Basic Rogue Deck Design: Part II

The rest of one of Mike’s best.

[Click here to read Part 1!]

I think this is what makes Goblin Bidding such an infuriating deck to play against. It’s even worse than Living Death, though, now that I think of it, albeit oddly related. Bidding’s core baseline strategy (Plan A) is only slightly less efficient than an Onslaught Block Goblin deck, but maintains much of that archetype’s speed and strength. You have to beat Goblin Bidding’s Plan A before you can get anywhere. The problem is that the better you are at stopping the Goblin rush, the more powerful the Bidding execution becomes; you not only have to worry about your life total and the board, but the opponent’s mana development and graveyard accumulation. On top of that, the deck as a whole is tied together with the most powerful piece of Equipment in all the planes of Dominia. Creature kill is less effective, the opponent makes his drops consistently, your deck design can be less streamlined because you have to worry about artifacts as well, the opponent resolves a huge Bidding with seven cards in hand. Which strategy do you fight? Do you devote cards to all three? If you do, how much room do you have for any other matchup? This really is a challenging time to be a rogue deck designer.

That is the reason that I advocated Culling Scales in my last strategy article. The Goblin deck is a three-pronged weapon, and Culling Scales helps blunt two of those prongs. Rogue decks have to work harder than regular decks. Because of that, their cards often have to do more jobs than you’d ideally like them to do. Playing with Culling Scales rather than Damping Matrix gives you more room in design (which is not to say that Damping Matrix isn’t better in a deck with cheap permanents, like Astral Slide). When you play a rogue deck, you have to lean on some cards very hard in order to save space for cards in another matchup.

One of my favorite examples is Brian Kowal’s Black Control deck from a few years ago. Everyone liked Black Control, but surprise surprise, it was terrible against Survival of the Fittest. That is kind of like today when you like deck X and it loses to Goblin Bidding. Brian’s solution was to sideboard the humble Carrion Beetles. They weren’t flashy, but they were annoying for both other Black Control decks and Living Death. The beauty of these Beetles was that Brian also brought them in against Red beatdown. They might not have been the most spectacular creatures on earth, but they sure blocked Goblin Lackey. Carrion Beetles is not”good” at doing any one thing spectacularly (or even particularly) well, but the aggregate utility across several matchups, as well as the ability to make his deck slightly more efficient against combo (where an additional turn 1 clock that could also take a bite out of Academy Rector or Yawgmoth’s Will would be welcome) justified the Beetles’ sideboard inclusion in this case… I can tell you that I certainly hated wasting removal on them.

The opposite is also true. You are going to have some cards that are sub-optimal in some matchup (like Price of Progress against another Red beatdown deck), but you also can’t worship any sacred cows. I remember Justin Gary showing me a version of Survival of the Fittest that, believe it or not, had no of Wall of Blossoms. Adrian and I looked at it and realized that Wall of Blossoms wasn’t bad in any matchup, but also not really very good in any matchup either (at least no matchup that he wasn’t already winning). Automatically playing Wall of Blossoms did nothing except restrict the number of cards that could be hand selected to make the deck more efficient in problem matchups. Today, Troll Acetic makes maybe one third of my Green decks, and only one G/R deck ever (and that was three colors). In a rogue deck, rather than a templated mainstream deck, he is just some guy who costs three mana to block a Goblin Piledriver and is too small to punch through a Myr Enforcer. Troll Ascetic served me well in Extended, but he doesn’t plug many of the holes that the Standard decks I am working on seem to have.

As a rogue deck designer, you sometimes have to be willing to play cards that draw the double take, and make room for them with the good cards you are”supposed” to be playing. Your cards will be scoffed at… at least until everyone else realizes how good Goblin Sharpshooter, Ornithopter, or Upheaval are, at which point they copy you. The important thing when choosing these cards is that they get the job done. Go for the Carrion Beetles rather than the Repopulates. Play Peace of Mind rather a piece of crap. Please don’t play Krosan Warchief in your G/R anti-Affinity deck. Not only does he not actually do anything, but he will make you play badly, contributing to the fact that you don’t actually beat Affinity. Chris Pikula used to say that you could tell if someone was good by whether or not he blocked an attacking Jackal Pup, Mogg Fanatic, or Ironclaw Orcs with a freshly cast turn 2 River Boa. If they weren’t playing Deadguy Red they were probably bad to begin with, and even if they knew something you didn’t, but waited for regeneration mana anyway, they were definitely bad.

Next Time: Splash Damage


Before They Were Stars

Today you may know Oscar Tan as the onetime Writers War winner and maker of many an article about Type I…

But back in 1999, he was just a filthy cheater with a poor understanding of sealed deck. Behold”[ISSUE] Bad experience in Philippine MM Prerelease Tournament!”