From Right Field: Spring Cleaning Edition — Now Hall & Oates Reference Free!

This was the first great weekend of Spring for us down here in Tennessee. I know that meteorologically Spring was still two weeks away. Like most people, I don’t measure seasons by the calendar. When the signs of Spring appear, it’s Spring. And Spring can only mean one thing here at the offices of From Right Field: Spring cleaning. Oh yeah, and chicks in short shorts.

This was the first great weekend of Spring for us down here in Tennessee. I know that meteorologically Spring was still two weeks away. Like most people, I don’t measure seasons by the calendar. When the signs of Spring appear, it’s Spring. Around here, the girls are wearing short shorts. Some of them are even wearing bikinis already. I got to play tennis twice this weekend. Yes, it must be Spring because Luanne has already twice caught me looking at scantily clad young women lying out by the pool. Ah, Spring. That can only mean one thing here at the offices of From Right Field: Spring cleaning.

This Just In: Little White Vial Blows the Boots

As I promised in last week’s piece, I took the Little White Vial to the tournament this weekend. I was convinced by someone (who shall go nameless) to run Lightning Greaves over Bonesplitter because”the Greaves are so much better.” Since they speed up your creatures and make them untargetable, they must be better, right?

Wrong. The Greaves ruined the deck. First off, when I only had one creature out and it was wearing the boots, I couldn’t put the Skullclamp on it. Not a problem when you get other creatures later. Often, I didn’t. I went 0-3. Yes, 0-3 with a White Weenie deck using Skullclamp. Which, by the way, is as good as advertised . . . when it finally shows up. I rarely got it all day. That’s surely an anomaly, but beware of not getting Skullclamp.

Of course, I also ran into three tough decks. (After all, who ever loses to a bad deck, right?) The first was mono-Black Clerics. Silly me, I brought in Scrabbling Claws (to prevent recursion) and Echoing Truth (to kill tokens). I should have worried about the Call to the Grave and brought in Altar’s Light. How do you sideboard when the other deck has so many ways to ruin it? Should I have brought in eleven cards? I don’t think so.

Match two was against Elves. As I said at the end of that piece, I hadn’t tested against that. Let’s say that White Weenie fails the test. The match was 2 – 0 Elves. I damaged him once in game one and that was it. Ugh.

Finally, I faced some rogue Blue/Red Rift-Control thing that used Wand of the Elements as its kill card. No, really. Sheesh.

Aether Vial, however, was not the problem. It was great, in fact. I was often able to drop two creatures per turn thanks to the Vial. I even had one game where I got one Vial set to two and one set to one. Sadly, I lost that one.

How would I fix this? I’d play a completely different deck. It doesn’t matter how many creatures you have on board that might draw cards for you if only you had Skullclamp or how much you can attack for the next turn when they can pop off several Clerics with the Cabal Archon and drain your last eight life. Either that or run the Bonesplitter. I think a couple of those close games would have been over in my favor had I been able to deal two more points of damage on every attack.

Also, you have to have something in the sideboard to deal with one-toughness creatures like Disciple of the Vault, Wirewood Hivemaster, and Hivemaster-generated Insect tokens. Deftblade Elite has been suggested. The problem is that you lose the Elite to kill the Disciple. Not a bad one-for-one trade. He won’t help against all of those insect tokens, though. You may want to consider an artifact that can deal damage such as Rod of Ruin or Viridian Longbow. Having said that, you probably don’t want the success of your deck to rest on being able to say,”Yes, I got the Viridian Longbow!”

My advice, then, would be, don’t play this. If you’re planning on running that deck, though, don’t do it without Bonesplitter. If you already did, I apologize. Unfortunately, I don’t give refunds.

Glade to Meet You Sideboard?

Many people were intrigued by this deck’s success. They asked for sideboard cards. As usual, it’s based on your metagame. If you see anything that uses its graveyard as another resource (like the friggin’ Clerics I see every week), use Scrabbling Claws.

Another great idea for the sideboard is Damping Matrix. I know that this would bring the total rares in the deck and sideboard up to twelve, but you probably want to spend the few bucks it would cost to get them. It turns out, according to StarCity’s own resident level three judge Sheldon Menery, that Damping Matrix will not prevent you from morphing over face-down creatures like Nantuko Vigilante and Frontline Strategist. Here’s why:

When Wizards created the morph mechanic, they decided that it would be a static ability, not an activated one. I know that that’s counterintuitive. I mean, you’re choosing to do it, paying mana, etc. However, by the rules of the game, it’s not an activated ability. So, you can flip over your morph guys even with the Matrix on board. In addition, the Damping Matrix only shuts off the activated abilities of creatures and artifacts. You can still activate the Centaur Glade as often as you are able. Woo-hoo!

The other thing you want to watch out for is that darn Disciple of the Vault. Even if you can prevent them from using the Arcbound Ravager’s ability by having a Damping Matrix on board, you live in fear of the Disciple being on board when their creatures die. However, I have no idea what that might be. If you have a Matrix on board, you can’t use something like Rod of Ruin or Granite Shard. The best I can think of is to drop a Mountain into the deck, fish it out with a Tusker, and cast some sort of direct damage spell at the Disciple. This is probably a bad idea.

The other option is to make yourself untargetable. The rare answer to this is, of course, Ivory Mask. The uncommon one is Gilded Light. Ivory Mask just shuts down silly Disciple tricks. You can’t be targeted period. Playing Gilded Light against Disciple of the Vault is trickier. Let’s say that you don’t have a Damping Matrix on the board when you cast Wrath of God. A good player will activate the Ravager in response to that, and s/he’d do it one artifact at a time. At any point that you cast Gilded Light, s/he’d just activate it more in response. In other words, you’d still get hit for a lot because all of those activations that occurred after you cast the Gilded Light could still target you. Ugh.

A not-so-good player, will, of course, let the Wrath go uncontested. Then, all of the Disciple’s triggered abilities would go on the stack. I response to all of them, you would cast Gilded Light. Then, they would all fizzle – excuse me – be countered by the rules of the game since you would be an illegal target.

(However, if the Damping Matrix is in play, you can Wrath without fear if you also have Gilded Light in hand and enough mana to cast it. They won’t be able to do anything except put their creatures into the ‘yard. All of the Disciples’ triggers will be on the stack. You just cast Gilded Light after they’ve all gone on it.)

This is why Ivory Mask is better. No matter what you have in hand when you cast it, you will not be targeted by the Disciple. Of course, it takes longer to get the Mask out, too. So, what’s your solution? Whichever you think you can afford to use. Me, I’m using Gilded Light. I’m afraid I’d be dead by the time I could get the Mask on board. Plus, I’d probably be holding two when they cast Persecute and never draw another. You do what makes you feel good, though.

Last and certainly not least, bring in Rain of Blades against those decks packing Decree of Justice. Elf decks make 1/1 tokens, too. They’re called Insects.

Would You Still Play Grab the Reins?

I still get questions about the Grab the Reins deck. The idea intrigues people. They ask if I think it’s still viable. Well, that all depends on your metagame. That Arcbound Ravager deck is bad news. If you went to steal something, they’d just sac it to the Ravager. On the other hand, if you tried to Grab the Ravager and they sacrificed it, well, the Ravager is gone. Again, Damping Matrix from the sideboard will help in that regard.

Personally, I still think the deck has legs. However, I haven’t played it in several months. If you like the idea, build it, and try it.

Is This the Silliest Idea in Standard?

So, Magic: The Gathering Online’s live server was down this weekend. That meant that, when you logged in, you got flipped to the beta server. As a thank you for the hassle, MTGO”gave away” free drafts. I love drafting. I get to play with so many cards that I’d never get to use in a Standard, Constructed tournament. When it’s free, it’s even better. I don’t have to feel like I wasted any money on taking silly cards.

Anyway, I saw this in my cards and played it. What about a deck using Confusion in the Ranks and Tel-Jilad Stylus? I mean, is that as silly as Cindy Crawford‘s acting career, or what? It looks horrendous. Basically, whenever a creature comes you and your opponent will be exchanging permanents. However, having the Stylus active is basically like stealing their stuff. Why? Because the Stylus uses a rare Magic phrase. It targets a”permanent you own[,]” not one you control. In other words, you cast something, take your opponent’s thing which s/he takes yours. Then, use the Stylus to take whatever you gave her or him, and put it on the bottom of your library. Now, didn’t I say that was silly? (By the way, always make sure that you’re giving them something you own and not just something that you got from them earlier, or it won’t work.)

Of course, you have to be very savvy about the rules. You have to let the exchange take place first. If you use the Stylus on your permanent before the exchange happens, your opponent will not have to give you anything. (See the definition of”Exchange” in the official rules.)

Then again, you’d never play anything so ludicrous in a Constructed tournament, now, would you? So, why worry about it?

Speaking of Silly Deck Ideas…

I think a lot. Not just about Magic. My mind is constantly going. Psychologically, I am borderline AADD. That stands for Adult Attention Deficit oh, butterflies. I prefer to say that I am easily bored because I’m so damn smart. Even though I am always pondering and philosophizing, Magic is the only subject that I write about for StarCity. As far as Spring cleaning goes, I need to get some silly deck ideas out of the cerebrum. If I don’t mention them here, I may convince myself that they’re actually good ideas, which will, in turn, cause me to waste several hours on a perfectly wonderful Saturday losing my thong to much better players playing much better decks. (See Little White Vial.)

Bad Idea #1: Is there a place for a mono-Red deck that hammers the doody out of anything running artifacts? What if you could start your land destruction on turn 1 or 2? What would your kill mechanism be?

I keep coming back to this deck that runs four each of Detonate, Shatter, Echoing Ruin, Demolish, Stone Rain, and Molten Rain. I also think that Slice and Dice has been overlooked outside of Slide/Rift decks for too long. That card can be used to essentially counter a cycled Decree of Justice, or, when cast, it can be used to kill all of those Angel tokens. And a lot of others, too.

You would, of course, want some quicker damage sources such as Shock, Electrostatic Bolt, or Pyrite Spellbomb. Ensnaring Bridge would be good in this, I think, depending on what kill mechanism you choose. If you choose something like Dragon Roost, the Bridge would stink. If you went completely creatureless, you could use Hammer of Bogardan or Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]. (Yes, I know that that’s something like fifty-two cards if you use four of each. Whittle it down, Sally.)

I imagine a first-turn play where I kill a Birds of Paradise or Frogmite. On my second turn, I Shatter or Echoing Ruin a land. Turn 3 would be Stone Rain, Molten Rain, or Purple Rain. I keep killing their creatures and destroying their mana until I can lay out a Dragon Roost and swing with Dragon after Dragon.

Shirley, someone else has thought of this before. Of course they did. They tried it. It didn’t work. They moved on.

Bad Idea #2: Is there a mono-White Cleric deck out there? True Believer. Nova Cleric. Weathered Wayfarer. Doubtless One. Yes, even Battlefield Medic. All of these guys are Clerics. White also has some nice protective spells in Razor Barrier, Akroma’s Blessing, and of course, Story Circle. It just feels like these, along with a few artifacts, could form the basis of a nice White deck that could simply swing for an alpha strike (thanks to Akroma’s Blessing).

Of course, it could just be that I relish the idea of attacking with a monstrously large Doubtless One, gaining ridiculous amounts of life. Which means this will stink.

Bad Idea #3: It seems to me that Myr Incubator and Goblin Charbelcher have a very interesting synergy. Imagine having a deck with four of each of those, Fabricate, and twenty artifacts lands backed up by some Talismans plus various other stuff. [It was better with Tinker, Chris. Trust me. – Knut] Either the Incubator or Charbelcher alone can be the end of many decks. Together, they do a nasty trick. During your opponent’s end of turn step, you activate the Incubator, taking out all of the lands and making that many 1/1 tokens. Then, during your upkeep, activate the Charbelcher, aiming it at your opponent. Since there are no lands in it, you deal damage to them equal to the number of cards left in your deck. Ouch.

Bad Idea #4: Going back to my mono-White musings, could there be a viable White Skies type deck? I’m talking about a deck that can block up the ground with Walls and then fly through the air for the win. Between Wall of Hope and Steel Wall, the ground can be easily clogged. That would leave one-, two-, and three-mana cost fliers like Suntail Hawk, Leonin Skyhunter, Slith Ascendant, and Gustcloak Harrier to rip up the other guy through the air. Add in some Equipment and maybe Leonin Den-Guard as another”wall,” and you have a fairly nice Air Force.

You even get control-type spells like Blue Skies did. You got Arrest, Razor Barrier, Wing Shards, and Pacifism. Just make sure you use Bonesplitter and not Lightning Greaves. Ugh.

Bad Idea #5: Why do so many bad deck ideas include White? In this regard, I also keep thinking about the White-Black Slivers deck that Karl Allen and I came up with for Onslaught Block. Karl did quite well in the tournament in which he played it. Could it work in Standard with Arrest instead of Pacifism?

The best part about this deck was how it was nearly invulnerable to Akroma’s Vengeance. As long as you had a Crypt Sliver on board, you could simply tap all of your Slivers to regenerate them. This also means that you can run Akroma’s Vengeance in your own deck. Essentially, Ward Sliver becomes your kill card. Is it a good deck, or was it just being run by one of the best players in the state of Tennessee?

Bad Idea #6: Could Cowardice become the new anti-Equipment card? Unlike Damping Matrix, Cowardice allows you to use the abilities of other artifacts like, say, Scrabbling Claws. With Cowardice on the board, whenever anything targets a creature, it gets returned to its owner’s hand. You could use both the Scale and Tooth of Crispin Glover to send back everything. Of course, your opponent’s Skullclamps and Bonesplitters become useless. You’ll also need a kill mechanism. Maybe Aladdin’s Ring? Maybe I smoke crack?

Bad Idea #7: This one was actually tossed out in part by my friend Bill Bryant. He suggested a deck using Mass Hysteria and Eater of Days. The Eater will have haste and swing for nine through the air. I was intrigued enough to figure out how to get it going with Stifle to prevent that nasty loss of two turns. When I was done, I realized that I could do it on turn 3 without Chrome Mox. Yeah, that’s right. Turn 3, Eater of Days swingin’ for nine. All it takes is Mass Hysteria, Vedalken Engineer, Stifle, the Eater, a land that produces Red mana, a land that produces Blue, and any other mana-producing land.

Turn 1: Red-mana-makin’ land; Mass Hysteria

Turn 2: Blue-mana-makin’ land; Vedalken Engineer

Turn 3: Land; use the Engineer, the latest land and the Red-mana-makin’ land to cast the Eater; use the Blue-mana-makin’-land to Stifle the triggered ability of the Eater; attack for nine trampling damage through the air; don’t skip any turns

You know, this might be even worse than the Tel-Jilad Stylus/Confusion in the Ranks idea.

Bad Idea #8: Asking Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake to perform at your child’s first communion party.

[Funny side story: I have an old column that has been receiving an insane amount of hits for a while now, and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s not particularly special, it hasn’t been linked to by any known websites that would generate a lot of traffic, and yet there it was, getting more hits than any other article on the site. Finally, I asked some friends on IRC if they had any clues, and Pugg Fuggly noticed that I mentioned”Justin Timberlake” and”Boobs” in the article. Combine that with some Google searching, and Bam! you have a bona fide hit machine. Sad but true. – Knut]

Like I said, these are Bad Ideas that I had to clear out of my head before wasting time trying to make them work.

Taking the Subjectivity Out of Slow Play

I’m sick and tired of the discussion about what exactly is slow play and what’s just good, thoughtful play. You know what. It doesn’t matter. Or rather, it shouldn’t matter.

Who’s to say what’s slow or not? Well, actually, the judge is. That is, sadly, completely subjective.

Take a matchup that could have happened last summer, Wake versus Goblins. The judge warns the Goblin player for playing too slowly. However, if you chart the time taken, the Wake player used almost two-thirds of the time in that match. Why does the Wake player get so much more time? Because it’s accepted that the Wake deck is”hard to play” and”requires a multitude of decisions throughout the course of the game,” while Goblins are easy.

Excuse me. Pardon. Over here. Who the heck says that playing Goblins is easy? Just because you think it is doesn’t mean it is for everyone. I find that Goblin decks require as many decisions as any other deck. Do I play another Goblin now? Am I overextending? If they have Wing Shards, I’m sunk. Ditto Wrath of God. If I don’t play this Goblin, am I just giving them extra time that I don’t need to?

In addition, one week, one judge says that a guy is playing too slowly while the next week another says he’s doing just fine, even though it’s the same deck, and he’s playing it the same way. Or maybe one judge says a guy is playing a certain deck too slowly, but the next week the same judge says that someone playing the same deck and taking the same time to make decisions is playing just fine.

This whole thing is too subjective.

As with most of my ideas, my solution is simple, elegant, and will be roundly ridiculed. Here it is. All we need to do is do what Magic Online does in timed matches: use a chess-type clock.

In a fifty-minute match, each payer would get twenty-five minutes, including between-round sideboarding. If your twenty-five minutes run out, you lose the match.

I know that seems harsh. What if, instead, you only lost the one game in which the clock ran out rather than the whole match? In two out of three circumstances, that would mean you lose the match, anyway. If you win game one but run out of time in game two, you’d get a draw under this version. Probably not what you wanted when you took forty-three minutes to win game one. If your time runs out in games one or three, you would just lose the match, obviously. (See if you lose the only game played, you lose the match 1-0. If you’re in game three, that means you’re both 1-1 beforehand. If you lose that one, then you lose 2-1. Not tough, is it?) So, why penalize your opponent with a draw in that first situation? Instead, if your time runs out, you lose the match. However, I would not be averse to a rule that says you just lose that game. Either rule would be fine with me.

Some people will call this draconian. Some people know too many big words. What they would mean, though, is that it would punish the people who play slow decks. They would be wrong. It would only punish people who waste their allotted time. More important, though, it would take the subjectivity out of judging it. It wouldn’t matter how long someone took to make a single decision. Take as long as you want. The clock’s ticking.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Why don’t you join me for a green beer? I’ll be the guy in the corner screaming,”The friggin’ Yankees suck!”

Chris Romeo

[email protected]