100%: Commitment Issues

Hello and welcome to another game-induced diatribe on my underdog format favorite: 100 Card Singleton. Alas, I have nothing new in the way of a deck to share with you this time around. Instead, I’d like to discuss a fundamental element of deck construction: commitment.

THE MANTRA

Commitment is the single and foremost principle to which I religiously I adhere when putting together and/or editing a deck for competitive play. It’s the word that loops in my skull as I agonize over each and every card in Deck Editor. And it most definitely has been the lynch pin to any and all of my successes in this format.

This is how you take 100 cards, the majority of which are single copies, and turn them into a well-oiled machine. But first…

THE PROBLEM

There’s an expression perhaps you have heard before: jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

These few words sum it all up. A great deal of players in the 100 Card Singleton simply shrug, nonchalantly throw a bunch of seemingly “good stuff” in with some lands, shuffle it up, and hope for the best.

And this, my friends, is more of an issue that one might think.

GOOD VS. RIGHT

To begin, it’s important to remember that just because a card is good (really good, even) in your color(s) doesn’t mean it’s the right card for your deck. This, of course, is much harder than it sounds, especially when you’re playing this many cards. Sometimes it’s hard to fight the urge to indulge, but it’s a necessary discipline, I assure you.

In my last article there was a small amount of controversy in the forums as to whether or not excluding Baneslayer Angel was the in fact the right call for the Dark Bant deck I had put together. I went on to explain that not only was the card extraneous on the mana, but ill fitting in the reactive deck I had built.

Yes, Baneslayer is an absolutely incredible card, no denying it, but there were a couple issues with it in this particular deck.

First off, the double White in its cost (at five mana) was a bit too demanding in a four-color deck where White is a splash. Elspeth, however, was a far better fit because of its level of power, function, and cost-efficiency with the slew of two-mana counters I was packing.

The next issue was the vulnerability it presented when casting it. Tapping out on five-mana main phase granted my opponent free reign that could easily offset the stranglehold I wanted to maintain on the game.

Teferi, although inferior in combat, enabled my ability to play all my creatures reactively. Additionally, it restricted my opponent’s ability to play tricks out of their main phase, making it instrumental in the Control on Control match. Mystical Teachings let me fetch him (or any other creature once he hit play).

Meloku, my other five drop, also played on a number of critical levels in which Baneslayer was deficient. She helped minimize the drawback of playing ‘Geddons in a deck with counter-magic. Although less formidable in stature, Meloku dominates combat to a far greater extent than Baneslayer. Once again, I was able to maintain control as the aggressor and/or defender, given the circumstances. And like Elspeth, she wasn’t as prone to one-for-one removal, always ready to fart out an illusion at a moment’s notice.

To be honest, the more I play this format the easier it is for me to make these types of calls. In fact, I wouldn’t play Baneslayer in Dark Bant if it cost one Blue and four generic mana. It’s just not the right card.

Interestingly enough, in the updated Naya deck I played in the last PE, I cut all the five casts — Arc-Slogger, Stonehewer Giant, Battlegrace Angel — all of them, ironically for Baneslayer.

This was most definitely the way to go, as my initial objective was to lower the overall curve of the deck. Decks that aggressively ‘Geddon don’t really want a glut high cost threats, especially mana intensive ones like Slogger. A lower curve also made my deck stronger against Control decks, and able to keep stride with hyper-aggressive decks. Lifelink was far more relevant in this regard. Without counters, I needed to counteract direct damage and fast beats.

Judgment calls like these are hard to make. But ultimately if you can power through tough edits, your deck will be better for it in the end- hardly missing the card(s) left by the wayside.

NO, NO, NO!

The next deck building crime on today’s docket is playing into hypotheticals. By this I mean including cards in your main deck that belong in your sideboard and/or dilute the consistency and overall cohesiveness of your deck with pipe dreams and unnecessary combos

Let’s start with the former faux pas.

“JUST IN CASE…”

Cards like Phyrexian Furnace, Relic of Progenitus, and Scrabbling Claws have a very, very narrow function in game, hence their contingency cantrip clause. Yet, I can’t count the times I’ve seen one of these played on me Game One.

I suppose, at the worst, they replace themselves. But that one colorless mana to get it into play, and the second to activate it for a marginal (often irrelevant) effect seems like a skipped Draw Step, wasted deck space, and an inefficient use of mana.

The other issue with cards like these is they affect the way you play. The above graveyard removal cards are particularly guilty of this. Too often I have seen players keep these in play turn after turn, with no real target(s), terrified that the moment they cash in on the cantrip their opponent’s nefarious graveyard-relevant plot will suddenly hatch before their now-helpless eyes!

The situational impact of these cards is highly infrequent, making them better suited as sideboard options for countering specific strategies. Don’t underestimate the chances of losing Game One to drawing a blank; it’ll happen far more often than playing these will come in handy. And, with no way to actively or aggressively search for cards like these, or any over-specific card for that matter, they become even less effective.

A silver bullet loses its luster amidst a pocket full of blanks.

Before we go any further, let me hold you hostage for a moment to address the whole “but I’m playing Trinket Mage” justification some might use specific to the one-mana artifacts I have just defrauded.

I have said this before and I’ll say it again: Albeit a very, very limited tutor on legs, Trinket Mage is the most insidious culprit for encouraging players to include a battery of situational cards main deck. Sorry. I’m not a fan, people. In fact, I’m an outright dejector.

Trinket Mage can be stellar in an artifact-heavy Control deck alongside Tezzeret, Thirst for Knowledge, Careful Consideration, and the like. In this type of build contingencies are imperative, as games will inevitably go long. Drawing a specialized card like Furnace is negligible, as you will be discarding the least useful cards anyway.

Play Trinket Mage for the cards it supports. Don’t include cards to justify its inclusion.

(Deep breath and…)

On to the latter!

“WHAT IF…”

What better way to lay your life in the filthy hands of Destiny than to randomly include a combo in a deck that 1.) doesn’t need it and 2.) has little to no way to find the components?

As cool as using Natural Order to fetch a Progenitus is, these two cards seem entirely unnecessary in a deck like Elves, one that thrives on and profits from a specific creature strategy that has literally nothing to do with a massive uncastable Legendary Hydra. Sure, you may win some games here and there (and in the most sadistically humiliating way possible), but what about the games when this guy ends up in your opening hand, or your first few draws? Poof! Your cool combo becomes a mulligan!

The same can be said for Earthcraft/Squirrel Nest in decks like Red-Green Aggro. The two cards can function independently, but, short of drawing into it, there is virtually no way to assemble the combo.

Ask yourself this: do these cards stand on their own?

Squirrel Nest can provide a never ending army of chump blockers and/or a slowly amassing army. But do you really want to be tapping a creature for an additional off of a Basic Land instead of attacking when you happen into your Earthcraft?

It’s important to remember that decks like Painter/Grindstone and/or Belcher/Severance aggressively search for their combo pieces, dedicating a number of cards to accomplish this. Inversely, some may include creatures in case their aims are foiled; cards that require nothing more than themselves to win a game. Baneslayer, Decree of Justice, and Venser are fine contingencies for decks like these. It in no way dilutes or detracts from their primary strategy. But the same cannot be said with the Progenitus and Squirrel/Craft examples above — in both cases, the decks power, consistency, and reliability are hampered.

STICK TO YOUR GUNS

All-in-all, steer wide and clear from any and all Hail Mary strategies. As I have said in the past, the most surefire way to overcome the inherit variance of this format is through redundancy and multi-function. Identify your strategy. This is the foundation of your deck, the principle upon which all of your card choices should be based.

If you insist on including a card like Phyrexian Furnace in an aggressive deck, consider creatures instead, like Withered Wretch or even Loaming Shaman (colors permitting). Something that can impact the game on multiple levels, not just one, will always be a better than something that could easily find a home in your sideboard or end up in your hand until the stars go out.

For more insight into the aforementioned article concerning redundancy and multi-function, check this out.

BIG UPS

On the subject of commitment, a big digital pat on the back goes out to Zimbardo, Platipus10, Tarmotog, ChrisKool and any(and every)one else that took the time to post in the Wizards forums and get us some updated prize support to ME3. If this isn’t proof that you can have your voice not only heard but matter, then I’m out of analogies. Good job, men! A most valiant and thankless effort indeed!

Lastly, it’s time to hang your egos at the door and send me another list for my next Deck Doctor installment! If for no other reason than to stump and/or embarrass me, seriously, I’d appreciate the opportunity to peruse your ideas. Let’s get talking in these forums and show some support for the format! Just today I happened to play a game against WOTC Director of R&D Aaron Forsythe, which garnered me the opportunity to shoot him some feedback on the management of the format (after he cooled down for the rules debacle we encountered in our game). Remember, every little thing counts!

 
  1. Nice article. The idea that you shouldn’t include combos in the deck just because you can is interesting for me to think about, and I think that Nest Craft in Elves is a particularly interesting example to discuss, since the deck does have tutors to find it, but the combo dilutes the elves synergy. I honestly have never questioned it in the lists I see, but after having chatted about it I think I could be convinced that Elves is better without it.

  2. Well if you’ve got a decent amount of basics, Earthcraft works fine with random elves. You’d probably still want Earthcraft even if the combo didn’t exist. So you’re really only forcing yourself to play squirrel nest.

  3. 2, I guess. You are giving up the ability to play way better guys to get a couple extra global pumps.

  4. I have played Natural Order/Progenitus in a Doran based deck, solely because I had discard outlets in case I drew into it. It was stronger in the deck simply because of that and the sheer volume of Natty Order targets. To help, I played Dimir House-Guard (as a means to get to the Natural Order), as well as a battery of in-color tutors. This doesn’t seem to be the case the with Elves list on which I am commenting.

    As elves produces a massive amount of mana on its own, and the deck can get its hand on board very quickly, I don’t really see what Earthcraft is contributing beyond the hopeful interaction with Nest. And if Nest was actually that potent of a card by its lonesome, we would see in decks with green mana.

    Beyond this, BOTH combos are slow, neither providing an instant kill. Both are easily disrupted. The amount of times that Progenitus ends up in your early draws, is Wrathed away or dealt with on some mass removal scale, sits in front of a Moat,or Natty Order eats a counter (losing you a creature in the process) will far exceed the times swinging twice (or more given the number of viable life gain in the format) will win you a game.

    I could see siding Progenitus in, if you were playing Natural Order as a way to fetch the relevant elves or a realistic bomb like Vigor that just annihilates RDW, as a way to foil Painter/Stone. But beyond that, it seems very odd to me that, of all decks, one would think to include this in Elves. Wouldn’t an Overrun be more impacting and fitting in a deck that runs such a high number of creatures and has the ability to run out tokens?

    Also, playing combo pieces, esp. unneeded ones, affect the way you play. If you happen into one component, suddenly you’re desperate for the other, dedicating all your energy and effort toward that singular goal. Meanwhile you have a hand, deck, and/or table full of great, synergistic cards that in no way relate to this fool’s errand.

    Remember, Elves works because of its overall premise is synergy within the creature type. This makes cards that don’t directly relate to that main premise almost extraneous. ‘Geddons? Sure, you have tons of mana men. Removal? Of course. Disenchant effects? Absolutely. These are elementary aspects of every deck. But these “combos” break that synergy, deviating you from the intended focus. Those tutors should be used for cards that can a win a game by itself.

    If you’re hellbent on playing a combo in a tight build like elves, consider something like Elfball, where the combo isn’t necessary and the components are already there.

    I guarantee you that if you removed these cards (especially the Guilty Conscience/Stuffy Doll combo) and replaced them with creatures and spells that have an INDIVIDUAL value and impact you will not miss the pipe dream pieces. You’re deck will function on a much more consistent and practical level, which easily should offer you the same, if not more, wins without the drawback of being stuck on one of these cards without the other.

    Thinking, “well it’s just a few cards” is not the right mindset when trying to make a deck, one that performs, at least. Each and every slot is valuable, and specific card interactions that do little to nothing on their own, don’t affect the game in an immediate, impacting way, or are there “because” or “in case” are a waste of that space.

  5. Hrm, looking back at my games, it does seem Progenitus only gives me 5 games that wouldn’t have been won by an elf card, but I have lost 4 games with Progenitus in hand. Natural Order did however give me 3 games I would not have otherwise pulled out for grabbing non-progen guys. I guess I cut him for Regal Force though that always felt underpowered.

  6. Hey BryFry! ^^

    (No, I am not an asian schoolgirl wearing a catholic schoolgirl outfit.)

    How many games have you lost after getting Progenitus into play? The games that he has won- what was the game state and what deck was your opponent playing? Think about creatures that would allow you to still win the games that Progenitus won that you can cast- maybe even sometimes a different creature in your deck would be acceptable. Also, think what would allow you to win the games that the hydra loses (if that is applicable).

    Cheers!

  7. To Bry:

    And the Guilty Conscience/Stuffy doll combo? This seems even more unrealistic and vulnerable to disruption/removal, no?

    Again, Elves is a near combo itself. How is this relevant?

  8. The stuffy doll combo was pretty bad. I was just messing with it that weekend to see if having half a combo be a dude made it that much easier to find them.

    So progen usually steals away games that I am unlikely to win otherwise. Two of the games were really good draws of rdw. 3rd turn progen raced him, I doubt anything else would have. I guess vigor would have eaten 6 points for me but he still almost raced me through progen. The other games were ones with them having lots of targeted removal eating my guys, then going 1 mana elf, sac it to order before he can kill it then winning. Really, he’s only been answered twice in all the times I’ve pulled him out, and I eventually blew up the moat and killed him one of those games.

    The main reason I like NO over overrun is that overrun is really only useful when I’ve already got a decent amount of guys out. Natural Order is still really good even if I’ve only got 1.

  9. I’m not doubting the utility of Natural Order, as it seems like a great tutor for the deck. It’s Progenitus that’s questionable. Beyond the sole discard outlet in Llanowar Mentor, there is no way to get Progenitus out of your hand and back into your deck.

    Additionally, I don’t think Regal Force may really be the answer, either. Perhaps I’m being a bit too narrow-minded, but isn’t the point of playing Elves to abuse the inherit synergy and interaction between actual elves? Granted, not every card should or will be “elf,” but clearly this desperate inclusion of a combo is either 1.) unnecessary, or 2.) an indication that the deck is lacking altogether.

  10. I believe Bry is saying that Elves sacrifices creature quality found in non-Elf creatures to get a few cards that key off of the Elf creature type. (As opposed to playing a G/x aggro deck, where each card has to stand on its own.) I think elves has merits in: the fact that it has a very low mana curve, and the ability to have extremely explosive draws if you draw a certain number of elves and one of the global pumps.

    I like Natural Order also, but I feel like there has to be a better creature than Progenitus as a singular threat when Natural Order needs to be able to mount a comeback from a precarious situation. I will ponder some about it. Maybe Elves would be a good DeckTech. :)

  11. So we lost the comments on this article, but I had them archived. Since I added them again, you get to see my face 12 times (now 13). :)

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