Itís that time of year again. It is time to take off for a week in the woods where I can free myself from sitting in front of a computer, eating food that tastes good and using indoor plumbing.
I love camping.
I donít love ďrealĒ camping, mind you. Real camping is the kind where you have to hike 10 miles a day, carry your food on your back, watch out for bears and start your own fires if you want to stay warm. Thatís not really my forte. This is ďfakeĒ camping. I spend the week in a tent that someone else set up, eating food thatís already prepared, telling jokes and stories around a campfire every night, and spending lots of time sitting around picnic tables playing Magic and shooting the breeze. And maybe I spend a couple of minutes a day teaching some twelve year-old kids how to tie knots. Now thatís camping.
So anyway, each year at camp, I run a little Magic tournament for the whole troop to participate in, myself included. This will be the fourth year in a row weíve had a tourney up at camp. I didnít run the first one, but I did win it with a Pestilence deck. The next year, I came back and won it with my Tap & Tim deck. Last year, I wasnít at camp, so I didnít have the opportunity to win, but I feel like I've already more than proven myself as the best Magic player in the troop. So this year, I want to try a different approach.
This year, I want to win on my terms. Of course I can beat kids with much less experience and a much shallower card pool, using decks that Iíve become adept at playing after piloting them for almost ten years of my life. So for the tournament this year, Iím going to restrict myself big time. I briefly considered using a beefed-up draft deck, but thatís a little bit too restrictive. Iíve tried that for casual games and no matter how well I play, those decks really canít compete against an average casual constructed deck.
So Iím going to use the Precon method. Basically, I want to restrict my cards in rarity and numbers, but still retain the focus that you donít see in precons anymore. Since the tournament, for all intents and purposes, is Vintage format, I should be able to find a lot of analogous cards to fill the slots for consistency.
So how do we go about making a ďpreconstructedĒ deck? These decks have been sold since the Rath block and tend to have some loose guidelines that they follow. For example, they always have two to three unique rares. I know in recent years, theyíve always had two rares, but back in Tempest, three rares were the standard. Each rare is different and often serves as the focal point of the deck, so thatís where Iím going to start.
I want to find two or three rares that have a cool effect, great synergy, or combo potential. After spending some time flipping through my binder, I come across one of my favorite one-of rares that I never really fully exploited: Doomsday. I had used it in a deck once before, basically to stack my deck with the crazy combo of Gorilla Titan and Nature's Kiss. I know, that sounds awful. It was. But whenever I played Doomsday, my opponent would always say something to the effect of, ďYouíre playing Doomsday? Thatís freaking awesome.Ē Often, theyíd send a Fireball for the win on the next turn or send in a lethal attack, but the respect was there. Paying half your life for a suicidal tutor has that effect on people.
I also like Doomsday because itís a great way to set up a win. Now I just need to find a two or three card combo that I can put on top of my library to win the game. Further flipping reveals one of the most popular multiplayer win conditions in a little card called Biorhythm. Sure, it costs 8 mana, but all I need to do is clear the board and cast this sucker and itís game over. Clearing the board, of course, means clearing my opponentís board. Doomsday means Iím already playing black and Biorhythm means Iím already casting huge spells, so why not use Plague Wind as card #1 of my two-card combo?
Why not? Because I donít own it. I could have sworn that I picked one up in an 8th Edition draft at some point or another, but after relentless searching, I came up empty-handed. Luckily, I have another card that just may fit in instead: Foil Hex. Itís got some serious limitations. First, Iíll need my opponent to have six or less creatures in play and Iíll need enough creatures in play to leave at least one point of life left. Second, creatures targeted by Hex can regenerate. Itís a lot cheaper to cast, but I donít really care all that much about that. If I can trade for a Plague Wind before the tournament starts, Iím going to do that, but for now Iíll roll with what I have.
At this point, Iíve got my three unique rares and my win condition. My deck will be defined by these cards and built around them. Things I need at this point:
1) Ways to grab the Doomsday
2) Mana acceleration
3) Ways to stay alive
4) Ways to keep my opponentís creature count under seven.
To fill these needs, I'll move on to the uncommons and commons of the deck. Most modern precons come with exactly 13 uncommons, however, there are some that included 14 uncommons, such as the Tidal Mastery deck from Mercadian Masques. (I did mention that these are loose guidelines, right?) Most precons don't include any more than two copies of any particular uncommon. Several use three copies of one card. But there's also a select few that use four copies of one card or three copies of two cards. I'll set these as my boundaries. Now let's get to filling those boundaries.
The toughest thing is going to be finding Doomsday. Black has a couple great options for this in Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, and the recently-printed Dimir Machinations. I own a couple Demonic Tutors, but they're currently occupied in other decks, so I'm going to use a mix of the Diabolic Tutor and the Machinations.
My uncommons don't offer a lot of great ways to accelerate mana or stay alive, but they offer plenty of options for killing creatures. Chainer's Edict and Putrefy are two of the best removal spells at my disposal, so I'll include them. Swallowing Plague will gain me some life while taking down a creature. I also decided to include a copy each of Darksteel Brute and Stalking Stones. The Brute makes a good early blocker and both cards can be used as an emergency valve to get one creature into play before casting Biorhythm. Finally, I added a single copy of Whirling Dervish and Ebony Treefolk. Both cards, I only have one copy of and I'm not currently using them, so why not give them a whirl. Isn't that what precons are all about?
Moving on to the commons, I need to find ways to stay alive and accelerate my mana. I liked the choice of Swallowing Plague so much that I included 5 copies of Drain Life and Consume Spirit (5 copies total, not each. Duh.) This means I need to accelerate black mana. Elves of Deep Shadow are pretty good at that and the damage is bearable considering I'll be gaining the life right back. Llanowar Dead are like big, painless Elves of Deep Shadow for an extra black mana, so I'll throw them in, too. I'll round out my mana acceleration with the old staples of Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach.
At this point, I still need better ways to stay alive than 2+X black draining spells. Moment's Peace is probably the best common for keeping me alive. I considered splitting between Moment's Peace and Respite, but then I realized that Respite sucks. I'm not sure how many weenie hoards I'll be facing. Just in case, I'll include a copy of Pestilence as a way to clear the board of many small creatures. Finally, I included a couple copies of Naturalize for utility.
So now I've made all my Precon card choices and I'm ready to include the lands. Here's where I get a slight case of the cheaty-pants. I've already reached the rarity limits on each level except common (which doesn't really have a limit). The problem is that I have some cool dual lands that I want to use, but don't want to drop any cards for. So I compromised and decided to just include one copy of each. Well, actually it wasn't much of a compromise since I only owned one copy of each, but as far as you know, I compromised. Oh, the lands, by the way, are Foil Overgrown Tomb and Tainted Wood. And since commons have no limits, I'll toss in some Golgari Rot Farms, too.
Throw it all together for the following deck:
"Precon" of Doom
2006 Summer Camp Magic Tournament Deck
Three Unique Rares
3 Chainer's Edict
2 Dimir Machinations
2 Swallowing Plague
1 Darksteel Brute
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Ebony Treefolk
1 Stalking Stones
1 Whirling Dervish
3 Moment's Peace
3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Drain Life
2 Consume Spirit
2 Kodama's Reach
2 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Llanowar Dead
24 Lands Ė 19 Basics, 3 Commons, 2 ďCheatyĒ lands
3 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Tainted Wood
And that is the deck I will guide to victory at my troop's annual summer camp Magic tournament. I took a few test draws and it's really more consistent than I expected. Is it good? Not by any means. But that's cool. No one else's deck will be good, either.