Interlude: I *CAN* Play Type 1!

The idea of Earthcraft/Squirrel Nest kept tickling my fancy. Could I possibly make it just mono green? Obviously, Earthcraft demands basic lands, and playing mostly basics would make Wastelands much worse against me. Just how can I compete with the speed of the format with just monogreen?

Before I continue talking about deck ideas for Regionals, I thought I’d write a little about the Type 1 tournament I played in this weekend. If you don’t want to read about my Type 1 experience, skip on down to the bottom of the page for a special treat!

I haven’t played in a Type 1 tournament since Wizards made a distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 – which has been, what, seven years or so? I vividly remember getting my butt kicked by some weird deck that used Candelabra of Tawnos and Power Surge to keep his lands tapped while untapping mine so I was taking maximum damage from the Surge. At the time I was heavily into group game Magic, and found the whole tournament scene a bit intense and serious. It wasn’t until Mirage rolled around that I started leaning more towards competitive play – but even now, I still love group game Magic.

Richmond Comix is a game shop located across the river and about a thirty-minute drive from my local game shop, TAG. It’s also a Type 1 stronghold, with a cadre of hard-ore Type 1 players who play monthly, and the inevitable arms race has led to plenty of players wielding the power cards of the format. I’ve been tempted to try and make it to one of their tournaments, but with me working ’til closing Friday night, and their tournaments starting at 10 p.m. Saturday mornings (not to mention two small kids two years and younger to chase around in the mornings), I just couldn’t get motivated to get down there – especially since I was fairly certain there was no way I could compete with those guys. See, I owned a small smattering of power cards from back in the day, but since a lot of them weren’t particularly great in group games, I often traded them away for group game power, or for more recent cards that were legal in the fledgling Type 2 format. Occasionally I lost them in ante (yep, back then I played ante, which was the way Magic was supposed to be played, dangit!). But the short of it was that, barring building some sort of beatdown deck, I felt it was unlikely that anything I built could compete with the big boys.

Over the past few months, some of the local players who regularly make it to the Richmond Comix Type 1 tournaments have been pushing us to hold a Type 1 here at TAG. The feedback from the locals was positive, and we felt certain some of the Richmond Comix guys would attend simply because when you love Type 1, you try and make it to as many tournaments as you can. So I decided to put one on our Magic schedule, in the Constructed dead zone prior to Legions being Type 2 legal. February 8th it was, and now I had no good reason not to play, since it was being held at my local shop and didn’t start ’til 1 p.m.

But what in the world would I play?

I asked Jamin Shanti for some budget ideas for the format, and he pointed out that Earthcraft wasn’t restricted and that a combo with Squirrel Nest could be pretty sick. I asked him if he could email me a decklist and he said he would… But for whatever reason, I never got a decklist from him. I went to the Mana Drain and didn’t see any decklists that were particularly helpful since they all basically contained the Power 9 and were rainbow combo decks. So I probably needed something different. Something more beatdown oriented and aggressive.

The problem was that I didn’t feel particularly inclined to play pure aggression, so Sligh and Stompy were out of the question. I considered Suicide Black, but the lack of enchantment and artifact control bothered me somewhat. I nudged a Pox deck in my head some, but decided that was too risky when there was bound to be Sligh lurking around.

I came back to beatdown. I had most all the cards to make a good red/green beatdown deck. What I disliked about beatdown is just how easy it is to shut it down with Moat, The Abyss, and so on. But then an idea started to form… What if I built a deck around tons of cheap utility creatures, then use enhancers like Rancor and Reckless Charge to make them aggressive while still being able to control the board. Spice it up with Lightning Bolts and a Berserk and it looked pretty good:

Dos Equis

By Bennie Smith

4x Elvish Lyrist

2x Druid Lyrist

4x Gorilla Shaman

2x Mogg Fanatic

4x Kird Ape

4x River Boa

4x Dwarven Miner

1x Dwarven Blastminer

4x Lightning Bolt

4x Rancor

4x Reckless Charge

2x Death Spark

1x Berserk

4x Mishra’s Factory

4x Taiga

5x Forest

7x Mountain

I heard some people calling this”Zoo,” but I thought”Zoo” referred to a deck that just mixed tons of efficient beatdown and cheap burn/removal. This deck feels like it owes more to the old Three-Deuce Extended deck, but I don’t know. It’s a Bennie original.

Anyway, while I had this deck sleeved up and ready to go, the idea of Earthcraft/Squirrel Nest kept tickling my fancy. Could I possibly make it just mono green? Obviously, Earthcraft demands basic lands, and playing mostly basics would make Wastelands much worse against me. Just how can I compete with the speed of the format with just monogreen?

After lots of thinking, I finally crafted this decklist:

TAG Squirrelcraft

By Bennie Smith

3x Emerald Charm

3x Elephant Grass

4x Exploration

4x Wild Growth

4x Earthcraft

4x Sylvan Library

4x Argothian Enchantress

4x Wall of Blossoms

4x Squirrel Nest

2x Holistic Wisdom

3x Windswept Heath

1x Strip Mine

4x Wasteland

16x Forest

The sideboard was fairly weak, so I won’t list it, though the four Hail Storms were golden and I really wanted more than one Seeds of Innocence in there (which would made a big difference in my toughest matchup for the day, a Workshop-fueled artifact deck).

Alright, a quick and dirty run-down of how the tournament went:

Twelve people show up; we’re running four rounds of Swiss with a cut to the top 4 single elimination.

Round 1 vs. Chris McDaniel (a.k.a. the Star Wars Kid) with Suicide Black

The first game is a slaughter as he gets fast beatdown backed with Hymn to Tourachs and Sinkholes. I can’t assemble my combo in time and go down in flames. The second game enables me to counter his turn 1 Dark Ritual/Hypnotic Specter opener with my Hail Storm. He’s light on land, I get out two Composts and assemble my combo before he can mount any offense. The last game is hilarious (for me), as I get out an early Elephant Grass that he can’t stop, so I leisurely dig for my combo. Unfortunately, it’s not forthcoming – though I do get a Holistic Wisdom in play, and when I run out of mana for the cumulative upkeep, I pitch a Wild Growth to get the Grass back. All the while, a mighty force of Specters, Phyrexian Negators and Flesh Reavers stare balefully across the tall green grass… I eventually do get the combo and hit him with 1,000,000 squirrels.

Round 2 vs. Eric with U/B Workshop (unique design called The Man Show)

Eric is playing a vicious little Workshop artifact deck chock full of Moxen, an Ancestral Recall for spice, and what felt like twelve or thirteen Juggernauts. He gets great hands, churns out fat too fast for me to compete, and blows me out the water two games straight.

Ouch. This is what I expected Type 1 to be all about.

Round 3 vs. Chris Walden with mono White Weenie

Chris wanted to play a Jank-style deck but didn’t know the tournament started so early (errr, 1 p.m. is EARLY?) so he was scrambling to put something together when he arrived right at one o’clock. His deck was pretty fast and aggressive, but unfortunately for him he drew very little mana while I drew an early Elephant Grass both games. I had plenty of time to assemble my combo, with ten life or so to spare both games.

Round 4 vs. Jay Delazier with Goblin Sligh

Jay was one of the guys who was pushing for us to hold a Type 1 tournament. He’s here with the fiercest of all aggro decks and I’m quite nervous. He leads with a Jackal Pup, I start with an Exploration and a Elephant Grass. Jay’s a bit put out by the Grass, but casts a Mogg Fanatic and a Goblin Lackey.

A lucky Wall of Blossoms helps buy me some time – and just as I run out of mana for the Grass, I snag my last combo piece and drop it. Jay scoops right then, though I’m not convinced it was game over; he could have overwhelmed me with creatures. (I think he thought I could generate an arbitrarily large number of blockers and didn’t seem to realize that my combo would produce a million squirrels, but only one of them would be untapped.) Any burn at all in his hand would have finished the deal.

Ah well; I stole that one, I guess!

Game 2 was all me, I had a great start with early Elephant Grass and Wall of Blossoms, my combo was assembled by the end of turn 4, I was at sixteen life… And died. Somehow between EOT Lightning Bolt, a Mogg Fanatic or two, a Goblin Grenade at my head and a Fireblast, and I was left a smoldering ruin one untap phase from winning. I’ve been in Type 2 land so long, I used to think sixteen life was pretty safe territory – ha ha!

The sad thing was, he did exactly sixteen points of damage to me due to one attack that got through that I could have blocked with an Enchantress. I didn’t need her at that point since I had the combo in hand, but I just didn’t think that one point of damage would have made any difference.

The last game is tough; he gets an extremely fast start and I manage to stabilize at around four life… Not a good place to be! I don’t put together the combo before he draws the burn to kill me. I think a lot of this came down to mistakes on my part being rather unfamiliar with the deck.

Some weird things happen this round… The undefeated player lost and one of the 2-1s lost to a 1-2 player he was paired down against. Which means that there are three 3-1 and a single 2-2 player who makes it into the top 4. Somehow I have the best tiebreakers by a smidgen!

Semi-finals vs. Eric with The Man Show

Oh no – the rematch! Now I’m really unhappy I couldn’t find more copies of Seeds of Innocence! The first game he has to mulligan and I get a pretty fast start, putting together my combo while weathering his limited beatdown.

Game 2, I have the best start ever – turn 1 Exploration, Wild Growth. Turn 2 play an Enchantress, drop a Exploration, play a land, drop another Exploration, drop another land, drop a Earthcraft, untap the Growthed land, tap it and play a Wall of Blossoms, tap it to untap the Growth lad, tap it and play another Wall of Blossoms. I have thirteen permanents to his single Underground Sea. Now that’s Type 1 power, baby!

Next turn, I drop a Sylvan Library and pay life to dig-dig-dig, along with sac lands to shuffle… Unfortunately, I cannot find a Squirrel Nest for six or more turns and he eventually drops and pops a Nevinyrral’s Disk, pushing all my dreams into the dustbin. I hope for a top-decked Holistic Wisdom but don’t find one in time and die to Juggernaut beatdown.

The last game is tough for me – I have a land-light hand, but I do have my one Seeds of Innocence, as well as a Wasteland, a Forest and a Wild Growth, so I decide to keep. I draw another Growth and see that’s he’s a bit land shy so I go ahead and Waste his land, drop a second Growth on my one forest, and then Seeds his Sol Ring and artifact creature. Unfortunately, he recovers fairly quickly with a Workshop and I stall out some. Ah well, thems the breaks.

Eric is then matched up against Jay with Goblin Sligh (who beat Keeper along the way); Eric wins the first game, then Jay steals the second with the frightening Price of Progress (Eric has all non-basics) and offers Eric a 40-60 split in Eric favor, and he accepts.

Anyway, I was surprised at how much fun I had and how powerful the deck was in its rough first iteration. I can’t help but wonder if a second color would strengthen it, though I worry about making the mana too fragile (since, well, I need my lands to stick around to be targeted with enchantments). I’d pretty much want to stick with white or red as the splash color so that my fetchlands could just fetch a basic land. My first gut instinct would be white for Enlightened Tutor and Sterling Grove… Red is alluring due to Burning Wish and a plethora of silver bullet sorceries. Anyway, I’ll noodle with the deck before the next Type 1 tournament rolls around.

I guess I really can play Type 1!

By the way, I have a really cute digital picture of my two kids that I figured I’d share with those of you who care to see the little rugrats that have taken over all my free time. The gal on the right side is Anna Marie; she’s just turned two the end of December. On the left, Aaron is six months and has gotten very proficient in wheeling around in his walker. Enjoy!