No Gamble, No Future: Extended Ooze

Friday, December 31st – Everyone knows about Ooze now… But defending against this deck and trying to target it with hate is much easier said than done. So let the 2010 5th-place Worlds finisher tell you why Ooze is still good!

Going rogue in Magic tournaments is a strategy that holds a multitude of benefits. An opponent’s failure to understand what your deck does makes every decision that much more difficult. Which cards are the important ones to counter? What creatures need to be stopped from entering the battlefield or prevented from untapping? What cards should be targeted with discard effects before they come online? How should you sideboard?

Conley Woods is a perfect example of a rogue deckbuilder. Sure, his play is often extremely loose. He hasn’t been playing competitively for that long, so some of his fundamental understanding for how to approach the game is off. And yes, his Limited skills for most of his career have been borderline scary (and don’t get me started on his ability to calculate tiebreakers, especially before choosing to take an intentional draw during the last round of Grand Prix).

He does, however, have quite a bit of success in this game. A large reason for that is because of his ability to build rogue decks and execute with them.

Today I’m going to take a closer look into a Conley Woods creation, entitled “Ooze the Boss,” or just Ooze — this is the deck I played on day 3 of Worlds and used to lock up a slot in the top 8. Here’s the list I played, for reference:

The reason this deck appealed to me was all of the angles it can attack from — it can function as a relatively solid straight land destruction deck, as many decks in the format require a plethora of mana to function, as well as color-specific mana.

It can function as a Rock deck, utilizing discard spells and going with a beatdown plan. This didn’t seem very likely to me at first, as the deck has some 2/2s and some 4/3s for four — but as it turns out, most of the games I played at Worlds wound up being won by the beatdown plan.

Finally, the true beauty of the deck: it has a very nice combo package that can win the game at instant speed.

The savvy reader will be quick to point out that the deck is out there. It’s certainly no longer the rogue deck that it was just a month ago. Everyone knows of the deck’s existence right now — although I’m not sure many respect just how strong it’s actually capable of being (thanks in large part to a rather lackluster performance at Worlds). However, defending against this deck and trying to target it with hate is much easier said than done.

With most decks we’ve seen in the past that can utilize the graveyard to great effect, a timely Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb is more than enough to slow down the opponent and throw them off executing their game plan. The Ooze deck is actually quite resilient to someone attacking your graveyard thanks in large part to the ability to go off at instant speed. With an Ooze in play, your opponent essentially is going to have to blow up your graveyard every time there’s just one piece in there, such as a Devoted Druid. Once a Fauna Shaman gets in there, giving the Ooze both green creature abilities, he can go off at instant speed, responding to anything the opponent does to try to hate it out.

I guess now is as good a time as any to explain how the combo works, for those who are unsure. There are many little combos the deck is capable of, but the main one involves getting a Devoted Druid and a Fauna Shaman in the graveyard with a Necrotic Ooze in play. This can be done in a variety of manners, usually involving a Fauna Shaman being activated, but that’s far from necessary. Devoted Druid has the ability to suicide itself, so getting one in the graveyard is usually rather simple.

Fauna Shaman is often targeted by Thoughtseizes and Lightning Bolts, although sometimes it enters play unchecked. Clearly, with a few turns of Fauna activations, your graveyard will be more than full enough to kill any opponent — but in a pinch, Shriekmaw can also be searched up to bin a Fauna Shaman and go off a little bit quicker.

A Fauna Shaman in the ‘yard is far from necessary to go off though, it just allows the Ooze itself to instantly fill your graveyard with everything you need by using the Devoted Druid’s untap ability for multiple activations.

A Necrotic Ooze in play with a Devoted Druid and either Quillspike or Grim Poppet in the graveyard creates an infinite loop. You can use the Ooze to tap for green, put a -1/-1 counter on it and untapping it, both Devoted Druid’s activated abilities. Then using the green mana, remove the -1/-1 counter with Quillspike to give the Ooze +3/+3. Repeat this process for an infinitely-powered Ooze, in addition to infinite mana.

An Ooze with a Devoted Druid and Grim Poppet in the graveyard is also infinite mana with another creature in play, as you can repeatedly respond to putting a -1/-1 counter on another target creature while adding a green mana each time with the Ooze. This also will sweep the opponent’s board of all creatures with an infinite supply of -1/-1 counters.

With infinite mana, winning the game is fairly academic. Grim Poppet can sweep their board so an infinitely-powered Ooze, courtesy of Quillspike, can finish them off. Thornling can also just be used to give the Ooze trample without needing a Poppet, and is also quite useful in a pinch to give the Ooze haste, when needed, to go off a turn faster. And finally, being able to fill up your graveyard allows Molten-Tail Masticore to repeatedly shoot the opponent (while also providing the often useful regeneration ability to an Ooze earlier in the game).

I hope people are able to follow that, as it certainly wasn’t as easy as I hoped to describe how to go through a variety of infinite loops — but with a little bit of practice, it’s rather intuitive.

Now for some of the card choices:

4 Birds of Paradise, 4 Devoted Druid

Druid is one of the key engines to the deck, and Birds of Paradise is the only good way of casting a turn 2 Fulminator Mage. The deck is rather light on land to begin with, and having extra creatures to pitch to Fauna Shamans is very important.

4 Fauna Shaman, 4 Necrotic Ooze

The keys to the deck, of course

4 Fulminator Mage

I have to admit it: this is what got me onto this deck. I think Fulminator Mage is absolutely fantastic in this format, and the allure of being able to cast turn 2 Fulminator Mage, turn 3 Necrotic Ooze/use Mage ability was too much for me to pass up. This card makes the Four-Color Control and Jund matchups excellent

4 Thoughtseize

This allows you to execute your game plan and stop them from doing the same; I’d play more if I could, and it’s possible some Duresses should be maindecked.

2 Makeshift Mannequin

Another card that just combos well with everything you do. There would be more copies if drawing multiples didn’t risk cluttering up your hand.

2 Primal Command

Another card you almost always want to draw one of. It tutors up the piece you need, puts a land on top to follow up all the land destruction, puts a Pyromancer Ascension on top and makes them shuffle, and gains seven life against red decks.

And for the slightly more debated cards…

4 Acidic Slime

It was hard for me to actually sleeve up four Acidic Slimes in a constructed portion of a Pro Tour

(I played a Conley deck in San Diego that also featured Acidic Slime), but this card is just so solid. It can come out turn 3 with the help of a Devoted Druid and it just solves a lot of the problems. It trades with Jund creatures while disrupting their mana, attacks through Wall of Omens, and blows up Prismatic Omens. The original list with the deck started with one and that number slowly crept up to two, three, and finally the full amount. It’s surprising how good this card actually is

1 Grim Poppet, 1 Quillspike, 1 Molten-Tail Masticore, 1 Thornling, 1 Reveillark, 1 Shriekmaw

The truth is that every single one of these cards can be changed. Some of them most likely should be, though on others I’m not so sure.


unsure if the Grim Poppet is necessary. He was one of the cornerstones when the deck was originally made — but if you’re going off, Quillspike in addition to Masticore or Thornling should be more than enough. The other possibility is to instead cut the Thornling. Haste can be good, and indestructibility is certainly useful against Day of Judgment, but it really doesn’t come up that often.

Reveillark was the best card for me despite being the sixtieth card added to the deck. It almost always just got back two Fulminator Mages or Acidic Slimes, but that will usually put the nail in the coffin. It’s possible that it’s still unnecessary, as games where it comes online are often the games that you’re already winning.

I certainly wouldn’t cut the Molten-Tail Masticore under any circumstance, as he allows you to just win the game instantly — either in response to graveyard hate, removal, or just during an opponent’s upkeep/end phase.

Shriekmaw is just for value and having a removal spell that can be tutored up main. It certainly isn’t absolutely vital or necessary, however.

The lands are pretty good. Gilt-Leaf Palace has a decent amount of ways to come into play untapped. Murmuring Bosk is excellent and can easily be fetched. Tectonic Edges are pure value and it’s possible the deck wants one more — although the current mana base is very tight on colored mana, so it would likely come in replacing a spell.

Four-Color Control

The game plan against Four-Color Control is land destruction, land destruction, and more land destruction. They rely on Vivid lands to cast many of their spells, their big finishers cost tons of mana, and they don’t do a whole lot early. This matchup is extremely favorable just because of how hard it is for them to actually win. Against your really solid draws, they are often out of the game extremely early, giving you time to combo off or just beat them down with 2/2s and 4/3s.

I kept trying to put more sideboard cards against this deck at Worlds, as I expected many of the players at the top tables to opt for this strategy. One card we tested that was quite good against them was actually Mimic Vat. Vat is just a complete blowout with any sort of mana denial creature imprinted, and would always end the game in short order. The problem was that all of our cards in the main deck are actually excellent in the matchup, so there really wasn’t anything to take out.

In : +2 Duress
Out: -1 Shriekmaw, -1 Grim Poppet

Depending on the metagame, I may advocate making this switch globally, as Shriekmaw is also extremely poor against Jund, Pyromancer Ascension, and Wargate Scapeshift. Poppet is good against Jund, but useless against these other decks.


The Jund matchup comes down to denying their mana long enough that you’re able to finish them off. The deck is extremely resilient to Blightning, as a Jund player targeting you with the spell often just helps your own game plan. The games where they don’t have a turn 2 Putrid Leech are the games where they’re usually going to be far too slow to stay in it. The draws where they have multiple Leeches usually go their way easily.

In: +4 Kitchen Finks, +1 Skinrender, +1 Obstinate Baloth
Out: 4 Thoughtseize, 1 Shriekmaw, 1 Quillspike

Shocking yourself with Thoughtseize in addition to the mana and card investment just isn’t going to get the job done in this matchup. Kitchen Finks is amazing and buys you all sorts of time to execute your game.


Your Wargate matchup is pretty solid as well. They have the ability to kill you out of nowhere, but the deck runs quite a few non-basics, so the land destruction package can set them back considerably. Having so many ways to deal with Valakut, itself, as well as blow up Prismatic Omens, can make it real tough for them to win, and it only gets better after sideboarding the way that deck is currently configured.

In: +2 Duress, +2 Memoricide, +2 Maelstrom Pulse
Out: -1 Shriekmaw, -1 Grim Poppet, -1 Thornling, -1 Reveillark, -2 Makeshift Mannequin

Having more discard and Memoricide to just rid their deck of Prismatic Omens entirely makes it hard for them to execute what they’re trying to do. Maelstrom Pulse also just kills Omens or creatures, should they come in after board.


I feel like a broken record saying every matchup is pretty good, but Faeries is also in that boat. You have a lot of ways to keep them off four mana, and you also have hand disruption to mess them up.

In: +4 Kitchen Finks, +1 Cloudthresher
Out: -2 Primal Command, -1 Shriekmaw, -1 Quillspike, -1 Thornling

Kitchen Finks is pretty tough for them to deal with and provides a nice life buffer, while Cloudthresher can just clear up any mess that may occur. The land destruction does a pretty solid job of keeping them off Cryptic Command mana until it’s too late.


…Okay, so not every matchup is good.

Mono-red is extremely rough in game 1, and even though you bring in a ton of cards, the odds of winning two out of three after sideboarding are quite slim. Fulminator Mage does nothing relevant against them, and Thoughtseize usually winds up just taking a Bolt anyways. You have to get supremely lucky to win this matchup…

In: 2 Duress, 4 Kitchen Finks, 1 Obstinate Baloth, 1 Shriekmaw
Out: 4 Fulminator Mage, 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Thornling, 1 Reveillark

White Weenie

White Weenie is kind of a tossup matchup. So many of your cards in game 1 are really mediocre or just bad, like Fulminator Mage…. but your sideboard cards are really good against them.

In: 4 Kitchen Finks, 1 Obstinate Baloth, 2 Shriekmaw, 1 Skinrender, 2 Maelstrom Pulse, 1 Cloudthresher
Out: -4 Thoughtseize, -4 Fulminator Mage, -1 Thornling, -1 Quillspike, -1 Reveillark

This deck is currently just awful, and even though I played it in Amsterdam, it was never a consideration for Worlds. I think anyone who ended up playing the deck, assuming it was still similar to the deck Paul Rietzl and I played in Amsterdam, just didn’t do proper testing.


Elves is also a rather difficult matchup, and sideboarding is a little different than against White Weenie. The life gain isn’t as relevant here, as you’re just looking to combo kill them before they can combo kill you — so cards like Thoughtseize actually have some value, while Cloudthresher is dead. All the removal you can get your hands on is good as gold here, and if Elves becomes a more popular deck, the sideboard will need to be reconfigured to adjust for more, faster removal.

In: +2 Shriekmaw, +1 Skinrender, +2 Maelstrom Pulse
Out: -1 Reveillark, -4 Fulminator Mage

Skinrender certainly isn’t exciting here, but it’s better than nothing!

Final Thoughts

This deck is really interesting and it’s amazing how each match can play out so differently. Being able to attack from so many different angles can put any opponent quickly on the back foot — and any deck with the ability to blow up a bunch of lands can take advantage of any bad draw someone might get against you.

I have to admit I haven’t played much against the new Tempered Steel decks, although the few times I have played it have gone favorably. Luckily it doesn’t matter if you’re at one life when you assemble your combo, you still win the game, and just getting a Poppet in the graveyard with a Druid will insure they have no creatures, no matter what their size.

With the way the metagame appears to be shaping up, I’m not sure this is the best deck to necessarily take to the next Extended tournament, but it’s certainly a fun one. The beautiful thing about this format is just how big and open it is, which also means there may be a diamond in the rough deck out there or even just card that has been overlooked for the Ooze deck, itself. If I were to play the deck tomorrow, I think this is what I would sleeve up:

This is my first attempt at a Constructed article in a really long time, so any constructive criticism is appreciated. I’m looking at writing an article about the Vampires deck I played in Standard at Worlds, so if there are any questions people have about Ooze or want addressed about that deck, as well, I’ll be checking the forums.

Good luck!
Eric Froehlich


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