You know, the Pro Tour tournaments are a great contribution to Magic’s identity, a place where the game’s best can get together and battle it out, while the game’s fans can watch (or read) the matches and learn from the masters. City Champs, Regionals, Nationals and the PTQs are all currents leading to the stream of the Pro Tour and so are part of that same narrative. However, while it dominates much of the Magic dialogue, the Pro Tour is only a narrow sliver of the Magic Community; for the vast majority of Magic players, the game is all about friends and fun, playing Magic when life’s commitments allow you the time.
This “silent majority” got to grab the spotlight a little bit this weekend, in a fantastic tribute to Richie Proffitt, PolarBearGod. In honoring his memory, the more casual crowd basically bum-rushed StarCityGames.com tournament center and overwhelmed it.
328 souls came out to Roanoke, Virginia for Richie’s tournament. In case you’re not familiar with where it is, take a look at a map of the States. Look at Virginia – see where the state narrows towards a point in the western part? Roanoke is down that way. Not exactly on the beaten path. I live in Richmond, which is pretty much in the center of the state, and it takes 3 hours to drive to Roanoke. I played with and talked with people who’d come from North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia. On a Sunday! Talking with Pete, the owner of Star City Games, he said he was seeing people at this tournament he had not seen play Magic in years.
Now, the Star City Game Center is gigantic; it is literally a CCG player’s dream; tons of space, nice tables and chairs, lots of drink machines with tons of choices, a kitchen that prepares really good and fast food, attentive staff that runs tournaments like clockwork.
And decent parking. I can’t imagine even a big city like New York or LA could match it.
But 328 people is just an insane number. That’s conventional-hall-space material. The Star City Games gang scrambled and worked like maniacs to keep it running smoothly, but it was insanely crowded, it got terribly hot and humid, and it was 9 rounds of Swiss and it took a loooooong time to play out…
And you know what? All that stuff that might have made a PTQ or a Regionals miserable was no big deal. We were here to raise money for Richie’s family, have fun with our friends and sling some Magic spells in Richie’s honor.
The donated prize pool was insane; Wizards of the Coast ponied up a ton of fantastic stuff and did a nice job balancing their karmic checkbook after boning us all with the whole Champs fiasco, but that wasn’t all – from Hobby shops and individuals, from Pro Players on down to a 10 year old kid, folks gave what they could to the cause. I kicked in an Unlimited Berserk and a Gaea’s Cradle from my winning State Champs deck, Blair Witch Green. The Berserk went to the 23rd place finisher, and the Cradle went to 50th place; if you happened to have won one, drop me a line. I’d love to know who got those prizes!
Okay, so let’s rewind back to a week ago, when I wrote about a few deck choices I was mulling over. As I finished writing that column, I was pretty much leaning towards playing Warp World. However, Thursday I was browsing the Internet for Standard Magic decks and had clicked through quite a few links and ran across a decklist that immediately grabbed me by the throat. What’s going to be awesome for those of you who read my column, you’re going to have a major “tech” advantage over those snobs who only read premium for their cutting edge decks. This decklist — and my version of it — are top-notch, high-powered, and downright fun decks.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Roots
3 Doran, the Siege Tower
4 Zur the Enchanter
2 Primal Command
4 Rune Snag
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Steel of the Godhead
1 Shield of the Oversoul
1 Knollspine Invocation
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Murmuring Bosk
2 River of Tears
3 Yavimaya Coast
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Grove
2 Vivid Marsh
1 Saltcrusted Steppe
1 Declaration of Naught
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Razormane Masticore
1 Primal Command
1 Sower of Temptation
Patrick apparently piloted this deck to a 4th place finish in a National Qualifier for Austria. Granted, there were only around 30 participants, but this deck looked awesome! I’ve always loved Zur, but since his multicolor scheme didn’t include Green I’d always been loath to play it, especially since I didn’t really have a lot of non-Green dual lands. But this manabase was a thing of beauty, and I had all of these cards except for 1 River of Tears. Long-time readers with a sharp memory may remember that I ran a very similar manabase in my Turbo-blink deck; Birds, Wall of Roots, Vivid Lands, only since we didn’t have Reflecting Pool available I had to use Shimmering Grotto (which actually worked well enough since I had something like 31 mana sources). With Reflecting Pools + Vivid Lands, and Birds of Paradise, I knew instinctively that you could certainly make the mana work to run Zur in a base-Green deck.
The second thing that I loved about this deck was Doran – normally a superstar in his own right, in this deck he’s also a key supporter, making Zur into a heckuva beatdown machine! This deck is capable of turn 2 Doran, turn 3 Zur, and turn 4 attack with Doran and Zur (fetching Steel of the Godhead) for 11 points of offensive damage, with 6 of it unblockable and lifelinked.
Some of you might remember our own Kyle Sanchez talking about the Zur deck that won Houston Regionals, but that deck was completely different – that deck was a base-Blue Wizard deck with Cryptic Commands, Wizardcycling, Teferi, and all that nonsense.
This Zur lays the beats! And it was chock full of power – Doran, Zur, Reveillark, Mulldrifter, Primal Command, Oblivion Ring, Thoughtseize, Birds of Paradise, Wall of Roots. It didn’t just rely on synergy to “get there.”
Now, my extensive experience with TurboBlink had me very confident I knew how to properly play this manabase… yet the manabase still worried me. I’m still stinging a bit from the arse-whuppin’ I received from Magus of the Moon at Regionals, and I was just playing two colors! Magus of the Moon would annihilate this manabase! I instantly had this nightmare scenario pop up in my mind’s eye – he’s on the play, drops a Llanowar Elves, I play a Vivid Land, he drops a turn 2 Magus of the Moon. Why yep, that is a turn 2 kill!
Sure, I have some outs – I could have one of four lands to produce Black mana on turn 1 and Thoughtseize the Magus, or have one of 8 lands to produce Green mana on turn 1 for Birds of Paradise (and hope it stays alive long enough to find and play Oblivion Ring). But relying on that seemed… overly optimistic. I could always pray I don’t run into Magus of the Moon, right?
Me, I’m a Magic worrier, and playing a deck that has no realistic outs to a card I expect to see a fair amount of play drives me nuts. I briefly considered squeezing some Slaughter Pacts into the maindeck when I realized the answer to my prayers was sitting right there in the sideboard.
Firespout. All of you Quick-n-Toast players probably already have gotten there, but it took a moment for me to realize just how frickin’ awesome that card is in this sort of deck, where your mana provides you with exactly the colors you need, either Red, Green, or both. What’s even more awesome is that Firespout on Red kills none of your own creatures, and Firespout on Green clears away any pesky blockers for Zur (and Doran enchanted with Shield of the Oversoul). Firespout is just damn good all on its own, but it also happens to provide a fantastic maindeck answer to pesky Magus of the Moon. So how do I squeeze it in?
In the meantime, I decided to shoot this decklist to Richard Feldman, since he’s quite good at figuring out manabases, and this manabase looked wack. Help! He immediately cited concerns with the mana not being very good at producing Green or Black mana on turn 1 (for Birds or Thoughtseize). He also said that running only 21 lands was begging for getting manascrewed. This is the manabase he recommended:
4 Vivid Marsh – 4 b, 4 anything
2 Vivid Meadow – 2 w, 2 anything
4 Reflecting Pool – 4 anything
4 Llanowar Wastes – 4 g, 4 b
3 Yavimaya Coast – 3 g, 3 u
2 Brushland – 2 g, 2 w
2 River of Tears – 2 b, 2 u
1 Horizon Canopy – 1 g, 1 w
Total: 22 lands, which produce 10 Green, 10 Black, 5 White, 5 Blue, 12 anything
I did like this manabase better, but I started thinking that Thoughtseize was a bit of a “distraction” for what this deck wants to do, which is to get a turn 3 Zur on the board. To that aim we definitely want to shoot for a turn 1 Birds of Paradise, but we also have a very capable Plan B – turn 2 Wall of Roots. In a way it reminded me a lot of my primary opener for TurboBlink, which was to get a turn 3 Galepowder Mage in play. So I wanted to optimize for either turn 1 Birds or turn 2 Wall of Roots (and heck, sometimes I get to do turn 2 Wall of Roots and Birds of Paradise). You can see the manabase I ended up with below.
Since I knew I wanted to add a land and three Firespouts, I decided to cut the four Thoughtseize to make room. A few other changes – the second Steel of the Godhead seemed unnecessarily redundant, so I cut it for a fourth Oblivion Ring – I mean, why not run four Oblivion Rings?
For the sideboard I decided to make some major changes. I was a bit inspired by talk in Block Constructed at how good Gaddock Teeg is, and figured he might still do some good work in Standard. And why not have a good shot at making him immortal with some extra Shields of the Oversoul? A few Slaughter Pacts seemed worth the slots, upping my outs to Magus of the Moon while also being a good answer to large, problematic men. I also worried a little bit about burn decks, so a squeezed a few Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders in too.
Since this is a Zur deck I did a search in Gatherer for all enchantments in Standard, three mana or less. Raking Canopy jumped up and down, “Pick me! Pick me!” In talking with Jay, he said I should definitely play two, since Faeries has no problem dealing with one of them by just waiting long enough to have lethal damage and then bouncing it with Cryptic. If you get two in play, the odds are pretty slim for them to get two Cryptics before you kill them (or Bitterblossom does it). I also tapped Pariah, Wheel of Sun and Moon, and Aura of Silence, and kept Declaration of Naught since they each seemed like good, flexible answers to any wacky decks I ran across. So here’s my modified version:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Wall of Roots
- 4 Zur the Enchanter
- 3 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 4 Mulldrifter
- 3 Reveillark
Special thanks to Jay for hooking me up with the second River of Tears I needed! So how did I do? Well, considering I didn’t get back home to Richmond from the tournament until 3am Monday morning, and this column is due to go up Wednesday at midnight, I’m going to have to wrap this up and get it in to Craig now. I will wrap up this report with the blow-by-blow next week, which involves 10 quarts of oil, spitting distance from Top 8, an American Idol starter deck, and a foil Decree of Justice. Oh, and Flores mancrush Shaheen Soorani weighs in on Aggro Zur!
* If anyone reads German/Austrian, I’d be curious what the comments are in the forum here, where this decklist was posted.