Battle Royale Round 3: A Tribute to Dan Paskins

StarCityGames.com - Battle Royale!

After trouncing the talented Richard Feldman in last week’s Battle Royale, the Ridiculous Hat now sets his sight on the next target in the roll-call of writers… the ornery Talen Lee. So, will he bring the snakes to the fight, to fend off Talen’s probable Nephilim deck? Or will he move to pastures new? What color deck will he pilot today? (Hint: there’s a clue in the article title.)

The Magnetic Fields – Take Ecstasy with Me

This song is really happy. Now, granted, I do not condone the usage of any illicit psychotropic substances – but the song is still happy. Stephin Merritt is a genius.

So it’s time once again for a Battle Royale against a fiendish opponent. We will be battling for pride, honor, justice, and the American way. If you’ll recall correctly, the last encounter I had was with Richard Feldman, saucy fellow and good man, and though the duel was heated, I emerged with victory in hand in a mirror match pitting brother against brother, serpent against serpent, and… coat against coat.

Alright, that’s enough. I can only spit out so much melodrama.

Now that I’m in the position of “defending champion” as opposed to “impetuous upstart”, I haven’t really been able to metagame against what I think my opponent might be playing – because I didn’t know who I was supposed to play until yesterday. Tee hee. Granted, metagaming in this format is pretty silly, and I like to switch up what I’m playing for your entertainment and my peace of mind. Last night, though, my opponent was made known to me, and I now feel truly prepared to deal with whatever wild concoction he has to throw at me. He is none other than casual mage extraordinaire Talen Lee, forum firebrand and defender of the proletariat. Knowing him and knowing me, the message boards will probably be, um, “lively”. Be careful or you’ll lose an eye.

Let’s go for the good old copy-and-paste to explain what we’re trying to do here in the series.

  • Talen 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.

The time and place for this event will be 7pm EST in the Anything Goes room on Magic Online. It will be an extravaganza, a joyous festival to celebrate the everyman. That, and I’ll continue to trash talk a lot. I’m sure that Talen won’t be afraid to offer his rejoinders, so you won’t want to miss this one, folks*.

The Concept

I knew that I was going to be in this competition as soon as the last match concluded, and I’ve been thinking about what to play. The thought of budget Vore crossed my mind, but that seems like a cop-out and isn’t really much fun. Budget Tron would be an exercise in futility, and I can’t just play Snakes again – I need to be inventive and creative and fun! At this point I began brainstorming about good commons and good colors.

  • Black? I don’t think there’s much allure here, and I definitely don’t want to revisit Romeo.dec too soon.
  • Green? Just played it.
  • Blue? Interesting, but I don’t think there’s enough meat here to really build a control deck in 25 tickets.
  • White? I could probably build a white weenie deck. But that’s not as fun as…
  • Red. Pure, simple, Red. I wanted to have fun, burn people out, and play with one of my favorite cards in Standard – I’m not gonna tell you what it is yet, though. You’ll have to wait and see.

The deck cometh!

“Sometimes Red just wins.” —Geordie Tait

There’s some customization to be done here, and in particular I aimed towards efficiency in my burn spells – hence the eight ways to deal four damage for three. This deck is also good at clearing the way for 6/1 mountains, which often will be the way to win. Now, this sort of deck doesn’t appeal to everybody – but if you try playing it for a while, it will grow on you. When they play out immense amounts of lifegain, Circle of Protection: Red, and every other anti-burn defense card possible – and you win anyway – you will understand why the Red mage is always happy.

The Money

So how much am I paying for this pile? A pittance, I say! I picked up some tricks from Feldman and decided to sit around with buy ads up for a little while. Here’s the breakdown:

4 Char@3 = 12
I sat on the message boards for a little while to get these, but it was worth it.

4 Flames of the Blood Hand@.50 = 2
It was really hard to find these. I had to scour the board for them, but I managed.

3 Gruul Guildmage@.25 = .75
4 Zo-Zu the Punisher@1 = 4
I was surprised to find these at sell 1, but I guess it isn’t played any more. Good for me.

4 Genju of the Spires@.25 = 1
Same with these, though I think they’ll go up soon. BR burn has been doing well and it highlights this card.

3 Rathi Dragon@1 = 3
Thank a Mr. Phil Samms for this idea. He’s enormous! (The dragon, not the Samms. Well, maybe both.)

4 Threaten@.12 = .50
4 Orcish Artillery@.12 = .50
Thanks to cardbot, these cards were easy to find. I’ve always loved Threaten so I’m planning on blowing people out with it as quickly as possible.

All in all, the total comes out to 23.75. That’s a reasonable price, though the deck is easy to make even cheaper – cut Zozus and Chars for Rakdos Guildmages and probably Seal of Fire, or something along those lines. The Rathi Dragons aren’t that easy to replace, but they aren’t that expensive, so I would strongly recommend keeping the large cheap fliers.

The Magic

This deck is even easier to pick up than the last one. It operates under most of the simple philosophies of burn, with the added potency of Genju of the Spires.

Let me tell you about Genju. This is one of my favorite cards in Standard, and really one of my favorite Red cards of all time. Typically, Red’s problem has been that you have to send all the burn to the face or all at creatures that are bothering you – and there’s not always enough to have an adequate supply for both. What Genju does is make all your Mountains into amazing reusable huge creatures – and you are now free to send all your burn at blockers, paving the way for big beats. If there aren’t any blockers, well, you get to bash and burn. It’s hard to lose at that point, especially if Genju comes down on turn one. Try it against a Tron player and watch their eyes well up with big, blue, salty tears.

Outside of that, the plan is simple. Start deploying creatures early on and then start firing burn at the dome. Generally once you get past turn 3 or 4 you want to stop hitting their creatures unless you have no other option, and usually when you have no other option you lose – it’s better to play towards topdecking a burn spell than it is to hit their creatures and leave them at a stable life total. You have to take risks with this strategy, and a lot of the time they’ll pay off and you’ll win out of nowhere.

You have twelve different ways to deal four or more damage for three mana – Char, Flames of the Blood Hand, and Lava Spike/Glacial Ray. What this means is that after you deploy your creatures, you’ll keep mana open and fire out four to the face every turn until they die. If you don’t have a Zozu or Genju, this starts on turn 3 – those two are your best reusable damage sources, but your single-shot burn is really efficient as well, so don’t be afraid to start facing. Hold your Rays and Spikes until the end if you can, though, as giving yourself time to topdeck whichever half you’re missing is free damage waiting to happen.

There is one exception to the “don’t kill creatures” plan – mana dorks. If they play a mana dork on turn 1, use a Shock or a Frostling and get it the hell out of there. If they start dropping threats that are too big for you to race too quickly, you will get overrun. Slowing them down means you’ll have more time to put them on a clock, and once you do, you can hack chunks out of their life total and finish the job.

The sideboard is just as straightforward as the maindeck, and while it can be tweaked for local metagames, the cards are wide in application.

  • Hearth Kami is for… artifacts. Yep. If people are playing with Jittes wherever you’re playing, this is where you bring him in. I won’t be playing against Jittes, considering that Talen can’t afford them for this exercise and wouldn’t run them if he could, but there are other artifacts out there somewhere.
  • Orcish Artillery kills small guys dead. It can go to the dome in a pinch, as usually you’re way ahead on life, but he’s there to deal with small and troublesome dudes repeatedly.
  • Rathi Dragon is a huge flying guy. That’s it. He’s big. And he flies. You bring him in if they have very little in the way of non-damage removal, as in the Red mirror nothing will ever kill him. He’s also good for breaking ground stalls, though you have enough burn to break those by hitting them in the face.
  • Threaten is for stealing other large creatures, and it acts as a six-point burn spell or more – you get the power from their guy and the freedom for your guys to attack. It creates big swings in the game state and it’s always a card that people didn’t expect. I guess he’ll be expecting it now, though. Damnit.

There’s not a lot of tweaking that needs to be done for local metagames – the deck does what it does very consistently. If there’s a ton of White-based aggro-control in your area, this is not the right call, but if you see islands everywhere, pack this deck and you will crush the opposition. If you see a lot of multi-color control, buy some Blood Moons and bust ‘em out on your hapless victims.

That’s it for now. As always, I’ll be refreshing the forums far too frequently and will be responding to any and all questions sent my way. Again, the match will take place on Friday at 7pm EST, so be there and watch us have fun. Later.

Ben Goodman
RidiculousHat just about everywhere

A Moment with Psamms

psamms: can not believe
psamms: you are TESTING
psamms: for battle royale.
Me: i am not testing
Me: i am BURNING
psamms: testing.
Me: testing with red isn’t testing
Me: it’s fun!
psamms: it’s still testing.
Me: NO
psamms: listen here
psamms: testing boy.
psamms: so how’s testing working out for you?
Me: genju 😀
psamms: i mean
psamms: testing.

*That reminds me – did you guys use and/or enjoy the replays that I posted last time? Should I do it again for those of you who couldn’t make it?
**platypus parasol says (9:08 PM):
give me random props plz