From Right Field – So Tired I Can’t Sleep

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Obviously, clearly, and undoubtedly, Grave Pact is just so very made for No Rest for the Wicked. They go together like peanut butter with jelly, fries with that shake, and yo’ momma with me. “Oh, snap!” In fact, it’s so easy that I didn’t even really try it. Of course, it could be that it isn’t as easy as I think…

{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. The author tries to limit the number of non-land rares as a way to limit the cost of the decks. 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 Sulfurous Springs, Birds of Paradise, or Wrath of God. 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.}

When I decided to close the vote on the cards from two weeks ago, it was a nip-and-tuck race. Yes, I know that, technically, the vote isn’t closed as in “it’s shut off and you can’t cast a vote.” In fact, I’m pretty sure that, if you haven’t voted yet, you could still do so. However, I need a chance to think about a deck, put it together, test it, change it, retest it, and write about it. So, I “closed” the voting on Monday, October 15th, 2007. At that point, Shivan Wumpus and Lord of the Pit each had nine votes, while No Rest for the Wicked had ten. It was such a photo finish, in fact, that all three had nine votes each until someone voted late on Monday morning. I decided that the best thing to do was to work on decks for each of them, starting with the winner, over the next three weeks. I’ll also be able to use Lorwyn cards. Yeah!

Squeezing One Off Early

I’m gonna go ahead and get this one out of the way. Obviously, clearly, and undoubtedly, Grave Pact is just so very made for No Rest for the Wicked. They go together like peanut butter with jelly, fries with that shake, and yo’ momma with me. “Oh, snap!” In fact, it’s so easy that I didn’t even really try it. Of course, it could be that it isn’t as easy as I think. Actually, if we’re talking about tuning it to be a Pro-Tour-winning deck, I’m certain that it’s not that easy. If we’re talking about winning at the local store on Saturday afternoon, though, I think it might be.

First off, you’re obviously going to want a sacrifice outlet in any version of the deck. When you add Grave Pact to that, you get the kind of deck that people don’t even want to test against. Trust me; I’ve tried. Grave Pact hits, and they concede. I understand the frustration. How can you play through an effect that can wipe Akroma, Angel of Wrath, off of the board in a mono-Black deck that might not even use any other rares?!? We have to at least look at what that deck might look like, though. Here’s how I’d start off:

16 Snow-Covered Swamp
2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Desert
2 Mouth of Ronom
2 Urza’s Factory

4 Festering Goblin
4 Skirk Ridge Exhumer
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Nekrataal

4 No Rest for the Wicked
3 Tendrils of Corruption
4 Grave Pact
2 Phyrexian Totem
3 Eyeblight’s Ending

Is this going to be the deck you win with this weekend? Come on. What did I just say before the decklist, huh? This is just the starting point for such a Grave Pact-NRftW deck. I didn’t playtest it at all. I didn’t throw in Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. There’s no Hypnotic Specter. The only card drawing is Phyrexian Rager. Still, I’d be scared to face this. You can toy with it all you want. I’m moving on to non-Grave Pact decks using No Rest for the Wicked.

Uphill, Both Ways, and We Were Thankful

I have to admit that I used the shell of the deck list above to start my testing. Hey, a boy’s gotta start somewhere. I replaced Grave Pact with Mortivore and started playing. And doing badly. I had forgotten something that I learned when using No Rest for the Wicked the first time around. Yes, I’ve been playing long enough that I still have my original Urza’s Saga NRftWs. While I started a few months after that set was released, I really fell for that card. I made sure to go back and get several. Anyway, the lesson I learned was this: you don’t just use No Rest for the Wicked as an Enchantment version of Raise Dead. You want to be drawing cards, and you want those cards to be creature cards. More than that, though, you need for those creatures cards to get cast pretty quickly. Draw, cast, cast, cast. Get ’em back with No Rest for the Wicked. That usually means cheap creatures. Before Dark Confidant rotated out of Standard, he’d have been the other card-drawing engine. Man, I wish I’d done this deck before that. Still, we would have only had a couple of months with him. Better not to tease ourselves like that. Instead, I went back to Graveborn Muse. Here’s the deck after initial testing, something around version three.

Let’s see how this worked.

Game 1: I hate it when a deck works this well in the very first game. There’s nowhere to go but down. My opponent’s deck was one of those ultra-Suspend decks with Rift Elemental and lotsa Suspend cards, including Deep-Sea Kraken. The card-drawing and NRftW did get me some great card advantage, but Split Second tricks with Deep-Sea Kraken’s last Time counter helped immensely. In case you didn’t know…

The Split-Second/Deep-Sea Kraken Trick: The Deep-Sea Kraken gets played when its last Time counter is removed. If it’s removed in response to an opponent playing a spell (as opposed to being removed as a result of the Upkeep trigger), the Kraken goes on the stack before the opponent’s spell resolves. Thus, if that spell is a Split Second spell, the Kraken never comes into play since you can’t play spells with a Split Second spell on the stack. All I had to do was wait until the Kraken had only one counter on it, and then play Sudden Death on something, even one of my guys. (1-0)

Game 2: Mano-a-mano. Or, rather, mono on mono. Mono-Black, that is. Mono-Black decks seem to survive on Tendrils of Corruption right now. That’s completely understandable. That one spell can turn a game completely around. That’s why Teachings decks will run a copy, even though they aren’t mono-Black. Killing a creature and gaining a turn is just good business. The problem for Tendrils is that I pack Nantuko Husk, Sudden Death, and Eyeblight’s Ending, which was played, for the time being, by Chill to the Bone. (I never cast Chill when I would not be allowed to cast Eyeblight’s Ending. So, it’s actually probably better than I expect since I was handicapping myself by one mana.) In other words, I could actually negate Tendrils by killing my own creatures. While he was busy trying to cast four mana Instants to stay in the game, I was busy dropping his life total. (2-0)

Game 3: You know what Mono-White likes to play? Wrath of God. You know who doesn’t care? No Rest for the Wicked. I played several guys. He tried to keep up. I used spot removal to get rid of a couple of his guys. He’d then use Wrath to clear the board, but with NRftW on board, that just delayed the inevitable. What’s more, when a couple of the dead guys are Phyrexian Ragers, you draw even more cards. Boo and ya, my friend. (3-0)

Game 4: Well, it had to happen. An Elf deck. I worried that Eyeblight’s Ending (a.k.a. Chill to the Bone) would sit dead in my hand. Silly me. Elves bring Spectral Force with them. While he was able to accelerate into the Force, I had the card advantage. Combat was all in my favor as I’d recover and Recover my army while his would just die. (4-0)

Game 5: I knew there would be a mono-Red deck lurking somewhere. Between Dan Paskins and Mogg Fanatic, how can you deny the power of burn and efficient little Red men right now, especially in a Standard world without Circle of Protection: Red to worry about? (Sorry, Dan. Had to do it.) This was actually the closest game of the five. That makes sense, though. Red is throwing burn at my head while I’m also losing life for cards. (Note to self: Put some lifegain like Tendrils or Consume Spirit in the sideboard for such matches.) His first Mogg Fanatic was met by a Festering Goblin. On his next turn, he made a crucial mistake. He played a Martyr of Ashes before combat and then swung with the Fanatic. Since I’m not as dumb as I look, I blocked with the Festy. When Festy died, there was no place for me to put the -1/-1 except his Martyr. Thus, he lost both his creatures to just my one. Had he left the Martyr in his hand, he would have had a decidedly better position as I ran out creature after creature. Given how close the game was (I had three life when it was over), that mistake could very well have cost him the game. (5-0)

Reminder: Dr. Romeo’s Things I’ve Learned About Magic: There are some prime rules I’ve learned about this game, and I share them often. This isn’t because I think the returning readers are idiots. It’s because, like Kirby Puckett, who always played baseball with a huge smile and lots of energy, I know that there’s someone who might not have seen this before. Today’s reminder is that if something can’t help you in combat, don’t do it before combat. That includes playing creatures that can’t attack or don’t have abilities that can be used during combat. If nothing else, it gives your opponent information about you (one less card in hand, less mana, etc.). At worst, it causes you some sort of disadvantage, as it did my opponent in game 5.

I figured a perfect five wins and no losses was good enough for this point in my life (i.e. still with the dizziness, et al). I was liking the flow of the deck. After doing some math, I also liked the cost of the deck. The total cost of all rares, including lands, is thirty-two dollars. That’s fantastic, considering I don’t usually consider the price of lands in my decks. (For a short version of my philosophy on that, you either have the lands or you should be getting them. If it’s a land you expect to use, you should expect to use it more than once. If you expect to use it more than once, it should be in your permanent collection, you “Magic archives,” if you will.) Because of that, I started asking myself “Could I add something to this to make it more likely that I’d get to use No Rest for the Wicked to generate some really huge card advantage?” The answer, of course, was “Yes.”


While the abilities on the creatures in this deck, mostly Nantuko Husk, allowed for some nice No Rest for the Wicked tricks, Damnation is, clearly, better. I get to reset the entire board and follow up the next turn with a bunch of creatures.

This version went only 3-2, but I think I know why. First off, I took it to the Tournament Practice room. I just don’t feel that it’s right to play a deck with Damnation in the Casual Decks room, especially when I’m in the second phase of tuning the deck. The second reason it did badly was that I had no sideboard. I was testing only first games. Third, I couldn’t get opponents to keep their Ravnica cards to themselves. Which brings me to this week’s mini-rant.

What Tournament are You Practicing For?

With ten or twelve days left before Lorwyn hits the online world, what tournament are you actually practicing for that still includes Ravnica Block as part of its Standard environment? I guess I don’t play enough (read: any) online tournaments to know. Is the schedule so packed with Premiere Events that even with less than two weeks to play Faith’s Fetters, you still need to practice? I suppose that could be true. I’m also sure that, in the forums, the only people who will respond to this will be the ones who played Ravnica cards in the TP room up until the last minute. Since there won’t be anyone in the forums who is willing to stick their neck out for the opposite and less popular side, it will look like, well, of course we all had big tourneys to practice for in the last ten days of Ravnica’s life even though we had two years to do it. Whatever.

There You Have It

That’s what I did with No Rest for the Wicked. Rivien Swanson asked me not to use Nantuko Husk, and I promised him that, if it won the first vote, I wouldn’t. As you can see, I used the Husk. Am I not good on my word? Nope. No Rest for the Wicked didn’t win the first vote. It won the second! Ha ha! Next week, I’m going to unleash Shivan Wumpuses. Shivan Wumpi? Whichever. Undercosted 6/6 Tramplers are my favorite. I’ll see you next week. First, though, another mini-rant.

Mister Orange in Germany

I followed the Invitational the best that I could. I’m disappointed in the people who’ve said, essentially, “See? Evan Erwin went 3-12. Last place. He shouldn’t have been there.” Just stick a dirty sweat sock in it, bub. Evan’s record doesn’t “prove” that he shouldn’t have been there. First off, you see that first number? He beat three of the best players in the world. How would you have done against that competition? Do you think you could have won twenty percent of you matches? If you do, then you have more confidence in yourself than anyone else I know. Second, would you have said the same of the last-place finisher if Evan hadn’t been there? I mean, someone has to finish last. Think about it. What if Evan hadn’t played and someone like Raphael Levy or Craig Jones had finished last. Would you have said “Well, that guy shouldn’t have been there”…? You know, if you follow that logic, no one goes because someone will always end up last.

The bottom line is this. Evan won the vote as it was set up by the people who run the event. He won three matches against some of the best players in the world. Moreover, it’s not like he can practice full-time with other Magic Pro-Tour Players. My gawd, I used to be one of the people he practiced with. Let’s see. Chris Romeo or Mike Flores: who makes the better practice pony? Give it a rest, folks. I’m proud of Evan. You should be, too.

Chris Romeo