Having won a Grand Prix with a fairly specific article it seems only reasonable that I present a few ground rules on how and why this strategy works. I realize that it’s a little late considering the imminent arrival of Dissension, but the flexibility of this strategy means it can easily be adapted to the new format. Perhaps I’ll even tell y’all what the strategy is… In fact, let’s start with that.
What it is
The key to the strategy is, of course, big big monsters. The reason they are so effective is that there isn’t an awful lot of removal that can handle them single-handedly, and you should generally be able to put them under enough pressure that they can’t use combat tricks or gang blocks to take your beefy boys down. And if they do try you should have a combat trick of your own handy to keep your dude alive. There are two possible approaches to the early game: Either try to hurry through it, moving straight to the endgame with huge fatties, or start swinging with efficient beaters, backed by pump spells, and then pull out the big guns with your opponent already against the ropes.
Another important aspect is the color balance. The deck is a heavy Green build with little more than splashes. Usually about half of your mana sources will produce Green mana, and you should keep this in mind when drafting, always taking (mono-)Green cards over cards in your other color of comparable quality. This also allows for serious flexibility, I almost always go into Guildpact with both the option of moving into either Gruul or Orzhov, as I am usually only in one-and-a-half colors at that stage.
The deck needs to be creature heavy, you should aim to have 16-19 creatures; more is fine, definitely no less than fifteen. Removal is good, but not terribly important and should not be taken over large beatsticks in most cases. Small removal spells like Douse in Gloom and Galvanic Arc are generally not worth it. Big removal spells such as Brainspoil and Putrefy, on the other hand, are worthwhile, as they are crucial in mirror matches, especially if your opponent has the tempo edge. The other thing to remember is that taking those spells for yourself takes them away from others, and the one thing you do not want to see is an overabundance of them in an opponent’s deck. There aren’t many spells that can deal with fat men, and those that do tend to be bad news if they show up in the same numbers as your fatties.
Wurms form the backbone of your deck, and they don’t come better than ol’ Siegy. There are three things that make him better than almost any other fatty in the block so far.
1) He’s expensive, so he usually can’t be Disembowelled or Repealed.
2) He’s cheap, so he can often come out on turn 4 or 5.
3) He tramples, so Saproling boy and regen master are out of luck.
5/5 is also the sweetspot for creature size, as there are several things that can kill four-toughness creatures (Ribbons of Night, Char, Ordruun Commando etc.) and several things that can deal with four-power creatures (Drift of Phantasms, Benevolent Ancestor, Carven Caryatid, Selesnya Sagittars), whereas five-power creatures almost never bounce off their creatures. I often take Junktrollers in drafts where I never plan to play them, so that I don’t need to waste a pump spell to get my Siege Wurm through a damn wall.
This guy is amazing, and even if he doesn’t trample and is easier to Disembowel and requires a fair amount of setup, he is still worth it. If you get several of these guys you definitely need to bias your deck towards early beats a bit, but most of the time that happens automatically anyway. I am often surprised just how unkillable this guy almost always is, so he is frequently the next best thing to a Siege Wurm.
I find it incredible how underrated this guy is. If your deck has a few Saproling generators, then he quickly becomes completely ridiculous. Even if all you’ve got is a Tranny and a Wayfinder he’s still quite a beating, and every creature you play becomes a threat even before summoning sickness wears off. I would also like to point out just how silly this guy is when you slap Pollenbright Wings on him.
Golgari Rotwurm and Streetbreaker Wurm are not far behind the really good stuff, if you’re in those colors. Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi is fine, but nothing special. Rumbling Slum is excellent as he is so cheap, and the upkeep ability helps pile the pressure on your opponent. Gleancrawler is amazing simply as a vanilla 6/6 trampler for 3GGG, never mind all the other things he brings to the party. Basically, if a creature has at least five power, is reasonably (or aggressively) costed, and fits into your color scheme, he’ll be part of the core of your deck.
Seeds of Strength
This is generally the best combat trick you can have. It allows you to alpha strike repeatedly, and is just so incredibly versatile. As a Spike/Timmy I declare this to be the perfect card, as it allows you to send your huge monsters into the red zone every turn like a complete n00bish scrub, but without the usual losing that happens to complete n00bish scrubs who send their monsters into the red zone every turn. Take this highly, but realize that not everyone is entirely sold on its strengths, and on some tables you can pass it safely and snatch it on the rebound. Note that this is one thing that is much more likely to happen in the Top 8 of a GP than at your weekly local draft.
Usually Wildsize is much better than Gather Courage, because it doesn’t cost you a card. In this deck, however, the Trample is the real kicker. The card is nice and all, but when your monsters are this big, then chump blocking and racing tends to be more of an issue than card disadvantage. For all it has going for it, it’s still a poor man’s Seeds of Strength.
Notes on Other Cards
Ledgewalkers tend to be unimpressive, but they have so many different uses that I always want to have one or two in my deck, no matter how many people question why. He enables Convoke, he enables Bloodthist, and if the ground locks up he still swings. He’s obviously not as good against decks loaded with flyers, but even then they often find him too unimportant to trouble a blocker, an assessment that is frequently regretted when the Savage savagely hits on the next turn.
Your color balance means this guy isn’t quite as high a priority as in other archetypes, like Raph Levy’s Drake Draft. However, this dude is still awesome as he allows you to guarantee your next land drop and ensures the timely powering out of your beefy beasties. Pick ’em high, if by some strange twist of fate he comes to you without a Siege Wurm to take over him.
Everyone knows I love the Trannies (yeah, I know how that sounds, but just look at the picture: breasts like that can fool anybody… okay, I’ll stop digging now). They’re wonderfully efficient early beaters with some added late game spice. Not really a key card for the deck, though, as there are tons of alternatives. Unless you have a Gleancrawler… then the Tranny becomes truly bombalicious.
Fists of Ironwood
Gets Siege Wurms out early and negates the disadvantages other beaters have as opposed to Siege Wurms. What’s not to love? Pick these high as they often enable the greatest thing on earth: the turn 4 Siege Wurm.
The fatty that everyone else is after, and the one you couldn’t really care less about. Too small to deliver the big beats you seek, and too fragile to survive the midrange removal. In a word: mediocre. This does change if you have tons of auras, but in that case you’re moving away from the primary strategy somewhat. This is a deck that you will never top up with Magemarks.
As stated above, of course removal is still good. I just want to reiterate that its place is not at the top of the pick order.
Card Drawing is for sissies who play creatures of type Sissy. Your creatures are Wurms or Beasts or Elementals… the top of your deck will do just fine with this archetype.
Cards you don’t want to see
I wonder what someone whose creatures are as big as an entire city block thinks of a card that takes his biggest creature and turns it against him, especially…
…when backed up with quick Boros beats. Boros-based decks have the tools to beat you, and these two cards are the key to finishing you off, so try to protect your life total and have a sacrifice outlet to hand. Boros decks tend to run out of steam (except possibly the blue bouncy ones, which are problematic), so if you can weather these cards you can generally take control as all your monsters are infinitely bigger than theirs.
Brainspoil, Mortify, Putrefy, Fiery Conclusion, Disembowel
These can kill our guys. This makes winning for us less likely. As Spike/Timmies, there is no part of this scenario we like. We are Borg. You will be assimilated and soon you too will randomly break into using the royal We.
This is my favorite flavor. Gruuuuuuuuul! The problem is, of course, that it relies on getting the goods shipped in Guildpact, and hence can easily go pear-shaped. If you get hooked up, though, it tends to be really sweet, as Streetbreakers aren’t usually that hard to come by. Not to mention Slums.
This happens a lot, especially when early Rotwurms show up. This is probably the least interesting form of the deck, but it’s very solid and it gets the job done, and it allows you to pick up a fully functional deck in the first two boosters. Plus it gives you access to Rotwurms, which can never be bad.
This one suffers a bit from the lack of a really good G/W Wurm or similar fatty. The Guardian doesn’t really cut it. On the plus-side, the whole Saproling theme of Selesnya fits well into your overall plan, you gain access to the greatest combat trick ever in Seeds of Strength, and you can sacrifice Trannys for fun and profit. Now if only Autochthon Wurm was common and slighty (who’m I kidding… vastly) cheaper.
As the deck is primarily a mono-Green deck with some splashes, even this is possible. It might happen a lot more when Dissension brings us some kind of U/G Wurm. Until then you’ll want to focus on bounce spells and efficient flyers like Snapping Drake. Card drawing, as said before, is not really necessary, but there is no denying that Flight of Fancy wants to be in this sort of deck more than any other. Flying Siege Wurms are good times.
Why it Works
Because everybody is addicted to Blue! A corollary to this is that this style of deck rarely succeeds in a field where players generally prefer drafting Green over Blue. The other day I had a Dingledraft deck and lost horribly to the only Blue drafter at the table, because his UBR deck had all the removal in the world and Izzet Chronarch to get back his Brainspoil. He never played a single Compulsive Research or Flight of Fancy or Train of Thought. You don’t mind them playing those spells because they don’t affect the board, and your opponent doesn’t usually have the time to use the cards he draws. If your opponent plays relevant business spells every turn, though, you’re in deep, deep trouble.
In summation, this is a generally powerful strategy that can pay huge dividends in the right sort of metagame. It’s also much more fun to play than any Blue deck ever was. After all, Green fatties is what Magic was invented for, and the red zone is their natural habitat, and if the natural order is maintained, then their diet consists of fresh crunchy opponents.
Thanks for reading,
darkheartothorny on StarCityGames forums and MTGO