Thran Utopia #3: Tainted and touched by death

Welcome back to Thran Utopia, your weekly fix of casual decks and techs. Today’s decks are two decks you have already seen: Galvanotherapy and Sisters Of Life And Death. You see, after I finished my article last week, and even before I played against Rick the next day, the deck had already changed in a few slots. And after our games, it became even more clear that changes had to be made, much to my dismay.

The cold shower of a failing deck

I thought I had coughed up a pretty decent list, feeling confident that I could hit homeruns after my previous success with my Tezzeret-deck, TezzeREDRUM. Barring a few changes, the first version of the deck was pretty much where I wanted it to be.

The first thing I changed to the Sisters-deck (the name comes from the females Glissa and Fauna Shaman, who both deal with life and death – Glissa reanimates and has deathtouch, Fauna Shaman discards and finds new blood) was kick out Tainted Æther and his good friend mr. Forbidden Orchard. I figured that they didn’t interact very good with Jinxed Idol: “Sure, I’ll just sac one of those tokens you gave me. Here, take two!”

Rick, my opponent for the day, did some good observing from the other side of the table. I’m usually too caught up in trying to like the deck and trying to make it work in my head. What this means is that I’m very invested in the deck, emotionally, that it can be hard to admit failure. I try not to think this way, but it happens. When playing the deck, I lose a lot of the critical view I had when I was reviewing cards for it.

Rick (the one who came up with the Lightning Bolt Dilemma my Galvanoth-deck was facing) said that once I’d given him the Idol, he would avoid giving it back to me for as long as possible, since he’d just get it back most of the time. And ofcourse, Glissa would ensure I’d gotten a little bit more out of the deal as well. And just like Galvanoth loses power when there is no other pressure on board, so does Jinxed Idol.

To be fair, Rick did have a bit of synergy with Jinxed Idol: he had an active Nighthawk, to which I was pretty much cold, and Hellspark Elementals to sac twice (still, I didn’t take Idol-damage in three games). Regardless, he was right: there was too little going on to be scared of, and the deck was more busy with its own activities to care about interacting with the opponent. Back to the drawing board.

The bad and ugly

First, Is should give you the updated list I started battling with. My previous version was updated without actual games; I noticed enough failures to warrant updating the deck.

Sisters of Life and Death v1.1

Lands (23)
4 Forest
4 Golgari Rot Farm
2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Pendelhaven
6 Swamp
4 Twilight Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Creatures (26)
4 Fauna Shaman
4 Glissa, the Traitor
3 Memnite
1 Myr Retriever
3 Myr Sire
2 Painsmith
4 Perilous Myr
3 Shimmer Myr
1 Sylvok Replica

Other spells (12)
3 Attrition
3 Executioner’s Capsule
4 Jinxed Idol
2 Ratchet Bomb

Now, let’s go over the problems of the deck before I try to fix ’em.

A) Mana problems
While it was easy most of the time to cast Glissa, even with her difficult mana cost, it was a lack of lands that hindered me through all three games I played Saturday. The problem was, I stopped playing the deck before I had a decent enough grasp of how much I had mana problems as opposed to mana screw. There was one thing more precious than fixing the deck – my sanity. I started getting edgy and decided to let the deck rest. I still feel twenty-three lands is enough, moreso with four Karoos, but I think some more ways to get mana and lands could work.

B) Little action to support Jinxed Idol
This one was already touched upon above. If the two damage from Jinxed Idol doesn’t matter, you’re not getting it back. I counted on Jinxed Idol being a sacrifice engine when it wasn’t.

C) Too few sacrifice outlets
To continue wiht sacrifice outlets; I need more, I need others, I need reliability. With just three Attritions, the amount of sacrifice was extremely low for a deck looking to abuse Glissa (don’t take this sentence the wrong way). Moreso, playing against a black deck, Attrition becomes next to useless.

D) Having a hard time against black
This one continues where point C left. Against a black deck, I’m in serious trouble since neither E-Cap nor Attrition touch their critters. The only way to kill those was to be lucky with Perilous Myr or Glissa.

The Good

How can you get lucky with a Perilous Myr, you may ask. Surely you need a lot of chump blockers to take down an Ob-Nixilis after a fetchland-activation cost you six life and took him to 9/9 stats. That’s where Painsmith comes in.

It was only after I put everything together that I noticed I could give Perilous Myr deathtouch, meaning it could potentially block a dude and smite another with two deathtouching damage. Ofcourse, that meant Shimmer Myr – but still, even without Shimmer Myr, a deathtouching Perilous Myr can kill anything short of indestructible guys. Some senses where tingling; I guess it was my Johnny-senses going wild like Noel DeCordova’s theme bell.

So I want to explore this venue a bit more. A deathtouching Perilous Myr means Shimmer Myr becomes less relevant, while other ways to deal damage become more important. Let’s see what these conclusions mean for the four flaws I identified above.

It’s easy as ABC (D)

Is it really easy as ABC, Jackson Five? I beg to differ, but hey, a man can try.

A) Mana problems
The deck I played last Saturday had mana troubles. I feel one more land should fix this; I’d like to err on the side of too much this time to see how that goes. I’d rather draw too much lands and see what my deck can do then get frustrated with too few lands and no idea if my deck works.

I looked at the mana cards I wanted to give a shot last week, but it didn’t feel right. Birds of Paradise is good, but vulnerable and no artifact. Wayfarer’s Bauble is, but it takes three mana (my first and second turn) to do something. Pilgrim’s Eye doesn’t accelerate, something I’m looking for in a Tainted Æther world. Wait – Tainted Æther world? I guess I should’ve started with B then. You are hereby proven wrong already, Jackson Five.

B) Little action to support Jinxed Idol
Let’s start over again. The first deck had Jinxed Idol, Tainted Æther and Forbidden Orchard. The second version had only four Idols. Now, I want to go back to Tainted Æther but without the Orchards. Why? Because it forces your opponent to sacrifice cards in order to advance a board position of creatures. Plus, save one, all decks I play against have creatures. Besides, there are better answers for giving creatures to your opponent. Hunted Troll, anyone?

With me denying them creatures using deathtouch damage, they want to overwhelm me with dudes in order to get through. Unfortunately, this means losing lands. It’s like chasing after a cat, steering it right into your trap. If done correctly, there is no way out for the feline protagonist.

I don’t need more Idol support – I need more ways to sacrifice things! It just so turns out Jinxed Idol isn’t a viable sacrifice outlet, but rather a way to create pressure, say, next to Tainted Æther.

Now let’s review A again, but with the knowledge of Tainted Æther.

A) Mana problems
Birds of Paradise? Out – sure, you get Æther a turn earlier, but you want the early turns to gain creature advantage, not reduce it by one turn. Besides, with Æther out, Birds is a land that costs mana and either a creature or land. Viridian Emissary is interesting, but not too much after Æther. Pilgrim’s Eye, as said above, just plain sucks now. Wayfarer’s Bauble‘s still an option, but I got something better now.

You see, yesterday it hit me. First, there was the feeling of ‘why the heck did I sell these a while ago?’. Later that day, I already secured a playset through internet trading. I’m talking about Solemn ‘Jens’ Simulacrum. it’s perfect; it’s an artifact, it Rampant Growths, and it draws a card, too! It costing four mana may hurt, but I think I finally found a place for Jens. I sold them after the umpteenth deck I couldn’t fit them in, but here, I have found a place for the stoic Swede.

C) Too few sacrifice outlets
Like I said, lack of Jinxed Idol-support wasn’t the problem, the problem was that Jinxed Idol had to do more than it could. That’s why I want to go back to Tainted Æther. I can sacrifice a dude whenever I cast one, using my creatures to mow down opposing ones.

I started looking for sacrifice outlets, preferably ones that dealt damage. I found a lot, but there where none as perfect as Mortarpod. While block-sac-and-ping is good, and Arc Trail is too (equipping Perilous Myr and tossing it), the real insanity starts with Painsmith. I might not even need Jinxed Idol anymore. Heck, for all I know Attrition just lost it’s spot(s) in the deck.

D) Having a hard time against black
If you’ve been reading along, you’ll notice how I said I could take down any creature short of indestructible ones. Well, black is no longer synonymous to indestructible for my deck, so this problem should solve itself.

Only one thing to do now – build a deck!

Don’t Jinx it

The first step in adjusting this particular deck is identifying the cards that did not do what they were supposed to do in the first version, or cards that wouldn’t really make sense in a post-Æther deck. For example, Myr Sire (-3, 3 total) makes little sense: you play it, sac a dude, get a dude, sac a dude. That’s a lot of dudes, but not very useful if you have no Disciple of the Vault-like ways to abuse that. For those who are curious, I’m not planning on running the one mana black menace.

Next on the chopping block is Shimmer Myr, at least two copies (-2, 5 total). I know it was one of the cards I really wanted in the deck last week, but things have changed a lot since then. Playing cards like Mortarpod and even Spawning Pit (yup, that’s another option I have on my list, that I didn’t mention before) reduce the need for instant speed artifacts, and thus justify running just one Shimmer Myr.

The next two cards may sound strange given their Glissa-synergy, but I’m really gonna try removing both Attrition (-3, 8 total) and Exectioner’s Capsule (-3, 11 total). While the first is more justifiable, the latter is not. But I believe I can take down any threat using deathtouch damage. Given that this will become a Tainted Æther-deck, a deck that reduces the number of creatures on the battlefield, I want to give one Gatekeeper of Malakir a try.

Last, ofcourse, Jinxed Idol (-4, 15 total). If I have room I might keep a few around, but I doubt that.

First, let’s start by adding four Tainted Æther (+4, 11 slots left) and upping the Painsmith-count to a similar level (+2, 9 slots left). Also, I want another land (+1, 8 slots left) and four Jenses (+4, 4 slots left). This means that by adding four Mortarpods, I’m already done (+4,0 slots left)!

Surprisingly, there’s more I want to add. One Hunted Troll and one Gatekeeper of Malakir are two silver bullets that have to be in this deck. I’m gonna take a gamble and put them in over the Ratchet Bombs, since those didn’t do much for me last week. With Ratchet Bomb out, so is the last of the artifacts that Myr Retriever can recur that a generic Gravedigger can’t. Ofcourse I won’t give Retriever’s slot to Gravedigger – no, Grave Scrabbler fits this deck more. Plus, he can get back a fallen Sister. If I find the room I’ll surely shoe in another, setting myself up for all sorts of shenanigans.

To sum things up, this leaves me with the following decklist.

Sisters of Life and Death v2.0

Lands (24)
4 Forest
4 Golgari Rot Farm
2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Pendelhaven
7 Swamp
4 Twilight Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Creatures (28)
4 Fauna Shaman
1 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Glissa, the Traitor
1 Grave Scrabbler
1 Hunted Troll
3 Memnite
4 Painsmith
4 Perilous Myr
1 Shimmer Myr
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Sylvok Replica

Other spells (8)
4 Mortarpod
4 Tainted Æther

Unfortunately, testing is gonna happen tomorrow, possible whilst you’re reading this. It could mean this deck doesn’t exist in this form anymore, but I’ll make sure to mention any changes next week. The way I see things, this deck will do a lot more than the previous deck, and that testing will only change numbers instead of whole portions. Let’s end today’s column with a third look at Galvanotherapy.

Lie down on the sofa and tell me what’s wrong

The last thing I briefly want to talk to you about today about the small changes I made to my Galvanoth-deck I dropped here before. To summarize, the first version had very little board presence and could need more creatures. That’s why I changed it from mono-red to red-green for Call of the Herd. Some mana acceleration found its way into the deck as well in the form of Into the North. Here’s what I have sleeved up and ready to go:

Galvanotherapy v3.0

Lands (24)
4 Halimar Depths
4 Highland Weald
4 Scrying Sheets
5 Snow-Covered Forest
2 Snow-Covered Island
5 Snow-Covered Mountain

Creatures (6)
2 Djinn of Wishes (+2)
4 Galvanoth

Other permanents (4)
2 Crystal Ball (+2)
2 Scroll Rack (-2)

Spells (18)
4 Call of the Herd
3 Hunting Triad (+3)
4 Into the North
4 Skred
3 Sulfurous Blast (+3)

Big bombs (8)
3 Beacon of Tomorrows (+1)
3 Crush of Wurms (+1)
2 Searing Wind

I had Mirari in here first, but that felt like a win-more. Have a big spell, then have some more! With Djinn of Wishes, I have another body that doubles as Galvanoths five and six, really. I’m still not really sure about him, because in goldfishing, I’ve had some troubles casting him. The weird thing is, I have all these ideas about what cards should be in the deck, but when push comes to shove and two slot potentially open up, I just don’t know what to add. Weird.

I dialed down the Scroll Racks because multiple copies are really redundant. I still don’t want to ditch them, because they can set up cards that got stuck in my hand. Crystal Ball hasn’t disappointed so far, scry being a huge plus.

In the fake creature department, we have another token generator in Hunting Triad. I’m anxious to see how this goes, as it has another function in protecting big ‘ol ‘Noth. I added them in place of Magma Jets, and I’m not entirely sure removing Jets was correct. On the other hand, I’m usually tempted to up my removal count when I get overrun by creature decks, when in fact the best option is to play more beef. We’ll see. It could even be that with the addition of Djinn of Wishes (i.e. more Galvanoths), Hunting Triads reinforcement is unneeded. If that’s the case, I’m gonna take a look at Assault/Battery and Bestial Menace.

Sulfurous Blast replaced Volcanic Fallout for having versatility. Sometimes you just need to deal three! This is why I’m considering Slagstorm while keeping in mind there is no way I’m clearing the board with Galvanoth surviving. The best way to test this if Slagstorm is better here is to take a mental note every time you draw a certain card (or flip it, in Galvanoth’s case) whether or not you would like it to be another card.

On the bomb-front, not much has changed. I wanted to be able to cast every spell in the deck, so Cruel Ultimatum left and Beacon and Crush got another copy.

I think this is a good time to end today’s column. As you know, these decks have been played with as much as an icehockey puck during summer. Earlier this evening I got the unfortunate message that tomorrow’s session is probably canceled. Which is a bummer, since I’d been looking forward to it. However, wednesday will hold a Magic evening one way or another, so next week I should be able to tell you how the Sisters and Galvanotherapy did.

Take care and see you next week!

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Posted on April 16, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. It’s really interesting to see your thought processes here. I like the idea of these “Johnny” decks built around a single card, and this really helps me consider building them. But I have a question. The way you describe building these (not that this style is wrong, the writer on DailyMTG uses it too), it’s as if you have 4 of every non-superexpensive card in the game. How do you aquire all those kind of esoteric cards? Do you buy them, do you usually already have them, do you trade for them…? I’d like to try my hand at building this sort of deck, but it’s kind of tough with a small collection, only a few people to trade with, and no monetary resources to speak of.
    Also, I’m glad you followed my suggestion on the Galvanotherapy deck. Cruel Ultimatum is a dead draw without a Galvanoth (or Djinn of Wishes).

    • Thanks for chiming in again.

      Well, I have a lot of cards. Most of the cards I need are pretty cheap, so I buy them online. There are a lot of good sites in the Netherlands where I can buy what I need. I sometimes hop on eBay or Magiccardmarket.eu but not often.

      So when I build a deck, I usually order a bit more than I need, to ensure that I have a lot of options. This means there are more cards that fall by the wayside and are possibly there for me to use again. For this deck, I ordered the Glissa’s (preorder on eBay, dirt cheap), Hunted Trolls (very cheap too) and Mortarpod (uncommon, so costs next to nothing). The rest I either had or I traded for (like the Solemns, which I received yesterday). There is a Dutch website where I do most of my trading, occasionally I visit a store, too.

      With a small collection and budget, you have to get creative a bit. For this deck, for example, Glissa is the only expensive card you need. Fauna Shaman isn’t really necessary, and Solemn can easily be replaced by Pilgrim’s Eye or Sylvan Ranger if you’re willing to ditch Tainted Aether. In fact, after some goldfishing, I think my deck is better of without Tainted Aether! I think I could cut 4 Aether and 1 Hunted Troll to make room for others. I feel white could be an option for Stoneforge Mystic, which is able to get Mortarpod and Basilisk Collar, another new consideration. Since I find Mystic too expensive, I might add Ancient Stirrings. Bur first, I have to test some more 🙂

      • Interesting. I’d like to point out is that lots of online stores have playsets of every common + uncommon from a set; if you don’t want a box (from 1 box you can get 2 or 3 copies pretty easily of any common or uncommon from a small set) then these are the way to go. For example, if you want Core set common/uncommon staples then Cardkingdom has them for 15.

      • Yes, you have those too. Those are pretty handy at times. Such a set from Scars could get you on your way to building a pauper or peasant Infect deck.

  1. Pingback: Thran Utopia #4: A deckbuilder’s diary | Red Site Wins

  2. Pingback: A deckbuilder’s diary | Stidjen's Magic

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