I noticed, way too late, that I had cut and pasted the wrong decklist in my last article. Some of you may have noticed that the beast decklist was really bad, even by my standards. It was an early, untuned version. I really have no excuse for inserting the wrong decklist, beyond noting that the week prior to States was pretty hectic.
I played the beasts deck at Wisconsin States, ending up 5-3. Only one of the losses was a blowout; the other two were very close. I lost, I think, because I made minor mistakes. I don’t think the deck – the corrected deck – is bad. The version I included in the last article stinks, however.
By the way, congrats to Adrian Sullivan – Wisconsin State Champion for 2002.
Here’s the real decklist, followed by some card-by-card analysis and some analysis of matchups.
Now on Fox: When Critters Attack!
2 Engineered Plague
1 Chainer’s Edict
1 Silklash Spider
1 Snarling Undorak
1 Possessed Centaur
1 “Spellbane Centaur
1 “Visara the Dreadful
1 Elvish Lyrist
1 Nullmage Advocate
The first change was obvious – instead of using Barkhide Maulers to dig for extra land on turn two, I added Birds and one Elf. This allows for a turn two Morphed Hystrodon or cycling a Tusker, and a turn 3 Baloth or Phantom Centaur. This is much better than cycling for lands and doing nothing until turn 4 or 5. Like I said – obvious. I have no idea how I missed it early on, or how I missed the fact that last week’s decklist didn’t have birds.
Krosan Tusker is obviously good at smoothing the mana early, but he does a lot more than that. I could usually tell when the game was turning around, because I would have two Oversold Cemeteries in play and my turn would start like this:
- Put the two Oversold Cemetery triggers on the stack.
- Let trigger one resolve – return Tusker.
- Trigger 2 still on the stack, cycle Tusker. Find a land.
- Draw a card off Tusker.
- Let Cemetery trigger 2 resolve, return some creature.
- Draw my normal card for the turn.
By the end of my draw step, I would have four more cards in hand than I started with. That’s good. In some cases, I would cycle a Barkhide Mauler in that way, but usually I was using the Tusker to tear through my deck.
Ravenous Baloth is a solid four-drop as well as a means to gain lots of life when necessary. I have also used the Baloth to get the Cemetery going so that I could dig with Tuskers. On a couple of occasions, my opponents allowed me to get a Cemetery in play because I only had one creature in the graveyard and we were stalled. When nothing happened, the opponent let the second Cemetery resolve. At the end of their turn, I flipped a Morphed Hystrodon, ate it and the Baloth to hit four creatures in the Graveyard. I began returning the Tusker, cycling it, and recurring the Baloth during my upkeep.
The Phantom Centaurs are very strong blockers or attackers – especially when you can recur them when they run out of counters. Since they don’t immediately die to Slice and Dice or most removal, they earn their place in the lineup. Their only failing is that they are not beasts.
The final slot in the deck was held, last Saturday, by the Crypt Creeper. I wanted a little more edge against the U/G matchups, where removing Wonder is critical. The fact that he helps against Wake (usually removing Moment’s Peace or Deep Analysis) and G/W Glory didn’t hurt – each of these deck archetypes made the top eight. The other main candidates were a second Barkhide Mauler and a fourth Living Wish. Dirge of Dread was also very good at times, since cycling it to get a Hystrodon past blockers was a solid play… But it just wasn’t quite enough.
The non-creature spells are pretty straight forward. Oversold Cemetery makes the deck run. Smother and Chainer’s Edict are creature removal. Smother kills Wild Mongrels, and is preferable to Edict in nearly every matchup. The one exception is Astral Slide, where it does nothing against Teroh’s Faithful and the Exalter Angel, unless you can catch one unmorphed. Duress is still solid against practically anything, and golden against control, Slide, Wake
The Living Wish contingent is the answer to randomness, a way of getting around Worship and so forth game one, and a means of reinforcing a win. The only problem is that it cuts down on other sideboard slots, which can hurt. For one thing, I did not have room for Compost. I simply hoped to avoid black decks early on, and guessed that MBC would fall out by the later rounds.
The lands are pretty self-explanatory. The cycling lands are great for digging through the library later in the game – but they are a bit of a pain against Astral Slide. Of course, you can always simply play them, or hold them until your opponent is tapped out.
The sideboard is reasonably straightforward. I started with three Naturalize because I expected a lot of Wake, Opposition, and some Slide, based on what the folks in Madison were testing. I also figured they would be good against Worship and Ensnaring Bridge, which I figured some people would try since they snag a win against anyone unprepared for them.
The additional two Duresses sat in the sideboard for all combo and creatureless decks. The last Chainer’s Edict was also there, for those matchups where removal was better than Duress. The Engineered Plagues were for U/G, creature-based black and anything with Squirrels – although Composts or a Death Pulse and the fourth Naturalize might have been better. Or, if the Astral Slide decks continue to be as strong and common as last weekend, they might become Megrims.
The creature component keeps changing. Silklash Spider is automatic, since it can block most fliers and its ability to clear the skies is strong. (Yes, I kill my own birds – but with Cemetery, that is not always a bad thing.) Crypt Creeper is a game one answer to Genesis, Wonder, and Glory, as well as Roar of the Wurm and Moment’s Peace. Spellbane Centaur is one answer to Opposition, as well as Aether Burst, but it is marginal here. Possessed Centaur is present to kill opposing green creatures, since you get to threshold very easily, but was never used. Visara the Dreadful, on the other hand, did make some appearances and won two matches, although I added her more for fun than as a result of serious testing. Elvish Lyrist and Nullmage Advocate are enchantment and artifact kill.
Originally I had run one Plains maindeck, and had a Cloudchaser Eagle, an Intrepid Hero, and an Auramancer in the sideboard. I dumped that, although a method of getting back the Oversold Cemeteries once the opponent brings in enchantment kill could still be worthwhile, the problem is that Auramancer only works once – unless you can get the Cemetery immediately into play and keep it in play for a turn. That was not all that common. I have also toyed with the idea of putting one Gurizgost into the sideboard, both as a finisher and as a way of putting disenchanted Cemeteries back into the library. They do go back on the bottom, but cycling a Tusker will get them shuffled in. Moreover, Gurzigost is a beast.
The deck’s biggest weakness is that opponents will disenchant the Cemeteries games two and three. The deck can win without the Cemeteries, but it loses the powerful card drawing and deck thinning involved in cycling Tuskers. Game one is relatively easy against many decks, but it gets harder when you lose the Cemeteries.
The States Report
I had debated and debated on including Composts in the sideboard, but finally left them out. I just hoped to avoid the mono-black decks early on. If I could not, I hoped to run them down quickly. Oversold Cemetery is pretty good against massive creature removal – right up until Haunting Echoes hits.
So, round one, I get paired against one of the handful of black decks scattered among the 142 competitors. Dem’s da breaks.
Game one he had a god draw. He hit his first six land drops, including two Cabal Coffers, and played Duress, Chainer’s Edict, Duress, Tutor, Sludge, Echoes – and I had drawn one of nearly every creature in the deck. I had the Barkhide Mauler, some Hystrodons, Smothers and land left in my deck. I played on, but only to see what he would use as a kill. It turned out to be Riptide Replicator for fourteen.
I sideboarded out the Living Wishes, Smothers, and two Edicts, and brought in the Duresses, some Naturalizes, and every one-off creature in the sideboard. Game 2 I ran him down, with a Cemetery negating much of his creature control. He had to Echoes early, but it didn’t get much because I was pulling creatures back selectively with Cemetery. I was l able to kill him fairly quickly.
Game 3, however, he developed well. I Duressed him turn one, snagging one of two Mutilates, then dropped a Crypt Creeper and Cycled Tusker. Unfortunately, I didn’t draw another creature until I had nine lands on the table. He Edicted away my last creature (number 3 – no Cemetery action for me), then tutored and spent a long time thinking. I had a Naturalize in hand – so if he had gone for Riptide Replicator or Mirari, I would have killed it and won the game. He went for Sludge. I drew two more lands, and he was able to Corrupt me for exactly lethal damage. A fourth creature, a single Baloth, and I would have had the game – but it didn’t happen.
The next round I played Ensnaring Skullcap Sligh. In theory, I have Engineered Plagues for Goblins, but I really don’t need them. Ravenous Baloth recursion is pretty bad, as is the fact that I can kill the Bridge game one (Living Wish/Nullmage Advocate). He was very creature light, so I sided out some Smothers/Edicts for the Naturalizes, but this match was never close. He wasn’t real happy – round one he was matched up against an Astral Slide deck with four Teroh’s Faithfuls. Burn decks don’t like highly effective life gain.
Round three I played Nate, who had developed his own R/B beatdown and burn deck. We had playtested a bunch, so I knew what he was playing. It can be very fast, but it has its weaknesses – including the fact that he is running Grinning Demon. He won the toss, and I looked at my opening hand: three lands, Bird, two Phantom Centaurs, Cemetery. Sorry Nate – that’s about as good a hand as I can have against your deck. I topdecked a fourth land and started dropping Centaurs when he flipped the Demon. Red-black cannot handle an endless supply of pro-black, nearly unburnable creatures.
Game two was similar – and the fact that he was a bit land screwed didn’t help.
Round 4 I played Tim Peplinski, who was riding Astral Slide to the top eight. It was the first of two times I played teammates with this exact decklist. He was running the R/W/g version with Brushlands, Krosan Tuskers, Lightning Rift, Slide, Teroh’s Faithful, and Exalted Angels. He played a cycling land turn one, and my Duress revealed 2 Slides, a Rift, a Teroh’s Faithful and lands. Pretty good, and a Wrath turn 5 made sure I never caught up.
Game two I brought in the Naturalizes and the Duresses, siding out the Crypt Creeper and Krosan Tuskers. Game two I got the Oversold Cemeteries working a bit, but the real MVP was a Living Wish for Nullmage Advocate. He had Ray of Revelation – but the Advocate, Duresses and Naturalizes kept the Rifts and Slides off the board. He did manage to Slice and Dice once, but it was not enough.
Game three went really long, with Ray keeping my Oversold Cemeteries off the board and Genesis giving me problems until I could Wish for Crypt Creeper. As we were getting close to extra rounds, I hit a land pocket and could not find a threat. Finally, I drew a Baloth, then a Hystrodon. He drew another Genesis. Then I made my first truly stupid play of the day: I forgot he had an Angel in the graveyard, so I Edicted Genesis. He brought back the Angel, and I lost the damage race on extra turn 4.
In the second match against Slide, I also made a minor mistake. Game one, he drew four Slides and three Rifts, but I drew all four Cemeteries and Wished for Nullmage Advocate. Game one took half an hour, and I was able to kill all but one Rifts. At the end, he drew enough cycling cards to kill me. One more turn, and he would have had no Rifts or Slides, I would have had a Baloth and two Hystrodons in play, and Nullmage Advocate active. I might have been better off concentrating on simply recurring Baloth and gaining life, and deck him, but I thought I could win outright. I was close: On the final turn of game one, he had one card in hand, and needed three cycling cards for the win – and he won. Game two was all about him having a ton of Ray of Revelations, and me not drawing Naturalizes. Ray of Revelation is a real problem, and one more reason for splashing green in Slide decks.
The last two rounds were a mix, but Visara, of all cards, won both matches. I played an Elves/Blaze/Ensnaring Bridge/Centaur Glade deck. It would give people fits if they could not kill the Bridge… But my deck can. He dropped a Llanowar turn one and a Wellwisher turn 2 – and I cast Living Wish for Visara. Visara kills elves dead – and it was almost enough to go the distance, but he pulled a Bridge. I had to wait until I could cast the second Living Wish, to get Nullmage Advocate. Game two, after siding in Naturalizes, was close to a bye.
My final match was against U/G Opposition, as I discovered via a fast Duress. He had no counters, so I Wished for Elvish Lyrist and cast it – then just sat on it. I eventually fetched Nullmage Advocate as well, to kill Squirrel Nests, but pressure from a Baloth and Hystrodon were keeping the nut collector population down in any case. Game two I mulliganed, then he wrecked me with repeated Upheavals, when I could not find a Bird or Elf anywhere. Game three he mulliganed, then could not find blue mana. Turn 3 I had three lands in play, including a City of Brass, and two Birds. I cast Living Wish, and gambled on Visara. I used it to kill his birds, elves and eventual Looter, leaving him stuck without two blue mana. The game ended quickly.
That was the end of my States. The top eight included a R/G beatdown deck, a U/G/w madness deck splashing for Glory and Enforcer, a mono-black deck with Ichorid (it may have been game 2 when I saw them), a Wake deck that got bad draws in the T8, Tim Peplinski’s Slide deck and Adrian Sullivan with a mono-red control deck. Hopefully Adrian will write about that deck – it was unique.