Papal Bull: The Journal of a Working Boy, or, Up From Sloth

Crucible of Worlds was definitely the breakout card of the tourney. It seemed that everyone’s knee-jerk response to Crucible was to run it as a combo card with Zuran Orb and Fastbond, although after seeing the clunkiness of this combo pretty much everyone gave this up. Today, I saw Crucible of Worlds being run in tons of different decks to great success.

Seeing how I didn’t get to play much at the Star City Power 9 tourney for reasons that everyone probably knows by now, I got to spend a lot of time walking the tables in my newfound position as thrall to the Star City Empire covering the events.

A schlemiel always spills his soup; a schlimazel is the person the soup always lands on

Okay, here’s the part that everyone wants to hear: what I lost to.

Round 2, I’m up against Suicide in a feature match. Game 1, seeing turn 1 Phyrexian Negator and fearing a Null Rod because of my Mox, I go for turn 1 Psychatog off of Time Walk, with the reasoning going that if I don’t go for it now, I won’t ever get to do it. He’s got the Smother, which I don’t think I’ve seen in Suicide in forever. Game 2, I manage to get a turn 2 Mana Drain on his Hymn to Tourach to fuel a Mind Twist for all but one card in his hand – which just happens to be a Withered Wretch that matches up perfectly against my four Accumulated Knowledge in hand. At least he didn’t declare and resolve each pump one at a time, since that would’ve allowed him to keep my other AKs at one instead of how I was often able to get them for two.

Round 3, I’m against mono-Red burn. I get a turn 3 kill here (the Ancestral/Tog/Berserk series of turns) on game 1 and heading into sideboarding, I cut Deep Analysis and Gorilla Shaman for my four Tempting Wurms, figuring that he won’t have anything to put into play with them other than maybe Cursed Scroll or Slith Firewalker or something. My opening draw is two lands, a Mox, two Tempting Wurm, Cunning Wish, and one other card – probably Brainstorm.

He opens with turn 1 Pyrostatic Pillar, which is a tough card for Tog to win through if it’s backed by extra damage. This time, however I’m not worried because my draw is a turn 3 kill: turn 1 Wurm, turn 2 attack for 5, Wurm #2 (and this one probably won’t even have a drawback,) turn 3 Wish for Berserk and attack for fifteen. On the first Wurm, he drops a land as expected, but then drops Fractured Loyalty on my Wurm and steals it when he untaps with some random burn spell. Now, I need my other Wurm to block, since I can’t race because of the damage I took from Pillar. At this point I’m at about twelve life and I can’t get enough spells in at that level to win barring probably a perfect series of draws and lose.

In game 3, he doesn’t really do anything so I wait until I can Mind Twist his hand away so that I can drop Tog and win. After all, he’s playing Red, so he’s probably got a Red Elemental Blast or two in hand. He responds to my Twist with a Price of Progress, which I Drain, and then another which is nearly lethal. He reveals his other two cards in hand – two Guerilla Tactics.


Crucible of Worlds Ascendant

Crucible of Worlds was definitely the breakout card of the tourney. It seemed that everyone’s knee-jerk response to Crucible was to run it as a combo card with Zuran Orb and Fastbond, although after seeing the clunkiness of this combo pretty much everyone gave this up. Today, I saw Crucible of Worlds being run in tons of different decks to great success. Marc Perez ran it in his Fish sideboard for the mirror match, where it served a similar purpose as Trade Routes did in the Maher Oath mirror back in old Extended. He would use it to establish manland dominance by recurring his Mishra’s Factories and Faerie Conclaves while denying his opponents access to theirs by returning Strip Mine or Wasteland.

Crucible’s three mana casting cost also made it a great fit in Mishra’s Workshop decks. Eric Miller used it in his second place deck primarily to replay his Wastelands, and the combination of Crucible and Workshop allowed him to set up turn 2 locks with startling regularity. I also saw it used in more lock-focused Workshop decks, where people used it to constantly provide them with permanents to sacrifice to Smokestack or as a way to bring back City of Traitors.

The last deck that I saw that effectively used Crucible was 4-Color Control. They used it as a defense against mana denial (especially against Fish, which can be a tough matchup for them,) as a lock card against multicolor decks, and as a pseudo-Thawing Glaciers effect with their own fetchlands. Expect a lot of maindeck and sideboarded Crucibles in the future.

The Most Restrictive Card in Type 1

Force of Will and Brainstorm might show up in greater numbers and the Power 9 might show up in more decks, but after today I can’t think of a deck that warps the metagame more than Null Rod. This isn’t just because of Fish, either, as there were a fair number of Food Chain Goblins and Madness decks at the tournament as well. The primary use of Null Rod is to regain tempo and gain card advantage against decks running piles of artifact acceleration cards. However, Null Rod also causes massive splash damage on decks based on artifacts with activated abilities. It’s just almost impossible to run decks like Charbelcher, Ravager Affinity, and Krark-Clan Ironworks decks in the face of Null Rod. It also makes Draw 7-style combo decks very difficult to run as well.

Null Rod functions in a way similar to Back to Basics did back in 2000-era Type 1. During this time, you just couldn’t play decks that ran non-basic lands unless those lands happened to be Mishra’s Workshop. It was even hard to play 4-Color Control at that time since even though you had Red Elemental Blast, you would usually have to tap out to fight a counter war at the end of your turn over a Fact or Fiction and then get promptly locked out.

The Back to Basics were mostly for the 4-Color Control matchup, but because mono-Blue with four Fact or Fiction was such a strong deck in that format to begin with, the effect of Back to Basics made it that you just couldn’t try to build a multi-colored deck since people were definitely going to be playing mono-blue.

Null Rod is probably the greatest reason why Skullclamp and Sword of Fire and Ice haven’t been able to make an impact in Type 1. I’m firmly of the opinion that Skullclamp could be just as degenerate in Type 1 as it was in Standard, especially because of the fact that you can play multiple copies of your”artifact lands” (read: the Moxes) each turn, giving Skullclamp decks really explosive power. Cranial Plating would probably work in the same way for Type 1 Ravager Affinity.

Note that while I’m comparing Null Rod to Back to Basics, I don’t endorse an Oscar Tan-like desire to see Null Rod restricted. On the contrary, Null Rod fulfils an important purpose in Type 1 and helps to make tempo-focused decks playable.

Too Hot For Star City!

Here’s my one quick interview question that didn’t make the article:

#5 Pack 1, pick 1: Crystal Shard or Grab the Reins?

Carl Winter (Meandeck): What kind of question is that? Those cards aren’t even in the same print run.

Steve Menendian (Meandeck): Oh God. Oh God! Don’t ask me that question!

Ray Robillard (Waterbury TO): I had a funny story starting like that once. I was at the mall with my girlfriend and she asked THE QUESTION that every guy hates:”What do you think of this?” Like I know any of that stuff! So the next time she asks me which of two outfits looks better, I say”Pack 1, pick one: Sparksmith or Solar Blast?”

Also, I started taking note of crazy games that I noticed as I was walking around after I completed my match coverage for the round or finished typing up a set of decklists. Here are some of the more amusing ones:

I wandered over to a game that was just ending, and I saw the winner with the motley combination of Psychatog, Cloud of Faeries, Bazaar of Baghdad, Trinket Mage, and Ali From Cairo. I have no idea what that was all about. Psychatog would indicate a Tog deck and combined with Bazaar might mean that he was playing some very non-standard Madness deck. Trinket Mage seems like it would signal either Skullclamp or the Auriok Salvagers/Black Lotus combo deck. And then there’s that random Ali From Cairo. I guess it might go below 0 life or something? I’m so confused.

Another player was playing what looked like an Affinity deck, and then suddenly he casts Retract on himself, returning at least a dozen cards and then playing a fistful of Moxes, Ornithopter, Mycosynth Golem, Genesis Chamber, another three Mycosynth Golems, some Skullclamps, and a Frogmite – but then chose to win not with the about twenty power on the board, but with a Brain Freeze for about a gazillion.

While I walked past the top table, one player led with a Workshop and a Trinisphere. This pretty much won the game against his opponent with Belcher. When I walked back a minute or two later, he now had three Staff of Domination in play, although I couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to do. I did ask that player after the match and he told me that was also running Metalworker in order to use that infinite combo.

Another person (in a last-ditch effort since they were going to lose to a swarm of various and sundry 1/1’s), attempted to kill a Fish player with a large Sickening Dreams. This was futile though since the Fish player had Voidmage Prodigy on the table.

Carl Winter took his second match loss from Ben Kowal. On his first turn, Ben dropped Chalice of the Void for one, which shut down just about everything in Carl’s hand. Carl did have the Rack and Ruin, but the next turn, Kowal followed it up with Leonin Abunas! Carl’s only out was Balance, but Kowal cast Chalice for two just afterwards for the lock.

I also saw Steve Menendian playing against what appeared to be a combination of Enchantress combo and Fish. He dropped a game to a River Boa enchanted with Sigil of Sleep that kept bouncing his Togs. His opponent may have also had a Birds of Paradise that was also enchanted by said enchantment.

So What Will I Play?

Not Tog, that’s for sure. There’s simply way too much Fish out there right now to make it worthwhile. Here’s the way I see it:

  • Fish, which beats Tog and Keeper

  • Workshop Aggro, which beats Fish and may or may not beat Tog and Keeper. This is entirely because”Workshop Aggro” is a very broad category. Something similar to Eric Miller’s deck probably beats Tog, although it was heartbreaking seeing how close that third game was after leading with Welder and Crucible.

  • Tog, which beats Keeper and may or may not beat Workshop Aggro

  • Keeper, which beats Workshop Aggro

As Fish and Workshop aggro have more, better matchups, they’re looking to be the decks to both play and beat this summer. Madness had trouble with Tog (and the probably vanishing Food Chain Goblins), but had a strong game against Fish and against Workshop decks, so I might consider that. You’ll probably need to replace Circular Logic with Daze to make sure that you can get your turn 2 Wild Mongrel down against Fish. I’ll probably go with Workshop Aggro in the end. I must have a dash of Johnny in me still to want to go with a deck that people associate me with, I guess. That and the fact that Trinisphere, Crucible of Worlds, and Chains of Mephistopheles are really potent right now.

Speaking of Chains…

During my discussions with the judges and my observations during the day, no card seemed to elicit more questions than Chains of Mephistopheles did. Part of this comes from the fact that the card is not worded in Oracle anything like how it is on the card, another part of this comes from the fact that the Oracle wording changes on it constantly (and had changed fairly recently,) and another part of this comes from people not always knowing what is a triggered effect and what is a replacement effect. Here’s the card’s current wording:

Chains of Mephistopheles



If a player would draw a card except the first one he or she draws in a draw step, that player discards a card from his or her hand instead. If the player discards a card, he or she draws a card. If the player doesn’t discard a card, he or she puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

Under this wording, you can say, cast Ancestral Recall on yourself, even if you would have two other cards left in your hand after casting Ancestral and you’ll still draw three cards after you discard two and mill one. (If I’m messing this up, I could’ve sworn that one of the judges explained it to me like this.)

1) You can use say, Yawgmoth’s Bargain during your opponent’s draw step to draw a card, but you can’t use it to say,”steal” your opponent’s draw.

2) You can’t use Chains to”go infinite” with Wild Mongrel (it doesn’t let you draw a card anytime you discard a card.)

3) You do all your discarding and milling”at once,” rather than going draw one, discard one, draw one, discard one.

Seeing how The Man Show utilized Chains in a very effective way, brush up on your rulings since you’re going to bump into them this summer.

All in all, I have to say that I probably had as much fun working the tournament as I’ve ever had playing in one. I have one important message to leave you with: never, ever leave the wily Ben”Mischievous Quanar” Bleiweiss unattended, lest he engage in all manner of tomfoolery and haberdashery. At your expense.

Until later,

Gary, Your Militant Working Boy

jpmeyer at gmail dot com