Please excuse my lack of writing flair (I feel like maybe it’s good to start by working against my limited credentials), and let me introduce my new monthly series: Testing: One, Two, Three. This exercise has a few goals: to chronicle my deck building and tuning techniques, to build a database resource of 100 Card Singleton deck lists for various archetypes, and to provide game video content of these evolving lists in action. Needless to say, I get a little bit out of this too. (Now I have an excuse to play games and build more decks!)
The series’ structure and intentions are as follows:
The Overall Idea
Each month, one deck will be chosen from the trifecta of Magic’s deck types (Combo, Control, and Aggro). I am going to digress into some minutia for a moment, as the three words describing these deck types might be too polarized (and I don’t want to be misleading).
By combo, I mean both traditional card-combo decks (such as Early Harvest/Storm decks and two card combos) and decks built on multiple, directed card interactions (such as Graveyard-based creature decks, Prison-styled conglomerates or lands matter” Beatdown, caring about Domain among other things).
By control, I mean decks that plan on using a decent amount of counter-magic. Having a few counterspells in a deck doesn’t classify it as Control, but planning on using Blue’s most coveted asset every game does.
By Aggro, I mean decks that play a large number of creatures (usually 30 or more) and have cards that interact with opposing creatures in a negative fashion or add burn to extend their reach.
My primary goal is to have three decks that require different play styles. Sure, there might be some overlap in how they play, but mostly they will align with one of these three broad archetypes.
The series will start with an article containing fairly rough, untested (by me) deck lists, alongside a myriad of opinions, musings and plans. As the month progresses, I will use my insanely intelligent mind (that I am stroking at the moment) to father each list through trial-by-fire growth via competitive play testing and tournaments. I hope to detail what changes are made and explain why I am making those changes. The growth process will be captured in super spiffy videos available on this site (which means you are blessed with my nasally, dorky voice as soothing audio therapy). At the end, the deck lists will be presented in a more finalized form along with reasoning behind changes and further uncertainties that anyone interesting in playing them *might* want to examine with scrutiny.
I don’t want to get mired in a DeckTech mindset when producing this series. I will not obsess over too many details. If you feel like something could use more explaining, please leave a comment with your request in the forum below this article (as well as with future articles)! I plan on using community feedback (similar to the way the community suggested on the Community Cup deck lists) to develop the deck lists beyond what I would normally do. So don’t be shy — let me know your opinions!
Without further ado
100CS UG ConTroll
(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.)
First off, let me give credit where credit is due. Lundstrom, a 100 Card Singleton stalwart that makes Top 8 with moderate frequency, is my main inspiration for this list. As a matter of fact, I used an old, first-place list of his as my starting point. Check it out if you wish: Lundstrom’s UG, 1st Place, July 8, 2009.
I’ll start off with some things I like (that Lundstrom didn’t play):
- Grey Ogres that bring a friend onto the battlefield (when the friend sits nicely in my pile of lands). Trinket Mage, Civic Wayfinder, etc., are personal favorites in two color Green-heavy decks. I will try four of them (three more than Lundstrom’s singular Trinket) out here. (I also cut one land to fit these in.)
- Guys that are good wingmen. Kira and Plaxmanta protect their follow bros from some of the best spot removal spells in the history of Magic (at least the first time around). My list also only has one Equipment card, so I am not overly worried about Kira’s sexy glass backfiring.
- Cards that weren’t released or available online when he made Top 8. These cards are: Scute Mob (over Vinelasher Kudzu), Tropical Island, Mana Drain (over Daze- I don’t like Force Spikes without lots of draw and then discard spells), Into the Roil (seems like a better Repeal), and Lotus Cobra (which I will be testing if the extra boost will make it easier to cast large threats and keep up counter-magic mana).
- Ancestral Vision (over Thirst for Knowledge) and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (over Tradewind Rider). I want more pure card advantage over card quality, so Thirst got the bump. For Teferi versus Tradewind, I figured that Teferi’s Flash and ability to stymie tricks and counter-magic would be more useful against Aggro and Control than the let’s hold hands and bounce something, guys” ability on Rider. I also like how Teferi has a higher power (which helps to end the game faster than attacking for one). That, and he’s a one-man show, not requiring two more creatures for a somewhat marginal effect (especially with new combat rules).
The more powerful cards I cut from the deck were either due to the play styles or cost of the cards. Nevinyrral’s Disk, Cursed Scroll, and Primal Command are all very mana intensive. The Disk and Scroll also don’t work well when my deck is doing what it wants to do- play a threat or two and counter important cards the opponent plays. I like the Command, and I think it has usefulness against decks with burn, so I moved it to the sideboard. I also am wondering if any Garruk versus Liliana cards are worth inclusion- perhaps the namesake Albino Troll that birthed Con-Troll?
The composition of Lundstrom’s sideboard is centered around overcoming burn and other quick damage strategies. I am not going to invest in the narrow slots of straight life gain and stuff like Sea Sprites. Hopefully more general, anti-Aggro cards will suffice. Engineered Explosives, Primal Command, Ravenous Baloth, Threads of Disloyalty, Wall of Blossoms, Mind Harness and even Vexing Shusher (for its modestly-size body, of course) are the tools at my disposal against small Red men and large, Nayan bea(s)ts.
I have a small arsenal of anti-Control (Jace, Aeon Chronicler, and Seedtime). Rounding things out, Crypt, Furnace, Divert, and Hydroblast come into the main as needed. I am trying out a few things that I normally forsake (Divert, Furnace, Crypt, Seedtime, Threads) and foregoing some usual friends (Guttural Response, Chill, Gainsay, Flashfreeze, Compost and their ilk) for flexibility’s sake. My sideboard should improve my harder match-ups and not be adding cards that are overly situational- the plan for match-ups will become fleshed out as I play (and the sideboard will morph with it).
(Really, I just want to cast Upheaval and then make a smiley emoticon for my opponent to see as often as possible.)
For the above list, I think the route of full disclosure is best. I love goblins. Not the WotC-built, Onslaught or Lorwyn pre-constructed design, but the type of goblin deck that makes the creator pine over card choice. One of my favorite home brews was a deck at the highpoint of Replenish (Parallax and all)- a Red-White goblin deck splashing Armageddon and Mother of Runes (along with 7 Disenchant effects to fight the enchanted monster). Ah, the days when Goblin Lackey had to pair up with Goblin Raider and Goblin Marshal and the King considered himself above all others. (The great Oracle creature update changed that, though).
This deck is courtesy of E.Hustle (whose latest accomplishment is second place in the October 24 Weekend Challenge (deck available for viewing: Goblins, 2nd Place, Oct. 24, 2009). I am going the same route, but I am going to try a hint of White over the pinch of Green. (Right now, the deck doesn’t have ‘Geddons, but I will look into how they interact with the design.)
Some things I like (the E.Hustle didn’t play):
- Ranger of Eos (over Tarmogoyf). With Green being the true splash, I doubt Ranger of Eos was even considered. I like him as a similar card advantage/tutor creature to Goblin Recruiter/Goblin Ringleader, Goblin Matron, and Imperial Recruiter. I find subtle sources of card advantage correlate directly with prolonged Singleton success.
- Some new friends from the old tribe. With my update, I added a few more goblin goodies- Goblin Sledder, Goblin Taskmaster, and Tattermunge Witch (who has a few Green sources for activation purposes)- but I also kicked Kiki-Jiki and Skirk Prospector to the curb. I don’t like Prospector in Singleton. I feel like his ability doesn’t add the same value that Mogg Raider and Goblin Sledder add. Both the Taskmaster and Witch offer power increases that I am hoping will compliment the horde nicely. Poor Kiki-Jiki always feels clunky to me in goblins for its cost, providing a powerful effect with a rare chance to realize its full effect due to goblins’ naturally small statures.
- Extra utility that I don’t leave home without (Scorched Rusalka and Magus of the Moon). I really like Scorched Rusalka’s ability to end games. It’s quite impressive — the small spirit can easily add another four to six points of direct damage if left unchecked. Magus of the Moon’s effect is just too strong to exclude (but you might find Blue-bearing opponents Excluding it- insert sarcastic chuckle) with Imperial Recruiter offering two chances of finding it (and winning the game against a hapless opponent).
- An additional firestorm (but not Firestorm). I added Dead/Gone, Goblin Grenade, Reckless Charge, Sulfuric Vortex and Volcanic Hammer while cutting only Lash Out. While I like Lash Out (and moved it the sideboard to bring in against something akin to the mirror), I think that Dead/Gone is more useful against decks that play big men (that I have a hard time crisping with your average burn spells). I feel like Shock and Tarfire are both worse than Seal of Fire/Volcanic Hammer, but I am open to trying Tarfire since it can be tutored up with Goblin Matron. Reckless Charge and Sulfuric Vortex are two personal RDW favorites of mine, so I included them without thinking too much- a dangerous and often punished behavior!
To make all of my changes, I also cut Chrome Mox (I hate pitching a resource in a deck as single-minded as Goblins), Blistering Firecat, Gathan Raiders (same as Chrome Mox, but pitching land isn’t too bad- his stats just aren’t impressive), Greater Gargadon, Magus of the Scroll, and a land. Cutting two mana sources is risky, but AEther Vial is too powerful to cut in favor of a land, and fifty-seven of the deck’s cards are three mana or less (making me feel more comfortable about going down to 35 lands). Playing a low land count in 100 Card is risky, but knowing when to mulligan can help mitigate many of the negative aspects of such a decision.
I have to admit: my sideboard is a wreck right now. I am sticking with Hustle’s plan of bringing in more non-basic hate (as it is so powerful), but beyond that I have some interesting decisions that have no testing to support them.
Against control, I have the typical Pyroblast and Ancient Grudge to accompany the non-basic hate (if applicable), but I am also looking into Goblin Assault and Manabarbs as non-creature threats. I also have some answers to enchantment or artifact hate in the form of Oblivion Ring, Orim’s Thunder and Seal of Cleansing. (The latter two making me nervous, as I hate bringing in such reactive cards in a deck like goblins.) Honestly, little Kataki would be a fine fit; so I’ll have to pay attention to how I fare against the Control decks relying on artifact mana.
To deal with creatures of assorted sizes and statures, I have Lash Out, Oblivion Ring, Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. I like the idea of answering Pro-Red dorks or large, Green creatures if needed. The White removal can also shore up a control match that relies mostly on dragon-quality creatures to win.
As an afterthought, I included Burrenton Forge-Tender. I have two tutors for him, and I thought that it couldn’t hurt to have the headache that he is for any pseudo-mirror matches. Perhaps more Red hate (Sphere of Law!), my beloved ‘Geddons or Ankh of Mishra (a card that loves the Zendikar fetch lands more than most) deserves a spot in the board- I’ll have to take note during sideboarding and playing.
Final thought- RDW and its kin always make me nervous to play in a tournament environment (so kudos to people like Mister Hustle that can win with it). Hopefully this exercise will make me (and any readers) more comfortable playing such a linear, no frills strategy! So if I am making bad decisions at where I aim my flamethrower, let me know!
Lastly, I wouldn’t feel complete without highlighting a creation for which I could claim partial creative rights — so many troll’s Reanimator! (Check it out: Reanimator, 1st Place, Aug. 23, 2009, or read what the creator has to say.) This deck was about as fun to build as it is to play- who doesn’t like adding Thraximundar and Empyrial Archangel to their deck because they are the best cards at what they do? Luckily, I can experience the euphoria again by adding the avalanche of goodies that have been added to the MTGO card pool since August.
Some things that I like (that so many trolls and I didn’t play):
- Added dump effects (Bazaar of Baghdad, Sphinx of Lost Truths, Strategic Planning, and Probe). Strategic Planning and, more importantly, Bazaar weren’t out when the deck was made- both tailored for a deck like Reanimator. Probe acts like Thirst for Knowledge in many cases (and I am adding it for redundancy). Sphinx– well, he is still in tryouts. If he doesn’t make the team, everyone will know.
- Halloween: the Magic card. All Hallow’s Eve is a Turn 6 Twilight’s Call if cast on Turn 4. Sure, that’s the ideal situation, but the low wait time of two turns is acceptable to add a third mass resurrection effect to the deck. An early Grim or Mystical Tutor can set up some pretty obscene Turn 6 scenarios off of four mana sources. Plus, you get an added benefit of your opponent figuring out what a Scream Counter is- priceless!
- Baneslayer Angel. This undervalued gem should make a small splash in 100 Card Singleton. I got mine for only 23 tickets- a mere 10 more tickets than the lowest price I can remember! Oh, did I mention that this card can come down as early as Turn 3 through conventional means? (Yeah, I just wasted 50 some words talking about Baneslayer. I kind of feel like an idiot.)
- A second trip to big daddy central (and the associated large entities). Woodfall Primus is similar to Angel of Despair- except he has a built-in, second reanimation. (Being able to blow up a land or problem permanent is useful when I am also adding a 6/6 trampler to the field.)
Garza Zol is a large, semi-castable, hasting, flying Ophidian that Lava Axes your opponent whenever it connects (I know I could have cut flying and called it a Thieving Magpie, but I figure that both options take the same general amount of effort to read. I don’t like wasting the readers’ time with extraneous words or by typing the card’s text!) Garza Zol dishes out damage quickly and helps to create card advantage (or reclaim card disadvantage associated with Bazaar cards), so it is included.