I keep strange hours. This is because I’m still in school, have morning classes five days a week, and make a fifty-minute commute. Fifty minutes one way. Hey, sometimes you move in with your girlfriend, and you both have to figure out your commutes, and sometimes one person gets the short end of the stick and has to drive twenty more minutes than the other. That’s fine, but it forces me to wake up way too early in order to make it to my morning classes on time. The downside to this is that I go to bed at around 9:45 p.m., and I can’t stop myself from waking up at 8:00 a.m. on the weekends.
The upside, however, is that I get to wake up to a bevy of twitterings from the man who gave me my start in Magic writing: Ted Knutson, former SCG Content Manager. Ted’s been awake for a while by the time I get up because he lives in the United Kingdom, or Great Britain, or whatever, and since he is the most vocal of all the Twitter people I follow living in that time zone, I get to wake up to his twitterings every morning. My mornings usually go something like this:
- Open up my computer.
- Open up Twitter.
- See five consecutive Ted Knutson tweets about the economic crisis; disregard them (if it’s farther away from my apartment than Dinosaur BBQ, it’s foreign policy).
- Troll him about something else.
- He pokes me back.
And then I go about my day. My usual routine was broken up last week when I woke up to this message from him:
My first instinct was to say, “Of course not,” and really twist that dagger good, but I just assumed he was writing a nonrant because he’d gotten stoned again, and, yeah, who wouldn’t read that? So I let him know that, yeah, of course I’d read that, and I went along my way.
Fast forward to the next day. There’s an article up on SCG by TeddyBaseballCardGame himself, titled “Oh, the Humanity,” which got me really pumped because I wrongly assumed that it would be an account of how he blasted a zeppelin out of the air with an automatic weapon. Instead, it was a primer on this deck:
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Grand Abolisher
2 Leonin Relic-Warder
3 Gideon's Lawkeeper
3 Hero of Bladehold
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Mirran Crusader
3 Midnight Haunting
4 Mana Leak
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Honor of the Pure
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of War and Peace
3 Moorland Haunt
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coast
1 Grand Abolisher
2 Angelic Destiny
4 Timely Reinforcements
1 Sword of Body and Mind
2 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Moorland Haunt
1 Hero of Bladehold
I’ve been doing this column for a while now, and if there’s anything I’ve learned from playing a different deck every week, it’s that when I’m being presented with a deck list, how it looks to me is usually irrelevant because the shitty-looking decks are usually the best, and the decks I’m most excited about end up being the shittiest. So, I’ve learned to take my impulses with a grain of salt.
The deck looks like a pretty stock list on paper, and I had my suspicions about it, especially about the advice given in the sideboarding guide—mainly, the part about siding out Leonin Relic-Warder against ramp, which I don’t advocate because the Cat can always take out the opponent’s Sphere of the Suns or Solemn Simulacrum. Once upon a time, Ted called me out on my authoritative voice concerning Magic cards, and despite the fact that he was ultimately correct to do so, it still stuck in my craw because as much as I love slammin’ brews and bangin’ broads, I am still mostly a sensitive arteest.
While I read Ted beginning to writing about the Human deck, I couldn’t help but sit in front of my laptop with a grin on my face. “I . . . I haven’t done this in a while.” Nooo, you haven’t, sir. No, you have not. I really debated on whether to take his advice on sideboarding to a T—I’m positive that you give up non-inconsequential percentage points by bringing out Leonin Relic-Warder against a deck sporting four Sphere of the Suns—but my vindictive side ultimately won out; if you call me out a year ago, YOU WILL RUE THE DAY, GODDAMMIT. I DON’T CARE HOW JUSTIFIABLE IT WAS; YOUR ASS WILL BE GRASS. Or, at least that’s how I pictured it in my head. I wrote out the sideboarding plan in my notebook so I’d be able to consult it whenever I needed:
I originally envisioned this column as, among other things, a way to call out writers who just threw brews out there on the interwebs just to sell some dumb card and make themselves look good to their employers, knowing full well the deck mostly blows. I envisioned the column as my way of saying, “Well, I ran the deck that this guy touted, and it sucked, and he’s a shill, and I’m awesome.” No offense to Ted, but I know he’s been busy with non-Magic-related things, and I figured he just sent this article up because he won a stretch of games on Magic Online.
Clearly, I should’ve known better.
I’ll save the suspense, but if you’ve been following me for a while, you knew where this was going from the get-go: The deck is amazing. I had no reason to doubt Ted; he wouldn’t do a dipshit thing like throw his credibility out for some hits—if he was writing about this deck, he probably did his homework. Simply put: I was a dipshit to assume he didn’t.
It looks a lot like a stock W/u Humans list, but what really make the deck go are actually the Midnight Hauntings—they give you a lot of game against control, from getting the opponent to tap out during his own end step to being able to reload after a Day of Judgment. That is not to say the deck isn’t without its flaws. There desperately needs to be an Island somewhere in the mix; your Moorland Haunts are definitely too attractive for the opponent not to hit with Ghost Quarter, and you really want to be able to search up that Island. This actually came up more than once over the course of FNM, to my mild annoyance.
And I still don’t condone bringing out Leonin Relic-Warder against any ramp decks featuring Sphere of the Suns, but I still did it anyway. As it stands, I lost my only match to Solar Flare, against which there was no guide to sideboarding in the article in question.
I showed up to Cloud City at around 5:00 p.m.—an hour before the tournament started—and no one was there. This annoyed me quite a bit; I instantly worried about how much of Cloud City’s business Altered States’s lowered FNM price took away, but shortly, Aaron showed up with a couple regulars, one of whom had been promoted that day. He had gone out to lunch with them to celebrate the occasion—a cool thing that I just can’t see the guy running the Magic side of Altered States doing.
Cloud City and Altered States both feature pretty relaxed atmospheres, but . . . I’m not convinced that I can articulate what it is about Cloud City that makes it feel so cozy. I haven’t thought about it enough, I think. Maybe it’s because the play space is smaller, because the tournaments are smaller, or because Aaron is so charismatic, but the FNMs at Cloud City feel more like a handful of good friends getting together and racking up the PWPs than anything else. It’s harder for me to unintentionally offend someone because the community is so tight-knit and everyone knows each other so well that incidents are virtually non-existent.
I haven’t really considered the merits of either scene.
Round One – Peter Assimon
Peter wins the roll and plays out a tapped Glacial Fortress, and I put him on some type of control deck—most likely some Solar Flare brew. I turn out to be half-right; Peter’s playing a control deck, but it’s not any kind of Reanimator deck—at least not from what I can tell in our games.
I get a hot start with Doomed Traveler, and then follow up with Gideon's Lawkeeper and a second Doomed Traveler the following turn. The three angry men get Peter to 12 before he pulls the trigger on a Day of Judgment, which I follow up with the one-two punch of Midnight Haunting during his end step and Honor of the Pure on my following turn, then swinging for 8 with the Spirits from my Doomed Travelers and the Midnight Haunting. It’s not necessary for me to play another spell the rest of the game.
Our second game is interesting, as we both mull to five and stumble on land early. He plays out all tapped lands, which allows me to run out a turn-two Honor of the Pure on the draw without fear of any Mana Leak bullshit. I’m stuck on two lands, and he’s stuck on three, so we play draw-go for a little while. I draw out of the mana screw first and start beating in with Midnight Haunting tokens while Peter continues to fail to find a fourth land. At 12 life, he finds his fourth land and taps out for Day of Judgment. I’ve got plenty of lands of both colors in play, and my hand is two Oblivion Rings, Mirran Crusader, Hero of Bladehold, and Mana Leak.
I Mana Leak his Day of Judgment, put him to 8 on my turn, and run out a Mirran Crusader, representing lethal on the board. Peter plays a Gideon Jura on his turn, ratchets it up to 8 loyalty, and he passes back to me. I cast Oblivion Ring, target his only nonland permanent, and he offers the hand.
Round Two – Matt Brown
Mr. Promotion himself. He’s playing Wolf Run ramp, and he leads Game 1 with a second-turn Sphere of the Suns. I stare at it for a beat and shake my head, knowing I’ll be boarding out my Sinkholes on a stick against them.
I don’t remember the finer points of Game 1, but I do remember his more egregious Game 1 mistakes—notably, attacking a Solemn Simulacrum into my board of Honor of the Pure and a lot of random dorks featuring a Grand Abolisher with a Sword of Feast and Famine equipped to it while he had a Garruk, Primal Hunter in play. He ticks up the Garruk, Primal Hunter to 5, and on my turn, I attack it with a pro-Black, pro-Green 5/5 Grand Abolisher. I tell him I’m attacking Garruk, Primal Hunter, and Matt moves to block it with a beast token.
“He has pro-Green.”
“Oh. Oh, shit.”
He stares at his tapped Solemn Simulacrum for a beat, then shakes his head and bins his planeswalker. However, I’m still in a bit of a pickle—he’s still got way more guys than I do, and he really sticks it to me on his next turn with his second Acidic Slime of the game, targeting my Sword of Feast and Famine. I see he’s down to no cards and I play my whole hand. Matt rips . . .
Slagstorm, which is functionally a Day of Judgment in this situation. I have no idea why he even pulls the trigger on it, though; he’s way up in creatures, all of which trump mine, and he also has the additional out of Titans, whereas I’m pretty much drawing dead with my only Sword of Feast and Famine in my graveyard. Whatever. His Slagstorm takes out a Leonin Relic-Warder, which returns to him a Solemn Simulacrum. Matt forgets to search for a basic and wins anyway on the back of two Solemn Simulacrums while I draw some lands.
Matt starts off Game 2 with a mulligan while I roll out a Grand Abolisher and crack with that unimpeded for a few turns; he tries a Green Sun's Zenith for 4, and I Mana Leak it, following up my Mana Leak with a Midnight Haunting, then running out the ‘bagged Honor of the Pure on my turn. And that is fucking that.
Game 3 was most likely the most entertaining game of the entire night; all you need to know about it is that I raced a Wurmcoil Engine with a Grand Abolisher wearing both a Sword of Feast and Famine and an Angelic Destiny, and I won because my deck has Oblivion Ring and his doesn’t. When people are looking at your board state and saying, “Holy shit,” aloud, that’s usually a good indicator that there’s some pretty serious going down.
Round Three – James Tepper
I’d met James once before at Altered States while trading. He’s one of these value traders who have popped up all over the place whom everyone hates. There’s this badass dude who goes to Altered States and all the Legacy tournaments at Jupiter Games. His name’s Adam Phillips, and he collects Royal Assassins. A while ago, Adam traded me this or that, and I didn’t have anything he wanted, so he just said, “You know what, take the cards now; I don’t give a shit about them. If you feel that bad about taking them, find me some Royal Assassins. Yeah, if you can get me about four or five of those bad boys, we’ll be straight.” Adam assured me it didn’t matter what set, so that was pretty cool of him. Fast forward to trading with this dude James on Innistrad Game Day. I see five Tenth Edition Royal Assassins in James’s binder, and remembering Adam, I yank them out.
“These are what, ten cents apiece?” I ask him.
Without looking up, he says, “No way. Fifty cents.”
“Dude, come on. I’ve traded before; I know how this works. I’m not going to let you dictate ridiculously deflated prices on all my cards. They’re fifty cents.”
At this point, I want to make a serious inquiry about how in-demand his Tenth Edition Royal Assassins are, but my head’s reeling. Are we still talking about Royal Assassin here? I still go through with the trade—I don’t know where I’ll find Royal Assassins again—but Jesus Christ, I guess getting one over on someone is really important to some people.
I really want to win this match. Little do I know that this is pretty much an unlosable matchup for me.
I hit my second land drop, and it turns out I’m playing against mono-Red, so my draw with three Doomed Travelers is just unbeatable. After Game 1, the head judge looks at my notepad, sees I’m at 20 life, and notes that I just pitched a shutout against mono-Red. I can’t help but smile. James fumes a bit.
For Game 2, I have two Oblivion Rings to complement my Honor of the Pure, two Doomed Travelers, Midnight Haunting, and I inwardly thank Ted Knutson when I match his two Stormblood Berserkers with two Oblivion Rings. Upon the second Oblivion Ring’s resolution, James inquires whether he can still win:
“So you just drew the nuts, right? I mean, yeah, how am I supposed to win if you do that? How many cards in hand?”
“Okay, so, I mean, I gotta play for your hand to be–“
James quietly scoops ‘em up.
Ted Knutson, if you are reading this, I owe you a beer for that match alone.
Round Four – Kevin Poncelet
Kevin’s playing the Honey Badger reanimator deck that’s so popular around here. Game 1, Kevin mulls to four, but he still hits his land drops and is able to chain some Dream Twists; meanwhile, I keep a one-lander on the draw and am duly punished for it, beating for 2 while I can. Eventually, I draw some lands and add Captain Clutch himself, Mistah Grand Abolisher, to my board, which puts Kevin in the awkward position of having to activate his Merfolk Looters on his own turn—and blanks all his Feeling of Dreads. Kevin gets a lot of action into his graveyard, but there are no Unburial Rites to be seen. On his last turn to live, his deck is very mostly live, but he bricks on his draw step and twice with his Merfolk Looters, and he scoops ‘em up.
Unfortunately for yours truly, Games 2 and 3 go similarly in that I get a pretty big army going, but four Mana Leaks just aren’t enough against a deck as resilient as Honey Badger, and I lose to an undead Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite both games.
I already made my suggestions for the deck above, and I had a great time playing it. This week, I’ll be going to Cloud City with Ken Adams’s midrangey Rakdos deck in tow. I could gush on and on about the wind-pantsed godliness that is Ken Adams, but I’ll save that for next week.