The Land of Oz, or Prison
So I spent a part of my weekend attempting to play Standard once again, this time down south a bit in Waco. Yes, I know many of you have probably heard the name Waco equated to several things, like Baptists, rednecks, college basketball scandals, cults, and being a tad bit backwards on the whole.
I’m here to say…it’s true. Well, at least the backwards part.
Or was it me?
At a tournament with a total of 13 people attending, I ended up running the same deck mentioned in the articles of the previous weeks, mono-green LD with Witness. I planned on there being a lot of U/W, along with other control decks and some Affinity. I was also riding down with Jeremy Simmons (see previous articles) who was playing Ponza, so I was looking at having some decent matchups over the course of the day.
Then things went awry.
Round one I play against a R/G Beasts deck. So, the deck that requires five mana should have problems without mana, right? That only works if I draw LD, and he doesn’t draw lots of land and Slugs and Baloths. That one gets written off as a bitter loss…so round two comes up, and I have to play against B/G with Death Cloud. You’d imagine that I should be able to disrupt the deck that needs GG and BBB in order to effectively function…right?
Welcome to the 0-2 bracket of the 13-person tournament. Please leave your ego, pride, and any other vestiges of honor at the door.
What happened here? While planning to play against the highest-tiered decks in the format, I wandered into a situation where, while I was prepared for a great deal of the room, I had not sufficiently prepared to deal with a more obscure part of the field. The result was sitting down at a match and having no real idea what I should be doing: “What, a Slug? Uhh…that’s bigger than my whole deck…”
It’s easy to prepare for a small group of decks such as you might expect at a Pro Tour or another event of similar caliber, but sometimes you can metagame yourself right out of the room at Friday Night Magic. There’s something to be said about paying attention to where you’re going to be playing, but that’s another article for another day.
The point? We’ve got Mirrodin-block Constructed PTQ’s coming up here in a matter of weeks (or days, depending). Making sure that your deck can stand up on its own is absolutely essential to making sure that you make it through the full day of Magic that you have to deal with. A deck like my mono-green deck is a gamble; you are basically wagering on two things happening in order for you to succeed: you need the field to primarily be composed of the decks that you wish to play against, and then you need to actually be paired against those decks. The results of these two wagers can determine whether you start your day at 0-2 or 2-0. In my case, I got paired against decks that had a large number of mana-fixers and large creatures that I didn’t have ready answers to. Combined with poor draws on my part, and the smashing of my face was completed in such a manner as to require a dose of Taco Bell to fix (note: never eat Taco Bell as a method of assuaging grief and rage).
Looking ahead to the MBC qualifiers coming up, let’s start by taking a look at the decks that many people view as the most straightforward, stable decks in the format.
Big Red -- Daniel Krutil, undefeated after day 1, GP-Zurich
4 Arc Slogger
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Furnace Dragon
4 Seething Song
2 Talisman of Impulse
2 Talisman of Indulgence
4 Pyrite Spellbomb
3 Electrostatic Bolt
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Great Furnace
2 Echoing Ruin
3 Molten Rain
3 Shrapnel Blast
While this is a slightly metagamed version of a very familiar deck (look at Flamebreak main), the point here is to see this as a very solid deck against most any deck in the format. The power of Arc Slogger here is emphasized, acting as a constant threat to do six to eight points of damage at any time; combined with Fireball and the usually-present Shrapnel Blast or Pulse of the Forge, this can be an immediate game-ender. The Bolts, Shatters, and Dragons give this a solid game against Affinity; however, the power of the Sloggers and Fireballs stand up in any circumstances, and Dragon is still a powerful force to deal with whether or not it eats all of your permanents in the process.
We’re not talking about avoiding trying to beat the best decks; what we don’t want to do is water the deck down to a point where it can’t hold on to its identity when faced with something outside of the proverbial box. Frankly, this isn’t illustrated any more clearly than by the deck most hated and feared in this environment.
Frank Karsten – 3rd/4th place, GP-Zurich
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Myr Enforcer
2 Myr Retriever
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Cranial Plating
4 Aether Vial
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Vault of Whispers
3 Great Furnace
3 Viridian Shaman
4 Tree of Tales
Affinity really doesn’t care what you’re playing or who you are. It doesn’t care how clever you think you might be. It’s just going to throw down a whole bunch of creatures and see if you can deal with them all without killing yourself on their Disciples of the Vault. Even this version, a peculiar build that lacks Ornithopters, Shrapnel Blast, and a second card-draw besides Thoughtcast, is able to count on redundancy to put quite the hurt on any deck. While it’s not quite as simple as the old Burn-sligh decks tended to be, the concept is absolutely the same: you go from 20 to zero before they do. While some slight aspects of play might change slightly, they’re still just going to keep attacking you until someone falls down.
Why hate this deck so much? Frankly, building a viable version of Affinity is really not much of a challenge; excluding Ravager, Nexus, Glimmervoid, this entire deck can conceivably be built from the leftovers of drafts littering your local card-shop; one can find substitutes for the rares I listed. This makes it popular for the simple reason that you’ll find people playing this who simply couldn’t find (or don’t have access to) expensive rares to finish their decks, so they play what they can find; the fact that it also happens to be ridiculously powerful doesn’t hurt either.
Well, along the ramblings of the last two weeks, we’ve managed to cover many of the major archetypes that you might see at a PTQ in the coming weeks (excluding Tooth and Nail). I really can’t say that I know what I would play tomorrow; I do know that, if the choice had to be mine, and had to be made now, I almost certainly wouldn’t be playing with Ravager in my deck; I might try to find a way to make Plains work…somehow…
Next week…a full discussion of They Might Be Giants and The Pixies as influential works in modern rock. Or, more likely, we’ll just take a new look at online play with Fifth Dawn. Prismatic did just become a lot more fun, ladies and gents…
“YEAH! You’re all gonna BE in this experimental film…
…and even though I can’t explain it, I already know I hate it…”
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