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By: Umii, Mike Patterson
Feb 04 2008 12:20am
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(Vanguard is an online-only format of Magic, where each player has an "avatar" that grants special abilities.  Some of the avatar's abilities include giving your creatures haste, or the ability to play spells as land.  These avatars make the format different from vanilla magic, and enable unique plays and decks.  The partial list of avatars can be found here, and my archive here at covers various avatars and decks popular in the format.  A Standard with Vanguard Premiere Event starts every Saturday at 11 AM EST.)

Mirri's Many Faces

I am going to switch things up this week and write about my experience in Tribal Wars.  Before covering that, though, I would like to write about my experience two weeks ago in Vanguard.  I played in the Vanguard tournament a fortnight ago and made the semi-finals (iceage4life wrote about the Top Eight).  I ended up not writing about that tournament, because while I made the Top Eight, I had no fun.  Part of the reason I write this column is to drum up interest in the Vanguard format, and I figure complaining will only drive people away.  Thus, no column.

For that tournament, after seeing so many Dakkon and Heartwood Faeries decks make Top Eight (and wanting to be a hypocrite after repining about Mirri), I made a Mirri deck:

Land (20):
4x Brushland
1x Pendelhaven
9x Snow-Covered Forest
1x Snow-Covered Plains
1x Flagstones of Trokair
4x Horizon Canopy

Mana Creatures:
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Wall of Roots

Utility Creatures:
4x Scryb Ranger
4x Ornithopter
4x Epochrasite
4x Essence Warden
4x Fungal Behemoth

4x Gaddock Teeg
4x Thorn of Amethyst

cwllc has been making Top Eight's fairly regularly with a GW Mirri deck, showing that the avatar is viable.  I thought about making a UG Faeries version until I playtested it and realized I didn't like any of the Faeries.  Scion of Oona makes your creatures untargetable, which is anti-synergistic with the Mirri avatar.  I found Faeries like Pestermite and Mistbind Clique underwhelming, since you don't care about tapping creatures, and Championing creatures, like making them untargetable, is anathema to the avatar.  At the same time, in testing, I found the deck vulnerable to Squee Storm and Jhoira despite a light counterspell suite.

In the end I decided to switch to GW Mirri, which gave me access to Gaddock Teeg to stop Jhoira, and the anti-Dragonstorm sideboard combo of Burrenton Forge-Tender + Pariah.  The other potentially novel maindeck cards are Epochrasite, Fungal Behemoth, and Thorn of Amethyst.  I felt like Epochrasite might give me a few percentage points in Mirri mirror matches since it comes back big, and it also gives me a better long game against Damnation.  Thorn of Amethyst is a natural inclusion since Mirri decks' only weakness is against non-creature decks.  Fungal Behemoth is also a nice fit since Mirri generates +1/+1 counters naturally.  In the end, the Behemoth did not perform that well, and only got as large as 5/5.  My sideboard included Viridian Shaman to destroy Rings of Brighthearth, and Eyes of the Wisent to cripple Dakkon MonoU decks.

As for that tournament itself, there was little to report (hence the lack of an article last week).  I played a Heartwood Faeries player who literally conceded as soon as he saw my avatar.  In the Top Eight I played a MonoU Dakkon Pickles Deck which I beat without incident.  I also played two Mirri matches losing both.  I lost the first one on the die roll (although I should mention his sideboard Evacuation tech which exacerbated the situation), but in the other match I faced an interesting inter-species Mirri Variant:

Doran Mirri
a deck by Reaper9889

Land (21):
4x Caves of Koilos
3x Forbidding Watchtower
3x Forest

4x Horizon Canopy

1x Treetop Village

4x Vivid Grove
2x Vivid Meadow

One Drops:
4x Treefolk Harbinger
4x Utopia Mycon

4x Ornithopter

Anti-Control Suite:
4x Epochrasite
4x Gaddock Teeg
4x Heartwood Storyteller
3x Masked Admirers
4x Saffi Eriksdotter
4x Thorn of Amethyst

The Man:
4x Doran, the Siege Tower

When I asked Reaper how he designed the deck he explained his logic like so: the Mirri avatar alone will beat all aggro decks, so Reaper included anti-control cards like Saffi, Heartwood Storyteller, and Gaddock Teeg.  Then, since he had the aggro and control matchups solidified, he included high-toughness creatures to survive Ashling decks and the mirror match.  After playing Reaper in the Top Eight, I can vouch for his high-toughness strategy, as it was extremely difficult to gain tempo even when going first.  I could not kill any of his creatures without using three of mine, while he could easily kill mine as they came into play.  It's matchups like this one that would make me consider inluding sideboard Wrath of God or Crib Swap to take care of the few creatures Mirri does not.  In any case, if the Mirri avatar sticks around, you may want to consider Reaper's strategy in designing your own deck, or think about how to beat it.

Since Vanguard events won't be firing for a few weeks, I will feature one more deck that has been routinely making Vanguard Top Eights.  I wrote about caliban's Tamanoa Ashling deck previously, but he has updated it:

Christmas Ashling
a deck by caliban17

Land (20):
4x Brushland
4x Grove of the Burnwillows
4x Snow-Covered Forest
4x Snow-Covered Plains
4x Treetop Village
4x Vivid Meadow

More mana:
4x Fertile Groundr
4x Coalition Relic

Point Removal:
4x Oblivion Ring
4x Crib Swap

Combo pieces:
4x Purity
4x Tamanoa

Other Spells:
4x Aven Riftwatche
4x Garruk Wildspeaker
2x Harmonize
1x Primal Command
1x Beacon of Immortality

As you can see, caliban was smart enough to include Oblivion Ring and Crib Swap to deal with high-tougness creatures.  In talking to caliban, he seemed to think the deck had good matchups across the board, with the exception of Dragonstorm since it's a non-creature combo deck.  To deal with that, he included twelve sideboard cards: Rule of Law, Cryoclasm, and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss.  I tested a few Squee Storm matchups against caliban, and I can tell you that his mana disruption cripples a Squee deck.  Once he laid down a Purity or Tamanoa, he could win very quickly, or at the least put the game out of range.  Caliban's been doing well with this deck for a while, so it is something to consider going forward.

We're Going to Need An Exterminator

Last week I outlined a Thrumming Stone combo deck for Vanguard using the Braids avatar.  While I did not have the guts to play that deck in the high-powered environment of Vanguard, I modified it for Tribal Wars:

Thrumming Rats
a Tribal deck by Umii

22x Swamp
4x Mind Stone
3x Prismatic Lens

20x Relentless Rats
3x Thrumming Stone
4x Diabolic Tutor
4x Damnation

In case it isn't clear, the combo is to play Relentless Rats with Thrumming Stone in play, and Ripple through your deck for as many rats as you want.  When I read last week that Goblins had become ascendant in Tribal Wars, and more importantly that few people were playing Faeries, I thought of playing this deck.  The combo is basically a one card combo since you have so many rats, and the Tribal Format is slow enough to make Diabolic Tutor effective.  I included Damnation since it is tied with Wrath of God for the best card in Tribal, and my deck requires five mana to get going.

The only unique decision you have to make with this deck is to figure out how many rats you are going to put into play.  Since you have twenty rats, it is extremely difficult to whiff when you Ripple. (in fact, let's calculate the chance: Let's say you have two rats in hand, putting eighteen in your deck.  Let's also say it's turn five, so you drew four cards, and there are forty-nine cards left in your deck.  When you ripple, each card has an 18/49, or 37%, chance of being a rat, and a 63% chance of being a non-rat.  To whiff, you need to hit four non-rats in a row, or (0.63)4= 0.16.  You have an 84% chance of hitting at least one rat, and possibly more.  The chances of whiffing twice in a row are simply 0.16 squared, or 2%.)  So, if you assume you can put all twenty rats into play, how many do you want?  Four rats means each rat is 5/5, and can kill most opponents unopposed, but then again there are usually blockers.  If you put five rats into play, each will be 6/6, and it allows you to Ripple through your deck four times if you need to rebuild following a Wrath of God.  If you have two rats in hand, you can plan for the next turn by playing the first rat and rippling out a few more; then if those rats survive, you can play the second rat from your hand to pump the rats in play to 10/10 or larger.  The key part of the deck's resiliency is that you can ripple for four or five rats many times, and survive whatever removal your opponent throws at you.

Since this was the first time I played the deck, I took notes for the tournament:

Round 1: Arwido with UW Humans

I was not sure how this match will go since he had Wrath of God and perhaps counterspells.

Game 1: I had an ok start, but needed to stall a turn before playing Thrumming Stone because he had an active Mangara of Corondor.  After killing Mangara with Damnation, I played Thrumming Stone and Rippled away.  With the kill on the board, though, he played Teferi's Moat for black, and I had no answer.

Game 2: I comboed out on turn five, but he had a Wrath.  I comboed out on turn six, and he had a second Wrath.  At this point, my hand was empty, so I used Mind Stones to draw cards.  At one point I was at eleven life with no creatures, and he played Akroma, Angel of Wrath, but neglected to attack.  That gave me one more turn to draw cards, and I finally comboed out a third time.  He was unable to find any answers to the last combo.

Game 3: Arwido got stuck on three lands, preventing him from Wrathing or playing Moat.  He had Martyr of Sands and White Shield Crusader, though, forcing me to combo out for eight 9/9 rats, and deal fifty four damage to win the game.  While I got lucky from a misclick this match, I think game two shows how resilient this deck is.  I was able to play through two Wrath of God and combo out three times, and won.

Round 2: Door_Closer with UW Merfolk

Like UW humans, I am unsure about this matchup due to counterspells and Wrath.

Game 1: Door_Closer had a bye round 1, and did not return to his computer in time for this game, so he timed out.

Game 2: He got off to an aggresive start with Silvergill Adept and Lord of Atlantis but I was able to stall with Damnation.  As he developed his board, I played Thrumming Stone, but he had an answer in the form of Oblivion Ring.  This forced me to play my rats one at a time, and I was almost able to race, but he had Faerie Conclaves that were just too quick.

Game 3: I comboed out on turn 5, but he had Teferi's Moat.  I was somewhat concerned after this match because of the three games I had lost, two of them were to Teferi's Moat.  Perhaps a singleton Akroma's Memorial would help overcome this problem.  I had also hoped that since Tribal does not have sideboards, my Thrumming Stones would be safe, but I forgot about Oblivion Ring.

Round 3: Aluisio_Cs with UW Merfolk

Game 1: I win without problem.

Game 2: I did not draw a Thrumming Stone in the early game, but I did have four Rats, so I tried to go aggro with them.  He stalled me out, though, with Cryptic Command.  Once I finally got a Thrumming Stone in play, he had Austere Command, another card I did not expect to see.  After decimating my board, he was slow to redevelop, allowing me time to again assemble the combo.  On my penultimate turn, he had four blockers to my four rats, and he was at twenty-three life. I rippled enough rats out to make my horde 12/12 and attacked to force him to block twice.  He did so, and was unable to come up with an answer on his turn.  In retrospect, I should not have overcommited to the board in case he had another Austere Command.

Round 4: sMann with RB Goblins

Finally, I get the matchup I had been waiting for.

Game 1: sMann won the roll, but got a slow start with only Knucklebone Witch and Mogg Fanatic.  After letting them dink away at me, I played Damnation and then comboed out.  He had no answers.

Game 2: I kept an opening hand with two lands, and do not draw another mana source until turn five.

Game 3: I kept a hand of Thrumming Stone, Damnation, Diabolic Tutor, and four swamps. I swept away his first wave of attackers, and then comboed out without a problem.

As I had hoped the Goblins matchup is heavily in my favor.  My deck came through as I hoped. Most importantly, I made Top Eight with a super-simple combo deck that no one else had played before.

Round 6: cwllc with Elves!

I was unsure about this matchup, since I have had problems with elves in the past when I played control decks.  Going into the matchup, my worst fear was that he would be quick enough to kill me before the combo came online.

Game 1: I mulliganed to five, while cwllc mulled to six.  He got a moderate start with one forest, Boreal Druid and two Wren's Run Vanquishers, but I was able to survive with Damnation.  He recovered with Imperious
Perfect.  At one point he had three lands in play, including Treetop Village, and Imperious Perfect, while I was at ten life and had an empty board (it seems like my board is always empty).  On the previous turn he had seen me play Diabolic Tutor for Thrumming Stone, so he knew that I was playing a combo deck.  Rather than attack me for five points, he decided to hold back and create an elf token.  This gift of five life allowed me to play Thrumming Stone, while he would have only seven power of creatures.On his turn, he attacked for seven, putting me a three. On my next turn I had six mana in play, and three rats in hand.  I played the first rat, Rippled into a second... and then whiffed!  It was only the second time I had whiffed all day.  Fortunately, I had one more rat in hand, and had cleared the top of my library of four useless cards.  I played my second rat... and whiffed again!  I had somehow managed to pull out that two percent chance and whiff twice in a row.  I now understand how Patrick Chapin felt at Worlds.

In any case, all was not lost, as I had three 4/4 rats, while he had only two puny elves and a village.  On his turn he played Garruk, untapped, and played Riftsweeper.  Victory was nigh!  Then I realized that I was playing against an elf deck, and he was probably playing Profane Command.  He had only one black source in play, Gilt-Leaf Palace, but he had Garruk to untap it and generate BB.  I had to kill Garruk to prevent him from getting a miracle.  Unfortunately, while my rats were bigger than his elves, we both had three of them, so I could not get to Garruk.  I played my third rat embiggen my rats, and attacked Garruk, but he blocked all three.  On his turn, he indeed had the Profane Command for four. 
After coming so close to victory, taking advantage of my opponent's every mistake, and almost overcoming a statistical impossibility, I lost.  On to...
Game 2: My opener was five swamps and two rats.  I kept because I hate being mana-screwed.  He played the first spell of the game, a Prowess of the Fair, a card I had not expected.  As the game continued, we both developed our board.  Fortunately, I drew a Thrumming Stone in time, and did not whiff.  As I hoped, he had no answer.

Game 3: I again mulliganed to six, a hand with mana and two rats.  He got early pressure with Vanquisher and Perfect, this time not making the mistake of holding back to make tokens.  He also played Prowess of the Fair, which turned out to be critical, as my Damnation did not clear the board. A second Perfect pumped his tokens, and I do not have the second Damnation to save the game.  I must give credit to cwllc for including the Prowess of the Fair tech, which won him the match.

In the end, I really enjoyed playing Thrumming Rats.  No one was expecting it, and there is a certain pleasure to attacking with a swarm of giant rats.  The combo is extremely easy to assemble, and the slow nature and counter paucity of the Tribal format give the combo time to assemble.  The deck is actually not as cheap as it looks, since Relentless Rats are best collected in dozens, but you can get a playset of rats for about twenty tickets.  In any case, be on the lookout for it during the next Tribal Event.

With the impending release of V3, I won't be writing any articles for a while.  If you want to get your Vanguard or Tribal fix, iceage4life should be reviewing the formats during the downtime.  See you on the flipside!


by Umii at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 14:41
Umii's picture

You're right, Wrath may not work if they have Teeg in play.  Mirri decks also run very few land, so you may not even get the mana to Wrath.  Sunscour may work better, but you would have a very narrow window to cast it before Teeg could come down, and you'd also have to have something to follow it with.  Simply having high-toughness creatures is a lot simpler solution.

As for the rats deck, I ran only three stones because they are absolutely terrible in multiples because they're legendary, and the Diabolic Tutors can fetch them really well.  I agree the manabase could use some work, whether you want to include Desert to fight off small Goblins and Faeries, or go the Snow route.  I really hate having my mana come into play tapped, although that is not too much of a problem for this deck. Urza's Factory or a splash of Academy Ruins off of River of Tears/Prismatic Lens are also be possible.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 10:25
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

I really like the deck, although the matchup vs a good goblin deck isn't as high as you thought post board, since

thoughtseize + extirpate = game


by Umii at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 12:38
Umii's picture

There are no sideboards in the Tribal format, so you don't have to worry about Extirpate.  Also, since it's Tribal, most people don't play Thoughtseize.  For Standard, it is extremely vulnerable, no doubt.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 13:47
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

Wog is not that efficent in Mirri mirror. You cant play it if your oppeont got Gadduck in play and he will have first shot at dropping a couple afterwards anyway. Ok you MIGHT (as in you got 15 life and he is playing a agroish deck) survive until turn 4-5 (since you are going second he will have alot of time until that point) where you can wrath and follow it up with a one drop (if 4 it proberly needs to be topter) but 1 1 drop proberly isnt egough at that point :/ AND it will be alot of cards to use for one matchup (mirror) exspecially then it isn't that efficent even in that matchup either. A better solution would be Sunscour. Yes you make a 3 for 1 or 3 for 2 (which is efficently a 3 for 2 or a 3 for 3 since you went second and got a extra card) and can then procede like if you played first which is proberly around the best chance you can get in mirri mirror. Naturally this does require a pretty white deck - which you might have sided in...

 Btw. why are you running 3 Thrumming stones (as in not 4)? 

by iceage4life at Mon, 02/04/2008 - 13:05
iceage4life's picture

Nice! Well done.  As far as Thoughtseize+Extirpate there are no sideboards in the format so I doubt you'll see that.

I don't see a reason for this deck NOT to run snow lands/Coldsteel Heart.  Giving yourself more card draw post wrath can't hurt.