So Darksteel is here, both in real life and online… or well, sometimes on Magic Online, the anticipation has been great. As countless writers have shouted until their faces and decks alike have turned Red, Skullclamp is the shiz. It seems that Wizard’s best efforts to turn creatures into the dominant force in standard with Onslaught Block pale in comparison to the effect a meager one-mana artifact has on the format. Enough has been said on the artifact for me to waste my time and yours explaining why it is good, but if you don’t think it is, by all means ignore its impact on the format. I’m sure thousands hope to play you round one of Regionals.
Control is out, and the weenie rush is on. Goblins and Affinity are in abundance and we are faced with the two options: 1) Shuffle up your Skullclamps and creatures and prepare to unload, or 2) Be stubborn and go for something different. For something different, I’ll look to PT: Kobe for ideas, even though it is Block and not Standard, inspiration can come from the craziest places. The one deck that stood out among the hoards of Affinity decks and dominant mono-Red decks, was TwelvePost.
TwelvePost was made for a format much different from that of current Type Two – there were no Biddings, Goblins, Decrees, or even Akroma’s Vengeances. It took advantage of fast mana lands to cast game-winning spells as quickly as possible. Its principle was if you can’t out race them, overpower them. Few things are more powerful than an 11/11 indestructible trampler backed by Leonin Abunas and Platinum Angel. Currently Affinity has a tough time removing Platinum Angel and Abunas game one, as many versions only have Shrapnel Blast to remove the pair. Killing both requires them to draw two of only four cards and they still have to kill you. Limiting your opponent’s outs like that is pretty good.
Goblins, with the help of their ever annoying Sharpshooter, Sparksmith, Siege-Gang, and Bidding back-up, will generally have no trouble dealing the nine points of damage needed to take out the kitty and his Angel with enough gas to spare to put you out of your misery. This is where you run into the problem. How can you possibly hope to live long enough to come close to surviving their constant barrage of goblins? Looking to Green alone, you come up short, as you will when looking to artifacts. Damping Matrix is great and all, but still being able to flat out attack for the win is bad times.
I pondered this problem for days, wracking my brain trying to find away to stop from keeling over and dying to the Bidding onslaught, all the while still trying to find balance with the Affinity matchup. I went over every possible card that may have been overlooked. From Urza’s Armor to Ivory Mask and even the unwieldy Reminisce, but just couldn’t find a solution that was cheap, easy to cast, and did not leave me open to death from an all out attack the next turn.
Then bam, it hit me. Worship. I recalled a particularly interesting match I had seen a few weeks ago at a tournament. The Bidding player had the game in the bag, his opponent was at eight, no cards in hand, and the only non-land permanent on the board was a Worship. The Goblin player had the game firmly in hand, with double Goblin Piledriver, Siege-Gang Commander, Goblin Sharpshooter, and Skullclamp out. Surely there was no way to lose this game. The kid untapped and ripped the only card to save him, Troll Ascetic. Looking at standard Bidding lists, there is absolutely no way to deal with Troll/Worship game one, and either a few Flamebreaks or Tendrils of Agony games two and three.
By now, I’m sure you are wondering where I am going, and how all of this relates to Type Two that is even the least bit coherent or playable. How can a near mono-Green deck attempt to balance Goblins and Affinity at the same time? Well it ain’t easy, but here is the deck I have affectionately dubbed…
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Reap and Sow
4 Sylvan Scrying
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Exalted Angel
4 Tooth and Nail
3 Viridian Shaman
3 Damping Matrix
2 Troll Ascetic
1 Platinum Angel
1 Leonin Abunas
1 Darksteel Colossus
4 Windswept Heath
2 Temple of the False God
This is the final version I have come up with, after months of testing and tweaking. Although it may not look much like it, this started off as my Teddy Bear Christmas deck from a while ago. Shortly after the article, I dropped Blue and some of the maindeck cards to cut it to a more stable G/W mana base, as the Fabricates were just too slow. I played and tweaked against several different decks, and just wasn’t happy with how it was faring against the field.
Then PT: Kobe came and changed everything for me. Before the decklists were even up, I had gathered all the information I needed. Platinum Angel, Leonin Abunas, Darksteel Colossus, and the scrub-a-licious looking Tooth and Nail. What was not to love? The deck had it all, so I modified the already warped Teddy Bear Christmas even more. Cutting the Scythes of the Wretched as being unneeded anymore with the decline of U/W, but upping the count of Triskelions to four to try and take out random Goblins and Disciples. This was still too slow, and just felt clumsy. I was relying too much on Tooth and Nail to win the game and was distracted by the ability to create large mana and large creatures. Why do you need so many fatties when one will be enough?
I also didn’t like not having life gain. I wanted Ravenous Baloth real badly, but a deck with twelve Urza’s Lands and four Cloudposts couldn’t handle that much additional double Green, especially not that early. Bottle Gnomes were not much better, as they don’t put on any pressure or trade in combat. I realized that playing sixteen colorless lands was just foolish, and had to debate on what to cut. The Urza’s lands were extremely nice, but cut down on how many colored lands I could play far more than just Cloudposts, and at best, I would still only be able to cast Tooth and Nail with Entwine on turn 5 or so. I settled on Cloudpost, as it made it easier to support double Green cards with a White splash, particularly in the sideboard, which at the time included Ivory Mask. I also snuck in four Temple of the False God to still provide a little oomph on the mana development.
With the lands settled, I got to work at tweaking the maindeck to better use the more abundant colored mana. Puny Bottle Gnomes came out for the rip, roaringly savage Ravenous Baloth. Talismans came out for Birds of Paradise, and even Troll Ascetic was able to breath a little easier with more Green mana to help get him on the field and keep him there.
While I had creatures like Ravenous Baloth, Birds of Paradise, and even Troll Ascetic and Solemn Simulacrum, I thought I could get with the rest of the world and play Skullclamp. It was all fun in theory, being able to turn a late game Bird into two cards, or drawing three cards from a killed Jens. It became even better when I got two, as I could double equip Trolls and Jens for instant hand replenishing, or drop a few on a Baloth to net a bit of life and some cards in the process.
Like the problem with everything else though, it was too slow to combat aggressive decks. It also didn’t do anything to their side of the board. It wasn’t as abusive for me, because I needed to use all my mana and cards to try and stop them from killing me. I couldn’t easily kill off a creature and drop a new one to take its place, let alone two more.
Looking once again to the Affinity and Goblin match I settled on Damping Matrix. The card is simply required in this format, as it gives you much more time against Affinity and Goblins and makes Worship and Platinum Angel that much better. This gave me yet another problem though. My tank, my rock, my source for life gain, Ravenous Baloth, just became worse. Not wanting to lose the Matrix or the lifegain, I had more thinking to do.
I could just run both and rely on the fact that I may not need Baloth for life with Matrix out, or maybe just wouldn’t draw them together. This wasn’t a very good plan. I thought about Pulse of the Fields, but that doesn’t work well with Worship and I really can’t be abusing it against the more aggro decks, due to the limited amount of White mana to use each turn. Exalted Angel jumped up as substitute, and as of now, seems to be doing her job quite nicely. Not to mention the fact that it is a bit more impressive to Tooth and Nail out than Baloth and can also survive an Enforcer hit in combat. The fact that each Angel can gain me four life more than once is also a plus, even if it can’t be immediate life gain. Angel, however, requires more White to be added to the deck, so I bit the bullet and cut two Temples to help sustain the White better.
That ends the journey of this wayward deck as of this moment. Now that you can hopefully see how I arrived to this particular list, I will go ahead and give you the exact reasoning behind each card and how it fits into the deck.
In a deck with so many colorless mana sources, but which can be dependent on double Green and double White on occasion, this little guy fills the role of mana fixer quite nicely. Providing a little jump on the mana development, he’s a decent blocker, and an extra card to boot. It makes no sense to not play the Simulacrum.
Reap and Sow
This is one of the best cards in this deck. Like the Simulacrum, it puts you one step ahead of your opponent as far as mana, as well as fixing your mana base. Do not ever be afraid of using the land destruction portion of this spell, even without entwine. Denying your opponent mana can be just as good, if not better than getting the extra mana for yourself. Many times against Affinity, I have stripped them of their only Black or Red source, and against Goblins, I kept them off double Black for that one crucial turn. Using Reap and Sow aggressively against other post decks is sometimes the key to victory. As you will always have time to draw into your Posts, they won’t have a chance to use that land again. Once a post is dead, it stays dead, at least for now.
Fills about half the roll of Reap and Sow for half the price. Mana fixing is crucial in this deck, so four copies of Sylvan Scrying and Reap and Sow are mandatory. Sylvan Scrying is also nice as it makes those two and three land hands, much more appealing.
Your main deck answer to generic artifacts that leaves behind a blocker. Nuke the Ravager and have Shaman around to chump whoever gets the counters (unless of course it’s an Ornithopter). Kill a Clamp and block the Piledriver or Warchief. It’s more versatile maindeck than Oxidize, because you can just drop him on an empty field against artifactless decks and have a mediocre creature. He can also be searched out with Tooth and Nail if you are desperate.
He is really just there to cover for the Platinum Angel, and to make sure she doesn’t fall to Shatter-type effects. Without Echoing Ruin in the format, he most likely would just be another Platinum Angel. He is pretty mediocre on his own, but sometimes he may be dropped early as a 2/5 wall. It is also nice that he protects your Damping Matrix as well.
The big poppa. The top dog. Your go to man. When you see ads talking about an army of one, this is what they mean. When he hits the table, he hits hard. There is very little that kills him, and even less that stands in his way for long. In just two short swings, he kills your opponent. Regardless of Wraths, Vengeances, Oblivion Stones, or any of that Naturalize nonsense. He is what you generally Tooth and Nail for, and for good reason. Your primary kill condition, he is the ultimate fatty in Type Two right now. Also note, that he and Worship are even more potent than Troll Ascetic and Worship.
Decree of Justice
As you can probably tell from the main deck, this deck was built with Affinity and Goblins in mind. The deck was built assuming you would see Goblins or Affinity more than any other deck. Expect to take control decks on the chin, as your deck isn’t really set up to beat them. As such, the Decree of Justice is in the sideboard. Board them in and hope to be able to cycle it for enough at the end of their turn to kill them.
Land destruction is a bitch. Even though you may not be expecting much LD, it may be smart to pack three of these, as you don’t want to just auto-lose. Also, you may want to board in a couple of copies against slide or any deck you think may be bringing in Decree of Annihilation or Obliterate.
These serve a variety of purposes depending on what deck you are going up against. Most obviously these can be boarded in against Mono-White control or any deck that is playing with Mindslaver. At the worst, they can just be cycled away. A less obvious use for these comes from the Goblin match. After game one, you can’t always rely on the ability of Worship and Troll to win you the game. Many goblin builds will have a Tendrils of Agony or some life loss card in their sideboard to break through a Worship”Lock.” A well-timed Gilded Light can ruin their plan and send them packing.
Perhaps the oddest looking card in the sideboard. She is here mainly for the Affinity match and possibly a few rogue decks. The best line of defense you have against Affinity is the Angel. You can’t rely on Worship, as the Disciple of the Vault will merely laugh in your face as soon as an artifact touches any graveyard. Having two Platinum Angels and an Abunas in your deck means they must have three separate removal spells just to be able to kill you. The plan is that hopefully this will give you enough time to find a way to kill them, either with Angels or a Colossus.
This is easily the most changeably sideboard card. Personally, I do not really like it, as it can hurt you as much as it can help you. Despite what you may think, it is not there for the Affinity matchup, although it can help to board it in. It may be a tad bit slow for the effect though, because by that time, a Disciple will be down, and killing all of their artifacts will probably end up killing you. This card is primarily for White-based decks. It takes out Astral Slides, Lightning Rifts, opposing Angels, both Exalted and her Platinum cousin.
The most prominent deck you will face at any Type Two tournament, this match should be in your favor, but it depends on exactly what type of Ravager Affinity they are running. Thankfully, none of the Affinity decks out there are running Aether Spellbomb, which is probably the most worrying card because of its ability to remove Platinum Angel, Leonin Abunas, and Darksteel Colossus from the board. It really depends on how many Shrapnel Blasts, Naturalizes, or Oxidizes they are running as to how things will play out. Your game plan is going to be to try and stall long enough to Tooth and Nail out a Platinum Angel and Leonin Abunas. To get there, Damping Matrix, Viridian Shaman, and Exalted Angel are your best bets.
Always be wary of your life total, and be on the lookout for any tricks they may have up their sleeves. They are just going to keep throwing cards your way, and you need to do your best to contain them. On the plus side, if fortune smiles upon you and they don’t manage to draw a Disciple early enough, Worship can really put a hurt on them, but don’t rely on it to win you the game like in the Goblin match.
Bidding has a pretty straightforward plan. Play goblins, attack with goblins, and kill goblins to draw cards, get mana, or deal damage to you. Cast Bidding to bring them back into play and repeat. Damping Matrix goes a long way to helping shut down their assaults, as long as they don’t have a Piledriver. Game one Worship and Troll Ascetic is simply game over, since they don’t have a way to get you to zero life. Simple enough. With Damping Matrix, Leonin Abunas, and Platinum Angel it is much the same way, except they still have an out with two cycled Gempalms. The current sideboard doesn’t have much for this match, but I would recommend simply taking out two Viridian Shamans for two Gilded Lights. Again, the main deck is set up to have a good chance against Bidding without the need for much sideboard help. This match usually goes pretty smoothly, barring ridiculous draws from their side.
Here’s where it gets hairy. Against pretty much all non-creature-oriented decks, you will have a problem. Without any form of mass removal or Decrees of Justice game one, you most likely will lose. That is the sacrifice made to improve the games against Goblins and Affinity. Mindslaver and Decree of Justice are the two cards you absolutely don’t want to see. Your only course of action is to really hope to get a few early damage in with any creatures you can, deny them a bit of mana with Reap and Sow, then bust out a Colossus. Hopefully they won’t have a Decree or Mindslaver along the way, and you can get a lucky win. Don’t hold your breath.
This is pretty much the same as with Mono-White, but with advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, they do not have Mindslaver, but the negative is that Astral Slide makes Colossus a very sad panda bear. All your artifact hate is useless and your best creature, sadly, is Troll Ascetic. You board for the most part as you would against Mono-White control, except bring in Sacred Grounds instead of Gilded Lights for possible Obliterate/Decree of Annihilation action.
Those are the major matchup concerns with Sugar Crisp, it has a pretty good chance against many rogue decks, just because of the Platinum Angel/Abunas or Troll/Worship fall back plan. The plus side is that the deck is very open tweaking, like as going down to two Shamans and adding a Duplicant for fear of various fatties from your opponent’s side. Pulse of the Fields is also another good sideboard card, possibly in place of the Akroma’s Vengeance, and Triskelion could be a good target for Tooth and Nail as well.
My advice would be to shuffle this thing up and play a few practice games with it, its versatility may surprise you. There are few things better than coming across the red zone with an untargetable Colossus while at zero or less life. No beats are worse than Colossus beats, and the rest of the deck sets up such beats well. I think you’ll find you will be able to go Tooth and Nail against any deck in the format and hopefully emerge victorious.