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"Scrubs Corner": Your guideline to "The Rock"
By Shawn J. Houtsinger
I will state this now: I calculate the environment Post Jan for Extended to be Tog, "The Rock", RDW, U/G, and Reanimator in this order. So my analysis is based my calculations for Tier 1 threats that "The Rock" has to combat. This applies to PTQ's, since the diversity of decks.

In my previous article, I looked at the deck list that was posted on by Sol Malka. His two posts (mind you-these are PRE-JAN) give some vital information into his card choices, what he played against, and his record.

I wasn't surprised when he posted "I went undefeated".

Surely, your all wondering HOW he did this without any Orangutan main, or Negators to speed the deck up. But, as only Sol can do, he plays this deck with perfection.
I bring this up because we "Rock" players are split as to how to build the deck Post Jan. Also, I will be looking at Jerone Remie's current deck list he posted.
What are the choices?

Fatties=Slow Roll "The Rock"
This deck has Spiritmongers, Living Wish, and maybe a Haunting Echo or Living Death.
Mint Chocolate=Beat 'em "The Rock"

The use of 2, or 3, copies of Baloth, no Living Wish, and the introduction of Troll Ascetic. 3 Vampiric Tutors.
But, let's roll back a little in history. What was the deck this originator used?
The Rock and his Millions - Sol Malka
Main: Sideboard:
4x Birds of Paradise 1x Bottle Gnomes
1x Phyrexian Plaguelord 3x Choke
4x Spike Feeder 3x Diabolic Edict
2x Spike Weaver 2x Emerald Charm
4x Spiritmonger 1x Living Death
4x Wall of Roots 1x Phyrexian Furnace
4x Yavimaya Elder 1x Tranquil Domain
4x Duress 2x Uktabi Orangutan
1x Living Death 1x Volrath's Strong
4x Pernicious Deed
2x Phyrexian Furnace
1x Recurring Nightmare
2x Vampiric Tutor
4x Bayou
2x Dust Bowl
8x Forest
5x Swamp
4x Treetop Village
Casting Curve-

This deck has main deck Spike Feeder to combat the Illusion/Donate decks that were running rampant at the time. The Phyrexian Furnace was main to take down reanimator decks, and helped against the Intuition(A.K.'s).

So, the last issue are the main deck Spiritmongers. The fatties that we all want to play....but sadly, can not for 2004.

Why not? You have to keep in mind that "The Rock" was made to deal with/beat decks that are being heavily played. Spike Feeder is a great example of that. So are the Phyrexian Furnace. Contrary to deck lists, players who have won with this, and articles you've read---there ARE staple cards in here. They must NOT be taken out.
What are they?
1.Wall of Blossoms/Wall of Roots
While Wall of Roots was important to slowing the speed decks, as the Blossoms does, it served as mana acceleration. The only change is Wall of Blossoms is a blocker AND a card advantage tool. It is a feeding block for Cabal Therapy.
2.Yavimaya Elder
Sol said it himself-"Why aren't people playing this guy?" Not only is it a 3 drop, but also helps against control decks, so you can survive the long game. Without him, you merely end up drawing your the majority of your card, and slowly fizzle out.
3. Genesis/Living Death/Re-occuring Nightmare
One staple card of recursion. With Vampiric Tutor-it's like having 3 ways of draw these 1 of's. This is your long game recovery tool. Don't leave home without it. Yes, it has to be main. Just one, but important.
4. Birds of Paradise.
Obviously. But, none the less, important to post. With or without elves, these stay.

No Spiritmonger main?
Well, Spiritmonger was in last years since Morphling was a SB card in Illusion Decks, if not main. So, if you didn't have to worry about Illusion decks, you'd easily have access to drop your Spiritmonger vs other decks-since it wasn't an all out Tinker-you or Bosh-you or Mind's Desire-you kind of format.
Furthermore, tempo is key. For Spiritmonger to be a real threat it has to come out 3rd or 4th turn. What I mean is that against Tog, RDW, and U/G, your more than likely to be behind the count when you finally get to cast this card. Sure, if it resolves and turns sideways, your likely to put a "W" on your score sheet, but it doesn't mean you should play him. Look at it this way-if you have 7:1 drops, and get to cast him 3rd turn, you have spent 5 cards, and now 6, to get your real threat on the board. Sure, you could have dropped an elder second turn, followed up by an Monger, but how realistic is this? RDW has X amount of ways to eliminate your 7:1 drops. Against Tog, unless you get an immense amount of discard, and in that case you have won anyhow, they are likely to have an Mana Leak or Force Spike in hand. Now, dropping a Baloth 4th turn is just as effective and DOES get around a force spike. Also, you would need ONE less 7:1 drop to do it. Also, you could, against Tog, get a Duress off, and then proceed to drop Ravenous. A third turn Duress, Baloth is more effective in this format than a Spiritmonger, "Go".
Let's take a good look at cards that could be main, and what shouldn't. To do this, here is Jeroen Remie's deck list he provided at (Premium folks-sorry)
The Rock Gabe Walls

Format: Extended - Mirrodin
»Apprentice Format«
Main Deck: Sideboard:

4 Birds of Paradise 3 Coffin Purge
1 Genesis 1 Diabolic Edict
3 Llanowar Elves 4 Festering Goblin
2 Ravenous Baloth 1 Haunting Echoes
4 Troll Ascetic 4 Phyrexian Negator
3 Wall of Blossoms 1 Smother
4 Yavimaya Elder 1 Stronghold Task
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Duress
3 Pernicious Deed
3 Smother
2 Vampiric Tutor

9 Forest
4 Llanowar Wastes
6 Swamp
4 Treetop Village
Jeroen justifies the Troll by his evasiveness. I can only presume he means this will run well against Tog and RDW.
He also plays 7:1 drops. Obviously, speeding up the deck where more players were playing without Elves.

The Smother is important in here. This is one card I won't cut, nor budge on. Blue/Green will be popular Post Jan. With that being said, it is important to deal with Wild Mongrels, Aquameba, and Basking Rootwalla. Against RDW-it takes out everything except their Blistering Firecat.
And, as if this wasn't bad match-up for Tog players already-Smother gives you even more depth in the deck against it.
More importantly-notice the 2 Vampiric Tutors. There are no Living Wishes, and only 2 copies of the Vampiric. It's hard to say what is best
Casting Curve-
Compared to the Sol's original deck list, you can see that the one drops, and the importance of a 3rd drop, have increased. The first turn is necessary to extinguishing or setting up on your opponent.

No Living Wish?
This is a hard one for me, I'll be honest. In my Type 2 version of "The Rock" that I built this year, I played Living Wish. I loved the card, and fell in love with it. However, I don't think you need to main deck them...well, maybe one.
The problem arises with how slow the card plays compared to just having a Vampiric or another replacement card.
Let's look at a typical turn with Living Wish:
Turn 1: Forest, Bird.
Turn 2: Swamp, cast Living Wish, cast Duress/Cabal Therapy.

-Here is the vital turn for the card you tutored for. However, there is another problem. Would you ever cast Living Wish second turn? Especially Post Jan? Living Wish is a card you use in "The Rock" to find 'answers' to threats currently on the board, but usually more than often, that MIGHT arise soon on the board. What would you fetch if you built your deck with Living Wish targets? Against RDW you might go for a Festering Goblin? Ravenous, Genesis, a dustbowl? However, these are just bad turns. Because now, when third turn comes around (presuming your Bird/Elf is still on board against RDW) your down one land and just NOW casting your answer. So, is a third turn festering, or fetching for your Ravenous, Genesis, the appropriate answer for the long game you have already won if you can cast either of them, the right plays?

How about other decks? Living Wish cast on second turn, or later, vs Tog-U/G-Reanimator isn't great either. I would say against Tog, Living Wish is a better card in this match-up, but this should be in your advantage already. And, secondly, you want to Duress/Therapy them repeatedly on 3rd turn, or drop a Troll or Elder. The first 3 turns are vital before Tog starts to A.K. and F.O.F you up. Would you fetch a Withered Wretch vs. U/G or Reanimator? A Negator/Dustbowl vs Tog?
Having Duress/Therapy combo allows this deck to play out its hand without having to search for answers. Thus, I conclude that if you are to play Living Wish, to only play ONE with 2 Vampiric. This card is only good vs the Mirror.Match-up.

Ascetic or no?
Another hard decision. This card is devastating against Tog, and Good against RDW. Of course, anything you drop third turn against them is good. And if you get to use 4 lands, you have won. A Elder is very good against RDW, or even a Spike Feeder. But, I can't make myself put in Feeder in my main deck. I guess I worry about U/G and Reanimator match-ups. The other great thing about the Troll is his non-target ability. What does removal have on this guy? Gildred Drakes have nothing on him...
What would be other options then, if not playing this beat stick? More baloths?
7:1 mana drops?
I am not sure I like the idea of 23 lands, and 7:1 drops. It's great against control, but RDW eats your little men, and I have come to find out that I draw too many lands or the 7:1's in the game. Also my issue lies in the importance in dropping something 3rd turn. After that, what more do you need? A Ravenous or Genesis? More mana for Deed? I feel comfortable with dropping an Elf and keeping the mana at 23, WITHOUT Dustbowl. Yeah, I am not a big fan of it right now. I guess I don't want to be a big target of Wastelands.

4 Deeds are a must.
3 are a "No-No"! Deed is what makes this deck in some way. With Troll, you have such a nice recovery after blowing things up. I do not understand how having less than 4 can be more advantageous for you. I understand that taking out one to open up a slot. But not replacing the slot with Smother. Sure, smother is necessary, but Deed is just a game winner, as where Smother is a Tempo based card.

To Smother or to Edict? That IS the question!
This is an easy one for me. First, I don't think Angry Hermit will dominate, or run rampantly because it is inconsistent and expensive. Also, Deed helps you stabilize against them, unless they get a 'God hand'. So, without that worry, I see no ready to run edict. Morphling isn't out there...
More importantly, I find it vital to run smother main. Why? Because having an answer faster than Deed is important to the tempo of the game.
Targets for Smother:
U/G: Almost everything. In fact, after you SB, you'll have a field day blowing things up. Edict is bad since they can Madness something out and ruin your chance of taking out a discard outlet (Mongrel, Aqua) they have.
RDW: Everything except the kitty. Secondly, I rather get rid of their Grim Lavamancer than anything else because of your Elves and Birds.
Tog: Either way, if you Edict or Smother, Tog will whimper.
Mirror: Here is the important part. Smother isn't great here, but valid enough to help out against the threatening Treetop, Elf, blocking Blossoms, or Elder.

Haunting Echoes/Living Death/Recurring Nightmare
So, is it necessary to play any 1 of's of these cards? I would say Yes/No depending what is being played near you.
Tog: A Haunting Echoes/Living Death against Tog, at the time you can cast it, isn't really important if it DOES resolve--based on the idea that they must not have any counters, and/or nothing in the graveyard..thus a very good board position already.
RDW: again the same concept. If you can cast a Ravenous-you've probably won. Five mana against this deck should be hard to get, and if you do get off one, your winning. Maybe a Living Death later in the game to bring back some Baloths for life. However, I find, as you see in my deck list, that a Recurring Nightmare, for its casting cost, is VERY good against RDW. Bringing back a Wall or Elf/Bird, or whatever is plausible. If there is a Baloth out, well then...See Game Two.
Angry Hermit: It doesn't matter. This deck survives on the fact of speed.
U/G: I am presuming U/G decks will have Daze, Mana Leaks, and/or Circular Logics. So getting this off on them, against can be tricky. Sure, you have Duress and Therapy, but that doesn't mean it won't be hard. I find, after boarding, a Recurring Nightmare is helpful with recurring Bone Shredder, or Withered Wretch.

I have to say I like Jeroen's deck list. We have just a few differences.

4 Birds Of Paradise
2 Llanowar Elves
4 Duress
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Troll Ascetic
2 Ravenous Baloth
3 Wall of Blossoms
4 Yavimaya Elder
2 Vampiric Tutor
1 Recurring Nightmare
4 Pernicous Deed
3 Smother
1 Genesis
23 Lands

1 Boneshredder
1 Withered Wretch
3 Festering Goblin
3 Phrexian Negator
1 Diabolic Edict
1 Smother
2 Coffin Purge
1 Buried Alive
1 Filth
1 Haunting Echoes

Sideboard Choices:
Looking back at Kai and his choices for side boarding when he ran "The Rock", I liked his idea of playing Filth and Buried alive sideboard. Haunting is for Mirror Match, which can be the card that says: "I win" after you deed. I like Withered Wretch since he can be buried alive, or Vampiriced.
The only thing I am still deciding about is main deck Recurring Nightmare or Oversold Cemetery. Both have their advantages.
Well, I am preparing for the next two PTQ's locally, so expect a tournament report. Also, I can't wait for the 17th. It will be my birthday and there is a PTQ. What more can I want than a win on my birthday?

Well, hold on,

Till then,
Shawn J. Houtsinger
The one and only,
P.S. If you want to discuss this deck, let me know. E-mail me.

Read More Articles by Shawn J. Houtsinger!

 - Wednesday (July 18. 2018)
 - Thursday (May 17, 2018)
 - Tuesday (Aprl. 24, 2018
 - Monday (Apr. 16, 2018)
 - Friday (Apr. 6, 2018)
 - Wednesday (Apr. 4, 2018)
 - Monday (Apr. 2, 2018)
 - Friday (Mar. 23, 2018)
 - Thursday (Feb. 15, 2018)
 - Thursday (Jan 25, 2018)

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