“Memoricide” says Chris. My heart sinks to the floor. It's game 1 so that means I have the misfortune of playing against Dude With Maindeck Memoricides. What's even worse was that I'd considered playing a deck with a couple myself and only decided against it that very morning. I tend to be a bit superstitious when it comes to games like Magic where chance plays a prominent role and this just felt like a Karmic kick in the junk.
Saturday morning I walk into the venue for States undecided between two decks and unsure whether I'd end the day in jail or in the hospital. StarCityGames.com events are held at the Richmond Convention Center and oftentimes there are other events held here concurrently that offer some fantastic synergy with us Magic geeks. Often it's some wonderful ethnic food festival like the India Food Festival for the Prerelease. Sometimes we get wonderful eye candy from a beauty pageant or women's volleyball tournament. Late last week I learned that this time around we got to share space with the Virginia Tea Party Patriot convention.
Bennie Smith + Tea Partiers is a serious nonbo; it's like throwing equipment into your shroud deck. Since this is a family friendly site I won't go on about my beef with the Tea Party let's just say they provoke anger and depression in me a dangerous concoction for sure. Thus my concern about ending the day in jail the hospital or some combination of both.
Late Friday night I'm trying to figure out which of three decks I'm going to play and eventually cut Eldrazi Green from the running because:
1) I expect it to be a popular choice and I hate playing mirror matches at a tournament like States and
2) I expect it would be hard for me not to go on tilt after whiffing on Summoning Trap multiple times.
That leaves two decks. One deck is right up my alley and has Bennie Smith written all over it. The other is one I cooked up when I realized that a lot of the top decks in the format are relatively threat-light . U/W Control is obviously chock full of control cards to keep from dying before getting around to playing its win conditions and the ramp decks are chock full of ramp spells. Which had me thinking…
What about Sadistic Sacrament?
The problem with cards like Sadistic Sacrament and Memoricide (which I eventually came around on too) is that you're spending your precious mana doing something that doesn't impact the present board state in the hopes of reaping future benefit. Memoricide in particular is a whopping four mana! For four mana you could be playing Day of Judgment Koth of the Hammer or Jace the Mind Sculptor. If you're on the draw there's no telling what sort of creatures are on the board panting steaming hot fetid breath all over your life totals and you're dicking around with Memoricide?
Sacrament on the other hand is a bit faster a bit cheaper and fires off with no chance of whiffing. People used to willingly pay six mana for this effect with Jester's Cap back in the day. Of course with Sacrament you've got to seriously dedicate yourself to mono-black.
Oh look we can do that…
I really liked this deck's approach with Duress Sacrament and Memoricide offering a pretty potent disruption suite that could seriously crimp or cripple some decks' ability to win and between the Doom Blades Gatekeepers Consuming Vapors and Anowon I wasn't overly concerned about dealing with Titans. Meanwhile I was beating down with small pale Goth guys and gals that could cumulatively transfer enough life from my opponent to me to get to victory. Oh and four copies of my favorite planeswalker killer Vampire Hexmage.
If someone had reminded me about Mimic Vat I'd have thrown it in this deck and run with it hands-down. Did you see this beautiful thing?
- 4 Bloodghast
- 3 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 2 Grave Titan
- 3 Malakir Bloodwitch
- 3 Skinrender
- 4 Vampire Hexmage
- 3 Vampire Nighthawk
So two decks in hand I walk over to where StarCityGames.com usually holds their events and walk smack dab into I'm Old I'm White I'm Angry and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore! Most everyone is dressed to the hilt in suits and dresses and while I'm seriously dressed down comparably I'm White I'm kinda Old so I don my angry face and stomp through like a human through a crowd of Pod People. I eventually find a sign showing me where my people can be found and thank Nicholas and Jared for booking their event in an entirely different building as these… folks.
Maybe I'll stay out of jail and the hospital after all.
“Memoricide” says Chris on turn 4. He looks at my graveyard and it looks impressive – nearly a third of my deck is in it by turn 4 thanks to crazy Hedron Crab and fetchland shenanigans. Chris sees a Necrotic Ooze in the graveyard he sees Gigantomancer and he sees Molten-Tail Masticore. Yep shenanigans splayed out on the table for all to see like a college freshman writing hard liquor checks his or her liver couldn't cash.
“I'll call Necrotic Ooze.”
What Chris doesn't see is a single one of my four Vengevines who were playing hard to get despite my going all-in the Vengevine plan when my deck decides to give me nothing but Hedron Crabs lands and a late-drawn Lotus Cobra I plan to use to spring the Vengevines back to life. I'd been silently cursing my rotten damn luck but as Chris looks through my deck and sees the Vengevines he looks alarmed that he chose the wrong card. Maybe the graveyard blue balls were worth it.
On my turn the next Crab flip finally reveals a Vengevine but my opponent plays a Baneslayer Angel. I drop another fetchland and show two more Vengevines and so I play Crab and Cobra and get them back. It's a hard race but doable… until Chris drops another Baneslayer.
Shuffle up for game 2 and I have to mulligan for the fourth time in as many rounds. Playing decks like these you have to shuffle a lot and I certainly do dedicate a lot of time to shuffling… but it's like your deck gets chaffed from all the love and doesn't want to function properly. I keep a serviceable hand with Fauna Shaman and Vengevine but when the Shaman gets the business end of a Doom Blade it starts to look less great.
Chris hasn't really done anything to advance his board up until this point but kicks things into high gear with Grave Titan bringing two shambling undead buddies to the dead man's party. Who could ask for more? I draw nothing so he leans in with ten-power worth of zombies. I briefly consider chumping with the Doppelganger but decide instead to adjust my life total from eighteen to eight. Maybe I'll draw something sweet?
Clone leaps from the top of my deck. Hm not bad! I play it and it comes into play copying Grave Titan to start my own dead man's party. My Doppelganger also becomes a Grave Titan itching to get in on the fun and swings adding more zombies to the mix. Chris chumps the big fella.
Chris draws thinks a minute and plays Wurmcoil Engine and passes the turn.
I rip another Clone off the top of my deck. I consider the Wurmcoil Engine since gaining some life would be helpful but I decide I'm having too much fun with Titan Clone Wars so I repeat my play from last turn only this time I'm swinging with two Titans and have so many zombie tokens when the dust clears that I immediately get an Executive Producer's credit on the upcoming AMC show The Walking Dead.
I actually manage to win that game. Sadly we run out of time game 3 and have to draw.
Perhaps I should share with you the deck I played last week?
- 1 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Clone
- 4 Enclave Cryptologist
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 3 Gigantomancer
- 4 Hedron Crab
- 1 Joraga Treespeaker
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 2 Necrotic Ooze
- 3 Renegade Doppelganger
- 1 Vampire Hexmage
- 4 Vengevine
Yep this is the deck I should've started with not ended with but unfortunately I spent all of my precious few playtesting minutes on the G/B Ooze Rock deck before coming to the conclusion that it desperately needed a third color and some oomph. For oomph I turned to the Hedron Crab/Enclave Cryptologist engine and came to find out during the tournament that the Cryptologists were awesome but the Crabs… not so much. The two pieces of equipment – Nim Deathmantle and Strider Harness – strike me as particularly good to have against slower decks that rely on sorcery speed removal to stabilize.
The first round I find myself matched up against Fred playing an infect deck in another Karmic kick to the groin considering how much I've written about the archetype but ultimately deciding against playing it. Its turn 4 and I was just given five poison token cards from my opponent's Plague Stinger enhanced with Groundswell. I have a Birds of Paradise in play but I'm mana-shy and don't want to give up the source for just a chump block. I've got a Fauna Shaman on the board and would love to start getting my party started but if I take another hit like that it's game over.
Copying the Plague Stinger seems like the optimal play. He can't Doom Blade it out of the way and even if he attacks and boosts his creature it's still going to get a -1/-1 counter from my guy and will die during the end step.
Fred draws for his turn frowns… and passes the turn. Eventually I get Necrotic Ooze in play Gigantomancer in the graveyard and send a 7/7 unblockable Creeping Tar Pit in twice to seal the game and after the next game the match. Clone for the win!
I originally decided to have Clones in my deck for numerous reasons first of all being a great answer to the It Girl of the Fall Frost Titan. Since Clone doesn't target it doesn't have to get around the frost armor and thus is a nice four-mana answer to your opponent's Frost Titan. It's also a great way to answer Linvala which is otherwise a nightmare for this deck and other legendary Eldrazi titans. As I demonstrated above it does a nice job as a Grave Titan but a little less amazing as a Primeval Titan – though it is helpful to fetch up your Creeping Tar Pits. It can even help break up Cunning Sparkmage shenanigans. A special shout-out to Brandon Isleib from The Johnny Fever Project for opening my eyes to the potential of Clone in this metagame. I only wish I'd squeezed a second copy into the maindeck.
I mentioned the Cryptologists being awesome here's why – they nicely complement what you're trying to do with Fauna Shaman. So often trying to “break off” Fauna Shaman requires you to go soooooo… slooooooowww… pitch a creature to get Gigantomancer… next turn pitch Gigantomancer to get Necrotic Ooze next turn play Necrotic Ooze then next turn untap and go Giganto-nuts… Fauna Shaman gets the card in your hand and then Cryptologist can get that card in the graveyard all in the same turn and the Cryptologist does it for free (after your initial level-up). Plus they help you dig for mana when you're land shy or throw away lands when you're glutted. I mean I know I'm being Captain Obvious here but I'd forgotten just how awesome looters were!
I ended Saturday at 1-3-1 a pretty atrocious record to be sure but by the time I finished up I was pretty excited about taking what I learned about the deck and making changes to optimize it. If I were to play this tonight this is what I'd try:
- 1 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 1 Sylvok Replica
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Clone
- 4 Enclave Cryptologist
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Frost Titan
- 1 Gigantomancer
- 2 Joraga Treespeaker
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 3 Necrotic Ooze
- 3 Renegade Doppelganger
- 1 Vampire Hexmage
- 4 Vengevine
I want to try out the Leylines because all day I kept hearing red mages gush about how amazing it was to two-for-one all the chumps playing little green men. Speaking of red mages and for those of you who suddenly feel suckered into reading 2000 words about a 1-3-1 deck I thought it might be fun to talk to one of my long-time good friends Jay Delazier who cracked the Top 8 at Champs with this fiery brew:
I was totally shocked to see Jay sleeve up a red deck since he's much more prone to play some crazy combo deck or some concoction that wears out opposing decks by gaining obscene amounts of life. Going into the last round of Swiss Jay was playing Win and In for Top 8 so I hooked my man up with a cold Magic Jones soda red of course from the stash Glenn Goddard sent to me last winter when he awarded me Honorable Mention for 2009s Champs writing. I couldn't stay to finish watching the match but I had hopes the Magic Soda might give him the boost to make it into the Top 8 and maybe even take the crown.
Q. Hi Jay-for those who don't know you give us a quick bio.
A. Age: 32
Occupation: I could throw a fancy title out there but I'm basically a systems tester for a major insurance company.
Started playing: Fallen Empires/Ice Age
Notable accomplishments: None really. One PTQ Top 8. Lots of 9ths in various events. Nothing relevant.
Q. How badass is that Top 8 playmat?
A. It's the first playmat that I've ever owned (I had to ask someone how I was supposed to carry it) so I don't know how it stacks up against others but the art is awesome. Apparently they sell for solid money but I think I'm going to keep it. Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of Legacy players like sitting across from a "States Top 8 competitor" playmat. Rar!
Q. I've noticed that your enthusiasm for Standard has been pretty close to nil for the past year or two while the conventional wisdom has been that we've been having the best Standard environments ever. Why did you drift away from Standard?
A. Mostly because Legacy is more fun than you can shake a stick at and it has been consuming most of my Magic playing time (disclaimer: I'm not a Legacy elitist I just love the format). That and the mythic rarity makes it impossible for most people to play the Standard decks that they really want to play. If people choose to homebrew just because they like to get in the lab and mix something up I'm down with that but the mythic rarity really puts a pinch on the average Standard Magic player. I don't want to play against my opponent's 75 unless it's the 75 that he actually wants to play.
Q. Why did you decide to play in States this year?
A. Why not?
Q. How did you decide to play an aggro red deck?
A. The perceived metagame didn't seem right for the style of deck that I typically like to play. I hadn't really played a straight aggro deck in a Constructed tournament in forever so I decided to sleeve one up.
Q. Everyone's been swooning over Koth of the Hammer and most of the red decks I've seen seem to start with four copies of Koth and go from there. Your decklist has only two. Was this by design or by card availability?
A. It's somewhere between design and availability issues. I was looking to run three but I had two available before the tournament and that's what I made room for. I was thinking about hitting the ATM to buy the third but I talked myself into the two Spitfires being better than the third Koth and a third Arc Trail. I definitely did not want four in this build despite the ridiculousness that he brings to the table. This deck just wants to play a different game than that and I didn't want to up my land count. If you want a solid four Koth list take a look at the guy the beat me in the Top 8 ( Justin Warbington ).
Q. So far your deck is the only RDW list with Chandra's Spitfire. What's up with your two copies of this unconventional choice?
A. The original list had four. Then I cut to three because drawing two in your opening hand is an effective double mulligan. Each Spitfire just made the other one soooooo terrible. Cutting to two was a concession that I had to make to squeeze Koth into the deck but I wasn't willing to go lower than that. Spitfire does really dumb things.
Q. Give us a rundown of how your day went-matchups wins/losses etc.
A. I went 7-1 in the Swiss losing only to U/W Control in round 1. Here are the decks I played against:
U/W Control x2
RDW w/Ember Hauler
The Mono-G deck that ramps up into Emrakul
U/W Quest + Argentum Armor deck
A spicy Mono-B number with Abyssal Persecutor
U/W/G Midrange Planeswalker thing (he called it Mythic)
Q. What was your maindeck MVP?
A. Arc Trail. By a mile.
Q. Sideboard MVP?
A. Goblin Ruinblaster. People apparently forgot that this was a card. Or just thought it was terrible (hint: it might be). Don't keep hands with three lands that come into play tapped against red decks while this guy exists. Ever.
Q. If you could jump back in time and tweak your deck before States would you change anything?
Q. If you could jump back in time and tweak
deck before States would you change anything? Please?
A. I don't really want to knock anyone's card choices in front of your readers. Especially when I haven't seen a list for your most recent 75. I'll just say that I thought you should have played something closer to your original Ooze Rock and add two Frost Titans. There are certainly better Constructed players than me to ask though.
Q. What was the most memorable play you had on the day?
A. Dealing eighteen on turn 4 with burn + Spitfire. Felt filthy. I had to do the math three times to make sure that I had it right because it didn't seem like it should be that much.
Q. What was the most memorable play made against you on the day?
A. One of my control opponents blocked a fully leveled Kargan Dragonlord with a Baneslayer Angel thinking that he was a Dragon. Daniel Sayle (of Scrubland podcast fame —Bennie) gave me the heads-up the day before on this exact play (since I don't really play much Standard) or I may have missed it too.
Q. What do you think of Scars of Mirrodin?
A. I really like it. I think that they really captured the essence of Mirrodin without going too far over the top. Let's see how insane the keyword mechanics get in the second set this time though.
Q. What's your favorite Quentin Tarantino movie?
A. I see what you did there. No matter which one I pick three-quarters of your readers are going to think I'm a far bigger d-bag than they already do. Fine. Reservoir Dogs. Now they can all tell me how dumb I am – to the forums!
Q. What's your favorite Coen brothers' movie?
A. What a ridiculous question to ask someone. Comparing Coen brothers' movies to one another is like comparing French silk pie to Boston cream pie. They're both equally awesome yet different. I've watched O Brother Where Art Thou Fargo and The Hudsucker Proxy more than any of the others so it's likely one of those. I guess O Brother.
Q. We've known each other a really long time. What's your most amusing "Bennie Smith Magic moment?"
Q. How delicious is Purifying Fire Jones Soda?
A. Quite tasty. Although one of the judges indicated that it's been out of production for a while. We both looked for an expiration date and couldn't fine one. I asked for a ruling as to whether I was okay to keep drinking it and he indicated that I was probably good to go. I thought about appealing to the head judge but he seemed busy.
Q. Did you dumpster-dive when that judge threw the cool bottle away?
A. I didn't actually see the bottle get thrown away. I just assumed that StarCity's ever vigilant judge staff saw the bottle and chucked it.
Q. This one is wide open-riff on whatever you want.
A. There's a reason that I'm not a writer. If I had three months to come up with something to fill this space it'd likely still be blank. Can you just follow this with some Beastie Boy lyrics or something?
Jeb... get away from the bar-b-que man
Don... get the hell away from that thing
Don's give me a kiss
Won't you come and give me a kiss
Um… we'll just blame Rizzo for that somehow?
Okay so that wraps things up for this week. EDH fans please join me the next two weeks as I get all Hallowe'en'icious talking about the evil new black Generals from Scars of Mirrodin!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to friend/follow me at:
My current EDH decks: