Welcome to the second installment of my”Diary” series here at StarCity. Today begins a long, meandering, incoherent miasma of scattered notes about my experience playing a Kamahl, Fist of Krosa deck. Proceed with much coffee in your veins and powdered sugar on your lips.
As it turns out, I was very lucky to have the Kamahl-Goblin Sharpshooter deck chosen in my”Deck for doctorjay” vote. Legions won’t be out on Magic Online until March 5th, but since The Marksman doesn’t require Legions cards upfront, I was able to start playtesting immediately.
(NOTE:”Playtesting” = random games versus random decks. See all of my caveats in the first Diary article, lest you feel misled and uppity about me preparing you for Regionals.)
The downside, of course, is that this whole exercise is meant to create a fun post-Legions Standard deck. Bother. Oh well… I want to play now, so now is when I’m going to play, dammit. At the very least I can uncover major design flaws in the deck without continuing to theorize my mind to pulp. And does anyone truly believe that Legions has drastically shifted the available pool of decks in Standard? Anyone?
You. In the back. Sit down.
Getting the Cards
It turns out the deck I made isn’t terribly exhausting to build. There are some key rares – Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Goblin Sharpshooter, and Terravore – but none of these are exactly sterling chase cards. The rest of the deck consists of easy-to-get uncommons or commons which took me exactly two evenings of trading to acquire. For some reason, the hardest cards to find were two copies of Price of Glory. I think I spent nearly half of my time tracking down those two uncommons.
The Karplusan Forests, I knew, would require a nasty quest of begging and pleading. Instead I bit the bullet and purchased them on eBay. Yes, I feel very silly going on eBay for virtual cards when StarCity sells real ones… But hey, there’s no shipping charge!
If you feel compelled to build the deck but can’t justify the Karplusan Forests, by all means use two extra Forests and Mountains instead.
On Your Mark, Mark… Mark!
Even out of the gates, I already wanted to change some things about the deck drop a Stone Rain for another Wall of Mulch and maybe drop Price of Glory altogether for some burn. The defense of the deck scared me the more I looked at it, but I said I would initially play the deck as-is. So…
Version 1.0, Games 1-4
Excited and a little wary, I cruise the Casual Constructed room for my first game. It doesn’t take very long on MTGO, so within moments I’m staring at a virtual opponent. My opening hand looks okay, if a bit land-heavy: My early turns go land, Wall of Mulch, Goblin Sharpshooter, Explosive Vegetation. My opponent’s turns are Telepathy, Disciple of Malice, Cabal Archon, Bog Wraith. So it looks like I’m facing some kind of black/blue Clerics deck with some odd card choices. And he’s beating me, too, with plenty of land to sacrifice to the Custody Battle I drop on his Wraith.
I lay land, he beats on me. I block with my Sharpshooter to kill his Archon, and then play another one, but otherwise I’m just seeing land while he is thwacking on my noggin. At eight life, I Stone Rain his last Island, which finally gives him enough incentive to give me the Wraith. I draw and drop a 6/6 Terravore and start the process of sacrificing one of my nine lands each turn to the Battle while trampling and swampwalking my way past blockers. My opponent concedes. No Kamahl, but a win with Custody Battle is pretty sweet stuff.
The next three games are much less auspicious. Basically my fears of the deck manifest: White Weenie with Whipcorder, Longbow Archer, Battle Screech, and Glorious Anthem runs over me. Then monored Goblins run over me. Then monoblack Zombies run over me. All speed decks, and I don’t stand a chance in any of the games. I start to get supremely annoyed that Wall of Mulch has no power with which to kill stuff, and it isn’t until the Zombies that I see my first Kamahl, Fist of Krosa – who subsequently plays the part of speedbump for a very large Nantuko Husk.
I have seen enough. Time to make my first change.
Out goes the Price of Glory, which for now is in a three-card sideboard. I hadn’t realized how many things I wanted to do on my opponent’s turn – Kamahl tricks, especially, but also Wall of Mulch. I also take out a single Stone Rain, because they feel slightly too redundant, especially when I don’t have board advantage. I think about adding the fourth Wall of Mulch, but I’m still a little miffed at its lack of offense.
I really stare at Firebolt, Shock, Chain of Plasma, Volcanic Hammer, and Lava Dart for a long while before deciding what to try. I realize in one game with a Mirari on the table how cool some cheap burn would be, and I think Lava Dart gives me the most flexibility – especially given its nice interaction with Terravore. I would like Chain of Plasma if Price of Glory had stayed, since it gives me something to do with multiple copies of the Price and Kamahl. Instead, I get Lava Dart to whittle away early threats. Four copies later, I again have sixty cards in my deck.
Okay, now let’s have some fun…
Version 1.1 Games 5-11
I immediately play a blue/green deck. I don’t know how typical of a build it is, because he is a little land shy and I nuke his only Island. A 2/2 Terravore beats on him, and when I drop Kamahl he concedes. LD decks take advantage of bad draws like that sometimes.
Next game is a long, drawn-out affair against a fairly high-powered black/white Clerics deck. We both go through two-thirds of our deck, and I get to use every single trick my deck can muster. I copy land-destruction with Mirari, I animate my own land to keep Kamahl alive during a Chainer’s Edict, I pump Kamahl to 10/9 as a blocker, I steal stuff with Custody Battle, I kill annoying Weathered Wayfarers with Lava Dart, and – best of all – I nuke all his land with Kamahl and Goblin Sharpshooter!!
Man, what a rush. Time consuming, with all of the pointing and clicking I need to do for that particular combo, but a rush all the same. He concedes; I cheer sitting in my study.
For some reason, I keep a six-land, Custody Battle hand versus a monoblue deck. I think he’s feeling pretty confident that I am green/red and he has survived my initial (absent) rush. But I do manage to bait him to tap out by targeting his Daring Apprentice with a Lava Dart, then getting Custody Battle on it. He starts losing land (otherwise, I can counter his stuff), and I get two Sharpshooters in play. I’m able to kill Thieving Magpie #1 with Dart plus my Goblins. Magpie #2 gets a Custody Battle on it, he Boomerangs the Battle during his upkeep, not understanding that I then get the Magpie for good, plus my Custody Battle back in hand. Cool. A Kamahl shows up, and his land goes bye-bye. He concedes.
Next up is a white lifegain deck that gets stuck on two lands, sees one fall to Stone Rain, and concedes.
I’m loving Custody Battle, by the way. I’m also loving Lava Dart.
The next two games are interesting; First, I start to lose quickly to Elf beatdown, slowing the bleeding with Custody Battle on an Elvish Warrior, a Wall of Mulch, and a Lava Dart. Eventually I get a Sharpshooter in play to mow down his Wellwisher, Elvish Lyrist, and Elvish Pioneer. Then I drop a 4/4 Terravore and he concedes with one land and twenty-two life. I have three land and nine life.
In the second game, I play an honest-to-goodness blue/green madness deck. I pop some of his lands to keep him from too fast a start, and steal a Basking Rootwalla of his (which I can conveniently activate). Much back-and-forth later, I have a 10/10 and growing Terravore and get Kamahl to go with my Goblin Sharpshooter. Although he has three 4/4 Werebears, a Rootwalla, and only needs a Wonder in his graveyard to win, he wisely concedes since I can wipe any Islands off of the table. I like Wall of Mulch more in this game, not only as defense but as a way of getting a”free” untap from my Sharpshooter.
I then play Zombies with a maindeck Engineered Plague that kills off my Sharpshooters. I’m able to use Kamahl and Lava Dart to blast his land while grabbing two 5/5 Soulless Ones with Custody Battles. He concedes.
NorYtt, on the StarCity message boards, argued pretty persuasively that I should try Mossfire Valley in my deck. His suggestion was to replace four Mountains with them. I’m a little less gung-ho on the idea, but I figure two won’t break my bank and are worth a shot. I’ll use NorYtt’s reasoning to drop two Mountains for them, even though Mountains are a more precious commodity these days because of Lava Dart.
Version 1.2 Games 12-16
I end up in a long, drawn-out game with a very high-rated player whose deck uses Compulsion, Mirari’s Wake, Genesis, Moment’s Peace, Aether Burst, Kirtar’s Wrath, Nantuko Monasteries, and Bearscape. It’s a cool deck, and we hammer on each other back and forth until I eventually fall to a 5/5 Genesis. I missed a land drop on turn 3 that I’m convinced would have put just enough LD pressure on him for me to win much earlier. Ironically, I didn’t see a single Mossfire Valley, though I took about six points of damage from my Karplusan Forests. Bah.
A monoblack discard deck is next, and I’m able to blow up three land in a row via Creeping Mold. I slowly let him recover because I can’t draw anything but mana. He decides to tap out for Diabolic Tutor instead of Mutilating my sole Goblin Sharpshooter on the table. I have ten mana and drop Kamahl… game over, he concedes.
My next game is very frustrating. It’s against a black/red Braids-threshold deck, which should probably be in my favor on the Braids side of the house, but in my opponent’s favor on the threshold side. I can’t seem to get the correct cards at the correct time, so the whole experience feels awkward and bad. I lose two Kamahls because of terrible play – both by tapping out and falling to Innocent Blood. The turn before I kill him with a 9/9 Terravore, he beats me with a 3/3 Frightcrawler and one land on the table. I try to think about what the game has taught me… But other than getting land-flooded and needing to play more intelligently, nothing stands out.
I then play a monoblue control deck which turns stressful because of two Thieving Magpies. I do just enough land destruction to keep my opponent uncomfortable and after a loooong time get out two Sharpshooters, a Terravore, and a Lava Dart in my hand. He forgets about the Dart after I cast it, so when I go to ping his first Magpie, he tries to Boomerang and I sac a Mountain to kill it. After that he’s on the defensive and I get Kamahl on the table to blow up his land. He is able to bounce the Kamahl, but can’t deal with the Terravore and counter my Kamahl in the same turn.
To cap off an evening of play, I lose to a very quirky blue/green threshold/morph deck. I mulligan twice but get a not-too-sucky start all things considered. He uses Meddle to put a Custody Battle on my Sharpshooter, his Serpentine Basilisk with Seton’s Desire wipes out my side of the board, and Roar of the Wurm tokens tear me apart. All very fun – and funny, too. This is the first game that I actually have a bit of a crowd watching me, which is embarrassing considering my opponent’s dubious card choices. But I got slapped around fair and square, so no complaining allowed.
I wake up the next morning thinking about Wall of Mulch. What I like about the Wall is that it’s early defense and it essentially”cycles” for three mana against creatureless decks. What I have come to loathe about it, at least in this deck, is that it doesn’t punish an opponent for attacking me. With no power, it can’t kill blockers. And, actually, it often can’t block since most opposing decks use fliers, creatures with fear, Whipcorders, etc.
I think a good replacement is Starstorm. I slow the deck down with Starstorm, but I also have a Wrath of God-style, board-sweeping effect to get me out of a jam. It can still cycle for three mana against creatureless decks, and I can theoretically play it for 1RR and then wipe out a lot of an opponent’s land in one fell swoop with Kamahl. On the downside, I have finally succumbed to using both double-green and double-red cards in the same deck, which will irk me when I’m mana-screwed. I’m also beginning to stuff the deck with rares, which is personally annoying.
Over e-mail, Chris Waits suggests I add Simplify to the deck as a way of cheaply killing enchantments while providing me the opportunity to lose Custody Battle (and thus keep a stolen creature). I like this idea, and add it to my growing menagerie of sideboard options.
My mind starts slowly chewing on whether I might like Chain of Acid in the deck instead of Creeping Mold. Bah. I can’t decide, so won’t change anything yet.
Version 1.3 Games 17-25
I don’t know what it is about Magic Online that brings out the monoblue control decks, but I face another one. It takes a long time, but it isn’t really a close game from my perspective. I think I am facing a Wizard deck based on the Voidmage Prodigy that falls to a Lava Dart, but maybe it is a morph deck based on the Quicksilver Dragon I see die before it can morph. Anyway, a Goblin Sharpshooter keeps most of his creatures in hand while a 6/6 Terravore beats on him. I feel bad that I don’t see a Starstorm, but I still imagine preferring it to Wall of Mulch.
The owner of a white/green Birds deck becomes very frustrated as I Stone Rain his only two Forests (one with Wild Growth on it) and then steal his Gustcloak Harrier with Custody Battle. I have a Terravore on the table and beat him with his own Harrier (which is 3/3 thanks to Soulcatcher’s Aerie) and an ever-growing ‘Vore.
I start to notice at this point how often I reach threshold. I think back to games I didn’t reach threshold, and can’t think of any. Interesting. Something to file away for future use.
I also still wonder about Chain of Acid, but can’t really see it giving me any material advantage over Creeping Mold except in the cases where I have a Custody Battle creature on my side of the table. It’s worse when an opponent can target Custody Battle on their side, though. More food for thought.
Even though I lose the next game-to a green/white deck with Mirari’s Wake, Glory, and soldiers – I see the wonders of Starstorm firsthand. I essentially give myself close to six extra turns by wiping the board clear of soldiers and Glory as he overextends himself to my lone Goblin Sharpshooter. I get another Sharpshooter but no Kamahl to go with it, and his Mirari’s Wake lets him drop another Glory to punch me in the gut.
Another monoblue deck stares me down, but this time it’s a tempo-Wizards deck with lots of bounce and Temporal Adept. We essentially fight for me to keep a pair of Goblin Sharpshooters on the board while a pre-morphed Voidmage Prodigy repeatedly bangs its head against me. With me at seven life, him at twenty but with only one card in hand, I am able to draw Kamahl to go with my sea of land and Sharpshooters. He concedes.
Some guy with a 250-card deck plays me, gets stuck on two land. Then one. Then zero. Concede.
A good blue/green madness deck beats me by countering a turn 3 Stone Rain on his only Forest. After that I’m behind, and even a Starstorm isn’t enough to save me from Mongrels, Wurms, and Wonder… Oh my.
My twenty-third game is by far the most fun I’ve had in Magic in months. I face a red/green deck based on Book Burning and – you guessed it – Terravore. I survive early Wild Mongrel beats, able to accelerate into a quick Kamahl as he runs out of cards. He plays a 5/5 Terravore, and I untap and play two 5/5 Terravores. I then get two Sharpshooters in play, but his Sylvan Safekeeper is keeping me from killing any land. He also has Moment’s Peace in his graveyard, which is troubling. His second Terravore means a stand-off, so for several turns I concentrate on killing his land via Stone Rain, Creeping Mold, or targeting his creatures with Custody Battle and Lava Dart. My thought is to get rid of his mana for Moment’s Peace, then overrun for the win.
It turns out to be an even wackier ending, though, when he puts the pressure of a third Terravore on the table, then plays Book Burning on me when I can’t afford the damage. Our Terravores are huge, and he is clearly looking for just the right time to trample over me for the win. I draw Starstorm and pray he doesn’t attack me with everything for one more turn. He doesn’t, playing conservatively. So at the end of his turn I first pump my creatures via Kamahl, then I turn his remaining land into creatures, then Starstorm for one (yes, I have a lot of mana). About one million Goblin Sharpshooter untaps go onto the stack, and when the dust settles he’s at five life (with our five collective Terravores at a ridiculous 20/20 now). I untap, turn some of my own land into critters, and trample over for the win.
Good golly miss Molly, that was great.
There are surprisingly few jerks in the MTGO casual room, but I run into one of them coming off of my Terravore-induced high. Dude is playing a primitive blue/green deck with Wood Elves and Archivist. I hold off his creatures with two Sharpshooters, get Kamahl into play and kill his land. He calls my deck”cute and uninteresting” before conceding. Feh.
Another, better, blue/green madness deck takes me on next. Lava Dart kills a Turn 1 Rootwalla, then Stone Rain kills his Forest. I put Custody Battle on his Wild Mongrel and am able to pay the Circular Logic cost. During his upkeep he makes an Arrogant Wurm before giving me the Mongrel, then I put another Battle on his Wurm. A Sharpshooter, Terravore, and Kamahl show up consecutively and my opponent concedes.
What have I learned after twenty-five games with The Marksman? What questions still plague me?
- This is a near-creatureless control deck. The longer the game goes without my opponent killing me, the better my chances of dominating said game. As with all control decks, those first four turns are tense.
- Kamahl + Sharpshooter = An opponent concession every time. One way to take the deck, then, would be to add lots of card-drawing and tutoring like Living Wish to ensure the combo shows up. I’m not going to do that, but it’s a legitimate path to follow.
- How cool is the Casual Constructed room in Magic Online? I’ve seen about on bajillion different decks including some flat-out ridiculous combos. Long live nerds casually beating on each other with imaginary creatures in a virtual world!
- Combos The Marksman has made me love: Kamahl/Sharpshooter, Battle/Terravore, Dart/Terravore, Mirari/all sorceries and instants.
- I very rarely get mana-screwed with this deck, but I run the risk of getting mana-flooded fairly frequently. This suggests to me that I can probably drop one or two land and ride the razor’s edge a little more. Either that, or maybe I become more of a nonbasic land addict and add Wooded Foothills. Sigh.
- Since switching to Lava Dart, I haven’t felt completely out of a game with The Marksman at my side. I don’t get that this-deck-is-too-good-for-the-casual-room feeling yet, but I’m closer to it than when I started.
- I am still happy with four copies of Kamahl in the deck. He really does make the deck better when on the table, which gives him a huge target on his back. It’s usually the second Kamahl that does the damage, not the first.
- I reach threshold almost every single game. Maybe I should add some threshold cards to the deck? Maybe I should wait and see how many people in Magic Online play Withered Wretch in March.
- I seem to lose to Mirari’s Wake. The temptation is to say if I can’t beat ’em, join ’em by adding Wake to my deck too (this has been suggested by a number of people via e-mail). But as I said above, I don’t actually have a problem with too little mana. If anything, I have too much. Without creatures-of which I have few-and places to dump my mana-of which I also have few-I don’t see Wake really pushing me over the top to greatness. Besides, currently my only way to sneak a Plains onto the table is four copies of Explosive Vegetation. Maybe I’m wrong about the Wake. Feel free to tell me so.
- I’ve been thinking about Legions and The Marksman; Seedborn Muse feels like the most obvious fit. I only want two copies – its effect doesn’t stack like Awakening-but two copies sound really sweet since the Muse interacts so nicely with both Kamahl and Sharpshooter. What to take out at this point is a bit of a mystery.
In case you can’t follow my changes, here is the deck I’m playing:
The Marksman, v.1.3
4 Karplusan Forest
2 Mossfire Valley
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
4 Lava Dart
4 Custody Battle
4 Explosive Vegetation
4 Creeping Mold
3 Stone Rain
I’m off and running now, so tell me what you think. If you have ideas for the deck based on my notes, send me an e-mail or post to the StarCity forums. I’m off to two glorious weeks in Hawaii soon, and when I get back Legions will be waiting for me as well as your e-mails. I’ll read all of your reflections, add them to my own Mai Tai-induced hallucinations, and I’m sure more changes are in the works.
Thanks for sticking with me and my voluminous notes. How’s that coffee treating you?
Dangit, will someone tell that guy in the back to sit down?
See you in mid-March with Diary 3,