Back again. I’m like the Energizer rabbit of Magic writing – pink, obnoxious, and sporting no obvious genitalia.
This week I’m weighing in with a few more articles. While that might seem like literary overkill, what else have I got to do? Mow the lawn? Do my laundry? How about the dishes? Nah, that sort of thing is for suckers – I’d much rather write and live in squalor than be clean and silent.
So here I am at the keyboard once more, hammering away with an episode of Star Trek droning away in the background. (Bill just went down to the surface again and got into some sort of trouble.) While the guys in the red outfits get gradually bumped off trying to find Shatner, walk with me through a few paragraphs and see if you don’t like what you read. Before we cap off the set review, I want to talk about one of the disadvantages to getting better at Magic… Namely, the fact that the better you get, the sooner you know when you’re going to lose.
I’m going to break one of my own rules here and delve into one of the most overused and tiresome gimmicks in Magic writing – namely, any discussion of Timmy, Johnny, and Spike. It won’t go on long, so be gentle. I only have to talk about Timmy for a second, just as an introduction.
“Just wait until I get my Leviathan!”
Timmy plays Magic for fun and he sucks at it. He draws before he untaps. He’s at his best when playing with other”Timmy” players. The incomparable Timmy plays 68 card, unsleeved decks full of overcosted crap and Vitalizing Winds. The Timster is enthusiastic about the eventual draw of his Elvish Piper, even when you have the Abyss in play. Timmy doesn’t get a lot of games against good players… Because they don’t want to have to explain what everything does, or let him read their cards every two seconds.
In many ways though, Timmy is a sadly noble creature. His sucking at the game doesn’t faze him in the least… Even when he’s got no chance to win, he doesn’t know it. He just lays his lands and shrugs, and says”Darn!” a lot, then gets run over by another Timmy.
I can guess what he’ll say too, when all is said and done:
“I would have won if I’d drawn my Leviathan in those last three turns!”
We, the grizzled veterans of many a Magic war, know that this isn’t true. This knowledge brings us no joy; only regret and a longing for things to once again be that simple. We are cursed with enough expertise to recognize an asskicking that is headed our way.
Timmy hasn’t the slightest sliver of forethought regarding his impending defeat.
Never mind that Leviathan comes into play tapped and Timmy is at two life facing down thirty-seven Squirrels and a Floral Spuzzem enchanted with Incendiary (with twenty-four counters) and Shiv’s Embrace. The little jabroni still thinks he can win because he has Leviathan in his deck and it’s a 10/10.
Sometimes I envy Timmy; ignorance is bliss. As the Irish have been saying for years, what’s done is done and can’t be undone. Now I know too much and I can’t go back.
I’m a”Spike” for sure (as pigeonholed by R&D) and when I have no chance to win, I usually know it right from the beginning. It’s not fun, especially with rating points or prizes on the line. Ever mulligan to five going first against Zevatog, and he’s got double Standstill? Or get your Ancestral Misdirected on turn 1, and then have your opponent cast his own? Draw nothing but swamps with three Flametongue Kavu in hand? Or how about the draws where your draws are average and your opponent draws a triple Flametongue hand and you can only sit there shaking your head? What about the four-land opening hands that give you four more land off the top?
It’s times like those that I wish I was too dumb to realize I had no chance in hell.
At least in casual multiplayer, people might leave you alive out of pity…. And even if they don’t, there’s nothing on the line. As a non-Timmy, non-casual player, I am never granted any such clemency.
Take that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re screwed and you know it well in advance. Grab that miserable pall that hangs over your demeanor when everything is going downhill. Take that and distill it. You know what you’ve got then? You’ve got the essence of the”Burning Couch” theory.
Why is that feeling so named? (“Burning Couch” is, after all, pretty arbitrary). Well, I’ll tell you. It’s named the”Burning Couch feeling because hopelessly losing, and knowing you’re hopelessly losing, is like being pinned under flaming furniture.
It occurred to me during this PTQ that there should be a name for the feeling you get when you are spiraling toward defeat and nothing can possibly save you. Imagine the choking smoke, the blistering and searing heat, the hopeless weight of a living room set on your chest as you and a couple of leopard-print doilies immolate your way towards mutual annihilation.
Then try to remember the last time you needed to win the third game of a crucial match and then mulliganed to five while your opponent played Basking Rootwalla, Wild Mongrel, and then two Ember Beasts on turn 3 and 4. Burning hot couch death sounds almost appealing compared to going through the motions before that sort of imminent defeat.
Color screw in Round 7, Game 3 when you’re trying to Q for Nationals?
Double mana screw against R/G in the finals of your FNM?
Opponent’s hand a veritable who’s-who of the Flametongue Kavu community?
Pick one out of the IKEA catalogue, crawl underneath, and light that sucker up. It’s a Burning Couch hand; when you’re royally screwed and you know it twenty turns before you finally get run over by that Psychatog.
Okay; enough couch talk. Let’s take a look at those lands.
Krosan Verge comes into play tapped.
T: Add one colorless mana to your mana pool.
2, T Sacrifice Krosan Verge: Search your library for a forest card and a plains card and put them into play tapped. Then shuffle your library.
A big ol’ fetch land, Krosan Verge is will probably be used in much the same way the Mirage versions are used – to get dual lands. Krosan Verge is slower, but it also produces mana itself and, perhaps most importantly, it’s one card that can fetch two, grabbing you four colors of mana in Extended while also speeding you up a turn, shuffling your deck, and granting a nice”thaw” effect, increasing the quality of future draws.
Though I don’t know much about the makeup of Extended decks (it’s the least popular format around here, so I don’t do a lot of reading about it), I’m sure any deck that uses Flood Plains and other Mirage fetch lands to get the right mana or reset the top of a library after Brainstorm will test this.
It doesn’t stop there though. Something tells me Krosan Verge might be more than a semi-replacement or a slight improvement.
When compared to the Mirage fetch lands, Krosan Verge accelerates your mana, it thins your deck by twice as much, and it even produces mana itself. The key differences are the two-mana activation cost and the fact that the lands come into play tapped. The perfect time to use this card is at the end of turn 3, giving you five mana on turn 4. Let’s see what it can do for a T2 control deck that includes Green and White:
In the mirror, Krosan Verge could be nearly as crucial as Thawing Glaciers was in Blue-on-Blue matchups. The first guy to stop laying land loses, right? Krosan Verge gives you mana advantage against the opposing control deck, and improves the quality of future draws as well (I keep coming back to that point). Your Fact or Fictions will turn over more gas and less land than the Fact or Fictions of a deck that has used fewer Verges. In addition, you will have more land on the table to work with.
Krosan Verge might be the manafixing edge that U/W-style control decks need to run GG cards like Nostalgic Dreams and Holistic Wisdom – both of which are potentially powerful but tough on the mana. These decks could also side in Seedtime against other control decks.
What about straight G/W control/beatdown? With Holistic Wisdom, you could conceivably turn every drawn land into a Verge and proceed to Thaw every land out of your deck, drawing nothing but gas! If you like this idea, check out the next land on this list. Have fun with the Verge.
Another great land. Nantuko Monastery is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time – a manland that doesn’t have to worry about Wasteland after Wasteland after Wasteland, or Rishadan Port, or Dust Bowl. I don’t think there has been a format like that, ever. Not in Extended. Not in any version of Standard in recent memory. And not in any Block Constructed environment.
Nantuko Monastery will do what man lands have always done – annoy control players by forcing them to play actual permanents that can block. Unlike relative lightweights such as Faerie Conclave or Ghitu Encampment, this guy can lay the beats to most any attacking creature and live to tell the tale. I foresee many decks being beaten down by these guys after a Wrath clears the board, and I can’t wait to try it myself.
Here’s a half-baked idea for your perusal:
4x Phantom Nomad (I missed this guy in my White analysis…I have no idea why, he’s great on defense!)
4x Blurred Mongoose (you want your guys to live to block against beatdown, and also to annoy control)
4x Chatter Of The Squirrel (Edict defense, early defense)
3x Wrath Of God (people are going to need to overextend to beat your guys)
3x Creeping Mold (Cabal Coffers, Wild Research, Teferi’s Moat, other people’s Nantuko Monasteries!)
2x Jayemdae Tome (you’re going to have a ton of mana and this card is just good)
2x Disrupting Sceptre (still wrecks control, good against Zevatog)
2x Chastise (great against beatdown!)
2x Genesis (wrecks…well, everything)
2x Gurzigost (moves good spells back into your library to get shuffled to the top via Krosan Verge)
2x Holistic Wisdom (infinite Verge thaw, get your Monastery back, every late-game Chatter is a Wrath/Creep)
1x Nostalgic Dreams (have to give this a try)
1x Worship (great with Blurred Mongoose)
2x Sungrass Prairie (good synergy with lands that top for colorless if you need to activate Monastery, + less pain)
4x Krosan Verge (is card quality advantage and extra speed better than just drawing 1,000 cards? This is the test.)
4x Nantuko Monastery (efficient, Wrath-immune kill method, can’t be countered)
4x Seedtime (vs. any Blue)
4x Compost (vs. any Black)
1x Bind (vs. Pernicious Deed, which can kill your land guys easily)
2x Anurid Brushhopper (vs. Upheaval and if you need to SB something random out)
4x Armadillo Cloak (vs. Beatdown, take out the Sceptres)
It’ll be interesting to see how this works… We’ll see once Judgment comes out! Let’s move on to that last land.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
If this is in your graveyard, all lands you control gain”T: Add G or W to your mana pool.”
This is an interesting mechanic for a land… If you can somehow get this in your graveyard, you have flawless, painless access to two whole colors of mana, and there are no additional requirements.
So what decks can make use of this?
How about monoblack? With Cabal Coffers available to produce ridiculous amounts of mana, you could theoretically cast Crush of Wurms a couple of times a turn without much trouble as long as the Portal is in the bin.
Kibler’s”Rug”? That deck has a million ways to discard this land, and that way it could run any white card it wanted and get painless green from Shivan Reefs and such.
B/R Braids could run this card to get trouble-free access to important splash options, like anything that can get rid of Compost, which single-handedly beats the whole deck. I’m going to try to fit this into School Canoe, the deck I used at Regionals. The problem is finding a way to get it into the graveyard… My deck has no way to discard anything. One thought is Entomb, which you could run as a mana fixer, of all things! (It also has fine synergy with Ichorid, and would allow the deck to go down to one in the maindeck, which is cool).
Seriously, if Entomb was a one-mana instant that read”For the rest of the game, all of your lands produce G and W as well as their normal color,” would you play it? I think I might. After all, you’d only have to run four Entomb and a Riftstone Portal for it to work. You could even throw in a Genesis and some other utility creatures and come up with something like this to add to your creature set:
4x Nantuko Shade
3x Ravenous Rats
3x Crypt Creeper
4x Flametongue Kavu
4x Phyrexian Rager
2x Thunderscape Battlemage
2x Shambling Swarm
1x Genesis (2nd Entomb)
4x Chainer’s Edict
2x Sulfurous Springs
2x Shadowblood Ridge
4x Tainted Peak
3x Tainted Wood
1x Riftstone Portal (1st Entomb)
One other problem you might have with Riftstone Portal is that when you’re leaning heavily on it, it may get removed. There will be graveyard removal cards around simply because of Genesis, and Riftstone Portal is going to get hit with that hate. The entire mana base of a deck might get sabotaged by something as simple as a Crypt Creeper.
All this means that Riftstone Portal is going to be hard to use. Maybe others will have more luck with their preliminary ideas than I did.
Wait, one last idea… Monored land destruction with Tremble!
Yeah, I know… Janky. But it does give you the colors with Rith’s Charm, which I think is underplayed. Destroy target nonbasic land at Instant speed, or you can prevent a bunch of damage, or create three Saprolings. That’s worth a second look.
Okay, I’m signing off until tomorrow, when I’ll be back with a Friday Night Magic tournament report and the true story about Sarnia’s own Evil Matt Fox and his late-night encounter with a statue of former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. Until then, may your interactions with statues of political figures be more wholesome.