Pox ’95: Black Winter

I’ve been on lock-down for our past two meet-ups, but have been stirring the cauldron and have caught some pick-up games with brother Finney, testing out my OS95 deck that I’ll talk about. Our band is continuing to grow with 4 new bootleggers cleansed through the sweet sounds of Titanias Song. We’re still throwing around some ideas for next year’s Bootleggers Ball and preparing for our upcoming winter tournament, a Bootleggers Christmas. I recently read and listened up on the Lords of the Pit Fall Brawl OS95 tournament report. There’s a lot of unexplored territory in ’95 and it’s nice to get a fresh view on the format. Earlier this year, we decided to go ’95 for the annual winter tournament. We’re keeping this session local, for a Music City family affair, but I think we’ll do a proper tourney report with deck pics for this one, so come on back and chew on that.

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Sometime back in the Summer after we’d decided on ’95 for our winter tourney, I started half-assedly brewing up decks. I wanted to do something different and use a lot of Ice Age and Homelands cards. My initial brew was a UW control deck with Blinking Spirit as a win-con. Not only could I use some new cards introduced in Ice Age and Homelands, I’d be able to play some old cards with beautiful new artwork in Counterspell, Disenchant, and most definitely the Kaja Foglio Swords to Plowshares. I messed with it for a little while before I realized that it was boring as fuck. It almost played like a bad budget version of The Deck. I’m an aggro player at heart, but have been dabbling in control and I really enjoy it, but this one didn’t do it for me. I scrapped it with haste. I then started looking at graveyard manipulation. I’ve been brewing with mono black in 93/94, just wanting to do something a little different with it and thought this would be a good opportunity to shake it up. I know ’95 reanimator is busted as hell and the most recent Pitcast episode confirmed that with some staggering statistics.  But, I wasn’t thinking reanimator so much as an aggressive black deck splashing blue banking on Ashen Ghouls, Nether Shadow, with some spice from Brine Shaman and Gangrenous Zombies, with other sac outlets bringing back creatures over and over. I kind of wish I had gone a little deeper, I think there is maybe something there, but I was impatient with it and moved on. Pox caught my eye next. The amazing art work sticks out from the rest of the set and it’s just a strange and interesting card so I started digging. I’d never seen a Pox deck, but I knew they existed in other formats, somewhere. I found Cursed Scroll to be a staple in these decks, supplementing efficient weenie creatures and being consistent artifact damage taking advantage of a depleted hand. Without Cursed scroll, playing hippies and knights may have worked, but not nearly as well. I eventually stumbled on a list deep within the Classic Dojo that used Dance of the Dead with Triskelions. Knowing that you’re going to be coming down with the Pox and pitching cards yourself, you might as well take advantage of that and reanimate a fat boy. Or, your opponent may also discard a dude that you can dance with.  While I’ve never been a fan of Animate Dead, I love Dance of the Dead so I was hooked and started trying to adapt the deck to old school ’95. It can be a little bit tricky to play, but I think it suits my play style fairly well. While it does help to be efficient on when to cast Pox, it plays fairly aggressively in that for the most part you just Pox and Hymn the shit out of your opponent, dance trikes, and play Racks. Ideally, you want to soften the blow from a Pox by keeping your hand and permanents at multiples of three. Urza’s Bauble is great here in a couple of ways. It’s a free artifact that doesn’t get hit by the Pox, it helps dump your hand to get to a 3, and it saves up a card in your hand while on the board, so cracking it after a pox you can fill your hand back up a bit. Hymn and The Rack were in, no need to talk about those. Demonic Consultation is wild as hell. I started with 2 and ended up with 4, eventually replacing Demonic Tutor with the 4th copy. The three cards I really want to see are Pox, Dance of the Dead, and Triskelion. Playing 4 Consults speed things up and make the deck more consistent. Mishra’s Factory is fairly versatile in the deck as well. Other than just doing the good things it usually does, it can be turned into a creature in response to a Pox for a sacrificial offering if you’re trying to keep a Trike or stolen fatty on the board. The deck has been surprisingly good and a lot of fun.

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Pox ’95

I decided to test it in an online tourney that Olga Dushina runs. Olga is from Russia and runs various Old School Skype tournaments, one of which is dubbed Nationals 95. It uses 4th edition, Chronicles, Fallen Empires, and Ice Age. I figured this would be close enough to see what the deck could do, only having to axe a Mox Jet and Sol ring to make it legal, replacing them with a Swamp and a Fellwar Stone. There were 15 players broken up into two groups of 8 Europeans and 7 Americans. I came out on top at 5-1 in my group and will play a final match with the winner of the euro group. (EDIT: I ended up winning the final against mono Red burn 2-0. 6-1 finish overall.) Before the online tourney I played the deck a handful of times and noticed some weak spots. I’ve run into quite a few creature-less decks, and while it’s not crippling, having a creature in your opponent’s graveyard is nice if you have a dud Dance of the Dead in your hand with nothing to target in your own yard. When your opponents have creatures, especially Juzams, Ehrnams, or other big threats, it just makes the whole game plan of discard/Dance that much better. Beyond that, I have jumped the gun on Poxing, having cast it with really nothing much to follow up with, leading myself to unlucky top decks while my opponent takes over the game. Dumb mistake. The last problem I noticed was an opponent’s artifacts and enchantments, especially if they’re playing lot of either/or. Pox does nothing for these and Black in general has nothing to offer for artifact and enchantment removal, so I added Nevinyrrals Disk to do work. I was hesitant to add Disk, as generally you’ll want to keep your cards at or under 3cc, minus the Trike of course, which 95% of the time is brought back with Dance. But, I noticed that despite Poxing left and right, 4 mana wasn’t too hard to come up with and I’ve even hard cast Trike a few times. Having a Sol Ring helps. I included 3 disks, so in case I need to consult for one, I’ve got enough. After making some changes, I started the online tourney with my only loss in match 1 to a mono White prison deck. It used Land Tax, Zuran Orb, Fledons canes, etc. and won by boring its opponent to death, decking them, or with Mishra’s Factory. The only other match that was tough was against a UB Reanimator deck. Without access to power and Bazaar of Baghdad, it’s obviously not quite as good, but for this particular format, Nationals ’95, I think the list was pretty optimal. For targets it had Polar Kraken, Deep Spawn, and Trikes, as well as Nether Shadow and Ashen Ghoul with Jalum Tomes and Mind Bombs to dump with, so it essentially ran as a budget OS95 build. In G1 I hymned him only to have him discard a polar kraken that he targeted with an Animated Dead on his following turn. It was a quick game in his favor. I boarded out 3 Pox for some Tormods Crypt. Luckily some timely Hymns got me there and I was able to Dance his Deep Spawns for the win during the last 2 games with some help from The Rack. This match brought about another problem. Poxing will allow the Reanimator player to choose what they discard, giving them even more of an advantage, letting them pitch their creatures. As for straight up OS95 match ups, I don’t really know what it’s going to look like. I know reanimator is huge. I’d love to play against it in its true form just to witness it for myself, but none of our players have Bazaars, so I know I won’t be seeing it. None the less, I packed some Tormods Crypt in the board, which I’m not sure would do a whole lot anyway, but they can fuck up a Feldons Cane or a Timetwister at least. Necropotence doesn’t seem to be a big problem in the format, but it’s still a great card. If I do see any sort of Necro deck, I feel like Pox would do fine. Life is cards for the Necro player and I’m taking big chunks of both consistently. One card/deck that may give me problems is Stormbind, whether in a RG build or RG splashing white for Land Tax and removal. I’ve played against it a handful of times with brother Finney and seem to come out on top most of the time, but it’s rough.  Hopefully the Disks will come in handy here. At the very least, Pox will scramble some brains, disrupting nearly every aspect of the game. It’s a mean ass card….

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Playing Finney on RGW Stormbind. He got game 1, but Gloom did work for me games 2 and 3. No more Disenchants.
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POXPOXPOX. Looks like he scooped. Right play.
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A match against brother Chris 1. I believe Chris got this match 2-1. This was pre-Disk and a prime example of why I desperately needed them. Looks like I possessed his Mox and Relic Barrier though….big fucking deal.

I’m beyond excited to play ’95. I started playing around 1997, but bought my first cards sometime in 1995. I distinctly remember my very first purchase was a booster of Fallen Empires followed by an Ice Age starter that contained the rule book that I would eventually pore over trying to learn the game. Ice Age is really the most nostalgic set for me. The cards are beautiful with an almost waxy look and feel to them. While it definitely has its flaws, it’s got a lot of flavor and adds just enough to 93/94 to be fun and not distract from the aesthetics. And, in a way, it’s the first and oldest expansion, having been designed long before Arabian Nights was ever thought of, only to have been largely re-designed and endlessly tinkered with and delayed before eventually being released in 1995. And Homelands? Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s still fun and the art and flavor are still there. I did my best to dig through the set and utilize as many cards as I could. I added a few Dry Spell and a couple Ihsans Shade to my sideboard. Dry Spell isn’t terrible. It’s not good, but I have gotten a 3 for 1 out of it, so I’ll continue to jam it.

So, on December 1st the second annual Bootleggers Christmas will commence deep within the wooded valleys of Tennessee. Once I make my way out of the woods, I’ll hastily and hazily report back.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll leave you with a suggestion on what to fill your ears with and a card I’ve had my eye on. You’re welcome.

 

MUSIC: Sandrider

 

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Sandrider is a band from Seattle and they flat out fucking rip. I’ve always hated labels and genres and I feel like calling this band “hardcore”, or whatever, would just do them injustice and bring about some bullshit preconceived notions. I will say that they’re heavy. Heavy as fuck Rock? That sounds horrible too, but that works better. Their sound is gigantic, ripping, and powerful. Think amped up versions of early Sub-Pop stuff, Nirvana, Janes Addiction, etc. Their name comes from the 1965 novel Dune and the content is often fantastical. I’ll leave you with a barnburner from their 2nd album “Godhead”. The song is called “Gorgon”. In Greek mythology, Medusa was a Gorgon, along with her two sisters, who all had venomous snakes for hair. Anyone who looked into their eyes turned to stone. This song is about checking out a Gorgon woman and getting caught looking. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t listen to this at a volume that isn’t damaging your ability to hear.

 

CARD: Sage of Lat-Nam

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 I say this about almost every card, but I really do love the art-work on Sage. I’ve been brewing with mono U and decided to put this guy in the first list I’ve been messing around with. Mono U has been tough, but I’ve got 4 or 5 builds I’m trying out, a couple of which will play at least 3 Sages along with Copy Artifacts, Tetravus, Su-Chi, and a bunch of other artifacts. Drawing cards is always fun and something I don’t usually get to do with the decks I normally play. I have been able to really abuse Sage once or twice in the deck he’s in now and it’s great saccing a tapped Mana Vault or a spent Trike to draw a card. Saccing a Su-Chi for a card and 4 mana could be clutch too. Not much else to say. It’s a fun card that’s probably slightly underrated, I think it can be really good in the right deck, and the art is sweet.

FEAST. bye.

-D

 

 

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