September 6, 2012
Posted by Mike aka Mightily Oats
Howdy y’all, and welcome to another episode of Cooking with Oats.
Here is a small excerpt from an interview I gave to Todd Schmidt of GQ magazine recently:
Todd: “Mr. Oats… can I call you Mightily?”
Todd: “Okay. Mr. Oats, you have taken the culinary world by storm. You have written 32 books, opened countless restaurants, and even have your own line of designer microwave burritos. There are some that say you have climbed every mountain, that you have conquered every kingdom in the world of food. To what do you attribute your meteoric success?”
Me: “Three things, Tim…”
Me: “My name is Oats, not Todd. Anyway Tom, I attribute my success to three things: My constant search for good dishes that I can make better, my shameless self-promotion, and my memories of Skinny Pines Trailer Court.”
Todd: “When you say you are constantly looking for dishes to make better, does that mean you don’t come up with these on your own?”
Me: “Of course not, Ted.”
Me: “Gesundheit. No, I steal any idea that isn’t nailed down. There are no truly original ideas anymore. Besides, people don’t want truly original ideas. They want the same thing that they have always had, maybe with a different spin, but the same when it comes right down to it.”
Todd: “So you keep them coming back by giving them the same boring…”
Me: “No, Tony! I give them what they want!”
Todd: “Oooookay… You said the memory of Skinny Pines Trailer Court was a driving factor in your success. Is that where you learned how to cook?”
Me: “No, it’s where I learned how NOT to cook.”
Todd: “Maybe you should explain.”
Me: “Sorry Tammy. No time. Sharks to wrestle, grandmothers to punch. You know how it is.”
Upon further reflection, maybe I should have delved a little deeper into that particular rabbit-hole. I was raised in a single-wide tenement-on-wheels in a truly depressing stretch of rural squalor called Skinny Pines Trailer Court. Imagine, if you will, forty tin shacks stacked one on top of the other, each packed with the desperate, scrabbling dregs of humanity surrounded by an endless expanse of decommissioned nuclear bomb ranges in the heart of the American Southwest. Inside one of these sad hovels is a young mother trying desperately to stretch the contents of her meager pantry into a wholesome meal for her new family. In this pantry are the staples of the truly destitute; ramen noodles by the case, macaroni and cheese, fried hot dogs and bologna, dehydrated milk, generic unsweetened puffed wheat cereal, and cans upon cans of creamed corn, stewed tomatoes and pork ‘n beans.
It was this foul, unholy pantry that spawned “Goop”. Let me start off by saying that if you called Filet Mignon “goop” it would taste like the ass-end of a menstrual skunk. This, however, was no Filet Mignon. This was a bowel twisting combination of lightly grayed hamburger (like lightly browned but, you know, gray), stewed tomatoes, pork ‘n beans and a fist full of crushed saltine crackers all thrown into a frying pan to have any semblance of texture, flavor and edibility blast-roasted right out of them. The resultant ooze emitted a smell that can only be likened to Lucifer’s backed-up septic tank, but without all of the charm and sophistication.
“Eat your Goop.” said my mother, whom I suspected was one of Satan’s apostles.
“It looks like someone else already has.” I replied, glaring meaningfully at the devil-woman.
“Very funny. There are starving children in China, you know.”
“There are starving children right here!”
“Just taste it, you might like it.”
Admittedly, the vomit did improve the flavor marginally, but that is beside the point. This is how I learned how NOT to cook, but it does raise an interesting question. Can you take the meanest, most humble ingredients and turn them into a dish fit for, if not kings, then at least a better class of peasants?
When I think of humble ingredients, I think of cards with low casting costs. For this challenge I will limit myself to a converted mana cost of 1, no higher, no lower. You can’t get much more humble than that.
First, let’s choose a general that will give us the most options for one mana. Our choices are limited to four possibilities, Norin the Wary, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Mikaeus, the Lunarch and Rhys the Redeemed. I noticed one thing right off of the bat; these guys all have lofty sounding titles which makes me think they are trying to compensate for something. Isamaru is great in 60-4 format when you are playing one-on-one but he just won’t cut it in Commander and Norin is fun as hell when you have access to cards that cost a lot more than one mana. Mikaeus and Rhys both look like they can be really good and I see no reason why I should have to choose between them. I’ll make Rhys the general and that will give me much needed access to two colors and Mikaeus will work well with the inevitable swarm of chumps that will come pouring out of this deck.
Now that we know which barrels we are going to scraping the bottom of, let’s take a look at the creatures that we have available.
One Mana Dorks
This list represents the cream of the crap. When looking for creatures I was looking for two things; attack deterrents and creatures that scale with the available mana.
The deterrents include “snake bite” creatures like Abu Ja’far and Loyal Sentry, and Spurnmage Advocate, effective “walls” like Clergy of the Holy Nimbus, Deftblade Elite, Glittering Lynx, Traproot Kami and Wall of Vines, and “Fogs on Wheels” like Kami of False Hope and Spore Frog.
The scaling creatures include guys that can get bigger and badder as the game goes on and guys you can pump mana into so they can keep up with other creatures on the board later in the game. Cards like Bushi Tenderfoot, Scute Mob, Serra Ascendant, Student of Warfare and Wolfbitten Captive will get bigger (or are big to begin with) as the game goes on. Feral Hydra, Joraga Warcaller, Mikaeus, the Lunarch, and Protean Hydra will all benefit from surplus mana later in the game.
We’ll fill in the gaps with some quality utility creatures. Mother of Runes will help both offense and defense by giving key critters protection, tappers like Gideon’s Lawkeeper and Goldmeadow Harrier will gum up people’s combat math, Nova Cleric will let you nuke all enchantments, Seedcradle Witch lets you use that extra mana you will inevitably have by throwing around Giant Growths and Weathered Wayfarer will let you get any land from your library.
I have been waiting the better part of a decade to use the “Hidden” set of cards. The idea always seemed so cool to me and now I have to use them to make creatures on the cheap along with the Genjus. Brainwash, Kirtar’s Desire, and Guard Duty all serve as bottom tier Pacifisms. Soul Snare is another “snake bite” card making other players look like easier targets than you. Aegis of Honor makes people think twice before popping off game ending Hurricanes and Flickering Ward is a reusable, multi-hued condom that is ribbed for your pleasure. Defensive Formation will make your opponents attacks much less productive and Inheritance will give you some much needed card draw.
Bargain Basement Instants
Cheap instants are the monosodium glutamates of G/W; they are tasty and carcinogenic. Powerful removal like Condemn, Path to Exile, Smite, Nature’s Claim and Swords to Plowshares are a much needed shot in my emaciated arm. Noxious Revival and Reclaim let me bring anything from the graveyard to the top of my library to hinder and annoy again. Crop Rotation and Enlightened Tutor are both incredibly powerful tutors that will help get that key bit of protection that you need out on to the field. Fog, Holy Day, Orim’s Chant and other fog effects are En Vogue right now and I can see why. Casting one really messes with an opponent’s head, and leaving a single mana open to at the end of your turn will ensure that you will go many turns completely unmolested. When an opponent finally works up the courage to swing at you, Divine Deflection will ensure that they pay for it.
Second Hand Sorceries
Alliance of Arms, and Wurmcalling will both give you tokens that Rhys can double for you. Commune with Nature lets you dig through the top of your deck for a creature while Sylvan Tutor lets you look through the entire deck for said creature. Simplify makes everybody sacrifice an enchantment so there is a chance that you can get rid of something you can’t target without destroying enchantments that you are relying on to stay alive. Hurricane is a tried a true finisher that is still technically 1 CMC.
None of these cards are obscure and they are all very powerful and pretty self-explanatory. A word of caution: be very careful about when you drop your Meekstone. It can very quickly sow hate and discontent around the table. Only play it when you absolutely need to.
Man Lands, Man
This is where we can have some fun with this deck. Since nothing costs more than one mana we can drastically reduce the number of lands that we would normally be running. We can take advantage of Rhys’ token multiplication with lands like Kjeldoran Outpost, Springjack Pasture and Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree. We can run a ton of man-lands like Forbidding Watchtower, Stirring Wildwood and the like. We can use Kor Haven, Maze of Ith and Mystifying Maze to stifle any would-be attackers and since we aren’t running a mana hungry deck we can squeeze in all of the Cycling lands to help with card draw in a pinch.
My chances of winning by just using the cards are slim to none. I’ve found that you have to play politics and you have to play them hard. The perfect scenario is one in which I am playing the role of the passive toady, not making too many waves and helping out the most dominant player at the time. By letting all of the big dogs tear each other to pieces and making myself a difficult target that’s not worth wasting resources on, I can swing in at the end to snatch away a victory. A dick move I know, but it’s the only one I’ve got with this deck.
No, gentle reader, this is not Filet Mignon, but this deck sure as hell ain’t Goop… yurp… Uhhgg… I can still taste it.