I Think I Broke Something…

SWK: Hey, I think I broke the format.
Knut: Oh really? What are you playing?
SWK: Well, it’s 60 different cards, so it’s tough to tell you.
Knut: Oh no – you got hooked on Singleton, didn’t you?
SWK: Yeah. All I wanted to do was make a Mind’s Desire deck because I figured it would be funny to try a combo deck with a bunch of one-of’s – I never expected it to be any good.
Knut: Ship it…

It’s late Saturday night, you’re contemplating going to bed or starting another CCC draft. Except CCC on MTGO has become boring, so drafting is out of the question. There’s always Standard, oh wait, no it’s not March 20th yet, no real reason to. Extended is always good fun, unless you have some aversion to buying a MTGO deck worth as much as a Type One deck in real life. So here’s the question: what do you do hotshot, what do you do?

Why Singleton, Obviously! A few weeks ago I was faced with the same predicament. The normal formats on MTGO had gotten, well, stale. So I randomly decided to watch a casual match, and as it turns out, I had clicked on a Singleton match. In under a minute, I realized one thing: it looked hella fun. It was a good, old-fashioned Wake vs. Tog match-up. To me it looked just like MODO Extended, except, since everything was restricted, it’s much cheaper. Plus a lot more fun cards get to see play, and it leaves room for real innovation.

There’s one thing I must confess up front before we move along – I love playing combo, I love how everything is put in the combo player’s hands. Since there is such low player interaction, everything depends on your play skill. You are the one in charge of the game, watching your opponent struggling to find a way to disrupt you.

Naturally there was an inherent difficulty in building a combo deck, an archetype that often relies on redundancy, in a format where every card is restricted. Got to love the challenge, right? After a couple of weeks of playing in the casual room I had refined my deck to what I was comfortable with and could afford. I didn’t know there was an established singleton metagame, but apparently there are other Desire decks out there, I haven’t seen any others, but would be interested in seeing some of the lists. Here is what I am currently playing and played in the tournament:

Main Deck:

1 All Suns’ Dawn

1 Concentrate

1 Cunning Wish

1 Deep Analysis

1 Diligent Farmhand

1 Early Harvest

1 Eternal Witness

1 Explosive Vegetation

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Far Wanderings

1 Fertile Ground

1 Flooded Strand

1 Future Sight

1 Gifts Ungiven

1 Harrow

1 Heartbeat of Spring

1 Journey of Discovery

1 Kodama’s Reach

1 Mana Leak

1 Merchant Scroll

1 Mind’s Desire

1 Mirari’s Wake

1 Nightscape Familiar

1 Nostalgic Dreams

1 Opportunity

1 Peer Through Depths

1 Rampant Growth

1 Restock

1 Revive

1 Rude Awakening

1 Sakura-Tribe Elder

1 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Serum Visions

1 Sleight of Hand

1 Sunscape Familiar

1 Tendrils of Agony

1 Vernal Bloom

1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

1 Windswept Heath

11 Forest

7 Island

2 Plains

1 Swamp


1 Ancestral Tribute

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

1 Brain Freeze

1 Chain of Vapor

1 Circular Logic

1 Decree of Justice

1 Decree of Silence

1 Dosan the Falling Leaf

1 Flash of Insight

1 Funeral Pyre

1 Ghostly Prison

1 Moment’s Peace

1 Ray of Revelation

1 Reclaim

1 Temporal Fissure

The deck plays out by getting out lots of land and drawing as many cards as possible, for as long as possible. When you fear you are about to be killed or disrupted you try to combo off by casting a bunch of spells, generating lots of mana with Rude Awakening and Early Harvest, and returning all essential cards from your graveyard with various recursion spells. One of the best spells in the deck is Gifts Ungiven, because if it resolves you pretty much win. Go for two recursion spells, a Minds Desire, and Early Harvest, or some variation of those four. From there, you just win. Sometimes it just gets four recursion spells, or Rude Awakening and Harvest, or just a bunch of card drawing with Deep Analysis. It really depends on what you need.

All the recursion and card drawing makes the deck incredibly resilient and don’t worry about killing your opponent, once you start comboing off you’ll find a way. It’s okay to lose a Desire or Tendrils early to a discard, because they really aren’t all that important, however your opponent often thinks they are, and nabs them with discard instead of the important cards. Many games can be won without ever casting the desire, it’s easy once you get going to generate over a hundred mana and cast the nine or ten spells needed to Tendrils them out.

I was eagerly awaiting the start of the tournament, and equally excited that it was 2x prize, so I could win even more packs than normal. So on Saturday night I started up MODO and played a few practice matches. Soon enough however, the tourney began.

Round One: Mono Red

I begin the first round with a really great draw, a turn 5 kill, with possibly a turn 4 kill if I draw well enough. I however had lost the “roll” and my opponent opened with turn 1 Skirk Prospector. I clicked bye in my head as beatdown decks are very poor against this type of deck in singleton. I don’t really fear land destruction if I have even a mediocre hand, I can easily kill before they do, in fact the only card I really care about is… my opponent played a turn 2 Zo-Zu on the play. UGHHHH.

Yeah, he’s the bad one for me. Now all my speed is in turn, his speed. I can only win by running an Early Harvest chain off a Flare effect into a Desire. Very rough. In fact I get close to do that on turn 5, however with Zo-Zu damage and his Warchief, Piledriver, and Violent Eruption, I lose a turn before I can combo.

Game two I have a pretty good hand with all kinds of mana acceleration and card draw. He has turn 3 Zo-Zu. However, the difference between a turn 2 and 3 Zo-Zu, especially on the draw, is vast. I am already up two land on him at that point, and Explosive Vegetation out some more. Turn 4 he drops more random dudes, more than enough to kill me on his turn. On my turn I think a long time about how I need to go about my combo, there is no room for error. “Give up yet?” he asks smugly, using that infuriating MODO auto-phrase. “No, just trying to figure out if I can kill you this turn.” I snicker when I realize he has taken some pain from his own Zo-Zu, after drawing some cards and generating some mana, I simply entwine the Rude Awakening I had found and swing in for the win.

Game three my hand is decent, some action and a Harrow and another acceleration spell. It would actually be phenomenal, except I now know of his habit of getting out Zo-Zu with great speed, and he is on the play. If he has the Zu, I can pretty much pack up my cards. “You have him, don’t you?” I ask. He just responds with a smile and on turn 3 taps three mountains and…I take three from Oxidda Golem and grin. I begin to set up for an easy turn 5 kill when he unloads on turn 4, threatening to kill me if he has pretty much anything in his hand. Crud.

Again I go into deep thought mode as I try to figure out the best way to optimize my mana and Desire. It’s nice to be able to Desire for lots, but unless I hit the last untap spell in my deck or the Tendrils itself, I need some mana untapped. “Give up yet?” he asks again. “No, just trying to figure out if I can kill you this turn.” I see the only plan I have and grin as it begins.

I go for broke on turn 4 and proceed to get an insane Desire for six when I have a Forest and an Island untapped. I flip over Nostalgic Dreams, Vernal Bloom, Heartbeat of Spring, Sleight of Hand, Fertile Ground, and Concentrate. I drop my Flare effects, Fill my hand, Dreams Back the Desire, and proceed to go through my entire deck, emptying a more than lethal Tendrils of A-GG-ony.

Round Two: G/W Infy Foils

Joy, G/W control/aggro. They don’t have land destruction, they don’t have hand destruction, heck they can’t even kill very fast. It’s go time. He drops a Weathered Wayfarer and I gladly allow him to search all the land he wants as I accelerate ridiculously fast. He gets down I an Exalted Angel and I take my time as I get beat down to eight. I decide I better not risk an Akroma or something and go for the combo then and there. SMASH!

Game two I drop a quick Heartbeat of Spring, and turn 4 I am facing down a random dork, an Exalted Angel, and an Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Cute. I Cunning Wish during his attack phase and he asks if I’m going for a little bouncy bouncy. Nah, just going for a Flash of Insight for three, finding a Concentrate, and going off before Akroma gets to swing a second time.

Round Three: Mono Black

From watching some of the playbacks, I know my opponent is playing mono-Black. This is probably the easiest matchup I can hope for. All Black has is hand disruption and a smattering of graveyard hate. They don’t even have the speed of the other colors, and there are much less tricks they can have to throw me off.

Game one I think I get hit with a Duress and a Mind Sludge before going off turn 6 under almost no pressure.

Game two he drops Withered Wretch and Rotlung Reanimator, threatening to stop my recursion. On his turn 5 I have six lands untapped thanks to an early Harrow and Rampant Growth. In my mind I’m begging him to just tap out to Mind Sludge me so I can Opportunity in response and have him tapped out so I can easily combo off on my turn with his Wretch staring on helplessly. He taps his five Swamps and…Promise of Powers. Even better, at the end of his turn I Opportunity myself. With seven land and more than a full grip I combo off without batting an eye. Man, this deck is fun.

Round Four: Black/Green Control

Okay, this match is a little tougher than the mono-Black one, but not bad enough. The deck has a little bit more pressure, some Disenchant and Recursion effects, along with stuff like Baloths for faster beats. Unfortunately it has even less hand and resource disruption so it really is a great matchup for me. In fact, I had played a few games with the guy an hour earlier and simply smashed him in the casual room.

Both games play out with very little interaction on his part, he Smothers/Terrors my Sunscape Familiar both games, Duresses me here and there, and lays some Baloth beats, but it just isn’t enough. I win before turn 7 both games and he expresses his hatred of combo decks before conceding the match.

With the tournament only six rounds long, I draw the next two and find myself in first place going into the Top 8.

Top 8: Tog

This is a pretty scary matchup, but I will say it is most definitely in my favor. I have so much recursion and card advantage it is really hard for them to fight me with their counters. As long as I draw a mix of land and spells I should win.

Game One lasts a long time as I know I just have to wait for him to make a mistake while I develop my mana. I play card drawing and other random cards and make him use his counters. Eventually he has to tap low as I go for a Gifts Ungiven during his end step, and I just untap and win. Now I think at one point in this game he Upheavaled defensively, causing me to discard something like six or seven land, but I just came back with even more acceleration, while he struggled to get a game going.

I board in Decree of Justice, Dosan, Boseiju, and Ancestral Tribute. The plan is to open up plenty of outs for myself since he is most likely expecting another combo, or to Upheaval/Tog me.

Game two I get stunted on mana, and miss several land drops while trying to get my combo in sight. With seven mana out he taps out to drop Future Sight. With Desire, Temporal Fissure, Infinite card drawing, and recursion in my hand all I’m missing is an Early Harvest, Flare effect, or Rude Awakening (which I could simply Entwine and swing for the win) and I’d be able to combo him out or just bounce all his land to his hand. I don’t draw any of that, and instead Wish for Chain of Vapor and hit his Future Sight. He taps out again on his turn to replay it and I’m in the same boat again. Again I don’t draw anything and spend the next three turns bouncing the Sight to simply tap him out on his turn. Sadly with more than half of my deck gone I still haven’t seen a thing and concede with about seven minutes left on my game clock so I can have a chance for game three.

I don’t sideboard a thing and immediately click the Ok button, trying to hurry along so I don’t lose by running out of time. When he finishes, the Sideboard tab goes away and… the duel tab doesn’t appear in its place. I panic, thinking I had been dropped from MODO and was going to reconnect with all the time I needed missing. However, I’m still able to chat with people in the tourney room, and do all the normal things I can do on MODO. Finally the duel tab comes up a minute or so later, but while I wasn’t allowed in the game, my clock had been ticking away. I was down to under six minutes to win. Frustrated, I knew I could do it if I played fast – my hand was insane.

My opponent also went for the fast win because he knew that me trying to Desire for the win would eat up too much of my clock. He drops a Head Hunter and a morphed Silent Specter. He flips it over and eats my hand while I set up. However, I had drawn so many cards and drawn so well it doesn’t matter. I Temporal Fissure all his pressure back and prepare to win shortly. He taps down to redrop Head Hunter and a Psychatog. At the end of his turn, I cycle a massive Decree of Justice for eleven. On my turn I Gifts Ungiven for Rude Awakening (tapping my Boseiju), I cast Restock to get it back and he burns his counter. I simply cast my Tendrils and knock him down to six. Eleven 1/1 token’s – two blockers = nine damage and GG. I quickly move on to the attack phase, click three of my dudes and… I run out of time.

Yes Virginia, there is a game clock. While declaring lethal attackers, against a tapped out opponent, I ran out of time. Yes, I was literally five seconds away from winning. Even if my opponent had chosen to be cheesy and use his Psychatog as many times as he wanted to run my clock down, I could have just held F2 and had about a second to spare.

Needless to say, I was very mad, and incredibly frustrated. I knew I could have played faster the first two games, cut out the friendly banter, and been one of those jerks that just plays the game w/o trying to have any fun. However, what really made me mad, was the precious minute or so I had lost before the third game. Had I had a half or even a fourth of that time, I would have easily won. Instead I played over six hours of online Magic, losing only two games up until that point, only to get cheesed out by MODO at the last moment.

The worst part was it was a 2x event, so the pack difference I got for losing in quarterfinals, as opposed to the semis, finals, or possibly even winning was even more. What, me bitter? Nah, crap happens, I wrote in to tech support about the glitch, but they decided since the problem wasn’t on my end, and the servers didn’t crash that they didn’t really care. With all the money I’ve spent on MODO in the past, to me it seems an insult to just brush off people with complaints. Sure they’re covered under the little agreement thing I check every time I log on, and that’s fine, but they no longer are going to be receiving any of my business online.

Okay, fine – that’s a bald-faced lie because I’m a complete addict, but I was still quite grumpy about how they handled things.

Overall though my experience was quite nice, I had a blast playing in a fun format, got to play a deck I designed, and enjoyed Desiring for the win in a format where I was only allowed to play one Desire. And no, I didn’t get to play with Demonic Tutors, Ancestral Recalls, and Yawgmoth’s Will this time, unlike my last article.

If you are looking to have some fun on MODO, I definitely recommend playing Singleton. It’s not nearly as expensive as some of the other formats, and it the most fun I’ve had online in a long time. Now, if only they could implement Type Four soon…