I consider myself a pretty good dad, but one of my failings as a parent has been the lack of success getting my kids interested in playing Magic. Whenever I run across a young person at a local store or tournament playing Magic with their mom or dad, I’m totally jealous. I haven’t given up hope yet, though. This weekend is my weekend with the kids, and while I won’t be able to attend the StarCityGames.com #SCGStates tournaments, I’m hoping I might be able to convince the kids to give Magic another whirl. I’ve got a bunch of the Duel Decks just sitting around, waiting to be shuffled up.
If I were able to play in Modern #SCGStates, I’d be interested in running a slightly updated version of my Doran/Zur deck, since Wizards nerfed my Necrotic Ooze / Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy combo deck. The beauty of a deck with Zur the Enchanter is that each time a new Magic set comes out, there’s the potential of a sweet new enchantment that costs three or less making the deck better or more flexible. I haven’t played the deck in a while, so I had a few sets to sift through. The card that really jumped out was this eye-popping one from Shadows over Innistrad:
This just seems absurd in a Doran, the Siege Tower deck, no?
Assault Formation and Mardu Ascendancy were the two cards in the recent past that pushed this deck up to a new level. Assault Formation gave us a backup copy of Doran, the Siege-Tower that was searchable by Zur the Enchanter. Mardu Ascendancy provided a way to combo-kill an opponent with massive damage out of nowhere if they didn’t have enough blockers. I ran the deck to 20th place at a Modern Super IQ last July and wrote about it here if you’re interested.
While Mardu Ascendancy was a great card to search up when the coast was clear, the deck can struggle a bit when your opponent has a bunch of blockers that make it tough to punch through.
Behind the Scenes to the rescue! Giving the team skulk when just about every creature has zero or one power is just nuts when we’re dealing damage based on toughness. Here’s the current version of the deck I’d have liked to play Sunday:
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Zur the Enchanter
- 4 Doran, the Siege Tower
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Spellskite
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
I know the manabase looks a little weird, but I had a friend of mine who’s a bit of a mad genius in crafting complex manabases suggest it, and it works about as well as a five-color deck could expect without dying to shockland triggers.
Since the deck relies on creatures on the battlefield to win, I can be a bit soft to Wrath of God and Supreme Verdict, so I wanted to give Ulvenwald Mysteries a try as a sideboard card. Bonds of Mortality is another new enchantment, and one that seems tailor-made to fight G/W Hexproof, which can otherwise be trouble if they draw their answers to Spellskite.
Playing online, I’ve run across a fair amount of Soul Sisters strategies, so I thought Tainted Remedy would make a good silver bullet for those decks.
I feel like the deck could have some legs. It’s pretty good against aggressive strategies that rely on Lightning Bolt to clear the way. Doran, the Siege Tower is a natural foil to Lantern Control’s strategy of shutting down attacks with Ensnaring Bridge. With the right draw, it can race a lot of combo decks in the format, and you have access to a wide range of silver bullet sideboard cards. If you have any questions about the card choices above or any suggestions, please let me know.
Standard is an interesting puzzle to solve right now if you’re not overly interested in grinding through the Bant Company or Humans mirror matches. Both of those decks are fairly good at stomping slower decks into the dirt, and Archangel Avacyn makes it tough to try to beat them with removal.
Except, perhaps, Languish? Giving all creatures -4/-4 seems to be much better in this format than dishing out damage or destroy effects. Sure, the Humans deck can grow its team bigger than four toughness, and an Archangel Avacyn with an Always Watching on the battlefield is beyond Languish’s reach, but if your opponent’s team gets that big, you’re probably just dead no matter what you do.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook that he wanted me to build a deck with Sylvan Advocate, Den Protector, Tireless Tracker, Ulvenwald Mysteries, and The Gitrog Monster. Not that it’s very hard to get me interested when you bring up The Gitrog Monster, but I have to say that Tireless Tracker is quickly becoming one of my favorite cards of the format.
It gives me a similar vibe as Courser of Kruphix as a green source of grindy card advantage. It’s even better than Courser on its own, though; it can grow into a significant threat very quickly, and multiple copies of it compound the advantages. Courser of Kruphix was great at blocking and gaining you life, but Tireless Tracker beats down!
Ulvenwald Mysteries is an intriguing card that can do serious work in the right deck. Anyone remember Fecundity from way back in the day? Ulvenwald Mysteries is a little slower on the card drawing when your creatures die, but for your trouble you get to draw a card and get a 1/1 creature for each Clue you sacrifice. Much like Tireless Tracker, each copy of Ulvenwald Mysteries compounds the advantages. So yeah, the card doesn’t do anything on its own, but it synergizes really well with the rest of your deck if built to exploit it.
Here’s what I’ve got cooked up for Standard:
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Oblivion Sower
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 4 The Gitrog Monster
The card that really excites me here is Oblivion Sower, which just synergizes all over the place. It gives you more lands to trigger Tireless Tracker, turns on Sylvan Advocate, and gives you a land buffer when feeding The Gitrog Monster. With the Khans fetchlands gone, Oblivion Sower has a better chance of hitting real land cards you can use for mana while sacrificing your own lands to The Gitrog Monster (since its draw trigger only happens when lands hit your own graveyard).
Has anyone given this sort of deck a try? It’s a little light on flying defense, but I’m hoping the removal can keep me in the game long enough for my engines to take over. Why doesn’t Oblivion Sower have reach? I mean, look at those tentacles!
If Languish proves to be good in the metagame, perhaps another strategy could benefit from it. I’m thinking of a Zombie deck here, an archetype which got new life (heh) with cards from Shadows over Innistrad.
Relentless Dead is an obviously potent card that really shines in the late game. In particular I’m excited about the possibility of near-endless, relentless Fleshbag Marauder recursion, but you just need to live long enough to get that set up.
Languish to the rescue? My friend pointed out that Languish kills your side of the battlefield too, but what good is a Zombie deck that can’t come back from your graveyard? Here’s what I’ve sketched out:
- 3 Nantuko Husk
- 3 Fleshbag Marauder
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 3 Geralf's Masterpiece
- 4 Relentless Dead
- 1 Diregraf Colossus
- 3 Prized Amalgam
- 1 Ghoulsteed
- 1 Sanitarium Skeleton
With all the Zombies, I figured we can reasonably expect Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to get big enough to survive Languish a fair amount of the time. He can also protect your Zombies from being exiled by many of the best removal spells in the format.
I know Geralf’s Masterpiece seems a little unreliable, but I wanted to be able to take to the sky with something that could potentially rumble with Archangel Avacyn and survive. With just two cards in hand, you’re there. The cost to bring it back from the graveyard could potentially be steep, but cards like Sanitarium Skeleton, Just the Wind, Prized Amalgam, and Drownyard Temple can mitigate that and you can activate Sea Gate Wreckage on an empty hand to gas back up. Also keep in mind that a dying Relentless Dead can just spend five mana to put a dead Geralf’s Masterpiece directly onto the battlefield untapped!
I know Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy isn’t a Zombie, but I think he really juices up the deck’s synergies and provides a nice boost in power. A well-timed casting of Just the Wind or Compelling Deterrence can help buy you some time against the aggressive decks, and getting to flash them back with a transformed Jace can help boost tempo even more. I imagine discarding Just the Wind to a Jace loot, casting it with madness, and then flashing it back has to feel good.
There’s a lot of competition for the three-mana slot, and in my early drafts of the deck I didn’t include Nantuko Husk, but I eventually found room for three copies. I think it’s important to have a free sacrifice outlet to fizzle Declaration in Stone if you’d rather have the dead Zombie instead of the Clue token. The free, instant-speed sacrifice outlet is also important to really juice up Relentless Dead in the late-game. I really want more copies of Diregraf Colossus, but I think Nantuko Husk is just needed.
Has anyone experimented with any Zombie decks similar to this one? What seems to be working for you?
Good luck to any of you heading out to #SCGStates this weekend! Anyone taking any spicy brews to battle?
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
- • Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)