The Little Deck That Couldn’t

It’s a very good deck that smashes mono-black, blows through white weenie, and punishes any number of other classic OBC decks… But there’s one matchup it just can’t beat. Why doesn’t it work? All that, and an invite to get together at Origins!


This is an article on OBC – and yes, I will be at Origins to play in one of the first amateur Odyssey Block tournaments. As such, it seems only fitting to meet some of you lovely people.

I will be staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown, arriving on the afternoon of July 3rd – the phone number is 614-228-3200, so feel free to call and say”hello” and maybe leave a room number I can call you at. I’m hoping to get some OBC playtesting in at Origins before the big tournies, so maybe all of you loyal StarCity readers can show up and form an all-night playtesting session!

(Incidentally, the hotel room is registered not under my name, but under”William Steinmetz,” my brother’s name, so that’s how you’ll have to find my room number at the front desk. Feel free to ask to speak to Ferrett, however. My brother hates late-night calls, so don’t call after 10:00, okay?)

(Incidental to the incidentally, July 3rd is not only my birthday, but it’s the second anniversary of my stint as editor of StarCity – so it’s a very important day for me. A cake would be nice, but singing the Happy Birthday song will suffice.)

So – actual strategy.

Actual Strategy

Since I had handed out most of the good test decks to other people on Team Diaspora, I was stuck with OBC R/G Beats – not something I necessarily wanted, but occasionally as the leader you get to take one in the shorts.

I hate R/G Beats, and I didn’t think that R/G was fast enough to really blitz past the sea of counterspells and Mind Sludges we’d be seeing in the format. As such, I tried a preliminary build:


4 Wild Mongrel

4 Patchwork Gnomes

3 Rites of Spring


3 Anger

2 Genesis (you don’t want these in the early game)

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Arrogant Wurm


4 Werebear

2 Fledgling Dragon


4 Flame Burst/Violent Eruption

4 Browbeat

23 Lands


4 Seedtime

3 Temporary Insanity (sideboard tech from Akitsugu Ito, the highest-ranked

R/G finisher at Osaka – and I like that in this build. It’s a nice surprise

that people won’t be expecting).

3 Moment’s Peace

3 Earth Rift (I expect the manlands to show up aplenty, as well as Coffers)

2 Spellbane Centaur

I ran this by the fine folks at Team Diaspora, and they basically told me I was nuts.

  • Elliot Fertik wanted to see more burn, mostly Firebolt and Fiery Temper.

  • Jim Grimmett wanted more of a toolbox-style R/G with Living Wish to get lands and answers.

  • GP Baglione wanted a Frog in A Blender-style blitz deck, maybe with Firecat Blitz.

  • Carl Jarrell pointed out the futility of trying to achieve threshold with all the graveyard hate out there.

Okay. So I had four different ways of building R/G.

Let me reiterate that for those who weren’t paying attention: There are four different ways to build R/G Beats in Odyssey Block.

The simplest beatdown style of deck.


I dismissed GP’s advice, mainly because R/G blitz-style decks had been tried in Osaka ad infinitum, and had rewarded the best R/G player with a 93rd-place finish. Making it faster didn’t seem to be the way to go; I needed more of a control-style build.

Threshold wasn’t necessarily the worst way to go, but I put that on the backburner for now; I wanted to see how a straight beats deck would go.

Carl Jarrell, that crazy deckbuilder of insanity, suggested this build – which I then tried to see how it worked.

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Sylvan Safekeeper

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Werebear

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Patchwork Gnomes

4 Anger

4 Elephant Guide

3 Violent Eruption

1 Fledgling Dragon

24 lands as you see fit

I playtested this for about a week. It had surprisingly good results against mono-black… As long as you played it right. In the beginning against a mono-black deck (depending on the build, of course), you can’t tap out every turn to deliver beats to match their Edicting; you die quickly that way as you deplete your hand, then get the rest of it Sludged away, followed by a terrible Haunting Echoes.

What you need to do is play the waiting game. (Or Hungry Hungry Hippos.) Put out a couple of creatures, sure, but remember that all of their removal (at least in the classic Osaka builds) are sorcery-speed. Wait for them to Sludge you, then pay madness costs – or Force them to Mutilate one threat away at a time, then drop Mongrel, Anger, whatever else, and attack. Your burn should be enough to finish them off.

It’s a tricky business, of course, because once they hit six mana and a Coffers, they can start Sludging and Mutilating in the same turn, rendering your offense ineffective. You can’t wait forever. But turns 4 – 8 are your friends, when you try to smash through for as much hasted damage as possible, then finish them with burn later.

I actually had fairly good results against Black, especially when I learned how to play it. That worked well. It also did fairly well against random decks, blazing through their early defenses. There was just one deck that it couldn’t beat:

What the hell was my answer to three 6/6 flying Wurm tokens?

My friend Neil said it best: Without Wonder, you’re actually not too bad off; you wind up in creature stalemates sometimes, with Elephant Guided 6/6 tokens warding off larger creatures, but you’ve already pounded for a lot of damage in turns 1-3 with the right mulligan, and eventually you’ll draw enough burn for the win.

When you’re left defenseless, however, all you have is the vague hope of a Moment’s Peace in the sideboard – which isn’t as good an answer as you might like.

I had also noticed some bad things about the deck:

  • Anger is wonderful, but it only works with a mountain out. This deck is largely green, and some of the mountains are actually Mossfire Valleys and Barbarian Rings. The number of times I sat with an Anger, actually quite furious at it for apparently needing great heights to work, were legion.

  • The Elephant Guides were kind of crap, mainly because of the preponderance of bounce. I had to devote four slots to Sylvan Safekeeper to protect those Guided creatures, and Safekeeper himself was often a dead draw. Yikes. Maybe it should be sideboard material.

  • The Safekeeper himself was also sort of crap. Against U/G, the matchup we put Olle in there for, you’d often go”second-turn Mongrel, third-turn Guide and sac a land” – and with the low and aggressive land count in this deck, you were kind of hosed. Were four cards necessary to support this beast? Could I possibly put Spellbane Centaurs in, which were less flexible but had better synergy with the Guides?

I tried this lovely little combo next:

//NAME: Untitled Deck

2 Barbarian Ring

4 Browbeat

2 Spellbane Centaur

2 Sylvan Safekeeper

8 Mountain

11 Forest

3 Mossfire Valley

1 Fledgling Dragon

3 Violent Eruption

4 Elephant Guide

4 Anger

4 Patchwork Gnomes

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

SB: 4 Seedtime

SB: 2 Grim Lavamancer

SB: 3 Engulfing Flames

SB: 3 Overrun

SB: 3 Phantom Centaur

I really wanted Phantom Centaurs in here, but my mana curve was already too high and I was worried about stalling out. I also desperately wanted to try Browbeat, because I thought it might have potential where others failed. I also went halfsies on the Centaur/Safekeeper issue and decided to split the difference.

I do not know why I put Engulfing Flames in there. How many frickin’ regenerating creatures do we have to worry about in OBC, anyway? That should have been Firebolt.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Seedtime is not a valid sideboard card in OBC. The blue spells you need to worry about are Upheaval, Psychatog, Quiet Speculation, and Deep Analysis – which are all sorceries. Seedtime deals with Circular Logic and maybe bounce spells… But your deck can find better ways to handle bounce in OBC than Seedtime. Also, quite often the extra turn wasn’t really enough to blitz through; this deck needed an answer to Wurm tokens, and this wasn’t it.

  • Browbeat, while nice, is definitely a”win more” card – and as such, I’m not sure if it’s worth a shot in any deck. I hated wasting my third turn doing nothing but making my opponent take five damage; it sounds good, but it doesn’t affect the board position at all, and the next turn he’s doing something nasty. Look at it this way; by the time you’re in a position to cast Browbeat and guarantee that your opponent will take five damage, he’ll be under ten life anyway. By then, you should be in a position to win. If anything, Browbeat is a late-game card, not an early-game one.

  • Phantom Centaur”Protection From Black” is kind of a joke. Can I have”Protection from Edict” instead? Or maybe a”Protection from –X/-X”? Still, it’s a very good creature, and a great team-up with Elephant Guide.

  • Still, the Phantom Centaur vs. Phantom Centaur matchup gets a little wonky at times.

  • Olle – you’re out. There are better ways to use you, chief, but you’re only a 1/1. Spellbane is a 3/2 that’s still useful in every other match, especially with Anger and possibly a Guide, and so the Centaur is in.

  • Guide on an Arrogant Wurm is a nice combo. Really.

  • Violent Eruption is a bitch to cast with this deck, and that’s because red’s creatures just suck. There is no FTK in this format, and as such green has to be the core of your deck; in turn, that weakens your ability to find two (or often three) red mana for Eruption, and minimizes Anger. Rancid Earth really, really sucks. But should you ditch the Rings?

Again, this posted pretty good results against black – great results, actually – and did well against a lot of other random decks that I ran into people with. But Quiet Speculation? Which was ridiculously constant? The only way I could beat it was to Guide up a Wurm – which was rarer than I’d like – and even then, Wonder still won the match.

I hate Wonder. It’s the card that breaks that goddamn deck.

So I went back to the drawing board again and again, until I wound up with this:

//NAME: Untitled Deck Redux

10 Mountain

2 Browbeat

4 Spellbane Centaur

11 Forest

3 Mossfire Valley

1 Fledgling Dragon

3 Violent Eruption

3 Firebolt

3 Elephant Guide

4 Anger

4 Patchwork Gnomes

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

SB: 3 Krosan Reclamation

SB: 3 Flaring Pain

SB: 2 Overrun

SB: 3 Genesis

SB: 3 Phantom Centaur

SB: 1 Violent Eruption

Now, what do I have to say about this deck?

  • Flaring Pain seems to be the sideboard card that time forgot. Worried about Solitary Confinement decks? Goodbye. Worries about pro: red creatures? Fuggedaboutit. It even blows the Phantom-on-Phantom match wide open, which is nice. Do not underestimate this card.

  • The sideboard is one that I’m happy with, with a few exceptions. It’s fairly well-tuned for the format: Against mono-black, the Overruns go in to make your attacks huge, the Reclamations are wonderful anti-Echoes tech, and Phantom Centaur is pretty good. You can yank the Dragon, the Centaurs, and the Browbeats to put them in. Against white weenie, Flaring Pains, the fourth Eruption, and Overruns go in for Browbeats and Centaurs. Krosan Reclamation works wonders against random Mist, Threshold, and Incarnation decks. Against Quiet Speculation?

  • You could make the argument that Moment’s Peace deserves a slot in the sideboard – and you’d probably be right. Feel free to drop a Genesis and an Eruption, as well as something else, for it. I personally don’t like Moment’s Peace all that much, but there are times it really does kick ass.

  • I also thought about Druid Lyrist; is leaving enchantment removal out a mistake?

  • The main deck, however, could use some work. The Dragon’s random, yes, but I love him and occasionally he staves off a nasty Wonder or flies through for the win. I’m still not sure about the Browbeats; as I said, they’re more of a”win more” card and I might do well to test Book Burning or maindeck Phantom Centaurs – or, more likely, pack Call of the Herds in this slot and yank the Dragons as well. But there’s so much token hatred out there that I’d be kind of afraid to.

  • The Barbarian Rings have been yanked for Mountains to maximize Anger; in turn, we’ve thrown in a bit more burn in the form of Firebolt and an extra Eruption in the sideboard.

  • I’d like Phantom Centaur in the main deck – but with 24 lands, I’m a bit worried about the mana curve. I seem to get landscrewed with this deck more often than not, so toploading my curve is worrisome.

  • Other things I’ve discovered in testing: Chastise is a must-have for any deck that wants to face large Nantuko Shades and Roars, Wonder sucks, Punisher decks look scary until you play them once or twice and then their win percentages drop, Battle Screech also sucks, mono-red is better than you’d think but still not top-tier, and my dog just found the chainsaw.

  • Cards I have tested but didn’t particularly like: Reckless Charge, Fiery Temper, Minotaur Explorer.

  • Cards I haven’t: Book Burning, Grim Lavamancer (it never ever got drawn), Firecat Blitz.

So what’s wrong with this deck? It chews holes in mono-black, is aggressive enough to operate entirely off of three land, has a decent sideboard, and is pretty brainless to play.

Scroll back up.

Look to my sideboard versus Quiet Speculation.

The Krosan Reclamation helps, certainly – I toyed with Nantuko Tracer, but it was too slow – but Wonder will frequently eat holes in you.

Now if the metagame was a little more defined, I might try it – in fact, many of the pros are now moving away from the”broken” Quiet Speculation in order to use Arrogant Wurms and other”from the hand” spells, since graveyard hate is becoming a major portion of OBC, and this deck does well against that, let me tell you. But for right now, this deck simply cannot handle consistent, turns 4 through 6 Wurm tokens – let alone flying ones. I’ve tried, I really tried, but it doesn’t work.

As such, this deck is dead.

It’s got potential, it really does, and if I was deadly serious, the final version would be this:

//NAME: Untitled Deck A-Go-Go

10 Mountain

3 Spellbane Centaur

4 Call of the Herd

11 Forest

3 Mossfire Valley

3 Violent Eruption

3 Firebolt

3 Elephant Guide

4 Anger

4 Patchwork Gnomes

4 Arrogant Wurm

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Basking Rootwalla

SB: 2 Krosan Reclamation

SB: 3 Flaring Pain

SB: 2 Overrun

SB: 2 Genesis

SB: 3 Phantom Centaur

SB: 3 Moment’s Peace

But why bother? As Will Rieffer so elegantly pointed out in his Little Green Men column, you’re going to see Quiet Speculation decks all over the place because they’re cheap and easy to play. Quiet Speculation decks are the Sligh of the format; no serious pro will play it, but if you can’t beat it you will lose the PTQ.

As such, this is the little deck that couldn’t. It has potential, but it can’t beat one very important deck. Bah.

What about the other builds, though?

Well, as mentioned there’s a Frog in a Blender-style speed deck that relies on absolute terror-filled speed; either it kills by turn 5 or it’s dead. This is wonderful versus Quiet Speculation – you have to mulligan aggressively to get a good hand, frequently diving down into five-card hands – but you can blow past them quite nicely. It also does well against mono-black; I know, I died horribly to it.

However, Moment’s Peace does a number on this deck, particularly after a big Firecat Blitz – and a regular R/G build will just smash it because you have equal burn and bigger fat in the long game. Furthermore, do you really want to trust your fate at a PTQ to a quick deck like this when the metagame really even defined yet?

In other words, do you want to trust seven rounds to a deck that has to get the God hand every single time?

Didn’t think so.

There’s also another Threshold-centered build, as proposed by Jacob Bagha, that does use Book Burning and Browbeat. I haven’t tested this build yet, but I have to say it looks sketchy to me. For one thing, he’s really touting Seedtime as the answer to blue decks, and it isn’t – and his testing against U/G Quiet Speculation (as I noted in one of my trademark Snarky Editorial Comments) didn’t seem to come across anyone who used Wonder. As such, I can’t see his deck as testing well, either.

Furthermore, the problem with a threshold-based deck is that there are so many ways around it – White Weenie has Morningtide, Green has Krosan Reclamation (sure, drop six cards in! I’ll remove the most important two and rob you threshold!), and Black has Haunting Echoes. You will lose threshold at some point; the metagame is poised around graveyard hate. I hate to speak without testing – and I am here – but too often, your Book Burnings will be,”1R, opponent chuckles and removes your yard the next turn.” I don’t like that.

But again, I ain’t tested it.

This all begs the obvious question: What would I play in OBC today? Well, probably not mono-black; even though it’s still strong, there’s going to be too much hate for it, and it’s too defenseless against those without some major tweaks (though I’ve heard some rumors of Braids-based aggro black decks). Quiet Speculation is what everyone will be playing.

What does that leave?

I’ll leave you guessing.

Signing off,

The Ferrett

The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy

P.S. – As an extra-special Bonus Track (thanks, Roouee!), I will now present you with the strangest entries placed into our”Ask The Virtual Judge!” system!

aube de smorts

The Brecht Card (Bertolt Brecht, or am I missing something? – The Ferrett)





Mist od stagnoating

yo mama


Way of Chota

FOIL Rage (about fifty times – what is up with that?)

Your Mum


combat phrase (“I’m about to tell you, ‘I declare my attack.'””Well, since you’re entering your combat phrase….”)