You Lika The Juice? Two Big Mistakes

While my record at Champs this year would indicate otherwise (2-3-3… yes, three draws!), I actually took away some positive vibes from the tournament. At first I was pissed – pissed at myself for not just buckling down and going with my first deck choice, and pissed at Wizards for making an environment that seemed overly stuffed with counter/Wrath decks.

While my record at Champs this year would indicate otherwise (2-3-3… yes, three draws!), I actually took away some positive vibes from the tournament. At first I was pissed – pissed at myself for not just buckling down and going with my first deck choice, and pissed at Wizards for making an environment that seemed overly stuffed with counter/Wrath decks. But instead of dropping in disgust at 1-1-2, I decided to stick it out and keep playing my Green/White deck.

Because it’s a hoot to play. And, I dare say, it’s actually really good.

Let’s back up a bit. Coming into Champs this year, I had a ridiculous number of decklists generated from Time Spiral alone, and none of them were Ravnica-era updates – they were all turbo-Time Spiral-charged new and wacky decks. I’ll share a bunch of them toward the bottom of this column, but as Champs loomed I’d settled on this one as my favorite:

The deck was built to take advantage of Greater Gargadon’s Suspended ability, namely in conjunction with Mindslicer during your opponent’s draw step. It also ran Nether Traitors that functioned as fantastic Nantuko Husk and Greater Gargadon food in pairs. This build could muscle out a Greater Gargadon (Gee Gee) in a hurry, and often at instant speed… and it performed fairly well, even if it felt a little clunky. It proved to be a bit lacking in the fight against aggro decks, particularly those backed by burn, and that weakness spooked me so that, at the end of the night, I ended up switching to my second favorite deck:

Up until Friday night the Mangaras were maindeck, and proved to combo quite nicely with Scryb Ranger to cap off two permanents per activation. After playtesting against Kevin’s Boros deck Friday night, and reading for several weeks comments about all the great burn floating around the environment, I decided “synergy” between two 1/1s was probably a little too optimistic to bank on in the maindeck. That opened up room for Saffi Eriksdotter, a card I’d been meaning to try, and I have to say after playing with her Saturday I think she’s an excellent addition to the deck. One of my biggest concerns when building this deck was to give it resistance to Wrath of God, a card I knew would be very popular. Vitu-Ghazi and Saffi were two ways to do that; Griffin Guide was another. Griffin Guide proved to be amazing in this deck, allowing Ohran Viper to take to the air, dealing significant damage and drawing cards more often than not. Weatherseed Totem in the sideboard was another nod to the power of Wrath.

One bit of tech I’d like to point out here is Gather Courage, which was amazing all day. A lot of the strongest openings for Sexy Scryb is turn 1 mana critter and turn 2 Viper. A Seal of Fire on the Bird or a Lightning Helix on the Viper can often ruin that plan, but with a Courage you hold a trump card that you can play even if “tapped out.” One particular game going first I got the turn 2 Viper. My opponent spent his turn casting Helix to kill the Viper. I tapped it to convoke the Courage. I then attacked with the Viper, drew a card but still didn’t see a third land. So I played another Viper. My opponent untapped and played Char on one of the Vipers… and of course I tapped the new one to convoke another Courage to save it. The game was soon over with. Courage is also decent insurance against your creature getting burned out in response to playing a Griffin Guide.

The Magus of the Disk/Loxodon Hierarch combo came up a few times too, and if you’ve got Saffi around to bring back your Hierarch too it’s ridiculously good. It wasn’t until after the tournament that my friend Jay pointed out we should be calling the Disk man “Flavor Flav” for the clock hanging around his neck.

Okay, so if my record was so horrible, why in the world am I talking about this deck? It’s gotta suck, right? Well, actually I think it’s a good deck but I made two crucial errors that I think kept me from making a legitimate run at Top 8 (and Virginia’s new state Champ won with a G/W deck).

Mistake #1: Running Chord of Calling
For some reason, many of my Green decks start out running Chord of Calling. I just love that card – it’s flexible and clever, two things I’m drawn to like a fat man to Carolina BBQ. Maybe you’re familiar with Chad Ellis‘ amazing classic article, The Danger of Cool Things? While I also need to restrain myself by getting sucked into “cool things” in Magic deck building, an article title that would more accurately cover my bases would be called The Danger of Cool, Flexible, and Clever Things.

Instead of cool, flexible Chord of Calling, I should have run Stonewood Invocation. Looking back at my matches, I would have won many of them if the Chord of Calling in my hand had been Stonewood Invocation. I own two and could have gotten my mitts on a third. I even had them sitting on the table in front of me Friday night as I finalized the decklist. First they got shifted to sideboard considerations, and then they got sent back to my Green box. Huge mistake! That card is just ridiculous and any Green/x deck that swings a lot needs to have a good reason not to run it.

Mistake #2: Falling into the Draw Bracket
Flat out, I should have conceded to my opponent in the first game instead of letting the game finish as a draw. The draw bracket is a nightmare land for Green/White decks, stocked with players who throw in every creature kill and counterspell they can get their sweaty paws on… and only once they make damn sure you can’t win two out of three games with them do they finally turn their anal brains to the task of actually trying to win the match themselves. Of course, that reaction is not entirely fair – I did build my deck to have considerable resistance to Wrath of God and creature removal, so I probably taxed their control elements considerably more than most other creature decks they were preparing against. A Stonewood Invocation on a Saproling hailing from the Vitu-Ghazi would have tilted many a draw or loss into the win column. Instead, I was Chord of Calling for a three or four-mana creature and getting it countered or killed.

I kept playing the deck after the second draw simply because I could tell the deck was really good but needed a little something extra, and over the course of the tournament I figured out those two fundamental mistakes. Along the way, I played probably one of the tightest games of aggro Magic I’ve ever done. I don’t have a killer instinct and usually struggle with pure aggro strategies, but in the Draw bracket I obviously got a lot of time playing the aggressor. I was playing the third game of a match against a Blue/White/Red control deck that was chock full of counters and creature kill, and the only creatures I was able to keep on the board was the random Llanowar Elf, Scryb Ranger, and/or Saproling token from Vitu-Ghazi, while my opponent was gaining a life from the Firemane Angel he dumped in the graveyard on turn 3. I scraped and scrambled to squeeze every possible point of damage from my opponent’s hide, finally able to deal the last four points of damage in the very turn of extra time thanks to a Pendelhaven and Gather Courage, after milking the last counterspells with large creatures spells. That victory was one of the sweetest I’ve ever had.

So anyway… take the deck, replace the Chords of Calling with Stonewood Invocation, adjust the sideboard to your liking and give it a whirl. I think it’s got a lot going for it.

Diamonds in the Deck Dustbin?
Like I mentioned earlier, Time Spiral inspired a ridiculous number of deck ideas, and one of the first big tasks I had was simply cutting down to four or five decks to try and streamline. But some of the deck ideas that didn’t make it were still very interesting, so I thought I’d record them here for those of you who might find them interesting. Maybe one or two of them have some potential worth exploring?

I got this idea thinking of the synergy of Hail Storm and Stuffy Doll. Heck, you can attack with Stuffy Doll and cast Hail Storm to bolt your opponent for three (and even ping it with a Desert for another point). Jolrael is there to take advantage of your land acceleration and to also punish your opponent’s mass removal.

I would have killed to have Mindless Automaton for my States deck at Champs last year. The problem with a dedicated Dredge deck is that, if a card doesn’t have Dredge, or isn’t a creature or land, or doesn’t have some other way to recur itself, it’s hard to justify running it because once you’re doing a lot of Dredging, other spells just become blank cards in your deck. One thing I desperately needed in that deck was a card-advantage engine, and Mindless would have been perfect, especially with Life from the Loam. In this build, I added the Eidolons for additional Mindless food.

Here was the other Dredge deck that wasn’t doing silly things with the Eidolons. The Spiders were in there to combat the hordes of Akromas I was anticipating seeing all over the metagame. I’ve written about Dredge a ton and everything still applies here—your goal is to switch over to dredging just about every single turn as soon as possible.

Jay tossed around an interesting Balance deck, but I decided to take it in another direction, burning bounce cards to keep my opponent’s hand chock full and resource-light, and eventually sacrificing all the lands to Gargadon before the Balance resolves to pretty well set your opponent too far in the hole to deal with Gee Gee. I think the theory behind this deck was pretty sound, I just never had the chance to playtest it.

I nicknamed this after Chad Ellis article Bennie Smith Is 100% Right , Or: Why Clever Is Better Than Power, which was a follow-up to a rant of mine Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss The Green Age Of Magic. Chad quoted from me: “Green already comes to the ass-kicking party with one leg, being a color imprisoned in the main phase, as SorcerySpeed.dec. Playing base Green feels like playing Portal. EOT means Excellent Overrun Topdeck.” I designed this deck to play clever, to rarely play a spell on my turn after accelerating out a turn 2 Viper. The dream set up would be to fetch out a Teferi with Teachings so that all my non-lands are instants that can be Teachings’d out. Unfortunately, Clever Simic didn’t seem to be as strong as the baseline U/G Aggro decks that were getting tossed around, so it ended up on the cutting room floor.

This was inspired by Pat Chapin’s article expounding the virtues of Orcish Librarian and educating me as to why it was wrong of me to dismiss them way back when I first started dabbling with Geeba. The synergy of Scrying Sheets with Orcish Librarian feels quite sweet, and since I’m playing snow Ironfoot seemed like a natural… and since I’m playing Ironfoot, why not play Fire Whip and go nuts with machinegun action? I thought this deck actually had a lot of promise.

When I first built this deck, I thought that Djinn Illuminatus could copy zero cost suspend spells like Ancestral Vision and just win immediately by decking your opponent. Once I got learned the error of my mistake, I realized the Djinn was still pretty good at going nuts with Clockspinning and +1/+1 counters. This deck needs some work figuring out the right balance of creatures with counters, but it seems fun.

This was my stab at a Suspend deck. Jay actually tested this a bunch of times and, if it gets a Clockspinning going, it’s sick. No Clockspinning and it sucks hard. Thus, the Dizzy Spell. Sins of the Past is a fun way to reuse those high-cost Suspend spells out the graveyard.

When I struck on the idea of chaining two Nether Traitors to give Nantuko Husk the ability B: Nantuko Husk gains +2/+2 (let’s call it “netherbreathing”… er, maybe not) I was jazzed, and eventually snagged the idea for Gee Gee. For B/W we can even run Teysa and turn that into B: +4/+4 (“supernetherbreathing”). Who needs Promise of Bunrei, anyway?

I built this deck to try and abuse Telekinetic Sliver, which strikes me as card just begging to be broken. I’ve also got that Mystical Teachings for Teferi and then any creature in the deck “tutor” engine in here. Has anyone had success with TK Sliver?

Okay, that wraps things up for now. It’s been fun seeing the Top 8 decks from around the country, and congrats to StarCityGames.com own Mike Flores taking the plaque up in New York with an interesting Angel deck. Stay tuned for next time as I weigh in on the City Champs fiasco.