Welcome Vintage irregulars! I’m hoping we can lure some non-Vintage players into the format by showing you how some of the Vintage matches play out and how interesting they are. At the same time, I’m hoping that we can glean some metagame insight for the experienced player.
When last we left off, I was looking at Meandeck Ichorid versus Brassman Gifts. But as my article last week detailed, Mark Gottlieb pulled the rug out from underneath the Gifts deck, and now the matchup is totally different and even more favorable for the Ichorid player.
The Control Slaver match is probably the most important match for any Vintage deck. Slaver won both of the last SCG Richmond tournaments. I’ve chosen to use Rich Shay’s list for this matchup article since he is generally considered the eminent authority on the deck, and because his deck has main deck Tormod’s Crypt.
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Mana Drain
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Rack and Ruin
- 4 Thirst for Knowledge
- 2 Mindslaver
- 1 Echoing Truth
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Fact or Fiction
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
The idea is to drop Mindslaver into the graveyard with Thirst for Knowledge, and then use Goblin Welder to return it into play (and avoid having to pay the casting cost) at the same time that you get a handsome source of card advantage. More specifically, the general play is turn 1 Welder or Brainstorm, turn 2 drop a Mox and a second land and cast Thirst for Knowledge, or hold Mana Drain mana up. Generally you do the latter and Drain into something broken on turn 3, or cast an end of turn Thirst into more good stuff. Pretty soon you have cast into some more broken draw spells, or you have found Slaver to begin the process of taking their turns, which soon either ends the game. Tinker and Yawgmoth’s Will are this deck’s major bombs.
My primer on how to play this deck is here.
The purpose of this article is to help us gain some insight into the dynamics of the Slaver versus Ichorid match. Hopefully, we’ll see what works for both decks, what doesn’t work, and see if we can observe any trends.
Like last time, the villain won the die roll. Slaver has elected to play first.
My opening hand is:
This hand has a couple of things to fear: it fears very early Slaver or Tormod’s Crypt. The Chain of Vapor is also of limited utility at the moment. We’ll see what happens.
This is a rough start for the Ichorid player.
MD: I draw Careful Study! That’s a great draw!
The only real play here, however, is turn 1 Bazaar. I need to Dredge as quickly as possible. If I play turn 1 Careful Study, I won’t be able to dredge on my next upkeep unless I see a Brainstorm or Ancestral Recall. I also need to dredge to return the Ichorid in, and hopefully use a Cabal Therapy on my second turn.
The idea is that the dredge of at least twelve next turn (dredging the Troll on upkeep and draw step) will virtually guarantee a Therapy into my graveyard. With this hand, I could almost dredge my whole deck by my second main phase. Also note that Slaver does not have Wastelands or Pithing Needle maindeck, making Bazaar a risk-free turn 1 play. The only danger is that I may be over committing myself to the dredge plan at the risk of getting myself Tormod’s Crypted. That’s a risk you have to take, I think.
Thus, I play Bazaar.
I discard Ichorid, Golgari Grave Troll and a City of Brass. Why am I keeping the Therapy in hand? I decide that I’d rather have the option of playing Therapy on main phase, first by hard casting it and then by flashing it back. I can always change my mind when I use my Bazaar on my upkeep. It’s best to keep the options open.
I play Chalice for zero and pass the turn.
CS: Draws and plays Underground Sea and passes the turn.
The same threat remains: Thirst followed by Slaver activation. That’s the main thing we have to ward off here. If we get Slaved, bad things could happen.
Alternatively, I could try to position the Ichorid deck so that getting Slaved won’t be that horrible. That’s hard to do.
Let’s see what happens:
MD: On my upkeep, I activate Bazaar and dredge the Troll, seeing:
With the second draw, I dredge one of the Imps and see:
I discard the Troll, the Imp, and now we have the first major decision. If I discard a land, then I’m cutting myself off from being able to turn 3 play a spell and return an Ashen Ghoul into play.
If I discard Chain of Vapor, I lose the ability to bounce the Welder or a Mox with Chalice in play. If I discard Therapy, then I can only Therapy once this turn. The smart play is probably to discard the Careful Study. It’s nice, but probably unnecessary at this point.
On my draw step, I dredge a Troll seeing:
Although Ashen Ghoul was the last card revealed, I make sure it is the first card I put into my graveyard. I’ll want to reanimate him next turn.
The first thing I do is play a City of Brass.
Then I declare my attack with Ichorid. Slaver player is at 17 life.
I move to my second main phase and flashback a Therapy on the Slaver player. Remember the rule?
The general rule is that you name:
Now things get hairy. I can play Chain of Vapor in response.
If he discards a Slaver, which is he likely to do, then he’ll be able to Weld it back. I can Chain of Vapor the Mox back to his hand, but he’ll just weld out my Chalice for Mox Sapphire and replay the Mox and then Weld in Slaver. Alternatively, I can respond by Chaining the Welder. That would slow him down a bit as well. The question is, can I capitalize on time? I think that I can.
I look at his hand and I see:
I take the Welder, happily. Chain of Vapor is savage!
Well, thank god no Welder or Tormod’s Crypt. That was a hairy third turn!
MD: Our goal at this point is just kill the Slaver player as quickly as possible.
On my upkeep, I’ll activate Bazaar and Dredge a Troll revealing:
I dredge a Stinkweed Imp and reveal:
I discard two Trolls and an Imp.
At this point, we have to figure out what we want to return. I can return two Ichorids and an Ashen Ghoul. I do that. I pay a black to return a Ghoul and I remove two Putrid Imps to return two Ichorids into play.
On my draw step, I dredge a Troll revealing:
I make sure to put the Ashen Ghoul on the bottom.
I move to my first main phase and I play a Gemstone Mine.
I still get three damage in, sending him to 13.
I flashback a Therapy killing my Ashen Ghoul and I name Fire/Ice, which I take. I pass the turn.
CS: draws a card. Plays Academy and passes.
I activate Bazaar on upkeep and dredge a Troll, seeing:
I have 10 cards left in my library. If I dredge for 6 here, I can dredge for 3 on my draw step to return Darkblast and then I’ll have one card left in my library for next turns’ draw step.
The only flaw in this plan is if he tutors up Ancestral Recall and kills me. That seems like one of his few outs here. Thus, I’ll want to leave at least four cards left in my library at the end of this turn. I will dredge the Darkblast twice.
I’ll dredge the Darkblast here on my upkeep, and then again on my draw step.
I dredge Darkblast seeing:
On my draw step, I dredge the Darkblast back and see:
I attack with all three creatures. I flashback a Therapy (I have another in my graveyard, and two removed from the game). He Mana Drains it. That was the card he drew, so there is no reason to play another Therapy. I know his hand is Underground Sea and Volcanic Island.
He’s at four life, and my two Ghouls are enough to kill him next turn. Tormod’s Crypt won’t save him.
The Slaver player drew Mox Emerald and scoops
The Slaver player’s game plan was fully functional and there was only one vulnerability: the moment when Thirst was on the stack. If the Chain had resolved after Thirst, it would have been too late. I would have been Slaved.
Thinking ahead is always necessary. You need to think about the consequences of your actions.
In all honesty, although the Slaver player could have won any number of ways, the Ichorid player’s hand was just better. If the Slaver player had let the Therapy resolve, I would have named the Thirst anyway. Turn 2 Therapy and Chain of Vapor is hard to deal with. If the Slaver player had been on the draw, it would have been a blowout.
Ichorid is on the play! Woot!
My opening hand is:
This hand has everything I could want, and even more.
It has a discard outlet, dredgers, some great bait, a huge bomb (Balance) and most importantly: the real threat: Chalice. It even has a way to deal with pesky Welders. The big weakness of this hand, ironically, is Gemstone Mine.
MD: I play Black Lotus
I play Chalice of the Void.
Now things get tricky.
I could play:
1) Balance making him discard three immediately.
2) Gemstone Mine, float a White. Balance, making him discard four, and play Putrid Imp – as a reusable discard outlet for dredgers, a Therapy flashback target, and a source of damage.
3) Gemstone Mine, sac the Lotus for Black and play Putrid Imp, discard my hand except for: Gemstone Mine, Balance.
Ironically, I think the latter is the best play. He’ll have no cards in hand and I’ll have no mana in play, but Chalice for zero in play, and Dredgers in my graveyard.
I do that.
I have no hand and the Slaver player discards:
CS: Draws a card and passes.
MD: I dredge the Troll on my draw step revealing:
Troll is in hand. Pass.
CS: Draws and plays an Island. Passes.
On my draw step, I dredge the Stinkweed Imp revealing:
Well, there go all my Bazaars. That sucks.
I put the Imp into my hand and pass the turn. Not a single Ichorid as of yet either.
I dredge the last dredger in my graveyard on my draw step: the Darkblast. I reveal:
Let’s hope it’s not too late.
CS: Draws and passes. No more lands, evidently – or the Chalice is holding the Slaver player back. He has four cards in hand.
I dredge the Stinkweed Imp revealing:
It’s too damned bad I haven’t seen a Therapy yet. It would be amazing.
I swing for 3 with Ichorid.
CS: Draw and pass.
I return an Ichorid into play and swing for 3. Slaver is at 14.
I dredge the Thug and see:
On my end step, The Slaver player plays Echoing Truth on my Chalice.
I dredge the Stinkweed Imp on my draw step revealing:
Still no Therapies. WTF!
I have 25 cards left in my library, and I’ve only seen one Ichorid and no Cabal Therapies. Pretty improbable.
I drop Chalice for zero again, and pass the turn.
CS: Plays Flooded Strand and passes the turn.
MD: I return Ichorid into play.
On my draw step, I dredge a Troll revealing:
Swing with Ichorid. Slaver is at 8.
Then CS taps a mana and plays Mystical Tutor for Yawgmoth’s Will. Ouch.
CS: Untap and draws the Yawgmoth’s Will.
Plays Polluted Delta from graveyard. He then Taps the Academy for four.
At this point, the Slaver player has UUU floating from Academy and potentially 5 colorless from Sol Ring and Mana Vault, as well as an untapped Mox Jet, Delta, and Mystical Tutor and two Thirsts unused. He could play Welder and then Mystical Tutor, and then Thirst up Tinker and play Tinker for Trike, Slaver, or any number of huge threats. This game is over.
You cannot give Slaver basically eight uninterrupted turns, even if you do Mind Twist them on turn 1. The problem was that in my first 30 cards I didn’t see a bloody Cabal Therapy. If I had, this game would have been a lot different.
This is an important lesson: Chalice of the Void is a delaying tactic against Slaver. It is a very powerful delaying tactic, but it’s just that and not much more. Between Echoing Truth, Rack and Ruin, Welders, and Shaman, Chalice isn’t going to stay around forever. Your goal is to maximize your Chalice by applying pressure. With that in mind, it is possible that the turn 1 play was a mistake. Although Mind Twist is really powerful and this is definitely a play you’d do against almost any other deck, I had very little to dig myself out of the same hole. I was relying on good dredges in the first few turns – which I did not see. If I had Balanced away three cards and then played the Putrid Imp off the Gemstone Mine, I almost surely would have had a much stronger game plan. On the other hand, he would have been able to play Land, Sol Ring and then Thirst. However, I would have had lots of Ashen Ghouls returning, and my Darkblast would have been online to stop any Welder shenanigans.
It would a tough call, and I still would be hard pressed to play that game differently, even if it were to come up again.
If you want to explore this scenario yourself, it may not be a bad idea to find a test partner and fish up that opening hand and see what happens if you play differently. You saw what the Slaver players opening hand was, since they lost their whole hand on turn 1. You can start the game with that Slaver player’s hand, or a different one if you’d like. Have fun with it.
Slaver’s opening hand is:
I mulligan Slaver into 5.
Interestingly enough, the Slaver hand is:
This hand has almost everything. The only thing you could really use is acceleration, a much larger dredger, or a Chalice of the Void. Even on the draw, Chalice is a major threat.
It is actually a bonus that the Dredger here is Darkblast. I don’t think that a serious argument could be mounted that this hand isn’t good enough. You have perfect mana, plenty of disruption, a dredger, and Ichorid, and Ashen Ghoul. We’ll keep.
Remember, Control Slaver is on the play:
This game has now become: basically, how do you goldfish around Tormod’s Crypt as quickly as possible?
This is often a difficult decision. In the absence of the Chain of Vapor, there are several possibilities. The first is to try and dig (not dredge) for mana, and beaters like Putrid Imp, and more lands so that I could hardcast creatures. This strategy may actually work in a game like this, because Control Slaver has completely spent itself by mulliganing to 5 and playing its whole hand on turn 1. Digging can also help find tutors, which would find the Chain of Vapor.
The other possibility is just to play as aggressively as possible and force them to use the Tormod’s Crypt. The Therapies can keep the hand light and force him to use the Crypt. You need to be careful so that you will still be able to win.
So you have two extremes, but they are unnecessary at this moment because we have solutions in hand. The question is: how do we go about it?
The way I see it play out is this:
1) I play turn 1 Bazaar and activate it, discarding Ichorid, Ashen Ghoul, and Darkblast. He draws a card and passes. I untap and dredge 3, put Ichorid into play, and then I play Chain of Vapor on the Crypt. If he lets it go to his hand, then I can just Therapy him back (unless he draws a land, which he could sacrifice to bounce the Ichorid (ugh, too many possibilities). If he draws a land, that rules out that play. If he doesn’t, then that is the play to go for. What do I do if he draws a land, though? I’ll need to get into a position where I have two creatures in play, or another mana so I can Therapy and Chain of Vapor. I suppose my plan may depend on the Bazaar.
2) If he gets a land, then I may need to go into conservative mode – which is where I just dig for lands and try to play threats and not dredge that much. The safe play, then, is Turn 1:
What are the downsides of that play?
First of all, I won’t get to see two more cards immediately off the Bazaar. It’s possible I could see some really big bomb like Ancestral Recall or Black Lotus that would incline me to play differently. Second, it is a waste of time if he doesn’t draw the land. I’m giving him a whole extra turn before I start attacking and dredging. That seems stupid when this game is a damage race.
Now you understand why people say Vintage is too fast? It isn’t that the games are actually faster – it’s that the games are compressed into fewer turns. As a result, there is a much greater chance you’ll screw something up.
MD: My decision is completely moot. I get my turn. I draw: Mox Sapphire.
The other card in the Slaver player’s hand is Mana Crypt.
I pass the turn.
CS: The Slaver player drew Polluted Delta. See, they did draw a land!
However, if I keep hold of the Stinkweed Imp, I could play it off of Chrome Mox, Mox Sapphire, and City of Brass, and then sacrifice it by flashing back Cabal Therapy to take the Mana Crypt from the Slaver player’s hand. This would prevent their top decks from being as explosive at the same time that I would be able to dredge five with no problem.
The downside to this play is that I’ll lose my Darkblast if I choose to imprint that. If he topdecks Welder, then his Tormod’s Crypt will return. If I imprint Ashen Ghoul, then I won’t be able to maximize the amount of damage I can deal.
In the end, I think the costs of either play just don’t outweigh the benefit of taking that Mana Crypt now as opposed to next turn. In this kind of game state, the Slaver player just can’t afford to take damage from that card. I would really regret not playing the Therapy now if the Slaver player topdecks Slaver and plays it, but I think that the Ashen Ghoul will actually help me win if I get Slaved.
That was one other consideration I didn’t think about. If I had taken the Crypt there, any Thirst topdeck becomes worse. Oh well.
MD: On my upkeep, I activate Bazaar and dredge the Stinkweed Imp. I reveal:
This was actually a fear of mine: no more dredgers. I discarded the Ghoul and Ichorid over the Darkblast, because of my belief that I’d see another dredger and that the damage mattered more right now, but I only see three less cards this way. I needed to discard the Ghoul last turn in order to get three men on top of it to reanimate it this upkeep.
So, unable to dredge, I draw: Stinkweed Imp.
I pay a mana to return an Ashen Ghoul into play and remove the top Ashen Ghoul to feed the Ichorid. Why did I remove a Ghoul? If I remove Imp and I use the last Imp on my draw step to dredge, I won’t be able to dredge on my next upkeep unless I Darkblast my Ichorid at the end of my turn, which prevents me from using it to play Cabal Therapy.
Then, on my draw step, I dredge an Imp revealing:
I attack for 6 (putting CS at 14) and then I flashback a Therapy, sacrificing Ichorid, naming Yawgmoth’s Will.
I see just Rack and Ruin. Terrible.
CS: Draw, go.
MD: Upkeep, I activate Bazaar and dredge an Imp seeing:
I put the Ghoul into the yard first.
Then I dredge the other Stinkweed Imp revealing:
On my draw step: I dredge a Troll, seeing:
I swing for 9 damage, sending CS to 6.
I see Mana Drain. I’ll leave that in his hand.
MD is on the play.
My opening hand is solid:
How do I even play this hand? Probably everything depends on what I see off of Bazaar.
It would be nice to be able to use the Rotation, but it’s not clear if I’ll even see any Blue mana this game.
Play a Polluted Delta and break it. The Slaver player has a really tough decision here. The Slaver player could be Therapied twice on the Ichorid player’s second turn. The Slaver player has to decide between breaking the Delta and playing Brainstorm or Goblin Welder. The Brainstorm would be the play that would protect the Yawgmoth’s Will in hand. The Welder would be the play that maximizes their mana next turn. There is also the danger of Welder dying to Darkblast in this dredge. Not only does Ichorid have a good deal of dredging to do on its upkeep and draw step, but it also has a Mox Jet up. It’s a tough decision.
That was an insane turn 1.
MD: Upkeep, activate Bazaar and dredge the Imp:
Note that the Darkblast did show up, and would have murdered the Welder.
Dredge the Darkblast:
I can’t return a Ghoul, but I can remove a Ghoul to return Ichorid. If you examine the situation, I think it makes sense.
On my draw step, I dredge an Imp revealing:
I play Bazaar of Baghdad and activate it dredging an Imp revealing:
I dredge the other Imp I just revealed:
There it is!
If the Slaver player had played Welder, I would have reamed him: taking his second best card, and Will, and killed the Welder.
I discard three Stinkweed Imps.
A hit! I flashback another Therapy and take the Demonic Tutor.
Replay Lotus. Break Lotus for UUU.
It’s really important to note that the intuitive play here of just dropping Welder to maximize Lotus was not as important as hiding Will.
Ichorid is relentless in its attack of your hand. Hiding Will was of the utmost importance, and you didn’t have an option since the only land was a fetch land after playing Ancestral and the first Brainstorm.
Ichorid on the draw. My opening hand is:
That’s a mulligan for sure.
A definite keeper.
Plays Fact or Fiction.
The five cards are:
I make the piles: Yawgmoth’s Will and everything else. Slaver takes Yawgmoth’s Will.
MD: I draw Chain of Vapor
I have two options. I can play Bazaar or City of Brass and Crop Rotate into Strip Mine to try and slow the Slaver player down. If I use Bazaar, there is a good chance I’ll be able to Therapy next turn. If I rotate, I’ll also not be able to use the Chain of Vapor, ever (probably).
I now have another decision:
I could play Chrome Mox imprinting Chain of Vapor to play Brainstorm. If I Brainstorm, there is a good chance I’ll be able to dredge for quite a bit. Or should I just dig for cards like Chalice? If I dig for Chalice, that will slow down his Will. But the question is whether he is going to go for Will next turn, and my guess is that he will. He’s got Black Lotus, two Moxen, and Ancestral Recall already in his graveyard. There is also a chance that I could draw Lotus and Balance off the Brainstorm.
For my third draw, I dredge the Grave-Troll into:
I put Troll and Imp on top of my library.
I play Chalice for zero and pass the turn.
It looks bad for the Slaver player now.
Here is why:
They didn’t see a Force of Will to stop the Chalice. Thus, Yawgmoth’s Will becomes almost worthless. Second, I have Therapy in my yard and two Ichorids are coming into play on my upkeep. Third, I can Strip Mine next turn.
Slaver is at 18 life.
MD: On my upkeep, I decide not to Dredge so that I don’t have to discard either City of Brass or Crop Rotation. I already have two Ichorids in my graveyard. I can draw a card first, and then dredge. I return two Ichorids into play and remove Putrid Imp and Ashen Ghoul.
On my draw step I dredge the Golgari Grave-Troll in my graveyard, revealing:
This is tricky. What should I name?
We can assume that he hid Yawgmoth’s Will with the Brainstorm. We can’t just name Brainstorm or Thirst since he already played both. If I miss on something important, I’ll have to Dredge up a second Cabal Therapy and hit it. But if he is holding Force of Will he could counter the second Therapy or my Crop Rotation.
Thus, I name Force of Will so that he can‘t let me see his hand and then Force. I see:
Swing and a miss.
This is tricky.
I activate Bazaar and dredge a Troll in my yard, seeing:
I use my second draw to dredge another Troll, seeing:
I discard three Trolls to Bazaar.
There are two decisions. I need to figure out what the Therapy and what to Strip Mine…
I can Therapy out:
1) Thirst for Knowledge. But then he’ll just Demonic Tutor for Time Walk. Play Goblin Welder. Untap, Weld out my Chalice for Mox Sapphire and Yawgmoth’s Will unimpeded, which would definitely win him the game. This occurs no matter what I Strip Mine. DT plus Time Walk plus Welder is only five mana.
4) That means I have to take Demonic Tutor.
He could do all those plays regardless of what I Strip Mine.
The question depends on how Slaver is going to not lose this game.
1) If Slaver plays Yawgmoth’s Will, he will have two mana up. Then he can Ancestral and play Welder. Since Chalice is down, he won’t get any more mana unless he draws Academy or Mana Vault (and Academy is out of the picture if I Strip the Sea).
3) If he plays Rack and Ruin, he could then play Welder and that’s it.
Thus, it seems like the play is to Strip the Sea.
I Strip the Sea and flashback Therapy on Demonic Tutor.
CS: Draws Yawgmoth’s Will.
It seems like the most outs are with Thirst (Time Walk, Mana Vault plus Tinker), Fire/Ice or a Slaver or Tormod‘s Crypt plus Welder. The Ichorid deck will get one turn to do 9 damage, but Slaver will get one more turn. However, Yawgmoth’s Will will let Ancestral be played, as well as Welder. Ironically then, Yawgmoth’s Will gives the Slaver deck fewer outs. Slaver can’t be attacked in hand if he goes Welder plus Thirst into Slaver or Crypt, since the Ichorid deck has no mana to play Darkblast. Also, the Slaver’s hand will be annihilated next turn anyway. Thus, the Thirst play is the best play. There are something like six outs, if not more. Yawgmoth’s Will, Ancestral, Welder depends entirely on the quality of the cards drawn and the topdeck on the following turn to survive the Therapy massacre that will ensue. Also, Thirsting into Brainstorm would help hide will for a subsequent winning Will.
MD: At this point, things are not looking good. There is no reason to dredge on my upkeep because I need to draw a mana source to be able to deal with recurring Trike via Welder. Thus I need to draw a card for the turn, and then next turn use Bazaar to find a land so I can Darkblast the Welder. Plus, if I get Crypted or Slaved, I want at least some portion of my library intact. I have 22 cards in my library.
I draw Lotus Petal.
I attack with three Ichorids, taking the Slaver player to two.
I Therapy out the Yawgmoth’s Will and see:
I grab the Will.
I name Rack and Ruin, and nab it.
CS: Draws Tinker
Slaver dredges me on my upkeep, revealing:
On my draw step, he dredges again, revealing:
There is now one card in my library.
Slaver can slave me one more time, and I die.
This game was truly intense, with a to and fro that you don’t often see in Vintage. Any number of play decisions could have reversed the outcome of this game. What’s important is that you see what is effective. Slaver has lots of flexibility and a huge number of outs. If Slaver had had a weak Thirst there, that would have been game. I’m guessing that when Slaver played Thirst, there was probably less than a 50% chance of finding an out, but it was better odds than playing Will.
Ichorid is on the play.
My opening hand is:
This is the first hard decision of this game: Is this hand good enough? It has almost no disruption or dredgers, but plenty of draw and tutorage. I’d keep it. It may not be a good hand to keep, but it will provide some insight into the matchup.
MD: The second hard decision of the game is figuring out how to play this hand. I can play Brainstorm to dig deep, Careful Study to dig and try to put some dredgers in my graveyard, or Imperial Seal to find Bazaar for turn 2.
All three plays have a certain validity to them.
Brainstorm maximizes your chance of seeing and playing Chalice and restricted cards. Turn 1 Chalice is totally amazing against Slaver. But it makes your turn 2 soft and prevents you from getting Bazaar into play until turn 3.
Imperial Seal completely gives up your ability to do anything good on turn 1 in exchange for your fastest game plan this hand can offer.
There is also a chance that one of these spells will get countered.
In the end, the smart play seems to be to just Seal for Bazaar.
The five cards are:
Pretty strong Fact.
I want to keep the artifacts separate from the Thirst, but if I pile the artifacts together, then he’ll get to really abuse Academy. This is a tough call, and there’s no good way to split it.
The Slaver player takes the mana pile, puts all three cards into play and passes the turn.
MD: I draw Cabal Therapy.
As I’ve stated many times before, you generally go for Thirst or Brainstorm. However, no Brainstorm was played on turn 1, and Thirst is already gone. At this point, I have no clue what could be in the Slaver player’s hand. As I’ve done before many times in this article, I’ll blind Yawgmoth’s Will:
I name Yawgmoth’s Will.
I take the Will and tremble in fear.
At this point, things became very hairy. Now you’ll see what happens when there is a Slaver on the table, but no way to recur it.
MD: I draw Putrid Imp.
My plan is to play Brainstorm on his end-step.
At this point, I could cast Brainstorm at end of turn. If it resolves and I dredge, then it may make the Slaver player inclined to Slave me. This is tough decision. I want to make the Slaver player want to Slave me a bit, but not too much.
MD: I untap, and on my upkeep I Bazaar, dredging a Stinkweed Imp.
Perfect. I can discard the Imp and I’ll be able to animate the Ghoul this turn and start swinging for three a turn. The problem is that I drew a second card off the Bazaar – it was Ichorid, which I had to discard as well. I paid a mana to put Ghoul into play.
On my draw step, I drew: Mox Jet, ironically enough. I played it.
I attacked for three and passed the turn.
Ichorid can dredge for at least ten on its upkeep, and if there is an Ashen Ghoul in the first dredge, then Ichorid will have twelve damage on the table. Thus, Slaver has to Slave it now. Slaver activates the Slaver.
MD: On my upkeep, Slaver forces me to dredge using Stinkweed Imp. I see:
Then they have me dredge another Imp seeing:
I discard my hand.
On my draw step, he forces me to dredge a Troll seeing:
On my first main, they force me to flashback three Cabal Therapies, sacrificing the Ghoul last. Pass
MD: Dredges a bunch on upkeep but sees no more Ashen Ghouls.
It puts the one Ghoul and two Ichorids into play.
It then attacks for nine.
CS loses the Mana Crypt game on upkeep, and dies.
Slaver is on the play.
Ichorid’s hand is:
CS: Island, Tormod’s Crypt, pass.
MD: Draws Chalice of the Void. Ugh!
This is going to be a great game on how to fight Tormod’s Crypt.
Immediately, you should observe that there are multiple mechanisms for fighting Crypt. First, we have Putrid Imp as a regular beater and the combo of Imp plus Cabal Therapy for disruption. We have Imperial Seal to help us find Chain of Vapor to bounce the Crypt under the Chalice for zero. We also can play the slow bleed strategy of forcing Slaver to Crypt you to slow the damage.
The question is what play is correct. I am honestly not sure.
Turn 1 Imp means that we could drop Ashen Ghoul and Ichorid to use Therapy twice. This is a solid disruption plan likely to tear up the Slaver player’s hand. The most tempting play is to Bazaar, but it may not be the best play.
If we do Bazaar, we may draw some acceleration, so we don’t want to lead off with Chalice either until we know what we are going to do.
Our goal is to win as quickly as possible while maximizing our disruption.
My brain is starting to shut off, and I honestly am not sure what the right play is here. I like all four plays.
Unfortunately, getting this play right could be pretty damned important.
I play Chalice for zero, and pass the turn.
CS: Draws a card and plays an Island, and passes the turn.
CS: Draws and passes the turn, stuck on one land thanks to Strip Mine.
MD: Now that Slaver is clearly having mana issues, it’s time to capitalize.
I announce flashback on the Cabal Therapy. If it doesn’t resolve, then it has done its job of prying out Force of Will. If it does, then I’ll just snag either the Force, if I want to resolve Chain of Vapor down the line, or the Will to prevent shenanigans.
It resolves, so I take the Force of Will.
CS: Draws a card and passes the turn.
MD: On my upkeep I put Ichorid on the stack. I use Bazaar to dredge. No responses from Slaver.
Then I dredge the second Troll.
I discard both Trolls and Brainstorm.
I go to draw step and draw Balance.
CS: Draw, Go
Still manascrewed by Chalice and Strip Mine.
MD: Draw Ancestral. Tap City of Brass and play it. I draw:
I activate Bazaar and draw Petal and Thug. I discard Imp, Thug, and Petal and pass.
CS: Draw and discard Trike, pass.
MD: Upkeep, activate Bazaar and dredge Imp into:
Dredge the second Imp into:
I put the Ghoul on the bottom of that pile of five, and then I discard the two Imps and Black Lotus to Bazaar.
I then pay a mana to animate the Ghoul.
On my draw step, I dredge the Imp again into:
Imp is in hand.
I attack with Ghoul, sending Slaver to 11.
I play Gemstone Mine.
I debate flashing back a Therapy, but then I won’t be able to maximize my damage next turn.
MD: Dredge Troll on upkeep, seeing:
Draw step, draw Brainstorm.
Attack for nine, sending Slaver to two. I flashback two Therapies and the Slaver player scoops, having seen the top two cards.
I would like to have played three more games for you to round out our sample, but I’m out of time.
A few observations… In the end, Ichorid won this round 4-3. But each game was a lesson itself.
A well-timed Chain of Vapor, with a stack that included Thirst and Cabal Therapy, characterized game 1. The timing of Chain of Vapor made the difference in the result of the game. Notably, there was only one Chain in the deck. I fully expected Slaver to win that game. But the Chalice on the draw was just too powerful. That shows you that Chalice is good, even on the draw, simply because of its powerful anti-Yawgmoth’s Will effect.
Game 3 was one of those games where Slaver mulliganed to five and the game became Ichorid goldfishing versus Tormod’s Crypt. This game is just one illustration of how Tormod’s Crypt really isn’t that devastating for Ichorid.
Game 4, Slaver had the utter nuts with plenty of explosive acceleration that led into a game-ending Yawgmoth’s Will.
Note that in all four games, both decks broke serve each game. Odd.
Slaver had the nuts in game 5 as well, but this time Slaver was on the play and that made all the difference in the world. Ichorid’s hand was fine, but Ichorid cannot address anything done on turn 1 (perhaps there is a way to deal with this in Leyline of the Void).
Game 6, Slaver also had the nuts, but a lucky Therapy on Yawgmoth’s Will turned the whole game around and a single Slaver activation wasn’t enough to turn off the Ichorid deck.
In the end, all seven games featured at least two, and often many more, very difficult plays. In my view, these games illustrate that this match will be determined by play skill and not luck. Luck will play a role, but this match has way of surprising you. Five of the seven games were won by the person who drew, oddly enough.
The scariest thing for Ichorid is the busted Slaver hand that leads to an early Yawgmoth’s Will. Ichorid is going to lose those games. However, Ichorid is going to win the games where it manages to bind Slaver with disruption, and it will very often win through a single activation of Slaver or Tormod’s Crypt. Both Slaver and Crypt are not game ending, but game extending. The key threat is Yawgmoth’s Will. One thing that didn’t come up in this sample, by may come up at other times, is that Tinker helps Slaver get around Chalice and put Tormod’s Crypt into play. Another important point is that you will probably lose to turn 1 Tinker for Colossus or Trike, unless you can tutor up the Chain of Vapor or Balance.
In the end, this match is a very even battle that will test wits, endurance, and forethought. Slaver has to win before Ichorid does, while staying afloat. The good news is that there are a comparatively limited number of decisions per turn for the Ichorid player. The bad news is that these decisions are very hard, and much of your game will need to be calculated before you even decide to keep your hand. Ichorid is about balancing damage and disruption in a very tight stream, and in a game that is often compressed into half a dozen turns. The average number of turns per player per game in this sample of seven games was 5.42 turns. That reflects how fast Ichorid’s clock is when trying to maximize its disruption. A well-prepared Ichorid player should feel quite confident that they can not only handle the Slaver match, but should have a number of skill testing twists and turns to memorialize the bout.
Until next time,