Casual Competitive: Early Regionals Tech — ’77 HH McMonster

I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting to spill this deck to the public for a while now. Now that Dissension is here, I’ve been able to play out a few games and I’m having a blast. For the first time, FrummyChick has to face me piloting a real Suicide Black deck in Standard.

I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting to spill this deck to the public for a while now. Now that Dissension is out, I’ve been able to play out a few games and I’m having a blast. For the first time, FrummyChick has to face me piloting a real Suicide Black deck in Standard.

Okay, so it’s not quite SuiBlack – but it sure plays like it; and everyone knows I just love SuiBlack.

It took me a long while to figure out. When I finally finished getting the pieces I needed to assemble this baby at the prerelease, I was really, really thrilled. I was even more exuberant when I started playing against people. Without further ado, here it is:

Concisely put: Brutality – cubed.

Now mind you, I am the last person in the world to tell you that I know something about Standard right now. I know that Ghost Dad is the name of a deck rather than just a Bill Cosby movie, and that a playset of Burning-Tree Shaman will cost you a spleen on the black market; but gosh-golly gee willigers, Hunted Leyline is fun; so I don’t really care how good it is in Standard right now. I’m writing about it because I like it. So there.

The obvious strategy is to go something like this:

Turn 0: Opening hand has a Leyline – start the game with it in play.
Turn 1: Watery Grave; Sleight of Hand or Cry of Contrition (say, haunting opponent’s Kird Ape).
Turn 2: Hunted Horror. Watch pro-Black centaur tokens bump legendary heads and vanish.
Turn 3: Redzone a 7/7 trampler. Panicking opponent chumps with haunted Kird Ape; only to realize they must now discard a mostly useless Shock.

The obvious problem? Well, what if you don’t start the game with Leyline in your hand?

When Ravnica was first printed, everyone was hoping that Hunted Horror/Necroplasm would work well enough to play the 7/7 monstrosity. Unfortunately, it would never work – by the time Necroplasm knocked off the tokens, you only had two turns to swing before Hunted Horror vanished with it.

Surprisingly, with the build I’ve listed, I rarely have a problem when I don’t lead with a Leyline. It takes some strategic mulliganing, but even if you don’t start the game with Singularity in play, you can still utilize Hunted Horror; for a number of reasons.

One: Cruel Edict and Repeal both take out the pro-Black centaur tokens created by Hunted Horror; with the latter costing only one mana and drawing you a card. Two: even if you only take out only one of the tokens, that’s still a sizable advantage. Hunted Horror is among largest and scariest creatures in Standard once he’s in play; he eats Rumbling Slum for breakfast. If an opponent doesn’t find a way to get rid of him right away, he can wreak absolute havoc. A singular 3/3 pro-Black chumper still lets you trample over for four; you’ll still be able to kill anything else that gang blocks with it. Most of the time, an opponent will have to burn a fat creature to get rid of it; sometimes along with a removal spell (e.g. Scab-Clan Mauler plus Char), or even two (Helix plus Char).

Cruel Edict, normally subpar, improves dramatically with the addition of Repeal; but Rakdos Guildmage makes it phenomenal. Demonface’s 3B plus discard: -2/-2 ability can utterly dominate combat, but more importantly, it can knock off the tiny critters so that Cruel Edict can be effective against opposing fat. Repeal helps make the options even better; and Cruel Edict also ignores difficult-to-kill creatures like Simic Sky Swallower (a.k.a. Skyfolk Ascetic), and ignores effects from Plaxcaster Frog and the like.

With Rakdos Guildmage, Dark Confidant, and Hypnotic Specter; opponents have to determine which threat is most relevant; because any one of them left alone could be devastating. Confidant draws you more threats and removal, Hyppie messes up their hands, and Demonface will let you convert useless lands and excess hand-bound Leylines into death and destruction. Too many good targets means anything less than global removal will not be enough; although beware of cheap sweepers like Wrath and the new Dissension spell Kindle the Carnage, which can even kill off Hunted Horror for only three mana.

Leyline of Singularity performs some nice functions outside of breaking Hunted Horror, too. First of all, Meloku is much less scary when he can only make one illusion token at a time. The same goes for token generators like the infamous Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree and the new Saproling-X-spell, Supply / Demand.

Second, when you don’t start the game with one in hand, you can often two-for-one an opponent who may have more than one of a particular creature in play. During the prerelease, I played a casual side game against a Gruul beatdown deck. My opponent Kinquana had started off with a third turn Rumbling Slum. Things were looking bleak for me – until she played a second Slum the next turn. Totally unexpected to her, I slammed down a Leyline on my fourth turn and wiped both of them off the table. An eventual Hunted Horror followed a few turns later and mopped up the game.

Even more than that, Hunted Leyline as a deck is more prepared to deal with duplicate cards stuck useless in hand because you’ve already got a creature in play. Whereas an opponent with two Burning Tree Shamans in hand can’t do much until the one in play dies, you can just pitch your excess copies to Rakdos Guildmage. Combo decks won’t be able to get multiple Heartbeat of Spring in play, either; which can put a damper on their options.

Another useful function is that when a Leyline is in play, you can easily take out opposing Confidants, Guildmages, or Specters by playing your own. No one else is likely to run Hunted Horror, though; so you will have an advantage.

I should take a moment to note that there are two critical aspects that make this deck actually work. Sleight of Hand is absolutely required in order to make the deck function smoothly. Hunted Leyline needs to be able to filter away useless topdecks; requires the extra digging power; and more importantly, enough productive one-mana plays to open smoothly. A tight mana curve is absolutely imperative in this deck.

The deck has, at minimum, ten one-mana plays and sixteen two-mana plays. Repeal can be a one-mana removal, two-mana bounce, or even a three-mana rescue spell from an opposing Mortify; and you will even occasionally invest four mana to bounce annoying critters like opposing Hyppies, Teysas, Paladin en-Vecs, Burning Tree Shamans, Trygon Predators, Rakdos Augermages, and most fun of all, Avatars of Discord.

As a whole, the deck is weak to Mortify and Putrefy, as they unconditionally eliminate a 7/7. At one point, I was running Kira, Great Glass Spinner for protection; with Disrupting Shoal to pair along with it. Ultimately, I settled on keeping only some Remands in the sideboard. Dissension adds Condemn, which is really the cheapest answer an opponent can have. The upside to Condemn, though, is that it helps offset a lot of the life that you can lose due to Confidants, shocklands and painlands – you will have to manage your life total carefully. Cytoshape can turn a blocker into an equal-sized danger, so be aware of that possibility, too.

Speaking of the sideboard, Spell Snare seemed like a great response to opposing Remands (and Scab-Clan Maulers, and Watchwolf, and Rise / Fall…), so I added a couple to the maindeck, where I found them to be very helpful at countering Lightning Helix. Brain Pry makes a nice addition against control; and in particular it can easily neutralize the threat of Condemn without wasting a card on a whiffed selection a la Cabal Therapy.

Darkblast was a mana-efficient removal spell that fit the curve, so I threw in four; but those sideboard slots could probably be something better. (They do help you trade your bears with 3/3s, though; and they can easily take down opposing Bob Mahers.) Avatar of Discord seems like a fun card to play with if I needed more threats; so I added it in the sideboard.

You’re welcome to tweak using your superior expertise and knowledge of the current Standard environment; Mana Leak and the aforementioned Disrupting Shoal would be nice (pitch extra Leylines to stop Rumbling Slums, Rakdos Pit Dragons, etc). Last Gasp and Consuming Vortex aren’t bad additions either; and Drowned/Plagued Rusalka add additional insurance against Faith’s Fetters/Pillory of the Sleepless stranding your Hunted Horror underneath a Leyline. Mark of Eviction is reusable Centaur removal as well, although it’s fairly slow. Genju of the Falls is an interesting idea, too. Moroii is also an option if Avatar of Discord seems too risky for you.

In any event, mind your mana curve and be sure to have enough sideboard goods to deal with Heartbeat decks. On a separate note, some Ghost Quarter can help break up the Urzatron, bust Guildhouse lands like Sunhomes, or neutralize enchant-lands like Leafdrake Roost and Utopia Sprawl; so you can consider those in your board, too. I wouldn’t maindeck them, though; your color commitments are too high.

For the budget conscious, Dark Confidant can probably be replaced with Hand of Cruelty; and Specters can be replaced with anything cheap and disruptive, such as Ogre Marauder; which also helps get rid of pro-Black centaur tokens. The duals, though, are necessary; there’s no way you can expect to play a first-turn Sleight of Hand that nets you the second-turn Horror unless you can support multiple colors on turn 1; and the Kamigawa dual lands won’t cut it. Forbidden Orchard isn’t exactly a great replacement, either.

What’s even more interesting is that the Hunted Leyline strategy is theoretically playable in block – U/B running both Hunted Horror and the even riskier Hunted Phantasm might work as an aggro strategy, assuming you use Crime / Punishment in place of Cruel Edict. Dimir Cutpurse can substitute for Hypnotic Specter; although if you’re already playing Green (for Punishment), Trygon Predator would probably be better. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any good replacements for Sleight of Hand; so you would have to survey your options for something suitable. Perhaps something like Quicken, which could be, used as a basic cantrip, while simultaneously letting you pound out Punishment on your opponent’s turn. I was hoping Dissension would bring more options for Block, but sadly, the only real bomb from Dissension turned out to be Rakdos Guildmage; although I suppose Slithering Shade could be ridiculous if you actually got Hellbent online. The lack of Underground River could hurt the deck, though.

Overall, I would imagine that Hunted Leyline won’t be anything particularly special in the upcoming Regionals, nor will it be the next uber-busted deck on CardboardCrack Online… erm… MTGO. Regardless, there is something truly amusing about watching your opponent wonder why you play maindeck Leyline of Singularity, and then suddenly realizing why after you drop a ’77 HH McMonster. I’m sure that some of you may love bringing it to FNM, though – so the rest of you better watch out for them Leylines.

Nathan J

Props: To Leyline of Singularity, for actually being more useful than I expected.
Slops: To Varchild’s War-Riders, for being printed way too long ago. He would love Leyline of Singularity, don’t you think?

This article brought to you by the number 7, the letter H, and the association of Hunted Creatures Worldwide; where Powder Keg is loved and Overrun is feared.