Hi everybody, and welcome to the first installment of my turn on the Star City Daily hot seat. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mark Young, an amateur from Washington DC who is somewhere in the middle of that sliding scale between "PTQ Scrub" and "PT Player"; I have a couple of PTQ Top 8s, but am also capable of the embarrassing blunders typical of the beginning player (even though I’ve been playing on and off since Beta).
I wrote the occasional article for Star City every few months for the past of couple years; after winning the Star City contest with my Affinity primer eight months ago I became, through a process I still do not fully understand, a StarCityGames.com Premium Writer.
My subject this week will be the birthing process. Get your minds of the gutter, guys: I’m talking about the way that a deck is born. The inspiration and where it comes from, the thought process, the various aborted tries at the deck, the testing, whatever I can do. I have all sorts of ideas when a new format debuts, and while some of them turn out badly, on occasion there will be some brilliance; for example, after I read this Mike Flores article, it started teammate Rick and myself on a path that eventually led to Rick building a deck that went 21-3 in 2004 Nationals grinders and qualified two people.
I’ll be talking about the Block Constructed format from Pro Tour: Philadelphia, because
(a) I think it’s a really fascinating format;
(b) this article was started before the full spoiler for Saviors had come out, so I’m not ready to discuss Standard or post-Saviors Block yet; and
(c) There will be some tournaments in that format for some of you out there; I’m playing in a Grand Prix Trial for Minneapolis in a week.
The inspiration for this series came when I visited the Pro Tour: Philadelphia site on Saturday to play in some side events (I had been unable to play the LCQ or the Friday events due to grad school commitments). In between rounds, I watched Resident Genius Tsuyoshi Fujita and his deck in action. Here’s his list, according to Star City’s spiffy new deck database:
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 4 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- 3 Jugan, the Rising Star
- 1 Orochi Sustainer
- 4 Keiga, the Tide Star
- 4 Godo, Bandit Warlord
- 2 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
- 4 Umezawa's Jitte
- 1 Konda's Banner
- 1 Reweave
- 4 Kodama's Reach
- 4 Honor-Worn Shaku
I imagine most people first noticed the Honor-Worn Shaku, if only because it allows them to make a bunch of jokes related to paddling or spanking. And the mtg.com coverage seemed to focus more upon those sideboarded Mindblaze, which is just another great example of how the Japanese tech is not only wonderfully bizarre, but also perfectly suited to the format (who in Philly wasn’t running either Sakura-Tribe Elder or Umezawa’s Jitte as a four-of?).
I, however, was especially taken with the lone copy of Reweave. This coverage article shows how Fujita was able to blow Frank Karsten out by turning a Samurai of the Pale Curtain into Eight-and-a-half-Tails … with an 8.5 Tails already on board. Most times, Fujita didn’t even need a result that spectacular; just Reweaving an opponent’s Meloku to clear a path for his own seems like a strong play.
However, my mind didn’t really explode until I realized the synergy Reweave has with all of the comes-into-play and leaves-play abilities that the deck’s creatres possess. A Dragon Spirit leaves play, gaining control of the opponent’s Meloku or turning a lowly mana snake into Iron Mike Tribe Elder; it makes room for Godo, who in turn searches out the equipment du jour to bust the opponent’s position.
The only real shame was that the deck wasn’t really built around Reweave; there’s only one copy and it can’t even be spliced at instant speed (in the main deck, anyway). In fact Osamu Fujita didn’t even run Reweave, opting instead for a second Orochi Sustainer. It’s almost as though all that wonderful Reweave synergy was … an afterthought?
Well, I wasn’t ready to let it go away like that. My articles this week will show you my misadventures in creating a viable deck for the pre-Saviors Block season that can cast, splice, and otherwise abuse Reweave. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had no idea that my first attempt would turn out so badly:
It seems like such a waste to use one of Star City’s fancy new deck boxes on this steaming pile. The idea was a noble one: if the game can go long enough, you can go infinite with Stream of Consciousness (splicing Reweave) + Yosei, depriving the opponent of another draw step, ever. Keiga and Meloku are thrown in as additional outs versus Cranial Extraction.
The problem, and it’s a big one, is that this deck does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of making the game last long enough to get that kind of Reweave lock going. Its card-drawing and land-search engines are both inferior to those in every other control deck in the format, and it doesn’t have enough ways to defend itself against every other aggro deck in the format.
The Journeyer’s Kite + Sensei’s Divining Top engine is quite bad. Please allow me to explain before you flame me in the forums by saying, "Kai’s deck ran it!" The advantage that Kai’s deck has over this one is that it runs pro-active disruption (Distress, Cranial Extraction) and also has a fast cheap clock (Yukora, the Prisoner). So, if Kai’s deck doesn’t draw both parts of the Top/Kite engine, it can still give the opponent some headaches. With this deck, on the other hand, if it draws only Kite or only Top, then it just sits around and sucks until it dies.
The countermagic suite is an even worse idea. After hearing people rave about Morgan Douglass’ "Ninjas + countermagic" deck, I had thought that Hisoka’s Defiance and Hinder were underplayed in this format. As soon as I played against Gadiel Szliefer’s Philly deck I realized the reason why: the best decks in this format don’t care if their spells are countered. The Hana Kami decks (like those played by Szliefer and Herberholz in the Philly Top 8) will simply regrow the countered spell and inevitably deck you with Cranial Extraction. The White Weenie decks will have two or more men on the table before you even reach Hinder mana. The Snake decks can make so much mana so fast that they may have their first spell in a turn countered, but several more will get through.
If for some reason you wanted to devote more time to this deck, I would recommend taking out the countermagic and replacing it with Toils of Night and Day and Psychic Puppetry. The deck really wants cheap spells to splice Reweave onto. You might also try to fit in cheap creatures so that you can cast Reweave on yourself before turn 7; Floating-Dream Zubera is one possibility. I did not think either of these ideas would save the deck, though, so I decided to move on. I’ll show you where I went tomorrow.