And here was the pool of cards from which Rallius built his deck.
Part one and two of the contest can be found here and here. Rallius chose to include green in his deck for two cards: Squall Line and Rites of Flourishing. Squall Line is the only instant-speed X damage spell on the challenge list, and Rites of Flourishing combines Exploration (for both players) plus Howling Mine (for both players). Are these cards worth a second color? Let's find out through testing!
Game 1: Wilke (Mono-White Control)
I drop double Fungal Reaches and build up counters until turn seven, when I go Hostility, Beacon of Destruction (met with Seht's Tiger) and Incinerate (in response) in one turn. He drops Calciderm, and I play a second Beacon of Destruction and swing with my eight 3/1 guys. He blocks two and takes 18—I held back Hostility in the case of a second Seht's Tiger or some combat trick, as my hand was Squall Line and Sudden Impact. He plays Stormfront Riders and has one Intervention Pact, but that is not enough to suvive the next attack phase.
He gets three Soul Wardens and a True Believer on the board. I get Ashling the Pilgrim, and hold all of his guys at bay. He attempts to land a Mirror Entity, which I promptly Lash Out. To his second Entity, I blow up Ashling. I follow up with a second Ashling and a Hostility, and he has only a True Believer and a Serra Avenger. I quickly grow my Ashling to monstrous proportions (by pumping it twice on my turn and twice on his), winning me the game in a couple of swings despite his high point of 32 life.
Game 3: Erathmedor (Blue-Black Control)
He plays Stonybrook Angler and Shadowmage Infiltrator. I get down Ashling, and Incinerate his 1/3 guy, so he can't draw extra cards. He kills my Ashling with Sudden Death, and repeats this chain of events when I play a second Ashling. To turn around good faith, I Incinerate a second Shadowmage Infiltrator. I get Braid of Fire and double Ghitu Encampment on the board, and start riding the extra upkeep mana (and draw phase mana—remember, mana from Braid of Fire can be used on the card you draw that turn!) to activate my Encampments, and play Lash Out and Beacon of Destruction all at once. He succumbs on my fourth upkeep turn, while I still have Molten Disaster and Hostility in hand.
Game 4: PDT1060 (Megrim)
He gets Wistful Thinking with a Megrim out, knocking double Sudden Shock, Lash Out, and Ashling from my hand. I do get double Braid of Fire and have Ghitu Encampments (double) and a second Ashling. He kills Ashling with Terror and drops Magus of the Jar. I kill Magus with an Incinerate and start swinging for 4 a turn, keeping my hand size at zero so I can't be forced to discard too many cards (unless he forces me to draw first). I am able to avoid mana burn by putting counters on Fungal Reaches or activating Ghitu Encampments multiple times. He drops a second Megrim, and I drop Rites of Flourishing. He answers with Forced Fruition, and I kill him with a Squall Line for 8 during my upkeep thanks to seven free mana from my double Braid of Fire.
Game 5: IAMQBA (Blue-Black "Comes into Play" Creatures)
He gets Faceless Butcher x2 on my Ashling, but I kill them both with burn. He then evokes Mulldrifter, brings it back with Makeshift Mannequin, and drops Ravenous Rats (getting Hostility out of my hand). I lose a Ghitu Encampment to Nameless Inversion but get another two, plus a second Hostility (which gets in for 6). He uses Shriekmaw to kill my Hostility, and then throws it in front of an Encampment while at 9 life. On IAMQBA's next upkeep, I play Incinerate, which he lets through. Two of the three remaining cards in my hand were Sudden Shock, which finish him off.
Part of the original plan from Rallius was to use Rites of Flourishing to accelerate mana and to keep the hand size constantly filled. Unfortunately, I haven't really drawn any of the Rites yet. In order to test the deck in that direction, I decide to add in Howling Mines—not because the deck has shown any great weakness yet, but because I want to see how well the deck performs with a larger component of "draw-lots-of-cards."
To make room for the Howling Mines in the budget, I drop a pair of Molten Disasters and a Beacon of Destruction. I consider adding in another Sudden Impact or two, but first I want to see what happens when I can reliably draw a Howling Mine / Rites of Flourishing every game.
Game 6: shade256r (White Weenie)
I drop Braid of Fire x2 and forget that I need to turn off his Knight of the Holy Nimbus's regeneration before hitting it with Sudden Shock, leaving me down a Sudden Shock and him up a Knight of the Holy Nimbus. This forces me to use a turn and another burn spell to kill it again, but I get run over by his other creatures backed by Mirror Entity in the meanwhile.
Game 7: Quillboy (Blue-Black Control "Comes into Play" Creatures)
After a very long, long drawn out game, I get down Howling Mine and four Rites of Flourishing. I eventually get into a place where I have triple Fungal Reach, I'm at 2, he's at 4, and I have double Braid of Fire, one at six and one at two. I play Beacon of Destruction three times in one draw phase, each time drawing out Venser, Shaper Savant or a Momentary Blink for Venser. He taps an Adarkar Wastes to bring himself down to 3, and I then finish him off with Sudden Shock and Molten Disaster for one (I didn't Sudden Shock Venser because once he brought himself down to 3, I was virtually assured the win with my dual split second cards).
Game 8: Grendel Nine (Warp World)
We have a turn where he gets a hasted Hearthcage Giant (with Inner-Flame Acolyte) after a Warp World and is able to pump it to 22 power, but forgets to attack (while I am at 20). However, I also had a burn spell I could have used to kill one of the other Elementals in response to him playing the Giant, allowing him to swing for a maximum of 19 that turn, and opening him for a lethal counterattack. Either way, I end up winning the match a couple of turns later, as I have Hostility and a buttload of burn spells.
My nightmare match-up: Purity, Sacred Mesa, Story Circle (set to red). I almost pull this one to a draw by using Sudden Shock on his Martyr of Sands (all four of them), and then using burn to kill Purity and Squall Line (backed by all four Braid of Fires) to force a draw, but I was short the Sudden Shock on the last turn to make it happen.
Game 10: SpooJones (Black-Red Madness)
I tap my mana wrong, and end up dying instead of burning him out. Total brain fart. I should have won this game, but I lost because of a Fungal Reaches when I had double Incinerate, double Sudden Shock in hand, with him at 10 life. I tapped Ghitu Encampment and Mountain for the first burn spell, leaving me only a Reaches (no counters) and a Forest. I lose because of this mistake.
With the extra Howling Mines, I posted a 2-3 record. I probably could have lost the Warp World match up, and definitely would have won the Black-Red Madness match-up if I hadn't tapped my mana wrong, so these two are a wash. The Purity match is my nightmare match (Purity tends to trump Hostility, and I have huge problems getting past Story Circle). Even so, the Howling Mine / Rites of Flourishing configuration wasn't working well. This wasn't necessarily because of the card-drawing spells, but because my deck wasn't designed to take advantage of drawing cards.
Sure, I have lots of burn spells that I can draw, but in order to keep up with the number of cards in hand (especially if I start drawing 4-5 cards a turn), I need to aim my burn at an opponent's head (or it's simply easier to do so) versus going with a Hostility plan. The focus becomes more on cards like Sudden Impact and board sweepers, versus dropping a 6/6 creature, throwing a burn spell or two, and swinging with 30 power worth of hasted creatures.
I had two choices at this point—focus the deck more on a Howling Mine / Rites of Flourishing strategy (more Sudden Impacts, more board sweepers, less focus on Hostility and burn), or remove the mutual card-drawing spells and focus more on Braid of Fire and Hostility. In the end, I felt that the deck was more interesting as a Braid of Fire deck—one that could generate huge mana during upkeep and go nuts with Hostility—than as a retread of an Owling Mine or Turbo-Fog deck with burn.
So now I was going to go the Braid of Fire route. As suggested by reader Jareth, Upwelling is a natural choice to pair with the Braid—all mana generated by the Braid would carry over past my beginning phase, allowing me to use it towards sorceries and Hostility itself.
The four Upwelling were a pure swap for the four Rites, since they cost the same for this contest. I have a little leg room left to work with, so I add in three Harmonize for the three Howling Mine (draw cards just for myself!), leaving me two slots and about six and a fifth tickets left to work with. I decide to add in a couple of Chandra Nalaar to fill in those slots. Chandra does not work well with Hostility (she is not a spell once she is on the table as a planeswalker), but she fills the role of mass removal—her second ability lets her kill a creature a turn for the cost of only a single card (Chandra herself), and her third ability just wins the game. The first ability (a point of damage a turn) is just gravy if it gets going.
Game 11: bennykdogg (Red-Green Stuffy Doll)
He gets down an early Howling Mine and Stuffy Doll, and I get Upwelling and build up a lot of mana. He drops Gauntlet of Power and Yavimaya Dryad. I Lash Out, revealing Hostility. With all the mana I've saved up, I drop Hostility, Squall Line for 6, play Sudden Shock, and swing for 30 damage.
Game 12: nickallmighty (Mono-Green Treefolk)
I get stuck at three lands but get a Braid of Fire. This lets me kill a 6/6 Dauntless Dourbark with double Lash Out (dealing 6 to nickallmighty), drop Ashling and activate her for 3 (taking out Treefolk Harbinger, Masked Adminerers, an Urza's Factory token, and quadruple Wall of Roots), Incinerate nickallmighty directly, and play double Beacon of Destruction, winning the game.
I get Ashling the Pilgrim and kill his Merfolk Reejerey with Lash Out and a Mirror Entity with Sudden Shock. When Ashling gets to 8/8, and his entire board is a single Lord of Atlantis, Rhiox concedes.
Game 14: GuZen_pt (Black-White Rebels)
I get an early Braid of Fire and use it to build up a lot of mana on double Fungal Reaches. I then play Upwelling and double Harmonize, and eat Return to Dust on the Braid and the Upwelling. I drop Chandra, and use her plus Incinerate to stop all of his Rebels within two turns. Then Hostility comes out to play, followed by Beacon of Destruction, for 21 points of hasty damage.
Game 15: Ferrethater (Four-Color Elementals)
He gets Smokebraider, Elemental Harbinger, Changeling Berserker (drawing out a Sudden Shock from me to kill his Harbinger, so he has to champion the Smokebraider to keep the Berserker, sticking him at three mana) and Incandescent Soulstoke. I get Ashling to chump block, and then wipe his team with Molten Disaster for 3 (killing the Soulstoke, which drops the Berserker to 5/3, killing it). I then use Chandra Nalaar to kill off his returned Smokebraider. From there, I control the game with a combination of Chandra and burn until I finish him off with Chandra and double Incinerate some turns down the road.
I can honestly say that I didn't expect this deck to go 10-0 (not counting the foray into a Howling Mine / Rites of Flourishing deck), but as a strict Hostility / Braid of Fire deck, I went unbeaten testing for this article. Braid of Fire proved to be immensely useful, and it made me wish that I could have included more storage lands in this deck (I couldn't because I didn't have them on the list of cards available for this pool—if it had, I would have swapped in three Molten Slagheaps for three Terramorphic Expanses).
If I were to keep evolving this deck, I would want to find a way to fit in either Char-Rumbler or Flamekin Brawler. Both are effectively X spells on creatures, and take advantage of the mana this deck can pump out. Chandra worked well as an addition, allowing me time to stop smaller creatures while dropping Hostility and a host of 3/1 tokens. This deck was also a blast to play, and it made me wonder why Braid of Fire has never seen serious tournament play—it can generate insane amounts of mana quickly, works extremely well with the Time Spiral storage lands, and reminds me of playing with Aether Vial when that card was legal.
Before I say goodbye for the year, here are the results of the last poll.
|While Ben is waiting for to see the Hostility decks posted to the forums, which format would you most like to see him play?|
|Classic, where most cards are legal.||2685||40.5%|
|Highlander, where there can be only one!||2270||34.3%|
|Classic Highlander – I like them both!||1669||25.2%|
This will be the focus of my first column of 2008! Also, let me know what you liked didn't like about Building on a Budget this year—in the forums, please sound off about which column(s) was your favorite, which you didn't like, and which features you'd like to see return again in 2008! (10 Decks in 10 Weeks, the deckbuilding challenge, an Extended Battle of Wits deck, etc.)
Thank you all for being a great readership this year, and thank you for all the contributions you've made—ideas, decks, and forum feedback—which have made this a great time to be part of the Building on a Budget community.