Deck Tech: "Dirty Kitty"

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The letter W!ith so much getting added to the Extended format since its last premier-level event, it's no surprise that there are new decks popping up left and right. Sometimes, like the new French Second Sunrise deck it's a whole new archetype. Other times it's just a key tweak or adjustment to an existing deck that takes it in a whole new direction. And while Goblins are nothing new to any format, the list below takes much of the normal Goblin core and adds a combo frosting that gives it the ability to pull off some truly phenomenal plays with the flexibility to break through table positions that would have more traditional goblin decks conceding rather than defeating.

Dirty Kitty - Extended
Billy Moreno - 2006 Magic World Championship

First off, if you don't know why this deck is now called "Dirty Kitty" you'll want to read this blog item to see what I get for opening my big mouth around BDM.

So, let's talk about the deck. If you just looked at the creatures, this doesn't look all that crazy. The big change comes in that spells column. By running 10 fast mana spells (Seething Song, Rite of Flame, and Brightstone Ritual), the deck gains the ability to muscle out crazy numbers of goblins with Empty the Warrens. That combo has been showing up in lots of the goblin decks today, but the real innovation, one I haven't seen anywhere but in Billy's group (so far at least), is Fecundity. With Fecundity and a Skirk Prospector out, every goblin sacrifice means a card draw and a red mana. In that world, Mogg War Marshal becomes Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus. Combined with the cost reduction of Goblin Warchief to help things along plus the brute power of Empty the Warrens, plus all the red rituals, once in this mode a player can potentially draw the whole deck up if needed, particularly once more than one Fecundity is out. Killing from there is just a matter of picking the best method for the board, whether it's sending in Piledrivers with countless goblin tokens (think "more than Magic Online can count" countless), revving up the ultimate Goblin Sharpshooter, or even just pointing a gigantic Grapeshot at the opponent's face.

So in some ways, the deck gets to enjoy the best of both worlds, putting pressure on the opponent with an aggro rush but threatening to go off combo-style should the opponent tap out at the wrong moment, something that often happens as they struggle to deal with the deck's early charge.

Billy Moreno was nice enough to sit down with me for a bit after the fifth round of play today to walk me through some of the history of the deck. Billy is one of several players running Dirty Kitty, including Osyp Lebedowicz, Josh Ravitz, Ben Stark, John Fiorillo, and Luca Chiera of the Italian national team. Billy said that a bit after Time Spiral hit Magic Online, some of the goblin decks started showing up with the red ritual cards to power out Empty the Warrens. A couple even made Top 8 of some Premier Events, at which point they caught the eye of Brian David-Marshall, who pointed them out to Billy. The group liked the deck, but it was Billy that came up with the idea of adding Fecundity.

As he described it for me, from there the deck went through a number of different iterations. Early versions still had outmoded late-game cards like Siege-Gang Commander and Goblin Ringleader, which just gummed up the new engine. From there they tried various toolbox approaches thanks to Goblin Matron and even experimented with a Burning Wish version (with one Empty the Warrens in the sideboard), but those approaches were coming out clunky. The more they practiced with the deck the more they were able to streamline it down to a more focused approach, keeping that powerful early game while maximizing the explosive combo elements.

The final phase was deciding on the two "one-ofs" in the deck for Matron to get. In the end they went with one Sharpshooter and one Sledder, both of which provide ways around potential problem situations and make it easier to just put the game away depending on the board in question. Sledder, for example, is great after a big Warrens or against decks like Boros with pro red, as you can wait to see what gets blocked and then sacrifice everything to make one of the unblocked creatures lethal, not to mention its ability to ease the impact of cards like Pyroclasm.

Now that they're almost through the Extended day I asked how the deck felt, and Billy pointed out that while some players like Osyp were doing well (4-1 as I write this), he himself hadn't fared as well, going 3-2 so far after running into several different issues. Despite that, he still felt the deck was the right choice and was glad he'd gone with it. Another sign of good preparation was that even this far into the event he didn't really think any of the cards in the main or 'board were mistakes and had to be switched. With more practicing he felt there were some minor tweaking possibilities, such as going to 20 land or experimenting with a couple Chrome Moxes.

Despite how far ahead of the game they'd been compared to so many of the competitors that didn't know what they were playing today even as late as Thursday morning, Billy's main regret was that they hadn't had more time to run the deck against an even more complete gauntlet of all the different decks they figured they might run into. One thing he was happy with was the process they'd gone through getting the board right for the mirror and against other aggressive decks. They'd initially tried cards like Gempalm Incinerator and Pyroclasm, but in the end it turned out sticking with the streamlined attack plan was more effective, so adding 4 Clickslithers turned out to be the best way to break open the mirror as well as giving additional ways to power right over the pro-red blockers in decks like Boros.

Watching the deck today in various players' hands and hearing the tales of its exploits makes you a believer quickly. Billy laughed about how, during early practice with the current version of the deck, he drew a hand that would end up killing his opponent on turn two, with only 1 land in hand, something he hadn't realized the deck was even capable of. Recollecting the game back to me, he believed it started with Prospector, followed by double Rite of Flame. From here an Empty the Warrens kicked off the Prospector mana engine, leading into a Warchief and a second Empty the Warrens, followed by enough hasty Goblin Piledriver power to put it away. In a game earlier today in the actual event, Osyp was facing Engineered PlagueandWorship in play and still pulled it out. Drawing up much of his deck thanks to the power of Fecundity and fast mana, by the time he was done casting everything he was able to fire off a gigantic Grapeshot storm for lethal damage, finding Krosan Grip in the process to remove Worship at split-second speed.

With all that in mind, it seems likely this deck will get plenty of attention for the upcoming Qualifier season, and its combination of power and flexibility seem tailor-made for that environment. Billy pointed out that the deck can be complicated (just ask Ben Stark) but that it gets easier with practice. Strategically, one of the key decisions is understanding when to commit a Prospector to the table against decks that can kill it. The other main issue comes down to being familiar with the deck enough to know when to go for the big kill. As he put it, at first there can be a tendency to think the deck is in more danger than it actually is, causing players less experienced with the deck to try and go off too early and fizzle in the process, whereas if they'd waited until the actual last turn possible they'd be much more likely to put the whole game away. But, with practice, it comes down mostly to getting comfortable with the math - though make sure to get plenty of that practice before trying to compete with this monster. It's a great deck to consider, but I wouldn't recommend trying to pick it up cold the day of the event.

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