In my article concerning the White Desire deck, I talked about the popular nature of the Red decks in the Ohio Valley and how to build a deck to beat them with the suggestion that white desire was an excellent choice to do so. Fortunately for me, there was a PTQ coming up on January 29th, 2004 in Columbus held by Professional Events Services, so I was able to put my money where my mouth was (so to speak).
After playtesting about 200+ games with the original version of the deck, I became increasingly unhappy with both the slow speed and the irrelevance of Deep Analysis in the white desire deck. I fiddled with the deck and came up with this decklist to play on Saturday:
You’ll note a few changes – I added an Island, two Merchant Scrolls, a Cunning Wish and took out three Deep Analysis and a Turnabout to make the room for them. This made the deck faster and more streamlined and more like a real combo deck. I decided that if I was going to play a combo deck, I want to play the fastest and play with as many tutor effects as possible and basically ignore the midgame. Either you’re going to beat them on turn 4-5 or you’ll lose – and given the expected Ohio Valley metagame to be packed with Red Deck Wins, it’s not too bad of a strategy, if you ask me!
Here are a couple specific card choices in the sideboard I’d like to go over before we get to the tournament report:
Amazing in the Desire mirror match (which I also expected some amount of) and crucial in the Scepter-Chant match as well to stop the stick from coming down. Also turns out to be surprisingly good against Grow-A-Tog (GAT). Ooh, foreshadowing!
I felt that three total between maindeck and sideboard were enough, but that’s my personal opinion. If you expect a lot of control in your metagame, I suggest four in various places of your decklist.
With no further ado, let’s get to the tournament report!
Saturday morning rolls around and my teammate Saran catches me on AIM to tell me that we’re going to be a little late getting to my house. No big deal – I clean up my horrendously messed up room for a bit, hop in the shower, and don a pair of Express jeans, button down shirt, and my brand-new Fossil grey blazer – I feel the need to overcompensate for the regular attire the gamers wear at these events, or something.
Saran gets to my house, we have an uneventful ride down to Columbus in which we were supposed to pick up Aaron Cutler, who randomly was not at the place we agreed to get him, and rush in trying to find cards left and right until our decks were finally complete. They call for decklists and Marshall Arthurs graciously helped me fill out my decklist while I ran to my first pairing!
There are just under 90 people in the PTQ, so we’ll be playing seven rounds with a cut to the top eight.
Round One – Chris, playing Black/Red Ponza
I sit down and my opponent dedicates all of his tournaments wins to his late grandmother, and wishes me good luck. Already I feel like Michael Clair, the Magic Jerk, because if I beat this guy, it’ll be like dishonoring his family. Argh.
Game one, he plays a turn 2 Slith Firewalker backed up with Duress and Cabal Therapy to strip my hand of Intuition and my second Sapphire Medallion. I cast several Brainstorms and Accumulated Knowledges, but I can’t get to my third land between my mana screw and his Pillages. Eventually he gets me to a low enough life total with two Slith Firewalkers that I have to try and combo him, so I cast my Accumulated Knowledge for three, untap, and combo him off two lands and a Mox.
In game two he gets a quick start with Cabal Therapy which misses on the first round, a turn 2 Slith Firewalker, and a turn 3 Zo-Zu the Punisher, which immediately dies to Cabal Therapy (hitting my Intuition). Luckily he hasn’t disrupted my Medallion in play, so I cast Brainstorm and Intuition up three Accumulated Knowledges, pass the turn where he plays Nantuko Shade (yes, that’s right), attacks, and sends it back to me. I combo him with relative ease, but not before he makes me shuffle and cut between every single copy of Mind’s Desire with 16 copies on the stack. Just to ensure that I’ve shuffled enough, I begin to pile shuffle in between each copy of Mind’s Desire and take my sweet old time.
Move over, Magic Jerk. There’s a new guy on the block.
1-0 matches, 2-0 games
Round Two – Adam Yurchick, playing my old version of White Desire
Adam is a friend of mine and occasional playtest partner, and I didn’t know what he was playing going into this round. We played in the last Mirrodin Block PTQ where I played the Freshmaker deck against his Blue/Green control deck, and he left in a single copy of Annul which randomly countered my Mindslaver. I still won the game, but that shows you what a master this kid is!
Game one he double mulligans and casts a mighty Mind’s Desire with a storm count of three, since it’s clear that I’ll probably win on my next turn. He reveals Sunscape Familiar, Intuition, and Accumulated Knowledge, which are all good, but not good enough.
In game two, I resolve an early cost-reducer and he casts Intuition for three Accumulated Knowledges. He casts his for three, I cast Intuition for three and combo him out after drawing way too many cards for any one man to handle. He Brain Freezes me in response to my Desire for double digits, so I Brain Freeze him right back for his whole deck.
2-0 matches, 4-0 games
Round Three – Dan Cato, playing Red Deck Wins
The master of Red Deck Wins, I know that he’s playing it before I even sit down. We chat for a bit as casual acquaintances do, but we’re both listening to music, so it’s pretty tough to get any chats of substance in before we shuffle up and play.
In game two he plays Pyrostatic Pillar and I respond with Sphere of Law. He is unable to punch through with Blistering Firecats for sufficiently lethal damage, and I am able to combo him by playing around his Mogg Fanatic and Seal of Fire.
In game three he gets a quick start with Goblin Cadets, Jackal Pup, and an early Firecat, but I stabilize with one, then two, then three Spheres of Law. There is a turn where I cast the third Sphere of Law that he can ostensibly burn me out with Cursed Scroll and a Firecat, but he only manages to get me to two before I combo him out. He concedes, but then realizes he could have Scrolled me in his upkeep for the win, when I remind him that I would have cast Cunning Wish for Rebuild and definitely would not have allowed any of that nonsense. Also in one part of the third game, he calls a judge over because I cast Merchant Scroll and dump it in the graveyard as I resolve the spell, saying that I failed to search my library. The judge reminds me not to do it anymore and reprimands Dan for trying to rules lawyer me unnecessarily.
3-0 matches, 6-1 games
Round Four – Cedric Phillips, playing Psychatog
Not only is Cedric my teammate, but he’s playing a deck I literally cannot beat: (Essentially) Mono-Blue Psychatog. It’s similar to Nicholas Labarre’s Psychatog deck, where it has no targeted removal maindeck but an overload of counterspells and Engineered Explosives. It’s a very, very good deck, and he also has Chalice of the Void in the sideboard.
Game two he Dazes an early cost reducer and plays a Chalice of the Void set to two. I can Cunning Wish for Rebuild but I don’t have the time or mana to get it done without a cost reducer in play, so I concede.
3-1 matches, 6-3 games
Round Five – Andrew Roystan, playing Grow-A-Tog (GAT)
Foreshadowing kicks in here. Andrew looks like a pretty professional player by the way he shuffles and examining his mannerisms gave me the same indication, so I figure he’s playing a control deck or Reanimator. I couldn’t be more wrong.
I win the die roll and kick off with Flooded Strand sacrificing it immediately for an Island. I pass the turn, and he plays a land, Mox Diamond, and Meddling Mage. I wince, figuring he’s read some of my articles, and names Isochron Scepter. Pays to be an under-read and bad player, I suppose. He doesn’t put up much of a fight afterwards, as the GAT deck isn’t well-known for applying early strong pressure, and I combo him out at my leisure.
He opts to go first and plays a fetchland, Mox Diamond, and Meddling Mage on Snap. Great. I play a land and pass the turn, and he plays a Polluted Delta and sacrifices it to fetch a land. I hold up my hand and announce Stifle, and he looks like I just knocked the wind out of him. He is stymied at a play that would probably be best suited to his deck and attacks with Mage, passing the turn. I play a second land and pass the turn, and he plays Polluted Delta and breaks it, which I again (say it with me, everyone!) Stifle. He asks “Are you joking me?” and I say, “Not in the least!” The game plays out fairly long with him resolving a Psychatog and then casting Armageddon when I have two Sunscape Familiars in play. I cast Cunning Wish for Submerge and hardcast it on his Mage, then Snap his Psychatog to his hand.
I draw lands for the next few turns, he doesn’t, and he eventually gets the creatures back down with the Mage naming Mind’s Desire and threatens lethal in one or two turns, so I start to go off and can’t find a way to remove the Meddling Mage blocking my regular path to winning, so I play up to a storm count where my single Brain Freeze will take him to 7 cards left in his library and cast it. He starts to flip cards over when I notice a Wonder goes to the graveyard, and I silently swear to myself, making my blocking less effective. As he approaches the end of the Brain Freeze, he realizes he has one card left in his library, not seven, and we both forgot to count the removed-from-game cards from the earlier Psychatog. He can’t kill me in that one turn, so I take it down.
4-1 matches, 8-3 games
Round Six – Mike Pinnegar, playing Reanimator with Goblin Welder
Do not adjust your monitor – that’s Reanimator with Goblin Welder. It’s actually pretty good – I saw it in the earlier rounds of the PTQs, and I can definitely say that I’m not looking forward to this matchup. He essentially has 12 reanimate spells with better targets than Akroma, and four of those reanimating spells are reusable.
He kicks things off by playing an Underground River and passing the turn. I play an Island and say go. He plays a land and casts Cabal Therapy, naming Counterspell. He sees my hand full of combo pieces and passes the turn. I drop a land and pass the turn, and he casts Hapless Researcher and does the same. [My heart just leapt at the thought of Hapless seeing play in Extended! – Knut] I play a Plains, hoping that he doesn’t have Sundering Titan, and play Sunscape Familiar, set to go off. He sacrifices the Researcher, puts Titan in the yard, and Reanimates it. Good.
I don’t side anything in.
In between games, he clearly mana weaves his deck (land/spell/spell) and only overhand shuffles it about seven to nine times before presenting the deck to me. I call a judge to make sure everything is in order (like I said, Mr. Clair – I’m gunning for you), and they say it’s sufficiently randomized. They give my opponent a warning, and I explain I wasn’t trying to get a cheap game win, but that I was just following rules and policy. He understands, and we get to game two.
Game two he draws a lot of lands and gets an Engineered Plague naming faeries, but has no business spells to back it up. I take my time, Wish for Echoing Truth, and combo him out with ease. We don’t have enough time to even start game three, so I take that as a blessing and gratefully accept the unintentional draw.
4-1-1 matches, 9-4 games
Round Seven – Craig, playing Blue/Green Madness
I sit down and my opponent offers me the ID, and I tell him that I can’t accept it since I’m 4-1-1 and need a win to get in. He seems a bit disappointed, since he’s 5-1 and got paired down. I tell him that I’ve been in his situation a lot of times, and to try to not lose faith (hey, nice-guy points!).
In game one I keep a very marginal hand on the draw, and he punishes me by playing a turn 1 Careful Study pitching a Basking Rootwalla and a land, then turn 2 Merfolk Looter to exploit my slow draw, and a turn 3 Arrogant Wurm. I die because my deck refuses to cough up the necessary topdecks to win, and it’s too tough to play around his maindeck Waterfront Bouncer at this point.
In game two Craig is a little bit threat light on his draw and I punish it by casting multiple Submerges on his only madness outlet (Aquamoeba) before going off safely on turn 5.
So it all comes down to game three, and Craig kicks it off with a Careful Study putting a Rootwalla into play and a Deep Analysis in the yard and I respond by playing an Island and passing the turn. He plays a Wild Mongrel on turn 2 and gets in there with Rootwalla, and I cast Brainstorm, seeing a lot of cards that are not land.
It’s clear I won’t hit my third land drop before I die, so I start to do a lot of math. I untap, play my second land, and play a Medallion. He untaps, fails to play a land, and Naturalizes the Medallion. I sigh, take the beats from the creatures, draw my card and cast Sunscape Familiar. He draws his card (not a land), attacks and plays Waterfront Bouncer and passes the turn. I draw my card (not a land) and Submerge his Waterfront Bouncer and pass the turn. He draws (surprise!), attacks, and replays the Waterfront Bouncer. I think deeply, and ask the judge if I can use pen and paper to do math. The judge seems surprised that I would ask that, and says that I can. (When I played Bargain a long time ago there were rules that disallowed that in some tournaments, so I just wanted to make sure) She asks why, and I reply quite loudly “I can’t help it, I’m Asian!” Everyone laughs, and I go back to thinking hard. I eventually decide on casting Brainstorm. I have Adarkar Wastes and Island in play with my hand consisting of the following (after drawing three cards and before resolving the second part of Brainstorm):
“Look deep, Josh. It’s there. It’s twelve moves away, but it’s there. You’ve got him.” -Bruce Pandolfini to Josh Waitzkin, Searching for Bobby Fischer
I have two lands in play, one of which is untapped and can produce Blue mana. I am at a relatively high life total, so pain from the Adarkar Wastes is not too much of a liability. Do you see it yet?
This is why I love this deck. Go ahead, keep looking. Keep in mind I haven’t put two cards back from Brainstorm yet, and have only two lands in play (one is tapped) with Sunscape Familiar in play. Craig (my opponent) is tapped out and elected not to counter the cost reducer, but not before he checked his hand and thought about it for ten seconds. There are no Accumulated Knowledges in either graveyard at this time. Your opponent has 48 cards left in his deck. You suspect there is a 30% chance he has Daze. What’s the right play?
Figure it out yet? Here it is:
1) Put both Clouds of Faeries back on top of the deck.
3) Untap, draw Cloud of Faeries.
8) Cast Sapphire Medallion with mana in pool. Mana: 2, Storm: 5.
Brain Freeze #1 = Storm 8 * 3 cards = 24 cards
Brain Freeze #2 = Storm 9 * 3 cards = 27 cards
24 + 27 = 51 cards.
The correct play here is to completely ignore Daze. You won’t be drawing anything of substance in the coming turns, and if you give him a chance to untap, he will have active Waterfront Bouncer and possibly Circular Logic and/or Stifle. If he has Daze, you fail to combo him here anyway, if not, you win by decking him using only two lands and a cost reducer.
This is why we playtest, kids.
5-1-1 in matches, 11-5 in games
I won that game and felt completely and utterly mentally drained. Unfortunately Stephen Menendian next to me (who is playing a similar build of White desire) lost to the Goblin Welder / Reanimator deck, knocking him out of contention for Top 8, and Matt Lackey (who worked with me on this deck slightly) won his match but finished 9th on tiebreakers at 5-2.
Feeling completely mentally exhausted, I confirm with Cedric that he’s in the Top 8 (he took an ID in the last round to make it) and get congratulations from fellow friends and teammates. Aaron Cutler helps me sort my deck as quickly as possible and we get going to the Top 8 matchups.
Cedric has to play the Goblin Welder / Reanimator deck, so he feels his match is pretty much impossible to win, and I have to play Tom Wood (the current Ohio State champion, former Amateur Champion, and Pro Tour player, a long list of accomplishments that dwarfs my top eight at States and a money finish @ GP: Oakland, to say the least). He’s playing Green cards, and lots of them. Yes, that’s right, Trinity Green, but I don’t think he has Plow Under in his deck. I figure this has to be a cakewalk, right?
Karma’s a bitch.
Top Eight – Tom Wood, playing Trinity Green
After what seems to take an inordinate amount of time to confirm all the Top 8 participants, Tom and I get our match underway. I can’t remember who won the coinflip for game one, but it was pretty uneventful regardless.
In game one Tom casts a Tangle Wire after casting Living Wish for Gaea’s Cradle with an Elf and a Call of the Herd token in play (what is this, 2001? Shouldn’t I be searching out Rebels or something?) with my board consisting of two lands and a cost reducer. I tap out, play a land and a Mox, and pass the turn. He plays Deranged Hermit and passes the turn to me, so I cast Intuition for three Accumulated Knowledges. I tap Sunscape Familiar and two lands, and play multiple Clouds of Faeries, Snaps, my Accumulated Knowledge for three, another Mox or two, and cast Merchant Scroll and Cunning Wish for the lethal double Brain Freeze. I have Mind’s Desire in my hand, but why bother?
In game two I keep a marginally good hand on the draw, and I Submerge several of his creatures (standard sideboard plan, of course) but fail to draw any real business spells. As a last resort with many cards in hand that are not spells, I cast Mind’s Desire for one. It finds Merchant Scroll, which gets me Snap, which untaps two lands and with two familiars in play, I am able to do… nothing.
Game three I keep what looks to be a promising hand, and Tom reluctantly keeps his hand, saying “I need to get lucky to beat you, I think.” I Submerge a Rofellos twice to keep him off high mana counts (he’s stuck on two lands), and set up what should be a back-breaking Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge for four combo with a cost reducer in play and four lands. I draw Adarkar Wastes, Adarkar Wastes, Adarkar Wastes, Mind’s Desire, Island. I’m facing lethal next turn, so I nug Tom with Brain Freeze on my main step for three mighty cards, then cast Mind’s Desire with a storm count of one.
Yeah, that one went as well as the one for one.
I lose in the Top 8, get a box (of Champions rather than Betrayers, boo) and a Top 8 pin along with some ratings points that should pull me above 1900 again. A little unlucky in the Top 8, but that’s all part of Magic and especially this deck.
I was very happy with the build of the deck this time around, and would not change a single thing maindeck. However, the sideboard could use some work, and here’s what I suggest for the upcoming PTQs or local tournaments. I’ll be playing a sideboard similar to this in Boston for the Grand Prix:
If I’ve learned anything from playing this in a PTQ, it’s this list of things:
- Sphere of Law is as good as advertised.
- Submerge is a wrecking ball and really is necessary in the board against Blue/Green madness. The matchup is not as good as many people think.
- 2 Brain Freeze in the board is plenty.
- You need a card-drawer in the board, and Intuition is not it. Meditate seems very good, and preliminary testing correlates my gut feeling with some anecdotal evidence.
- You want a hard counter in the sideboard for random things (Armageddon, Blistering Firecat, Cranial Extraction) and Memory Lapse is as good as anything. Mana Leak doesn’t always get it done, but Lapse will buy you the time you need. If you like, you can play Envelop, but there are plenty of creatures I like to counter as well. Your mileage may vary.
- Stifle is much better than Orim’s Chant in the mirror because of two reasons: Mana constraints and people running Misdirection in their sideboard as a Cunning Wish target. It also stops Isochron Scepter and random things, as well.
And now for the obligatory tournament report closing section:
-Andrew Benanzer, for playing the worst deck I’ve ever seen, but at least coming out of retirement to do so.
-The dude playing the Machinehead deck at the top tables, singlehandedly making my IPA rares worth something.
-Cedric for making the Top Eight.
-Dan Cato for trying to mise a free game win on an extreme technicality. Please with that.
-My deck for it’s Top Eight performance.
–Stephen Menendian for not bringing a Type One deck to the PTQ to play against me.
As usual, direct comments to the forums and/or kyle dot boddy at gmail dot com!