Mr. President, about thirty-five minutes ago, General Jack Ripper issued an order to the thirty-four B-52’s of his wing which were airborne at the time as part of a special exercise we were holding called Operation Dropkick. The planes are fully armed with nuclear weapons with an average load of forty megatons each.
– General Turgidson, Dr. Strangelove
Before States last year, I came to the conclusion that playing a three-color deck sporting as many bombs from those colors as I could cram in would be the ticket to victory. I was right… Sorta. Several colleagues of mine played very similar decks into the Top 8, proving that raw quality can carry the day. I was not so fortunate myself – but I realized it was mostly due to being ill-prepared for the metagame and having a few unlucky breaks.
Flash forward several months, and now we’re gearing up for Regionals. I have no clue what to play. My few rogue creations don’t stand up to the Tier 1 decks. I gave the U-R-g Wild Research/Madness deck a whirl – and while I’m impressed when I get an empty hand and a Wild Research on the board, I can’t get over the fact that the madness cards (and Wild Research itself) are generally weaker than what’s available in those colors if we aren’t trying to be cute.
Cute is fine for a Friday Night Magic or a small Saturday tournament… But you don’t play cute at Regionals. 450 people all vying for Top 8 is not cute. It’s ugly. Real ugly. Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers Ugly.
I guess it’s time to stop worrying and love the bomb again.
The local Richmond VA game shop TAG had a Type 2 scheduled for Saturday, March 16th. Saturday morning, fresh from the shower and driving my little Metro down the road, I still don’t know what to play. I have a few factors weighing heavily on my ultimate decision:
First, there’s a deck I’ve been lending to The Kid at TAG the past few tournaments. This is the Kid who’s a great player, but he dropped his Magic collection in a pond a few years back and has just not had the gumption to start over. He still wants to play Magic though, so I try and hook him up. We’ve got a deck built that seems to have a lot of potential, and he wants to run it for Regionals. The problem is that it’s a three-color deck and is using many of my dual lands and power cards in those colors. Luckily, I’m not overly interested in playing any decks I’d need to cannibalize his in order to play.
Second, I don’t want to play a base green deck. I’m tired of Hibernation; extremely tired. Perish-level tired. Combined with Slay, it’s just rude. Blue-black decks are really good right now, and they’re really good at hating green.
Third, while mono-black and black-red decks are very powerful, there’s some serious enchantment hate for those colors that completely shut you down. I don’t want to be shut down by one card, because in nine rounds of Swiss, odds are I will run across it…. And be very pissed.
Fourth, I do not want to play beatdown. The best beatdown decks have no way maindeck to handle problem enchantments and artifacts. I don’t want to have my army stalled behind a Moat or Bridge while my opponent plays his game. And I don’t want to play mirror-match roulette.
As I pull out of the driveway, my mind locks on an idea I’ve been kicking around for about a week. Base black with a splash of green and white for power cards. Torment brings us some very solid black cards, and the black gold cards in Apocalypse are amazingly powerful.
Dr. Strangelove, sign me up for Operation Dropkick!
Here’s what I assemble on the road to TAG:
4 Chainer’s Edict
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Mesmeric Fiends
4 Spellbane Centaur
4 Phyrexian Rager
3 Pernicious Deed
3 Death Grasp
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Llanowar Wastes
3 Elfhame Palace
Lots of bombs, plenty of utility and disruption, and good beats. In theory, sounded good but it was assembled at the very last minute. So how did I do?
Twelve people showed up to shuffle up the Magical cards. 4 rounds of Swiss, cut to the top 4.
Round 1 vs. Josh Adams with mono black Corruptor
Josh is playing his own spin on the powerful monoblack control deck. He gets off to a slow start and I beat him down for a while with a Fiend and two Ragers. He sweeps with a Mutilate, but I play a few more dudes. He plays an Arena and I never draw a way to kill it; I get him to two life before he pulls a huge Soul Burn. In come my Composts, CoP: Black, an Estate and my own Arenas. I outdraw him, sit behind my sideboard cards, and win the next two fairly easily. I am extremely happy with my anti-black sideboard choices.
Round 2 vs. Kid with Blue-White-Green Control
Kid’s playing the deck I gave him, and I’m a bit worried. My deck isn’t exactly speedy and if I give him time I know he’ll take control. Fortunately for me, I get a Duress and a Fiend opener, and draw into another Fiend to pin back two really good cards. A Spellbane Centaur seals it, preventing blue bounce from fetching back a spell. Game 2 he gets mana hosed, with no blue mana at all. Ah, well. Not a very good judge of deck performance against control, other than the fact that I seem to be able to take advantage of the slow opening quite nicely.
Round 3 vs. Chris McDaniel playing Green-white-black Enchantress
Chris is playing an interesting deck; base green with powerful enchantments in these three colors. His draws were a bit sub-par, and my hands were disruptive and aggressive enough to take advantage. The games were too short to really get a handle on the matchup, though I obviously felt good about it.
Round 4 vs. Saiid playing Psychatog.
We ID into the top 4 and swear not to let Rizzo know about it.
Round 5 Semi’s vs. Tony Vicario with B/r beatdown
Tony’s deck is rough around the edges, though going first he gets a great disruptive opening hand with Fiends, Duresses and Addles picking me apart, and Ichorids tearing me a new one. The next two games, it’s all about my sideboard hate, and in the third game I even get what Tony said was a”third turn kill” – turn 2 Compost, turn 3 CoP: Black. He doesn’t draw enough burn to finish the job, and Spiritmonger mops up.
Round 6 Finals
Split the prize, since it’s late.
I was extremely happy with the deck’s performance, even though there were some rough edges. First off, the mana base was extremely painful, and the Death Grasps weren’t really optimal except as an offset for the pain. I am very happy with the Duress/Fiend/Rat combination – the early hand disruption is fantastic, and the intelligence you gain from Duress and Fiend really help you plan out your next few turns. The board was also not optimal, with really only the Arenas and the black hate being significant.
Another thing that bothers me about the deck is that it doesn’t get to participate in the game on my opponent’s turn. It’s perpetually stuck in my main phase. I’m thinking about dropping white and adding red instead… I hate losing the sideboard goodies white brings, but red has better maindeck stuff. This is what I’m thinking about:
B-r-g Operation Dropkick
4 Chainer’s Edict
3 Ravenous Rats
4 Mesmeric Fiend
4 Phyrexian Rager
3 Flametongue Kavu
4 Shambling Swarm
4 Pernicious Deed
4 Urza’s Rage
4 Tainted Wood
4 Tainted Peak
3 Shivan Oasis
2 Darigaaz Caldera
With the Flametongues and Swarms, I think I have much more game against early beats. I did a little bit of playtesting against Draino with the first version of this deck after the tournament, and Draino usually kicked the crap out of me. Going up to four Deeds helps, too. Another great thing is that twenty-two of the cards have the potential of netting at least two-for-one card advantage, which will hopefully make up the lack of card drawing in the maindeck.
Is eleven Swamps enough to run the tainted lands? I have no idea, but I guess I will find out in playtesting. Anyone have any good solid experience on the minimal number of swamps you need to reliably have active Tainted lands?
For the board, I’m thinking about trying something like this:
The fourth FTK plus Engineered Plague ought to work wonders alongside the Swarm. We’ll see how it does and I’ll let you know.
Oh by the way, Rizzo isn’t the only Star City Feature Writer who doesn’t mind random Pros dropping deck technology in his lap. Just to let you know. 🙂