From the Sideboard—Embracing My Inner Johnny

By Kadar “Ragebeast” Brock

Johnny is the creative gamer to whom Magic is a form of self-expression. Johnny likes to win, but he wants to win with style. It’s very important to Johnny that he win on his own terms. As such, it’s important to Johnny that he’s using his own deck. Playing Magic is an opportunity for Johnny to show off his creativity.—Mark Rosewater

We’re gonna do this a little in reverse. On the ride back from #GPPITT, amongst all the jokes, profound discussions, and farting (by a committee of this one), I brought up the question: What are some of your favorite moments/plays you’ve made during GTC draft? I mostly asked this to chide Hunter, having recently smashed him with a turn-four Gruul Ragebeast, followed by making it +2/+2 and unblockable on turn five.

But what I inadvertently realized was that the things I remembered were epic, creative plays, while my friends remembered certain board states, or just strong interactions that helped them win. It was a subtle difference but it made me realize something Matt had been saying to me for a while: If you play a deck that you like and that you have fun with and win with 50% of the time, you’ll likely be happier than playing a deck that wins but isn’t fun—and winning more. It just smacked me in the face, that I wanted to make those kinds of ridiculous plays, because I think they’re fun, and if I can do that, and win at least half the time—BINGO!

Segue then to Standard, and to the Friday events before the big GP PITT shebang. I’d been messing with this modified version of elf-ball/elf-wave since Master Biomancer was first spoiled, and I’d finally sleeved up a version earlier in the week. I’d tested it a bit vs. Matt’s Junk Reanimator list, mostly getting bashed by his nut draws, but hadn’t played it in any sort of tournament. So with a free win-an-uncut-sheet event scheduled for Friday afternoon, despite my hemming and hawing, I figured there was nothing I could lose (FREE!). And so I went with something like this:

4 Arbor Elf
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Master Biomancer
2 Thragtusk
2 Soul of the Harvest
2 Prime Speaker Zegana
2 Craterhoof Behemoth

3 Simic Charm
2 Golgari Charm
1 Sever the Bloodline
3 Grisly Salvage

23 Lands, including three Cavern of Souls and some duals.

Sideboard:
3 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Yeva, Nature’s Herald
2 Akroma’s Memorial
2 Golgari Charm
2 Thragtusk
1 Silklash Spider
1 Sever the Bloodline
2 I can’t remember cause I probably never sided it in

I’d hardly played the deck beyond some testing at the store (only against two aggro decks, and Matt’s reanimator) but I thought my good matchups were vs. most aggro-ish and mid-range decks, as I just get bigger faster, and vs. Esper control, where both my card engines and my Golgari Charms would let me keep the heat on them. So onto the matchups:

Round 1

I face an Esper control deck. Seemed pretty stock. Saw Snapcasters, Azorius Charms, Obzedat, etc. I have Caverns. I also have Golgari Charms which just blow him out. The defining play of this match is: He attacks with both a Snapcaster and an Obzedat, he charms his own Ghost Dad to put it on his library, then Wraths. I have a Golgari Charm, and just bash him with my dudes while he time walks himself. GGs. 1-0 (man I’m feeling good about this brew!)

Round 2

I don’t really remember what this matchup was. I’m guessing it was Jund mid-range cause his life total goes up by twos and fives. If that’s the case I probably sided in Akroma’s Memorial. WOMP. 2-0 (feeling extra good)

Round 3

This one I definitely remember. Played a nice chap named Brad, who was on Jund aggro. I get BLITZED in game one. In game two I draw a little better, he gets me to six life, and then I stick Memorial which makes all my guys eat his guys, and makes all my guys immune to all his removal. He picks up the card, reads it, says “I can’t beat this!” and scoops. Game three, he sees me making a bunch of mana and says, “Don’t do it!” I do it—this time with Biomancers and Zegana, and just bury him. I even forget to take a free swing to put him to one because I forget Memorial gives vigilance, but it doesn’t matter cause he’s just dead. He asks me to play it out and I dump a handful of small dudes that become huge dudes (thanks Biomancer!) with flying, haste, first strike, vigilance, etc., etc., etc. 3-0! (rogue decking FTW!)

Round 4

I play this guy Thomas who’s on Naya Humans blitz. And I get blitzed. I also get mana-fucked, severely. And he gets nut draws, dropping like three Mayors by turn five, with Champion, and Huntmaster, etc., etc. We play a game three for fun and I turn-three Garruk—and he’s like, “Oh, that’s what your deck was supposed to do, I thought you were on reanimator, I really didn’t get to see much.” Yup. Me neither. He top 4-ed FWIW. 3-1 (grumbles)

Round 5

JACKIE LEE!!! OMG. I’m playing vs. a pro. Jitters. I also know she’s on some combo tip variation of humanimator from looming around after smashing (she was going to time or close to it a lot), and from talking with my boy Josh Fetto (eventual CHAMPION!!!) who’d lost to her in round two. Based on that convo, I knew how to break up her combo when it was presented, and kept that in the back of my mind… AND I SMASH HER. No, seriously. 2-0.

THE Kadar Brock vs. Jackie Lee.

THE Kadar Brock vs. Jackie Lee.

Game one, she spends a fair amount of time setting up her graveyard and combo, and I just amass DOOOOODS. She goes to combo off, and I Simic Charm bounce her Angel of Glory’s rise in response to Fiend Hunter targeting it, essentially shutting her down until she can get Angel going again. My board state at that time was something like 2X Archdruids, 2X Biomancers, maybe a 5/5 Arbor Elf—oh, and a 18/18 SOUL OF THE HARVEST!!! Smash. I swing all in, she blocks, I note that Soul has trample, and the math is not good for her.

Game two, it’s pretty similar. She sets up, I set up. She Fiend Hunters my Deathrite to keep me from eating her combo pieces, I say fine, and just develop my board. She’s ready to go off the next turn, I bounce Fiend Hunter to have a live Shaman to eat her graveyard pieces… and then top-deck CRATERHOOF FOR SMASHING!!! 34 to the DOME. 4-1 (VICTORY!!! SO CLOSE!!!)

Round 6

I’m Hungry. Really Hungry. And as some of you may know, you won’t like me when I’m hungry. I get grumpy. Make mistakes. And keep terrible hands. I’m playing vs. Krazy Karl (who eventually loses in the finals to FettoBlaster after much joking). He’s on Jund mid-range. Game one he just kills my dudes. Then kills my hand. Game two he keeps a one-land hand. He doesn’t draw another and I just ‘tusk him to death. G3 I keep a sketchy hand, saying to myself, “Well, if I draw a Forest this is the NUTS, and I win, and if I don’t, I get to go eat Thai food.” WIN WIN, no? I don’t draw the Forest. My Arbor Elfs are nothing but 1/1s, and life sucks. Except I get to go eat food! Except I don’t because Fetto top-4s and we stick around and watch him. Not too bad. 4-2 with TONS OF FUN. Totally a win in regards to my magic priorities.

So on Sunday—after a very mediocre sealed pool, and a mostly mediocre 4-5 showing at the main event—I sleeved up a slightly modified version of the same deck (adding an extra ‘tusk and a Memorial to the main, dropping the Soul of the Harvests, and swapping Grisly Salvage and one Simic Charm with Farseeks), and joined the Super Sunday Series standard event.

I won’t bore you with a round-by-round play-by-play (mostly because I drew like crap for most of the event, and, with a six-hour drive back to Brooklyn looming, dropped at 2-3-1). But I will share some highlights from my two wins and my draw (my losses mostly came on the back of land flooding, etc.)

In R1 I played vs. a Junk Reanimator deck (what I thought to be my weakest after getting smashed by Jonesy all week prior). In G3 I’m amassing a pretty sick board, but, as with any Rites deck, you gotta live in fear of the ‘hoof. He slams the ‘hoof with two Restos, a Beast token, and a Lotleth Troll on board and my heart plummets. But then I start to assign blocks. And… ummmm…. I eat his dudes. Yes. Seriously. I eat his Craterhoof-pumped dudes. I take 16 from the angels, but my one countered-up Biomancer eats his troll. My two Archdruids eat his ‘hoof, and my huged-up Deathrite eats his Beast. I kill him on the crackback with my 17/15 Thragtusk, my 7/7 Elvish Visionary, and my 7/5 Thragtusk. WOMP.

In R2 I drew with an Esper control deck who had all the Wraths. I hate Esper control. It’s like the no-fun version of Magic. Screw you Esper control players!!! The highlight for this one—that of course went to time (duh)—was game two which went very quickly. Turn three BIG DADDY GARRUK. Make dudes. Golgari Charm his Wrath. SMASH!

I guess I’ll finish up with a rhetorical question: What’s better than two 11/12 Deathrite Shamans? The answer: two 11/12 Deathrite Shamans with flying, trample, vigilance, haste, first strike, protection from red, and protection from black.

Kadar Brock is an artist and Magic player who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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