Fair warning: I’m writing about a FNM tourney I didn’t even win, and about a deck I don’t recommend playing. Nevertheless, this may be worth the read.
Misty Mountain runs Type 2 tourneys at Friday Night Magic every other week. I could probably walk in with a net deck and win it all… But this is FNM. Half the players simply don’t own the cards to build Tier One decks, or they just prefer to play their own creations. Either way, pounding on their heads with netdecks just seems unfair.
I’m also the kind of player that wants to play all the decks I can. I would be perfectly happy playing a new deck every round, in every tournament – but that’s not legal. The best I can do is play a new deck every tournament. And to keep things interesting, I ask people what colors or combos they think cannot win, then build those decks – usually a few hours before the tourney – and I never playtest them.
My rating has taken a nosedive over the last year or so – I have no idea why.
Last time I played, my opponents said mono-white cannot win – although they weren’t sure about white weenie. So, I had to build a mono-white, non-weenie deck.
First, a bit about the metagame: The usual FNM crowd is a mix of decent players and local high-school kids with rare-light decks. R/G beatdown is common, and Psychatog and Zombie-Upheaval appear on occasion. Shadowmage Infiltrators have been fairly widespread recently. One local player favors a U/R/B burn deck with nothing but Familiars as creatures, and one player has never, to the best of my knowledge, played any deck that does not favor locks and Millstone. So the deck needs to have a decent method of diverting burn spells, have some disenchant effects, and be able to survive R/G.
Here’s what I ended up with:
4 Coalition Honor Guard
3 Beloved Chaplain
3 Nomad Decoy
3 Serra Angel
1 Wayward Angel
1 Capashen Unicorn
1 Atalya, Samite Master
2 Angelic Wall
4 Lashknife Barrier
2 Kirtar’s Wrath
2 Second Thoughts
Okay, it’s time for the infamous card-by-card analysis. I’ll keep it to a couple short descriptions and just explain the ideas and the errors.
Lashknife Barrier over Glorious Anthem or the new Crusade: Lashknife Barrier does not pump my creatures, but Serra Angels usually don’t need pumping. However, Lashknife Barrier is a cantrip, and I felt the cantrips were important. I didn’t have dedicated card drawing in the deck, so I planned on making it up by playing seventeen cantrips. Without the cantrips, control should be able to counter everything useful. Besides, Lashknife Barrier and Coalition Honor Guard is a vicious combination for burn decks. A Firebolt and a Rage will kill a Coalition Honor Guard even with a Glorious Anthem in play, but not with Lashknife Barrier.
Millikin: I had thought about playing Marble Diamonds for acceleration, back when I was planning on playing more large creatures. However, Marble Diamonds don’t really do anything else. Millikin blocks Shadowmage Infiltrator – and can do it all day with a Lashknife Barrier in play. My idea of a cool play was to block the Finkel with Millikin, then cast Gallantry to kill the Finkel. In practice, Millikin was almost always the first card sided out, usually for Worships. My deck delivered way too many lands and too much mana, even without Millikin.
Gallantry: It is another cantrip, and removal in some cases. In practice, it was pretty pointless. I killed a couple creatures with it, but far too often I was stuck with it in my hand.
Beloved Chaplain: With Shelter and Coalition Honor Guard to keep it from dying to spells, Beloved Chaplain did a nice job of blocking elephant tokens and any other creatures without trample or evasion. It proved better than the Angelic Walls, except when the attacking creatures had flying.
Nomad Decoy: These were intended as another method of stopping evasion creatures, and because they fit the mana curve. Not amazing, but not bad.
Capashen Unicorn: I wanted a Disenchant maindeck, but I didn’t want it to be dead against decks that had no targets. I thought of it as a Seal of Cleansing that blocks 1/1s, and that’s basically what it was. I used its ability exactly once: I had Wayward Angel out, and had to trample over a 4/4 flier for the win. I had five cards in my graveyard, so my Unicorn destroyed my Lashknife Barrier to put me at threshold, and Wayward Angel got just big enough.
Serra Angel, Wayward Angel: These were my win conditions. Serra Angel dies to Flametongues, except when you have Lashknife Barrier in play. Originally, I had four Serra Angels, but switched to one Wayward Angel at the last moment. My rationale was that someone might name Serra Angel with Meddling Mage, or I might need to break though a stall with a really big flier… But the actual reason was that I wanted to play with Lord of the Pit.
Atalya, Samite Master: I threw her in at the last minute to replace a third Angelic Wall. The theory was that she could break stalls or let me hold on until I find a Serra and the win. She is also a must-counter for Psychatog – because if she stays around for a while, I can gain so much life that they cannot possibly kill me, even with their whole deck in their graveyard.
Kirtar’s Wrath: I don’t like to play without a reset, and a Wrath of God effect seemed useful. I played Kirtar’s Wrath over Wrath of God because the Kirtars were at hand, and the Wraths were not. I could claim that I expected to only cast the Kirtars late, when at threshold, so the two fliers were important, but that’s only partly the truth.
Worship: I cannot explain why I didn’t play this card maindeck, other than a reluctance to play lock decks without giving fair warning. (Playing mono-white with Lashknife Barrier game is fair warning that bringing in enchantment removal is a good idea, so I had no qualms about bringing them in.) However, so few decks can deal with enchantments that they should probably be maindeck; in place of the Millikins, perhaps.
Dodecapods: Discard and Recoils are still common around here, so I kept them around. The also provided a non-white 3/3 for four mana, which seemed like a good backup plan. I would have been surprised to find someone playing four Spheres of Truth, but stranger things have happened.
Pure Reflection: If you haven’t tried this against control decks like Psychatog, you should. You get the token, even if the creature itself is countered. The extra tokens run Psychatog out of bounce, which is a problem otherwise.
Reprisal: I find this to be amazing removal against a slew of decks. Kickered Kavu Titans, Spiritmongers, dangerous Psychatogs… All die to a 2cc instant, and stay dead. The main deck Second Thoughts probably should have been Reprisals, with two more sideboard.
Aegis of Honor: Some regulars play decks that win almost exclusively with direct damage. Aegis of Honor would ruin their whole day, but Coalition Honor guard makes it redundant. I had one here just so I could tell those players it was in my sideboard, but it wasn’t really worth the slot.
An explanation of the cards that weren’t there:
Devoted Caretaker: I cannot explain why I forgot about this card, other than a decision to avoid white weenie. A 1/2 for W, with a good special ability to boot, would have been useful. It’s only drawback is a vulnerability to FTKs, but Coalition Honor Guard and Shelters could have remedied that.
Shield of Duty and Reason: I thought about these, but I could not remember their name. I kept confusing them with Mask of pro-reds and pro-black, so I looked for a Mask of Duty and Reason, then tried searching for the card by text but got the order wrong, so I couldn’t find them. I stopped looking, though, because I figured that my opponents would just bounce the target in response to my casting this, or Recoil or Rushing River the enchantment itself. Even if I had them in hand, I would have had to playtest some before I would play them.
Crimson and Obsidian Acolytes: I ran out of room in the sideboard.
Samite Ministration: Another card I couldn’t find room for (but should have.) It would be useful against Psychatog – better than Holy Day, which I also thought about. (Although Holy Day would be hilarious -“Oh, you ate your whole graveyard – guess I’ll fog.” There’s something about having the best deck in the environment lose to the worst card in Invasion Block.)
Sacred Ground: No one was playing land destruction (except me – that was the consensus”doesn’t work” deck a few weeks ago, but I went 3-0-1) or Balancing Tings. Those are white’s best answers to those decks. Of course, Kirtar’s Desire is okay against Terravore, and Dodecapod works against Balancing Act if you have more cards in hand.
Okay, on to the tournament. It was a same turnout. We had enough people for four rounds, without cutting to a top eight.
Round 1: Jason Teske, IIR
My opponent wais just reentering Magic, but he told me he was one of the top fifty Star Wars CCG players before that game died. He has a mono-green deck with a mix of good and bad cards. Game one he dropped Llanowar Elves, Wood Elves, Elvish Archers, squirrel tokens, elephant tokens, and tons of similar stuff. I had a Beloved Chaplain, Coalition Honor Guard and the Capashen Unicorn in play, and way too many lands. We stalled, since my creatures killed his, but he had many more creatures in play. I kept drawing land, and soon had a dozen land in play and in hand, after having drawn a total of six nonland spells. On the plus side, I had beaten him down to fourteen with a Beloved Chaplain, so I could have won in just fourteen more turns – provided he drew absolutely nothing. He drew Overrun and attacked for fifty-something.
The game really looked like a matchup between two bad draft decks.
Game two went better, as I dropped an early chump blocker, then Worship, and held on until I could Wrath and drop a replacement creature in one turn. Then I dropped Serra and killed him. Game three is a repeat of game 2, only faster. I got the turn 2 Millikin, turn 3 Lashknife Barrier, turn 4 Serra Angel start. That is pretty good. He did not draw Hurricane until he was at four life.
Round 2: Corey? (bad notes = bad idea)
I was playing another Star Wars refugee. He played a mono black deck and opened with Duress for a Second Thoughts. I drew a Lashknife Barrier, then Shelter, and more cantrips that put me way ahead on cards despite his Ravenous Rats and other discard. I dropped a Serra Angel and he replied with Fallen Angel. (This is why I love FNM – where else do you see two classic Angels staring at each other in tournament play?) I sent, he sacrificed two creatures to pump the Fallen, but I had another Shelter. He could recover from the two-for-nothing.
I sideboarded out the Millikins and some other stuff for a Worship, the Dodecapods and two Reprisals. He started fast, but I became, as Jamie Wakefield would say, Super Lucky Guy. He opened with Duress, Rats, and Sengir Vampire. I started out with an Angelic Wall, then used Gallantry to kill the Sengir. He played Stronghold Assassin (!) and killed the Wall, then dropped an Abyssal Specter. He started swinging with the Abyssal Specter, but I had topdecked a Dodecapod. I drew, smiled, and swung for five. He swung; I discard a land and he dropped another Sengir. I Sheltered my Dodecapod to walk past Mr. Sengir and friends and put him at ten. He swung; I discard Dodecapod number 2 and dropped to eight life. He sacrificed the Abyssal Specter to the Stronghold Assassin to kill my Dodecapod, but I had another Shelter – which cantripped into Shelter number 4. I untapped, gave both Dodecapods protection from black, then swung for the win. So, in the top fifteen or so cards, I pulled four Shelters and two Dodecapods, exactly when I needed them. Super Lucky Guy.
After the match, when people ask me how it went, I told them about killing a Sengir with Gallantry. It is only at that point that we realized that Sengirs were not legal yet. (You know, I was wondering – The Ferrett) Of well – it’s only FNM, and I won. He swapped the Sengirs for sideboard cards for the following matches, so no harm done.
Round 3: Brian Kowal
One reason I can play strange decks in FNM constructed is that the pros are usually drafting, so I don’t have to face too many good decks run by very good players. This week, though, the lure of a foil Albino Troll proved too much for one of the inventors of ConTroll – the classic Urza’s block deck, so I was faced with a pro tour player with a deck that won both the first and second matches in about 5 minutes each – and I had no idea what it is, since he had packed up by the time I looked around. He watched parts of my matches, though, so he knows my deck. On the plus side – if I figured that if I could win this match, I would definitely have an article.
The match itself wasn’t all that great. Brian won the roll and played Elf, Birds, a turn 3 Kavu Titan with kicker and a turn 4 Shivan Dragon. I could never stabilize. Game two, he got poor draws, and I drew all my Reprisals, a Wrath, and eventually flew over with a Wayward Angel for the win. Game three I drew a lot of land, but enough removal to keep us both topdecking for a while – and since he was topdecking nothing useful, the game dragged on. At one point, Brian considered playing a Kavu Titan without kicker, fearing Reprisal, but it was early game and I had two Reprisals in the graveyard already – so he made it a 5/5. I was still Super Lucky Guy – I had the last Reprisal all ready. That was where my luck ended – his Hull Breach killed my Worship and he drew a fattie before I could. Considering he had four Shivans, four Kavu Titans and four FTKs, that was to be expected, but I did manage to hang on for a long time. It didn’t help that I had drawn almost two-thirds of my land by mid game – but Brian’s draws were not much better.
I did last more than five minutes, which is better than his other opponents. I call that beating the point spread.
Round 4: Jeff Voit
I played another R/G deck, and one that had drawn with Psychatog the previous round. It was a pretty small tourney, so Brian played the Psychatog deck and Jeff was paired down to play me. Game one was pretty typical – I drew a ton of land. At one point, I was pretty close to a win, but he did a good job of killing the Coalition Honor Guards and eventually overwhelmed me.
Game two went better, with me stabilizing on the ground with Beloved Chaplains and Coalition Honor Guards, then drawing Atalya, Samite Master. After the first few turns of having me gain five to seven life at the end of his turn (while holding two mana open for Shelter), he conceded.
Game three saw me take some early hits while he built up land and mana creatures. I had to play and lose some Honor Guards and the like, but eventually I stabilized with a Wrath, then a Serra Angel and a couple Lashknife Barriers in play. He had two Birds of Paradise, but I had a Nomadic Decoy to keep them out of the way, and I beat him down to four. Then he topdecked Ghitu Fire with exactly enough mana – combining lands and mana creatures – to kill me. It was the only card that could get him the win – but he became Super Lucky Guy. That killed me, and it won him the tournament. Nice going, Jeff – but next time, get lucky against someone else, please.
After the tourney, I played some games against the Psychatog deck that came in second. Without sideboards, I had some close games, but the bounce (four Aether Burst, some Repulse) really hurt. I could beat him to very low numbers, but eventually he would stabilize, then bounce all my blockers and send for the win. It was close, but the deck still needs something. (Okay… It needs to be not mono-white, non-weenie, but ignore that.) The new Torment graveyard remover (Morningtide) could help, as could Shield of Duty and Reason. Worship will not, since the problem is still that he can bounce all my creatures. Testament of Faith could work okay, since Tog’s removal is either instants that target several creatures (Aether Burst) or sorceries (Innocent Blood). If you wait until the combat phase, just before declaring blockers to activate it, Testament of Faith should buy you an extra turn to replay other bounced creatures. Nevertheless, Psychatog is pretty good – and a controlling mono-white deck, like mine, will always find it a tough matchup.
Will I play the deck again? Of course not. I never play the same deck a second time. I do think the deck has some potential, but it will require good draws to handle Psychatog. If I were to redo it, I would get rid of the Millikins, the Gallantry and the Angelic Walls, and add another Beloved Chaplain and some Devoted Caretakers. I would add another win condition or two – possibly Lieutenant Kirtar.
Next time – probably more casual play decks. I’m skipping the local PTQ this weekend because some friends are back in town, and we will be playing T1 multiplayer. I’ll be at the PTQ the following weekend, though. For the next FNM – well, last week’s consensus on what color or combination doesn’t work was red/white, so I’ll try Liberating my FTK, or maybe I’ll build a Graceful Antelope/Land Destruction deck. Fortunately, I have some time to come up with a better idea.