Urza’s Mad As Hell And He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore. Well, Yeah He Is.

I miss netdecks. Boy, would they make testing IBC easier.

Yes, I’m really going to list the entire contents of my Foily Five. And it will be very annoying for everyone actively involved, and perhaps those who are only passively reading over your shoulder.


1x Nightscape Familiar

1x Soul Feast

1x Bone Shredder

…only another 265 cards to go…

1x Blazing Specter

1x Urborg Emissary

1x Subversion

Wow, this is too annoying, even for me.

Hey, guess what? IBC doesn’t have any legitimate Net Decks, and likely won’t until a Pro Tour takes decks encased in fancy-pants ribbons and smashes them on the edge of a boat, thereby christening the first wave of Net Decks.

And it’s scary without them.

Net Decks are so very evil, but if ever I could find a justification for the usage of said decks from the bowels of Hell, IBC is it. Here we are, the little people, parading around with our nutty creations, squaring off against other people’s nutty creations, and we are all alone, for there is no patron saint of the metagame to give us this day our daily beats.

How does one prepare in an environment that has not yet stagnated into rock/paper/scissors? Well, it ain’t easy, chiefs – and that is certainly a good thing. There is no gauntlet, no Dojo effect – there are no limits to how far your melon can take you. Well, your melon and a big bankroll.

Part of me wishes there were Net Decks; at least we’d have an idea of what the hell to think about beating or joining (and I’d have plenty of targets lined up in the crosshairs of my own inadequacies). While there are established archetypes, it’s far from a given that any versions will be homogenous within a few cards – they be all over the place, yo. So where does that leave the itinerant deckbuilder?

Do you build the best-known archetypes as best you can and hope they are good enough that your test results are not skewed by shoddy deckbuilding? Probably. In fact, that’s about all that you can do: Get ’em close and go with what you know. I guess it’s not that different from having the card-by-card versions of the Pro Tour Top Eight at your disposal. Then again, it sure is.

After week three, or four, or five, or wherever the hell we are now, there are a few creams that have made their way to the top: Anything with”Mar” in the deck name, most decks with Mystic Snake that are less than four colors, and… Hmm, the list sort of ends right there. We could add Domain and R/G beats, but I bet very few of us have faced either of those decks during the last week of qualifiers. While R/G should beat control (which seems to be all the rage, despite them rarely using Urza’s Rage), it doesn’t. Yet. And that baffles me, and perhaps a few others.

Where the hell is Domain? Wizards made it quite clear: If you are willing to play with five colors, we’ll make it worth your while. But not many are listening, even though it’s been quite a while since a guy could realistically build a competitive deck that utilized virtually every bomb in the entire format with little trouble.

Ditto for W/B Control. When the Apocalypse spoilers started to see daylight, this was the deck that everyone was going to play or be prepared for. Heck, it practically built itself, and though it was chock full o’ rares (as opposed to all the other zero IBC decks that aren’t), the power of the deck that had yet to be built in real life was already poised to dominate IBC. But, reality, along with the Maiden (and David Phifer), is a jealous lover.

How can U/R/B not just absolutely wreck the format? With equal access to as many counters as any other archetype, amazing burn, ridiculous card drawing and search, and the only mana acceleration in the block that regenerates, this bad boy should be crushing dreams with a vengeance. But it’s not. Although, if I have my way, it will.

Here’s the problem: Too many bombs. Here’s another: Too many damned good cards that aren’t really bombs, but are close enough to fake it. And every color (even green, sort of) has them – in spades. And every archetype is filled to capacity with bombs and near-misses, so much so that a few bombs are destined to ride the pine simply because they aren’t bombastic enough.

Who am I kidding?”Too many bombs” is not a problem. Neither is”too many damned good cards.” Maybe there are just too many solid options, for now at least. If that’s the biggest problem Magic faces in the next year, then carrots and good Beckys for everyone, especially those willing to swing from these.

But it’s so damned hard without Net Decks! Love ’em or hate ’em, they make things easier on everyone. Fires makes your life easier because you know it’s out there, and those who chose to ignore the possibility – nay, the likelihood – of getting smacked in the face for just enough to kill you on turn five do so at their own risk.

What is the Fires of IBC? What’s the deck that you’d better have a plan to beat? There isn’t a real plan, really, except for preparing to sit and watch as a 2/2 gets dropped and protected for ten turns. But there are handfuls of decks that could fill that role quite nicely. Sort of. And they all fit into one category (so far at least): Control. While the word”tempo” has never seen so much print as it is currently enjoying, control is the measuring stick. In other words, if you wish to succeed in IBC, prepare for games to last well past ten turns, and you’d better pack Gainsay. Or so it seems.

Even though some of the quicker decks (here we go with that”tempo” word again) can theoretically end your life by turn five, the match that ends in ten minutes is more the exception than the norm by a great margin. But it does seem that you can tell who will win on about turn six – it just ends up taking another fifteen turns to prove it.

R/G can be devastatingly fast, as can U/G, but”can be” rarely means”always is.” There is going to be a window of opportunity for the control decks to, well, take control… And unlike MBC, they can do it on turn two with Prohibit and Evasive Action. Despite what many of us used to think, dropping Blurred Mongoose on turn two (while it does set a ten-turn clock and indicates aggression) is not the end of the world. Though many of the tempo decks seek to drop a turn-two bear and protect it for ten turns, it seems as if that strategy has many holes – if that’s the ultimate strategy for the deck, that is.

In addition, many dedicated control decks sport their own bears. From Meddling Mage and Galina’s Knight to Spectral Lynx, Goblin Legionnaire = and the sexual chocolate himself, Nightscape Familiar – control decks have answered the”what do you do about a turn two Mongoose?” question with”Um, I do this, chief.” Furthermore, their bears do much more than make sure they actually make it into play; their bears are just better. And will win the race of the 2/2s. And we know it; thus, we start to play their game.

Suckers, aren’t we?

A few bears and counters vs. a few bears and counters seems to be the tale of the tape of a control on control matchup. He who drops the first bear and resolves the most Fact or Fictions will likely be the one who wins. Maybe that’s an oversimplification, and maybe it’s not, but it sure seems odd that the best”I win and you, um, just lose, chief” card of the block doesn’t automatically make the cut in all control decks. Yeah, I mean Urza’s Rage.

If ever there was a card that threw a gigantic monkey wrench into the control vs. control matchup, it’s Urza’s Rage. Ten to the dome. Would that be more of an advantage than 4x Gainsay? At least one player, and usually both, and probably even the guys watching, can be counted on to reach twelve mana in the control vs. control match, but the guy who has two red sources would appear to be in the driver’s seat. At least with all things being equal, that’s the guy I’d bet on. Even in a”quick” control vs. control match, a Rage here and there adds up in a hurry.

Know what? I’m quite ass – um, I mean”gluteal” – at writing strategy, and doubly so for IBC, but Rage is, um, a pretty good card. I think. So put some in your deck. But watch out for lifegain, which (since Wizards actually made lifegain that even Anthony Alongi would approve of) is becoming all too prevalent.

Dromar’s Charm – choose one:

Counter target spell. (sounds pretty good)

Target creatures gets -2/-2 for a little while (also sounds good)

Gain five life. (fair)

Everyone will say that they are mostly concerned with the counter part, but those who are not ashamed to admit that they wax a dude here and there still outnumber those who admit to gaining five life, except in the case of a dire emergency.

Oh, and the card has blue and white in the cost.

Absorb – Dude, um, NO! Incidentally, I’m at twenty-three.

Utter sickness. Hi, I have eight hard counters in my deck; let’s just ignore the fact that I can also gain thirty-two life with said counters if the need arises.

Rage isn’t looking so hot now, is it? Especially since by the time you reach twelve mana, your opponent (in theory at least) could be telling you that you need to find and kick all four Rages to win.

And they don’t even use Reviving Vapors. Or Angel of Mercy.

How To Not Ever Lose To Damage, But Probably Deck Yourself In The Process.dec:

4x Absorb

4x Dromar’s Charm

4x Undermine

4x Fact or Fiction

4x Reviving Vapors

4x Gerrard’s Verdict

4x Death Grasp

3x Angel of Mercy

2x Atalya, Samite Master

2x Gerrard Capashen

1x Yawgmoth’s Agenda

24x lands

I am not a human calculator, but I’d venture that this deck could easily gain upwards of a hundred life; slap down Agenda and, well… Congregate doesn’t look so cheesy anymore. Of course, one could take out the Undermines and replace them with another cute little life gainer, such as Rewards of Diversity, Soul Link, Stormscape Master, or even Reviving Dose for fun.

If you splashed a little green for Symbiotic Deployment or Elfhame Sanctuary, you could theoretically either draw out every game or deck your opponent while sitting on 120-odd life.

Oops – Heroes’ Reunion is green, too!

Or this:

Rancor Was Okay, But It’s No Cloak.dec:

2x Death Grasp

3x Sterling Grove

4x Soul Link

1x Necra Sanctuary

4x Armadillo Cloak

2x Wax/Wane

2x Charging Troll

4x Noble Panther

4x Kavu Titan

4x Thornscape Familiar

4x Nomadic Elf

4x Spectral Lynx

22x lands

Heh. Go ahead and laugh, but someone, somewhere, will beat you with a deck like this in a PTQ. Although it’ll probably be in the first round, so you’ll have plenty of time to make up the lost ground. And yeah, this deck really wants Heroes’ Reunion, but there is already so much, um,”quality” lifegain – maybe in the sideboard? Think of how much fun it would be to watch your opponent’s reaction when they finally realize that they are going to lose to Timmy’s Multiplayer Beatdown/Lifegain deck.

Throw both of those decks away and just play Gomar. Or Nomar. Or Mar.

Hello – name’s Reality, sup?

Life gain for the sake of gaining life is ass – um, I mean”buttocks.” Life gain that rears its ugly head in the form of something other than lifegain is good times, and as it turns out is almost respected. There is a reason that cards that say”gain x life and that’s all this card will ever do for you” are stuffing the ten-cent bin: It’s ’cause they suck.

Oh, ‘cept for Gerrard’s Wisdom. Okay, maybe Peace of Mind back when Trix was the shizzou.

And perhaps Drain Life, Death Grasp, and Armadillo Cloak are fine as well. Know what? Peace of Mind is crap forever, because it’s a passive lifegaining tool. So is Gerrard’s Wisdom – but hey, it’s always in little wussy decks that do nothing but try to hide behind annoying blue and white spells until the opponent concedes, falls asleep, or otherwise dies of sheer boredom.

If you want to gain a little life here and there, you’d better be prepared to duck, or at least have a legitimate excuse. Ergo:

“I will Grasp (or Drain) you for a billion, and coincidentally, I’ll gain a billion ’cause that’s what the card says and I’m simply following orders” is acceptable.

“I will smash you in the [edit] [edit] [edit] teeth with my Cloaked Fatty, and since the card says that I must gain life, even though I really don’t want to, I shall go up to a bazillion life” is also acceptable.

This is not:

“Ooooh, there’s like a million creatures in play – anyone mind if I cast Congregate for no other reason than to annoy the living hell out of everyone since I have white cards and thusly have no real way to win apart from stealing all of your d-20s to keep track of my life total?”

Nor this:

“Boy, that creature you have sure is big – I’ll just put this Spirit Link on him ’cause I’m a real putz and would rather have the potential to gain some life than just plain ol’ neutralize him with a semi-real spell like Arrest that might have more viable applications.”

Friggin’ lifegain. It makes a brother go,”What is the point of living in this cruel world any longer?”

It also makes a brother mutter,”Just how much damage do I have to do to you to make you go away?”

Turn 1: Shock you (18)

Turn 2: Incinerate you (15)

Turn 3: Rage you (12)

Turn 4: Ball Lighting (6)

Turn 5: Heh, Shock you and Fireblast you for the win, sucka duck!

Um, I’ll happily take the Shock (4), but I’ll have to Absorb that Fireblast thingy (7). Sorry about making you lose two entire turns.

Lifeboy’s turn 5: Meddling Mage naming, um, you, ’cause you just ain’t gonna win now, although you are certainly welcome to try, for I love an underdog. But it’s only platonic.

Next case – IBC.

You: Okay, all I have to do is sit here, counter, bounce, or kill a few things, and wait to Rage wif da’ kicks twice. No problem.

Turn 1: Opponent plays Coastal Tower.

You: Judge! My opponent is starting with at least 52 life!

Judge: Really, how’s that?

You: 4x Absorb and 4x Dromar’s Charm! That’s how!

Judge: Well, then, you’d better get a move on, slapnuts.

Opponent: Judge, I also have Yawgmoth’s Agenda, so I’m actually starting with 84 life.

At this point, you should just concede because your opponent neglected to mention that he also has Reviving Vapors, which just throws the math way off.

In response, I’ll Vapors and look at land… Land… And… Hey, what do you know? It’s an Absorb! I guess I’ll counter that spell and end up gaining six life! Dude, that could not have been what you were expecting when you were silly enough to cast a spell, huh?

Good luck in the rest of the tourney, chief. You’ll need it.

The deck that gains the most life wins? Maybe not, but it’s one hell of an insurance policy in IBC.

And while no one will admit it, that’s one of the reasons that any deck that contains the letters”mar” will rule the roost, at least for awhile. Oh, and some versions also run Death Grasp.

How funny is that?

Urza’s Rage?

Yeah, he should be pissed.

John Friggin’ Rizzo