Road To States: T-minus 4 Days

I have done a goodly amount of playtesting, networking, and strategizing in the ten days since my last post, and have come to the conclusion that the deck has real promise. It has evolved past”Annoying Legends.dec” and has earned its other name,”The Borg.” In the process it has undergone numerous shifts on included cards, but…

I have done a goodly amount of playtesting, networking, and strategizing in the ten days since my last post, and have come to the conclusion that the deck has real promise. It has evolved past”Annoying Legends.dec” and has earned its other name,”The Borg.” In the process it has undergone numerous shifts on included cards, but here is the current incarnation:

4x Fact or Fiction
4x Accumulated Knowledge
4x Recoil
4x Waterfront Bouncer
3x Squee, Goblin Nabob
3x Pyre Zombie
3x Greel, Mind Raker
3x Do or Die
4x Hoodwink
3x Lobotomy
6x Mountain
7x Island
4x Urborg Volcano
4x Salt Marsh
4x Underground River

There’s been a lot of cards that have moved into the lineup since the last decklisting, but have since been dropped from the main deck: Vampiric Tutor, Void, Hammer of Bogardan, Addle, Necrosavant, Spite/Malice. These cards have worked fairly well, but all in all didn’t provide the”punch” that I wanted for this deck. I wanted to take the sickest card in the environment, Fact or Fiction, and bend it to the breaking point.

I’d like to talk a bit about Fact or Fiction for a moment. I know people have been going on and on, ad nauseum, about how great this card is. There is no doubt that this is a great card. It’s good enough to throw in just about any deck that can support blue, and since it’s so splashable, I imagine it’ll be one of the most overused cards at States. However, is this card alone going to push a deck over the top? Playtesting it has shown me that the answer is… maybe.

Fact or Fiction is actually a marvelously multi-faceted card that will serve different functions depending on the deck it’s in. For instance, in a combo deck (not really relevant for current Type 2), it serves as a five-card deep Impulse, getting you to the card you need; often, it will be pretty obvious to your opponent which component you need, so he will put the combo piece in a pile by itself and the other cards will be bound for the graveyard. In a control deck, Fact or Fiction works much the same way; you will cast it looking for an answer to something your opponent is doing. The answer is probably going to be obvious to both you and your opponent, so guess what goes in what pile? Again, it’s functioning as a super-Impulse, which is good. But I’m not interested in good. I’m interested in GREAT!

It’s in more aggressive decks that I think Fact or Fiction truly shines as a card-advantage machine. You are digging for cards to continue the pressure; you want your opponent to turn over those cards and not want you to have ANY of them. You want your opponent to divvy you a stack of two cards, and a stack of three cards, and, based on the fiendish cards you have in hand, you’re getting two or three cards for one. That’s two or three cards to help you turn the screws on your opponent, to advance your game plan, to take you one step closer to the Championship.

But wait, there’s more! Play with cards that you really don’t CARE if they hit the graveyard, and it’s like you get to shift that extra card into the pile you want; your opponent puts Squee in the three card pile, you let it go to the graveyard and it’s like you got three cards off your Fact or Fiction. I tried to load this deck up with those kind of cards – Squee, Pyre Zombie, and Accumulated Knowledge. All of these help you skew Fact or Fiction from an Impulse and into a real card-advantage machine.

“Alright already! You don’t need to sell us on Fact or Fiction, Bennie! But what about the rest of the cards?”

Sorry, folks. Got a little carried away. I just wanted to share some insight I got from playing the heck out of this deck this past week.

Anyway, I’ll start off with the focus of the deck – Mr. Greel, Mind Raker. When Prophecy first came out, I thought that this guy would be pretty good; heck, I played Scandalmongers in the sideboard of Blair Witch Green last year at States, so critters with discard effects have a warm (or chill) place in my heart. Let me say that Greel makes Scandalmonger look like a chump. Instant speed Mind Twist – what’s not to like? However, we were still in the shadow of Urza block, in all its overpowered glory. A five casting cost spell better win the game – immediately – or it wasn’t worth playing. But now we’re in the new Type 2, an environment that’s slower, where a 3/3 black creature is actually pretty tough and might stick around long enough to get over his summoning sickness. And with Squee, Pyre Zombie, and tons of card drawing, activating his ability is no problem. So basically, the goal of the deck is to drop Greel, then Mind Twist your opponent after he draws his card for the turn and deny them the rest of their deck (barring instants). The deck doesn’t *have* to do this to win, and will often go the distance on the backs of the Zombies. But if Greel gets out there and is active… you win. It’s not a bad situation to work towards.

Waterfront Bouncer and Do or Die kinda go together. An early Bouncer, especially backed up with a Squee or Pyre Zombie recursion, goes a long way towards buying you time to develop your mana and cast your evil spells. Sometimes, though, a bunch of critters start hitting the board like gangbusters, and you can’t keep up. That’s where Do or Die comes in. That spell quite nicely cuts your opponent’s army in half, making it much easier for the Bouncer or your uber-blocker Squee to handle the reduced onslaught.

Hoodwink and Lobotomy also go together; at one point I had one Hoodwink (to serve as a fifth Recoil) and one Lobotomy in the deck. When I drew both of them, Hoodwinked a Saproling Burst at the end of my opponent’s turn, and then Lobotomized all of them from the game, I realized that this was a potent combination. Having twelve ways of bouncing permanents at instant speed makes both Lobotomy and Greel really strong.

I’d like to take a moment to advocate how good Pyre Zombie really is. Yeah, just like Fact or Fiction, I’m not really saying anything new. But I wanted to point out a few things to the naysayers that say it’s too mana intensive and is overhyped; it only takes three mana to use this guy. Three mana to bring him back from the graveyard and use him to pitch for some effect, much like Shard Phoenix was used with Forbid (but in this deck more likely to be used to feed the Bouncers). Three mana to cast for a 2/1 beatdown critter or blocker. Three mana to sac him after damage is on the stack to kill a bigger critter or to kill two creatures. Sure, it’ll take nine mana to cast him and activate both his abilities all on one turn, but usually you won’t need to do more than one or two of these at a time. I’ve been very impressed with this little guy, and all I can say is,”try him, you’ll like him!”

Anyway, one week to go… and nary a peep from the pros on the new Standard. While it’s interesting that States is gonna set the tone for a Pro Tour, it’s discouraging that we aren’t getting too much”high level” input on the metagame and new decks from the pros. It’s a shame that they feel they need the element of surprise to have their decks do well. Still, I have a feeling that some of us”lower level” dudes might have stumbled upon the technology and could very well let the cat out of the bag.

Best of luck with playtesting! I hope to sneak in another column come Friday to let you know how the Borg has shaped up in the final few days.

Bennie Smith