Regionals Thoughts: Durable Fatties

Arguably the best card in the set, Terminate requires us to rethink our definition of Durable Fattie.

You probably read the title of this column and thought "Regionals? Why the heck is he talking about Regionals now? We’re all talking about Invasion Block Constructed!"

I’ll admit I almost got sucked into the IBC trap; I mean, PT: Tokyo is coming up soon, and that’s bound to mean that IBC qualifiers are right around the corner.

BZZZZ! Wrong answer, folks.

I just got a copy of the latest Sideboard magazine (Feb 2001, Volume 6 Issue 3) – and by the way, I’m impressed. It’s a vast improvement from the tabloid newspaper format of previous issues. The cover’s got Kai Budde looking all grim and German, with "Gotterdammerung!" in bold print below him. It’s chock full of good stuff: in-depth reporting, reviews, and so on. If you’re still in mourning over the lost Duelist magazine, the newest Sideboard is as close as you’re gonna get.

Anyway, the back page has the schedule for this year’s events. Cool! So when I looked down to see when IBC is hitting the Qualifying circuit (and thus hitting the radar of us non-Pros), I find… It’s not on the schedule! The next round of Q’s is Team Limited for PT: New York. So unless you’re attending Grand Prix Moscow, there’s no reason for non-Pros to give a rat’s watoosie about pre-Apocalypse IBC. So what Constructed event IS on the horizon?

Regionals. April 21st. That’s closer than you think, and it’s way before Apocalypse hits the scene. That means Type 2 right now – with Planeshift in the mix – is what’s we’re going to see in two months time. Two months of playtesting! That’s plenty of time to hone a deck to a razor’s edge.

So forget about current IBC; by the time you or I will be playing it, Apocalypse will be in the mix and it is bound to be a lot different. Leave that format to the pros and let’s you and I talk new Type II!

When I think about the top decks from Chicago, what comes to mind is a (para)phrase from the venerable Wakefield School of Fatties: the fattie you can’t handle will kill you. Whether it’s a Blastoderm, a Dragon, or a Troublesome Spirit, getting one of these critters out there and protecting them is often the key to the game. The more durable the fattie, the easier it is to keep on the pressure. Blastoderm is obviously very durable, being huge and impossible to kill with direct removal. Dragons and the Spirit were durable from the commonly used Shocks and Rages; you had to ramp up to X spells or Terror effects to deal with them.

Planeshift adds a new twist to these truths with the introduction of cheap, guaranteed removal. Arguably the best card in the set, Terminate requires us to rethink our definition of Durable Fattie. Though Blastoderm doesn’t care about Terminate, no longer can we rely on big Dragons or the Spirit to bring it home. Terminate doesn’t care how large their toughness is, doesn’t care if the creature is non-black or not… For two mana, they’re just dead.

It’s the cheapness that makes this so good. Say you’re playing Birds and Elves to ramp up to an early Two-Headed Dragon. It hits the board on turn 4-what beatings! Your opponent then taps two mana and blows it out of the sky. Now you’re left with mana acceleration on the board, and not much else. Meanwhile your opponent, playing MadRemoval.dec, is busy burning up your little guys and pounding away with his Lava Zombie and Flametongue Kavu. Speaking of good, how insane is Flametongue Kavu? Four toughness used to be Some Good ™, but no longer. If they don’t have a Terminate in hand, they’re likely to drop a Kavu and knock it right into the graveyard.

Considering that you don’t fall over to the dark side and make up your own MadRemoval.dec, you’ve got to redefine Durable Fattie.

I think the key is Protection from Red. Not your wussy Crimson Acolyte Protection from Red. I’m talking about fat, trampling, Sabertooth Nishoba Protection from Red. I’m talking the most durable fattie since Blastoderm.

Sabertooth Nishoba, 4GW, Creature – Beast 5/5, Rare
Trample, protection from blue, protection from red
Dragonwalk. (This creature is unblockable as long as defending player only controls a Dragon.)

This guy’s a beast! Literally and figuratively. He can’t be Terminated, he can’t be targeted by any red removal, or Recoils and blue bounce. Can you think of any better creature to slap an Armadillo Cloak on?
He’s even unblockable by any Dragon in Type 2, which is an interesting thought (though racing a Dragon isn’t highly recommended).

Sure, Terror kills him, but who’s going to play Terrors with Terminate available? I’m guessing no one.

Okay, so we’ve got Blasties and Nishobas on our Durable Fattie list. What else do we have? Dave Meeson touched on a new creature I think can certainly qualify as durable: Questing Phelddagrif! His white activated ability gives him protection from red AND black, so he laughs at Terror, too. At four mana he’s certainly cheap, though the colors might be problematic. Still, all of these fatties have green in their casting cost, and green’s strength is mana diversification. So let’s take our Durable Fattie list and start a deck:

4x Blastoderm
3x Questing Phelddagrif
4x Saberooth Nishoba

That’s eleven fatties that are going to be hard to kill. Let’s get them out as soon as possible:

4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Thornscape Familiar

The Familiar helps us cast both the Phelddagrifs and the Nishobas. All twelve of these critters help us start dropping fatties on turn 3.

Considering that we’d probably want 24 lands, this leaves us with thirteen slots to fill. Right now it looks like we’re going with a G/W/u color scheme, so let’s keep that. I’d like to play Wax/Wane; enchantment kill is a must, and in a pinch you might need to Wax your fattie if your opponent tries to gang-block to kill it. A Disenchant probably wouldn’t hurt either, and can be cast for one white mana with a Familiar on the board.

4x Wax/Wane
1x Disenchant

Eight more slots to go. Parallax Wave is an option; not only can they clear away blockers to let your Fatties finish your opponent, they can help protect your fatties from untargeted removal like Wash Out, Wrath, Void or Tsabo’s Decree. Armageddons are probably better, though. That card has been a good followup to dropping a fattie forever. They can’t cast global removal without land, can they?

4x Armageddon

What do we use for our final four slots? I’m tempted to put in Armadillo Cloaks a la Kibler. Wouldn’t that be fun? Drop it on a fattie and it’s almost like you’re Fogging their counterattack – the big problem is that Parallax Wave neutralizes the Cloak quite handily. Another thought is Eladamri’s Call, which lets you Tutor for a critter at instant speed. I’m hesitant to play four of them, so two is probably the best bet. With Calls in the deck, I’m tempted to go ahead and add in a couple of "silver bullet" critters. Mageta the Lion is a great reset button that can help you overcome creature swarms, and Kavu Chamleon can punch through a counter shield or slide around a Moat. These two slots will probably change in playtesting, but we’ll keep ’em for now.

2x Eladamri’s Call
1x Mageta, the Lion
1x Kavu Chameleon

Now for the mana. The tricky part is the blue mana we’ll need to cast Phelddagrif. The Birds can do this, but we can’t bank on the Birds sticking around long enough, since they usually have a big bullseye on them whenever they hit the board. In fact, if you’ve got a choice between laying an Elf or a Bird, you probably oughta lead with the Elf and let him take one for the team first. As far as actual lands… I’m always hesitant to play Cities of Brass now with Rishadan Ports in the environment. Nothing is more annoying than being pinged to death with your own City and not be able to get the mana out of it. Still, we might need two of them. Treva’s Ruins is definitely a consideration, though too many of them early on would be a disaster. Adakar Wastes are a must. Here’s my thoughts on the mana, though it will probably need some adjustments:

4x Adarkar Wastes
2x City of Brass
2x Treva’s Ruins
4x Brushland
10x Forest
2x Plains

Alright, so we have DurableFattie.dec for your playing pleasure. Drop your fattie and see if your opponent can deal with it. If he can’t, adios amigo.

P. S. By the way, I neglected to let Star City know that my email address has changed for some time now, so if you have tried to drop me an email and I didn’t respond, I apologize. I would have if I had gotten the email, I swear! So, if you want to drop me a line, my current email address is:

[email protected]

Hopefully the great guys at Star City will update my email link soon!