First of all, let me just say,”Please look up Future Sight in the ‘Ask the Virtual Judge’ database before sending me questions.” I’m pretty sure they’re all answered by now: Future Sight does not put the card in your hand. You cannot discard it to Psychatog. It cannot be Duressed away.
Now back to your regularly-scheduled report on mediocrity.
It seems as though I’ve started the disturbing trend of winning on Friday before a major tournament and then going out and failing to distinguish myself the next day. I think for the next PTQ, I’m headed to the movies the night before. My plan was to play a rogue Clerics deck on Friday and then play a Team Zanzibar-tuned Mobilization deck on Saturday; the deck’s performance on Friday night changed my mind. I understood that the top players didn’t bring their best decks, but I played against three Opposition decks and won twice, in what should be a tough matchup. After learning what I could on Friday and considering what I’d see, I decided to stick with the deck (with some slight modifications), especially since it’s much more my style than control. Here’s the list:
3 Oversold Cemetery
2 Dirge Of Dread
4 Rotlung Reanimator
4 Nantuko Shade
4 Benevolent Bodyguard
3 Cabal Archon
2 Doomed Necromancer
2 Crypt Creeper
2 Silent Specter
1 Exalted Angel
4 Tainted Field
2 Barren Moor
3 Engineered Plague
2 Circle Of Protection: Green
2 Circle Of Protection: Black
2 False Cure
1 Shambling Swarm
Round 1: Joe Bryant
Joe is a younger player who I don’t see much in competitive circles. In Game 1, he sees no green mana (he seems to have plenty of blue and white, though), and my Specters rule the day. In Game 2, he mulligans to six, then keeps a one-land hand. The Headhunter and Specter do double duty.
RULES INSERT: Turning a morph card face up doesn’t use the stack, but it breaks the”pass in succession” chain. If your opponent says”I’d like to leave my second main phase” and you follow with turning a creature face up, he gets priority back in that same Phase (so he can play Sorceries, et al).
Matches 1-0. Games 2-0
Round 2: Rob Weimer
Great. I get paired down with teammate Rob, who drew in the first round. He’s playing our very good CounterMobilization build with Angels.
In Game 1, I take a Force Spike out with a first-turn Duress, play a Shade, and it goes all the way despite his Angel (see the Rules Insert, below). In Game 2, he stalls at four land… But I draw land six turns in a row. Without the early pressure, I can’t win when the Angel comes out. In Game 3, he gets an Angel active on turn 4 and has every counter in the deck waiting as a backup. I come within one turn of winning, but he counters the False Cure.
RULES INSERT: Abilities that trigger off combat damage, like the Exalted Angel’s, go on the stack after the damage is dealt. Before the trigger goes on the stack, we check State-Based Effects (rule 420). If you’re at zero, you lose before you gain the life. This happened in Game 1. Rob was at six, and had an Angel. I had a face-up Specter and a Shade. I attacked, and he blocked the Specter, thinking he’d stay alive. I pumped the Shade and proved him wrong.
Matches 1-1. Games 3-2.
Round 3: Jason Collins
Jason’s playing Kai’s Wake deck, card-for-card. I’m one mana/one turn from winning with the Archon when Jason goes into some horrid loop, killing everything and creating an army of elephants. In Games 2 and 3, early disruption do him in. In Game 3, he makes the mistake of playing Wrath of God when I have out a Rotlung and two Bodyguards. I swing for two instead of four, sealing his fate.
RULES INSERT: Rotlung Reanimator triggers on itself and any other Clerics that leave play at the same time. Each time an event removes from play or changes who controls one or more permanents, all the permanents in play just before the event (with continuous effects that existed at that time) are checked for trigger events that match what just left play or changed control (rule 410.10d).
Matches: 2-1. Games 5-3.
Round 4: Logan McDougall
Logan, one of our juniors, is playing a very tight, very nice Wizards deck, except that it doesn’t have Opposition in it – which might make it a real contender. He said he just couldn’t find any. (May I suggest StarCity’s fantabulous Online store? – The Ferrett) He’s playing a few sub-optimal cards, but I think the deck will eventually be worth playing.
In Game 1, he gets out the good wizards and a Future Sight. Right before I take control of the game, he bounces all my guys, and I have no chance. In Game 2, he taps out on turn 2 to play Kai (face down; what the hell?). Engineered Plague ruins his day, and I proceed to drop an Angel. In Game 3, he doesn’t have a counter for the second-turn Shade, and it goes all the way.
RULES INSERT: With Engineered Plague, you name the creature type on resolution, not announcement. With Persecute, you name the color on resolution. Be patient when you play these cards; if you name things too fast you hand your opponent free information, which lets him decide whether he wants to counter.
Matches: 3-1. Games 7-4.
Round 5: Marvin Anunciacion
Marvin is one of the Opposition players I beat the night before (a Quiet Speculation variant), but I’m still worried. He doesn’t bother tapping down lands. He taps down dudes with his Birds/Elves, and then swings with Wurm tokens. In Game 1, I’m once again 1 turn away from winning with Archon drains when he flies over for many beatings.
In Game 2, the situation is nearly the same, but I pull out mad Jedi Mind Tricks. I have enough damage on the board to win if I can get all my guys through. I have six mana on the board and an Engineered Plague and Dirge of Dread in my hand. I’m sure Marvin has a Counterspell or Circular Logic. He has blockers, but no one-toughness dudes. Cycling the Dirge isn’t enough, because I don’t have a Shade. I do the only thing that I can: I announce the Plague. Fearing some major expert-level Judge trickery, Marvin counters it with the last of his mana. I play the Dirge and swing for the win.
Game 3 is a repeat of Game 1, only sped up a bit. Marvin’s fatties and my good stuff come out earlier, and we trade blows like heavyweights. I do the math and can win… Until he drops the Mongrel and my unblockables are no longer unblockable.
RULES INSERT: Whenever one spell or ability resolves from the stack, the active player gets priority; use this to your advantage. The correct way to play Opposition to tap down your opponent’s things is to activate/resolve one at a time. That way, he must make decisions, like whether or not to get mana from a land or use a creature’s activated abilities, not knowing what you’re going to tap next. If you activate once and he Disenchants, you can still respond by activating the Opposition numerous times.
Matches 3-2. Games 8-6.
Getting into the Top 8 is now a distant dream, with perhaps one 4-2 making it in, and my tiebreakers not the best. Fortunately, I get paired up (better for tie-breakers) with…
Round 6: Nate Wilke, defending State Champion
Nate is at 3-1-1. I think for a minute about just conceding, but then realize that getting paired up gives me a bit more hope, albeit still slim. I know this is going to be a tough match-up. Nate’s a very good player and playing a Deep Dog variant. We split one-turn-from-dying games (with his Cities of Brass doing a good deal of damage), and move to the third. Nate mulligans, and I looked at my hand with satisfaction; that smile wilts into a frown, as I Duress him turn 1 to see Dog, two Arrogant Wurms, Merfolk Looter, and two lands. He draws a third land and a string of good cards, while I stop at four land and can’t quite get going.
In a painful repeat of the previous round, I calculate it out and can win… Until he drops a second Mongrel. It’s not quite the end of the world, though, because I have a Headhunter and a Cycling land, with an Archon already in play. If I can play the Headhunter, cycle the land and draw a Bodyguard, I still have enough mana to attack and win after sacrificing the Bodyguard, Headhunter and Archon (sure, it’s a long shot, but at least it’s a shot).
Nate wrecks the dream by playing another Circular Logic at the right time.
RULES INSERT: Painlands (like Adarkar Wastes) and City of Brass are different. The Wastes pain is a mana-triggered ability, which means it doesn’t use the stack and resolves right after you get the mana (rule 411.3). If you were at one life and tapped the Wastes for mana, you wouldn’t have time to gain life, even if you were paying for Renewed Faith. The City of Brass, on the other hand, has a triggered ability based on being tapped, not on getting mana. That means the trigger goes on the stack. You could tap the City for mana, put its ability on the stack, then use the mana to gain life (or win the game in some fashion, like with direct damage) before the one damage trigger resolves.
Matches 3-3. Games 9-8.
Another middle of the pack finish. Interestingly, all three of my losses end up making the Top 8, and Nate, who always seemed to have the right answer at the right time, swept through to repeat as State Champion. Congrats on a job well done. Second place went to the always-interesting Ambler Stephenson with a fun Astral Slide variant.
Looking back, I was always on the verge of winning the games I lost. That means that I either made some mistakes or the deck wasn’t quite fast enough. Careful review of the games reveals the former not to be the case, so I must fault my design (any suggestions are appreciated). Grinning Demons almost always got sided out and won’t be in the updated version. The only time Compost gave me trouble was in Round 5, and I’m sure it led to Marvin winning Game 3. Other than that, it didn’t seem to hurt.
The Necromancers were a bit janky; I might consider replacing them with Balthor, the Defiled (except he’s not a Cleric). The Shades were alternately good and bad. Against control decks, they were superstars; put out one, and swing with it until they deal with or die. Against faster decks, I was rarely in the position to have mana to do stuff and provide Shade pumpage.
Angels and Shades were good. Even the tempo disadvantage of play face down on turn 3, morph turn 4 or 5 didn’t hurt. I’m considering adding more white to the deck and swapping Wrath for Mutilate. Crypt Creepers were so-so; perhaps not playing four was to blame. We’ll see how it goes.
Oversold Cemetery suffered some of the same fate as the Shades: Control decks hated them; strong beatdown rendered them mostly useless.
From the sideboard, the Circles Green were too much of a mana sink against aggressive decks; the blacks never got played. Persecute was superb, and I liked Guiltfeeder enough to consider maindecking him. Shambling Swarm wasn’t the answer I had hoped for against the Opposition deck, although it was nice to wipe out two Call tokens with one Swarm. It would certainly be better if I had a way to just sacrifice it (but I’m not going back to making this a Braids deck). Nantuko Husk seems If I move away from such a heavy black commitment, it’s not likely right. Husk could be interesting, but a little slow.
If you want to make any other comments, feel free to do so. I’m gonna stay rogue for now. The deck can only get better.
And that’s my Final Judgement.