Welcome back comrades! Gather ’round, for thy daily dosage of deck hath returned! Verily, our good captain Ted of the Knutsons hath summoned me for another round of writing, and my heart warms, despite being asked to this last Thursday. [The toughest part of setting up two new months of SCG Daily is finding a person to go first. – Knut]
Without any major deck ideas brewing at the moment, I have to turn to my favorite deck of all time – Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy. Sometimes, a deck simply works, no questions asked. Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy began as a simple experiment to attempt to break Sneak Attack after it was released. The original decklist was published as an Appendix to the article, “Thoughts from a Highlander Player.”
The deck that I give you today is much better. In fact, this deck was played at many Type Two tournaments, winning several. It’s not Pro Tour or PTQ good, it never was. It was very versatile, and able to handle just about any situation. It handled local store tournaments with relative ease, always having an answer.
This deck was constructed when all sets from Tempest through Urza’s Destiny were Type Two legal. Think of this as a cuisinart deck, designed to play as aggro, combo or control as the situation warranted. This was the third major incarnation of the deck, and you can see several major changes from the original if you compare:
Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, v 3.0
3 Living Death
2 Sneak Attack
1 Scroll Rack
2 Survival of the Fittest
1 Recurring Nightmare
1 Goblin Bombardment
1 Keldon Vandals
1 Ghitu Slinger
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Hunting Moa
1 Tradewind Rider
1 Monk Realist
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Bone Shredder
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Spike Feeder
4 Wall of Blossoms
2 Spike Weaver
2 Child of Gaea
3 Mox Diamond
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
1 Yavimaya Hollow
1 Treetop Village
2 Karplusan Forest
2 Sulfurous Springs
2 City of Brass
This was not an easy deck to play. With only the three basic Green creatures included in multiples of four, you really had to play the deck right.
The first thing you need to understand about the deck is the time it was played in. Virtually every deck ran Masticore or a counter to Masticore in their deck. As you may have noticed, there does not appear to be a Masticore counter in my deck, so how did I prevail? The very underused Child of Gaea helped.
If I played a simple large trampler, my opponent could block with the Masticore then shoot it for lethal damage. However, Child of Gaea came down quick, often attacking well before a Masticore had enough mana to operate. Even if it did, the Child has regeneration, thus turning the Masticore into a very expensive speed bump. Simply put, the Child of Gaea out-threated the Masticore. The one weakness of Masticore has always been the card disadvantage that can result if you are not blowing up creatures. A deck using Masticore on defense, and having no major targets would ultimately lose the Masticore or the game.
Lifeline was one interesting addition. I can remember many games ending when Lifeline showed up. Spike Feeder turned Lifeline into a eight-point life gain between my untap steps. If Goblin Bombardment was out, Lifeline turned my creatures into a machine gun of damage. If sacrificed one of my “comes into play” creatures, I could easily turn card advantage my way. Letting echo expire on a creature was no loss when Lifeline brought it back. It also filled up the graveyard with goodies for a Living Death.
Portcullis was available for several reasons, especially for Living Death. If I cast Living Death, then I could choose which two creatures that came into play would not go under the Portcullis (I know this used to be true, I am not sure if it still is.) In other words, I could Living Death my best two creatures back while my opponent gained nothing but an empty in play zone.
At times, this deck could play like a Rec/Sur deck, but that was not its prime purpose. Survival of the Fittest was good because you could simultaneously tutor while filling up the yard with goodies. The Recurring Nightmare was simply a one of to continue the whole resurrection theme, and as an adjunct to the Living Death.
Sneak Attack was still a winning condition, but it had morphed into more of a trick enabler. Sneak Attack out a blocker, Sneak Attack out a Spike Feeder for life, a Wall of Blossoms for a card, and whatnot. You could still go nuts, but it wasn’t the same.
One of my favorite plays was when I had out both Portcullis and Sneak Attack. I would play the Portcullis when I had two creatures in play, and then my opponent had to deal with either the Portcullis or my creatures immediately. When my opponent would kill one my creatures, then play one of their own, I would Sneak Attack out some random small creature while their creatures was still on the stack. That way, when it came into play, there’d still be two (or more) creatures in play and go under the Portcullis. I could always follow up by playing a creature for real on my turn.
Another Sneak Attack trick was to Sneak out a creature while Lifeline was in play. For one red mana, you received a suicidal attacker, and when it died, it came right back. One Red mana would essentially play any creature permanently, but comes into play creatures would trigger twice. There was nothing like Sneak Attacking a Deranged Hermit, then getting even more squirrels when it died at the end of the turn, then next turn when it died with echo, then next turn when it died with echo, then next turn…
This deck has a lot of tricks in it, and I could go all night gabbing about them. Suffice it to say that it is a really thick deck.
The reason that I am sharing a deck played in a format several years old is threefold. First, the deck still works, so there is nothing against picking it up and playing it today. Second, there are some great ideas in it that I think would make wonderful deck building ideas. In retrospect, I suspect that there are several decks in here, all smashed together.
And finally, I wanted to share one of my greatest deckbuilding moments. Sometimes, the cards come together, and you see past the mana symbols and the colors and the card types. Sometimes it is poetry. I could recite this decklist in my sleep. I could go on for hours about how I only ran three Mox Diamonds because that was all I owned. I could tell you Spike tricks that you make your head spin. I could tell you about all of the other cards that went in for a time, then came out: Cards like Raven Familiar, False Prophet, Spike Warrior, and Uktabi Orangutan (and many more).
I hope that you enjoyed today’s little journey. Maybe, someday, I’ll share with you the terrible saga of Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy, v 4.0, wherein I tried to make it Type Two legal after Rath Cycle rotated out with Masques in. For now, I’ll leave horror stories for another day.