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By: Sirskills, Mitch Somes
Aug 12 2010 12:02am
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               Hello everyone, my name is Mitchell Somes and I've been playing magic since revised/4th edition. Back then I was playing solely for fun with the kids on the playground and my decks of choice were of the mono green variety. I took a long time off from magic during high school as magic just wasn't cool. I picked it back up again when I heard about MTGO v2.0 and it was right around the time Ravnica was released. My favourite deck at the time revolved  around sacrificing sakura-tribe elder and bile urchin with Savra, Queen of the Golgari and Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker in play. Stunning stuff I know, but it was fun and that's what I wanted.

The Movie that changed it all:

During University a movie came out called Rounders about a couple of poker players, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. This movie, I'm sure, was in part responsible for introducing poker to the masses. That and Chris Moneymaker's 2003 WSOP win. Needless to say I was hooked and played my way to a debt free university degree on the back of aces and kings. Magic took a full back seat to this new craze. My crowning achievement in the poker world would be a first place finish is a 747 player tournament with a US$70 +$5 buy in. First prize was a cool US$11,500  which at the time was nearly $14,000 Canadian (yes, I am a Canuck). But, eventually my interest in online poker declined as the game was getting saturated with more educated players. I was left searching for something to once again fill the time void.

               During University a movie came out called Rounders about a couple of poker players, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. This movie, I'm sure, was in part responsible for introducing poker to the masses. That and Chris Moneymaker's 2003 WSOP win. Needless to say I was hooked and played my way to a debt free university degree on the back of aces and kings. Magic took a full back seat to this new craze. My crowning achievement in the poker world would be a first place finish in a 747 player tournament with a US$70 +$5 buy in. First prize was a cool US$11,500  which at the time was nearly $14,000 Canadian (yes, I am a Canuck). But, eventually my interest in online poker declined as the game was getting saturated with more educated players. I was left searching for something to once again fill the time void.

               The answer was back to my roots, except this time with a little more experience, and a more competitive edge. The culprit... MTGO V3. Having been in and out of magic for 15+ years and having had a good 4 year stint in the semi-pro world of online poker it was easy to draw parallels between the two games. I should preface the rest of this article by saying that I enjoy competitive magic, but mostly play in the tournament practice room since having a full time job, supporting a mortgage, and being married, get in the way of any dreams of playing on the pro tour.

             Currently I have a decent budget to purchase cards in the magic world, but for a long time would end up with incomplete decks. For example, having 2 Wrath of God or 2 Kokusho, The Evening Star when four was ideal, or simply sticking to a mono colour deck like green that I had a lot of cards for. Due to a little bit of insight from my friend who is the guru of magic online prices, I was lucky enough to pick up two Jace, the Mind Sculptor when they were selling for only $32 each. As their value increased and people were running 4 in every deck, I wasn't able to spend another $180 to buy two more and ended up selling the two for a mighty profit.

              The downside to my Jace 2.0 sale was it led to an incomplete UW control deck. I also did not have any Elspeths which pretty much turned the deck into a marginal UW non-control deck. When I had two Jace 2.0s, I was still able to put together a competitive UW control deck but it never quite fired on all cylinders and only ever performed at or slightly above average. This is where I would like to parallel my poker experience with MTGO.

               The following scenario is a rock-paper-scissors scenario that has been written about in the poker world for as long as I can remember.

 vs.  vs. .

the  beats , the  beats the  while the  beats the . I won't get in to win percentages here but if you don't want to take my word for  it, there are a million poker odds calculators out there that will confirm this. Now imagine that you were holding the  and there was $5000 riding on the outcome of the hand. You have approximately a 33% chance of winning. How much would you be willing to pay to be able to add another  to the deck to increase your odds of hitting trips? What if you couldn't afford to have all four 's in the deck and you only had two (like my Jaces)? Your odds would surely decrease. how about if your opponents couldn't afford the play set of aces, or they didn't have the all supporting flush and straight cards for their  . I for one would love to play this new game against my "poor" opponents.

               Now back to magic for a moment.

Jace, the Mind SculptorMana LeakPath to ExileCelestial Colonnade vs. goblin guidelightning bolthell's thundersearing blaze vs bloodbraid elfsprouting thrinaxmaelstrom pulseblightning

                 let's assume a rock-paper-scissors scenario where: UW control beats Mono Red (they have counters, walls, spot removal and out of the SB Kor Firewalkers), Mono Red beats Jund (they just can't handle the first turn goblin guide, bolts to the dome and the thunders rolling overhead) and Jund beats UW control (blightning still main deck, sprouts from the thrinax after a Day of Judgment and Bloodbraid elf into a Great Sable Stag from the SB).

                  This may be a poor example because Jace, the Mind Sculptor is not great against mono red, but for argument sake let's say it is and in this example not being able to afford the full play set of Jace 2.0 should decrease your chance of winning just like not having all the 's in the deck. Similarly let's say you could not afford the mana base for Jund. This is similar to not including the 9s, queens and all the spades for the . You might have the maelstrom pulse in your hand, but you can't kill his planeswalker because he/she's locked you out of black mana or you just can't draw it. Finally if you forgo Hell's Thunder, and can't afford the fetch lands to thin out your deck you might not be able to race Jund with Red deck wins, just as if there were too many cards in the poker deck and you couldn't find the ace or king on the river to beat the small pocket pair; you simply run out of steam.

               The point I am trying to make is that playing with an incomplete deck puts you at a serious disadvantage. Now to make up for incomplete decks I used to think that my superior deck building skills would allow me to shrug off having only two Jace 2.0s. Eventually I found that incorrect and the most glaring example is in the mirror, where landing a Jace and keeping her around is the key to winning. 

             When I sold my Jaces for a total of 192 tickets (98 for one 94 for the other) I went on a mission to complete my playsets of VengevinesMaelstrom Pulseand Baneslayer Angels and still had tickets left over for m11 goodies like Fauna Shaman. This allowed me to complete decks that were previously only mediocre. I will leave you with a quick decklist (I am a deckbuilder at heart) that I have been piloting in the standard room and features a card not many players have taken to yet.  


            This deck utilizes Momentous Fall as its primary engine, a card that has seen little love and I feel is undervalued. Sacrificing an Abyssal Persecutor to a Momentous Fall when it is about to be pathed is just plain unfair (draw 6 cards, gain 6 life). Additional threats include, Knight of the Reliquary and Baneslayer Angel. Knight of the Reliquary can tutor up the singleton copies of Bojuka BogSejiri Steppe, or Tectonic Edge and with eight fetch lands, often enters the battlefield as a 4/4 or larger. Baneslayer Angel is just great and I won't go into any more detail on her. Against opponents who bolt your birds, hierarchs, cobras and shamans the Grim discovery is a great source of early card advantage and it has done so well I am tempted to up its quantity but another option is Sun TitanSun Titan as a one or two of would provide another big target for Momentous Fall and provides card advantage on his own.

            The removal package is spot only and should take care of most threats (and your Abyssal Persecutors when the time comes), with the sideboard aiding to destroy shrouded creatures. Duress and Identity Crisis should help against control and the Relic of Progenitus is a faster way of removing graveyards against ascension and any other graveyard combos. Finally Qasali Pridemage is there to destroy those pesky basilisk collars and the occasional O-Ring.

            I haven’t finalized my sideboard to deal with the major matchups, but from the testing I have done, the deck is resilient and drops threat after threat. Overall it is just fun to play which is why I got back into magic in the first place. I urge people to play around with the list and tweak it as needed for your metagame.

           As this is my first magic article, comments are welcome but please don't write about how "my UW deck never loses to Jund" or "in what world do you live in where Mono Red can beat Jund!?!" These are simply illustrations. All comments are welcome, good or bad. I have only ever written two other articles for a well known poker site and would welcome the feedback.


Thank you for reading.


Thanks to the Editor: Quagmire11

Special Thanks to: deluxeicoff for the article on how to write articles.




First of all welcome to Pure. by Paul Leicht at Thu, 08/12/2010 - 02:01
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First of all welcome to Pure. I think the poker comparison has been made for well over a decade as some of the games luminaries have gone from the pro tour to the world series with nary a blink (cf: Jon Finkel, and Dave Williams among others.) I agree that playing with incomplete deck lists where you have to sub in other cards for the optimal choices is probably a crippling effect if you play tourneys. Playing casually though you will find that most decks do not run 4x each good card. In fact singleton copies are the flavor du jour. Also I think poker is not an idea comparison for this aspect of the game. More analogous would be chess which is the other game M:TG is compared to often.

In chess, starting off sans a piece is done to give weak players a chance against stronger players. This is a type of skill test too as a really good player may find themselves less hampered than you would imagine playing without their queen. To the point that the weaker player may find it harder to beat them. But for most chess players losing your queen without compensation is probably going to lead to either check mate or just a plain resignation as the odds continue to slide away from you. Overall playing with less than your ideal amount of cards leads to a different type of deck than you would normally have.

I do think if you are given a choice between 2 x Jace and 4x a bunch of other staple rares/mythics choice B is the way to go. Jace x2 may powerup your UW control deck but you will sometimes struggle when you don't draw into it. Unless you can somehow tutor for it. (Again this is more an analogy than actual since there is only Diabolic Tutor in standard which is arguably a bad card because of its cost and the fact that its a third color.)

I have to ask since this article is about deck completeness, how is it you are running only 3x Doj? Seems to me it would be better for you to run 1 main and 3 in the sideboard than simply just have 3 in the sideboard.

I can see the reasoning by Westane at Thu, 08/12/2010 - 12:47
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I can see the reasoning behind the 3x DoJ in the board, as they essentially change how you'll play the deck.

I actually really enjoyed this article, then promptly dow-... borrowed that movie from a friend. This is actually something I've fought with for a long time, and still have issues. My UW deck is finally complete, so now I find I'm off on other expendature avendatures (C wat i did thar?)

I think arguing Paul's point on 2x Jace vs 4x "other staple" has some merit, so I'm gonna.

Say for the price of 2x Jace, The Mind Sculptor you could instead by Jund. The whole deck. All of Jund, no expense spared. To many people this is the way to go, obviously, as you're taking an entire deck over a pair of high end staples. But wait, you hate Jund, and you want to play Control, moreover you find you're terrible with Jund! I'm describing EXACTLY what I did just recently by the way. If you're intent is to build your way up to a deck that you want to play, expensive or otherwise, I think it's important to not be swayed by alternative bargains.

Right now I'm looking to start getting into Legacy, which is VERY costly for a control player. I've been constantly arguing with myself to the tune of, "I can buy all of Dredge. I can buy all of Alluren. Or I can by a single Force of Will." That single Force of Will really is what I should do, as it's my first stepping stone in what will be my most expensive venture into the format, and will allow me to play just about whatever I want with minimal sacrifice, and eventually none.

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To Paul,
I have seen the chess comparison before and can agree with your points on that. The reason I went with Poker is because I am good at the game, and find the Jund manabase analogy to straight/flush cards as a key point. If you compare 2 Jund decks, all things being equal except the manabase, the one with the better manabase will win more frequently. Perhaps a better example is to compare it to 7 card stud where if you had a 10J of spades in the whole with a 8 of spades up, but there were 2 9's and a q of spades visible on other players' up card. The value of the 3 spades and possible straight draws goes down significantly, even if your chance to pair up doesn't.
I do also see merit in running 1 DoJ mainboard, but against aggro I was simply dropping bigger creatures and removing their little ones. Post board I never found myself searching too hard for a DoJ drawing 5 or 6 off the back of fall. I was playing the deck heavily last night and it was losing mostly to control decks since one threat at a time without haste usually didn't cut it. I would like to know your thoughts on how to improve the control matchup pre-board.

To Westane,
I absolutely love Rounders and watch it as often as possible.
the point of 2x Jace 2.0 vs a deck or Dredge vs a FoW is an interesting one. I think you may be right that in the long run the Jace's may be the way to go, however in the short term if I can make 30-40 tickets by re-buying them later (they are already hovering at or under 80) then that is simply playing the markets (as my editor as classified board price guru would say). If you had done the FoW analogy and bought 1 at 105 and now could buy 1.5 with the same amount of tickets you may be kicking yourself.

Anyway thanks for the comments, keep 'em coming.

Great deck Mitch, I too agree by Kidsoldja at Fri, 08/13/2010 - 10:14
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Great deck Mitch, I too agree Momentous fall is a very underrated card and underused, im currently running that card in my lich deck which incorporates vengevine as nothing like using momentous fall when vengys about to get pathed..i save him, draw 4 cards, and gain 4 health 3 birds in one stone. I have a very similar build to yours only im not using white its a B/G with the same mana rampers u got, for creatures im running 4 phylacteral lichs 4 vengevines 2 grave titans and 2 eldrazi conscriptions. maelstrom pulse and momentous are 4 of each, as well as consuming vapors, the only draw back is u need artifacts in there to fuel lich, so basilisk collar and sword of vengeance are definately in. If u wanna better matchup against control u might consider using artifacts such as sword of vengeance it turns any weak creature into a threat that needs to be pathed or Oringed right away not to mention it gaves you haste, trample, first strike, and vigilance. Iv forced people to DOJ a 4/2 fauna shamen like this before while holding on to my bigger creatures in hand. Or since u have abyssal persecutor u might wanna throw in jinxed idol that artifact is great against U/W control.

great idea by Sirskills at Fri, 08/13/2010 - 15:55
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I might try a BG version and I like the idea of equipment. I never thought of Jinxed idol and abyssal like that, could work well with ol' vengy too.

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