Monday, April 25, 2011

HDC 002: College Pool Party

Last week, one submission for the HDC caught my eye that I really wanted to talk about, especially because this deck is extremely fun to play.  I've tested a little with it already for Manaleak's budget contest a few weeks back and, although I didn't take it far, there was definitely some cool interactions.

Anthony E. says-
 "For your horrible deck challenge, I wish to submit a deck built around Knowledge pool. It must win by stealing it's opponents cards rather than running good ones itself."
For anyone who doesn't know what the hell Knowledge Pool is, I don't blame you.  Thus, pics.

Go ahead, jump in!

Basically, the way to build a deck with K-Pool is to fill it with as many instants as humanly possible.  Whenever your opponent casts something and the pool triggers, you cast something in response and take whatever they're trying to take.

Ordinarily, if I were to run this card and try to take things seriously, I'd be playing U/G ramp, cast the Pool on T4 with mana up and use my remaining mana to cheat in a bomb, preferably at instant speed, whether it be Primeval Titan, Avenger of Zendikar, Wurmcoil Engine, or possibly an Eldrazi (although that deck's a bit risky since it could let your opponent cheat Eldrazi into play too).  However, this is a Horrible Deck Challenge deck, and the challenge specifically states that I can't run any win conditions.  The only way for me to win is by stealing those of my opponent.  In that sense, the deck is a College Pool Party, in that you offer up your pool and make everybody else Bring Your Own Bombs.  Bad pun count +1.

First of all, there's the obvious cards to add to the list.

+4 Knowledge Pool

+4 Treasure Mage

+4 Preordain

This isn't hard to figure out, if the only way for me to win is with a K-Pool then I need to be able to get it consistently.

I didn't go black, and I'll never go back.
Next up, I need for pretty much the entire rest of my deck to be conditionless instants- meaning ones I can cast as long as the pool is in play, no matter what else is.

Doom Blade and Go for the Throat is the obvious direction, pushing me into black, but those cards also let my opponent kill whatever bombs I drop and I can't cast them at an empty board, so I'm not going black.

White has Condemn, which has the same issue as the black instants, but it also has Silence, an incredibly useful spell in a deck like this.  The problem is that Silence is really the only useful instant white brings to the table.

Green has almost nothing aside from Vines of the Vastwood and Harrow, both of which are horrible cards that go alongside the Pool.  The ramp package is good, but for the most part it's sorcery speed.

Lightning Bolt: More ballin' than
Ball Lightning
That brings us to Red.  Red gives us Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning, Searing Blaze, Galvanic Blast, etc etc etc.  It gives us a strong removal suite to survive the early game, and yet the cards aren't strong enough to kill the bombs we're hoping to steal.  We can also cast all these without needing a creature in play, aiming them at a player's face instead.  Add that to blue's Into the Roil and Steel Sabotage, and now you're starting to get a good suite for stealing some titans at the pool.
Yes, my bouncer is a Vedalken.

+4 Lightning Bolt

+4 Burst Lightning

+4 Into the Roil

+4 Unsummon

+2 Steel Sabotage

Lastly, we need a maindeck sweeper that will help us maintain an early hand advantage against Caw and survive against aggressive decks like Elves, Goblins, Vampires or Boros.  It may be a sorcery, but Slagstorm does a great job of this.  It also manages to retain value even if I have to cast it at an empty board, something rare in a sweeper that more than makes up for the limitations of a sorcery.

+4 Slagstorm

Add in some lands, and here's what I'm looking at as an untested list of U/r Control, College Pool Party.

That's a pretty big pool.

  • 4 Knowledge Pool
  • 4 Treasure Mage
  • 4 Preordain
  • 4 Lightning Bolt
  • 4 Burst Lightning
  • 4 Slagstorm
  • 4 Unsummon
  • 2 Steel Sabotage
  • 4 Into the Roil
  • 4 Scalding Tarn
  • 4 Halimar Depths
  • 10 Island
  • 8 Mountain average price- $83.29

The main weakness of this style of deck is the same weakness that plagues Tezzeret decks- so many cards lose value without Tezzy (or in this case the Pool) as opposed to the cards you're playing against.  For example, your Burst Lightning was better when it was Doom Blade and your Slagstorm was better when it was Day of Judgment.  Building the deck around the Pool means that without it, you're hosed.  All it takes is one Duress, one Mana Leak, one Naturalize and all your plans are screwed.  One Memoricide is all it takes for you to be literally unable to win (without six burn spells).  To make matters worse, this deck needs to get up to a whopping SEVEN mana to go off without any ramp to help it out.  Because of this, I think you really need to have green in the deck to make it viable, unfortunately.  Without it, there's just too many cards that make you auto-lose.

I want to draw a pimp cane on
this guy and call him 'Blacker
Lotus Cobra'.  Bad pun count +1
Going into Green, what would I run?  The two obvious picks that come to mind are Lotus Cobra and Explore.  Seeing as I ran twelve red spells, that leaves me an extra slot in the deck to work with.  I have a choice of either running a counterspell, probably Mana Leak, Harrow, although at a terrible cost with an active Pool, or Ratchet Bomb to replace the sweeper I lost.  I'm still running ten instants, so I'm okay with skipping out on Harrow.  That leaves the option of either Mana Leak or Ratchet Bomb.

Does this count as having
a bomb in my deck?
Mana Leak is an interesting option in that it could give my opponent a counterspell, but usually I'm only tapping 1-2 mana for my opponent's cards, and since I paid six for the pool I can easily play around Mana Leak.  On the other hand, my opponent's deck probably isn't as cheap on the curve as mine, so I may be able to use it even after putting the Pool on the table.  Mana Leak is the choice for control and combo decks.  Ratchet Bomb, on the other hand, is the answer I really need to Boros, Elves, Goblins, etc.  Without the sweeper, I just scoop to them in the first game.  However, they'll usually have nothing of value for me to take with my Pool, so I probably lose to them anyways.  Looks like we're going with a Leak in the Pool.

And finally, we come to the U/g list for College Pool Party.
We did the leak in the pool joke already, somebody
pull the plug on this.  Bad pun count +1
  • 4 Knowledge Pool
  • 4 Treasure Mage
  • 4 Preordain
  • 4 Unsummon
  • 2 Steel Sabotage
  • 4 Into the Roil
  • 4 Mana Leak
  • 4 Lotus Cobra
  • 4 Explore
  • 4 Scalding Tarn
  • 4 Misty Rainforest
  • 4 Verdant Catacombs
  • 2 Halimar Depths
  • 8 Island
  • 4 Forest average price- $234.88

Hurray, the cost of fetchlands!  Just adding the Lotus Cobra package ups the pricetag by that much, but it really is worth it.  In the same way that Valakut or RUG relies on the Cobra, if he resolves on T2 then you have the game locked down by T4.  Of course, if you already own the cobra package then you should probably be playing RUG already anyways, but I digress.  This is the Horrible Deck Challenge, not the Really Really Cheap Deck Challenge.

For more info on the HDC or to challenge me, take a look here.  Don't forget to follow YMtG on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with these articles as well as the others on the site.

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