The worst moments in Magic come when you are utterly on fire. Not literally on fire, though I imagine that would be pretty bad – I mean the times when you’re playing superbly. There are days you tap the wrong land and pay for it, but not today; every move you make is the right one.
Your opponent cannot win. He plays his bomb; you have your answer, which you’ve properly stockpiled through a couple of lesser threats. He tries to bluff an attack, you eat him alive. He plays his combat trick, and you’ve got a better one.
You’re both topdecking like fiends, but you are playing the cards in the perfect order. He’s got a handful of power – but you’re rationing your threats so that your cards are slicing his in half, like Robin Hood shooting an arrow through another arrow.
You’re seeing so far in the future, you’re Hari Seldon. You’re the Kingpin. You’re Michael Corleone. The way you smash him in Game One is legendary.
The sideboarding is quick and merciful, and you’re onto Game Two. Your opponent comes rallying out of the gates with a first-turn Elves of Deep Shadow, and then on the second turn just before he attacks, he casts Gather Courage on it and attacks for a whopping three damage.
You’re playing against a total idiot.
The letdown is crushing. How come you’re on fire now? Somehow, when you’re playing against that 1900-rated guy, you forget that Shadow Lance gives +2/+2 until the end of the turn and not +1/+1… But for some reason, this is when your brain decides it needs to kick up a notch.
You’ve wasted this phenomenal clarity on a guy who’d probably mana-burn himself to death if you left the game.
I suppose there are some who can’t stand losing to an idiot… But to me, that’s the way the game breaks. Sometimes, you just can’t draw cards. I can’t control it, and I don’t sweat the things I have no control over. It sucks, but it’s not like I could have rearranged the cards better.
But when I’m playing at the height of my power against Noobity McNoob? Gah.
The Weekly Guild Build
So let’s take a look at the card pool I got this week:
- 1 Elves of Deep Shadow
- 1 Boros Recruit
- 1 Boros Swiftblade
- 1 Carrion Howler
- 1 Centaur Safeguard
- 1 Conclave Equenaut
- 1 Dark Confidant
- 1 Dimir Infiltrator
- 1 Gleancrawler
- 1 Golgari Brownscale
- 1 Ivy Dancer
- 1 Mortipede
- 2 Nightguard Patrol
- 1 Sell-Sword Brute
- 1 Sewerdreg
- 1 Shambling Shell
- 1 Sparkmage Apprentice
- 1 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Stone-Seeder Hierophant
- 1 Tattered Drake
- 1 Terraformer
- 1 Tidewater Minion
- 1 Transluminant
- 1 Wizened Snitches
- 1 Feral Animist
- 1 Ghor-Clan Savage
- 1 Gristleback
- 1 Harrier Griffin
- 1 Lionheart Maverick
- 1 Mourning Thrull
- 1 Ogre Savant
- 1 Restless Bones
- 1 Scab-Clan Mauler
- 1 Scorched Rusalka
- 1 Shrieking Grotesque
- 1 Silhana Ledgewalker
- 1 Silhana Starfletcher
- 1 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
- 1 Steamcore Weird
- 1 Wee Dragonauts
- 1 Smash
- 1 Bathe in Light
- 1 Brainspoil
- 1 Compulsive Research
- 1 Conclave's Blessing
- 1 Consult the Necrosages
- 1 Dogpile
- 1 Fists of Ironwood
- 1 Followed Footsteps
- 1 Mnemonic Nexus
- 1 Muddle the Mixture
- 1 Nightmare Void
- 1 Peregrine Mask
- 1 Quickchange
- 1 Seismic Spike
- 1 Suppression Field
- 1 Wojek Siren
- 1 Benediction of Moons
- 1 Castigate
- 1 Conjurer's Ban
- 1 Earth Surge
- 1 Fencer's Magemark
- 1 Gruul Signet
- 1 Leap of Flame
- 1 Leyline of Singularity
- 1 Necromancer's Magemark
- 1 Pyromatics
- 1 Repeal
- 1 Train of Thought
Let’s take a look at the insane rares we have:
Now, aside from Gleancrawler, I’ve never opened any of these cards before – but they sure look good, don’t they? Which means we’re playing Black/Green/Blue, if our card pool can support it. But can it?
In addition to the auto-include Black cards, we also have the decent strength of Necromancer’s Magemark (which some people swear by) and Carrion Howler, which can be a fun finisher if you get some form of pump.
Note, however, that outside of the Magemark, we have nada in the way of creature-swelling. This could be problematic. Fortunately, the third color we want to work in is Blue, so we’ll have a lot of creature pump spells…
…Oh, wait. It’s Blue.
And once again for the third time, we wind up with a set of excluded cards that are definitely okay. Terraformer’s a 2/2 for three mana, which is decent for Blue, and Tattered Drake is nice if a tad pricey at five mana.
Now, did you notice the fun thing about those three colors? There’s something… Missing. Did you catch it?
Oh, wait, I’ll run it down for you:
Those are all the instants we have. Everything else takes place at sorcery-speed. Which means that when we send this deck into combat, we have precisely two answers – and if we don’t have those or the mana to cast them, we’re at the mercy of anyone’s instants. This is not a good thing.
Generally, that’s the sort of thing that will send me spiraling away from a color combo. I don’t like being utterly helpless for 60% of my game; even if I have better creatures, a single spell can suddenly make a measly 3/3 into a gamebreaker. As such, I’d steer away…
…but I wanted to experiment with Rare X. As Mike Turian once said, it’s hard to tell how good a card is if you never play with it… And Followed Footsteps looks like a powerhouse in concert with Gleancrawler. Plus, we have lots of card drawing, so hopefully we’ll draw into something.
But what are our other options?
As usual, the Red is weak, and it provides two Instants, both of them ludicrously conditional. (Though I’ve been wrecked by Dogpile a few times.) I wouldn’t swap this out for either color.
This is very decent white – although once again, we’re kinda light on the combat tricks (even if Bathe in Light is killer for an alpha strike). We want to keep the Green and Black because of the Gleancrawler, but if the Blue doesn’t work out this should be a good sideboard switch.
So What Did I Go With?
1 Centaur Safeguard
1 Compulsive Research
1 Consult the Necrosages
1 Dark Confidant
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Fists of Ironwood
1 Followed Footsteps
1 Ivy Dancer
1 Mourning Thrull
1 Muddle the Mixture
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Restless Bones
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Shambling Shell
1 Silhana Starfletcher
1 Stinkweed Imp
1 Tattered Drake
1 Tidewater Minion
1 Train of Thought
1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
I’m not sure whether using the two bouncelands to activate the City-Tree was a good idea, but it did save my hash a few times. But how did the cards actually work?
“Dangerous but deadly,” as one opponent said… But the question was whether he was more dangerous or deadly. And as far as I’m concerned, the answer is “deadly.”
See, in a Constructed game, you can work in a way to kill him, the games are relatively short, and the cards you draw are as powerful as you can get for their mana cost. But in Sealed, the games run longer, and it really blows paying five life to draw the unlimited power of a Tattered Drake.
This deck’s mana curve is low, at around three, and I still wound up losing huge chunks of my life to good ol’ Bob. The good news is that he’s pretty much a guaranteed two damage per turn, because nobody ever wants to block him; they’d just rather you take the damage. Or maybe they’ll just Faith’s Fetters him and end the game for ya.
I’m not saying that the Confidant is terrible – some games were won by the sheer power of two cards per turn. But if you can’t win the game in four turns or less, don’t play him unless you have some means to sacrifice him on command.
I thought this guy would be insanely powerful, but he’s merely situationally powerful – which is to say that when it works, it wins the game, and when it doesn’t you’ve usually blown a very important turn.
Let’s get the first problem with this card out of the way; you don’t want to play him on anything fragile, which means that you’re usually waiting to throw him into an x/3 or better. This means you have to draw the x/3. Good luck with that (and especially in this deck, which relies much more on evasion than beef to win). And once you have it on the x/3, you are never attacking or blocking with it.
Oh, I know there’s another option – throw him on an opponent’s creature – and when that worked, it was an act of genius. (My favorite play was Footstepping an opponent’s Belfry Spirit and amassing a truly huge army of 1/1 Bat tokens.) But there are an awful lot of ways to sacrifice creatures, as I discovered when my opponents Thoughtpicker Witched, Fiery Conclusioned, Caregivered, Dimir House Guarded, Elvish Skysweepered, Golgari Rotwurmed, and Rusalkaed their critters out of existence. And that’s when they didn’t have Absolver Thrull or a (maindecked) Sundering Vitae.
If it was an immediate effect, Footsteps, would kick ass, but as it is you have to wait for the next turn to come around. That’s a mighty long turn to wait for any return on investment, and your opponent gets a shot at it in the meantime.
Which meant that the following items had to come together:
- I had to have the Footsteps…
- …and a creature good enough to enchant…
- …that survived until my next upkeep…
- …when I wasn’t so far behind that spending a turn on future investment wouldn’t kill me.
I’d say the Footsteps worked maybe forty percent of the time. Not bad, but not a worldbreaker, either.
He’s great. No question. I likes me a 6/6 trampling body that brings everything back.
But I don’t like him that much in this deck.
Why not? Well, as I said, I have no instants here. That means I can never throw the Gleancrawler into the breach, since a Gaze of the Gorgon or a gang-block + Wildsize will kill him, no questions asked. And while I have a few comes-into-play or reusable creatures (Shambling Shell and Transluminant, notably), without a way to sacrifice on command I can’t really take advantage of the power.
It’s still a 6/6 body. I mean, I’m not leaving him out. I’m just saying he is all that, but without the bag of chips.
All in all, this deck was a disappointment, and largely that’s because I threw in the Blue where I don’t think it belonged. The White was a little better when I sideboarded it in, but without any consistent removal or ways to affect combat meaningfully, even with powerful cards, I don’t know how well you can do.
I went 6-5 with this deck, and I kept playing it because I was sure it would do better. Next time. I just knew it.
What Would Readers Do?
Last week, I asked about two scenarios, both rather simple, but I was wondering whether I had done the right thing. (Instead of going over what happened, I’ll just ask you to read the scenario, if you please.)
The first scenario was more of a curiosity than anything else: I wanted to see if anyone was going to defend playing the Orzhov Euthanist over the Benevolent Ancestor, to start the beats early. (Playing a lone Shambling Shell with no other creature to put a counter on is, obviously, a recipe for disaster.) But fortunately, no one did, and as you can see by the next turn I chose to get the Ancestor online as soon as possible.
The next situation was slightly more complex, but for me it boiled down to two choices: play the Orzhov Euthanist as a chump blocker, hoping to get the Haunt onto the Ancestor, or wait until his combat phase to try to take his Animist down with a Wildsize.
I chose to wait for a shot at a good Wildsize. As it turned out, this was the proper thing to do, since he did not send with the Animist the next turn, and I got to six mana to play both Euthanist with Wildsize mana open. I began serving with the Euthanist (he didn’t want to block, since he knew I had a trick and the potential of serving with a gigantic, first-striking dude later on was worth two points of damage now). Eventually, I Fettered his Animist, buying me enough time to get into a stalemate where we were each serving for about two damage a turn.
Given that he’d had Predatory Focus in the first game, it was a good situation. He didn’t have the two Green mana for a Focus, and with the Wildsize that was still in my hand he was dead in two turns.
Then he cast Master Warcraft and I lost.
Some games, you’re just fated.
Alas, this week I didn’t get a sufficiently interesting situation. I’ll let ya know. In the meantime, read Ted Knutson stuff.
The Weekly Plug Bug
My Webcomic Home on the Strange is continuing the saga of A Date With Density this week, wherein Tanner – a strip club bouncer with a good heart but no sense of self-esteem – goes out on a date with a young, attractive woman he’s been fixed up with. Then his ex-girlfriend shows up. Fireworks fly.
You know how it is, if you’ve dated. If not, you should read, if only to figure out how not to do it.