Blinded by the light,
Revved up like a deuce,
Another runner in the night!
y ex-roommate Peter Doolan and I have a phone conversation every week or so. He tells me about the newest decks he's working on, and I tell him the newest decks I'm brewin' up. Peter, like the rest of us, doesn't have a lot to work with on Magic Online, but he makes do with some pretty spicy numbers.
Last year before worlds I seriously considered playing a Wild Pair deck, a.k.a. Kawasaki Ninjas Rule, that Peter and his friend, Rob King, designed. Peter always has a new and outlandish idea. I've always been hyper-skeptical of said idea. It's taken me a while, but I've finally come to realize that it does me a lot of good to listen to Peter's rogue deck ideas. Sometimes I think I'm doing myself a favor by staying inside of a box, but the box is boring.
I think a lot of this has to do with the way I look at tournaments. If I bring a deck that is well-known and well-tuned, then I can blame luck when I lose, I don't have to hold myself accountable. It's a safety net that many players enjoy having.
That's not why I started playing Magic, though. I'm playing this game to outwit, outmaneuver, and outlandishly humiliate my opponent. I have to stop and take a deep breath every time I find myself reaching for the Bitterblossom.
Me #1: "Jake, will this deck just scoop to Magus of the Moon?"
Me #2: "No, Jake, I'll play main-deck Murderous Redcaps, I promise!"
Me #1: "Okay, that's what I like to hear!"
Back to Peter now.
I learn a lot from chatting with Peter. He plays Magic because he enjoys playing Magic. There isn't any ulterior motive. Peter just loves slinging cardboard. The more I talk to Peter, the more I realize that I really love slinging cardboard too.
Peter gave me a call to tell me about his newest concoction a few weeks back. He regaled me with stories of 6/7 Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers and 4/4 Soltari Priests attacking for huge amounts of damage on turn four.
Once he had told me about the general layout of the deck, I was pretty disinterested.
Me: "Isn't this just a white weenie deck?"
Peter: "Kinda, but I swear it's really resilient."
Me: "Should I try it?"
Peter: "That's like asking a dairy farmer if you should drink milk."
Me: "All right, I'll toss together a list."
I played a few games with the deck and was really impressed with how well it handled all the different varieties of creature control in the format. Burrenton Forge-Tender, Soltari Priest, and Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers are excellent at being Firespout-proof. Knight of the Holy Nimbus is terribly underplayed considering its power level. And Light from Within acts as a permanent Overrun with all the pale creatures the deck can muster up.
I've been fiddling with the deck for the past few weeks and decided to feature it in the column. The first thing I'd like to do is clean up the deck a bit. Again, before I do anything I'd like to thank Peter Doolan for his constant flow of sweet ideas.
I came up with a list of cards that seem like good fits for the deck.
I want to come out of the gates fast and apply pressure on my opponents, so I want to be running at least ten one-mana plays, probably more.
Goldmeadow Harrier: This little guy does a lot of good. It's exceptional in the casual room, especially.
Burrenton Forge-Tender: While this is just a vanilla 1/1 in some matchups, it really shines against Firespout and red decks.
Niveous Wisps: This card is another underrated gem. I can use the wisps to tap down any blockers at the end of my opponent's turn and if they're in the attacking business I can save myself a few points.
Goldmeadow Stalwart: This card will either be very good or very bad depending on how many Kithkin I end up running in the final list. TBD.
Mosquito Guard: I like the Guard. I think it's underplayed, and I like that I can use it as a combat trick in the late game.
Ivory Giant: It may seem clunky, but Ivory Giant can result in a lot of, "Oops, I just won" situations.
This slot has a lot of exceptional options. I almost feel guilty not running all of them. I think our deck wants about twelve two-drops.
Knight of the Holy Nimbus: Have you ever played against this thing? I certainly have, and it's not something I've enjoyed. I'm definitely playing four of this fine beater.
Knight of Meadowgrain: Unbelievable efficiency here. An auto four-of.
Soltari Priest: The Priest's evasion and immunity to Firespout, Tarfire, Flame Javelin, etc. make it really good for this type of deck. It may need to be cut for Wizened Cenn depending on the Kithkin count, but I like its chances for the maindeck.
Wizened Cenn: Again, Wizened Cenn will be included if I'm playing enough Kithkin to warrant it.
White Shield Crusader: The Crusader has some nice qualities; it can't be Terrored or Nameless Inversioned, it can be given evasion, and it can be pumped up. Unfortunately for us, I think we've probably got enough two-drops to leave our OCD Knights on the sidelines.
Unmake: Auto four-of for obvious reasons. Instant-speed removal that pulls Demigods completely out of contention seems good to me.
Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers: This merry troupe of individuals is quite vigilant, they have a fat bottom that makes them Firespout-proof, and they get +3/+3 from a Light from Within. What's not to love?
Hearthfire Hobgoblin: I'm not sure if playing Brett Blackman is correct in this deck, but playing a Light and having a 5/5 with double strike seems too exciting to pass up.
Oblivion Ring: More efficient removal, I probably want to play at least a few of these as Unmakes 5+. The Ring is also helpful when it comes to removing pesky noncreature permanents like, say, other Oblivion Rings or Story Circle.
Kitchen Finks: It's no secret how good Kitchen Finks is. The Finks offsets my opponent's race math, gives me added Wrath protection, and beats pretty hard. I'll probably find some room for at least a few of these.
Restless Apparition: It depends what route you want to go with this deck, but if you're looking to be exceptionally Wrath-proof, then Restless Apparition might be a good choice.
Order of Whiteclay: Peter plays Order of Whiteclay as a one-of. I'm not completely sold, but he says it's a house. Due to its rare status I'm not sure if I'll play this one here.
Augury Adept: Another card in Peter's build that I may or may not play. If I play a card like Augury Adept, I need to be playing at least eight removal spells to get full value, so I'm not sure if it'll fit.
Light from Within: Four-mana Overrun is insane. Four-mana Overrun that lasts for the rest of the game is just bananas, B.A.N.A.N.A.S.
I had to make some cuts to fit all these fun machines in the same deck. I decided to play Goldmeadow Harrier, Burrenton Forge Tender, and Mosquito Guard as my one-drops. I'm not going to be playing enough Kithkin to support Goldmeadow Stalwart. My two drops are going to be Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Knight of Meadowgrain, and Soltari Priest. I feel these three creatures give me the most mileage for my two mana. My three drops will be Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Hearthfire Hobgoblin, and a pair of Kitchen Finks. In the four-slot I'll have cuatro Light from Within making my whimsical white friends nice and beefy.
I'd like to take two directions with the sideboard. I think we should include a play set of Oblivion Rings because they deal with just about anything spicy our opponents may come up with. I think we should play Kitchen Finks three and four in the board as added Wrath protection. I can even live with playing Kitchen Finks five through eight in the form of Restless Apparition. Our last five slots aren't too sharply defined, but I've seen a fair share of Dragonstorm in the casual room as of late so I think we should play some Runed Halo or Rule of Law. I love siding in a one-of fatty-boom-batty. so I think we should have a singleton Twilight Shepherd.
Here's what the final list looks like:
Round 1: Fog Deck
I mulliganed down to six and kept a nice one on the play: Goldmeadow Harrier, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Hearthfire Hobgoblin, Plains, Plains, Plains. I curved out nicely and drew into a fourth land and a Light from Within by turn four. I played the Light from Within and turned the team sideways for 16 damage. My opponent hadn't done anything but play land up until this point. I wasn't really sure what was going on in this game.
Holy Day! Ugh. I knew I was in for the long haul. I continued attacking every turn, but every time he would play a Pollen Lullaby, Holy Day, or Batwing Brume. He won the clash on a Pollen Lullaby and revealed Austere Command. He hadn't played any threats, though, so I just kept exactly lethal damage on the board and continued to attack and be fogged. I suppose he was slow-rolling Austere Command to try and accrue extra card advantage with it. I just kept swinging with my team, though, and building up a hand of threats. Eventually, he played the Austere Command. I figured this probably meant he had run out of Fogs. He still had four cards in hand, though. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and acts like a duck, then it's probably a duck. I figured he probably had a fistful of Wrath effects.
On my turn I just played my eighth land, played Light from Within, and played another Hearthfire Hobgoblin. I could've played a one-drop too, but I didn't want to give him card advantage off the Wraths. I was ahead on cards, despite my mulligan, because he spent five Fog effects and one Wrath to deal with my three guys and Light from Within. The game seemed to last forever, but four Wraths later I started to connect. I just played out one guy at a time and kept attacking. Eventually I got there, with thirteen cards left in my library.
Round 2: Red Deck
My opponent wins the play and keeps his seven. I get a nice opener with Burrenton Forge-Tender, Soltari Priest, Soltari Priest, Unmake, Plains, Plains, Plains. He plays a Mountain on turn one. My hand just went from good to being the absolute nuts. I play my Forge-Tender and elicit a, "REALLY?" from my opponent. My three protection-from-red creatures continued to bash my helpless opponent. I stuck a Light from Within midgame and swung for lethal. After playing against a Fog deck, it feels pretty good to play a match that takes less than 20 minutes.
Round 3: Rogues
My opponents wins the play. I keep an opening seven with Knight of the Holy Nimbus, Mosquito Guard, Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, Plains, Plains, Plains, Plains. I hate four-land hands, but I can't ask for much better than a one, two, three. He leads with a Nightshade Stinger and I play my Mosquito Guard and pass back. He plays a turn-two Oona's Blackguard and gets in for one. I play my Knight and pass. Then he plays a Thieving Sprite and takes my Cavaliers. The game continues, and I keep drawing land. I try to race with the few creatures I can draw off the top, but a Sudden Death keeps me out of contention. I really like his deck and ask if he could ship me the list. He declines. :(
Round 4: White Control
He won the play. I had a nice opening hand and came out quick. He stuck a Story Circle on turn three, and I was pretty much cold. "I need to stop making these mono-colored aggro decks," I told myself. The game went pretty long, but I don't think I ever had a shot.
Round 5: Giantbaiting.dek
I win the play and get a perfect opening hand with Mosquito Guard, Knight of Meadowgrain, Hearthfire Hobgoblin, Light from Within, Plains, Plains, Plains. We both curve out really well, and I'm able to get in a few points early because of my first striking friends. I don't have a fourth land on turn four, but I'm able to play a Kitchen Finks. We're both just in building stages and we're trying to find a spot to go on the offensive. My opponent has two Bramblewood Paragon and two Nettle Sentinels in play, with five land. I'm pretty frightened at the prospect of four 6/6 trample haste loverboys flying into the redzone. Luckily for me, he only has one Giantbaiting. He plays the Baiting and gets in for near lethal. I go to the draw step and rip my fourth land. I play Light from Within and get in for exactly lethal.
I really enjoyed playing this deck and think it's very powerful against an undefined field. I don't think I would change anything with the list after playing a few games, but if you're finding your environment to be cluttered with Damnation or Wrath of God then it might be a good idea to swap the three-cost persist folk into the main deck and find other choices for the sideboard.
Now you can do something for me: tell me what you want.
I've written about aggressive decks two weeks in a row. I've tried to explain the importance of curving your deck properly and the rewards that follow. Next week I'd like to make a slower, spicier number for you guys. I'd like to know what you want to see, though.
Should I make a Rites of Flourishing deck, or should I make a River Kelpie deck? Hit the forums and tell me what you think.
Thanks to Bruce Springsteen and Manfred Mann for the musical inspiration.