Gold Cards Are For Suckers

JFR, the man who broke Extended, is on a quest. A quest to find the strongest deck in Standard, in an attempt to break that format too. Today he brings us a number of Standard decks from the ol’ Rizzonoggin, one of which looks very promising indeed. Nearly Mono Black in Standard? Does it have the power to Rock the Kasbah? Either way, this is a fine piece of Rizzo regalia that heralds the coming of Regionals.

I want Chad Ellis and Zac Hill to be right: control is comin’ up on ya’. Golgari Good Game, and to a lesser extent, dredge itself, adores control decks. Each dredge card absolutely froths at the gills when confronted with an opponent who wishes to trade on a one-for-one basis, for the sheer folly of this strategy soon becomes evident when they’re forced to decide whether to counter or bounce that same card yet again. But this is something you all know, even if none of you believe it.

Not to mention that control decks are known for using good cards, while, the last time I checked, there really aren’t any good dredge cards… Except for my pal Good Game, Stinkweed Imp, Life from the Loam, and well, the rest of them.

After reading Chad and Zac (and buying into their logic), this was the first take:

Untitled Deck, take one.

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Elves of Deep Shadow
2 Llanowar Elves
4 Life from the Loam
1 Golgari Thug
4 Gristleback
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Viridian Shaman
3 Gravedigger
2 Mortivore
2 Nekrataal
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Grave-Shell Scarab
1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
4 Forest
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Golgari Rot Farm
2 Swamp
1 Gruul Turf
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
1 Svogthos, the Restless Tomb

Quick hits:

Gristleback is a wondrous turn 2 play (not as sexy as Stinkweed Imp) versus aggro, for trading that guy for a card, or forcing the beatdown to stop beating down, is somewhat silly. While I’d much rather have Imp on turn 2, which absolutely forces a trade one way or the other, I’ll take the two life if I have to. Additionally, turn 2 Imp, turn 3 serve and kick up Gristle is an excellent Limited play that just feels wrong in Standard because it’s not very good.

The mana base is funny (only 33 sources?) and yet it makes sense, to me at least. I could offer that Svogthos is an additional fatty they may or may not be able to deal with, and that Mikokoro is plain ol’ wacky with Golgari Good Game in the ‘yard, and that Miren not only thwarts removal, but can gain obscene amounts of life only to dredge that fatty next turn and present the same question all over again but more bigger.

It doesn’t hurt to have two legendary lands that are not only relevant to your strategy, but can be played as pseudo Wastelands and can be recurred ad nauseam. We call that “serendipity” in the print world.

Four Life from the Loam?

Dear Wildfire,

Bring it on.

Just don’t play that ‘Vore guy ‘til I have gg in play, thx

Gravedigger plus Golgari Thug plus creatures equals maybe I won’t deck myself. Maybe.

Enough of that. The deck seeks to weather the early aggro storm then play a fatty and win. Against control it seeks to bleed countermagic and bounce, until the countermagic and bounce are eliminated. Perhaps both strategies are terrible, but hey, I don’t see you trying to use dredge in Standard. Probably for good reason. And not even one single Akuta that I really ought to throw in. Okay, I will. Maybe.

Wait. Death of a Thousand Funnies, and its cousin, Exile Into Darkness, are card advantage sans a stick, I think. Much like dredge, they just feel advantageous. I’m aware that playing with a five-mana card that doesn’t read “You win the freakin’ game pretty damned quick” is not ordinarily considered a good thing, but hey, what about this deck makes you think it has a chance to throw up anything other than a goose egg?

I’m fairly happy with any of the following plays, many of which happen with regularity:

Turn 1: mana creature
Turn 2: Stinky, Gristleback, Plague Boiler, or Loam-drop-a-bouncie

They’re all good. Perhaps not as good as Kird Ape/start to kill you, though each can deal with that opening from 1993. No, not really.

Stinky makes the opponent waste a card, Gristle makes them waste removal, an attack phase, or a turn casting another creature rather than smashing a real dude headlong into Ravenous Baloth Spike Feeder, er, Gristleback, while Boiler forces them to either kill it or play at my pace, kinda. Loam is often the best play, and when it drops good game into the ‘yard, then Moses up and parts the Red Sea and presents me with too many options, one of which may entail casting a rather large and angry turn 3 or 4 The Real ‘Vore/good game.

Dredging away all the Boilers sucks, thanks for noticing my lack of ways to get it back.

It was either blow up the world that I can’t get back, or blow up one individual piece of the world that I can’t get back either. I went for the former.

Thus forth and hence, in honor of the bard of fatties, with hardly any utility, virtually zero card advantage and not much tempo either I suppose, I present:

Remember when I used to brazenly hype up my latest concoction and then just surrender and move onto another deck that was only a little bit worse than the previous deck I spent five pages pimping? Yep, gonna do that again. Maybe more than once.

After testing a total of four games against Ghazi-Chord (after FNM no less), I gave up. Jitte and Glare were the problems, enough so that I had to admit that Dredge, while all that and a lifetime subscription to Barely Legal, was not the Class of Standard.

Man that was, as the kids tend to say, some depressing.

Later that night, I became obsessed with not only breaking the format, but doing so with panache. And only one color. That color must be Black. “F*** it,” says I, “I’m building mono Black ‘cause gold cards suxxorz!”

How Black could Ravnica be? None more Black.

Mono Black.
In Standard.
Rofl @ me.

This was the first take, and it was taken at two in the morning:

Mono Black In Standard Rofl

4 Ravenous Rats
4 Dark Confidant
4 Hypnotic Specter
3 Sickening Shoal
1 Akuta, Born of Ash
2 Gravedigger
4 Nekrataal
3 Consume Spirit
4 Dimir Guildmage
3 Cruel Edict
1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
2 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
1 Helldozer
4 Watery Grave
20 Swamp

It didn’t take a genius to figure out this is a pile, though at two up in the mizzo, no one is a genius. One drops are overrated, and move ahead a few hours:

After losing a total of one game to Abrams’ IzzeTron, I realized I had not broken the format. In between rounds of the Casual Legacy — I was using Mike Morrisette’s mono Red burn deck laffin’! — I added as much creature kill as I could find.

It could keep up with Ghazi-Chord, but would lose eventually. Yosei is no fun, and since I had never seen firsthand the bare carnage that sumbitch goes and lays bare, it was nearly back to square one, or at least try to out-tech myself. Befoul in the main was cute for Vitu-Ghazi, and Eradicate seems good in theory, but the deck just wasn’t coming together. Because it’s mono Black in Standard.

Legacy lol:

I was playing Johnny P. and his mono Blue control deck, when at the end of my turn 4 he tapped out for Fact or Fiction.

I Forked it.

Mono Red doesn’t need to draw cards; the true draw engine of Red consists of waiting for your opponent to play card advantage spells, and then copying them.

Heh, I just read Fact or Fiction, and noticed the lack of the word “target.”

frigginrizzo: ← ch33tz.

Or maybe the word “your” does target. Theoretically.

frigginrizzo: ← savage cheeter.

The next game saw me end his life with “end of your turn: float four mana, sac two Mountains for Fireblast and Fork it, sac two more and Fork that Fireblast too comma gg.”

Whatever, it’s not mono Black.

The following isn’t either, but it’s so nasty you won’t believe it. If I were to tell you that a nearly mono Black deck could pulverize Heezy Street and Ghazi-Chord, and while we’re at it, beat Heartbeat like the beeyotch it is, not to mention spank the living hell out of IzzeTron, would you believe me?

No, probably not, ‘cause I’d likely be lying. And yet, that deck take one:

3 Llanowar Elves
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Dark Confidant
4 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Putrefy
4 Nekrataal
3 Yukora, the Prisoner
1 Akuta, Born of Ash
1 Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
2 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
3 Sickening Shoal
14 Swamp
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse

4 Naturalize
4 Distress
3 Eradicate
3 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All (or some other filler)

After the Casual, I was laying out my deck and scratching my dome…”mono Black holds the key, it must!” Plague Boiler was in, was out, in and out again; ditto Distress, Befoul Horobi’s Whisper, when Mikey M. stepped to the plate and suggested both Yukora and Seizan. This of course meant that Bob had to hit the road, and yet I steadfastly refused to cut Bob from a nearly mono black build.

Combo, Bombo, Nonbo... Bonabo?

Bob plus big dumb fat guys equals not a combo.

I was completely unconvinced that adding five fatties that seemed oh so dangerous was the ticket to prosperity, but Mikey offered to be the one to test pilot the deck. I grabbed his Ghazi-Chord and promptly got my ass handed to me five or six games in a row.

It didn’t matter how many Hierarchs or Glares or Yoseis I threw into the mix, I got served like I was a hot seventeen year old chyk with a tramp stamp at the local watering hole just before last call. Then I got pounded from behind, but unlike that chyk, I didn’t pretend to enjoy it just so someone would buy me beer.

It was awful, pitiful and then some. So we switched decks. And the big fat dumb legends kicked the living ass out of the puny 4/4s and wussy Kodama and whatever else was thrown at it.

Corey B., a Legacy stalwart/victim, stepped up with Heezy Street, and he, much like anyone who thinks they can hang with nearly mono Black, was immediately smashed into the stratosphere. Char, Slum, Solifuge, Burning-Tree, none of it mattered. In fact, Slum spent more time on the side of mono Black than in Cory’s graveyard, courtesy of Ink-Eyes — Char him pls take two by the way he regenerates thx.

Mikey beat up on Heezy for a while, then I did, and even when Mikey stepped behind Heezy, nearly mono Black carried the day, which is a testament to my Magic skills.

Next up was Cory Freakin’ Abrams and his IzzeTron. Game 1 ended on turn 6: take sixteen Cory, pls/thx/wanna sideboard? Game 2 — after the Shinobis and Distress came in – was just silly. Game after game after game (a scant few of which Cory was able to win, barely), the beats kept on coming.

He moved over to Heartbeat and see above: smash, kerplunk, crunch. Cory managed to win a couple here and there due to Heartbeat’s unfair tutoring capability, but in the end, it just was not to be for Maga, for he is a mere mortal.

We think these results may have been a fluke. As such, Mikey’s playing the deck in the Sunday Standard tourney. Against a field of net decks, we shall see what becomes of nearly mono Black beats.

Flash forward to Sunday and the Standard tourney. Mikey, after testing all night on Workstation and pulverizing random nerds hiding behind tough guy nicknames, decided that at least a couple Shinobis needed to be main, and one more Elf was begging for inclusion.

My overnight tech was one (maybe more, but I doubt it) Dimir House Guard to fetch Nekky, Eradicate, and maybe Night of Souls’ Betrayal (for Husk l33t!). Perhaps that is techy, but probably not. Nevertheless, Mikey took out one Nekky and one Yukora for Shinobis, and dropped Akuta for the fourth Elf. And then the tourney began.

But why not you pilot it, Johnny? ‘Cause I didn’t know how long this fiasco would last, and after keeping Little Rizzo up past his bedtime for, gee, two nights in a row, felt duty bound to get his ass home at a reasonable hour. Plus, I’m not very good at Magic and I don’t know why that doesn’t hurt to admit even if it really should.

The first round was against R/W burn dot deck, and despite more Shock and Lightning Helix and random burn than anyone should be able to handle, Mikey came with it by dropping a late game Seizan. That’s risky against a deck filled with Fry You, but when you throw down Jitte and swing into an empty board, card advantage does what it does best, which is not matter one single freakin’ bit.

The second game was filled with multiple Hyppies and Shinobis forcing the bad guy to play off the top, while Mikey, oddly enough, always seemed to have a full grip of good stuff, none of which was anything from the sideboard. Alas, I don’t anticipate many R/W decks to be present in Brighton, so ignore the result.

Round 2 was all about Wildfire, and how the ability to Annex lands and resolve Wildfire, twice in one game, did not matter in the least. People tell me that a bunch of Jitte counters on a Bob is kinda good.

None of the above is techy, and I could go on and on but you no longer care because you think the deck is a pile and it probably is but it kicks the hell out of everything we can throw at it no matter who plays which deck and which deck plays who. Or whom.

“Orzhov!” I hear you scream. “Nekky suXorZ versus 0rzh0v!”

Nekrataal is technology.
He’s the metagame.
He’s first-striking love versus Solifuge
He’s quicker-than-usual Jitte love.
He’s Flametongue Kavu in 2006.

Any player with a heavy Black component in his or her deck that isn’t running at least a couple copies should have his or her head freakin’ examined, even if he dies to every burn spell in the environment.

OMG he’s a dead card against Black creatures yer bad at Magic Rizz0!

Yeah, I guess a 2/1 first-striker in game 1 is the end of world, especially when you consider how many decks contain legitimate targets. Gee, wouldn’t wanna have three “dead” slots against Orzhov, when he’s only an insane disgusting tempo card advantage machine against oh, every other deck out there. I see your point.

I thought the deck should run four main, but Mikey has shown me the practical power of Shinobi bouncing Rats and Nekkies, and making that bastard of an opponent pitch two freakin’ cards not just when he’s ninja’d in, but every time he gets through (which will be a lot, since I bounced Nekky to spring tha ninja).

But I must say that, to this point (Sunday, April 30, 2006, 9:07 P.M.) we haven’t tested it against Orzhov-type decks. Because we’re all too lazy to build one. Whatever, it’s rogue, nearly mono Black, and has heavy disruption elements against combo, control, and beatdown, and is something like 25-6 against every other deck we threw at it.

Thus, the latest build:

The remaining four sideboard slots? Four Other Things.

One Seizan wants to become Kokusho just ‘cause, but look at all the bad synergy with Bob — there are currently ten cards that cost more than three mana, each of which has the potential to single-handedly swing the game in your favor so never mind.

You still think the deck is a pile, and looking at it, I agree. You can set it out nice and pretty, by casting cost even, and it will look even worse. I have a hard time convincing myself that it’s actually good; I mean look at that mess of sh** up there! Most of those guys weren’t even played in Kamigawa Block! But hey, you don’t have to play it in Team Standard, despite the fact that you’ll read about it on the ‘net, thus it will become a net deck.

After worrying about the vase, despite the Oracle’s protestations to the contrary, I built a Ghost Husk from memory because it’s easier than suffering through dialup.

Any Husk deck that doesn’t run four Orzhov Pontiff should have their scrotum sliced open to check if they have any balls. That’s just my opinion, and probably Brian Smith’s too, that savage net decking glasses stealer.

As a result of my arduous testing (like, ten whole games, well, mostly), I remain convinced that Nearly Mono Black in Standard is the deck to play. Just because Husk has a tendency to beat my deck more than it doesn’t means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Then again, it’s by no means an auto loss; it’s more like a 51/49, which offers proof that there is no skill in Magic and rock, paper, scissors is all that matters.

I’ll hope to get lucky against Orzhovian things, or have the boys sweep so I can do important things like wonder aloud why in the freakin’ hell Throat Slitter isn’t in this sumbitch somewhere. OMG lol look at this bring back Nekky when you ninja him out and watch your opponent wonder why he ever doubted anything I ever said ever, especially about how to pick up hot chyx even if I haven’t picked up a hot chyk since 1995.

“Ten-plus years: no strange.”

Should be the flavor text on my marriage.

All right, the deck has been fully pimped, now ignore everything you just read because the deck is a pile. It wins more than any nearly mono Black deck should, but the good news is that I have to take the reigns and pilot this bad johnson.

Still, there are four or five days to playtest voraciously and change my mind and play something that doesn’t automatically elicit lols, rofls, hehs, and teenage-girl-with-braces giggles.

Please don’t tell me how bad it is. I know, even if it isn’t, and gold cards are for suckers.

Except Accept Putrefy,
John Friggin’ Rizzo