Stacks on Stacks on Stacks (SCG Columbus, Top 32)

Written by Michael Augustine on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Stacks on Stacks on Stacks (SCG Columbus, Top 32)

Michael Augustine

Auggie lives for migraine-inducing decks, questionable teen pop and energy drinks. The self-proclaimed MacGyver of combo, one of these days he may even figure out how to attack with creatures ...

If any of you have heard of me, it’s probably because I received a match loss a few years back at the Ohio Valley Regionals for standing on a chair and yelling “MORTAL KOMBAAAT!” at the top of my lungs. I am no professional cardboard slinger. But last weekend I got to live the dream, playing one of my favorite creations to a semi-respectable 6-2-1 Legacy finish at SCG Columbus for a cool 26th place.

I can’t imagine anyone wants to read a nine-round report from a Goblin Charbelcher deck. But this deck has a few things to offer, and I learned a few things in my brief time with the archetype. Someone once said that playing Belcher was about as complicated as counting to seven — and that’s hard to argue with — but there’s something inside of me that loves ending my opponent on the first turn. Maybe because I’m selfish, maybe because I like going to the bathroom and actually eating food at tournaments. Regardless, this build offers more first-turn kills than any other deck in the format; it’s cheaper than traditional belcher; and it’s more rewarding to play.

How not to win

As a general rule, I can usually lump my losses playing Belcher into one or more of the following categories:

  • Countermagic — Shrug it off. Force of Will IS SUPPOSED to beat you. Occasionally you’ll pull it out a few turns later, but accept the fact that it’s probably not going to happen, especially at higher levels of play. (Discard can fall into this category as well.) If you’re playing Belcher, you’ve resigned to trading resiliency for speed, right?
  • Poor openers — Sometimes you’ve got a hand full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Sometimes you’ve got six Spirit Guides and an Empty the Warrens. You optimize your kill spell to ritual spell ratio, and trust in the math.
  • Sideboard hate — As an early Belcher, I remember my opponent dropping Leyline of Sanctity and me patting myself on the back for having a Hull Breach in my board. Then I became a Belching Man, and I put away childish things. All too often, those sideboard cards are red herrings in traditional belcher. They may make you feel better, but 10 times out of 10 you will not be the person turning in the match slip.
  • Post-combo failure — This was the worst. I got tired of my own bad beat stories where the Taiga is the third card, where my opponent rips the Engineered Explosives — and most recently, where a pair of Deathrite Shamans chump/lifegain my goblins into token oblivion.

The reality of the situation is that the first two scenarios will always happen — because they should. It is the nature of glass-cannon combo, and like it or not that is a great thing for Magic. The third and fourth scenarios, however, felt like personal failures. Like I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. So I set out to eliminate them, and so far I’m pretty happy with the results. This is the monstrosity that I brought to SCG Columbus:

At its core, this is essentially zero-land Belcher. That means that 50 percent of the time, you cast rituals, generate a bunch of mana, and belch idiots. No big deal. The other 50 percent of the time, you get to make magic happen. No lands means No dead Land Grants! No non-lethal Belches! Actual zero Wasteland targets. I know it sounds ridiculous, but leaning on that Taiga for even a turn can have disastrous consequences in Legacy. You don’t have to buy a Taiga!

It also means we can RECROSS THE PATHS! Because there is no land in the deck, skip over the card’s text until you get to “Put the revealed cards on the bottom of your library in any order.” Casting Recross allows us to reveal our deck, and then stack it in absolutely any order, top to bottom. You can then sculpt the perfect stack, ultimately ending in a lethal Charbelcher activation. With some creative stacking, you can also remove pesky hate permanents such as Leyline of Sanctity or Gaddock Teeg and still kill your opponent in one swoop, often on the same turn. (It’s worth noting that any opening hand with Meditate cannot win with a Recross the Paths. At least not that I’ve figured out. You need the Meditate in the deck if you’re planning on Recrossing.)

To kill after casting Recross the Paths, you need to accomplish one of the following:

  • Draw two cards (Via the “cantrips” — Gitaxian Probe, Street Wraith, Manamorphose — or natural draws if necessary.)
  • OR have three mana floating (one of which must be U, G or R) and draw one card. (An earlier version of the list also included one Night’s Whisper in the maindeck, which allows you to go off with two mana floating (B, G or R) and drawing one card.)

The basic stacks

Level 1

With three mana floating and a cantrip:

You cast the Meditate (no mana floating), then play your three LEDs. Cast Gitaxian Probe, maintain priority and respond by sacrificing your three LEDs for nine mana. Then Probe will resolve. Draw your Goblin Charbelcher and activate targeting your opponent. The last LED is just good practice, in case they have a Stifle for your Charbelcher (it’s happened), so you can try again the following turn if necessary.

If you have two cantrips and no mana floating, put that last LED in front of the Meditate. Cantrip once to get the LED, cantrip a second time (respond by blowing the LED for UUU), then draw the Meditate and begin.

Easy, right? Now, here’s where the magic happens.

Level 2

Let’s say your opponent has Leyline of Sanctity in play, which prevents you from targeting them with your Charbelcher (sad face). Original Belcher would have to rely on Empty the Warrens and hope that the storm count was high enough. (Nothing looks worse than a Spirit Guide when every two goblins counts.) With this build, you can cast Recross the Paths, naturally drawn or off a Burning Wish, and put an end to those anxiety-ridden main phases. Here is how you would stack your deck to kill the Leyline, and then kill them, at the same time:

That’s 20 spells right there, not counting whatever rituals you may have cast beforehand.

Extra credit

Here’s one I had to put together on the fly when my opponent played Pernicious Deed. The 3x LED plan won’t work because they could blow Deed for zero in response to you casting your second/third LED to kill your first.

After Meditate, cast your LED. Then cast Gitaxian Probe and (maintaining priority), cycle both Street Wraiths, then (maintaining priority still), blow your LED for RRR. With RRR floating, resolve your cantrips, cast your Songs (RRRRRRR), and you’re left with enough mana to cast and activate Charbelcher.

LESSONS LEARNED

Thinking on your feet is important with a deck like this, particularly because I’m still working out some intricacies myself. In Round 5, I played out a bunch of rituals and cantrips, cast Burning Wish, and almost instinctively grabbed Empty the Warrens on Turn 1. However, after TANKING for a solid 20 seconds, I saw that I could Wish for Past in Flames, recast my rituals and two Gitaxian Probes I had drawn through to create a lethal Recross the Paths pile that wasn’t available in my opening seven. Instead of making 10 goblins and waiting two or more turns, I killed my opponent immediately.

My two losses were to Reanimator and Jund. (I played out the ID in Round 9 for funnies — turns out he was playing Zoo and I rolled him). Reanimator is a rough matchup for any combo deck. They’ve got Force of Will and Daze (in this case, Spell Pierce also), Thoughtsieze and a fast clock. No problem chalking that one up, although I was Spirit Guide away from beating him through Turn 2 Iona, Shield of Emeria naming red. The basic Recross the Paths stack only uses blue, green and artifact cards.

My other loss was to Jund. This should be a great matchup because their disruption doesn’t start until Turn 1. However, I just couldn’t make it happen. Possibly made some greedy keeps, but it just didn’t come together. Thankfully, 10K Champion Adam Prosak was there to remind me that my deck — like all combo decks — has a failure rate. This was the only time it happened all day, so I’m willing to accept that.

As far as I can tell, the maindeck is tighter than hipster jeans. All we’re running are the cheapest, non-land mana sources, 12 “cantrips,” and 11 “kill” cards. The only thing I’ve seriously considered is swapping one Pyretic Ritual for one Night’s Whisper (as mentioned above), but the situation in which it’s relevant has come up a grand total of twice, and drawing the Whisper in opening hands was questionable.

As for the sideboard, about half the slots are probably complete useless. Like running seven Relentless Rats useless. Here’s what we need:

1. Recross the Paths
2. Infernal Contract
3. Grapeshot
4. Hull Breach
5. Flame Slash (mainly for Thalia, Guardian of Thraben)
6. Empty the Warrens
7. Past in Flames

From here, it gets hazy. Because we don’t run that Taiga as a repeatable mana source, I recommend against things like Xantid Swarm — your deck is a heater, don’t muddle the mixture. As for other Burning Wish targets, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tendrils of Agony/Bribery/Telemin Performance could win you a game or two, but at that point we’re talking gorilla-math odds. I’d imagine these slots will fill themselves with situational Wish targets as I get more testing in.

If you’re looking for a deck that’s a great mix of speed, memorization, problem-solving, self-importance and masochism, sleeve it up and give it a go. Worst case scenario, you’ll still have a bunch of time between rounds to crush at some BIG TWO!

Props

  • Peter Johnson, for putting up with my babbling about stacks on stacks on stacks …
  • Matt Kranstuber, for putting enough faith in me to spec on some Recross the Paths, even though they’re like 12 cents a piece.
  • Adam J Prosak and Ari Lax for some fantastic commentating, I tip my paperclip to you sirs.
  • Lopey and Executive Producer John Douglass for the rides, Mark Larson for the cardboards.

NON-PROPS

• Lands.

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