After countless X-2 and X-1-1 (and it not being good enough for Top 8) performances in the Mirrodin Block PTQs, I decided that it was time for a break. Towards the end of the season, I had gone fully crazy – omitting Fireballs in the Freshmaker deck and replacing them with Rude Awakenings and Duplicants (an idea shamelessly stolen from friend and ex-Ohio gamer Tim Aten), putting Mindslavers in the sideboard (what the hell, amiright), and considering cards like Gemini Engine*.
Yeah. I had seen enough of sixty-card decks. After the final PTQ in Columbus (where I went 6-2, losing to Mark Gordon after I no-permanented his Vial Affinity deck), I happily unsleeved my deck, gave the Solemn Simulacrums back to Anthony Chopchinski, and put my rares and Eternal Witnesses in my trade binder.
Around that time Champions of Kamigawa came out, so it wasn’t entirely possible for me to quit. Let me say that I really enjoy this Limited format – much more so than the Mirrodin block. I think that signaling and cutting people off of colors is again an important factor in drafting, something I felt was lacking in the Mirrodin block (with the release of Fifth Dawn). Most of my team agreed with me, specifically Joe Gagliardi. So, we started getting lots and lots of drafts going on at the local store here, and really failing to construct some worthy Extended decks for Steve Glaeser (who later found out he missed a slot to PT: Columbus by one place at GP: New Jersey) and Joe Gagliardi, which I feel very bad about. We had a Rock deck built, an Affinity deck with Goblin Welders/Tangle Wires built, a Red deck, an Aluren deck, and even a Blue/White Isochron Scepter deck in the making, but we really didn’t put forth the playtesting we did for the block format. I think that with the arrival of the new Limited format, we had the drafting fever, and we were also burnt out from exhausting nights and days playtesting those horrible block decks.
So after I got my fix of forty-card decks (both in real life, and on Magic Online, where I managed to put together the most amazing losing streak in my career), I decided that it was time to just buckle down, work, and pay attention to school. “Yeah,” I thought to myself, “I really need to graduate this year and pay off my accumulating debt, so let’s put Magic on the backburner.”
And it worked, much to my surprise. I worked countless hours at the local Olive Garden, saving up money and paying off bills, and really started to focus on my schoolwork. Philosophy classes seemed interesting and really captivated my attention, and my pre-law classes were equally exciting, if not laborious in nature. My thoughts in class were no longer plagued by the looming threat of not qualifying for a Pro Tour less than two hours from my house and how I could make the Vial Affinity matchup any better without sacrificing the long-game plan for the Freshmaker deck. Being unable to attend States because of travel plans was also a good reason to stay out of Magic – not to mention that the new Standard was going to be just like the Mirrodin Block.
Or so I thought.
At the behest and nagging of Cedric Phillips**, who boldly proclaimed that the new Standard format was not only passable, but fun, I decided to look into playing Magic again. He told me some garbage about how the new Blue/Green deck was really good, and how Meloku The Clouded Mirror was the stone cold nuts in so many matchups.
“That’s fine and dandy,” said I, “but I really don’t want to play Red/Green anymore, and that’s all I have the cards for.”
“Don’t worry about it. There’s a deck that you’ll love,” Cedric retorted.
“Oh yeah? What is it,” I asked with suspicion?
At this point I seriously started to doubt Cedric’s grasp on reality, since mono-Blue wasn’t even close to being a viable contender in the block, and neither was Blue/White (regardless of what Kyle Smith tells you). He pointed me to Mike Flores‘ article on “The Sublimity of Forgiveness,” and all I could think was:
“This deck is absolutely terrible.”
[That’s exactly the same thought I had until I tested the hell out of it before States and then made StarWarsKid play it in VA and convinced Flores to play his own deck at States (which he skipped due to being deckless) and the LCQ at PT: Columbus. – Knut, who loves this deck]
After sharing thoughts along those lines with Cedric, he told me that the truth of the matter was that all the decks in the format were terrible, and that I had to stop living in the past about the glory days of mono-Blue with Dismiss, Force of Will, and Whispers of the Muse. Ah yes, those were the grand old days of Constructed, when I ran my now-non-existent Extended rating up to and over 2000 on the backs of those very same Blue cards and Thawing Glaciers.
Surely Inspiration and Thirst for Knowledge couldn’t replace Impulse and Brainstorm, could they? And Hinder, Mana Leak, and Annul could not contend with Force Spike, Counterspell, and Dissipate, right? And why do I have to play maindeck Echoing Truths? I never needed a bounce spell back in the day…
Regardless, the deck intrigued me, overriding my first opinions of it null and void. I built it and playtested it at Matrix Games in Oberlin, against a bunch of willing participants who gather twice a week to play this god-forsaken format – and happily so, I might add! Walking into the store and greeting everyone currently playing Standard, I sat down to play a kid named Derek, who had a Vial Affinity deck built, and the strangest thing happened to me:
I won. And I kept winning (for the most part). Not only that, but the deck played exactly like the mono-Blue decks of yore played, with the exception of having the back-breaking Vedalken Shackles in it to replace the Legacy’s Allures I so dearly loved.
I went home that night and looked at my Constructed rating: 1888. Suddenly, this irrelevant format became relevant in a very big way. December 15th is the ratings cutoff for Boston/Seattle, both of which I plan to attend, and I want to secure two byes on rating, should I fail to win a trial for either event. Could the following deck get me twelve points in the local 16K Standard tournaments and 8K Friday Night Magic events?
Freshermaker*** – New Standard
(Please do not actually refer to this deck as the “Freshermaker.”) ****
4 Relic Barrier
4 Vedalken Shackles
4 Mana Leak
2 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Keiga, the Tidal Star
4 Stalking Stones
4 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Temporal Adept
4 March of the Machines
1 Meloku, the Clouded Mirror
You’ll notice that this deck is very similar to Mike Flores‘ mono-Blue listing, and this is for very good reason: There aren’t many good Blue cards to replace what he initially listed. The countermagic package is good, with Condescend easily being the worst counter of the four, and initially I experimented with no Blinkmoth Nexus in the deck – which ended up being a huge disaster, since these really aren’t your glory days of Magic when Morphling and Masticore were good enough threats (and even then, my deck ran Faerie Conclave for awhile). Keiga is neither Morphling nor Masticore, so you need something to get in there for several points of damage while you can. The fear that your lands are going to get Oxidized is one not worth considering – you certainly aren’t attacking on turn 3 with your Nexus, and if your opponent is blowing Oxidizes on your Nexuses rather than your Shackles in the late game, good beats.
Mike said that he prefers four Inspirations over Thirsts for Knowledge, but that Becker kept reporting he was dying before he could cast the overpriced card-drawer. This is definitely true, and my list above shows four Inspirations because I plan on playing in locally-sanctioned events against a wide variety of players, many of whom will be of average play skill. In this case, Inspiration is just fine, as most average players will give you an extra turn or two before killing you with an Affinity deck. If I had to play it in the LCQ, I would probably choose along the same line of thought that Mike did.
The sideboard is somewhat different. The Temporal Adepts are ridiculous against any control deck, and in any control matchup, you want more lands. Mike said in the forums that he wanted 27 lands maindeck, well; I do too – but against the right decks. With the Blue mana being a concern for Temporal Adept, I worked on that problem while simultaneously working on the control mirror by adding an Island in the sideboard to increase the land count (that’s old-school tech, there) and to better support casting and activating the Temporal Adepts in those same matches. Temporal Adept assures that you don’t lose to some Boseiju nonsense, if the Tooth and Nail deck even gets that high in the mana count.
March of the Machines makes the control v. combo matchup very interesting, since it is essentially you fighting to resolve March of the Machines while the KCI deck is fighting to resolve, well, its whole combo. This favors you, naturally. I don’t need to remind you that it comes in against Affinity as well, being a one-sided Armageddon and rendering Cranial Plating ineffective, and all.
Bribery is used primarily to beat the Tooth and Nail deck with their own weapon, and also to create hilarity against the Freshmaker deck by taking their Eternal Witnesses and using them to recur your own Bribery for an infinite loop with either more Witnesses, or Kiki-Jiki if they have that. Boy that sure is fun. I like the card so much (especially over Duplicant) that I increased the count to three.
Evacuation requires a bit of explaining, I suppose. You bring it in against the Blue/Green decks that ramp up to Rude Awakening – attack me for 18? I think not! Sunder you! – as well as Tooth and Nail decks which generally do the same thing as their backup plan. It’s not too bad against the Green/Black deck, especially if they run a thousand small creatures that you don’t mind them picking up so you can selectively counter/steal them as they rain down.
Meloku is another win condition out of the board, but more importantly, does a lot of work against the Affinity deck by creating chump-blockers for their arbitrarily large Ornithopters or Blinkmoth Nexuses, as the case may be. This card is a prime example of a card that is extremely good against good players, and subpar against bad players, since in those matchups, you’d rather just be beating their face in with a Dragon.
Overall, I like this deck quite a bit. It stands a good chance against any random gauntlet you can throw against it, with the mono-Green Wood Elves / Eternal Witness / Mana Accelerators / Rude Awakening deck being the worst matchup (however common that may be around you). Ponza is a nice matchup, since you Annul their Chrome Moxes and counter everything of relevance, the Freshmaker matchup is absurdly good, the Black/Green matchup is somewhat tough due to Troll Ascetic (I shudder to think that Wall of Air might be necessary), but in the larger scheme of things, I believe this deck can produce 12 points by December 15th for me, and probably do very well after that in any random tournaments I decide to play in.
Always seeking your feedback – feel free to shoot off forum responses (yay for the new software!) or email me at kboddy at BW dot edu. (The last time I left my full email in here, I got hundreds of spam/virus emails.)
Until next time (which should be soon, as I plan on writing more often…)
* The story of Gemini Engine is as such: At Origins 2004, the entirety of the GFC team shared a room that was much too small for all of us. After some members were playing in the Grand Prix Trial, they were discussing how to beat the breakout deck of the weekend – Blue/Green Tooth and Nail. Joe was in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, while Steve was in the main room and jokingly mentioned Gemini Engine. Joe burst out of the bathroom and glared at everyone, demanding “did Steve just mention Gemini Engine for real?”
Naturally, we didn’t run it.
** Did you know that Cedric Phillips and three of his friends including Michael Day and Ervin “I was a Pokemon champion” Tormos got DQ’d from the Top 8 of a Rochester PTQ for Nagoya? Dead serious.
*** Props to Phil Samms for this name, however stupid it is.
**** No, really. Don’t ever mention it again. I told you before how much I hated the name “Freshmaker” for the Red-Green deck our team made for the block season.