Out of all my columns Dating Baiting was definitely my favorite. I was having a bit of writer's block at the time and wasn't really sure what I was going to write about. I was drinking a cup of coffee after work, and my girlfriend demanded I clean up the Magic cards that were scattered about our kitchen. While cleaning I found the Giantbaiting, and I started brewing up a special number in my head.
I sat down at my computer to work on it at 7 p.m. on Monday and didn't get up from my chair until 6 a.m. the next day. Even after the article was sent out I kept playing games with the deck. It was so much fun; I was winning 8-person Constructed tournaments on Magic Online with a deck that cost me about seven tickets to put together.
"It doesn't matter, Jake," I told myself. "You can't live a lie forever."
I begin writing a note, occasionally glancing over at the Giantbaiting with my sexy look (known to insiders as T.N.I.B.S. or The New and Improved Blue Steel).
I've had a crush on you for awhile now. I just didn't know what to say. Sometimes I see people using you as a coaster and I want to cry. To me, Giantbaiting, you're beautiful. This may be a little forward, but... do you think I could play with you?
I pick up the Giantbaiting and gently sway it back and forth like a newborn kitten. The air conditioner under my desk suddenly comes on and blows it out of my hand.
As I lean down to pick up the Giantbaiting I realize that it has fallen on top of another card on the floor. I pick up both cards and hold one in each hand. Giantbaiting wants me to play with its friend, too.
Just let it sink in for a second. Yep, that's right, with Bramblewood Paragon, Giantbaiting puts two 5/5 creatures with trample and haste into play. That's a lot of damage, and anyone who knows me well knows that the only thing I love doing more than playing awkward midrange control decks with late-game combos is playing ridiculously fast aggressive decks.
Now what other cards should I put in here? I'm playing with Bramblewood Paragon, so I probably want to play a good number of Warriors. I can actually put Obsidian Battle-Axe in the deck and have an interesting Warrior theme. After a quick gatherer search I have a nice big list of green Warriors and am ready to get into building.
Most decks don't have the luxury of playing more than eight one casting cost creatures because they won't have much clout later on in the game and they'll weaken late game topdecking. A deck like this is special, though; Obsidian Battle-Axe makes my opponent's Wrath of God effects a lot less impressive. I can draw any creature, play it, equip it, and bash for a significant amount of damage that very same turn. A deck like this can try to maximize its aggressive draws by playing at least twelve one-drops. Even when unequipped, my one-drops can conspire Giantbaiting.
Essence Warden is good against decks with red cards, it also helps win the race against other elf decks.
Heritage Druid seems like it could make for some pretty amazing starts. I've lost a few games in my day to very fast draws involving this gentleman.
Normally a good aggressive deck has anywhere from eight to sixteen two-cost cards. My deck can fall on the bottom half of that range because it has eight turn-one mana accelerators.
Wren's Run Vanquisher is absolutely insane. The ability to play a 3/3 with a relevant ability on turn two is something we Magic players wouldn't have dreamed up until recently. Sometimes a 3/3 on turn two is enough tempo to win a game all on its own. Auto four-of.
Usually when you're building a good aggressive deck you don't want more than eight cards that cost three mana. The reason I can get away with playing sixteen three-drops is the same reason I can get away with playing so few two-drops; Llanowar Elves and Boreal Druid allow me to accelerate into some these cards with relative ease.
Giantbaiting, oh how I love thee. This card will enable a lot of turn-four kills with a deck like this and I'm pretty sure that's good enough for the pro tour, let alone the casual room. It's important to note that it isn't wise to just play a turn-two Giantbaiting because you played a mana accelerator on your first turn. Giantbaitings should be held until you can conspire them, preferably with a Bramblewood Paragon in play, unless you are swinging for lethal damage.
Imperious Perfect is an automatic four-of. Think about this: turn one Llanowar Elves or Boreal Druid, turn two Obsidian Battle-Axe, turn three play Imperious Perfect, equip the Battle-Axe for free, make a token, equip the Battle-Axe for free, swing for 4. Seems fine to me.
Boggart Ram-Gang isn't a card I expected to see when I gathered up a list of warriors, but the Ram-Gang can do exactly what this deck wants it to. I envision myself playing a turn-two Paragon into a turn-three Ram-Gang and swinging for huge amounts of damage. It's important to note that I can't cast these gentlemen with the colorless Mana produced by Boreal Druid. So if I'm presented with the option of Llanowar Elves or Boreal Druid on the first turn, it's generally correct to play the Llanowar Elves even if I don't have the Ram-Gang in hand. I never know what might be waiting on the top of my library.
The Top of the Curve
It's unusual for a deck like this to play many expensive spells, and this one is no exception. I want my cards that cost more than three mana to have a huge impact on the game. Oftentimes, by the time a creature-based aggressive deck is playing four- or five-cost spells, the opponent, armed with a control deck, has already started to take over the game.
Hunting Triad is great wrath effect insurance to hold in my hand in conjunction with an Imperious Perfect. When battling other creature based decks it does some pretty exciting stuff. If I have a Paragon in play it will make a bunch of able and willing fighters. If I have just played my fourth land and I attack with Ram-Gang, my opponent may sense some urgency and decide to Nameless Inversion the Gang. BAM!! "How does 9 damage feel?!" Yeah, it's pretty exciting.
Overrun is no stranger to winning games that are otherwise impossible. In creature-based matches, this card will break stalemates quickly and decisively.
Treetop Village is a great card in the abstract, but it might severely neuter some of this decks better draws.
Let's see what cards we have now:
Wren's Run Vanquisher
We're going to have to make some cuts if we want this deck to run smoothly. The number of one-drops seems very excessive right now, so I'll start by trimming off some of that. Llanowar Elves, Boreal Druid, and Heritage Druid seem way too good in a deck like this to even consider cutting them. I think we can get away with only playing twelve creatures in our one slot this week, so I'm going to move the Elvish Hexhunter and the Essence Warden to the sideboard. It's important to remember that these cards are very good in particular matchups.
Now I can toy with the rest of the numbers a bit. I really like Obsidian Battle-Axe, but drawing more than one seems like it would be pretty miserable. I think it'll be safe to play three of this awesome Equipment. Overrun is an amazingly powerful spell, but I would really hate to have multiple five-cost spells clogging up my hand. I think I'll just play one or two. The rest of the deck seems awesome. I think I have a battle-worthy maindeck; now I just need a good sideboard.
I've already explained that Essence Warden is good against red and other Elf decks and that Elvish Hexhunter is a really good answer to otherwise insurmountable enchantments like Story Circle. I'll put four of each of these cards in the sideboard, and I'll probably take out the Heritage Druids if I'm planning on bringing one of them in.
I'm really worried about getting Firespouted, so I should probably have an answer to that in the sideboard. It may seem narrow, but I think Wrap In Vigor is a great counterspell effect when fighting a Firespout deck. Again, I'd probably take out my Heritage Druid if I was planning on siding these in. I doubt I'll get to activate the ability when I'm having my board wiped by Firespout anyway.
The last three spots should probably be Squall Line; this card is great against pesky Faeries and should be sided in against most control decks as a green Fireball of sorts. It's a rare, though, and might be hard to come by. Some Nettle Sentinels or another aggressive card might be a good replacement if you can't find enough of these.
Here's the list I ended up bringing to war:
I ended up only running two Treetop Village because I was worried about fumbling the curve and not being aggressive enough. After I play a few games with the deck I'll probably get a feel for whether or not it can play more or should play less.
Tinkering around with decks always makes me hungry, and this was about the sixth deck I had designed that day, so I decided to take a dinner break before I hit the Casual Room for some matches. My phone rang; it was my friend Steve.
Me: "Umm, hey."
Steve: "I'm at the school library and I'm so bored."
Me: "Umm, sorry."
Steve: "I'm downloading Magic Online 3 on one of the computers and I wanted to know if you wanted to battle."
Me: "Game on."
A phone call was made, and pizza began its journey to my house as I logged back onto Magic Online.
I win the play and look at a beautiful opening hand of Boreal Druid, Forest, Forest, Bramblewood Paragon, Boggart Ram-Gang, Giantbaiting, and Treetop Village. I play my turn-one Boreal Druid and pass. Steve plays a Secluded Glen showing me Bitterblossom and suspends Ancestral Vision. FAERIES! Well, at least my deck would be put to the test early. I draw a third Forest and play a turn-two Bramblewood Paragon along with my Treetop Village. Steve plays his Bitterblossom and passes. I draw another Paragon, play my Boggart Ram-Gang, and attack for 7. Steve goes to 12 during his upkeep, plays a Secluded Glen tapped, and passes the turn.
If Steve had a Faerie in his hand, he would have played the Secluded Glen untapped. Even if he didn't have a three-cost spell, this would effectively prevent me from attacking with my Paragon in fear that a Pestermite might come down for the trade. Worse yet, he could play Scion Of Oona and trade his Faerie Rogue token. I know for sure at this moment that Steve has six non-Faerie cards in his hand the only non-Faerie cards that typically appear in the Faerie deck other than lands are Rune Snag, Ancestral Vision, Cryptic Command, and sometimes Damnation. I now know that I should be playing around Rune Snag this turn.
It's now my turn, and I draw Llanowar Elves. I play my fourth land and start doing some math. It's very likely that my opponent has Rune Snag. I can play my Paragon and still have mana to pay for the Snag, but that seems bad; next turn I'll have to battle through Cryptic Command mana, so it's probably right to do anything exciting I'm planning on doing right now. (Remember, because Steve played his Glen tapped, he's likely to have multiple Cryptic Commands.) If I play my Llanowar Elves, then play my Giantbaiting with conspire off my two 1/1s, he'll be forced to counter one of the copies. Then, even if he blocks my Paragon, he'll be at 3 and have to race his own Bitterblossom. (He can't bounce it back to his hand because he needs to bounce my Village when he taps my team.) I play the Llanowar Elves, and Steve lets it resolve.
Me: "I have Giantbaiting. You should scoop."
Steve: "Shut up, no you don't."
BuildingOnABudget plays Giantbaiting with conspire!
Steve: "You're the worst. I'm gonna go study. GG buddy."
Me: "GG. Goodluck with the schoolwork!"
Dating Baiting 1, The Field 0
The next match I played was against a black-green The Rack deck. I mulligan to six on the draw and keep a decent starter with Llanowar Elves, Bramblewood Paragon, Heritage Druid, Forest, Forest, Forest. He plays a Swamp and passes the turn. I draw a Boreal Druid and play my Llanowar Elves. The next few turns are pretty slow, because he starts hitting me with a flurry of removal including two Terrors and a Shriekmaw. I stick an Obsidian Battle-Axe that I've drawn and pass the turn. He plays a Stupor and leaves me with no cards in hand. I draw a Heritage Druid, play it, equip, and get in for three. He kills it and plays Harmonize on his turn. The next turn I draw Imperious Perfect, play it, equip, make an Elf Warrior, equip, and get in for 4. He plays two removal spells and two The Racks on his turn. I take 6 from The Racks and draw a blank. He plays another Harmonize on his turn. I topdeck a Giantbaiting and get in for the final 6 points of damage.
Dating Baiting 2, The Field 0
In my third match, I win the play and see a no-land hand. I go to six and see another no-land hand. I go to five and, you guessed it, see another no-land hand. I get to keep a four-card hand with Forest, Paragon, Imperious Perfect, Paragon. I miss my second land drop on turn two and get to play my first Paragon on turn three. At this point my opponent has played a Thornbite Staff, and I know I'm in trouble. He Incinerates my Paragon and plays a Mogg War-Marshal. I get to play my Paragon, and he just passes the turn back. I play my Perfect and pass. He plays a Lightning Crafter and puts me in an awkward place. I don't draw the Perfect and concede to a machine gun that my deck just can't handle. Even if I had seven cards, I don't think I would have been able to handle a deck like this.
Dating Baiting 2, The Field 1
During my third match, I was PMed by a very nice fellow by the name of ssjsharpie. He asked if I'd play a game so I obliged. I won the play and kept a nice seven-card hand of Heritage Druid, Bramblewood Paragon, Boggart Ram-Gang, Giantbaiting, Forest, Forest, Forest. I played my Druid and he answered with a Desert. I drew a land and played my Paragon. He played an Island and passed. I drew another land, played my Ram-Gang, and attacked for six. He played another Island and passed. I drew another Heritage Druid, played my land and the Druid, conspired my Giantbaiting, and attacked for 16. He had a Psionic Blast for my Ram-Gang, but it was still lethal.
Dating Baiting 3, The Field 1
Ssjsharpie: "Giantbaiting is awesome. That deck is fast."
Me: "Yeah, I think it's really fun."
Ssjsharpie: "Mind if I try my white deck against that?"
Me: "Sure, let's battle."
I won the play and went to six cards. I looked at Obsidian Battle-Axe, Imperious Perfect, Imperious Perfect, Forest, Forest, Forest. I made a mistake by keeping this hand. With a deck like this I need to be doing something on the first or second turn. If one of the Perfects was a Paragon, then this hand would be fine. It's important to remember that going to five cards is better than having a hand that can't beat much of anything. Anyway, we both just play lands until the third turn. I play an Obsidian Battle-Axe and pass. He plays a Story Circle naming green! Needless to say, this game wasn't very close. After preventing all my damage for a few turns, he Austere Commanded my board away. He closed the deal with an Akroma, Angel of Wrath and a Sacred Mesa to go with his Gauntlet Of Power.
Dating Baiting 3, The Field 2
I had a lot of fun playing these games with ssjsharpie and told him to hit me up in the future for more battles.
After getting my feet wet with the deck I started noticing some things that could change. I think Heritage Druid can set up some crazy draws, but it doesn't fit too well in the deck. I think I overlooked Nettle Sentinel when building the deck. Nettle Sentinel is insane with Giantbaiting, and it's a Warrior so it fits the theme of the deck better. I also think it would be safe to add another Treetop Village. When I play the deck again it'll look like this:
I'd like to thank Bill Stark for coming up with the original Elfball deck. It's a lot different than this deck looks now, but if it weren't for my love affair with that archetype, I probably wouldn't have built this deck.
In conclusion, I think Dating Baiting is a great deck choice for the casual room or for competitive play. A deck that puts this much pressure on its opponents can be very good against a diverse field.