11.19.01 Suicidal Control
been a while since I began an article sidetracked, so I
donít feel so guilty about this.
I want to apologize to anyone who reads my
articles for having missed last week.
Iíve found myself rather busy with school and
the new job. As much hassle as working for a living is, Iím glad to be
doing something for a living.
The stress of extended unemployment isnít
something Iíd wish on hardly anyone (perhaps those
people in Palestine that celebrated the news on
September 11 deserve it).
an even less relevant note, Gary Wise recently responded
to John Rizzoís listing Mr. Wise as the person in
history who heíd most like to fight with a challenge.
I find this quite humorous, and considered whom
Iíd expect to win.
I donít remember having met either in person,
so I considered the statures typically associated with
their respective occupations.
Mr. Wise is a professional Magic player, a
writer, and (if Iím not mistaken) a judge.
Rizzo, didnít you say in one of your articles
that, previous to your move, you worked in a factory for
some years? HmmmÖ
I wonder who has the edge there?
Ah, but itís not the size of the dog in the
fightĖitís the size of fight in the dog.
Well, I highly doubt either of these guys
actually want to fight each otherĖRizzo wrote what he
did to be silly and Wise wrote what he did in an attempt
to inspire another of his idolís rants.
So the size of the fight in both of these dogs is
pretty small. Consider,
then, attitude. John
ďFrigginĒ Rizzo has quoted System of a Down and
Disturbed in his articles.
Gary Wise has, in his articles, quoted a Magic
player of whom Iíve never heard.
All available information considered, Iíd put
my money on Wise if the bookie was giving 300 to 1 odds
in Rizzoís favor. Itís like playing the lottery!
letís discuss something you might care about, shall
Black, for the uninitiated, is an aggressive black deck
using spells, mainly of the summon variety, that have
various drawbacks, though loss of its controllerís
life is most common (hence the name).
Like any aggressive deck, the goal the deck
attempts to accomplish is to reduce its opponentís
life total to 0 as quickly as possible.
Aggressive decks get to forsake card advantage,
tempo advantage, and anything else that any normal deck
cares about if it yields a quicker kill (see Fireblast).
Ah, the annoying simplicity of aggression.
But thereís something about Suicide Black.
Thereís something more to it, and Iíve always
admired the sophistication with which it goes about
dealing 20 damage.
concept that Suicide Black employs, which is almost
unique to the deck, is efficient use of ALL resources
noticed many good decks are good at asserting a
superiority of resources.
Whether by creating additional resources through
cards like Birds of Paradise and Ophidian, denying the
opponent of her resources through cards like Stone Rain
and Duress, or using the resources it has with
exceptional efficiency as Sligh does with itís famous
mana curve. Suicide
Black does this a bit differently.
It uses its life as a resource through cards like
Carnophage and Foul Imp. It uses its creatures themselves as a resource, usually near
the end of the game, through cards like Fallen Angel. It uses its graveyard as a resource through cards like
Iíve even seen Zuran Orb used in Suicide Black,
thereby using lands themselves, not just the mana they
produce, as a resource.
The lesson to be learned here is that at the end
of the game, if your life total is greater than 1, or
you have cards in any zone (other than Removed from
Game), then you havenít taken full advantage of your
resources. Perhaps you couldíve been playing more powerfully.
Now I realize you shouldnít expect to end too
many games with nothing left, but you should try to
minimize unused resources.
started wondering how this principle might apply to
wouldnít expect to put blatant life loss, like Foul
Imp, into a control deck, because a lower life total
tends to cede control of the game.
Suicide Black had the luxury of paying life out
the nose because by the time it ended its average game
it wouldnít have taken much damage.
By nature, control plays elongated games, which
means even small threats can have a large impact if they
are lasting (like creatures) and therefore control
doesnít get this luxury of rarely used life.
can, however, use its life total in a much more subtle
a control deck has exorbitant amounts of disruption, it
will shut its opponent down before its life remaining
above 0 comes into question.
If the control deck uses too little disruption,
it will lose because it took 20 damage or more.
If the control deck uses the perfect level of
disruption, it will shut down the typical opponent while
at 1 life, unless that player is playing with Urzaís
Rage, in which case it will shut them down with enough
life left to suck up one of those pesky expensive rares.
If it does this, then there has been no wasted
did it spend this resource?
It did so passively.
Consider this situation.
Player A plays three 2-mana-costing creatures,
and attacks a couple of times dealing 12 damage. Player
B then plays Wrath of God.
Player B traded 4 mana, the value of one card in
hand minus the value of one card in graveyard, and 12
life for 6 mana and the same value loss of moving those
cards to a less-helpful zone, with the latter multiplied
by three. So
in a sense Player B, the control player, is using his
using it to nullify his opponentís attacks.
Wow, that sounds silly, but itís true.
course, the previous paragraph has an inherent fallacy,
and that is that a deck cannot have the perfect amount
of disruption in it.
The reason is that the perfect amount of
disruption changes from one game to another, let alone
one opponent to another.
One could, then, go a little heavier on the
disruption than what would be expected to be needed in
the average game and include a small amount of direct
life loss to be used in the games when it is not an
is commonly seen in the use of painlands.
Suicideís Blackís lesson does not end with using
oneís life to its fullest extent.
We want to use the graveyard too.
There are many ways to use the graveyard.
There is the specific use of a card in a
graveyard seen in cards like Scrivener and Necromancy.
There is also the possibility of using cardsí
mere being in the graveyard with the threshold mechanic
or cards like Blossoming Wreath or Songs of the Damned.
But the one I find most promising is the use of
them as fat, that is removing cards in the graveyard
from the game to pay for something.
I think this is most promising because itís the
most likely to make efficient use of those cards. If itís specific, then only that card is of any use, and if
itís not the right sort of card then itís worthless. Using the numbers could be nice, but I have yet to see a card
that makes efficient use of any and all cards in the
graveyard, regardless of the number there in this way.
about cards in the library?
This is a very rarely-used resource, mostly
because Wizards realizes that this resource is plentiful
and most decks donít mind spending it like mad so the
cards that use it are either bad or donít make very
good use of it. However,
this possibility should be kept in mind.
in play are an idea that intrigues me greatly.
Typically moving a permanent to some other zone
decreases ones level of control of the game.
Control decks donít like losing control
(surprise, surprise) and therefore rarely do this
control to use permanents as a resource the payoff will
have to be great, and Abjure doesnít quite cut it.
hand is easy. Play
the cards. There are other ways to use the hand as a resource (typically
through discarding cards), and the possibility of
discarding spare lands later in the game is certainly
one to keep in mind.
about entire turns?
Time is a resource, after all.
Unfortunately, I have yet to see a card that uses
this resource in anything close to efficiency, as turns
are very valuable, except perhaps in a very specialized
deck that doesnít do too well anyway.
could be considered a resource, one that is more
valuable to a control player than too most.
Mystery is good.
In type 2 we have Guided Passage, which is one of
the most efficient uses of information since Land Grant.
This one is much trickier than the previous ones
Iíve mentioned, particularly because it isnít truly
means that complete use of the resource is not really
possible to judge, and I feel that the information
handed to the opponent should be considered when
considering a particular card, but not as part of the
basis of a deckís strategy.
Maybe in Trouser Snakeís strategy, but thatís
another article for another time.
canít think of any other resource a deck might concern
itself with, so I shall now brainstorm a decklist that
might conform to these concepts.
Keep in mind that I have never played a game with
the following deck, much less given it rigorous testing.
Letís make it type 2 legal.
the Pathological Token
This has nothing to do with maximizing any
resource, and it doesnít even get card advantage!
Not true. I
include it mainly due to the current field that is
overwhelmed by potential targets for this spell, many of
which are tokens. The
third Aether Burst can target tokens from Call of the
Herds and generate card advantage.
It does often result in you using your mana
better than your opponent does, as it nullifies the
casting of cards that cost more than two mana.
All in all, itís disruption that may not use
any special resource, but it does help establish
same basic idea goes for Counterspell, Divert, Disrupt,
Force Spike, Spite/Malice, and Creeping Mold.
Pernicious Deed falls into this category, though
it does seem somewhat self-defeating.
Again, this is a metagame call, as I feel it will
often hurt your opponent much more than it will hurt
what makes this deck special?
Bearscape and Skeletal Scrying use the graveyard.
It could be said that Milikin is using the
library, but in fact itís translating that resource
into one thatís more useful, while providing mana. Nonetheless, this translation does expend the library
resource, which is a pretty cheap resource that a player
should want to trade for almost anything of value in 90%
of situations. Skeletal
Scrying and the painlands (Yavimaya Coast and
Underground River) use the life total, though not
excessively as per the discussion near the beginning of
the article. Merfolk
Looter uses the hand.
Braids, Cabal Minion makes use of permanents by
trading them for your opponentís, and can help you
gain control of the game, even though you are
Elvish Lyrist and Druid Lyrist also can make
extra use of their inĖplay status.
a side note on the Lyrists, why did I include two of
each instead of four of one?
Because it would require two Meddling Mages to
stop both, and Engineered Plague can only choose
ďElfĒ or ďDruidĒ, not both.
It probably wonít come up much, but why would
you knowingly put yourself at a disadvantage, even if
only slight, without good reason?
a card in your library either trades for a mana via
Milikin, or it gets drawn.
If it gets drawn, it either gets played or gets
discarded to Merfolk Looter.
If it gets played it either helps you survive by
disrupting your opponent (even if thatís just a block)
or it provides a permanent to be sacrificed either to
its own ability or to Braidsí.
Then, in the graveyard it either trades for a
card via Skeletal Scrying or for half a bear, via
seems to me that youíre making pretty good use of your
youíre definitely making full use of your life total,
as I fear I may have added too much life loss.
No extra information is given away, and no time
is literally spent.
The former doesnít occur in type 2 in these
colors, and the latter doesnít occur in type 2 at all,
so those will have to be left up to another deck.
would this deck win?
Most likely with bear tokens, though it has a
number of other threats in it.
In my ďA Little Disruption Goes a Long WayĒ
article I warned against extremes, and it appears I have
heeded my own warning by including a number of potential
clocks in a control deck.
It should be noticed, though, that the creatures
in this deck, given the current field, will be spending
most of their time blocking (and usually dying in the
is Rochester draft, except that instead of booster
packs, one after the other, youíre drafting from a
complete set of an expansion.
One copy of each card from Odyssey was used at
of the same strategies of Rochester draft occur here as
well. Preconceived ideas of decks are more viable, though.
My recommendation would be to come with an idea
for a deck that you would make for a highlander format
in that set onlyĖone that could be done effectively
with a few card choices altered.
Then decide what cards are most important to your
deck and cannot be replaced by other cards available and
draft those first.
Pay special attention to what other players are
drafting, as you may need to switch your strategy
partway through if you think your drafting and theirs
are going to come into conflict.
Picking the cards that are integral to your deck
before any other card should be a strong enough signal,
but you may want to make a point of drafting cards
rather limited in scope early on to let the other
players know that you are determined.
As youíre drafting, if one of the cards you
want does get taken, ask yourself this question, ďCan
I still make my deck and make it well from the cards
not, ďWhat other good deck can I make from the cards I
have and some of the cards remaining?Ē
youíre going to provide the cards, INVITE ME!
This is a very expensive format to set up, but if
youíve got the money and the time to collect a whole
set, it should be a lot of fun.
Time consuming, but fun.
you find what you seek.
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