Food For Thought: Witchetty GWUB – In the Shadow of Time

With the change of time comes a re-evaluation of decks. I don’t play my Glare deck any more, having sold my Yoseis. My Zo-Zus have found a better home, my Meloku and my Shining Shoals having raked me in quite a tidy sum compared to what I paid for them, and I am as we speak idly picking my way through the trash bins of Coldsnap, seeing what might one day be worth something, and what, in the meantime, will be fun to play.

The world holds its breath, salivating quietly. We’ve seen some of what Time Spiral has to offer. Official channels have granted us morsels, handed down from on high, and we fell on them like hungered dogs. It is a silent time, a morose silence borne out of fear. What once was, now soon threatens not to be. We will dance and play and sing for that which we will gain, and tell ourselves that it didn’t matter anyway, that we don’t miss the cards that are gone.

It is a time for reflection. Time Spiral is coming; and Champions of Kamigawa is leaving. Small-minded people will say “And Good Riddance,” spitting on the name of a perfectly worthy set that granted us a large number of fun, playable cards, with interesting mechanics and a lot of flavor. However, I can see what we’re going to lose. It’s a list that I have come to be seeing as staples for some time now.

I will spare you this list. Other writers have written introspective pieces about what they miss, what they feel deserved attention, what they wish had been done. I merely know that once, I wept for Carrion Feeder. After that, I wept for Eternal Witness. When Sakura-Tribe Elder is mentioned, the tears begin to bunch up, but I will be strong. I expect this time next year, someone uttering the word “Plaxmanta” will earn a stifled sob from me as well.

With the change of time comes a re-evaluation of decks. I don’t play my Glare deck any more, having sold my Yoseis. My Zo-Zus have found a better home, my Meloku and my Shining Shoals having raked me in quite a tidy sum compared to what I paid for them, and I am as we speak idly picking my way through the trash bins of Coldsnap, seeing what might one day be worth something, and what, in the meantime, will be fun to play.

It is with that eye to the future I return to a deck that seems to actually have earned a measure of renown. Not much of one – I’ll not fool myself – but for some reason, when my name is mentioned, people mention Nephilim.

Now, I think every casual writer has, early in their career, a paroxysm during which he proclaims his Decent Casual deck to be, in fact, the bee’s knees, the mutt’s nuts, and the cat’s spats. In my case, I did it with Witchetty GWUB.

So yeah, about that…

When last we left our intrepid hero, Dissension was on the horizon and Witchetty Gwub looked like this:

Witchetty GWUB, Circa April 11th

4 Vinelasher Kudzu
4 Dark Confidant
3 Witch-Maw Nephilim
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Farseek
4 Repeal
4 Remand
4 Telling Time
4 Voidslime*
1 Sleight of Hand
4 UG Dual*
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Island
5 Forest
1 UW Dual*
1 Watery Grave
1 Plains
1 Swamp

With the *’s marking “stuff that’s not out yet.” As Dissension hit, consigning myself to never really getting my hands on playsets of the good cards in it, I focused more on other projects – such as the Battle Royale, which I lost to The English Nationals Champion.

So, I tested that version, a bit, and was finding myself… dissatisfied. For a short time there, the deck’s manabase tightened up, and Dissension brought the deck a few extra tools, but generally I actually abandoned the cantrip-heavy version of the deck, having finally had a taste of real power in the deck.

Dark Confidant is insane, ladies and gentleman. Yes, I can hear the jeering in the back as the last horse finally crosses the finish line, but when I bought my playset for eight tickets I honestly wasn’t sure what was going on. Was I missing something? But in a deck with an average casting cost well below two, Bob rarely works out as any worse than a Phyrexian Arena, and he beats down for two quite adequately as well.

As Dark Confidant began to play, so did the Top. I was cutting cantrips, losing Telling Time and Shadow of Doubt, in the playtesting I did, until I was running a scandalously low count of deck manipulation that numbered Bob, Top, and the eight shuffle effects in their number.

When you don’t need the engine you built your deck to abuse, you start to question yourself. I then moved on to add threats. I tinkered for a while with a version that would become the deck I will show you shortly, but it wasn’t an exciting change overall. No, the real evolution came from Coldsnap, and finally getting to play with the Big Boys’ Toys.

That is, paying 1G to go and get a Dual Land.

Is nobody else as excited about Into the North as I am? Into the North lets me play three colors (provided the base is Green) and smooth my mana with far less chicanery and for one less mana than the soon-to-be-absent Kodama’s Reach. If the Battle Royale’s presence has taught me only one thing, it’s to appreciate a robust manabase.

The exercise taught me to minimise my reliances and to smooth my manabase. Others could get greedy, running their Rise/Falls alongside their Clutch of the Undercities and Wrecking Balls, but I couldn’t lean on that. The presence of split cards in the environment was also a huge boon to me – it let me build for a card I needed and occasionally get a card I wanted.

After that, when I faced the inevitable mortality of Kamigawa block, I decided the time had come to update

The original construction was one that focused on having an effectively smaller deck, with the use of repeated cantrips to accelerate through the deck. While it had a great amount of velocity, it could be spoked by a number of reasonably common cards. It was also threat-light; opponents who had only a few counters or removal spells, provided they could find them and cast them in a timely fashion, could ruin you. Never mind the potential damage that a Cranial Extraction could do…

The first step was adding threats. Dark Confidant was a no-brainer, then came Vinelasher Kudzu, who fit the theme. With eight mana accelerators that put lands into play, the Kudzu tends to rapidly run up to 3/3 or 4/4 size, even with as low a land count as the deck has. And Plaxmanta took center stage as Mortifies dropped in price and people started running more removal-heavy decks. Plaxmanta’s not only a decent creature in his own right – an instant-speed Budoka Pupil is a decent way of screwing up an opponent’s combat math anyway – but he’s yet another good reason to keep Repeal in the deck.

(Here’s a trick I kept missing when it happened initially. You have a wad of mana (5), a reasonable threat (say, Confidant), a Repeal in hand, and a Plaxmanta on the table, who has already given his all saving that threat a turn or two ago. Your opponent, in his nefarious way, casts a removal spell targeting your Actual Threat. Rather than casting Repeal targeting your threat (which is the pattern I was used to), you cast it targeting the Plaxmanta, then just re-cast the Plaxmanta. Your total power for the next turn remains the same, you’ve countered the removal spell, and you invested only mana, not cards.)

Prior to this version, I was running Sakura-Tribe Elder (in place of Rampant Growth) and Sensei’s Divining Top (in place of Quicken). For any FNMs where you want to play this, between now and then, use those cards – the Top is amazing in a deck with that many shufflers and Dark Confidants, and the Elder helps against aggressive decks.

Quicken is just a cheap cantrip. I’ve yet to use it to bust out an Into the North, Sleight of Hand, or Rampant Growth, but that’s a timing issue. I imagine with the Vinelasher Kudzu in the deck, it mightn’t be an awful combat trick.

(Another trick, from the mouth of Evan Erwin; when an opponent Remands your spell, Remand your own spell, rather than their Remand. Craziness!)

The overhaul of the deck has smoothed out the manabase somewhat. The problem of getting early Green is still there; and of course, the manabase would be “better” if it had access to Farseeks and Dual Lands. The Karoo are just there to pump your artificial land count; the Orzhov Basilica is one of the better ones, since the only Black spells you want to play want either a colorless mana, or a White mana to go with them, but are still reasonably marginal in the deck at large.

I don’t know how “good” this deck is now. I smash the hell out of the casual room, losing say, one game in six, but that’s a terrible sample size. I can’t really bring myself to enter PEs with the deck, and I have no real interest in extensive tournament testing.

Ultimately, I put this forward as at best a fun FNM deck. Do not take this to a PTQ; dear god, don’t bother suggesting it to a friend who’s made the PT (because honest to god, if you would take this to a PT, you are never going to qualify for one). Play it in the casual room, but don’t take it into multiplayer – you rip through your deck too fast for any kind of format with 2-3 players pointing removal at it.

You might get away with it as a multiplayer Two-Headed Giant deck. You might. If the other player is a real heavy control deck that packs lots of pinpoint removal, at least, though it’d be best to pair that with a “real” combo deck.

Oh, and for Vrax:

Witchetty GWUB.
Witchetty GWUB.
Witchetty GWUB.

Hugs and Kisses
Talen Lee
Talen at dodo dot com dot au

* The original deck was 2K6 too. I know.

Bonus Material: What’s Wrong With Me?
I guess this is all my fault, really.

I have tried now about six times to write something meaningful about Coldsnap. Five times, I’ve deleted the first paragraph, because all I can come up with as a starting point is, man, is this set neat/rocking/awesome/fun/co-

No. Not that word.

Never that word.

And yet, there are people complaining about the set. Now, amongst those people, there are a fair few who are calling this set a piece of crap, bemoaning its Standard legality, and fretting that it’s too much for their wallets to bear. These people are probably right. Lords knows I’m not a great economist, and I’m even worse when it comes to overcoming my own mental biases. Empathy gap? I gotcher empathy gap right here.

(Gotcher, apparently, is a word in my dictionary. I am briefly confronted with the mental image of a small, flightless, furred bird akin to a Kiwi, extant only on some god-forsaken corner of the world with no people and several species of moss. It is an odd little mental image, one that even has its own sound effects – a creature so forsaken by nature that its mating cry sounds remarkably like a dinner bell.)

So am I just busted somehow? Am I totally in the wrong place to look at Simian Brawler and immediately snigger at the idea of combining it with Life from the Loam? Is it just … a fundamental flaw in me that I can look at this new, supposedly terrible set, and have fun playing it?

I dunno. I’m just excited about Coldsnap and it seems a lot of other people aren’t. So I guess in a way, I’m the kind of player they’re making Coldsnap for, and if it weren’t for me and people like me, it’d never have been made.

So… uh… sorry!