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04.26.02  -  Two Grand Prix Trial Reports

Green Creatures + Red Burn= Killer Deck?!?

Such a basic formula... one that even newbies can handle.  Certainly not a new strategy... that's for sure!  Going back as far as '95 I can remember the brute power of "Taiga, Kird Ape, Go!"

Since that time this game has evolved and changed seemingly at a breakneck pace.  Banned/Restricted cards, new formats and cardpools, Paris Mulligan, not drawing an 8th card if you go first (yes... we used to get to do this!!), the "Stack," Necro Summer and Combo Winter... and thru all that one thing hasn't changed.  Green's efficient creatures and Red's efficient burn make on heckuva team.

Since my last article "Regionals for Dummies" I've got to pilot my R/G build thru 2 GP Trials and have done better than I'd hoped for.  Check out the article if you want to know what I played at the first tourney on April 6th.  Here's the scoop on how the games went:

Round 1:  Fires
I win 2-0

While I don't think his deck was optimal (no Llanowar Elves?!?!) I don't see why more people aren't playing this deck!  While we don't have Saporling Burst around anymore... we do have some pretty good creatures in this field.  FTK, Call of the Herd, Beast Attack, Shivan Wurm, Shivan DRAGON, Jade Leech, Gurzigost, and especially Spiritmonger all come to mind.

Anyway, both matches I use my cheap burn early to deal with his mana acceleration allowing me to get my beats up and running.  By the time he is able to slow my attacks with his bigger creatures my creatures already did more than the 10 damage I need them to do... and I'm able to burn him out.  I believe Grim Lavamancer did 8 damage all on his own to win game one for me.  Actually I think I drew like 3 Firebolt AND 3 FTK game 2... I think that pretty much says it all.  There were a few tricky points to this matchup as the opponent was able to save some of his creatures from my burn by sac'ing his Fires of Yavimaya... be careful if you run into this situation!

Round 2:  B/w Braids
I win 2-1

You all should know the basis of this deck by now.  I'm prepared for this matchup as it's all over the internet... although Spectral Lynx is really scary.  I WAS NOT ready for Spectral Lynx to be as good as it was.  All thru Invasion Block Spectral Lynx saw a lot of play in multicolor decks... usually you were lucky to have 1 black mana available to regen... let alone any!  Not the case in this matchup... a patient Braids player knows they have access to TONS of black mana... making it very difficult for a burn player to kill the Lynx.  Even still... the deck DOES have red creatures as well as Kavu Titan that can trample over Lynx so I was able to win game one... Braids is usually never a factor as my deck has literally 23 ways maindeck of killing it... most at instant speed and that number isn't including the Flashback of Firebolt!

Game 2 he gets down 2 Spectral Lynx early with regeneration mana... I die. 

Game 3 looks bad at first as once again Spectral Lynx shows up early... but I'm able to squeak out the win by just throwing tons of creatures down early... then using my burn before I attack to tap Spectral Lynx so my creatures can come thru for the kill. 

Round 3:  Psychatog
We draw 1-1-1 on time

He's running an "older" version of Psychatog... more counters/control and no Standstill.  Because of this our games are very long.  I use my instantaneous burn a lot to try to throw off his "psychatog math".  This combined with FTK makes it very difficult to keep any cards in his grave or in hand... so he can't really win by making Psychatog huge and attacking me and once he sees this he concedes game one.

Game 2 again goes long but I think he's able to get a few Fact or Fictions off early and gets to beat me with Upheaval. 

Game 3 time gets called early... and I would have easily won had I got just one more turn.  I had him down to 2 life and had Rage in my hand that would've guaranteed the win... oh well.

4th round:  B/w Braids
I lose 1-2

I played a guy who spoke broken English... and this was a factor in game 2.  First game however things appear to be fine as I'm able to deal with his Mesmeric Fiends without too much trouble (God bless you FTK) and am able to deal with early Nantuko Shades thanks to instant burn after he pumps.

Game 2 however I get really upset.  He has a Spectral Lynx and Nantuko Shade on the board with 5 black mana available and I have Shivan Wurm.  It is my turn and I attack with the Wurm... he blocks with both Lynx and the Shade and pumps his shade three times.  I respond by Raging the Shade.  He claimed that his three pumps each resolve immediately... even though he gave me no chance to respond to the supposed "separate" pumps. He didn't declare he was doing this, so a judge is called over.  The judge takes literally 10 minutes listening to both sides of the story... mainly because the opponent's English was no good and eventually rules that he can go back and declare the pumps and let them resolve individually off the stack.  This of course screws me over as now he has the knowledge of the Rage in my hand... and as a result I lose.

Game three he goes Turn 1 Duress grabbing my Compost... then drops 2 Spectral Lynx.  Nothing I can do about that.  =(

Round 5:  Standstill Psychatog
I lose 0-2

If only I knew then what I know now.  This is a good matchup for my deck... but you have to play smart.  Game one I go turn 1 Rootwalla.  My thought was I should try to deal as much damage to him as possible so on turn 2 I pump Rootwalla instead of casting another creature.  BIG mistake!  He Aether Burst my Rootwalla and I'm tapped out... so he can untap play Nightscape Familiar AND Standstill.  I try the idea of playing the waiting game until he has 7 cards in hand and then "popping" the Standstill at the end of his turn so he has to discard the extra cards.  It doesn't work as this is exactly what they hope for because it buys them time to build up enough mana to do the Upheaval/Psychatog trick.

Game 2 he is again able to bounce all my early threats (I don't see Blurred Mongoose unfortunately) or at least hold them off with a regenerating Familiar.  This time I try to be aggressive and keep casting spells when he has Standstill on the board.  Again this doesn't work... he drew 9 cards because of this strategy and simply overran me on card advantage.  =(

Round 6:  Standstill/Psychatog  (AGAIN!!)
I win (woohoo!)  2-1

Pretty much a carbon copy of the last round Psychatog... I am not thrilled.  However I learn from my mistake and NEVER miss a chance to play a creature... thus making it hard for him to bounce all my threats and then play a Standstill.  This strategy really pays off... in our final game I'm able to be aggressive right from the start and when I finally win my first full match against Psychatog my opponent shows me his hand... 4 Standstills.  Because I was able to keep plenty of creature threats on the board... those Standstills were dead draws!  Unlucky for him but I'll take it!

Round 7:  B/G/U goods
I win 2-0

By now my record is 3-2-1 and I'm pretty much not able to make top 8 but I play for the experience.  My opponent is playing his own creation.  It uses all the "good" cards from the three colors... Fact or Fiction, Repulse, and Counterspell from blue.  Chainers Edict, Spiritmonger, Pernicious Deed from black and green.  There was even Anavolver and Mystic Snake!  Kind of a hodgepodge that I'm able to beat quickly thanks to mana screw on his part.

I end up finishing 4-2-1 and get 16th place, well out of any prize but I'm really happy because I've found out the deck CAN do well against the 2 main decks on the 'net... Psychatog and Braids.

Even though practice shows me some tricks to improve my odds in these matchups... I make a slight tweak to the deck to improve the odds even more.  I replace Fire/Ice with Scorching Lava.  Scorching Lava kills dead Spectral Lynx and Nightscape Familiar... my decks worst enemies.  It will also help against Spiritmonger... which in this wide open environment is seeing play in several very good decks!  Fire/Ice was in the original deck as a good answer to "Frog in the Blender" but the deck as of late has been very unimpressive... not to mention the fact my deck performs very well versus a weenie matchup anyway.


So, on the very next weekend I play in another GP trial with my Scorching Lava "tech".  I'm much more confident with the deck... and it shows as I make top 8!  WooHoo!!

Round 1:  B/w Braids
I win 2-0

A lucky topdeck seals the game early for me.  He goes turn 1 Duress and takes my only burn spell in my hand.  He follows it up with a turn 2 Spectral Lynx trying to be aggressive as he thinks I don't have any removal for it.  I peel a Firebolt off the top of my deck and win because of it.  I felt kinda bad but not really... my deck has a TON of removal/burn.

Game 2 I bring in the Compost.  He of course predicts this and brings in Aura Blast.  This gives him a slight edge as he's always able to deal with my Compost "for free" but luckily I get 2 Kicked Titans on the board and even Spectral Lynx can't help him out of that predicament.  Because of the whole Compost/Aura Blast thing... I wonder if it would be smarter to NOT bring in Compost against this matchup?  By doing this if they still bring in Aura Blast they end up in a bad situation.  Worth trying.

Round 2: Mono black Control (may have a splash of white)
I win 2-0

His deck is creatureless.  This is where my deck really shines due to the flexibility of burn.  While other decks are gonna have wasted cards main like Chainers Edict... all my burn can go straight to the dome if there's no creatures to be dealt with.  This is exactly how I win game 1... and a good thing as he's able to deal with all my creatures due to his 12 "edict" spells if you count Flashback.

Game 2 luck is on my side again as I pull of a rather amazing win.  During the midgame his deck works just as it should.  He strips my hand with Discard and deals with my creatures via removal.  With him at only 2 life he plays Haunting Echoes.  I reacted pretty casually and handed him my deck... but quickly noticed I had one of every creature in my Graveyard.  Panicked at first... however I was still OK since I could just burn him out.  Then my testicles recoil inward as I notice that both Urza's Rage and Firebolt are in the grave as well!!  My only spell left in the deck was Scorching Lava... and thanks to sideboarding I only had 2 of them in my deck!!  So with no cards in hand and no threats on the board... my opponent hands me back my deck that has 18 cards left in it... 16 of which are land.  And what do I topdeck for the win?  Yeah Baby!!  It mattered since he could have gained life via Corrupt the next turn making it impossible for me to kill him..  What can I say... I was very pleased to say the least!

Round 3:  Meteor Storm, Ensnaring Bridge, Grafted Skullcap madness
he wins 1-2

He wins game 1 due to Bridge lockdown.  Game 2 I take out the Bridge and Meteor Storm with all at once thanks to Hull Breach and win.  Game 3 he deals 10 damage in one shot by discarding 2 Fiery Temper's to Meteor Storm.  That's a lot of damage!!   

Round 4:  Psychatog
I win 2-0

I'm prepared for this matchup.  Game one I get generous amounts of creatures and make his Standstill worthless in his hand.  Wild Mongrel is nice to see early as you can play your Rootwalla's for nothing... freeing up your mana for other stuff.  Game 2 I side out 4 Call and side in 4 Blurred Mongoose.  This means I have 8 1cc creatures and 12 2cc creatures!  This is simply too many early creatures for the opponent to bounce.

Round 5:  Psychatog
I win 2-0

Last tourney when I played Psychatog 2 games in a row I shuddered... this time around I'm happy.  The opponent at one point is able to bounce 4 of my creatures at once thanks to Aether Burst... and I still win.  Counting Barbarian Ring and Urza's Rage... the deck can deal 18 points of damage that CANNOT be countered!!!

Round 6:  G/B beef

Top 8!!  I play the guy for fun as we end up having a mutual friend.  He wins 2-1, Spiritmonger is F'n HUGE!!  I've been playing a version of his deck on Apprentice lately and have had a lot of success.

Round 7  R/G/u
I lose 0-2

Oh well.  His deck is very similar to mine... although his deck splashed blue for Repulse and ForF.  He got some pretty good draws and seemed to always be one step ahead.  City of Brass gave him access to all the colored mana he needed and as a result he won.

Oh well, can't complain as I got a 1/2 box of foreign Torment.  Even more important to me my DCI constructed rating went up almost 100 points thanks to this deck!

I've made a few tweaks since to the deck.  After playing quite a bit... 4 Grim Lavamancer isn't necessary main.  Three seems just about right since he's best in the mid game when you've got plenty of cards in the grave for him to remove.  I also have replaced the Scorching Lava with Fiery Tempers.  Now the deck has 8 madness spells which makes it much better against discard.  It also increases the amount of sheer damage I can dish out... not to mention it makes Wild Mongrel even better than he already is. 

As I said in my last article ... this is a good time for constructed Magic.  The environment is balanced and there's plenty of good decks to be played.  I really enjoyed the past few tourneys I've gone to... and this is from a guy that swore off Constructed Magic not too long ago!  =)

Hope this helps... have fun!



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