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Type Fun's Taiga Belcher
By Stephen O. Bahl
This article was originally written for the "Type Fun" blog operated by CPA members Oversoul
and Al0ysiusHWWW. All such articles archived here were written by one or both of those individuals.

Goblin Charbelcher is a very versatile card.

It has been used to kill creatures, to deal small bursts of damage to opponents, as an alternate or backup win condition, and, most famously, as a primary kill card. Even with that last one, there's significant variation. I've faced opponents who used Goblin Recruiter to stack the top of their libraries with creatures. I've faced opponents who used Proteus Staff to stack the bottom of their libraries with lands. I've faced opponents who used Mana Severance to clear their libraries of lands. I've faced opponents who used Land Tax to pull lands from their libraries. But perhaps the best way to set up a kill with Goblin Charbelcher is to simply build a deck with very few lands.

That is exactly what I set out to do back in 2004. Before then, Type 1.5 was a mostly ignored format that had a banned list which consisted of everything on the Vintage (Type 1) banned list and everything on the Vintage restricted list. But Wizards of the Coast changed everything by separating the lists from each other. A new format, Legacy, was born with its own banned list. Al0ysiusHWWW and I were becoming skilled players and he was just getting back into the game at this time, so we began working to build decks for the new format. Like everyone else, we had no idea what to do. No one knew for sure what would be best in a brand new format.

One of the decks we tried to build was a Belcher deck. In Vintage, Goblin Charbelcher was the centerpiece of the well-known "2-Land Belcher." This deck got its name from literally using only two lands: one Tropical Island and one Bayou. The choice to use two dual lands was motivated by Land Grant, which can find forests (including dual lands that count as forests). This combined with the use of several free mana-producers like the Moxes, Black Lotus, Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, Elvish Spirit Guide, Dark Ritual, etc. allowed the deck to play the spells it needed to find and deploy Goblin Charbelcher, at which point there would almost always be 0-1 lands left in the player's library, which meant a whole lot of damage for the opponent.

The problem was that in Legacy, we didn't have all of the restricted mana-producers to speed things up. Boosting the number of lands in the deck could mitigate this problem, except more lands meant fewer cards that Belcher would run through before stopping. I saw others at the time try to stick with the Bayou/Tropical Island model. That wasn't what Al0ysiusHWWW and I did. Initially, we tried out a "4-land Belcher" approach with four copies of Taiga. Twice as many lands, but Taiga counting as a forest meant that Land Grant could find it and Taiga counting as a mountain meant that Goblin Charbelcher would deal double the damage, making up for the smaller amount of cards it would run through before hitting a land.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the 4-5 lands we'd been testing with was too much. When the deck ran well, it ran very well, but it was inconsistent. If I was unlucky, I'd run into a land after turning over two cards, so I knew my opponent would only take 4 damage and have at least a turn to stop me from trying again. This was especially bad considering that Lion's Eye Diamond was often used to pay for the Charbelcher activation, meaning my hand would be empty. I know others independently did something similar (the pool of cards one might use in this sort of deck isn't very large), but I moved on toward this decklist...

4x Seething Song
4x Eladamri's Vineyard
4x Living Wish
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Urza's Bauble
4x Enlightened Tutor
2x Conjurer's Bauble
1x Taiga
1x Bayou
4x Tinder Wall
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Lotus Petal
4x Chrome Mox
4x Elvish Spirit Guide
4x Dark Ritual
4x Land Grant
4x Goblin Charbelcher

Two lands again. But one of them is still a Taiga. The Bayou was to help with Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual. I posted this decklist to a message board in September of 2004. Here were the notes I included in that post...

It goldfishes beautifully but it hates Force of Will. A brief explanation of card choices:

The Baubles: Well, Urza's Baubles are free card drawing and this deck could use that. The Conjurer's Baubles are even worse. But the deck needed to fill those slots with something that wasn't dead weight.

The Lands/Grants: Land Grant is a staple of Belcher decks. You really want to get the lands out of the deck and into play. Always go for the Bayou first. Black Mana is good for the rits. The Taiga is included because it can cast Seething Song and won't hurt as much if left in the deck while comboing off.

The Tutors: This deck must win as early as possible. If it does not draw its kill, then it can afford to cast Enlightened Tutor to find it.

The mana acceleration (Seething Song, Eladamri's Vineyard, Cabal Ritual, Tinder Wall, Lion's Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, Elvish Spirit Guide, Dark Ritual): If Charbelcher is the heart of the deck, these make up the body that supports it. Turn 1 is this deck's fundamental turn because it packs the most efficient mana acceleration in the format.

The Living Wishes: Were not my first choice, but they are an interesting one. Cards like Gemstone Mine or City of Traitors can go in the sideboard to help the deck go off if it needs either more mana or mana of a certain color. It may also be a good idea to have some sort of beatstick in the board as an alternative to going off with the combo. I haven't developed a sideboard yet though...

It's a bit odd, because this was never my favorite archetype, but I actually have another decklist from around what must have been the same time period. I don't have any notes on this one, but I'd guess that I built it to help circumvent the Force of Will problem...

3x Goblin Welder
4x Tinder Wall
4x Mishra's Bauble
4x Urza's Bauble
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Seething Song
4x Duress
4x Lotus Petal
4x Chrome Mox
4x Elvish Spirit Guide
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Dark Ritual
4x Land Grant
4x Goblin Charbelcher
3x Taiga

3-Land Belcher? I must say that it seems unusual to me too. Goblin Welder and Duress were both there to fight Force of Will and other counters. The extra Taiga might have been to help make sure Welder could come out as early as possible. I also have an incomplete "sideboard" for this decklist that I think was basically other cards I was testing. It included Xantid Swarm and Gigapede.

As with all of my posts on old decks, these decklists are not optimal. But I don't think these are quite as outdated as the ones in my previous "Old Deck" posts. I'm a bit more proud of these and would like to think my deckbuilding work on Belcher was a little ahead of its time. If I were to enter a Legacy tournament now, I might go with something pretty similar. But there are some new cards that weren't available when I originally composed these decklists. Some nice additions I'd consider would be Desperate Ritual (certainly not new anymore, but it was printed just after I made these lists) Simian Spirit Guide, Street Wraith, and Manamorphose.

Read More Articles by Stephen O. Bahl!

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