SCG Daily – Lessons from Losses: Four Skullclamp

Today, I don’t think one particular anecdote will cover the extent of this lesson, so I’m going to tell two. That and bad beat anecdotes tend to be rather short due to the nature of said beats. It’s hard for one to write an article’s worth of amusing anecdote when one is out of the tournament in 3 rounds.

Spoon – I Turn My Camera On

I’m trying not to be too much of a hipster, but I’ll be damned if this song isn’t the catchiest thing ever. I hadn’t listened to any Spoon albums between this one and A Series of Sneaks, so I was very surprised at the feel of the new album. Highly recommended.

Today, I don’t think one particular anecdote will cover the extent of this lesson, so I’m going to tell two. That and bad beat anecdotes tend to be rather short due to the nature of said beats. It’s hard for one to write an article’s worth of amusing anecdote when one is out of the tournament in 3 rounds.

Anyway, the first part of our story begins at Skullclamp Regionals. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you something silly like “I didn’t play Clamps” – I played four of them. Unfortunately, the problem was with the remaining 71 cards, as they were abysmal against anything that was not affinity. I’ll give you a hint… I had four Wirewood Heralds. That’s right, folks… I played Clamp Cemetery. I don’t have the list handy, but if I recall off the top of my head, it had Heralds, Viridian Shamans, Festering Goblins, Cemeteries, Death Clouds, and the all-important Skullclamp. The sideboard was a bunch of goblin hate, as Goblin Sharpshooter was the death of 1/1.dec. Of course, the sideboard didn’t make it a positive matchup, but that didn’t matter to me. I got to clamp stuff and search up more artifact destruction spells and death cloud for a bunch and recur awesome cards and SMASH SMASH SMASH. It was a really exciting deck when it worked, but when it didn’t… not a winner, I’ll say. In fact, Flores talked about it…

“When Cemetery Cloud wins, it has Skullclamp and Oversold Cemetery online, seven cards in hand, and a huge life advantage and the opponent has no cards. Not just cards in play: he has no Magical cards. Everything is empty but his bin. Wins like these make it really difficult to remember the games where BBB didn’t show up before Shrapnel Blast did.”

That sounds about right. Anyway, I was enticed by the crushing victories and the approximately 80% (no, I’m not kidding) Affinity matchup. So I brought it to Regionals and expected to do well.

Round 1—Beat MWC
Round 2—Annihilated by Goblin Bidding
Round 3—Beat mono-red goblins
Round 4—Crushed Affinity
Round 5—Crushed Affinity
Round 6—Lost to Vedalken Archmage/Broodstar Affinity (FISAJPOAIJFPOAJIGPAO)
Round 7—Lost to Affinity *frown*

Yeah, I know, Vedalken Archmages and Broodstars. I was looking for a cliff after the match.

The second anecdote is from GP New Jersey, where the Clamp had been put down, but Arcbound Raver and the Modular Machines were still touring the top tables. Here’s the thing – by that point, I hadn’t realized how much fun aggro was, and I refused to touch the best deck in any given format. It was a foolish affectation that all too many players seem to have, and at that point it was particularly lethal considering the nature of Mirrodin block. So what did I end up playing, you ask?

StationWorks, of course.

You may or may not remember this deck. It’s probably better if you don’t, because it’s pretty bad, though it could’ve been much better for this event if I had Platinum Angels. It was a Japanese creation run by Masashi Oiso and Tomohiro Kaji at an Asian GP, and it was perhaps the jankiest deck ever. It revolved around Second Sunrise, Roar of Reclamation, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Myr Retriever, and Salvaging Station. If that sounds like a lot of pieces to you, well, you’re correct, but the deck was surprisingly consistent as long as you weren’t playing against Affinity.

Yeah, a bad matchup against the most popular deck in the format. Not the wisest of decisions. The problem mainly lay in Disciple of the Vault, for which purpose I added multiple Pyrite Spellbombs, but it still wasn’t enough to sway the matchup more than 50/50 at best. They comboed out faster than you did. Generally the Green matchups were fine, as one-for-one artifact removal did very little against a deck with artifact Replenishes, though well-placed counters were problematic as well. Coincidentally, this was the tournament where UG and Salvagers started to come into the public eye.

I played something like this:

4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Ancient Den
4 Tree of Tales
4 Seat of the Synod
2 Glimmervoid
3 Myr Retriever
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Talisman of Progress
4 Fabricate
4 Second Sunrise
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
4 Thoughtcast
4 Roar of Reclamation
2 AEther Spellbomb
2 Talisman of Unity
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Salvaging Station

It’s still fun, though.

How did it go, you ask? I went 3-3 overall, beating Affinity twice, BG once, and losing to UG twice, as well as Freshmaker once. I expected the results against Affinity and G/x to be reversed, but the counters plus artifact destruction bit proved to be hard to deal with, and the Freshmaker player got so lucky that I can’t talk about it without medication.

So what is the lesson to be learned from all of this nonsense? Let’s start with the first deck – Cemetery Cloud. The mana wasn’t all that good, and while the deck had a lot of card advantage, you can’t play a deck that narrow in any event no matter how warped the metagame is, especially at a tournament like Regionals. You have to play something with consistent mana and consistent power, not a narrow metagame deck.

As for GPNJ, the error is clear – I compromised my chances of doing well at that event by choosing a strictly inferior deck to the best in the format. By electing to not play powerful cards, I sabotaged my own tournament before game number one. And as you can see from the Top 8 there, with five Vial Affinities making it in, it’s pretty easy to see how much of a mistake it really was.

The overall lesson?

Don’t be an idiot.

Wait, that was the same as yesterday’s lesson.

Play the best deck.

Yeah. The best deck is the best because it wins, and the reason to go to tournaments is to win. Inf obv, right?

I’ll be back tomorrow with the final installment of my daily column, and I’ll give you a hint – it’s concerning a deck that you may have heard about. I bet you’re excited already.

Ben Goodman
RidiculousHat just about everywhere