You still have more time. That is, more time until the Extended PTQ season starts. This means you have more time to act all childish about how bad the format is, more time to complain about the die roll being the early game and turn 4 being incredibly late, more time to read about the four of Uktabi Orangutan, Viridian Shaman, and Naturalize maindeck version of the Rock – but really you have more time to pick your deck. I really hope that you aren’t going to miss out on Extended, just because the pros made it a one-deck show.
Actually, it still wasn’t really a one-deck show. Or even a one-card show. Yes, there were twenty-eight copies of Tinker in the top 8; at last year’s Pro Tour: Houston, almost every top 8 deck featured Vampiric Tutor. There are so many iterations of mono-Brown decks that you really can’t say this PTQ season is any worse than any other. Or what about Psychatog Season last year…did you see the top 8 of 2002 Worlds?
Well, regardless of how you feel about the format, you have to admit most of the top decks are awesome in terms of sheer attitude. Now, what I am about to tell you may scare you, it may shock you, and like Tidal Kraken, it may make you doubt my credibility forevermore.
Twiddle Desire does not win on turn 2 25% of the time. Not even close. It’s far better. I’ve compiled the goldfishing results of nine players; most of whom are experienced combo players, plus myself, in order to ensure a proper sample size. Out of ten thousand goldfished games (not nearly as many as you think when spread out among ten people, considering it takes less than 5 minutes to goldfish the deck) here is the breakdown:
Turn 1: 527 out of 10000, or 5.27%
Turn 2: 3263 out of 10000, or 32.63%
Turn 3: 4200 out of 10000, or 42%
Turn 4: 814 out of 10000, or 8.14%
Turn five or more: 1082 out of 10000, or 10.82%
Removed win conditions and lost: 104 out of 10000, or 1.04%
You need to keep a few things in mind while looking at those numbers. First, these numbers are assuming no resistance and no disruption. What that means is that, given the parameters, these numbers are not unrealistic; in fact, they are very plausible given the scope of what they are meant to prove. Later on, I’ll go through the same breakdown in actual matches, against actual players.
All of the numbers in this article are meant to be a guide (including the number of each of the cards in the deck) not a guarantee or strict rule. If I say that I can use Twiddle Desire to beat SuiBlack more than 55% of the time even after sideboard, then I can. This is not to say that Joe Average PTQer is going to go 55% against one of Twiddle Desire’s hardest match-ups. If I say that I include two Rushing Rivers maindeck, then I feel that the two Rushing Rivers are necessary. Zvi Mowshowitz does not feel the same way, and you might have differing opinions as well.
To further clarify exactly what my numbers represent, the turn count was something I developed when testing the various combo decks. I took the total number of games won, and recorded what turns each game was won on. This helped me build a graph or spread, which I use to assign each match-up a target turn. (The turn you want to win on) For the deck as a whole, the target turn is turn 2. Ideally, you would always win on turn 2. Since this isn’t possible, the numbers reveal that winning on turn 3 isn’t bad, but your chances of winning in almost every match-up decrease sharply after turn 3.
I’m going to waste a lot of ink to give you as much specific detail as humanly possible. In this article, I’m going to show you a few goldfish hands and play through each as a goldfish game. Also, for each match-up I chose, at random, a playtest game to record in it’s entirety (including opponent’s draws and plays) – unfortunately, space has limited the match-ups I include the recorded games for. Lastly, for each match-up I have included a textual description of the match-up including how to mulligan and I have provided sideboarding plans.
The Main Deck
Before we get started, let’s talk about the deck itself. Relatively few articles have been written about Twiddle Desire, and most people are dismissing it as a viable deck for PTQs. There is good reason for this, since it is one of the hardest decks to play, and is not as rewarding as I would like it to be in terms of supporting good play. Simply put, the average player should not just pick up this deck and go to town expecting to get a turn 2 kill one-third of the time. It isn’t going to happen. I equate Twiddle Desire to Pro Tour: Houston’s YMG deck, Angry Hermit, Part II. Angry Hermit was the most powerful deck of that year’s PTQ season, but it was underplayed and underrepresented in PTQ top 8s. This is because the average player is not Bob Maher, and even the quality of player-making decisions that is displayed in a PTQ is not even close to how many complex decisions and analyses are made by a Pro at any given moment.
When I talk about altering the deck, I do so nervously. I tried to change Angry Hermit, Part II, but it was mostly to my chagrin and a fair amount of embarrassment. I was simply unprepared (even with extensive testing) for the effect my changes would have. With Twiddle Desire, I made careful notation throughout playtesting, of what cards seemed necessary, and which I liked to side out or imprint on Chrome Mox.
I came to the conclusion, just as Zvi did recently, that Trade Secrets, the third Burst of Energy, and Meditate, were the only cards I could comfortably slip out of the deck. At best, this gave me five slots. But in the end, I needed a draw four. Interestingly enough, Zvi decided on Trade Secrets – I can’t just do the netdeck thing and agree with this.
Although Trade Secrets may be the best choice in a Pro-level Tinker-infested environment, Trade Secrets gives your Psychatog or Isochron Scepter–Oath of Druids opponent two more cards (or more) to draw an answer to, for example, your Tendrils of Agony. Trade Secrets is usually better against Food Chain, The Rock, Tinker, and the mirror, but Meditate seems to be more solid against the random control decks you’ll probably face. I’m going to go with Trade Secrets for now, but Meditate may be a better solution.
Ultimately, I needed a maindeck answer to Chalice of the Void set to one. That answer needed to be bounce, since a counterspell of any sort simply wouldn’t work since I expect them to play,”Ancient Tomb, Chalice, Go” on their first turn. I cut the Meditates and added Rushing River.
At first, I only added one, and put in the third Trade Secrets, assuming, ignorantly, that Mystical Tutor would function as two extra copies. Of course, with Mystical Tutor costing one, and my problem card being Chalice set at one, I was hamstringing myself. Out went the third Trade Secrets, in went the second Rushing River.
Now, I want to talk about the sideboard. Here are the fifteen substitutes currently riding the cardboard pine:
3 Memory Lapse
4 Defense Grid
2 Baleful Stare
2 Teferi’s Response
2 Damping Matrix
I strongly feel that Memory Lapse has been undervalued in this environment, especially by the combo players. During a season where turn 5 should never happen, Memory Lapse becomes a Time Walk. In fact, I like Memory Lapse so much, I wish I had room for it in the main. Most of the time, this card isn’t even used to counter the weird tech like Gilded Light or Ivory Mask that I intended it to, I’m using it to put a Thran Dynamo on top of the Tinker library or screw up a Hermit Druid draw. Meaning, in some cases, you just counter some sort of randomness, especially in cases of landscrew, where you just need another turn to combo out and want to insure they don’t topdeck against you.
Rack and Ruin is considerably worse when it is a six mana instant or a 2R sorcery instead. Orim’s Chant, Stifle, Gilded Light, or Fire / Ice (remember, spells on Isochron Scepter are played, so they still cost three more to cast if the Scepter is used on your turn) are all borderline crap at 3W, 3U, 4W, or 4U respectively. If you change anything from the sideboard, please do not change this.
Geordie Tait article on sideboarding was awesome. In fact, I strongly recommend you read it as soon as you can. Yet, I cannot help but disagree with his judgment of this card. In fact, in one game, I drew fourteen cards from the two copies I had sided in against Red Deck Wins. Yes, I went off on turn 1, and yes, the fourteen cards were largely irrelevant, but the point remains: one card for each Mountain, or Red card in my opponent’s hand? This will almost never net you less than three cards, and the average seems to be four.
I have this in my sideboard because Kai seems to be recommending Rishadan Port for every Extended deck he writes or comments about. Furthermore, I do expect to see Ponza or some form of it in Extended. (Pillage, Stone Rain, and Molten Rain form too good of a base for the deck to go completely ignored-plus, look for it after the bannings) While this is the one card in my sideboard that might change, I have never minded drawing it in the situations when I boarded it in.
Among other uses, this is my answer to Angry Hermit. Obviously, it also functions fairly well against George W. Bosh, some Tinker versions, and randomness like Aluren or Elves! My problem with it is that it comes with a huge X painted on its face, and too many times its text seems to read: Counter target Artifact Destruction spell. Or maybe I shouldn’t say”too many times”…
Along with Damping Matrix, this is your answer to Charbelcher. Remember that Stifle counters imprint, too, in addition to its other more common uses. Some of the other Twiddle Desire players have said that they prefer Interdict, and maybe I would too, but it can be fun denying Goblins their Chrome Mox, Goblin Recruiter trigger or Ringleader ability.
That’s a basic round up of the sideboard. Card for card, it isn’t spectacular tech. Notable absences probably include Platinum Angel, Mindslaver, and maybe Chill – all of which are included in Zvi’s board. Platinum Angel is really too fragile, and every time I cast it, I found myself dangerously relying on it or expecting it to protect me. It rarely ever does that. Bounce is prevalent and the amount of artifact kill is ludicrous. Unless you are up against a Suicide Black deck without Diabolic Edict, I wouldn’t really want to see this.
Mindslaver has its uses, and I used to have one in the board. Right now, I am surviving without, but perhaps the future will evolve the metagame to a point where Mindslaver is always an auto-win. (For me, it seems like a ten-mana Time Walk in this deck, where I’ve already said that Memory Lapse does much the same thing for two mana.)
Lastly, Chill. I don’t have Chill because I have yet to see a Goblin deck massacre Twiddle Desire. Nor have I seen Chill be that hugely effective in the sideboards where it is already used. Food Chain absolutely must have a turn 3 win or turn 2 and 3 artifact destruction. Seething Gobvantage is even more behind, especially when you drop Damping Matrix with any sort of back-up. For me, Baleful Stare often generates insurmountable card advantage in the Red Deck Wins match-up, and neither Goblins nor the Sligh decks can muster a kill that is as fast as yours if they plan on disrupting you as well.
Ok, here’s a decklist. Take a break, print it out. We are two thousand words in, and I haven’t said a word about match-ups or goldfishing.
4 Ancient Tomb
2 City of Traitors
4 Saprazzan Skerry
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Chrome Mox
4 Grim Monolith
3 Gilded Lotus
4 Mind’s Desire
2 Tendrils of Agony
4 Dream’s Grip
3 Burst of Energy
4 Diminishing Returns
2 Trade Secrets
2 Rushing River
2 Mystical Tutor
2 Baleful Stare
4 Defense Grid
2 Damping Matrix
2 Teferi’s Response
3 Memory Lapse
Twiddle Desire and the Goldfish: How fast can you say,”Tendrils for Twenty?”
Goldfishing any of the Extended decks is an important step to playtesting that is largely overlooked. This is the stage when you learn what decisions to make to minimize the amount of turns it is going to take to move on to the next game.
You are not playing against an imaginary opponent, you are trying to understand the intricacies of the deck. And boy, this deck is intricate. To prove my point, I took the deck to a casual gathering of some friends of mine. Even experienced players take time to understand the two main combo decks of the format, and this one is faster, and therefore more complex.
I suggest goldfishing at least eighty games before taking this to any tournament. To get you started, here are some quick hands, as well as some notes (but I’ve left it mostly to you to decide if the plays I make are right or wrong).
Hand One: Tinker, Tinker, Mind’s Desire, Mind’s Desire, City of Traitors, Brainstorm, Rushing River
Mulligan: City of Traitors, Seat of the Synod, Mystical Tutor, Mind’s Desire, Gilded Lotus, Trade Secrets.
Turn 1: Play Seat of the Synod, cast Mystical Tutor for Tinker.
Turn 2: Play the City, and Tinker away the Seat for a Gilded Lotus to cast Trade Secrets. I draw Brainstorm, Chrome Mox, Dream’s Grip, and Chrome Mox. I’ve mostly stalled, I could try and Brainstorm, but more than likely I’ll fizzle. It’s better, I’ve found, to hold on and just win on turn 3.
Turn 3: I drew a Dream’s Grip. Make UUU, cast Dream’s Grip, make UUU, cast Dream’s Grip, cast Brainstorm. It reveals Burst of Energy, Twiddle, and Twiddle. I put back the two Chrome Mox. I make WWW, cast Burst of Energy, then I do the same with the Twiddles, eventually casting Mind’s Desire for 7 (with UWBB floating). It reveals Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox, Burst of Energy, Tendrils of Agony, Twiddle, Saprazzan Skerry, and Rushing River. I cast Chrome Mox, Burst of Energy, and then the fatal Tendrils.
Hand Two: Tendrils of Agony, Tendrils of Agony, Burst of Energy, Tinker, Chrome Mox, Rushing River, Seat of the Synod.
Mulligan: Twiddle, Brainstorm, Chrome Mox, Saprazzan Skerry, Grim Monolith, Grim Monolith
Turn 1: I slap down the Skerry.
Turn 2: Draw and play Ancient Tomb, cast Brainstorm (U floating), it reveals Mind’s Desire, Rushing River, and Gilded Lotus. I keep the Desire and toss the rest back. I cast the Grim Monolith and tap it for 3. (3U floating) I cast the second Grim Monolith and tap it for 3. (4U floating). I use the blue mana to cast Twiddle on the Skerry, netting me another UU. Triumphantly throw down the Chrome Mox and Mind’s Desire for 6.
My Mind desire’s two Trade Secrets, a Gilded Lotus, another Grim Monolith, a Twiddle, and a Mystical Tutor. Now I win! Cast Gilded Lotus, Grim Monolith, and Mystical Tutor for Tendrils. Cast the double Trade Secrets. Storm count is up to 11.
Tap the Lotus for BBB and the Grim Monolith for 3, and Tendrils for twenty-four damage on turn 2!
Interlude: I was going to include more games in this section, just to give you a better sense of exactly when the deck goes off, and how consistent it is. The problem is a matter of space. This is a huge article. I would love to write out the ten goldfish reports that I had planned to (and actually did record) but you would never want to read a 10,000 word article on one deck (although this still might end up that long).
[10,049 actually, but this time it’s quite worth it. – Knut]
What you can see in these three games is that I mulligan aggressively, and also use Trade Secrets, Diminishing Returns and Brainstorms very aggressively. Yes, it might be dangerous to try reckless plays, but this deck rewards your aggressiveness, and will not hesitate to punish passivity.
At this point, I’ll also toss in a mention of Boomerang over Rushing River. Played correctly, Boomerang can set them back a turn by bouncing a land, or it can be used on turn 2 to play around Force Spike or Daze.
But let’s finish up some goldfish games and get to the more regular playtesting.
Hand Three: Twiddle, Twiddle, Tinker, Chrome Mox, City of Traitors, Brainstorm, Mind’s Desire.
Turn 1: Play City of Traitors, Chrome Mox (imprint Brainstorm), Tinker for Gilded Lotus, tap for UUU, cast Twiddle, tap for UUU, cast Twiddle, tap for UUU. (UUUUUUU floating). Cast Mind’s Desire for five.
Reveal: Ancient Tomb, Seat of the Synod, Dream’s Grip, Burst of Energy, Chrome Mox. Engage in being extremely frustrated.
Turn 2: Draw Diminishing Returns, cast it with U floating and the Mox untapped.
Draw: Seat of the Synod, Burst of Energy, Grim Monolith, Grim Monolith, Gilded Lotus, Mind’s Desire, and Brainstorm.
Brainstorm finds a Dream’s Grip, Twiddle, and a Trade Secrets. Put the Trade Secrets and Gilded Lotus back. Drop the Seat, cast Twiddle, make UUU with the Lotus you already had, cast Dream’s Grip, make WWW, cast Burst of Energy, make UUU. You now have (UUUUWW) floating. Cast Grim with UW, tap for 3. Cast the other Monolith and add three more. You now have (4UUUW) floating. Cast Mind’s Desire for eight.
As was mentioned in the coverage of Pro Tour: New Orleans, the Twiddle Desire deck can top-deck out of many seeming losses. For the record, I removed one Tendrils, and at least three untapping spells with the Returns, and still had enough to do what I needed to do. The Desire revealed another Desire, which brought up a Tendrils as its ninth reveal.
It should be obvious, the dangers inherent in using the Diminishing Returns, but please do not do what one player kept insisting on doing: after building a storm count of fifteen, he decided (and was firmly against any other course of action) that casting a third Diminishing Returns would cost him the game. So he passed the turn and lost any way. I reset the game to the same state, and even stacked his deck in the same order. I played the Returns, and won when I drew the Tendrils and an untapper for the Gilded Lotus.
Yes, be cautious, and avoid Returns when you’ve already removed one Tendrils of Agony, but do not be so cautious as to cost yourself any chance of victory when you’ve already gone off. You cannot win if you’ve stormed to fifteen. If you reach a storm count that high, and haven’t drawn or revealed a Tendrils, you must cast Returns.
Moving on, how does Twiddle Desire perform in”real life”? I broke down the metagame into four categories: Aggro, Control, Combo, and Aggro-Control. In addition to the decks played at PT:NO, I added some sorts of randomness you will see at the PTQs. For example, you will play against Red Deck Wins. You will play against U/G Madness. You will probably see Elves! and Aluren. RectorBurst or variations will peek out their inferior heads.
Despite this”knowledge” of the PTQs, I still focused on the decks that made Top 32 of PTNO. In some cases, I’ve addressed the other decks, in other cases I’ve merely named them.
Twiddle Desire against the Aggro: Fighting against the Turn Clock
Twiddle Desire is best against Aggro, simply because it outraces Red Deck Wins, Gobvantage, Ten-Land Stompy, White Weenie, and any of the strict aggro decks. I’ll sum up the randomness in a couple of paragraphs, but I’ll go into full detail about RDW and Gobvantage.
Your match-up against Stompy is ridiculous. You should almost always be unopposed when it comes to your combo, so it becomes a matter of mulliganing aggressively enough to win before turn 4 (mono-Green has a problem winning before turn 4 – though they win on turn 4 pretty consistently). Similarly, the aggro White Weenie builds were not running Disenchant. It may be a different situation now, but as Stompy also has Naturalize, it goes to show you that strict aggro cannot sacrifice its relatively slow pace (in this environment) to try and disrupt you. If they play a turn 2 Disenchant, they didn’t play a creature. As long as they don’t play creatures, they can’t win. And they will run out of Disenchants or Seal of Cleansings long before you fail to combo.
As far as numbers go, you should beat Stompy approximately 60% of the time, and White Weenie around 65%. The reason for the difference is that Stompy plays one-drops and also has slots for maindeck artifact destruction, and White Weenie maintains a strict two-mana blob in order to maximize the power of White Knight, Silver Knight, and Leonine Skyhunter. This interferes with the efficiency of two mana artifact destruction spells.
Gobvantage: Pre-board: 23 wins, 17 losses, Post-board: 7 wins, 3 losses.
You have every advantage here. As with most of the aggro match-ups, all they can really do is attempt to stop your combo through disruption of your artifact mana. While this may seem as an adequate plan, in actuality you can go off before they get to two mana. However, this requires that you understand that a turn 3 win will not cut it most of the time. You must be able to win, or at least have the elements of a potential win, by turn 2. I’m not sure if such a comment even counts as strategy, but it is exceptionally important to keep in mind. Although you can usually still succeed in comboing if you have multiple Twiddle, or Dream’s Grip in hand (you Twiddle, they Shatter, you respond with Twiddle) it can be difficult, so don’t overlook what seems to be common sense.
Your sideboarding plan: -2 Rushing River, -1 Diminishing Returns, -1 Brainstorm +2 Baleful Stare, +2 Damping Matrix
Damping Matrix is your out against Goblin Charbelcher, a common component of these decks in the PTQ metagame. Baleful Stare just allows you to see more cards. As it sometimes gives you between five and seven cards, I take out one Returns to put it in. If I don’t think they have Chrome Mox and Charbelcher, I’ll take out both Returns. Some of the Twiddle Desire players disagree with removing Rushing River, but the problem card is Goblin Piledriver, and the River is going to do nothing to solve that problem, it’s better to just try and speed through the match.
The turn count on the 30 wins is:
Turn 1: 7 out of 30, or 23%
Turn 2: 13 out of 30, or 43%
Turn 3: 5 out of 30, or 17%
Turn 4: 1 out of 30, or 3%
Turn 5 or more: 4 out of 30, or 13%
I use the turn count to determine how aggressively to mulligan. If the percentage drops off steeply, as it does here, it becomes necessary to win before a specific turn, and mulliganing is extremely advisable. Your target turn against Gobvantage is turn 2, so keep six and seven card hands that are capable of beginning the combo by turn 2. If you are drawing, you can safely mulligan to four, where you’ll stop. If you are going first, mulligan to six and no further, if possible. If the six card hand cannot in any way (with any possible topdeck) go off on turn 2, go ahead and throw it back.
For example, I would keep Twiddle, Twiddle, Tinker, Mind’s Desire, Grim Monolith, Chrome Mox. I would not keep Tendrils of Agony, Tendrils of Agony, Mind’s Desire, Twiddle, Ancient Tomb, Gilded Lotus.
The Red Deck Wins Again: Pre-board: 33 wins, 7 losses; Post-board: 8 wins, 2 losses.
More or less, you just win. RDW is focused on killing as quickly as possible, but they don’t have a turn 2 kill, which means you can slow down and concentrate in this match more than any other match. A turn 3 win is acceptable, and even if you can’t go off until turn 4 you should be ok provided you are going first.
Generally, RDW considers you an autoloss, and focuses more on beating the other match-ups. After all, even their free artifact destruction spell costs three (you don’t play Island). Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the Red deck just wins. While I encourage slightly more conservative play here (in order to maximize a great match-up… you do not want to tell your friends you lost to RDW) don’t play so conservative you start looking like Bill O’Reilly (or Ann Coulter, if you are one of the depressingly few women players…).
Sideboarding here is a little trickier, since you want Baleful Stare, and maybe Damping Matrix. But Memory Lapse also has its uses if they get creative with their own build. Rushing River has no problem stopping Blistering Firecats or growing Sliths so you can’t take that out.
My plan is: -2 Diminishing Returns, -1 Burst of Energy, -1 Chrome Mox, +2 Baleful Stare, +2 Teferi’s Response.
I don’t get Damping Matrix this way, but I account for losing two Diminishing Returns by potentially getting advantage through Teferi’s Response against Rishadan Port, and possibly artifact destruction aimed at my land.
The turn count on the 41 wins is:
Turn 1: 5 out of 41, or 12%
Turn 2: 14 out of 41, or 34%
Turn 3: 20 out of 41, or 48%
Turn 4: 0 out of 41, or 0%
Turn five or more: 1 out of 41, or 2%
As I said before, you can play more conservatively here in this match-up. Your target turn is turn 3, which means a hand with the potential to go off on turn 4 might also be acceptable, since top-decks might lead to better position. Do not mulligan below three cards in this match-up. (Ooh, Captain Obvious strikes again…)
Twiddle Desire against the Control: Fighting the Early Counters
The primary control decks are Iso-Oath, Iso-Tog, Scepter Control, and the Prison-Stax builds of Tinker (the ones that actually use Smokestack). There is also an Accelerated Mono-Blue with Oblivion Stones, Tinker, and Morphling as the kill. (Morphling is back! Yea! Too bad it is still suboptimal…). Since Control players tend to be good players, this is your hardest set of match-ups. While you can sometimes play around Force Spike if they let you start going off, you will tend to fizzle if they remember to counter Grim Monolith or your accelerators, rather than your actual business spells (most of which are”free”).
Iso-Tog: Pre-sideboard: 19 wins, 21 losses, Post-sideboard: 3 wins, 7 losses.
This is a match-up that needs to be tested more post-sideboard, since they have four more counters they can play on turn 1. In game one, you are about fifty percent or even, which is acceptable to me when I feel strongly that the control and more controlling aggro-control decks are the only threats you face in any PTQ field.
There is not much to say here except this: goldfish this match-up. Pretend your opponent isn’t there. You need to try and win before they set up any sort of board position. Unless they are clearly inferior (and might try, for instance, to tap out for Isochron Scepter on turn 2) you need to assume that they have left to go to the bathroom but that you are green to go off. If they have the counter, they have the counter and you lose. If they don’t have the counter, but you think they do, and you pass the turn, you still lose because they will draw the counterspell.
Your sideboard plan is: -2 Trade Secrets, -1 Burst of Energy, -1 Chrome Mox, -1 Grim Monolith, -1 Diminishing Returns, -1 Brainstorm, -1 Mind’s Desire, -1 Tinker, +4 Defense Grid, +3 Memory Lapse, +2 Damping Matrix.
More often than not, Damping Matrix and Defense Grids are just targets for Rack and Ruin, but you still need to bring them in. Their effect is just too good if it works. Why take out the Trade Secrets? You don’t need to help them draw more cards to kill you…they will do that on their own.
The turn count for the 22 wins:
Turn 1: 4 out of 22, or 18%
Turn 2: 12 out of 22, or 54%
Turn 3: 6 out of 22, or 27%
Turn 4: 0 out of 22, or 0%
Turn five or more: 0 out of 22, or 0%
Why are you even looking at those 7 cards? Throw them back. Go all out here, as generally, your target turn is turn 1. A turn 2 win is possible, but you don’t want to give them a chance to have Force Spike or Annul.
Twiddle Desire against the Combo: Racing for Turn 2
This is the ugly area of Extended. While playing Twiddle Desire against Aggro, and especially Control, takes quite a bit of skill, the Combo matches are all about the die roll. This is when the die roll is the early game, the mulligan is the mid-game, and turn 1 is entering the late game.
Against all of the Combo decks-Aluren, Angry Hermit, Incubator Tinker, Food Chain Goblins, Metal Gear Phage (Sneak Attack, Platinum Angel, Phage the Untouchable), The Clock, and Final Fantasy – you have a good first game. Angry Hermit and Final Fantasy are the only decks that can really stop you from going off, the rest are just trying to outrace you, which they can’t do. Your clock is a turn faster than every other deck (except Angry Hermit, which I’ve already said is a hard match-up).
The importance of maximizing the turn 2 kill is nowhere more prevalent than here in these match-ups.
Since the vast majority of the decks in Extended right now are Combo, this will be the most in-depth section. I’ll cover Angry Hermit, Food Chain Goblins, The Clock, and Final Fantasy.
Angry Hermit: Pre-sideboard: 18 wins, 22 losses, Post-sideboard: 21 wins, 19 losses.
Yeah, the sideboard doesn’t really do much. The match-up is basically even. Again, there are no”key” cards in the first game, except that they need to have disruption, and if they do, they often win. The fact that they can stop you from doing stuff, while you have to merely try and beat them before they beat you, gives them the advantage in game ones. After sideboard, the scale slips a little towards you, just because Hermit isn’t really gunning for you with its sideboarding strategy.
Your plan: -1 Diminishing Returns, -1 Burst of Energy, +2 Damping Matrix. Stifle may be an option, but judges were adamant that you cannot Stifle the”As Sutured Ghoul comes into play” ability. You can still Stifle the Hermit Druid, though.
The turn count is fun when you talk about the combo decks. The average length of a game was 5 turns between both players – sometimes less. For the Twiddle Desire victories:
Turn 1: 5 out of 39, or 12%
Turn 2: 14 out of 39, or 36%
Turn 3: 17 out of 39, or 44%
Turn 4: 2 out of 39, or 5%
Turn five or more: 1 out of 39, or 3%
You don’t need to win on turn 1, your target turn is turn 2. Go ahead and play the hand that can net you a victory on the third or fourth turn, though, because you will probably lose some cards to disruption, and you can’t afford to mulligan below six (even if you are drawing).
Food Chain Goblins: Pre-sideboard, 26 wins, 14 losses; Post-sideboard: 5 wins, 5 losses.
It is true, as Wizards and many opponents of the Extended format say, that Extended is very non-interactive. In Game One of this match-up, the two players could, in all honesty, be facing opposite directions and playing at different tables, and the first one to call out twenty damage wins.
Pre-sideboard, you have the advantage in that you are a turn faster than Food Chain. Rushing River can get you card advantage by bouncing the Chrome Mox, or can get rid of a Charbelcher. One other trick is to bounce multiple Goblin Warchiefs. If they don’t have three Warchiefs, you can drastically slow down their offensive, often buying you the time you need to win.
As far as sideboarding goes, your plan is to bring in Baleful Stare, Stifle, and occasionally Memory Lapse. I do the substitution like this: -2 Diminishing Returns, -1 Brainstorm, -1 Rushing River, +2 Baleful Stare, +2 Stifle.
Memory Lapse should be used if you see them siding in more than five cards. Sometimes the Red/Green deck will have very odd solutions to your combo, and can effectively head you off with some tech you aren’t prepared for.
The turn count for this set of playtesting games was oddly curved towards the high end of the spectrum (turns three and four). I don’t know if the draws are starting to catch up to me, or if the way I play sideboarded games changes in this match-up. (For clarification, playing around artifact destruction is much different than playing around counterspells or hand disruption.)
Turn 1: 1 out of 31, or 3%
Turn 2: 6 out of 31, or 19%
Turn 3: 14 out of 31, or 45%
Turn 4: 9 out of 31, or 29%
Turn five or more: 1 out of 31, or 3%
As with most of the combo match-ups, you want to go off on turn 2. If the situation, or your hand, is less than ideal, you can still sacrifice a lot of cards in the mid-game (the mulligan stage) to set up for a turn 3 win. Generally I’ll keep a seven-card hand if it can win on turn 2, a six-card hand if it has the nuts to go off turn 2 or 3, and I’ll keep a five card hand here if it can win at all. I won’t mulligan to three against Food Chain.
The Clock: Pre-sideboard: 17 wins, 23 losses; Post-sideboard: 6 wins, 4 losses
The Clock is an interestingly overrated deck. I don’t mean to say that it is bad, or inferior to Twiddle Desire (in many ways it is far better), just that I have not seen it win on turn 2, and it has a turn 3 win that is shaky, especially when it isn’t being played by professionals.
Of course, after saying that, the deck would go on to beat me. The problem here is consistency. The Clock always wins if it gets to turn 4, and it never removes its win condition from the game. Now, all generalizations are false. Still, The Clock does not have the off chance that both Tendrils will diminish, and it does still have a turn 2 kill, though a much less consistent one.
Did you notice how many times I mention consistency in that paragraph? Twice, and the statements are contradictory. The thing is, you have will”combo” earlier more consistently, but they have the more consistent combo. Remember, Mana Severance + Charbelcher = 40+ damage. Gilded Lotus + Twiddle = mana. The difference is that the first is a verb, and the second is a noun. (And Day is light and Night is dark, right?)
Moving on. This is a hard match-up, as essentially, you are racing, and the key element to that race is mulliganing.
The turn clock for the wins is exceptionally low in this match-up, but it indicates solely that almost only turn 1 and turn 2 victories result in, well, uh, victories…
Turn 1: 5 out of 23, or 22%
Turn 2: 12 out of 23, or 52%
Turn 3: 6 out of 23, or 26%
Turn 4: 0 out of 23, or 0%
Turn five or more: 0 out of 23, or 0%
Your target turn is turn 1. You really want to win on turn 2 at the latest, although playing around Force Spike might mean waiting until turn 3. Card economy is exceptionally important and you do not want to dip below six cards in the mid-game.
Let’s run through a quick sample game against Mono-Blue Charbelcher:
Draw Seven: Seat of the Synod, Ancient Tomb, Grim Monolith, Twiddle, Tinker, Brainstorm, Burst of Energy
I lost the flip so he’ll go first. He lays out an Ancient Tomb and a Chrome Mox imprinting a Brainstorm.
Turn 1: I draw Diminishing Returns. I play the Ancient Tomb and pass the turn.
He drops a City of Traitors and plays a Charbelcher.
Turn 2: I pull a Chrome Mox from the top. I play the Seat of the Synod. I cast Grim Monolith.
He deliberates here, so I assume he has Force Spike. He goes ahead and casts it, tying up my apparent blue mana. I play the Chrome Mox imprinting the Brainstorm. I cast Tinker with one colorless floating, searching out a Gilded Lotus. The Lotus taps for WWW, untaps itself with Burst of Energy, and then taps for UUU. The Twiddle resolves, netting me an untapped Lotus with WWUU floating.
Here is where another player disagreed with me, I decide to tap the Lotus for UUU, and cast the Returns leaving WUUU floating. He thought that I should have left the Lotus untapped. It worked out so that my way was”right”.
I removed Mind’s Desire, Mind’s Desire, Ancient Tomb, Chrome Mox, Diminishing Returns, Tendrils of Agony, Saprazzan Skerry, Brainstorm, Dream’s Grip, and City of Traitors from the game.
I drew into Trade Secrets, Twiddle, Burst of Energy, Ancient Tomb, Saprazzan Skerry, Brainstorm, and Tinker.
Cast Burst of Energy, untapping my Lotus. Tap it for UUU. Cast Brainstorm, which finds me a Tendrils and two more land. Put the land back. Untap the Gilded Lotus with Twiddle, leaving UUUU in my pool. I Tinker up another Lotus, and add BBB. Tendrils finishes him off.
One of the hardest things to do is identify what kind of Charbelcher they are running, especially since mono-Blue also uses Polluted Delta. Playing around Force Spike when they don’t have it can lead you into a trap where their Duresses suddenly become very good. In the above example, I knew he was mono-Blue, or I could have run into a problem if I played Grim Monolith on turn 1.
Either way, keep in mind that playing around Force Spike is advisable only if you have prior knowledge of its presence. In most other cases, their bluff will cost you a turn if not the game.
Final Fantasy: Pre-sideboard: 27 wins, 13 losses; Post-sideboard: 4 wins, 6 losses.
Iowa-native Tony Rungee used the most ridiculously rogue deck I’ve seen since The Solution made Day 2 of one of the most interesting Pro Tours in history. Final Fantasy, for those of you who aren’t aware of this concoction, wins by playing a Platinum Angel and a Isochron Scepter imprinted with Final Fortune. TouchÃ©. My own Platinum Angel and Final Fortune combo used Mirari and Cunning Wish (what can I say, I live in the past).
The reason the deck didn’t beat me in the pre-board games was generally that the player tried to establish the combo as her first priority, rather than disrupting my combo. The thirteen losses came after the Force Spikes and counterspells started dissipating my mana acceleration. The same continued post-sideboard.
The plan is: -2 Trade Secrets, -1 Burst of Energy, -1 Brainstorm, -1 Diminishing Returns, +2 Defense Grids, +3 Memory Lapse. Why only 2 Defense Grids? Well, I stole three of the four wins I got by bouncing the Platinum Angel with Memory Lapse protection. At first I brought in all four Defense Grids, but that actually makes your job harder, if not impossible once they start taking infinite turns.
The turn count here is mid-range.
Turn 1: 2 out of 31, or 6%
Turn 2: 9 out of 31, or 29%
Turn 3: 13 out of 31, or 42%
Turn 4: 5 out of 31, or 16%
Turn five or more: 2 out of 31, or 6%
The Mirror Match!
“The Mind’s Desire mirror? You don’t want to play the mirror, because neither of you is doing anything to the other person, and it comes to down to the die roll.”
That isn’t exactly true. If it is an exact mirror match (they copied this deck, too) then yes, you need to win the die roll and mulligan correctly (but when have you not had to do at least one of these two things?). But if they are playing Zvi Desire, or any other build, your Rushing River is actually tech in this matchup. Bounce the Lotus in response to Twiddle! Bounce the Chrome Mox for”card advantage” instead of just tempo!
The truth is, you still don’t want to sit down across from the mirror, but you don’t need to fear it like your three hundred pound aunt with the unwaxed upper lip. [Apparently Ben attended my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. – Knut] The mirror match still rewards smart play, and the smart player. Just because the die roll can be a factor doesn’t mean that you won’t have the opportunity to simply win out of superior skill.
The turn count here is early. So early I’m not going to include it. Since the mirror is, obviously, fifty-fifty in percentage, it comes down to who wins on turn 1 or turn 2. This makes the turn count look as skewed as a Republican budget. You really want the numbers? Maybe even a sideboard plan?
Plan: -1 Diminishing Returns, -1 Brainstorm, +2 Stifle. You can also board in Memory Lapse, if you think it is warranted, I have not discovered it to be so, so I’ll leave it up to your discretion.
Turn 1: 8 out of 24, or 33%
Turn 2: 12 out of 24, or 50%
Turn 3: 0 out of 24, or 0%
Turn 4: 0 out of 24, or 0%
Turn Five+: 0 out of 24, or 0%
Opponent removed win conditions and lost: 4 out of 24, or 17%
Twiddle Desire against Aggro-Control: Breaking the Control, Out-racing the Aggro
Here is where I think most Tinker decks reside, including the”George W. Bosh” deck, and Kai’s most recent build. Also, The Rock, SuiBlack, and”Fiends” are hiding here.
These can be very difficult for you. It depends on how many control elements they get in their opening hands. If SuiBlack has multiple Unmask, plus Duress and Cabal Therapy, especially on turn 1, it gets ugly. Meddling Mage in multiples becomes hugely annoying, and most of the time cannot be dealt with-one naming Mind’s Desire and one naming Rushing River would be the worst two-Mage board I can fathom in game 1.
Yet, you have a great match-up against most Tinker builds, and you usually beat the Rock. So all is not lost. I’ll cover the match-up against Kai Tinker,”George W. Bosh”, and The Rock.
Keep in mind, too, that U/G Madness is Aggro-Control. I have seen very strange builds of U/G, including some non-Madness constructions. I’ll throw out one list, just to give those of you not on”technology” mailing lists an idea of what is being kicked around:
4 River Boa
4 Quirion Dryad
1 Mystic Snake
4 Force Spike
4 Memory Lapse
4 Yavimaya Coast
Notice, I included the potentially bad deck near the end of my article! In general, this U/g is basically a Miracle-Gro Dryad deck. You use the cheap counters to stop the early artifact acceleration, and eventually play out a Dryad. Gush, and Brainstorm plus the countering all pump your Dryad up, and he swings for the win in just a few turns.
Surprisingly, it is fairly decent. In fact, it is your worst match-up by far if you are piloting Twiddle Desire. There are four counterspells they can potentially use on you, even if you go off on turn 1 before they’ve had a turn. If they’ve played an Island, they have access to fifteen different counterspells to stop you from winning on turn 2.
You almost cannot win this match. I’ve only won one match – although I’ve won games here and there. When it comes to this sort of U/g deck, I’ve basically acknowledged that you just plain lose. Nothing short of completely revamping the maindeck and the sideboard would give you any options. You have to rely on Storm to force copies through their counter wall.
Clearly, Twiddle Desire has difficulty with decks that carry more than eight first- (or pre-first) turn methods of disruption. Fortunately, the U/g deck will probably not be around, as it is most obviously an answer to Twiddle Desire. In fact, U/g supposedly has a good match-up against The Clock, and Angry Hermit. So, you never know.
Anyway, back to the”Real” decks…
Kai Tinker: Pre-sideboard: 25 wins, 15 losses, Post-sideboard: 7 wins, 3 losses.
I love playing against Tinker decks with my maindeck Rushing Rivers. Chalice of the Void otherwise prompts you to scoop, but you can snatch up so many wins unexpectedly it isn’t even funny. Of course, the games go much, much longer. After sideboard, one strategy that Kai seems to imply is to bring in Myr Incubator, as sort of a:”Hey, I can win on turn 2, too!” Be nervous around Platinum Angel, but again, Gainsay is Kai’s only protection against your Rushing Rivers, and you’ll have Memory Lapse.
Since Kai’s word is gold, I expect there to be several Tinker builds like this (and also at least a few Tinker-Stax and Mana Belcher decks following his example). Therefore, this is one of the most important matches to playtest.
Your plan is: -1 Brainstorm, -2 Diminishing Returns, -1 Trade Secrets, -1 Burst of Energy, -1 Chrome Mox, +3 Memory Lapse, +2 Teferi’s Response, +1 Damping Matrix.
Teferi’s Response, here and elsewhere, may not be the best choice. I suggest continuing to test it yourself, and decide how important it is when your opponent is not using Rack and Ruin (which in some cases will have to target your land).
The turn count is very high, as games tend to go longer than other match-ups.
Turn 1: 2 out of 32, or 6%
Turn 2: 5 out of 32, or 16%
Turn 3: 15 out of 32, or 47%
Turn 4: 7 out of 32, or 22%
Turn five or more: 3 out of 32, or 9%
Your goal here is consistency. You don’t want to fizzle. Since you will probably only get one chance to combo, the mulligan is about maintaining an even hand-size. If you are going first (and you have to), the first mulligan is usually safe. Taking another mulligan is dangerous, especially since you don’t know if they are going to keep. (If you do know, by verbal cues or if they actually throw their cards back early, go ahead and skip to five if it is necessary to improve your hand)
All in all, don’t worry if you can’t win until turn 4. Your target turn is turn 3.
George W. Bosh: Pre-sideboard: 20 wins, 20 losses; Post-sideboard: 5 wins, 5 losses.
It came out weird; that is for sure. At the same time, 50% against the Pro Tour-winning deck is fine in my book, but I believe the actual match-up will be less in your favor. The problem is when they get an early Mindslaver or Tangle Wire recursion. Where Tinker also gets to use Platinum Angel, George W. Bosh uses The Shoes (Lightning Greaves), which means you have to counter Tinker (or a hard-cast Angel) or probably lose.
It is hard, no doubt about it. If they follow the exact decklist, then you should have a slight disadvantage. If they have attempted any changes, you may be able to get away with some of the changes you have made.
Your plan for sideboarding is ugly as usual. You have to bring in Stifle, Memory Lapse, and Damping Matrix. Here is how I’ve worked it out: -1 Brainstorm, -2 Diminishing Returns, -2 Burst of Energy, -1 Chrome Mox, -1 Tinker, +3 Memory Lapse, +2 Stifle, +2 Damping Matrix.
When trying out the turn count to determine mulligan strategy, looks can be deceiving. Since the deck seems to have won more often in the late game than in most matches, it can be tempting to mulligan less aggressively in favor of seeing more cards. We’ll look at the turn count first:
Turn 1: 3 out of 25, or 16%
Turn 2: 6 out of 25, or 24%
Turn 3: 8 out of 25, or 32%
Turn 4: 5 out of 25, or 20%
Turn five or more: 3 out of 25, or 16%
I am of the opinion that this is split too perfectly to warrant anything other than the obvious conclusion: the early turns are better because they give your opponent less time to offer a solution. If you don’t go for the turn 2 or 3 kill, you are hamstringing yourself. Not to mention that you still have a chance at a later victory, simply based on the fact that you’ll probably be alive longer in this match-up than others. I need to also tell you that the five post-sideboard wins were on turn 5, turn 4, turn 7, turn 3, and turn 6.
Here is a sample game where a situation came up I hadn’t thought of.
Draw Seven: Trade Secrets, Seat of the Synod, Chrome Mox, Grim Monolith, Twiddle, Brainstorm, Tinker
I lost the roll, and he opened with Ancient Tomb, Grim Monolith.
Turn 1: Draw Trade Secrets. Play Seat of the Synod, cast Chrome Mox imprinting Brainstorm, cast Grim Monolith.
He goes and drops a Shivan Reef. He casts another Grim Monolith, which looks very ugly. He casts Tinker on the Grim Monolith he tapped to cast Tinker, and fetches a Mindslaver with one floating. The other Grim pays to enslave my mind, and I look at my hand thinking that he can’t really screw me over too bad. But I burned myself anyway with my own Monolith to limit his options.
Turn 2: Draw Ancient Tomb. He played my Ancient Tomb for me, cast Tinker for a Lotus, and won the game.
How, you might ask as I (and several observers) did? He cast Trade Secrets. He drew two cards, I drew four. He chose to repeat again. He drew two, I drew four. He chose to repeat. He drew two,”I” chose to draw all four. Oops. How embarrassing!
For me, this was another strike against Trade Secrets. Meditate isn’t an autoloss to Mindslaver at least.
Needless to say, normally this match-up works out somewhat differently, but the Trade Secrets/Mindslaver problem was something you should keep in mind. Consider hiding Trade Secrets, or siding it out instead of the Diminishing Returns in the plan.
The Rock: Pre-sideboard: 34 wins, 6 losses; Post-sideboard: 6 wins, 4 losses
“They should ban everything until the Rock is good again.” [I think they just did that. – Knut] But, uh, they haven’t taken effect yet, so the Rock – while still a staple, and something which will be present at your PTQs – is not nearly the power it once was. Unless the Rock is some stupid”teched out” version with eight Sex Monkeys and four Naturalize to go along with four Cabal Therapy, four Duress, and four Unmask, you’ll be more than fine. (Note: there really are Rock decks like that.) One guy dared to bring this to a playtest session:
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Phyrexian Negator
4 Viridian Shaman
4 Pernicious Deed
4 Cabal Therapy
2 Living Wish
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Treetop Village
And yes, it won. It beat me down like a clown, Charlie Brown. His typical first-turn play was Duress, Unmask, followed second turn by Naturalize, and third turn by Viridian Shaman. Or it would be first-turn Birds of Paradise, second turn Phyrexian Negator plus Unmask, third turn double Naturalize.
But I digress. Against normal Rock, you just have to use your Brainstorms to hide a few good cards, and combo off at your most leisurely pace. Pernicious Deed threatens you, but you should win before they get five mana to destroy your Lotus.
Your sideboard plan is to bring in Teferi’s Response and Memory Lapse. I drop the Rushing Rivers, because you can outrace a Negator, and so it is only good against Deed. If they have Deed and the need to use it, they will make sure you have no surprises in hand. So, -2 Rushing River, -1 Diminishing Returns, -1 Trade Secrets, -1 Burst of Energy, +2 Teferi’s Response, +3 Memory Lapse.
The turn count is again a little on the high side, since they will usually get some sort of turn 1 disruption. Yet, you’ll usually be fine going off on turn 4 instead of turn 3.
Turn 1: 2 out of 40, or 5%
Turn 2: 10 out of 40, or 25%
Turn 3: 15 out of 40, or 38%
Turn 4: 11 out of 40, or 28%
Turn five or more: 3 out of 40, or 8%
As far as mulliganing goes, with most of the match-ups where they play pro-active disruption, you want the largest hand size you can get. So, don’t dip below five cards, since you should assume that your hand will lose at least one spell. You can recover easily if they pull a Tinker from a seven-card hand, not so easily if they pull a Tinker from a three-card hand of Seat of the Synod, Ancient Tomb, and Tinker.
Twiddle Desire at a Tournament
I brought Twiddle Desire to a small Extended gathering, just to get a feel for it in more”aggressive” competitive forms. I was disappointed by the results of the tournament, but largely, the deck performed as it was expected to.
In Round One I won on turn 1 and on turn 2.
Round Two saw a turn 3, and a turn 6 victory (a fizzle to go off so late, but still, a win…)
Round Three saw a turn 2 win, and then two straight losses to countermagic.
Round 4 saw a turn 1 combo but I removed the Tendrils, and then I went off into a Shatter in the second game.
So the turn count was:
Turn 1: 1 out of 5 (20%)
Turn 2: 2 out of 5 (40%)
Turn 3: 1 out of 5 (20%