Double or Nothing: Somerset County Championships *Champion*

As it was Thursday, and I had only two days to go, I started looking around the net for ideas. Two stood out: Sean McKeown’s B/R Control deck and Jens Thoren’s Wake deck. I played them both against each other a bit and then gave them the acid test – Deep Dog.

What to play? What to play? What do I play, dammit?

Whenever rotations happen I go through the same, gut-wrenching experience, trying out deck after deck, deciding what to play then finding something that’s better. This time around I was playing Kai’s UZI deck and it was handing pretty much anything a beating when we were testing. But – and this is a big but, bigger even than a really big guy’s butt – none of us had U/G Deep Dog built up.

I’d cannibalised my build to put together an Opposition deck and used bits for my crazy creation from last week, so I turned to my trusty Magic Suitcase. Ever since it came out, I’ve been using Magic Suitcase to build decks and see how their opening hands play out. It also gives me a chance to play test a little on my own. Sure, the results are skewed because I know what’s in both hands, but it gives me a feel for decks.

I haven’t used Suitcase for a while so the first thing I had to do was track down the latest database updates to give me Onslaught and Judgement. Once I did that, I knocked up both decks and started playing them off against each other. What I found didn’t help.

If the UZI deck gets to six mana and is relatively healthy, it’ll probably win. What was happening, however, was that just too often Deep Dog was coming out of the blocks flying and UZI just couldn’t cope. There’s no way I’m playing a deck that loses game one so often to Deep Dog, and can still lose game two because of mana screw, colour screw, or a million other reasons.

As it was Thursday, and I had only two days to go, I started looking around the net for ideas. I started by entering all of the decks Mike Flores had put in his States Gauntlet article and playing them off against each other. Some I didn’t like the style of at all, but two stood out: Sean McKeown B/R Control deck and Jens Thoren’s Wake deck. I played them both against each other a bit and then gave them the acid test: Deep Dog. Both decks seemed to perform very well, but B/R had the edge. Not only was it not relying on Wrath of God – something Deep Dog can play around (although it slows them down) or counter for one blue mana when you really don’t went them to – but it had a lot of really abusive plays. Want to Fork a Diabolic Tutor and get two cards that you want? Sure. Kill someone with just one Corrupt? Well, that’s possible, too, thanks to Recoup and Burning Wish! It had all the elements I liked about a deck. It has a good early game, a good mid game and a great end game.

It did have a few problems. I wasn’t happy with all of the main deck as it was missing, to my mind, two key spells: Nantuko Shade and Tainted Pact. I’ve played with tainted Pact in OBC decks for a while and it really is amazing. I’ve also played with Nantuko Shade – and although I don’t think I want four in the main deck in Standard, I certainly want at least one.

I also wasn’t happy with what to do against Worship. Lots of players have been throwing decks with Worship around and, if they cast it and a creature generator, I’m in deep trouble. Something needs to be added to the sideboard to sort that out – preferably a Sorcery.

Here’s the deck after I made my changes, based on Sean’s deck.

As you can see, I’ve added three Tainted Pacts and a Shade to the main deck, dropping a Swamp, a Skeletal Scrying, a Duress, and a Blackmail. I figured that the environment in Bath would be much more creature-based, and so losing the Duress wouldn’t hurt as much. The Tainted Pacts give me good card selection, and so dropping a land and a Scrying wouldn’t hurt. The Skeletal Scryings also remove cards from the game so that you can get them with Burning Wish, but Tainted Pact does the same for you – only without hurting – sp again, no loss there.

I added the fourth Duress into the sideboard, dropping one Blackmail and taking out one Mutilate to add a Soul Feast to help me get around Worship. Mutilate is good sure, and maybe it will come back into the deck, but I couldn’t bring myself to take anything else out!

I sat down and put this together on Saturday morning, grabbed a coffee and headed over to the tourney.

Unlike States, the English County Championships are brand new, and so people are coming to terms with how many there are. There are a lot of Counties where Magic tournaments aren’t regularly run – but if a neighbouring County runs one, they’re small enough to just drive over. Even so, far more tourneys would be happening on the one weekend than would normally happen, and so we expected numbers to be down – and down they were.

25 players showed up and registered giving us five rounds, cutting to a top-eight.

Round 1: Stephen Woodward playing U/R Madness.

I’d not played Steve for a while and had no idea what he was playing as I looked at my opening hand.

One land.

Even with a hand full of two casting-cost spells, I know the deck needs a lot of mana to really get going and so I chose to mulligan straight away. My next six cards didn’t look any better, giving me just one land again.

Now, what I should have done is go straight down to five. There are twenty-five lands in the deck, and so I still have a good shot at a hand with two lands in it. For some reason, I stuck with six cards and played out my Swamp.

Let’s call the reason "Stupidity" for now; there’s no other excuse.

I didn’t see another land until Steve’s Aquamoeba and Hapless Researchers had kicked me down two seventeen life. Even so, I was unprepared for the assault I was about to take.

"Switch this Aquamoeba with a Fiery Temper, cast the Temper, cast Reckless Charge on the Researcher. Switch the other Aquamoeba, too. In for ten."

I’m sorry? I was on a pile of life and I’ve just taken thirteen damage. THIRTEEN DAMAGE!


I didn’t top-deck a Mutilate and two Swamps next turn, and so we moved on to the next game.

My inexperience with the deck really hit me when I looked at what I could sideboard in and out. I thought about bringing in the Engineered Plagues; they’d make the Aquamoebas a lot worse, and I considered the Ensnaring Bridges. In the end, I bought in a second Bridge and we kicked off.

This time I had a good hand, but Steve started off very quickly, pecking at my life for a few turns as I killed a few of his creatures, but the Reckless Charges helped him out no end – maybe I should have had Smother? I then get stuck on four lands, even after using a Tainted Pact to pick up another Swamp. Eventually, I managed to get going again and went for a little more creature removal with a fresh Diabolic Tutor, I killed a few critters, but the Charges kept helping Steve out until I was sitting on five life, with six lands in play, a Tutor and some creature removal. I tutored for a Corrupt and killed his creature, but not before he threw away a Fiery Temper to drop me down to two life.

Fingers crossed and I’ll be okay next turn.

"Barbarian Ring?"

I look at his graveyard.

"I have seven cards"

"Yup, can see that – your match."

Matches: 0-1. Games: 0-2.

I’ve lost matches at the start of tournaments before – but losing 0-2 in the first round with a deck you’ve just built, have no experience with, and don’t know how to sideboard really doesn’t inspire confidence.

Hey ho.

Round 2: Richard Hawkes playing U/B Wizards

I drew a good crop of cards to start with, and went first. We both dropped a few land until I saw a Pact. I cast Tainted Pact and Richard took a good long look at his hand and read a card. "He’s got Force Spike," was my very first thought, as he let my Pact resolve. I chose a Swamp and moved into my turn, dropping a Nantuko Shade with one spare mana. I watched Richard carefully and he looked straight at his hand, the untapped Swamp, and read his cards again. I was pretty sure he did have the Spike, but that he hadn’t played with it before.

Next turn he dropped a Disruptive Pitmage and I began to work out what his deck might be about. A few Wizards later, I knew for certain what he was playing when he dropped Patron Wizard, with enough Wizards out to stop all but the cheapest of my spells. Luckily, Innocent Blood doesn’t cost much, so I came in with the Shade one last time before killing it with a Blood, reducing Richard’s countering ability.

Next turn he dropped a Hydromorph Guardian. To say I was surprised was an understatement.

Even so, I played a second Innocent Blood, hoping to get it out of the way before I could work on killing his annoying Wizards. Richard sacrificed a Wizard. He didn’t even tap it to try and make me pay more mana! I had a few more mana spare, so I played an Edict and another Wizard bit the dust!

My next draw was pretty good: Engineered Plague. I checked to see how much mana Richard had and played a Duress, followed by the Plague. A few creature removal spells later I had no creatures to worry about, and plenty of land to flash back an Edict should I need to – and so I dug deep for a Corrupt. Two Corrupts later the game was mine.

I bought in the two Plagues from the sideboard and dropped a Blood and a Bridge. What was the point of the bridge when two Plagues would kill almost all of his creatures anyway?

The game didn’t go Richard’s way. He cast a few Wizards but with a Plague in my opening hand I let him, cast a Duress to catch a Counterspell and killed three Blue men with one Black enchantment. A few turns later I dropped a second and Richard looked very worried. Even so, he played out a few creatures – which I killed as he tried to counter my spells with Ixidor’s Will. When Richard tapped out of Blue mana in his main phase to cast another Hydromorph Guardian, I took the chance to drop Mirari – and two forked Corrupts later, the game was mine.

Matches: 1-1. Games: 2-2.

I had a chat to Richard after the game and it was clear that he didn’t have many cards, and couldn’t get hold of many rares like Shadowmage infiltrator and Underground River that would help his deck, so he filled it with what he had. A good idea maybe, and one that might be worth looking at – but he really didn’t stand a chance against a tuned net-deck that killed creatures so easily, even with me at the helm.

Round 3: Iain Rawlings playing U/G Beats

Iain has been coming to Bath tourneys for a while, but I haven’t seen him make a top eight. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, but it does give me confidence. Iain won the toss, and dropped a Forest and a Basking Rootwalla, followed by a Wild Mongrel. I used a few removal spells, and drew into Engineered Plague. I dropped it to kill his Lizards and continued to look for good cards to help me deal with him. I quickly found an Ensnaring Bridge and dropped that, keeping me safe from Wurms.

A few turns later, I drew into my Shade and started to attack. Iain put paid to me pumping it with a Stupefying Touch, so I resigned myself to two-damage a turn, rather than a quick kill.

Then Iain cast Upheaval.

I must admit that, even though I know some decks pack it main deck, I really wasn’t expecting Upheaval game one. He discarded a Rootwalla, dropped a land and said, "Go.”

I dropped land for a few turns before dropping the Plague again, this time naming Squirrel, followed by the Bridge and the Shade. The Shade was quickly locked up, but Iain was now only at eight life whilst I’d used a Corrupt to get back up to eighteen. Four turns later, Iain had only found a couple of blockers and my removal dealt with them easily to let the shade through for the win.

I figured that I’d need the second Bridge, and brought it in, as well as a second Engineered Plague, as Iain had carelessly let me know about his Squirrel Nests. The game was going badly for me as Iain had said, "I have a killer hand" when he drew his first seven cards and wasn’t wrong.

He quickly had me on the back foot, but countered a removal spell, allowing me to tap out to play a Riptide Replicator that would create 7/7 Green Goblins. Iain attacked me for as much as he could, knocking me to seven life, but next turn I killed one creature and could make a 7/7 blocker. Iain attacked for the last time, knocking me to four and I attacked him back for seven, then fourteen for the win.

Mmm. Green Goblins.

Matches: 2-1. Games: 4-2.

Iain was playing all of the right cards: Wonder, Roar of the Wurm, Wild Mongrel, and had a few curve balls to throw, with main deck Squirrel Nests and the Upheaval that surprised me so much. I think he was a little unlucky, but I also think that the Black deck has the upper hand over U/G Beats in Standard at the moment, especially with Burning Wish. Maybe if Cunning Wish was added to the U/G decks they’d have the same flexible answers available to them in game one but it might just add more clutter to what is already a very tight deck.

Round 4: Chris Brown playing White Weenie

I’ve played Chris three times before, all this year and I’ve won every one. Even so, the last two times we’ve played it’s been close, so I know I have to keep my wits about me.

My opening hand had some land, a Duress, and a Blackmail – and for some reason, I kept it. I had no idea what Chris was playing, but he was at 2-1 the same as me.

Chris dropped a 1/1 guy, a 2/2 guy and another 2/2 guy, swiftly kicking me down to eleven life. I started to kill them off thanks to drawing a few Edicts, but Chris kept pumping out the men and, not seeing a Mutilate, I went the way of the woolly mammoth.

Chris was playing with Soldiers, and lots of them, so I bought in my Engineered Plagues and Persecute (easier to get it, and I might draw it), taking out a few Duresses, as I kept hitting creature hands the game before.

Chris kicked off the second game with a few small creatures, but once I hit four mana I cast Persecute, having drawn it the turn before. Chris was left with a few Plains. Next turn I cast the Mutilate from my opening hand leaving me at fifteen life, and dropped a Nantuko Shade. 20, 14, 3, dead. We moved on to the next game.

The final game took a lot longer. Chris started well, but beating me down with a few creatures, until I dropped Engineered Plague to kill a few guys. A few turns later, Chris got rid of it, and dropped Mobilization. Hmm.

I dropped an Ensnaring Bridge to stop anything but 1/1 guys from attacking – damn that Mobilization! A turn later I dropped a second Engineered Plague followed by a Riptide Replicator to make 3/3 Green Goblins. Chris followed up with a Shared Triumph for Soldiers, making his Mobilization a threat once more.

Luckily I managed to keep my hand empty and dropped a second Engineered Plague to keep the Soldier threat under control. Even so, by this time I was down to six life – but, as we all know, sooner or later I’ll see Corrupt.

Not long later I did and took Chris down to 15 and myself back up to 11. I took a little more damage but saw another Corrupt, dropping Chris to 10 and taking myself back up to 10. Chris then cast a Life Burst, with one in his graveyard, to take him back up to 18 life.

A few turns later Mirari showed up, and I drew into a Diabolic Tutor. I forked it to get another Corrupt and a Recoup, and Chris soon found himself on 8, then -2 life, leaving me on 30.

Matches: 3-1. Games: 6-3.

Chris had chosen to play with Circle of Solace, rather than any Circle of Protections. Had he had Circle of Protection: Black, I would have had to rely on the Replicator to do my work or me, making the Ensnaring Bridges a real pain.

After all the results came in Chris, the TO, posted the standings for us to check the correct results had been entered. They had, but we noticed that all of us in the top 8 were at least three points clear of the ninth place player. That meant that, should we all ID, we’d all make the top-eight! Typically this is a sign that there is one too many rounds in the Swiss section of a tourney, but we were going by Wizards’ rules, so none of us complained.

Round 5: Shane Silk-Reeves playing MBC

We ID.

Matches: 3-1-1. Games: 6-3.

After beating me in the first round, by first opponent didn’t win another match, and my second and third round opponents were doing badly too. For most of the tourney my tiebreakers had been really bad – and although they’d started to get better, I was still in eighth place. Even so, I was still in with a good chance. I wasn’t looking forward to playing off against another Black-based control deck, as I remember the matchup only too well from the OBC season.

Fingers Crossed!

Quarterfinals: Robert Eadie, playing MBC

MBC. Oh, this will be fun.

To be honest, the Standard Black control match-up is very different from OBC, in that we’re not both playing Rancid Earth main deck. Even so, it can often come down to who puts Mirari on the table first, as it’s a Legendary Artifact. However, I’m not straight MBC. Playing Red mana for the Wishes gives me the chance to have artifact removal in my sideboard – something that’s crucial.

Game one started badly. I drew seven spells and decided to mulligan. The next six cards only had one land, so I took another mulligan. The next five cards only had one land too – and so I stuck with it, keeping my fingers crossed.

Obviously, I didn’t keep them crossed long well enough, because I didn’t see a second land for three turns, missed another land drop before I started drawing in. By now Robert had all the mana in the world, dropped Mirari and forked a couple of Corrupts at me.

In came the Magnivore, an extra Duress and Blackmail and out went some creature removal. I figured that Rob might bring in Nantuko Shades or Braids, so I left some cheap removal in the deck, as well as one Engineered Plague to deal with the Shades. I also left my own Shade in the main deck. It’s better than a removal spell, after all, and might get me a quick kill. I didn’t bring in the Persecute to try and protect it. If it’s removed from the game I can go and get it, but Rob will probably play four Duress and some Blackmails and might snag it before I can cast it.

The game was the mirror of the first. Rob had to mulligan and stuck with a hand full of land, not wanting to suffer my fate from the previous game. It wasn’t enough. I had a good hand with Tutors, Duress and soon drew into, and played Mirari. We both did nothing for a while until I drew a Corrupt and forked it at him, dropping him to four life. Next turn I cast a second, killing him.

So; two games both decided by draws, not really playing skill. Let’s see what happens in the final game.

The game started off well, both of us dropping land and attacked each other’s hands – but Rob managed to drop Mirari before I could. I cast Burning Wish, fetched a Demolish, and killed it before it could get really nasty. A few turns later, Rob dropped Riptide Replicator, making 3/3 guys. Next turn I drew a Replicator of my own and dropped a Swamp, hoping he wouldn’t have Duress. He didn’t, but made a 3/3 guy and started his attack, taking me to eleven life. I dropped another Swamp and played a Replicator of my own to make 4/4 guys. Rob frowned.

Rob made another guys and attacked me again, taking me down to eight. I untapped, cast Edict, killing one of his guys and said, "Go." Rob had got out of the cycle of creating creatures in my end step, so he could only attack with his one, 3/3 guys and he knew I’d make a 4/4 and kill it. Even so, I was stuck on eight life, and if Rob drew a Corrupt the game would be finished. I cast an Edict, and attacked for four. Next turn Rob made a 3/3 guy again, and I made a 4/4. He said, "Go.” I flashed an Edict back and came in for eight, hoping my luck held out for one more turn. Rob drew his final card, dropped a Swamp, and extended his hand.

"Good game."

Matches: 4-1-1. Games: 8-4.

One down, two to go. The match hadn’t been as bad as I had thought, because I had the extra Tutoring power of the Wishes. Rob also found that if he cast Haunting Echoes at me, I could remove a few things I wanted to keep with a Scrying, and then let him get anything I wanted to be able to Wish for! The fact that the Wishes remove themselves from the game is amazing once you start to fork them with Mirari, too…

Semi Finals: Shane Silk-Reeves playing … MBC

Oh, crap. Another MBC deck.

I settled in for another long game, but Shane didn’t have the luck he needed and stalled on only a few lands. I dropped a Nantuko Shade and came in a few times before it was killed, and cast Duress. Shane slowly played out each on of his cards, until the last one: Mirari. I took the Mirari, as Shane was expecting, and we carried on dropping land for a few turns until I saw a Mirari of my own. I soon drew into a Tutor and went to fetch a Corrupt or two. Shane scooped and we moved on to the next game.

Once again in came the Magnivore, Duress, Blackmail and out went three Innocent Bloods.

It didn’t look so hot for me, as I stalled on a few land, and then started to draw nothing but. Land after land after land. I started to draw a few spells – but luckily, Shane’s hand was full of creature removal. I drew a Duress, just in time to grab a Replicator. Shane dropped a Mirari and I drew a Burning Wish in time to grab and play a Demolish. Then Shane drew his trump card: Undead Gladiator. Actually, two of them.

He played out one, cycled one, and played out a second. Next turn he attacked, drew another, and started digging through his deck a little. Finally he played out a third. I drew a Burning Wish, looked at the board and fetched a Rancid Earth to kill his Cabal Coffers (halving the amount of mana he could dig with) – and, because I had Threshold, killing all three of his Gladiators.

Even so, Shane got them back and started playing them out again, digging and digging for a Corrupt to finish me off. I drew a Nantuko Shade and played it out, expected Shane to Flash back a Chainer’s Edict to kill it, rather than digging through his deck. He didn’t.

Next turn I drew another Burning Wish and looked at the board. I had one Shade out; Shane had recast all three Gladiators. I had a Chainer’s Edict and Burning Wish in hand. Shane was on eighteen life and I was at seven. What do I do? I could fetch some creature kill, but that’s wouldn’t help a lot, I could get a Recoup to allow me to empty his hand. I could get a Tutor and get a Mirari, but by the time I get lucky I’ll be dead.

I took a quick look through Shane’s graveyard. Innocent Blood, Chainer’s Edict, Mutilate, Corrupt. All of his creature removal was in there. I cast Burning Wish and fetched a Haunting Echoes. Thanks to all the land I’d been drawing, I had twenty-four mana to play with.

"Edict you. Flash back Edict.”

Two Gladiators hit the graveyard.

"Haunting Echoes you."

I took almost all of the spells out of Shane’s deck, leaving him with only basic land and spells I didn’t think would affect me.

"Attack with Shade."

I had a lot of mana still available, and so Shane decided to block.

As you can see, I played this very wrong. What I should have done was attack with the Shade, kill any blockers, Edict the other two away, then cast the Wish for the Echoes and remove all of Shane’s win conditions from the game. Oops.

Even so, I was now in a game winning position. Next turn I drew a Mutilate, pumped the Shade to 22/21 and cast Mutilate for eleven to kill Shane’s recast Gladiator, then attacking for eleven to drop Shane to seven life.

Shane drew another Swamp, played out the Gladiator again and said, "Your Go.”

I drew a Corrupt, counted my Swamps, and Corrupted him for 11, winning the game.

Matches: 5-1-1. Games: 10-4

Once again, I’d put the win down to the addition of the Burning Wishes to the deck. They allow you to get specific cards to get you out of a scrape and, even if your opponent is winning, can let you fetch spells that will devastate them. Plus, with Recoup, you can use them again and again. Gladiator was very good for Shane, he drew an twenty or so cards more than I did – maybe one should make it into the B/R deck?

Wow. In the finals! The 0-2 loss at the start of the day seemed a long, long way away.

Only one more match to play and I can go home. Champion or not, it’d been a good day.

Finals: Martin Bishop playing U/G Deep Dog

We sat down and shook hands. I’ve played Martin only once before, a couple of months ago, and I won that match. Hopefully I’ll be 2-0 against him by the end of this final.

We started to shuffle up and, now that there were no more matches to watch, we had quite a bit of a crowd. I knew Martin was playing U/G Deep Dog, and so it was going to be very like U/G vs. MBC in OBC, something I’ve played a lot over the last few months.

"Who wins this matchup in OBC?" I asked Martin.

One of the spectators spoke up: "Black control has the edge."

I grinned.

"Cool. I have better spells now, too."

Martin smiled at me as we both finished shuffling and we got down to business. Martin declared that he had an amazing hand as I looked at mine: Three land, three creature removal spells, and a Duress. Not bad.

He kicked off with a Basking Rootwalla, which I killed, and a Wild Mongrel, which also bit the dust but not before Martin through a Roar of the Wurm away. Next turn Martin played a Merfolk, which I also had to kill – otherwise it would protect the Wurm I knew that was about to be cast.

Sure enough, the Wurm hit the table and my deck game me land and more land until I saw a Mutilate. Unfortunately for me I could only give it -5/-5 and was sitting on six life. Luck is a cruel mistress.

I bought in the second Ensnaring Bridge. 6/6 Wurms can’t hurt you if they can’t attack. I just have to hope that Martin doesn’t see Naturalize when he needs it.

Lady Luck decided to be on my side this time around, as I cast Duress, killed a few creatures, and emptied my hand just in time to drop an Ensnaring Bridge.

"I have no way of dealing with that," Martin commented, unhappily.

Obviously, this cheered me up as I drew a good mixture of Tutors and disruption in order to get Corrupt for four damage, cast Mirari, and fork a second Corrupt of seven to kill Martin and leave me at thirty-four life.

One each. We shuffled up and drew out hands. I had another good hand. Some good removal and a Tutor. Martin started slowly playing out a land after a land as creature removal built up in my hand. I drew my Shade on turn 3 and played it out with a mana spare, knowing only a true Counterspell could stop it. The Shade hit the table. Martin passed and I dropped another land – a Cabal Coffers – and attacked for six damage.

Next turn, Martin dropped a creature. I played out a Swamp, killed it with Edict, and attacked for six again. Martin needed to draw two creatures and cast them both to survive.

He drew, played Arrogant Wurm, and passed to me. I could hardly contain my glee. I untapped and drew as fast as I ever have before, dropped another Swamp, cast a second Edict to kill the Wurm, pumped the Shade and came in for the kill – almost without breathing at all!

Matches: 6-1-1. Games: 12-5.


I was over the moon. Really very far over the moon. In danger of leaving the solar system!

Somerset County Champion. The first – and currently the only. All seven matches I played (the ID didn’t really count) meant something; they all were worth the time taken to play on a miserable Saturday afternoon in Bath.

The top-eight decks at the end of the day were as follows:

W: Me. B/R Control.

F: Martin Bishop. Deep Dog.

SF: Shane Silk-Reeves. MBC.

SF: Jack Olliver. Mono Red Beats.

QF: Rob Eadie. MBC.

QF: Claire Williams. MBC.

QF: Brandon Powell. R/G Beats.

QF: Dan Norris. G/W Beastie Wake.

The decks played broke down as follows:

  • MBC 4

  • B/r control 1

  • U/G Deep Dog 4

  • Mono Red 3

  • GW 2

  • R/G Beats 3

  • U/W Birds (similar to Punisher) 1

  • URb 1

  • Oversold Cemetery (GB and GBw) 2

  • BR Beats (Sligh with B removal) 1

  • UWg control (UW with Monasteries) 1

  • UB Wizards 1

  • WW 1 (Mobilization as a backup plan)

We had no Opposition decks, no UZI decks, no Wake decks, and not a single Astral Slide deck. There were lots of new decks that showed up based around good ideas like Oversold Cemetery and Krosan Tusker, but many of the decks didn’t really have much other than their good idea. The few that did, did well but not as well as the more established, better polished net decks. In time I’m sure they will.

Would I change anything in the deck? Well, an extra Persecute might be handy, as might a third Mutilate. I’d like to see Undead Gladiator tested as, when Shane played it, it let him dig down into his deck a long way. I’ve also been thinking about one, sideboard Death Wish.

Yup, you heard me right: Death Wish. You know, the nasty Black Wish that no one likes.

Imagine for a second. You’re going to lose – but if you could get that extra Engineered Plague, you’d win. Maybe you need a Cabal Coffers and you can remove it from the game with Skeletal Scrying and then you’d win. Imagine if you just need to attack once with a Magnivore.

Nothing else gives you all of these options and, as it’ll be in your sideboard, you’d only need to use it ever if you were going to lose if you didn’t! It might turn a game around. What’s the real difference between being on eight and four life against a creature deck if you can get a backup Ensnaring Bridge? Who cares what life you’re on if your opponent will never have any Squirrels because you have Engineered Plague in play? I’m going to try it out and see what I think. It’s one valuable sideboard slot – but it’s only one sideboard slot.

So, a good weekend for me. I’ve been playing well recently, getting a 2nd and 1st place finish in my last two tourneys. I might be able to make a PTQ on the weekend of 23rd – but if I don’t, the next tournament I’ll be playing in will be the Bath Magic Invitational 2002. More on that next week.

Cheers, Jim.

Team PhatBeats.