Thran Utopia #13: TezzeREDRUM, revisited

What most of you don’t know is that I started writing for Red Site Wins only after I did so for my own site, Stidjen’s Magic. I started writing before Mirrodin Besieged came out, so I was all over Tezzeret once he got spoiled. There was a bit of holding back, however, as I did not want to geek out over a card that could end up out of my price range. A four mana blue Planeswalker? Hold your horses, gentlemen! I did, however, end up with a playset shortly after the set was released and eventually ended up with one of my most favorite decks. Today, I am going to recap the entire journey up until the point where the deck resides today.

For reference, here are the articles about Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas that I already wrote. What I’m going to do here is summarize the last three for you and provide insights on decisions I made back then.

On Mirrodin Besieged: the first talk about the then-recently spoiled Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas;
Mirrodin Besieged: Mawre Cards!: in this second spoilers article, I discuss how Plaguemaw Beast could fit Tezzeret’s deck, and I flesh out the deck idea a bit further;
Tezzeret Dead Redemption: the first deck article;
TezzeREDRUM: the second deck article.
More Treasures Ahead: the third deck article, which is more of an implementation of actual game experience.

Tezzeret and Glissa

The first ideas I had of the deck was a deck in which Tezzeret and Glissa formed the core. Trinket Mage, as usual, would tie the whole bunch together. He could fetch Myr Servitors to throw onto the Throne of Geth, fetch E-Caps for Glissa to recur, and Everflowing Chalice for mana and general awesomeness. It was also this awesomeness that threw me off a bit.

Sometimes you get so caught up in a cool idea that you are dead set on using that idea. This is what happened with me and Glissa and Trinket Mage. I dedicated too much slots in my mind to both cards, which meant I was going to cram too much synergy into too few slots. Take a look at this list for the first draft of the deck:

I mean, just look at all the cards that are on here. Not only the numbered ones (the numbers meaning how many copies are in the deck), but also those that didn’t make the deck. Was I really ever gonna play a card like Battlegrowth? Or Dross Scorpion without an infinite combo? Jeez Louise! This is the deck that you see above.

G/bu Proliferate v1.0
Lands (24)
1 Academy Ruins
1 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Island
3 Llanowar Reborn
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Seat of the Synod
3 Tree of Tales
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Vault of Whispers
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Watery Grave

Creatures (17)
2 Glissa, the Traitor
1 Grim Poppet
1 Ichor Rats
1 Mycoloth
4 Myr Servitor
3 Necropede
1 Plaguemaw Beast
2 Spike Feeder
1 Trinket Mage
1 Wickerbough Elder

Other spells (19)
3 Contagion Engine
2 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Lux Cannon
4 Primal Command
2 Serrated Arrows
3 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Throne of Geth

This list had a lot of one-of’s courtesy of having a Primal Command-toolbox that happens to facilitate a Trinket Mage-toolbox. It was a deck that had a lot of ideas, but those ideas were better put in new decks. This was a bad combined Tezzeret/Glissa-deck that also had a Primal Command-package thrown in.

When I played the deck for the first time, there was the added downside of mana. Can you imagine casting turn 3 Glissa and turn 4 Tezzeret? Not with artifact lands you don’t! This exact problem came up in the first game I played, and I toughened up and removed Glissa. Luckily, I found another home for her eventually (the latest deck is in here). In went two additional Trinket Mages, because the need for Myr Servitors demanded them.

One mistake makes room for another

Next up on the chopping block was Primal Command, one of my favorite cards that kept his spot in the deck for way too long precisely because I like the card so much. This change came about because the fetch-targets where lackluster, and a lot of them were never searched for. Slowly but surely, I was tightening up and tying the loose ends together: I found the core of the deck and was able to cut away the needless stems around it. I was finding the way I wanted Tezzeret to work. He was the real deal and he was taking no prisoners to prove it to me; he was out to kill. Thus, the name TezzeREDRUM was born.

The green in the deck was down to just Spike Feeder and Llanowar Reborn, but boy they are worth their salt and then some. I remember a game where I was able to make a 7/7 Feeder, a 6/6 Trinket Mage and a 5/5 Myr Servitor to beat down with.

However, one mistake made way for another. While I was able to see the true Tezzeret deck and remove the distorting aspects of Glissa and Primal Command, I added another in the form of Treasure Mage.

TezzeREDRUM v2.1
Lands (24)
1 Academy Ruins
1 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
1 Island
4 Llanowar Reborn
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Overgrown Tomb
3 Seat of the Synod
1 Tree of Tales
3 Vault of Whispers
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Grove
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Watery Grave

Creatures (18)
1 Grim Poppet
4 Myr Servitor
4 Necropede
3 Spike Feeder
2 Treasure Mage
4 Trinket Mage
1 Triskelavus

Other spells (17)
2 Contagion Engine
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Executioner’s Capsule
2 Lux Cannon
2 Serrated Arrows
1 Spine of Ish Sah
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Throne of Geth

On paper, and in practice even, it all looked good. Trinket Mage handles the early game, finding Servitors and Capsules, while Treasure Mage is in charge of game-changing bombs. There was even the ultimate cutesies synergy: Trinket Mage fetches the lone Everflowing Chalice to proliferate counters onto for the Spine of Ish Sah that Treasure Mage can find. You throw Spine of Ish Sah into the Throne of Geth each turn and Vindicate their board into oblivion.

It looks good on paper and it even works well in real life! How could I ever change this? I even wrote this about the deck:

“TezzeREDRUM is a good contender for a spot among the decks I can’t see myself breaking down.”

Yet, it was bound to happen. I was too blinded by the coolness of the deck and overwhelmed with pride at my own creation that I couldn’t see the shortcomings. And yes, I had another case of the cutesies, where What it took was a beautiful weekend with friends in the Ardennes in Belgium.When a friend played with the deck I saw the things I couldn’t see when I was piloting it.

My deck in the hands of another

Sometimes you need to see things from another perspective to actually see it all clearly. With TezzeREDRUM, this happened in the Ardennes. Last year I made the mistake of not bringing my decks along, this year me and Rick where the only ones who actually did. This meant that any Magic that was gonna happen was gonna happen with our 7 decks – his 2 decks and my 5.

When you sit down across a deck, you see it differently than when you play it yourself. Instead of wanting it to win, you want it to lose. And when you know the contents of the deck, you know how you can make that happen. You start to look for weaknesses to exploit, for wounds to throw salt in.

I saw for myself what it is to lose a game to having a lot of expensive cards stuck in your hand, and being dependent on the top of your deck. The barriers I put up, barriers that said ‘don’t worry man, this deck is golden, don’t change a thing!’, came falling down. Your Myr Servitors get killed an awful lot, because those make the engine hum and without those, you have surprisingly little Throne-fodder. Well, you could start by sacrificing lands, but that doesn’t help with casting those Engines, Spines and Poppets. In short, those high-end casting cost cards where a big constraint on a deck that could function perfectly well without them. You basically needed extra mana for cards that you didn’t need.

After the initial rush of pride and accomplishment died down I could see clearly where things didn’t make sense. It had been a while since I played the deck. I think I somehow was subconsciously tired of the deck – my subconscious seems to have decided ahead of me there was something wrong with the deck, and that I shouldn’t play it because of that. (I think it was LSV who wrote on this exact subject, too.)

A breath of fresh air

So what cards are my main offenders, waiting to get the boot? Those are the cards that belong to the Treasure Mage-package: the 2 Mages, the 2 Engines, 1 Triskelavus, 1 Grim Poppet, the 1 Spine of Ish Sah, and the single Everflowing Chalice that Trinket Mage could fetch, but which doesn’t make any more sense with all those big guns out.

Those are the cards that are coming out. But what cards are they? I did a little observing and wrote down some numbers. It is clear to see that the curve is getting a lot lower, but what about the functions of the cards?

I have deduced three mayor categories that are important to TezzeREDRUM: cards with counters, cards that proliferate, and artifact cards. I’m losing 2 proliferators, 5 counter cards, and 6 artifacts. I don’t really know if I need more proliferation, as I wasn’t even using those 2 (Contagion Engine) all that much. In fact, proliferating with Contagion Engine was often win-more. I would like to keep the other two counts – counters and artifacts – around where they were before, so let’s see what my options are.

At first I have some recursive cards. Last weekend Rick noticed that my Myr Servitors tend to get stuck in the ‘yard a lot of the time, since people really want to get rid of them before I get to Value City. Recursion is a solution to this problem that comes from the fact that the deck is a bit lackluster in the midgame, and that sometimes the Treasure Mage package comes too late. Rick suggested Unearth (the card) to me, while I thought of Myr Retriever. Unearth’s plus is that he can grab literally any dude, while Retriever’s upsides are that he can recur non-creature artifacts and he can be Throned.

More draw could also help. The two best options here are Tezzeret’s Gambit (ring that theme bell!) and Ichor Wellspring. Both draw two, but Wellspring needs to be Throned for that. Gambit, however, can proliferate without the help of Throne of Geth.

I could also do with more Trinkets for Treasure Mages’ little brother. Right now he can only find Servitors and one E-Cap, besides artifact lands. Options include Æther Spellbomb, Bonesplitter, Flayer Husk, and Leonin Scimitar.

There are a few possible removal cards. There’s the option of adding extra Serrated Arrows, which is a nice option surely, since Contagion Engine and Grim Poppet are out. Then there’s Putrefy, a no-nonsense kill spell to deal with big guys. Or, and I like this one even more, there’s Tumble Magnet, which can deal with big guys one after the other, until I run out of counters (which should not happen here).

The last two cards I want to discuss are Chimeric Mass and Phantom Centaur, two great win conditions. The problem I have with Phantom Centaur is that he costs two green, a pretty steep drawback on a otherwise golden guy. I mean, except for white removal (mass and targeted), he is pretty much safe from harm. Strap on a Flayer Husk and you have yourself at the very least a 3/1 indestructible dude. I guess Chimeric Mass is the safer choice, since he can be fetched by Trinket Mage too. This would mean less slots needed, as any of the four Mages can fetch him. You can even donate a +1/+1-counter with Spike Feeder and make him grow twice as fast with proliferate!

Putting the new deck together

In the end, selecting only eight cards out of all those options was a gruesome deed. I went with the following:

+1 Spike Feeder

This was the best creature in the first deck, so there’s no excuse not to have four of him.

+ 2 Myr Retriever

Having four each of Spike Feeder and Trinket Mage negates Unearth a bit, which is why I went with Myr Retriever. The thought of chaining two together while Throning was too good to ignore.

+ 2 Tezzeret’s Gambit

So with this guy, I’m still at six proliferating cards, albeit only four repeatable ones. Still, drawing two is very good. I might even add a third copy in favor of, say, the fourth Trinket Mage, but I’ll have to test that first.

+ 2 Tumble Magnet

Again, too good to ignore. At first I wanted to up the number of Serrated Arrows, but then I remembered all those losses at the hands (claws, really) of hasty Demigods, and I quickly made way for Magnets.

+ 1 Chimeric Mass

Like I said, this could very well be the best thing to happen to this deck. It is safe from sorcery-speed removal, can be run out before counterspells come online, and proliferates doubly if one of the Spike Feeders can give it a counter.

Artifact count: -1 (29)
Cards with counters-count: -1 (30: 23 nonland cards, 7 lands)
Proliferators count: +0 (6)

Seems like I was able to keep the numbers around where I wanted them to be, which is good. Also the average mana cost goes down considerably, another beneficiary point. The final list:

TezzeREDRUM v3.0
Lands (24)
1 Academy Ruins
1 Breeding Pool
1 Flooded Grove
1 Forest
1 Island
4 Llanowar Reborn
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Seat of the Synod
1 Tree of Tales
3 Vault of Whispers
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Grove
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Watery Grave

Creatures (18)
2 Myr Retriever
4 Myr Servitor
4 Necropede
4 Spike Feeder
4 Trinket Mage

Other spells (17)
1 Chimeric Mass
1 Executioner’s Capsule
2 Lux Cannon
2 Serrated Arrows
4 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
2 Tezzeret’s Gambit
4 Throne of Geth
2 Tumble Magnet

Closing comments

The sad part of this new deck is that, again, I cannot give you an overview of how it played out. For that I need testing, and the earliest testing I’m gonna be doing is Saturday/tomorrow/today (depends on when you’re reading this).

I would like to comment on the deck from last week, too, because I did test that deck this weekend, and it sucked. Yes, it was everything I didn’t think it would be, and much worse. I need some time to rethink the whole thing, not just change some slots around. It is possible that the deck needs a whole new look. I’m gonna try to have it ready for testing tomorrow, but I fear it won’t be ready by then. Better to have fun with TezzeREDRUM first!

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Posted on June 24, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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