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By: Tarmotog, Naoto Watabe
Jul 09 2008 9:24pm
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Aggro beats control.
Control beats combo.
Combo beats aggro.
This is the Scissors-Paper-Stone of known Magic.
Aggro: Aggressive decks that win by ending the game early using good and fair cards.

Control: Decks that win by dragging the game to the point where the opponent runs out of resources to combat them, winning slowly with one of the few win conditions they have in their deck.
Combo: Decks that try to do unfair things and threaten to win if you do not win first or are capable of disrupting them.
Aggro beats control
Aggressive decks slip through the slow play of the control decks and attack from every opening until they win.
Control beats combo
You won't get to see your 3 cards assembled in play ever.
Combo beats aggro
Aggro decks can only kill u by turn X and combo wins on turn X-1.
In Singleton, however, things are slightly different.
Combo Decks
Besides a rare turn 2 Worldgorger Dragon combo going off, most combo decks don't go off until around turn 5 because of the amount of time needed to set up can be rather large. This is due to the characteristics of Singleton that restricts the number of an individual card in your deck. If you need 2 cards, there are only those 2 cards lurking in your deck somewhere. Unless you are rather lucky, it's often rare to see a combo piece sitting in your hand. If the combo piece is somehow put into an unexpected play zone, you need to change your entire plan because you can no longer draw into another of the same card unless there are other cards of the same ability.
By the nature of the format, combo decks are the most hurt because combo decks revolve around a few cards to work. Only with the introduction of cards that increase consistency can these decks function better. Combo decks, sadly, gain new tools at the slowest rate when compared to the other types of decks because such cards tend to be more specific in nature.
To counteract such situations, combo decks don't simply use 2 card combos. They tend to use combos that can be easily protected or combos that are simply overpowering.
Here are some 2 card combos that can let you win:
Stuffy Doll + Guilty Conscience: Deal 1 damage to Stuffy Doll, it deals 1 damage to the opponent (supposing you chose him for the Stuffy Doll's setting), it triggers Guilty Conscience and it deals another damage to Stuffy Doll which in turn deals another damage to your selected opponent. This combo kills an opponent and cannot be stopped creature kill or burn. Works well with Enlightened Tutor.
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind + Curiosity / Keen Sense: With Curiosity/Keen Sense on Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, you go off when you draw a card. When you do, you trigger the "deal 1 damage" ability of Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and you can opt to draw a card from Curiosity which triggers the "deal 1 damage" if you opt to draw a card. So in the end you can deal as much damage as the number of cards in your deck. It's not easy to pull off but it can be done.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Pestermite/Sky Hussar: When Pestermite or Sky Hussar comes into play, you can untap Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and you can tap to make a copy of the creature that allows you to untap Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. Every cycle nets you a haste copy of the creature (Pestermite/Sky Hussar) ready to attack for the win. This combo is most effective when put into play via an entwined Tooth and Nail.
Academy Ruins + Mindslaver: Control your opponent's turn. Put Mindslaver on top of your library. Control your opponent's turn.
Repeat until you win via decking unless you lose first to the timer or you manage to kill your opponent while everything is happening. It works in real life but online, it becomes a real pain to win because it may take really long to do so.
Guile + Dovescape: Play a non-creature spell (or let the opponent do that for you) that costs more than 0 mana and make infinite 1/1 flying tokens.
Necromancy/Animate Dead + Worldgorger Dragon (in the graveyard): Return Worldgorger Dragon into play, remove other permanents including the aura, trigger the aura which says to sacrifice the creature when the aura leaves play, Worldgorger Dragon dies, returns every other permanent, including the aura, into play untapped (like lands), returns Worldgorger Dragon and continues the cycle until you have another creature in graveyard to break the cycle. During this time, you can tap your lands for mana (therefore infinite mana) and probably cast an instant kill so that you don't have to have a creature in the graveyard to end the loop.
On raw power, the Worldgorger Dragon combo is definitely the most powerful now because it costs so little to pull it off and can even go off on turn 2 or at instant speed using Necromancy which will catch people off guard. The deck can be made entirely to support the combo, making it difficult to combat with a few random counter magic.
The Pestermite, Stuffy Doll and Mindslaver combos are easily put into control decks as random finishers to suddenly end the game when in control. Blue decks can try running Guile + Dovescape but Dovescape tends to be counter intuitive because blue based decks tend to run more non-creature spells than other decks. 
Banned combo in Singleton: Flash + Protean Hulk: Cast Flash with Protean Hulk in hand, Protean Hulk dies, search for Body Double (which targets Protean Hulk and Carrion Feeder, sacrifice Body Double, search for Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic. Sacrifice Mogg Fanatic to deal 1 damage, sacrifice Reveillark to return Body Double (copying Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic, sacrifice Mogg Fanatic for another damage, sacrifice Body Double (copying Reveillark) to return Body Double and Mogg Fanatic. Deal infinite damage.
This combo is by far the most efficient combo because you only need to cast a blue instant that costs 2 mana to win. The combo is much easier to assemble than the Worldgorger Dragon combo because of the characteristics of the individual cards.
You can even combo off on your upkeep when you have a Pact of Negation or Summoner's Pact trigger on the stack threatening to kill you. 
For those who don't know,
Flash may be banned in Singleton but it's not banned in Singleton100.
Grindstone and Painter's Servant: Choose a color, activate Grindstone and mill the person out. Win when your opponent tries to draw a card. This combo is not available now but will be when Tempest comes at the end of the year. This combo can be put into any deck because of its "no color commitment" properties. Buy cheap Painter's Servants now!
Other combo decks:
Now we look at the other types of combo decks that do not need extra protection to securely go off.
The Heartbeat of Spring combo deck: Get an enormous amount of mana via acceleration with basic lands and win with either storm cards or cards like Rude Awakening
Storm decks: Cast a few spells in a turn, cast Mind's Desire or Tendrils of Agony or Brain Freeze or Empty the Warrens, depending on the build and win the opponent.
Storm based combo decks are very tough to beat because storm, by its nature, is resilient to counter magic which makes it rather favorable against the control decks. The ideal play against such decks is to just hold on to cards, draw a few more and go off with a critical amount of mana and spells. Control decks will normally be unable to match every spell with a piece of counter magic or even have enough mana to cast more than 2 pieces of counter magic. The only way to beat storm decks is to be proactive in the approach and try to win before they can go off. Control decks have no choice but to play cards disruptively instead of trying to wait to counter spells because the storm decks are made in such a way that countering spells will get you nowhere.
Tip of the day: A good play in either storm deck is to Remand your storm spell to replay it again. It usually becomes lethal if you manage to do this and recast your storm spell. Play this when the storm trigger is on the stack.
Storm based decks are put on a tight clock from the start because they hardly ever interact with the opponent. (Heartbeats decks may have Moment's Peace to fix that problem) This makes it more profitable for storm decks to face control decks instead of aggro decks because they can wait and sculpt the "perfect hand" because they are not pressurized to actually go off.
In fact, aggro-control decks are such decks' worst matchups because they put the combo decks on a clock and force them to combo off early while they are ready to disrupt them in the form of cards like Memory Lapse or Force Spike.
Aggro decks
Aggro decks, on the other end of the spectrum, are one of the more consistent decks because most cards have similar counterparts printed throughout the years and this allows them to make somewhat a 4x this and 4x that type of deck without actually having 4 same card. This characteristic allows such decks to utilize the mana curve to maximize mana to win.
The biggest selling point for an aggro deck is the fact that people use shocklands and painlands to fix their mana. Combo decks and control decks can stumble by letting lands come into play tapped. Otherwise, they simply "start with a smaller amount of life" like 17 or even less when they want to maximize their plays while trying to be greedy with the mana base. Aggro decks are at an advantage when they can win more currently (when shocklands are still in fashion) because of this factor.
Also, aggro decks can capitalize on mana problems which can be rather frequent when people don't get as lucky as they want to be with their lands, especially if they are trying to overload their mana base with lands that they don't really need.
Control Decks
Control decks tend to be slightly less consistent than aggro decks because most of the time their most efficient cards don't come in the same form. For example, Wrath of God's most similar white counterpart is probably Rout which costs 5 mana to cast. Others like Austere Command cost 6 mana. This difference puts the deck at a natural disadvantage against the aggro deck because of inherent inefficiency of the card choices.
While this may seem like the case, most control decks are well equipped to handle the aggro decks by accepting the inefficient nature and not making a "4 of" deck. Instead, they utilize various strong cards they can get their hands on and overpower the aggro decks using quality to overcome consistency.
Scissors Paper Stone?
Combos fight control decks well unless the control deck is proactive enough.
Aggro forces combo decks to go off fast or lose.
Control tends to be able to take care of aggro decks but both can win depending on card choices made.
This is the how things are like. No deck type has an absolute matchup against another because of the inherent inconsistency of the format that comes from the fact that you can only have 1 of any named card besides a basic land in your deck. As long as you know what are the important plays and how to play your game, every deck type should be able to win another deck if the deck is well thought out and well played.
The Evolution of Singleton
After Lorwyn and the introduction of the planeswalkers, there was a sudden increase for players to have answers to them because specifically Garruk Wildspeaker could simply wreck games of the control player by allowing them have more mana and dump a small army of beasts into play or force combo players to go off next turn unless they could hold the front against the impending Overrun. The lack of actual cards to combat the various planeswalkers makes it difficult for pre Lorwyn builds of decks to survive because they are at a big disadvantage against this new card type that doesn't play like normal Magic. Therefore, each deck should have at least some countermeasure in place. Old control decks cannot simply rely on cards like Nevinyrral's Disk or Akroma's Vengeance to clear the board because they only name a whole bunch of card types that have existed for a long time. The planeswalkers can sit in play like some super enchantment and continue to threaten to bring the game to an end. Oblivion Stone is now slightly more played because it can hit anything that isn't a land.
As a conscious recognition of planeswalkers, people have actually employed the use of more creatures in their decks to attack or protect them. With the newer sets pushing for more creature fights, it is inevitable that Singleton, which doesn't have a critical volume of broken cards yet, will tend to move towards the creature era.
This situation happens because the new cards are coming out faster than the older cards and it is from these older cards, rather than the new cards, where you find the more unfair games. I expect MED II to define what settings the Singleton format is going to be in for the couple more years to come. With Mana Crypt already revealed (like I said, the "unfair" cards), we are put on a tight rope to see how many more of such cards are in the set or is this one of the rarer few? It definitely hurts if there are only a few of such powerful cards because games will tend to gravitate towards getting those cards into play first for massive advantage, as seen from the Skullclamp era when people rushed into Skullclamp. Probably in the future, when Singleton is rampant with sick cards, Skullclamp would become unbanned.
If MED II is soft on us, we'll definitely be walking straight into the more planeswalker defined era that Shards of Alara promises with its addition of a few more planeswalkers. 
If MED II gives us gold, you can be sure that the format would warp into a more broken format unlike what it currently is like.
Every deck will benefit from the new dual lands promised in MED II because everyone will have more life to juggle with now. Aggro decks or even burn decks will lose slight of their appeal because of this change that removes some of their advantage.
Today, I play fair Magic. I like the amount of synergy in my deck and I like to explore areas like the mana base of decks. My deck can win from multiple angles and I don't outright lose to anything that's fair. I have my fair share of wins against unfair decks by attacking their weak areas.
Tomorrow, I play 5 mana cards on turn 2. You stop me from casting my spells by denying my mana. Fair decks now play 2 mana 5/5 fliers and 2 mana 7/8 vanilla creatures and combo decks win on turn 3.
The day after, Chalice of the Void becomes very good along with Null Rod and everyone does things like draw 3 for 1 mana at instant speed. Everyone plays blue because there is no real reason not to. Everyone loves unfair Magic.
Singleton should definitely gravitate towards the more Vintage styled decks in the future because the cards would allow it to.
The biggest hit should come when the Urza block come in a couple of years. Who knows what we'll be playing by then.
Fair and Unfair Magic
Fair Magic is when you play a deck that people have no qualms when you win them. This usually involves playing cards that interact with your opponents and not entirely preventing them from playing cards. People enjoy playing their decks and letting people play their cards will make the game experience more enjoyable. As long as they are able to be part of the game, it is likely that you are playing "fair Magic".
Counterbalance is a fair card that people can play through if they are prepared to face it but it gets tough sometimes.
Unfair Magic is what you would call a deck that doesn't bother with you and wins before you get to move a finger. Needless to say, no one likes to play against such decks when all they get in the playing experience is a sense of uselessness while watching the opponent do his thing in 5 whole minutes even after you press the f6 key.
Dredging in Singleton
One of the fairer "unfair" decks is the dredge deck.
Dredge made its debut in Ravnica as a GB mechanic that allowed players to reuse cards. To date, there are 13 dredge cards including Dakmor Salvage from Future Sight.
With it, a certain somebody realized that Ichorid, the crap rare, went well together with the dredge mechanic and decided to make a deck that would eventually change the way Magic is played and how sideboards are made.
Singleton didn't look like a home for Ichorid because it was almost impossible to build a deck around 1 card that wasn't likely to show up at all. I started on the deck when Coldsnap came online and brought together with it Ashen Ghoul from Ice Age in one of the precon decks.  Ashen Ghoul worked in a rather wierd way because you couldn't arrange the cards that went into the graveyard which you would have been able to in real life and there were times when you could activate it even if there wasn't 3 creatures over it. I couldn't figure out what was the logic behind how it worked. Thankfully it changed with the introduction of Weatherlight.
The initial build was a hybrid between dredge and reanimator but slightly softer on the reanimation. Stitch Together and Life/Death were used to bring back a Sutured Ghoul or Simic Sky Swallower with haste, courtesy of Dragon Breath.
Anger was tried over Dragon Breath because Dragon Breath was rather narrow but getting a mountain (or Steam Vents actually) was not as easy as it seems because it heavily depended on Life from the Loam but Life from the Loam couldn't be played 100% of the time.
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge and Grim Harvest were used in the deck as well. You can imagine how clunky it was but the whole concept was definitely fresh. Breakthrough was in the deck despite not being played in the other formats. It had its good and bad points but it somewhat looked worse than the highly played Tolarian Winds. Times have definitely changed considerably from then.
A flying big Psychatog usually won games because dredge filled the graveyard really fast but its 3 mana cost was slightly prohibitive. Nevertheless, it stayed in the deck until I decided to remake the deck recently. However, the playstyle has significantly changed so this is one of the cards I will consider.
Time Spiral came along with new flashback cards like Dread Return and Ancient Grudge. Nether Traitor looked like a replacement for Nether Shadow and other cards like Chronosavant, Avatar of Woe and Undertaker were also tinkered with. Avatar of Woe was hard cast after returning it via Grim Harvest or Undertaker but the process had to go through a few turns so it wasn't as efficient as I had hoped it to be.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is important to the deck because it allows the deck to win through an active Meloku the Clouded Mirror by changing the evasion from Wonder to Filth. There are many reasons why Filth is better than Wonder. As Life from the Loam was an integral part of the deck, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth could actually affect the game regularly and unblockable creatures are definitely tough to beat.
The better creature cards in the deck work at least twofold.
Creatures in the deck would best
-be black creatures: So that they fuel
Ichorid if they need to.
-have a decent power/ toughness: To add more punch to
Sutured Ghoul.
Phantasmagorian is another such creature that has the desired qualities. Slightly before or around the release of Planar Chaos, there were discussions on how to make the Ichorid deck better. Gigapede was a card that was pushed for because of its ability to act as a discard outlet and to also pump Sutured Ghoul significantly. Although Phantasmagorian didn't catch on with the rest of the community, till today, it remains as an important part of the Singleton dredge deck because it can knock out 3 cards in your hand so that you can dredge without worrying about having an active discard outlet in play.
Undead Gladiator filled in a similar role as well but it was quite mana intensive, having you to pay 2 mana to cycle and another 2 mana to discard. I'll reconsider it after I get the deck sorted out again.
During this time of constant upgrades to the Ichorid decks in Vintage, Shambling Shell was also pushed for because of its many different characteristics that made it considerable. I had totally missed that, despite there not being more than 12 dredge cards at that point in time, and threw it into the mix immediately.
Future Sight was the most suprising, introducing Tarmogoyf, Narcomoeba, Dakmor Salvage, Street Wraith, Dryad Arbor and most importantly, Bridge from Below. This set brought with it a seemingly impossible to bridge gap between the Singleton format and the other formats because the kills changed to Dread Return + Flame-Kin Zealot, which worked well with multiple Bridge from Below and Narcomoebas, or Dread Return + Cephalid Sage that depended on another copy of Dread Return to actually win. Already, Serum Powder and Bazaar of Baghdad could not be replicated because of many obvious reasons.
Anyhow, Tarmogoyf added its full stats to Sutured Ghoul during this period of time after the rulings changed. I have no idea how they spoilt that but it was quite good when it worked. Also, having a 2 mana big creature was not a bad deal especially since you can play it using Golgari Thug to put it back on top of the library. Dakmor Salvage worked wonderfully because there were times when the deck would be stuck on just 1 land for some reason like using up Cephalid Coliseum or just getting blasted away. Entomb for Dakmor Salvage isn't a bad play too. The most exciting cards were Street Wraith and Bridge from Below.
Street Wraith is basically a free draw and has all the desired characteristics of a creature card for this deck. Bridge from Below allowed the deck to play more "out of the rules" and it was really difficult to stop. This card allowed more creatures to come into the pictuer and that slightly improved the games against aggressive decks.
Dryad Arbor looked promising because it looked like it could help cheat the flashback cost of Dread Return but it died too frequently to be useful in the deck. 
MED 1 imported Urza's Bauble, Nether Shadow and Mishra's Factory from the ancient world but the excitement was far from the dredge deck. With Force of Will and other exciting cards, I abandoned the dredge deck in favor of decks that could win on turn 2 because they were so much better at winning.
The worst matchup for the deck was probably an aggressive deck. Every aggro deck spotted Umezawa's Jitte and it was a very strong card against the Ichorid deck because it presented a clock while being able to actively deal with Ichorid and Ashen Ghoul without having the need to do anything exceptional. The only answer to it came in the form of Ancient Grudge flashback which couldn't be relied on and the games against aggro decks would usually be over by then because the deck takes quite a significant amount of damage on its own as well. 
With the banning of Umezawa's Jitte and with the current decks not very hateful of the graveyard, I decided to remake the dredge deck in a context that can be relevant today.
Without further ado, here is the decklist: (After losing part of my work to some distractions, I decided to post the decklist in a different way. I'll put it up the normal way next time if you guys don't like it)
Glimpse the Unthinkable was a very late addition to the deck after seeing it played in standard as a "dredge 10 once" sorcery. Other than that, the most of the cards are either discard engines or draw cards.
The more questionable cards in the deck are Greater Gargadon and Sylvan Library. Greater Gargadon came in with the newest update to the deck as an effort to be less graveyard dependant and more resiliant to cards like Swords to Plowshares. Most of the time, it just get removed by Sutured Ghoul which happily accepts its 9/7 body. Sylvan Library is a card I considered in the deck way back from the time when it was part of the promo cards section when you clicked on "owned = 0". Potentially, you could dredge 3 cards up without the need to put back any because dredge was a draw replacement and you didn't actually draw the card. It's rather clunky after playing a few games with it and using it is not that intuitive on first the attempt because you need to click on the card, after you selecting the 2 cards, to pay the 4 life to keep it. Further testing is required to see whether or not it makes the deck.
The mana base is slightly weird with Reflecting Pool and 2 Vivid lands in the mix. The mana base is in its testing phase. Also, you notice there is a Treetop Village in the mix of man-lands. Mutavault and Mishra's Factory can serve as attackers or sacrificial outlets for a flashbacked Dread Return by tapping them for mana to activate themselves. Treetop Village adds to the "beat with man-lands" plan because the deck should not be over reliant on the graveyard or it will crumble to graveyard hate easily. I want to add in a Barren Moor into the mix of lands but that should come after my next update of the deck.
The newer playstyle would be to actively use Life from the Loam and gather mana and attack with man lands or hardcasting Golgari Grave-Troll, changing over to the full dredge mode if the situation calls for it so that you don't get badly affected by graveyard hate.
Just having Life from the Loam with Zombie Infestation or Wild Mongrel is quite strong by itself and going aggro with hardcasted cards is a way to get decent wins.
However, there are times when the deck has to go all out and dredge every turn and try to attack using Ashen Ghoul and Ichorid. The main point when handling Ichorid, Ashen Ghoul and Nether Shadow is properly handling the arrangement of cards in your graveyard. For example, you want to handle the triggered abilities properly as well. Usually, the Ichorid trigger should go to the bottom. Ashen Ghoul's ability is activated so you need to take note of when you can use it and how many creatures there are over it because it wouldn't trigger. Returning Ichorid to let it die and go back on top of Ashen Ghoul is one of the plays that should be noted. Also, when creatures die together, make sure you take note of how they go into the graveyard because this is one of the few decks in which the order of cards actually matter.
Sideboarding is really difficult because in other formats, Sideboarding has degenerated into playing 15 anti-anti-dredge cards to face possibly 8 anti-dredge cards. This leaves me without any reference as to what I can employ in the sideboard. I once read about a tactic of playing different sorts of anti-dredge cards instead of playsets so that the anti-anti-dredge cards cannot keep up. That is exactly the case now.
I believe that this approach cannot be adopted in Singleton so I'm contemplating as on how I should go about with the post sideboard strategy. I highly doubt that people will dedicate a large number of cards to gun the graveyard but I fear that having a handful may be more than enough to disrupt the game.
For now, the main cards in the sideboard are cards with flashback and some assorted cards like Chronosavant and Golgari Brownscale. I'm also considering cards like Firemane Angel or some Academy Ruins plan but I have not come to any real conclusion yet..
I don't really get to play with dredge much because it looks overly intimidating to most players. In my opinion, it's not a particularly strong deck but is just a deck that plays differently. It's nowhere as powerful as some of the other decks I know of or its counterparts in the other formats. It is however, a good deck to run against control decks because it totally plays by its own rules. If you get annoyed by people running tons of counter magic or discard and you want to teach him a lesson, this is a deck that would allow you to do that.
For now, fair Magic is definitely the way to go unless your opponent is impressed with the technicalities of unfair Magic which is an art by itself.
Till next time, this is Tarmotog doing 5 minutes worth of clicking to win a game until people start conceding when they know what's going on.
Any questions can be sent to: tarmotog@hotmail.com


by Johnny (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 07/10/2008 - 05:08
Johnny (Unregistered)'s picture

I always enjoy your column!

Singleton is the only thing i'm plaing right now on MTGO, especially 100 card singleton.

You should try to cover it next time, with some basic strategies for the format, like the proper number of cards and long-term strategies.

I've palyed vs that dredge deck about half an year ago, it smashed me (MUC)!Your list look like a good improvement, congratulations! Also loved the Kiki-Pester-Garrul deck from last article!