So, last weekend was the weekend of the States. Lots of rogue decks, lots of Nether Go, Fires of Yavimaya, and Panthergeddon. I’ve spent some time poring over the reports I’ve seen so far, and it looks like some sort of metagame is starting to form. There seem to be a bunch of decks that, even if not amazingly good, are around in such numbers that you have to be able to beat them. I’ll not go into it here, not because I think it’s super secret (it’s not), but because I’d like to add my own experiences into the mix for you to think about.
This weekend I attended the monthly Bath Magic Type II tourney. I took a deck I hate playing and came in fourth, with a 5-2 record. It’s my best finish in a while, and I think with a better sideboard and a few adjustments to the main deck, I could have placed higher still.
This tourney didn’t really start on Saturday for me, though; it started a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get Team PhatBeats to make a real effort for this tourney, and some of us have played Magic four nights a week in the last few weeks. I’ve built and rebuilt five or six different decks, and helped to tune three or four others. In the final week before the tourney, most of us had decided what we were going to play. Alan and Andy were going to play Fish decks, and I was going to play my green/white Armageddon deck. Paul’s mum and dad were visiting, so he was out of the picture, and Tarik decided he didn’t want to play. We’ve also had a lot of help from Liz over the last few weeks, who’s been one of the main playtesters (with me and Andy), and she decided to take a Type II version of Blue Skies.
So Wednesday rolled around. Wednesday is the club night and I wanted Alan to get some practice in, I also wanted to see if any of the new players wanted to come along and what cards they’d need if they did.
It turned out that Alan was in Barcelona and Tarik was too busy to turn up. There were four or five other people, and we all sat down and played a little Type II. While playing, I sat chatting with them about what decks might be there and an unpleasant idea occurred to me: Nether-Go is going to be popular with the better players, there will be a few fish decks there that will be splashing black and there are going to be one or two really good red/black decks out there.
What does this all mean? Perish. Perish is what it means. If I play green, I’m going to see people playing Perish all day. The other card I didn’t want to see was Wash Out. I know that Armageddon will slow them down, but I decided that playing green might not be the best call in the world right now. Lots of people are talking about all the good green decks out there – that’ll just encourage other people to play even more of the hosers. I started to think about what else I could play and got on with the testing.
Of the newer players there, only Bjorn wanted to play on Saturday. He’d put together a ragtag green/white deck and needed to borrow some cards. Well…”Some cards” is a bit of an understatement; he really needed to borrow half of his deck. I took a quick look over it, and many were commons, while the rest were mostly uncommons with a few rares that no one else was going to play thrown in. Chris and Antoine, two of the club’s more experienced players, also needed to borrow some cards. I took lists from all of them and told them I’d let them know.
This leads nicely onto something that’s been bugging me lately.
One of the things about buying so many magic cards, and being in a team, is that we almost always have the cards we need to build decks. Andy and I have both opened four boxes of Invasion so far, and I’ve spent a lot of time buying cards from eBay. I’m 250 cards away from a complete set of Masques (four of each card). I know that there will be a lot of people out there who’ll scoff at this, and some will think I have too much money to spend, while some will wonder why I haven’t finished yet. My only defence is that Magic is my major hobby. I spend less money on all of my other hobbies put together.
This does have a drawback though. Most of the serious players in Bath know all about me and my desire to finish collecting sets as soon as I can. They know that I have a lot of cards and can probably lend some out. Most of the time I don’t mind, but when I’m lending people almost entire decks – including commons – I start to wonder if I should be charging people for the service I’m providing, I really do. I don’t mind for the team so much, as we’re a team and Andy and I are the card backbone (we have more than the others and lend more cards to Tarik, Alan and Paul), but other people are starting to get on my nerves because they assume I can lend cards to them.
It’s almost become a monthly ritual:”Ask Jim, he’ll lend you the cards.” Even people I don’t know ask me for cards. I’d be interested to know is this is a local phenomenon, or if other players with lots of cards get this too.
Back on the tourney trail…
I spent lots of time thinking about what to play, and came to the decision that I couldn’t take a deck that I had just picked up two days before the tourney. I’d do better with one that I’d played with a lot, even if it was a green deck and people played maindecked Perishes.
I hadn’t been playing just that deck. I’d also been playing our test decks and the best of these was the White Weenie deck I’d put together. It could cope with the Fish decks, cope with Blue Skies and most of the time cope with green (unless they had too many tramplers). We’d also added a few cards to help it cope with random decks. I decided to play it.
It was a tough choice. I don’t like playing White Weenie. Yes, it takes more skill than most people realise. Yes, it’s a strong deck. It just doesn’t excite me. There’s no real ‘killer cards’ that scare your opponent, you just search out another creature at the end of their turn. On the other hand it was a deck that I’d play tested with all through the Masques block (pretty much) and Type II for the last year as well as the two or three weeks testing we’d done with Invasion.
Thursday I got an email from Alan. He was back in the country and wanted to know what deck to play. I told him that it didn’t really matter if he didn’t get at least one night in practicing with it. He could take a highlander deck or a highly tuned Type II and he’d do just the same and end up last. Alan reluctantly agreed and we decided to meet up on Friday to get some play testing in.
Andy rang and said the he wanted to finish building his deck and put a
sideboard together. I suggested we all meet up on Friday night.
Friday, I got a call from Tarik.
“When you getting back home?”
“I dunno, sixish?”
“Right, don’t get any food – we’re going to order Chinese.”
I got home and people started to turn up. Alan, Andy, Liz showed up for testing. Pretty much all of us love Chinese food. One of my goals in life is to be able to eat Chinese whenever I like – which involves a lot of spare cash, believe me.
We started looking at the decks. Liz’s was mostly made up and just needed a sideboard. Andy’s needed a few rares and a sideboard, while I only needed to build a sideboard for mine. Alan’s needed a lot of work. He’d put together a version of Evil Fish. We playtested for a couple of hours, and he was very unhappy with it. We decided to change it over to Gold Fish, Jay Schneider’s Fish deck. This did mean lending Alan a lot of cards – but he’s been in Australia for six months of this year and he can’t find them all yet. That’s about as good an excuse as you can have in my book.
Then Tarik wondered in and asked for his deck.
Now, when someone’s told me they’re not playing, I kind of take them out of the equation. If I have cards to lend people, I work on a team-first basis and Tarik had been taken out of that.
“What d’you mean where’s your deck, you’re not playing tomorrow?”
“Yes I am – I changed my mind.”
The only deck we had left over was Nicholas Labarre’s discard deck (from Star City, no less). Tarik had played it a little and really liked it so he was happy to play it – it just needed a sideboard.
All four of them wanted to play Wash Out and three of them wanted Perish. I just don’t have sixteen of all the cards – maybe I should – but we had real problems getting so many uncommons together at a moment’s notice. I think we used my four, Andy’s three, and three from Tarik in the end.
Before we got too bogged down, I started nagging to get the Chinese in. It was around 9:30 p.m. by now and I was very hungry. Tarik and Chris went to get it, and left the four of us playing until they bought it back. We cleared the table and ate.
Chinese is good.
Beer is good.
Chinese and beer and good company? VERY GOOD!
We finally put all the decks and all the sideboards together by around 11:30 p.m., and everyone wondered off. I went over the lists of cards people had sent me, put as many of them in a box as I could get, and went to bed.
Saturday morning, I woke up and decided I needed coffee. There are times when you need a coffee and there are times when you need to soak your brain in coffee. Saturday morning was one those soak days. I’ve often wished for a little flap in my head that I could pour coffee straight into. It’d probably kill you, but you’d be awake! People have told me that I need to lay off the coffee and some days make me think about that – only for a second, but I think about it.
After a little while my body started working, and I sat down to watch morning TV. There’s a program in the UK called SM TV. It’s supposed to be for kids but there’s definitely an adult undertone to it. It’s very, very funny at times and an hour of spotting hidden gags got my mind into just the right sort of attitude for the tourney. We popped along at 10:30 a.m., thirty minutes before registration closed.
Here’s the deck I registered:
2x Rebel Informer
2x Wrath of God
2x Sheltering Prayers
2x Enlightened Tutor
1x Seal of Cleansing
1x Aura Fracture
1x Light of Day
1x Circle of Protection: Black
I started off with a Rebel deck from the Nationals and added a few cards that I thought would be good against a mainly rogue environment. It’s a much more controlling deck than it looks, often only doing things in your opponent’s turn, for turn after turn. It can be very aggressive, too, though.
Having played this for seven rounds, I know what some of the bad cards are – you don’t have to tell me. Rappelling Scouts are too expensive and sit in your hand a lot. Late game they can be very good, but weren’t good often. The Benalish Trappers helped me out against things with Armadillo Cloak on, and also Jade Leeches – but then again, so would another Parallax Wave or a little more enchantment removal in the main deck. Cho-Manno’s Blessing won me matches, but didn’t help as much as I thought against some decks.
The sideboard was thrown together over the course of a week and kind of works, but could do with a lot more thought. I made a few guesses and thought that there’d be a little land destruction there, lots of black creatures and a few control decks. Armageddon is only in the sideboard because I took a guess that there would be plenty of decks I want to take it out against, and I need the mana for the rebel engine most of the time anyway. There are better cards out there than these for this sideboard: I guarantee it.
So forty players registered and we started the tourney.
Round 1: Mike Thornton
Mike turned up last, with our resident trader Tu. They’d gone a hundred miles out of their way to pick someone up. Because of this, he’d only half-sleeved his deck when we were told to start playing.
Game 1: Mike started off a little slow whilst I saw a couple of 2/2 creatures, a crusade and some of Yo-Mamma’s lovin’. I got him down to five life before he conceded.
Game 2: The game started well for me with an opening hand containing a Steadfast Guard, a Longbow Archer, three land and two Blessings. The next two cards for me were another Steadfast Guard and a third Blessing. I still lost though. In testing we’d found that the Blessings help a lot, but if your opponent keeps playing big creatures and can give them trample he wins. Mike did just that. My life total goes 20, 19, 8, 2, loss. I didn’t concede because I’d bought in Wrath of God from the sideboard just in case – how I wish I’d seen them.
Game 3: Mike’s deck really let him down here, and I beat him up with a few small creatures. He didn’t really see enough land and mana acceleration to enable him to cast all the four and five casting cost spells early enough.
This game really brought home the importance of trample in the green-on-white match up. Without trample, white can chump a few creatures whilst killing some with first strike. The chumps are easily replaced for pretty much free, while your hand remains full of cards. Once the green player starts trampling over things, you take A LOT more damage – and if they can keep the pressure up, they win. This game convinced me that I needed either more direct creature removal (one Rath’s Edge not really being up to it) or a fourth Parallax Wave.
Matches: 1-0, Games: 2-1.
Round 2: Chris Talbot
I’ve never played Chris before, so I didn’t know if he was any good or not. My team mates have pointed out to me on many occasions that when I don’t know if someone is good I’m really nice to them – I let them change the land they’ve tapped, take back plays, and wind back to things they’ve missed. I guess I’m just too nice.
Game 1: Chris laid a plains and a Sergeant. There are one or two decks that could do that at the moment, but I guessed he was probably playing pure white. Pretty early on I noticed a card with a number stamped on it. I have a couple at home that I traded from Richard Edbury – I think they were cards used in either a PTQ or PT, which meant I really needed to respect my opponent. I stopped giving him any leeway straight away; it was exactly the kind of reminder I needed.
We both cast monsters for a while and traded a few until I started to get the upper hand with my Blessings. Eventually I Waved out a few of his and came in for a few turns for the win.
Game 2: I sideboarded out my Crusades and brought in the Wraths and Rebel Informers. My opening hand had an Informer in it and I was VERY glad that my teammate Andy had reminded me to put two in the sideboard, just in case I drew one. My opening hand had three land, a Sergeant, and another 2/2 guy in as well. A few turns into the game, I searched out my second Informer and put one of his searchers on the bottom of his library. I was on four land at this point. In response, he went to get another searcher. This continued for a few turns until I got six land. I did nothing and put both of his searchers on the bottom at the end of his turn. In my turn, I then put the one he’d searched out on the bottom too. From then on, the game was mine. Every rebel he laid out I put back in his library.
Matches: 2-0, Games: 4-1.
Lunch, once again, in the New Inn. Every month we go there and the food is great and it’s nice and quiet (they don’t pay me for saying this, either). I chatted with my teammates: Liz was 2-0, Alun and Andy were both 1-1, and Tarik was 0-2. Tarik wasn’t very happy with the deck. He almost never wanted to see the Charcoal Diamonds, and the Seals of Removal didn’t help him as much as he needed them to. He did have some good ideas about it, though, which we’ve since applied to the deck and it’s winning much more than it was – if anyone’s interested, email me.
Round 3: Simon Cox
Simon has recently started travelling over to Bath with the Welsh contingent and has done very well in the tourneys he has attended. I didn’t know what he’d be playing (I knew that some of the Welsh players were playing Nether-Go), but I knew that he was good enough to beat me if I messed up.
Game 1: I played a few early searchers, but saw no Blessings or Crusades as Simon’s deck started pumping out 3/3 and 4/4 monsters. Panthergeddon is good. He wasn’t playing with any of the new dual lands that I could see, but played with City of Brass to ensure green and white mana without slowing his second and third turn drops. He ran me over.
Game 2: I take out a few cards and bring in the Wraths, figuring that if I can stabilise and maybe get him to overextend himself a little to try and go for the early win, I can Wrath and put out a searcher. It doesn’t work. His deck ran me over again.
After the match I asked where he got the deck; Simon told me that it was his own design. Once again, we see a case of parallel evolution. Simon is not on the net, but his Panthergeddon deck is only five or six cards away from most of those that have been posted on the net and that did well at the States.
Matches: 2-1, Games: 4-3.
Round 4: Liz Keogh
Once again, I’m matched up against a playtest partner. I guess with five of us at an event of forty people I can expect to see one every month, but it’d be nice to have a month where I don’t… just one – please?
Game 1: I start well with some early pressure and Liz plays a few blockers. She didn’t see as much land as she needed, really (we think the deck needs at least four land in play to really work – five is better). She did manage to play a Coastal Piracy, but I let her draw cards and raced her for the win. Her life total went 20, 18, 16, 9, 0.
Game 2: While sideboarding, we chat about what we’re both bringing in. Hell, we’ve played this match up ten or twenty times, so we both know. I know that if she sees the Wash Outs early enough, and has counter backup, she’ll win. She knows that if she doesn’t see it and I get a Crusade and a Longbow Archer, the game is probably mine.
She was manascrewed. It’s a fact of Magic, but she mulliganed a one-land hand and drew six cards with an island and a Brainstorm in. We discussed this later, but she was of the opinion that she couldn’t go down to five against me. She never really got going and didn’t do me a single point of damage.
I’ve always preferred real games against my opponents, a battle of wits and skill, rather than watching them discard spells they can’t play. Against someone I don’t know, though, I’ve learned that it’s just their bad luck and good luck for me. Against a playtest partner, it’s just rough.
Matches: 3-1, Games: 6-3.
Round 5: Alan Dexter
I had joked with Alan at lunch that we’d meet up if he did well, and DCI reporter decided that it was fate. Alan was a little disheartened because we’d played the matchup a lot and he hadn’t won many matches. I tried to pep him up a little by pointing out that he had won some, and we started.
Game 1: We both cast 2/2 creatures and traded for awhile until I played a searcher. I managed to stabilise and then, using the rebels’ amazing card advantage engine, put out enough creatures to beat him down.
Game 2: We both sideboard. I know that Alan has Wash Out, but I can’t remember how many we’d managed to find for him. For some reason I think it’s three, so I decide to be a little careful with my resources.
Alan makes a strong start and I take damage as I build up a few searchers and blockers. I eventually see some more of Yo-Mamma’s lovin’ and shut down his attacks whilst my two, now 3/2 fliers come in again and again for the win.
On a side note, why did they leave Crusade in but take out Bad Moon? It’s a choice I never understood. Think of the difference it would make with Bad Moon in now. Turn one, Swamp, Dark Ritual, Rampart Crawler, Bad Moon – your go… it could be much more fun, and maybe even give you a reason to play Rampart Crawler.
Matches: 4-1, Games: 8-3.
At this point my tiebreakers are the highest at the tourney. I’m top of my bracket. Andy has won his last three matches to put him on 4-1 too, but is at the bottom of his bracket: One of his opponents having dropped out and gone home. This probably means we won’t have to play… fingers crossed.
Round 6: Kurt Bath
I always seem to have to play Kurt near the end of a tourney. He’s one of the best Welsh players and good at both Constructed and Limited. I know that he’s playing Nether-Go with Massacre and Tsabo’s Decree main deck, so I thought the match up might be very bad for me. The only hope I had was that he’d nearly been beaten by a counter/rebel deck in the last round.
Game 1: I put down a Sergeant and say,”Your go.” Kurt played a Salt Marsh. I then played a Longbow Archer and came in for one. Kurt played another land. I played a land, a Crusade, and came in for five, and again, and again. Eventually Kurt gets to four mana and casts Wash Out. As he’s tapped out, I cast the Archer and a Nightwind Glider that I’ve drawn and say,”Your go.” If Kurt doesn’t see another Wash Out he’s dead, as he didn’t have the mana for the Decree, nor any Dark Rituals in his deck. He doesn’t. I win.
Game 2: This game looked even worse, more Massacres came in and I brought in my Armageddons. I play some spells and start to attack. In for two, cast another 2/2. Next turn I come in for four and Kurt, as I hoped, tapped out to Recoil my second 2/2. I cast Armageddon, laid a plains and cast a Sergeant. Kurt did nothing and I attacked again. For the next few turns Kurt drew land, but did nothing – and then stopped drawing land. I won.
Matches: 5-1, Games: 10-3
Round 7: Jon Pinder
So, last match of the tourney. At Bath, each table has two games on it. On the top table, there were three White Weenie decks and Andy. Any one of the White decks could win the tourney. My opponent, Jon, has been playing white pretty much since Masques came in. He’s very young, but has performed very consistently at Bath. A match win against me would give him his highest placing.
Game 1: The game started well, with both of us playing Sergeants and 2/2 monsters. Jon came in for more damage, but I started to gain the upper hand by killing more of his creatures every turn than I was losing. Then Jon played a second Crusade, and attacked with everything. I knew he had a Reverent Mantra in hand. After declaring attackers, he cast the mantra to give them all protection from white so I couldn’t block. Jon wins.
Game 2: All the Crusades come out, Wraths and Informers in. The game starts well for me; I search out an Informer and start hiding Jon’s rebels. Jon casts Wrath, followed by another searcher. I cast another searcher and start searching out blockers as Jon casts a Chimeric Idol. Next turn he cast another, followed by another the turn after.
Chimeric Idols aren’t normally a problem for white, but without Crusade I have to double-block them, and my Blessings don’t work. I also didn’t play with as much artifact removal as maybe I should have, so Jon ran me over.
His deck was definitely the best in the mirror match. The Idols are great, and the Reverent Mantras make the win much easier when both players are at a standoff.
Jon was overjoyed. His highest placing in a Bath tournament. I was very happy, too. The playtesting had paid off and I came in fourth with a pile of Invasion boosters.
Matches: 5-2, Games: 10-5.
The tourney was won by John English, playing White Weenie. John’s deck was closer to mine than Jon Pinder’s, as he was playing with Lin Sivvis and one Thermal Glider. He also played with Reverent Mantras, but had Ramosian Rally AS WELL as his four Crusades.
All in all the Team did quite well. Andy came 9th (on the same points as me) and Alan and Liz went 4-3. The only one who didn’t do so well was Tarik, and he picked the deck up the night before!
If I had to play the deck again I’d look at the following factors:
The Rappelling Scouts are too expensive.
The deck seemed to be one land behind where it needed to be all day. I think it needs to go up to 23 land (at least – John English played 25).
More Disenchant-type spells are needed, maybe four maindecked.
Reverent Mantra is very good in the matchup – possibly better than the Informer.
The sideboard also needs a lot of work as I didn’t use quite a lot of it. On the other hand, I still think it’s very good against certain types of decks.
So, look out for White Weenie. Okay –Massacre, Tsabo’s Decree and Wash Out are all out there, but so what? They have to draw them and then cast them. Crusade mostly counters the Massacre, the Decree is very expensive, and Wash Out? Just recast as much as you can the next turn.
Even so, I still hate playing White Weenie and am keeping an eye out for something fun and reliable to play. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.