I don’t know about you, but I get really focused on Type 2 when a new set comes out. I start to look over the spoiler and excitedly scribble deck ideas into my Deck Book. At the same time, there is a dawning realization that my untested Type 2 decks are about to become obsolete. Thus, I often feel torn between wanting to dive into the new format and wanting to try out those few last ideas before the winds of change blow.
Which brings me to Sunday. Somewhere someone sometime wrote that Type 2 officially changed on March 1st. March 1st!? How did that happen? Didn’t Masques just come out? That meant I had exactly three weekends to play in the Neutral Ground: SF’s weekly tournament, which is the only Type 2 tournament I can ever reasonably attend. Sunday the 27th was out because that’s the weekend of the last qualifier and I’m sure to be Magic-ed out by Sunday. The 20th wouldn’t work because my mother-in-law was visiting. That left the 13th. Crap. I had the opportunity to try out exactly one of my decks before the format changed.
Fortunately, my choice was clear. I had been working on an Aggro-enchantress deck for literally months, tuning it card by card each time I played. That sadly meant ditching my Delraich and Wumpus-Geddon decks until after Nemesis – which probably meant forever since I have no deck attention-span at all – but the enchantress deck _needed_ to see a tournament.
I called up Team Purple Pepper the day before the tournament and only Tom was available. I hadn’t given people a lot of notice and the Bay Area had been drenched in rain for days. Other folks were either busy or reluctant to swim to Neutral Ground.
Exactly sixteen people braved the rain to play on Sunday. Right before we signed up, Tom asked me to look over two different decks that he had been considering. One was an aggressive blue deck with Sprites, Faeries and Djinns backed by bounce and countermagic that he had copied from the web (and that looked strangely like my Hyper Blue deck). The other was a three-color deck built around Prosperity and Iron Maiden that Tom had made but hadn’t tested. After flipping through the decks quickly, I told him to definitely play the blue one, and we patched together a sideboard before pairings went up. The blue deck looked solid, and I told Tom he would likely go far with it.
Here’s the deck I brought:
4 argothian enchantress
4 verduran enchantress
4 hidden gibbons
4 ancestral mask
4 creeping mold
2 tranquil grove
4 rishadan port
4 treetop village
1 gaea’s cradle
1 dust bowl
4 river boa
3 hidden ancients
1 titania’s chosen
This deck has gone through so many changes I’m not sure it would be worth even trying to track them. If the format wasn’t about to change I would give a card-by-card analysis, because I can justify the inclusion of each and every card even though some of them look a little non-conventional.
Generally speaking, though, the She-Hulk deck is a combination of Aggro-Enchantress and Control Green. As such, it differs from other enchantress decks pretty significantly. Before I move on to the tournament, I’ll say a bit about the most glaring differences:
– What? No Yavimaya Enchantress? It took me a long time to realize that the deck didn’t need the third enchantress sister. The other two are critical because they let you draw cards, but the Yavimaya Enchantress is basically a three casting-cost beating stick. If it’s just a beating stick, though, green has lots of options. And probably the best green beating stick is Masticore, even if it isn’t strictly green. For one more mana, you get a 4/4 creature that regenerates and wipes out other creatures. In a deck that usually has more cards in hand than it can cast, the Masticore”liability” of pitching a card doesn’t hurt the deck at all. When I took the Yavimaya Enchantress out and put Masticore in, the deck suddenly transformed from a fun deck to a Dominant Deck. Like it or not, Masticore is just that good.
– Most aggressive enchantress decks use cheap enchantments that generate mana like Wild Growth and Fertile Ground. While having a lot of mana is critical to this kind of deck, I find that these enchantments make the deck a one-trick pony. I would rather have enchantments that _do_ something. Exploration and a lot of land help out the mana acceleration, and give me room to add the Hidden Gibbons and other utility like Creeping Molds. While not a dominant card, the Gibbons alter an opponent’s play style and give the deck another creature (which it desperately needs). Creeping Molds are just versatile, and I’ve said many times I like decks that are versatile.
– The Tranquil Groves might look a little peculiar in a deck with a lot of enchantments, but they guard against things like Treachery and Opposition, two of the cards I least like my opponents to play. Especially when using Masticore, having a Treachery come down is no fun. In a pinch, the Groves can do fun things like kill Rancor to draw continuous cards, too.
– The sideboard wasn’t strictly wrong, but it wasn’t great either. The River Boas get sided in against blue and give the deck the speed necessary to slip under counters. The Composts are obvious, and I used four because in previous tournaments I had seen a lot of black at NG. Hidden Ancients are dumb, but they did get sided in for one match. There was one Wildfire deck there, but the Splinters are primarily anti-Masticore. The Titania’s Chosen was the most random of all, but I couldn’t find a third Tranquil Grove (which is necessary) and right before the tournament I realized I would die a horrible crushing death against Stompy.
The deck just overwhelmed fellow Purple Pepper decks. In fact, I found the deck to have only two significant weaknesses: first, it is slow without the Explorations and/or Enchantresses. S-L-O-W. Against decks that can’t take advantage of the first three turns, She-Hulk smashes everything in sight. Against speed decks like Stompy, though, there’s little or no hope to set anything up quickly enough to win. Secondly, the deck has a lot of creature-enhancers with very few targetable creatures. Thus a savvy opponent can selectively kill your creatures and leave you with a hand full of Rancors and Masks, which is very frustrating.
My plan, then, was to avoid Stompy and savvy opponents.
ROUND 1 – Ramon with Crab/Study/Opposition
Ramon is a big guy and very, very quiet. The first time I played him it was a little eerie how quiet he was. After several tournaments, I realized he’s a really nice fellow, just a little reserved. I’m happy to see him as my opponent, because playing nice fellows is one of the best parts about Magic. I’m less happy when he drops an Island, but then I remember my deck doesn’t mind blue.
Game 1: I win the die roll and keep a hand with 2 Forests, Port, Creeping Mold, Gibbons, Exploration, Grove. I should have learned never to keep a hand without an enchantress, village or Masticore (i.e. a threat), but I naively think that the Port and Mold will buy me enough time to set something up. I go Forest, Exploration, Forest, Gibbons. Then Forest, Port, kill your Island. Pretty good, right? For the next ten turns, I draw land, Rancors, Masks and another Mold. He’s using Soothsaying instead of Brainstorm, so the Gibbons stay an enchantment while he plays”Draw-Go” and gets out more and more land. He keeps counting it so I know he wants to play a Morphling. I Mold another land, then get another Port so that he can’t play it without tapping out. Around turn 100, something exciting happens when he triggers the Gibbons, then Treacheries them, then I kill the Treachery with the Grove, then he bounces the Gibbons and counters them. Sigh. Eventually, he has enough land to play Morphling and my life starts rapidly draining away. I die without him really knowing what I’m playing. All I’ve seen is land, counters, Boomerang, Soothsaying and a Morphling, though, so I mistakenly assume he’s got some teched-out Draw-Go deck.
Out come the Masticores and 2 Creeping Mold. In go 4 River Boa and 2 Hidden Ancients. I wish I had the third Grove.
Game 2: I get a 2nd-turn River Boa, then two Argothian Enchantresses. He taps out to play two Fog Banks (?!?) and I go crazy with Exploration, draw 2 cards, Exploration, draw 2 cards, Rancor, draw 2 cards, Gibbons, draw 2 cards, etc. I finally draw a Mask and attack with my 23/21 Boa and he’s dead. Whew. That’s more like it. He goes back to his sideboard now that he knows what I’m up to.
Game 3: He’s in trouble early as I get out a first-turn Gibbons and then play River Boa and an Enchantress. He plays Powder Keg to kill some stuff and gets out Fog Bank (?!?) again. Thankfully I draw one of my two Groves so that when he finally starts with the Hermit Crab + Hermetic Study I can kill it before it gets started. He then realizes he can’t play Opposition and eventually my Villages and Rancored Gibbons take him down.
1-0 (games 2-1)
ROUND 2 – Tom Norman with Wheel of Fish
Dammit. This is annoying on so many levels. First, I taught Tom to play Magic and we play almost every day at work so this isn’t a special treat to be able to play one another. Second, he knows my deck backwards and forwards and I have just glanced through his. Third, his deck has a HUGE advantage over mine because it’s a speed deck and my deck hates speed. Fourth, I told him to play the stupid thing! Fifth, he’s playing essentially the deck I won my last Neutral Ground tournament with (though if you call mine Wheel of Fish I’ll smack ya). Five annoying levels. The last is probably the most annoying, though I like seeing people do well with a non-traditional deck.
Game 1: Tom plays a Cloud Sprite, then a Cloud of Faeries and holds back mana for counters. Since my deck didn’t do anything for the first two turns, I’m suddenly in a situation of not wanting to cast anything that might get countered as my life goes 19-16-13-10-7-down and down and down. Finally, I play a bunch of stuff, some of which gets countered, and he drops an Indentured Djinn. He’s going to win next turn so I scoop. Tom played the deck just like it was supposed to be played.
I side out my 4 Creeping Molds to put in 4 River Boa. It ain’t much of a sideboard against him, but the Masticores are in there so I still feel reasonably okay. I tell Tom that this might be his first tournament win against me. He smiles and we play.
Game 2: He gets the same fast start and this time I’m able to do a bit more. His small fliers have me on the ropes and the turn before he’s going to kill me he’s tapped out without a blocker. I have a River Boa and a few enchantresses. I do the math to see if I can come over for 20 damage with the Boa… and I’m one mana short. I do the math again and again, but it’s silly because I’m obviously one mana short. That familiar wave of despair that I’m going to lose and I can’t take it back starts to overwhelm me. But… but… let’s see. I do the math again and am one mana short. Tom wins.
1-1 (games 2-3)
After the match, we play a few more times and Tom crushes me. My deck just can’t deal with his and he’s only got two Hibernation in the side. That’s bad news. The Masticore either gets countered or comes out too late in all of the games. Finally, I win one but it’s clear that She-Hulk doesn’t like Faeries.
I call my wife Sarah and she calls Tom a creep for beating me. I deliver the message, we laugh, wish each other good luck and are on to Round Three.
ROUND 3 – Patrick with White Weenie
I’m looking around and it looks like I’m the only one without an opponent. Finally I ask the judge and he says,”oh, he’s over there.” I look and don’t see anyone. I look again and finally a little top of hair comes over. I’m playing a kid about seven years old. A very serious kid. One of the Neutral Ground staff, a great guy named Arizona, tells me before the match that Patrick’s a new player. I nod and sit down to teach a little Magic.
Game 1: Patrick has an 80-card deck that he made by taking the Sleeper theme deck and adding some neat white Mercadian Masques cards. Surprisingly, though, he’s 1-1 like me and while he doesn’t understand the game well, he doesn’t make play errors either. We play very slowly, me explaining each rare I’m playing and how it works. It’s hard to explain to a new player why Rishadan Port is good, I’ve decided. He gets out a few weenies and eventually my three Treetop Villages beat him.
I ask Patrick if he has a sideboard and he doesn’t know what it is. I explain the sideboard to him, tell him next time to bring fifteen cards with some Circles of Protection (he likes CoPs and was going to buy some today) and then I show him how to sideboard by using the match next to us as an example. Patrick is really bright and gets it right away. I see him later and he’s got his CoPs with him. I don’t sideboard and we sit down to play again.
Game 2: This time I get out two Enchantresses and quickly get a 14/14 trampling Verduran Enchantress that can easily outrace his Thermal Glider with Brilliant Halo. He laughs when he sees my deck work and I just sit back and marvel at this kid. I mean, he’s half the age of the youngest player and is playing Magic while a whole table of kids his age are playing Pokemon behind him. We talk for awhile and I talk to his Dad before the next round starts. His father says that he wanted Patrick to come to a tournament to meet people like me who would help him. The plan worked, as throughout the day I see all sorts of players giving Patrick tips and helping him focus his deck.
I look around. No one’s thinking of the Big Prize or the Pro Tour. People are trying out their crazy decks and helping new players in a relaxed atmosphere.
This is why I love local tournaments.
2-1 (games 4-3)
ROUND 4 – Oops, I forget, playing… Stompy
This guy always plays Stompy. Every tournament. He doesn’t trade or buy cards because he has all of the cards he needs for his Stompy deck. You gotta admire that, though it would drive me bonkers. Last time I played him was in my last tournament here, where I beat him with my Hyper Blue deck (not to be confused with Wheel of Fish). He remembers me and I assure him I’m not playing that deck this time. He smiles and I suddenly realize that he’s going to eat me alive.
Game 1: He wins the roll and plays a first turn Wild Dogs, second turn Dogs, Elves. Third turn he plays Gaea’s Cradle and then plays Rushwood Elemental. So I lost, right? You’re damn right I lost! What, you thought I had a snappy comeback from THAT? Like I said, She-Hulk doesn’t like speed too much.
I side out the Creeping Molds and a Gibbons for the Titania’s Chosen and 4 River Boas. This sideboard isn’t working out too well for me.
Game 2: This game looks a little better. He gets a more manageable start, though still has a foil-Rancored Jaguar with another Jaguar staring me down. I do some enchantress tricks and get a River Boa into play. Eventually he has 2 Albino Trolls, a Pouncing Jaguar (with Rancor) and a Llanowar Elf. I have 2 Argothian Enchantresses, a Yavimaya Enchantress a River Boa with a boatload of enchantments out. I’m tapped out but holding enough Rancors and Ancestral Masks to win next turn if I can survive his attack. He attacks and I block with enough damage to put me at six life. He shows me the Might of Oaks and I lose. Damn. We calculate the next turn and I come over with a 36/31 Boa.
2-2 (games 4-5)
Since the games were pretty fast, we play a few more and I win every one. Sometimes that happens.
After going 2-0, Tom also ends the day with a 2-2 record. The finals saw a Millstone deck with Wrath of Gods and Armageddons facing a Replenish deck. I felt so bad for the Mill guy… he brought a cool deck and faced his absolute worst matchup. The Replenish guy just loooooooved the Millstone.
Anyway, not quite the stellar showing that She-Hulk deserved, but I was just happy to finally play some Type 2. I still think it’s a darned good deck, but something in the sideboard would need to change in order to beat speed decks. Dawnstrider is probably the answer. I realized afterwards that no one in Purple Pepper plays beatdown, so it’s no surprise that the deck looked so dominant to me and was so unprepared for beatdown decks.
SHE-HULK AFTER NEMESIS
On the horizon looms Nemesis, a set that everyone says is essentially worthless for constructed. I don’t often stick with a deck long enough to adapt it to new sets, but I have thought if She-Hulk gains anything from Nemesis. Seal of Strength is a neat way to slip Giant Growth in the deck, but then you have _twelve_ target-creature spells and the same problem of not enough creatures. The upside on the seal is that you at least get to draw cards for it, but I’m still a little dubious that it belongs in the enchantress deck. Something to try, at least.
On the other hand, I am strangely attracted to Saproling Cluster. The Cluster solves two problems that She-Hulk often runs into: it gives the deck something to do with all of those extra cards it’s drawn and it gives the deck more creatures. Who cares if your opponent can chump-block with their own 1/1 Saprolings if you have a 19/15 trampling Saproling? In the early incarnations of She-Hulk I used Greener Pastures with the same idea, but I think the Cluster is both faster and better.
This is just an untested sketch, but I might design the deck something like this after Nemesis:
4 argothian enchantress
4 yavimaya enchantress
4 stampede driver
4 ancestral mask
4 saproling cluster
3 seal of strength
2 tranquil grove
2 spontaneous generation
4 treetop village
3 gaea’s cradle
1 dust bowl
Like I said, that’s a rough idea and uses probably more Nemesis cards than would show up in the final incarnation. The idea here is slightly different than pre-Nemesis. Instead of”just” winning with a fattie and playing control if you can’t, this deck looks to generate tokens and win through a weenie (admittedly sometimes a big weenie) rush. If it gets a huge trampler to do 20 damage, that’s great. But it can also win with ten 2/2 tramplers as well. This version loses a lot of the Control Green elements and loses the Masticore, but it’s much more capable of making use of its enchant-creature cards and I’m not sure it’s quite as slow. As a bonus, with the Stampede Driver your Argothian Enchantress can even attack!
That idea keeps the deck mono-green. I think you can also make a similar deck using red for Seal of Fire and Mark of Fury, or blue with Trade Routes and Treachery, or black with Engineered Plague and Seal of Doom, or the more-standard white with Worship, Tethered Griffin, etc. There are a lot of ways to go once Nemesis comes out and the seals essentially turn good spells into enchantments. The decision you need to make is how much control you want to sacrifice for damage, and how much damage you want to sacrifice for control. In an aggro-control deck, this is often the most difficult stake to plant.
Although a 2-2 showing isn’t enough to sway the world over to my own take on enchantress decks, I hope I’ve at least tickled your brain with a few unheard-of ideas.
But next time I show up to Neutral Ground, don’t be like Tom and beat me with an enchantress deck while I’m playing my Wumpus-Geddon deck because that just makes me feel bad. Besides, Sarah will call you a creep.
That’s it for now. Have fun. Questions and comments are always welcome,
Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, Ph.D.
Proud Member of Team Purple Pepper