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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Jan 14 2008 11:52pm
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Sometimes my desire to do something absurdly powerful in PDC overcomes my desire to win an event. In these situations, I tend to play decks that perform quite well in testing, but have some glaring flaws that I choose to overlook, because these decks a cool interaction, or an insane ability to just win. This is not a path to victory.

But what are these flaws? Sometimes the flaw is a poor mana base- either it is not correct or rather no matter what, it cannot support what I want the deck to do. This is much more common in PDC where the multicolor lands only come in the tempo killing variety. Sometimes the flaw is a missing card that further testing will show to be correct. Perhaps the flaw is a complexity of play that I am just not ready for that day, due to a poor night's sleep or a bad mood.

These can all be corrected or compensated for, although sometimes at a later date and time. Fixing a deck is one of the joys of Magic, and you can always bring another version of a deck to a later event and hit the proverbial reset button. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

But what happens if the flaw is bigger than that? What if the flaw is the deck itself is just bad. No matter what, given the current set of circumstances, the deck just cannot perform. At that point, you have to give up the deck, as hard as it may be.

Why am I recounting this basic tale? Believe me, I have a point. For a long time now I have been enamored with the card Strength of Night. An Instant speed Overrun seems mighty good in PDC, especially when coupled with a tribe that is heavy on the synergy. Combining efficient Zombies with Strength of Night led me to a Black splash Green build with Shambling Shells alongside Wretched Anurids and Carrion Feeders. This graveyard heavy build led me to include Grim Harvest and the amazing (in this deck) Infernal Caretaker. Ilona suggested Nameless Inversion after the Lorwyn release to capitalize on Caretaker's regrow ability. With so much synergy, I thought the deck would be unstoppable. I was wrong.


Here is the list:

2 Barren Moor
3 Carrion Feeder
4 Crypt Creeper
2 Forest
4 Gempalm Polluter
4 Golgari Rot Farm
3 Infernal Caretaker
4 Last Gasp
4 Shambling Shell
4 Skinthinner
3 Strength of Night
10 Swamp
4 Wretched Anurid

2 Grim Harvest
3 Gutless Ghoul
4 Terramorphic Expanse

4 Duress
4 Echoing Decay
4 Rancid Earth
3 Seal of Primordium

Strength of Night

Here are the flaws:

1)The mana base is awful. I never could get it to work quite right. While the majority of the cards require Black mana, the big spells (Shell and Strength) both require Green. This left me with an awkward deck that could only win when it drew one of the few Green sources at the exact right time. This rarely occurred the way it was supposed to happen. Rather, I would get clunky draws and never quite be able to curve out, meaning one of my big advantages (a solid curve) was lost to horrible mana.

2) Most of the creatures are bad on their own. The majority creatures have one toughness or you would rather have them attacking than sitting back on defense. That is a problem because this deck is not fast enough to compete with the other aggro decks in PDC, it would have to block. Lots of these guys do not want to block until the late game when there is mana available to unmorph and recur Harvest. This meant that by the time the deck was established in the board, it had already lost. Wretched Anurid, while a good beater, would eat chunks out of the controllers life total. Blind Creeper was not a suitable replacement due to the fact that it would often die before doing anything.

3) The deck was difficult to play. This was not a flaw per se, but rather an issue I had with the deck. I would often be presented with extremely complex game states and would make what I thought were proper decisions, only to see that a few turns later, I was wrong. This is part the decks problem, and part my own. If a deck has that many complex situations and clogged boards, then it is not doing a good job of being an aggro deck. Similarly, if I am unable to make these decisions in a way that results in me winning, I should not play the deck.

4) The deck did not adhere to it's curve. One of the allures of this deck was the fact that it had a curve that began at one and ended nicely at four, with certain cards falling into multiple slots to help smooth out draws. The combination of a shaky mana base and fragile creatures meant the deck would rarely ever curve out the way it would have under optimal conditions.

These factors combined for a perfect storm where the deck went a combined three and a lot in tournament play, where two of the three were against BYE. The lure of utterly broken things is not enough, and Zombies! is hanging up the spikes, so to speak. Maybe in a set or two.

But this was not supposed to be an article solely about failure. Rather, this article is going to talk about Stompy. Yet, what is Stompy? Originally, Stompy was a mono-Green deck built along a tight mana curve to maximize the efficiency of each drop. It would run a combination of Winter Orb, (Llanowar Elf), and Quirion Ranger to stall an opponent's development while maintaining a steady tempo on its own. The deck eventually developed into something more akin to Green Sligh, adding the absurd repeating damage sources of Rancor and Cursed Scroll. For a look at some of the successful Stompy builds, look no further than Nicolai Herzog's Hall of Fame decklist page, provided here:


Isn't it cool to see those decks side by side with Sligh? Generation one and two of curve builds right next to each other.

What does this have to do with PDC? A number of seasons ago, Tom approached me in game about a deck he had been tinkering with. It was a mono Green deck built on two premises: 1) A tight curve and 2) The best creatures available in Green. The deck, at the time, was decent. When it hit the curve, it worked wonders, but it had no late game- it lacked the burn Red Green decks used for reach. The burn was easy to approximate in the short game, utilizing cards like Giant Growth to effectively Bolt an opponent. Additionally, these cards served as removal, trading a spell for a creature, albeit as a result of creature combat. The reach, the long term staying power, was harder to fit into the deck. Simply put, Green has little access to card advantage in PDC, especially in a deck based around curve- no Krosan Tusker here. Each card in the deck needed to be evaluated on a damage to cost ration, and Tusker did not fit the bill.

One of the cornerstones of paper Stompy builds was Rancor. This Aura had a minimal downside, as once it was in play, it would keep coming back, no matter how the creature died. This gave the deck some significant reach along side the aforementioned Scroll. Even though Rancor is common, Urza's Legacy is not online yet, meaning that Tom and I had to look for another persistent damage enhancer. Bonesplitter was nice, but did not provide enough of a late game, and the lack of trample really hurt combat phases in the late game, where tramps allow you to deal those last few points of damage. At the time of this conversation, the Ravnica bounce lands were all the rage in PDC. Tom and I had spent quite a bit of time fawning over these lands, and how they allowed for awesome splashes in otherwise monochromatic decks while allowing these same decks to run fewer lands and maintain a high number of mana sources (we were not the only people having this conversation at the time, I do not mean to imply that). This immediately led me to perhaps the most powerful Aura in PDC: Armadillo Cloak. With Selesnya Sanctuary, this card seemed like a natural fit as it provided a significant late game threat when combined with any creature. When put on a Silhana Ledgewalker, the game would end shortly thereafter.

The time came to fill out the deck with other great creatures. (Llanowar Elf) and Quirion Ranger were automatic, as they allowed us to either beatdown or accelerate into a creature rush. Additionally, when on the board together, these elves could allow for some obscene plays, as one Forest could yield four mana a turn. Since we were running Wild Mongrel, Basking Rootwalla was a natural inclusion. Tom advocated Mtenda Lion, but I went with Skarrgan Pit-Skulk. My logic was that between the other creatures we had access to, our pump spells, and the Cloak, that there would be a good amount of time where it would be very difficult to block the Skulk. In the long run, the Skulk proved to be the better choice. River Boa was also an auto four-of. Tom came up with the obscure but potent Elvish Warrior. A 2/3 body for two mana was not only a good deal, but that three toughness was incredibly valuable in mana combat phases. At the upper end of the curve, the initial fatty of choice was Bull Elephant, but as time progressed, Tangle Golem proved to be the correct call, since it could come down as early as three with the right draw.

As far as pump, Giant Growth was the early front runner, but for the same reasons Bonesplitter was rejected, Tom and I settled on Predator's Strike. However, we both knew we would need a counter to the various removal spells that would plague us, so we settled on Gather Courage in the side. This card remains a stellar bullet, negating many removal spells common in PDC, since burn is more popular than straight removal at the moment.

The mana in this deck is wonderful. The four bounce lands with the mana elves allow you to run 18 land. The one Tranquil Thicket is there for the late game, because sometimes you just do not need another land. There have been games where I have won with only one Forest, and one of each mana elf.

The addition of Weatherlight brought Rogue Elephant and Harvest Wurm, which have found their way into the deck as a four of and two of respectively. I have since cut the Pit-Skulks and dropped the Boa count to six out of eight main. Additionally, the Ledgewalkers have been moved to the sideboard. The reasoning behind this is that while they are golden against hyper-aggressive Red decks, they tend to be worse in every other match up. The Elephants have also caused me to go to three Golems while upping the Llanowar count to four (from three). Here is my current list:

4 Armadillo Cloak
4 Basking Rootwalla
4 Elvish Warrior
13 Forest
2 Harvest Wurm
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Predator's Strike
3 Quirion Ranger
4 River Boa
4 Rogue Elephant
4 Selesnya Sanctuary
3 Tangle Golem
1 Tranquil Thicket
4 Wild Mongrel
2 Mire Boa

4 Gather Courage
4 Ghazbán Ogre
2 Moment's Peace
3 Silhana Ledgewalker
2 Mire Boa

Armadillo Cloak

This is probably the best aggro deck in Classic PDC today. It has very few bad match ups, and can simply overpower most decks out there. I am not totally sold on Elephant and Wurm yet, however. Only testing will shine a light on that issue.

I cannot stress how much I love the mana in this deck. It does something few PDC decks do well: play a splash color properly. Far too often, people are putting colors into their decks because they can. On top of this, the deck has a great back-up plan: Cloak. So often, people will play around Cloak, and by that time you have already won. Remember, this is not a deck based around winning with Cloak. Rather, the Cloak is supplemental to the overall strategy of winning through beatdown.

Keep slingin' commons-



Changelings by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 02/14/2008 - 06:44
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Wouldn't the addition of Changelings benifit Zombie.dec? I mean, they are all zombies, so if you include some green changelings (woodland and with Morningtide, game-trail), the manabase would tends more into green and thus allow maybe a easier insertion of a green mana fixers, including everyone favourites Llanowar Elves

by Lost but Seeking (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 01/23/2008 - 14:19
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Another fine piece of writing, Alex. It's a shame Zombies.dec isn't performing anywhere outside of casual though, I play it sometimes and have a lot of fun. Hopefully we'll soon see some good zombies to make it work. :)

Oops by MechtaK (Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 01/18/2008 - 12:29
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That's what I get for not looking up the Vesper Ghoul.  I had thought it was 1 cc, like all the mana generators.  What a crap common for 3 cc AND pay 1 life to get mana.  Shrug.

by SpikeBoyM at Thu, 01/17/2008 - 09:21
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Please explain to me how including a three mana 1/1 that hurts me helps my mana curve, since most of my spells cost three or less?


Zombie Green Mana by MechtaK (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 01/17/2008 - 02:47
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Your mana curve could have been helped alot by the inclusion of Vesper Ghoul, which incidently, is also a zombie.  But still the problematic 1/1 though.

by SpikeBoyM at Tue, 01/15/2008 - 22:19
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Against MUC, the right game plan makes it very easy to win.  I wouldn't say you can't lose, but look at my article on this site about beating MUC- Stompy is very good at doing just that.

Black based removal is more of a coin flip.  Sometimes you can just overrun them before the removal matters, and sometimes they get the defensive curve you need.  I find, however, that Black decks that run endgame spells like Corrupt or Consume Spirit have a better shot of beating the deck.


by SpikeBoyM at Wed, 01/16/2008 - 23:24
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My testing has shown that Elephant is actually a risk in this format.  Currently, between bounce and cheap removal, Elephant represents a huge risk and potential tempo loss.  Additionally, the three power one drop has been semi-replaced with Rootwalla.  In more controling metas, Elephant is probably the right call however.  This subsequentially means Wurm is not worth the trouble most of the time.


by SpikeBoyM at Tue, 01/15/2008 - 09:27
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Sorry, forgot to put the disclaimer at the top.  PDC is an online community of competitive all commons Magic.  Information can be found at PDCMagic.com and people are always hanging around in the "/join pdc" room.


Matchups by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 01/15/2008 - 09:27
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Fine article Alex,

I am curious as to what you feel your matchups look like in the current metagame, namely against Black based removal (MBC or RnR) and MUC?

Harvest Wurm by walkerdog at Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:32
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I haven't played it, but I've played against it in testing, and in association with Rogue Elephant, it seemed pretty strong.  Opponent would seemingly blow their load with a Rogue Elephant or two, along with some elves, then drop the Wurm and come right back with 4+ mana available and pump spells in hand to finish me off around turn 5-6 pretty easily.

by Gloinoin at Tue, 01/15/2008 - 08:22
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I love how a deck that started off as a fun side project I built to destress has turned into one of the top decks in PDC:). Shame I'm not around to pilot it anymore really. Incidentally I'm really not sold on harvest wurm in the deck atall, but I'v only tested it a couple of times, would someone with more experience mind sharing their feelings about it?

PDC? by Cyrrix_chipset (not verified) at Tue, 01/15/2008 - 08:51
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Sorry new guy but whats PDC mean?