The Diary Of doctorjay: The Marksman’s Final Report

Truth be told, I’m still not entirely satisfied. I still wish I knew a way to fit Krosan Tusker in the deck. I still wish I could feel more comfortable with the deck’s mana situation in general, actually. I still wish I knew a card – something like Centaur Glade or Flamewave Invoker – that could help me better abuse the large amounts of land along with Seedborn Muse. I still wish I had another month or two to hammer out these issues. The Marksman is far from perfect, even for a casual deck.

Hello and welcome to the final”Diary” article in my ongoing attempt to breed Kamahl, Fist of Krosa with Goblin Sharpshooter. If this is news to you, go start with my first Diary. Poor you… I see a lot of reading in your future.

I received good feedback from my last installment on the deck, although a few (not many, but enough to mention) seem to have strayed from the path. Please remember: What I am aiming for here is not a deck that will take Regionals by storm. Instead, I’m looking for something to take the Casual Constructed Room of Magic Online by light drizzle. The deck should be fun to play and win enough to keep me interested. No Birds of Paradise or Living Wish allowed.

I couldn’t wait for feedback from my last article before I played a few more games with it. Here are the results:

Version 2.0 Games 44-58

My first game of the evening is against a monoblack deck that goes Swamp, Swamp, Swamp, face-down creature. Hmm. That Morph stuff is pretty tricky; I have no idea what I’m playing. Since he hasn’t started aggressively, though, I go crazy with Explosive Vegetations and get out eleven land and a 2/2 Terravore (thanks to Wooded Foothills and a Creeping Mold to slow him down). We trade two damage for awhile until I get Seedborn Muse and Lava Dart. I kill his creature – a Skinthinner – and then attack for five each turn until I draw Kamahl and overrun any other Zombies he plays. Seedborn Muse was great this game, able to block 2/2s and attack with abandon.

A Soldiers deck marches up to play me. I plink his Catapult Squad with Lava Dart, then steal a morphed Ironfist Crusher with Custody Battle. He manages to get out two Glorious Anthems, a Coat of Arms, and Worship while I manage a Seedborn Muse and Sharpshooter. I juuuust keep his creatures off the board with Darts and Sharpshooters, whittling him down to five or so life in the process. He finally finds another Crusher, deciding its big toughness will keep burn away and he can merrily sit behind Worship. I Creeping Mold his enchantment when he goes down to one life, then ping him.

My next two games are awesome. Well, okay… I get stomped the first one by a guy playing a red/green Beasts deck. For a long, long time I think he’s playing my deck, because he’s sporting a few Explosive Vegetations, he points a Creeping Mold at my land, and he knows who I am. Unfortunately, I keep a two-land hand and… That’s all I ever see. I do nothing as Beasts trample over me. About four people look on, which is humiliating. Oh well, forty-five games without manascrew ain’t too bad.

Anyway, my opponent – MadMax – asks if I want to play again for”revenge.” I say sure, but mostly because I’m interested how the matchup will go. It turns out he switches decks, which at first ticks me off a little – but then I see the deck…

This guy has built a milling deck with Dreamborn Muse, Aether Burst, Pulsemage Advocate, Compulsion, and counters. It sounds wacky, and it is. We have a long, long game where I try to keep his Muse off the board with Goblin Sharpshooter and Lava Darts while he tries to keep it on the board with an Advocate saddled with Custody Battle. His land slowly goes away, and every third turn or so I get ten cards dumped into my graveyard. I have absolutely no idea how the game would have gone otherwise, but he misclicks and gives me the Advocate. So now I can reanimate Kamahl and kill all of his lands. He concedes.

His deck, though, is really a wacky thing of beauty. It is hands down the coolest thing I’ve played against with The Marksman. MadMax was kind enough to send me the list so I can pass it on to you:


14 Island

6 Plains

4 Flooded Strand

4 Spurnmage Advocate

4 Dreamborn Muse

2 Pulsemage Advocate

4 Force Spike

4 Aether Burst

4 Compulsion

4 Counterspell

4 Circular Logic

3 Howling Mine

3 Oblation

1 Turbulent Dreams

1 Words of Worship

Wheeee! That decklist makes me very happy. He tells me that he has since revised the decklist with Ensnaring Bridge and other goodness, but this is the deck I saw in action and liked.

Meanwhile, back in the Casual Constructed room…

I keep a black/white Clerics deck with Astral Slide away from black mana long enough for me to amass ten land and Kamahl. Lots of trampling ensues.

My next opponent is playing a green/white deck. The game is starting nicely for both of us when he casts a second Commander Eesha with the first one in play. It dies when it sees its own reflection, he says”crud,” and concedes. Sigh…

Another black/white Clerics deck faces me down. I see not one… not two… not three… but yes, all FOUR Dark Supplicants. With only one Lava Dart to my name, he can get Scion of Darkness even sitting on one land. I Custody Battle the Scion, but he keeps drawing land to sac until I die. That’s just a silly pile of good fortune.

Fifty games, baby. Are we having fun yet?

My next game is against some kind of blue/black deck. It must have relied heavily on its black, or else gotten a horrible hand. I kill any Swamps that show up, and my opponent plays absolutely nothing. I get Sharpshooter and Kamahl on the board and that’s game.

The next game is a tale of two sides. My opponent is land-screwed with a monoblack Zombie-reanimation deck built around Oversold Cemetery. That should be great news for me – except that I am horribly land-flooded. So after a million turns of him sitting on one or two lands and me laying thirteen land, he eventually hits a land pocket in his library. He has just enough removal to kill the Terravore, Sharpshooter, and Kamahl I draw – and after that I’m doomed. It would have been fun except at the end he started lecturing me about my deck.

Here is some advice: If you beat someone in the casual room, don’t do that.

My next opponent is an LD-hater. I Custody Battle his Turn 1 Llanowar Elves and he concedes.

I then play a blue/white control deck. He has out Millstone, and bounces my stuff a few times before I’m able to force through the Sharpshooter-Kamahl lock and eat all of his white mana sources because I fear Wrath of God. He draws no more bounce, so the next turn his blue sources go away too.

Next is blue/white Birds. My opponent can get a Suntail Hawk, Soulcatcher’s Aerie, and Thieving Magpie into play before the combination of Sharpshooter, Muse, and Kamahl shows up to blast all his land, give me the Magpie, and that’s game.

My next opponent has more money than God. I see a full compliment of Birds of Paradise, City of Brass, Cunning Wish, and lots of counterspells. Clearly a combo deck, and a well-played one. But he can never start whatever it was he was going to start because of my land destruction, including a Custody Battle on his Harvester Druid. The game swings wildly my way when I Starstorm for two and animate his land with Kamahl. He thinks I get greedy and casts Complicate, but forgets that I still have his Druid and can pay the extra mana. After the game I ask him what Scary Thing he was going to do to me, and he says it revolves around Aggravated Assault and attacking for one over and over again. Hmm. Weird.

People are starting to challenge me directly in the Casual Constructed room. I prefer if you just come find the virtual table with the big, dumb Ernham Djinn sitting at it, please – the Challenges and direct chats are quite distracting. If it helps, think of finding my table as an easy, meaningless scavenger hunt.

Okay, I keep an LD-heavy hand against a pretty standard blue/green threshold deck. As you might know, LD doesn’t work so well against pretty standard blue/green threshold decks. I sweep his side of the board once with Starstorm. He recovers with two Basking Rootwallas and a Wonder. I sweep again with Starstorm. He draws a Nimble Mongoose while I draw land and die. This is the second game in recent memory where I’ve gotten utterly land-flooded. I think I’ll flirt with taking a land out, if I can ever decide what to put in.

It’s people like my next opponent, morphling816, that convinced me to stop playing Apprentice. I guess he’s sporting a burn deck of some kind. He lays a Forgotten Cave Turn 1, and a Mountain on Turn 2. I go first, so I Stone Rain the Mountain and he Flame Bursts me in response. He lays another Mountain and on Turn 4 I Stone Rain that too. He calls me”gay” and then leaves. He doesn’t concede, mind you, he just doesn’t take another turn. Since it’s a Casual Constructed game and not timed, that means I have to concede to play any more games. I wait awhile, I ask him to concede, he calls me gay again, and I adjourn the game. Bah. It figures that he’s named after my single least favorite creature in Magic.

That’s enough Magic for a bit.

As I said, I got a good amount of reader feedback from my last Diary. Somehow people actually like the way the deck is shaping up; no one offered sweeping changes or advice other than the vague notion of adding more burn or more creatures. Pillage seemed to be a favorite suggestion, too, though I don’t understand why given the mana complications it introduces. How many times in almost sixty games have I lost to an artifact? Firebolt was the other big suggestion. I definitely see the merits of Firebolt, but don’t see a way to fit it in. Besides, I wish it was an instant.

A bunch of stuff happened to distract me from Magic, which accounts for the delay between Diary 3 and Diary 4. I started writing fiction every day for one thing, which more than filled the time I used to spend writing for Magicthegathering.com and playing online. Then the U.S. went to war, which sent me into a bit of depression. Channeling depression into fiction works wonders; Channeling depression into playing an online card game is less satisfying, at least for me. Somehow”angst” was an easier focus to grab than”fun.” Anyway, I suddenly realized that a full week had passed without a single game from The Marksman.

I decided it would be entertaining to join the really-big-free-Standard-tournament-experiment on Magic Online on March 22nd, which would also serve to jumpstart my playing. Then I realized I would need a sideboard for said event. Here is what I envisioned assembling:

3 Simplify

3 Compost

3 Pitchstone Wall

3 Boil

3 Caller of the Claw

I often do that in first-draft sideboards: Three copies of five different cards. Another favorite configuration is 4-4-4-3 if I really think I have a tight sideboard plan or if the metagame is really clearly defined.

I’m not sure my sideboard cards need much explanation, but here is a brief one: Simplify versus problematic enchantments like Worship or Mirari’s Wake, Compost versus black decks, Pitchstone Wall to slow down creature rushes, Boil versus blue decks, and Caller of the Claw versus board sweepers like Wrath of God. Actually, there probably isn’t enough in there to shore up the deck’s weakness against aggressive strategies. Given the prevalence of blue/green, maybe I would add Silklash Spider to the mix instead of Caller. Moment’s Peace calls to me as well.

To make a long story short, I never found the cards I needed for the ‘board and I never really got around to okaying the whole tournament with my wife. So Saturday morning came and went with me still playing no Magic. As it turned out, the big tournament crumbled under its own weight and never happened.

What finally brought me out of my shell was Pro Tour: Venice.

Now, anyone who has read my articles probably realizes I don’t care two whits about the Pro Tour. Long ago I realized my lifestyle did not bode well for a successful competitive career and that my attention span for decks was something akin to Tony Blair’s future in British politics. To this day, though, I always read the Sideboard coverage of Pro Tour events because I am constantly on the lookout for deck ideas to inspire me.

As it turns out, the fledgling days of Onslaught Block Constructed were full of fun deck ideas. Much to my surprise, a lot of them involved Explosive Vegetation, Starstorm, and really big spells. Heck, the words”Kamahl” and”Goblin Sharpshooter” were even bandied about (though rarely together). Here are three distinct thoughts I had for The Marksman after reading through the Top 8 Venice decklists:

1. I could splash white. This has a number of advantages, including a better defense with board sweepers like Wrath of God, good sideboard options, and a whole host of fun creature options. Indeed, I could even succumb to the temptation of adding Mirari’s Wake.

2. I could add some OnBC beef. Specifically, Silvos, Silklash Spider, and Ravenous Baloth look like tasty additions to the deck. And all of these options might shore up the deck’s weakness against aggressive creature rushes.

3. I could add Krosan Tusker. Really, I’m surprised no one mentioned this before; it thins land from my deck and is something I can actually cast (and give trample) midgame.

After I had opened the floodgates of my mind, I started to have all sorts of crazy ideas. I started to think about making The Marksman a modified Beast deck. I thought about making it a weenie deck with a soft-lock punch. I thought about making it near-creatureless with massive board sweepers and Aladdin’s Ring. Sometimes a break from playing can give me insights into a deck’s transformation.

However, one stream of thought constantly brought me back to my 2.0 decklist. My inner dialogue went something like this:

Okay, clearly a change in focus means losing the heavy LD component. I can probably keep the Creeping Molds, but the Stone Rains can drop away, along with a basic land. That leaves me at least four spots open… where can I find more?

Without the LD, Custody Battle is back to being lame and then Terravore is a less stable win condition. That’s eleven total spots open, which is more than enough to make radical changes.

Awwww… I like Custody Battle

But if I keep Custody Battle, I need enough LD to make it useful.


If I were trying to make a tournament-worthy deck, the choice is clear: Drop Custody Battle and the sometimes-anemic focus on land destruction in order to make way for higher threat density in my deck (threat density meaning more of the deck can actually kill an opponent).

But since I’m making a casual deck, my love of Custody Battle is actually meaningful. Winning extra games (or winning each game more decisively) isn’t worth sacrificing the times when my opponent pauses to read Custody Battle and beads of sweat start to splash onto his keyboard. I love that I stumbled onto a deck where Custody Battle works, and I’m loathe to give up its creature-swapping goodness.

As a result, I may have thought my way into a corner. If I’m unwilling to drop Custody Battle, then the rest of the deck hangs together pretty well with no room for significant change. I’m at a crossroads: Pursue an entirely different strategy with the same deck core – Kamahl and Sharpshooter – or else make very minor revisions. For a Kamahl-Sharpshooter deck focused on land destruction, I’m awfully close to a stable decklist.

Aaron Forsythe wants my last”doctorjay” installment in early April. That makes the decision easy. Minor changes… Ho!

I still think I can drop a land. I also find myself praying for Starstorm more than is healthy. So out goes one Forest for one Starstorm. My prolonged pause in playing is also a fine excuse to finally obtain my last two Wooded Foothills and drop the Mossfire Valleys. My latest – and last – version looks like so:

The Marksman v.2.1

9 Mountain

8 Forest

4 Karplusan Forest

4 Wooded Foothills

4 Goblin Sharpshooter

4 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

3 Terravore

2 Seedborn Muse

4 Lava Dart

4 Custody Battle

4 Starstorm

4 Explosive Vegetation

3 Stone Rain

3 Creeping Mold

A note on the land base: It may seem strange to drop a Forest when I have so many cards that require at least two green mana: Kamahl, Terravore, Seedborn Muse, and Creeping Mold. The thing is, I don’t need access to any of these cards early in the game; instead, it is Lava Dart, Custody Battle, Starstorm, and Goblin Sharpshooter that keep me alive long enough to get going. I really only need access to one green mana before a turn 4 Explosive Vegetation, and I’m fine searching for two Forests then. Having double-green and double-red cards in the same deck continues to bug me, though.


Here are my last games with the deck, at least in this configuration. I think you’ll find that my win percentage has stayed pretty stable despite the changes. I like how the current configuration feels and looks, though. Now I pretty much lose to decks I deserve to lose to and can handle the rest.

Version 2.1 Games 59-75

My first game back in action is a blast. I’m playing a solid green/red/white Beasts deck (so now I really see how it would perform against Beasts sans land screw). My masterstroke is dropping Custody Battle on his Wirewood Savage. He can’t afford to lose land and cast his Beasts – especially with me killing his Birds and Elves with Lava Dart – so I get to draw a card when he casts both Ravenous Baloth and Anurid Brushhopper. He throws his own Savage off a Contested Cliffs, and my life starts getting low. I force through a Sharpshooter by casting two of them. One of them dies to the Cliffs, but one survives until my next turn when I’m able to cast Kamahl and kill his Cliffs and Mountain. He attacks again, bringing me down to three life. Then I get Seedborn Muse, kill his remaining land, and can block-and-pump my creatures. The next turn my trampling Druid, Spirit, and land finish him off.

Next, I am a total dork. I keep a land-light hand against a Soldiers deck, sweep his side of the board with Starstorm, then go to work with a 5/5 Terravore. He plays Chastise. So I get Kamahl going, having recovered my mana base. Again, Chastise. So I get a Seedborn Muse going along with a second Terravore. All the while, I’m deciding to play threats and attack instead of kill his land. Then he drops two Aven Brigadiers in a row and wins the damage race.

Somewhere, I forgot that I’m playing a control deck. I am a total dork.

My next opponent is utterly befuddled by a Turn 2 Custody Battle on his Turn 1 Llanowar Elves. He sacrifices a land once, but quickly realizes we should just play”hot potato” with the Elf each turn. I get a 2/2 Terravore, then Seedborn Muse, then Sharpshooter. My opponent Shocks the Goblin, but the next turn I have Kamahl. His green/red Elf deck can’t survive my trampling beasties.

A monogreen Elf deck gets way too fast a start for me to handle. I Starstorm for two just in time to clear his side of the board. But as I’m trying to rebuild he Living Wishes for Elven Riders. Whoah. With one Lava Dart in my graveyard and a Goblin Sharpshooter in play, I can’t find a way to kill the Riders and I die.

Hey, look! A situation where Pitchstone Wall is better than Lava Dart!

My next game is against a player with a high rating using a very non-traditional deck. I guess he’s playing a sort of blue/black control deck, because I see lots of counterspells, Sky Diamond, Agonizing Memories, bounce, and Possessed Aven. His Aven sees a Custody Battle, and he’s content to give me the bird (Ha!”Give me the bird”! Ha!) while he stockpiles land. I can’t actually remember the sequence of events in the following turns, but there is bouncing, countering, Vegetating, and Starstorming. Eventually I have two Goblin Sharpshooters and a Terravore on the board, he has his Custody emBattled Aven – now with threshold – and a mess of land. I am at five life, holding a Starstorm and Lava Dart. He is at four life with one card in hand. I Lava Dart him when he attacks, then sac a Mountain and ping him to death. If he had countered, I would have swept the board with Starstorm and left an 8/8 Terravore.

I’m reminded of how explosive green/blue can be when my next opponent plays two Basking Rootwallas on Turn 1, a Wild Mongrel on Turn 2, and an Arrogant Wurm on Turn 3. With flying. Neat.

My next opponent is a nice fellow who’s very excited to be playing me. He has a monowhite Soldiers deck with unfortunately a lot of 1-toughness dudes. After I Creeping Mold his Shared Triumph, it’s easy for my Goblin Sharpshooter to merrily pick off Deftblade Elites, Gustcloak Runners, and Wingbeat Warriors. A Custody Battle secures a Whipcorder, then Kamahl and the lock shows up… Game.

I get beaten by a guy named”Soiled Yak.” How wrong is that? Anyway, a Starstorm clears his side of the board of such annoyances as two Wild Mongrels and a Phantom thingie. Then he has the nerve to draw (and cast!) Akroma, Angel of Beating Jay’s Ass.

The Marksman has no answer for Akroma, Angel of Beating Jay’s Ass.

Thank God for Custody Battle. I keep a slow hand versus a white/black/red Sliver (!) deck. His Plated Slivers get stymied by me stealing his Spectral Sliver and Hunter Sliver, both with Custody Battle. My land destruction keeps him with only white mana long enough for me to cast Explosive Vegetation three times. With Kamahl and Seedborn Muse in play, he concedes.

I finally get to play the mirror! Woooooooooooo!

Good ‘ol FracGuru plops down and tells me he is playing his version of my deck, which apparently uses Slice and Dice, Pyroclasm, and Tremor as backup plans to the Sharpshooter. This means, obviously, that neither of our Sharpshooters ever survive past the turn they are cast. Also, he is heavy on the Forests while I am heavy on the Mountains, and our respective LD is keeping it that way. Very silly stuff. He finally runs out of steam long enough for me to play a Terravore. I then win the race to Kamahl and that’s pretty much game. He’s using more fetchlands than I am, and Krosan Tusker, which I’m not using.

Man, I like the Tusker. I wish I could figure out room for it.

A slow hand of two Muses and land does not fare well against monored Goblins. I manage to throw a 2/2 Terravore in front of a 7/2 Goblin Piledriver, then get Seedborn Muse out to slow the bleeding. But I can’t find either Lava Dart of Starstorm – either of which would have swung the game wildly in my favor – and I die to Wave of Indifference and a Grim Lavamancer. Yep… Aggressive decks with disruption still pound me into dirt.

Kamahl and Seedborn Muse (with the help of a couple Vegetations) are all that I need to, in the words of my next opponent, spank his green/red Elf deck stupid. A Starstorm for one to kill his side of the board and all of his land help, too.

Okay, I take sick pleasure out of Custody Battle on a Turn 1 Llanowar Elf. Maybe it’s because I don’t use the little buggers myself and should, or maybe it’s because it’s almost like killing the Elf but not enough to be satisfying for my opponent… But in any case, I play a green/red/black deck that uses mana critters and cycles Krosan Tuskers. I don’t know what else it does because I come out with a land destruction vengeance. The Starstorm-for-one trick leaves his side empty and my side full of land, two Muses, and a Kamahl. Game.

My Bad Mana Beast Voodoo continues when I face a green/red Beasts deck, draw no land after the two in my hand, and die to Snarling Undoraks and Wirewood Savages. At least no one was watching this time.

An all-foil deck concedes after my first Stone Rain. Awwww… I wanted to see the purty, shiny cards… Dumb LD decks.

I’m two games away from seventy-five games in the Casual Constructed Room. There are a few thoughts I have about the deck, which I’ll outline briefly at the end, but mostly I’m satisfied with my results. Even though it’s late and I need to get up early for work the next day, I figure two games shouldn’t take too long, right?

So. Of. Course. My. Next. Game. Takes. For. Ever.

This guy has built a black/white defensive deck that as far as I can tell is meant to bore an opponent into conceding. Obviously, I’m more annoyed by having just made the decision to stay up late – but come on! Throw me a friggin’ bone here! The deck has a ridiculous amount of creature elimination and lifegain. Maybe the win condition is Test of Endurance, come to think of it. I don’t know, and I don’t actually care much. At five life the guy finally commits mana-burn suicide to put us both out of our misery. I have twenty-three land on the table and seventeen life, if it gives you any idea of the game’s”pace.”

And finally, in game #75, I face off against a monored weenie deck. I’m able to hold off his rush thanks to two Lava Darts and two Custody Battles. Eventually I have enough land to both cast and pump Kamahl, which is more than enough to take over the game. He concedes with me at a respectable twelve life.

Somehow ending my games with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa mopping up the table seems very fitting. Ending in a concession also feels fitting. Or maybe it’s just late.

Truth be told, I’m still not entirely satisfied. I still wish I knew a way to fit Krosan Tusker in the deck. I still wish I could feel more comfortable with the deck’s mana situation in general, actually. I still wish I knew a card – something like Centaur Glade or Flamewave Invoker – that could help me better abuse the large amounts of land along with Seedborn Muse. I still wish I had another month or two to hammer out these issues. The Marksman is far from perfect, even for a casual deck.

But the deck has also evolved considerably, in large part from your direct feedback. I had hoped to track the evolution of a non-traditional deck with my”doctorjay” experiment, and although it took, ah, much longer than I expected, I would still call the experiment a success. Look for more conclusions on the deck and my process in the final mtg.com installment. Overall, though, I’m really pleased with how everything turned out and wishing for more time isn’t an entirely inappropriate way to end.

Finally, a few notes of thanks:

  • Thanks to the Ferrett for giving me a place to post my playing results and generally ramble with these Diaries.

  • Thank you, gentle reader, for hanging with me so far and through so many weeks. I have really loved seeing the dozens of advice-laden e-mails each week and hope that somewhere along the way I either inspired you or taught you something new.

  • Also, thank you to everyone (well, almost everyone) who played me online. I saw a mind-altering number of different decks, and people really seemed to enjoy seeing the Kamahl-Sharpshooter combo in action. If you looked for me online and never found me, I’ll still be playing the deck in future iterations until Scourge comes out. Although beware! I have plans to take the Kamahl-Sharpshooter idea in a different direction.

Again, look for my upcoming article on Magicthegathering.com in early April. Until then, I hand you over to your regular Regionals preparation programming.

Have fun,