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Working with the Guildmagi
By Russell Sherman
     I am a member of a team. Well, sort of a team. More of a group, really, with some absolutely fabulous non-pros. I’m not sure exactly what we are. Casual players? Sometimes, often, but we also enjoy competition. We go to tournaments and draft fairly regularly, and make decklists, and watch the pros. We are a mix. We are about to become good. We may be the future.

     And I feel a little like Rizzo, because I’ve joined a team of players who are all as good or better than me, though not nearly at CMU’s level. But I’ve realized that we’re pretty decent Magic players.

     Chemistry class, 1:38 PM: Zadok wakes me from my doze during a lecture and passes me a sheet of paper. On the top is written “PT Tokyo winning decklist” and he follows it with his choice of a deck to win. His choice looks good. His choice looks damn good. It’s a solid deck. I review it and make a couple suggestions scribbled at the bottom of the page. One or two get accepted. The deck looks a little better, a little more stable. It looks like it can win a PT, when played well. I will not reveal anything about the deck, due to deference to my friends, but his deck looks like it will be a few cards off from the winner. I mention a couple things to him, namely some cards that trouble the deck. This is what I’m good at: devil’s advocate. Within a minute he fills out another sheet of paper. On the top of this is “Deck that only beats PT Tokyo winner” I smile and nod. I can build that deck, though I think a couple cards should be changed. I don’t argue the point, no big deal. Then I draw up MY decklist. I will feel free to share my decklist with you, though it’s not as effective as Zadok’s.

4 Charging Troll
4 Noble Panther
4 Thornscape Familiar
4 Armadillo Cloak
4 Heroes reunion
4 Jade Leech
2 Angel of Mercy
4 Wax/wane
4 Thornscape Apprentice
2 Fleetfoot panther
24 Basic lands

     He doodles little question marks besides some of my card. Why Heroes Reunion? I expect Rage to be all over the place. I even expect to see “Loses to harsh judgement.dec” Reunion hurts rage decks.
Charging troll MUST meet with a Terminate, in general. Familiars are aggressive and lower the casting cost on almost every other card in the deck. Panthers are just the best 3 mana creatures in IBC, nothing else is 3 for a 3/3, but Radiant Kavu, and that’s color-specific. Cloak is just solid gold, hurting Rage decks and making anything a threat, Panthers save your creatures really well, and the Apprentices are decent 1-drops, as well as tappers, and it’s hard to find good 1-drops these days. Angels are my token flyers.

     He dismisses my deck. It lacks oomph. He’s right. “What you need,” he says, “Is something untargetable.”
     “*cough*Blastoderm*cough*” I reply.
     He grins “Yep”

     Aaron Forsynth was wrong, at least about one thing. Tech SHOULD be free, so here’s some free tech for y’all:

     “Wait, I got it! Blurred mongoose!”
     When I first saw it I dismissed it, then I played with it in an early Fires and it did well, but it wasn’t quite as versatile as I thought, so I replaced it with River Boa. Now River Boa isn’t legal in IBC, but Mongoose is, and untargetability can prove VERY troublesome to many decks out there.
     “You’re right!” he says. I grin. Not everyday I get something right…
     So I begin to write down a new deck. “You know what you need?” Dave comments. “Burn.”
     “Uh, Green/white, remember?”
     “So make it green/red.”
     I raise an eyebrow but do as he says; perhaps I’d prematurely dismissed IBC fires.

4 Blurred Mongoose
4 Thornscape Familiar
4 Urza’s Rage
4 Assault/battery

     Okay, so we have the basic setup. The Mongoose was the start of the deck, and the Familiar is a good creature as well as dropping the CC on many following creatures. Aggression it is… Playing the Best Burn Spell Ever, and assault/battery is a VERY versatile card that is usually a slow shock, but can be a body against low-creature decks.

     “I need more burn.”
     “Ghitu fire?”
     “Booya.”

3 Ghitu fire
4 Skizzik
3 Jade leech
3 Fires of Yavimaya

     “You sure Jade Leeches shouldn’t be Aggressors?”
     “5/5’s are some good, I hear.” Fatties are the one true road to victory. The first fatty you don’t deal with is the one that kills you.
     “Yeah, I guess.”

     Now we’re looking like fires. Skizzik is a great creature, and a potential turn 3 drop with a familiar, turn 4 if you want to keep him. Fires is just so versatile that I needed a couple. Besides, it’s cheap and it is often quite effective, in that they may not have time to respond to your creature before it hits them.

     “Arghh! I don’t want to use Hull Breach! It’s decent, but there are better cards!” I dislike useless second abilities.
     “So splash white, run Rithlands, or Elfhame Palaces and wax/wane.”
     Okay.

4 Wax/wane

     And I have 5 spots just sitting open, staring at me, saying “You don’t have what you need to win!”
     What do I need to win? 1 and 3 drops. Ahh… I soon give up the idea of one drops. There are no amazing one drops (The best first turn spell is Opt) and I may end up running Elfhame palaces. So we decide to forget that, and I look for good three drops.
     “Kavu Aggressor” offers Dave.
I decline, surely there must be a better 3-drop than 3 for a 3/2 that cannot block! Radiant Kavu is too mana-reliant, but surely there must be something.
     “There’s got to be a good 3 drop.” The best I could find was Pincer Spiders.
     “Or a good red 4 drop.” He points to the 4 Thornscape Familiars.
     “Yeah!” There aren’t many.
Flametongue Kavus are decent, but I worry that against a creature-light deck, they could end up dead cards. So it’s Ancient Kavu or Kavu Aggressor, and the aggressor is one cheaper and often is not something that they want to bounce with Rushing River or Recoil.

     “Ohmigod! I’ve got it!”
     “What?”
     “Uh, um, pro blue, 2/2! Bears….” The name just won’t come.
     “Yavimaya barbarians?”
     “Yeah, that’s it.”
     “Score!”
     Both of us fully expect blue to be everywhere, so untargetability is a tempting power. Plus they’re another warm body that can be sideboarded out for the 1 out of 4 non-blue decks that will show up. And 2 Kavu Aggressors, to please Dave, though I’m still looking for a better drop. So the final decklist looks like this:

Download this deck in Apprentice .dec.txt format!

4 Blurred Mongoose
4 Thornscape Familiar
3 Yavimaya Barbarian
2 Kavu Aggressor
4 Skizzik
3 Jade Leech
4 Assault/Battery
4 Urza’s Rage
3 Ghitu Fire
4 Wax/Wane
3 Fires of Yavimaya

4 Elfhame Palace
11 Mountains
9 Forests

Sideboard:
2 Kavu Chameleon
4 Mages' Contest
4 Scorching Lava
2 Hull Breach
1 Ghitu Fire
2 Wallop

     Sideboarding has always been my weakness, so I’m not sure how this will go. Against a blue/black deck, side in the Chameleons and Wallops. Possibly the Ghitu fire. Use hull breach if you feel they have important artifacts/enchantments. Mages' Contest is darn effective, as they often aren’t expecting you to have any Counterspells, and can be at very low life.
     If they are playing red/black, the Scorching Lavas kill Pyre Zombies, and Simoons are good in this. Jade Leech is fat, and the Barbarians aren’t too good, so they can go out. Wallop perhaps, to take out Blazing and Doomsday Specters.
     White/blue is okay, but I don’t expect much of it. Wallop is good again, if they have flyers, and Hull Breach could prove useful if they rely on powerful enchantments. The Kavu Chameleon is great, here. So is Mages' Contest, as red normally doesn’t have Counterspells.
     Against w/g side in the burn and the Chameleons. Out-fat and out-burn them. The Scorching Lavas can be good against regenerators.
     In a mirror match, you have a Ghitu Fire and Scorching Lava and Mages' Contest. Take out the Barbarians. I have not tested sideboarding extensively, so feel free to use your own variations on it.

-Russell Sherman

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