Tribal Thriftiness #34 – Grab Bag

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Thursday, July 31st – A number of small topics, most actually having to do with actually playing Magic, get covered in this week’s column. Where else can you see discussion of Noggles, Woodfall Primus, and the rejuvenating power of Santana?

Lots of little things going on this week … I keep getting chances to play with Eventide in Sealed Deck, so I thought I’d share that story … and added to that I’m playing in an online Standard tournament, so a little bit of a deck idea to go along with the Limited. All this plus the continuation of the CCCP!

And Even More Eventide

Let’s start things off today with more Eventide goodness. I went and played in the local Eventide Launch Party this past weekend. The shop thankfully bypassed the clunky Shadowmoor starter deck and gave us what we were really there for: complete and total Eventide packs.

The nice thing about playing Sealed Deck with only Eventide is that you can, in most cases, build a deck that’s mono-colored with multiple copies of key cards. The problem, however, with playing Sealed Deck with only Eventide is that you will, in most cases, play against other people who have built decks that are mono-colored with multiple copies of key cards. The variance is much less, both for yourself and your opponents, which I think takes some of the playskill out of Sealed Deck. You no longer are able to help your cause by remembering which key cards your opponent has that you need to play around; you now are reduced to guessing how many copies of those key cards there are in his pool.

My pool offered itself up as mono-Red or Red-White, depending how desperately I wanted to splash in the lone Recumbent Bliss I was sporting. I opted to stick with mono-Red just to be able to play more guys, and you probably know by now how much in love I am with Noggles despite them just being middle-of-the-road mediocre. My deck ultimately ran too many of the Mimics and not enough triggers for them – I blame the Mimic Week gimmick over on the mothership for making me think these guys should go into every Sealed Deck no matter what. I think I had two of the Battlegate Mimics, but only three or four other ways to trigger them, and two of the Noggle Mimics with five or six ways to trigger them. I think I would have needed to run all of the deity Auras I had in my pool just to make sure I could trigger them, and then I probably would have had to pick one side or the other, and that would have left me with too few bodies and too many potentially-useless enchantments. I decided to instead stick with the “rule” of playing 16 or 17 bodies instead, and filled it out with Retrace spells like a pair of Flame Jabs and a Waves of Aggression, and cheated on the mana to make sure I had enough lands around to reuse them.

I went 2-2 (which, if you read my Pre-Release story, was a gross improvement) and then bailed to play a little Guitar Hero back at the homestead. Less taxing on my established notions of Magic formats. Plus, I contend that playing Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” will cure most of what ails ya (while being curiously appropriate to this column).

Secret Force: Still Kickin’

I’m playing in an online Standard tournament. Since it’s a fairly small tournament, I decided that I wanted to run something that was a little under the curve, but still gave me a small chance at defending my honor. There’s no reason to run Faeries or Reveillark in a tournament like this. (Not that I could run Reveillark, it looks a bit complicated for my simpleton Magic mind.) I went back and looked through my columns to see if I had anything that might not only be a good deck to run, but also make for some interesting reading. I decided to run the Noggle deck!

Okay, I decided to run Secret Force. The section title was kind of a giveaway.

I took the initial decklist that I laid out in “Timmy!”, and took into account many of the opinions and suggestions that came from the forums. Lots of good stuff, from the introduction of Woodfall Primus to the replacement of Spike Feeder by the pesky and persistent Kitchen Finks. I also decided to include Summoner’s Pact, which would allow me to toolbox some of the “iconic” creatures that I wanted to include.

Here’s the deck as I’m playing it in the tournament:

Rare Cost Summary:
Woodfall Primus (3 x $1.25 = $3.75)
Verdant Force (1 x $2.00 = $2.00)
Cloudthresher (1 x $10.00 = $10.00)
Vorosh, the Hunter (1 x $1.50 = $1.50)
Dramatic Entrance (4 x $1.00 = $4.00)
Summoner’s Pact (3 x $3.00 = $9.00)
Pendelhaven (2 x $3.50 = $7.00)

Having now played the deck in two rounds, here are my thoughts on playing the deck:

Twelve mana accelerants: Yes, that’s a lot. Possibly too many. The original Secret Force ran this many because you definitely want to maximize your chances for hitting Natural Order on turn 3 where possible; we’re targetting the same timeframe for Dramatic Entrance here. So far I haven’t had a problem having the quantity of mana; the problem seems to be the fact that Boreal Druid doesn’t produce Green mana. Boreal Druid makes it hard to cast, say, a second mana accelerant and a Kitchen Finks on the same turn. Someone had suggested Devoted Druid in the forums of the last article, but I don’t really think that’s the right answer… Devoted Druid would be more of a replacement for Wall of Roots, based on casting cost alone. [It does, however, give you five mana on turn 3, all by itself… — Craig, who likes the Druid a lot.] Maybe the answer is Birds of Paradise? I am running Firespout in the sideboard; Birds would give me one more way to hit the Red side if I need it.

Kitchen Finks over Spike Feeder: Same casting cost, same amount of lifegain, but Kitchen Finks are so much more resilient. About the only instance I could see wanting a Spike Feeder might be to either pump up an existing fattie that one point of damage extra, or to play Stupid Persist Tricks with a reappearing Woodfall Primus.

Summoner’s Pact: A total flop. I can see that there’s something magical right at the periphery, but I’m not hitting it. The magic happens when you have Summoner’s Pact and Dramatic Entrance, but no creature that you want to burn a 5cc instant to play for free. Nothing says “sucky” like a Llanowar Elf making a Dramatic Entrance. (“TA DA!” he shouts! And then he dives in front of a Tarmogoyf. But he does it with panache!) I seem to always have Summoner’s Pact without the Dramatic Entrance, which means that I could fetch something out, but I wouldn’t be able to cast it in the next turn (because my mana will be paying for the Pact) … maybe I’m just playing it wrong. This also means, unfortunately, that the toolbox has shown limited functionality. I still DRAW singletons now and again, but I’d almost rather that the singletons were a foursome of Just One Thing. Probably Verdant Force.

The storage lands: Good in theory, but I’m wicked horrible at remembering to charge them up. That’s not totally true. I do pretty good when I’m playing Dragonstorm. But I seem to be using all my mana every turn, which doesn’t leave much time to charge up storage lands. They were put in because I wanted the option to hardcast a fatty; with the amount of mana dudes I’m packing, the storage lands would be much better (again) being something that produced Green right away. The budget answer here is, of course, Forest, but depending on sideboard choices, you could be happy running something produced Red. For the Firespouts. Again.

That’s fine, Dave, I hear you saying – but is it fun to play? Oh yes. Oh yes, it’s fun to play. And I’m 1-1 after two rounds, so there’s at least some small victories to be had with 6/6 and 7/7 monsters. I’m looking forward to trying out Primalcrux and/or Sapling of Colfenor in the deck, should it keep its current “toolbox” configuration.

CCCP: The White Spells

The purpose of the CCCP project is to build a Cube based as much on the “Greatest Hits” of commons as possible, without necessarily excluding amazing uncommons as well. 50 cards in each color, 20% uncommon, 60% creatures.

The general feeling from the responses I got regarding the White spell selection for the CCCP was that it contained a disproportionate amount of removal. While I concur that it was an unusually large number of removal spells, the White commons and uncommons that I personally remember best appear to be removal cards. I mean, we could put in stuff like Mending Hands to better identify what white is about in general, but the honest truth is (1) it would get picked 15th in most drafts and (2) it would sit in the sideboard, even in those decks that drafted it 15th. While I want to keep the cost down by focusing on commons and uncommons, I don’t want to force my friends into playing junk – that seems contradictory to the whole point of a Cube.

Here are the twenty White spells I’ve decided to include:

1cc: Bandage, Erase, Holy Day, Holy Strength, Land Tax, Mana Tithe, Swords to Plowshares
2cc: Disenchant, Last Breath, Momentary Blink, Raise the Alarm
3cc: Dismantling Blow, Empyrial Armor, Kor Chant, Oblivion Ring
4cc: Breath of Life, Faith’s Fetters, Gerrard’s Wisdom
5cc: Second Thoughts
6cc: Spectral Procession

Still has a good number of removal spells, but I think it’s varied enough to fill a number of possible responsibilities that white should fulfil in a draft deck.

The next task before you is to provide opinions and suggestions on Blue creatures to include. A quick pass through the spoiler, not conclusive mind you, but here are some quick ideas:

1cc: Cursecatcher, Flying Men, Manta Riders, Mothdust Changeling, Spindrift Drake
2cc: Aquamoeba, Cloud of Faeries, Merfolk Looter, Plaxmanta, Spiketail Hatchling, Voidmage Apprentice, Waterfront Bouncer, Willbender
3cc: Cloud Spirit, Court Hussar, Man-O’-War, Merrow Reejerey, Mistblade Shinobi, Ophidian, Phantom Warrior, Prodigal Sorceror, Spiketail Drakeling, Suq’Ata Firewalker
4cc: Ninja of the Deep Hours, Thieving Magpie, Wonder
5cc: Air Elemental, Mulldrifter, Riftwing Cloudskate, Riptide Shapeshifter, Spiketail Drake
6cc: Brine Elemental, Vedalken Dismisser

Seems to be quite the glut in the middle there at three mana. What do you think? What else would be good in a Cube? Which of these guys absolutely must be in there? Put your thoughts in the forum.

Next week: Grand Prix: Denver is closing in, and even though I live within an hour of the site, I won’t be playing… I’ll be in Vegas. It was a hard choice. It took me all of five minutes to make. But you know, that won’t stop me from looking at what Eventide is doing to the Block Constructed format. By then, we should have some statistical evidence to take a look at, maybe even some decks, and if nothing comes up, we can always see how many 4/4 lifelinked guys we can attack with on turn 2.

Until next week!