The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

After doing Avacyn Restored set reviews with Evan Erwin, 2010 Player of the Year Brad Nelson was inspired to brew up some Standard “Magical Christmasland” decks. Go big or go home at SCG Open Series: Providence!

Avacyn Restored is finally here. The packs have been opened, the cards have been played with, and the set is now legal for sanctioned play. Best of all, the world of Innistrad is finally safe from the ghouls that haunt the night! I don’t know what it is, but this set has lit a fire inside of me that few have before. All I have been able to do lately is brew up more Constructed decks to try out in the coming weeks.

The problem is I have been hanging out with Evan Erwin in Magical Christmas Land and have gotten snowed in. I guess there is a down side to co-hosting the set reviews with him after all. This week I will showcase some sweet strategies that hopefully will make their way outside of the winter wonderland and on to tournament tables everywhere. Let’s do it!


This deck sets the tone for today, and that is go big or go home. Frites has always been a powerful deck, except that it rarely killed the turn you played Unburial Rites. Control decks could bide their time and react to you only when you finally did something. Well, you’re doing something now. You’re killing them dead.

Craterhoof Behemoth is a beast, and I’m not just talking about his creature type. This guy hits the board and with a low, low price of just three untapped Lingering Souls tokens, you are sending a minimum of 24 trampling damage at your opponent’s face. Adding just two more guys ready to bear arms makes it a total of 49 damage. Do you see where this is going?

Everyone, including past me, is talking about how Cavern of Souls is going to change the environment, and they are all correct. Countermagic is going to be leaned on less and less while mass removal spells are going to be used more and more. This makes it a decent time to change the creature base in a deck like Frites since it will be more difficult for your opponent to interact with you on your turn.

The sideboard is probably my favorite part of the deck. Solar Flare is going to become more popular, so people will end up having more graveyard interaction as time goes on. This makes changing things up in Frites very important. A simple swap for cheaper trampling monsters allows us to just play a completely different game against our opponents. Instead of trying to Unburial Rites a Craterhoof Behemoth, we will just Primeval Titan up an Inkmoth Nexus and Kessig Wolf Run for some old school infecting.

-Can deal nineteen damage on turn 3.

-Has a transitional sideboard.

-Has the ability to deal more damage than you can even count up to.

-Casts only fun spells.

Magical Christmas Land Rating: 8

Griselbrand Combo 

It’s really nice to say the word combo again. Not only does the word combo just roll off the tongue, but so does "Griselbrand," "Zombie Infestation," and, "I’ll gain 21." I played this deck in a playtesting video with Gerry a couple weeks ago and found that this deck was more fun than anything I have played in a very long time. I forgot what it was like to draw way too many cards and have an outlet to use them all. I was only missing a few key components to make the deck much better.

The first thing I added was Vault of the Archangel after some of you guys told me how good it would be. This land provides more life to continue drawing cards if your opponent ends up Wrathing them all away. It is a must have in this deck.

The other card added to the maindeck is Day of Judgment. The deck was missing a mass removal spell the last time I played this deck. I would always try to set up my combo, but I had very few ways to interact with a couple good creatures on the board. By the time I did, in fact, start doing something, Gerry would just have a better board position, and my life total would not be very high. I then couldn’t make Zombie tokens and would eventually pack it up while cursing Gerry’s name for playing such a spike deck.

Last but not least is Stony Silence. You know, that one card that doesn’t do anything. Stony Silence actually fits the sideboard for this deck fairly well. Nihil Spellbomb kills your graveyard interaction while Ratchet Bomb stops any swarm of Zombie tokens from ripping off your opponent’s face. I could just say that being forced to play Stony Silence in my sideboard makes this deck a bad choice, but not while we are in Magical Christmas Land!

-Is a friggin’ combo!

-Has Zombie Infestation in it.

-Has Necrotic Ooze in it.

-Able to say, "Draw fourteen," almost every game.

Magical Christmas Land Rating: 7

Can’t Touch This

Welcome to the dark side of Magical Christmas Land. Instead of leaning on card advantage, graveyards, or other things, this deck relies on not ever having to interact with its opponent. All this deck wants to do is play a guy, make it bigger, and then make it even bigger.

Hexproof is a very powerful ability in a format filled with pump effects, so a deck like this isn’t even that Magical Christmas Landish. Sword of War and Peace is very strong against control decks, while Increasing Savagery is good against ramp strategies. Both of these cards are good on Invisible Stalker, and the entire deck is great at filling your opponent’s complaint bank.

The reason a deck like this can be so powerful is that it is just ignores what your opponent is doing at all times. You simply want to play out all of your early guys and beef them up in some way. It really doesn’t matter how. Hexproof insures that you won’t get blown out by Vapor Snag, which means that your opponent will have to race you instead. That is a difficult thing to do when Sword of War and Peace gains life every turn as well as Increasing Savagery being a one-shot kill out of the graveyard.

-Hits harder than any other deck in the format.

-Resembles the old school Mythic decks.

-Plays Increasing Savagery.

-Get to do the M.C. Hammer dance after every win.

Magic Christmas Land Rating: 5

U/W Humans

You could say it is a stretch putting Humans in Magical Christmas Land, but I think this list falls in that category. The only reason for this is the deck finally gets to play Mutagenic Growth! I have always been in love with the idea of using this pump spell to give my Mirran Crusader double strike, but the stupid guy has protection from green. This is no longer the case with Silverblade Paladin in the deck, making this pump spell an absolute must have.

Primeval Titan decks are going to get more popular, and Humans has always had the upper hand in that matchup with the correct tools. This version of the deck has exactly what you need to make it a good fight.

I have always been a big fan of Grand Abolisher and Angelic Destiny, but the metagame never called for this combo before. I think the time is finally right again to be battling with these specific cards, and this deck can deal quite a lot of damage if unchecked for a turn or two.

-Casts Mutagenic Growth on your double strike creatures.

-Gives double strike to other creatures.

-Hell, just getting to play with Silverblade Paladin!

Magical Christmas Land Rating: 3

The last thing I want to talk about is a sweet four-card combo with cards just from the new set. If this isn’t Magical Christmas Land, nothing is.

Did you figure it out already? What you do is put Dual Casting on Captain of the Mists. After that happens and you get to untap with it and you’re not dead, you have to have a total of seven lands or the ability to produce seven mana. You play Thatcher Revolt and while it’s on the stack cast Battle Hymn. Now you copy the Thatcher Revolt with your Captain of the Mists and let the copy resolve. This creates three triggers for your Captain, and you use one of them to copy Battle Hymn and the other two to produce more tokens. You do this until your opponent is dead or you have a sweet X spell in hand.

This is by far the most difficult combo to put together and will probably never see the light of day, but it’s really interesting that there is such a sweet combo right there in a single set. I really want to make this work in some way since there’s a million ways to try to do it. You can Lightning Mauler to not only help out with using a first Battle Hymn as just a Ritual to start the combo but have the haste you need to do it all in one turn. It will probably be too mana intensive, but if you’re just looking to have fun at FNM I think this would be fun to work on for a while.

That’s all the time I have for this week and boy what a week it was. Five set review videos with Evan Erwin, GBTV and playtesting with Gerry, and an article about some sweet decks. On top of all of this is playtesting for the upcoming Pro Tour. I am ready for an overdue nap and some R&R, but there’s no time to stop when there’s $40,000 and Pro Tour glory at stake. I hope you guys have enjoyed my first month of being in Roanoke and my content with Gerry and Evan. So far it’s a blast, and I look forward to making it even better as I go along. See you guys next week!

Brad Nelson