MichaelJ Monday – Top Down Morningtide: Foolkiller, Folk Rock

The Star City $5,000 Standard Open comes to Charlotte, NC!
Morningtide is released at the end of the week, and all eyes turn to Constructed. Today’s MichaelJ Monday, held over from last week, sees Mike choose two of his favorite cards from the new set, building Standard decks that revolve around each. This is a great insight into the new card deckbuilding process… and later this week, Mike kicks off the Morningtide Standard Set Review (a “Two-Headed” pair of collaborative articles with Patrick Chapin). Watch this space!

Starting this Flores Friday, the Innovator and I will begin our Two-Headed Morningtide set review for Standard. However, for today I am just hanging out on Patrick’s Monday couch kicking around some less formal ideas. Our intrepid editor Craig suggested that I look at some Morningtide cards that I liked, and (separately) asked that I outline how I put together new decks at the beginning… So for this one I decided to do a little of both.

I went over the Morningtide spoiler and identified two cards that really interested me; this article outlines my initial ideas for building decks around each of them.

#1 – Feudkiller’s Verdict

It probably doesn’t surprise you that this is my absolute favorite card from the new set. I am tempted to try to play it in Extended with Temple of the False God (I know, surprise surprise) where I think there will actually be less Counterspell resistance than in Standard.

So how does this one work?

You can technically play Feudkiller’s Verdict as just a card in any kind of deck that can muster the mana to play it; for instance, incremental life gain in some kind of U/W Control deck. I think that probably isn’t a very efficient way to go about things in most cases, though. Six mana is a lot to ask, even for a hefty ten life, as a onetime deal. For ten damage it would be a great deal, but while every deck has a life total, not every deck cares about taking care of it. While Feudkiller’s Verdict seems like it would be a conditional life saver if it happened to come up at the right time for a variety of decks in need (I anticipate playing it in Mental Magic some time before I die), the idea that is most attractive to me at this early stage is to actually make a Feudkiller’s Verdict deck… that is, a deck that wants to survive until it can start playing Feudkiller’s Verdict over and over, shuffling it back in with Gaea’s Blessing, dominating on every metric, and eventually killing with the 5/5s.

I don’t know if this is realistic in the long term, but my initial deck idea for this one is G/W control. There are more issues with this color combination than with a Blue control deck, but it’s not like there is no precedent. Wake was a dominating control strategy in Standard as essentially a G/W deck (albeit a very powerful one), and right now my concern is that I would not be able to realize the true effectiveness of either color were I to go Blue. Think about it like this: Why would you really want to add Feudkiller’s Verdict to either a Sonic Boom-style or a Cheon U/W Pickles? Both decks already have six mana plays that 1) eventually win the game and 2) work in some way to protect their ability to win the game. Both do this by dominating some element of tempo and translating that to essentially locking down the game. Feudkiller’s Verdict would just be a clunky six mana play that could sometimes dig the control player out of a life deficit for a turn without forwarding the core Blue strategy in any way.

Instead I built this one to grind. Kill their guys. Undo the damage they’ve done. Gain a ton of life. Produce some Giants. Produce more Giants. Kill guys as needed. Gain more life. Produce more Giants.

Card Breakdown:

4 Coldsteel Heart
For this one I wanted to utilize a Snow sub-theme, so this seemed like the best accelerator in a two-color deck.

2 Mind Stone
I wanted about six two-mana accelerators… This seemed better than Prismatic Lens.

3 Gaea’s Blessing
I would usually play two copies in a deck like this (it’s tradition) but I’m actually a little bit worried about the 5/3 Jester’s Cap taking my Gaea’s Blessings… While playing a third doesn’t offer complete protection from that card, it should help from being completely dominated in that they can’t take all your Gaea’s Blessings or all your Feudkiller’s Verdicts with one shot… Pure theory at this point.

4 Adarkar Valkyrie
The main alternate kill condition… I wanted it to be synergistic with something. In this case Adarkar Valkyrie is both a fine compliment to Scrying Sheets and a potentially frustrating combo with Martyr of Sands.

4 Austere Command
Originally I only had two copies, but the more I thought about how resource exhaustion might work in the Faeries and Rogues Standard, the more I wanted more Wraths… This might toggle back to some Gelid Shackles (or whatever ends up in that spot) as six mana is very expensive, even for a deck like this.

4 Feudkiller’s Verdict
The centerpiece. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it or not but I really like this card, possibly more than Jeroen Remie likes Spike Feeder (just a guess).

2 Gelid Shackles
I wanted a fast response card and this one is the cheapest, plus it’s free in the late game with Scrying Sheets. I had four in the first two builds but shifted the counts to Austere Command for the reasons I’ve already stated. While it only costs one mana to ply, Gelid Shackles isn’t a perfect Pacifism because you need to throw an additional Snow into it to actually stave off an attack. This might get annoying as testing goes by; it’s possible Temporal Isolation is the right card to play, both as a more consistent response to the fastest Rogue attacks and for locking down the inevitable Countryside Crusher decks, and there as a potential four-of.

4 Martyr of Sands
Awesome with Adarkar Valkyrie. Pretty much always pretty good.

4 Oblivion Ring
This card is approaching staple status… This deck can’t really make use of any of the Planeswalkers; however, certain opposing Planeswalkers can be pretty annoying. Plus you really need to contain Gaddock Teeg in this deck, so I wanted a number of fast plays against that guy.

1 Sacred Mesa
I had a spare slot in the first version and this seemed better as a singleton finisher than a fourth Gaea’s Blessing.

4 Wrath of God
A very much needed staple.

The mana was a little tricky for this deck because I didn’t really want Snow-Covered Forest at all. That said, Horizon Canopy might turn out completely wrong because I don’t really want to be taking damage all day. Plus that land isn’t even Snow. Four copies of Mouth of Ronom seem like a complete necessity to me due to the threats of Gaddock Teeg and Brine Elemental.

As you probably know, I have been playing decks like this one for the past four or so years. The issue that comes up on formats that have a Madness (like Rogues) rather than just an Affinity is that you need faster spot removal in order to not get blown out in the early game. You can clean up with something later via drawing cards, but it’s all about actually surviving to your mid-Phase II and graduating to Phase III through their tempo, and that isn’t always realistic with just Wrath of God as your front line. In my experience that has usually meant adding Black removal… It can also help you sideboarded (for example, the Feudkiller’s Verdict deck could get Thoughtseize).

The Black version would probably eschew the Martyr of Sands engine gaining Nameless Inversion (over Shriekmaw, which seems worse in the metagame if Rogues is the beatdown / Madness default). The big upgrade main, though, would be Damnation over Austere Command. Murmuring Bosk would of course find a place in an increasingly awkward manabase. One thing I found on balance was that you would probably want Coalition Relic in the Black version, but that Coalition Relic is kind of awesome at jamming out six mana spells like Feudkiller’s Verdict, and for that reason might be right in the G/W version. I think the Black version might end up being better, but the problem is that these colors don’t have a reliably great source of card drawing and it is unrealistic to be able to rely on Scrying Sheets as the deck actually needs Black on the second turn and BB on the third or fourth.

#2 Leaf-Crowned Elder

The obvious thing that rings in your head — well, it fired for me, anyway — was Treefolk!… It’s important to note that this card is not just a Treefolk, it’s also a Shaman. Therefore you can get some nice crossover between Leaf-Crowned Elder and Shamans, such as the aptly named Viridian Shaman or tournament staples (that you might not have initially considered) like Masked Admirers and Riftsweeper. That said, the obvious implementation is obvious for a reason, so my initial Leaf-Crowned Elder deck is Treefolk…

Now comes the part about building decks initially. For this one it was pretty hard… I was at 49 Shamans, Changelings, and Treefolk spells on the first pass through (for Standard) before I realized that I didn’t have any Tarmogoyfs! Sorry Troll Ascetic. A lot of the cards that I wanted to include as singletons in the main, as well as the four copies of Commune With Nature that I had to find them (but eventually didn’t make the cut), can be found in the sideboard.

Paul Jordan and I actually worked on an Extended version of this deck because we liked the name Folk Rock (short for Treefolk Rock). Not surprisingly Treefolk Harbinger was more impressive in Extended than it probably will be in Standard… But on balance, it’s a lot easier for a deck like this to compete in Standard than in Extended!

Card Breakdown:

3 Eyeblight’s Ending
Originally I had none of these and all Nameless Inversions, but then as I started to write about Leaf-Crowned Elder itself, I realized that it was probably not just a good idea but a necessity to be able to destroy creatures outside three toughness in the main (other people’s Dorans, Elders, or Dragons). Also you can cheat a little with this one to help Gilt-Leaf Palace [As you can with the Inversion… — Craig.]

1 Nameless Inversion
I initially went with this as a four-of and main removal card for the obvious combination with Treefolk Harbinger (first turn Harbinger, second turn Inversion provided you have a Black source) that was also good against random fast threats like Hypnotic Specter, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, etc. However, I went down to only one copy, supplementing with Eyeblight’s Ending for the reasons described under that entry.

2 Profane Command
This was a late addition. I actually started out with my near-fifty Treefolk linear before I realized that I didn’t have a lot of the great spells we expect from a Standard B/G mid-range creature deck. Unfortunately, even though I managed two Profane Commands, I couldn’t find a spot for everyone’s favorite Planeswalker.

4 Doran, the Siege Tower
Super obvious inclusion… Doran is probably the best three-drop in Standard as well as a furious combination with Treefolk Harbinger (3/3) and especially Deadwood Treefolk (a whopping 6/6!).

2 Deadwood Treefolk
This guy is probably going to end up being the best creature in the deck (at that mana cost it should be!). I didn’t play four just because he is so expensive… Anyway, you can probably end up looping them against one another in a super long game if you have to.

1 Heartwood Storyteller
This guy has been just fantastic for me in this style of deck. You can set it up in the right matchup and just draw cards for the rest of the game.

4 Into the North
I wanted a mana accelerator that could help me reliably hit my colors. It was either this or Edge of Autumn, and I didn’t want to have to commit to Flagstones of Trokair.

4 Leaf-Crowned Elder
This fellow is the centerpiece, of course, replacing Dauntless Dourbark in previous versions of Treefolk (that I have built, at least). 3/5 for four mana is slightly below average for a tournament caliber Green creature at this point, but that rules text more than makes up for any perceived size shortcomings. Don’t forget that he is a full 5/5 with Doran out.

1 Masked Admirers
This card is a little awkward seeing as it is an Elf rather than a Treefolk, and a one-of at that. That said, Masked Admirers is a pretty good card and this deck wants a little card advantage. You can only search for Masked Admirers specifically with Primal Command, but if it randomly ends up on top of your library, don’t forget that Leaf-Crowned Elder can Tinker it right into play. I do think that the Admirers is probably the right tutor target when you are planning to get into an attrition fight because this deck has so many creatures that the card advantage will be essentially inexorable long.

2 Primal Command
This actually seems like a pretty important inclusion in the deck… Not only does it smooth the creature draws a little bit, but Primal Command helps to disrupt the opponent’s board position… It’s interesting against cards like Spinerock Knoll… You get the removed card, but when they re-play the land, the next card might actually be better!

1 Reach of Branches
Here is a tuning issue. How many of this? It’s basically the Treefolk Beast Attack. I’d run four Beast Attacks every time. That said, this deck can find the one Reach of Branches with Treefolk Harbinger and then recycle the same copy for the rest of the game.

1 Rootgrapple
Because mise. See Tarmogoyf.

4 Treefolk Harbinger
This little guy really is the card that holds the rest of the deck together. If you haven’t tried him in Constructed yet, he’s really pretty impressive; when you want a land he gives you not just a land but the colors you want. When you want a specific threat, he gives that to you as well. In a correctly built deck, Treefolk Harbinger very much resembles a Vampiric Tutor that can block and sometimes bash. The long term setup with Leaf-Crowned Elder is actually fantastic… Don’t forget that even Murmuring Bosk is available, due to its being a Forest.

4 Tarmogoyf
Okay. Paul and I had a Rootgrapple in our main deck for Extended. We were up with a Doran and a Profane Command, figuring we could power through this guy’s three tiny Tarmogoyfs. On his turn he played a Duress and elected to take the mighty Rootgrapple. Hmm. His three Tarmogoyfs all got +3/+3 and that was that. Besides just being an unparalleled monster, it would be almost irresponsible to cut this card with all the Tribal stamps; otherwise it’s just the opponent’s inevitable Tarmogoyfs that would be getting the benefit of all those Nameless Inversions and Eyeblight’s Endings.

4 Wall of Roots
You want to hit four mana on turn 3 as much as possible, so I went with a compliment to Into the North that can sit back as a 5/5 on defense.

The sideboard I listed is mostly cards that I couldn’t cram into the main. Should this deck pan out, I’m sure that I would figure out some awesome transformative strategy instead of just a bunch of utility cards and creatures.

My main concern with the alpha build for this one is the land count… 22 is a little thin with six drops. However, with eight true acceleration spells on two, as well has the ability to cheat for lands with Treefolk Harbinger on one, 22 is probably sufficient.

Anyway, those are my first passes for Feudkiller’s Verdict and Leaf-Crowned Elder for Standard. The concern whenever you are making a new deck is not just whether the deck is somehow capable in its own right, but how it fits into the marketplace of the metagame. Why, for example, would someone go with Folk Rock over a pre-existing B/G Elves deck in the same colors? Given the right acceleration and setup, Folk Rock seems much more powerful, but the known B/G decks are better offensively with their second turn Ohran Vipers (and Dorans of their own), 3/3s on turn 2, etc. The White control branch is even dodgier… If the main concern in Morningtide Standard is the ability to withstand a Rogues offense, any control deck is going to have to be very quick defensively, as well as consistent. I don’t usually get very attached to any specific cards or strategies (no long term alliances, no long term enemies), but I think I’d be sad if I never got to play with Feudkiller’s Verdict.

Two-Headed Standard Set Review kicks off this Flores Friday!