From Right Field: Midterms

Last week, I threw a trio of deck outlines (they had been tested but not rigorously so) at you as jumping off points for the class to refine their decks. We’re going to do the same thing this week, but first I thought that I’d answer the excellent questions that some of your classmates came up with.

{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 Wildfire, Llanowar Wastes, 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 threw a trio of deck outlines (they had been tested but not rigorously so) at you as jumping off points for the class to refine their decks. Before getting to this week’s lesson and midterm exam, I thought that I’d answer some of the excellent questions that some of your classmates came up with.

Q: Why the Stone Rains and Demolishes in the Wildfire decks? Doesn’t that blunt the effectiveness of the Wildfire?

A: The one-for-one land destruction doesn’t hurt the Wildfire. Remember, these are essentially control decks. You want to hinder their ability to make creatures or cast spells. Some students seemed to think that casting Wildfire when the opponent only has three lands on the board is somehow “a waste of a good spell.” On the contrary, you have hosed them up a ton. Even if they’ve been hoarding lands in their hand, you should be able to deal with any threats.

Stone Rain and Demolish are also sorcery cards. They make Magnivore bigger.

Q: There aren’t enough threats in the Wildfire decks. If your opponent can handle one of your seven creatures or you don’t hit one, you’re sunk.

A: Technically, those aren’t questions, but I know where you’re coming from. Again, though, they are control decks. Few creatures; lotsa other stuff. I’ve not found a lot of decks that can deal with huge beasties while also having their lands go boom. The two worst problems are Cruel Edict and, believe it or not, Shock. Cruel Edict only costs two mana (1B). Often, your opponent can recover, get those two Swamps down, and cast Cruel Edict. Since the Wildfire deck is typically only playing out on creature at a time, the Edict nails it. Why doesn’t Dark Banishing or Horobi’s Whisper or others pose the same problem? Too much mana.

Shock, interestingly, has also been a problem. Imagine this. Shivan Dragon comes out on turn four (thanks to mana acceleration). Wildfire the next turn. In response, though, your opponent Shocks the Dragon. As my nephew might say, “All gone!” Even Glacial Ray hasn’t killed as many Dragon as Shock has, even though it’s got the same converted mana cost as the Edict. Go figure.

Q: Why not use Hunted Wumpus in the G/R wildfire deck? It survives Wildfire.

A: The whole point of a Wildfire deck is to deny my opponent resources. With no land, s/he can’t cast creatures. Why give them a free one? Sure, the freebie will probably die to Wildfire or even Volcanic Hammer. Notice that I said “probably,” though. This is a different year. There are huge creatures roaming the red zone today. In my last few games using a Wumpus, I’ve had dropped on me The Unspeakable, Mahamoti Djinn, Kokusho, the Evening Star, and Arashi, the Sky Asunder. Do you know which six-mana sorcery kills none of those? Wildfire.

Q: Why didn’t you put into your G/B Mortivore deck? is awesome!

A: Yes, is awesome. By the way, the most often mentioned was Putrefy. Okay, I blew it with Putrefy. I thought that card was going to be in the Eternal Witness-like area of eight bucks each. I didn’t feel that I could suggest such an expensive uncommon, especially one that just hit the shelves. I see that Pete has it on StarCityGames.com for a very reasonable three dollar apiece, though. Get four. If you even think you might play G/B in the next couple of years, you’ll need it. Drop the four Naturalizes for it.

“But, Dr. Romeo, Putrefy doesn’t kill enchantments!”

Give that girl a cookie. You are correct, milady. And Naturalize doesn’t kill creatures unless they’re artifact creatures or enchantment creatures. What are you more worried about at States? If you need enchantment kill, you can bring in Naturalize from the sideboard.

In addition, Grave-Shell Scarab came up a lot, too, as did Overgrown Tomb. Will people on a budget be able to get those cards by States? If you order them from Star City, I’m sure that Pete and Ben will make sure that you get them. This presumes, of course, that they’re in stock. What if they go out of stock, though? In the last few years, I’ve watched many folks come up with great decks for States or Regionals only to be defeated by lack of cards. Because of that, I’m trying to use as few expensive Ravnica cards as possible. If you have some and want to use them, by all means, do. However, I haven’t been impressed with Grave-Shell Scarab in this deck. In others, absolutely. In this, not so much. The Scarab Dredges only one card. If that card isn’t a creature, Mortivore just got smaller. Is this really a problem when it means that you have the Scarab on board? Maybe not. You’ll have to test it. If it’s good for you, use whatever you have. Still, I won’t suggest four of them for any deck.

Q: Why don’t you have Nezumi Graverobber in the Mortivore deck? You said that every Black deck should have that.

A: The Graverobber isn’t in here for two reasons. First and foremost, he works directly against the Mortivore. That’s not good. Second, this isn’t a mono-Black deck. Besides, I don’t know how much graveyard mucking will occur in post-Ravnica Standard. Maybe it’ll be a ton, and you’ll need the Graverobber maindeck. Right now, though, I think it’s an awesome sideboard card. If you’re really worried, though, see this next question and answer.

Q: Why do you have so many mana accelerators in the Mortivore deck when the mana curve tops out at four mana?

A: First, didja notice how many of those mana accelerators are mana bugs? Those puppies die easily. That makes Mortivore bigger. I’d never use that many accelerators that were just sorceries. Not in this deck, anyway. Those Elves and the Sakura-Tribe Elder serve a dual purpose. Test it, though. If you think it’s too much, maybe you could drop some of the Elves for Nezumi Graverobber.

None of these answers is meant to discourage you from trying those cards in the decks. In fact, everyone gets an F on the assignment for last week because no one did their homework. Of all of the forum posts and e-mails I got, none had mentioned any testing of the decks. Every one of them merely said things like “you should use this card” or “take that card out.” No one – not one person – said, “I took the deck you write about and changed these cards. Here’s how it did.”

How are you gonna do well at States if you don’t test your decks?

So, we’re gonna try this again. The rest of this week’s class will be dedicated to more deck skeletons for you to work on for States. If you aren’t going to contribute to the class, please, don’t make a talk and disturb your classmates who are here to learn.

Almost Mono-Black Control

24 Land

4 Sulfurous Springs

4 Quicksand

16 Swamp

7 Creatures

4 Nezumi Graverobber

3 Kagemaro, First to Suffer

29 Other Spells

4 Cruel Edict

3 Consume Spirit

2 Diabolic Tutor

4 Smash

4 Hideous Laughter

4 Kiku’s Shadow

3 Blackmail

3 Distress

2 Nightmare Void

Another deck with only two Ravnica cards, and one’s a reprint of a common. Smash, however, is simply mmm mmm good. It kills an artifact and draws a card. In addition . . . yes, you in the back. The pudgy kid wearing the “I Beat Anorexia” t-shirt. You had a question?

“What if my opponent’s not playing with artifacts? Then Smash is dead.”

You mean, what if your opponent isn’t using Umezawa’s Jitte, Loxodon Warhammer, Pithing Needle, Sensei’s Divining Top, or anything else? That’s pretty good for you, don’t you think? I’d rather hold Smash all game long and make Kagemaro that much more impressive than not have it in my deck and lose to the Jitte.

Nightmare Void is the other Ravnica card. I’ve tested this against some more control-oriented decks, and it simply wrecks them, much like Exile into Darkness from Saviors did to weenie decks.

The reason for Cruel Edict over something like Disembowel is simple: Kodama of the North Tree. There aren’t a whole lot of ways for you to rid yourself of him. You’d need nine mana to splice Hideous Laughter onto Hideous Laughter to kill him. For only six mana, you can cast the Laughter, wipe out all of the Green weenies, and then Edict away the KNT that’s left. Kagemaro can also rid you of a nasty North Tree.

Running this deck into a gauntlet of mono-Red, Black Hand, mono-White Weenie, and MUC, the numbers look like this:

Versus mono-Red: won seven, lost three

Versus mono-White: won five, lost five

Versus Black Hand: won five, lost five

Versus MUC: won three, lost seven

The mono-Black and mono-White results didn’t surprise me. The mass removal in this deck can often leave just one problem child that Cruel Edict can take care of. The mono-Red and MUC results did catch me off guard. Mono-Red can be devastatingly fast. How did this win, then? By running mono-Red out of cards, wiping the board out, and the gaining life with Consume Spirit. On the flip side, the mass removal didn’t work that well against MUC. The MUC deck countered Kagemaro at any chance it had, and Hideous Laughter by itself won’t stop Meloku. With mana up and Meloku on board, Cruel Edict is useless. Nightmare Void was huge in games against MUC. Dealing with Meloku is the big problem, though. How will you fix that, class?

Why You Won’t See Mono-Black Beats in This Column

Because you can just copy and paste a KBC Black Hand deck, switching out whatever Black creatures (like Dark Confidant) you feel make the deck better. I’m not going to waste more time.

The Middle Part, in Which Mark Young Steals My Thunder

Mark Young must be good because he scooped me, and we didn’t even know we were working on the same kind of deck. I’m going to cut to the chase. White Weenie decks need to maindeck four Suppression Fields. If you’re too lazy to click on the link that I’m sure Ted put in there (or you don’t want to wait for your slow dial-up system to bring it up), Suppression Field is an uncommon, White enchantment that costs 1W that makes all activated abilities cost two more mana (mana abilities excepted). So, two of them out would make a non-mana, activated ability cost four more. How does this affect some of the cards out there. Let’s take a look. Without Suppression Field on the board, Umezawa’s Jitte has these activated abilities:

Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Equipped creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn

Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn

Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: You gain 2 life.

Equip 2

With a Suppression Field out, the Jitte really reads like this:

2, Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Equipped creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn

2, Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn

2, Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: You gain 2 life.

Equip 4

With two Fields afire, Jitte says this:

4, Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Equipped creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn

4, Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn

4, Remove a charge counter from Umezawa’s Jitte: You gain 2 life.

Equip 6

At a minimum, then, a Suppression Field all by itself means that it will cost your opponent four mana and two counters to kill your 2/2 Leonin Skyhunter. You think they have the resources to do that? Probably not. If they do, they can’t do it very much and probably won’t be able to do anything else.

With apologies to Mark, here’s what I was working on when I got scooped:

21 Lands

18 Plains

2 Quicksand

1 Eiganjo Castle

23 Creatures

3 Lantern Kami

3 Suntail Hawk

4 Leonin Skyhunter

4 Courier Hawk

4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain

1 Pegasus Charger

4 Hunted Lammasu

16 Other Spells

4 Bathe in Light

4 Suppression Field

4 Glorious Anthem

4 Gift of Estates

I’ve been testing this deck pretty furiously. Bathe in Light was Otherworldly Journey until the last cut. Possibly, it should still be that. I’ve found the BiL to be more useful, though. While OJ can save one creature from such untargeted, mass effects as Wrath of God or Flowstone Slide, Bathe in Light saves all of your creatures from a wider range of threats. Use the one that you feel is best.

I had also looked at Devouring Light. I found it to be too defensive for this deck. This deck wants to swing with weenies, leaving mana up only for Bathe in Light. D-Light is definitely a sideboard card, though.

The wild card in this deck is Gift of Estates. When I first saw that card on the 9th Edition spoiler, I hoped it was true that it was getting reprinted. It was. I also hoped it was as good as advertised. It is. You see, I’ve never owned a Tithe. I never got to play with it in Standard or Extended. I want to play with Gift of Estates.

“Dr. Romeo, Gift of Estates doesn’t do anything!”

What? You think it doesn’t do anything. Let me tell you something. This deck runs well on three lands, and four is puh-len-tee. When your opponent drops that fifth land or if s/he just goes first so that you’re always one land behind, cast GoE. You just thinned your deck of one-seventh of its lands. This, in turn, means that you’re more likely to draw a non-land spell. Like Gift of Estates. Which will, in turn, thin more lands.

Try it. If you don’t like it, I’ll buy you a stick of yours. If you still don’t like it, drop in Devouring Light or even more creatures. Paladin en-Vec is going to be some good in this format, too.

“Where do you get off suggesting four Hunted Lammasu?”

I guess you noticed the Hunted Lammasu, too. Hey, that’s fun to say: Lammasu, too. Yes, there are four copies of a Ravnica rare in this deck. This guy is not easily replaced. If you like White Weenie decks, you have to sell whatever organ you’re not using very much – I’m guessing the pen!s – and get four of these. White never gets a creature this efficient, a 5/5 flier for four mana, unless there’s some ridiculous drawback. Giving your opponent a 4/4 Black Horror isn’t a significant drawback. Of all the Hunted critters, this is the only one that can keep every one of the tokens it creates on the other side of the board all by itself. The Hunted Troll, for example, sits on the ground but gives your opponent fliers. The Hunted Horror gives the opponent pro-Black creatures. And the tokens get to swing first. The Horror token isn’t going anywhere, though, since it dies to the Hunted Lammasu without killing it.

This deck also has more Ravnica cards than all of the others combined. I think. Like Courier Hawk. Some of you wrinkled your nose at that one. I know that it’s only a 1/2 flier for 1W. It’s no Leonin Skyhunter. Of course, we already have four Skyhunters. Courier Hawk doesn’t tap to attack, though. That means that with Glorious Anthem out, it can swing for two and still leave a 2/3 body back to block. Think about this series of plays.

Turn 1: Plains, Suntail Hawk

Turn 2: Swing for one, Plains, Courier Hawk

Turn 3: Quicksand, Glorious Anthem, swing for four, Courier Hawk is still up to block

Turn 4: Plains, Hunted Lammasu, hey, where ya going’?

“What if we don’t own four Glorious Anthems?”

Like Magnivore and Wildfire, the Anthem is in the White 9E precon. Not that Magnivore and Wildfire are in the White 9E precon. Those are in the Red one. Oh, you know what I mean. Buy whatever number of precons you need to get up to four Anthems. If you like playing White, it’s a fantastic investment for you.

How did this do against the gauntlet?

Versus mono-Red: won six, lost four

Versus mono-White with Hokori: won five, lost five

Versus Black Hand: won six, lost four

Versus MUC: won three, lost seven

Again, I may have over estimated the power of Red. I really thought the deck would do better. Black, I can see beating Red. It has lifegain. This doesn’t. However, the White creatures can match up with the Red ones quote well. Then, the White creatures overwhelm the Red ones. The burn just wasn’t enough in most of the games. As with the almost-mono-Black deck, though, MUC was a winner. That one’s looking mighty tough.

The One That Has to Have the Expensive Ravnica Rare

I’m going to apologize right up front for this one, but it’s just too fun. If you get four Glare of Subduals by States, great. If not, you have something to work towards: a G/W Opposition deck.

24 Lands

3 Brushland

3 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree

12 Forest

6 Plains

21 Creatures

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Watchwolf

4 Llanowar Elves

3 Patron of the Orochi

4 Carven Caryatid

2 Seshiro, the Anointed

15 Other Spells

4 Glare of Subdual

4 Sosuke’s Summons

4 Naturalize

3 Reclaim

This deck is screaming for Birds of Paradise. There was just no room because of the other rares. The good news is that, as of this writing, Glare of Subdual is only two-fitty on StarCityGames.com. I was so shocked that it was that cheap, that I just bought four. Really.

The point of this deck is to lock your opponent out of combat. The early critters and Snake tokens can hold the line. Then, the Patron of the Orochi and/or Seshiro hit the table. At that point, it’s nearly game over, man. With the Patron active, your opponent will never block or attack . . . you know, until they kill him. Against the gauntlet, it went like this:

Versus mono-Red: won seven, lost three

Versus mono-White: won seven, lost three

Versus Black Hand: won five, lost five

Versus MUC: won three, lost seven

At this point, the mono-Red result was no longer surprising. Mono-White wasn’t, either. It wins through combat. It can’t against this deck. Black had the upper *tee hee* Hand because of the creature destruction. Again, though, MUC was king.

Now, before I send you on your way to actually work on these, I did want to mention one other deck that’s not new but that owned all of these so far, including MUC: Hondens. Just something to think about for States.

Class dismissed. See you next week.

Dr. Christopher B. Romeo, J.D.