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Embracing The Chaos – Karrthus Tyrannizes

Wednesday, January 19th – Sheldon Menery mulls over his Karrthus deck and his card choices (More proliferate? More Beasts?). What do you think?

After talking last week about feeling how Kresh the Bloodbraided was becoming kind of a combo deck, or at least too narrowly focused on a few cards to
operate, I wanted to play something a little more straightforward for League 8, Week 2. Since I didn’t have time to build aggro-Phelddagrif,
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund seemed like the only reasonable choice. It’s been a while since I posted a list, so here’s the updated version.
Since it’s one of the few I actually have built for online, I’ve noted the differences.

CREATURES (35)

Acidic Slime

Avatar of Woe

Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Big Game Hunter

Butcher of Malakir

Chameleon Colossus

Copperhoof Vorrac

Dragon Broodmother

Eternal Witness

Fangren Pathcutter

Garruk’s Packleader

Genesis

Greater Gargadon

Indrik Stomphowler

It That Betrays

Kulrath Knight

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth

Krosan Tusker

Lotus Cobra

Molder Slug

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen

Oracle of Mul Daya

Ouphe Vandals

Pawn of Ulamog

Puppeteer Clique

Rampaging Baloths

Ravenous Baloth

Shriekmaw

Solemn Simulacrum

Spearbreaker Behemoth

Spellbreaker Behemoth

Taurean Mauler

Vampire Hexmage

Withered Wretch

Wood Elves

ARTIFACTS (3)

Crucible of Worlds

Sensei’s Divining Top

Sol Ring (Mind Stone online)

Sword of Body and Mind

SORCERIES (7)

Decree of Pain

Demonic Tutor (Diabolic Tutor online)

Kodama’s Reach

Patriarch’s Bidding

Plague Wind

Shatterstorm

World at War

INSTANTS (6)

Artifact Mutation

Harrow

Red Elemental Blast (Pyroblast online)

Reroute

Savage Beating

Sudden Spoiling

PLANESWALKERS (2)

Garruk Wildspeaker

Sarkhan the Mad

ENCHANTMENTS (7)

Compost

Fires of Yavimaya

Goblin Bombardment

Greater Good

Lurking Predators

Pernicious Deed

Survival of the Fittest

LANDS (38)

Badlands

Bayou

Bloodstained Mire

Bojuka Bog

City of Brass

Contested Cliffs

Darigaaz’s Caldera

Forest 6

Golgari Rot Farm

Graven Cairns

Gruul Turf

Karplusan Forest

Kazandu Refuge

Llanowar Wastes

Miren, the Moaning Well

Mosswort Bridge

Mountain 2

Overgrown Tomb

Reliquary Tower

Savage Lands

Skarrg, the Rage Pits

Spinerock Knoll

Stomping Ground

Swamp 3

Temple of the False God

Terramorphic Expanse

Tower of the Magistrate (Shizo)

Verdant Catacombs

Wasteland

Wooded Foothills

Hystrodon has been in and out of this deck so many times it’s not funny, and once again it came out, this time for Kulrath Knight. I know that
he’s not a Beast, but it just seemed like with proliferate happening, maybe I could take advantage of it. It was really last minute, and I
thought about Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine, but I want to put a little more thought into those guys.

The deck is a Beast deck, although I’m not sure how effective the theme is with eleven Beasts. I wouldn’t mind taking more advantage of the
creature-type idea, so there might be some returning to the drawing board with this one.

There are a number of Beasts I’ve considered putting in:

Beasts of Bogardan:  It’ll always get the little buff, but the protection from red seems pretty interesting, especially if I put in the
Crater Hellion.

Canopy Crawler: The amplify and pump shenanigans might be worth it, but amplify isn’t really any good without really committing to the
theme.

Crater Hellion: Board sweepers in the world where most of my guys can survive the four damage seems like it might be worth doing some serious thinking
about.

Deathbringer Thoctar: In a world of ‘best cards make the cut,’ the Thoctar certainly makes it in. Thing is, I want to reduce the overlap in
my decks (save for Sol Ring, Reliquary Tower, and Solemn Simulacrum—although I’ll confess to having a tough time not playing Greater Good,
Lurking Predators, and Survival of the Fittest in every green deck), and this guy is in the Lord of Tresserhorn Zombie deck.

Drooling Groodion: His ability is a little expensive, which is what keeps him down.

Electryte: There are a number of small utility creatures that no one wants to block with. Electryte makes it so they have to.

Fangren Firstborn: I’ll consider this guy even more when I think more about the proliferate scenario. Maybe I’ll even just make this a
proliferate deck and take the Beast subtheme elsewhere.

Feral Throwback: More commitment to the theme required. Provoke, however, is very, very interesting.

Hunting Pack: This was in one of the original builds, but it just never seemed to pay the dividends I had hoped it would.

Keeper of the Beasts: Seems like I’d want to be doing more if another player has more dudes than I do, but it might work.

Guardian Beast: Probably not enough artifacts to protect, but again, that proliferate stuff…

Gurzigost: This guy was in the Phelddagrif deck from the early days to help with getting back cool stuff, pairing with Battlefield Scrounger to do the
job an Eldrazi does in one shot. 6/8 for 3GG isn’t terrible either.

Krosan Groundshaker:  When you’re centered around combat damage, one of the problems is getting through (or over) the other guy’s good
creatures. Skarrg, the Rage Pits, is already in the deck; Gruul War Plow has been in, so this guy at least gets some consideration. Or maybe I should
just go the Akroma’s Memorial path.

Savage Conception: Might work with the Crucible in there. Meh.

Skyshroud War Beast: It’s no Wilderness Elemental.

Symbiotic Beast: Getting some dudes after he’s blown up seems like he’s worth strong consideration.

Wirewood Savage: Again, a real commitment to the Beast theme would be required. Packleader is just orders of magnitude better.

Woodripper: I’m actually a little surprised this guy isn’t in the deck already. Obviously, I didn’t have one in foil when I was
building.

 

All that said, this deck does exactly what I want it to—gets into the Red Zone. I don’t really need to do too much tomfoolery, just summon
some friends, and get in there. While it seems Karrthus and his friend Sarkhan the Mad might want a different theme, hasty Commanders are really,
really good, and his Jund colors are my favorite.

Aside: Many of you know that I like some heavy music, and Dream Theater is one of my favorite bands. If you haven’t listened to DT, check them
out. I’ve just made a new “Best of…” playlist, which I’m listening to right how, and I’m pretty sure if you like
the style of music (which is pretty much “prog rock meets heavy metal), any of these cuts will make you love DT:

Pull Me Under

Another Day

I Walk Beside You

The Answer Lies Within

Take Away My Pain

Hollow Years

6:00

A Change of Seasons

Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (which is a live cover of the Elton John songs done DT-style)

Perfect Strangers (which is a Deep Purple cover)

Solitary Shell

Endless Sacrifice

In the Name of God

Take the Time

I actually think that “Pull Me Under” is one of the most well-constructed songs in the history of rock. YMMV.

I head over to Armada early on Thursday to hang with the great crew over there and hopefully squeeze in a game or two, either with the 100-card decks
or maybe some Ascension, Puerto Rico, or Revolution. Revolution is the one I just played for the first time (with the Guard Tower option), and
it’s right up my alley. Political games are very interesting to me (another great political game is Quo Vadis), since there isn’t always a
mathematical algorithm to success.

I have some chats with Florida super judge Ben McDole, and when Armada employee Jon Sweet shows up, we run one. Ben is playing his Progenitus
planeswalker control deck, and Jon his Maralen of the Mornsong mono-black deck. I haven’t played the Cromat deck in a while—actually, I
haven’t even picked it up in a while, since there’s not a Scars of Mirrodin card in it yet—so I decide to play that. To make a long
story short, Jon and I know Ben’s deck will eventually Obliterate while controlling several planeswalkers, so we kind of orc-pile him. The Cromat
deck, while having the central engine of Survival of the Fittest, Reveillark, and stuff isn’t as good as it might be, since it has one card from
every expansion. At a certain point after we eliminate Ben a turn before he squeezes off the Obliterate, I get the engine running, but it’s still
difficult to win. It takes me a while, and Jon makes the mistake of actually playing his Commander. I get first tutor, and that’s that. We finish
just in time for League to start.

GAME 1

We have twelve players this week, so three tables. I’m seated at Table 3 with Ben, Patrick (Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant), and the
always-great-to-play-with Aaron Duvall (Tibor and Lumia).

The game starts pretty slowly. The first play anyone makes is Patrick casting his Commander (and flipping it) turn 3. The game limps along for a while,
with a few attacks here and there, but with folks having enough defense to slow down most of the offensive strategies. Ben’s Maze of Ith helps
keep a few of his planeswalkers alive for a bit. There are a few board wipes, but I recover nicely from that with Lurking Predators and Greater Good
(and the mostly useless Compost). Ben is doing a nice job of farming a few points (next week, I’ll post the new, slimmed-down, and updated points
list for the League) while building his board position.

Just a few turns in, owner Michael Fortino wanders over. I scratch my head because he’s playing at Table 2. I look over, and there’s
Skithiryx kid, and Michael says “eleven minutes.” I shake my head.

Speaking of which, there was a poster in last week’s forum, Mav, who had this to say:


‘The notion that you think your format can only be played the way you want it played is annoying, and dare I say, repugnant.


I’m glad I don’t get chastised by the “daddy” of the group (we don’t have one) when I play the decks I want to play.’

Mav missed my point (which poster Tarnar caught) while illustrating it at the same time. The main issue I have is people thinking of only themselves
and their own enjoyment (“…the decks I want to play…”) and not considering the folks they’re playing
with. My suggestion is finding a place where the folks you play with are all happy—whether that’s All Spike All The Time or Let The Timmies
Roam Free doesn’t really matter. I’d simply like for people to think about more than only themselves.

Speaking of the forums, poster dz76wutang, who on occasion I have disagreed with, posted the following in making a point about Magic, but in the wake
of the horrific events in Arizona, couldn’t be more on the nose:


“Guns can kill innocents or defend innocents, the gun isn’t the problem, it’s the intent.”

Neither guns, political rhetoric, nor a bombastic media is to blame for the acts of a madman. It’s easy to vilify the weapons this lunatic used,
but he also drove a car to get there. Can we also blame gasoline, rubber, and the internal combustion engine? Of course not. The only thing that
matters in this or any other act of senseless violence is the intent. Without firearms, it would’ve been a pipe bomb or a zip gun or shuriken or any of
an infinite number of other choices. What injures or kills people isn’t the method used; it’s the will and intention of the person. If you
want to listen to brilliant coverage of this nearly surreal tragedy, listen to Jon Stewart’s opening monologue from January 10. He once again
proves himself the most reasonable voice in popular media.

Back to the game, there are a couple of turns where my only creature is Azusa, Lost but Seeking, but I have the Sword of Body and Mind out, so she
becomes Azusa, Lost but Attacking. She unfortunately never gets through, due to Ben’s Maze, but it seems like a good strategy, with Ben being on
my right, to force him to tap his Maze with two players still to come before him.

There’s a spite turn in there when Aaron blows up something of Ben’s (it was insignificant enough for me to not remember what is was), so next turn Ben casts and activates Mindslaver, targeting Aaron. He takes his next turn for him; the most significant thing that happens is having the Hateflayer kill itself.

Over several turns, I build a few big creatures off the Lurking Predators, as Patrick gets some of his artifacts and enchantments going, and Aaron is
showing us all the goodness of Hateflayer. The chess match goes on a few turns until Patrick taps out to do a couple of small things, one of which is
Concerted Effort. Aaron goes down to two mana open, and Ben taps out except for his Maze of Ith to get Tezzeret, the Seeker, Jace Beleren, and Sarkhan
Vol into play and cast All Suns’ Dawn to regrow things, including Demonic Tutor.

In a game where I’m facing a great deal of control, this seems like it’ll be one of my few chances—not to mention that Ben is likely
to run out that Obliterate at any time. I go for it.

I have Savage Beating under Mosswort Bridge (yes, I finally got a decent hideaway) and swing the entire thirty-power team, which includes Spearbreaker
Behemoth, a 10/10 Taurean Mauler, and a Krosan Tusker (which rarely sees the battlefield save for after getting cycled and then returned with
Patriarch’s Bidding) into Ben. He has no answers, and if Aaron does, he’s not throwing them out there. On the second attack step, I debate
whether to kill Patrick, who has only Sunblast Angel out, or Aaron, who has a couple of guys but not enough. Patrick and his mono-white seems like the
obvious choice, since there are way more board sweepers in his deck than in Aaron’s. I fear Aaron’s Insurrection, but the math still seems
on the side of taking out Patrick, so I do.

After I do, Patrick mentions he thinks taking him out was definitely the right choice, then flashes the Akroma’s Vengeance in his hand. He tells
me he’s running every possible sweeper in mono-white. Good to know for the future.

Aaron mentions he needs a couple of running topdecks for any hope, looks with this Sensei’s Divining Top, then extends the hand. Ben and I tie
the table with nine points, so we’re both going to Table 1.

Karador

GAME 2

Table 1 I’m with Ben, Skithiryx kid, whose name I find out is Evan, and Aaron Fortino. Aaron has invoked a little shop owner privilege and is
playing Karador, Ghost Chieftain as the Commander of his Teneb deck. We call a little bit of shenanigans on him but let it go. The guy works like a
hundred hours a week making sure there’s a great place to play games. This seems like the least we could do.

I keep a sketchy hand: Tower of the Magistrate, Wasteland, Terramorphic Expanse, Sol Ring, Compost, Pawn of Ulamog, and Greater Good. I figure I can
lucksack into what I need, especially since there’s a mono-black deck, a leans-heavily-toward-black deck, and a deck with some black in it.

This game also starts slowly. I end up drawing lands the first few turns and eventually Crucible of Worlds, so I can get into the game. Aaron gets a
few lands with Sakura-Tribe Elder recursion, and Ben blows up Evan’s fifth Swamp to keep him off a hasty Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. Evan uses Expedition Map to
pull out Cabal Coffers but doesn’t drop it due to my Wasteland. I think he’s working with a relatively low land count, as he doesn’t
get any for a long time after Ben has destroyed the one. Aaron has a few things going; Ben tries stealing some stuff from people (there’s a point
for having a permanent from each other player), but I keep him off of that by sacrificing whatever he tries to steal with Greater Good.

Some turns pass by without a lot of action. Ben gets Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker going. We keep it down a little but can never manage to get it down all
the way. Ben has successfully stolen my Azusa with Nicol Bolas. The card count in my hand was low enough, and I thought the danger of him having it was
low, so I didn’t sacrifice it. A turn later, I draw Goblin Bombardment, which would’ve been nice, but is now too late.

Ben says something like “I need runner/runner” and taps the top of his deck. It’s Mountain/Mountain, and he says “got
there.” He floats twelve and casts Obliterate. Aaron responds by activating his Mosswort Bridge (he has a 13/13 Knight of the Reliquary),
flashing in Angel of Despair to blow up Nicol Bolas, which makes Ben sad. Ben casts Elspeth, Knight-Errant, maintains priority (since I still have
Goblin Bombardment in play and Eldrazi Spawn tokens), and makes a dude. I tick down Elspeth anyway, hoping that I can do something.

The next several turns turn out to be something other than what Ben had expected. He was willing to risk the penalty for Chasm in order to be able to
take out all three of us. Without Nicol Bolas, however, he’s on the Elspeth plan. He makes a dude every turn and sends them at Aaron—which
seems like the wrong play, since I’m the one recovering. When he Obliterated, I had three lands plus Harrow in my hand. While he’s knocking
down Aaron’s life total (he may have been going for a kill, since I think he got Aaron all the way down to six before I equalized), I’m
building up my forces. Evan has dropped his Cabal Coffers, but it’s pretty useless without Swamps.

The first creature I drop is Ouphe Vandals. A few turns down the road, when Evan finally has a second land, he plays his Sensei’s Divining Top.
He looks at his top three cards, and Ben tells me I should blow it up to get the point. Even though it would be a complete beating, and I genuinely
dislike this kid, it feels like too much, so I let it pass. Then he gets greedy, activating the second ability. I tell him it feels like that was just
him thumbing his nose at me, so I use the Vandals.

The end of the game is pretty anticlimactic. I get to seven mana and cast Karrthus. The first swing takes out Elspeth, just in case. I could have gone
directly for the kill over three turns, but if Ben ends up peeling a Swords or something, Elspeth could rule the day. I then kill him over the next
three turns. I’m putting out a few more creatures while I’m doing it, and Aaron’s life total is low enough where I can swing with
them at him and attack Evan with Karrthus. He casts Sudden Death to keep his life total at twelve but then really has no answers. Karrthus runs the
table twice!

 

As soon as I put the finishing touches on this article, I’m going into the game room to start building that aggro-Phelddagrif I promised, and
here’s the methodology: I have all my foils in a separate box (I actually have two boxes: “Foil” and “Bulk Foils,” the
latter being cards I don’t think I’ll ever actually play). I’m going to just pull all the white, blue, and green ones out and build
only from that. Now to be fair, I have full foil sets of Zendikar, M11, and Scars of Mirrodin as well, so I have some goodies to choose from. I’m
going to do my best to not cannibalize other decks (it would sort of violate the principle), so next week, we’ll see what I come up with.

As you’re reading this, I’m recovering from knee surgery. Recovery should be relatively quick, since it’s just a scope, but it means
I might not get to Week 3 of the League, although it would be some serious Embracing of the Chaos to hobble in there on crutches and painkillers to run
out a new deck. We’ll see what happens.