Thursday, April 07, 2005

.:Meandeck Doomsday: A Deck Primer, Part I of III:.

In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.

I don't know how long this will take, but I'm going to write a three-part primer on one of my favorite decks, Meandeck Doomsday. Way I see it, I'd go first with talking about the history of the deck and its components, then talk about how to play it, then finally, talk about matchups, sideboarding, and an FAQ of sorts. This is the Beta Version of this primer, meaning it will definitely be up for updates.

I would like to credit people like Mondu Quiambao and Stephen Menendian, though. By reading their primers, I got a feel of how to write one, which means my primer would probably bear a resemblance to theirs.

I would also like to ask for help, so I can do that nifty link per card name that other writers do, so that newer players can just click on the card name when they want to know what it does. Help!!! :P

So for now, let's get to it.


A. Introduction

To: steve.menendian@

Hi, Steve!

I'm Marcelle Fabie, a Filipino vintage player on a budget. I decided
to turn to the master for advice, as I recently got tired of playing
welder-based decks...

Given the lack of money on my part to go for a "budget" 7/10 with
Workshops, I looked into the possibility of making Death Long as a
budget deck, by throwing in Fastbond to make playing mana faster. I
really am not sure how to go about it, but I figure that it might
really work as a budget deck, maybe even by using, say, a Dream Halls to help out or something...

Just wondering. I'd really like help with constructing a decklist for
Death Long without the Power, and possibly (gasps) without the Mana

Any help would be really appreciated.


- Marcelle Fabie


Have you tried Doomsday? =)

Four words. All it took was four words for me to start playing Doomsday.

From the moment I learned how to play Magic creatively, the appeal of playing pure red cheese or creature beatdown slowly died and was replaced by combo decks and ::shudders:: Stasis. I once played a Null Brooch/Ensnaring Bridge/Arcane Laboratory deck that killed via Stroke of Genius, and as slow as it was, it was always fun to play, and I'd gladly play the deck again if I ever found the decklist. There was just something fun about combos, or maybe locking the opponent down, which explains why I usually play combo or prison to this day.

When I jumped into serious Vintage playing after a long stint in RAW Deal (I realized that as the T.O. of RAW Deal, it was pointless for me to make good decks, so I focused my money on Magic instead.), I started netdecking because I realized that whenever I came up with my own decklist, someone in the internet would ALWAYS have a similar and superior build to mine.

Case in point: I THOUGHT I made an Original UW Stax deck with Chronatogs. And then, I checked online, and classic MUD decks actually used Time Vault to do the same thing. Furthermore, the combo deck I mentioned two paragraphs above was a hybrid of Mono-Black Null Bridge and Mono-Blue Academy. Both decks were “original”, but ultimately inferior to the decks I saw online. See what I mean?

That being said, I'd instead reverse engineer the deck and see if there are some cards that would work better for me in my meta. Due to this, my first attempt at “serious” Vintage playing was 7/10 Split, but my lack of power proved to be a problem.

I then started looking at decklists that didn't NEED Power to survive. There weres Fish, FCG, Landstill, Madness, and Sui-Black. Slim pickings. None of the decks appealed to me, and if they did, I didn't have the components I needed. This brought me to Smennen's three-part primer on Death Long, which I loved to pieces. That explains the e-mails I quoted up there, and my rediscovery of my love for combo decks. Of course, my problem was clear: I liked combo and prison, two archetypes that needed Power. Lots of it. In the case of Prison, it needed Workshops on top of the Power.

I played Doomsday at first with NO Power at all. I'll say it right now: it's impossible. I already had an idea for Doomsday at the time it got unrestricted, and it involved precisely the five cards I used in the non-powered version (Which underscores why I hate making my own decks, neh?) of the deck. A lot of Realmers commented how pointless the deck was and so forth because of that. Dig up the old thread about Doomsday, and you'll find a lot of negative feedback about me and my deck at the time.

By the time I had a piece of Power or two, the deck definitely showed a lot of promise as a tournament deck, capable of defeating most random.dec players in any given tournament, and holding its own against the more established archetypes.

For the next six months, I persisted in playing Doomsday, whether or not I had the Power. This amount of playtesting of one deck has helped me get a feel for the deck that I would like to assume makes me qualified enough to write this primer, which I bring to you now without further ado.

B. What Is Doomsday?

(As a note, I will be writing this primer with MY decklist in mind. This means that my lack of certain Power cards, namely two Moxen, Black Lotus, and Time Walk, definitely will change your gameplan significantly.)

Doomsday is a combo deck. This means that you need to play a certain sequence of cards to win the game, in this case, any ten spells leading up to a Tendrils Of Agony (For the most part, at least.). Meandeck Doomsday is a deck that was developed by Team Meandeck shortly after the unrestriction of Doomsday, and was taken to 3rd place by Stephen Menendian in the SCG tournament they debuted it in. This deck is powerful when mastered, and is very fun to play if you're fond of combo. The original Doomsday combo was NOTHING like the current Doomsday combo, which makes people wonder why Doomsday was restricted in the past to begin with.

Doomsday is a fast combo deck, but not as fast as Death Long. It's faster than FCG and most Dragon decks, though (At least, if you have all the Power cards needed.), and has a resilience to most forms of hate that other combo decks simply cannot withstand, particularly due to Doomsday's relatively stable mana base.

Once you go the path of Doomsday, there is NO turning back. This means you have to make sure that your opponent doesn't have any answers to your combo when you pull it off. A full rack of Duress, Force Of Will, and Unmask helps you achieve this goal. You have four more pieces of disruption than most combo decks. Use it well.

Doomsday's Plan A is to cast Doomsday with a Chromatic Sphere in play and then set the following stack:

[Library Top]
Ancestral Recall
Dark Ritual
Lion's Eye Diamond
Yawgmoth's Will
Tendrils Of Agony
[Library Bottom]

After casting Doomsday off of a Ritual (2.), you then need two more mana to be able to draw the Ancestral via Chromatic Sphere and cast it (3), then cast Dark Ritual (4) and Lion's Eye Diamond (5). Then, you cast Yawgmoth's Will (6), and respond to it with your LED to float 3B. You then replay the Ritual (7) and the LED (8), use their mana, and cast Chromatic Sphere (9), activate it to draw Tendrils Of Agony, and cast it (10) for twenty damage. This is the most standard way to win with the deck on the turn you cast Doomsday.

On the other hand, Doomsday's Plan B is to cast Doomsday with two Islands and another mana source somewhere (Be it a Mox or a Petal or another land.), and then set up the following stack to win on the following turn:

[Library Top]
Lion's Eye Diamond
Chromatic Sphere
Mind's Desire
Beacon Of Destruction
[Library Bottom]

Here, you need to pass the turn and pray your opponent doesn't topdeck something miraculous (Or you simply play Time Walk and not sweat it. Heh.), then on your turn, you draw Gush, float mana from your Islands, bounce them via Gush (1), draw two cards, replay an Island, play Lion's Eye Diamond (2), play Chromatic Sphere (3), then sac your LED. You now have four blue mana. Tap your replayed island and your additional mana source to have a total of six mana, then activate your Sphere to draw the Mind's Desire, and cast it (4). You Desire four times, each time flipping a Beacon, resolve it at instant speed for five damage to your opponent, then shuffle it back for the next copy of Desire to flip (What else?) the Beacon again. Twenty damage in a pinch.

Plan C is to just do a TPS-style stormkill via Rituals and Yawgmoth's Will or a Draw-7. Plan C happens a LOT. Trust me.

B. Why Doomsday?

- Play Doomsday to gain a huge advantage over aggro, which is majority of the meta in tournaments like those in Neutral Grounds. Play Doomsday to challenge yourself to think of the big picture and compress one game into one huge play sequence that will test your mental math, mana allocation, and sheer luck in such a way second only to Death Long.

- Play Doomsday as a relatively cheap combo deck that doesn't need a full set of Power, but will NOT be viable without at least an Ancestral Recall, and will have a hard time winning the tournament without a Black Lotus. If you have both of these cards, you can almost get away without other Power cards, but you'd still be handicapped.

- Play Doomsday against control not running Stifle. You'll find that getting into counter battles with them will up your spellcount so significantly that your Mind's Desire will usually win you the game.

- Doomsday is a combo deck that is the second most complicated combo deck I have played, next only to Death Long (I can't stress this point enough.). However, the moment you cast Doomsday and the moment you're sure of the five cards to stack, the deck is almost on autopilot, but not quite.

- Doomsday is resilient to hate. The manabase is relatively stable with only four sensible Wasteland targets. Graveyard hate will affect Plan A and C, but not plan B. You also have eleven or twelve maindecked disruption slots that usually helps you dictate the pace of the game. If your opponent is faster combo for instance, you disrupt their hand while you search for your components. You have Force Of Will, unlike Death Long. This means Trinisphere <> Halfway Scoop.

- Doomsday has many ways to win. Plans A, B, and C are only the tip of the iceberg. There are some times you'd have Gush in your hand after casting Doomsday, or maybe Brainstorm with two more cards in hand, and all these opportunities will change the way you set up your Doomsday stack.

- Doomsday has a lot of sideboard space. There are very few auto-includes in the deck's sideboard, more so if artifact-based decks (Workshops, to be exact.) are not present in your metagame. This means you can concentrate on your mismatches quite extensively and fix your gameplan against them via the sideboard.

- Your Mind's Desires are about as explosive as Death Long's, and definitely more explosive than TPS'. 14 lands (4-6 of them being Fetchlands.) and lots of business spells ensure that.

- With my decklist, you usually win from turns 3-5. If you win later than that, you probably had a hand with lots of disruption anyways, which means your opponent couldn’t win by turn 3-5 either. Due to your speed, you HAVE the luxury of time against certain decks (More on this in the match-ups in Part III.).

C. Why Not Doomsday?

- First and foremost: don't play Doomsday if you need a deck to pick up and play for a tournament next weekend. I've been playtesting for six months, and I still make play errors with the deck. The learning curve for the deck is pretty steep, and you don't always find the opportunity to use the standard Doomsday stacks, so creativity is a definite plus. This deck is complicated to run and will severely test your playing skills. One mistake can cost you a game, or consequently, a match. Take my word for it: it's happened to me. Moreover, the stress of running the game can take its toll on you in long tournaments. Be careful of this, and find a way to destress after every round or something.

- Don't play Doomsday if you don't have a way of keeping track of mana and spells and life. I use colored dice to do so. Pen and paper might not be enough for you to keep track. Anyone who's seen me play knows when I intend to win: the moment I start using my dice. Of course, if you want to be an @$$ about it, you can ALWAYS use your dice to constantly keep your opponent paranoid, but that's not my style.

- Don't play Doomsday if you're in a Workshop meta. Oh, sure, Trinisphere may be restricted, but if that somehow ends up on the table, you now have your worst nightmare staring you in the face. The same can be said if you are facing off against lots of Landstill, although you still have ways out of Landstill.

- Did you hate those times you were playing Oath, fanned open your starting hand, and found Akroma and/or Spirit Of The Night and no Brainstorm to send them back into the deck? Holding Beacon Of Destruction on your opening hand, or heaven forbid, topdecking it, makes you feel the same way.

- Resolved Jester's Cap = Scoop. You only have two ways to win. Jester's Cap removes three. Similar plays will likewise kill you, such as two Meddling Mages in play, although the Meddling Mage problem can still be solved.

- Mana scarcity. You only have fourteen lands. Sure, you hardly have high CC spells, but sometimes, just sometimes, you feel the crunch of not having enough mana. Get used to it, or don't play this deck and play Landstill or Fish instead.

- Doomsday is one of the most talked-about combo decks, and a lot of its weaknesses have already been exposed by other players, including the authors of the deck itself. If a lot of people begin to play Doomsday, then it would be very easy to meta all of them. While they're not easy to completely shut out via hate, it can become quite a nuisance when your opponents know exactly what to do against your deck.

- Lastly, don't play Doomsday if you like long games. There's always Stasis for that. =P

D. How Does Doomsday Look Like?

(I'm actually more comfortable with decklists that go “Black Spells”, “Blue Spells”, “Lands”, and so forth, but this arrangement helps simplify the analysis. Credit to Smennen for this approach at breaking down the deck.)

The Mana:
3 Island
1 Swamp
4 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
4 Underground Sea
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Diamond
1 Chrome Mox
1 Lotus Petal
1 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Dark Ritual
2 Cabal Ritual

Setting Up And Protecting The Combo:
4 DOOMSDAY (Well, duh.)
4 Duress
4 Unmask
4 Brainstorm
4 Force Of Will
1 Chromatic Sphere
1 Rebuild
1 Lim Dul's Vault

Cards That Fetch Cards That Win:
1 Gush
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor

Cards That Win:
1 Necropotence
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Timetwister
1 Mind's Desire
1 Memory Jar

1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Beacon of Destruction

Notice the lack of a sideboard here. That's because I believe it deserves a section in itself, plus, I'm not that great with sideboarding just yet, either.

Anyways, the card-by-card analysis:

The lands: notice the two Swamps I added in and the two fetchlands I removed. This is to have more mana stability for the slightly slower games in our meta. Nothing like being able to hardcast Doomsday with three Swamps in play and four useless Wastelands on your opponent's table. If you feel comfortable with a lack of Wastelands, by all means change this to six fetchlands and one swamp instead.

The artifact mana: What? No Sol Ring? Well, I usually plop down my artifact mana only for spellcount, so I need all the mana I can net when I do. There's no space for Sol Ring, either, given how tight the decklist already is. Mana Crypt will be better for you if you have it, but this is all assuming you don't have Moxen and Black Lotus. Mox Diamond is useful for after a Gush, but otherwise, it's mostly Brainstorm fodder, and will be the first card I replace when I get a genuine Mox.

The Rituals: Just enough for what you need. I have yet to see a combo deck that runs black and doesn't run Dark Rituals, if only for its synergy with Yawgmoth's Win. Don't always hope for Cabal Ritual to have threshold. You don't need it, as the rituals are mainly to cast Doomsday or Necropotence.

Doomsday: This is exactly why the deck is called Meandeck Doomsday. It acts like a Demonic Tutor for five cards if you know how to pull it off right. That explains the deck's similarity to Death Long, as the Death Wishes there are pretty much tutors for that very purpose. Learn to love these cards, and ALWAYS clear the way for Doomsday before you even go all-in. Otherwise, you shot yourself in the foot and there's no turning back.

Duress: Selective discard is good. Doing it for one mana is simply splendid. Duress helps you know your opponent's gameplan and helps you calculate what land to fetch from your Delta, as it can check for Wastelands aside from depleting your opponent's hand. The moment your Duress resolves, one half of your gameplan to win (A, B, or C.) already materializes for you to pursue.

Unmask: Works just like Duress, except can be done for free, and can hit creatures. You have 2 Doomsday in your hand? Use this before going all-in. You have Vampiric Tutor but you want to win this turn already via Storm? Use this. It's powerful, but note that unlike Duress, THIS can be Misdirected.

Force Of Will: You don't want a first-turn Oath or Trinisphere without giving them a fight, do you? Force Of Will is a given in this deck, as it needs answers to your opponent's topdecks for when you go Doomsday, done.

Brainstorm: You hate holding that Beacon Of Destruction in your opening hand, don't you? Well, combined with a Fetchland and decent luck, you won't see that card again for a while due to this. It doubles as a card-searcher and a way for you to combo out on the turn you Doomsday, provided you have Brainstorm and two more cards in your hand. More on that nifty trick next time.

Chromatic Sphere: A classic play from the original Long.Dec, this card helps you draw into your Doomsday stack and at times fix your mana. If you could squeeze in more than one of these into the deck somehow without making the deck weaker, by all means, do so.

Rebuild: After careful deliberation, Hurklyl's Recall is just a wee bit too situational in our meta. It's a dead card most of the time. Chain of Vapor, conversely, is a dead card a fourth of the time. That being said, Rebuild is NEVER a dead card, as it can be cycled, and as such, used to combo out the turn you play Doomsday, akin to Chromatic Sphere.

Lim Dul's Vault: Doubles as Unmask/Force Of Will/Chrome Mox fodder (An EXCELLENT use! The fact that it's blue and black can really help a lot...) and an excellent way to search for a card you need (Or three, if you have Brainstorm or Ancestral Recall to help you along.) in a pinch. You don't need more than one, though as it doesn't draw you any cards.

Gush: Amazing card for the deck that pulls triple duty as card draw, situational mana acceleration, and an easy way out of Wasteland/Strip Mine for your Islands. Since you need all the lands you can get and keep them in play for when you combo out, this can be quite a life-saver. Also makes your Mox Diamond more useful than just Brainstorm fodder the turn you want to combo out.

Ancestral Recall: I recall this anecdote where a new Magic player friend of mine from the States told me that Ancestral Recall is too expensive (Price-wise.) a card for what it does. He told me that using three Pyrite Spellbombs would do the same thing, anyway. Now, if I even have to explain why you need this card in the deck, then you have serious issues. This deck will not function, I repeat, this deck WILL NOT FUNCTION without it. I tried using Meditate (Which was my original idea for the combo, as I didn't realize Chromatic Sphere's power until I finally read JP Meyer's primer about this deck.), and the difference of two mana was fatal. Hades, the difference of one mana from the Ritual instead of the Lotus in the stack can SOMETIMES be fatal, so more so would a total of three mana more than the powered stack, neh?

The Tutors: I generally use them to find the Recall. Otherwise, I might use them to find Yawgmoth's Will, a Ritual, or a Doomsday, or a Chromatic Sphere. This all depends on what I need at what point in the game. Don't be tempted to get fancy with these Tutors. Might cost you a game to get an Ancestral Recall when a Force Of Will is a smarter option... (Experience talking again. =P)

Necropotence: Here's a play that is almost a guaranteed win. Unmask your opponent, plop down a fetch, break for Swamp, tap for Black, cast Ritual, cast Necropotence, gorge for ten cards. If you use Necro, be prepared to use plan C, and watch out for your discarded cards: they're not coming back. Nonetheless, having Necro in the table pretty much wins you usually win next turn.

Yawgmoth's Will: Ah, yes. The core of Plan A and most of the time, Plan C. It allows you to replay your graveyard, netting you a higher spellcount and more mana for the most part. I don't think this card needs much explanation.

Timetwister: It helps you reload when you have lots of mana floating around, but nothing to use it on. It helps against graveyard-based decks that seem poised on winning next turn. Of course, be careful about using this when you have intentions of using Yawgmoth's Will. They are obviously not synergistic, unless you draw into a Will off a Twister, coupled with two rituals and an LED... helps in Plan C, by the way.

Mind's Desire: Casting a spell for “free” is sometimes considered broken. That explains why Moxen are restricted. Now, casting several spells for free off of Mind's Desire is DEFINITELY broken. This is the very core of Plan B, and can sometimes give you those random “Oops, I win!” Mind's Desires where you come up with Will and Tendrils when you Desire. There are lots of bombs in this deck, quite a lot more than TPS (Due to the lack of lands.), so that means you have a better shot at winning with a Desire for five or more than TPS (Who can fizzle out with a Desire for TWELVE!!!).

Memory Jar: Ah, yes. My lack of Time Walk has pointed me in this direction. Notice how slow games can be most times in bigger tournaments with more aggro decks. When both you and the opponent are stalling out, this hastens your supposed win by seven turns. Watch your FCG opponent cry when you cast this the turn after he stacks his deck with Goblin Recruiter (Situational, but funny.). All in all, it's a good card to use when games go on longer than they should, and you'd be surprised how often that happens. Alternately, finding this when you cast Mind's Desire is also great news... ;)

Tendrils Of Agony: Of course you need this! It kills your opponent if he has only twenty life after you cast ten spells, and with all the fetching and FOWing going on, nine spells would usually do the trick. If all else fails and you gorged yourself on a Necro and found no business but this and a few rituals and disruption, this gives you a chance to reload from Necro.

Beacon Of Destruction: I hate holding this in my opening hand, but it's a nice alternative for when you just can't win the turn you cast Doomsday. It has the added bonus of allowing you to target it against a creature, so if your opponent has a Platinum Angel in play, just rack up a Storm of five instead of four when you combo out for the win.

E. Wrapping Up... For Now

That's it for now. Next time, I'll go deeper into how to play the deck. Maybe next week. :)

1 comment:

kyreii said...

hrm, pinoy T1 player? saan ka naglalaro? currently piloting unpowered sensei sensei right now. :p