Thank god for social networking. If it weren’t for the
internets, I wouldn’t have a clue what side to root for in the Phyrexian/Mirran war. I wasn’t sure, but, when it came down to it, I had to
go with blue and side with whatever faction they supported.
Of course, I soon was informed that blue is pitting both sides against each other, and so I guess I’ll have to, like blue, not actively play
favorites. Of course, my friend and occasional collaborator Ian DeGraff makes a really great point when he says the following about the upcoming
“There is no war at all; there’s only a Phyrexian slam dunk. The concept is a tremendous failure as all of the interesting cards and mechanics
went to one side of the battlefield. I can’t imagine players wanting to play Mirran for any other reason than it’s ‘different’ from what other players
I’m not 100% on board with Ian’s harsh criticism. But I mostly am. When I’m thinking about the various decks that I’ve been
working on that are more off of the beaten path, thus far, there are definitely more Phyrexian cards that have been spoiled that make me feel like they
could make the cut.
These decks that I’ve been working on are not fully vetted. I haven’t, like I had for Demigod Red,
extensively tested these decks. In their pre-Mirrodin Besieged state, these decks all got a little bit of play, but I didn’t exhaustively figure
out how they played out. Thus, where I felt deeply confident in Demigod Red as an archetype (initial reports place one copy of my deck in top 16, one
in top 32, and one in top 64 at Atlanta, and a second PTQ Top 8 – let me know if you did well with it in Atlanta, or a PTQ), these
decks are still germinating.
All of these decks include, to a greater or lesser extent, new Mirrodin Besieged cards, many of which are not necessarily confirmed. With that in mind,
a grain of salt must be applied to their consideration, particularly because it’s possible that the predicted text could be different in incredibly
significant ways (Giant Solifuge, anyone?). Haters of spoilers are advised to look elsewhere.
Initially, I spent a fair amount of time examining how this deck should
potentially look before Mirrodin Besieged came into the picture. I started out with John Stolzman’s successful PTQ winning (and Midwest
Masters Series money-winning) version:
Putting it together, I spent time with Jacob Van Lunen working out some fine details and then talking with Midwest grinder Matt Severa, who’d
played the deck a fair amount. One of the biggest questions that always kept coming up was what to do about the loss of Glorious Anthem.
Marshal’s Anthem was a suggestion that Severa brought up, but it really felt incredibly excessive. Casting cost is a real concern. One thing that
you really want to have happen is you want the mana curve to stay relatively low. Another incredible suggestion from Severa was the potential
replacement of Cloudgoat Rangers with Conqueror’s Pledge. This card would almost seem like a direct improvement if it weren’t for cards
like Volcanic Fallout. It’s completely possible that it should simply be Cloudgoat Ranger, but for now, I’m going to go, if only
contingently, with Conqueror’s Pledge.
Some people have long-struggled with trying to figure out how to classify this deck, in terms of strategic archetypes. Oftentimes, they want to call it
an aggro/beatdown deck, from a strategic archetype standpoint. I’ve never quite understood what was quite so difficult about this. The deck is
pretty clearly a
midrange-aggro deck; it’s a deck essentially concerned with ending games, and it does so through an establishment of board superiority.
Compare this to a more traditional aggro deck, which is even more specifically concerned with lowering the opponent’s life total, regardless of
its board presence.
Keeping these concepts in mind are instructive when retooling archetypes, so that you don’t go off the path too far. I know, then, that I want to
keep the deck aggressive, rather than be “tricked” into getting too sneaky with a card like, say, Phyrexian Revoker (the walking Pithing
Needle), or more hugely top-end cards like White Sun’s Zenith.
In fact, one of the best possible cards for what I expect I ought to be doing with a deck like this is running this new card:
Hero of Bladehold is not a full replacement of a Glorious Anthem. But it certainly plays a role that marks it as one part partial Anthem, one
part Cloudgoat Ranger. By itself, Hero of Bladehold can make Windbrisk Heights hum. Here’s an initial mockup of the list:
This deck is capable of some incredibly potent openings. It’s hobbled, in some ways, by the loss of Caves of Koilos, which really smoothed out a lot of
problems. That said, this deck really is quite scary, even when it only starts a lot of its action on turn 2. By turn 5, the deck is capable of having
put down an impressive clock, through strong resistance, backed up with discard and creature kill.
In my first test game with the deck, I opened up with a rare turn 1 Thoughtseize (off of Flats) to rid a Knight of the Reliquary into turn 2
Bitterblossom, turn 3 Bitterblossom and Windbrisk Heights, turn 4 Ajani Goldmane, and turn 5 Thoughtseize, Zealous Persecution my Mythic Conscription
opponent into a hole, and Heights into a Hero. My opponent had out another Knight, but it really didn’t seem to matter.
The next game was slower, with turn 2 Sculler, turn 3 Spectral Procession, and turn 4 Thoughtseize, Persecution, and a tapped land to hold things in
check before dropping down a turn 5 Hero of Bladehold, which looked pretty darn scary. Again, my opponent had a Knight of Reliquary and used it to
power out a Jace and another Knight, but first Ajani Goldmane and then another Spectral Procession just made the board monstrous. Looking at my draw, I
would’ve felt comfortable against most opponents, I think, whether they were Red or 4CC or Scapeshift; even if the hand wasn’t definitively a
trump for all manner of opponents, I could certainly feel as though the hand would’ve been powerful enough to fight most anyone.
God Draw Jund
I had been working on this deck for a while when I joked around about it with Jacob Van Lunen during the SCGLive coverage of Kansas City. Basically, I
was taken with recreating a concept that had been employed by Chicagoan Ronnie Serio during Regionals around the time that B/W Tokens was a real deck.
What if we were able to shoehorn Putrid Leech into an aggressive, red-based deck?
The first game I played with an initial version went something like this:
I was chortling up a storm, but I had to say that I really liked it (even if Ram-Gang was, in some ways, underwhelming).
After getting a fairly inconsistent draw with the deck, though getting occasionally insane draws (Turn 1 Goblin Guide/Tattermunge Maniac into Putrid
Leech almost always results in a victory), I came to a sad conclusion: Putrid Leech was just going a touch too far. Boo!
There just wasn’t enough really going on in the “disruption” camp for me to think of the deck as much more than a Red deck that
didn’t have as much reach. Still, though, it was really close, to a level that seemed really exciting. The deck felt like it needed a
nudge, but I just needed to find out what.
The question was did I want to become a deck with more reach, did I want to become a deck with more staying power, or did I want to become a deck with
more disruption? It was a hard call.
In the end, I went in a very different direction, basically choosing only the most minimal in changes to the deck in order to get something close to
the most aggressive draws I could, while still putting in some extra disruption.
- 4 Boggart Ram-Gang
- 4 Tattermunge Maniac
- 4 Jund Hackblade
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Anathemancer
- 4 Goblin Guide
- 4 Phyrexian Revoker
If you’re just looking to totally beat down, replace the Phyrexian Revoker with Hellspark Elemental, and you’ll basically have just that.
Even so, I think that there’s a lot to be said for running the deck with Revoker, just so you can shut down some unfair plays from an opponent.
This deck is basically fairly linear, so it lacks much in the way of flexibility. It puts aggressive creatures down and gains card advantage while
building up damage. Unlike a more traditional Jund deck, it comes out of the gate quite a bit faster, but it loses out in some of the sheer power that
a Jund deck would have. Right now, I don’t think that this is the kind of deck to be playing in Extended, but, compared to a more traditional
Jund deck, I think that it has a lot more going for it, if only because of the possibility of “free” wins that the deck is able to produce
in its aggressive draws.
After boarding, in a lot of ways, the deck shifts into becoming a much more traditional Jund deck because some opponents simply can’t be
overpowered by beating them down. There are probably some other cards that could be considered for the deck, like Sword of Feast and Famine or Thrun,
the Last Troll, but both of these cards seemed to me to just slow the deck down too much. I think this deck needs a lot of work to really “get
there,” but it does feel like it’s on the verge.
This fabulous deck creation that originated in the mind of one of my favorite Magic players, Lissa Jensen, started out as a deck that was clearly in
the “just-for-fun” camp, but after Brian Kowal and I put some effort into it, it then ended up taking a few PTQ Top 8s back in the day.
Updating it for Extended is a real hoot. This deck has some real issues that it needs to find a way to solve, but that doesn’t stop it from being
- 2 Cloudthresher
- 4 Deus of Calamity
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Oversoul of Dusk
- 4 Primalcrux
- 4 Spellbreaker Behemoth
- 4 Joraga Treespeaker
This deck is still pretty rough. The only real new card that shows its hat in the mix here is Slagstorm, which really plays a great role as a control
card from the board to mess up any of the creature-based decks that you might find yourself fighting.
The power of a Primalcrux in this deck is generally pretty absurd. Oftentimes, you find yourself attacking on turn 5 or 6 for about 17+ damage. Of
course, in Extended, there are many times that that is simply not good enough. Deus of Calamity is a part of the way to make interactions with the
opponent a little closer to unfair, since you can potentially tear someone open if you’re both on solitaire. Realistically, though, this
doesn’t work against the truly combo-oriented decks, and so a combination of Primal Command, Tectonic Edge, and Guttural Response help make your
attacks on this element of their deck all the more effective.
Again, this deck isn’t something that’s 100% ready for prime time, nor even, probably 75%. But, hopefully it will get your juices flowing.
On the other hand, it strikes me that the B/W Tokens deck is definitely basically ready to go, with, perhaps some moderate adjustments. The impact of
Mirrodin Besieged on these decks is pretty minimal, all around, but generally speaking, that’s the way with small sets. The real point of doing
something like this is to try to push the envelop with decks that at one point were either cutting edge, competitive, or bashing on the door of being
“almost good enough.” Sometimes, all it takes is a single card, maybe only in two or three copies, to shift a deck into being something
that suddenly becomes worthy of consideration.
Until next time,