Welcome to my third "Diary" article, chronicling the adventures of Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and his wacky relationship with Goblin Sharpshooter. There has been a bit longer delay on number three because I spent two weeks in Hawaii.
I know, I know… I lead a rough life.
The suggestions for changes to the Marksman since my last "Diary" installment have been flooding in. Here are the ones I think most need some discussion:
If I had received this suggestion during version 1.0 of the deck, I would have jumped on it. The problem is that I really think Lava Dart and Starstorm were terrific defensive replacements. Now I don’t have to worry if my opponent’s creatures have flying, fear, or if my opponent is playing a creatureless deck.
Suggestion: Use cycling land.
Reasoning: If I run the risk of mana flooding, rather than take out land, add land that cycles away.
This is interesting, and probably not something I would have normally given much thought. The truth is that I really don’t do much in the first turn or two, so having land that comes into play tapped is probably fine and the synergy with Terravore is nice. The problem is really twofold; First, I actually do use all of the land I draw – I just don’t want to draw it as often. This suggests that I should be using more land-thinners, rather than cycling land. Second, when I draw land later in the game, I usually want to use it right away.
Okay, dammit, okay. You’re right. Sigh.
I set out to make a deck with a reasonable mana base, and am now considering upwards of ten rare nonbasic lands. This is why my deck should have been monocolored. The Elf Deck came in second in the voting, you know. **grumble**
I’ll lump these three suggestions into one response – because each card above involves me sacrificing my own lands. While this effect should be non-symmetrical given the large amounts of land destruction in my deck, and even though I’m using Terravore as a kill card, there are too many things I want to do with my land later in the game to give them up. Tremble hurts me the most when I am trying to get the deck started and Wildfire kills all of my creatures, so these are clearly out. Epicenter is slightly tempting, mostly because Terravore plus Epicenter is game… But that feels like I’m starting to build a different deck.
You had me at "hello."
I am very, very intrigued with the idea of dropping Explosive Vegetation for Far Wanderings. Early on it gives me less, well, explosion. But later in the game it weeds an extra land out of my library. It’s a turn faster than Explosive Vegetation but gives me one less land initially. What’s the better trade off? I’m excited to try it out and see.
Suggestion: Take another look at Living Wish… Really.
Reasoning: My deck hums when getting Kamahl and Goblin Sharpshooter on the table at the same time, and in other cases I need Terravore to kill my opponent. Shouldn’t I bite the bullet and use the best creature tutor around?
Here is where I get stubborn for no good reason. If you want a deck for Regionals, use Living Wish and a "toolbox" sideboard full of things like Spellbane Centaur, Druid Lyrist, Genesis, Magnivore, and so on.
Personally, I’m just tired of Living Wish.
A toolbox approach doesn’t interest me one iota, I don’t like the delay of Living Wish (cast it, cast my creature), I don’t like letting my opponent know what’s coming, and there are enough monoblue decks in the casual constructed room of Magic Online that I could get my creature countered and waste two cards. Besides, Living Wish basically takes up two extra slots of my deck – drop one copy of Kamahl and Sharpshooter, add four Living Wish and a Kamahl, Sharpshooter, and Terravore to my sideboard. I’m not disagreeing that Living Wish is great in my deck – but Birds of Paradise would also be great and I’m not using those either.
I still prefer Starstorm for two reasons. First, if given the option between a "fixed" card and a variable card, I like the variable card because of the options it provides. Slice and Dice is only strictly better than Starstorm at three mana. What if I want to do two damage to all creatures, though? What if I really want to sweep the board clear at four damage on my opponent’s turn? What if I want to do more than four damage? In these cases, I’ll gladly give up the extra card and take the flexibility. Second, and this is a minor reason, I hate giving a deck with Lightning Rift an excuse to do two more damage to me or, worse still, to kill my Kamahl.
Suggestion: Another Legions card to add is Caller of the Claw.
Reasoning: Imagine blasting your opponent’s land with Kamahl and Sharpshooter, then dropping the Caller for a bunch of 2/2 Bears for the win!
True, but every opponent so far has conceded when Kamahl and Sharpshooter show up together. After that, it’s kind of a "win more" card, which I have tried to learn are unnecessary. Caller of the Claw seems like a sideboard option for my deck versus Wrath of God decks, and a very good one.
Other suggestions: Aggravated Assault, Rowen, Gratuitous Violence, Goblin Embermage, Nature’s Revolt, Anger, Seismic Assault – are all solid cards but either don’t ring my bell or seem like they take the deck in a very different direction.
Thanks to everyone who has written in or posted to the StarCity forums with ideas. Keep the suggestions coming!
I also couldn’t resist playing the deck a few more times before Legions hit Magic Online and before I headed to Hawaii. I could only find two Wooded Foothills for trade (dropping a Forest and Mountain for them), and I swapped out the Explosive Vegetations for Far Wanderings, so that hopefully my games would tell me something different than the first twenty-five. Here are the results:
Version 1.4 Games 26-35
I play a monored Goblins deck that is running very light on land. I kill any Mountains that show up, and the most he can ever play are one-mana cards like Raging Goblin, Shock, and Firebolt. I get out a 2/2 Terravore and go to work after two of my Sharpshooters get burned. He is eventually able to get a Goblin Raider; I lay a Custody Battle on it and he dies quickly.
A green/white speed deck scares me a little, except that I have a fistful of LD early to combat his colored sources of mana. He eventually gets down a Wild Mongrel, which gets Custody Battle on it and puts him a tough spot because of my Terravore. He uses Arrogant Wurm with madness, then I blow up everything on his side of the board with Starstorm, keeping my ‘Vore alive and forcing him to discard most of his hand to keep the Mongrel. He finally has to give me the mutt, and I can run over his newly-summoned Phantom Centaur.
For the first time, I get caught with all four copies of Kamahl in my hand against a blue/white Birds deck. I use Starstorm to kill the first assault, but he’s able to bounce Kamahl enough times so that I fall to his second assault. I wished Far Wanderings was Explosive Vegetation in this game, since I cast two of them before having threshold.
You can imagine my extreme enthusiasm when my next opponent’s first three turns are Llanowar Elves, Rampant Growth, Rampant Growth. So much for land destruction, eh? Turns out that he is playing a green/red/blue Beasts deck with Scalpelexis, Ravenous Baloth, Aether Charge, and even Riptide Replicator. I am able to reset things with a Starstorm, then get Kamahl into play and start thwacking him with a 7/6 Druid and a 4/4 Mountain. Another 4/4 Mountain joins the fray, which is game.
I then play an interesting White Weenie deck with Howling Mines and Worship. I guess the reasoning is that if he can keep the creatures coming, he’s invincible via Worship. An early Custody Battle on a Patrol Hound lets me stall his offense enough to get a ton of land onto the table. Then thanks to Howling Mine I draw the Kamahl and Sharpshooter combo. He has no land, but Commander Eesha and Worship are on the table. It doesn’t take me long to draw Creeping Mold and that’s game thanks to a 7/7 Terravore.
Oddly, my next opponent concedes on Turn 4 after a Stone Rain and a Terravore. All he did was cycle a Forgotten Cave and seems to be okay with two land on the table. Some people are very anti-LD, and he’s probably one of them.
After that, it’s a black/white Cleric deck that can kill my first Sharpshooter with Smother, but not my second. My opponent has a slow start, only able to get a Disciple of Malice onto the table, which my gobbo and Lava Dart handle (why did I kill it? I have no idea). On Turn 6, I drop Kamahl. On Turn 7 I leave him with one land and he concedes.
A blue/green threshold deck plays me next. I make his Hapless Researcher go away with Lava Dart, then blow up his only Island. After that he can only draw two more Forests, and I get Sharpshooter, then Kamahl. Concede.
I’m starting to think this deck should be called Scoopville or Kneel! or something, given the number of games I win by concession.
A White Weenie deck drops Glorious Anthem as a way of saving its Spurnmage Advocates and Suntail Hawks from my Goblin Sharpshooter. I kill the Anthem on Turn 4 with a Creeping Mold, and my opponent dies the slow, grinding death of the Sharpshooter-Kamahl lock along with a 7/7 Terravore to trample over his Beloved Chaplains. He is the first person to not concede after I get the lock just after I consider renaming my deck Scoopville. Isn’t that always the way?
Okay, I’ve played enough games with Far Wanderings to realize I would rather have Explosive Vegetation. The idea was that I always reach threshold, but apparently I always reach threshold later in the game. I’ve cast Far Wanderings for one land about eight times so far, and have not yet bothered to cast it for three land (I could have twice, but was on the precipice of a concession both times). Another thing I realized is that an Explosive Vegetation on Turn 4 means I can play Kamahl on Turn 5. A Far Wanderings on Turn 3, meanwhile, still don’t guarantee the Kamahl. Back to Explosive Vegetation I go. I also head the Hawaii.
(pause for much frolicking on the beach and snorkling)
Back from Hawaii, and Legions is now available in Magic Online. I spend an evening obtaining two Seedborn Muses, which I am convinced will be great fun in the deck. But what to take out? Here is my reasoning:
One copy of Mirari is interesting, but ultimately pretty anemic. Every now and then it does great things when combined with Lava Dart, but it never quite made my land destruction more threatening in the late game as I had hoped. Adding Seedborn Muse makes me very conscious of the deck’s fragile mana curve too, and Mirari seems an easy drop from the deck since it costs the same as the Muse. So out goes Mirari, in goes one Muse.
[Hawaii-induced tangent: Has anyone read the Magic novels? The Mirari is, like, the most powerful artifact in existence. Everyone wants it. So why does it fit in so few decks? These continuity issues shouldn’t bother me… But they do.]
The second Muse is harder to fit. I consider taking out a land, but it doesn’t feel right to drop a land for an expensive creature, especially when I just converted back to the more-costly Explosive Vegetation. I then consider dropping a Stone Rain. But two copies of Stone Rain and two copies of Seedborn Muse? That strikes me as very odd, and less than reliable. Instead, I place one of my four Creeping Molds into the sideboard for the second Muse. Its cost is similar to Seedborn Muse, and my bet is that the deck won’t run very differently with the change. Since I have been winning a lot, not running differently is a good thing.
Legions is available, so let’s call this version 2.0:
The Marksman v.2.0
4 Karplusan Forest
2 Mossfire Valley
2 Wooded Foothills
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
2 Seedborn Muse
4 Lava Dart
4 Custody Battle
4 Explosive Vegetation
3 Stone Rain
3 Creeping Mold
Version 2.0 Games 36-43
Not a great beginning. I face a red/green speed deck and keep a hand with three Karplusan Forests. The result: Turn 1 Llanowar Elf, Turn 2 Call of the Herd, Turn 3 Elephant Guide on the token. Meanwhile, I’m killing myself with painlands and get a Custody Battle on the token way, way too late to save myself.
A black/white Clerics deck is next and I stall in the early game on two land. Luckily, my opponent is just as stalled. I Stone Rain his only Swamp when I get a third land, and he draws Beloved Chaplain. I put Custody Battle on the Chaplain, get a Sharpshooter into play, then Terravore and he concedes.
Seedborn Muse finally shows up in Game 38, against a green/white deck with Mirari’s Wake. Recall that I have never beaten a deck that gets out the Wake. Luckily, I quickly amass thirteen land thanks to an Explosive Vegetation or three, my opponent really overextends to walk right into a board-clearing Starstorm, and then gets stuck on three land thanks to my land-destruction. By the time he gets the Wake, I have a 2/2 Terravore, two Goblin Sharpshooters, and Seedborn Muse. The turn after he taps out for Wake, I draw Kamahl, and that’s all folks… What land I can’t kill on my turn, I kill during his upkeep. Thank goodness I had two Sharpshooters to blast his 2/2 land.
My nest opponent is playing a black/red threshold deck based on quick creatures and Book Burning. A Goblin Sharpshooter is able to take down his side of the board before reaching threshold, and then Seedborn Muse shows up. I’m attacking for three a turn, killing any source of red mana that shows up with Stone Rain and Creeping Mold. But I’m also stuck at five land with Kamahl in hand. With my opponent at nine life, I draw my sixth land and my opponent concedes during his next upkeep as I kill his remaining Swamps.
I then lose to a monoblack suicide deck with all foil Swamps, Hollow Specters, Graveborn Muses, Cabal Therapies, Chainer’s Edict, and other sundry fast black creatures like Wretched Anurid. Drawing a Starstorm would have let me climb back into the game, but his Specters decimated my hand and I could never get control of the game. The pattern here is that aggressive creature decks eat me for lunch. Right now, this is my central concern.
After a long game, I fall again. This time it’s to a blue/red deck with burn and fliers. I have a 7/7 Terravore and a Seedborn Muse, but the turn before I kill him I take lethal damage. Believe it or not, this is the first game that I realized Seedborn Muse doesn’t actually fly. I’m not sure why I thought it did, but there you go. Anyway, what was annoying (although I can appreciate the humor here) is that his Lava Darts kept killing my creatures.
Next up is monogreen Elves, which should make me nervous. Luckily, all of my anti-weenie defense show up on time. I kill a Turn 1 Llanowar Elf with Lava Dart, put Custody Battle on a Turn 2 Elvish Warrior, and then get Goblin Sharpshooter into play to keep the hordes down. Many turns later, my opponent’s Forests fall to Kamahl and his sharpshooting buddy. I only take one point of damage from my own Wooded Foothills. Some good. Now if only I could do that against other aggressive decks.
I end my first evening with Legions by facing the same Mirari’s Wake deck I saw earlier. I get to see more of the deck this time; It revolves around Genesis and fun creatures like Druid Lyrist, Wood Elves, Symbiotic Beast, Auramancer, etc. This game is a long one, with me on the defensive from the start. I get the Kamahl-Sharpshooter combo on the board, but I’m facing two rampaging Genesiseses (or Genesi, if you prefer). I block one with the Goblin, and I go down to one life with him at fourteen. Luckily the one card in my hand is Starstorm, so I attack to bring him down to ten, then turn two of his lands into creatures, then Starstorm for four to clear the board. He is also now out of Wake mana range, and has to start slowly refilling his hand via Genesis. I draw a little more land destruction to further slow him down, and get another Sharpshooter and a 5/5 Terravore. His chump blockers are too vulnerable to pinging, and my Lhurgoyf wins with two attacks.
So… What have we learned about the deck?
- It’s still a control deck with a pretty good lock component. You get no points for guessing that one.
- No verdict yet on Seedborn Muse. The fact that it has a big butt and can play defense alone makes it better than Mirari and another Creeping Mold. I have yet to see its dominance, though.
- Explosive Vegetation works better than Far Wanderings in the deck.
- Wooded Foothills is the shiznit, but I’ve now added a bunch of pain in the land of the deck. Maybe too much.
Most importantly, we’ve learned that the deck loses to two kinds of decks: The first is any deck that can successfully cast and use Mirari’s Wake. The second is any aggressive creature rush with some kind of disruption (I seem to be able to handle Elves and White Weenie just fine). I’m less concerned about the first problem – the deck has Creeping Mold and can always use Simplify or Naturalize in the sideboard. But how do I stand up to black, x/black, red, x/red, or x/blue weenie hordes without screwing up the deck? I don’t know the answer to that one. But I’m hoping you do. Post to the StarCity Forums with your thoughts or send me an e-mail. I would prefer the Forum, but understand if you’re shy.
The next Diary should follow in a week or so, then maybe one more before my final mtg.com article arriving in early April. Get your feedback to me now, because this fun little experiment is about to end.
Oh, and thanks for reading this far. 3,500 words. Who knew?