Thran Utopia #4: A deckbuilder’s diary

Saturday, April 16th

Today, Thran Utopia #3 went up. I haven’t tested the Glissa-deck yet, so I hope it can hold its own. As always, I’m curious for reader feedback and comments. Luckily, after some goldfishing I got the idea that the deck is much better than the first version. While goldfishing doesn’t give you an idea how interaction with an opponent goes, it does help playing the deck. You get to know some little interactions and just get the general feel of the deck. Plus, you can draw conclusions just by looking at how the deck plays. I came to the conclusion that 4 Golgari Rot Farms was too much, and I removed two of those for a Swamp and a Forest.

In the mail came four Solemns and three Mortarpods, so I could play the deck with the fourth Mortarpod being a proxy. I’m a guy who researches a purchase, checking out various vendors for the cheapest options available. My fourth ‘Pod is a foil one that I ordered elsewhere.

The first thoughts of what my next column is going to be about cross my mind. Should I continue with the Glissa-evolution? Should I do a ‘decktech’ of an older, finished deck? I decide to use these questions in a grabbag-kind of column to use whatever that came to mind. You could call it the easy way out, but I’d like to think of it as giving my readers an insight in my involvement with Magic, and how I deal with Magic in a day-to-day context. A regular article is stripped of context; I’d like to provide mine a bit.

Today was mostly about Magic. I continued downloading coverage from the Pro Tour archives while editing texts for a local newspaper. My head was buzzing with ideas, mostly about Glissa. I felt the deck needed a night of sleep to saturate a bit in my mind, hoping the next day would yield ideas.

Sunday, April 17th

More goldfishing today, trying to both get a sense of how I have to play the deck and of what could be improved. I had Tainted Æther in my crosshairs last night, and it didn’t leave my sight today. Rarely did I miss it, but I suppose something could be said for not seeing how the enchantment could potentially affect my opponent.

Finding suitable replacements for Æther was no problem, but I fear a few of those slots have to be sacrifice outlets. Braids came to mind, but given that she triggers during upkeep, Painsmith-shenanigans become harder to pull of. Still, she’s Fauna‘ble, which is a plus.

Spawning Pit came up as well, and possibly Basilisk Collar to kill creatures during an opponent’s turn. I also thought of adding more deathtouchers, like Acidic Slime. The Slime prompted a land destruction-edge, remembering that killing a Lifespark Spellbomb‘ed land triggers Glissa. How about Tectonic Edge? I started a thread on Dutch trading site Nedermagic to start looking for Collars and Edges.

After thinking more about it, I thought I might be able to pull of a Fauna Shaman-less deck. Without wanting to resort to Mrs. Bitterblossom (Stoneforge Mystic, that is), Ancient Stirrings becomes the next best thing. While it can’t find Glissa, it can find Myrs, Mortarpods and pretty much everything in between. It sucks there’s no green (or black) Stoneforge Mystic. Viscera Seer could jump in here, being a sacrifice outlet that also works his way through my deck. Still, no Shaman means no silver bullets means more consistency. On a related topic, I wish I could add two Gravediggers. Grave Scrabbler depends on Fauna Shaman alone, and two Gravediggers could buy me some time chump-blocking. Dude + effect > dude first, effect later.

Meanwhile, I encountered a deck idea that I couldn’t help but obsess over: Braid of Fire combined with Paradox Haze. Sure, M10-rules nerfed this interaction a bit (you used to be able to carry your upkeep-mana into your draw step; now you can’t even carry it from first upkeep into second), but it still has potential. I like Leyline of Anticipation now more than I liked Vedalken Orrery back in the day, so I could be on to something. Been wanting to build with the new blue Leyline ever since it got released.

After a surge of Izzet-colored excitement, my mind got pulled back into the same Golgari-territory it has been for more than one week. How would dredge work? Sadly, only Golgari Thug excited me a bit as a dredger. With Basilisk Collar lessening Painsmith-dependance, I wondered how the deck would fare without him. Surely, removing a colored card is another plea for Ancient Stirrings. Lifespark Spellbomb entered the picture again. Precursor Golem too; he and his posse provide a lot of Mortarpod-pings. Precursor Golem could facilitate Virulent Swipe, although probably not. Gotta focus my mind on the core of the deck, not cases of the cutesies-virus.

Monday, April 18th

Monday was like Sunday, but one day ahead. The ideas I had yesterday coalesced and got expanded upon, especially the Braid of Fire-deck. I made sure to update my wanted-thread with Braid, Leyline and other potential includees. The key is to find cards that interact with both Braid of Fire and Paradox Haze, but that search turned up pretty empty-handed. While Haze loves the Future Sight resuspenders like Arc Blade, Braid couldn’t care less. The best – and coolest – cards I found where Magmatic Core and Vintage errand-boy Mystic Remora. Funny to see so many Ice Age-block cards getting selected besides Braid of Fire.

I also looked for mana-sinks. Besides obvious X-spells like Comet Storm, Fanning the Flames and Blue Suns’ Zenith, I dug up my favorite new toy Contagion Clasp, as well as Soothsaying (look ma, I’m dodging Sensei’s Divining Top again!), Gemstone Array (stores mana) and Clockspinning (acts like a Clasp but can also remove counters). Yet another proliferate-deck. I just can’t help it.Talking about proliferate and Paradox Haze; how about that Sun Droplet?

Moving on, Hondens are cool but too focused on Haze. I want to keep this two colors, not add a third color to strengthen the Honden-subtheme. I did, however, notice a lot of enchantments in here. That’s when I set my sights on Obliterate. Oh boy, the excitement! Playing Obliterate during my first upkeep, then casting something like a Bogardan Hellkite during my second upkeep? This can hardly get any better!

My mind jumped back to my Jund Proliferate deck idea. Yeah, I know. It started as a 2.0 of my -1/-1 counter-deck I built around the time of Shadowmoor and Eventide. Back then it sucked. Right now, proliferate and cards like Black Sun’s Zenith could well make it viable. I noted green for Plaguemaw Beast. He was one of my favorite cards in the Mirrodin Besieged-spoilers, but he got kicked out of my TezzeREDRUM-deck. Sad Beast is sad. It was not until tonight I saw that red was completely unnecessary. While Raging Ravine is cool, it can’t be in the deck just for itself. It needs an excuse to play it, and Sprouting Thrinax hardly is.

I want to get this deck working by Wednesday, which is the day Robert and I are going to the city (Eindhoven, that is) to play Magic. Sadly, my order from Friday still isn’t here. I hate building decks with proxies, especially when I’m getting them a day or so later, so it’ll have to wait for now.

What I did do was try to form the deck’s plan in my head. I want to play a deck with creatures that don’t mind dying (Core Prowler, Shambling Swarm) and a few late-game finishers (Profane Command comes to mind). Sadly, Plaguemaw Beast isn’t either, so I have to be careful how many Wrath-effects I can run. I decided I would search for more cards tomorrow, and I turned on my TV (final episode of Veronica Mars season one, for those wondering).

Man, I just couldn’t get that Obliterate-thing out of my head at work tonight. It has to work. I really want it to.

Tuesday, April 19th

I was hoping today would see me having a quiet day, since yesterday my mind was all-MTG, and I already wrote a bunch and we’re just halfway. Well, you can probably guess how this will end up.

I got back to thinking about how white would fit in the deck. Chronomantic Escape works great with Paradox Haze, but does it do something I can’t solve otherwise? I mean, repeated Fog-effects are great and all, but can’t I just burn and counter my way through the opposition? Honden of Cleansing Fire needs other Hondens and feels lacking. Wild Research only works with the Hondens, given the amount of sorceries I have in my head as opposed to instants. The biggest thing I want to cast is Obliterate; Wild Research doesn’t help here.

With a lot of new wants I updated my trade thread, but there wasn’t any responses. I searched around a bit myself, but nothing too. Hopefully I could trade for a lot tomorrow, to which I was looking forward. It’s always good times with Robert and his friends.

With this in mind I wanted to have a new deck to play. Which is weird, since I haven’t really tested my new Glissa-incarnation yet. It already feels old in some way, perhaps because I’ve goldfished with it quite a bit. Anyway, I took my Jund Proliferate stack and decided it was time to take it down to sixty. I did a final cutting through the cards before laying them out, sorted by mana cost. It was a whopping eighty cards.

A bit before that, some searching yielded Deathbringer Thoctar and Retribution, the former which spoke to me the most. He could be getting ginormous in no time. Unfortunately, I felt creatures like Grim Poppet and Carnifex Demon would fit the deck better, since they can actually do something with the -1/-1 counters they accumulate. This left the red contribution with just Terminate, who ofcourse got the boot. I mean, you’re not gonna expect that a deck focused on -1/-1 counters has trouble dealing with creatures, right?

This same problem proved to be the downfall of green as well. I had decided there was no space for a slow guy like Plaguemaw Beast, he was a silver bullet (for Primal Command) at best. Even with a creature toolbox and a heavily reduced amount of green, I still had a lot of cards. I didn’t like Putrefy for the same reason as Terminate, and Harmonize because of Command. This left me with only Command and a few random critters as my green cards. I felt it just wasn’t worth adding green for a double-green card.

Mono Black Control Proliferate, how about that? Finally another deck to stick Cabal Coffers in; it’s been too long. Coffers is perfect here, fueling huge Zeniths and Profane Commands. With Profane Command and Dusk Urchins, I don’t need other colors for card draw.

As I was cutting and cutting, and then cutting and cutting some more, I noticed how I could probably make and Infect-deck; just hit a few times, then hole up and let proliferate do the rest. Immediately I grabbed my binder and found Inkmoth Nexus still there. Excitedly, I knew I had my win condition and the cards to support it. Only problem is, I still need three.

It was getting late and I figured going to bed would do my deck better in the morning than trying to finish it now. Only six cards left to leave.

Wednesday, April 20th

Today was the day I was looking forward to all week: getting to play some Magic! I would be finally able to unleash Glissa and do the same to MBCP after I trimmed it down to sixty cards. The last cuts are always the hardest, but this is what I ended up with:

Mono Black Control Proliferate v1.0
Lands (24)
2 Cabal Coffers
4 Inkmoth Nexus
18 Swamp

Creatures (17)
2 Carnifex Demon
3 Core Prowler
4 Dusk Urchins
4 Necropede
4 Skinrender

Other spells (19)
3 Black Sun’s Zenith
3 Blowfly Infestation
4 Contagion Clasp
1 Contagion Engine
4 Everflowing Chalice
3 Profane Command
1 Tumble Magnet

I did some goldfishing, I was happy with it, and then I did what every self-respecting Magic-player had to do: look at the New Phyrexia-spoiler. This is no doubt the biggest leak in Magic I have ever consciously seen happening. I’ve heard stories of a big Judgment-leak thanks to MTGO Beta testers, but that was when I wasn’t as connected to Magic as I am now. This is really big and a kick in the sack for Wizards. I’d hate to be them right now, seeing your whole carefully planned spoiler season being thrown right out the window. I wish I couldn’t not look, but one way or another, I’m gonna see them eventually. I might as well look at it at my own wish. Not looking just isn’t an option, neither is pretending it didn’t happen. It did, and it spoiled the spoiler season for me too. I hope WotC speaks up soon; how could this have happened?

The problem with seeing a whole set at once is that I miss a lot by looking at it. During regular spoilers, you get like ten cards at best on a day. There isn’t anything else, so you can focus your attention on the handful of new cards. There’s usually an article or two from the mothership, and some others as well, that help focus your mind on the possibilities of card X. While I still will be enjoying reading these, the excitement for what the new card will be, will be mostly gone. And that sucks.

Not to let this prospect ruin my day, I was picked up by Robert and we drove to Eindhoven for a night of gaming. I carefully packed a number of decks: TezzeREDRUM, the Sisters-deck, Mono White Silver Control (Prototype Portal.dec), 5CC Angelfire (a Maelstrom Nexus-deck), Toshi (an Arcane deck that still holds the name of a guy who once was the face of the deck), MBCP, and Galvanotherapy. Before I left, I decided I wasn’t going to grief anyone there and I removed four Tainted Æthers, Hunted Troll and Grave Scrabbler for 3 Viscera Seers, 1 extra Shimmer Myr and 2 Gravediggers.

Unfortunately the evening didn’t see me winning one free-for-all game. I managed to split two games with Galvanotherapy one-on-one, but that was it. Lesson learned – never treat your ride home as your ride home. He’s an opponent that has just as much right to catch a lethal Profane Command as anyone else. That mistake, as well as discarding another Command, cost me a game. As I said: lesson learned. Still, I had some fun, even though the trading was very lacking too. Where do all those Braids of Fire go? Luckily, Robert provided me with all three Nexi I needed. At least my most expensive want was no more.

After the first game was over, we went to eat some kebab and I pondered about lacking a true multiplayer deck. I should build one. The ride home was a good one.

We talked about Melira, for example, and how insane she is with persist. And what cards Robert labeled ‘Stijn-kaarten’ – cards that are just made for me. Tezzeret’s Gambit is right up my alley. I have visions of casting the green Vindicate in a Furnace Celebration-deck. The set has so much goodies, but like I said, seeing it all at once is just too much for the human mind to process. Bummer.

Before I knew it I was home when Robert decided to elongate the ride to give us time to finish our discussion. Time flies when you’re having fun! I left the car promising Robert I’d join him again soon. And I will. At home I elaborated a bit on what Robert said about the Braid of Fire / Leyline / Obliterate-deck. Besides enchantments, planeswalkers are also Obliterate-proof. Did I mention I have a deck with three Jace the Mind Sculptors in it that I just can’t get to work properly?

Thursday, April 21st

Yesterday Robert liked the idea of using Lifespark Spellbomb to animate lands, shoot them down, then get the Spellbomb (or another card) back with Glissa. Animating lands entirely circumvents the problem you have when you run into a creature-light or -less deck. By killing there lands not only do you feed Glissa, you are hurting them a lot, because most decks that run few or no creatures need their mana real bad. Based on this logic, I created the third version of the Glissa deck, who is now sadly without her Fauna sister.

Glissa’s Deathspark v3.0

Lands (24)
4 Forest
2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Pendelhaven
7 Swamp
4 Tectonic Edge
4 Twilight Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Creatures (18)
3 Acidic Slime
4 Glissa, the Traitor
3 Memnite
4 Perilous Myr
4 Solemn Simulacrum

Other spells (18)
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Basilisk Collar
4 Lifespark Spellbomb
4 Mortarpod
2 Spawning Pit

The deck basically went from a Glissa deck with Fauna Shaman engine to a Glissa deck with Ancient Stirrings. Stirrings is no engine, since it’s just a one-shot sorcery, but it digs for equipment, which Fauna Shaman couldn’t. This is why a lot of the creatures were replaced by artifacts with similar abilities. Basilisk Collar is better than Painsmith, not depending on Shimmer Myr, while Spawning Pit is another sacrifice outlet instead of Viscera Seer (although I’m not sure here, since Seer scries and therefore digs a bit). So I also cut the Shimmer Myrs, and the Gravediggers, because I think Glissa isn’t an integral part of the deck anymore. I can win with attrition just as good without Glissa, although with her is obviously better. I do imagine what it’s like to have two Myr Retrievers bouncing around with Glissa, a sac outlet and Basilisk Collar involved.

One-of creatures suck without Fauna Shaman and I was able to add a threesome of Acidic Slimes, being a hybrid between the LD-package and having tremendous synergy with Mortarpod.

Satisfied with this idea, and with some trades worked out (Bogardan Hellkites for my Braid of Fire-deck, one Braid, three Edges, and possibly four Collars), there wasn’t much more Magic in my head. Only some random cards spooked in there, cards Braid of Fire could use: storage lands. Tezzeret’s Gambit. Volt Charge. Steady Progress. Iceberg! (I was onto Gemstone Array first, but being an enchantment, Iceberg seems better.)

Time to go to sleep. I started The Fifth Element and crawled into bed, left disappointed at the end of the movie. I’m a spoiled movie-viewer and way too critical.

Friday, April 22nd

The last day of my Magic-week, since this is the day I’m typing most of this. As always, I underestimated my deadline and am now writing at a frantic pace. I wish I’d learn timing in the future, but it seems to be a recurring problem throughout all my life. Someday, maybe. Someday.

I hope you enjoyed this oversight of week in my life, focusing on the Magic. I wanted to take the time at the end to ask you how you’ve liked my writing so far. Is there anything that you like, or anything that bugs you? I welcome any and all feedback that I can get, trying to become a better writer. Also, should there be any topics you’d like to see me tackle, don’t hold back and speak up. I’d like to be proactive for once and have topics to write about when I’m out of ideas – seems better than coming up with something on Friday forcefully and working a late night.

Thanks for reading and see you in seven!

(For those of you with an Xbox 360, this weekend is free Live weekend. This means that a pure offline player like myself ventures out into the wild to play some Duels of the Planeswalkers online. My gamertag is Stidjen NL – look for me if you’re up for a game and a chat!)

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Posted on April 23, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I don’t know where everyone else went, but its funny to read about how you can’t get Magic out of your head. I can’t either.

  1. Pingback: Thran Utopia #9: Of ducks and swans « Red Site Wins

  2. Pingback: Thran Utopia #14: Fish and crabs « Red Site Wins

  3. Pingback: Fish and crabs | Stidjen's Magic

  4. Pingback: Taking a leap | Stidjen's Magic

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