A Bad Matchup

Not so, I’m afraid. If this is still outside your experience, then I pray for Dame Fortune to continue smiling down on you. As for me, my life has been an unending parade of foiled endeavours. I take solace in the fact that I’m apparently picking up the slack for the remainder of the Human…

Not so, I’m afraid. If this is still outside your experience, then I pray for Dame Fortune to continue smiling down on you. As for me, my life has been an unending parade of foiled endeavours. I take solace in the fact that I’m apparently picking up the slack for the remainder of the Human Race, who routinely get what they want, so at least there’s some perverse balance to the whole thing.

There’s nothing I hate more than everyone but me, and that’s straight from my baboon heart to you.

I’ve somehow managed a strange tolerance of the lot of you. Aesop said that familiarity breeds contempt, and apparently it works in the other direction. I don’t know if any of us can count ourselves lucky on that front, but it’s fact, and we might as make the best of it.

So yes, sorry to burst your collective bubble but there is the off-chance that something you plan to do in the near future isn’t going fall into your lap like a neatly severed head.

I bring this up, not only because I’m a bitter, spiteful man whose mood-ring has been "in the indigo" for a little too long, but also to justify the content of this week’s article. I had planned to spend the entirety of it completely deconstructing the sideboard of Mono-Beige (showcased last week http://www.starcitygames.com/mustread/000317bennett.shtml), but playtesting online hasn’t produced the expected fruit. I’d do my testing in Real Life, but my schedule has been a little too nocturnal for my friends. As a result, I’ll spend a little time this week discussing Mono-Beige, particularly recent technological advances, and then a brief word of warning about Bargain.

What’s more, that little gem of advice will go a long way to improving your play. If you understand that your game plan might need to be altered in the course of a given match, then you’ll be more prepared to do it when the time comes.

Enough of that. Time for a diversion.

Tangle Wire. Who is it out there convincing people to play this card? It must be that I haven’t got the Apprentice patch where the phrase "Draw a card." sneaks its way onto the card. I don’t know. Maybe I’m not squinting hard enough.

Online beatdown players have been fanatical in their inclusion of Tangle Wire to their decks. I just don’t get it. It has to have some adverse effect on most decks, but Mono-Beige just laughs it off. Here’s an example:

My black-beatdown-playing opponent has no Ritual and must wait until turn three to cast his Negator. This means that instead of being forced into turn two Ring of Gix, I’m allowed to diversify my mana base, and spend a turn casting my Urza’s Blueprints. He plays Tangle Wire and attacks for 5. My turn, I load Blueprints echo and Tangle Wire on the stack, tap Dynamo and Monolith for 6, tap Blueprints for a card, then echo and process the Wire. It taps me out– so what?

I’ve read the phrase "Tangle Wire is inherently asymmetrical." often enough to provoke me into making the short trip to the local hardware store to purchase a number of surprisingly asymmetrical crowbars. The next person to make that particular theoretical observation is getting a little remedial lesson, if you know what I mean.

If not, I have a schematic on this Etch-A-Sketch that demands your attention.

Let’s talk Mono-Beige. Team Comf has been in a near-fervour over this deck. I can say that because our group runs entirely on inertia, so any reaction above a faint wheezing might as well be an impromptu conga line.

I’ve been given far more ideas than I have time to playtest. I’ll fan them out in front of you here, and let you make your own judgment.

No, scratch that. I’m going to judge. You’re going to smile politely before moving on.

Purging Scythe. There, I’ve said it. I’ll say it again, this time with a sinister Snidely Whiplash moustache and overcoat: Purging Scythe. A little Thomas Gannon technology dredged up from wherever it is he gets these things. My initial reaction was so unfavourable as to make kidney punches look like praise. I’ve softened a bit since then.

Let’s look at what it does. Well, none of your threats are especially vulnerable to it, unless you’ve been forced into a situation to Processor for a small amount, so that’s good. It’s a permanent piece of board control, which is valuable. The Rings and Wraths and Masticores are good in most situations, but the Scythe complements them nicely. It makes it difficult for my opponent to swarm me post-Wrath. It’s also influential post-Armageddon, when you may not have maximum resources.

It’s also an untargetable effect, which helps on a couple of fronts. First, and unimpressively, it can get rid of Argothian Enchantress. Nice, but not incredible. Second, it hits Morphling. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but it does turn a 4-turn game into a 7-turn game, since they can’t bolster their Morphling without killing it. This may give enough time to draw enough threats to punch through an answer. It also means that if you run one maindeck, it’s not a wasted draw against blue decks.

Finally, it helps you stay out of Squirrel-Prison. No small gain. It means they have to lock you down *and* have a kill card on the board, usually, you simply have too many important permanents for them to be able to cripple your mana base and attack with some 2-power dudes. The Scythe means they cannot wait to draw into a kill card.

Sinking deeper into the realm of highly-priced effects, we come to Catastrophe. Originally the inspiration for this deck, it’s modal nature was not enough to save it from being obsoleted by the Type Two Global Destruction Cheech & Chong, Wrath of God and Armageddon.

One version of the deck being tested has two Catastrophes in place of one each of Wrath and Armageddon. The reasoning behind the swap is that while the Corsican Brothers are almost never completely worthless in a given matchup, there’s usually one effect that you’d rather see. Enter our overpriced companion.

I don’t need to walk you through this one. It allows you to play with effects that are dictated by the game state. The extra two mana can be trouble in the early game, but the late game benefits are enormous.

Story time.

Tom Gannon and I decide to playtest this deck a little bit. I offer him our Type Two ten-in-one deck, and tell him that I want to try out the Bargain matchup. He wins a couple quickly in the face of the relatively slow beatdown that Mono-Beige provides. He wins one game despite my Seal of Cleansing. We play again.

Gannon Turn 1: Swamp, go.

OMC Turn 1: Plains, Key, go.

Gannon Turn 2: Plains, Monolith.

OMC Turn 2: Plains, Monolith, Dynamo, Processor for 7.

(should have been more, but whatever.)

Gannon Turn 3: Plains, Tap Monolith, Rector.

OMC Turn 3: Plains, Make a Minion, Armageddon.

Gannon Turn 4: Go.

OMC Turn 4: Attack with Minion, Tom blocks and gets a Bargain.

So the situation is that Tom *must* go off on one land and a tapped Monolith. ONE LAND.

But he does. It’s unreal. Dark Ritual, Monolith, Key, Monolith, Skirge Familiar, Tooth of Ramos. Renounce away two land and five artifacts, and that’s the ballgame.

OMC: One more.

Gannon: Why?

OMC: I want to test this matchup.

Gannon: What’s left to test?

The man makes a good point.

So now I’m on the hunt to unearth some mind-shattering Bargain hoser that they can’t just Disenchant away after boarding. I keep thinking back to that Fading: 3 artifact from Nemesis that taps for life. Because, you see, if I’ve got Keys out, then that’s actually a fair amount of life. Enough to escape the combo. It’s probably not as good as Radiant’s Dragoons, and they probably aren’t good enough. Sigh.

My advice to you is not to underestimate this Bargain deck. It’s not the idle internet threat that you may think. It’s fast, resilient, and very, very deadly. Playtest this matchup, and find a sideboard compromise. It won’t be prolific, so you shouldn’t cram your board with hate, but at the same time you should make sure you’re able to not lose.

Josh Bennett

Einstein: When a man spends an hour with a pretty girl, it seems but a minute, but ask him to place his hand on a hot stove for a minute and it will seem like an hour.

OMC: An hour with a pretty girl?

Einstein: No.