Mixed kNuts: Boring, Boring Psychatog

I’ve played my deck in tournaments three times since Regionals – and won them all. I stopped playing it when people started bitching about the deck… And did I mention that it beats Tog consistently and sideboards to make that beating as regular as my grandma on Metamucil?

Is everyone sick of Psychatog yet? Yeah, me too.

Until recently, Tog wasn’t a big problem around my local store. The kids who played it weren’t very good, and the good players were too interested in playing decks that were, well… Bore interesting.

Then something changed – and the last two weekends of Type 2 have seen me fighting my way through control deck after control deck, with games taking so long that the possibility of basketball between rounds has been scratched right out. (Well, that and the 90+ degree temperatures. Can someone please turn down the global thermostat so that Virginia sits in the mid-80s again for the rest of the summer? Thanks.)

We interrupt this article for an important announcement…

For those of you who have not done so yet, stop reading this article and go straight to last week’s article, read about the contest, and e-mail two random nicknames to [email protected]. I don’t care what they are, just send em. Dark Lord of the Stiff, Geordie Tait Bitch, Ferrett-licker, Zvi-Wannabe – it doesn’t matter, just so long as you send something. I didn’t get as many responses last week as I expected, but I blame that mostly on the site’s flakiness in the previous week and the fact that it took a while for people to come back. Anyway, go! And then mail! I’ll list the best of the bunch in next week’s article.

Anyway, Tog has re-emerged locally and (what a surprise) happens to be winning more than its fair share of matches. I find myself in the same state I always am when a control deck that I’m not playing is winning a whole lot: Annoyed. Control is only fun when I play it. It is also fun when I beat it. Control is decidedly not fun when it is beating me, and when this occurs with some frequency the Magic-focused area of my brain goes off and broods until it figures out a way to beat Control. Joining the other team and actually playing that control deck is never an option for some reason.

So after two weeks of Tog drubbings, my brain has returned with a few new ideas about how to beat the Control match-ups and Tog in particular. The problem with this plan is that usually I find myself playing a series of decks that will actually beat Control (I typically succeed in that goal), but then they fall apart when faced with Beatdown. Fortunately for me, I already know that three of the decks I’m going to discuss today can win against a variety of strategies. The last deck is one that I’ve been working on for about a week, and while it isn’t properly tuned (read: I’ll be playtesting it for the next two weeks), the deck is based on some solid foundations that have worked in the past.

The key to building decks that beat control is to either a) disrupt their resources or b) disrupt their ability to respond to what your deck is doing. These two concepts are different in theory, but they frequently overlap during actual play. Typical strategies for disrupting your opponent’s resources include destroying their land, destroying their hand, and destroying their kill condition. Disrupting your opponent’s ability to respond generally takes on more subtle forms like using creatures with protection from the opponent’s colors (hello Yavimaya Barbarian and Phantom Centaur!), making their spells ineffective (how worthwhile is it for your opponent to have Repulse/Ghastly Demise/Aether Burst when you are playing a creatureless deck?) or the more blatant making them unable to cast spells (Orim’s Chant).

The concepts here are interesting enough that I’ll probably delve into them in a future article… But for now, I’ll keep things simple and move on to the four contendas’.

The decks that I’m going to look at this week are decks that take these ideas and run with them while keeping enough of a straight head to not run headlong into the beatdown buzzsaw and die. Enough with the blathering, Let’s Get it ON!

Martha Stewart Living

4 Ravenous Rats

4 Nantuko Shade

4 Phyrexian Rager

4 Braids

3 Call of the Herd

3 Spiritmonger

2 Ichorid

4 Duress

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Pernicious Deed

2 Forest

4 Tainted Wood

4 Llanowar Wastes

14 Swamp


3 Addle

3 Phyrexian Arena

2 Innocent Blood

3 Spellbane Centaur

2 Compost

2 Mutilate

Ah, good old Martha Stewart. Martha and her product line are single-handedly saving K-Mart from going out of business… So who’s to say that she won’t be able to save you from a Tog beating as well? First off, let me state that I never stopped believing that this deck was good. Now that I’ve ruined any credibility that I might have with you, I’ve also played it in tournaments three times since Regionals – and won them all. I stopped playing it because I am notoriously flighty when it comes to deck choices and because people started bitching about the deck. Regardless of the back story, this deck beats Tog consistently and it provides you with the sideboard tools to make that beating as regular as my grandma on Metamucil.

The sideboard is a little more Tog specific than I would typically run (though Spellbane Centaurs are awfully good against Trenches and Opposition as well), but the presence of Compost shows that I still fear the Mono-Black matchup, and I learned just before Regionals that two extra Mutilates (to go along with the Deeds) make most creature-heavy decks a lot easier to handle.

Post-Judgment gets you Genesis, which looks flat-out filthy in this deck, provided you find a way to get it into the graveyard (your own Edicts, Deed, Blood). You can recur Braids, Shades, Ragers (for card drawing), and ‘Mongers. Oh yeah – and why does the recursion of Ravenous Rats every turn feel just feel so dirty? Maybe I’m too chaste these days, but Genesis and Martha Stewart combine to feel like a deck built around some strange German fetish (you know, the kind with the latex, and inflatable toys and… better not go any further, I hear this is still a family site). You could even (god forbid) cast Genesis should you ever need an extra body – because at 4G, he’s splashable! Not that I know one way or another whether post-Judgment type 2 will leave this deck viable (we’ve only been playing it for a week around the store), but the possibility exists.

Balancing Tings

1 Mystic Enforcer

4 Nimble Mongoose

4 Terravore

4 Balancing Act

4 Chromatic Sphere

3 Fact or Fiction

4 Fire/Ice

3 Obliterate

3 Orim’s Chant

3 Syncopate

4 Ancient Spring

4 Archaeological Dig

4 Geothermal Crevice

4 Irrigation Ditch

4 Seafloor Debris

3 Timberland Ruins

4 Tinder Farm


2 Disenchant

3 Memory Lapse

1 Orim’s Chant

3 Repulse

3 Urza’s Rage

2 Divert

1 Aegis of Honor

For those of you who have never played it, Tings is fun. Not only that, but with the decrease in the amount of black decks out there, you are less likely to run into Innocent Blood and Chainer’s Edict now than at any time since Torment was released. Unfortunately, Tog has both of those weapons at its disposal – but by wrecking the Tog players board consistently, you stand a very good chance of being able to win in one or two attack phases (in case you missed it earlier, attacking with a 10/10 Terravore is fun, even for natural control players). I’ll leave the rotting equine unbeaten and simply state that you should give this deck a try again, particularly if you never played it the first time around.

Brushhopper seems like a good addition to this deck in the post-Judgment world. That doesn’t mean that this deck will be any good after Judgment becomes legal because a) it’s often slow, and b) your opponents can play with their own ‘Hoppers, which is bad news for you. Test it for yourself and see what you think.

Smoke and Fog

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Arrogant Wurm

3 Roar of the Wurm

3 Merfolk Looter

2 Spellbane Centaur

4 Zombie Infestation

3 Duress

4 Circular Logic

3 Opposition

3 Fact or Fiction

4 Yavimaya Coast

4 Llanowar Wastes

2 Underground River

2 Salt Marsh

2 Darkwater Catacombs

5 Forest

3 Island

1 Cephalid Coliseum


2 Gainsay

2 Upheaval

3 Engineered Plague

1 Duress

1 Spellbane Centaur

2 Unnatural Selection

2 Creeping Mold

2 Ghastly Demise

This is my version of a very teched out Smoke and Fog (commonly known as BUG everywhere else) that Jong-Won Kim piloted to a 10th place finish at Uruguay’s Nationals. A variation on the winning Argentina Nationals deck which is itself a variant of the Smoke and Fog deck I ran at Regionals (it’s simply teched out to beat the Tog matchup), Jong-Won and I worked on this for the last few weeks in the hope that he would make his National team and get to head to Worlds. Alas, a loss to some good draws by SnakeTongue did him in, but the deck itself performed reliably.

This deck is fast and completely abuses the Madness mechanic – but Madness is, well, pretty mad, so it doesn’t seem to mind. The key to having the deck run correctly is to get something on the board that lets you discard cards (Looter, Mongrel, Infestation) and then go to town by casting undercosted creatures. Opposition provides an extra wrinkle since it can lock down another deck in the late game in order to guarantee a victory.

I haven’t given a lot of thought to post-Judgment changes that this deck might take, but Wonder seems like a good place to start. I had it as part of my version of the”Quiet Roar” deck back when I saw the spoiler (see the Calm Like a Bong article), and after seeing a friend run it this weekend, I’m convinced that Wonder will simply win games for you. I’d also seriously consider Deep Analysis in place of Fact or Fiction, but the mana base remains painful enough that I’d have to do a bit more testing before I said it was a winner.

Work in progress:


4 Ensnaring Bridge

3 Grafted Skullcap

3 Millstone

2 Book Burning

2 Fledgling Dragon

4 Pillage

4 Stone Rain

4 Earth Rift

2 Wildfire

4 Fire/Ice

2 Firebolt

2 Fire Diamond

4 Barbarian Ring

20 Mountain


Some combination of

Sudden Impact



Flametongue Kavu



Urza’s Rage


Engulfing Flames

I named the deck as such because it’s an accident waiting to happen, sort of like certain tires on certain Ford SUVs. This deck used to work pretty well in Masques block, but back then it typically ran more artifact mana and it had Tectonic Break, which usually sealed the game away. At this point I haven’t figured out how much artifact mana it should be running (if any) or whether Tremble belongs in the deck, but I’ll pilot it for the next couple of weeks and try to hammer out a solid design.

The problem with running and land destruction deck is that if you don’t get the LD spells, the deck usually loses. Currently I have fourteen LD spells in here, four of which can flash back, but I can’t tell you whether or not this is the right amount of LD yet. Clearly, that’s what testing is for. I also think Book Burning is a pretty spiffy addition to decks that use Millstone as their kill condition, as one Book Burning is equal to three turns of milling your opponent’s library. However, I’m not sure if this is simply overkill, or if it represents **buzzword alert** actual synergy. Fledgling Dragon is in the deck because I hate having only one real kill condition in a deck – since it seems like every time I do, I run into someone playing Lobotomy and much day rue-age ensues.

Aside: I find myself torn by posting these sort of”decks in progress,” because when I write about them, I can’t say conclusively that I’ve found a good build… But usually what I’m working on has shown some progress. However, for those of you that are looking for a good net deck to run with, these specific progression decks won’t help you. On the flip side, those of you who consider yourself deck designers that are always in search of new ideas can take the outline of a deck like this, modify it and tweak it until it runs like a well-oiled mudwrestler, and end up perfectly happy. To try and please both camps what I will typically do is post a deck that I am working on, and then play it for the next few weeks showing you what does and doesn’t work in the deck, and detailing my results. That way you’ll get to see the lineage of the deck from start to finish, and hopefully you’ll also have a solid tournament deck to play at the end of the process.

Back to Bridgestone/Firestone… The truth is that no one expects nor appreciates land destruction these days that is not in the form of Braids, so that throws this deck firmly into the rogue camp. By blowing up Tog’s land, you prevent them from reaching Upheaval mana, which should drastically improve your chances of winning. Combine that with a win condition that Tog can rarely deal with when it hits the board and you find yourself with a decent chance of winning.

So there’s my take on four decks that stand a chance of beating Tog and can still hold their own against the rest of the field.

Other notes about Judgment and Type 2:

Junk looks awfully good. I saw Mike Long play an early version of Junk this weekend and like Toby Wachter dog, the deck drops bombs everywhere. As usual with a deck that plays a full three colors, the mana base is a bit sketchy (okay, nervously sketchy), but the risk seems very worth the reward. Mike’s initial take on the deck is listed here, but as with all Mike Long creations, you should do plenty of playtesting with it first to find the holes and then go play it in a tournament. Mike comes up with some disgusting creations two or three times a year that can change the metagame of a format, but he also comes up with a lot of misses (which should make everyone out there who designs decks feel much better).

I’m still waiting for a Cephalid Constable deck to appear… And if someone doesn’t post one soon I guess I’ll have to start working on my own version. My initial though was to make it Green/Blue with mana creatures, madness generators, Careful Study, and Narcissism, but that concept is still very fuzzy. If you have a version that you think works, I’d love to hear about it.

The Kitchen Sink

How can I not start with the World Cup? Let’s see now… There’s no more Italy, Argentina, Portugal, or France. How many people could have possibly predicted that? I know that none of the experts said anything remotely resembling a statement saying that four of the top eight teams in the world would be out of the Cup by the quarterfinals (and for the record, neither did I.) Looking ahead…

U.S. v. Germany – Nobody outside the United States predicted the Americans would make it out of the first round. Again, nobody outside the U.S. predicted they would beat Mexico, but they did defeat them in what turned out to be an absolute war. I told Rui Oliviera that these two teams hate each other more than England and Argentina, and the behavior in the US match was considerably worse than in the England v. Argentina match. Now the U.S. gets to face a German team that they know is beatable.

I think that the winner of this game will be chosen by which team scores first. If the U.S. scores first, it will instill some additional confidence in them that they will ride for the rest of the game to victory. If Germany wins, I think they will go for the throat and the U.S. will get hammered by one or two mistakes at the back and win.

Prediction: Germany 2 – U.S. 0

England v. Brazil – Are you kidding me? I get to watch the U.S. and England compete for a place in the semi-finals in the same day? Sweet! Anyway, England has played great defense to get here and Brazil has played great offense. Something has to give. With the Brazilians playing like the hottest team in the tournament, they are easy to pick… But in spite of the amazing display they have put on so far, I think this game represents the first real test they will have had so far. The game will be a higher scoring affair than anyone expects, because if the English defense chooses to bunker in after scoring a goal, the Brazilians have the skill to pick them apart.

Prediction: England 3 – Brazil 2

Spain v. South Korea – Have you seen the Koreans play? Actually, most of you probably haven’t seen any games, but if you had watched the Koreans you would have seen:

a) The fittest team in the world. These guys run full speed all the time. Hell, even their fans are fit, as they jump up and down and scream for the full 90 minutes plus any extra time.

b) A team that got a very fortunate call to get past Italy. Totti may be a thin Fabio in disguise, but he didn’t deserve the booking he caught that left the Azzuri with only ten men for the last fifteen minutes of extra time.

c) The loudest and most cheerful fans I have ever seen. This makes for a great home field advantage, which probably matters more in futbol than in any other sport. (Side note: The U.S. regularly gets pelted with coins, water bottles, bags of urine, horse feces, etc when they play in stadiums in Central America. Now that’s home field advantage. The guys in the NBA and NFL just have to deal with people calling them pansies, and maybe dropping a little beer on their heads. You tell me who has it rougher on the road.)

So anyway, the Koreans have played Team Fighting Football, while Spain has actually played up to their potential (meaning that they have played very well overall.) I think the Korean fans will make all the difference in the world in this one, though they will be helped by some injuries to key Spanish players as well.

Prediction: South Korea 2 – Spain 1

Turkey v. Senegal – This match is probably the least interesting of the final 8, but if you haven’t seen the kids from Senegal play, you are missing out on some fun. They have a lot of speed, an unexpected amount of skill, and they just seem to have so much fun playing the game that it is hard not to root for them. And for you ladies out there, some of my female friends think the Senegalese are quite attractive as well.

Anyway, they are playing Turkey, probably the most boring side left in the top 8. Unfortunately, along with being boring they also happen to be quite effective, having beaten the”in form” Japanese in the round of 16, and given Brazil a bit of a scare in the opening game. I’m going to go with my heart on this one though and hope that Senegal will slide into the semifinals so that I can see them dance a few more times.

Prediction: Senegal 2 – Turkey 1

Even though I am overjoyed at the success the U.S. has had at the current cup, I’m bored to tears by reading the same stories about people staying up late to watch the games, how the U.S. National team is shocking the world, and about the possible impact World Cup success could have on soccer in this country.

People… There are fourteen meeeellion kids playing organized soccer in this country. It is inevitable that soccer will someday (probably in the next generation) be much more prominent in the sports landscape than it currently is. Yes, it would be nice if it could be as popular as Hockey in the next two or three years, but the sport is on the rise in America and it will eventually get its day. As for the rest of us staying up late or waking up obscenely early to watch the games… True futbol fans and players treat soccer as life. 88% of England tuned in to watch the round of 16 game. That’s right; eight-freaking-eight percent of the English were doing the same thing at the same time – and that thing was watching futbol.

Now those people love their sports.

As for us lowly fans in the US, all we can do is lose a little sleep and follow our favorite teams while hoping that there is someone (anyone will do) at work who wants to chat about what you lost sleep over the next day at work, so you don’t have to sit there checking your e-mail every five minutes looking for more people to chat about the World Cup with.

Or maybe that’s just me. My boss looked at me like I was insane when I told her I needed Friday off to watch the World Cup, but she was kind enough to grant it to me anyway.

Speaking of sports, will someone please shoot both sides of the Major League Baseball labor dispute? I swear to you little, overpaid multi-million/billionaires that if you guys screw up another season by strike or lockout, I’m gone. Done. Kaputt. No mas.

Reasonable people and corporations negotiate. They produce legitimate financial statements or the SEC (that would be the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the SouthEastern Conference) kicks them in the ass. They recognize that their workers are important, and the workers recognize that in some cases, their employer is the best and only ticket in town, particularly when their average salary is 2.4 million dollars. Let’s see, I’ll see 2.4 million dollars in lifetime Earnings about the time I turn sixty. The average scrub in MLB turns over 2.4 million in a year by hitting .260 with twelve home runs and 50 RBIs. Somebody’s pay scale is out of whack, and I’m pretty sure it’s not mine. I mean, it’s not like these guys were the top brass at Enron or anything. Now those were folks that deserved their 700 million in salaries and bonuses for their last year of work…

In baseball, the owners lie about their finances, they manipulate the press and the Congress to try and get their way, and they (like every successful big business) treat their employees like pieces of meat. The players, on the other hand, refuse to negotiate with the lying owners, they refuse to make concessions that may or may not help competitive balance, and they seem to have no understanding that the average fan is so sick of hearing players whine about things that we are two steps away from giving up on the whole sport.

Here’s my take: You may have produced the greatest World (ahem) Series in history last year, but if you children screw up part of another season with this labor dispute bulls**t I will leave your asses before you can say”salary cap.” You may be the sport I grew up on, my childhood love, and still one of my favorite summertime interests, but the line has been drawn in the sand and you will lose my interest and my business if you cross it again.

In the meantime, Go White Sox!

Moving on… I feel the need to confess that I know nothing about Extended. People write me asking me for advice on this or that deck occasionally, and I’m always helpful unless it’s an Extended/Type 1 deck, at which formats I must plead complete ignorance. If you want to know about Type 1, go talk to Oscar. He likes to chat, and is particularly useful if you don’t mind sixteen-hour time differences. If you want to know about Extended, you can probably talk to anyone except me. If you want to talk about Draft, Sealed, Type 2, or Block constructed, keep coming back here, because that will all get covered in these pages.

I get scarily parenthetical in some articles. If your eyes hurt when you see parentheses or if seeing parentheses cause you to go into convulsive seizures, I apologize. However, I cannot help the parentheses, Mr. Keyboard enjoys them so, and I can’t be bothered to organize my scattershot thought patterns in any other way. Feel free to contact La Rat du Ferr and bitch to him about it though, since editing out my parens can’t be any more difficult than working with Rizzo.

Last and definitely least – damn you Spider-man, damn you to hell! Your overly enjoyable movie induced a comic book buying spree in me that has not been seen since my freshman year in college. First I found my way to Ultimate Spider-man, and then back to the X-Men, and then off into The Ultimates, Ruse, and god knows what else. I also found myself sorely tempted (in a most nostalgic sense) [doh, more parentheses], by the new Transformers and G.I. Joe series, while all my poor wife could do was hold her head and kick me a little every time I walked though the door with more. As always, recommendations on such things are welcome, but you should know up front that you are helping to pave my way to hell. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

On the plus side, spending money on comic books meant I couldn’t spend any money to get into Lord of the Rings, so I consider it a wash.

Until next time, participate in my friggin contest!

Ted Knutson

[email protected]

P.S. – Congrats to”My Daddy he is” Geordie Tait on grinding into Canadian Nationals. Of course, if you look at what his constructed deck consisted of, you’ll understand why he ground in through the Sealed Deck portion. What were you thinking, man?!? Maybe it’s just one more step toward claiming Rizzo’s legacy.