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The McShake

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The McShake Alchemist on Magic
My Evolution as a Magic Player #2
August 16, 2012

I hope that you all enjoyed my article from last week about what a bad time it was to be a new player during Mirrodin block!  Hopefully I can start interesting more readers with decklists and better analysis of the format than just saying how horrible I was and how much better everybody else seemed.

Last I left off Champions of Kamigawa had just been released and I had build a mono white lifegain deck.  Today, I'm going to pick up after the release of Saviors of Kamigawa.  Why skip Betrayers?  We have Ravnica coming up, and I have a lot to talk about in regards to the set.

Shortly after the release of Saviors or Kamigawa my local game store started hosting Block Constructed tournaments for people to prepare for Pro Tour Qualifiers in the area*.  I thought I might end up traveling to an event at some point, so I started looking around at what decks were good and what decks weren't good.  I started to build a Suicide Black styled deck.  Though I was never able to finish the deck before the PTQ season ended, I was able to get to practice some games with a friend's GB rock deck to get a feel for the format and have some fun.
GB Rock
As suggested by Randy Phillips 2005

Lands (24)
2 Tendo Ice Bridge
1 Okina, Temple of Grandfathers
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
10 Forest
9 Swamp
Creatures (11)
4 Sakura Tribe Elder
2 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
4 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Kodama of the North Tree

Artifacts (8)
4 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Umezawa's Jitte

Other Spells (15)
4 Kodama's Reach
3 Hideous Laughter
3 Sickening Shoal
2 Horobi's Whisper
3 Time of Need
2 Rend Flesh

The deck was pretty solid and put up decent numbers locally, though I remember Heartbeat decks and some Gifts Ungiven builds giving it trouble.  For those questioning 4 copies of a legendary artifact (Umezawa's Jitte), generally speaking if you played creatures you played 4 copies.  Why?  It automatically destroyed opposing Jittes.  The card was played that much and was that oppressive.  Not kidding.
Next up to be released this year was 9th edition, the first core set without Birds of Paradise, giving player the ever-as-good-we-promise Utopia Tree as a replacement for three months**.  Nothing else that exciting happened with 9th edition.  Moving on.
Ravnica.  We're about to go back to arguably the most popular plane in Magic history.  Upon the release of this set, I was excited for Watchwolf and wanted to play a GW token strategy.  I couldn't ever really get the deck to work, so I decided I would try my next favorite archtype - Lifegain, again.  Observe the following decklist

Lands (24)
3 Sacred Foundry
3 Battlefield Forge
4 Boros Garrison
2 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
6 Plains
6 Mountain

Creatures (14)
3 Firemane Angel
3 Boros Guildmage
4 Boros Swiftblade
2 Agrus Kos
2 Isamaru, Hound of Konda

Artifacts (6)
2 Sunforger
4 Boros Signet
Enchantments (3)
3 Searing Meditation
Other Spells (10)
4 Lightning Helix
2 Brightflame
4 Shock
3 Bathe in Light
This was a pivotal deck for myself.  This was the first deck I ever played that I somewhat understood the idea behind why it won.  It never won locals, but I understood why my old lifegain decks were bad.  While the lifegain was good from Lightning Helix, and has helped it stay one of the best burn spells of all time, it's only a good card because it is essentially a Lightning Bolt with perks.  I realized, with this deck, that lifegain didn't really do anything unless it was a bonus in addition to something else, OR, it was helping another card (Searing Meditation in this case).
Later, I saw someone using Grave-Shell Scarab to great effect in a draft so I decided I wanted to try to build a deck around the beast (bug, in this case).  Here is the shell I came up with:
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
4 Golgari Rot Farm
3 Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
6 Swamp
6 Forest

2 Shambling Shell
3 Grave-Shell Scarab
2 Golgari Grave Troll
3 Stinkweed Imp
4 Dark Confidant
2 Golgari Thug
4 Sensei's Divining Top

Other Spells
2 Life from the Loam
2 Vigor Mortis
2 Nightmare Void
4 Last Gasp
3 Darkblast
3 Rend Flesh
This is easily one of my most favorite decks ever, just because most people cringe when you mention loving Dredge, and then get to explain that it wasn't always an unfair combo deck.  Generally this was a control deck that either won with a Grave-Shell Scarab, or, it just made Svogthos/Grave-Troll enormous and crushed in over and over and over.  This was the first deck that I ever won a constructed tournament with, so it has a soft place in me.  The deck was incredibly consistent, due to being able to essentially select your draws after a few turns, but, there are some cards I would definitely change today.  Obviously Vigor Mortis could be something better, and more than likely, Nightmare Void was just sub-par.  Overall, though, I like the list and would love for dredge to be this kind of deck again.  Alas, as long as Bridge from Below is still a real card, then it isn't meant to be.

One aspect of Magic that I haven't covered very much in this series thus far, is limited.  After about two weeks into the format, I made two landmark discoveries on the internet that would change my Magic playing forever.

I discovered Magicthegathering.com, and, consequently, discovered Jacob Van Lunen. 

Why is this relevant?

Reading online greatly improves just about anybody's gameplay.  Almost no matter who you read.  Gaining different viewpoints and reading about new strategies will open up entire worlds of possibilities.  If you are reading this article, you may already know what I am talking about.  At the beginning of a format, there are tons of writers trying to break the limited format that has been presented, and, simply put, I drank it all in like water in a desert.  I learned everything I could about the RAV/RAV/RAV draft format and applied it.  Before I knew it, I was making the finals every single week in straight Ravnica draft.  My limited rating went from about a 1580, to roughly 1900 I played so much draft. 

Who is Jacob Van Lunen?

Other than a former pro MTG player, Jacob Van Lunen is the Building on a Budget columnist for the main Magic: The Gathering website.  I don't read the articles as much as I used to, but, the theory that JVL talked about is probably the single most important contribution to my ability to play today.  I would highly recommend going through the archives and reading just about any and everything he's written.
While I started to notice some local success, a new card game was starting to become popular in the area, Fullmetal Alchemist, and I began to play it somewhat religiously.  I'll continue to the year 2006 in my next article, including a splash about FMA.  Let me know what you thought about htis article, I love feedback and would love to hear your Magic stories too!

Never stop learning

Sean Handy

facebook: facebook.com/shakezilluh
email: andro_sphinx@yahoo.com
twitter: paper_gangsta_
youtube: themcshakealchemist
 *For those who are unaware, block tournaments are tournaments where only cards from a particular block (sets released together from October-May) are legal.
**Spoiler alert: Utopia Tree sucks


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