Maybe it was the amusing deck name, conjuring images of carefree children submerging spongelike dinosaurs in water to watch them grow. Maybe someone put the fear of Donate into them. Or maybe it was just the perplexing shifting of the Extended metagame. One thing was for certain: Miracle Gro had reached Seattle.
Although I did not get an official tally, out of the ninety PTQ participants, at least twenty were playing Miracle Gro. This meant that mirror matches were common, and that most participants faced the treacherous Gro at least once.
At this event (PTQ for Osaka held in Seattle on 1-5-02), I once again played a deck of my own creation. This time I ran Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress, an Enchantress deck I tweaked to take advantage of the current metagame. Since The Ferrett apparently isn’t too fond of seeing decklists, especially the same ones more than once, please click on the link if you have not already seen the deck I played:
If you haven’t read the other half of my article, now’s a good time. Just click on the above link. Not only does it contain the full decklist, but there’s a card-by-card analysis of the deck and tips for sideboarding.
Here’s how the tourney turned out.
Round One: Brian Wascisin
I won the die roll and elected to play first. I kept a hand that contained a Mirri’s Guile, Seal of Cleansing, Argothian Enchantress, two Forests, and an Exploration. He played Grassland and passed the turn. My Enchantress saw play. Brian began his turn by finding a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] and then playing Tithe, searching for Bayou and Savannah. Bayou hit the table. At this point, I knew I was playing against Junk, but wasn’t overly concerned as it is usually, at worst, an even matchup. I thought I had made the right decision by keeping my hand, but my The Force was not with me. Although I had a Mirri’s Guile in play, my deck was not cooperating. The Guile tossed me a multitude of basic Forests and White cards, which I could not play without White mana. Brian played a Phyrexian Negator and commenced a brutal pace of thumping. Now the Guile began to work, giving me a Plains, and then a Worship, which I played to take some pressure off my ebbing life total. The next turn I was able to play a Wall of Blossoms and a Rancor to beef it up, which saved me from the Negator’s fiendish plans. But Brian had played a Spectral Lynx and laughed at my Green Wall. The next turn, he produced a Spiritmonger and a Land Grant, which revealed that his hand was much better than mine. Of particular importance was a Pernicious Deed and another Spiritmonger. On his next turn he played and popped the Deed, clearing the board of everything but his Spiritmonger, who adroitly stomped my carcass.
The second game was better, because even though he dropped an unanswered Negator and Spectral Lynx into play, I got the Auratog feeding frenzy going and sent him over to devour twenty life points.
In the third game, I was left with a questionable hand that I chose to keep based on Brian’s reaction to his own hand. He seemed extremely pleased with it, so I knew it was good. I had no Rancor in my opening hand, which meant if he hit me with an early Duress; he wouldn’t get anything great. Sure enough, an early Duress leapt out and grabbed me by the hand. He chose a Seal of Cleansing. This game was just terrible. Brian dropped a third-turn Negator, which I sent farming, a fourth-turn Mystic Enforcer, and a fifth-turn Spiritmonger. My deck revealed three Rancor and a copious amount of land, but no Enchantress or Wall of Blossoms to protect me from Brian’s horde.
Cumulative Numbers: (1-2); Score: 0
Joy; I’m off to the Loser’s bracket!
Round Two: Ben Schlessman
I quickly surmised from Ben’s first turn Island and second turn Forest and Oath of Druids that he was playing Turboland. I hadn’t really done much testing against Turboland, but am all too familiar with how the deck works, so I wasn’t apprehensive about the matchup. I had played a first-turn Hidden Gibbons, which was animated when Ben Impulsed, and a second-turn Seal of Cleansing. The Seal destroyed his Oath, and on his turn, Ben cast a Spike Feeder. I cast a Rancor on the Gibbons, but Ben Forced it away and chumped my Gibbons with his Feeder, going up to twenty-four. He played another Impulse, leading me to believe that he had a fairly poor hand. I dropped an Auratog into play, which Ben read but chose not to counter. My two creatures chewed away at him for a few turns and I dropped Enchantments into play until Ben was at ten. He drew a card and promptly conceded the game, obviously not finding the card(s) he needed.
I sided in extra Seals, two Carpet of Flowers, my other Hidden Gibbons, and a Multani’s Presence. Ben took awhile sideboarding, which made me a little uneasy, because I hadn’t expected much Enchantress hate at this tourney. I figured he had Annul(s) and was probably pondering switching the creature base from Spike Feeder to Crater Hellion.
In this game, Ben went first and Forced my turn-one Hidden Gibbons. He dropped an Oath into play and followed it up with a Horn of Greed. This worked out great for me because I was only holding one creature in my hand (Auratog), along with an Exploration and lots of land. I cast the Exploration and drew into another Exploration! Turboland certainly isn’t as great when the opponent is mana-flooded and has Explorations on the table. I Sealed his Oath to prevent him from finding a Spike Weaver and felt confident. I was understandably amazed on Ben’s turn when he hard-cast a Spike Weaver! In retrospect, I think he probably was running more than one, but at the time I figured the chances of him getting his”one” Weaver into play were close to none. My cards were set for a win next turn, and now Spike Weaver had to spoil the fun. I beat for three turns with Auratog, and Ben’s”Fog machine” Fogged for three turns. Now Ben got a great draw, hitting Exploration(s) and a Time Warp. For a few minutes, I sat, watching Ben drop land, Gush, and draw cards. I thought he was going into his infinite turns stage when he played a Gaea’s Blessing and shuffled Oath, Time Warp, and Gush back into his library, but instead he tapped out, drew a bunch of cards, shook his head, and passed the turn. Auratog gobbled up Rancor and multiple other Enchantments and swung across for 25 damage.
Cumulative Numbers: (3-2); Score: 3
Round Three: Koravit Chanthavani (a.k.a. Kevin)
The two matches of this round are a little hazy because it was right before a lunch break and I was more famished than the Ghoul who bears that name. I asked my opponent his name and he replied something that I couldn’t understand. I asked him to repeat himself, and he did, but I still didn’t catch his name. It sounded like said Caravat, but like to get people’s names right, and I could tell this was getting us nowhere, so I gave him my pad of paper and a pen to write his name. He wrote in large letters K-E-V-I-N. Oh… Kevin. Now I understand. I know The Ferrett finds all Props and Slops utterly without content, but I definitely think Kevin deserves some Props for being such a good sport.
Kevin won the die roll and played first. He dropped a Bayou and Duressed me, choosing Rancor. I played a first turn Mirri’s Guile, second turn Argothian Enchantress, third turn Exploration, Wild Growth, and Wall of Blossoms. Kevin’s second turn leant him a Wall of Roots and a Forest. At this point I knew he had to be playing The Rock. Before the end step on my fourth turn, Kevin cast a Vampiric Tutor and I suspected it was for a Pernicious Deed. Sure enough, he drew a card, cast a Pernicious Deed, and swept the board. The following turn, he cast a Spiritmonger. He probably thought he was in better shape than I was – but then again, he probably hadn’t playtested against any Enchantress decks. Although I lost more cards than he did from the Pernicious explosion, I also had three times as many cards in my hand. I played a Wall of Blossoms and an Argothian Enchantress. Kevin played a Phyrexian Plaguelord and attacked with the Monger. I blocked with Wall of Blossoms. On my turn, I played a Verduran Enchantress and a number of other Enchantments, ending up with a hand full of answers, but no untapped lands. Kevin attacked for eleven and put me down to nine life. The next turn I Plowed his Monger and brought a Rancor-backed Auratog into the world. You can guess the rest…
In the second game, I tossed out the Gibbons and replaced them with Swords to Plowshares. I noticed Kevin missed his second-turn land drop – and since I had a strong opening hand, I used my Swords on his Birds of Paradise. I then got out a quick Enchantress and cycled through my deck until I found the Rancor/Auratog combo. The only two damage I took that game came from a River Boa on turn four.
Cumulative Numbers: (5-2); Score: 6
Round Four: Tony Tsay
Game one was pathetic. I tossed my first hand I because it had no Auratog, Rancor, Mirri’s Guile, or Enchantress; tossed the second hand I drew because it contained no land; tossed the third hand I drew because it only had one land (a Gaea’s Cradle); and thankfully was given something less horrible in the fourth. My hand contained an Argothian Enchantress, Exploration, and two Forests. It turned out that Tony was playing Miracle Gro, and he Dazed my Enchantress. He later used a Force of Will on another Enchantress. It took him a fair amount of time to kill me, but he had the game sewn up from the beginning. For future reference, it is almost an auto-loss if you have to mulligan down to four.
The second game was far preferable to the first game and saw Tony counter very few of my spells – perhaps this was because I had two Hidden Gibbons (that saw play relatively early in the game) glaring at him from across the table, daring him to awaken them. Rancor dropped onto the back of Auratog, whipping him into a frenzy, and he ripped Tony a new one. It was very satisfying.
The third game was extremely even. Tony was able to get an early Winter Orb into play, but I played more carefully this game and was able to avoid having my spells Dazed. Unfortunately I did not see a Carpet of Flowers this game, which wrecks Winter Orb strategies, and was forced to play at a more sedated pace. I plunked a Hidden Gibbons into play and Tony Brainstormed in response. He found a Gaea’s Skyfolk to pin a Curiosity on, but I Plowed it and sent Tony looking for another win condition. The game stalled on for a bit as I untapped mana and our hands refilled. Tony resolved a pair of Quirion Dryads. Finally, I played an Auratog and attempted to follow it up with a Rancor, but Tony Foiled it. His next play was a series of search spells, which pumped his Dryads, and a Waterfront Bouncer. My Gibbons were now ready for action and swung mightily when I enchanted them both with Rancor(s). Tony was now down to two life and it looked to everyone surveying the game like Gro’s defeat.
Then Tony had the topdeck of the day – Submerge. When I attacked with Auratog and the two Gibbons, supremely confident that I had won, Tony Submerged the Auratog, blocked and killed the Gibbons without Rancor with a Quirion Dryad, and used Waterfront Bouncer to return the other to my hand. Then Tony opened up a can of… Well…Gro. He cast a Brainstorm, a Sleight of Hand, a Gush, and another Brainstorm, ballooning his Dryads* to 8/8 and 9/9. Wall of Blossoms was only useful for one measly block and my life total plummeted to twelve. I could only play my Auratog or my Gibbons, since I had been all tapped out and the Winter Orb was still stalling my mana flow. I chose to play the Auratog because I would have taken more mana burn if I’d played the Gibbons, the Gibbons probably would have stayed an Enchantment, and I could pump the Auratog to slightly greater than four in power and toughness. It really did not matter, though. Tony bounced my creature with the Bouncer and swung with Dryads of Leviathan proportions.
I later described the surprise turn as”having a rug pulled out from under me.” In the previous PTQ, Tony had played a Donate deck, but did much more poorly than he would have liked to. I don’t even think he made the Top 25. This time, thanks to his amazing topdeck, consistent play, and a strong deck, he went all the way to the Semi-finals.
* – I’d tell you what Tony refers to them as, but not in print, as I’d have to censor myself.
Cumulative Numbers: (6-4); Score: 6
Round Five: David Stevens
Some might remember a few of these names from previous tournament reports I’ve written. No, it’s not your imagination; I have played these opponents before. David Stevens chewed me up at a Trial for Grand Prix Vegas with a Legion Land Loss deck and has yet to let me forget it. Today he was his usual cheerful self, and joked that he was sorry he was playing 10-Land Stompy instead of his Legion Land Loss deck. I am sure I grimaced. Those games against Legion Land Loss are some of the most savage beatings I’ve ever been on the receiving end of.
David started out quickly, playing a Rogue Elephant and a Vine Dryad. I sent the Elephant farming after being smacked with it once or twice, but the Dryad was also bothersome because of its Forestwalk ability. David saw a lot of creatures that game: Quirion Ranger, Ghazban Ogre, Wild Dogs, Skyshroud Elite and Spectral Bears. I saw a lot of creatures too: Enchantresses. I have six Enchantresses in my deck, and I saw five of them in this game. The problem was that I kept topdecking Enchantesses, but no Enchantments. In desperation, I spent a turn or two chumping David’s creatures with them until my last chance to win. I was at four life. I had two Enchantresses and an Auratog on the table (but had all but run out of Enchantments to feed it) and was staring across the table at a burgeoning army. I needed to draw an Enchantment. I whispered some magic words, closed my eyes, and drew… Wall of Blossoms. I played the Wall and drew an Enchantment. Wild Growth came into play and the engine roared to life. It ended with David chumping an Auratog with power in the thirties and a Rancor riding its back. Trampling has never been more fun.
In the second game, I was hit for four turns with a Vine Dryad and another small creature, but I had the Rancor/Auratog combo in my opening hand and soon after ushered an Enchantress into play. It would not have mattered if David had been at forty life; Auratog was unstoppable.
I think it is safe to say that David was more surprised than I was with the outcome of the round. In testing, Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress thrashed pretty much all mono-Green decks. Stompy was actually the hardest to beat out of the three (Stompy, Secret Force, and Cradle/Elf), but even with its sometimes fantastic speed, it rarely got a win.
Cumulative Numbers: (8-4); Score: 9
Round Six: Justin Koprek
Justin, unlike most of my previous opponents, talked as much – or more – than even I tend to do in a match. When I sat down, the first words out of his mouth were the exasperated:”you’re not playing that (obscenity deleted) Miracle Gro, are you?!” When I reassured him that I certainly was not playing Miracle Gro, he told me how he’d played four Miracle Gro decks already and how he was”so sick of that matchup.” I was still sore about losing to Gro in the fourth round so for a few moments we sat and playfully cursed Miracle Gro before the round began.
Since Justin had mentioned that he’d won three out of four of the Miracle Grow encounters, I suspected that he was running Sligh, so I kept a hand containing two Hidden Gibbons and an Auratog, but no Enchantress.
By turn three it was all too obvious from his turn one Taiga, turn two Plateau, and turn three Savannah that he was playing Three Deuce. Although he got a slow start, he played mostly creatures (Mogg Fanatic, River Boa, and a pair of Jackal Pup) and withheld his Instant spells until he could burn me out with an Incinerate. Unfortunately for Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress, unless you have an Enchantress in play, it’s not great at topdecking answers. My only chance was to sit behind a Worship until I could draw into my Enchantress(es) and go off, but Justin used a Wax/Wane on the Worship and thundered across with an army of creatures.
The second game I brought in more Swords to Plowshares and got rid of Hidden Gibbons. This time I was able to go off on either turn five or turn six, and Justin sat back and watched the hungry Auratog grow. When it had eaten Rancor for the sixth or seventh time, he conceded.
I believe Justin sided out his Cursed Scroll(s) at this point, because I never saw him play another one, and added Winter Orb(s) in their stead. On turn three, I was tapped out, and Justin exploited the opportunity by playing a Winter Orb, which slowed the game to a crawl. It was an excellent play, but a pair of Walls protected me from Justin’s creatures. I knew I was in good shape when I attached a Rancor to one of them, because he would have to resort to”human wave” attacks in order to damage me – and if he did, he’d lose a creature every time. I got up an Auratog and beat very slowly and methodically, making sure I had just enough Enchantments on the board to keep him safe from Incinerate and Fanatic(al) pinging. For once, it actually took more than one- or two-turn to actually kill someone with an Auratog, and I was glad Justin didn’t stall because the round was almost out of time.
An interesting footnote on this round is that Brian Wascisin, my first round Junk-playing opponent, who beat me with Phyrexian Negators, had dropped out the previous round and got to see Enchantress make mincemeat of Three Deuce.
Cumulative Numbers: (10-5); Score: 12
Round Seven: Jeremy Virden
Yes, his name is also Jeremy, but he was not playing Enchantress. He was actually playing my worst matchup: WWu. He brought out an early Mother of Runes and followed it with a Crusade and a Meddling Mage. Unfortunately, the Mage hit play the turn after my Argothian Enchantress, so he knew what I was playing (grinning fiendishly – or did he?), and named Rancor. I used a Seal on his Crusade to slow his beats and I dug through my deck, putting more and more Enchantments on the table. I had an Auratog on the table and was ready to go in for the kill… When Jeremy played a Cataclysm.
Yuck. Now there’s something I hadn’t expected.
He kept a Meddling Mage and I kept the Auratog. He drew no more land until I had gone off again. Jeremy was very annoyed with his deck, because he’d been sitting with three 2cc creatures in his hand the whole time after the Cataclysm.
The second game his early Meddling Mage named Argothian Enchantress, which was a better call, and prevented me from playing the two I had in my opening hand. Without the card-drawing power of Argothian Enchantress, my deck is much slower and was taking a beating from a Warrior En-Kor and the Mage until I drew into the Auratog combo. I beat for seven. Jeremy played Cataclysm on his turn. I kept the Rancored Auratog and he kept the Mage. Then he Plowed my Auratog! For some reason I hadn’t seen it coming, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had seen it; I didn’t have a better play. I drew a Verduran Enchantress and passed the turn. He cast a Mother of Runes. The following turn he cast a Soltari Priest. Once again I was being thumped with creatures. When I drew into a couple of Wall of Blossoms, I appeared to still have life in me, and Jeremy played more aggressively. The game was a nailbiter – certainly the most intense game I’ve played in awhile. I was at one life and had Rancor and an Auratog in play. He had a Mother of Runes and a Meddling Mage untapped and some Soltari freaks ready to finish me on the next attack. I gauged that I could kill him with my Auratog if he didn’t have a Swords to Plowshares in hand, and if he didn’t give his Mage Pro-White. I drew my card – a Flickering Ward – and paused. I surveyed the board again, making sure I wasn’t missing anything, and attached it to my Auratog, giving it Protection from White. Jeremy and I discussed briefly the errata issued to Flickering Ward to prevent it from”protecting against itself” and Jeremy scooped when I attacked for fifteen with my Auratog.
Cumulative Numbers: (12-5); Score: 15
A 5-2 record is nice for prizes, but usually does not make Top 8. Some might snidely discount Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress as a deck that got lucky – but I don’t accept that. While it is true that an Enchantress deck would not perform as well if specific cards were sided in against it, this is also true with every other deck out there. Since J.J. Stors made Top 8 with an Enchantress deck, there have been four or five articles written about it, discussing various builds. There were builds at Vegas. There are builds in the U.K. Enchantress builds have been talked about, but not very many people are playing them. Other decks, some of which have had zero buzz about them, showed up in greater quantities than Enchantress; strategies like Land Destruction, CounterSliver, and even ProsBloom(!). But, unlike those decks, Enchantress won. Enchantress is by no means a new archetype; it just had the unfortunate plight of being forgotten by too many people. The Extended metagame is ripe for Enchantress and everyone should be aware of that.
Let’s analyze further: Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantess won 12 out of 17 total games it played, giving it a win percentage of approximately 71%, a percentage almost unheard of in Extended. It dominated four out of seven of its matchups (2-0 victories), but also refused to be dominated. No deck that beat Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress had an easy time doing it; the fact that it never went 0-2 in a matchup reflects that. The deck is incredible, and though I’m proud that it won me some great prizes (12th place finish), I’m still disappointed that bad luck edged it out of the Top 8. Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress should have made the Top 8, and probably will if it sees play at more PTQs. Remember that a contender can go 12-5 in total games, and lose one round, two rounds, or be undefeated in round play. For win percentages, focus on the game wins, not the round wins.
The Composition of the Top 8
1 Holistic Wisdom
1 Mons Goblin Sligh
5 Miracle Gro (!)
I guess it shouldn’t be too big of a surprise, as the field was littered with Gro decks, and based on the proportion of the decks in the field, it makes sense that the Top 8 should represent that to some degree.
The Composition of the Top 4
3 Miracle Gro
1 Mons Goblin Sligh
The somewhat peaceful games of the Top 4 were rudely interrupted when a raving derelict wandered in and caused a ruckus. Fortunately, he didn’t appear to want to kill anyone, just get attention. He screamed a lot of unintelligible words, but I was able to make out three specific phrases: his brother was doing research, he wanted someone to light his cigarette, and”Americanos” were going nowhere. The incident was particularly disturbing and distressing to me, who was within ten feet of the wacko. After he left, I made sure to move as far away as possible. Apparently the incident also concerned the tournament organizers, who promptly closed (and locked?) the doors.
Gro vs. Gro– Winner (hmmm…) Gro.
Gro vs. Mons Goblin Sligh– This was an incredible, and incredibly long (and tense) matchup. When Mons played a Green Scarab, everyone freaked out. Half of them had probably never even seen the card before.
Oracle card text: Green Scarab
Enchanted creature can’t be blocked by green creatures and Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 as long as an opponent controls a green permanent.
In the end though, Gro ended up winning with its Winter Orb slowdown and its Threshold-achieving Werebear(s).
Finals: Gro vs. Gro. (Is anyone else reminded of Spy vs. Spy?)
Obviously, a Grow player ended up with the slot, but one has to tip their hat to Alan Comer for creating”the little deck that could,” and helping to change Extended’s metagame yet again.
Here’s a question to all Grow players: Just what is the correct spelling of Miracle Grow anyway? I’ve seen it listed as”Gro” and”Grow.” Does this title add and drop letters like a regional dialect, or what? C’mon, I know that not everyone is a great speller, but let’s have some consistency. (Alan Comer listed it as”Gro,” so the official spelling – at least here – is”Gro” – The Ferrett)
Hey, and since Miracle Grow and writing articles about predicting the future seem to be all the rage right now, let’s see what happens when we mix the two.
- In honor of Miracle Gro’s widespread germination and popularity, the Pro Tour will briefly be known as the Gro (or Grow) Tour.
- Seeking to forge a new reputation for himself, Mike Long will officially change his name to Gro Long.
- Other Longs around the globe will flock to Gro and change their names accordingly. Then they will all gather around and wait for the return of the Halebop Comet.
- In light of the current success of Miracle Gro, a strong anti-Gro deck will be developed. Let’s just call it Herbicide for now (or would Weed Whacker/Killer be better?).
- In light of the current successes of Miracle Gro and Super Gro, a rogue (and demented?) deck developer will create a new variant on the theme: Super Duper Gro. C’mon, you know you want to see it too…
Seriously though, based on the occurrences in Seattle, I would suspect there will be a rash of wins from Gro decks, which will result in more people playing them, until a strong anti-Gro deck is discovered. When the anti-Gro deck hits the scene, I expect the Extended metagame to shift yet again.
I hope that some of you will consider Swinging Atog, Hidden Enchantress this season, or if not, at least send the article to a friend. The deck is very fun to play, and it is a strong contender. As always, I welcome any feedback you might have about the deck, its place in the metagame, specific card choices, or pretty much anything Magic related. Until next time, best wishes to you all, and keep reading the great articles on StarCity for tips on the metagame!