Ooze Deck Wins?

Bennie Smith builds some more evolved version of his Grimgrin, Corpse-Born Ooze deck for Standard. If you’re looking for something crazy and fun to do in Standard, check this out!

Hello everyone, I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving holiday, filled with loving family, delicious food and beverages, and some time for contemplating the blessings in our lives. I know for me personally the stresses and worries I have living alone while searching for a much-needed roommate makes it tempting to give in to anger and despair, but I really do have lots to happy about. I’ve got two awesome kids, health and stamina enough to hold down several jobs to make ends (sorta) meet, and a great group of friends and family I look forward to finding more time to spend with once a roommate comes on board and I can ratchet back the non-stop work rollercoaster.

Oh, and of course, when I do have some precious free time—there’s Magic to play!

I few weeks back I was pleased to find a Deck Tech on the Necrotic Ooze deck at the StarCityGames.com Open in Kansas City. I won’t lie—as one of the few people I’ve seen writing about the deck, I was hoping for some props thrown my way, but there are enough differences in their decklist that I’m fairly sure they probably don’t even read my column. Why would I assume that? Well, after reading their list I could see a lot of the same issues that I had with the earlier incarnations of the Ooze deck, and since neither player ended the day with a positive record I don’t think this is the way to go.

For reference, here was their list:

This very much feels like a “natural” build of Necrotic Ooze, chock full of creatures with special abilities that either find the Ooze or find the combo pieces. It’s very close to my initial sketches of the deck, and it’s certainly exciting when it all comes together! The thing I ultimately found though is that Necrotic Ooze makes a very fragile basket to put your entire deck’s eggs in… there are so many ways to kill or counterspell Ooze, and then you’ve got half your deck’s threats sitting in your graveyard.

All the crazy looting (Jace’s Archivist!) and focusing on the Ooze combo kill is really unnecessary… because the combo pieces can just win the games on their own. I’m not sure exactly why Bloodline Keeper gets so little Constructed respect, but he’s a flying Hill Giant that taps to make flying Grizzly Bears, and it’s not really that hard to transform him and likely win on the spot (three 4/4s will do that for you).

And Grimgrin, Corpse-Born… what a monster! The best thing I’ve done for my deck was stumble across Reassembling Skeletons as a trump for Liliana of the Veil, since the Skeletons make ideal Grim food. In my experience if Grimgrin is allowed just one attack step, you likely just win the game on his back alone.

So what’s my point? First, the combo itself (Necrotic Ooze) isn’t so strong that it’s worth going “all-in” with nearly all your deck slots. Second—the combo pieces are strong enough to just run out there on their own. You just run them out there on the board—either your opponent deals with it, or he loses. If he doesn’t deal with it, he likely loses. Awesome! If he deals with it, you could actually be benefitting twice from it—first, if the creature hits the graveyard, your Necrotic Ooze gets an awesome ability that’s also 1/2 of the combo, and lastly, your opponent has one less precious removal spell to handle the Ooze itself.

What I’ve been trying to do lately is dedicating less deck slots to searching and combo pieces, and reclaiming more space for “good stuff” cards, threats, and answers. Here’s what I played at a recent FNM:

I wanted Doom Blade and Beast Within to give me the ability to interact with my opponent at instant speed. I also knew I wanted a couple Swords in the deck. I instinctively reached for Sword of Feast and Famine but paused at the War and Peace. One major problem I discovered while playing the deck at States was white’s many exile effects. It’s one thing to have Keeper or Grimgrin countered or destroyed since ending up in the graveyard is perfectly okay. It’s another to have them exiled (i.e. sucks royally). War and Peace is a perfectly good Sword, and so I thought running them in the main would give me a pre-board edge against those pesky white exile spells.

After playing the FNM, I’m pretty sure maindeck Feast and Famine is the much better call. Three of the four opponents played green or black. I ended up 2-1-1, which wasn’t good enough to make the cut to Top 4. I won the first round 2-1 against U/W Blade, and after two long, hard-fought games combo killed him (infinitely large Ooze + trample) on turn 5 of extra turns in the third game. The second round was another hard-fought match against U/B Heartless Summoning, with me winning one game by keeping Summoning off the board and beating down, him winning one game by keeping Heartless on the board and playing infinite Massacre Wurms, and then us running out of time in the third game. Third round against RUG (with Mayors) also went to three games, and I ended up losing the last… in the two games I lost, having Sword of Feast and Famine would have been crucial towards breaking through the Wolf stalemate on the ground (and the War and Peace I drew instead was pretty much useless). Fourth round against Wolf Run Green I got annihilated game 1 by a turn 2 Dungrove Elder; game two I managed to capitalize on the stalled mana to beat down with Vampires through the air; and game three I got to combo kill with Spellskite protecting from the Beast Within.

After my FNM results and thinking about the decks from Worlds, here’s what I’m going to try playing next:

The basic premise remains the same: play out the individual combo pieces, kill them with each one if you can; if not then kill them with Ooze. I remain a firm believer in a playset of Spellskites—they give Wolf Run protection, Angelic Destiny protection, and add a huge additional hurdle for people trying to deal with Keeper/Grimgrin and then Ooze.

The big revision is Wurmcoil Engine. I decided that, as good as Grimgrin is at five mana, there are some pretty outstanding sixes in the format, and the deck would likely be better if I added a few. I briefly considered Grave Titan because he’s such a great six to play after you played Grimgrin at five, providing a 2/2 you can immediately sacrifice to untap Grimgrin to attack with, along with a spare to untap him again. Then I decided that Wurmcoil is probably a better choice, providing slightly weaker Grimgrin synergy while also just being a colorless threat that can win the game all on its own—and being able to block and kill a Dungrove Elder equipped with Sword of Feast and Famine while gaining you life back is a huge plus! I also strongly considered Consecrated Sphinx purely on the back of being a non-black flier with a very large back end that can help you draw into your combo pieces.

I swapped out Doom Blades for Go for the Throat in light of Chapin’s advocacy of Olivia Voldaren at Worlds and here at StarCityGames.com—he argued very convincingly as to her effectiveness, and I expect the metagame to listen and take notice.

The more I think about it, the more I kick myself for not going with Swords of Feast and Famine the first time around. It’s just perfect in this incarnation, letting you equip, attack, untap your mana to play a creature or leave open mana for your instant speed spells. It can give you a rush of mana for paying the expensive flashback on Forbidden Alchemy, or to keep bringing back Reassembling Skeletons.

For the sideboard…

Given the prevalence of G/W Tokens and Mono Red the Ratchet Bombs seemed like a necessity. Tree of Redemption gives some anti-aggro backup to the Wurmcoil Engines. Sylvok Replicas help keep Inkmoth Nexus, Swords, and enchantments in check. Negate is just a great catchall spell that lets you shift gears a bit into a control mode. No, Mental Misstep is not what you want here; Negate can protect your graveyard just fine while also being able to counter Oblivion Ring, Celestial Purge, planeswalkers, Swords, and Day of Judgment. I’m not totally sold on Phyrexian Metamorph, but it seems like a pretty good way to deal with the otherwise problematic Geist of Saint Traft or other big and scary Legends.

What do you think? Has anyone else tried pulling back on the “all-in” Ooze combo plan and filled out the deck with more powerful, good-stuff cards? Any suggestions for other cards to think about?

While digging through the “4-2 or Better” Standard decks from Worlds I came across this decklist, which featured Spellskite, Wurmcoil Engine, Forbidden Alchemy… and even Bloodline Keeper in the maindeck! Of course, this is a Tezzeret control deck but even so, the overlap in good cards gives me some hope that I’m moving in the right direction.

Before I go, I wanted to share a relatively new deck idea I had this week. While digging through those Worlds decklist, I noticed 11 decks had Tree of Redemption… but every single one of them was in the sideboard. The metagame remains fairly aggressive, which led me to wonder—how could we move Tree of Redemption to the maindeck and not be completely useless against slower decks?

The answer just might be… Phyrexian mana! Phyrexian mana lets you pay life to play cards faster than you would normally be able to do, which should give you an edge against slower decks that are constrained by using just actual colored mana. Against the more aggressive decks you can play the Phyrexian mana costs when it would ultimately save you life long-term, or just play the spells normally and conserve your life totals for when the Tree comes down. With this in mind, I applied it to the Mimic Vat/Tree of Redemption deck idea I had pre-States, and this is what I’ve cooked up:

I’ve been dying to find a really good Mimic Vat deck, and this one feels like it might be close. I particularly like how hasty Vat copies of Precursor Golem and Grave Titan (assuming your opponent managed to deal with them the first time) leave behind lots of token creatures, letting you shift from control to beatdown.

Snapcaster Mage lets you leverage the Phyrexian mana spells even harder, something that should be fine with infinite Trees of Redemption available.

What do you think of this deck idea? Worth pursuing?

Before I go for the week… poll time!

I thought it might be fun to have a semi-regular “Single Card Strategy” feature, but with a focus on Commander. Single Card Strategy is how I got my foot in the door writing for Wizards of the Coast, and it was always a lot of fun. I envision doing a couple of Commander cards each time, and also wanted to highlight some of your own favorites, which you can share in the poll below. If you’ve got a pet Commander card you think deserves more love and attention, let me know the card and the fun uses you’ve found for it!

By the way, if you know anyone in the Richmond area who needs a place to live within the next month or two, I VERY much need a roommate and will have my house ready for him or her to move in by December 1. So keep an ear out for me and if you hear of anyone they can contact me via the email, Facebook, or Twitter info below and I will send along the details.

That’s it for this week, have a great Thanksgiving holiday!!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

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New to Commander?
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