Among the issues of an existential nature that philosophers ponder are questions about existence, identity, and so forth: How did I come to be and what is my purpose? Of course, for us Magic players, we ask an even deeper question - one that strikes at the root of our very being: What deck will I play?
I love that commercial where allergy sufferers identify their allergies by saying what they are."I'm a dander, mold, fungus.""I'm a pollen, mold, dust." I think we Magic players do the same thing:
Personally, I'm a Casual, Johnny, Rogue.
So when I look for a deck, what am I looking for? Something Johnny-esque. Something with a hint of rogue (not rouge, which would be a different thing to look for altogether). Maybe something a tad more casual, but a whole lot more fun.
So I think I can get Regionals Saturday off from work, despite it being Official Move-In Weekend here at the Towers Residential Complex for Spring and Summer students. As such, I begin my quest for a deck that will be my tool of destruction.
I begin my journeys by perusing the StarCityGames.com Official Regionals Center with Super Crime-Fighting Action! Four hundred decklists in a database can be a bit imposing. Before I start perusing individual decks, I need to figure out what I want to play.
Last summer, I was with Red/Green Beats in Type Two and OBC. I even played Fires at Origins because it had become rogue and unexpected. Therefore, I have a lot of experience with R/G. My major problem is that R/G has gone from Zero to Hero... Which means they've been accounted for in sideboards a-go-go.
I need a different strategy.
I'm no Timmy. Big, splashy effects and creatures that make Godzilla cringe are cute and all - but unless you are sacking them to Greater Good or something, I'm not all about that. On the other hand, I'm not above playing with classic tournament staples, especially if they are not being played as I think they should be.
I need a deck in a major way.
I find the sheer number of decks in the StarCity Grid of Decks to be staggering. Where to begin? I can automatically eliminate any decks that rhyme with 'Mog. U/G Madness, R/G Beasts, MBC - these are not my idea of good times. I am not taking a day off on a weekend to go to a frenetic and highly-charged atmosphere with a deck that bores me out of my skull. If I'm not going to sleep in until dusk and play computer games, then I at least want a real deck that I'll have fun playing.
I see some decks entitled G/W. Green and white? You've got to be kidding me. Doesn't that go down as the Most Boring Combination of Colors Ever? I'd rather paint my toenails fuchsia than play the mindless control of green combined with the not-so-thrilling adventures of white. Ick.
Reanimator piques my interest. I may look at Reanimator later if nothing else strikes my fancy.
Reanimator later. I find that hilarious, for some reason.
Sligh? I forgot about how mind-numbing red can be with its Paragon of Boredom. I'm so blasé with it all.
Clerics? Beasts? Goblins? Elves? Dragons? If I play a tribe deck, then it can't be the typical tribes. Maybe birds....
Isn't there something out there that shouts and screams to me? Something that says"Play Me" with a Lewis Carroll label on a mysterious biscuit?
Wake looks like a fun deck but I simply don't have the time to: A) Acquire all of these zany cards; and B) Learn how to play what is definitely the most recent entrant to the Ten Hardest Decks of All Time to Play.
I see a Biorhythm deck and I have to wonder how someone actually won with Biorhythm. Wrath of God/Biorhythm. An eight casting cost sorcery that kills the controller of no creatures - in an era of creatures, man that seems like backwards tech.
B/R Land Destruction? That sounds fun. Annoying too, I bet. Imagine how utterly annoyed people would be when you kill them with land destruction. And in this post-Armageddon environment, it might actually work. Another deck to place a checkmark beside for future perusal. I see another B/R LD deck later on the page. When were these decks played, and where was I?
Man, I think we all really miss LD, don't we?
I see another B/R LD deck, too. Three B/R LD decks? Hmmm. Shortly later, an R/G LD deck appears. That's funny. It's like a rogue version of the rogue LD deck. This one chooses to use Terravore instead of Magnivore and harnesses Epicenter.
Epicenter! That's true tech.
There blue and white decks without Wrath of God main. How strong is that? Then I see a Convalescent Care deck. Now that's something. Of course, the deck has no creatures, instead relying on the powerhouse that is Zombie Infestation to bring the beats.
CounterRift seems like an interesting selection. Another checkmark for further investigation. I think that people have overestimated the demise of counter-oriented control. Any environment that has Counterspell has to have some counter decks somewhere.
I haven't mentioned Astral Slide-oriented decks yet because it is a special case. I cannot remember a time in recent history when a Johnny deck has been one of the top decks. Fires was Timmy's turn at the top, Counter-Rebel, Nether-Go, U/G Madness, MBC, R/G - all Spike. Wake is Johnny, but it isn't a top deck. And so forth. So, if I ever want to play a major deck, this may be my one chance.
So the Rogue in me is battling with the Johnny in me. My deck choices are:
- Astral Slide Goodness
- Land Destruction
- My Own Concoction
Astral Slide is a little too mainstream for my tastes, although it still may end up being an option. It has several ways of developing in a game, but I am not accustomed to the style of play yet, although I figure I can be up to par by Regionals if I play it online a bit.
Land Destruction seems like a one way ticket to the 0-2 Drop Zone if I run into R/G and U/G decks. And since that's two-thirds of the Triumvirate ('Tog, U/G, R/G), I think I may have to look elsewhere for my jollies.
Reanimator requires some serious rares that I simply don't have. That's a problem. It looks like fun, but what do I know?
CounterRift - Now this looks like a fun deck. It can win without the Lightning Rift, so enchantment destruction doesn't hose it. It only has two creatures main deck, so creature removal is useless. It has countermagic, which should disrupt more decks than people think. On the other hand, it's a bit slow for my tastes. And I would need to seriously playtest it. I can't see how it was played without Force Spike, for example. At first glance, I wonder how the CounterRift was able to achieve victory against super-fast decks without it. However, the CounterRift decklist for StarCity has all of fifty-two cards total. So unless our player cheated his way to the Top Eight, there must be more cards out there.
I check out a few details. The B/R decks finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively. That means they went 4-3 in the Top Eight. Not a bad record when you think about it.
Both R/G LD and CounterRift scrubbed once they made the Top Eight - but since there is only one entrant per deck type, those are not reliable odds. Besides, we are aiming for Top Eight, right? If I made Top Eight, and then had my pants handed to me, I'd still be floating like a butterfly after a rain shower.
I probably should have used a more manly analogy.
Anyway, Reanimator has a couple of number one finishes, a 2nd, 3rd and 4th, then six decks that didn't win a Top Eight match. So Reanimator is 9-9 in Top Eight matches. However, I assume that more players played the Reanimator deck than B/R LD. How many more? Now that would be interesting to know. Of Reanimator and B/R LD, the LD decks did better because all won at least one game, but they have a smaller sample size.
In case you can't tell, I'm basically down to CounterRift and B/R LD. That's good, because now I have a starting point.
Without further ado:
4 Earth Rift
4 Stone Rain
4 Rancid Earth
4 Chainer's Edict
3 Innocent Blood
4 Braids, Cabal Minion
4 Sulfurous Springs
3 Forgotten Cave
3 Barren Moor
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Lightning Rift
2 Fledgling Dragon
4 Force Spike
4 Deep Analysis
4 Slice and Dice
4 Aether Burst
4 Lonely Sandbar
4 Forgotten Cave
Starting With CounterRift
Let's start with them in reverse order, shall we? I head on over to my computer and load up Apprentice. I hit that IRC channel o' fun and start fooling around with CounterRift. My first challenger is U/G - what an excellent test of my deck!
Two games later, I decide that U/G is no fun to play against; I lose. However, I almost had game two due to the Aether Bursts. This was my personal addition from the StarCity CounterRift list, and it worked well. The problem with this matchup is that my sweeping kill in Slice and Dice doesn't take out 6/6 Wurms, and Starstorm needs eight mana to remove unsightly Wurm infestations. Ick!
So I request a U/G matchup in the channel and I get another. This is one of the more recent versions with Aquamoebas and the like. I happen to win the first game after I counter some early stuff, slap down a Rift, and ride my cyclers to victory. The deck works smooth as butter off a bald monkey.
I have some problems with my red mana in another game. I can cycle most of my double-red casting cost cards - but, as you can see, I also have a lot of them.
Anyways, final verdict - U/G is not a good deck matchup for you. I went 1-3 with my first version, and I know that U/G will be running around in spades, so I decide to tweak my deck. Out go the Compulsions. I realize that, with this much cycling, the Compulsions are slow and duplicative. I decide to try more countermagic, which this deck desperately needs. In go two Circular Logics, which can easily hard-counter stuff with all of this cycling putting cards in the 'yard.
I head back to the room and ask for a game. In swoops a guy with an MBC deck. No - not Masques Block Contructed, but Mono-Black Control.
Doesn't calling this recent deck MBC confuse people? I'm tired of people asking me,"You wanna play MBC?""Can't, sorry; my rebel deck has been taken apart.""No, Mono-Black Control," the annoying person says with that tone that conveys that he is so superior.
So, mono-black comes calling... And I thump him. Hard. I have all of two creatures. So with all of the Innocent Bloods, Mutilates, and Chainer's Edicts, I think I have him. All I need is to counter that damn Mind Sludge (really, who still plays those?) and it's smooth sailing. Rifts make for easy killings.
I get a Rogue deck challenger, some blue/white/green Solitary Confinement/Genesis deck. Man, these things are crazy. As to whether good crazy or bad crazy, I have no idea. I slap my opponent silly with countermagic, which his deck is obviously not prepared for.
Counterspell apparently takes people by surprise.
I ask for a 'Tog matchup. Eventually I get a guy who claims to be undefeated with his own version of 'Tog. He has replaced all of the Psychatogs but one with Shadowmage Infiltrators, and runs four of the Finkels and one 'Tog. It works well against me, although I can occasionally get the double-cycle off a Rift and kill one. Over the course of three games, he sweeps me. Ugh.
My deck needs more versatility over more countermagic. I take out the Circular Logics and add Cunning Wish. The problem with this is that Apprentice just does not do well with Wishes; they sort of cause the program to explode. So I have to sort of apologize each time I cast it.
I sometimes want more cycling, so I take a look at Primoc Escapee.
I get another U/G matchup, and I figure that there should be some instant in either blue or red that can smack a 6/6. It's Type Two, so don't be thinking,"Fissure'll do it!" Instead, Unsummon or Boomerang will do it. And that's sad when an environment is so screwed up that Un-freakin'-summon is a good card for the sideboard.
Possible Wish Targets for CounterRift:
- Shaman's Trance
- Flaring Pain
- Circular Logic
- Artificial Evolution
- Choking Tethers
- Mana Short
One major problem is that there are simply no easy answers to 6/6 beatsticks other than bounce. So, Un-freakin'-summon is actually a *shudder* decent Wish target.
I play a few more matches. White Weenie, Sligh, U/G, U/G, Wake, U/G again. Here is what I am beginning to discover:
1). If a deck relies on critical spells, CounterRift tears it up.
2). If a deck spends too many cards taking care of creatures, CounterRift tears it up.
3). If a deck overcommits its resources and walks into a Starstorm or Slice and Dice, CounterRift tears it up.
1) If a deck relies upon big stupid green creatures such as Phantom Centaur, Roar of the Wurm tokens, and sometimes even a little doggy called Wild Mongrel, it will tear through CounterRift.
2) If a deck utilizes the graveyard for something other than flashback, then it will tear through CounterRift.
And really, what green deck doesn't play that game? Furthermore, without access to a reliable source of graveyard control, cards like Anger, Genesis, and Glory will combine with Gigapede, Oversold Cemetery, and simple threshold cards to take you down.
And that makes for a lot of bad matchups for the CounterRift.
Some of the key card choices for CounterRift:
Force Spike: I had taken out Memory Lapse from the original deck and put in Force Spike. It is just a great card. I originally played the Compulsions so that I would have a discard outlet to the Force Spike for later in the game. In my experience, Force Spike can sometimes clutter your hand later, but in congruence with Complicate and possibly Circular Logic, you can sometimes take out a spell that you might not normally be able to. Force Spike is just so good in the early game, where this deck is at it's weakest, that you need it.
Complicate: Complicate is not a hard counter like you'd want. It's either an overcosted Mana Leak or a pretty good Force Void - but neither of those is really Constructed-playable. But the Complicate is still just a borderline sexy card without a lot of meat.
Fledgling Dragon, Primoc Escapee: The obvious benefit of the Dragon is that you always have threshold when you want to cast it, so it will swing for game. It can end games in a hurry. In Game One, all of that creature kill gets focused on the Dragon, so it's not as good. I toyed around with pulling it out maindeck for Primoc Escapee and moving it to the board. The Primoc cycles, which helps your deck, and also can be a surprise killer. It takes an extra turn or two to win with, but hey, once you have established control, you're fine. However, it can never trade straight up with a Roar token.
Deep Analysis, Slice and Dice, Starstorm, Counterspell, Lightning Rift: These are just essential to the deck, and as such, were never questioned.
Wall of Deceit: Sometimes you just needed defense against fast and furious creature rushes. Wall of Deceit was my first choice because you can also bring some love post-Starstorm. With mana open, it can be a 2/5 in combat.
Flaring Pain: I swear by no Wish target more than this. Especially for the Phantom creatures, which I am seeing more of than I would have normally expected.
The mana base might still need some tweaking, and the Primoc Escapee/Fledgling Dragon controversy is still out, but I need some more cycling, so for now, the Escapee is in. Here is my final decklist:
4 Lightning Rift
2 Primoc Escapee
2 Cunning Wish
4 Force Spike
4 Deep Analysis
4 Slice and Dice
4 Aether Burst
4 Lonely Sandbar
4 Forgotten Cave
Moving Into LD
I then pull out my second deck - electronically, of course - and hit the IRC channel. I take a quick look at my deck, then I start with my old pal - U/G.
U/G just rolled over and played dead. Seriously. I initially thought that U/G would be a dangerous matchup, since LD slows down decks, but U/G can operate with a small mana base. But then I realized something about this R/B deck - it blows through creatures like water from a firehose blows through toilet paper.
Think about it carefully. Edicts. Firebolts. Earthquakes. Innocent Blood. This is not a deck that gently massages creatures - it nails them hard. Even Braids and Rancid Earth can possibly handle a creature or two.
So it doesn't matter how big a creature is. It doesn't matter what color of protection it has. Just clear out all of its buddies, then Innocent Blood/Edict away. You have so much creature kill that the four little Circular Logics in U/G are merely little hiccups in the feast of Magic.
I bring in another U/G player just to prove my theory and steamroll him again. So U/G does not seem to be a problem.
I try Sligh. After all, fast decks have always been the Bane of LD. After four games, we split 2-2. That was better than I had thought. Sometimes, Sligh just gets the Super Start and there is nothing you can do... But with Earthquake, you can equilibriate.
And I found another advantage: With all of the Fetchlands, Sligh only has a few lands to use. LD will eat them up. You see, normally, the Fetchlands are good because you can play less mana producing lands and thin your deck out. Better draws, enough mana - it's all good times.
Well, good times until the LD player comes knockin'.
Imagine a Sligh deck with ten mountains and eight Fetchlands. Slow down the creature rush a little, then LD to your heart's content. Every Fetchland that gets a mountain destroys a land of theirs. So for each fetched land you destroy, you've essentially destroyed two lands.
And that's pretty good.
The end result is that in the decks with the deck thinning and high Fetchland percentages, your LD is even better.
Therefore, based on just three matches, I posit that:
1). If your opponent relies on simple creature to win, the B/R LD deck can crush.
2). If your opponent uses few real lands with a bunch of Fetchlands, you can steal a match that you would otherwise have difficulty with.
In order to verify these premises, I go and ask for games from a certain set of decks. R/G, U/G, White Weenie, and Sligh. I get some games from each, which authenticates my findings - these are winnable matches. The really fast ones - Sligh and U/G - might pull out a fast one, but you can easily have two out of three.
I get up and stretch my legs. I boil some water for Ball Park hot dogs and then take a bath after my meal. I need to clear my head of Magic and take a break. After my hiatus, I head back to the computer and ask for any takes.
I find an Opposition matchup that ends up being quite dicey. Pre-lock, just take out creatures. Post lock, bend over. I lost more than I won against Opposition.
I then get an Astral Slide deck, which was another fairly easy victory. The deck is focused too much on creature control, and not enough on its own mana base. Astral Slide has several variants, and the red one took out Braids way too quickly.
As a matter of fact, I am beginning to find Braids more of a nuisance than a good card. Too many of the decks that I have been playing can take it out; I need to try out other opponents.
Wake has a lot of land, and it can set up easily. If you get Magnivore beats, then you might win. I would have expected a deck that relies so heavily on its mana to die more quickly against LD, but the LD deck cannot take advantage of the opening it creates. This Standard environment doesn't have the classic LD creatures that come out quickly. I could put them in - Grinning Demon and Fledgling Dragon - but it would probably weaken me versus too many other matchups. I'll just call Wake a bad matchup and move on.
'Tog, however... If you want a bad matchup for B/R LD, then play 'Tog. More lands than your average Roman Empire, countermagic for crucial spells, and - oh yeah - few creatures so your kill is too redundant, creating useless cards. 'Tog is virtually unwinnable. I played and played and played against 'Tog.
Eleven games - I won a single time. With Braids.
So Braids helps against 'Tog, but 'Tog is such a bad matchup that Braids just doesn't help much. Braids was also my best winning condition versus Wake if I could get it out and keep it out... But again, it's not a good matchup.
I have rarely seen a worse matchup against a major deck in my playing days. But, simply put, 'Tog steamrolls this deck like nothing going. By the way, the misnamed MBC also has a winning record against my B/R LD deck, but not as vicious as 'Tog's. You can play to take out any hope of Stupid Coffers Tricks, which helps tremendously.
I change my deck configuration around a bit. I try out Fledgling Dragons, I try moving Braids to the board. But ultimately, I like another option: Burning Wish.
After you have established some control, you can use the Burning Wish very effectively. You'll have the time to get a card, plus it and the other sorceries make Magnivore even larger.
Here are the Wish targets that I playtested:
- Innocent Blood
- Haunting Echoes
Of the ones that I played, Decompose was the most vital. I liked having other LD sources to Tutor for, and whether it's the easier-to-play Demolish (which can take out an artifact) or the harder-to-use-but-more-versatile Befoul is probably a matter of taste. I figure with all of the creature kill already in the deck, Demolish is the better choice.
You need an extra Earthquake to tutor for. The Innocent Blood and Haunting Echoes really didn't thrill me. Persecute can take out a color when they begin to stall and hold cards - but I'd rather disrupt than go after a hand. Blaze was really good in the Wake matchup because it gave me a possible winning condition... But it was never really solid, and I'm not sure that I want one of my sideboard spots wasted on a card that makes a bad matchup slightly less bad.
Duress was meant to force through a critical spell, but it never did much. The only decks that had countermagic were the ones where I never really had a critical spell anyway; I really don't have any good spells for 'Tog, for example. So it was better in theory than in practice.
Recoup was a good generic target. Being allowed to play Innocent Blood, LD, and the like again was nice. It's a good target for when nothing else is good - but since I have cards in my sideboard that already duplicate LD and creature kill, it's probably a little unnecessary.
Pyroclasm was too redundant - however, playing Burning Wish turn 2 and Pyroclasm turn 3 could clear off some annoying mana creatures. However, except for Birds of Paradise, there is really no creature that Pyroclasm takes out which the Earthquake doesn't... At least nothing I regularly played. However, it did give you another mechanism: And I did play against a White Weenie deck with a good assortment of flyers - there it was really good.
Epicenter is an interesting card. Sometimes, it's really useful to be able to tutor for Armageddon. But usually, you didn't need it. With all of this LD, do you think that Armageddon is really that good?
Not so much.
So after a bunch of matches where I playtested these Wish targets, I now have a tentative decklist:
4 Earth Rift
4 Stone Rain
4 Rancid Earth
4 Chainer's Edict
3 Innocent Blood
2 Burning Wish
2 Braids, Cabal Minion
4 Sulfurous Springs
3 Forgotten Cave
3 Barren Moor
2 Bloodstained Mire
So I took out a pair of Braids for two Burning Wishes. If I had the guts, I might take out the last two Braids for two Fledgling Dragons, move the two Braids to the sideboard, take out the remaining Dragon and thus clear up a spot in the 'Board. (I'd actually suggest yanking both to put a third Burning Wish in as well as one other card, and put Haunting Echoes in the sideboard - The Ferrett)
The Dragons are sided in against decks like 'Tog and Wake. You have such a bad percentage, so I wanted to up my threat total. And Braids, despite being solid as such a great anti-control measure, really sucks versus control that can bounce, counter, or kill a lonely four casting-cost 2/2. And really, what deck can't do that?
Still, Braids can sometimes take you to the promised land - she's very streaky.
Oh yeah; watch out for Morningtide chasing your Magnivore from the board. I believe that one of the best sideboard cards for the current environment has got to be Morningtide. If I suspected or saw Morningtides, I'd side in the three Dragons or Braids for the Magnivores.
I toyed with running Befoul main and dropping creature kill. My problem with that was simply that Befoul came too late in the game to mess up land, and I had plenty of creature kill already that was way better. It was simply not good enough at either task to warrant a spot in my deck.
Somebody online mentioned that Dingus Egg was a pretty good card from the sideboard. I still don't like the idea. However, I mention it here because the guy swore by it. So if you are so inclined, go for the Egg.
Once someone mentioned Dingus Egg, anther mentioned Static Orb as a soft lock. I think they must have been on a 7th Edition artifact kick. With lands being blown up and slow untapping-ness, your opponent is supposedly sure to be slowed down so much that you can take advantage. Untapping two lands then slapping down a third can insure one LD spell per turn. You have few creatures, so you won't have to worry about untapping beatsticks, until Magnivore arrives.
Whatever. Someone else will probably mentioned how great Caltrops is and another will sound the praises of Spellbook. You know how these guys online can get. So I took everything with an industrial-sized boulder of salt.
So this all begs the question: B/R Land Destruction or CounterRift? Which shall it be? Honestly, I am leaning heavily towards the LD deck... Yes, the one that rolls up and dies to 'Tog.
I hope that my rather hefty analysis of Two Rogue Decks That You Won't See at Regionals has been handy. It sure was a blast for me. Hopefully, I'll be able to give you a taste of how my own Regionals adventure fared.