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The Road to Tourneyland: The Rogue League
By Mark Ortego
The Road to Tourneyland: 30 Seconds over San Francisco*
By Mark Ortego

"With great knowledge comes great responsibility."
~Some unknown "Do-Gooder"

I recently saw Jurassic Park on TNT or USA (I always get those two confused) and there's a part where Jeff Goldbloom, who is a scientist of probability/chaos, whatever, in the movie, says to the old guy, who made the park, something to the affect that the research for reproducing dinosaurs was already worked on by others and the old guy's team of scientists just quickly finished the process therefore, not having worked so hard to achieve their goal, lacking the discipline to ponder this; just because they COULD make dinosaurs they didn't take the time to think if they SHOULD make dinosaurs.

My point is this: many professional and casual players in the Magic community have spent hours and hours playtesting just about every combination and interaction of cards possible. And many players ride on the backs of these folk's research. Yes, I am speaking of "Net-Decking". SHOULD I play a deck that I have not personally built myself? I have. Many times in the past. I don't have the time, ability and/or resources to build my own high, Tier 1, quality decks. The one and only true deck I have ever built on my own, that has been moderately successful for me, was my "Erratic-Spikes" deck (circa 1998), a combo of Spike creatures & Erratic Portal (an artifact that has "1, Tap: Return target creature to owner's hand unless that creature's owner pays 1." I never use it for my opponent's creatures; I just use it to return a nearly depleted Spike Weaver or Feeder back to my hand. So, since I COULD play net-decks, I do.

Am I bad person?

No. I am a realistic person who enjoys the game of Magic. I have always heard that "winning" is the most basic "objective" of the game. Of course there are many other reasons to play Magic but winning is the game's main objective. Do you build decks to lose? No you don't. I have, however, built decks "not-to-lose", but that was last month's article.

I bring all of this up because at the July "Game Day" for G.A.S.P. (Gaming Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania) I won another Rogue League game. For those of you at the CPA that missed my last article, the Rogue League is an unofficial year-long, point based Magic: The Gathering tournament. We play once a month and post standings via GASP newsletter and then total up the points at the end of the season and announce the winner.

Note: I am once again posting "The Road to Tourneyland" on two different sites: The front page of the CPA aka Casual Players Alliance (with a link to our discussion forums about this article at the bottom) and the address above for the GASP Newsletter August's edition.

Here's a brief explanation of the point system. You get 1 point for participating in the game. You get 1 additional point for each player you eliminate. If you are one of the last three players remaining in the game you are, in what the league calls, "The Iron Triangle". If you're the first person eliminated from the I-T you get 3 additional points, second place gets 6 additional points and 9 additional points for the last player standing (but your 1 participation point is forfeited if you make the I-T). Last month I was awarded 10 points; 1 point for eliminating a player (Steve) and 9 points for winning. I ranked fifth place overall after that game, however, I shared that place with 2 other members; Kevin the Goblin King and Kevin the Dragon Mage. There are 10 places being occupied by 14 players. After July's game, I sit alone in third place with only two other members sitting ahead of me, Mark and Megan (I have yet to meet the Sliver Queen, though).

I accumulated 15 points this month. 9 points for winning and 6 points for eliminating all of the other players, ALL, ON TURN SIX!

I tell you all of this with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am doing the self-indulged "HAPPY DANCE" (Ugh, what a mental picture! - Spidey) and on the other, I feel guilty as HELL. I played a deck on them that I think I may have had no business playing. Here's the list:

"Death to All: Elf Ball 2K4"

The Combo:

4x Wirewood Channeler 2/2
Casting Cost: 3G / Creature - Elf / Uncommon from Legions
Tap: Add X mana of any one color to your mana pool, where X is the number of Elves in play.

4x Pemmin's Aura ("U" represents the color blue)
Casting Cost: 1UU / Enchant Creature / Uncommon from Scourge
U: Untap enchanted creature.
U: Enchanted creature gains flying until end of turn.
U: Enchanted creature can't be the target of spells or abilities this turn.
1: Enchanted creature gets +1/-1 or -1/+1 until end of turn
[note: You can use the letters in Pemmin's Aura to spell "I Am Superman" which is exactly what the enchanted creature becomes when you enchant it with the Aura]

4x Flamewave Invoker 2/2 (The kill card)
Casting Cost: 2R / Creature - Goblin Mutant / Common from Legions
7R: Flamewave Invoker deals 5 damage to target player.
(note: there is no "tap" symbol for this card's activation cost)

The accomplices:
4x Llanowar Elves (G)
2x Priest of Titania (1G)
2x Wellwisher (1G)
4x Land Grant - Sorcery (1G)
Common from Mercadian Masques
"If you have no land cards in hand, you may reveal your hand instead of paying Land Grant's mana cost.
Search your Library for a Forest card and put that card into your hand. Then Shuffle your library."

Land:
4x Tropical Island - Dual land (Counts as both a Forest and an Island)
2x Taiga - Dual land (Counts as both a Forest and a Mountain)
[note: This deck could've easily worked, just as well, with plain old Forest cards]

Here's how it works:
Turn 1: Tropical Island (tap it for green) play Llanowar Elves.
Turn 2: Tropical Island (tap it for green) play another Llanowar Elves and another Elf if you have one in your hand like another Llanowar Elves or maybe a Priest of Titania.
Turn 3: Tap both lands and both Llanowar Elves for green and play Wirewood Channeler.
Turn 4: Tap Wirewood Channeler for four blue mana (1 for each Elf in play including the Wirewood Channeler). Enchant the Wirewood Channeler with Pemmin's Aura, use the one extra blue mana in your pool to use Pemmin's Aura's untap ability (which costs 1 blue mana) to untap the Wirewood Channeler. Tap Wirewood Channeler for three more blue mana, use 1 blue mana to untap Wirewood Channeler again using Pemmin's Aura's untap ability. Keep doing this until you have enough blue mana to keep untapping Wirewood Channeler for red mana to cast the red creature Flamewave Invoker. This means you can use it over and over and over using the combination of producing mad amounts of blue mana for Pemmin's Aura's untap ability on Wirewood Channeler then red mana to cast Flamewave Invoker and then use IT'S ability to target your opponents until no is left standing, but you.

30 cards total

The Rogue League rules state that there is no maximum or minimum deck size.

Here's my quandary; I never saw the original "net-deck" list (a 60 card version) but, at one time, I have heard of the combo. Did I net-deck?

I don't know. But I still feel kind of bad for using it. I won't be bringing it again to GASP, ever.

The Report (as it were):
Date: July 10, 2004
Time: High Noon
Place: The Church Library (With Air Conditioning )
Format: The Official Rogue League July Game
Who:
Player 1: Dave with his Blue-Red (UR) "Kickline" of dancing Tim's and Tom's
Player 2: Mark with a very annoying Black-White (BW) Pestilence deck.
Player 3: Kelly (Kevin the Goblin King's Mom) with her Blue-White (UW) lots of Wizards and Soldiers deck.
Player 4: Kevin the Goblin King playing, well, Goblins, of course!
Player 5: Jason using his Black-Green (BG) Fatties deck
Player 6: Steve (Player 1's older brother) with 3.5 inches high destruction deck (and that's WITHOUT sleeves)
Player 7: Me playing "Elf Ball 2K4"

I rolled an absurd 100 sided die that Steve brought, it was interesting. Anyway, Dave rolled the highest and I was sitting to his right which meant I was going last and was in trouble right off the bat. I drew 7 cards and had one land but no mana elves. During play-testing I never had trouble with this opening hand and I actually had every piece of the combo, but I Mulliganed down to six, foolishly. Now I had NO LAND (can't use the mulligan no-land rule now), so I went to five cards and had 2 Priest of Titania, a Wellwisher and 2 Pemmin's Aura. Not so good for me. I had to take it, I mean after all, I only had a 30 card deck, land or a Land Grant was on it's way, right?

Turn 1: Draw, no land, I say, "go". Everyone drops a land. A goblin, a Library of Leng, and a black creature hit the table.

Turn 2: Draw, no land, I say "go". Everyone else keeps developing. Oh well, at this point I was convincing myself that walking away with 1 participation point for the game was okay and so, I did my poker "tell": I slumped in my chair.

Turn 3: I think I remember a Howling Mine hitting the table, but anyways, I now have 2 Land Grants in my hand. I really didn't want to reveal my hand to use the alternate casting cost for Land Grant therefore, risking my diabolical deck contents. I had NO choice, I Land Granted, twice. I played my land for the turn, then I granted again. Meanwhile in the "real game" everyone was going along nicely unaware that my luck was about to change, dramatically.

Turn 4: I drop a land, tap both for green and play Priest of Titania (1G - a 1/1 Elf that when tapped, produces 1 green mana for each Elf in play). No one was interested in what I was doing. I wasn't even trying to go under the radar, either.

Turn 5: I drop another land and tap all three lands and the Priest of Titania all for four green mana and I cast a Wirewood Channeler that I had drawn this turn (In magic terminology this is called "Top Decking"). Everybody looks at it, but that's all. It's at this time that I begin to realize that no one suspects the combo I'm about to unleash. There was burn spells going around but I guess my elves looked unthreatening.

Turn 6: I TOP-DECK A FLAMEWAVE INVOKER, OMG!!!!!! I had every piece of the combo in my hand. Game Over! Everyone is tapped out! On the outside I actually forced myself into "Deception Mode", I kept a straight face. On the inside was temporary glee and happiness. I was shaking as I was about to enchant the Channeler with the Aura. I played slow to make sure that I could draw as many responses as possible even though almost everyone was tapped out except Goblin King. I tap Wirewood Channeler for two 2 blue mana and the Priest for two green. I enchant Wirewood Channeler. ~No responses~. I started doing the mana combo thing by first using a Tropical Island (good thing I played these instead of regular Forests) to start the tapping/untapping process building up blue mana then some green after a while to cast another elf then red mana for Flamewave Invoker. After a massive build up of red and blue mana, I went to town and pulled out my "HIT LIST".

Yeah, this was tacky, but since there is a point system I didn't want high scoring folks to get any Iron Triangle points. So I pulled out my Official MTG Ringline Stenographer's Notebook and started with Mark (he has 37 points for first place overall), then Dave (14 pts. for 4th), then The Goblin King, then Kelly. This left Steve, Jason and myself in the Iron Triangle.

[INSERT SIDE DISCUSSION: A member of the group disagreed that there should even BE an Iron Triangle arguing that since I killed everyone in 1 turn the I-T never existed. The group agreed otherwise, including me. I had every reason to argue that no I-T existed but hey, this is a casual tournament, right?]

So I finish off Steve (3rd. place for this game) and then Jason (2nd. Place for this game). I racked up 9 points for winning and 6 points for eliminating everyone else. 10 points last month, 15 this month. I sit alone in 3rd place at 25 points. 2nd. Place Megan sits at 27 points, and Mark at 38 points for first. (Yea, I know I mentioned this already but hey, I'm excited).

As it turned out, Mark had a Wrath of God he was waiting to play next turn and Dave had a TIM out ready for pinging next turn. Earlier that game (as if it HAD an early game) Kelly had used a Disenchant on one of Mark's enchantments (I can't remember what it was) but, after the game, Mark made sure she was aware of her choice of timing of the Disenchant.

Like I said before, on one hand I feel good but on the other I feel bad. Did I have a right to play this deck with these casual players? Was it a "Net-Deck"? I did, in fact, spend many hours play-testing with many versions of this deck (at least six). I "goldfished"** over 200 times with it (really, I did!). I did statistical analyses for it: The mean, the median and the mode. For this 30 card deck my "Fundamental Turn"*** mean was turn 4.75, the median was turn 5, and the mode was turn 4. I DID spend many hours testing, but why do I still feel bad?

Well, it matters not, now. I played it. I won with it. And, I've promised never to play Elf Ball 2K4 at the Rogue League Games again.

No silly gloating for this article.

"Everyone has a story to tell."
~John "Friggin'" Rizzo

This was mine.

Well, until next time, I'll be traveling on that long and dusty road, to Tourneyland.

~Humbly yours,
Mark Ortego (aka "Killer Joe" as in the Jazz Standard)

*= The title is an inside joke made by Dave. GASP members, ask him about it.
**= The term "Goldfishing" means that one plays a deck with no opponent, as if you were playing against a goldfish.
***=The Fundamental Turn is the earliest turn at which your combo can go off.

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