(A 100 Card Singleton Experience – November Summation)
Heya folks! (That’s Indiana-styled English for hello.)
A month has come and gone, and I am here to report some good news, some bad news ,and some opinionated rambling packaged as news.
Mission: Impossible: failed?
First thing is first (which makes sense- where else would the first thing be): I messed up a bit this month. (Sorry. Oh…how delightful – you’ve already forgiven me!) You might have noticed that only one video went up this month. That was not my intention, and next month will be structured to one video per intermediate week. I will detail the new plan of operations in December’s first article – so stay tuned! (Tuning in frequently will assuredly treat you with much more than my writing too. December is a big month for MTGO Academy!)
With that out of the way, I can let loose a large sigh of relief. PHEW. This month’s lists have been rough on me, Goblins and Blue-Green in particular. They’re not my style, and frankly I don’t play well while piloting them. Also, coupled with client lag at the beginning of the month, my general ineptitude with Goblins saw Sledders and Sharpshooters going to the grave without any effect occurring on the table (or as some of you may know it: the battlefield). A huge headache ensued. (I should probably include this in the Goblin wrap-up section, but here is a tip worth remembering: NEVER DOUBLE-CLICK ON GOBLIN SHARPSHOOTER.)
For those of you that have not read this month’s starter article, you can find it: BY CLICKING HERE.
On to the lists (accompanied by those jumbled musings promised prior)!
Month One Summary
(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click Load, select Local Text Deck, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)
Ah, Blue-Green- my nemesis. Out of this month’s trio, Con-Troll garnered my worst record by far. I tracked down the deck’s primary designer (check out Lundstrom’s July 8, 2009 list here) to see what I was doing incorrectly and which cards I should play in the main deck and sideboard.
Unfortunately, Lundstrom has been busy during 100 Card events lately (hope you can play more soon, bro!), but he offered the following suggestions that articulate my above list of Blue-Green better than my mere mortal words could ever hope:
- You should always play the tempo role unless your opponent has a lot of burn- then you are Control. When you’re the tempo deck, just use Blue-Green’s arsenal to keep your opponent behind, and eventually the game ends in victory. Against Red, protect your life total and kill any recursive damage sources that they have; after sideboarding you have plenty of life gain and anti-Red cards to crush them.
- Since Naya, RDW, Goblins and Red-Green are popular, you can play narrow anti-Red sideboard cards and get usage out of them week after week (or until we wisen up and stop playing Red Deck Wins, Red cards coupled with other cards, and Red con hermano Rojo). Nourish, Sea Sprite and Grazing Gladehart all help to beat the burn. Lundstrom even said he will tutor for Sea Sprite if he has a turn one Worldly Tutor against RDW/Goblins.
- Straight from the maestro’s mouth: Primal Command is one of the best cards in the deck. Also, Jace Beleren and Cursed Scroll are more powerful than many of my previously included cards.
- Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, Sower of Temptation, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Yavimaya Dryad all were cut at the behest of Lundstrom (and I threw Ravenous Baloth into the main as an additional anti-Red card). It should also be noted that he finds Werebear, Plaxmanta and Trygon Predator to be lacking, but I kept them in since he didn’t have any suggestions for replacements.
- Ancestral Vision is too slow; it’s better to just get the card quality of Thirst for Knowledge at instant speed. The tempo role doesn’t want to wait multiple turns for +2 card advantage.
- Lastly, Sword of Fire and Ice gets sided out in most non-Control and non-Red heavy matches. It’s only worth a slot when it is a complete blowout once it hits the table.
My personal experience with Blue-Green has led me to one primary conclusion: PRACTICE if you want to play this deck. If you make a bad decision on whether or not to counter a spell, you can lose the game. (But the loss usually doesn’t occur for several or more turns, making it hard to tell what actually caused the failure.) This deck requires finesse and patience – don’t look to it if your desire is to progress with guns pulled and blazing. (For that outlook you might consider the next deck.)
I had the privilege of chatting with E. Hustle (father of my deck list, see his October 24, 2009 list here) after playing him in the Goblins mirror during a Weekend Premier Event (in which he triumphed against me). The talk proved quite insightful.
Mister Hustle has been playing Goblins since 100 Card Singleton was, well, wasn’t 100 cards. One might call him an expert on Singleton Goblins. He was not a fan of Goblin Taskmaster, too many non-Red lands, or worrying about White enchantments; all of which synchronized with my testing. Taskmaster’s benefit did not warrant his cost, I had many mana issues (I even added another land), and worrying is for the Blue-based decks! He made sure to mention that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is included to “live the dream” of insane Goblin interactions and not for any overly valuable purpose (and thus is a fine inclusion for those with a love of flair).
He also liked the Ranger of Eos idea (which I am playing in place of Tarmogoyf). We discussed sideboarding and he suggested bringing in Death Spark, Pyrokinesis and Manriki-Gusari against creature-based strategies (citing the Manriki as an out versus Goblins iron executioner, Sword of Fire and Ice, and a general enhancement that allows creatures to win any brawls they may find themselves in).
In addition to sideboarding, E. Hustle suggested choosing to play last (as he does) in the mirror and against RDW to get an extra card to win the attrition war.
Against Control decks, he said that a Goblins player should take out the anti-Creature oriented cards (like Lash Out and Sparksmith) in favor of mana denial and Pyroblast. My list supplements E. Hustle’s with Ankh of Mishra in the board against Control and generally slower opponents; I tried it main but moved it to the board amiss this sea of Red heavy Aggro in which we sail. I rounded out the anti-Control/Combo package with Manabarbs and Aven Mindcensor. These two cards haven’t been tested and are replacing a clunky Disenchant effect for at least the time being.
In my testing, I tried cutting Arc-Slogger but found myself completely outclassed in Aggro matches; if I couldn’t win a quick all-in, I couldn’t win. So in a humbling fashion, I added back Big Slogs, the Sword of Fire and Ice, and Magus of the Scroll. Albeit clunky, these top of the curve cards (don’t be fooled by Magus’s one casting cost- he is very mana intensive) add power to the deck that it needs to seal the deal. (Side note: In a Goblins mirror, E. Hustle beat me when I had Sphere of Law out through the amazing power of SoFI.)
I rounded out the deck with a miser’s Ruination. It should bring the power level of the deck up a bit against non-RDW/Goblins matches and works nicely with the contingent of 20 Snow-Covered Mountains (that easily could be non-Snow-covered). You can thank Snuffleupogus for this inspirational addition.
Some random advice:
- If you fear Armageddon or if land destruction would stop you from casting cards that you find, you should think long and hard before casting Goblin Recruiter.
- From earlier: Do not spam clicks on Goblins that deal damage to creatures or have sacrificial abilities (unless you want them in your graveyard without affecting the game state in a positive way).
- Learn how to attack aggressively but intelligently. A lot of times your deck’s power is centered in a 2/2 Lord or some other utility Gobbo sitting on the battlefield. Don’t absently toss away the reason you decided to play Goblins over Red Deck Wins!
- Be lucky. This advice may or may not be transferable to other archetypes, but even E. Hustle can condone being labeled a “sack” is always good when you’re commanding green men.
Unfortunately, my closing opinion of Goblins is close to the opinion I had when I started out: This deck is not desirable for me to play. I didn’t like the lack of options that Goblins represents; its linear strategy often came to a halt with an opponent at approximately 7 life due to a timely Lightning Helix, Wall of Roots or Loxodon Hierarch. I think I understand the deck a bit more, with its slogan being pressure through power (and not necessarily blitzkrieg speed- perhaps the guns are pulled but only firing at a steady, moderate pace), but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I pilot this deck in another Weekend Challenge. Well, I guess with Goblins that it’d be a warm day.
(It should be noted that Red-based Aggro, Goblins included, has taken home several high placed Weekend Challenge finishes this month (for example, look at this November 28, 2009, Top 8). I am just a bitter, biased man – as can be seen with the declaration of my favorite deck of this month!)
Out of this month’s misguided mÃ©nage Ã trios, this deck was definitely the pleaser. (Or at least it pleased me – even while losing!) In all seriousness, Reanimator was a lot of fun to play… but it surely wasn’t easy (nor did I actualize the full potential of the deck in many scenarios).
I played the deck in two Weekend Premiers and lost to Red-based Aggro four times. Fireblasts, Banefires, Goblin Lackeys, Moons and Stone Rain effects wrecked me throughout both events. The long arm of burn coupled with Reanimator’s lack of early plays made for a lot of uphill battles.
I don’t feel comfortable playing in the current metagame – this deck likes Naya’s repertoire a lot more than Goblins’. I added a lot to combat Gobbos/RDW/etc. (see sideboard Burrenton Forge-Tender, Flash Flood, Sphere of Law, Murderous Redcap, and Firemane Angel), but Red still found some ways to prevail.
You can watch a video of me playing against Goblins with an older incarnation of Reanimator: by clicking here.
Beyond the Red weakness, my other ending observations were thus:
- Diabolic Intent is hard to use. I like tutoring, but this tutor seems too conditional against quick beats and burn. In addition to infrequently having a living creature to sacrifice against Red-based Aggro, I also think that this card is a bit slow against the Red horde. I should probably cut this card in the current environment, but for what I am not sure.
- Land destruction is good. I’ve beaten Control with Fulminator Mage recursion (curteousy of Volraths Stronghold) and stunted the development of Aggro with a well placed Avalanche Riders long enough to regurgitate a huge flying threat onto the battlefield to cement an opponent’s concession.
- The mulligan decision makes or breaks many games. Reanimator functions like a two and a half piece combo deck (sometimes you don’t need a dump spell because you have a land cycler), and a hand without two of the pieces can lend itself to an awkward game. Although, the fact that this deck has a lot of dump spells that generate card disadvantage can make each mulligan much more painful than they would in a standard strategy. If you can choose the right path in this “risk versus reward” scenario, perhaps a career in investment banking is in your future!
- Reanimator should usually be the aggressive deck against a Red-wielding adversary. You need to preserve your life total, but you should be attacking them as frequently as possible. Red gets stronger with every card that they draw – it feels like if they can only beat you if that last card in their hand is a Fireblast (and it usually is). (You might even think of your RDW/Goblin opponent as the luckiest sack of luck, ever.)
- Path to Exile doesn’t fit the role I wanted it to fill. Giving an Aggro opponent an additional land on turns one through four usually allows them to continue at a pace with minimal tempo lost.
In addition to the above, I also found that knowing what reanimation target was an important skill. Here are the creatures (in a list that is by no means is exhaustive) that I tutor for in specific scenarios:
- Iona, Shield of Emeria. Almost always find her if your opponent is mono color and doesn’t have anything on board to threaten her or your life total. Iona is also good against decks that only have one color to remove her. She is a semi-hard lock against a lot of decks (and can turn off burn spells).
- Sphinx of the Steel Wind. This mythic creature is best against decks not playing Black or White that aim to quickly reduce your life to zero. Vigilance and Lifelink in tandem allow you to quickly end the game and bring your life total to a safe amount.
- Bogardan Hellkite, Thunder Dragon and Angel of Despair. Hellkite can easily take down two (or more) substantial threats in one fell swoop. You typically pick it over Thunder Dragon if you have a lot of creatures that the Thunder will kill, or if you need to do five damage to the opponent more than killing some guys. (Angel of Despair is the alternative if you cannot kill a guy with Hellkite.)
- Empyrial Archangel. This is the third supposed game ender against Red-based Aggro. I say supposed because it is highly possibly that RDW/Goblins can do eight or more damage in one turn. I usually aim for this against decks that can pack targeted removal like Swords to Plowshares and/or Putrefy). This also works wonders with Makeshift Mannequin.
- Woodfall Primus. Another wonderful Mannequin and Necromancy target. The treefolk’s Persist is an asset against any deck with an easy, non-exile answer to a singular threat. I also like this guy if my opponent is light on land or has a few problem noncreature permanents. This is my primary target against Control (but I also like to employ Garza Zol and Empyrial Archangel in this match).
- Thraximundar. This misunderstood artist (read his wonderful flavor text…) is one of my favorite reanimation targets. He kills opposing creatures and quickly ends the game against Aggro and Control alike. This is the deck’s largest naturally hasting creature.
- Squee, Goblin Nabob. While I never aim to reanimate Squee, I usually will tutor for him in Control matches where I need to accrue card advantage through my dump spells. Squee is your pal for the long haul.
- Fulminator Mage and Avalanche Riders. As alluded to earlier, if you have six to seven mana AND a Volraths Stronghold, you can start the long road to land locking your opponent. Fulminator Mage is not very susceptible to being exiled while on the battlefield (still getting used to Magic 2010 lingo), but he can’t attack in between visits or kill Basic lands.
- Anger. If you read the card, then you’ll figure out this guy’s purpose (hint: haste). He’s mostly only found if you have a few other good men/women/abominations already rotting and waiting.
The other creatures are not really targets for Buried Alive or Entomb, although they certainly are not out of the question if a situation arises. Also, I will occasionally Entomb for Dread Return (emergency reanimation) or Deep Analysis/Mystical Teachings (versus Control mostly).
Remember how I harked about how fun I thought this deck was? It has so many decisions: what mana to get with fetch lands or land cyclers, what to pitch to a dump spell, what creature to reanimate, when to chump with a looter, what order to hard cast your fatties, when to cast a dump spell (sometimes you don’t have enough chaff to pitch), how to sideboard (almost every card feels integral), and the list goes on. Read so many trolls’s primer (click here to do so!) on the list to gain even more insight into these intricacies.
Hope you enjoyed the pilot month of Testing: One, Two, Three. I am looking for some feedback (comments below or via chris.MTGOacademy@gmail.com) regarding next month’s offering. I’ve already chosen three decks that look like fun, but any requests for how information is displayed or areas of improvement are appreciated.
On another note, I spoke with el_fake (a Weekend Challenge warrior of many formats) about a possible WotC restructuring of the Weekend Challenges. El_fake spoke with Mike Gills at Worlds about the times of our events, and Mr. Gills mentioned switching the timeslots to be: one on Friday night, both of the current Saturday slots and at a different time on Sunday. The goal is to make things friendlier for time zones other than the main US ones. So keep your eyes open for this (hopefully) forthcoming good news!