Feature Article – Valencia and Beyond

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Grand Prix winner Steve Sadin takes us through his Pro Tour: Valencia deck step by step, a deck which he believes will still; be a contender in the post-Lorwyn Extended environment. He updates his build with the new cards, and suggests some goblin-based beatdown strategies for the new Extended… Goblins with Tarmogoyf? Is no deck safe from the attentions of the two-drop green goliath?

My trip to Valencia started on Tuesday at 4:30, when I darted out of my last class of the day a half hour early so I wouldn’t miss my flight. I got to the airport in NYC and passed through security with time to spare… unfortunately, my flight was delayed by about two hours. I was really worried about this, as I had a layover in Madrid that was scheduled to depart two hours after I was originally due to land at the airport. Luckily, my plane was able to speed its flight once it actually got off the ground, so I would have at least a fighting chance of catching my flight and making good on my plans to meet Dane Young at the Valencia airport.

As soon as I got through customs in Madrid I literally started running… First in order to find out my terminal, and then in order to catch the bus that went there. I got on the bus, it zipped over to the terminal, and I hopped on a line to pick up my boarding pass. I was in line for about ten minutes. I was thinking that I still had enough time to make my connection as long as I got through security quickly when the woman behind the counter started saying something in Spanish and pointing at something. I had no clue what was going on. After a little while I realized that, as a result of there being no signs in English and my inability to speak any Spanish, I had joined the wrong line.

But fortune was smiling on me, and my flight was delayed by 40 minutes, allowing me to get on the right line, pick up my boarding pass, get through security, and find my gate without any problems. I was even lucky enough to run into Antonino De Rosa and Ben Rubin, so I had people to chat with while we waited the remaining half hour for our flight. I was even more thankful that I ran into them when that half hour wait turned into a three-hour wait.

I eventually got on the flight and I took my seat, which was unfortunately a middle seat instead of the much-preferred window or aisle seats. Much to my luck, nobody was in the aisle seat when they made an announcement that there were eight people who wouldn’t be on the flight and that we had to wait a few minutes while they moved their luggage off the plane.

What luck! I’ll be able to move right on over to the aisle seat, and I’ll have extra space for my legs.

Or at least, that was what I thought.

Instead they wheeled in this gigantic, old, Spanish woman who smelled very bad.

I mean, she smelled bad.

Instead of getting to sit in peace, I had to sit next to this smelly old woman who kept yelling at me in Spanish.

Luckily for me it was a short flight. I can’t even begin to explain how happy I was when the plane landed.

The plane landed and everyone disembarked.

Everyone except me, the guy to my left, and the old lady (who had to wait for a wheelchair).

I was stuck there for twenty of the longest, most foul smelling minutes of my life.

The first deck that I tried to build for the Pro Tour was a Boros Hatred deck that featured Blazing Shoal and Greater Gargadon:

4 Kird Ape
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Greater Gargadon
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Boros Swiftblade
4 Lightning Helix
4 Boom/Bust
2 Sudden Shock
4 Molten Rain
3 Blazing Shoal
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Windswept Heath
4 Flagstones of Trokair
3 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Mountain
1 Plains

I gave up on this deck very quickly, but very reluctantly. While there is probably no way to make it good enough, I really liked the idea and I still really want the deck to be strong.

I keep tricking myself into thinking that this deck has what it takes to be a contender. It has a lot of LD, a good curve, and a turn 3 combo kill. That should be good enough… right? Of course, the more that I think about it, the more that I think it could actually be good. (Rinse and repeat this type of circular thinking for about a month, and you have my August.)

My team for this Pro Tour – “The Justus League” – consisted of Dane Young, Andre Coimbra, Danny Gardener, Robert Ward, and myself (obv) as qualified players, and BDM, Mike Flores, Pedro Cvariello, Greg Weiss, Jon Becker, and Zvi Mowshowitz as advisors.

Unfortunately, our results for this event were lacking but, in this case, I don’t think that is indicative of there being anything wrong with our process.

I really enjoyed working with this team. We all got along really well, and I think we did some very good work on the format. We had, at one point or another, every one of the decks (save for Kuroda’s R/b Goblin deck that is as masterful as he is) that performed well, either in our gauntlet or on the drawing board.

While none of us cashed, I am not at all unhappy with our deck choice. Our deck performed very well in playtesting, and our metagame predictions were almost entirely correct. The biggest things that we got wrong in our predictions were that we expected more Counterbalance decks and fewer Goblins, a difference which actually makes our deck better than we expected as we were very favorable against Goblins but had a bit of trouble with Counterbalance decks. If, armed with the knowledge about the format I have today, I was given the opportunity to play in this tournament again with any deck, I would play the exact same maindeck.

I finished 5-5 with two wins against Goblins (a very easy matchup), and three wins against Ideal. (I think it is easy, but that is probably just because I beat it three times… Andre lost to it a couple of times so he thinks it is very hard. In playtesting the matchup was about 50/50, so it is not that surprising that our results against the deck evened out.) I lost to Dredge three times (unfavorable), Affinity (favorable), and Scepter Chant (very unfavorable).

The one change that I wanted to make to the deck after the tournament was to add more cards against Dredge (which is a slightly unfavorable matchup as-is), whereas the one change that Andre wanted to make to the deck was to forego the anti-Dredge cards entirely and just have more anti-combo cards. Obviously, both of our wants were a direct result of our personal experiences in the tournament – Andre lost to combo a lot and completely dodged Dredge, whereas I got demolished by Dredge three times and, thanks to drawing many Destructive Flows, had no problem dispatching the Ideal decks.

If I were given the opportunity to restart our testing process, the two things I would have spent more time on are: trying to come up with a new combo deck, and trying to build a good transformational sideboard for Dredge.

I think that the deck we played is really good, and I am very glad that I played it… the only change that I would make to the deck for Post Lorwyn Extended is to replace the Duresses in the sideboard with Thoughtseizes.

About The Deck:
The plus side to this deck, and the reason why we chose to play it, is that it is slightly favorable against much of the field and has a considerable edge against most beatdown decks.

The downside to this deck is that the marginal advantages it gets are very small, and it provides you with relatively few opportunities to outplay your opponent and a lot of chances to screw up, with the biggest mistakes usually occurring when figuring out what lands to play/get on your first two turns (it’s really hard to figure out what lands to get with your fetchlands in this deck).

For reference, this was our sideboard guide cheat sheet (I’ve replaced all instances of Duress with Thoughtseize):

-4 Engineered Explosives, -3 Kird Ape
+4 Smother, +3 Krosan Grip

This matchup is quite favorable… just be careful about how you set up your Devastating Dreams. If they have a Plating they may be holding back a creature and a land in anticipation of your Dreams… in which case you could be in a lot of trouble if you don’t have a removal spell.

R/G and Boros:
-4 Destructive Flow
+ 4 Smother

Gifts Rock:
Explosives for Duress, and if we see Tarmogoyf, Fanatic for Smother. Fanatics never really did anything in the matchup, killing the occasional Bird at best. In testing, the Gifts Rock player was never significantly affected by losing their Bird.


-4 Engineered Explosives
+4 Thoughtseize
-4 Engineered Explosives, -4 Mogg Fanatic
+4 Thoughtseize, +4 Smother

Flow is very important in this matchup and should not be boarded out (even if it seems like they have a lot of basics).

It should be noted that most Gifts Rock decks will be boarding in Damnations and/or Pernicious Deeds.

Aggro Rock/Flow Rock:
-4 Destructive Flow
+4 Smother

-4 Terminate, -3 Mogg Fanatic
+4 Thoughtseize, +3 Krosan Grip

In this matchup you always want to have a Devastating Dreams or a Destructive Flow in your opening hand. If you don’t have either of these cards you need to have an extremely good reason for keeping.

-4 Devastating Dreams, -1 Chrome Mox, -2 Mogg Fanatic
+4 Thoughtseize, +3 Krosan Grip

Against Counterbalance/Top decks you want to set you Explosives on two, but pay a lot of mana for it (so it can’t be Spell Snared).

-4 Terminate, -4 Destructive Flow
+4 Thoughtseize, +4 Extirpate

-4 Terminate
+4 Thoughtseize
(If they have Pentad Prism, also replace 3 Mogg Fanatics with 3 Krosan Grips.)

-4 Destructive Flow
+4 Smother

U/G Tron:
-4 Engineered Explosives, -4 Terminate , -1 Mogg Fanatic
+4 Thoughtseize, +3 Krosan Grip, +2 Extirpate

U/W Tron:
-4 Engineered Explosives, -1 Terminate, -2 Mogg Fanatic
+4 Thoughtseize, +3 Krosan Grip

Gaea’s Might Get There:
On the draw:
-4 Destructive Flow
+4 Smother

On the play:
-4 Mogg Fanatic
+4 Smother

Mogg Fanatic is actually not very impressive in this matchup, as there are only a couple of creatures that it is capable of trading with, and you already have plenty of answers/trumps for them.

The other deck that I have been thinking about for post-Lorwyn Extended is Goblins with Tarmogoyf.

Tarfire seems like a pretty easy inclusion in the deck, as it is both Matron-able and Ringleader-able, and once we already have Tarfires I find it pretty hard to stop myself from adding a set of gigantic Tarmogoyfs.

I believe that this version will perform better against creature decks than the ordinary Goblin decks because of the inclusion of Tarmogoyf. However, it simply might not be worth diluting the deck in order to run the admittedly very powerful two-drop.

Because of the rise of Enduring Ideal, it might be much more important to have access to Ronom Unicorn/Kami of Ancient Law in your beatdown decks. If this is the case then it might be worth it to try a goblin deck that looks something like this:

Jim Davis
1st place PT:LA PTQ Pennsylvania – West Chester – 10/29 2005

9 Mountain
4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Goblin Burrows
3 Goblin Legionnaire
1 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Ringleader
4 Gempalm Incinerator
1 Sparksmith
1 Goblin Pyromancer
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Goblin King
3 Chrome Mox

4 Disenchant
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Sparksmith
3 Sulfuric Vortex
3 Flaring Pain

Jim Davis has been rocking Goblins for years now, snagging at least a PTQ win and a GP Top 8 with them, as well as countless packs from MTGO Premier Events. If you are ever looking to copy a Goblin deck, the first person I would look to is Jim Davis… followed closely by Owen Turtenwald.

I’m not sure if the Goblin Legionnaires are still worthwhile. I am going to assume for the time being that they are not, but they are still a very useful card to have in the deckbuilding toolbox.

R/w Goblins:

8 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Wooded Foothills
1 Tarfire
1 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Ringleader
1 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Mogg Fanatic
1 Goblin Pyromancer
1 Goblin King
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Chrome Mox

3 Kataki, War’s Wage
4 Ronom Unicorn
1 Kami of Ancient Law
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Blood Moon

I think that White will become a very important splash color for goblins during the upcoming PTQ/GP season. In fact, it may very well be worthwhile to splash two colors (probably White and Black, or White and Green) because of the ease in which you can do so and the increasingly attractive nature of Krosan Grip, Ronom Unicorn, and Cabal Therapy as sideboard options.

I finished PT: Valencia in 204th place, and picked up the bare minimum two Pro Points, putting me up to seventeen on the season. Needless to say this was a very disappointing finish for me, and I now need to collect three Pro Points before Worlds in New York.

I did most of the writing for this article while on a plane ride from Morocco to New York (part of my multi-layover journey back from Valencia). By the time this article goes up, I will probably be waiting for a layover in Sydney approaching the final leg of my 30+ hour trip from New York to Brisbane.

If I don’t pick up the three pro points I need to reach Level 3 at GP: Brisbane, the first thing I’ll do when I get home is book myself a flight to GP: Krakow… and start figuring out a way to explain to the teacher of my Monday morning class just how important this is to me, and that I’m going to have to miss yet another one of his classes in order to “play a game.”

Desperately seeking pro points,

Steve Sadin