For the record, I’m Smashosity. Bennie Smith Elegance.
Last time on Battle Royale:
- 2 Vhati il-Dal
- 3 Mindless Automaton
- 1 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 2 Golgari Thug
- 1 Grave-Shell Scarab
- 2 Necroplasm
- 3 Shambling Shell
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 4 Entropic Eidolon
- 2 Indrik Stomphowler
- 2 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
- 4 Stromgald Crusader
- 3 Weathered Wayfarer
- 4 Leonin Skyhunter
- 3 Azorius Guildmage
- 2 Ronom Unicorn
- 3 White Shield Crusader
- 3 Amrou Scout
- 4 Knight of the Holy Nimbus
- 2 Serra Avenger
Make a fight… Fight!
What were the key cards going into this matchup? To be honest, while Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Serra Avenger, and White Shield Crusader are simply better than any other weenie, my men aren’t that important. What’s important is getting around his answers. Keeping him off base and unable to use his dredge engine is key. His best men are Stromgald Crusaders and Stinkweed Imps. Damn those Imps! Their dredge is absolutely humongous.
What really spells doom for the White guys is Necroplasm. Bennie can get it online and clearing the board a single turn after he hits the table with the assistance of Shambling Shell. Having the ability to hit me with Wrath of God every second turn is not a good experience for me. While Bennie has a hard time getting that combination active in the single pre-sideboarded game, the sideboarded games look like bloody murder for me. His overpriced Eidolons hit the bench for much more vicious tactics.
Are there any key areas in which I have clear superiority? Yes. I have a much smoother and reliable mana base than Bennie does. Bennie cheats on his mana base by running 23 land for a far higher curve, and eight of those lands come into play tapped. If he stalls in any of his sideboarded games, I have excellent odds of striking back.
In terms of mulligan resiliency, both decks are fine. Smith doesn’t really mind mulliganing to five, so long as he has a working Dredge outlet. When goldfishing, White Weenie often has a card or two in hand at the time of the kill, so I can get by with an aggressive mulliganing approach as well.
I’ve also got the advantage in aggression in that my guys are quite hard to block. He usually won’t have any way to block a flier until turn 4, and when I sideboard I go up to four Bathe in Lights. My army is quite hygienic and gets the job done very cleanly.
Writing a feature match report where you’re one of the two participants is a very different animal than writing a report of other peoples’ games. You have a strong tendency to lionize your own cunning plays while not giving your opponent full credit for his plays, up until the point where his “ridiculously lucky” play utterly wrecks you. So I took care in penning these paragraphs.
Bennie won the die roll and kicked off by playing. Two trips to Paris didn’t help him. My opening hand consisted of Bathe in Light, Temporal Isolation, White Shield Crusader, Desert, and three Plains. Not nearly enough guys, but I’ll take a beater plus the ability to neuter a Stinkweed Imp. I made the Crusader and a Leonin Skyhunter. Bennie tried to get into the game with a Mindless Automaton, but I shut that down with Temporal Isolation. The Knights of the Holy Nimbus who say “Ni” quickly joined my side. When my crew picked up the tunes of a Glorious Anthem, Haakon couldn’t do anything more than sit by.
I want more cards printed with musical themes. Any card that inspires me to do karaoke practice in the middle of matches is a good one.
Game 2 saw Smith keeping his hand. I kept a hand with two Bathes, Azorius Guildmage, Ronom Unicorn, Glorious Anthem, and two Plains. Bennie had no turn two play, and I led with the Guildmage. Smith made a Shambling Shell, so I kept my Guildmage back and made a Unicorn. Smith built up his line, and threw down a Stromgald Crusader and Golgari Thug. I made another Unicorn and kept my guys back. Smith added Haakon, Stromgald Scourge.
I cursed my luck as I drew a third Bathe in Light. I wanted a fifth land so I could play Anthem, Bathe, and send the troops for massive damage, but I had to resort to just playing Anthem and passing the turn. As soon as he came up with Necroplasm, I was toast. But all Smith could come up with was Shambling Shell. His Dredge engine came up just one turn too late. I made a Knight of the Holy Nimbus and attacked twice for the kill using Bathe in Light to clear the way before he could Wrath my board.
No sideboard tricks here. My guys merely worked as vanilla Grizzly Bears, but that was all they needed to do.
For the third game, I had an absolutely nuts hand. Two plains, Griffin Guide, Temporal Isolation, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, and Glorious Anthem. In testing I knew that Necroplasm would absolutely wreck my board. The only proofs I had against it were Knight of the Holy Nimbus and Griffin Guide. If Smith wanted to make a turn 3 Necroplasm, turn 4 Shambling Shell to totally eradicate my board, he wouldn’t have enough mana to keep my Knights from regenerating. If he made Stinkweed Imp, I’d remove it with Temporal Isolation. This was my best chance against him.
Everything went according to plan. I made the Knight of the Holy Nimbus, slapped Isolation on his Stinkweed Imp, and used Griffin Guide on my Knight to fling it over the head of Smith’s Stromgald Crusader and Golgari Thug. Smith tried to fortify his position by playing a second Stromgald Crusader and Life from the Loam to build up his graveyard. He had the Haakon ready to go, but I ended up with Serra Avenger, White Shield Crusader, and Leonin Skyhunter on my side. He got Haakon and his knights back, but a Fortify proved to be too much for him. Army of Allah is pretty darned good these days.
My hat goes off to Bennie Smith for being a genial, friendly opponent. He had the misfortune of having an excellent deck, but not enough explosiveness to match my draws. I suspect if he had been a little more aggressive in mulliganing in games 2 and 3 to find his Necroplasms, those games
I’d also like to thank fellow SCG writers Rivien Swanson and Talen Lee for helping me by playing the role of Bennie in testing. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a pair of Battle Royale Fanatics more fervent than those two. I asked Talen for help, and he told me “we’ve tested the matchup already about ten games.” Damn. Fellow gaijin extraordinaire Jesse Sokolovsky tested against early builds of the deck, before I knew I was going to play Bennie. He deserves a shout-out as well. I’d also like to apologize for the shameless deck title theft, which I appropriated from the fine Osaka gaijin crew.
Now that you’ve seen the deck in action, you’re got some work to do. Take this deck and build it, and teach someone how to play with it. This is a good fourth deck for learners, after a month or so of playing with the Ninth Edition precons, the expert precon, and their first homebrew. Every creature has a special ability on it, but not too many. And the strategy’s fairly simple. If you want a simpler build, go with the initial one in my previous article. It’s even cheaper.
As for what’s next? I won’t spill the beans. I can confidently say that my next deck is not going to be White Weenie. It should be relatively straightforward and fun to play, however. I will do my best to embody all the best qualities of a Battle Royale Champion. Stay tuned, true believers.
japaneli at hotmail
ATTACK OF THE KILLER PARENTHESES! (Random notes)
You know, I really wish I had the chance to head to Grand Prix: Yamagata this weekend. It’s the first major Limited event in Japan I’ve missed in a while. Unfortunately I had prior commitments. (Not just Battle Royale. Though that is up there.) Look at that Top 8, though.
Here’s what I make of the standings. Jelger Wiegersma (also known as “Guy Who Writers Triple-Check For Spelling”) and Rich Hoaen are simply the best Limited players you can get out there. Raphael Levy and Antoine Ruel? No slouches. These guys have a track record of accomplishments as long as your arm. Antoine deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That’s four non-Japanese players in the Top 8 of a (admittedly smaller) Japanese GP. Japan is not the impenetrable bout of death that many people make it out to be.
Only two major Japanese names made it to the Top 8. World Champion Katsuhiro Mori is one of those guys who plays really well when he’s on a hot streak, and when he’s cold, he still has good moments. With him is Japanese Nationals 5th-place finisher and potential Rookie of the Year Takehiro Suzuki. Are the Japanese squad ready to take on the world and defend their teams title of last year? My guess is yes. I always want to vote for my beloved U.S. team, and I think they’ve got the stones to make the Top 4. But I’ve got to back my local guys, the guys I’ve been watching and playing with for years.
Are Japanese GPs actually worth traveling to these days? For those who want to get in on the Player of the Year race, it seems more and more attractive. No fewer than three foreigners busted into Hiroshima’s Top 8 in August. (One an amateur, no less.) The Japanese Limited pantheon may rule the world along with Hoaen, but there’s still more out there. How much closer to victory would the rest of the world be if they started coming over? That’s one of the keys to Olivier’s and Antoine’s success. They know something only a few are now learning. (See: Nuijten, Coimbra.)
As for the Player of the Year race, I’m cheering for Kenji, Shuhei, and Yasooka. It’s true, Kenji’s become a bit corrupted by his world travels. He’s acquired a taste for Mild Sevens. Does that flaw make him even more appealing to the public? I shudder to contemplate. Shuhei, on the other hand, has always been a face. Yasooka is having the breakout year he’s always deserved for being a luminary of the Japanese community. I’ve also been a longtime fan of Olivier, who always livens up any tournament he shows up at. I have no doubt he’ll be an excellent commentator and ambassador for Paris to the visiting throngs. I really hope he jumps back into the running and regains his top prominence.
I’m going to be glued to my seat for Worlds. A very long-lived American contributor to the Magic community, whose identity I must keep confidential, has promised me that his team has some absolutely outrageous tech to be unveiled for multiple formats. I hope that story comes to fruition, as well as all the other stories that I have no inkling of in advance. My pick for world champion? Antoine. It’s his home turf, it’d be a great story, and he deserves a better showing in a Worlds Top 8 than he did last year.
It wouldn’t hurt to have a front page link for SCG to highlight the Battle Royale, with a funky graphic wall of winners and a brief name of what they won with. It makes for a quick survey of what has worked in budget over time. It’s also nice to have your name engraved on stuff. [Working on it… – Craig, who should be prepping for Worlds.]