From Right Field: Battle Royale, Round 1 — The View From Right Field

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Sunday saw the first round of StarCityGames.com’s Battle Royale. Chris took his Mono-Black deck and squared off against Richard Feldman and his budget Firemane Angel Control build. MTGO was buzzing, with the number of game spectators overloading the system… where you there? If not, here’s Chris’s take on what happened…

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget, or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Wildfire, Llanowar Wastes, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Tuesday, June 13th

Dear Diary,

Screw Friday the Thirteenth. Looks like my horror story starts on Tuesday the Thirteenth. I just got a gander at Feldman’s deck for the SGC Writers MTGO Battle Royale. My worst fear has been realized: Genju of the Friggin’ Fields. How do I deal with that? Even if I can kill it, I have no maindeck ‘yard hosing. I have to have Nezumi Graverobber online when I kill the animated Plains. How will that happen against a kid who has Pro Tour points (read his Regionals report)? Let’s see if I can figure out a scenario:

1) Graverobber in play with mana up;

2) Mr. Feldman activates the Genju even though he sees the G-Robber with mana up. I am presuming here that there is a lingerie model distracting him at this point;

3) I find a way to kill the Plains-Spirit. How, I don’t know;

4) I remove the Genju from the ‘yard.

I don’t even want to think about Genju of the Spires.

Ugh. I knew I should have gone with the mono-White Knell deck with the maindeck four-of Kami of Ancient Law and four-of Terashi’s Grasp. (I’ll probably do a piece on that deck later.)

I guess I could hope for The Battling Genju Scenario with my Fen-ju being so huge that it could eat his and still live. That’s not a plan, though. That’s blind faith. I guess I could hope to rip it from his hand with discard. Of course, now, he knows that I have discard. Why would he not cast a Genju when he could? He knows that it’s safer on board than in hand. Schick.

I should have gotten Caustic Rains for the sideboard. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. Frag. My head hurts. I will have to come back later today or tomorrow to ponder my strategery. I’m just too pissed to do any more thinking on this today.

Wednesday, June 14th

There is a great play that I can use to win game 1! I can use the Debtor’s Knell to steal his Firemane Angels. Sure, he’ll bring in the anti-Enchantment package in game 2 and 3 (and hopefully 4 and 5, if I can make it last that long). My hope is to rip his hand apart so that he’s playing off of the top before I cast the Knell. Turn 9? Yeah, right.

I also have to get rid of Searing Meditation before it hits since I can’t do anything about it once it does hit.

I’m also torn between calling Red and White with Persecute. Obviously, if I’ve just seen his hand, I know what to call. What if I haven’t, though? Most everything he has is both Red and White. Then there’s Faith’s Fetters and Blaze. I guess I have to call Red since Blaze can simply end the game. Fetters just makes it harder to win.

Heh. Harder to win. Like I stand a stripper’s chance in an athletic dorm of coming out of this a winner. Why do I do this stuff to myself?

(That’s a rhetorical question, but there is a real answer. I love this game! Also, I hear that Richard Feldman‘s a pretty good guy, and I’m looking forward to playing him want to crush a Pro Tour Playa since they ruin the spirit of the game by playing for money and not for fun like us purists, the casual, budget players.)

{Later on Wednesday the Fourteenth}

I are a jenius. Genju can only Enchant a specific type of land. Of the Fields, for example, can only Enchant a Plains. In a non-budget deck, Mr. Feldman would have had four Sacred Foundries, giving him eight Plains to target with the Genju. He only has four Plains in his deck, though. He is going to be very cautious when activating those Genjus. Losing a single Plains means that he has lost twenty-five per cent of his targets. Moreover, Coercion will allow me to grab a Plains.

Why again is it that I like Coercion? I can grab a land. Heh.

Someone on the forum posted that Mr. Feldman showing me land, Firemane Angel, Firemane Angel on Blackmail would be “funny.” If that land is a Plains in game 1, I take it. If it’s a Plains or Mountain in game 2, I take it.

I know. I know. I shouldn’t be overconfident for game 1, but I know now that it’s not completely hopeless.

I also think I just had a “Eureka!” moment. I think I now know one reason that Pro Tour Playas are so much better than me. It took me two days to figure out that Coercion for a Plains (or Mountain after sideboarding) might be the best idea. A Pro would have seen that play during the match while sitting across from the deck for the very first time. You see, like a lot of people (Like how I did that? Make it so I don’t look like I think I’m special?), I am smart, but I’m not quick. I’m the kind of guy who comes up with the perfect comeback two days late. I have to prepare myself ahead of time. On the fly, I’m no good. In Magic terms, I’m a turn late and a mana shy.

I like that phrase. Hopefully, it’ll catch on, and I’ll be known as the guy who came up with it. Hey, I’m not having any kids. I gotta leave some sort of legacy when I die.

Thursday, June 15th

I worked on a deck unrelated to the Battle Royale today. Nothing new on this front then. I have, however, noticed that I’m getting hacked on in the forums. My deck isn’t original enough. Feldman’s deck is more interesting. I have too many dead cards.

And, yes, I did notice that Feldman’s deck includes the card for which I, Chris Romeo, did the official preview, Firemane Angel. Folks, I didn’t get four free copies or anything. I just got a chance to write that piece.

As for the whipping I’m taking, yes, Feldman’s deck is more interesting on the surface. It’s got like six or seven colors. That’s always going to look way more interesting than a mono-colored deck. As for my deck not being original, well, neither is Feldman’s. (Yes, I know people are going to misinterpret that. Here’s where I explain what I mean.) There have been Searing MeditationFiremane Angels decks floating around the MTGO Casual Room since Ravnica was released. And, of course, Mono-Black Control isn’t terribly groundbreaking in and of itself.

You know what? That’s not what we were asked to do. We were asked to make decks whose uncommons and rares could be purchased for twenty-five bucks or less and which would be competitive against another writer’s deck. I was going against Richard Freakin’ Feldman. Did you think I was going to trot out another Nephilim deck? Dudes and dudettes, I at least wanted to be competitive.

Trust me. When Craig asks for the most original, wacky, cheap decks to square off, I’ll scare your panties right up your crack. When I’m supposed to play Richard Feldman, a kid who has Pro Tour points (you still haven’t read his Regionals report?! Shame on you!), in public where hundreds — nay, thousands – of people could be watching, I want something that I think stands a chance of winning. I thought a discard/control deck might work. Given what his deck is running, though, it probably won’t work, but the strategy and theory were both valid.

Also, I wanted to pick up some Debtor’s Knells for my collection, and this gave me a valid excuse reason.

Oh, and one last thing. There seems to be a strong current of “I read Romeo’s stuff because he’s entertaining, not because I like his decks.” Hey, as long as you’re reading, I don’t care why. Doesn’t anyone like my decks, though? :frowny face:

Friday, June 16th

This is the last chance that I’ll really get to practice with Killing Richard Feldman. With Luanne tucked away tight in bed, I logged onto MTGO and went searching specifically for Red-White decks with Genju. I was not disappointed. Here’s what I learned. Winning game 1 is indeed going to be one tough battle. Discard is the best way to deal with all of the Enchantments. Still, he can just draw it off of the top of the deck, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Man, do I miss Necrogen Spellbomb and Auriok Salvagers. Also, I figured out that the Genju are not really the problem Enchantments. The Searing Meditations are. Sure, the Genju can gain him a lot of life, but that just delays the game. The Meditations can end the game in conjunction with twelve other cards in the deck. I should have splashed Green with Golgari Rot Farm for sideboard Naturalizes and/or Indrik Stomphowlers. I are a eejit.

Saturday, June 17th

No online Magic today. My brother is finally out of the Navy. He had been home for a few days at the end of May but was in Puerto Rico for the last two weeks with his wife (who is still in the Navy). Now, he’s back in Knoxville for good. We had a housewarming party. Tomorrow’s Father’s Day and The Battle Royale!

Sunday, June 18th: D-Day

I’m very stoked. Ever since Craig brought up this idea, I’ve been looking forward to this match. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur, no feeling that I’m definitely going to win, but I’m not approaching this like I don’t care if I win or lose, either. I want to win. I think anyone who ever loads up an electronic deck or shuffles up real cards wants to win. I’m no different.

My very next thought after logging in was “I wonder how many people will be watching this. I hope I don’t make a fool of myself.” That was followed quickly by “I hope there’s not so much chatter scrolling on the chat area that I get distracted from actually playing the game.” Nah, our peeps wouldn’t do that. Would they? Nah.

Geez, my palms are actually sweating. I know that most of the people watching on here I will probably never meet in person. Still, I want to do well. Besides, there are actually a couple of spectators whom I know in real life. They will taunt me mercilessly if I miss an easy play. Oh, hell, they’ll find a reason to taunt me mercilessly no matter what. I just don’t want to give them any ammunition.

I just realized something very interesting. Craig asked us to build budget decks, and, between the two of us, Feldman and I are using sixty per cent of the Genjus that were printed. Are the Genju underrated? Answer that for yourself. I got a best-of-five match to play.

Game 1: I had ripped Searing Meditation from his hand. I got Debtor’s Knell on board. I was up on life. I had grabbed a Firemane Angel from the ‘yard. He had one to reanimate himself, but I was able to reanimate Nekrataal and kill his. The game looked to be in hand, although, you never know. That’s when the game crashed because we had too many spectators.

Game 1 Again: No way was this game going to go as well as the other game 1. He dropped a third-turn Searing Meditation, but I followed by stealing one with Coercion. He followed that with a fourth-turn Meditation. Ugh. And I mean that in the worst possible way. Each trigger of lifegain – from the Angel, Helix, anything – meant two activations of damage instead of one. Spit. That was when I started missing land drops. Coercion grabbed me a Blaze and, without a land on turn 5 either, Blackmail grabbed a Mountain.

Finally, on turn 6, I got land number four and took Faith’s Fetters. That left him with Firemane Angel. Hey, no need to give him free lifegain/two points of damage per turn. The problem was that I missed getting my fifth land after he cast Firemane Angel. I was holding Swallowing Plague and Consume Spirit.

No fifth land on turn 8, either. However, I did get another Coercion grabbing another land. Whoop-freakin’-pee. I was at nine. During his upkeep, his two Searing Meditations triggered and put me at five. That was all he needed for his Angel and a Vitu-Ghazi token to kill me. (0-1)

Game 2: He seemed to be playing his hand out rather than holding it. I didn’t think Nightmare void would be very good. So, they came out for a Blackmail and a third Nekrataal. In addition, the Cruel Edicts became less helpful with the Vitu-Ghazi showing up. I needed Nezumi Graverobber. That became and easy switch. My first play was Blackmail, and I took a Mountain.

Mountain?! What the Feldman? Because his deck has only four targets for Genju of the Spires. With that Mountain in the ‘yard, it only had three.

Then I missed key land drops on turns 6, 7, and 8. I was able to drop the Angel with a Swallowing Plague. Granted, with two in his graveyard, he could get four damage per turn from the Searing Meditation, but it was better than the eight he’d get if I didn’t kill the Angel. Finally, on turn 9, I got my sixth land. That allowed me to drop Nezumi Graverobber and take both Angels out of his ‘yard. *whew* The safety was short-lived when he dropped a Genju of the Fields. Fortunately, I got another land. That let me play a Gargantua and leave up my Quicksand. Yes! I could kill and attacking Genju.

Until he played a second Meditation and cast Faith’s Fetters on the Gargantua.

Did I mention that he’d been working his Sensei’s Divining Top like an organ grinder working his monkey? (Man, that is going to look so wrong on the printed page.) (Oh, what the hell.)

Then, came another Gargantua, and it picked me up a land and a Genju. This is where I really messed up. He swung with his Genju. I waited until damage was on the stack to cast Hideous Laughter. Duh. The Genju still triggers. You see, I was trying to kill it. Here’s what I should have done, since I had enough mana to do it:

First, I should have activated the Genju and made it a 3/3. Then I should have blocked with both the Gargantua and the Genju. That’s when I should have cast Hideous Laughter. That would have made the Genju a 0/3, the Gargantua a 2/2, and the Swamp-Spirit a 1/1. The Plains would have died without triggering the Meditations, and Richard would have been down to two Plains, one on board and one in his deck. Instead, I gave him the game. He probably had it anyway, but you never know. (0-2)

Game 3: Yes! I get to mulligan! On the play! Sweet! Add to that the fact that I missed my third-turn land drop, and things were looking bad very quickly. On turn 4, I did get a land that allowed me to use Coercion to rip a Searing Meditation from his hand, but it would turn out that I just wouldn’t get anything going. On our fifth set of turns, I still only had three lands while he had an active Genju of the Spires. I followed that with no more lands, either. So, I cast Nezumi Graverobber as a speedbump while Enchanting the third Swamp with a Genju. It didn’t matter. He used Lightning Helix to kill the Rat and put me at eight with the Spires. Still, no more land. Another Blackmail took a Lightning Helix. The problem was that he had a second one. With me at eight life and three land, that was game. (0-3)

There you have it. Three quick games; three quick losses. So, what did I learn?

What I Learned at the Battle Royale, Round 1

First off, Feldman’s good. He also was enjoyable to play against. And here, I thought that all people with Pro Tour points were *ssholes. That’s The Ferrett fault. (I kid. I kid because I love.)

Second, I should have splashed Green with Golgari Rot Farm to get Enchantment destruction from the sideboard. Mono-Black is good, maybe even great. It just can’t deal with Artifacts and Enchantments once they’ve hit the board. And those sorts of permanents will hit the board.

Third, don’t get mana hosed. Who woulda thunk that twenty-four lands wasn’t enough?

The great thing is that this isn’t over. I’m looking forward to working my way back up the losers non-winners bracket. See you next week!

Chris Romeo