When Lorwyn first started leaking to the Web forums, the world over got excited about two cards: Thoughtseize and Gaddock Teeg. Both promised to disrupt combo and control decks in a significant way, but Thoughtseize has gone the distance a bit more successfully than our 2/2 Kithkin hero. After all, at the end of the day the Teegster is just a 2/2 and every deck this side of the Mississippi ought to be able to deal with that.
Enter Rashad Miller, player, judge, and Cabal Roguer extraordinaire (and as this is being written a Grand Prix: Philly Day 2 competitor with the deck we’re about to discuss). He quietly introduced a behemoth to the format that is, bar none, the best Gaddock Teeg deck the world has seen. His first Top 8 was under the radar in Indianapolis in February. He snuck back to the final elimination rounds at the very next PTQ he played at in Des Moines a few weeks later. Joining him was Rusty Kubis playing an almost identical 75, and he repeated the back-to-back Top 8 the following weekend in Chicago (where Rashad, coincidentally, was head judging). While Rusty was battling for the title there, a few hours to the west Matt “Cheeks” Hansen was battling Shane Houston in a mirror match for the title at the Wichita, Kansas PTQ (Cheeks won); both players were using slightly modified lists of Rashad’s creation.
So, what makes Rashad’s list the best Gaddock Teeg deck ever and why have these players quietly managed to be so successful with it? The answer lies in how well Spirit Stompy, as the deck has been called, protects the 2/2 legend.
Let’s take a look:
- 3 Tallowisp
- 3 Kami of Ancient Law
- 4 Phantom Centaur
- 4 Troll Ascetic
- 1 Kataki, War's Wage
- 3 Saffi Eriksdotter
- 3 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Gaddock Teeg
Rashad isn’t messing around. He’s running the full boat of a playset of Teegs maindeck plus two Eladamri’s Calls to push the numbers over the top. The play makes sense; when you want a Teeg, you really want a Teeg and when you don’t? Well, you may want a Kami of Ancient Law, Troll Ascetic, Tallowisp, Phantom Centaur, Saffi…
That last lil’ lady is actually one of the ways Rashad’s deck protects Teeg so well. When Gaddock was first revealed players recognized how powerful his effect would be during a game against, say, a TEPS opponent. Perhaps caught up in the “new car smell” of the excitingly brand new set, we didn’t recognize as quickly that as a 2/2 the Kithkin Advisor was fragile, and as a legend he didn’t allow us to overcome vulnerability by playing out multiple copies. Saffi goes a long ways towards protecting Gaddock, and in the best way possible, by blinking him out of play and immediately returning him, preventing a deck like TEPS from using Burning Wish to come up with an answer in the midst of going off. Furthermore she’s flexible, like most of Rashad’s choices, and allows you multiple uses of Kami of Ancient Law or to protect your marquee threats like Phantom Centaur and Troll Ascetic should something unexpected happen.
The second trick in Spirit Stompy’s arsenal for protecting Gaddock is Otherworldly Journey. The arcane instant (don’t forget it triggers Tallowisp) flips big daddy Teegums out in response to a removal spell only to pump it up at the end of the turn, saving it from the next Tarfire, Seal of Fire, or Pyroclasm. The Journey is also a great way to protect a marquee threat from Damnation, undo an opponent’s Temporal Isolation on Phantom Centaur, turn off an opponent’s Armadillo Cloak by targeting their creature, or fog the largest attacker for a turn. As has been mentioned, Rashad’s choices for the deck are all about flexibility, and on that front OJ is a veritable Russian gymnast.
The last protectors of Gaddock Teeg are the auras tutored up by Tallowisp. When a deck like Enduring Ideals relies on Fire//Ice as their maindeck response to Teeg and Burning Wishing for Pyroclasm as the backup, a single Griffin Guide or â€˜Dillo Cloak is all you need to keep the 2/2 alive forever. Sure, most players know to board a Deathmark and/or Vindicate as a backup, but you have your first two solutions (and possibly playing a second copy as your opponent is forced to spend 3-5 mana Wishing and killing Teeg, significantly hindering their ability to do that and go off all in one turn) for that situation. The auras, like Saffi and OJ, are good on their own as well, as they’re tutored up by Tallowisp to make nigh unkillable threats when placed on Phantom Centaur or Troll Ascetic.
Rashad’s deck continues to impress and promises to be one of the big breakthroughs on the season. Let’s break down the game plan against the big players in the format should you plan on playing Spirit Stompy at your next PTQ.
During game 1 you’re a slight dog, though Cheeks’ version is a little bit better as it runs 4 Kataki (Living Wish) instead of 3 (Kataki and dubs Eladamri’s Call). There are two game plans against the robots, and they are a) the fair game, in which their draw isn’t insane and you don’t find Kataki so you simply stick to the basic game plan which is beat with something wearing Cloak, and b) the unfair game, in which you find Kataki and stick it early. Resolving a Kataki isn’t inherently game over, so don’t get lazy, but Affinity’s strength against Spirit Stompy lies in its ability to quickly overwhelm an opponent’s resources and apply the beatdown before said opponent can get out of the gates. Kataki stifles that and buys you the time you need to overwhelm them with Spirits, and Trolls, and auras oh my.
To play to the strength of hitting Kataki as early as possible, it’s important to try to draw as many cards as you can, thinning the deck to hit one of your “three” copies of the card. Use fetch-lands as quickly as you can and Tallowisp as many enchantments out of your deck as possible. Don’t be afraid to use your Otherworldly Journeys defensively by flipping out their attacker wearing Cranial Plating, or to completely blank something going big with Arcbound Ravager. The longer the game goes, the more likely you are to find your Kataki, preferably with Saffi for Shrapnel Blast protection, and once you get there you greatly increase your ability to crawl back to victory.
In: 4 Ancient Grudge
Out: 2 Gaddock Teeg, 2 Phantom Centaur
Ancient Grudge is still the best spot removal against Affinity and the card that singlehandedly keeps the deck down in the format as its flexibility makes it relevant enough against PLU, NLU, and Tron to keep it in players’ boards. The Grudge changes the order in which you search out duals with your fetch-lands in the sideboarded games, so it’s important to keep in mind you need to find Stomping Ground/Sacred Foundry in addition to the usual suspects. Your plan is still to land Kataki and protect it, but helping you along the way is the spot removal you lacked from the first game.
You board some Teegs and Centaurs out to help remove dead draws. Because Gaddock doesn’t shut off much against Affinity, it serves mostly as a blocker; having multiples in hand you can’t play for fear of blowing the one in play up is terrible. Additionally having too many four-drops in hand is also a killer, so you shave half your Centaurs and half your Teegs to minimize the likelihood of having dead cards in your hand at some point during the game.
Overall the matchup is about even; you’re down during the first game but up during the sideboarded games splitting the difference.
Ideal is one of the more solid matchups for Spirit Stompy owing to the fact you play Kami of Ancient Law and Gaddock Teeg with Saffi Eriksdotter to reuse/protect them. The game 1 plan is to stick a Gaddock Teeg and keep it stuck. Playing a Koala early is potentially risky as it provides a window for your opponent to preemptively Fire/Ice the 2/2 and prevent it from doing its damage after they go off.
Should they manage to go epic you need to remember to keep your cool as, unlike many decks, you have maindeck answers to their juiciest targets. Often under pressure the Ideal player will be forced to simply find the most relevant enchantment at the moment and simply hope for the best. A timely Koala renders that point moot and will send you to the sideboarded games with the advantage. If they did have the time to set up and search out Pernicious Deed, you still have answers to their three win conditions (trips Form of the Dragon) and/or more if you have Saffi as well.
In: 4 Ancient Grudge, 4 Orim’s Chant
Out: 1 Kataki, 3 Tallowisp, 4 Phantom Centaur
Rashad has boarded in the Grudges to blow up his opponent’s Pentad Prisms and Lotus Blooms while he uses the Chants for the occasional Time Walk. I feel Kataki is just as good or the job as Ancient Grudge and would sideboard out a Tarmogoyf over it instead. The Tallowisps are of minimal importance in this matchup as they take up to three turns to activate (play it, play a Spirit, play the enchantment you found) by which point you could be dead. Phantom Centaur is a little pricey and can struggle under Take Possession and Pernicious Deed while Troll Ascetic, which stays in, can shrug both off with ease (and 1G).
This matchup is very favorable.
TEPS plays similarly to Enduring Ideal though it’s slightly worse as Kami of Ancient Law isn’t a spoiler in addition to Gaddock Teeg. Your goal is, of course, to find and protect the aforementioned 2/2. Remember to search out as many cards as possible with Tallowisp and fetch-lands if you don’t have Teeg so you can find him faster. Your ideal setup is protecting him with Saffi Eriksdotter but finding him is the first focus. The TEPS players have answers in the form of Burning Wish and, less commonly, Fire/Ice maindeck. If they don’t have Deathmark in their board your Armadillo Cloak and Griffin Guide will go a long ways toward keeping Teeg safe, as it forces them to Wish for multiple Pyroclasms (if they even have them). Still, most TEPS players in the know will have a Deathmark. Finally don’t forget your life total is a potentially defensible resource; after you’ve found Teeg you can start swinging with Armadillo Cloak, and with the life gained from the aura force your opponent to go off harder while under pressure and having to deal with your Gaddock Teeg. Suffice to say that situation can be a struggle for them to overcome.
In: 4 Orim’s Chant, 2 Tormod’s Crypt
Out: 4 Phantom Centaur, 1 Kataki, War’s Wage, 1 Otherworldly Journey
Tormod’s Crypt isn’t the most fantastically impactful card you could play against TEPS, but it can shut off extra mana from Rite of Flame, turns off threshold for Cabal Ritual, and most importantly counteracts Sins of the Past. Of course it’s Orim’s Chant that’s the real backbreaker in the matchup. Remember to play it in response to Mind’s Desire, stranding all of the cards they reveal to the RFG zone, something that can be totally backbreaking for your opponent.
While not as favorable as Ideal, TEPS is still a solid matchup.
RDW, BurnDW, and “Other” Red Decks
The game plan here is pretty simple: stay alive early until you can stick an Armadillo Cloak onto a Troll Ascetic, Phantom Centaur, or large-sized Tarmogoyf. Don’t be afraid to expend your early 2/2s freely in an effort to stymie your opponent’s offense; once you’ve stuck a Cloak at a life total high enough to not get burned out before attacking with said auraed critter, it’s essentially over. A handy trick to remember: it sometimes pays to hold Tallowisp until you have four mana and can play both it and another spirit/arcane spell in the same turn to effectively tutor for a Cloak. Leaving the 1/3 on the board will almost surely see it burnt to a crisp.
In: up to X Ancient Grudge (generally 2)
Out: 2 Eladamri’s Call, additional Gaddock Teegs as you feel appropriate
Your matchup here is favorable and neither side has a great deal to bring in. It’s worth noting, however, that some Burn decks have Ensnaring Bridge so if you expect it or want to play it safe bring in the Ancient Grudges. Another card to be concerned with are the Sulfuric Vortexes from the same decks; you will need to play Kami of Ancient Laws with that card in mind.
Overall the matchup is favorable, but like with any Red Deck sometimes they just get you.
Most UG Tron builds have few if any ways to kill a Gaddock Teeg in the first game (some can’t do it afterwards either). They will usually have outs in the form of Platinum Angel and Triskelion. You can deal with both using a combination of Otherworldly Journey and your enchantments. Sticking either aura will turn off the possibility of the Trike taking out the 2/2, while Journey will phase out Platy long enough for you to swing for lethal with the rest of the team.
In: 3 Ancient Grudge, 3 Tormod’s Crypt
Out: 1 Kataki, War’s Wage, 3 Tallowisp, 2 Phantom Centaur
Your plan doesn’t change much for games 2 and 3. Stick a Teeg and keep him stuck with Cloak/Guide, use Ancient Grudge to attack their artifact mana and creatures, and if the Teeg plan fails utilize Crypt to shut off Mindslaver recursion. Don’t forget that Gaddock Teeg is a universal effect so even if they use Threads of Disloyalty to steal it they still can’t play Gifts Ungiven et. al.
Most Rock decks will only be able to deal with Troll and Centaur via Pernicious Deed, and that only kills Troll if you’re not playing tightly. In any case, use your Saffis and OJs to counteract the Deed and protect your marquee threats. Griffin Guide is particularly key in the matchup because both decks are playing donks that bounce off one another and the ground can get cluttered (trick to remember: if they try to break that clog with Umezawa’s Jitte, a Phantom Centaur will keep it from getting counters; the damage from the creature is prevented when you block).
If your opponent is playing Death Cloud things are a little bit more challenging. They have more spells to deal with your best threats but most of those spells can’t resolve through Gaddock Teeg (including their planeswalkers). For that reason it’s much more important to protect Gaddock Teeg in that matchup.
In: Up to 3 Tormod’s Crypt
Out: 1 Kataki, War’s Wage and up to 2 Gaddock Teeg (or against Death Cloud 2 Kami of Ancient Law)
You don’t have a whole lot to bring in, but the Crypts can be better against Eternal Witness and Liliana than the Kataki. Against non-Death Cloud versions its usefulness allows it to impact the game more than redundant copies of a legend you may or may not be able to play. If they do have Death Cloud, leave the Teegs and cut some Koalas instead.
Like most other decks, Dredge is not a favorable matchup during your first game. Your plan is to stick a Gaddock Teeg to shut off Dread Return and by doing so the Bridge from Below nuttiness. From there you try to find a Saffi to shut off Bridge entirely should the need arise, as well as “something large” you can Cloak to race their small dorks plan. In a pinch a Koala can take out your own enchantment to blow up their Bridges.
In: 4 Tormod’s Crypt, 2 Ancient Grudge
Out: 3 Otherworldly Journey, 1 Kataki, 2 Phantom Centaur
Your plan stays the same for the sideboarded games, but you have the added advantage of Tormod’s Crypt. Of course, they’ll likely be prepared for that by playing Pithing Needle; you up that arms race ante by bringing in a smidge of Ancient Grudge action. Because of the surprising amount of disruption you play between Teeg, Saffi, Cloak, Crypt, and Grudge, the percentages improve for the second and third games. A neat trick to occasionally blow an unassuming opponent out is to allow them to “go off” while they have your Crypts Needled. At the last possible moment, usually when they’re flashing back Dread Return, you use your Ancient Grudge to blow their Needle and free up your Crypt to wreak havoc. As a final note on the matchup, you might find some success with acting disgruntled your opponent is playing Dredge. “Gosh!” You complain, sportingly. “Dredge is SO bad for me! I was positive no one would play it. It would be SO much better if I had actual sideboard cards like Leyline, Yixlid Jailer, or Tormod’s Crypt.” Then bemoan how you’ll have to “get there” by playing subpar options meant for other matchups and hope they don’t bring the Needles in, or that they name them on the wrong cards. It may seem silly, but it could provide an edge in the end, so it’s worth it to try…
Leveled Blue Decks
These are challenging matchups; they’re not great, but they’re not unwinnable. Try to sneak an Troll Ascetic through countermagic, usually by forcing them to have it on an early turn. Treetop Village also plays a much larger role as they’re not well prepared to deal with the card being forced to tap it with Cryptic Command, block it with Goyf, or finagle a Vedalken Shackles to somehow steal it. Try not to play Tarmogoyf unless you have a way to deal with Threads of Disloyalty (Koala) or Vedalken Shackles (OJ, and only for a turn). Sometimes you’ll have games in which you stick an early Centaur, suit it up with an aura of some type, and ride it to victory as they struggle to answer it with Shackles by hitting enough land drops.
In: 4 Ancient Grudge, 3 Boil
Out: 4 Armadillo Cloak, 3 Tarmogoyf
Rashad encouraged me to board the Orim’s Chants against the Blue decks as well at the cost of Kataki and the Tallowisps to force some of the big threats through, but I feel that that risks cutting too many creatures to be able to put up a fight (not to mention the fact that I’ve been experimenting with cutting the Chants from the board altogether). Use Ancient Grudge to attack Shackles and occasionally Divining Top if they’re not careful and try to draw a card. When they’re not looking blow up their world with Boil; the look on the face of a blue player when that card resolves is absolutely priceless. Continue using Otherworldly Journey to get back your stolen creatures, but this time from Sower of Temptation instead of Shackles. Teeg turns off their Engineered Explosives and Cryptic Commands, but it also prevents you from being able to play Boil so remember that interaction.
The Blue decks are challenging but not unwinnable. It’s the epic battle of Green against control, with the control players starting with the edge.
As a final note, Rashad made sure to mention Goblins was a very rough matchup. Initial builds he worked with had Worship maindeck and Pyroclasm sideboard to help deal with things, but he said nothing worked well enough and that they eventually gave up on the matchup. If you’re worried about lots of Goblins in the area, weigh the choice to play Spirit Stompy very heavily, but in this PTQ environment it seems unlikely anything can be that prevalent at a PTQ.
Like Mike Flores‘ Haterator from last year’s Extended season, Rashad’s Spirit Stompy is an innovative “fair” deck that is anything but. Truly the world’s premiere Gaddock Teeg deck, it’s just what the doctor called for to finish up this wild and wacky Extended season.
If you have more questions about the deck, feel free to pipe up in the forums or send me an email directly.