Thran Utopia #33: Tragedy Bound
Once upon a time there was a guy named Toshiro Umezawa. Being a legendary creature, I built a deck around him. (That’s basically all there is to it with legends.) Since I’m having a hard time coming up with new decks right now – it appears I’m in a Magic rut – I wanted to share today my Toshiro Umezawa deck, the one without Toshiro Umezawa. It’s called Tragedy Bound nowadays and still one of the most fun decks I have.
I’ve talked of this before: that new set smell. New cards just beg you to play with them, even when there are seemingly better alternatives availabe. The new cards have an irresistable lure to them. This is exactly what happened when figuring out what shell to have Toshi wear. Yeah, I can call him Toshi. We go way back. Anyway, Toshiro Umezawa likes a full graveyard, and I like blue. So Gifts Ungiven was a given (oh, the paradoxical pun). But I made a pretty fundamental mistake by going the Ire of Kaminari-approach. It, too, likes a full graveyard, but Toshi likes to empty it rather than keep it full. This flaw was a big part of the deck all the way through it’s first incarnation. At times it was bothersome, but even a meagre Ire for five or so could close games if need be.
The rest of the deck was support for Toshi – spells, and Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Betrayal makes it so that Forbidden Orchard triggers Toshi whenever it taps for mana. Engine found! Courtesy of the new set smell, I filled out the rest with a hefty Arcane package. Arcane was a subtype of various instants and sorceries in the Kamigawa-block to denote spells from the spirits, as opposed to the regular denizens with their regular instants and sorceries. Another example of the new set smell, Mirrodin-block’s Echoing Decay and Echoing Truth were perfect solutions to a swarm of Spirit tokens in the absence of Night of Souls’ Betrayal.
A handy side-effect of Arcane spells was the Splice-mechanic: pay a card’s splice cost to add its effect to another spell. Glacial Ray adds two damage to any spell for 1R, while Evermind turns every spell into a cantrip for 1U. Eerie Procession is your Arcane-tutor that gets you the right spell at the right time. The three
This first version took some tuning but turned out pretty okay. The core of Toshi/NoSB/Orchard stayed the same while some pieces fluctuated. Gifts was in and out at various stages and in general I just experimented with several cards. Playing with Gifts and Procession, one has quite a bit of leeway to test one card or another. How does Darkblast function? How many Arcane spells do I need? Can I function without Toshi? It was a fun discovery, this whole process. The best part for me was being able to do so much at the end of turn – you only need one Arcane instant to fire of a big spliced up spell at the end of a turn.
Deviation from the first incarnation
Somehow, the deck took a turn for the worse. It could’ve been the weakness of the deck – a 1/1 Toshiro Umezawa with NoSB out – was discovered by my opponents, or that I just relied on him too much.
I started changing the deck, and the number of Toshi-copies dwindled from four to three to two. One copy of NoSB came out, too, until the point where I needed to make a decision: do I go on with or without Toshiro? This choice was postponed a few times and that was not in the best interest of the deck. Toshi wasn’t meant for the deck anymore so he had to come out. In the end, he did.
With these spots in the deck becoming vacant, I had the chance to really amp up the Arcane factor of the deck. The deck went from Toshi-deck to Ire-deck.
And yet, this deck too came to an end. I guess it was being bored with the same-o same-o each game. And not in a good way. There are quite a few decks that play highly repetitive but I really enjoy – Toshi.dec (I was still calling it Toshi, even without him) wasn’t one of those.
I missed Toshi.
So I decided to give the whole idea that spawned the deck in the first place a second chance. I noticed how I hadn’t cast Gifts Ungiven in a very long time, and I wanted to give that one another go-round too. I took the whole deck apart and started anew, from scratch. This was a painful experience, tearing apart something I had loved to play with for so long.
I went with a five color brew that tried to maximize both Gifts and Toshi. I had several white and green cards to ensure the win-win Gifts packages and I discovered that Tenza, Godo’s Maul was a pretty good way to lengthen Toshi’s lifespan.
But as with all of my decks and ideas that looked really good on paper, this one failed miserably. I felt miserable too – I took apart one of my greatest victories in deckbuilding and just couldn’t recapture it. I was looking for that feeling I once had but could not find it. It was gone.
Deviation, the final incarnation
The first version of the deck wouldn’t be good enough any more in my meta. I also discovered I wasn’t capable of building a new deck based on the idea behind the first deck. I set about to revive the deck in another way: give the Arcane-version a new spin.
I had all the cards from the previous Arcane build still tucked away together somewhere. The 5CC Gifts Toshi deck didn’t actually need any of the same cards, so that was one thing that I had going for it. A little light in a sea of failed experiments.
I started putting the pieces back together and removing the bad parts, most notably the sextet of Signets (really; what was I thinking?). To see what the deck consists of at this very moment, you’ll have to read along below. I’m proud to say that while this deck (as always) might be a little weak against hyper-aggro, it also has a lot of inevitability to it. Each turn I get is one more I get closer to victory. Once I can start with the big Arcane spells, there’s no stopping the deck.
A note on the deckname first. Back when I wasn’t using my first name on MSN Messenger, I always used short names of songs I liked at the moment. Tragedy Bound is the name of a The Bravery song (which I still like a lot by the way). My Messenger-picture used to be Kagemaro for quite a while. When I first played Kagemaro against a friend of mine, he immediately proclaimed “Tragedy Bound!”. I liked the name so much for the deck, as it sums up pretty well what is gonna happen to my opponent, that I kept it. Thanks Jeroen!
These two cards are an important part of what makes the deck tick. Eerie Procession can get specific answers (more on those below), but it is most often used to find Evermind, which in turn makes every spell a cantrip. The goal is to have to stop casting at sorcery speed as fast as possible, and Evermind helps a lot there.
This suite of cards is there as support of the cards mentioned above. They help sculpt your hand, and there’s even the off-chance you get some unspeakable discount! Reach and Peer are also ideal cards to splice onto into oblivion, since they’re so cheap.
These are the main finishers of the deck. Ire can easily dome one for six or seven, but you can also build up and go lethal out of nothing: my record is sixteen damage with one card. Glacial Ray is easily spliceable, which adds up damage quickly.
The deck has a habit of maintaining a healthy amount of cards throughout the whole game. It was when I thought of that that Kagemaro sprung to mind, and Goryo’s Vengeance wasn’t far away. If I have these two pieces assembled, creature decks are stopped dead in their tracks. Actually, they’re just dead. When you keep looping Kagemaro’s activated abilities, odds are he can start attacking too, since he has haste and the board should be empty. Just remember to always leave up black mana or you’ll lose him forever.
These are just more creature solutions. The amount is singletons in this deck is ofcourse courtesy of Eerie Procession. Hideous Laughter is like a Kagemaro-lite.
These are more catch-all solutions to whatever problem you’re facing. Cranial is good against control, Puppetry can disrupt control (mana) and aggro (attackers) alike, and Eye of Nowhere can go after permanents (most notably Planeswalkers).
This all adds up to this deck here. If only you could sleeve it up and feel the awesomeness. Fun fact: this deck is 100% foil, which makes it even more my baby. In case there’s a fire or something and there’s just one deck I could save, it would be this. No doubt about that.
4 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Shivan Reef
1 Tainted Isle
1 Tainted Peak
1 Underground River
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Marsh
Other spells (X)
1 Consuming Vortex
1 Cranial Extraction
4 Eerie Procession
1 Eye of Nowhere
4 Glacial Ray
1 Goryo’s Vengeance
3 Hideous Laughter
3 Ire of Kaminari
3 Peer Through Depths
1 Psychic Puppetry
4 Reach Through Mists
1 Rend Flesh
2 Sift Through Sands
As you know, this article is the second time in as many weeks I have written about an old deck. I fear the Magic writers block has gotten to me, and I don’t know if I will be able to continue writing on a weekly basis. Interest in the game is slowly dwindling, too – while I still love the game, a bit of the thrill is gone. An ever decreasing amount of players I play cards with could be the instigator of this.
On top of that, I have been working a lot more these past few weeks (and upcoming ones), and I’m figuring out what it takes to start as a freelance writer. What this means is that I don’t know how my writing will continue. I hope for your understanding while I figure out how I want to move forward with writing and Magic. See you soon, I hope!