Daily Digest: The Rites Stuff

There’s a good chance this whole Cryptolith RItes thing is here to stay. Have we found the perfect deck for it yet? Ross Merriam studies the ongoing quest to break this card for good!

Join us at Grand Prix Charlotte May 20-22!

Grand Prix Toronto gave us the first look at the post-Pro Tour Standard metagame and there were some clear winners and losers. Bant Company continues to be omnipresent, although its status as the default best deck in the format was usurped by GW Tokens. On the other hand, Ramp and G/B Seasons Past Control failed to put up results, and their ultimate place in the format is in doubt.

G/B Aristocrats continued to perform well despite failing to crack the Top 8, as it took several spots in the Top 32. A similar deck, played by several members of Team East West Bowl, took the concept further, replacing some of sacrifice synergies (Nantuko Husk and Blisterpod) of the deck with a robust combo angle.

For those who are unaware, Eldrazi Displacer and Brood Monitor combine to allow you to blink the Monitor ad infinitum by simply sacrificing the three Eldrazi Scion tokens from Brood Monitor to pay for Eldrazi Displacer’s activated ability. This loop does not generate any advantage by itself, but when you have a Zulaport Cutthroat on the battlefield, each iteration of the loop will generate three of its triggers, ending the game after a sufficient number of iterations.

Displacer is already an established card in the format, as its ability can easily take over a game if it goes long, force through the last points of damage, or stall your opponent long enough for you to stabilize. There are also plenty of synergies with the card in this deck, highlighted by Elvish Visionary and Reflector Mage, so Displacer is a welcome addition to the deck outside of the combo.

Without Husk, Zulaport Cutthroat gets much worse, even if it serves an additional role, so trimming them makes sense. Duskwatch Recruiter helps to dig through the deck for the copies you need to combo, as does Catacomb Sifter so you should rarely be lacking one unless you are under a lot of pressure, in which case Cutthroat is unlikely to save you.

Brood Monitor is the weakest of the three cards in a vacuum, but this deck is all about establishing a battlefield presence, so four bodies for one card is a fit on paper. The six-mana price tag is certainly high, so three may be too many, but with Loam Dryad, Cryptolith Rite, and Eldrazi Scion tokens, this deck generates a surprising amount of mana, so I am not too concerned.

I am concerned, however, by this deck’s manabase. When I first saw the deck on coverage last weekend, it was during a feature match of Seth Manfield’s, and I was taken aback by his manabase containing both Yavimaya Coast and Caves of Koilos. Seth being the maniac that he is (a term of endearment, I swear), I wasn’t particularly surprised, but it was definitely the first place I looked once lists were posted.

Obviously, Cryptolith Rite and Loam Dryad do a lot of heavy lifting, which is why I was surprised to not see the fourth copy of the former, but outside of that the mana is not as shaky as I expected, beyond the presence of eleven painlands. Evolving Wilds plays a key role, much the way it did in Rally decks last season, and the only color I think the deck is clearly short on is white.

Reflector Mage and Eldrazi Displacer are key cards in the deck and having only eight sources outside of your green fixers is not tenable. I honestly think the list has more than enough colorless sources for Displacer’s ability, so replacing a painland or two and playing a small number of Battle lands, likely Canopy Vista, could be a beneficial tweak. I would also be interested in adding a land, since Displacer is such a powerful mana sink.

The sideboard looks fairly typical, with some more cheap blockers against aggro, a powerful threat against control and ramp, and some assorted interaction. Enlightened Ascetic is likely an answer to Virulent Plague, which stops the combo and should pick up as G/W Tokens ascends to the top of the format.

Ultimately, I think this is a more powerful, but less consistent way to abuse Cryptolith Rite. The deck can play aggressively with Reflector Mage and cheap creatures, go long with Duskwatch Recruiter and value creatures, and threaten a combo finish starting as early as turn 4. Eldrazi Displacer ties the deck together by functioning well in every role, and the only question left to answer is whether the inconsistencies of playing four colors with a colorless subtheme is worth the upgrade in power. The impressive results of East West Bowl in Toronto suggest it just might be.

Join us at Grand Prix Charlotte May 20-22!