Hello dear readers, and welcome to this edition of know yourself, and my first inaugural article on the website! Know Yourself is an article series based on some of the faults and preferences we as magic players internalize, as well as talking about some strategies and ideals in order to help address problems we often create for ourselves when taking on bigger tournaments, or even something as small as FNM level play. Along with this, know yourself will also address helpful tips to make you as a player improve, such as deck choice, personal bias, and other factors in the game of magic.
Today in know yourself, I will be going over my GP Minneapolis experience, more specifically what happens when you get too far inside your own head in testing, and applying it to magic as a whole.
When testing for GP Minneapolis, I knew that mono red was the menace that had to be understood and prepared for, but one also had to be ready to face down the anti-red decks. Anyone who knows me knows that I love the energy mechanic, and I love me some pummeler, so I took to the SCG website and chatting amongst my various testing partners to get a sense of how to build out the best energy deck from here. After being convinced that pummeler’s fail rate was too high and temur was too slow, along with testing to try and find an optimal build I felt comfortable piloting, I ended up on this deck for the grand prix, feeling confident in my decision and my love of energy cards.
4x Longtusk cub
2x magma spray
4x game trail
4x aether hub
1x hashep oasis
I promptly followed registering this decklist by going 1-4 and dropping from the event, getting absolutely crushed by red twice. (ramunap and eldrazi, respectively)
So what happened? For that, we need to dig at my deck, and, myself.
First off, the mana in this deck is terrible. You lean so hard on servant of the conduit that the deck falls apart often when your servant is fatal pushed, magma sprayed, abraded, shocked….(etc.) on the draw or the play. The deck also has issues with not having enough reveal targets for game trail, and playing too few basics in a three color attune deck. Playing hashep oasis and botanical sanctum with no blue cards mainboard was just greedy, and playing all four sheltered thicket in a three color deck was a fool’s errand to prevent flooding in a deck that is half mana to begin with.
The deck is also built in a misshapen way to attempt to be a midrange deck, but lacks the advantage that rogue refiner or whirler virtuoso give the deck. As such, cards like voltaic brawler and Rhonas the Indomnitable stick out as sore thumbs in a deck that is not aggressive enough to properly leverage these cards, but not grindy enough to leverage cards like magma spray or chandra.
Following this, some of the cards here are very poorly positioned. Aethersphere harvester, while good against red, really, really dies to abrade, and doesn’t impact other matchups enough to be worth it in the mainboard. Along with this, gifted aetherborn and mono black zombies decks showed up this weekend with a vengeance to fight red, which makes bristling hydra an embarrassing magic card to cast on turn 4.
“Cast bristling hydra, get 3 energy, then pass.”
“Sure. Cast cryptbreaker, draw 2 cards, cast diregraf colossus, it comes into play as a 5/5.”
“Yeah. That happens.”
My deck was so poorly positioned against zombies my round 4 opponent asked me if I knew what relentless dead’s abilities were.
I did. I simply couldn’t get by it.
To put it simply, I iterated too hard on my deck. I was comfortable with R/G pummeler, and felt like the deck had reasonable matchups, even if I play some unconventional cards. Even if that deck was poorly positioned at that tournament I still would have ran much better than with this pile of cards. While it is always right to account for what decks will be at a tournament, knowing your biases to certain styles of play and habits is key. I tend to obsess over deck construction far too often when my initial deck was just fine as is, and you should try to find when you are doing that as well.
Remember readers, practice with a deck makes perfect play, but few can make a perfect deck. Key lessons of play that one learns early and should remember often are two with today’s failure. Build toward a cohesive plan, and don’t fall down the rabbit hole. Never throw away months of experience with an archetype if you don’t have to.
As an addendum, I went back to the drawing board and came back out with a deck that I now pummel (heh) people with pretty regularly.
4x longtusk cub
4x game trail
4x aether hub
3x hashep oasis
I really, really like pummeler. But! That’s no excuse to go in on old habits.
So what makes this deck an improvement over the first? Well, for starters, the mana is clean. twenty lands and four attune makes your land count smoother for your curve and having eleven untapped mana sources (not including game trail) makes casting your spells on curve easier.
Along with this, attuning off curve is still fine due to the bounty of two drops this deck is playing, and the fact electrostatic pummeler uses the two energy as a combo piece, instead of as before as using the land drop and attune energy as a necessity, along with it feeding cub and aether hub for added functionality. The deck’s gameplan is proactive as well, giving it a decent to favorable red matchup, since they either have to race you or interact with your creatures, which buys you time in order to assemble the combo. Blossoming defense stands out as an all star against red, stopping their falter triggers and protecting your important creatures.
The sideboard is built to grind against any B/G variant, since that is by far your worst matchup. The rest of your deck is too quick for other decks to not respect, which allows you to capitalize when sideboarding. The twenty-first land is purely for when you board into four glorybringer to make your bigger spells easier to cast and not rot in your hand, and it is a cycling land anyway, so it is easily replaced should you begin to flood.
But any discerning magic player probably has one big, four mana problem with my list, and will fervently I stand by my choice.
“Fight me on it.”
This card plays much better than it reads, and lives for +1’ing on a voltaic brawler. Along with this, her -2 has a suprisingly large amount of targets in mono red, other pummeler decks, and even B/G, picking off glint-sleeve siphoner’s and ballista’s (even though they sac it) all day. While it is fair that she is no Torch of defiance, your deck does not want to grind in most matchups. It wants to deal twenty points of damage as quick as possible, and she enables your more aggressive, non-combo starts. In matchups where we do grind, chandra is right there in the sideboard for us.
And with that, my very first foray ends. Thank you so much for reading, and remember to give pause when deck building. Otherwise, you might build something totally unplayable and bomb out of a GP.
make sure to leave your questions and comments below!