Thran Utopia #29: Lesson Tree – teh Jab

And while I can’t find the time and effort to start on the Nacatl Sundial-deck I’ve had lying around since M12 I’m continually working on new deck ideas. Last week I gave a few new ideas that entered my brain thanks to Innistrad. Last night, a new take on one of my concepts from last week came to me. I would really like to write about it, but first: Burning Vengeance – if I don’t do this now, I don’t know if I ever will. So lets set our revenge on fire!

While I was writing last week’s article I was already making serious progress on Lesson Tree – teh Jab.

Say what now?

In the summer, Rick introduced me to the rich archives of a Dutch self-defense teacher by the name of Jo Bonte. His (typically Dutch) videos are hilarious, even without him speaking English. When he does, it’s even more funny. Below you can see the little video that inspired today’s deck name (you’ll hear it after a few seconds).

So after you’ve had a good laugh – I know I had -, let’s get back to the deck.

I worked on this deck in the same manner I did with The Royal Wave – starting with a bunch of singletons and gradually tweaking the numbers based on goldfishing. Let’s briefly discuss all of them.


Burning Vengeance – Obviously the key card in the deck. This card started as a four-of in the deck; it seems pointless to start with such an important card at one copy. You want to see how cards work with Burning Vengeance, and how Burning Vengeance works with others. 4 copies is the best place to start.

Devil’s Play – This card served me well at the prerelease, each of the three (!) times I drew it. I gave it a chance here, too.

Firebolt, Flame Jab, Geistflame – Three one-mana burn spells with some sort of effect from the graveyard. They have varying functions, so I wanted to try them all.

Lightning Bolt – The best one-mana burn spell ever. Hard not to include – I even started with two, since I had a few free spots in the deck.

Creature kill

Darkblast – A spell that kills x/1’s and fills the graveyard. Sadly it doesn’t work with Burning Vengeance itself; it’s an enabler.

Ghastly Demise – This card benefits from a stocked graveyard, but Terminate costs just one red mana more.

Silent Departure – Not really kill, but a reusable Unsummon is pretty good.

Terminate – No-nonsense, straight up removal. This also starts with two copies.

Rolling Temblor – A boardsweeper for smaller creatures, with flashback. Looks very expensive.

Sever the Bloodline – First I thought this was a Cranial Extraction (fine, Memoricide then) for creature cards. Sadly, it’s just for creatures.

Hand and stack control

Mana Leak – A nice control card for a mana cost that doesn’t force your manabase like a double blue-spell does.

Raven’s Crime – A nightmare for control decks. I really like this card.

Draw and filter

River Kelpie – I wasn’t gonna miss an opportunity to play River Kelpie in a deck!

Preordain – This deck looks like a good opportunity to try out Preordain. I have never played with it in a deck before. I added one additional copy to mitigate the singletons a bit.

Desperate Ravings – One of the powerful draw-spells in Innistrad. Two copies please.

Quiet Speculation – Should I end up with lots of (cheap) flashback spells, this card will increase in numbers.

Think Twice – Perhaps the best flashback-spell for this deck. Gimme two.

Forbidden Alchemy – Or this one is. Again, two copies please!

Oona’s Grace – Another try-out card. Could be like a repeatable Think Twice.

Mystical Teachings – Yet another personal pet card. Can’t not try this one out.


Narcomoeba – I thought this notorious dredge enabler could work here too, with the precognition that it could be too cute.

Armored Skaab – This one has much more function than ‘Moeba: it blocks, has four toughness and draws a couple of cards.

Runic Repetition – Needed or unneccessary? We’ll see. It’s a case of ‘let’s try to play this never-done-before new card!’.

The games

The first few games are the most shaping ones, similar to when you’re playing a theme deck (or whatever those are called these days) and customizing it. Like theme decks, you have a deck in the sense that you have assembled 60 cards. Other than that, it’s not what you would define as a deck per se; it has lots of different ideas and options for you to explore. The first games you play make you familiar with those ideas and are a means to measure which one you enjoy the most.

As a rule, I didn’t take out cards without seeing them in my hand (or in the case of this deck, graveyard) at least once. If I would do that, I’d be making decisions based on hunches and notions instead of experience.

The first cuts I made where these:

-1 Darkblast (0)
-1 Quiet Speculation (0)
-1 Runic Repetition (0)
+2 Forbidden Alchemy (4)
+1 Desperate Ravings (3)

Darkblast and Quiet Speculation where just what I suspected: not in the right kind of deck. Runic Repetition is that too, to a lesser decree, but we’ll get to that later. I added two Alchemies and one Ravings. These cards not only help me draw cards, they help me accelerate the deckbuilding process! If I see more cards, I can judge them all easier.

Up next, I cut a holy cow.

-1 Mystical Teachings (0)
-1 Oona’s Grace (0)

-1 Narcomoeba (0)

+1 River Kelpie (2)
+1 Think Twice (3)
+1 Raven’s Crime (2)

Yes, no more Mystical Teachings. That was because the deck as I was playing with it game me a clear hint towards retrace. No, not Oona’s Grace. I know I’m taking that one out. No, I’m talking the one-mana-one’s: Raven’s Crime and Flame Jab. They are good on their own (especially Crime), but legitimately insane with Burning Vengeance. Every land is either a Lightning Bolt or a Megrim-infused Ravenous Rats! Now that’s good. I added old partner-in-crime River Kelpie, one more draw spell, and the first of many retrace additions.

-2 Armored Skaab (0)

-1 Ghastly Demise (0)
+1 Mana Leak (2)

+1 Desperate Ravings (4)
+1 Silent Departure (2)

Here, I’m bringing down my creature count a bit. Without reanimation, discarding or milling Skaab is absolutely useless. The same goes for a card like Ghastly Demise. Yes, I could add Snapcaster Mage, just like EVERY-FRIGGIN’-ONE. Don’t get me wrong – I like the card a lot. But I’d rather acquire it after it’s bubble has inevitably burst.

And again, I added more draw (Ravings) and also more control (Mana Leak). Leak is just so powerful. Also, imagine how good I can bluff Mana Leak by not retracing a Raven’s Crime!

Then there was another piece of good old control theory that I managed to apply.

-2 River Kelpie (0)
+2 Raven’s Crime (4)

Do you know what this is? It’s called virtual card advantage. By playing no creatures, every Terminate-effect they draw is a dead card, which is almost like having them discard a card. Kelpie, while it has persist, also has a huge target on his forehead. And waiting for seven mana to back him up with a Leak seems very hard in a retrace-deck.

-1 Sever the Bloodline (0)

-1 Geistflame (0)

-1 Firebolt (0)

+1 Rolling Temblor (2)
+1 Flame Jab (2)
+1 Preordain (3)

I already started streamlining the disruption suite, now the removal-suite is up on the chopping block. The one-mana-spells, to be precise. Geistflame and Firebolt aren’t as good here as Flame Jab, so I added one of those and one more Preordain. I swapped Sever the Bloodline for a removal spell that wasn’t as conditional (but also has a high flashback cost). Besides, the deck isn’t good with singletons, not without cards like Quiet Speculation (and in some cases Mystical Teachings) at least.

But wait! I don’t have four Mana Leaks yet!

-3 Preordain (0)
+1 Think Twice (4)
+ 2 Mana Leak (4)

I noticed that I had a lot of draw and searching. Think Twice, Desperate Ravings, Forbidden Alchemy, Preordain… all perfectly good cards, but the deck was bordering on the do-nothing border. While I like durdling, I would like to win while doing so. A regular deck would probably cut Desperate Ravings, but a Burning Vengeance-deck isn’t that. Removing Preordain enabled me to play full sets of both Think Twice and Mana Leak, which seems much better.

The deck was coming together pretty nice on paper. There was only one thing left to do: play four Bolts.

-1 Devil’s Play (0)

+1 Flame Jab (3)

-2 Rolling Tremblor (0)

+2 Lightning Bolt (4)

These changes would make this my final list. The third Flame Jab was the seventh retrace spell, which was important to the deck strategy. The spells I took out where too expensive. As you will see in the final decklist below, the curve stops at three, barring the flashback of Forbidden Alchemy and Silent Departure. The latter of the two is a curious card; part of me wants it as a four-of at the expense of Terminate, another part of me wants the exact opposite.I guess we’ll see how things go.

Lesson Tree: teh Jab v1.1
Lands (25)
4 Crumbling Necropolis
2 Dragonskull Summit
2 Drowned Catacomb
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Island
3 Mountain
4 Sulfur Falls
2 Swamp

Spells (35)
4 Burning Vengeance
4 Desperate Ravings
3 Flame Jab
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mana Leak
4 Raven’s Crime
2 Silent Departure
2 Terminate
4 Think Twice

Bonus: Green splash

The greedy spellcaster in me is secretly looking for ways to add additional colors to decks. I just love the look of a varied mana base and being able to keep the deck working properly. It’s like willingly removing the zips from your pants and adding buttons. Or something.

The one card that’s bugging me a bit is Forbidden Alchemy. I would love for it to be able to get more than one card. Wouldn’t that be cool? Yes – it would. And if you add green, you can even do that. I don’t know if the deck would be better this way, but I’m kinda tempted to try it out anyway. The mana-base I just juggled with numbers, so it’s probably not optimal. Maybe I need to cut a color (which would probably be black, which would suck since we lose Raven’s Crime). Which one do you like more?

Lesson Tree: teh Jab (alternate version)
Lands (25)
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Forest
5 Island
4 Mountain
4 Reflecting Pool
1 Swamp
3 Vivid Crag
3 Vivid Creek

Spells (35)
4 Burning Vengeance
4 Desperate Ravings
2 Flame Jab
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mana Leak
2 Memory’s Journey
4 Mulch
4 Raven’s Crime
3 Silent Departure
4 Think Twice

The new cards in here are an extra Silent Departure (over Terminate, to ease the mana), four Mulches instead of Alchemies, and two Memory’s Journeys for one Terminate and one Flame Jab. I might just have to try this version out, too!

Birthday present

Depending on when you are reading this, either this or last Friday (the 14th) is my best friend Rick’s birthday. I realize that out of all my readers, only a handful of them know who he is. Then why do I continue to write about him? Well, for one, our friendship would not exist were it not for Magic. Had either of us not played Magic, we would probably never have met. It is important to notice what Magic has gotten you over the years. Not those packs you win at the prerelease, or that FNM-victory, or even more; no. It’s about friendship and comradery. For me, my friendship with Rick is connected to my love for the game.

Anyway, tomorrow or whenever I see Rick I’m gonna give him three decklists for Chandra the Firebrand. He has troubles finding the right decklist, so I made him three: combo-ish, control, and midrange. Whatever those are you’ll see next week – I don’t want Rick to read about his present before he gets it.

(Note: I will also buy him something, don’t worry. I’m not that cheap.)


Posted on October 14, 2011, in Articles, Thran Utopia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: