Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Of Limited Interest #8 - Grand Preparations (GP Toronto Practice Session)

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Unfortunately I woke up on Saturday morning still far to sick to risk playing in a Magic tournament; after all it would make very little sense to make myself too sick to attend the Grand Prix by attending a GP practice event!  Thankfully however my good friend Sam stopped by on Friday and we decided to rip open practice sealed pools to get ready for the main event at the GP.  When Sam first arrived he made it clear that he only had time to play maybe 4 or 5 games even at the breakneck speeds Scars of Mirrodin limited has become known for.  I think it speaks clearly to the overall strength of the decks that he stayed for roughly 15 evenly-matched games simply because both of our decks were so strong/fun.  We played back and forth for over an hour; with a significant number of the games ending in epic fashion regardless of who won.  Unfortunately I didn't think to keep game notes or to list the full contents of our original 6 packs.  I did however manage to write down each of the decklists for further examination.  I think Sam's deck is probably slightly better than mine but both of them were pretty snapped.  Let's take a look at each deck and what makes them so dangerous:

Sam's B/G Infect Deck:   

Creatures - 15:

1x Blight Mamba
1x Copper Myr
1x Ichorclaw Myr
1x Plague Stinger
2x Contagious Nim
1x Cystbearer
1x Ichor Rats
1x Moriok Replica
1x Sylvok Replica
1x Corpse Cur
1x Hand of the Praetors
2x Tel-Jilad Fallen
1x Putrefax

Spells - 9:

1x Untamed Might
1x Contagion Clasp
1x Grasp of Darkness
2x Tumble Magnet
1x Flesh Allergy
1x Heavy Arbalest
1x Instill Infection
1x Prototype Portal

Lands - 16:

8x Forest
8x Swamp

Breakdown: In terms of Infect theme decks this thing is incredibly broken.  It's certainly not every sealed pool that's going to produce a Putrefax and a Hand of the Praetors in your 6 packs.  Both cards are capable of carrying even mediocre Infect decks quite far in a sealed tournament but ultimately like all creatures both can be contained/played around by a skilled player with a good deck.  I lost one game to Sam casting a Putrefax, recurring it with a Corpse Cur and then casting it again.  Otherwise neither of these two rares won any games for my opponent against my deck.  What *did* win him games however was his amazing removal suite, creature base and the synergy created by these cards.  Sam's deck was pretty single minded; focused entirely on getting you to 10 poison counters by any means necessary.  Cheap fast infect creatures like Blight Mamba, Plague Stinger and Ichorclaw Myr make blocking in the early game very difficult to do without simply throwing your mana Myrs under a bus.  This allowed Sam to save his 7-9 removal effects for the mid-game; typically this is when aggro or Metalcraft decks with stabilize in the match-up against Infect.  If that wasn't enough to kill you (and it usually was) Sam could simply wait to top one of his 3 backdoor victory conditions: Contagion Clasp, Heavy Arbalest or Untamed Might.  It's pretty hard to stop a poison deck when he can add 1-3 tokens to your total per turn WITHOUT declaring a single attack.  Alternately I lost a couple games to taking 5 poison tokens at once from an unblocked Plague Stinger + Untamed Might.  Quite literally this deck has the cards to "do it all".  Sam can play it as a fast rush deck against softer openings, switch into a control deck in the mid game to ram a few more tokens through and then clean you out turn 5-7 with proliferate or direct damage.  Even the specific creatures he's using are the upper crust of the "Infect" theme; you won't find any Blackcleave Goblins in this build.  2x Tel-Jilad Fallen in particular was absolutely game wrecking against my heavy artifact build during our epic test series.  You really can't ask for more out of a sealed pool and I'm pretty sure that barring a bunch of pilot errors Sam would have done incredibly well with this at a pre-release or a large sealed event.

So what kind of deck can hang with what's basically an Infect pre-constructed theme deck? The answer is something very very fast with gobs of removal:

Nina's R/W Aggro Deck:

Creatures - 14:

1x Gold Myr
2x Iron Myr
1x Sunspear Shikari
1x Wall of Tanglecord
2x Kemba Skyguard
1x Rust Tick
1x Vulshok Replica
1x Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1x Chrome Steed
1x Indomitable Archangel
1x Glimmerpoint Stag
1x Razor Hippogriff

Spells - 10:

1x Darksteel Axe
1x Galvanic Blast
1x Origin Spellbomb
1x Arc Trail
1x Revoke Existence
1x Trigon of Rage
1x Tumble Magnet
1x Trigon of Corruption
1x Turn to Slag
1x Contagion Engine

Land - 16:

8x Mountain
8x Plains

Breakdown: While certainly less "thematic" than Sam's borderline pre-constructed "Infect" deck this build was able to hang with that monster for 3 major reasons; speed, synergy and some ridiculous bombs/removal.  I would hesitate to call this a "Metalcraft" theme deck simply because there are only 3 cards in the entire build that say "Metalcraft" on them, although all 3 are quite powerful.  Stylistically this is more of a classic "Slash and Crash" aggro + removal deck and I frequently won games simply by crashing for 3 or 4 with my Hill Giants/Flyers  I'd usually open with "mana" Myrs and lead into a Flyer + either Darksteel Axe or Trigon of Rage to start hammering the opponent for 4-5 per turn as soon as possible.  Once you've established a threat the deck's ridiculous control package takes over; allowing you to destroy/tap out your opponent's creatures to create a race he simply can't win.  After all, it's pretty hard to outrun someone who's put you on a 3-5 turn clock when you can't keep creatures upright and in play.  If the game somehow drags the deck can always drop Contagion Engine and start proliferating away the opponent's entire board while feeding your Trigons and Tumble Magnet; a seemingly unfair out for what is otherwise a powerful aggro build. 

Matchup:  Most of the time Sam's deck would come out of the gate faster than mine because he'd be playing 2 drop Infect monsters while I was still setting up my mana base.  This usually forced me to eat as many as 3 early poison counters while trying to establish an offense, although I could stunt his attacks by casting an early Wall of Tanglecord and letting it accumulate tokens.  Once my mana base was established I would be forced to either start playing removal spells (optimal) or begin trading creatures with Sam to keep my poison counters at a reasonable level.  You don't know frustrating until you're forced to run out an Indomitable Archangel and block with her against an Infect swarm!  If I could stop Sam's early assault and control enough of his creatures it was usually just a matter of attaching an equipment to a flyer and attacking for several turns.  If I couldn't or Sam saw enough of his removal I'd watch my 2-3 blockers vanish and get rolled over for 10 poison at lightning speed.  Both decks were strong/fast enough that either a mana shortage or a mana flood on either side typically spelled instant defeat for the unfortunate victim.  Of course in 15 or so games we did manage to have at least a couple even tilts, including one epic 12 turn game where both decks drew into perfect openings and proceeded to top deck "the exact right answer" turn after turn.  I'm not exaggerating at all when I say that this game alone made opening the 12 packs worth it.

Well folks that's all for this time here on the Cardboard Witch.  Hopefully this helps some of you who will be playing Sealed at GP Toronto this weekend.  May your pools be strong with gobs of removal but even if they aren't just remember "don't fight the cards".

As a special bonus here's another list for a Sealed Pool I ripped open last night.  The actual practice games were fairly uninteresting but I feel the deck itself is worth examination:

Nina's B/W "Neanderthal Aggro" Deck:

Creatures - 13:

1x Fume Spitter
1x Glint Hawk
1x Auriok Sunchaser
1x Myrsmith
1x Painsmith
1x Perilous Myr
2x Myr Galvanizer
1x Rust Tick
1x Chrome Steed
2x Skinrender
1x Bleak Coven Vampires

Spells - 11:

1x Chimeric Mass
1x Darksteel Axe
1x Origin Spellbomb
1x Syvok Lifestaff
1x Contagion Clasp
1x Glint Hawk Idol
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Nim Deathmantle
1x Arrest
1x Barbed Battlegear
1x Instill Infection

Breakdown:  Much like the R/W deck above this build is all about playing cheap attackers and then killing your opponent's monsters so he can't catch up; it's just WAY better at accomplishing this goal.  With essentially 9 control cards and 4 excellent pieces of equipment it really doesn't matter how good your creatures are; although these ones certainly aren't bad.  Ripping open 2 Skinrenders was certainly a lucky stroke and I'll never turn down "bomb" artifacts like Nim Deathmantle or Chimeric Mass.  This deck even has a cute "Myr" sub-theme with 2x Galvanizers and a Myrsmith.  I would be incredibly happy to pull this deck on Saturday at the GP.


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