but my Goblin Guide sadly un-mulled him. The follow up was the aforementioned poisonous Blademaster.
I thought I could get around it with two burn spells, but he had double Brave the Elements for my Burst Lightning and Lightning Bolt… Just never got past that wicked little 2/2. My Goblin Assault was effing terrible, as it locked my original and all future Goblin Guides into suicide runs against a first striker that was quickly paired with Honor of the Pure; that is, complete and utter humiliation.
… I remember thinking, so that’s why people play White Weenie! :: Crushes Red Decks; always has, probably always will!
Warp World Warp World is the kind of a deck is just too slow to contend with decks like Red Deck Wins. The match itself was pretty easy. In the first he was able to play Warp World, putting numerous hits threats all over. I had a rough decision the previous turn, playing an attacker instead of holding back from burn. I mostly got boned on the Warp World (he got Rampaging Baloths, Ob Nixilis, The L Word a basic cable package, about one million things happening on the stack), whereas I got only one Mountain; but it was the Mountain I needed for the last three from Lightning Bolt.
Game Two was a little sketchy because he got Grazing Gladeheart (sorry Birds of Paradise, and other Birds of Paradise), and me plum out of Lightning Bolts! Luckily, he didn’t have a huge amount of lands.
Cascade Once again I led with Goblin Guide. This time I got in revealing Maelstrom Pulse, Enlisted Wurm, and Lightning Bolt… but no lands. Like I said, I cringe every time I put the Guide into the Red Zone… But you can’t argue with its effectiveness, um, about 3/5 of the time.
The beats went Guide, Plated Geopede, and finally a turn three swing for seven thanks to Teetering Peaks! I played a fourth turn Goblin Ruinblaster to close, running around Sprouting Thrinax.
The second game was much tighter due to his hammering me with two Blightnings, but I had a nice combination of Plated Geopede, efficient lands, and burn spells; his blocks were un-possible, even with Thrinax.
So… 4-1 on the night. It’s no Naya Lightsaber, but still a fun and challenging deck to play.
Thomas Dodd, aka @amistod is a friend I met on Twitter. Thomas and I conversed quite a bit about decks like the Rhox Meditant deck and most recently the Kitchen Finks-less inheritor to the Rhox Meditant deck. He was instrumental and influential in the development of those strategies and ran with the more recent version of the WUBRG Cascade deck at the Charlotte 5K. I am very happy to present his contributing blog post.
I wake up early at 6:30AM Sunday morning. I’m one QP away from season six MOCS champs, and I’ll gladly forgo my morning shut-eye for the 7:00AM Standard Daily and that necessary point. The usual suspects are represented, and I thankfully navigate around the quick aggro decks until round three. [Name withheld] is playing WW, and, after a quick win, I have a difficult decision during sideboarding. I realize the Kitchen Finks will not trade with his first strikers, so I remove them for Blightning. The early turns have me shredding his hand, and eventually he top-decks a Ranger of Eos with four lands in play. He tutors up two Figures of Destiny, which I EOT Esper Charm. I’m hooked. Over the next two days, I play in several Alara Block daily events, and I realize the loss of Finks is minor, especially when Captured Sunlight is used. That Wednesday night, I send @fivewithflores a tweet about the possibility of dropping Finks in standard. I wake up the next morning and see this list:
I immediately tweak my online list and start testing, as the SCG Charlotte 5k is only two days away. I remove the expensive Obelisk and Enigma Sphinx to reduce my chances of awkward opening hands. This is the list I register on Saturday:
In Charlotte, I lose once each to Kithkin and Merfolk, weak matchups that I was hoping to avoid. The Runed Halo and Identity Crisis are concessions to Cruel Ultimatum, but I am not convinced they are better than Ajani. While losing to Forgetender and Harm’s Way – and watching Faeries get crushed all around me – I wish that my Fallouts were Infests. I feel awkward without Maelstrom Pulse, as the inability to actually kill something is slightly unnerving. I find that I have to race or trade more than usual. Overall, I am satisfied with the deck’s performance. I go 7-2 in the event, placing 12th.
The main issue I want to talk about with this deck is how powerful decision making is in Magic. Every spell in this deck ends with the opponent making an increasingly difficult decision. The ability to tilt your paper opponent with discard is profound… especially when you snipe their draw with a well timed “pause after your draw” Esper Charm. “You hit what, two Blightnings and three Esper Charms that game? Luck Sack.” I heard this during sideboarding all day long. Your opponent feels the need to explain to you – and to himself – that it was nothing you did, such as designing your deck to only hit discard, that caused the win. I find it interesting that people forget that Esper Charm can do this, and are confused when Esper Charm is used this way. People are not prepared for this much discard from a Bloodbraid deck. I also enjoyed watching people sideboard incorrectly against the deck. Cards boarded for the perceived 5cc matchup, such as Thought Hemorrhage and Identity Crisis, proved prohibitively expensive, as they were forcibly discarded before they could be cast.
Here is the adjusted deck list that I will be playing online until rotation:
With this adjusted board, I feel like I have a better chance against the more aggressive decks in the format. Dropping Anathemancer may seem crazy, but I only used him in the 5 color match up. Lightning Bolt should help with Wake Thrasher and Ramgang, as well as keeping true to the philosophy of never missing a cascade.
I really can’t say enough about Twitter. This tool has been invaluable in improving my Magic game. The ability to have a real time conversation with some of Magic’s most colorful characters is just too good to pass up. I invite all of you to add me and send me your contact information so that I can return the favor. I am always up for chatting about decks or testing online, so drop me a line sometime.
Currently Listening: 2009 Beatles Stereo Remasters
A quick review of Zendikar uncommon, Gatekeeper of Malakir. Is it unreal good?
Gatekeepr of Malakir is a very interesting modern application of the Kicker mechanic.
To me this card is highly reminiscent of Kavu Titan… After all, Gatekeeper of Malakir is a fine 2/2 for two… Just like most of the two mana creatures we play across the formats and colors. What is interesting is that Gatekeeper of Malakir is also a kind of cheaper Nekrataal.
For BB you get a Black Grizzly Bears… Nothing you would want to pay for under normal circumstances, but very reasonable given the option on Kicker…
For BBB you get what amounts to a Chainer’s Edict with a 2/2 along for the ride.
If you figure that a regular Chainer’s Edict or Diabolic Edict costs 1B, you basically get the value of a 2/2 body for only one additional mana… Kind of like a Carnophage with no down side.
Black has always had some kind of creature kill capabilities… But this particular stripe could not have come at a more opportune time. You see, Great Sable Stag threatens to hassle the little Black creatures… But if you can isolate him from his friends, Gatekeeper of Malakir can kick him down the staircase.
All in all, Gatekeeper of Malakir is a very clearly playable Constructed card.
But where would you play him?
There are actually a fair number of places where this card might make sense. You can run it alongside Vampire Nocturnus (and other tiny Vampires) productively. It can also be run in any deck that can make BBB in the main deck as just a card that you might want to play… Very much like the Chainer’s Edict we touched on, above.
Gatekeepr of Malakir can also be a very solid sideboard card for a controlling Black deck. It can change the tempo of the game by giving Black a clock when there isn’t a lot of time on the clock in a three-game match (you know, because your main deck was so slow), or it can give a deck some faster removal. Look at the Black deck I posted a few days ago… Gatekeepr of Malakir can speed up the defense of a deck that first starts reacting with a four mana Tendrils of Corruption, a stand-in for Shriekmaw.
So how does it compare to Shriekmaw or Nekrataal?
Generally speaking I would put it on better than Nekrataal and worse than Shriekmaw (due to the latter’s versatility, evasion, ease of cost, and synergy with Makeshift Mannequin). However Gatekeeper of Malakir will shine against other Black decks, and kind of wrinkle its nose against Green decks that make a lot of tokens.
This is a picture of Fracturing Gust. That is about all this blog post has to do with Fracturing Gust 🙂
You might have seen this response RE: the previous blog post about Primal Command:
For those of you who don’t know, oscar_liebowitz is my alleged friend Osyp Lebedowicz.
I called him back asking what he meant by that. He said that once upon a time I was a great deck designer but now I am making decks that are “awkwarder and awkwarder.”
This is interesting for a couple of reasons (speaking of awkwarder)… and because Osyp was the last friend I called before what happened on the walk home.
So I was walking up 8th Avenue tonight. I often walk from my office on about 39th Street to 59th Street – Columbus Circle on the way home, just to gather my thoughts and stretch my legs before holing up to my “second job” which includes blogging, analyzing decks for the mother ship, making awesome Magic videos, and of course writing my new book on PPC Marketing for Wiley-Sybex.
But that walk home takes me past the Port Authority.
For those of you who don’t know, the Port Authority is a bus station, but also where anything miserable and slimey goes to die. There was a time when BDM and his wife would not eat anywhere within two blocks of the Port Authority. My wife has been on juries adjudicating undercover cop drug busts that took place in broad daylight right in front of the motherloving Port Authority. Tonight I saw the awkwardest fight ever… in front of the Port Authority.
I don’t know exactly why what will eventually be deemed the awkwardest fight ever took place, but as far as I can tell, the conflict erupted between a cabbie and a [potential?] customer and his girlfriend. I am not sure why they fought but my wife speculates the couple didn’t want to pay? I dunno. All I know is what I saw.
AND WHAT I SAW WAS THREE PEOPLE THROWING DOWN!
I mean they were trying to kill each other.
And it was motherloving awkward.
The non-cabbie guy (he had a nice shirt, by the way) and the cabbie were flailing at each other with open-handed head shots, but really undisciplined-like. It was like they were playing motorboat, but instead of a girl’s boobies, they were trying to motorboat each other’s noggins. And instead of fighting like grown men, it was all these limp-fingered open-handed noodle arms.
Yet it was also like a tag team battle, with guy + girlfriend v. cabbie, but really chaotic.
All I was thinking while I walked by was I am pretty sure I can take either of these guys.
The pièce de résistance was when the customer wound up for a roundhouse kick — I mean he pulled back to go all Karate Kid on the cabbie — and then he hit his girlfriend in the hip! HE HIT HIS GIRLFRIEND INSTEAD OF THE CABBIE.
In Magic terms it’s like he Ninjitsu-ed Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni into play in order to reanimate Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. Hi-ya!
Of course that guy was on his back about a second later and open-handed motorboat cabbie was all over him, but instead of a Matt Hughes-like finish the cops appeared and broke it up. So we will never know who really would have won.
Maybe tomorrow I will write about Rhox Meditant 🙂
Oh so what did any of this have to do with Osyp?
He was the last person I had called on my cell phone, and I had to call and tell somebody about this while it was still fresh in my mind.
Osyp convinced me to blog about it instead of, you know, Rhox Meditant.
I convinced him (I think) to game with Jund Mana Ramp (not awkward at all) on basis that it is basically the URzaTron deck we made for the last Honolulu 🙂
Culmination of a lot of the tech I have been working on for Standard. No Sylvan Caryatids is a nod to Patrick Chapin. Nothing but two-for-ones. Wish I could have gotten this in the hands of a good pilot for the GP but just finished it.
I had a day off this weekend from shooting Supernatural, and I was walking around downtown Vancouver on Saturday, sampling all the artisan coffee I could get my throat around. At one point I saw a pair of guys walking towards me wearing gamer shirts. Black short-sleeved, one Halo and one Call of…