Archive for the ‘Deckbuilding’ Category

Black Control Archetypes

November 13, 2009

Ok, sorry for the delay on this one.  My brain’s been elsewhere, tweaking option 1 for champs, building a plan B and a plan C.  But I *have* been working on this, and I’ve come up with a few deck archetypes for people to consider.  I’m not going to be providing any decklists at the moment.  These are merely jumping off points.  Most of my prototype decklists end up pretty bad anyways, (I’ll tell you about cascade faeries soon)

First, what I’ve come to call Mind Goo.  The idea is pretty straightforward: Wreck your opponents hand.  Play creatures that benefit from this situation.  With Guul Draz Spectre *and* Nyxathid, there’re certainly the creatures to benefit from the situation.  I know most control decks find hand destruction absolutely punishing, and jund isn’t the fastest at dumping their hand.  The best way to deal with junds cards may be this, as most of their cards turn into two once they leave the hand.  This idea does conceptually have an issue against boros bushwacker, who can dump much of their hand with devastating speed, and can do serious damage with a topdecked Ranger of Eos.

Second is one with which I have plenty of experience, which I’ve taken to calling Wretched Control.  The idea is to populate your deck with large creatures, and then employ cards like infest to wipe out out weaker creatures, and wretched banquet as a one mana kill card.  Tendrils and similar removal can help take out serious threats, and edict styled effects are especially effective in such a deck.  This was a very successful deck for me, winning me my first 4 rounds of my first PTQ before I crashed into that awful UW Baneslayer deck.  This issue I have with this deck is it hasn’t found great replacements for Ashenmoor Gouger and Demigod of Revenge yet, and that it never had the best matchup against Jund.  That’s now a damning position to be in, so I’m not devoting too much of my time to it.

The third is tribal black.  Yes, I *know*, everyone’s running a vampire deck, none of them are that powerful.  Well I’m here to tell you most of them are doing it wrong.  Vampires make an amazing low-curve control deck, with the simple addition of two cards maindeck.  The first is fleshbag marauder.  This guy’s already a decent edict, something that always helps a black deck, but he has solid synergy with bloodghast, who comes back with some frequency.  The second, is grim discovery.  If you’re running at least 6 fetches in your deck, odds are you’ll have one in your graveyard.  This nets you not one, but two chances to bring back your bloodghasts, AND it lets you shuffle your library if your nocturnus is being grouchy.  Oh, and it brings back a creature too.  Like a gatekeeper of Malakir or a Vampire Nighthawk.  Seriously. I’d also consider running Planeswalkers in this build, both Sorin and Lilianna have wonderful utility.

I initially planned on writing more than this, but it’s not really my field of expertise.  I’m currently busy trying to figure out the optimal numbers of Crystalizations to put in my sideboard for my… I’ve said too much.

Black Control in Standard 1: The Cards

October 24, 2009

Now that I’ve covered the principles of control in black, let’s go over the tools available to us in standard, and see what is available.  My lists will by no means be exhaustive, just the cards that have been on my mind, and with them I’ll give you some deck archetypes to fiddle with next post..

First: Cards that give card advantage: Sign in Blood, Mind Rot and Mind Sludge (so long as they have cards in hand), Infest (against certain decks), Soul Stair Expediti0n, and Gatekeeper of Malakir, and the 3 spectres in standard

Sign in blood is an excellent card, and belongs in any monoblack control deck.  While many will disagree with me, I think Mind Rot is highly playable, but perhaps not a four maindeck.  Mind Sludge is the nuts against other control decks, and could be main deck in anti-control preboard builds, and solid sideboard material.  I really don’t like how long SSE can take to go active if drawn late game, but I’ve got my eye on it.  I’ll discuss gatekeeper in answers later below, and I’m skeptical about the reliability of spectres for card advantage.

Second: Answers: To answer planeswalkers, you can’t do much better than Vampire Hexmage, which is fortunate, as planeswalkers aren’t control decks best friend.  (Yes, I know. Hexmage also answers the issue of an ancient evil buried in 30 mana worth of ice, but that’s a different topic.)

Black is the go-to colour to answer those pesky creatures.  Doom Blade is always solid, although perhaps not a good fit even sideboard until the meta has shifted some, and the same can be said of Hideous End.  Tendrils of Corruption does double duty in monoblack, hitting even black creatures, and giving life to boot.  Wretched banquet and Infest also answer creatures, but only do so (and do so well) in a deck built for them.  They also suffer from Putrid Leech being a strong contender in the format.  Gatekeeper of Malakir, and to a lesser extent Fleshbag Marauder, are great at dodging protection from black, and Gatekeeper of Malakir grants card advantage to boot.  Consume Spirit is good in that it serves dual purpose, but it’s usually mana inefficient.  Finally, Vampire Nighthawk is a great way to answer attacking creatures, especially in control.

As for non-creatures… um… there’s Duress… and….

Moving on!

Finishers: Here’s where I’m not so sure.  Losing Demigod of Revenge is something I’m still sore about.  No one really can fill his place in my heart.  But here are the other people I’m considering to fill his shoes.  Ob Nixolis has some serious potential.  He has issues with dying to lightning bolt, but I’d definitely give at least two of him a spin in a black control deck.  Malakir Bloodwitch is no demigod, but she keeps baneslayer off your back, and beats just fine.  I ran Vampire Nocturnus in my MBC Deck last standard, simply for the efficient size/cost ratio (6o percent of the time) and now he has some friends to play with.  Salvage Titan can do some neat things, but not with all that much that you’d play in a black based control deck, and is otherwise a craw wurm, alas.  Less obvious is that 5/5 Zombie Giant token you keep getting in packs can do some serious damage, and make your opponent think twice about wrathing your bloodwitch if you’ve got the quest in your log.

Finally, there’s Guul Draz Spectre and Nyxathid.  In a deck with dedicated hand disruption, these two make having dead discard in your hand not so bad a situation to be in.

As for tempo control.  black’s life gain is a nightmare for traditional aggro decks like boros bushwhacker, and is never unwelcome.  Vampire nighthawk and Tendrils of Corruption are the best for this, but Child of Night might find a good home in the two-drop slot.

Next time: Possible deck archetypes.

Building Combo, Part 2: Putting the deck together

October 3, 2009

So, from our previous investigation, we’ve discovered that Thopter Foundry plus Sword of the Meek equals power, and Time Sieve on this equation equals a very unhappy opponent.

There are basically 2 types of combo decks.  There are the decks that can win through some other way, and just happen to have combo cards in them, and there are decks entirely devoted to getting a combo to go off.  The first is typically preferable, being that if your combo is disrupted or doesn’t show up, you can still win otherwise.

The strength of the second type is that you can devote more cards in your deck to getting your combo to show up, and protect it from being derailed.

I decided to take the second route for two reason.  First is that my three combo pieces are underwhelming on their own, especially time sieve, and will only hinder a decks other win condition.  Second, is that this in an exceptionally easy combo to assemble.  All three pieces of the combo are artifacts, meaning they can all be tutored for with fabricate and similar effects.  Also, they can be played in blue/black, a color pairing with good tutoring effects, counterspells, and plenty of good dual lands.  Finally, all three pieces cost 2 mana, so they can all be tutored with the same transmute spells, extremely playable as we’re already in blue/black.

After a seach of good deck filtering options, I decided that I’d want ponder, serum visions, dimir infiltrator, and muddle the mixture to go find my combo pieces.  Muddle the mixture was chosen over other tutor effects due to its ability to double as a counterspell.  Dimir infiltrator can be a creature in a pinch (but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that).

I now have a deck that can get its combo pieces incredibly reliably, and hopefully do so fast enough.  However, we need to then leave magical christmas land and enter the world of real magic, where people are going to be doing their hardest to keep me from going off.  Luckily, I’m in blue.  4 mana leaks, solid counters in extended.  4 remands.  When you’ve got such a powerful effect when the clock strikes, stalling a spell for a turn is more than worth two mana.

Next up comes the mana base.  First things first are the blue and black mirrodin artifact lands.  They can be thopterized in a pinch, which is really handy if the sword of the meek gets stuck in the graveyard, making the deck more resiliant against discard.  Next is at least 1 Academy Ruins, to fish other artifacts out.  I’m going to want some basic islands so I can use repeal like effects post board in case of blood moon.  Now come the dual lands.  I have plenty to chose from, and the choice isn’t easy.  Normally, the default for such a deck would be 4 watery graves and some fetches, but I’m nervous about giving away that much life in extended.  Aggro and lightning bolt decks have very fast clocks, and paying too much life for my mana can push their clock ahead a crucial turn.  Furthermore, I’m not made of money, and don’t want to buy those lands if I don’t need to.  River of Tears is one card I have my eye on.  I only need black on rare occasions, and never on my opponents turn.  I can see this card occasionally being a nuisance, but worth a shot. Finally, Sunken Ruins fix my mana with no cost of life.  Don’t want to run too many, for risk of no colored mana in my opening hand, but 2 should be fine.

I’m going to leave my sideboard for until after I’ve tested a bit.  I’ve got my eye on lethargy trap, to buy me a turn against zoo, and spell snare.  Cranial Extraction would be wonderful to rescue me from some of the brutal cards running around people’s boards, even if I expect it to be too slow.  Into the Roil or Remand can give me the turn I need to play without blood moon or night of soul’s betrayal, and Hyrkul’s Recall is a potential against affinity, if the need arises.

Here’s my trial deck:

ROFLTHOPTER:

4 Sword of the Meek

4 Thopter Foundry

4 Time Sieve

4 Ponder

4 Serum Visions

4 Muddle the Mixture

4 Dimir Infiltrator

4 Remand

4 Mana Leak

4 Seat of the Synod

4 Vault of Whispers

2 Academy Ruins

2 Sunken Ruins

4 River of Tears

8 Island

Please feel free to comment with critiques, suggestions, ect.  I’m curious to see what you think.

Building Combo, Part 1: Spotting a combo

October 3, 2009

[UPDATE: I’m getting a large number of google hits to this post, for people looking for thopter foundry decklists.  If it’s the list you’re looking for, it’s at the end of the next post.]

After seeing my extended combo deck go off, people often ask me how I found the combo.  The answer is pretty complicated, and I thought it’d make a great blog post.  I’m going to attack this from a more general approach, but with the specific example of building my combo deck.

The first thing you need to make a combo deck from scratch is to know what sort of interactions to look for.  There are a number of interactions that have been abused often throughout magic’s history.  Reading about classic magic decks is a great way to learn to spot such things.

It’s not in my skill level or patience to give an exhaustive list, but I’ll give you a quick rundown of such abilities: Cards that untap other cards, especially multiple other cards, or do so without themselves tapping.  Cards that produce more than one mana by tapping.  Cards that have powerful abilities with no mana or tapping cost.  Cards with drawbacks you can use to your advantage, or drawbacks you can negate.  Cards that return permanents to your hand, cards that reduce the cost of other spells, and cards with just plain strange or unique abilities.

These are the kinds of things you should just keep an eye out for.  Whenever you’re looking at cards, put a mental flag on a card if it strikes you as having something abusable or just weird.  The best process is to write such things down, but I’m rarely that organized.

So it’s with this in mind that I noticed the card Sword of the Meek was pretty interesting.  It returns itself from the graveyard for free.  Now, I couldn’t come up with a way to churn out 1/1s, but I know being able to get a card, any card, for free, from your graveyard over and over again was powerful.  However, this isn’t the type of card that gets to the graveyard on its own.  The most obvious solution, is to sacrifice it for profit.

This brings us to the second thing you need to do when building a combo deck.  You need to have a familiarity with the cards available to you.  This will help you come up with synergies, and think of cards that pair well.  Reading articles, decklists, drafting, and just playing magic are perhaps the best way to do this.  I have a coworker who plays as much magic as me, so the result is we talk about it *lots*.

The most obvious sacrifice an artifact card was time sieve, a card with a powerful and unusual ability with a severe drawback.  It occurs to me that I might be able to use the sword to help make the drawback less severe.

This pairing is synergistic, but certainly not gamebreaking.  And if I want to make an extended deck, I need something gamebreaking.  Still, I keep the idea in my head of “artifacts that are good to sacrifice” and keep an eye out for such things.  Eventually I started mentally putting together a time sieve deck with such cards.  I then realized I needed another sacrifice engine for this deck to be at all viable.

This brings us to the third thing one needs to do when combo hunting.  You need to look at the cards, see them again, refresh them in your mind.  Some people scour the cardlist in gatherer or other webpages.  I find scouring my unsorted boxes of cards a great way of achieving this.

When looking for cards that sacrifice artifacts, I noticed thopter foundry.  Thopter foundry is a new card, one I’d explored possibilities with before, but that was before sword of the meek was on my radar.

Woah.

Those two cards went WELL together.  They basically added up to “1: Gain one life and put a 1/1 thopter with flying into play, equip sword of the meek to it”.  That’s GOOD.  Add a time sieve to that, and you can easily lock your opponent out of TURNS.  Three card combos are generally bad news, but when it’s a two card combo that’s incredibly powerful, and the third  is effectively a game win, this bears exploring.