From Right Field: Lickety Split’s A Series of Unfortunate Decks: The Sickly Sweet Sequel

Can you make a good version of all-common White Weenie for the Standard environment? How about mono-Red Land Destruction? Chris finishes his “all commons all the time” stint with a couple of new decks that earn mixed results.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. 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, City of Brass, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are excellent. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Last week, I started a two-part series about some all-common decks. Except for the piece I did on “luck,” this one polarized folks more than any article I’ve written. About half of the folks couldn’t believe that StarCityGames.com wasted the bandwidth to publish decks for an unsanctioned tournament. The rest thought it was great that there were tournaments in which only commons were allowed.

Before I get into the second set of all-common decks, I’d like to address the Negative Nellies out there. I think they were forgetting that, even though the decks were all commons, they were still Standard legal. I know that’s weak, and I wouldn’t suggest playing an all-common deck at sanctioned tourneys (although the Green-Black one has been doing surprisingly well in testing against the Big Boys). Like it says up at the top, though, this is a column for folks on a tight Magic budget. All-common decks certainly qualify. If you would never play in an all-commons tourney (worried that you couldn’t cut it without broken rares, huh?), these two pieces aren’t for you.

That’s life. Not everything can appeal to everyone. There was a time before I was married when I could not have any just women that I desired. (Hard to believe, I know.) One day, I was down because I couldn’t get this particular hottie to go to the sock hop with me. My first boss, Stan Inman, uttered what has become one of The All-Time Classic Lines. “Romeo, you gotta learn that every person has different tastes. If they didn’t, every man would be chasing the same woman, and every woman would be chasing me. And that just wouldn’t be fair.”

Yes, Stan had some ego issues.

(Another of The All-Time Classic Lines came from my friend Larry who once said “Life’s not fair. That’s why bras come in different sizes.”)

So, if you wouldn’t play these decks in the high-powered tourneys that you play in, I completely understand. It’s not for you. It’s for other folks. Don’t shoot them down, though, for people who do want to play in those tournaments.

Speaking of “those tournaments,” I was surprised by how many places hold all-common tournaments. I was also surprised by how many people wanted to know about starting tournaments that were all common events. As I understand it, you can have any restrictions you want on tournaments you run. However, only certain events that follow DCI rules can be sanctioned (i.e. affect players’ ratings). If you don’t care about your rating going up (or, in my case, down), get seven or more friends together and have a tournament.

(One tournament format I’ve always wanted to see is what I call Pack Mirror Format. Essentially, the restrictions would mean that decks could not have a ratio of rares and uncommons greater than one would find in packs. For example, rares are one out of each fifteen cards in a pack. So, if you played a sixty-card deck, the most rares you could run is four. Since you get three uncommons in a fifteen card pack, the most uncommons you could have in a sixty-card deck would be twelve. This would still allow people to play rares and uncommons but without handicapping the people who can’t afford to have a deck with twenty-plus rares.)

Getting on with the Decks: All-Common Red/Green Land Destruction

I was tempted not to drop this one in. You know how it says up at the top that I’ll tell you if the deck is just plain lousy? Well, this isn’t plain lousy. It’s lousy in that naughty, annoying-because-it’s-almost-good way. Since it didn’t completely rock, I’m not going to waste your time with all of the permutations that got me to this. Suffice it to say that, as often happens with LD decks, when it works, you’re golden. When it doesn’t, it’s a$$.

All-Common R/G LD – “Finally Gave Up On It” Version

23 Lands

13 Forest

10 Mountain

16 Creatures

4 Vine Trellis

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Moss Kami

4 Vulshok Sorcerer

21 Other Spells

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Glacial Ray

4 Stone Rain

4 Molten Rain

4 Reap and Sow

1 Rain of Rust

The problem land destruction decks have always had is this one: how can they control the game when they run out of land destruction? I was able to finally figure out this answer using Starstorm and Dragon Roost. . . right before both rotated out of Standard. Using only commons, it’s even harder. You have to have that core of twelve LD spells. What’s left is not a whole lot. You’re almost certainly stuck with mana acceleration (in this case, in the forms of Kodama’s Reach and Sakura-Tribe Elder). I added the Vine Trellises because the early weenies tended to beat the deck. I had Yamabushi’s Flame where Vulshok Sorcerer is. I had played about sixteen different builds of this. The bottom line is this: I couldn’t recommend this to him/her because it was too erratic. Maybe I wasn’t mulliganning properly. Maybe I was being too aggressive. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t get it to work.

All-Common Mono-Red

Speed kills. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about cars, fastballs, or the illicit drug. The same is true in Magic. When I came to the mono-Red deck, I was finally able to get back to an idea that I’d used a few years ago when Goblin Ringleader was still Standard-legal: the all unaffected-by-summoning-sickness (a.k.a. haste) deck.

Red has some very nice common critters with haste right now with Ronin Houndmaster and Oxidda Golem at the top. Add in some of that efficient burn (Yamabushi’s Flame, Volcanic Hammer, Shock) to get rid of the blockers, and you could have a nice deck. “Could” as in “might.” Given the way the Red sometimes peters out, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

My first run at a mono-Red, all-common deck did indeed have the problem of petering out. Often, it simply dominated the game, blowing away blockers and swinging with haste. Other times, it got really close and yet couldn’t close things out. So, I went to the old standby of adding in three Darksteel Pendants. The decklist that s/he got from me was:

All-Common Hasty Pudding

23 Lands

20 Mountain

3 Darksteel Citadel

22 Creatures

3 Raging Goblin

4 Ronin Houndmaster

4 Oxidda Golem

4 Vulshok Sorcerer

4 Lightning Elemental

3 Vulshok Berserker

15 Other Spells

3 Darksteel Pendant

4 Shock

4 Volcanic Hammer

4 Yamabushi’s Flame

I really, really, really wanted to put Glacial Ray in here. I’ll probably want to put Glacial Ray in every Red deck I build from now until I go senile (sometime next year). The problem is that there wasn’t anything other than itself onto which to Splice it. Given that, I’d rather have the three damage from the Volcanic Hammer.

As with most of the testing I did for these, I went into MTGO’s Casual Decks room and looked for commons-only decks to play. It’s stunning how few people read the comments that are put on the game requests. At first, everyone who sat down with me had a deck packed full of uncommons and rares. They go first and drop City of Brass and Birds of Paradise or Glimmervoid and Aether Vial. I’d back out of the game saying that I had specifically asked for all-commons. After the first few, I had to ask anyone who joined my game “You have an all-common deck, right?” About eighty per cent of the people were walking in with decks that didn’t qualify, and many of them were tournament-quality decks. I got tired of wasting time looking for all-common decks and just played whatever came my way.

I was just tickled pink by the way this deck worked out. [Are you sure you don’t mean “Twinkled Pink”? – Knut, just checkin’] Of course, it couldn’t beat a deck like Tooth and Nail. Then again, it wouldn’t be facing that deck in a tourney. It did do very well against the many Affinity decks that showed up. Interestingly, most Affinity players will not sacrifice both of their lands and their Aether Vial to keep an Arcbound Ravager that’s about to get hit by a second-turn Volcanic Hammer. Most weenie decks – other than other mono-Red weenie decks – tended to just roll over to it. If there was ever a creature stall, the Frederick’s of Hollywood Shaman (a.k.a. Vulshok Sorcerer) came to the rescue. Other than bad draws, this deck was winning most of the time.

By the way, why is she the Vulshok Sorcerer and not the Vulshok Sorceress? The picture clearly depicts a woman. And it’s not like Wizards is against specifically choosing names that scream “female” (e.g. Sorceress Queen, Argothian Enchantress, Brass Secretary). (Oh, man, am I gonna catch hell for that one. Remember, though, I may have written it, but Ted left it in there. Send all hate e-mail to Teddy Cardgame c/o StarCityGames.com.) [I take it you haven’t read the casual forum… – Knut, apologetic already] I guess we’ll never know.

I did attempt one significant change to the deck. A lot of the all-common decks that I faced had stuff that triggered on creatures hitting the ‘yard (e.g. Zubera, Affinity). What if they never hit the graveyard? So, I took out the Vulshok Sorcerers for Frostwielders. The deck seemed to do fine in that configuration, although the Sorcerers had haste and so could do more surprise tricks. It feels like there’s some way to use Frostwielders in the maindeck somehow (or maybe out of the sideboard), but I just didn’t have the time to figure it out.

All-Common White Weenie

You knew this was coming, dincha? Was I going to let the chance to create an all-common White Weenie deck go by? No way, Josie. Luckily, I had a decent base from the White Skies deck. I knew that there would be four each of the Lantern Kami, Suntail Hawk, and Ethereal Haze. The two-drop was a problem that I’d have to come back to. The two best White creatures at the two-mana slot – Leonin Skyhunter and Samurai of the Pale Curtain – are both uncommons. This left us with choices like Pteron Ghost (not bad if we’re using Equipment), Angelic Page, Crossbow Infantry, Master Decoy, and Leonin Den-Guard. In the three-mana slot, I had to have Diving Griffin. A 2/2 flier that doesn’t tap to attack and only costs three mana is very good in this format. The top of the curve would be Skyhunter Patrol. Imagine that guy with a Bonesplitter.

In the past few months while playing on MTGO, I’ve kinda fallen for the Master Decoy again. When I first started playing the game, Tempest was just on its way out of Standard. I had me a heapin’ mess o’ Master Decoys. They always helped hold the ground. It didn’t matter how big my opponent’s Child of Gaea or Mahamoti Djinn was. Master Decoy stopped it. And the Decoy’s back in 8E. I knew he had to be in here.

The other two-drop would be the Leonin Den-Guard. He can hold the ground very nicely. Add Bonesplitter (Can you figure out the theme here?), and you’ve got a 4/4 that doesn’t tap to attack. Ouch.

After a few permutations, I came up with:

All-Common White Skies

22 Lands

20 Plains

2 Darksteel Citadel

24 Creatures

4 Lantern Kami

4 Suntail Hawk

4 Master Decoy

4 Leonin Den Guard

4 Diving Griffin

4 Skyhunter Patrol

14 Other Spells

4 Bonesplitter

4 Ethereal Haze

3 Razor Barrier

3 Vulshok Morningstar

The first deck I played against happened to be a mono-Red all-common deck much like the one in this piece. You know what? Vulshok Sorcerer is very, very bad for this deck. This is why there are three Razor Barriers. I know that it only stops the bleeding for a turn, but that can sometimes be enough. You just need time to swing with a 3/1 or 3/3 flier a couple of times.

Sadly, that didn’t happen a lot. The mono-Red deck has enough burn to stop every creature in here. Wile Ethereal Haze was also good at stopping the Sorcerer (yes, it stops more than just combat damage; it stops all damage dealt by creatures), the deck just never could muster enough offense against the mono-Red deck.

Next up, I squared off against a G/B deck similar to the one in last week’s piece. Much like the mono-Red deck, this one tore a hole in the White deck. Echoing Decay deals with almost every creature in the deck unless it’s wearing the Morningstar. If not, there’s always Rend Flesh or Dark Banishing.

In other words, I was disappointed in the all-common White Skies deck. Very bummed, actually. I really wanted a White Weenie deck to be good in this format. Compared to the others, it wasn’t. Possibly there’s another White deck that could work, but I didn’t have time to look into it.

I didn’t have any more time to look at other decks that are probably screaming at you right now. Friends suggested a Zubera deck or other decks based on Spirits. As I said, just no time.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Next week, I start looking at some Betrayers of Kamigawa cards. Until then, remember what yo’ mamma told you.