Battle Royale Round 2: Slithering Back

This week’s Battle Royale sees the undefeated Richard Feldman take on Ben “Ridiculous Hat” Goodman. We’ve seen Richard’s deck, dubbed “Snakes on a Plane.” Now it’s Ben’s turn… and his deck is surprising, to say the least. A $25 Standard deck, for a best-of-five battle on MTGO, that must be capable of defeating an army of slippery snakes… Bizarrely, it seems that Ben is fighting fire with fire.

TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me

This is my favorite song to come out this year. I can recommend it to everyone who enjoys music. It’s not immediately accessible, but it’s just so perfectly arranged and constructed that I have to rave about it.

Anyway… hi there. I’m writing once more after an indefinite and unplanned hiatus, and the topic that I’m covering today is a doozy and a half. As you may know, there is a competition on this very site known as Battle Royale, and Richard Feldman, friend to many and general good man, recently won the first round against Chris Romeo, budget mafia godfather. His next opponent was to emerge from the shadowy mists, wielding a deck so powerful that few could gaze at it without being blinded on sight. That opponent is me. *thunder echoes throughout the… article*

The story began when I received the same email that Rich mentioned in his intro to his Battle Royale article. Of course, I didn’t quite qualify as “non-pro PTQ player”, but that didn’t stop me from applying anyways – and I’ll be hitting up the PTQs for the Kobe season, so I guess I’m in anyways. Unfortunately, I was too late, and Craig told me that I would have to wait to play the winner of the first round. The time has come.

For information purposes, let me go over the concept once more.

  • Richard and I each must build a standard deck costing no more than 25 tickets (excluding commons).
  • We each write about how the deck works and have them published simultaneously here on StarCityGames.com.
  • We go to the MTGO casual room at a predetermined time and engage in a best-of-five duel of truly epic proportions.
  • We both write up postmortems on the event and I rub my victory in his face with smug satisfaction.

Er, that hasn’t happened yet. Give it time.

The predetermined time for this event is Monday, July 3rd at 8:30 EST in the Anything Goes room on MTGO. Be there and watch. You won’t want to miss it. I’m still upset that I missed the last one, damnit. Plus, can you imagine the witty banter that’ll be present? Rich is fresh off of a victory against the budget king himself, and I’m just generally prone to babbling.

The Concept

As soon as I got the email from Craig that I was to be fighting in this clash of titans, I immediately started brainstorming ideas. I thought about cheap rares in Standard, checked the price of Firemane Angels, tried to figure out if any of the old block decks from the past two formats were playable without Jitte/duals, sighed, and then watched some Standard premiers.

Wait a minute. What was that? Was that a Patagia Viper*? Yeah it was. *rubs hands together fiendishly*

There seemed to be a Snakes deck that was chalking up more than its fair share of wins, and every card I saw in the deck was either a cheap rare, a non-rare, or a Jitte. Now, Jitte is a lot easier to stomach when you know the other guy won’t have any either, so I immediately set about building up a list that would be able to replicate the success of these Standard monstrosities. It also helped that the deck looked like tons of fun, and really, who doesn’t like annihilating people with Coat of Arms? Fire it in there and they can’t possibly deal with your horde of large and angry snakes on parade.

So I threw together a list and tried it out against random people in casual. It performed like the Standard lists did, only with worse mana (thanks to having eight less duals) and no Jitte. I’m okay with making those compromises, as I get to have an explosive and resilient deck to make up for it. Seems like a good trade.

The deck is named… oh, wait, time for a history lesson! Hurrah!

Let’s go back to GP Madison. If you’ll recall, the format was Team Standard. Day 1, I was entered in the tournament with Brian Lynch and Melissa Detora (a fine man and woman, if I may say so) as “Joseph Kambourakis Memorial Society”, and we finished the day with a 6-2 record. You can imagine that we were biting our nails seeing if we would make it in to Day 2 on breakers, as four of the seventeen x-2s would make the cut.

The final standings went up. The crowd assembled and I pushed my way through to look…

20 Joseph Kambourakis Memorial * 18 58.18%

And the crowd goes wild!

It was really close, too, because we only beat out the 21st team by four percent in the second tiebreaker. Man, I would be really pissed if I were them. Who was on team Check Minus anyways? Let’s see… the A seat was Troy Rumans, the C seat was James Smee, and oh yeah… the B seat was Richard Feldman.

What a lead-in, am I right? This will be the ultimate battle for ultimate victory. Ultimately.

Anyway, so, the name of the deck was only too easy to come up with.

Second Richbreaker**

The maindeck builds itself with mild customization, but I wanted to edge more towards an aggro-control deck considering I’m going into an unknown one-deck metagame. Two-mana counters are rarely bad, and I’d imagine that the cheaper decks will be slower than their expensive counterparts, if the last batch of decks is any indication. Plus, I hear Feldman likes to play control. And I quote:

“But wait – a fast aggro deck? Me? Hell with that. I’ve never been a turn-all-my-men-sideways kind of guy, and very well may never be. The fastest aggro deck I’ve taken to a real tournament was the B/W deck I played at Regionals this year, and even that was slow enough to play four bouncelands.”

Hot diggity damn!

I’ll go over the deck’s overall strategy and individual card choices, but first, you must know how to obtain the cards.

The Money

This is real easy for those of you who want to put this deck together. With the exception of the Trygon Predators, every single card was obtained from that most wondrous online store hosted by the mysterious entity known only as “CardBot.” This CardBot fellow knows how to run a store, and I was able to find everything I needed at very reasonable prices. The cards cost as follows:

Patagia Viper [email protected] = 1.50
Sosuke’s Summons [email protected] = 2
Seshiro the Anointed [email protected] = 5.25
Coat of Arms [email protected] = 8.25
Needle Storm [email protected] = 0.24
Creeping Mold [email protected] = 0.36
Shisato, Whispering Hunter [email protected] = 0.80
Remand [email protected] = 2
Hinder [email protected] = 1
*Trygon Predator [email protected] = 2

Total cost: 24 tickets—23.40 to be specific. Decimals work on the card prices because they’re all through one source, so only the totals matter. The exception is the Trygon Predators, which I had to find at a 2-for-1 bot, as Cardbot wanted one ticket each for them.

I can’t think of anything you could do to cut the costs – I guess if you wanted to go straight beatdown you could get rid of the counters, and if you wanted to go even further you could go mono-Green. I think the price is reasonable, though, so I wouldn’t recommend cutting the Blue unless it is an absolute necessity.

Onwards, then, to…

The Magic

It’s not too hard to pick this deck up, and considering that Jitte is not in this build, you have one plan – make a lot of snakes and then make them big. The key to this strategy is not in the make-big effects, though – it’s the Sosuke’s Summons.

Public Service Announcement: Sosuke’s Summons is stupid good. It keeps making heaps and mounds and loads and hordes of snakes, and it never stops coming. If you’re playing against a Wrath-based deck, you just go Summons and then any snake and then Summons. Whoops, five-power worth of guys, deal with them or die. And then do it again. I don’t really need to talk about what happens when you have a Coat down, but it suffices to say that things get silly.

Coat is obviously powerful in this deck, considering that every single creature that you play is a snake and that Patagia Viper makes three snakes. Along with the aforementioned Sosuke’s Summons, you have no problem assembling a critical mass of huge dudes, and it’s surprisingly easy to rebuild after a Wrath or three. Seshiro is also a powerful pump effect, and he’s better than Coat against decks that can’t remove him. Coat can occasionally cause you problems if it pumps up their guys too – usually only if they have a lot of removal or flying guys. Sesh prevents that issue from ever coming up.

The counters have already been explained, and a lot of the time you’ll find yourself with a couple extra mana each turn. It’s almost always much stronger to play a Summons and pass the turn with two mana up and a counter in the grip than to play a Summons and get it back with, say, an Elder. You can hold the little guy until the following turn and apply pressure with your little snakes. Of course, in the late-game when you’re both low on cards, you want to run whatever you can out there, but with the sheer amount of mana production in this deck, it’s not hard to get a jump on them and stay far ahead enough to stop whatever their trump is whenever they play it. The two Sustainers are actually in the deck for the chief purpose of aiding the “spells plus counter mana” strategy.

The Compulsive Researches can also be attributed to the large amount of mana in the deck, as it’s not uncommon to find yourself with a lot of mana and not as much action as you would like. Research is “Just Good”™ and it never hurts to draw into more snakes, which get you Summons, which gets you more snakes… you get the idea. The deck already has late-game power, but it never hurts to make yourself more resilient.

Simic Growth Chamber is the nuts. It’s the best land the deck plays in the powered version, and you get to play with it here in common-land. How lucky!

The sideboard showcases your various plans for your problems.

  • Needle Storm is the obvious answer to massive flier swarms and is a perfectly acceptable Arashi replacement. It’s cheap to cast and clears the air.
  • Trygon Predator is a general-purpose answer to artifacts and enchantments. Having efficient and recurring removal for any problematic permanents is very nice, and having flying is extra nice.
  • The Hinders and the Leak help when you have more huge bombs to deal with – they’re powerful against control strategies of all types, as you’re much faster than most of them and the extra counters help you get ahead and stay there. The extra mana production is awesome with these, and I very rarely felt constrained by my lands when I needed to play stuff and counter stuff.
  • The Creeping Molds are a Feldman concession – if he plays his Firemane deck again, or something similar to that, they deal with Vitu-Ghazi and Fetters on my Predator. Plus, they’re super neat on bouncelands.
  • The Shisatos are there because I’ve always wanted to play with Shisato. Seriously, look at the guy. He’s so cool. He’s like “hisssss” and then you don’t untap. He even eats his own family. That’s badass. In terms of actual gameplay, he has plenty of food in this deck, and against creature-light control decks, he could actually lock them. I want to do that in front of a cheering crowd of millions of StarCityGames readers. The humiliation factor would be unbeatable.

I know, I’m a sucker for the crowds.

If you want to adapt the deck to real tournaments, the Molds probably turn into Naturalizes and the Shisatos turn into something serious. You can have a heavier counter plan, Kashi-Tribe Elites and a tutoring package, or a bevy of legends that I’m too poor to afford for this exercise. If you really want to money up the deck, get Breeding Pools, Yavimaya Coasts, and the two-mana equipment that has induced more complaints than Ben Bleiweiss‘ poetry. And that’s saying something. The maindeck is solid, though you could swap out the maindeck Mana Leaks for something else if necessary – it really depends on what constitutes your local tournament scene, but I find the generalized utility of Mana Leak gets it a spot in the main against anything. Hell, if you have any questions, ask me in the forums. You know that I’ll be refreshing them compulsively waiting for derisive comments***. I feed on that stuff.

That’s all I got. So remember, kids – come one, come all, to the magical extravaganza of doom on Monday July 3rd at 8:30 PM EST. We’ll be in the MTGO Anything Goes room and we will be thirsty for blood and trash talk. There will be laughing! There will be crying! There will be (almost) certain death, and there will only be one victor. Who knows what the fates have in store for us? *dramatic reverb*

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns in the forums. I’ll see you around.

Ben Goodman
RidiculousHat just about everywhere

* There will be no references to “Snakes on a Plane” in this article. Sorry.
** Or perhaps Second Tie-Rich. I like the sound of “Richbreaker” more, though.
*** This means you, 1024. Godspeed.

[Two players. Two decks. No collaboration. A metric shedload of snakes… This is gonna be fun! – Craig.]