Damn, it’s been awhile since I posted a column, but unfortunate times have fallen upon me. Having your fiancÃ© cheat on you with your best friend, finding out you have a short lifespan ahead of you – rough times all around. What’s a man to do when life beats the hell out of him? I decided to separate myself from my issues and return to playing a more competitive form of the game.
My main focus has been Block and Type Two, since I sold my collection and only have four of all the cards for those two formats. Type Two was quite stale, with Affinity floating around everywhere and with the main focus having been on Extended, I decided to wait awhile to post a column on what has become my favorite format – Block Constructed. I’ve been toying with a cornucopia of decks and slowly tweaking each of them. I playtest them and evolve them and evolve them and evolve them some more. Some decks fall to the gutter and others have risen up to become contenders. One of which, has been my G/w/u Snake Deck. Here’s the list.
(because I have thing for deck names)
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Orochi Sustainer
4 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
2 Seshiro the Anointed
4 Sosuke’s Summons
2 Hokori, Dust Drinker
2 Yosei, the Morning Star
1 Myojin of Cleansing Fire
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
4 Kodama’s Reach
3 Time of Need
1 Wear Away
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Eiganjo Castle
3 Wear Away
2 Kodama of the North Tree
4 Hero’s Demise
2 Konda’s Banner
4 Cranial Extraction
This deck began as a mono-Green deck, but over time and playtesting, the deck evolved into what I have listed above. The first selection of cards are what I like to call the “snake engine”. They consist of Sakura-Tribe Elder, Orochi Sustainer, Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro, and Sosuke’s Summons. All of these cards come in a batch of four each. Some people debate the use of four Sachi, but I stand by the idea that good players will realize how dangerous she is to them and quickly off her with random removal. Snake decks are also becoming one of the top decks to play in Block and this means lots of mirror matchups. Sachi works with an inner deck combo I play involving her and Hokori, Dust Drinker for a soft lock on your opponent, while you still pump out the spells. Some versions run Orochi Leafcaller and a myriad of other spells in the color wheel – mostly Myojins. The Leafcaller makes a great mana fixer and works well with Sachi, but has always been too weak for me to run. If you fancy the versions running Myojin of Infinite Rage or any of the other Myojin, then Leafcaller is a sure thing. In this deck, the four Tribe Elders and Kodama’s Reach have proven enough for me.
One of the things I like about this deck is the wonderful use you get out of Sensei’s Divining Top. If any deck maximizes the use of this card it’s the snake deck. The deck has eleven main deck ways to shuffle and take a look at three new cards. Top also provides a great mana dump in the event that you have excess shaman mana from Sachi and friends floating around.
If there’s one thing about Block that annoys me, it has to be the return of Skullclamp in the form of Umezawa’s Jitte. I remember Pro-Tour Lin Sivvi and how disgusting it was looking at table after table of Rebels. Ben touched on this in his column on Thursday and I think he did a great job of breaking down the trouble of Jitte. We can only hope that they ban the card before Philadelphia arrives. Will it happen? I doubt it. Instead, we’ll be forced to “play it out” just to see if the card does indeed need the boot from Block Constructed. My prediction is that Philadelphia will contain more Umezawa’s Jittes than Mountains. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Okay, now that my rant about Jitte is over (enough of these for everyone), we’ll move onto the next part of the deck – the legends. What snake deck would be complete without a minimum of two Seshiro? Not this deck, no sir. Seshi Boy, as I have come to call him, is a simple inclusion into the deck, but recently I had an exchange with someone in the forums here and was advised that Hall of the Bandit Lord might be of some consideration. Although my first inclinations were to dismiss the card, I used it a few times in testing and found it worked fifty-fifty for me. Sometimes a hasted Seshi and friends was more than amazing and at other times I was pulling my hair out about the life loss or coming into play tappedness. My end verdict? Use at your own discretion.
I find myself catching the most grief over Hokori. When I shared the list with friends and such, many people laughed off the idea of a weak 2/2 being searched out to soft lock the game. I can attest from first hand experience, that Hokori has won me many a game from an unsuspecting opponent. The ability to use Sachi to power out spells under a Winter Orb-like state is what Martha and I call “a good thing”. The drawback, if any, is that Snakes and White Weenie are both top decks in block and Snakes have their own Sachi to combat the lockdown and White Weenie decks have their own Hokori to combat this deck’s Hokori. If this stays true, then you can easily swap the Hokori’s out for better metagaming cards. That’s another thing about playing Snakes and Green. You can use a base engine of Snakes and include the infamous Jitte and yet customize the deck quite easily to deal with a shifting metagame.
Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!
Which dragon do you play? The given consensus is that Kokusho is the best, followed by the rest, with Jugan and Ryusei fighting it out for last place. I chose Yosei, because he works well in locking down their mana with Hokori. He’s also a nice setup card. By setup, I mean you can have him in hand and a bunch of snakes. Drop the Yosei and watch your opponent use his removal to kill Yosei and tap himself out. This sets you up to drop Seshi Boy for a big attack phase. If you don’t have Seshiro, then you can drop Hokori or Time of Need for him and lock the board down that way.
Myojin of Cleansing Fire
just because! Well, not “just” because, but more so that it’s really nice to have a tutorable mid-game or late game Wrath effect. Playing Sosuke’s Summons allows this card to be stronger by recovering from the Wrath with a whole new team of monsters. I’ve found this card to be very helpful in situations where your opponent has a Meloku going to town, which seems to be the ultimate splash in any deck that can snag the single Blue mana required to cast him. In short, the Myojin is a tutorable one-time Wrath of God to get you out of a pinch. The 4/6 body doesn’t hurt either.
The last creature to join the nation of snakes is one lone Meloku. Chances are if you see a deck running Sakura-Tribe Elder and/or Kodama’s Reach, which seem to go hand in hand, then you’ll probably end up seeing a Meloku. This card has become the ultimate splash spell in block and deservedly so. Popping out 1/1 flyers in exchange for excess lands is good stuff.
The single Wear Away in the deck is there for things like the Jitte mirror, Mirror Gallery, Genju, Tatsumasa, Ghostly Prison, and assorted other randomness. For quite awhile, I had this spot filled by another Time of Need and just recently changed it to the single Wear Away. This deck list isn’t perfect by any means and my goal is to give you something to marinate on and tweak. You may find that the fourth Time of Need works better for you. Maybe this version of the deck seems too diversified or clunky for you. Either way, I’m hoping you’ll walk away with a little bit more insight on Kamigawa block constructed and in particular, for those that haven’t been exposed to it just yet, the idea of a multi-colored snake deck.
I’d like to explain the sideboard choices next. For review….
3 Wear Away
2 Kodama of the North Tree
4 Hero’s Demise
2 Konda’s Banner
4 Cranial Extraction
I’ll start out with the Wear Aways. What targets do we have for Wear Away?
Tatsumasa, the Dragon Fang
Genjus or Genji?
Mirror Gallery (Don’t laugh! I’ve seen many a Honden deck running one or two of this bad boy. I’m not up to speed on the most optimal Honden deck builds to know if Mirror Gallery is common in the builds. Which brings me to…)
Night of Souls’ Betrayal
Cage of Hands
The cards listed above are the primary targets for Wear Away. With Jitte looking to run wild, there’s no way you can run less than four Wear Away between the main deck and sideboard. Ghostly Prison can really halt your offense and Night of Souls’ Betrayal is no picnic either. Luckily, Night of Souls’ Betrayal doesn’t appear to be that popular right now, with more people opting to abuse Jitte’s power in more creature based decks.
The one deck that I’ve playtested the least against are the many Honden decks floating around. Some utilize a strictly Hondens and maybe a couple of Myojin of Cleansing Fire. Some use them as a support to a Green, White, and Blue-based control deck, but as you can see, there are many targets for Wear Away in the format.
Next up are a pair of Kodama of the North Tree. This guy is there for the Ire of Kaminari and splice decks but mainly for the mono-Black control decks. Dropping this hoss down on turn 4 can mean some rough times ahead for creature light variants of MBC. Yukora, the Prisoner and Genju of the Fens are their fastest answers, with the loss of Genju of the Fens setting them back a land drop. I had three Kodamas in the sideboard until a few weeks ago, when I decided to go to four of the next card in my sideboard.
Hero’s Demise! I’m a huge fan of this card. Kamigawa block has pretty much told us that if we want to use the true power of the block, then we’ll need to be packing our decks with lots of legends. White Weenie decks run upwards of twelve legendary creatures and Snake decks have six plus essential legends too. Hero’s Demise has so many good targets that it’s hard to ignore. Cheap, instant, and effective creature destruction that rocks the mirror match can’t be passed up.
The two Konda’s Banners in the sideboard have received the least play. This was originally my answer to Hideous Laughter and Night of Souls’ Betrayal. I’ve been tempted to use an extra Meloku in this spot or extra Seshi Boys or something. The idea of an extra Meloku and maybe an extra Time of Need seem to sound best, since Meloku is abundant and large flyers seem to be the way to finish off opponents. Another consideration I had was General’s Kabuto. The Kabuto turned out real nice in playtesting, especially with Jitte equipped too, but Jitte alone makes the Kabuto somewhat weak because so much more dedication is being made to artifact destruction.
Last, but not least, the almighty Cranial Extraction. I would like to get my four Cranial Extraction’ art redone with Allen Iverson on them, because this card is the answer. Snakes can take an extraction or two and still serve up some threats but some decks, like the splice and Ire of Kaminari decks, have one or two win conditions available to them and a good Extraction can rip them apart.
So what cards did you not see? As I stated before, Orochi Leafcaller has been excluded. I’ve had poor results running him and Myojin of Infinite Rage. Matsu-Tribe Sniper is another exclusion. Again, it’s effective against Kokusho or Keiga or any other random dragon, but against the ever-growing popularity of Meloku, the Sniper just isn’t up to par and his one toughness is just asking to be the target of Jitte. One more maindeck Wear Away could see it’s way into the deck or another Seshiro, quite easily. I don’t play the Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, because I’ve found him to be a waste of time. Now if you’re running the Matsu-Tribe Snipers, then I could see this guy going into the deck, but for me, I like to make my first four-drop a Sachi and then follow up with something bigger or tutor for Hokori and lock them up.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my column on a deck I’ve played with some success. Please keep in mind that this is a slightly polished version of what the deck started out as and is subject to change according to however you feel you’d like like to change it. Hopefully the list provided and discussion on the deck will give you some ideas on how to create your own snake deck or discover some new options you may have overlooked.