Innovations – Introducing Seismic Swan (The Future)

Read Patrick Chapin every Monday... at StarCityGames.com!
Monday, April 7th – In the forums for last Week’s Innovations, a dissenter asked Patrick Chapin to return to his innovative roots. Let’s face it, Patrick hasn’t broken the format for a few weeks now… it’s time he stepped back up to the plate. Using extensive Shadowmoor spoilers, he may well have done exactly that…

[csback01]: PChapin, I love you as much as the next guy, but these last few articles have been a bit of a letdown.

When I look forward to a Patrick Chay-pin article I am looking for a bit of tech to help me on Friday.

I’m looking for some beastly “Innovation” with which to catch my friends unawares.

I’m looking for a streamlined deck that I can learn a bit about how I should appropriately round out my deck.

I have unstreamlined lists. I have lists that have some testing, but just not there. It seems to me like PC went to a forum and found some lists and put them into his article (even by his own admission one list was a cut and paste.) I’m not one of the “Give me my money back” people. It’s not that way…

I’m not mad, just… disappointed.

[GerryT] : So you want Chapin to break the format every week? That sounds easy enough.

[thepchapin] : Whatever. I see how it is. Here is the list:

Seismic Swan

4 Seismic Assault
4 Sulfurous Blast

4 Glittering Wish
3 Swans of Bryn Argoll
1 Teferi’s Moat

3 Idyllic Tutor
1 Oblivion Ring

3 Fertile Ground
3 Sylvan Scrying
2 Gaea’s Blessing
1 Abundance

4 Lotus Bloom

4 Dakmor Salvage
3 Gemstone Mine
2 Brushland
1 Fire Canopy
1 Mistmeadow Fields
4 Vivid Meadow
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Reflecting Pool

3 Cloudthresher
1 Pyrohemia
1 Fiery Justice
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Zur, the Enchanter
1 Void
1 Swans of Bryn Argoll
4 Vexing Shusher
1 Teferi’s Moat

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this is new enough and innovative enough for you, so act right. (Besides, honestly, Next Level Blue every week? Now I know how Eminem felt after “My Name Is.”)

Obviously I am not going to be the only person to suggest the Swans in Hollywood Standard, but I am not content to just Tendrils or Skred them. I want to go literal DI.

Basically, we are looking at a turn 4 or 5 kill. This begins with us doing a lot of tutoring and developing our mana. The game ends when we drop Seismic Assault, followed by a Swans of Bryn Argoll. We then shoot it with Dakmor Salvage and combo off (I will get to it in a minute).

Swans of Bryn Argoll is a new card from Shadowmoor that costs 2 W/U W/U for a 4/3 flying bird spirit with “whenever damage would be dealt to Swans of Bryn Argoll, prevent that damage. The source’s controller draws cards equal to the damage prevented that way.”

A card like this screams to be abused. On the surface, the Swans appear to be an efficient flier with an unusual drawback (opponent draws a lot of cards if he fights), however this ability is actually an incredible advantage. The key is that when you play the Swans, you plan to be able to deal a large amount of damage to it yourself. That turns the card into a source of resource conversion.

Typically, in Magic, the cost to deal damage to a creature is much lower than the cost to draw cards. For instance, look at Skred. That is a way to convenient way to deal three, five, maybe even seven damage to a creature for one mana. By contrast, you can’t even draw two cards for one mana (typically). However, with Swans, you can now convert creature damage spells like Skred into Ancestral Recalls or better.

That is good.

However, maybe we can do better. The way I see it, the Swans are an open-ended combo engine. What if we had some way to convert cards in our hand into damage to our Swan? Stormbind was my first thought, but it costs too much, as we don’t want to lose any mana in the process.

Seismic Assault was the solution. It lets us convert every land into a draw 2 for zero mana. That is a great deal. The plan was to play Seismic Assault plus Swans and then just play something like 33-35 land so that we could draw our whole deck. This would allow us to dig to 4 Rite of Flames and combo off some other way

The problem is that we obviously don’t want to play this many land. Plus, there is still the possibility of fizzling out. The problem was that we couldn’t be sure we would draw enough land. That is where the genius comes in. What if we had a way to draw land every turn?


Once we play Abundance, we can draw land for the rest of the game and just get ahead enough to shoot our opponent 10 times. The problem? Abundance adds four more mana to the equation. At this point, why bother?

If only there was a way to ensure that we could draw all land for little to no mana.

Dakmor Salvage….

The much maligned Future Sight land is the last remaining bastion of dredge in Standard (and probably the last to be broken). The interesting thing about Dakmor Salvage is that once we have Seismic Assault and Swans of Bryn Argoll, we can replace one of the draws every cycle with a dredge of our land. This ensures that we will draw as much land as we want.

I was ready to build. I talked to my teammate Michael Jacob about the plan, and he said it sounded interesting and that he would have to think about it. While I was brainstorming on how to fill out the deck, he told me that I would need Gaea’s Blessing. I saw where he was coming from, but was hoping it wasn’t going to come to that. We picked up a 60-card deck (not related) and acted like we had a typical draw. It turns out you need 51-72 cards to win.


Still, it’s not that awkward. Two Gaea’s Blessings made their way into the deck. Now… how to build the deck? Would we be set up like many of the current Reveillark decks, where we’re a sort of pseudo control with a possible combo kill? Would we be built for speed, comboing off as fast as possible? What’s the plan?

First I focused on how to tutor up my combo. See, on the surface, it looks like a two-card combo (Seismic Assault plus Swans of Bryn Argoll), but that is not going to get you that far in my deck. Sometimes you will still go off, if you have enough land to jump start the engine. Still, to really go off, you need a Salvage.

As an aside, while going off, you still have a possibility of almost fizzling. If, in the process of Salvaging someone, you draw both of your Gaea’s Blessings before you hit a second Salvage, you will go very large (maybe draw 20 cards or something) and will be able to go off next turn, but you could theoretically be stuck for a turn.

Just be mindful of this as you try to go off. When you are full-out combo-ing off, you want to discard the Salvage to deal two to Swans. Then replace the first draw with dredging Salvage. Then you have to draw a card unless you hit another Salvage. If you hit a second Salvage, you straight-up win, as you will never have to draw another card.

Until then you will basically be in a loop where each time you discard the Salvage you will mill two cards, get back Salvage, and draw a card. Repeat this process until you hit a second Salvage. Then you start throwing one Salvage at your opponent and one at your Swan. Then replace both draws with both Salvages dredged. This way you will be milling 4 cards to deal 2 damage to your opponent.

Repeat this until the opponent is kold. Whenever you dredge a Gaea’s Blessing, you will shuffle your graveyard back into your library, ensuring that you do not run out of cards. However, you will not lose the Salvages, as whenever you would be triggering Blessing the Salvages will be in your hand from the dredge process.

Sidenote: make sure you actually have land in your deck with which to shoot. You will accumulate land in your hand as you start going off. If need be, you can shoot with it mid-combo.

Also, if your opponent tries to Nameless Inversion your Swan, you can shoot it again in response as long as you have another land in your hand. The Salvage will be in your Graveyard as part of the cost of Seismic Assault, so you will be free to dredge at will. You can actually get around just about anything short of Sudden Death as long as you have a land in hand for each removal spell you want to beat.

There is nothing that says you must combo off immediately. If you want, you can just play the Swan while you have Assault in play. Then, if the board calls for it, you can pass the turn. If your opponent tries to make a play, you can respond by going off. This lets you pick a moment when they are at their most vulnerable. For instance, they may try to Inversion your guy on your endstep. This is the signal you are waiting for. Go off in response.

Anyway, I did not want to view this deck as a control-combo deck. I wanted to try to combo off fast, so I needed tutors and fast mana.

First I took a look at ways I could find Seismic Assault, Swans of Bryn Argoll, and Dakmor Salvage.

I am not gonna claim that this absolutely should be the way to build this deck, but my starting point began with the tutor base of Idyllic Tutor, Glittering Wish, and Sylvan Scrying. It is disappointing that the tutors can’t fetch more than one combo piece reliably, but this is the best I have so far.

Idyllic Tutor was originally more exciting to me when I envisioned a great Bullet selection. Unfortunately, that never totally materialized. It is important to be able to get the Seismic Assault, obviously, but Oblivion Ring, Teferi’s Moat, Abundance, and Fertile Ground is just not that sexy.

It is nice that we can solve problematic permanents with the O-Ring. Teferi’s Moat is usually planned for by most attacking decks, but can be randomly great. Abundance is a current experiment to fill the role of essentially being a card drawer to tutor for or a replacement for Dakmor Salvage. If we hit the Seismic Swan combo, Abundance means we don’t need the dredge land. We just name land 15 times. Each land we discard will draw us 2 more. Eventually we will have 10 and shoot our opponent.

I originally tried Colfener’s Plans, but it was not what I was hoping for. The surge of cards is great, and it is cute that we have a number of tricky ways to get rid of it when we are done, but the drawback of not being able to drop Seismic Assault and Swan in the same turn is too great. It doesn’t work well with Lotus Bloom. Also, even if we Glittering Wish for Harmonic Sliver to get rid of it, that is the slowest ever.

The sideboard Pyrohemia is untested in this deck, but in theory we need all the weapons we can get against Faeries. We are exactly the type of deck Faeries is built to prey on.

It is actually kind of surprising how often we Idyllic Tutor for Fertile Ground in this deck. Maybe that is a sign that the deck needs more mana.

Anyway, Glittering Wish primarily to get Swans of Bryn Argoll (it’s a 2WW creature with the advantage of counting as a Gold card). However, we actually get a lot of action out of our board to compliment the Glittering Wish. Plus, “I only know the cards spoiled by MTGSalvation.com,” so let’s just hope there are some other cards in Shadowmoor of which we’ll want to take advantage.

Vexing Shusher, at R/G R/G for a 2/2 goblin shaman that can’t be countered by spells or abilities with “R/G: target spell can’t be countered by spells or abilities this turn,” is sick.

Aside from obviously a strong card to board in against Blue, this card makes Glittering Wish an extremely dangerous card. If our opponent lets the Wish resolve, planning to gain tempo by countering whatever we get, we can get the Shusher and just ruin him. It is almost like a split second way to lock out permission. Obviously it is a fragile body, but the payoff is so high. This guy is amazing. Blue mages will have to do some thinking. I predict more Nameless Inversions in Faeries, etc.

Some of the bullets are pretty straightforward. Teferi’s Moat, Harmonic Sliver, Gaddock Teeg, etc are all pretty basic. Fiery Justice is a way to curve Glittering Wish into a board sweeper on turn 3. Void gives another sweeper, but is also disruptive to combo decks like Reveillark.

Zur, the Enchanter is a pretty sick one, but might turn out not good enough. Basically, I wanted some way to turn Glittering Wish into Seismic Assault. The best I came up with out of what is available currently is Zur. Sure, he needs to attack to get the Assault, but I can imagine a number of scenarios where he could be nice. The fact that he gets things like Oblivion Ring is just icing on the cake. He could very well end up on the editing room floor, but I have wanted to fit this guy into a deck for some time now.

Sylvan Scrying replaced Tolaria West before I even finished building the manabase. I originally envisioned transmuting to Salvage, but why bother? Who wants to splash Tolaria West when they could just run on-color Sylvan Scrying? I wish I had more juicy targets, but for now the primary selection is just Salvage, Horizon Canopy, Reflecting Pool, and Vivid Meadow.

I was originally only going to run two Scrying, but the fact that it costs only two mana is huge, and just getting another Reflecting Pool is not too shabby. I fantasize about playing a single Desert, but I would have to have a pretty sick read on the metagame to justify that, I think.

Now that I knew my basic Tutor package, how would I accelerate? I contemplated Birds of Paradise, but I liked the fact that I was currently pretty immune to removal, plus I was pretty sure I wanted to play some sweepers to help with Blue Aggro decks.

Fertile Ground was a logical choice that worked well with Seismic Assault, Idyllic Tutor, and so on. I have tried it, and so far so good, although it is not an all-star. I definitely am not too thrilled with being blown out by Cryptic Command and Venser. Still, any color is nice, though it sucks that we don’t really benefit from the ramp.

Lotus Bloom was suggested jokingly by a friend, as a way to help cast Seismic Assault, but why not? I mean that is the natural curve.

Turn 1 Vivid Meadow, Bloom
Turn 2 Land, Glittering Wish or Sylvan Scrying
Turn 3 Land, Idyllic Tutor (or any other tutor)
Turn 4 Bloom comes in, land, Seismic Assault, Swan.

I love this kind of speed. It is not unrealistic to kill turn 4 with Seismic Swan anyway, even without the Lotus, so this great increase in speed adds a very potent, dangerous element to the deck. You can’t race it. For example:

Turn 1 Land
Turn 2 Land Tutor
Turn 3 Seismic Assault
Turn 4 Swan.

There are a lot of turn 4 kills available to you and this deck is straight up faster than Dragonstorm by at least a half turn, if not more. That is Really Fast.

Anyway, Lotus Bloom is basically the best card in the deck, always ensuring that you not only have mana to cast your spells, but that you are probably ready to go off turn 4, or turn 5 against resistance. A lot of opponents just can’t beat this deck if it draws Lotus Bloom. It is just too fast.

The Sulfurous Blasts that round the deck out give us a way to help slow down aggro decks such as Faeries, Merfolk, and Elves. This is a very powerful weapon that we can use to negate the tempo advantage of an opponent that tries to drop a couple of creatures early then back them up with permission. We Blast on their turn, sweeping the board and leaving us in the driver’s seat. If they fight it, we untap and go for the win.

It should also be noted that Swan beatdown is very respectable. Let me give you an example.

Turn 1 Land, Suspend Bloom
Turn 2 Land, Fertile Ground
Turn 3 Land, Swan
Turn 4 Bloom comes in, Land, then Sulfurous Blast to sweep board. Not only do we Wrath them, but we draw 3 cards and have mana to play Seismic Assault if we draw it. Plus when we attack with the Swan, we already have our opponent to 13 with a solid clock in play.

In general, it is better to not block with the Swan, unless it is an important creature such as Lord of Atlantis, Imperious Perfect, or Wizened Cenn, etc. Letting them draw 2 cards in exchange for their Silvergill Adept is sketchy at best. Still, sometimes you need the tempo, and that can be fine.

The biggest problem that needs to be worked on is Seismic Swan’s weakness to Faeries. The tempo they generate on us is harsh, and tons of sweepers is too much brute force, not enough finesse. Our best match-ups are with anyone trying to race us without disruption.

Seismic Swans is Faster. Much Faster.

Happy now? Next week I am just writing out my shopping list, an old poem, and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”