Thran Utopia #9: Of ducks and swans
Posted by Stijn Lamers
Hello there! Today I’d like to pay some attention to a few of my decks that underwent a few changes, decks that demand changes, and even some decks that turned out to be pretty awesome. That’s the beauty (or perhaps pitfall) of physical experience with a deck – you never know how your baby will blossom. Today is about a few ugly ducks, and a few decks that turned out to be beautiful swans, and everything in between. Five decks – let’s sort the duck from the swans!
Jace’s Acid Test
My Jace of Fire-deck had had some experience, but underwent some changes since the last time I played it. The 2.2-version still needed testing, and that’s what happened last Saturday with Rick. First, let me give you a brief overview of the decks Rick likes to play and what kind of player he is. I’d say Rick is more allround than me, having played decks all over the combo-control-beatdown spectrum. Right now the deck he has that’s closest to combo is his Doran/Wild Pair-list with Wild Pair chains of 4 (Ohran Viper, Qasali Pridemage, Tidehollow Sculler), 5 (Doran, Shriekmaw, Wall of Roots) and 12 (Akroma, Sun Titan, Briarhorn!).His other decks include a fast mono-red Battle Cry-deck, a RB/w aggressive midrange deck starting with Jund Hackblade and ending at Demigods. Then there’s his Teferi-deck, dreaded by some of my friends. Teferi bans a lot of interaction while allowing his Mystical Teachings to fetch creatures he normally can’t find, like Mulldrifter. (More on Teferi later. Cliffhanger!)
Anyway, before we started playing I knew his Battle Cry deck would pose a lot of problems, and it did. My list is pretty tight and as a result of those expensive cards, my deck is dead in the water to a very fast draw. Although I have to say, not as dead as I thought. Still, I felt I could probably ditch Myr Matrix. I betted too much on ways to win the game post-Obliterate, when in reality 4 Comet Storm, 1 Chandra and 3 Jace suffices. Yesterday I traded for 2 Hammers of Bogardan, so I’ll try those. They’re relatively cheap forms of removal and easily rebought with Braid-mana. Myr Matrix was another mana sink when I really didn’t need any. Plus, ten mana for a 2/2 Myr (which is the first one) is just too much. I hope lowering the curve and adding some additional removal helps my aggro matchup and helps me maintain a high enough life total so that I don’t die to Mountain-Bolt post-Obliterate as much (yup, that happened).
My deck was surprisingly good against Teferi and his counterspelling business. Sure, Obliterate is uncounterable, but you still need to build up board position to prevent getting blown out by the other guy. The key was to protect my charge lands, try to plop down an early Braid of Fire, and build up mana for Obliterate plus follow-up. Rick saw through my shenanigans and knew he had to float mana, but even then I managed to pull it off. Somehow I find control-on-control matchups very interesting (as long as it’s not one of those ‘whomever blinks, loses’-kind of ones). It’s a struggle to find the right way to win, and then finding a way to get to that point. As long as both decks are in the same power range, this journey is, to me, a great one.
Other spells (36)
4 Braid of Fire
1 Chandra Nalaar
4 Comet Storm
4 Contagion Clasp
2 Hammer of Bogardan
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Mana Leak
2 Shrine of Piercing Vision
4 Tezzeret’s Gambit
4 Volt Charge
Jace of Fire animal verdict: a swan – not particularly beautiful, and if you look at it from the wrong perspective, people could call her ugly. But she’s still a swan.
Yes, that is the name of the deck after I removed Fauna Shaman. And yes, I know I need something better. The name, by the way, refers to the fact that the deck evolved from a deck based on preying on creatures, expanded to be able to take down more controlling decks as well.
When I played this deck against Rick, it was confirmed for me that this deck does in fact really well. Like my TezzeREDRUM deck, this deck characterizes itself by being able to assume both the control- and beatdown-role in any match, based on the matchup.
For example, against an aggressive deck, I play defensively, try to take out two creatures with one card (Perilous Myr, Mortarpod), and gradually build up a hand and board position while my opponent starts heading for topdeck mode.
Executioner’s Capsule, my latest addition, works wonders. I need more copies, perhaps the full four, and I’m going to cut at least one Solemn Simulacrum from my deck. In the games against Rick I didn’t draw Solemn even a single time, and I did not regret that. He is the weakest link in the deck and can easily be cut.
There is one exemplary game I want to share with you, a game in which I started out defensively but gradually turned on the aggro and started going to town. This was against Rick’s Doran deck. He had a fast start with turn 1 Harbinger, turn 2 Harbinger and turn 3 Doran. (Those Harbingers are insane: they either find Doran, support in the form of more Harbingers, or mana in the form of Murmuring Bosk.)
I had a turn-three Glissa, who was safe from removal thanks to her being black and Shriekmaw being Rick’s only removal. She held back the fort for a while: Doran and friends couldn’t attack, because Glissa’d just block Doran and I’d suffer no damage from the other trees thanks to Glissa having first strike and deathtouch. A deathtouching Perilous Myr meant Glissa could start attacking while he took over the defensive duties. Rick had literally no way to kill Glissa, but he was starting to build up his side of the table with Wild Pair and a Sun Titan.
This was when I switched gears and started killing things. I had a Lifespark Spellbomb, so I slowly took apart his mana-base, preventing Rick from casting spells. At the end of the game, he was left with three Plains and a bunch of green cards stuck in his hand. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick made some adjustments to his deck, since being kold to Glissa is pretty bad if your opponent happened to build around said card.
As I was writing this, I decided to take the whole foursome of Solemns out of the deck. I replaced them with 2 E-Caps (going to 4), 1 Acidic Slime (going to 4) and 1 Memnite (going to 4). This leaves me with the following decklist:
Wow. Did you notice that the deck now consists of 9×4 nonland spells? Yeah. I’m pretty proud of this deck I’ve made.
Glissa Allround animal verdict: this is a pretty swan. A very pretty one. But don’t be looking at her the wrong way or she’ll peck your eyes out.
Mono White Silver Control
New Phyrexia shook this deck up quite a bit. Only Phyrexian Metamorph is in the deck from NPH, but that did change things considerably. I noticed how Leonin Abunas was the only colored spell in the deck, and with four of those and four Metamorphs, the deck can hardly be called Mono White Silver anymore. Again, looking for a good deckname here. I chose Porcelain Portal for now: like the Porcelain Legion, this deck looks white, shiny and polished on the outside, but contains a dangerous Phyrexian killing device inside.
Speaking of Phyrexian Metamorph, it is as good as you think it is, and then some. Really, try it out. I must say, I’m kinda building around copying and such, so it might be better here than somewhere else, but the flexibility is just… wow. If you copy a Leonin Abunas, all your artifacts will be safe from targeted removal until they manage to remove your Metamorph, which is an Abunas but also still an artifact! Your Phyrexian Abunas keeps protecting itself and your other artifacts until mass removal occurs, or you have to let in die in combat. Other than that, they can pack in their removal spells.
To make room for Phyrexian Metamorph, I removed 4 Sensei’s Divining Tops, 3 Voltaic Keys and 3 Tumble Magnets. I found Top to be very irrelevant without fetchlands. I rarely used my Keys, so they where out too. Lastly, Tumble Magnets didn’t impress me, and they where the first cards I had in mind to replace with Metamorphs. Ofcourse I added and removed lands as was desired.
Sadly, those Precursor Golem and their little brothers kept getting removed with Bolts and Flame Javelins. Turns out they where only good in combination with Leonin Abunas, and I was cautious to have anything depend on that guy. Rick said I should give Dispatch a try, and I did so after the games.
Phyrexian Metamorph held his weight very well. Like I said, copying Abunas ain’t half bad, but turns out, copying Bogardan Hellkite does the job too. Phyrexian Metamorph is an open-ended card, and that’s why the card will go a long way to keep impressing you. Every new creature WotC prints is another potential awesome story. I like those cards.
This is my deck as of yesterday, when I played it a bit more in mutiplayer with Robert and his friends. Note that the Bauble’s where removed for Sanctum Gargoyle, which I thought was a bit more synergistic.
Porcelain Portal v3.0
2 Academy Ruins
4 Ancient Den
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Leonin Abunas
4 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Sanctum Gargoyle
4 Shimmer Myr
3 Wurmcoil Engine
Porcelain Portal animal verdict: another gracious white swan. Gracious as in, beautiful on the outside but twisted, rotten and malicious on the inside. She’s pretty, but also Phyrexian.
Mono Black Proliferate Control
We can’t all have swans, as this deck tries to prove. When I first made it, it did okay and needed some work. Then I tried to do said work, and it turned out into nothing. Really nothing.
What I wanted to do with this deck (which I showed you during my deckbuilder’s diary a few weeks back) was spread the -1/-1-love around, using ways to benefit with my creatures. I’m talking cards like Dusk Urchins, Grim Poppet and Carnifex Demon. The sad truth was that it just didn’t work. The balance between infect and non-infect was off, meaning that oftentimes I’d be having two slower clocks instead of one faster one. I played a few games with the deck and already started to hate playing it.
Then New Phyrexia comes along and brings with it a few goodies. Glistening Oil was a card that immediately jumped out to me. It is a weird card that does a lot of different things, and it’s a delicate card that you have to put to good use. Grim Affliction was another one of those eye-catchers (as are all cards with the word ‘proliferate’ on them, really), as was Reaper of Sheoldred.
So anyway, I tried my hand at a few games with the deck right out of the box (find the decklist in the link above, as well as reasoning on the card choices). I got reminded in a painful and demeaning way that the deck was wrong on way too many levels. Like I said, the balance on regular and poison damage was off, but perhaps Glistening Oil could fix that?
Nope. Didn’t work. I tried to remove the Blowfly Infestation, because I didn’t want my already precious infect-guys to suffer. I also took out the Black Sun’s Zeniths for mostly the same reason. The deck was trying to be controlling with sweepers and -1/-1-counters, while in the meanwhile, it needed creatures to actually seal the game. I was getting more and more pissed of at the deck that I stopped playing after I came to this conclusion. It needed way more fixes than I could muster inbetween games. For reference, this is the current mess I’m in:
But then, inspiration struck. That really cool creature got into my head, that cool infect critter from Mirrodin Besieged: Priests of Norn. What if I added white? Ajani Goldmane is a perfect card in a midrange creature-based poison control deck, which is exactly the river I’m going down. Other great cards I found while searching where Calciderm, Parallax Wave, and Pursuit of Knowledge. The cogs are spinning again, and I hope this could work out. For the ducks.
Mono Black Proliferate Control animal verdict: this one is definitely an ugly duck. She’s like that girl you know on Facebook and think has a hot profile picture, but once you see her in real life you want to vomit. We hope this duck turns out like that one (THE one) scene in Alien: it dies, but gives birth to a frightening and terrible monstrosity inside.
And finally… a new deck
The last topic I want to bring up today is the building of a multiplayer deck. When I go to Eindhoven to play Magic with Robert and his friends, the format is multiplayer. They also play as if there’s a Howling Mine and an Exploration for everyone in play, which speeds up the games. This does mean that a regular 60-card deck is out of cards really fast, and that your one- and two-drops matter very little in a world filled with big bombs and flashy effects.
Robert urged me to do this a while ago, but now I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna build a multiplayer-deck! I don’t have a concrete list yet or anything, but I do have some ideas in my head that I’d like to share. These ideas are based on what I like and what I think matters in multiplayer (footnote: don’t you think the term multiplayer is wrong when you consider a 1-on-1 game has multiple players too?). I’ll always be someone who does like to have fun, but wants to win too. Slapping random powerful effects together could work at first, to get a grasp of what your deck is trying to do, but I’ll always need a solid, predetermined game-plan and foundation.
The first thing that came to mind was tutoring. Playing decks that are vastly larger than 60 cards doesn’t help consistency, so I knew I needed tutoring of some sort. This is where two of my favorite cards came to mind, Mystical Teachings and Gifts Ungiven.
Second thing that popped up was flexibility. When you have like four opponents, you want to have a little leverage when it comes to casting your spells. You don’t want to play a guy and pray nothing happens to you for four turns. This is why I also want a suite of Teferi, Leyline of Anticipation (yay!) and Vedalken Orrery. Teferi even makes Mystical Teachings that much more potent, as it can now find creatures too.
With that in mind, I came up with all sorts of queries to fire of. There are more people, ergo there are more threats. This means mass removal and card advantage are important. So I did a lot of searching here. Second, with more people, there are also more players likely to target your threats. I want to make sure most, if not all of my creatures do something either when they enter the battlefield or when they die (new M12 rules terminology FTW!). Being able to rebuy themselves is very good either. And ofcourse, a healthy dose of reanimation isn’t bad either.
I jotted down every single card I thought was interesting, leaving me with a huge list of options to explore, and finding a good way to do so first. This deserves it’s own article, so that’s what I’ll do. In the meantime, any advice and/or feedback is ofcourse more than welcome. Have a great weekend and see you next week!
Posted on May 27, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged acidic slime, ajani, ajani goldmane, black sun’s zenith, blowfly infestation, braid of fire, calciderm, carnifex demon, chandra, comet storm, conjurer’s bauble, control, dispatch, dusk urchins, executioner’s capsule, fauna shaman, gifts ungiven, glissa allround, glistening oil, grim affliction, grim poppet, hammer of bogardan, Jace, jace of fire, leonin abunas, lifespark spellbomb, memnite, midrange, Mono Black, mortarpod, Multiplayer, mystical teachings, obliterate, parallax wave, perilous myr, phyrexian metamorph, porcelain portal, precursor golem, priest of norn, proliferate, prototype portal, pursuit of knowledge, reaper of sheoldred, sanctum gargoyle, sensei’s divining top, solemn simulacrum, tezzeredrum, tumble magnet, voltaic key. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.