Innovations – The Greatest Deck That Never Was

Read Patrick Chapin every Monday... at StarCityGames.com!
Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin, fresh from his sterling performance at this year’s U.S. Nationals, brings us the entertaining story of The Greatest Deck That Never Was. While the creation of this deck proved to be in vain, it does highlight how difficult it is to position yourself correctly in order to break a format. Plus, we have Patrick’s U.S. Standard decklist, and a fresh take on beatdown for Time Spiral Block Constructed.

This is a story of tragedy. It is a tale of the twists and turns of fate, and what can be learned from the curve balls life may throw at you. This is a story of a legend that would have been passed on generation after generation. Small girls, small boys, and churches smaller still, would have been named in honor of the legacy that would have begun at this turning point in human history. This is a story of two men and a dream, a dream that could have changed everything. If but for a single word of the English Language, kingdoms would have changed hands, mountains would have moved, and stars would have been born.

If only.

This is the story of The Greatest Deck That Never Was.

Curious George is on the television, here at the Michael J. household. I spent the night on the couch after arriving yesterday, en route to Baltimore, and I cannot thank the Flores Family enough. They took me in yesterday, providing food, shelter, a shower, and good company, which is no small feat considering the three-year-old and one-year-old children they have summoned.

It has been a fantastic time, getting to see Michael for the first time in five years, meeting my long time friend Katherine for the first time, and finally getting to see their beautiful children. It is hard to describe what is like seeing Michael with his children. He is an incredible father, and they and his wife bring out the best in him. It fills me with joy to see him so happy.

Michael actually just left to go to work an hour ago. I am lying on the aforementioned couch now, trying to catch my bearings. Bella, the three-drop, decided that 6am was a great time to start a long day of playing. Despite the fact that this is about when I usually go to bed, it is well worth it for the opportunity to see my old friend and meet his wonderful family.

I spent the whole day on the road on my way here, and after meeting Finkel for lunch, I will be hitting the road again. This time, the destination will be Baltimore, for the 2007 Magic National Championships. The year that Michael J. almost broke Standard in half.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from Michael J. He wanted to know when I would be in town and oh, by the way, he broke the format in two, right in two.

MichaelJ: So our Mystical Teachings deck can’t beat Blink.

PChapin: It can’t? How bad are we talking?

MichaelJ: It didn’t win a game.

PChapin: That is pretty bad.

MichaelJ: I was thinking of ways we could transform, and I realized we could beat them after sideboarding if we bring in Rain of Gore.

PChapin: Sounds okay. (although truth be told, I didn’t really get what he was thinking… yet).

MichaelJ: Then I got to thinking, why don’t we just play it as a dedicated combo deck that just tries to get the combo?

PChapin: What combo?

MichaelJ: Rain of Gore plus Beacon of Immortality! The Sickest Ever!

Immediately, everything had changed.

The plan is to Trix people out, dropping a two-mana enchantment and a six-mana instant, causing the opponent to lose his life total in life, rather than gain it. No, don’t go read the cards yet.

I get to Flores’s house, meet my favorite person that I had never met (his wonderful wife, Katherine), and finally get to see his two children. Life is good. We kick it for a while, him supposedly writing an article or two, me watching Big Brother with Katherine (the first TV I have seen in months).

Flores gives me a mission. While he finishes his article, I have to build the deck. We discuss aloud many of the deck choices and eventually settle on the spell set. We both knew we were gonna go for it, long before it was ever spoken aloud. We knew it was time for the Tundra Gambit. The Tundra Gambit is playing a deck featuring U and W, but playing no Islands or Plains (and this includes Watery Grave). Cryoclasm is one of the best sideboard cards available, we knew it would be everywhere, and with such a busted deck, why lose to that nonsense?

Now, when I say I went deep into the tank on this one, I mean I am talking some 2015 futuristic stuff here. Finally, after a grueling hour of wrestling with the manabase, I arrive at finished product. Without further ado, Michael J. and I present to you:

That manabase is actually one of the crowning achievements of my Magic career. Seriously, just reflect on the mana ratio for a moment, the selection of lands. Have you ever seen such beauty?

I am looking for sideboard cards, and I come across Wall of Shards, from the Coldsnap. Interesting… this seems really good with Rain of Gore.

Wait… can you do that?

I then ask Mike to search up the exact text and rulings to see if you can actually satisfy the upkeep by Goring them. I read Wall of Shards. Unclear. I read Rain of Gore.

Wat is zis?

You must be jo-king!

I read it again. And again. And again.

At this stage, I point it out to Mike.

MichaelJ: So it doesn’t work with the Wall?

PChapin: MichaelJ, I think it doesn’t work… at all.

The look of sheer horror on Mike’s face can most be compared to the look on a man’s face who just realized he had his soul on the line and flopped a set of Aces and the Devil’s 2-7 off hit a boat on the River.

Mike immediately began to call his network of people who might know this type of thing. You see, Rain of Gore says “if a spell or ability would cause its controller to gain life…” Beacon of Immortality would not be controlled by our opponents unless they Commandeered it. Ouch.

Michael J. IM’ed Becker, requesting a MTGO duel. If there is one way to get a quick answer (that may or may not be right), it is to see what happens on MTGO.

Becker asks what he should play. Flores says anything.

Turns 1 and 2 Becker just assumes Flores is playing some random control deck. All of the sudden, turn 3 he drops a Rain of Gore.

Becker: What is this?

MichaelJ: You’ll see. I gotta know if this works.

Turn 4, draw some cards.

Turn 5. The moment of truth.

Beacon of Immortality. MichaelJ drags the curser to the icon for Becker. The target has been declared. He clicks.

Nothing happens.

Then we realize Becker has priority.

Then Becker’s life total begins to go up.

Frown. Town.

Flores gets on the phone and immediately tells his minions to stop buying Rain of Gores. It is hard to describe with this Earthly language the sadness I felt for Michael J. that moment.

Napster? Jushi Blue? Critical Mass? Agro Ideal? All would have been dwarfed by this, the crown jewel of Constructed decks. It is not so much that this would have been the best deck ever. Far from it. It is just that this would have been a clean break. The Standard metagame is all anti-aggro and mid-range. A combo deck that clips at 4-5, but plays Remands, Muddles, Mysticals, Damnation, Gigadrowse, Pact of Negation, Teferi, Beacons, etc? It would have been the sickness.

In another world, Rain of Gore, we could have been soul mates.

It was back to the drawing board. I knew I was back to my Mystical Teachings deck (yes Flores, mine. Yours is much different, and Mark’s is much different). I called it a night. The problem was for another day.

The next day, I woke up at 6am, as I said, and had the privilege of playing with Bella. Michael J. went to work and I went to meet a friend of mine I had not seen in a while, for lunch. A leisurely three-hour lunch later, I head over to Jonny Magic’s place for some good chats. He was not going to be able to attend Nationals, so I could not pass up an opportunity to kick it with my O.G.

I take the subway to his place in downtown Manhattan, yet still manage to end up in Queens. I cannot actually be faulted entirely for this one, as Some Guy gave me directions, which were not complicated. They were just wrong.

I arrive and we chill for a while, speaking on all manner of things from girls to sports to travel to parties. Finally, Finkel cannot resist. He wants to talk Magic. He isn’t exactly current on Standard, but he drafts several times a week. I fill him in on the metagame and what I am thinking of playing. He asks if I have decks on me. I do not. We talk some more. Finally, he cannot take it anymore.

We had been talking about how insane Tarmogoyf was, and it occurred to us that maybe it was the solution to my Standard dilemma. You see, Herberholz (who actually invented the Amrou Scout plus Bound in Silence combination that I used in my RebelGoyf deck) inspired me to savagely steal the deck that Brian Demars plays in every format. I then ship it to Flores, who tells me it is actually the worst. He then talks to Herberholz who informs him that while my list is probably quite stray, it is actually the basic strategy that we should be playing.

Flores then IM’s me, informing me that we are in fact playing Mystical Teachings. He adds a million monsters that suck (like Twisted Abomination, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and Brine Elemental) and my four favorite Zombie Warriors (Korlash #1-#4).

My innovation is to take out the cards that Flores added (except for Korlash, which I will take as my own to my grave) and replace them with Tarmogoyfs.

At one point, there was talk of Bogardan Hellkite and Loxodon Hierarch for more monsters. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. I show up with the technology that we will use to run this here Magic tournament. I play some games with Sadin. Paul Jordan and Steve agree, it is the nuts.

Then Michael J. gets eliminated from his grinder (he actually got so unlucky, I felt bad for him and I don’t usually feel bad for people after bad beat stories…) and decides, mise well hate on Chapin (I still love you Michael J!)

During a controversial “talk,” Michael J. convinces PJ and Steve that they cannot play my deck due to lack of experience. Heezy builds the deck though, so I guess it is him and I versus the world.

Of course, the morning of, Mark audibles to U/W/r Blink because it won in Italy. Okay, I guess I am flying solo.

Here is my Korlash X deck.

To find out how I did, tune in next week for my U.S. Nationals Tournament Report (although I will say that I suggest -1 Muse Vessel, +1 Terror).

Bonus Block Decklist!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”