The Last Stand

Not long now. Only one month and it all changes. Love ’em or hate ’em, three whole Magic expansions will leave Type II. There are cards I can’t wait to see leave: , , and even . I don’t hate them, but their loss will redefine the environment in ways that none of us can…

Not long now. Only one month and it all changes. Love ’em or hate ’em, three whole Magic expansions will leave Type II. There are cards I can’t wait to see leave: Masticore, Yawgmoth’s Bargain, Replenish and even Rancor. I don’t hate them, but their loss will redefine the environment in ways that none of us can really predict.

No longer will I have to worry about having three one-casting-cost answers in my opening hand for a black flier that, by rights, shouldn’t see play until at least turn four. No longer will I have to watch a player sit behind a Masticore, the rest of their very bad deck being thrown away to one of the best creatures we’ve ever seen.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Replenish, mainly because it was so unfair to your opponent – but also because you could make enough of the deck your own that your opponent never quite knew what you’d play next (apart from the fact that it was probably an enchantment). I’ve also played against it, and know the frustration of dealing with ten enchantments, only to have them all brought back for one white mana and three others. Replenish had its day and there are lots of answers out there, but it’s a shining example (to my mind) of the lack of testing of card interactions between blocks.

And finally, Rancor. Rancor is one of my favourite cards of all time. When I started to play, the common wisdom was that creature enchantments should be left out of decks unless they were real gamewinners, because as soon as they killed your creature you lost it. Card advantage was paramount. Rancor changed all that. Green mages the world over started casting creature enchantments again, and again, and again. On the downside, it became very easy to beat a player with a bad deck. I’ve watched a good player lose to a rogue green deck full of 1/1 creatures because there were two Rancors in his opponent’s starting hand. With Rancor gone, green mages are going to have to think just that little bit harder.

So I’ve written several articles about blocks rotating out of Type II. I’ve tried to put down some of my thoughts on how to come up with a good deck for the first tourney that includes a new block – but what about the old block? What kind of decks do you play on the last day?

I guess it comes down to what kind of player you are. The impassionate players playing to win will pick a deck that is best in the environment (as always) and play the tourney like any other. I generally play a deck that uses lots of cards I’m going to miss – or am looking forward to see gone.

When Mirage rotated out I played a variant of my White Weenie deck. Gemstone Mine, Uktabi Orangutan, and Empyrial Armour – among others – were all about to leave Type II (luckily, the monkeys have made a return), and I wasn’t that happy to see them go. When Tempest rotated out, I played a Blue/Black control deck with Tradewind Riders. When Tradewinds were in Type II they were the bane of my existence, but just for that last tourney I wanted to use their power myself. I had fun.

And now we’re losing Urza’s Block. Goodbye Might of Oaks, goodbye
Mother of Runes. See ya, Gaea’s Cradle. Au revoir, Grim Monolith. Some will probably come back one day – but many won’t. It’s the time of year for reflection: I never got my Veiled deck to work – could I have spent more time on it or was it really the lost cause I thought it was? Could Opposition have worked if I’d have thought about it a little more? What about Smokestack? It looks good, it can work (and has worked for several people), but always seems to not quite be as good as it could be – am I missing some little trick that’s just hovering on the corner of my brain?

As a deckbuilder, I guess these are all questions that will fade as I start looking at the new cards. Yesterday I started work on three new decks: New Speed Green (or Mad Elf deck), Blue/White control and, of course, Marogeddon. As Dave Meeson has already pointed out, Elfhame Sanctuary looks quite good and it slots right into Marogeddon, especially if you can get more than one of them on the table.

But what about the last tourney? What shall I play? I’ve played Angry Non-Hermit a little and don’t enjoy it. I’m not a fan of Magpile or Speed Green, and I’m definitely not playing with Rebels. I’ve decided to play my Counter-Burn deck. It’s full of spells that are going to leave: Powder Keg, Morphling, Arc Lightning, and Miscalculate, to name a few.

Last night, Team PhatBeats and our new prospective team member got together. We were only missing one member, Paul, and got quite a bit of testing in before the lure of four-player Tennis took hold once more.

Counter-Burn holds its own against Blue control, but seems a little slow against Green and White. Based on the last few tourneys, I know that these three deck archetypes will make up around 50% of the field, so we’ve put a lot of thought into raising the first game win percentage of the deck. Our conclusion is that against White, Powder Keg gets Disenchanted a lot. Against Green, it’s too slow. So we’ve taken them out (maybe we’ll put them back into the sideboard) and put Seal of Removals in instead. The deck now looks as follows:

PhatBeats Counter-Burn (v2).

Creatures (2):
2x Morphling

Other Spells (32):
4x Brainstorm
2x Stroke of Genius
4x Counterspell
4x Miscalculate
2x Rethink
2x Power Sink
4x Seal of Fire
4x Seal of Removal
2x Hammer of Bogardan
2x Earthquake
2x Arc Lightning

Land (26):
2x City of Brass
3x Dust Bowl
12x Islands
9x Mountains

Three Powder Kegs and one Rethink have come out. I toyed with taking the other Rethinks out for two Shocks, but as Tarik pointed out, counterspells are key to beating blue – one of the three decks that I need to be able to beat. Losing the Kegs means that I’ll have a little more of a problem with Mother of Runes, but I should be able to bounce them or fire them – they’ll gain card advantage, but they won’t win. Against blue decks, I’ve noticed that a Keg with five counters on it is a good Morphling deterrent, but sooner or later they’ll blow it up with one of their own. The Seals do help a little more against Masticore; not much, but a little.

So, that’s what I’ll be playing. I’m going to miss Miscalculate, probably as much as I missed Mana Leak. Anyone noticed that the two-casting cost/ one blue mana counters are getting weaker over time? More and more they’re only useful in the early game. Okay, Miscalculate lets you dig through your deck a little, and Daze lets you return islands and counter things on turn one. But you could use Mana Leak well into the midgame – not so with Daze – and Arcane Denial replaced itself, even if it gave your opponent two cards!

The deck has lots of fun things to do to your opponent. The only real problem I’ve noticed is that the Cities can be a real pain if your opponent puts a Rishadan Port into play – that’s why there are three Dust Bowls: Somebody will.

So, I hope you all enjoy this last month. Most of Team PhatBeats are going to be playing decks they enjoyed over the last year or so. I’m playing this whilst the others will probably be playing Sneak Attack, Wildfire, and some version of blue control.

If any of you are going to GP Manchester you may bump into Andy Smith – he’s night judging there (just made Level II).

Cheers, Jim.
Team PhatBeats
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