Peebles Primers – Quillspike in Constructed

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Wednesday, July 23rd – Quillspike: a card that screams to be abused. Eventide, it seems, is throwing a few spanners into the cogged metagame machinery, and this unassuming 1/1 for three mana has the potential to be a big player. So, how best do we utilize this funky three-drop? Benjamin Peebles-Mundy investigates…

This week I’m sticking to my word and writing about Quillspike. I briefly mentioned the infinite combo when I first wrote about Eventide, and though I originally intended to elaborate on it last week, I got sidetracked. This week, though, is all about the Beast. Of course, it’s not exactly the best place to start.

The card that I’ve really been thinking hard about is Rite of Consumption. If you assume that it’s going to resolve (admittedly, this is a big assumption), then you’re looking at an absurdly powerful effect. Every Green deck is already playing Cloudthresher, so you can easily imagine a situation where you cast him, hit for seven, and then top it off with a Rite. This simple sequence leaves your opponent down 16 life and you up 5 life, and if it happens chances are good that the game is over.

In fact, the vast majority of the time I’ve spent on the Quillspike deck has been related to how much I want to maximize the Rite. On one side, I could say “not at all,” and play a simple Green beatdown deck that just happened to contain Quillspikes in case the combo came together. On the other side, I could just completely swing for the fences, and include cards specifically aimed at the Rite like Thunderblust.

I’ll be honest: I really like Rite of Consumption, so I’ve been spending most of my time in the maximization camp. The cards that I’ve been looking at are all very high-power, and tend to do a pretty good job hanging out in the red zone. Additionally, I’ve been liking the idea of Persist, since we are, after all, playing a deck that is built around a creature that can remove -1/-1 counters from your guys.

Here are the men that I likely wouldn’t bother with if I weren’t packing Rites.

Thunderblust – We’re talking Green/Black by default, which makes this fella slightly awkward on the manabase. However, there’s a little bit of incentive to lean towards Red anyway when you think about Firespout, and there are plenty of decks out there casting GGGG, UUU, and WWW spells, so we can probably manage to find a way to cast him.

If we do, the payoff is pretty enormous. He’s not exactly the greatest man of all time against Kithkin (especially if they’ve got Knight of Meadowgrain), but against decks like Five-Color Control, he can put you way out ahead before they have time to set up. The dream curve involves a hit for seven on the third turn when the board is empty, followed by a Rite and a Trample hit on the next turn. Even if the board is a bit clogged, this line of play is going to do very well for you.

Then there are the times you manage to get him going alongside Quillspike. You can either play with a 4/4 and a 7/2, or a Ball Lightning that you can save for a single mana, and both of these options do a pretty good job of ending games.

Deity of Scars – Persist is obviously the dream mechanic when we’re talking about Rites and Spikes, but Trample is pretty good too. Of course the idea here is that you get to have a huge swing, even on a full board, and then you get to close with the Rite. The nice thing about the Deity is that he can hit hard more than his fair share of times, due to the handy Regeneration ability that happens to come with free -1/-1 counters for your Quillspikes to enjoy.

On his own, the Deity is at least a 7/7 Trampler that can’t be killed by Shriekmaw. Unmakes and Crib Swaps will stop him just fine, but if you don’t run afoul of those, he can start to swing for huge amounts of damage as early as the fourth turn, courtesy of Devoted Druid. One solid hit backed up by either Quillspike or Rite of Consumption is likely to end the game, but he’s hardy enough that you’ve got a good chance of getting more that on solid hit out of him.

Deus of Calamity – I doubt that you’d run both the Deity and the Deus, and this god is certainly harder to cast than the other, but he does have his advantages. The whole plan of actually casting a Rite of Consumption is great against decks like Kithkin and Elementals, but it suffers against decks with counterspells, where they stop your game-winning spell and get to kill your biggest guy while they’re at it. The Deus is one of those threats that can often end the game on his own, since each successive hit makes it harder and harder for your opponent to deal with him. You can sit back on the Deus more than you can on the Deity, because an opponent who is losing lands is an opponent who is losing the game. Besides all this, you might find an opportunity to take out a land that’s representing a counterspell, and open the window for Rite.

The above were creatures that I wouldn’t spend too much time thinking about in a deck that didn’t involve some way to abuse them, but there are plenty of creatures out there that are quite good even without some sort of shenanigans.

Cloudthresher – I am pretty sure that some people play Faeries decks, and that Cloudthresher, when it hits the board, tends to be very good there. Cloudthresher’s instant speed, though, is particularly powerful against all kinds of opponents, letting you ambush an Oversoul or win a race. You already know how good it is, though, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Chameleon Colossus – You’ve probably also heard how good this guy is. He is so highly thought of, in fact, that many of the Five-Color Control players at my PTQ this weekend were seen packing him to win the mirror matchup and put fast pressure on Faerie decks. If he’s good enough to make the cut in a deck that can legitimately have a hard time casting him on the fourth turn, he’s probably going to see play in one that can easily cast him on the third.

The problem that I find myself running into is that there just isn’t that much room in a sixty-card deck. With a reasonable number of lands, it’s hard to pack much more into a deck that already contains Devoted Druids, Quillspikes, Colossi, Deities, and Cloudthreshers (and Rites). This is where I see my Rite-centric combo build at this point:

4 Devoted Druid
3 Quillspike
4 Chameleon Colossus
3 Deity of Scars
3 Cloudthresher
3 Rite of Consumption

We are clearly in need of more early pressure and non-creature spells in general. Since we aren’t playing Kithkin, it’s pretty clear that we won’t have anything too powerful on the first turn, but Green has plenty of good options for the second and third turns.

First, we could try to play some Elves to get things rolling. Wren’s Run Vanquisher, Imperious Perfect, Masked Admirers, Nameless Inversion, and Eyeblight’s Ending are all cards that we could seriously consider, and they all work together (and with the Druid and Colossus) to really get something going. We could even follow in Pinnegar’s footsteps with Scarblade Elite, ready to get double-duty out of our Inversions and Colossi. Despite the presence of Deity of Scars, I’d like to be able to run Mutavault in this two-color version, though, so I think that the Elite is likely pushing things a bit too hard. With the other cards folded into the deck, though, we’re looking at:

4 Devoted Druid
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Imperious Perfect
3 Quillspike
4 Chameleon Colossus
3 Deity of Scars
3 Cloudthresher
3 Rite of Consumption
3 Nameless Inversion
2 Eyeblight’s Ending

We’ve got room for one more card here, and I think it should be more acceleration (Fertile Ground, Leaf Gilder), Garruk Wildspeaker, or Profane Command. The acceleration would help make sure we got to play the big dudes before the other side was set up, and the others help any beatdown strategy but specifically help get the Quillspike through. For me, the answer is Profane Command, though your mileage may vary.

Something that I always think about when I look at decks like this is Murmuring Bosk. It doesn’t have the best chances I’ve ever seen for coming into play untapped, but we don’t have any one-drops and we do have a handful of Changelings to help things out. Once in play it’s essentially a Llanowar Wastes, except that it doesn’t hurt you when you tap it for Green. I could easily believe that a Bosk or three is the right way to go, but that’s the kind of decision I’d want a lot of playtesting to answer.

I’d like to take this moment to rewind. Above we have a reasonable Green/Black beatdown deck that happens to involve a Quillspike combo kill and manages to abuse Rite of Consumption, but there are only 3 of each of those cards. The reason I included only three Spikes is that he can be pretty terrible from time to time, and while he can also be a winner, you don’t want to be looking at an opening hand that includes three lands, a Vanquisher, Cloudthresher, and two Quillspikes. So how do we make Quillspike more exciting? Feed him more counters, of course.

This brings me back to Persist. I mentioned that Persist was the dream mechanic, and I think that that’s a fair statement to make. If I push that angle, I look at a starting point something like:

4 Devoted Druid
4 Quillspike
3 Kitchen Finks
2 Murderous Redcap
3 Thunderblust
3 Cloudthresher
3 Rite of Consumption
4 Fertile Ground

In this take on things, we’re pushing much harder at the counter theme, and because it’s a little slow to get that rolling, I’ve packed in a bunch of extra acceleration. This time, instead of trying to play like a fair beatdown deck, I’m interested in getting as much extra punch out of my acceleration as I possibly can.

Firespout seemed a little bit odd to me the first time I thought about it in this deck, since it doesn’t usually tend to play nicely with Devoted Druids and the like. However, I think that it definitely belongs, for a few reasons. First, this version of the deck is much slower onto the board than the previous iteration, so you definitely want a way to make sure you don’t get run over by Kithkin. Second, it clears the board. Now that might sound obvious, but it’s extremely good with both Quillspike and Thunderblust. When you Firespout with Quillspike out, you’ll lose your Druid, but hopefully your opponent will lose all of their chump-blockers, and subsequently lose the game. When you cast it with Thunderblust out, you’ll lose your 7/2, but you’ll probably get a nice clean hit for six in, and then another on the next turn. If you can play a Quillspike on that turn, then you’re probably home free.

I chose Garruk instead of Primal Command this time because I didn’t want to push Black as hard as I did last time, and because he can help with mana costs that might otherwise be somewhat awkward to use. Primal Command helps find missing pieces, make up for lost time against Kithkin, and all sorts of other neat tricks.

The last of the Quillspike decks I have for you today plays off of the current format’s Green/White Aggro deck. The main benefit to this plan, in my mind, is that you get to use Gaddock Teeg to protect your combo. I think, though, that if you’re going to play Teeg and friends, you can’t afford Rite of Consumption, which does make me pretty sad. Still, grafting the Quillspike combo onto an already strong deck is a pretty good way to make sure you’re on the right track.

I greatly enjoy the idea of always being able to activate my Mosswort Bridges, even if I can’t actually get a free swing in with my Quillspike.

All of these decks are a blast to play, and I believe that they are a good place to start when investigating Quillspike. I would have loved to have found a place for Soul Snuffers, as I think he might be able to come down, wipe out the chumpblockers, and grow a huge Quillspike even without a Druid, but there’s just less space than a fully-fun deck would like to see.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM