Sometimes Kyle, you really piss the hell out of me. I still love you, but you’re going to have to pull your weight around the house from now on.
Efraim Sanchez (My father)
Dad always knew how to put it. He said that to me when I was nine, the day I accidentally threw my baseball bat through his Cadillac’s front windshield. The repercussion of my action was that I had to do chores around the house.
I was miserable. I hated doing chores. Mowing the lawn, clearing the snow off the driveway, and killing the occasional cockroach were my punishments.
Mowing wasn’t so bad. I remember listening to the Spice Girls CD on my neon blue CD player.
Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna ha, I wanna ha, I wanna ha, I wanna ha,
I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ah!
I’ve just realized how super lame I was. I did always fancy Posh Spice; I still have a poster of her in white leather under my bed, lol.
It was the first snow of the winter, and the driveway was blanketed with God’s dandruff*. Mother woke me up early and assigned me the task of clearing the crystallized ice before Dad went to work. I put my boots and mittens on, and went outside to retrieve the shovel from the shed. I reached up to the top shelf and yanked the shovel down, and stepped back as it fell on the floor. Unfortunately for me, there was a wasp hive on the metal end. I got stung four times – two on the neck, one on my cheek, and one wasp managed to squeeze inside my parka and sting me directly above my left nipple. That happened when I was in Fifth Grade, and Melody and I just started to hold hands in the hallway. My eye swelled up a bit, and she dumped me for some weird kid named Andre in her home-room. Thankfully, Andre had just broken up with Melissa, who I’d always had intimate feeling for, and she had no one to take her to the skating rink on Friday night. To top it off, Melissa was in my home-room, so we spent a lot of minutes together during open-book time. (I still have the birthday card she gave me with a pink unicorn on it – talk about holding onto the past.)
The cockroaches were especially difficult because I was so terrified of them, and worst of all… they would never die. I remember wasting an entire can of Raid on one particularly large ‘roach. He was more persistent than Wolverine in X-3. It would puss all over the floor for a couple of seconds, then when I went to pick it up its legs would start moving vigorously as if it were in a marathon. I actually had to kill one when I went over to Melody’s house. I was mid-stream when I looked over inside the bathtub and saw it skulking on the tile. We tortured it with different shampoos and conditioners before it finally gave in and drowned. Her mom got really pissed because we got water and soap all over the floor, and she sent me home.
I remember the first time I heard about Life from the Loam. It was at the Ravnica prerelease, and Billy was sneezing and snotting all over the place. When he did talk, it was only about Life from the Loam, and how he was going to build a crazy Extended deck with it for Pro Tour: LA with cycle lands. Its not that I was skeptical, its just Billy’s previous ideas weren’t that hot. Like running Shining Shoal over Sickening Shoal in Kamigawa block Gifts. His reasoning was that you never really wanted to remove any of the Black cards from the game. Another idea was from Mirrodin block, where he tried to justify running 66 cards in Freshmaker to throw off his opponents with Arc-Slogger math.
Billy was known for his crazy ideas, but he was right on the money with Life from the Loam. Since then it’s become one of my all time super duper favorite cards ever. I’ve also had an on-and-off relationship with Summer Bloom, which is how I spawned this new deck…
31 lands. When I first built the deck it had 37, but that was waaay too many.
I wouldn’t recommend this list for States, but seeing as how I put in a lot of games with it I wanted to discuss it briefly. It’s definitely not the optimal build, but there is a lot of power in there.
Life from the Loam is the core of the deck. Your entire game-plan revolves around the interactions it has with Wildfire, Trade Routes, Stormbind, Mouth of Ronom, Lightning Storm, Ghost Quarter, Quicksand, and Terramorphic Expanse.
This deck really isn’t very good, but it’s a blast to play. It also has a good match versus Mono Blue, so I thought I’d talk about it a bit before I get to the real stuff.
All of my testing has been done courtesy of Apprentice with Magic-League. Sure, sure, the majority of players on there bring random decks to the table, but I really got a good feel for the way the deck plays. I mainly played against Dragonstorm, Mono Blue Snow, and G/R LD. Those seem to be frontrunners for the States environment so far, so I’ll talk about those match-ups.
Against Mono Blue you have Mouth of Ronom for Teferi. That’s your edge. Any early Confidant on the play – or Summer Bloom – is also pretty exciting. Rimefeather Owl can be troublesome, but they really can’t tap out to play him without you killing them with something goofy. Basically you just keep playing big spells; if you resolve one, you will probably win (brand new concept).
I just finished playing ten games with a strange character on Apprentice. He was playing a Blue/Red Dragonstorm deck with Remand, Ancestral Visions, and Cancel. The rest of the slots were dedicated to the Dragonstorm engine. We split the games five apiece. Four of my wins came off of an early Wildfire via Summer Bloom, while he was either casting Compulsive Research or Signets. I think the Dragonstorm has an advantage in this match, but it’s hard to tell because after board you have Trickbind, which totally destroys them.
You can’t beat land destruction. They have a smooth combination of early threats, with Kird Ape and Burning-Tree Shaman, and a nice compliment of disruption with Stone Rain and Avalanche Riders. Life from the Loam can stop their disruption from doing too much damage, but you can’t beat the aggro aspect of the deck.
Snow Blue is the front-runner for strongest deck in the format. It’s the deck I will most likely be playing at States, and I couldn’t write an article in good conscience without including it.
I’m not a big fan of Whispers of the Muse. Mainly because the mirror match is all about Teferi Advantage (which will become a very common term as long as he is in the format, much like Jitte Advantage). Tapping out at the end of your opponent’s turn is usually safe, but in the mirror if he lands a Teferi then there is little that you can do to win (short of a Mouth of Ronom). Originally I had four Quicksand in the deck to deal with all the random small aggro decks like Satanic Sligh and White Weenie, but soon moved them to the sideboard after playing the mirror. I used to think Urza’s Factory was the key to the control mirror, but I never found a reasonable time to use it in fear of Teferi.
I really hate the term White Weenie. I think its because when I first started playing Magic some random idiot kept talking about how he was going to beat me with his White Weenie. I was fresh off of my domination of the Pokemon game with my Hay Maker deck, so I was really cocky and wanted to smash him. When we played in the tournament he got a ridiculous draw – Turn 1 Savannah Lion, turn 2 Soltari Priest, turn 3 Soltari Monk, Glittering Lynx, Turn 4 Crusade, Crusade. It was brutal. I descended into denial, and the next week I gathered all my Black cards and made a deck just to beat him, with Dread of Night and four Reign of Night maindeck. He didn’t show, and I got smashed by Order of the Ebon Hand and Bad Moon.
Sideboarding is pretty self explanatory, Trickbind for Dragonstorm. Quicksand for small aggro, Muddle the Mixture and Spell Snare for Control matchups, and more Boomerangs against the Bird and Elves decks.
Board in 4 Quicksand, 2 Boomerang, and 2 Muddle the Mixture for 3 Mouth of Ronom, 2 Rewind, and 3 Cancel against the small aggro decks. The main goal in this match is to get by whatever creatures they play out early, and then use your counters to take care of their burn. Against White Weenie without Red, leave the Muddle the Mixtures in the board and keep a Cancel and Mouth of Ronom in.
Bring in the 4 Muddle the Mixture and 2 Quicksand against control, for 4 Repeal and 2 Whispers of the Muse. This gives you 17 hard counters and 4 Remand. All of these games are pretty boring, because you play land-go for the first ten or so turns. Whoever draws more land will usually win this match, which is why I board in Quicksand. When you do make a play and try to resolve Teferi, wait for the turn when they cast Think Twice or Whispers at the end of your turn – this will be your opening. Another important feature is that Rune Snag counts for all graveyards, so in the late game Rune Snag is essentially a counterspell.
Against Dragonstorm, board in 4 Trickbind for 2 Spell Snare and 2 Confiscate. If they are playing Blue they will have some combination of Remands, Rune Snag, Cancel, or Spell Snare, so be aware of that when they try and combo off. It’s best to save Remand until they try and go off, so you can counter Storm copies. Whenever I try and stop them from getting enough mana by countering Seething Song and Lotus Bloom it usually ends up in them having a higher Storm count, so it’s best to wait until they cast Dragonstorm and counter the storm copies. This is especially true if they are playing the Tron version of Dragonstorm, since they will probably have Tron and can cast Dragonstorm at any time.
Against the Birds and Elves decks, board in 2 Boomerang and a Quicksand for 3 Spell Snare. Repeal is soooo good against Call of the Herd… I always seem to have it when they have turn 2 Call when I’m on the draw. The real threat with the Birds and Elves decks is the land destruction package they could have. Turn 2 Stone Rain into turn 3 Avalanche Riders will be a very familiar play in this new format, and there is literally nothing you can do to stop it. Game 1 usually depends who plays first; if they do, then the game tilts highly in their favor; if you do, then your counters will be online before the set up. If these decks are popular in your area, Boomerang should replace Spell Snare in the maindeck. Drawing dead cards against this deck really sucks, and I’ve lost several games where I’ve draw two of them while I’m facing down a Burning-Tree Shaman, Kird Ape, and Psionic Blast in their hand.
This next deck I’ve been playing with a lot. It has a relatively good match-up against the majority of decks you might encounter, and might be the deck I play at States.
This deck has been a pet deck for me the past couple of weeks. Funeral Charm is awesome. It does everything: kills Magus, Bob, Birds, and Elves; discards at instant speed; and even makes your Serra Avenger Swampwalk! I doubt a better utility card has ever existed. I got the deck idea when I was examining Boros Deck Wins. It kept losing, but I really like turn 1 Savannah Lions. I looked through other colors – first at Blue, then at Green, and I finally found this. This deck destroys whatever control and combo decks are in the field, and has a reasonable match-up against most aggro decks. The real sneakiness comes in after board, when you turn into a control deck for the aggro matches.
Versus the aggro decks: 4 Ravenous Rats, 3 Stupor, and 4 The Rack should come out for 4 Wrath of God, 4 Last Gasp, and 3 Sudden Death. The goal here is to wait until they overextend into Wrath, then lay out all the guys you’ve been holding back. If they don’t overextend into it, you can simply one-for-one them and then finish them off with the White creatures. I really haven’t seen too much aggro while playing on Magic-league, which leads me to believe there will be a lot of control at States. If this trend holds true, this deck would be perfect.
Against the Teferi Control decks you should board out 4 Mortify and 3 Stupor for 4 Castigate and 3 Sudden Death. Stupor really becomes too risky to play against the counter decks. It’s so much better to play a two-drop and a one-drop on turn 3 than tapping out to try and resolve a Stupor and walking into Remand.
This decks weakness lies against Red/Green decks that start out with turn 1 Kird Ape all the way to turn 4 flashback Call of the Herd. I thought about putting Condemn in the deck as an efficient removal spell over Last Gasp in the sideboard, but the life gain really was a problem since the kill conditions in this deck are all relatively weak. Another card that could make its way into the board is Bottled Cloister. I dismissed it early, since players would bring in artifact removal for The Rack if they see it game 1, which would make the Bottled Cloisters less efficient.
Up to this point I have done a total of six Time Spiral drafts. In one of them I managed to get 2 Restore Balance and 2 Greater Gargadon. It was a G/r/w deck and it worked quite well. I even got the chance to play one of the 0/5 flash defenders to ensure I got to the late game. I won three of my four matches in that draft, and four games with the Restore Balance/Gargadon combo.
The other five times I’ve drafted have been all the same deck. White has been naturally over-drafted up to this point, and for good reason. It’s the best all around color, providing dominating aggro and control archetypes. There is a secret hidden deck in there that may be the new best deck in the format. The keystone of the deck is Icatian Crier, used in combination with Fortify and Gaze of Justice. If the Crier survives he will lock up both the early and late game. Black is a natural second color in the archetype, providing madness cards to discard to the Crier. Momentary Blink is also very good in this deck because it both protects your Crier and can be used with Ivory Giant to tap down all their creature at the end of their turn before you cast Fortify. The only game I’ve lost with this deck was to double Sulfurous Blast, which is pretty much game over against this deck.
When drafting this deck you draft the same way you would normally, taking all the good White and Black removal over Crier, Gaze, and Fortify. If you passed any of those cards in the first couple of picks you can expect to get them back, especially Gaze of Justice. You should start picking up Criers over pretty much everything but Strangling Soot, Dark Withering, and any premier uncommons around fourth or fifth.
I was trying to think of a way to end this article by tying in the whole lawn mower/snow shovel/cockroach theme, but I came up short. Oh well.
Thank you sincerely for reading.
Top 5 Picks
“Freakish (Acoustic)” by Saves the Day
“1,000 Seconds” by Secret Machines
“Ever So Sweet” by The Early November
“Blue Skies” by Ella Fitzgerald
“Where Are You Going” by Dave Matthews Band
*Whenever Grannie talks about snow, she always refers to it as God’s dandruff.