Jonathan Pechon

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*Top 32 at Pro Tour Osaka



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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

03.03.04  In League With Darksteel


In just one day, the prerelease leagues on Magic: Online will begin.  For one week, there will be a series of one-week leagues offering double-prizes to anyone finishing 128th or better.


A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the uncommons in Darksteel that make your deck significantly better.  Those’re still going to be the things that hold a solid deck together and make it really powerful; however, we’re moving towards the bread and butter of your deck now.  We’re going to take a little different approach though.


We’re going to look specifically at commons that you want more than one of in your deck.  Obviously, that goes for any decent card, but we’re specifically looking at the cards that will help steer you towards a color.  If you have two of “x” then you should probably at least be splashing whatever color “x” is.  Got it?


Barbed Lightning


Lunge from Mercadian Masques didn’t have nearly the value that this card has.  Three damage is just a world of difference from two when you look at the real problem-creatures in the set (Skyhunter Patrol, Tangle Golem, etc.).  The ability to point this at your opponent’s head is obviously also fantastic; being able to do both is obviously insane.


Two of these in your deck should probably steer you towards red without a second thought.  Being red along with Electrostatic Bolt, Shatter, and Echoing Ruin, you can probably make a really strong case that this is the most splashable color.


Echoing Ruin


This is just a slightly slower Shatter.  Regardless, it’s still the most necessary effect that you can have in the set.  If you’re passing Shatter-effects, you had best offer a pretty strong reason for it.




The five Golems in this set are all very playable and will make it into your deck as long as they are in-color.  The black and red ones are both probably better in draft than sealed, though they are both still absolutely fine to be able to play.  We want to really focus on the other three, though, as examples of how they can steer you to their respective colors.  A pair of these gives you a very good reason to choose a primary color.


Being able to drop a turn-three Tangle Golem puts your opponent in a ridiculously bad situation; they absolutely must have artifact destruction immediately, else you will probably be able to garner at least a two for one with this guy in the early game.  One or two spot removal spells will ensure this guy can go all the way by himself, if your opponent doesn’t have a quick answer.  Since he’s green, access to the various effects like Predator’s Strike make this guy a nightmare in combat..


Razor Golem is just a monster to try to deal with; he screws up the game simply because you can’t effectively race any more.  He also comes out on turn three, but doesn’t require a Myr to make that happen.  You’ll probably see this guy a little later than that, but that’s still perfectly acceptable; his bulk and ability make up for it.


The best, however, is the Spire Golem.  If you have the good fortune to be the guy who opens a wealth of ridiculous blue cards in your sealed deck (fairly infrequent, I think), two of these guys pushes you right over the top.  This 2/4 flier stops every other non-rare flier dead in its tracks…not that that matters, though, since you’re just going to be swinging with him anyway.  He can also happen on turn three, by the way.  See a trend, here?


Chittering Rats


If you play this man on turn three and your opponent either has missed his land-drop or does not have a land in play, you are in a fine position to win this game.  Talking to Neil Reeves and David Williams at the PTQ in Waco, they both complained, “Why does my opponent always have this when I’m about to miss my next land-drop?  It’s not fair…”


The point here is that this guy punishes mediocre draws in a ridiculously bad way.  Multiples of this means a fairly heavy commitment to black, but this really is okay; you should have plenty of additional tools to work with if you happen to be in black (more on this in a moment).


Vulshok Morningstar


Obviously not a colored card, but still something you want to see, probably more badly than anything else I listed above.  This card is the perfect balance between Leonin Scimitar and Vulshok Battlegear; powerful enough to make it much more significant than the Scimitar, efficient enough to make the Battlegear just look sad.  Some people argue that this might even be better than Bonesplitter; personally, I tend to think that I agree with that.


Darksteel Ingot


What is this thing doing in here?  I hear that question coming from quite a few of you already... well, for starters, we’re talking about sealed here.  The three-color deck is almost guaranteed for you.  The Ingot makes any splash that much easier, and can be looked at as the slot where you might consider playing a Viridian Joiner (a card I like quite a bit).  With the loss of your Myr from the Mirrodin packs, this thing happily takes their place, offering you additional flexibility in your deck-construction.  If you’re splashing a single card of a third color in your deck, you could probably do it solely on the virtue of having two of these in your deck, keeping your mana-base of land solid.


There are plenty of other considerations to make when you’re getting into these leagues.  The fact that they are only a single week takes away the ability to sit on a deck and wait for new cards; you also don’t have a lot of chances to make your deck correctly.  Just like in a PTQ or another tournament-style event, you have to get it right (or at least close) on the first try.  Take your time building your deck; I believe in abusing the fact that the leagues let you sit for as long as you want while going over your options.  Get someone else that you trust to look it over with you, if possible.


Finally, I’d like to point out something about constructed as it’s started to develop.  Watching a couple of the standard events that have been run since Darksteel became legal, it seems that Skullclamp is just as ridiculously versatile as predicted.  Every creature deck conceivable has become viable due to the existence of Skullclamp; this includes Elves, Beasts, Zombies, even Rats.  Control, as a wide-ranging archetype, has practically ceased to exist.  A prediction, from myself and another local player, Robert Moore:  looking ahead to the regionals being held here in Texas, expect a mirror of the field from the last PT in New Orleans:  the top eight will be carrying 28 copies of Skullclamp.  Perhaps it’ll be similar around the country?


Until next time…


-Jonathan Pechon

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