Zadok Sligh Eats Columbus: The Universal Net Deck Comes Out To Play

PTQ-Tokyo, Columbus, November 18 Friday, November 17: Episode one, and stuff. The moment I realized that I couldn’t take it back, I wanted to. That was then, this is not only now, but the future as well. No takebacks here. No bootlicking for amnesty. Where do I go from here? To the losers bracket, slick….

PTQ-Tokyo, Columbus, November 18

Friday, November 17:

Episode one, and stuff.

The moment I realized that I couldn’t take it back, I wanted to. That was then, this is not only now, but the future as well. No takebacks here. No bootlicking for amnesty. Where do I go from here? To the losers bracket, slick.

Losers bracket: Welcome back, Mr. Rizzo.

Mr. Rizzo: Thanks, but I still want you to die, bizitch.

Losers bracket (makes big "L" on forehead): Booya.

Man, it seemed like such a good idea at the time. Of course, that was a couple of months ago; tomorrow will be the finality, or maybe just the beginning. And, while you may be excited to see me get what I deserve, I assure you that this will not count as your vengeance, for I will eat ’em and smile (hopefully).

If you are in the dark, here’s a little light to be shed upon thee: http://www.starcitygames.com/news/Magic/Rizzo/000921rizzo.html

(Welcome back to the two people who thought it would be a good idea to stop reading this and click the link to that.)

What the hell is wrong with me? It’s not like I actually have a deck – one not that I not only like, but is also competitive – for Extended. She’s all set to go, but I’m all booked to play The Universal Net Deck. There is small compensation in the fact that Beho will be piloting my creation to the Top Eight (unless he goes and sucks something fierce, which is a distinct possibility).

I’d list the deck he’s playing, but it is secret tech. Okay, it’s almost identical to the deck I listed at the bottom of my Tony Boydell interview. Almost identical, except for the fifteen or twenty cards that were changed. So there.

I just referenced two of my previous articles.

FrigginRizzo: <—Shameless self-promoter.

Actually, I’m kind of looking forward to it. Why should I be dreary? It could be fun. All right, it will be. Hopefully, I will make my point -which I’ve long since forgotten. Oh, yeah… Net Decks are not nice. That was the point, I think.

I can hear the comments now. Clear as day.

(Skip ahead to the future starting now.)

"I just played this scrub who was using Skyshroud Ridgebacks!"

"He was using Snow-Covered lands!"

"Maybe it was his first tournament or something."

"He had white-bordered Llanowars!"

(Return to the present, starting now.)

Of course, I am referring to the comments that will be heard after beating me into oblivion after watching The Universal Net Deck in "action." These words, or something very similar, will be heard all over Columbus tomorrow; I am Rizzo’s total lack of surprise.

A three-hour drive just to sign seven "0-2" match slips might seem ludicrous to those who are out of the loop. Hell, it seems borderline ridiculous to those who are not only in the loop, but had a hand in constructing said loop. And at times in this "Grand Experiment," I have also questioned the validity of such a seemingly worthless display of passive resistance.

But not today. It’s all making sense; clarity abounds.

I will lose, a lot, and like it. Okay, I probably won’t be jumping for joy, but the underlying ideology of what I am doing will help to reassure me that I am indeed doing the right thing (maybe). That’ll keep me going (maybe). It’s easy to say that now, as I have yet to feel the actual "humiliation" that many will assume ensconced itself so firmly in the predetermined results.

The aforementioned predetermined results:

Matches: 0-7

Games: 0-14

Rating points lost: Enough for one day.

People that understand: At least one.

Match record in Ohio: 4-18

I cast Dignity: Counterspell. I respond with Reinforced Beliefs: Force of Will that, and go on home, grabass.

Well, enough of the pie-losophy, here’s the decklist:

Zadok Sligh, by David Zadok Stroud

2x Dragon Mask

4x Bog Elemental

3x Mind Slash (one foil)

2x Whipstitched Zombie

2x Molting Harpy (one foil)

2x Feast of the Unicorn

1x Greed (signed by Phil Foglio)

4x Wyluli Wolf (all white bordered)

4x Llanowar Elves (all white bordered)

4x Skyshroud Ridgeback

3x Deepwood Wolverine (one foil)

2x Megatherium

2x Sustenance (both foil)

4x Land Grant

3x Forgotten Harvest

10x Snow-Covered Swamp

8x Snow-Covered Forest


4x Crumbling Sanctuary (one foil)

4x Rishadan Pawnshop

2x Fear (white bordered)

1x Mind Slash

4x Rejuvenation Chamber (one foil)

Here’s how David, Lord of Thine Broken, explains it:

"Here’s the deal. This is a beatdown deck with a few tricks up its sleeve. First of all, the mana curve is damn near perfect, with very few bumps. You should be able to go 1cc, 2cc, 1cc and 2cc without too much trouble, or 1cc, 1cc and 1cc, 4cc. Either way, it’s a fairly strong curve (a bit light at three now that I reconsider it).

"It has a few tricks up its sleeve, including the minor land synergy trick (sack a land to Elemental, give Elemental +1/+1 with Harvests). Sustenance/Harvest can be strong if used well. Really, the whole deck is sort of like that. If you use it right, timing your attacks to deal a good amount of damage and using your Wolves and Masks to save or pump a creature at the right times, you’ll do fine (or as fine as any deck built out of this can do). It’s really easy to screw up, though. Trust me, I’ve tried playtesting this monstrosity. Far too often I tap the wrong color of mana, or don’t use the Wolf on the right creature, or don’t Mask to save something, et cetera…

"Your best creatures are the Elves, the Ridgebacks, the Elementals (score), and Wolves. The rest can be fodder, but all of those can be quite powerful in the right hands. Little tricks abound throughout the deck, like Masking a Ridgeback to save it from Fading, or Mind Slashing a Zombie, Harpy, or Elemental that you can no longer afford.

"Speaking of Mind Slash, pay attention: That’s your saving grace against a lot of decks. Making Trix discard at the right instant can be very, very important, and it gives your useless creatures an actual purpose.

"I’m theorizing that Extended will be light on blockers this coming season. [David submitted his deck 10/17/00] If it ain’t, and Tradewinds are strong, this deck won’t even make a minor impression; it’ll be too busy being eaten alive. If, on the other hand, you find Ophidians and Necros all over the place, it might just work for the best.

"Feast of the Unicorn is your ‘Smack’ card, like Fireblast in Sligh. Risky, but when it works, you win. WHACK! Nothing like nine damage off an Elemental that’s feeding a Forgotten Harvest. Pro-White and being black are nice in that you don’t have to worry about Swords or Terrors. "Basically, the idea is simple. Play land. Turn it sideways to play things with numbers in the lower right hand corner. Turn THOSE sideways. Lose horrib – Er, I’m sorry, WIN. 🙂

"Explain [the sideboard], you say? 🙂 Righto. Meet your transformative sideboard for anything like Sligh, WW, or Stampy. Just pull the Wolves, Zombies, Greed, and Wolverines. The key to the sideboard is obviously the Pawnshop/Sanctuary combo. Please, please, if you can, play more than one of each of those combo cards. If one gets Disenchanted, you’re screwed. If you have two of each, it’s a bit harder…

(ASIDE: I don’t think that combo is good enough to maindeck, because it dies horribly to Trix, Blue, and Tradewind.)

"The Fear is the linchpin; don’t play it unless you feel safe from Disenchant. Drop it on something survivable, and apply beatdown until you deck ’em. Not very easy to do, I know. But this deck, due to creature inferiority, dies horribly to beatdown decks with better creatures. So this is the last option. Defend the fort, if you will. If you’re gonna be taking lots of damage, this will keep that damage from your head. Good Thing ™."

(End the broken explanation.)

Well, Mr. Stroud drafted himself a fairly good bad deck and tossed it at me with a grin. Twenty-two rares, fourteen uncommons, and seven foils (I finally get to do something with those friggin’ foils); sounds good, right? He gets these cards delivered by his friendly mail carrier, while I get to develop an ulcer.

FrigginRizzo: <—A friggin’ idiot.

To make this even less interesting for you, but pretty damned exciting for Mr. Stroud, for every game I win (if any), I’ll throw in five playable foils; if I win a match (um, right), I’ll throw in additional badass old-school cards such as Necro, Hyppie, Contagion, Disk, Juggernaut, Sol Ring, Pox, Sylvan Library, Serra Angel, Living Death, and Ashen Ghoul, as well as the complete set of five "your legends may band with other legends" crappy-ass lands from Legends.

(The above is incentive to get Mr. Stroud to bribe other players to concede if matched up against me. I could be kidding, DCI guys, but probably not.) (You probably shoulda posted this incentive BEFORE the tourney, then – The Ferrett, no stranger himself to bribes)

I have seen my fate; the future’s so bright, I gotta wear my sunglasses at night. Or something.


Saturday, November 18:

Getting to the skinny, and stuff. Driving along… got to the site with no problems at all.

(Above sentence is absolutely false, but do you really care that Scott Teamann and I drove seventy miles out of our way, got a speeding ticket, were late for the event, and generally, had a wack as hell trip down?)

Such a nice little drive. Very casual.

After the last-minute insane rush to register our jankness, we discover that there are like three other Pittsburgh guys in attendance. Chas Tressler, Mike Magby, and the Bandes guy that I’ve seen at like a thousand events but still haven’t really been introduced to are the only Burghers (that I know) that suffered the three-hour trip down.

Throw El’ Friggistic and Scotty T in the mix, and you have an event that Ohioians just tended to own. Alas, it is their state (and a flat as hell state at that).

Not much pre-tourney stuff to report, as the bash started within minutes of our arrival. Yeah, we felt important enough to hold the whole friggin’ thing up, booya on y’all. I finally met Beho, he of the "I hide my cards in the closet to keep my love of Magic a secret from my superficial girlfriends and whatnot," and Apprentice whipping boy fame. He’s playing my Mono Green Hatred – what a great thing that he’s jumping into the fire to give me a decent grasp of how bad the deck sucks, and what might be needed to fix it.

Beho’s the lab rat. (goo goo ga joob)

Scott is playing his "Eubroken style janky teched out pile o’ cards," which keeps him in the tourney until round four. Chas is with some equally "Pittsburgh janky type stuff," and I’m not sure what everyone else has, as they all dropped around round six. All in all, not a good day for Pittsburgh Magic. I blame Ohio, for it has a sinister effect on all things Pittsburghian. Weird.

At least I finished the tourney.

With that really lame tourney intro, let’s get into the meat of the matter.

Round 1: Kevin Cron, Rogue Oath, with many Roguish things

Kevin recognizes me and is excited that he gets to be the first "victim" of The Universal Net Deck. Since he knows the story, I don’t feel like I have to justify anything when I cast my "interesting" spells.

Game 1: Elf beats. Wolverine beats. Wolf beats. Kevin plays Oath of Druids. Morphling beats. Blinding Angel beats. I got him down to seven life. I am awesome at Magic.

Cool thing number one: Kevin Force Spiked a Molting Harpy, which I’m sure is the first and last time he ever will.

Game 2: (In comes the standard transformational sideboard: 4x Rishadan Pawnshop, 4x Crumbling Sanctuary, 4x Rejuvenation Chamber)

An Elf beats for a while, then Kevin drops sick ass tech: Oath of Druids, Equipose, Squandered Resources, and the granddaddy of them all, Stasis. I am completely locked here; he can Equipoise virtually anything I play, and he has Resources to make sure that I have more lands, AND has Oath to take sure that I never cast a creature, AND, since Stasis is out, I will never get to untap – thus, never will my stuff phase back in.

Surrender, you say? Nah, with this deck, I will make you EARN it.

He upkeeps Stasis for about twenty turns, lets it die, then finally plays a guy. I Oath for fun… up comes Megatherium. I have seven cards in hand. Heh, I paid seven to satisfy Meggy’s comes into play ability.

On his next turn, Kevin casts Replenish. Broken. He gets one whole card: Stasis. Moan.

Did I mention that Kevin had out THREE Howling Mines? I manage to keep up, for a while, with Rejuvenation Chambers and Pawnshops. I would shuffle something back into my library to keep Equipoise from triggering (that got annoying). When Kevin realizes that he will not kill me with damage, he decides to deck me. On the fifth extra turn, he does.

Cool thing number two: Kevin countered another Molting Harpy, which I’m sure is the second and last time he ever will.

Kevin Cron is broken all to hell.


Round 2: Jerry Lavaco, Rogue U/W Control/Beats

Game 1:

He gets off to a slow start, and I get Llanowar beats in while I can. He’s stuck playing out lands, so I take advantage by casting Bog Elemental (from this point on, known as "Booya Elemental"). Wouldn’t ya know it? Jerry throws down a Blinding Angel, and BOY! Look at all the ways I have to deal with that little girlie. I smack him upside the dizome with Booya once, then get pecked to death over the next ten can-I-ever-draw-my-other-Friggin-Molting-Harpy turns.

Cool thing number three: Jerry ACC Foils my turn two Harpy. That is an example of brass cojones, right there.

Game 2: Standard Sideboard swap

I Paris. Jerry does too. I Paris again. Jerry is happy. Drawing five cards might seem like a whole bunch of suck, but I open up the God hand (for this deck, anyway): Forest, Elf, Swamp, Megatherium, Wolf. Oh my, does this mean I might actually have a chance?

While Jerry is stuck on one Island for about five turns, I apply bicka bicka beats to his head. I have him down to three when he hits land number four and casts Parallax Wave. Not good for Team Suck over here. I start to play massive dorks while he recovers from his tenuous situation by laying two Angels and pounding me with Masty. My stuff comes back, just in time to do nothing. Ever.

I had him down to three. I friggin’ rule at all things Magic related.

Cool thing number four: Jerry snuck in another ACC Foil on – you guessed it – Molting friggin’ Harpy. Booya.

Jerry is not aware of the story of the deck, so, naturally, he tries to soothe my obviously crappy player ego. He says the things you are supposed to say: "You kind of had me worried," "I really thought you had me," and "I’m lucky you didn’t draw another Harpy."

I could feel his pity for me: "Man, there was this old dude playing such a crappy deck that I almost felt sorry for him."

I briefly consider explaining the situation, but reconsider when he tells me that he received a first-round game loss for registering four Savannah Lions in his decklist. After all, if you weren’t in on The Universal Net Deck at the beginning, it can be a hell of a long story, and Savannah Lions make for better post-game discussion anyway.

There is no pic of Jerry and I, as the guy who took the picture apparently forgot to take the picture. Reverse Booyas to that guy.

Jerry Lavaco is broken all to hell.


Round three: Brice McNamee, Rogue Sligh/Kill Stuff

Game 1:

Fanatic, Flame Jet, Incinerate, Incinerate, Fireblast, Fireblast.

I slowly regain consciousness.

Cool thing number five: After Brice cast Flame Jet, I got to use my super tech line: "Why didn’t you cycle that?" That line is friggin’ hilarious, yet no one has ever laughed. Ever. (Still haven’t — The Ferrett)

Game 2:

Standard sideboard thingy move

For some reason, I get a couple of Elves to live long enough to apply. They do, and they also bring out Megatherium. Brice isn’t too worried, as by this time he has me pegged as the worst player in the history of playerdom. He casually sets up his stuff:

Fanatic, Fanatic, Scroll, Scroll.

I know that my time at this table is limited when he Scrolls, naming "Furnace of Rath."

On his next turn, he calmly goes Furnace, Furnace, Shock, sac the Fanatics, Fireblast for like infinite damage or something.

Cool thing number six: If you live long enough, you just might get to see someone cast Furnace of Rath in a sanctioned event. Maybe.

Brice is impressed with my deck. No. He also does not know the story, and I do not relay it to him, as I am a man shrouded in mystery and intrigue. But, along with Jerry, I can also feel his pity. Alas, I’m like this old dude that sucks at Magic. Little do they know… well, sometimes I do; today is one of those times.

Brice McNamee is broken and bent and stuff.


Round 4:

Beho, Chief.dec/FallowRizzo.org/Mono Green Hatred.frig

Beho knows the story of The UND, and is excited at the bizarre sense of irony that he is going to drill me in the teeth with my own deck. Or something.

Well, this is Beho’s chance to get back on the winning track. Oops, he wasn’t on it at all, as he is 0-3 to this point. Well, okay, this is his chance to avenge all those Apprentice slaughters he has endured at the hands of The King of Eight Beta Starters sealed deck games.

Game 1:

Ya know, I’m the only guy in the whole tourney that would make Thermokarst a lifegaining situation. He blows up my first three lands, then Orders out a Verdant. I "recover" by casting a Ridgeback. Yeah, he won this one.

Cool thing number seven: Beho took one point of mana burn somewhere in this game. Woo hoo?

Game 2:

Standard sideboard stuff

My life totals: 20, 13, 0. I’m not really sure, but I think that a turn-two Verdant Force might just be a decent play. Especially when I answer it with a Land Grant.

Cool thing number eight: Rescue Hero tech would make excellent Saproling tokens, for they are MUCH bigger than random dinosaurs and whatnot. I just need to buy another five or six of those bad dudes before December ninth.

Beho is broken beyond the realm of America Online.


Round 5:

Chad Hardy, Rogue Haste/Sligh

Chad is with a couple of buddies who are playing each other right next to us. They are teasing him about how bad he is, and mentioning that he will get trounced by me. While I kind of agree that a trouncing is going to take place, I take issue with exactly who will be the trouncer and who will be the trouncee.

Game 1:

I start off with Land Grant/Elf, Land Grant/Elf and apply pain. Chad patiently lays land for a while, then brings the fat haste stuff. Viashino Cutthroat kind of beats up on things, while a Goblin Berserker and a small family of Raging Goblins also joins up. In between random Arc Lightnings and Incinerates, I manage to get myself the combo: Forgotten Harvest/Sustenance. Oh yeah.

I keep saccing lands to the Susty to block and kill stuff, and am rewarded during my upkeep with an eventual 6/6 Wyluli Wolf. He be fat and stuff, but there ARE like eight creatures coming at me, with a cute little Fireball thrown in to kill.

I can’t believe that Fireball is in Fifth Edition, so I call a judge.I guess what I really can’t believe is that someone actually used Fireball to burn me into oblivion. Alas.

Cool thing number nine: Chad played without sleeves; that rules. If I didn’t have to send my cards to Zadok, King of Broken Sligh, I would’ve played naked as well. Next time, bro… next time.

Game 2:

Yeah, yeah, the big sideboard swap and stuff.

Double Land Grant/Elves get me "rolling" again, and three Rejuvenation Chambers keep me above twenty life for way too long. Eventually I run out of crappy life gain, and Chad takes the opportunity to run a Goblin Marshal, some of his minions, a few Fanatics, Berserkers, and double Cutthroat up many of my orifices.

His buddies are amazed that he won. My buddies are not.

Cool thing number nine: I am now officially "dead last and grinnin’."

Quote used without permission of Matt Nute. No, it’s no "Lute," as my friggin’ spellchecker has determined to be the case.

Chad Hardy is a broken sleeveless Fireball of a lad.


Round 6:

Booya, byeya

I was dead last and grinnin’. Zadok was, too. But, he just won a foil Cloak, Demise, Harrow, Vodalian Zombie, Dawnstrider, and Dark Ritual. Dammit, he also won a bunch of cool old school stuff, as a bye does count as a match win, but I’m putting an asterisk next to it, chief.

Byes suck. (Not for David — The Ferrett)


Round 7:

Charles Ball, Weird White.dec with Some Green.dec

Game 1:

Charles: Soul Warden, Soul Warden, CoP: Black, Rune: Green.

Are you kidding me? I have the worst deck in the place, and I have to face THAT!?

It’s not like I had massive double Booya Elemental beats crunching him. It’s not even like I had the Forgotten Harvest/Sustenance combo feeding both Booyas. It’s not really even like Charles cast Congegrate.

With nine creatures in play. And it can’t possibly be that he had a Braidwood Cup reverse-pinging him every turn, and a few random Soothing Balms seesawing his "I am an evil White Mage" life totals.

I had him to two, but he had an eighty-or-so-card deck filled with nasty lifegain. Oh, and no sleeves. Booya.

Cool thing number ten: Charles put an Armadillo Cloak on a Soul Warden. And then he slapped a Rancor on her. Isn’t that unethical?

Game 2: Side in… yeah, yeah.

Sickening, but kind of funny. I had a total of four Rejuvenation Chambers in play; I gained an embarrassing amount of life; thus, I was embarrassed.

Here’s Charles’ life total (direct from my scoresheet): 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 29, 33, 34, 35, 38, 39, 41, 35, 38, 39, 41, 35, 47, 48, 41, 42, 43, 44, 46, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55, 58, 59, 60, Darn, we ran out of time AND extra turns.

Cool thing number eleven: When is the last time you saw someone cast Baton of Morale?

Charles has only been playing a little over a month, but he was so friggin’ annoying that it was actually refreshing to play against someone so new to the game. On one hand, I wanted to punch him in the chops; on the other, it was surprisingly fun to play such a nutty game. I could tell he was excited to get his first win of the tournament – his first tourney win ever, actually, and I guess I’m glad that I was there to witness some new school innocence.

While he needs to be weaned from the color of suck, he could actually play pretty well. Oh, and when he cast Baton of Morale, he actually explained what banding is/was. Wow. Take that, you cheese lawyers!

Charles Ball is an evil White Mage. 1-6

The final tally:

Matches: 1-6

Games: 2-12 (The bye counts as a 2-0 victory?)

Rating points lost: Enough for one day.

People that understand: At least one.

Match record in Ohio: 5-17.

Beho actually stuck it out for all seven rounds to finish a not-so-shabby 3-4. We talked a lot of last minute tweaks and tech, but I forgot to suggest adding four Wastelands. Oh my, how they would’ve helped. Four Elvish Lyrist main would’ve wrecked house too, and Wall of Roots instead of Birds of Paradise would’ve been oh so much better. But I digress.

I have good ideas about how to tweak the hell out of Mono Green Hatred.dec for the December tourneys, and I have Beho to thank for that, as he played it through in the interest of technology. Or something.

So you can find me playing Mono Green Hatred at a tourney near you next month. Yeah, I’ll take pictures too.

"Psst – I’ll make ya’ famous."

-Emilio Estevez, Young Guns.

So I pretty much accomplished what I intended to, although I’m not sure what exactly that was. But, this still has something to do with it:

I have received actual photographic evidence of one other Rogue DCI card, and written testimony of five more. Cool, there are actually six other people out there who were nutty enough to go through with it. That’s worth something.

If you went through with it, snap a pic, drop it in an email, and get that bad boy off to me. You will be rewarded with praise and slobber. Maybe I’ll drop all the cards and transfer them to T-shirts. Or something. Or nothing.

There was a Top Eight, but I was busy drafting, or something. Someone won the tourney, and now they get to figure out how in the hell they are going to get to Tokyo. Heh, good luck on that, chief. Actually, I just checked the PES site, and they went into super-booya- high-tech-update mode and posted the results before I sent this to Slavedriver Ferrett. So I’ll just copy and paste right here in the interest of shoddy journalism:

Your top 8:

1 Craig Curtis

2 Matt Tarner

3 Eric Taylor

4 Karl Horn

5 Alex Borteh

6 Brian Willmott – first PTQ!

7 Doug Lipps

8 Kenny Hsiung

Matt wins the day with Wheaties. He’s lucky he didn’t have to play me. Lucky, indeed. Here’s the Top Eight decklists and pics because you are interested:


Reflecting on The Grand Experiment:

Although I am unsure what I expected to accomplish, I think I did. Everyone was shocked that I wasn’t ready to vomit after being beaten so unmercifully for so long; I was too, much to my surprise. I kind of wish I could’ve played another couple of rounds. I’m such a masochist.

I think that Zadok Sligh wasn’t a total dreck deck, as it did put some opponents under pressure, and the sideboard did generate a secondary win condition: decking, or perhaps, concession from sheer boredom. Given a slightly bigger card pool, with maybe a tiny amount of real permanent removal, I think that the deck could’ve actually performed extremely average-like.

It was fun to see all the decklists pouring in, with dead serious comments on how to play the submitted decks. Some people took the challenge seriously and I applaud that. I know I did, but, I am glad it’s over, as I can now get back to the business of trying to get better at this friggin’ game.

FrigginRizzo: <—Wants his cake and eat it too.

And I’m going to get it.

Driving back, Scott point blank asked me: "Are you EVER going to do that again?"


But I might do something similar, so beware. Maybe I’ll ask you all to make me a theme deck for the another tourney. Heh, Zombies and Elves and Goblins and Minotaurs and Dragons need only apply. Or something.

How cool would it be to play a Dragon deck at a PTQ?

Food for thought…

John Friggin’ Rizzo