Removed From Game – The Twelve Decks of Christmas #5 and #6: Open The Vaults and Unearth

The StarCityGames.com Open Series returns to Dallas/Fort Worth!
Friday, January 1st – Put on your party hat, pull a cracker, and join Rich on a festive tour of a dozen decks in Standard. A great place for newer players to learn about the main components of Magic’s most popular Constructed format, with a deck a day for the next two weeks.

Since it’s the weekend, we squeeze two decks into one day. Both have as their central feature the graveyard, but use it in very different ways. While one looks to get cards there, and then out again for good, the other looks to Combo their way to victory in one bonkers turn. Here’s the first deck, based around the mostly-overlooked Open The Vaults:

Part 1 of the deck involves staying alive long enough to start doing unfair things. That means seven removal spells (Journey To Nowhere and Oblivion Ring) and a full set of Day Of Judgment for resetting the board.

Phase 2 is about having a nice juicy graveyard ready to come back. Architects Of Will and Glassdust Hulk both cycle for just a single mana, making them almost effortless to get to the bin. Courier’s Capsule is something that dies automatically while you’re using it to generate card advantage, while Armillary Sphere helps thin your library. That’s the stuff that you’re going to do to put things in your graveyard, but your opponent is likely to be helping too. Your Tidehollow Sculler is hopefully going to be irritating, and they’ll also want to kill off any Journey To Nowhere and Oblivion Rings that you’ve cast.

In most decks, once they’re gone, they’re gone, but the whole point of this deck is that nothing’s really gone forever (outside those pesky Path To Exile). For six mana, you’re likely to get four, five, six cards back into action, and while none of them may be absolutely spectacular, together they add up to a card that rivals an Ultimatum. A Tidehollow Sculler and a Sphinx Summoner that they’ve already killed, an Armillary Sphere and Courier’s Capsule that you’ve sacrificed, and a Glassdust Hulk and Architects Of Will that you’ve cycled allows you to get 11 base power of guys into play, re-order your top three, get ready to thin your library and draw more cards, take a card away from them, and search out a Sharuum. For six mana.

If somehow they get rid of all this, simply rinse and repeat with another Open The Vaults. At the top end of the deck, you have some legitimate end game monsters, as both Sharuum The Hegemon and Sphinx Of The Steel Wind can be horrible to deal with, and the Steel Wind has Protection from exactly the colors you’d hope, Red and Green. Oh, and an online Ethersworn Adjudicator is extremely bad news for them too.

As you can see, there’s very much a ’round and round we go’ element to the Open The Vaults deck, which might as well be called the Re-Open The Vaults deck, since that’s what you’ll be doing. Our other graveyard strategy is much more about a single apocalyptic turn:

This deck wants to get cards into the graveyard very badly, and so runs eight cards that do nothing else. With Hedron Crab, you’re going to get at least three every turn, and sometimes six if you have a fetchland, and Tome Scour is an automatic five at a time. Some of the monsters in the deck are fine to cast, like Viscera Dragger, the Rotting Rats (where the symmetry of the both discarding is offset by you wanting to do it anyway), and the deeply tedious Sedraxis Specter, which has a ‘kill me now’ sticker painted all over it.

Just like in the Open The Vaults deck, some cards are there to be cycled in the first instance, the Architects Of Will and Monstrous Carabid. Once your graveyard is massively stocked, you’re ready for your super-turn. Actually killing your opponent happens in one of two ways, but both rely hugely on the mana production of Crypt Of Agadeem. You generate one black mana for every black card in your graveyard, and conveniently, that’s almost all of them. Now it’s time to Unearth everything that moves, probably beginning with the Rotting Rats, to make sure that your opponent is completely helpless.

Depending on the board state, it’s quite likely that your huge, hasty, and evasive army will swallow their life total in one bite, but there are decks that go out of their way to be resistant to damage, either through lifegain (Rhox War Monk, Vampire Nighthawks, Battlegrace Angel…) or by just ignoring damage all together (the Jacerator deck we’ll be looking at on Monday.)

That takes us to the second way to win, which involves the trigger on Extractor Demon. If you’ve done things right, you’re going to have most of your deck in the graveyard when you go off, and that should mean at least two or three Extractor Demons. As Unearth does its thing, and starts to make your ravening hordes disappear, each Extractor Demon trigger will let you put the top two cards of their library into the bin, and unlike you, that isn’t where they want their cards to be, especially when you’re actually going to leave them without a single card left in their library.

Next turn, nighty-night.

Like the mono-Red deck from earlier in the week, this has a very dedicated strategy to it. A decade ago, mono-Red used to be utterly shut down by Circle Of Protection: Red, because it could do very little about enchantments. For our two graveyard decks, both Ravenous Trap and Relic Of Progenitus are less than wonderful to see, but at least the Unearth deck has some legs as a ‘normal’ creature deck.

Have a play with these decks over the weekend. The Crypt Of Agadeem deck in particular feels great when you win, because you have them coming and going, while the Open The Vaults is much more of a “grinding your way to victory” deck.

Next week, we start with the deck that just doesn’t care about damage at all, Jacerator. Until then, as ever, thanks for reading.