Ralphie’s Revenge, Rainbow Slide, and Other Tidbits

B/W Astral Slide doesn’t have the luxury of Lightning Rifts to burn out the little ones like its R/W cousin. It needs to survive the initial creature rush a bit better, as decks like G/W and U/G still can provide a lethal amount of heat out of the gates a bit too regularly. Also, with mirror matches now figuring in heavily as part of the metagame, the Treatment also needs a more flexibility against the other kids on the Astral playground. So the green has to be there – but in what quantity?

I write to you, esteemed StarCity readers, while sitting in a car, stuck in Harrisburg, PA Thanksgiving traffic. My wife is manning (or womanning, as it were) the wheel, and I have somewhat faint hopes of cranking out this article before her laptop’s battery yields under the pressure. The new Roots album (not available yet, you say?) and Tom Waits’ masterpiece Rain Dogs have carried me from twilight to nightfall. The horizon is perfectly dark, save the glimmer of a thousand brake lights.

I absolutely hate traffic jams, but this one has provided me with the opportunity to crank out a textual monster for the masses. In this sea of black, I wage war against a force far more powerful than I – time may be everlasting, but batteries are not. Fortunately, I have enlisted the help of Metal Fingers’ Special Herbs: Vol. 1 and 2 to see me through this predicament. Though armed with only a meager 78% of battery power remaining and some of the year’s sickest hip-hop instrumentals, I’ll attempt to drop 78% worth of flavor on your collective domepiece.

First, I’d like to thank everyone for their tremendous response to my article a couple of weeks ago. I would have liked to have gotten this down sooner, but a nasty cold followed by a hectic work week prevented much magical card touching. Yet my brain was still in high gear, as I read through a couple dozen emails and forum posts on The Ralphie Treatment during this period. As I originally suspected when I built it, I felt that the deck needed a hot splash of something – but the color was open to question. The problem before was getting the mana to work right, but I solved that by upping the City of Brass count, a couple sac-lands, and including a Teroh’s Faithful in the maindeck before even putting my brain to work on what would be a good splash color. My first thoughts turned to green, for the obvious Krosan Tusker/Cartographer antics that were present in some of the winning States R/W Astroglide builds. The next obvious tech would be Living Wish, used to fetch and abuse whatever CIP-enabled creature that fits your board position at the present moment. So I cooked up a new version of The Treatment that traded out the Faceless Butchers and Guiltfeeders for two Gravediggers maindeck and three copies of Living Wish. In the sideboard were the usual suspects: Auramancer, Aven Cloudchaser, Exalted Angel, Krosan Tusker, Gravedigger, and Guiltfeeder.

The results were not inspiring.

I took the deck to a local tournament here and got my face smashed. I beat a rogue B/G build in the first round, then drew in the next round with the new Junior Prince of the Bean Brigade and local MBC-playing scum (that’s good ol’ Teddy K. to you guys) but then got rolled by a U/G Madness variant which ran Quiet Speculation and Grizzly Fate. With the loss of some creature control and addition of green, the deck became much slower and just spent too much time trying to do”cute” things while getting rolled by more dedicated beatdown decks. So I got a firsthand taste of the very problem that users were mentioning in the forums about the green splash.

Still, the green splash was great when I wasn’t getting smashed turn after turn; it just felt right. Some people had mentioned including red, but I had already tried splashing red in the deck before for Lightning Rifts, thereby making the deck operate with a little more latitude against beatdown. It just didn’t work out. The mana expended turn-by-turn to return Gladiator, cycle Gladiator, and then Shock something turned out to be too intensive and ruined what little tempo the deck produced. The first iteration of Ralphie was essentially a mid game stall deck that attempts to slowly gain control of the board with removal and board sweepers, put out the Astral Slide combo, and then win via an unkillable creature. I know what feels right, and the Rifts just didn’t.

B/W Astral Slide doesn’t have the luxury of Lightning Rifts to burn out the little ones like its R/W cousin. It needs to survive the initial creature rush a bit better, as decks like G/W and U/G still can provide a lethal amount of heat out of the gates a bit too regularly. Also, with mirror matches now figuring in heavily as part of the metagame, the Treatment also needs a more flexibility against the other kids on the Astral playground. The green has to be there – but in what quantity?

Here is the revised decklist:

Ralphie’s Revenge (Pie-O-Mie remix)

4 Duress

3 Innocent Blood

4 Smother

3 Chainer’s Edict

2 Living Wish

4 Undead Gladiator

4 Astral Slide

2 Renewed Faith

1 Krosan Tusker

4 Wrath of God

2 Gravedigger

1 Mystic Enforcer

1 Exalted Angel

7 Swamp

5 Plains

4 Barren Moor

3 Secluded Steppe

2 City of Brass

2 Windswept Heath

1 Brushland

1 Forest

SB: 2 Sphere of Law

SB: 2 Cabal Therapy

SB: 2 Haunting Echoes

SB: 2 Ray of Revelation

SB: 1 Engineered Plague

SB: 1 Crypt Creeper

SB: 1 Teroh’s Faithful

SB: 1 Aven Cloudchaser

SB: 1 Auramancer

SB: 1 Gigapede

SB: 1 Guiltfeeder

I’m quickly realizing that this article is turning into”My Slide” volume 212, but I’ll keep the analysis relatively short and sweet. This version of the deck differs from the original in a few distinct ways – the first of which is the absence of the Mesmeric Fiends. The little Fiend Beans are simply not good when you’re staring down an opposing Lightning Rift, as they are quite easily cooked to a crispy finish. An additional Duress and three copies of Innocent Blood are now thrown into the mix; Duress is obviously better now than when the original deck was published due to the presence of so many Astroglide decks. The Innocent Bloods will help take some of the early pressure off against G/W or U/G, taking down a Basking Rootwalla or similar dork. Innocent Bloods also usually affect the quality of your Edicts, making sure that when Chainer comes to call, he comes correct.

The removal complement is now almost identical to many MBC decks, packing ten board-clearing effects – four targeted, and six non-targeted. The two Faceless Butchers and two Guiltfeeders were cut to make the inclusion of the third color a little easier. The deck now runs one Mystic Enforcer and one Exalted Angel as the maindeck kill conditions with the other big guns chilling in the Wish Position. Gravediggers were added for their obvious synergy with Undead Gladiator and many of the utility creatures that might get the call during the course of a game. A lonely Krosan Tusker was added to the mix as well, simply because he’s another cycler and can get you out of the odd land screw situation. Did I mention that it’s also pretty idiotic to abuse with Gravedigger?

The wish creatures in the sideboard seem to have a good mix of power and utility. The uses for Teroh’s Faithful, Auramancer, and Aven Cloudchaser are obvious to anybody with a pulse. Gigapede, Guiltfeeder, and Crypt Creeper are the more unconventional kids – the ones that you used to make fun of during study hall in high school. I felt that I needed Crypt Creeper because Glory ruined many of my evil plans during testing,. Recurring the Creeper against U/G can be money, too. Guiltfeeder is a holdover from the original Ralphie Treatment; he’s great against Wake and can end the game George Foreman-style in a couple of swings vs. U/G or G/W.

Yet I will say this: Gigapede has definitely been my Number One Stunna against a lot of decks, particularly against the more stock versions of R/W Slide. The R/W player must have a creature and an Astral Slide down already so that they can chump block the ‘Pede every other turn, or else the game is going to end pretty fast. If you have your Slide down already, theirs is moot. Wrath of God doesn’t keep him down for long. He can not be burned. He can not be reasoned with. And, he simply will not stop until your opponent is dead. Who could ask for anything more?

Ralphie’s Revenge still plays the same way as its predecessor but is a little less disruptive coming out of the starting blocks. The deck is now a bit better tuned to win against R/W Astroglide, Mono Black Control, and G/W Beats – all of which have become more prominent forces in the metagame of late. The loss of Mesmeric Fiend does hurt against pure U/W or U/B Psychatog/Control, but the matchup against Wake is at least not a lost cause. The mana has also been surprisingly good to me, yielding very few color screws in its short lifetime. Ralphie Cifaretto may sleep with the fishes, but his immutable spirit lives on in this insanely fun and yet competitive option in the current Standard environment.

I’ve also been working on a more”traditional” approach to Astral Slide – if one could call a four-color build a traditional one. I’m not quite sure what to make of this one yet – it could either be pure gold or pure Poo-ganis.

Rainbow Slide (a.k.a. Do You Expect Me to Waste My 39% Remaining Battery Power on a Better Name?)

4 Lightning Rift

3 Burning Wish

2 Living Wish

4 Astral Slide

4 Krosan Tusker

3 Renewed Faith

2 Cartographer

1 Undead Gladiator

3 Wrath of God

2 Teroh’s Faithful

2 Mystic Enforcer

1 Gravedigger

2 Slice and Dice

1 Starstorm

4 Plains

4 Mountain

4 Secluded Steppe

4 Forgotten Cave

3 City of Brass

2 Forest

2 Wooded Foothills

2 Windswept Heath

1 Swamp

SB: 3 Overmaster

SB: 2 Ray of Revelation

SB: 1 Epicenter

SB: 1 Nostalgic Dreams

SB: 1 Wrath of God

SB: 1 Haunting Echoes

SB: 1 Cleansing Meditation

SB: 1 Lightning Surge

SB: 1 Exalted Angel

SB: 1 Gigapede

SB: 1 Auramancer

SB: 1 Aven Cloudchaser

For those of you looking at this decklist and thinking,”I knew he was called Jimmy Bean for a reason…” hear me out. Rainbow Slide is basically an attempt to modify an existing archetype so that it has a few advantages in the mirror while retaining the power of the original. Yes, it does sacrifice some speed and consistency due to the presence of the Wishes, but that’s the nature of the beast. I’m not saying that this deck is of Tier 1 quality.

First of all, the deck runs a complement of just nineteen cycling cards – far below the number of usual cyclers in any garden-variety Astral Slide build. I’m kind of a weirdo and like to include one-ofs in my decks, hence the single Undead Gladiator and Gravedigger. When either of these cards are drawn, it’s like adding a blower to your already tricked-out 350 big block. They provide so much potential for abuse that it’s worth losing a little consistency over, in my opinion.

Rainbow Slide plays a lot like your average-Joe Astroglide deck, but the inclusion of five Wish cards sets up many crucial decisions that will either make or break your match. In lieu of a matchup matrix for the deck (I am positive that this has been done elsewhere), I’ll go over what I feel are the key Wish targets against certain decks.

R/W Slide or R/W/G Slide

Burning: Cleansing Meditation, Haunting Echoes

Living: Gigapede, Aven Cloudchaser

The #1 card you want to resolve most is Haunting Echoes. If you play it and can get four to five different types of cycling cards or their Rifts, it is difficult to lose. In fact, if you lose after resolving Echoes, you probably don’t deserve to live.

Okay, that’s a bit theatrical. Seriously though, don’t lose after casting Haunting Echoes against a Slide deck. Somebody somewhere will see it happen, e-mail me, and then I’ll have to send out my people and it won’t be pretty. A well-timed Cleansing Meditation will also crush your opponent’s dreams. Gigapede, as mentioned earlier, is a fine target for Living Wish, but if you’ve already got an Astral Slide out then go for Aven Cloudchaser. Remember that Mystic Enforcer blocks Exalted Angel and lives to tell the tale, so don’t be cavalier with him and get his ass Wrathed away. As with any match where both players are running Astral Slide, keeping yours in play and your opponent’s off the board is your most important goal. Try to do anything to work towards that and you’ll eventually win.

G/W Beats

Burning: Wrath of God, Lightning Surge, Nostalgic Dreams (get back Wraths, etc.)

Living: Exalted Angel

You can never have enough boardclearing effects against this deck – so even if you’ve got a Wrath of God in hand, having a second one is almost never bad. Glory and Phantom Centaurs are major problems, so just hope that you can gain enough life to stay in the game long enough to Wrath away your troubles. It’s also highly possible that you can get eight points of damage in via Lightning Rifts and then burn your opponent out via Lightning Surge (an extremely underappreciated card and excellent finisher). Anurid Brushhopper dodges just about everything you’d ordinarily do to a creature, but you can hold them off with Teroh’s Faithful. G/W also has no answer for your Exalted Angel unless they’re running their own – which is, regrettably, very likely these days. A quick draw with Glory can pretty much nullify any strategy, so be aware that this matchup isn’t all roses and lollipops.

G/U Madness / Threshold

Burning: Wrath of God, Lightning Surge (kill opponent, kill Wurms in a pinch as well), Haunting Echoes (against Threshold variants)

Living: Exalted Angel

When this deck draws two or three Logics and the appropriate heat, you’re just not going to win. The only thing really to Burning Wish for is Wrath of God, but the tempo loss you suffer when it gets countered is crippling. Be sure that when you go for it, you can resolve it. Siding in the Overmasters in the second and third games will help tremendously. No creatures out of the sideboard are really great targets for Living Wish, except for an early Exalted Angel before Wonder gets online. There’s not really much to be said here, as drawing the proper maindeck cards is far more important than anything that will be Wished for.

Mirari’s Wake (Cunning, Burning, etc.)

Burning: Cleansing Meditation, Epicenter, Nostalgic Dreams

Living: Aven Cloudchaser

The thing you’re going to need most against this deck is enchantment control. Your first hope against Wake is to draw a couple of Lightning Rifts and burn them out quickly before they start doing gross things every turn; failing that, you’re going to need Aven Cloudchaser and Cleansing Meditation out of the board at the ready if you expect to win. If you think you can resolve an Epicenter in game 1, go for it. Stock versions of Kibler’s Burning Wake only run a couple of Memory Lapses and do tons of land thinning, so you may be able to rebuild faster after a crippling Epicenter (and Cartographer/Slide helps this plan quite a bit). I might even venture that you have at least a 50/50 chance in game 1 due to the lack of serious countermagic. However, it’s kind of hard to prevent Cunning Wake from treating you like a prostitute in game 1, and the second and third games are no walk in the park, either. It’s the only matchup where Rainbow Slide feels simply overpowered.

U/B Control / Psychatog

Burning: Epicenter, Haunting Echoes, Lightning Surge

Living: Gigapede

Once again, this is another matchup where your maindeck cards matter way more than anything you’ll ever Wish for. Resolving a Lightning Rift and cranking up the shockage is your primary objective – but be wary of Force Spike. You already have a lot of must counter cards, as Rifts and Slides both crush the U/B player. Epicenter and Haunting Echoes also are sure to draw out counters, so go for those with a quickness. I also hear that Living Wish for the untouchable Gigapede and swinging for six a turn can wear down a defending Psychatog. After sideboarding in the Overmasters, you can actually start to resolve your Wish-bombs and make your opponent weep like one of the damned.

Mono Black Control

Burning: Haunting Echoes, Epicenter, Lightning Surge

Living: Gigapede, Auramancer (to get back enchantments that have been Duressed)

This is another toughie. You have two options:

1) Kill them with burn and try to fend off the Corrupts with the Teroh’s Faithful/Astral Slide combo or,

2) Haunting Echoes them before they can Haunting Echoes you.

They’ve only got three Corrupts most of the time, and 1 of them is going to get used in the early game to stay alive or to fuel a Skeletal Scrying. Gaining 4 life each turn can make things near hopeless for Mono Black, and if you can keep the pressure on with the Lightning Rifts, you have a good chance of outlasting them. Epicenter is also quite outstanding against MBC. Still, Mind Sludge and Haunting Echoes are MBC’s aces in the hole and each threatens to turn the game around at any time. Rainbow Slide has no way to stop Mind Sludge from happening, and I shouldn’t need to re-explain the pain and anguish Haunting Echoes inflicts on a deck that cycles like Lance Armstrong.

Well, that pretty much addresses all the major decks in the metagame. A couple of notes on the regular sideboard though – I included the three Overmasters with some reservation as I generally think the card isn’t that great, but sometimes it allows you to force through an absolute game-winning spell against control. I had tried Boil, Compost, and Kaboom! (just an attention check – stay with me, folks) in that slot and none worked well enough to my satisfaction. The Overmasters were never bad, and I often sided them in place of the Wraths against creature-light control decks. Rays of Revelation are for the mirror and Mirari’s Wake matchups.

Random Musings Before Battery Death

I forgot to include one song on the top 15 Hip-Hop list I did for Ted a while back, and it’s such a gross oversight I don’t know how I missed it. The song is”Back to the Grill” by M.C. Serch, featuring guest shots by Chubb Rock and an up and coming New York rapper named Nas. Check it out.

Magic Online’s new prize structure is the worst thing ever conceived. Yeah, let’s pay double the entry cost to enter the”Premium” tournaments to win only four more packs than a regular eight-man, if you make the top 8. Yeah, you get a free top 8 draft if the format calls for it. But still, you have to win four matches instead of two to even make an equivalent to your initial investment back. Sounds like a losing proposition to me, and I think the number of players in these so-called Premium events lately shows that most Magic Online players feel the same way. I think that Wizards wanted to cut down on the number of packs and cards in the environment because they saw the secondary market getting too large. Good players were winning large tournaments and then turning around the prizes and selling packs, singles, etc. at a discount to the Wizards store. A large secondary market means less money for the corporation – even though they’re already making absolute bank on the game. Just check the number of filled up leagues and realize that it’s at least $17-18 per person to even join one and then $9 more to buy packs each week (granted, not everyone is buying their weekly packs from the store). The change wasn’t at all about”evening the playing field” as they assert – it was about money. Heed the words of my man Flavor Flav, and don’t believe the hype.

19% huh? Hmmmmmm… Mr. Micron is telling me that I should save my work now, lest I risk losing it. I guess that’s my cue. The traffic jam has cleared and it’ll be smooth sailing from here. The power of positive thinking is not to be understated, people. I hope your annual tryptophan feasts were (as of this publishing) fantastic.

Enjoy Life.

Jim Ferraiolo

[email protected]

Dobbs on MTGO and IRC