torsdag 17 maj 2018

Tales of Green and Black.

Today we have another friend returning to the bloggoblag! Constantine first shared his stories a couple of years ago in The Россия Perspective and have since become something of the face of Russian oldschool Magic. He is not only a community organizer, but also an avid deck builder and skilled player that always manage to end up with a winning record at n00bcon with his creations. Today he'll guide us through the murkiest paths of the woods. Enjoy! /Mg out

I like a challenge. Being an underdog is always fun. It makes every victory even more sweet and stories more colorful.

When we talk about going uphill in oldschool magic, it usually means playing an unpowered and/or mono-colored deck. But this article I wrote right after n00bcon X is generally not about that. At least not only about that. I will speak about just two colors: green and black. Why those two?

Exactly one year ago I sold all my unlimited cards (power and a lot of 93/94 staples; enough to build almost any deck imaginable) to fund the "all a/b black-green-red land destruction deck". And because in Russia we live poor lives in old houses where we burn firewood, ride steamrollers and dem bears steal all the food, eventually I had to give up on one color. The choice was easy as my all-time favorite combination is been black-green. So now I own swedish legal cards only in these two colors and I will tell you what I managed to build and test during 2017.

Usually these two colors are not paired together in 93/94. At least without a complementary one (white being the most popular of course). You play green and black either as dominant colors or just splash for a couple of powerful cards like Regrowth, Demonic Tutor or Mind Twist. But we’ll try to come up with something much more interesting.
If we search the card database, we'll find 250 black and green cards legal in 93/94 (that's including the ante cards) and one strictly bg card, Dark Heart of the Wood. Plus we have all the artifacts in the world! Of course, most of the cards are unplayable but some really fit in the basic strategies. Let’s start with aggro for now. And if you enjoy this kind of article, I’ll try to continue with combo and control arch-types.

Two obvious choices come to mind: monoblack and mono-green. We all know the good old monoblack tempo deck with its core of Juzams, Hyppies, Knights and Sengirs so we’ll just pass to monogreen aggro. I’d say there’re 2 main routes you can go with monogreen: Big Guys and Small guys. For the first one, a good example is MG’s deck supporting relic barriers and howling mines as a card drawing engine and a semi-prison side strategy.
This deck has a very nice curve supported with enough ramp and 2-drops, so it acts as a well-oiled machine most all the time. I’m not sure about Gaea’s Touch though, because it is 100% the weakest card in the deck. But sometimes it enables just enough ramp to overwhelm a midrange deck. That leads me to another problem - “the midrangeness”. Midrange monogreen just doesn’t have unfair hands against control. The tempo swing of an elves+ice storm doesn’t really matter vs. counterspells and swords. Most of the time you’ll find yourself playing just one not really impactful spell each turn and that’s what a control deck doesn’t fear to face.

The second route is Nikita Sehelest’s Green Stompy.
While this deck doesn’t have impactful threats either, it has all the tempo in the world. It plays mostly 1 cmc creatures which renders your opponent’s counterspells useless, and the uncounterable pump-effect from Pendelhaven become a thing you should reckon with. The deck’s weakness is of course the general puniness of individual creatures. But it is not the reason to underestimate them. A 1/1 + Pendelhaven and a giant growth eats Juzam, Erhnam, Juggernout and Su-Chi to name a few. A scryb sprite + Pendelhaven stops Hyppies and Flying Men. And of course being resilient to Lightning Bolt/Chain Lightning, Serendib Efreet still dies to a Sprite + Giant Growth!

If you see this deck in action, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to play against it. It taxes opponents’ mana base with Ice Storms, Crumbles, Scavenger Folk and Nafs Aasps while attacking with difficult (i.e. unworthy of your removal) threats.

Finally, let’s discuss both colors together! So, I will not tell you about generic B/G which, to be fair, doesn’t look too much different from mono black. I will tell you about my special way to build a deck with this combination of colors.

I’ve been experimenting with Nether Void in Swedish 93/94 since I saw Sean O’Brien’s bg prison from Eternal Weekend 2016. His deck was clearly very good, but mostly because of 4 Strip Mines, and we can only play one by Swedish rules so this deck here is nigh unplayable.
Anyway, the common sense tells us that we have to play a lot of land destruction to make Nether Void good. But I think it is a very big misconception. After excessive testing with 4 sinkholes/4 Ice Storms etc. I came to realization that Nether Void is more of a tempo card than it is a prison card. That means, you don’t really need a lot of land destruction to build a deck around it. So what really do we need instead?

I’d say good creatures, which we can cast of Mana Vault (because obviously, it has the best synergy with Nether Void); ways to destroy your opponent’s utility lands, mainly factories and mazes; and extra mana ramp to play our key enchantment as fast as possible.

In ways of mana ramp besides Vaults and Sol Ring, we have Moxen and Lotus, but I generally don’t like them with Nether Void. Thanks to them we’ll have unanswerable hands sometimes, and when the Void is down we just want to draw lands and threats to close the game. And that’s where mana elves come to help us! They ramp us to 3 mana for Ice Storms, to 4 to cast all key creatures like Erhnam Djinn and Su-Chi and they most definitely can kick some ass with Pendelhaven! Then, to answer our main enemy, factories, we have some Argothian Pixies and Crumbles - all very castable under the Void and highly effective in the current meta.
So where is all this going, you ask me? It is quite simple. We try to force our opponent to play according to our pace instead of trying to keep up to fast and broken power-9 plays. Most of the time under the Nether Void both players are able to play just 1 spell a turn and it is perfectly fine because decks loose the ability to keep countermagic up while advancing the board. The trick is to make every card in our deck more impactful in this scenario. How can we do this?

For starters, let’s make our manabase good, which is a pretty hard thing to do in 93/94. I generally prefer not to play double-colored spells in my decks unless my game plan is to cast something broken like Eureka/Moat/All Hallow’s Eve. And that is the reason I stopped to use City of Brass. Especially in this deck! Not only does it make our life more miserable against agro decks (and the matchup is very tough on its own), but it also makes our mana-choke side plan worse. Just imagine how the deck’s manabase will improve when you play City of Brass; Fellwar Stones will turn into a magical Christmas manarock with absolutely no drawback!

Ok, to make our best play we need to cast first turn Elf into second turn Mana Vault+Nether Void. What we need for that is a green source on the first turn and a black source on the second. According to Frank Karsten, there should be 14 and 13 mana sources respectively. 4 bayous, 2 Pendelhavens + 8 forests are enough for green, and 4 bayous, 4 Elves of the Deep Shadow + 5 swamps for black, +4 obvious Mishra’s Factories and 1 Strip Mine. That gives us 24 lands and 33 mana sources including 4 Mana Vaults and a Sol Ring. For my taste it is a bit too much and testing proves me right most of the time. So I just remove 1 swamp and 1 forest and hope for the best. And that’s why we don’t play double colored spells - we’ll need something like 6-8 more lands to consistently get our colors or play City of Brass and suffer in 50% or more of the games.
Let’s get back to the creatures. A good aggressive deck usually needs around 20 creatures to be successful. And our deck with all its midrangeness is more of an aggro deck at heart. So 4 Elves, 2 Pixies, 4 Djinns, 4 Su-chi and 4 Mishra’s give us 18 good threats and it is almost enough. Sure, we can add 2 more Pixies in the main, but at this point there’re not many flexible slots for that.

Then we have our utility. 4 Ice Storms and 4 Crumbles are a no-brainer. Without them we’ll be overwhelmed with unfair plays consisting of a million moxen with factories support. Main targets are always Mishra's, not mana sources, because under the Void the opponent will play just one spell a turn anyway. Three Paralyze are perfect removal for our deck as they give us some tempo by forcing our opponent to untap their creature if they want to interact with our game plan. Additionally they don’t give precious life points as swords do! There’s a torturer’s pleasure to paralyze Juzam or Serendib and then keep them from the fourth mana, hehehe. In this situation our puny elf with Pendelhaven can deal whooping 3 damage a turn! I don’t know if four copies are better, but I just own 3, so I play 3.
And after that we have just a couple of free slots after adding our precious 4 Nether Voids. These slots are usually taken by Demonic Tutor, Chaos Orb, Mind Twist and 1-2 special cards like Bazaar of Baghdad/Jalum Tome to dig and one optional copy of Titania’s Song. A couple of words about the Song. Most of the time Titania’s Song acts like the 5th Nether Void against power-dependent decks or as a game-breaker against Troll-Disco decks as usually they have no answers maindeck for it. And of course, out deck has a pretty nice synergy with it: Mana Vaults and Sol Ring become extra beaters with Pendelhaven! And one more thing. This deck doesn’t play Regrowth. It just doesn’t.

That’s it for the main deck. For the sideboard we have A LOT of options:
1. Usual color-hosers Gloom, Tsunami and Whirling Dervish.
2. Transform into control-kill’em’all deck options like Drop of Honey, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Terror.
3. Transform into a weird enchantment deck with Skull of Orm, Animate Dead and Triskelions.
4. More artifact hate cards like Titania’s Song and Scavenger Folk.

To be honest I’m not very good at sideboarding so I usually just add cards I like and hope for the best!

Aaaand finally, the matchups (I realize that I’ve probably lost good portion of my readers 500 words ago).

The Deck:
We have all the action needed to win maindeck, but Moat will be a problem because we have just one Chaos Orb against it. The main strategy is always the same; try to overwhelm your opponent with threats and make them play just one spell a turn. Most of the time we need to concentrate our efforts on the deck’s manabase. Blue/white moxen and Mishra's being two main priorities (remember, we don’t play Cities so Fellwars won’t do shit). Sometimes you also need to destroy Library of Alexandria, but it depends on how well your opponent’s draw steps are and how many threats we can offer. We’ll probably win most of the games with Pixies/Elves under the Void.

Sideboard in:
- Avoid fate. Very impactful on the play with “second turn Mana Vault into Erhnam” hand. Sometimes countering the first swords on our big creature wins the game.
- Tranquility. Only if we sideboard out our Void, which we absolutely can do on the draw. But I prefer Glooms over Tranquility, because a good the Deck player will setup the board to protect the Moat anyway. Btw, we don’t fear the Abyss too much for obvious reasons.
- Gloom. Acts as additional Voids. Nothing more to say.
- Titania’s Song. Pretty good, but I’d sideboard it only on the play against white decks. Again, Glooms are better.
- Tsunami. If you’re opponent’s name’s Danny Friedman, Tsunamis are the way to go! But most of the time it is 2 for 1 at maximum, so I usually don’t use them. If you do, sideboard out some Ice Storms.

Sidboard out: Paralyze!

Zoo/UR Tempo
The same here: I designed my BG-deck to beat this kind of decks. So everything you need is the main 60. You best friend is Paralyzed Serendib Efreet and your worst enemy is probably Erhnam Djinn. Although, if your opponent plans to play a big guy with the help of Sol Ring or Black Lotus, Paralyze will probably save your ass. These decks rarely have maindeck ways to remove Nether Void so most of the time we can just win by installing it on the second turn (just pray for them not having 1st turn Kird Ape).

Sideboard in:
- Terrors. Against opposing Erhnams. But it is sometimes a correct play to even kill Kird Ape/Flying Men with it (especially if you’re planning a fast Nether Void).

Sideboard out:
- Argothian Pixies. They can only fend off opposing Mishras and trade with unpumped apes which is pretty bad.

Black midrange decks
The strongest play these deck can offer against us is first turn Hypnotic Specter, other things we don’t really fear that much. If we’re lucky we’ll have a Paralyze for the Specter. If not - we’re screwed :)
Juzams may be a problem just because we can’t trade them with any of our creatures. But we still have an option of double block (at least before sideboard when Terror becomes an issue). We try to kill opposing mishras with Ice Storms and save Crumbles for Nevinyrral’s Disks.

Again, resolving the Void against non-white versions is a gg most of the time. Dead Guy Ale builds are a totally different story though. Armageddons and Disechants are real problems and I guess the support of Specters and Juzams make that matchup pretty bad. The only advice I can give is to be lucky and have a turn 2 Void :) As always hehe!

Sideboard in:
- Whirling Dervish. No-brainer against Mono Black, but not that good against BR and BW builds. 2 Copies Maximum though — getting two green early may be a problem.
- Hurricane. Just for the Specters, because otherwise we might as well try to sideboard in some Scryb Sprites (We still play pendelhavens!)
- Gloom. Against Dead Guy Ale because we only really care about white cards.

White weenie/White Zoo/Erhnamgeddon
Maybe the worst matchup imaginable. These kind of decks usually have everything in the world to make our life miserable. Small creatures are still castable under the Void, Swords and Disechants are still the best removal you can have, and although we can combat these things separately, together they screw our game plan 100%.

Sideboard in:
- Drop of Honey. This card in combination with Nether Void and Skull of Orm can win us the game, but the timing should be perfect.
- Gloom. Again.
- Terror. For obvious reasons.
- Sylvan Library. A good strategy if you try to install more enchantments than they have disenchants. And it pretty much draws us a million cards thanks to Swords to Plowshares.

Sideboard out:
- Argothian Pixies
- Elves of the Deep Shadow
- Some Crumbles

Combo decks (Twiddle Vault/Power Monolith etc.)
I don’t usually consider sideboarding against this kind of decks, but we can still add more artifact hate like Titania’s Song and Scavenger Folk. The trick is to land Nether Void as always.

Eureka decks
I’d say we don’t stand a chance against those:) The worst matchup, maybe even worse than white zoo, because all our creatures are smaller and we don’t have effective ways to prevent eureka from resolving. Void? VOID!

Ok, I’d say it is enough for now! If you’ll be in the mood for more deck-teching in black and green I will be back with control and combo builds! Until next time!

/Constantine

1 kommentar:

  1. Curious how bazaar of Baghdad has worked for you in this deck?

    SvaraRadera