Some of you may have been wondering where Geordie Tait and I have been in the last few weeks. The rest of you know, of course, that we have been on a romantic love cruise in the Caribbean. Unfortunately for me, I had agreed to judge at the State Champs this weekend, so my holiday has to be cut short. However, Geordie has won a PTQ, so he can stay away as long as he likes. He’s obviously too good for a site like StarCity…
Because I’m judging, I don’t feel overly obliged to hoard any remotely techy stuff – like for instance, tech. The only problem with this, is the resounding lack of tech to be found anywhere near where I am sitting. Now E-league, they have tech. Oh yessiree, bob. That had some kind of E-colony thing going on, and a deck they concocted managed to win a +100 person online tournament. Unfortunately, the way they run things on the internet in no way resembles reality, due to the disallowment of Wishes.
Meh, Wishes = banned online.
The problem with a Wish-less metagame is it features a total of zero good Wake decks, and only one or two even remotely good blue-based control decks. What you end up with is a bunch of U/G decks, goblin Sligh by the boatload, a handful of MBC, and maybe a bit of G/x aggro. This new, mystical, shinny, spangly, deck from E-League owns them all.
(Actually, I’m not so sure how it owns MBC when played by a player who is at least semi-conscious, but I’m assuming MBC is feeling the pinch without it’s Arenas, and is therefore getting all kinds of whupped by U/G.)
But what? What is this deck of E-League’s, you ask…?
(Well, you’ll only ask if you haven’t already popped away and looked it up yourself.)
Because I can, I’m gonna slow-play this somewhat.
(Nono! Don’t scroll ahead, this will actually be an insightful and very handy look into the deck!)
This pile o’ sixty is based around two very powerful enchantments from Onslaught: Astral Slide and Lightning Rift. One of the biggest problems a deck designer faces when trying to base their design around any given card, or a group of cards, is what their backup plan is if they don’t draw the key card or cards. Often the solution is to play a heap of card drawing spells to dig up the desired cards, and a bunch of stuff that can delay the inevitable to the point of impossibility.
(Read as: Making sure you don’t lose, and therefore eventually win.)
(Once again, Microsoft Word thinks I am the worstest writer. It thinks the”don’t” in the last sentence should be a”doesn’t.”)
(“Making sure you doesn’t lose, and therefore…”
(Microsoft Word can bite me.)
The best thing about the Slide and Rift is that they require cycling cards to become effective. The best thing about cycling cards is, they cycle. The best thing about Onslaught cycling cards is that some of them do stuff when you cycle them… Which leaves you with two enchantments that turn almost half of your cards into shocks/temporary plows that are also cantrips, and also might do other stuff too.
Enough shenanigans, let’s have a look at the original E-League version of the deck.
(Sideboard for later discussion…)
At first glance, many questionable points become clear: While twenty-four lands is fine, wanting to cycle eight of them could very well leave you well beyond short. For a good example of how a cycling land base should probably look, check out Aaron Forsythe deck here. He admits however, that’s is not the most competitive deck you’ll ever see… But while you’d think Aaron is on the right track with his mana, and that E-League are barking up the wrong tree…
(I’m talkin’ sooo the wrong tree, that it isn’t even a tree, it’s a stop sign that some passing students have adorned with a traffic cone.)
…It turns out that having somewhere in the region of 90 million other cycling cards in the deck balances this out nicely. Now I’m not saying you should play it like a sixteen-land deck; nosiree Bob, you will probably have to play out one or two cycling lands to get going.
You may also notice the deck features four Akroma’s Blessing – and when I say”features,” don’t forget that a face can”feature” warts, so this may not be a good thing. These cards are quite unlikely to ever grant your creatures protection from the color of your choice.
blisterguy productions has issued the following errata and it’s binding, because he’s like, a level 2 judge and sh*t, so suck it up, sucker.
Draw a card.
Oh, and like, trigger and permanents lying around that are looking for cycling stuff.
Oooorrrr… maybe pay 2 more and give your creatures protection fro…
Ahhh, ta heck wid it…
blisterguy productions is now issuing an additional errata because the first one sucked, and he slipped the DCI a twenty, like last week some time, so it’s still binding, etc…
You lose the game for not understanding how your deck works.
Now, the problem with Akroma’s Blessing in this deck is what it seems to do. Which I shall sum up in the following sentence:
…… <----- That is the sentence, right there.
(Speaking of which, I have located a seriously good CD by some English guy called Mike Skinner.)
(He calls himself”The Streets”, and his album is called”Original Pirate Material.”)
(Get downloading! Your bandwidth is lying idle while you read this…)
(When I say”speaking of which,” it’s because in one song, he keeps saying”right there, right there.”)
In my most educated oppinion, one of the Blessings should be replaced with a fourth Lay Waste – which should be the Urza’s Saga art too, by the way. I shall explain why later when I talk about the sideboard and matchups and so on. I also toyed with replacing another Blessing with an Anarchist, due to its interaction with Astral Slide and any given sorcery with cycling… But it’s a bit gimmicky.
Speaking of gimmicky, did you see those two Teroh’s Faithful in there? You can obviously see the neat trick they can perform while there’s a Slide in play, and it doesn’t take a genius to see that they aren’t half-bad vs beatdown decks. But the interesting thing I’ve found is that once you’ve cycled one or two Renewed Faiths, gaining four life is actually a pain in the butt for Psychatog decks, yessiree bob! And you just watch them frown as they try to figure out if they want to counter it or not…
At first glance, the deck seems particularly bad versus counter-based control decks. Your one chance before sideboarding is to resolve a Lightning Rift, and to go hard on their nose with the cycling cards. This shouldn’t be too difficult if they don’t know what to expect from your deck, because they may tap out for early Deep Analyses… But it’s a hard battle none the less.
Unless they’re playing Wake, which usually only plays Memory Lapses, and maybe a few Circular Logics. Get those Rifts down fast, and cycle as quickly as possible, but make sure you don’t overdo it cycling the lands, or you may not be able to kill as fast as you need to.
Actually, I’ve had some luck with getting out an Angel and a Slide versus Upheaval/X decks, thus making it overly treacherous to Upheaval, and pretty darn difficult to remove the bird at all. But I’m certain it was a string of flukes…
Now for the sideboard. Remember that”online metagame” I mentioned? Check this out…
I’m pretty sure they knew what they were gonna face… But in real life, this sideboard sucks.
Once you start to climb those tables this weekend, you’ll see people casting various Wishes and doing such despicable things as casting Upheaval, and leaving mana in their pool, and casting Elephant Ambush thirty times, and Mirari-ing it. That sideboard will not help you there. In fact, if you pull good cycling cards from the deck to add such wondrous cards as Circle of Protection: newbie, you may find the overall integrity of the deck to be compromised. Bring on my”sideboard full o’ hate for control decks”…
Gggrrrrrr!!!!!! Die control decks, die!
That has to be the scrubbiest sideboard I’ve seen in a long time, but bare with me while I gibber on incessantly about everything and nothing, all at once.
I’ve had some very enjoyable experiences with Boil, a card that is all kinds of mean to players of Islands. It was my second-ever tournament, Tempest had just become legal, and I’d just heard that Jakub Slemr had won the Worlds with a four-color black deck. I’ll have some of those beats! I said to myself, and without the help of the internet, I whipped up a deck the following sideboard, figuring that there was nothing finer than some hate for all concerned.
Ahhh, what a glorious tournament. I made the top 8, scraping in somehow at 4-1-1, and proceeded to batter everyone about with my sideboard cards. My quarter-finals opponent was playing Green/Red.
Hellooo, 4x Perish and C.O.P. Red!
Into the semi-finals, where my opponent was playing 4 color blue control. I played a first turn Shadow Guildmage each game; she countered everything else, but failed to draw anything to deal with the little beater. Well, game two she Binding Grasped it, but I played another which she figured she could shoot with her new Guildmage – but when she tapped out at the end of that turn, I Incinerated her one, and Guildmage version 2.0 went the rest of the way.
Okay, so my sideboard did nothing here.
In the finals, I face local legend, Marc Ellis, who was playing some whacked-out U/W Flood/Propaganda control deck. While the combo definitely doesn’t work now, I’m not sure if it was supposed to back then either. Anyhoo, the finals were best of five, and I was down 0-2. Marc had me quite locked up as for as combat was concerned, and was going to work on me with a Grindstone. He looks at me, and says,
“Look, you can’t win do you want to concede?”
Me being quite finished at this point, I just laughed and said:
“Naaah, bite me – do you want to concede?”
I swear, at the time I said that, I had nothing up my sleeves other than a pair of scrawny arms, but a couple of turns later I Boiled away all twelve Islands he had in play, and started to attack again. In game 4, he was a touch mana-short, and I added insult/Boil to injury, and we went on to game 5. Game 5 went much like game 3, and the sense that he had control and was tapping down my lone Fallen Askari with his Flood. I played a Guildmage, and he looked worried. He looked even more worried when I started to untap every turn without touching my Guildmage.
I was obviously up to something, that much was clear…
“Are you sure you don’t want to put it on the Askari?” I asked, figuring it had a power of two, and was therefore more of a threat.
“Noooo – the Guildmage!” he said with such certainty that made me laugh.
What a weirdo.
Sure enough, I eventually Boil him upside the head, and the tournament is mine. Everyone suddenly asks me exasperatedly, why I wasn’t pinging him with the Guildmage.
“Yeah, what was up with that?” Marc asks.
“The what, how, and the who now?” I say bewilderingly.
Much hilarity ensued, and thankfully Marc wasn’t too upset about being beaten by good ol’ scrubby me. Anyway, the point is, I have a soft spot for Boil.
Before, while Invasion block was legal, it was conceivable that your opponent could have a grant total of three islands in their deck, and still be majoring in the color blue. But now, the new dual-lands from Onslaught bring forth from the deck those very basic lands that were once rumored to even be banned!
Boil is good versus Psychatog; this is obvious. Even though they will almost undoubtedly counter it, counter it they must, or the game will most likely go your way. It is also quite good versus either version of Wake. Clearly, Kai/Jen’s deck will be hurt the most, but don’t fear sideboarding it in against Kibler’s deck, either. If Boil destroys two Islands, that’s a good thing. Don’t get all upset when it only kills three.
On the other hand, if it kills three Islands controlled by a player who has a Wild Mongrel, an Arrogant Wurm, and two Basking Rootwallas in play, don’t be surprised if they kill you next turn. Just because U/G madness plays Islands, and quite a few of them too, it doesn’t mean you should sideboard in a handful of Boils.
Next up is Sudden Impact, a card that has never really shown up in any mainstream competitive decks or sideboards at all. Sure it showed up years ago, when it was called Storm Seeker, but nobody can really claim that the decks made back then even come close in clarity of design found in decks made these days.
(Note: If you do want to argue this point with me in an email, please have some evidence to back yourself up. Just dropping me a note saying,”u r wrong suddn impakt rulez I used 2 play it all teh time” is neither smart, nor clever.)
Imagine this: Your opponent casts Upheaval. You tap all of your lands for mana, and your opponent suspects nothing, because by now they’re fully aware that you’re playing a cycling deck, and you’re clearly about to cycle away a bunch of cards. They play an Island, and with the remaining mana in their pool, they cast either a Psychatog or a Zombie Infestation.
“Well gee, hold up there, chief – I might just have a response to that there Infestation,” you inform your opponent.
“Yeah, yeah. Cycle those cards all you like; is it gonna stop me from winning next turn?”
“I’ll add Sudden Impact to the stack, targeting you, and then I pass.”
“Sudden Impact, pass.”
“You still have like, six mana in your pool.”
“Yeah. You gonna respond to that Impact? Because if you don’t, taking fifteen damage from the Seeker may make my six mana in pool irrelevant.”
“Sure, I’ll counter the Sudden Impact.”
“Leaving two mana in my pool, I’ll add another Sudden Impact to the stack, targeting you know who.”
“Whuh…? How many of those are you playing?!?”
It’s also not too bad if they tap out at the end of your turn.
“Yo dude, take eight.”
Coupled with the Lightning Rifts, that should create a wall of cards that they should probably counter.
But once again, only sideboard these cards versus control-type decks. This includes MBC, of course… But don’t be too hasty in responding to a Skeletal Scrying, because they can’t counter. Wait until they untap, and the”drawing a card” part of the draw step has resolved, but before they enter their first main phase. Then is a great time to shove that Sudden Impact right up their nose.
And make sure you enjoy that moment where they read the card to see if it does what they remember it does. You’ll probably find they’ll do the same for Flaming Gambit, which should only be sideboarded in versus MBC, Wake, U/w control, any variety of U/b control, and if it should arise, any mirror matches. Do not despair if they chose to have the damage be dealt to their lone creature, in most cases this will kill it stone dead, or at least eat a large portion of their hand and graveyard.
Then next turn, flash it back.
Also, do not sideboard out too many cycling cards, try to extract the obvious candidates such as Wraths, Faithfuls, maybe an Angel or Two, and perhaps a couple of Slides.
Ray of Distortion is for any matchup where you’d need Disenchant, but it can be cast twice. You’ll never really need the Ray to actually be a Disenchant, because nobody will actually bother trying to serve you Opposition with a side of Static Orb. And hey, how can I not love a card with”Ray” in its name?
The extra Wrath is, as always, a no-brainer.
Finally, a word on the lands. When playing against a control deck, especially one based around Islands, play out most of the cycling lands that you draw. You want to get up to nine to ten mana by the time they try to”go off,” or whatever it is these new-fangled decks do these days. This is especially important after sideboarding, because you’ll want to hurl at least two Sudden Impacts at them, while avoiding any Force Spikes. I think you probably have time during the match, so you should always play around Force Spikes, because they could also be playing Complicate. Lay Waste should be played nine times out of ten, too, although sticking to that 9/10 ratio religiously isn’t quite what I mean.
This is why I think the deck should have four Lay Wastes, not three. When in doubt, every turn you delay someone from casting Upheaval/X or Time Stretch, is a turn you can happily untap, and cry hallelujah, the Lord doth cometh!
And I’m a big nerdy geek, and I’m yelling out loud… at a card… gaming… tournament…
If you happen to be playing versus Kibler’s Wake deck, keep an eye out for their Mountain. They’re playing only one, and it’s their only source of Burning Wish mana. Lay Waste it with impunity. Of course, if you happen to be playing Kibler’s Wake deck yourself, hold back that Mountain until you can Burning Wish and Time Stretch in the same turn, that should give you enough leeway to find another Wish for the Nostalgic Dreams.
I’ll leave you now with a quote from Fight Club.
“Find your power animal, and slide…”
Best of luck at States, everybody – don’t forget your pants!