Lemarchand’s Box: Playing the Cannon in Columbus

hands

“What’s your Pleasure, Sir?”

Merchant in the Bazaar of Baghdad

 

Welcome.

This Vulgar Display of Power is not for the faint of heart. If you like to play it safe, this is not for you. Return to your life of coloring inside the lines, and let the fear in your veins keep you from leaving the yard. What lurks beyond the threshold is not to be controlled, and once you have seen it you can never erase it from your mind. If you cling to your artificial importance, defined by your significance in a small, sterile cell, run now while your sacred tenets are still intact. What you will find here will threaten everything that gives you your identity.

Not all words can be safely written.

You will be faced with limitless potential. Will you embrace it, or will you scream for boundaries and beg for restraint? It is not an apple I offer you, and I am not a snake. Are you happy in the ignorance of your sheltered paradise, or will you join us in our parade through the wilderness beyond? Freedom is dangerous, it can never be held or defined, but if you succumb to it, you can taste divinity. It is up to you to decide if what you find is Heaven or Hell.

Lament_Configuration

“Open the Box. What is the worst that can happen?”

-Squee, Goblin Nabob

 

With Grand Prix: Columbus just days away, I am feverishly pecking away at the keyboard in an attempt to update the Belcher Primer I wrote for Eternal Weekend 2015. This is rather ambitious given the limited time frame, the result of working too much, drinking too little, and weeks of procrastination. I have spent much of my free time eating LSD and watching Hellraiser movies instead of writing, though I did take the time to re-read “The Hellbound Heart” and I am about halfway through Clive Barker’s “The Scarlet Gospels.” So all of the time I have not been writing has not gone to waste.

Lets get to it.

There are many reasons you could be holding The People’s Cannon in your filthy hands. Did a friend give it to you? If so, know this: He is not your friend. He gave it to you because you know nothing of the format, and it was a cheap way to satisfy your needs. He has no respect for the deck or for you. You have not been indoctrinated, and your obliviousness makes you a naive recipient. The gesture is heartless, but he is no monster. He is more foolish to hand it to you than you are to accept it.

He handed you the Lament Configuration with the impression it was a Rubix Cube.

Most of you in this position will never solve the puzzle. You will play your first big legacy event, fumbling about with the box, twisting and turning, maybe occasionally catching a glimpse of what it is capable of, but you will set it down long before you unlock its secrets. You will assume it is just a child’s toy, projecting your inadequacies onto it, and cast it aside long before you ever witness its potential.

Perhaps you crave the power of Legacy but lack the resources to break into the format. After a little dabbling and research, you heard about an inexpensive way to get your start. You found the formula and assembled the contraption. You opened a door, expecting to find a way in to this magnificent world, unaware that you also opened a Gateway to something greater. That road flows both ways, and even if you never step through, if you abandon your ritual for the safer decks of the established format, you cannot keep the things from beyond from stepping through and finding you.

If you can overcome your fear and embrace the madness of what you have done, I have such sights to show you. If not, you are not lost yet. You can run back to the safety of your FNMs and your Modern Dailies. You can hide behind your Leylines and Force of Wills. But you will never be able to erase what you have done, and when you least expect it, we will come for you. When we do, it will be too late to join us.

Some of you knew what you were doing when you picked up the People’s Cannon. You chose this. You know that it is not just a deck, but also a lifestyle. You are More Human than Human. Together we are the Disciples of the Eternal Cannon, the Belcher Cult. Those who do not understand will call us fools and lunatics. Are we mad, or are we prophets?

Likely we are both.

mad here

The last few weeks have brought about a new wave of those lusting for the power of the Cannon. Numerous messages. Late night phone calls. Social media pleas. They all seek the same thing. They want my current list, advice on sideboarding, and affirmation that they are making a sound decision. It seems that many who traditionally embrace the safety of more orthodox archetypes have deemed the People’s Cannon well positioned.

They are not wrong.

The only flaw in their logic is not understanding that Goblin Charbelcher is always well positioned. It is the weakness of the wielder that skews the perception of the weapon. Fear is the Mind Killer.

As a response to the potential expansion of the Belcher Cult I am revisiting and rehashing much of what I have said in the past, preach in the present, and project into the future. Below you will find my list, both in written and picture form, as well as some explanation on why this is what you should be doing in Legacy and in Life. For those of you preparing to storm the frontlines of GP Columbus and want a glimpse into the war you are waging, you can find a detailed account of it by reading the Shaman’s Trance (Or the time I saved the world by playing a Legacy Grand Prix.)

we came

 

The Deck:

1 Taiga

4 Lotus Petal

4 Lion’s Eye Diamond

4 Chrome Mox

4 Goblin Charbelcher

4 Land Grant

4 Tinder Wall

4 Elvish Spirit Guide

4 Simian Spirit Guide

4 Rite of Flame

4 Desperate Ritual

4 Pyretic Ritual

4 Seething Song

4 Burning Wish

3 Empty the Warrens

4 Gitaxian Probe

Sideboard:

1 Empty the Warrens

1 Diminishing Returns

1 Infernal Tutor

1 Shattering Spree

1 Reverent Silence

1 Hull Breach

1 Ancient Grudge

1 Trash for Treasure

1 Pyroclasm

2 Pyroblast

4 Xantid Swarm

cannon

The People’s Cannon
To start, let me address some misconceptions about this deck. It is often laughed off or discounted as inconsistent. A beginner’s deck. Because it is so often loaned out or used as a way into the format, it is often wielded by new or inexperienced players. Without the understanding or methodology, it seems like a poor choice for a serious player. If you hand a gun to a child that has only killed things with a knife, blaming the gun for his ineptitude is absurd. If the little bastard shoots himself, it is not because of the instability of the pistol.
But not all hands belong to children. An educated student can evolve into a dangerous master. The Disciples of the Cannon know the secrets of this simple yet profound weapon. To underestimate them, to mistake them for the amateurs or paupers, is the last mistake you will make. These vigilantes brave the roads that others fear to travel, and they challenge the Giants of the format without restraint. They will be in Columbus, and if you desire to stand on the right side of history when the smoke clears, you should be standing with them.
There are advantages to playing the People’s Cannon. First, killing your opponent before they get to play a card is not only an invigorating feeling, it is also demoralizing enough to take away the spirit from your opponent. As your enemy bathes in salt, you can reload the cannon and prepare to do it again. Instead of dancing with your enemy, demonstrate your power and make them stop you.
Unlike traditional storm decks, you do not have to worry about cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraban, because she lingers in their hand until it is too late. Unlike Elves, you will not be picked apart by a Punishing Fire while you helplessly watch, because striking swiftly forgoes the perils of incremental advantage. But it is more than just the natural immunity to these type of problematic cards. You also have an edge against other combo decks by being faster.

But the advantage that is most overlooked to playing the People’s Cannon is time. Nine rounds on Day One. Six more on Day Two. And then the potential for a Top 8. This marathon of magic can be exhausting when you repeatedly go to time. Not only are you strained from the grinding but you are fatigued from the pressure of finding food and proper hydration in small pockets of downtime. Playing at the top of your game is nearly impossible under these conditions.

But as a Belcher pilot, you do not suffer these conditions. Playing shorter rounds leaves you refreshed, sharp, prepared. You have ample time for not only nourishment, rest and reflection, but also for activities. A mid round celebratory drink from your secret flask, some fresh air paired with a neatly rolled and lit supply of green mana, or perhaps just reading from your unabridged early edition of Moby Dick, the world is yours because time is not only on your side, but it is also working against your enemies. Until you have experienced this first hand, you can never truly appreciate its value.

Joining the Belcher Cult will change your life. Trust me. I am a professional.

It is no secret that there are differing opinions on how to build the People’s Cannon. The two primary schools of thought revolve around the inclusion or exclusion of Burning Wish. There are variants, everything from building around Recross the Paths to playing without a Land, but it has been well established that these are inferior approaches. So let me discuss why it is correct to play the wish.

This is especially relevant in relation to this GP, as the philosophy of Ohio’s Belcher Legends is the exclusion of Burning Wish. They delight in running a fifteen Island sideboard or a slew of Atogs, and while I appreciate both the humor and the madness of this, if you are devoting yourself to winning with the Cannon, it is best to have every resource at hand.

If you need tangible proof of the importance of Burning Wish, watch here. This is also a great time to mock Chalice of the Void set on One.

I have gone into more detail in the past, but if watching the above video does not convince you, I would be wasting my breath explaining it further. For now I want to talk about the breakdown of the deck, and then discuss the rules of engagement. Much of this is simply a cut and paste from the earlier primer, adjusted for language to unweave what was done by a meddling editor.

The Breakdown:

Mana:

It can be argued that the People’s Cannon is the best ramp deck to ever exist. The majority of the deck is a mass of rituals to power out your threats as quickly possible. I have read assessments that my mana base is wrong by people who claim to have crunched the numbers and found a “better answer” with math. But there are no results to back it up, and the alleged “perfect configuration” is mostly noise. Theory crafters who have never seen the field of battle. There is an engineer in every crowd.

Never Trust a Blueprint.

Business:

Eleven business spells are the maximum number you can play without becoming a different (inferior) deck. Again, I have written extensively about this in the past, but it mostly boils down to whether or not you play Burning Wish, and the short answer is still that you should.

This concludes the Business portion of our program.

Draw:

I play four draw spells, and despite my occasional desire to return to eight, the importance of having a proper density of rituals outweighs the value gained by playing either of the two other options the deck can support. Gitaxian Probe is the best option, so it should be played before any other. The next best option is Manamorphose. The problem with this card is that it can cost you the game if it does not draw exactly what you need, which is typically mana. It also makes mulligans more difficult. I have cast this spell many times in the past, but I am convinced enough that it no longer belongs in this deck that I sold my copies. The third option is Street Wraith. It has the same negative effects of Manamorphose aside from the investment of mana, but it lacks the ability to add to Storm. I would never put this card in my Belcher deck.

Sideboard:

There are two categories of sideboard cards for this deck: Cards you wish for and cards that you bring in after game one.

First, the wish targets, in order of their frequency of use:

Empty the Warrens enables your Burning Wishes.

Diminishing Returns is for games where wishing for Goblins will not get the job done. It enables you to draw seven more cards, and hopefully execute your opponent. But be warned: You cannot mulligan your new hand, and if you draw dead you will likely lose to the seven your opponent drew. If you can win with Empty the Warrens, always choose that first.

Infernal Tutor, typically in combination with Lion’s Eye Diamond, allows you to either increase your storm count by wishing for a copy of Empty the Warrens that is in the deck, or use Burning Wish to get a Charbelcher. It enables lines of play that would not exist without it.

Pyroclasm, Shattering Spree, Reverent Silence, and Hull Breach are your answers for when things go wrong. This is as much utility as the deck can really afford. The Breach is likely overkill and could easily be something else, but I find myself using it just enough to keep it in my seventy five.

The final wish target is Trash for Treasure. This is the flex slot of the deck. I switched to this card at the suggestion of @GrandpaBelcher himself, and I have found myself using it frequently. It is a narrow and complex card, and it will be removed from my deck for the GP weekend for Tendrils of Agony, as the person borrowing it struggles to remember what the card does and the copy I own is German. There are many other cards you can play here. Goblin War Strike, Reanimate, Bribery, and Reforge the Soul are options. Play what you will possibly use.

The second group of cards are the ones you bring in. These are the ones people struggle a little harder with making work and often ask for advice about.
Xantid Swarm is an easy way to combat Force of Will. When bringing them in, I typically also bring in the pair of Pyroblasts. This means cutting six cards. I usually opt for the four probes, one seething song, and one pyretic ritual. This keeps the mana of the deck intact and does not hinder you too much by the adjustment. There are some narrow situations where I board differently, but that in and of itself could make a lengthy post of endless nonsense.
If I suspect my non blue opponent is packing mindbreak trap, I will opt to bring in just the two pyroblasts. Also, it is proper to run a split of one Red Elemental Blast and one Pyroblast, but my Red Elemental Blasts are in both my Vintage and my Oldschool decks, so I have resigned to this configuration. It matters so rarely that its not worth wasting words to explain.
The last card is Ancient Grudge. I like to bring this in against decks with Pithing Needle on the draw. The last tournament I played, my opponent opened game two with a needle on Belcher. I played my Taiga, cast a Tinder Wall, Lion’s Eye Diamond, exiled an Elvish Spirit Guide, sacrificed the wall and played a seething song. I cast Charbelcher with one mana in my pool and one card in hand. I sacrificed my Lion’s Eye Diamond for green, discarded and flashed back the Ancient Grudge, and killed him on the first turn through Needle.
There are simple rules that you should follow when playing this deck. These steadfast rules have brought me numerous victories, and they are a core part of the philosophy of the Belcher Cult.
First, Fear Nothing. You are the one that should be feared. Strike hard and fast and make them stop you.
Second, if you do not have a win condition, Mulligan your hand. Your goal is to win. You need a weapon to do it.
Third, if you mulligan to five, and still do not have a win condition, just keep the five cards. This rule is a little hazy, as you will still often lose with one of these hands, but it gives you more opportunities to win than the majority of four card hands.
And finally, FEAR NOTHING. If you walk into a Force of Will, so be it. They will still have it if you do not cast your spells. By forcing them to have it, you pressure them into a position that often buys you the time to restock and try again. Going along with this, do not scoop unless you are actually dead. You will be surprised by how often mulling to Force of Will and having to give up another card can cost your opponent the game just a few turns later. You will also be delightfully surprised by how often they do not have it. You have eleven win conditions. They have four Force of Wills at most.

 

ben perry pic 1

The witching hour has arrived. I will likely come back and edit or expand this in the week or so to come, but for now I am going to share it for those who are still making last minute preparations for the Grand Prix. If you are in Columbus and you are playing this deck in the main event, make sure to let me know. Also do not hesitate to come find me. I would love to discuss it with you, share stories, and hear about how it is performing for you.

Dr. Superstition has left the building.
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6 thoughts on “Lemarchand’s Box: Playing the Cannon in Columbus

  1. ” It is not an apple I offer you, and I am not a snake.”

    Amazing as always. This really inspires me to play some Legacy tournaments again. Though I’m a lone member of the Circus of BOoze rather than the Cult of Belcher, I feel that we might be cut from adjacent cloth.

    Best of luck at the GP!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, sounds like a good week!

      (BOooze was a reference to Monoblack Necrotic Ooze btw, not the liquid. But of course it goes hand in hand with inebreation)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great article, Belcher was my first Vintage deck and still my favorite, local legacy here in Oakland once a week and I plan on using Belcher to blow a few holes in the local meta

    Like

  3. Slipped into Vintage a while back after being in Legacy for a few years. I gotta say the way you sell belcher had me doing some reps with the deck online and it seems like a really fun way to plow through an event. I normally pilot “fair” Death and Taxes builds but I might look into building this deck up, its pretty cheap too.

    Like

  4. The belcher has been seeping into my brain since the first time I read your praises. There are few people out there that could convince me to drop several hundred dollars on anything, let alone something that does not prolong my survival, you sir are not one of those people.

    Like

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