As someone who loves debating the merits of various deck builds, I couldn’t help jumping in to this one. I think both Chad and Elliot make some good points, but there are definitely areas in which I disagree with both of them.
First, Chad, it doesn’t take”nerve” to criticize someone’s deck – although I do think Elliot’s comments were somewhat rude. Criticizing decks, even decks that do well, is an author’s job and it’s not really constructive for you to meet his harsh comments with harsh comments of your own, even if you feel you’ve received a cursory analysis. Nor does it matter how well he finished in the particular tournament; the best players in the world have scrubbed out of major tournaments. I was glad to see that you two seem to have made up by the end of the exchange.
Now, on to the cards and arguments:
Maggot Therapy. I have to agree with Elliot here. Machine Head can be tough, but it hasn’t been a popular deck nationally for some time. I think this slot should be filled, not with Dark Banishing, but with Repulse (or possibly Exclude). Repulse has consistently been strong for me in Nether-Go, saving my Spirits from removal, bouncing activated Idols to cancel an opponent’s turn, gaining tempo, etc. Therapy is a better answer to a Specter, but Repulse is surprisingly close.
Bog Down vs. Duress. Neither of these spells is a”better” discard spell. Rather, they are two spells that do very different things. I personally prefer Duress because of how my Nether-Go deck plays… I’m very resistant to spells that have to be cast on my turn unless they are very cheap! However, my version doesn’t have four Recoil or Avatar of Will. Each of those spells makes Bog Down more powerful. (So would Repulse…) Having four Foils (I only ran two at Regionals) also makes it safer to play an early Bog Down. It’s true that most Pros would vote my way on this, but that doesn’t mean we’re right. Moreover, changing from Bog Down to Duress wouldn’t be a question of tweaking the deck, but of changing it substantially.
AK and Undermine. I love Accumulated Knowledge, especially in a deck like Nether-Go, but I do know of several very good versions that don’t run the card. If Chad’s decision is based on thorough playtesting of his version, I won’t argue the point. Ditto Undermine. When I first built the deck, I assumed I needed four. Then I dropped to three and finally to two, since I found cards like Exclude and Repulse were often superior. Going to zero surprises me, but doesn’t amaze me beyond belief. (I have a harder time seeing no Repulse or Exclude than no Undermine.) Calling AK”superior” to FoF seems odd to me, even moreso than with Duress/Bog Down. AK’s low cost makes it nice for helping you play a modest land count and it gets very powerful in the late game, but there’s a reason EOTAKULOSE isn’t Magic slang. AK is cheaper, but FoF is (usually) more powerful, and FoF has an extra advantage when playing with Spirits. (To be fair, sometimes FoF is awkward, since if there’s a Spirit in the Graveyard and in the FoF they can just put it alone – and unless you have a Cremate you have to take it.)
One-ofs. A lot of good players agree that one-of cards are weak unless you can tutor for them. I often disagree. Some cards you don’t need to draw and you don’t want multiples, but the first one is almost always great. In that case, running one copy can be excellent. For me at Regionals, it was Misdirection. You don’t want an opening hand with two and you don’t need to see any for your deck to play its game, but the first Misdirection is almost always wonderful and can often win games for you. (I Misdirected three game-one Urza’s Rages, one of which was kicked with both of us below ten life. The other two were hoping to send a second Spirit to the graveyard, and instead sent part of my opponent’s army off the field.) One-ofs are also better in a deck like this that draws lots of cards, both because the chance of drawing it goes up and because even if you don’t get it, your opponent may see it due to FoF. Anyone who has played with Force Spike knows that part of the value comes from opponents not knowing whether to play around it. I generally like Spike better than Daze (I hate to ACC Daze early, which is when it’s most powerful), but Chad’s deck taps out on its own turn a bit more than mine does, so I can see why he likes it. For what it’s worth, I ran one Misdirection, one Cremate, two Force Spikes, one Probe, and two Dominates at Regionals and loved them all. (Actually, as I wrote that I realized I moved the Cremate to the board at the last minute…and regretted it.)
Ports and Markets. I couldn’t fit Ports in my Nether-Go deck because of color requirements… Not just because I needed my lands to produce blue and black, but because I needed to run Tsabo’s Webs to stop enemy Ports. Without Web, I found that enemy Ports could hurt me too much. Porting their Ports wasn’t the answer either, as I didn’t want to be giving up two mana during their turn unless it was really crippling them. As for High Market, if I wasn’t running Webs I would have been running a Market. Gaining a life a turn can be amazing in this deck, and saving your Spirits from remove-from-game effects, Dominate, bounce, et cetera, is extremely valuable. I still think I need Webs more, but if you’re not running Webs I think High Market is rock solid.
One final suggestion I’ll make for Chad is to consider Dominate over Bribery. I was sad before Nationals to see that Alex Shvartsman had replaced Bribery with Dominate in the Nether-Go deck he published on the sideboard and I think most people who have played with both prefer Dominate. It is dead in far fewer matches (notably, it’s much better in the mirror), provides an almost-counterspell for Saproling Burst (maybe not such an issue in your deck with four Recoil and four Bog Down), and in most cases just seems a bit better. Unlike Bribery, it is actual card advantage, and not having to tap out on their turn is often quite significant. It does occur to me, however, that gambling on an Amateurs tournament with an above-average number of really juicy Bribery targets might be pretty reasonable.
Good luck to you both, and wish me luck at Worlds!
Hugs ’til next time,