Wordplay: Round 1
By Daniel Rezendes on June 19th, 2006 · Filed in Variant Formats · Comments not available just now
In the Wordplay format, each 40-card deck may consist of only 26 cards other than basic lands, one for each letter of the alphabet. Following the Legacy banned list, six MTGS writers created decks to pit against each other in a battle of wits. (No, not that Battle of Wits.)
We met the writers and their decks in the introduction article. And now, in their own words, the writers comment on the results of the first round.
First of all, we had to have a slight change in venue, as some of our competitors had difficulty getting into contact. So, the matches ended up being :
VestDan vs. Bateleur
DarkRitual vs. Binary
Aurorasparrow vs. CynicalSquirrel
Match I: DarkRitual vs Binary
As a reminder, their decklists are
Reported by DarkRitual
Binary won the die roll and opted to play. We both drew and kept. I had a hand with Nimble Mongoose, Diligant Farmhand,
Yavimaya Barbarians, Ravenous Baloth, and some land.
He started off with Extract targeting my Hammer of Bogardan, I came back with my Mongoose. Next turn he gave it threshold targeting me with Glimpse the Unthinkable. I put on the beats, adding on the Barbarian, Diligent Farmhand, and Flametoungue Kavu targeting his Nezumi Shortfang he played the turn before. He tried to make something of the game when he played Tainted Pact to fetchSwords to Plowshares. But then I threw down Lava Hounds and it was over.
Reported by Binary
Game 1 I lingered on the Tainted Pact for a while. I was seriously debating whether to keep going after I saw the Swords to Plowshares... my only other option at that point was to keep going and hope I could hit the Wrath of God. In retrospect, that
would have been a better option.
Choose... but choose wisely.
I was decently set up having resolved Glimpse the Unthinkable early. I also had Xiahou Dun the One-Eyed in hand but couldn't get to the second black mana I needed to play him. Had I gotten off another Glimpse with him I would have at least knocked DarkRitual down to 7 cards left in his library.
Reported by DarkRitual
The second game was much more interesting in my opinion. He went first and went land-go. I started with Nimble Mongoose once again (my opening hand had 3 of the 7 cards from the first game... that was crazy). Then he laid down Millstone and passed the turn. I played Quirion Elves calling red and swung. He played Lim-Dul's Vault (paid 1 life to do it again) and passed the turn putting him at 18, then hit me with Extract targetting the Hammer of Bogardan again. Next turn I threw down Phantom Centaur and hit him for 1 again, putting him at 17. He went land-go. I attacked for 7 and put him down to 10. Laid a Diligent Farmhand and said go. He hit me with the Millstone at the end of my turn, untapped and said go. End of turn I hit him with Magma Jet putting him down to 8.
This is where it got interesting. Because I had 8 points of damage on the table, and the Scry let me see I was about to draw Urza's Rage. This game was over unless he could pull something out of nowhere. And that’s when Orim's Chant hit the table. That bought him a turn to playWrath of God. Next turn I threw down Ravenous Baloth and Xantid Swarm, and I found myself one more removal spell away from being in topdeck mode. He played Impulse and Honden of Cleansing Fire. If I couldn't topdeck something quick, he had the chance to recover and get the game under control. I topdecked Volcanic Hammer, hit him for 4 with the Baloth, hit him for 3 with Urza's Rage and 3 with Volcanic Hammer. GG
Reported by Binary
Game 2 my Lim-Dul’s Vault worked perfectly. I had been sitting on the Orim's Chant with no white mana for a couple of turns.
The second look with the Vault showed me Plains, Snow-Covered Plains, Wrath of God, Impulse, and Fact or Fiction. I knew I had to set them up in that order, as there's no way he'd hand me two white mana and Wrath with Fact or Fiction. So I played Chant with kicker the turn before I drew Wrath. At this point I was feeling pretty good about the game until the Ravenous Baloth came down. Then I knew I needed to pull out something, so I Impulsed and saw the Honden and Fact or Fiction. If I took the Fact or Fiction I could have played it on the spot but wouldn't have been able to play anything I saw with it, so I took the Honden of Cleansing Fire and crossed my fingers thinking it would buy me another turn or two at the least. Then the combination of the Baloth and both burn spells took me out.
All that text says "I'm a tutor."
For fun I looked at my next five cards (what I would have revealed to him had I kept Fact or Fiction instead) and all 5 were lands...
Match II: Aurorasparrow vs. CynicalSquirrel
Reported by Aurorasparrow
Game 1: Aurorasparrow wins the die roll (5-4) and elects to start with a Xantid Swarm. CynicalSquirrel drops a Zuran Orb and both players begin developing their mana bases. Orim's Chant stalls Aurorasparrow for a turn, but next turn AS plays Order of the Stars (set to white) and Congregation at Dawn puts Eternal Witness, Loxodon Hierarch, and Academy Rector on top of AS’s library. CS responds by cycling Renewed Faith and Last Breathing Xantid Swarm., then tapping out for Mageta the Lion and Scroll Rack.
AS plays Academy Rector which discourages activating Mageta, but after playing Kjeldoran Outpost CS does it anyways. AS searches his library, realizes he took out Teferi's Moat and brings out
Survial of the Fittest instead. AS Reaches as CS swings and plays Goblin Charbelcher, which knocks AS for 2. AS lays out Genesis followed by Loxodon Hierarch to stall, and CS drops an Island Sanctuary. AS discards Troll Ascetic to search out and play Yosei, the Morning Star, then swings for 8. CS has no response on his turn, and AS lays out Eternal Witness (getting Troll Ascetic) andIvory Mask. Another swing brings CS to 3, but a double Pulse of the Fields brings CS back to 11.
Hanna has a nice rack.
Viridian Zealot offs Charbelcher, AS fetches and plays Ravenous Baloth and only Zuran Orb keeps Yosei, Genesis and Heirarch from ending the game immediately. CS untaps and Magetas away AS’s army, but Yosei comes back via Genesis and CS needs to sacrifice more land to stay alive. Ravenous Baloth and Nevinryyal's Disk come down forcing Mageta to Wrath again. AS Disks and attacks with a Mishra’s Factory, and a Devouring Light on Cs’s Soldier token elicits a forfeit.
Aurorasparrow: 1 CynicalSquirrel: 0
Game 2: CynicalSquirrel elects to go first and drops an early Kjeldoran Outpost, which eventually trades a token for Zodiac Monkey. AS’s Academy Rector is met with Goblin Charblecher which is met with Viridian Zealot. Loxodon Hierarch comes down and Rector swings, but Vengeful Dreams prevent AS from searching or reviving the Rector. Mageta, the Lion comes down again and it gets Hobbled, but that doesn‘t prevent him from Wrathing everything away. AS draws and play a belated Nevinnryal's Disk, which gets Fettered. Some Soldiers come through for some damage until AS drops Xantid Swarm with Pattern of Rebirth, then Wraths to play out Yosei, the Morning Star. Catastrophe offs Yosei and a token, and CS plays a Yosei of his own. AS uses Eternal Witness to replay his Yosei, destroying both and tapping both players out for a turn. Faith’s Fetters locks down Kjeldoran Outpost, and CS plays Island Sanctuary.
AS’s Ivory Mask is met with Humility, and at this point AS notes that he has no answer to Humility left in his deck. It is also noted that there is no way for him to get around Island Sanctuary, so he forfeits rather than allowing himself to get decked.
Aurorasparrow: 1 CynicalSquirrel: 1
Game 3: AS’s Nevinnryal’s Disk is the first non-land to hit play, and CS mistakenly plays his Humility right into it. Both players trade Yosei again, and AS plays Academy Rector and Congregation at Dawn. CS returns and plays Eternal Dragon (it was plains cycled earlier), but it getsJust Fated. CS’s Wrath of God allows Academy Rector to search out Survival of the Fittest, which searches for and discards Genesis. The Survival is Fettered, and both players return Dragons to play (CS returns Eternal, AS returns Yosei). Xanthic Statue is met with Ravenous Baloth, and AS is one green mana short of killing it with Viridian Zealot. Baloth is killed by the Statue, and Eternal Witness returns Disk. Both players trade blows with their Dragons, but a returned Xantid Swarm convinces CS to keep his Dragon on the defensive. AS continues to return and play attackers, which are made largely ineffective by Pulse of the Fields. CS plays Mageta the Lion and AS disks, regenerating his Troll Ascetic and locking down CS. Yosei returns to play, and CS responds with a Decree of Justice for four angels.
AS untaps and Wraths, then plays Eternal Witness and Disk again. CS returns and plays Eternal Dragon, and AS disks. AS plays Yosei and CS plays Island Sanctuary.
AS plays Eternal Witness, puts Pattern of Rebirth on Yosei and swings, but a killer Vengeful Dreams remove Yosei and Mishra's Factory and do not allow Pattern to trigger. CS replays Eternal Dragon and AS returns Viridian Zealot to kill Island Sanctuary. Last Breath removes AS’s Eternal Witness, further damaging his engine and Dragon swings. Xantid Swarm is returned to block.
Goblin Charbelcher is played and starts burning AS, and at this point both players realize their low library counts (AS has one more card than CS). Charbelcher knocks AS down to 3 before Viridian Zealot takes care of it. Loxodon Hierarch is returned to grant AS some life relief and a blocker against a stream of Soldier tokens, but he is also forced to Hobble Eternal Dragon which makes him draw a card and put both player’s libraries at 6 (CS will deck first).
CS plays Akroma's Vengeance, allowing him to replay Eternal Dragon next turn. Loxodon Hierarch comes back, and Faith’s Fetters on Kjeldoran Outpost boost AS’s life back to a comfortable 15.
Eternal Dragon and Noble Templar hit play, and Xantid Swarm
comes back to block. However, CS makes a devastating topdeck: Catastrophe for lands, which completely ends AS’s recursion engine and allows Eternal Dragon to sail over for damage. The final few turns race by as both players try to calculate if AS will die first or CS will deck first, but in the end Aurorasparrow is left at 1 life and zero cards in library when CynicalSquirrel is forced to draw deckless and loses.
Eternal Dragon, Noble Templar, Soldier Token
Hand: 3 cards
Library: 0 cards
Graveyard: 35 cards
Hand: 5 cards
Library: 0 cards
Graveyard: 35 cards (Aurorasparrow played with a 41-card deck).Final Score: Aurorasparrow: 2 CynicalSquirrel: 1
Total match time: 1.5 hours
aurorasparrow's comments: Xantid Swarm was waaay more useful than I expected; I definitely would have lost without it. I feel kinda bad for winning due to having a slightly larger deck, but I never expected this sort of situation to happen! Both players made some errors that would have changed the game and possibly the match, but this was a super-fun matchup regardless of imperfect play.
Match III: VestDan vs. Bateleur
Reported by Vestdan
VestDan played first on a full hand of 7, while Bateleur mulliganed to 6. Bateleur’s turn two Lightning Greaves followed by third turn Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary gave him an early advantage over VestDan’s turn 3 morph. The next turns saw a Troll Ascetic from Bateleur, held off for a turn by a [card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[card]. VestDan followed up with another elder – this one from Yavimaya, with enough mana open to sacrifice it. Bateleur upped the ante by playing and equipping Umezawa’s Jitte to the Troll, and attacking. VestDan blocked with the elder, forcing Bateleur to tap out to regenerate the troll but sacrificing his elder before damage would have put counters on the Jitte. Bateleur’s aggressive gamble backfired, as VestDan’s Pernicious Deed wiped the board of everything, save for his morph – Zombie Cutthroat. The game was an even 15-15. Vest cast another morph while the Zombie got another hit through while Bateleur had only a Sword of Fire and Ice sitting unused on his side, but Bat made a Phantom Centaur to try to stabilize. Yet another morph came down on VestDan’s side, as well as a Moldervine Cloak on the first one, which Bateleur correctly guessed to be a Nantuko Vigilante. A counter from Golgari Guildmage seems enough to support the beefy Vigilante in an attack, but a combination of the blocking Centaur and a Naturalize on the insect’s suit killed the beast. Bateleur’s Kodama of the North Tree seemed to cement his recovery, but an Eternal Witness to up his creature count and recast Moldervine Cloak created a ground stall. VestDan was the first to find an evasive creature – Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, and
equipped it with a Jitte of his own. VestDan put down a Wall of Blossoms and moved the becountered Jitte to an untapped creature. Bateleur made a desperation strike, but when VestDan blocked adequately Bateleur scooped.
Can anyone tell me how
to pronounce this?
Reported by Bateleur
I mulliganned into what seemed like a strong start - I achieved a solid mana base thanks to Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, then followed up with a Troll Ascetic and Umezawa's Jitte. With Sword of Fire and Ice also in hand I was light on creatures, but Troll seemed likely to suffice. I correctly identified the one thing that could go wrong with my plans: Pernicious Deed. Unfortunately Vestdan had it and was able to drop and pop it before I had regeneration mana back for my Troll thanks to the land boost from a Yavimaya Elder. I tried to recover with the Sword and Phantom Centaur, but before I'd even played the Centaur he had a morph down which I correctly guessed to be Nantuko Vigilante. The game lasted a bit longer, but I was hopelessly out of gas and scooped not long after.
Wasn't obvious to me whether I'd misplayed or not, since accumulating Jitte counters was the right play against anything except Deed.
Vestdan: 1; Bateleur: 0
Reported by VestDan
Bateleur chose to go first, with VestDan keeping a 3 land hand that seemed functional enough. VestDan’s Quirion Elves attracted a Magma Jet, while Bateleur created a Werebear and Quirion Elves of his own, as well as a Zodiac Monkey that VestDan knew he needed to find an answer for quickly. However, the only non-land cards he found were a Sakura-Tribe Elder – showing him three more lands were on top of his deck – a Birds of Paradise, a Golgari Guildmage, a Living Death he probably should have played, and a Nantuko Vigilante that destroyed a Fires of Yavimaya and, with a counter from the Guildmage, kept a Hystrodon in check. VestDan did all he could to race with a Birds of Paradise that got bigger each turn, but just when recovery seemed in sight – when VestDan had a whopping ten lands in play – Bateleur alpha-striked and used Overblaze to make it stick.
Reported by Bateleur We both mana flooded a bit in this game. I was very frustrated to draw no burn, no equipment and no fatties since any one of these would have won me the game. Fortunately for me, Vestdan's draws were just as weak and my turn 2 Zodiac Monkey put me so far ahead I was able to Alpha strike for the win.
I wonder if one or both of us should have mulliganned here. I liked my hand because it had a really fast start including Fires of Yavimaya, but I'm not completely convinced I can keep a hand with neither fatty nor equipment against Vestdan's deck.
VestDan: 1; Bateleur: 1
Reported by VestDan
VestDan, again going first, played an early Wall of Blossoms, which did not bode well for Bateleur’s aggro deck. Bateleur brought out Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, and both players brought out Yavimaya Elders, which killed each other and net both players three cards. During the same attack, a morphed Zombie Cutthroat flips to kill an attacking Rofellos, but Magma Jet finishes the zombie off. VestDan plays a Volrath’s Stronghold and cycles a Krosan Tusker to further thin his deck, then puts down Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed. Bateleur played a Troll Ascetic that VestDan’s Wall of Blossoms held at bay, and knew he needed to topdeck something good. VestDan brought out Golgari Guildmage, used it to pump Xiahou Dun, and swung for four. Bateleur made his miraculous topdeck, Disintegrating the P3K legend out of the game entirely, and Magma Jetting the Guildmage for good measure, leaving VestDan with only his wall and a Birds of Paradise. Bateleur swung with his Viridian Zealot and Troll, connecting for two, and putting the life totals at 13-16 in his favor. However, in a repeat of Game 1, VestDan Pernicious Deeded while Bateleur was tapped out from slaying all of his creatures, meaning the Troll was again unable to regenerate. VestDan dropped a morph for good measure, which got a Moldervine Cloak the following turn, attacking for 5 before he played another morph. Bateleur drew his next card, and conceded, showing VestDan a Caller of the Claw that would have saved him had he the mana and an Overblaze that would have won the game the turn after the Deed, had the Deed not occurred.
Reported by Bateleur
Here I felt I knew what I had to do to win and was happy when Vestdan tapped out to give me a chance to burn away Xiahou Dun and Golgari Guildmage. Unfortunately he had Volrath's Stronghold in play. I had to press my tempo advantage since the long game favoured my opponent. Magma Jet showed me Caller of the Claw on top of my library so the game was in the bag unless he could Deed that turn. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened and I scooped one turn later.
VestDan: 2; Bateleur: 1
Overall, Pernicious Deed allowing me to reset allowed me to take control of games 1 and 3. Looking back at game 2, I had a Living Death I should have cast, but held off on using too long in hopes of getting more advantage from it, and because I’d spent so much time creating a gigantic Birds of Paradise. Golgari Guildmage continued to outperform my expectations, particularly with all the land tutoring this offers. I’d also like to add that both players seemed to be quite good at guessing the identities of opposing morphs – invariably, it would be the morph which could do the most damage.
The two cards in VestDan's deck I really fear are Ink Eyes and Pernicious Deed. The latter really showed what it could do here, but it could be argued that I misplayed in game 1. I also wonder if this matchup requires me to mulligan into a hand without an early fatty. My Limited player's instincts are to play the card advantage game, but my deck has too few ways to exploit seven or more mana.
It is already clear to me that Boros Garrison is a wrong card choice. It wants to be Bonesplitter.
The matchup felt to me as though I was favoured to win it in terms of odds but it was likely to be swingy depending on what we each drew.
After one round of play, DarkRitual, Aurorasparrow, and VestDan are victorious, with Aurorasparrow being the only one to go 2-0. If there’s enough interest, we may do another round. But that is up to all of you. In all, this is a fun, swingy little format, which seems to combine the wonky card quality of limited with the strategy of constructed. Try it out sometime with your playgroup – and for extra fun, see if you can’t spell words with the cards you have in play .
By Daniel Rezendes on June 19th, 2006 · Filed in Variant Formats · Comments not available just now
About Daniel Rezendes
Journeyman Wordsmith and Magic player for over a decade. In recent years, I've stopped sucking at writing, which is always a plus. Would certainly not say no to a job offer from WotC's continuity department.