Flores Friday - Constructed Sketches
In my first year in college I had a good friend who had the misfortune of being housed in the - how do I say this - same dorm that I was. There was nothing wrong with our dorm other than it was arbitrarily not the trashy / cool one in the middle of campus, and therefore freshmen living there had, again arbitrarily, trouble getting into the coolest fraternities in the middle of campus. My friend got a bid to one of them, though, being an all-round great guy despite being fabulously wealthy (although he was a bit of a mean drunk), and for some months he set his full efforts on making the best pledge he could so that he could graduate to the, you know, ideal of being a brother at one of the inn-est fraternities in the center of campus.
He came home miserable every night.
Many fraternities at many schools generate many rumors of mistreatment of their initiates, but the one my friend was pledging was constantly in the papers. He was a jovial big bear of a boy, but returned home haggard, with shadowy, hollowed-out eyes, almost gaunt, silent, and stoic. Miserable.
"It's just not right, what they make us do. When I'm a brother... I'm going to change things. I'm not going to let them do these things. It's just not right."
I never really asked what they did. "Why do you put up with it?"
"Are you crazy? So I can be a brother!"
This went on for some time.
I wasn't really much for fraternity parties even when they were novel and I was a freshman, but of course I attended the big initiation bash when my friend was officially a brother, wedged somewhere in the middle of the biggest cocktail party on the planet, later that spring. By the time I got there my friend was ecstatic... Or I assume he was (or had been earlier, being initiated a brother, which is what he wanted). By the time I got there, he was wasted out of his mind. I don't know on what. He was sitting alone, staring off into the space of a deafening if darkened great hall (I assume he was ecstatic), stripped to his boxers, painted blue, a gigantic beer in one hand (he was a big bear of a boy). He looked up from his stupor momentarily to greet me. He smiled. "This was nothing. Heh. Next year... Next year, I'm going to put all of them through hell."
Which is a long winded way of saying that sometimes otherwise reasonable people can quickly change their positions on a topic:
I couldn't have been more wrong about Quillspike last week. No excuses; I just got that one wrong. It is an instant kill (sort of) with Devoted Druid. I think this is pretty exciting, exciting enough that I would consider playing Crimson Wisps just for the three card combo / third turn kill (Haste might be randomly good, and Crimson Wisps is a cantrip).
My friend and former #1 Apprentice Julian Levin mentioned to me that he liked Mono-Green in Block; I think he would have gone much more aggressive but for this one I just tried to do more stupid stuff with Devoted Druid. Here is a sketch of a possible Mono-Green mid-range deck featuring Quillspike.
- 1 Grim Poppet
- 3 Chameleon Colossus
- 4 Cloudthresher
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 4 Overbeing of Myth
- 4 Quillspike
When you have both Quillspike and Devoted Druid in play, you have yourself a handy dandy infinite combination. You tap Devoted Druid for G, then untap it by positioning a -1/-1 counter on Devoted Druid; using the G you have in pool, you can remove the -1/-1 counter from Devoted Druid to turn Quillspike into a 4/4. Rinse and repeat.
Now if we were really going to go down the road of splashing Red for Crimson Wisps, this strategy could present a very dangerous third turn. Consider:
You: Land, Devoted Druid
You: Red-producing land; tap Devoted Druid for G, tap your first two lands for two more, Quillspike; put a -1/-1 counter on Devoted Druid to untap it; tap Devoted Druid for G; use the mana and -1/-1 counter to power up Quillspike; rinse and repeat... Once you are at lethal damage, show Crimson Wisps to give Quillspike haste. Roar!
Yes, that does seem a bit of a narrow implementation.
Yesterday was my good friend Paul Jordan's birthday. Paul is a former New Jersey State Champion and the keeper of the FinkelDraft stats, as well as being a consistent Team Pro Tour teammate, with numerous money finishes with Josh Ravitz, Steve Sadin, Matt Urban, Mike Clair... but sadly not yours truly.
Last year Paul and I clashed at Regionals, Paul with Chapin's Korlash deck and me with The Legends of Team CMU. In the end, it was Mishra and Bottled Cloister over Aeon Chronicler in a matchup where Persecute was the breaker; I advanced to Top 8. Ironically, when we made our way to U.S. Nationals it was Paul who ended up playing... While I choked in the Top 8 at Regionals, he managed to win the very first Grinder with U/G/W Blink.
Paul and I chatted about how to replace Remand... And I think the best solution is actually to just go Cloudthresher. The amazing part is that the lad might actually be better this year; I elected to cheat and just cut the three Blinks, which still leaves a fairly compelling tempo sketch, Cryptic Command taking over for Blink.
- 4 Aeon Chronicler
- 3 Cloudthresher
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 2 Mystic Snake
- 4 Riftwing Cloudskate
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 2 Venser, Shaper Savant
I think the deck probably wants a little more mana acceleration (the incredibly popular deck from last summer played a full complement of Edge of Autumn in addition to Wall of Roots... But Flagstones of Trokair would underperform in 2008 even if we played White); I went with a 25th land and subbed in Mulldrifter. This is probably a hair slow on the board.
You probably noticed that the first two deck sketches I posted are chock full of Primal Commands and Kitchen Finks. That is because those cards are awesome against Red. Why isn't there more Red in Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block? I haven't seen a really compelling really Red (rather than "Shamans") deck yet, not really.
The most impressive Red card for my money is Demigod of Revenge. This card is extremely compelling for two reasons: The first is that it gives the opponent a lot of room to screw up, mediocre Blue players in particular. You play Demigod and put Demigod on the stack, and if the opponent mis-times his Cryptic Command... he might just lose the game on the spot. I actually didn't believe that this was how the card worked when BDM first told me, but I actually saw it ruled that way in the middle of a recent PTQ, so there you have it.
The second reason that Demigod of Revenge is so compelling is that it is one of the few Red cards that completely out-classes Kitchen Finks. Most Red Decks fold to Kitchen Finks (especially in Green decks rather than Blue decks); however, Demigod, while he might not like Kitchen Finks, can go over the top and legitimately race.
It's no secret that Faeries has been the most successful deck in Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Block PTQs, but it seems that if there were a deck to compete with it, that deck might very well be the Red Deck. Block Faeries lacks Ancestral Vision, but Red loses even more compelling weapons, being the oddly paired Magus of the Moon and Keldon Megaliths (both being quite effective against Faeries). That said, Faeries seems ill equipped to deal with some of the Red threats, specifically Ashenmoor Gouger, which dodges almost all of the Fae's removal main deck (and wouldn't be blocking anyway).
A Block Red Deck, obviously inspired by the Japanese in Buenos Aires:
- 4 Ashenmoor Gouger
- 4 Countryside Crusher
- 4 Demigod of Revenge
- 4 Figure of Destiny
- 4 Stigma Lasher
- 2 Ashling the Pilgrim
The only thing I am wary about in this deck is that it is very mana hungry as well as being vengeful (Demigod of Revenge, Titan's Revenge), and Countryside Crusher can accidentally turn off the land flow. Accidentally.
I don't know where I came up with this idea... It doesn't even have any Eventide cards. It is very fun to test draw, though, and I have been fooling around with it on Apprentice all week:
- 2 Solemn Simulacrum
- 4 Angel of Despair
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 4 Shriekmaw
- 4 Kokusho, the Evening Star
- 4 Venser, Shaper Savant
This deck seems like it might just be much worse than 'Tron (kind of the same philosophies... but no 'Tron lands).
I think of it more in the Rock family than in the vein of a real Blue deck. The really fun thing about this deck is when you don't do anything on turn 3-4 and you "roll the dice" on an Aethermage's Touch instead of playing a guy or defending with Venser etc.
I haven't done any serious testing yet (you would not believe how much time I put into Mishra Mannequin last year before deciding that it couldn't beat Dredge), but this deck seems like it would match up well enough against Doran (Kokusho you) and G/W... But it might not be able to keep pace with either the Counterbalance or Counterbalance-less Blue decks. And what about Dredge?
When I told Paul about this deck he actually seemed surprised that it wasn't a mid-range Green control deck, but I confessed that I tried to do it up with Green (largely to fit Ancient Grudge) with Farseek and Sakura-Tribe Elder, but that I couldn't get the mana right... Speaking of the mana, isn't it awesome? Lorwyn Block lands are just fantastic, and work very nicely with Onslaught lands. I upped the basic count a little bit and switched in a pair of Solemn Simulacrums for Court Hussar (he seemed a little weak for Extended); Jens Thoren typically curves better with a Signet, and sends you straight to Kokusho mana.
A big reason I like this deck is because it reminds me of the Charleston Batman deck (which is appropriate, as Batman evolved out of Antonino De Rosa's Touch deck)... Here is an even more straightforward Orzhov:
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 4 Deathbringer Liege
- 4 Nightsky Mimic
- 4 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 4 Ghost Council of Orzhova
Doran, in for 4.
Unmake your blocker, in for 9.
Deathbringer Liege, in for 13.
(Apparently on this curve you don't have much time to use the Top).
I'm not sure if the four Sensei's Divining Tops are overkill or not, but Deathbringer Liege is awfully expensive and I don't really fancy taking five; anyway, Chapin says that every good Extended deck starts with either four Sensei's Divining Tops or four Golgari Grave-Trolls.
Besides the slightly higher curve (though Deathbringer Liege seems exceedingly powerful to me), the main disadvantage this deck has relative to the more commonly played Doran would be a lack of Treetop Villages; there is just no way around that, I think. Spawning Pool and Forbidden Watchtower are probably not good enough for Extended, and you can't really play Mutavault in this deck, I don't think. Castigate is taking the place of the Cabal Therapy / Thought seize suite, purely due to the awesome synergy with Deathbringer Liege.
- 4 Avalanche Riders
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Krosan Tusker
- 4 Ravenous Baloth
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 4 Wall of Roots
This deck is probably the worst. It's almost a slower version of my Bests deck from two Extended PTQ seasons ago... But grafted onto an Oversold Cemetery / The Rock frame; what I am trying to get at with this one is Oversold Cemetery plus Fulminator Mage, so there are all kinds of cards set up to get four creatures in the graveyard (Sakura-Tribe Elder over Elves, Fulminator Mage itself)... Like I said, this one is probably just awful, especially if people go back to Loam so that they can break Retrace. LD versus Loam? Nice deck. The other bad thing about this strategy is that if people are playing heavy graveyard hate to battle Dredge (remember that deck?) then decks like this, which are pretty flaccid without the graveyard, are going to suffer disproportionately.
Maybe the faster way to fill the graveyard is, I don't know, four Golgari Grave-Trolls of some sort.
Hopefully there is a good idea somewhere in these several sketches.