A Desired Walkthrough, Part 2

Posted in Feature on February 14, 2007

By Frank Karsten

Mind's Desire
Before I begin, I'd like to thank everyone who wrote in to give me feedback on my last article, where I introduced detailed game walkthroughs with TEPS Desire (which, by the way, stands for The Extended Perfect Storm). I do read every letter sent to me, and although I do not have the time to mail back everyone individually and can't play deck doctor for everyone, I certainly appreciate your suggestions. This week, the amount of emails with positive responses I got was overwhelming, and I was pleased to see you liked it. For all of you who expressed their hopes that I would continue doing walkthroughs more often, you may appreciate knowing that I will fit in these game analyses more often, although not as a weekly feature. They are more time consuming to write than an average article, so I will probably run them about once every one to two months, with different decks every time around. And I can let you know in advance that I certainly won't be writing game walkthroughs in the upcoming few weeks, as my schedule will be extremely busy. I will be flying to Dallas in eight days, and then I am on to Singapore, and finally back to Amsterdam to compete in three Grand Prix tournaments in three consecutive weekends. That's the busy but fun life of a pro gamer.

Last week, I showed two games of my TEPS Desire deck against Wurst_'s Ichorid deck. Some people asked me to show how Game 3 unfolded. Others requested walkthroughs on completely different decks, ranging from more intricate decks, to relatively straightforward beatdown decks, Standard decks, Extended decks, and whatnot. Today, I will just show Game 3 of the match that I featured last week. I don't even have the option of showing a walkthrough with a new deck, as I didn't manage to find the time to start up Magic Online. I was in Geneva last weekend to play the Pro Tour. In case you're interested in how I did, here's a quick summary. I finished in a decent 38th place, forcing blue-white in all five drafts, and posting an average 2-1 record in every pod. Note that forcing colors is almost never a good strategy; it's better to be flexible and pick whatever colors are open. It just worked out for me since I truly knew what I was doing with blue-white (and because I could never seem to win ever with any other colors in practice drafts). Even if my right neighbors were on the same colors, I would still end up with a solid deck, since all the seemingly bad cards that go around as 13th picks, like Jedit's Dragoons and Eternity Snare, are actually hidden gems that truly make this draft archetype "tick." In this draft format, slow and controllish card advantage cards (even Jedit's Dragoons' life gain feels like card advantage) work well in my opinion. So much for those ramblings, now on to Constructed. Here's the Standard Magic Online Premiere Event metagame recap from last week.

Deck namePopularityChange compared to last week
1. Dragonstorm■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (16%)+4%
2. Dralnu du Louvre■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■ (12%)-6% (!!!)
3. Boros Deck Wins■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)+5% (!!!)
4.G/B Dredge■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)+6% (!!!)
5. U/W Urzatron■■■■■ ■■■■ (9%)-2%
6. Izzetron■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+6% (!!!)
7. Mono Green Aggro■■■■■ ■ (6%)-4%
8. U/G Scryb & Force■■■■■ ■ (6%)0%
9. Angelfire■■■■■ ■ (6%)-3%
10. KarstenBotBabyKiller■■■ (3%)+1%
11. U/b Pickles■■■ (3%)0%
12. GhaziGlare■■■ (3%)+3%
13. Zoo■■ (2%)0%
14. U/G PickleTron ■■ (2%)+2%
15. R/W/G Land Destruction ■■ (2%)+2%
16. Black Rack Discard■■ (2%)+1%
17. SnakeBlink ■■ (2%)+1%
18. R/G Aggro ■ (1%)+1%
19. Goblin Storm■ (1%)-1%
20. White Weenie ■ (1%)+1%

Dragonstorm appears to be strongly on the rise. In the past couple weeks, it climbed from a meager 5% to a dominating position. In my opinion, the other major changes in popularity appear to be mostly random fluctuations. Boros wins a couple points, Dralnu du Louvre loses some, then the other week it may be the other way round again, and you can't deny they are metagame-defining decks.

On to the Extended metagame table.

Deck namePopularityChange compared to last week
1. Boros Deck Wins■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■ (21%)+6% (!!!)
2. Affinity■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)-3%
3. Aggro-Flow/Rock■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)0%
4. U/B TrinketTog ■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+6% (!!!)
5. Flow Rock■■■■■ ■ (6%)-1%
6. U/W GiftsTron■■■■■ (5%)0%
7. CAL■■■■■ (5%)5%
8. TEPS■■■■ (4%)+3%
9. Aggro Loam■■■■ (4%)-8% (!!!)
10. U/W TrinketTron ■■■■ (4%)+3%
11. U/G Opposition■■■ (3%)0%
12. G/W Hate■■■ (3%)0%
13. U/B Psychatog■■■ (3%)0%
14. MUC Tron ■■■ (3%)+3%
15. Ichorid■■■ (3%))-1%
16. G/W/U TrinketHate ■■■ (3%)+3%
17. U/R/W Trinket-Angel■ (1%)+1%
18. Goblin Storm■ (1%)-1%
19. U/W TrinketPost■ (1%)-2%
20. Scepter-Chant(0%)-6% (!!!)

Boros Deck Wins rises to the top of the Extended metagame once again (so remember to bring those Armadillo Cloaks, Darkblasts, and whatever you can come up with to stop the Boros menace), and we still have the regular Affinity and Destructive Flow decks chilling at the top. An interesting development is the decline of Gabriel Nassif's original U/R/W TrinketAngel deck, while at the same time a lot of other decks start to include Trinket Mage. The little 2/2, often accompanied by Tormod's Crypt, Pithing Needle, Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, and artifact land, is cropping up in many decks. We have U/W TrinketPost, G/W/U TrinketHate, U/W TrinketTron, and the latest Magic Online invention is U/B TrinketTog, which put up great numbers last week.

U/B TrinketTog

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According to Team UMK's TrophyHunter_pl, the deck has a very good matchup vs. aggro decks because of the Counterbalance plus Sensei's Divining Top combo and a huge Psychatog holding the fort. Dark Confidant gives an awesome advantage in control matchups, and therefore the deck doesn't really have a bad matchup. It's reminiscent of Gabriel Nassif's original U/R/W TrinketAngel deck, but it cuts the Silver Knights, Lightning Helixes, etc. for the black cards. The deck looks solid and interesting, certainly worth trying out. I know I will at least try it out for the upcoming Extended Grand Prix. While I'm at it, I wish I knew what to play. Extended is such a big format with so many good options; I have a hard time choosing the right deck. Perhaps TEPS Desire is still good?

Game 3 walkthrough

In case you didn't read last week's article, do so now! A quick summary: we are playing this TEPS Desire deck:

TEPS Desire

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This combo deck works on mana "rituals" (Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Cabal Ritual, Chrome Mox, Channel the Suns, Lotus Bloom) and Mind's Desire (along with Burning Wish and Infernal Tutor to search for the storm card). The aim is to sit there and do nothing for a while, and then go off in one big turn where everything happens. You start by cracking all your Invasion saclands for loads of mana, play some mana "rituals," use Chromatic Star to fix your colored mana, and then play a Mind's Desire for usually around 6 copies. You hope to flip another Desire or a Sins of the Past (which can re-use the Desire already in your graveyard), which will trigger for an even higher storm count and so on. Eventually the kill is Tendrils of Agony.

Our opponent, Wurst_, is playing an Ichorid deck. This deck attempts to break the dredge mechanic with Ichorid. The plan is to get a dredge card - preferably Golgari Grave-Troll - in the graveyard via Putrid Imp or Zombie Infestation. Then you just dredge every time you can draw a card, hope to get multiple Ichorids and black creatures in your graveyard, and smash with an army of 3/1s a couple times, flashbacking Cabal Therapies along the way.

We lost Game 1, then won Game 2, and are now on to Game 3. We didn't sideboard anything. Wurst_ chooses to play first and keeps his opening draw. Our opening hand is Tendrils of Agony, Infernal Tutor, Mind's Desire, Geothermal Crevice, Rite of Flame, Burning Wish, and Seething Song.

Hmm…we do have two rituals, a land, and the pivotal Mind's Desire, but there are a couple problems. First of all, the land we have is pretty bad. In order to go off, we need access to one red mana (so we can play Rite of Flame and Seething Song), and two blue mana (for Mind's Desire). Geothermal Crevice, when sacrificed (and that's what you usually do), produces neither of those. We'll have to topdeck into multiple Chromatic Stars, Chromatic Spheres, or correct lands. That doesn't look good.

Burning Wish

Furthermore, this opening hand has Burning Wish, which is close to a dead card. That may be a strange statement, and it is related to how people usually play against this deck, so let me explain. The general consensus is that the first Cabal Therapy and/or Meddling Mage should name Burning Wish against TEPS. The reason for this is that neutralizing Burning Wish attacks the scarce resource best. The TEPS combo consists of mana rituals plus Mind's Desire. The deck is full of mana ritual type cards; we have 4 of Lotus Bloom, Seething Song, Rite of Flame, Cabal Ritual, and 3 Channel the Suns, plus a bunch of lands. However, the deck doesn't have that many "Desires" (typically 3 Mind's Desire, 4 Burning Wish, and then about 4 Infernal Tutor or Plunge into Darkness). So this is the weak point of the deck; sometimes we just draw a bunch of mana ritual cards but never see anything that can get Mind's Desire, and lose because of it. So therefore it makes sense to attack the Mind's Desire part of the deck with Cabal Therapy or Meddling Mage, and that implies naming Burning Wish, since it is a sure four-of, giving you the highest probability of hitting a relevant card. In my experience, most players will indeed name Burning Wish with the first random Cabal Therapy. Now, we know that we are playing against Ichorid. This deck runs 4 Cabal Therapy and it should always find one before we go off. The opposing deck is made to dredge like crazy, and it will usually draw or dredge into a Cabal Therapy in the first couple turns. If we know that we will always face at least one Cabal Therapy that will name Burning Wish, then an opening hand with said Burning Wish greatly decreases in value. We'd rather have a lot of mana cards and then rip a Burning Wish or Mind's Desire from the top of our deck.

The verdict is to mulligan down to 6 cards. We pick up Cabal Ritual, Rite of Flame, Lotus Bloom, Irrigation Ditch, Sulfur Vent, Seething Song.

It's good. We have enough mana, that's for sure. We do not have access to Mind's Desire yet, but that is not per se a bad thing. As I just explained, an opening hand with Burning Wish is usually worse than an opening hand without Burning Wish. We have a bunch of draw phases to find a Mind's Desire, Infernal Tutor, or Burning Wish, so we should be fine. We keep this hand.

Our opponent starts with Polluted Delta (getting Breeding Pool), Chrome Mox (imprinting Psychatog), and Zombie Infestation. Wurst_ certainly likes his zombies.

Our first draw step yields Sins of the Past. We remove Lotus Bloom from the game with three time counters and play Sulfur Vent. We really have to suspend Lotus Bloom right now. We have to hope we can go off on turn 4 and play accordingly. Planning to go off on turn five (which would imply suspending Lotus Bloom on turn two, for an extra storm copy on turn five) is too risky. We may be dead by that time already, especially when we face a turn-one Zombie Infestation.

At the end of our turn, Wurst_ does what an Ichorid deck always does and discards Golgari Grave-Troll and…. no. Hold on! He already untapped and drew his card. He doesn't have a dredge card! Wow, that's an unexpected surprise. If he had Deep Analysis or a dredge card, he would surely have activated Zombie Infestation at the end of my turn to make a little beater and get that card in the graveyard where it belongs. I'd actually think that an opening hand without a dredge card is a mulligan. I'm not an expert on the Ichorid deck, so I won't judge our opponent's mulligan decision here, but I am certainly surprised he didn't activate his Zombie Infestation.

Well, let's go over that again. Our opponent kept his opening seven, and then played a land, Chrome Mox (imprinting Psychatog), Zombie Infestation, and passed without using his Zombie Infestation. He has three cards left. What could those three remaining cards be? I am not 100% sure on my opponent's hand, but I can try to deduce it and come up with a good educated guess. What do you think he has in hand?

The way I try to deduce this is by going over all the cards in my opponent's deck in my head, then crossing out anything he reasonable can't have, based on the plays and choices he made. I think it's safe to rule out any dredge card or Deep Analysis. Also, he has no Putrid Imp, Wild Mongrel, or Careful Study, as he'd have probably played those over Zombie Infestation turn one. I also reckon he doesn't have a second land, otherwise I think he'd have imprinted Zombie Infestation instead of Psychatog on his Chrome Mox, aiming to play turn-two Psychatog. I'm also fairly certain that he doesn't have two out of Ichorid, Zombie Infestation, and/or Chrome Mox in hand, since he'd happily have pitched two of those to make a Zombie. No, the cards in his hand are good. He wants to play them, that's why he didn't activate his Zombie Infestation. There aren't many cards left that he can possibly have.

Cabal Therapy

Ruling out all the cards I just mentioned, what combination of three remaining cards in his hand can we come up with that would have prompted Wurst_ to keep his opening draw? He certainly has some Cabal Therapies. Those are cards that he would like to cast against me and that would have encouraged him to keep his hand. He doesn't have three Cabal Therapy, otherwise he would have searched Watery Grave instead of Breeding Pool with his Polluted Delta. The most likely thing that comes to my mind is that he has two Cabal Therapy and one Psychatog in hand. There are also some other more unlikely combinations, like two Cabal Therapy and a Chrome Mox or something like that, but for now I'll put him on two Cabal Therapy and one Psychatog. So I think that his opening hand was Polluted Delta, two Psychatog, two Cabal Therapy, Zombie Infestation, Chrome Mox. If he had that hand, his plays made sense. Having double Cabal Therapy (the disruptive powers of which are of course quite important against my combo deck) may have prompted him to keep his hand, even without a dredge card in sight. And if he had that hand, his turn-one play makes sense. Pitching a Psychatog to Chrome Mox seems fair if you have a backup copy, and making that turn-one Zombie Infestation is good if you draw a dredge card or Deep Analysis right away. Note that he would want to save Cabal Therapy for turns two and three, rather than casting it on turn one right away, as my deck usually goes off on turn 4 (especially with a suspended Lotus), and waiting until the last possible moment with Cabal Therapy gives more information about my hand. Lastly, I can understand he wouldn't want to make a Zombie token at the end of my turn with two Cabal Therapy and Psychatog left in hand. He would want to cast those cards instead.

So now we have made a good educated guess about our opponent's opening hand, right on turn one of the game. Was it actually useful? It won't benefit us that much, as this knowledge won't greatly affect our plays in this game. But the deductive process of finding out what your opponent has in hand is quite valuable in general. Plus, if you can call the exact contents of your opponent's hand correctly and tell him, imagine the look on his face. That alone is worth the try. All right, while we were scratching our head and were anxiously trying to figure out what our opponent's grip is, he has already drawn his card for the turn and put Cabal Therapy on the table, waiting for us to slip out of the think tank. We finally see Cabal Therapy's presence, and Wurst_ chooses Burning Wish. Of course, he misses, since we outsmarted him and kept a hand without one.

So this is the game situation in Wurst_'s turn after the Cabal Therapy. C'mon, topdeck a Mind's Desire!

We end up drawing Rite of Flame, a mediocre addition to our hand. Oh well, just play Irrigation Ditch and pass.

At the end of our turn, Wurst_ discards Psychatog and Ichorid to play the activated ability from Zombie Infestation. Alright, if our guess on his opening hand is still correct, then he drew Ichorid last turn, and he still has Cabal Therapy in hand.

In his upkeep, Wurst_ removes Psychatog to bring back Ichorid from the grave, attacks, and then sacrifices it to flashback Cabal Therapy. Wurst_ chooses Seething Song, and we discard it. He then plays Cabal Therapy from his hand (good chance we were right with our guess on his opening hand after all), naming Rite of Flame. Bah. We discard two, cursing about our last draw step.

On to our turn tree. Lotus Bloom goes down to one counter, and we draw Burning Wish. This is the game state in our main phase:

Well, there's nothing useful we can do here, so we just say go.

On his fourth turn, Wurst_ attacks us down to 13 life and passes the turn without doing anything. He has two cards in hand and Cabal Therapy in the graveyard, but doesn't play anything. That may seem a little strange from our perspective, but he doesn't know we just drew Burning Wish. For all he knows, we are sitting here with a bunch of mana rituals, with no Mind's Desire - or Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor - in sight. If he would flashback Cabal Therapy (probably naming Cabal Ritual, as that's the most relevant card he still knows), then he may weaken my big Mind's Desire turn somewhat by taking out a spell that adds towards the storm count, but at the same time he would lose his damage clock. That would give me breathing time and more turns to topdeck into a Mind's Desire. It's a delicate balance between diminishing the power of a potential Mind's Desire in case I topdeck it (by taking out a card with Cabal Therapy), and diminishing the amount of turns I have to actually topdeck a Mind's Desire enabler (by keeping his attacker in play), and I can certainly understand he chooses to err towards the latter side.

In our fourth turn, we play Lotus Bloom in our upkeep, then draw Geothermal Crevice. This is how the game looks:

Should we try to go off?

We can go off this turn if we'd want to. Sacrifice both our lands for , then Lotus Bloom for , proceed with a Cabal Ritual to get up to 8 mana total, then Burning Wish getting Mind's Desire, and finally play the storm card for four. It is certainly possible, and usually it makes sense to do the combo on the turn Lotus Bloom comes into play (it's a free storm spell, after all) but we do not have to go for it right away. If we just play Geothermal Crevice and pass the turn, then if our opponent doesn't disrupt us we can actually do a Mind's Desire next turn for five (if we draw a blank) or for six (if we draw a spell). Moreover, we'd have mana left in our pool if we'd combo next turn. The way we would go about doing that next turn would be to sacrifice all the lands and the Lotus for a total of 9 mana, Cabal Ritual (which is thresholded next turn, very important) up to 12 mana, Sins of the Past on Seething Song, run Seething Song out of the graveyard, then Burning Wish for Mind's Desire and go off with three mana left in our pool. So waiting until next turn, or probably even later, will allow us to hit an even bigger Mind's Desire, increasing our chances of winning.

Ichorid

And we are not under a lot of pressure; we have the time. We do not have to try and win right now, since we are just facing a 2/2 and we are still at 13 life. Our life total is like a resource, a cushion of time if you will. Most likely, our opponent will make a zombie token at the end of our turn (pitching his hand). If he discards a black creature (another Ichorid, or Psychatog of Putrid Imp) for the cost, then in his next upkeep he gets back Ichorid, crunches over for 3+2+2 damage, and in his second main phase he flashbacks Cabal Therapy on Cabal Ritual (sacrificing the 3/1 that was about to die anyway, so there's basically no reason not to flashback there for him, as he doesn't decrease his damage clock). If he doesn't have a black creature to discard to Zombie Infestation, then he will just attack for 4 on his next turn and pass without flashbacking Cabal Therapy. He will likely be stuck in the thought process that we don't have a Mind's Desire or Burning Wish in hand, since if we had it then we would try to go off this turn. TEPS always goes off on the turn Lotus Bloom unsuspends, so since we didn't go off, we don't have a Desire enabler, so he should keep his damage clock. That would be wrong in this case, but I believe many people will think like that.

As it is, I do no think we should go off this turn. It would entail a Mind's Desire for four, leaving no mana open, and that seems kind of risky. If we wait and our opponent doesn't flashback Cabal Therapy, then we can go off for five or more sometime in one or two turns. If we wait and our opponent does flashback Cabal Therapy, then we should still have two turns to draw into new mana "rituals," very likely providing us with a Mind's Desire for four later on anyway. So just playing Geothermal Crevice and passing the turn is best here.

Our opponent doesn't activate Zombie Infestation at the end of our turn. Then he attacks us down to 11 and passes.

I draw Chromatic Star. Our board is Sulfur Vent, Irrigation Ditch, Geothermal Crevice, and Lotus Bloom. Our hand is Cabal Ritual, Sins of the Past, Burning Wish, and Chromatic Star. Now what?

I was pretty surprised he didn't activate his Zombie Infestation at the end of my turn. What does that mean? What does he have in hand? He certainly doesn't have a dredge card, black creature, or Deep Analysis, as he would try to get those cards to the graveyard as quickly as possible for beneficial effects. He also doesn't have excess Zombie Infestation or lands, since he would happily cash those in for a 2/2 beater.

He wants to save the cards in his hand, so they must be good. Could it be countermagic? Perhaps he boarded in Stifle or Memory Lapse, or something similar. But that seems unlikely. We already saw a couple awkward sideboard cards - like Ancient Grudge, Coffin Purge, and Mesmeric Fiend - in the previous games, and I cannot imagine he has room for countermagic on top of that in his sideboard. The card I am scared of is Tolarian Winds. If he had that plus a random card (perhaps a land) in his hand at the end of my last turn, then that would explain why he didn't activate his Zombie Infestation. He'd want to build up a bigger hand size, and then play Tolarian Winds for a bunch. If he has that, then we should try to go off as quickly as possible, before he gets the chance to draw more disruption cards.

So we will go for it now. Combo time! In order to keep oversight over the entire combo sequence, I listed everything in a table.

Play sequenceManaSpells
1. We sacrifice all our lands.0
2. We sacrifice Lotus Bloom for three black mana.0
3. We play Cabal Ritual, using two black mana.1
4. The thresholded Cabal Ritual resolves.1
5. We play Sins of the Past on Cabal Ritual, using 6 black mana. Sometimes it can be good to hold on to Sins of the Past in case a Desire "whiffs" (you just get a bunch of mana rituals, then you can play Sins on the Desire in your grave), but here I think it's better to use it for two extra spells pre-Desire.2
6. We play Cabal Ritual from the graveyard for free.3
7. The thresholded Cabal Ritual resolves. 3
8. We play Chromatic Star, using one black mana.4
9. We sacrifice Chromatic Star, minus one black, plus one blue. We draw Tinder Farm.4
10. We play Burning Wish, using one black and one red mana.5
11. Burning Wish resolves, and we get Mind's Desire.5
12. We play Mind's Desire, leaving UB in our pool.6

Note that we still have Tinder Farm in hand. Our opponent fortunately didn't have anything; no Coffin Purge in response to Sins of the Past and no Stifle on Mind's Desire.
We flip into Cabal Ritual, Chromatic Star, Infernal Tutor, and some lands:

From this point, the win is pretty simple again. We play Cabal Ritual and Chromatic Star. Now we have to make sure we do not screw up. That Infernal Tutor has to be hellbented to get the Tendrils of Agony from our library. So we should not play any of the lands out of this Desire, nor should we crack Chromatic Star yet. Instead, we play the last card in our hand (Tinder Farm) and then we play Infernal Tutor. We search Tendrils of Agony, and drain our opponent's life total. Winner!

Concluding…

I think there's an important lesson to be learned from this game. We took a mulligan, then we were hit by a Cabal Therapy three times, and we still went off on turn five without problems. Usually so many discard spells would cripple a combo deck, especially on a mulligan. But TEPS is not that fragile. It doesn't play many lands; pretty much every spell in the deck is relevant, so it easily topdecks into the nuts. If you give the deck enough time, it will recover from all the hate you throw at it. Disruption plus a fast damage clock beats TEPS. Disruption without a fast damage clock doesn't.

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