OBC Fires, Take II: The Continuing Exploits of R/G

Fires-IELN was metagamed heavily towards the mirror and Quiet Roar; those were both matchups that my R/G deck lost to initially. And while Origins was chock-full of Quiet Speculation, the environment has morphed into more Mono Black Control. I had to change it back.

In my last article about OBC and Origins, I discussed the creation of my OBC”Fires” deck, and how it performed in various tournaments at Origins. Now it’s time for another tournament near home – a PTQ in the Detroit area. However, the OBC environment has changed since before, how will it do this time?

To simplify matters, here is the decklist I used at Origins:


4 Reckless Charge

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Seton’s Scout

4 Sylvan Safekeeper

4 Call of the Herd

4 Firebolt

2 Narcissism

2 Lightning Surge

2 Violent Eruption

2 Arrogant Wurm

4 Mossfire Valley

11 Forests

7 Mountains

2 Barbarian Rings

Fires-IELN was metagamed heavily towards the mirror and Quiet Roar; those were both matchups that my R/G deck lost to initially. And while Origins was chock full of Quiet Speculation, the environment has morphed. It seems like there is more hate. And more Mono Black Control.

MBC is bad news for this version of the deck. And last weekend, at a Grand Prix Trial here, the field was heavy MBC. That means I need to adjust my deck – what stays and goes, though, that is a serious question.

Definitely the Surges come out. They work reasonably well versus Wurm tokens, plus they shoot down Phantom Centaurs, but R/G looks to be a lightly-played deck, making the Centaur much less likely. Plus, against MBC, we might as well file Lightning Surge into the folder marked Not As Good. For NAG, like Ex-Girlfriend #2, Lightning Surge just nags you saying -“I can kill that, and I can kill this – oh, and I can deal four over here too.” It is highly seductive. It just nags and nags.

Plus, I am currently dating a lady named Megan. Did you know that Megan spelled backwards is Nag ’em? Betcha didn’t….

Indeed, with growing play of White Weenie, the Violent Eruption takes on a more important role. I honestly do not think Eruption is that great, but since red is played marginally at best in OBC, people are not constructing their decks with it in mind. Taking advantage of that flaw might very well be key.

So out go two Surges, and in go another pair of Eruptions. Initially, I had played an Anger or two; I may still do so, since haste helps to defeat Sorcery Kill.dec – also known as MBC. Plus, with Haunting Echoes, there is an excellent chance that Anger will be left in the deck. Or Reckless Charge. I need to look at finding space for Anger, then, if possible.

And what of Krosan Reclamation? Should it be played main? It was always quite valuable when used aggressively against your opponents. Remove that Wonder, Roar, Aether Burst… Well, you get the idea. Versus MBC, it slides into a more defensive role. Haunting Echoes me? Well, in response I put that Call and Charge back in. Oh yeah, I’ll flash it back and….

You get the idea.

Plus, versus WW it can get a Battle Screech (if played incorrectly) or Glory. Versus Solitary Confinement, it puts Genesis back in. The list keeps getting longer. Glory, Genesis, Anger, Call, Roar, Deep Analysis, Battle Screech, Aether Burst, Wonder, and so forth… Plus, you never know, someone might have that rogue Buried AliveZombify-Balthor, the Defiled-Hypnox deck. It’d be good in that matchup too.

But does a card which only puts two to four cards in a graveyard back into a deck belong in a fast G/R deck? This is a deck designed to grab someone by the Catalyst Stones and crush. Krosan Reclamation does not grab; it merely tickles a little.

My only fear is that I will sideboard them into my deck in most of the matches, making me wish I had played them main. Still, to thine ownself be always true. This deck is hard-core aggro, and I should allow it to be its own person. That is what parents do – they let go. Fly deck, fly!

So, no Reclamations. What about no Safekeepers, either? I rarely ran into Aether Bursts anyways, previously, and I hear Black doesn’t really bounce stuff much. So should the Safekeepers be something a little more aggressive? Lavamancers, perhaps? Not only would Lavamancers ping stuff, but the removal of graveyard goodies prior to – or in response to – an Echoes might prove to be vital. I have to load the deck up on mountains for the Eruptions anyways; should Lavamancers follow?

One of the more important things about the Safekeeper was that it allowed my deck to go into Turbo-Threshold mode… But check the number of threshold cards that have survived. Yep, Barbarian Rings and Scouts. Both nice and useful, but not vital. Lightning Surge really needed threshold to be good, but this deck can play easily without it. So why build around a leaky foundation? Other decks may rely on threshold; this one doesn’t. Morningtide should do nothing other than remove Lavamancer fodder and the occasional flashback spell.

In fact, should the Scouts even stay? They were a fine addition back when 6/6 beasts flew over the world; with threshold, we had a 4/3 creature that could block flyers. Toss in a card via Narcissism and we have our own little SAM missile battery. But against WW and MBC they are 2/1s that become 4/3s – that’s it. So if there is some other two-drop out there in G/R, something more aggressive, I’ll think about it.

Werebear is worse. 1/1s for 2 had best read”Fireslinger” if they expect to see play in my aggressive G/R deck. There is Nantuko Tracer, but I’d rather have a Scout on either of its merits – blocking flyers and getting +2/+2 with threshold. An environment has to be seriously screwed-up if Nantuko Tracer gets a nod over Seton’s Scout.

And Forcemage Advocate? I’d rather play the Tracer. Ironshell Beetle is merely a Grizzly Bear-kind of creature. Mad Dog? Minotaur Explorer? Skyshooter?

Yeah, Seton’s Scout is going to have to stay.

Ironshell Beetle might actually be my second choice. Pumping a Mongrel permanently would seem to have advantages – and since only a small number of creatures keep seeing use, making my Arrogant Wurm 5/5 versus your 4/4 one, or my Rootwalla 2/2, well… You get the point. So they’re useful – but the Scout is more so. Therefore, Seton’s Scout stays in.

Should the Arrogant Wurm count be upgraded? More Arrogant Wurms leads to more explosiveness… Plus, it helps to have a bigger body versus WW. Without a Mongrel, of course, these puppies cost four with Narcissism or five solitary. I still hesitate to play too many of a creature that is not constructed-worthy without Mongrels. Suppose Mongrels had never been made; would the Wurms still see play? Fear my Durkwood Boars?

Anyways, after all of this talking, here is the decklist so far:


4 Reckless Charge

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Seton’s Scout

4 Grim Lavamancer

4 Call of the Herd

4 Firebolt

2 Narcissism

3 Violent Eruption

2 Arrogant Wurm

4 Mossfire Valley

11 Forests

7 Mountains

2 Barbarian Rings

There is one open slot in the deck: I could still put in another Wurm, Anger, or Eruption. Each has merit. I goldfish a bit, and quickly realize that the same mana base may still be sufficient. Previously, I so needed to be able to cast my big red burn, that I probably overdid the red mana a bit. Looking at my mana base, I have seven sources of red on the first turn and eleven sources of green on the first turn, with twenty-four lands overall.

Is twenty-four lands too many? I hate being mana screwed. The most expensive cards in my deck are a Wurm without Madness and a Flashbacked Firebolt – both at five. Other than that, everything costs four or less. Twenty-four lands does seem a bit unwieldy, in retrospect.

Plus I have that open spot. If I do play the Anger, Mountains should still be viable; however, if I take out any lands other than”Misfire” Valleys, I’d take out red. But that hurts the first-turn capabilities of the Lavamancers. I could take out a couple of Lavamancers and put back in two Safekeepers, or maybe even Nimble Mongeese; that would make my creature base strongly green. Then I could continue with, say, excising a Mountain, and put in two more cards – arrogant Wurms or Phantom Centaurs, perhaps. Maybe even Browbeat.

The more you analyze a deck, the worse it becomes. There are just so many routes in G/R. That’s one important reason that I think the G/R deck could succeed in OBC but hasn’t. The right card combination has yet to be found. But with all of these powerful cards, it just has to be there somewhere.

It just has to be.

Despite Calls, my deck is hardly token-reliant. Still, I like the one-drops in green. And if I move away from so many Lavamancers, then Safekeepers look like it. I mentioned Nimble Mongoose in passing, but it could not be Reckless Charged… So Safekeepers go back in. We’ll start with a 2/2 ratio of rare 1/1s in green to rare 1/1s in red.

That still leaves two slots – one vacated by Lightning Surge and one vacated by, say, a Mountain. Here are my choices:

2 Arrogant Wurms or Phantom Centaurs

2 Safekeepers

1 Eruption and 1 Wurm/Safekeeper

2 Browbeat (yeah, not really a two-of card)

2 Something else – Gurzigost or Fledgling Dragon or Anger

2 Fiery Temper

I like ‘Gost for the board. The more you look at it, ‘Gost almost resembles some custom-designed weapon for green to fight black. It has a big bottom, requiring eight Swamps before dying to Mutilate, only costs five, and hides cards from Haunting Echoes. And it will deal six damage, no matter what black may think. You can protect it from Edicts easily in green… So it looks like a powerful anti-black weapon that I’ll probably throw in the board.

But not main. Fledgling Dragon really needs threshold to be worthwhile, but that is elusive in my build. If I were to add two bigger creatures to the mix, I like Centaur over two more Wurms. Centaurs are better versus Black, G/W, Mirror, Burn, and sometimes Quiet Roar (depending on the board). No Browbeats, since this is a card that really screams to play with four, or none at all. And while two more Safekeepers might solidify this deck as having more one-drop creatures than your typical Sligh deck, it still doesn’t feel right to just add 1/1s.

Fiery Tempers are an interesting touch. Instant burn and three damage, plus you can toss it to a Mongrel. And with Narcissism out, it reads”GR, Instant, Target creature gets +2/+2; deal 3 damage to another target creature or player.” That’s pretty fair, I have to admit. So I place Fiery Tempers into the”Maybe” pile.

Adding the fourth Eruption would be the easiest path – but I can’t swallow its casting cost in this mana base. It will be in the board for White Weenie, though. Anger still could sneak into a spot – but the more I think about it, the more I like Anger in the sideboard as well.

So I have narrowed down my choices to two Phantom Centaurs or two Fiery Tempers. My deck currently has seven burn spells and twenty-two creatures; to me, that is a little creature-light for this sort of deck, so in go Phantom Centaurs. Here, then, is the final maindeck version of the deck before heading over to Garden City:


4 Reckless Charge

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Seton’s Scout

2 Sylvan Safekeeper

2 Grim Lavamancer

4 Call of the Herd

4 Firebolt

2 Narcissism

2 Phantom Centaur

3 Violent Eruption

2 Arrogant Wurm

4 Mossfire Valley

11 Forests

6 Mountains

2 Barbarian Rings

Now, for the sideboard. I want to create a tentative sideboard, but I always like to see what people are playing before making final decisions. Here was my old board:

3 Krosan Reclamation

1 Violent Eruption

4 Phantom Centaur

2 Moment’s Peace

1 Lightning Surge

1 Flaring Pain

3 Spellbane Centaur

Now there will have to be obvious changes: Out come the Phantom Centaurs altogether, and in go two Gurzigosts. I also yank the Spellbanes, which were never really played. Put in another Moment’s Peace, take out the Surge. After playing around a bit:

2 Sylvan Safekeepers

2 Gurzigost

1 Violent Eruption

3 Krosan Reclamation

3 Moment’s Peace

1 Flaring Pain

2 Fiery Temper

1 Phantom Centaur

The Safekeepers come in for Lavamancers versus red or blue starring”Bouncey Bouncey Bounce (Hyper Bounce!)” The extra Violent Eruption is there for small creatures that attack, well, violently. ‘Gost is for MBC, but he could also see play versus red or Wonderless Quiet Roar. The Flaring Pain is still for a Solitary Confinement deck. The Phantom Centaur is nice in bigger creature battles – the kind G/U and G/W sometimes have with you. Moment’s Peace is for any deck that thinks it is as fast as mine. And Fiery Tempers are filler, which may be pulled or left in as needed.

Although, as I said, things change quickly. That’s my sideboard prior to going.

So I awake at 8 a.m. in order to get to Garden City with enough time to figure out some of the metagame, and have breakfast. Can’t play Magic on an empty stomach, you know.

I awaken to the sounds of Tom Jones playing on my stereo. My alarm clock doubles as my CD player, so it comes on instead of a radio or buzzer. Everybody has some artist in their CD collection that makes others go,”Really?” in a voice of incredulity. Tome Jones is my”Really?” Of course, I think Tom Jones is definitely The Man. So Tom Jones and The Cardigans play”Burning Down the House.” I fast forward past”Sexbomb” and”Momma Told Me (Not to Come)” to Portishead and Tom Jones remaking”Motherless Child.” This is only important for one reason -“Motherless Child” was running through my head all day long. During matches, while trading, I caught myself humming along to the song in my head on several occasions. I am quite confident that people were wondering who that crazy guy was. Well, if it was you thinking that, now you know.

I settled by whistling it. As soon as I got home, you can probably guess what I played on my stereo.

Anyways, I get to Garden City, and there is a problem: The store is out of Arrogant Wurms. I couldn’t find some of my cards from Origins, so I needed Wurms, Eruptions, Narcissisms, and a Mossfire Valley. I was able to trade for an Arrogant Wurm, and a local gave me another. Quite nice of him, I thought. No ‘Gosts, though, so here was my board:

2 Sylvan Safekeepers

2 Moment’s Peace

2 Krosan Reclamation

1 Violent Eruption

2 Fiery Temper

1 Flaring Pain

1 Phantom Centaur

2 Seedtime

1 Anger

1 Temporary Insanity

With all of those one-ofs, you’d think I was playing a Wish deck. Note: This is a bad sideboard, please do not copy it. The Seedtimes were a late addition. I couldn’t find a Moment’s Peace, and I had to trade a Reclamation to a guy for an Arrogant Wurm. The Anger was being considered already by me, so now that I had space I threw him in. The Temporary Insanity was just a throw-in.

Now, I was feeling pretty good about my chances: This is a good deck. It has performed well on Apprentice, did decent at a previous PTQ, and so forth… So I was hoping to build upon a previously good foundation.

Super-secret counter tech for today is my business card. I use them for counters and tokens.

Here is the tourney report:

Round 1 Ben, from Columbus, OH. – With U/W/G Confinement

I never lost a life in either game. That’s the good news… But I may have misled my opponent in the first game. And I feel really bad. Hopefully, I don’t think it mattered in the long run, but to recap:

I have a Mongrel, Arrogant Wurm, Narcissism, four Forests, two Mountains, full twenty life, and three cards in hand. My opponent has five life, two cards in hand, seven land, and a Phantom Nishoba. He just elected to let the Solitary Confinement go. It is his turn, and he asks,”If I block the Wurm, will I gain seven life?” I quickly glance over the card and answer,”Sure.” Now, here is the crux of the issue.

I thought he meant,”Does the Nishoba cause me to gain seven or four life when I block?” Note he put the word”Seven,” in his question, which would have been superfluous in any other interpretation of his question. So, without really thinking, I answered that he would gain the full seven life.

Now, he passes, and it’s my turn. I draw. I study the board, and then a question occurs to me. If I attack with my Mongrel and Wurm, he can only block one. Will the other kill him before he gains the life? I am notoriously bad with timing issues, so I call over a judge and present that very case to him. The judge tells me that yes, damage is dealt, then the Nishoba’s ability goes on the stack. So, I attack with my creatures, and my opponent, hearing the ruling from the judge, concedes.

Did I misrepresent the rules to my opponent? If he meant to ask,”Will I gain life from the Nishoba before I die if I block your Wurm?” then I essentially lied to him. That’s not a Jedi Mind Trick – that’s being a bastard. However, it probably was just immaterial. He had five life. Attack with the Nishoba and knock me to thirteen. He goes up to twelve. But I have out Narcissism, and three cards in play plus the card I draw. And four forests. I can deal twelve damage to him at least. If he had an Aether Burst or something, he would not have conceded… So I think the game was mine either way, but I hate feeling like I may have unintentionally deceived my opponent.

I always make sure to call my opponents”Sir” or”Ma’am” (whichever is appropriate). I tell them politely,”You may go, sir.” When I Top Eight’ed a PTQ and was observed by the Head Judge, he told me after the match that he had never seen a player so nice and considerate… So to think that I may have acted in error, even unintentionally, saddens me. If Ben is out there and if I misled him, I publicly apologize.

The second game was quite anti-climatic. It went thusly:

He goes first. On my second turn, I play a Wild Mongrel. He does nothing. On my third I attack with Wild Mongrel, pitching an Arrogant Wurm and casting it via madness. He considers, and I suspect a Burst… But none came. He is at seventeen. On his fourth turn, he tells me to go. I play a Seton’s Scout, attack for six. He is at eleven.

Now the crucial play comes; he taps out to play Flash of Insight. I play Seedtime. Game. (I can attack for eight, plus I have three cards in hand to pitch to the Mongrel and he is tapped out.)

It was quite the quick game. “Quite the Quick” – say that five times fast!

I had boarded in the Seedtimes and Flaring Pain, in case you were curious.

Round 2 – Owen, from Butler, PA – With White Weenie

Would anybody be surprised if I claimed to hate White Weenie? Didn’t think so. Remember that statement for later.

So, we have a little stall in the first game – a stall I would have won had he not had Phantom Nomads, threshold, and two Divine Sacraments. Anyways, I am tinging him with my Lavamancer as I chump block 4/4 unkillable Nomads with Business Cards and Safekeepers. I get him down to five, but he kills me.

I board in the last Violent Eruption and the Moment’s Peaces for the two Safekeepers and a Narcissism. He gets the jump on me early, because I get two”Misfire” Valleys… And that’s it for mana, because I already mulliganed once, and could ill afford to again. After stabilizing with a Forest, and Wild Mongrel, I kill off two Hawks and a Hound with a Violent Eruption. I start swinging with Seton’s Scouts after he kills my Mongrel, but he hard-casts Glory and I have to kill it in order to get around his defense. Before he dies, he is able to give a thresholded Mystic Crusader pro green and slam me.

I really do hate white weenie… And I don’t know if there was anything I could have done to win this match.

Round 3 – Jesse, from MI – With U/G Threshold

I get a quick jump on my opponent with Wild Mongrel and a Business Card… He then achieves threshold and the never-ending hoard of 3/3s and 4/4s that cost green or green and one come for me.

In go Phantom Centaur, Seedtime, and Safekeepers. Out go two Reckless Charges, Lavamancers, and an Eruption. In the third game, we trade for a while, before hitting a stall. I manage to topdeck Call of the Business Cards….

And the creature war goes my way. I manage to get him to five life before he plays,”It.” I know you want to know what”It” was, don’t you? Well, imagine one of the jankiest cards from Odyssey, which needs threshold to be any good. And toss it in a deck with four Mental Notes and Careful Studies. Now, what do you get?

That’s right. He played a SQUIRREL BEAST.

*Shudders to think about it*

Janky 8/8 in play – but now I have to deal with it. Did I mention that I was playing R/G? Yeah, I have nothing for the Beast of Doom. And I am at nine, so I can’t triple block the Beast because his other stuff will get through. So, let the chump blocking begin.

He is swinging with a rather large stick, and I am a Single White Male, In Desperate Search of Answers. So the beatings come… But I topdeck a Violent Eruption. I have no other cards in hand, and a Narcissism. I have to flashback a Business Card to block the Beast this turn. I have five cards in my graveyard, no creatures save a token, and some land. Plus a Barbarian Ring.

A Barbarian Ring, eh? I have four mana, two of it red, post-flashback. He swings with the Beast; I block. He ends his turn, and I pump his Werebear and hit him for four. My opponent is at one, I have six cards in my graveyard – and when I draw I can toss it to the Narcissism, or sac the Enchantment, and have threshold and hit him for two.

And then he plays the last card in his hand: Krosan Reclamation two of my cards.

Well, that was a fun game.

1-2, and I decide to retain what dignity I had remaining by dropping.

Abe Sargent Meets Geordie Tait

After the first match, Geordie walks in front of me and just stands there. I figured that he was trying to create an excuse to meet me; heh. We have corresponded a bit over e-mail, so I introduce myself to him. Now, at Origins, I met The Ferrett. And what were the first words of his mouth? Not,”How ya doin'” not,”Nice ta meet ya,” not even,”How’s the tournament goin'”

No, the first words out of Ferrett’s mouth were,”When are you going to write another article?”

All work and no play makes Ferrett a dull boy.

So, did Geordie mention StarCity first thing? Nope. We talked about our decks. We had both won our first round, and in the second round we were paired beside each other. I glanced over to see how Geordie was doing, and I noticed him doing the same. Yeah, we both lost.

I later gave him my Business Card with”Red, 4/4, Flying, Rukh” written on the back. I had used it earlier in a Five-Color match, and it was the top card in my stack. So, I guess I have named Geordie”Rukh.”

So no OBC for me. I go join Booster Draft #1. You just know that the first Booster draft of the day is full of people seeking redemption. I first pick Ghastly Demise, followed by two Cephalid Looters. I probably annoy my table by telling people what colors they drafted afterwards; I was usually correct, and always got at least one color right. I have been working on improving my draft skills, and figured real-life testing was needed.

I manage to grab the following for my deck, and the position in which they were drafted:


Ghastly Demise (1)

Cephalid Looter (2)

Cephalid Looter (3)

Pulsating Illusion (5)

Sandstone Deadfall (6)

Scrivener (7)

Seafloor Debris (8)

Fledgling Imp (9)

Morgue Theft (10)

Seafloor Debris (12)


Possessed Aven (1)

Sengir Vampire (2)

Skywing Aven (3)

Deep Analysis (4)

Waste Away (5)

Breakthrough (6)

Obsessive Search (7)

Obsessive Search (9)

Hydromorph Guardian (10)


Toxic Stench (2)

Wormfang Drake (3)

Toxic Stench (4)

Stitch Together (5)

Hapless Researcher (6)

Cabal Trainee (7)

Wormfang Behemoth (13)

As you can see, I oddly drafted the U/B Beef deck, with a 4/4 flyer, a sometimes 4/4 flyer, a 5/5 ground pounder, a 3/4 flyer, and a sometimes 4/5 flyer. Toss in five creature removal cards, some draw, and I think it was quite good. And I made it to the finals.

And lost. To a guy with two Battle Screeches, and Divine Sacrament.

Yep; I lost to White Weenie again.

Not a good day for my decks versus white.

I play some casual games and buy a new backpack with more room, and less wear and tear. I yelled that my old backpack was free if anybody wanted it. Some guy looked up at me and asked,”Seriously, you giving it away?” I tossed him the backpack. In hindsight, I should have tried to trade it for something.

“So, what do you value your backpack at?”

“Well, it’s a little worm around the top. I’d say it’s in good condition overall, according to Scrye definitions of quality. I figure around five or six bucks.”

“Do you see anything you like for it?”

“I’m kinda interested in your Mirari’s Wake.”

“No way, man; that’s like an eight-dollar rare.”

“Alright, how about your foil Arrogant Wurm and this foil Reckless Charge?”

“Yeah, okay. Shake?”

Until Later,

Abe Sargent