From Right Field: Quick Hits, Volume 4

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Today’s installment of From Right Field returns to Chris’s popular Quick Hits article format. He covers a myriad of Magical topics, presents an innovative Mono-Blue decklist, and shares some cheerleader cheesecake…

{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.}

* No, I didn’t apply for the internship at Wizards. Trust me, I thought about it. Unlike other internships, this thing actually pays a salary. That, then, wasn’t the issue. Luanne and I discussed it, and the problem was that I/we would have to relocate (probably just me, since she has a good job that she enjoys while also making more money than I do) at my own expense. It just wasn’t worth it. Do I think I would have gotten the job? Of course, I do! I have an ego the size of The Badlands. Why wouldn’t I think I’d have gotten the job? Given that I couldn’t take it even if when I won, why even waste the time?

* Mike Flores agrees with me about Skred. Mike should be scared.

* Gosh, Counterbalance with Sensei’s Divining Top won Japanese Nationals? You mean, I was right again? How does this keep happening? Is it possible that it really was that easy and obvious? That, of course, is rhetorical. If I can figure it out (see Skred), anyone can. The real test will be to see if anyone can create a decent deck after Sensei’s Divining Top Block gets squeezed out of Standard by Time Spiral.

* I’m actually very worried about Counterbalance decks. Free countermagic is nothing to poo-poo. In fact, it should be taken very seriously because it’s the kind of thing that prevents people from playing their game. For example, let’s say that you’re playing a White Weenie deck. You have a hand full of two-mana creatures. It’s late in the game. So late that you could cast four of those puppies. You cast one of them. Counterbalance goes off, and your opponent reveals some random two-mana spell. You can’t — or rather you can but you shouldn’t — cast any more spells that turn because they’ll all be countered. In other words, your opponent got a free Time Walk, and it didn’t even cost him a card! Given that kind of power, I have no doubt that someone (or even many “someones”) will figure out a way to break Counterbalance even after Sensei’s Divining Top isn’t available in Standard. I sincerely hope that this is something that The DCI is planning to keep an eye on. We don’t want to be driving even more people away from tournaments now, do we?

* Speaking of Counterbalance, now people are using Summer Bloom after I just tossed that idea out there. “Un-freakin’-believable” as my main canine Brian Griffin would say. Of course, to be honest, I was just passing on something that Karl Allen had mentioned to me. On the other hand, it can’t be a coincidence. Maybe I really do have good ideas; I’m just not good enough to flesh them out.

* Did you know that the new (Freshman!) quarterback for Texas is named Colt McCoy? Texas. Quarterback. Gunslinger. Colt. McCoy. You couldn’t make that up for one of those Saturday morning “kids will learn something from it, and we can sell toys, too” half-hour shows. If you did, the producer would say, “that’s too corny. No one will believe it.”

* Speaking of college football, what happened to cheerleaders with hooters? I’ve watched some of the games over the first couple of weekends of intercollegiate pigskin clashes, and, when the cameras go to the sidelines, I’m not seeing anything resembling even the cleavage that my high school cheerleaders had. I went to a very small high, private school. Our cheerleaders should not have been built better than, say, the young women from UCLA. It’s disconcerting since college cheerleaders are, in many a young man’s mind, the epitome of young hottiehood. (Professional cheerleaders are, by contrast, sexxxiness personified. They are, after all, professionals.) Am I not watching the right games? I mean, I figured California and Florida cheerleaders would be well-endowed in the way of sweater puppies, but maybe not. More important, why does it bother me when (a) they have Victoria’s Secret commercials on television now and (b) I’m married?

* Now, does that make up for the “sorry” cheesecake from last week? I hope so.

* Talen Lee wondered aloud if he was the only person who really looked forward to Standard decks he could build with Coldsnap. He’s not alone. It took me a while to warm up (sorry) to Coldsnap, but there are some great cards in there, cards that are powerful and subtle and worthy of being used and abused. I have bemoaned the fact that the set essentially forces us to buy more cards than usual. We haven’t really had to do this before (i.e. buy cards from an entirely new fourth set of a year). However, it’s legal, and The DCI will not change that. Why would it? It would hurt sales, and sales are important. It’s what keeps Hasbro and, thus, Wizards of the Coast, in business, allowing us to keep playing this game. Ignoring the fact that Coldsnap is Standard legal will not make it go away. You might be able to build decks around that fact, ignoring Coldsnap cards that might work in the deck. That’s just cutting off your nose to spite your face, though. If a Coldsnap card makes your deck better, use it — if you can afford to buy it. If you consciously choose to build decks that ignore Coldsnap, that’s okay, too, as long as you know what you’re missing and as long as you know what other folks might throw at you.

* Yes, Mr. Lee, Into the North is Da Bomb, especially for us monetarily challenged folks. I may not be able to afford Stomping Ground, but I can afford Into the North that can fetch Highland Weald. Of course, if I could afford Stomping Ground, I’d still put Into the North and the Weald into the deck. The more stable the manabase, the better my chances are at getting the colors I need for the spells.

* What do I think of Suspend? I’ll tell you later.

* My friend Joe asked what I thought of Serra Avenger. My first thought was that she wouldn’t be that good. I see a casting cost of WW for a 3/3 flier with Vigilance, and my first thought is — you guessed it — White Weenie beatdown. But, if I can’t cast her until turn 4, what good is that? Wait, I know. Turn 1 is Savannah Lions. Turn 2 is Leonin Skyhunter or Mistral Charger. Turn 3 is Glorious Anthem. That means turn 4 is Serra Avenger and mana to cast Bathe in Light, or it’s Serra Avenger and another Leonin Skyhunter. Actually, that second option isn’t so grand since it screams “Please! Cast Dark Banishing, Char, or pretty much anything on the Avenger!” It’s also probably overextending. No, I think Joe is right when he suggests that she could be the finisher in a U/W Control deck.

The problem that I’ve always had with those decks is that they want some beefy and expensive finisher, like the six-mana Mahamoti Djinn used to be in The Olden Days. Of course, you want to protect the guy, too. With the Fat Djinn, that meant waiting until turn 8 so that you could have Mana Leak or Counterspell. Serra Avenger means that you don’t have to wait that long. Even if you do happen to cast her on turn eight, that leaves you with mana for more than one counterspell. Since you’re probably going to pack only a few creatures, your opponent won’t have to pick and choose targets. You’ll only be giving him a few anyway. In other words, he might be holding two or three Mortifies or Putrefies when that Angel hits. You want extra chances to save her. That ability to cast extra counterspells is A Good Thing.

* If you haven’t already been flogged by it, get ready to face 8StoneRain.dec. This is a deck that features eight three-mana land destruction spells (four each of Stone Rain and Cryoclasm). The theory is that, especially at the higher levels of competition, everyone you face will be playing with Islands or Plains, whether it’s in the form of a Ravnica Block Dual land like Breeding Pool or the actual basic land. If you’re like me — and I pray that you’re not — you’re asking yourself “Why is this a big deal now? Heck, until Mirrodin rotated out, you could have done the same with Stone Rain and Molten Rain.” The difference is that Mike Flores has pimped this particular deck to the masses. So, people will play it. If Flores said that people should play the Azorius preconstructed deck right out of the box in their next tourney, they’d do it. He’s just that influential. You have been warned.

* I still haven’t seen any cards from Time Spiral that really knock my socks off the way that the Jump Knights did. This is not to say that what I’ve seen hasn’t been powerful. Heck, just look at Mishra. Holy artificial intelligence! Free artifacts? For free?!? Gosh, good thing there isn’t any way to abuse that, huh? Of course, it’s also three colors, none of which are Green. While Signets will make it easier to cast this guy (and then thin your deck of Signets, too), it’s still going to be tough to get working. (“Unless you can afford a four-hundred-dollar mana base of Blood Crypts, Steam Vents, Watery Graves, Sulfurous Springs, Underground Rivers, and Shivan Reefs.”) I’m hoping that we’ll get to see some powerful common and uncommon cards soon.

* A couple of readers want to know if I’ll ever talk about Extended or Legacy budget decks. I can’t say I won’t ever do that because, as the vapid saying goes, forever is a mighty long time. It’s not something that I’m interested in writing about, though, for two reasons. First, not only are the decks in From Right Field supposed to be cheap to build, they’re supposed to be easy to build. While a certain Extended deck, let’s say Soldierization, may be chock full of commons, cheap uncommons, and a slot of dollar rares, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find the cards.

Unless, of course, you buy them from StarCityGames.com! Our Motto: If we don’t have it, they didn’t make it! Either that or it’s really hot, and we’re just temporarily out of stock!

Seriously, though, I’ve personally found it hard to scrounge up all but the most popular common cards from past sets. It doesn’t matter if they’re only a dime or a quarter if you can’t find them. At that point, they might as well cost fifteen bucks each.

Second, I have zero handle on the Extended and Legacy metagames. That, of course, doesn’t keep me from playing in the tourneys if/when I can find them around here. It just means that I have no idea what might be good or bad. I may be willing to pilot my own pile of junk to 0-4, but I’m not going to ask other people to do that.

* At last, my take on Suspend: To be honest, I don’t think I can tell you until I see more of the cards and see them in action. It looks like some of the spells are ridiculously undercosted for the mana, but that time element really throws a spanner into the works. (To all you non-Americans: See? I do know some stuff from “over there.”) You’re waiting a while for the thing to “go off,” and your opponent knows it’s coming. As of right now, most of the Suspend cards I’ve seen Suspend the spell for three or four turns. I wonder if there are any one- or two-turn Suspend spells. And, if so, will they be worth playing?

* Wheel of Fate looks promising, though. Red decks often run out of steam. This little gem allows a Red mage to play out his hand and still have gas later on. Of course, it does fill up the other guy’s hand, too. That isn’t a problem, though, since the Red mage typically uses his mana more efficiently. That seems to be the lesson from the new Red/X decks that have been running Howling Mine, decks like Tobias Henke’s White Weenie Red that he took to a fourth-place finish at German Nationals. So what if the opponent gets to draw first? I’ll be able to use what I draw better than he uses what he draws.

* Speaking of Red, Jaya Ballard will rule the roost come Time Spiral’s debut, mark my words. I predict that she will go down as the most powerful Grey Ogre up to this point in Magic’s history. How can she not be? Other than her base stats, she does three things and does them really well. She’s half of a Pyroblast. (Granted, some folks would like the other half. No soup for them.) She’s an Incinerate on a stick. And she’s a living Inferno (not to be confused, of course, with being a Living Inferno). Some Legends you don’t want to run four of in your deck. This one, you’ll want six or seven. Since the rules only allow four, get four. Yes, that means that I finally saw a Time Spiral card that knocked my socks off like the Jump Knights did.

* Best Play With Which Someone Has Recently Ended My Game: I was playing against an Ink-Treader Nephilim deck. I had wiped out all of his guys as soon they came into play except for an Ink-Treader Nephilim and two Birds of Paradise. I had simply run out of burn spells. Big deal, though. I was at twelve, and I had lethal damage on board. He swung with the two BoPs. I had no blockers. He cast Rally the Righteous on his Ink-Treader. Yes, that was twelve, fatal, alpha-striking damage from two Birds of Paradise thanks to the Ink-Treader. I can’t remember the last time I giggled so much from dying.

* I’m begging here, which is rarely something that I do except with Luanne, and that usually involves handcuffs and a safe word. Anywho, what with all of the great Blue countermagic, bounce spells, and theft effects, I have this gut feeling (“And with a gut like that, you shouldn’t ignore it!”) that there’s a good, cheap, Mono-Blue Control deck out there. When I say “cheap,” I mean “zero rares.” Sure, Tidespout Tyrant is a dollar rare, and big ol’ kudos to Evan for his Battle-Royale-winning Tyrant deck. I’m thinking it can be done with nothing but commons and uncommons, though. Here’s the latest iteration of the deck that I’ve been working on. In honor of all of the really bad rock songwriters who seem unable to find decent rhymes, I call it:

The theory behind the deck is that I can steal enough permanents with Annex and Confiscate to keep them on their heels while countering what will really hurt me. The Plotter is a bit of tech that allows me to steal lands that are just plain annoying, like Vitu-Ghazi, lands that produce two mana (it’s so sweet to take an untapped Gruul Turf in exchange for a tapped Island), or the sole land that produces a certain color that the opponent needs.

The win condition is a Confiscated creature or twenty swings with a Magpie. :frowney face:

When the deck wins, it’s fast and annoying. This deck can control the game from turn 1 with Spell Snare. Follow that with Rune Snag, Mana Leak, the Plotter, and Annex, and a lot of opponents just concede.

When it loses, though, it’s ugly. The deck, obviously, loses to fast beatdown decks. Also, I have an inordinate number of games in which I get mana hosed in the ugliest possible way. I get a two-land opening hand and can’t draw anymore. Please, help me. You’re my only hope.

The restrictions are these. First, no rares. If I want rares, I’ll add Tidespout Tyrant. Second, Mono-Blue. No U/W, U/R, U/G, or U/B. Just U/U. Third, no Kamigawa Block cards. It’s too late for them. Please, post your advice only in the forum. Don’t send them to me. I want people to discuss this deck and make it ours. If you don’t have a forum account, register for one. It’s free, easy, and fun! Well, posting in the forums is fun. The registering itself isn’t any carnival. On the other hand, it’s painless. So, get to it.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Now, watch the game, not the cheerleaders.

Chris Romeo