Ceci N’Est Pas Une Pipe De Crack

I think I’ve given up wholesale this week. Consequently, you, dear reader, are given a choice. Either a) It is only the fiery dedication that the OMC feels to his grateful readers that keeps him strapped to his word-mill, tirelessly pounding out whatever it is that he pounds out. Or b) The OMC has finally…

I think I’ve given up wholesale this week.

Consequently, you, dear reader, are given a choice.

Either a) It is only the fiery dedication that the OMC feels to his grateful readers that keeps him strapped to his word-mill, tirelessly pounding out whatever it is that he pounds out.

Or b) The OMC has finally slipped a cog, and the safety of the unreality of writing is the only thing that keeps him under the glow of his terminal, instead of out preaching in a sandwich-board only to be picked up and destroyed mentally by well-wishing medics and their confounded cure-alls.

Heck, bonus choice : c) The OMC is, in fact, a random text generator that’s just gotten lucky so far.

Pick ‘c’, or there’ll be serious egg on your face when next week’s foray is entitled "9j234u9-h600, 3489u[s0jr -w3v937uvw- rj59u.” There’s bound to be a good read inside, but what a give-away!

So, why?

Why have I been forced to sedate myself with rhythmic cranial percussion? What is it that’s got me so blue, so bummed, so down-and-out?

Last week, I thought I had it all figured out. I would go in, and I would be Wyatte Earp. I would be Elliot Ness and I would clean house. Shut down the heavies, run the racketeers out of town, maybe bust up a few speakeasies. In the end, everything would be better.

I’m disheartened because my barnstorming hasn’t gone quite according to plan. It seems that no matter what venom I spew, the yammering comes back doubly hard, as if to say "no no, OMC, we’ll keep things just as awful as they are. Get out, you and your ‘Truth’!"

I won’t be bothering with that for a little while. It’s entertaining enough to snipe at other authors for factual inaccuracy, but it should be used sparingly to keep a fine edge. Plus, after all the reading I’ve done online this weekend, it seems I could rage myself silly and never make a dent in some of the misconceptions out there.

But I’m not broken. Never! The fire of my malice is gem-hard and white-hot. Even borne off in a torrent of "Howling Wolf boo" and "Nemesis badoo" I’ll scream out over the din of mediocrity, shaking my fist as I fall under, drowning and fighting.

What do I care if they think I’m talking brownies? Like Harry S. Truman, I won’t be losing any sleep. Have you read some of the stuff that’s out there?

No, you read only me. Shucks, You guys are too good to me, you really are. Such fidelity should be rewarded. Perhaps I should imbue you with some narrow capacity for swashbuckling. Something for your everyday life.

Time to rein it in. It seems I’m drifting ever so gently out to sea. It’s such a lovely day for it.

No time, though, no time. I’ve only got two-ish weeks before my last at-bat for Pro-Tour New York, and I’ve got to shed my ring rust before then. Get down to fighting weight, so to speak.

I’m pretty much settled on what I’ll be wielding. Despite the word that Blake "Rouse" Manders has unearthed another technological advancement, I’ll be coming to the PTQ with Dance Dance in my holster. Mostly because I know it well and think it’s the best deck out there, but also because I want to be able to force my victory down the throats of nay-sayers like cod-liver oil.

Heck, I told them it was the best deck a long, long time ago. It’s for their own good.

Right now, I’m working the night shift. It’s been a little tricky to stay in contact with my teammates as a result. However, I know what goes in the deck, and I’ve got to start somewhere, so I’ve proxied up a version of it.

Putting this deck back together has been a vivid experience. While writing out the proxies, I once again got that feeling of power, as if the names of the cards were themselves part of some incantation: "Bayou, Bayou, Bayou, Donate." The decklist is awe-inspiring.

I pass by each of the individual card names, and I’m nostalgising about their finest moments. I remember how Demonic Consultation is generally like Demonic Tutor, and how Necropotence lets me draw the whole combo, and how safe Force of Will makes me feel.

Of course, I call it Force of Phil for reasons unknown.

The only Phil I know is a large, bald man who works as a gravedigger. Sing yourself to sleep with that one.

I’m feeling a little like Dr. Frankenstein. I’ve got all these discarded Rampart Crawlers and Bog Witches that I’m using to fashion some sort of skeleton for this undead powerhouse. All the important parts are still stiched together in ink and slips of paper, but they’ll be replaced with the living tissue of real cards soon enough. For now, it’s a grotesque shadow of what it will be.

And yet it lives!

I won’t bother with the decklist this time, but you can read the last analysis of Dance Dance Donate Illusions here.

Knowing the decklist, what do you suppose the first question that must be asked is?

"Shouldn’t those Brainstorms be cards that do *something*, instead of the exact nothing that they do right now?"

Why yes, world-at-large, that’s exactly the question. Truth be told, I didn’t expect you to be capable of such insight.

Well, they could be lots of things. Another land and a fourth Duress, for example. Or perhaps two Vampiric Tutors. Stranger still, they could be two Lim-Dul’s Vaults. I’ll give a brief pause to allow for card-lookup, be it through binder or database. It took me three tries to get it straight. I kept mixing it up with Diabolic Vision, and if you’re playing that, why aren’t you playing Impulse? Sure, they could be Impulses, too. Fine. There are a lot of extended-legal cards, and I’m not about to list them all.

For the time being, they’re being tested as Vaults. I’ll back up a bit in my justification. The cards that fill these two slots (and maybe there should be more than two, that decision comes later) have to help the consistency of the deck. Relatively static draws are a combo player’s dream. They mean that the deck will perform the same way each time. That’s why combo decks are usually a bunch of four-of’s.

As such, some sort of tutor is probably in order. With that extra deck manipulation, you’re more likely to get an early Necropotence, or save a failing draw by grabbing a missing combo-part.

So what does Lim-Dul’s Vault bring to the table? Well, it’s blue, so it can be pitched to Force of Phil. It’s almost unsettling how important that is. It’s two mana, which is a awful, because it means you can’t use it to get a second-turn Necropotence. The fact that it’s two colours is easily ignored. This deck has such a polychromatic mana base that you’re rarely stuck for a particular brand of magical money.

It doesn’t get the card into your hand. That’s a big minus, since it’s doubly worse under Necropotence, but any card that isn’t Demonic Consultation that gets the card directly into your fist won’t be able to find the card you want with regularity. The Vault does let you dig as far down as you feel you need to go. Granted, after fifteen cards the cost gets a bit steep, but up until that point it’s as life-efficient as Vampiric Tutor, and since good combo decks are so redundant, fifteen should be enough.

Lastly, and this one just breaks my back, it lets you set up the top five cards of your library. I honestly think that it may be impossible for the human mind to conceive just how unbelievably incredibly astoundingly good that ability is. If only hyperbole were enough. No, this level of quality is beyond the scope of language.

I don’t know how it is that this idea got tested. It seems like everyone’s initial reaction is to blow it off. Too expensive, just play with Vampiric Tutor, they say.

For crying out loud, the top FIVE cards! Maybe if I scream more. Would that help? The number of times I’ve won against terrible odds is actually driving me insane.

The thing about the deck that many people forget (and this may be its biggest advantage) is that you can actually cast Illusions of Grandeur, pay the upkeep, and then cast Donate, all without the aid of Necropotence.

So what happens when I Vault into a situation where I can establish my deck as Illusions and then Donate? It’s a big-time win-fest. Consider a situation with no cards in hand, what do you want to topdeck, Vampiric Tutor or Vault? Particularly late in the game, when Necropotence isn’t an option– which one? It’s a bad situation either way, but the Vault makes a lot of hopeless situations suddenly winnable.

That’s one of the deck’s most attractive features: it can get a lot of unearned wins. I think the reason that it’s only gotten a handful of top-place finishes is that it can be equally unforgiving in positive situations. In all my recent playtesting, I think I’ve only had ten or so games without play errors. That’s one of the things I like about testing against Hatred: it’s a deck that really accentuates the deck’s flaws, forcing you to tighten up your play. I figure I’ll test against other decks only after I’ve settled on a final version.

That may or may not be before next week. Things are a little hazy right now. Not to fear, I’ll keep you informed of the latest happenings, narrow though the focus may be.

Josh Bennett
[email protected]

Can’t get enough? Verbal abuse now available "a la carte". E-mail your server for details.