Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Inscrutable, The Irrefutable

I was playing against Noah's URW Myth Realized deck in the photo and that evening held some good lessons for me.

Body Snatcher is pretty good. Surprisingly so. Four Satyr Wayfinders has been great so far but more testing is likely needed.

The other matches I played against Noah had me wanting a second Nekrataal, especially after I milled one to a Satyr Wayfinder.

I looked for awhile and settled on Massacre Wurm, at least for now.

The 'died' triggers aren't what I'm looking for though. They are, strange to say it, too fair. Getting a 4/4 flier for six mana in green isn't bad but without a way to reliably destroy it when I want to, it doesn't make the board impact I need. The only way I have to trigger that ability is through Recurring Nightmare.

This is a crux of one of my biggest fears about Monster Man and decks like it-combo decks that use color specific pieces. What do I do if the combo doesn't show up? Or if Recurring Nightmare gets countered? If all I have is the ability to dump creatures I cannot cast into my graveyard, then I don't have a very effective deck.

This is why I've tried to keep my creatures in black and green as opposed to branching out. I want to be able to run my deck until I can regain my combo and create an advantage again.

I've been thinking about ways to make the deck more consistent and the acquisition of another Recurring Nightmare is definitely a thought and one I should act on. The other possibility that's coming to mind is getting a Sidisi, Undead Vizer. Just one for extra tutoring action but that could be huge. I have a plethora of creatures to sacrifice-Wall of Roots, Elvish Visionary, Ravenous Rats and Satyr Wayfinder are bound to exist by turn five-and this might even be a reason to add in the Destructor Dragon. Also, it would be a way to find a Recurring Nightmare, which is something no other creature offers.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

He Has A Master Plan

I had an opportunity to playtest Monster Man a few times by myself, just to get a hang of the deck again. I took some notes so I could remember how to adapt the deck later (I was in the pub while testing) and I thought I'd share those notes.

1) Remember your triggers. Squee should've come back 2x in that last game.

2) Need another way to get creatures from GY or hand into play. Purchase another Recurring Nightmare, but also...

3) Why Skullbriar? I don't have a way to grow it into a threat. It has interesting synergies with the graveyard recursion, for sure. But let's say I can cast it on turn 3; swing for 1. So what? It's just as vulnerable to anti-GY strategies and I'd rather have this as a 3/3 in the Liege deck (King of the Rotten, which I haven't written about yet), I think.

4) Could probably use another Vengevine. Damnit. (Because Vengevines are expensive). 

5) Card draw from Elvish Visionaries is good. Discard from Rats is good. Black Cat?

5a) Black Cat = dies. Look for g/b triggers on 'dies'.

6) Eidolon of Blossoms is kinda silly. It has one interaction in the entire deck. This is a graveyard deck, not an enchantment one. I reload better with Satyr Wayfinder.

7) Yavimaya Ants is the glory of cool things BUT I am keeping it in the deck. 5/1 trampling hasted dudes don't suck. Along those lines: Deathmist Raptor? (A search puts Deathmist Raptor at $24 a pop. No.)

8) How do I recover from board wipe? See point 5a to research. Anger of the Gods-or any exile removal is especially bad.

After some tweaking and research, here's what I came up with.

Point 1 just means practice. Point 2 was made for Body Snatcher. 3 = no more Skullbriar. Made room for another Wayfinder. Point 4 is under consideration but damn, Vengevines are nearly $20 a piece and that's a lot. 5 and 5a: Black Cat has been removed and after the search I have done, I do not see a satisfying 'dies' trigger. Blood Artist and Blood Artist and Brindle Shoat both show promise but I'm wary. Destructor Dragon could be an excellent thing since Planeswalkers are here and finding a viable threat against them is important, and it's not a bad card by itself.

To number 6, I have removed Eidolon for another Wayfinder. Point 7 stands; I like my Yavimaya Ants. As for point 8, I may just have to play smart, practice and hope for the best. Global removal is always problematic for creature oriented decks and if I can force the removal without having to abandon all the threats in my hand then it the global removal won't matter, I can still keep the pressure on. It's easier said than done but this is why I should practice. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Monster Man

Sometimes, man...I don't even know if I know what I'm doing.
2 Nekrataal
1 Yavimaya Ants
1 Eternal Witness
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Acidic Slime
3 Fauna Shaman
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Spirit of the Night
4 Wall of Roots
1 Avatar of Woe
2 Spike Feeder
2 Ravenous Rats
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Carrion Beetles
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Pelakka Wurm
1 Vengevine
2 Elvish Visionary
1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
1 Skullbriar, the Walking Grave
1 Black Cat
1 Wickerbough Elder
1 Eidolon of Blossoms
2 Satyr Wayfinder

3 Recurring Nightmare
9 Forest
4 Bayou
9 Swamp

Readers who have been playing for a long time (or are way into Magic's history) might recognize the shell of a Rec-Sur deck which I built back in the day and never let go of. Even when Survival of the Fittest was banned in Legacy, I held onto the deck. It wasn't long-hell, there may not have even been a gap- before Fauna Shaman was printed, so I just swapped out the cards and 'ta-da!', Legacy legal deck again.

It's time to take this deck to the shop and build it up. When I pulled it out, the first thing I did was replace a Yavimaya Elder for a Satyr Wayfinder. Doing some goldfishing I recently had a turn two Wayfinder, followed by a turn three Recurring Nightmare which I used immediately to bring a Sheoldred, Whispering One that had been put into the graveyard with the Wayfinder.

So I may have to up the Wayfinders to four because holy crap, plays like that are insane. Also, I can see that this deck may be suffering from too few land; but better lists than mine are running as few as 18. It also may be worth looking into some different creatures but I'm reluctant to bring in too many creatures that are 'off color'. When I built this deck, I was afraid of having a hand full of white creatures and lands that only produced green or black. I also still want to have a game to play if Recurring Nightmare doesn't appear and I don't want to get stuck with a card like Squee in my hand because I can't find a Fauna Shaman. Some testing ought to help illuminate some valuable plays and perhaps other friends will have input. I'm looking forward to it. 

Finally, I took the name of this deck from the Soul Coughing song.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pull The Trigger

I think I've taken this deck as far as I can without adding a sideboard.

I played Die Alone against Fuz this week and the first thing he said was "62 cards?" So that was awesome and well timed, too...(see the second question).

Despite Fuz questioning my decisions, the deck performed well! He brought two aggressive decks against me, a RW contraption using Madcap Skills and an Infect deck.

The Infect deck pummeled me so hard in the first matchup that I thought I: Welp, here's the big weakness. I've been waiting for a  hyper aggressive deck to pants me and infect is one of the hypeaggiest. However, we decided to play two more matches and I was able to abuse my life total to win game after game. Those games were pretty intense though, with victory always within Fuz's reach. Operating on half a life total is the kind of thing that really insists on your attention.

The number in the green circle represents my poison counter in the photo. You can see how close I am to death...until I cast the Erebos, God of the Dead I'd been holding all game. I immediately lost the bonus that Homicidal Seclusion was giving me but I gained the blocker I needed to keep the Ichorclaw Myr from killing me.

That kind of play whispered in my ear at the last moment and it was all I had; attack for six in the air, gain life, play Erebos and hope that it doesn't get any worse.

It worked. Remarkably so but it definitely worked. Those wins against aggressive decks that I've had difficulty with in the past tell me that Die Alone has some legs to it, but also that it has been taken as far as I can reasonably do so. The cards are all working well with each other and I feel like against many decks I got some game.

Combo decks, probably not so much. That would require a sideboard of graveyard hate and discard. Still, I like how this has worked out! I should try making more decks in the future. (As though I could stop....)

Anyway, here's the latest iteration of Die Alone, so you can see how it turned out!

4 Killing Wave
3 Sign in Blood

3 Homicidal Seclusion
4 Deadly Wanderings
4 Underworld Connections
2 Seal of Doom

3 Herald of Torment
3 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Doomwake Giant

2 Eyeblight's Ending
4 Victim of Night

2 Haunted Plate Mail
2 Chimeric Idol

4 Spawning Pool
19 Swamp

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I've Lost Count

62 cards.

While it isn't a rule that you can't have more than 60 cards in your deck, the conventional wisdom is so strong that it might as well be. It makes sense, of course; you want to pare things down so that you have the most efficient deck possible. You want to reliably and convincingly execute your game plan and less as they say, is more. 

On top of that, all the math that has been done to help people understand how likely it is that they are going to draw a card they need or cast a spell they have, as been done using a 60 card basis for their decks. That data isn't something that can easily be cast aside! A deck that can reliably execute its game plan is always going to be better than a more 'powerful' deck that cannot. 

Yet here I am, at 62 cards. The card drawing effects (Sign in Blood, Underworld Connections, Erebos, God of the Dead) keep the lands coming. 23 lands (coupled with the card draw) seems right; I've rarely had an issue with mana. Six pinpoint removal cards (adding two Eyeblight's Ending), four global removal. Nine creatures--possibly the fewest I've ever had, but also not counting the four artifacts that can become creatures. 

What can give? Everything, if the deck isn't playing right.

But: the games I played against stonethorn suggest that the deck IS playing right.

I had  two matches; one against a UR deck that wanted to steal my creatures. Spawning Pool was an MVP here, as stonethorn was often left with no creatures to target during his main phase, while I beat down. The matches were interesting but one sided as he didn't have enough targets to make his deck work.

As a brief aside; I nearly made a huge mistake by playing a Deadly Wanderings to make Erebos an active creature. However, stonethorn bemoaned his lack of instant speed theft aloud and so instead of pressing my luck with Erebos, I just kept attacking with Spawning Pool. It was a big reminder to watch my body language and vocalizations while playing. 

The second match was against his GW populate deck and here is where Killing Wave shone and Doomwake Giant earned its keep. 

Our removal was fairly evenly matched; he had Oblivion Ring and Selesnya Charm to take out my creatures and I could create repeated removal issues with Doomwake Giant, and force stonethorn to make difficult choices about which creatures he would keep via Killing Wave. 

Game one ended when he cast Entreat the Angels for the miracle cost, getting eight 4/4 flying creatures. OK, so shit happens...

Game two ended with me at over 70 life, hoping he wouldn't topdeck an Entreat again, while using the MVP Spawning Pool to continue to attack for 3 then 5 then 7 life a turn. This was after I paid sixteen life to draw cards via Erebos which game me plenty of confidence near the end game. I had two Killing Wave in hand and I was certain I'd be able to wipe out one side of the board if I had to.

It turned out to be unnecessary but the presence of extra Killing Waves helped the victory felt like a solid one, one that the deck felt cohesive through.I know; this isn't a victory against an aggressive red deck, which would take advantage of the early game, nor a blue control deck which could probably negate my win condition but I think I'm on to something good here and I'm going to stick with it a little longer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On Mistakes (Again)

I really like the way Adrian Sullivan breaks down mistakes in this article. I am often concerned with playing the best game I can play. I don't expect those games to be flawless, rather, I endeavor to make the most correct series of decisions given the information I have at the time.

And this is a far more forgiving way to look at the game, I think. Because Magic is a game of incomplete information, one can never be assured that they are making the correct play. Luck does play a factor and sometimes, you (or your opponent) just gets lucky.

Hell, I've won games because I made a mistake. That is about as backwards a system as I can think of.

Although the potential commentary it makes on life at large is damn near irresistible. Still, the goal of playing the best game I can play is worth more than playing a mistake-free one, I think.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sometimes You Find Yourself All Alone

"The problem is that I can't get devotion consistently," I told Jason.

We kept talking about what we could do to help this deck along. I couldn't figure out what to do; all of the elements were there and I didn't want to remove anything so what was my option?


It took me about a day before I remembered that the black devotion decks in the early Theros days ran Underworld Connections to up their devotion and draw cards. It's more expensive than Read the Bones is but over the long game (and I think Die Alone is playing a long game) I may be able to keep drawing into things that keep the deck going. That's the next test, along with a 2 Doomwake Giant to 3 Erebos, God of the Dead split.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Your World Is Swallowed Up

The list underwent some changes before I even shuffled up.

First, Dark Ritual came out. I really want to use that card again, I just don't know when or how. But Fuz pointed out that I needed more removal and after a search for proper cheap removal, I finally settled on Victim of Night.

Next, taking a cue from Matt Higgs' article, I added in two Haunted Plate Mail, cutting two Chimeric Idols. Finally, I cut two Swamps for two Spawning Pool. I only had two lying around, otherwise I think I'd add four Spawning Pool. That is a card that fits perfectly in this deck and costs me nothing.

Then I got to play three hours worth of Magic with Jason, grinding the deck around. One of this first suggestions: Chimeric Sphere over Idol. His reasoning was that the Idol could gain evasion but he quickly reversed his position after a matchup: Chimeric Idol could activate the turn I played a Homicidal Seclusion or Deadly Wanderings and the boost was well worth it.

Next, I cut the Seal of Doom for three Sign In Blood, cut the Doomwake Giants and added in the full Erebos, God of the Dead. The deck was interesting but it had trouble dealing with other control decks that wanted to create one big threat and win.

The problem I was having could be accounted for in Erebos: I couldn't get devotion consistently enough to produce a threat. I didn't have enough permanents to make it a creature, Acidic Slime was great against me and let's not talk about the time that Shattering Spree destroyed seven of my permanents (Lattice was out). Plus, for some reason my Idols and Plate Mails decided to flip me the bird and disappear. It didn't help that I was playing the Mycoslynth Lattice deck which could easily take devotion from me.

Still: I was drawing plenty of cards but I couldn't get through to what I wanted. Read the Bones and Sign In Blood had practically no drawback, if I could get a creature to swing.

We batted ideas around fruitlessly. I wanted a bit more removal; card draw wasn't my problem. But that removal couldn't be creatures, so that pretty much left enchantments. The problem? Great removal at that type is expensive; the best cards were No Mercy (has me still taking damage), Lethal Vapors (can be destroyed by an opponent at will, denying me devotion), and Spreading Plague (costs 5 and that position in the deck is crowded as it stands).

We stopped bantering at that point because I needed to eat dinner but Jason agreed; There's legs to this deck, if I can unlock it.