Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #11A: A Tail of Two Cons, Part 1 – Extended

Peter redesigns David Zadok Stroud’s”Carpe Noctum” deck, defends net decks, and talks about how it did at the tourney. Wow, he can play for real and not just casual?

For Ingrid and me, summer is a time for yard work, home repairs,* and long hours at work. That doesn’t leave enough time for a lot of serious Magic. Ingrid and I skip the entire team sealed season along with all the practicing that leads up to it. However, we do try to attend one or two of the big gaming conventions, like Origins or GenCon. This year, we made it to both.

Origins and GenCon are huge gaming Meccas. Nowhere else on the planet can you see a larger collection of gamers, most of whom look like gamers.** The rest look like Klingons, Cyberpunks, Jedi Knights, druids, or medieval nobles. Just walking through the Con is worth the price of admission – even if you don’t play. But do play; there are always drafts, plus thousands of tournaments in everything from Magic and Pokemon to RPGs like AD&D and Call of Cthulhu to board games like Risk and Monotony (sorry – Monopoly.) At Origins, the area devoted to miniatures gaming alone was larger than a football field. The CCGs and board games had large areas, and the RPGs and LARPs were scattered all over. GenCon was a bit more crowded, but that happens when you get something like 25,000 gamers congregating. GenCon is moving to larger quarters in a couple years – and while I hate to have it move out of Milwaukee, it needs more space.

Both cons had PTQs, but these are huge and generally take all day. Ingrid and I played last year, but this year we decided to spend our time in seminars and role-playing games, and just play Magic in other formats, like Extended and T1, and in the Amateur Championships Origins. We played lots of Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer, AD&D (with sessions under the first, second and third edition rules) and other stuff. We survived several times, died a few times, and saved the world at least twice.

I know you all are reading this for the Magic content, but I have to tell you about this one game. Thankfully, the Ferrett lets me digress like this. I was playing this

<snip, snip – the Ferrett>

Wow, that went on for four pages – sorry about wandering around so, but wasn’t that one of the best uses of blueberries and Superglue ever? Can you imagine the look on the priest’s face? Anyway, back to Magic.

One of the tournaments Ingrid and I decided to play in was Extended format, with the prize being forty dual lands. This was at Origins, which meant that Apocalypse was legal and that Survival of the Fittest was banned. My G/B Survival deck, which had served me so well last Extended season (including second and ninth at consecutive PTQs) was dead and gone. I needed a new deck. Unfortunately, I had almost no time to playtest, and no serious Extended tourneys had occurred (and posted results) to define the new metagame. I played around with fitting Wild Research into Ped Bun/Maher*** Oath. However, that requires going with a heavier commitment to red, and screwing with the mana balance to make that happen. That change also makes a maindeck Crater Hellion more interesting, but all the theory in the world won’t answer the question of whether Spike Weaver or Hellion is better. That takes playtesting, and I didn’t have time for that.

About this time, David Zadok Stroud posted his article on Carpe Noctum, a G/B/W deck based around Academy Rector and Pattern of Rebirth. Here’s his original decklist:

Carpe Noctum, by David Zadok Stroud

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Phyrexian Ghoul

4 Academy Rector

4 Pattern of Rebirth

4 Duress

3 Addle

2 Vampiric Tutor

1 Saproling Burst

1 Phyrexian Plaguelord

1 Verdant Force

2 Confiscate

1 Masticore

1 Aura of Silence

1 Spike Weaver

4 City of Brass

4 Brushland

1 Tropical Island

2 High Market

3 Gemstone Mine

4 Bayou

4 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]

I liked the deck, but thought it had some problems. First of all, it seems too dependent on the combo kill. The combo is great, nonetheless. Here it is:

Turn 1: Forest, Birds

Turn 2: Land, Phyrexian Ghoul

Turn 3: Land, Academy Rector, attack with Phyrexian Ghoul.

If your opponent doesn’t block, he is dead. Here’s how. Before damage goes on the stack, sacrifice the Rector to the Ghoul – the Ghoul is now a 4/4. Remove the Rector to get Pattern of Rebirth, and put it on the Birds. Sacrifice the Birds to the make the Ghoul a 6/6. Activate the Pattern to get another Academy Rector. Sacrifice the Rector to make the Ghoul an 8/8. Remove the Rector from the game to get Saproling Burst. Remove 6 counters from the Burst, to make six 1/1 creatures. Sacrifice them to the Ghoul, making it a 20/20. Put damage on the stack, win, go on to game two.

The problem is, in game two the opponent is going to be gunning for that Ghoul, or holding burn or a Swords to Plowshares to kill the Birds in response to sacrificing the Rector, or something like that. I was also very concerned that the deck would just lose to decks packing counterspells, and since the I guessed that the metagame would be Oath, Stasis and Forbidian, plus some Sligh or Stompy, I expected a lot of counterspells.

David’s tech of Confiscate is great, because when you sacrifice a Rector to fetch it and put it into play, it does not target. That means you can Confiscate a Morphling, even if it has been made untargetable, and you can Confiscate a Pernicious Deed before the opponent has time to trigger the Deed. Confiscate is very good, and David later went up to two maindeck.

In looking at the deck, I was surprised that David’s sideboard was heavily slanted towards Sligh, with CoP: Red and the like, and that he found Sligh a tough matchup. That’s wrong – there is no reason for a G/B deck to have problems with Sligh. He also found Stasis to be a tough matchup, but that is more reasonable. I thought the deck design would be a lot of fun to play, and I had a lot of experience with G/B decks… So I decided to”fix” his design.

Okay; the first step is to solve the Sligh problem. Llanowar Elves are no match for 2/2 Goblins or Shock, so Sligh just runs them over. Wall of Roots, on the other hand, is a really good way to slow up Jackal Pups and Goblins, and Wall of Roots provides mana on its first turn in play and on your opponent’s turn as well. I almost never lost to Sligh with G/B survival, even in all the games of playtesting, if I could get an early Wall of Roots. In this deck, the Wall should let me live long enough to get a Rector or Pattern down, then get Verdant Force. Jackal Pups do not like Verdant Force, and if the Force is with you for more than a few turns, the Saprolings will win the game.

That was a big part of beating Sligh, but I wanted a second string for my bow: Maindeck Worship. Worship stops Sligh and Stompy cold (at least in game 1 – in game 2, Stompy may have Emerald Charm), especially when combined with tough-to-kill creatures like Wall of Roots. I also included an Ivory Mask sideboard.

Wall of Roots does reduce the chances of a turn three kill (it isn’t a turn one drop), but I wanted to de-emphasize the combo and have a better chance of controlling the game, so I made the change. Wall of Roots also helps deal with Stasis, which I figured would be big. Stasis is solid and predictable, which is a big plus in an uncertain metagame. I also maindecked one Quirion Ranger, to give me another one drop and to let me untap the Mana Birds or an attacker, even under Stasis and Kismet. Quirion Ranger also helps with mana problems early, so it’s always good. Finally, I ran two maindeck Undiscovered Paradises, which both smooth the mana and untap under Stasis. They are very good – and belong in every multi-color Extended deck, in my opinion.

I also wanted something to clear the board if the game started getting away from me. Since the deck was already G/B, Pernicious Deed fit the bill, and the ability to fetch it with the Rector made it perfect. Two Pernicious Deeds made the maindeck, with one more in the side. Along the same lines, since I was running G/B with plenty of mana acceleration, a Spiritmonger joined the ranks.

The other changes were more tweaks than anything else. Peacekeeper replaced Spike Weaver, since I didn’t expect to need to move spike counters onto Morphling and I didn’t have any serious graveyard recursion. Without Oath of Druids/Gaea’s Blessing to recur the Spike Weaver, Weaver just stalls the offensive for a while. Peacekeeper stalls it indefinitely – at least until the opponent draws a burn spell or Terror. Peacekeeper is, of course, very good against Stompy. The deck runs plenty of white mana, so paying the upkeep on the Peacekeeper is no problem.

Sacrificing the Rector is the next concern. Obviously the Ghoul is good, but he isn’t always in play. High Market is okay, but one life for a creature is not that good (maybe if it was Diamond Valley, but that’s not legal in this format). Keldon Necropolis is good, but the deck doesn’t have enough sources of red mana. Phyrexian Tower is the best option: It generates black mana, which the deck needs. I wanted more ways to sacrifice the Rector, so two Towers made the maindeck.

The other problem with David’s build was that it looked pretty hopeless against control. I could see three cards that could really help here: Recurring Nightmare, City of Solitude, and Oath of Ghouls. Recurring Nightmare would let me get back any critical creatures that got countered or that got killed in other ways. That’s okay, but Nightmare can also be countered. Still, it was worth one slot in the sideboard: I could easily see scenarios in which my opponent could kill a Verdant, and I would find it worthwhile trading a Saproling or Bird for the Verdant. City of Solitude (play spells and abilities only on your own turn) was even better against control – if it resolved, they would never counter anything again. The only drawback was that it might prevent me from sacrificing the Rector during the opponent’s turn, but that was probably okay. Once City of Solitude was down, I should be able to just win against control decks; Ophidians and Morphlings don’t block Spiritmonger forever. Finally, Oath of Ghouls (if a player has more creatures in his graveyard than the opponent, return one to hand during upkeep) is brutal against control. If I can resolve one, that’s usually game against mono-blue. In one game against a tourney player’s second deck (we played after the match was over), I had Oath of Ghouls out and cast the same Academy Rector every turn for six straight turns before it finally resolved. Next turn, I sacrificed the Rector for City of Solitude and cast Spiritmonger, followed by Verdant on the turn after that.

Here’s the decklist I played:

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Wall of Roots

4 Academy Rector

4 Phyrexian Ghoul

1 Quirion Elf

1 Masticore

1 Verdant Force

1 Spiritmonger

1 Peacekeeper

1 Phyrexian Plaguelord

4 Duress

4 Pattern of Rebirth

2 Pernicious Deed

1 Confiscate

1 Saproling Burst

1 Aura of Silence

1 Worship

1 Oath of Ghouls

1 Demonic Tutor

4 Bayou

4 Savannah

4 Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]

1 Tropical Island

3 Gemstone Mine

2 Undiscovered Paradise

2 Phyrexian Tower

2 Grassland


1 Ivory Mask

1 Confiscate

1 Sacred Ground

1 CoP: Red

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Necra Sanctuary

1 Recurring Nightmare

1 Aura of Silence

1 Seal of Cleansing

2 City of Solitude

2 Tranquil Grove

1 Armadillo Cloak

1 Oath of Ghouls

Unfortunately, I can barely read my notes from this tourney, so I apologize for misspelling any names. I think my opponents were: W. Huber, Adam ?, Cato ?, J. Malutcheon, and Chet Brown, but my fourth round opponent could have been Joe Mitchell – the handwriting is that bad. The tourney wasn’t sanctioned, so the names aren’t in the DCI on-line records. Sorry, folks.

I remember the first match all too well. I was playing against a white weenie deck that had fliers (Pegasus Charger, of all things), Spectral Lynx, White Knight, and some shadow dudes. Game one I made a horrible misplay. I had Duressed a few turns earlier, and I thought he had no cards in hand. I didn’t ask; I just looked and worked off memory. Problem was, he had big hands. I had miscounted and when I comboed, he had the Swords to Plowshares in hand. I gained twenty life instead of the win, then he started beating down. I couldn’t recover fast enough. In the second game, he played out all his threats, and I cleaned the board with Deed, then won. Game three he paced his threats, I drew lots of Walls and junk, and he eventually pulled it out. Losing the first match to a deck with Pegasus Charger was not a promising start.

The second match restored my faith in the deck. My opponent played Sligh. I dropped an early Bird, and he Shocked it and beat with a Jackal Pup. I dropped a Wall of Roots. He dropped another Pup. I played Academy Rector. He beat, I killed the Pup and put Pattern of Rebirth on the Wall of Roots (one counter gone). He dropped Cursed Scroll and a Fanatic. I dropped another Rector (two counters gone on the Wall). He played more Goblins. I pulled another counter off the Wall to play something pointless – probably a Bird. He attacked – I blocked the second Pup with the Rector, and a Goblin with the Wall. Both the Rector and Wall died – and suddenly I had Worship and Verdant Force in play. That’s some good against Sligh.

Game two, I comboed him turn 3, going slowly and explaining every step. He was surprised, but he learned the golden rule when facing this deck: Always block the Phyrexian Ghoul. Of course, he had only a Jackal Pup in play, so it didn’t matter. We played some games for fun after that, and I smashed him nearly every time, like G/B with Wall of Roots is supposed to.

Round three, I played a fast Stompy deck. He won the draw, opened with Forest, Skyshroud Elite, remove Elvish Spirit Guide from the game to play a second Skyshroud Elite. Then he said”go.” I look at my hand: Gemstone Mine and Undiscovered Paradise, plus some random stuff. Go where, exactly? I play the Gemstone and a Birds of Paradise. He played Briar Shield on his Elite and an Elvish Lyrist. I played Undiscovered Paradise, Duressed him – taking another Briar Shield over a Giant Growth – and played a Wall of Roots. Next turn, I cast Pattern of Rebirth on the Birds – using up the last counter on the Gemstone Mine. The following turn I picked up the Undiscovered Paradise during untap, and didn’t replay it. Now it all came down to whether he noticed that I had no lands in play. I was at six life and had nothing but a Bird of Paradise with the Pattern in play. He had two Elites (one with Briar Shield), a Lyrist, and a Giant Growth in hand. The correct play was to pop the Pattern of Rebirth with his Lyrist, attack, and win on his next turn. Instead, he attacked with everything. I blocked the Elite with the Briar Shield, thus losing the Birds. He cast Giant Growth on the other Elite and announced six damage. I pointed out that I had no non-basic lands in play, so the Elite was only a 1/1 and I only took five damage. I then went and got a Verdant off the Pattern, put Saprolings in play on my turn, and during his upkeep, and went on to win the game and the match, still at one life. He was understandably upset, but I was pretty happy. I had deliberately baited that trap – I knew by the time I Duressed him on turn three that it was my only way around his fast start.

Game 2 was an anti-climactic. He was still flustered from the previous game, and I drew Walls and stuff as required. He did have a huge Elite (with two Briar Shield) holding off my Verdant, but I eventually Confiscated it.

Round four, I played an interesting deck built around Aluren, Pandemonium, and gating creatures. Unfortunately for him, I won the roll and drew two Duresses in my opening hand. I proceeded to take two combo pieces on turns 1 and 2, then dropped Walls and threats while he tried to rebuild. When he cast Restock to get back the other pieces, I had another Duress all ready. I also cast an Aura of Silence early on, and had a Worship with a Wall of Roots in play.**** Game 2 was even worse since I played the Ivory Mask early on, then started beating with a Rector (with Phyrexian Tower untapped). Then Spiritmonger made an appearance and the ‘Monger finished him off.

Round five, the last round, and I was back in contention for the top eight. Once again, I was playing a Sligh player. He beat and burned me to six, but his life total went twenty, nineteen, dead. Gotta watch out for those Ghouls – they sneak up on you. Game two he was faster than I was, but game 3 I got Worship and Masticore in play with mana to spare, then beat him down.

I do remember one play against a Sligh deck, but whether it was round two or five I’m not sure. It was after I had sideboarded, so I had Worship, CoP: Red, Pattern of Verdant Fetching, Ivory Mask, Seal of Cleansing and Armadillo Cloak in the deck. My opponent attacked, I blocked with the Rector, and she went to the graveyard. At that point, it was just like a scene from an old Friday the 13th movie, where Jason – the monster – chases someone into a garden shed. Jason is facing this wall of tools – an axe, a sickle, a chainsaw, a hoe and a bunch of other sharp objects – and you can see him thinking”What to use? What to use?” I felt exactly like that: I’m gonna slaughter him now – what do I use?

To bring this to a close, I ended up ninth. Ingrid made the top eight with CounterSlivers, but was paired against a Sligh deck in the top 8. It went three games, but she got the dreaded multiple Cities of Brass/no Worship start to game three and died one turn before she would have flown over for the win. For the record, the top eight was two Sligh decks, CounterSlivers, U/W control with Tithe, Wrath and Morphling, White Weenie (not the one I played against), Ped Bun Oath and mono-blue Donate.

The most brutal play I saw in the top eight came in a match between Donate and Oath. The Donate player had two Sapphire Medallions in play. On turn 4, the Oath player tapped out trying to force Sylvan Library through, but lost the counter war. The Donate player untapped, played an Island, tapped one Island (two Medallions), and played Back to Basics. The Oath player now had four tapped duals and did nothing. At the end of the Oath player’s turn, the Donate player cast Intuition (which cost him one mana) for three Accumulated Knowledges and cast the AK for three cards – and still had two Islands untapped. At that point, it was all over bar the shouting.

That’s about it for Origins, other than some drafts – none of which was all that interesting. Some loudmouthed kids spent the entire time during one draft talking about how they knew this format inside and out and how they were gonna split in the finals. They both lost round one, which made the rest of us quite happy.

Now, in the tradition of Jamie Wakefield, I’ll add a long digression about my dogs. I have two Golden Retrievers – both rescue dogs. The older <snip, snip – the Ferrett>

One of the really nice things about writing for StarCity is that the Ferrett lets you include stuff like that. Many editors would think it was irrelevant and just cut it. I’m glad he left it in. Anyway, back to Magic.

At GenCon Ingrid and I played in two Magic events, the Doubles tournament and the Sunday Type 1. We were staying with friends and they were also playing in the Doubles. John was also playing Type 1, but Cathy wanted to play D&D instead. We bunked with them (thanks again), and playtested our Type 1 decks ahead of time. John’s burn deck, splashing blue for the blue power nine, was smashing me pretty badly during testing, so I was a little worried.

I kept oscillating between a mono-blue deck (like a powered down BSB – see [author name="Oscar Tan"]Oscar Tan’s[/author] article on BSB here), a U/B deck, or a red and artifacts deck based on the Stacker 2.0 deck designed by JP Meyer, which he discusses here and which Darren di Battista discusses here.

(By the way, Ferrett, why aren’t you listing Oscar Tan in the Featured Writers’ archive? Or including a T1 section, along with T2, Extended and so forth.)

(Oscar and Stijn should be up with their own featured sections tomorrow, which would make us all happy. The T1 section is also in the works. – The Ferrett)

Part of the decision on decks was also driven by our semi-limited collection of good cards: We had no Lotus, just one of each Mox, a Timetwister and an Ancestral. It was Ingrid’s turn to play the Ancestral. We had some money saved up and were planning to hit the dealers looking for bargains. If I could get a cheap Ancestral, the blue decks were looking better. A couple of cheap Mishra’s Workshops would tip the balance in favor of the artifacts deck. A cheap Black Lotus would have both of us dancing around – but it fit best in the deck Ingrid was considering, so I didn’t expect to play it.

Before I talk about the deck I actually played, I want to talk a bit about Netdecks and ideas pulled off the net. Obviously, I pulled the ideas for my Extended and T1 decks from other articles. I also write lots of articles about decks I design. That’s what gets me feedback, and it seems to be what people like. So how do I justify playing netdecks? Simple – I don’t have time to test and develop all the decks I end up playing. In the last month alone, I have played sanctioned tournaments in every major constructed format: IBC block, T2, Extended, Type I, plus built new multiplayer decks. What research time I have had is spent helping my teammates, who are headed for Worlds with Extended and T2… But I am not going to play their decks at Origins and GenCon. I’ll let them debut their decks at Worlds – where it counts. However, that leaves me in a bind. I need to know what works, and why, in each format I intend to play.

I get that information primarily from the Net. I find deck ideas I like and tweak them to something that suits my play style. I don’t feel particularly guilty about that – I do some original deck design and do feel better about winning with my own deck, but if my choice is playing an original deck and losing or winning with someone else’s deck, I’ll take winning.

Remember, when you are playing other people’s decks, you still have to play them. It is not easy to pick up Keeper, or Ped Bun/Maher Oath, or Sabre Bargain, and just win with it. You have to know how to play the deck. The deck is a tool, and the skill with which you use the tool determines how well you do. Bob Maher, Jr., won with Ped Bun Oath because he knew the deck better than anyone in the world. Mike Hron made ninth in that same PTQ playing Squeebind – not because he had the best deck, but because he had been playing various builds of Squeebind against anything for months. He even played Squeebind against some of my janky T2 builds, just to see what might happen and whether strange combinations gave him problems.

There are several steps to using a deck idea you find, either on the net or elsewhere. First, you have to figure out how the deck works. Then you have to find out how it does against the expected competition. Then you have to tweak the deck to match the metagame and your playing style. Then you have to make sure your tweaks haven’t destroyed the functionality and synergy. And then you have to learn how to play the deck in all possible situations. Oh, and develop a sideboard somewhere in there.

It’s all necessary, whether you go rogue or not. Playing a netdeck, after going through those steps, is the mark of a good player. IMnsHO,***** anyone doing that need feel no shame in playing a net deck. If someone just hands you a deck ten minutes before a tournament, though, maybe you should feel a little soiled.

This is really long already, even if the Ferrett cuts the stuff about the dogs, the marshmallow sundaes, and the guy in the Santa Claus suit, so I’ll split it in two. Next time, the Amateur Championships, the Doubles tourney and cheating at Gencon, and deckbuilding for Type 1.

Til then,


[email protected] and [email protected]


* – Our old farmhouse needs a lot of repair. Last summer’s projects were the roof and a replacing the floor joists in the upstairs bedroom. This year it’s painting the exterior, replacing the garage roof, working on the barn and – you don’t really want to hear this, do you? Never mind.

** – We gamers do have a distinctive look. A few have a distinctive smell, but that percentage is – thank gawd – very small, and probably about the same as in the general population.

*** – Ped Bun designed it. The Great One played it. Both deserve credit.

**** – True, if he had gone infinite with the Aluren and Pandemonium he could have killed the Wall first, but it still felt good to have it out.

***** – IMnsHO = In My not so Humble Opinion. Ingrid, my wife, objected to IMHO as a bit dishonest.