From Right Field: Extending New Year’s Greetings and Salivations

So, I started looking at a few of the most popular Extended decks like U/G Madness and Psychatog, and I noticed that Islandwalk might be good against them. Islandwalk usually means playing Blue, Lord of Atlantis, and Merfolk. Okay, it always means playing Blue, Lord of Atlantis, and Merfolk. Could such a deck work?

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget. 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. 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.}

Are you awake yet? Are there hornets nesting in your brain? DoES evRYthiNG YOU reAD STill LooK fUnNY? Does it feel like the Russian Army marched through your mouth in their socks? Well, then, Happy New Year!

This is usually the time of the year when I make some predictions. I’ve decided not to do that this year. I was so horribly off last year that it’s not funny. Randy Beuhler didn’t get a special three-card set of Counterspell, Force Spike, and Accumulated Knowledge printed so that Blue would be good in Standard again. I don’t even know if he tried. But if he did, he didn’t succeed. John Rizzo kinda published one article in 2004, but since I wrote it, that doesn’t really count. However, Charles Dykes did (again) try to play Pyroclasm during my combat phase in 2004. Interestingly, he did it not a week after the New Year’s piece appeared. He said it was on purpose. I think he was covering.

In addition to the New Year rolling around, a new qualifying season is here. Tournament players all over the globe will be playing Extended. I have a New Year’s Confession to make. I hate Extended. I always have. I know the arguments for the format. You get to play with more of your cards. There are more viable decks. To this I say “snerts!”

“Did he just say ‘snerts’?”

“I think he did!”

“Gasp!” “Swoon!” “BraaAAAAaaaap!”

The reason that I’ve always hated Extended is that, ever since I started playing this game, Extended has been fueled by cards much too expensive for me. I mean, there’s no way that I can afford multiple Masticores, Rishadan Ports, Morphlings, and/or Cursed Scrolls. In my entire Magic-playing life, I’ve owned a total of two of those cards (one each of Port and Morphling). That won’t make a very good Extended deck. So, when my boyz do convince me to throw down Old Skool Stylee, I usually end up playing some White Weenie variation or another deck that’s good and cheap like Blue/Green Madness, Goblins, or Psychatog.


How many more matches can a person play with a deck like U/G Madness, a deck that was ubiquitous in Odyssey Block Constructed and after that ruled the roost in Standard? It just seems like yesterday that it finally got kicked off of the tourney scene.

I’m also not a big fan of playing other players’ decks. The impulse to be creative is too strong. Which is not to say that I do it particularly well, but I’m compelled to do it.

“Like the way you write!”

Sheesh. I get no respect.

So, I started looking at a few of the most popular Extended decks like U/G Madness and Psychatog, and I noticed that Islandwalk might be good against them. Islandwalk usually means playing Blue, Lord of Atlantis, and Merfolk. Okay, it always means playing Blue, Lord of Atlantis, and Merfolk. Could such a deck work?

“Not if you’re playing it, Romeo.”

No love for me. I see the honeymoon lasted for two weeks. Wow. [Chris and his other self are currently attending marital counseling. Be kind. Rewind. – Knut. Not referring to Luanne]

If I was going to make this deck, it had to have Lord of Atlantis and Rootwater Thief. Geez, eight rares already. Luckily, they’re cheap. If you don’t have any of these, you can get all eight for about twenty-five or thirty bucks right here on StarCityGames.com. Almost everything else I threw in was a common. Almost.

A deck that revolves around little Blue men really wants to keep a beater or two in play and just protect them. Obviously, that means countermagic. Since we’re playing Extended, we get to use Counterspell.

“Yea!” said the blue states.

“Boo!” said the red states.

Throw in some good, cheap card drawing (read: Accumulated Knowledge) and some bounce spells, and away we go. Of course, the most important part of my decks is the name. I had some ideas like Something Fishy This Way Comes, Something Smells Fishy, Eating at the Downtown Fish Market, and Cap’n D’s. Instead, I settled on a non-aquatic theme and, in honor of the great show Arrested Development, called the deck:

Blue Man Group

18 Lands

16 Island

2 Faerie Conclave

20 Creatures

4 Sandbar Merfolk

4 Coral Merfolk

4 Rootwater Thief

4 Vodalian Merchant

4 Lord of Atlantis

22 Other Spells

4 Force Spike

4 Counterspell

4 Accumulated Knowledge

4 Aether Burst

4 Opt

2 Foil

The sideboard was tricky. I knew that I’d face Red decks. I’ve always found Douse to be more effective than Chill against those decks. Please, oh please, tell me how wrong I am. (I like baiting the forum hounds.) Of course, no matter what you say, Douse has still been better for me. Red decks almost never have enchantment removal, making this a permanent, oh, I dunno, Orim’s Chant or something. [Personally, I might run some Chrome Moxen in this deck, but those are… um… well, they’re the “R” word, so feel free to ignore me. – Knut, always intrigued by Fish]

Pernicious Deed can be – how you say? – a nutbuster for this deck. All the permanents are two mana or less. So, I had to have Squelch. Nice to kill a Deed and draw a card, innit?

I also knew that I’d have to have Teferi’s Response to blow up any Rishadan Ports or Oppositions that I might face.

And for those Reanimator decks? Scrabbling Claws. Man, am I predictable or what?

That meant my sideboard would look like this:

15 Sideboard

4 Squelch

4 Douse

4 Scrabbling Claws

3 Teferi’s Response

What did my testing look like? It looked like this. Okay, seriously, this is my first post-New Year’s Day column. My “testing” consisted of seeing if I could even shuffle the deck after my fourth Singapore Sling.

I couldn’t.

Who cares? More important, why would you want my help with an Extended deck? (Disclaimer: Yup, I really am gonna play this at this week’s tourney. It’s only money, right?)

Speaking of holidays, I have a tip for you. Bath & Body Works has this new body butter/cream that smells exactly like crème brulee. Your significant other will appreciate you getting this because it helps revitalize and smooth that skin that gets all dried out in Winter. You’ll have fun putting it on her, too. Be careful, though. It really, really smells like crème brulee. You may find yourself getting the craving to devour her after you put it on. Of course, she might not mind.

Notes from Last Two Columns

More than a few folks suggested that the Dampen Thought – Millstone Deck should have Isochron Scepter instead of Millstone. They may be right. Almost every spell in the deck could be imprinted onto the Scepter and used to play Dampen Thought. I keep forgetting that the Isochron Scepter lets you “play” a spell (which means you can Splice stuff onto it) and not simply put a copy onto the stack (which would not let you Splice). Of course, dropping the Millstones for the Scepter would mean you couldn’t call the deck the Dampen ThoughtMillstone Deck . . . unless you’re just cah-ray-zay!

Another suggestion was to use Grinding Station along with some Ancient Dens and Seat of the Synods. The Station would give you an outlet to get rid of a Mesmeric Orb, too. Again, you might want to try it. Just be careful what you drop. As with the Scepter, probably drop the Millstones. Of course, if you add both Grinding Stations and Isochron Scepters, you have to drop something in addition to the Millstones. Tough choice. Good luck!

I also made a mistake in the column. I know, I know. “What’s new?” Anyway, I said that every non-permanent-making spell was Arcane. More than one person pointed out that Wrath of God is not Arcane. Duh. My bad. In honor of this, I am starting a new policy. If someone catches a mistake in one of my columns – not a difference of opinion, and not something trivial like misspelling Kai Booty’s name – the first one to point it out in the forums will get a card autographed by me (my choice, of course).

The White Skies deck also got some hate in the fora and e-mails. It seems that I didn’t hype its success enough, and people took that to mean that the deck wasn’t really any good. Quite the contrary. However, I have taken up the philosophy of my friend, Karl Allen (Tennessee State Champ, 2000; concubine, Pro Tour Chicago, 2000). That philosophy is:

“Almost all playtest statistics you read about on the internet are complete horse hockey.”

Or something like that.

Karl seems to think, and I have to agree, that a statement like:

“My deck beat Affinity two-thirds of the time.”

Really means:

“I played against Affinity three times. I won two of them. In the first game, my friend had to mulligan to four, and drew nothing but lands. In the second game, he sacrificed everything to his Ravager after damage was on the stack, so he essentially played Akroma’s Vengeance on himself. The one game I lost, he got a decent hand and didn’t make too many mistakes. So, my deck beats Affinity two-thirds of the time.”

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. As a matter of fact, my favorite episode of CSI involved a case that was solved when someone found a bullet in some pudding. Anyway, the best way to know if a deck is any good is to look at many results, preferably from tournaments (i.e. ‘Net Decking), or to play the darn thang yo’ own seff. This is why so-called ‘net decking is so popular. The deck’s proven itself. No guesswork involved. You want reliable stats? Deck X won two Pro Tours, captured half of the Top Eight slots this year, etc., etc., etch-a-sketch. The other option is to take a chance on a little-known deck, which usually means testing it some on your own before committing to play it in a tournament.

I’m sorry. I know that’s foreign to so many folks. Heaven forbid you should look at a deck and say, “Gee, I wonder if that’s any good? Maybe I should build it, play it some, and see how it works.” If you’re looking at an unknown deck, you have two choices. Trust the person who’s pimpin’ the deck, or test it some. Usually, I test it some. Most people opt for a third choice, though. They don’t play it.

If you played with White Skies against Affinity, you’d see what I was talking about. I’m pretty sure most folks won’t, though. It will be like mono-Black Clerics at Regionals in 2004. I kept telling folks around here how good its game was against the field. No one listened. Then, Clay Pierce won the Southeast with it. And, folks, that ain’t a small region.

Anyway, try the deck in your next testing session. See what I’m talkin’ ’bout, Willis.

Get Off the High Horse, Get Back to the Cards

A suggestion that came up often with this deck was also Isochron Scepter. Again, I missed it. Reusable Fog. As my main mammal Joey Lawrence would say, “Whoa.” Also, you can add in Raise the Alarm and have fifteen cards in the main deck that can be put on the Scepter. Of course, you have to lose something. Everyone pointed to Mask of Memory. I say, pick something else, but, it’s yo’ thang. Do whatcha wanna do.

By the by, I figured out the key to the deck’s worst matchups, those being mono-Black Control and G/B Control. The answer is: Karma. The question is: what’s gonna getcha if I don’t getcha first? Against those decks, the problem that White Skies had was one of finishing. It would typically get them to four, five, or six life. Then, along came the devastating Death Cloud that killed all of the creatures, lands, and cards in hand. With Karma, games two and three are mighty different. They can’t afford to let one of those in play, or it’s essentially game over. Of course, that means that it looks like Scrabbling Claws has to go. Bye, bye, Sandy Claws.

Speaking of The Nightmare Before Christmas, is there a better Christmas holiday musical than that one? Does The Nutcracker count as a musical? How about the original Grinch? And, if someone answers it, is it still a rhetorical question? [My personal favorite is Meet Me in St. Louis. – Knut, who has had crushes on both Judy Garland and Katherine Hepburn during his lifetime]

The Section in which Dr. Romeo Backpedals on his Assessment of Champions of Kamigawa

One last thing, I thought I had been clear about my feelings on Champions, but I obviously didn’t do a great job. So, here goes.

I think Champions is cool. I think Champions is neat. I think that Champions does nothing – save for Samurai of the Pale Curtain – to help decks fight off the scourge of Vial/Ravager Affinity decks. That makes it hard to think of new deck ideas that won’t be completely blown out of the water at a local tourney. Let’s say that you have this great new deck. It loses to Affinity (don’t they all?), but beats everything else seventy-two per cent of the time. If half of the field is Affinity, the best you can hope for is a 2-2 or 3-3 day. Then again, you could be 2-4 because you lost one of those twenty-eight-per-cent matches against the non-Affinity decks.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any interesting cards. As everyone knows, Tiki-Barber, Mirror Fumbler, has already made huge splashes. Beyond that, the set is just chock full o’ nutty goodness. I don’t mind exploring those cards as long as folks understand that the decks may not be able to consistently beat Affinity. (If you’re looking for that deck, play White Skies.) If you’re good with that, so am I.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Be sure to wear your galoshes!

Chris Romeo