Thran Utopia #14: Fish and crabs

The very fact that I am typing this text and that you are reading it marks a special moment. For months I have been putting of building the deck I’m about to show you. I wanted to build this deck before Glissa’s Deathspark, Galvanotherapy, Mono Black Control Proliferate, Jace of Fire, Aeonpheaval, Porcelain Portal, Phycho, and TezzeREDRUM. It all boils down to me being afraid to build the deck, afraid to fail like the last time I built this deck. The only difference is that I have a few new tools at my disposal and some valuable feedback from others. Read on if you want to know just how worthy goldfishing is.

Unlike last week, where I detailed previous articles about the deck, I will now just leave you with the links and a brief, brief summary. You can read ’em if you want; they’re a fun read and tell my thought  process pretty well. They are:

| Part 1 – The crab that could(n’t)  |  Part 2 – No run-of-the-mill Crab  |

Deck funeral

About two years ago, I caught the fever again. I have a weak for comboish decks that take a little time to build up. When I saw this deck, I was sold.

Mind Funeral deck (by MTGSalvation-user patredwood)
Creatures (11)
2 Eternal Witness
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Veteran Explorer

Other spells (x)
3 Cabal Therapy
1 Demonic Tutor
2 Diabolic Intent
4 Evacuation
4 Mind Funeral
1 Mirari
2 Moment’s Peace
4 New Frontiers
4 Prosperity

Lands (24)
12 Forest
5 Island
7 Swamp

While the details weren’t all to my liking, I sure was sold. Mind Funeral was another one of those Johnny cards that I would love to break and now I’d found a way. I soon built my own version, which got a makeover because Zendikar was released.

My version was more landfall-oriented, playing Hedron Crab and Bloodghast (the latter in concert with Altar of Dementia) to dump opposing libraries in their corresponding graveyards. All was well on paper, until I let the beast roam freely in the real world, where it failed – miserably. I was tempted by the beauty of Life from the Loam, which diluted the deck way too much. (Life from the Loam could work in a deck that abuses the Lotus Cobra – Bloodghast – Perilous Forays combo though.)

The biggest strike against the deck was a lack of decent tutoring and/or carddraw. The cards I used for that, Prosperity and Rites of Flourishing, where more enablers for my opponents than helpful to be. And besides, I shouldn’t have to use Prosperity to fuel my hand, but to win! Life from the Loam, while a steady source of card advantage, required me to devote too many resources to it, and that deluded the combo a lot.

I toiled and I toiled, testing various configurations now lost to the teeth of time (or rather, my subconscious efforts to forget the entire debacle). My previous weird little combo concoction was pretty good. This one wasn’t – it had failed. Perhaps because of this disappointment it took nearly two years to restart the whole thing.

More streamlined, still confusing

Honestly I have no idea what triggered a new interest in the deck I had buried deep, locked up and threw away the key for. According to what I wrote a few months ago, it was a topic on the MTGSalvation Casual forums that opened up the floodgates. The itch came back and I had to scratch.

This time, I was out on another approach. I was intrigued by what white had to offer me: Ranger of Eos, Wargate, and Path to Exile. I was still on the Mind Funeral-plan, even though I had moved to Bant. This was because Lotus Cobra could help me with my mana. My general idea was something like this:

1. Cast Ranger of Eos and look for Crabs and Dryad Arbors;
2. Find a way to let those Arbors jump on and off the battlefield;
3. Recur with Proclamation of Rebirth for the (grinding) win.

This plan created space for Spore Frog-recursion, a good way to stall the game for a decent period of time. Another way to win was the following (the first one was an additional way to win, really), the original one, so to speak (but with added power):

1. Get a Lotus Cobra and Hedron Crab on the battlefield and ramp up mana (possibly with Veteran Explorer);
2. Cast New Frontiers for a lot (or give them a hand full of lands with Head Games/Jester’s Mask);
3a. Win with Mind Funeral (or with Hedron Crab), or
3b. If the opponent doesn’t search lands, punish them by using your mana advantage to Oona them out.

Both routes to victory work pretty well together; the ‘collateral damage’ of going for the long haul (the Proclamation-plan) is setting up for your other, more comboish route to victory. In other words, it’s not like you have two unrelated combo’s in your deck (say, Painter’s Servant/Grindstone and Exarch Twin), and that going for one route disables the other. It’s more like you have to make a commitment either way about halfway through your buildup. This could potentially be very confusing for the opponent.

Cutbacks

A clear-cut idea and yet I still had way too many options to cement these ‘combos’, and ways to support them or elaborate. A few examples of my unending searching was that at one point, I was seriously considering Amulet of Vigor to strengthen my New Frontiers. I even considered adding one Trinket Mage to find it, and that Mage could in turn be found with Wargate.

Wargate was for a long time the second tutor-of-choice, after monsieur Ruel. At four mana, Wargate could still find a one-drop and immediately put it onto the battlefield. When the cuts came, however, Wargate did not survive. Two separate ways to victory can come in handy, but it does put a strain on the deck. This was perhaps why I put off building the deck for so long, since I was afraid I wouldn’t get it right the first go-round. This happened to me before with the deck, so I kept pushing the task at hand away.

Until now.

Last weekend, I had a bit of free time and saw that ever-looming stack of cards sitting on my Magic table. Stijn, I said to myself, it’s about time to get to it. And get to it I did.

I started by writing cards down sorted by category. Then I proceeded according to my own deckbuilding process: cutting a few cards, then cutting some more while keeping an eye on what I want to do. It’s easy to get distracted during deckbuilding, after all. I got stuck on a few cards, but after Robert came by, I finally had my sixty.

When I sleeved the deck up and started goldfishing, I immediately saw thing I would never have seen during deckbuilding. I was overwhelmed by it, really, and by the possibilities other cards could give me. Today, I wanted to show the journey that goldfishing took me on, and where I ended up.

List #1: Funeral for a Crab

My first list was, like I said, focused on both explosiveness and stability. Here it is, chopped up in pieces so I can explain each section briefly:

Creatures (19)
4 Hedron Crab
4 Lotus Cobra
2 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Ranger of Eos
1 Spore Frog
4 Veteran Explorer

The creature-base starts at the one mana Ranger of Eos-toolbox, which consists of 4 Crabs, 1 Frog, 4 Explorers, and even 2 Dryad Arbors I listed at the lands further down the line. So ofcourse there are 4 Rangers as well. This leaves 4 Lotus Cobra’s, who don’t need further explanation, and 2 Oona’s, the big gun I want to start shooting with if people don’t coöperate with New Frontiers or Veteran Explorer: I’ll just have my lands and kill you, kthxbai.

Other spells (17)
2 Mind Funeral
3 New Frontiers
4 Path to Exile
4 Proclamation of Rebirth
2 Prosperity
2 Temporal Spring

Besides the combo of Mind Funeral and New Frontiers, the spellbase is pretty much in support to those two cards. Path to Exile is removal that also supports Mind Funeral and could catch an opponent off-guard if he starts suspecting Archive Trap. Proclamation retrieves lost Crabs, Frogs, Explorers and Dryads. Prosperity is in here just like Oona, as an alternate wincon if the opponent packs Eldrazi and other such nuisances. Temporal Spring supports Path in the removal department, and is a Vindicate most of the time.

Lands (24)
2 Dryad Arbor
4 Forest
5 Island
2 Krosan Verge
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden

At first, the manabase was giving me headaches. I wanted to play a lot of fetchlands, but also a whole bunch of basics. Robert, luckily, helped me see that 4 Rainforests and 2 Verges was enough. Both of those can fetch Dryad Arbor, which can create surprised during combat. I added 1 Oboro for lucksacking, and 1 Overgrown Tomb to be able to find black mana with my various fetchlands. And with the help of Temple Garden, every one of my fetchlands is able to find any of all the four colors of the deck.

I started goldfishing with my notepad handy. The first thing I noticed was that maybe a sacrifice outlet would be good with Veteran Explorer, so I can control their death. Cobra-wise, I don’t have much use for Explorers if they die blocking (I have, bar Path, no instants in here). I scribbled down Drowned Rusalka and Viscera.

My next note was about the X’s, maybe they could come out. At least Prosperity could. This could potentially open up the deck to Wargate, which was something I was interested in. The next game, I saw the power of New Frontiers. I felt the deck was at a crossroads; Proclamation-fueled, or New Frontiers-fueled. I thought they could both be in here, but I guess they can’t. That’s the beauty of goldfishing, especially with a combo deck. I decided to test my hypothesis, and I changed the deck to the following.

List #2: Wargate Crab

This deck went the Wargate-route, which was an approach more geared towards Proclamation of Rebirth. I removed 1 Oona, 2 Prosperity, 2 Mind Funeral and 3 New Frontiers for 1 Temporal Spring, 4 Wargate, 1 Eternal Witness, 1 Ambassador Laquatus and 1 Drowned Rusalka. I also swapped one Island for a Forest. (Note about the mana base: I made an automated document that would determine the number of basic lands I needed to play in a deck, based on The Process. I urge you to do the same – it’s very insightful.)

Wargate Crab
Lands (24)
2 Dryad Arbor
5 Forest
4 Island
2 Krosan Verge
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden

Creatures (21)

1 Ambassador Laquatus
1 Drowned Rusalka
1 Eternal Witness
4 Hedron Crab
4 Lotus Cobra
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
4 Ranger of Eos
1 Spore Frog
4 Veteran Explorer

Other spells (15)
4 Path to Exile
4 Proclamation of Rebirth
3 Temporal Spring
4 Wargate

The first thing I noticed was that Wargate was indeed extremely powerful, but the manacost was difficult at times. I could at more fixing lands, but that would go at the expense of basic land.

I had a brief flash where I thought I needed Jester’s Mask, but then I thought about Oona. Jester’s Mask could make a reappearance in a more combo-oriented approach.

Drowned Rusalka’s activation cost was hard at times, so I knew I wanted one Viscera Seer in here too. This would give me the option when tutoring, since Rusalka draws. I saw that Laquatus was like an Oona-lite, so I made that switch.

Next thing I noted was that I could do with a few more one-drops, like Benevolent Bodyguard perhaps. I liked this deck, but it was a bit too relient on tutoring at times. It’s just a bunch of one-drops, and those can have trouble winning sometimes. i decided it was time to see what the New Frontiers-deck would look like.

List #3: Wargate Frontier Funeral for a Crab

This deck was more focused on the combo, and I changed the cards in the deck accordingly. I went with the following list (mentioning changes is pretty useless at this point, since this deck doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the previous one save the sleeves they’re in).

Wargate Frontier Funeral for a Crab
Lands (24)
2 Dryad Arbor
4 Forest
4 Island
2 Krosan Verge
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Overgrown Tomb
4 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden

Creatures (21)

1 Eternal Witness
4 Hedron Crab
4 Lotus Cobra
2 Oona, Queen of the Fae
3 Ranger of Eos
1 Spore Frog

Other spells (15)
1 Jester’s Mask
2 Mind Funeral
4 New Frontiers
4 Path to Exile
3 Proclamation of Rebirth
3 Temporal Spring
4 Wargate

I still kept a few Proclamations in here, because I still want the option to save my Crabs (again and again). This feeling gave me doubts about the deck: this was the combo version, but it still needed the backbone of Proclamation. Or would it? I started goldfishing.

My first idea was of Rites of Flourishing, but after thinking about it a little more, I dismissed it. I either need Exploration or Oracle of Mul Daya, since the milling of Rites if Flourishing weighs not as much as the downside: your opponent accelerates too, and he starts before you.

No, I liked this deck. Should maybe the Proclamation engine come out? What if Shirei took over the Proclamation-function as a silver Wargate bullet? Nah, it’s okay this way. Realm Razer, now that would be a sneaky one. But no, let’s not do that.

I felt that this deck was better than #2, but would have more problems with aggro due to the lack of Veteran Explorer. I set out to create the ultimate deck: a solid semi-combo with enough defensive lines to do what it was supposed to do. What if I took out New Frontiers and his crew, just to focus on my landfall and my acceleration? The Frontiers-package consists of seven slots, so…

List #4: Loco Crab

This is the deck that I feel is the best of the bunch. It has a strong combo feel at times, but interacts enough with the opponent to be able to win even through resistance.

Loco Crab
Lands (24)
2 Dryad Arbor
4 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
2 Krosan Verge
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
3 Plains
1 Temple Garden

Creatures (18)

1 Eternal Witness
4 Hedron Crab
4 Lotus Cobra
2 Oona, Queen of the Fae
3 Oracle of Mul Daya
3 Ranger of Eos
1 Spore Frog

Other spells (18)
4 Brainstorm
4 Path to Exile
2 Proclamation of Rebirth
4 Temporal Spring
4 Wargate

This is like the third deck, but without New Frontiers & Friends. I started with adding 4 Preordain and 3 Rites of Flourishing, but they both left. Preordain, because Brainstorm is so much better here. I guess reading about Preordain so much had made it skip past Brainstorm in my mind. You get to shuffle a lot that Brainstorm is often a draw-three for one mana.

Oracle is a way to play more lands each turn, but without your opponent jumping in on the fun. It is also a creature, which means it can interact during combat and perhaps draw out a removal spell.

This deck is pretty tight, and testing proved so too. The only thing I changed was to switch one Proclamation for one Temporal Spring. It’s not a Proclamation-deck anymore, but I still need a few.

With just Oona as the only card to have skulls in the top-right corner, the mana base was able to stabilize a little. I got a little uneasy about Oona’s two slots, but I decided to keep it that way. She’s a huge removal magnet, after all. A backup copy ain’t bad.

I hope you liked this four-decklist article. It was an article I had to write a long time ago, and I’m glad I finally did it. I’ll start playing with Loco Crab (Loco being an acronym for LOtus CObra, obviously) first, and if that doesn’t work, I can always resort to my other three ideas (although I feel this article was an evolution rather than four different vantage points, but I’d like to be proven wrong). Voice your opinion in the comments, and see you next week!

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Posted on July 1, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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