Building_on_a_Budget

The final stretch for one of Ben's most difficult tests. Will the combo work or is it destined for defeat?

Living a Double Life: Eight Mana to Paradise (Part 3 of 3)

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The letter W!elcome to the final installment of Double Life – the deck built around Beacon of Immortality and False Cure. In part one, I got my teeth kicked in by anyone who wanted to come and take a shot. In part two, I sent my deck to be doctored by myself (long story – please don't call the men in the white jackets to take me away!) and ended up with three distinct builds. In part three, you've just clicked a link that took you back to this article.

Now I'm not the only one living a double life.

The first deck I decided to playtest was the control version of Double Life. I wanted to see if the deck could support a three-color manabase, and I really just wanted to fiddle around with Vanish into Memory. It seems like it should be a good card to move through my deck, plus act as a roadbump in my opponent's quest to put a damper on my twenty life.

Game 1: Seabear0 (Burn)

Seabear0 ramps up to fifteen mana with his acceleration, and proceeds to burn the pants off of me with X spells. Even though I get off a Beacon of Immortality, I end up with a Sensei's Divining Top, three lands on top of my deck for several turns, and no way to shuffle things up.

Record: 0-1

Game 2: Bemihovich (Mono-Black Control)

I'm finding that I have some dead cards vs. creatureless decks. Vanish into Memory and Ribbons of Night sit in my hand as I end up getting destroyed by Cabal Coffers plus a lot of Black burn.

Record: 0-2

Game 3: Blue Lightning (Dimir)

Blue Lightning brings a mill strategy to the table, and gets me down to four cards before I get my combo off. However, this is really a pyrrhic victory, because A) I had no cards in my hand with those four cards left in my library, and had to use Sensei's Divining top to get both the Beacon and the False Cure in the same turn. It's nothing more than complete luck that, with only four cards left in my library, I still had one of each of those left, and B) Blue Lightning was new with his deck, and forgot to mill me several times with his Duskmantle, House of Shadow, so I should have lost anyhow.

Record: 1-2 (but easily could have been 0-3)

Wow, how discouraging. I'm pretty much right back where I started – I have a combo deck that can't win, gets run over by everybody, and is not even fun to play. Let's try a different build of the deck.

Double Life 5 (Build 1 – Test of Endurance)

Unlike the control build of this deck, the Test of Endurance build seeks to proactively win the game. Instead of focusing on controlling my opponent's board, I mix up threats (Genju of the Fields), discard (Castigate) and two separate win conditions (both Test of Endurance and False Cure).

Game 1: Orangeman3 (Slivers)

I cast Castigate, and I shift Shifting Sliver into his removed-from-game area. He casts Farseek, and accelerates into a third-turn Essence Sliver. I drop Genju of the Fields, and he drops a freshly-drawn second Shifting Sliver. Frown. This sends us into race mode – I attack the Genju into his territory to gain life (remember, if you activate Genju of the Fields multiple times in one turn, you gain life for each activation!), while he starts beating me with five points of Spirit-Linked damage a turn.

Orangeman3 looks to break the stalemate with Brood Sliver, but I have Infest, which allows my Genju to block safely. He drops Sigil of the New Dawn, and I draw into Beacon of Immortality and False Cure, and cast it for the win.

Record: 1-0

Game 2: Joe b 1 (Mono-Black Control)

It looks like the game is going to go in my favor – I get up to seven lands, and have Beacon of Immortality and False Cure in hand, with a Divining Top on the board. Unfortunately, Joeb1 drops Phage the Untouchable via Cabal Coffers, and my only way to deal with it is Genju of the Fields. I have one turn to get an 8th land, but the top three cards of my library are all spells, and I end up having to chump block with my Plains. Without the ability to get to fifty life or eight mana, I lose the game.

Record: 1-1

Game 3: King6666 (Clerics)

On back to back turns, I Castigate out Rotlung Reanimator (which would have wrecked me) and Proclamation of Rebirth. He casts a couple of one-drop Clerics and Cabal Archon, which I Infest. We both build up mana for a bit, and he eventually casts Patriarch's Bidding, bringing into a play a cycled Scion of Darkness. I cast Tower of Eons and Journeyer's Kite, and start gaining ten life plus a land a turn. King6666 doesn't put on additional pressure, and eventually I just draw into Beacon of Immortality and False Cure for the win.

Record: 2-1

That's much better – proactively gaining life (Genju of the Fields, Tower of Eons) seems to work better than reactively killing creatures, but the presence of Infest helped me win two of the three games. Clearly removal is needed, but what type? The answer might be found in the last build.

Double Life 5 (Build 2 – Wall of Shards)

This last build of Double Life tries to abuse Wall of Shards as both a blocker, and as a way to recur Pulse of the Fields. It seeks to stall the game in a null-state until the combo of Beacon plus Cure can be drawn.

Game 1: Slavetrader (White Weenie)

I Duress, and get Lightning Greaves. His hand was Leonin Elder and Skyhunter. He drops his creatures, and I use Hideous Laughter to clear away his board. I go into Beacon Recursion mode casting the spell three times in a row (thanks to Sensei's Divining Top and Journeyer's Kite). He gets a couple more creatures onto the board, but I have enough of a life cushion that I can leisurely draw Beacon of Immortality for a fourth time, and pair it this time with False Cure.

Record: 1-0

Game 2: Xavier12 (B/G)

He Duresses me, taking Terashi's Grasp. He then proceeds to cast double Rampant Growth for Swamps, and drops three(!) Cabal Coffers. Unfortunately for Xavier12, that's all he does this game. He literally never casts another spell, and my Sensei's Divining Top and Journeyer's Kite go unanswered. I am able to get my combo shortly thereafter, and win.

Record: 2-0

Game 3: Kohtah (R/G/B Aggro)

Kohtah gets a fast start with turns 1 and 2 Raging Goblins, followed by Reckless Charge on turns 3 and 4. I am on the draw, and I Hideous Laughter the board away after taking thirteen damage from his only-three spells. I Duress, and his hand is a pair of Black flyers. This gives me time to get down Journeyer's Kite and Sensei's Divining Top, but I can't seem to Top into anything good. A Blaze for five puts me on an immediate clock, but I respond like a whiz by drawing Pulse of the Fields! This brings me back up to eighteen life in short order, and with that much of a cushion, I have no problem finding the time to get a Beacon plus a Cure for the win.

Record: 3-0

All right, so let's put it all together. The Wall of Shards build did the best, even though I literally never needed to cast Wall of Shards. The Test of Endurance build did second best, even though I never needed to cast Test of Endurance. The worst record was put up by the control build, even though control elements such as Hideous Laughter and Infest were what won me most of my games with the other two decks.

What does this all mean?

A) I don't need a full Wrath effect, such as Kirtar's Wrath – I just need a smaller, Pyroclasm/Infest type effect, to buy me enough time to get to my larger spells. Wall of Shards is unnecessary, as is an alternate win condition – I need to focus on Beacon of Immortality and False Cure, and not Test of Endurance. Some spot removal, such as Faith's Fetters, can't hurt, so that I'm not hopeless against larger threats like Phage.

Putting it all together:

With all of these in mind, I decide to build off of the Wall of Shards build, as it had the best record. I take out Hideous Laughter in favor of Infest, and take out the Wall of Shards for Night's Whisper – a card which will help me draw further into my deck, and whose loss of life will be offset by Pulse of the Fields.

Out: 3 Hideous Laughter, 4 Wall of Shards
In: 3 Infest, 4 Night's Whisper

Double Life 6 (Combined)

Game 1: Tevesh_Szat (Pro Tour Dredgeatog deck)

This game is kind of annoying, because Tevesh_Szat is playing a slightly-modified Pro Tour Top 8 deck (Billy Moreno's Madness Tog deck from Pro Tour LA 2005), and refuses to acknowledge that, just maybe, this isn't a deck for the casual room. He proceeds to drop Wild Mongrel, counters my spells with Circular Logic, dredges back to get several Deep Analysis into his graveyard…and then plays badly, leaving no cards in hand so I can Infest his Wild Mongrel, which in turn leaves me enough time to combo him out.

Guys, I've said it once and I've said it again – I don't mind seeing all sorts of decks in the casual room. I don't mind playing against decks that have five hundred dollars worth of rares. What tweaks my grinders is seeing someone take a deck that finished in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour, and having them try to get their jollies by steamrolling people who are playing much less competitive decks.

Record: 1-0

Let's think of happy trees, and move on.

Game 2: Slappylittleworld (R/G Aggro)

He curves nearly perfectly with Kird Ape, Slith Predator, Burning-Tree Shaman, and Rumbling Slum. I Fetters the Shaman and keep afloat with Pulse of the Fields, with the full combo in my hand. On the seventh turn, I end up at three life, and he casts Yamabushi's Flame to kill me after his attack. I had Duressed him two turns earlier, and he had nothing of the sort at the time – and the top card of my library was the 8th land I would have needed to win. So the cookie crumbles sometimes!

Record: 1-1

Game 3: Crisis909 (R/B Burn)

Crisis909 keeps a hand with only a single Swamp, and all Red cards. I Duress him three straight turns, after which he still discards until turn seven. He *STILL* wins, as I can't draw a Top, Kite or a combo piece, and he eventually gets two Slith Firewalkers on the board that grow to 7/7 and 8/8 before my Pulse of the Fields can't hold them back no more.

Record: 1-2

All right – when your opponent would effectively have been discarding until turn 7 with only one land on the board, and you still lose, something's wrong with your deck. I keep getting stuck with junk in my hand that can't help me combo out (such as Pulse of the Fields and Terashi's Grasp), and not enough ways to draw through my deck. In addition, why is there so much White in my deck? I decide to move the deck towards more of a Black build, with substitute life gain that can double as creature kill, and more card drawing.

Out: 3 Terashi's Grasp, 4 Orzhov Basilica, 3 Plains, 3 Pulse of the Fields
In: 3 Corrupt, 7 Swamp, 3 Skeletal Scrying

Double Life 7 – Black

Main Deck

60 cards

Plains
16  Swamp

22 lands


0 creatures

Beacon of Immortality
Corrupt
Duress
Faith's Fetters
False Cure
Infest
Journeyer's Kite
Night's Whisper
Orzhov Signet
Sensei's Divining Top
Skeletal Scrying

38 other spells


Game 4: Armyless (Firecat Blitz)

Armyless drops three consecutive Howling Mines, and follows it with Coat of Arms. I get up to eight mana, can't draw anything but mana and card-drawing cards to save my life, and end up getting comboed out by Firecat Blitz and the Coat.

Record: 1-3

If you can't tell, I'm pretty darn frustrated at this point. Even after all of the tweaking I've given the deck, I still keep losing games in frustrating manners. Once I've drawn ten extra cards with my deck (such as in game 4), I should be in every position to have my combo drawn.

Game 5: Gerca (B/W Control)

I Duress him out of a Loxodon Warhammer, leaving him five lands and a Nekrataal. He drops Sword of Kaldra and That Which Was Taken, and proceeds to start hitting me with a 6/6 Indestructible Weathered Wayfarer. I get to seven Swamps, and my hand is, get this, three Corrupts and nothing else. I start shooting straight for Gerca's dome, but he drops Mourning Thrull, makes it indestructible, and starts slapping me around with a 6/6 Spirit Linked guy the turn before I could kill him.

Well, I have somewhat of a padded life total thanks to the first two Corrupts, and I get to use the third Corrupt on Blazing Archon, when Gerca tries casting it without being able to make it indestructible the same turn. This gives me just enough time to draw into False Cure and Beacon of Immortality, and I kill Gerca the turn before he kills me.

Record: 2-3

Game 6: Rocore1 (B/W/G)

I get completely worked over by Forgotten Ancient, as I have no real way of removing it once it gets going. It makes Exalted Angel and Eastern Paladin ridiculously large, and even my Corrupts and Faith's Fetters are to no avail against his Naturalizes and constant onslaught of fatties.

Record: 2-4

All right, I've had it. I really, really, really wanted the draw engine of Journeyer's Kite and Sensei's Divining Top to work – it's the pair of cards which inspired the deck in the first place – but they aren't working. I keep getting stuck with the Top, and no ways to shuffle my deck – and I keep getting the Kite, and no cards to go with all the mana. I need a direct way to get my combo pieces – such as Diabolic Tutor, because in a two-card combo, Diabolic Tutor is a wild card for either half.

I also put back in a single Kirtar's Wrath (as a Tutor target, against fattie decks), and put back in three Basilicas, since I don't have three Kites and four Tops to help land selection in-game anymore.

Out: 3 Journeyer's Kite, 4 Sensei's Divining Top, 1 Faith's Fetters
In: 4 Diabolic Tutor, 1 Kirtar's Wrath, 3 Orzhov Basilica

Double Life 8

Main Deck

60 cards

Orzhov Basilica
Plains
16  Swamp

25 lands


0 creatures

Beacon of Immortality
Corrupt
Diabolic Tutor
Duress
Faith's Fetters
False Cure
Infest
Kirtar's Wrath
Night's Whisper
Orzhov Signet
Skeletal Scrying

35 other spells


Game 7: DaveB29 (Elves)

He accelerates into eight Forests, and then drops Wirewood Herald plus Blanchwood Armor. I can't race a 9/9 creature on turn 5, and I scoop up my cards.

Record: 2-5

This might go down as the world's quickest change, but I'm tired of losing to spells that I could prevent early on. Duress has worked great, so I want more of the same – Infest goes out the door in favor of Castigate, giving me seven ways to cripple a hand in the early game. Plus, if I should face a deck with countermagic, this would give me a way to force through my combo a lot more easily.

Out: 3 Infest
In: 3 Castigate

Double Life 9

Main Deck

60 cards

Orzhov Basilica
Plains
16  Swamp

25 lands


0 creatures

Beacon of Immortality
Castigate
Corrupt
Diabolic Tutor
Duress
Faith's Fetters
False Cure
Kirtar's Wrath
Night's Whisper
Orzhov Signet
Skeletal Scrying

35 other spells


Game 8: Age_of_Kings (B/G Masumaru Deck)

I Duress him twice, taking Sink into Takenuma and Inner Calm, Outer Strength. I cast Night's Whisper, Diabolic Tutor for Skeletal Scrying, Scrye for four, CastigateRending Vines, Faith's Fetters his Masumaro, and then combo out on turn 8.

This game, for the record, is the textbook way I'd like this deck to work – strip the hand of threats, neutralize the board, and use extra card drawing to get the combo working.

Record: 3-5

Game 9: Folkdsb (G/W Aggro)

We go back and forth for a little while, with him casting creatures and me drawing cards. I get up to six mana with the combo in hand, but he casts Thought Prison(!), taking the False Cure away. I can't get another one before I die to Leonin Skyhunter, the Thought Prison (I need to cast Black spells like Corrupt to kill his creatures), and Foratog.

Record: 3-6

I'm finding that A) I want more acceleration so I can combo off earlier, and B) I want to get more cards into my graveyard for early Skeletal Scryings. Wayfarer's Bauble fits both of these bills, and I also swap out Faith's Fetters for Innocent Blood – I just want early creatures dead, dead, dead, and Innocent Blood is another card to feed Scrying early.

Out: 3 Faith's Fetters, 3 Orzhov Basilica, 1 Orzhov Signet
In: 3 Innocent Blood, 4 Wayfarer's Bauble

Double Life 10

Main Deck

60 cards

Plains
16  Swamp

22 lands


0 creatures

Beacon of Immortality
Castigate
Corrupt
Diabolic Tutor
Duress
False Cure
Innocent Blood
Kirtar's Wrath
Night's Whisper
Orzhov Signet
Skeletal Scrying
Wayfarer's Bauble

38 other spells


Game 10: joeUCLApv (Standstill/Megrim/Warped Devotion)

I Duress, and get Recoil. He has triple Diabolic Tutor, double Boomerang, and lands. He uses a Tutor to get Future Sight, which I Castigate out of his hand. He drops Standstill, breaks it to cast Megrim, and then casts another Standstill. I respond to that turn by killing him with the combo – the first time in three weeks that I cast Beacon/False Cure on someone else's turn for the win.

Record: 4-6

Game 11: Rokk (Mono-B Control)

I get Wayfarer's Bauble to cast Castigate and Duress, and then use Diabolic Tutor for Skeletal Scrying. I Scrye and end up drawing four lands, and I follow that with more lands. He casts double Kokusho, one of which I Innocent Blood, and the other of which I Corrupt. He then drops Cabal Coffers, and casts two Laquatus's Champions in a single turn, killing me.

Record: 4-7

Game 12: Crook (B/R Burn)

I Duress a first-turn Shock, Castigate Chainer's Edict (nothing better to grab), Corrupt him to stay out of burn range, Scrye for a lot of cards, and then combo off.

Record: 5-7

Well, I did manage to get the deck to nearly a .500 record, but all-in-all, I don't consider this deck a success. Yeah, it took three weeks to get there, but the point isn't always to win – it's to understand why certain choices are made in deck building, and why certain decks don't work. In short, an eight-mana combo, based around two cards that don't help you win in-and-of-themselves, is not the way to build a deck. You can't build a deck to have no weaknesses (witness my fluctuation between Infest/Kirtar's Wrath/Faith's Fetters/Terashi's Grasp – a.k.a., weenie horde removal, fattie horde removal, spot removal, and artifact/enchantment removal), and sometimes, even though you work a deck into the ground, it still doesn't measure up.

But don't worry – I've already got a 6-0 record with my deck for next week!

Next week: How Vexing.

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