I've been in the graveyard too long; it's a vile place of mal concentration, loss of self, and those creepy crawling anxieties that cloud one's outlook. I have an urge to shuffle Magic cards more often, so I'm making a commitment to better my life, stay out of trouble, and chase down those FNM Planeswalker Points to be to be the illest mage on the block every Friday night.
This new set is great—lots of brewing opportunities, so I'll be starting a series where I chronicle my 60-card excursions into the night of Friday Magic with a unique deck every week or two, while giving insight into Standard as I see it, here in the best city never to host a pro-level Magic event (San Antonio, 7th biggest in the damn US, kthx); however keeping all letters to my unborn children away from public eye…
Speaking of children, did you know that there is an international norm for the allowed number of births by a single sperm donator? That number is 20. In countries like France and Britain, you're only allowed to have 20 children by means of sperm donation, however in Denmark they're a little more lax, allowing 25 children!
In the US and Canada, however, in true gorging American fashion, we don't have a limit. We can spend our entire lives getting paid to donate our sperm to science, all the while creating an army of offspring that are probably unaware of their ties to their siblings, creating quite scary accidental incestuous opportunities.
Shoot, there's one guy who has been donating for over 30 years who has up to an estimated 1,000 kiddos out there bearing his obtuse nose, brown eyes, and a sex drive rivaled only by Wilt Chamberlain.
That sounds like a pretty intangible game plan: sit back, procure a virtuous army, and then conquer the world in one quick attack step. Wait a sec; we can do this in Standard too!
This deck is geared to handle Liliana, Mana Leak, sweeper effects, and also positions itself well to face midrange and aggressive strategies. When I saw the Township Tokens deck from Indy last week, I noticed someone else was on my brainwave in regards to token power, so I thought I had a real contender.
A few notes on the deck…
Intangible Virtue and Honor of the Pure quickly proved themselves to be the backbone of the deck. If you find ways to give them consistent value, you oftentimes overwhelm opponents easily. They're also tricky for Mana Leak players to oppose. They don't want to use their Leaks on Virtue or Honor in the first few turns, and once they hit four-five-six mana, a lot of the U/W or U/B decks want to start tapping out for Titans, Swords, and hexproof bastards. This means you put them to the countermagic logic test, and most opponents you'll run into don't know when to counter what or why! It's apparent when you should use a Mana Leak when someone is casting something very relevant, but when you're piecing your game plan together with spells they aren't used to facing, it opens up the door for them to make mistakes.
Shrine of Loyal Legions is an absolute beating against anything you play against. Just be patient and watch your opponent sweat, as they know they have no way in the maindeck to destroy it!
Mikaeus is hard to get value out of and underperforms aside from the fact that people freak out and want to instant kill it. If you fear a removal spell, one trick I found useful was to activate Mikaeus, then cast Midnight Haunting. That way, if they respond with a removal spell, you'll still get the +1/+1 counters on those fearsome flying Spirits.
Midnight Haunting is a spell they want to Mana Leak, but given you can respond by resolving an Elspeth, Geist, or Hero, they oftentimes fear the bigger spell. To get max value out of it, sometimes you might want to hold it until you have another bomb mythic to follow it up with.
Geist-Honored Monk is really awesome, especially when you're packing Honor and Virtue; however getting waterlogged on five-drops is tough. One solution I tried was playing green for Avacyn's Pilgrim and/or Birds to have a bit more mana, but those decks didn't maximize the power of having Honor of the Pure and Intangible Virtue, so it was sort of a wash. Still, a Naya token deck with Rally the Peasants could be worth it. You'd also have turn 2 Daybreak Ranger potential, which is if you can find any online to buy! With Kibler cornering the Ranger market, it's going to be tough to find that Werewolf when the going gets hot!
Moorland Haunt + the Glorious Anthem effects is really awesome; however I did find I didn't have enough creatures to brutally use this land, unlike the Gavony Township that enables you to sit back and pump your team to force action on their side. After seeing the Township Token decks, I made the quick switch to green as well.
Here's the list I played at FNM on 10/7…
I adopted the mana base I saw from SCG Indy, which has been very consistent for me.
The sideboard is just a rough draft, but I wanted to play Grand Abolisher to see how good he could be. When playing a token deck, it's easy to get discouraged, but with Abolisher, you always know when you're going to win rather than fall victim to some damn trick like Gnaw to the Bone that diarrheas all over your fruit loops.
Round 1 – Adam Becker with U/W Control
I don't know why, but I was nervous shuffling up for game one. Perhaps it was the anticipation of knowing I was playing a game that I was going to write about, an anxiety telling me I had some Planeswalker Points to win, or perhaps it was the extra picante sesame chicken burrito I just ate that was creating a rumble in my tumble.
Whatever the case, the mulligan to five didn't help game one, but three lands + Mikaeus and Midnight Haunting helped! Mikaeus met his Dismember, and Midnight Haunting was Mana Leaked. I intangibly drew Honor of the Pure the rest of the game, which he used his THREE Oblivion Rings on, when all of a sudden a rush of self-doubt overcame me…
What the hell am I doing here?
I should be at a movie with my girlfriend rounding second base!
This kid probably doesn't even know I'm a damn level 44 Battlemage, good for 420th best on the all-time Planeswalker Points list!
Why do I even care? I've got a wonderful relationship, a prosperous business, comfortable socks, and aside from the monster hemorrhoid making me sit a little crooked*, life is going well! Why do I get emotionally invested in the bull**** kiddy game?
AND WHY DO I MULLGIAN TO FIVE EVERYTIME IT COUNTS!!!!! AAAAAGHGHHHHHH!
I've been here before though, against the ropes, down a game with every bit of my bloated ego on the line.
My opening hand for this game was… NO LANDS!?!?! WTF?!?
He used Dismember on the first Grand Abolisher. I topdecked land, and Midnight Haunting resolved, which led to a turn four with Grand Abolisher and Honor of the Pure. Life was good; I had creatures in play; they were turned sideways; his life total was dropping in large clumps; and my turbulent stomach was calming down, as my Elspeth helped me recover from his Day of Judgment!
Game three was a tough one! I fought through a couple of Timely Reinforcements, three of his Oblivion Rings, and a Gideon, but my triple Elspeth draw was too much for him, and I pulled out a real nail biter, since his Wurmcoil Engine would have done me in if not for a couple of Oblivion Rings of my own!
Still, we should always appreciate Magic as a thrill-seeking sport. You go on an emotional roller coaster, from the PT heights to the FNM slums; you can get your rush whatever the game state! It's also a drug that you're forced to play with your friends; it's a social outlet. Unlike meth, which makes you sit at home in the dark all day watching reruns of Ren and Stimpy. But who was comparing the two in the first place?
That felt like the nine hardest Planeswalker Points this curly-haired fool has ever earned, but now we can commence with some token beatings!
Round 2 – John Fischer with Mono-Blue Illusions
A straight-up rip off of Todd Anderson's list, but I had a read that this guy wasn't the type to be playing an aggro-control deck because he lacked a good deal of patience in my opinion. So much that he didn't even shuffle his deck; he just gave it to me to cut!
So naturally, I gave it a real good shuffling, maybe ten or so riffles, to which he responded, “I hate it when people shuffle my deck!”
I quipped back, “You're in the wrong sport then, brotha!”
Remarks like that are how you pull ahead in body tempo; he was pissed at me and wanted to beat me, but unfortunately for him he had zero ways to deal with a Shrine of Loyal Legions, so I waited until it was at ten before making a lethal number of 3/3 vigilant tokens!
Before game two, he separated his deck into lands and spells, then did the 2 spell / 1 land split right in front of me. What gaud, what brass, this guy. He shuffled his deck a bit this time, then proceeded to scowl at me while I made sure his deck was indeed randomized.
Opening hand: two lands, a Shrine, and four other cards, KEEP!
Ain't no frown in a loyal shrine city!
Round 3 - Doofus Mcdooferson with Myr.dec
When I sat down, he said that I was the guy to beat at this tournament and that he was excited to play me. I told him I was just luckier than the rest and that Magic has less skill than trying to pee with your hands behind your back.
If nothing else, Doofus knew about consistency. His large hardened hands were those of someone who does lots of manual labor, indicated by the tattered shirt, matted jeans, and scuffed steel-toe boots. He was a man who knew what he wanted to do, but perhaps he didn't quite know how to get there.
You see, he was under the assumption that he had infinite mana with two Myr Galvanizer and an Iron Myr in play; slamming a pair of Myr Battlesphere out of nowhere! In fact, however, all he had was an endless loop of tappy, untappy bull****, and he just showed me his hand for no reason. So instead, he just played a Silver Myr, which would have given him infinite mana if I didn't use an Oblivion Ring on one of the Galvanizers.
He got stuck on six mana sources, and I won by attacking, pumped by Gavony Township.
Game two he had more of an aggressive draw, hitting me with Myr Superion a couple times before my Shrine was big enough to spew more Myrs out than he could handle!
3-0, on top of the FNM standings, livin' the good life!
Round 4 – Christian Dawson with Mono Red
Y'know that one kid who takes Magic too seriously at your shop? Stuck-up little punk, thinks he's better than everyone, thinks he knows his sh*t, thinks his sh*t don't smell, thinks he's got the motion in the ocean??
“They” are the most fun and least fun people to play against. It's awesome to beat them and slap that sh*t-eating grin off their sh*t-eating face. However, every sh*tty dog has its sh*tless day, and this canine wasn't hungry for Scooby snacks this Friday. He wanted my blood, smattered and splattered all over our glorious FNM hall.
Game one I stabilized at 19 before he chump-blocked, Brimstone Volleyed me EOT to 14, cast Galvanic Blast + Incinerate to put me at 9, then another two Incinerates to the dome before untapping and casting the fourth Incinerate to my face!!! Nineteen burn in three end steps!
A mulligan bit my butt, but you can't feel bad about a starting hand with Plains, Sunpetal Grove, Shrine of Loyal Legions, Midnight Haunting, Timely Reinforcements, Tree of Redemption! This one will be a cakewalk!
Except, y'know, I never drew a third land! Damn Stromkirk Nobles tromped my happy ass!
At my FNM we did four rounds, cut to top 8, then played for some big bucks! We had about 40 people, giving me a hefty nine Planeswalker Participation Points (PPP!).
Top 8 vs. Mike Flukes Humans
Mike Fluke is a good guy—humble, inquisitive, good natured. He'll be a wise magician one day when he figures out how to deal with his shaky nervous hands.
His deck was pristine, or what I saw of it. Game one I fell behind early when he won the dice roll and had the turn 1 Champion of the Parish, turn 2 DOUBLE Champion of the Parish! THREE! I couldn't come back in time and lost quickly.
Game two was more infuriating; I ended up buying lots of time with Doomed Travelers while pumping my Shrines. I was even in good shape when he landed a Sword of Feast and Famine because I had two Shrines with six and seven counters in play, but because I'm a bad Magic player I never drew a third land.
It's moments like these that remind me of one subtle detail about our dear game. Only one person finishes any given tournament a winner. Everyone else either loses their last game or wasn't in the hunt to begin with.
The deck, however, is a real winner. I love it to pieces, and you should probably play it at States this weekend.
After seeing the Township Tokens updated deck with maindeck Day of Judgment and Timely Reinforcements, I actually chose to go another route. I don't agree with playing Day in a token deck or Timely Reinforcements maindeck. What I'm hungry for is another cheap spell to stop me from falling behind in the late game, while having some value late game, and my man with the plan is Gideon's Lawkeeper!
Gideon's Lawkeeper has a lot of value right now; he's a guy who can handle a Stromkirk Noble, Wurmcoil Engine, and Grave Titan, all of which are problems for this deck unopposed. He's also a lean aggressive one-drop that chips in early damage, gives you more aggressive Shrines because you can curve into turn-three two-drop + one-drop, and he even can tap down their fragile mana base that relies on Birds of Paradise!
I can understand the want to slow down, play a more controlling game, but having Day and Reinforcements in the deck makes your late-game draws pretty bad when you need one or two spells to pull ahead. I also want to max out on Elspeth and Hero because when you curve into them, this deck is impossible to beat.
Here's another deck I've been working the kinks out of…
Chandra + Liliana + Gideon makes a good Three's Company imitation, with Solemn Simulacrum making a decent Mr. Roper. I might play this on Friday, but I'm not sure I've got good numbers across the list yet.
There are a lot of things this deck has going for it, but I really need to put some more time in it to see exactly what I want to do with it. Powerful interactions a plenty, but the premise is to curve into three very powerful planeswalkers and let them gain you card advantage while you play the one-for-one removal suite to complement them. To finish them, you've got big daddy Gideon, Grave Titan, and a singleton Wurmcoil Engine that can bail you out.
Timely Reinforcements helps you play catch up to give you time to implement the most aspiring interaction in the deck, Chandra, the Firebrand + Tezzeret's Gambit. Since you're copying a proliferate spell, Chandra doesn't lose loyalty, and if you've got a Liliana out, you can jump her to six very quickly.
Anyway, I'll do some more work on this list and see what I can come up with. Pairing Liliana and Chandra together is very attractive; they just might need another sausage to cling to because Gideon is pretty awkward to cast. A quick look through available planeswalker men doesn't show too much hope though. Koth needs Mountains; Garruk is a rough cast; and Sorin doesn't do anything inspiring at all.
Jace could step up and make this a solid Grixis build with some graveyard motivation; Tiago is great with Incinerate, but there isn't anything that replaces the value Timely Reinforcements gives the deck.
Have fun at States; hopefully some better brews will emerge this weekend because all these Solar Flare loons are a bit out of control!
Thanks for reading,
Top 5 Picks
1) Simple X – Andrew Bird
2) Guaranteed – Eddie Vedder
3) What Sarah Said – Death Cab for Cutie
4) 5 Years Time – Noah And The Whale
5) Perfect Timing – Orba Squara
* Seriously though, hemorrhoids are no joke. I skipped GP Columbus, with Billy Moreno's Flash Hulk deck in hand, because I didn't want to sit that entire weekend. I even had a plane ticket! Roids are to Magic as a Charlie horse is to soccer. It's a debilitating injury that really hinders your concentration, and in a sport like ours where you have to sit on your bum for 50-minute intervals, you're in some real trouble. Not to mention the bathrooms aren't very friendly places to apply the prep H, no one ever wants to help you, and you get looked at funny when you gotta straddle the sink for the suppository.
Use your brain! Don't strain!