Friday, August 10, 2012

A Decklist update

No FNM tonight unfortunately; I have some stupid wedding to go to. SOMEBODY doesn't have their priorities straight. A wedding! On Friday night! Feh. Anyway, what I WOULD be running (and may be running tomorrow if enough people show up to Saturday Standard) is the current version of the almighty Arcane Melee. I guess you probably could've guessed that since I've never mentioned any other deck in this blog. I also play Goblins, if you wanted to know.

But I digress!

The only change to the mainboard is a pretty big one. Sorin's Vengeance has been added to the main. Now, this isn't some stupid deck that aims to set our opponent's life total to ten or double Sorin's Vengeance for the win. That would be stupid. I'm sure nobody would ever run something like that. This is, of course, because Sorin Markov and Chandra, the Firebrand are what we call Bad Cards. Sure, you could say the same about Arcane Melee. But I would much rather slam a Melee and cast 50 spells my next turn than play a Chandra and ping somebody for 1.

Without any crazy shenanigans to make Sorin's Vengeance a kill, it still does incredibly well for our deck. Tapping out for an Arcane Melee turn 5 (or turn 4 if we can manage that) is pretty dangerous. There are a lot of decks that can easily kill you by then. But assuming we've controlled the board well enough to keep even one life by turn 6, Sorin's Vengeance is a pretty nice thing to drop. 20 life is a pretty big split to create with one spell. Casting Sorin's Vengeance enables a reasonable expectation of a kill with one cast of Devil's Play, Burning Vengeance, or some combination of the two. I don't need to tell you that casting both copies of Sorin's Vengeance is good too. The nice thing about the spell is that there isn't a whole lot of thought that goes into when you cast it. It's tough to figure out when you're supposed to try to win with Devil's Play when you're looking at a spindown die showing a big fat expansion symbol on their side.

The core (7):
3x Arcane Melee
3x Mystic Retrieval
1x Runic Repetition

The ramp (3):
3x Vessel of Endless Rest

The control (11):
2x Whipflare
2x Blasphemous Act
2x Doom Blade
1x Go for the Throat
2x Devil's Play
2x Burning Vengeance

The dig (12):
3x Forbidden Alchemy
3x Faithless Lotting
2x Think Twice
4x Augur of Bolas

Win cons (3):
1x Nicol Bolas
2x Sorin's Vengeance

The untouched manabase (24):
4x Sulfur Falls
3x Dragonskull Summit
2x Drowned Catacomb
5x Mountain
6x Island
1x Swamp
2x Evolving Wilds
1x Shimmering Grotto

The sideboard:
3x Ancient Grudge
2x Nihil Spellbomb
2x Negate
2x Pillar of Flame
1x Sever the Bloodline
3x Mental Misstep
2x Talrand, the Sky Summoner

The sideboard hasn't been tested at all, to be honest. But here's my thought process:
  • Ancient Grudge: Vessel of Endless rest can produce green. Ancient Grudge is obviously very good against decks like Big Black that are artifact-focused, and also does just fine against Wurmcoil and Birthing Pod.
  • Nihil Spellbomb: Graveyard hate can be A Thing sometimes. Snapcaster Mage, Sun Tits, Gravecrawler. This is a list of things that I do not like. Nihil Spellbomb agrees.
  • Negate: Basically functions as a Dispel against countermagic in control matchups and infect (!). You can basically always have on in hand with Mystic Retrieval, which is hilarious and tilt-inducing. Try it some time.
  • Talrand, the Sky Summoner: sits on the bench until he sees Whipflare coming off the field, high-fives him as they pass each other on the sideline, then sacks the quarterback on the first play. Wait, what the fuck? What the hell is football doing in my Magic article!? Get that shit out of here!
  • Pillar of Flame: Does very, very good things against Pod decks, whether it's Strangleroot Geist and Solemn Simulacrum or Zombie Pod. Zombies are kind of our worst enemy, as a lot of their damage actually comes from OUR kill spells. Try casting a Whipflare against two Blood Artists, a Gravecrawler, and a Geralf's Messenger. Tell me how it goes.
  • Sever the Bloodline: Again, comes in against Zombie Pod. There a couple other matchups where the "same name" clause is relevant.
  • Mental Misstep: Guys, I have bad news. Rancor is a card. There's a pretty severe lack of instant-speed removal in this deck, which makes it very hard to get Rancor to go to the graveyard and stay there. Obviously Mental Misstep isn't solely for Rancor. Mana dorks are 1 drops, as are Delver and Ponder. And more importantly than anything else, the card is just hilarious. There's no better feeling than countering somebody's first spell before you've even taken your turn. Simply priceless.
So yeah.

It's tough finding real advice about this deck. A lot of people will tell me a lot of things, but there are a lot of people who are very bad at this game. Players who consider themselves competitive often either:
1) Are not.
2) Have no interest in this janky piece of crap.

Now, I've turned a few heads at FNMs. People are often impressed by how cohesive the deck is. But it's very rare that I feel the advice that I hear is right. You really have to play with the deck to understand how it functions. It's hard to explain to somebody why a card as insanely, unimaginably good as Bonfire of the Damned is actually quite bad here. It's hard to tell somebody why I should NOT, in fact, be playing Tamiyo over Arcane Melee. And it's certainly not easy to decide whether somebody's knowledge over the game in general trumps your knowledge of how the deck plays.

The thing is, the game of Magic rewards people who play by rules of thumb. If I'm drafting, it's very easy to flip to the three cards I consider after sifting out the "unplayables". By simply memorizing the cards that are just "good", I can build a deck that will wipe the floor with the average player who doesn't know the set. I really don't need to put any thought into the deck as a whole after I've decided what two colors I'm playing. That goes for low- to mid-level limited play. And I feel like Standard is often the same thing. What decks are big right now? Well, Delver of Secrets is a Good Card. So is Ponder. Oh hey, they work awfully well together, too. Mana Leak? Seems legit. We just created the skeleton of a deck. Add some more good cards, throw in some synergy, and you have a rough version of the top deck in the format.

"Hey is Primeval Titan a good card?" "He sure is! Let's cast of him!" "Okay, what about the other 56 cards?" "Hm... Let's cast him FASTER!"

Yes, yes, I'm oversimplifying, ignoring synergy, trivializing some very profound thought processes, reductio ad abusurdum, blah blah blah. But that's kind of my point. People oversimplify deck building. Snapcaster Mage is a good card. So is Bonfire of the Damned. That doesn't mean they belong in my deck. By the midgame, I'm going through 5-7 cards off the top of my deck every turn. I've often realized that I have one card in my library and barely pulled off killing people the upkeep before my Draw Step of Doom. I also tap out almost every turn before passing. Neither of those things suggest Bonfire will do anything for me. Tamiyo might. Maybe not. I should probably get a couple and try her out, but I don't know. Turns out Magic is hard!

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