The Kitchen Table #319 – The Great Equinaut Update

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Wednesday, January 6th – I want to introduce you to an old subject. Today’s deck may need no introduction to older readers of my column. However, the last article I wrote on Equinaut was back in January of 07, three years ago. It’s time for an update on my favorite 60-card deck of all time.

Good morning folks, and welcome back to the column that explores all things casual. Today I want to invite you in, pull out a chair, and talk about the good old days. The subject of the discourse will be an old friend. So instead of four or five paragraphs of opening talk about the weather and football and such, let’s just get into the article!

I want to introduce you to an old subject. Today’s deck may need no introduction to older readers of my column. However, the last article I wrote on Equinaut was back in January of 07, three years ago. It’s time for an update on my favorite 60-card deck of all time.

I created Equinaut for a Type Two tournament that was held back during the days of Invasion Block, after Apocalypse had been released. The key cards were from that block, or the core set at the time.

I played the deck a lot, loved it, and got a lot of compliments from those who saw it in action. It’s very smooth, and great fun.

On February 2, 2005, for one of my daily articles, I wrote up Equinaut and sent it out.

It was a big hit, and a lot of people said that it was fun to play and looked like a great deck. Then in March 6, 2006, I published an article updating Equinaut, and going outside the box in several ways.

Again, this was very popular. I have written up hundreds of 60-card decks for my column, but Equinaut has always been my best. I caught people making it and playing it online, in real life, etc. I would write the occasional Equinaut update in other articles, but eventually, in Jan 18, 2007, I felt the need to write the final (at the time) word on Equinaut in an Equinaut Primer .

For my last two anniversary articles (250 and 300), I really considered doing today’s article. Equinaut is the 60-card deck most associated with me, and it’s a ton of fun. Today, what I will be doing is showing you a sample Equinaut, going over the cards that have been released since the last article that are good for it, and then going over them for you.

Sample Updated Equinaut

4 Equilibrium
4 Fleetfoot Panther
2 Mystic Snake
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Watchwolf
1 Momir Vig, Simic Visionary
1 Tolsimir Wolfblood
2 Wilt-Leaf Liege
2 Eternal Witness
2 Stonecloaker
2 Azorius Aethermage
2 Civic Wayfinder
2 Loxodon Hierarch
2 Kor Sanctifier
2 Yavimaya Coast
4 Rupture Spire
4 Seaside Haven
6 Island
4 Plains
6 Forest

Okay, this is a less tricked out version of modern Equinaut. We will talk more about other ways to trick it out. However, I hope the idea is here. Using Fleetfoot Panther and Equlibrium, you want to self bounce some great creatures to establish dominance, protect your flock, bounce your foes, gain card advantage, and draw cards.

Your deck is fun, kills with aplomb, and people like seeing it in play. Trust me.

I am not going to go into too much detail on how to play the deck, because other articles do that, and I don’t have the space for it today. It’s powerful and not with the usual suspects. That’s why it is fun. Click on a card and figure out how to abuse it here, then click on another card. You folks are smart enough to figure out most of it.

With that out of the way, let’s move to looking at the new cards that are options for Equinaut.

Understand that since this was published last three years ago, there have been a lot of cards published since then. When the primer was written, Time Spiral was the most recent set, so let’s look at what became available since then.

The New Stuff

The Self-Gating Creatures — Fleetfoot Panther does a lot of things for you. He can be played as a surprise blocker, end of the turn bounce with Equilibrium, bringing back an ETB/CIP creature for another go, saving a creature from removal, etc. Because he is so useful, people worked hard to try and find out if other self gaters were good too, like Arctic Merfolk or Sawtooth Loon, but Planeshift was released and introduced it as a White mechanic. As you can see, my updated version has two Stonecloakers. You could also run Whitemane Lion, Dust Elemental, or Stormfront Riders. Since the Riders lack flash, I don’t usually consider them in the same way. Their ability is great, but it is not to save and help your team, but like Momir Vig or an Aethermage that makes the deck that much better. You could play it there.

The Lion’s cheap cost is great, because having a cheaper Kitty is amazing. I like the Stonecloaker because I want flyers in my deck. You could even slide out of Death Kitty altogether and play Cloakers and Lions instead. This would enable you to play mono-Blue creatures too.

With Azorius Aethermage out, you can play Lion for 1W, bounce itself, and pay 1 to draw a card, making it a 2W buyback Whispers of the Muse. With Equilibrium out, you can spend that extra one instead to bounce an opposing creature. If you have out both, 3W becomes a Whispers of the Muse with buyback and an Unsummon with buyback. That is very powerful, and it continues. Have out an Opposition? Then it becomes 3W for a Twiddle, Unsummon, and Whispers of the Muse — all with buyback used. With Stormfront Riders out you also make a 1/1, etc.

Did Planar Chaos bring any other goodies?

Voidstone Gargoyle — The initial version of my deck ran 4 Meddling Mage. This is more expensive, but more powerful. You can bounce it back and play it naming something else if the game state changes.

Aven Riftwatcher — Bouncing and rebouncing this flyer is a lot of fun, you can save it from death by doing it, and gain a ton of life. You also like flyers, because they can get hits through, especially when backed by things like Tolsimir Wolfblood. There’s not really anything else in Planar Chaos that is great for Equinaut, although you might find uses for something like Deadwood Treefolk or Body Double.

What about Future Sight?

Tarmogoyf — The reason that Watchwolf is in my deck is because cheap beaters are a good thing. You can use them to activate stuff like Equilibrium easily, and they are great defense or offense early as well as late. The problem with Tarmogoyf, is that in the deck above, he’s not that great. Without sac lands, sorceries, just two instants, no artifacts, and just 4 enchantments, plus an Eternal Witness recursion engine grabbing the stuff from your ‘Yard and Stonecloaker removing stuff, Tarmogoyf is not going to be getting much bigger because of you. Now, some versions of Equinaut certainly will want them, no question, but in many decks, Watchwolf will be simpler, easier, and more reliable.

Heartwood Storyteller — Since many versions of Equinaut may have a small number of non-creatures, this has increased value. My original Equinaut had Absorb, Counterspell, Eladamri’s Call, Dismantling Blow, and Fact or Fiction in the deck, plus Equilibrium. Today, it rocks only a few non-creatures.

Seht’s Tiger — It’s great to use, and then bounce back and reuse if needed. It keeps you safe from burn, discard, etc.

Venser, Shaper Savant — I talked about Man-o’-War in the Primer, and it has value but since it is not bounce-able by a Death Kitty, I recommended against it. Now that you can have a viable Death Kitty-free Equinaut, cards like the Man-o’-War, Venser, and another in the next set make for some serious power and consideration.

What about the next block?

Aethersnipe — Like Man-o’-War but too expensive for my tastes.

Mulldrifter — This is the obvious power card from Lorwyn. This is the reason to consider sliding to Death Kitty freedom. Forget more bouncing, imagine instead Mulldrifter abuse. I believe you can stack the sacrifice of evoke, and then Whitemane Lion in response and activate Equilibrium, returning the Drifter to your hand and then self-bouncing the Lion once it enters play. That’s power.

Guardian of Cloverdell, Benthicore, Cloudgoat Ranger, Ambassador Oak– Playing one of these, and then bouncing ad nauseam can give you many more creatures, which is especially brilliant if you are rocking Opposition or Glare of Subdual. Some of these, Cloudgoat Ranger I’m looking at you, are better than others.

Cream of the Crop — You can use this to sift through your deck and find the right stuff. It doesn’t have enough power for my taste, but it is there.

Familiar’s Ruse — If you ever wanted to slide back into a Counterspell, the Ruse seems like a great choice. Counter target spell and self bounce, restarting a chain that can keep you alive and counting.

Masked Admirers — They are half of a Mulldrifter, Green for your Death Kitty, bigger, self recur, and cost less but don’t fly, can’t evoke, and get you just one card. I like ‘em.

Mirror Entity — Since your deck has so many creatures, and they are all smaller ones except a few, wouldn’t it be great to turn them all into 9/9 beaters for a turn, just to alpha strike a player or three?

Reveillark — On the bounce, this can be quite powerful. In fact, it may make your deck something else. Recurring, to play, two small creatures is something quite beautiful. I used to run things like Saffi Eriksdotter to protect my important critters, but this will do the same for the important ones like Aethermagi or Momir Vig or Eternal Witness or Mystic Snake and such.

Sower of Temptation — Not bad at all, but when you bounce the Sower, the creature goes. You’d rather bounce their creature than steal it, in my opinion. This is not as good as you might think it is.

And the next block?

Wilt-Leaf Liege — As can be seen from above, I consider these to be good enough to play, easily. With a Death Kitty creature base, all of your creatures are Green and/or White anyway, and that makes this 4/4 beater even better. Play them, stack them, love them!

Kitchen Finks — These are very hot, and have established themselves as really good ever since they were released. Feel free to add them to your Equinaut build, they give you power, life, respect, and early beats.

Wistful Selkie — See Masked Admirers above, but even cheaper, and without the self recursion.

Acidic Ooze — I know it’s not technically in that block, but it does warrant conversation. Like Indrik Stomphowler, at five mana, it becomes much harder to regularly abuse. Unlike the Stomphowler, it’s not a beater, but it can also handle lands. Personally, I don’t like the 5 mana abuse creatures, but perhaps you will. If so, this is one of the best to consider.

Baneslayer Angel — Even though none of its abilities work that well with the deck, it’s a powerful beater at the high end of your curve that will easily wrench games away from the unprepared, and thus it would not be out of place in the deck. Equinaut is ultimately about three sorts of things — mana conscious cheap beats, recur ETB abuse, and keeping your opponent’s creatures bounced or tapped so you can get through.

What about the last four sets?

Seaside Citadel — I don’t care what dual lands you manage to add, or what fetch lands you have, this deck wants Seaside Citadel as a 4 of. I’ll skip past other lands, play whatever you have, but I just wanted to make sure you saw the land here. I dropped in some Rupture Spires in the above deck too.

Ranger of Eos — You would need a wacky Equinaut build for this to be useful, but it’s there as a tool, just in case.

Wargate — What is right in your colors and allows you to get Opposition, Equilibrium, Momir Vig, an Aethermage, or any other creature from your deck as you have need, right into play? Wargate, for all of your gating needs.

Knight of the Reliquary — Tapping it to sac a Forest or Plains for the right color is very powerful, and the creature will only get bigger as you do. It has the right colors, but it might be a little too slow for many tastes.

Qasali Pridemage — There are a lot of people who might prefer this over Watchwolf in the deck. Not me, but there are some versions of Equinaut that would be great for. Exalted is good, but in a deck with 32 creatures, it has a diminished capacity for use. In Legacy with 16 or 18 creatures in a deck, yay Exalted, but here? Plus, sacrificing is not that synergetic in this version of the deck. Now, rock fewer creatures and things like Reveillark, and you have a different deck and the Pridemage would be better than the Watchwolf, but I prefer straight up beatings of the wolf in the above deck.

Rafiq of the Many — Like the Pridemage above, his abilities aren’t as great here. In my original Equinaut, with all of its spells, Rafiq would be broken.

Giltspire Avenger — The same exalted comments above work here, and its ability is not that great in your deck.

Noble Hierarch — Let’s finish up our exalted discussion. In almost every way, this is better than Birds, no question. The only downside is that Birds fly, and you can pump them with your lords and swing for damage in the air. Noble Hierarchs are probably better for your deck if you have some to spare. Also, a few decks will splash another color, and in those cases Birds are better. For example, I ran a deck that had City of Brass as its lands, and tossed in Thornscape Battlemage knowing that the Cities and Birds would make that Red kicker for me. Birds would be better than Noble Hierarch in that sort of deck too.

Rhox War Monk — I like efficient solid beaters, but if the deck needs more Watchwolves then I’d rather run Tarmogoyf. Of course, you may not have Tarmogoyfs, which makes this a very solid choice indeed, for the quick beats. However, if you are willing to wait to four mana for a powerful beater, remember you can still run Mystic Enforcer.

Sages of the Anima — Wow, you will be drawing cards. However, you will never draw a non-creature again, so only good once you are set up and have enough mana. Quick hint — you will never have enough mana.

Messenger Falcons — See Wistful Selkie above, only with flying and more expensive.

Kor Sanctifiers — One less mana to abuse than a Stomphowlers, and when you just need or want a creature to rebounce and replay in order to use things like Aethermagi or Equilibriums, it costs one less. That makes this, to my mind, the best ETB Naturalize you can have for your deck, and thus it is the first card to ever replace the Dismantling Blows I usually played in this deck.

Knight of New Alara — Some of my decks have a very Green/White creature base, with many gold creatures. If that is the case for you, then this is suddenly mega powerful. It’s more powerful than a lot of other options. 4 Knights of New Alara, and 4 Wilt-Leaf Liege can turn Watchwolf, Saffi, Mystic Snake, Fleetfoot, and more into mega damage dealers.

Jenara, Asura of War — As I have mentioned before, your deck wants a few flyers. I play Serra Avenger in a few. This may be better. Tolsimir and the Lieges and the Knights of New Alara like it more, and it can quickly be on a size to embarrass Akroma. It’s also cheap and that makes it useful as a bounce creature.

Grizzled Leotau — If I set out to make a multiplayer friendly version of Equinaut, I would start here with the Grizzled Leotau. I’d also look at stuff like Wall of Denial.

Dauntless Escort — Like Loxodon Hierarch before it, this is a “Save the Team” card. It is cheaper and this likes to bounce, it is absolutely the right colors, and you don’t have to save mana to use its ability. However, it does not have a ETB ability you can abuse nor does it bring anything to a deck full of three-power creatures.

Whew! 43 cards reviewed, and we are almost done. Equinaut really is a blast of fun to play, and if you want to rock it, make sure to check out the Primer linked to near the beginning of the article. It will give you ideas on all of the other things you can do with the deck. See you next week!

Until later…

Abe Sargent