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By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Apr 23 2007 12:28pm
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Vampiric Tutor

I heard about Eternal Struggle towards the end of its first season.  I thought it sounded like fun, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to hang with the big boys with their fetchlands and their Vampiric Tutor's  However, the price of the tournament was right (Free!), so I figured I may as well give it a shot. My decision to start Classic was based on the fact that I want to be in MTGO for a long time, so I wanted to get into the format that will eventually be the 'Eternal' format for MTGO.  In short: Classic is the future of all cards and all pools.  So the earlier I get into it the better.

I started by researching the decks, as any prospective player should.  The main site for decklists and Classic discussion is www.classicquarter.com.  Looking back over the last few tournaments, I saw that R/W Haterade, Affinity, and Combo were frequently in the top 4 or top 8 of the tournaments.  But I felt that something was amiss.  There were no dedicated Control decks.  There were control elements in some of the decks, but yet a distinct lack of dedicated Control.  So I decided to scrap the Affinity net deck I had been tweaking for the tournament and created an MBC build about 40 minutes before the tournament started.

It was at this point that I noticed something.  Neither of the decks I had been working even ran Classic cards.  There's not a whole lot for MBC in Classic at the moment.  So I started to wonder, is MBC even worth running?  I quickly checked the ClassicQuarter website for any information about MBC decks in Classic.  And the results were disheartening... absolutely NO MBC decks had been registered.  Well, I decided that it was time to fix that, and registered for the tournament with my MBC Snow deck ready to turn some heads.


4x Duress

Win Conditions:

1x Genju of the Fens
4x Corrupt
3x Consume Spirit

Control Elements:

4x Coldsteel Heart
2x Diabolic Tutor
4x Dimir House Guard
4x Keening Banshee
4x Damnation
3x Phyrexian Arena

25 Lands
3 x Cabal Coffers
20 x Snow-Covered Swamp
2x Scrying Sheets








4x  Leyline of the Void
3x Chalice of the Void
4x Cranial Extraction
1x Consume Spirit
3x Mind Sludge

Main Deck choices:

Damnation was obviously an auto include for the aggro matchups I was expecting to face. The inclusion of Coldsteel Heart was to enable a third turn Damnation as well as be a hit for Scrying Sheets.  That was the intention for Scrying Sheets, with the Snow Lands and the Coldsteel Heart's.  Read my tournament report to see how well that worked out.

Duress is still the obvious choice for early disruption, so I added 4 of those.  I was worried about counterspells so added Mirari to make them have more to counter (assuming that it actually resolved in the first place).  Mirari also should speed up my win conditions, turning one Consume Spirit into two for a faster win.  I'm probably going to have to re-evalute my inclusion of Mirari.  Or at least how many Mirari I play.  I also went with Snow elements in the hope that when the games go long I'd get ahead on resources with them.  However, being as most games were "over" by turn 6, they were rarely a factor.

Dimir House Guard was for uncounterable tutoring of Damnation, Cranial Extraction and Diabolic Tutor, but will likely be replaced with Vampiric Tutor once I purchase them.

Sideboarding  thoughts from a Classic noob:
Leyline of the Void was for Graveyard based strategies.  I'm not sure if they've been hated out or just don't have the 'oompf' online yet, but I didn't see one all night.  The decks it was meant to hose specifically were Worldgorger Dragon and Reanimator.  Also as a possibility against Affinity's Disciple of the Vault and Modular mechanic.

Chalice of the Void was mostly for "No Stick" decks Isochron Scepter + Orim's Chant or Counterspell.  It proved to be an MVP in game 3 of Match 1 where it shut down almost all of my opponents mana production when set to 0.

Mind Sludge was in the sideboard for control.  However, as I saw throughout the night, 5CC spells are too high to hardcast often.  I really need to lower my average spell cost in order to compete with the faster decks.  My average CMC was 3.37.  A bit too high in my opinion.  This will be cut next time.

And who can forget about Cranial Extraction for combo decks.  Mainly brought in at the last minute to battle Dragonstorm decks and TEPS (The Extended Perfect Storm) decks.  It was a powerhouse against Goblin Charbelcher too, well worth $10.00 for a playset.  This card is still a great card for keeping Combo decks in check.  I'm actually thinking of main decking 2 of these once I know the meta a little bit better.


Tournament Report

Round 1: ImperfectBeing - X Land Belcher

Game 1:

I start of mana screwed and think that I'm up against a storm deck.  It's not until he plays and activates a Goblin Charbelcher on turn 4 that I realize I'm toast.  He belches me for 20+ and it's game over.

Sideboard for Combo:
+4 cranial
+3 Chalice
-4 Damnation
-4 Keening Banshee

Game 2
I mulligan to 6 while on the play.  Yuck.  I'm once again mana screwed (with 25 lands and 4 extra mana sources... go figure).  I play a turn 2 Coldsteel Heart but miss my land drop on turn 3.  I Transmute my Dimir House Guard for a Cranial Extraction hoping for a land  next turn to be able to Extract before his Lotus Bloom resolves.  I, of course, do NOT get my land but have to play another Coldsteel Heart and he gets one turn to go off.  He knows that next turn I can Extract so he has to try and go off now.  He goes to 0 cards in hand off of a Lion's Eye Diamond and other mana accelerators and Belches...  I right click to concede, but figure that I may get lucky and not die.  Fortune favors the lazy it seems, as he only belches for 8.  I get another turn!!!  I untap, extract his Lion's Eye Diamond's, as they're the only card he could draw to belch again (since he needs three mana and he has no lands or anything in play besides the belcher).  After this I start to beat down with an animated Genju, and win.

Game 3
My first turn Chalice of the Void set to 0 counters shuts off almost all of the his mana production which consist mostly of Chrome Mox, Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Bloom.  Next I Extract all of his Charbelchers, and ride a Genju to an easy victory.

Round 2: AHammer - RG Beats

Game 1:
I get beat down via (Llanowar Elf)'s backed up by Skarrg, the Rage Pits and Pendelhaven

-1 Mirari
+1 Consume Spirit

Game 2:
It was at this point that I realize that I don't have an anti-aggro sideboard.  I need to make way for some more cards to help in this arena as my current 4x Damnation and 4x Keening Banshee just aren't going to cut it against really strong Aggro decks.  I keep a two land hand that has 2x Damnation, 1x Phyrexian Arena and others.  I get decent draws at first but just can't get enough land to stabilize (again... bah!), I draw nothing but spells until it's too late.  Had the Scrying Sheets been Swamps, I would have been able to stabilize much better, and possibly win that game.  But then again, if wishes were fishes...

Round 3: Javasci - B/W/r Aggro Control

Game 1: He expends a lot of resources getting out an early Morph which turns out to be an Exalted Angel.  I sit on two swamps until turn 5, but thanks to Coldsteel Hearts I transmute for a Damnation and kill the Angel.  At this point, I have 5 cards to his 2 and I make him discard a Trinisphere.  He plays the other card in hand before the Duress resolves which is an Enlightened Tutor for an Isochron Scepter.  However, he draws the Scepter and has nothing left in hand to imprint.  I start Mirari'ing damage spells and win shortly after that.

Game 2:
He starts the game at 15 life due to Flooded Strand for Godless Shrine untapped into Vampiric Tutor.  Turn 2 he plays Dark Ritual into Trinisphere.  Which slows my Coldsteel Heart by one turn.  However, this play ends up stranding a lot of cards in his hand when he doesn't draw a thrid mana source.  He eventually has to use Simian Spirit Guide to cast a Duress.  But by that point I'm already ahead on cards from the Phyrexian Arenas and Scrying Sheets

Javasci's Deck was far stronger than mine, but it seemed to expend a lot of resources in the first few turns which as a control deck, I didn't mind.

Round 4: PhilipJFry - Belcher/Empty the Warrens

Game 1: I strip the belcher out of his hand with first turn Duress but he Empty the Warrens for 18 Goblins.  I can't get a Damnation and I go down painfully.

Sideboard for Combo:
+4 cranial
+3 Chalice
-4 Damnation
-3 Keening Banshee

Game 2:  I get a first turn Chalice for 0 and a second turn Chalice for 1.  Shutting down every chance he has for casting spells.  He concedes on turn 2.

Game 3:  While it seemed to come down to a misclick on PFJ part, I still would have had the win.  I'll explain:

The game starts up normally with me duressing an Empty the Warrens.  I accel into a turn 3 Cranial Extraction naming Goblin Charbelcher.  I see hand full of accelleration and the only tutor is Spoils of the Vault.  Meaning that he as 3 win conditions in his 47 card deck left.  He top decks a Vampiric Tutor, puts an Empty the warrens on the top of his library, draws it with spoils, and realizes that he can't play the Warrens now because he didn't activate the Lion's Eye Diamond first.  With two outs in his 40 card library he tries for another Empty the Warrens but it's too far down and he dies from the Spoils of the Vault.

Now, here's the catch.  Even if he HADN'T misplayed, my hand was Damnation, Mirari, and Diabolic Tutor so he would have still lost, pretty much no matter what.  But either way, it's frustrating to lose to a misclick.  Sorry about that, PhillipJFry!


Winston Smith - Mono Black Aggro Disruption

Game 1: I mulligan a 1 swamp 1 Coffers hand into a 5 Swamp 1 Damnation hand.  I then get first turn duressed.  Leaving me with 5 Swamps.  I topdeck another Damnation and pass the turn.  He Rituals out a Hypnotic Specter, and he gets my Damnation a turn before I can wrath.  With no cards and a hyppie swinging, I die quickly.

Game 2: I face down against the dreaded 'First turn Hyppie'.  And I see why it's so destructive.  My hand is destroyed.  And I concede with lethal damage on the stack.


Lessons Learned:

What did work:

Chalice of the Void

Chalice of the Void helped me win a couple of games.  There seems to be a lot of redundant low mana costs cards that this can hurt.  It's okay in this deck as there's very little that gets hurt by the ability.

Cranial Extraction may become a 2x main deck card once I know the metagame a bit better.  It is crucial for stopping combo decks.

What didn't work very well:

Scrying Sheets

Scrying Sheets. There was never a time that I was able to use its ability.  The games are over way too fast and I have to do something with my mana every turn in order to stay alive.  These will become swamps, or possibly Cabal Pit for extra creature removal, but I'm not sure that I can justify the damage for a non-swamp.

Coldsteel Heart is way too slow, but I'm not sure what alternative I have yet.  Possibly Chrome Mox although I'm loathe to give up cards in a control deck.  My feeling is that the Snow engine isn't really worth it in Classic right now.  It only ever mattered in one game... not match.  Game.  So I'd probably look at cutting this soon for a better mana base and better acceleration.

What didn't work at all:

Mind Sludge

Mind Sludge is way too slow.  I haven't faced a control deck yet, but it's not at all fast enough to be of any help.  Against Aggro and Combo it's a dead card. Against Control I doubt it will resolve.  

Stupor seems like a good replacement for the disruption slot.  Either Stupor or Distress or possibly Cabal Therapy.


I feel that MBC is a viable deck type in Classic right now.  It has all the tools necessary to fight for its niche in the format.  Cheap sweepers, early disruption, combo and graveyard hate and good finishers.  All it needs now is some tweaking.  Of course this is all after only one night of Classic for me, so I may have gotten a strange point of view. 

The cards that I'm interested in getting into the deck are Infest, Cabal Therapy, and (Night of Souls Betrayal).  The Betrayl seems odd, but after seeing the decks in the format I want to be able to pro-actively handle Giant Solifuge, Disciple of the Vault, Arcbound Ravager, and other Aggro creatures and 1 toughness utility creatures.  The cost for the modified version of the deck is ~100 tix, and most of that is the Damnations, which may be replaceable with Mutilate to bring the deck's price down even further.


Come and check out the next one, which will be on the 29th of April.  Mark your calendars now!



Props to dangerlinto (like all PRE TO's), he does a lot to run the tourney.  He handles the registration, pairing, reporting and recording.  I really hope that at some point in the future WotC allows PRE organizers to start their own 0k tournaments.  Many thanks to dangerlinto and the PRE organizers who do what they do for the community.

And props to MTGOTRADERS and Foilz for hosting this event.

Until next time!



by Lord Erman at Tue, 04/24/2007 - 15:11
Lord Erman's picture

Although as I said that I have no knowledge of the format, Persecute seems to be a good replacement for Mind Sludge. And you can also fetch it with Dimir House Guard. Just a thought...

oh yeah... by hamtastic at Tue, 04/24/2007 - 09:32
hamtastic's picture

Also, if I mis-classified any of the decks I played against, my apologies. I'm new here. :)

Thanks for the feedback! by hamtastic at Tue, 04/24/2007 - 09:21
hamtastic's picture

I had a great time at ES, the format is fast but it's still pretty open for a lot of deck types.

The things you'll need if you want to win matches as a control deck are: combo disruption (Challice) and Aggro disruption (Wrath/Damnation). Although, as I found out, if you want to beat aggro you need at least 8 board sweepers as the aggro decks are very fast and resilient to wrath.

I would have had a much better chance if I would have made better card choices originally. (Seriously, I'm not sure why I expected Mind Sludge to be of any use... same with keening banshee... yikes.).

But that's what this article was aboutl learning the format, and getting a feel for the pitfalls.

Eternal Struggle is a fun event and classic has some good powerful decks. I hope to make it to as many of these events as I can!


by Lord Erman at Tue, 04/24/2007 - 08:55
Lord Erman's picture

A very good article which is very encouraging for players who are not familiar with the format(like me!). I enjoyed reading it a lot. It's not like "this is the deck and I won all" style but it explains each and every step of deck choice, card selection steps and analyzing the games afterwards. And yes, I remember how destructive a first turn hyppie was! Good job.