Hi, folks – it’s been a while. Sorry to keep those of you who regularly read my columns hanging, but lately my time’s been co-opted by life’s big One-Two Punch: Work and Kids. I tell you, that second kid compounds the time and energy you spend parenting exponentially, especially when they’re both under two years of age.
But enough about Life; let’s talk Magic.
I couldn’t make it to States this year, which sucks because States is one of my most favorite formats, and the tournament that I traditionally do well at. In my last article, I mentioned Oversold Cemetery, and I had every intention of writing about the deck I’d have taken to States if I’d been able to go – but as they say, better late than never. Here’s a decklist and some quick notes on some of the cards:
Toolbox Cemetery B/g
4 Mesmeric Fiend
4 Crypt Creeper
4 Stronghold Assassin
4 Rotlung Reanimator
3 Undead Gladiator
3 Faceless Butcher
3 Braids, Cabal Minion
4 Oversold Cemetery
3 Living Wish
4 Tainted Forest
1x Elvish Lyrist
1x Faceless Butcher
1x Braids, Cabal Minion
1x Elvish Scrapper
1x Silklash Spider
1x Ravenous Baloth
1x Eastern Paladin
I built the deck namely to abuse the heck out of Oversold Cemetery. The Gladiators were a late edition and proved to be awesome in playtesting, allowing the deck to dig for answers fairly quickly. The Living Wish toolbox is well known and pretty obvious, and gives you a great chance to getting down an early Braids. The deck performs best as a Braids deck, stunting your opponent’s resources while reusing yours with Oversold Cemetery. Don’t overlook the synergy between Stronghold Assassin and the nightmare creatures, allowing you to permanently remove cards from the game (and this gets particularly potent with Cemetery on the board too).
The good news is that I convinced one of our local boys, Tony Vicario, to play an Astral Slide deck that had been getting a lot of hype leading up to States. We tweaked out a slightly different spin on it, and Tony V. achieved his first top 8 with it. Here’s a link to his decklist if you’re interested, and mad props to Tony for his achievement!
Also, mad props to Ted and Jim from C’ville and their unique spin on an Astral Slide deck, a wonderful B/W creation that should have broken into the top 8 and won fame and fortune. Ah well – that just means it will remain off the radar long enough to ambush people for Regionals, right?
So, onward to the meat of this article…
The Onslaught Of Extended
If I had several days with nothing better to do, I’d probably do a breakdown of the percentage that each Magic set represented in the Extended card pool of PT Houston. It would be interesting to rank the power levels of the sets relative to each other, don’t you think? But instead I’ll just focus on what Onslaught brought to the Extended party. Was it champagne and caviar, or Night Train and pork rinds?
#1 LANDS, GOOD OL’ LANDS
The big winners from Onslaught were the next generation of fetch lands. It should come as no surprise that these combination mana fixers and deck thinners would be highly prized by the pros. The runaway hit of the cycle was the blue/black Polluted Delta, which was the seventh-most played card in Houston – which is even more impressive when you take into account three of the six ahead of Polluted Delta were basic lands (Swamp, Island and Forest) with no four-card limit. The Delta proved to be a critical component to the popular and powerful Reanimator decks, not to mention extended Tog, UZI, BUG and Aluren combo. Some Rock builds had it to be able to cast Wished-for Gilded Drakes to battle the well-hunted Reanimator decks.
I’m glad the new sac lands have proven to be as good as expected; since most every competitive player will want to have a full set of them eventually, that should add up to lots of packs bought and lots of booster drafts.
#2 CREATURES FEATURED
Ravenous Baloth was the golden boy of Onslaught’s creatures, with his large body and nifty life gaining doing much to slow down beatdown-oriented decks. He showed up in just about all The Rock decks, at least in the sideboards (with four sitting the bench in Darwin Kastle’s #3 Rock deck). Surprisingly, the #2 creature is a little Elf called Wirewood Savage that proved to be one-half of the Aluren combo engine. With one of him out and an Aluren, you could cast Cavern Harpy over and over and draw your deck. Next up is Pit-fighter King (er, Queen) Visara, who showed up 96 times, in 96 different decks. Yep, sounds like she was a must-have in just about every Reanimator deck.
Probably the biggest surprise creatures of the set are tradebinder-bound, $1 rare trash cards Sutured Ghoul and Krosan Colossus, who both show up in the same wacky”Angry Hermit” combo deck. They must have something going for them, since Bob Maher pocketed some cool thousands wielding the deck.
The baffling Disenchant rip-off Naturalize leads the charge of Onslaught spells representing in Houston, shrugging aside one of the few compelling reasons for even playing white. Any deck with Forests probably had 3-4 of these in their sideboard if not some in the maindeck. None of the rest of Onslaught’s spells came anywhere close to the omnipresence of Naturalize, but removal spells got some play with Smother, Infest, and Threaten. A few Enchantress decks were itching to try out the new Enchantress Presence, giving them seven or eight card-drawing engines that weren’t vulnerable to targeted creature removal.
The big surprise from this list is Erratic Explosion, which showed up in a weird Counter/Burn deck piloted by three Asian players.”Draco Explosion” had the usual array of counters and burn, but with a mini-combo of Erratic Explosion and Draco capable of delivering a quick sixteen points of damage for three mana, often easily ending the game right there. Brainstorm and Scroll Rack helped set up the combo.
Odds and Ends
I thought I’d mention a few other Onslaught cards that cropped up in some enterprising players’ decks. Ricardo Barros’ and Diego Ostrovich’s Elf deck each packed three Slates of Ancestry, which seemed like a great complement to the deck. Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Gigapede, Arcanis, Silvos, and Undead Gladiator all made showings in multiple decks. One bold individual played four maindeck Tempting Wurms in his B/G beatdown deck, relying on hand destruction to lessen the probability of its drawback biting you. Unfortunately, his 1-3 record bodes ill for the future of this Wurm.
The Door Prize for At Least Showing Up at the party, with only a single copy registered out of 352 decks goes to: Starstorm, Complicate, and Mobilization.
All in all, I’d say the evidence proves Onslaught is a great Magic set, able to compare and compete with such great sets as Tempest, Saga, and Invasion. Those of you who went on and on about how bad Onslaught was shortly after its release officially now have no legs to stand on – so go sit down.