From Right Field: “I’m Super, Thanks for Asking!”

I had been playing with Steely Resolve in the sideboard. I’d bring it in against Goblins and really anything else that tried to target the Elves – which, using my keen sense of observation, I noticed was just about everything. Then, a funny thing happened in game three of a Goblin matchup. I got two Resolves. The first one I dropped and called, of course, Elves. Then a light bulb went on: I dropped the second, calling Goblins. No more Clamping up Goblins for cards. No more activating the Sledder’s ability, unless he wanted to call Insects. But there’s one difference between this and a regular Elves deck…

From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget. 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 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 a 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the deck is just plain lousy.

It’s no secret that I liked Skullclamp. I was awfully sad to see it go. The final Saturday of its inclusion in Standard coincided with a big local tourney at which much product would be given away. So, last weekend, I was cajoled into playing”a deck that you actually have a chance of winning with, you dolt.” Friends. Ah, with friends like mine, who needs enemas? Yes, with half a case of cards on the line, my”friends” convinced me to play Goblin Bidding. The bastards. It was Saturday, June 19th, 2004, the last day that Skullclamp would be legal in any Constructed format that I’d actually play in.

You’ll get a kick out of this because of schadenfreude. Merriam-Webter defines schadenfreude as the”enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others[.]” Gotta love those wacky Germans. (“Unhappiness at the misfortune of others? That is German!” – The Ferrett, 75% Teuton) From the Greeks, we get the lilting”callipygian,” which means”having shapely buttocks[.]” From the French, we get the lovely”champagne,” meaning”expensive alcohol that gets you in good with women who wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.”

The Germans, meanwhile, give us a word that means”I may suck, but at least I’m not you.”

Round 1 – Cassandra playing White Weenie

Cassandra was a lovely young lady of about sixteen or seventeen. This was her first even tournament. She had just gotten her DCI number. She was playing White Weenie.

Yeah, I know that you can see it coming. Can you just wait for me to completely spell it out? I’m a storyteller. I don’t just jump right to the punchline. Thank you so very much for you patience.

Game one was a typical Goblin Bidding stompfest. For game two, having seen Skullclamps on her side, I brought in Shatter. What I saw was Sword of Fire and Ice.

Huh? Yeah.”Sword of Fire and Ice is bad for Goblins, mmm-kay?” She was picking off my guys with that two damage and drawing a card. I had to take it like an unloved mutt.

I didn’t start to panic, though, because I had Shatter. It wasn’t long, though, before I realized that I was stuck on the same three lands that I had drawn (after going down to six) and couldn’t find a Shatter.

So, for game three, I also brought in three Echoing Decays. Maybe if I couldn’t kill the Sword, I would guarantee that I could kill the creature that it was about to equip.

No dice. No Black mana. More mana hosing. I had to mulligan to five. Congrats, Cassandra. Well played, and excellent choice with the Sword. It really hurts Goblins. Don’t let anyone talk you out of that deck. Play it. Learn it. Tweak it.

One last thing: I was the only person she beat all day. You saw that coming, too, didn’t ya?

Round 2 – vs. David playing Affinity

Affinity. Yahoo! We had jiggered the deck just a tad by adding three Electrostatic Bolts and taking out a Sparksmith, a Goblin Sledder, and a land. (Don’t get yer panties in a wad; it still had twenty-three. That’s plenty for a Goblin deck with Skirk Prospectors to run on.)

The theory was this: Electrostatic Bolt is good against creatures.

It really is. I mean, you know, when it shows up. Being able to kill a first-turn Disciple of the Vault, an Arcbound Ravager, or a Goblin Sharpshooter (or a Myr Enforcer or Frogmite or Goblin Warchief or Ornithopter or Dark Supplicant or…) is A Good Thing.

It didn’t. Show up, that is. Stupid beeyotch.

Not in game one. Not in game two. Not in game three.

Luckily, Sparksmith and Sharpshooter did.

(Interesting rules note: Sparksmith’s ability targets only one entity: A creature. If that target is not there on resolution or can’t be targeted on resolution – as in, something gave it protection from Red in response – the ability is countered by the rules of the game, specifically Rule 413.2a. That’d be the whole entire ability. Removed from the stack completely. Which means that the Sparksmith’s controller won’t take any damage. Yes, really.

(So let’s say you’re playing Goblin Bidding. You target your opponent’s Arcbound Ravager with what will be a fairly hefty Sparky offering. The Ravager can’t survive. It can, however, eat some artifacts, causing you to lose some life because of that fargin’ icehole Disciple of the Vault, and then give something else its +1/+1 counters. With the Sparksmith’s ability on the stack, your opponent does some Ravager tricks and then sacrifices the Ravager to itself. Between the loss of life and the Sparky damage, your opponent calculates that you’ll be dead.

(But wait! You don’t lose any life from the Sparksmith because he sacrificed it while the Sparksmith’s ability was on the stack. You take no damage from Sparky. Which leaves you free to swing with your remaining Goblins for the win.

(Therefore, Ravager players, when confronted with a Sparksmith, consider whether it’s actually better for you to just”let the Wookie win.”)

The match came down to a tense third game in which I had to draw a Patriarch’s Bidding or lose. I got the Bidding.

Folks, that never happens to me. To be more specific, it happens so rarely as to be statistically insignificant. Like the number of people who don’t think that Halle Berry‘s hot. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Jonathan. Has Iceland frozen your brain?) It’s so rare that I log the times that it does happen. The last time that I was in a”draw <this card> and win, or don’t draw <this card> and lose” situation and I drew <this card> was December 7th, 2002. Coincidentally, it also involved Goblins.

“Goblins have been belly, belly good to me.”

Round 3 – vs. Lucas playing Mono-White Control

Actually, he had some Blue in there, but it wasn’t for any countermagic. So, I didn’t really want to call it U/W Control for fear of misleading you. See? That’s how much I respect you. Do I get a cookie?

Oh, yeah, and he was Cassandra’s boyfriend. Fudge.”Only I didn’t say ‘fudge.'” I was planning on what I needed to do for games two and three before we even presented our decks.

Game one was tight, especially after going down to five cards. I can’t say the same for game two. I had to go down to four cards, and he owned me like The Yankees own The Red Sox. (I can admit it. It’s the truth.)

The third game came down to a play that I didn’t make. How many times does that happen in life? You decide not to call that girl back for some reason, and it turns out she was actually married to a biker who was currently doing time for mayhem and attempted murder.

Or you forget to bring your lunch to work. So you go out for lunch. While you’re gone, someone else, who insists on eating lunch at her desk, gets the Assignment from Hell instead.

In game two, I had to do some serious wrangling. The M&M Boys – mulligan and mana hose – showed up again. In the end, I won because I didn’t pop off the final Bloodstained Mire that I had on the board. I ended my turn at eleven life. He had an Eternal Dragon on the board. He was able, during my end of turn step, to cycle Decree of Justice for only five Soldier tokens. Had I popped off the Mire, I would have been at ten and would have been dead since I had attacked with everyone leaving no one to block.

Now, I’d like to be able to say that I had calculated that he could make five tokens and that with me at eleven, I knew that I couldn’t afford to blah blah blah. The truth is that I just knew that it wouldn’t help to pop off the Mire, but it could hurt. Rain Man Romeo.

Round 4 – Charlie Starr playing Goblin Biding

Charlie is another one of my”friends.” I despise him, though. Okay, I don’t despise him. Truthfully, I’m extremely jealous of him. He’s taller than me. He’s better looking than me. (I know. I know – hard to believe, but it’s true.) He’s got better hair than me, which is what really chars my frijoles.

But at least if he was an assmunch, you could say,”Well, there you go. He eats roasted kittens for dinner.” But he’s also a great guy, always there for his friends, never a mean word. For cryin’ out loud, he’s going to nursing school. Some bullchips about”helping people” and”making the world a better place.” Ugh.

Of course, he’s also better than I am at Magic. He hasn’t even picked up a deck in six months. He had to ask what Chittering Rats did when an opponent dropped it on him. I berated him for not having an encyclopedic knowledge of the cards in Standard. He probably would have said”bite me” himself, but he didn’t have to. Women, sensing that Charlie was being treated less than ideally, rushed from points across the mall to chastise me and ask him if there was anything, anything at all that they could help him with. It was sickening.

This was another tense match. It came down to game three.

You know how sometimes/many times/often/all the time, you think of the”best comeback ever” on the drive back from the bar/pool hall/brothel? This game was like that. I had an active Sharpshooter, tapped from use, a Goblin Sledder, and another inactive, untapped Sharpshooter. He cast a Goblin Warchief. Then he cast his own Sharpshooter.

Now, what would a good player do? Why, that good player, she’d see the Sharpshooter on the stack. Then, she’d activate her Sledder’s ability, targeting her active Sharpshooter and sacrificing the inactive Sharpshooter. That would untap her Sharpshooter. Then she’d hit the Warchief for one.

Then she’d activate the Sledder again, this time sacrificing itself. That would untap her Sharpshooter again. She’d then kill the Warchief. When it died, her Sharpshooter would untap again. Then the other player’s Sharpshooter would hit. Then she’d kill that, too.

Me, I let all of Charlie’s stuff hit, and then I let him kill all of my stuff. Then, right before my next match, I realized what I could have done.

I chalk it up to being mesmerized by his beautiful hair and dazzling, impish smile. You can’t concentrate sitting across from a beautiful man like that, I tell you what.

That left me at 2-2. The prize support brought more than the usual number of contestants. I’m pretty we had over thirty people, but I don’t know how close to forty. Anyway, I knew that 3-2 wouldn’t make top eight. I wanted to play anyway.

Round 5 – vs. Anthony playing Affinity

Yeah, now the Electrostatic Bolts show up. Fudge. (See above.) This was a simple 2-0 win thanks to the E-Bolts blowing away turn1 Disciples in both games. Affinity can draw all the cards it wants. As long as none of them are Disciple of the Vault, I’m oh-tay.

Meanwhile, the Pros were playing with Skullclamps for the last time, too, at U.S. Nationals. Let’s go the leader board. Stan?

“Chris, it appears that, regardless of Skullclamp’s ‘environment-warping presence,’ the Standard environment is actually very healthy. The top eight at Nationals had six distinctly different decks: Ravager Affinity; Elf & Nail; G/W Control; U/W March of the Machines; Goblins; and Beasts.”

So, Stan, are you saying, contrary to published reports, that the environment is actually diverse?

“Yes, Chris, it seems to be that way. I haven’t seen so much diversity since MAXIM did a layout of all of the women that Colin Farrell has boned.”

Well, Stan, what are the”experts” saying accounts for the difference between the unprecedented percentages of players that Affinity put in the top eights of U.S. Regionals and its lackluster numbers at Nationals?

“Chris, the ‘experts’ are saying that the flotsam and jetsam of players who populate the come-one-come-all tourneys like Regionals are unimaginative lemmings who all read an article by some Japanese guy named ‘Kai’ that said Ravager Affinity and Goblins were the two best decks. In addition, those decks are fast and relatively easy to play. Instead of working on new ideas, they just copied those two decks and played them. Meanwhile, the Pros, men and women with brains and time, had the fortitude to play decks that took a little more time and effort to….

“Wait a second, Chris. I’m getting something from our producer. Yes. Yes. Here it is now… We are beating a dead horse. Chris?”

Thanks, Stan. I guess that will be it for our Skullclamp coverage From Right Field.

So, what’s next? Where do we go from here?

Howsabout we look at the Krark-Clan Ironworks decks. I tested one last night. It was a fairly bland build with Pentad Prisms, the KCIs themselves, Myr Incubator, Goblin Charbelcher, Fabricate (to get the pieces), and Fireball as an alternate win condition. To quote my man Jay Sherman (a.k.a. The Critic):

“It stinks!”

Now, obviously, I am not a good player. Which is like saying that Jessica Biel is, you know, kinda attractive. Or that The Yankees suck a little. Holy underperformance, though, Batmunch! I couldn’t even come close to beating Ravager with Cranial Plating in the Skullclamp slot.

Hmmmm… Did Wizards do that on purpose? Skullclamp goes away just in time for Cranial Plating to take its place. Skull/Cranial. Clamp/Plating.

Wrinkled, Toothless Old Man:”Sheriff! Sheriff! We’re getting’ a telegraph from the U.S. Marshall!”

Sheriff Ralph:”What’s it say, Wrinkly?”

WTOM:”It says, ‘Use… Cranial… Plating… Once… Skullclamp… Gets… Banned.’ What’s that mean, Sheriff?”

Sheriff Ralph:”I’m not sure what it means, Wrinkly, but I am sure that I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”

By the way, yeah, Cranial Plating is, um, good in Ravager. Use it to beat your opponent to a bloody pulp. Leave the Overrides in the sideboard for if/when you come across Wrath of God and/or Akroma’s Vengeance.

Anyway, it was never close. The KCI deck never even did damage. It was 0-5. So, I went home, cracked open a forty of Smirnoff Ice with Orange flavor and put it up against Goblins. 1-4. One and four.

So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?

Yes, I was one of the people that mentioned the potential third-turn kills with the deck.”Potential” is the key word here. Potentially, anyone can be president of the United States. Potentially, anyone could date Jennifer Lopez. (Okay, bad example.) While there are potential third-turn kills, all I saw were a bunch of actual fourth- and fifth-turn demises.

Until someone explains to me how to play the deck (what hands to keep, what to mulligan, et al), I’m giving up on it.

What I’m not giving up on is:

Blasted Elves

19 Lands

3 Wirewood Lodge

16 Forest

29 Creatures

4 Birchlore Rangers

4 Wirewood Symbiote

4 Wirewood Hivemaster

4 Wellwisher

4 Wirewood Herald

4 Viridian Shaman

3 Timberwatch Elf

2 Caller of the Claw

12 Other Spells

2 Tribal Unity

4 Steely Resolve

4 Blasting Station

2 Naturalize

“Woo hoo! Romeo found a Fifth Dawn card for a deck! And it’s not Relentless Rats! Woo hoo!”

However, I want to start off by talking about the Steely Resolve. I had been playing with this card in the sideboard. I’d bring it in against Goblins and really anything else that tried to target the Elves – which, using my keen sense of observation, I noticed was just about everything.

Then, a funny thing happened in game three of a Goblin matchup. I got two Resolves. The first one I dropped and called, of course, Elves. Then a light bulb went on: I dropped the second, calling Goblins. No more Clamping up Goblins for cards. No more activating the Sledder’s ability, unless he wanted to call Insects. It was great.

So I’ve been working on an Elf deck with these in the main deck. It’s much happier there than in the sideboard, hoping it can help you win both games two and three.

Of course, Slice and Dice and Starstorm (or Tremor, for that matter) still rock Elves’ world. This is where the two Tribal Unities come in. If you’re playing against a deck that could potentially play a removal spell like those or Infest, hold on to the T.U.’s for dear life. They also come in handy for the good ol’ alpha strike.

The deck plays like a regular Elf deck for the most part. The biggest difference is the Blasting Station; the Blasting Station takes all of those Insects that were getting Clamped up and turned into cards and turns them into damage instead. You can do some degenerate things with those Hivemasters’ triggered abilities and that Station. I’m not going to go into the whole use of The Stack with those two cards. Just remember this:”Whenever a creature comes into play, you may untap Blasting Station.” Whoa.

Standard Finals Exam – Fifth Dawn 215

{Each question is worth 10 points. Partial credit will be given. Show all work.}

QUESTION #1: Can Blasted Elves hang with Ravager Affinity?

ANSWER: Yes, as long as the Wellwisher stays protected. Most Affinity decks run little removal beyond Shrapnel Blast, so it’s not hard to keep her safe. However, they will pound away, making the number of Elves on the board smaller and smaller each turn. Try to mulligan into the Hivemaster. The Wellwisher’s lifegain coupled with the artifact destruction can put the game out of reach. However, it’s a tough match, as you would expect from Ravager. You have to stay on your toes and play smart. Don’t underestimate Cranial Plating, and Blast the Disciple ASAP.

QUESTION #2: Can Blasted Elves hang with Goblins?

ANSWER: Yes, but it’s even tougher than winning against Ravager because of all of the direct damage. You have to get a Steely Resolve down in this match-up. You must. No Steely Resolve = loss. The Station itself shines in this matchup, though; when the Station hits, you can kill their Sharpshooter immediately, even if they have Shatter.

QUESTION #3: Can this deck beat Elf and Nail?

ANSWER: Not really. If they drop the Leonin Abunas/Platinum Angel combo, you have to kill the Abunas with the Blasting Station, then hit the Angel with the Viridian Shaman or Naturalize. If they drop Darksteel Colossus, you have to gain more than eleven life per turn. Should I go on?

QUESTION #4: Do you know any slow or special people?


QUESTION #5: Do you know any slow or special people?


QUESTION #6: Do you know any slow or special people?


QUESTION #7: Do you know any slow or special people?


QUESTION #8: Do you know any slow or special people?


QUESTION #9: Do you know any slow or special people?


QUESTION #10: Do you know any slow or special people?


Well, that’s all for this week. As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Tune in next week when we’ll hear Cousin Elmer say,”That’s not a corn cob.”

Chris Romeo