Part 1 of this article can be found here.
How The Heck Do I Play This Thing?
In this article, I’ll explain the game plan of the deck and then describe how to use the core cards properly, because every card has qualifications upon when you should play it that may not be immediately obvious. But first I want to address mulliganing.
When to Mulligan
This is the first decision that you will come to in any game and it is possibly the most important. The mulliganing process is the quickest skill you can learn with this deck, and it will take you the furthest.
The one rule you must never deviate from is that you must pile shuffle your deck before every game. If you do not, you will be mulliganing all the time, because you will be drawing bad hands. The deck manipulation that takes place when playing is so great every game, that you get large mana clumps whenever you put it back together, and only sufficient shuffling will randomize it properly.
Anyway, there are really two reasons that you mulligan. First, you don’t have enough mana. Second, your spells aren’t good enough.
Starting with the first reason, if you have no mana, then the hand is an automatic mulligan. However, I would keep a hand that has City of Brass or another 5 color land, Brainstorm, and at least one other mana source of some sort. Depending on how mana intensive the spells in my hand are, I might also keep a hand that has just the land, Brainstorm and no other mana source. That decision becomes more justified if your hand isn’t full of the expensive cards like Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and, if you are on the draw instead of playing first.
Potentially the one reason that you need to consider mulliganing is if you know you are playing against a deck with a heavy Wasteland component. If you are playing against Fish and your first turn play is City of Brass, Duress and you know that if they Wasteland your land, you will have no more lands or access to more lands barring a lucky topdeck, then that should weigh into your mulligan decision. If your hand is relatively weak, then I would be more likely to mulligan. If I was on the draw, then I’d probably not mulligan. It also raises questions about whether you should play Brainstorm instead (which if you are playing first, you probably should).
Turning to the second reason you mulligan, I have developed a basic system for determining when you can keep a hand on the strength of your spells.
You need to identify what the real “business spells” of the deck are.
Wheel of Fortune
That list of 17 cards (counting four Brainstorm) is the reason why this deck works. You have enough cards that you gain spell consistency. You are going to get threats, the only issue is really the mana – and that issue can be ameliorated through careful play and deck design.
If you have a hand with a good amount of mana and any of those cards, it is automatically keepable. Even with Mystical Tutor, you can play a land and pass the turn on your first turn, and on your second turn’s upkeep you can Mystical Tutor or Vampiric Tutor for Mind’s Desire. Assuming you are holding all mana accelerants, the Desire is likely enough to win the game. If you draw, say, the following hand:
City of Brass,
Elvish Spirit Guide
The reason you can keep that hand is because you a) have mana stability. By turn 2 you can play anything that costs three without using one-shot mana. That means your topdecks are immediately effective. Most importantly, you can Demonic Consultation for Brainstorm, which is what I often do in those scenarios.
What about the Wishes – why aren’t they on that list? The Wishes by themselves do not give you playable hands. The Wishes are your secondary threats and generally must follow the other business spells with a few exceptions.
1) If you have lots and lots of mana, then the Wishes become useful because you may be able to play a turn 1 or turn 2 spell like a Diminishing Returns or Time Spiral.
2) If you have a hand with two Wishes and seven mana.
With old Long.dec, you could keep hands like this:
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lion’s Eye Diamond
The reason is that the first Burning Wish would find Yawgmoth’s Will enabling you to use the second to find the lethal Tendrils of Agony. In order to play Yawgmoth’s Will and be able to utilize it in original long.dec, you needed five mana, three of which could be LED mana. You only needed the Mox and a land to get the ball rolling. With LongDeath, you need seven mana and two Wishes to keep a hand.
What I’m pointing to is the fact that the “combo” required only five mana. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the combo was playing Yawgmoth’s Will and then being able to replay your mana acceleration to play other spells. This is the real and most significant difference between the two decks. Whereas old Long only required a Mox, Land and Lion’s Eye Diamond (two normally usable mana and three mana from LED) – and no startup cost, because replaying the LED was free, LongDeath is far more tenuous. The combo now costs seven unless you have a Lion’s Eye Diamond or Black Lotus, in which case it only costs six.
Why? Death Wish and Yawgmoth’s Will both cost three each. In order to make use of the Yawgmoth’s Will, you need to be able to replay a mana source such as Dark Ritual. That means you need seven mana total. Therefore, in order to get a turn 1 win with no Lotus or LED and two Wishes, you need something like this:
Those hands don’t come up very often. The trick isn’t even being able to play Yawgmoth’s Will and have mana – its being able to play Yawgmoth’s Will and have seven mana afterward in order to play Death Wish and Tendrils (three and four mana, respectively). For this reason, it’s far easier to have a turn 1 win with a hand like this:
2 Irrelevant Cards
The Demonic Tutor is a built-in Black Lotus, storm-increaser, and a Tendrils as well. It is for this reason that the maindeck Tendrils, essentially a win-more card in old Long, is absolutely necessary in this deck.
Death Wish and Burning Wish
The first thing you need to recognize in using Death Wish is that you do not have to reveal the card you find. This is important, because you give your opponent less information to prepare to deal with what you have found. Death Wish finds any card that might be imagined, and so constructing an optimal sideboard took some time. The vast majority of the time, the card you are going to be finding with Death Wish is Yawgmoth’s Will or Tendrils of Agony. However, there will be situations where you fan open a hand that has just mana and Death Wish. That’s why Diminishing Returns and Time Spiral are in there. Time Spiral is better if you drop Tolarian Academy and have plenty of Moxen, and Returns is better if you won’t have sufficient mana.
There are a few narrow, but critical times where you’ll want to find Balance. It has won me enough games that I now see it is worth the sideboard slot.
More often than not, the optimal artifact answer to find is Hurkyl’s Recall. Oxidize is often worse, because they can Weld the card back in. With Hurkyl’s, they can’t pull that trick. The Primitive Justice is in the sideboard because if you only have Burning Wish, you may desperately need a way to kill an artifact. I recommend trying an Orim’s Thunder in the sideboard for situations where you may need to off an artifact and kill a Goblin Welder simultaneously.
Cards like Vampiric Tutor and Mystical Tutor are more important than ever. Before, they were combo parts with Chromatic Sphere and Lion’s Eye Diamond to play a massive Mind’s Desire – now they are genuine business spells, as they help you wear your opponent down. Mystical Tutor for Ancestral just as bait is a key play that you will use many times against Control decks.
When you play Demonic Consultation, you must never name a restricted card unless you have no other choice. Primarily, I name City of Brass, the most stable land, or Dark Ritual – the best unrestricted mana source that the deck has. However, I frequently name Duress and Brainstorm as well.
The Tutors can find Mind’s Desire and this is generally a good thing to keep in mind. This deck has the best Mind’s Desires of any deck in Vintage. Take advantage of this fact, and of the fact that Mind’s Desire isn’t counterable. Perhaps equally as important is the fact that Mind’s Desire provides you with spells that can be played at no mana cost. Casting Death Wish for free is a true boon.
Necropotence joins Mind’s Desire and Yawgmoth’s Bargain as the three most powerful maindeck cards. If you lose a game after resolving any one of these spells, chances are something has gone awry.
Using Necropotence can be trickier than it seems. My recommendation with old Long.dec was to find twelve cards on the first use. With this deck, ten or eleven has seemed more appropriate because, in my experience twelve felt like I was gorging too much. Your Necro will definitely win you the game, but it isn’t as explosive as it was in old Long.dec, because you don’t have 4 Lion’s Eye Diamonds. One other thing to remember is that you can’t go below two life. You will need to use one life point to cast Death Wish, and possibly, more life to cast another Death Wish. Therefore, going below four life can be perilous. I think you are generally safe going to two, but avoid going there if you can.
The same principle that you will need life to use Death Wish applies to Yawgmoth’s Bargain. The difference between Necro and Bargain is that you will likely just be able to win the turn you played Bargain. If you used quite a bit of mana acceleration to play Bargain and cast it on turn 1 or 2 leaving you with nothing left, you will probably need to play it safe and give them one turn before you begin gorging. You do this for the reason that there is a good chance you won’t be able to go off this turn. For example,
say you played:
You have already used two Dark Rituals, your land for the turn, and Lotus Petal. In terms of being able to play a Blue or Black spell, you will need to draw Black Lotus, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Mox Diamond, Chrome Mox, or a Mox of the appropriate color and likely more mana to be able to find and play Tendrils (generally on the order of seven mana total). It is probably just safer to wait one turn with little to no risk of losing and win convincingly on the next turn.
The same principle often applies to Memory Jar. If you tapped out to play it and used quite a bit of mana at that, the risk of having your Memory Jar activation turn out to be wasteful because you were unable to play anything you saw in it is too high. It is safer just to wait a turn to have full access to your mana.
Perhaps one of the hardest decisions I have to make at any given time is whether to play Brainstorm or Windfall. If you have two or three business spells in hand including Brainstorm and you have a Windfall for four or five, it is a close call as to whether you should play the Brainstorm or the Windfall – assuming you can’t do both. I haven’t decided which is the correct play. My advice is to look through your graveyard and removed from game pile to see what you have already been through and to try and figure out what you will likely see with Windfall or what the risks from using the Windfall are.
I won’t spend much time here but to mention that City of Brass is my land of choice. It is the most stable land and the most reusable. However, the downside is that multiple Cities of Brass are about as useful as Gemstone Mines, because you can only tap them so many times. I really like Glimmervoid, but find it to be too unstable to rely upon. For that reason, I also use a single Underground Sea. The Underground Sea will seem like a really stable mana source, and it is, but it is not without liability. The Underground Sea is the only mana source in your deck that is eaten by Sundering Titan. I lost a game because I hadn’t thought of that. I just naturally assumed that my land were somehow immune to that nonsense. Forbidden Orchard will likely replace some of the land components in this deck. The specific ratios would need testing, but I can see at least two or three going in here.
Cards I Tested But Didn’t Include
I started this deck out with Force of Will. I found that to be a mistake because you lose threat density by pitching cards like Brainstorm. Brainstorm is one of the strongest cards in the deck because it essentially sets you up on turn one for turn two victories. I also tested Rebuild in the Crop Rotation slot, but eventually cut it because it was never used. Hurkyl’s Recall proved strong enough to keep its maindeck spot, however. I tested builds with three Death Wishes but found that was a mistake. There will be times where you absolutely need all the Wishes because you will have removed so many win conditions or find them inaccessible. One benefit this deck has over old Long.dec is that you have more ways to find Yawgmoth’s Will.
Perhaps the biggest breakthrough was realizing that Chromatic Sphere is not something this deck wants. This deck already has enough ways to tie up its mana besides spending two mana to get one mana. Old Long.dec really maximized Chromatic Spheres, because it could Brainstorm back two strong cards, play Lion’s Eye Diamond and sacrifice it, sacrifice the Chromatic Sphere and use the Lion’s Eye Diamond mana to play the spell you put on top. I also tested Diminishing Returns and Cabal Ritual in the maindeck but found that they were generally lackluster.
Perhaps one of the biggest questions people ask is why do I only have two Elvish Spirit Guides? The basic answer is that four is too many, because you simply do not want to draw multiples. Elvish Spirit Guide mana is not reusable with Yawgmoth’s Will, nor does it up your storm count. The reason I have two is to assist in playing turn 1 Draw7s with Mox, Land, Elvish Spirit Guide.
In part three, I’ll explain how to sideboard, how to construct an optimal sideboard, and how to deal with the various matchups you are likely to face.
You can reach me at steve dot menendian at gmail dot com