From Right Field: The Cubicle Clichs Issue

Say there was this hot girl in your office that played Magic and you needed to build her a Standard deck that was cool, but still had a chance to win. What deck would you build for her and why? That’s the dilemma Romeo faces this week, but once you’ve finished the article, we’d like to know your deck choice for this particular scenario.

Now with neat sayings to copy, paste, print, and hang in your cubicle!

{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 Wrath of God, City of Brass, 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.}

“A Cubicle is Just a Padded Cell without a Door.”

My job $ucks. It bites. It blows. It humps my leg and doesn’t even say “thank you.” I live in Dilbert’s world. Remember the Dilbert cartoon in which the company decided that people were taking too much sick time on Mondays and Fridays? Remember their flawless reasoning? Forty percent of all sick days were being taken on Mondays and Fridays. Forty per cent! Outrageous! Of course, Dilbert and his co-workers looked around, waiting for the punchline. You see, since Monday plus Friday equals forty percent of the work week, yeah, on average, they should account for forty percent of the sick days. They pointy-haired boss was serious, though.

Well, someone in my company has looked at our sick-day numbers, too. Almost thirty-eight per cent of all sick days are taken on Mondays and Fridays. Thirty-eight per cent! Outrageous! They have to crack down on such abuse.

Yes, seriously. This is the high-level thinking that’s going on with the brain trust that runs the multi-billion-dollar company that I “work” at.

My job? My job is to get yelled at. I get yelled at by people who can’t understand why their second DUI in less than twelve months would cause us to cancel their auto insurance policy. “Lotsa people have two DUI’s! Heck, my Mom has four! Besides, the doctors say that little girl could come out of her coma any day now, and, if she does, she might even walk again!”

I get yelled at by people who can’t pay their bills on time which is somehow my fault. I actually had a guy just last week tell me that he didn’t pay for his home insurance – which had lapsed . . . again – because he had to “pay the important bills first.” You mean like your cable bill, your beer bill, and your delivery pizza bill? How many bills do you have that are more important than the bill for the insurance that will rebuild your house – or, rather, would have rebuilt your house – if it burned down?

“You are Special. You are Unique. Just Like Everybody Else.”

Of course, this makes me exactly like upwards of ninety-nine per cent of all people. I’m not special when it comes to hating my job. I mean, I wish I could be like Red Sox’ general manager Theo Epstein, p0rn stud Ron Jeremy, or esteemed StarCityGames.com editor Ted Knutson, but I’m not.

At this point, if you’re like everyone else to whom I mention this, you’re asking “Why don’t you find another job?” My answer is always the same. “What an innovative, forward-thinking, outside-of-the-box idea! I hadn’t thought of that! Why, since I hate my job, I can get a new one! Turds on a stick, man! Pull your head out of your @ss. I know it’s warm up there, but it’s dark. Don’t you think I’ve been looking for another job?”

The problem is that this job pays very well, and the hours are great. I work only forty hours per week. Except for very rare occasions, that’s it. No weekends. If I ever am asked to work more, I get paid overtime even though I’m salaried! My co-workers are great to be with. A few even play Magic. I get all the major holidays, vacation, and health care, and eighty-five per cent of my co-workers are female.

Finding something to beat this ain’t easy. Let’s see, I could be a lingerie inspector for a modeling agency . . . as long as my wife approved. Highly unlikely. Besides, I’m guessing with the number of applicants lined up for that job, it doesn’t pay very well. They could pay pretty much any college guy a case of beer a week, and he’d ask for unpaid overtime, too. Speaking of college, I’d love to get paid to be a freshman in college again. Like our own Ben Bleiweiss, I went to Tulane in New Orleans. Unlike Ben, I started in 1984, before everyone was worried about casual $ex and AIDS. If you’ve never been to New Orleans outside of Mardi Gras, you owe it to yourself to go. Try going for JazzFest or just some random time during the Spring or Fall. Ah, to be a college freshman again. Probably another job that wouldn’t pay very well.

Back to the real world and my steel-toed-boot-to-the-groin of a job. There’s a cute young lady here whose name I’m withholding so that all of you horndogs don’t try to get in touch with her. She’s got red-hair, freckles, great big . . . smiles, and she plays Magic. We’ll call her Alicia since she kinda reminds me of Alicia Witt.

Alicia’s is the typical girl-meets-Magic story. Alicia started playing Magic because some of her friends played Magic. She’s been playing for a few years now, mostly at lunch and the kitchen table on Friday and Saturday nights. She’s played at a few tourneys, but that competitive scene doesn’t do anything for her. Besides, she feels a bit uncomfortable at tournaments. Being an attractive, single female, she tends to get pounced upon. That, however, is a topic for a different article.

I make her a new deck every year on her birthday and at Christmas, and her birthday was fast approaching. When I make these decks, I tend to emphasize the newer cards since she doesn’t buy a whole lot of cards for herself. In addition, she loves Japanese martial arts films especially ones depicting feudal eras with Ninjas and sword fights, and she loves playing the colors White and Black.

Gee, if only there was some way to work all of that into a deck for her using new cards . . .

Oh, well.

“Of Course, I’m a ‘People Person.’ I Love People. I Especially Love Them Battered and Deep-Fried.”

The first thing I did was get a list of the Black Ninjas. I knew I could cross Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, off of the list immediately. I had no extras to give her, and I couldn’t afford to buy her any. Next, I knew that I could ditch Nezumi Shadow-Watcher. Its ability was not likely to come in handy when she was playing casually against folks with decks that had cards from every set going back to Alpha. The other three would make the cut, though. Discard (Okiba-Gang Shinobi), graveyard robbing (Skullsnatcher), and killing non-Black creatures (Throat Slitter) would probably be useful no matter whom she was playing against.

“It’s Hard to Soar Like an Eagle When You Work with a Bunch of Turkeys!”

Of course, the deck had to run Ornithopter. If you’re going to play Ninja tricks, you have to have a cheap creature to drop quickly. It doesn’t get cheaper than zero.

At this point, I started looking at support spells. I am very excited (pun intended) about Ronin Warclub. The tricks that thing dose with Ninjutsu are fun and profitable. Imagine this scenario:

It’s turn four. On turn three, you played a Warclub and then dropped an Ornithopter into play. The Warclub attached itself to the ‘Thopter, giving you a 2/3 flier. Now, on turn four, you swing. Your opponent has nothing that can block fliers, so the Ornithopter gets through unmolested. You drop Okiba-Gang Shinobi into play for 3B, picking up the ‘Thopter. The Warclub goes onto the Shinobi. You hit for five, and your opponent drops two cards. During your second main phase, you drop the Ornithopter back into play. The Warclub goes back onto it, giving you another 2/3 flying blocker.

I have two words for that. “Suh” and “weet.”

“OSHA Has Ruled That Only Two People Can Safely Ride My A$$ at a Time. Currently, I am at My Maximum Safe A$$-Riding Capacity. Please, Take a Number. When One of These Two is Done, You May Ride My A$$ at That Time.”

Looking at White, I wanted to use Otherworldly Journey. (As I was writing this and building the deck, Adam wrote a piece extolling the virtues of the O.J. in Constructed. So, I feel doubly vindicated.) It’s both offensive since it can remove potential blockers and defensive because it can save your guys. Other good uncommon spells for White are Reciprocate, Chastise, Vengeance, Terashi’s Verdict, and Ghostly Prison. I quickly dropped the last three after some preliminary testing. Ghostly Prison is great if your guys can get through the blockers that the opponent is leaving back. Only the Ornithopter (so far) flies. The Verdict would be fine if the creatures in the deck couldn’t already kill attackers with power of three or less. Vengeance is slow and awkward. Sure, it’s nice to kill a tapped creature. I’d like to be able to kill a dude before it can hurt me, though. Essentially, that’s why I left out Reciprocate, too. I don’t want to have to wait for a creature to hurt me before I can kill it. Besides, I hadn’t used Chastise in a while.

If you’ve forgotten its power, you should face off against it sometime. It really is quite good. It doesn’t care how big or small the creature is, as long as it’s attacking and doesn’t have protection from White or Instants or can’t be targetted by an opponent. That cat end up being a huge swing in life. Say you’re at six life. Your opponent attacks with some 6/6 flier, and you have nothing to block. With Chastise, instead of being dead, you’re at twelve life, and don’t have to worry about that flier anymore.

Here’s another cute trick with Chastise. Let’s say you’ve swung with a Lantern Kami that has two Ronin Warclubs on it. Your opponent goes to Dark Banish it. You could, if it was a good idea at that time, Chastise your own creature! You’d gain five life, losing a creature you were going to lose anyway. Of course, you’d also lose the Chastise, so, make sure that this is the right play at the time.

“If I Worked for the Post Office, You’d be Dead Now.”

Of course, at this point, I had no Black removal. That is simply not acceptable, not in a Black/White deck. I lined up the usual suspects: Dark Banishing; Rend Flesh; Rend Spirit; Sever Soul. Then, it hit me. Why not use Horobi’s Whisper? I mean, just because it has double-Black in the casting cost doesn’t mean I should stay away from it. Besides, it could at some point be Spliced onto Otherworldly Journey. Splicing was something I wanted to show Alicia. (Get yer mind outta the gutter!)

“A Mistake on Your Part Does Not Create an Emergency on My Part.”

At this point, I knew that I had to figure out what the final creatures would be. They had to be something cheap. And by “cheap” I mean “one-mana or less.” I wanted someone who could swing early so that I could drop a Ninja. Most one-cc White and Black creatures are essentially worthless. Rag Dealer? Riiiiiight. Eager Cadet? Puh-lease, grrrlfriend!

The two who made the final slots were Maggot Carrier and Lantern Kami. Each has its benefits. Every time the Maggot Carrier gets cast, everyone loses a life. He loves to be cast, picked up for Ninjutsu, and recast. Lantern Kami has the advantage of pretty much definitely being unblocked when he swings on turn two. What, they’re gonna block with and lose their Birds of Paradise? I think not.

“There is No ‘I’ in ‘Team.’ There is, However, a ‘Me.’ Interestingly, There’s No ‘U’, Though.”

At this point, having narrowed down the creatures and spells, I had to figure out how many of each to use. If I simply plugged in the number “4,” I’d have had forty cards. That would have led to a twenty-land deck. A deck intent on using the Ninjutsu ability isn’t going to survive on twenty lands. The minimum, given the mana curve, was going to be twenty-two. Most likely, since two of the Ninjas cost five to hard cast while Chastise costs four, we’d have to be at twenty-four lands.

I started with a twenty-two land deck, just in case, running only three each of Horobi’s Whisper (due to the double-Black in the casting cost) and Chastise (due to the four mana it costs to cast). As I expected, goldfishing showed that this wasn’t enough. The deck would often stall on three or four lands, making it impossible, for example, to play Okiba-Gang Shinobi with Ninjutsu while also recasting the Lantern Kami I had picked up to do so on the same turn.

I went up to twenty-three lands by taking out one copy of Otherworldly Journey, as much as it pained me. I love that card. At that point, things were running better, but it was obvious that this deck really wanted to hit that fifth land. The problem was what to take out. I looked at the Shinobi because of its cost. I tried that. I didn’t like it. This deck wants as many Ninjas as it can get its hands on. The next idea was to drop the Ronin Warclub back to three just as with the other support spells. That was tough to do. As you can probably tell, I get attached (no pun intended) to cards. Ronin Warclub is one of those. I had to be unsentimental, though. The Warclub needs creatures; the creatures do not need the Warclub. In other words, there’s no deck without the critters, but the deck can still win without the Warclub.

Then, I noticed I was getting too many tiny creatures without Warclubs to make them beefy. Four each of Lantern Kami, Maggot Carrier, and Ornithopter means twelve creatures that could be dropped on turn 1. Great for Ninjas. Not great for the long game. The near-unblockability (on turn 2, anyway) of the Lantern Kami and Ornithopter meant they had to stay. So, I dropped one Maggot Carrier to add back in the fourth Warclub. Finally, since I was having trouble fending off some late-game fatties, another Maggot Carrier got dropped for the fourth Chastise. Turns out the deck runs just fine with twenty-two creatures, and ten first-turn plays is plenty.

“FAST / CHEAP / CORRECT. – You May Ask That Your Project be Done Using Any Two of the Three Previous Choices. If You Want it Done Fast and Correct, It Won’t be Cheap. If You Want it Correct and Cheap, It Won’t be Fast. And if You Want it Cheap and Fast, It Won’t be Correct.”

The deck I gave to Alicia was this:


24 Lands

9 Plains

13 swamp

2 Stalking Stones

22 Creatures

4 Lantern Kami

2 Maggot Carrier

4 Ornithopter

4 Skullsnatcher

4 Throat Slitter

4 Okiba-Gang Shinobi

14 Other Spells

4 Ronin Warclub

3 Otherworldly Journey

3 Horobi’s Whisper

4 Chastise

Since we don’t typically have enough time to play more than one game during our breaks or at lunch, I didn’t even worry about a sideboard for the deck. It seemed to be working quite well for her against those older, less-than-well-tuned decks we usually play. So, I started wondering how it might play against some of the other post-Ravager-Affinity Standard decks.

Hey, Romeo!  Where’s Shuriken?!?

I played in a Kamigawa Block Constructed tourney this weekend.  (Yes, we’re some of the folks Aaron Forsythe was talking about last week that would rather play anything other than another week of Ravager vs. Ravager.)  I saw Shurikens up close and personal.  I’m not going to try to argue against Shuriken.  One on the board is bad for the opponent.  Two Shurikens (or the mana and untapped creatures to equip one a second time) can take out most anything they have.  Of course, this also requires tapping the equipped creature which means it’s not around to attack.  To really abuse it, though, you have to be running almost exclusively Ninjas.  This deck isn’t.  And the Warclub equips for free.  Besides, I was making this deck to give to someone.  I had extra Warclubs; I didn’t have extra Shurikens.

Against Mono-Red Beatdown: I played this match-up first because I feared that, other than Tooth and Nail, this would be the worst. It wasn’t that bad; Heigh-Ya won a respectable six of ten. When things were bad, though, they were awful. The typical Red damage spell (Shock, Glacial Ray, Magma Jet) deals two damage to a creature. That’s not good since it can kill everything in the deck if there’s no Ronin Warclub out. On the flip side, they have to kill everything. One creature getting through in combat can mean that a Throatslitter is about to hit them and take a guy out for free. If they run out of burn or you get a protective spell like Otherworldly Journey, that’s when the match-up really flips into your favor. Play wisely. If you can get a Lantern Kami or Ornithopter through and Ninjutsu out a Shinobi or Throatslitter, don’t hesitate to do so, especially if your opponent is tapped out. Mono-Red decks quickly start playing off the top of the deck. The Shinobi was often taking the last cards my opponent was holding. When the mono-Red did come out quickly, though, it was lights out. But we already knew that, didn’t we?

Against Tooth and Nail: Currently, this is the best deck in the post-Affinity Standard format in my opinion. The testing bore that out. Unless early double-Shinobis could put T&N in topdeck mode, Heigh-Ya was never able to quite get the job done. This is a recurring theme against T&N. The opposing deck can almost win the game, but in the end T&N pulls it out. And that, kids, is why Tooth and Nail is the best Standard deck out there now. The White Skies deck solved the problem by using Bonesplitter out of the sideboard. By winning as quickly as possible, T&N never got its rocks off. Still, the vast majority of game ones are lost. Meaning that Tooth and Nail only has to find a way to win one of the next two. A better sideboard answer for this deck may be Befoul. T&N hates having its mana development hosed. Whatever you choose, don’t get your hopes up.

Also, don’t be afraid of using Otherworldly Journey on a Darksteel Colossus. If it can save you long enough to win the game, it’s worth it. Besides, the difference between 11/11 and 12/12 is pretty much just how hard you die.

Against G/B Control: This was another one that I worried about along the lines of the mono-Red deck. Death Cloud is always going to be a problem, no matter what deck you’re playing. Otherworldly Journey, however, can be an out of sorts. More than one game against G/B control was won by using an Otherworldly Journey to save a creature from Death Cloud. At the end of the turn, I might have been out of lands and without and cards in hand, but I had a 4/3 Okiba-Gang Shinobi (6/4 if I had a Warclub out) waiting to swing and take whatever cards the G/B Control player had left. In other words, hold the O.J. for as long as you can. And bring in the Karmas. Those alone can win games two (and three, if necessary).

I tested against a couple more decks, but the results were essentially the same. This deck, sans any rares, was a strong competitor but wasn’t taking anything by storm. It couldn’t simply hammer anything, but it didn’t just roll over and die, either.

After this weekend, I toyed with the idea of a U/B Ninja deck, but I was not impressed by how these two colors of Ninjas interacted. By having no first-turn creature with evasion, the deck often didn’t get to do any Ninja tricks very quickly. The W/B version has eight creatures that can attack through the air on turn two. The U/B can only have four (Ornithopter). I don’t want to discourage you from trying, though. Somewhere out there is a great Ninja deck, be it U/B, mono-colored, or some other combination. We just have to find it.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Anyone wanna go to Hooters with me?

Chris Romeo