To emphasize both the speed of the deck and the impending doom for the opponent as each turn brought the game closer to conclusion, the Goblin Charbelcher deck was termed”the Clock” in Extended. Such a name is absurd for Type One because there is no clock to speak of – the deck fully intends on winning on turn 1 – or, at the least, have the Belcher successfully in play poised for a turn 2 finish. In Extended, Mana Severance was part of the combo to remove all lands to clear the way for a clean Belch (metaphorically speaking). In Type One, no such trick is needed. Instead, this deck simply runs one land. Type One has enough good acceleration that land simply isn’t necessary – it’s a commodity this deck isn’t selling.
In this article, I throw Psychatog up against Belcher because as the Type One control deck with the fastest goldfish and the most disruptive anti-combo elements (Duress, Wishes, and standard Countermagic), combined with heavy draw, it will properly stress test Belcher’s weak spots at the same time the fast goldfish diminishes the chances of midgame recovery through topdecking. Another advantage of Tog is that we don’t have to resort to hosers like Null Rod, Damping Matrix, or even Trinisphere to see if Belcher can overcome them – we are testing a standard array of cards that many decks will have, such as Force of Will.
In the previous matchup series, I put TnT up against a more controlish Psychatog variant. I found that proper assignment of roles was the key to Tog’s success. By trying to play the control deck through mana denial or permission, Tog struggled to keep its head above water. Cards such as Duress and Stifle would be ineffectual or too narrow, and Wastelands didn’t work unless they happened to completely cut of TnT’s mana. By re-orienting itself as more of a combo deck, Tog would be able to exploit the drawbacks in the Tubbies creatures and the threat of Berserk left TnT in a lose/lose position of being unable to beatdown efficiently nor play control because it lacked the card pool to do that.
In this article, the roles are obvious. Therefore, the question of role assignment is not at issue – no one would say that the Belcher deck needs to play control. The key to either deck winning is knowing what each deck needs to have to win the matchup: what tools Belcher decks to punch through the Tog defense? What defense does Tog needs to survive the threats? The lessons here are widely applicable.
My opponent is rising Type One star Joe Bushman. A Columbus local, Joe got into Type One last year and made top 8 at each Origins event, and recently made fifth Place in StarCityGames East Coast Vintage Championship in Washington DC at Grand Prix DC – he was also second in the Swiss. Joe is running essentially the same Tog list as is listed there – with the maindeck and sideboard of my design with one or two sideboard changes.
To orient you to the matchup, here is a representative game that will familiarize you with the sort of considerations involved in the matchup.
The goal of the Belcher deck is simple: win as quickly as possible. You generally do this by simply playing a turn 1 Belcher and activating it on the spot, or activating it on the following turn. Alternatively, the Belcher deck may play Tutors or Draw7s to find Belchers and activate them.
This hand illustrates a not infrequent problem with Belcher: much of your accelerant costs other mana. What you often need is a Mox or a Land Grant to enable you to play that Tinder Wall or Dark Ritual. This highlights another feature of this deck: You will mulligan more than 50% of the time. 40% of the time you will mulligan to six and 20% of the time, or there abouts, you will mulligan to five, and about 8% of the time you will mulligan to four.
Here is my first mulligan:
This hand is decent. It has a Belcher in hand and Ancestral, which will likely draw some good acceleration. You can’t throw this one back simply because the potential for drawing good cards is sufficiently high to outweigh the potential in a hand of five or less.
Joe is playing first:
Joe: He drops Library of Alexandria (LoA). I’m not exactly sure what matchup he thinks this is! But if he actually gets to use that Library, I’ve probably lost anyway. He passes the turn.
Me: I draw another Chromatic Sphere. I play Land Grant. This is part of the trouble with Land Grant – your opponent gets to see your entire plan! Indeed, Joe could Force of Will right here and slow me down dramatically, if not win the game. I would be forced to play Chrome Mox imprinting the Wish and then playing Chromatic Sphere and then need to rely on solid topdecks.
My Land Grant resolves and I find the lone Tropical Island. I play Ancestral, which also resolves and I draw: Living Wish, Chromatic Sphere, and Dark Ritual. I play Chrome Mox imprinting one of the Wishes and play Chromatic Sphere.
At this point you may be wondering what the Living Wishes are all about. There are only two, but they are versatile. Generally they find a land: Tolarian Academy or Gemstone Mine (Mishra’s Workshop is also in the board), or a creature: Goblin Welder or Xantid Swarm.
Joe draws a card, drops Underground Sea and plays Time Walk. At least he didn’t get to use the LoA! He takes another turn and uses it to drop a Volcanic Island. At this point I have the joy of having to deal with Mana Drain on my second turn despite Joe playing turn 1 Library. Joe passes the turn.
I untap and draw Goblin Welder. Ahh, the best Goblin the format – and Food Chain is a very strong deck. At this point you can see how Welder functions. My board is Tropical Island, Chrome Mox, and Chromatic Sphere. I sac the Chrome Sphere for Black in order to play that Dark Ritual in my hand and fortunately, I draw another! I Ritual twice and play a second Chromatic Sphere. I sacrifice it for Red and have BBBBR floating. I drew a Mox Pearl off the Sphere and I play it. I play the third Sphere and bust it for G so I have BBBGR floating drawing Tinder Wall. I bait with Welder and Joe takes it. He intelligently Force of Wills (pitching Accumulated Knowledge) the Welder anticipating that he is going to get a juicy Drain target. I play Belcher and he does Mana Drain it. I’m out of steam, but next turn I can easily play Living Wish for another Welder.
I split the piles into: Mana Drain and Island in one pile, and Demonic Tutor, Duress, and Deep Analysis in another. He takes the larger pile. He Drops another Underground Sea (which I didn’t know he had) and plays Duress taking my Wish. Joe is tapped down. This is my land chance to topdeck something even though I’m out of steam.
I draw… Tinker!! At this point I have quite a few options. I can Tinker up Memory Jar with R floating or I can find Belcher. The problem is that I know he has Demonic Tutor – he can pretty much Tutor up Gorilla Shaman and shut me down. I decide to go for the win now. I play the Wall and sacrifice it for RR and play Tinker sacrificing Mox Pearl. It resolves. I find Memory Jar and have R floating.
My Jar is: Mox Sapphire, Brainstorm, Channel, Tinder Wall, Grim Monolith, Dark Ritual, and Land Grant. I drop Mox Sapphire and desperately Brainstorm looking for a threat but I see: Lotus Petal, Elvish Spirit Guide, and another Tinder Wall.
We discard our hands and Joe drew a Force of Will anyway. It is possible that I made a mistake going for Jar and I was merely greedy. The Jar has the drawback of potentially netting you nothing and may or may not find you a win condition. The hope with Jar is that you will be more secure in finding multiple paths to victory. For example, I could have drawn Necropotence and a Belcher, or Belcher and a Welder. If I had just Tinkered up Belcher, any answer Joe might be holding would force me back into topdeck mode. In addition, Goblin Welder is particularly strong with Memory Jar. However, I may have just gotten greedy. The Belcher sitting in play is more than just a threat – it is a state of Emergency of Tog’s game.
The top cards of my library are awful and I lose quickly.
I chose this game as an introductory example to demonstrate the kind of key decisions involved for both players: when to mulligan, how aggressively to mulligan, the importance of going first, and the value of Goblin Welder as a secondary threat.
Take a look at the game again – but instead of Joe going first, imagine what would happen if I had played first. It would have been difficult for me to have lost because he would not have had Drain mana up on my turn 2. That means that either the Belcher or the Welder would have resolved. I’m not saying he couldn’t have won, but it seemed very unlikely.
So, What’s the Deal With Type One Belcher?
Now that you know what’s going on, let me provide a bit of context. Combo is the most under-represented archetype in the format as the label with the greatest number of viable archetypes under its banner. One of the most important elements of combo is speed and Belcher is probably the fastest deck in the format. It’s so fast, it only has one land!
The version of the Belcher deck I am playing first showed up in Columbus! Travis Hopkins and Michael Simister built it up and it got third place in the local Columbus Tournament. (http://www.morphling.de/top8decks.php?id=94 )
Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 7th, 2004
deck (60 cards):
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
2 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual
1 Black Lotus
1 Chrome Mox
4 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Land Grant
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond (okay so it’s not technically an”accelerant” – but it does accelerate your demise).
4 Tinder Wall
See the website for his sideboard.
The Germans liked the deck quite a bit and changed five or six cards around and here is what Kim Kluck won the Dulmen with:
by Kim Kluck
1st place, 2004-03-07 Dulmen
Acceleration (changes are italicized)
4 Dark Ritual
4 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Land Grant
4 Tinder Wall
1 Black Lotus
1 Chrome Mox
1 Grim Monolith
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Memory Jar
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
1 Tropical Island
4 Chromatic Sphere
1 Bone Shredder
1 Elvish Lyrist
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Goblin Welder
1 Mishra’s Workshop
4 Phyrexian Negator
1 Scavenger Folk
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Uktabi Orangutan
I think they improved the deck even more, but let me show you a problem with these builds that is not a necessity of design:
Just a note about this hand: I think the hand is very strong – it has potential for some powerful turn 2 plays as well as a broken turn 1 play. It is conditional – but as long as you can make a strong play on turn 1, and if its Forced, still have a shot to do something worthwhile on turn 2, then it’s a good hand for this deck.
Joe is playing first:
I draw Brainstorm. I play Land Grant for Bayou which resolves. I play Chrome Mox imprinting Tinder Wall. I play Bayou and I cast Channel. Joe breaks his Delta for Volcanic Island and Brainstorms. Channel resolves (he has seen my hand so he wouldn’t counter that regardless. I play Belcher and Belch, however I only reveal two cards before I hit Tropical Island.
On my endstep, Joe taps the Sapphire and the Crypt and Cunning Wishes for Artifact Mutation!
Joe: He loses the Crypt”game” and takes three damage. He plays a Tropical Island and Mutations the Belcher making four 1/1 tokens.
On my upkeep I Vampiric Tutor for Black Lotus. I draw the Lotus and sacrifice it for Blue and play Brainstorm. I see Tinker, Dark Ritual, and Tinder Wall. I put back Ritual and Wall and I Tinker up another Belcher. It resolves.
I draw Elvish Spirit Guide. I try to play Dark Ritual, but my Ritual is drained. Joe wins this game, because I fail to topdeck a third mana source over the two subsequent turns over which he beats me down each time.
This game was included to illustrate two key ideas. The first is that Cunning Wish is on par with Force of Will in terms of being able to answer the Belcher deck. Second, it goes to show you how running two lands makes the difference between winning and losing. I have played many games that I lost because I had two lands, and won because I had only one. Very quickly, I realized that the deck needs to win as quickly as possible and running the second land dramatically increases the chance that even with one land in your deck, you’ll run into it and have what Joe did to me happen to you. Also keep in mind that if I had gone first I would have won too. But the land issue is something within my control.
The reason I cut Bayou instead of Tropical Island is because the Black generally only needs one outlet to get a bunch of it going with Rituals – usually this can be done with Chromatic Spheres. The Blue is more core to the deck with Brainstorms and almost every Draw7 being cast off it. In the place of the Tendrils and Bayou, I added Cabal Ritual two and three and haven’t regretted it. The Tendrils was a nifty trick to give the deck another way to win in the case that Damping Matrix came down or something permanently shut down the Belcher – but I’m not sure it was necessary. If you like it you can add it back to the deck.
I have found that the land issue is even more pressing against decks like Germbus. Where I ran two lands, a non-lethal Belch may mean you never get another chance with Shamans around and lots of Wastelands for your only land. Your Welders are weaker against Germbus as well because they have efficient spot removal.
And so we”tweak” the mana base – and by tweak we mean cut a land. Here is another game illustrating why two lands are terrible and how good Cunning Wish is:
I am playing first this game.
An interesting hand, but not keepable. Mulligan into:
Hands don’t get more potent than this – despite the enormous risk of turn 1 Force of Will, it has a possible turn 1 Belcher, and a clear way to activate it immediately.
I draw Channel. I drop Lion’s Eye Diamond just for fun. I tap the Ring and sacrifice the Sphere for Black drawing Mox Emerald. I tap the Emerald and the Tropical Island and Channel Resolves. I play Belcher and Joe casts Brainstorm. He fails to see anything. Belcher resolves and I Belcher going to sixteen with 1B floating. I use the colorless and two life to Belch… for fifteen before Bayou rears its ugly head. I go to thirteen.
At this point I am becoming increasingly annoyed at having two lands. After this game and subsequent to a good deal of preliminary testing in several matchups, I decide to cut the Bayou.
Joe fetches out a Volcanic Island and plays Mana Crypt – enough to Wish and Mutate if only he had Cunning Wish! I am quite lucky that he did not. Joe plays Ancestral and Brainstorm in a vain attempt to stop me, but to no avail.
Consistency – The Main Weakness of Belcher
Despite my win, the game was too close for comfort. Tog simply has too much acceleration to fuel game ending solutions to justify running a second land. The risks are too high and the need to win ASAP is too strong. Losing a tight third game means losing a match in what is already a very inconsistent deck that will give up games because it mulligans into oblivion:
Joe is playing first this game.
All of my mana is conditional.
Again, all of my mana is conditional except for the Petal which is not reusable.
I have no mana!
Joe: Tropical Island, go.
Me: I draw a Tinder Wall.
I use Elvish Spirit Guide and play Tinder Wall. I sacrifice the Wall for RR to play Chromatic Sphere and bust the sphere for Green to play another Wall and draw Mox Emerald, and play that as well. Deflated, I pass the turn. On my end step, Joe plays Ancestral Recall.
As you can see, I am in a highly undesirable situation – Joe has seen eleven cards – over a sixth of his deck and has UU untapped. I have nothing.
The point of this game is to demonstrate the consequences of running an inconsistent deck. Belcher can’t play as though Tog were mono-Blue. Tog will seal the game up rather quickly. The deck’s inherent inconsistencies are a consequence of the attempt to make this deck as fast as possible given the constraining fact that almost all of the best accelerants has been restricted. Realizing that the deck is going to randomly lose a game here and there due to this makes winning the games you have the goods all the more important. The only thing you can take to the bank is the knowledge that you will have the tools you need to win most of the time. Any additional risks that impair your speed when you have the winning hands are unacceptable.
By now you should have a good sense for what Belcher is trying to accomplish and how Tog can try and meet that strategy or fail to do so.
This next game illustrates the fundamental principle of the matchup for Tog:
The Belcher Game Plan
This is the quintessential hand that is drawn with this deck. It is all sunk cost mana – mana that you can’t reuse, but it has the tools to do a turn 1 Belcher and some sort of spell that will help should the Belcher not resolve.
I am playing first this game.
I draw Black Lotus and Belch for twenty-one damage (Trop was the twenty-second card).
The fundamental principle of playing against Belcher is that if Belcher is going first and has kept a hand of seven, you better be holding Force of Will or you may not get another turn. This short and simple game is everything Belcher wants. Going immediately for Belcher isn’t always necessary however. Some detours are worth the wait as the next two games demonstrate:
I think about it, but decide to mulligan. Belcher really needs to be in a position to win – not to cross your fingers and hope – especially how quickly Tog gets Wish online.
I use Elvish Spirit Guide and play Tinder Wall. I sacrifice the Tinder Wall for RR and play Chromatic Sphere which I break for a Black mana. I draw Tropical Island off of the Sphere. I play it and Demonic Tutor for Black Lotus. I play the Lotus and sacrifice it for Yawgmoth’s Will leaving one Black remaining.
There are a number of implications from this game that need to be explored, but first let me show you another way that Belcher wins on turn 1.
My opening hand:
This is a fabulous hand. I have noticed in my experience with Type One combo that if you draw Black Lotus or Lion’s Eye Diamond in the LED restricted world means that your chances of winning have increased dramatically. Drawing both is an even bigger boost. Lion’s Eye Diamond obviously had a key function in Long.dec in that it worked very well with Burning Wish and Draw7s and in the modern Long deck, with Death Wish. In this deck, Lion’s Eye Diamond has a wholly new function: activate Goblin Charbelcher. It just goes to show you that as soon as a card has found a good use, more uses pop up, too late.
The only problem with this hand is the lack of stable, reusable mana sources. But given that it has a Sapphire and a Tinder Wall, that’s probably enough should the Jar be countered. It’s better than nothing, at the least. And with LED should I draw a Brainstorm, I can use the Chrome Sphere to hide a card on top and sac LED and then draw the card and play it.
I am playing first this game.
I play Black Lotus and sacrifice it for BBB and play Dark Ritual. BBBBB floating. I play Mox Sapphire and play Memory Jar. Jar resolves. I drop Lion’s Eye Diamond. I decide against playing the Chromatic Sphere and go straight to break the Jar. Unlike Draw7 and other combo decks, there is very little reason to wait to bust a Jar, because you aren’t going to get to resuse land since land constitutes such a very small percentage of this deck’s mana. I decide to bust the Lion’s Eye Diamond for BBB.
I use a Black to play Sol Ring which I tap for Mana Vault. BB1 floating with Sapphire, Jet, and Emerald untapped. Certainly this hand is a bit concerning at first, but I play and sacrifice the Chromatic Sphere for R and see Windfall. I use the Red to play Welder (which is excellent with Jar recursion – each Mox becomes Memory Jar). The Welder is a must counter though – so it is really just bait at this point. I tap the Sapphire and the Mana Vault and play Windfall. It resolves!
I tap the Emerald and use the remaining colorless to play Living Wish. I fetch Tolarian Academy out of my sideboard and it taps for 5 at this point. I use the BB floating to play Cabal Ritual to add BBBBB and tap the Academy for UUUUU and I tap Jet for another Black. I drop both Belchers and activate one for the win.
In both games, Belcher was able to win on turn 1 although it didn’t directly play Belcher – which is its normal path to victory. The Welders make Jar very powerful and any Draw7 is likely to give you enough acceleration to continue the brokenness.
Now that you are familiar with Belcher’s basic game plan – you need to see how Belcher can effectively mulligan, and what you can expect from your mulliganing.
I’m banking on Brainstorm and my draw step to dig me out of this one.
Joe is playing first:
Library of Alexandria
I thought Joe learned his lesson! What matchup does he think this is!
Me: I draw Memory Jar and play Tropical Island, Brainstorm seeing: Lotus Petal, Cabal Ritual, and Mana Crypt. I put back Cabal Ritual and Channel and play Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Mana Crypt, Memory Jar with BB floating. I then Jar and see Elvish Spirit Guide, Elvish Spirit Guide, Channel, Cabal Ritual, Goblin Charbelcher, Mox Emerald, and Brainstorm. I play Channel and Belcher and I win the game on the spot. My top card was Windfall too – so even if the Belcher was countered, I had another serious threat the following turn.
This sort of hand comes up quite a bit – usually with six cards and often with five. The most common way that these games are won is through Brainstorm or through use of Chromatic Spheres to find better cards while it fixes your mana. If you mulligan to four, you basically roll the dice with the game and hope to get a really insane draw.
First Principles of the Match
At this point in the article, we can reach the threshold stage of analysis in which we discuss how to effectively mulligan – a key skill which is basically half this matchup, if not more.
In Type One, small mistakes can make the difference between winning and losing, even if the game continues for a dozen turns. The problem is that this sort of decision isn’t easily calculable. This is really an example of what high level Type One can be about. Familiarity with the format and the archetypes is helpful information that helps guide decisions such as this. The point of having gone through the various games is to help show that a bright line rule is not useful. Adhering to a bright line rule in a case such as this will focus your attention on a few factors, when critical decisions such as this must be made in the totality of the circumstances. Take a look at your hand, your opponent, the game count, who is playing, and whether your opponent has mulliganed.
If you are the Tog player and the Belcher deck is going first, the first question you need to ask is: how much did they mulligan? If the Belcher player appears pleased with a hand of seven, either they have a very strong hand (see Game 5 and Game 7) or they do not really know what they are doing – in which case it doesn’t hurt to follow my advise: consider a mulligan to try and draw Force of Will.
If this is game 3 of a tight match, the cost/benefit analysis is going to lead to some thoughtful pre-game decisions. If you haven’t seen Force of Will in your opening hand of seven, and you are drawing, not playing (so you can’t Brainstorm into it), if you mulligan to six there is a good chance that you will see one. Of course, if you have the nut draw – like being able to Artifact Mutation before they get another turn, then you need to ask yourself what risk you are willing to take. If they mulligan to six, then the risk diminishes that a turn 1 Force of Will is necessary. If you mulligan to five and you haven’t seen it yet, and you think that anything less is going to just create insurmountable mana problems, than that is understandable.
If Belcher is playing first game three, and I don’t have a really solid hand and they mulligan to six, I’d probably do a single paris mulligan to see if I can dig up Force of Will. Sometimes you just can’t win, but mulliganing for Force of Will in this matchup is really worth it because it is so damaging. Belcher doesn’t have the stable mana sources to be able to simply untap and try again – it must expend a great deal of its resources on its opening play.
As I have tried to emphasize though, there are other factors to consider. If you are in the upper brackets of a tournament, then this Belcher player has probably beaten decks with Force of Will so far and they are more likely to know what they are doing. If you know the opponent, even better – use what you know to make an informed decision. The important lesson here is not to tell you that you must mulligan into Force of Will, but rather to suggest that it is a legitimate and solid option that you should consider.
People often say that the card pool can be forgiving in that a small mistake can sometimes be overcome by sheer brokenness. This is not untrue. Recognize, however, that Type One is not easy. Hopefully my discussion here can show that an event such as whether Belcher wins on turn 1 is not wholly random – the risk may be reduced and managed by thoughtful play, and yet appear random to an uninformed passerby.
Decisions such as choosing a deck for its consistency or game plan becomes relevant even in this analysis. In my testing against Fish and GroAtog (GAT) with Belcher, I went 8-2 and 7-3 respectively (the latter with Doug Linn as the pilot). The problem is simple: Force of Will is objectively more powerful in Tog. Why? Aggro Control decks aren’t as easily able to mulligan aggressively into Force of Will. Fish tries not to mulligan at all and GAT doesn’t have enough steam to really break the Quirion Dryad if it mulligans too much. As a result, you win because of how fast the deck is. Additionally, and I found this to have won me at least two or three games in the Fish match was that I would preemptively Living Wish for Scavenger Folk and let them just sit there like a Seal of Cleansing for Null Rod – but I’d win before a Grim Lavamancer would go active.
If you are the Belcher player, expect Force of Will from the Tog player. Unfortunately, the Belcher deck often draws”I lose the game if they have Force of Will” hands because it has so much one-shot, non-reusable mana. However, the upside is that you can topdeck what you need like a fiend, a fact compensated by the deck’s inherent speed. Your game plan if the Belcher is forced is to simply play a Draw7 or a Welder, or Living Wish for Welder. Also be conscious about how much your opponent is mulliganing. Your game plan is often an open book, so you just have to maintain your very slight, but favorable odds – gamble like the house, and you’ll come out 2-1 in the match. The power of Welder obviously gives Belcher some staying power. The Tendrils, if you choose to run it, can also help.
Don’t be upset if your opponent has cast two Force of Wills in the first two turns – they have likely blown their hand in an effort to stop you and you will have a nice tempo boost as a result. Remember, you can try to play”around” Force of Will, but there is really only one way to deal with it: play through it. Looking for a few resusable mana sources will enable you to try another threat if the first one is countered. If you have a turn 1 Belcher with enough mana to activate, and if you are playing first, keep in mind that you have a very strong chance of simply winning that game on the spot. Ideally, a turn 1 Belcher or Draw7 with a turn 2 Welder or Wish for Welder is likely to spin out a turn 3 win. If you happen to have a third threat – either a Draw7, Welder or another Belcher, it will be difficult to stop you.
There is one other wrinkle to this matchup that I’d like to explore for the Tog players out there trying to secure their game against Belcher. Check out this game:
I Land Grant – which resolves. I find the Trop and play it for Tinder Wall which I sacrifice for RR. I then tap my Pearl for Grim Monolith and cast Wheel of Fortune with 1R floating. Joe plays Force of Will pitching Deep Analysis. Fine. Spoilsport. I play Chromatic Sphere and pass the turn.
Joe: drops Library, again.
I draw another Chromatic Sphere, play it and break it and I see Belcher.
Joe: Joe drops a Volcanic Island and plays Mutation on the Belcher.
I draw Living Wish and Wish a Welder and play it. I may pull this out yet!
Joe: Joe drops Gorilla Shaman and eats my moxen. My Welder is now effectively turned off. But even worse, I have lost access to the vast majority of reusable mana. The only sitting mana that isn’t vulnerable to Shaman is Tinder Wall. My board is tapped Grim Monolith and Tropical Island. He attacks me with tokens.
Keep in mind that if someone attacks you and you have Tinder Wall in play – you can block, sacrifice the Wall and use the other ability to do two damage to the creature it was blocking – this may actually be important if a Germbus player attacks you with a morph (Exalted Angel) or if they, or anyone else attacks you and you happen to have a Red mana open. Killing Shamans could be quite useful.
I draw Demonic Consultation. On my endstep, Joe eats his own Mana Crypt. He attacks me with the Monkey and the tokens sending me to eleven. On his endstep I Weld the Grim Monolith into Belcher.
I topdeck nothing of consequence. Joe Wishes for a BEB and murders my Welder. He has destroyed my Mana such that I can’t win in the two turns he needs of Mutation token damage.
This game illustrates the two most important tools Tog has to work with beyond Force of Will: Cunning Wish (which may actually be more important than FOW), and Gorilla Shaman. Deed is also very nice. In one game, I went first, unloaded my hand, and Joe played Lotus, Deed and blew it for one destroying my own board.
Wish is the best secondary tool to deal with Belcher. The mana can come online very quickly and a turn 2 Rack and Ruin or Artifact Mutation can be game. Alternatively, if you Force the Belcher, and then drop a turn 2 Welder, your Wish for BEB can be very key. In fact, it is more than key – as you have seen, it is essential. Belcher is designed to fight Force of Will with Welder, or Wish -> Welder. Wish will seal the deal.
Sometimes however, even Force of Will and a very quick Wish is not enough – but it’s about as good as you can get, and enough to take to the bank. For those who are curious about the end result, our testing results were 21-18 (total of 39 games) of the games we recorded (there were far more in preliminary testing) with Belcher coming out ahead.
The Belcher deck is arguably the best combo deck in Type One and is significantly underplayed given its power level. It may just take someone to pick up the deck, master it, play it for six months or so and then murder the whole field with it. But, as you can see, Tog has effective counterstrategies as well.
There is one huge strike against Belcher. Outside of its Dulmen success (getting first place the month it was played), it has not seen success at all. Common wisdom suggests that Belcher decks aren’t around in the later rounds of a tournament. This may be the consistency issue coming up and the undesirability of having to play in fields where the most common card in the format is Force of Will. It may, however, be that Belcher is a hard deck to play and the tolerance for its weaknesses may scare off potential pilot’s – especially since it hasn’t been tearing up the top 8 charts.
I want to be clear that the vast majority of Type One matches do not resemble this matchup. Belcher is probably the fastest combo deck in the format, yet also probably the least played of the better combo decks. The speed of the deck makes it seem like Type One is really that fast – but this is really not the case. Type One is a faster format – much faster than other formats. For the most part that is simply an illusion of the acceleration in the format so that all the critical plays are compressed into a dozen turns (both players included). Instead of the first critical decision being on turn 3, it is often in deciding whether to mulligan or on turn 1. In fact, my experience in Type One tournaments has been that most matches in the upper tables go to the five-turn rule, or nearly do. This isn’t because the games go on for many turns (although some do), but because each turn requires so many difficult decisions. Fortunately, five turns is often enough to finish the game – although it may be a good twenty minutes to finish those turns.
I will do a few more Matchup Series articles before the Type One championships. They take even more time to write than the normally excessively long to write articles I attempt, but I welcome any suggested matchups you may want me to write about. There is a good chance that if enough people want a particular matchup, I’ll write about it. Just reply in the thread to this article.
Until next time,
Smmenen at lycos dot com
Here was a hand that came up in my testing – and I wasn’t sure how to play it out, and even now after having put some thought into it, I’m still not entirely certain what the best play is. Here was the hand:
I’d be delighted to see what you can come up with. Just reply to the thread of this article with your suggestions.
Just so you know, here was the draw that Joe had, so I had to beat this:
Ancestral Recall, Intuition, Gorilla Shaman, Force of Will, Flooded Strand, Brainstorm, and Mana Crypt. Certainly this qualifies as a”God” draw for Tog – so if you can figure out how to maximize your chances against it, you are good to go with Belcher.