Pattern Recognition #103 - Slow Grow Finale

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


21 March 2019


Hello everyone! Welcome back to Pattern Recognition,'s longest running article series about the bric and brac of Magic: The Gathering, card design, game history and theory as well as being my own personal soap box for when I want to go on and on about things that interest me. Who am I? Well, I am berryjon, self professed Old Fogey and yes, I've been playing this game for longer than some of you have been alive. I've earned that title.

Today, I will be finishing off my Slow Grow retrospective. No, you're not missing a week, that you or I managed to skip over my writeup of Week 5.

You see, it was I who missed Week 5. For this store's Leagues, in a 6 Week event, you can miss one week without penalty because, hey, real life is a thing. In the 8 Week League, you can miss two weeks without penalty. And on week 5, I was working a closing shift that Friday, which meant that I was going to be off work around the time the night ended.

If you miss more than that, you're asked if you still want to compete, or drop out. Those who wanted to drop out did so, as the commitment to the League was something people planned for and tried to make sure they were available for.

But just because a person missed a week of play did not mean that they missed a week's worth of card exchanges. So despite missing skipping Week 5, I went into Week 6, the last week, with the deck changes for both Weeks 5 and 6! And here they are:


OUT: Consign to Dust , Forest , Rakdos Carnarium , Reality Scramble , Jund Panorama , Emissary of Grudges , Savage Twister , Putrefy , Seer's Sundial
IN: Murder , Dryad Arbor , Leechridden Swamp , Selvala's Stampede , Ghost Quarter , Jund Battlemage , Torment of Hailfire , Doomfall , Rites of Flourishing

So, going into week 6, I sat down and I spent the time to break down the deck, looking at my mana curve and the relevant colors. I also finally, finally asked myself the one question I needed to ask myself since Week 1.

How do I win?

I removed the Forest , Rakdos Carnarium and the Jund Panorama as part of this mana fixing process. I realized that I wasn't able to fully capitalize on my Landfall intentions, and trimming some of the cards with less non-mana utility would be a good thing to try and solidify my ground game.

Consign to Dust left the deck as it was, in my opinion, worse than Naturalize . I mean, yeah, sure, it can hit multiple targets. But the escalating cost just wasn't worth it in my opinion. And I wanted to blow more stuff up, that's what Decimate and the not-in-this-deck Tranquility or Shatterstorm were for.

Reality Scramble is actually a pretty neat card, I'll give it that much. Sacrificing a token to get a real creature out onto the battlefield, even a random one, is never a bad proposition because all creatures in your deck should be good. Or at least better than a random 0/1 Plant that doesn't even have any +1/+1 counters on it.

Also leaving the deck was Emissary of Grudges . This guy is a guessing game, straight up. And the only time I played him, I used him more as a 6/5 Flying beatstick than as any sort of ward against players casting a spell against me. Because flying in is pretty rare, and that's of more value than anything else, especially when he's got more power and toughness than most Dragons that aren't named Atarka.

Savage Twister got the boot because it was too narrow. With only a few ways to win the game - and both of them creature based - blowing up all my creatures would be a very bad idea. I've noted before that this deck has a hard time coming back from a board wipe, so wiping myself out was just a bad idea in general.

Putrefy was also removed because Artifacts were a major problem only in a couple decks, and Naturalize took care of those. The no Regeneration clause was irrelevant, and I was including a couple other creature removal spells as you'll see shortly.

Lastly, Seer's Sundial got the cut because, to put it simply, even when I did play it, I couldn't afford it.

On the flip side, I added in Murder and Doomfall . Because I was all out of Terror and Hero's Downfall . These two were intended to replace Putrefy in the creature-removal portion of the deck, given that I still hadn't decided to include Lightning Bolt . I figured, the way the games were going, 3 damage actually wasn't that useful, unlike in, say, Modern or Standard. And only having one copy meant very little in a 100 card deck.

Dryad Arbor and Leechridden Swamp were my attempts at Utility Lands. The former is also a creature, which meant that I could fetch it with one of my "Search for a Forest" cards, or recur it with Lord Wingdrace as a small-time chump blocker. The latter was simply a case of something I can use to work on other people, whittling them down as I try to win.

Selvala's Stampede was a bad choice, straight up. But I got it in my prize pack of Conspiracy: Take the Crown from Week 4, so I figured, why not? Never got to cast it, but I figured it might be a nice way to get a creature or two into play, or any other sort of permanent. It's good, in theory, but in practice, it can require some careful consideration.

Ghost Quarter is Ghost Quarter . It blows up a land, and with Lord Windgrace , I can get it back to go again! Of course, my opponents would be putting Basic Lands into play in the process, but this card was more meant to take out Utility Lands than mana producers.

I have no idea what I was going to blow up, but I sure was prepared for it should the opportunity arise!

Jund Battlemage was a curious choice on my part. I saw the ability as a backup for the Leechridden Swamp , while the was a solid token maker. I liked the idea behind it, but with only three games played, I never once saw it. Oh well.

Rites of Flourishing was my intended "Don't kill me!" card, one way in which players would keep me around for a little longer and pillow up to try and get some footing under me. I cast it once, but it didn't help me, instead helping my opponents more.

Lastly, Torment of Hailfire .

You see, I finally realized what I should have a while ago - that I needed an Endgame. I needed something that would let me hurt my opponents enough to knock them back down, something that would, most importantly, get me out of the self-defeating hole I kept winding up in. And Torment of Hailfire would provide, given that I was often running a mana surplus, and this could be useful to clear the board of the chaff a bit, or work on player's life totals. It would be a great helper, either to finish off the game if everyone else was weakened first or to put me back on top.

I'm sure you all know by now how well that would go.

I'll save you a casual repetition of the night. Game 1, lost, but I finally had fun with my lands, getting Dryad Arbor and a Geothermal Crevice in my opening hand along with a basic to help kickstart my game. I still lost, mind you, but, hey, it was a nice start, and I got to manipulate my lands with aplomb.

Round 2, I was in a four player pod with Saskia (again), the eventually winner of the League, a co-worker of mine who ran Meren of Clan Nel Toth , and a out-of league player with Krenko, Mob Boss .

Now, Krenko won. In about 6 turns, blowing all of us up for ludicrous damage. And Meren's player blew a gasket because the line between first place and second was on a razor's edge. Losing here - heck, coming in Second here - could mean losing the whole thing, and I, being a person with nowhere to go but up, and the Saskia player calmed him down by pointing out that the actions of the Krenko player had no meaning on the points for the game, and that he still was the leader of the table by having the most life out of all of us when Krenko killed us all.

It took a couple minutes, but he chilled, accepted his first-place points, and we finished off the game with our life restored and he stomped the both of us despite our mutual agreement to hold him off for as long as possible.

Round three was casual. No one was worried about winning and we just built up until time was called, and I wasn't able to get my turn to swing with my army of hatched Dragon Egg s. I might have won, had I a turn to act!

I came out of the League in Last Place with 29 points. The winner had 76. We did some quick math, and even had I attended Week 5, I wouldn't have had much luck getting out of the last place. For my booby prize, I got one of each Basic Land from Core 2019, while the winner walked off with a $100+ Table-sized play mat.

And he did good, so no disrespect there.

I should also talk to him, see if he's willing to sit down and help me write up a victory report from him to share with all of you. Ponder s


So, yeah. I messed up. Badly. I had a deck. I had a basic plan to get my deck's feet under itself, then I spend the next four weeks flailing about, trying to find something that worked, some counter to the games I was playing that would let me finish somewhere above last place.

I didn't have a plan.

And that's what beat me down more than anything else. I knew where I wanted, but I ignored my own advice when I was deck doctoring for my FLGS. The one question that I asked everyone when they dropped a deck down in front of me.

How do you intend to win?

And as I noted earlier in this series, there really are only two ways for this deck to win - Avenger of Zendikar and Nesting Dragon . And both of those were Landfall creatures. I couldn't focus on Landfall enough, nor could I be assured of getting those creatures out in any reasonable time frame. Lord Windgrace is a Utility commander, not a Winning Commander, which meant that he was right out.

Torment of Hailfire was a poor, last-minute thought to try and gain some traction, but that failed.

For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure Blaze would have been viable at some point given all the other bad choices I had made.

What could I have done? Well, part of it was that I had no idea what I wanted out of the deck. I just wanted to have fun in a social atmosphere, and that is what I got. Everyone knew I was going to lose, including myself, so why not grin and roll with it? Play it off and when I did something amazing or helpful, that was a nice bonus.

And in that, I did succeed. I had fun for those [s]six[/s] five weeks, and I certainly look forward to the next League this summer. So far, we're trending toward a 3DH Format, where no card can cost more than $3 (Canadian). No Shocks, no Fetches, powerful Commanders are right out. Heck, it's pretty much Pauper Commander! I think it'll be fun.

So, what do you guys all think? You've seen my changes over the course of the League. 25 cards in, 25 cards out. What do you think I could have done better or less worse? Talk about it in the comments below please, and perhaps some sort of consensus will arise as to where I can improve in the future.

Join me next week when I address the nature of Planeswalkers. War of the Spark is coming, and this feels like a relevant subject to address.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #102 - Strictly Better The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #104 - the Vorthos of the Planeswalker

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