This is the deck I was working on as my re-introduction to Magic began.
4 Elvish Pioneers
3 Elvish Scrapper
3 Elvish Lyrists
2 Dosan the Falling Leaf
4 Viridian Zealots
4 Troll Ascetics
4 Lone Wolf
4 Blanchwood Armor
4 Might of Oaks
In the following ten days, I invited Josh, Paul, Wayne and Justin over to the house to give me cards, drink my beer, eat my pizza, and stomp me in magical cards.
All of them seemed to have a Tooth and Nail deck.
The matches with Tooth and Nail always went the same way. I would either rush them to death Blanchwood Armor and Might of Oaks style, or I would get them to below six life, and then they would take control. Over the next few turns, they would proceed to destroy my lands and creatures and win. And sadly, the times that I rushed them and won were far fewer than the times they came back at three life and won in spectacular fashion.
The Mono U Control deck Paul was running beat me more times than I beat it. Vedalken Shackles hurt. What hurt worse was endless 1/1 flying tokens that chump blocked my non-tramplers until I was dead.
The White Weenie Deck Josh had was the one Jason was playing in the tournament last week. These games were almost entirely decided by Swords or Jittes. If he got one on a flyer, and I wasn’t holding an answer, I could just scoop.
No one had a Red or a Black deck to test against.
Armed with my newfound knowledge, I went about building a new deck the Wakefield way. Joshie put it in a way I don’t remember anyone ever saying.
“I think I finally see how you build your decks. You don’t use all the best cards, and you don’t make a deck with some combo you hope to get off. You make a deck out of cards that beat the metagame. That’s why Shield Spheres were so good when you played them, but would be such crap now.”
One thing that he fails to mention is the personal failing I have of refusing to use popular cards. Troll Ascetic, Swords and Jitte come to mind. So popular, and seen in so many decks that I refuse to use them. Rather than use the Jitte, I try to find a way to work around them. Make my deck work so that not having a Jitte in it makes the deck stronger.
By not running Jitte, I make the conscious decision not to run any artifacts. By doing so, I can use Viridian Shaman without fear. I can also be assured that any artifact destruction I might face is a dead card in my opponent’s hand.
The Trolls on the other hand are a phenomenal creature. Same with Eternal Witness. I have to strive pretty hard to come up with a reason to not use them other than “I’m a rogue damn it! I can’t use cards everyone else is using!” I do end up with a reason, and I’ll explain that later.
I set about redesigning my deck based on what I’ve learned.
Justin had taken back his Troll Ascetics, so those were out. The Lone Wolf, while entertaining, was not pulling his weight. The times that I could Might of Oaks and win the game with him were too few to rely on. Even with a staggering number of creatures, the ‘Goyf would sometimes come into play as a 2/3 and just be another non trampling threat that can’t get by a bigger blocker or, in the case of blue, a 1/1 flying token. Dosan was just countered or not big enough to smash through anything when he did come out. With only two in the deck, he was rarely seen in my testing against Blue. One solution to this would be to add more Dosan to the deck. Against decks other than Blue, can you really afford to play 4 copies of 2/2 legend?
The second version of the deck looked more like this –
4 Elvish Pioneers
4 Genju of the Cedars
4 Viridian Zealots
4 Rushwood Dryad
4 Emperor Crocodile
2 Jugan, The Rising Star
2 Iwamori of the Open Fist
4 Creeping Mold
4 Blanchwood Armor
4 Might of Oaks
Really, the deck is just bad at this point. It’s made with a bunch of cards that have a specific purpose against a specific deck that don’t work well together at all.
The Genju, which I thought was going to be great against Blue, just got the land boomeranged to my hand, slowing me down, and putting the Genju into the graveyard where it stayed.
Jugan just got stolen or blocked by a 1/1. There was never a time when he came into play, was effective, and then put 5 +1 +1 counters on anything.
Upping the spell count to 12 instead of 8 left me more time with spells in my hand than creatures on the board, never a happy sight for an aggro deck.
The Rushwood Dryad, while excellent against Tooth and Nail, didn’t really fit except as a pre-sideboarded sideboard card.
These are the things I’ve learned.
- I have to find a way to give creatures trample.
- Forestwalk is a win against any deck playing Forests.
- EVERY deck is running artifacts, and TONS of them.
- Make your opponent mulligan by not running any artifacts.
I spend a few days pouring over cards and this what I end up with.
4 Elvish Pioneers
4 Elvish Scrapper
4 Elvish Lyrist
4 Viridian Zealot
4 Viridian Shaman
4 Elvish Champion
2 Iwamori of the Open Fist
1 Fangren Firstborn
1 Beacon of Creation
4 Blanchwood Armor
4 Predator’s Strike
“But Wakefield, that’s just an Elf deck…”
Not really, because, you see…. Wait. You’re right. It is just an Elf Deck.
Fish has always been good, right? And Goblins have always been good, right? Why not an Elf deck?
Let’s take a look at our list.
- Predator’s Strike gets rid of that annoying problem of people blocking Blanchwood Elves.
- Against other Green Aggro decks, the Elvish Champion does nothing for them. Trolls are not Elves. Eternal Witness is not an Elf. Birds are not an Elf. Against Tooth and Nail, Sakura-Tribe Elder is not an Elf. Darksteel Colossus is not an Elf.
- Do you think I have enough Artifact hate in here? Because I don’t. Based on my playtesting, you can never have enough artifact hate. I don’t think a lot of people realize that, but with the field wide open, you’ll see a lot of decks playing Darksteel cards that have never seen play before. And Jittes. And Tops. And Shackles. And Swords. And Aether Vial. And Blasting Station. And Mox… I could go on all day. You not only still need artifact hate in your deck; you need a lot of it.
- Hey look, no artifacts. Mulligan to five against me and not even know it.
Honestly, the deck is probably crap. I’ll find out this Thursday at playtesting night at my house. It will get utterly smashed by one Hideous Laughter or a Pyroclasm. God forbid my opponent is playing Engineered Plague. Oops, Apprentice tells me that’s not legal right now anyway. Good.
And since it’s only Wednesday as I type this, I won’t be able to write about that for another two days. So let’s have a musical interlude.
Dum de dum doo doo do do .
Wait, Joshie wrote a song about his psychopathic sword-wielding Warlock in World of Warcraft. He wields a sword called “The Butcher” in one hand and a lantern in the other. He looks like a closet nightmare come to life looking in the dark for someone to harm. Let’s see, how did that song go? Oh yeah…
“cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut cut.”
That was pretty much it.
Josh will probably be a pretty big part of these reports for a bit. So let’s get to know him a little bit. I first met Josh in Comic’s and Collectibles when he was a junior in High School. He quickly earned the name of Joshie Trash Talker and lived up to it throughout his Magic career, and then on into Asheron’s Call playing on the Darktide server trash talking Bloods. No group was more deserving.
He ended up going to Clarkson and getting a degree in Electrical Engineering. So, he’s a pretty smart guy. He came back from college and started working at Shaw’s after 200 resumes sent out failed to find him an engineering job in our current economy. I helped get him a job at a local computer build-it and fix-it shop owned by a good friend of mine, Melanie. Then I helped him get a job where I work when I tech position opened up. Now he works with me. *shudder*
Hanging out with Josh is like watching Family Guy. He has an endless stream of conscious coming out of his mouth that is sometimes hilarious, sometimes just bizarre, and sometimes just… just shut up. Just shut up Joshie for the love of God.
Remember last week I was talking about how important strong math skills are to Magic? Being an Electrical Engineer, you know Joshie has some amazing Math skills. Allow me to demonstrate.
Math with Joshie 1 –
JTT – There’s a PTQ in Pennsylvania this weekend. I might go to that.”
Jamie – “Pennsylvania? Isn’t that like 11 hours from here?”
JTT – “Nah. Its only 4 hours to Syracuse and I’ll go from there with Titan.”
Jamie – “And how far is to Pennsylvania from Titan’s house?”
JTT – “About 7 hours.”
JTT – “What?”
Jamie – “So how many hours total does that make?”
JTT – “AHAHHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
Jamie “What was your major in college again?”
JTT – “Shutup.”
Math with Joshie part 2
JTT – “This soda machine won’t take my crumpled up dollar.”
Jamie – “My wallet’s in my office, you got enough to buy me a soda too?”
JTT – “No, I only have this dollar and three quarters. Sorry dude.”
Jamie – “That’s okay; the soda’s are only 80 cents.”
JTT – “So, you have a nickel?”
Jamie – “…”
JTT – “What?”
Finally gets the machine to accept his dollar. Pushes the button for a Coke. Change appears in the coin return.
JTT “Hey! Two dimes!”
Jamie *closes eyes. Slaps forehead*
JTT – “Oh. AHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!”
I should just start calling Joshie – Random. He just comes out with these random things all the time. Like I said earlier, it’s like living a Family Guy episode.
True Story – JTT on plans for the evening.
Jamie and JTT leave from Jamie’s office carrying computer equipment and emerge into the library.
Jamie – “So, what are you doing tonight?”
JTT – “I don’t know. Clubbing seals, making a coat.”
65 year old librarian’s eyes go wide, then laughs and shakes her head.
We return 10 minutes later.
Librarian “Find any seals?”
JTT “Nope. Gonna have to use puppies.”
*Thinks for a minute*
JTT “A hundred and one ought to do it.”
Jamie – “AHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHA!”
Librarian *Rolls eyes*
To get an even clearer picture of Joshie, take a look at this cartoon. The guy standing outside the door epitomizes a Joshie moment in time.
“Hey! Two dimes!”
Hey look, it’s Thursday night at my house. Tonight’s players are Justin, Josh, Wayne and Paul. Josh shows up first and we play a few games. The first deck he throws at me is a Mesmeric Orb deck that never comes close to beating me in three games.
Next he pulls out the White Weenie deck packed with fliers and equipment, and the first game is such a total demolition I almost toss my deck. Swords and Jittes are just insane. Even with all the main deck artifact hate I have. The second game is much better for me. He gets out to an early lead, but any equipment is killed by my first turn scrapper, and then when plays more, I have two Viridian Shaman that come down and net me some nice card advantage. Soon, he’s chump blocking a Blanchwood Elf and Predator’s Strike seals the deal.
The rest of the guys show up and I switch to playing Paul who is with Death Cloud.
Zealot, Armor, Champion and he is playing Forests.
Second game is similar.
It’s amazing how annoyed your opponent gets when they play a sacrificial Elder and don’t get to block with him before going to get a land.
Third game, he gets off a Death Cloud for three, killing all my guys, my land, and three cards out of hand. Since he has three land still on the board and I have none, his deck proceeds to do what it’s supposed to do, and mine proceeds to not draw land.
I’ve heard good players draw lands.
I suggest that everyone pull out their favorite deck and we have a tournament. Ah, just like the old days. Everyone throws in a Rare and winner takes all in 4 rounds of Swiss. Today’s prize is Sickening Shoal, Blazing Shoal, Darksteel Colossus, and a foil Thought Dissector. Random, WTF? A Thought Dissector?
Paul and I play our first game of three and I’m feeling pretty confident. Paul is unsure if he even wants to play his Death Cloud deck after the savage beatings I gave him in the first two games. I tell him he just wrote an article on it, he has to play it.
He plays Death Cloud.
I start off with an amazing hand. Forest, Pioneer, Forest, go. He plays a land and passes. I play a forest and Armor up the Pioneer, coming in for four. He untaps, plays a land, Naturalize the Armor. I play a Champion and he says “I’m really starting to hate that card” while he goes looking for land from his Elder. He Terrors the Champion. I play a Zealot and it’s the last spell I play for the rest of the game. When I die I have drawn nine Forests, three creatures and an Armor. Considering he Terrored the Champion and Naturalized the Armor, two weenies wasn’t enough to kill him. At all.
I get another awesome start. While I don’t get a Pioneer, or an Armor, I do get a horde of Elves and two Champions. Paul is madly thawing all the land out of his deck and when he gets enough, he Death Clouds for all my creatures, land and hand. Leaving him at two and me at 20. But I have nothing on my side of the board, and he has a Genju coming over for four a turn until I die. Skah!
I lost this game due to an error. I was holding a Predator’s Strike that I was saving if he blocked with the Genju. If I had just used it to pile on the damage, he wouldn’t have been able to Cloud down to 2. Live and learn.
I take on Wayne next playing a Goblin Charbelcher deck.
I see a lot of artifact removal and that’s what he’s using for mana so I shut him down and swarm him.
Game two is much the same only this time I see what his deck is supposed to do. He gets out a Belcher and he chooses to kill my Elf Champion. He does 28 points of damage to the Champ.
“WOW!” I say.
“Damn.” He says.
He gets one more turn before I swarm him and this time he targets me, hitting for 11.
Eleven is not twenty-eight.
My next opponent is Joshie. Like all of us, he is playing an experimental deck. Joshie is with a 5-color Gifts Ungiven/ Sunburst deck.
Game 1 he has some Forests in play. Elf Champion is MVP. Again.
Game 2 I lose because I suck. I make a dumb mistake on choosing and he gets Wrath out of the graveyard and wrecks me.
Game three is interesting.
I get him to 6.
I play Elvish Scrapper.
He plays Bringer of the Black Dawn. Paul says that was the wrong play.
I draw a Forest and sit.
Joshie uses the Bringer to tutor during his upkeep, going down to four, and gets something I don’t care about. Paul is holding his head.
“Josh. God. You are so bad!”
“You should… I can’t say anything. Just, that’s the wrong play too. I can’t believe you tutored for that.”
I draw and play a Forest.
Josh says “I better tutor for this before Paul kills me or has an aneurysm.”
He tutors, going down to 2, and plays a Clearwater Goblet with five counters on it.
Paul congratulates him for finally making the right play.
I destroy the goblet with my Elvish Scrapper.
Paul – “Doh!”
Josh – “Doh!”
I untap. Draw my one Beacon of Creation. Serve. Win.
My last round opponent is Justin who is running Tooth and Nail.
I’m pretty sure this is an auto win for me.
Game 1, Kiki-Jiki is just wrong.
Game 2, Savage elf beatings has Justin scooping on turn 5.
Game 3, Kiki-Jiki is just wrong.
It’s staggering how fast that guy can destroy all my creatures and lands.
Paul wins our little tournament with Death Cloud, losing only one game to Josh.
Everyone else starts rebuilding their decks based on what we learned tonight.
Closing Thoughts –
Josh, Paul, Justin and Wayne are a great bunch of guys. I’ve known them for years but never “hung out” with them that much (except for Josh, who I have hung out with extensively.) In the old days, they were sub 21 and living at home. Now they come over and have their own money, bring beer, and make hilariously lewd and rude comments that had me in stitches. Really looking forward to playtesting with these guys as we prepare for Regionals and beyond.
Single card thoughts –
With 26 land in the deck, only once was I flooded. In every other game I needed more mana to do all the things I wanted to do. Luck of the draw was against me tonight as well. There were a staggering number of games where I sat on two land and did nothing without a single one of my 12 one-drops on the board or in hand. If I wasn’t at 26 already, I’d add even more land to the deck, which is, of course, insane.
I drew Iwamori in my opening hand almost every game. I don’t know what it is about that guy. With only two in the deck he was frequently useless in the early game and by the time he came out, I had already lost control. Your mana is tied up trying to be ready to sac a Zealot or Scrapper, or playing out a horde of guys. If your guys get wiped, one 5/5 that might bring Kokusho or Kiki-Jiki into play really isn’t that optimal. In previous testing, he has been an MVP. Tonight he did nothing but clog my hand. He’ll be moved into my “Five By Five” deck with the Emperor Crocodiles and Hunted Wumpus.
Fangren Firstborn is a “win more” card. He’s really best when you have a horde of guys in play. If I have a horde of guys in play, they don’t need +1 +1 each turn, they need avoidance, trample, or a finisher. Or they don’t need anything because I’m going to win soon.
Fangren and Iwamori are both going out for three Beacon of Creation. What the deck really needs is Hurricane. The amount of games I got my opponent to sub-five life and couldn’t finish was too many. When I asked if anyone had any for trade, Paul handed me three Beacon of Creation and didn’t want anything for them. Very cool.
Lyrists – never used the ability but one of the few one-drop elves in the format.
Pioneer – Loved him every time I drew him.
Scrapper – eh. Whatever. Another one-drop elf in a format that doesn’t have many good ones and wow are there a lot of Artifacts.
Zealot – 2/1 for two and can do what Lyrists and Scrappers do even tapped. /flex
Shaman – Loved them every time I drew them. I never played one that hit the ground without destroying a target. I never even had to think about it. If they were in my hand on turn 3 and 4, there was always something to destroy. No thought required.
Champion – MVP all night long. All my opponents said “I hate that guy” by the end of the night.
Blanchwood Armor – Almost as good as equipment with none of that nasty artifact feeling! Excellent card.
Predator’s Strike – Not 100% sure these are better than Might of Oaks. They did the job I asked of them but were never a huge “I win” card like the Might of Oaks could be. Of course, they never sat in my hand useless like Might of Oaks sometimes did either.
Beacon of Creation – Fantastic late game card that goes well with a deck running lots of Forests for the Blanchwood Armor. I was always happy to see this card, and believe my win percentage will go up with four in the deck. With this card, I might have to switch back to Might of Oaks since you can create a swarm of guys and you only need one to get through unblocked.
Closing Deck Thoughts –
I have a feeling the deck would be just plain better with 4 Umezawa’s Jitte and 4 Splinter. Splinter is “remove from game” so it even hoses Tooth and Nail’s indestructible creatures. I long to remove ALL of someone else’s Swords or Jittes in one fell swoop. With the amount of Artifacts in the environment, you really can’t have enough removal. Of course, the question remains, what do you remove? The obvious choice would be the Scrappers and the Lyrists, but then what do you use for Elven one-drops? The only reason they’re still in the deck is because all the other Elven one-drops suck.
The forestwalking was just too good to give up replacing a bunch of elves for something else. There are far too many decks where it’s almost an auto win. The no artifacts theme will become more important as more and more people realize just how much they need removal in the main. Plus, Viridian Shaman + Equipment <> combo.
Most likely, thanks to the Beacons and the Champions, Might of Oaks will be going back into the deck, giving even more auto wins against mages playing Forests.
Next week’s article will probably be “WIN BIG! LOSE BIG!”
See you then.