The Secret Stage III

From The Breakdown of Theory:

[Phase] III is a special point that exists for some decks where that deck is actively dictating the field of battle and only a small subset of the opponent’s cards still matter. For those decks, getting to Phase III is really what they are all about; if left unchecked for a turn or so (again, varies format-to-format… some decks will continue to dictate the field of battle for seven to ten turns after establishing Phase III), they basically win.

I was thinking about Sulfuric Vortex this week.

Isn’t Sulfuric Vortex the secret Stage Three? Isn’t it at least rubbing up against Stage Three?

Let’s examine Sulfuric Vortex, at least some of the time…

Are you actively dictating the field of battle when you run this card out there? The answer is often. Not always, maybe, but often enough.

Do only a small subset of the opponent’s cards still matter? The answer is sometimes. Not always, but when you are actively dictating the field of battle and Sulfuric Vortex is relevant, it will many times be the case that the opponent will “lose on the spot.” And by “one the spot” I don’t mean immediately, but the writing will be on the wall [provided he doesn’t dig his way out]. And how many ways will he be able to dig his way out? A small subset.

Sulfuric Vortex is the secret Stage Three because it’s not obviously a Stage Three strategy. It is not obvious because it doesn’t always operate Stage Three-ish (I play online a lot and in Red Deck mirrors it often feels like you are gambling a bit… and you can certainly be raced). But that is true for the Loop Junktion combo, too. Infinite life gain can be trumped by infinite damage… it’s Stage Three-ness is invalidated Life v. Aluren, therefore.

Just to be clear, I understand that calling Sulfuric Vortex Stage Three is a little bit of a stretch… but only a little, I think. Anyway, it makes me feel better.

The concluding paragraph of The Breakdown of Theory:

All that said, I decided to re-think some of the broad strategies that I have embraced over the past couple of years. Most of my Green Extended decks have something in common: Even when they have solid Phase III suppression, basically none of them have real Phase III power (unless you count Eternal Dragon trumping Aggro-Flow, which happened basically every time). By contrast, when I was one of the more successful Standard deck designers, my decks had both rich Defensive Deck Speed and legitimate Phase III play. Threads of Disloyalty and Remand were supplemented by tapping out for Keiga. Lightning Helix and Firemane Angel bought time for Hellbent Demonfire.

There is still a balance to be hand, but this last part is homework for me.

I feel like I’ve plugged up some nagging problems I’ve had with my game over the past two years. I plan to win tomorrow.


PS So this is what I am thinking about before going to bed.

PPS Follow me on Twitter:

facebook comments:


#1 KZipple on 02.21.09 at 6:48 am

I don’t think its a stretch at all. It might not the *strongest* Stage III, but it directly invalidates lifegain, and effectively invalidates creature removal as a method of staying alive, unless they follow up with a big threat. Seems awesome.
GL Qing, obv. Have fun in Cleveland, even if I’m hoping Detroit wins.

#2 jonnyb on 02.21.09 at 10:50 am

Posts like these keep me reading, Mike. From when I first read Who’s the Beatdown I’ve considered you to Magic what Doyle Brunson is for poker. Keep the good articles coming!

#3 starwarer on 02.21.09 at 4:15 pm

I’m not sure how proud of myself I should be for figuring out what you had meant by “Secret Phase III” when you simply mentioned it and didn’t explain.

Either way, it feels good to be shown I was correct.

As far as actually being Phase III: if Faeries must do everything in its power to stop Sulfuric Vortex from sticking, doesn’t that at least validate the position? While having a Phase III strategy is usually independent of the opponent, isn’t it also possible that you can have a Phase III strategy vs. only certain opponents?

Or are we instead talking actually talking about a type of Phase Suppression? A la Boil vs. heavy-Islands. Instead of suppressing the traditionally viewed resources (land or cards) of the opponent’s game plan, perhaps we need to view Vortex as LIFE suppression. We are attacking one of the resources (life-gain) that the opponent’s game plan was based on. In any type of Phase Suppression, the POINT of it is to make your opponent have to devote their resources and attention to overcome your suppression while you can continue about the rest of YOUR OWN game plan. If the opponent is trying to overcome your Vortex, then you are free to knock him/her around. I think we can agree that Vortex shuts off the Phase advantage that Martyr normally enjoys in the matchup.

Or maybe it is simply anti-Phase Suppression. Life-gain may itself be Phase suppression, by interfering with the effectiveness of the opponent’s strategy (‘burn thy face’).

Any way it is examined, Sulfuric Vortex is simply (in certain matchups) a strategic trump that can significantly alter the flow of the game/match.

You must log in to post a comment.