Many people pointed out that the biggest weakness of this deck was the low land count. I tend to agree—even after the changes I made last week, 21 lands is really low for a deck that needs to drop a land a turn the entire game (especially when I may be drawing multiple spells to play via Phyrexian Arena). This is a good time to bring up my article Deckbuilding 101: Five Tips for Better Deckbuilding from wayyyy back in June of 2006 (has it been that long?).
BoaB, the Non-Budgetary Robot. Missing since 1/1/08. Have you seen him? If so, click the email link below!
Rule #1: Fix your Mana Base
Rule #2: Keep Close to 60 Cards
Rule #3: Focus Your Goals, But Don't be a Slave to Your Theme
Rule #4: Have a Curve
Rule #5: Enchant Creature Cards Are Not Your friends
Rule #6: Feed BoaB Your Expensive Rares! BoaB Grows More Powerful, Humans!
When I first got my hands on MX3SERZE's take on a black-white control deck, it broke Rule #1 (not enough lands—only twenty with the average mana cost of the deck coming in at a hefty 3.9), Rule #2 (63 cards—mathematically, you want to be at 60 unless you're playing Battle of Wits. Otherwise, you have less chance to draw any given card in your deck), and Rule #4 (the deck didn't get started with an offense until turn four, at the earliest).
I fixed #2 (taking the deck down to 60 cards) and #4 (added in lower-drop cards like Castigate, Phyrexian Arena, and Descendent of Kiyomaro, First to Stand), but I only partially fixed #1—I brought the land count from 20 to 21, but that's still not enough for this deck. As mentioned above, I really need to be able to drop a land every turn. Orzhov Basilica is great for this, because it means I get three land drops out of two lands (first, I play a Swamp. Then, I play the Basilica returning the Swamp. Then I replay the Swamp again). Rather than up the budget of this deck with any more fancy lands that produce black and white, I just decide to add two Swamps and a Plains. I haven't particularly had troubles getting the colors of land I need in previous games, I just haven't gotten enough lands, period.
Game 6: rocore1 (Black-Blue-Green Control)
I get a slow start with four lands and an Orzhov Signet, and he gets Nezumi Graverobber and then hits me with Three Tragedies. I draw and play Phyrexian Arena, and he get down Wonder. I then drop Faith's Fetters on his Graverobber, Castigate a Putrefy, Shriekmaw his Wonder and drop Angel of Despair on one of his two Islands. Three turns later, I have a concession.
Game 7: CPT. Crunch (Infinite Clerics)
I kill his first two Daru Spiritualists with Shriekmaw and Mortify, Castigate a Living Wish, and Hide Sutured Ghoul. I get Descendent of Kiyomaro, First to Stand onto the board, and in over the next seven turns of attacking.
He gets double Virulent Sliver, Two-Headed Sliver, Spinneret Sliver, and Gemhide Sliver over the first four turns. I get Descendent of Kiyomaro, First to Stand, evoke a Shriekmaw (killing Two-Headed Sliver), and Castigate (taking out Bonesplitter Sliver). He then drops double Might Sliver and Fury Sliver (two of which I hit with Faith's Fetters), but his horde of Slivers overwhelms me, and I concede the turn before I die to both poison counters and damage on the same attack.
Game 9: Flywheel (Red-Green Beasts)
We go back and forth for a while—I CastigateAether Charge and kill Krosan Warchief and Wirewood Savage with Shriekmaws, but he drops another Charge and an Avarax, getting another Avarax. I Mortify his Aether Charge and Castigate a Hull Breach, but get knocked down to 5. I start marching back with first double Blind Hunter, then a Faith's Fetters on a Fangren Firstborn, and then a Descendent of Kiyomaro, First to Stand. I get up to 15 life, and drop double Phyrexian Arena, now that I feel comfortable in the game. That lasts about two seconds as he gets down two more Wirewood Savages, continues his Avarax chain (drawing two cards plus an Avarax) and starts pounding on me with Beast Attack and Pulse of the Tangle. I'm drawing three cards a turn, but I'm down to 9 life and a Blind Hunter. He drops Aether Charge, hits me for 4 by playing Beast Attack, and then comes across for exactly lethal with a Wirewood Savage, his Beast Attack token, and an Avarax.
Game 10: Albaldah (Red-Green-Black Land Destruction)
I draw three Castigates early, and get double Frenzied Tilling and a Helldozer, and then Hide a Helldozer out of his deck. He gets Journeyman's Kite, which I put Faith's Fetters on, and then I get Phyrexian Arena going. I kill Barbarian Riftcutter on turn five with Shriekmaw, and then drop Descendant of Kiyomaro. Albaldah doesn't draw any more threats, and I win with my 3/5 and my 3/2 fear Shriekmaw.
The original version of MX3SERZE's deck had seven Wrath of God effects (one of them got left off the deck list last week, so it only showed six. Don't worry—this week's article is 300% more error-free than last week's!) The two games I lost so far this week (against beanie414's Sliver deck and Flywheel's Red-Green Beasts deck) highlight the need for some form of mass removal—especially in a black-white deck! Those two colors tend to get the most "kill everything at once" cards (as opposed to red, which gets the "deal damage to everything at once" cards).
Wrath of God and Damnation are not budget cards, but there are several budget versions of Wrath of God—for instance, Austere Command (1 ticket), Kirtar's Wrath (2.5 tickets), Solar Tide (0.25 tickets), Sunscour (0.75 tickets), and Plague Wind (0.25 tickets, though probably too high a mana cost to run). Hour of Reckoning was intentionally left off this list as it has very white-intensive color requirements compared to the other cards. This does not include cards like Infest or Hideous Laughter, which give a blanket -X/-X to all creatures.
If I were to further evolve MX3SERZE's black-white deck, I would likely move towards having at least a four-set of some Wrath of God effect, and take out the Hides entirely—while they are a really nifty trick, unless you're playing against an obscure combo deck that only has a one-of on certain win conditions, taking a single copy of a single card out of your opponent's deck isn't going to win you many games. There are already ways to gain life in this deck (Descendant, Blind Hunter), so losing those three won't hurt too much.
As it is though, Flywheel's Beasts deck caught my eye in Game 9 of the last set of matches! I asked him for permission to evolve his deck, and permission was granted! Here's the deck list I was sent:
Fangren Firstborn: 0.5 each (0.5)
Hull Breach: 1 each (3)
Hunting Moa: 0.1 each (0.4)
Hystrodon: 0.33 each (0.66)
Incinerate: 0.33 each (0.66)
Pulse of the Tangle: 0.25 each (0.5)
Shivan Oasis: 0.25 each (1)
Steely Resolve: 0.75 each (2.25)
Cost Total: 8.97 tickets (Other cards can be gotten for bulk prices.)
Let's run this down my five deck building rules:
Rule #1: Fix your Mana Base
21 lands again seems low for a deck with an average mana cost of 3.5, and no mana accelerants at all. Without going into huge mathematical equations, one-third of the cards in the deck are land, meaning that you'll only see an average of about three lands in your first nine cards of the game. (Yes, I know this is not the exact odds, but it's close enough to make this argument). The average mana cost of the deck is higher than this amount, so often you'll be stuck with cards in hand (much less being able to play multiple cards a turn).
Rule #2: Keep Close to 60 Cards
Again, there are 63 cards in this deck. There's no reason to go above 60—all it does is decrease your chances of drawing the cards you need / want the most when you need / want them the most! I think we can find three cards to cut from this deck, just to get down to 60.
Rule #3: Focus Your Goals, But Don't Be a Slave to Your Theme
Flywheel has a really good Beasts theme going here—Wirewood Savage and Aether Charge are two particularly potent non-Beast cards in a Beast deck. I also like the utility present in Hull Breach and the removal spells, but I wonder if there are better on-theme choices for these cards? Also, Steely Resolve seems a little unnecessary here—crunch my guys all you want, I'll make more!
Rule #4: Have a Curve
This deck starts at three mana and ends at five. In the meanwhile, there aren't many spells you can play early on in the game. This is fine, given that once turn three starts, you'll be dropping a creature a turn, and never stop putting on pressure from that point onwards. A little mana acceleration might go a long way here, just to throw that out in the open!
Rule #5: Enchant Creature Cards Are Not Your friends
Does not apply to this deck!
Reason: In a 60 card deck, you want some degree of redundancy in your removal. The Incinerates and single Shock seem somewhat arbitrary in this deck—there isn't a great chance of drawing either one, and there doesn't seem to be a reason why there is one Shock over a third Incinerate... or vice versa. If Flywheel was having problems with one-drops, more Shocks would be the answer. If it was regenerators or three-toughness creatures, Incinerate. As it is, I'd rather run Contested Cliffs in the deck. It solves two problems at once—working more lands into the deck (three more lands, in this case), and it allows you to use those land slots as removal spells. Krosan Warchief can let you have your Beasts survive the Cliffs, if your Beasts aren't just outright bigger than your opponent's creatures to begin with.
Reason: Invasion / Planeshift / Apocalypse cards are worth a premium on Magic Online, as those sets were not in circulation for a very long time. Because of this, Hull Breach goes for about a ticket. There are other options to destroy an artifact or enchantment (though not as many to destroy both at once), and these are options that cost a fraction of the amount—Naturalize, Krosan Grip, and the such. Well, this is a Beast deck—why not run Naturalize on a 4/4 body in the inimitable Indrik Stomphowler? It servers a dual purpose in the deck—to budgetize the artifact/enchantment removal for the deck, and to add another Beast to the deck!
Reason: Steely Resolve is in the deck to keep a creature type untargetable. Well, it seems just as good to keep one creature at a time untargetable, especially since Steely Resolve A) doesn't stop mass removal, and B) keeps you from targeting your own Beasts with things like Krosan Warchief and Contested Cliffs. Giving your Beasts haste (especially since they are kind of slow to begin with) seems ideal, so Lightning Greaves is a great swap straight in for Resolve—haste is definitely a trade this deck wants to make in exchange for mass-untargetablility.
Reason: If this deck needs acceleration, there are a lot of choices—Wild Growth, Utopia Sprawl, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Rampant Growth, Search for Tommorrow, Kodama's Reach—but in this deck I choose Overgrowth. This is for two reasons: 1) This deck needs a lot of green mana—triple green for Fangren Firstborn and Beast Attack, green mana for Krosan Warchief to regenerate creatures, and Overgrowth definitely provides this green, and 2) I am considering playing a couple of copies of Warp World in this deck if it needs a big reset button against decks with a lot of mass removal, and Overgrowth is a great compliment to Warp World. I take out Hunting Moa because I really don't want to have a creature that forces me to pay echo on turn three. I want to drop a three-drop, then a four-drop, not drop a three-drop, and then pay echo.
Reason: I needed to cut three cards from this deck entirely, to bring it down to 60 cards. I already added five Beasts (Fangren Firstborn and 4 Stomphowler), so losing 10 Beasts (2 Pulse of the Tangle, 4 Hunting Moa, 4 Petravark) seems all right for now, especially given that several Beasts let me play multiple other Beasts (Avarax, Beast Attack). I really liked (feared) Fangren Firstborn when I played against it, and it is even better with Lightning Greaves in the deck (speeding up not only the Firstborn, but every other attacking creature at the time). Pulse of the Tangle seemed like the weakest Beast in the deck—it would almost never "buyback," since this deck is never going to want to hold back creatures. Petravark also seemed kind of weak—if I wanted to outright destroy lands, I could do better than a 2/2 creature for four mana (which is a really, really small body for a Beast).
Here's how my rebuild of the deck ended up looking!
Out: 4 Hunting Moa, 3 Hull Breach, 2 Incinerate, 4 Petravark, 2 Pulse of the Tangle, 1 Shock, 3 Steely Resolve (-6.81 tickets)
In: 3 Contested Cliffs, 4 Indrik Stomphowler, 4 Overgrowth, 4 Lightning Greaves, 1 Fangren Firstborn (+8 tickets)
Total Cost: 10.16 Tickets
Game 1: Adamax (Black-Green Flyers)
I open with Shivan Oasis and Lightning Greaves, and he gets Bonesplitter and Oona's Prowler. I drop Krosan Warchief, equip it with my Greaves, and attack for two. He takes it, drops Grafted Wargear, and makes his Prowler a 6/3 flyer. I untap, play Indrik Stomphowler, taking out the Wargear and his Prowler, give my new 4/4 haste, and swing for 6. He drops double Mourning Thrull, and I play Fangren Firstborn, equip it with the Greaves, and swing with now a 3/3, a 5/5 and a 5/3. He blocks with one Thrull, untaps, drops another Wargear, makes his Thrull a 6/3 flyer, and swings in—but my next attack is enough to kill him.
Game 2: YKenny2 (Urzatron)
I get Krosan Warchief on turn three, and Overgrowth into Wirewood Savage. He drops Lightning Greaves and gets two pieces of the Urzatron plus a Seat of Synod, which YKenny2 uses to play Think Twice. On my fifth turn, I drop a second Warchief (drawing a card) and play Indrik Stomphowler, killing his only source of colored mana (drawing a card). He completes the Urzatron the next turn and drops Shield of Kaldra, but I answer with Avarax, attack, drop him to one, and draw a concession next turn.
He gets down Vampire Bats early, and puts Vampiric Touch and Unholy Strength on them. I get down Wirewood Savage, followed by Krosan Warchief #2. This lets me drop Overgrowth and Indrik Stomphowler (to take care of Unholy Strength) and then go nuts with double Avarax the following turn. He goes up to thirty-something life thanks to the Bats and double Paradise Plume, but I end the game on turn eight by dropping Krosan Warchiefs #3 and #4 (thanks to a second Wirewood Savage helping me dig through my deck), Fangren Firstborn, Indrik Stomphowler (for one mana), and double Lightning Greaves to swing for about 50 in one attack.
Game 4: COCONUT01 (Mono-Black Control)
He gets down Solemn Simulacrum, double Wayfarer's Bauble, and two more Simulacrums. I get down Wirewood Savage, Krosan Warbeast, Fangren Firstborn (which eats a Swallowing Plague), Indrik Stomphowler (killing the first Simulacrum), and then Overgrowth into Contested Cliffs and Avarax. I drop a second Cliffs, attack with my team, and kill both of his blockers (using the Cliffs, the Stomphowler, and the Avarax) during the attack.
Game 5: MarcVesper (Black-Blue Reanimator)
He drops Howling Mine and then Repeals my third-turn Overgrowth. He follows this a couple of turns later by playing Demonic Knowledge (with buyback), discarding Mindleech Mass and Ascendant Evincar. I get down a morph (Hystrodon), Krosan Warbeast and Indrik Stomphowler (killing his Howling Mine). He reanimates Mindleech Mass, and I drop Contested Cliffs. When he blocks my Warchief, I put a regeneration shield on both the Warchief and the Indrik Stomphowler, put both the Stomphowler and the Mass in the Cliffs, and have the Mass die. He tries to Remand my Aether Charge the following turn, but this frees me up to play Avarax.
Game 6: lordofducks (Blue-Red Rites of Initiation)
He gets Spiketail Drakeling and knocks me down to 14. In the process, I get down Overgrowth, and follow it with double Aether Charge. He plays Looter il-Kor and Empty the Warrens (for four), and then I play Wirewood Savage and Krosan Warchief, bringing him to 12. On his turn, he attacks with all six guys, plays Keep Watch (to draw six cards), and then plays Rites of Initiation to give all of his guys +8/+0. I am only able to block two of his six creatures, and die horribly.
I was happy with how the Beast deck performed, and my possible other tunings to that deck would involve possibly adding a little money to the deck in the form of either Greater Gargadon (3 tickets each), or Ravenous Baloth (3 tickets each), plus maybe some removal so that I didn't die to things like the mass of weenies in lordofducks's deck. Speaking of which:
It's still in progress and started as a green token deck with mana fixers for watch and rites a couple years ago. Last week it turned primarily blue (with Faeries) and a splash of red (for Rites) with a bit of control. Now it's straight up blue and red (obviously) and I just added Empty the Warrens a couple hours ago. It really doesn't need Warrens, but it seems to be helping.
If you didn't notice, it's a straight-up pauper deck. I've played in a couple PDC tourneys over the past few years under (presently) lordofducks and other names, not too often though.
I honestly love building decks more than I do playing. :)
For those not familiar, PDC stands for Pauper Deck Challenge. Pauper decks are all-common decks—no uncommons or rares allowed! In fact, if a card is not common in that format, you can't play it, even if it's common in other formats! (For instance—Tribal Flames is common in Planeshift, and "timeshifted" in Time Spiral. You can't play Tribal Flames in Standard PDC, because there is no common version in Standard. You can play either version ("timeshifted" or Planeshift) in Extended, since there is a common version that exists in that format).
BOAB Note of the week: Note that the seventeen Snow-Covered lands in this deck make it more expensive than the entire Beasts deck, which contained 7 rares and 28 uncommons! Remember, common doesn't necessarily mean budget... it just means common!
Either way, for the sake of knocking this deck down to a true pauper's cost, I took out all seventeen snow lands and the four Skreds (the only reason for the snow lands to begin with) and added in seventeen basic lands and four Incinerates, making this deck into a truly budget deck (less than five tickets to build). For the sake of this leg of the Round Robin, I decided to keep this deck pauper, even if other cards that would be good for the deck (e.g. Firecat Blitz, a usual partner with Rites of Initiation) were present!
Game 1: caninus (Black-Red Aggro)
He gets down Ashling the Pilgrim and Inner-Flame Acolyte. I get Mogg War Marshal and Looter il-Kor. He kills Looter il-Kor with Carbonize, and then kills a follow-up Ninja of Deep Hours (courtesy of a Goblin token) with Lash Out. He then drops Boldwyr Heavyweights, and the best I can manage is Mulldrifter. On his attack, he pumps Ashling once. I play Keep Watch to draw three cards, and then play Incinerate to kill Ashling. He answers by pumping his Heavyweights to 11/5 with Nameless Inversion, leaving me at 2 life with just Mulldrifter and a Goblin token on the board. I draw, attack with both, play Keep Watch twice... and fail to get a Rites of Initiation, which would have killed him thanks to the ten cards I had in hand.
Game 2: alaskakid (Mono-Red Burn)
Game 3: Mace Windolene (Black-Green Control)
He drops Golgari Signet on turn two, and Will-o'-the-Wisp on turn three. My sequence is as follows: Mogg War Marshal turn-two. Echo and Izzet Boilerworks turn-three. Izzet Boilerworks #2 and Looter il-Kor turn-four. Attack with all three guys, play Keep Watch, discard nine cards to Rites of Initiation turn five, win.
Izzet Boilerworks is fantastic in a deck that wants to keep up number of cards in hand for the sake of a game-ending Rites—every card you have left is important for the win! I also want to get up to four Rites—it is the kill condition in this deck, and it doesn't make sense to have less than four of them.
Flips33 gets down Obisidian Acolyte, Tidal Visionary, and Eastern Paladin. I get down Mogg War Marshal, Ninja of the Deep Hours (returning Mogg War Marshal) and Spiketail Drakeling. On the turn before he sets up, I send in with all five guys (Mogg War Marshal, double Goblin tokens, Drakeling, Ninja) and he only blocks one of them. I play Keep Watch (drawing five cards) and then Rites of Initiation, making all my guys +8/+0. This wins the game.
Game 5: kingking5 (Black-Green Reanimator / Fatties)
He gets down Stinkweed Imp, Llanowar Mentor, Nezumi Graverobber, and Royal Assassin. I build up to seven mana, and then played Ponder (getting Rites of Initiation into my hand), Incinerate (killing his Graverobber—he had discarded Vorosh, the Hunter the turn before to Llanowar Mentor) and then Empty the Warrens. He drops Elvish Piper, and I swing with my six Goblins. He blocks one with Stinkweed Imp and I play Keep Watch. In response, he kills Royal Assassin. I draw five cards, and then play Rites of Initiation, making all of my guys 10/1 creatures. Since I have four unblocked guys, he goes from 20 to –20 in a single attack.
Even though I've won 80% of my games so far with lordofducks's blue-red Initiation deck, I feel like there may be better Pauper (common) choices for both token generation and possible card-drawing. Think Twice, or maybe more of a storm engine (fueled by Rite of Flame or set up with Sage of Epityr) might be the way to go. Tune in next week to see how I tune up the Pauper Rites of Initiation deck, and continue on with the Round Robin!