It’s December 30, 2014 as I’m writing this. I booked my flight to Manila from Singapore last October. It was the time I first found out that a Grand Prix will be held in Manila on January 3 and 4.
I’ve been to 2 GP’s so far, both of them were limited format, GP Singapore in 2013 was draft, while GP Kuala Lumpur was sealed. Limited was never my strong suit. GP Manila, thankfully, is standard constructed. I’m waaaaaay below par than the pros, but let’s just say I’ve had more experience playing standard constructed than draft or sealed. I’m more comfortable in this format.
So, with the upcoming Grand Prix, it begs a very important question that I really need an answer real soon… What deck do I use?
Currently, I made 2 decks for use. My ever favorite Esper Control, and my recent mono Green Villains. Here are the pros and cons:
– I am used to playing control ever since Innistrad came out and continued on into RTR, Theros and stopping short of KTK, so I am very familiar with this archetype.
– This deck uses few to no creatures, rendering at least 1/3 of the current meta’s cards useless against it.
– On the other hand, it is stocked with a chock full of removal spells such as Dissolve, Hero’s Downfall, Utter End, End Hostilities, Thoughtseize, Bile Blight, to deal with a creature heavy meta.
– Being in a creature heavy meta, this archetype is actually favored to win (why it isn’t winning will be discussed later) against the more popular Mardu and Abzan midrange decks.
– The deck is highly reactive. It relies heavily on having the right answer for the right threat at the right time. Timing is everything to this deck. Missing out on an opportunity to counter or remove a threat can have dire consequences.
– There are no powerful card draws in the current card pool. Dig Through Time is VERY powerful, Jace’s Ingenuity is actually more efficient in terms of mana cost to Sphinx’s Revelation, but they all lack the raw power and impact that it gave.
– Esper Control is mostly a 1-for-1 removal. Anything that upsets that balance is never good for business. A 2-for 1 Wingmate Roc, a resolved Hordeling Outburst, even a hexproof creature can easily throw a wrench in our plans (I’m looking at you, Sagu Mauler!).
– It is one-dimensional. It’s a control deck. It can’t change into a midrange when it suits the situation. Ergo, my opponents can easily adapt to my deck post board. My only option is to have more control-ish cards to board in, like Stain the Mind
Now, let me take you on a tour with my recent project, the Mono Green Villain:
The Mono Green Villain is primarily a mono green devotion shell with the staples Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, Polukranos, Arbor Colossus and Nykthos. The Villain part comes in the form of Villainous Wealth. The game plan is two-fold: the basic beatdown, or the more nefarious Villainous Wealth: generate a HUGE amount of mana via Nykthos and then use it to steal everything in your opponent’s deck that isn’t nailed down.
Mono Green Villain:
– This win condition is unheard of in the current meta. So the element of surprise is always on my side on game 1.
– If Villainous Wealth is somehow unavailable (bad draws and such), the deck can still function as a big beatdown deck courtesy of Polukranos and Nylea, God of the Hunt. Plus, a humongous Genesis Hydra never really hurt. Well, it is painful for my opponent.
– It takes away threats in much the same way as milling your opponent, but at the same time bolsters your board presence after the fact.
– It is highly creature dependent, a well placed board sweeper can really set us back.
– It is mana intesive. Removing my mana dorks can easily slow me down. So whether it is the beatdown plan or the stealing stuff plan, it doesn’t work without my mana dorks.
There is actually a third deck that I have the option of playing, the Blue-White Heroic deck, made by a friend. He lent me this deck because Eladamri23 is actually going to borrow my green deck for play and my Esper is just sooo frickin’ slow to play with and against, that it’s just not practical to use it in a GP.
The pros and cons for the UW Heroic are fairly simple, but at its core, it’s dependent on a highly tuned balance of creatures and targeted spells. So far, I’ve been goldfishing with the deck for 4 hours now. It shows promise, as it can kill opponents on turn 5, unopposed. Of course in an actual game, that’s a different story. For some reason, however, I seem to get flooded either by too many lands, or too many creatures.
I still have to make some final changes to my Esper Control deck which would include more card draws, less planeswalker(s), more options for counterspells. I dunno. I need to make these changes with little or no sleep as I still have work during these times.
I know I don’t have that much experience, and most likely no followers on this blog, but hey! Wish us luck!
Wow. It’s already been a year since I last blogged about anything. (Sigh). It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about. In fact, I have TOO MUCH to blog about that I never had time to put them all in here.
So? What have I been up to? Let’s see… I’ve been playing the standard circuit for the past two years now, starting with Innistrad on to Return to Ravnica, Theros and now, the Khans of Tarkir. I’ve actually been pretty busy playing. I am still a long way off from even claiming to be “good” at MTG, but I have certainly raised my game a few notches.
Let’s just start where it matters: the present.
Currently, the entire metagame is in upheaval. Unlike in RTR where Sphinx’s Revelation just rules over the entire playing field, and Theros, where it looked like more of a minor follow through of RTR than an actual block on its own, the Khans of Tarkir shook things up in a lot of wonderful, woeful, what the f*** ways. KTK re-introduced the ever popular Onslaught Fetch Lands, which meant that mana fixing is at prime. The introduction of wedge color factions was magnificently done. Before, playing a wedge-color deck meant simply putting together an opposing color deck which “sorta” worked and never really had the homogeneity of the this new clan system.
KTK is a marvel of both design and development where everything seemed like a well-oiled machine. Everything has its place and everything in its place. The only other block I can ascribe to the same level of detail and functionality was RTR. Each card had a purpose and each ability and spell just bursts with the flavor of its clan.
Enough ass-kissing. Wizards did a great job on the set. ‘Nuff Said.
As I was saying, the meta is in upheaval and it is GOOD. There is no deck or clan or ability that’s ruling over everything else. The closest cliche I can think of to describe the current meta is: “There is a method behind the madness”. When KTK first came out, we had an downpour of all sorts of decks. It’s like Christmas every tournament. There’s always a new deck to be seen. There’s Jeskai control, Jeskai aggro, Jeskai combo, Jeskai tokens, Mardu and Abzan aggro/midrange/control, Sultai reanimator/control/midrange, Green/Black Constellation, Temur monsters, RW Tokens, RG Aggro/monsters, BW warriors, I even saw a BW control. Plus a little hint of Esper Control.
Care to take a guess what deck I built and played when KTK came out? If you said Esper, you’d be wrong.
I made a home brew Sultai Control deck primarily consisting of Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, and my win-con: Ashiok, the Nightmare Weaver. I made a deck where the basic premise is to cast Ashiok, and spend the rest of the game protecting it. Why? Because Ashiok is underrated. To those that know me, I like milling people to death. Ashiok simply presented a new aspect than just milling your opponent… stealing creatures.
Then there was this nifty little card that came out with the Sultai clan: Villainous Wealth. This is like Sphinx’s Revelation made passionate love to Control Magic and Villainous Wealth is their little offspring.
The deck was good. I actually won a few FNM’s with it simply because it was nothing the other players have ever seen before. No one really plays for Ashiok as a win-con. No one really played Villainous Wealth on the main deck.
It was all good, until I realized that the meta had already evolved and my deck simply wasn’t equipped to handle a steady stream of threats from abzan/sultai reanimators, I ran out of answers for Jeskai aggro/tokens. Simply put, I needed a board wipe, which I simply don’t have access to.
Much as it saddens me, I had to find a new home for Ashiok. In comes the new Esper control deck. It is NOT on the same power level as RTR’s Esper, in fact, far from it. It lacks the raw power provided by Supreme verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation. But what it lacked in raw power, it made up for in finesse. With the introduction of Dig Through Time, players don’t get the same life gain and card draw, but it does let you look 7 cards deep for roughly 2 blue mana. Dig Through Time is more like a scalpel whereas Sphinx’s Revelation is a High Orbit death beam.
So what happened to the Sylvan Caryatids and Coursers? I made a second deck focusing mainly on a mono green devotion shell designed to generate a ton of mana and then use Villainous Wealth to steal around half of your opponent’s library.
Where am I at right now? I’m playing as much as I can with both the monogreen devotion and my esper deck in preparation for GP Manila this coming Jan 2-4 at the SM Mall of Asia.
I hope to see you there!
One of the things that I really enjoy is writing. I would like to think that I have a knack for it. However, I don’t write as often as I should. This is not due to laziness but mainly of lack of material to write about. I don’t usually have the chance (time, family affairs, money issues etc.) to join all the legacy events here and there but I try to play whenever I can. Fortunately, I was able to join last Saturday’s legacy at my LGS (local gaming shop). It was a 10-man event and most of the players look familiar.
Familiar by face, that is.
I don’t have any idea as to what deck they’re going to play except for two guys that are my buddies (one played goblins and the other played high tide).
I thought, “what the heck”. I came to play and to have some fun. And that is what I’m going to do.
Before I get down to the details of my matches, I would like to give you an overview of what my elf deck looks like nowadays. In the past few months, it was U/G that had 2 sets of fetches, breeding pool (ouch!) and disruption in the form of Daze (full set) and spell pierce. It only had staff of domination + priest/archdruid combo. I had some good times with it as opponents never expect to be Dazed by an elf deck. And while having disruption is good, there is still a part of me that knew that the mono green version was actually more consistent in terms of winning by 3rd. I am still able to combo off on 3rd with 1 daze in hand but then there would be those times when I have my 2 combo pieces but I’m missing 1 or 2 elves (need at least 5 in play) because I have spell pierce/daze in my hand instead. So, with this thinking and being partly inspired by the recent success of the mainsteam elf deck, I decided to modify my deck by going back to mono. Below are the changes that I made:
(Note: The netdeck elves is not really mono as it has deathrite shaman but it has zero reactive spells just like my mono.)
– removed the Spell pierce and Daze
– put in 4 copies of Genesis Wave (welcome back!!!)
– added Nettle Sentinel (full set) and up the count of Birchlore ranger to 4
– added 3 Fauna Shaman (see next bulletpoint as to why)
– put back 1 Emrakul and 2 Concordant Crossroads
The last bit about 2 crossroads in the main might raise some eyebrows and I can’t blame people doing so. I’ve had bad experiences with playing 2 copies (got one in my opening then I would draw my 2nd copy within the next few turns). However, those 60 cards before are much different from what I’m running for the past 2 years or so. Another thing is that my deck, except for Emrakul and 3 Fauna Shaman, are all 4-ofs. When I tried goldfishing, it didn’t came up as often as before. It also complimented Genesis wave real well (wave for 3 then hitting staff, concordant and archdruid is not a bad scenario). I did some more goldfishing and found that the 3rd turn win became a much more common place. That is the reason why I’m sticking with 2 copies MD.
I think that is enough deck overview so now I’ll get down to what happen in the 4-round event.
1st Round: Against Elves
Brewers are far and few. At least in my side of the world, they are. The moment he played a mana dork on his first turn (he won the die roll and chose play), I knew I was up against the stock elf list with Glimpse of nature, Natural order and Craterhoof Behemoth. I had my combo pieces in my opening but since he was on play, he was able to go off on 3rd.
In all honesty, I have no cards in my sideboard that can effectively ruin elves. I boarded in cards which I thought may have some sort of impact: 2 copies of Ensnaring Bridge. I was on play and my opening hand had PoT and Genesis Wave. I played Genesis Wave for 15 on 3rd turn and hit a few lands, 2 archdruids, lots of 1cc elves and 1 CC. My opponent and I both counted the damage and it was lethal. We shuffled and prepared for the 3rd game.
Here is where I made a mistake that might have cost me the tournament. I was only 2nd place when the event came to a close but it might have had a different result. My opening hand was great as it had my combo pieces. There was one problem, though. It only had one land and it was Gaea’s Cradle. I decided to “roll the dice” and declared keep. It was risky but since I had my pieces in my opening, I thought it was worth the risk.
My opponent was on play.
I didn’t draw any lands on my first 2 turns and he had his combo on his 3rd.
That was it. I lost my first round. I didn’t feel bad about it as it was no one’s fault but mine. Add this to the fact that I saw how consistent my deck was (all 3 games would have my combo on 3rd; it was just a matter of who was on play and gets to 3rd turn first). Still, it got me into “what if” mode for the next couple of hours. It was a lesson learned and as blasphemous as my next statement sounds, I’m seriously contemplating on removing the lone Cradle and replacing it with a Forest.
Round 2: Against Belcher
Some of you may not know how a Belcher deck works so let me explain as quick as I can. It is a deck capable of killing an opponent on Turn 1. This is done through a lot of goblin tokens from Empty the Warrens or a straight-to-your-face direct damage from the card Goblin Charbelcher. It is a form of a storm deck and it is a kind of combo that is “all in”.
That sounds like a bad matchup, right? Because my deck is a 3rd turn combo deck, right?
Our 2 games were finished in less than 5 minutes but I bet it’s not the outcome that you expect.
As we were shuffling our decks, I was looking at my opponent and I was trying to guess what deck he might be using. He was a thin guy, around 5’4, dark complexion and was way younger than me (probably around 25 or 26). We both looked at our hands, declared keep and he chose to play after winning the die roll (die roll actually happened first). He took a good look at his hand and after a few seconds, he started playing one card after the other. He played 4 spells before casting Empty the Warrens which got him 10 goblins by the end of his turn 1. I had my combo pieces in my hand and I know it would still take him 2 combat phases to actually win. I played a mana dork on my first turn then passed. He attacked for 10 then passed the turn. I played PoT and 2 more 1cc elves. I got 4 elves on battlefield, 1 mana dork and 1 Staff on hand. I passed the turn knowing that I can block one goblin to survive. That is exactly what happened then my opponent said done. Now I have to have enough mana to cast Staff and the 1cc elf in my hand. I draw a land and I thought I needed to draw off staff and hope that it is a 1cc elf. After tapping and untapping PoT courtesy of Quirion ranger, I had 6 mana (played staff off my 3 forests) and activated the draw ability of staff. I still had one mana floating.
Lo and behold, I drew a second copy of Quirion Ranger!!! Now I have my 5th elf and I can untap PoT to enable my combo.
My opponent was as surprised as I was. Of course, mine was a good kind of surprise.
At this point, I was in a good kind of high. For someone who doesn’t have much experience in legacy tourneys, I would like to think that I have every reason to be happy for having defeated a turn 1 deck in such fashion. We both kept our opening hands (I had my combo pieces again) and he chose play. For some reason, he didn’t do anything on turn 1 and passed back to me. He didn’t do anything as well on turn 2 which now made me think that he kept a really bad hand. I went off on my 3rd turn and again, my opponent was shocked that the match is over. We shook hands and chatted for a bit as the others were still in their game 1.
At one point in our chat, my opponent blurted out “Wala pang 5 minutes yung laro natin ah!” (our match didn’t take more than 5 minutes).
I was so pumped up going to Round 3.
Round 3: Against Sneak Show
My round 2 match was done and I had the chance to watch other people play. I saw that there was a Dredge deck, a Sneak Show deck and what I would like to assume is U/R Delver deck. In an LGS event like this, tier 1 decks like Sneak Show usually doesn’t have any problems going X-0 or X-1. IMO, there are two main reasons for this: First is the fact that Sneak Show is really a powerful, explosive combo deck that has a high win percentage on Game 1’s. Second, you would usually see folks joining our legacy events that are not really well-versed in said format. They are those people that don’t really read much about magic and competitive formats. Hence, they usually have no idea on what are the decks that thrive in the current metagame. I don’t judge them or think I’m better than them in anyway because they usually join for fun’s sake only. However, it pains me a bit to see that their decks are usually plain fodder against serious players and their net decks.
This event was no exception.
When all was said and done, the Sneak show deck came out at the top of the heap.
Sadly, his record was not 4-0. ;o)
My euphoria from my last match was starting to fade but knowing how Sneak Show’s game works, my focus was still laser-like. He won the die roll and chose play (unless your opponent plays a deck with graveyard shenanigans, most players choose play). He kept his opening hand and I did the same as well. It was not a strong hand for me as I only had Fauna Shaman and none of my two combo pieces. I thought if I can untap FS on my 3rd turn, tutor PoT and play it, I would have a better chance of doing something great on my 4th. That would be either drawing Staff or tutoring for Emmy. This plan would have come into fruition if my opponent didn’t play Repel on FS after I played it on my 2nd turn. I had to play FS again on my 3rd and when his 4th turn came, he played sneak show and cheated a haste Emrakul into play.
Before he played Sneak show, I thought I was lucky to be still alive on SnT’s 4th turn. So much for luck. I conceded and we both prepared for Game 2.
2nd and 3rd game:
You might think I’m getting lazy while writing this that I decided to do some shortcut to my story. Fact of the matter is games 2 and 3 were basically the same. I boarded in 2 Ensnaring Bridge and took out 1 Nettle Sentinel and 1 Concordant Crossroads at the beginning of game 2. I chose play and I had my combo pieces in my hand for both games. On both games, my opponent played show and tell and I “showed” Staff while having an active Pot (active archdruid for 3rd game). His Emrakul never got to attack (due to Staff’s tap ability) and both games were finished via Staff combo.
I had to control myself from shouting all types of triumphant words/sounds/noises after the match.
Round 4: Against Mono White Control (Prison?)
This was a pure control deck but (luckily) I was not able to see how the deck wins so I’ll just provide details of what happened and cards that I saw from my opponent.
I kept my opening because it had my combo pieces. My opponent kept his hand as well and he chose to play. He was able to play Moat but it was not enough to beat me. I can’t exactly remember what turn I had my combo. Nonetheless, I won Game 1.
I boarded in 2 Naturalize and 1 Nullmage Shepherd. Like in previous games, I took out 2 1 drop elves (nettle and birchlore) and 1 CC. My opponent had an explosive hand wherein he played 2 Mox Diamond and resolved a Trinisphere. This card can slow down an elf deck big time. He then played Moat and Humility on his next 2 turns. It was an obvious lockdown so I conceded and we prepared for our 3rd game.
My opponent had resolved a Trinisphere on his 3rd turn. This time, it didn’t have much impact as I already have an active Archdruid and a couple of elves in play. He played Moat (again) but like before, it didn’t have much impact (compared to Humility). During my 4th turn, I had to re-read the wording on Trinisphere to make sure that it doesn’t have any effect on Genesis Wave. I played Genesis Wave for 4 and hit Nullmage Shepherd. Now I have removal for my opponent’s pesky artifacts and enchantments. At this point, he had 1 Mox Diamond and 1 Moat in play. I thought it was better to destroy Moat (this was on the same turn I played Wave) but my friend David pointed out a few hours later that I should have destroyed Mox Diamond first. He was correct because my opponent would only have 3 white mana sources left which would make him unable to play 4cc spells like Humility and Wrath of god after I pass the turn. He can draw a 4th land and still be able to play those spells but it was still a better move because Moat was not really deterrent to my game plan. It was a lucky break that came my way and it took 1 or 2 more turns before I drew a Staff.
I’m at 3-1 at that point and we were just waiting for other players to finish their games. However, I had to rush back home as I have other appointments and I just asked my friend to inform me if I made it to top 3.
I was 2nd place. I know being champ is still the main goal but I was more than glad with my results. The event was a combo world (elves, Sneak show, Dredge, Belcher) and the fact that my deck was able to keep up (and defeat most) with other combo decks certainly made my day. My SB still needs a lot of work (I am yet to obtain copies of Mindbreak Trap) and I really hope I could get my hands on this card before the year ends. With the recent success of glimpse elves, I should also try to look for a card that will improve my chances against this deck. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Untap, Upkeep, Draw
Much as my friend is excited about playing aggro/combo (read article below this one), I’d have to say control decks are more challenging. Please note that I have chosen the word “challenging” as opposed to “exciting”. Control decks take time to build, time to master, and definitely takes time to win in games and thus control decks are sometimes affectionately called “Grind” decks because it just puts both players through an ordeal.
Playing control is exactly that… controlling the game. It’s not just the “Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma’am!” that aggro decks do or a One-two punch that combo decks tend to. When you play control you’re in it for the long haul.
Control is about making sure you have an answer for almost anything your opponent throws at you. That in itself is a challenge when building a control deck. You have to think of almost every eventuality and prepare an answer for all of them. And that’s not even enough, because when you’re done controlling the game, how are you supposed to win?
There are several factors that are keys to playing control decks effectively.
1.) Preparation – playing the deck is one thing, but to win, you have to know your deck inside and out. Know your options even before coming to the table. How many board sweeps do I have? Do I have enough counter spells? Am I prepared to deal with planeswalkers? It was only recent that I realized how important this is.
2.) Denial – I once read an article about the psychological effect of countering a spell. It said, considering that let’s say your opponent casts a Kalonian Hydra and you happen to have an Essence Scatter and a Doom Blade, both of which are capable of putting that hydra to the graveyard, it is much more frustrating on your opponent’s part to be denied (via Essence Scatter) than it is to kill the creature. Why? It boils down to a feeling of accomplishment, which you would deny via the counterspell. Now, I’m not saying you should pepper your deck SOLELY with counterspells. That’s not going to win anything. But magic is more than just playing cards, you also play your opponent’s mind. Keeping your opponent off balance will wreck not only his/her strategy but also his/her composure. Deny his options by discards, deny his creatures with board sweeps, deny his big spells with counterspells and soon, your opponent will be so frustrated he/she will just throw anything he/she top decks and by then you’ll just swat them away like flies.
3.) Patience – Patience is said to be a virtue. This adage is especially true with control. You’re never in a rush when playing control. Remember, if for some reason, you feel the need to rush in your control deck, it means your opponent has control of the game. It’s okay to take a few hits as long as it’s not lethal. Control decks are like very complicated combo decks. Each card complements the others to achieve a common goal. Much like clockwork, control decks take some time to get really going, but when it does, it’s a juggernaut that only a miracle (thankfully rotated out of standard) can stop.
4.) Play often, play a lot – When it comes to playing, the best teacher isn’t Brian Kibler or Carsten Kotter or any big name player of any format. I can shell out everything I know and it might as well count for nothing because Magic: the Gathering is a personal game. Your experience playing the same deck with the same opponent may different from mine. You can take advise, but more importantly, learn from experience.
5.) Enjoy – Control decks aren’t for everyone. Like I said, it’s takes a long time, it’s arduous, and takes a whole lot more brain power. Strangely enough, I enjoy seeing my opponent sweat. Seeing them grimace under their fake, put-on smile. Barely hearing their curses under their breath. I’m a bit of sadist that way. (MWAHAHAHA!) More than all the advice you’ll ever hear from anyone about playing Magic, my best advice is to enjoy the game, or at least, play a deck that you most enjoy playing.
Next time, I will report on my game trends playing Esper Control/Mill in standard, how the rotation has affected my deck and the current meta (at least here in Singapore).
As far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with speed. I have always taken pride in being fast in most of the things that I do. During elementary days I would take down notes and write answers as quick as I can so I can be the first to raise my hand (while holding a pencil) and first to scream “I’m finished!!!!”. I am a big fan of Need for Speed games and movies from The Fast and the Furious franchise. I play lead guitars and my dream is to be able to shred like Yngwie Malmsteen and Michael Romeo. My usual set of favorite characters from anime/games are those that can move swiftly or those that can teleport (Gokou, Kamen Rider Kabuto, Raiden from Mortal Kombat, 4th Hokage Minato from Naruto, Soujiro Seta from Samurai X..this list can go on forever). There is something about haste (not the magic keyword; pun definitely not intended) that excites the very core of my soul. The idea of finishing an act/battle/game in the shortest possible time can make me smile in the middle of intensity 10 earthquake while zombies run amuck.
Let me also add that I am an impatient guy.
I think these two things are the main reasons why I am more drawn to playing aggro and combo decks compared to control. There is just something sweet about turning lots of creatures sideways and winning on 3rd or 4th turn. However, I think it’s more awesome when the right cards are in place and your combo wins the game right then and there. No questions asked (unless you’re playing with a newbie) and you’re shuffling for the next game.
That is the easy and simple part of playing a combo deck. Find 2, 3 or even 4 cards and the game is over. Of course, in real world, most competitive legacy decks will have disruption. It could be counterspells, discard, creature kill or combination of these 3. But then again, the cream of the crop legacy decks are usually blue-based and have disruption of their own. With this, I think it’s safe to say that disruption wars are even out especially on games 2 and 3.
On the top of my head, listed below are some of the more competitve and well-known legacy combo decks:
Sneak and show
The Epic Storm
Glimpse elves (what, you think I won’t mention my favorite tribe?!)
Looking at the decks above, let us now discuss the complex side of this archetype; drawing the combo pieces as early as possible. I have read many articles and forum topics about combo decks and while I can’t and won’t discuss the intricacies of each deck, I noticed one thing in common: 1 or 2 cards make a difference. It is true. On mtgsalvation.com, the glimpse elves topic would have members debate on whether or not they need 1, 2 or no copy of Priest of Titania in their main deck. You have the argument between Summoner’s Pact and Green Sun’s Zenith. On the same website, SnT players discuss the merits of having intuition and the number of copies needed. For other blue-based combo, there would always be a discussion if it’s okay to add a 3rd or 4th copy of Preordain. Combo players look for consistency and if we all live in “Magical Christmas Land” (Evan Erwin’s fave quote), it would always be an automatic 4 of for each card. At the end of the day, I think most players decide on these things by looking at two things: tournament results of others (usually by Pros) and their own experience.
So, if you’re someone new on playing legacy or have played it with an aggro or control deck, I hope I have given you a good yet informative overview of what to expect when building and playing combo. You have to win asap and you need to have the right support cards (and correct number of copies) to enable the combo.
Untap, Upkeep, Draw.
I’ve recently moved to Singapore on a work transfer and I must say that Magic here is very much alive. I’m seeing young ones and the young ONCE, huddling together during Friday Night Magic’s and tournaments. Their format of choice? Standard.
To those who know me, I’ve always played with whatever card pool I already had since time immemorial. Only adding the few cards that I take notice of. As such, I could only play in Legacy format simply because my cards are old. But not to the point of having Alpha lands and power nines. Just old. Like Tempest, 7th Ed old.
In any case, Ravnica (the original one) gave rise to a whole new outlook in color coordination. The idea of milling your opponent to death never really took off in other sets but Ravnica gave form to the idea and Wizards gave it a name: Dimir. Since Ravnica came out, I’ve been obsessing over building the ultimate mill deck. (Thus, this website’s name). All in all, I’ve made 7 revisions to my mill deck and none of them worked. Most often because I had the mill spells, but not enough defenses. I stuck counterspells in it but just didn’t work out. Even got me a full set of Damnation, but it just wasn’t enough. So I put it in stasis.
Since moving to Singapore, I’ve left most of my card pool behind in the caring hands of my co-writer Eladamri, who’s a staunch Legacy player, whose Elf deck I have yet to beat. Moving on, since I left most of my card pool I feel that I’m partly pushed towards playing Standard. Something I’ve never really felt comfortable doing.
See, much as I credit myself for being an MTG fanatic, I’ve never really played competitive Magic. Why? It’s because honestly, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I might not be good enough both as a player and as a deck builder. That I might get laughed at. I’m sensitive like that.
Then came Return to Ravnica.
Return to Ravnica meant the return of Dimir. That gave me hope. Hope that perhaps, this time around, I can finally make a working Mill deck that can actually kick ass. However, when RTR first came out, they didn’t include Dimir in the first block.
My first attempts at making a Dimir deck were unsuccessful. I tried many permutations of cards that were exclusively Dimir. Then, I realized what I was missing this whole time: Another color. See, the problem with sticking to your guild colors, is that you don’t have all the answers to all the threats. I incorporated White into the mix. I’ve seen how RWU flash decks work and I liked it. I decided simply to replace the Red with Black and instead of dealing direct damage, I just added a few mill spells here and there.
But… I had to find out if what I’ve been tinkering on actually worked.
I joined my very first FNM.
This would be my 2nd time to join a large legacy event (Large=30+ participants) and before I unassumingly misled some people, let me say this first: I didn’t win. A couple of weeks before this tournament, I have been bragging to my MTG buddies that I have “perfected” my Kamehame Wave deck by adding Staff of Domination. Now, when I say perfected, what I mean is that I have achieved the consistency that I’ve been looking for this combo deck. The goal that I’ve been working on since Manila GP is to be able to win consistently on turn 3 and with endless mix-match of cards, I found the correct combination/number of cards. Here’s what the deck looks like:
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Heritage Druid
4 Arbor Elves
4 Quirion Ranger
3 Birchlore Rangers
4 Priest of Titania
4 Elvish Archdruid
3 Joraga Warcaller
2 Wirewood Channeler
1 Immaculate Magistrate
1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
4 Genesis Wave
4 Staff of Domination
1 Concordant Crossroads
1 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Faerie Macabre
4 Thorn of Amethyst
2 Beast Within
1 City of Solitude
For those unaware of how this deck wins on turn 3:
Turn 1: Play Forest, Play 1cc Mana dork
Turn 2: Play Forest, tap both Forests, tap 1cc mana dork, cast Elvish Archdruid (or Priest of Titania and another 1cc elf)
Turn 3: Tap 2 Forests to play 2 more 1cc elves, tap Archdruid to float 4 mana, cast either Heritage druid or Quirion Ranger, use remaining 3 mana to cast Staff of Domination.
Turn 3: Tap Elvish Archruid for mana and cast Genesis Wave; If it hits Staff of Domination, total of 5 elves in a play and a way to untap Archruid, it’s game over as well.
Note: Any turn 3 (or any turn for that matter) wherein I have 4 elves + active Elvish Archdruid, Priest of Titania or Wirewood Channeler and a Staff of Domination in play and spare 3 mana to untap EA, PT or WC, then it’s game over. I would have infinite mana to be used for Staff’s other ability. Either I cast Concordant Crossroads so that all elves can attack on the same turn or I cast Ezuri and do the infinite pump effect on my non-summoning sickness elves.
The deck can win on turn 3. Of course, as a non-blue combo deck, it is susceptible to disruption (counterspells, discard effects etc.). It is also a bit weak against removal (e.g. Burn, black creature kill spells etc.). I say a “bit weak” because most creatures that I have are 4-ofs so I have the leisure of drawing a 2nd Priest of Titania or Elvish Archdruid or one of my 2 copies of Wirewood Channeler.
So, you may ask, why do I play this deck in a format full of disruption and removal?
– It’s a deck that I designed and edited on my own
– It’s not a net deck
– I enjoy playing elves
Moving on, here are the summary of the 5 rounds that I played before dropping out (it was 7 rounds and I was at 2-3)
Round 1: vs Glimpse-Elves
As we’re both elves, both our T1 started with a 1cc elf. If I remember correctly, I was able to cast Archdruid (or Priest?) on turn 2 while he played lots of elves without casting any Glimpse of Nature. I was relieved and eventually I was able to combo off on 4th turn.
I had no SB that would be effective for Glimpse Elves so I kept my main deck intact.
Turn 1 was pretty much the same. He was able to cast PoT on Turn 2 and I cast EA on my turn 2. On turn 3, he played two or 3cc elves before playing Glimpse of Nature. He played more elves, draw more cards and the moment he played mirror entity (with wirewood symbiote in play), I stopped him and asked him to perform a shortcut as to what he needs to draw to finish the game. He showed me Ezuri and Emrakul. Nuff said.
Turn 1 is again the same. Turn 2 for him didn’t include PoT while I was able to cast EA on Turn 2. Turn 3 I cast a couple of other elves and I was able to cast Genesis Wave for 6 which got 2 Forest, 1 Elf that I can’t remember,1 Staff of Domination, 1 Pot and Concordant Crossroads.
Round 2: vs Dredge
I have read about Dredge but this was my first time playing against it in a tournament. I have a pretty good idea of how this deck can win on turn 1 and I was expecting that on our first game.
It didn’t happen on first turn.
However, since I don’t have the combo pieces that I needed, he was able to finish me off on 3rd or 4 turn via a dozen or so 2/2 zombies.
SB: + 4 Faerie Macabre
Out: – 1 Joraga Warcaller, -1 Birchlore Ranger, 1 Wirewood Channeler, -1 Arbor Elf
He was able to delay my game plan early on as he cast Firestorm on my elves.My opponent was able to dredge 1 Narcomeaba and 1 Bridge from Below on Turn 2. Good thing was I had 1 FM on my opening hand and I was able to remove both cards from his graveyard. This stalled the game long enough for me to accumulate enough elves (via normal casting and via Genesis wave) and after making life computations on turn x, he conceded and we proceeded on our 3rd game.
This was a long game that had him casting 2 or 3 Firestorm on my creatures. That was more than enough to keep me from pulling my combo. He finished me off with zombies and 2 Ichorids.
Note: The result of this matchup might have been different if I had Dense Foliage in my SB.
Round 3: vs Nic-Fit
This is my worst round of the entire event.
I had Joraga Warcaller on my opening hand so I thought of going the aggro route when I played it on turn 3 with 1 +1/+1 counter. I decided to attack with my 3 2/2 elves to his lone Veteran Explorer. I didn’t know better.
He blocked one of my elves which killed off his Veteran Explorer, prompting us to find 2 basic lands from our decks. This is one of Nic Fit’s game plan to ramp up so they can cast their better, high cc spells. He then cast Garruk Relentless and killed Joraga Warcaller. Afterwards, he played Pernicious Deed which killed all my elves then it was his win from that point onwards.
I can’t remember the exact cards I got from my SB but I’m sure it included two copies of Beast Within.
I had a good hand (2 EAs and enough forest and 1cc elves). I cast Beast Within on one of his lands hoping that this would delay him. But I was wrong and he was able to recover by playing a land on succeeding turns. He was able to cast enough creatures while I struggle in finding either a Genesis wave or Staff of Domination. On the turn where he killed me, I think he got 1 3/3 Beast token (courtesy of my Beast Within), 1 Thragtusk and 1 1/1 Wolf token with Deathtouch (from Garruk, Relentless).
Round 3: vs Burn
Disclaimer: I am all for women playing Magic. As a longtime MTG player, I am willing to teach and guide them in playing MTG the correct way. I think it would benefit the MTG community if there are more female players.
However, I personally won’t let any condescension be directed at me if it’s not from a friend of mine. This rule of mine will apply to all regardless of gender.
I was up against the lone female player of this legacy event. I knew she was playing RDW/Burn because I got a look at when she played against another opponent on an earlier round. I kept an open mind and didn’t had any preconceived notions that other rude male players have against female opponents.
Then our game began.
She asked meticuluously for every spell that I played and always backing it up with “it should be done one at a time” or something to that effect. I wouldn’t really mind hearing something like this but then again if it’s with a condescending tone that makes me look like I’m the newbie (though clearly it was the other way around), it’s something I can’t look past into. She even had the nerve to announce that she’s a trainee judge.
By the way, did I mention that this was a pretty long game?
I’m not sure if she was bad at math, or I was bad at math or we’re both predicting each other’s moves wrongly that made this first game a pretty long one. She had 2 Goblin Guides on her side and I had a few elves (but no PoT, EA or WC) with 1 Staff of Domination. Facing an RDW opponent, I knew I could extend the game by gaining life here and there. It did extend the game and I thought I had a good chance of racing her until she finished me off with a Fireblast and Guttersnipe’s trigger.
SB in: +4 Thorn of Amethyst
Out: – 1 Joraga Warcaller, -1 Birchlore Ranger, 1 Wirewood Channeler, -1 Arbor Elf
My opening hand showed a Thorn of Amethyst which I played on my Turn 2. When it was her turn, it became obvious that she kept a one-land hand. She was not able to play any spell and any lands on succeeding turns. I combed off on Turn 4 or 5 in front of a Judge in case she had any questions. I explained it to her in my most non-threatening voice and the Judge confirmed the validity of my combo.
I made no changes in my SB and still had 4 Thorn of Amethyst in my deck.
She was on play and on her third turn, she decided to play Sulfuric Vortex then ended her turn without killing my PoT. When it was my turn, she didn’t do anything on her upkeep. when it was my main phase, I played Staff and she let it resolved. I had 5 elves in play at that time (including 1 Quirion Ranger). IT’S COMBO TIME!!!!!
Nope. With an antagonist like this, you think I’ll have it easy??
She wanted me to backtrack on the actions that I took after Staff resolved. I did. She was tapped out so I knew that the only card she can use is Fireblast. She did have Fireblast. So the stack looked something like this:
1. SoD untap ability, targeting Elvish Archdruid
2. Fireblast, targeting EA
I had enough mana to activate SoD’s self untap and activate Quirion’s Ranger’s untap ability (targeting EA) so if I do any of these two, the stack would look like this:
1. SoD untap ability, targeting Elvish Archdruid
2. Fireblast, targeting EA
3. SoD self-untap Ability (if this resolves, I still had enough mana to activate SoD’s untap ability for the 2nd time)
1. SoD untap ability, targeting Elvish Archdruid
2. Fireblast, targeting EA
3. Activate Quirion’s ability, targeting Elvish Archdruid (if this resolves, then I have more than enough mana to untap SoD and untap EA again using SoD’s untap ability
To make it short for those who have a better understanding of stack, I had enough mana to put another ability on stack after she played Fireblast. That being said, I still had the combo on and I’m able to perform unlimited mana and unlimited card draw before Fireblast resolves. One of her friends was sitting right next to her and explained what happened as well as other onlookers that understood what happened. She conceded but everyone can tell that she was not at all pleased at how it turned out. My friend even heard her talking to their play group after our match was done.
Yes, she was still complaining at that time.
Round 5: vs Affinity
I have a friend who plays affinity (but not the exact net deck version) so I kinda knew the cards to lookout for: Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager.
I forgot that there’s another trump card for Affinity: Etched Champion
He defeated me on 4th or 5th turn with a lethal attack from EC equipped with Cranial Plating.
SB in: 4 Thorn of Amethyst (What the hell was I thinking??), 2 Naturalize, 1 Beast Within
Out: – 2 Joraga Warcaller, -2 Birchlore Ranger, 1 Wirewood Channeler, -1 Arbor Elf, 1 Immaculate Magistrate
I’m not sure if I was just tired or I became temporarily stupid when I boarded ToA. It didn’t had any impact at all. I was up against an AGGRO deck. In fact, it was my plan that was delayed because of ToA in play (my Staff costs 1 more to play). In the end, I was able to kill Master of Etherium with Beast Within when he swung for lethal. However, he still had Arcbound Ravager to which he sacrificed all of his other artifacts and he sacrified AR to its ability so that it’s +1/+1 counters be be put on an unblocked Ornithopter.
I got served.
At this point, I was at 2-3 and thought that it still didn’t matter standings-wise if I won the remaining 2 rounds (I would be a 4-3 standing then). The only friend that was with me had dropped off earlier and it was getting pretty late. I came over to the Judge’s table and informed him that I would be dropping off.
To be honest, I was expecting a better performance. But then again, no matter how much I read about legacy articles, I’m still lacking in tournament experience. My sideboard could do some improvement as well. Overall, I’d say it was still a pretty good experience which taught me a few things about my deck and MTG in general:
– Joraga Warcaller was useless almost all the time. I put him on my deck hoping that he would provide the aggro back-up plan that is needed in case the combo is disrupted. I thought he can be the spell where I can dump all my excess mana in case the combo plan isn’t feasible. He didn’t win any games for me.
– Much like my previous assessment of my deck’s predecessor, this deck is also weak against aggro. It lost to Affinity and the zombie tokens of Dredge. I had previous tourneys where I lost to Mono-Green Stompy and Legacy Infect decks. If I don’t get my hands on Elephant Grass, I’m seriously considering putting Fog on my sideboard (or it’s buyback cousin Constant Mists)
– I’m considering putting back Elvish Visionary to help out on those situations where I don’t have the needed combo pieces.
– If you’re planning on playing a 2 color (or more) deck, make sure you have the right amount of dual-color producing lands. No one likes losing but to lose because your deck doesn’t have the correct amount/type of lands is saying something else.
Until next time.
Untap, Upkeep, Draw
I have never been more excited about an upcoming expansion than I am with the new one coming this October: RETURN TO RAVNICA.
See, I’ve played MTG since Tempest through Urza’s Destiny block (and what a broken block that was), but nothing really piqued my interest apart from the Slivers. My interest waned after that, but then the Ravnica block came along and for me, it was the first time I really appreciated an alternate win condition with Milling as a viable method.
Not to mention of course that I fell in love with “Glimpse the Unthinkable” (thus, this site’s name).
I ask myself what wonders House Dimir holds for me this time around. Will I be enthralled by a new miller card? Is there something that will finally put the final nail in the coffin of my forever evolving Miller deck.
I just came from a mall looking for a set copy of Blood Artist and also some Type 1 cards. Then a guy came up to the counter while I was browsing through the card singles and asked the clerk if he could buy some werewolf cards. The clerk isn’t MTG savvy, and so, she couldn’t give her the binder the guy needs.
I don’t quite recall how the conversation between the two had progressed, except it caught my ear when the guy said he’s new to the game. The clerk said he should be buying decks first (Intro decks to be more specific) before he forays into buying singles when he hasn’t a clue how to play.
I asked the clerk to show him the binder containing the Innistrad block as it had the most number of werewolves. I was honestly skeptical about the guy because I’ve never met anyone who was totally new to the game. I mean, I was a newbie too at one point in my life, and back then I had people advising me on how to play, what to play, what colors to use, how to make decks, that kind of stuff.
He asked me what the marker cards were and at that point, my doubts were confirmed, he really was a newbie.
It was at that point that I felt a surge of unexplained happiness. It’s because I’ve always read MaRo (Mark Rosewater) talk about enticing new players to jump in the game and right there, I bore witness to a new planeswalker lighting up his spark.