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.
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.
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!