There was a horrible snowstorm some months back, so a Connecticut (pre-bannings) PTQ got moved to January 31. This was good for any number of reasons… I was off on Christmas vacation during the original, the follow-up tournament was post-bannings, and my friend gave me a great deck.
Even though I originally intended to play my Threshold deck, after talking to a bunch of people (especially Josh Ravitz), I instead ended up playing this one (which I can only assume is making Bill Macey smile somewhere in the wilds of Texas):
3 Chrome Mox
4 Cursed Scroll
4 Tangle Wire
4 Land Grant
4 River Boa
4 Skyshroud Elite
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Wild Dogs
4 Vine Dryad
4 Treetop Village
2 Lumbering Satyr
4 Rushwood Legate
2 Rishadan Port
As I understand it, former Urban Housing member ghweiss was the original designer of this deck; the build I played was modified by me and the Rabbit.
The Acridians and Rishadan Ports were for RDW, though the Ports also came in against a lot of other decks. Against RDW cards like Skyshroud Elite and Wild Dogs are a liability. Skyshroud Elite is a 1/1 more often than not, and Wild Dogs might just jump ship and join his cousin the Jackal Pup. Acridian, on the other hand, is a nightmare for RDW. Extra lands are necessary because of the opponent’s mana control element, and Ports are better than any other option, because of their synergy with Tangle Wire and additional usefulness against combo decks.
The big question I had about this deck was its ability to deal with Pernicious Deed. Like a lot of people probably assumed about my Threshold deck, I thought this deck would roll over to Deed. The thing is, the main deck that has Pernicious Deed – The Rock – has no plan against the central focus of this deck. I mean, what are they really going to do about a Troll Ascetic with Rancor? The Rock’s plan is to win with card advantage over a long game (which is why it is generally weak against combination decks, even with its compliment of six to eight hand destruction spells); it cannot execute this plan against Troll Ascetic as long as the Troll is big enough to knock over Ravenous Baloths and 0/4 walls (I actually played against Pernicious Deed several times in the PTQ and beat it up over and over).
The big kicker, though, is how good this deck is against U/G (previously the most popular deck in the Northeast). U/G has no game whatsoever against Tiger Woods. It can’t throw away cards all day against the eight main deck landwalk creatures, and is in the rare position where its creatures aren’t the biggest guys on the board. A 4/4 or 6/6 just doesn’t scare a Troll Ascetic or Vine Dryad with forty-seven Bonesplitters and Rancors stapled to it.
The Tangle Wires, mana control, and potential four turn clock make this deck excellent against combination decks, while its weaknesses are fairly narrow. I think Tiger Woods is an excellent choice for a normal metagame.
… but who ever said that the metagame was predictable?
Round One: G/W
That’s right folks, G/W in the first round. His deck was a nightmare for mine… Even though I had Vine Dryad advantage, we were essentially playing a mirror where he had more options and more powerful cards. Everything from Glory to Armadillo Cloak to Armageddon hooked up to beef up Wild Mongrels, Anurid Brushhoppers, and Troll Ascetics of his own.
I am ahead early, but his guys are situationally better. He ends up tossing a lot of cards to Wild Mongrel and Anurid Brushhopper, and plays Armageddon into my hand of Forest and Land Grant. I am careless with my life total and end up having to trade my lone Troll Ascetic for his Wild Mongrel. With three mana open and no cards in hand for either of us, I can either draw River Boa or go to the next game. I, of course, draw the Boa. The next turn, I top-deck Bonesplitter (causing a passing Patrick Sullivan to cheer), play it, and forget to equip my Boa (causing Pat to walk away in disgust). He continues to draw nothing as I draw a fourth land and a Troll Ascetic. Bonesplitter gets passed around like VD and Game One goes to our hero.
I don’t side in my Naturalizes because I only see Armadillo Cloak in Game One. He swaps Worship for Armageddon, which is clearly a good swap with our decks so similar, even given my Vine Dryads.
He opens up with Wild Mongrel and Armadillo Cloak and takes a huge lead. I come back with a Treetop Village and a hundred enhancers. It is fairly annoying when you hit the other guy for nine a couple of times and he is still on seventeen or twenty-two. At some point, he plays Worship, but I don’t scoop because I think there is some way out of the game. Then he plays Troll Ascetic. Then he plays Armadillo Cloak on his Ascetic and refuses to attack with either huge guy. I scoop it up soon after.
He gets manascrewed and I get a great draw.
Round Two: Mono-Green
His draw is really poor and he shows me a Skyshroud Elite and not much more. I smash him, but don’t really know what to do for game two.
I side in Lumbering Satyr and Rishadan Port, but side out Wild Dogs because with him going first, they might get the wrong idea.
I play an early (1/1) Skyshroud Elite on a hot draw and feel like I’ve got the game in hand even though only two turns have gone by; my hand is amazing and I am about to go off with Tangle Wire with an existing positional advantage. All he’s got is a Priest of Titania. His Priest, however, piggybacks my Elite and he plays a Deranged Hermit on the third turn. Tangle Wire all of a sudden doesn’t seem so great. He follows up the next turn with a Masticore and Gaea’s Cradle. The game goes long, but in a long game his Skyshroud Poachers, Masticores, and Hermits clearly trump my tiny boys.
I work him into a situation where it is his Masticore staring against my Troll Ascetic with Bonesplitter. I figure I will sit there doing not much as long as he is willing to continue discarding cards for no profit. All he has is a Priest of Titania and Skyshroud Elite, so I figure there is not a big chance that I lose if I do nothing else; anyway, it’s not as though I can play the tiny friends out of my hand. So about three or five fruitless discards later, he lays down Elvish Champion.
That Priest and Skyshroud Elite are suddenly a Shrapnel Blast every turn. I try to work some Tangle Wire magic, but between his mana production, Masticore, and forestwalk, it is the loser’s bracket for me.
Round Three: G/B
All Green all day continues, as I hit yet another Green deck. He was a Deed / regeneration deck with River Boa and Troll Ascetic… similar to The Rock, but more offense-minded. His mana draws were pretty poor both games and my deck is very good against those kinds of decks anyway.
Round Four: U/G Opposition
I think he is Aluren when he taps on turn 3 for a four mana enchantment with his Birds of Paradise, but it is just an Opposition. Aluren is scary, but Opposition should be no problem. He gets all the toys… Tradewind Rider, Wild Mongrel, a ton of little Icy Manipulators, but he can’t run with my double Troll Ascetic, double Bonesplitter, and active Cursed Scroll.
It’s more of the same as Troll Ascetic is joined by Naturalize.
Round Five: Goblin Bidding
I guess the Green streak ends at four, but the rainbow is completed as I hit a Red deck. Goblin Bidding seemed like it should be a difficult matchup because he owns the long game… My plan was to draw a lot of Tangle Wires and mana control to keep him off the BB needed for Patriarch’s Bidding. My lads on the ground should otherwise keep his Goblins in check… at least as long as they aren’t Siege-Gang Commander.
He wins the flip and plays a Mogg Fanatic. It’s quite nice for me that he wins the flip, because I can run a turn 0 Vine Dryad. Forest and Rancor come down on turn 1, and he’s staring at a Hill Giant smash before he has played his second land. I play some blockers and keep him off balance with Wasteland before playing a pair of Tangle Wires.
He sides in the Perishes, but I show him my sideboarded Acridian on turn three. Acridian is of course a nightmare for him… I could have played a Troll Ascetic, but running a Wasteland with him stuck on two mana seemed better. I eventually get a pair of Trolls down and they go to work with Bonesplitter help. He Perishes at reasonably high life, but I have a Treetop Village and more than enough mana to throw an inch-high stack of enchantments and Equipment on it for lethal the next turn.
Round Six: Pattern
I get paired up, which is nice for me, but not for him.
I make multiple errors this game, but my Vine Dryads and River Boas buy me enough landwalk damage in the early game that it doesn’t matter. With an active Scroll in play at the end of his turn, I target his Phyrexian Ghoul with his only other creature being a Birds of Paradise with Pattern of Rebirth on it. What was I thinking? He saves the Ghoul and searches up Visara the Dreadful. I sneak in three more with my landwalkers before the inevitable kicks in, but the two damage that I didn’t send to his head gives him an extra turn to draw… not enough.
This was an odd game where he brought in Damping Matrix. It seemed Matrix was worse for him than it was for me, but I drew a lot of Cursed Scrolls, so it was annoying. He eventually just went to the dome with Visara and killed me.
I was on the play and kept:
I kept because I had a fast Dryad to play, a Dogs to potentially cycle and potentially play, and because double Wire is pretty fantastic against Pattern. Rabbit (who is playing for Top 8 next to me) almost has a heart attack. My keeping this hand was even more embarrassing when he played Cabal Therapy for both my Tangle Wires.
Anyway, I’m a miser, so of course I had four land on turn five, a Lumbering Satyr down, and the beats going with a Troll Ascetic.
In the first of many swings, he played a Pernicious Deed for my board and also his two mana creatures and Damping Matrix, but I responded with a Troll Ascetic and another Cursed Scroll.
He top-decks and plays an Academy Rector.
On my turn, I think for a long time and Scroll the Rector leaving up double Wasteland. He says”Good job,” goes for Deed, and kills my Troll Ascetic and Scroll. I’m not sure if it was a mistake, but I didn’t know if he had more Deeds in his deck. I realized he could make this play, but he had a ton of mana (and three Black, two of which came from Llanowar Wastes), and I was a lot more frightened of his being able to hard-cast Visara and kill me. Anyway I had a Dryad back. I top-decked another Troll and killed him with it.
Round Seven: ID
So I played no Psychatog, no RDW, no Madness or Threshold U/G, and no (real) The Rock. Instead I played against five different, weird, Green decks and one Japanese deck. So much for the metagame.
Top 8: Aluren
When the bannings came out, Rabbit said he thought The Rock and RDW would be the best decks, but it seemed to me that Aluren would be good in a field of The Rock, and that Academy Rector was simply missed when they banned the other degenerate combo pieces. Aluren should beat my deck a good deal of the time… in order to win, I have to draw mana control and I need them to not draw a lot of blockers.
He has me dead to rights. He wins the roll, plays Living Wish for Wirewood Savage on turn 2 and Intuition for Alurens on turn 3. I don’t draw any mana control cards and expect to lose on turn 4. Nope. He doesn’t have the land. He has to Wish for it and play a blocker. Now I need to top-deck Tangle Wire or Rancor (not Bonesplitter – not enough mana) for the win or Wasteland for the likely win. I draw Rancor and alpha strike him for exactly lethal damage.
Here is my opening hand, on the draw:
I discard Skyshroud Elite to play a turn 1 Boa, with the plan of top-decking a one mana beater and using my Port on turn 2. Over the course of the game, my draw is fairly good with two Tangle Wires, but I only have the Boa and a subsequent Wild Dogs for beaters, and never draw a Bonesplitter or Rancor. His draw is simply phenomenal, but he needed it to be phenomenal in order to win, I think.
He draws two Walls and makes his land drop every turn, even under my Wires. He never plays an Island or Forest, and draws multiple Hickory Woodlots. On the last possible turn (at four life), he is able to burn a Hickory Woodlot to play a Cloud of Faeries and untap his Hickory Woodlot that I tapped down with Rishadan Port to play Aluren with exactly four mana. When he plays Raven Familiar, with the draw on the stack, I Naturalize Aluren… but he has two copies of the combo in his hand, and wins with Naturalize on the stack.
This is a heartbreaker. I simply overvalued my Naturalize. I’m not even sure if Naturalize is good in this matchup. PJ said I should have waited for the Wirewood Savage, because with only four life, he couldn’t really”go off” with just gating, but he had cast zero real library and sideboard manipulation cards this game (not counting the two Wall cantrips, obviously), so I didn’t want to give him the option of drawing into a win if he didn’t already have it. How was I supposed to know that he had double win in hand?
What my friends did agree was a mistake, though, was my first turn. I should have pitched Naturalize instead of Skyshroud Elite. Playing Land Grant showed my opponent that he had to play around Naturalize anyway, and two more damage starting on turn 2 would have been more than enough to win the game, given double Tangle Wire and Rishadan Port, even if he did draw two vital copies of Wall of Blossoms and two combo kills with no manipulation spells cast.
An even more aggressive play, which might have been the optimal one, would have been to burn the Land Grant and run both Chrome Moxes on turn 1 for four power with Port and Tangle Wire back. I can’t really be bitter about his fantastic draw because, even though he had it, I had the tools to win the game as long as I didn’t screw up on turn 1. As it ended up, either play that I didn’t make would probably have won the game and sent me to the Top 4.
I mulligan dismal hand into dismal hand and he smashes me with ease. PJ thought I should maybe mulligan yet again, because I had almost no chance to win if my first play was to be a turn 3 Troll Ascetic. It is possible that I should have sided out Troll Ascetic for Rushwood Legate anyway. They both cost three and are basically too slow for the matchup and not big enough to punch through Wall of Blossoms. Troll Ascetic’s vaunted abilities are irrelevant compared to his mana cost, given this fairly non-interactive matchup. If you have to hard-cast Rushwood Dryad he is worse than Troll Ascetic, but Troll Ascetic isn’t very good; if the opponent plays an early Island, Rushwood Dryad is even better than Wild Dogs.
I suppose losing in the Top 8 wasn’t that bad, because I would have been paired against Rabbit in the Top 4 anyway, and I would have just scooped to him. Unfortunately, Josh also made a critical misplay against our Aluren opponent and cost himself the finals in his Game Three. We were planning to meet in the finals and ruin Charles Mousseau’s day with a planned concession and prize split, but both of us making Top 8 was still pretty good… even if losing in the Top 8 cost me half a box of Mirrodin and a bunch of critical Constructed points… and Josh’s chance at the Kobe invitation. Actually, it was as bad as I originally thought.
Tiger Woods is an excellent deck. What it gives up in raw power given the potentially degenerate options of Academy Rector, Mind’s Desire, and Putrid Imp available in this format, it more than makes up for with speed and consistency. I would actually argue that Tangle Wire and Cursed Scroll are as powerful as some of the broken combination cards you find in Extended, given the right matchups. Troll Ascetic isn’t quite Nimble Mongoose, but he’s still quite good against The Rock and Psychatog… even if he does cost three times the mana for a smaller creature.
That being said, I think that I would not play Rushwood Legate again. Maybe Sphere of Resistance is better given the low mana costs in this deck; it is synergistic with Tangle Wire and really slows down the repetitive combination decks like Mind’s Desire and Aluren.
So I headed home with carmates PJ and the Shark. We ate at Cracker Barrel on the way, which, though a cherished tradition, was fairly disappointing for two reasons. First of all, the allegedly Coca-Cola flavored chocolate cake just tasted like regular chocolate cake with sugary icing to me, and Nat Fairbanks constantly reminded me of Katz’s Deli throughout the tournament. I love Cracker Barrel for what it is, but Katz’s Deli this chain ain’t.
Deadguy Shout-outs: Worthless Wallingford
Worth was my first friend to make the Pro Tour and the first player who told me to make my own deck.
Driving on the way home from my own first (disastrous) Pro Tour, where Peculiar took Top 4, Wortho made Top 16, and I made – I believe – 134th (all with the same deck, mind you), Worth asked the reasonable question”Why in the world is there an Ivy League school in the middle of the ghetto?” Worth was instrumental in my qualification for US Nationals 1999 (the year I got 9th), as he replaced the Erg Raiders and Unholy Strengths in my Suicide deck with Skittering Skirges and Cursed Scrolls on the way to Regionals. Who knew 3/2 flying was better than 2/3 with a disadvantage and that card drawing and damage was better than card disadvantage? This more than made up for the time that he made me pay for parking and all the tolls on the way home from a PTQ I won (“Go ahead and pay that, big winner!”).
Like many of the other people instrumental in my development in getting better as a player, such as Brian”Suicide King” Schneider, Mike”George” Donais, and even Randy”grab some floor” Buehler, Worth has been kidnapped by a covert branch of the CIA, code-named R&D, and is currently being held hostage in Renton, Washington.
Random Deck Names: Tiger Woods
On the way to the tournament I was trying to figure out a name for my deck. I mentioned that many of the cards are from a time in the distant past when I still collected Magic cards (that is, the pre-PJ and the Rabbit era), and that I had many of the cards in Japanese… about half. We typically try to play the same editions of all of our cards in order to limit the opponent’s information, but in this case, I had random Japanese, Chinese, and, yes, English cards. So because the deck was a jumble of cultures, and because it was mono-Green, PJ suggested”Tiger Woods.”
The one card that I own in Japanese that I nevertheless played in English was Rishadan Port. Jon Finkel borrowed my Japanese Rishadan Ports for Nationals 2000. He won the National Championships. Then he played them at Worlds 2000 and won the World Championships. Go back and see if you can see Feature Match photographs from Chicago 2000. Those Japanese Rishadan Ports that bought Jon Top 8… those were mine. So I was in Jon’s room working with him on his Fires deck for Day Two of Nationals 2001 and asked about my Rishadan Ports.”I gave them to Dave Price,” he said. Going through Jon’s binder, I saw some slightly played Japanese Rishadan Ports.”Hmmm,” I said.”I need those for tomorrow,” Jon responded. He needed 5-0-1 on Day Two to make Top 8. I guess the Japanese Rishadan Ports finally ran out of mojo because Jon blew it with a lowly 5-1 and, partly thanks to Casey McCarrel, got stuck with 9th. The Rishadan Ports have not been seen since.