When last I wrote this column, I was undecided what deck to play for the Pro Tour: Hollywood Qualifier I was attending down at the Star City Game Center. I had the “Doran Goodstuff” deck ready to roll; it was already pulled together and awaiting sleeves. Then I had two deck ideas built around the Hideaway mechanic, but I didn’t really find anyone but me who was excited about the prospects. And it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm by yourself. I was also intrigued by Patrick Chapin column last week talking about Opposition Elves, but what I found even more interesting was the Intruder Alarm Elf deck someone posted in the forum for Patrick’s column. Back when the Onslaught Elf tribe was around, I was known to toss around an Intruder Alarm Elf deck from time to time and really liked it. However, I had similar concerns that Patrick expressed – without a broken enchantment on the board, the elves in the deck were pretty underpowered, particularly compared to what was normally stomping around in Extended.
So I thought – hmm, what about just keeping the core combo elements and strip away all the mediocre elf tribal stuff? Run 4 Sprout Swarms, 4 Imperious Perfects, and then 4 Intruder Alarms and 3-4 Opposition. Flesh the rest out with better creatures. Here’s the idea I pitched to my buddy Jay:
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Sprout Swarm
4 Trygon Predator
4 Imperious Perfect
4 Intruder Alarm
4 Venser, Shaper Savant
2 Indrik Stomphowler
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Treetop Village
4 Breeding Pool
4 Yavimaya Coast
Surprisingly, he liked it much better than I did. My beef was that there was no card drawing in it, and no way to make use of redundant card draws (like if you draw 2-3 Oppositions, or have 2 or more Sprout Swarms when you’ve already got one active). Jay didn’t see these flaws as reasons to not play the deck, and ended up running it himself. He really liked its performance and feels it is incredibly powerful, so I’ll talk a bit more about the deck next week.
So, this is what I was thinking about as I went to bed Wednesday night: First, I was not overly happy with my Goodstuff Doran – it struck me as “too fair” to fight well in the format, especially if the qualifier was going to be as huge as Pete was expecting. It’s one thing to battle six rounds of Swiss with a fair deck; it’s another to battle 8 or more rounds. The Hideaway ideas had not gained any traction, and the Intruder Alarm deck had some issues. I could probably build a Dredge deck, but I kept feeling The Fear… again, especially because of the size of the tournament and the fact that everybody was still loaded with hate, I worried about fighting through that hate through all the many rounds.
I finally fell asleep, Magical cards drifting through my mind.
Thursday morning, I awoke with a rather odd card leaping into my first waking thought:
My next two thoughts: first, I apparently think about Magic even while I’m sleeping (which is a little disconcerting) and second, Tireless Tribe “combos” with Doran, the Siege-Tower quite nicely!
But is Tireless Tribe/Doran a little too cutesy to bother with?
I mulled on the idea on the drive into work, and even kicked around the fact that Extended does still have one en-Kor creature that can combo with Daru Spiritualist to make an infinitely large creature with Doran on the board. Trying to assemble a three-card combo involving creatures that doesn’t flat out win you the game on the spot didn’t really do too much for me, since you’d still need to attack with the Spiritualist and then go unblocked or utilize some sort of evasion.
But Tireless Tribe has some good qualities to going for it all on its own. First and foremost, it offers a Doran deck the ability to kill quickly. Here’s the scenario I pitched to Jay:
Turn 1: land, play Tireless Tribe (opponent drops a fetchland, cracks it for a Rav land, plays a Top).
Turn 3: draw extra card from Bob, play land, play Doran, the Siege-Tower. Opponent blind reveals top card with Counterbalance; it’s likely not a three-mana card. Doran resolves, you attack with Tireless Tribe and Dark Confidant. Pitch your four cards in hand to Tireless Tribe and deal 18 points of damage. In Extended, with fetchlands and Rav lands, that’s a turn 3 kill.
Having the ability to deal an obscene amount of damage from nowhere is definitely appealing in Extended.
Tireless Tribe has a few other virtues as well. He kills opposing Dorans by pitching a card, and if you have a second to spare he kills just about anything and survives. He can also toss a card into the graveyard if you need an extra card type for your Tarmogoyf. Lastly, playing a turn 1 Tireless Tribe does not telegraph to your opponent that you’re playing Doran as much as a turn 1 Bird of Paradise off Overgrown Tomb might, so you’re a little less likely to get nailed on a blind Cabal Therapy game 1.
It sounds like I talked myself into playing Tireless Tribe, doesn’t it? Well, of course I did! Who am I to argue with my own subconscious?
Here’s the deck I took to the PTQ:
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 4 Tireless Tribe
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 3 Indrik Stomphowler
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Doran, the Siege Tower
Props go out to Tom LaPille, who chimed in on last week’s column’s forum and saved me from a wretched manabase. He had also suggested 2 Polluted Deltas but I was unable to scrounge any Swamp-fetching fetchland in time for the tournament; still, the manabase above performed great.
I think the big difference in my build and other Doran decks — outside of Tireless Tribe of course — is the fact that my early game doesn’t consist of mana-ramping with Birds or Elves in order to get a fast Doran on the board. My early game consists of Duress or Cabal Therapy on turn 1, and then a Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant turn 2. I see this as an excellent opening 1-2 punch, since you could be removing a creature-control spell on turn 2, and then presenting one of two very dangerous creatures on turn 2. Assuming your opponent can deal with the creature, that sets you up for a solid turn 3; either dropping Doran, who’s much safer now than he would have been on turn 2, or dropping one of your 4 Eternal Witnesses, getting back either a Duress/Therapy, or the Goyf/Bob that your opponent killed. To my mind, it’s important to run a Witness out there pretty early since she’s part of the ridiculous Profane Command/Eternal Witness endgame. And yes, Virginia – Profane Command is as good in Extended as has been reported.
I wish I had more room for creature control, but you can’t get everything you want in your deck, especially in Green/Black/White (soooo many good cards to choose from!). I picked Smother and Putrefy because they kill just about all of your major threat creatures in Extended, and I liked having Putrefy to help deal with Vedalken Shackles (ridiculous against Doran), and I also thought it might help break out of a Counterbalance/Top lock by playing a Duress and, when they tap the top to draw a card, you respond by killing the Top with Putrefy before it gets put on top of their deck.
Indrik Stomphowler seems to be the golden child of the format, the smart choice for dealing with the Counterbalance/Top lock as well as other enchantments and artifacts, and being an all-around large man.
For the sideboard, I took Flores’s advice from Friday and decided to use Engineered Explosives as part of my “8 sideboard cards for Dredge” block, since the card is incredibly flexible and you never know what you’re going to find yourself matched against. Pernicious Deed also fits in with that philosophy. I wish I could have squeezed in the Hierarchs for the maindeck, but I made sure to have some in the board to bring in against the aggressive decks.
I have to say, I was very happy with the deck and glad to run it in the PTQ. First, let me tell you – the Star City Game Center is just as awesome as advertised. Jay and I mentioned that, if we lived in Roanoke, we’d find it difficult to ever leave. It literally covers all the bases you’d want in a game shop: Plenty of product, tons of playing space, bright and airy, a kitchen that prepares good food (including homemade pizza), and an excellent staff. Check it out:
This is the registration area, a large section in the middle of the store, dividing the two play areas.
Here’s the product wall, and one of the many monitors posted around the room. Each monitor displays tournament information, such as the tournament clock, and also seating for the next round so you don’t have to chase after a judge and crowd around the 1 or 2 places where pairings are posted. Literally, wherever you’re standing in the game center, a monitor is within sight. Totally awesome.
Not just one very clean bathroom with turbo-charged hand air-driers… but TWO for each sex.
A while back I wrote about my son’s birthday party at a kids’ playspace called Pump It Up, and I got an email from someone who desperately wanted to know where there was a Pump It Up in Richmond. When I told him he said he was thinking of something else. That something else was this machine. Pete calls it “Ben’s Folly,” after Ben Bleiweiss. The mental picture that evokes thinking about Ben and the Pump It Up machine cracks me up…
Hey, check it out – it’s the Magic Show man Evan Erwin in the house! He actually pulled me aside and interviewed me, and I was incredibly nervous on-camera, so I probably came across as a complete idiot. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed that Evan does some masterful editing to help me seem more savant than… you know.
Okay, on to the tournament!
The head judge announced we had 145 people for the PTQ, which would mean 8 rounds of Swiss to cut to Top 8. I was again relieved by my deck choice in light of that fact, and go off in search of my first opponent.
Round 1 versus Jason with Blue Trinket Mage Control
I win the die roll and open with Duress. Looking at his hand I see Top, Explosives, Spell Snare, and Fact or Fiction as my choices. Naturally I take the Top… or not, I actually somehow reach for Fact or Fiction and put it into the graveyard and say done before realizing how stupid that was. I get some early beats with Bob, draw some cards, get Doran out there along with some Treetop action and managed to push through enough for the win. Game 2 I again Duress, and see two Fact or Fiction, two Spell Snare, and a Vedalken Shackles. Yuck! I go ahead and take the Shackles. This game goes long since I again get Bob to feed me some cards, but his Facts keep him flush with cards too, and he manages to use Sower of Temptation to really slow me down and finally win. Game 3 we’ve got three minutes to finish, and I end up going aggro Bob, playing two Dark Confidants in the hope that I can draw my “combo finish” along with enough removal and disruption to push through, but we go into extra turns and I don’t quite have enough to finish him. Agh, so frustrating, a round 1 draw!
Round 2 versus Shawn playing 4 Color Trinket Mage
Man, Trinket Mages sure are popular! Shawn’s deck has Trinket Mages with the Counterbalance/Top combination, along with Engineered Explosives and Pithing Needle. He’s also got some beef with Tarmogoyf and he’s also playing Dark Confidant, but I don’t see any Dorans even though he’s playing White mana. Game 1 is a tight match, with momentum shifting between us as one of us gets a threat that is finally dealt with and vice versa, but I finally manage to push through and beat him with four life to spare. Game 2 is straight out of the Tireless Siege playbook, with turn 1 Duress, turn 2 Dark Confidant, turn 3 Eternal Witness getting back hand destruction, and then play Duress & Cabal Therapy. He’s got a Top going and is digging hard to keep in the game, but Bob feeds me Profane Command with two Witnesses in the graveyard with Doran and Tarmogoyf on the board, so I get to Profane Command three times while attacking with two large men. That’s tough to survive and I chalk up a sweep.
Round 3 versus Indy with Elves
Game 1 he drops turn 2 Wren’s Run Vanquisher, turn 3 Vanquisher, turn 4 Imperious Perfect, turn 5 Imperious Perfect. Meanwhile, I’m wiffing on Duress, drawing no removal, and when I try to cast Doran it gets a Remand. The game is over pretty fast. Thinking he’s basically Fish/Elves, I board in sweepers to slow him down. He plays a ton of Elves and then… Intruder Alarm – holy crap! Thankfully, he’s not able to combo off right then, so I drop Pernicious Deed with enough mana to blow away all his elves, an Umezawa’s Jitte, and the Alarm. Whew! He doesn’t recover from the massive card loss before I kill him. Game 3 I get a pretty good aggressive draw, but he plays turn 1 Essence Warden so to buy some time, then combos off Intruder Alarm and Sprout Swarm before I draw some way to kill the Warden. The very next turn I draw Deed to kill off infinite tokens and Alarm, but he’s still got the Swarm in hand and plays another Alarm. I don’t draw another answer and scoop it up.
Round 4 versus Oscar playing Heartbeat
I’ve met Oscar online back when I played MTGO more often, but this is the first time we’ve squared off across a real table. Game 1, I’ve got a Duress in my hand but my mana is such that I kinda want to play Treetop first in order to play Doran on turn 3, and when he drops a Forest with no other play I feel safe doing so. His next turn he drops another Forest and passes the turn, and I drop a Tarmogoyf. His next turn he drops another Forest and passes, and I’m suddenly suspicious – what the heck kind of deck is he playing? Instead of Doran I decide to go ahead and Duress him, and see Gifts, Cunning Wish, Early Harvest and Ideas Unbound – he’s playing Heartbeat! I go ahead and nab the Gifts so when he draws his Island I’m relieved he can’t assemble his pieces. I put on some pressure but he draws Moment’s Peace to buy him some time. I actually pump Tireless Tribe with Doran out to make the last attack lethal so he’s forced to go ahead and burn off the flashback Peace, and with him tapped down I go ahead and Cabal Therapy him to strip all action from his hand except Early Harvest. My next turn he dies, so naturally he draws Mind’s Desire for two cards… thankfully he can’t go off on those two cards and concedes. The next game goes longer but my deck is chock full of hand destruction paired with a pretty good clock so I pull it off. Whew!
Round 5 versus Wes with Slaver Tron
Game 1 I open with Tireless Tribe, and when he plays an Urza land I follow up with Duress and see Gifts, Remand, and Thirst for Knowledge but no full Tron. I play a Bob (after being Remanded) and then a Doran and he plays a Trinket Mage, fetching up an Explosives. He plays it next turn for 3, getting Black mana off my Urborg, but I have a Putrefy to destroy it before he can get rid of Doran. He’s at 15 and I cast another Duress to make sure he doesn’t have a Repeal, and then attack with Doran, Tribe, and Dark Confidant, pitching my hand to the Tribe to kill him. Wes is shocked, figuring he still had at least another couple of turns to dig for answers or set up his own action. I’m impressed that I was able to just go ahead and put the game away quickly, something that’s vital when playing against the format’s control decks; he could have drawn his Tron and then done some ugly moves with Mindslaver or something. The next game he has to mulligan down to five, and with my hand containing Duress and Cabal Therapy, he’s never really in the game. Turn 3 Bob starts feeding me cards and soon Tarmogoyf and Doran seal the deal.
I’m starting to feel pretty good about my chances at this point. I normally hate being in the draw bracket, but my deck is set up pretty well to beat control decks so I’m thinking I might be able to backdoor my way into the Top 8 at 6-1-1! Bring on those control decks!
Round 6 versus Chris with Affinity
He wins the die roll and plays artifact land, Springleaf Drum, and Ornithopter. What the heck is this guy doing in the draw bracket?!? Next turn he plays Cranial Plating, Frogmite, equips the Ornithopter and smacks me down before I’ve even got a creature on the board. Unfortunately I don’t draw a Smother or Putrefy, he goes nuts off Thoughtcast and spills out a ton of artifacts, and the Plated Ornithopter crushes me. Game 2 he doesn’t get a Plating so I have time to fight on the ground long enough to Deed for one, which wrecks him, leaving him nothing but a Nexus and a 3/3 Frogmite facing down my two 5/6 Tarmogoyfs. Game 3 he’s a little slower but gets one hit in from a Plated Ornithopter before I drop Doran, which does a nice job of neutralizing the Plating. Still, he’s swinging over for 2 with the Ornithopter, and has a Ravager out there and plenty of artifact food, so I need to get going. Thankfully, I’ve got Tarmogoyfs and Doran with Profane Command in my hand and a Witness in the graveyard, along with 2 Hierarchs. I think I can win this race since he can’t afford to go all in once I gain 4 life from the Hierarch, so I cast the fine elephantine fellow. Chris frowns. “Man, I hate that guy, he beat me last match.” He then ponders the one card in his hand. “Hang on… is the life gain a triggered effect?” No, please – tell me he doesn’t… “Yes,” I say, and he grins, playing the Stifle on the lifegain trigger. I pass the turn, he untaps, sacs all his artifacts to Ravager, moves them over to the Ornithopter and kills me. Frickin’ Stifle! I suppose he boarded it in for my Deeds, but nullifying the lifegain works too.
Thus my PTQ run ends. I jump in a draft later on with Jay and we both make it to the semi-finals before losing, and then we head on back home to Richmond. I just wanted to say thanks to Pete and the Star City crew for running such a fine tournament in a mighty fine game center, and thanks to all my opponents for being good sports and pleasant fellows all. Even though I didn’t do as well as I hoped, I was still very happy with the deck and would recommend it to anyone to give it a try. Tireless Tribe was an excellent addition, being directly responsible for one game win, and being a threat to “go large” several other times during the day. If I had sparred against other Doran decks I’m sure it would have also proven its worth there.
It was great meeting Evan Erwin, and I heard later on that Tom LaPille was there too – wish I could have shook his hand and thanked him for his help on my manabase, but hopefully I’ll run into him another time.
See y’all next week!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com