Blog Elemental – Let The Testing Begin
July 23, 2004
Casual deck testing and tournament deck testing are completely different animals. In tournament testing you set up a gauntlet of decks you expect to see and you test cards in your deck to see if they can increase your winning percentage against that gauntlet. There are no gauntlets for casual testing. Instead, casual testing is about trying out different cards to see if a) they make the deck cooler or more fun (sometimes”more fun” equates to winning, but often not), and b) they fit your personal style of play.
The previous changes I’ve made to the deck have been about focusing it on the cog theme and away from the weenie-equipment theme. The focusing stage is over. We have ourselves a relatively focused deck, and one that I’ve hopefully shown is capable of playing some incredibly wacky games.
Now we move onto testing, swapping various cards in and out to see what I like best given the deck’s focus. This testing stage is where I’ll be trying out a lot of the suggestions in the Forums, discarding most of them but hopefully finding some hidden gems for the deck on my way to a stable decklist.
But first, a few more games…
Game 41: White/Red Equip
I’m not exactly sure what the Red in the deck was for unless it was Shrapnel Blast, Shatter, burn or somesuch. In any case, what I see is Silver Knight, Leonin Den-Guard, Slith Ascendant, Cranial Plating, and Sword of Fire and Ice to go along with lots of artifact land. I kill his Knight with Pyrite Spellbomb thanks to a Trinket Mage fetching Great Furnace. Another Mage gets Engineered Explosives with two counters, which lets me kill the Den-Guard and Plating. Two Leonin Squires and a Salvaging Station later and my Pyrite Spellbomb is bouncing all over the place, killing blockers and eventually my opponent.
Game 42: Mono-Blue Control
I don’t see Vedalken Shackles, but it may have been in there. What I do see is Somber Hoverguards to go along with Icy Manipulators, Sun Droplets, Vedalken Engineers, an assortment of counterspells, card drawing, etc. An Engineered Explosives for two rocks him and then my recurring Pyrite Spellbomb, thanks to Salvaging Station, shuts down all hope of him recovering. This game was not even slightly close, as I stayed one step ahead of my opponent each turn and forced him to repeatedly tap out. For a Blue deck, tapping out is bad.
Game 43: 5-Color Slivers
My opponent plays a quick Pentad Prism, then a Joiner Adept while I have Leonin Elder and a Trinket Mage for Aether Spellbomb. I am completely surprised when his next play is Plated Sliver. After that, I see Slivers of the Crypt, Magma, Brood, Shifting, and Barbed variety. Meanwhile I’m bouncing one Sliver a turn with one Blue source of mana and an Auriok Salvagers, keeping his attacks pretty anemic and letting my life climb into the thirties. He hordes a bunch of Slivers before I’m able to start bouncing multiple critters a turn. I take one big attack to the face, bringing me to fifteen. After that, though, Spellbomb madness starts bouncing things faster than he can cast them and I start going on the offensive with two Trinket Mages, Leonin Squire and Salvagers. When all that’s staring me down is a Plated Sliver and two 1/2 tokens, he concedes.
Game 44: Mono-Green Tooth and Nail
Wow, what a long, stressful game. He uses two Oxidizes and two Viridian Shamans to kill my artifact lands while my Leonin Elder, Leonin Squire, and a bunch of cogs help do some early damage, gain some life, and find more land. Eventually I get an active Auriok Salvagers and Aether Spellbomb (thanks to a Trinket Mage), while my opponent gets a horde of Forests, Cloudposts, and a couple Solemn Simulacrum. He Mindslavers me for a turn, but he’s kept me so land-screwed that he can’t do much. I clear blockers away, draw cards, and am able to plink away at his life, eventually completely recovering from his land destruction.
He plays Oblivion Stone to clear the board, but I now have two Spellbombs and can save both the Squire and Salvagers. Another Elder comes down next turn, along with my two saved guys, and I’m back on the attack. When he Tooth and Nails for Leonin Abunas and Platinum Angel, I bounce the Abunas on his turn, the Angel on mine, and keep up the attack. He T&Ns again, this time for Duplicant and Viridian Shaman, but I just bounce the guy he’s trying to duplicate and sac the cog he’s trying to kill. Another Simulacrum joins the fray, along with Darksteel Colossus, a recast Platinum Angel, and Blinkmoth Nexus. I meanwhile have Leonin Elder, Squire, Salvagers, and a Trinket Mage to go along with plenty of land. I methodically bounce his stuff, tap blockers with Leonin Bola, and a Pyrite Spellbomb finishes him. I end the game at forty-two life.
Wins against top-tier, expensive decks are satisfying. I haven’t designed this deck to be anything but fun, mind you, but it’s still satisfying.
Game 45: Black/Blue Special Forces
After my triumphant victory over Tooth and Nail, I think I lose the next game to a preconstructed deck. I have this bizarre hand consisting of no cogs but three Leonin Squires and a Salvagers plus land and decide to keep it. My opponent gets out a Silver Myr, then Emissary of Despair equipped with Ensouled Scimitar. Two consecutive Dross Crocodiles mean I am going to lose, and quickly. I block the Crocs with my Squires and get Engineered Explosives for three to kill the Emissary and Scimitar. I play Qumulox, but it sees Devour in Shadow. At four life, I finally find some cogs in the form of Wayfarer’s Bauble and Aether Spellbomb, play Auriok Salvagers, and figure that I’m in business since he has no cards in hand. I attack, recycling Aether Spellbomb to keep Wizard Replica off the table. At eight life he draws, says”GG” and plays Consume Spirit on me to end the game. Ah, nothing like a jolt of humility to get me wanting changes to the deck.
Synod Centurion, it is time.
OUT: 2 Synod Centurion
I talked enough about this decision yesterday. Suffice it to say, I’ve decided to try not having a midgame creature at all to see if either my offense or defense suffers. I still like the idea of a midgame creature – the suggestions of Rust Elemental, Air Elemental, Serra Angel, and Battered Golem (with Viridian Longbow tech!) are all good ones – but for now I want to push the cog theme a little more. It is worth mentioning that in many games during the recent winning streak I held a Centurion or two in my hand uncast because I needed the mana for cog recycling.
OUT: 1 Ornithopter
I just haven’t used it as much as I expected. The idea was that with Auriok Salvagers I would essentially have an immortal blocker for 1W. In reality, Aether Spellbomb and Leonin Bola are both better options, the Spellbomb because it forces my opponent to recast their creatures and the Bola because it’s cheaper to reuse. I said yesterday that the idea of not having a creature to fetch made me nervous, and it does, but this is why we test. If I find I really need a fetchable creature, then Ornithopter can always come back or I can resort to something like Chimeric Coils and/or Myr Servitor, both of which people have recommended.
OUT: 1 Wayfarer’s Bauble, 1 Mountain
“Wha-a-aaa-aaat?!?” you scream,”But Wayfarer’s Bauble wasn’t on your ‘Weakest Link’ list!” True, but if you’ve been reading the Forums you’ll know that other people have tried the Bauble and found it lacking. I hadn’t realized it until these folks pointed it out to me, but Wayfarer’s Bauble is actually a little too slow and clunky for this deck. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I always want to use the two mana on other things early in the game and want a different cog later in the game. I still think Wayfarer’s Bauble is a solid card, just not in this deck.
Which clears the way for…
IN: 2 Aether Spellbomb
What I have also come to realize is that ninety percent of the time the first cog I tutor for is Aether Spellbomb. If that’s true, I would rather increase the chances of drawing one naturally so that I can spend my first tutor on something else. Aether Spellbomb is easily the most-used cog in the deck, with Pyrite Spellbomb and Engineered Explosives being numbers two and three.
IN: 2 Artificer’s Intuition
Here is what I’ve decided replaces Synod Centurion in the deck. I’m not happy about it, though. I honestly want to use Clone or one of creatures listed above instead, but Artificer’s Intuition is so obvious for a cog deck that it seems silly not to at least give it a try. I’m going into this mini-experiment with my arms folded and a frown, expecting that I will yank the Intuitions for something more fun. After all, I haven’t really felt like I need more than one or two tutors a game given all of the deck’s card-drawing, and a single bouncing Trinket Mage is usually enough. I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, but right now Artificer’s Intuition is on a very short leash because I’m expecting to dislike it thoroughly. No, I don’t know why. Call it… intuition.
IN: 1 Great Furnace
No Wayfarer’s Bauble means one Mountain is silly. Great Furnace takes its place, which should make even more sense now with the inclusion of Artificer’s Intuition. At some point I need to look into Mirrodin’s Core, City of Brass, Glimmervoid, etc.
The current version of the deck stands thus:
Nuts And Bolts V.2.1
4 Leonin Elder
4 Leonin Squire
4 Trinket Mage
4 Auriok Salvagers
4 Aether Spellbomb
4 Chromatic Sphere
2 Artificer’s Intuition
2 Salvaging Station
1 Conjurer’s Bauble
1 Leonin Bola
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Scrabbling Claws
1 Sunbeam Spellbomb
1 Engineered Explosives
4 Ancient Den
4 Seat of the Synod
2 Great Furnace
Blog Elemental – The Weakest Link
July 22, 2004
I think the remaining cards are all fine cards to have in a deck focused on cogs. Version 2.0 can show up in the Casual Constructed room unapologetically and feel fine about its chances, rarely cringing at a draw. My recent stretch of games has proven that at least now I can sometimes have a winning streak. Each card now makes at least a modicum of sense.
Which means that now the changes get interesting. Today it’s time to play Weakest Link.
To me, the current candidates for the chopping block are:
Which are the two most out-of-place creatures, and…
Which are the two least-used cogs.
Of these four, Qumulox has won me too many games as a finisher to drop just yet. Without Ornithopter, the deck has no recyclable creatures, which makes me nervous on principle. These two are currently staying, but they’re also on my Watch List.
Leonin Bola is tempting to drop, mostly because I have almost never tutored for it. However, Leonin Bola works as a pseudo-Aether Spellbomb – that is, a recurring way to shut down a fattie – when I don’t have Auriok Salvagers or Salvaging Station. The equip cost is low, so it’s a cheap reusable solution as well. Leonin Bola is one of those quirky cards that has worked out much better in practice than I would have guessed. If you twisted my arm (which you shouldn’t, because it would hurt), I think the Bola probably won’t make it to the final draft. For now, though, I need more games to feel comfortable dropping it.
Synod Centurion, you are the weakest link.
Synod Centurion is a midgame creature. It’s relatively big, able to take chunks of life out of an opponent, or to act as an imposing blocker. Within my deck, I’ve never lost a Centurion because of not having enough artifacts (though I’ve put myself at risk of doing so). Now, given all of the artifact land in the deck, it’s unlikely that this will ever be stuck in my hand unable to be cast. Which means that Synod Centurion is almost always a vanilla 4/4 for four mana. The name is appropriate because I think of the Centurion as a thankless warrior in this deck.
The first question is whether it’s necessary, though. Does my version of Nuts and Bolts need any non-cog-related-midgame creatures at all? So far I haven’t decided the answer to this question.
If the answer is no, then that opens the door for cards like Artificer’s Intuition, Grinding Station, Blasting Station, more cogs, more finishers, card-drawing, or any number of other things people have suggested in the Forums.
If the answer is yes, a midgame creature is good, then a second question pops up: What should this midgame creature do? What is its purpose?
Maybe I need midgame offense. In this case, Myr Enforcer, Somber Hoverguard, Arcbound Crusher, Juggernaut, Rust Elemental, or Lodestone Myr might be better beatdown.
Maybe I need a hefty blocker. In this case, Ageless Sentinel, Crude Rampart, Wall of Swords, Leonin Abunas, Rukh Egg, Sunweb, or Oracle’s Attendants might be a better choice.
Or maybe the midgame creature should have some other specialty. I sort of like the idea of Clone, since I have so many Clone-able creatures and Aether Spellbomb. Other options include Etched Oracle, Solemn Simulacrum, and even Leonin Battlemage.
All of the cards I just listed cost four just like Synod Centurion, but I can imagine each of them shining in the Centurion’s slots more than a vanilla 4/4 for four. Right now, what I know is that Synod Centurion is going to be replaced next time I make changes. With what, I’m still unsure.
Blog Elemental – Sixteen Games. One Loss. No Kidding.
July 21, 2004
Today’s just one big endless game log with version 2.0 of the deck. Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
Game 26: Green/Black Control
The game starts out oddly because he is only getting Green sources of mana and I’m only getting White. He Oxidizes my Chromatic Sphere before I can use it and Viridian Shamans a land. I draw cards via two Aether Spellbombs to finally find a Seat of the Synod. I get a Mountain, cast Trinket Mage for Pyrite Spellbomb, drop Auriok Salvagers, and things start to swing my way. My opponent manages to get Rotlung Reanimator, two Disciples of the Vault, another Shaman, and Moriok Rigger, but the combination of recurring Aether/Pyrite Spellbombs and a Trinket Maged Engineered Explosives means that he withers and dies. I keep an Aether Spellbomb active to protect my Salvagers the entire time, since he is my key to victory. At the very end of the game, I realize he might have Patriarch’s Bidding or Oversold Cemetery, so I bounce a Mage and fetch a Scrabbling Claws just in case.
Wow, Pyrite Spellbomb and Engineered Explosives are some good.
Game 27: Mono-Red Burn
He has Slith Firewalker, Spark Elemental, and Vulshok Sorcerer to go along with burn of all shapes and sizes, including multiple Flamebreaks. I get an early Chromatic Sphere, Leonin Squire, Aether Spellbomb. The combination of Squire and Spellbomb are too much for him, as I’m able to get my bouncing Squire back repeatedly. Another Squire shows up, along with Trinket Mage to get Pyrite Spellbomb. When Salvaging Station hits the board, I can start attacking and win easily. My Squire was so troublesome that not only does it finish the game start-to-finish versus burn, but I never need Sunbeam Spellbomb.
Game 28: Black/Red Control
I have the quick Chromatic Sphere, Leonin Squire, Leonin Squire start and am attacking early and often. He has removal, but it comes in the form of Devour in Shadow, so his life is still going down. By the time he gets Consume Spirit, I have a Trinket Mage and Aether Spellbomb, so his spells fizzle (and grab me more cogs). To add insult to injury, I have a Leonin Elder, which brings my life up to twenty-five. He Fireballs to try and clear the board, I save a Squire with the Spellbomb, drop a second Trinket Mage to join him and my opponent concedes.
Game 29: Green/Red Big Stuff
My opponent is using Explosive Vegetation and Vine Trellis to ramp up to stuff like Molder Slug, Elvish Aberration and Blaze. I get a Chromatic Sphere, which lets me cast Trinket Mage for Seat of the Synod, then drop Auriok Salvagers. Synod Centurion joins the party and I’m eating into his life when he casts Elvish Aberration to block. I dig with cogs and am able to find Aether Spellbomb with two mana remaining. I bounce his big Elf and attack. His next turn he put down Trellis and Molder Slug. The Slug eats a useless Scrabbling Claws, I recycle the Spellbomb to bounce the offensive creature and attack for the win. In hand I have two Leonin Squire and another Salvagers, so even if he did something like Starstorm or Fireball I think I would have been okay.
Game 30: Black/Blue Soul Foundry deck
The first turn Disciple of the Vault makes me nervous, but I am able to counter him with Leonin Elder. He attacks with the Disciple and I block, leaving me to do lots of cogtacular tricks to fill my hand. He plays Chittering Rats, but by this time I have Leonin Squire and a Mountain to go along with Pyrite Spellbomb so he can’t slow down my offense. Auriok Salvagers follows on my side, while he Promise of Powers for five cards. I keep attacking and he drops Soul Foundry for Chittering Rats. I recycle Pyrite Spellbomb to clear blockers and end the game at twenty-eight life thanks to a second Elder.
Game 31: Ravager Affinity
Although my opponent would probably disagree, I was fairly close to stabilizing despite two Arcbound Ravagers, two Arcbound Workers, two Thoughtcasts, Cranial Plating, and a Myr Enforcer. I get Engineered Explosives for two thanks to a Trinket Mage, and if I had another turn, could start recycling an Aether Spellbomb (or the Explosives) via Auriok Salvagers. When he drops Krark-Clan Ironworks and starts sacrificing his stuff for a game-ending Fireball, I can’t help myself and ask”Why are you playing in the Casual room, again?” His response:”Ah, shaddup. Concede if you want.” Beautiful. I’m only not usually a bad loser, but when I am it’s always to people like this guy. I concede.
Game 31: WW Equip
Oooooo… interesting, I get to see the Road Not Traveled. His deck includes the highly annoying Leonin Shikari plus Slith Ascendant, Razor Golem, and Leonin Den-Guard to go along with equipment like Sword of Ice and Fire, Banshee’s Blade, and Lightning Greaves. I get an early Leonin Elder and Leonin Bola to counter his Sword-wielding Den-Guard. Another Elder shows up (what a lion’s den, eh?), along with Auriok Salvagers and an Aether Spellbomb, and now we have ourselves a game. His critters are keeping me from attacking, and I only have enough mana to bounce threats via a recurring Spellbomb.
The good news is that during the stalemate my life is skyrocketing thanks to now three Elders. I finally draw a Qumulox, which is big enough to attack. He again shores up his defense so neither of us can do much, him at nine life and me at sixty-three. He eventually gets bored and concedes. It’s too bad, too, since I was dying to cast Engineered Explosives for two and three to clear his side of the board. Of note: This is the first game that I got a recurring Ornithopter as a blocker, a trick I thought would come in more handy.
Game 32: Mono-Red Burn
Again. This time there are Viashino Standstalkers and Furnace Dragons to go along with Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] and various burn thingies. His Vulshok Sorcerer kills my first-turn Leonin Elder and keeps the other two in my hand. I get a quick Leonin Squire to go along with Trinket Mage and Aether Spellbomb to frustrate his offense and keep some pressure on him. I’m able to get a second Trinket Mage for Pyrite Spellbomb (with Great Furnace already in play) and thanks to an Auriok Salvagers can start blowing up his guys instead of attacking. I end the game at twelve life.
Game 33: Red/Black Aggro-Control
I’m still not entirely sure what was going on with my opponent’s deck. He had Cosmic Larva and Lightning Greaves, which I think was the”trick,” along with a full assortment of Wayfarer’s Baubles, Conjurer’s Baubles, Cloudposts, Magma Jets, Dark Banishing, Fireball, and Disciple of the Vault. In any case, I am attacking steadily with a Leonin Elder and Trinket Mage while my opponent concentrates his energy on killing my first and second Auriok Salvagers. I Engineered Explosives his Greaves, then drop a third Salvagers while he is holding only Cosmic Larva. A few recurring Aether Spellbombs later, he concedes.
Game 34: Black/Red Atog deck
What you would expect shows up: Lots of artifact lands, Disciple of the Vault, Atog, Welding Jar, and Frogmite. I have two Leonin Elders to balance the Disciple, so I dig with cogs like Chromatic Sphere, Scrabbling Claws, and Sunbeam Spellbomb until I find Trinket Mage. The Mage finds Pyrite Spellbomb to go with my Great Furnace, and I use it to kill his Disciple. I then use it again via Leonin Squire to kill the Frogmite. When I cast Auriok Salvagers, my opponent concedes with me at forty life.
Game 35: Black/Red Equip deck
His deck had mostly artifact lands to go along with Emissary of Despair, Loxodon Warhammer, and Scythe of the Wretched. I get a recurring Aether Spellbomb, thanks first to a couple of Leonin Squires and then Auriok Salvagers. I’m able to bounce his guy a bunch and attack before he finally concedes.
I’m ready to quit for the evening, but a player by the name of 101700000 asks if he can have”the honor of playing me” (I figure if you ask me to play you then you get your name mentioned). I say sure, although I’ve told him the deck’s record today and am sure I have jinxed myself. Also, I’ve got that fuzzy brain from playing too much Magic, the kind of brain that leads to poor play.
Game 36: Green/Blue Proteus Staff deck
I make a turn 1 Leonin Elder and attack but it runs headlong into a Vitality Charm token. When I try a Leonin Squire to get back Chromatic Sphere, it sees Remove Soul.”Oh,” I say,”you’re playing an Annoying deck.” He can’t counter a second Leonin Squire, and it starts attacking as first one, then two Synod Centurions join the show. The first Centurion sees Naturalize, but the other is free to attack. I get Auriok Salvagers and an Aether Spellbomb and am recycling Chromatic Spheres to draw cards while keeping an active Spellbomb to protect my Salvagers. He casts a desperate Goblin Charbelcher, but by this time I have a ton of land, Pyrite Spellbomb, and Salvaging Station. He kills my Salvagers with a big Belch, but then my other guys and recurring Spellbomb kill him. Apparently his deck uses the Insect Tokens and Proteus Staff to get Triskelion but he never saw the Staff. He was a little manascrewed, which was too bad since I like playing nice guys.
Later, I pick the deck up again.
Game 37: Mono-Black Equip
His deck is fairly straightforward, with Nim creatures and Soul Collector to go along with Cranial Plating and Fireshrieker. My deck, meanwhile, plays like a dream. I get a nice distribution of land, Chromatic Spheres, and Conjurer’s Bauble to go along with a Leonin Elder. On the third turn I cast Trinket Mage for Aether Spellbomb. When I have the Spellbomb to protect it, I drop Auriok Salvagers on turn 5. When he tries to kill Trinket Mage, I bounce it and then go get a Pyrite Spellbomb to kill blockers. Engineered Explosives was in my hand as backup if needed, but it wasn’t needed. I never miss an attack, never lose a creature, and when his Soul Collector gets bounced twice, he concedes.
Game 38: Sunburst
Nothing to say here. A good player with what I’m sure was an interesting deck, but he only sees a Plains and a Forest by the time I’m attacking with Leonin Elder, Trinket Mage, and Auriok Salvagers with an active Aether Spellbomb. I can only tell what he’s playing by the discards. Boo.
Game 39: Mono-Green Artifact deck
His turns go Forest, Forest, Tree of Tales, Tree of Tales, Arcbound Crusher, Arcbound Crusher. Yep yep. It sure did, it sure did. Stop it, stop it! Okay, he also has Arcbound Stinger along with Ageless Entity, so not everything comes in twos. Unlike my other games, I’m writing this a bit after the fact, but what I remember is that two Leonin Elder and a Trinket Mage do some damage with Pyrite and Aether Spellbomb backup, then Synod Centurion speeds up the clock. Auriok Salvagers starts the recycling madness and I win via Pyrite Spellbomb recursion with me at forty-eight life. Natedogg saw the game, so maybe he can elaborate.
Game 40: Mono-Green Fatties
He gets Viridian Joiner enchanted with two Blanchwood Armors while I get a quick Leonin Elder, cogs to sacrifice, and Trinket Mage for Great Furnace, giving me the mana for Pyrite Spellbomb and enough to cast Auriok Salvagers. A second Trinket Mage gets Engineered Explosives while he casts Tangle Golem and Thorn Elemental. I am up near thirty life when he makes his big attack. I block the Golem with both Mages, figuring that I’ll take his Elemental and Joiner damage for one turn before blowing an Explosives with three counters. When he plays Predator’s Strike on the Golem, however, I decide to pop the Explosives and take fifteen from the Golem and Elemental. I play Leonin Bola and Trinket Mage out an Aether Spellbomb. Now I have just enough mana to equip the Bola to my Elder, bounce his Thorn Elemental, and attack with Salvagers and Mage. His life at three, my opponent says”____ this. This is retarded” and concedes.
Okay, that’s 15-1 during this stretch. Let’s sit back, pause, reflect, and not get too excited. A number of things are converging at once to up the deck’s winning percentage.
First, I’ve put in ways to deal with opposing artifacts and enchantments. This is huge. If you go back and look at the deck’s losses previous to today, you’ll see that although sometimes I lose to a quick swarm of attackers or a big board-sweeper, mostly often it’s because of some non-land permanent I can’t handle. Engineered Explosives is really a gem, and so far the deck’s mana has been holding up okay with it and Pyrite Spellbomb (which has also been very spiffy so far).
Second, I’m getting really comfortable with the cards I’m using. This is also huge. A”toolbox” deck like this requires a lot of decisions during games and I’m just now getting to the point where I feel like I’m making the correct decisions most of the time. I’m not the kind of player that does well picking up a deck and just casting off; I need a number of games to introduce myself, tell her my life ambitions, let my personality shine through, and… Oh. Sorry.
Third, there’s a lot of luck and randomness in the Casual Constructed room. Tomorrow I might go 1-15 with the same deck. I don’t put too much stock in losing streaks or winning streaks in the Casual room since the decks and players are so incredibly varied. A winning streak is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also fairly meaningless. My goal here is to be competitive while having fun playing a cool deck much more than it is to win or lose a certain percentage of my games. Focus less on if I win than how the deck plays.
So should I mess with a good thing? Is the deck finished? Can I possibly make more changes? Sure. No way, Jose. Of course!
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.
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
4 Leonin Elder
4 Leonin Squire
4 Trinket Mage
4 Auriok Salvagers
2 Synod Centurion
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
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