Wood Is Go(o)d

I organized my first Magic tournament last Wednesday. Well,”organized” might be overstepping a little. I had contacted Ballpark Cards in San Francisco to see whether they still ran weekly Type 2 tournaments as their website said. The manager, Matthew Scott, told me that the website hadn’t been updated in literally years (“how did you find…

I organized my first Magic tournament last Wednesday. Well,”organized” might be overstepping a little. I had contacted Ballpark Cards in San Francisco to see whether they still ran weekly Type 2 tournaments as their website said. The manager, Matthew Scott, told me that the website hadn’t been updated in literally years (“how did you find it?” he asked in horror), and that the Type 2 Magic tournaments had long-since died due to lack of interest.

When I mentioned the fact that Team Purple Pepper comprised six players, Matthew perked up a little. He said to pick a day and he would see if he could get the few extra players we’d need for a tournament. Our group usually plays on Wednesday evenings and this Wednesday just so happened to be the first legal day of Nemesis, so we picked the evening of March 1st and started beating the bushes for extra players.

Tom couldn’t make it, but Finn had met a guy named Stephan at our last tourney who lived in San Francisco and he promised to come. So after a flurry of e-mails, Team Purple Pepper packed up and headed from all corners of the Bay Area to a small shop near UCSF for card-flipping.


We brought our usual assortment of weird decks, and they seemed especially random because we were using new cards. I won’t get into the other guys’ decks just yet because I ended up playing almost all of them in the tournament. For my part, I decided to try out the Wood deck I first posted a couple of weeks ago.

The Wood deck, unlike any deck I have ever made, managed to split into three distinct decklists after some playtesting. All three use the same”engine” of Exploration, Rofellos, Skyshroud Claim, Yavimaya Elder and a slew of Forests. There’s Weenie Wood (also called”Combo Wood”), that looks to abuse my mana for things like Snake Basket and Natural Affinity in combination with Stampede Driver. There’s also Control Wood, built primarily around Smokestack.

Then there’s Fattie Wood. It uses big creatures. I love big creatures. I played Fattie Wood on Wednesday.


4 exploration
4 rofellos
4 yavimaya elder
4 skyshroud claim

4 squallmonger
4 plow under
4 rushwood elemental
4 desert twister
2 waiting in the weeds

2 dust bowl
4 treetop village
20 forest

4 masticore
4 blastoderm
3 simian grunts
2 tranquil grove
2 woodripper

I won’t go into a card-by-card analysis, since I sorta did that in the previous article. I will, however, talk a bit about each”block” of cards above.

The first block has two purposes: the first is to generate explosive mana. A lot of mana. If I can have a start like: Turn 1, Exploration, Forest, Turn 2, Forest, Forest, Skyshroud Claim, Rofellos, then I have access to twelve or more mana on Turn 3. The second purpose is to squeeze the Forests out of the deck. There is a lot of land in the deck, and while I like having a lot of land on the table, I don’t necessarily want to draw it later in the game. So I thin the deck, thin the deck, thin the deck and hopefully mid-game I am only drawing Business Spells with exactly one gazillion mana to cast them.

The second block of cards are the flexible slots for what to do with all of that fun land and mana. In this case, I’ve chosen to summon huge creatures and spells that do something dramatic. Strangely, the combination of spells in Fattie Wood makes the deck play like a mono-green aggro-control deck. I drop a Rushwood and then protect it via Plow Under and Desert Twister. The Waiting in the Weeds, believe it or not, can be a game-breaker.

The land is less spectacular than you’d think. No Cradles, no Hollows, no Ports, no Rath’s Edge, no Terrain Generators. Just lots of Wood. Forests can be thinned out of the deck, those other lands can’t. So I’ve limited my non-Wood cards as much as possible. Treetop Village is too good not to use, and Dust Bowl is simply amazing with all of the land this deck produces.

Erik Impson keeps telling me to take out four Forests for Land Grant. Other people tell me to play Child of Gaea or Weatherseed Treefolk instead of Rushwood Elemental. Apparently, I’m stubborn.

Anyway, the result is a flexible deck that can decide to play control, land destruction, or beatdown. I like versatility in a deck. I like Fattie Wood.

The sideboard might need some card-by-card explanation:

Masticore – Um, okay, maybe this doesn’t need all that much explanation. Masticore isn’t necessarily good maindeck because the deck empties its hand pretty quickly. But against a weenie deck, the Masticores are so much better than Squallmonger that it makes me want to pee.

Blastoderm – Keep in mind that this was mostly a fun tournament meant to get us all familiar with the Nemesis cards. So I wanted to use as many new cards as possible. Here’s the rationale for Blastoderm:”you know what would suck,” I thought to myself as I flipped through the deck,”having my Rushwood get Treacherous. That might make me cry.” And it’s true. One of my primary goals was to keep my Rushwoods fighting for the home team all evening. Just in case a blue mage tried something nasty, though, in come the Beat-o-Derms.

Simian Grunts – A surprise blocker and mini-fattie against weenie rushes. Especially against Stompy or Negator, the Grunts are fantastic. I also remembered getting beaten by Opposition the week before without an instant besides Brainstorm in my entire deck.

Tranquil Grove – Did I mention I lost to Opposition last week? The loss wasn’t with this deck, but ouch did it hurt my ego. I also saw a fair amount of Replenish wandering around in previous weeks, so I thought these might be necessary.

Woodripper – Believe it or not, this was my favorite game-wrecking card of the whole evening. Woodripper is my new best friend. He’s a fat green Tasmanian Devil, is what he is. As an added bonus, he’s got”Wood” in his name.

That’s Wood. I had only played the deck in one playtest sessions, with Tom over lunch and in my head, so I wasn’t sure the deck was in good enough shape to compete. I was sure, however, that I would be having a lot of fun throughout the evening.

On to the tournament!


Ballpark Cards has a pretty small playing space, and there were lots of itty bitty kids either playing Pokemon or on the networked computers. Team Purple Pepper looked like a pack of giants in there, like someone had put us in the enlarging machine before walking through the door. Disconcerting. We wait around for a few people to show up, sign our names on a list, pay our $6 entry fee and wait for the pairings.

Round 1: Finn, playing Wildfire

Finn didn’t feel comfortable bringing his new W/g Rebel deck, and so decided to play a deck he knew inside and out. I had been thinking that Wildfire should be a pretty good matchup for Wood since I have lots of land.

Game 1: A funny game of equilibrium. I start out with a 2nd-turn Rofellos, a bunch of Forests, and then summon an Elder and a pack of Cat tokens. Finn gets his artifact mana going, in addition to a Voltaic Key. He Fault Lines for one and all of my stuff dies. I have one of those moments after he announces the spell of looking at my Rofellos, Elder and five copper pennies (clever disguises for the Cats) dumbfounded.”That’s so unfair,” I mumble and clear my side of the board. On Finn’s next turn, he does a lot of tapping and untapping and generating mana to drop a Phyrexian Colossus. Whoah Nelly! With the Key on the table it’s looking bad for the home team. I calmly untap, draw a Desert Twister, and cast a mighty tornado at his behemoth. Whew… stability. For the next several turns we draw mana sources. I thin the Forests out of my deck with Skyshroud Claim and play a few Elders who get killed after a few body shots. Finn is getting frustrated because he has three Fire Diamonds, three Thran Dynamos, a Key and a Grim Monolith but nothing to do with all of his mana. I finally get my Villages and Dust Bowl going, then I Plow Under and he concedes.

Out come the Waiting in the Weeds for Woodripper. Then I realize Blastoderm survives Wildfire and I take out the Squalls for the ‘Derms. My deck looks awfully Wildfire-proof after sideboarding.

Game 2: Unlike the last game, this one started and ended in a flurry. I get the super mana start with Exploration and Rofellos. Finn gets a Key, a Diamond and another artifact mana source. He drops a Covetous Dragon, then on my turn I play a Woodripper with four untapped Forests, and calmly remove all three Fading counters to kill all of his artifacts and thus his Dragon. I think Finn has one of those moments of looking at his side dumbfounded.”That’s so unfair,” he mumbles and clears his side of the board. Next turn, and I kid you not, I play Rushwood Elemental, Rushwood Elemental, Plow Under. Finn doesn’t have the mana anymore to play the Wildfire in his hand, so the Rushwoods survive being 4/4 and start attacking on the turn I cast a third Rushwood.

1-0 (games 2-0)

After the match Finn is shaking his head.”That deck…” he kept saying over and over,”that deck is just CRAZY.”

Round 2: Will, playing”14 Forest”

I wrote a bit about Will’s deck last week. Forget the name, which is a long story, because the deck is mono-blue. It’s built around Viseling, Iron Maiden, Indentured Djinn and a bunch of bounce. It’s such a cool deck and I have no earthly idea how I’ll do against it.

Game 1: Will’s deck plays like a dream. I make the mistake of keeping hand without Rofellos or Exploration, which means I basically am playing a deck that can’t cast anything until turn five or six. Will takes advantage and makes me replay my land each turn and bounces my Yavimaya Elder. Eventually he gets out Viseling and an Indentured Djinn while I have a hand of eight cards. My life quickly dwindles to nothing and I can’t find an answer for the Djinn.

Out come the four Squallmongers, Rushwood–I fear Treachery–Elementals and Waiting in the Weeds for Masticores, Blastoderm and Woodripper. I know Will has four Hibernation because I lent them to him, but the Masticore it about my only answer even if Will has decided to play with Treachery. Twisted logic, no? At least he’s got Waterfront Bouncers, Viselings and Temporal Adepts, which are good Masticore-chow.

Game 2: I’ve learned my lesson never to keep a hand without an explosive start. I mulligan to six, then five cards. Thankfully, Will does the same. I keep a hand with Exploration, Rofellos and one Forest. Bleck. Having twenty-six land in a mono-colored deck, though, pays off. I topdeck land for the next four turns and end up having a fairly normal start thanks to Rofellos. Will plays Seal of Removal but I get out Blastoderm and Will can’t stop it as the ‘Derm, Rofellos and a Village keep him on the defensive and run him over.

Game 3: What a great game. We both get going in our usual fashions. I try to cast more stuff than he can bounce but he plays two (!) Hibernation in the early game to slow my Exploration, Rofellos and Elder. Will plays Iron Maiden and I summon a Woodripper to kill the Maiden. To keep from taking the four damage, Will uses his bounce to keep resetting the Woodripper, but in the meantime I have managed to get out thirteen Forests plus Rofellos. Thus when Will plays his _third_ Hibernation after an Indentured Djinn, I have enough land to empty my hand again. Then he plays another Djinn and I get worried. I whip my hands in a frenzy to blow one Djinn away with a Twister, but the other one is eating into my life quickly.

Finally, we are in this position: Will is at four life. I am at four life. He doesn’t have a lot of land thanks to my Dust Bowl and I have a gazillion. He has a Seal of Removal, a Bouncer and a Djinn. I have Rofellos, Woodripper and two newly-cast Elders. I can’t attack and get four damage through, but he’s going to kill me with his Djinn next turn. So I decide on the Quest Topdeck ala Jamie Wakefield. I pop an Elder, thin two land, shuffle my deck, draw a Plow Under. Nope. That won’t do it. I pop the other Elder, thin two land, and shuffle my deck. I’ve already played one Desert Twister, so there’s three Twisters and four Masticore that will save me. Pretty good odds, actually (or at least that’s what I tell myself). I announce to the room that only Desert Twister will save me, because I’m thinking Will might have Annul. The room turns to watch Will cut my deck…

Now, earlier I had been telling Will about this funny guy I played at the last tournament. He cut the deck by counting the top seven cards of my library and putting them on the bottom. Basically, he was denying me my first hand, which I thought was really funny. I must have told that story three times before and during the evening.

…so what does Will do? He takes the top card of my library and puts it on the bottom. That’s his cut. I blanch, chuckle nervously at how clever he is and draw…

Desert Twister. The room explodes and everyone shakes their heads. I Twister the Djinn, then Plow Under Will’s only two Islands so he can’t replay it next turn. He bounces my Woodripper and a Village, so I replay my cards and win the next turn.

It was the most amazing topdeck I’ve ever had, partly because it won me the game, but mostly because of the dramatic flair surrounding the whole episode. Fun stuff, and Will took the outcome really well.

2-0 (games 4-1)

After the match, Finn consoles Will by saying”that’s just what his deck does. There was nothing you could do. That deck is just CRAZY.”

Round 3: Dan, playing G/B Gamekeeper (!?)

Dan’s deck is so cool, I’ll post it here:

“the trick”
4 worldly tutor
4 gamekeeper
2 call of the wild

“the fat”
3 child of gaea
3 thorn elemental
3 delraich
2 volrath

“the safety valve”
4 body snatcher (Dan couldn’t find 4 and used 2 Rancor instead)

“the mana acceleration”
4 birds of paradise
4 vine trellis
4 yavimaya elder

“the land”
3 high market
1 phyrexian tower
5 swamp
14 forest

In other words, the deck works by watching either a Gamekeeper or Body Snatcher die, only to let loose a monster. Strangely enough, the deck also has enough mana acceleration so that midgame it can _cast_ its monsters. A very fun deck, and I’m glad Dan is doing so well at this point. I also think his deck and mine are veeeeery evenly matched since they’re both essentially trying to do the same thing.

Game 1: Dan gets out an early Birds and Trellis, and I get the mad Exploration start. I cast a Rushwood a turn before he gets his fatties started and am able to Plow Under to slow him down. Soon a Child of Gaea hits the table, forcing me to wave my hands again and summon a Twister. Then Delraich comes to play, but by that point my Rushwood is a 9/9 and can easily block it. He plays a Body Snatcher, sacs a Body Snatcher and gets a Thorn Elemental. I’m going to die the next turn, so I attack with my 10/10, an Elder and two Treetops with just enough damage to kill Dan. In truth, I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it ended, but I know I was going to die the turn before I killed him.

Dan decides not to sideboard so I don’t either (what would I put in?). We stare each other down and growl a little.

Game 2: Game 2 is very similar to the first game. We both quickly build mana and then do Timmy, Power Gamer moves. The difference this time is that he decides to go all-out aggressive and put Rancor on his Birds to attack. I’m able to Desert Twister his first monster, and his Call of the Wild too. He activates his Call in response to put flip the top card of his library over and it’s… Thorn Elemental. Ouch. I again have a huge Rushwood and the game again has us deciding who is going to attack for sixteen damage first. On my turn, Dan’s at 13 and I have an attacking 10/10 Rushwood and two Villages with an untapped Elder. He can’t survive the attack and still be able to kill me, so he has to block the Rushwood with the Elemental. He does some topdecking magic, but can’t find an answer and I kill him next turn. Dan never saw one Gamekeeper. Whew.

3-0 (6-1)

Finn looks over.”That just what his deck does! Beware the power of Wood!” I grin a little, since somehow my first match with Finn has turned him to the Cult of Wood. Wood is Good.

Round 4: Stephan, playing Ponza

Poor Stephan. In a rush to get the tournament, he forgot his Elf-Ball deck at home. Thankfully, he has a few other decks around, including a very standard red-LD one. The store was nice enough to lend him the two Mountains he needed to complete the deck, but his sideboard was a patchy mess.

After all that, if he beats me he’ll win the tourney. Magic is so funny sometimes.

Game 1: I play Exploration and start dropping my forest of Forests. He Stone Rains one of them before he realizes how useless that strategy is going to be. I Skyshroud Claim and play Waiting in the Weeds for four Cats. He drops Masticore and starts attacking, but he’s locked from doing anything else with only one card in hand. I keep throwing Cats in front of the Masticore because I have a Squallmonger and want to be up on life. I summon more Cats, six this time, which buys me enough time to Plow him Under and then play three consecutive Squallmongers with his Powder Keg at five counters. He concedes.

Out come two Squalls and Waiting in the Weeds for two Masticore and my Woodrippers. While we’re shuffling, Stephan says”this time I keep the Keg at FOUR counters until you actually play your Rushwood.” He sides out ten LD spells for 10 direct damage spells, including Earthquakes.

Game 2: He gets another Keg, this time set at four counters. I get out both Exploration and Rofellos, so am sitting on more mana than I need. He kills Rofellos before things get too out of hand, but I have an Elder and a Claim able to give me a lot of Wood. I play Woodripper, who uses part of his brief life to kill the Keg at four counters. Next turn, I attack with the Ripper and summon two Rushwood Elementals. I attack for 14 after that and the game is over.

4-0 (games 8-1)

“You can’t beat Wood!” Finn is screaming.”That deck just finds a way to win! Beeeeeeewaaaaare the Woooooood!”

I use my store credit for winning the tournament before we leave to get fun green Nemesis rares. I may have finally embraced the fact that I’m a green mage. I even own foil Forests now.

Because of tie-breakers, Ox placed second with his 8-Forest Stompy deck. All evening people were telling me how explosive his deck was, though I never got a chance to see it in action. I’m betting he’ll want to challenge Wood to a duel. And even though I think he may out-speed me in the first game, I have four Masticore, Blastoderm and Simian Grunts coming in as reinforcements.

Speaking of which, Finn and I played a few fun games with his Suicide Black deck and Wood won fairly convincingly. Unfortunately Perish is a big problem, so who knows what happens in that match during games 2 and 3. I’ve never played a mono-blue control deck with the dreaded Treachery, but I’m hoping that’s what the Blastoderms are for. Combo, on the other hand, is a problem. Plow Under, Desert Twister and Dust Bowl may be enough disruption, but probably not.

Still, for now I’m happy enough with the decklist to leave it alone. Waiting in the Weeds is probably the weak link in this version but I like them so much they’re staying in. The sideboard cards are probably correct, though the ratios can be tweaked. The fact that I put in Blastoderms so often helps me realize they deserve their place. And you better believe that more crazy-Tasmanian-devil Woodrippers are going in there.

All in all, I’m a little surprised to see that Wood *is* actually pretty good, or at least good enough to win a small local tournament. Of course, the real litmus test of my decks is whether they’re fun to play, and Wood passes that test with flying colors.

My advice to you: Embrace the Wood. Play the Wood. Wooooooood.

If you don’t believe me, ask Finn.

Have fun. Questions and comments are always welcome.


Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, Ph.D.
[email protected]
Proud Member of Team Purple Pepper