From Right Field: Limbo Party with Hermes Conrad

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I’m going to take this week to look at a couple of silly decks that actually seem to do pretty well in testing, and one of the decks that we used in our gauntlet. It’s a deck that no one in our group took to States, which I think was a big mistake. Someone should have tried it, since it was whipping pretty much everything in testing…

{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 Dark Confidant, Sacred Foundry, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. 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.}

There are two weeks between the Conference Championship games and The Super Bowl. Normally, there is only a single week between football games. That week typically looks something like this:

Monday — off day. Yes, even professional athletes get a day off during the week. Especially ones who play a collision sport. (Vince Lombardi once corrected a reporter who called football a “contact sport.” “Basketball is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport.)
Tuesday — classroom and film work; full contact practice.
Wednesday — classroom and film work; full contact practice.
Thursday — classroom and film work; full contact practice.
Friday — classroom and film work; run-through without pads or just shoulder pads and helmets (some teams will run full contact if they think they need they need it and if they’re at home that week; typically if they have to travel, they won’t)
Saturday — classroom and film work if at home; travel if on the road.
Sunday — banging heads

While the teams are readying themselves for their next game, the media talks about the previous week’s games, injuries, the upcoming games, who’s gonna do what to whom, who improved their game the previous week, who didn’t, which coaches are on the hot seat, and, of course, what Terrell Owens did or did not do or say. That all seems to be just about enough to fill one week of sports news.

The Super Bowl gives the sports media an extra week to fill. Since there are only two teams left standing, there is a veritable plethora of filler material. In other words, Kenny Mayne gets more face time on ESPN.

In much the same way, this is a wacky, weird week for Magic writers. My article for Tuesday has to be in to Craig by the end of the previous week to give him time to correct my bad typing and delete links that “accidentally” lead to pr0n. For today, that would mean that I’d have to have gotten him this piece a day before States. Can’t really write a report on “How I Did at States” when “I Haven’t Even Been to States Yet,” can I?

Instead, I’m going to take this week to look at a couple of silly decks that actually seem to do pretty well, and one of the decks that we used in our test gauntlet. It’s a deck that no one in our group took to States, which I think was a big mistake. Someone should have tried it, since it was whipping pretty much everything in testing.

Silly Deck #1

If you saw the recent episode of South Park in which it turns out that all of the government conspiracy web sites are actually run by the government – as a way to promote the idea that the government is so powerful that it could actually pull off said conspiracies, thus freeing the government from having to actually commit the conspiracies while still giving it power over people who believe in such conspiracies – you’ll know that the episode’s laugh-out-loud line was a simple “Really?” from Kyle, head titled to one side.

When I saw that Stuffy Doll was an actual card, I tilted my head to the side and, in ever-increasing pitches, asked over and over, “Really? Really? Really?

Come on. The card is called Stuffy Doll. If you’re from Wizards R&D, Design, or any other “team” that had anything to do with this, I want you to look me straight in the eye without laughing and say “Nope, this name was not pulled from an Un- file.”




Stuffy Doll.

Anyway, the Stuffy Doll is actually one tough cookie. Says right on the card that it’s Indestructible. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be dealt with. Let’s get that part out of the way right now so that the forum hounds can concentrate not on telling us how the card can be dealt with but, rather, how bad the deck is.

* Anything that reduces the Doll’s toughness to zero will kill it: There are a bunch of those right now, cards like Clinging Darkness, Darkblast, Feebleness, Last Gasp, Rakdos Guildmage, and Flowstone Channeler, just to name a few.

* Cards that can remove Indestructibility can allow it to be killed: All I can think of is Sudden Spoiling. That plus Shock kills the Doll.

* Cards that act as Arrest make it worthless: If the thing can’t block or use its activated ability, it’s pretty much useless.

* Anything that removes it from the game: That’s pretty much true of any creature, though. If it’s not in the game, it can’t affect the game, can it?

* Countermagic: Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

Okay, we’ve got that out of the way. What do we do now? I mean, this can’t be our only defense or way to win. The opponent will just wait until he can overwhelm our Stuffy Dolls for the win. A few Giant Solifuges or flying guys can do it.

What if, though, Stuffy Doll actually had some power to it? Like, what if you put a Moldervine Cloak on it? All of a sudden, the Doll’s a 3/4, and the Solifuges, Giant or otherwise, are staying right where they are.

You wanna know my favorite thing about Stuffy Doll? Very funny, smart ass. I mean from a gameplay perspective, not the name. My favorite thing about Stuffy Doll is that it can take all of those efficient burn spells that can only target creatures and use them to burn your opponent. Imagine tossing off Fiery Conclusion at your Doll and hitting your opponent for a quarter of his life. Shrapnel Blast, you say? Yes, says I!

Fine, okay, you don’t like Fiery Conclusion. How about Skred to the head for, say, twelve? Yeah, I thought you’d like that.

This is where I expect some attentive, smart, well-spoken in-duh-vidual to pipe in with something like “yer such a d00fus, Romeo. Why would you want to use Skred to hit your opponent when you have creatures to deal with?!?”

Really? Are you really asking that?

The answer is, um, you wouldn’t.

You see if you have creatures to deal with, you’d use Skred to kill them. Right? Right? Right. Sure you would. ‘Cuz yer all smart and a bag of nails. Or something.

You can’t tell me, though, that there hasn’t been some time that you were holding Skred with a lethal number of Snow-Covered Gobstoppers on board, looked at the Skred, and thought, “Bullfeathers! If this hit players…”

Well, now it can.

Just not when it needs to hit something else first.

So, what other damage sources might we use to deal with creatures? I’m sitting on Snow with Skred already, so, how about Stalking Yeti? Yeah, that’s nice.

I’m going to skip the parts about the other card choices. Hopefully, they make sense. Don’t forget, this is a deck From Right Field. If you’re planning on asking why there aren’t four each of Rumbling Slum, Stomping Ground, Burning-Tree Shaman, and Giant Solifuge, you haven’t been paying attention.

As you can tell, I really like Shard Phoenix. I’m kicking myself that I’m not playing a deck with that in it at States. Oh, well. I can’t change now. Actually, “now” as I write this, I could change, since States is still a few days away. “Now” as you read this, though. Too late. Do I digress? Yes.

Shard Phoenix plays very, very well with Stuffy Doll. Shard Phoenix deals two damage to all creatures without flying when you sac it; Stuffy Doll redirects to your opponent all damage done to Stuffy Doll. Sac a Shard Phoenix; deal two damage to your opponent for each Doll you control. It’s sick, really. “Really?” Really.

Oh, by the way, Stuffy Doll blocks Paladin En-Vec all day long. Just don’t use it to block a Flanking creature unless you’ve put a Cloak on the Doll.

“You’ve put a Cloak on the Doll.”

Ewwww, this piece is getting creepy in a lives-in-a-van-down-by-the-river kinda way.

Back to the deck: what we have is ostensibly a R/G beatdown build. It’s not really, though. After some testing, I became keenly aware of the fact that this is really an aggro control deck. Typically, you get in a few points of damage with the mana bugs and/or a Scab-Clan Mauler. If you’re a really good player, you can even get Moldervine Cloak on the Mauler. That’s nothing special or out of the ordinary, though. People have been doing that ever since Guildpact hit the streets.

In a van.

Down by the river.

Where this deck plays differently from other R/G builds is that it has a mid- and even late-game, thanks to the Stuffy Doll.

I still can’t get over that. Stuffy Doll. Heh.

Romeo ← Still gets the creeps

The Creeps ← Still don’t get Romeo

Stalking Yeti can hit your opponent for three via the Doll. Fiery Conclusion can hit your opponent for five via the Doll. And, via the Doll, Skred can hit your opponent for OhmygoshHe’sdeadJim!

Please, tell me that you’re not stuck on the Wild Cantor. Please, tell me that you’ve concentrated on the rest of what I wrote after “3 Wild Cantor” No? Okay, fine. Let’s look at another deck then. That should explain the choice of mana bugs.

Budget Players, Don’t Stare Directly at This Deck

One of the decks, if not the best, in our test arsenal was a modified Gruul Beats-style deck. It looked like this (mostly proxies, of course):

4 Stomping Ground
4 Karplusan Forest
1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
7 Forest
6 Mountain

4 Llanowar Elves
3 Wild Cantor
4 Kird Ape
4 Scab-Clan Mauler
4 Ohran Viper
4 Call of the Herd
4 Rumbling Slum
3 Giant Solifuge
4 Volcanic Hammer
4 Char

Yes, our version really used three Wild Cantors. Of course, that slot started out as Birds of Paradise, but we noticed that sometimes we couldn’t get a 3/3 Scab-Clan Mauler on turn 2. The fault lay in the BoP. It can’t swing for one like the Cantor can. On the flip side, BoP allows a second-turn Call of the Herd followed by a third-turn Flashback Call of the Herd. The Cantor can do the first (turn 2 Call token) but not the second, because it won’t be around if it’s used for mana on turn two. Still, the benefits outweighed the costs by a great margin. Often, that one point of damage that the Cantor swung for on turn 2 (thus, enabling a 3/3 Mauler) was the difference in the game.

Because it performed so well against all of the decks that we threw at it, I kept this deck in the back of my mind for States. I just couldn’t pull the trigger, though, for two reasons. First, I was going to have to borrow about four hundred dollars worth of cards (Char, Viper, Stomping Ground…). I didn’t want to do that because I don’t like being responsible for someone else’s cards when I can’t afford to replace them. Second, it just wouldn’t be me. If I don’t own the cards and couldn’t afford to replace them if I lost them, then it’s not a deck for me.

At this point I was curious about the whole Stuffy Doll versus Gruul Beats match-up. Would Gruul Beats be too fast for Hello, Dolly!, or would Hello, Dolly! take control.

In ten games, they split and even five and five. So, I played an eleventh.

I’m not telling how it went.

If you’re even after ten games, that’s pretty good. That eleventh one is a red herring because you could play a twelfth, and the decks could end up 6-6. Some smarty pants (continuing the creepy infantile theme here) is going to point out that neither ten nor twelve games is statistically significant. You need hundred or thousands. I agree. I also don’t care. More precisely, I can’t care. I just don’t have time to play hundreds of games of one lone match-up. There are other decks to test. Like…

Silly Deck #2

First, though, a word on all of these Red and Green decks I’ve been playing lately. More than one person, even some who call themselves “friends,” have been ragging on me about that. “Built any more R/G decks lately?” Why am I so stuck on Red and Green?

I never got a puppy for Christmas.

The truth? As I’ve said before, to me, Magic is about combat. Creatures dueling it out on the dusty, rutted roads of a small town or tangling in the spires of an architectural marvel of a city. Pretty much nothing says straight-ahead combat as Red and Green. Sure, White Weenie does its thing and the Zombies! 2k6 deck that I took to States was all about combat. Those colors, though, just don’t say “Critter fight!” to me like Red and Green.

Especially right now. Red and Green have some fierce, cheap (both in mana and money) creatures at the moment. Kird Ape, Scab-Clan Mauler, Burning-Tree Shaman, and Rumbling Slum really push the mana-to-power ratio. Plus, you’ve got all of that cheap burn and excellent pump spells like Resize and Moldervine Cloak. Then there’s Skred and Stalking Yeti to take out opposing creatures. For whatever reason, that just tickles me.

So, why not play R/G at States? While I like all of the permutations of R/G decks right now, I’m also easily bored. I tested both of these decks a lot. (I was fortunate enough to be part of the Time Spiral beta test on MTGO.) Plus, I’ve done a few R/G decks over the past few months, which means more testing on those. Zombies, I haven’t played in a couple of years.

Still, I had another Silly Deck with Stuffy Doll. This was more of a control deck, the kind that can win without doing a whole lot more than holding it’s own. Because he was savage, twisted, and a doll, I call this:

As you can see, this deck also doesn’t use a whole lot of Time Spiral cards. One that I tried was Sulfurous Blast. It was in the Shard Phoenix slot. It was actually quite good. The Phoenix was just better because the Phoenix can block and it comes back from the dead. If you don’t have any and can’t afford to get any, the Blast will suffice.

When playing this, I had to start getting over my desire for everything to be a two-or-more-for-one trade. Sometimes, I had to cast Pyroclasm when it would kill off one creature on the other side. Ditto for popping off Shard Phoenix or casting Savage Twister. In other R/G decks, the burn spells are often simple one-for-one trades. Volcanic Hammer takes out Watchwolf allowing Kird Ape to swing through. There’s nothing wrong with that. Moreover, once your opponent figures out that you’re running such mass removal, he’ll stop giving you two-for-one trades… if’n he’s smart.

The fun thing about this Chucky here is that the same mass removal spells that wipe out the other guy’s offense and defense serves to kill your opponent. Think about this: with three Stuffy Dolls on your side of the board, Savage Twister for seven is lethal to your opponent. I love it.

Of course, there are other ways to go with Stuffy Doll. A White and Red deck could work since Wrath of God leaves the Doll behind. You would still have access to Pyroclasm, Shard Phoenix, and Sulfurous Blast. Still, Red and Green appears to be the best combination.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Next week, I will regale you with tales of my stellar performance at the Tennessee State/Provincial Championships.

Chris Romeo

P.S. If you want a couple of bold predictions, first, I expect to see U/R Land Denial (a.k.a. ‘Vore) continue to be a force. Second, watch for Teferi, Mage Of Zhalfir, in some first-place decks. That card is simply ridiculous.