For the past week, I’ve received quite a few messages asking for my thoughts and updates on the Dark Depths deck that I played at the StarCityGames.com
Boston Open. While I was at first hesitant to give out something I’d been working on so hard to battle with at GP Providence, I have come around to
sharing my hard work with the rest of the world.
The reason? I haven’t written an article in over a month, and I want to write the most informative ones that I can. I’ve been testing this format
exclusively for a couple weeks now, and I have learned so much about not only Dark Depths but the format in general. It took me a while to find a deck
that I finally liked, so let’s take a look down memory lane and check out my thought process.
Usually what I do is look for a deck that I’d be interested in playing, change a few cards, and then test it until I feel comfortable with it. This is
the wrong thing to do, especially in a format where you don’t have a ton of experience. The best thing to do is to take the deck and test it without
changing a single card. Find the flaws by testing it and then start fixing the holes.
So, what was wrong with this deck? It was too slow. I won all my games with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. When I drew half of the Thopter-Sword combo and
had Enlightened Tutor, I would tutor for a Counterbalance, Moat, Sensei’s Divining Top, or something else. I felt like the Thopter combo was absolutely
terrible. Sure, I would win some games with it, but that was only because I had to. I couldn’t think of anything I’d like to replace the Thopter combo
with other than more Jace, the Mind Sculptors or possibly Luminarch Ascension, so I decided it was time to try out a new avenue.
This is what I got out of playing the Thopter Sword deck.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor was amazing. I think it was even better in Legacy than it was in Standard and Extended. There are much less manlands, much less
creatures, and much less burn spells. The decks that have creatures usually have a massive Tarmogoyf or Knight of the Reliquary, so the bounce effect
is especially brutal in this format.
Counterbalance was very good. In this deck especially, it was awesome. I would sit behind Moat and then think of what possible outs they could have
from there. I’d then save any Brainstorm, Enlightened Tutor, fetchland, or Academy Ruin activation for when said card was cast, and I’d be able to put
a card with the same mana cost on top of my deck.
Pithing Needle. Wow, was I impressed. I would have so many decks locked out and then be able to Needle their last outs, such as Tezzeret, Agent of
Bolas, Qasali Pridemage, Cranial Plating (on Ornithopter), and Coralhelm Commander. It also shut off Aether Vial, which is probably the main reason it
was in the deck in the first place.
Like I said, I really disliked the Thopter-Sword combo. I’d rarely assemble it early, and when I had parts of the combo, it was awkward deciding
whether or not to Brainstorm them away. It’s very slow against any combo deck; the aggro decks can get around it with Goblin Piledrivers and Lord of
Atlantis; and it’s almost always the last thing you want to burn a Tutor on.
The sideboard games weren’t that awesome. People would Krosan Grip me into oblivion, and I felt I only won sideboarded games when my opponent had no
answer to Peacekeeper. Too fragile for me.
Then I went looking for a faster kill that could still be backed up by a Counterbalance lock. Tarmogoyf and Phyrexian Dreadnought were both
possibilities, but both were very bad against an opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so I didn’t spend very much time with them. I thought about the best
combos available and how Steve Sadin won a GP with a combo plus Counterbalance, beating me at that very GP. I thought about how awesome Dark Confidant
was; I thought about how much I loved discard. I thought of this.
- 4 Sensei's Divining Top
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Boomerang
- 2 Intuition
- 2 Lim-Dul's Vault
- 1 Engineered Explosives
- 1 Pithing Needle
- 1 Life from the Loam
- 1 Repeal
- 3 Counterbalance
- 4 Thoughtseize
- 1 Go for the Throat
I know you have questions, so I’m going to go ahead and ask them for you.
Why would you ever play a deck that is not just vulnerable to Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â , but actually just folds to it?
Well, I wouldn’t. Which either means I wouldn’t play this deck or it isn’t as vulnerable to Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â as you initially thought.
Since I do continue to play this deck, you can go ahead and assume the latter.
I did that to save a little time because I’ve heard this argument for a couple cards. The first being Wasteland.
An Intuition will set you up to “go off” over and over, while a proactive Wasteland on their Wasteland will allow you to successfully put the 20/20
token into play. Pithing Needle on Wasteland is also a common play, or Boomerang on their Wasteland. Don’t forget that Vampire Hexmage has power and
toughness and that Jace can singlehandedly win a game as well.
The other card is Swords to Plowshares. This one is actually the biggest joke there is. If you look at Dark Depths as a control deck rather than a
combo deck, you’ll see that Swords isn’t a big issue. Other than having discard, Counterbalance lock, Force of Will, and twenty extra life, you also
have recursion with plenty of time to reassemble, Hexmage (which once again can attack), and Jace.
Why is Dark Confidant in the sideboard and not the maindeck?
Because I don’t want to turn on their removal. I don’t want Gempalm Incinerators and Swords to Plowshares to actually be good against me. I just want
to do my own thing and not let them interact with everything I do and thus disrupt me all game long. I do like Bob, but there’s only so much space, and
I feel he was one of the weaker maindeck cards. Maybe if I were to play some number of Chrome Mox, I could see having him maindeck, but with so many
cards that don’t actually give you cards back and Force of Will, I couldn’t justify setting myself back another card.
Would you make any changes?
Yes, the list above was a very rough list. I changed a few cards last minute and barely tested the ones in the deck prior to those changes. I’ve
changed cards every day I have tested the deck, and I think there are multiple iterations of the deck that have potential. Enjoy!
As you can see, Living Wish can get some pretty sweet bullets along with either half of the combo. There are other cards I’d want in this sideboard,
but that’s the problem you have to face when building with any Wish.
I know, I said no Dark Confidants maindeck was the best idea, but I tricked you. I said you couldn’t fit Chrome Mox in the deck like the Extended
version once did, but if you notice that there are seven legendary lands that come in multiples, along with the always awesome Life from the Loam, then
you’ll understand how I came around. You aren’t really losing the card with Mox Diamond, especially when you get it right back from your first Dark
Confidant turn. The loss of Deed from the sideboard was a bit of a bummer, since the deck has so many more permanents, but you can’t have it all.
This is the deck that I’ve been playing the most. I had Shriekmaw maindeck for a little while where the Sower currently is, but not being able to pitch
it to Force of Will in the matchups where it was dead was enough to justify not playing it. When Shriekmaw was good, it was amazing though. Recursion
with Volrath’s Stronghold and use with Intuition was something that made me feel good inside.
What do I like about this deck?
I really like the disruption, backed by an extremely fast clock. I like that (until possibly now) my opponents had no idea what I was doing until there was a 20/20 on my side of the table, such as when my opponents try to mana-screw me with Wasteland and then feel like idiots when I make Marit Lage.
I really like Vampire Hexmage. On top of being a first striker, which is very relevant against a majority of the decks with creatures, especially when you can get multiples into play, he has a ton of additional applications in various matchups. Over the past week, I’ve removed counters from:
An Ornithopter that Arcbound Ravager moved his modular onto
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Aether Vial multiple times. Watch out, though, since if your opponent is good, they can start activating it even when they don’t have anything to put into play in order to kill your Hexmage for free.
Coralhelm Commander, about to block my Marit Lage and would have killed me with an alpha strike
Chalice of the Void on one
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
An Engineered Explosives that was snuck into play through a Counterbalance by paying additional mana on X, but couldn’t be activated
In addition to these, I can think of scenarios where you could remove counters from Umezawa’s Jitte, Gemstone Mine, and even Vinelasher Kudzu from the 250-card Battle of Wits deck (okay, that one won’t happen).
These scenarios come up a lot more often than you would suspect, so make sure to look for them when playing the deck yourself. I really like that half the combo has these applications and that the other half is a land that adds mana a fair amount of the time with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.
I’m still not a huge fan of the Thopter-Sword combo, but at least it’s closer to a one-card combo in this list due to Intuition. It gives you another
alternate win out of the sideboard and fights both Swords to Plowshares and Wasteland extremely well, which should be a good enough trump in some of
the sideboard games. Your opponents will be making their decks slower after sideboard in order to deal with your 20/20 combo, so throwing a curveball
in the sideboard games can be a pretty big blowout a lot of the time.
I’d say that this deck is the combo deck of the format that beats the other combo decks. What I mean is that decks like Goblins and Burn are very easy to beat, while it’s also very hard to lose to Ad Nauseam and High Tide. It’s also very strong against decks that try to fight fair, which is exactly where I’d like to be in this format.
I can’t tell you that this is the best deck in the format because the format is so wide open that I’ll probably never have a chance to play every deck
and judge them based on how much I like them in testing. What I can tell you is that this deck is very fun, and very good. My record with the deck is
one of the best that I’ve had with anything in any format, so I encourage you to give it a try. Good luck!