The Daily Shot: The Decks Of Geordie Tait

Geordie 8-0’d the Grand Prix trial the night before Cleveland… But what decks did he go through before that precious night, and what lessons did he learn about OBC?

“We learn to write in the first grade. Then most of us move on to other things.”

-Bobby Knight, basketball coach

I haven’t moved on. Knight was trying to take a shot at sportswriters, but he nailed me in the crossfire. I know one thing about Bobby, though. He can always find you a chair.

Hi. My name’s Geordie, and I’m a Daily Shot-A-Holic. You won’t find it in any medical encyclopedia – it’s a brutal affliction befitting a brutal column. It hasn’t been classified, and it can’t be cured. No antibiotic can touch this bug. I’ve got that storyteller’s itch and that means it’s time to report.

Let me tell you about my Friday evening at GP Cleveland.

Settle in for a long ride – today is the day where I pour out the story of my GPT win, mix it with a shot of Jack, and then you get to slam it back. You might not be shaking with anticipation now, but when I think back to the moment I walked into the I-X Centre, I know that yours truly had a case of the butterflies.

Aside -“Operation: PTR Dodge”

Picture it. We roll through the front door in a big Sarnia blob and the first guy I recognize, right off like a shot, is Peter Szigeti. Dressed in the retro Astros jersey that you may have seen in the Sideboard coverage, he’s standing around near one of the dealer tables, doing nothing in particular. This was both a good thing and a bad thing: It’s a good thing because it’s cool to see some of the big names in Magic. It’s a bad thing because I don’t feel like getting harassed just yet – and if you’re looking to be left alone, Peter is the last guy you want to run into, especially if he’s bored.

Let me tell you what I know about Peter Szigeti: He’s white, he’s bald, he makes fun of people a lot. He has a sense of humor, and it’s the no-holds-barred version that God only hands out when the world has gotten boring.

There I am, the geek who spent high school staring at the floor, and I’m feeling a little apprehensive. Already disoriented in surroundings other than my basement, I just don’t have the mental ammunition to deal with the likes of Peter Szigeti. Not then. Not yet. I’ve got no blueprint, no prior encounter to refer to for advice. I don’t know Peter and I haven’t ever spoken to Peter. I didn’t have a relationship with Peter prior to arriving at the event, I don’t have a relationship with Peter now, and I don’t plan to see much of old Pete down the road, either.

The way I figure it, in order to pass by PTR without getting the business, you have to look as inconspicuous as possible. If you’re dressed like the gay son of Liberace and Ivana Trump, or if you make eye contact for too long, he will zero in on you and pounce like the calculating social predator that he is.

BANG! My brain goes into self-preservation mode.

Alert. Exposure to Szigeti will likely result in verbal abuse. Recommend to avoid.

Before Peter can look in my direction, I swerve off to the side and sidle over to a dealer table to blend in with the locals. Mission accomplished. In the distance, I could hear PTR nailing some other poor guy who’d made prolonged eye contact by emitting a high-pitched banshee screech and sending him scurrying. Surreal. If you experienced high school like I did, you’ve got a big ol’ warning klaxon in your head that goes off at times like that. Szigeti would get riled up and he’d come stomping through the venue all brash and loud, and we’d be all like:

“White man on PCP! Duck and cover!”

And then, you and I, we’d dive under the dealer tables to bury our heads betwixt the calves of portly card merchants, hoping to hell that the footsteps pass us by.

I’d revisit “Operation: PTR Dodge” many times throughout the weekend, and I think I was successful in each instance. Never once was I noticed, and never once, co-incidentally enough, was I screeched at, made fun of, or called sh*t. Good times.

Now it’s time to sign up for the Trial. The place is huge, by the way… Did I mention that? Bigger and with higher ceilings than the place where they held GP Detroit. One reader, Tony Bucchioni, wrote me and mentioned that they used to build tanks at the I-X Centre – and by the look of the venue, I don’t doubt it. The rooms are South American Batcave, massive ballrooms and auditoriums that dwarf the sort of deal I’m used to.

The judges station is so far from the entrance that they almost start to sink below the horizon. On each side of the main concourse, there are lines of tables, as far as the eye can see. Each one is adorned with a green tablecloth, unmarked, ready for action. The place is lit by what must be a hundred chandeliers. Unreal. And if you think I’m going into too much detail, all I have to say is that:

a) It worked for Tolkien

b) If you don’t like it, write your own report

Okay, I’m just kidding. If you don’t like it, then hey… Like the Trey Parker and Matt Stone version of Saddam Hussein, I can change! Just don’t stop reading!

How about this one, then?

(Rodney Dangerfield voice)

So a player comes back from GP Cleveland and he says to me, he says”Hey, Rod, the place we were playin’ at was crazy, I could get in my car, drive for five minutes, and get out and I still wouldn’t have reached the other side.”

And I said”Yeah, I had a car like that once, too.”


Whatever. Let’s talk about the deck.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that my experiences with Odyssey Block have been frustrating and demoralizing. For the uninitiated, here’s the rundown.

First, some pre-history:

The first deck I tried in OBC was R/G Anger, and I tried it right when Quiet-Roar was hitting a peak in popularity. The idea was to play R/G beatdown with Anger, putting you a turn ahead of the competition and giving you the edge against Monoblack, using all the best cards in both colors. The trouble? Finding good madness outlets, and the fact that you’d never have as many Roars as the U/G player.

Oh, and no Wonder. Wonder is like a Red card in a Blue body. “Creatures target opponent controls cannot block.”

Here’s the Anger deck, which is really just a Madness deck with haste:

G/R Anger Beatdown (OBC, Geordie Tait)

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Roar Of The Wurm

4 Fiery Temper

4 Violent Eruption

4 Patchwork Gnomes

4 Anger

4 Firebolt

2 Narcissism

9 Forest

9 Mountain

4 Mossfire Valley

Reasons For Abandonment:

  • Just awful when you don’t draw a Wild Mongrel

  • Sometimes the board gets stalemated and you just die to Wonder

  • You need to draw your Wurms to beat their Wurms… And they have a spell that gets them three Roars in the graveyard. You, on the other hand, have exactly squat.

Ideas To Take For Later:

  • Anything capable of draws this insane can’t be completely discounted

One mistake I made here was not trying Barbarian Bully instead of Patchwork Gnomes. The Bully is an offensive creature and far better at what this deck wants to do – attacking. The Gnomes is a regenerating blocker, and when is that ever going to be useful in an environment with Glory and Wonder? The deck was inconsistant, so I decided to switch things around and go for blazing speed with the Reckless Charge route. My second try at R/G is writ here:

G/R Fast Damage (OBC, Geordie Tait)

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Sylvan Safekeeper

4 Grim Lavamancer

4 Seton’s Scout

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Firebolt

4 Fiery Temper

3 Violent Eruption

4 Sonic Seizure

4 Reckless Charge

9 Forest

5 Mountain

4 Barbarian Ring

3 Mossfire Valley

Reasons For Abandonment:

  • Can’t beat 6/6’s on turns 3, 4, and 5

  • Not enough red mana for reliable Violent Eruption

  • Not enough madness outlets

  • Sylvan Safekeeper sucks in multiples and sometimes just sucks in general

Ideas To Take For Later:

Can’t deal with the Wurms. The Reckless Charges, which I thought would allow me to push through board dominating Wurms, just didn’t show up often enough, and even when they did, they seldom made the difference I wanted. Quiet Roar was everywhere and where there was one Wurm, there were usually two more on the way. No little weenie deck can deal with that. If you Speculate for three Wurms and it takes me a card to remove the first, two cards to remove the second, and another card to remove the third… That’s four for one card advantage. What do I have left to deal with anything else?

I could go on about how the deck just wasn’t cutting it, but I think that the essential futility of these decks is best expressed with the following line – and I ask that you try to imagine it written, in bold strokes, across a chalkboard in an empty room. The ultimate lesson.

“The problem with R/G in OBC is that U/G is just better.”

End of lesson. You play R/G, you get a crappier deck with better mana.

So I dropped that whole idea and started testing on my next brainchild – U/G/B madness, with Wild Mongrel and Psychatog as the outlets. I mentioned in an article that I thought Possessed Centaur was pretty good, and it was…except that it was really slow. I wasted a lot of time testing a U/G/B threshold deck that was just like U/G threshold except slower, with Possessed Centaur to assassinate opposing green creatures. Too slow, and too much manascrew, and I built it wrong to boot, since I wanted to try Cephalid Broker in the same deck – and that’s more of a madness U/G card, if you’re going to play it at all.

Don’t laugh too hard at the Broker; it’s also extremely slow, but if you get it going, it will automatically win the game for you. I know this from testing. The problem is that it will never get going against Monoblack, and against U/G it will usually get going too late.

I’d draw Possessed Centaur, get threshold, and then my mana would be tied down killing off a green creature every turn… While my opponent would play more. It wasn’t clicking. The deck, for the record, was something like this:

U/G/B Madness (OBC, Geordie Tait)

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Psychatog

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Harvester Druid

3 Cephalid Broker

2 Careful Study

3 Circular Logic

3 Possessed Centaur

3 Roar Of The Wurm

2 Wonder

4 Timberland Ruins

3 Darkwater Catacombs

+ some other mana

Reasons For Abandonment:

  • Psychatog just isn’t that good when you have no card drawing and when all your discards come into play eventually. In fact, it’s awful

  • It’s hard to get threshold when you’re playing a madness deck, so Possessed Centaur had trouble getting it’s groove on

  • Amount of games lost to not having Wonder was annoyingly high

Ideas To Take For Later:

  • A testament to the power of madness… Any game where Cephalid Broker managed to stay on the table, it was very hard to lose

I started off with Upheaval in the deck, and eventually had to cut it, and I should have cut the Psychatogs along with it before I decided to swear off the black splash altogether. Actually, I changed direction one morning when I was thinking some goofy thoughts – namely, how it’d be cool to play Alter Reality and let Possessed Centaur assassinate anything it wanted. Then, I realized that if I was going to splash into a U/G deck for any threshold creature, it should probably be Mystic Enforcer. The Possessed Centaur, though still a pimp, was too slow and mana-intensive, while the Enforcer was a 6/6 beating stick.

Which I could also use Alter Reality on.

*light bulb*

Imagine my mindset. All of a sudden, I see Captain Alter Reality swooping in to save the day, fizzling Aether Bursts, facilitating unblocked attacks, slicing and dicing and making fries. I’m loving it. Then I realize that Alter Reality is also amazing with Phantom Centaur and Nantuko Blightcutter. The Blightcutter is especially cool.

I go to the drawing board and start testing, and by the time the first GPT in my area rolls around, I have the infamous Alter-Llawan or”Sleight-Knight 2002″ deck.

Here it is:

Sleight Knight 2002 (GPT Cleveland, Geordie Tait)

Hapless Researcher

4 Mental Note

4 Werebear

4 Aether Burst

4 Nantuko Blightcutter

4 Phantom Centaur

4 Mystic Enforcer

3 Alter Reality

3 Wonder

2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress

2 Breakthrough

10 Island

7 Forest

4 Sungrass Prairie

1 Tarnished Citadel


4 Envelop

4 Elephant Guide

3 Ray of Revelation

2 Genesis

2 Upheaval

Reasons For Abandonment:

  • See below

Ideas To Take For Later:

  • Let me put it this way…if you slam your hand in a door, will you really be eager to do it again? No? I thought not. I think you can probably figure out how that example applies here.

This deck has many problems, all of which are discussed here, at length, if you’re interested. I went 1-2 at a the GPT. I wasn’t too happy, but hey, I hadn’t expected much anyhow. I wonder how this thing could have done with a few changes, like the addition of a proper sideboard including Squirrel Nests, and an overhaul of the top-heavy manacurve. I guess we’ll never know.

Here’s the report from the event where I played it.

With that out of the way, I went to work on a new deck, and this time I got to wondering how Psychatog would do if it were built for OBC. In the week’s time between the GPT and the PTQ the following Saturday, I threw together the following deck, which would turn out to incorporate many of the ideas that other deckbuilders were simultaneously exploring.

This is it, prior to any Internet influence:

OBC Psychatog (Geordie Tait, PTQ Houston – Detroit, Michigan)

4 Cunning Wish

4 Psychatog

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Circular Logic

4 Aether Burst

3 Standstill

3 Compulsion

3 Syncopate

2 Upheaval

2 Concentrate

2 Deep Analysis

1 Innocent Blood

13 Island

6 Swamp

3 Darkwater Catacombs

2 Cephalid Coliseum


4 Envelop

3 Innocent Blood

2 Ghastly Demise

1 Laquatus’ Disdain

1 Plagiarize

1 Coffin Purge

1 Psychotic Haze

1 Divert

1 Aura Graft

Reason For Abandonment:

  • This didn’t disband as much as evolve, once I saw the better ideas being tried all over the net

  • Psychatog isn’t as good as Infestation… It never blocks in this environment

  • 4 Cunning Wish is too many

  • 1 maindeck Innocent Blood is too few

  • Syncopate is awful unless you’re going first

Ideas To Take For Later:

  • Pretty much the whole concept is sound, if you can tweak it right and get the practice in.

My initial rundown of this deck can be found here. I went 2-4-1, at the PTQ, though most of that record was due to poor play. Awful play, actually. I probably played worse than I ever have. The report can be found here and here.

Bad play, bad play, w’atcha gonna’ do?

Anyhow, let’s move on. Some time went by and Worlds took centre stage, with a side effect of the event being that the best decks in OBC were out there for everyone to examine. I really loved the Team Punisher deck and decided to run it in a London, Ontario PTQ.

I played Tomi Walamies‘ exact decklist, with a few Standstills in the sideboard to help against Black, which was shaping up to be a poor matchup despite Team Punisher assurances to the contrary during a Sideboard Online interview from Worlds. I also took out a Skycloud Expanse and put in an island, because I was sick of getting screwed with an Expanse in play and an Envelop in hand. (I bet a lot of people made a similar change after doing a few test games. Wrong or no, it was certainly my knee-jerk reaction.)

Here’s the deck I took to the PTQ:

U/W Speculation Beatdown

4 Spurnmage Advocate

4 Tireless Tribe

4 Beloved Chaplain

3 Patrol Hound

3 Glory

2 Suntail Hawk

4 Battle Screech

4 Quiet Speculation

4 Divine Sacrament

2 Deep Analysis

2 Envelop

1 Prismatic Strands

13 Plains

7 Island

3 Skycloud Expanse


2 Envelop

2 Deep Analysis

2 Prismatic Strands

2 Stern Judge

2 Kirtar’s Desire

2 Sphere Of Truth

3 Standstill

Reason For Abandonment:

  • Bad matchup against Monoblack

  • Could still lose to U/G

  • Bad experience at PTQ

Lessons To Take For Later:

  • The biggest lesson was how to play against the deck; something I hoped to put to good use while playing U/G

I ended up going 2-3 at the most miserable PTQ of my life, a depressing affair that left me on the verge of complete mental exhaustion and burnout, and certainly in no mood to write.

Me? Not write? Now that’s scary.

Still, that’s how bad it was. This tournament did start an interesting debate about the nature of”perfect play” and whether or not I was a good enough player to spot my own mistakes. While I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that a player should never deny that he has played poorly, I will never mire myself in the flipside and assume that I made mistakes when I didn’t. Sometimes you can play perfectly and still lose.

There’s no tournament report for this one, but the events of the tournament are discussed here.

I’d had it. No more trying out the newest thing, no more rogue decks, no more tier 2 stabs at glory. I decided I was going to take the deck that won GP London, played by Jakub Slemr, and learn everything about it. Then, I was going to play it as best I could, and hope for the best.

See ya tomorrow!

Geordie Tait