Armageddon has to be one of my favourite cards of all time. It’s won me games, matches and even a tournament. It’s such a powerful card that every time the basic set is rehashed it’s always in the list of cards that might be removed and, on top of all of that, it’s got a cool name. So now I’m qualified for the English Nationals I’m looking for a rogue deck to take along and I’d like it to have Armageddon in it.
Armageddon has been used in many decks over the years: Erniegeddon (and its many variants), White Weeny and the more controlling Tradewind-geddon to name a few. With white so prevalent at the moment I’d like to play something else, and Tradewind is (happily) no longer Type II legal so I’d like to play an Ernie variant as I did last year.
I’ve played a lot of Ernie variants but wanted to try to build the best deck I could right now, so I thought I’d do a little research and while I was at it share it with you all.
I’ve spent some time looking around the ‘net for early versions of the deck and came up with the results of Pro Tour New York in 1996:
1. Michael Loconto, U/W control
2. Bertrand Lestree, Erniegeddon
3. Leon Lindback, Necro
4. Preston Poulter, Erniegeddon
5. George Baxter, B/R/g weenie discard
6. Mark Justice, R/w Stormbind/Orb/Balance/burn
7. Shawn Regnier, U/W control
8. Eric Tam, Erhnam & Burn ‘Em
With these results in hand I went looking for some deck lists and found the complete top eight. Bertrand Lestree’s Ernie deck earned him second place, so lets have a look at it:
This gives us a 60 card deck that can control just about ANY of its opponent’s permanents. As you can see, the deck tries to get to four mana as fast as possible using Land Tax, the elves and Fellwar Stones. You then cast a major threat followed by Armageddon, denying your opponent the resources to cope with the threat and thereby winning you the game. Disenchant, Swords to Plowshares, Wrath of God and Icy Manipulator help to clear the way for your threat, whilst the Strip Mines and Icy Manipulator can help to shut down any land that’s put down after Armageddon.
A simple concept but even back in 1996 the many Ernie decks around were all different, in fact much more different than variations on a theme are nowadays (the Dojo Effect in action). The cards common amongst them were Swords to Plowshares, Ernham Djinn, Icy Manipulator, Wrath of God, Armageddon, Zuran Orb, Disenchant and Balance.
Time passed and Antiquities and Chronicles were no longer Type II legal and Fifth Edition was published, including many older cards but no Erhnam Djinn. The idea behind the deck is a solid one and players quickly realised that Ernie wasn’t the only four casting cost bad boy out there. Marogeddon was born. I’ve picked out the earliest Marogeddon deck I could find:
August 97 – Josh Timberman’s”Maro-Abeyance”
Comparing this to the previous deck, the similarities are obvious. Wrath of God and Swords to Plowshares are still holding back the creature tide. This time it’s Wall of Roots and Thawing Glaciers that are gaining us the extra mana and a faster recovery from Armageddon.
However, the biggest difference is the increase in the number of creatures. With numerous versions of Sligh in the environment, along with Buried Alive decks, Counterpost and Senor Stompy, the deck can no longer afford to just sit there for three turns before casting a threat, it needs some defense against the more aggressive decks and some early attackers against the more controlling ones.
More time passed and the Tempest block came in to Type II as Ice Age left. With no Swords to Plowshares in the main set this meant Swords left Type II. Of all the cards that have left Type II, this has had the greatest effect on the Ernie variants. White was left with a number of bad Swords replacements that either cost three or four mana, or could only kill attacking creatures. This meant that Ernie variants became more of a creature rush deck, casting creature after creature and casting Armageddon, hoping the horde was too much for your opponent. Less controlling and more aggressive, in fact much more like White Weenie than many people would like to admit.
Last year I played an Ernie variant to qualify for the English Nationals, and then took the deck to the UK Nationals. With no good white creature removal I splashed for red and chose to use Incinerate instead. The deck list is below:
May 99 – Jim Grimmett“Grunt-a-geddon”
There are many problems with this deck, the Echo creatures don’t work well with Armageddon and Incinerate can’t kill a large number of creatures. I also chose not to use any large creatures and use Rancor to make my smaller creatures bigger instead. The main reason for all of this was the prevalence of Necro at the time. For example, Grunts could be cast in the Necro players end phase – after they had cast Perish. Using Rancor to make creatures bigger also meant I was investing less mana in my creatures – very important when my sideboard was very anti-necro and included three Winter Orb and two Lifeforce.
All in all it’s only an above average deck. It won me a 20 man tournament, and helped me to second place at an 80 player tourney – but it suffers a lot from being three colours, even with all the mutli-coloured land.
So, fast forward another year and what have we got. Fifth Edition is a long distant memory and Classic is now with us, reprinting many of the Mirage block cards that left with the advent of the Urza’s block. Tempest, Stronghold and Exodus have gone and we have Mercadian Masques and Nemesis instead. The most important loss in my mind is the loss of almost all of the multi-coloured land. We’re left with pain lands, City of Brass and Thran Quarry. A reliable three colour deck is going to be dificult to build, especially with all of the land destruction around and the players I’ll be up against. Two colour decks are probably as far as it can be pushed.
So lets keep it traditional and go for green and white. Green has plenty of multi-colour mana generators and white has Armageddon. Looking at the two decks above we seem to need between 14 and 23 creatures, 22 to 24 land and the rest will be spells.
First things first we need to be able to get the mana colour we want. I like Birds of Paradise and Yavimaya Elders at the moment, so lets start with four each of those. I also don’t think that four BOPs is enough so we’ll add a couple of Llanowar Elves to make up the numbers. We can increase or remove a few later. This gives us:
The next things we need to look at are the land control itself. Armageddon is obviously going in, but do we choose three or four? I’ll go for four now, as they’re so important and powerful – I can drop one later if it proves too many.
We also need to find a replacement for the Icy Manipulator. Ring of Gix is available, but has Echo, which we’re trying to avoid. Rishadan Port, on the other hand, can’t be countered, and can be put down straight away. With a BoP or Elf out, we can lock down a land quickly. Lets throw in four Ports.
As a side note at this point, I’d like to point out that I’m building a deck for the Nationals – I know that many people won’t have four Ports, but if they want to play this deck they can just use proxy cards and (I hope) borrow the Ports if they want to go to a tournament. As I’m building a deck for a hard competition I have no problems with putting in as many rare cards as I need, although if a deck built entirely of commons will beat the rest of the field, I’d happily play that too. On with the deck building.
We’re now up to 18 cards:
Looking back at the older decks again, we need some form of enchantment and creature removal. I think the new Seals from Nemesis are excellent in the former role because I can cast them before I cast Armageddon and they sit there, waiting for me to use them. So I’d add three of those and a Disenchant. The instant speed of the Disenchant means that I can surprise my opponent. A mix of like things is always good anyway.
Creature removal is where the problems start. For individual removal we could pick Exile, Afterlife, Last Breath or several others. We might even dip into green for Desert Twister. Each of these has it’s drawbacks. With Exile I can’t remove creatures unless they attack; Afterlife gives my opponent a 1/1 flier and Last Breath is very limited in the creatures I can kill. Once again Nemesis comes to our aid with Parallax Wave. We can cast it before we cast Armageddon and use it as spot creature removal afterwards. If there are any creatures in the way of whatever our”big threat” is going to be we can just wave them out of the game. Lets start with three, which puts the deck up to 25 cards:
We’re now at four land, 10 creatures and 11 spells so lets concentrate on the creatures a bit more. Looking at the environment we can see that although there is a wide range of deck types there seem to be four dominant ones: Bargain, Replenish, Accelerated Blue and Rebel White. Rebel White can put out quite a lot of small creatures relatively fast so we’re going to need a few early blockers. Replenish and Blue can Wave, Seal and Treachery our creatures so it’d be nice to be able to play a creature that is immune. You can probably see where I’m going with this, another Nemesis card: Blastoderm.
Blastoderm is a 5/5 creature for 2GG that can’t be the target of spells or effects. It does have Fading 3, so will only be around to inflict 15 points of damage at most, but with more than one of them in the deck they’re cheap enough to be able to cast a couple of turns after an Armageddon and even on turn three. For a smaller blocker I’d go for River Boas. The Boas can keep blocking, they come out early and, unlike their bigger friend the Albino Troll, they don’t have Echo. They have the added bonus that Replenish players can’t block them if they have an Island out, and Blue players HATE to see River Boas on the table so they might draw out a few counterspells that would have been used on Armageddon instead. Four each of Blastoderm and River Boa bring us up to 18 creature and 33 cards in total.
As things are starting to get tight, it’s probably a good time to work out how many (and which) lands are going to be played. The early deck played 22, whilst Maro-Abyance played 24 and I played 23 last year. Last year I did find that, with only three Armageddons, 23 land and four BoPs wasn’t enough sometimes – so let’s go with 24. This means adding 20 land, lets start off with equal amounts of white and green producers and change it a little later: 4 Brushland, 8 Forests and 8 Plains. Adding 20 land brings us up to 53 card deck:
That leaves us seven slots. With only 18 creatures the deck looks a little creature-light so we might consider adding some more. At the moment all our creatures are green, which makes the deck vulnerable to Perish so it’d be nice to add some non-green creatures. My first thought was Mother of Runes. It could give some of our creatures early protection, but can’t target the Blastoderm. It’s also very vulnerable. My second thought was Masticore. The deck can produce a lot of mana quite early on, and adding some Masticores gives us more”big threats”. Also, with the prevalence of Rebel White, Masticore seems an ideal card to help control the rush. I’ll add three leaving us four slots for some spells.
As previously stated the Blastoderm will only deal up to 15 points of damage. That means we need a second creature to finish our opponent off. If I add a Worldly Tutor, I can go and get the creature I want, when I need it. It also gives me an (effective) extra Blastoderm in the deck. Thinking of the tutors makes me wonder about Enlightened Tutor too. We’re now running nine cards an Enlightened Tutor could fetch, and are bound to have some enchantments or artifacts in the sideboard so I’ll add one of those too.
Two down, two to go. I’m really not sure what should go in here. Maybe a fourth Parallax Wave, maybe more enchantment removal. Perhaps I should add a Wrath of God or two in keeping with the older decks we’ve looked at. For the purposes of building a 60 card deck I’ll add one Uktabi Orangutan and one Wrath of God. These will probably be amongst the first cards to be changed during play testing.
Finally we have to have a quick look at the casting costs of the spells and make sure we’ve got the land balance right. With the Wrath and the Orangutan we have the following breakdown:
Colourless spells: 3
1 green spells: 12
2 green spells: 8
1 white spells: 9
2 white spells: 4
There’s much more green than white in the deck, and some of the green spells allow us to get white mana, so we should have more Forests than Plains. If we change it to 6 Plains and 10 Forests we have 14 green mana producing land and 10 white mana producing land. We might find we need to swap a Forest for a Plains to make sure we get the two white for a third or fourth turn Wave, but this will come out in playtesting.
The final touch is one that’s too good to ignore: Treetop Village. With so many forests we can certainly make way for two or three Villages. So I’ll take three Forests out for three Villages. This gives us a final decklist which I’ll name Blastogeddon…
Blastogeddon (version 1.0):
I haven’t tested this as I write this, I’ve tested something similar and it works quite well. Whether it’ll stand up to playtesting against the best of the best I have no idea. I’m going to work on it and I’d welcome any suggestions.
At the end of the day I have a rogue deck I can start to work on. I have six weeks to test it, tweak it and build a decent sideboard. I’ll let you know how it goes.