This is the third installment in my series on rogue decks for Standard. I’m building new decks, testing them for a couple of days, then passing them on to you.
There are a couple of points I like to make each week before going into the deck: By the very nature of this project, the decks contained in these articles are not properly tested. If one of them strikes your fancy and you want to play it at Regionals, do your homework first. Test the deck and sideboarding plans. See for yourself if it can hold its own in the expected metagame.
I also believe these decks to be new creations – but with six million Magic players out there, you never know. There will certainly be similar decks, and possibly nearly identical builds. Even if that proves to be the case, it is definitely worth noting that I built these decks without outside influence – so in the worst-case scenario, at least you’re getting my take on the deck!
This week’s deck has a bit of story behind it. After trying out some less-than-exciting new beatdown deck designs, I decided to do a brainstorming session. I looked up every card in Standard, and made a list of weird stuff I might be able to work with. After playing around with a few concepts, one deck stood out as having a lot of potential.
The deck in question revolved around Verdant Succession. It had Ravenous Baloths, lots of elves, Elvish Soultiller, and Nantuko Husk. The initial build was quite strong, performing much better than a deck normally does in the early stages of development.
I was playing matches with it, and tweaking the deck and sideboard – and then one of my opponents asked me if my deck was”that Soultiller deck” they had read about online.
Great. I finally had the deck I wanted to write about, and someone else had already come up with it! I checked out the article in question, and indeed many of the concepts I was working on were already there. After some thought, I decided not to give up on the deck as the focus of an article. There were two reasons: First, I was using a lot of different cards, and secondly, I was beating the decks that made a lot of people give up on the deck.
Okay; now that I have all that out of the way, on to the deck of the week:
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Birchlore Rangers
4 Wirewood Herald
1 Gempalm Strider
4 Wirewood Hivemaster
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Caller of the Claw
4 Ravenous Baloth
2 Fallen Angel
4 Verdant Succession
2 Elvish Soultiller
4 City of Brass
(Editor’s Note: I asked Rob for his sideboard, and he had this to say:”I want to do the sideboard and sideboarding plans together in part 2. As with all my decks, the sideboard cards have important jobs to do, and some of my plans are very non-intuitive. I felt giving the sideboard without the plans would just confuse people and lead to a lot of erroneous feedback.”
(Fair enough! Rob says he’ll have Part 2 in early next week – The Ferrett)
In addition to being incredibly fun to play, Elvish Succession is a very powerful deck. I’ve had better results with this deck than any other deck I’ve tested in the current Standard. If I were playing in Regionals, this would be the deck I would play.
So what do I mean by fun and powerful? I mean drawing your deck as early at turn 4, having infinite mana, gaining infinite life, having infinitely-large Husks, Elves, and Fallen Angels, creating infinite bear and insect tokens, and rebuilding your library into all creatures whenever you like.
The general idea of the combo is pretty simple, but there are a lot of steps. The simplified explanation is you sacrifice Elves to the Husk, getting replacements with the Succession and using the Herald to get elves you need in your hand. You then tap the new elves for mana with the Rangers. Do this till you have five mana to play the Soultiller you got with the Heralds. Sack the Soultiller, getting a replacement, to put all the elves back in your library, so that you can continue generating mana. You can then cycle the Gempalm repeatedly to draw cards, play a Hivemaster to generate insects, play Baloths to gain life, and eventually cast a Caller, getting millions of bears.
I’ll walk you though the combo, step by step. This is going to be a long and painful process, but it may prove to be a helpful reference the first few times you test with the deck. Feel free to skim this section and reference back to it when you need to.
The ideal opening would be turn 1 Llanowar, turn 2 Ranger, Herald, turn 3 Succession, Turn 4 Husk. You now have”the combo” in play.
I’m going to walk through this scenario assuming you didn’t have a land to play on turn 4. On turn 4, you tap your Elves for two mana and one land to cast the Husk, leaving you with two land open.
You sacrifice your first Rangers and your first Herald to your Husk. The Succession triggers for each one, and you put your second Rangers and second Herald from your deck into play. Sacking Herald #1 also allows you to search your library for an elf and put it into your hand – in this case, a Caller of the Claw.
Tap Herald #2 and Ranger #2 for a green mana. You now have one green mana in your mana pool, and two untapped land.
Sacrifice Herald #2 and Llanowar Elf #2, putting Llanowar Elf #3 and Herald #3 in play, and use Herald #2’s ability to get a Elvish Soultiller. Tap Llanowar Elf #3 and Herald #3 for a green mana. You now have three green mana in your mana pool and two untapped lands.
Tap the two lands, giving you five mana total, and cast the Soultiller. You now have a Herald, a Llanowar, a Ranger, and a Soultiller in play. Sacrifice all four elves and the Soultiller last. When you sacrifice the Soultiller, put the Succession on the stack first, then put the Soultiller’s ability on the stack and name”Elves” when it resolves. This way you will shuffle all your elves in the graveyard (including the Soultiller) back into your library before the Succession gets replacements. Use your Herald to get your Gempalm.
Tap your four new elves for two mana, and sack them all again. You have two mana. You can continue this process as many times as you wish, getting 2 mana each time. It’s a good idea to keep your mana pool at a manageable level, incase they have some way to break up your combo.
You can cycle your Gempalm to draw a card for four mana. The next time you do the two mana cycle, the Gempalm will go back into your deck from the Soultiller’s ability, and you can fetch him again with the Herald’s ability.
Repeat this process to draw cards until you have a Baloth in hand. Play the Baloth.
Use a Herald to get your second Soultiller. Play your second Soultiller.
Sacrifice a Baloth, getting four life and a replacement with the Succession.
Sacrifice one of your Soultillers, naming Beasts. Put your Baloths in your graveyard back into your library.
Sacrifice your other Soultiller. This time it very important to put the Succession on the stack first, then put the Soultiller’s ability on the stack (naming”Elves” when it resolves). The Soultiller’s ability will put both your Soultillers back in your deck, so you have one to put into play with the Successions ability.
You can repeat this Baloth loop an many times as you wish, gaining infinite life.
At any time in the process, you can use a Herald to fetch a Hivemaster and play the Hivemaster. Every time an elf comes into play (from Succession or otherwise), you get an insect, thus generating infinite insects.
When you have gained all the life you want to gain, play your Caller of the Call and get a Bear for each of your creatures you put in the graveyard this turn. Given that you were doing infinite loops, that’s infinite bears.
Knowing If You Can Go Infinite
Now you know that if you can get out a Herald, a Soultiller, and Ranger with a way to sacrifice them and a Succession you can go infinite. You can use Heralds to get the Ranger and the Soultiller, so all you really need is the Herald, the Succession, and a way to sacrifice creatures.
You will frequently get out the magic trinity and need to know if you can go infinite that turn, or whether you need to set up for next turn.
It takes five mana to cast a Soultiller. You need to have a Herald left in play when the Soultiller comes out. If you can search up the elves you need without sacrificing your fourth Herald, and you can get to five mana, you can go infinite.
With the Herald-Succession-Husk combo, you can”farm” mana out of your deck. You sack the Gerald to get a Ranger, tap those two, sack them to get a Llanowar, play the Llanowar, and you can continue as I laid out in the Walkthrough section above.
The amount of mana you can farm out of your deck is equal to half the number of untapped elves you will have in play when you get the Rangers out, plus half the elves in your library of types you have in play (or are going to cast), minus the casting cost of any elves you have to play.
The half is due to having to tap two elves to get one mana with the Rangers. This half means that fetching a Hivemaster with a Herald won’t gain you mana. You’ll lose two mana by casting the first one, and assuming you have enough other elves to go with them, you get two mana by tapping them.
In the case where you have a Herald in play, and no elves in hand or in your graveyard, you will have two untapped elves when you play the Ranger you get by sacking the first Herald. That’s one mana. You will have nine elves in your deck of the types you have in play or will be playing (four Llanowar, two more Heralds, and three more Rangers). That’s 4.5 mana. You have to cast the first Ranger and the first Llanowar. That’s minus two mana.
1 + 4.5 – 2 = 3.5.
Obviously, you can’t get half a mana, so drop the fraction. You can get +3 mana out of your deck.
That means in this scenario, you would have to have at least two untapped land to go infinite that turn.
Going Infinite without the Herald
There are a some infinite combos you can do without the Herald, all of which involve the Soultiller. They are not as cool as the full combo, but your opponent will be just as dead.
With a Soultiller, a Succession, and a Husk or Angel, you can make the Husk or Angel infinitely large by repeatedly sacrificing the Soultiller.
With a Soultiller, a Wirewood Hivemaster, a Succession, and a Husk or Angel, you can make infinite insects. You sacrifice the Soultiller repeatedly, generating an insect every time the Soultiller comes back into play.
With a Soultiller, a Caller of the Claw, a Succession, and a Husk or Angel, you can make infinite bears. You sacrifice the Soultiller repeatedly, then sacrifice the Caller (or play a Caller from your hand) and get a bear for each elf you sacrificed.
Who Needs Combos?
There are two kinds of combo decks I like. The first is a combo deck that is incredibly redundant, so it gets its combo reliably. The second is a combo deck that is powerful even without the combo. Elvish Succession falls into the latter category; this deck is full of good creatures that work well together. I’ve smashed many an opponent without ever seeing a Succession.
I’ve got a lot more to tell about this deck in my next article, including the sideboard, card analyses, and strategies versus all the major decks. Watch for it early next week.