I was on the way to Neutral Ground last Tuesday when it hit me. I could actually pay all my bills, my rent, utilities, and transportation simply by writing an article a week. Wow. I was so excited. I mean, when I was sharing my revelation with BDM later that night he just shook his head and said "I told you that almost a year ago." Brian didn’t get it. Until three weeks ago, I didn’t have any bills. Any money I made from writing would be excess, over the top, more than I needed. I’m not a greedy man, and certainly not a GreeDyM. Now it was a whole different story. And yet the same old yarn.
So I’m not particularly greedy. Neither am I especially practical or generally motivated. Plus, I had no clue what to write about. I pestered everyone at NG for ideas. And they had them. Not that they were lame ideas, but they didn’t interest me at all. There are all the old standards. The draft-walkthrough racket. The set reviews. The repetitive card-by-card analysis of well-known decks. No offense to everyone grinding it out the traditional way, but if I’m gonna be playing jazz, it’s gonna be more on the acid tip. Personally, I consider myself more hiphop than anything else, and that’s why BDM’s pitch was perfect for me.
Hey, my name is Brian and I’m not lying/
You should be writing/
About where you’re flying next/
And what decks you’re trying/
You could talk about whatever/
The weather in Denver/
The cards you think are clever/
What you and the boys do/
When you get together.
Sure… BDM’s flow is real wack. But he’s got this cheesy grin on his face the whole time he spits, like Kurtis Blow in Krush Groove. It’s hard not to appreciate his sincerity. Plus, he was right… a journal-type series about everything going in my magical life (see what I did there…by not capitalizing the m, I’m able to capitalize on the fact that my whole life is magical, leaving myself the freedom to write about pretty much anything) was a good fit for me. I’m scatterbrained, and I like silly transitions. Organic really. I’d have trouble writing anything systematic and forced. But now. Now I get to just talk to ya’ll. To freestyle.
I’m going to be writing weekly, so in the future, this article will mostly be focused on what happened to me in the last week and what I’m getting ready for on the Magic horizon. But I really felt I needed to kick everything off with a real scattered recap of the last few months, plus some random deck ideas, card evaluations, and comments on whatever else pops into my head.
Charleston. As good a place to start as any. I was teaming with Craig Krempels and Jon Sonne. We were expected to do well. And honestly, I felt a little pressure on the deck-building tip, especially since, for most of our testing, nothing seemed very promising. Everyone I talked to kept coming to the same conclusion. All the decks were decent and everything split with everything. Blah blah blah. That can’t be right, in any format, ever. I’m pretty sure there are always best decks. And the fact that we didn’t feel that way had to mean we were missing something.
We started testing 4(5)-color LD Control fairly late in the process, and I was impressed with it. Craig, sticking to his guns, thought it was fine… like everything else. But he was happy enough with it to play the deck that weekend. I found my deck the Wednesday night before the event. Boros was one of the stock decks in our gauntlet. It was fine against most things but I wasn’t really impressed with it, until I realized that Hit/Run was no longer tied up in our G/W token deck. That was enough for me to actually be excited about the thing. I played a pretty typical Boros deck, plus Hit/Run. With some ridiculous sideboard cards.
We expected a decent amount of Gruul, and there was no way the deck could race my equally fast men backed not just by the maindeck Lightning Helixes, but also by sideboarded Boros Fury Shield and Pillory of the Sleepless. The Pillories came in against almost everything, from Carven Caryatids to Rumbling Slums to Firemane Angels. They were awesome.
Jon was playing G/W tokens and it was the only deck I hadn’t really worked on. I mean, in Prague I had drawn up a G/W/r list splashing for Hit/Run and focused on maximizing its nut draws. It was a little too inconsistent for me to be comfortable with, but in general it was… yes, exactly… fine. Jon took it to the vet to get it neutered, and it worked. The deck behaved a lot less erratically. But it also had a tendency to start humping people and never really getting the job done.
When he finally showed up, I tried getting Jon to make some changes so he could have one of the G/W/U decks that ended up being pretty good, but since it was already 4am, he just stuck with what he had. And accepted he couldn’t beat a Savage Twister.
- Craig followed me around on Thursday to make sure I wouldn’t share our sic teck (lol… sic) with anyone, but especially Ervin Tormos.
- My opponent played a Bottled Cloister turn 3 off of a Farseek. Hit/Run OTT FTW. OMG!
- I sided in two Pillories because Craig and I weren’t sure if my opponent would have Carven Caryatid. He Shocked himself to play one on turn 3. Pillory (1/2) OTT FTW. Whatevs. Business as usual.
- Craig lost to an Ogre Gatecrasher. And a Hunted Phantasm.
- Actually he killed the first one, Twisting away his own Sky Swallower in the process. It was the second one – Chorded out at the end of that turn – that got him.
- Me, some guys from Texas, and Evan Dean went to Red Lobster. Half of the table was credit card gaming. I ordered the most expensive meal they had. Evan whispered to his neighbor that he still had pot odds because he was ordering drinks. I went over the top. He called and lost.
- Sucka MC’s should call me Sire.
- Finishing in the last money spot, just ahead of good friends, bitter rivals Mike Flores, Steve Sadin, and Paul Jordan.
Some time later… Coldsnap.
I was supposed to Prerelease in New Jersey so I could get some early drafting in with Limited Grand Master Osyp Lebedowicz. John Fiorillo slept in. Instead I went to the midnight release at the Grounds. Stayed until some time the next afternoon. And passed out. Coldsnap Sealed has nothing to do with Snap Draft. But at least I got to spend some money. Later that week, Krempels, Fabiano, and Fiorillo came into the city, and we drafted. Gerard was raving about drafting Icefall Control. We brushed him off, like so much dirt on our shoulders, because Gerard’s goofy. I apologize. You were also right, eventually, about the U/R/B Guildmage deck you played in Charleston.
Nothing much happened in Grand Prix: St. Louis. Except that Kyle Sanchez kept his self together and made a run at a second straight Grand Prix Top 8. And SWK narrowly lost to me in a Coldsnap 6-man. Better luck next time, Chris. Also, I fell in love with Auroch Herds this weekend, an event they may have cost me the U.S. Championship.
But before we get there, I spent a week at Gabe Walls’s house in Indianapolis. It was a little bit of Heaven. Especially for someone in a full-time relationship. We gamed all the time. Rich Hoaen ignored Magic, spending his time perfecting his water volleyball and Code of Honor skills. Richie battling in a pool is actually really teddy-bear cute, because he sucks but he’s so happy about being there – and he’s just a little bit bashful. Gabe spent maybe an hour talking trash to some 14-year old over his headset. The kid proceeded to break dance on Gabe’s enormous television. We cubed. We tested Standard on MTGO, battling each other from across the room. We didn’t draft once. During one of the car trips, Gabe lost to me in the casting cost game (where everyone names spells at a CC until they can’t).
Midway through the week I decided to play B/W, a fairly faithful version of Ruel’s Honolulu list, only with a full set of Hippies maindeck. The night before the tournament I tried perfecting a real spicy number, but Gabe wouldn’t let me waste time on it. I think he was just hedging his bets… because we were testing together, ya know. After a 6-1 Friday, I went 3-4 on day 2, finishing in 15th place. All I needed was one more win. But everything broke against me that day. At least, that’s how I feel. I lost twice in Coldsnap with a solid but unspectacular deck, mulliganing five times in the four games I lost. I mis-sideboarded against Paul Cheon because not only had I been misinformed about what he was playing (Walls said B/W aggro); and not only was he severely land screwed game 1 playing only a Godless Shrine, a Swamp, and a Shizo; but he also made me discard my Castigate the turn before he scooped. Osyp says I shoulda seen the look in Paul’s eyes and played around Paul’s third Wrath, on turn 5, in game 3. In the last round, needing to win to Top 8, Antonino played a lot of dragons. And I skipped a few turns. And only needed to draw a land on one of the last two. But oh well. I guess I just have to win next year.
Anyway, the real reason I went through all of this catch-me-up is so we could catch up to the last thing I was working on. It was born in Gabe’s Escalade. It grew up at KK’s house in Atlanta. It may very well die somewhere in Argentina (where New Yorker Luis Neiman is gunslinging with it, hopefully smashing some face and giggling a lot). I present to you – Summer Boom Booms. I know there was a Summer Bloom deck that did reasonably well at German nationals, but it’s got nothing to do with the lean, mean, beatdown machine I’m about to present. I won’t bore you with the primitive beginning versions, and I can’t tell you what Steve Sadin has done with the deck since getting my list from who-knows-where. What I can do is give you maybe your first peek at a whole lot of fun. So without further ado… a boom boom:
- 4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- 4 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- 3 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Scout
- 4 Vinelasher Kudzu
- 3 Simic Sky Swallower
The deck runs off Azusa, Tribe Scout, and Summer Bloom, all of which are fairly redundant and any of which are enough to get the deck going. It tries to abuse the ability to play multiple lands per turn in a number of ways:
- The Karoos provide most of the staying power in the deck, and really are the reason it’s possible. We all know how Karoos tutor up another land at the expense of a little tempo. This deck turns the Karoo drawback on its head, turning these amazing lands into card advantage and acceleration.
- Kudzu is so fast, efficient, and ultimately big that he encourages a game plan where you repeatedly bounce the last Karoo in your hand just to keep him going.
- Meloku is an obvious addition to the engine because he provides a perfect example of what the deck likes to do: that is, to create untenable board positions.
- Your hands are usually brimming with land. Compulsive Research turns them into business.
- Keiga and Simic Sky Swallower are merely the most efficient fatties available in-color. Did I mention you can start playing them turn 3?
- Boom. Boom.
- People have told me to use Tidings instead of Train of Thought. Maybe they’re right. All I know is that when you’ve played the last fatty in your hand and they’ve somehow managed to answer it, nothing sucks more than getting your refill spell Remanded. Research is there for efficiency; Train is here for pure determination.
- A lot of games, you get in for six with a Kudzu on turn 3 and then they Mortify it. Demonfire cleans up those games.
- Jitte does what it does and you have enough guys to play with it. And more than enough mana to play with it some more.
- Tendo is the best City of Brass ever. In this deck.
The deck really is fun. And pretty consistently competitive. Tribe Scout is the best card in it, so I’ll point out some the things he does for the deck. He’s the fastest way to start abusing Karoos. He can pump a Kudzu at instant speed, which is useful against Shining Shoal, or when your opponent just doesn’t respect the land in your hand. He lets you dodge LD, as long as you have a Karoo in grip. He lets you produce extra mana even if all you have in hand is a Karoo (by tapping a land, bouncing it, and replaying it). And he can carry a Jitte.
Your nut draw looks like this. Turn 1 Scout. Turn 2 Kudzu, end of turn Karoo. Turn 3 Karoo floating mana, cast Compulsive Research, Scout out a basic land. Turns 4 and on, have the mana and card drawing to do whatever needs to be done to back up the Kudzu that’s been banging for a minute now.
Your slowest draw should look like this. Turn 3 Azusa, Karoo, Karoo. Turn 4 and on, same as before.
The deck is fast and boombastic enough to simply outclass most individual permanents. Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni can be a problem, though.
The only thing I know about the sideboard is that 4 Indrik Stomphowlers, 1 Keiga, and 1 Jitte come in against aggro for 3 Train of Thoughts and 3 Sky Swallowers. I’m not sure what to do against control, not just because of the natural game the deck has against control, but because I’m not sure how to take advantage of the deck’s strengths in those match-ups. Giant Solifuge is a strong possibility. Remand seems no better than decent. A third Demonfire is a very safe call. Anyway, that’s the deck.
Let me know if you have any ideas. About anything.
Email @ [email protected]
IM @ “tha illness” on AIM.