Tribal Thriftiness #24 – Cooling Off For Summer

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Thursday, May 22nd – Just like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince taught him, Dave is cruisin’ by at two miles an hour, so everyone can see him, enjoying a couple of cool control options in the bright sunlight of summertime.

It’s almost summer. Actually, it may be summer in your neck of the woods by now; it was almost ninety degrees here in Colorado on Monday, and hot days lead to warm nights and sleeping with the windows open and the fan blowing on you… all I need now is my mom to enter in the middle of the night and turn off the fan to save electricity, and I’m back in my childhood. All I need is for my wife to start laying out the linen shirts, and it will be summer, full-on.

Let’s cool things off a little. Grab yourself a tall glass of lemonade or, if you are of proper age, your favorite adult beverage, and let’s get frosty.

The Impetus, Part One: Regionals Are Coming

Regionals are just around the corner here in the United States, and even the meagerly competitive Magic players (like yours truly) start contemplating whether or not Regionals could be the start of being truly competitive in Magic. These are the people who do well at Pre-Releases and are middle-of-the-pack or better at PTQs, and who are looking for one tournament to catapult them into the next level.

I haven’t played in a real Regionals in a few years. The last couple of years, I played in the U.S. Regionals For Military Overseas, which had staggering turnouts of 14 and 15 people. And no, I could not make Top 2 in a 15-person Regionals to get an invite to Nationals. The last time I saw a Regionals event inside the contiguous forty-eight, we had to split the Regionals in Neutral Grounds into a second (and eventually third) floor in the building, just to fit everyone. The last Pro-level event I played in was GP: Amsterdam earlier this year, with 1300+ people.

I’m hoping Regionals will fall somewhere in the middle of those two, in terms of attendance.

I’ve been going over the regular candidates, trying to decide on a deck. Faeries here, Elves, what have you. I took a look at the lists from the recent Star City 5K event (and you should too, if you haven’t), but nothing really stands out. No offense to the Faeries, but the deck seems kinda … weiner-y. I think I was raised (Magic-wise) in one of those “your turn is your turn” households, and having an opponent do everything on my turn takes me back to the days of playing against Counter-Phoenix and having everything countered by the 20-some counterspells in those decks. That just seems like a jerkbag move, and not what I want to do. I want to stay true to what little Magic heritage I have left. What I really want to do is to make big creatures and just pummel my opponent in the face.

Or, alternately, cast spells that pummel my opponent in the face.

The Impetus, Part Two: Being Corrupt

Shadowmoor brought back one of the great finishers available to Black mages: Corrupt. Sure, it costs six mana, and sure, it’s a sorcery, but the lifeswing is always huge, especially in a mono-Black deck where it belongs – you’re looking at at least a twelve-point swing from each Corrupt. When Torment was the hot commodity, our mono-Black control deck ran Mirari just so we could Corrupt more often than was allowed by law. That’s how good Corrupt is.

Similarly, there are now a great bunch of burn spells available, and this is especially attractive from a budget standpoint, where the good burn spells are common and uncommon. There are so many burn spells that you could, in fact, run a deck of nothing but burn spells, and probably fare all right. Red also has access to the best non-rare board sweepers, in case the numbers get out of hand on the other side of the board.

So now to get to the frosty part.

The Payoff… Well, Sorta

Let’s start with mono-Black control. Ideally, you need some early defensive creatures to hold guys like Tattermunge Maniac and Keldon Marauders at bay until you can get yourself set up. Green has Wall of Roots for this purpose – but if you’ve ever looked at a list of cheap Black creatures with a nice toughness, you know that the list is… well, a little short. Ashenmoor Gouger defeats the purpose wholesale by not even being able to block. Hidden Horror requires you to discard another creature card, not exactly a sure thing in a control deck. And Doran, while being Black, is also a couple of other colors.

It was about this point in the list that I remembered Blue/Black decks using Phyrexian Ironfoot as early defense. He definitely holds off 3-power attackers, kills most of them, and plays both offense and defense provided you hold up a mana to untap him. And he’s what ultimately led me to writing this article about “snow control decks.” I certainly took long enough to get there. My foreshadowing skills, they are not what they used to be.

Rare Cost Summary:
Ghastlord of Fugue ($3.00 x 2 = $6.00)

The problem with mono-Black control, from a budget standpoint, is that you really need Damnation. Damnation is one of the “staple” cards that are going to always be good in a lot of formats, and every budget player should be striving to acquire them. I also think they’re a good candidate for future base-set inclusion, which makes them even more useful to the average player. So if you have them, squeeze them in, even if it’s only a couple. Beseech the Queen will help you find them when you need them.

The budget version of the deck tries to make up for it by using a lot of targeted removal. There are 20 cards in the deck that kill stuff, and the Distresses try to complement that and take care of things you can’t actually kill, like Bitterblossom or Loxodon Warhammer.

I like having a big finisher in my control decks. Here I’ve chosen Ghastlord of Fugue, who has an incredible evasion ability and prevents your opponent from holding back any tricks and bluffing you once you have some measure of control. I also like Midnight Banshee ($2.50), whose ability is relevant against everyone except Faeries and those darned Bitterblossom tokens.

Rares you can add, if you have them: There are some finishers in mono-Black that could find a place in this deck – guys like Korlash, Heir to Blackblade ($6) or Demigod of Revenge ($7.50). Unfortunately, they really only work best if you run four of them. You can try Thoughtseize in the Distress slot, but only if there’s not a lot of burn in your area…

Snow Red

… which is a nice segue into the Snow Red Control deck portion of our article. Skred Red has been a deck archetype since States late last year, relying on the power of Skred and Stuffy Doll ($6) to provide a defense that could turn into a win condition. Unfortunately, Stuffy Doll has turned out to be slow in the current environment … but that doesn’t mean Skred isn’t still a heck of a burn spell.

Rare Cost Summary:
Detritivore ($1.50 x 3 = $4.50)
Rimescale Dragon ($1.25 x 2 = $2.50)
Molten Disaster ($3 x 2 = $6.00)
Disintegrate ($1.25 x 2 = $2.50)

The deck is pretty straightforward: Cement your defenses with Ironfoot and Stalking Yeti, using your burn to take out things that might be troublesome. Once you have stabilized the board, suspend a Detritivore and blow up your opponent’s manabase to keep him out of the game.

And if you’ve never frozen things solid with Rimescale Dragon, you haven’t been having fun playing Magic. Okay, that may be a little over the top, but Rimescale as a finisher gives you a potential way to deal with late-game creatures that you just might not be able to handle with straight burn. Of course, with Skred in the deck, that likelihood diminished somewhat.

The Sulfurous Blast maindeck is a concession to Faeries, the one deck that you can’t effectively block with Ironfoot and the Yeti. A suspended Detritivore also wreaks havoc on them, since they rely so heavily on non-basic lands – the trick is surviving until you can suspend a Detritivore that will have an impact.

Rares you can add, if you have them: We’ve already talked about Stuffy Doll. You could use Greater Gargadon ($6) as a finisher option over Rimescale Dragon.

Snowed In

Despite being the proverbial “old man” in Standard (Coldsnap is the oldest expansion currently legal), there’s still some mileage to be found in the mechanics that Coldsnap brought us. Between Mouth of Ronom and Phyrexian Ironfoot, you have the start of a fair control suite designed to fight some of the aggressive creature-rush decks that are popular in Standard nowadays.

Next week, I’ll continue looking at Coldsnap mechanics and bring you my Relentless Rats / Thrumming Stone deck.

Okay, I keed. Hope you enjoyed your adult beverage.