The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

I’ve let the last Extended PTQ pass me by. Despite my initial enthusiasm for the”new Extended,” I only played in one qualifier with my cool Limey deck. It’s too bad, too, since Iain (the co-designer) and I combined for a 9-2 record in Swiss with the deck in our two PTQs. My brain has almost…

I’ve let the last Extended PTQ pass me by. Despite my initial enthusiasm for the”new Extended,” I only played in one qualifier with my cool Limey deck. It’s too bad, too, since Iain (the co-designer) and I combined for a 9-2 record in Swiss with the deck in our two PTQs.

My brain has almost completely turned to Type 2 these days. I blame this shift in part on the release of Nemesis, since I just love Type 2 after new sets come out. Mostly, though, I suspect my disinterest has been directly proportional to the rise of Necro-Donate. Extended was too fast for me as it was, but at least it had diversity. Now… bleck.

So instead of the PTQ on Saturday, most of Team Purple Pepper made the trek down to Neutral Ground: San Francisco to play in their weekly Sunday Type 2. I went 2-2 in a dazzling display of mediocrity, but at least my Gilded Drake deck was interesting enough to draw a crowd. You gotta love playing rogue decks.

I would talk about the tournament, but the format is about to change and I’m not likely to keep the deck I played. Personally, I’m chomping at the bit to start using my Nemesis cards. Our team has been building post-Nemesis decks for a couple of weeks now, and we’re starting to latch onto some pretty intriguing ideas. Ox, for instance, is playing a Stompy deck with eight Forests and thirty-six one-casting spells. Finn has added green to his Rebel deck. Will may have finally found the right recipe for a G/U Maro deck. Ah, life is grand.

Probably the most interesting development in our group has been the idea of Blue LD. It’s a strange idea, I know. It sounds like I’ve gone colorblind, but without a lot of fanfare blue aggressive decks with more disruption than”counter that, counter that too” have become possible. Merfolk with Rootwater Thief is a good example. Blue LD is another.

LD – and that’s”land-denial” more than”land-destruction” – in the color least able to disrupt mana has our entire team smiling. Tom, Will and I have all developed Blue LD decks and while I think all three of us are maintaining distinct decklists, the idea remains the same: aggressive damage via blue weenies and artifacts coupled with bounce to gain time advantage. I thought I would share our decklists, talk about their similarities/differences and hopefully tickle your brain with a new idea for Standard in March.

I’ll start with Tom’s Blue LD deck because I think he’s been working on the idea the longest. I actually don’t have his exact decklist, but I’ve played against him enough to piece it together.

Tom’s deck looks something like:

BLT (Blue Land Transformation) by Tom Norman
4 brainstorm
4 trickster mage
4 lingering mirage
4 psychic venom
4 counterspell
4 phantasmal terrain
4 ring of gix
4 veiled serpent
3 turnabout
2 morphling
1 mishra’s helix
4 faerie conclave
4 rishadan port
14 island

Tom, for some reason, woke up one day and decided that Psychic Venom was good. He’s gone through about a hundred decklists using Psychic Venom. I guess I understand obsessions like that. You wouldn’t believe the amount of time I spent trying to use four Revenant in a deck because I happen to own four of them. Will’s preoccupation with Maro is another shining example.

Anyway, there’s some nice synergy in Tom’s deck and the deck benefits from a fairly low mana curve. The strategy is to turn most of an opponent’s lands into Islands, and pile up a non-Island with Psychic Venoms. The Trickster Mage, Ring of Gix and Turnabout can either serve as control cards or for dealing damage via the Venomed land (or both). The Veiled Serpent can almost always attack because of the Lingering Mirages and Phantasmal Terrains, and acts as a beefy wall otherwise. The Morphling is, well, Morphling. And the Helix, while a little random, fits the theme well.

The problems Tom has run into are threefold. First, decks with alternate mana sources like Elves or Diamonds just laugh as he plays with their land, and the deck often doesn’t have enough control or enough damage if its primary strategy is thwarted.

Second, the deck is a tad slow against beatdown strategies. Beatdown decks can absorb the Venom in their pursuit to be aggressive or use very little land to get their strategy going. While on the defensive, Phantasmal Terrain just isn’t a card Tom wants to draw.

Finally, what happens when Tom faces a deck whose lands are already Islands? Phantasmal Terrain is flexible, luckily, and Lingering Mirages can be cycled. But the effectiveness of the mana-denial strategy is greatly reduced against blue.

The result isn’t favorable: the deck struggles against mana-heavy decks, against beatdown decks and against blue decks. Ouch. That’s a lot of decks. For these reasons, Tom has largely scrapped this design of the deck and moved on to other ways of incorporating Psychic Venom into a deck.

Interestingly, though, I found Tom beat me a fair amount of the time with his odd creation. When he didn’t beat me, he scared me. Above all, those damn Psychic Venoms actually served to annoy the bejeesus out of me.

So I got to thinking about how _I_ would build a Blue LD deck. After a few experimental decklists, I put the following deck together for playtesting:

Blue LD by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar
4 veiled sentry
4 ankh of mishra
4 sky diamond
4 accumulated knowledge
4 hoodwink
4 psychic venom
4 boomerang
4 temporal adept
4 glowing anemone
2 ring of gix
4 rishadan port
4 saprazzan skerry
14 island

The focus of my deck is more on mana-denial via bounce. The Psychic Venom is still there, along with the Ring of Gix and Rishadan Port. But these supplement the primary strategy to keep an opponent playing the same land each turn. Hopefully the Ankh of Mishra keeps the damage coming or causes an opponent to _not_ play land.

By the way, Ankh of Mishra enters the deck largely thanks to Cathy Nicoloff. If you haven’t read her article “Genesis of a Fatty Deck” then you’re missing a fantastic read. I wish she would play Type 2 more often.

There are fewer sources of creature damage in my version of Blue LD, which may be a problem. Cards like the Adept may prove to be too fragile. In fact, I wonder if the deck lacks a true Finisher like Tom’s Morphling or Veiled Serpent. The cards aren’t set in stone, either: Accumulated Knowledge is experimental and may become Brainstorm; the Veiled Sentry may become Seal of Removal if creature-rush beats me too often. The deck is still very much in the initial growing-pains new decks go through.

Playtesting will probably wreak havoc on the card choices.

You get the idea, though. Whereas Tom’s BLT deck focused on denying mana through a combination of Psychic Venom and Phantasmal Terrain, my deck chooses to focus on bounce and Ankh of Mishra.

Tom tries to deal with the lands once they’re out, and I hope to keep them from coming out. Different ideas, but largely the same overall strategy.

Will has taken a completely different route, and his may prove to be both the most stable and the most effective. Besides Maro, Will has always been strangely fascinated with the card Iron Maiden. When he read about Viseling in the Nemesis spoiler, I thought he might wet his pants. Thus the idea of Blue LD struck Will like this:

“14 Forest” (don’t ask) by Will Estacio
4 brainstorm
4 seal of removal
4 hoodwink
4 boomerang
4 iron maiden
4 indentured djinn
4 viseling
4 glowing anemone
2 waterfront bouncer
2 temporal adept
4 rishadan port
4 saprazzan skerry
16 island

Will’s deck probably has the least-favorable mana curve of the three variations, but because he doesn’t bother messing around with Psychic Venom and land-tapping, he affords himself more room in the deck for Business Spells. Iron Maiden and Viseling provide the backbone for the damage-dealing, and both have incredible synergy with Indentured Djinn. The bounce is still there, and Will has included Seal of Removal and the Bouncer as creature control.

All in all, 14 Forests tries to slow an opponent just enough so that their hand-size and Will’s creatures kill them.

Notice, too, that Will’s deck is more resistant to beatdown. He hopes to keep cards in his opponents’ hands, but can deal with early creatures via Seal of Removal, Waterfront Bouncer and eventually blockers like the Djinn and Glowing Anemone.

I actually missed the playtest session where Will first unveiled the deck, but Dan and Ox assure me it dominated the evening. If I wasn’t so attached to the idea of making Ankh of Mishra the kill-card (Cathy’s fault!), I would have proxied-up Will’s deck and help him in playtesting the thing.

What an odd assortment of kill cards: Psychic Venom for Tom and I, Veiled Serpent for Tom, Ankh of Mishra for me, Iron Maiden and Viseling for Will. Each kill card connotes a slightly different supporting cast, which accounts for the variation in our decklists. That list of kill-cards is a little embarrassing, actually. Somehow we’ve managed to reach way down deep into our bag of dementia and pull out some incredible chaff.

The spine of each deck is startlingly similar, despite the different paths we’ve wandered. Boomerangs and added bounce is there, albeit in different forms. Rishadan Port is a staple. Some minimal card-search appears in all three. None of the decks rely on counterspells. And all three attempt to use mana-denial as the primary path to doing twenty points of damage.

Keep in mind that I haven’t yet discussed probably the most obvious form of Blue LD. The Rishadan clan in Mercadian Masques – the Cutpurse, Footpad and Brigand – can easily make up the core of a deck that actually seeks to destroy land. Coupled with bounce like the above decks, a Rishadan deck can virtually ensure that an opponent won’t be able to pay the added costs from the band of pirates.

There are a lot of Rishadan decklists floating around, and I haven’t played around with the mechanic to know the right card-ratios. As a first guess, though, a Blue LD deck seeking to abuse the pirates might resemble:

The Rishadan Clan
4 seal of removal
4 hoodwink
4 snap
4 boomerang
4 counterspell
4 parallax tide
4 rishadan cutpurse
4 rishadan footpad
2 glowing anemone
2 rishadan brigand
4 rishadan port
4 saprazzan skerry
16 island

The idea here is actually to destroy land (or other permanents) via the Rishadan cards. Parallax Tide – possibly an overlooked spell by Will, Tom and I – is especially effective in this deck given its ability to deny the mana to pay for the pirates come-into-play costs. The bounce is really fun here, since cards like Seal of Removal and Snap can be used on your own Rishadan folk to replay their abilities as easily as against opposing creatures.

This kind of deck is even slower than the above decks, and I find the Rishadan fellows to be awfully expensive. Given the slow speed and the fact that all of the key cards are either from Masques or Nemesis, I expect this kind of deck to be more popular in Masques Block than in Type 2.

Still, at least on first pass blue is getting a lot better at land-denial. It’s still the ugly stepchild of the five colors in doing so, but the Tradewind Rider mechanic of bouncing lands has taken root at R&D and the result is an interesting twist on mono-blue decks.

It’s very exciting that blue is beginning to get some teeth in its tricky mechanics. It’s possible to make a blue deck now with an aggressive feel, in which you are actively disrupting your opponent every turn. As an added bonus, these kind of decks are absurdly cheap to build if you have somehow managed to acquire four Rishadan Ports. Above all, the four decks I’ve listed are a blast to play, which is probably the best reason to try out the concept.

Whether this type of deck can be competitive on a tournament level remains to be seen, but Team Purple Pepper will be putting our collective thinking caps on to test their viability. If you’re playing me and I slap down a Tigger doll and starting chanting”The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,” you better believe I’ve decided to bring my bounce deck that day.

Have fun. As always, questions and comments are welcome.


Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, Ph.D.
[email protected]
Proud Member of Team Purple Pepper