Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Post wherein I have the gall to complain that my decks are too good...

So, my recent experiment with Rafiq seems to be  a big success, at least along one axis. The tiny smattering of Infect cards I chose to add (in order to give the deck some much needed “oomph” in a Multiplayer matchup) has been overwhelmingly successful in making the deck capable of going the distance with three opponents as opposed to just the one. Putrefax in particular seems to be the best of the bunch, combining with Rafiq to one-shot an opponent or Finest hour to possibly even kill TWO opponents in a single turn.

In a recent three-player game involving myself and two opponents, I actually had to hold back a little to avoid just killing them two quickly. I had an opportunity to take one player out very, very quickly, but I was less certain to be able to kill the remaining opponent as fast, so I didn’t want one of my friends to have to sit and watch us duel for the next thirty or forty minutes. I held back until I felt like I had a much higher chance of winning the whole game within two or three turns, then went all in on one player taking him out with Finest Hour shenanigans, keeping Putrefax in my hand to swiftly kill the other player next turn, but the other opponent saw the writing on the wall and just scooped anyway.

The downside (and if you don’t understand why this is a downside and not an upside, you probably shouldn’t be playing EDH in the first place) is that it has made the deck WAY to fast and deadly in 1v1. Keep in mind I primarily designed the Rafiq deck to be my 1v1 go-to deck, and just wanted the option of playing it in multiplayer. But for some reason I now draw Inkmoth Nexus and Putrefax in basically every game. I’ve one-hit killed an opponent with Rafiq or Finest Hour + Putrefax in about 75% of the 1v1 games I’ve played with it so far (about 10 or so).

In fact, a week or two ago, I played two games with the deck whilst completely smashed out of my mind on Vodka. I could barely even tap my mana properly and I still managed to win two games in a row in less than 15 minutes. I fear I have created a monster, and I await the spoilers of the next set with trepidation and excitement. The heady rush of power makes me yearn  for more Infect cards, but the fact that my regular and most frequent opponents are already starting to grumble makes me queasy and anxious. I hoped the tiny amount of Infect (4 cards total, so far) and the removal of Umezawa’s Jitte (far and away the most unfair card in the deck previous to the Infect build) would keep my friends from bitching and moaning, but already that has proven to be a gross miscalculation.

It may just be Putrefax that needs to go – the other cards have so far been met with much less hostility. In fact, Karthuus has been such a bane of our group lately that the first time I kill the Karthuus player with his own General via a Corrupted Conscience on it, I’ll probably get a cheer from everyone (except the Karthuus player, obviously).

But what to do about 1v1? I play it significantly less than I used to, but I still wanted the Rafiq deck to be my primary 1v1 deck, but honestly it feels far more mean than even my Zur deck, or even my Oros deck (which was designed specifically to troll my regular group). I like winning, and I like playing a powerful strategy, but I want some give and take in my games as well. The problem is that the deck is so synergetic and so well-tuned that nearly every draw feels like an amazingly lucky top-deck. Which is one of the primary reasons I love the deck so damn much. Which in turn makes it hard to cut anything, even in the name of fun and being a social player.

I still think Putrefax is the most egregious offender here, but I’m loathe to cut it so quickly. It’s on the watch-list as of now, but I will play it more and see. Statistically I really should be drawing it less than I currently am, so most likely it’ll suddenly stop showing up and I’ll go 10 games without seeing it at all… by that time, either my group will have learned to accept his presence and not feel so hostile towards it, or New Phyrexia will have provided some new option that it not QUITE as offensive as Putrefax, but still good enough to take his place.


In other multiplayer news, of a non-EDH variety, I got to bust out my Vampire deck this weekend for a couple of games. It’s a Vampire Tribal deck that borders on combo, but doesn’t go infinite and it can very easily go from straight aggro to midrange control/aggro. The only big difference in the deck since the last post is a single copy of Skullclamp, added a long time ago, but I haven’t played the deck for even longer…

Folks, let me tell you, it’s no secret how utterly broken Skullclamp is, but in this deck it’s pure synergy. My deck likes to repeatedly sac and recur Bloodghasts (for various reasons) AND it was rather desperately starved for card-draw. Well, Skullclamp happens to fulfill both of those needs stupendously. I still have two copies of Phyrexian Arena in the deck as well, but I would replace those with additional Skullclamps without a second thought, but alas all my other copies are tied up in various EDH decks.

It usually plays an Aggro early game, typically spreading some damage amongst all my opponents (that’s actually a key to the strategy for a few reasons), but depending on the draw it can also play defensively, hiding behind Nighthawks and Tendrils until you draw your business spells. Sometimes you’ll start out playing the defensive/control game and then a top-decked Nocturnus just comes outta the blue to wreck face aggro-style, but more often you set up a Grave Pact, then just control the board and amass an army of Eldrazi spawn via Pawn of Ulamog, which combines with Cabal Coffers and/or Nirkana Revenant to fuel a massive Exsanguinate.

For reference, here’s the current list:

4 Bloodghast
4 Bloodthrone Vampire
3 Kalastria Highborn
3 Pawn of Ulamog
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Vampire Nocturnus
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
2 Nirkana Revenant

1 Skullclamp
1 Vampiric Tutor
2 Buried Alive
2 Phyrexian Arena
2 Gravepact
2 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Liliana Vess
1 Sorin Markov
2 Exsanguinate

3 Cabal Coffers
3 Leechridden Swamp
17 Swamp

I’ll just come right out and say it: I’m very proud of this deck. I put a LOT of work into it, and it started out as a pretty terrible deck, at least for a multiplayer environment, but I doggedly stuck with it and after every crushing defeat I analyzed what the decks weakness was that lead to my defeat, and tried to shore up those weaknesses as best I could. And when I (rarely) won a game I looked at what the deck managed to do right for once, and made sure to keep that intact and emphasize it.

One of the biggest boons came in the form of WotC printing Exsanquinate, which is obviously a huge boon to all multiplayer decks of the appropriate color, but really it gave me a way to pull out a win after getting my board nuked over and over again (which previously made it virtually impossible for the deck to perform). So that shored up one weakness. The next biggest boon was my re-discovery of Buried Alive. The dream play is to Buried Alive for three Bloodghasts, drop a land and a Skullclamp, then follow it up next turn with Grave Pact. Very few creature-oriented decks can deal with that opening.

But the beauty is that cards like Vampire Nocturnus, Vampire Nighthawk and Malakir Bloodwitch allow for fairly easy victories without drawing any of the key “combo” cards. It’s one of those rare decks that can play Aggro, Combo or Control depending on what you draw and what your opponents do, all without swapping any cards out.

The last thing I must add is that, while the deck looks like it really needs a Bloodcheif Ascension or two, I had those in at first, and the deck really plays MUCH better without them... Weird, I know, but somehow that card just isn’t a good fit here.

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