As Zvi put it Meandeck Tendrils is the fastest deck in the history of Magic. That's why although it is a huge tournament disappointment it is still one of my proudest creations.
I'll spare you the blather about what the deck does and how it works and send you immediately to Justin Walters's hilarious entertaining and witty article on the deck. (If you need a further incentive to read it Ted Knutson said it was his favorite magic article of 2005 - that means it's good people).
If you haven't actually read Justin's article I hope you at least scanned it.
In my articles on the deck I claimed a 66% goldfish percentage on turn 1 if you play the deck perfectly. Today that percentage is upped by a substantial margin.
I don't turn to decks and update and revise them unless I think there is more than just a minor adjustment to be made. Today I'm going to unveil technology that makes this deck even faster than it was before. That doesn't mean I think it would be tournament viable. This deck could have 95% turn one goldfish percentage and I still probably wouldn't take it to a tournament. For that reason alone Meandeck Tendrils is fascinating for all sorts of theoretical reasons. The primary reason it's unviable is because you have to compress all of the numerous decisions of a typical Vintage game into the space of one turn - and do that in a reasonable amount of time. Unless your name is Deep Blue or Gary Kasparov I don't think you can play this deck at tournament either but you're welcome to try.
Here is my new revised decklist:
- 1 Black Lotus
- 4 Chromatic Sphere
- 1 Chrome Mox
- 4 Darkwater Egg
- 1 Lion's Eye Diamond
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Cabal Ritual
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 1 Demonic Consultation
- 4 Repeal
- 4 Spoils of the Vault
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Imperial Seal
- 4 Land Grant
- 3 Night's Whisper
- 4 Tendrils of Agony
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
Repeal is the key new tech. Repeal breaks the golden ratio - it is a free cantrip. The key bottleneck in this deck is mana and so this card is a godsend. It's the closest we will ever come to actually printing:
Broken Urza's Bauble
Tap sacrifice: draw a card.
In fact in some ways Repeal is better because it adds two to the Storm count. Pretty exciting stuff!
I'll run through a few goldfishes with you. I do these goldfishes the honest way - no revision no cheating... just some back-to-back games no cherry picking. I do a five-pile card shuffle three side shuffles a cut to the middle and draw seven cards. And here we go:
Drawing: Another Night's Whisper.
Play Mox Sapphire (Storm 1).
Play Lion's Eye Diamond (Storm 2).
Tap Bayou for Black. BBU floating.
Play Cabal Ritual. BBBU floating (Storm 3).
Play Mox Ruby (Storm 5).
Put Tendrils on top and then Yawgmoth's Will on top of that.
Tap Mox Ruby and use the remaining B to play Night's Whisper. In response break the Lion's Eye Diamond for BBB. (Storm 7) Discard Tendrils of Agony and Spoils of the Vault. Draw the Yawgmoth's Will and Tendrils of Agony off the Night's Whisper.
Play Yawgmoth's Will (Storm 8).
Play Lion's Eye Diamond and sacrifice it for BBB removing the Tendrils in hand from game (Storm 9).
Play the Cabal Ritual from the graveyard (with threshold). BBBBBB floating(Storm 10).
Play Tendrils of Agony from the graveyard and kill your opponent.
You could do a lot more there if you wanted but it's not necessary.
The reason that hand couldn't win on turn 1 was because it didn't have Black mana or access to Black mana.
Play Dark Ritual (Storm 2).
Play Tropical Island.
Replay Mox Jet (Storm 4).
Tap Mox Jet. BBBB floating.
Play Dark Ritual. (Storm 5) BBBBBB floating.
Now your hand is Demonic Consultation Spoils of the Vault and Tendrils of Agony with six black mana floating. What do you do?
Think about it and then scroll down for the answer.
You could Consult for a Restricted card like Black Lotus or Yawgmoth's Will - and as long as neither one is in your top six cards you win the game. However I think there is a more certain solution.
I would Demonic Consultation for Cabal Ritual. Play the Ritual then Spoils of the Vault for either another Cabal Ritual or a Dark Ritual (depending on what I had removed with the Consult). If my library is really low you could just get Lotus (assuming its in there) then play the Tendrils for the 10th spell.
Demonic Consultation naming Cabal Ritual (Storm 6). There is a Cabal Ritual in my top six cards and then there is another 24 cards down. That leaves 22 cards in my deck. Incidentally the two remaining Dark Rituals got removed from game. I know that there is a Yawgmoth's Will Black Lotus and two Cabal Rituals in those 22 cards. The Safest card to spoils for will obviously be another Cabal Ritual. But first:
Play Cabal Ritual. Six Black floating again (Storm 7).
Play Spoils of the Vault naming Cabal Ritual (Storm 8).
I see Cabal Ritual 8 cards down. Play Cabal Ritual (Storm 9).
Play Tendrils of Agony (Storm 10).
Note: There has been a rules change since I last wrote about Meandeck Tendrils. When I wrote about it last in early 2005 you could play Land Grant reveal your hand as the cost then respond with Brainstorm. Then your opponent would have to decide to counter the Land Grant based upon cards in your hand they can't see - cards that are different then when you revealed your hand.
Lotus Petal (Storm 1).
Now what do you do? We know we probably will play Mox into Mana Vault. But what do you do regarding the Consult and the Brainstorm?
Brainstorm and Demonic Consultation have some important synergies. If you Brainstorm then you'll be able to remove the two worst cards from game via Consult. In addition you'll lessen the chance that the card you name is in the top six. The flip side of that is that if you Consult and then Brainstorm you'll dig more deeply through your deck. That's not very compelling compared to the synergy of Brainstorm followed by Consult.
However this hand is complicated by the presence of a shuffle effect: Land Grant.
There are several permutations possible:
1) Brainstorm; Land Grant; Demonic Consultation.
2) Brainstorm; Demonic Consultation; Land Grant.
3) Demonic Consultation; Land Grant; Brainstorm.
4) Demonic Consultation; Brainstorm; Land Grant.
5) Land Grant; Brainstorm; Demonic Consultation.
6) Land Grant; Demonic Consultation; Brainstorm.
We can eliminate any permutation that plays Consult before Land Grant simply because the risk of removing the Bayou is unacceptable. Thus we can eliminate (2) (3) and (4). That leaves us with (1) (5) or (6).
(1) and (6) eliminate the aforementioned synergies between Brainstorm and Consult. (5) maintains the synergies. However (1) is different from (6) in a critical respect. If we choose (1) or (5) there is a chance that we'll see another Brainstorm. If we do we may wish that we had another shuffle effect before playing Consult. Last week I talked about the nature of skill in Magic - that skill is composed of two processes: forward thinking and pattern recognition. Forward thinking encompasses weighing the risks of two decisions trees or lines of play. This is a tough line of play to optimize. The basic issue is whether the possibility of seeing another Brainstorm or draw spell off of the Brainstorm (which would be optimized only if you Land Grant after Brainstorm but before Consult) outweighs the benefits and has fewer risks than maximizing the synergies between Brainstorm and Consult.
I honestly have no idea if it does or not. The benefits are so slight - and the costs are so slight - that it is very hard to weigh them. If any reader can quantify that I'd love to see it. Since I am incapable of figuring out which play is optimal based upon forward thinking here I'll fall back to pattern recognition. I think Brainstorm plus shuffle effect is one of the most powerful combos in Vintage. Thus I think the right play is (1). Although I think the second-best play is (5).
Note that if the rules worked as they did in early 2005 you'd play the Land Grant and respond with Brainstorm. That's not an option.
Break the Petal and play Brainstorm (Storm 2). Drawing: Mox Sapphire Darkwater Egg Tropical Island.
Put back Tropical Island for sure and Mox Emerald (I think).
Play Land Grant (Storm 3) finding Bayou. Play Bayou.
Play Mox Sapphire (Storm 4).
At this point playing the mana in the right order is critical. Do you know what to do?
The right play is to play Ritual and then Mana Vault. You are going to want to break the Egg off the Mana Vault but the question is whether the third Black off the Ritual is more valuable then the Blue off the Mox. I think the Blue off the Mox is more valuable. Watch:
Tap bayou and play Dark Ritual (Storm 5).
Play Mana Vault. (Storm 6) BB floating.
Play Mox Sapphire (Storm 7). Tap it. BBU floating.
Tap Mana Vault and play Darkwater Egg (Storm 8) and break it for UB UUBBB floating drawing: Darkwater Egg.
This way we have UUBBB instead of UBBBB. Regardless it doesn't matter in this particular game because we have already achieved the requisite Storm count to win.
We have five mana floating. This is a simple formality:
Play Demonic Consultation naming Tendrils of Agony (Storm 9).
Two Tendrils were in the top 6 cards including the top card but the third was 15 cards down.
Play Tendrils of Agony (Storm 10). No mana floating.
Ironically if we had been forced to play the second Egg we still would have won.
Incidentally if you wonder why this deck isn't tournament viable you had as much time to make all those plays as you would have in a single turn in Limited. That's why this deck isn't tournament viable.
In my experience any hand with Black Lotus wins on turn 1 no matter what. The key bottleneck is usually mana - hence why Repeal is so good.
We lead with Lotus Petal (Storm 1).
Black Lotus (Storm 2).
There is the question of whether I should play and break the Delta here. If my intent is to play a Chromatic Sphere or a Night's Whisper then the question is whether the benefit of the shuffle effect down the road will outweigh the potential risk of drawing a land. I think last game demonstrated the power of shuffling. Thus I'm going to use pattern recognition to support the conclusion that I should not break the Delta at this time.
I break Lotus for BBB and play Night's Whisper (Storm 3) drawing Brainstorm and Chromatic Sphere.
Wow. I guess pattern recognition really does work!
I'll break the Lotus Petal to play Brainstorm (Storm 4) drawing: Sol Ring Night's Whisper Spoils of the Vault.
I'll put back a Night's Whisper and Chromatic Sphere. B floating.
At this point I'll break the Delta for Bayou.
I now have several options:
1) I could play Night's Whisper immediately but unless I draw another mana source I can play and use that would my turn.
2) I could play Chromatic Sphere and break it but then I'll only have one mana floating.
3) I could play Sol Ring but then I'll have B2. From there I could play:
a) Night's Whisper with one colorless floating.
b) Spoils of the Vault for...?
c) Chromatic Sphere and end up with BB floating again.
4) I could play Spoils of the Vault right now for something. If I do I could name Dark Ritual. If I don't die I can Ritual and then play Sol Ring leaving BB2 floating. From there I could play Night's Whisper or Chromatic Sphere. That seems like the best play.
I play Spoils of the Vault for Dark Ritual (Storm 5). Dark Ritual was the 4th card down. I'm at 14 life.
Play Dark Ritual (Storm 6).
Play Sol Ring(Storm 7). Tap it and have BB2 floating.
Play Night's Whisper (Storm 8) drawing Cabal Ritual and Chromatic Sphere.
Play Cabal Ritual with Threshold and then Tendrils of Agony (Storm 9 and 10).
Spoils of the Vault
This hand is really interesting but it is almost impossible to play unless you have one key pattern down: the interaction between Mana Vault and Darkwater Egg.
The key to this hand is recognizing that we are going to Spoils for Egg and then Egg and then Brainstorm. Those four cards will hold the key to our victory.
Polluted Delta fetches Bayou.
Dark Ritual (Storm 1).
Dark Ritual (Storm 2).
Mana Vault (Storm 3).
Spoils of the Vault naming Darkwater Egg (Storm 4). Egg was the top card. No life lost. Play Darkwater Egg off Mana Vault and break it for UB (Storm 5) drawing Nights Whisper.
Play Dark Ritual (Storm 8). Seven Black mana floating.
Play Night's Whisper (Storm 9) drawing Spoils of the Vault and Demonic Tutor. I'm at 17 life and I have five Black floating.
The obvious play is to Spoils for Tendrils of Agony. However we are only at 17 life.
I think the smarter play is to Demonic Tutor first just to think the deck out a little more. Thus we could Demonic for Black Lotus or whatever.
Demonic Tutor for Black Lotus. BBB floating (Storm 10 and 11).
I play Spoils for Tendrils and the Tendrils is the seventh card down(Storm 12).
Spoils of the Vault
Lion's Eye Diamond
My kingdom for a Black mana...
This is an obvious play:
Play Chrome Mox imprinting Repeal (Storm 1).
Play Ancestral Recall (Storm 2) into: Mox Jet Black Lotus and Lotus Petal.
Play Mox Jet (Storm 3).
Play Black Lotus (Storm 4).
Play Lotus Petal (Storm 5).
Break Lotus for BBB. Play Night's Whisper (Storm 6) drawing Dark Ritual and Bayou.
Play Dark Ritual (Storm 7). BBB floating.
At this point you want to Spoils (Storm 8) for something you can play right now and then follow up with lethal Tendrils of Agony. I'll name Brainstorm. It was the 14th card down. I lose 13 life going to 5. I sacrifice the Petal to play Brainstorm (Storm 9). I then tap Bayou and Mox Jet and play Tendrils of Agony for Storm 10.
Well it was fun to come back to this deck. Maybe a year from now the card pool will have offered up something else to try.
Until then happy goldfishing.