THE LONGEST DECK DECONSTRUCTION EVER
Well, the dream is over. Put away the black and gold, pack up the fleur-de-lis, and settle back into another winter of discontent.
Wait a second – discontent? No freakin’ way. What am I talking about? I shouldn’t be mournful; I should be thrilled. No, I didn’t REALLY think that the New Orleans Saints were going to march their way into the Super Bowl. But their heart and determination made me a believer, and after approximately twenty years of devoted fandom, they gave me a season to remember. How can I be disappointed in a Top 8 finish?
The cards were stacked against them around nine weeks ago. They suffered too many losses to key personnel; they were young, prone to physical mistakes and mental errors. I don’t think they were prepared for the pressure of crunch time, when every play counts and even just one dropped pass can turn the tide of the game. And they still overcame these; they kept persevering, they kept expecting their game to step up, and they didn’t go into any of the games thinking that they didn’t have a chance to win.
There was no auto-loss for the Saints unless they beat themselves.
Unfortunately, they did. Beat themselves, that is, if you can’t follow my dysfunctional antecedent there. (What? Why are you talking about grammar? You can’t really be a football fan.)
If you recall the first two installments of this series, you know that I’ve been paralleling football with Magic, casting the Saints as a surprisingly successful rogue deck. If you read the third paragraph up there (I’ll wait for you, go ahead; okay, thanks), it’s fairly simple to see that you could apply the statements just as well to tournament competition.
Heck, let’s rewrite that aforementioned paragraph.
"The cards were stacked against me when I started. I didn’t have the cards to match up with the power cards the opposition had access to. I was inexperienced, prone to mental errors, and wasn’t prepared for the pressure of tournament play, where every play counts and even just one missed attack phase can cost me the game. Despite this, I’ve learned to overcome these factors and keep persevering. I kept expecting my game to step up, and didn’t go into any of the games thinking I didn’t have a chance to win."
(Conveniently ignoring the numerous statements of my auto-loss to Pandeburst with "Reasons to Be Beautiful")
I have the feeling that this revised paragraph can apply to many of us. Some of you can probably relate to those mistakes, to the unforeseen pressure. Yes, it is difficult to perform at a high level. Until the last few tournaments, my heart still raced and my hands still shook when I started the first game, and I felt like every drop of blood in my body was concentrated at a point directly behind my eardrum – and that was strange to me, because I’m not much of a worrier, I’m generally impervious to stress, and am not so obsessed with victory that I’m going to shoot my cat if I lose. (Anecdote: Though I currently don’t have a cat, rest assured that no cats were harmed due to my playing Magic.)
I think the very fact that it was strange made it worse. "I don’t normally act like this. Huh, that’s weird. Wait, why am I acting like this? What’s wrong that’s making me act like this? MY GOD, WHAT AM I DOING BEING NERVOUS?!?"
::shrug:: It took me quite awhile to overcome that, because I know it caused play errors. I’ve gotten a handle on it, but I think that’s only because I tasted success, and you have to do that in order to build confidence. There was a time I went to tournaments and expected to lose. Now, I go to tournaments and expect NOT to lose.
I realized that power cards were called that for a reason, and scoured the free agent market trying to fill the gaps and provide the depth and punch I needed. I researched other strategies, and developed an offensive and defensive game plan to combat them. I learned from my early mistakes and with skill that only experience can bring, began slowly eliminating mistakes. I tested decks until I knew their weaknesses inside and out – and attacked them.
Confidence is crucial – and no, I’m not talking brash, swaggering bravado, which more often than not has a way of turning your opponent into a tightly-focused, hate-filled machine who sees it as a personal mission to beat you – with the side benefit of making you look ridiculous when he does. Confidence can start with something as seemingly small as, "I didn’t forget a single echo cost today," but it’ll snowball.
I’m a control player. I’ve always been a control player. I’ve had a few misguided attempts at beatdown; I can run a beatdown deck fairly well, and admit to a savage glee when it works, but it’s too limited for my tastes. Combo makes me giggle, but isn’t as challenging or stimulating to me, because there’s essentially one purpose: Get the combo. I don’t like the predetermined goal. I prefer control, backed by a myriad of open-ended win conditions. This is probably because for the first few months I played Magic, I was beaten to a pulp by my friends’ beatdown decks. My only method of survival was to learn defense, to learn control, and to learn it in a hurry. First white, then blue, became my colors of choice, and I learned the power of frustrating opponents and watching them struggle with the concept that I may just have an answer for anything they do.
Isn’t that what it’s about? When you pare it down to its bare essentials, control is about having an answer. Sometimes it’s a proactive answer, as in Survival of the Fittest decks or Squirrel Prison decks. Sometimes it’s a reactive answer, like Counter-Wrath or Oath of Druids. But the mindset is that whatever YOU do, *I* can nullify.
Over time, I began to appreciate another combination of colors: Red/white. Though they’re not allied colors (okay, so how many of us used that phrase pre-Invasion?), they are, in my opinion, the most complementary of the opposing pairs. Together, they possess an extremely high amount of board control, from global effects to spot removal.
Last year, I placed 3rd in a Masques Block PTQ. I constructed an abusive red/white control deck featuring Kris Mage, Arc Mage, Mageta the Lion, Squee, and a host of burn spells (including the surprise MVP, Thunderclap). It featured six maindeck forms of enchantment and artifact removal (surprise MVP number 2: Abolish). The deck was extremely consistent and difficult to disrupt – and because of my removal, typically my opponents would die to fifteen points or so of Kris Mage beatdown.
Yes, that’s Kris Mage beatdown. And you thought getting beaten over the head with an Elf was bad.
Control does not always mean blue, or blue/white. I’ve seen mono-red control, and very effective control at that. But red/white appeals to me in a basic way, grabs my aggressive-passive nature by the hand and says, "Play with me, Mike. Play with me."
Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.
When the new Standard environment revealed itself, I was eager to tune my Flaming Mageta deck so that it would be viable once again, and ride the back of the Lion to victory. However, I quickly realized how unfeasible that was, because of one deck: Fires. Fires ate up Flaming Mageta like it was a fresh bag of Gardetto’s, and its ability to pack burn spells and throw out huge creatures quickly disrupted me. Disrupt ME? Unthinkable. It generated too much of everything for me to handle.
Red wasn’t very prevalent during MBC, though I did try and develop a mono-Red Citadel of Pain deck. Lack of red means lack of removal, means Kris Mage doesn’t have to worry about Shocks, Seals, Rhystics, Rages, or Assaults. Or hell, even Lava. Nowadays, with the focus on a beatdown environment, creatures and creature removal have moved to the forefront when designing a deck.
Times, they were a-changin’, and I had to evolve with the environment.
Preliminary reports on the environment showed that there were three decks that were indubitably Tier One. They were Fires, Rebels, and Blue Skies. Numerous articles were written about them; numerous analyses, including one of my own, propagated the Net (Ferrett-link to my Chicago PTQ analysis?) In that article, I said that these were not the only viable decks out there, and that there were answers for these decks. This assertion was disputed by some; I read multiple comments that these three decks were The Ones, and that any pretense at something that would be able to stand up to all of them was foolish.
With a combination of inspiration, effort, and testing, however, I’ve developed the deck that I hope to pilot through the Standard season.
I call it "God Deck."
I’ve been alluding for a few weeks now about the existence of God (Deck). Now the curtain can be lifted. In Any Given Sunday: Part 1, I mentioned people’s tendencies to lock into preseason favorites, the Teams to Beat, and ways I saw people successfully counteracting them. In Part 2, I discussed the process of metagaming and deck construction from a strategic viewpoint, focusing on Components, Resources, and Methodology.
I want to discuss the deck in three stages: The beginning of inspiration, the prototype build of the deck, and the highly evolved form it is now. When I say highly evolved, I mean that it’s gone through a lot of change and streamlining in the last month of playtesting.
IN THE BEGINNING
"Oh, I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please. Continue. You were saying something about ‘best intentions?’ Oh, you were finished. Well, allow me to retort." — Jules Winfield, Pulp Fiction
I’ve had a lot of ideas about decks, and while the number of viable decks has increased with experience, I’ve also had a lot of ideas that I could never seem to do anything with. I’m certain that many of these ideas have passed through your mind or that of the people you play with; it’s part of the principle of synchronistic development, which particularly holds true in Magic.
One of the mechanics that I found fascinating – and unfortunately, horribly underdeveloped – was the rhystic mechanic. It started in Masques and had a miniature explosion in Prophecy. (In fact, while a number of the cards were seemingly useless, I quickly fell in love with Flailing Soldier and inserted it into my blue/red Ankh-Tide/land destruction deck with great success. Please note I say "seemingly," because we’ve all learned better than to be declarative about card suckhood.)
I love lions; I love cards with them. I used to love Savannah Lions. I’d even try and find uses for M’tenda Lions. Mageta the Lion? See the MBC deck referenced above. If you take it to an extreme, I used to always find ways to use Sapphire Medal-lion, and am quite the advocate of Crater Hel-lion. I didn’t have too much experience in using Triske-lion, but I’m certain it was a wonderful card for Survival and Oath decks.
Okay, okay, I’ll quit. (What, no jokes about how despite the pressure, you never turned to the Rebel-lion chain? – The Ferrett)
"Prevent all damage done to ~this~."
I had thought Cho-Manno had a lot of potential. But then – non-legends? Yes, you can turn it off. But is that a drawback? To force your opponent to use mana? I had pictures of my first-turn Lynx walking over repeatedly because my opponent was afraid to block with their Elves. I saw Blastoderms getting lost in the pretty lights of my Cats’ crystalline exoskeleton. I saw opponents making play mistakes and forgetting completely that my Cats were nigh-invulnerable.
I eagerly acquired them – but unfortunately, couldn’t find a way to abuse them. I knew I wanted to use the Cats, but I had no idea what to do with them. I tried fitting them in my Flaming Mageta deck, but the synergy wasn’t there, as it was a tightly-wound mix of creatures and removal. I tried building a blue/white control deck, but discovered that it didn’t have quite enough get up and go.
Every now and then I’d look at them and go, "Man, I need to find a deck with those guys in it." For a long time, nothing materialized.
Then, I thought back to an old deck that Scott Forster used to play. He called it the God Deck (so no credit for original naming conventions here). It was simply a joy to behold. It based itself upon "god" effects and hard-to kill creatures. We reconstructed it from memory at the time, and I can still list the important components: Earthquake, Armageddon, Hurricane, Wrath of God, Cyclone, Inferno, Jade Statue, Mishra’s Factory, Nova Pentacle, Circles of Protection: Green and Red. Anything that came on the table died, while his creatures remained unscathed. He could protect himself from the X spells with his own Circles, and the 3/6 Statue was very difficult to kill.
When Prophecy was released, I of course immediately saw the Lions. I also immediately saw Chimeric Idol, which has quickly become a favorite of many deckbuilders, and is the most prevalent artifact in today’s environment. When I saw the Idol, I considered it a poor man’s Jade Statue, and proceeded to modernize the God Deck to work in today’s environment.
Idols, Lions, and Lynxes (oh, my!) were the staple creatures. I pieced together a deck that tried to do way (I mean WAY) too much; it had virtually no consistency, the mana was completely wrong, and as it was something that was the Magic equivalent of trivia for me ("Can you modernize God Deck in ten minutes?"), I didn’t give it too much serious thought.
The Cats cried out to me, and the God Deck archetype gave me the arena in which to parade them.
Something began to stir in the back of my mind, but there was one missing piece that hadn’t even entered my mind yet, until it came to me in a flash of inspiration.
AND THE ENVIRONMENT BEGAT…
When I devoted myself to studying the current Standard environment, I had an instant reaction. Indeed, if you’ve read my articles you KNOW my reaction: The top decks can all be beaten.
I mulled over the deck components in my head. I thought of the types of decks that were dominant: Efficient creature decks. Fires has speed and fat, Skies has fliers, and Rebels has the recruiting engine. The environment is plainly oriented toward beatdown or control, with very little room for Combo.
The creatures that I would be facing would be Birds of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, Blastoderms, Rebels, Airships, Spirits, plus the odd mana-producer or flying fatty. It’s seemingly difficult to devise a strategy that combats both heavy ground forces (Fires/Rebels) and heavy air assaults (Skies, Dragons). The key was going to be seizing control early and applying steady pressure and, as control decks are wont to do, having plenty of answers for whatever came up.
And then it hit me, the one card that would work to disrupt the opponent AND further my win condition.
Cursed Totem. Turns off the Cats like a light bulb, baby. Cursed? Ha.
I had the gimmick, but now I had to actually develop the deck around it. I want you to understand my thought process at the beginning, and my observations after playing it and realizing the weaknesses or flaws in the process.
A lot of people describe their decks, and they describe the reasons they would change certain cards in the deck. I often wonder, however, what caused them to select the cards in the first place? I sincerely doubt that there are eight or ten cards that are merely thrown into a deck to fill it out. While I often see people adding a dash of this and a pinch of that, they have reasons for doing so. What are they? Well, here are mine.
This is lengthy. This is very lengthy. If you have hypoglycemia, get a candy bar. If you have a child, put them to bed first. If you have a short attention span, I’m sorry, print it out and read it in installments. I mean it.
The creature base was adequate in number, but reflective of a control deck in that there are more cards focused on denying my opponent’s win condition. I had the concept of the deck as a whittling deck that would press the advantage with my creatures until they could no longer punch through; at that point, I would finish them off with a large X spell, would find a way to destroy all of the creatures my opponent controlled, or reset the board in another way.
These were, obviously, the root of the deck. Eight creatures that are very hard to kill. It would have been easy for me to make the assumption that these were my win condition, and that I had to focus the entire deck on a handful of 1/1 and 2/2 creatures. If you have twenty of them, that’s fine. If you have eight, you need to recognize them as a resource and win condition but not make them your sole means of victory.
The Lynx is one of the few viable one-drops in the Standard environment. And, indeed, it may be the best one-drop available because typically it’s going to be able to do its job – damage – on turn 2, while other creatures might be Shocked, Sealed, or rendered useless by an opponent dropping a blocker.
The other first-turn creature are typically Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves, and those are going to be used for mana acceleration, not for blocking – and dying – to stop the Lynx from doing a point of damage. If a person Dark Rituals out a creature, you might be in trouble on their turn when they drop a second land. But the chances of that are lower than facing other one-drops.
If I play first, the Lynx can’t be turned off until after it’s already attacked once. While it seems small, I’ve learned from Kris Mage beatdown (::chuckle::) that every point of damage counts, particularly when you have some nasty X damage spells backing it up.
When the Lynx drops, it is a tempo card in a very subtle way. This deck doesn’t wow you. It generates a series of small advantages that add up over the course of a game.
The Glittering Lions serve the same purpose as a Lynx. Now I’m going to get ahead of myself and mention the Totem, but generally, on Turn 2 there’s a Totem out, and on Turn 3 at least one Cat on the table. Lynxes eventually falter against, of course, multiple creatures. Lions are a slight bit fatter, and they’re harder to turn off if Totem’s not in play. When my opponent is forced to spend mana to kill my threats, I’m happy – because it’s disrupting his plan. It causes them to hold back on threats because they become concerned that I may be creating an army of the little bastards.
(4) Chimeric Idol
I knew that I was going to utilize sweeping, "god effects" in the deck. Is there a creature more annoying to get rid of than the Idol? Trading Idols is usually the end results. Though its effect of land tapping is sometimes annoying, it’s a 3/3 for 3 that can’t be Washed Out, can ignore virtually any mass removal spells (as most of them are sorceries), can’t be Story Circle’d against, and is another target for Seals or artifact removal – which IS good when facing decks with that removal, because it causes them to make choices.
Artifact removal is, however, not very prevalent. I’ve seen some people play it – in the Premier Event, I played against a guy who had four Pillages main, and you can imagine I was simply thrilled with that. For the most part, when people think artifacts, they think Idol and Tangle Wire and, well, not much else. They don’t devote many sideboard slots to it, and a lot of people are running enchantment-only removal because those spells feature some nice side effects (e.g. Aura Mutation, Wax/Wane, even Aura Fracture; and people are excited about the supposed new Planeshift cantrip, Aura Blast).
The Idol was, therefore, the bigger "unkillable creature," just as the Jade Statue fit the role years ago. Its synergy with the Cats is remarkable. It’s also important to note that the Idol’s ability is not turned off by the Totem, as two of my opponents asked. An understandable question, but definitely something that I made sure of.
Lacking a finisher card, Will Rieffer suggested Rith the Awakener; a dragon is hard to kill, and a 6/6 flyer is, as we know, severe beatings. With Rith being used in more than a few decks, being able to set mine down was disruptive. However, the important factor was that she was fat, and would potentially win games based on one turn of attacking. If not, then I’ll create some Saps and keep at it.
Rith’s ability, as well, is not an activated ability, and thus is immune to Cursed Totem. Her ability is triggered, and thus not affected in the least. This was something that I did not realize at first, until Scott Forster pointed it out to me.
Rith’s surprise factor was also something I considered; pulling her out after throwing Cats and Idols at my opponent was a surprise. In the current Standard environment (hereafter known as C.E. Standard), six mana for a 6/6 flyer with a cute ability is perfectly viable.
The creatures were good against all decks. The low toughness of Blue Skies creatures is very helpful when attacking. Most players don’t want to trade in their Rebel engine to chump block a couple of Cats in the early stages. We already know that a Lynx is a more than effective blocker or staller against Blastoderm.
However, what about defense? A Rishadan Airship swinging for three doesn’t CARE that your Lynx is hard to kill. When Saproling Burst drops and there’s a Blastoderm on the table, your cats turn into kittens in a hurry.
This it, to me, the fun portion of the deck. Mass destruction. And, for the most part, one-sided mass destruction. While seeing people looking at my creatures with puzzled looks was exciting, seeing their reaction when I played with maindeck god spells (no, not the musical; that’s in the next large expansion) was just as pleasing.
I wanted to be able to handle anything that was on the board. So far, my deck had been white – until Rith was thrown in; the reason she was picked was that her coloration of red/white/green neatly matched the spells I needed. You’re nothing special, Rith. (Though at least you’re not Dromar.)
(4) Wrath of God
This is, of course, the obvious choice as primary creature removal. It is an advantage to clear the board and leave an Idol there to promptly attack for three afterwards. The tendency against this deck is to overcommit. When your opponent is faced with a number of creatures that are going to be tough to overrun (say, like unkillable ones), what is the natural response? For Fires, Rebels, and Skies, the response is to cast more creatures and attempt to overwhelm you. Also, the advantage is almost always yours with this card; very rarely will you use it in a situation where both sides are just sitting there staring at each other. Why break the stall? You have damage. Just wait.
Wrath not just destroys, it buries, and burying is very good. You can bury River Boas and Chilling Apparitions, and that alone makes me happy. But not just that, you bury opposing Dragons and ‘Derms and mana accelerators. Now I’m very happy.
Wrath hurts. Wrath is, almost inevitably, a must-counter spell for decks packing blue. If only they knew how many of these effects you had.
However, Wrath often doesn’t hurt as much as these seven spells. If you add it up, that’s eight ways to destroy ground creatures, seven ways to destroy flyers. In fact, many times you want to lead with the Wrath against counter decks. Against Skies, you Wrath and they’re afraid of losing their Troublesome Spirit, so they Thwart you. The next turn, chances are your Hurricane is going to get through – and do damage in the process.
The same with Earthquake. Your Cats and Idols are, the majority of the time, going to be immune to this effect. Cast an Earthquake for five, then attack for six or seven more as all of their creatures perish. Because you are usually ahead on damage because you’ve whittled at them in the initial stages of the game, this works to your advantage. The X spells resolve frequently, and catch opponents off guard.
There are more ground threats than air threats in C.E. Standard (though it may not seem like it), hence the difference in numbers between Earthquake and Hurricane. There are a lot of god spells for a reason, however, and that redundancy works to your advantage.
Remember, if you don’t draw any creatures, chances are you’re going to be drawing creature removal. The two work synergetically.
Staying true to the theme, I put Armageddon in the deck as well. This encompasses the complete spectrum of god effects, minus Purify – which isn’t legal anyway, but bore mentioning simply because it was a good idea but never viable unless you play some really odd Tinker/Purify/Scrapheap/Serra Avatar deck. (Wow, that WOULD be odd.)
Because of the creatures, combining mass damage/removal and Armageddon would put the opponent in a situation that was nearly impossible to recover from.
Because the majority of the spells in the deck are cheap – yes, even X spells – Armageddon didn’t put you at too much of a disadvantage. This is true particularly if the Totem was out against Fires, whose recovery time is not necessarily the best without its mana creatures.
Those are the win conditions. Now, how was I going to ensure them? By buying myself time, by having control elements in the deck that I could utilize to disrupt the strategy of *any* deck.
I’ll discuss these all at once, because you get a better idea of the numbers. Cursed Totem was the key to the deck. I wanted to put four of them in there, but thought that would be overkill; plus, I wanted to have room for all of my disruption tricks.
Having two Tutors and two of Cursed Totem and Story Circle gives me, essentially, an even four of each. Yes, that’s somewhat spurious, but why are the cards in there? Cursed Totem is obvious. Totem turns off the Lions’ damage-soaking ability.
However, Totem also shuts down:
Removal creatures, a la Thrashing Wumpus or Pyre Zombie.
Regenerating creatures, like River Boa or Chilling Apparition or Charging Troll.
Utility spellshapers like Waterfront Bouncer.
In virtually any creature-based deck – and even in certain control decks – there is some sort of special creature that serves as beatdown AND has a unique talent. Why not? That’s why we play with these creatures. Because Wumpus is a super threat. Because Elves can generate green and then attack when it’s no longer necessary – or block. Because the Rebel mechanic is broken. Because regenerators stop Blastoderm, potentially the most feared creature in C.E. Standard.
It’s almost become a sort of ritual when testing this deck. If I tap my first land (invariably a plains), I’m casting a Glittering Lynx. If I don’t tap it, then I’m Tutoring and casting a Cursed Totem on turn 2. It slows down Rebels and Fires tremendously – and means I have time to kill all of their overcommitted creatures before they hurt me.
Story Circle is a defense mechanism that is redundant with my creature removal. Though yes, I can kill a LOT of creatures, what happens if a lone Rishadan Airship gets on the board and beats me down? Moreso, when casting Hurricane and Earthquake, it’s very handy to be able to save a mana to protect yourself from the four or five damage your opponent is taken – and Story Circle for Red or Green often is very useful even without the X spells. Your opponent sees a Story Circle? They overcommit. That buys you time to find a way to kill the whole bloody lot of ’em.
Tangle Wire, one of my favorite cards, is an effective slowdown mechanism against any deck. It’s fairly obvious, of course, the 10-4 tapping advantage that you gain. It gives you time to set up your Cats and Idols and prepare to control the board. Against Skies, it encourages them to use their alternate counterspells early because they don’t start dropping threats of their own until turn 3 or later and won’t have the mana due to Wire tapping. Spiketail Hatchling, wonderful creature that it is, is not a threat to fear. Tangle Wire also makes it harder to deactivate the Cats, because if they spend their mana on that, it doesn’t count as a Tangle Wire tap.
Ah, stack interactions are fun.
The land mix was rather easy to put together. I rarely drop below 23 lands in a deck, and in this case, due to the necessity to have the mana available for board control, I opted for 24. That is my usual amount, and while I’m still subject to mana screw upon occasion, it happens far less often, without any discernible ill effects. Against decks packing Armageddon, it enables you to recover quickly.
Because there were only four spells that required green – Hurricanes and Rith – it was not necessary to use Forests or to focus on providing that mana. Indeed, a lot of people focus on those multilands because they do not realize the primary color of the deck is white, and one opponent said he thought I was splashing green for Saproling Burst. White is what the deck runs on; as a result, decoying people who are not realizing that you’re actually splashing two colors instead of one is quite effective.
The mana curve for the inaugural build of this deck ends up as follows:
There’s a heavy concentration of spells in the midrange, which is typical for C.E. Standard. The lack of effective one- and two-drops is notable, and it bears mentioning that most of the ones that do exist possess some ability that can be shut off with Cursed Totem.
The X spells are flexible, and thus hard to measure. I would say that the average cost of them is four; The majority of the time you’re clearing out their first few turns of defenders or whittling away with damage – and when you pay a lot of mana, you’re typically finishing opponents off.
However, with the majority of the deck in the four-and-under range, it is not too slow to compete against the quickest decks. It is another reason that 24 lands were deemed necessary; you need to reach four mana (with two white sources) and hold there.
Now, let’s put this all together, and take a look at the decklist. The deck which I tested in the Standard Premiere event ended up like this:
//NAME: God Deck 2000 – INITIAL BUILD
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Glittering Lynx
4 Glittering Lion
4 Chimeric Idol
1 Rith, the Awakener
// God effects
4 Wrath of God
2 Enlightened Tutor
4 Tangle Wire
2 Cursed Totem
2 Story Circle
My sideboard choices were somewhat thrown together because I hadn’t taken the deck to a tournament environment, and had to guess what I would see at the Premiere Event. I knew that based on Chicago results that I would see a number of the Tier One decks… And a number of people determined to beat them. I expected to see a significant amount of decks packing black and red.
Light of Day is a given. It stops Nether Spirits and 3/5 of the Dragon Legends, and blue and black are going to have trouble getting rid of it permanently. With Tutors, you don’t need to fill your sideboard with them.
You may notice the complete lack of maindeck enchantment removal. The reason is because you should not require enchantment removal in the first game. Enchantment removal is virtually dead against Blue Skies (Rising Waters notwithstanding in some versions). Fires should be set back on its heels enough that a Saproling Burst isn’t going to kill you. Against Rebels, the only thing to fear is Parallax Wave, and that as well is eminently survivable when you’re playing this sort of control deck that either kills their creatures or renders them useless. Wave out my creatures? Thanks, now I can Wrath, or Earthquake, or Hurricane – and in a few turns return with a full armada.
Story Circle is there against burn spells, of course – you can never have too many Circles – and to double up against Blue Skies, because frequently you don’t need your Totems against Skies. Seal of Cleansing is needed because you have to have SOME sort of answer – preferably Tutorable – for enchantments if they’re proving a threat that your maindeck can’t handle. Brutal Suppression is more Rebel hate that provides a secondary threat to Totems. And, of course, there’s more Totems.
I wasn’t sure how much black would be played, but you can realize one important consideration about your Cats: Massacre doesn’t care how much damage they take. It kills them. Thus, I wanted to have a creature that fit the theme (Crusading Knight) and also would be large enough to withstand a free Massacre. Its mana cost pretty much ensures that it’s going to be 4/4 or larger when it hits the table, and with its ability to wave merrily to Nether Spirits as it waltzes by, it seemed a viable creature to sideboard in.
The deck was very much a mix-and-match deck. You start with twenty yards of cloth and after game one, you hem and sew until it’s tuned to face whatever deck opposes you. It has the ability to match up against any set of creature threats.
And to kill them.
Next Week: So What Happened In Real Life?
-m / 010101