I’m following in the footsteps of JMS and Chris Romeo and turning precons into powerhouse decks, at the rate of one per day. I’m also doing it on the cheap: using the precon plus whatever I get from five drafts. Given that, I’m aiming for winning half my games in some competitive format – in other words, I want the decks to have a reasonable chance.
Here are the rules:
Start with a 8th Edition precon decklist.
Up the lands to 24 and then increase commons to four to make it a 60 card deck
Play some, then add cards, using only
1) The cards from the other precons (not like anything is worth borrowing), plus,
2) Whatever I get in the five drafts (one per precon) for this series
3) Whatever I can accumulate by trading / selling cards from the precon.
The goal is to have the deck win at least 40% of games in some format. That may sound like low expectations, but these are 8E precons, after all, and I’m doing it on the super-cheap.
Today I’m tackling Expulsion. Here’s the starting decklist:
3 (4) Maggot Carrier C
4 Ravenous Rats C
2 (4) Dusk Imp C
2 (4) Severed Legion C
2 Deathgazer U
2 Abyssal Specter U
1 (4) Coercion C
2 (4) Dark Banishing C
2 Megrim U
1 Larceny R
1 Sever Soul U
1 Disrupting Scepter R
17 (24) Swamp
Even bumping up the common counts to 4 each gives me only 57 cards. I’ll add three more cards, and try to stay in theme. Since the theme seems to be evasion creatures, removal and discard, I’ll add Echoing Decay, Glutinous Zombie and Distress.
Strange factoid: When possible, I am assembling these decks from the cards I have already got and just buying or borrowing the rares, where necessary. I don’t want to buy whole precons when I already have two-thirds of the deck. At present, I have played in three or four Eighth Edition leagues, and drafted the set a half dozen times. I have often drafted Black. You know how many Dark Banishings I have? Zero. Never opened, never seen, and it is a common. How weird is that? Seven Dusk Imps, eight Severed Legions, 6 Vicious Hungers, no Dark Banishing. Strange.
Ready – fight!
No – ready, draft! Playing this, as written, was not fun. I did not win unless my opponent mulliganed to two then lost the connection. (Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t good.)
I head for Champions Block. I opened random junk, but first-picked Devouring Greed. I got shipped Nagao (rare missing), then Mothrider Samurai. I wound up with 2 Mothriders, Cutthroat, Kamis of Old Stone, False Hope, Ancient Law and Tattered Shoals, Gibbering Kami, Harsh Deceiver and Nezumi Ronin. I did not see Kabuto Moth, but did get Distress, Pull Under, No-Dachi and Dance of Shadows for the finish. I also got some random stuff, including a late Ninja of the Deep Hours and a Gnarled Mass, Isao and Moss Kami, which might be useful for later precons. More importantly, I won three packs, which means I can draft again.
Once more unto the breach, my friends, once more!
Okay, forcing a color going into the draft is just a bad idea. The Black really wasn’t there. I tried for W/B spirits again, but everyone else also seemed to be taking spirits. I never saw a Waxmane Baku or Moonlit Strider, or other useful cards. Here’s what I ended up with, in-color rares first:
Horobi, Nezumi Shortfang, Patron of the Nezumi, Hideous Laughter, Devouring Greed, Rend Spirit, Horobi’s Whisper, Kami of the Waning Moon, Wicked Akuba, 2 Blessed Breath, Soulless Revival, Genju of the Fens, Ethereal Haze, Split Tail Miko, Harsh Deceiver, 2 Kami of the Tattered Shoal, Kami of the Painted Road, Yomiji, Bloodthirsty Ogre, Terashi’s Cry, Heart of Light, Cage of Hands and Tenza, Godo’s Maul. I also got a mix of decent green spells and random stuff in other colors. I hated a blue Genju late in a pack with nothing for me. I will add that to the blue precon for tomorrow’s article.
Game one I drew just one Swamp and died to weenies turn seven with Hideous Laughter and Whisper in hand. Game two was a bit better, but he had Kabuto Moth turn 3 and countered my Laughter turn five – then played Teller on turn seven to seal the deal. In hindsight, I probably could have done well with G/W in that draft – both colors were seriously underdrafted – and forcing black was a mistake.
That draft was bad enough to be embarrassing, so I decided to cheat and draft again, pretending the other draft never happened. I drafted Mirrodin this time, and got a W/B deck (again) with Pentavus, Blinding Beam, Slith Ascendant, 2 Loxodon Anchorites, Loxodon Mystic, Auriok Transfixer, Pewter Golem, Thunderstaff and numerous removal spells. I also busted a Beacon of Creation that I took for the green precon (and constructed) and fourth picked an Aether Vial because I didn’t have it. Rare drafting does not win drafts, but it wouldn’t have mattered. My opponent got turn one Disciple, then Genesis Chamber and both of the two Myr Servitors he drafted by turn five, which stalled my ground pounders. He eventually killed me by sacrificing artifacts to his Thermal Navigator. I never saw any removal for the Disciple – just Terror. Game two he played turn one Disciple, turn two both Myr Servitors, turn three Grinding Station and AEther Spellbomb. Then he milled away all my removal.
Not my lucky day.
Yes, I am cheating by doing an extra draft, but both of the last two drafts were bad and I can’t use the WB MDF draft in writing about the other precons. Besides, I want to include the Aether Vial in this deck. Ditto the Thunderstaff, which is tech against Green Beacon decks, and against Meloku tokens (until they bounce the Staff.)
The draft did give me some stuff to pimp the precon, however. First of all, it lets me get rid of the bad cards, like Megrim and Larceny, but keep the theme. To replace it, I have Nezumi Shortfang, which is a better version of the damage for discard thing. I am also going to cheat some more and buy the “free” precon: Rat’s Nest. This precon retails for $11.29, but it contains a Jitte. You can sell the Jitte for 11-12 TIX online, meaning that the other cards are, essentially, free. Doing that also allows me to swap out the Severed Legions for Nezumi Cutthroats – same power, 1/3 less cost. The Rat’s Nest precon also includes a second Patron of the Nezumi and some more rats. True, I’m pushing a bit on the budget on this one, so sue me.
3 Maggot Carrier
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Nezumi Cutthroat
3 Nezumi Ronin
2 Dusk Imp
2 Abyssal Specter
2 Patron of the Nezumi
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
1 Nezumi Shortfang
2 Dark Banishing
2 Rend Flesh
2 Horobi’s Whisper
1 Sever Soul
1 Hideous Laughter (such a combo with all the x/1 rats)
2 Soulless Revival
2 Genju of the Fens
1 Disrupting Scepter R
1 Aether Vial
That’s as good as it is going to get. I’m off to play some Type Two in the casual constructed room.
Game 1: ??? with UG/b
I’m off to a good start. I did write down my opponent’s name, but I cannot read my own scrawl. I’m also not sure what he has playing. He dropped a Reito Lantern turn 2, Jushi Apprentice early, and a Budoka Gardener late. I also nailed a Graverobber and Strength of Cedars with Distress, but that still doesn’t really tell me what he was playing. My three Cutthroats killed him very quickly.
Game 2: RickySelman with U/R Charbelcher
Ricky was playing an affinity deck with Charbelcher. He was quite land light – possibly deliberately. He dropped Ornithopters and Frogmites, and I dropped rats. Eventually, my wave of 2/1s overran him. Surprisingly enough, Maggot Carriers proved useful – both as beaters and for the extra damage. Without the extra life loss, he might have stabilized. AEther Vial showed, but only after I emptied my hand. It did help when I used Soulless Revival to return a Cutthroat, then Vialed it out.
Cool – two games, and I have already hit the 40 percent goal.
Game 3: Listernine with Death Cloud Hondens.
Once again, I opened with a Maggot Carrier, and began by dropping Ravenous Rats, then a Nezumi Ronin. He dropped a Honden of Infinite Rage, which is pretty bad against this deck, then a Ghostly Prison. I got him to ten, then he cast Death Cloud for 4, clearing my hand and board and leaving me with one swamp in play. I tried to come back, but he eventually got the other Hondens and I never got enough mana to cast the two Patrons I drew, and none of the small rats survived with the red Honden in play.
Game 4: Emonden, Mono Black Control
Mono-black control is not a good matchup – if for no other reason than that the fear dudes don’t work and the Horobi’s Whispers and Dark Banishings are dead cards. I drew them, and the Sever Soul, but he cast Phyrexian Arena turn 3, then Barter in Blood twice, then started firing off Consume Spirits and Hideous Laughter. I was somewhat mana screwed, and lost to his life gain – and the fact that he drew twice as many cards as I did.
Game 5: Chubtoad13, Mono-Black Beats
Another mono-black control deck, and my hand was chock full of Dark Banishings and so forth. He was a bit ahead, then conceded without a word on turn 5 and left the game. I guess that’s a win, but I’m not counting it.
Game 5b: Ebony513, Mono-Black control.
He listed his game as “Budget Deck Testing” – which seemed a bit strange when he dropped a Jitte turn two. I think he may have been tuning a precon as well – probably something like what folks has been doing with Dark Devotion. He dropped a Bonesplitter, the Jitte and a Nightmare Lash, but few creatures. I just kept dropping rats and swinging, wrecking his hand and life total. He did drop an Ogre Marauder, but I had him low enough on life that he had to chump a Nezumi Ronin. He never did get the Jitte into action.
Hey, I won three of five (or four of six) of my games, depending on how you count them! Zowie.
Overall, I found the deck to be decent – about the best I could expect from a precon. The flat curve and discard is nice, since speed and a curve is often all you need to win in the casual room. More Aether Vials would have been good. The Disrupting Scepter only came out once and it was totally useless. If this deck is going to win, it needs to apply pressure quickly – if it has the time and mana to cast and use the scepter, it is in trouble.
The Okiba-Gang Shinobi were not too useful – I generally found that I did not have the mana to play them when they would have made a difference, and I did not want to up the counters on Aether Vial to cast them. (Even after testing this more, I’m not impressed with the discard Ninjas, and have still never drawn the Throatslitters.)
Some card drawing would be nice. Phyrexian Arena would be my first choice, but I would even consider Ambition’s Cost or Night’s Whisper. I would also like another Hideous Laughter or two – Troll Ascetics are tough for this deck to face.
I have never yet managed to make the Rat Offering work, but I have come close. This deck is all about speed, so mid-range cards like the Patron have not performed that well – but they have potential. In many respects, though, a mid-range x spell, like Consume Spirit, might be far better – at the very least, it should replace the Disrupting Scepter.
Enough for today – tomorrow I’ll tackle Heavy Hitters, the Green precon.