From Right Field: How To Bring Down The House

I see possibilities in unloved cards. I am a one-man Isle of Misfit Cards. For example, while everyone is going completely ape slick over the beef in Onslaught (yes indeedily-doodily, Silvos is block rockin’ beats), I have to wonder why people aren’t playing Gurzigost… But, alas, Gurzigost is from all the way back in Torment.

The Prologue

First, some apologies for parts of my Onslaught set review. I was working off of a clearly defective spoiler. I do know what abilities like”protection from X” and”trample” are. If they had been on my spoiler, I would have noticed.

I also apologize for implying that Adam Sandler isn’t funny. This was a mistake: I did not mean to imply that at all. I meant for it to be perfectly clear that Adam Sandler isn’t funny. I’m sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

And, now, on with the countdown.

The Guts

If you don’t know my writing from 7Towers.net or the occasional piece that I’ve done for MagicCan.com (as well as my short fiction for Penthouse Forum), my mandate is simple: I plumb the depths of the cheap cards so that The Other Half of the Magic-Playing Public can have something to do. I tend to focus on cards that are unappreciated and/or just plain cheap. Meaning, they usually aren’t rares. When they are rares, they tend to be ones that you can get for very little money.

In other words, my decks never start with”4 – Call of the Herd / 4 – Nantuko Shade.”

The reasons are quite simple: First, I like the creative side of this game a whole heck of a lot more than the competitive side. Using the same cards in the same decks that everyone else is using bores me. Second, like a lot of folks who enjoy the game, I just don’t have the money to plunk down $45 for four Call of the Herd or $38 for four Blistering Firecats. This is not to say that you shouldn’t play those cards: They’re expensive because they’re good. If you got ’em, smoke ’em. If not, have fun with what you’ve got… But I won’t be advocating their use. I let other (meaning”better”) players and deckbuilders do that. Me, I can’t afford them, so I have to find other cards to use.

So if you’re looking for high-level, Pro-Tour-type advice, you’ll have to go somewhere else. You may find some good ideas here simply because I try new things. Mostly, though, I try to be entertaining: That way, you’ll come back, StarCity will get lotsa hits, revenue goes up, and they can afford to pay me more.

This is the same cycle that caused FOX to cancel Dark Angel and replace it with Firefly and John Doe. Will either FOX or The Ferrett experiment pay off? We’ll have to wait and see. (While no one on either Firefly or John Doe is as smolderingly hot as Jessica Alba was on Dark Angel, I really am hooked on Firefly.)

This week, I’m taking a look back. In fact, we’re going all the way back to February. You know, before Quiet Roar decks.

The Glory

Right now, Onslaught is just getting started. The pre-release was a couple of weeks ago (or more, depending on when I get this to Mr. The Ferrett). The set has been released. Less than four weeks later, on November 1st, the ground will shake. Extended loses a huge of chunk of what defined it for the past few years. Standard loses Invasion, Planeshift, and Apocalypse while gaining Onslaught.

So, as we are wont to do, we’re looking at what sort of cards Onslaught’s brung us. We can’t wait to start making new decks. We’re like kids rushing downstairs at 5:30 on Christmas morning.”Whadja get? Whadja get?”

This is understandable. New equals better in our society. The new kid in the class is always cooler than everyone else. This year’s cars are always hotter than last year’s model.

Often, this leads to overlooking things, though; last year’s toys get pushed aside for the shiny new ones on Christmas day. And isn’t that shy girl in the back row just as cute today as she was before the new girl came to town? Of course she is. But, we still find the new one more desirable. Out with the old, in with the new. That’s The American Way.

Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens

Yes, these are a few of my favorite things. That and overlooked cards. Like I said, I write about cards that the rest of us can afford to play with. (This may have been why I was so quite during OBC season. The best decks had no rares or had very, very few of them. They were already Decks for the Common Man. What was I going to add to that?) I see possibilities in unloved cards. I am a one-man Isle of Misfit Cards.

For example, while everyone is going completely ape slick over the beef in Onslaught (yes indeedily-doodily, Silvos is block rockin’ beats), I have to wonder why people aren’t playing Gurzigost. Talk about efficient. He’s a 6/8 for five mana. Where the heck did that come from? Those numbers are like something out of science fiction. They’re like the chance that I have with Nicole Kidman even after her divorce. They are simply unreal.

But, alas, Gurzigost is from all the way back in Torment. So, he’s old. He’s a misfit because we want The New Beef now.

Don’t you still like trample, though? Then how about uber-trample? Gurzigost doesn’t care if someone is in the way. He just goes around them.

In talking with some folks, it became apparent to me that they were frightened of the upkeep cost. You have to put two cards from your graveyard on the bottom of your library. It’s funny. Before Odyssey block, this would have been a wonderful ability. You get to put stuff back into your deck to use again later. Wow. Only with Odyssey block does this seem like a bad thing. Who wants to put Roar of the Wurm, Wonder, or Call of the Herd back into their library?

No one, of course. You simply don’t want to put Roar or Wonder back into your library. How do you solve this dilemma if you want to play with Gurzigost?

The answer really is very simple: You don’t even start with those cards in your deck.

What a far-out solution, huh? Call me wacky. Call me insane. Just don’t call me late for dinner.

Problem number two for using Gurzigost is that people think of green as the color of creatures; tru dat. But, when you load up on creature spells, you tend not to have cards in your graveyard for Gurzigost to eat. It’s just sad to have a Gurzigost in your hand but not want to cast him because you’d just lose him during your next upkeep.

What we have then are two”drawbacks” that we need to get around in order to have access to one of the most powerful green creatures ever built. Honestly, I just don’t see these as problems.

First of all, let’s make sure that we get stuff into the graveyard quickly. That means lots of first- and second-turn plays. Of course, we have to use Careful Study. (Check the current tournament rules: I believe all decks with green in them are required to splash blue for Careful Study. I could be wrong, so you might want to check it out first. I’m gonna do it just to be safe.) But how about Diligent Farmhand, too? He can help smooth mana problems, thin the deck, and give the Gurzigost something to eat. He also serves as a nice li’l blocker before he goes to fetch lands… And if we decide to use Muscle Burst, he helps there, too.

Another cute first turn play is Hapless Researcher. He’s a mini-blocker and a mini-Careful Study. He’s also another card in the graveyard.

The second thing we need to do is make creatures while still getting cards into the graveyard. Gosh, how could green do that? Think, man, think! Wait, I have it: Green can make token creatures, can’t it?”Yes, it can,” said the enthusiastic crowd.

The question simply becomes how you want to make the tokens and where you want them on the mana curve. Green gives us Chatter of the Squirrel, Acorn Harvest, Call of the Herd, Elephant Ambush, Beast Attack, Grizzly Fate – and, yes, even Roar of the Wurm. I have different ideas for the middle of the mana curve rather than token creatures. And I don’t want to suggest 4 Call of the Herd since that’s still pretty expensive, money wise. We should have enough weenies for blocking what with eight 1-cc creatures. So, what say we go with Grizzly Fate? We can have a very nice mana curve, too, if we do.

So, now introducing:

GURZLLY FATE (special thanks to Josh Sharp for suggesting Hapless Researcher)

LANDS – 21

11 – Island

10 – Forest


4 – Diligent Farmhand

4 – Hapless Researcher

4 – Phantom Tiger

4 – Krosan Avenger

4 – Gurzigost

4 – Grizzly Fate


4 – Careful Study

4 – Muscle Burst

4 – Aether Burst

3 – Churning Eddy

Bright Copper Kettles And Warm Fuzzy Mittens

First things first. This deck is cheap. There are 4 uncommons (Grizzly Fate). There are 4 rares (Gurzigost). And the Gurzigosts are cheap.

As you would expect, most of my other choices are unconventional. Hey, I like the underdog. It’s not like I just randomly chose these, though. So, let’s see why I think they’re good choices.

Phantom Tiger is an excellent three-drop because it’s so hard to kill, as all the Phantoms are. In that role, he provides great defense until the Gurzigost hits the table. If there aren’t any blockers on the other side of the board or if you have a superior critter in the Tiger, head into the Red Zone.

Krosan Avenger is a card that, to be frank, I can’t believe people aren’t playing more. She’s a 3/1 trampler… And if you hit Threshold, she regenerates. So she’s great on offense and defense. No matter why you need her, she’s there for you. How many women can you say that about? (Please, direct all hate mail to: Hootie Johnson, c/o Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, GA. Thank you.)

As for the”other spells,” Muscle Burst is another spell that’s been lost in the shuffle (pun intended). Think about this play: Gurzigost is attacking. You activate its ability, tossing a Diligent Farmhand into the graveyard. Then, you cast Muscle Burst on him. That’s ten damage that your opponent will be taking. You want a clock? Now, that’s a fast clock. Two smacks, the end. Tick. Tock. Boom. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t save you from that.

Finally, where the Phantom Flock did I come up with Churning Eddy? First, I had to find something for those last three slots. A control element seemed appropriate. Second, it fits the mana curve very nicely at 3U mana. Third, it has some damaging potential. It will hit two cards every time. It has to; it requires two targets. Don’t underestimate the ability to set an opponent back a turn or two with this card: Their mana base will be a turn behind, and they’ll have to recast the creature – and if that creature is a wurm token, you just killed a Wurm. Not bad, is it?

The mana curve on this deck is very nice. You have twelve first-turn plays (Careful Study, Diligent Farmhand, Hapless Researcher). While there are no real second-turn plays (unless you decide to cast Muscle Burst on a Hapless Researcher and attack), you do have a possibility of more one-casting-cost spells or popping off the Farmhand or Researcher.

The third turn includes eight very efficient creatures between the Phantom Tigers and the Krosan Avengers. Turn 4 can be more of the previous stuff, or a Churning Eddy to set your opponent back.

Then, you have the big turn 5. You hope it’s Gurzigost… But if it’s Grizzly Fate, well, that ain’t bad, either. Between Careful Study and sacrificing the Farmhand and Researcher, you will usually have Threshold. That means four 2/2 bear tokens. Boo-ya!

The thing that scares most of the people to whom I have shown this is the low land count. At twenty-one lands, you wouldn’t expect so many 5-cc spells. But between the Careful Studies, Farmhands, and Hapless Researchers, you’re usually at five lands on turn 5. And it’s so consistent that it’s scary.

Temptation Keeps Turnin’ Me ‘Round And ‘Round

Of course, the temptation with this deck would be to load up with Roar of the Wurm, Call of the Herd, Wild Mongrel, Wonder, Basking Rootwalla, and all of the other great UG Madness stuff that we’ve come to know and love over the past few months. But that would be boring. It’s already been done. In addition, cards like Call of the Herd and Roar of the Wurm work against the Gurzigost, especially the Roar: If you ditch the Roar to the Mongrel, you can play the Roar on turn 4. But if you do that, will you have enough cards in the graveyard to keep the Gurzigost alive turn after turn? Having tried it that way, I can say,”Probably not.”

So why does Grizzly Fate work? Because of the casting cost. Grizzly Fate is not a card that you tend to play early out of the graveyard. It’s a turn 4 play. Even if it’s turn 4, it’s still in your graveyard. And it doesn’t suck to recycle Grizzly Fate.

Another reason I don’t want to use Call of the Herd & Co. is cost: I try to tailor my decks to new players or ones who just don’t have lots of money to spend. Call of the Herd is still a $14 card. Roar of the Wurm is $3. I don’t mind if the rares are cheap to buy (like Gurzigost)….But I don’t love decks that are 70% rares. They take the game away from The Common Player.

If you have the cards, though, go ahead and use them. Just be careful how you use them. Playing cards with Flashback as soon as you can will hurt the Gurzigost. If that happens, you’ll be tempted to take the Gurzigost out. And if you do that, you’ll just be right back to a Quiet Roar or UG Madness deck. That’s just boring. You want to win with Gurzigost. Winning with flying Wurms is so August.

The Quote Of The Week

From the beginning of the second half of the Sunday evening (09/29/02) ESPN NFL game between The Seahawks and The Vikings. At that point, The Seahawks had scored 45 points, and running back Shaun Alexander had set an NFL record for most touchdowns in one half with 5.

To recap the first half, play-by-play man Mike Patrick said,”In case you missed it, The Seahawks won the coin toss and elected to kick the living bejeezus out of The Vikings.”

The Epilogue

This is my semi-annual appeal to Magic players for better personal hygiene. Please, take a shower and put on deodorant before attending a tournament. Do it out of respect for the others at the tourney and for yourself. If not for the other players around you, then do it for The Possibilities. You never know when one of the guys might bring his cute sister. Something better might even happen.

For example, the Onslaught Prerelease Tournament in Nashville was in the same hotel that the Miss Teen USA contestants were staying. Lotsa adolescent boys made bad plays because they couldn’t keep their eyes on their cards. I’m sure some of the degenerate adult guys did the same, too… And none of those girls are ever going to give you a second glance if you smell like a wet rat and you’re wearing a sweat-stained T-shirt that says”Magic players do it from the top of the library.” Trust me.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been asked to audition for REVENGE OF THE NERDS 5: NERDS IN CHARGE.

Chris Romeo

[email protected]