Monday, November 18, 2013

Thoughts on "Fighting the Blues"

     Are you feeling blue? Read Michael Shimoji's article Fighting the Blues over at Eternal Central.

     After reading Michael's article, I had a few thoughts spring into my mind. They were of such vast and rambling length that I could not post them in the comment's section, lest I write another article under his.
     I haven't been in the Magic: The Gathering scene very long, even less in Legacy, but I've run into a few decks running Force of Will and Spell Pierce. As Mike says in his article, he used to run Blue and I played against him more than a few times. It was frustrating, to say the least.
    See, I wanted to play Magic, and I thought that Magic is generally played by two players taking turns and casting spells. Generally, the person with the biggest creature wins. Sometimes they flew and that was crazy, but Doom Blade is a great card. But, the first time I really played Magic with Mike, he had taken my collection of nearly useless cards and built a B/U Control deck out of it. I had no idea what those cards even did! When I tried to cast a creature, he would say, "Mana Leak.That means that you can't play that card unless you tap three mana. You don't have any mana up, so it goes from the stack to the graveyard." I was dumbfounded. The heck just happened?!
     But, there are worse things than Mana Leak.
     After playing in one four-man Mirrodan Block Standard tournament, I went to the big leagues with a deck in my hand and stars in my eyes. It was there I met Force of Will, and my life has not been the same since. Suddenly, there was nothing I could do. You can't play around a Force! That's like trying to dodge a canon ball aimed at you from five-feet away. It's like riding a bike and playing Chicken with a semi! You're going to die! You just are!
     Now that I'm old, wiser, and more jaded, I have resigned myself to my fate. Against Blue, I just sigh and let it happen. Whatever they want, happens. Whatever they don't want, doesn't happen. That's Legacy. Get used to it.
     But that's not the end.
     I have a striking talent for having epiphanies that are obvious to others. One such epiphany came to me when I was watching a match between Death and Taxes (not the actual deck I was watching) and a tempo deck like U/W/R Delver (again, not the same deck) when I noticed something odd; the Death and Taxes player kept tapping his Aether Vial on his opponent's turn and then going into his Untap Step! I was shocked! He was obviously afraid of the Stifle that his Blue opponent might have. It seemed like he was trying to trick his opponent into countering an ability he might not use, thereby wasting his precious Stifle! It was genius! It was brilliant! It was obvious. And that's when it hit me.
     Blue has one fatal flaw, one weakness that all decks have, but which is especially bad for Blue, namely, that Blue has to have a player. I can be an absolute idiot and do decently with a Mono-Red Deck (in fact, I did). If you're playing Green, the best advice I have is, "[Cast] creatures and then turn them side-ways." But, Blue is a beast to play. You have to read your opponent and understand their deck. What are the good cards? What are the bad ones? What's redundant and what's relevant? That's why Blue has Gitaxian Probe and other things that let you see your opponent's hand (or the top of their deck). It's a war of information, and information needs a mind to interpret it, and that mind can be tricked.
     Now, I am not, not, not, not, not, not, not advocating cheating. I hope that's obvious. However, there are perfectly legal ways to trick a Blue player. The above Aether Vial is a great example. Another could be cracking an Arid Mesa when you already have the land in your hand. The reasons and ways to telegraph the wrong info depends on the cards, but with some imagination, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out.

     In other news, I'll be going to a Grand Prix this weekend. My first one. Mike and some of the others are doing Sealed, but I can't read Japanese so I'll be playing in some of the side events. Since it's my first GP, I'll be trying different things and then blogging about how not to do them.
     In the mean time, take care!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BG Infect

“What if we didn’t go the PTQ this weekend?”
I about threw my phone across the room. I had been practicing for that PTQ for an entire week. Every day, for one hour, I played against myself; Splinter Twin versus any Modern deck I could mock-up. I put hours more thought into the cards, playing out various scenarios in my head, and going over and over the interactions in my head. Now it was Friday, the day before the tourney, and Mike doesn’t want to go!
I spent the next minute slowly realizing that I was actually totally fine with that. I was extremely nervous about it anyway. I’ve been playing competitively for almost a year, but I still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding triggers, timing, and etiquette. Not to mention that it would be surprising to find another English speaker at the tournament, and given that this would be my first Modern event, I was behind the eight ball when it came to knowing and understanding what a particular deck does. So, I texted him that it was fine and that I could play his Goblins deck.
Then it hit me. I have a mostly built BG Infect deck! After the stress of learning Splinter Twin, playing a deck that I not only knew well but was also actually mine was a relief. I spent Friday re-acquainting myself with the deck.
It seems that people usually play Infect as a turn two combo deck. I tried that out and felt that the combo was just way too unstable. Without counters, it was incredibly susceptible to, well, everything. So, we decided to make it a mid-range deck. We kept in Invigorates, Mutagenic Growths, and the Duresses, but also added things like Deathrite Shaman and, my favorite card in the deck, Virulent Wound to kill those pesky unflipped Delvers, Goblin Lackeys, and anything with x/1.
That Saturday morning I went to his apartment to put together a side-board, an experience worthy of its own article. It was far from a perfect side-board, but it worked. We had the ubiquitous Pithing Needle, but we over-loaded on graveyard hate because we were both afraid of Dredge and Reanimator.
So, then it was off to the tournament.
Our metagame favors lots of brews. A few net decks can be found here and there, but it’s mostly guys testing new stuff out, so you never know what you’ll find. Case in point, I never went up against anything that cast from the graveyard. Nothing. I met up with four combo decks and BUG. I crushed BUG, did okay against one combo deck (it was three games and I won the second), and not so well with the others. Tendrils was difficult since it’s essentially a race. Two of the decks played Dark Depths and then sac’ed Vampire Hexmage to put a 20/20 Indestructible Flying face-smasher into play.
The biggest problem I had, though, was against Cloudpost. I lost the first game because he Show and Tell’ed an Emrakul. Then, in the second game, he side-boarded in Glacial Chasm, which made my turn essentially Draw-Go. I lost both those games.
However, all in all, a 2-3 record isn’t bad for a deck’s first rodeo and a side-board that, until that morning, had contained a one-of Appetite for Brains.
For the next one, my side-board will contain more buffs so that my clock is faster. I think that’s the best way to handle comb and Red. Creature decks aren’t really a problem yet. We might add some Abrupt Decays, but the mana is a little heavy, since I’m playing four Inkmoth Nexuses, but might be doable.
Mainboard, I’ll be taking two Mutagenic Growths out, since they take Life to cast, and will be putting in two Pendalhavens, which will save my 1/1’s from Lightning Bolts and will also speed the clock up again.
All things being equal, I like Infect as a deck. It still has a ways to go, but it’s fun playing the cards no one ever really plays.