Welcome back to the only weekly column here at Star City that is dedicated to all things casual. I was playing in the Dissension release events online last week when I realized two major things:
- Dissension release events (Ravnica pack, Dissension boosters) are almost as bad as the Judgment prerelease. Judgment was a set that was built with Green and White in mind. Green and White like to stall the game. Dissension was built with G/U, U/W and R/B in mind, and two of those three combinations share a color, so the vast majority of decks were U/W/G. However, that meant that everybody was playing these slow decks. Add graft to the mix, and you have all of the makings of a sloooooow day. I never finished a match with more than five minutes on the clock.
- Have you ever wondered if Magic: the Electronic and its programmers have a hidden agenda? Well, wonder no more. When you type in certain words online, they are whited out, as if one used spaces instead of letters. Certain words are therefore banned, like curse words, for example. Here’s what’s interesting: Fascist is a banned word. However, Communist is not. So, if you are an extreme on the right side of the political spectrum, you cannot say it, but if you are extreme to the left side, you can. There’s definitely an ideological axe to grind there, wouldn’t you say?
Three weeks ago I investigated my own biases as a Magic player by reviewing previous articles I had written. I then asked people to submit decklists to me by e-mail, and I would choose the winners and display their decks in an article.
As a reminder, let’s review the criteria to be a true Abedeck:
Tempo – A true, authentic Abedeck has an important tempo element. This could be something designed to slow down an opponent’s mana, such as Stone Rain, or something designed to temporarily remove an obstacle, such as tapping, bounce, and so forth. Traditional Abe tempo effects include Winter Orb, Avalanche Riders, Man-o’-War, Tangle Wire, and Recoil.
187 – A true, authentic Abedeck should have a number of creatures that have a serious impact on the game by coming into play. Typically, these creatures gain card advantage or tempo advantage. Classic examples of Abe 187 creatures include Thornscape Battlemage, Ghitu Slinger, Gravedigger, Man-o’War and Avalanche Riders.
Goblin Bombardment or Other – As opposed to imitation decks, a true Abedeck has some sort of mechanism to sacrifice creatures for damage. Typically this is a Goblin Bombardment, but it can also include cards like Krovikan Horror or Blasting Station.
Recursion – The last element that any real Abedeck will have is a significant recursion element. This recursion is not limited to just creatures. Enchantments, lands, and artifacts are all recursable as well in a true Abedeck. You could play Replenish, Roar of Reclamation, Goblin Welder, Living Death, Planar Birth, or less sweeping effects like Gravedigger, Volrath’s Stronghold and Eternal Witness.
I received more deck entries that I had expected. To judge them, I evaluated each element of a true Abedeck. I assigned a number from one to five to assess how well the deck addressed that particular element. Then I created a tilt category, to reflect my own bias. This category rewarded theme decks, interesting card choices, and so forth.
As a reminder, every deck had to be one of two color combinations: U/B/R or U/B/G. I had good deck submissions in both color combinations.
To begin, I am going to take a look at the honorable mention category. This award goes to the deck with the highest tilt awarded, yet fell short because it focused too much on the theme and not enough an the elements. Still, I really liked it as a deck, and gave it a perfect tilt score. Let’s take a look:
This deck is built around the Tainted Aether – Hunted engine. You play a Hunted creature, which only triggers the Aether once for you, and a number of times for your opponent.
Note that you can always sacrifice the creature that triggers the Aether to the ability. That means that your opponent will be forced to choose – keep the token creature, or sac another creature/land. Typically, I think your opponent will be sacrificing token creatures, which gives you very cheap beaters.
Then, to punish the opponent further, you find the underplayed Dingus Staff. Play a Hunted creature now and every token creature than your opponents sacrifice cause two damage to them.
You can reuse your Hunted creature with the Cloudstone Curio, which allows you to bounce your own non-land permanents. You can also bounce the Eternal Witnesses.
As you can see, Jason’s deck is very synergetic, with most of the cards interacting well together. This gave him a 5 tilt. However, his 187 creatures are low, the tempo element of the deck is relegated to just Tainted Aether, and there is no GBB element in the deck at all. Therefore, this deck did not score highly enough to warrant consideration for the top spots.
In this case, I think his deck would really have benefited from a GGB-like card. Two of the three Hunted creatures played make 1/1 tokens, so you could shoot them down and deal two damage with a Dingus Staff out. Plus, it’d be nice to have a little extra damage on the table to knock out a player who has taken Staff damage.
- 4 Mogg Fanatic
- 4 Clone
- 3 Man-o'-War
- 3 Goblin Sharpshooter
- 3 Gilded Drake
- 3 Chittering Rats
- 3 Ghitu Slinger
- 2 Plagued Rusalka
- 4 Crypt Champion
- 3 Rakdos Guildmage
I respect a deck that runs 32 creatures, and it already feels Abeish from that alone! Tyler chose to go with the U/B/R combination whereas Jason, our honorable mention winner, chose the G/U/B trio.
One of the important things to immediately note is that the Crypt Champion is the central card in this deck. Practically every creature can be recurred with the Champion.
As far as tempo elements go, this deck has the Man-o’-Wars and the Rats. If the deck had a permanent way to bounce them and replay them, it would have gotten a higher rating, and won. Replace the Swords with Erratic Portals, for example, and the deck’s tempo rating jumps, causing it to shoot over the competition and win it all. The only way you can do it right now is to draw the only Stronghold, a GBB or Rusalka, and then play it, sac it, redraw it, and replay it. That awkward combo would deal one damage a turn and prevent you from ever drawing another card again – not good.
However, I do like the Chittering Rats and their ability to slow down an opponent. They are a nice call.
I love the Rusalka and the Sharpshooter, and the combination of them upped my tilt rating to a four out of five. They are not cards that I would normally play, but they feel right at home, and that’s what counts.
As far as recursion is concerned, you have the Champions and a Stronghold. I just scored the deck an average score for the five cards, about par for the course.
Where this deck really picked up mileage was in the 187 and GBB categories. There are a bunch of 187 creatures of various types, which amps up the card advantage significantly. Tyler’s submission was really helped by the large number of 187 creatures. In fact, Tyler got the highest score of all submissions in the 187 creatures category.
I’m personally only iffy about the inclusion of the Clone. It can’t be Crypt Championed back into play. I understand that Clone copies a 187 creature already in play, but I feel that I’d rather have more options than an additional current option, if that makes sense.
For example, imagine if these were Avalanche Riders instead of Clones. Now the deck has an increased tempo element as well as more real 187 creatures. The presence of Avalanche Riders with Volrath’s Stronghold (or my Erratic Portal) suggests the possibility of reuse of the Riders that will seriously crimp opposing mana bases.
That would have been even more Abeish. Still, Tyler’s attempts created a deck that I can really see myself playing. Good job Tyler.
The Winner Unveiled
The winning deck scored just a half point more than Tyler’s Champ Recursion. Let’s take a look:
- 3 Jackal Pup
- 3 Man-o'-War
- 3 Manta Riders
- 3 Blood Celebrant
- 2 Nightscape Battlemage
- 4 Hellhole Rats
- 2 Lyzolda, the Blood Witch
- 1 Stalking Vengeance
Brad does a lot of things that I really like, and yet, I’d really change around some things too.
Brad scored a perfect score in tempo. This deck is the most tempo-oriented deck I’ve seen anywhere in quite some time. Nightscape Battlemage bounces two creatures, Mind Whip locks down either mana or a creature, Clutch of the Undercity bounces a permanent, Man-o’-War bounces a creature, and Rise / Fall has both a recursion and a tempo element when you play the good half (Rise).
That’s a ton of tempo. Barring some name from Brad, that’s my name for the deck – Tons o’ Tempo. From creatures that bounce to spells that bounce to an enchant creature that locks things down, this deck loves the tempo.
This deck is also pretty good at the GBB since it uses GBB. He also has Lyzolda, which I think is a perfect compliment to GBB. For the record, I think GBB is better than Lyzolda by far, but I respect that Brad added an additional outlet.
I love the Stalking Vengeance and its synergy with the sacrificing Lyzolda and GBB. I like even more that there is just one copy, showing that the deck won’t clog up your hand with expensive Stalking Vengeances, but if you get it, then you can likely use it.
So, Brad scored very high in his tempo category and above average in the GBB category. Where Brad stumbled was in the use of 187 creatures. Whereas Tyler’s deck has tons of them, Brad’s deck has much less. There’s just nine 187 creatures in the deck, which hurt Brad’s score. What really hurt his score here was that he used creatures that were not 187 and did not advance the theme either in Jackal Pup, Manta Riders, and Blood Celebrants.
The Hellhole Rats are so new that I haven’t experimented with them much yet. I like their synergy with Lyzolda. However, since the deck is running Lyzolda, Manta Riders feel out of place. Goblin Balloon Brigade does the exact same thing, only since it’s Red, it can be sacked to Lyzolda for damage. In addition you could have fun sacrificing a Goblin Balloon Brigade (GBB) to a Goblin Bombardment (GBB).
This sort of internal inconsistencies lowered the tilt score from a potential of five back down to a four. I still really like the deck, but, as submitted, it appears to have holes.
Due to the large amount of tempo herein, I have no problem with the Pups. Playing a 2/1 on the first turn and then beating with it while you bounce and slow down your opponent is a perfectly legitimate strategy. However, it you are looking at that strategy, why play Blood Celebrant and Manta Riders (or Goblin Balloon Brigade)?
Since this deck has no two casting cost tempo cards outside of Rise, which would rarely be played on the second turn, a two-mana beater would be a nice fit in this deck. This deck is missing that. Dauthi Horror is a good choice for that role, I think.
I do like the addition of Nightscape Battlemage to this deck. The Nightscape Battlemage is an underutilized card, and it sometimes viewed as the unplayable Battlemage. I think that is because it costs six mana to pop a land or to bounce two creatures, and nine mana to do both. I like its use here.
The Wrap Up
I really enjoyed this, and I hope that all of the deck submitters did as well. A special thanks out to all of you that submitted decks. I read over each of your e-mails numerous times and pored over your deck entries. A special thanks to our honorable mention winner, Jason Schell, our runner-up, Tyler Savoy, and our winner, Brad Beck.
To you three, may all of your decks be dominant.
To everyone else, find your own deck biases and embrace them. Build the best deck of yourself that you can.