The Cynical Approach To Choosing A Regionals Deck

Most people who know me would probably describe me as a generally happy-go-lucky, optimistic kind of guy. I tend to expect the best from people, and generally count on things working out for the best in the world around me. I wasn’t always like that; my childhood and teenage years weighed heavily on my psyche,…

Most people who know me would probably describe me as a generally happy-go-lucky, optimistic kind of guy. I tend to expect the best from people, and generally count on things working out for the best in the world around me.

I wasn’t always like that; my childhood and teenage years weighed heavily on my psyche, producing quite a moody and sullen young adult. But then one day it occurred to me – expecting the worst and being pissed about the world really doesn’t do you that much good. Practically overnight, my view of the people in my life and the world around me changed to a more optimistic slant, and I’ve been a happier person ever since.

There’s been one exception to this change in mindset, however. I’m still very pessimistic when it comes to my luck.

You’ve seen the guys out there; they just defy the odds and come out on top every time. The popular expression around here is that they "have a horseshoe up their ass" (pardon the French). I definitely do not fit into this category, because my Karma generally subscribes to Murphy’s Law: if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. At the risk of carbon dating myself again, there was a Hee-Haw skit that sang a song with the line "if it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all." If you looked that lyric up in the dictionary, the picture next to it would be my face with a slightly skewed smile. The kind of smile that says "I should’a known better."

Fear of bad luck dramatically impacts the way I play Magic. Say I’m playing against Accelerated Blue with a Squirrel/Plaguelord deck. Both of us have had some pretty lame draws with no early threats. I try to cast a few things but he keeps countering or kegging them away. The game has gone on too long, and you know that fact favors Accelerated Blue. He’s got a ton of land, so all he needs is to top deck a Morphling or a Stroke to get the Morphling, and I’m in some serious trouble. I draw a Diabolic Servitude, and look over at my opponent. He’s got one card in hand, and has already cast 4 counters; what are the odds that that single card is another counterspell in a deck that’s got so few of them? Should I wait for another threat to overload his counter? That just seems to be playing to his deck’s strength… I go for it, since I’ve got a Deranged Hermit in the graveyard, and of course he’s got the counter so I’m left with nothing. Next turn, he drops the Morphling he drew and I’m dead a few turns later.

A lot of people I play Magic with regularly joke that I enjoy toying and torturing people before I win the Magic match. They point out that I will often have the game well in hand but for some reason never go for the throat. What I try to explain to them is, if I go for the throat, often it opens me up to disaster. I prefer to feel that I have the game well in hand, with little possibility of losing, before I try to win. I often play decks that reflect this cynicism towards my luck in Magic. I hate the idea of playing a deck that simply loses to a certain matchup, or to a certain draw by my opponent, or has no answer to a certain play.

This is my mindset as I look for decks to play at Regionals. The environment seems to be incredibly fast, and that has stifled my attempts at rogue decks. My rogue deck ideas tend to be mid-game, controllish types, and they seem to have problems against openers like Ritual-Negator, or turn 3 Bargain/Replenish. I worked on a Control White deck (nicknamed jokingly as Accelerated White), and while I liked it’s ability to handle a wide variety of threats, because of its own ability to win was so damnedably slow, I worried about finishing matches in the 50 minutes of time allotted.

So, I’m looking at the established archetypes out there. Negator Black gives me hives just thinking about it; I have the kind of luck that, when I play the broken Ritual/Negator first turn, my opponent will certainly drop a Mountain and Shock my Negator. Or I’ll get a slower draw, and my opponent will tutor for a Story Circle or (after sideboard) a Light of Day and the jig is up. Game over. I hate that. The only time I ever played a mono black deck was Pox back in the day, because it had artifact sources of damage and tons of discard to get around that stuff. So, Negatron, Control Black and Contamination are out of the running for me.

Combo decks and me just don’t mix. I mean, talk about pushing your luck! How many times have you seen somebody playing some heinous combo deck and it just… fizzles out. What a way to lose! I mean, if I lose a match, I’d much rather have my opponent out-play me instead of having my deck just not draw right and I lose. I remember in the High Tide days, watching a final 4 matchup, and the High Tide player cast a Time Spiral with like 40 mana in his mana pool, and drew like 4 lands, 2 counterspells and a High Tide. That’s what would happen to me if I played that deck. Sorry, but I can’t stand the thought of laying my victory on the line by how lucky I am drawing cards in that given turn. So, Bargain is out. Replenish is a combo deck that seems like something I’d feel better about playing. I mean, it doesn’t need Replenish to win; you can easily hard cast most all the enchantments and win; Replenish just breaks the deck. It’s like Living Death in a lot of ways; you could often win with Death just by the sheer utility and never even cast the namesake spell. Shawn McKeown for Neutral Ground has written some great articles on the Regionals metagame, and he published a decklisting for a Replenish deck developed by Don Lim that I’m using for the basis of a Replenish deck I’m building and testing with. If I play a combo deck at Regionals, it would be this one—

4x Opalescence
3x Parallax Wave
4x Parallax Tide
4x Attunement
3x Seal of Removal
2x Seal of Cleansing
4x Replenish
4x Counterspell
4x Frantic Search
4x Enlightened Tutor
4x Saprazzan Skerry
2x Remote Farm
4x Adarkar Wastes
8x Plains
6x Islands

I cut the Trade Routes out of the deck because I didn’t understand them; I mean, do you really expect to be giving your opponent time to be Dust Bowling your lands? I expect that this deck, from turn 3 on should be able to lay a threat almost every turn and eventually overload a control deck for the game winning Replenish. I’m also not convinced about main deck Arcane Lab; Seals of Removal seem to be a much more versatile main deck card, helpful against Bargain, as well as problematic decks like Negatron and a fast Stompy. Since Seal of Removal is nice early creature control, I’m dropping the Wave count to 3 and going with 3 Removals.

What I like about this deck is that it’s more like a control deck than a combo deck; sure, the deck revolves around getting off a huge Replenish for the win, and that’s undeniably what enables the deck to be“broken.” But along the way you can do lots of things instead of just trying to get your combo out; there’s lots of control elements in here. I like that, and if playtesting makes me happy, I might very well play this deck.

Another deck I’m happy with is Ponza. One of the first decks I played that I was very happy with and played more than once or twice was a red mana curve deck that was influenced by classic Sligh. What I really liked about classic Sligh was not so much it’s mana curve design, but the utility that was packed in it. I took a lot of those ideas and improved my own“Goblin utility” deck and did well with it. Modern Ponza reminds me of that old deck a lot—it’s really packed with good utility spells. Pillage and Powder Keg are multi-useful and are almost never dead draws in today’s metagame. The heavy land destruction element is fantastic utility by denying your opponent resources to cast their spells. Here’s a version of Ponza I’ve been kicking around.

Ponza Rotta Red:
12x Mountains
4x Rishadan Port
2x Dust Bowl
4x Ghitu Encampment
4x Sandstone Needle
4x Powder Keg
3x Ring of Gix
4x Seal of Fire
2x Shock
2x Hammer of Bogardan
2x Tectonic Break
2x Sowing Salt
4x Stone Rain
4x Pillage
4x Avalanche Riders
3x Lightning Dragon

The more I’ve been seeing about how the metagame is shaping up, the more I like Sowing Salt. I mean, every deck is running some sort of non-basic! At the least, it’s got 4 Ports; Sowing Salt will reduce their land count by 2-4 permanently, making the rest of your LD that much more potent and them less likely to top deck lands to outrace your LD element. I think it helps immensely against Accelerated Blue, giving your LD a chance against a deck that’s half mana. I also really like Lightning Dragon; as a finisher, he’s second only to Morphling. Granted, he’s not as popular or as dominant as Superman, but if you’ve ever had a Lightning Dragon hit the other side of the board and you not have an immediate answer, the game is often over quick. Fly over for 5, fly over for 10, fly over and you’re dead. The Rings and Kegs should help with any pesky Thermal Gliders that might ruin your plans.

Now, I know this deck isn’t going to be happy with a turn 2 Chill, but the deck does have 26 lands, including 4 temporary accelerators, so I don’t see a problem outside of turn 2, 3, and 4 Chill (and, what’re the odds on that? Yeah, I know, I’m pushing my luck…). Also, red’s got a great cheap sideboard card against any deck packing ChillsScald, which is a beating against that mana-hungry deck. Looking over the deck, I don’t see too many weaknesses that worry me. I like it.

The last deck I’m considering is an Enchantress deck. There are just so many good enchantments out there, there’s bound to be a good Enchantress deck out there waiting to be discovered! Ricardo Cardoso on Mindripper has an interesting deck that I like a lot, but I’m not quite convinced on the Squee/Cluster engine built in. Sounds good in theory, but… anyhow, here’s the version I’ve been noodling around with.

4 Birds of Paradise
2 Groundskeeper
4 Argothian Enchantress
1 Yavimaya Enchantress
2 Yavimaya Elder
3 Monk Idealist
1 Radiant’s Dragoons
2 Academy Rector
1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Saproling Cluster
4 Seal of Cleansing
1 Ancestral Mask
1 Pattern of Rebirth
4 Parallax Wave
2 Saproling Burst
3 Crop Rotation
1 Phyrexian Tower
1 Serra’s Sanctum
1 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Brushland
4 City of Brass
2 Thran Quarry
1 Plains
1 Swamp
8 Forest

Heh, it’s my old Pattern of Rebirth deck, reborn! I think the Parallax Wave and the Bursts add a lot to the deck, and it makes sense to meld Pattern of Rebirth with an Enchantress deck. And we get to run three different Legendary Lands, how cool is that? I mean, why not play Crop Rotation? There are a lot of cool synergies in the deck; I’ll leave it up to any enterprising mages out there to noodle around with it. If playtesting shows some promise, I’ll follow up with a more in-depth look at it.

So, a couple of weeks until Regionals, and Senor Smith hasn’t settled on a deck yet. Is anyone surprised? In the immortal words of Pete Hoefling…“Playtest! Playtest! Playtest!”

So many ideas… so little time.


Oh, be on the lookout for my man Kevin Davis, attending his first Pro Tour event this weekend in New York. Wish him luck in that shark-infested arena! We’ll be rooting for you!

“Get up offa that thing, and dance‘til you feel betta!”

James Brown, at a recent kick-a*! show
Should have been the flavor text on Pattern of Rebirth

…or not… Hey, I’m not as well read as Omeed, but I’ve seen some shows!