Sullivan Library: Lasik.dec — A Last Minute Combo Deck for Charleston

Adrian returns with his second article in two days. Not content with “merely” creating a tournament-winning Vintage deck, Mr Sullivan has focused his considerable deckbuilding talent on the Ravnica Block Constructed metagame. He presents Lasik.dec, a combo build that packs one hell of a punch. Undecided on what to play at Pro Tour Charleston? Maybe Adrian has the answer…

So, you’re Q’d for Charleston and you have no clue what to play, eh? Or maybe you just don’t like your decks? Or maybe you want to play something completely fun and different? Or maybe you’re not even Q’d, but you are looking for something to play online and around the store? Well, I’ve got your last-minute Ravnica Block Deck right here.

One of the things that a certain breed of player likes is the combo deck. Many of these players like the solitaire feel of playing a Heartbeat of Spring or decks like Steve Menendian’s “Repeal” Tendrils deck from a few days ago. Certainly, Heartbeat can have some degree of interactivity, but once it gets going, your opponent often can only sit back and ask, “Ya got me?”

Well, this combo deck doesn’t play incredibly like a Solitaire deck until it goes into the win portion of the game, and then it can go a bit nutty. The combo?

Eye of the Storm/Stitch in Time/spells.

Here’s the thing: Eye of the Storm is a notoriously difficult spell to make use of. I remember playing against an Eye of the Storm deck in some major event, and as my opponent tried to go off with some kind of Early Harvesty goodness, I pulled off what my friend Justin refers to as a “stack-jack” – I got my own instant in there, and I took over his own combo and ruined him.

This Eye of the Storm business is dangerous stuff. Hopefully, you won’t get stack-jacked, but there is good news: no, no one will come save you, but the environment of Ravnica Block is not particularly well suited to carry out a full stack-jack. Only a few decks could really pull it off, and even against them you are well armed to jack them back.

Here are some truisms to the format:

1 – Most decks are very control-oriented, but essentially fight this control war with lands and creatures.
2 – The decks that are not very control-oriented tend to have spells that are limited to “this helps kill my opponent”.
3 – There is a lot of creature kill out there.
4 – There are few “hard” counters, and few enchantment killers.
5 – Control decks take their sweet time to win.

This is all good for an Eye of the Storm deck. Ravnica Block is not Standard.

Back to how the combo operates… It isn’t a hard combo, but it is nearly so. Stitch in Time, a truly janky card, is only a Time Walk half the time. On the other hand, when you flip a coin a bunch of times, you are pretty likely to get a Time Walk. The math is pretty simple, really.

Stitches Chance for one or more Time Walks (rounded down)

Now, I can’t tell you your expected number of Time Walks for a certain number of Stitches (I used to, but my probability is pretty rusty, though I know the math is actually pretty easy), but I can tell you this: the only times I have failed to win once I begin going off is when I misclick on MTGO.

Here’s the list:

Lasik.dec (LAY-sick dot deck) – Adrian Sullivan

If you look at the heart of the non-combo portion of the deck, you have something essentially pretty simple. Good card drawing, and excellent creature elimination. With 4 Lightning Helix, 4 Remand, 4 Electrolyze, and 3 Odds / Ends, many opponents will think that you are a simple USA-Control deck until you go for the win, even if they are aware that Lasik.dec exists. All of these cards are great in their own right, and they can all get you to a point where you can get out the mana to plop down a game ending Eye of the Storm. Aside from simply keeping you alive, when you begin to go off, most of these cards can also become a part of your victory condition (some combination of Electrolyze/Helix to burn them out, or Compulsive Research to deck them).

Eye of the Storm basics

There are some critical things to realize about Eye of the Storm. First of all, the removal of a card from the game is a trigger. Say you cast Lightning Helix with Eye out against an untapped opponent. They can respond with, say, a Muddle the Mixture, let the Muddle be removed by the Eye, and then play the Muddle on your Helix, countering it before the Eye can remove it from the game. This means that the rest of the Eye of the Storm triggers will fail. It gets even worse if there are cards like Stitch in Time under the Eye already. In that case, they would get a chance to not only remove your Lightning Helix and stop you from using the Eye, but they would get the flip on Stitch on your turn. This is one of the most brutal forms of the stack-jack, since you don’t even get to reap the benefits of the Eye.

This means, then, that one of your fundamental concerns should be to avoid losing your stack to the opponent. One way to do this is to lay out a naked Eye, and say go. Most opponents won’t be able to exploit the Eye if you haven’t started putting stuff onto it, though of course they could simply destroy it. For the sake of argument, if they aren’t able to destroy it, on your following turn, you are quite likely to be able to avoid any stack-jacking simply because of your likely superior number of instants.

Take one game I played recently, for example, where I had an Eye out. My opponent had 3 counterspells in hand, and I had 3 Stitch in Time, and 2 Telling Time. It was late in the game, and I had 11 mana. Things played out like this:

I Stitch, they counter, leaving the Eye with a Muddle on it. I Stitch again, they counter, and now a Error (of Trial / Error) is on the Eye. I decide to untap behind the Telling Times, because with the Eye out, I can probably counter anything they do with their own Muddle/Error on the Eye. They lay some kind of creature, and when I Stitch on my turn (12 mana up now), they Error, I let Error get removed, I Telling Time, finding a Compulsive Research, Error their Error with the Eye, Stitch Resolves, I lose the flip, I cast Compulsive Research, find a Remand, win the flip on Stitch, cast the Telling Time from the Eye, Remand it, getting another Compulsive, a Telling Time, a Stitch (I lose the flip), a Muddle (casting it on the Telling Time) and Remand (casting it on the Muddle). My opponent wanted to watch it play out, and about 4-5 minutes later, he was dead. (A warning to MTGO players, this combo plays out frackin’ slowly online.)

[I must say, that’s one of the scariest paragraphs I’ve ever had to edit. – Craig.]

Most of the time, you are not going to want to lay the Eye naked like that, unless you don’t at all fear it getting destroyed. This can often be the case against some beatdown decks, but you do not have that luxury against any deck running Black and White. Expect Angel. Expect Mortify. These cards are part of the reason that you run Black and White in Ravnica Block.

Some common questions

As I’ve played the deck, I’ve gotten some common questions about the deck and certain card choices in it. Here’s a smattering of the most relevant ones:

Why no Muddle the Mixture?

The first version ran a full complement of four. Unfortunately, there are decks that do beat down pretty quickly, and you really need to find answers to them. Lightning Helix and Electrolyze do a good job on handling this, as well as providing you the added bonus of fighting off stack-jack, and being your kill condition. The other card that takes up a potential Muddle the Mixture space is Odds / Ends. Odds / Ends is essentially a perfect card for the deck, and I’m still trying to find room for a 4th copy in the main. Odds, against countermagic, is a counterspell. Against a card like Compulsive Research, you’re playing, essentially a Twincast or Counter, and either card is likely to be very acceptable in that moment. On the other hand, against a beatdown deck, Ends can be a very crippling control spell, especially when answering problematic cards like Giant Solifuge. With only so many card slots, Muddle eventually got kicked to the curb.

Your Signet selection seems a bit strange.

Yes, it is, a bit. I figured out that I needed to have a certain degree of color-fixing and mana ramping if the deck was going to get to cast Eye with any degree of frequency. Balancing getting a large amount of Blue with casting Lightning Helix in a regular frequency is hard, and I still might have the mana slightly off, but this mix seems pretty good. The single Azorius Signet is present because of the ability to Muddle for it if you board in Muddles, but it might be more correct as the Izzet Signet. Like I said, the mana is still a work in progress.

What is this sideboard all about?

Well, for reference, here it is again:

2 Gigadrowse
3 Muddle the Mixture
2 Djinn Illuminatus
2 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 War’s Toll
1 Odds / Ends
4 Spell Snare

Against the most aggressive decks, Spell Snare can be an incredible kick to the teeth, but there is the problem that you really don’t have all that many spells to side in or out unless you drop the combo entirely. You’ll have to shave off a few cards here or there if you stay a combo deck and want the Snares in. Gigadrowse is an excellent way to lock out the opponent before you go for it, as well as being a one-mana spell to help try to trigger a desperation Stitch/Eye win. War’s Toll is like a pseudo-Gigadrowse, much like I ran one Price of Glory in my States winning Ponza deck a few years ago; the card can be incredibly disruptive, but you would only want to draw a second one if the first one is destroyed. Muddle is there to fight against other counterspells, as well as give a failsafe against decks packing a lot of problems like Crime / Punishment, Mortify, and other destructiveness. The creature package is there if you feel like you want to become a simple control deck, thought the Illuminatus does give you an Eye-like feel. Illuminatus/Stitch can be a powerful/amusing combo.

The sideboard could certainly be tuned, but it does hit a lot of the basics.

If this deck is any good, why are you giving the list out? I thought you didn’t think tech was supposed to be free?

True, I don’t believe tech should be free. On the other hand, I do think that there is a better deck to put Compulsive Research and Remand into. No, I’m not telling. The early versions of this deck (pre-Odds / Ends) were not doing nearly as well in testing, and I only have a few close friends going to the Pro Tour, and since there is already another deck that will use up this deck’s cards, I thought it would be a lot of fun to share a viable combo deck for the format. (As far as I know, there is one more, and it also involves a very, very expensive spell.)

I’m a competitive player. Why should I play this deck?

Well, the first reason is that it is an especially fun deck.

Is there anything else I should think about?

I’m still considering Soulsworn Jury in the sideboard, for a number of reasons. It blocks pesky 3/3s, kills Solifuge, and is a solid counter against Angel of Despair. I’d really love to fit in that last Odds / Ends, but it just is such a tight ship, I don’t know what to move around. I wouldn’t mind some Junktrollers either, mostly as an answer to Nightmare Void (plus, it does block pretty well). I’ve just put most of my playtesting attention to other decks, and while I know this one is solid, I also know none of my closer friends are planning on playing it, so I’ll use my last minutes doing something else.

Closing remarks

Yes, that is two articles in two days. I might have a few more over the next few days as well, we’ll have to see. One of the things that is very important to me when it comes to writing articles is to have something relevant to say, and I’m sure you’ll agree that anything else you see from me this week will probably be worth a look-see.

I think the next one will be fun.

(Warning: the above link will take you straight to an .mp3 by the great Madison band Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and the Pons.)

Adrian Sullivan