Blog Elemental – BOOM, Baby and Call Me Mister Loser

You thought Friday was big? As MyFeetStink said in Thursday’s Forum thread,”The fun is in the journey, not in the destination.” Well strap yourselves in, kiddies, because we’re going on a bit of a roller-coaster featuring more game recaps and ch-ch-ch-changes!

Blog Elemental – BOOM, Baby

July 20, 2004

You thought Friday and Monday were big? As MyFeetStink said in Thursday’s Forum thread,”The fun is in the journey, not in the destination.” Well strap yourselves in, kiddies, because we’re going on a bit of a roller-coaster.

First, let’s take all vestiges of the weenie-equip theme out of the deck…

OUT: 1 Vanquish

I actually like Vanquish and have baited many opponents into blocking my little guy with their big monstrosity. The problem is that my deck is less and less about attacking with weenies. Since Vanquish relies on your opponent blocking, it has become less useful as the deck tries to remove blockers via Aether Spellbomb or Leonin Bola. If you are taking the deck down the WW Equip path, then I think Vanquish deserves a good hard look. It’s not appropriate here anymore, however.

OUT: 2 Skyhunter Prowler

The ability to both block and fly over for an attack each turn is nice. That’s why these are the last of the creatures-who-have-nothing-to-do-with-cogs to go. They’re awful beatdown without equipment, and Qumulox obviously fills the late-game finisher role much better. Besides, wouldn’t Leonin Den-Guard, Standing Troops, Wall of Air (or Swords), or Diving Griffin be better? Coming out on turn 3 with one power to attack and three toughness to block isn’t enough offense or defense to justify the slot. I have too many cog-tricks I want to fit into the deck.

OUT: 1 Bonesplitter

A cog, and a good one. There are times when it’s nice to have an extra two damage on the stack, especially when it turns Qumulox into a game-ending threat. Which is to say that Bonesplitter is something I’ve tutored for now and again. However, if two damage is my goal then there is another, better, solution. Gone are Auriok Glaivemaster, Auriok Windwalker, Skyhunter Skirmisher, Skyhunter Prowler, and Ferropede – all of the cards that benefit most from Bonesplitter. It’s a testament to the little axe that it has stayed around through several revisions, but now is the time to step aside because there is another card that performs Bonesplitter’s function in this deck considerably better.

That leaves four more slots open. I’ll go from what I think is least- to most-controversial in my additions.

IN: 1 Pyrite Spellbomb

People have been suggesting Pyrite Spellbomb’s inclusion since Day 1. Indeed, it is a reliable way to deal the two damage of Bonesplitter while also functioning as pinpoint creature-removal for a Blue/White deck. It’s a cog, and it can be sacrificed to draw a card just like the other Spellbombs, Scrabbling Claws, and Conjurer’s Bauble. So why did I wait so long to add it? Because adding Pyrite Spellbomb means adding a third color to the deck.

You should never add a color lightly; Adding a color makes the deck inherently less reliable and brings with it a host of mana complications to work through. My philosophy is that it’s far better to squeeze as much functionality out of a deck’s existing color base exhaustively before resorting to an additional color. That said, I think Pyrite Spellbomb is a natural inclusion, given the way the deck is evolving, and here it fulfills the role of Bonesplitter, Vanquish, and Viridian Longbow significantly better than all three combined. The question really is how many Pyrite Spellbombs to add, since it seems almost as useful as Aether Spellbomb in terms of being a recurring cog. Let’s start with one and go from there.

IN: 1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

I’ve previously mentioned the”other Bauble” and almost added it on Friday. This deck needs mana and lots of it, especially to ramp up to Salvaging Station and to feed Auriok Salvagers. What’s even better about Wayfarer’s Bauble is that it thins land from the deck so that I can draw more important cards later in the game. Wayfarer’s Bauble also has the nice side benefit of helping stabilize the mana of what is looking to be a three-color deck.

IN: 1 Leonin Squire

Leonin Squire is the one card I’ve become reliant upon that hasn’t increased in number. For awhile I had decided that with four copies of the Squire I would often be casting him without a cog to recycle. Recently I’ve noticed that I wanted to draw more Squires, not less, and that a first-turn Chromatic Sphere followed by a second-turn Leonin Squire is a mighty spiffy cantrip effect. With this addition, the heart of the deck now becomes:

4 Leonin Elder

4 Leonin Squire

4 Trinket Mage

4 Auriok Salvagers

2 Salvaging Station

…with a bunch of cogs surrounding them.

IN: 1 Engineered Explosives

Look back at my game summaries and it’s painfully obvious that I need a way to deal with opposing artifacts and enchantments. Folks in the Forum have suggested Altar’s Light, Annul, Stasis Cocoon, and Engineered Explosives. All four are in the deck’s existing color base, which is a good thing. Annul is the weakest choice because it relies on catching an artifact when cast or not at all and still leaves the deck with no answer for enchantments. Stasis Cocoon is interesting because it handles artifacts and creatures, but it’s not a cog, can only be played on my turn, and still leaves me vulnerable to enchantments.

Altar’s Light is a fine suggestion and should almost never be a wasted card. The problems with Altar’s Light are that:

1) It’s expensive as an instant for four mana, which is a lot of mana to expect this deck to hold back

2) It has double-White casting cost, which makes it clunky for a three-color deck

3) It’s not a cog.

If Engineered Explosives didn’t exist, then I would have to live with (1) and (2). Just like Annul and Stasis Cocoon, I would also have to dedicate anywhere from two to four slots to it, depending on paranoia.

Now look at Engineered Explosives. It’s a cog, so I can search for it with Trinket Mage, recur it with Leonin Squire and Auriok Salvagers, and gain life from it via Leonin Elder. It can hit artifacts, enchantments, and creatures. Moreover, it can hit multiple targets each time and only takes up one slot in the deck. The downsides are:

1) Sometimes it will kill my own stuff

2) It has limited usefulness in a two-color deck

3) It’s expensive to obtain via trading.

I can live with (1) since the heart of the deck I described above is of highly-varied casting cost. I’ve just said the deck is evolving to three-color, plus we have Chromatic Sphere, so that diminishes (2). That leaves (3), the budget issue.

I said in my Guidelines that”I will be trying to keep expensive rares out of the deck (but not avoiding them if I think they significantly enhance the deck).” Here is a case of significantly enhancing the deck for the cost of one rare. I can live with that too.

Unfortunately, adding Pyrite Spellbomb and Engineered Explosives has me worried about the deck’s mana base. Just Pyrite Spellbomb is enough to warrant further changes on its own, since I currently only have three Chromatic Spheres to provide Red mana. As a result, before I play the deck again I need to make further changes. This goes against yet another Guideline, but that’s why I didn’t call them Rules (heh heh).

IN: 1 Chromatic Sphere

I have need of you, my friend. Chromatic Sphere makes me much less worried about the three-color fiasco, and can bump Engineered Explosives past three counters if need be. The card-drawing is nice too. The Forum is split on this guy, but so far I like it, especially with the new additions.”The more cogs the better,” I always… well, okay, I’ve never said it before but will start now.

IN: 1 Mountain, 1 Great Furnace

A basic land to search for via Wayfarer’s Bauble and an artifact land to search for via Trinket Mage. I may end up increasing the number of one and dropping the other, but for now these plus the fourth Sphere are enough to satisfy me.

That’s what I need. Here’s what I drop to make room:

OUT: 1 Viridian Longbow

I now have a more reliable way to do damage in Pyrite Spellbomb. The times in which I used Viridian Longbow effectively were few and far between, and in all of them I would have been fine with Pyrite Spellbomb instead. The other thing I found is that the equip cost on Viridian Longbow drove me up a freaking wall. Way too often I tutored for it only to realize it would be a turn or two until I could use it, and then oftentimes my creature was dead.

OUT: 1 Plains, 1 Island

Is one of each the right call? I definitely need Plains more than Islands, but dropping two Islands seems to cut too deeply into my blue sources if I want to recur Aether Spellbomb effectively.

Mirrodin’s Core is something suggested by readers, and I think it will be making an appearance soon as well. For now, I’ve tinkered enough for one day.

Whew. That’s a lot of changes, but then again I played a lot of games yesterday. These also feel like more monumental changes to the deck because I’m adding a third color. As such, it’s time to officially call this version 2.0:

Nuts And Bolts V.2.0

Critters (21):

4 Leonin Elder

4 Leonin Squire

4 Trinket Mage

4 Auriok Salvagers

2 Synod Centurion

2 Qumulox

1 Ornithopter

Non-Critters (15):

4 Chromatic Sphere

2 Aether Spellbomb

2 Salvaging Station

1 Conjurer’s Bauble

1 Leonin Bola

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Scrabbling Claws

1 Sunbeam Spellbomb

1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

1 Engineered Explosives

Land (24):

10 Plains

4 Island

1 Mountain

4 Ancient Den

4 Seat of the Synod

1 Great Furnace

Ahhhhh… it feels good. Unlike all other stages in this experiment, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. I can still keep, drop, or add lots of cards, but from here on out I think there are reasonable arguments for and against whatever I do.

Blog Elemental – Call Me Mister Loser

July 19, 2004

People are getting really active in the Forum on suggestions for changes, which I appreciate. Keep it up, folks! For some of you, I’m sure, the changes are happening too slowly. Keep in mind that each time a blog appears, I’m usually a day or two ahead in revisions on the deck, so although there’s a gap between when you speak up and when I respond, the response will come eventually. There are some definite themes in what people are discussing that I will tackle tomorrow.

First, here are a whole mess of games, most of them losses…

Game 17: Blue/White Control

Another 1700+ player, which always makes me nervous. It shouldn’t, actually, since it’s the sub-1600 players that are more likely to netdeck in the Casual Constructed room. The good players usually use the Casual room to try out wacky decks. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear to be one of those cases.

My opponent is color-screwed, only able to get white sources of mana initially. Meanwhile I go cog-crazy with Chromatic Spheres, Aether Spellbombs, and Bonesplitter to go along with Leonin Squire, Synod Centurion, and Trinket Mage. Every time he Wrath of Gods my guys, I use Aether Spellbomb to bounce my Squire and get back the Spellbomb. I find another Squire when he has a full array of mana via three Darksteel Ingots, but by then it’s too late, and he can’t cast enough each turn to keep himself alive.

Game 18: Mono-Black Endless Whispers deck

I try an aggressive start with Leonin Elder and Trinket Mage while my opponent Shattered Dreams to snag a Bonesplitter. I proceed to make a huge error on turn 4 – Trinket Mage has gotten me an Aether Spellbomb and is the only creature on the table (Elder saw a wee Consume Spirit). The correct play would be to put the Spellbomb out, so if he tries to kill it, I get to replay the Mage and get another cog. Instead I fear discard and put out Auriok Salvagers. He plays Barter in Blood and I kick myself. Then he Promise of Powers to fill his hand and I say something along the lines of”I’m going to die a horrible death now, aren’t I?” I forget what happens next except that I live to the late-game.

He gets two Extraplanar Lenses and a ton of Swamps, then drops Endless Whispers. I have a Skyhunter Patrol and Trinket Mage on the table. He tries to kill the Mage and I Spellbomb it back to my hand. Unfortunately, both Aether Spellbombs are now in my graveyard, so I search for Conjurer’s Bauble to get one back into the library. Then my opponent plays… Phage the Untouchable. I have three spectators, and Zanac says”OMG” or something to that effect. I Bauble my Spellbomb, draw a land, then on the next draw get Salvaging Station. I have just enough mana to drop Station, get my remaining Aether Spellbomb and bounce Phage. It’s downhill for my opponent from there and I win via Skyhunter Patrol and recursing Spellbombs. Whew.

Game 19: Mono-Green Insects

This guy had Beacon of Creation, Xantid Swarm, and One Dozen Eyes to go along with Echoing Courage, Fecundity, and Alpha Status. It was a very close game, and I draw lots of extra cards via Chromatic Sphere and Conjurer’s Bauble to go along with two Leonin Squire. At one point I feel pretty in charge of the game although he is attacking with a 12/13 Xantid Swarm and a bunch of other Insect tokens. He has one card in hand, a card he just drew, but as long as it isn’t Echoing Courage, I am going to be able to win the next turn. It’s Echoing Courage. I bounce the Swarm with my one Blue mana and Aether Spellbomb, but end up getting buried in 3/3 tokens. The sucky thing is that if I had blocked with my Leonin Elder I wouldn’t have died, but I was unwilling to lose the Elder and its precious lifegain. Boo.

Game 20: Black/Blue Beatdown

And lo, on the twentieth game, he shall receive manascrew. Somehow I had forgotten about manascrew, which is an incredible luxury in a cog deck. Stupidly, though, I keep a one-land hand and never see a second before my opponent is able to not only get a flying armada going but also drop Memnarch. I concede, hopefully remembering a valuable lesson about mulligans.

Game 21: White/Blue/Green Control

I see my first Exalted Angel of this experiment, which isn’t a terrible thing since I have Leonin Elder, Aether Spellbomb and Auriok Salvagers. Then I see my first Akroma’s Vengeance, which is a bit more terrible. I bounce my Salvagers back to my hand and lose the Elder, Ornithopter, and two land. I replay the Salvagers, which meets with a second Akroma’s Vengeance. Crap. Now I’m in trouble. I get a Synod Centurion with Leonin Bola on it to take care of the Angel, but then he casts Krosan Tusker to go along with another Angel. I try two consecutive Qumulox, but he counters them both. Without the two Vengeance I would have won easily. With them I get utterly destroyed, which should surprise no one.

Game 22: Mono-Red Goblins

He swarms me, plain and simple. I get a Trinket Mage to fetch a Sunbeam Spellbomb, but his Sparksmith and Electrostatic Bolt clear any blockers for an ever-growing army of Goblins. Goblin Warchief is followed by Goblin Piledriver and three other gobbos and that’s game. Again, doesn’t seem like much a Casual deck by my definition, but maybe that’s just the awful taste of sour grapes in my mouth.

Game 23: Mono-Green Combo

What’s the combo, you ask? Two Rites of Passage on the table along with Triskelion. He also had Wood Elves, Journey of Discovery, Tower of Murmurs, Krosan Tusker, and lord knows what else to find and set up the combo. The combo comes down pretty quickly, but I mess up his math with Aether Spellbomb and the first Trisky dies. The second Trisky shows up and this time my opponent messes up the math all on his own and it dies. Yes, it was the guy’s first time playing this deck.

I have both Aether Spellbomb and Viridian Longbow to screw up a third Triskelion, but when it appears I concede. I mean, really, I lost to the combo three times over and a win would be pointless. He ends at eight life, and I have at least five damage coming a turn, but I don’t think I should have ever gotten another turn. Tourney games never come down to justice or honor, but when the games don’t count, it’s easy to concede.

I’m on a bit of losing streak, mostly due to a play mistake, a poor mulligan decision and some really solid competition. I’m sort of playing like poop today too, which doesn’t help. Some days I try to play while watching television, which never ever works.

That last loss was my own deck construction, though, since I had no way of handling the combo. Let’s see if I can turn things around with two more games before I make changes…

Game 24: Red/Black Atog deck

He has all the usual suspects early, including Disciple of the Vault, two Atogs, Lightning Coils, and lots of Shatters. I’m able to keep the Disciple from causing too much damage via a recurring Aether Spellbomb, and can take care of it for good when I tutor for Viridian Longbow. At one point my opponent thinks he can play land destruction, since he starts Shattering my artifact lands. But Auriok Salvagers brings them back while a Trinket Mage searches for a Seat of the Synod and my mana problems go away. He dies to Qumulox and Longbow damage.

Game 25: Mono-White Control

I don’t see a huge amount of my opponent’s deck, but what I do see is scary. He has Wrath of God, Solar Tide, Extraplanar Lens, and Solemn Simulacrum. He gets two Lenses to go with three Plains and two Solemns. Ugh. Thankfully, though, I’m only drawing Plains, so I have access to lots of mana too. I have a Leonin Elder, Chromatic Sphere, Sunbeam Spellbomb, and Conjurer’s Bauble to along with… both Salvaging Stations. My opponent lets me have exactly one turn in which I recur a Spellbomb to fill my hand to seven cards, then gain life up to thirty. It is absolutely ridiculous what this deck does with two Salvaging Stations on the table, and it’s only made sillier with Leonin Elder. Recurring cogs during an opponent’s end step is some good. Wow.

That’s all for today. I have a lot of fodder for analysis, now, which will hopefully make tomorrow’s changes a little easier. I know some folks aren’t gonna like tomorrow, though… (cue ominous music)