SCG Daily – A Deck A Day: Growing Volraths

Volrath is mean and nasty. He personally sacrifices hidden creatures (in your hand) in order to pump himself up. He has nasty shapeshifters that are designed to look like the dead. His evil laboratories create new, twisted life. His Stronghold breathes new life into the unliving. Where in here is Volrath a gardener?

Bonjour mes amis! Once again we open up to another daily deck. If you read my article yesterday, then you saw that I am, once again, selecting a random Magic card from the game and then building a deck around it. Yesterday, I rolled Standing Troops, and I built a deck on the standing theme, even going so far as to reference Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand in order to include Stalking Stones.

What will today’s deck look like? That’s the fun of this challenge. What sort of deck will I build? I don’t know until I see the card. It could be anything!

I randomly roll and I get the 14th set. Yesterday was set number 15 and it was Exodus, so I know that this time I rolled Stronghold. Will I roll Tempest tomorrow?

I rolled the second one hundred, and then 31 with my trusty orange and purple dice. That’s card number 131 in alphabetical order. What card is that?

Volrath’s Gardens.

Let’s examine the card I need to build around. It’s a cheap Green enchantment. It costs two mana and the tapping of one of my creatures as a cost. I gain two life. Lastly, I can only use the ability as a sorcery.

Does Volrath strike you as a gardener? Volrath is mean and nasty. He personally sacrifices hidden creatures (in your hand) in order to pump himself up. He has nasty shapeshifters that are designed to look like the dead. His evil laboratories create new, twisted life. His Stronghold breathes new life into the unliving. His servants are big but hungry. His whim can change many mysterious things. Lastly, his curse can return creatures back to the aether.

Where in here is Volrath a gardener? Maybe if he devised an evil man-killing garden, it’d make sense. But this one puts evil monsters to work in the fields to make life. This isn’t Mean and Nasty Volrath, it’s Martha Stewart Volrath.

Sure, you might point out that the card mentions hungry plants that aren’t nice. When you look at what the card does, however, it just looks like the hungry garden plants are more interested in making tourists weed the garden, not eat them for dinner. Tap a creature and make some life seems more like a temporary Swords to Plowshares than it does an Evil Garden of Doom.

Some phrases don’t go together. Put “evil” with “forest,” and I’ll buy it. But evil garden? Vile lilies? Vampire sunflowers? Sinister tulips? These just aren’t things I buy.

I need to build a deck around this paradoxical card. What shall I do?

This deck might be a little confusing so let’s take a look at it. The deck only has twenty cards that make (or are) creatures, yet it needs a ton of creatures to work well. As a result, the creatures and cards that deal with creatures need to make multiples. The Skyshroud Elves are just mana fixing, so they are no help.

Of the remaining sixteen cards, Ageless Entity is just a 4/4 that will always be just one creature. It will get bigger, sure, but it will still just be one creature.

That leaves twelve cards. I begin with Deranged Hermit. It makes some squirrels, and you can pay its upkeep as well if needed. One creature really turns into five creatures and nine power if you pay the Echo. This is a perfect card for the deck.

Grizzly Fate joins as another card that makes a lot of creatures. When you first play it, if your have threshold, you get four 2/2 bears. Feel free to rinse and reuse once more for an additional four 2/2 bears. If you don’t have threshold, it can still make four total bears if you need them now.

Finally, I decide to play a cheaper casting cost card in Call of the Herd. It will only make two 3/3s total, but that’s still two creatures for one card – a solid deal for this deck.

This deck uses the recent “when you gain life” trigger that began on Ageless Entity and Well of Lost Dreams and continued on Searing Meditation. When you activate the Gardens, the Entity gets bigger, you can draw cards off the Well, and you can activate the Meditation for damage to something.

I’m running a pair of Cradles to give you a lot of mana, for either the Gardens or other effects like the Well and a Peach Garden Oath. Normally I’d run Congregate over Peach Garden Oath, but the cheap cost of the Oath is needed against all of these activation costs of the Meditation and the Well.

There are three ways this deck wins. It can make a huge Ageless Entity and pound its way through any opposing defense. This is the backup option, but it’s the most obvious, so many opponents might focus on it.

The primary way this deck wins is through dealing a lot of damage with Searing Meditation. Every Garden activation allows you to deal damage. In the early or mid game you can use this to off creatures, but later you’ll use this to kill your opponent.

The super secret third way this deck wins is by dropping a Test of Endurance once the player hits 50 life and winning during the following upkeep. There’s just one Test in the deck, and it’s just a backup way of winning. This is in case you go against the person running tricks like Worship and Dawn Elemental. Just drop the Test and win. With an active Well, you should find the cards you need in no time, including the Test.

In fact, your opponent might think the Well is the biggest threat on the table. An active Well will allow you to draw a ton of cards. Let’s say here is your board:

One Cradle
Four lands
A Well of Lost Dreams
One Deranged Hermit, just played – four squirrel tokens
One Skyshroud Elves

You untap, fail to pay the Echo, draw a card, play Peach Garden Oath and gain ten life. Trigger the Well and tap nine mana to draw nine cards. You probably have all of the cards you need to win now.

I really like the interaction between these cards. If I were to modify the deck, I might add a creature that can sacrifice for a gain of life for no mana, like Ravenous Baloth or Spike Feeder.

Anyway, good luck with the deck, and tune in next time, when I randomly roll a…

Until later,

Abe Sargent