Competitive Type 1 Belcher!...What? Stop Laughing!

[b]Competitive Belcher!...What? Stop Laughing![/b]

The deck can be very random and very picky, but in the right hands, very effective. I’m sure you’ve heard that Belcher has a 40% chance of going off first turn. It probably does; I don’t know. I won't feed you statistics and probabilities, because I’m simply too lazy to work them all out. Besides, 47.8% of all statistics are made up on the spot anyway, right? Enough of my banter; let’s get started.

The Original Decklist


This is the decklist used by Michael Simister. Well, no offense to Mr. Simister, but I think I can do better. Here is my current list:


Well okay, so it’s not that different, but there are differences.

[b]Removal of Brainstorm for Spoils Of The Vault:[/b]
My argument here is essentially: “Pay one mana to draw into 3 cards (technically one) and hope you draw what you need, or pay one mana to draw as many cards as needed for the one card you need.” Spoils Of The Vault is looked down upon as a “bad card.” However, it can and will win you games in this deck. Brainstorms were cut both because they didn’t fit as nicely into the mana base and because Spoils just does a better job in this deck. Furthermore, Spoils gives this deck what it needs more than anything else: Consistency.

[b]Removal of Timetwister for Tainted Pact:[/b]
This has actually caused several arguments in my playgroup, most beginning with “Well, Time Walk has already been cut…” This deck only needs one Draw-7 (not counting Memory Jar), and Wheel Of Fortune is just superior here. In all the games I’ve played with this deck before cutting Timetwister, I rarely drew it, never tutored for it, and used it maybe once. It’s proven to be little more than Mox fodder. Tainted Pact, on the other hand, is infinitely more helpful. It is a better color for this deck, costs one less and is an instant. With the number of single copy cards in this deck, you’re almost guaranteed to find what you need at no damage to your life points.

[b]Removal of Mana Cylix for Demonic Consultation:[/b]
Mana Cylix was never really a favorite of mine. While it stabilized the mana base, it still got you a net mana gain of zero. Chromatic Sphere is much better because it smoothes your mana base, nets you a card and fills you graveyard, the latter of which can be important in this deck. Demonic Consultation can easily win games. You’ll never Consult for a 1-of unless you desperately need it, and will often times be using it to grab a Belcher for the win.

[b]Removal of Tendrils of Agony for Viridian Shaman:[/b]
Again, I never liked Tendrils in this deck. While it can buy you some turns, it rarely wins you games. Aside from that, it’s another 4 mana card that you’ll rarely be able to cast when needed, or be able to cast and activate a Belcher anyway. In my build, Viridian Shaman was initially an Oxidize until I realized that the Shaman costs 3 mana anyway and came with a 2/2 body. With Stax and variants being so rampant, some form of maindeck artifact removal was just necessary. This and Living Wish are the only ways around a game one Null Rod or Trinisphere.

With the mainboard out of the way, let’s move on to sideboard choices.

[b]2x Oxidize, 2x Naturalize:[/b]
These basically replace 3x Oxidize and 1x Artifact Mutation. Artifact Mutation was dropped due to its mana base. Both Mutation and Oxidize were replaced in favor of Naturalizes because of Oath’s rising popularity. I would much rather run Hull Breach than Artifact Mutation anyway.

[b]Karn, Silver Golem:[/b]
Simple reason: I didn’t like Scavenger Folk. I would never wish for them, and Shaman is just superior against a Trinisphere anyway. Karn is a nice fatty that has a rather good game against Stax. It’s harder to kill, and shoots opponents’ Moxen and Lotus.

That is a basic analysis of the changes in this deck. Now, on to actually playing it.


[b]The Rule Of Seven:[/b]
The rule of seven is simply that when you have 7 mana at your disposal you should win the game, assuming there’s a Belcher on hand. Depending on the matchup, it can sometimes be wise to wait until you have this mana before playing the Belcher. Bad things can happen to an inactive Belcher on the table. However, if the matchup is favorable, the right move can sometimes be to drop it as soon as you hit 4 mana.
A good time to wait is when facing down a Goblin Welder or a Seal Of Cleansing.

[b]Goblin Welders and Lion’s Eye Diamond:[/b]
When facing a counter heavy deck, you’ll often have to be creative in getting a Belcher into play. Unless you’ve just swung with a Xantid Swarm, the best thing is to make the Goblin Charbelcher uncounterable. A combination of Belcher in hand, an active Welder, a Lion's Eye Diamond, and another artifact on the field will usually result in a game win. Simply sacrifice the Lion’s Eye Diamond for three mana of any color, Weld the Belcher into play, and activate with your three mana. A simple trick, but effective nonetheless.

[b]Bayou vs. Tropical Island:[/b]
This is a simple and seemingly irrelevant debate, but one that must be addressed regardless. When you cast a Land Grant, what do you look for? My build has solved this problem by cutting the deck down to three blue spells. The only thing that would really justify finding a Tropical Island is a playable Tinker in hand or an Ancestral Recall while on the verge of comboing out. Naturally, there are other circumstances where you'd want the Island, but you’ll almost always be grabbing a Bayou with your first Land Grant.


[b]Spoils Of The Vault, Chromatic Sphere, and the Topdecking Game:[/b]
Playing this deck successfully requires a certain amount of confidence in your deck. Actually, it requires a lot of confidence in your deck. Never be afraid to Spoils for the win in a pinch. To recite a play I just made recently in a Mox tourney: I had a Dark Ritual and two Spoils Of The Vault in hand. First I cast Dark Ritual, then Spoils'd for another Ritual (-7 life), cast it, then spoiled for a Belcher (first card revealed) with 4 mana left over, and 3 on the board. Activated, and won. Chromatic Spheres are very good in this deck, and mana should be siphoned through them nearly every chance you get. That one card drawn off of the Sphere can win you the game.


[b]Alternate Win Conditions:[/b]
In a pinch, this deck can go what I like to call “jank aggro.” Don't be afraid to actually cast an Elvish Spirit Guide if you know that there is absolutely no way your Belcher is going to get off the ground. For starters, the look on your opponent’s face will be priceless. Beyond that it gives you a nice 2/2 beater/blocker. When this becomes the case, it’s time to wish for Karn. Never forget that your Tinder Walls are indeed 0/3 blockers.


[b]Match versus Oath:[/b]
This is not Belcher’s hardest match up, but nor is it easy by any respects. Oath is capable of going off turn 1, and will almost always go off turn two. This puts you on a tight clock. Throw Force Of Will and Mana Leak in the mix and you’ve got quite a tough game on your hands. To win against Oath, and most other counter heavy decks for that matter, you’ll have to bait their Forces. Your best hands against Oath are those that allow for multiple win scenarios. An example of this hand would be:



If they counter your Belcher route, win through Necropotence, and visa-versa. It would be wise to try and wish for a Xantid Swarm, but that will be very difficult playing around their counters. The game changes slightly in your favor after sideboarding.

-1 Cabal Ritual
-1 Tainted Pact
-2 Living Wish
-1 Viridian Shaman
-1 Spoils Of The Vault
-1 Goblin Welder
+4 Xantid Swarm
+2 Naturalize
+1 Darksteel Colossus

After sideboarding, two things happen: One, you now have access to your Xantid Swarms, and resolving one should secure the game for you. Two, they will aggressively mulligan down to 1-2 Force Of Wills, and even Mana Leaks. They know what to expect, what to counter and now have access to Arcane Laboratory, Ground Seal, and Energy Flux. Ground Seal doesn’t hurt so much, but the Arcane Laboratory/Energy Flux duo will beat you down like nothing else. Use Naturalizes to get rid of Oath Of Druids and other such threats, and try to Tinker for a Darksteel Colossus turn one if possible.


[b]Match versus Stax and Variants:[/b]
This game is sadly more luck than anything. It can come down to the die roll really. You must do everything in your power to go off first turn. If you don’t you'll run the risk losing to the Trinisphere. More than that, if they get a Welder on the field you'll have to play and activate the Belcher in the same turn. A Trinisphere will probably end the game for you, but that doesn’t mean you’re through. Your game one options include wishing for a Shaman or Mishra’s Workshop, or just going broken before they get the Trinisphere down.

-2 Living Wish
-1 Spoils Of The Vault
-1 Tainted Pact
-1 Mystical Tutor
-1 Mox Pearl
+2 Oxidize
+1 Viridian Shaman
+1 Goblin Welder
+1 Mishra’s Workshop
+1 Taiga

The match doesn’t get much easier after sideboarding, but playing under a Trinisphere becomes more feasible. While the two extra lands does make flubbing a Belcher more common, it gives you an un-Weldable mana base that makes playing 0-costing artifacts possible. This is just a random match up, and often comes down to who can topdeck better, and who gets a better hand.


[b]Match versus UR Fish:[/b]
This is quite possibly Belcher’s worst match up. You’re only real chance is to go broken without them having a Force Of Will. Your lands won't stay in play. You’ll probably be hit by a Null Rod real fast. Spiketail Hatchlings make life suck, and you will be under constant beat. Oh yeah, and even if you do resolve a Belcher, it can and probably will be Stifled upon activation.

-2 Living Wish
-2 Spoils Of The Vault
-1 Tainted Pact
+4 Xantid Swarm
+1 Darksteel Colossus

You’re only real hope is to resolve a Tinker to grab the Colossus. Fish has no answers to an 11/11 trampler once it hits the board. Fighting against a deck with 4 free counterspells is hard, fighting against one with 11+ is near hopeless. Even after boarding in the Xantid Swarms, the game is bleak. They will just get pinged off by Fire/Ice and Grim Lavamancers.

[b]Match versus UG(R) Madness:[/b]
This is another bad match up for Belcher. Come to think of it, there really is no "good" match up for Belcher, but hey; UG and UGR Madness are just mean against Belcher. With access to Force Of Will, Circular Logic, and sometimes Stifle, you’ll have to force a Belcher through. This is no easy task. This deck has a very powerful draw engine with Bazaar Of Baghdad, and will frequently drop a possibly hasted possibly flying 6/6 as early as turn 2, sometimes sooner. Like Oath, this deck can bring in a mean sideboard, and will aggressively mulligan to an active Force Of Will.

-2 Living Wish
-1 Spoils Of The Vault
-1 Viridian Shaman
-1 Tainted Pact
+4 Xantid Swarm
+1 Darksteel Colossus

The match won't change drastically after the sideboard, as UGR Madness has access to Fire/Ice to deal with the swarms. Your best bet is to resolve a Tinker and swing away with the Colossus. Anything with free counterspells is just bad for Belcher, and you’ll often just have to force your way through it all. Remember, you have 4 Goblin Charbelchers and 4 ways to recur them. Don’t be afraid to trade a Belcher with a counterspell.

[b]Match versus TPS & Variants and Doomsday:[/b]
Technically, this would be Belcher’s best (or less worse) match up. While TPS and Doomsday are the only other blatant combo decks with Force Of Will, they all have Duress. Belcher does not like Duress, but can usually recover from them. Basically, the game here is to just win fast. Whoever goes more broken first just wins.

-2 Living Wish
+1 Karn Silver Golem
+1 Darksteel Colossus

The sideboarding really doesn’t do much in the matches. Karn is brought in to eat opposing Moxen and the like, while Darksteel Colossus provides an excellent Tinker target. Again, the strategy is to simply win fast.


[b]Match versus Control Slaver:[/b]
Again, just bad. This deck can and will beat you to ground with little remorse. Moreover, it will most likely kill you after a single Mindslaver, forcing you to do something humiliating like Spoils for a Mudhole. Combine the obscenely mean artifacts the deck runs with Force Of Will and Mana Drains and you’re in for a fight. Luckily, you won't have to worry about playing under a Trinisphere, making the match up slightly easier.

-2 Living Wish
-2 Spoils Of The Vault
-1 Tainted Pact
+4 Xantid Swarm
+1 Goblin Welder

Sideboarding typically evens out the match-up for you. It gives you counter-protection and more disruption. With a single Goblin Welder on the field you should be able to fend off a Slaver lock until he manages to lay down more Welders than you. This match can go on for a decent amount of time, but once you have a Xantid Swarm on the board you should be able to combo out in a timely manner.[/b]


[b]Match versus ‘Tog & Variants:[/b]
This match plays out a lot like Oath and Madness, except it’s actually slightly better for you. The only real threat that you’ll need to be prepared for is Pernicious Deed. Aside from Force Of Will and Mana Drain, this deck has access to Duress, which can always cause problems.

-2 Living Wish
-1 Spoils Of The Vault
-1 Viridian Shaman
-1 Tainted Pact
+4 Xantid Swarm
+1 Darksteel Colossus

The post-board games also plays out a lot like Oath and Madness. Just try to drop a Xantid Swarm as fast as you can, then draw into your win. Not a whole lot changes here for you.

[b]Match versus Belcher (The Mirror):[/b]
To be completely honest, the only “strategy” in this match up is to find a way to manipulate the die roll. The first player to drop a Goblin Charbelcher should win. While it might seem to make sense to board in Naturalizes and Oxidizes, the only real sideboard strategy is:

-2 Living Wish
+1 Goblin Welder
+1 Karn, Silver Golem

A Welder can cause massive problems for your opponent, and a Karn will just ravage them. Again, the only thing to do here is win fast.

[b]Some Advice For The Deck:[/b]
Those are basically all the major matches for Belcher. While this deck does rely heavily on luck it takes a good deal of skill and confidence to pilot it. Against control, you have to force your way through the walls of counters and be confident that you’ll draw what you need to keep the game going. Never just scoop when a Null Rod or Trinisphere hits that table. It’s important not to give up on the deck. The deck will flub out on you occasionally. More times than I’d care to remember have I revealed a Tropical Island 2 cards into the deck. Luckily, you can usually recover from these kind of things. I once Channeled into a first turn Memory Jar, but found nothing! Next turn I topdecked a Black Lotus and cast Necropotence for the win. Now that I mention it, with Necropotence, never drop below 8 life with it as you’ll regret it if you pull your Channel.
Everyone will know what you’re playing after the first game of the tournament. This will make your future matches mildly harder, as they’ll know what to expect. Furthermore, getting good with the deck will cause others to hate you, as Belcher simply shouldn’t win against, well, anything! While the deck may ruin your social aspects of the game, it’s perfectly capable of winning large events. Careful and smart plays will win games for you, it’s not just some “easy” deck to play. Well, that’s about all I have to say on the matter for now. Until next time.

-Wolfwood

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