Kids are back at school. Major League Baseball is enjoying its post-season. Leaves are living out the best last days of their lives. TV is no longer re-runs. Oh, and yeah, there’s a whole new set with which for us to play.
It’s fall, all right.
Daylight savings is coming, and there are plenty of cards out there that may make you think you turned your clock back maybe more than expected. Time Spiral has been public knowledge long enough that most people are at least comfortable with what has been printed (or reprinted). The time for nostalgia has passed, though, as States are nearing and time spent listening to The Boss and remembering those Glory Days is time not spent testing for States. So while I’d love to gather up my old gaming crew (circa 1994 — none of whom actively still play Magic, but all of whom still keep up on the game), grab a box of Time Spiral, and head over to what was the local card store for an evening of “Remember when” and “You were soooooo lucky with that Stormbind”… Well, instead, I think I’ll just scour the spoilers for something that once was powerful and now is back.
Like everyone else, when going through the spoiler I had my fair share of surprise and perhaps even an unfair share of excitement. After the initial shock had passed, I started looking for overpowered cards that can be exploited. While many people out there prefer beatdown, control, midrange, etc., I just prefer something degenerate. I don’t care if it is a degenerate beatdown deck (Affinity), control deck (Psychatog) or combo (Trix), I simply want it to be the least fair possible. I want to cheat as much as the rules will allow me to. The one card that jumped out at me as being cheatastic was Mirari.
I have very fond memories of playing multiple Corrupts, Tutors, Edicts, and other lovelies with the assistance of Mirari and Cabal Coffers. I also have some less-than-fond recollections of people abusing Cunning Wish and Mirari’s Wake with the very same legendary artifact. Man, how many Fog effects do they have? So I went about the step of making a deck featuring one of only fifteen legendary artifacts ever printed.
The first step in this process is usually something like this:
From: [email protected]
Remember when we played in Regionals with Mirari and both of us missed the top 8 by one round, mainly because we’re stupid and played accordingly? Let’s do that, but without the stupid and at States instead of Regionals. Um, I’m bad at building decks. Build a Mirari deck, plstks. Let’s appr tonight. TYVM ttyl, etc, gbs lol.
Mike was too excited about his Twisted Abomination/Wildfire deck at the time to focus on Mirari, so it was up to me. Poor Mirari – it deserves so much more! But more wasn’t available, so I went to work.
The first piece of a deck trying to break Mirari is to feature a massive mana advantage. Decks in the past used engines such as Cabal Coffers and Mirari’s Wake to generate degenerate amounts of mana with which to “go off” with Mirari. Since I was fresh off of looking at the Twisted-Wildfire deck, I decided to steal borrow steal (I was right the first time) the general idea of mana acceleration from it.
The idea was to use Farseek, Into the North, and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss to both accelerate and fix your mana. It’s really surprising what you can do with twelve mana searchers, as a five-color deck comes out with excessively smooth mana draws. I know it doesn’t sound like something all-too-surprising, but five colors is still five colors and not easy to pull off, especially when half of your lands are basics.
After stealing said mana base and adding four Mirari (I wasn’t happy with any of the tutors available, and not drawing Mirari seems worse for this deck than drawing two) all that was left was answering a question:
Which spells do I want to copy?
There were a couple of limitations to the answer, the first of which was mana. While I was confident I’d have a mana advantage against my opponent, I was not confident I could regularly have eight and nine mana available, making five-plus casting cost spells a bad idea unless they won the game by themselves. As consistent as the mana was with the deck, it was not a degenerate mana-engine like Coffers or Mirari’s Wake. I also needed to make sure that these spells could actually win a game — either by themselves, forked, or in conjunction with the other spells. After all, what good is a deck that cheats if it can’t actually win?
I initially included three spells as the only automatics: Lightning Helix, Call of the Herd, and Compulsive Research. Forking a spell is a good feeling —doing it to one of these basically means you shouldn’t stand up for a while. The Calls were in there because, well, who doesn’t want to copy their creatures? I thought the Helix would be essential to getting back into a safe life-range against aggressive builds. As for Compulsive Research, well… If you don’t know, just try drawing six cards in a random game and see if you like it. Starting with twenty-four lands and a playset of the land-fixers, Mirari and these all-stars left me with two open slots.
These two slots got moved around a lot in the games I played with the deck — I tried including Crime/Punishment, Mortify, Electrolyze, Tribal Flames, Ancestral Vision, and probably some others I’m forgetting.
My first set of testing was against our Rakdos build, which at the time was our front-runner for default-best-deck. I was expecting that, like any other deck I’ve tried to build from scratch, it would fall on its face… But I have to admit that I was entirely surprised at the resiliency of the deck. There were a few games where it would just punish the opponent with a turn three Acid-Moss on a Karoo only to be followed by a turn 4 Mirari. Other games it would be under significant pressure, but then it would play the “random stupid burn” plan with two copied Tribal Flames.
And, as expected, there were games where it didn’t stand a chance. Overall, I took six out of ten games against Rakdos.
After playing some games and getting a better feel for what the flow would be, I eventually settled on Electrolyze and Tribal Flames as the final two slots, leaving black out of the maindeck. I’m a really big fan of Electrolyze since it’s never really dead against control, and can win games on its own against aggressive decks. Tribal Flames was surprisingly consistent at being for five past turn 4, and easily for three on turn 2 if necessary (should your opponent be rude enough to play a Watchwolf). There are still five black sources to search for, under the assumption that there will be sideboarded spells with which to cheat. Here’s the list in its latest form.
Encouraged (and perhaps dumbfounded) by the deck’s performance against B/R, I went on to test against the runner-up for default-best-deck in our gauntlet: U/G. This matchup was made a lot worse by them having Remand and/or Mana Leak. I only won three out of ten games (but man, were those games fun). Most games had U/G throwing out some turn 2 threat, me fixing my mana for turns 2 and 3, and them having between one and three counters to really annoy me until I was dead.
After those two sets I played some scattered games against other decks out there, and the results were more and more discouraging. I had no game against opponents who, for instance, wanted to search through their decks for dragons. Nor could I really stop a 6/6 flying, pro red, pro black, haste, first strike, cheater-legend. Since I had little or no game against the incumbent control deck or the only combo deck, I started to think that perhaps this was not the deck for States.
With more time, I’d love to continue to explore this deck idea. I’m not convinced that the twelve-land-searcher suite is the right plan for achieving a mana advantage. My next build will probably be with the Urzatron, but I’m extremely skeptical of that type of mana base in a world where a) there’s nothing really good to search for missing pieces and b) Darwin Kastle and his three-mana sorcery friends are lurking around.
Unfortunately though, with just over two weeks to go until States (this was written on 10/19), I don’t think there will be enough time to even try to break Mirari, much less time to actually accomplish it. I’d love to hear in the forums if anyone else has been working with Mirari (especially if they actually got it to work!).
The end result is that I’ll probably be playing with a deck featuring a different unfair mana-advantage (of the 0/1 and 1/1 variety). There’s always the chance that Islands and Forests won’t be in my deck next week. Mike, Jules, Josh, BDM, etc might figure something out (and notice that my name wasn’t in that list) between now and then. In fact, I hope so.
As of now, we have not found a clear-cut dominant deck. Consider my fingers crossed and my Sharpies ready.