From Right Field: Eradicate This!

Due to some timing issues, Chris couldn’t finish the Rat’s Nest evolution article this week, but in its place you get a budget deck that includes some swell things to do with three colors, Lifespark Spellbomb, and Eradicate.

{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 Wrath of God, City of Brass, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are excellent. 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.}

Before I begin the guts of the piece this week, I need to address something from three weeks ago. In that piece, as a kind of literary (used loosely) device, I was telling the story of a young man named Costin. People wanted to know how it ended. I tried to tell them that this was really just the beginning of a story that I had been toying with. It seems that people wanted more anyway. So, I’ll try to work pieces of that story into this and other articles in the future. In a couple of years, it should be done.

Uh-huh. That’s right. You’ll have to come back another hundred times or so. Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

Meanwhile, last week, I started a piece on modifying the Rat’s Nest pre-constructed deck from Betrayers of Kamigawa. The problem with thinking that I could conclude that in two consecutive weeks is that the timing is off. The column was published on Friday. I wanted to use feedback through the forum to help with the next changes to the deck. Unfortunately, I have to get the next piece to Ted a few days before it’s published so that he can correct my sleeping and you know grammer and puncktuashun and stuff like those kinds of things including run-on sentences and other bad stuff that editors like Our Esteemed Editor hates. That meant that I wouldn’t have time to do a piece finishing the Rat’s Nest deck this week. (What? You think that I whip these things out in a few minutes?) (Shaddup! That was a rhetorical question.) The conclusion to the Rat’s Nest experiment will have to wait until next week so that I have time to gather suggestions and try them out.

This week, I’m looking at another deck that you might want to think about for Regionals if you’re Rogue Like Me. It’s a Green-Black-red deck that a reader sent to me. Normally, I don’t play decks that people send to me. Typically, they’re unfocused, trying to do too many things at once, or just way too raw. Often, they cost much too much. Sometimes, it’s all three. Michael Graves, though, had been testing this deck, and I had been giving him some feedback (though not very much). He’d been talking about it on the fora. Of course, I made a couple of changes. I only did that, though, because I was impressed by the deck after I proxied it up and tested it.

Mortgage Warning!

Before I get anywhere near the decklist, I do want to warn you that there are ten expensive rares and six expensive uncommons. Of those, however, seven of the rares are what I consider staples, cards that anyone – even the rogue or casual player – who plans on playing in tourneys should be hell-bent on owning: Birds of Paradise (four in this deck); and City of Brass (three). Heck, those two are even mentioned in the intro at the top of my pieces. The other three rares are a single Boseiju and two Kokushos. Sorry about that. Michael’s decklist actually called for three Kokushos (I only own two) and Rude Awakenings. I took out the R.A.’s for extra Fireballs and another Sylvan Scrying. My apologies for the cost.

Having apologized, I now kinda take it back. As I keep saying, there are staples that you should be trying to get. Birds of Paradise. Wrath of God. City of Brass. I know that BoP’s won’t be in Ninth Edition, but they’re supposed to be in one of the sets in the Ravnica block. Thus, they will continue to be a force in Standard for a long time to come. Get. Four. Of. Them.

The deck that Michael sent was one that he built based on a simple idea: killing all of your opponent’s lands is A Good Thing™. I call this:

Spell-radicate (and that name stinks; we’ll be looking for a better one, won’t we?)

22 Lands

9 Forest

4 Swamp

5 Mountain

3 City of Brass

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

14 Creatures

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura Tribe Elder

4 Eternal Witness

2 Kokusho, the Evening Star

24 Spells

4 Lifespark Spellbomb

2 Sensei’s Divining Top

2 Sylvan Scrying

4 Stone Rain

3 Molten Rain

3 Kodama’s Reach

4 Eradicate

2 Fireball

Michael’s deck was a bit different and more expensive. It had a third Kokusho and some Rude Awakenings. My quick testing on the Friday night before the tourney told me I needed a second Sylvan Scrying and more lands (his version had only twenty). The deck above is the modified version that I played last Saturday.

Costin’s toe was healing as well as could be expected given the walking he’d done. He was hoping to get home and tell a heroic story of fending off a wild boar or a minor dragon barehanded, losing only a toe. Sadly, the injury was much more mundane. He had broken the toe about halfway into the trip, too far to go back home and still a long walk from their destination. By the time he and Maler had gotten to the Oracle, the pain was tremendous. A priestess had told him that it would have to be amputated, or Costin would risk gangrene. Amputation it was.

The priestess had sewn up the nub and given him several changes of dressing. Once he got back to his village, he was supposed to rest his foot for several days. “No walking without a crutch. If not, you’ll open your stitches up and invite infection.” Costin had not taken a crutch with him to Bindu and had, truth be told, abandoned it early into his return trip. It slowed him too much. “Besides,” he kept thinking, “if I don’t get to Bindu before the Hordes do, it won’t matter.” Those thoughts didn’t make the pain in his foot throb any less.

Michael had been working on a five-color deck that used Genjus and Eradicate to wipe out opponents’ lands. (Remember, the Genju doesn’t have to go on your land. It’s just that it usually does. Even on an opponent’s land, you’re the one who controls the ability of the Genju. Thus, you can activate the Genju and Eradicate the land.) Then, he read about the less-mana-intensive and less risky strategy of using Lifespark Spellbomb to animate lands. He tested his deck and sent it on to me.

I figured, what the heck. I proxied it up. My very first game, I was able to wipe out all of my opponent’s Swamps on turn 3. Yes, really. On turn 1, I played a Forest and a Birds of Paradise. On my second turn, City of Brass, another Birds, and a Lifespark Spellbomb. On the third turn, I played a Swamp, activated the Spellbomb, targeting my opponent’s Swamp, and then played Eradicate. He was left with a Swamp, a Forest, and a Birds of Paradise in play, no more Swamps in his deck, and a very sad face. “Awwwwwwwwww. . . .”

I know that that sort of thing isn’t going to happen very often. I took it as a good omen that it did. I was supposed to play this deck in the following weekend’s tournament. Unfortunately, “life” happened, and I missed that weekend’s tournament. Instead, I played it the next weekend. Which was last weekend.

Less than an hour into his hike, Costin saw an eagle soaring overhead. “So, the Hordes haven’t gotten all of the animals. I wonder if they just took the farm animals and pets. Or maybe that’s one of their scouts . . . .” His thoughts trailed off. The Hordes about whom the Oracle had warned Costin and Maler were not, as the name suggested, a marauding band of ogres or outlaws. They were spirits. Supposedly. Legend had it that every few decades, the Hordes would enter the humans’ world and wipe the place clean of “meat.” (The Hordes considered humans to be meat, too. This, of course, begged the question of where the next generation of people came from. For Costin, finding the answer to such a question was very far from his mind at that moment.) The Valley of Light was their holy place, theirs and theirs alone. Humans and their animals were abominations and made the Valley unclean. In this more enlightened age, the people of Langhorne had figured that the Hordes were really famine and disease. They had planned for the former and created more sanitary conditions to ward off the latter.

Costin had been taught in Mythology class at school that the Hordes stories were simply a way for people in days long gone to explain those natural phenomena for which they had yet to discover more mundane causes. (Mythology, he figured, was also a way to keep people in line. “If you children don’t be quiet, Haldoran will eat you in your sleep.”) Like most children of his generation, he had been convinced that the stories were nothing more than that: myths. It wasn’t long ago – maybe his great grandparents’ or great-great grandparents’ generations – that people were still convinced that the stars in the night sky were merely pinpricks in a celestial bowl that the sun god Libo held over the earth at night to give humans respite from the light and heat and to make it easier for them to sleep. It made sense in those days. Then, some scientists using telescopes and sophisticated mathematics proves that the stars were far away suns that could only be seen at night when the earth’s own sun was on the other side of the planet. Still, there were older people who didn’t believe the scientists. “They’ve been sent by Haldoran to confuse us and sow the seeds of doubt.”

He wasn’t so sure about any of it now. The Donna Priestess had divined that the Oracle’s ramblings meant that the Hordes were due in the Valley of Light momentarily. Costing had wondered at the time, “why couldn’t you see this coming a few months ago, when we would have had time to prepare?” Of course, he didn’t say anything because he hadn’t truly been worried that the Hordes would come and carry off every person and animal in the Valley.

We didn’t have enough people this weekend to get a sanctioned tournament going, which was just fine with me considering that I ended up 1-2. It was a very frustrating 1-2, too. For example, in the first match, I played a young man we call Harmon since it’s his name. He was playing Mono-Blue Control with Vedalken Shackles (a.k.a. MUC). The last time I played him, I had to mulligan down to three cards in game three. Not surprisingly, I lost that match. Continuing the trend, I mulliganned to three in game one of this match. Not good. Still, thanks to Boil, it came down to a third game, a game I would have won thanks to Fireball if I had gotten Boseiju or a way to get Boseiju at any point in the last twenty or so turns. All I kept turning up was lands. I couldn’t even get Sakura-Tribe Elder or Kodama’s Reach to shuffle stuff up. Even the Top didn’t help because all I kept getting was lands. It was slow but also painful, so that made it much better.

In the second round, Travis came at me with a mono-Black beats deck. In both games, I was able to devastate him with land destruction. In game one, he got up to three Swamps before I was able to cast two Stone Rains and then pull the Spellbomb-Eradicate trick leaving him with zero lands available. In game two, he had two Swamps on board when I animated one and Eradicated it, leaving him with just one Swamp for the rest of the (very short) game.

Last, I faced Joe playing G/B Control. Again. This match showed me the real holes in the deck: mana inconsistency. In both games, I was held in check because I could not get double Red or double Black. Meanwhile, he was doing all of those G/B tricks that the deck does. You know, like winning.

Some Days, You’re the Windshield. Some Days, You’re the Bug. Other Days, You’re the Freakin’ Death Star.

By the way, a final “It Was Just His Day” note on the tourney. Harmon came in second and got two whole packs for his efforts. (Hey, there were only six of us.) In his packs he opened Umezawa’s Jitte and a foil Umezawa’s Jitte. I hear he’s an altar boy.

If I had it to do over again – and, thanks to the fact that there are tourneys all over the world, I’m sure I do – I’d run the deck as straight Green and Black with one Mountain for the Fireballs. I’d forget the whole Stone Rain/Molten Rain thing. There was just enough extra need for Red that the deck got crucially bogged down color-wise. Plus, some more creature control was needed. I’d look at something like:

22 Lands

11 Forest

6 Swamp

1 Mountain

3 City of Brass

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

15 Creatures

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura Tribe Elder

4 Eternal Witness

3 Kokusho, the Evening Star

23 Spells

4 Lifespark Spellbomb

3 Sensei’s Divining Top

2 Sylvan Scrying

3 Echoing Decay

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Eradicate

3 Fireball

15 Sideboard

4 Naturalize

4 Hideous Laughter

3 Scrabbling Claws

4 Boil

Echoing Decay is great removal, especially against tokens and animated lands. In the sideboard, the only change is from Leonin Bladetrap to Hideous Laughter. As long as the deck can support the colors, the Laughter makes more sense. The Bladetrap can be countered even if Boseiju is used to cast it. Not so with Hideous Laughter. Besides, the Bladetrap can’t kill Troll Ascetics (if they have the mana available to regenerate him); Hideous Laughter does. For decks that can’t support Hideous Laughter, though, I still recommend the Bladetrap.

So, how is it that I can recommend testing a deck with which I did so poorly in a three-round tournament? Because, if you read the stuff up there about the tournament itself, you’ll see that the problems seemed to be caused by mana issues. Changing to a Green/Black deck that only nominally has Red in it (as opposed to the version that wanted double-Red on turn three) makes the deck much more stable. If you’re not sure, though, do what I always suggest: test it and tweak it. The look on your opponent’s face will be priceless when you Eradicate all of his lands.

Come back next week when I’ll put the finishing touches on Rat’s Nest and see if it can hang in the Tourney Practice room.

The heat of the day had starting to get to Costin. It hadn’t worn him down – he was, after all a strapping young lad – so much as it had just begun aggravating him. Fortunately, he had just come upon the Joven Forest, famed for its ferrets. The road to Bindu led through the forest. With its tall, old-growth trees and high canopy, the Joven Forest offered a welcome respite from the heat.

Not more than a few yards into the forest, he heard a voice from behind a tree. It was a deep, gravely voice, like that of the retired general who taught physical education.

“Hey. Kid. Are you from Langhorne?”

A bandit? The form stepped from behind the tree. “Well?”

A talking bear? “I’ve had too much wine or not enough sleep. Or both.”

Chris Romeo


P.S. If you’re in the Knoxville area and would like to play in a weekly tourney that’s timed more for us adults with something to do on Saturday nights than for people who can afford to play Magic until late at night, come join us at The Comics Exchange on Chapman highway (about 2 miles over the bridge, right across from Subway). Signups start at 11:30 A.M. with the tourney starting promptly at Noon. (Our T.O. has done this so that we can be done by five or six o’clock on Saturday – as opposed to starting at two or three P.M. and getting out at eight or nine – giving those of us with something else to do or someone else to whom we answer time to do stuff on Saturday nights.) The entry fee is only three bucks. This Saturday, April 30th, is Extended. Starting again on May 7th, we’ll be doing Standard.