You Lika The Juice? – Scrubbing & Redemption

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Wednesday, May 14th – I had a good time at this weekend’s Magic extravaganza, the Star City Mega-Magic Weekend. For those of you who did come out and were kind enough to come up and introduce yourselves and let me know you enjoyed my column, I really appreciate it. Nothing feels better than meeting you all face to face and hearing positive feedback. You all rock!

I had a good time at this weekend’s Magic extravaganza, the Star City Mega-Magic Weekend! How about you? Actually, where were you? While there was a strong turnout for the $5K on Saturday, attendance didn’t hold a candle to the one down in North Carolina a month or two back. Nothing against North Carolina, but I would have expected Richmond’s proximity to Virginia Beach & Northern Virginia/Maryland would have led to at least just as many people coming out to play as did the previous one. Was Mother’s Day weekend that big of a conflict? Did you end up playing in the Sunday event instead of the Saturday event? Did you play in the Vintage Power Nine tournament instead? If you played in the NC $5K but not in the Saturday $5K in Richmond, drop a note in the forums and let me know why you didn’t because I’m curious.

For those of you who did come out and were kind enough to come up and introduce yourselves and let me know you enjoyed my column, I really appreciate it! Nothing feels better than meeting you all face to face and hearing positive feedback. You all rock!

Many of you also told me you found last week’s When In Richmond column very helpful, and I was glad to hear it. I hope it helped enhance your weekend’s enjoyment.

I have to admit, my Mega-Magic weekend started out on a bad note. Friday morning arrived and I still wasn’t sure what deck I wanted to play. Richard Feldman Doran deck looked very intriguing, though when someone with Feldman’s readership advocates playing Mana Tithe I’d think the surprise value of the card diminishes considerably. I considered just swapping them out for Order of Whiteclay, and just represent Mana Tithe mana whenever possible just to force people to make contortions playing around a card I didn’t have in the deck. I also acquired a very interesting deck that I decided I wanted to try out in Friday night’s grinders… but the deck included four copies of a Green uncommon sorcery that I’ve never ever seen in a Constructed deck before, and for some reason I could not find any copies of the card in my collection, despite the fact that it’s Green and uncommon, and as a rule I generally acquire a playset of every Green common and uncommon on general principal. I spent nearly two hours combing through my van and all the nooks and crannies of the little corner of the laundry room where my office/computer/games/books reside.

No luck.

So I trucked up to Richmond Convention Center in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, Star City’s vast array of singles, selecting every possible card a Standard or Vintage player could possibly want would include this oddball card.

Standing behind near infinite number of singles hauled all the way from Roanoke, if Ben Bleiweiss and Pete Hoefling weren’t such nice guys, they likely would have slapped me for asking for something they had not brought with them.

They no doubt have thousands back at the mothership. Why didn’t you email or call us to bring it for you, they asked?

I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to find them in my collection!

As I ponder my dilemma they announce pairings for Grinder #1. Crap! Time’s a wasting! What do I have built? Nothing, of course – I’d spent all my actual deckbuilding time earlier in the day searching for that stupid card*. I make a snap decision to go ahead and give the Assassins deck that I talked about last week a try. For reference, here it is:

Assassins (Prototype — don’t play this at home)

2 Garza’s Assassin
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Cloudthresher
4 Nameless Inversion
2 Primal Command
4 Thoughtseize
4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Scarblade Elite
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Murderous Redcap
1 Nekrataal
3 Reflecting Pool
4 Treetop Village
1 Forest
4 Swamp
4 Desert
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace

I went 1-2, jumped in another grinder and went 1-2. A pile o’crap, right? Sure… and yet, in each game that I won I controlled the board handily with the Assassins, and in each game I lost, I’d lose just barely, or catch a few bad breaks including one triple-mulligan on the play that I very nearly pulled out. It felt bloated at the high end of the mana curve with no real way to accelerate there, so I went about trying to fix the problems.

Meanwhile, my buddy Jay was marching towards taking down the invitation in one of the grinders with his ultra-cool Mono-Black Control deck that, interestingly enough, got its start from us talking about ways of abusing Devoted Druid, and how he can be used to translate cards that boost toughness (usually fairly cheap to cast) into significantly more mana. From there we ran across Umbral Mantle, which boosts toughness but requires some assistance in producing additional mana. Jay briefly toyed around with Mana Reflection, but then took the Umbral Mantle, left Devoted Druid in the dust and jumped over to Magus of the Coffers – a two-card infinite mana combo if you happen to be playing enough Swamps.

And really, with Corrupt back and Urborg around, shouldn’t you want to be playing Swamps?

Jay said his sideboard was junk so he didn’t bother to write it down for me, though I’m sure it had some number of Terrors, Extirpates and other usual suspects. He won the Grinder but did less well in the main event after his two byes. I asked if he’d like to say a few words on behalf of what I thought was a pretty strong deck:

Jay Delazier: What I liked about the deck?
• 2000/2000 Mutavaults. This releases the inner Timmy.
• Korlash.
• Leechridden Swamp. My land search with Korlash is coming into play tapped anyway. I’ve won a fair share of games w/ this thing.

What I don’t like?
• The number of colorless lands.
• The inability to gun down a Treetop Village in game 1.
• The lack of a one-of Loxodon Warhammer. I think of this kind of like an extra Corrupt that I can Beseech for with fewer than 6 lands.

Some other observations:

This list isn’t the final build by any means. StarWarsKid and I agree that my build is probably 5-7 cards off where it needs to be in order to be truly competitive. There is still some work to do.

There’s no shame in Beseeching for the fourth land. I wish I had access to Blood Pet so I could Beseech for a land on turn 2.

There are many paths to victory in this deck. I’ll talk about a couple of them here:

First, the splashy infinite combo: Magus of the Coffers and Umbral Mantle. With six Swamps in play you can pay two to tap the Magus for BBBBBB, pay BBB to untap him and BB to tap him again. End result is +B. Once you have the infinite mana you can use either Profane Command or Oona to win. You also have the option, which is sometimes relevant, of making any number of Mutavaults and the Magus himself infinitely large and then getting your swing on. Sadly your infinite/infinite creatures have no evasion, but they just get there sometimes.

Second, just beat down: Korlash is a big fella, and sometimes you just get the dubs Bitterblossom draw. Magus of the Coffers has respectable combat stats too, and if you’re stuck on five Swamps you can’t get infinite mana but you can make him infinite/infinite with the Mantle.

Lastly, burn to the dome: Profane Command and Corrupt do a great job of reducing your opponent’s life total to zero.

Let me also attest to the ridiculousness of Dusk Urchins with Scarscale Ritual; the Urchins are fantastic by themselves, but in conjunction with the Ritual you draw a ridiculous number of cards. In fact, watching Jay keep his hand flush from the Urchins during the Grinder inspired me to retool my Assassins deck. Here’s what I ended up pulling together:

I ran a few games with it and it seemed to play much smoother – the Urchins really kicked the deck up a notch by keeping the cards flowing and giving you a solid chump blocker early on. Profane Command is awesome, of course – it gives the deck that extra reach that it was sorely lacking to punch through at the end. The one glaring mistake I didn’t notice at the time was running 3 Colossus but 4 Redcap – what was I thinking? I like the Redcaps, but they don’t hold a candle to Colossus and they’re both assassins; if I’m going to cut one down to three in the four slot, I made the wrong call here.

By the time I got this deck fixed it was too late to try another Grinder, so I decide to run the clock out by playing this deck some more.

Then Pete comes up to me with a playset of the annoyingly hard-to-find Green sorcery* and now I can build the thing – argh! I throw it together and run it a few times, but I don’t get a good feeling from it. I have to admit I don’t give it much of a chance, but the time is running short. I decide to go with Assassins.

However, on the drive home, I start to second guess myself. Can the Assassin deck lay the wood to Public Enemy #1, the Faerie Menace? Can that hard-to-find Green sorcery deck beat Faeries? Cripes, why aren’t my two finalist deck choices no-brainers to beat Faeries?

By the time I get home around midnight I’ve talked myself into playing G/W Elves, which can do a nice tribal beatdown while also packing Elvish Hexhunters, Jagged-Scar Archers, and Chameleon Colossus to hopefully bring the pain to those pesky Faeries. So I stay up until 2am building that deck from scratch, and get back early as hell to be back at the venue at 8am.


I’m tired, but I feel pretty good about the Elf deck; it “feels” like a good call to me, and so when I sit down for my first match in the big $5K I’m confident I can do this. Nine rounds, Top 8 bound, cash and glory await!

My first opponent Chris decides to pleasantly stomp my dreams into the dirt, sweeping me 0-2 with a Green/Black deck that could have been called All Of Bennie’s Favorite Green and Black Cards in Standard.dec. Literally, if I had just sat down with my Green and Black cards and built a deck from cards I love it have been close to Chris’s list, and definitely made me wish I’d had done just that. Chris was a pleasant opponent and helped ease me into the loser’s bracket graciously.

Round 2 was against Ian playing a low-curve burn deck that pretty well burned up all my elves before melting my face with heat. Primal Command helped extend the games by a few turns, but drawing 3 of my 4 Horizon Canopies as my first five lands in both games didn’t help things (and game 2 I actually mulligan away a two Canopy hand into a one Canopy/2 other land hand). Ian swept me 0-2 also and I checked the drop box and slunk away to the back of the room to bemoan my fate, nurse my wounds, and kick myself for not just going ahead with the Assassins deck.

I’d normally post my decklist but since I didn’t even get a game win, what’s the point?

To make me feel better, I decided to go ahead and run the Assassins deck as posted above in one of the eight-man, single-elimination, win-a-box tournament in the hopes that a box of boosters would make me feel better.

Round 1 was an epic battle against a Green/White goodstuff deck that was like a mirror-image of my deck, complete with Kitchen Finks and Primal Command, huge monsters, and removal (he was running Oblivion Ring); from the sideboard I’d bring in Damnation and he’d bring in Wrath of God. He was also running Oversoul of Dusk, Chameleon Colossus in the maindeck, and Akroma, Angel of Wrath in the board, all of which made my Black removal ineffective, so I had to make judicious use of my Green monsters to take down those guys. Luckily, my Chameleon Colossi dying while taking down Oversouls gave Assassin-fuel to my Scarblade Elite to kill off his Tarmogoyfs, the Dusk Urchins kept me flush with cards. and eventually Profane Command for huge amounts gave me the win. I squeak out the first and third game for the match win.

Round 2 is against Bill, running a burn deck with Spiteful Visions and I got lucky in both games by drawing a ton of Finks, Primal Commands, and huge monsters. In game 2 I brought in Krosan Grip for the Spiteful Visions, but he’d swapped them out for Everlasting Torment, a card that’s particularly harsh at stomping Finks flat. Thankfully, I met his turn 3 Torment with my turn 3 Grip and got my Finks/Command action going.

Round 3 I played Rusty with Mono-Green Treefolk featuring Leaf-Crowned Elder, Timber Protectors, and the Harbinger to go get ‘em. Of course my puny Redcaps are ridiculously ineffective against a deck where toughness starts at three and goes steeply up from there, and he wins the first one. How many columns have I talked about my love for Treefolk? I figure the Magic gods are dishing out a little cosmic justice and/or irony here and brace for a quick loss, but Rusty has to mulligan to 4 before having a hand he can actually play. My hand is serviceable but my draws don’t bring much pressure and he very nearly pulls it out. The last game is quite the struggle, but my Scarblade Elite manage to chew up Protectors and non-Colossi, with Damnation stepping in to deal with the Protection from Black menace, and eventually I get control of the board with a Profane Command to back it up.

I have to admit, winning a box with Ouphes & Assassins made me feel lots better! Some tips on playing the deck if you have the inclination:

1. There’s a trick you can do with Murderous Redcap to deal 6 damage. First, play the Redcap and put it’s coming into play trigger on the stack. Respond to it by targeting the Redcap with nameless Inversion, making it a 5/-1; it dies immediately, then it’s Persist ability kicks in, bringing the Redcap back in to deal a point of damage (or 2 points if you happen to have an untapped Pendelhaven handy). Then the original comes into play trigger resolves, but since that Redcap isn’t technically in play anymore (it went to the graveyard before coming back), the ability looks for the last known value for power, which was 5. Voila! Five more damage.
2. Don’t get greedy with Dusk Urchins; it’s perfectly acceptable to chump block (hopefully killing an attacker) and drawing one card, that’s two-for-one right there.
3. If you’re not playing burn, Garza’s Assassin can be a potent tool, especially knowing you have Kitchen Finks and Primal Command to recoup lost life. If you’re playing against burn or an aggressive deck, make sure you remove Garza’s Assassin from the game first with Scarblade Elite.
4. Make sure you pull 1 Redcap from the maindeck and replace it with the fourth Chameleon Colossus I had in my board. I’m considering adding Scuttlemutt to the sideboard to tutor for with Primal Command in games 2 and 3. I got the idea from the plethora of Protection from Black dudes that are good enough to maindeck, and how much a pain in the ass those cards are for a deck that generates its best removal engine with Scarblade Elite. Scuttlemutt makes my Elite white and then he can pop a cap in Oversoul of Dusk, Chameleon Colossus, and Akroma. Boo-ya!

Afterwards, I get into a draft, my very first time for Shadowmoor Limited. I’ve been so focused on Standard I haven’t even read about Shadowmoor Limited, so I’m a bit overwhelmed as I crack open my first pack and try to figure out which way to go. There are so many choices but nothing so blatantly obvious/broken that I punt and just take the Scuttlemutt. It’s obviously a good card and certainly keeps my options wide open. Some Red cards come my way, I dip a little bit towards Green, then end up in Black and finish up primarily Red with a decent amount of Black. I win my first two matches and start to get a little big-headed, hoping hey, maybe I’m a natural at this format! but then my finals opponent – who happens to be Jay “Game Blouses” Delazier – shows me what a real drafter pulls together and spanks me with his hyper-aggressive White/Red number. We split the packs evenly though, and all in all, not a bad end to my Mega-Magic weekend!

As I leave I drop by to chat with Evan Erwin a bit, and as I tell him about the Assassins deck, he looks at the cards in it and he tells me he wants to play it in the $2K on Sunday. I tell him it’s a lot of fun, but warn him that, while I was victorious in the side tournament, it was only three rounds and I didn’t even play against Faeries.

Luckily for him, he didn’t get out of the tournament venue until 3:30am, so he had no time to pull together such a janktastic deck and instead went with a burn deck someone handed him. He made Top 4 with it, so I think perhaps it was a good thing he didn’t run with Ouphes & Assassins…

… Then again, maybe he would have won!**

See you next week!


Starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

* Sorry if I’m being coy about that card, I’m not sure if the deck is something that might be considered “secret Hollywood technology” — I doubt it, but since it wasn’t my decklist I didn’t want to assume.

** Considering five of the Top 8 decks were faeries, maybe not – unless Ouphes & Assassins just happens to be incredible against Faeries…