Is The Heart Fonder?

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess I must be your favorite writer by now. I want to apologize to you all for the lack of columns lately, and offer up some lame excuses… er, I mean reasons for my time away. The good news is, it’s not Asheron’s Call. In a word,…

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess I must be your favorite writer by now. I want to apologize to you all for the lack of columns lately, and offer up some lame excuses… er, I mean reasons for my time away. The good news is, it’s not Asheron’s Call.

In a word, it’s Life. With a capital L.

The year 2000 has been quite a time for me, and if you’ll excuse the peek into the non-Magic side of Mr. Smith, I’ll tell you a little about it.

Big News #1: We’re Expecting

Yes, the lovely wife and I are expecting our first family addition come January. We’re extremely excited about it, but the idea is still new enough that the reality of it hasn’t completely sunk in yet. It’s still six months down the road, but time inevitably flies. I have been working some extra hours in my part-time job to start saving some money, and have been tracking down some other job leads. Even though our lives are going to be forever changed with the arrival of our child, we can’t wait to be parents.

Big News #2– My New Job Has Been Kicking My Butt

I started a new full time job a few months ago and it has been keeping me extremely busy. I’ve been doing some travelling out of state, and putting in long hours in front of a computer – and by the time I get home, the last thing I feel like doing is getting on the internet or writing a Magic column. My mind has been so overloaded juggling numerous responsibilities at once that my brain is fried when I get home. This has had the unfortunate side-effect of negatively impacting my desire to write, which I hate since ultimately writing is what I want to do for a living. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to adjust to the job as more time goes by and not be quite so burned out.

Group Game Magic Rocks!

I’ve always loved group game Magic; my roots in the game are late night, beer drinking, sh*t-talking free-for-all Magic brawls. It was extremely difficult to change my mindset to become a competitive tournament player, and to some degree those old habits still impact my game play. I still have a strong desire to play "my" deck, a rogue design that keeps people guessing. It’s been great to see a surge of strong articles dealing with group game dynamics and ideas from Alongi and The Ferrett. Interestingly enough, our local Magic scene has pretty much become dominated by group game Magic as of late. I’ve got a truly nasty 220 card, mono-green monstrosity that has tons of tiny synergistic combos that can add up to some ugly finishes. Recently I generated something like 400 mana with a Cradle, a Malachite Talisman (a great little gem from Ice Age) and tons of cheap green spells, and then blew everyone away with a Rocket Launcher. And let me tell anyone who’s playing green in a casual deck that Greater Good is just simply amazing. It just works great with any big green beefy creature (with Rancor) that someone tries to kill; sac it and draw a ton of cards. Discard three forests that you can recover later with Groundskeeper. And if you happen to get a Weatherseed Treefolk down with a Greater Good on the board… what a card-drawing combo! Also, don’t forget your Maro.

My good friend Pat has been working people over with a nasty mono-black deck that centers around Tombstone Stairwell and it is UGLY. One play he pulled off with the deck that I was very impressed with was when he killed my Citanul Heirophant, animated it with Ashen Powder, then used his Eater of the Dead to generate a ton of green mana by tapping it for a green (from the Heirophant’s power), and untapping it by removing a creature from my graveyard. Even though it ended up killing me, I thought it was a great play. But the way his deck usually kills is by clearing out everyone else’s graveyard with Eater of the Dead or Tormod’s Crypt, filling up his own graveyard and then coming over with zombie tokens. Sometimes this is combined with Death Pit Offering to make huge zombie tokens; sometimes he has a Grave Pact out that ends up killing everyone else’s creatures so there are no blockers. Another recent twist on the deck is that if his own graveyard gets nuked, he puts out the Stairwell with a Dingus Staff and then everybody else takes damage at the end of each turn when their zombie tokens die. It’s sick, but it’s beautiful.

And Lastly, Masques Block

I honestly haven’t been able to put much time into playtesting. What I have found out is this – I really hate the fact that multi-color decks are so difficult to pull off. Sure, there’s been some great two-color decks that have popped up in the wake of Rishadan Port being banned. But inevitably my luck gives me hands like all lands that give me one color mana, and all spells of the other color. I really, really miss Birds of Paradise, Cities of Brass and the dual painlands, and Yavimaya Elder and Granger. Playing a two-color deck in Masques block is basically crossing your fingers and hoping you don’t get screwed in the draw. Color screw is a very real possibility that seems to have been pushing the metagame towards mono-color decks, even with Port banned. When you’ve got one-slot qualifiers with 100+ participants, people who are going for the win are going to want consistency; even the best tuned two-color Masques block decks are probably going to drop a must-win game to color screw.

With this in mind, I began working on a couple of decks. The first one I built was a mono-red deck that attempted to abuse Squee and the red spellshapers. It performed poorly generally because of the creatures all being fairly fragile. I called it "Squeecatcher" and it had Kris Mages, Arc Mages, Squee, Moggcatcher, and a couple of Arms Dealers, along with plenty of burn. When its creatures weren’t dying horrible deaths, the deck performed quite nicely and could take control of the board and just burn-burn-burn. A two-color version might perform better, perhaps coupled with green for beef. Currently it is on the back burner of development hell.

Another deck I’ve been kicking around has been uncreatively dubbed "Control Green" because of its utility cards coupled with fat creatures. Here’s the deck listing:

4x Vine Trellis
4x Silt Crawler
4x Blastoderm
4x Saproling Cluster
4x Silverglade Elemental
3x Squirrel Wrangler
4x Skyshroud Claim
4x Desert Twister
3x Reverent Silence
2x (Regrowth reprint, I’m drawing a blank on the name)

4x Hickory Woodlot
20x Forest

It’s top heavy, but with a decent amount of land and mana acceleration it should be able to toss off Twisters with no problem. The Wranglers enable the deck to have a solid mid-to-late game if the fat doesn’t get through. While I haven’t had much time to playtest it, my buddy Kevin did and he didn’t like the results. However, me being much more proficient with this style of deck and color, I want to give it a few runs and tweak it some before I give up on it. Mike McFadden suggested working in Nesting Wurms, which might be an interesting alternative to Saproling Burst. This would remove all Disenchant targets from the deck and create nice virtual card advantage to go along with the true card advantage generators such as the Claims, Wranglers, Elementals and Blastoderms. What appeals to me about this idea is the deck-thinning effect between the Claims and the Wurms. The single biggest problem I see with this deck is the increased popularity of Cho-Manno’s Blessing and Story Circle, but hopefully the Silences and Twisters should be able to handle that. Waters decks might give it some problems, too unless I get some early beef on the board. If anyone has had any success with an MBC deck similar to this, I would love to hear from you.

I’m hoping to attend the High Point NC qualifier this weekend, so with any luck I’ll have a decent showing and can submit a tournament report for you next week. Have a great weekend and go see the X-Men!

Have fun,

Bennie Smith
Sufferer of Lyricistitis