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Building Bad Decks: Reevaluating Wild Pair


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JonPatton



Joined: 11 Dec 2005
Posts: 155

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:44 am    Post subject: Building Bad Decks: Reevaluating Wild Pair Reply with quote

This is an evaluation on what's wrong with this particular card, and what I think it means for the game:

This card has been getting a lot of attention, and Building on a Budget today had a bunch of Wild Pair decks. I had built one that was mostly GU and used White Mane Lion to get out the Saffi-Crypt Champion combo (but completely missing on the Savra combo to avoid using 1/1s). Sc4rs built one that used 1/1s to power out Trisks. I pulled from Star City's forums a rather complicated version that used Curio and Ornithopter to get all the 1/1s out of the library (but completely missed that it would have been more effective to use 6 slivers to just attack for 30 unblockable instead of a Nephalim).

I did some more testing over the weekend and came to some conclusions.

1) Wild Pair, to be effective, forces you to build your deck in such a way as to be entirely dependent on the Wild Pair, which in turn means that you have to play a lot of creatures that really just aren't that great.

For instance, to be optimal, You want the deck to contain as many 2/2s as possible, because you can abuse the crap out of Whitemane Lion. You also want as many of your spells and answers to be creatures as possible. Unfortunately, all those 2/2s are just 2/2s, and you end up without a curve, a few ineffectual answers, and your mana base ends up looking terrible so you can cast all the creatures in your deck. You end up with no curve beyond your 2/2s costing more mana (right up to, say, Mystic Snake or Riftwing Cloudskate, who look pretty dumb staring down a Force that came out on the same turn).

2) You have to play acceleration to get out the Wild Pair in the first place -- and it's a 6-cast cost thing that does nothing on its own. It certainly lets you do some interesting things. I can't remember the last time there was a deck that could use a three card combo to play 20 creatures in one turn without drawing cards and then attack for the win. You can play Wild Pair as early as turn four. And that's if you've spent the first three turns of the game doing almost nothing but making mana. So you start looking around for cards that can help you stall -- all the while keeping to the imposed Wild Pair restriction of keeping your creature base all the same power/toughness ratio. You end up playing a bunch of bad creatures that can't really win the game on their own, but you tell yourself that they're great if you get Wild Pair down. In the end, my version HAD to run Project X because it couldn't really do enough by itself. It couldn't overpower anything or just win on its own merits like, say, Snow Red.

3) Even if you get past the deckbuilding constraints and the errors it's possible to make there, playing the deck is like running tutor-storm in T1, but without all the power. It's so easy to screw up while playing that it's silly. You don't really have any room to breathe just to beat bad decks. Oh, and there are some really, really bad decks that beat Wild Pair decks, like say . . . Izzet Precon. Pingers are bad times.

I'm not even going to get into the problems of needing to hold a creature in your hand *just to activate the Pair*. And then using the pair to dump more creatures in play. Can't put a clock on Wrath, then make wrath more effective after control has time to set up. Dralnu's not as bad in this situation.


4) So do I think the card is still worth building a deck around?

I'm not so sure. I mean, the most effective decks using it really abuse curio. Take a look at the final build in "10 Decks in 10 days". He gets most of the use out of Curio. Sure, he grabs a few extra creatures out of his library, but those four slots for Wild Pair could have been any number of other good cards. If you go past two colors, you can run a whole host of really good cards. In other words, Wild Pair straddles a line between "win more" and "this wins you the game" -- and the worst part is it, actually makes you build your deck so that you get the worst deal out of both!

There are two ways to justify putting Wild Pair in the deck. One, you make dead certain it's going to win you the game if it hits play. Which makes your creature base horrendous, and you don't run many cards that aren't creatures. Which means you can't win without it. Two, you make sure your deck can win without it. Except that you still want to abuse it if it hits play. Which means that Wild Pair is superflous. So you try somewhere in the middle. You can sort of win without it. You will probably win if it hits play, but you didn't have enough slots in the main deck to make sure it would be a win if you got it into play and your opponent can't stop you. The whole thing ends up feeling rather blah.

In the meantime, we have all sorts of things that search for creatures. Here's one:
Chord of Calling. Pretty darned good.
Here's another:
Congregation at Dawn. Three creatures, half the price of Wild Pair.

Neither of these interact in any meaningful way with Wild Pair. Chord doesn't trigger it (although you can get a Lion for five mana and return it to your hand). Congregation might as well be Worldly Tutor for three mana, because Wild Pair will shuffle your library if you activate it.

So, let's do a speed test, using Project X combo as an example, because it involves the fewest number of actual cards to combo out (Wild Pair + a 2/2)
Wild Pair:
Forest, Llanowar. Could play birds, but they're 0/1s. Not good.
Forest, Wood Elves -> Temple Garden
Land, do something somewhat irrelevant
Land, Wild Pair
Play any 2/2 or Saffi, get Crypt Champion and Savra

Turn Five.

With Congregation alone:
Forest, Birds
Forest, congregation for Saffi, Soul Warden, and Crypt Champion.
Land, play Saffi.
Land, play Warden
Land, Crypt Champion

Turn 5. But wait! Back up. I can erase some things here.
play something irrelevant
play soul Warden and Crypt Champion

Yup, you only need four mana to win.

With Chord alone:
Hope you draw two parts of the combo. This is easier than it used to be, because you can now play 8 wardens. Not great, but okay.

With Congregation + Chord = redundant; and, unlike Wild Pair, you can still play three stupid Elephants. And you don't have to play Gating Bears.

Oh, all this assumes that you dont' just draw the combo. Sure, you could do that with the Wild Pair version I suppose . . . but the reason you're playing Wild Pair is so that you can do Fun Toolbox Things. Right?

My final Conclusion:

Wild Pair just won't end up being truly competative. It'll probably be grafted into existing strategies or exist as a combo deck that's a turn slower than dragon storm but gets style points for killing with a nephalim or slivers instead of Hellkites.

I, however, have decided that it's just not worth it.

This got me thinking about something else, though: It's been some time since Wizards printed a Johnny Card I would consider truly powerful. This seems to be part of the whole "second tier" cardpool thing . . . something that bothers me. There used to be a lot more tier-one cards, like Replenish and such, that were abusive, yes, but they were cards you could build your deck around because they won you games. I like doing cool things, too, but I don't want to go through several days of frustrating games and testing andf tuning because the card that says "build around me" forces me to build a BAD deck around it.

In other words, it seems to me that the game in the past few blocks has deteriorated into two or three cards that are just more powerful than everything else (and thus show up in every deck that can run them, like Wrath), and a bunch of cards that are pretty much as good as a bunch of other cards, and then chaff (which in some circumstances might mean it's just not quite as good as the teir-two cards).

Alright, everyone, weigh in. Do you think it would be better or worse for the game if there were more teir-one build around me cards (like Survival and Replenish) that didn't really fit into more than one or two decks, or does it seem better to have a bunch of cards that can go in a bunch of different decks?
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TofuBoy



Joined: 07 Oct 2005
Posts: 127

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I must say, a very interesting read.
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acartizle



Joined: 26 Feb 2006
Posts: 53

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 10:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

agreed

i would compare this deck to heartbeat which relied on casting a green enchantment to win as well. It didn't have to untap with it in play, but if it did, it would win every time. the only difference is that heartbeat played awesome cards like sakura tribe elder and kodama's reach. the main thing that made heartbeat good was that it essentailly ran 8 of all of it's kill cards. and could tutor them all in one big turn. This deck loses to counterspell and doesn't have the resources to play gigadrowse, and if you don't draw wild pair/curio, you lose.
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onecleanceli



Joined: 27 Mar 2005
Posts: 398

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pre-sideboard, yes, i've noticed it loses to control for the most part b/c there are 8 wrath of gods out there and plenty of counter spells... personally, i was playing with 4 leyline's in my sideboard but even then, the wild pair gets countered... all in all, after the testing we've done, i think i have to agree this has no chance in competitive play b/c there are way too many different variety of decks out there that you have to concentrate on dealing with... fast aggro like bdw and such just roll it over... anything with massive creature removal laughs at it, and straight control just sits and waits to counter what is important, which is only a few cards, not to mention extirpat'ing out a saffi is gg for the most part... it is definitely a very deck to play but it just doesnt quite work as had expected...
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JonPatton



Joined: 11 Dec 2005
Posts: 155

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really thing that the "lots of tier-two cards" idea is, in fact, not an improvement for the game. They've sort of taken that away because they don't like the prospect of having to ban cards (which really only happens when you print something that is absolutely nuts and badly designed, like Time Spiral or Memory Jar or Ravager, or when other cards in the environment are so poor that they can't compete). Jitte was a card that made decks, but it wasn't something to build around. It was because creatures have been watered down (even as the game has become more creature-centered). Notice it doesn't get played much in legacy.
One thing I've noticed is that for all the talk of "diversity" in the current environment, you do one of three things: You play little things and make them big, you play bigger things and neutralize the smaller things, or you invalidate the little things and play something bigger than everyone else. Notice some things missing? "You disrupt your opponent and win with something small." "You prevent your opponent from making something bigger." "You do something that assmebles a lethal engine." Red ritual decks pretend to do the last thing, but really, your just accelerating out some monster that's bigger than your opponents. You aren't for instance, casting a bunch of draw spells and untapping lands. Blink Riders and the Rack are the only off-beat disuption decks out there, really, and they're only tangential to the metagame (and becoming less and less relevant).

The reason for this is that they've also started to neuter the other ways of attacking the game. Hand destruction, counterspells, and land destruction are considered "unfair." (Yet somehow, WOG effects are okay when they force everyone to play creatures.) So you can't print cards with huge, splashy effects that do "unfair" things (win the game), because there aren't any spells around that stop them. Something like Swords to Plowshares is too efficient, so you can't print efficient reanimation effects.

The result is that constructed has become closer and closer to limited. You pool together the most efficient creatures (after you decide whether you want to cast big ones or little ones), squeeze in some disruption, play the best removal in your colors because you know everyone else is packing creatures (because there's really no other reasonably way to win), and off you go. Even worse, because there are only a handful of truly "tier one" cards, you end up with the same card showing up in any deck with a certain combination of colors! There simply aren't enough powerful cards around to avoid that. Then, if you look closely, a lot of other cards in every deck looks and feels just like a lot of other cards in any other deck. They've adopted a philosophy that says that they know what's best for the game and how to keep everything fair.

I think Wizards needs to look at Legacy for an example of why they are dead wrong about this philosophy. You can't play too much creature destruction because there are some very powerful decks that don't run creatures (or only run creatures who protect themselves). Land destruction is viable only in certain ways -- in an environment where you can play all the most efficient LD spells printed, no one plays it (beyond Dreams or Armageddon, once in a while). But shouldn't they all be complaining that it's unfair? Why aren't they? You can play every Counterspell ever printed except Mana Drain -- and yet, no one plays 24counters.dec. (Although it's true that most decks that plan to live past turn 4 have to play Force of Will). And yet, no one complains that Counterspell is overpowered. You can play with Duress, Hymn to Torach, and Cabal Therapy all in the same deck, and yet no one is complaining that hand destruction is overly unfair.

Nope, even though there are dozens of viable combos, Combo decks continue to perform only sporatically. Everyone's turning little green guys sideways and winning with efficient beatdown machines.

Legacy, in other words, has all the things Wizards seems to think is unfair, and yet it looks exactly like what they keep trying to stear the game towards -- except that, in legacy, if you decide that Today might be The Day for Ponza, then you can take it into a tournament.

Does anyone out there think it's a good thing that a lot of design space is essentially going unused because it's considered "unfair?"
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Noob3



Joined: 22 Jun 2005
Posts: 36

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hate to nitpick but, you say noone plays LD in legacy?

There's a certain deck that packs 4 wastelands, 4 sinkholes & vindicates that usually just get pointed at lands. Homebrew FTW!
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JonPatton



Joined: 11 Dec 2005
Posts: 155

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, Homebrew isn't Ponza in the way of land destruction. Point taken, but I think it's less of a land destruction deck than Landstill when it's up against something like Thresh (4 reusable Wastelands + Stifles).
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theTJtrooper



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 119

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The result is that constructed has become closer and closer to limited.


This reaffirms my belief that in newer formats such as standard and block, decks aren't real decks, just 60 good cards. These decks are classified by their colors and their type (U/W Control, R/G aggro, MGA), they don't have any particular synergy like affinity, hana kami gifts, astral slide, etc etc.
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Thorns



Joined: 16 Aug 2006
Posts: 863
Location: Rath

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So you just spent a whole week's time building pointless decks? Congrats to that.
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soccertees



Joined: 07 Aug 2006
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2007 7:32 pm    Post subject: Slivers "DO LIKE" Wildpair, just not B.O.A.B.'s co Reply with quote

Have met a few random decks on MWS involving this ignorant card. True if they untap, my fate was sealed. They were running Whitemane Lion(targeting self): Fetching the likes of Might Sliver, Fungus Sliver, Spinnerit, Saffi Eriksdotter(who's Erik? And is his daughter hot?) & Reflex Sliver. The Essence Sliver and Pulmonic Sliver when cast would fetch one-another or his lone Fury Sliver. And the weenies could fetch-up goodies like Harmonic or Sinew. Add to that (with Might* out) the weenies pull the 3/3's aswell. I noticed the deck was missing some SOLID rebound post Wrath/Damnation. Unless of course we witness a return of a ManaFlare Enchantment in Tenth. Seems a tad tardy for the party. To say, in all fareness, the deck was Tiered @ all is a stretch. But, given a tweak vs. these versions, I WILL NOT WRITE IT. Just in case...

Here's hoping I never lose a random match to a Sliver deck again. -Mortified Mortal- - G - OUT!
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PsyK



Joined: 24 Jan 2006
Posts: 130

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 1:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If i remember right wild pair checks the p/t when the ability resolves right? If so keep wall of roots in mind if you don't already use it as acceleration and defense. It can get your 2/2's etc if you use its ability in once it comes into play in response to wild pairs ability.

Dunno if that helps, just thought i'd mention it.
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JonPatton



Joined: 11 Dec 2005
Posts: 155

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I spent a whole week tuning a pointless deck. And because I learned absolutely nothing from the experience, I chose not to post the results on the forum about a card that was getting lots of attention from other players, and instead I just moved on and played Boros or Dralnu in the casual room.

Sheesh, you try to increase the knowledge of the players around you, and some people will still piss on you for it.

There was some more stuff here that wasn't sarcastic. I moved it to the Wild Pair combo deck thread.
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KajTheMan



Joined: 11 Jan 2006
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 8:05 pm    Post subject: Thank you for your time and effort Reply with quote

I think you have made a very well written article. If everyone consider abit about the fundamentals and not just looking at the wildpair card. I like the current standard very much I feel because there are no ravager, skullclamps fires fact or fictions phychatog etc their is much more balance.
If you look at the diversity of decks that is placed in the top tables in each tournament i feel its a much more healthy format then ever before.

There are at least 2 storm decks that are good and many types of aggro. earlier it has been mosty 2 or 3 colors that could be the aggro colors. Counter control decks is good as well as Board control deck. Even Discard decks with dark confidants and the rack is good. I feel that this is the first time where it is mostly based on skill and less of luck.
The skill involves chosing right deck, knowing your opponents habbit. and because many decks have 50/50 against each other there is more about playing then acctual have luck with getting right match ups.
I would wellcome some good cards but i dont want the entire format containing only 10 good deck right now its about 25.

Thanx you for the read!
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JonPatton



Joined: 11 Dec 2005
Posts: 155

PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's a differnce between 25 good decks and 10 different strategies. There are really only 3-4 different strategies in Type II right now: Pure control (slow down the early game until you can get a big finisher or an impregnable position in play: UW, URzatron, Dralnu, Snow White/Martyr Tron, etc), Board/Midrange aggro control (the biggest category; play midrange (2-4 cc) threats and big spells that kill multiple cards the opponent has: Angel, Glare, Blink Riders, Masterpiece-style things running Persecute, Scryb etc), beatdown (Make lots of creatures and attack: MGA, Boros, Snow Red, UG scryb and force could also be here since it doesn't actually play a tempo game; it's got a few counters instead of, say, burn), and Storm (DS and Goblins). Traditional aggro control is less prevalent because the disruption spells are slowly being neutered, and the decks that look like them are severely underpowered and less than competative. Most of the decks that count as aggro control in T2 are really ones that just play trumps: My creatures are bigger than yours, and it works because your little creatures can't kill me fast enough, and control beats both of us because you can't kill the control decks fast enough either. Some aggro control decks aren't really more than a few turns faster against a goldfish than a lot of the control decks.

My point is more that they're making alternate strategies less competative. See the above post about current T2 being "collections of cards" and not "decks."
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soccertees



Joined: 07 Aug 2006
Posts: 21

PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 11:30 am    Post subject: Genaral Patton Reply with quote

wurd!
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