Modern Jank – Troll Worship (Also totally NOT a rant about the bans)

Hello! Some of you may remember me from about three years now of making the occasional video and writing an article here and there. If you like rogue, semi-stupid decks and sarcastic commentary, then you might like what I write. If you don’t, there is always the back button. Or, you could pull an Internet and pointlessly bash me in the comments. To each their own.

Anyway, I was going to write an article about the new banned list. But let’s be honest – that topic has been beaten to death. Literally every major Magic YouTube channel and / or website has done a piece about the fact that the Amulet Bloom deck is dead (like we didn’t see that one coming), and that the [c]Splinter Twin[/c] banning was uncalled for. I will not subject you to an article’s worth of words about the bans; you can look at Binkabi’s video here if you want more detailed content on that.

I will, however, subject you to this minor rant. Whatever the “Evil Gestapo” at Wizards of the Coast do with the Modern banned list does not matter. While I can agree that their motives for banning [c]Splinter Twin[/c] seem ulterior, why waste time trying to figure them out? It could be monetary, it could be for a little spice in the format, or it could be for publicity. Who cares? Unless you invested a lot in Twin, and are very sad that you have lost your money slash favorite deck, there is ONLY one reason to be mad. That reason is that Red Green Tron is about to be a major nuisance. It yanks my chain that one of the very few decks capable of keeping Tron in check is gone. POOF!

Boromir Beat RG Tron

Tron destroys midrange and has a good matchup against control and weenie decks. Combo archetypes, Twin in particular, are Tron’s nightmare matchups, as it has little to no meaningful interaction in the first game and even post-board. Sure, Wizards, just take away our best respite from the wrecking ball of Modern decks. We all love getting [c]Karn Liberated[/c] to death and having our heads relieved of their eyeballs and ears via [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]. Hell, it’s like Wizards knew that Tron would dominate after the Twin banning. So much so that they printed that [c]Crumble to Dust[/c] card.

The following is a real and unscripted conversation that took place in Wizards of the Coast’s R&D Department sometime before the 18th of January.

Dude 1: “Hey man, we want to ban Splinter Twin in Modern.”
Dude 2: “Oh yeah that’s a nice mix up. All those Twin players are gonna be super butthurt!”
Dude 1: “I know right? Hey at least I play R/G Tron. I hate the Twin Matchup, but I fear that now that it’s out of the way EVERYONE will want to play Tron!”
Dude 2: “Yo we could totally research and develop a card to make the Tron mirror interesting…”
Dude 1: “So you mean… A functional reprint of [c]Sowing Salt[/c] that can be found with [c]Ancient Stirrings[/c] and that is easier on the Tron manabase?”
Dude 2: “Umm I was thinking something like an Eldrazi that could [c]Crucible of Worlds[/c] so that there would be like some forced [c]Ghost Quarter[/c] interaction or something… But that card would be too busted and I’m lazy so that works too!”

In that matchup, it will be whichever player resolves that [c]Crumble to Dust[/c] first that will probably win. Imagine the days in Legacy when [c]Mental Misstep[/c] was legal… Aka my worst nightmares. Half of your meta will be the Urza Abomination, and since your Twin deck is no longer useful, you’ll probably just end up playing Tron with the rest of them. Assuming you were a Twin player, that is.

(Insert great segue here)

And this is why I choose to play brews and decks that are fun yet still maintain a decent win ratio. There’s a good chance that your deck will be completely shafted by some mildly senseless ban. Plus you will be that “one guy” playing your jank brew. You will be adored or hated based on that brew. In this read, I will share with you my take on a deck that is so Troll it’s not even funny. The deck is called Troll Worship for two reasons. One – it literally worships trolling your opponent by stopping them from winning. Two – it plays the cards [c]Troll Ascetic[/c] and [c]Worship[/c].

Is it cheap? By Modern standards, it’s not too hard on the pocket. Does it win? The deck has a The Rock-y feel, meaning it has few “bad” matchups and mostly okay to good ones. Is it stupid, janky, and sure to make some opponents pull their hair out as you remain at one life until they die? Oh, absolutely. Let me hit you up with my list before delving into the intricacies of Troll Worship.

[d title=”Troll Worship 2K16 (Modern)”]
Creatures
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Sylvan Caryatid
2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Troll Ascetic
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Knight of the Reliquary
Instants
4 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce
1 Spell Snare
Other Spells
3 Worship
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Spectral Flight
Lands
4 Windswept Heath
2 Flooded Strand
1 Wooded Foothills
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Island
1 Gavony Township
2 Breeding Pool
2 Temple Garden
3 Ghost Quarter
1 Hallowed Fountain
3 Razorverge Thicket
Sideboard
2 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Dispel
3 Surgical Extraction
3 Kor Firewalker
2 Pithing Needle
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
[/d]

The Big Picture

At base, this is a fairly aggressive Bant Midrange deck that tries to resolve the card [c]Worship[/c] with a creature in play in order to soft lock the game against most decks. Being one of the most resilient creature types in Magic, with both Hexproof and Regeneration, trolls play very well with Worship as they can be near-impossible to get off the board. Other hexproof creatures, most notably [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c], are included to ensure a high density of threats that also make great targets for equipment or enchantments. Some spot removal and utility spells will round out the typical Troll Worship deck.

The Mana

With a top-end of four on the mana curve, this deck likes mana dork acceleration in concert with plenty of lands to be able to cast spells on time or a turn early. Such cards are easy in Bant colors, with the three dorks of choice being [c]Noble Hierarch[/c], [c]Birds of Paradise[/c], and [c]Sylvan Caryatid[/c]. Optimally, the deck plays eight because it almost always wants one in the opening hand. I’ve seen some people play nine to ensure a turn one or two mana creature, but this is up to personal preference. Hierarch is obviously the best of the three. Exalted in an aggressive deck cannot be undervalued. The only reason it is not in this particular list is that budget is a concern. If you have Hierarchs, play them over Caryatid. The dryad is nice in that it has Hexproof, which has better synergy with Worship, but the extra mana can slow the curve and detract from the speed of the deck. In this list I have opted for a 2/2 split between the plant and [c]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/c]. Pilgrim is the best 1-mana replacement for Hierarch, and contributes to better turn 2 plays than Caryatid, even though it is more likely to bite the dust.

Other than the accelerants, the land base shown is not bad on the wallet and will consistently provide all colors of mana. The new Khans reprint fetches go for surprisingly little, and as a primarily two color deck, only five shock lands are needed. The four basics are a great hedge against [c]Blood Moon[/c], work well against opposing [c]Path to Exile[/c]s, and most importantly do not affect consistency like they might in more color-intensive decks. [c]Razorverge Thicket[/c] is an all-star which allows the deck to save a fetch and not take any damage to cast a turn 1 mana dork. [c]Gavony Township[/c] is a bullet land that helps mitigate stall-outs and add relevance to our smaller creatures. Most importantly, [c]Ghost Quarter[/c] is one of the few main deck ways this deck has to interact with Tron. Do not fear Quartering early; if anything, it will help you race and try to win before an O-Stone can come down. This will be discussed further in the sideboard and matchup analysis.

The Creatures

As discussed, the deck runs a nice helping of mana acceleration creatures to make things faster and smoother. But what to do with it? Well, in a deck that plays with [c]Worship[/c], we want to play a number of creatures that are both threatening and resilient, the first of which is [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c]. Good ol’ GST is insanely good right now. With fewer [c]Remand[/c]s being played, and most conventional removal being worthless, Geist is a card that can and will end games on its own. Even with hexproof, the 2/2 will be swinging into the red zone pretty often, and with only 2 toughness, he is not liable to survive all of the action. For this, we need those trolls that I mentioned earlier. You know, the ones that leave unintelligible garbage comments all over the internet insulting people. Those trolls.

troll ascetic art

[c]Troll Ascetic[/c] is our main man for this sort of activity. The “moderators” [c]Path to Exile[/c] and [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] cannot target our mischievous friend, and he shrugs off the beatings he would receive in combat with a simple “u mad?” for {1}{G}. Costing only 3, Ascetic is the best troll for the deck. “But what about [c]Witchstalker[/c]?” This is honestly a metagame call. If you expect a lot of Grixis control-style decks, against which Witchstalker is an inescapable threat, then it can certainly replace Ascetic. When faced with *cough* [c]Oblivion Stone[/c] and the like, the regeneration ability is significantly more valuable. In general, four trolls will not cut it. We want at least one more, just for good measure… And that’s when big poppa Thrun comes in.

[c]Thrun, the Last Troll[/c] will be the dude to survive everything. It is hard to say that he is strictly better than Ascetic, despite being uncounterable, because he can be cast at turn three at the earliest. When it comes down to it, speed trumps all. Remember that even though the deck is slightly higher curved than most aggro decks, it still wants to be attacking with its creatures on time and trying to get ahead just enough so that Worship seals up the game. Thrun is great in combo matchups, and it’s a good idea to play another in the sideboard. In the matchups where he is good, he is really good. Otherwise, he can be a hard to kill 4/4 for 4 at worst. Not too bad, right?

For value dudes, {G}/{w}/{u} has a lot of good options. For this list, I have opted to play 4 [c]Qasali Pridemage[/c] in the maindeck. It’s decent against Tron and Affinity, can remove a troublesome [c]Blood Moon[/c] or [c]AEther Vial[/c], and in a similar manner to Thrun, there are not really any downsides to playing it. In most matchups it is just a reasonably-costed beater that works well with other creatures. If you do not like QPM, there are many other options. [c]Voice of Resurgence[/c], [c]Kitchen Finks[/c], and [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] come immediately to mind. This is also a relatively budget deck, and Pridemage is the cheapest of the bunch. I have also opted for a 1-of [c]Knight of the Reliquary[/c], which is not a necessary inclusion. Some people like to use a playset, which allows for the use of more “value” lands, but just the one is fine. In particular, it finds [c]Gavony Township[/c] and Ghost Quarter, and some sideboard lands such as [c]Bojuka Bog[/c]. Knight can also be a huge threat in the mid to late game, especially with fetch lands in the deck. Again, this is a flex slot so take your pick. You’re playing the creature colors, so it’s tough to go wrong.

The Support

Let’s think about this for a second. We have a lot of hexproof creatures. We have good mana. Let’s throw some pants on those dudes and go to town! [c]Spectral Flight[/c] is a severely underrated card in Modern. It is a cheap and very effective way to make a creature powerful and evasive. The operative word in that statement is “cheap.” Both in price and mana cost, Flight blows the Swords of X and Y out of the water. For only two mana, the creature that it enchants gets the same boost to power and toughness, and a form of evasion. Swords do the same thing for five mana, except their evasion is color-specific, and they have an upside when combat damage is dealt, and they stick around when the equipped creature dies. This is a bit of a toss-up. For budget reasons, this list runs Flight, but in some matchups, the Swords are just better. In fast matchups, Spectral Flight is better. It’s honestly up to the pilot.

Elspeth art

In addition to the pants for our hexproof guys, this deck does well with the tailor herself – [c]Elspeth, Knight-Errant[/c]. Every single one of her abilities is relevant. She can stitch up some nice Khakis to get GST into the red zone without dying, make a dude to turn on Worship, or make us [c]Wrath of God[/c] – proof. Most lists that run her run three copies, but I have opted for two here. This is to make a little bit of room for some extra interaction. Four [c]Path to Exile[/c] are very important removal spells that deal with threats before we can land a Worship. I have also opted for three 1-mana counterspells. The two [c]Spell Pierce[/c] and one [c]Spell Snare[/c] serve as a way to interact with the opponent in the early turns and disrupt their game plan without having to hold up more than a little bit of mana for something like [c]Remand[/c]. Pierce counters early Lilianas or Karns that we might have trouble dealing with otherwise, and Snare handles [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], [c]Bitterblossom[/c], [c]Spellskite[/c], [c]Atarka’s Command[/c]… Basically all relevant two-drops. It’s a pretty darn good card.

Also a quick note about the card [c]Worship[/c] itself – it states that DAMAGE cannot reduce your life total to lower than one. Loss of life effects can still kill you. Keep this in mind! While not common, occasionally you may run into something like a [c]Bloodchief Ascension[/c] deck that can drain you even with Worship on the table.

Sideboarding and Matchups

This section will be pretty short and will cover basically two decks – Infect and Tron. Our game against most other decks is pretty strong. Game 1 against Burn is just fine once we land a Worship, but in game two, [c]Destructive Revelry[/c] means that a [c]Kor Firewalker[/c] or two is nice to shore things up. Jund and Junk present little to effectively disrupt the deck and their creatures aren’t a big deal. Infect is a serious problem deck. Worship does nothing to stop poison counters, so short of playing a few copies of [c]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/c] in the sideboard, the best thing to do is play a few more Spell Pierce. Tron is potentially even worse. Game one, Ghost Quarter is our only way to interact profitably. Quarter early and often, and try to cast Knight of the Reliquary quickly to tutor up more Quarters. Post-board, [c]Pithing Needle[/c] shuts down planeswalkers, and [c]Stony Silence[/c] makes [c]Oblivion Stone[/c], [c]Expedition Map[/c], and [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] worthless. Most importantly, [c]Surgical Extraction[/c] in concert with [c]Ghost Quarter[/c] stops tron outright. They might still be able to cast something like [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c] in later turns, but without the fast mana, R/G Tron gets considerably worse. They will likely never resolve [c]Ugin, the Spirit Dragon[/c] if you’ve taken them off of their lands.

The board that I have laid out is pretty bad. Any and every sideboard should be metagame dependent, and tweaked to what you need it to do. If no one plays Tron at your LGS, or you do not expect to see a lot of Burn in the two-mans for whatever reason, change up the game plan.

Adding Money and What You Can Do

The great part about Troll Worship is that it is a highly customizable deck based on what you want to play and how much money you have. If you want to play with more copies of [c]Knight of the Reliquary[/c] and [c]Voice of Resurgence[/c], go for it. Have a playset of Noble Hierarch already? Cut those Pilgrims. If you want to play [c]Misty Rainforest[/c] in lieu of the Foothills and Strands, that is just fine. Besides adding money, you can also change the deck’s game plan entirely. While an aggro deck at heart, [c]Worship[/c] is a great defensive card. It is feasible to play more a controlling Troll Worship deck that runs not only more copies of Worship, but also cards like [c]Oblivion Ring[/c] and [c]Bant Charm[/c]. [c]Sylvan Caryatid[/c] is much better in this type of strategy. If you want to be even more aggressive, cut another Worship and some counterspells to play more creatures.

It’s up to you what you do with the archetype. Whether you play a budget version, or a tricked out, KOTR-package infused monstrosity, you are sure to enjoy trolling your opponents with this deck. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it, and maybe you’ll consider picking up a list that works for you. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email at [email protected] I will get back to you ASAP.

Thanks for reading, and see you in future articles and videos!

Peyton Tracey

MagicGatheringStrat2 on MTGO
MagicGatheringStrat. on Cockatrice
@MGSPeyton

Modern On Mondays: How Greedy Can You Be?

Rafiq of the Many Art

Welcome Back!

Usually, I write Legacy articles. But this week, I made such a crazy Modern brew that I had to share it with you guys. It is the pinnacle of playing a greedy, easily-punishable-by-[c]Blood Moon[/c] mana base with a bunch of … well, let me show you the list so that I may better explain:

[d title=”Four Color Über Greed (Modern)”]
Bros
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Siege Rhino
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
3 Rafiq of the Many
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Instants
3 Path to Exile
1 Bant Charm
1 Abzan Charm
1 Sultai Charm
1 Gifts Ungiven

The Hammer
1 Behemoth Sledge

Kill Stuff
1 Maelstrom Pulse

Realms
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Mana Confluence
4 Gemstone Mine
1 Plains
2 Forest
1 Windswept Heath
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Swamp
1 Marsh Flats
[/d]

It’s easy to tell why I am saying that this deck is greedy. That manabase flat-out dies to [c]Blood Moon[/c]. It’s fairly [c]Choke[/c]-proof, which I suppose is a good thing, but otherwise I’m going to break it down.

Brew Theory

I wanted to play something:
A) With a LOT of creatures
B) Which would be super saucy yet powerful
C) That played [c]Rafiq of the Many[/c] and [c]Doran, the Siege Tower[/c], but for goodstuffs only.
D) That sported a minor [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c] package.
E) With a stupid 1-of Equipment that no one would expect.

This is the lovechild. It really came down to wanting to play what is essentially 4-color Goodstuff with Rhinos and Lieges and flipping Rafiq. The theory is that this is so unorthodox and so unexpected that it is just good.

To be honest, it started with [c]Rafiq of the Many[/c]. Rafiq is an absolute beast. By himself, at four mana, he sports a whopping eight power. He gives an attacking creature double strike the turn he comes into play. He allows for a defensive plan against other creature decks without sacrificing offensive power; just attack with 1 huge creature and leave the rest to block. There is one simple reason no one, not even Zoo, is playing Rafiq in Modern. He fails the Bolt test every time.

The next thought was how to get my three Rafiq (I was settled on that number) out of Bolt range in a way that makes sense with a goodstuff creature strategy. Enter [c]Wilt-Leaf Liege[/c]. This gal pumps every creature in the deck, except for Tasigur, and puts Rafiq in respectable 5/5 range. She is also amazing against Liliana of the Veil and the 8-rack decks, while still being castable.

doran banner art

Doran was my next big love. He is essentially a 5/5 for only 3 mana that makes [c]Vendilion Clique[/c] and [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] laughable creatures. He is pumped to a big 2/7 (effectively 7/7) by the Liege, and provides some marginal bonuses to our [c]Siege Rhino[/c]s and the one-of Tasigur. Doran also makes our mana dorks into small threats which can poke away at the opponent’s life total. Overall, his high power to mana cost ratio is what led to my attraction, and led to his inclusion in the deck.

“Only the best spells!” I said. “Play multi-modal spells so that you can play fewer!” I said. So [c]Bant Charm[/c] is the obvious choice. It serves as a removal spell that can blow up Affinity’s [c]Cranial Plating[/c]. It is also a [c]Dispel[/c] when necessary, which can be surprising to control players when they are relying on countering a threat to stay alive. But then, I wanted more. I wanted some card draw options that were also modular. Why not add Abzan and Sultai Charms? They likely aren’t as good overall as Bant Charm, but then they allow me to play a [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c]. Gifts can find any Charm and a Creature, four creatures, more removal… It’s just a value gifts.

A few good mana dorks in Birds and Hierarch, with a greedy multi-color mana base, and my monstrosity was born. I did run it through a few testing games, with mixed results. For the most part, performance was good. As I have already stated, Blood Moon is pretty much a blow-out. The fetches for basics and the mana dorks help, and in the three games where I saw Moon, they helped me die in one, but the card is a serious hoser for any four-color deck.

The [c]Tidehollow Sculler[/c]s are awesome. For the most part, the mana dorks allow the deck to “skip” the two-drop slot to move onto three mana spells, but Sculler is quite a great card on turn two regardless. Even taking a [c]Lightning Bolt[/c] is fine, as if they want the bolt back, they have to Path the Sculler which is a very strong play… I considered playing 4 [c]Qasali Pridemage[/c] in the maindeck. It is a solid Exalted creature against Affinity and Twin, and also gets a serious boost from the Liege. I could probably cut some Charms and the Gifts and the Tasigur to make room, but… Eh. That is untested :)

For the sideboard, any number of things can be played. Red cards aren’t typical in sideboards, and we play the four others. Whatever the meta is, I have so many slots to use that I can adapt. I will keep testing and keep you guys posted as to how my janky brew goes.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week for some Legacy action!

Legacy on Mondays: A Post-Grind Reflection

Welcome Back!

This week I wanted to talk about the Cascade Aggro deck from a few weeks ago that I have brewed and tuned. I have been grinding through some games with it, and just wanted to share some thoughts and observations. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the list, here is the iteration from the last article and the one that I have been using:

[d title=”Legacy CascAggro V2″]
Creatures
4 Baleful Strix
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 True-Name Nemesis
4 Shardless Agent
4 Tarmogoyf
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Vexing Shusher
Non-Creature Spells
4 Ancestral Vision
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Sylvan Library
3 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Vindicate
Land
3 Verdant Catacombs
4 Polluted Delta
2 Misty Rainforest
3 Tropical Island
1 Bayou
2 Underground Sea
1 Taiga
1 Savannah
1 Volcanic Island
1 Scrubland
1 Badlands
2 Ancient Ziggurat
Sideboard
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Sower of Temptation
2 Thoughtseize
2 Engineered Plague
1 Gilded Drake
1 Mana Maze
2 Qasali Pridemage
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Meddling Mage
1 Vexing Shusher
1 Gaddock Teeg
[/d]

Ahh yes. There is nothing quite like playing a TON of value creatures that get more value creatures to beat down the opponent. Cascade was, obviously, the optimal mechanic, and the list is fairly successful. My current ratio is 57%. While this is not overwhelming, I can at least account for the majority of my losses. It all comes down to one word:

Combo.

Is it not obvious?

It is totally obvious. Decks like this have absolutely nightmarish combo matchups. I am fairly non-interactive, and no matter how value-based or fast I am with my creatures, any opponent playing a broken game is going to win. This is partially why the main deck includes four copies of [c]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/c]. Thalia is pretty good in some combo matchups, namely [c]Ad Nauseam[/c] Tendrils and [c]High Tide[/c] (among others), but is next-to-worthless against others.

I had originally thought that the worst “other” matchup was Dredge, and this was largely true. Unless I could beat Dredge before they went off, which was nigh impossible if they had a nut draw, their deck is too redundant. The one maindeck [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] was designed to help mitigate this with the [c]Green Sun’s Zenith[/c] package to help me find him, but one Ooze does very little in a deck that has a ton of ways to spill relevant cards into the graveyard. Dredge is a terrible matchup for this deck, and unfortunately fairly common due to the budget nature of Dredge.

On top of all of that, there is one deck that will literally always win the first game and in most cases win the second that I did not take into account when building this latest main deck: Elves. Oh my goodness, is this matchup from hell. My two instant-speed removal spells, while they do manage to deal with most of Elves’ creatures, are not dense enough to make any significant impact. Thalia is a dead card completely. The usefulness of my GSZ toolbox is reduced to a [c]Dryad Arbor[/c] fetch which, by the way, the Elves deck is also playing.

On top of all of this, my sideboard is actual (insert expletive here). When testing this time around, I did not think to change the sideboard; I wanted to see how something diverse would work. Here’s the answer: it doesn’t. Even though I am strongly against polluting your maindeck plan with barely-relevant sideboard cards, this deck’s bad matchups are so bad that I want more than two stinking answers in the ‘board. My maindeck can deal with most fair decks; my sideboard needed some SERIOUS change.

Let’s run it down: two pieces of graveyard hate, one of which doesn’t work against some decks, one way to stop some combo and control strategies, two answers to [c]Show and Tell[/c] strategies, one of which is nice against Zoo, some artifact hate, a way to stop counterspells, a big artifact Wurm thing for control decks, a general catch-all that meddles with the opponent (har har), a singleton anti-High Tide / ANT enchantment, only two ways to help stop Elves in spite of [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], and two pieces of targeted discard.

A motley crew of a board if I have ever seen one is right there. That may be too diverse. I think I was trying to cover too many matchups, some of which I have not even played against yet. I think the maindeck needs tweaks to be more interactive. While a value plan is decent, I want to be able to contend in more matchups and have lines of play that are less linear. Complexity does not always make a deck better, but most of the time adding interaction does.

If I were to improve the sideboard in a very general manner, I believe it would look something like this:

1 [c]Tormod’s Crypt[/c]
1 [c]Gilded Drake[/c]
1 [c]Sower of Temptation[/c]
2 [c]Qasali Pridemage[/c]
2 [c]Rest in Peace[/c]
2 [c]Thoughtseize[/c]
2 [c]Abrupt Decay[/c]
4 [c]Engineered Plague[/c]

All of these numbers are off the top of my head. They are likely subject to change.

I want to take a much closer look at the main deck to see what should be shaved and what should be added. I think that I may want to cut a color; playing five might be too ambitious. At the very least, it’s back to testing. While it’s possible that a creature-based value deck like this could excel in certain metagames, some will just eat the deck alive no matter how much work is put into it.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading! Hope to see y’all next week for more Legacy action!

Legacy on Mondays: A New Way to Punish

Welcome Back!

Sorry about the lack of an article last week. My girlfriend broke up with me, then work got crazy, and life decided to pour buckets on my parade. Rather than start the “Ho bashing,” as Bava calls it, I am writing this article to introduce some new Legacy bashings! I just recently brewed this deck around the new bannings and unbannings in Legacy. In case you have been living under a rock, look here for the announcement. I have yet to test this deck at all, and I wanted to see what the community would think, as well as explain my reasoning for this brew.

Dan, this one goes out to you. It’s time to bring back the Gruul Aggro deck!

[d title=”Green Red Smash (Legacy)”]
Creatures
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Skyshroud Elite
4 Goblin Guide
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
1 Vithian Renegades
2 Spellbreaker Behemoth
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Eternal Witness
Instants & Sorceries
4 Punishing Fire
2 Simoon
2 Forked Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Hidetsugu’s Second Rite
Enchantments
3 Rancor
Lands
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Taiga
3 Copperline Gorge
2 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
Sideboard
2 Simoon
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Savannah
4 Vexing Shusher
3 Harmonize
[/d]

[c]Treasure Cruise[/c] is gone. [c]Worldgorger Dragon[/c] is back. The solution? Play a deck that will be good pre-board against the surge of RUG and BUG Delver decks that are soon to follow, and a deck that can hose Reanimator post-board. The goal of this deck is to do just that.

The start was with the [c]Punishing Fire[/c] engine. It is a very powerful one, and is quite effective at dispatching many of Delver’s early plays, such as [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c] and flipped [c]Delver of Secrets[/c]. The combo can also be pointed at the opponent’s face, and gives very precise control over their life total. This warrants the inclusion of a copy of [c]Hidetsugu’s Second Rite[/c], which can end a game very quickly. Most opponents will not see this coming!

Other than the Punishing-Grove engine, the deck wants to come out of the gates fast. [c]Goblin Guide[/c] will pressure the opponent’s life total early, and be a target for quick removal which will protect our later threats. [c]Skyshroud Elite[/c] is another powerful 1-drop that will be a 2/3 very often. I prefer this to [c]Kird Ape[/c] because it is more likely to be a 2/3 on turn 1 (at least in my opinion), and it also puts a small bit of psychological pressure on the opponent. The more they have to think about, the more likely it is that they will make a play mistake.

For the midgame, there are a bunch of powerful creatures that will dominate and plays made by Delver decks at this stage. [c]Bloodbraid Elf[/c] is one helluva card. Almost anything into which she can cascade is beneficial to us. Burn can clear creatures, and other creatures will help to pressure the opponent even more and generate board presence. Other hasters such as [c]Boggart Ram-Gang[/c] and [c]Goblin Guide[/c] are especially potent, as they provide instantaneous action to supplement the Elf.

Normally, I would not run [c]Green Sun’s Zenith[/c] and [c]Bloodbraid Elf[/c] together in the same deck. Cascade + X Spell = a big no-no. But this deck needs a way to beat combo, and [c]Gaddock Teeg[/c] in the sideboard is one of if not the best options to do that. GSZ also offers a few nice utility dudes to gain value, or it can just find a [c]Bloodbraid Elf[/c] to get you back in the game.

[c]Spellbreaker Behemoth[/c] is a creature that needs its own explanation. This is a card that never sees Legacy play, and that is because Gruul Aggro decks are unpopular. But it is so, so good in the [c]Force of Will[/c] format. A 5/5 for 4 that is uncounterable is amazing as a finisher. Against decks without counterspells, it will make most creatures that they play seem tiny. Another card that deserves its own explanation is [c]Simoon[/c]. I predict that Death and Taxes will also see a rise, and [c]Simoon[/c] is a [c]Plague Wind[/c] against that deck. They run a ridiculous number of X/1’s; usually [c]Brimaz, King of Oreskos[/c] and [c]Serra Avenger[/c] are the only relevant cards that [c]Simoon[/c] does not kill. I have gone with four between the main deck and sideboard. This may be excessive, especially the main deck copies, but [c]Simoon[/c] is useful against a such a wide variety of other decks as well that I feel it deserves the spot.

Well, that’s all for this week. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below.

Thanks for reading!

Legacy on Mondays, No. 15: A Cautionary Brewing Tale

Welcome Back!

This week I would like to regale you with a story. Like all good fairy tales, this one has a moral. Fortunately, this story also contains relevant Magic: the Gathering Deck Brewing strategy, and my personal steps for brewing a deck. So enough blah intro, let’s start storytime!

Step 1: Concept Development

Be it attempting to abuse a simple 2-card interaction in a never-before-done way or choosing a certain card and attempting to “break” it in a format, this is the most important step. An amoeba can throw together a seventy-five, call it a brew, and lose every game it plays. There must be a preconceived notion of what the brewer wants to happen before a successful deck can be created. In this scenario, I was attempting to break [c]Unexpected Results[/c] in Legacy. Yes, it sounds stupid to use such a seemingly weak card in en eternal format when established cards like [c]Show and Tell[/c] dominate, but it was the only card that compelled me to try Standard again. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. But when it did not, it was able to be reused, which makes it a mana ramp tool as well. So there was my concept, now to step 2.

Unexpected Results

Step 2: Find a Shell or Synergistic Cards| Step 3: Throw Together a List

I was trying to break a card that had never really seen eternal play before. This meant that I could not adapt an existing shell to fit the card, and instead I would have to find synergystic cards and abilities that would allow [c]Unexpected Results[/c] to excel. In this case, I was looking for cards that would help me to control the top of my library and easily put one of maybe two or three fatty win conditions on the top. Any MtG player with the ability to read should see why this was doomed to fail from the get-go. I, however, was totally oblivious to this until a later step, as you will see.

Anyways, the first card to come to mind was [c]Sensei’s Divining Top[/c]. Top is a great card in general for fixing draws and finding stuff, and combines well with shuffle effects and fetchlands. From there, I knew I was playing green, so I also decided to include [c]Sylvan Library[/c]. The weirdly-worded card can provide extra draw at the cost of life, or set up good draws without costing any mana. These were my choices for top-control, and with 4 Top 2 Library, I was looking for some card advantage.

I really liked the prospect of [c]See Beyond[/c]. Draw two, and shuffle an unneeded fatty back into the library for {1}{u} seemed like an excellent deal as a 2-of, since I only wanted to run 2 [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] and did not want them in my hand at any point during the game, and [c]See Beyond[/c] was a great out to the chance of drawing one. To that end, [c]Brainstorm[/c] provides great hand fixing while shipping Emrakul if necessary when combined with a fetch. As usual, BS is an automatic 4-of.

Playing a 4-mana sorcery on turn 4 is also not great in Legacy, especially since it would mandate the inclusion of more land. So, like [c]Food Chain[/c] decks, let’s play some mana dorks! Four [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] and four [c]Noble Hierarch[/c] should get the job done nicely. I also decided to include a playset of [c]Coiling Oracle[/c] and [c]Shardless Agent[/c] to take a couple of leaves out of Food Chain’s book again, because they add to the consistency of the deck and chump block when necessary.

Lastly was the protection. Let’s see… Playing [c]Sensei’s Divining Top?[/c] Check. Also packing [c]Brainstorm[/c]/fetchlands? Check. Two plus two makes [c]Counterbalance[/c]. The card makes it very easy to stall for time while trying to set up a perfect [c]Unexpected results[/c], and I was psyched that I could easily integrate the two and have a well-protected combo. I also wanted 3 [c]Force of Will[/c]; I deemed the deck to have enough blue cards to support it. With all of this in mind, here was my masterfully crafted list:

[d title=”Legacy Unexpected Results”]
Creatures
4 Coiling Oracle
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Shardless Agent
2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Spells
4 Unexpected Results
1 Sylvan Library
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Counterbalance
3 Force of Will
2 See Beyond
4 Brainstorm
Lands
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Tropical Island
3 Flooded Grove
2 Polluted Delta
1 Wooded Foothills
4 Island
3 Forest

[/d]

I was excited about the list. It looked to be well-rounded, and I was psyched to take it to step 4. Sadly, this is when reality struck and my dream fell apart.

Step 4: Playtest

I am a huge advocate of playtesting. Taking a preliminary list and throwing it into the gauntlet is far better than analyzing data from some statistics site like tappedout, as it gives an immediate look into what works well and what does not. Usually, I goldfish about five times with a list before this, but that does not constitute an entire step. Really, it should just be done. Anyways, I loaded the deck up on Cockatrice to give it a whirl. My opponent was playing Miracles, but I was able to nail a turn 3 Counter-Top lock off of a turn 1 [c]Birds of Paradise[/c] and a turn 2 [c]Coiling Oracle[/c] drawing me into the top, followed by [c]Counterbalance[/c]. I was able to blindly counter his [c]Brainstorm[/c], as I was tapped out, and untapped with a [c]Shardless Agent[/c] at the ready.

At this point, and deckbuilder would be stoked. The first list was performing admirably against what is likely the most controlling deck in Legacy. Turn five, with Counter-Top and [c]Force of Will[/c] protection at the ready with an Emrakul on the top of my library, I cast [c]Unexpected Results[/c]. As you can imagine, the results were… Unexpected.

Unexpected Results Text Box Fail

Oh yes. After deciding to dedicate bulding an entire deck around the card, I completely missed that shuffle clause. My opponent was, naturally, unhappy at this and quit after the first game. Honestly, I was going to but he got to it first. So what’s next? I had a complete brewing failure, so what is Step 5? The final step is applicable to any deck that is brewed.

Step 5: Edit, Test Some More, Scrap, Repeat

It’s quite simple. Trial and error until things start to run smoothly. If things never start to run smoothly, as in my case, simply scrap the list. Most of the decks that I brew are complete failures that never make it past three or four playtest games, even with edits to the obvious and severe errors. However, after some changes, decks can start to take shape. Maybe that special nifty two-card combo that’s your favorite has to go because it’s too “cute,” but sometimes that gives the deck a winning edge. Trial and error. But always – ALWAYS – read the text box carefully.

I learned my lesson here, and I hope you gained something from my mistake. That’s all that can be done, learning from mistakes, and it makes us all better Magic players. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you all next week!

Peace,

Peyton

Legacy on MONDAYS, No. 11: Helix Elves

Welcome Back!

This series has [c]Time Warp[/c]ed to Monday, so look for Legacy articles on the first of every week from now on!

Elves is one of Magic’s favorite tribes. The pointy-eared mana machines tend to grab people because the traditional “Elf Deck” can be either aggro or combo based, and Elf Decks tend to be both fun and very powerful. Combo Elves usually strings together lots of dudes with [c]Glimpse of Nature[/c] and then casts [c]Regal Force[/c] to draw a ton of cards and win through a [c]Craterhoof Behemoth[/c], or just [c]Natural Order[/c]s up [c]Progenitus[/c] for the win. This week, I would like to explore the potential for Elves to win in another way using, you guessed it, [c]Helix Pinnacle[/c]. The amount of mana that this tribe churns out is enough to the point where I thought it possible to win using this CMC-1 enchantment. Check out this list, then let’s break it down:

[d title=”Helix Elves”]

Creatures
1 Argothian Elder
1 Eladamri, Lord of Leaves
3 Elvish Mystic
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Priest of Titania
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Quirion Ranger
2 Seedborn Muse

Enchantments
4 Helix Pinnacle

Sorceries
2 Genesis Wave
3 Green Sun’s Zenith

Artifacts
2 Doubling Cube
2 Thorn of Amethyst

Land
15 Forest
2 Gaea’s Cradle
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Maze of Ith

Sideboard
3 Relic of Progenitus
3 Staff of Domination
2 Thorn of Amethyst
4 Vexing Shusher
3 Krosan Grip

[/d]

Creatures

Like all tribal decks, Pinnacle Elves relies on having a bunch of dorks from the same tribe in play at the same time. For this list, a whopping eleven of the creatures are 1/1 mana dudes. Four copies each of [c]Fyndhorn Elves[/c], [c]Llanowar Elves[/c], and three [c]Elvish Mystic[/c] will ensure that you will almost always have three mana on turn two. They can also provide beats if necessary, as the aggro plan is a good backup for any deck that has some way of circumventing a Pinnacle win. [c]Quirion Ranger[/c] is the only other 1-drop, and she is pretty boss. She untaps all of the other mana-producing creatures for the mere cost of returning a forest to the hand. These dudes are an essential part of the deck, as they provide early mana to help fuel the big mana producers.

As most Elf decks do, this list also runs the big guys. Both [c]Priest of Titania[/c] and [c]Elvish Archdruid[/c] make it rain (mana) with all of those little dorks in play to assist them. [c]Seedborn Muse[/c] is equally ridiculous, as untapping all of the mana producers and lands twice per go-around makes it quite easy to get to the magical 100 faster. The last two creatures might be the most out-of-place. [c]Eladamri, Lord of Leaves[/c] is important because he stops spot removal and other targeted effects like [c]Stifle[/c] from preventing mana production. [c]Argothian Elder[/c] is not quite of the same importance, but allows you to win the game on your next upkeep with [c]Maze of Ith[/c]. The two in combination make infinite mana. These two are only 1-ofs because the deck runs three copies of [c]Green Sun’s Zenith[/c]. This card is very powerful, and allows for these two “toolbox” inclusions as well as makes the deck more synergous.

Everything Else

There is not much else other than the creatures; they provide the bulk of the mana production. Two [c]Genesis Wave[/c] can be cast for ridiculous advantage in the mid-to-late game. The Wave also makes it easier to aggro-kill the opponent with a ton of Elves if there are a couple of Archdruids in play. [c]Thorn of Amethyst[/c] deserves special mention. Most of our deck is composed of creatures, so Thorn doesn’t have that much of an effect, but a deck like ANT, Stoneblade, or even Jund will have a problem with this card. It is to hopefully slow them down enough to get 100 counters on our [c]Helix Pinnacle[/c]. [c]Doubling Cube[/c] is also powerful, but only when mana production starts to exceed 10 or so per turn does it really shine. This means the Cude can only be a 2-of so as not to pollute the curve with unnecessary cards.

For the lands, a solid fifteen [c]Forest[/c]s provide the legwork for the deck. A turn 1 mana dork or Ranger is very necessary, and Forest gets the job done. [c]Maze of Ith[/c] was already spoken about as a 1-of that will make infinite mana with an attacking [c]Argothian Elder[/c]. The standard [c]Gaea’s Cradle[/c] is used, just like most Elf decks, to make 8+ mana per turn after just a few turns. I also like the split between [c]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/c] and the Cradle, as 2-2 allows for multiple ridiculous lands to be in play at the same time without the legend rule interfering too much.

Sideboard

The ‘board makes some matchups much easier, and can even be transformative. For obvious reasons, Manaless dredge seems to be running rampant around the tournament practice room. Ergo, three copies of [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] are important for keeping them off the graveyard. One card per turn will do good things early in the game, but nuking the yard will be important, as always, once the opponent starts to hit the 10+ card range. [c]Staff of Domination[/c] just does what it always does for Elves: goes infinite. The Staff can provide an alternate means to win the game once a sufficient number of elves and a [c]Priest of Titania[/c]/[c]Elvish Archdruid[/c] hit play. The extra two [c]Thorn of Amethyst[/c] kill combo and control, while [c]Vexing Shusher[/c] wins the game against [c]Counterbalance[/c] and other control-heavy decks. Finally, [c]Krosan Grip[/c] answers typical artifact/enchantment threats such as swords and [c]Humility[/c]. That is the gist of sideboarding with the deck; go with your gut. The most common cards to remove from the main should be [c]Doubling Cube[/c] and [c]Genesis Wave[/c], since they support the main goal and do not accomplish it by themselves.

So, Helix Elves – Is the deck better than Combo Elves? Not necessarily. They are both pretty on-par for consistency, although Combo will usually be slightly faster. The best part of this deck is its versatility. It can win in any number of ways, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of you crazies decided to add [c]Banefire[/c] and a [c]Taiga[/c]-fetch combo to the list. Elves as a whole should be a lot more flexible than it is made out to be as an archetype, and I hope that this list illustrates to you why.

Lastly, I met the nicest, most cynical fifteen-year-old kid while playing some online games a month or so ago. He reminds me a lot of myself. And I just found out that he is clinically depressed and sometimes contemplates suicide. He is also a digital artist, but thinks all of his stuff is awful. Honestly, I have no visual artistic talent whatsoever. This kid is a lot better than me, but refuses to take compliments and hates it when I say that he is good. Please, if you are so inclined, look at this page: http://vastwhiteart.tumblr.com/ and follow if he is better than you. Do not feel compelled to do so, I just think that people like this need a little recognition for being good at something, and maybe it’ll help this young man realize it himself. Thank you.

I hope to see you next Monday for more crazy Legacy action! Thanks for reading!

/Peyton

Legacy on Tuesdays, No. 8: Fooling Around with Artifacts

Welcome Back!

After all of those long articles about long [c]High Tide[/c] and the longevity of Legacy, I wanted to do something shorter. This week I want to share a simple idea that I had with the community. This deck is indubitably not competitive; the title of the article includes “fooling around!” I was trying to get some serious use and abuse out of [c]Mycosynth Golem[/c] in a Legacy environment. The big man himself requires an insane number of artifacts to be in play to be free, and allows the deck to freely cast all kinds of other broken threats once he hits play. Check out this list:

[d title=”Legacy Mycosynth Golem, aka Big Affinity”]

Artifacts
4 Welding Jar
2 Scale of Chiss-Goria
4 Tooth of Chiss-Goria
4 Mox Opal
Creatures
2 Platinum Angel
4 Shield Sphere
4 Darksteel Juggernaut
4 Mycosynth Golem
4 Phyrexian Walker
4 Memnite
4 Ornithopter
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer
Lands
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Tree of Tales
Sideboard
4 Great Furnace
3 Vault of Whispers
4 Steel Overseer
4 Signal Pest

[/d]

There it is. A crazy attempt to abuse [c]Mycosynth Golem[/c]. There are a few casual players out there who use the Golem in a similar manner, albeit without lands. This gives the deck a “no mana” feel, and doesn’t really amount to much in any given semi-competitive environment. I have attempted a few improvements; please allow me to elaborate.

Upping the Ante

Unlike most lists that use [c]Mycosynth Golem[/c], I have opted for artifact lands. These serve two puposes – firstly, they are artifacts, and up the affinity count for Golem and friends. Secondly, the provide an extra mana to cast anything for which there are not enough artifacts to cast for free via affinity. Playing [c]Myr Enforcer[/c] with only 5 total artifacts in play courtesy of a couple of artifact lands is always a good thing. That lofty {11} for Golem is rather difficult to reach in just a few turns, even with a ton of free spells. [c]Mox Opal[/c] serves the same purpose as the artifact lands for this reason; it nets an extra mana while being a free artifact. [c]Lotus Bloom[/c] is a possibility, but is non-functional as both an artifact and mana source until turn three at the earliest.

As far as actually winning the game, this is quite difficult without a [c]Mycosynth Golem[/c]. Most other casual Golem lists find it completely impossible to win without him, but this version enables the occasional poking to death with lots of little dudes and assistance from [c]Tooth of Chiss-Goria[/c]. There are plenty of potential win conditions with massive artifact dudes… For this list, I opted for [c]Darksteel Juggernaut[/c]. It is almost certainly going to come down the same turn as a [c]Mycosynth Golem[/c], and be a huge indestructible beater that the opponent will likely always have to block. [c]Blightsteel Colossus[/c] is also a possibility, and is more commonly used among casual lists, but he will almost never be cast the same turn as a Golem. [c]Platinum Angel[/c] was my other choice for a win con; she can swing for 4 in the air each turn, and prevents untimely loss from decks like ANT, provided she can be cast early enough. Both of these are more practical than the usually employed Blighty from a mana and win standpoint.

The sideboard is definitely rough. The [c]Steel Overseer[/c]s and [c]Signal Pest[/c]s in the board make poking the opponent to death much easier… However, they cost mana. A few extra artifact lands can supplement these two. Other than that, I believe that there is not much to do in the board.

Problems

The deck is slow. Slower than molasses in winter. The Canadian winter in the Yukon. Yeah… it is not on the same level that affinity is for speed. It is possible to play a [c]Mycosynth Golem[/c] within the first five or so turns of a game. Any longer and most decks will have killed you. Any unfair or combo deck will beat this one senseless. The little dorks can stall for time against creature decks, but this will ultimately just slow the deck down as it loses artifacts. Fortunately, a 9/9 Juggernaut or [c]Platinum Angel[/c] will usually win, but without them it can be painful.

The deck also goes topdecking very quickly. After dumping artifacts, there is not much to do. This goes along with a big, huge point of total impracticality. This deck could work if it was very cheap to put together and could find a metagame niche. It is expensive. [c]Mox Opal[/c]s alone are $80+ a piece. The deck is totally clunky and unrealiable. I wish this was an easy Legacy newbie deck, but it isn’t.

That’s all for this week! Please leave a comment as to what you think about the playability and usefulness of weird cards in this diverse format, or if you have any suggestions for this deck. Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon!

/Peyton