Survival Madness, the deck with throwback Wild Mongrels cranking out hasty Vengevines, is getting hotter and hotter each week. It can play (mostly) fair, with turn 2 plays involving playing Aquamoeba, then discarding a Vengevine followed by a Basking Rootwalla for immediate attacks
a big threat coming up again the next turn. Then again, it can play bonkers all-out combo with Survival of the Fittest conjuring some Vengevines out of nowhere and springing them back up with free Rootwallas.
Whether you want to play with it or against it, you need to know how to play it well to get good results. This week, we’ll look at ten tips for you to get the most out of your Misty Rainforests.
Survival Madness is a Combo Deck
This deck is awful at attacking fairly. Your Basking Rootwallas look wimpy next to a Wild Nacatl, for example. You must aggressively mulligan; this was one of Caleb Durward’s biggest tips about his breakout deck. You
keep slow starts, especially when you realize that you don’t have Brainstorm to magically improve your hand.
When you look at your opening seven, ask yourself if you have all the tools required to get your combination started. If you’re resorting to playing a Wild Mongrel and getting a free Rootwalla out of the deal, you should probably send that hand back and turn it into something more glamorous.
Survival Madness can explode like few other creature-based decks can; I can only think of pairs of Goblin Piledriver to rival the amount of creature-based pain that can come out of nowhere.
Also remember that the deck can go crazy with only a few cards; a five-card starting hand is fine if it contains two lands, a Survival of the Fittest and a creature, for example, because the Survival is so patently absurd in this deck that it lets you buy back lost cards.
Sometimes, you keep hands that are very good against certain decks. I’m not advocating that you send back your “Force of Will, Daze, Stifle” grip against a known combo deck â€” but I
suggesting that you are probably keeping hands that, while decent, are not great.
When To Walk, When to Fly
When you have Survival going, your inclination is going to often be to just overwhelm the board with guys. Your deck has Wonder, though, and that gives you a lot of flexibility in your combat. For example, you can use it to levitate a Vengevine and send it in, especially in the face of a blocking Tarmogoyf.
Sure, U/G decks lack good, efficient removal â€” but Wonder is all the removal that you need when you are facing down creature decks. I have gone so far as to board in a second copy of the incarnation so I can increase my chances of naturally drawing it against a deck that wants to toss Tarmogoyfs in my way.
The Threat of Stifle Is Powerful
Sure, Stifle is powerful on its own in this deck (thanks to tag-team interactions with Wasteland) but it gets a great deal more of its power from your opponent’s
of being rocked by a Stifle. For example, an untapped Island signals your opponent that his Wasteland might whiff, his fetchland will not get a land, or that his Goblin Ringleader will fail to find his friends.
People can get scared of Stifle… so I like to remind them that I play it. While you cannot outright tell someone that you run the card, you can show subtle signals — your first-turn fetchland can go get an Island immediately, instead of sitting around until the end of the turn. (Just don’t get so caught up in mind games that you forget that you don’t have any green mana sources in your hand!)
Time Your Wastelands and Dazes Effectively
When I was playing CounterTop, I noticed that my Dazes would often hurt me more than they hurt my opponent. I would lead with a land and they would play a one-drop; I would usually Daze it. On my turn, I would replay my land, but they would play a much more powerful two-drop — Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Counterbalance, take your pick!
The two-drops in Legacy are
more powerful than the one-drops in general, so it is worthwhile to hold onto that Daze and make it really count.
You also must consider that your deck only really gets humming at two mana â€” that’s what you need to get Wild Mongrel, Aquamoeba, and Survival out on the table. Wastelanding an opponent on the first turn is tempting, but that pushes your Mongrel way back. It is often better to hold onto it and activate it on the third turn,
you’ve played your Madness enabler (assuming, of course, that’s what your opening hand strategy depends on).
Hold Onto Creatures To Restart Your Engine
So let’s say an Engineered Explosives and a messy round of combat leave your board empty. You have two Vengevines in the graveyard and you want them out. Do you play that Noble Hierarch you just drew and start attacking again?
It’s usually worth it to hold onto a creature if you have Vengevines in the graveyard, since you will need two to get out the veggies, and their haste means that you can often rebuy any lost damage immediately.
I’ve also had several occasions where I held that Hierarch for three turns, only to draw (and resolve) Survival of the Fittest for the win. You need creatures in hand to use Survival, and your only real way to get them is to draw them off the top of your library.
It’s messy, it’s slow, it’s frustrating â€” but you hold back creatures in recognition of the fact that you’re playing a combo deck and
a straight-aggro deck.
The important point here is that if you run them, know that they get a lot better in pairs. For example, you might be inclined to drop one to a Madness creature for another point of damage. That’s just not a good idea; even if your opponent has seven lands in play, two Spell Pierces will still stop his Jace, The Mind Sculptor from hitting play. Alternately, Spell Pierce will fuel Force of Will.
The Mathematics of the Vengevine Opening
You open up your hand and see this:
You’re not an idiot, so you keep it. You’re even smarter because you don’t play that Rootwalla on the first turn. But when
the best turn to play out your creatures?
This dramatically depends on the rest of your hand. For example, if those two cards are non-creatures, you can play Aquamoeba on the second turn, discard Vengevine, bring it back with a discarded Rootwalla and attack for four. On the third turn, if you pump Aquamoeba and Basking Rootwalla, you get ten damage on the swing (with four from the last turn).
If you have another creature in hand, then things might work out differently. You could play that same Aquamoeba on the second turn, discarding Vengevine at the end of the turn to get it where it should be. On your third turn, you could discard Basking Rootwalla into play and deploy that other creature. You get your veggies in play and can attack for three from the Aquamoeba and four from the Vengevine, for a total of seven damage on the third turn.
Now, that’s shabby compared to fourteen damage, but it has other advantages: you don’t have to discard a worthwhile spell to flip Aquamoeba, so you’re up a good card. You’re also using that mana on the third turn to play a creature and advance your board, instead of pumping the Rootwalla. And if that creature was a Trygon Predator, you’ve just put yourself into an excellent board position against some of the format’s most powerful decks.
This is something you pick up on when you play a lot of games (even just goldfishing to start off). While it is often better to knock an opponent down to six life on the third turn, getting out a useful monster can be better at times (like with our Predator against Enchantress, for example).
Reserve Your Rootwallas
It can be very tempting to go get all four of your Rootwallas for free beats, which usually happens when you are trying to power up Vengevines over two turns. I suggest keeping them in the deck if you can; Noble Hierarch is a great card to end your Survival of the Fittest chain on, and it keeps those Lizards where they can be useful — in rebuilding a board if it gets devastated. Without Rootwallas in your deck, you need to have two creatures in hand to get that Vengevine out again â€” which is challenging, because you don’t have Squee, Goblin Nabob to double the men that you can pitch to Survival.
The lesson? Don’t be too greedy with your Rootwallas, and you can win games where you have been wiped out.
You Can Also Just Cast Vengevines
If your combo is threatened early on in sideboard games by Tormod’s Crypts, Pithing Needles, or other menaces, you can run out your Vengevines as 2GG 4/3 attackers and just make combat happen that way. Especially when accelerated with Noble Hierarch, Vengevines are great attackers all on their lonesome even when you have to pay retail.
Fear those Extirpates? Keep a Vengevine in play, even if you just hard-cast one, for insurance. The opponent will be wondering how they lost when they opened with two Extirpates in the face of accelerated Vengevines.
Know Your Bad Matchups
This is general advice, but sometimes the peculiarities of the deck lull you into false ideas about matchups.
Merfolk is the big one; its early Wastelands and Dazes can be frustrating, and even though you’re playing some monstrous creatures, theirs usually have islandwalk. There’s a reason you see Llawan, Cephalid Empress on a lot of Survival Madness sideboards, and that’s because Merfolk can give you a much harder time than you would think.
As a corollary with this, know how powerful your sideboard cards must be before they’re worthwhile. I see a lot of Submerges â€” and I’ve been disappointed by them. The problem is that unless you connect Submerge with an opponent’s fetchland activation, you’re probably just sending a cheap creature back to their library to come out and threaten you again on the next turn.
My interim substitute? Mind Harness. While this is a mana-light deck, making the cumulative upkeep a little tricky in the long run, snagging an opposing Grim Lavamancer or Tarmogoyf for a few turns has been
more relevant than bouncing one and depriving the opponent of a fresh draw.
Got your own tips? Disagree with mine? Sound off in the forums and let other readers know how you get the most out of
Survival Madness deck! You can also find me on Twitter and send feedback emails at the address below.
Until next week,
legacysallure at gmail dot com
legacysallure at Twitter