The Daily Shot: Bogged Down In The Trenches

Playing the Counter-Trenches mirror is about as much fun as digging a ditch using only your face. It’s an exercise in attrition, with the winner determined by who gets more resources to work with. It’s not all luck, though.

Thank God it’s Friday. It’ll be a short column today, and for that you should thank me – I’m saving you from having to plow through another twenty paragraphs of the vain, inane, and profane. I bet you can’t wait to get the heck out of whatever suburban nightmare you’re in and head down to your local card hangout. I know I can’t wait to spend the weekend playing slinging spells, drafting, maybe dragging the occasional Hold’em pot.

What’s that? You don’t want to spend your time in a comic store, playing cards with teenagers who have no social skills?


When I do head down to the store, I’m likely to find a lot of Sarnia players wanting to test Type 2. It’s getting close to that time again… The time to finalize a deck for Nationals grinders. Eight or nine of us are going to want to try to grind in, and to do that, we’re going to have to know what beats Trenches, what beats Chapin/Turian-style Opposition, and what beats Psychatog. Futhermore, if we decide to play one of those decks, or a variant, we’re going to have to practice the mirror match. It’s going to be a mad rush in the days leading up to the big event, I can tell you that.

Speaking of mirror matches, playing the Counter-Trenches mirror is about as much fun as digging a ditch using only your face. It’s an exercise in attrition, with the winner determined by who gets more resources to work with. It’s not all luck though, and that’s why I’m testing it – I’m sure you can swing Game 1 quite a bit by virtue of better play.

Much like public television though, being educational doesn’t make it fun.

Every match, I feel like I’m on one of those 1920’s-era chain gangs, clearing brush in the deep south, just grinding away until the warden says it’s time to go back to my cell. Today I did some Trenches-on-Trenches testing, just to find out what was important to winning the mirror. The results were pretty interesting, so let me share the secrets of success with you – these are my early impressions.

First and foremost, you want to draw a lot of land. You never want to stop laying land. On most occasions, you and your opponent will get a Goblin Trenches out no matter what you do, so it’s going to come down to who draws the most land. This can usually be determined by who resolves the most Fact or Fictions. And vice versa. If you have more mana, it’s much more likely you’ll have the resources to protect your Fact or Fictions with Counterspell and friends. It’s a snowball effect – more mana lets you resolve more Fact or Fictions, which in turn gets you more mana, which allows you to resolve still more Fact or Fictions, and suddenly the game is yours.

During the game, you can tell if you’re going to win by counting how many cards you’re up and how many land you are up. The player with more cards and more land will win almost 100% of the time.

I tested using Eric Taylor’s decklist, and played mostly Game 1 for now, so I’ll be focusing on pre-sideboard mirror matchups.

Here’s the deck:

EDT Counter-Trenches (1st Place, GP Milwaukee)

3 Adarkar Wastes

2 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

4 Coastal Tower

7 Island

3 Mountain

4 Shivan Reef

3 Skycloud Expanse

4 Absorb

4 Counterspell

4 Fact Or Fiction

4 Memory Lapse

4 Fire/Ice

4 Repulse

3 Goblin Trenches

3 Prophetic Bolt

2 Syncopate

2 Wrath Of God


4 Flametongue Kavu

4 Meddling Mage

3 Lightning Angel

2 Gainsay

2 Aura Blast

Let’s go over every card in Taylor’s deck, and I’ll tell you what it does in Game 1 of the mirror, at least as far as I can tell:

Counterspell – You use these to protect anything that will get you up land or cards. You also use them to prevent your opponent from resolving his spells that do the same.

Memory Lapse – Use these to protect your Fact or Fictions. Memory Lapsing a Fact or Fiction doesn’t do much. These are much better after sideboarding, when the game turns into a tempo battle.

Syncopate – Same use as Counterspell.

Fire/Ice – These can be used to achieve land parity by blowing up two opposing tokens, or they can cycle in the early game so that you don’t miss a land drop. I usually cycle them. In game 1, you never want to miss a land drop until absolutely necessary.

Absorb – Same use as Counterspell, but more unwieldy.

Prophetic Bolt – After you’ve laid land for about seven or eight turns, you’ll want to start sending these at the opposing dome on every end step. They will either replace themselves or trade for counters, at which point it will be easier for you to resolve your Fact Or Fiction. Prophetic Bolt on a Goblin Soldier token can put you up half a land.

Fact or Fiction – This is your key to victory in Game 1. The guy who resolves the most Fact or Fictions will probably win, because he will have more land. And more land = more tokens.

Goblin Trenches – You have to get one of these to win, but don’t worry about trying to cast it early – even if your opponent in the mirror gets a third-turn Trenches (which is almost never a good play), you will be able to survive for quite some time on the strength of normally-dead cards like Repulse and Wrath Of God, as well as Fire/Ice. I’ve found that any time an opponent is able to force one of these through, I can usually just untap and cast my own, leaving things pretty much even.

Wrath Of God – In the mirror, you use this to try and claw back up if you’re two or three land down. Usually it won’t resolve, but sometimes you can get lucky and even things up by removing four or even six opposing tokens. Wrath is the first thing to get tossed when you start missing land drops.

Repulse – Usually pretty useless, it brings you half a land closer to parity if you’re behind. Repulse either gets tossed when you hit eight cards in hand, or used on an opposing token at the first opportunity.

After playing a few mirror matches, my playtest partner Matt Fox was a little perturbed at the slow-paced, methodical nature of the contests. Instead of playing Taylor’s Trenches deck, he made a vow to find a deck that would consistantly beat it. You can see the beginnings of his anti-Trenches brainstorming session here in a rare excerpt from my ICQ message history:

Matt Fox (11:28 PM) : f**k.. how to f**k trenches?

TSSDarktide (11:28 PM) : I don’t know.

Matt Fox (11:29 PM) : turn 1 guy, turn 2, guy, turn 3, 2 drop with 1G, they play Trenches to f**k you with and you Simplify

TSSDarktide (11:29 PM) : Simplify, lol

TSSDarktide (11:30 PM) : Or they can Repulse and Wrath and your Simplify can sit there rammed up your ass

TSSDarktide (11:30 PM) : Then they sideboard in the Flametongues and cornhole you

Matt Fox (11:30 PM) : F**K! I HATE EDT!


Good luck, Matt – you’re going to need it.

So, that’s how Game 1 works in the Trenches mirror. If you know what you’re supposed to be doing in Game 1, you can beat all sorts of other jabronies who didn’t do any testing, so I suggest you try a few games yourself. I’m sure you’ll quickly come to the same conclusions as I did. The key is to know which spells are important and which ones don’t matter. If you do, you’ll take wins from people who just xeroxed the deck and didn’t test it enough to understand it.

Sideboarding is a whole different ballgame entirely. I decided to try an aggro strategy that would remove all copies of Wrath Of God, Repulse and Fact or Fiction, while sideboarding in Meddling Mage, Lightning Angel and Gainsay. I haven’t played that configuration enough to be sure about it – I’ll keep you guys posted. I’m expecting to have this all nailed down before Nationals.

I’ll see you guys next week, when I’ll have a bunch of other fun stuff for you to peruse. It’s been fun.

Geordie Tait

[email protected]

“20 points or 20 packs? SCOOP!”