From Right Field: How To Touch A Nerve

It seems that my last few columns have touched a couple of nerves… Mostly in a good way, which is not always what a writer strives for. So let me respond to you all, show you the options my fans have presented, and show you a couple of new Soldier decks I’ve been working on.

First off, kudos to one of my favorite writers and deck designers, Seth Burn, for the best Magic line thus far in 2003. From his review of Legions, he said of Fugitive Wizard (a 1/1 Wizard with no other abilities for U):

“I think we can all agree that Imagecrafter and Hapless Researcher were overpowered.”

I’m still laughing here.

It seems that my last few columns have touched a couple of nerves… Mostly in a good way, which is not always what a writer strives for. Sometimes it’s more fun to get on someone’s last good nerve (to be so very 1994). However, fewer threats against one’s general well-being are always nice, too.

Of course, there were a lot of e-mails that basically said,”You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Often, that’s true. I just run it up the flagpole to see who salutes. I’m not giving out polished decks here. For that, you need to check the Top 8 of the latest Pro Tour event. Me, I’m just being creative and seeing if anything works.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a piece about a Goblin deck that was all commons and uncommons. Many folks thought it was a neat idea. A couple even used it at local tourneys and did quite well. (No one told me they won with it, though.) But many people didn’t understand why I didn’t use Goblin Piledriver, why I didn’t use Reckless Charge, and why I did use Firecat Blitz. Finally, they wanted to know why I’d use Blaze.

First of all, the deck was supposed to be cheap to buy and build. If you have the Piledrivers, of course you should use them. The point of the deck was that it could be built and used at lunch. Do you wanna spill beer on a Piledriver? Of course not. And don’t say”use sleeves”; beer gets right into those things.

Second, I personally don’t like Reckless Charge in a weenie deck. Too many times, I would drop a Raging Goblin. They’d drop a Llanowar Elves. I’d drop another Raging Goblin and Charge it up. They’d block the 4/1 Raging Goblin with the Elves.”Ha ha,” I’d think,”I got an Elves.”

Then they’d drop Wild Mongrel, and I’d realize that I was not very even as far as creatures went.

However, when my second turn was Raging Goblin and Lava Dart to the Elves, I’d end up (a) dealing more damage and (b) having a creature advantage. Of course, I could be wrong. I mean, there’s nothing like a hasted Goblin Piledriver attacking on turn 3 with another Piledriver and a random 1/1 goblin. Of course, they aren’t all getting through unless your opponent did absolutely nothing for their first two or three turns. And what are the chances that your opponent spent the first three turns playing draw-go? Not very good.

Third, why use Firecat Blitz in a Goblin deck? Two reasons. First, Engineered Plague set to Goblin doesn’t hurt the hot kitties. Second, even though it’s one spell, it creates many sources of damage. In other words, one mana run through a Circle of Protection: Red can not stop Firecat Blitz cold (unless, of course, you cast it for one token). They have to spend one mana for each hasty cat.

Finally, why use Blaze? Those of you who have been reading me since my 7Towers days know how much I like this card. It has X in its casting cost, and it’s uncommon. Sometimes, you just need a good”X” spell to end the game. No creature battles. No tricks. Just X to your opponent’s dome. Also, Goblins have a hard time dealing with flying Wurms. Blaze can kill a Roar of the Wurm token; Volcanic Hammer can’t.

Unless you have two Hammers. Using ’em that way, though, won’t get you very far.

I also got several e-mails about the deck I called Woody. Among the less than glowing ones, almost all of them said,”You should have had <INSERT CARD NAME> in the deck or sideboard.” That’s the very point I was making with the deck. Living Wish is one of those rare cards (no pun intended) that is both fun and good. The problem is that your sideboard can only be fifteen cards. Among other great suggestions that people made:

Kamahl, Fist Of Krosa – Break the creature stall by giving all of your guys trample and +3/+3… or +6/+6… or +9/+9… or…. (Eric Branson was the first to suggest this)

Symbiotic Wurm – If it’s good enough for the new Reanimator decks to use as an anti-Chainer’s Edict and anti-Wrath of God strategy, why not here, too? (I got it from watching Bill Bryant test Reanimator)

Elven Riders – Another way to break a creature stall. (Sorry, I don’t remember who was first with this suggestion)

Thorn Elemental and/or Gurzigost – Blockers? I don’t see no stinkin’ blockers! (Todd Brown was first here)

Femeref Archers – Teams with Silklash Spider to pick off flying Wurms without the additional investment of mana. I mean, beyond casting the thing. (someone called StrikeTeam was first)

Exalted Angels – If you’re playing the G/W version, sure. Why not? (many folks)

Ancient Silverback – Blocks Wurms (of the non-flying variety), kills ’em, and lives to tell about it. (This one’s mine)

Brawn – Sometimes, the best way to beat a creature stall is just to run over the other guy’s creatures. (Jason Jablonski)

Sylvan Safekeeper – Protect your guys for as long as your land holds out. (Many folks)

Nimble Mongoose – Gives you a creature to combat control decks with all of their bounce and/or targeted creature kill. (Many folks)

Anaconda and Bull Hippo – Not the best creatures, but landwalk can be a good thing. (I don’t wanna embarrass anyone)

Phantom Nishoba – Again, if you’re playing with white, why not? (me again)

Anurid Brushhopper – Ditto.

The point is that there are a huge number of cards from which to choose for a Wish deck’s sideboard. You just have to figure out what’s right to use for the decks that you normally play against. As I stated, I see a lot of Opposition and decks that use blue bounce sells, so I wanted three maindeck Spellbane Centaurs with a fourth in the sideboard. That would give me six or seven chances (depending on whether we go with three or four maindeck Living Wishes) to get a creature that hoses up that strategy.

As I write this, last week’s piece with the Merfolk deck isn’t up yet. But a friend said something after I sent it in:”Someone needs to figure out how to use Equilibrium. It just seems too good not to get used.” After a bit of testing, I think the Merfolk deck may be the place for it. Simply take out the two Wonders and the two Thieving Magpies, and drop in four Equilibriums. Other than facing a Spellbane Centaur, you should be golden. I have tested this version against U/G Madness, and it really rocks that deck’s world. If you slip in an Equilibrium, they are nearly powerless. The worst matchup so far has been R/G Anger, since that deck’s creatures have haste.

The most responses I got, however, were because of my plea at the end of my piece about my last attempt to build a winning Birds deck. Basically, the plea was,”Are you tellin’ me there isn’t a good white weenie deck out there? Help me!” (This was before Rob Dougherty dropped his excellent white weenie Cleric deck two weeks ago.)

It seems that there are a ton of closet white mages. They just don’t want their friends to know.”I love white… but I can’t let anyone see me play it around here.” Sure you can! You just have to have the guts to lose with your own deck.

Some of the suggestions for helping a white weenie deck (Birds or other wise) included using Animal Boneyard. (Thanks to Jeremy Hoke, the first one in on this one.) This is a great way to both pump up the Aerie and gain the life you might need to keep you in the game. Several suggested dropping the maindeck Morningtides for Prismatic Strands. That’s not a bad idea at all. While there are a lot of decks against which Morningtide is a great sideboard card (and, since I face those so often, I maindecked it), Prismatic Strands is great against all of them.

The most novel suggestion came from Moritz Fritzenwanker. (I don’t know if that’s a real name or not, but I love it.) He runs Rites of Initiation, a Mountain, and Weathered Wayfarer to go get the Mountain. Then he loads up the Birds and sends ’em in backed by a great, big Rites. That has gotta hurt.

My favorite suggestion, however, came from my friend Karl Allen. I listen to Karl a lot because he was Tennessee State Champ in 2000. (That was for Karl’s ego. I really listen to him because his wife, Stacey, made Pro Tour Chicago in 2000, a.k.a. Pro Tour Fires. I figure he gets his ideas from her.) Karl suggested one of two things: more support for the Birds or less reliance on Birds.

Beware! Both of the decks you are about to see are based around two rare enchantments from Onslaught. One, Mobilization, is a fairly expensive rare. The other, Shared Triumph, is not.

One thing that Karl pointed out is how many Birds are actually Bird Soldiers. Did you know that Soulcatcher is a Bird Soldier? So are Lieutenant Kirtar and Commander Eesha! So the first thing we looked at was simply making a deck with as many Bird Soldiers as we could to take advantage of the non-tapping effect of Mobilization. You’ll notice that some creatures (like Suntail Hawk), are”just” Birds. Hey, we gotta have a one-drop.

OHNONOTBIRDSAGAIN.dec (dedicated to Jeremy Hoke)


16 Plains

3 Secluded Steppe

3 Daru Encampment


4 Suntail Hawk

4 Soulcatcher

3 Gustcloak Harrier

3 Lieutenant Kirtar

2 Commander Eesha

4 Battle Screech

2 Phantom Flock


4 Soulcatcher’s Aerie

4 Shared Triumph

4 Mobilization

4 Prismatic Strands

Yes, the Phantom Flock is a Bird Soldier Spirit.

I feel funny having a white deck without any maindeck enchantment destruction. If you’re also uncomfortable with that, you may want to drop the Mobilization and the Prismatic Strands down to three each and add in two Disenchants. In this deck, each creature is a bird. So, Soulcatcher and the Aerie are gonna be quite happy. In addition, except for the Suntail Hawk and the Battle Screech tokens, they’re all Soldiers. So once Mobilization hits, you’ll have a lot of fliers attacking without tapping. This is especially good when Commander Eesha’s in play because she just shrugs off flying Wurms. And, of course, if the game goes long, you can crank out non-tapping Soldier tokens with the Mobilization.

Finally, make sure you call”Soldier” when you play Shared Triumph, not”Birds.” You want the Soldier tokens that you crank out to get the +1/+1 bonus, too. The Suntail Hawk and the Battle Screech tokens already have the added benefit of flying.

Prismatic Strands, not Wrath of God?

Karl made an excellent point in choosing the Strands over Wrath. I have to admit, I argued vehemently for Wrath – but I was wrong. The creatures in this deck fly, so all we really want to do is neutralize the other guy’s creatures (assuming he doesn’t also have a lot of fliers) when they attack. We couldn’t care less about them when they might be blocking, since ours fly – and Prismatic Strands does just that. It neutralizes the other guy’s creatures without hurting yours. (It also stops direct damage spells like Violent Eruption and Corrupt.) You would, however, want Wrath to combat a huge creature line that you can’t get around because everyone’s critters are pounding the ground. (See the next deck, below.)

(Of course, with Wonder and U/G Madness everywhere, there’s a good chance that this could be a terrible strategy, depending on your metagame, so think hard about that Morningtide or the Wrath – The Ferrett)

Shared Triumph Versus The Other Leading Enchantments?

We looked at both Glorious Anthem and Divine Sacrament for the second creature pumping enchantment; each had its upside. Glorious Anthem will not pump up your opponent’s creatures as Shared Triumph might (if they’re playing with any Soldiers) or Divine Sacrament might (if they’re playing with white or Wild Mongrel). Each Divine Sacrament, of course, could potentially give your guys +2/+2.

But we decided to go with Shared Triumph for one great reason: Speed.

You can drop a creature-pumping enchantment on turn two. Or on turn four, you can drop Shared Triumph and a Soulcatcher.

Legions Changes?

Once Legions is legal, the three Gustcloak Harriers and one of the Lt. Kirtar’s will become the Cloudreach Cavalry. A 3/3 flier for 1W is my idea of a second-turn play. Take that, Mr. Basking Rootwalla! Meanwhile, the aforementioned Mr. Hoke wants to splash blue for Keeper of the Nine Gales and Cunning Wish. You know what I say? Go for it. Try it out. See how it works. Report back to me, and I’ll let Mr. Hoke and the rest of the world know how it goes.

Morningtide – Helping You Stay Fresh All Day Long:

You wanna know why I keep trying to play Morningtide in my maindeck? Last weekend, I faced the following decks: R/G Anger; ‘Tog; U/G Madness; mono-black control; and U/G Madness. Now, against which of those decks is Morningtide useless? Against R/G Anger, it strips Anger from their ‘yard and prevents haste. (Sure, they can ditch another one, but they have to have it.) ‘Tog doesn’t want an empty graveyard because that’s how a li’l ol’ 1/2 can end up killing you. U/G Madness likes its Wonders and Wurms. And MBC, of course, wants to hit you with Haunting Echoes. So make mine Morningtide!

(And yet these decks this week aren’t using it. Funny how that works.)

The second white weenie deck that Karl and I worked on was strictly Soldiers. During testing of this deck, I found that it has exactly one bad matchup among the most prevalent decks right now. (And when I say that, I don’t mean,”This deck beats ‘Tog and Opposition 92% of the time.” I mean, that it doesn’t get rolled, wins roughly half the time, and can pull out great wins in games two and three because of the superior sideboard options.) That one bad matchup is the same that many decks have: Astral Slide, in all its variations.

Given the current political and military climate, well, see if you can figure out why I call this one:



15 Plains

4 Secluded Steppe

3 Daru Encampment


4 Gustcloak Runner (LEGIONS CHANGE: Deftblade Elite)

4 Catapult Squad

4 Longbow Archer

4 Whipcorder

3 Lieutenant Kirtar

2 Commander Eesha

1 Phantom Flock


4 Mobilization

3 Wrath of God

4 Shared Triumph

3 Piety Charm

2 Cleansing Meditation

Yes, I know that the single Phantom Flock looks out of place. But we don’t want three Commander Eeshas simply because she’s a legend who doesn’t die very easily (as opposed to Lt. Kirtar, who is always giving it up for the home team).

Now, I know you’re laughing at Piety Charm – but be careful. I have picked many a flying Wurm out of the sky by attacking or blocking with my Longbow Archer, making it a 4/4, and then using the ability from Catapult Squad to deal two damage to the Wurm.

And don’t discount those other two abilities on Piety Charm. Picking off an Elephant Guide is no small feat. I’ll take that one-for-one trade almost any day, especially if I’m about to lay Wrath.

Neat Gustcloak Runner/Catapult Squad Trick:

You probably know this one, but I love it. If you have a Catapult Squad out, attack with one of your Gustcloak Runners, hoping it gets blocked by a random 2/2. So they block your Gustcloak guy. Untap it, and remove it from combat. However, the blocker is not removed from combat; it’s still a blocker. Now, tap two untapped Soldiers (Remember, the Runner is now untapped) to deal two damage to the blocker and kill it. Boo-yah!

Okay, you have two more white weenie decks to occupy your time until Wizards reprints Armageddon.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Let’s give it up for Bon Jovi before we actually present Kai with his trophy!

Chris Romeo

[email protected]