Friday, December 30, 2011

The Japanese Know What's Up

Last week at FNM I took a version of the Worlds winning Wolf Run deck to a winning record. The reason I like this iteration of Wolf Run because 8 maindeck Titans seem good. Here's what I played.

Primeval Titan x 4
Inferno Titan x 4
Solemn Simulacrum x 4
Phyrexian Metamorph x 2
Viridian Emissiary x 2
Rampant Growth x 4
Sphere of the Suns x 4
Incinerate x 4
Slagstorm x 4
Devil’s Play x 2
Beast Within x 2
Inkmoth Nexus x 4
Kessig Wolf Run x 3
Mountain x 2
Forests x 6
Rootbound Crag x 4
Copperline Gorge x 4
Ghost Quarter x 1

Ancient Grudge x 3
Acidic Slime x 2
Beast Within x 2
Arc Trail x 3
Surgical Extraction x 3
Ghost Quarter x 1
Thrun the Last Troll x 1

Major differences in my version versus the Worlds deck are my choice in spot removal, the tutor package or lack thereof, and the inclusion of Metamorphs.

The spot removal that the Japanese winner, I forget his name nor do I feel like looking it up, was Galvanic Blasts and Shock. I understand this choice because he can react to turn 1 drops on his own turn one. I have no real reason running incinerate other then I prefer to deal 3 damage rather then 2. I do understand that 1cc vs. 2cc is a world of difference in Magic but I stand by my decision to run Incinerates. In hindsight there is nothing that I really need to kill at 3 toughness versus 2 toughness, meaning I should probably rock the 1cc removal spells. I suppose in the future, knowing my metagame, Arc Trail is a better inclusion because it is a great 2 for 1. I will look to that. With Humans, RDW and Illusions in  my shop, I think Arc Trail may be a better fit. But I do love the instant speed of Incinerate. I will need to explore this if I continue to use Wolf Run at the Grand Prix.

My lack of Green Sun’s Zenith is two fold. First off, it can’t tutor more then half of my creatures. Primeval Titan and Viridian Emissary are my only targets so I felt it just wasn’t worth the 2-3 slots. Plus, I really hate 1 maindeck Birds of Paradise. That just seems like an auto Gut Shot for a tempo loss and two cards (if it is tutored out early). Instead I preferred consistency in getting turn 4 Titan. I added Emissaries for extra 2 drops to help having early action.

You may think Phyrexian Metamorph is an odd card to have in a Wolf Run deck. This may be true but I think it is a great inclusion. This card is an allstar for me and is ALWAYS value. It basically acts as Titans #9 and #10. Not only that but it can copy Solemns for value or opposing threats. It has even helped me Legend rule out pesky cards like Geist of Saint Traft. Bringing in Acidic Slimes from the board (probably should have 2 maindeck as well), Metamorph really shines by stealing lands and tempo, especially in a mirror match. I like this card so much it might be a 3-of in the near future.

Let’s see how I faired at FNM.

ROUND 1: Tim playing Jund Wolf Run
This was a tough matchup versus a good young player who is also a Level One judge.

Game 1 comes down to getting a Primeval Titan out first, which I do.

Game 2 he Despises my Primeval and Memoricides it a few turns later. He gets a Grave Titan out and has the Doom Blade for my Inferno Titan.

Game 3 I don't get early ramp and he does. He gets Primeval out first and I die to a Wolf Ran Inkmoth. FML

1-2 / 1-2 / 0-1

ROUND 2: Nathan playing GW Tokens

Nathan is the guy that ran me over last FNM with Humans. I do not treat this match lightly like I mistakenly did our last meeting.

Game 1 I come to find out he is running Tokens instead of Humans. I play accordingly. This game isn't good for him since I have maindeck Slagstorm x 4 which I hit two of in the processes of having a total of three Inferno Titans in play thanks to Metamorph.

Game 2 isn't any better for him after I side in all my Arc Trails and Slimes for his Intangible Virtues. It goes rather quickly off a Wolf Ran trampling Primeval Titan FTW.

2-0 / 3-2 / 1-1

ROUND 3: Unknown playing Mono-Green Stompy
This is a new player who only started a few months ago. I feel bad about this entire match.

Game 1 he plays mana dudes and aggressive green guys which I sweep away with Slagstorm. I land an early Inferno Titan and go to town. I dome him with a total of 3 Incinerates to finish it off.

Game 2 I have 3 Inkmoth Nexuses (or Nexi?) in hand. Based on Game 1 I keep and hopefully race with Poison, which I end up doing in consecutive turns.

Like I said. I felt bad about his match.
2-0 / 5-2 / 2-1

ROUND 4: Unknown playing RDW

Another sorta noob who has been play for a while but never competitively until recently.

Game 1 I am mana light with only 1 ramp spell and all Titans. He runs me over quickly to 5 with little red dudes before I can stabilize. He runs out of gas and I get a Titan kill.

Game 2 isn't even a fair. Its like he brought a knife to a gun fight. I Turn 4 Primeval and set up for an Inkmoth kill. He never had a chance.

2-0 / 7-2 / 3-1

ROUND 5: Adam playing Solar Flare
Adam is what I like to call a Ringer. In a room full of FNMers, Adam is a dedicated grinder and plays on the PTQ circuit up at Armada as well as Phoenix and Coolstuff Inc. He is a very good player. Smart and calculating. Until now I've never played him before.

Game 1 I get rolling with early ramp and dome him with a few Incinerates while he has no action until a Rune Scarred Demon hits the board. He has answers for my Primeval and Inferno Titans but the damage has already been done as I was able to get all 4 Inkmoths out and just poison him with smart attacks. I get him to 6 poison by the time he lands Elesh Norn which I Beast Within. He Unburial Rites Elesh which I Metamorph Legend kill. I have him to 1 poison by the time he Phantasmal Images for Spellskite which effectively shuts me out of a very hard fought game. 

Game 2 my opener is Kessig, Inkmoth, Forest, Inferno x 2,  Primeval and a Devil's Play. I ship it back because of no Red mana and no ramp spells. In hindsight I should have kept. My next 6 are no lands. My 5 I keep with 3 lands, Solemn and Metamorph. Considering I am short 2 cards I do particularly well. He doesn't just roll me over this game. I am able to get my game plan going of attacking his lands with Beast Within, Acidic Slimes and Metamorphs which I effectively do until I can get Inferno Titan out. One play I go to Metamorph a Slime and he Doom Blades my Slime to force me to copy my Solemn. After I stick Inferno he Day of Judgements. I draw 2 cards off of my Solemns into, not kidding, two more Inferno Titans. I play the first Titan. Then the second and get him fairly low on life before my world breaks open. He Go for the Throats one of my Titans. Then he flashes back Unburial Rites for Sun Titan chaining in Phantasmal Image copying Sun Titan getting back Snapcaster Mage for Doom Blade effectively killing my team in the process of building his own. Seems good. I have two outs that haven't shown up yet, Devil's Play. I have enough mana to kill him as well. He flashes me the Dissipate and I scoop.

0-2 / 7-4 / 3-2

Turns out to be the best match I had all night even though it resulted in a loss. I feel like playing better players makes me a better player. I told him I was going to Grand Prix Orlando to check out side events. He urges me to play in the main event. I say, "I'm not good enough to play in a Grand Prix anymore." He says otherwise. Those kind words have fired me up enough to prep for Grand Prix Orlando. We'll see what happens.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why I Hate the Human Race

Last Friday, after weeks without playing Magic, I was able to sleeve up a deck and have some fun.

The deck I decided to use was a new take on a Tezzeret build by pro player Shaheen Soorani. A few months back Soorani wrote on article about how important Tezzeret is for one reason: he lets you dig 5 cards deep every turn. Why is this important? There was a card in previous season’s standard that let you dig 3 cards deep every turn with no draw back. Remember that card?

Good. What was that card again? Oh yeah, JACE THE MINDSCULPTOR.

Tezzeret is kinda like a poor man’s Jace in a way. He lets you dig, but 5 cards instead of 3 cards, and you can select one, conditionally. He is also able to protect your nuts if need be, conditionally of course. Or he can flat out just win you games...once again, conditionally.

What’s the condition you ask?


Your deck must, MUST be geared toward abusing artifacts to your advantage. This deck certainly does that. Let’s take a look.


Wurmcoil Engine x 2
Phyrexian Metamorph x 2
Grave Titan x 2
Solemn Simulacrum x 3
Consecrated Sphinx x 1
Batterskull x 1
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas x 4
Mana Leak x 4
Dissipate x 2
Doom Blade x 4
Go for the Throat x 1
Dismember x 1
Ichor Wellspring x 4
Mycosynth Wellspring x 1
Ratchet Bomb x 2
Black Sun’s Zenith x 2
Darkslick Shores x 4
Drowned Catacombs x 4
Buried Ruins x 2
Phyrexian Core x 2
Ghost Quarter x 1
Swamps x 6
Islands x 5

Black Sun’s Zenith x 2
Ratchet Bomb x 2
Batterskull x 1
Wurmcoil Engine x 1
Surgical Extraction x 2
Deathmark x 3
Flashfreeze x 4

Oh, that’s sexy.

Now, his deck build had some 1 and 2-ofs that I either cut or just didn’t have the cards, case in point Liliana Nouveau. As fantastic as she would be, 2 of them could easily be replaced with good spot removal, which I did by amping up the Doom Blades to 4 and using a Dismember for mana efficiency. He also had main deck odd artifacts like Mimic Vat, while an awesome card, but as a 1-of just didn’t get my gonads going. So I cut it, along with the maindeck Nihil Spellbombs. Spellbomb is great but I am in a metagame where Solar Flare isn’t a deck.

The reason I rocked Tezzeret is well, this deck can flat out just step on a person’s neck and never let up. It is really a midrange deck that can go, depending on your draw and matchup, aggro or control. I’ll get to all of that when I talk about my matches. The main reason, other then to abuse Tezzeret, that I liked the deck, is it uses the two Wellsprings to gain incremental card advantage.  It also packs some of the awesomest Artifact duders like Wurmcoil and Batterskull. Seems good.

Before I get into my FNM report I’d like to discuss why I hate Humans. Wizards of the Coast is very cyclical in nature and everything moves round and round as the years have gone by. A few years ago blue based decks became so powerful they made the game just flat out not fun to play. Case in point: Faeries. Faeries got screwed when certain Jundian answers where printed and after Lorwyn rotated the deck was lost. Real blue based control decks were lost for a while having no good counterspells and reverting to UW Tap Out Control styled decks that just folded to the Jund Menace. For a while Jund and Green based decks dominated until Caw-Blade became a deck. Blue based control decks were back and with a vengeance, Caw-Blade having the most ignorant Top 8 finishes, even higher percentages then Affinity at its height. Jace was, along with Stoneforge Mystic, banned and now Blue based control decks are on the decline, nary a UW or UB based control deck around.

You could argue that decks that run Snapcaster Mage are in fact Control decks but honestly, they are not. UR Delver is a Tempo deck. Illusions is an Aggro/Tempo deck. No other decks really run Snapcaster to the control capacity.

Now, back to why I hate HUMANS! If Magic is cyclical and control was at an all time high with Fae, then a low with Tap Out control, then a high again with Caw-Blade then the same could be said for White-Based Aggro decks. THEY ARE AT AN ALL TIME HIGH. When I first started playing Magic there were 3 decks any beginner, any noob, any novice, could pick up and potentially beat faces with: Goblins, Stompy and Weenie White. Don’t get me wrong. All three strategies are legitmate, but do not take a certain degree of skill to win, nor are really fun to play. Honestly, for me, Stompy just wasn’t enough. There are only so many times you can Giant Growth and Berserk a Scryb Spite that is enchanted with Aspect of the Wolf. Goblins was basically Stompy with Burn. Burn is a whole other topic because that deck actually does take skill. Now, I’ve seen White Weenie decks just crush people. I used to play the deck when it rocked Crusades and Army of Allah maindeck. I know how to play some White Weenie strategies. My brother, the best Magic player I’ve ever seen, used to rock a White Weenie based 5/C Aggro deck back when Type 1 was not about jerking off and seeing who could come first. My brother’s White Weenie deck played Channel/Fireball maindeck for Godsakes! It was epic.

White Weenie has had it’s ups and downs over the years. It was super dominate when Rebel chains where all over the place. It saw some action in the form of Boros, White Weenie with a little burn on the side. They tried to amp it back up when Soldiers became sort of a thing but never took off as it should have. It was at a small rise once again when Soul Sisters was real last season then fell off the metagame. Now it is back and better then ever in the form of UW Humans. 

I want to preface my FNM report with why I hate UW Humans because I lost to basically the same deck two rounds in a row. In particular, Mirran Crusader amped up to deal 8-12 damage a swing me nary a non-black spot removal spell. How do I know that White Weenie is at an all time high? It is able to fight all the deck archetypes, save Combo (which doesn't exist in current standard). Grand Abolisher fights counterspells and spot removal. Doomed Traveler fights Day of Judgement and pinpoint burn spells. Hero of Bladehold also fights mass removal because it is an instant army. A lot of its dudes have anti-every other deck in the form of Geist of Saint Traft and Mirran Crusader. To top all of this off...Angelic Destiny is the gigantic cherry on top.

Why do I hate humans then? I'm glad you asked.

1. This deck doesn't take much skill to win. Stick a threat and attack until they can't deal with it. Then stick another threat this time with an Angelic Destiny or Sword strapped to it's dick while it fucks you over. Oh, they clear your board? Strap the Sword onto the Spirit Token left behind. Ignorant. 

2. Its guys are way to efficient to the point of unfair. Doomed Traveler is a free guy that trades with a guy and nets you a card. Oh, and it flys. Gideon's Lawkeeper is a 1cc Icy Manipulator. Mirran Crusader is a 3cc 4/2 or better. Geist is a 3cc 6/6. And Hero of Bladehold is a 4cc army of dudes. 

3. The deck has been blessed with a very efficient long game in Moorland Haunt. At first I thought this card was lame but realized in UW Humans, its like Bitterblossom if used correctly. And with Angelic Destiny, Swords left behind or 1-2 Honor of the Pure on the board, those Spirit Tokens can close the game out.

4. Lastly, White Weenie is like Magic with training wheels on. UW Humans is no different. It is just not an exciting deck. Now, I understand to a new player, winning is fucking awesome. Humans gives a new player a very very good chance of that. It just doesn't do much to earn that win save dropping Angelic Destiny on Mirran Crusader.

Enough of the hating on Humans rant. On to the content.

Round 1: Felix playing UWR Burning Vengeance Tempo
This is really not the deck I wanted to play against. Last FNM Felix and I had an epic 3-game match that came down to me making a few critical play mistakes and his deck being able to grind out a win. His take on Burning Vengeance is legit and on the back of Feeling of Dread, can just steal games.

Game 1: Right off the bat this game is insane. We play draw go for a while until I tap out to play Solemn to ramp. He plays Forbidden Alchemy and bins Geist of Saint Traft and two lands. While I'm tapped out plays Geist. I play Metamorph, copy the Geist and Legend rule. 2 down. Next turn he plays another Geist. Shit. I play Black Sun's Zenith for 2 and Ratchet bomb to hit the Burning Vengeance he stuck earlier. He then plays the 4th Geist which I Ratchet Bomb after he gets a few swings in. This also takes out his Enchantment. He uses Feeling of Dread a few times and I stick a Batterskull, which seals the game.

Game 2: I side in a Batterskull, Wurmcoil Engine, Ratchet Bomb, Black Suns and Surgical Extractions. I know his deck goes to the long game and I want to be prepared with late game bombs. He goes first with tapped lands. I go and play a Wellspring. He plays Geist which I Mana Leak then Phyrexian life pay for Surgical Extraction on Geist while he is tapped out. That takes out most of the wind from his sails. I stick Tezzeret with some Wellsprings and eventually make 3 5/5s and he packs it in.

I really thought this was a loss first round since Felix is a very good player and his deck can steal games by grinding out wins. Whew. Tough first round.

2-0 / 2-0 / 1-0

Round 2: Juan playing UW Humans
Game 1: This game is a long drawn out affair with Juan sticking a Gideon's Lawkeeper. I Doom Blade and Mana Leak his next 4 creatures, Grand Abolisher x 2 and Hero of Bladehold x 2. I get a Wurmcoil Engine out. He gets a Geist of Saint Traft. He Icy's my Engine. I get a Metamorph on in Engine. He gets an Angelic Destiny on Geist. I am unable to keep up with the 10 damage a turn while he keeps tapping my Engine down.

Game 2: I totally punt this game away. He has a Gideon's Lawkeeper and then plays a Mirran Crusader. I played Ichor Wellspring and decide to go aggressive on him and put him on his back foot. On Turn 4 instead of just Black Sun Zenithing his team for value or keep mana open to Mana Leak Angelic Destiny I play Tezzeret, make my Wellspring a 5/5 and attack. he takes the damage, drops a land while I'm tapped out and plays the Destiny on Mirran Crusader. I scoop it up.

Bad call on my part for sure. In this match up he is clearly the Beatdown and I should have played it out as such. Had I made that early distinction I probably would have won that game.

0-2 / 2-2 / 1-1

Round 3: Nathan playing UB Humans
Nathan is a new player whom I have crushed in previous FNMs. I go into the game like The Saints going to play the Rams. I thought this was an autowin.
Game 1: I arrogantly keep a Metamorph, Wellspring and 5 land hand. This is a long drawn out game were I deal with all his threats via spot removal, BSZ and Ratchet Bomb. He Oblivion Rings and Pacifies my first three threats. He has a crazy team of 7 dudes after sticking a Geist Honored Monk. I draw into the BSZ again and clear the team. I play Tezzeret and dig. I land a Wurmcoil Engine. Next turn I activate Tezzeret and land a second Wurmcoil that I proceed to Metamorph for the win.

Game 2: I side in two more Ratchet Bombs and two more BSZs. This game goes rather quickly. I clear every threat he drops and run out of removal. He top decks Mirran Crusader as I hold a Go for the Throat. He drops an Angelic Destiny on it and I die to the bastard Human again.

Game 3: This game is slightly more epic then me getting killed by a horde of Humans. I control the board and use both Wellsprings and Solemns for advantage. I eventually get Tezzeret. He decides to use his guys to attack me instead of Tezzeret. He plays Nevermore and names Wurmcoil. I dig to find another Solemn and Wellspring. I ultimate Tezzeret to Drain his Life for 8. It keeps me in the game for a little while but his growing Champions of the Parish, 3 spirit tokens with an Adaptive Automaton cut me back down before I can Ratchet bomb his Tokens and BSZ the rest of his team. I'm in top deck mode. Enchanted Mirran Crusader is two swings away from winning. I dig and dig with no action.

In hindsight I am thinking of maybe putting Mind Controls or Tumble Magnets in the sideboard.

1-2 / 3-4 / 1-2

Round 4: Aaron playing Junk Pod

Game 1: Aaron was joking about running Mono-Black Infect much to my chagrin. Luckily I found out he was rocking Junk Pod of his own design. This game goes rather long as he plays around my Mana Leaks. He gets an early Pod that I eventually Ratchet Bomb away. But it is too late as he chained up rather quickly into a Sheoldred, the Whispering One. I play Phyrexian Metamorph to Legend rule that bitches ass after sacrificing a Batterskull Germ. He eventually gets a Metamorph of his own to copy my Batterskull which I have the Go for the Throat for his germ. We go back and forth for a while gaining and losing life and trading guys away. I eventually get a Grave Titan that I copy with my second Metamorph. He plays defense for a long time with a Resembling Skeleton as I gain chunks of life in droves of 10. He plays Sun Titan which I Dissipate to force the scoop.

Game 2: Aaron draws, chuckles and keeps. He get no first turn action. He does get second turn Pilgrim which does him no good. We play draw go for a while as I play 3 Wellsprings and a Ratchet Bomb which I use at 2 to Ancestral Recall off of my artifacts. I then get the Bomb back with Buried Ruin. I use that bomb to Ratchet up to kill his Birthing Pod and an Entomber Exarch that has been causing me problems to the point he actually Jedi Mind Tricks me into using a Mana Leak he clearly has mana to pay for. At this point it doesn't matter as he has zero action and I have Tezzeret netting me 5/5s and Wurmcoils for the win. He showed me his cards in his hand. Another Avacyn Pilgrim and land.

2-0 / 5-4 / 2-2

I ended up fifth place finish out of 16. I am just happy I'm .500 in rounds and up a game in wins before the night through. Humans really messes with my deck and if I play Tezzeret again it will have to be with a Human metagame in mind. Tumble Magnets and Mind Controls may have to come in for those crappy matchups.

Played for practice before FNM started and between rounds.

These are the decks I ran:
Japanese Wolf Run Ramp: 2-1
UW Humans: 2-0
BG Pod: 4-0

Ironically I did have a UW Humans build which I really don't like enough to just change it back to a more UW Blade Control build. Japanese Wolf Run is so good It is crazy. The threat density is so high with 8 Titans I really enjoy that deck. BG Pod is also fun. One game I was able to get Sheoldred out by Podding a Grave Titan only to get it back in my upkeep. It was very good. I do like the deck but am considering some spot removal in Beast Withins and Doomblade just for Inkmoth Nexus matchups.

Until next time. Peace out my ninjas...