From Right Field: How To Remain Calm

Will last weekend’s results scare me away from playing Phantom Living at Regionals? Of course not! I’m not smart enough for that. I really do chalk last weekend up to a string of bad luck. Besides, it’s been doing very well in testing and got me to the Top 4 against the same field the last time I played it.

I guess I need to start this column with the cleanup step from my last column. Turns out more than a few folks are actually thinking of playing the Wabbit Season deck, and they wanted to know what my sideboard would look like. Even my editor, Mr. The Ferrett wanted to know, although I’m pretty sure this was for purely professional reasons and not that he’ll be dropping the deck on his homies any time soon. Anyway, this is what I would run – as usual, the caveat is that you need to hone this for the decks that you think you’ll see (commonly known as”your metagame”).

4 Ray of Distortion [You want to be able to clear out multiple Ensnaring Bridges or a Lightning Rift and an Astral Slide.]

4 Prismatic Strands [Yes, it stops creatures and burn. Don’t forget that it stops Corrupt, too.]

3 Compost [Um, what is”it’s good against black,” Alex?]

4 Envelop [Actual sign at The Masters”protests”:”Stop Upheaval and Haunting Echoes Insanity Now!” Seriously.]

This is how I’d run it if I were going to play at my local store or even Regionals.

Several folks also suggested sideboard creatures like Visara (anti-creature tech) and Withered Wretch (anti-Cemetery, anti-Reanimator, and anti-Haunting Echoes tech). The only thing that I don’t like about these is that they can’t be cast. If something happens where you can’t get a Hunting Grounds out or it gets blown up, you want to be able to cast your creatures. Black or Red creatures end up making this a four-color deck – and while I don’t feel comfortable with that, there’s no reason you can’t try it.

I also received a half-dozen or so e-mails telling me that Josh and I weren’t the only two people who talked Magic while playing tennis. I’m impressed! I guess us Magic-playing folks are more well-rounded than I thought. Still, I’m willing to bet that at any given time, there’s no more than one set of people playing tennis and discussing Magic. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to find out that Jelena Dokic and Martina Hingis played Magic, too?

Now, you just go on wit yo’ bad self.

That Was The End Of The Introduction

A couple of weeks ago, I finally decided what I was going to play at Regionals. I’m going to play my G/W Phantoms deck that I call Phantom Living. First, I’m going to show you the decklist I’ve been working with. Then, because you’ll be scratching your head about why I’d play this at a big tourney, I’ll tell you why.


LANDS – 24

4 Brushland

4 Windswept Heath

2 Krosan Verge

2 Nantuko Monastery

5 Forest

7 Plains


3 Wall of Hope

2 Planar Guide

4 Phantom Nomad

4 Phantom Tiger

4 Phantom Nantuko

4 Phantom Centaur

3 Phantom Flock


3 Harsh Mercy

4 Shared Triumph

2 Ray of Revelation

3 Spirit Link


3 Ray of Distortion

3 Compost

3 Prismatic Strands (which could easily become Worship before this is done)

3 Reprisal

3 Morningtide

I’ve written about a deck based around the Phantoms before. This one adds in two Legions cards – Wall of Hope, which may be the best wall since Wall of Blossoms, and Planar Guide.

How The Deck Works

Phantoms plus Shared Triumph set to Spirit (not Phantom!) means that your Phantoms will never die to damage… Unless your opponent plays something like Flaring Pain. Phantoms without Shared Triumph are still tough to kill. This allows you to play mad defense if you need to. Harsh Mercy acts as a scalable Wrath of God – against U/G Madness, for example, your opponent will have to choose whether to save the Wurm, the Hound, the Lizard, or the Merfolk while you save all of your Spirits. Typically, you win by flying over with Phantom Flock, running over with a very pumped-up Phantom Nantuko, or running through black decks with a Phantom Centaur.

The Rookies

The deck always needed a one-drop. Krosan Verge served that purpose, but couldn’t block anything. The leadoff slot had previously been filled by a rotating cast that included Weathered Wayfarer, Devoted Caretaker, Benevolent Bodyguard, and even Basking Rootwalla. But none of those guys really did the job. The general manager went looking for a good free agent for the 2003 season and found Wall of Hope. The Wall of Hope can do some amazing things. If your opponent gets that first-turn Basking Rootwalla, he won’t run it into the Wall without pumping the Lizard up. To do that, however, means two things: First, you’re gaining three life (admittedly, while losing the Wall). Second, your opponent can’t cast a Wild Mongrel on that second turn. On the flip side, if your opponent doesn’t attack with the Li’l Lizard so that she can cast The Hound of the Baskervilles, you just got another turn, and the Wall of Hope is still in play.

Yes, Wall of Hope as a tempo card. Who woulda thunk it?

As for the Planar Guide, don’t be fooled by that casting cost. He is most assuredly not a first-turn play. You want this guy on the board when you can pay the 3W after you cast it. That ability to remove everything from the game only to see it come back at the end of the turn can be a game breaker against certain decks. For example, against U/G Madness, it kills Wurm tokens while resetting the counters on your Phantoms. Against ‘Tog, Planar Guide is anti-Upheaval tech. Against Slide, it’s anti-Wrath tech. In other words, he’s Good to the Last Drop.

Why Would I Play This Pile At Regionals?

Because it’s soooooooooooooo good. I’m sure you won’t believe it, but it tears R/G apart. In fact, it’s pretty much designed to do just that. R/G’s creatures can’t fight through the Phantoms and can’t block the Flock. When things get stalled up on the ground, R/G loses three-fourths of their creatures to Harsh Mercy. The lifegain from both the Wall of Hope and the Spirit Link often puts the game out of reach all by themselves. The same things hold true for U/G Madness – except that Planar Guide kills Wurm tokens, too.

The lifegain from the Spirit Link is also bad for ‘Tog. Not many ‘Tog decks can swing for thirty-five or forty points in one turn… So even if your Planar Guide doesn’t show up to save you from Upheaval, the ‘Tog player will have to take an extra turn to beat you.

The worst matchup for me so far is MBC. Why? That damn Haunting Echoes again. However, if I can run the MBC player out of the non-targeted removal (namely, Chainer’s Edict and Innocent Blood) or keep an extra creature on the board, the Phantom Centaur wins it for me. Games two and three get much better thanks to Compost, Morningtide, and Prismatic Strands.

Hey, Smart Guy! Where’s Spellbane Centaur?

Yes, there is no Spellbane Centaur in my sideboard. And some of you are saying,”What a hypocrite! Didn’t he write a piece a few weeks ago about the Pros not putting Spellbane Centaur in their decks?” Well, kinda. My point was (and still is) that if you’re playing green and you expect to see blue stuff that targets creatures (a la Aether Burst and Opposition), you really, really need Spellbane Centaur in your sideboard. I don’t expect to see a lot of that stuff. From The Famous Last Words Division, Opposition seems dead… And if it’s not, after sideboarding I have five spells that kill enchantments then and flash back.

[DIGRESSION: Last week, I lost to an Opposition deck for the first time in the two years since Opposition was reprinted in 7th Edition. While game one was ugly, I was ready for game two with those fives piece of removal; they never showed up, and I was slaughtered. At the end of the match, I found all five in the last fifteen cards of my deck. Luckily, the culprit was my friend Bill Bryant, so I didn’t get arrested for assault or anything.]

However, Aether Burst is a bit more problematic. A lot of the U/G Madness decks that are coming in from around the Big Blue Marble are not even sporting Burst in the sideboard, let alone the maindeck. Others sport a full complement of four in the maindeck. (Personally, I find the card too good not to use in U/G Madness, but that’s just me.) So do I water down the creature base with a non-Spirit, or let Prismatic Strands do its job? I choose Strands. Now Harsh Mercy won’t nail my Spellbane – since, obviously, I won’t have any.

And, of course, last weekend, it all blew up in my face.

ROUND ONE – Opposition (piloted by Bill Bryant)

I’ve already mentioned this, but let me repeat: I was blown out of the water. Would Spellbane Centaur have helped in game two? If it had hit the board, most assuredly… But I can also say the same about any of my five (five!) pieces of enchantment removal with Flashback. But Bill is a very good player, so possibly I wouldn’t have been able to win anyway.

ROUND TWO – Goblin Mayhem (piloted by Charlie Lipschitz)

Thanks to Shared Triumph, I won game one. I don’t know what he did differently in game two. I know that my Harsh Mercies came out for Prismatic Strands and the Ray of Revelations came out for Reprisal. Whatever he did worked miracles, as he swamped me in games two and three.

ROUND THREE – Soldierization (piloted by Steven Dodd)

Is it A Good Thing or A Bad Thing to get beaten by your own deck? Steven came out hard with lotsa Soldiers and White Knights, who, while not a Soldier, does some really nice tricks with that First Strike thing… But for some reason, he conceded to me when he was at six life and I was at thirteen. I asked him if he really wanted to do that, and he said yes. I think that he felt that my Shared Triumph was something he couldn’t get around. Truth was, all he needed to do was hit a Mobilization, and I was going to be in trouble.

In game two, he got the Mobilization – and, for the second time in the day, none of my five pieces or enchantment removal showed up. For some reason, though, he kept laying out creatures instead of making Soldiers, which, thanks to not one but two Glorious Anthems, would have been 3/3 Soldier tokens. This one went to overtime. I could have kept my boys back and won the match, 1-0-1, but that didn’t seem right since he really did have me on the ropes. I swung with everything. He blocked properly and killed me next turn.

Then I got the bye.

So a horrible, awful, horrendous 0-2-1 with Phantom Living. Maybe this deck can’t take me deep into Regionals. Maybe all of the playtesting is wrong. Maybe I’m going to pay a lot of money to drive down to Atlanta, get a hotel room, pay for the tourney, buy lunch, and then just lose horribly!

Uh-oh. Gotta stay calm. Gotta keep my blood pressure down. Think happy thoughts. Halle Berry in Die Another Day. Nigella Bites. Playing strip Magic with Nicole Kidman.

Okay, that’s better.

Will last weekend’s results scare me away from playing Phantom Living at Regionals? Of course not! I’m not smart enough for that. I really do chalk last weekend up to a string of bad luck. Besides, it’s been doing very well in testing and got me to the Top 4 against the same field the last time I played it. We’ll see what happens this weekend, though.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Please, stay tuned. I promise that the Green/White decks will be coming to an end quite soon… Right after I write my Regionals report.

Chris Romeo

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