Friday, November 12, 2010

Grim Tidings #26: Flip-Flop

I think the majority of magic articles I write aren't very helpful.

For the most part are a stream of self-congratulatory praise of how great my proven decks are. Sure, my cutting sarcasm and wit occasionally generate a chuckle (I still love the Chaos Orb piece) but for the most part, I they all smoosh together into a long wordy rant of why I think this-or-that card is so great and why you should play it too.

It’s my own fault. I pretend that everyone who reads my ramblings knows who I am, and has the same preference in play style. I assume everyone plays Casual-Competitive Magic, that they all play 300 card 5-Color decks, highlander style, and they have access to all 10,000+ cards to randomly insert in Deck XYZ at any moment’s notice. Obviously this is untrue.

The root of the problem may lie in my core deck: “First Reminder”. I gush on and on about this deck, partly to brag on my collection, and partly to show-off my self-proclaimed cleverness. The deck has gained notoriety (for whatever that’s worth) at my casual table, as opponent’s groan when they see me pull out the customized black-and-purple deck box adorned with a mosaic of Grim Reminder snippets.

No one who has played against it can deny its strength. It’s a really good deck. Plus the fact that I’ve played it for several years makes me fairly competent in piloting it. As time passes, I tweak it to address the meta-game, but overall, it remains essentially intact.

I get bored. Each year it seems I reassemble Second Reminder gain to inject some new life into my Magic games. I try to test out some of the new mechanics, or give my friends a break from the menace First Reminder has become.

Then I get bored again. Either I’m addicted to power, or I’m addicted to deckbuilding, but for some reason I can’t keep Second Reminder put together. Two years ago, I dismantled it and built 5-Color Enchantress. Last year I dismantled it and built 5-Color Kiki. In both cases it was a welcome diversion, as it gave me something new to think about, discuss, and waste my time/money on.

But now I need a new project. A few weeks ago, I traded for a bunch of the new Proliferate cards in an attempt to build a new theme deck.

4x Inexorable Tide
4x Contagion Engine
3x Contagion Clasp
4x Steady Progress
4x Thrumming Birds
2x Throne of Geth

Boy was I excited! I researched a plethora of synergistic cards, and then rummaged through my binders to assemble what I thought would be an unstoppable flow of counters and headaches for my opponents to deal with. Last Tuesday, I finally got my chance to test it out against a live opponent: Jedi Jed.

Epic Fail
Oops. After shuffling up for a few games, it became apparent I had forgotten three of the basic principles of deck-building at the casual table: Mana-fixing, Sustainability and Defense.

I had too many comes-into-play-tapped lands.

I missed land drops.

I didn’t have enough card draw.

I didn’t have any early blockers.

I didn’t have enough removal.

I didn’t have finishers.

It was pretty much just a stack of crap.

What made things worse for me, is that simultaneously, Dark Jedi ran his course through his own artifact-themed deck. He rebuilt to his own “Best-of” deck, prepared to kick my ass. (He really needs to come up with a catchy-nickname for his deck, so I can refer to it easier. Aegis has the “Deck of Many Things”, I have “First Reminder”, Jed has nothing yet. Gotta work on that.)

So now he sits in a dominant position, with a Tier-1 deck, while I languish with an obviously untuned pile of junk.

Deck-Building 101
Well, at least I have a project to work on now. There were brief moments when 5C Proliferate did what it was supposed to. And I was able to clearly see where it needed the most help. It gives me hope that the proliferate concept is not a total loss. Perhaps I can still make this work.

So back to my starting comments. Up until now, Grim Tidings has been a dissertation of proven and sucessful decks and cards. I'd like to start a new series within Tidings to help document this poor deck's evolution to hopefully become what I imagined it would be.

I’m not going to post the preliminary deck-list. It doesn’t work. I think what I have to do is break it down into functional problems, and address them over the next few weeks or months.

What I built was a proliferate deck that I thought would be good. What I really want instead is a good deck, that features proliferate.

Hopefully this exercise will be enjoyable to follow along with. I’ll start with the most immediate problem first: Defense. I have to find a way to stay alive long enough if I want to pull this off. Then I'll address card draw and mana, and see what develops.

I’d like to keep the individual articles in the series short, so I can focus on specific topics individually rather than tackling the whole mess all at once. Stay tuned, my friends. I'll let you know how it works out piece by piece. In the end, hopefully I can compile a solid decklist, and together, we can learn something along the way.


The_Magi said...

"You suck, and your deck is jank!"

Just kidding, looking forward to the new articles.

Nick said...

To me, a proliferate deck with some early stuff screams either allies or level up for a creature base, since they would benefit from the later game proliferate, while still being useful and synergistic early

GrimJack said...

Thanks - I agree, the level-up guys seem like a perfect fit for proliferate. I started off with about ten of them. They are slow though, and normally their level-up cost is less than the 4 mana needed to proliferate (with Contagion Clasp, for example).

I still have five level-uppers in the list, but as I work through the basic kinks, I'll reevaluate their effectiveness.

Nick said...

That is really where Allies show some strength, as there are many allies that enter with +1/+1 Counters, so even if they are drawn late, they still provide a bonus, and can really present a bonus proliferation opportunity no matter what stage the game is in