Weapons of Mass Distraction #113: Random Like the Die Roll

Regionals musings a la Larry King, some deck thoughts, and a new format to appease the casual players, too!


Before we talk about Regionals, I want to introduce a new feature here in my rambling column. About a year ago, I wrote an article about Reverse-Ferrett Engineering; that is, how to go from being a competitive no-neck to a back-to-the-Portal-roots casual player. Part of my personal RFE was to find a casual environment in which to play, and I did eventually find that place. The shop runs an Arena league on Monday nights, and a multiplayer league on Friday nights; those both count as casual formats to me. And the Arena league isn’t just straight Type 2, either – so in the interest of variety, I’m going to devote a little time each week to the format du jour. This week: Type I Creature Feature.

Type I, in this case, isn’t the high-dollar win-on-turn-1 environment that immediately comes to mind – it’s more of a setting where the younger kids can play all the cards they own if they want to, without having to look at the little expansion symbol. And as Oscar Tan says, even I can play Type I, although somehow I don’t think he means like this. The”Creature Feature” in this case means that decks can only contain five non-creature, non-land cards.

So what would you play?

Off the top of your head – go ahead. We won’t laugh. We won’t belittle your PTQ winning streak.

Well, maybe Rizzo will, but what do you want from the guy who refers to Magic cards as”sexual”?

The first thing you have to be able to deal with: Worship. All it takes is one, and you’ll be left waiting for your opponent to run all of her little men into your blockers. Without an answer to Worship, your little creatures pretty much do nothing.

The second thing you should find a way to deal with: All those creatures! Since it is a creature feature, your opponent’s going to be spitting out just as many guys as you will be. So you need either a way past her guys, or a way to kill ’em dead.

Here’s a deck that I have run in the past, and might build again for the upcoming Monday:

4x Flametongue Kavu

4x Mire Kavu

4x Sexual Chocolate (Who calls him that? I need to do some Reverse-Rizzo Engineering)

4x Goblin Legionnaire

4x Shivan Emissary

4x Phyrexian Rager

3x Skizzik

2x Pyre Zombie

2x Crypt Angel

4x Fervent Charge

1x Worship

4x Ghitu Encampment

4x Urborg Volcano

4x Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

4x Caves of Koilos

2x Mountain

6x Swamp

Not a horrible deck; most of the creature removal is in the creatures themselves, and the Fervent Charges are really just in there to make for a quick win (before the opposing Worship itself can come out). But this deck has lots of room for improvement, what with the new Nightmares

Any other ideas, feel free to email ’em to me. I usually build two decks per week, so if any of you want to relax and not think about Regionals for twenty minutes, drop me an email.

Regionals (Really)!

… Well, before we start that, let me also take a minute and mention that the next Legends of the Five Rings expansion is coming up soon. For those of you not up-to-speed on L5R, it’s a CCG based in a faux-feudal-Japan setting, with each”color” being represented instead by warring”clans.” It’s put out by Alderac Entertainment Group, the same people that do Warlord and used to do Doomtown and 7th Sea.

There are quite a few things that set L5R apart from Magic. The clans play a major part in it, simply because (a) choosing a clan is almost directly related to the type of person you are, and (b) once a player chooses a clan, they tend to play it almost exclusively until it loses all tournament viability. For example: Do you relate to the honorable samurai, the warrior who stands on the fields of battle to defend the honor of the Emperor? Then you would love playing the Lion. Do you prefer instead to muck about with powerful magics? The Phoenix are probably for you. Do you talk in riddles that make no sense, or have lots of tattoos? Then you are a Dragon, my friend. Or perhaps you prefer to not bathe and be uncouth, in which case you’d be a Crab.

The thing is, once a player chooses a clan, they start to identify with it to the point of insulting the other clans. In case you couldn’t tell from the above statements, I am almost exclusively a Lion player. I resisted saying”if you’re a yellow underhanded silver-tongued wimp who prefers to duel like a sissy instead of getting their hands dirty in real battle, you’re a Crane,” so I’m showing some control. The guys at AEG know this – and instead of trying to suppress it, they actually foster it! Their tournaments are full of challenges and gauntlet-tossing, sneaky underhanded Scorpion dealings, and all sorts of intrigue. That, to me, makes the whole experience fun.

The other cool thing that L5R seems to specialize in is storyline tournaments. Imagine if during the whole Invasion Block Constructed season, Wizards was counting how many players showed up with Phyrexians in their deck versus how many people showed up with Weatherlight crew members in their deck, and decided how the whole Urza-Yawgmoth war turned out based on those numbers. Or if, during Invasion Sealed, they had counted how many qualifiers each color won, and then made a powerful card in Apocalypse related to that color. That’s how storyline tournaments work. When a clan wins the storyline tournament, they have a chance to affect how their clan will fare in the upcoming expansions, along with other interesting storyline choices. L5R players can, and often do, directly influence the cards that are printed.

That is pretty cool.

So right – I was going to talk about Regionals before getting off on this topic, and the main reason I wanted to get to this topic was this: What if you had a legendary land that read:

“Tap: After this phase, there is an additional combat phase followed by an additional main phase. Use this ability as a sorcery.”

That’s the new Lion Stronghold.

Again, email me if this interests you and you’d like to see more regular discussion of L5R. I know I enjoy the game enough to talk about it on a regular basis.

And finally we get to…

Regionals (Finally!)

So much has been written to this point that it’s almost as if we’re in a glut, where everyone is pretty much listing everything and recommending nothing. Anyone actively searching the Internet for succinct, in-depth strategy is greeted with a list of decks that might be strong, given any number of factors. There’s no one deck that is being espoused as the reigning champion.

And that’s making it more and more difficult to decide what to play.

Like it or not, the metagame is pretty much defined by the Internet. It’s more of a”quantity over quality” definition, where every ten reports or articles about a certain deck spawns ten or twenty instances of that deck in any given tournament. If more writers sing the praise of Psychatog, then the toothy ‘Tog will be more in evidence. That being said, it seems that one can expect quite a bit of red and green aggression coming up at Regionals, since there are about twenty different variants of that color combination that seem to be taking up virtual space at any given time. And when you factor in R/G’s amazing showing in the foreign Regional tournaments, that makes for a field heavy with elephants and burn.

But that still doesn’t help anyone make up their mind; it’s sure not helping me.

I’ve been playtesting about a dozen decks. I hate this. Last year, I was able to choose a deck a solid month-and-a-half before Regionals, which allowed me to actively playtest and practice with my chosen deck. This year, I’m still trying to choose, even though Regionals is now (by this writing) three weeks away. That’s not making me happy at all. (And now, by the time it’s getting mailed in to the Ferrett, it’s one week away and I still haven’t decided!)

I started out wanting to play something fun, and I started playtesting Battle of Wits. Note that this was quite some time ago, and I haven’t revisited since Toby’s last article on the deck over at the Sideboard. The deck is fun, but I wasn’t sure (a) how well it was going to adapt to the new post-Torment environment, and (b) how I was going to sufficiently randomize 240+ cards for each of nine rounds. Still wanting to play something fun, I switched over to Balancing Tings, which is fun only the first time you can pull off the Balancing Act/Terravore”combo” in one turn; after that, your opponent can pretty much ruin your fun at any given moment. Here’s the deck I’m still looking at:

4x Balancing Act

2x Obliterate

4x Fire/Ice

3x Fact or Fiction

4x Memory Lapse

2x Orim’s Chant

4x Chromatic Sphere

4x Terravore

4x Nimble Mongoose

…oh, you know the rest.

My playtest group suggested including either Overmaster or Insist, and I may try both and see how they work – but really, the deck boils down to one thing: how fast can your opponent get back to two mana to cast Chainer’s Edict (or heck, even one mana to cast Innocent Blood). When the deck originally surfaced in the JSS, it had a lot of success simply based on the surprise factor – no one knew how to sideboard against it or what to do against it, or even what deck it was, in most cases. Now, all it takes is that first land-drop and your opponent will stop playing his game and focus on beating you at yours. And since you usually only have one win condition on the table at any given moment, it becomes a lot more fragile.

So, in theory, that rules out the fun choices. I’m still hanging onto Balancing Tings for the time being, but more and more it looks like it’s a second choice.

The Type II version of PT Junk has been playing well, although I don’t think you can go wrong when every business card you draw is pretty much a bomb. The version I’m playing is less control and more aggressive, so I’ve been stalling out against the control decks in our playtest gauntlet; there’s just no way I can outrun a 50+ swing from Ancestral Tribute before I get milled out, even with two Spiritmongers and two Elephant tokens on the board! But in the same light, the R/G decks can do hardly anything against a Spiritmonger, short of using three cards after some serious sideboarding.

The Metagame Law of the Jungle: Aggro-Control beats Beatdown beats Control beats Aggro-Control… Or something like that. If that’s true, PT Junk may be the way to go in a field dominated by R/G beats.

Or will enough people figure that out, thus making Control the real powerhouse?

I hate playing control, not only because I like to take a more aggressive approach, but also because I think that countermagic is just contrary to the original idea of the game. The game’s about two wizards summoning creatures to fight for them – not about one wizard just stopping everything the other one’s doing.

Richard Garfield does not want you to play control!

Let me add this version of PT Junk, the one that I’m testing out right now…

4x Addle

4x Gerrard’s Verdict

3x Pernicious Deed

4x Vindicate

4x Call of the Herd

4x Chainer’s Edict

4x Spectral Lynx

3x Spiritmonger

4x Nantuko Shade

2x Mystic Enforcer

13x Swamp

3x Tainted Wood

3x Tainted Field

1x Brushland

1x Caves of Koilos

1x Llanowar Wastes

1x Forest

1x Plains

The sideboard’s undecided, but probably will contain Phyrexian Arena (against Control), Compost (against other black decks), possibly Worship (against R/G or Sligh) … I shied away from Mutilate because I think that in this deck, the Deeds are a better reset button – not to mention that half of your creatures can survive it handily. I’m also undecided about the discard spells, wondering if Duress should replace Addle. But this is essentially the deck.

Last but not least, the aggressor in me is also playtesting R/G (instead of beating random people over the head with a meat mallet), and while it is solid, it also plays a lot like Regional Decks for Dummies: Turn 1, play a creature; turn 2, play a creature; turn 3, play a creature; oh hey, turn 4! Play a creature. Okay, it varies a little from that – you might play two creatures on turn four. But it’s hard to ignore a deck that just steamrolls over an opponent who plays a land and says”Go” on any one or two of his turns and can’t produce a reset button before turn six.

4x Call of the Herd

4x Urza’s Rage

4x Firebolt

3x Beast Attack

4x Birds of Paradise

4x Llanowar Elves

4x Wild Mongrel

4x Raging Kavu

4x Flametongue Kavu

2x Grim Lavamancer

9x Forest

7x Mountain

4x Karplusan Forest

2x Mossfire Valley

1x Keldon Necropolis

In the spirit of smashing the dreams of small children everywhere, I ended up taking this deck to Friday Night Magic. The deck played true to form, coming out and smashing mouth in a number of ways, but I didn’t really learn anything new with this deck.

Well, I take that back, yes I did. I learned that second-turn Galina’s Knight is not a happy thing.

I can hear you saying:”Well, all you have to do is block with an Elephant token! Or a Wild Mongrel!” And if I had had those, I can assure you, I would have blocked. The Elephant tokens I was creating (and the Beast tokens in the second game) were getting bounced and two-for-one’ed out of the game just so his Knights (two in each) could swing in for four. Aggro-control beats Aggro. Star-Spangled Slaughter is a deck that I think a lot of people are overlooking right now, and it could be a surprise entity at Regionals.

More Regionals musing a la Larry King:

… Judging from the decklists from the Grudge Match, it looks like Neutral Ground (and thus the NYC Regionals) is Frickin’ Braids Central. B/x Braids decks are making this feel a lot like Necro Summer. Okay, so maybe I have no idea how Necro Summer felt, or if it even was Summer, but I think you get the analogy: Either play Braids, or find a way to beat her.

… Have you ever noticed that Braids looks a lot like Cackling Fiend? I was looking for a card to proxy into a fourth Braids for a playtest deck, and I tend to look for cards of the same type and casting cost… And I ended up pulling a Cackling Fiend to do the duty. I was so amazed at how similar the faces were that I drew goggles and hair on the Cackling Fiend. It’s a striking resemblance.

… My friend Jason has been testing a mono-Black creatureless control deck, and is demanding that someone, anyone, play it at Regionals. So far, everyone’s passed on it, but I think I just might swing into it. I’m not a control player by any stretch – so if you see me down at the 0-3 tables, you know that I ended up playing the creatureless black deck.

… Any deck with more than a splash of black (but that isn’t a Braids deck in itself) has a nice weapon against the Braids deck: Urborg Shambler. It kills Rats and Fiends, Shades and Ichorids, and has a pretty meaty fist to boot. I can’t remember which foreign Regionals sideboard I saw this in first, but it needs to be spread around. Even if he gets Edicted the next turn, he’s done his job if he kills at least one other guy.

… U/w Control making an upswing? I mentioned it earlier in this column, and I think it could make a showing somewhere. Who would have thought, of all the Bursts, that Life Burst would be the one that would see serious tournament play? Er, I guess Aether Burst does, too. Rats. Anyway, I like the idea of using Reborn Hero as a reusable win condition. Like it’s tough for that deck to hit Threshold.

With that, I think I’ve exhausted what minor Regionals”tech” I could pass along. Hopefully the Ferrett has been able to get this up before Regionals actually happens this weekend… If not, I’ll pretend like I wouldn’t have helped any of you anyways.

Until next time,

Dave Meeson

Super — Guy

[email protected]

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