Type One Tog, like its Extended cousin, has inevitability. Instead being purchased in the more limited form of Upheaval, it comes in the form of Yawgmoth’s Will or Cunning Wish into Berserk. If Tog can manage to survive long enough so that its graveyard has grown fat and plump, then it no longer has to counter each threat. This is because Tog itself becomes a lethal swing in the space of one turn, or, can act to suck up most of the threats, so that the Tog player doesn’t have to counter other threats, on a one for one basis.
In many ways, Type One Tog can break the”Who’s the Beatdown?” role if built in a certain way. In the original model presented by Flores, one player must be the beatdown, and the other the control deck. When a player misunderstands his role and tries to play the other role, they tend to lose the game.
Zvi’s revised model suggests that if someone manages to seize both roles at the same time, that is a devastating advantage and that player will almost always win the game. Applied to the situation at hand, Tog can wrap itself in the guise of a control deck – but with a careful combination of cards and in the space of a few turns, a Tog can go lethal. The aggressive, Aggro-Control Tog builds that facilitate an early, lethally Berserked Tog fit that schema. Recent changes in the Type One archetype, however, have made this less possible.
First Place: Carl Winter, Hulk Smash
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
4 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Cunning Wish
2 Merchant Scroll
2 Deep Analysis
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
3 Volcanic Island
2 Tropical Island
4 Underground Sea
This deck could regularly goldfish on turn 5 or 6. In many cases, it wouldn’t even have to counter a key opposing threat simply because it was so fast at winning and Duress would fulfill much of the”countering” function. Recent exigencies have motivated a redesign of the deck:
Type One Tog
By JP Meyer
4 Underground Sea
4 Polluted Delta
3 Volcanic Island
2 Tropical Island
1 Black Lotus
1 Strip Mine
1 Mind Twist
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Pernicious Deed
2 Cunning Wish
4 Accumulated Knowledge
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Demonic Tutor
The deck is built for inevitability and is far more control-ish. The mana denial component has been added, and because the focus is now more than just the first half-dozen turns, Duress becomes less important as a way to clear the path to an early victory. In Type One, mid- to late-game Duresses can often be dead draws – the result is that deck with heavy Duress components generally signal an intent to win quickly. Cutting down on the Duresses is a sign that the deck is taking a longer view of the game. With this understanding of the Tog deck in mind, let’s take a look at the TnT deck that is being put up against Tog:
Tools ‘N Tubbies
4 Mishra’s Workshop
2 Ancient Tomb
1 Strip Mine
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Vault/Grim Monolith
1 Black Lotus
1 Mana Crypt
4 Pyrostatic Pillar
4 Survival of the Fittest
1 Memory Jar
1 Wheel of Fortune
3 Blood Moon
4 Goblin Welder
1 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Platinum Angel
The deck derives its name from the Toolbox decks of Extended that used Survival and a”toolbox” of creatures it might tutor, and from the Workshop”Teletubbies” deck that David Price took to the 2000 and 2001 Magic Invitational that had Su-Chi and Juggernaut.
In the course of the games I have pulled from testing, I’ll explain how Flores and Mowshowitz pieces tie into this matchup, and I’ll explain how this matchup plays out and the ways in which the both decks struggle to win. I’ll conclude with an examination of potential changes both decks may decide on in order to improve the matchup.
Here is a game which can illustrates the game plan of the TnT deck and the way in which TnT wins. My opponent is Joe Bushman, a local who is quite familiar with the Tog archetype and performed very well at Origins, and in our metagame with Tog.
This kind of hand is really ideal. It has key early threats, great mid-level threats like Goblin Welder, which tend to win long games, and game breakers like Blood Moon. Further, the distribution of mana is extremely flexible, allowing me to cast whatever I want, whenever. The Strip Mine is an added bonus to keep the pressure on after I play my first threat.
Joe is playing first this game:
Joe opens the game up with Island and Mox Emerald, which he taps for Time Walk. He draws, plays Wasteland, and passes the turn. Evidently, I am thinking, at this point, that he doesn’t have another Blue mana source, which makes my Strip Mine potentially stronger. Nonetheless, it is absolutely critical that, rather than be the control player and attack his mana base first, I should play my threat first, and attack the mana base second. If anything, that is the lesson from”Who’s the Beatdown?”
I open my turn with Ancient Tomb and Black Lotus. I sacrifice Black Lotus for RRR and tap the Tomb for two. I play Su-Chi. It resolves. I then drop Goblin Welder. Joe plays Brainstorm and casts Force of Will, pitching a Psychatog. If he had countered the Su-Chi, I’d have had the Welder. Either way, I’m happy.
Joe is now desperate and he casts Accumulated Knowledge for one and passes the turn.
I draw Wheel of Fortune on my turn. I attack him down to eleven. I drop Wooded Foothills and find Taiga. Good thing he used the Stifle on my Strip Mine, or else I might be denied access to colored mana for the foreseeable future. I tap my Taiga for Goblin Welder. He Force of Wills my Welder pitching a third Force of Will.
It’s obvious that Joe had severe development problems, but I posted this game to illustrate a few principles of the matchup. The first is that TnT can drop a large creature on turn 1. More usually, this is done through Mishra’s Workshop and a Mox. In this case, I had the superior combination of Black Lotus and Ancient Tomb. The Tomb allows me to cast Blood Moon, as in this game, as well as Pillar and Survival. The principle of the game play is rather straightforward: play a threats and follow it up with disruption or game breaking spells which create tremendous real or virtual card advantage.
I would not normally include a game like that as the introductory game, because Joe’s mana problems make this game a poor example – something I would classify as an outlier or the product of TnT’s game plan with mana screw. His opening had multiple Force of Wills, Accumulated Knowledge, Wasteland, Island, and a Mox Emerald with Time Walk – he has been unlucky to have his hand turn out so bad.
Nonetheless, I believe it is a useful example of essentially TnT’s plan – even if it is little more than just a goldfish. Numerous games in our testing played out like this one. Rather than list them out, trust me when I say the pressure is key – this includes a turn 1 threat. However, in more than a few of those games, I happened to have mana issues in Green and Red and tended to win primarily on the basis of my Juggernauts and Su-Chis.
The Tubbies deck attempts to use its Workshops to cheat on the mana curve. The mana Curve on the TnT deck is:
0cc – 7
1cc – 6
2cc – 8
3cc – 5
4cc – 9
5cc – 2
6cc – 1
7cc – 1
A mana curve like that in any other format would be insane. The reason it works here is because the bulk of the four casting cost spells, with Mishra’s Workshop, are essentially two-mana spells with a different mana cost than Survival and Pillar.
This game emphasizes the interchangeability between the two-drops and the four-mana monsters on the mana curve:
One of the problems with a deck like this is that it is inevitably less consistent than a deck like Tog because of the way in which the mana and threats are configured. In this game, I was forced to mulligan to six.
The mana is great and allows me to cast anything I want – the only part that could be better is some acceleration, which I happen to draw on turn 1. The problem with a hand like this is that I lack a turn one fattie – which is generally something you want. The cards I have are my midgame game sealers, not my early pressure. Nonetheless, I can’t mulligan again. The chances of me getting a better hand are slim.
Joe is playing first this game.
He drops a basic Island and passes the turn. Once again the rarity of basic Island becomes a boon, a strength that he is able to exploit against any attempts I may have to wreck havoc on his mana base. It is interesting that in Type One, the use of basic lands is a way to strengthen the mana base, rather than to weaken it.
On my turn I draw my needed acceleration: Mana Crypt. I decide to fetch out a my Forest to play Survival of the Fittest, in the hope that I’ll draw a creature on the following turn and thin my deck at the same time. It may be that I should play Pillar instead because that is a potentially a bigger long term threat – but that point is moot because he Stifles my fetchland.
Joe drops Wasteland and kills my Taiga. Ouch. He has Stifled my Fetchland and Wasted my final source of colored mana cutting off my remaining threats. All I have left are Workshop, Mana Crypt, and Grim Monolith.
Joe now plays a Duress. At this point in the game against TNT, Duress isn’t usually going to that effective. It is best as a turn 1 threat to nab a Survival or a Blood Moon. However, by cutting me off from my colors, my hand is holding key threats. He takes one of my two Survivals and passes the turn.
I draw Blood Moon. I play my Monolith and pass the turn.
Joe draws, drops a Volcanic Island and passes the turn.
I topdeck Su-Chi and drop it. Joe has wasted a lot of his hand dealing with my early threats and is now completely out of steam. He has no answer.
Joe drops a land and passes the turn.
I topdeck a Taiga and attack for four. I play my Blood Moon. Joe breaks a fetchland for Underground Sea and lets the Blood Moon resolve. At this point I have completely executed my game plan: play threats and seal it with key spells. Joe has been unable to stop my threats at all, once again fulfilling the old axiom – there are no bad threats, only bad answers. Joe has not found answers of any sort as his control deck struggles to survive.
Joe drops another”Mountain” and passes the turn. At this point he needs Cunning Wish for Blue Elemental Blast to kill my Blood Moon followed by Psychatog. Until then he is essentially unable to do anything.
Now you have seen how the TnT game plan unfolds. I haven’t yet shown a game of Tog winning, but I am trying to get the point across that pressure is central. I have explained how the flow of threats is the TnT game plan. However, both game plans are complementary. If Joe can stop the pressure of the TnT game plan, then he can win. Here is a game suggests one way in which this might be done.
Joe was playing first this game.
Joe drops an Underground Sea and passes the turn.
I draw Squee on my drawstep – a very fortunate topdeck in conjunction with Survival. I play the Mountain and play Goblin Welder. In response, Joe plays Brainstorm and then casts Force of Will pitching Intuition – something he expresses displeasure at being forced to do.
Joe drops a Polluted Delta and passes the turn. I draw Platinum Angel and play my Taiga, which I tap to play Survival of the Fittest. In response, Joe breaks his Delta for basic Island and plays Mana Drain. So far, Joe has managed to answer each threat, one for one. The true test will be to see if he can capitalize on the tempo boost of Mana Drain.
Joe uses the Mana Drain mana to play Demonic Tutor. He casts Ancestral Recall and plays a Wasteland, which he uses to kill my Taiga. He then burns for one. I still have a Mountain on the table, but that’s it.
Fortunately, I draw Juggernaut. I drop my Mishra’s Workshop and play Juggernaut. It’s clearly preferable to have a Juggernaut followed by Survival of the Fittest. If I had had the Juggernaut, that’s what I would have done, but I lose little pressure by being forced to play Juggernaut second. In many ways, it was preferable, so as not to give Joe too much of a tempo boost from Mana Drain. However, Joe plays Force of Will on my Juggernaut and pitches Accumulated Knowledge.
I draw another Mishra’s Workshop. I play it and tap both Workshops and my Mountain for Platinum Angel. In response, Joe casts Brainstorm. The Angel resolves! My hand at this point is Squee, Ancient Tomb, and Grim Monolith.
On my turn I am fortunate enough to draw Triskelion! I swing with the Angel and send him twelve. I tap both Workshops and play Triskelion. At this point the card I fear most that he might draw is Cunning Wish for something like Artifact Mutation.
Joe seems desperate at this point. He plays a somewhat early Yawgmoth’s Will. He replays Ancestral from his yard and another Flooded Strand, which he sacrifices for Tropical Island. He plays Mox Jet, Brainstorm, and passes the turn.
On my turn I draw Pyrostatic Pillar that I cannot cast. I debate shooting his Ape with Trisk, but decide to simply attack with both creatures. He chumps the Trisk, but Platinum Angel sends him to seven. It will be very difficult for Joe to get out of this.
Joe drops Strip Mine and destroys my Mountain. He drops a Tog, but it’s simply too late. The three points of direct damage as well as the Angel are just enough to finish him off. Joe scoops.
Joe had a lot of good Tog plays. He cast two of his biggest bombs: Yawgmoth’s Will and Mind Twist! The problem was that both spells were either too soon or too late to make a difference. The Mind Twist prevented me from playing the Pillar on turn 6, but trading two for one in regard to the Juggernaut and the Goblin Welder, and despite trading his Mana Drain for my Survival for short term tempo boost, he simply could stem the flow of threats.
He did a good job of cutting me off from Green, but that didn’t make a difference. The absolutely most important lesson is that the threats must not stop for TnT. If the flow of threats ceases, the pressure slows/ends and Tog gets respite to build its game up a bit. Tog has many ways to stop you from playing threats: Mind Twist in addition to Wastelands can sometimes be very effective, but as you can see, it isn’t always enough.
From this game, you can begin to see a way in which Tog can win. I was lucky to topdeck almost exactly what I needed at key points in the game which allowed me to escape from Joe’s mana denial and continue my flow of threats. Had the flow slowed, Joe’s tremendous card advantage would have caught up with me.
However, sometimes, cutting me off from threats necessitates more than just cutting off a color. Sometimes TnT’s game plan has no link to any non-Brown colors.
I am playing first this game.
I drop ‘Shop, Crypt and play Su-Chi. It resolves.
He now has two options. His hand is: (our game recorder Kevin Cron (mad props) notated this): Mind Twist, Duress, Wasteland, Underground Sea, and Mana Drain and he drew an AK. I think he has a tough decision to make. If he Wastelands my Workshop, chances are I don’t have another and then my primary threat comes from Survival, Pillar, and Blood Moon next turn and he won’t have UU up to stop it, so he’ll want to Duress me at the same time. That means if he plays Wasteland, he can try and stem the flow of threats and proactively stop one at the same time.
If he just plays his Underground Sea, then his Drain will only be effective by my second turn if I don’t have any mana denial myself – and I can still play a large man. It’s a close decision, but the Wasteland plus Duress seems to be the logical decision. Unfortunately for him, either choice would be ineffective. He Wasted my Shop and Duressed me, only to see that I had nothing he could take, but also that I had a Wasteland.
Joe draws and drops his Underground Sea.
I topdeck Strip Mine – an excellent topdeck that fits perfectly into my plan. One of the reasons I selected this game for demonstration is to illustrate the difference between how TnT uses Wasteland and how Tog uses it. Playing control, Tog uses Wasteland to stem the flow of threats – hopefully cutting me off from a key mana source. In that he was successful – I was unable last turn and this turn to play my second Su-Chi. On the other hand, I used Wasteland as a spell that says: rewind the game. Last turn I used Wasteland to try and rewind the game state to turn 2: a game state in which I had a threat on the board, and in which Joe had almost nothing on the board.
Again, this turn I am attempting to rewind the game state once again – trying to return us back to turn one. Joe will have none of it. He Stifles my Wasteland. I attack him down to twelve and pass the turn.
Joe draws and plays a Volcanic Island and passes the turn.
I draw a Taiga. I swing him down to eight. I then strip his Sea. In response he casts AK for one.
Joe draws and plays another AK for two. He drops Polluted Delta and passes the turn.
Part of the point of this game was to re-iterate the points I had made for the first game – TnT’s game plan requires getting some quick, but large threat on the table and then playing subsequent spells which are mid-game threats to give the deck staying power. The other reason for using this game was to illustrate the ways in which TnT and Tog try and attack each other’s mana bases, and the ways in which that can be effective or ineffective.
The point I want to illustrate is that the effectiveness of much of TnT’s card pool depends upon having pressure in the form of a warm body in play. The Wastelands then become tempo cards. Without the pressure, Tog uses them to stem the flow of threats – a distinctly non-tempo function. Finally, I wanted to make the point that Wastelands are mostly effective at denying me a color – rarely are Wastelands going to be aimed at Mishra’s Workshop – but TnT sometimes doesn’t even need another color.
I have said that the match is about tempo, but so far you have to rely on the evidence that these four games demonstrate. Fortunately, I have a game that demonstrates the negative – the end result of when TnT does not have tempo. In the process I’ll talk about how Tog can steal tempo that TnT might even have. Witness:
Joe is playing first.
This hand has no threat on turn one and something antithetical to the games and TnT game plan I have presented so far. Nonetheless, I keep it based upon the suspicion that any hand of six might be less strong. At the least, I have a steady stream of threats after turn one. However, my lack of a turn one threat is compounded, or made even more threatening by the fact that Joe is playing first.
Joe drops a Volcanic Island and passes the turn.
I draw Wooded Foothills. At this point I could play the Foothills and break it for non-wasteable land. Such a plan is not a bad idea. However, if he has one of his two Stifles, then I am set back even further in tempo. At the least, if he plays a Wasteland and Wastes, a Taiga then we will both end up in the same position as we did before. But if he Stifles my fetch, then I am essentially losing another turn before I can get a threat, but he’ll be another turn ahead in land development. For that reason I drop Taiga and pass the turn. On my endstep, Joe casts Mystical Tutor for Ancestral Recall.
Joe drops a Tropical Island and passes the turn.
Fortunately, I draw a Mox Emerald. That way I can try to gain some of my edge in the tempo department back through Wastelanding one of his lands, denying him UU at the same time that I play a threat. As a TnT player, one of the biggest threats is Pernicious Deed and sideboarded Green that is Cunning Wishable (Artifact Mutation and Crumble). However, his Gorilla Shaman is almost an equal threat, and his sideboard Red is equal to the Green (Rack and Ruin and Artifact Mutation). I decide to Wasteland his Volcanic Island, although the Trop would probably have been the better target.
Joe plays an Island and casts Time Walk. This puts him even further ahead in terms of Tempo. He plays an Underground Sea and drops Tog. He has played a Tog without me even having a single threat on the board. Moreover, he has three lands in play and Intuition in hand. Any of my Su-Chi’s are increasingly lame at this point. Even if I play the Su-Chi, he will start drawing quite a few cards before any of my Su-Chi’s even come close to lethal damage.
I draw another Su-Chi and play one of them off of a Workshop and my Emerald.
Joe draws and passes the turn. He doesn’t need to swing in to my Su-Chi – there is no reason to burn cards when he knows that I will have to attack anyway – eventually at least.
I draw a Strip Mine and attempt to Strip his Trop, cutting him off from Green rather than Strip the Island in the hope that a topdecked Blood Moon will be of use. The principle being illustrated is that when there has been almost no pressure at all – when the Tog player is at full health, then Tog is a tremendous threat. Joe floats a mana. I declare my attack step and Joe plays Intuition for Accumulated Knowledge.
I swing with Su-Chi and he goes to fifteen.
He can use his life total as a cushion to suck up quite a few threats so that eventually Tog can suck up the rest or even come over to my side to try and kill me. All he needs to do is draw cards to make his Tog good and use his life total to suck up whatever piddly tempo advantage I might have. Additionally, once his Tog is in play, my Blood Moon loses much of its luster. So taking out the Trop has to be right answer. It also cuts him off from Berserk.
I play another Su-Chi and pass the turn.
Joe untaps and draws and plays a Mox Pearl. He plays Accumulated Knowledge drawing three cards – also, with his Intuition Combo, six points through Tog. He drops a Polluted Delta and passes the turn.
I draw Pyrostatic Pillar. At this point in the game, where I have so little pressure and the Tog player has almost everything going for him, the Pillar reminds me of playing ZevAtog, and drawing Standstill when your opponent has a Tog in play. Again, my lack of Tempo is making my cards worthless.
I swing with both of my Su-Chis. Joe breaks a Delta sending him to fourteen and plays another Accumulated Knowledge for four cards. He blocks one of my Su-Chis and pumps his Tog to 4/5 leaving Ancestral, four AKs, and Time Walk in his graveyard. My second Su-Chi sends him to ten, but I go to sixteen at the same time. I drop a third Su-Chi and Pyrostatic Pillar. Again, the Pillar isn’t a real threat, but it can at least feign one.
We count up Joe’s cards and he has seventeen damage on the board to my sixteen health. He swings with Tog and I am forced to block with Su-Chi. He pumps three times, one from hand and the four AKs from the Graveyard. The Su-Chi damage sends me to twelve. Just for safe measure, Joe drops another Tog and passes the turn.
I draw a Grim Monolith and play it, sending me to ten from the Pillar. Although his Tog might have been to chump block something, the fact of the matter is it effectively ends the game. I cannot block both Togs so he is assured to win the following turn. The game is over.
You have to understand that during the game, I thought that I had a real chance at winning this game. I honestly thought that a series of Su-Chis would be real threats. Only afterward, does it become obvious how the entire TnT plan fell apart for want of drawing that Emerald on turn 2 instead of on turn 1, compounded by the fact that Joe went first.
If you go back and reconstruct the game assuming that I have a turn 1 Su-Chi, the game looks to be in my favor, or at least much closer – even if Joe goes first and even if he Force of Wills my first threat.
After becoming familiar and experienced with the matchup, we recorded eleven pre-sideboard games and ten sideboarded games. Of all the games I recorded, few illustrated what happened when both decks game plans were fulfilled to their utmost. That is why the next game is the centerpiece of this article and the most revealing game of all.
Joe is playing first.
This hand is extremely strong and is only lacking the Red mana to make Goblin Welder active. Joe’s hand is also very strong. For reference:
Joe drops both of his Moxen and his Tropical Island. As you can see, going first has made a huge difference. Joe has managed to cheat on tempo and get his crucial UU up before I even lay a single threat.
Tog has seized the tempo initiative from a clear, baseline advantage that TnT has going into the matchup. An added bonus of this is that it makes TnT’s play rather difficult. Here’s the dilemma. I draw Mox Sapphire on my turn. The problem is that I have to decide whether to play Survival or Juggernaut. I can’t assume that my Survival is going to lead to a game win. It’s nice that I have a Forest because it’s impervious to his Wastelands. The problem is that if he has Mana Drain, which I obviously didn’t know at the time, then he is going to get a huge tempo boost.
Therefore, I need to find a reason to help me to decide to play either the Survival or the Juggernaut. Can you think of anything?
I soon find what I’m looking for (or rather Kevin Cron, our typist did). If he Mana Drains Juggernaut he’ll have eight mana next turn. If he Mana Drain’s Survival, he’ll have six. The real threshold for Intuition -> AK is from four to five mana. The marginal difference between six and eight is negligible unless he has another AK, except under the principle that more mana is better. Therefore, I decide to play Juggernaut. Joe obviously Mana Drains my spell.
I am fortunate to top deck Su-Chi. I play the Su-Chi. In response Joe breaks his Delta for a Volcanic Island and casts Ancestral Recall drawing three more cards. Ouch. By turn 2, not only is he doing quite well in mana development, but he has also drawn six extra cards. My Su-Chi resolves. I then drop my Mox Jet and my Forest and play Survival of the Fittest. Despite how well Joe has done, it’s hard for me to complain. This is the perfect example of how TnT prefers to play its game out: I had a turn 1 fattie, and two solid threats on turn 2. Survival Resolves.
Unfortunately, Joe’s Demonic Tutor is played off a newly dropped Underground Sea to find the singleton Pernicious Deed. Soon my board will be wiped. But the game gets better yet! He has to completely tap out to play the Deed.
I draw Survival on my turn. I swing him down to fourteen and play an Ancient Tomb. I survival up Platinum Angel discarding Goblin Welder. Consider. With the Workshop, Tomb, and two Moxen, I can cast the Angel. However, Joe is sitting at five available mana to blow his Deed on. I’m not sure if this is the absolute correct play, but it seems sufficiently strong. If he wants to kill the Angel with Deed he is going to have to wait and in the meantime, I’ll get more uses from Survival and a few more Swings in.
Joe draws, drops Polluted Delta and passes the turn.
I could not topdeck any better. I draw Karn! I swing with my Angel and Su-Chi. Unfortunately, Joe Cunning Wishes up Artifact Mutation! And casts it on my Angel making six tokens, four of which he uses to block my Su-Chi! How strong! I used the Angel to evade the Deed activation, but he took advantage of that to gain some pretty savage card and board advantage.
At this point, I still need to find a way to make him blow his Deed. Under most circumstances, Karn would be great. But when Karn blocks or is blocked, he becomes 0/8. This means that the remaining tokens present a perpetual obstacle to Karn. I survival Karn away and find Triskelion. I’m running out of tricks.
Joe isn’t scared. He drops an Island and passes the turn.
On his turn, he just plays another Underground Sea and passes the turn back.
I draw a Wooded Foothills. I enter my attack step and he blows the Deed for six. I throw three Trike damage at him. He stifles my Foothills activation. I play my second Survival and pass the turn back.
Joe drops a Tog and I scoop. His graveyard is fat and this game has ended.
A lot can be said about this game. From Joe’s point of view, the Tog deck operated very well. Obviously, using Mana Drain creates a huge tempo boost. Laying the Sapphire on turn 1 functioned as a Time Walk. But using the Mana Drain pushed him way ahead. I tried to match it by playing two strong threats on turn 1 – but none of them started with Blood and ended in Moon. Even that would not have been enough with his Cunning Wish and his Sapphire. Once he drew some cards, his tutoring power kicked in. His tutoring power found Deed and Deed followed by Tog is almost unbeatable by TnT. Tog executed its game plan extremely well.
I choose games I felt represented the way the matchup played out. To summarize, if TnT can seize the tempo advantage than Tog has several ways out, but its chances are not even – TnT has a distinct advantage. First, it can attempt to play the mana denial game and stem the flow of threats through Shamans, Deeds, and aggressive Stifles and Wastelands. Once that happens Tog has time to build up to a very large Tog and simply win. Alternatively, Tog can try and steal tempo from TnT to slow down the game sufficiently that TnT’s threats are useless. This can be done first through cards like Stifling a fetchland, having turn 1 Sapphire for Mana Drain, or even turn 1 Time Walk.
Another more likely way this plays out is to Force of Will the first threat, Draining another, and then take advantage of the Drain to draw some cards and drop a Tog. This can slow the game down sufficiently that Tog eventually becomes lethal. Mana Drain is such a huge tempo boost that if it comes before a key threat and taken proper advantage of, it is hard to win. This is evidence that tempo is more important than card advantage. After sideboarding the matchup becomes more complicated.
Now that we have a solid foundation for understanding how the matchup and the decks operate, we have some basis for evaluating card choices. One heavily suggested and promoted card for the TnT deck is Solemn Simulacrum. I think if there is one lesson that can be pulled from testing, its that Simulacrum is simply awful against Tog. Taking advantage of Simulacrum requires forgoing the”beatdown’ in favor of control – something clearly against the game plan of TnT presented so far. Drawing a few cards over a few turns is not a good Type One draw engine. Playing many large men and beating down as quickly as possible is the equal to the control decks card advantage.
If TnT has any long term plan, it is sealed through cards like Blood Moon or Pillar. Pillar is in many ways what Cursed Scroll appears to be the Flores article. As for the Tog deck, clearly Gush would be a huge boost – it would help enable the Tog player to play the beatdown by enlarging Tog very quickly so that Berserk is lethal. Additionally, a third Cunning Wish could help facilitate this.
Going back through the games, I was probably wrong to play the Ancient Tombs. This was a bit disheartening, but the logic presented itself repeatedly. Multiple times throughout the games you can find situations in which, if the Tomb had been a Red or a Green source, I would have had a much stronger game. Another problem with Tomb is that none of my spells except Blood Moon cost three. The real problem is that they don’t fulfill their function. The reason I am running them is to ensure resiliency and consistency to the colorless mana sources. However, the most commonly destroyed lands are my colored sources, not my Workshops. For this reason I would definitely cut at least one for Karplusan Forest or another Forest.
Rather than list out the games, I’ll describe how the sideboarded testing played out. This segment of my analysis is going to be far more dynamic and flexibly applied than the first part since there is such a large variance in sideboards. The first thing that I noticed was that Xantid Swarm was not good in TnT. Recall feature game five, in which I had no turn 1 threat. That is precisely how Xantid Swarm plays out. Worse, it provides an incentive to not play a turn 1 threat.
TnT does not win by resolving a key spell – it wins by overwhelming the opponent before they can find answers. Playing a turn one Xantid Swarm instead of a threat was almost always sufficient to give Tog the advantage. This is compounded by the fact that Tog has, with Red, a very strong selection of sideboard cards: Crumble, Hurkyl’s Recall, Artifact Mutation, Fire/Ice (for Welder), Naturalize, and Rack and Ruin. The result is that Tog already has an advantage going into the match with great removal – and possibly more Deeds as well, why sacrifice tempo just to ensure that a few useless and late threats resolve? Getting TnT’s sideboard to be as strong as Tog’s is against TnT requires a bit of testing and thought. Removing Xantid Swarm from the board is a good first step.
TnT definitely has a good advantage over this slower design of Tog going into game one, and Tog’s artifact hate gives it a slight advantage going into games two and three. Altering those numbers in game one in favor of Tog requires speeding up the Tog deck so that a Berserking Tog is lethal more quickly. The Tog list is so incredibly flexible that transitioning the deck from its current control-ish stance to being able to do what GroAtog could do against TnT is not only possible, but fits the mold of Zvi’s view of”Who’s the Beatdown?” – Tog can counter threats for a while and then Bam!, you’ve been hit by a Berserk Tog.
Altering the numbers of games two and three requires that TnT execute its game plan well, so that Tog’s answers are either too slow, or ineffective. At the very least TnT is going to want three Red Elemental Blast, and perhaps a fourth Blood Moon as well.
In the final analysis, it’s good to see TnT return as a premier aggro deck for the Type One metagame. More work is needed and new technology will certainly assist in TnT’s revival. Perhaps, Root Maze might be a solid sideboard answer in that, while it lacks synergy with TnT’s aggressive stance, if TnT has large threats on the table, it slows down the opposing game tremendously, and acts as a nice tempo boost while hosing some combo decks like Dragon. Its merely one card in a long line of cards for future consideration and testing.
P.S. Please reply in the thread to suggest future matchup analysis done in the manner as this piece for future articles.