Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Further Talk on Goblins

As I write this, it's Tuesday, November 30th. The tournament begins Saturday, Dec 4th. I've got to nail down a decklist.

Last time we wrote, I figured I'd end up playing Goblins, because 1) they're reasonably well positioned in the metagame and 2) I always play Goblins anyway. Let's take a look at a current Legacy Goblins list:

4Wasteland 20 of 20 (100.00)%4.00008.8000
8Mountain 19 of 20 (95.00)%7.94749.0526
4Rishadan Port 13 of 20 (65.00)%3.53858.6154
3Badlands 13 of 20 (65.00)%2.92319.2308
3Bloodstained Mire 13 of 20 (65.00)%2.92319.4615
4Goblin Lackey 20 of 20 (100.00)%4.00008.8000
2Siege-Gang Commander 20 of 20 (100.00)%1.95008.8000
4Aether Vial 20 of 20 (100.00)%4.00008.8000
4Goblin Ringleader 20 of 20 (100.00)%4.00008.8000
4Goblin Warchief 20 of 20 (100.00)%3.95008.8000
4Goblin Piledriver 20 of 20 (100.00)%3.95008.8000
4Goblin Matron 20 of 20 (100.00)%3.90008.8000
4Gempalm Incinerator 19 of 20 (95.00)%3.63168.8947
2Stingscourger 16 of 20 (80.00)%1.56258.6250
2Goblin Chieftain 15 of 20 (75.00)%2.33339.5333
3Warren Weirding 12 of 20 (60.00)%2.58339.4167
1Mogg War Marshal 10 of 20 (50.00)%3.20008.9000
4Pyrokinesis 14 of 20 (70.00)%3.07149.0000
3Relic of Progenitus 8 of 20 (40.00)%2.750010.5000
3Perish 8 of 20 (40.00)%2.500010.3750
3Blood Moon 7 of 20 (35.00)%3.00009.4286
2Tormod's Crypt

It's a fairly standard list, looking at the goblins. Unfortunately, I don't have access to all the legacy goblins that I would like, so my options are a bit narrower:

-4 Goblin Lackey
-4 Goblin Piledriver
-4 Aether Vial

(Not looking at manabase or sideboard right now.)

This, as they say, constitutes a problem. Without the lackeys and the vials the deck becomes much less tenable, as you can't drop the occasional free siege gang commander. While I certainly wouldn't be adverse to picking up a few extra goblins my budget would be. I'm going to look into lackeys though.

Without the free goblins a lot of your plays become much less powerful. Dropping a Matron on turn three gets you an extra goblin, sure, but to your hand. Meanwhile you're just spent your entire turn for a 1/1. If you drop a ringleader next turn you could fill your hand, but what hope do you have of getting those goblins to play in time to actually hurt someone with them?

My chances of winning with that sort of deck get better if I can substitute in some Warren Instigators, which aren't as good as Lackey by a darn site, but there's a lot of room to be not as good as Lackey and still be pretty good. It might be worthwhile to set up one of these decks to work with both lackey and instigator. A quick rundown of relevant goblins:

4 Goblin Lackey
4 Warren Instigator
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Warchief
2 Goblin Chieftan
4 Goblin Matron
4 Goblin Ringleader
2 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Stingscourger
3 Warren Weirding
4 Mogg War Marshal
(22 lands)

I'm adding in some more war marshals and an extra stingscourger for the piledrivers. If you can get a lackey or a instigator down on turn one or two and connect you're golden. Which is an if or two too many. Let's say you get it down on turn two. How are you going to swing past that tarmogoyf? Unless you've got a turn three warren weirding and he's got nothing else you'll be waiting while you scramble for enough goblins in play to take it out with an incinerator. At which point you really have to be asking, "what's the point of that instigator?"

Goblin Lackey is better than Aether Vial (in this deck) precisely because it starts it's action on turn two. You can often steal games merely by them not having an immediate Force of Will or Swords to Plowshares to answer it. Giving them until turn three to come up with an answer gives them entirely too much time and too many options. Not that Instigator is entirely a loss; it's still an "answer this or lose" card, it's just that you don't gain anything against a common category of answers; (Tarmogoyfs).

The alternative is to focus less on the midrange and more on the beatdown. Naturally, that'd work a lot better if I had the piledrivers, but I could make do. This side of the strategy is aided by the recent printing of some powerful goblins (the chieftans, and of course Goblin Guide) Goblin Guide in particular is much better in a burn or aggro type of deck as he tends to work against you if the game goes long. Another Sample List:

4 Goblin Guide
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Warren Instigator
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Goblin Bushwhacker
4 Stingscourger
4 Mogg War Marshal
4 Goblin Chieftan
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Goblin Grenade
(20 lands)

Still with the Lackeys and Instigators. Again, I'm assuming I can get my hands on some Lackeys. Instigator, while being less of an autokill if it connects, is still an decent offensive creature, thanks to double strike. Turn two instigator into turn three bushwhacker with kicker means swinging in for six assuming nothing else has happened this game. And even if a lackey trigger isn't as much of a mana advantage as it is in a deck with Siege-Gang Commanders in it, it can still be a crushing advantage. And when they use a first turn Force of Will on it they don't necessarily know that all you're gonna be able to drop with it is a Mogg War Marshal

On the other hand, instigator works uniquely well with Goblin Matron, allowing you to search something up with first strike damage, then drop it into play with normal damage. That turn two instigator might make for a turn three siege gang commander, with mana up to fling a goblin or cycle an incinerator or... or... Ok, putting away that line of thought. There's no way I could fit everything I wanted to in a 60 card deck, and it still has all the vulnerabilities that I previously mentioned.

Moving on, let's take a quick look at the manabase:

4 Wasteland
8 Mountains
4 Rishidan Port
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Badlands

I don't have the fetches or the duals; I can manage two onslaught fetches and two ravnica duals.

2 Blood Crypt
2 Wooded Foothills.

That leaves me with much less ability to play any Warren Weirdings that make it into the maindeck, or black sideboard cards, or other things. (Cabal Therapy?) Luckily, I've got a playset of Auntie's Hovel I can substitute in. Also, I can manage the wastelands, but not the Rishidan ports, which is just as well, as I'll be needing more of my mana for casting things if I can't lay hands on lackeys. Revised Mana base:

4 Wasteland
4 Auntie's Hovel
2 Blood Crypt
2 Wooded Foothills
8 Mountains

Note that I also cut it down to 20 cards; the aggro list has 40 nonlands. i'm not very happy cutting down to this level, but with a max casting cost of 3 it might be viable. On the other hand, 20 with 4 wastelands.

Possible other lands:
Ghost Quarter. Depending on how heavily the metagame favors nonbasics it might act like strip mine. Would be a lot better if I went full on Rishidan Ports and Aether Vials. Not gonna happen.
Teetering Peaks: A tap land that also gives me two free damage. Good with Instigator, and getting someone from ten to eight life if so critical. On the other hand... tapland
Smoldering Spires. Really good if someone's relying on a Tarmogoyf to hold off attacks. Also a tapland.
Bojuka Bog: Also a tap land, in the wrong color even. On the other hand, a lot of cards and decks are screwed over by graveyard hate (Tarmogoyf, Life from the Loam, dredge, reanimator). I do like the idea of randomly winning games.

Which brings me naturally to a quick look at the sideboard. There are a couple things I'm looking to reposition myself against:

Bigger creatures
Combo Decks

Essentially, I'm running a red deck wins, so really I only need to get them down to about eight life before the board state becomes much less relevant; a bolt plus a grenade, a hasty creature or two, a couple bolts, forget card advantage as long as I can get those last couple points in. The trouble is if they get a turn two tarmogoyf and sit behind him. I have to set up a massive alpha strike while they smile and slowly take the game away from me. Bolt, incinerator, don't solve goyf that much. Potential other solutions: Warren Weirding, Fodder Launch, temporary solutions such as Stingscourger and Smoldering Spires.

Combo Decks: These work out to storm decks and graveyard decks, for the most part. Storm decks (Ad Nauseum Tendrils, Goblin Charbelcher) don't interact very much with the board, which is where I'm hoping to dominate. Additionally they're very hard to race, as in impossible if I don't get a perfect draw and they don't get an abysmal one. I've got two options; to disrupt their hand with discard effects (Cabal Therapy, Duress, Thoughtseize) or their deck with Cranial Extraction Effects (Earwig Squad, Extirpate if I had any). Still not the greatest matchup

Graveyard decks; largely dredge, but also anything running life from the Loam, or other graveyard based threats. Aside from the Bog already mentioned, there are all sorts of graveyard hate cards being printed in increasing power levels over the recent years, some I can get my hands on (Relic of Progenitus), some I can't (Tormod's Crypt.)

And finally, Counterbalance/top. if I'm running a deck full of one drops, then I've got a hard time beating out someone with the combo. There are two ways of beating it though; either run some good disenchant effects (Krosan Grip, Indrik Stomphowler), or run odd casting cost cards (Earwig Squad, Fodder Launch). Since the disenchant effects don't actually advance my goals (dealing damage), and require a more difficult mana base, I'm leaning towards the other ones.

Bang out a quick sideboard:

4 Earwig Squad
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Bojuka Bog
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Fodder Launch

Final Thoughts: If I shoehorn the bogs into the maindeck, I'll have another pair of sideboard slots to deal with. Also, I sort of need to get some Warren Weirdings in my deck somewhere.

The next step is to build the deck and test it out against someone. Anyone up for a game?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preparing a Legacy Deck

On December 4th, Fountain of Youth, the local magic store in Eau Claire Wisconsin, is going to be holding a legacy tournament with a Timetwister as first prize. Possibly a mox if they get enough players. I intend to be one of those players, but I haven't looked at legacy in a long time. So here I go about refreshing my knowledge of the format and preparing for the tournament.

Today's Date: Tuesday, November 23. 11 days until the tournament.

I'm not going to have to start from scratch; I know a little bit about the format as it existed months ago. Legacy lets you play with all the cards ever printed, with some exceptions. (Those exceptions include the Power Nine and, oddly enough, Timetwister.) There were, last time I checked, many, many viable decks in Legacy. Which by and large means that, if I can assemble one of them I'll probably have a shot at it. I've already got most of a goblins list, with some major exceptions. But let's see if the metagame still runs that way. Starcitygames is kind enough to provide some numbers:

Merfolk: 13%
CounterTop: 8%
Zoo: 8%
U/G Survival: 7%
Goblins 7%
Reanimator 5%
Ad Nauseum Tendrils 4%
Dredge 3%
Lands 3%
Aggro Loam 3%

That's the top ten. Apparently they don't have nearly the amount of statistics I want. On the other hand, It appears it's top 16 data for the current year, which means about 9 or 10 events compressed, I doubt I'm going to find much better without assembling the data myself. (Hmm.... nah.) 13% of the field consists of 39 Merfolk decks, for about 300 decks listed en toto. At the other end, Aggro loam put up only eight decks. Looking at what we have, let's see if we can't pick out trends. By archetype (from Adrian Sullivan's The Strategic Moment), we can list them according to what they do.

Merfolk: 13% Aggro Control
CounterTop: 8% Aggro Control
Zoo: 8% Aggro
U/G Survival: 7% Aggro Control
Goblins 7% Midrange Beatdown
Reanimator 5% Combo (graveyard to combat)
Ad Nauseum Tendrils 4% Combo (the stack)
Dredge 3% Combo (graveyard to combat)
Lands 3% Combo (err... lands)
Aggro Loam 3% Midrange Control

Well, that doesn't help simplify things at all. We can see a lot of aggro control and a lot of combo. Not much true control, probably pushed out by all that aggro control. Which remains popular because counterspells are still a good way to deal with combo. The vintage dredge deck is resilient against counterspells, but that's because it runs Bazaar of Baghdad as it's discard outlet, which is a land, and banned in legacy. Zoo exists to prey on Merfolk and other aggro control decks, but it's traditionally soft to combo.

So there's our metagame. A bunch of decks trying to kill you quickly while stopping you from killing them quickly. Oh wait, that's every metagame, ever. More specific. We've got decks that try to win by tossing creatures at you while disrupting your game on the stack, and decks that try to win by tossing combos at you while disrupting your game on the stack. Therefore, what we're looking for is a deck that's resilient to counterspells and able to deal with creatures while still having a fighting chance against combos. Or able to deal with combos and maybe creatures.

Or, as I like to call it: "Screw it, I'll just play goblins."

Goblins lands on the midrange aggro scale of the metagame, which means it should do decently against the aggro control decks and the aggro decks. While legacy has it's share of midrange control and pure control decks, they're not as common. And goblins has decent resiliency against counterspells. A first turn Goblin Lackey makes your opponent use his Force of Will on it, meaning that he'll have one less spell for your other goblins. Or if he lets it through, well, you might never have to cast another goblin that game. It's also a deck that I'm familiar with and comfortable playing, and I already own most of the pieces.

Next time we'll talk about an actual goblins list, what I don't have and what I think I'll add.