Blog Elemental – The Budget Cog Elemental
August 10, 2004
In my last organic deckbuilding experiment, the rare-count got a little out of control. The Marksman was a wonderfully fun deck to play, but I worried that few casual players would really be able to follow along once I started adding things like four Starstorm, four Karplusan Forest, four Wooded Foothills plus Terravore as a finisher to a combo that already involved two key rares (and four copies of each). One of the reasons for starting the current experiment from a preconstructed deck base, in fact, was in hopes that whatever grew from my testing and tweaking would be fairly affordable.
Mission accomplished. Cog Elemental has added some key rares since its initial Nuts and Bolts decklist, but the heart of the deck is still a pile of commons and uncommons. Heck, most of the variations I discussed last Friday are also fairly rare-light. One of the comments I’ve heard from several people online and in the Forums is that the deck can be built for far less than $50 total.
Even still, on this penultimate day of my experiment, I want to retrace my steps and look at how to make a version of the deck that is truly”lite” (a phrase I coined on magicthegathering.com meaning”without rares”).
Let’s look at the rares that have managed to sneak into the decklist to understand why they’re there. Just in case you can afford some rares, I’ll list them in what I consider to be most- to least-vital in the deck. Keep in mind that I’m talking about Cog Elemental only, not the multiple other ways you can build a cog deck.
It’s unfortunate that the most-needed rare in the deck is almost probably the priciest to acquire. You don’t need Engineered Explosives except… okay, you need Engineered Explosives. You can sometimes survive without it by relying heavily on Pyrite Spellbomb to get rid of small threats and Avarice Totem to get rid of big threats, but you’re just asking for stressful, frustrating games. Look back at my games pre-Explosives and my games post-Explosives and watch how I won or lost. If you have one rare in your deck, make it Engineered Explosives. Several people who have followed along with me in this experiment argue that you actually want two Explosives in the deck rather than one.
That said, if it’s impossible to find one, you’re playing a lite format with your friends, or you’re just plain stubborn, there are a couple of ways you can skirt around a vulnerability to artifacts and enchantments. The first is Altar’s Light, which is in your base color and something I discussed when adding the Explosives. The other is Echoing Truth coupled with countermagic. Neither of these options has the elegance of one card slot in your deck, though, which means you need to decide what else gets dropped to make room.
Glimmervoid and Grand Coliseum
Both Glimmervoid and Grand Coliseum become a lot less important in a lite Cog Elemental, because you are no longer worrying about Engineered Explosives and Bringer of the White Dawn. That’s good news since it allows you to focus on Coastal Tower, Mirrodin’s Core, or even just basic Islands and Plains (and a Mountain, if you want to toss in one Wayfarer’s Bauble). My advice is to add two Coastal Tower and two Mirrodin’s Core. The Cores don’t have great synergy in a deck that wants to tap its lands every turn, but the added mana diversity means that you can activate Pyrite Spellbomb multiple times in a turn to end the game or kill a big creature if needed.
Incidentally, if you fancy yourself a crazy deckbuilder like me, you should think of rare multicolor lands as an investment. I spent a lot of time getting a full set of first 7th Edition painlands and then Onslaught fetchlands because I knew that with them all of my off-the-wall deck ideas were possible. These days, four Mirrodin’s Core, the 8th Edition taplands and a smattering of Glimmervoid, Grand Coliseum, and City of Brass should be a high priority for your collection if you want the flexibility of trying out many different deck ideas. Having a cool deck with unstable mana is no fun whatsoever.
If you follow my advice and start this experiment with two Nuts and Bolts preconstructed decks, then you already have two Salvaging Stations. If instead you’re cobbling the decklist together from your own commons and uncommons, then you may not have any. Either way is probably fine. Don’t get me wrong; Salvaging Station is hands-down my favorite card in the deck and, as I’ve said before, the deck is at its craziest with the Station on the table. Salvaging Station is the single card in the deck that makes seemingly unwinnable situations winnable. Still, it’s really just a cool trick and ultimately redundant to what Auriok Salvagers already do. If you have any Stations, throw them in because they’ll increase the fun-factor and speed up your wins. You can survive on Salvagers alone, though.
Bringer of the White Dawn
When I added Bringer of the White Dawn, I explicitly said that the only reason for its inclusion was for style points. I’ve quickly fallen in love with it, but that doesn’t make it any more necessary. Qumulox is just as scary a finisher for the deck and, in my mind, is completely interchangable with the Bringer. Arcbound Crusher isn’t a terrible idea in this slot either, as long as you can justify the fact that its modular ability is useless to you.
Here is how I would go about building a lite deck that stays as close to the Cog Elemental decklist as possible:
4 Aether Spellbomb
3 Chromatic Sphere
3 Echoing Truth
3 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Avarice Totem
1 Conjurer’s Bauble
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Scrabbling Claws
1 Sunbeam Spellbomb
1 Tel-Jilad Stylus
The deck changes a little in how it plays with this build. Without countermagic, your Echoing Truth is really just a tempo card to clear blockers for your weenies. This means you need to be aggressive with your weenies and you need to probably mulligan more aggressively to ensure you have Auriok Salvagers at your command (the extra Thirst for Knowledge should help here too). To support the extra Blue requirements of Qumulox and Echoing Truth, I added an Island, Mirrodin’s Core, and two Coastal Tower.
Without testing, I’m not sure this decklist is exactly what you need. My guess is that without the five-color subtheme and Salvaging Station that the deck should drift in a slightly different direction (probably a more controllish direction with countermagic, fewer creatures, and swapping Red for Black and Necrogen Spellbomb). This gives you a base with which to start tinkering, though. Enjoy!
Blog Elemental – I Dub Thee…
August 9, 2004
As I expected, you all came up with lots and lots of great deck names. Here is (I think) a full list of suggestions, minus my Top 10:
Salvaging Victory, Glowing Urine, CaT (Cogs and Trinkets), Recycling Plant, Recycler, Cog Salad, Recurring Hardware, Blue Light Special, Junkyard Dog, Rustbelt, Messiah, Who Moved My Cheese, Bargain Bin, My deck Costs $11.23 and Still Kicked Your Butt, Kitchen Sink, Eco-Avenger, Recycling Can, Can Collector, Cognuts, Bobblehead, The Rube, Oscar, The Grouch, Crankshaft, Psycho-Cog, Clutch, The All Wise and All Knowing Trash Heap (Fraggle Rock), Litter Bug, New Jersey (The Garden State), Dumpster Diver, Wheel of Pain, Metal Gear Solid, Cog Day Afternoon, The Cog of War, Food of the Cogs, Cogs and Monsters, Squeal like a Cog, Heavy Metal, F.U.B.A.R., Steaming Pile, The Silver Bullet, Toolbox, Where’s Waldo?, Cog, Gear, Tin, Metal Gear, Gears of a Clown, Tested Mettle, Scrapheap, Cogs of War, The Machination, The Yardstick, Death by A Million Papercuts, Convergent Recursive Sequence, Cogality, The Construct Council, The Maddening Toolbox of the Manical Doctor Jay, The Answer, Cog Keeper, Keeper of Cogs, Doctorjay’s Wild Cogtacular Ride of Doom, Cognizance, PreCOGnition, Cogjunction, All The Small Things, Cognizant, Cogswell Cog, Toy Box, Cogffers, Cognate, Cognomen, Cognnossseur, Munchkin Control, Cognoscenti, Cog Advantage, CogVantage, Frankenstein, Cognivore, Cog Post, Lucky Cogs, Treasure Trove, Bringer of Cogs, Chutney, Rebels Revolt, and Aluminum.
I like”Aluminum” quite a bit, actually.
Here are my ten faves:
10. MacGuyver (cyrral)
9. Sanford & Son (konaboy)
8. Cogs and Blogs (ShaddyLogic)
7. Take Two (The_Zed)
6. Reservoir Cogs (bateleur)
5. Pre-Cog (MyFeetStillStink)
4. Plenty O’Tool (HuckmanT)
3. Salvage Yard (MyFeetStillStink)
2. Cogzilla (JHKlauk)
Although they may be obscure references for some people, I think MacGuyver, Sanford & Son, Plenty O’Tool, and Reservoir Cogs are brilliant. Take Two is a nice play on words, both with recursion and the multitude of two-power creatures. Pre-Cog and Cogs and Blogs both tie the deck to this deckbuilding experiment, same as the winner. Salvage Yard is probably the best descriptive deckname mechanically-speaking. Cogzilla just makes me smile, especially when I look at the art of Bringer of the White Dawn. In the end, though, the nod goes to…
The Winner: Cog Elemental (krzyzewski)
Sometimes simple is best, apparently. I like Cog Elemental because it ties the spirit of the deck directly to the spirit of this daily experiment in which I made the deck. I also think it’s catchy (but of course I would, having named my blog). Nicely done, krzyzewski. There’s a message in your Forum folder detailing how to claim your prize.
(cue dramatic music)
I’d like to introduce you to…
(music reaches crescendo)
4 Aether Spellbomb
4 Chromatic Sphere
2 Thirst for Knowledge
2 Salvaging Station
1 Avarice Totem
1 Conjurer’s Bauble
1 Pyrite Spellbomb
1 Scrabbling Claws
1 Sunbeam Spellbomb
1 Tel-Jilad Stylus
1 Engineered Explosives
Will naming the deck change how it plays? Has my preconstructed karma been disrupted? Let’s peek in and find out during the last official five games…
Game 96: Mono-Red Aggro
It’s nice to have a deck that feels comfortable playing Mono-Red. My opponent plays an early Slith Firewalker, which I block with Leonin Squire. I take one hit from Blistering Firecat and my Leonin Elder dies a Magma Jet death. I’m able to stabilize thanks to another Leonin Squire and an Aether Spellbomb, which kills Viashino Sandstalker and keeps a second Firewalker in his hand. After that, it’s a string of three Trinket Mages who help to grab Engineered Explosives (for zero, killing an unmorphed Firecat and his Chrome Mox), a Great Furnace, and a Pyrite Spellbomb (to kill his critters before they can be equipped with Grafted Wargear). My 2/2s start to charge in, and my opponent grumpily concedes.
Game 97: 5-Color… Something
I don’t know quite what was up with my opponent’s deck. It was mostly Green and White, but he plays two Pentad Prisms, a Darksteel Ingot, and two Loxodon Warhammer. While he’s doing all of this, I’m attacking with two Leonin Elders and Trinket Mage and gaining a ton of life. I have Bringer of the White Dawn and the correct mana to cast him, but I want to see if he can deal with my little guys first, maybe with a Wrath of God or something. All he finds is Dawn Elemental, which I bounce twice for the win. It sounds fast and brutal and it was. He dies with me at forty-three life and I need neither the Bringer nor the Avarice Totem I draw in the final turn.
Game 98: Sunburst
Poor hokusa22. I almost don’t want to log a game that’s won due to manascrew. He’s been watching my last game and asks if I want to play his modified Sunburst deck. Sounds good, although I keep a suspect hand of five land, Leonin Squire, and Conjurer’s Bauble. My deck rewards me, though, as I draw Leonin Elder, Trinket Mage, Auriok Salvagers, and Aether Spellbomb in my next four turns. Meanwhile, he can only get out a Swamp, a Mountain, and a Darksteel Pendant. By the time he’s finally able to play Darksteel Ingot followed by Infused Arrows, I already have him to five life with Squire, Mage, Salvagers along with my Aether Spellbomb for backup. He tries killing the Salvagers, I bounce it, drawing cards from Chromatic Sphere and the Bauble to refill my hand. On the last turn I attack with my 1/1 and my 2/2, then Trinket Mage out a Pyrite Spellbomb for the last two points of damage.
Game 99: Mycosynth Golem Affinity
I should not have won this game. My opponent gets out two quick Frogmites with all artifact land. I play a first-turn Chromatic Sphere, then Leonin Squire, then Leonin Elder. He isn’t attacking with his Frogmites, which strikes me as odd. Then he plays Mycosynth Golem, Mycosynth Golem, Memnarch, Darksteel Colossus all at once to empty his hand. I respond the next turn with Bringer of the White Dawn, which starts to recycle an Aether Spellbomb aimed at his Colossus. He tries in vain to attack with everything, but I kill Memnarch with the Bringer and can absorb the rest of the damage thanks to Elder lifegain. What my opponent could have done is slowly steal all of my land and wait until he can swarm me for the win. Instead I’m free to play the Salvaging Station in my hand, then Trinket Mage for a second Aether Spellbomb. All of his creatures leap into his hand and even though he’s at sixteen life he concedes.
Game 100: Cranial Affinity (w/ bonus Archmage tech)
I had hoped my final game would be against either Chris Romeo, Ben Bleiweiss, or Mark Gottlieb, all of whom I see online from time to time. But after almost a day of checking in constantly, I got antsy to finish up. I can’t say I’m terribly disappointed by the result, although rushing to finish felt a bit like hubris at first.
He starts off with a barrage of artifact land, Chrome Mox, Arcbound Stingers, Myr Enforcer, and Cranial Plating. I get an early Leonin Squire, followed by Leonin Elder. On the fourth turn I’m able to Engineered Explosives for two, which kills his plating and two Stingers. He then plays Vedalken Archmage and start going into turbo-Affinity mode. For about two turns, I squeeze every ounce from my mana, able to bounce key threats and block others. When the dust settles I have a second Elder keeping his turbo-mode in check and giving me enough breathing room to cast Bringer of the White Dawn.
The Bringer nabs a Salvaging Station from my graveyard (thanks to Thirst for Knowledge), and now we both have the luxury of crazy turns. I recycle the Explosives via another Squire, blow it to kill two more Platings and another Stinger, my Station untaps like mad and I bounce almost his entire side of the board, gaining life back to twenty. He replays his hand, I draw Pyrite Spellbomb, and proceed to systematically destroy his side of the table thanks to Salvaging Station. He concedes at seventeen life when it’s clear that anything he plays I can either bounce or destroy.
As several people have pointed out, one of the neat things about Cog Elemental is that it can come back from seemingly unwinnable situations.
And so my game logs squeal to a stop. I’ll still be playing the deck online, of course, and I have two more days before I put a complete wrap on this deckbuilding experiment.
In fact, I think the immortal words of Bluto in”Animal House” express my feelings best…
D-Day: War’s over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: What? Over? Did you say”over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the going gets tough . . . the tough get going. Who’s with me? Let’s Go! Come on! AAAAEEEEEGGGHHHH!!