Welcome to my first article on Legitmtg.com! My name is bigheadjoe, and I’m one of the cohosts of Yo! MTG Taps! along with Stephen Marshall and, whenever he decides to return to the show, Joey Pasco. We’re really excited to be a part of the LegitMTG.com family, and look forward to bringing you what we truly feel is one of the premier MTG podcasts every other Thursday. (I know that sounds a little conceited, but we’re pretty busy people and we wouldn’t waste our time producing something we didn’t feel was worth listening to. Besides, we didn’t get as far as we have due to subtlety.) For those of you who are unfamiliar with our show, and especially those of you who missed last week’s episode with Pro Tour Journey into Nyx Champion Patrick Chapin, all of our past episodes are available at iwantmymtg.com.
Since we’re only doing the show biweekly right now, we wanted to put something out on the off weeks that best represented our approach to the game; and, if there’s one thing Stephen and I love, it’s the lunatic fringe of competitive magic. Nothing satisfies us more than winning matches with decks no human has any business winning with. Take, for instance, Stephen making the finals of Journey into Nyx Game Day playing 4 Color Tokens, including 4 copies of Master Biomancer. The deck was inspired by the deck that won TX states as well as a deck Craig Wescoe wrote about. For a deck he called “4 Color Tokens,” he had zero copies of Elspeth main, and two copies in the sideboard. When I insisted he add the Elspeths to the main, he defiantly cut one from the 75 to add a Progenitor Mimic to the main. Such is the plague of the happy-go-lucky rogue.
Basically with Sylvan Caryatid and Mana Confluence you can play as many colors as you want, and if you have main deck life-gain (Archangel of Thune, Courser of Kruphix) you won’t really get punished for it. In the top 8 of Game Day, I did get to live the dream with Progenitor Mimic copying Master Biomancer, but in the end, Naya is probably a superior deck, as more copies of Elspeth + more removal (Mizzium Mortars) would have been much more useful than what blue brought to the table. This deck is a prime example of the most common brewing pitfall, doing something that feels really cool but doesn’t actually add to the expected win percentage of the deck. The payoff for putting Progenitor Mimic (and to a lesser degree, Master Biomancer) in your deck is the look on your opponent’s face when it works. The cost however, is less wins. In the finals, I was partially reminded why I stopped playing white & green creatures this Standard season as my hand was mercilessly dismantled by the buddy cop duo of Thoughtseize and Lifebane Zombie. I paid the price for getting to make 14/16 Master Biomancer tokens one round as I stared helplessly at my bro, Progenitor Mimic, chillaxing in the exile zone. I sighed, and made an ultimately futile prayer to the top-deck gods, old and new, for my (stupidly) one-of Elspeth…
A Brief History
I’ve been playing magic for 19 years now, and for most of those years I was vehemently opposed to even the vaguest notion of “net decking.” To me, constructing a deck of one’s own design was as vital a part of the game as the games themselves, and to copy a decklist found online was an unforgivable crime of the highest order. As internet access became more widespread, and net decks virtually unavoidable, I came to accept and appreciate them, while still stubbornly refusing to play them myself.
Looking back now, I built decks quite similar to many present-day Commander decks: I took a theme or a card that I loved and built a deck around it, ignoring standard rotations, and evolving the deck with new cards as each set was released. The idea of set rotation, and specifically no longer being allowed to play my terrible Yavimaya Ants, was so off-putting that I did what many commander players do and refused to play standard for almost 5 years. Instead, I would jam my janky brews against Joey’s significantly stronger decks, losing almost exclusively while maintaining my creative integrity. My 3 favorites over the years were Mono Green Ramp Stompy (Llanowar/Fyndhorn Elves, Fyndhorn Elder, Yavimaya Ants, Force of Nature, hope you don’t have a Terror or a Royal Assassin, oops Kenny always has those, guess I lose), Mono Blue Mill (named “Wheel and Deal for the Win” since I wanted to really bother people by winning with such a bad card), and Odyssey/Onslaught-era Tribal Zombies.
This mindset persisted until about Summer 2009. Years of losing to real decks (including probably 1000+ losses to Joey playing Faeries) took their toll on my resolve, and I decided I wanted to start being more competitive. This led to Joey and I having epic gchat strategy sessions that eventually led to the podcast we’ve been making for almost 5 years. While those discussions didn’t immediately translate to spiking a PTQ, they did lead to a gradual change in my approach to the game that subsequently led to vast improvements in my play, and in my results.
So what changed? For starters, I simply started playing better cards. Even if I decided to play a deck of my own design, I used a selection of the strongest cards in standard as a jumping off point for that design. There’s really no point in bringing a knife to a gunfight when you can simply bring along a second gun on the off chance your primary gun stops working.
|Second, I started realizing that, inasmuch as individually strong cards are powerful weapons, the top-tier decks are finely-tuned weapons as well. I opened my mind to playing net decks, although I still held a great deal of disdain for the more ubiquitous decks in any particular standard season. I called for the banning of Bloodbraid Elf in Standard very loudly on our podcast, which, despite Mike Flores giving me hell for doing so, ended up being banned in an even more powerful format several years later. So bite me, Mike. 🙂 I still feel to this day that my biggest breakthrough in terms of expanding my MTG horizons was allowing Mike to talk me into playing the RGB boogeyman and out of Mono Red for GP DC in 2010. I still made some fringe card choices (Sarkhan the Mad) and didn’t have much success in the event. What I did do was give myself a fighting chance with a proven archetype, and it felt great. Actually, what felt REALLY great was sitting across from my round 1 opponent Ian Rudy (thanks, planeswalkerpoints.com!) and having him recognize my voice from the podcast. We were still pretty new on the scene so this was one of the first times that ever happened, and I have to admit it felt really cool. The cooler thing was the look on that guy’s face when I played turn 1 Savage Lands. Surprised is an understatement. Disappointed/bemused is more accurate though.||
3 of my Sarkhan the Mad “Dagron” tokens from GP DC 2010. @mrscottymac
Today, I’m perfectly happy to play SCG Open or GP top 8 decks on the regular, but that doesn’t mean my urge to create decks has waned in the slightest. My hope is to use this space to explore some of our nuttier ideas. I’ll be writing the majority of the articles, but Stephen may contribute on occasion. Since I’m not a huge fan of Eternal formats (Commander, Legacy, Modern, etc) my articles will mostly be focused on exploring the design space of Standard. I’m working towards a greater tolerance of Modern since, these days, my idea of fun is playing Magic competitively, and hating on Modern eliminates an entire season of PTQ play. However, I don’t have enough knowledge of the format to be able to even scratch the surface of designing decks for it. (Naturally, my first instinct was to want to build UB Mill for this summer. Stephen talked me out of it I think. I’m probably going to start with Burn since I at least know how to count to 20.) If there are any Modern decks in future articles, they will be of Stephen’s design.
It’s important to go into my future articles here with a clear understanding of what to expect. I am not presenting these decks as the next big thing. If your idea of fun is winning PTQs or GPs, I do not advise playing any of the decks I will be posting. Play the best decks. However, if you love diving into mostly unexplored archetypes, have fun being the person in the room that nobody is prepared to sideboard against, or are simply bored of your competitive deck and want something off the wall to sleeve up for FNM, these decks are for you. Still, don’t expect to run the tables with them. (but definitely let me know if you do!) It’s important to understand the mindset required to play a rogue deck in an event that may include decks that are more proven than yours. Just because you’re at FNM with a unique brew doesn’t mean that everyone else is required to do the same. You will lose to Mono Black Devotion most of the time if you are playing Tribal Minotaurs. It’s important to be accepting of this fact before you even pay your entry fee. The fun in playing fringe decks isn’t taking down an entire event, this simply isn’t a reasonable expectation. The fun lies in individual wins, and the occasional upset versus a tier 1 deck. The most important thing is to understand that, while playing this sort of deck might be your idea of fun, fun is entirely subjective, and playing Esper Control might be someone elses idea of fun, which is totally OK. (and why I don’t play Commander, but that’s an entirely different article)
Come back in 2 weeks when I make one last desperate attempt to spike the price of Dark Prophecy so I can cash out these 50 or so copies of the card I own.
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