Pattern Recognition #125 - Slow Grow Vol 2, Part 2
3 October 2019
3 October 2019
Hello everyone! Welcome back to Pattern Recognition! This is TappedOut.net's longest running article series. In it, I aim to bring to you each week a new article about some piece of Magic, be it a card, a mechanic, a deck, or something more fundamental or abstract. I am something of an Old Fogey and part-time Smart Ass , so I sometimes talk out my ass. Feel free to dissent or just plain old correct me! I also have a Patreon if you feel like helping out.
So, welcome back! This week I'm going to cover Weeks 3 and 4 of my local Slow Grow League, my decisions and the highlights of the six games I played. Let's hop right to it!
The "theme", if you want to call it that, of this week was one of redundancy. I had my win condition in my deck, now the goal was to make it more viable. Or rather, not have it as fragile as it was in the second week where no one knew what changes had been made, so surprises were the order of the day, which I used to my full advantage.
Which I totally intended to use to my advantage, and didn't accidentally stumble into because I'm not a Combo player. Totally. Honestly. You guys believe me, right?
Anyway, in the name of redundancy, this meant that the first card in would have to be Laboratory Maniac , as the more obvious win condition than Jace, Wielder of Mysteries . I maintain that Jace is the slightly better option in this deck with the way I'm playing it, but having both is a good choice.
In the same vein, I went with the choice of Jhoira's Familiar over Foundry Inspector for my redundant Artifact cost reduction card. Now, make no mistake, both are viable choices, but in the end, the decision came down to the fact that I cast Dusk / Dawn more often than Sun Titan or Sevinne's Reclamation . And the Familiar could be restored using that. In addition, Jhoira's Familiar would also reduce the cost of my Commander, and other Legendary spells in the deck, so that was a small bonus.
I was seriously thinking about including Urza's Ruinous Blast or something along those lines as a Board Wipe, but in the end, decided against. Instead, I had better options.
When I ran these choices by the Spike who was helping me behind the scenes, he questioned the latter, pointing out that even a plain old Wrath of God was far cheaper. He was swayed when I pointed out that I needed options that could allow me to get past Indestructible effects, which comes part and parcel in the Ghired Deck as I noted last time. Therefore, I went with another global-bounce spell, rather than anything more permanent.
Alas, I have no copies of Capsize , which would have been a brilliant option, that's for sure.
That left one card to include, and this one was a stretch, but something I was confident in, and when I handed in my card substitutions at the start of this week to the Judge, even he was surprised. After all, what use would Grapeshot be in this deck when I'm trying to combo out my library?
Well, the answer is "It's a backup plan". I realized that with my win condition being so obvious, that there needed to be a way to win if that got shot out from under me, and drawing my library through the Top would drive my Storm Count through the roof giving me the chance to kill someone with the Grapeshot - or perhaps clear out the board just enough for Elsha of the Infinite to attack and deal lethal Commander damage thanks to the accumulated Prowess Triggers.
It's a contingency, I admit, but something people might not see coming.
Of course, this left me with trying to figure out what to cut from the deck. Five cards had to go, and so I went looking into cards that didn't really synergize with the way my deck was going.
First to go was Dockside Extortionist . This card might be pretty nice in the right deck, but it is wholly dependent on what your opponents are playing. And depending on your enemies to cooperate with your plans is just a bad plan. And it's a card uniquely printed in this deck! What the heck? No, you have to go, and go you shall.
Next to go was Purify the Grave . This card was made redundant with Rest in Peace and Crook of Condemnation , and honestly, I like those two better, despite Rest in Peace being a heavy double-edged sword that I don't want to use unless I had to. And honestly, as time went on, I think I was the only one still running this deck in the league, making my graveyard hate a bit too much.
That still left three slots, and here things get a little more difficult. I felt that making these decisions would start to reduce my options, and so I went with the first real commitment to comboing out rather than having more moving parts, and here is probably my first decision that will get people questioning my sanity. I took out Guttersnipe .
Now, here's the thing. Guttersnipe is a good card. It's a great card. But in this deck, I just didn't see myself as needing the damage. I was planning on taking the Combo out, or hitting for Commander damage. Both of which meant that two general damage to my opponents was more of an annoyance than a win condition. I couldn't trust Guttersnipe to carry the day. So, out it went.
Next was Cliffside Rescuer . I considered keeping it in for the Protection aspect allowing Elsha of the Infinite to hit someone dead, but at that point, I should have other means of winning. And besides, sacrificing for the protection effect just seems wrong, even if it is thematically appropriate, and easy enough to recur. But the more I looked at it, the more I recognized that it just didn't have a place in the deck I was building, and that it would have to go sooner or later. Also disappointed she's not an Ally, but eh, can't get everything on a card.
Which leaves me with my last choice of removal, and the one I most agonized over.
I cut Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero instead of Ral Zarek . Now, Gerrard is a guy that has his uses, but in this deck, he's just out of place. If he's on the table when a board wipes goes off - probably one of mine - yes, he will return my board state. But I already have reliable recursion for this deck, and a contingency in case even that goes south. And if I have my combo pieces in play, I should be winning, not blowing up the board.
So goodbye Gerrard, may you find a better deck elsewhere. Or at least eventually find a version of your card that isn't horribly medicore. I would still take Gerrard Capashen over you.
My round one opponents were Atraxa - the only one in the League - Ghired and Kadena. Ghired started the train off when he was forced to Beast Within one of his own lands for blockers. Though in his defense, he did have Anointed Procession out at the time.
Then that favor was repaid with Ichor Rats . Have I mentioned lately how much I despise New Phyrexia? Well, I despise new Phyrexia. And Infect is one of those things.
Garruk, Primal Hunter then -6'd to create 16 Wurms. Then I dropped a Boardwipe, because NO.
I died first when my pieces didn't show, and Atraxa's Commander Damage finally accumulated to take me out.
Then at the end of that turn, the Kadena player cast Cyclonic Rift . After I died. I pointed this out, and how saving me would have helped his league standings, and he was sorry about it as he then, on his turn, used Great Oak Guardian with Stronic Resonator and bouncing and recasting the Guardian to do over 50 damage to Atraxa, taking him out of the game. Ghired was pretty much a non-entity as everytime he tried to get board state, someone would set him back.
Second verse, and it was the same Atraxa player due to the way the tables were ordered, and the third Ghired deck. Man, seeing that guy so often has certainly warped the way I'm looking at this league.
My notes for this game are pretty weak. Ghired had Beast Whisperer, then started to play a lot of creatures. Atraxa waited for an opportune moment, and then cast Cyclonic Rift at the end of the turn. Sure, I lost some of my board state, but Ghired wound up with 23 cards in hand, forcing a rather lot of discard. He wasn't able to recover, especially when I decided to cast Storm Herd and copy it with Increasing Vengeance for a total of 54 Pegasi! That was fun, then Atraxa cast Languish , and I was sad.
Atraxa won, with me going down second because apparently Elsha of the Infinite is dangerous.
So, remember the guy who complained last week about my out of nowhere combo victory? Well, he was at the table this week, and it turns out that he holds a grudge. Enough so that when I did my after-week chat with my friendly Spike, he agreed. He had been spending the whole week talking up the danger of my deck, and how I going to win at any moment and that everyone needed to drop everything to kill me first.
(word replacement sound effect)
The third player was the Kadena from the first round, and he was confused as to why I was so dangerous, but was swayed by Ghired's rhetoric more than mine.
Regardless, I milled to six, and kept a mediocre opening hand. We had a very slow start, and I wound up with Sun Titan as my first creature. With no legal targets in the graveyard. I finally got to cast Clever Impersonator on Ghired to give me some offensive capabilities, but that was quickly stymied by the developing board states. Then my Impersonator got killed, and tossed onto Ghired's [[Mimic Vat.
Now, one of the League standing points is for casting your Commander 4 or more times in a game. In this case, the Kadena player was using Temur Sabretooth to bounce his commander back to his hand to be recast, and the whole thing was a laugh has he cast his Commander upwards of EIGHT times without paying the tax once.
I went down first because who the hell thought Triumph of the Hordes was a good card to print? Ever? Even the Spike doesn't like it, and he's a Spike! Something about it being an Uncommon when it should have been a Rare.
Because fuck you, Infect.
Anyway, the unbeatable combination of Temur Sabretooth on Chromeshell Crab to steal a creature each turn was enough for Atraxa to carry the win in the last round.
My Spike advisor and I agreed that at this point, I needed to add in more counterspells. I needed something to be more proactive to keep me in the game, and the question started to be which ones. We both agreed that Counterspell needed to be in, as well as Disallow . He wanted me to invest in Narset's Reversal , while I countered with Disdainful Stroke or Muddle the Mixture .
Then I realized that I needed to do something else. Elsha drew a lot of hate, and if Mr Salt thought that she was trouble, well, what could I do that would be a backup for her?
Turns out, I have no copies of Future Sight , but I do have two copies of Magus of the Future . I lose the Flash aspect, but I gain a small degree of redundancy, and a newly discovered heavy dependence on in this deck.
At this point, I had done enough damage to my Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun Commander deck, that I properly took it apart. Goodbye good friend, you've been replaced by the Thelon of Havenwood deck that have since finished off.
So, two lands, a Magus, and the two better Counterspells. What to take out?
I first focused on my lands. With two coming in, it would behoove me to take two out to keep the balance in line. My first thought was to toss out a Mountain and a Plains and replace them with my shock lands, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to keep the option to have more untapped lands, and while in retrospect, I should have stayed with my initial plan and improved my number of sources, instead, I wound up tossing out Izzet Guildgate and Tranquil Cove to make room for the better dual lands.
But for the last three choices, one was an easy cut. Rolling Temblor just wasn't cutting it. Two damage to non-fliers was, frankly, pathetic, and despite the flashback, it was far more suited to a deck that had Sevinne, the Chronoclasm as the Commander. But not here. I mean, I can't even reliably kill Morphs with it!
Another easy cut in retrospect was Bloodthirsty Blade . It's a fun card, very diplomatic, but in the end, it's a card that doesn't fit in with where this deck is going. I would love to put it into the Xantcha, Sleeper Agent I've got percolating in the back of my mind.
Finally, the last cut was Pristine Angel . It's a neat card, but when I played it, it was stuck on blocking duty. I couldn't really get to attack and untap it to prevent it from blocking. Especially since untapping it would give it protection from nearly everything - which means that I couldn't even toss combat tricks at it, as the Protection would de-target the trick. She' expensive, and all she does it sit around and look (relatively) pretty while I realize that there are cheaper ways to do what she does. OUT!
I was up at the front of the store at the Judge's table, and he wasn't in the League. He was playing with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician against myself, the Salty Ghired and another Ghired deck. That's, what, 4 of them? Really? Wow, I can't figure out why he's so popular.
For the most part it was the three of us going at the Judge's deck, and we each contributed to more boardwipes that I could mark down - my notes simply say "So many BOOMS!". But alas, he combo'd out, and I was last in life totals when the dust settled.
Still, I technically came in third, not fourth for League Points. So that's something.
A table of four with two non-League players - Yarok and Morphodon. The former is a Trigger Mania deck, while the latter goes "Man, Slivers aren't broken enough. Let me show you how it's done!"
So naturally, the Yarok player drops Altar of the Brood on Turn 1, but my opening hand includes Laboratory Maniac and the necessary land, so I'm honestly considering letting him mill everyone, then dash across the finish line for the win. Then he turns around and uses his Reclamation Sage on my Sensei's Divining Top that I was using to determine what cards get milled. I respond by using Ray of Distortion on his Altar of the Brood then his Pan Harmonicon in revenge.
Then the Morphodon player dropped Liliana's Contract , and there weren't any more board wipes to go around. So when two-thirds of your creatures are all your creature types (and Admiral Becket Bass for giggles - who knows what else he has in there), having four demons isn't that hard.
I came in last. Again.
Me, Yarok (again), Atraxa and Yet Another Ghired Deck. Honestly, they're all blurring together at this point. And I keep seeing Atraxa, so I know that he's doing just as bad as me when I'm not losing to him, so there's that.
Atraxa gets going, and I cast [[Wall of Stolen Identity on it, shutting down the Commander Damage for a while, and the table nicknames my creature "Protraxa" for being a protective Atraxa. Seeing that I'm not much of a threat, the Atraxa player eventually gets their Commander back and starts killing the other players. I earn a Save League Point thanks to Prismatic Strands, but it turns out you can't earn it multiple times, and I let the opponent die on the next turn. No hard feelings, I did give you an extra turn.
Then it was my turn, and I had nothing. No board state to stop Atraxa from swinging in lethal at me. I had Jace's Sanctum in play, and I was about ready to give in when I draw my card for the turn - a land - and with Elsha in play, see Leadership Vacuum on the top of my library.
I have some 18 mana, so I cast it on his Commander, and I'm safe for a couple more turns! Woo!
He recasts his Commander, and passes the turn to me.
Judge calls time. It's turn zero. Turn one is his, then Turn two on mine. He's got one card in hand, which thanks to a misplay, I know is Mirrorweave which he has been saving because the only non-Legendary creature on the board is Necroplasm . I've got 17 mana.
I dig. I dig like no one has ever dug before in the face of adversity and a sheer time crunch. I cast Crook of Condemnation and Flashback Ray of Distortion to kill it, then cast Runic Repetition to get Faithless Looting back into my hand. I cast Magmaquake for zero just for the Scry 1. I find and resolve Sensei's Divining Top , but I don't have my win or my cost reducer. I throw lands, Sun Titan , everything that isn't something I can cast at Flash speed to scry again to the bottom of the library.
I run out of mana, and spend the last of it to spin the top and arrange the top three cards of my library. Put a land on top, and then pray.
Atraxa has more life, has board state, has everything he needs to coast to victory. He then does something weird. He proliferates on the Necroplasm , pushing it to 4 +1/+1 counters, and killing Atraxa. I should have seen something coming.
Turn 2. I arrange my mana, then I dig.
Farm / Market opens me up, which leads to Deep Analysis , which is Flashbacked, which is followed up by more digging. I cast Grapeshot at his face just for the Scry. I put Magus of the Future to the bottom because I have Elsha. I'm getting desperate here.
I see [[Etherium Sculptor, and I pop the Top to play it. I sit back and breathe a sigh of relief. "I win," I announce, and the Atraxa player, despite this being week 4, still hasn't seen me go off. He asks how, and I explain it to him. I have Command Tower , Mystic Monastery , and Sol Ring left untapped, so I show him how I can now draw my whole Library, and I cast Laboratory Maniac using the Command Tower and the Sol Ring . I tap the Top to draw a card and win the came, when he says he has a response.
He casts Mirror Weave, turning all creatures into Necroplasm . When the Top resolves, I draw from an empty library, and I lose.
I'm flipping through my library/hand searching for a solution, something I can use. I remember that I've already cast Grapeshot , so that's literally out. We're the last players still playing, and I'm not seeing my deck when a card jumps out at me.
Atraxa looks at his board state. "Yes, it does," and he offers his hand like a good sport, and I shake like a good sport.
And I hear Mr Salt complain that I Scried too many times. Yeah, go cry me a river buddy, I had Elsha of the Infinite in play, and it's not scrying when I do that. And the Judge agreed, glad we were finally done and he could finish handing out prizes for the night.
I had won, and the only way it seems that I can win is as long as I combo out.
Two more weeks. I'm in the bottom half. Can I improve my standing in the last six games? I hope so.
Join me next week when I talk about Standard, what it is, why it is, and how Wizards has been working with it an around it.
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!
Hey sorry that this comment is unrelated to the article but thanks for coming back after the last post. Those comments in #124 from some of the other users were pretty fiery and not very constructive. Anyway, looking forward to hearing how those last 6 games go! cheers.