Not bad. Not bad at all. A fairly large number of very cool-in-a-little-kid way cards and a fair number of tournament worthy cards. I have only one real complaint about the set; that it is blatant evidence of WotC's laughable claim that rares are just"different," not more powerful, than commons and uncommons. Cull out the tourney-worthy cards from Apocalypse; the VAST majority of them are rares, and I don't know if there is a SINGLE common that makes the cut. Wait — Bloodfire Dwarf, I guess... Maybe some of the opposing-color bears... Still, you get the idea.
This rare=good policy bugs me in particular, because after spending $130 (Canadian) for a box of Apocalypse, I was exactly six cards closer to completing the deck I knew I wanted to play in July Type II. Six....freakin'...cards. One Desolation Angel, one Vindicate, one Arena, one Death Grasp, one Caves of Koilos, one Gerrard's Verdict (ONE Verdict in a box?!?!?). Now I could use a lot of the rest of the box to trade for some of the rares I needed... But considering that the deck I want to use has EIGHTEEN rares from Apocalypse alone, not to mention many very desirable rares at that, that one box just doesn't get me very far. Sigh.
You thought this was a tourney report, huh? I seem to end up doing that a lot; starting to write my report and shooting off on some tangent about something else. I am getting to the tourney report, bear with me.
I had built a B/W control deck from the spoiler before I bought any Apocalypse — me, and everybody else on the planet. How could you avoid it? The comparison between Necro and Arena is inevitable, and the core of the deck is so insanely obvious. Arenas, Grasps, Caves, Vindicates, Verdicts, Duress, etc. You could go a few different ways with the B/W Arena deck, however; you could go aggro with lots of efficient black and white weenies (Foul Imp, Spectral Lynx, Scuta, Idol, Steadfast Guards) and enhancers (Unholy strength, Sinister Strength); or land kill with Befoul, Rain of Tears, Despoil, and Ports.
I chose control because I've always been a controlly type player. There have been a couple articles posted already about this type of deck (one on StarCity right this minute by Dave Meddish) and my deck is much like those, with one main exception being Nether Spirits. Logically, I KNOW they are good — they have been proven in high-caliber tournaments for months — but my gut says..."No. Too puny...want...fat.."
So, here is my B/W control, which sadly is lacking a cool name — which it really needs, since I like the deck so much. I keep thinking"Oreo"; it seems to be the most obvious B/W popular culture reference, but I just can't finish on it. Any thoughts?
4 Dark Ritual
4 Phyrexian Arena
4 Death Grasp
4 Gerrard's Verdict
4 Chimeric Idol
3 Wrath of God
2 Desolation Angel
2 Blinding Angel
1 Gerrard, Capashen
1 Coffin Puppets
4 Caves of Koilos
2 Persecute (Still some monocolor, or near-monocolor, decks out there)
2 Sacred Ground (Land kill is bad — and hey, is this good with Desolation Angel or what? Actually no, it's not, since the effect reads"an effect controlled by an opponent, but I thought it would work at the time of the tourney.)
1 Tsabo's Decree
2 CoP: Red
The build is fairly straightforward, with only some explanation needed. Ritual is a must. I've seen some people say you don't need it in more controlly versions and they play with Diamonds or just more land. Wrong wrong wrong — you want the Ritual-Arena as often as you can get it, and Ritual-Idol ain't bad, either. The Rituals also help boost Grasps and kicked Desolation Angels, so they are never bad. Diamonds don't accelerate Arena at all, so therefore they aren't much help in my opinion. The creature mix is the other area my deck seems slightly different, since I forego Nether Spirits. All my creatures other than idols have some form of evasion. I just love the way Blinding Angel can shut down creature decks, even if it dies to Flametongue Kavu. The Desolation Angels simply are game over if they are cast with kicker (and they always are; if they aren't, then something is wrong). Obviously, you never want them in your opening hand, or more than one in your hand for that matter, so two seems good since you almost always REALLY want one right around turn 7.
Coffin Puppets. Now THAT is a recurring creature. I only have one and I threw it in a Control Black deck I had a while ago and they never disappoint me. I need to get more; they really are nice. I dropped to three Wraths because I found I was a bit threat-shy and looking for one more suitable creature (I didn't have any more Puppets or Blinding Angels). It came down to Mageta or Gerrard. Gerrard... Good ol' Gerrard, you big ol' boy scout. I chucked him in for kicks, mostly, and he turned out to be not bad. The life gain is obviously good with Arena, and he does have pseudo evasion. I do have sixty-one cards in the main deck and Gerrard would be the one to go if I forced myself to cut, I think. Still, he did prove useful during the tourney once or twice.
I got to the tourney site, a store called Stronghold in Guelph, Ontario (Ontario, Canada for the geographically impaired) and trolled around to try and borrow/buy/trade the multitude of Apocalypse rares I still needed for the deck. I managed to get them all — mostly via borrowing, alas (wanna trade your Vindicates, Arenas, Caves, Grasps? Email me!) — and was ready to go. We had fourteen people, five rounds of swiss to determine the top 3, who get some cash. No single elimination, just the swiss.
Round 1: vs. Tom, W/b/u Distorting Lens/Paladin deck. This looked like a fun deck but it was not quite ready for prime time. Tom was a nice guy and polite opponent.
Game 1: He stalls at three mana for the whole game — which isn't long, because I follow a turn 2 Verdict up with an Arena and drop an Idol, Blinding Angel, then kick a Desolation Angel to end things fairly quickly. I think the only spells he cast were a Duress, a Vindicate, and a Distorting Lens.
Game 2: I don't think I sideboard anything. His mana is a little better off but I get another good draw and hit him with two Verdicts early to kill most of his hand and get an Arena down shortly after again, so I get way ahead on cards. I don't draw any creatures for a while, so I end up hitting him with a couple of big Grasps and then finally finish with a kicked Desolation Angel again.
Round 2: Matt, B/R/w aggro R/B with splash of white for a mix of Verdicts, Vindicate, Grasp, and Captain's Maneuver in small amounts. I can understand splashing white for most of those cards, but I don't see how the Maneuver is ever going to do anything that B/R cards won't do better. In any case it is always nice to play Matt, a solid player who is very quiet.
Game 1: I hit him with a Duress turn 1 and see mountains, swamps and a bunch of cards with white in the cc except for a terminate which I take. He doesn't get a white mana source for at least four to five turns — and when he does, I Vindicate it. By then, I am riding extra cards from an Arena and win quite comfortably with two large Grasps and a couple of Blinding Angel hits.
Game 2: Side in CoP: Reds, dropping one Wrath and Gerrard. I Ritual out an Arena turn 1, drop another turn 3, and figure I have this game in a walk after I hit him with two Verdicts to empty his hand. I Grasp a Phyrexian Gargantua and drop a Blinding Angel, but die about turn 13 to my two Arenas without having seen another Verdict or Death Grasp. Matt was low thanks to Angel beats, but hung on long enough. I went through about thirty-five cards and only saw one Grasp. Shrug, it happens. One Grasp or one more Verdict at any time during that game, and I would have gained back enough life to win easily.
Game 3: I have a CoP: Red in opening hand and pray he doesn't Duress it, since it shuts down most of his offense save for Scuta and a couple of Phyrexian dudes. He doesn't have the turn 1 Duress, so the COP hits and I feel pretty good. I feel less good when he Rituals out a kicked Scuta on his turn 2... But luckily, I have the Vindicate for it. He kicks another one on turn 4, and again fortune smiles on me as I have the Vindicate. It is easy from there as he only shows red damage sources and I fly in with a couple of Blinding Angels; one dies, but the other and a Grasp finish him.
2-0 matches, 4-1 games so far.
Round 3: Phil, U/R Counter Burn, 12 Counterspells (Foils, Thwarts, Counterspell), Prophetic Bolts, Rages, and lots of library manipulation. No creatures other than Magpies, but he seemed to have a lot of Briberies. Phil is probably the best player in Guelph, and he wins a lot of these local tourneys. It is always fun to play him because of the challenge and because he is nice guy. He lent me a ton of the cards I needed for my deck.
Game 1: I mulligan a hand of only swamp and gold cards and get back a six-card hand that is the same thing: Three Swamp, two Grasps, one Verdict. For some stupid reason I keep it, and seven turns later have yet to see a white mana source OR a Duress OR an Arena OR an Idol or anything that I could cast, although I do have six Swamps on the table and a hand of three Grasps, three Verdicts, and one Vindicate. Needless to say I lose, even though I do finally pull a Caves and start chipping at Phil's hand with three Verdict's in a row and then try a couple of Grasps. Phil, of course, counters basically everything and beats me to death with a Briberied Gerrard, who is gaining him six life a turn because I can't cast anything. He ends the game at around fifty life or so. Thanks, Gerrard, you traitorous bastard.
Game 2: Side in two Persecutes, one Mageta, side out Gerrard (jerk), one Wrath, one Grasp. I get two Verdicts off on turn 2 and 3 and get an Arena to hit the table turn 4 via Ritual after he counters an Idol. Once the Arena hits I feel pretty safe, since I should be able to overwhelm his counters. I do, and eventually cast a kicked Desolation Angel and think the game is over... But I am a bit low on life, and after three hits from the Angel Phil has dropped four straight land. If he had pulled one more land, he could have Prophetic Bolted me for the win (I was at five with the Arena out), but he didn't. Phew, too close.
Game 3: I think I Ritual out an Arena, and then after a Duress and then Persecute (which was countered, I think), I get another Arena out. Hard for me to imagine losing drawing three cards a turn, unless all my Grasps hide like in game 2 vs. Matt. They don't and I win fairly easily.
Round 4: Dwayne, Machine Head B/R. Whoever wins this round is probably first overall for the tourney regardless of what happens in Round 5. Dwayne has improved a lot in the last few months. When I first saw him at these tourneys he was losing a lot... But in the last few tourneys I have seen him win one and is generally at the higher tables. Good to see young talent progressing.
Game 1: I Duress away a Shock, leaving him a couple seals and a Ravenous Rat. He hits me with a Raging Goblin and Rat for a turn or two, but I get a turn 3 Arena so I feel pretty confident. I Wrath his weenies away and hit once or twice with an Idol before it gets Sealed and trades with a Thunderscape Familiar. He Voids for five after I drop a Blinding Angel and hits another Blinding and Desolation Angel in my hand... But it doesn't even matter, since I have two Grasps and a Vindicate waiting. I hit him a couple decent sized Grasps and finish it with Gerrard!
Game 2: Side out one Wrath and one Vindicate for two CoP: Red. I have to mulligan to five this game and keep a swamp, Ritual, Idol, Grasp, Puppets hand. I Ritual the Idol out and drop the Puppets to his turn 2 Rats. I hit once with Idol and then it sits and stares at a Chilling Apparition. I get another Idol on turn 3, leaving a Ritual and Wrath in my hand with two Swamp and one Plains, and two Idols on the table to his one Rats, one Chilly, and four land. He draws and drops a Blazing Spectre. Uh oh. I drop the Ritual and think that if I don't pull a white mana source or Vindicate off the top, I am going to lose this game in a hurry. I pull a Plains... Whew. Wrath and serve with two Idols, and suddenly life is looking much rosier. He gets a Pyre Zombie to block one Idol and Terminates the other, but I get an Arena down. He hits me with a Blazing Spectre again after I pull my Puppets out during my upkeep, and I top deck nicely again, pulling a Vindicate to kill it. If he ever taps out he can't keep recurring the Zombie, so I get some damage in here and there with the Puppets, then Wrath once more before winning with a flyer of some kind. Close game; I was down to six at one point.
4-0 matches, 8-2 games at this point.
Round 5: Dan, Sterling Grove/Necra Sanctuary deck. Wow, do those two cards ever work well together. The Grove fetches the Sanctuary and/or powers it up AND protects it: Not bad for only eight cards. The rest of the deck is various G/W/b stuff based around helping the combo. Seals of Cleansing, BoPs, Elves, Vindicates, Grasps, Llanowar Knights, a couple of Spiritmongers.
Game 1: I Duress and see that Dan kept a one-land hand with a BoP. I take a Necra Sanctuary and he drops a Bird, then pulls a land and Cloaks it up. I have the Vindicate for it, though, and although he isn't mana stalled for too long, I get an Arena out and kick a Desolation Angel in short order.
Game 2: Side out Puppets, side in one Disenchant; that's all I can think to do. I want more Disenchants in but I don't want to drop anything else. I need more practice sideboarding. This is an odd game; he gets three Birds out by turn 3 and a Necra Sanctuary while I drop an Arena. I then draw land after land after land, as does Dan. I don't mind too much, though, because I am holding a Ritual and two Grasps in hand, so despite two per turn from the Sanctuary and my Arena, I don't fear my life total too much. Dan then drops a Sterling Grove and the Sanctuary is a much larger concern, but I Wrath his three Birds away and then Grasp twice in a row for eight, and then eleven, to restore my life total. In between Dan Grasps me for five, but the turn after my second Grasp I kick a Desolation Angel and my life total is too high for even his two Necra Sanctuaries (with Grove in play) to dent me before the Angel finishes him.
5-0 Matches, 10-2 games (One loss with no white mana and one with horrible luck with two Arenas in play), first overall, I win $20. Yee haw. I have also played the deck in a couple online tourneys (albeit small ones, 8-12 people) but out of four tourneys with the deck I have won two, lost in the finals of another, and bowed out second round of a single elimination event once for an overall match record of something like 17-4. Even if you want to be cynical and assume my competition was not top-notch or that the deck is not optimal, it clearly is a very solid deck in the"new" Type 2.
I think this is long enough. Thanks for reading.