Tug of War

Posted in Limited Information on February 1, 2011

By Steve Sadin

"Well, you can have your opponent start at 20 or 10." – Brian Kowal

Last weekend I made my way down to Richmond, Virginia to take on all challengers at the StarCityGames.com Regional Prerelease (big thanks to Head Judge Nicholas Sabin for running an excellent event!). I showed up as a staunch defender of the Mirrans.

I opened up a very solid pool and put together the following deck:

Mirran Pool

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Two Slagstorms and a bunch of big creatures is a pretty clear recipe for success.

Having one Crush in my deck was definitely worth it, but I'm not sure if I would have wanted to play a second copy in my main deck (if I had opened one) and I am pretty certain that it would have been a mistake to play a third.

After my two Slagstorms, my two Melira's Keepers and my Burn the Impure, the best cards in my deck were probably my two Blisterstick Shamans. Blisterstick Shaman would be good in almost any format—but it's particularly good when pretty much everyone's deck is full of mana Myr and/or cheap infect creatures.

Against non-infect decks, killing a mana Myr and getting a 2/1 body is a very good deal. Against infect decks, being able to kill a Plague Myr, a Plague Stinger, or an Ichorclaw Myr AND get a 2/1 blocker (which will probably trade with a Contagious Nim type card or eat up a removal spell) is a fantastic deal.

I see myself drafting Blisterstick Shamans pretty early over the next few months as it will give me the breathing space I need against the infect decks that are likely to plague my drafts for the foreseeable future.

Also note that it is becoming increasingly reasonable, particularly in Sealed, to build your decks without any 1-toughness creatures.

While I wouldn't jump through many hoops to eliminate all the 1-toughness creatures from my main deck—if I have a completely reasonable deck that only has a couple 1-toughness creatures in it, then I won't hesitate to cut them to protect myself from a bunch of potential blowouts.

Even if you do have a decent number of 1-toughness creatures in your main deck, if you see that your opponent has a bunch of cards like Blisterstick Shamans, Arc Trails, Virulent Wounds and Mortarpod, that punish players for running 1-toughness creatures, then it will make a lot of sense for you to look to sub out your littlest creatures for high-toughness options.

My Melira's Keepers were really good when they lived against infect opponents—but they were a lot better at drawing out removal than they were at actually dominating games for me.

While I liked Goblin Wardriver in this deck, don't think that you can carelessly slip it in to any forty-card deck that has a few Mountains in it. You need to have ten to eleven Mountains and a fairly aggressive deck before you should actively want to play it. While there might be a very good aggressive red-white battle cry deck out there—you need to actively try to draft it and/or build it. If you don't, and Goblin Wardriver is merely another creature that you put in your deck to help fill out your curve, you are going to find yourself consistently disappointed by it as it is difficult to cast and its ability comes up fairly infrequently.

    The Infection

While I started off my day as a Mirran, over time I got infected ...

Phyrexian Pool

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Morbid Plunder was really, really strong in my Sealed pool. Every time I cast it (where I wasn't already woefully behind) I felt like I had pretty much won the game on the spot. The only time that I didn't end up winning a reasonably close game where I resolved a Morbid Plunder was the game where my opponent was setting me up for a lethal Concussive Bolt turn that I simply didn't see coming (by the way, Concussive Bolt is really good!).

While I'm not sure how high of a pick Morbid Plunder will ultimately end up being—right now I feel inclined to take it between 3rd and 5th, and I see myself playing it in pretty much any deck that has anything even resembling a decent early game.

Cards like Virulent Wound and Spread the Sickness are huge boons for infect decks. Getting that extra reach is, well, huge. Players would frequently stuff cards like Throne of Geth into their infect decks that only had four or five artifacts in them because they wanted a way to inflict those last couple of poison counters on their opponents (and to eat away at some creatures who had already begun withering away—but that was usually a secondary reason).

It should also be noted that Virulent Wound and Spread the Sickness work very well together—killing two problem creatures and inflicting a fifth of the poison counters necessary to kill your opponent is nothing to scoff at—particularly as that will likely clear the way for one or two of your infect creatures to directly poison your opponent.

Spread the Sickness is pretty clearly the type of card that I'm going to be excited to open and take (even if I don't end up in infect, it's a great card to have) and Virulent Wound is also going to be worth taking pretty early, and might even prove itself to be a first-pick quality card over the next couple of weeks.

Rot Wolf was even better than I initially thought it would be (and my first impressions of it were extremely positive!). My Rot Wolves would consistently replace themselves after making some nice trades—and would at times net me as many as two to three additional cards when I was fortunate enough to suit my wolves up with pieces of Equipment.

Flesh-Eater Imp was simply bonkers. Any time my opponent was foolish enough to tap out with anything less than two to three flyers against my active Flesh-Eater Imp, that was usually enough for me to win the game.

Blackcleave Goblin was surprisingly good for me. In the past I've typically shied away from the hasty 2/1 infector—but given how much reach I had thanks to Mortarpod, Spread the Sickness, Ichor Rats and my two Virulent Wounds I figured I would give the Goblin a try. I wasn't disappointed.

There were plenty of games where I was able to set things up so that I could klonk my opponent for two poison counters when he or she decided to try to go on the offensive, and then finish the game off thanks to a couple of quick pings from Virulent Wounds or the like.

While Blackcleave Goblin still isn't that impressive of a card, it is definitely better now than it used to be.

    Speeding up the Poison

Straight Scars of Mirrodin Sealed was a very slow format. Even if you tried to play a fast game, you were probably going to just get stomped by players who had both a good early game and a good late game once you reached the top tables.

When people would ask me for advice on playing Scars of Mirrodin Sealed, I would tell them one thing: "hold your removal."

The reason why I would tell people this is because it was incredibly difficult to kill your opponent quickly in Scars of Mirrodin Sealed—and if players wasted their removal early on in an effort to either kill their opponent quickly, or prevent an opponent from winning quickly, then that player was very likely to just lose as soon as his or her opponent played a bomb.

The increased density of infect creatures in Mirrodin Besieged means that infect is likely to be a very viable option in Sealed—allowing players to reliably poison their opponents before things get totally out of control. The many solid aggressive red, white and green creatures in the set will also make it easier for players to kill quickly through traditional means.

While it's still important to hold onto your removal spells for when your opponent plays those cards that you absolutely have to deal with—it is now distinctly possible to build and play in such a way that you can kill your opponent before his or her best cards come online.

(Dear Readers: please note that there is a decent chance that I will write another article in two to three weeks explaining how wrong I was and that you should continue to hold your removal for as long as possible.)

    Living Weapon

I was fortunate enough to open every nonrare living weapon in the set in my Phyrexian Sealed pool (and I played every one of them) and I can tell you right now that living weapons are, unsurprisingly, pretty great in Sealed. Even with Mirrodin Besieged speeding things up a bit, games tend to go long in Sealed—so it's important to have cards that offer you good residual benefits while you attempt to attrition your opponent out.

Mortarpod is particularly strong in infect decks. It kills a mana Myr, a Plague Stinger, or an Embersmith right off the bat—and then it gives you a way to inflict those final poison counters upon your helpless opponent.

Mortarpod is also quite strong against infect decks as many of the best infect creatures have a mere 1 toughness.

Even the unassuming Flayer Husk is quite good (particularly in infect decks) as it, unlike traditional pieces of Equipment, actually allows you to gain a lot of traction in close races—giving you a chump blocker and then boosting one of your other creatures to a point where it can easily trade with things that are a notch or two higher on the curve.

Also, it's pretty fun to equip your Flayer Husked germ token with a Mortarpod ...

Strandwalker was a lot better than I thought it would be. I was worried that for five mana I just wouldn't be getting enough. Boy was I wrong!

A 2/4 creature with reach for five would be well worth playing against many decks—particularly if you needed another good defensive option.

If you equip a Strandwalker to anything bigger than a mana Myr, then your opponent is going to have a lot of trouble attacking profitably. And if you equip a Strandwalker to anything with infect your opponent is going to be reeling in pain.

    Launch Parties!

Couldn't make it to the Prerelease? Did you already play in a Prerelease flight at Midnight on Friday as well as events on Saturday and Sunday, and you're already itching for more chances to play with Mirrodin Besieged?

Then head on over to a Launch Party near you this weekend to play some more Mirrodin Besieged Limited!

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