Establishing Fort Kickass

By: Joseph Davis

Hello, my name is Joseph, and I usually write articles about Math and Magic. This week we’re taking things in a slightly different direction and talking about establishing ‘Fort Kickass’. The major theme of this week will be one we’ve discussed before, which is building a game plan for our deck and making sure that all of our game actions are moving us towards that goal.

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What is ‘Fort Kickass’, you ask? Have you ever been playing a game of Magic, and you reach a certain point where you realize that while you have not yet lost the game, and you still might have a chance to win, you have no more hope left in your heart? You have a feeling that you cannot make any significant improvements in your chance to win, and you start making desperate plays in an attempt to break free from what you see as an unwinnable spot? Establishing a game state in which your opponent is in such a disheartened and desperate state is what I like to call Fort Kickass. You reach a spot where you are favored to win, you know it, your opponent knows it, and it feels hopeless for them so they start playing sloppy or making risky mistakes. Let’s take a look at some examples of Fort Kickass in various meta decks.

The first example of Fort Kickass is from this standard Esper Control list:

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Teferi, Hero of Dominaria plus Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, name a more iconic duo. Teferi uses his plus one ability, draws a card, and untaps two lands at the end of turn. Azcanta searches the top 4 cards of your library for whatever noncreature spell is required to answer any particular threat, and can be untapped by Teferi to be used twice per turn. Between these two, it’s very easy for it to feel impossible for your opponent to escape the combination of counterspells, removal, and sweepers. These answers ensure that Teferi can make it the 4 turns he needs to ultimate which will lock up the game quickly. Your game play should be built around these two cards. You should protect Search for Azcanta and put any cards which do not immediately impact the board in the graveyard, and you should deploy Teferi only when you can safely protect him, preferably with something like a Quench or Negate which is castable off of the lands he untaps at the end of turn. Any play you make which does not move you towards transforming Search for Azcanta or developing a protected Teferi should only be to keep yourself alive or avoid your opponent trading positively for resources.

Another example of Fort Kickass:

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In this deck Niv-Mizzet, Parun fills in as the partner for Teferi in place of Search for Azcanta. Niv makes it so all of your wonderful control spells are cantrips, and all of your cantrips are removal spells. Not only can Niv kill your opponent quickly, he draws a bunch of extra cards off of your interaction, and instead of the incredible selection provided by Search for Azcanta, he gives you raw card draw and turns Teferi’s already very good plus ability into an extra damage as well. Niv-Mizzet has more pitfalls than developing Teferi or Search for Azcanta, and it is very important to be aware of cards like Ravenous Chupacabra which will kill Niv-Mizzet without triggering his draw ability, and which are likely to be stuck in an opponent’s hand as you play few other creatures. Developing Niv-Mizzet without Dive Down or counterspell backup is dangerous, and goes against the principle of building Fort Kickass.

You might be wondering to yourself, is Fort Kickass something only control decks have access to? Am I required to counter my opponent’s spells to live in the Fortress of Kickassitude? Fear not, gentle citizen, for all are welcome in the Palace of Punchbutt.

Consider this list:

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For a midrange list like this, Fort Kickass is less a specific combination of cards, but instead a certain threat density. When you have out a Wildgrowth Walker with two counters, a 4/3 Jadelight Ranger, and a Midnight Reaper you have a board which will beat most opponents to death. Vivien Reid and a creature to protect her from attackers will carry you thoroughly into the end of the game as she controls the board and refills your hand with threats. A Carnage Tyrant with another creature to protect it from The Eldest Reborn will kill many players outright. The goal for this deck is establishing a board presence which will win the game on its own (as any of the ones I’ve listed above should), and then just conserving resources until your opponent forces you to respond and adjust this plan. If you have out 2 sizeable threats and Midnight Reaper, there is no good reason to play more things on the board into a sweeper from control. If you have a Carnage Tyrant out there’s no need to play another one until your first game winning threat is dead. If you have Vivien Reid in play, you should expend resources keeping her alive and well, so she can guide you to victory by drawing you threats and destroying opposing flyers.

Consider this Aggro Deck:

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For this sort of deck, the game has to end quickly but there are not very many ways to recover if you run out of steam. The most important card in this deck is Curious Obsession, and once you have put that on a flying or unblockable creature, as long as you have ways to protect that creature it feels impossible for your opponent to win. Because of this every resource expended should be built around establishing a threat with Curious Obsession and protecting it. Any protection spell should be deployed only for protecting your Curious threat and Curious Obsession should only be deployed when you have a trick up your sleeve. After that point, just keep attacking with a reasonable threat and drawing multiple cards a turn to continue burying your opponent in card advantage. A Siren Stormtamer will protect your threats from cards like Settle the Wreckage and Ravenous Chupacabra, while Spell Pierce and Dive Down will keep your threats safe from single targeted removal just as nicely. Most of the spells in this deck are not particularly strong on their own, and are purpose built for protecting your evasive creatures wearing the all important Curious Obsession, so do not spend resources outside of building your Fort Kickass, a Curious creature.

In conclusion, Fort Kickass is a state of being, a position from which winning is not only likely, but also feels inevitable for your opponent, and their hope is draining from their body. As you continue to push your advantage farther they will turn to desperate plays and risky behavior which should enable you to further your plan and ultimately win the game on the back of Fort Kickass.

Thanks for joining me this week for something a little different, and I’ll be back soon with another article.

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