Casual Play: Fun With Shivan Wurm – Now With Decklists!

Ooo, a contest! Anyone wanna win a nice Legends Kobold to bounce that Shivan Wurm with? Thoughts so.

At the prerelease, I got a Shivan Wurm (3RG, 7/7 Creature, trample, gating – when it comes into play, return a red or green creature to your hand). This got me thinking about the Wurm in casual play. More accurately, how I could abuse this ability completely. The Fires of Yavimaya / Shivan Wurm deck couldn’t be more obvious if Wizards put instructions in the flavor text, but other options look pretty good, too. I’ll write about those, then throw in a few puzzles about getting the Wurm into play. Let me know if you want more – or fewer – puzzles in future articles.

Oh, yeah – the prerelease. A half-drunk monkey could have won packs with my deck. I had two Magma Bursts, Terminate, Annihilate, Agonizing Demise, Tribal Flames, Mourning, Slay (sideboard), and probably more removal I have forgotten. For creatures, I had Mire Kavu, three Horned Kavu, Shivan Wurm, Duskwalker, two Stone Kavus, Quirion Trailblazer, Kavu Climber and others. I won’t do a whole tourney report, but a few highlights are worth retelling.

1) I’m playing a opponent with a lot of fliers and am getting beaten down by three medium-sized ones. I cast Flametongue Kavu, a 4/2 creature that does four damage to target creature, and blow out a flier. Next turn, I cast a Horned Kavu, bounce the Flametongue, then recast him to blow out another flier. My opponent winces, and his friend comments that the combo is pretty good. I agree, apologize, and do it again next turn, killing his last defender. This time the friend says, "That’s just wrong." Next turn I apologize profusely, Terminate a brand-new blocker, swing for a bunch, then cast Shivan Wurm and return the Flametongue yet again. Unreal.

2) Last game of the last match, I mulliganed, then kept a two-land hand. My opponent didn’t do much better and on turn 5, we both played our fourth land. I cast Quirion Trailblazer to get a Mountain, then bounced the Trailblazer three times over the next few turns to get a solid mana base and thin the deck. By then, we both had a fair number of 3/4s and 4/3 in play, and were stalled. About turn 10 the judge watching asked a friend, "Guess who took a no-land mulligan?" My opponent had five lands in play; I had at least ten. My opponent then played Planeswalker’s Scorn (enchantment, opponent reveals a card at random, target creature gets –X/-X where X equal casting cost). In response, I went Terminate that guy, Magma Burst to kill those two guys, second Burst to kill those two guys, look – no cards in hand.

Like I said, a senile cat could have won with my deck. I went 5-1-1, although one game loss was to Bog Initiate beatdown (I killed everything else he played) after I didn’t miss a land drop for literally fifteen turns, and the others were to fast Armadillo Cloaked Charging Trolls when I could not draw anything that said "Kill, don’t regenerate." No matter how badly I played (would you cast Agonizing Demise with kicker, targeting the red Kavu that can turn himself black?), my deck generally pulled me out of it.

Anyway, back to casual play. John and Cathy went to the prerelease with us, and we all decided to ignore the T1 rules and play our new Planeshift cards the following weekend. (Note for those of you who haven’t read about our games: We are generally Type I and play four-player games with randomly-chosen two-person teams. We build new decks for each session and generally play the same deck all day. Since the sessions run many games over many hours, we try for variety in decks, not consistency. We also have some general ground rules; for example, Pete better not play any broken combos that actually work unless he has a backup deck. I’ll have to write about ground rules and formats someday.)

Thanks to drafts and packs won at the prerelease, Ingrid and I had three Shivan Wurms to fight over, plus a bunch of other stuff. Ingrid rebuilt her Kavus deck, so she had first claim on the Flametongue Kavus. I had to fight off my first metagame impulse – a Keeper variant with four "protection from Kavu" Shoreline Raiders. It would give me a chance to play the brand-new Italian Abyss I got from StarCity, but I refrained for three reasons: 1) I don’t find playing Keeper-type control to be much fun in casual play, especially for game after game, 2) Ingrid might be my partner, and 3) I had no desire to walk home after the game. (Okay, number three is a joke… But it is unfair to metagame after people tell you what they are playing.)

Here’s my first thought on using Planeshift cards: Use Sneak Attack to get big creatures into play, attack with them, and then bounce them back to hand using the cheap gating creatures like Horned Kavus and Lava Zombies. Here’s a quick decklist built around that idea:

4x Sneak Attack
4x Horned Kavus (RG, 3/4 creature, to bounce the creatures you Sneak out.)
3x Shivan Wurm (3RB, 7/7 trampler, and he bounces whatever you sneak)
2x Nicol Bolas (best sneaker around, even though he doesn’t trample)
2x Rancor (okay, now he tramples)
2x Avalanche Riders (kill Maze of Ith)
2x Sparkcaster (5/3 gating creature, does 1 damage to target opponent on entry)
2x Deranged Hermit (if I can bounce him, of course I play him)
2x Crater Hellions (board clearers – but not partner friendly, so just two)
Assorted tutors (it’s Type 1, so one Demonic, one Vampiric, one Enlightened, etc.)
1x Diabolic Tutor (not restricted, but all we have so far)
4x Hull Breach (kill artifact and/or enchantment? Sure. I’ll find targets.)
1x Regrowth
1x Sol Ring
1x Wheel of Fortune
4x Wall of Roots (slow down the fast Kavus, and okay when bounced)
4x Birds of Paradise
0 Moxen (we have one Ruby and one Emerald, but Ingrid claimed them first)
Various dual lands with mountains, as many as we have, plus assorted basic lands.
4x Shivan Oasis (okay as a one-drop – we don’t generally play super-fast decks)
Cities of Brass and one or two Undiscovered Paradises to round out the mana.

I just ran this off the top of my head (I SAID first thought), and haven’t tuned it. I would have to play around with the mana. The concept looks solid – fast beats with some real tricks once Sneak Attack hits. The next step is to do a few basic checks:

1) Is the mana consistency okay?

It should be. The curve is slow for tournaments, but good enough for the style of decks we usually play. It is two main colors – with splashes of the others – but the duals, Cities, Birds, maybe Skyshroud Elves and so forth should provide the colors I need. Nevertheless, it could run into trouble early on. An alternative build might be to go straight green / red, with just Shivan Oasis, Karplusan Forests, a couple Taigas, and basic lands. The chance of color screw with that deck is very slight, and I could replace the Birds with Fyndhorn and Llanowar Elves so I could use Hurricane-type effects against fliers. Without the Tutors I am much less likely to get Sneak Attack out quickly, but that’s okay because the deck will play well without it. However, without the tutors, I probably should add some card drawing, like Wall of Blossoms or Kavu Climber – both of which are pretty decent as initial blockers and good when bounced.

2) Can it handle fast beats?

Yes – it has Walls, second turn 3/4s, and so forth.

3) Can it handle evasion?

A deck shouldn’t just lose to creatures you cannot block. This one probably won’t. The Crater Hellions should deal with Shadow guys or other unblockables, like Metathran Elites. The sideboard will have Lightning Bolts, Hurricanes, and maybe Terminates to deal with fliers, and Radiant’s Dragoons to deal with smaller first strikers and hoards.

4) Can it get around problem artifacts and enchantments?

A deck either has to be so fast that enchantments (like No Mercy, Energy Field or Worship) or artifacts (Force Field, Portcullis) don’t get into play, or it must have answers to them. This deck is trying Hull Breach as an answer. Other alternatives might include Keldon Vandals, Monk Realists, Disenchant, Emerald Charm, Creeping Mold, and so on.

5) If it has a trick, what does it do when it doesn’t have the trick in play?

The deck has a trick – Sneak Attack. It has Tutors to fetch it, but the deck should work without it. Most cards can be cast reasonably quickly. The only dead card is probably Nicol Bolas, although he could be cast with the Birds and Cities. A Rancored Horned Kavu or a Shivan Wurm should be good enough to hold out until Sneak arrives, or even to win the game by itself.

6) Does it just lose to anything likely to be played?

It just loses to Perish, but no one in our group has played that in casual games for the last few years. Offhand, I can’t think of anything else that wrecks it. It can probably kill The Abyss or No Mercy, it can fly over Moat, and it should be fast enough to avoid discard. I should be able to play around one opponent with counters easily, assuming my partner isn’t totally mana-screwed. If both my opponents are playing really heavy counterspell decks I’m in trouble, but then we will switch partners.

We have no set rules for the sideboard. We generally avoid or limit color hosers and go for interesting effects instead. Here’s my initial sideboard.

2x Artifact Mutation: John opened a Draco, and they have a Forcefield that sees a lot of play, so it might be very good.
3x Radiant’s Dragoons: in case everyone plays fast beats
4x Hurricane or Canopy Surge for fliers
4x Emerald Charm
4x Lightning Bolts
2x Splinter
3x Earthquake or Breath of Darigaaz
2x Avalanche Riders or Trench Wurm

That would be a pretty good multiplayer build. But if I actually played this with our group, I would add enough cards and lands to bring the deck up to around 80 cards. A sixty-card deck with tutors should consistently get Sneak Attack out quickly, and be pretty tough in most games; An eighty-card deck will often not see Sneak Attack all game. However, if I am going to play the same deck against the same people for eight hours or more, I want some variety. Therefore, I would add a bunch of one-off interesting cards like Woodripper, Ancient Hydra, Gargantuan Gorilla, Karn, Flowstone Overseer, Skizzik, or maybe even off-color stuff like Reya or Avatar of Woe if I don’t mind mana problems. It’s a casual play trade-off, and my group favors variety over power.

Another reason for not playing this: I played a green deck last time. Time to play something very different. What archetype haven’t I played for a while that can be improved with Planeshift cards? Hmmm – how about discard? I haven’t played group discard in over a year, so here’s a Planeshift discard deck for partners or small group multiplayer games.

4x Lightning Bolts
4x Terminate
2x Eradicate (Masticore, some multiples)
2x Flowstone Slide
2x Diabolic Edict
Maybe some Disintegrate or Rolling Thunders
Try out 1x Deathbomb.

Get Rid of Cards cards:
4x Hymns to Tourach
4x Cackling Fiends
4x Unnerve, (both this and the Fiends target all opponents, not partners, so they are good in this particular format)
4x Ravenous Rats
4x Hypnotic Specters
Maybe our 2x Blazing Specters
Whatever Bog Downs we have.

Other stuff:
2x No Mercy (stop those Kavu!)
4x Nightscape Familiar (he makes all of my red spells one colorless mana cheaper and regenerates after blocking)
1x Apocalypse
2x Flowstone Overseer
4x Lava Zombies (4/3 for 1RB and gating, which will work very well with Ravenous Rats and Cackling Fiend)

4x Badlands
4x Urborg Volcano
1x Sol Ring
Diamonds and Star Compasses instead of Dark Rituals (this deck goes for control, not speed)
Swamps, mountains, etc.

The numbers need to be tweaked. Right now, it is around 80 cards, and cutting it would be good. The Unnerves are a metagame choice, because they don’t annoy people enough to get you instantly killed. Ditto the Cackling Fiends. If making opponents discards cards is going to get you singled out for mass retribution, dump them. These cards are just not threatening or damaging enough to be worth the hatred – but like I said, our group generally does not get to pissed about discard.

Going through the process described above, I feel pretty good about the mana consistency and speed of the deck (at least for our games.) Terminate and the other removal can deal with any big threats. Flowstone Slide should be able to deal with hordes of weenies and untargetables, but I might add something to the sideboard (probably Earthquake or Fault Line). The deck cannot deal with enchantments except through discard, and probably needs a couple of sideboard Pillages for lands and problem artifacts, but that should not be too much of a problem. The control elements are strong enough for small multiplayer. It should be okay for larger games, provided you don’t make too much of a nuisance of yourself.

As it happens, I got most of this written before the weekend game, but did not get it sent off. Too much work, too little time, so I didn’t get the Sneak deck built. Instead, I grabbed a U/B thing I had half together, with Recoil, Urborg Drake, Sleepers Robe, Tsabo’s Assassin and some random stuff, and an artifacts deck with Planar Portals that never did get cut to a reasonable number of cards, but which proved devastating if it got set up. Overall, Ingrid’s Kavus deck, with Fires of Yavimaya and very little T1 stuff, proved fast enough to dominate the day – especially since the only creature in either of my decks that could survive a Flametongue Kavu was a random Dancing Scimitar. The Kavus were strong enough to make us think seriously about Kavu bounce and Fires for Regionals – at least as part of the test suite.

I just noticed that I have drifted a long way away from Shivan Wurm, so let’s get back to the big guy.


Herb Branan posted a puzzle involving Shivan Wurm to the MTG rules list a few days ago. That got me thinking about Shivan Wurm tricks, and how to get it into play.

Shivan Wurm
Creature – Wurm
Trample. When Shivan Wurm comes into play, return a red or green creature you control to its owner’s hand.

The trick is to keep him in play. If you play it and do not have another red or green creature to return, the Wurm itself will return to your hand (unless you can make him another color before the return resolves).

I responded to Herb’s post with a simple puzzle: Assume you are going first and playing a T1 legal deck and have any seven cards in hand. This isn’t 5-Color, so you do not draw another card. How can you get a Shivan Wurm into play, to stay, and deal at least five damage to your opponent on this turn? You cannot take extra turns or draw extra cards.

Pause if you want to think this one out for yourself. The answer is in the next paragraph.

Actually, there are a bunch of answers. My initial answer was pretty simple: cast Black Lotus, sacrifice it for RRR, cast Ball Lightning, attack with Ball Lightning, cast Mox Ruby, Mox Emerald, any land, tap land for Mana Vault, tap everything for 3RG, cast Shivan Wurm, return Ball Lightning to hand. Ingrid and Gabe Perdue used Fires of Yavimaya and Chaos Charm, respectively, cards to give the Wurm haste and attacked with him. We all used the Power Nine; you can do so many amazing things with those cards. For example, you can get all four Shivan Wurms into play before your opponent gets his or her first turn, but Power Nine insanity is not that interesting.

So, let’s make these puzzles a little more difficult and ban the broken cards. Let’s assume you are playing a type one legal deck and do not have / cannot use any of the Power Nine (Mox Ruby, Mox Diamond, Mox Emerald, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Black Lotus, Time Walk, TimeTwister, Ancestral Recall.) You also do not have any of the following cards: Lion’s Eye Diamond, Show and Tell, Fastbond, any cards involving luck or coin flips, any Unglued or similar cards, or any of the hand replenishers like Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, or Memory Jar.

I’ll print puzzles and answers for the first two. The last few are a contest, with answers next time. In each case, the goal is to get the Shivan Wurm into play to stay (in other words, casting it and having it immediately return to your hand is not enough.)

Puzzle #1: You go first, with a seven-card hand and no draw phase. Can you get Shivan down without playing any artifacts?

Pause if you want to think this one out for yourself. The answer is in the next paragraph.

Here’s one answer to the above: Swamp, Dark Ritual, Funeral Charm (target yourself, discard Shivan Wurm), any Kobold, Exhume the Shivan, bouncing the Kobold.

Puzzle #2: Your opponent drew first and played Planar Void (any cards going to the graveyard are removed from the game instead – and no, you cannot Disenchant it). You draw Tolarian Academy and play it as your only land on your turn one. Can you get the Shivan Wurm that started play in hand into play, to stay, without casting any summon creature spells or drawing additional cards?

Pause if you want to think this one out for yourself. The answer is in the next paragraph.

Answer to Puzzle #2: Play Academy, play Mana Crypt (Type 1-legal promo card, zero casting cost artifact, taps for two colorless mana), tap mana Crypt for two mana, play Mana Vault, play Voltaic Key, tap Mana Vault for three, play Candelabra of Tawnos, tap Academy, use Candelabra to untap Academy, tap Academy again, use Key to untap Candelabra, play Tinker to sacrifice Key and get Alloy Golem (and choose either green or red as the Alloy Golem’s color), tap Candelabra to untap Academy, play Quicksilver Amulet, tap Academy, tap Amulet to put Shivan into play, bounce Alloy Golem.

Okay, now for the contest. I’ll send a free Legends Kobold to the first person to email me with correct answers for each of the following four puzzles, but each answer has to be different. I’ll even autograph the Kobold, if you want.

For the contest puzzles, assume you kept a hand with seven cards but only two lands and your opponent went first. He cast a turn one Swamp, Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach (target player discards two cards at random) and you discarded both your lands. He then played Planar Void and passed the turn. You draw one card, giving you six cards in hand. You need to get the Shivan Wurm into play without it bouncing immediately back to hand. Can you do it if:

Puzzle #3: You draw and play a Forest or Mountain.

Puzzle #4: You draw and play a Plains or Island.

Puzzle #5: You draw and play a Swamp.

Puzzle #6: You draw a nonland card. (The answer to this puzzle uses at least one artifact that produces colored mana.)

Puzzle #7: Like number 6, but you draw two nonland cards (a Howling Mine spontaneously appeared) and this time you cannot get any colored mana from artifacts. I’m letting you draw two cards, so you have seven cards after your draw. Remember, though, that you cannot play lands and cannot get any colored mana from artifacts.

Send answers to wither of the following email addresses: [email protected] or [email protected]. Either address works. Those addresses work if you have general comments, questions, rants, whatever.


Special Bonus Rant:

I rarely find any other author’s work so bad I feel driven to respond (for one thing, I don’t want to encourage the on-line criticism of bad writing. People who live in glass houses…), but Chris Cade’s "10 Ways to Distract Female Opponents" on New Wave is really dreck. What a waste of bandwidth! A new set is here, people are starting to playtest for regionals, and this is all he has to say? Sheesh!

Why is this article so bad? Well, in keeping with the theme of his article, how about ten reasons 10 Ways sucks?

1) The humor is juvenile. This is the kind of stuff we used to tell back in grade school – back when we had seen girls, but were afraid to talk to them.

2) As Magic advice, it is useless. Strategies to use against women playing Magic is about as important as an article on how to metagame against squirrel decks in the current Type II. You don’t metagame against the stuff you don’t expect to face.

3) Most of the suggestions are illegal. At the very least, you will get warnings for unsportsmanlike conduct.

4) Half the suggestions are impractical. I mean – wear nothing but a G-string to a mid-winter tourney? How does frostbite improve your game?

5) Insulting women to get match wins shows a seriously distorted set of priorities. Most normal people would consider getting a date the "win." (Note: Don’t read this to mean you should hit on every woman you meet at a PTQ, but going in trying to repel any females around is a bad life strategy.)

6) It wasn’t funny.

7) Magic players don’t need advice on being obnoxious or repulsive. Sorry, folks, but way too many of us don’t. At the prerelease, I saw a lot of loudmouthed jackasses, and way too many opponents stank. Wizards just cut a bunch of jobs and canceled a Pro Tour because sales and attendance was down. We do not need to list ways of driving more people away.

8) Insulting women is offensive. So is taking cheap shots at any other minority group – and women are, unfortunately, a minority in Magic. I would also note that, of the few women that regularly play in the PTQs around here, over half are likely to still be in contention in the late rounds. I can’t say that about any other group playing, except for the group of Pro Tour regulars.

9) He didn’t have 10 things in his "top ten" list.

10) See 9.

Actually, I don’t know whether I’m more annoyed by the sexist overtones or by the fact that it lacked anything resembling real strategy. Let’s see, if he had written suggestions that were useful against all opponents, like:

10 Ways to Distract your Opponent at the PTQ:

1) Bring a bowl of beans, raw onions and garlic to the table, and eat heartily. Then lean forward and exhale. The onions and garlic are for the early rounds. The beans are an added bonus for late games.

2) Always bring a cadaver to the tournament. You can break off the fingers for counters. When your opponent is thinking hard about blocking or countering, just reach down, grab an arm and take a big bite. If he is still thinking about the game, chew with your mouth open.

3) Use a dull saw to cut off parts of your anatomy during the match….

No, this isn’t any better. It’s still pointless, illegal, impractical, and not really all that funny. Enough.

Rant mode off.