Thran Utopia #32: Learning from a little red Llurgoyf
Today marks the first day I’m really scrabbling for a subject to write about. Not having played a game of Magic of about three weeks hasn’t helped matters, either – most of the times, inspiration comes from playing with the cards. The last time I touched cards was when goldfishing with my Walking Dead Flare-deck from last week. Then I remembered that I wrote several times about a deck I built a while ago, but never gave the deck the attention it deserved. My most aggressive deck in recent years (I kid you not) was something I don’t have to hide. As a matter of fact, I’m sharing it with you here today!
It all started when New Phyrexia was on the brink of it’s release, right after the infamous Guillaume-gate happened. I wrote about a few cards from the set in a manner that sorted the interesting cards by potential deck rather than by color, as is usual (I’m such an innovator… Chapin who?). Cards like Slag Fiend, Phyrexia’s Core and Scrapyard Salvo hinted at a sacrifice-deck I was interested in. I recognized Slag Fiend as a potentially huge guy for just one red mana.
Those cards where so interesting to me because Furnace Celebration was on my shortlist of cards to build around. It just so happened that Slag Fiend and friends where the incentive to fire this puppy up. Furnace Celebration is a card that often gets put into a set to give drafters a direction to build a very specific but potentially powerful deck around. And wouldn’t you know it, those are exactly the cards that I like in the Realm of Sixty Cards.
Breaking down the deck
Unless most of my articles, this one is based on a deck that was built some time ago, and therefore has had the chance to beat on some real-life opponents (and beat it does). And unless most of my decks, this one is pretty to very aggressive. I’ll break down the list card for card. Afterwards, I’ll give some advice as to how to play the deck and what to watch out for.
Ofcourse we start with this key enchantment. To be honest, it really isn’t that key (which is a sign I’ve circumvented the first pitfall for build-around-cards: don’t be overly dependent on your namesake card). It’s more like a late-game way to get through those final points of damage, or to remove those blockers for your offensive force to attack your opponent. I’ve been thinking a lot if we could ditch one or even two copies but haven’t arrived at a satisfactory answer yet.
This one is a peculiar card. It’s not a one-drop, but calling it an X-drop implies it costs X mana. Looking back at its impact on the tournament scene, I wonder of it would’ve hurt to give him Tarmogoyf-stats: */*+1. Still, as it stands now, Slagmogoyf is often a 4/4 or more for one mana, which means it’s a card control has to counter, but because it’s so cheap you can often cast another threat the same turn.
Greater Gargadon provides so much for this deck, more more than you’d initially think. It’s, just like Slag Fiend, hell on control, since you have this loominh threat that you can bring down upon the battlefield as soon as they let their guard down. It’s also a perfect decoy to help Slag Fiends come down safely, plus it pumps the little Goyfs while also setting up free sacrifice. Suspending Gargadon is uncounterable and the sacrifice is free – an ideal card to help complicate matters for the opponent.
Three mana is the top of the curve for this deck, and often you don’t ever draw your third land. When you do, Piston Sledge is another great sacrifice outlet that doesn’t require mana beyond the initial down payment of 3. The best part about Sledge is that when you cast it, you get a free equip out of it. Two Gargadons with a Piston Sledge is instant death for the opponent – and yes, this has happened one time.
I could kid myself and try Artillerize, but there’s just a card out there that’s miles better, and that’s Shrapnel Blast. Two mana and oftentimes an upside (like drawing a card off of Ichor Wellspring, or buffing Slag Fiends beyond the power of a blocker) for 25% of you opponent’s life total is a bargain. No further explanation necessary.
While Slag Fiend and Gargadon are the only real creatures, there are enough token-makers to have a board presence. Mortarpod is one of these and also doubles as a sacrifice outlet. The extra toughness it provides is surprisingly relevant a lot of times.
This card is great. It provides a stream of creatures that can instantly sacrifice themselves and can even pay for half of their own Furnace Celebration-trigger! The biggest disadvantage is that the tokens aren’t artifacts, which gets in the way of Piston Sledge sometimes. On the other hand, those little slimy abominations are very good at carrying said Sledge.
Another essential piece in the puzzle. It’s cheap and can draw a card should you need a land. It’s an artifact that fills the graveyard and can also take out a creature (or a two-point bite out of your opponent’s life total).
I would love to run more of these, but sadly, Mycosynth Wellspring is not very good in this deck because I can’t afford to run many basics (spoiler: I’m running one Forest and one Mountain). A card that has the potential to draw to cards for just two mana with no discard or shuffle-back is interesting to say the least.
You should see these as extra/mini Wellsprings, since the mana-fixing is often neglegible. With this much cantripping in the deck, you draw the right cards a lot of the time. Artifacts like this, that have an upside when they’re binned, are invaluable to a deck like this one.
The final slots, usually reserved for lands, are dedicated to Beast Within to have a nice answer to troublesome permanents. It’s also a nice way to get more mileage out of your Wellsprings and Spawns, generating a 3/3 blocker at a moment’s notice.
Let this cook for a while, stir it regularly, and finish with a dash of lands to end up at this deck:
Quick thoughts on the mana base
I’m a verbal opponent of decks with 20 lands. This is by a distance the number one mistake newborn deckbuilders make. However, a deck like this can get away with cutting lands in favor of threats. That’s because with one land, you can cast 16 of your 40 spells (40%). With two lands, you’re at 28 out of 40, or 70%. Ten of your spells cantrip (four of those, the Wellsprings, have the potential to do it again), so reaching three mana shouldn’t be difficult.
The mana base is pretty stuffed; so much, in fact, that I can’t run Mycosynth Wellspring (which sucks). On the other hand (and this is me thinking out loud), there’s no need to have untapped green mana available on the first turn. I only need red, for Slag Fiend and Greater Gargadon. Hmm – I might just tinker around with this deck some more! I still haven’t had a deck with Mycosynth Wellspring that worked.
Playing the deck
Greater Gargadon is a typical red card – high risk, high reward. Greater Gargadon silently became the core of the deck, the card that warped the whole deck strategy. It is your biggest threat and therefore should be treated with respect. You can carefully craft your turns around him while leaving the opponent wondering: when will he pull the trigger? You have to be careful, though, and factor in how you will develop your board should Gargadon get countered or killed. Do you want to risk flat out losing? Do you really want to sacrifice all your lands so that you will have to rip like a king to start casting spells again?
Without Gargadon, you have a more than admirable force of creatures to go to town with, with Awakening Zone providing a stream of them and Piston Sledge pumping them all to reasonable size (or more).
I really like this deck. It’s an aggressive deck but sometimes it plays like a combo deck. Do I go for it? Where’s that Wellspring I need to start drawing cards? Can I pump my Fiends up to lethal proportions? Do I tap out or leave open Beast Within? There’s a lot of choices involved, which makes it a perfect deck for me.
That, and the aggressive player in me secretly likes bashing. Just plain, good old-fashioned bashing. HAUMPH.
See you next week!