Thran Utopia #2: Sisters of Life and Death
The moment I spotted Glissa, the Traitor on the visual spoiler, I was sold. My weakness for all things legendary combined with my instinctual inclination towards card-advantage to take over my thoughts. Glissa was going to be the latest in a long line of decks around legendary cards I’ve built and there was nothing in the world that was going to stop me, not even me. Today I’ll take you along on the journey from The Pile of Possibilities to sixty cards.
The Pile Of Possibilities
Say what now? A ‘pile of possibilities’? This is how me and my friends jokingly refer to the huge number of cards we want to cram into a deck whenever we cook us up some new deck idea. When I am going to make a deck, I usually write down a lot of cards that could work out in the deck I am trying to build. I usually combine this with a search through some of my cards, pulling out every card that seems worthwhile. This creates a pretty big stack of cards: The Pile Of Possibilities. (One day I’ll delve deeper into how exactly I build the PoP.)
My PoP for Glissa’s deck was huge, I think about twohundred cards, not counting lands. That’s fifty playsets, way too much for anyone looking to build a sixty card-deck. I grouped them together in a few categories, making the first few cuts there and working my way to the first draft of a deck.
The core cards
This deck’s core consists, ofcourse of Glissa, the Traitor. I want to build this deck in such a way that it doesn’t rely entirely on Glissa, yet it can go bonkers with her. This is why I’d like to start with four Glissa, even though I’m gonna have ways to find her.
I envision Glissa working in tandem with a trio of cards, all of which are great with Glissa, but can work without Glissa too. First up is Tainted Æther, a long-forgotten Urza’s Saga-rare that forces a player to sacrifice a creature or land whenever a creature enters the battlefield under his or her control. Note that it doesn’t say ‘cast’, which means a card like Forbidden Orchard presents a tough dilemma for your opponent: you can sac the token, but then I get something back with Glissa. Sac a land and deny me an artifact, but deny yourself one mana in the process. As a player who tries to not annoy his opponents, this interaction seems perfect to me.
The other two cards of Glissa’s unholy trifecta are Jinxed Idol and Attrition. Attrition is a machine gun with Glissa, costing one mana plus the cost of whatever creature you’re recurring. Jinxed Idol forces your opponents to sacrifice creatures to prevent two damage and give you the Idol back. But if you have Glissa out, this means you get back Idol-fuel whenever your opponent attempts to hand it to you. Glissa and her three minion cards form the core of this deck.
A deck that runs a sacrificial engine needs bodies to throw into the fire. Since I lack resources to find goats and cultists, I have to make do with cards.
Remember what I said about Attrition, costing one black plus the mana cost of the artifact you’re recurring? Well, with Memnite, that cost remains just one measly black mana. While he doesn’t do anything special, the other cards here do. Myr Retriever serves as a Treasure Hunter when he dies, Perilous Myr deals out a Shock upon death, and Myr Sire makes a token as if he never left in the first place. While they are ideal with a sacrifice outlet, they are also good roadblocks against aggressive decks, especially the Perilous Myr and Myr Sire.
Draw and search
Initially I wanted to run Beseech the Queen, since most of the cards I’d want where low-cost (you’ll see later that Tainted Æther is the only card that costs more than three mana). Then I realised that if I’d be willing to make the concession to only be able to fetch creatures, I could play the single most synergistic card for this deck: Fauna Shaman!
Sure, she can’t pick up an Idol, Attrition, or Æther. But that’s it! She can find Glissa when I don’t have her, and she can fetch creatures for full profit when Glissa is active, because Glissa just gets whatever you discarded right back! Plus, Fauna Shaman just all but spells out ‘toolbox’, and if anything can get me excited, a toolbox is. Basically, Trinket Mage is my favorite creature ever, since it combines my undying love for card advantage with my toolbox flirtations.
With the engine set in place, I figured I wouldn’t need much more draw and tutoring. If I have the place in the deck, I’ll try to squeeze in a couple of Primal Commands, since they supplement the Fauna Shamans just fine. Other than that, I think the recursion in the deck doesn’t need more drawing and such.
The department of removing creatures and other nuisances
Especially in a metagame like mine, I value creature removal highly. I want my deck to be playable against multiple opponents as well, so then creature removal becomes even more valuable. As discussed above, I already have Attrition and Perilous Myr working in this department. This means I won’t need much more. Obviously, Executioner’s Capsule gets a firm nod. E-Cap is Attrition all by itself, but that means I can’t sacrifice my own creatures. Since I want to, I won’t let go of Attrition, nor E-Cap. Both have their uses. I have Gatekeeper of Malakir on my list too, but he’ll be a silver bullet at best, to remove pesky black creatures with toughness above two.
For noncreature removal, I want the tutorable singleton Sylvok Replica. While he’s not that good as Viridian Zealot in the abstract, I like having defensive cards that help me reach the endgame. I don’t have to mention what his being an artifact does in this deck, either.
When all else fails, I want a few Ratchet Bombs acting as safety buttons. While slow, they can bring down ‘walkers. Plus, they are naturally good against small hordes and brutal against token strategies.
The secret plan
The last part of the deck will be my so-called secret plan, originating from the question ‘what do I do with all the cards I get back during another player’s turn?’. Well, play ’em! And with Shimmer Myr, I can. From there, Painsmith was just a stone’s throw away. Painsmith in play and three mana open means no opponent can attack without fear of getting blown out by any deathtouching body. The question is, how many slots can I devote to this ‘combo’, and is it even necessary?
Let’s build, shall we
If you’ve been counting along, starting with four of everything except the singletons, we have:
8 zero to one mana-spells
28 two mana-spells (counting Gatekeeper as a three-drop)
14 three mana-spells
4 four-mana spells
54 spells total
That’s a lot, I’d say, but to be honest, I expected more. Great!
At zero and one, I’m willing to cut one E-Cap (53). At two mana, I will cut the Myr Retrievers down to one (50), since what he does is mostly Glissa’s job. I should mention here that I’m looking at running twenty-three lands. Usually I start at 24 and move up or down, based on the mana-needs of the deck. For this deck, I went down to 23. This means that I need to cut 17 more spells.
I definitely want the four Myr Sires, since the replacement of his body when he dies is invaluable in a deck filled with sacrifice effects. Myr Sire and two black mana take down two creatures with Attrition, for example. I don’t want to touch the four Shamans, but I’ll remove one Painsmith (49) and two Perilous Myrs (47) for now. Also, one each of Ratchet Bomb and Jinxed Idol can leave, leaving me at (45). Good, eight to go.
Three mana: not a lot to trim here. I want to keep Gatekeeper and Sylvok Replica als Fauna Shaman-targets and Glissa as a four-of. Attrition and Shimmer Myr are a bit less set in stone. Let’s try reducing Shimmer Myr to a one-of (42); his threat is worth more than those extra slots. Plus, with Glissa, an opponent is never safe from him. I think Attrition can lose one slot too (41), since Jinxed Idol and Tainted Æther will do the heavy lifting in keeping the board clear. On that subject, Tainted Æther will definitely be a four-of. Let’s reexamine the curve:
7 zero to one mana-spells
20 two mana-spells (counting Gatekeeper as a three-drop)
10 three mana-spells
4 four-mana spells
41 spells total
Four slots left. Looking back, I guess the whole Painsmith-idea is too cute, so I’ll relegate that to just one copy (39); Fauna Shaman gives me that luxury. Now I’ll just eject one Memnite from the deck and one Ratchet Bomb, and I’m all set. Throw in some lands I had lying around, and there’s the final list – for now:
Sisters of Life and Death v1.0
Beware – this list is not tested at all. It’s just theoretical and I bet a good deal of what you see here is up for debate and could very well exit in later versions of the deck. I’m looking forward to playing the deck this weekend to try if it even works at all. You’ll get the update next week, as well as how my Galvanoth-list faired in it’s new incarnation. I made a few minor changes as well there, with more change looming. I’m just not comfortable changing things around again without even testing the former configuration. Thanks for reading and see you all next week!
About the author
Stijn is a Magic-player from Holland, starting around with Portal and getting a bit more serious around Prophecy. He is a casual player at heart and likes control and carddraw more than anything else. Except for a prerelease of each new set, Stijn avoids tournaments and likes to hang out with friends, slinging cardboard at the proverbial kitchen tables for quite some time now. Stijn has a masters degree in Communications and can be found on his twitter handle @stidjen or at his own website, stidjensmagic.wordpress.com.
Posted on April 8, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged attrition, beseech the queen, black, control, death, executioner’s capsule, fauna shaman, forbidden orchard, gatekeeper of malakir, glissa, glissa the traitor, green, jinxed idol, life, memnite, midrange, myr retriever, myr sire, perilous myr, ratchet bomb, recursion, sisters, sylvok replica, tainted aether, tempo. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.