The Kitchen Table #307 – Zendikar Decks

Read Abe Sargent every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Wednesday, October 14th – Typically, the week after doing my set review, I write an article using the latest cards in decks. I see no need to break with tradition, so allow me to build some decks for you today!

Happy day to you! Welcome back to my article of smiles and cards. Typically, the week after doing my set review, I write an article using the latest cards in decks. I see no need to break with tradition, so allow me to build some decks for you today!

A minor bone to pick with Wizards first, though. Last week, I agreed to do the survey to give my opinion on Zendikar. I spent a lot of time pouring over the many cards that they asked me to evaluate, and then I got to a page with the whole set, and was told to select my favorite cards, and a red border would indicate that they were selected. I tried to do that several times, but it wouldn’t work on my updated Firefox browser, so I hit the next button to skip it, and the screen popped back up again and told me that I had to hit an answer to continue. I tried again but I still could not select anything. I hit refresh and still nothing. After investing a lot of time into this survey, I was unable to complete it, and that was a bit frustrating. Especially since just the previous day I had finally picked up my set of Planechase products, and discovered that none of the deck boxes have the name of the deck on them, like most other products do, so there is no way I can tell one deck from another unless I open it up and pull it out. Not a major thing, but a thing nonetheless. Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that WotC knew that at least I had problems finishing the survey, so I suspect some others may as well. I also wanted to see if others reading this had experienced the same thing with this survey, in case it is widespread.

I am also using this to say what my survey would have said, if it had counted. I remember Mark Rosewater once talking about Unglued, and for the set, he told people that he wanted cards to have a maximum number of jokes on them. I think, in a set like Zendikar, every single card needs to say Zendikar somewhere on it, much like the cards in Unglued had as many jokes as possible. I think this is especially important now that they have reduced the number of cards in sets, because they have fewer cards to get the point across to us. What I mean is that somewhere – the title, the art, the flavor text, the mechanics, the card type – somewhere there should be the world the card represents. If you pull out a card in this set and place it in another set, it should look out of place somehow. Let me give you some examples of both:

Summoning Trap. The art, the name, the type line and the mechanics are all Zendikar. You could not print this card in, say, Odyssey, without it looking out of place.

Reckless Scholar — The name is boring normal, the type line the same, and the flavor text and mechanic are flavor-generic. However, the art says Zendikar, so even though a wizard Looter might work in Onslaught, the card will not without an art change. On a side note, I know that the Mothership has expressed concerns about tying the word “loot” to this mechanic as it is not that flavorful, but surely, in a set like this, it works, so I wonder why they decided to change it here. Other examples of cards in this “Only Zendikar in the Art” category are Hellkite Charger and Harrow.

Hedron Scrabbler — From the mechanic to the name to the art to the flavor text, everything in here screams Zendikar. Other examples of just full on Zendikar include Expedition Map, the quests, the traps, most of the lands, many of the landfall cards, Eldrazi Monument and a few others.

Goblin Ruinblaster — The art and mechanic are generic, but the name itself evokes a world of ruins, like Zendikar, so it fits. Another example, although it took me a bit to figure it out, was Pillarfield Ox. Once I figured out how you would have a Pillarfield, I was set. Then I said to myself, that’s clever.

Slaughter Cry — In any set with normal goblins, and not Akki or Boggarts or whatever, this card could just have the expansion symbol changed and you would never notice. Other examples include: Spidersilk Net, Turntimber Basilisk, Vines of Vastwood, Spire Barrage, Predatory Urge, Obsidian Fireheart, Mind Sludge, River Boa, AEther Figment, Elemental Appeal, and more.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts. Now, on with the article!

Okay, here’s what the deck wants to do. It wants to drop World Queller, and then win. It can easily win without it, but it is designed to win with it.

For example, you will note the absence of enchantments, artifacts, and planeswalkers in this deck. That way, you can choose them in your upkeep without having to sacrifice one yourself.

Another way is the Decree of Justice. You have a lot of great creatures in your deck that you do not want to sacrifice, but I suspect that World Queller is best used as a pseudo-Abyss on a stick. The best way to get the creature sacrifice, without losing your own, is to make a ton of 1/1 soldiers off a Decree of Justice, and then sac them as needed. You can also swing with them through the newly opened holes in people’s defense as World Queller destroys their board.

Now, I suspect that World Queller will get some hate, so I decided to run a quartet of Emeria, the Sky Ruin, also from Zendikar. These will allow you to put the Queller right back into play as soon as you have enough Plains out. Want to get enough Plains? That’s why I am running a full set of Kor Cartographer, and then Tithe and Eternal Dragon to round out your deck. Note that you can plainscycle an Eternal Dragon, and then bring it back with Emeria right into play without using a lot of mana like the Eternal Dragon recursion normally costs. You can also combine Emeria and World Queller for some power. Sacrifice a Kor Cartographer, then bring it back with Emeria later for a Plains, and keep going.

In fact, this might be a better deck if Kor Cartographer was substituted out for Solemn Simulacrum so you could use the Queller/Emeria combo to draw cards; however, it will give your opponents something to use their artifact destruction cards on, and when you want to use the Queller for artifact control, you will always lose a Simulacrum, even if you don’t want too, so there is some give and take.

This combo is also why Yosei, the Morning Star is in the deck over other flying beaters. You can sac and recur regularly and hose your opponent. Note that you cannot bring back something that you just sacrificed, because targets for Emeria have to be declared at the beginning of your upkeep, before you have resolved your sacrifice. That’s why I included four Yosei, where I usually only play two of a legendary creature in my decks, because with four, you can rely on finding more than one to sac one and bring back another, and just keep it up for the entire game.

Substitute a strong control Angel of your choice for the Yosei if you need to. Maybe Baneslayer, or Exalted Angel, perhaps Pristine Angel or even Blinding Angel would be useful. Whatever you have is sufficient. I just wanted some great control flyer. You can also slip Path to Exile in for Swords to Plowshares, or Crib Swap, or whatever else you have.

I thought Trap Runner was sufficient flavorful in an article about a set with Traps. Since this is a control deck, they have value because they can block anything they can target. You can block flyers, shadow, horsemanship, landwalkers, and any creature that would normally be unblockable, like, say, Deep-Sea Kraken.

Another idea I had would be to add Emeria Angels to the deck, and then use the extra lands you get off Tithe, Kor Cartographer ,and Eternal Dragon to make sure you have enough lands to get 1/1s to sac to World Queller.

Anyway, I think this would be a fun deck to give a spin, so enjoy!

Okay, let’s take a look at what this deck wants to do.

Turn 1 — Pay a Forest, tap it, play either Llanowar or Fyndhorn Elves.
Turn 2 — Play a Forest. Tap it to play Cold-Eyed Selkie.
Turn 3 — Play a Forest. Swing with the Selkie if there is a chance. Otherwise, just play Hystrodon, Cloak, Druid, more Elves, whatever you have.
Turn 4 — Play a Forest. Tap everything to drop Gigantiform on Selkie. Swing, on the 4th turn, with your 8/8 trampler, who draws you a card for each combat damage it deals.

If an opponent has Islands, they are likely dead against your deck. Whispersilk Cloak makes the 8/8 Selkie unable to be killed with targeted burn and unblockable, in case your foes do not have Islands in front of them.

I also have some other creatures that would benefit from Whispersilk Cloaks. Avenging Druid can get you land and Hystrodon can get you a card and deal out three. Also, Silvos with a Cloak can kill quite quickly. Even Arashi with a Cloak can be safe from targeted removal as it taps to kill flyers each turn.

I wanted to have some removal, so this deck packs Acidic Slime for taking out lands, artifacts and enchantments. As a 2/2 with deathtouch, it can also provide some valuable defense against those who might want to come your way. If I had included Indrik Stomphowler as a supplemental creature, and the only artifact/enchantment in play with your own Cloak or Gigantiform, then that would not be cool, so I felt the 2/2 that can take out a land would be the safer play.

Arashi can be a surprise channel to off a large number of flyers, or it can be a nice 5/5 for five mana that can, in a push, be used to tap and kill flyers one by one, while serving on offense or defense.

I think it is interesting that this deck uses cards from my Underused Hall of Fame in Avenging Druid and Hystrodon, simply because it was on theme. Neat!

Enjoy the deck!

Someone is going to build this deck. It seems rather obvious, like WotC all of a sudden decided to push vampires hard, and not just with one set. My guess? When doing M10 they realized that vampires are cool but classically under supported and decided to push them.

There are just two good one-drops, but many good two-drops. I had to leave Child of Night on the sidelines. I went with the Bloodwitch as a finisher, but perhaps you would want to look at something like Ob Nixilis. Perhaps you want to find space for something like Bloodchief Ascension as a one-drop, since there is space at the one-drop level.

The two-drops I played I felt were better than Child of Night. Bloodghast has some built in resistance to removal, the Gatekeeper can get kicked for one mana in order to kill stuff, and the Hexmage is a 2/1 with first strike, which I deemed better than a 2/1 with lifelink, plus she can be sacked to kill a Planeswalker.

Oh, and the deck is Standard legal too. It’s boring, but it’s a deck.

This is why I don’t do aggro decks that often in my column. They are easy to build and easy to play. Play a one-drop. Play a two-drop. Play your only three-drop. Drop Vampire Nocturnus. Win.

Aggro decks tend to build themselves. I mean, take for example, Feast of Blood. It obviously fits in a deck like this, and no other. It’s interesting. It is another example of yet more cards that should be Tribal. But it’s not. This is pretty much the only place you are playing it. If you were playing Black control, there are better control creatures out there than vampires, plus you might not have the density of vampires to run Feast of Blood, and you’d want something that could be played reliably in the early game. Therefore, an aggro vampire deck is about it barring a changeling deck needing more removal or something.

It builds itself.

In last week’s article, I mentioned about how much I really liked Tanglesap, and I knew I wanted to build a deck around it for this week. Oh, and Underused Hall of Fame awesome card Hystrodon also fits in this deck too, so here it is again.

The idea behind this deck is to use Tanglesap for absolute ownership of the combat phase. You want to use it aggressively, if possible. For example, suppose that you have out Primalcrux and Hystrodon. The Primalcrux would be an 8/8 trampler, and the Hystrodon is, of course, a 3/4 trampler. They let the Hystrodon through, and then double block the Crux with their Ashling, the Extinguisher and Flametongue Kavu. That means your Crux would be taking 8, and dying. Then you Tanglesap. Now your Crux takes nothing, still kills both of the creatures that double block it, still deals two trample, and the Hystrodon still deals 3 damage and you draw a card. That’s devastating.

If your opponent attacks with that Ashling, feel free to block with Kodama of the North Tree and then Tanglesap to keep your Kodama alive while Ashling bites it. Brontotherium is great, although a bit expensive, with this strategy. Convoke a foe that you can kill, and if it could kill you back, just Tanglesap.

Now, this deck obviously has a lot of creatures of beef, so I tossed in Llanowar Elves and Yavimaya Elders in order to help your mana out. In addition to Elders and Hystrodon, I added Soul’s Majesty for card drawing in the later game. Note that Soul’s Majesty targets the creature, so you cannot draw cards off Kodama of the North Tree.

Gleancrawler is a great two-of, because it can allow you to recycle your creatures. It loves Yavimaya Elder.

Mold Shambler is the only creature in here meant to go to the red zone that does not have trample. I am playing it much like Acidic Slime in a previous deck: in order to kill an opposing card. This guy can also off planeswalkers in addition to lands, artifacts, and enchantments.

Like I said before, Tanglesap is just a really neat card because it is a Fog for Johnnies. Also, it is fun to compare and contrast this deck to the Vampire deck above. Both are aggro decks, but one was obvious to build and the other took some thought and care to craft.

And that brings us to the close of another article. Four decks for your interest and perusal have been written, and perhaps one or more will tweak your own creative juices. As always feel free to modify my decks based on the way you want to take them and your card pool. Enjoy!

Until later…

Abe Sargent