Battle Royale Round 5 – Losing the Hard Way

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Craig turned up half an hour late. I mulliganed in games 1, 2, 3, and 4… and because that wasn’t enough, game 2 again. I drew lots of land. Craig mulliganed to three in game 3, and still got a turn 2, 3, 4, and 5 Watchwolf. Across four games I saw two Rakdos Guildmages, no Ribbons of Night, one Last Gasp and one Pyroclasm, and something in the district of forty-six lands.

Craig turned up half an hour late. I mulliganed in games 1, 2, 3, and 4… and because that wasn’t enough, game 2 again. I drew lots of land. Craig mulliganed to three in game 3, and still got a turn 2, 3, 4, and 5 Watchwolf. Across four games I saw two Rakdos Guildmages, no Ribbons of Night, one Last Gasp and one Pyroclasm, and something in the district of forty-six lands.

I hope this has been a valuable, informative exercise for all those of you out there who want to build better decks and get better at playing Magic.

Hugs and Kisses
Talen Lee
Talen at dodo dot com dot au

PS: Manaflood sucks rather savagely. You know what sucks more than manaflood? Not being able to put in a good showing. Not being in a match at all. Having an audience wait for half an hour for a complete non-show.

I had “too much” land in the deck — an effective 30 mana sources, between the 4 Karoo and the 4 Signets — but I “needed” those mana sources to be able to reliably get off the bigger spells. I wanted to take the lead and have Wrecking Ball on deck to deal with my opponent’s lands if they weren’t making early drops. As previous two Battle Royales evinced, manabases can make a world of difference.

I think we should have kept to our original plan and given Craig a game loss for turning up late.

PPS: The Ashes are a joke and have been as long as I’ve been alive, never mattering for any reason at all. The only reason there’s ballyhoo about them now is that for the first time since I was able to urinate standing up, England was actually able to pull its win three games of cricket in a row versus a team that played like lemmings. There is no point to a tournament where only half the competitors can take the prize home.

Consider; you sit down, you fill out your sign in sheet, you do your registration and you look around the room at the 24 other players, smiling to yourself as you realise the format’s boiled down to BDW versus a grotesquely overpowered Psychatog build that you and all your friends are running. Then the TO tells you, “Only the people who are playing Boros Deck Wins can win any product, the rest of you just get to feel good.”

Screw that noise.

PPPS: Not to point fingers and name names, but some of the claims in the forums are a bit… odd. People in Real Magic Land might be overly used to the idea that you win with a five-power dragon or angel, but believe it or not, serious competitive Magic decks won on the back of such win conditions as Two Gaea’s Cradles.

If you can control the game, any dork will win you the game. Any dork. With the disruption elements provided by Hellhole Rats, and the long-range reach from Blaze, the Rakdos Guildmage’s positively mundane ability to swing for two makes him fine — certainly better than Scryb Sprites recursion.

I did need better removal options. Two that I wish I hadn’t forgotten were Eradicate and Dark Banishing. It’s easy to forget the color-based removal options. The actual match wasn’t appropriately evincing of the removal suite, since, I find, barring for assistance from Rakdos Guildmages, lands can’t kill anything.

I deliberately avoided commentary in the forums on the actual matchups. This is because I didn’t want to give away any kind of edge. I don’t want to do my opponent’s research for him. That’s why I don’t give detailed ideas about my sideboarding options, nor do I directly contradict anyone in the forums.

Mainly because no matter how stupid an assessment in the forums is, anything I admit or anything I explain… is going to fall on the deaf ears of someone who doesn’t want to hear a different opinion, and put information in the hand of Mine Enemy. Well, hell with that.

So it actually means there’s a discussion, for my sake, that I keep out of. It’s interesting seeing how wrong some people can be about assessments. I mean forums were nattering about how my first Battle Royale showing was one condemned to failure, courtesy of running Moroii versus a Burn Deck. Well, I can understand that! After all, Moroii has the rules text “When you draw Moroii, reveal it to an opponent, then give him your wallet and let him punch you in the kidneys. You lose the game.”

The second one? Josh Claytor was saying he had no chance. Mournglash, on the back of some good — unlikely, but good — draws, won our testing most of the time. A good chain of Ledgewalker into Moldervine into holy crap juice that was a hit for eleven Might of Oaks, eh, was a big ask for my deck to overcome. The matchup was not a serious lock for me. I wasn’t going to crow about my win, and I certainly wasn’t going to log into the forums just to tell everyone that Joshua could luck into a good draw that would bend me over and spank me hard.

But Joshua had a much better chance than he thought it would.

And now… this matchup. Well.

Ahem. More on that later. You know, if this wasn’t the end of the article and just a note I was attaching as a quick thought. You know.

PPPPS: Yukora. I mean, wtf. That was just a bad idea. I should have ignored Yukora entirely, and gone with a better, general, all-purpose fattie. For 3RR, I get Kumano. Since Yukora’s lure was entirely that of a gigantic threat who wanted to swing across a clear board, his main purpose was to beat up on a control or combo deck, or to hold the ground versus aggro for a little bit. Yukora was a bad idea. Plain and simple.

The sideboard needed to lose the Parallectric Feedbacks in favour of Stone Rains. Ribbons of Night should have been a three-of. And Coldsnap brings a whole new suite of awesome toys. Like the fact that the manabase can be changed, one-for-one for Snow Lands, Scrying Sheets, Mouth of Ronom, Tresserhorn Sinks. Deathmark leaps into the sideboard. Skred replaces Last Gasp, doing everything Skred means to do at less mana, with only turn 2 being “more” important. Coldsteel Heart replaces Dimir Signet. Chilling Shade can replace Yukora, if I need another threat.

That means that the deck undergoes a serious shift — it actually loses a lot of its high-end stuff and actually “transforms” in a weird way to a snow deck. That actually tickles me — suddenly, Kumano feels very at home, standing, a creature in a snowy place.

The updated decklist, as per Tuesday Afternoon is:

If we price the deck as per “sane” prices — I don’t expect Scrying Sheets will ever exceed 2-3 tix, once prices settle. Demonfire is another 3 tix, and Kumano… well, your average joe can head to a bot and grab a Kumano for two tickets. So 16 tickets for the rares, and the rest of the uncommons and commons will not set you back too much.

The Sheets are a dubious add to the deck in that they can “only” get you more land. They also just give you mana. So they’re a bit of a dead entry. Yet, with the removal from the decklist of Phyrexian Arena in favour of Bottled Cloister, you can afford to play the game a little more efficiently. Your instants — Skred and Hit/Whatever suffer, but they remain fantastic cards at what they do, even on your own turn. Skred in the mid game should be dealing 4 or 5 damage to a creature and its expansion makes it basically completely superior to Last Gasp (who I only want to eradicate annoying, little threats before they can get out of hand).

Coldsnap is bringing me a lot of toys. I’m very excited to meet it.

PPPPPS: No set review this time. There’s only so much ground you can cover with a set review, and they’re generally mediocre, even the ones that are good. We get to watch Jeroen Remie and Mike Flores call each other idiots by omission in this round, and I’ll be “reviewing” every card that interests me in Coldsnap just by dint of working with the cards.

That said, I heard from some worthy folks — Vrax, for example — that the Art Review is sought. I’m not so sure on a compromise — perhaps I could get Fox to insert a pithy art review on any articles I do focusing on a single card and the ways I want to use it? That wouldn’t be too silly, would it? Thoughts on that one, people who are interested in art?

PPPPPPS: Respect is key. I am personally pissed off that I failed to make a showing, not because I don’t like losing, but because this matchup was not determined by deck design and construction (where I had the edge), but by an aberration of luck. I was weighted to get manaflooded, but not grotesquely; and Craig’s manabase was, as I found in testing, just shaky enough that if I gave it a few kicks, it’d tumble down.

I doubt that anyone out there takes Battle Royale, in my mind, as seriously as I do. I’m a casual gamer — most of these other guys actually take the run at tournaments, going into events and actually competing. Me… I don’t. Probably too scared. Probably. But this is now my most significant accomplishment as a Magic player. I beat Ben Goodman in a five game match. Ben Goodman — a name, in the casual mind I have, stricken permanently to Ghost Dad, to cracking wise at Osyp and putting a Cool Deck on the map.

To everyone who isn’t me, this doesn’t affect anything, long-term. Hell, in the long-term, it doesn’t actually matter at all even to me. But here and now, I saw Battle Royale as a way to earn respect. A way to tell people — the people who read me, the people who criticize me, and the people who think I’m a useless douche? These people have an official entry of me competing against a good player on a reasonable playing field, and winning.

Now I step out from this setup… with nothing. With an ignominious loss that shows nothing of the deck, nothing of my skill, and nothing about how good — or bad — Craig’s decklist was. This is painful to me. It’s the pang in my gut of something over which I have no control, and never will. I lucked out — in the wrong way.

I feel the tiniest sliver of how Jeff Cunningham feels now.

PPPPPPPS: Is it true that the British can’t draft? Six Surging Flames? I mean… zuuuuh?

PPPPPPPPS: One of my problems with the way this has played out is that it will “make” Rome look like a bad deck. It was suboptimally constructed — Yukora and Blaze were bad moves, with me being so far under budget. What’s worse is that it — in a bad way — validates the short-sighted views of those who predict these things without proper knowledge.

Some misconceptions that I’d like to address:

* Congregation for three Evilphant is something that I care about.
Mournglash got this, twice, in testing, once after getting his Elephant out on turn 4 anyway. I still killed him on 19 life, even after he cast the Elephants. In another game, he Congregated for three Elephants on turn 3, whereupon I blew up his Karoo. Congregation was, in fact, a real pain in the ass for its player and rarely did anything significant beyond fetching up Stomphowlers or Kami of Ancient Law in order to destroy a Phyrexian Arena.

* Glare of Subdual was a serious trump to my deck.
In all our testing, games got better for Glare when it sideboarded out Glare of Subdual. I was boarding out creatures for removal and card advantage — games 2 and onward, the only creature in my deck was Rakdos Guildmage, with Blaze expected to be the Big Win. This also limited Faiths’ Fetters targets.

* Llanowar Elves into Wood Elves was any good at all.
Not only wasn’t it good, it was actively bad. For my money, they’d have been better served as Sakura-Tribe Scouts and Civic Wayfinders. The Wayfinder is still a bear, and he actually gets you the color of mana you need for your spell. If you can cast a Wood Elf, you have enough Green to cast every spell in your deck that wants it.

* Card advantage is immaterial against Glare of Subdual.
Blasting the hand apart, then killing the creatures on the board and following up with a steady accumulation of mana, or a “hasty” Rakdos Guildmage, was easily efficient enough to win the game… provided I could deal with the threats that were eventually topdecked. Between the two decks, though, Rome topdecks slightly better than the other deck — but only slightly. Blaze shortens fights by a lot of turns, and I’ve beaten life totals of 32 or more with nothing more than a pair of back-to-back Blazes.

PPPPPPPPPPS: It’s important, in this situation, to act sensibly. I am upset that I lost to mana problems that are the result of bad luck. Logically, I can observe the things that Went Wrong. I can also observe what I did wrong. I pointed Wrecking Balls at lands in the hopes of manascrewing Craig, when there were threats on the table that could have been Wrecking Balled to much better effect. I also let frustration get the better of me. I can’t say whether being less annoyed — at the time delay, at the shuffling problems, at Craig’s good luck — would have helped me change the outcome. But being a pissy little brat about things isn’t going to change them.

So I will have a good-natured bitch about it. I did, in fact, to my wife, and to my friends. With a lengthy and angry diatribe about the joys of manascrew. You don’t get to read it. You, the reading public, have already made it eminently clear that if I have a good-natured bitch it’ll be misinterpreted as saying that I inject puppies with AIDS or something.

Then, I will stand up, dust myself off, and move on.

It’s called being an adult. It’s something amazing, but apparently, we Magic players can do that now. Once you’re paying your own rent and doing your own grocery shopping, part of me feels that you lose the right to throw public tantrums.



Moving on.

PPPPPPPPPS: This was a blast. For all that I am writing this as angry, annoyed young man who feels like I just lost on the back of a coin flip to a guy who didn’t turn up on time. Battle Royale is an awesome idea. I’m going to be reading avidly, and, whenever the match falls on a time I’m in the ballpark, I’m so jumping in and watching.

Awesome fun, all of them. Win or lose.