Deckbuilding

Live Coverage of 2004 Pro Tour Seattle

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Team Geddes and friends at GP Washington, DC this year. The letter T!eam Geddes is comprised of rising superstar Ben Stark (two top 8 appearances so far this year), Canadian pro Rich Hoaen, and the lovable Antonino De Rosa. They played together on day 2 of Grand Prix: DC, but finished out of the money. Today they started out 1-1 with their first sealed pool and were looking to improve on that with their next set of decks. BenS, as he is commonly referred to (pronounced Ben Ess), is considered the strongest player on the team and the nominal leader, although he hasn't played with any Fifth Dawn cards, so his knowledge of the format is a little lacking.

As I sat down at the table, the players were busy shuffling around colors to try and figure out "which decks are less stainsy." The cards were quickly separated into piles of green/x with sunburst, white plus equipment, and everything else. At first, Stark was pairing the blue and the black cards together, but De Rosa (also known as Ant) exclaimed, "Ben, that's awful. Put the red cards in there."

The red cards contained some strong removal spells in Shatter, Barbed Lightning, Pyrite Spellbomb, and everyone's favorite uncommon, Grab the Reins, but the creatures were relatively weak (as they often are in this block). The blue cards featured solid creatures plus Condescend and Crystal Shard, but neither was working particularly well with the shallow black component of their card pool. Eventually, De Rosa admitted that red actually turned out to be a worse combo, and back came the blue.

"Sooo, we're back to my Black/Blue deck now, aren't we?" said Stark. "You gotta quote this: 'Ben was right in the beginning. All opposition should shut their mouth.'

"The problem we're having is that our black doesn't work. We don't have enough to play base Black, and yet the black cards we have all want that. Like, we have Slith Bloodletter, Terror, Consumer Spirit, Promise of Power, Chittering Rats and nothing. It's just not good. Maybe we should just make two decks… the cards we have seem to indicate that is what we have to do."

De Rosa wondered about Sundering Titan in Hoaen's Green sunburst build, asking "isn't this good in your deck?"

"What, so I can hold all my lands?"

"It's still good, man," De Rosa answered. "Here, give me that deck, I'll play it, so let me try to build it."

Green was very deep here with a strong creature component and good mana fixing, so it was an obvious choice to pair with the sunburst cards they opened. The only real question was what other color to pair with green, but that would have to wait until they figured out what colors Stark's deck would play.

Eventually BenS settled on pairing red with blue, which appeared to be the most powerful combination but left De Rosa with a very sketchy Green/Black plus sunburst combo. The green in the deck was very deep and had a strong creature base containing multiple Myrs, Fangren Hunter, Skyreach Manta, Engineered Explosives, and One Dozen Eyes, but the spells that did not focus on improving his mana (Dawn's Reflection, Journey of Discovery) were not all that impressive.

"I have twenty six cards right now. Can I take out the Ferocious Charge?" asked Ant.

"Only if you can spell it," replied Hoaen.

"Dammit!"

Eventually Ant tossed out Baton of Courage in favor of Opaline Bracers (a somewhat surprising choice, given that Baton is widely regarded as being insane), and cut the Sundering Titan.

Ben Stark at GP Washington, DC.

BenS ended up with a removal-heavy U/R deck loaded with card quality including Triskelion, Grab the Reins, Mask of Memory, and Crystal Shard. His lament was that he didn't have a deck so much as a collection of really good cards, but he felt he'd do well provided his mana base didn't let him down.

Hoaen's deck was considered the "2-0" deck at the table, a mono-White concoction with a bunch of Equipment and fast creatures, topped off with Luminous Angel. It would obviously be very consistent, and was fully capable of running over opponents with through sheer speed.

"That white deck is insane," said BenS. "I guarantee I would 2-0 if I played that deck."

Hoaen's answer? "No Ben, you have to play one of the hard decks…"

When asked for predictions, Stark said Hoaen would go 2-0, while he and Antonino would split 1-1. If they got lucky, each loss would occur in a different round and they would advance their record to 3-1.




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