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The Weekly Guild Build: Token Effort

This week’s pool gives me strong blue with no Counterspells or card drawing, insane Selesnya cards without a token producer to be found, strong Green with almost no beef, and strong White with a single weak flier. What is this, Bizarro world?

I’m just gonna start off by complaining about today’s card pool. I have strong blue with no Counterspells or card drawing, decent Green/White cards without token producers, strong Green with almost no beef, and strong White with a single weak flier.

What is this, Bizarro world? I demand that when I open up my personal card pool, I get my rightful piece of the color pie!

But let’s not mince words. Let’s get straight into the danged card pool, and I’ll go into my goofy stuff at the end of this. You know, ‘cause I’m writing this on April Fools’ Day.


There are no huge broken rares here to snap across our knee, so once again we tread into the realms of breaking it down by color.

White:
Strong Cards: Benevolent Ancestor, Conclave Phalanx, Faith’s Fetters, Flickerform, Ghost Warden, Shrieking Grotesque

It’s a good defensive white here, but there’s no offense to be found outside of a meager 2/1 flier that dies when people cough at it too hard. I can hold the fort for awhile, but what’s going to happen is that eventually, someone will start getting out larger beef than I can deal with, and it’s game over. Thus, I’m lookin’ for something big or offensive-y to supplement this supreme Home Defense package.

By the way, you did see the Flickerform/Conclave Phalanx package, right? And me without a token-generator to go infinite with. Oh, my Lord, what I could do for a Fists of Ironwood right now…

(Incidentally, is it just me, or does Fists of Ironwood sound kind of… Oh, I dunno… Onanistic? It just seems like Wizards is having some sort of cheap joke at our expense; you slap this on a creature and it spurts seeds of Saprolings. Um, that’s real nice, guy, but keep away from me.)

I should also note that what is also missing here is Combat Tricks. There is nothing at instant speed that will save my buns should something unexpected crop up — which it seems to do on a startlingly regular basis, this being Magic — and so I’ll need some sort of color that’s heavy on tricks to support it.

Onwards!

Green:
Strong Cards: Bramble Elemental, Elvish Skysweeper, Farseek, Nullmage Shepherd, Sundering Vitae, Transluminant, Wildsize

Note how Green is taunting me. “Hi,” it says. “I’m an enchantment-buster that lives on tokens! And a flier-killer that eats tokens and craps pure destruction!

“What? You want actual tokens? Sorry, wrong number.”

That said, this is pretty decent Green, even if I would like one more critter that’s larger than, say, 4/4. Unfortunately, just like the White, we have nothing here that can really launch an offense, though I suppose we can hold out the hope for plopping a Flickerform on Bramble Elemental and going to town. Bleah.

Incidentally, I should add that I can now sense Wildsizes in my sleep. I wake up in the middle of the night going, “Three mana untapped! He’s attacking!” And lo and behold, out of the corner of my eye I see a Wildsize a-comin’ ‘round the bend. Not that it’s helping me much.

Red:
Strong Cards: Char, Tin Street Hooligan, Viashino Fangtail

There are two cards here that I’m not quite sure about: Blockbuster may be good, but I’ve never played with it and I can’t say for sure. It seems like an awful lot of mana to plug into an easily-disrupted effect that is going to give your opponent a turn’s worth of warning nine times out of ten… But it’s a powerful effect in this format. Sadly, the rest of the Red is weak, so I can’t experiment.

Likewise, I am irrationally enamored of Reroute-style effects, because they’re flashy. It’s the total Donald Duck moment:

“Shoot the duck! Shoot the duck!”

Blam! And my opponent’s creature goes down to his own effect! Mwoo hah hah!

Sadly, I suspect this doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. So I’ll pass on this one.

Also note that I’m giving Tin Street Hooligan a temporary pass this week as a “strong card,” given that all of last week he was smashing every damned Signet I possessed. Thus, take that ranking with a grain of salt.

Black:
Strong Cards: Brainspoil, Dimir House Guard, Orzhov Euthanist, Restless Bones (yes, here at last), Thoughtpicker Witch

Vindictive Mob may be a strong card, too, but I can’t tell because I didn’t get any tokens to play it with, and too few Haunt effects to abuse with it. Alas. Whatcha gonna do when they don’t come for you?

I should take this time to mention that you should not be like me and get lazy with the Transmute cards. What I should do is put each of my Transmutable cards aside before I play, and then figure out what cards I can snag at any given time. What I actually do is panic when I draw one, go “Crap!” look up my card list, and try to figure out what I can snag if I want to. This abysmal lack of preparation will cost me dearly at a tournament some day, but I know I am not alone.

Note, however, that Brainspoil can fetch a Conclave Phalanx if I need to grab some life and not off a creature. Which would be funny if I had, you know, tokens to play with.

My Thoughtpicker Witch gently weeps.

Blue:
Strong Cards: Belltower Sphinx, Induce Paranoia, Repeal, Snapping Drake, Surveilling Sprite, Tattered Drake (kinda), Thunderheads, Torch Drake, Vedalken Entrancer

Okay, so we have an uber-defensive White package. We need some sort of evasive offense. What would help us? Well, I guess if we stall, we could try to run the opponent out of cards or something with a Vedalken Entrancer and the Induce Paranoia.

The problem is, of course, that we have no tricks. I’d really love to be able to affect stuff in combat, but aside from the Repeal and the Induce Paranoia, if someone points a big ugly spell at one of my creatures (or one of his), I’ve got two ways to deal with it. And then hope that Thunderheads can mop up.

Not so much with the goodness.

Selesnya:
Strong Cards: Yes.

Boy, that Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi would be a lot easier to cast with some damn tokens! And Phytohydra, well… It’s not quite as good as it looks. Nobody ever blocks it, so on offense it’s always a 1/1. It does all right as a wall, right up until the tramplers or fliers arrive. At which point it eats a Last Gasp or a Keening Banshee.

I like the Phytohydra, but mostly because it’s usually drawing fire. When I put it down, I know my opponent’s next removal spell will hit it, which makes things a little simpler. And stupider.

Boros:
Strong Cards: Thundersong Trumpeter

Not enough. Next.

Orzhov:
Strong Cards: Castigate, Mortify

I’m still unsure on whether I should be starting with Castigate. I mean, I like discard as much as anyone, but is discard better than a straight removal spell or a creature when it’s as inconsistent as a one-of? I ask your advice here; what do you think?

Mortify, however, is the niceness. Though it’d be nice if I cracked a Blind Hunter for once in my Godforsaken life.

Gruul:
Strong Cards: Burning-Tree Bloodscale

I like the Bloodscale, mostly from a design standpoint. It’s the kind of balanced card that’s a pain in the ass to deal with, but not as ludicrously overpowered as, say, Moldervine Cloak or the Guildmages. You can take one down; it’ll just cost ya.

Golgari:
Strong Cards: Shambling Shell

Amazingly enough, after six months, a good card is still pretty good! Who knew?

Izzet:
Strong Cards: Electrolyze, Izzet Chronarch

Okay, it’s a nice mini-combo here, but I’ve tried it and it’s not enough to build a deck on. Bleah.

Dimir:
Strong Cards: Clutch of the Undercity, Dimir Guildmage

Clutch is nice, if a bit hard on the ol’ mana base. The Guildmage is, as almost all Ravnica Guildmages are, ridonculous.

Now I’ve said my A-B-Cs, let’s decide what to go with. I’m playing Black/White because it’s got the best removal, which leaves me with two colors to add: Blue or Green.

Green would get me a bit of mana-fixing, the Shambling Shell, a hint of beef, a splash of enchantment removal, and a lot of flexibility. (Plus, there’s that whole hope of a Brambly Flickerform.) Unfortunately, it limits me to one (1) combat trick, and it’s not that impressive.

Blue, on the other hand, features a bunch of fliers, and a few more tricks to save our bacon. With a deck like this, we’d better hope that whatever we put on the table stays there via some miracle, since we’re mostly defenseless against instants.

Thus, I went with Blue for this build:

1 Belltower Sphinx
1 Benevolent Ancestor
1 Brainspoil
1 Conclave Phalanx
1 Dimir Guildmage
1 Dimir House Guard
1 Faith’s Fetters
1 Flickerform
1 Ghost Warden
1 Induce Paranoia
6 Island
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Mortify
1 Orzhov Euthanist
1 Orzhov Signet
4 Plains
1 Repeal
1 Restless Bones
1 Roofstalker Wight
1 Shrieking Grotesque
1 Snapping Drake
1 Surveilling Sprite
5 Swamp
1 Tattered Drake
1 Thoughtpicker Witch
1 Thunderheads
1 Torch Drake
1 Vedalken Entrancer

I eventually left Clutch out because of the mana issues, but perhaps I should have swapped it in for something marginal like Roofstalker Wight. However, I did have the uber-transformational sideboard:

1 Benevolent Ancestor
1 Brainspoil
1 Bramble Elemental
1 Conclave Phalanx
1 Dimir Guildmage
1 Dimir House Guard
1 Elvish Skysweeper
1 Faith’s Fetters
1 Farseek
1 Flickerform
5 Forest
1 Ghost Warden
1 Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
1 Mortify
1 Nullmage Shepherd
1 Orzhov Euthanist
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Phytohydra
5 Plains
1 Restless Bones
1 Roofstalker Wight
1 Shambling Shell
1 Shrieking Grotesque
6 Swamp
1 Thoughtpicker Witch
1 Transluminant
1 Wildsize

What Would Readers Do?
Now, dear people, let me set up not one, but two, situations to ask what you would do in this case:

You are playing against an opponent who you almost — almost — took in the last game. You were down to six life but had just stabilized with the Flickerform/Phalanx engine, even though the guy had ridiculous amounts of beef to smash with — a Golgari Guildmage who was fuelling a Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, a Greater Mossdog, a Gruul Nodorog, a Conclave Phalanx, a Diving Griffin, and a Galvanic Arced Feral Animist.

Yeeps.

Just as you stabilized with him at nine cards to your sixteen (and an active Vedalken Entrancer out), he cast Predatory Focus and killed you. Realizing that you lucked out in lasting that long, since you pretty much drew every big-butted creature and piece of removal in your deck and still lost, you sideboarded into the Green package, as shown above, for more protection and beef. Hopefully, the logic goes, by actually winning combats as opposed to stalemating them, you won’t have to hope to draw your only out from the Focus in the form of Induce Paranoia.

He goes first, starting out with the trifecta of his three colors — a Forest, a Plains, and a Mountain — and casts a Skyknight Legionnaire to smash you down to eighteen. That’s all he has on the board.

Fortunately, you also have your mana trifecta — Forest, Plains, Swamp — and you have this in hand:

Shambling Shell
Orzhov Euthanist
Benevolent Ancestor
Wildsize
Phytohydra
Forest
Swamp

What do you cast first on your third turn — the Shell, the Euthanist, or the Ancestor? Why?

Now, let’s take this same situation, but go a few turns into the future where it’s slightly more complex.

It is now turn 5, and you led with the Ancestor, and then cast a Shambling Shell. He cast a Feral Animist and then Galvanic Arced it, targeting your Shell, so your board now looks like this:

And your opponent’s board looks like this:

You have this in hand, having already played your land for the turn:

Orzhov Euthanist
Wildsize
Phytohydra (uncastable — you have a single Plains!)
Brainspoil
Swamp

What’s your play this turn, and why?

I’ll tell you how it turned out next week.

Dissension Prerelease
The sucktacular thing is that I’m pretty sure I can’t go to the Prerelease, which is gonna make writing a column pretty ugly. But at least I have a good excuse. See, that weekend, I’ve asked to be a guest at Penguicon, the Open Source and Science Fiction convention in Livonia, Michigan.

If you’re in the area on the 21st, stop by and say hello! I’ll sign some cards if you like, and there are tons of fun things to do at this — as you’d expect from a bunch of nerds. There’s going to be a lot of neat talks and panels and activities, including but not limited to:

  • Making Ice Cream with Liquid Nitrogen
  • The Buffy the Musical Sing-Along
  • Rappelling Demo
  • Hot Sauce Tasting
  • Dancing for Geeks
  • Eye of Aragon Dramatic Reading (it’s the worst science-fiction story ever written)
  • Various filk concerts (with the great Luke Ski)
  • Discussions with the famous Web comic authors of PartiallyClips and Schlock Mercenary, but not me
  • Weeaboo

I’ll be appearing on several panels, and I’m terrified because frankly, I’m probably not qualified to be at the convention. But they invited me, so what the hey. And if I can slip out and play a game on Sunday afternoon, I will.

But seriously. Stop by and say hello. Seeing a friendly Magic face would be awesome.

So Why Was I Invited To Penguicon?
Well, it’s because I have a Webcomic. No, really. You may have heard of it. Home on the Strange?

This week is where the fireworks start to kick in. We’ve been setting up the characters, and it’s time to start them ping-ponging against each other. This week, Karla decides it’s time to set up the hapless Tanner on a date with Izzy, her newest friend.

I’m sure it all goes just fine.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy
No, I didn’t write the Randy Buehler essay, but it was the funniest thing that day