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My Side Of The Argument: Manaholics Anonymous
By David Sutcliffe
I am quitting Magic, and it is hard.

In fact it is so hard that it has become very apparent to me over the last month or so
that something is missing from all Magic: The Gathering boosters and starters,
namely a government health warning. This habit is harder to break than Crack
Cocaine - there need to be government-sponsored support groups for people trying to
quit because it`s virtually impossible to do. Trying to break it off cold turkey has
gotten so bad I`ve taken to walking around with a Blastoderm stuck on my arm so that
I can get a controlled daily dose of ‘Tight Mised Tings’ and my doctor suggests that
over the next few weeks I could try to cut the dose, possibly to a Chimeric Idol, and
maybe even as far as a Blurred Mongoose or Spiketail Hatchling if I feel that I am
making enough progress.

Surgeon General`s Warning: Playing Magic may lead to addiction and poverty. Do
you really need to buy more cards?


My name`s David, and I`m a Manaholic.


It all started at Nationals were my determination to become the English National
Champion by drafting a solid 4-2 or 5-1 record then piloting Tomi Walaamies
amazing Fish deck to a 6-0 record against people playing with Islands was cruelly
shattered by the mother, father, and possibly godparents, of all mana screws. I posted
3-3, but was in no mood to play any more Magic and so dropped out and didn`t play
day two. The decision was made that I was going to quit Magic and never look at
another card again.

That conviction lasted approximately 24 hours, by which time I was back online to
tell everybody I was quitting the game. At some point during the mourning period as
people began to take in what a terrible gap my quitting would leave in their lives
somebody said something I didn`t agree with (I think it might have been “B/W Arena
is amazing and will be be dominant in the new T2”, something utterly nonsensical
like that) and I got drawn into a two hour long argument about what the best decks
were going to be.
So much for cold turkey.
In truth I`m quite proud of myself, despite all the hype I`ve played barely an hour of
IBC games and have studiously avoided finding out what is good, bad, or indifferent
in the format. Lots of people have asked me for advice and the only thing I can tell is
that I like Pernicious Deed, but that I might be very wrong about that. The main
reason I have succesfully avoided IBC discussion is that I think the format is a
complete ripoff because of how heavily it is weighted towards Apocalypse Rares -
evidence the deck Brian Kowal won the Origins PTQ with, which was no less than
1/3 Apocalypse Rares, and whats more each of those rares would be selling for way in
excess of $10. Right there right then to be competitive in IBC it was obvious I would
need to spend another $200.
Bah humbug.
Card shops everywhere must be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of opening
another Shivan Reef or Mystic Snake.

So I`m not doing IBC. I still find T2 to be stale and dull and boring, just as I
predicted it would be a year ago when you all flamed me for saying so, and besides
the last time I played T2 was possibly January, maybe November of last year, and the
next time I`ll be playing it will probably be next year`s Nationals, so I`m not doing T2
either. That leaves limited, which I still enjoy and will probably continue to attend,
and it leaves extended, which I`m rapidly falling in love with. In short extended has
all the cards I love to play with in (those are the ones with little Stormclouds, Bridges,
or Flasks on them) and for the meanwhile I`m willing to tolerate the continued
survival of the long-hated dual lands, just because they let me build some very
entertaining decks.

Designing for extended at the moment is quite unusual as the format is not going to
be a PTQ season until much later this year (there is the IBC season then a Limited
Season) and so the majority of people aren`t interested, and yet at the same time an
elite few are designing like mad for the Extended portion of the World
Championships. Add to that the fact that this s the first major tournament since the
bannings that destroyed almost the entirity of the first tier of extended decks and the
field is wide open. I think wide open to the extent that possibly no one person has a
really good grasp on just what the format is going to look like at Worlds.
The widely accepted movers and shakers are Oath, Stasis, and Sligh, and a lot of
people add RectorPebbles and Turboland to that list. After that there are fans of
White Weenie, Tinker, Pandeburst, Draw-Go, CounterSliver, and Stompy
(#apprentice is, perhaps unsurprisingly, wall to wall Stompy players).
All very interesting, but I`m a designer not a player, and whats more I pride myself on
playing cards other people would merely scoff at (maybe one day I`ll tell you about
my TSE infinite damage deck using Keeper Of The Beasts) and so you cannot
realistically give me such a huge card pool as Extended and not expect me to come up
with something a little ... different.

Vindictive Pox

Back in the last PTQ season I co-designed a U/B version of Pox with Sean McKeown
that I dubbed ‘Lilting Pox’ because of it’s use of Lilting Refrain to beat the Trix
decks, and that deck was a very strong competitor, albeit one that was almost ignored
because so few people were playing it. The Pox deck lost Demonic Consultation in
the bannings, and that was actually quite a blow as the old build of Pox was very
dependent on casting Pox, and really rather enjoyed having Consults to find them
when it needed. Without Consult a Pox deck would need to be able to play much
better as a control deck if it didn`t draw the Pox, and we are very fortunate that
Apocalypse has given us just those tools in the form of Gerrard`s Verdict and
Vindicate - the new Pox deck will be WB, not UB.

4 Duress
4 Funeral Charm
4 Cursed Scroll
1 Vampiric Tutor
4 Gerrards Verdict
2 Seal of Cleansing/Diabolic Edict (depends on how you view the metagame)
4 Vindicate
4 Pox
2 Spinning Darkness

4 Chimeric Idol
3 Nether Spirit

3 Wasteland
1 City Of Brass
2 Gemstone Mine
4 Scrubland
4 Caves Of Koilos
10 Swamp

SB:
4 Sanctimony
2 Seal Of Cleansing
1 Aura Fracture
3 Perish
3 Massacre
2 Defense Grid

The core of the old Pox deck is still there - Pox, Duress, Funeral Charm, Cursed
Scroll, and the extremely synergetic Chimeric Idol and Nether Spirit. In addition we
now had Gerrards Verdict and Vindicate, both of which fit snugly into the design.
Comparisons between Hymn To Tourach and Gerrards Verdict are not entirely unfair,
although Verdict is possibly only half the card Hymn was the fact remains that a 2-1
card swap for just two mana is a very attractive proposition and is certainly a tight fit
into this deck.
Vindicate is a card I am at the same time both far happeir to see in my deck, and also
worry about what it does to my mana curve. Back in the UB design I made sweeping
changes to the deck that Sean had first built because I felt that the mana curve was
very badly thought out and overly-weighted to 3cc spells, and so I deliberately cut a
lot of 3cc spells to 2cc. Yet in this version I find myself doing the opposite and
putting more 3cc spells back in, which naturally makes me fairly uncomfortable. The
arguments I am using to justify this apparently retrograde step are:
1) I took Recoil out, I`m putting Vindicate in. Vindicate > Recoil.
2) The environment is a little slower now without the widespread threat of not seeing
your fourth turn, thus three casting cost spells are more playable.
3) John Ormerod told me to.
Whatever the reasons I`m glad I did include four Vindicate, as the utlity removal they
give me, especially in a deck like Pox where you can often find yourself playing as an
LD strategy in one game, and as a removal strategy in another, to be almost
universally useful.

Pox`s best matchups are Oath, Draw-Go, and the creature-based decks, what it
struggles most against are the combo decks because while it has plenty of disruption
the kill can often by quite slow if you dont see an Idol, and so they have time to draw
into the combo again. In particular I think that the counterspells and mana-denial in
Stasis decks will be uniquely difficult. The sideboard currently is largely up in the
air, and plumps for solid colour hosers for the aggressive decks that are more popular
at lower levels of competition.


Rector Gadget

Rector Gadget is a deck I love to bits, I played it extensively as a block constructed
deck back in UBC and following the departure of Survival of the Fittest from
Extended the combination of Pattern of Rebirth and Academy Rector becomes the
strongest search engine available. The way the search engine works however is very
different to how the Survival decks worked - Survival, in combination with Squee and
187 creatures like Avalanche Riders, allowed players to build up a powerful card
advantage and win a long drawn out game by pure power. The Pattern/Rector engine
on the other hand is almost always a one-shot affair, once you get either Pattern or
Rector into play you can usually search your library for any one card and put it
DIRECTLY INTO PLAY - this engine rewards not gradual building of resources, but
dropping a huge bomb and using it to win, and we have to use that in the construction
of the deck.
In addition the deck contains the potential to draw a third turn kill, which is a potent
threat in and of itself for anybody who is unaible to disrupt your development. Often
you`ll not find yourself in a position to succesfully use the combo, and so you`ll
simply dig out an appropriate ‘silver bullet’ instead. But lets face it, the potential to
attack for 20 points on the third turn isn`t something to dismiss out of hand. For those
new to the deck the combination is this:
Turn 1: Land, Birds or Elf
Turn 2: Land, Phyrexian Ghoul
Turn 3: Land, Academy Rector. Sacrifice Rector to Ghoul (4/4) put a Pattern of
Rebirth on Bird/Elf. Sacrifice Bird/Elf to Ghoul (6/6) put an Academy Rector into
play. Sacrifice Academy Rector to Ghoul (8/8) put a Saproling Burst into play.
Produce 6 1/1 Saprolings, sacrifice them all to Ghoul (20/20). Serve Ghoul with
lashings of hot smugness.

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
1 Meddling Mage
4 Phyrexian Ghoul
1 Soltari Visionary
1 Spike Feeder
4 Academy Rector
2 Tradewind Rider
1 Krovikan Horror
1 Masticore
1 Woodripper
1 Crater Hellion
1 Avatar Of Woe

1 Recurring Nightmare
1 Pernicious Deed
4 Pattern Of Rebirth
1 Worship
1 Opposition
1 Saproling Burst
1 Confiscate

2 Phyrexian Tower
3 City Of Brass
3 Bayou
4 Savannah
4 Scrubland
2 Tropical Island
1 Tundra
5 Forest

Sideboard:
2 Pygmy Hippo
1 Monk Realist
1 Peackeeper
1 Mystic Snake
3 Duress
1 Serenity
1 Sacred Ground
2 Absolute Law
1 City Of Solitude
1 Aura Fracture
1 Teferi`s Moat

Going into in-depth descriptions as to how this deck works is really not too useful, its
more interesting to point out why some of the ‘silver bullets’ were chosen. In most
cases the bullets were chosen not just because of how ‘bullety’ they were, but also as
the deck has so many bullets it must inevitably draw them, how useful they would
prove if you had to cast them in games where they weren`t quite the bomb.

Meddling Mage - while you can no longer say ‘Necropotence’ or ‘Donate’ very
usefully with the Acolyte Of Pikula it might still prove fruitful to say ‘Stasis’ or ‘Oath
Of Druids’, or even ‘Force of Will’. Yes, you too can pretend to be the DCI when
you play with Meddling Mage!

Soltari Visionary - With Stasis out your creatures don`t untap. Except for this guy -
tap him to attack, kill the stasis, untap him as you see fit.

Krovikan Horror - my favourite creature of all time, and he has such synergy with this
deck that you cannot possibly go without him. Oath hates this guy.

Woodripper - Tinker decks are still out there, and they are very scary as well. This
man can chew all their expensive artifacts into sawdust in seconds, and is a big fat
guy in every other game as well.

Avatar Of Woe - what, no Verdant Force or Thorn Elemental? No, not when I can
use this lump of muscle. Far more effective on defense than the Thorny, and far more
effective on offense than the Verdant, the Avatar is my #1 kill method and he does me
proud. Avatar Of Woe? Avatar of WOAH!

Pernicious Deed - I was a little wary of puttig this card in seeing as I had so many
mana creatures, and often you can hate yourself for blowing all your mana away, but
in other games the Pernicous Deed can be your saving grace - such as vs Stompy or
Tinker. It`s utility removal against anything your opponent plays and a real star
performer.

Opposition - it was toss-up between this and City Of Solitude as to what I played
maindekc against control decks. City Of Solitude is FAR more powerful but would
also sit dead in my hand in the other matchups, whereas whilst I might struggle to cast
the UU2 Opposition at least it would be more useful to have around.

Saproling Burst - alongside Avatar of Woe as my main kill card, it also is the Nitrous
Oxide in my turn three kill. You have to play at least one.

Confiscate - try not to draw it. You`ll regret it if you do.

The sideboard is even more silver bullety than the maindeck, and in most cases the
targets are obvious. Mystic Snake is a card that could arguably go into the maindeck,
but I felt I would rather have the Meddling Mage in there instead, and between
Peacekeeper and Teferi`s Moat the Stompy decks are nicely chained up, Pygmy
Hippo are included for the counterspell decks (I strongly feel you should be able to
‘evolve’ a Pygmy Hippo into a Pheldagriff).

The Rector Gadget deck is first and foremost a lot of fun to play with, and is onyl
good as a secondary objective - a more competitive version might cut some bullets to
run maindeck Duress. As it stands however I am happy to play this deck against any
creature-feature deck I meet, and feel I am very strong against the control decks after
sideboarding. The Oath matchup is the obvious main weakness (the deck runs 26
creatures) but it`s by no means unwinnable even before sideboarding, and if they tap
out to make the Oath they could well find themselves getting comboed upside the
head. Again, as for Pox, the Stasis deck is the one that could develop to spoil your
fun.


Piley Blast

This deck is a new one that only occured to me as being possible three days ago - it`s
just a resurrection of an old (and it seems not widely known) combo deck from
Tempest era Magic, known as Piley Blast. This deck fairly reliably produces turn 3
kills but is currently still undergoing development as it only has 72 hours of
technology behind it as I type it up here, so it is best to consider this list below to be
little more than a Beta prototype design.
The combination essentially involves using Hermit Druid in a deck with no basic land
to put your entire library into the graveyard, and then casting Shallow Grave to
resurrect a Revenant or Necratog and attack for 20+ damage. The tricky part of the
deck is the ‘Piley’ part - the ruling that as the Hermit Druid sends your library to the
graveyard as part of the same effect you can choose the order in which those cards
appear in your graveyard, just in the same way as if your opponent cast Wrath Of God
to bury three of your creatures. Because of this you can manipulate your graveyard to
put the appropriate creature on top for the Shallow Grave.

4 Birds Of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Apprentice Necromancer
4 Hermit Druid
4 Hidden Horror
3 Skittering Horror
1 Necratog
2 Revenant

4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Duress
4 Shallow Grave
2 City Of Solitude

2 Phyrexian Tower
2 Savannah
4 Bayou
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Gemstone Mine
4 City Of Brass

Sideboard:
4 Absolute Law
2 Honorable Passage
4 Elvish Lyrist
4 Gaeas Herald
1 Necratog

The main gain this deck gets over it`s old Tempest T2 counterpart is Apprentice
Necromancer, which makes the deck far stronger than you would imagine it could do.
First the Necromancer effectively doubles the number of Shallow Graves in the deck,
making the combo easier to find.
Secondly as going of with the Necromancer`s ability cannot be countered like a
Shallow Grave can this makes him strong against the counterspell decks - you sneak
the Apprentice into play early on and often the counterspell deck doesn`t even realise
the danger it is in until you kill them with two activated creature abilities.
Thirdly the synergy between the cards is very strong - playing against a counterspell
deck I managed to get two Necromancers into play, but he countered my Hermit
Druid - barely phased I simply sacrificed one Necromancer to get the Hermit, then
sacrificed the second to go off. As one of the people I have shown this deck said
‘Now THAT`S synergy’.
The original deck carried a Haunting Misery for the kill, so far that has managed to
elude going into the deck (mainly because I only just remembered it) so we may have
to try to find room for it.

In fact this build is very strong against the counterspell decks as it has far too many
cards that they have to deal with - the weak point is that you only have 4 Hermit
Druids, but at the same time you also have 8 cards that can recur the Hermit and 4
cards that can search him out - and the other creatures in the deck are designed to be
threatening enough to draw a counterspell as well. The deck is also far too consistent
against the rush decks as it kills too rapidly, my Stompy opponent gave up when he
was 8-0 down, and the White Weenie player was 6-1 down (he managed to get a
Swords past my disruption).
The sideboard reflects that Sligh is by far the scariest matchup as you are running a
combo based off a 1/1 creature, and whilst the maindeck creatures were chosen to
pressure Sligh`s removal the game is still very hard, after sideboarding into a deck of
Protection From Red creatures the match is much easier, and the Honorable Passages
go in as redundant protection and for safety against Price Of Progress. For now Piley
Blast is very definately a Work In Progress, but it certainly shows some potential.


My name is David, and I`m a Manaholic.
I am quitting Magic - can`t tell though, can you?

-
David Sutcliffe
TEAM Me, Myself, and I
Gizmo, to those who care

Read More Articles by David Sutcliffe!

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