Staring into the Abyss

Written by Ron Saikowski, Novemebr 27th, 2017

Nothing at all, nothing but black. That was the deck my opponent played. Despite the inherent weakness with playing a mono-color deck, she crafted it with efficiency and wielded it with precision. She gave no quarter and asked for none in return. To say I barely escaped the match with my sanity would be generous.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” - Nietzsche

That’s how the saying goes.
And that’s exactly what happened to me. As the darkness grew on the board opposite me (despite my Herculean efforts to contain it), the only way I pulled out a win for the match was to succumb and welcome the monster.

The ebb and flow of darkness
The match went all three games. Three mind raveling games. We both experienced trouble with mana during the match which as everyone knows, can spell instant death. I think I (or at least my lands) may have suffered a bit more as the Sinkholes and Strip Mines removed my key lands from play with a regularity I would have rather not experienced. Each time taking a little bit of my sanity and setting me back considerably in terms of what limited land remained in play.

It became a fight against the monsters and the equally quick land losses.
Two front wars are lost more often than they’re won and I understand why now.

The Abyss and Gloom, black everywhere
Playing against the Abyss forced me to change my plan of attack. Despite having all the necessary counter measures in my deck to get rid of it, I never seemed to have them in my hand when I needed them most. My opponent did not suffer the same fate in the darkness as she was well prepared with artifact creatures and factories. If anything, she thrived on the darkness.

And I couldn’t just remove the first Abyss that hit the board either, I had to be careful not to let something even more sinister sneak by only to cause untold damage a moment later. It’s a trick non-blue payers use all the time. Throw out something to draw the blue player’s counter measures only to drop the far more important card a moment later when the coast appears clear. It’s a delicate, unspoken dance between dueling wizards.

A later game sideboard choice by my opponent came into play on one of the first turns in the final game… Gloom. If you thought casting your Serra Angel was tough with only a couple lands on the board, you should try doing it with Gloom in play. You should try casting anything white with that card on the board. There comes a point when you give up and look for another route. I was there. I would have sold my soul for a Disenchant the moment it hit the table.

After losing what few creatures I had to the Abyss, my lands to Sinkholes and my sanity to the ever mounting darkness… I abandoned all hope, welcomed the darkness with open arms and changed my plan of attack completely.
Knowing my remaining creatures were consigned to an immediate death on summoning, I began to use my opponent’s artifact creatures against her. Why not, I thought… is there anything better to thrive in the environment? That combined with continually tightening the screws on an early cast Black Vise meant a slow and inevitable death for my opponent in the end… as long as my sanity held out.

It was not an easy match. I paid dearly for the win.
I did however learn that you don’t need your sanity and the moment you let it go, a whole new world of evil opens up. I’m looking forward to playing against her again and whatever variation of this deck she comes up with next.
It was an incredible challenge.
This time, I’m making no attempt to keep my sanity.

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IMAGE: Wizards of the Coast. Rest assured, the Abyss consumes all, there is no escape.
KEYWORDS: Old School Magic, black