From Right Field: I Never Promised You a Darksteel Rose Garden

I’ve been toying with Centaur Glade ever since it popped up in Onslaught. Anyone who played against it or with it in Limited knows how good it can be. It never made a splash in Constructed, though. It was too slow. Boy, oh, boy, does it give control decks fits, though. If you can resolve one against a control deck, you can hold all of those spells in your hand and make them deal with uncounterable 3/3 Centaur tokens. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The question remained: How can I make this card work? The answer always eluded me… until now.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget, although even those with more money and expertise might – I said”might” – still find something useful here. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight 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 or the Onslaught fetchlands for the colors they play. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are very good. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the deck is just plain lousy.}

By this time, our esteemed editor, Mr. Ted”Don’t Call Me Mister” Knutson, was hoping we’d be all over the Darksteel tech for Regionals like a newly divorced guy would be all over drunken lingerie models at The Cannes Film Festival. [Note to self: Rewrite Bio at earliest convenience. – Knut, embarrassed] I promised I’d do my best. Last week, I told you about a Suicide Black deck. I’m in love with Skullclamp for Goblins, White Weenie, and Elves, but who isn’t? I was ready to add to that when I got sidetracked by something wonderfully silly that happened.

I took a dare.

Set the Wayback Machine for November, 2002

I’ve been toying with Centaur Glade ever since it popped up in Onslaught. Anyone who played against it or with it in Limited knows how good it can be. It never made a splash in Constructed, though. It was too slow. Boy, oh, boy, does it give control decks fits, though. If you can resolve one against a control deck, you can hold all of those spells in your hand and make them deal with uncounterable 3/3 Centaur tokens. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

The question remained: how can I make this card work? The answer always eluded me.

I talked about it and talked about it until one day a few weeks ago one of my friends dared me to find a way to make it work.”Will you, please, for the love of Daniela Pestova, please, build a Centaur Glade deck so you can see how bad it is and get it out of your system already? We’re tired of hearing about it.” Okay, so it wasn’t so much of a dare as an order. Still, it got me to thinking again about how to do make the Glade work.

Centaur Glade – Chapter One

My first pass was about a year ago. I tried a Red and Green version with lots of mana production from the Green and creature control from the Red. It didn’t work. The Red burn spells couldn’t control quite enough of the creatures that the deck faced. That left the mana creatures to work defense instead of saving themselves to make mana.

A few weeks later, I tried a mono-Green. I figured, what the heck. I’ll make lotsa mana and crank out lotsa dudes. The problem, of course, is that Green has no way to fend off the other guy’s critters long enough to use the Glade. Well, other than letting their mana producers block and die like they did in version one. Strike two.

Centaur Glade – Chapter Two

In the meantime, I had started trying to make a Soldiers deck with Frontline Strategist along with some other, bigger Soldiers. I figured a one-sided Fog had to be good. It was good except for one thing. Sometimes, my guys just weren’t big enough to finish the job. I could stop them for one turn, but I couldn’t punch through for the win.

Meanwhile, after Mirrodin hit, I started back on another rut I’d been into. I kept returning to the idea of running four Nantuko Vigilantes in any deck running Green. Not sideboard, but maindeck. Well, you know what They said. They said,”It’s a dead card against too many decks.””It’s too expensive.”

Of course, this is Spring of 2004. The Vigilante isn’t as”dead” as it used to be. First of all, it’s a creature. It can always swing. True, if you cast it face-up, it’s a 3/2 for four mana, which is pricey. Second, there are so very many decks that run artifacts and enchantments now that you nearly always have something to hit. Look at:

• Goblins – They run Pyrite Spellbomb. Sure, they’ll pop it off in response to you flipping over the Vigilante. My philosophy, which I stole from someone better than me, is,”Better that they do something bad on my timetable and not theirs.” Many Goblin decks are running Sulfuric Vortex in the maindeck, too. That’s a nice one to kill. (Just remember to wait until it’s hit them once, too.) They’re also often running Great Furnace as a way to fuel (pun intended) Shrapnel Blast. Killing lands on your second turn is always good tempo.

• Zombies – Call to the Grave gets called to the graveyard. (No need to say it. I know it’s not one of my better ones.) Ditto with the Oversold Cemetery.

• Clerics – If it’s mono-Black, you want to kill Oversold Cemetery. If it’s the Black-White infinite life version, you want to kill Lightning Greaves.

• Blue-White Control or Mono-White Control – Okay, admittedly, not a lot in here to kill. But it can cover for the Frontline Strategist.

• Mono-Black Control – Kills Oblivion Stones. Again, of course, they’ll pop it off in response. Better that they clear the board on your timetable and not theirs.

• White Weenie – There’s not a decent White Weenie deck out there that isn’t running Equipment or, at a minimum, Glorious Anthem.

• Red/Green Land Destruction – Whoops. Well, seven out of eight ain’t bad.

• Affinity – Okay, so the Vigilante can’t kill Broodstar or Glimmervoid. Who cares about the Broodstar if it’s only a 2/2?

Centaur Glade – Chapter Three

One day, I was fooling around on Magic Online. Normally, I don’t play online. I just use it as a way to watch other people play. (Yes, I lead a boring life most of the time.) Another reason I don’t play much is that I have a poor collection of Magic Online cards. If I don’t have enough money for good, real cards, why would anyone think I had the money to spend on good, fake cards?

However, I do have some. I accidentally won an auction for three Centaur Glades. (I missed the”Magic Online” in the auction info. Oh, well. I got three Glades out of it. I’m sure I’m not the first person to do that, either. I pay my debts, though, so I paid for this and got my Glades.) I have many of the commons from friends who have given them to me plus a couple of cheap auction wins for sets of four of each Legions and Scourge common.

I was looking at some of those decks I had in the system. Like a Lightning Bolt, it struck me.”Why not combine the three ideas into a Green-White Centaur Glade Control-type deck?” I could have Fog effects, Soldiers, and Renewed Faith to keep me alive long enough to make the Centaur Glade a force. The Naturalizes and Nantuko Vigilantes could prevent some bad cards from hurting me or helping my opponents (which is like hurting me). Then, the Glades could crank out 3/3 Centaurs to swing for the victory.

Why not? Because it had to be bad. It just had to be.

Didn’t it?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it wouldn’t cost me a thing to find out. I already had the cards. I just had to wait until my fiancé Luanne was asleep and hop on the computer. Since she gets up for work at 4:30 A.M., I was online by about 8:30 P.M. [In contrast, I go to bed around 4 A.M., which proves I am not, in fact, carrying on relations with”that woman.” – Knut, referring to his wife]

Of course, I started in the Casual Decks room. If you’ve played on Magic Online, you’ll know that the Casual room is one wacky place. You could sit down across from a four-color Sliver deck or a well-tuned mono-White Control deck that’s an exact copy of some championship deck from Sweden or somewhere else exotic. You never know.

My first match was against Affinity. With four maindeck Vigilantes and Naturalizes, this thing is kind of nasty to Affinity. When you can hit their lands on turns 2 and 3 with Naturalize and then two turns later with a Vigilante, they tend not to be able to play anything regardless of the shiny Chrome Moxes and creatures with Affinity. He actually cursed me, suggesting that I should”take your tournament deck and shove it.” Wow. I got cussed out. And he called it a”tournament deck.” Whoa. He spelled his words correctly, too. I figured that I must have been onto something.

That night I played against Goblins, Elves, Soldiers, U/W Control, a janky G/B Cemetery deck, and a couple decks that will never show up on the radar. I won almost every game. The two I lost were to Goblins (Note to Self: don’t get mana hosed against Goblins) and that wonderful, wacky Green-Black deck that ran (I love this) Reaping the Graves. It may have had something to do with mulliganning down to four cards, but I could be wrong.

My favorite win of the night came when I beat the U/W Control deck. Centaur Glade hammers control, but only if it slips in under the countermagic. My opponent was surprised by my first Raise the Alarm. Those tokens ended up doing about eight damage before she got rid of them. S/he wasn’t gonna get caught by that again, though. So, when I tried playing it again at the end of his/her turn, it drew a Mana Leak. That allowed me to drop the Glade unimpeded on my turn. From there on it was only a question of when s/he would get Akroma’s Vengeance. Once s/he did, I had another Glade in hand.

Of course, you never know the quality of player you’re facing online. I mean, heck, you could be facing me! You kind of have to decide if they’re any good based on how they play. Some were good. Others were not so good. I knew that if I wanted to really see if the deck was any good, I’d have to go to the Serious Decks room. That had to wait for a few days, though. I was sleepy.

Centaur Glade – Chapter Four

It was another early night for Luanne. So, I tucked her in (keep your mind out the gutter, Valerie; that’s my fiancé there) and got online. This time, I ventured into the Serious room. At any given time, there are only about a fifth of the number of people in the Serious room that there are in the Casual room. Having lurked there many times to see what sorts of decks were being played, I was satisfied that there was definitely a more stable”metagame” (for lack of a better phrase) there. There seemed to be more of the decks that you’d see in a real tournament. I think the fact that it’s called the”Serious” room along with the fact that you have to play a best two-out-of-three match scares off a lot of people. Whatever the reason, I expected fewer bad decks than I’d usually to face in the Casual room, and I was right. I was also itching to see if this deck was as good as it had played before.

By this time, I’m pretty sure that you want to see the decklist. Geez, you’re so impatient. Haven’t you ever heard of delayed gratification? You should learn it. Women appreciate it.

Glade to Meet You

25 Lands

4 Windswept Heath

3 Elfhame Palace

3 Tranquil Thicket

3 Secluded Steppe

7 Forest

5 Plains

16 Creatures / Token-Makin’ Spells

4 Frontline Strategist

4 Nantuko Vigilante

4 Krosan Tusker

4 Raise the Alarm

19 Other Spells

4 Renewed Faith

4 Naturalize

4 Wrath of God

3 Centaur Glade

4 Arrest

I’m sure you’ll notice a complete lack of Darksteel cards. That’s part of the reason that I wanted to tell you about some of the deck’s successes first. Simply put, I was worried about writing about the deck. T-Knut wants us to focus on Darksteel. With Regionals coming up in two months, that makes perfect sense. Whenever a new set comes out, that’s the”tech” that people want to see discussed, and, of course, StarCity wants to give the people what they want. Implicit in that sort of players’ mindset, though, is the idea that all of the older cards have been mined. I’ve never seen a set for which that’s true. Blocks rotate out every year with potentially awesome cards left unexplored. (Third-turn Gurzigost, anyone?)* Also, Darksteel cards have yet to hit Magic Online. So, I had no way to play with them online.

While I’m being honest, that list isn’t exactly as I played it online. It’s actually a better version. Obviously, from what I said above, I don’t have online versions of Windswept Heath or Wrath of God. The Heaths were two more each of Forest and Plains while the Wraths were three Pacifisms and one Akroma’s Vengeance.

I know what you’re thinking.”Oh, my gosh! He actually owns a really good card online!” Don’t worry about my scrub status. The Vengeance was a fluke, a blip, randomness. I played in that special, free tourney that Wizards had to thank everyone that logged onto MTGO during the bad period last Summer or Fall or whenever it was. I got an Akroma’s Vengeance in one pack. I think I got an Oblation and a Gigapede, too. Whoopee, huh? I wouldn’t play Vengeance in this deck in real life, though, because it kills the Glade.

Okay, now, seriously, how bad and janky does that deck look? That’s rhetorical. I know how bad it looks. It looks so bad that it’s funny. It’s slap-your-knee, poke-the-guy-beside-you-in-the-ribs-with-your-elbow funny. Yet, it keeps beating very good decks. Essentially, it can hold off the opponent and kill some key cards while gearing up for a Centaur Glade that cranks out tons of tokens. Sometimes, Soldier tokens, face-down creatures, and the occasional Tusker swing for some damage, too.

The typical first-turn play is a land that comes into play tapped. The second turn is the biggie. You can cycle a Renewed Faith at the end of their turn, play Naturalize, or sound the Alarm. Whatever the situation calls for, do that. If you can kill an artifact land on your second turn, do it. Trust me. As my man Crash Davis would tell you,”Don’t think. You can only hurt the team.”

“Things are Getting Serious”

In my first match in the Serious room, I faced off against Goblins. Turn 1, I saw a Skirk Prospector, which hit thanks to a Great Furnace. Gee, and me with only Naturalize and a Raise the Alarm. *giggle* *snort* This entire game was about me using Raise the Alarm, Renewed Faith, and Frontline Strategist to hold off the Goblins until the Centaur Glade could hit. At that point, he was out of options while I kept cranking out tokens. Oh, and the Vigilante and Naturalize each hitting a Great Furnace couldn’t have hurt, either. If he had Shrapnel Blast in the deck, he never had any fuel for them in game one.

Combat Damage Stack Tricks with the Strategist – Always, always, always remember to stack damage before you flip the Strategist when he’s playing defense. He will be locked in at causing two damage because he was face-down when it went on the stack. However, he will be a Soldier when he’s flipped over. I killed two Goblin Piledrivers that way.

In the second game, he brought in Sulfuric Vortex. Man, if this deck only had a way to handle enchantments. (That’s called sarcasm, Jethro.)

Next up was . . . another Goblin deck. Oh, well. You take what you can get. This guy squeezed off a fourth-turn Clickslither, which made me realize that I hadn’t seen the nasty Insect in the last matchup. I was okay, though, after the initial smack thanks to Arrest. Just as with the last match, Renewed Faith, both cycled and cast, kept me in the games while Arrest and Pacifism held down his creatures. Then, the Glade got going. He did roll me in game two, though, with that ridiculous second-turn-Warchief, two-Piledrivers-on-turn-three thing. And me without a Raise the Alarm in sight. Thems the breaks, though. I got back in the groove in game three and won the match two games to one.

I wanted to play another match, but was worried that I’d face Goblins again. So, I went to bed.

Centaur Glade – Chapter Five

The next morning, I got up earlier than usual. (Did I mention that Luanne wakes up at 4:30 A.M.?) So, I logged on, went to the Serious room, and asked for an Affinity deck.

Long story short, this deck rolled Affinity even in the Serious room. This guy was more understanding than the last one. I mentioned before the match that my deck was kind of tuned to beat Affinity but that I wanted to test it against a good player. He asked how I’d tuned it, and I told him. Hey, it’s not a real tourney or anything. Why not let him know? It’s better than wasting his time and getting electronically yelled at. He agreed to help me test it. He probably thought that I had specifically asked for Affinity because I knew I’d roll it. I didn’t know, but I did expect it. I had to find out, though, didn’t I?

The key here seemed to be that I didn’t blow up the Frogmites and Myr Enforcers unless I had to. I know that sounds silly. They’re artifacts. I can kill them. I should kill them. It’s more important to make sure that the Broodstar is irrelevant. I used the Naturalizes and Vigilantes to kill the Lightning Greaveses (what is the plural of Greaves?) and the artifacts lands. If the Broodstar is only a 3/3, I can handle that. There are other ways to neutralize the ground pounders.

For example, do that combat damage stack trick I mentioned above with the Strategist. During one combat, he swung with a ‘Mite and an Enforcer while all I had out was a face-down Strategist. I blocked the ‘Mite and, with damage on the stack, flipped the Strategist. I took nothing and killed the Frogmite. He dropped another Frogmite. The funny thing was that the very next turn, I dropped a face-down Vigilante. He swung on his turn with the Frogmite and the Enforcer. I blocked the ‘Mite with the morph, flipped the Vigilante, killing the Enforcer (that was one of the”I had to” times), and then let the Vigilante kill the Frogmite regular style. That left him with no creatures and only a Thirst for Knowledge in hand. He cast it, drawing into no artifacts.

To be fair to him, though, he did have a completely nuts draw in game two. According to the computer, he emptied his hand on turn 1 by playing a Chrome Mox, imprinting something Blue, dropping a Seat of the Synod, casting Talisman of Whatever Silly Name Gives Blue and White Mana, casting a Tooth of Chips and Salsa for free, and finishing with two free Frogmites.

Holy Death Stars, Commander Philbin! It’s like playing in Urza’s Block all over again. I had yet to drop a land, and he had five damage ready for me. I played an Elfhame Palace (which comes into play tapped), and passed the turn. He drew a Thoughtcast, played it, and obviously drew a Greaves and an Enforcer. How do I know? Because he played the Enforcer and the Greaves and attacked me for nine. On turn 2. With no Dark Ritual or Birds of Paradise or Lotus Petal. Ugh. Guess what he played on turn 3. Go ahead. Guess. Come on.

Yup. Broodstar.

Good thing I won game three, or I might have had a bad day at work.

I got home that night, giddy from my testing so far. What had started out as a lark was looking like a pretty good deck. Plus, I had gotten to play Magic with some friends at work during lunch. So, I was satisfying my Magic jones big time that day.

Instead of watching T.V., I loaded up MTGO. It must have been a Wednesday because I remember thinking that, now that Ed had moved to Fridays, there wouldn’t be anything decent to watch until The West Wing came on. (Yeah, yeah, I like Smallville, too. Like many guys, I dream of a Kristen Kreuk / Allison Mack sandwich. It’s just not must-see T.V. or anything.)

I’d love to regale you with more stories of this pile of junk running roughshod in the Serious room again, but I finally lost a match. Please, don’t cry for me. I’m a big boy. I can handle it. It was another Goblin deck. He played it well, and it was well-built. In my favor, it did take him a while to win both games, but I only damaged him in one of them.

The next deck was a Blue-Green Mind’s Desire deck using Spellweaver Helix, the so-called DNA deck. I’ll be honest folks, this one scared me. As soon as I figured out what he was doing, I started getting flop sweat. If you’ve never played against DNA, you need to. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re winning. You could be at twenty-six life with your opponent at one. They can still win.

So, how did I win in two straight games? Naturalize and Nantuko Vigilante. I killed all of the Helixes and Chrome Moxes that I saw. Oh, yeah, the Glade is good, too. You make creatures without triggering any Storm abilities. Brain Freeze? Whatever. Temporal Fissure? You’re gonna have to trigger it all yourself, Barbie. I did once have a Glade get Fissured. I just made three 3/3’s (“two tutus?”) in response.

I don’t want you to think that either game was an easy win. They were tough. In the second one, as a matter of fact, I had him at three life, ready to swing with a Centaur when he played two Chain of Vapors on me, one for the token and one for the Glade. While I got the Glade back into play that turn, he was able to do some Tendrils of Agony tricks the next turn and get back up to eleven life. Well, there’s another few turns for him.

Centaur Glade – Chapter Six

My next match was my favorite. I got to play for the first time one of my favorite writers, all-around good guy, Jay Modlyham-Saladbar. If you read his stuff, you’ll figure out why I like him. He’s entertaining, he writes well, and he favors the same kinds of underappreciated cards that I do. Look at his piece on Green decks using and abusing Fireshrieker.

Even though he didn’t explicitly ask me to keep it secret, I don’t want to give away what he was playing. I don’t want to tell you about his deck because he might be doing what I was doing: testing it for an article. Professional courtesy and all, doncha know. Suffice it to say he’s got a very solid deck. If he writes about it in his next piece, take note. It has speed, removal, beef, and doesn’t care if you drop an Ensnaring Bridge.

Yes, he beat me handily. To be fair, though, it was only because he had a better deck and played better than I did.

Centaur Glade – Chapter Seven

The last deck I played against online before writing this was a Standard Green-Black deck called The Rock.

(Digression: For some reason, any Green and Black deck is now called The Rock, and that’s just plain bad nomenclature. The original deck was called The Rock and His Millions after some movie star, I think. [He was a wrestler at the time, kind of like Jerry Lawler was back in your day, Chris. – Knut] Anyway, the Phyrexian Plaguelord kinda looks like this Rock person. The deck made lotsa squirrel tokens. It wasn’t usually millions of them, but it felt that way when they were knockin’ you upside da head. For whatever reason, people started calling any deck that was Green and Black”The Rock.” If it doesn’t have the Plaguelord, you shouldn’t be allowed to call it The Rock.)

This was an actual Rock deck complete with four Oversold Cemeteries, four Phyrexian Arenas, and four Phyrexian Plaguelords. I’ll tell you about the bad game first.

In game two, he commenced with the third-turn Ravenous Baloth followed by a fourth-turn Baloth. Then, he cast Persecute naming Green, ripping a Centaur Glade out of my hand the turn before I could cast it. Hopefully, you won’t be shocked to learn that he won that one.

Games one and three were near mirrors. I was able to hold him off with flipped up Frontline Strategists, Renewed Faiths, and Raise the Alarm. Arrest stopped funny Plaguelord tricks. I killed each and every Cemetery and Arena before he had a chance to use either one to put a single card into his hand. Once his hand was empty and his crew was neutralized, it was no problem to drop a Glade and start cranking out dudes.

Centaur Glade – Chapter Eight

Last night, I finally got to test the deck against actual people sitting in the same room with me. I brought the version I actually listed above (as opposed to the less powerful one I played online) to our weekly playtest session. One of the group was testing a White Weenie deck with Skullclamp. I figured this would be a nice test for both of us. I have maindeck artifact hate. He has lots of Soldiers that still deal their combat damage when Frontline Strategist is turned face up.

If we disregard the games in which he mulliganned to four and in which I saw only two lands the entire game, Glade to Meet You was 2-2 against the WWe deck. If we add those, it was 3-3. By the way, it’s a good idea to kill the Skullclamps before casting Wrath of God. That way they don’t draw four or six or eight cards, depending on the Shikari tricks they can play.

After that, we switched playtest partners. This time, Glade to Meet You got crushed by my friend Charles’ new post-Darksteel monstrosity. I am not going to divulge the decklist since he has yet to play it in a tournament. However, like Jay M-S’s deck, you can drop Ensnaring Bridges and Circles of Protection. He just doesn’t care. Glade to Meet You went 2-5 against it. As Hank Hill might say,”That deck’s just not right.”

Centaur Glade – Chapter Nine

The sideboard, as usual, will be dictated by your local metagame. If you expect to see anything that uses graveyard recursion, Scrabbling Claws will do a fine job. However, right now, the two most often used pieces of graveyard recursion are Oversold Cemetery and Unholy Grotto. This deck never had a problem dealing with a Cemetery. This makes me think that Creeping Mold could be used to kill Unholy Grottos. Creeping Mold will also help against Beast decks and that ridiculous Contested Cliffs. Of course, if you’re feeling particularly nasty, you can really hose Affinity with the Mold, too. Just Naturalize or Vigilante away their lands. If they drop another, point the Mold at it.

The Claws, however, will help against those silly Myr RetrieverMindslaver decks and Eternal Dragon. If you think you’ll see several of these decks, try to fit both Creeping Mold and the Claws into the deck.

Against Goblins, COP: Red is a good idea, doncha think?

Use Gilded Light if you play against Mindslavers and Cabal Archons. If you have the rares, of course, use Ivory Mask, instead.

Karma helps against mono-Black decks. Just be careful of Mind Bend.

Centaur Glade – The Final Chapter

You’ll have to forgive me, prattling on and on like someone who was a virgin last night but isn’t this morning. You’ll probably want some advice on how to play this deck.

Q: What should I pay attention to in my opening hand?

A: You have the ability to do several things of importance on your or your opponent’s second turn. You could play Naturalize. You could make two Soldier tokens with Raise the Alarm. You could cycle Renewed Faith. Given these twelve plays, you want to make sure you have a turn two play in there. If you don’t see one, unless you are absolutely sure of what you’re up against, mulligan no matter how many lands you have.

Q: If I’m playing against Affinity, what should I Naturalize first?

A: Hit the mana. The mana in Affinity decks does two things. First, it taps for the mana needed to play many spells. (Duh.) Second, it allows those silly free Myr Enforcers. Naturalize the mana sources ASAP. If you can do it on your second turn, do it. Forget that it’s an instant. Don’t even let them untap. Do it on your turn as if it were a sorcery. You’d be surprised how many games you can win when your opponent can’t play any spells. If you have a choice between an artifact land and a Chrome Mox, hit the Chrome Mox. Even though the Chrome Mox can only make one color of mana just as an artifact land can, you’ll feel better about destroying a Mox. Plus, you might get them flustered by the fact that they lost a card and a Chrome Mox. Every little bit helps.

Q: What if I don’t have a Centaur Glade in my opening hand?

A: Don’t sweat it. You actually don’t want the Glade to come out too early. A fifth-turn Centaur Glade is vulnerable. A Glade that only makes one token is an expensive card. If they’re able to kill the thing when you’ve only made one token, you essentially paid nine mana over a turn or two for a single 3/3 Centaur. What you want to make sure is that you have a good hand of cards to survive until you can get the Glade. Ultimately, you’d like the Glade to hit when you have nine mana. That way you can make a token the turn it comes into play if you need to. That would also mean you can make two the next turn if it lives.

Q: What about the new decks running Skullclamp? You didn’t get to test against those!

A: Almost true, since I did play a few games against Bill Bryant’s WWe deck. As I pointed out, Darksteel isn’t online yet. I’m sure that I’ll be facing a thousand and four decks with Skullclamp as soon as it is. In the meantime, I have to ask,”Are you drunk or stupid?” Kill the ‘Clamps! You’ve got four Naturalizes and four Vigilantes. What were you planning on using them for? After the ‘Clamps are gone, you can Wrath away to your heart’s content.

Q: Why did you choose Arrest over Pacifism? It costs one mana more.

A: Do you play Magic against people who like Visara? What about Timberwatch Elf? Goblins have a couple of guys called Siege-Gang Commander and Clickslither. Have you heard of them? How about Phyrexian Plaguelord? Birds of Paradise? Cabal Archon? Weathered Wayfarer? Wellwisher? Whipcorder? All of the creatures listed above have abilities that Pacifism doesn’t care about. Who’s blocking with Wellwisher anyway? Arrest will shut down some of the most powerful creatures in the format. In addition, if need be, Arrest simply acts as a Pacifism, allowing your guys to get those final points of damage through.

Q: Goblins is so fast. How do I play against that deck?

A: The White half of this deck is much more important against Goblins. The ultimate play is a second-turn Raise the Alarm cast during combat that picks off a second-turn Goblin Warchief. After that, they will play a turn or two more slowly . . . if they’re smart. That is nothing but good for you. Don’t forget your Frontline Strategist tricks, too.

Q: I messed up and forgot to get my wife anything for Valentine’s Day? What should I do?

A: Practice saying these two words:”I’m sorry.” You’ll be saying that a lot of the next few years.

The point of all of this was two-fold. First, I wanted to give you another fun, competitive, and cheap deck to play. Second, I wanted to remind you that just because Darksteel is here doesn’t mean that all of the older cards now stink. There’s still gold in them thar hills. Don’t miss it because you’re looking too far ahead.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Next week, I promise I’ll use Darksteel. Now, go party like it’s 1999.

Chris Romeo

[email protected]

P.S. I did some more testing with the Suicide Black deck this week, too. Against aggressive decks that drop a bunch of weenies, Wretched Anurid blows, bites, and sucks. I don’t know how many games I lost because my opponent figured out that the thing to do was simply to cast creatures to use as blockers and let the Anurid kill me. If you face a lot of weenie decks, instead of the Anurid, use Withered Wretch. Then, you’re already pre-sideboarded for Clerics and Zombies. He’s still great against control decks. So, if you think you’ll see more of those, leave the Anurid in.

* P.P.S. Wow, my first ever asterisk paragraph at the end of a column. I hate these. Anyway, you’re still thinking about the third-turn Gurzigost, aren’t you? You’re wondering how it doesn’t die during your upkeep. Okay, during your upkeep, you play Giant Growth on the Gurzigost, making him a 9/11. Then, you activate his ability to deal combat damage as if he was unblocked. Then, you take those two cards in your ‘yard, and put them on the bottom of your library.