Vacation isn’t really looking up. I played a bunch of games over the past week. One guy, for example, went 3-2 against me with a splashed version of Forbiddian, no sideboarding. In the second game, he played a third turn Blood Moon. In the third game, he went Black Lotus–Blood Moon–Force of Will. In the fifth game, I went first-turn Library of Alexandria and he went Mox-Mox-Island–Blood Moon.
We agreed that for both our sakes, I shouldn’t try to play out the games, and just shrugged and said it was just his day. I retorted, why can’t everyone just go play Stompy?
We got a pretty good laugh out of those games…”Lotus again?“
I heard people had lots of fun at States, though (obviously, we have no States here in Manila). So far, I’ve only heard from the Virginia contingent, where Star City sponsored a big Black Lotus side event that was won by a German Tools ‘n’ Tubbies (TnT) player. It was a pretty good turnout, with familiar Virginia and New York forum denizens like Darren Di Battista, Josh Reynolds, Matt D’Avanzo, Vinny Pau and Eric Wilkinson gracing the top end with”The Deck” variants. Mr. Funker Shane Stoots took TnT this time, though he got knocked out by teammates Josh in the last round of the Swiss.
Write in your tourney feedback so we can encourage more organizers to host bigger side events.
Anyway, I hope you remember our two rules:
- 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?
Opening Up Onslaught: Artifacts
The only thing that should interest anyone is Slate of Ancestry… And if a player manages to get several creatures on the board, he shouldn’t be relying on a deck that still needs a four-mana play and forced discards to win at that point. If the creatures do their job, you won’t need it; if they get killed off, Slate is useless.
Opening Up Onslaught: Land
Yes, I wrote a separate article just for land this time. It’s not that I’m still pressed for time due to exams… It’s just that no set has revolutionized mana bases since Arabian Nights brought City of Brass. Ben Bleiweiss named the new fetch lands his #1 Onslaught pick, and no one is disagreeing so far.
Barren Moor, Forgotten Cave, Lonely Sandbar, Secluded Steppe, Tranquil Thicket
Please look up the original Urza’s Saga lands: Drifting Meadow, Polluted Mire, Remote Isle, Slippery Karst, Smoldering Crater, plus the colorless Blasted Landscape. Type I player that I am, I’ll claim to like the original’s names better. (You like Slippery Karst? My God, that sounds like a porno nom de plume – The Ferrett)
Seriously, though, the tempo of Type I is so fast that every land you play has to be able to tap for mana right away. Few decks can tolerate a topdecked land that can’t give mana in an early turn, and you should try topdecking an Invasion dual on turn 4 with a The Abyss in hand against a creature deck.
Thus, coming into play tapped is the worst thing a land can do in this format, and funkier cycling doesn’t make up. The slower decks are those in a position to draw more cards midgame, anyway, if they survive the early game.
Again, coming into play tapped is the worst thing a land can do. Barring that annoying all-City of Brass opening hand, it’s better to just write off a couple of life points and use City than risk missing that one mana in a crucial turn.
Too bad… I liked the name.
I was disappointed with how vanilla the tribe-based Charms were, and the lands didn’t really grab me, either. I thought they could’ve been done with a couple more twists, like Starlit Sanctum having two opposing-color abilities. Sure, their granddaddy Griffin Canyon was turned into a weird combo engine, but they don’t seem to add all that much flair to any theme deck.
If you take a look at the others, Contested Cliffs is the only somewhat exotic ability (a ripoff of Arena and Karplusan Yeti) and Beast isn’t one of the more interesting creature types. Daru Encampment just mimics Pendelhaven, Riptide Laboratory mimics Karakas, and Unholy Grotto mimics Volrath’s Stronghold.
One of the last things I discussed in the beginner’s part of the Control Player’s Bible was the mana base, and I happened to correspond with John Ormerod on what other lands should be considered. The set that almost made the cut were the Mirage fetchlands (Bad River, Flood Plain, Grasslands, Mountain Valley, Rocky Tar Pit). Of course, they came into play tapped.
Fast forward to 2002 and suddenly John got his wish.
The initial reactions in my mailbox were as varied as they were ecstatic. For multicolored control alone, Darren Di Battista posited that maybe they shouldn’t be used because they might hurt colored mana development later on. I thought I’d test with two or three at first, as limited replacements for those last dual land slots. Matt D’Avanzo was saying run more.
John e-mailed,”Surely the new lands are nuts?! Is this the end of the line for City of Brass?”
Now that they’ve been made useful, the features of the fetchlands can be summarized:
1) You have the same chances of drawing land early on, but draw slightly less land later on
2) You have slightly more cards in the graveyard to burn
3) You lose a bit of life
4) They’re placeholders for a dual land of your choice, matching an early land drop with the spell in your hand. (Remember that unlike the new Extended, Type I has the original dual lands like Underground Sea, which are different because they count as their basic land types.)
5) They’re extra reshuffle effects
Looking at the list, you can tell who doesn’t want them. A mono-blue control deck, for example, doesn’t need them:
1) It wants to keep drawing land throughout the game.
2) It has no cards that burn the graveyard.
3) It needs the life total as a buffer in the early game.
4) It doesn’t use dual lands.
5) It doesn’t need reshuffling, unless it clears slots for Brainstorm.
Fast combo decks like Academy may not want them, either, because they need true five-color lands and use duals – plus, they have very low land counts with all their artifact mana.
That said, just about everything else is fair game.
Onslaught Fetchlands In Mono Decks
The simplest starting point is to ask yourself what fetchlands can do for a mono-colored deck, and from the above discussion, probably a mono-colored aggro deck.
Sure, initially, you think about dual lands in Type I – but look over the list of advantages again. Fast aggro decks use cheaper but weaker spells for fast openings, so they don’t want to topdeck more land because that’s when they need to apply more pressure. The life isn’t so important because they aim to deal damage faster than their opponent, anyway.
Looking at the fetchland listing, you can run up to eight in a mono-color deck… And the only question seems to be, why can’t you?
The first issue that comes to mind is hitting the end of the mana curve. The Type I Sligh mana curve has nothing but one-drops (except Incinerate and some others like Price of Progress), but it wants to get to four mana so it can cast its topdeck and activate Cursed Scroll every turn.
I tried some test draws, and running eight doesn’t slow your hitting four mana all that much… Aspecially since your Mountains aren’t Wasteland targets. I asked Jay Schneider himself for his thoughts, and he figured he’d play it more conservatively and test with four.
A second issue with Sligh is adding up to eight more self-damaging cards to go with Jackal Pup, which may be a metagame concern. A third may be more relevant for Extended Sligh, filling up the graveyard. John noted, for example, that he’s only trying the fetchlands in a mono Extended deck for Sligh, which has four Grim Lavamancers.
Note that if you toss out Cursed Scroll, Sligh becomes the perfect mono-colored archtype for the fetchlands. Jay pointed to his last featured Type II deck, Red Dawn. The mana curve is closer to what a Type I deck would be without Cursed Scroll than the original Sligh mana curve, and the fetch lands fuel Lavamancer.
If you consider the fetchlands usable in Sligh whose curve effectively tops off at four, then they’re no-brainers for Suicide Black, whose curve tops off at three with Phyrexian Negator and Hypnotic Specter. Similar reasoning goes for mono blue aggro control like Fish, which probably won’t aim to hard cast Force of Will anyway. These archetypes use disruptive cards which are good early but can be less effective later on, so improving topdecks by drawing less land is a very good thing for them.
The fetchlands have issues with a few specific decks, though.
White Weenie may not want nonbasic lands that can’t be pulled out with Land Tax. If you can get Tax running, you can pull out every Plains from your library after a few turns and improve your topdecks. This doesn’t work with fetchlands that become useless with no Plains left in the library.
Ironically, the fetch lands look built for Stompy and its nine or so Forests, but it has a lot more issues than you’d first think. The initial issue seems to be an land versus a Land Grant that can get Force of Willed or Duressed in an unlucky opening. At first glance, you’d probably take immunity from those two over pitching to Bounty of the Hunt later on.
However, you have two other interactions to watch out for. First, Rogue Elephants eat up Forests, and you’ll want to draw another and go back to two mana for spells like River Boa and Null Rod. I don’t think it’s as scary as it first looks because you have the same number of land and the percentages take a few turns to add up. I did some test draws with eight fetch lands and it wasn’t so bad, barring multiple Rogue Elephants or two-mana spells with Rogue.
Second, fetch lands can really turn Ghazban Ogres ugly. The life loss can make your life miserable if your first creature gets Lightning Bolted or you have multiple Ogres in the opening hand. I tried it and you’d have to change the normal order of your plays a few times.
Given all this, I’m trying four Land Grants and four fetch lands for Stompy. Matt D’Avanzo proposes none to two fetch lands, though.
If you happen to use four or less fetch lands in a deck, I recommend mixing the two types instead of using just one kind. It adds a bit of deception. Your opponent might get too cautious and keep wondering if you have the extra colors hidden somewhere, even in your sideboard. This can get a bit funny outside mono decks, like using Windswept Heath in a green/red deck.
Onslaught Fetch Lands In Multicolored Decks
Now, things get a lot more complicated. In the preceding section, I stuck with rough numbers like zero, four and eight. Discussing these lands with Jay, we both said we’d rather do test draws and games and get a feel for how they run. Drawing up probability models has a way of taking the fun out of everything.
When I talked to Eric Rouge, a.k.a. Redman, about multicolored aggro like Zoo, though, he could only sigh that the fetchlands screw up all previous intuition and feel about mana bases. I completely agree.
It’s easy with mono color decks since your biggest computational problem is your total land count, and the fetch lands practically count as”whole” lands when you add things up. (You sometimes think of a Dark Ritual as a fraction of a Swamp when counting mana sources, right?) In a multicolored deck, you have to count the total sources per color in addition to total sources.
To give you a demonstration of how confusing it can be unless you force yourself to think like a spreadsheet, let me quote an e-mail from Jay:
“I’ve got a U/G build that runs eight fetch lands (Draino Redux, threshold build), with no color adjustment issues. I could have played more (all sixteen), but I was already down to four Island and four Forest targets. I suspect as a rule of thumb, you want to have an equal number of targets as you do fetch lands. Lastly, as for helping color issues, I’m working with a U/W/G Wake build that uses them and Krosan Verge for color fixers. Playing eight fetch lands (four are Verges) and 12 targets and I don’t have sufficient targets in the mid-game. I do however get double U, double W and single G by turn 4.”
Fortunately, the headache gets smaller in Type I because you can fetch dual lands in addition to basic land.
Using fetch lands with duals, I’d first make sure I have enough of each dual so that I can draw more normally or fetch more, especially since Wasteland should be expected. I’m sure you know that a mana base of sixteen fetch lands and one of each relevant dual is atrocious, but you might end up with something too close without realizing it.
Very roughly speaking, take a three-color deck with sixteen colored land slots. You might take your twelve possible dual lands and fill out with four fetch lands, rounding out the mana base to lean towards the deck’s primary color. If you run four colors, you still have twelve possible dual lands with the primary color (not counting City of Brass), so you might still run somewhere around four fetch lands.
Just remember that the fetch lands aren’t crutches to negligently get into the Constructed equivalents of 6/6/6 Sealed Deck mana bases.
Once I’m sure of my colors, I’d look at the other issues discussed like mana curve and life loss.
One thing John O mentioned, incidentally, was adding a basic land or two to a dual-land base to hedge against nonbasic hosers. I didn’t think it’d really defend against them, though. A basic Island or Mountain may not help all that much until you sideboard Elemental Blasts. A basic Plains would help if you ran a bunch of Disenchant effects, but that creates its own problems.
The drawback is drawing the thing in your opening hand when you really want a multicolored land. If you’ve tried tweaking”The Deck” and topdecked a Tropical Island when you’re looking to cast the Swords to Plowshares or Chainer’s Edict in your hand against a fast aggro deck, that’s the exact lousy feeling.
It might work in a three-color deck with a lot of one-mana spells in the primary color, but you’d have to tune the mana slots precisely.
Incidentally, the fetch lands do get funny against nonbasic disruption. Land destruction can’t hit it until you use it, so a little patience means it’s a bit easier to keep two blue sources on the table against Suicide Black’s Sinkholes and Wastelands..
The Reshuffling Effect
Also incidentally, some multicolored decks are trying to take advantage of the reshuffling side effect. John O also wondered via e-mail if more decks could use Brainstorm, and Oath players might try it. Something like”The Deck,” though, already has Sylvan Library.
Eric Rouge e-mailed that the fetch lands have been spectacular in Enchantress (which makes heavy use of Sylvan along with Argothian Enchantress) precisely because of that. Besides, Dan Rosenheck, a.k.a. CooberP, has added more colors to it since its green/white roots, so the color fixing is invaluable, too.
There are a number of other effects that benefit from reshuffling like Scroll Rack, so people should keep the side effect in mind.
That’s all for this week, and I hope Eric“Danger” Taylor in particular liked it. I fished for his thoughts, but he said he wanted to see more of them in action first before articulating any thoughts, so he said he’d just wait for this article.
You might be asking why I hardly mentioned the most famous multicolored Type I deck. Well, fetch lands in”The Deck” would take up an entire article on its own…
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University of the Philippines, College of Law
Forum Administrator, Star City Games
Featured Writer, Star City Games
Author of the Control Player’s Bible
Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)
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