Rail-Birds of Paradise - GP Atlanta

Feature Article from Paul Rietzl
Paul Rietzl
1/28/2011 10:46:00 AM
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Kriegsmarine is the German word meaning "War Navy" and refers to the naval branch of the Wehrmacht during the Nazi regime's rule of WWII Germany. In media and film, Kriegsmarine Unterseeboots, or "U-boats" are often depicted as rapaciously conducting economic warfare throughout the Atlantic, harassing Allied shipping lanes, merchant convoys and the occasional military vessel. Of course they sunk a great deal of ships, but the psychological impact they had on American and British sailors may have even been greater.

Fast forward to Grand Prix Atlanta, 2011. A new menace has risen across the Atlantic, but it no longer resides in Germany. The French Man-of-war Gabriel Nassif conducted his own version of submarine warfare, firing a volley of torpedoes that sunk four stout American vessels; the USS Rietzl, Herberholz, Sperling and Parke respectively. Unsuspecting victims, having been tricked by longstanding friendships with the Frenchman, blindly drank a potion he was selling out of an old Conestoga wagon only to see it turn them old and shriveled in the blink of an eye. This potion was in the form of what was putatively a R/G Beatdown deck, though the only thing it beat down was our spirits.

Here is the deck we all played this weekend:

Railbirds of Paradise by Paul Rietzl
Main Deck
1 Acidic Slime
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Cunning Sparkmage
4 Fauna Shaman
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Goblin Ruinblaster
1 Inferno Titan
3 Llanowar Elves
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Vengevine
Creatures [35]
2 Basilisk Collar
Spells [2]
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
9 Forest (154)
1 Mountain (152)
4 Raging Ravine
1 Tectonic Edge
Lands [23]
Deck Total [60]

2 Acidic Slime
1 Cloudthresher
2 Combust
1 Fulminator Mage
1 Goblin Ruinblaster
2 Kitchen Finks
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Spitebellows
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

We'd been hornswoggled! This was simply a Jund or Naya deck without Demigods of Revenge or Knights of the Reliquary! Our combined record with the deck in matches played was 8-12, buoyed by Sperling's 3-0 and my 3-1 start. I made the observation during a late Saturday night debriefing at a local saloon that this was the first deck I had ever played in which I won the die roll, had the best possible draw, had an opponent stumble on mana, and was completely destroyed. Mark, Matt, Jamie and I decided that Nassif was simply fed up with providing us with his best technology event after event without as much as a thank you. Finally, when an event came around that he himself would not be attending, he sprung his trap.

Now of course, I'm having some fun at my friend Gabriel's expense. He is one of the greatest deckbuilders/players of all time and is entitled to miss with a metagame deck everyone once in a while. I certainly don't actually believe that he intentionally sandbagged us. All of us had played the deck to varying degrees and with some success on Magic Online. And given how much I owe Nassif for building the deck I played in Amsterdam, I would've gladly played any new concoction even if he was only trying to get some laughs. I would consider myself a lucky man to be playing the same deck as he in Paris. Moreover, when you playing in an event, it is your responsibility alone to make sure you are comfortable with the deck you are playing. Because I had insufficient time to prepare for Atlanta, I have no one to blame but myself. That being said, I wouldn't recommend you play this deck in the next PTQ. What are some weaknesses?

-The deck uses Bloodbraid Elf very poorly. With 11 creature accelerators there is a high probability of hitting a low-impact card. With 2 Basilisk Collar, there is the nightmare scenario of hitting a non-creature when you need to return Vengevine (both Jamie and I lost games to this).

-The matchup against Valakut decks of all kinds is extremely weak. We have very few ways to meaningfully disrupt them. Previous incarnations of the deck had significantly more land destruction, but this was cut to make room for the maindeck Sparkmage/Collar combo.

-The deck has a tendency to mana flood. Raging Ravine and Tectonic Edge are the only "value lands." There is no card drawing.

-Fauna Shaman is underutilized. Many times, given the curve of the deck, it was probably correct to attack with it rather than use it. Only Vengevines provide fuel and setting up the engine can be slow and cumbersome when faced with some of the explosive starts possible in Extended.

The tournament itself started well for me, as I was able to win the first round against a land-light Red Deck wins and take the first game against a 4-color Doran concoction. In the second game my opponent was able to Decimate my hand with a Thoughtseize and 2 Tidehollow Scullers before finishing me off with a Doran. Going into game three there were only about 5 minutes left on the clock, so I chose not to spend the time to sideboard, hastily pileing and riffling in the hopes of avoiding a draw. I was rewarded with a 7-land opening hand which I quickly mulliganed into something mediocre, like 2 Forest, Fauna Shaman, Vengevine, Fulminator Mage, Lightning Bolt. I kept after very short deliberation and the early turns of the game proceeded at a brisk pace. He quickly gained the upper hand on turn 4 when he cast Baneslayer Angel and I had not yet found a source of red mana (The Birds I Fauna Shamaned for was dispatched.) I basically had to play for the draw at this point, and certainly could've achieved it with a normal pace of play. However, the truth of the matter was that my decisions were not that difficult without any red mana, and it's not my style to try to get points that aren't mine. I lost on the 4th extra turn.

In the next round I played against Faeries. In game one, he led with Inquisition into Bitterblossom on the play and demolished me handily. Game two, I got off to a good start and was able to overwhelm him with Vengevines. Game three, my opponent played more of a U/B control deck, starting with a pair of Walls of Tanglecord and a Skinrender before topping off with a Wurmcoil Engine. He started firing off Cryptic Commands and I quickly found myself in a great deal of trouble. I got back into the game with back-to-back Bloodbraid Elves, cascading into Cunning Sparkmage and Boggart Ram-Gang respectively (note that this is significantly above expectation for this deck). Eventually I was able to start plinking him for two a turn - one with my Sparkmage and another with the old Birds/Noble Hierarch combo. However, if the game continued in this manner I would be sunk by the last Cryptic Command in his deck unless I could find a way to deal with Wurmcoil. Each turn I did a little dance with my Ram-Gang, inching it closer and closer to his Wurmcoil, attempting to imprint the idea in his head that I would eventually block in order to Shrink it but allow him to gain six life. When he felt his current position was becoming untenable (I believe he was down to 5), he made the move to attack with Wurmcoil. I, of course, snap-blocked with Llanowar Elves, shot my own creature with Sparkmage, and counter-attacked for exactly lethal.

Round 7 I was paired versus Jund, the rare excellent matchup for our RG deck. A combination of Fulminator Mages, Goblin Ruinblasters, Obstinate Baloths and Kitchen Finks is a full nightmare for them. The only thing to watch out for is getting turbo-demigodded, as we have no meaningful way to interact with it. Luckily, my opponent got turbo-manascrewed instead and I was on my way.

At 6-1, I felt confident in my chances of making day two, but also wary. Anyone who has read my previous works or followed my career knows I have made a habit out of losing two straight at the worst possible time and I wasn't exactly armed with Combo winter Academy here.

I dropped a heartbreaking three-game set to WU Control before being paired against UG Omen/Scapeshift in the decisive round 9. As we have already covered, this was our nightmare matchup. As I shot him for one with a Cunning Sparkmage wearing a Basilisk Collar (and gained one), my opponent was exploring into Cryptic Command for my follow-up Ruinblaster. I truly was playing Checkers to his Chess. As anyone who has been around the block will tell you, there's nothing worse than losing the last round or two to miss day two, miss top eight, miss the money, etc. There's nothing you can do but pack your bags, fly on home and give it your best shot the next time out.

If I could do it all over again, I would play (surprise!) White Weenie, with a full complement of War Priest of Thune maindeck in order to combat the Prismatic Omens and Bitterblossoms flying around. But alas, in Magic as in life, there are rarely second chances. The next constructed format for pros is Standard with Mirrodin Besieged and the set is newly spoiled. I'll have some thoughts next week after I have a chance to fully digest the set, but here is what I have been playing in Standard on Magic Online recently, to great success:

Elves by Paul Rietzl
Main Deck
1 Acidic Slime
4 Arbor Elf
4 Elvish Archdruid
1 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
4 Fauna Shaman
1 Gaea's Revenge
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Llanowar Elves
1 Primeval Titan
4 Vengevine
1 Wolfbriar Elemental
Creatures [29]
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
Planeswalkers [2]
1 Eldrazi Monument
4 Genesis Wave
Spells [5]
2 Dread Statuary
17 Forest (154)
1 Khalni Garden
4 Tectonic Edge
Lands [24]
Deck Total [60]

2 Acidic Slime
2 Gaea's Revenge
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Leyline of Vitality
3 Mindslaver
1 Nature's Claim
2 Tumble Magnet
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

What I love about this deck is the way that it can attack in so many different ways. If they fail to disrupt you in the first few turns, the amount of mana this deck can produce will get out of hand and lead to a ridiculous Genesis Wave or Wolfbriar Elemental. It is capable of just sitting behind a Fauna Shaman and cycling through Vengevines. Or it can try to swarm and drop an Ezuri for the quick kill. This deck feasts on the big players in the metagame, RG Valakut (we're just faster) or UB Control (too many angles of attack) while struggling against Red Deck Wins and Boros. While I initially had Obstinate Baloth over Leylines in the sideboard, I've come to the conclusion that you want to treat these decks much as many old Extended decks treated Dredge: hope you don't play against it, but have a devastating silver bullet (albeit inconsistent). While still not favorable matchups, it's quite enjoyable to get plunked for one per turn with a Sparkmage while your 1/2 mana creatures stay warm and dry.

Anyway, back in Atlanta, I set about drowning my sorrows with some of the other Railbirds in Paradise. We discussed some critical issues du jour such as:

-Is Jon Finkel merely Communist or downright crazy?

-Is Jaeger a good name for a kitten?

-Would the Sliver Kids (Chris Lachmann and Jacob Von Lunen) ever buy us a shot?

-And what about Nassif? What was he doing in his Parisian penthouse as we lamented the day's debacle? Here is how we envisioned it, courtesy of Jamie Parke. We call it "Les Miserables."

I'll be gunslinging the Los Angeles Prerelease this Saturday alongside one of the best in the world, Brad Nelson. The event is being put on by Glenn Godard and Sunmesa Events. This is the first prerelease I have attended since Coldsnap and I'm quite confident Mirrodin Besieged will blow that out of the water. The real question is do I side with the Phyrexians or Mirrans in their eternal struggle??? Either way, I'm excited to check it out and get a first look at all the new cards. Please stop by and say hi!

Thanks for reading,


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