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TurboLand vs. The World

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Miracle Grow is the new dominant Extended deck, and it has a lot of things in it that give TurboLand (and almost everyone else) fits. Winter Orb is highly annoying for TurboLand even though it has Gush and Exploration. Waterfront Bouncer can break up the infinite Spike Weaver lock. Above all, it can mount a lot of pressure very fast and back it up with counters. The result is probably TurboLand's hardest realistic matchup. Now that the smoke has cleared on another Grand Prix, the new important decks seem to be Junk, Miracle Grow and The Rock. I've never properly analyzed any of those matchups for TurboLand, so this article discusses those three matchups based on my experience in Houston and elsewhere. Instead of giving a strict decklist, I'm going to give a main deck and a range of options for the sideboard that can be mixed and matched depending on the metagame and personal preference:

Main DeckSideboard
12 Island
6 Forest
4 Tropical Island
1 Treetop Village

1 Morphling 1 Spike Feeder 1 Spike Weaver
4 Oath of Druids
2 Gaea's Blessing
3 Counterspell
4 Force of Will
1 Thwart
4 Gush
4 Impulse
2 Scroll Rack
4 Horn of Greed
4 Exploration
2 Time Warp
0-3 Dedicated
  Grow (see rest
  of article for
  suggestions and
4 Powder Keg
2-4 Back to Basics
1-2 Emerald Charm
0-1 Spike Feeder
1-3 Spike Weaver
1-2 Morphling

In other words, I'm recommending that the 'core' of the sideboard is 1 Emerald Charm, 4 Powder Keg, 2 Back to Basics, 1 Spike Weaver and 1 Morphling. Do not touch those cards. The other six slots can be played around with as desired. I recommend at the present time one Thwart, one Spike Weaver, one Back to Basics and three Anti-Grow cards of your choice.

By far the most important one is the matchup against Miracle Grow and its new variant Super Grow. I now have a lot of insight into how it works, having been matched up against the deck six times in Houston. Under the version I was running, the verdict seems to be that game one favors them and the other two favor you. I'll go over all the details. In game one, the card that matters more than all the others is definitely Oath of Druids. If Oath of Druids resolves, they have a very difficult job ahead of them if they plan on winning. If it doesn't, you will most likely get rolled over quickly.

Going off with TurboLand against Miracle Grow is virtually a pipe dream. Winter Orb alone prevents it, and there's nothing in the deck that allows you to remove the Orb in game one. Even if the main deck was changed, it would still be true that it's much, much harder to get into a position where you can go infinite with Time Warps than it is to contain the opponent via an Oath of Druids and your creatures and kill them with Morphling. Horn of Greed is time you cannot afford, and they too will make excellent use of that Horn. That doesn't mean don't play Horn onto the table, but be very careful with them as tapping the three mana can easily put you in a very bad position.

Without the Oath on the table, their creatures will rule the battlefield quickly without much of a fight, unless you manage to resolve Morphling without a Winter Orb getting in the way. The kill is simply too fast. With Oath down, three things become necessary for TurboLand not to win off the Oath against the old Miracle Grow. First, Winter Orb must resolve. Without Winter Orb, Morphling will be too powerful to get around even if the tools are there to contain the Spikes. Second, Waterfront Bouncer must resolve. That allows Miracle Grow to get Spike Weaver out of the picture so it can attack. Third, Miracle Grow needs to have enough power on the table, which can happen any number of ways. Generally it means about three creatures in addition to the Waterfront Bouncer or two extremely large ones - Dragon size or better. Waterfront Bouncer can be replaced by Swords to Plowshares for Super Grow. It amounts to the same thing.

In this context, the strategy becomes simple enough: Resolve Oath of Druids, and do it fast. The problem is that trying to do it fast will often lead to it not resolving because of Daze. The countermagic you face in game one will be something like two Foil, four Force of Will and three or four Daze. With that mix, saving one mana makes it much more likely that Oath of Druids will resolve. If there's enough time, I highly recommend waiting until there are three lands on the table before trying for the Oath. Even if it's stopped, they now have to do it at a price - either two cards or maybe three. Combined with your own Force of Wills, chances become quite good. The most obvious exception is when they show their hand in order to cast Land Grant. At that point, either they have the Daze or they don't. There are two downsides to waiting the extra turn. One is that it gives them an extra turn to find a way to stop it, and they have Brainstorm, Sleight of Hand and Gush to help them. This clearly isn't as important as saving a mana to get around a potential Daze. The other is that the Oath might come too late. While generally a turn three Oath of Druids should be fast enough, if they stop the first of two of them and the second one resolves on turn four while you're going second, there can be serious trouble against certain draws.

Once the Oath comes down, the question is how many pieces of their puzzle do they have. If Winter Orb isn't on the table, the game will proceed like a standard match against a creature deck once Oath comes out. If Waterfront Bouncer stays away, the Weaver can keep things quiet for a long time even under the Winter Orb. If the Bouncer goes to work on the Weaver, moving counters onto the Morphling is often a key play. It makes your kill go a lot faster and makes the Morphling a much bigger threat to block. Being able to easily kill a Werebear is really nice, and being able to fight with the Mystic Enforcers ensures that the opponent will go down quickly. In general, try to think about killing them with the Morphling as soon as possible, because their deck can mess up the situation more than you might think.

By now most people have figured out that Horn of Greed is coming out for game two. It's easy to take out four Horn of Greed, one Exploration and two Time Warps. Going first, a second Exploration can come out. That gets you at least seven slots, and four of those are definitely going to be Powder Keg. Also Spike Feeder should come out and two Spike Weavers should go in. An additional Thwart will also be helpful. What to do after that depends on the exact contents of the sideboard. I consider it worthwhile at this point to free space in the sideboard for whatever it seems is the best card in this specific matchup, and worry about how good it is everywhere else later. Daze is what I used in Houston, and it wasn't horrible but I was disappointed. Carpet of Flowers is certainly one card that can be considered, Submerge is another, but I wouldn't claim to have considered the problem enough to know for certain. It's definitely something to play around with.

After sideboarding the situation is the same... except that it's radically better. All the horrible combo cards are gone, and everything in TurboLand is problematic for Miracle Grow. On the other hand, Miracle Grow will have a very hard time finding a way to improve much. Oath of Druids is still the most important card, but Powder Keg is in the same league - everything in their deck costs two. Keep an eye out for Interdict, there's no reason to lose a game that can't be lost any other way by being careless and assuming the Keg is going to do its job. Keeping one Morphling in the deck ensures that the deck will be able to Weave when it has to but that it also will have a Morphling on hand in case of Waterfront Bouncer or other such madness, and that it will have a good way to kill the opponent once the Oath is down. Having both Morphlings in the deck is certainly reasonable as well.

One last issue with this matchup is time considerations. With rounds that are fifty minutes long, the match should finish, but it's far from guaranteed. For those considering not using Morphling after sideboarding this problem becomes even harder. I learned that the hard way. Played at a normal pace, three close games should push things right to the wire if either player is playing methodically. If both players are slow or one is especially slow or even stalling, there will be serious trouble. Don't forget to call a slow play judge on your opponent if you feel that he isn't playing fast enough to let the match finish if it goes the distance. That doesn't just apply for TurboLand players, it applies for everyone.

For those in need of a little rest and relaxation after playing against a ton of Grow decks, nothing will cheer you up like playing against The Rock. Before, the Oath of Druids was necessary or the game would just end. Now the Oath goes from a good position barring other problems to a virtually guaranteed win on its own. Their deck has very little that can threaten TurboLand if the Oath stays on the table. Duress attacks your hand, Pernicious Deed blows up the world. Maybe there are four or five other cards that can break up the situation, even given a lot of time. Match the threats to your counters, and the game is over. Even if total lockdown isn't achieved that way, it will take a bunch of time before The Rock can assemble twenty points of damage. In general, TurboLand will go off faster. Pernicious Deed can still ruin a lot of hard work, but there aren't that many spells that have to be stopped. Even Mike Flores thinks this matchup is great for TurboLand, and he thinks the deck is (insert random Flores vocabulary here) much more than it is.

For sideboarding, this is one place where the combo should definitely stay in the deck although you can consider trimming it. Emerald Charm comes in and the creature base adjusts to allow easier Spike Weaving. In general, the original configuration is very good and there's little reason to tinker much with it. Charm is Choke and Deed defense, and that's all you need. There's just a little fine tuning to do.

Finishing off the trio of new matchups is Junk. Against Junk your weapon is Back to Basics. Their deck isn't terribly mana intensive, but it generally has no basic lands. Without untapping, they'll quickly run out of things to do. Keeping a Super Grow deck from untapping this way is nice but might not do too much. Against Junk, they're in big trouble. They'll have a bunch of removal for it along with Duress, which is where your attention should be. Find Back to Basics, find multiples, find counters. Also look for Oath of Druids. The creature base after sideboarding here is unclear, but it seems like it definitely has all three copies of Spike Weaver and probably both Morphlings. How does all this fit? That's right - the Horns are leaving again. Back to Basics and Oath of Druids mean that you can take total control of the game without having to go off, and overcommiting to the board only makes you vulnerable to Pernicious Deed. With that and a pair of Explorations and a pair of Time Warps were gone, there are already eight slots to work with. Back to Basics comes in, and more counters should come in if they are available. In addition, the creature count will go up slightly to four or five. Finally, Emerald Charm is excellent here. Normally it will be able to stop a Deed, and often it will be needed against Choke. A second Charm would be the best way after Back to Basics to help this matchup.

If Choke hits from either The Rock or Junk, it's a lot like Winter Orb. You have less mana, your deck operates much worse but you can still get some stuff done. Conserve the mana, plan how each island will get tapped, use Gush and Thwart to reclaim them. You'll need something good going on to compensate, but often there will be a way to win or hold on long enough to find Charm.

The final note is regarding sideboarding tricks and mind games. TurboLand does not have a good way to 'dodge' removal like Seal of Cleansing. There are just a few too many cards to yank. That doesn't mean you can't throw the enchantments alone to the wolves though, especially for a time during the early game. That's one of the great advantages of bringing in multiple Weavers, and one of two reasons that I still like the idea of going up to four. The other is attacks on your graveyard. The only games TurboLand can really get in regard whether or not the opponent is playing creatures, although with the current metagame even those are highly unlikely. If bets need to be hedged, that's one of the nice things about having two Morphlings. They provide creature defense without having to have any dedicated defense.

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