The Diary Of doctorjay: The Marksman Takes Aim!

I am painfully aware that further writing about my Kamahl/Goblin Sharpshooter topic is silly; It is a deck no one but me will play nowhere except the”Casual Constructed” room of Magic Online. However, one thing I never get to do in my writings on Magicthegathering.com is really dissect a pet deck and follow its evolution. So how where do you go with Sharpshooters and Kamahl Mark 2?

Not too long ago, I had collided with a Magic Online glut. My virtual card collection wasn’t small enough to limit me to one kind of deck and it wasn’t big enough to allow me to make any deck, so I felt directionless and in need of a swift kick in the pants.

I had an idea to generate a big list of fun-to-build-around cards that were currently legal in Standard and let the readers of Magicthegathering.com decide which would be the focus of my next deck. Then I took the idea further by brainstorming a list of possible decks built around that card, asking the readers to again pick my path. In retrospect, it hasn’t exactly been a”swift” kick, but it’s been fun all the same and has certainly resulted in a clear direction.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about and are too lazy to read the previous articles, here is a summary of the action:

The card selected: Kamahl, Fist of Krosa.

The deck selected: Kamahl-Goblin Sharpshooter Land Destruction.

I am painfully aware that further writing about the topic is silly; It is a deck no one but me will play nowhere except the”Casual Constructed” room of Magic Online. However, one thing I never get to do in my writings on mtg.com is really dissect a pet deck and follow its evolution. When I eventually have a Kamahl deck I like, I’ll write the final installment of my”doctorjay” series, focusing on how much the first and final decklists diverged.

Until then, these”Diary” articles are the meat between my”Deck For doctorjay” article and the upcoming final one. People who are really interested in deck evolution and who want to see every step of my journey should enjoy these navel-picking installments. I’m not entirely sure how many articles there will be – maybe three, maybe twenty – but each will bite off an iteration,”aha!” moment, trade-off decision, and the like in making my Kamahl-Sharpshooter LD idea something I enjoy playing.

Just so I’m clear: If you are a hardcore tournament player, retreat now. These articles aren’t for you. Although technically the deck I’m making could be played at Regionals, I’m not expecting it to meet that kind of threshold. The playtesting I’m doing isn’t the kind of playtesting you should do for a tournament deck. As is always the case when I write, I’m speaking to the semi-casual player – The Friday Night Magic folk who care about tournament formats but generally dislike tournament decks (or copying anyone’s decks, for that matter).

Now, are the Spikes gone? Whew… Good. Those people write me the most annoying e-mails.

Okay, let’s get started…

Establishing the Baseline

Today’s installment is simply meant to explain my original decklist. The only”evolution” from the deck you saw in my mtg.com article and this deck is the name (an often neglected part of deckbuilding, but still minor) and a couple of lands. I want you to understand why I made the original deck the way I did, because underlying these decisions are a horde of quiet hypotheses that will be put to the test once I start playing. This is the article that we can all sit around and laugh at in a few months, realizing how naive I was as a lad.

So here’s the deck…

Kamahl: The Goblin Sharpshooter Deck, as shown on Magicthegathering.com!

12 Forest

12 Mountain

4 Karplusan Forest

4 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

3 Wall of Mulch

3 Terravore

4 Custody Battle

4 Stone Rain

4 Explosive Vegetation

4 Creeping Mold

3 Price of Glory

1 Mirari

…And here is my brief description from the article…

“When I mentioned Goblin Sharpshooter and Kamahl [in the Goblin deck], you may have said”!” I don’t usually like to play land-destruction (LD) decks for two reasons: 1) They tend to be un-fun to play against, so it’s hard to find repeat opponents, and 2) They either work wonderfully or fall flat on their faces with no middle ground. So in the past I have only liked LD decks if they were quirky and destroyed land in unique ways. I think the Sharpshooter-Kamahl trick, Price of Glory, and Custody Battle definitely qualifies as quirky. Heck, it might be the most fun way to lose to LD I have ever seen.”

…Finally, here is this paragraph translated into lots and lots of little card choices. Enjoy…

The Creatures

Four copies of Kamahl, Fist of Krosa were a requirement of my experiment. I know it’s a Legend. I know it’s expensive. But I included it on my”hundred cards” list, so four copies it is. If you need better rationale, realize that the deck gets a tremendous boost with Kamahl on the table (and in fact has a hard time winning without it) coupled with almost no card-drawing or tutors.

Since the Kamahl-Goblin Sharpshooter trick – animating multiple lands a turn and mowing them down – is the scariest thing this deck can do, I think four copies of Sharpshooter are also appropriate. Our little gatling gun operator is veeeeery fragile, so it’s nice to have multiple copies on which to rely.

After that, I may have started to veer sharply away from where you would take a Kamahl-Sharpshooter deck. Wall of Mulch is there as early defense while I set up my land-destruction action, and it’s the deck’s only card-drawing potential. Wall of Mulch is one of those cards I have come to use as a crutch lately, comforted because it is never a wasted draw. I may have started with four copies in the deck and cut back to three to squeeze in other cards, something I often do in first-draft decklists.

Terravore is only good if I can guarantee more than three lands in all graveyards by the time I would want to drop him onto the table. Given the non-creature selections (see below), I think it’s a fair bet that graveyards will be full of land and that Terravore will be one scary Lhurgoyf. Two or three copies feels about right as a starting point – I don’t want them glutting my hand early in the game but I want one to reliably show up midgame and finish my land-screwed opponent.

After that, it’s a big fist full o’ LD. Before I go there, though, what creatures could I have chosen?

With twelve sorceries in the deck, Magnivore makes some sense, but I didn’t include it because I didn’t want too many creatures reliant on graveyards (Withered Wretch has scared me, I admit it) and because I didn’t want cards with both double-green and double-red in the same deck. Likewise, Kamahl, Pit Fighter or Jeska, Warrior Adept would duplicate some of the Sharpshooter action, but the double-red and one toughness in both cases bummed me out.

Land-hating Dwarves like Mine Layer, Dwarven Blastminer, Pardic Miner, and Dwarven Driller strike me as too slow and unstable for an already slow and unstable deck.

Strange temptations: Diligent Farmhand helps grow and thin land, but somehow doesn’t seem to fit in my mind. It would give the deck a legitimate Turn 1 play, though. I had to fight myself not to include otherwise-dubious choices like Wood Elves and Goblin Gardener. Sounds fun to me, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

Other solid creatures – Silklash Spider, Call of the Herd, Phantom Centaur, Grim Lavamancer, Wild Mongrel, Krosan Tusker, Werebear, Sylvan Safekeeper, Petravark, Silvos, Gurzigost, Genesis, Caller of the Claw, Broodhatch Nantuko, Hystrodon, and Seedborn Muse – got squeezed out by other card choices and would each take the deck in a slightly different direction.

The Non-Land, Non-Creatures

Explosive Vegetation, like Wall of Mulch, is a card that has become a crutch (it’s nice to have two crutches or else I fall down a lot). I have been building more and more green/X decks that require a lot of land, and the Vegetation seems like a terrific way to both boost my own land development and thin land from my library. I’m using four copies since my deck needs access to not just a lot of mana, but a lot of land. Incidentally, I also used Skyshroud Claim way too much when it was legal in Standard.

The rest of the non-creature spells are meant to blow up opposing land. Custody Battle gives a little too much control of decisions over to an opponent, but my hope is that this deck becomes as asymmetrical as possible. I want both choices – giving me your creature or losing a land – to both suck and be equally painful. I don’t have a lot of game experience playing with or against Custody Battle, but at least theoretically it works here and I’m excited to try it out.

Price of Glory is also an experiment. I don’t know if opponents are doing enough mana-wise on my turn to justify its inclusion or whether it’s a more suitable sideboard card. Price of Glory prohibits me from doing the Sharpshooter-Kamahl trick at the end of an opponent’s turn, which is annoying. It’s also useless in multiples, and I have no real use for extra copies in my hand. Like I said: An experiment.

This may be one of the only decks in which Creeping Mold is a better choice than Naturalize. The Mold can further stunt an opponent’s mana development while giving me insurance against pesky artifacts and enchantments. It’s also pricey, but I’m hoping the deck can handle it given all of the land and the Vegetations. Stone Rain is obviously far less flexible, but I felt the deck needed a real focus on LD in the first draft. I’m aware that either copies of Stone Rain or Creeping Mold might end up dropping off to make room for other cards.

The single copy of Mirari is something I justify like this: I don’t really need it, but later in the game it would almost automatically win me the game in combination with a single Stone Rain. In other words, it makes late-game LD useful when I have otherwise missed the opportunity to win with an LD deck. If the number of sorceries drops through revisions, this artifact obviously goes away.

Other cards that didn’t quite make the cut but I could see in future revisions: Browbeat, Centaur Glade, Mossfire Egg, Living Wish, Burning Wish, Burning Sands, Pyroclasm, Dingus Egg, Starstorm, Moss Diamond, and Rampant Growth.

The real question for me is whether I focused too much on LD to the exclusion of defense. A single Wild Mongrel or Nantuko Shade is going to be a real stinker to handle. Custody Battle helps… A little. I may need to dip into red burn (Firebolt, Chain of Plasma, Shock, Volcanic Hammer), put in Moment’s Peace, or some other way to stall the game and let me set the deck up to do its thang. I just don’t know yet, but I like the idea of really focusing the deck now and seeing what deficiencies emerge.

The Land

I didn’t actually intend for the deck to be sixty-two cards with twenty-eight land. Oops. My confession to you is that I don’t intend to playtest the exact deck listed in my article. I dropped one Forest and Mountain to give me twenty-six land and sixty cards. Shhhhh! I won’t tell if you won’t.

Right now the colors are relatively balanced, which I like in a two -color deck (either that, or I like to splash a second color minimally): Fifteen red spells and eighteen green. If you expect more Forests than Mountains, especially given the double-green costs, I might agree. My thinking was that I wanted access to Custody Battle, Stone Rain, Goblin Sharpshooter, and Price of Progress ASAP while my green cards show up on or after Turn 4. Anyway, I would like to maintain the color balance if possible for no other reason than it makes me comfortable.

Karplusan Forest is my big nonbasic land splurge. It just seems silly to run a two-color deck without them. That said, I don’t like Wooded Foothills because the deck puts my extra land to good use via Kamahl, Custody Battle, and Mirari, and I think the mana-filtering of Mossfire Valley would get on my nerves enough when casting Kamahl, Terravore, and Creeping Mold to not use it. I may eventually come around to thinking more nonbasics are necessary.

The Name

That’s the deck, but I want to cast off on my maiden voyage game with a name better than”Kamahl-Goblin Sharpshooter LD” or”The Goblin Sharpshooter Deck.”

A note about my philosophy on deck names: To me a successful deck name is a) something distinctive that will stick in other players’ minds, and b) suggestive of how the deck plays. Opaque cultural references (“Anna Nicole’s Neck”), entire sentences (“Your Momma Punched Your Daddy In The Nose”), and inside jokes (“Shloompy”) always struck me as useless deck names. My observation of decks that start with these names is that they end up getting tagged by function (“Sharpshooter LD,””Beast-Geddon,” and”Speed Blue”) rather than having their creator-given name stick. Although I don’t always care about deck names, when I have a pet deck I usually strive to name it something pithy and catchy in hopes that the name will stick.

Given the preponderance of targeting land my deck will be doing, I’ve decided as a first draft to call the deck The Marksman. Sorta fits with the Goblin Sharpshooter idea, too.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of things I like about this deck. It is the only dedicated LD deck since EradicateVerdant Touch that makes me smile thinking about playing it. There is a ton of synergy among the cards. It has several ways of winning, be it a stolen creature, a monumental Terravore, Overrunning land, a big green Legend, or concession due to land-screw. It can deal with opposing creatures, enchantments, artifacts, and land. And above all, it just seems fun to play.

On the downside, it’s the only deck I listed that doesn’t dip into Legions, and the deck doesn’t concern itself with early defense enough that I expect to be run over a lot in the beginning. Time will tell whether I can get some of those new cards into the deck and whether I can craft something stable while keeping the deck fun to play.

That’s two paragraphs in a row that end in”fun to play.” I’m really glad the Spikes left.

Join me sometime in the not-too-distant future when I go through my early games with this deck to see what’s what. How will the deck evolve? How badly will I get spanked early on? Where are the”D’oh! I need those!” cards?

This, my friend, is what playtesting is for… (And our forums… – The Ferrett)


The Marksman

11 Forest

11 Mountain

4 Karplusan Forest

4 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

3 Wall of Mulch

3 Terravore

4 Custody Battle

4 Stone Rain

4 Explosive Vegetation

4 Creeping Mold

3 Price of Glory

1 Mirari