When I’m recording a podcast, I can often tell if it’s going to be good. That might sound easy, but it can be very difficult to track the quality of a podcast while taking part in it as well. I knew the Brad Nelson episode of Horde of Notions (available here for your listening pleasure) was something special and the feedback from listeners has borne that out. Brad was an amazing guest, really relaxed and fit in perfectly with what we wanted to do.
He also taught me a lot about deckbuilding, which was further complicating my deck decision. It was actually getting pretty frustrating by the time we got to Thursday. What to do?
Armed with Brad’s 1-3-5 theory, I was trying to figure out how to put the cards I wanted to play into a deck with the cards that would help me deal with the key drops at 1, 3 and 5. It wasn’t working. Tragic Slip was one card I knew I wanted, as was Beast Within. Alas! I had a fascination with playing Sorin, Lord of Innistrad in the same deck as Bloodline Keeper.
I tried to come up with several lists that would fit in everything I wanted – sweepers, spot removal, finishers – but I was ending up at 70-odd cards. Alex Hayne told me to stop, but of course I didn’t listen. He wanted me to play UG Delver, which is a deck I have built but wouldn’t play at FNM. The local players would likely think I had been abducted by aliens and replaced with a subpar duplicant if I played a Delver of Secrets. I also looked at Stuffy Red, but it just seemed absolutely terrible against anything with four toughness, control decks, Zombies or when it didn’t find a Doll. Even with my plan to work it into a Trading Post shell, it wasn’t doing anything for me. Plus, Tragic Slip and Dismember are cards. As is Oblivion Ring.
Mike Flores wanted me to play Dungrove with some super-secret tech. It was tempting, but there were too many white cards I wanted to play. I started pulling stuff at random from the green and white sections of my binder, and ended up with this:
Nothing special or particularly techy here, at least not on the face of it. Just dudes that turn sideways and stuff that makes them bigger. My sideboard changed at the last minute, adding the Creeping Corrosion due to all the artifacts I saw people playing in practice games. The Tree of Redemption were for aggro decks but I don’t think they were needed. Plenty of other things that could have taken up that slot, including something like Corrosive Gale or Thragtusk. Melira is going to be an auto-include in my sideboard until rotation I think, Infect is just too scary.
What else did I consider?Thragtusk was in the deck for a while, but at five mana I needed a bigger impact on the board. Silverheart and Sigarda provided that. I was lucky not to face decks with sweepers, but I think he belongs in the board of a deck like this. Five power for five with only three toughness doesn’t compare favorably with Sigarda or Wolfir Silverheart, and the lifegain won’t often be relevant. Strangleroot Geist is just not good enough when the room is filled with Blade Splicers and other things like Augur of Bolas and Phantasmal Image that make attacking unprofitable. That said he can bring the beats if needed and the Zeniths can find him early.
My brother and I spent countless hours playing Red Alert when we were teenagers, first on the PC and then via system link on the PSX. The soundtrack for the game was awesome but my favourite was always Hell March. Subsequent Red Alert incarnations improved that track, and this particular version is on my playlist and always pumps me up when I need it:
In dire need of sleep, I showed up at Midgard only 45 minutes before FNM was due to start. That still gave me some time to pick up Izzet vs Golgari, which is an absolute must for anyone who plays Modern or who wants some early RTR cards. The decks are very well built and just stuffed with value.
I got in a few practice games with the deck before we started. Cory was playing a UB Trading Post deck but for some reason was running things like Liliana of the Dark Realms. I managed to talk him out of that and lent him a Tezzeret or two to try out. The Little Ninjas were enthusiastic about some new decks, with Dawson playing a GW Blink deck (no Angels but Conjurer’s Closet) and newcomer Matt was on Spirits. Both asked for my help, which I was happy to provide. Matt especially was in need of it, falling into the trap of playing cards just because they were spirits instead of trying to find the best synergies for the deck. A common mistake when youngsters build tribal decks for sure.
Round 1 – Ryan Kielly with Grixis Zombies
Little Ninja Ryan was borrowing Dawson’s Zombie deck for the night. Dawson was just getting good with the deck but wanted to try something else. Zombies is not like most aggro decks in that you can pick it up and play it fairly easily, so I had a feeling Ryan might miss some of the tricks. Practice makes perfect, right?
Game 1 saw me land an early Ajani along with a Blade Splicer, which kept his threats away from my side of the board. Ajani hit his ultimate netting me 16 cats, which had me on the verge of dancing on the table Gangnam Style. That is until Ryan untapped and cast a Killing Wave for 2. Bye bye kittehs!
I was able to keep a Geist with a counter and a Pilgrim, and when I found a Sword and a Silverheart (plus an Oblivion Ring for his Geralf’s Messenger) I danced past his Gravecrawlers for the win. I kept a bad hand in game two with no threats before turn four, which almost cost me the game. Ryan kept a hand with two Gravecrawler and a Diregraf Ghoul but only one land, and although he didn’t find the second land for a while I was in trouble. When I finally got to Resto territory I was on 12 life, but casting her let me take out one attacker and go to 8. I untapped and played Sigarda to stem the bleeding, then found an Oblivion Ring for his Highborn Ghoul. The winged armada was enough to finish things.
At the table next to me, Dawson was sitting behind 14 Golems, two Conjurer’s Closets and two Blade Splicers (a late addition at my prompting). He would win that game but go on to lose the match as a result of being too timid and not attacking enough. I tried to explain why that was a bad idea, and hopefully he will know next time.
Round 2 – Brendan Jones with BW Tokens
Brendan received the first-round bye and was not happy about it. Yeah, free wins suck. I’ve played him before but not for a while, so I couldn’t remember how good he was. Very good, it turns out. Also I seem to remember him with longer hair, whereas he was all short-haired and dapper-looking this week.
Game 1 saw possibly the best plays I had ever made in a game. Turn 1 Pilgrim led to turn 2 Strangleroot and attacking him down to 17. He played Intangible Virtue on turn 2 and I had a Champion of Lambholt. I attacked him down to 15 and he played a third land and passed. He hadn’t mulliganed and had mana of each colour in play, so I knew he was sitting on Midnight Haunting. I dropped my third land and attacked with Geist and the Champion. He had the Haunting, leaving him with two 2/2 blockers, but I had Restoration Angel to blink the (tapped for mana) Pilgrim, putting two counters on my Champion and making my dudes unblockable. He went to 10, untapped and played Hero of Bladehold. On my turn I cast Beast Within on my Geist, putting two more counters on my Champion, and attacked for lethal. I’m still pretty darn proud of that.
Unfortunately I couldn’t duplicate the feat in game two (kept two land and a Pilgrim, never saw a third) or game three (mull to 4, never drew enough land to get answers). Frustrating to say the least.
Round 3 – Evan Connors with Mono-green Infect
Well this would be a test. No matter how many answers you have to the Infect deck, sometimes it just beats you before you can find them. I knew I had the ability to hold him off in Game 1 but it was going to be tight. Post-board all I had to do was find a Zenith or Melira. I would be exceedingly lucky in game 1, with a turn 2 Blade Splicer. He attacked with his Ichorclaw Myr and had the pump to block the first time, but the second attack was foiled by a Restoration Angel making me another first-striking Golem. I had a second Restoration Angel in hand but Evan was out of threats.
Game 2 was terrifying. I had early blockers in the form of Strangleroot Geist but this time he had a Rancor for his Ichorclaw. He cast a pre-combat Titanic Growth, then made the mistake of casting Apostle’s Blessing on green to push his Myr through. Of course that also disposed of his Rancor, leaving me still alive at 9 poison. On the top of my deck? Green Sun’s Zenith. Melira came to play, buying me the time I needed to find a Silverheart and finish the match off.
Much of the inter-round chatter was focused on how good Golgari was looking for Return to Ravnica. My personally theory is that we just haven’t seen enough of the other guilds yet and that Golgari won’t be THAT much better than everything else, because then nobody would play anything else at the prerelease. Abrupt Decay and Lotleth Troll both look amazing, but as is often the case I expect other cards will shine through.
Round 4 – Anthony Phelan with UW Aggro Control
Anthony said he was playing aggro. I had seen him playing earlier in the day and he had both Drogskol Captain and Geist of Saint Traft, so I was prepared to race. When his third-turn play was a Pristine Talisman, I had my doubts that he was playing aggro at all. It didn’t matter much as my Sword-wielding Geist pretty much ignored everything he did and beat him down in a hurry.
Game 2 saw that old nemesis of aggro decks hit the board, as Gideon Jura combined with not one, not two, but THREE Day of Judgment to keep my board clear and stop me from being able to actually do anything. When he played a Batterskull I told Anthony that I was pretty sure he was using the word “aggro” wrong and scooped.
Game 3 was an indication of just how good Champion of Lambholt can be. I had a pair of Geists on the board, one of which had a Sword of War and Peace equipped. I had to kill a Gideon and Anthony untapped and laid ol’ Ghosty McJazzhands himself, Drogskol Reaver. Between Anthony, Blair and myself I’m not sure who loves the paranormal proctologist most, but he puts the scuppers on most aggro decks…unless they’re running the Champ. I flashed in an Angel EOT, untapped and cast Champion, equipping the Sword and swinging for lethal. Fortunately for me, as I had made the mistake of activating Gavony with two Geists out and his next draw was a Day of Judgment.
Josh came and sat down opposite me between rounds and we were both 3-1. We were also both at the end of an exhausting week and looking forward to going home. I love Magic and love playing it, but even addicts have to sleep some time. I had a feeling I’d end up playing Josh in the final round, which would continue our streak of facing each other. My record against him is…poor.
Round 5 – Josh Blanchard with Stuffy Red
I had no idea what Josh was playing. He’s the least likely of his group (including Blair, Mike Ingram and Nick Crocker) to play fun decks, and as far as I knew he was still on Wolf Run Blue. He assured me he wasn’t, and a first turn Mountain had me confused. A Faithless Looting didn’t help, but the Shrine of Burning Rage on turn 2 tipped me off to Stuffy Red. Looking at my hand, I was in a bad position to beat the indestructible little demon toy so I tried to win fast. I had him down to four with a Sword on the board but had over-extended right into a Blasphemous Act. Luckily I had Restoration Angel in hand, and Josh scooped when I flashed her in.
Game 2 was sadly not much of a game. Josh was flooded beyond reason, and in the event he found a Doll I was holding double Dismember and an Oblivion Ring. After being on the receiving end of a 7-mana Blasphemous Act, I had a Blade Splicer token destroyed by Volt Charge, a Silverheart ate two Pillar of Flame and I misread Hellion Crucible by attacking into it when it had 2 counters. Could have SWORN it needed three. I don’t recall what ended up winning the match, but I got there.
Make That Change
I was really impressed with the power of this deck, especially since it was basically just a binder pull. Champion of Lambholt has seen basically no play due to Vapor Snag and Gut Shot, but Delver decks have been conspicuous by their absence at FNM recently. After rotation, this card gets even better especially with the ability to blink creatures with Restoration Angel.
With that said, a Geist-Honored Monk at five would have been a nice option to have. It’s obscene with Champion and Restoration Angel and being able to ramp into it would help against any Lingering Souls decks that might exist. I already mentioned that I’d like to have a Thragtusk option in the board, but other than that I am very happy with the deck and the way it performed.
What’s On Deck?
As we get closer to rotation, my ideas get goofier. I have already promised the Little Ninjas that I’ll play a Door to Nothingness deck the night before the prerelease, which leaves me two weeks to fill. I want to run the Titans out one more time before they go away, but this week maybe I should do something I’ve been looking at for a while – LOLCATs! Kemba, some of the Leonin creatures, Swords and maybe even Intangible Virtue or Puresteel Paladin. Meow!
Check out Horde of Notions episode 50, which should be up on MTGCast now, for an interview with Sam Black. Also keep your eyes on this very website for more podcast goodness! Until next week, may your jank flow free!