The Weekly Guild Build: The Memorial Day Cop-Out

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StarCityGames.com!So what do we have for the fans, Alex?

This whole “real life Magic” crap that Wizards is blatantly trying to foist on us by delaying the online release of Dissension is really starting to piss me off. I know, I know — it’s in Wizards’ best business interests to try to get us to “walk outside” and “purchase pieces of cardboard from a physical store.”

But it sucks. I hate real life Magic.

For one thing, I’m a busy guy, and these “real life” tournaments only occur at specific times. What bulls**t is that? If I have to pick my daughter up at the airport at 6:50 and the tournament starts at 7:00, that’s it. I’ve missed all the games that ever were. There’s no new tourney starting at 7:30, or 8:00, or 8:30 — that’s it. The only flight I’m seeing that day is Delta 737.

I got news for ya, cha-cha — I got friends who want to do things with me. Sure, you have a 2:00 afternoon Sealed tourney, but that’s when I’m seeing X3 with my pals. Can’t you schedule your stupid tournament at 12:30 at night when I have nothing better to do? Or better yet, just call me up every hour or so and go, “You bored yet? Okay, we’ll wait until you’re ready.”

So I miss a lot of these “real world” tourneys, simply because I have other events to participate in. And when I show up there — after driving there, mind you — they hand me these crazy slips of paper with pictures printed on them. I know a lot of people get off on holding physical bits of cardboard, but I either have to place each one in little shiny condoms to keep them clean, or I wind up coating them in a thin layer of thumb-grease.

Plus, when I go to organize them, they’re maddeningly inconsistent — I like the little electronic bits that magically line up and sort themselves and cheerfully report their mana curve. These just lay sullenly on the table, refusing to do anything unless I actually move them.

Who wants cards that are dumber than you are?

Lastly, and worst of all, when I play a game of “real life” Magic, that’s all I can do. In Magic Online world, I can listen to music, and chat with a friend when a guy disconnects, and check my email — which, you know, may explain why I lose a lot, but at least I’m never bored. In “real life” Magic? I have to watch this creepy sonuvabitch across from me, because he might cheat or break a rule or something.

Then between rounds, when I want to edit an article or do a bit of programming, I got nothing. I just sit around looking aimlessly, a lost puppy in the shop. Maybe some other bored person will play cards with me, but good luck on that one.

Nah. Gimme the free world of MODO, where the tourneys flow like wine and the cards never get lost underneath the car seat. I want my virtual Dissension now, since actual real-world friends keep kidnapping me to do interesting things.

Which, of course, is all a way of saying that I didn’t get to play any actual Magic this week. Fortunately, it’s Memorial Day, so nobody’s going to be reading this anyhow, leading me to call today’s article the Memorial Day Cop-Out.

The Memorial Day Cop-Out
So what do we have for the fans, Alex?

Now I’d just like to bitch for a moment about the Third Set. Every time, I expect the Third Set to completely turn Sealed play around. All those new cards, a hundred of fifty of them, ready to kick total ass…

…and they never do. They’re outnumbered three-to-one by the first set, swarmed under by a Tournament Pack full of old and boring cards. The new set changes the Draft environment up something turrible, since the new cards are a solid third of your deck — but in Sealed, they seem sadly choked, these new mechanics swarmed under by the ol’ standbys in the first set that we’re all bored to tears with these days.

I don’t know how to fix it. Maybe they could release thirty-card packs to really shake stuff up. But I want my Dissension packs to swamp the ol’ Golgari builds with Rakdos power, which is impossible barring some super-lucky crack. Boo.

Anyway. Here are your cards. Your filthy, dirty real world cards.

Solid playables: Sell-Sword Brute, Sandstorm Eidolon

I don’t want to call this “weak” Red, mainly because the Rakdos here is so strong, but certainly it’s lacking in removal or good creatures. If the Rakdos wasn’t here in force, I’d cheerfully write this off as a punk color — but it is, forcing me to make some potentially ugly choices later.

Solid playables: Drift of Phantasms, Torch Drake, Vedalken Dismisser

The Drake Familiar is either a great card or utter crap, depending on what other enchantments you have. And honestly, if there was a Junktroller in here to combine with the Tunnel Vision for the potential of a one-shot kill, my inner Johnny would leap up and strangle me into playing Blue. But much like Red, there isn’t, and so it goes.

This is a weak Blue with a few spotlight powerful cards — but unfortunately, most of them are powerful in the early game. A third-turn Drift is a great thing on defense, but if you’re getting an eight-turn Drift it’s not quite as thrilling unless you’re on the back end. (And if you’re Transmuting for something else, well… Still not that great.) Likewise, both the Drake Familiar and the Torch Drake give you a 2/x flier — not something that’s gonna rock your world. The only potential here is the Dismisser, but you don’t splash for a single card in this mana-ugly environment, so this means Blue’s right on the sidelines.

Solid playables: Absolver Thrull, Devouring Light, Veteran Armorer

The “solid playables” list is slightly deceiving, because the cards that just missed out here are better than most. Whereas I wouldn’t play with Grayscaled Gharial unless you put a gun to my head, I’ve seen Caregiver used effectively as a walking “Fizzle your Faith’s Fetters” effect — for a single mana, it’s not great, but not bad. Likewise, Dromad Purebred is deceptively all right, turning into a great defense that buys you time in a slower deck until you can drop some nasty enchantment on him and send him in. Likewise, Guardian’s Magemark isn’t bad… It’s just a usual 24th card cut.

Hunted Lammasu also damn near makes the list, since its drawback isn’t that bad against most decks and is probably the most tolerable of all the Hunteds save for Hunted Horror. A little bounce will hurt ya, though, but that’s fairly obvious.

What we have here is a coulda-color — I might go into it reluctantly, since it’s thin on gamebreakers, but I wouldn’t regret it if I did.

Solid playables: Cytoplast Root-Kin, Dryad Sophisticate, Fists of Ironwood, Gather Courage, Moldervine Cloak, Siege Wurm

A much stronger list — and again, one with a lot of near-automatics bubbling up from below. Gruul Scrapper’s not awful even if you can’t pay the Red, Gruul Nodorog is expensive but still a 4/4, and Vinelasher Kudzu still has the optional activated ability of “Drop this turn 3 or earlier: remove one piece of removal from opponent’s hand.”

Seriously. I’ve never had a Kudzu live when I dropped it early. I suppose that’s something.

Once again, we have a Moldervine Cloak, and the danger of the Cloak is that it’s such a Happy Fun Card that you start thinking of it like ketchup — it can go on anything! No how bad the card is, you think about what happens if you combine it with the Cloak and damn, isn’t it a powerhouse then?

Dryad Sophisticate and Cloak by turn 3? Landwalk you to deeeattthh!

Mourning Thrull and Cloak? That’s a 4/4 lifegainin’ flier!

Chimney Imp and a damn Cloak? Busted, baby!

If I’m not careful, I get blinded by the Cloak, pulled right over my eyes, and pretty soon I’m throwing the Cloak on a Zephyr Spirit and riding it to victory.

Calm down, little Ferrett. You don’t always draw it. Just remember that. Just…. Remember.

Solid playables: Brainspoil, Dimir House Guard, Mausoleum Turnkey, Stinkweed Imp, Strands of Undeath

A little recursion, a little unblockability, a little destruction. What’s not to like?

Well, we’d like a little more depth here… But at this point, we’re at the final of the five basic colors, and this is as good as it’s gonna get. It’s certainly more runnable than the Blue or the Red, and provides us with some tricks.

I dunno, man. I keep wanting to like the Necromantic Thirst, but it requires double-Black, doesn’t provide evasion, requires you to have good critters in your yard, and it doesn’t put the creature back into play. So why do I want to like it? I don’t know. I just like the idea of smashing my opponent and getting my best guy back every turn.

As with so many of these builds, we now go to the Gold for the tiebreakers.

Solid playables: Drooling Groodion, Jagged Poppet, Pillory of the Sleepless, Pollenbright Wings, Rally the Righteous, Skyknight Legionnaire, Wrecking Ball,

Killer Instinct, ay? Six mana to possibly put a three-mana creature into play every other turn? Where do I sign up?

(I mean, come on, guys. Isn’t the point of these silly cards to break the mana curve, not exceed it?)

I also wanna say that I like Souls of the Faultless, since it is a good card in theory, but the mana just beats me over the head every time. With something like Clutch of the Undercity, I don’t care whether I play it on turn 7 or not — and in fact, I usually do. But Souls I want out early to provide defense to buy me time to play my bigger cards, and assembling the trifecta of perfect mana by turn 4 or 5 is not easily done.

Moving on from that, we go to Wrecking Ball, which sent people into tizzies of paranoia when it was first released via what I call the Fox News effect. See, Fox News (and every other news channel) makes their money off of you tuning in, so it’s in their best interests to make every threat, no matter how insignicant, seem AS GIGANTIC AS POSSIBLE.

“The Pop Tart you ate today could be rotting your brain! Film at 11.”

If you were to listen to Fox News consistently, you would spend all of your time inside your duct-taped house, wearing a gas mask and drinking only purified water. And I suppose you could, but you’d live a miserable life and not accomplish much.

The trick is to see the threat for what it is, acknowledge that it might happen, and live with that possibility.

Likewise, when Dissension first came out, I heard the cries: “Don’t play the bouncelands!” people said. “People will Wrecking Ball them and you’ll dieeeeeeeee!”

Let’s apply the light of cold reason to that logic, shall we?

So not only do people have to pull Wrecking Ball as one of their eleven possible commons, but then all of the other cards have to work together to support Red/Black is one of their main colors. And then they have to get the R/B early enough to unleash this on turn 4, at a time when you’ve played a bounceland, before you get out some threat that they’d rather use a Wrecking Ball on.

I’m not saying it can’t happen. In fact, play enough games and it almost certainly will happen. But weigh “The amount of times this bounceland will come in handy” versus “The number of times you’ll get Wrecked” and I think you’ll soon see that your best strategy is to keep the damn bouncelands.

I mean, I got chumped by a Vedalken Plotter. It sucked. I lost. But you don’t see me quivering and going, “Ooo! I might get Plotted! Let’s leave the card in the sideboard!”

Sizing It All Up
Now, we have a couple of possibilities, and to my mind both of them involve Green/Black.

I say Green/Black for two reasons: one, Green is the only color here where I would unhesitatingly build a deck around it. Two, Black has removal and a bit of evasion, which will help with the Moldervine stuff, and it gives us the intense power of Drooling Groodion.

Thus, considering that we’re going G/B, the question of the third color is largely settled by the Gold cards. To wit:

Add White: Pollenbright Wings, Pillory of the Sleepless, White cards.

Add Red: Jagged Poppet, Gobhobbler Rats, Wrecking Ball, nothing good is Red.

Both positions are fairly defensible. I’ve seen Pollenbright on a Groodion, and it is not pretty. Likewise, since White is a stronger color overall, you get to toss in nice any-time gems like Veteran Armorer and possibly Devouring Light.

I haven’t played a lot of Rakdos yet, though, and while I like the power of Wrecking Ball, Jagged Poppet seems a bit dangerous in this deck. I want it out early, and as a splash it just doesn’t strike me as being consistent enough. I mean, Poppet turn 3 = scariness. Poppet turn 7 = possible liability.

Thus, I went with a Green/Black/White build. I could have also gone with an aggressive Black/White/Red build, which might have worked well; I mean, you do have a lot of power and evasion in those three colors. I just didn’t think the creatures were deep enough to carry it.

So what did I go with? Well, in an ideal MODO world, I would have sampled all three and told you what I got. But this is stupid old real world, and I didn’t get to play it with anyone aside from my fourteen-year-old daughter, who is not really a challenge.

Here’s what I ran:

Devouring Light
Veteran Armorer
Dromad Purebred

Gather Courage
Dryad Sophisticate
Cytoplast Root-Kin
Gruul Scrapper
Siege Wurm
Gruul Nodorog
Sporeback Troll
Vinelasher Kudzu
Moldervine Cloak
Fists of Ironwood

Mausoleum Turnkey
Stinkweed Imp
Strands of Undeath
Dimir House Guard

Drooling Groodion
Pillory of the Sleepless
Pollenbright Wings

Gruul Turf
Dimir Aqueduct
6 Forests
5 Swamps
3 Plains

That’s it. We’re done here.

The Weekly Plug Bug
For the past two weeks, we’ve been setting up the dynamic in Home on the Strange, my Web comic: Seth The Prima Donna GM has been grooming his new apprentice, Izzy. He’s spent hours in consulation with her, developing her barbarian princess in every way to make sure that when the moment arrives, he will be able to provide her with the ultimate romantic roleplaying experience.

It doesn’t go as expected.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy