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Rogue-itis Strikes Again!

I spent much of this past weekend playtesting my Extended white weenie deck. I’ve learned a few things, not the least of which is that affects only your opponents and that is four casting cost, not five. I’ve also received quite a few e-mails on the topic of white weenie, so I’m feeling smarter each…

I spent much of this past weekend playtesting my Extended white weenie deck. I’ve learned a few things, not the least of which is that Aura of Silence affects only your opponents and that Cataclysm is four casting cost, not five. I’ve also received quite a few e-mails on the topic of white weenie, so I’m feeling smarter each day. I thought I would share a few observations about the deck, give a revised decklist and maybe end in a confession for good measure.

First off, here’s the deck I posted last week:

MAIDEN WW v1.0
4 mother of runes
4 soul warden
4 swords to plowshares
4 tithe
4 disenchant
4 crusade
4 soltari monk
4 soltari priest
4 white knight
1 aura of silence
3 armageddon
3 reverant mantra
4 wasteland
13 plains

I’m proud to say that during my initial stages of playtesting, the deck wasn’t nearly as embarassing as I thought it might be. In fact, the little sucker was quite a trooper as my teammate Will threw Cocoa Pebbles, Necro, Suicide Brown and beatdown decks at it. This is not to say that the deck looks anything like the 1.0 version anymore, just that it was a trooper.

As I said, here are some observations from a weekend’s worth of playtesting…

Mother of Runes isn’t nearly as potent in the deck as I expected. A lot of decks use the colorless damage from Masticore and Cursed Scroll as creature control, and Mother just looks like a silly 1/1 against that stuff. Decks that do use colored-damage like Pebbles just laugh at a Mother as they ping you with a Shield Sphere 1,000,000 times. I kept the Mothers in because, well, they _should_ be good, shouldn’t they? But I’m starting to seriously rethink their place in the deck (blasphemy, I know).

Soul Warden, on the other hand, is a nifty little chick. The extra life is good when racing beatdown decks and Dan Ford helped me realize that Soul Warden + Absolute Law = a lock against any deck named after cereal. Besides, for some reason people get so _angry_ when Soul Warden hits the table. Even if the lifegain is negligible, people still curse when she comes out and cheer when she dies. So I guess if you’re into psychological warfare, splash Soul Warden into your favorite deck.

– Sigh, I admit it… Reverant Mantra just isn’t as good as I hoped and Empyrial Armor is better. The Mantras wouldn’t be so bad given a different field, but like I said, there’s a lot of colorless stuff going on in decks these days, and a lot of decks don’t care what protection your creatures have. Empyrial Armor helps race other beatdown decks and combos so well with either Armageddon or Cataclysm that the 3-cc doesn’t hurt too much.

– Once I switched over to Armors, Cataclysm started looking better than Armageddon. First, it messes with decks like Suicide Brown and Cocoa Pebbles, which have multiple permanents on the table. Second, adding the Armors increased the mana curve of the deck. With heavier casting costs on the spells, the deck needs more than 0 land to keep things going after the world goes Boom. Thus, while I still like Armageddon better than Cataclysm (for some reason the picture on Cataclysm really bugs me… THAT’S a Cataclysm? It looks like a mobile!), the latter fits better into this deck than the former.

– Since the deck slid into the Empyrial/Cataclysm camp, Crusades became much less useful. Crusade is a card that you want to drop when you have about three creatures, and clearly the goal is a little different when you’re running Armor and Cataclysm, and emptying your hand of creatures just doesn’t hold the same appeal.

Yes, the deck is beginning to look quite different now.

– Auras are much better than Disenchant. There. I said it. At least in today’s Extended, the ability to consistently slow the production of artifacts and enchantments is superior to instant spot removal. The deck now has four, with a couple Disenchants too. Although this seems like a strange mix, it has worked awfully well against our test gauntlet.

– Finally, the deck just begs for Mox Diamonds. The Diamonds work well with Cataclysm and Tithe, and they allow you to get out an Aura on the second turn instead of the third. I didn’t add them because to do so would suggest splashing other colors, splashing other colors would mean dual lands, dual lands would mean spending a lot of money on cardboard, a lot of money on cardboard would mean an angry wife, an angry wife would mean an unhappy Jay, and, well, you get the idea. Moxes aren’t THAT important.

In other words, about the only thing that stayed the same was the color and the creatures. Here’s the current decklist after the weekend:

MAIDEN WW v.3.2

4 mother of runes
4 soul warden
4 tithe
4 soltari monk
4 soltari priest
4 white knight
4 empyrial armor
4 aura of silence
3 swords to plowshares
3 cataclysm
2 disenchant
4 wasteland
16 plains

Even when looking over this decklist, I waver a little on the decision of Cataclysm. The deck wants an Aura, a shadow guy and an Armor on the board when it Cataclysms, but then you’ve lost the Aura. So Armageddon still might be a better choice. And then there’s that damn annoying picture. I just don’t know. Regardless, this is a deck that has proven it can at least battle the top decks closely before sideboarding, which is all you can ask any deck to do. After sideboarding, white has lots of answers.

There is one teeny problem with the deck, though. A problem I can’t seem to get away from no matter how drastically I tweak the thing. It’s a problem that might make the die-hard white weenie fans gasp, and certainly not one that’s likely to be popular. Nevertheless, I consider it a fatal flaw in the deck’s design. At the very least, it’s a flaw that will keep me from playing this deck during the qualifiers. And that problem is…

It’s boring.

I mean Boring with a capital”B.” Boooooring. I play it and drop very standard white weenie creatures, then put an Armor on, then keep attacking. Maybe a Cataclysm shows up and I have to stare at that stupid picture for awhile. The Auras are about the only thing that makes me happy. Well, that and my opponent’s reaction to Soul Warden. Still, I’m not sure that’s enough to keep my engine going through two months and three qualifiers. I _try_ to like the deck, I really do. But I rifle through the cards in my hand and all I can think is that I’m playing a really boring deck.

I’ve done a bit of thinking about my reaction to what has proven to be a very viable deck. As best as I can figure, I’m disgruntled because this deck doesn’t do anything anyone wouldn’t expect. It doesn’t feel like it has my signature on it either. It’s got no card – like Reverant Mantra – that most people poo poo but that fits excellently into the design.

In short, the deck isn’t rogue and I think that’s why I don’t like it.

That’s a strange realization for me to swallow. I’ve been playing rogue decks most of my”career,” because I’ve had to make do with a small collection of cards and have been forced to think creatively about ideas everyone else has long since abandoned. Now that I have a lot of cards and teammates to borrow cards from, I think I’ve just gotten into the habit of showing up with my own creation. I like the feeling of sitting at a Top 8 and having a crowd whispering”Did you see that guy’s deck?” I also take a small bit of joy out of my opponent’s confused – and slightly panicked – expression as he or she sifts through their sideboard. These are things I’ve gotten used to, and I’m afraid the”normal” decks I can build now suffer by comparison.

So, as I played game after game with the white weenie deck, taking out cards and adding cards I knew were stronger, I had this nagging voice whispering into my ear. By the end of the weekend, I was beginning to realize this was not the deck for me. Moreover, I was beginning to get a handle on Extended and to figure out what was good and what wasn’t.

I was, therefore, primed for an e-mail from an old Magic-buddy from Michigan name Iain MacFadyen. He had been playtesting a lot, and had a deck he thought I might like. Together, he figured, we could put it through enough playtesting to give people fits. I looked at the decklist on the screen, and then back to my pile of black-sleeved white cards. Immediately my mind started racing. I think Will has two of those cards…. and Dan probably has two also, so I wouldn’t need to get any of those. Why did Iain do that? I would probably do something else. Oh! Look how cool that is! There’s some good synergy in there. My, that certainly hoses a few good decks… my mind kept racing, and soon I realized perhaps I had some Extended life in me, after all.

I’m not playing white weenie now, I’m afraid. But it’s not because the decklist above isn’t perfectly viable. There are several things that keep us all addicted to the game, I’ve decided, and one of mine is that I like building and playing with original decks. Iain and I have traded about a dozen e-mails already and we’re well on our way to a pretty spiffy little deck. It’s his idea ultimately, and he’s asked that I refrain from posting the decklist until we’ve gotten a chance to surprise a few people. After that, though, I’ll be happy to talk about it at length. I’m not saying it will get either of us qualified, but it’s got as good a shot as my white weenie deck and I’ll have a lot more fun.

Yep, I think rogue decks are fun and fun is why I play the game.

Sigh. Rogue-itis. It’s a disease.

-j

Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar, Ph.D.
jay.moldenhauer-salazar@corp.sun.com
Proud Member of Team Purple Pepper