When I saw that I’d made the Top 32 of ccgprime.com’s latest edition of the”Writer War,” I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make me feel kind of good. My personal life for the past month and a half has been, shall we say, less than great, and I’ll take every little ego boost and pick-me-up I can get these days.
I can’t speak for every Magic writer, but I can say with a fair degree of certainty that we don’t do this for the money, save for The Ferrett, editing from his swank condo overlooking scenic Lake Erie in scenic Cleveland, Ohio (no snickering, please). (Technically, it is a house – The Ferrett, refusing to ever live in a box farm again) We do it because we love Magic, we love writing and, heck, who doesn’t like seeing their name in print (albeit in electronic form)? This is something we do in our spare time, an hour here, an hour there, whenever we have time to sit down and actually write something.
So, to all those who voted for me and actually think I’m an entertaining writer who actually writes something you think is worth taking the time to read, thank you. I really do appreciate it.
Now, all I gotta do is beat this Alongi guy and we’re on our way to dethroning that hairy naked guy.
Heck, I’m even voting for Anthony. I’m in awe of people like him who can churn out as much material – good material! – as they do on a regular basis. I feel I’m lucky if I can get something done once a week. People like Anthony, Zvi Mowshowitz, Jay Schneider, and Brian Kibler – people who truly give back to the game with their writing – those are the kind of writers I’d say you should vote for.
But enough about me. On to my latest endeavors at deck building for Regionals. My local play test group, the fearsome High Plains Drifters, have been running through scads of decks, both conventional and rogues of our own design, trying to find the”one” deck, and, if not having much luck, having quite a bit of fun.
In our overview of Standard, there’s really no one deck that stands out the way Fires did last year. For a while, it looked like Psychatog was going to be the king of the field, but Torment, especially Chainer’s Edict, has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into that archetype. R/G speed beats, perhaps along the Torment-ized decks like”Frog in a Blender,” may be the top choice at present – but right now, the field is wide open.
We have quite a few innovators in the group, and they’ve come up with some very, very unique decks. Then you have me, who, to be honest, really couldn’t come up with an original concept that was any damn good to save my life. However, I am very good at taking existing archetypes and improving them. I’m more of a”tweaker,” and I mean that in a non-methamphetamine fashion. That in mind, here’s two decks I think show some promise.
Looking at Brian Kibler first pass at B/R, it looked pretty impressive on paper. And initial testing made it look pretty good too. However, it’s been getting waxed quite a bit lately. The deck has a lot of power up to the early midgame, but after that, it tends to peter out and lose, for lack of a better term,”oomph,” depending upon the timely topdeck for the win rather than board position.
The archetype shows too much promise to abandon, though. So I’ve been trying to rework it, with help from our local play test group and friends scattered across the web. Man, what did I do before the Internet? Oh yeah, I read books and went outside and things like that.
The current version is made to be very, very aggressive, with answers for the mid- to late-game that the Kibler version lacks.
4 Urborg Volcano
4 Tainted Peak
4 Sulfurous Springs
2 Keldon Necropolis
4 Blood Pet
4 Blazing Specter
4 Nantuko Shade
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Mesmeric Fiend
4 Chainer’s Edict
3 Ravenous Rats
4 Flametongue Kavu
3 Phyrexian Arena
2 Coffin Purge
First off, don’t laugh at Blood Pet. This pint-sized Dark-Ritual-wannabe isn’t that bad of a choice. It’s often good for a few points of damage early, helps you bring out a Blazing Specter or Ichorid a turn earlier, and it’s food for”Itchy” in the graveyard.
The deck is heavy, heavy black, and the red complements it well. My current question is whether or not to drop the Blazing Specters in favor of Flametongue Kavus. Or maybe Urza’s Rage – as sometimes, burn is a good thing.
The deck is designed to hit with early disruption in the form of Duress, Rats, and the very-underrated Mesmeric Fiend, then bring in the heavy hitters around turn 3. Braids is gone, in favor of cheaper creatures. I found that too often, Braids would get in my own way. Yes, it combos well with Ichorid and other creatures, but sometimes you get into Braids wars with an opponent and you end up losing to squirrels. I would rather have more Ichorids and feed him with chump blockers, rather than depending upon Braids to get them into the graveyard.
The Keldon Necropolis is what is going to make or break this deck. What I’d discovered is that I could clear the board and start with the Ichorid beatdown, but I’d always end up a few creatures shy of being able to have a since Ichorid in the graveyard be able to go the distance. The Necropolis enhances the power of the Ichorid, making him worth five points of damage instead of three on any given turn, putting an opponent on a much faster clock, not to mention a non-colored source of damage.
While I keep playing with the deck, one hard, cold fact remains: There has no enchantment removal in the deck. Cards like Compost and Pernicious Deed can be wrecking balls. If the deck doesn’t come up with a way to deal with these cards, it’s game over.
One possible change is to take the Flametongue Kavus that are in the sideboard back to the main, replacing the Blazing Specters, and add something new to the sideboard, perhaps some sort of enchantment removal. I remember last year, how some NetherHaups decks added a splash of green for Tranquillity. That weakens the mana base, but it’s an idea.
So while I’m still tweaking Ichorid-based B/R beatdown, it’s not looking promising unless I come up with something to be able to combat these problems.
That leaves my next less-than-original idea.
With the conclusion of the last Extended season, several attempts have been made to try and translate some of these decks to Standard, primarily those that already contained heavy percentages of cards that are currently Standard-legal. Miracle Gro, for example, and what is probably the best of the lot, PT-Junk. Aside from Swords to Plowshares and dual lands, the deck was almost completely comprised of cards from the Apocalypse and Odyssey expansion. Naturally, it translates well to Standard.
This is what I’ve come up with in testing these days:
4 Spectral Lynx
4 Call of the Herd
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Laquatus’ Champion
4 Pernicious Deed
4 Gerrard’s Verdict
2 Chainer’s Edict
4 Rampant Growth
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Phyrexian Arena
2 Wrath of God
2 Coffin Purge
The deck reminds me a little of one of those Gilligan’s Island reunion specials they had many moons ago, but weren’t able to get all the original stars because they were either a) unwilling to appear, b) otherwise preoccupied, or c) dead. Let’s face it, Rampant Growth is no Ginger – uh, I mean, no Tithe – and Chainer’s Edict is no Swords to Plowshares, but both are effective in their own way.
Like the original Junk, you combine the best discard in Duress and the Verdict, effective mana accelerators in Birds and Rampant Growth, the best removal in the environment in Pernicious Deed, Vindicate and Chainer’s Edict, and a rock-solid creature base of Lynx, Spiritmonger and Call of the Herd. Alas, there’s no real replacement for River Boa in the current standard environment, but we can overlook that.
Why, you may ask, did I choose to go with Laquatus’ Champion over other choices, such as the pro-black Mystic Enforcer? Two reasons, primarily. One, it regenerates, along with the Lynx and Spiritmonger, so it gets around the dirty Deed. Secondly, and most important, it’s the”lose six life” effect. If he isn’t countered, he ends the game rapidly, either through life loss or just as another beatdown machine. And he’s kind of bounce-proof, too. Not totally, but he isn’t just going to be Repulsed as a target of opportunity.
The sideboard, again, is straightforward. Compost against mono-black or heavy-black decks. Slay against U/G and R/G. Arena vs. control. Wrath vs. creature-heavy decks, and Coffin Purge for pesky stuff that comes back from the graveyard, like Ichorid and Chainer’s Edict.
The question for me right now is the mana base. It seems fairly solid, although I may trim out some of the painlands for more basic lands, or perhaps the appropriate”tainted” lands. It’s a work in progress. I would love to be able to use Far Wanderings, a card that has definite potential in the right deck (5cG?), but since the deck tends to win games by the time threshold is achieved (another reason to eschew the Enforcer), Rampant Growth is the less-stellar but more solid choice.
Both decks have one major problem: No source of card drawing. Mind you, that doesn’t seem to hurt R/G speed decks very much, but the more I test, the more I feel that decks that have good card drawing engines to get them to what they need, when they need it, may be the way to go for Regionals this year.