Let me start by introducing myself to those of you who haven't heard of me. I'm a twenty-two-year-old Magic player living in Northern New Jersey. I won Pro Tour San–Diego in 2007 and have since been playing with a New York City–based team consisting of Zvi Mowshowitz, Jon Finkel, Jamie Parke, my San Diego partner Chris "doctor lachtopus" (pronounced lock-to-pus) Lachmann, Steve Sadin, and my humble self.
One of my favorite parts of writing for this site is the huge number of e-mails I receive from my readers. If you've sent me an e-mail that I haven't gotten a chance to reply to, I'm sorry—but I do get to most of them and try to start a productive dialog. A gentleman by the name of Paul Y. contacted me last week and had this to say:
Dear Jacob Van Lunen,
Regarding ALL of your articles
I really enjoy reading your articles, and I enjoy hearing you talk on The Magic Show. I am working on a Boggart Block deck, and I am wondering if I should play Earwig Squad. I have Auntie's Snitch already, but my one-drops are Knucklebone Witch and Mudbutton Clanger. Knucklebone Witch is amazing, so I would prefer not to drop all 4. I was wondering if I should drop 2 Witches and the 2 Mudbuttons for 2 Prickly Boggarts and 2 Boggart Foragers, for turn 3 5/3s, with library searching, and 3/1 Gobs with a return to hand ability. I am already running 4 Boggart Mobs, so I have some big creatures already, but I have to have something to champion and wait till turn 4. Anyway, thanks in advance.
First off, I'd like to thank Paul for his kind words. It's really encouraging to hear that people sincerely enjoy reading my articles.
Next, I'd like to thank Paul for thinking outside the box. I was surprised to see that no one has taken a liking to Goblins during the Block season. Sam Black, who recently came in 2nd at U.S. Nationals, won a car in December with the most sadistic tribe, and the power level and synergy of the cards in question seem to be par for the course in Extended.
Let's get right into brewing. First I think we should take a look at Sam's deck:
I played a lot of games with this deck online after worlds and I'm pretty confident it was the best deck in Standard going into Worlds. (Unfortunately, Sam wasn't qualified last year. Fortunately, he won a free flight to Malaysia and a car that weekend instead.)
If we're going to make this deck a Block contender we need to understand what makes it tick. The deck likes to use various sacrifice outlets (Siege-Gang Commander, Greater Gargadon, and Marsh Flitter) to finish people off with one or more Boggart Shenanigans, Disciple of the Vault style. It's not quite so easy to find sac outlets in block. So we may want to take a different route with the deck. We lose Greater Gargadon, Mogg Fanatic, Mogg War Marshal, Siege-Gang Commander, and some lands when we port the deck to block. Luckily, those include what are probably the most expensive cards in the deck so our block version will cost a lot less to put together.
From the sound of things, Paul's deck probably has a lot of trouble with Festercreep, Firespout, and Soul Snuffers. I feel like we could dodge those effects the same way the Kithkin decks do, by playing post Wrath of God-effect threats that put pressure on your opponent that requires a whole new wrath, not just a spot removal spell.
One of the decks that's really got me excited over the past couple weeks is the black-red token deck that started to decimate national tournaments all over the world. It sounds like Paul wanted to make a deck that curves well and has an aggressive clock; I think I'll do one better and see how effective the deck could be if it abused Torrent of Souls, an absurdly powerful uncommon from Shadowmoor.
Torrent of Souls got me really excited when I first read it. When practicing for Pro Tour–Hollywood I frequently brought the card up. For better or for worse my team never found the modern incarnation of red-black tokens, but the small amount of Constructed testing I managed to get in with the card really excited me.
Without further ado:
Some of you might be wondering where the Bitterblossom is. Good question. Bitterblossom is a bit pricy, so it's not the best choice for a Building on a Budget creation, but if you're lucky enough to open one in a draft or have the means at your disposal to trade for them then it would probably be right to cut Mad Aunties for the Rogue-dispensing enchantment one-for-one.
Everything in this deck is affordable; putting this together on Magic Online wouldn't cost you more than 20 tickets. I decided to take the deck for a test drive, and I found that it has game against some of the best decks in the format.
I hopped into the casual room to play some one game matches.
Round 1 vs. Chadwins with Kithkin
Chad Kastel is a friend of mine who lives in New Jersey, so there was a fair amount of colorful table talk during the match. This game went back and forth a bit. Kithkin will have a lot of trouble if you get to play a fifth land, luckily for my opponent, I missed land drop number five for about six turns. Luckily for me though, Chad's draw wasn't very aggressive either, and he was drawing a bit too much land. I was able to get a huge two-for-one when my opponent tapped out for a Mirrorweave on his Thistledown Liege when I had a Marsh Flitter and a Mudbutton Torchrunner in play. I sacrificed the Torchrunner and threw it at his Liege. He promptly scooped.
Round 2 vs. Chadwins with Kithkin (rematch)
Chad opened up with a turn-one Goldmeadow Stalwart, turn-two Knight of Meadowgrain on the play. I had a Tarfire in my opener, though, and drew another when he played the Knight. I played a turn-three Mad Auntie and a turn-four Marsh Flitter, Chad had to pump his brakes a bit. On turn five I drew a second Marsh Flitter, how lucky! He still didn't have a Liege to target with his Mirrorweave, so I was clear to tap out and play a Rise of the Hobgoblins for four, not that I really needed it. I passed the turn and he played a Cloudgoat Ranger. I continued to live the dream and ripped a Furystoke Giant that sent well over 20 points of damage at his face.
Round 3 vs. Doran
I was on the draw and my opponent had a turn two Scarblade Elite that I answered with a turn two Squeaking Pie Sneak. My opponent played a vivid land on turn three and passed. This puts me in an interesting place. I had a Mad Auntie in my hand, but I couldn't play it because I'd get totally blown out if my opponent had a Nameless Inversion or Crib Swap in hand. I thought for a minute or so and even got a "zzzzz" out of my opponent. I decided that just waiting to draw a Tarfire was a good way to lose the game, so I tapped some lands and dropped the Mad Auntie into play. I entered my attack step, and my opponent Nameless Inversioned my Mad Auntie and Assassinated my sneaky pie enthusiast. On his next turn he played a Murmuring Bosk revealing Chameleon Colossus, and I was on the ropes. The next turn I drew a Mudbutton Torchrunner, played it, and passed. My opponent attacked with Chameleon Colossus and Scarblade Elite, and I chumped the larger of the two with Torchrunner and threw 3 damage at his Elite. He played a second Colossus and passed the turn. After a few swings I had ran out of favorable chump blocks, and I had to scoop 'em up. I wasn't convinced that this matchup was bad, though, and I challenged my opponent to a rematch.
Round 4 vs. Doran (rematch)
This game I had a turn-one Knucklebone Witch and a Tarfire for his turn-two Scarblade Elite. I played a turn-three Mad Auntie, and my opponent played Doran, the Siege Tower and passed. I had a turn-four Marsh Flitter, and he played a Chameleon Colossus again.
Quick sidenote: Paul had said in a later e-mail that he considered Goatnapper in the sideboard. I just wanted to acknowledge just how absurd Goatnapper would be if I drew it here. Now I still think the 'napper is a bit too narrow even for a sideboard slot, but if I were playing Facevaulter instead of Knucklebone Witch, then Goatnapper would probably be bananas (high in potassium and delicious).
I answered his Colossus with a Rise of the Hobgoblins for three. I passed the turn, and he just passed back. I didn't have a Furystoke Giant, so I just played another Witch and passed. At the end of my turn, he had a Nameless Inversion for my Mad Auntie. On his turn he attacked with his Colossus. I decided to just absorb the damage, and he was content with doing me 4 before playing a second Colossus and passing.
Then I drew my card. Torrent of Souls! How exciting is this card here? I get to return my Mad Auntie to play, pumping all my Goblins a total of +3/+1. All my guys become 4- or 5-power behemoths; I crash in with all 8 of my monsters and the match is over.
Round 5 vs. Many-Color Merfolk
I think this match is probably a good one. You just need to save your Tarfire for their Merrow Reejerey. The game was pretty simple; Torrent of Souls and Furystoke Giant are absolutely absurd. My opponent had turn-two Silvergill Adept and turn-three Merrow Reejerey, and I still won on turn seven with a timely Torrent of Souls.
I wish I had a chance to play against Faeries and Five-Color Control, but I just didn't have enough time. Those are probably some of the more difficult matches for a deck like this.
I had the chance to think about the sideboard, and it's pretty hard to find cards that fit. Puppeteer Clique is great against Elementals, but the deck already plays seven five-cost cards, and I don't think you'll ever be siding out the Furystoke Giant or Torrent of Souls.
Inside Out is a really good answer to Doran, but I don't think you'd want to play more than three of it. After looking into it a bit, I found that it wouldn't be too hard to play a transformative sideboard that would change the deck to another strategy entirely. You could easily side in a lot of burn and Demigod of Revenge and have better game against the Faerie and control players. If you're lucky enough to have access to Fulminator Mages, then you'll want those in your board. If a Faerie player doesn't have a turn-two Bitterblossom then oftentimes just a single Fulminator Mage targeting a Sunken Ruins can ruin the backbone of their game plan, Cryptic Command.
Bonus: "The Sick Read"
Thieves' FortuneTo me, decks like this are the best way to play Magic. I love crowded boards where combat math gets really complex. Unfortunately, Wrath of God effects can make for difficult situations even with decks like this, decks that should be relatively easy to pilot. The truth is, decks like this exercise one of the most important and most overlooked aspects of Magic: reading your opponents.
Scenario: It's Game 2 at a local tournament. You're playing Torrent of Boggarts, and your opponent is playing Five-Color Control. He may have Firespout, Festercreep, or one of his other Wrath of God effects in hand. You played Rise of the Hobgoblins last game post-Firespout and got him off guard with a Torrent of Souls. You have a few creatures in play, but his Kitchen Finks is letting him slow-roll a Wrath of God effect, if he has one. You have Rise of the Hobgoblins in hand, and if it resolves you can swing for lethal next turn if he doesn't have a Wrath of God. Here's the trick: start counting up your lands and watch for a reaction.
Did he seem to not care at all? Well then, he probably has a Wrath of God in hand and understands that he'll probably have to use it next turn. Just attack with your team, and apply just enough pressure that he needs to waste that Wrath of God.
Did he lean forward? Slam that Rise of the Hobgoblins into play. Your opponent is just baffled; they're playing like ten Wrath of God effects and haven't drawn a single one. Of course, you have to dodge them drawing one on their next turn.
These tells obviously aren't 100% accurate, but they can be a big help if you're planning on doing well at a competitive level with a deck that's vulnerable to Wrath of God effects.
Some players on the Pro Tour have nicknames; some don't. I think Steve Sadin has been around long enough to be given a good nickname. Hit the forums with suggestions as to what Steve should be called from now on. I'll announce my pick from your suggestions next week.