The Road to States 2002, Part The Second

Three decks from Dave’s testing gauntlet – including one further refined, with playtesting results and feedback from readers. Wanna see the Meddish U/B Wizards deck? No? How about a Burning Bridge deck that’s all the Rage… Or maybe not, now that it can’t PLAY Rage? All right, will another Mono Black deck satiate you?

You ever get the feeling that some years you should just stay in bed?

This year, I’ve been in relationships gone horribly, horribly wrong, had major unemployment woes, and last week had my car totaled by a drunk driver (I’m okay, fortunately, save for some cracked ribs). And to top it off, I was greatly saddened to learn of the impending demise of one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Warren Zevon.

If you haven’t heard any of Warren’s work, outside of”Werewolves of London,” you’ve missed out on one of the great songwriters of the last twenty-five years. Not many people are capable of writing heart-wrenching ballads like”Searching for a Heart” and inspired silliness like”Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead” in a career, let alone the same album. If you have the chance, I strongly urge you to check out the used CD bin of your local music store and find out what you’ve been missing (although even hard-core Zevonites like myself recommend avoiding”Mutineer,” one of his few misses).

In memory of Warren, all the rest of my decks shall for States shall now be named after his songs (which beats the normally lame names I come up with).

First, a tweak on a deck I proposed in my last article. A few people were kind enough to send along some suggestions for my Wizard deck, such as Sleight of Hand to smooth out the mana draw (I kick myself for forgetting that card) and that Patron Wizard is actually very, very good. So, even though the Patron Wizard more or less belongs in mono-color, I think we can still make him work in a U/B deck.

Excitable Boy

4 Hapless Researcher

4 Voidmage Prodigy

4 Shadowmage Infiltrator

4 Patron Wizard

2 Psychatog

4 Counterspell

4 Sleight of Hand

4 Memory Lapse

2 Predict

1 Read the Runes

3 Chainer’s Edict

4 Polluted Mire

4 Underground River

2 Darkwater Catacombs

11 Island

1 Swamp


3 Hibernation

1 Aura Graft

4 Force Spike

2 Engineered Plague

4 Aether Burst

1 Persuasion

The problem remains: Engineered Plague is still a wrecking ball against this deck. Still, there’s potential here… Maybe once 8th Edition comes out and, five will get you ten, Engineered Plague rotates out.

I’ve been trying to find a way to break Oversold Cemetery. What I came up with was basically to slam it into the OBC Pirates! creature-heavy archetype and come up with this beastie:

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead

4 Duress

2 Cabal Therapy

4 Chainer’s Edict

2 Smother

3 Buried Alive

2 Skeletal Scrying

4 Mesmeric Fiend

4 Nantuko Shade

4 Faceless Butcher

4 Braids, Cabal Minion

1 Crypt Creeper

1 Guiltfeeder

1 Visara the Dreadful

20 Swamp

4 Barren Moor

The deck really, really would rather have Ravenous Rats over Mesmeric Fiend… But we don’t get Rats, so we make do with what we have. Butchers give you the ability to control the board, as well as Smother and Chainer’s Edict. And, if you can get Braids, four lands and an Oversold Cemetery in play, you have a lock – a very slow, soft and not guaranteed lock, but it’s a start. I presently have singletons of Crypt Creeper (anti-graveyard), Guiltfeeder (anti-Solitary Confinement and control) and Visara the Dreadful (anti-just about everything else) in the deck, other possibilities include Dark Hatchling (it’s no Nekrataal, but I take what I can get) or Mindslicer.

Barren Moor, the black cycling land, works well in the deck as a card drawing engine. In fact, I’d recommend running these in almost any mono-colored deck. Fear not; Skeletal Scrying generally doesn’t hit your creatures in the graveyard… Unless you’re really desperate.

The deck has some flaws, most notably; it’s difficult to get four creatures in the graveyard if you don’t get Buried Alive; when it clicks, however, it’s hard to beat. Unfortunately, this, like all mono-black decks, has a few natural enemies, like Compost. Mono-black has no answer for that, save for trying to race. A stronger version of this deck might require going with four or five colors, primarily G/B (hello, Krosan Tusker!) and being able to”tutor” for a needed creature with Entomb and Buried Alive, because I think mono-black is going to prove too narrow in this environment.

Who remembers Burning Bridges? It’s been around since Wizards put Grafted Skullcap and Ensnaring Bridge in 7th Edition – and it’s been mostly a Tier II mono-red deck, but it made a splash at the 2001 Nationals. Combine this with an attempt to revive my beloved (and maybe Tier III at best) Dark Ponza, and you have two great tastes that just might go great together.

I Was In The House When The House Burned Down

3 Grafted Skullcap

4 Ensnaring Bridge

4 Burning Wish

4 Duress

3 Firebolt

3 Recoup

3 Stone Rain

3 Pillage

3 Chainer’s Edict

3 Innocent Blood

1 Mirari

2 Guiltfeeder

4 Sulfurous Springs

4 Bloodstained Mire

2 Shadowblood Ridge

4 Tainted Peak

3 Mountain

6 Swamp


1 Rancid Earth

1 Pillage

1 Stone Rain

1 Earth Rift

1 Haunting Echoes

1 Decompose

1 Stitch Together

1 Cabal Therapy

1 Overmaster

1 Chainer’s Edict

1 Innocent Blood

1 Earthquake

1 Recoup

1 Firebolt

1 Diabolic Tutor

I’ll be the first to admit, IWITHWTHBD (maybe I should just call it”Burning House” for short) is very, very rough. The mana base is very fragile, and the sideboard definitely needs tightening. However, the concept is sound. First off, Recoup. I love this card, really I do. Anything that lets you re-use land destruction and non-targeted creature removal – twice! – is strong in a sorcery-based deck. Add in Burning Wish, which will not only let you get the goodies from the single-slotted sideboard but also cards that have been Recouped away, and there’s really no reason why your opponent should ever have land or creatures on the board.

Why will land kill be viable in this environment, despite Randy Buehler protests? The new fetch lands. Say you fetch out a mountain with a Polluted Mire; I kill said mountain with a Pillage. I have essentially destroyed two lands for the price of one spell – and your deck is two lands thinner instead of one. The fetch lands are great, don’t get me wrong, but this is how they can come back to bite you.

That brings us to the Skullcap/Bridge combo. The Skullcap provides the card drawing engine otherwise lacking in R/B, and the Bridge ensures that nothing outside of Birds of Paradise will be attacking you. You can cast all the Roar tokens you like – but unless you get rid of the Bridge, there’s no way you can win unless you know of a way to pump up a Birds of Paradise to 20/21. (Or cast NaturalizeThe Ferrett)

When I was initially working on the design, I was wondering what the heck I’d use for a kill mechanism. The older versions of the deck used a kicked Urza’s Rage as the kill, or sometimes Millstone. I don’t have many X burn spells available, and Millstones aren’t that great in this pro-graveyard environment. And there’s no Black Vise wannabe in this environment, either… But then it hit me: Guiltfeeder! The perfect choice! Not only does it get around annoyances like Circles of Protection and Solitary Confinement, but at zero power, slips under your own Ensnaring Bridge. Quite insidious.

A perfect draw with the deck is a turn two Wish for land destruction, destroy a land on turn three, drop the Bridge on turn four, Skullcap on five, and from there, every turn should be drop a land, cast a spell, until you finish them off with the Guiltfeeder and they have a full graveyard and no lands. That’s a perfect draw. I’m still working what the deck does on those all-too-common suboptimal draws with no land kill, or all land kill against a deck full of 1/1 weenies for one.

I believe in the premise even if the deck says otherwise. We’ll see how the deck does against Deep Dog (or Wonder Dog, or whatever you want to call U/G Madness) before touting its virtues further.

Dave Meddish

The Original Mr. Bad Example

[email protected]