Now that I’m a StarCity writer, I was going to come up with some clever name for this article like,”Lord of the Clamps, Return of the Skull: Playing Skullclamp at Regionals.” I had a whole shtick worked out where Arcbound Ravager would be Frodo Baggins and Disciple of the Vault was going to be Gollum. Sadly, Bennie Smith contacted me before I finished and informed me he was working on a similar article that would be out next week. Since I’m the rookie on this site, I backed down and let him have the glory.
Let me take a moment to reintroduce myself, my name is Osyp. Some of you may know me as Joe Black, or Peppermint VonCourderoy, or Dynamite Jackson. For those of you who don’t know me, I play Magic the Gathering on a semi professional level, and I’m also the lead singer of a Def Leppard cover band called Pyromaniac’s Stepchild. I love to write, but recently I really didn’t feel inspired to write for my old site with the way things were going. I decided it was time for me to move on, as sad as it was, and try my articles on a new crowd. I’ve always been a big fan of StarCity, particularly the forums, so this place seemed good enough as any to start writing again.
I don’t really like Limited, so everything you read from me will either be regarding Constructed or have to do with some ridiculous adventure I went on that happened to coincide with a tournament I was playing in. Some people say that the things I write about are greatly exaggerated and that little of it is actually based on fact. Well, I have to admit that I’ve been known to fabricate a few facts here and there, although I promise that I’ll make a concerted effort to not do that here. I respect this site and its readers way too much to do that.
I was planning on writing a tournament report on Pro Tour: Kobe, but since I wasn’t actually able to write for this site until today (3/24/04), that seemed a little too dated, so I figured I’d write about the next best thing, the Beef Open. After a disappointing Day 1 performance I, along with several other Pros, were relegated to play in the Kobe Beef Standard Invitational on Day 2. The downward spiral my life has taken has really started to make me think. A year ago, I was playing in the Pro Tour, well on my way to winning $30,000, and now I’m playing in a Type Two tournament for a steak dinner. At this rate, a year from now you’ll probably find me playing in a side draft for a bologna sandwich.
There was a large turnout for the tournament, comprised mostly of Japanese locals. There was also one very attractive honey that was playing in the tournament that seemed to be enamored with a one Joseph Gary Wise. Gary tried to play off her crush and was”gunslinging” with her all day, monopolizing all her time. I was determined to impress her by winning the tournament and steal her away from the devious Canadian.
I played U/B Affinity at the PT, and the entire day I noticed mistakes that were made in our play testing. Several things went wrong for us and I believe they all stem from us misevaluating several cards. At a block PT, something as small as not noticing how good Blinkmoth Nexus is can lead you to make a big mistake in the end. I won’t go into the details, since I promised this would be about Standard but the basic idea is that we undervalued Blinkmoth Nexus and Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]. Had we noticed how good Blinkmoth Nexus was, we wouldn’t have valued Somber Hoverguard as highly, which might have led us to abandon the blue in the deck. If we noticed Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], it would’ve given the mono-Red decks in our gauntlet more credence. The sad part is that we actually had tested all these cards, but looking through our email archives, it seems like we just never really explored it further.
I decided that since Mirrodin Block Affinity is so much more powerful than anything in the current Standard environment, I would just play my PT deck with some slight modifications. The deck I built literally a half hour before the tournament began was based on my thoughts on Block, so some of the card choices may seem out of place considering the way the metagame has turned out in Standard.
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Disciple of the Vault
4 Arcbound Stinger
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Shrapnel Blast
3 Welding Jar
3 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
2 Chromatic Sphere
4 Great Furnace
4 Vault of the Whispers
4 Darksteel Citadel
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
3 Drooling Ogre
3 Genesis Chamber
2 Talisman of Indulgence
2 Furnace Dragon
As you can see, the Drooling Ogre was only meant to show his head in Mirrodin Block when facing a R/G deck, although I will admit he did prove useful a couple of times throughout the day. I ended up going 10-1 over the course of the day, winning the Beef and a set of Japanese Fourth Edition Boosters and Starters. Unfortunately, Gary and the young lass had already left an hour earlier to go eat some sushi and I was left alone to experience another awkward moment in a foreign country. I had never played in a Japanese tournament before, so I was unfamiliar with some of their customs. Apparently, at the end of a tournament in Japan, all of the judges and the tournament organizers get in a single line. Then the winner and the finalists are required to walk down the line, bowing and shaking hands with each judge. There was only one problem with this.
Earlier in the day, I went to the bathroom between rounds and I ran into one of the judges working the tournament. He went to one of the urinals, did his business, and left without washing his hands.
Now I’m in a foreign country, and I don’t want to offend anyone, but at the same time, I don’t want to get this guys urine all over my hands. As I was walking down the line, the judge in question was getting closer and closer. I finally reached him and I bowed first, then he bowed and extended his hand. Always quick on my feet, I decided to just give him a hug instead. This was strange at first, but I think Judge Hideki and I shared a very tender moment.
My matches weren’t very interesting. I won all my matches 2-0, and my one loss in the Swiss was against a Goblin Bidding deck because I was mana screwed in games two and three. I played that same Goblin Bidding player in the finals and beat him in two easily. I played against one Mono-White control deck, two Goblin Bidding decks, two Mono-Red control decks, one Urzatron deck, one R/G deck, and four Affinity decks throughout the tournament. That’s not an exact picture of what the metagame will look like at Regionals, but I think it is close enough.
This format is different from Kobe in that there are two aggressive strategies that people have to deal with, and both vary in the way they can be contained. A deck like Slide can easily beat Goblins if built properly, but would have a hell of a time beating Affinity. The reverse can be said about a R/G deck. In Block, the only aggressive strategy that was any good was Affinity, so it wasn’t hard to build a control deck when you have a focused set of goals and only one aggressive strategy to contain. Affinity is also a very easy archetype to combat, because it’s so reliant on artifacts. You can use an anti-artifact strategy to beat Affinity, but see where a boat load of Detonates and Oxidizes main will get you when facing down a Siege-Gang Commander.
Goblin Bidding existing in the metagame doesn’t make Affinity a good deck. It’s always been a good deck, even in Kobe. Goblin Bidding simply makes Affinity a good choice in this metagame, because decks geared towards beating Affinity will need to get real lucky to make it to the later rounds. Granted, there are always those people that like to take their chances and hope to get lucky and get the right pairings they need to succeed. We’re talking about a mechanic that’s more broken than Madness was without the mana problems, so even”Hate” decks need a fair amount of luck to beat Affinity consistently. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Dave Meddish recently wrote an article on this site posting a R/G list. He claimed the deck was an excellent choice in this metagame because it posted solid results against Affinity and Goblins, because of all its main deck artifact and creature removal. Now, I am always skeptical of”hate” decks, because they go against a concept that I usually try to apply when building decks, which is, play the best cards possible.”Hate” decks like R/G try and get lucky by focusing their game plan on one deck, and hoping to get the matchups they need throughout the day. The problem with this plan though, is that the larger card pool you have to work with, the less effective it becomes.
At a Block Pro Tour, it’s not unsurprising to see a deck that has some amount of hate in it directed towards the”best” deck do well. In fact, if you look at the last few years of Block PT’s, the winning deck has always been geared towards beating the”best” deck. A Block Pro Tour is different than other Constructed events because your card pool is much more limited, so the average power level isn’t going to be as high. This is why you have to gear your deck in a particular direction, because it maximizes the power of the cards you do have to work with. Gempalm Incinerator isn’t a powerful card on its own, but in sea of Goblins it proved to be invaluable for me in Venice. I’m sure the same can be said about Ken Ho and his Standstills in Osaka, and Zvi and his Crimson Acolytes in Tokyo. Hateful decks will always do better at a Block Pro Tour, because your card power can be altered by the number of favorable matchups your able to have for yourself, which is why metagaming is more important there than for any other event.
The higher you go up in Constructed formats, the less viable this strategy becomes. Standard has a much higher level of card power than Block, and when was the last time you saw a hateful deck perform well at an Extended event? The idea that a R/G deck geared towards beating Affinity can do well in Standard is fundamentally incorrect. Although theory is one thing and practice is another. So I decided to put my money where my mouth was and test Dave’s deck, so I could see if I was wrong and he knew something I didn’t.
I played twenty-five matches with Dave’s deck card for card versus a standard Goblin Bidding deck and an Affinity deck. One of my matches against Eugene when he ran the Goblin deck involved him casting Skullclamp, drawing eight cards, and my answer play being Molder Slug to kill his Clamp. He laughed so hard that he fell out of his chair, knocking his deck onto the floor, so I counted that game as a win for the R/G deck. So R/G managed to go 2-23 versus Goblin Bidding. At one point in the article Dave says,
“This matchup is fairly favorable, but not a cakewalk by any means. Not only do you have cheap, beefy bodies that can chump Goblins handily, but you’ve got a board sweeper (Starstorm), oodles of life gain, and should they want to cast Bidding, you can sacrifice all your Beasts, gain eight to twelve life and bring them back for an encore.”
Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard something like this. I remember a format a little while back called Onslaught Block Constructed where people claimed their beast deck to have great matchups versus Goblins. I mean, with cards like Ravenous Baloth and Starstorm, it seems like a good matchup right? Well considering how badly Beast decks did post Grand Prix: Detroit and how dominant Goblin decks were, I don’t think I really need to explain how wrong that statement is, especially considering that Goblin decks have Skullclamp now, and Beast decks have… ummm… Molder Slug.
The Affinity deck did slightly worse against R/G than Goblins, only posting twenty-one wins. The lack of instant speed removal to deal with Skullclamp was a big problem for R/G. Welding Jar also protected the Skullclamp from all of the removal Dave had in his deck, so more often than not, you could at least get one to two activations off it, which is all you need. Molder Slug is just bad against Ravager Affinity and can even be a liability at times, and without Oxidize, the artifact removal is just too slow to keep up, so more often than not the R/G deck will lose the game with a Viridian Shaman and a Molder Slug still in hand. The way artifact hate decks were able to beat Affinity at the PT was by either attacking their mana early before they were able to get fully going, or by playing a game breaking Furnace Dragon. Without both Detonate and Oxidize main, a R/G deck can’t really expect to be able to contain an Affinity deck by trying to kill all of their creatures, while trying to keep Skullclamp in check as well.
I’m not trying to attack Dave at all, who I’m sure had results that validated his article. I’m simply trying to emphasize how difficult it is to build a deck that can beat both Goblins and Affinity, the two best decks in the format. Anyone who has tested a Slide deck against Ravager Affinity or played a Furnace Dragon deck versus a Goblin Bidding deck can attest to that fact. Playing those matchups out is like being Gabriel Nassif at a Limited PT, you simply never win. Damping Matrix is really the only card that can attack both decks with equal effectiveness, but that alone doesn’t win the war. Although like I said earlier, there are those who hope to get lucky and get the matchups they need to win, and that’s fine. But just know that although that strategy worked in Kobe, it’s unlikely to be as successful at Regionals.
So with that behind us, what could the best deck be? It’s obvious that Affinity can beat every deck in the format, and Goblin Bidding can beat everything but Affinity. What does this mean? Well it means that you’ll play at least three Affinity decks and at least two Goblin Bidding decks at your Regionals, so that’s the first thing to keep in mind when making your decision. Rather than go over Affinity first, I plan on covering that deck last, as it’s the most important deck to talk about and the actual list you play will vary for you from week to week. I plan on covering Mono-White, U/W Control, Mono-Red, Twelvepost and Slide in the coming weeks, all of which I think can carry you to Nationals. But the first deck I’ll go over is Goblin Bidding.
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Gempalm Incinerator
3 Patriarch’s Bidding
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 City of Brass
The main deck is identical to Seth Burn list, which I really didn’t feel needed any altering. The main card that is questionable in his old list would be Sparksmith, although in a tournament like Regionals, I’d say that card might actually be useful for you in rounds one through four. People know how to play Goblins, so I won’t explain how good Siege-Gang Commander is. The only matchup I will say something on though, is the Affinity matchup, since it’s the newest and most important matchup.
In my testing, the matchup is not very good for Goblins. The games I did win never really came down to being the beatdown, because it’s so hard to do against Affinity. The main way I won was by chump blocking over and over again and trying to stay alive long enough so that I could cast Patriarch’s Bidding and try and win instantly, or at least give me more time to cast another Bidding. After board you have four Echoing Ruin and Electrostatic Bolts, and they simply try and help you stay alive long enough to win with a Bidding. I’ve been boarding out the Gempalm Incinerators, Sparksmiths and two Goblin Piledrivers. The plan has been fine for me, getting the matchup to around 50/50 post board. The main problem though, is that your game one is so bad, that with only a fifty percent post board game at best, you’re really behind no matter what you do.
The best reason to play Goblin Bidding is the fact that with so much emphasis on Affinity, many decks will employ a strategy that just gets rolled over by a Goblin deck.
The Lightning Greaves are probably the strangest card to make an appearance in the sideboard. I really tried finding a card that would be good in the mirror and the uncommon Equipment was the best I could find. Short of having removal for their Skullclamp, being able to have an untargetable Goblin Sharpshooter is really amazing in the mirror match. The ability is also useful in protecting a Siege-Gang Commander, since having the Commander’s ability throughout an attrition based match-up like the mirror can be very valuable. The main reason I chose to run Shatter over Echoing Ruin is because I think you need to board in Skullclamp removal in the mirror, and Echoing Ruin isn’t a great option when you’re trying to gain Skullclamp advantage.
Next time on… The Black Perspective:
Reports from GP: Atlantic City, otherwise known as Mike Turian bachelor party
News on Tomi Walamies burst onto the Finnish stand-up Comedy scene
“So, I just flew into Helsinki and boy is my plane tired! Get it, normally that joke ends with my arms being tired, so I changed it around to make it that much more comical.”-Tomi Walamies as heard from his appearance on Helsinki Live!
Why are livejournals so popular among Magic players?
The Real Player of the Year Race
And the return of Ask Joe Black:
Why does Kartin’ Ken Krouner rip you off on a daily basis?
GT from ON.
All this and more.
Osyp”The Beefmaster” Lebedowicz