The Dream-Quest of Vinyl Scratch, Part 1

I’ve spent most of the last week not writing pony articles, but instead being vaguely sick and unable to sleep.  Overall sucky, but there is one bonus: by spending a lot of time half-asleep and probably feverish, I’ve had plenty of weird errant thoughts.  Most of them have been useless and obviously influenced by marathoning too much House.  On the other hand, one strange half-dream thought resulted in the deck I played tonight at our weekly tournament, to much more success than I expected.  It’s not fully tuned yet, but there’s enough there I’m going to keep tuning it.  I’m hoping to do at least two articles tracking the progress, of which this is obviously the first.

I can’t remember exactly what thought process got me, groggy and insomniac, to the subject of MLP decks.  Once there, though, I started thinking about Paul Atherton’s continental finalist deck.  I played against Paul in the Swiss rounds and won a close game, but was impressed with the deck’s basic idea.  Snips and Snails + RTO is a powerful combination in general and especially against troublemakers.  The deck also came out the gates fast enough that it felt like it could keep up with pure aggro.

At the same time, I felt like CT had a pretty reasonable matchup because of the deck’s general vulnerability to discard.  So I mostly filed it away as neat and kept tuning Tower.  Meanwhile, several local players realized that set 1’s Dr. Hooves is a reasonable entry point to blue if you can discard it.  Johnny has been using it in his Maud deck to open his blue secondary, to good effect.  Paul’s deck already runs Dr. Hooves to combine with Pinny Lane.  It’s clearly a reasonable synergy, but it’s never struck me as incredibly powerful, primarily because neither card seemed particularly good on its own.

That’s the point, though, where the dream-vision kicked in.  The deck already had Dr. Hooves and Cloudchaser, just Emerald Green away from a pretty reasonable blue fixing suite.  And the RTO + Snips & Snails combo was pretty sweet, but the original deck’s economy didn’t feel like it could take full advantage of it because moving the RTOs around gets so expensive.  My fevered mind produced a potential solution: Equestria’s fastest flyer.
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Rainbow Dash kicks the combo into overdrive.  Paul’s deck needs 2 action tokens to play S&S, plus 2 for each RTO, plus whatever lets you get to the confront.  Once you add Winged Wonder, you can easily design your problem deck such that any problem you flip with S&S can be confronted with at least two RTOs for only 5 total AT.  Being able to do these explosive things out of nowhere is a game-changer, and makes it extremely risky for aggressive decks to initiate faceoffs on their turns to boot.  Adding a bigger blue contingent also enables Two Bits, one of my favorite cards, and a way of making the degenerate S&S turns even cheaper.

That alone improves the control matchup significantly.  It doesn’t prevent your cards from being hit by Yellow Parasprite or Nightmare Moon, of course.  But it does mean you can afford to draw cards more aggressively, because if you do draw action, you can play it on the cheap.  Still, it didn’t seem like enough to me.  Then, again in a half-sleeping state, i remembered one of the first combos I ever played in competitive Magic:

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Way back in 1999, I was still in high school.  I’d been playing Magic for years, but without any real access to high-level decks.  (The Internet wasn’t what it is now, back then.)  That changed that year, and I built the black deck that was one of the first true “net decks”.  It featured the combo of Yawgmoth’s Will and Dark Ritual, a powerful way to re-use your graveyard (Magic’s discard pile equivalent) and gain some mana in the process.  MLP got a Yawgmoth’s Will equivalent in Canterlot Nights (with clever flavor-text in-joke):

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And of course, Two Bits itself can serve as the Dark Ritual equivalent.  Since each one is +1 AT, having two to re-use negates the cost of What’s Old is New Again, and having three nets +1 AT.  And of course if you don’t win immediately on the turn where you play it, you can leave any spare Two Bits in play to prevent them from being banished and let you do the same thing again.

Putting this combo into the deck seemed natural.  It works well with drawing tons of cards and discarding some, which this deck is interested in for Dr. Hooves.  (Also in general, to help assemble combos.)  It also lets you discard Winged Wonder to home limit and get the front-loaded play again.  And it provides resilience to discard and replaces the IMO unimpressive Changeling Infiltrator.

So, after I tried and mostly failed to sleep, I finally rose and built a first draft.  I made sure the problem deck was all two pointers, save the start problem, since there’s no legal 2 point starter in color.  That means we can be sure the combo turn runs 3 points + 2/RTO, making the math easy.

I tried some test hands.  The starting Social Obligations became Special Delivery when I realized I wanted to be able to confront with Berry Punch + blue friend.  I came to my senses on a random playset of Changeling Swarms.  I ended up with this list to play tonight.   I faced the following:

Round 1: Purple/White
Round 2: Maud/Blue
Round 3: Weird Roseluck Theme Deck

I won round 1 despite falling behind early.  He got extra points from Fancy Pants and won a couple DFOs, but I scored enough points to stay on the board, then won off a 7 point turn.

I lost round 2 to my own math error.  I didn’t realize I could S&S combo to win off only my own problem and instead did a DFO.  He had Ten Seconds Flat to turn 14 vs 4 into 14 vs 11 via moving Maud, then got lucky and won the face-off and the game.  Clear loss for me, but clear win for the list, since if I’d done the math right I’d have won without giving him the long-shot out.

Round 3 his deck was too slow to do whatever it was trying to do with Roseluck and an early RTO put it away quickly.

My findings were that the core of the deck is incredibly strong, but the Nightmare Moon was something I never wanted to play.  In game 3, I had it in my opening hand with Dr. Hooves and my opponent played two troublemakers, and I still didn’t want to play it.  So either it isn’t good, or I should play it more aggressively.  Either might be true, but I think I’m going to try a version without it.  Stand Still! is also notably lacking in this list.  Without it or any troublemakers, I’m a bit worried about aggro matchups.  I also saw a somewhat similar deck posted on Reddit when I got home.  I like my list a lot more overall, it had Nice Moves, Kid, which I hadn’t considered.   That card is interesting and gives a nice discard outlet in the absence of Nightmare Moon.  I decided to try it out instead of Let’s Get this Party Started.

So, I’m going to test this list next week.  Well, or maybe not next week, since I have to miss the weekly event to run a Magic PTQ.  I’ll try to get some games in over the week, or it might be two.  In any case, I’ll do a part two with some more data.  Hopefully watching the deck evolve will be interesting and helpful.

See you next time.

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