Chasing Victory – Am I Too Cute?


Am I too cute?

Yes, I probably am.

No, I’m not referring to my dashing good looks, but my latest brews, specifically those containing Dark Depths. Am I attempting to become too tricky or too high tech? I think the answer is yes. Cmon, I jam Shocks and Karplusan Forests into my UWB Mystical Teachings decks. Clearly I have a problem. Let’s take a more in depth look at what I’m talking about.

Here is the deck that I mentioned last week, Michael Poszgay’s 3rd place PTQ list:

Now, I am of the opinion that had Michael made it to the finals, he would have utterly destroyed my friend TBS, who was playing DDT. Still, does that make playing a deck like this correct?

To find the answers, we first need to examine what a “stock” build would look like, to see how far we’re deviating from the norm.

Even now, looking back, I find that list completely and utter beautiful. Not perfect mind you, as even beautiful things have their imperfections, but on that day, I couldn’t have asked for a better 75 cards to bring into battle. If memory serves me, I lost three games total on the day.

Not only did I cut out all the garbage (the maindeck Chalices, the excessive Explosives, the Vendilion Cliques), but I even managed to made the manabase a little more Blood Moon friendly, and best of all, I had answers for everything.

Get paired against one of the four Dredge players in the 200 man tournament? No problem, you have a Tormod’s Crypt with Beseech the Queen and Tolaria West to find it. Surprise, you’re playing against Living End in the finals! Good thing you have that Chalice of the Void and extra discard.

In addition to all that, I had the option to become a full fledged Thopter deck after sideboarding. I think I might have built one other deck better than this one in my lifetime.

So why change anything? If it ain’t broke and all that, right?

Absolutely wrong. The mirror match was becoming an issue that needed addressing and Zoo decks were getting increasingly hateful. Later, even decks like Hypergenesis, Elves, and Burn came back to the forefront. I needed to constantly adapt.

The mirror was the biggest issue in my mind. Not only was this the best deck, but everyone knew it was. That meant that at a tournament like Grand Prix Oakland, I could expect to see players like Luis Scott-Vargas, Martin Juza, and Paulo Vitor all playing similar decks. They would be doing well because of their talent, and if I was doing well because of how good my deck was, I was going to need a little something extra to beat them.

Basically, the mirror was important because the good people were going to realize how good the deck was. Quickly, the mirror became convoluted and somewhat awful.

We started with Meloku, and then Sowers to beat other peoples’ Melokus. Meanwhile, everyone seemed to decide on their own that Oona beat Meloku, but our Sowers still beat their Oonas. After everyone adopted Sowers, we turned to Sphinx of Jwar Isle. That fattie also served as an unkillable win condition against Zoo. In the waning seconds before I had to turn in my decklist for GP Oakland, I added a Gatekeeper of Malakir to beat my friends playing Sphinxes.

It seems like everyone is on a different level at this point. Some prefer Meloku, some like Sphinx, some have neither. Sower is probably good in the mirror regardless, but if you are going to spend sideboard slots on removal, you want them to be good against Zoo.

So that leaves us in the present, and me handing out decklists for DDT to hopeful PTQ-goers that include Umezawa’s Jitte and Trinket Mage. Err, let me explain.

A while back, when I was deep deep deep in the tank over how to defeat the mirror, I tried an aggressive approach with Vendilions and Jittes maindeck. My record in the mirror with that list was astounding. The big but was that every self respecting Zoo deck was packing Damping Matrix in the sideboard. At best, Jitte is an embarrassment when facing down Matrix. Something had to change.

I started looking for cards that were applicable in multiple matchups, hence the removal of Sower, and cards like Rend Flesh and Gatekeeper of Malakir making it into my 75.

After GP Oakland, matchups like Elves and Hypergenesis needed to be readdressed. While Chalice of the Void is good against both decks, it becomes even better when you have Trinket Mage to fetch it. The rest of the Trinket targets available to us weren’t too shabby either. The Mage also happens to be a dude and therefore carries a Jitte just fine.

I considered playing one of each Thopter piece, but after thinking about how all of my opponents would snap sideboard in useless Leylines and Extirpates made me think twice about it. Did I NEED the secondary combo? Weren’t dudes and Jittes my new secondary plan? I wanted to cut a Muddle the Mixture anyway (because it’s bad against Zoo and I’d be less focused on comboing overall), so that meant less tutors to find my singleton pieces, so I determined that it wasn’t worth it.

While the deck is quite good against Elves (just ask Wrapter), Hypergenesis, and the mirror, there was still that pesky Zoo problem. There will always be Zoo decks. No matter what you do, they just won’t go away. WW used to be the cockroaches of the PTQ circuit and now it’s Wild Nacatl.

Anyway, the Poszgay list takes away from what made the deck great in the first place: The fact that it was a no-nonsense, “destroy you unless you destroy me first” combo deck. Trinket Mage doesn’t fit with that plan.

So what’s the next step? I think it involves going back to my roots. My PTQ winning list looks even better and better. One thing I want to go back and try is Rite of Consumption as a way to beat extremely hateful decks such as some of the Zoo builds out there. Ghost Quarter is becoming increasingly popular as well, as it should be. You might want to consider changing your bounce spell to a Boomerang instead of trying to get unnecessary value out of Into the Roil. This makes you worse against Blood Moon though, so be careful!

Anyway, the moral of the story here is stop messing around. Stop adding cards to your deck because you like them or because you think they’re “cool” or “sweet” *cough* LSV *cough.* Chances are, if you’re trying to win, your deck has the potential to perform like a well oiled machine. You will be pleasantly surprised how well your deck runs once you trim the chaff and add some synergetic cards.

Now, if your goal isn’t to win and you just want to have fun, by all means, durdle away. Then again, if that’s the case, why are you even reading this? I have no idea what fun is, so you definitely came to the wrong place.

Extended is not a place to be durdling, I assure you. As much as I would love to play a slow, grinder deck like Teachings, I can’t. I would rather win than play the type of deck I enjoy. Drawing multiple Chrome Moxes, Dark Depths, or Urborgs isn’t something I like to do, but in Extended I feel like the reward far outweighs the risk.

The risk of course is drawing a pseudo dead card. It’s annoying, I’ll give you that, but it’s certainly something I can live with. It’s also while I like things like Thirst for Knowledge and Compulsive Research in the deck. In addition to being solid cards in their own right, they become even better when they’re virtual 3 for 1s instead of “just” a 2 for 1.

The reward then? Well, it’s your opponent over there that reduced to ashes on turn three both games. He didn’t even see it coming. Now, this particular pile of ash may complain about your luck and good fortune, but then again, he didn’t put himself into a position to get a free match win now did he? Wild Nacatl is a great card, but it can never do what Vampire Hexmage can.

When everyone else in the format is trying to do busted things, why aren’t you?

While we’re on the subject of doing broke things, you guys should really check out this list that Pro Tour finalist Kyle Boggemes used to win a PTQ right before his breakout finish. That is of course, if someone hasn’t already pummeled you with it already.

This deck is great but there’s also a lot of room for improvement. Some stuff I would consider includes more Ranger of Eos, less Bloodbraid, fewer one-shot burn spells and some Punishing Fires.

I see a lot of folks with Path to Exile and Blood Moon in the same deck, and that’s a pretty big nonbo. Booming their basics is a pretty solid way to lock someone out of the game though, rather than allow them to climb back in it. Temporal Isolation is similar to Path but can be better against legends, specifically Marit Lage.

The sideboard is kind of scatterbrained, but there are Naya cards that will assist you in almost any matchup.

Finally, a word of advice on ZZW sealed deck, for those looking to make a living on MTGO: Build a deck that benefits from drawing first. The extra card really makes all the difference. You can thank me later!


33 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – Am I Too Cute?”

  1. “Now, if your goal isn't to win and you just want to have fun, by all means, durdle away. Then again, if that's the case, why are you even reading this? I have no idea what fun is, so you definitely came to the wrong place.”

    Love it.

  2. WOW at you writing this article while beating down with Kor Duelists (who were ALWAYS Eager Cadets as far as I saw).

  3. I am a firm believer in not overthinking things too much; you do end up with convoluted boards for “levels” which don’t actually exist and then get run over by the guy who is playing the ultra-simple aggro deck. The trick is to think not too much, nor not enough, but just the right amount.

  4. Excellent article. Though, I’ll be sticking to my 3/3s for 1 instead of 2/1s for 2.

  5. Speaking of too cute, can you post that std boros deck you’re working on? Kitesail apprentice into adventuring gear into fetches had me laughing pretty hard.

  6. emeng: Kor Duelist and Kitesail Apprentice are openly mocked, but they’ve been very good for me. I played in some tournaments with Goblin Guides and Elite Vanguards and both Kors are MUCH better. I frequently Ranger for Appr and Bushwacker, next turn equip Gear to the Apprentice and they are very dead.

    Tom Ross: You do realize that Confidant puts them on a faster clock right? 🙂

  7. Wait, Boom/Bust off of a bloodbraid works? When I read GerryT’s facebook thing about it, I assumed he was exploiting a MODO bug.

  8. It works for any split card. If one side of the card is in cascade range, you cast either side.

  9. Damn, someone came up with a deck including BB Elf abd Boom/Bust…I wanted to do this since the release of the elf, but I never managed to stick a deck together… :-/

  10. Ironically, I found this article “cute”. I agree with the sentiment “why not play broke things when everyone else is” though: sound sense there.

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  12. When I read the title, I would have bet any amount that six would say that either you are in fact too cute or he is too cute.

    Oh and post your updated boros because I want to gear up for some adventures in standard.

  13. [email protected] (I’m gonna get some creepy emails now I’m sure)

    I’ll probably eventually make a facebook since no one actually uses myspace anymore. That and I want to contribute some modophotos involving multiple adventuring gears and a steppe lynx.

  14. So what’s the current sideboard plan against Zoo?
    Did Culling Scales live up to the expectations, or it is as cloggy as I think it to be? The earliest turn where it starts destroying an opponent’s permanent is turn 4.

  15. Great article. The Boros (Koros?) deck is insane, I got manhandled by it the last round of the swiss in the masters tournament. I’d love an article about it, since it stomped all over jund when i saw it.

  16. DRD

    Scales is nuts when you drop after they drop a damping matrix as you just time wlaked them and get to start slowly regaining tempo and an advantage. Its a tricky card for damn sure to be playing as you screw yourself if you dont play/keep the correct hands. But if you are a well played THepDDtsdepthsSworHM.,….. Whatever tF we call it player then you can exploit its power, I will say I dont like playing it with more than one copy of the 5 mana opponent sacs a 3cmc critter or less card “name escapes me atm.

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