Feature Article – Billy Plans

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Billy Moreno, one of the candidates for Resident Genius 2007, brings us the ideas and strategies behind a funky new Standard deck designed for Regionals. It’s a storm deck that runs five colors, and is capable of a number of ridiculous nut draws. BDM himself ran it at his Regionals, and it’s great fun to play. If you’re looking for something that’s both fun and competitive to play at your next Standard event, look no further!

I built a deck last week.

It was a Standard deck, and the time for those has really passed. I wanted to write an article for you in time for Regionals (because the more people who play my decks, the better shot I have at making the Invitational)*, but I failed miserably. I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out why you would want to read this article now that it wasn’t relevant any more. It’s not enough that the deck is incredibly exciting and very powerful. I needed a hook… and this is what I came up with.

I built a deck last week. Would you like to see how?

It started with a conversation. Actually, it started with the slow trickling in of international Regionals’ lists. These lists made clear that probably the best new card from Future Sight was Tarmogoyf. I like power. Some deck designers – lots of the clever ones, actually – have different first priorities when it comes to throwing together 75 cards and slapping on a name. I’m always looking for the power, for the juice. When I do find it, I try to be more Omar Epps than Tupac. You know, balanced and reasonable. But I still hold on to that inner-Pac, that murderous ambition that really makes people uncomfortable when dealing with you.

Yeah, it was a conversation about Tarmogoyf. With Steve Sadin. The agenda: how do we build a bigger Goyf faster? Goyf Gruul and Goyf Zoo just use various speeds of burn spells to fuel the Green giant at their natural pace. Admittedly, that pace is fairly blistering.

With the release of Future Sight, people started talking about playing Street Wraith-powered 56-card decks. Edge of Autumn received less chatter, I imagine because the cycling cost is fairly high for most decks. But Zoo doesn’t actually care how many lands it has. Down to 52. And what about Mishra’s Bauble… this little trinket appeared in some unrefined Dragonstorm lists early on. What’s more, the ana-Bauble-lic steroid would boost our Goyf’s to previously unknown heights of power and toughness. Steve cackled a little bit, relishing the thought of having the biggest Goyf on the board**. Not only did the three free cantrips cut our relevant deck size down to 48 cards, it also meant that we’d be finding Tarmogoyf more often than your average aggro deck.

Bigger, faster, more consistent. Why didn’t the deck-building process stop there?

The problem arose when we started picking out the 48 cards. Obviously, the first four were taken, otherwise why all the hubbub. Tarmogoyf in. Land next. If we’d play 22 in our normally proportioned deck, we could ratio that down to about seventeen, let’s say eighteen to be safe. Most Zoo decks play twenty creatures — some mix of Savannah Lions, Kird Apes, Tarmogoyfs (replacing Maulers, most likely), Watchwolves, Scorched Rusalkas, Scab-Clan Maulers. If we stuck to those numbers, we’d have no room left for burn. We need some cuts, but lets look at he burn before we do. The list is impressive. Ideally, we’d like to play Seal of Fire, Volcanic Hammer, Lightning Helix, Rift Bolt, and Char. Shock shows up from time to time, but it’s certainly not essential.

If we stick to the ratios (which is not so naive an idea as it seems, with Zoo being essentially a deck that plays a consistency game), we’d end up with the following decklist, roughly:

4 Kird Ape
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Savannah Lion
3 Watchwolf
4 Street Wraith

4 Seal of Fire

4 Mishra’s Bauble

4 Lightning Helix
3 Char

4 Edge of Autumn
4 Rift Bolt

4 Stomping Ground
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple Garden
3 Gemstone Mine
2 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
1 Karplusan Forest

There’s nothing particularly wrong with this list. But with all the extra work, the twelve free cantrips (with their consequently difficult mulligan decisions) don’t get you enough. Sure, they feed your Tarmogoyf to the point where you generally have a 3/4 or 4/5 swinging on turn 3. But anyone who played this weekend knows the Goyf doesn’t really need help to be nearly as effective. Beyond that, the cantrips are strictly a detriment. Neither Edge nor the Wraith are actually free, and the Wraith cost is actually pretty severe in the Goyf mirror. As I mentioned above, parenthetically, the presence of cantrips muddies your opening-hand decisions.

Finally, Zoo and Gruul are both decks that are built for consistency. They have the edge they have in a match because they hit hard and fast, consistently. All the cards do the same thing. There is no advantage gained by shortening the deck this dramatically. Once again, the cyclers are a deck-building detriment. Sure Shock, Hammer, Mauler, and Rusalka are probably the cards most deserving of being cut, but they’re not really significantly different from those that made the deck. Moreover, Rusalka provides a functionality that no other card in the deck can. By playing fewer cards, the Gruul and Zoo decks lose functionality without gaining any consistency.

That’s no good.

We have an engine though and I’m not ready to give up…

“Hey, Steve. What deck actually wants to play with 48 cards?”

Dragonstorm, maybe?”

“Yeah, probably. Too bad they lost to having their cards in their hand. What else?”


What I said about Dragonstorm? That’s not completely true. There are plenty of cards they do want in hand, those being their Rituals (Rite of Flame and Seething Song) and their storm spell. Click. At this point, you probably see it too. And that’s really what the process is all about, logical connectives and short leaps between ideas. The trick is to have lots of ideas, to think about lots of things, and to see where it goes.

Perilous Storm wants to draw tons of cards and to use those cards to storm out turn after turn. The whole deck is build around a “draw five” engine. And the only knock on the deck is its inconsistency. Let’s see what happens when we take the 48-card treatment to the Perilous Storm skeleton. First, we get to cut some of the less focused and efficient inclusions, like Repeal and Remand. They aren’t bad cards, but they’re mostly in the deck because they cycle, and we’ve now got that covered. Chromatic Star was cut from the initial build for the same reason, although it turned out to be wrong. When you’re tuning a deck, as it moves from stage to stage, remember your old tools. Sometimes they still work.

The second big move was a mana engine built around Edge of Autumn… not that I ever planned on casting it. See, the Perilous Storm deck is pretty un-intensive, color wise. It needs a single Blue early, maybe a second Blue later, and a Red mana for when it starts going off. The rest of the mana needed is colorless. Which means I could afford to run Flagstones of Trokair to get maximum effect out of my cycled Edges. That puts me here:

4 Hatching Plans

4 Perilous Research
4 Seething Song

4 Sleight of Hand
4 Rite of Flame
4 Empty the Warrens
2 Ignite Memories

4 Edge of Autumn

3 Mishra’s Bauble
3 Claws of Gix
4 Lotus Bloom

4 Street Wraith

4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Steam Vents

The mock tourney at Neutral Grounds was in about fifteen minutes, so I slapped together the following sideboard:

4 Tarox Bladewing
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Gemstone Caverns
3 Pyroclasm

Tarmogoyf? WTF!? You can’t even cast it, Billy. That PT: LA trick isn’t gonna work again.”

I know.

I actually played a Temple Garden and some Breeding Pools, but I didn’t wanna tip my hand before I showed you the sideboard.

Anyway, remember where this article started — with breaking Tarmogoyf? This transformation really felt like the place to do it. The idea is that against decks with Wrath or Damnation, Empty the Warrens is always risky because you are committing multiple cards to a board position that they can answer with just one. Tarmogoyf and Tarox (via Seething Song) require considerably less commitment. Also, against a control player who has probably taken out his spot removal, Damnation is a really inefficient answer to the transformational threats.

Caverns and Pyroclasm were mostly filler, although the Caverns end up being super-good in the final version.

The really exciting thing about the sideboard, besides the transformation possibility, is the exploration of the Flagstones-Edge mana engine. Tarmogoyf is splashed pretty painlessly off the lone Temple Garden and a couple of Breeding Pools.

I was really geeked for the mock. I sincerely love playing Constructed Magic. Especially with decks that are potentially brilliant. In the first round, I beat a Gruul player in three with Claws of Gix backed by multiple huge Empty the Warrens. I discovered that his Tarmogoyfs were still better than mine, because even though they ostensibly bounced off of each other, he had burn spells and I didn’t. Meaning he could kill mine after combat and I couldn’t touch his. In the next two rounds, I beat up on a U/G/W Glittering Wish control deck and Sean McKeown Solar Flare list. Discoveries: Ignite Memories is nigh-unbeatable against the top-heavy control decks in the format, and Persecute just isn’t very good against this storm deck. Sean got one off game 2, hitting two rituals and an Ignite. I was left with three cyclers and a Perilous Research, and killed him the next turn. He would have also died if he’d named Blue. In the 4th round, I played Flores with the Rakdos deck he talked about last week. The games could’ve gone his way, but early Empties give decks without Wrath fits. In the finals, I lost against U/W Snow Control in game 3 because I played it too conservatively.

BDM seemed excited about the deck, so even though I’d probably never play it again, I told him I’d keep working on it. The maindeck was pretty much fine, so mostly I needed to concentrate on sideboarding. Transforming still seemed like the way to go, because transforming is pretty much always the way to go, and because in this instance, the Tarmogoyf transformation fit in perfectly with the engine that powered the deck’s early turns. Tarox was less than impressive though, and there was never really anything I wanted to cut for him.

Enter Flores: “What’s wrong with Bob? He was good enough for your Legacy transformation. He can’t make the cut here?”

Wow. That was almost too obvious. Dark Confidant was a perfect fit. An early Dark Confidant not only demanded an answer, he also softened up the control player for your eventual Ignite, and drew a ton of cards to power that Ignite. Ding ding. In. Also, because Ignite was so integral to the game plan against control decks, I wanted a third one coming in from the board.

As I mentioned earlier, it turns out Gemstone Caverns were pretty strong on the draw, to the point that a turn 0 Cavern was almost a game win. I wedged one into the maindeck (to free up sideboard space) and put the other two in the board. They also fit in perfectly with the fact that my Perilous Storm build had now turned into a five-color deck.

What do you mean, I don’t have any actual White cards anywhere? And that I have more White mana than I do any other color?

It turns out I’d still like something else against the Gruul and Zoo decks, especially for opposing Tarmogoyfs. How about Temporal Isolation? Thank God bystanders saved me right here. Most of the aggro decks run Scorched Rusalka, which turns my own Isolation into a devastating combat trick for the aggro player. Fortunately, the real Pacifism is always available.

I used the last sideboard slot for an Empty the Warrens. No, I’m not cheating a fifth one into the deck. I just wanted to make room for the most questionable, insult-inducing card in the deck. Along with the Empty, I cut a Research and a Plans (Zac Hill echoed my own sentiment here… sometimes these cards just clunked up your draws), and also a Claws (I hated cutting this, as it’s so good against Gruul/Zoo, but something had to go) to make room for four Storm Entities in the main. This guy turned out to be awesome. He just fits into so many gaps and holes in the deck. He’s an easy 3/3 with haste on turn 1 (Rite, Bauble, attack, pass) with only a one-card investment. He’s another fast, efficient man for the eventual transformation. He’s a large body against Gruul. And he slips in on those turns you’re storming, using up the leftover mana that’s usually there. Finally, he just increases the number of nuttish draws you have with this deck.

Bauble #4 swapped in for the fourth Street Wraith, since it works better with Storm Entity.

Finally, Chromatic Star seemed like a natural fit for a five-color deck, so we put that in over Sleight of Hand. The jury is still out on this swap, so feel free to try it either way.

Here’s the decklist BDM and a handful of Top8Magic listeners took to Regionals:

BDM started out 4-1-1, facing a field full of Circle of Protection: Reds and the like after he picked up an unintentional draw in the first round, before picking up the losses that knocked him out. Michael Le passed the deck on to a friend who started out 6-0 before losing the last two rounds. One of those losses came from a tossed game. I don’t know who else played the deck, but the numbers seemed strong, especially considering it’s actually a very difficult deck to play and anyone who played it got the list literally the day before Regionals.

“Difficult, you say? How so? Don’t you just blow people out, or lose to your deck’s inconsistency?”

Actually, no. I feel like this version of Perilous Storm is so stuffed to the gills with good and threatening cards, both before and after board, that it’s games do, in fact, play fairly consistently. The major inconsistency is that sometimes you do actually get freakish nut draws. Still, even the nut draws are more consistent then most Perilous Storm decks, because there are so many of them.

Look at this four-game sequence from a session of MTGO testing.

Opponent scoops turn 3, having no outs to eight goblin tokens.
Opponent loses turn 3 to a 5/5 Storm Entity and six Ignite Memories.

Opponent scoops turn 3, having no answer for a 4/4 and 5/5 Storm Entity (turn 2, Rite, Song, Bauble, take nine, go.)
A turn 1 Dark Confidants leads to this turn 2: Claws of Gix. Hatching Plans is Remanded. Play Rite of Flame off a slow-rolled Steam Vents into a 5/5 Storm Entity. Swing for 7. Opponent scoops after drawing.

Obviously, these are all fluke draws, but if you assemble a dense enough collection of interlocking nut hands and they will start to show up fairly often.

The games that don’t play out just like this usually involve sculpting a hand for three turns (or playing possum with free cyclers… Edge of Autumn is best when paired with Flagstones, but it works just fine when you’re comboing out and don’t particularly need your land anymore) and doing stupid things on turns 4 and/or 5, and again later.

With the Regionals data in, BDM and I are almost certain that three Confidants should be maindeck, dropping the Street Wraiths altogether. He’d also like to swap out the Baubles for Sleight of Hands for turn 1 consistency. I’m not sold on the real advantage of that move, as the Baubles are key in their interaction with Storm Entity and his storming friends. But it’s worth trying. With the Confidants in the main deck, I’d put a second Caverns in the board, maybe a fourth Ignite, and fiddle around with the lost spot.

Take the deck out for a spin. It’s one of the most fun and most powerful I’ve played in a while. You really won’t be disappointed.


Billy Moreno
Tha illness on AIM
[email protected]

* To date, not many people have played my decks in major events (I can pretty much count them on one hand), but the average finish for a Moreno deck (especially given the small sample size) at a PT or GP is pretty damn high***.

** Steve never said that, because Steve is a smart kid and definitely knows that no man’s Goyf is ever bigger than another’s. It’s the natural order of things.

*** I wouldn’t normally talk about such petty things as my stats and professional record, but I’d kill to play in the Invitational. Amber and I can’t get married until I have my face on a card (whether as an Invitational winner or as a Pro Player), and I really love her, so I really need this to happen****.

**** Vote here!