You CAN Play Type I #115 Part 1: The Control Player’s Bible Head to Head –

Today’s feature demonstrates an updated but still skeletal version of Suicide Black, to illustrate how the”modern” deck plays. The only truly modern development incorporated at this point is the obvious substitution of Chalice of the Void for Null Rod, so we don’t take in the changes all at once, and to better appreciate the latest post-Mirrodin tech.

Roland Bode on the December 1 Restrictions

German wunderkind Roland Bode, after breaking the metagame with Growing ‘Tog, was also the first to seriously test and play Burning Desire after TheEndGames.com presented its first build, before Mind’s Desire was restricted. Roland IRC’d this reaction to the restriction of Burning Wish and Lion’s Eye Diamond:

“It was not necessary. The metagame changed because of Chalice and more Null Rods in sideboards, so it was no longer the deck to play.”

Dennis Beard on Gauging a Card’s Impact on Type I

Dennis Beard wrote up a very insightful list (“Ten Ways to Predict a Card’s Impact on Type I”) in reaction to my exchange with Alan Collinson in”Maximizing Mirrodin, Part VII.” It’s a wonderful elaboration of my”two rules” for rating new cards, written up two and a half years ago in”Rating New Cards From, Say, Apocalypse“:

“Thus, when looking at a new card, keep these two simple rules in mind:

Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)

Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?

“Keep in mind, however, that you will be lucky to find a new expansion with ten cards that fit either rule. (Insight: Because you never have to buy cards that are worse than cards you already own, Type I is cheap after you build your deck.)”

Dennis stated that both Alan (an aspiring med student from Cambridge), and myself don’t think anyone can predict which new cards will be broken in Type I, and Dennis disagrees. In fairness to Alan and myself, however, I’d like to note that we talked about whether Wizards R&D has the resources to design for Type I, and I concluded they don’t, but don’t have to because new expansions already produce cards that find their way into even top-tier Type I decks.

I’d like to clarify that what I fear the most is designers trying to make predictions based on incomplete assumptions or flawed premises – which isn’t hard given a card pool of thousands of cards – and end up sticking us with a card more broken than the playtesters thought. Consider that they didn’t even catch the Animate Dead / Worldgorger Dragon combo for Extended.

Admittedly, though, this prediction business is tougher than it looks, and my personal (and the community’s) batting average isn’t as high as hindsight would like it to be. Sure, in”Did Zvi Ruin the Game For Us?” I wrote that Zvi Mowshowitz showed us a mono Blue deck with four Fact or Fictions in the 2000 Magic Invitational and foreshadowed one of the most boring years of Magic.

On the other hand, Psychatog was only discovered (in Type I) when fellow Paragon JP”Polluted” Meyer took an Extended list as a gag. A year before Hulk Smash took the Vintage Championships, even Pro Extended players I asked like John Ormerod didn’t think ‘Tog could make the transition. It was likewise hard to predict how Cunning Wish and Burning Wish would redefine archetypes or even how strong Goblin Piledriver really was, much less how others like Fire / Ice would rise as key support cards.

Note that in my expansion review series for beginners, I even have to limit myself to the metagame and cards before the new expansion, since trying to predict the whole thing is a hell of a lot tougher.

I guess you just have to appreciate what these guys in R&D have to do, with our expectations and all.

Speaking of prediction, though, I guess you just can’t predict what senior law professors will do next. Today marked the first time I actually came on time for a particular 9 AM class – getting in at the end of the roll call counts! – and the professor decided to celebrate by grinning broadly and asking loudly where the girl beside me was.

On cue, that other perennial latecomer rushed in, and he told her just as loudly that he was just asking me where she was since I looked lonely. Fortunately, no one bothered to tell him she was married with children…

Predicting Magic card use… law professors… maybe I should just try the stock market.

Chalice of the Void: Victim of its Own Success

In”Head to Head: Dragon“, I showed that the matchup usually ends with”The Deck” comboed out on Turn 2 or 3, or Dragon put on the ropes by the built-in Swords to Plowshares and Wastelands that make the control matchup even worse for it. However, I selected the particular game because of the unconventional, rather amusing win: Chalice of the Void for two, followed by another for three (locking out Animate Dead, Dance of the Dead, and Necromancy).

Arguably the most hilarious Chalice experience I ever had, however, was a rare real life one. After one grueling Taxation class, my frat bro Ryan Reyes hitched a ride with me, and figured he’d raid my house for a deck. For kicks, he brought out my casual Stompy – with Jungle Lions! – and said,”Come on, show me the new cards!”

Now, Ryan needed a deck because his neighbors were picking up the game, but he quit in 1999. So imagine the shout of,”What the hell is this?!?!?!” when I showed him Fire/Ice for the first time.

In our second game, he opens with Forest, Skyshroud Elite, and Ghazban Ogre (via Elvish Spirit Guide).

I open with a pathetic Underground Sea.

He Rancors up the Elite, serves for six, then plays a second Forest and Rogue Elephant.

I Vampiric Tutor for Chalice of the Void at the end of his turn, untap, and play Mox Ruby, Mox Pearl, and Tolarian Academy. Then I play Chalice for one followed by Balance.

An agonized howl filled my house after he read the card text – thrice.

All these stories aside, however, it’s time for control decks to stop maindecking Chalice. I hinted at this last October. I wrote in”Maximizing Mirrodin, Part V“:

“Chalice just adds more randomness in the sense that it makes too big a difference who’s going first, who knows what the other guy is playing, and who has a particular card in the opening hand. Hell, if Chalice remains unrestricted and combo is shut out, the next step is for smart players to drop Chalice and get an advantage over the surviving decks by having less dead cards.”

Indeed, Burning Desire has been greatly weakened, with the restriction of Lion’s Eye Diamond and Burning Wish aimed right at it. The combo deck to beat, Dragon, is not completely hosed by Chalice for two because it can still play Necromancy after you cut off your Mana Drains.

This means the best Chalice targets right now are Goblin decks, and the multiple maindeck slots are hard to justify just for Goblins, especially if you instead run Isochron Scepter, which comes with multiple Fire/Ice anyway. In fact, you can let the persistent Goblin players just chew on the threat of Chalice.

Other decks are hurt by Chalice for two, but this is a four-mana play and can be cumbersome. I was annoyed by it in the Manila environment. Outside of the Goblin matchup, it was sometimes a powerful-but-conditional card, the kind control players have been trying to cut down on over the years. Even Tolarian Academy screwed up my opening mana as often as it provided a midgame boost to Yawgmoth’s Will or broke the Blue mirror.

Incidentally, for a control deck with neither Chalice nor Isochron, here’s something JP”Polluted” Meyer whipped up a month ago, with the Paragon Nondisclosure Agreement lifted:

—–Original Message—–

From: JP Meyer

Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2003 1:04 PM

To: Paragons

Subject: neo tog

this deck is awesome. first off, it doesn’t run loa. second, it runs

crazy mana denial. third, i built it. fourth, I STIFLE

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT! fifth, this beats non-ak keeper really badly.

sixth, it should shore up tog’s weakness against DRAGON, in that it

couldn’t kill baazzaarr. seventh, mud isn’t so bad now that you can bust

up their symmetry with shaman and stifle.

sb isn’t perfect though. i don’t really like the random deed.

//NAME: Neo Tog

Polluted Delta

4 Wasteland

4 Volcanic Island

3 Underground Sea

3 Tropical Island

1 Strip Mine

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Sol Ring

3 Psychatog

2 Gorilla Shaman

4 Brainstorm

4 Accumulated Knowledge

4 Force of Will

4 Mana Drain

2 Intuition

2 Cunning Wish

2 Stifle

1 Time Walk

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Mystical Tutor

3 Duress

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Demonic Tutor

SB: 3 Red Elemental Blast

SB: 3 Deep Analysis

SB: 1 Pernicious Deed

SB: 1 Mind Twist

SB: 1 Capsize

SB: 1 Coffin Purge

SB: 1 Terminate

SB: 1 Artifact Mutation

SB: 1 Rack and Ruin

SB: 1 Berserk

SB: 1 Vampiric Tutor

Stifle, I have to admit, is a sleeper hit. First seen as an anti-Storm measure before Mind’s Desire was restricted, it’s turned out to have a handful of miscellaneous uses that just fit the present metagame. It can support Gorilla Shaman by”countering” fetchlands, wreak havoc with Worldgorger Dragon and Smokestack triggers,”counter” Isochron Scepter, and so on. It’s been spotted in various Blue decks, most notably the latest incarnations of Gay Fish.

Anyway, maybe in reverse, when people think Chalice is going to be less of a factor, you can spring it on them again.

Head to Head:”Modern” Suicide Black

My new boss Ted Knutson told me the introductory article”Head to Head: Old School Suicide Black” met with quite a bit of criticism.

So, why did Oscar write an article based on a log over a year old?

Answer: I’ve always wanted to teach readers how to fish instead of handing them sushi.

I’m quite capable of just jumping in and doing a feature on the Tier I deck of the month and then sort it all out later. However, I think the ‘Net has too much of that already, and you’re all familiar with netdeckers who go to tournaments without knowing the nuances of their chosen deck.

With the accelerated pace of Type I today, a decklist stands a good chance of being obsolete in two or three months. However, over the last ten years, principles and the most fundamental deck structures have remained relevant. So, I prefer to cater to beginners and emphasize these, and people who knew me all the way back from Beyond Dominia know this slant of mine.

I’ve seen local Manila”Suicide Black” players in the lower tables with cards like Cabal Coffers, Consume Strength, Phyrexian Arena and even Diabolic Tutor – clear holdovers from Type II mono-Black Control (MBC). You wonder if these more numerous players realize they’re taking mono-Black into a field with a lot of Goblin, White Weenie, and budget Reanimator. As for the intended target, the only regular who can play Type I control is Glenson Lim, and if an Extended player dusts off an old Oath deck, they’ll have to gamble solely on their Planar Voids (there for Reanimator).

However, I suspect some spirits were buoyed by occasional wins single-handedly due to a first-turn Chalice of the Void or a topdecked Nantuko Shade. Or, maybe some twisted the structure a good bit; for example, Phyrexian Negator is clearly lousy in the environment, while Massacre sees play. However, it’s sad to see a Suicide Black player gasp after his Shade meets The Abyss or gets Yawgmoth’s Willed into oblivion, but fail to recognize that Suicide Black is in fact an uphill battle for control.

If you already knew everything from that last article, good for you, but I wonder if there might be ten others who don’t, and I’d appreciate feedback on this point. But even then, I’d double check, since more than knowing why certain cards are in current decklists, I want you to be able to evolve it and incorporate new cards as they come.

Moving from”Old School” builds to 2003 builds

Head to Head: Old School Suicide Black” emphasized the difference between”Mono Black Control” and”Suicide Black” decks in old Type II. To recap with two examples:

Hatred, David Price, 1999 Duelist Invitational (Type II)

Creatures (25)

4 Carnophage

4 Sarcomancy

4 Blood Pet

4 Dauthi Slayer

4 Dauthi Horror

1 Skittering Skirge

4 Priest of Gix

Spells (11)

4 Duress

3 Persecute

4 Hatred

Mana (24)

4 Dark Ritual

4 City of Traitors

16 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

4 Cursed Scroll

4 Bottle Gnomes

2 Derelor

1 Persecute

1 Planar Void

3 Nevinyrral’s Disk

Mono Black Control, Justin Gary, 2003 United States Nationals, June 2003, Third Place (Type II)

Creatures (4)

“>Visara the Dreadful

3 Undead Gladiator

Spells (30)



“>Chainer’s Edict

“>Innocent Blood


“>Diabolic Tutor

“>Skeletal Scrying

“>Haunting Echoes


“>Mind Sludge

“>Riptide Replicator

3 Corrupt

Lands (26)

“>Cabal Coffers

23 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

“>Nantuko Shade

“>Visara the Dreadful

“>Cabal Therapy

“>Skeletal Scrying

“>Mind Sludge

“>Engineered Plague


1 Undead Gladiator

Again, these are both mono-Black decks from different time periods, but you should be able to spot the big difference in their structures. Up to 2001, Type I Suicide Black still retained a lot of its Tempest Block ancestor’s feel, though the Zombies were joined by Phyrexian Negator and Hypnotic Specter in place of Dauthis.

Head to Head: Old School Suicide Black,” though, showed how the traditional build ran into problems by 2002.”The Deck”, specifically, became more resilient without intending to with the addition of Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand (against land destruction), Brainstorm (against discard) and Cunning Wish (against creatures or to break out of stalemates). The feature showed how much easier it was for the control deck to establish a mana base, slow the pace of the assault, then take the game’s momentum. The only development in”The Deck” favorable to Suicide Black was the retirement of The Abyss, which was less effective against combo decks, Goblin Welder, artifact creatures, and Phyrexian Dreadnought.

Outside the control matchup, there were many other developments after Fact or Fiction was restricted. For example, first-turn Sarcomancy or Carnophage paled against first-turn Juggernaut or Su-Chi. For similar reasons, Flesh Reaver also had problems later on, despite its efficacy against control and combo decks (though this meant Necropotence came back, only the single scariest card you can drop on a Blue player).

Removing the Zombies, though, created new problems. The only new creature worth using was Nantuko Shade from Torment, but as I discussed in”The Nantuko Conspiracy“, putting this and Null Rod (or an equivalent), back in the main put so many two-drops in the deck that holes appeared in the mana curve.

I don’t think this was ever satisfactorily resolved, but in addition to the first option of keeping Zombies and the second option of running Shades, a third compromise was later discovered and that was to try to plug the holes in the mana.

Lotus Petal is the subtlest, but most prominent example. Traditionally, it was dismissed as a beginner’s mistaken substitution for Black Lotus, which it often was. However, remember how Elvish Spirit Guide is as good as a Time Walk in Stompy (because it let you play a second creature on Turn 1)?

Petal actually does something similar in a Suicide Black build with too many two-drops. That is, it let Suicide play a Turn 2 play on Turn 1 instead of doing Swamp, go. Clearly, even a mediocre Dark Ritual was welcome in the deck given its problematic mana curve. Other tweaks along these lines helped the deck out.

Today’s feature demonstrates an updated but still skeletal version of Suicide Black, to illustrate how the”modern” deck plays. The only truly modern development incorporated at this point is the obvious substitution of Chalice of the Void for Null Rod, so we don’t take in the changes all at once, and to better appreciate the latest post-Mirrodin tech.

Dealing with the Skull

Today’s guest is Wes Rucker a.k.a. DeadDread, a 23-year old antiques dealer by profession and historian by choice, who came from the University of Southern Maine. He plays in J&R Cards and Comics in Brunswick, and has been playing since 1995, though he quit for a three-year period. These games were taken from an amusing session where I was playing at 3 AM in Manila, but he hadn’t slept yet, so it didn’t matter that it was early afternoon in the United States.

02:16:07 – — Dead Dread says: ”Get ready to walk the plank!”

02:16:07 – — Rakso says: ”Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war || http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bdominia/files/ControlBible.zip”

02:16:10 – Dead Dread says:’play’

02:16:30 – Rakso drew 6 cards.

02:17:58 – Dead Dread drew 6 cards.

02:17:59 – Rakso says:’keep’

02:18:06 – It is now turn 1.

02:18:09 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

02:18:13 – Swamp is tapped.

02:18:15 – Dead Dread plays Duress.

02:18:23 – Rakso says:’Lotus’

02:18:27 – Dead Dread says:’yeah’

02:18:30 – Rakso buries Black Lotus.

I forgot which exactly, but I had a couple of bombs in hand, and he needed to take Lotus to slow me down and screw my colors.

02:18:34 – It is now turn 2.

02:18:37 – Rakso draws a card.

02:18:39 – Rakso plays Underground Sea.

02:18:41 – Rakso plays Mox Ruby.

02:18:41 – Mox Ruby is tapped.

02:18:43 – Rakso plays Sol Ring.

02:18:43 – It is now turn 3.

02:18:47 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:18:49 – Swamp is tapped.

02:18:55 – Dead Dread plays Dark Ritual.

02:18:56 – Dead Dread plays Hypnotic Specter.

02:18:59 – Rakso plays Force of Will.

02:19:00 – Rakso moves Mana Drain from Rakso’s hand to Rakso’s removed from game pile.

02:19:00 – Rakso’s life is now 19. (-1)

Little change of plan here. Wes could easily have played the Ritual first, play another Swamp, and then go for two two-drops. What I’d want to do, then, is to still Force Ritual and trade the useless Mana Drain for a turn of breathing space. However, Wes didn’t do this before, so I changed my play and figured he had a Specter or Negator instead of trading two counters for a Dark Ritual.

I figured right.

02:19:03 – It is now turn 4.

02:19:07 – Rakso draws a card.

02:19:08 – Rakso plays Tundra.

Fortunately, I topdeck a second Blue dual, and am in better shape with five mana on the table.

02:19:09 – It is now turn 5.

02:19:13 – Dead Dread draws a card.

On the other hand, the mana denial deck sat on a Duress and a Dark Ritual, and got mana screwed. I get more crucial breathing space.

02:19:16 – Underground Sea is tapped.

02:19:17 – Tundra is tapped.

02:19:17 – Mox Ruby is tapped.

02:19:18 – Sol Ring is tapped.

02:19:18 – Rakso plays Decree of Justice.

02:19:23 – Rakso draws a card.

02:19:24 – Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

02:19:25 – Rakso plays Wilkinson Warrior 1/1.

I’ll wait for the second Decree for the kill. Meanwhile, I need to stabilize, and cycle the first one. The point isn’t to get greedy while a lethal clock is ticking.

02:19:26 – It is now turn 6.

02:19:27 – Rakso draws a card.

02:19:28 – Rakso plays Tundra.

02:19:29 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:19:30 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:19:32 – Dead Dread’s life is now 18. (-2)

02:19:33 – It is now turn 7.

02:19:34 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:19:36 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

02:19:40 – Swamp is tapped.

02:19:41 – Swamp is tapped.

02:19:45 – Dead Dread plays Sinkhole.

02:19:49 – Rakso plays Force of Will.

02:19:56 – Dead Dread says:’ha’

Hard cast. Ouch.

02:20:00 – It is now turn 8.

02:20:01 – Rakso draws a card.

02:20:02 – Rakso plays Wasteland.

02:20:03 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:20:04 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:20:07 – Dead Dread’s life is now 16. (-2)

Unfortunately for me, he drew that crucial second Swamp, and my mana flood is matching his early mana screw. I need to topdeck something fast and get back in business, since a couple of 1/1s are hardly relevant at this point.

02:20:08 – It is now turn 9.

02:20:11 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:20:15 – Swamp is tapped.

02:20:15 – Swamp is tapped.

02:20:19 – Dead Dread plays Sinkhole.

02:20:22 – Rakso buries Underground Sea.

There goes my Black mana, cutting off key bombs Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, and Skeletal Scrying.

Be conscious of what color the opponent is attacking if he has to make a choice. Although the default is Underground Sea, there are times when he has to stop you from tutoring for a particular white or even red spell. Here, of course, there’s no choice given two Tundras and one Sea.

02:20:23 – It is now turn 10.

02:20:26 – Rakso draws a card.

02:20:27 – Rakso plays Strip Mine.

02:20:30 – Dead Dread buries Swamp.

02:20:31 – Rakso buries Strip Mine.

Now this is getting funny. My fourth straight land is Strip Mine, so I play land d and stall him.

02:20:32 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:20:33 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:20:35 – Dead Dread’s life is now 14. (-2)

02:20:36 – It is now turn 11.

02:20:39 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:20:40 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

Curiously, he topdecks another Swamp, but does nothing. A hand of three-drops and discard he doesn’t want to waste on my depleted hand just yet?

02:20:42 – It is now turn 12.

02:20:43 – Rakso draws a card.

02:20:45 – Rakso plays Island.

02:20:46 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:20:46 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:20:49 – Dead Dread’s life is now 12. (-2)

Hello, land number five.

02:20:49 – It is now turn 13.

02:20:51 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:20:53 – Swamp is tapped.

02:20:54 – Swamp is tapped.

02:20:55 – Dead Dread plays Nantuko Shade.

02:20:56 – Rakso says:’k’

Topdecked. Fortunately, he still doesn’t have a lot of mana, and I still have a bit of life to spare.

02:20:58 – It is now turn 14.

02:21:00 – Rakso draws a card.

02:21:14 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:21:15 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:21:18 – Dead Dread’s life is now 10. (-2)

Like I said, the 1/1s weren’t particularly relevant and they were nothing to get cocky with. Nevertheless, they did well enough in the brief stall. He’ll only get one shot out of Necropotence, and I have a chance of winning with a mid-sized second Decree – with all this currently useless mana – if it comes to that.

02:21:20 – It is now turn 15.

02:21:26 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:21:28 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

02:21:37 – Dead Dread says:’hrm’

02:21:44 – Swamp is tapped.

02:21:47 – Swamp is tapped.

02:21:47 – Swamp is tapped.

02:21:50 – Dead Dread plays Phyrexian Negator.

02:21:52 – Nantuko Shade is attacking.

02:21:54 – Rakso’s life is now 17. (-2)

This is the slight drawback of Shade, and he has to hold off dealing damage to get serious beatdown on the table. I now have to topdeck something and fast.

02:22:00 – Rakso plays Mystical Tutor.

Fortunately, I got a tutor, and it wasn’t one of the Black ones.

Mystical presents a dilemma, though. Even if I had black mana, Yawgmoth’s Will and Skeletal Scrying aren’t looking good at this point, and Demonic Tutor for The Abyss is no longer even an option.

Ancestral Recall is the default choice and leaves me mana to play what I draw, but a couple more cards isn’t going to clinch it against these two big threats.

Balance would sweep the board, but it’s not an option because I have two 1/1s that will negate its effect.

Decree of Justice appears to be the only possibility, and that would give me six 1/1s against his two creatures and ten life.

Do the math, however, and remember the four new Soldiers would still have summoning sickness. Trading one Soldier for a Swamp (to Negator) to get one damage from the other one wouldn’t really help, so I’d attack next turn. On the other hand, he wouldn’t attack since Negator would get gang blocked and he’d sac all his permanents, and Shade bringing me down to twelve wouldn’t be that significant.

If I tried to break the standoff by attacking, I’d trade two Soldiers for a Swamp and bring him down to six, and the remaining four wouldn’t be able to finish unless I found Fire/Ice. Now, if he found a third creature, I’d lose the standoff.

I suppose I could have taken the calculated risk of him screwing up his attacking and blocking, because this Soldier token math is a bit of a headache when both of you are sleep-deprived. However, I did something slightly more creative but still very risky.

02:22:06 – Island is tapped.

02:23:09 – Rakso moves Fire/Ice from Rakso’s library to tabletop.

02:23:11 – It is now turn 16.

02:23:14 – Mox Ruby is tapped.

02:23:17 – Wasteland is tapped.

02:23:20 – Rakso says:’1 each’

02:23:31 – Dead Dread says:’ah’

02:23:34 – Dead Dread buries Nantuko Shade.

02:23:35 – Dead Dread buries Swamp.

I thought the best I could do without the option of Balance was kill one of the creatures, then buy time by forcing him to sacrifice a Swamp.

What I didn’t realize was that I had Balance available. When I topdecked Mystical Tutor, I should have thought to chump block with the tokens and then fetch Balance. The problem came when I cast it immediately and mechanically.

Even if he smelled the play, he couldn’t do anything but stop attacking, which would only help me. Moreover, chumping the token would force him to spend a mana pumping Shade, meaning he’d have to hold back attacking for a turn or play Negator a turn late, which would also help me.

If you work this all out, maybe I should have held on to Mystical Tutor until I got rid of the tokens. Balance would still leave me topdecking, but at least the board would be clean and I’d have crucial breathing room instead of a Negator. If he hit me with discard, I could Tutor in response and draw Balance the following turn.

Admittedly, given the decks people were focusing on in November, this was one of the first practice situations where a decision involving Balance, Decree of Justice and opposing blockers came up. Then again, this is what practice is for, and you really have to master every possible permutation”The Deck” throws at you.

As you can see, my hard-wired reflexes had me cast Mystical immediately, and a lot of cards from Polluted Delta to Isochron Scepter have called for minor modifications to such scripts.

Oh, and as my own Shaman kill stories illustrate, not even 1/1s are irrelevant.

02:23:37 – It is now turn 17.

02:23:43 – Dead Dread draws a card.

02:23:47 – Swamp is tapped.

02:23:49 – Dead Dread plays Dark Ritual.

The Fire/Ice might have worked anyway, but he topdecks Dark Ritual.

02:23:50 – Rakso says:’k’

02:23:51 – Dead Dread plays Necropotence.

02:23:54 – Rakso says:’sheeeet’

02:23:56 – Rakso says:’okay’

Good grief!

In a lot of environments, people can no longer afford to maindeck Flesh Reaver, lethal as it is against creatureless decks. This means the dreaded Skull comes back in, and control players have to formulate their emergency plans.

If it drops early and you barely even have land on the board, there’s only one thing you can do.


I’ve tried keeping up with first-turn Necros over the years, but the closest I came was first-turn Sylvan Library followed by Ancestral Recall followed by Balance. I still couldn’t get him to Necro low enough for me to use the lone Fire in my library before I bit the dust.

Come on, this is the card that made Brian Weissman replace Serra Angels with Fireballs many years ago.

There’s a very practical reason for giving up, however.

In that last Manila tournament, I sat down in front of Suicide Black for Round 2. I got hit with something like Duress, Duress, Hymn, then Necropotence, and I had mulliganed into an unspectacular hand. So I conceded right there.

The guy asked me to clarify my statement thrice. Everyone watching was shocked. A guy shook my opponent and told him to just shut up and take the win. Honestly, I might have been openly laughed at had I not had a few thousand dollars’ worth of cardboard on my end of the table.

The important thing, though, was that I was able to sideboard and win Games 2 and 3 shortly before time was called.

Now, if you have a few more resources on the table, then slugging it out might not be a waste of time. First, you have more damage sources now, plus the chance to Imprint Fire onto Isochron Scepter. Second, Decree of Justice tokens are harder to get rid of, except if he’s using Powder Keg over Chalice or Null Rod. Third, you have the option to Schnitzius finish, or Cunning Wish for Flaming Gambit, though you have to play around his creatures.

The old fashioned way, of course, was to just try to keep up until you could find and play Morphling, and hope he was at ten or lower. That’s exactly how I won Game 3 of the above match; I was at one life when my Morphling finished a turn before my opponent Necro’d up one of two maindeck Diabolic Edicts kept as panic buttons.

And, if all else failed, you can still bite the bullet and kill the Necro. If you heard pre-restriction advice to let Necro stay on the board, that was for cases where you had something to attack his life total with. Otherwise, nine extra cards is still less of a long shot than the opponent pulling out nineteen (or more, thanks to your own Swords, something the most sadistic Mask players would point out).

Anyway, since this was just practice and since I did have mana on the table, I had to slug it out.

02:24:24 – Dead Dread’s life is now 4. (-6)

02:24:27 – Phyrexian Negator is attacking.

02:24:37 – Rakso’s life is now 12. (-5)

02:24:43 – Dead Dread moves 6 face-down cards to his/her hand.

02:24:45 – It is now turn 18.

02:24:48 – Rakso draws a card.

02:24:50 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:24:51 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:24:54 – Dead Dread’s life is now 2. (-2)

He plays pretty aggressively, going down to Fire range, and I wonder if he should just hold Negator back (allowing him to sac Necropotence and start drawing again) for a turn and then play out his hand.

Anyway, I don’t topdeck Fire. In my darkest hour, I get…

An Isochron Scepter all by its lonesome. Wonderful.

02:24:59 – It is now turn 19.

02:25:04 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

02:25:07 – Swamp is tapped.

02:25:08 – Swamp is tapped.

02:25:08 – Swamp is tapped.

02:25:10 – Dead Dread plays Hypnotic Specter.

Left at two life, he taps out to play another blocker, and reverses slightly on his earlier gamble. If he goes down to one and I kill either blocker, I win. Now, you might think that if I find Fire, he’s dead anyway and if I find Swords to Plowshares I won’t win. However, there’s still the possibility that I have Diabolic Edict in the board and topdeck Cunning Wish, I guess.

02:25:15 – It is now turn 20.

02:25:22 – Rakso draws a card.

02:25:27 – Sol Ring is tapped.

02:25:29 – Rakso plays Swords to Plowshares.

02:25:30 – Rakso plays Isochron Scepter.

Guess what I topdecked next?

Yes, once you appreciate the dilemma, you’ll figure out exactly why I chose this log for the feature.

02:25:32 – It is now turn 21.

02:25:40 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

02:25:51 – Swamp is tapped.

02:25:52 – Swamp is tapped.

02:25:53 – Swamp is tapped.

02:25:57 – Dead Dread plays Hypnotic Specter.

02:26:01 – Phyrexian Negator is attacking.

02:26:09 – Rakso’s life is now 7. (-5)

What’s the dilemma?

Well, I got a pseudo-Abyss in the nick of time, but what Glenson affectionately calls the Stick (and what some Paragons call the [censored]) is loaded with Swords to Plowshares.

That means, I can remove a creature a turn, but at the cost of letting him Necro. From here, it depends on the luck of the draw. If he draws his creatures in a clump, he has the mana to play them and overwhelm Isochron.

Otherwise, there’s a remote chance of Necro-locking him.

Now, given that, why in the world didn’t I start removing creatures with three of his already on the board.

Well, I had twelve life. Killing Negator now would save me five life, but let him refill his hand, and the next wave might overwhelm me. If I don’t, you can see that it won’t really speed up my demise, and I’ll be forced to kill Negator anyway the following turn.

However, I do get to trade five life for his entire next turn, except his attack phase.

02:26:11 – It is now turn 22.

02:26:37 – Rakso draws a card.

02:26:39 – Rakso plays Wasteland.

02:26:41 – Rakso says:’ack!’

And in the turn I squeeze from him I topdeck… Wasteland.

My hero.

02:26:46 – It is now turn 23.

02:27:23 – Phyrexian Negator is attacking.

02:27:23 – Hypnotic Specter is attacking.

02:27:23 – Hypnotic Specter is attacking.

02:27:25 – Sol Ring is tapped.

02:27:26 – Isochron Scepter is tapped.

02:27:27 – Rakso says:’Negator’

02:27:29 – Rakso’s life is now 3. (-4)

02:27:31 – Dead Dread’s life is now 7. (+5)

02:28:34 – Dead Dread plays Swamp.

02:28:35 – Swamp is tapped.

02:28:35 – Swamp is tapped.

02:28:38 – Dead Dread plays Sinkhole.

02:28:42 – Rakso buries Tundra.

02:28:45 – Dead Dread’s life is now 3. (-4)

02:28:48 – Dead Dread moves 4 face-down cards to his/her hand.

02:28:46 – It is now turn 24.

02:28:53 – Rakso draws a card.

02:29:01 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:29:02 – Wilkinson Warrior 1/1 is attacking.

02:29:06 – Dead Dread’s life is now 1. (-2)

Don’t forget those 1/1s; every life point counts.

Anyway, I cut it very close, but guess what I finally topdecked?

02:29:26 – Wasteland is tapped.

02:29:30 – Rakso says:’Waste my own Wasteland’

02:29:31 – Rakso says:’tap it for mana first’

02:29:33 – Wasteland is tapped.

02:29:34 – Rakso buries Wasteland.

02:29:34 – Dead Dread says:’k’

02:29:35 – Rakso buries Wasteland.

02:29:37 – Tundra is tapped.

02:29:38 – Mox Ruby is tapped.

02:29:41 – Rakso plays Balance.

Before Mirrodin, when Paragon Hulk Smash players were asked why they might go back to”The Deck” over Hulk, Balance was one of the strongest answers they gave. You can see why, though in this case, it didn’t sweep his remaining creatures.

02:30:22 – Dead Dread removes Black Lotus from the game.

02:30:23 – Dead Dread removes Nantuko Shade from the game.

02:30:23 – Dead Dread removes Yawgmoth’s Will from the game.

02:30:23 – Dead Dread removes Demonic Tutor from the game.

02:30:23 – Dead Dread removes Hymn to Tourach from the game.

Now, you see the full value of that earlier five-life trade to stall him by a turn. Black Lotus? Yawgmoth’s Will?

02:30:32 – Dead Dread buries Swamp.

02:30:33 – Dead Dread buries Swamp.

Wes concedes since it’s obvious what will happen.

He can’t attack because he needs to block both Soldiers to stay alive. At the end of his turn, I’ll Swords a Specter, and he’ll probably Necro for one card. During my main phase, I’ll Swords the second Specter and attack, bringing him down to two.

From here, the best he can do with that one card is play Nantuko Shade, which I’ll kill either with Stick or by forcing it to block. Then, he’ll be Necro-locked and go down to zero life on my next attack.

Balance, in case you forgot in a time when Zuran Orb is no longer a”The Deck” staple, is also a Mind Twist and an Armageddon. Here, not only did it strip his hand, but it also left him with too little mana to do anything. Not only does the latter cramp Necropotence, but it makes Balance doubly powerful against a deck that attacks both your hand and your lands.

So, aspiring control player, be sure you know what to do when Necropotence is forced through. And don’t ever think Suicide Black is a relatively simple (not necessarily easy) opponent to play against.