From Right Field: What I’ll Be Playing When You Beat Me At States

Read Chris Romeo... every Tuesday at
StarCityGames.com!Last week was another Lava Blister of a Quicken Hits column. Sorry about the fact that there wasn’t a lot of Super Secret Tech, what with States coming up. Give me an Honorable Passage, though; you don’t Peek at my column for Tek. You come here for the Cheap Ass decks. Like Zombies! 2k6, the deck that I Predict-ed that I would play at States. This Surprise Deployment really Outmaneuver-ed some folks. For many, there was a simple Wave of Indifference. Today’s column is for those with a Thirst for Knowledge, those who want to know what makes Zombies run like Clockwork Gnomes.

{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.}

Last week was another Lava Blister of a Quicken Hits column. Sorry about the fact that there wasn’t a lot of Super Secret Tech, what with States coming up. Give me an Honorable Passage, though; you don’t Peek at my column for Tek. You come here for the Cheap Ass decks. Like Zombies! 2k6, the deck that I Predict-ed that I would play at States. This Surprise Deployment really Outmaneuver-ed some folks. For many, there was a simple Wave of Indifference. Today’s column is for those with a Thirst for Knowledge, those who want to know what makes Zombies run like Clockwork Gnomes.

I think the Shock that people felt from my Revelation was due to the amount of Venarian Gold that they thought this deck would cost, sending them Back to Basics as far as the rest of their budget was concerned. Please, don’t claw your eyes out Tooth and Nail. I don’t want any People of the Woods running Amok. No need to call in the Icatian Moneychanger. You won’t have to take a Blood Oath with any Alley Grifters to pay for it. Here! Let me Show and Tell you about the deck.

One of the Greater Good things about this deck is that, even if you consider Serrated Arrows to be a rare (since the purple/Timeshifted cards are actually rarer than Time Spiral’s regular rares), the full deck (including the sideboard) still only has sixteen rares. Of course, I don’t consider Serrated Arrows to be rare since (a) it was originally printed as Uncommon and (b) treating it as Uncommon means the deck contains only twelve rares — the maximum for my column due to Limited Resources. Besides, let’s be honest, the whole point (Heh!) of that particular restriction is to spend less money. You can order original Serrated Arrows from this very site for $1.25 each (prices may vary and are subject to change; supply is limited; offer Void in Dominaria; Land Tax, title, and license extra) while original Withered Wretches are $2.50 each. If we want to Restore Balance to things here, let’s call Serrated Arrows what it is: Uncommon.

I know. You’re about to Implode, aren’t you? “We don’t care what the deck costs, Romeo. We know that you’re a penny Pincher Beetles. Get to the Epicenter of this deck! Why are you willing to play such a Scrapheap at States?!?”

I guess I have a Death Wish. Also, this deck allows a lot players like me to Reprocess old cards. Many folks won’t have to buy Twisted Abominations (common the first time around), Withered Wretches (uncommon), or Undead Warchiefs (uncommon)!

The real answer to “why” is that it’s both fun and actually wins. A lot. (The preceding modifies both the words “fun” and “wins.”) At this point, I figure that you have Three Wishes, and one of those is for me to explain how this can Pulverize such heavyweights as Solar Flare, Satanic Sligh, and G/R Beats. The answer appears to be that Zombies! 2k6 is quite Resilient Wanderer.

A lot of the Vampire Hounds in the forums like to just g-Lance at decklists and then ignore anything the writer’s said about it. “It won’t work because .” No, the deck doesn’t have Invulnerability from all of those other decks. There are Sinkholes here and there. I’ve found that realizing when you’re the Beatdown Box deck and when you’re not is a big help. For example, against R/G Beats or Gruul Beats, you don’t want to simply drop your 2/2 creatures; they will Fade Away thanks to Shock or Char or simply lose the fight to a 2/3 Kird Ape or 3/3 Scab-Clan Mauler. In those cases, it’s best to let the High Tide carry you, hold your creature, and then knock off the Mauler with Last Gasp. For the R/G Decks, Sudden Spoiling from the sideboard is such a cute Trickbind. They think they’re about to run you over with a 2/3 Kird Ape, a 3/3 Scab-Clan Mauler, and a 4/1 untargetable Giant Solifuge when, all of a Sudden Impact, their guys are all 0/2s that get killed by your Gravedigger, Rakdos Guildmage, and Withered Wretch.

Against the R/G Beatdown decks, when you bring in the Sudden Spoiling, you take out Phyrexian Arena. You just can’t Standstill for that life loss when they have so much burn to go with such efficient creatures.

Satanic Sligh Redux is much the same except that the creatures won’t simply beat yours up. In combat, you can often manage the Battle Strain by simply letting your guys die while they take out the oncoming Onslaught. Remember, you have cards like Lord of the Undead and Gravedigger that allow your guys to come back from the dead. Satanic Sligh Redux does not. Consume Spirits are crucial. Save them for when either X is huge or when you absolutely must use it to stay alive.

When going to the sideboard, I reach into my Medicine Bag for Serrated Arrows and take out Twisted Abominations. Why do such a thing? Why not drop Phyrexian Arenas? Because you can’t give the Satanic Slight player the Primal Boost they’d have on you by being the only one with card drawing.

So why not bring in Sudden Spoiling? Because the Arrows stay around. Sudden Spoiling is cast and gone. The Arrows can kill a Dark Confidant and still have counters. Why take out the Abominations, though? Why not another creature? Because it’s too big. Yeah, the Swampcycling is excellent, but it’s not enough. You need early creatures to handle any quick beats and to soak up direct damage.

Before I move on to the Solar Flare matchup, let me take a Moment’s Peace to discuss a match-up that I didn’t test simply because I feel that it’s deck that shows No Mercy. Against U/R Land Denial (a.k.a. ‘Vore), you just go as fast as you can as quickly as you can. You don’t expect to win this match even after sideboarding. I just Abandon Hope. I still play game two, though. You sideboard in a lot of cards — eight, to be exact — in this match: the complete sets of Smallpox and Sudden Spoiling. You take out the Last Gasps (useless against the */* Magnivore), the Undead Warchiefs (yes, really; they cost too much), and a Consume Spirit. Withered Wretch and Twisting Abomination are the Nuisance Engine against ‘Vore. The Wretch makes the Magnivore very small, and the Abomination grabs lands.

Back to Solar Flare Redux. I presume, of course, that the Solar Flare decks we’ll be facing now have Akroma, Angel of Wrath where Yosei used to be. This is why Black mages have been so tickled pink to have Sudden Spoiling. An opponent swings with Akroma. Suddenly (Double heh!), she’s a 0/2 that can be blocked by and killed by a Rakdos Guildmage. Of course, Solar Flare can Reanimate her, but not if Withered Wretch is on board with mana up. Against Solar Flare, you lose the Last Gasps (killing Court Hussar ain’t enough to justify the card), the Rakdos Guildmages, and two Consume Spirits for the Sudden Spoilings and the Smallpoxes.

Beware of Persecute. Solar Flare decks typically Run Wild with two or three Persecutes main deck and, against mono-colored decks, will go up to four after sideboarding. Don’t Hold the Line against that deck. Play your cards out as quickly as you can. If not, they’re gonna Wallop you.

Two other matches that we tested were White Weenie and Boros Redux. Typically, the White Weenie deck won game one while Zombies! 2k6 won games two and three on the backs of Sudden Spoiling (yes, you can block a Shadow guy after Sudden Spoiling goes off) and Serrated Arrows. Against WW, you drop the Consume Spirits, Withered Wretches, and a single Twisted Abomination for those eight cards.

Boros was a different Beast of Burden, though. While the same cards beat Boros, it has that annoying direct damage. Thus, you have to avoid as much life loss as possible while gaining as much back as you can. Thus, you bring in the same eight cards while dropping Phyrexian Arenas and Withered Wretches. The wonderful thing about that strategy is that the Boros player will often bring in Enchantment destruction for the Arena, making some of Boros’ cards dead.

So, what are those Caustic Rains for? Glare decks that run Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree and any other annoying lands that can the Ruination of your game.

Dear Mr. Romeo:

Cut it out.

The editor

Okay, that was cute for a while, but I can’t keep it up. The match-ups analyses and sideboarding are real. Zombies! 2k6 has game against all of what we tested against except for ‘Vore. It typically has to win against R/G Beats in games two and three, although a timely Consume Spirit can be huge.

Honestly, though, why would I play such a deck at States? Just like I said before: it’s fun. Come on, kids. It’s Zombies! They just won’t stay dead! Some of them make the others bigger! They play in an Arena that draws cards! They can suck the life out of other creatures or an opponent! They never get color hosed!

And, man, oh, man, do they love that sideboard. When I say “love,” I don’t mean a sweet, tender, romantic love. I’m talkin’ about a hot, sweaty, passionate, nasty love. Take a look at what the sideboard packs:

4 Serrated Arrows:
Weenies just roll over to this. On first activation, it kills Dark Confidant, Soltari Priest, Magus of the Scroll, and mana bugs of all kinds. Moreover, it completely neuters Ohran Viper. If you get to activate it again, look at all of the X/2 creatures that it kills. You’ve got Paladin en-Vec, Guildmages of all sorts, Serra Avenger, Jaya Ballard, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Dauthi Slayer, Withered Wretch, and tons more.

The key, of course, is the fact that the artifact is colorless. Mono-Black, without some serious speed or gargantuan Consume Spirit can just roll over to a Paladin en-Vec or two. In addition, the Arrows help the 2/2 guys in this deck beat other 2/2 guys by making them 1/1 guys. Overall, I’ve been pleased as with Serrated Arrows as a Spitting Slug in a Peat Bog.

4 Sudden Spoiling:
Yup, Sudden Shock could be the Red answer for tons of creatures in Extended and Legacy. Think of how it shuts down Wild Mongrel and Psychatog, for example. Sudden Spoiling does the same kind of thing, except it does it to the other guy’s whole team! Granted, something else has to happen to kill the guys, but that something is often combat. Even better, this thing doesn’t target the creatures. If it did, Paladin en-Vec and Akroma would still be big, huge, ginormous problems for this deck. Because of it, they aren’t.

4 Smallpox:
I almost didn’t consider it because of this card’s pedigree. I figured, given what Smallpox did and the fact that it was a reworking of Pox, Smallpox just had to be a rare. I didn’t even look at the Gatherer to check. Then I opened one.

Wow. An uncommon.

This card is nuts against control decks . . . If it doesn’t get countered. Sometimes, it actually wins the game because the other guy’s at one life. Not often, but it does happen. Most important, though, it clears the board of that annoying, lone creature with which control decks like to win. Playing against Solar Flare, and all they have on board is Akroma? It’s gone. Facing down a Simic Sky Swallower and nothing else? Smallpox does the trick. It can also get rid of Paladin en-Vec after you’ve wiped out the rest of the White Weenies.

4 Sudden Spoiling:
On a scale of one to ten, this is Time Spiral’s eleven. I’m so stoked by this card that I’m not sure that I can even be coherent when I talk about it. I want to say things like “Sudden Spoiling is very, very, very, very, very, very good.” I get as tongue-tied as if Scarlett Johanen walked up to me and said “Chris Romeo! I love your StarCityGames.com column! I read it every week! Can I kiss you?!?” To which I would probably say something like “Banana patches often illuminate astrophysics when confronted with dirty diapers, don’t you think?” The only way I can even begin to sound like a moderately intelligent person is to try to break it down into less daunting parts.

Part the First — There’s Nothing Your Opponent Can Do About Sudden Spoiling:
Oh, sure, he can do something about its effects, but he can’t do anything about Sudden Spoiling itself. Nothing. I know that it’s kinda late considering States is just a few days away, but ponder how Split-second changes one of the fundamental concepts of the game. I’d suggest taking some quality time when you’re in, say, “the library.” Instead of reading the latest issue of Maxim or Perfect 10, spend some time in quiet Contemplation of Split-second.

When you cast a Split-second spell, all your opponent can do is deal with its effects. No one can do anything about the spell. You can’t counter it. You can’t give the target protection from anything. Nothing. The spell will go off, and it will do what it says. Now, when it comes to Sudden Spoiling, your opponent can, after the spell resolves, pump up their creatures or kill yours to keep them from blocking. However, for the rest of the turn, their critters will be 0/2s with no abilities. Even if you lose no creatures or can’t kill any of theirs, Sudden Spoiling can often lead to you completely turning the tables. In other words, what your opponent thought was an Alpha Strike for them turns into an Alpha Strike for you on the next turn.

Part the Second — Sudden Spoiling can Kill Creatures with Protection from Black:
Black has always had problem with Protection from Black for obviously reasons. Less obvious than the words “Black” and “Black” is the fact that often the environment is peppered with extremely good creatures that have “Protection from Black” written on them. Take Akroma. Without Protection from Black, she’s still pretty dang good. With it, she’s knuts. Luckily, Wizards design guys find ways to help Black get around that Protection from Black thing. Cruel Edict doesn’t target the creature. Hideous Laughter wipes out weenies. Mutilate wipes out even huge beasties. Sudden Spoiling is better.

“Whaaaa?!? Better than Mutilate?!? You crazy, Romeo!”

Yup. Riddle me this: How many Swamps does it take for Mutilate to kill Akroma? Lots. What does it take for Sudden Spoiling to kill Akroma? The spell, three mana to cast it, and a Withered Wretch to block. That’s nice.

Part the Third — Sudden Spoiling can Kill Multiple Huge Creatures:
Granted, you have to have blockers to get this done, but Zombies! 2k6 doesn’t have a problem making creatures. As I talked about above, R/G Beats tends to run this deck over… Until you bring in Sudden Spoiling. It truly is almost comical to watch. Your opponent has beaten the crud out of you in game one and expects more in game two. You’ve taken a few points of damage from a Kird Ape and a Scab-Clan Mauler, and he drops an Ohran Viper on his third turn. All you did was set up your Festering Goblin, Rakdos Guildmage, and Lord of the Undead. When you pass the turn without doing anything, he figures you’re done. To join the fray, he drops a Giant Solifuge and swings with the whole crew. Sudden Spoiling hits and allows you to kill his Viper, Mauler, and Solifuge. By the time he untaps, you’re in complete control. Holy Jolie, do I love this card.

Part the Fourth — Oooooo, Shiny:
Did I mention that I have pulled a foil Sudden Spoiling?

3 Caustic Rain:
I’ve been told not to worry about lands. I’ve found that, when someone tells me not to worry about something, that’s the best time to worry. Glare of Subdual eats this deck alive by making Vitu-Ghazi tokens. Academy Ruins could figure prominently in some combo deck. Arena will own the board if your opponent can get creatures out that are bigger than yours. I don’t even want to think about Dark Depths. Kher Keep will just be plain ol’ annoying, while also enabling a very fast Greater Gargadon. Orzhova, the Church of Deals, can win games without any creature or spell backup. You can wreck someone who’s playing Safe Haven. Do I even need to mention Mouth of Ronom, Scrying Sheets, Quicksand, and the rest?

Is this the best sideboard for this deck? Probably not. Think about it. I, StarCity’s own Chris Romeo, came up with it. By definition, it can’t be the best sideboard for this deck. However, it plugs the holes that I think the deck needs help plugging. I’m comfortable with it, having actually practiced with it. So, I feel good about it. Having said that, I’m sure that someone will whack me with a deck that I could have beaten if only I’d had in it. We’ll see, won’t we?

Normally, this would be the end of this piece. However, with States just a few days away, you get a bonus section:

Dr. Romeo’s Extremely Useful Guide for Helping You and Those Around You Enjoy States

Rule #1 — Shower and use deodorant or antiperspirant.
Every time I write this, someone chastises me for this rule. Folks, I know that not every Magic player is like me: old, overweight, and stinky. Many of us are, though. Now, let’s pretend that every Magic player was a beautiful, thin person. Put hundreds of them in a room for several hours when they hadn’t showered in several days and weren’t wearing any deodorant, and I promise that, by the end of the tourney, you’ll have a room full of beautiful, stinky Magic players.

Okay, so you don’t have to take a shower/bath the day of the tourney. If you don’t sweat a lot in your sleep, the night before should be okay.

By the way, don’t confuse deodorant with cologne. In fact, I’d even suggest not wearing cologne. Someone might be allergic. Also, you might wear too much or just pick something that stinks, like Polo or Grey Flannel.

Rule #2 — Get a good night’s sleep.
People will argue about this until the cows come home. (Get it? That’s a phrase that means “all night long.” I’m so clever.) In fact, people will tell me, as they did after Regionals, “I didn’t get a wink of sleep, and I finished in the prizes! Fat lotta knowledge you got!” Okay, so you won prizes. Maybe, though, had you gotten sleep, you would have finished in the Top 4 and gotten an invite to Nationals. You can argue with the facts. For decades, studies have shown that you don’t function as efficiently without a good night’s sleep. People will still argue about it, though. These are the same people who argue that they drive better after a few drinks. In both cases, they’re wrong. Hey, who wants to confuse people with the facts, though?

Rule #13 — Keep score with paper and pen.
At least, I think that this is rule number thirteen. I had these dice that I was using to keep track of the rules, and someone a couple of tables over bumped their table, and it made my table shake, and the dice moved, but I’m pretty sure that this is rule thirteen. I can’t recreate how I got from rule two to rule thirteen, but I’m pretty sure I attacked with rule four and then rules six and three ganged up… Oh, I don’t know. Why, oh, why don’t I listen to StarCity’s own Chris Romeo and track these things on paper and pen?!?

Rule #4 — Don’t ask your opponent or other people around you what the rules are: If you have a rules question, ask a judge.
I know that this is often embarrassing. Remember, a lot of people count on that. They will do things wrong on purpose and then try to intimidate you into not asking for help. Other times, you just feel foolish. Okay, so you should know that you can only play one land per turn and that creatures can’t attack the turn they come into play (usually). If it’s not a basic rules question — heck, even if it turns out that it is — ask a judge. Your opponent shouldn’t be your rules expert. Neither should the people beside you. Even if they were, you’re interrupting their game. Stop it.

Rule #4a — Call a judge on all infractions.
The example that always comes to mind for me is the person who “accidentally” sees an extra card from his deck. “Hey, I’ll show it to you and then put it on the bottom of my deck, okay?”

No, it is not. If it was okay, they wouldn’t have printed Opt, a card used in some pretty strong decks back in its day. This may seem all innocent, but it may not be. It could be that your opponent does this all the time as a kind of free Opt. At local Saturday tourneys, he probably even gets away with it. Don’t say “okay.” If you do, you’ve just violated the rules, too. (Yes, I let my brother get away with it at the kitchen table. We’re talking about States, not an alcohol-fueled Saturday night at The Casa de Amour.)

Rule #5 — Have your cards with you when you leave for the tournament site.
By that, I mean, come to the tournament with all of the cards you need, both maindeck and sideboard. You may not be able to pick up or borrow others at the site. If you come up with a better sideboard card on site, great. If you can’t pick it up, at least you have a legal deck and sideboard with you. Also, I’m tired of people who don’t even know me — granted, that’s not too many since I’m StarCity’s own Chris Romeo — just walking up and saying “Hey, Chief, you got any Goblin Warhonkers for trade?” I’ll tell you right now: no, I don’t.

Rule #6 — Bring your lunch (usually).
I’ve never been lucky enough to attend Regionals or States at a venue that also had a good place to eat. Sometimes, they will have a concession stand — which I find humorous at a Magic tournament — like at the little league ballpark. You can get fat-laden hotdogs and undercooked burgers with lard chips and high-fructose corn syrup drinks. Not the best way to keep your mind sharp. We always bring a cooler full of sandwich fixin’s: wheat bread; lean meat; cheese; mustard (no mayo); and pickles. Someone brings diet drinks, and we’re ready to go. We also don’t have to go off site to get food, paying too much and potentially being late for the next round.

(If you get to play in a place with quick access to a Subway or a real restaurant, good for you. You still save money with your own sandwiches, though.)

Rule #7 — Lift the toilet seat when you p!ss.
There will be hundreds of males vying for seven urinals. Thus, many will choose the commodes in which to urinate instead. If you don’t lift the seat, then, later on, after the hot dogs (“Now, nearly pig-anus free!”) kick in, someone will have to deal with a wet seat. Ewwww. Be respectful. Lift the seat.

(This is pretty much the one time that women come out ahead in the bathroom scene. There will be four females, max, with twelve seats to choose from. They’ll be able to go all day long and not sit where another woman’s already sat that day.)

Rule #8 — Be specific in your scorekeeping.
Don’t just write down how the life totals dropped and rose. Write down why. Whenever I’ve had a judge question life totals, I have — every single time — been believed because, while my opponent had to guess how he got to his totals, I had the reason right there beside mine.

Rule #0 — Have fun.
I’ve said it before. You aren’t going to win your State. I’m not going to win mine. I will be right dozens of times more than I’m wrong. The comparison I like to make involves some sporting event, like The Super Bowl. At the beginning of the season, I walk into each locker room and tell them “You guys won’t win The Super Bowl.” I will only be wrong once. Everyone else will lose. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play to win. You should. But don’t be one of those tantrum-throwing, deck-throwing, pout-like-a-spoiled-girl players who doesn’t have fun unless and until s/he wins the whole thing. You’re setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.

True Story Time: One of the most fun games I ever played was against a guy named Shannon Owens, who, sadly, no longer plays. During an Onslaught Block games, I had him at one while I was at forty-seven. Shannon won that game. It wasn’t through some huge burn spell or tricky combo. He simply came back turn after turn. I was actually laughing by the end of the game. I was up 47-1, and I lost! How could that not be funny?

It’s States. Have fun.

And, no, I have no idea what this “Champs” thing is that everyone else is writing about.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. I want to make brownies for all of you.

Chris Romeo