Four PTQs have gone by in the Ohio Valley for Pro Tour: Columbus, and all four have featured at least one copy of the GFC Freshmaker (played by a GFC teammate) in the Top 8. In the first PTQ of the season at Origins 2004, three people (including myself) made the final cut with the deck. There have been eight Top Eight appearances by teammates / partners of the GFC (Get Fresh Crew) in those four PTQs, with more than twice as many top sixteen performances in the same PTQs (I drew with teammate John Hunka in Butler, PA and finished in 10th – 5-1-1 was not good enough for Top Eight for many people, considering there were exactly 128 players). There were five GFC teammates playing for Top Eight in Butler, PA, with a 5-1 record, and one with a guaranteed position (Steve Glaeser) at 6-0, and had the teammates not been paired against themselves, there would have been more people with the deck in the Top Eight of that PTQ.
(Don’t believe me? Look here.)
The deck is performing extremely well in the tournaments that it is played in by the teammates who designed it through all the metagame changes we’ve seen over the past few months. It consistently delivers results in extensive playtesting sessions against the entire field, and only requires minor changes from week to week without major consequences for the deck’s strategy.
So why is it being dismissed on a daily basis by the popular Internet writers of the Magic community? Why are decks like”Crystal Witness” (U/G Shard) and Big Red being touted as the best decks in the format – two decks, I might add, that have earned fewer PTQ Top 8 appearances than the GFC Freshmaker despite a massive amount of people playing those respective decks in the Midwest?
The GFC Freshmaker went 36 – 8 against the field (not including mirror matches amongst teammates, obviously) in Butler, PA – against CMU-tuned decks and against the wide variety of decks available in this very healthy block format (thanks goes to Erik Swanson for compiling the data). For all you poker barns out there, 36 – 8 against the field is like holding pocket aces against the underpair in Hold ’em. My matchups over the weekend included Affinity (Blue-based with Somber Hoverguard and Qumulox), G/B Death Cloud, Mono-Green Tooth and Nail, Big Red, and Blue/White Control. I summarily defeated them all, and in every single matchup, I felt in control every step of the way. I was actually sickened and angered to lose a single game to Big Red – my first ever loss in sanctioned Magic play to a deck that I feel is vastly inferior to the GFC Freshmaker.
I won’t go over the exhaustive history of the deck/team that my teammate, Joe Gagliardi, so eloquently wrote on this same site available here. He probably outlines the history of the team and the origins of the deck far better than I could possibly hope to do.
The recent version of the deck we deem optimal at this point is this:
4 Magma Jet
4 Molten Rain
4 Electrostatic Bolt
2 Creeping Mold
3 Molder Slug
3 Tel-Jilad Justice
4 Eternal Witness
4 Wayfarer’s Bauble
4 Reap and Sow
3 Grab the Reins
1 Tel-Jilad Justice
If you look at the older versions of the deck, you will see that the very core of the deck has not changed. It still plays like a mid-range control deck against the majority of the field, while being very adaptable to play a quicker, more fast-paced game against slower control decks.
Breaking it down card for card was done by Joe, so I won’t do it again for the full deck. However, I will go over the recent additions and changes we’ve made, as well as cards not in the deck that people keep insisting are good:
Tel-Jilad Justice vs. Oxidize (maindeck)
The deck’s only problem (and it is minor, in my opinion), is that there can be some inconsistency regarding mana draws. Tel-Jilad Justice fixes this and adds a crucial element of card quality improvement, something not usually available to Green and Red cards. The sacrifice of speed is minor, and the inability to get through Welding Jar has not proven to be back-breaking in testing.
Joe was right – this card is too slow and unwieldy for the deck. That being said, it is a potent weapon in the sideboard to fight the mirror matches (uncommon, since everyone thinks this deck is inferior to everything else) and other control matchups, such as Tooth and Nail and U/W Control. Getting the mana advantage early, thinning the deck out, and simultaneously crippling their mana base are too much for most control decks to handle. Many cards want to come out against control decks, so we added an anti-control card that was much more flexible and addressed the real issue of control vs. control – mana – rather than a narrow crutch card like Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author].
Reap and Sow
Initially tested and proven to be ineffective overall, with the increasing number of control decks making their appearances in the block format, we added this card alongside Wayfarer’s Bauble to combat the trend. Casting this on turn 5 with entwine after casting Molten Rain on turn 3 and Solemn Simulacrum on turn 4 is simply devastating for most control decks, and proved to be outstanding in the PTQ for all teammates (excluding myself, since I couldn’t find any before the tournament began).
Grab the Reins
While I know Joe talked about it in his article, I’d like to expound on this card a bit. The addition of this card to the sideboard makes the matchup against Tooth and Nail laughable. After board, not only are you bringing in land destruction to make massive one-turn Mindslaver activations impossible, but you are proactively fighting their main Tooth and Nail engine. If they get a large creature and Eternal Witness, you throw the guy at their face, burn the Witness, and attack through for the win. If they get two Darksteel Colossi, you throw one at them and attack through or burn them out for the win. If they get the Mephidross Vampire/Triskelion combo, you kill both of their targets and start over – your Grab the Reins just killed three combo pieces.
Nice card, fool. Every time I see this card played in a deck, I silently cheer to myself – because I know I’m going to win. Everyone has this card in their builds of R/G just because of what it looks like it does – attacks for three, blocks large guys and regenerates, comes out on turn 3 to fight – but no one playtests it. I guarantee it.
Had people actually played with this card against the field, they would understand that it causes you to stunt your mana advantage, give you two spells with impossibly specific mana requirements on turn 3, and sets your board development back, which are all terrible things for the Freshmaker. Listen, people – we knew this card existed. It’s not like we skipped over the most-hyped Green card in Mirrodin and completely forgot that it was printed. We’re not playing it for several reasons, and neither should you. And by that, I mean please play it so Matt Westfall can openly laugh at you and tell you how bad you are for playing it.
They had their time in the limelight. That’s all.
The”Flametongue Kavu” of the Mirrodin block isn’t in our decks. There are infinite reasons why, none of which will convince you that this card is unnecessary and counter-productive to what the Freshmaker tries to do, so I’ll spare Knutson the bandwidth and space.
Now that I’ve sufficiently rambled on about the deck and the card choices that are most important to me, I’d like to address the other issue in the topic I chose for this article: The Lost Art of Deckbuilding.
The Lost Art of Deckbuilding in America
Deckbuilding today has devolved into finding ways to finish the opponent off with some type of veiled combo (Tooth and Nail, KCI) or completely degenerate the board in such a short time span to a point where no opponent can feasibly win (Ravager Affinity). Of course, you always have mono-Red decks that kill all your threats then burn you out with the help of creatures (Big Red). Real control decks (U/W control) are few and far between, and are ill-equipped to deal with the Ravager Affinity deck, and the aggro-control decks don’t really do anything in this format (“Crystal Witness”), despite what the pros will have you believe. You’ll note that all the pros going crazy over the U/G Shard deck all played Ravager Affinity at GP: Orlando, to great effect. Does this strike you as surprising? Don’t believe everything you read, just because it comes from people with tournament wins.
Many people believe that making minor changes to major archetype decks is what Wizards forced upon us through their R&D staff, and that they are prebuilding decks for us in the Future Future League. I know, because I used to think this way not long ago, before our team started playtesting for the Mirrodin Block. However, that couldn’t be more incorrect. There are opportunities to build decks in this format, and the field is extremely diverse with the banning of Skullclamp. The real problem today is the fact that people refuse to work for their wins, and thus turn to decks like Tooth and Nail, Ravager Affinity, and Big Red. All of these decks require little to no creative genius and hard work to win with. Sure, Affinity requires you to do some simple math and play cards in the correct order, but besides that, it’s a joke. [Actually I’ll step in to say that’s flat out wrong here, since Affinity remains one of the hardest aggressive decks ever to play correctly. Many, many people can still win with the deck on auto-pilot, but the difference between Osyp playing the deck and your average scrub is vast. – Knut] Big Red is even more absurd, while Tooth and Nail merely gives you the goal to get to nine mana without dying.
This isn’t how Magic was intended to be played. Years ago, Constructed tournaments required real work and real play skill, and as a result, a select group of people did consistently well. Teams like Cabal Rogue and the East Coast Assassins put time and effort into deckbuilding and playtesting, and were subsequently rewarded for their labor. Skill-intensive cards like Force of Will, Duress, Oath of Druids, Cataclysm, hell, even Fireblast, were in a format. The real threat of countermagic made it so that decks could not have one dedicated path to victory that could be stopped by one card that cost two Blue. Unfortunately, today, we lack that motivating threat – but that does not mean there is work that needs to be done!
I believe that the real reason that the GFC Freshmaker is not widely played in the United States is primarily due to the lack of playtesting amongst so-called teams and the fact that this deck is not easy to play. It has no big finish, save for Fireball (which isn’t used that way 90% of the time in this deck), like D.C. Green and Tooth and Nail have. It has no cute combo or inherently broken mechanic in the deck, like Affinity for Artifacts. It doesn’t mindlessly play guys and attack to reduce the opponent to zero, like Mono-Green does. What it does have is multiple paths to victory and mind wrenching plays every single turn, beginning with your first land drop. You can only win with the deck by playing it hundreds of test games against variation upon variation of major archetype in the Mirrodin Block so that you know exactly what to do in any given situation, as well as develop the capability of analyzing mid-game board positions and card combinations that have not yet been discovered in playtesting.
Unfortunately, that’s too much work for the majority of American Magic players out there anymore. All the creativity that you see go into decks comes from overseas in Europe and Japan, while the Americans are content to play the established decks with minor changes, resting on their laurels and hoping that their play skill is enough to win them a PTQ and qualify them for the next Pro Tour, where they will invariably finish out of the money, behind several international players who instinctively know the format and have put in the time to get where they are. Do you really think there isn’t reason why an American has failed to win a Constructed Pro Tour in quite some time? Is it just because of luck? Everyone’s too busy playing poker since it has a higher”Expected Value,” or EV.
Bonus: Why Joe named the deck”The Freshmaker”
I hate this deck’s name. I won’t lie to you. Every single time that I see it in print (much less type it), I cringe. Joe says it with such regularity that I stopped hanging out with him for a full month, I swear.
But when I go to a PTQ and play the cards in my deck out, and hear”oh wow, that’s the Freshmaker,” I can’t help but laugh hysterically and smile widely. You’ll note that every time you ask a teammate of the GFC what deck we’re playing today, we say”Red/Green.” But when you ask the randoms that play it, they’ll say”The Freshmaker.”
Priceless. Joe Gagliardi is a modern day master for naming the deck what it is today.
-To the entire GFC for working hard (even when I slacked off) to develop the best deck in the Mirrodin block to date. The team’s roster includes: Joe”Bags” Gagliardi, Matt Westfall, Steve Glaeser, Adam Fronsee, Justin George, Cedric”That Black Guy” Phillips, Marty Porter, John”Darkwing Duck” Hunka, Peter”Slow” Rollenhagen, and me,”Asian” Kyle Boddy. If I forgot someone, I sincerely apologize and I’ll owe you some wings at the next BW3 testing session.
-To the European and Japanese Magic scenes, both of which have revitalized deckbuilding strategy.
-To Peter Sjostedt, for his first constructed PTQ Top Eight appearance in as many tries, and for being a generous person for drawing with me so that I could win the main event of the Fifth Dawn prerelease, despite no personal incentive to do so.
-To American Magic players for uncreative deckbuilding.
-To the idiot in the forums that called the deck’s name”easily the worst name for a deck in recent history,” while also saying that Magma Jet does nothing spectacular against any deck in the format.
-The invasion of poker language and poker anecdotes into the Magic community. Get a job, all you future WSOP champions. Then again, edt said it best here: “But there is one great thing about poker. All the fake ass players that are in Magic: the Gathering just for the money are going to leave the game, to go play poker because they saw Dave Williams make 3.5 Million and I say: Good Riddance, I hope you make a ton of money and never come back, and Magic will be left with just those who love to play the game.”
You can reach me at [email protected] with your general comments, questions, statements on why you think Troll Ascetic is good, and why our deck sucks. I’ll gladly respond to them all via email and in the forums, if you’d like.
GFC Team Member