We Only Play What R&D Tells Us To
With Apocalypse, Wizards of the Coast seems to have thrown a great deal of the work of the past two sets right out the window. By this I mean that they've spent all this time promoting allied-color strategies heavily, and now here we have a set where enemy colors are not only working together, but in most cases are WAY THE HELL BETTER than their friendly-colored or mono-colored counterparts. Look at it this way: Shivan Wurm is now, while not a bad card, at least a suboptimal one. Any deck with a green base and polychromatic (multicolored) mana capabilities has a better fatty in the 5-casting cost slot. This might have been a good thing-- enemy colors have only one set to their credit, so naturally the power cards must be packed closer together-- but for better or for worse, said power cards seem to be crowded around a certain part of the spectrum.
R&D: Play Black? Please?
Players: Okay, if you insist.
And there you have it. It doesn't take an evil genius to figure out where the strongest building blocks lie. Certain people have already succumbed to the dark side and are meticulously throwing the set's "chase rares" together with the appropriate painlands and calling it a deck. While this is not to cast aspersions on the strength of such a creation (some people say Pernicious Deed is a good card) there is relatively little doubt that this is the deck we will be sick of fairly shortly, much like Replenish, Fires and Counter-Rebel before it. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon, of course, and besides my oft-proclaimed aversion to playing with a deck built by Wizards, one reason for this is that I hate trying to get my hands on the same cards as everyone else. It is for this reason that I did not own a Masticore until after I could no longer play it in Type 2, and that to this day I own no Rishadan Ports. Why should I drive myself nuts when I can achieve good results with something less obvious?
For this reason, I present...
APOCALYPSE DECK IDEAS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE SEEN BEFORE
Keep in mind that these decks are, for the most part, designed to run as light as possible on rares and popular cards. There are exceptions-- for example, Birds of Paradise, a card that is generally worth getting four of just to have them around.
4 Kris Mage
4 Squee's Embrace
4 Rhystic Lightning
For those who remember the Sligh deck I tried out earlier this year, this is basically a rehash of it with several of the excellent creatures from Apocalypse added. Bloodfire Dwarf and Goblin Legionaire both invite comparisons to the venerable Mogg Fanatic, and rightly so in my opinion. Dega Disciple's red ability is awesome in this deck. Squee's Embrace is a Giant Strength and Raise Dead in one, and who doesn't have to love that?
The real strength in adding white comes in certain sideboard cards. Orim's Thunder makes Circles of the Story or Protection varieties go bye-bye, and when kicked doubles as a burn spell, one that can even take out Pro: Red creatures. Afterlife and Reprisal are good at destroying regenerating fat, and there's an outside chance that you might encounter some of that. It's true that a Pernicious Deed for two pretty much clears your board, but you should draw more creatures and burn to finish the opponent.
4 Mystic Snake
4 Force Spike
Okay, so you probably all *have* seen Mystic Snake/Equilibrium decks. I know this, but there are a couple of things I want to say about this. First of all, whenever I see someone espousing a deck like this, I usually have to inform them of two things.
1) The combo, in the form they inevitably put it, is illegal. Equilibrium triggers on announcement of the creature spell, not when a creature comes into play, and as such, the creature that is being cast is NOT a legal target for the ability. If anybody tries to tell you otherwise, kindly advise them to RTFC (Read The Freakin' Card).
2) However, the combo STILL WORKS. It just takes a little longer. To be specific, you need to have two Mystic Snakes-- one already in play and one being cast. With two snakes, the snakes can perpetually bounce each other, and all is well and good with the world.
The second thing is that I never see Arcane Lab in these decks. I would think it would be a natural fit. With a perpetual counterspell engine, what better way to solidify the lock? If I'm totally off base for some reason that I haven't thought, I kindly request that somebody more knowledgeable take the time to set me straight. (Let's all have a big hand for the people who remain resolutely silent when I produce a decent column and only write to tell me when I screwed up. People like you are what make being an Internet writer worthwhile. And that's your recommended allowance of sarcasm for today.)
4 Llanowar Elves
Remember Nether-Haups? Of course you do. This isn't quite the same thing, but it invites comparison. The significant differences are as follows:
Pro: Your forces following the end of the world should be more numerous, not to mention much fatter.
Con: Only four copies of the big red button, as opposed to 6-8.
The deck is much more closely akin to Wakefield Sligh, a classic mono-red deck that functioned in the role of beatdown much of the time, with creatures such as Ball Lightning and Lava Hounds. When push come to shove, though, the deck had a potent reset button in the form of Jokulhaups, along with Bogardan Phoenixes, which could "survive" the disaster and finish the opponent in the temporary absence of other permanents on the board. The cards have different names now, but they do essentially the same thing. Maybe Saproling Burst is better than Blastoderm? I don't know. I haven't tested very much.
Those three decks should give you some food for thought to munch on. Now I'm going to devote the rest of the column to a bonus tournament report. Actually, there is one other thing I need to say, and that's that I believe the credit for planting the Penumbra/Obliterate idea in my head goes to a player from my area named Gary, who mentioned it on Team Regime's bulletin board (www.teamregime.com). Now on to the report.
This report is a little special... You see, I'm currently visiting Pojo.com webmaster Scott Gerhardt at his home in California for a couple of weeks. And this past Friday, I suggested that he and I attend Friday Night Magic together. At first he wasn't in the mood, but I managed to corral him into it by means of going to a Target store and buying some Hawaiian shirts (don't ask). Target is the biggest beating ever.
So anyway, we dressed in these shirts and trucked off to a nearby Wizards store. I plunked down my $5 and we sat down. I was playing that deck. You know the one.
4 Scoria Cat
4 Stone Rain
4 Star Compass
16 Best Land In Magic
The tournament was four rounds of pure Swiss. Unfortunately I don't remember most of my opponents' names. As always, if you recognize yourself in a tournament report and I either didn't give your name or got it wrong, write me and I will set the record straight. I believe in giving credit where due!
Round 1-- Name Unknown
My opponent was playing Fires. Now, this matchup is generally a toss-up for me. If they get the broken Fires draw and my draw is substandard, I will get run over. That much is a no-brainer. On the other hand, Fires can run into severe problems with land destruction, simply because it has no effective way to combat the strategy. It must simply hope to get to 4 mana.
Game 1 this is what happens. I get a Cat down, I think, then either Wildfire or Tec. Break. This keeps him down long enough for me to win.
Game 2, his first land drop is a Keldon Necropolis. This makes me pretty confident, and I rain stone on his first two colored mana sources and beat down. He gets a Tsabo's Web on the board late in the action, locking down my Dust Bowl, but by then it is much too late.
2-0 game, 1-0 match.
Round 2 -- Name Unknown
This was quite an interesting mono-white control deck. It had Orim's Chant, various Wrath of God effects, and Story Circle. Millstone, Blinding Angel and Troublesome Spirit for the kill. I was hoping not to have to play him, but oh well.
In the first game he starts porting me, but I get my own Port and lock his down. He plays another, but I Pillage it and play a second Port of my own. I knock him down to two plains in play, neither one of which will be untapped during his main phase anytime soon, and serve with an Overseer.
So he sides in about six cards. I'm guessing they are about half CoP: Red and half something else, maybe Sacred Ground. I can't be sure. I play it safe, boarding out my four Shocks for three Distorting Lens and one Flametongue. I found out later they were actually two Sheltering Prayers and four Sacred Ground. Good thing he never played any of them, right?
So anyway, I do the land destruction thing, and get two Idols out to start beating him down. He reaches five mana and casts a Blinding Angel. I am at five mana also, whith a Ghitu Fire, so I am not really worried. I untap, draw, and topdeck another land. You know, Ghitu Fire is a good card, but Wildfire is really better.
I win that game.
4-0 game, 2-0 match.
Round 3 -- Scott Gerhardt
Scott, my host, is playing his Dark Fires deck. He informs me that if I win, I will be sleeping on the curb that night. I am pretty sure he is joking.
Game 1 he goes turn-1 Bird, turn-2 Idol. I drop my Flametongue on his bird and trade it for the Idol. He told me later that he believed he misplayed, as he could have played a Bird and a Thunderscape Familiar on his second turn and followed them up with a Blastoderm. As it is, though, I am able to keep his mana under control, and the manifestation of a Flowstone Overseer forces him to scoop.
I don't sideboard at all, as is usual for me in Fires matchups.
Game 2 I am landscrewed. Serves me right. So it ends up with me at 7 life and an active Tahngarth on the board, with two mana open. On his side is a 5/5 Phyrexian Scuta and a Bird. He starts his turn, drops a Port, and Ports me. I float a red mana and shoot his Bird. He proceeds to drop a Thornscape Battlemage on me. Oh well, game 3.
Game 3 is the screwiest game ever. I destroy every land he plays, but he still has two Elves, a Bird, and two Familiars in play. So anyway, he amasses this mighty army of Battlemages, Chimeric Idols, and the like. I hold them off with three Idols and two Scoria Cats (one of which bites the dust during combat with a stray Scuta) but it is looking like he will be able to swarm over for the win any second.
So I lost, right?
Of course not.
I draw one of the only cards I could to win, and Earthquake for something like 7:1 card advantage. I must be a good player.
6-1 game, 3-0 match.
Round 4 -- Name Unknown
This guy was really nice and seemed quite interested in my deck. Unfortunately, he spoke rather quietly. That, combined with the din of the store and my hearing loss, made communicating with him rather problematic. He was playing... well, you'll see.
The first game he must have gotten a really wierd draw. All I see are basic Islands, a Chimeric Idol, and I think a Troublesome Spirit a couple of turns before I kill him. I smash him with random red fat. Beatings.
So I go to sideboard, and I'm thinking "Skies." I mean, honestly, those were the only cards I had seen from him in the first game. I hadn't noticed this guy playing in the earlier rounds, so I was clueless. I threw in all four of my Boils. Can you blame me?
We shuffle up. He chooses to go first, and plays turn-1 Urborg Volcano.
He was actually playing U/R/b good stuff... I guess. My position goes quickly downhill. My LD fails to appear. I play two creatures, but one gets Terminated and the other dies after being breathed on by a Kavu. I do manage to get an Idol on the board. Great. What do I do with that and five lands, when he has out Flametongue, Spirit, Veteran Brawlers, and an Idol of his own?
He attacks with everything. I trade Idols and take a lot, putting me at something like 5. It might have made more sense to block the Flametongue, but I think the only way I will survive is to cast the Wildfire in my hand, and I need to make sure it takes out all his creatures. So I draw, and what do I see but a land?
"No permanents for you!"
He plays another land. I play another land, too, and Stone Rain his. He never gets another nonland permanent into play and gets beaten down by two Idols.
As mentioned before, the tournament was pure Swiss, so my 4-0 record earns me the win without any Top 8, or anything like that. Normally I hate pure Swiss, but I won't bite the hand that feeds me. I don't bite at all, actually, unless you ask nicely.
Everyone. Everyone is nice!
My win aside, I guess I really have to slop the store. Who runs pure Swiss tournaments?
There you have it for this week-- a few decks and a short tournament report. A mixed offering, to be sure, but I think still a quality one.