Daily Digest: Murder!

Don’t look now, but someone has committed murder. The suspect list is pretty short since one fellow has it right there in his name! Ross Merriam spotlights a deck that makes use of a legend that was all too-untouched during his Standard reign. And now he’s angry…

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease March 26-27!

It’s good to be the king. Even if the thing you’re the king of is murder. And, in this case, murdering your own people. If you just recoiled in horror at that statement, stay with me. I promise that will make sense in a way that doesn’t make me look like a psychopath.

While Tymaret, the Murder King was a Standard-legal card, I had a bit of an unhealthy obsession with it. I wasn’t necessarily trying to find a suitable home for the gruesome monarch, but I am just so tickled by the name. It’s so overly macabre that I can’t help but chuckle every time I say it.

Tymaret never really made it in Standard, outside of a unique Mardu aggro deck that was only popular for a few weeks, but maybe we just weren’t looking hard enough. Maybe Standard didn’t have the right things to murder. After all, as the king, I’m sure Tymaret has very high standards.

Modern has plenty of great fodder to sacrifice to our ruler’s insatiable bloodlust. Gravecrawler, Bloodsoaked Champion, and Bloodghast come down early to apply pressure and come back late to die over and over again. Geralf’s Messenger actually likes being killed, since it will come back even bigger and take a couple more of our opponent’s life points.

The top of the curve features another noble that likes to feast on its own subjects, former Standard all-star Falkenrath Aristocrat. There are a lot of Path to Exiles and Dismembers around right now because of the Eldrazi, so I’m not sold on the full four, but if those numbers go down to historic levels and instead we see more cards like Lightning Bolt, Terminate, and Abrupt Decay, then Aristocrat is an excellent finisher. Note that it is important to have a way to sacrifice creatures without spending mana, and Aristocrat is the most powerful sacrifice outlet, so I understand its place and I would certainly not cut any before seeing if another such outlet fits the deck as well.

Overall, this deck looks like the old B/R Zombies deck, but instead of going as big as Thundermaw Hellkite, it uses its small creatures to assemble a graveyard value end-game that can wear down opposing removal spells or deal lots of damage with Tymaret.

In a desire to keep the curve low, I would like to see something else over Kolaghan’s Command, although perhaps that is a concession to Affinity, which seems like a poor matchup. Two copies of Murderous Cut could serve well, given how many fetchlands are in the deck, and getting bigger creatures out of the way is important when attacking with 2/1s.

As far as the mana goes, I’m not sold on all three copies of Dragonskull Summit. The first looks great but they fall off quickly, especially when you can reasonably expect to see hands with just Summits and Blackcleave Cliffs. With Bloodghast in the deck I would just play a couple more fetchlands. I will applaud the lack of inclusion of a Mountain. On a low land count with so many black and double black cards, the Mountain will too often be a liability, especially in a deck that does not mind shocking itself to play a turn 1 Faithless Looting or Lightning Bolt off of Blood Crypt.

The sideboard is a bit crude, but does serve as a reminder that Laya wants to be aggressive. Blightning and Duress give you a great swap for your mediocre removal spells against control and combo decks that won’t reduce the amount of reach in the deck. Rakdos Charm has a lot of uses, but in a deck this low to the ground, I am not sold on the full four. I think the Affinity matchup looks bad enough that I would like some dedicated hate, even to the point of playing a Shatterstorm or two. There are no longer any Twin decks that you can “get” with the Charm’s third mode, but having some incidental graveyard hate is welcome against Goryo’s Vengeance decks.

Skullcrack, despite this being an aggressive deck, seems to me to be the one out-of-place card. Given how robust the deck’s engine is, I think you can attack problematic lifegain cards directly. That being said, Kitchen Finks out of Abzan Comany seems to me to be the most important, and trying to stop that combo without shutting down your own engine (say, with Grafdigger’s Cage) is difficult so I could see Skullcrack being the best option. But if you’re looking to tune the deck, this is a spot I’d try to improve.

Overall this list does a good job of focusing on what it’s trying to do without sacrificing power, which is only possible in a large format like Modern. As a Zombie itself, maybe Tymaret was destined to kill undead things. Another piece of fodder is coming in Shadows over Innistrad with the printing of Relentless Dead, so this deck is poised to get even better, which should make for one happy king and a lot of bodies.

I don’t envy whoever has to clean that mess up.

Shadows over Innistrad Prerelease March 26-27!