A Brief Respite

The qualifiers are over, at least here in England, and we have a little break before we have to start testing for the big event. Last weekend was also the monthly Bath Magic tournament so I thought I’d see how Blastogeddon would do against some of the decks in the current environment. After playtesting and…

The qualifiers are over, at least here in England, and we have a little break before we have to start testing for the big event. Last weekend was also the monthly Bath Magic tournament so I thought I’d see how Blastogeddon would do against some of the decks in the current environment.

After playtesting and some nagging from Gordon Benson (Team Spike UK) the deck changed a little. Here’s the decklist I took along on Saturday:

Blastogeddon (version 2.0)

Creatures (21):
4 Blastoderm
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Yavimaya Elder
2 Vine Trellis
4 River Boa
2 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Masticore

Other spells (15):
4 Armageddon
1 Wrath of God
3 Parallax Wave
2 Seal of Cleansing
2 Disenchant
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Worldly Tutor
1 Crop Rotation

Land (24):
3 Treetop Village
4 Brushland
4 Rishadan Port
7 Forest
6 Plains

I’ve dropped two Masticores because they don’t work well with Armageddon (thanks Gordon), I also don’t want to keep seeing them in my opening hand unless I’m playing a weenie deck so one moved to the Sideboard. I added an Uktabi Orangutan to increase the amount of main deck artifact control, and swapped a Seal of Cleansing for a second Disenchant: In playtesting, I’d found that there are too many decks that will Seal or Disenchant a Seal on the table before casting something important. It also means I get to keep a few cards in hand and cast things in my upkeep when my opponent is tapping my land with Rishadan Ports.

Two Vine Trellis replaced the two Llanowar Elves as they can’t be shocked or Seal of Fired to death, and this is very important against Ponza. The Ponza player has to use two damage spells to get rid of it (most of the time) which is one less that can be used on me or a Bird of Paradise. I also added a Crop Rotation to allow me to get a Port or a Treetop Village when I really need one.

Sideboard (15):
1 Circle of Protection: Black
1 Masticore
1 Wrath of God
1 Thran Lens
2 Light of Day
3 Reverent Silence
1 Planar Birth
1 Absolute Law
2 Enlightened Tutor
2 Splinter

The sideboard is the last part of a deck I design and this one has a few cards in for most things. An extra Wrath and Masticore against the Rebel decks, along with some Reverent Silences to kill all those Crusades and Glorious Anthems. The Silences come in against Replenish too as I only need to lay a Forest to be able to cast them.

Absolute Law and Planar Birth against Ponza. Splinter against other Masticore players and Artifact-heavy decks and Light of Day and COP: Black against Black decks.

Six of these are helped by the two Enlightened Tutors in the sideboard, they’re there to help me get the other cards I need. Thran Lens was also in there against Black, and is obviously a mistake as Light of Day doesn’t work with Thran Lens out. Also, as a lot of Black players are playing it themselves why do I need it? I really need to be able to get rid of it!

So, that’s what I took. My friend Andy also wanted to play and decided to take the Fish deck I described in my last article. I’ve had a lot of emails about it, all of them civil and all of them with either great suggestions or examples of other decks. We managed to get quite a bit of playtesting in together and tested it against a Rebel deck, Blastogeddon, Replenish and a few others. The deck changed quite a lot and this is the listing of what Andy played on Saturday:

Parallax Fish (version 2.0)

Creatures (28):
4 Lords of Atlantis
1 Temporal Adept
2 Jolting Merfolk
3 Darting Merfolk
4 Rootwater Thief
4 Vodalian Soldiers
3 Coral Merfolk
4 Thornwind Fairies
3 Seahunter

Other spells (10):
2 Daze
4 Counterspell
2 Miscalculation
2 Dominate

Land (23):
4 Rishadan Port
2 Dust Bowl
17 Islands

As you can see it’s VERY different from the deck in my last article. The Rootwater Commando’s are gone, as are the Waterfront Bouncers. There are more main deck counterspells that are less situational, and the creature count has increased quite a lot.

We found that the Commando’s were a little too expensive and, especially against white, we needed some more early blockers – hence the Vodalian Soldiers (1/2) and the Darting Merfolk. Andy also added the Thornwind Fairies to help against weenie decks and a Temporal Adept to give him a little more board control.

The Seahunters proved to be so good we upped the number to three. Unfortunately the theory that we could get a few creatures out, cast a Lord followed by a Parallax Tide for the win didn’t prove to work. The Tide did slow up the opponent, but the Merfolk just aren’t big enough to do the amount of damage needed inside of three turns. The Tides moved out to the sideboard.

We did try to add a couple of Vampiric Tutors and drop four Islands for four Underground Rivers but found that early Tutors couldn’t be cast, as a River hadn’t turned up yet. In quite a few games the early damage from having to use a River for blue mana could be much more painful than was acceptable. I haven’t given up on the concept but it’s on hold for now.

Sideboard (15):
2 Boomerang
1 Hibernation
1 Submerge
2 Annul
1 Saprazzan Bailiff
2 Misdirection
1 Masticore
1 Arcane Laboratory
2 Chill
2 Parallax Tide

Once again, a sideboard with a few cards in for everything. Plenty against Blue, Red and Green. A few cards against Bargain and other combo decks. Annul, Tide and the Bailiff against Replenish and Masticore to help out against Rebel decks. The Boomerangs come in if there are any permanents you can’t cope with once they’re on the table (Scald, Masticore etc).

So, on to the day. An 11 o’clock start means a nice lie in and a leisurely wander down to the community centre. Arriving at the centre I saw that there was the usual spread of players: lots of kids, some serious players and some not so serious players. The Welsh contingent were in Wales at the Welsh Nationals so we were missing the skills of some of our regulars, but there were still 40 players.

There was a short delay while we waited for Tu Nguyen to turn up (Tu is both a skilled player and our regular trader) so that many of the players could finish buying and building their decks. I chatted to the rest of Team PhatBeats about the decks that were there, what the players looked like they were playing and who we didn’t want to be matched up against. Paul and Tarik were playing identical Replenish decks with our latest tweaks in.

Finally, around 11.20 the first round pairings were posted and we were away.

Round 1 – Titus Jones – Green Weenie.

This was Titus’ first tournament. He said that he had been playing for a couple of years and that he was 12. He started well with a Skyshroud Ridgeback, but didn’t Rancor it and didn’t follow up with anything else for a few turns. Although he knew there was an Upkeep step, he didn’t know that it was before he drew cards, and he perpetually forgot to untap his permanents.

I started to cast a few River Boas, BOPs and Elders before casting a Blastoderm and Waving out all his blockers to come in for three turns of beats. The second game was much the same and so I didn’t really learn anything about my deck.

The only good thing to come out of the match was that by the end of the match Titus was following the Untap, Upkeep, Draw mantra quite well and had both started to take notice of what I was playing, whilst remembering to remove fade counters and pay echo. I hope he comes along to a few more tourneys because if he continues to improve at such a dramatic rate he’ll be quite good very quickly.

Matches 1-0, Games 2-0.

Round 2 – Matt Tandy – White Weenie. Matt played a weenie deck with Serra Zealot, Tundra Wolves, Mother of Runes, Crusade, Story Circle, Glorious Anthem and Tethered Griffin. In the first game he beat me to death with THREE GRIFFINS whilst I saw no enchantment removal, Wraths or Waves to help me out.

Whilst I sideboarded I chatted to him a little and found out that he started playing around the time of Urza’s Saga and was 12, just like Titus the round before. I sided in the second Masticore, Enlightened Tutors and Reverent Silence.

We started off again and I started to beat him down with a Boa, joined quickly by an Elder. He cast a pair of blockers and I waved them out of the way for the kill. The third game followed a similar pattern, except that I killed a pair of Griffins by disenchanting a Story Circle and used a Masticore to remove his blockers instead of waving them out.

So, not much learned again except that waving out your opponents creatures and beating him to death is quite good. I might have to go up to four main deck waves and drop the Wrath. We’ll see.

Matches 2-0, Games 4-1.

Once again we spent our lunch break in the New Inn, just around the corner from the community centre. They serve excellent ‘doorstop’ sandwiches, sandwiches with two slices of inch think bread, sandwiches that you have to fight to eat, sandwiches that are MESSY… if only there were more sandwiches like that in the world it’d be a happier place.

Andy had won a game and lost a game. He lost to a Replenish deck and beat an Enchantress deck. The thieves were very good against the Replenish deck, in one game taking out all of the Replenishes and then starting on the Waves before winning. Lord of Atlantis was very good against the Enchantress deck as it was playing Islands. Worship could have been a problem, but Andy bounced and countered it.

Round 3 – Shane Silk-Reeves – Replenish.

Shane was the Replenish player that beat Andy in the first round so I know I’m not playing a dunce. I’ve played Shane quite a lot and he tends to put a lot of practice into decks when he picks them up. At the same time Shane admitted that he was playing a ‘vanilla’ version with no special changes of his own other than the sideboard.

Game one I beat him down to 5 life, but never saw an Armageddon and got a Blastoderm countered. He then cast Replenish and beat me to death.

I sideboarded in my Silences and the Wrath and we start the second game. Forest, BOP. Shane draws and lays a plains. Plains, River Boa. Again Shane draws and lays a plains,”your go Jim”. I lay a second Forest and attack for two then play a Blastoderm. It makes it into play. Shane draws and lays a third plains and sighs”your go”. I cast Armageddon and lay a Rishadan port: Shane conceded.

That’s how it’s supposed to go, that’s EXACTLY what the deck is supposed to do to EVERYONE – and this was the first time I saw it happen in a tournament. I was happy. I was VERY happy. The deck could do what I wanted it to… maybe the day wasn’t just going to be a playtesting exercise after all?

Then it went downhill. Shane’s deck did what Replenish decks do and killed me by turn 7. I saw a Geddon and didn’t cast it. He had two blue untapped and I didn’t have any beatdown creatures on the table. I should have cast it – even if he had a Counterspell I should have cast it. I didn’t, I lost.

I didn’t see the Silences so I still don’t know if they’re any good. I think they are, and they cause problems in play testing but I don’t know if they really work. I’ll stick with them until proved otherwise.

Matches 2-1, Games 5-3.

After this round, I chatted to the rest of the team. Tarik was 3-0. Paul had 2 wins and a draw. I also spotted that Andy was still playing. He was playing against Dan Norris playing a Rebel deck. Dan’s a good player and, as I’ve already mentioned, Rebel is a bad matchup for the merfolk deck. Andy had lost the first game as Dan had overrun him, and won the second game with some Seahunter action. Dan attacked Andy and forgot about Andy’s Lord of Atlantis loosing two creatures. It wasn’t enough for Andy to win, but enough to slow the assault that they timed out leaving Andy on 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss.

The main problem with Rebel and White Weeny is their creatures are better than the current selection of Merfolk. Without seeing a Lord of Atlantis most merfolk are little better than chump blockers. The Darting and Jolting Merfolk help in defence, but there’s no real way to attack without loosing creatures. This is fine with a Seahunter or two on the table, but the Rebel decks will be doing the same thing an eventually overpower the Merfolk. Poor Merfolk. What we really need is a 2/3 or 3/3 Merfolk with a reasonable cost (1UU/3U maybe). Anyway, next round.

Round 4 – Phil Norris – Replenish.

Another Replenish player. My heart really wasn’t in this at all. I’ve been playtesting with and against lots of versions of the Replenish deck for over a month now and it’s a beating. It’s much simpler to play than Bargain and, although a little slower, always has the feeling that you could win next turn. You don’t have to be the best player in the world to play it and beat lots of other people. OK, a bad player will probably loose to a good Replenish player, and Blue players should beat them too – but everyone else will have to be very lucky.

So, I sat down and lost the first game. I cast a Boa and started the beatdown but I didn’t see a Geddon and he replenished for the kill.

I’ve played Phil a lot and we started to chat about the deck. I told him how I was bored of Replenish, especially playing the mirror match (as Team PhatBeats did a LOT of playtesting for the Regionals) and he told me that he was just”checking the deck out” for his brother Dan (Dan’s qualified for the Nationals). This spurred me on a little. I didn’t want to be beaten by someone who’d just picked up the deck to see how it played. I sideboarded in the Wrath and Silences and we started game two.

I cast a Boa then an Elder and beat him to death. As simple as that. He saw no Waves, no Seal of Removals and nothing that helped him at all. The third game was even better. I cast a Blastoderm and then Geddon, followed by a Boa for the kill. Again he saw no waves or Seals.

I talked to Phil about the deck a little and the were no Seal of Removals in the deck. If playtesting has shown Team PhatBeats anything it’s that Seal of Removal is good. It gives you tricks with an Opalescence out and it stops an early creature, even putting a problem creature back in its owner’s hand to Counterspell it on the way back out.

I was happy again. I’d beaten a Replenish deck.

Matches 3-1, Games 7-4.

Round 5 – Chris Hardy – Ponza

Chris is a Bath student and we play regularly on Wednesday nights. I’d played his deck on Wednesday and beaten it. I have a lot of Mana sources and the Boas and Blastoderms tend to give him a little trouble, after sideboarding I hope to get one of the tutors to go and get an Absolute Law, that normally wins me the game.

The first game was exactly as planned. I put out some BOPs and a Trellis. The got killed, and my land was blown up but not before I’d got enough land down to cast a Boa and keep green mana to keep it alive. The Boa went all the way, 20 points of Snake damage is good.

Game two and three didn’t go as planned. They both started off well, but just when I should have been beating Chris down my deck denied me the extra land I needed, giving Chris time to draw into more damage and land destruction to effectively shut me down. No Tutors or Absolute law in either game. When Ponza works, it works – and Chris is one of the best Ponza players in the Bath area.

Matches 3-2, Games 8-6.

I was disappointed at the way my deck had performed in this match up as I’d planned quite heavily and hoped the Elders, BOPs and Trellis would give me the advantage. I’m not sure they don’t but I’ll have to do more testing to make sure the balance is right, and maybe add a third tutor to the sideboard.

Checking with my teammates, Tarik was 5-0 and Paul was still in with a shot of top 8. Andy had played against a B/W Reclamation deck with lots of creatures with coming into play effects and was still playing against another Rebel deck. At the end of the round their match timed out again leaving Andy on 2 wins, 2 draws and a loss.

Round 6 – Paul Willis – Goblins and Burn

I don’t remember playing Paul before and I was happy when he played a first turn Goblin Patrol: Not a Replenish deck – HOORAY. He proceeded to beat and burn me to death, as I only saw a Wave and no blockers that he couldn’t burn to death.

In came the Absolute Law and tutors. Second game he started fast again, but I put down a Trellis and a Boa to help stem the tide. A timely Wrath started us off again, but this time I had the better creatures, including a Masticore. I finished him off with a Blastoderm.

Game three was more interesting. He started the beatdown while I cast an early Absolute Law. I then put down a few blockers and mana producers until Paul played a Thran Lens. I didn’t see a Disenchant or a Seal but managed to get a Masticore and kill all of his creatures. He cast a Seal of Fire as I started to hit him back. He cast another Seal of Fire and I hit him again. Another couple of turns later I beat him to death, while I was on 9 life. He showed me his hand: Two shocks, a lucky escape.

Worship or Pariah may be a good addition to the sideboard, it depends how popular burn decks become.

Matches 4-2, Games 10-7.

Andy and Paul had had to play and Paul had won 2-0. That left Andy on 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses and Paul on 3 Wins, 2 draws and a loss. Tarik was still undefeated and on 6-0.

Final Round – Richard Young – Control Black.

Richard started well with a Dark Ritual, Negator. I cast a BOP and followed with a River Boa. Richard attacked to do me four points of damage and lose two permanents. That was the last damage Richard did in that game. Elders and Boas won the day.

I sideboard in 2 tutors, 1 Light of Day, 1 Thran Lens, 1 COP: Black and a Splinter and we start again. Game two Richard puts a Skirge out whilst I cast another BOP then a Trellis. I fetch a Light of Day and play it. A few turns later I start Elder beatdown. Richard manages to cast a Thran Lens, which I then Disenchant.

It was at this point I realised the Lens wasn’t that good in the match up. I wasted a sideboard slot with a Lens when the black players have them ANYWAY! I continued with the beatdown until Richard cast a second Thran Lens and hit me for three with a Skirge. In my turn I play an Uktabi Orangutan and get rid of it, and continue the beatdown with the Monkey and the Elder. A few turns later it’s all over.

Matches 5-2, Games 12-7: 15 points and 7th place.

My first top-eight for a while and with my own deck too. The deck performed better than I had hoped but there’s still room for improvement. The Monkeys in the main deck could be something more useful in more matchups. The Thran Lens can come straight out of the sideboard. The crop rotation didn’t help much and could be something more useful. The Wrath helped a couple of times, but so would a Wave and I wouldn’t loose all of my creatures. I’m not so sure about taking it out though, there’re too many decks it’s useful against.

Blastoderm is great, Boa is great, Elder is great. Trellis is OK and I only found myself wishing it was an elf a couple of times. Against Ponza it was invaluable, even if I did lose that match. Armageddon was FANTASTIC as ever, and won me many of the games throughout the day.

Tarik ID’d the last round and won the tournament on 19 points. Paul won his last game and came 8th with 14 points. That’s the first time the whole of our team in England has made the top-eight. We have an absent team member (Alan) who’ll be returning in a couple of months and he’s got a lot to live up to.

Andy won his last game and finished with 11 points. He was happy with the deck but we need to put more effort into testing. He wasn’t happy with the Rebel match ups, as they always go so slowly. He also thought the deck needed some way to draw a few more cards like Brainstorm or perhaps even Saprazzan Heir or one or two Stroke of Geniuses. Either way it’s a deck we need to put a lot more work into before it starts to be a Fish deck to be really scared of.

As ever, comments are very welcome especially about the latest versions of Blastogeddon and Parallax Fish (a name I may have to change as there are now no main deck Parallax Tide). Hopefully some of this will help you building your own versions of the decks, and I’d be grateful for any insights you have into any particularly good or bad match ups, especially if you’ve found a killer card that helps Merfolk against Rebel decks.

Until next week, Jim.
Team PhatBeats.