That’s something I’ve heard a lot of over the last few weeks, and I expect to hear a lot more of it in the coming month. The same thing happened last year and the year before, but this year is different.
Why? Two years ago I was playing a White Weenie/red Empyral Armor deck. I played it for two months and won a tourney with it. I knew what I was taking to the Nationals, I knew how to play it and I’d get the feeling that certain cards were about to turn up just before I drew them. Last year I played a green/white/red Armageddon/beatdown deck and won a tourney with that. It was very anti-Necro with an even more anti-Necro sideboard. I looked forward to taking it to the Nationals and kicking some serious Necro butt (and did so too).
For the past two months, I’ve been working on this year’s deck. It’s a red/green beatdown deck but there’s a problem: it isn’t good enough. I don’t even think its good enough to qualify with. So this year I find myself asking the question I’ve scorned for so long: what do I play?
The beauty of Type II, at the moment, is the sheer number of viable, tier I decks that are being played: Bargain, Stompy, Rebel W, Black control, Road Trip, Accelerated Blue, Dust Bowl Blue, Squirrel Prison. There’s even more than that and they’re all out there, they all beat one or two of the others. There’s no single deck that’s”the deck” this year (although some people will argue that there is).
This is all very good for Type II, but bad for me as a rogue deck designer and player.
Any deck designer will tell you that testing is important. Last year I tested against Sligh, WW, Necro and Green beatdown. It took me a long time. Weeks of testing against Sligh revealed the three main deck Bottle Gnomes were good, as were the two sideboard Radiant’s Dragoons. Testing against green showed me that two main deck Mirri’s was fantastic; testing these against Sligh made it obvious that they were even better than I thought. Testing against Necro proved Treetop Village was better than I thought, as it was Perish proof.
How am I supposed to test against the field this year? There’s too much; it’ll take too long. Up until Lin Sivvi and the advent of Gaea’s Cradle in Rebel decks, the only deck I couldn’t beat 50% of the time was Bargain. Now there are two decks I’m having trouble with and I just don’t have enough time to tweak my deck and then test the new cards against all of the other decks in the environment.
I’ve got two weeks until the first qualifier I’m attending. As it happens it’s in my home town of Bath, England which makes it even more important. Last time we had a qualifier I came second, and I’d like to try and better that. What do I play?
I like Rebel White, it always seems to have things to do and beats a lot of red decks easily. Unfortunately, I think there are going to be a lot of white decks played, we get a lot of kids and beatdown players in Bath, and I don’t like the idea of playing a deck where I have to put a Gaea’s cradle on the table on turn one.
Dust Bowl blue isn’t my style; I’m not a control player. That helps to rule out Green and Black control too. I’m just not patient enough. Wildfire is pretty hit and miss and with Reverent Mantra being played, you could just pay six mana to lose yourself the game. Road Trip Red is fun to play, but I always seem to be sitting there watching my opponent discard every turn while I’m waiting for a threat to kill them.
One deck I have had a lot of practice with is Sabre Bargain. I started playing Bargain back in the pure black Reprocess days, moved to Zvi’s version and now I’m practising with Sabre. The only main deck card I’ve changed is to take out one Tooth of Ramos and add in one Duress. The sideboard is almost completely different but I know the metagame in Bath a lot better than the players in America do.
The main problem with Bargain is that I don’t enjoy playing it. It’s an interesting intellectual excerise but I really don’t enjoy killing twelve year-old kids on turn three when they’ve only played two lands and a Laccolith. I also find it very difficult to play against good control players. They always seem to have counters when I don’t want them to and Defense Grids really don’t like Powder Kegs.
All the experience I have says to pick a deck from the Dojo and play it for two weeks. To try to learn a deck as best I can and play it the best that it can be played. Part of me knows that if I build myself a deck now I won’t qualify and I’ll be going along to play side events and cheer on my teammates.
It doesn’t work like that though. I’m a rogue deck player. I build and play my own decks and that’s who I am, I’ve qualified on the strength of my own playing, my own deck-building ability (and my opponent’s mistakes) for two years and I want to keep that run going.
Even during the hour I’ve spent writing this out, a deck has been hatching in my brain. It’s green and white. It has Mother of Runes, Disenchant, Armageddon, Reverent Mantra, River Boa, Albino Troll, Rancor, Rhox, Yavimaya Elder, Masticore, Might of Oaks, Birds of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, Forests, Plains, Brushlands, Treetop Village, Dust Bowl and Yavimaya Hollow in it. There are some other cards hovering around it like Uktabi Orangutan, Elvish Lyrist, Ticking Gnomes and maybe even Arrest and although I’m going away for the weekend, I have Sunday and Monday nights free before Magic on Wednesday night.
Right up until the last minute, I’ll be trying to put something of my own together, and I’ll keep playing Bargain so I’ve got something to fall back on. So, fingers crossed, break a leg, good luck and happy hunting. Hopefully I’ll be playing in the Nationals this year and it’ll be something you haven’t got three slots in your sideboard for.
Jim Grimmett, Team PhatBeats
Bath Magic UK http://www.curiosity-shoppe.com/magic/