Tribal Thriftiness #38: A Chroma Angel of Fury

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Thursday, August 28th – Yes, it’s a horrible play on words, but as any reader of Dave knows, those are really the only kinds of puns he knows. This week, Dave digs into ways to make Eventide’s stepchild mechanic, Chroma, a viable deckbuilding strategy, and builds decks around three of the cheap-as-chips Chroma rares.

When Eventide was first being spoiled, one of the first things that came out was a foreign version of Umbra Stalker. It wasn’t long before the masses put it together with Future Sight’s Phosphorescent Feast and had the basis of the mechanic all outlined. Even if they didn’t have the specific cards, speculation was rampant about what other colors would count, where they would count, and what the cards would do.

What we got, however, was probably not exactly what we had dreamed.

Besides the two cards we already knew, Eventide only had seven other Chroma cards, with Red getting the lion’s share at three. The cycle of rares, especially, seemed to be primarily Limited fodder, which is a shame. Luckily, this also puts them all into the “cheap rare” range, which makes them great for this column.

Taking Umbrage

Let’s start with the big Black menace that started it all. Umbra Stalker ($1) is in the basement for quite a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that, for seven mana, the Stalker comes with absolutely nothing built in but the variable power and toughness. That being said, Umbra Stalker certainly stands up as a big finisher with little way to disrupt his growth – for instance, where Primalcrux starts out big but gets smaller as his buddies buy the farm, Umbra Stalker just keeps getting bigger – buddies dying, spells cast, whatever. He’s also immune to Black’s usual ‘non-Black’ removal, and in the late game he’s practically unburnable.

All of the Chroma cards want cards with more than one colored symbol, so the deck should focus on Black control elements that have two or more Black symbols – cards like Distress and Smallpox to give an initial burst of discard, and Sudden Death, Nekrataal, and Shriekmaw for creature control.

Rare Cost Summary:
Umbra Stalker ($1.00 x 4 = $4.00)

A lot of the card choices certainly are made because of their “Chroma Number”: Phthisis is expensive as all heck, but its Chroma Number is a whopping FOUR, and is good value in this day and age where just about every deck you’ll play will have some sort of target. Similarly, Wasp Lancer makes up the last of the creature base because it’s a three, where the actual purposeful creatures are only twos and ones. I toyed around with Whispersilk Cloak to get the Umbra Stalker through, but in the end, I opted for Traitor’s Clutch because it adds to the Chroma while still being reusable.

Rares You Could Add, If You Have Them: Acting as a control deck, the best possible rare to add is Damnation, because this deck is definitely lacking a board-sweeper. Final Revels just ain’t gonna cut it, especially since it’s a One-Chroma card. I mean, at least Soul Snuffers are 2’s, and should be in the sideboard or maindeck.

Slave to the Grind

Most of the guesses surrounding the Blue Chroma card had it having to do with either drawing cards or countering spells, two things Blue is notorious for. Sanity Grinding ($1.50) had to come as a surprise, as an aggressively-costed mill spell. On the surface, assuming that everything in this deck has at least one Blue mana symbol, even at three mana, you may be hard-pressed to mill enough even after casting ALL FOUR Sanity Grindings. A Sanity Grinding deck, therefore, really needs to make sure that it hits double-Blue casting costs (at least!) on as many cards as possible.

Due to the need for multi-Blue symbols, the deck is probably going to rely on bounce spells more than actual removal. Wipe Away and Boomerang are both options there. Defensive creatures like Plumeveil and Crag Puca could be considered, and Shaper Parasite is a form of removal while still adding to the Chroma strategy. Counterspells like Cancel or Faerie Trickery are 2’s as well, and so is Careful Consideration.

Rare Cost Summary:
Aeon Chronicler ($2.00 x 3 = $6.00)
Sanity Grinding ($1.50 x 4 = $6.00)
Inundate ($1.00 x 2 = $2.00)

Riftwing Cloudskate is a nice creature, serving double-purpose while being a 2-Chroma guy. The average Chroma is 1.46, which means that two Grindings should turn over (on average) 30 cards, and that should be good enough to win most games.

Rares You Could Add, If You Have Them: Cryptic Command seems to be an easy add, as a 3-Chroma as well as a more flexible counterspell. Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir ($4) is a good Wizardly type of dude to have around; so probably is Arcanis the Omnipotent ($2), and cheap enough to have made the decklist I just put up. Oops.

Pilot to Bombardier

Having drafted and played Fiery Bombardment ($1) in a couple of drafts, I certainly understand its power in a Limited format, where oftentimes the game can come down to squeaking in an extra point of damage here or there. Fiery Bombardment lets you trade your smaller creatures for larger creatures as well. But how does Fiery Bombardment translate into the Constructed world?

Fiery Bombardment struggles with a greater limitation than Sanity Grinding or Umbra Stalker in that it only works with creatures, and those creatures have to be in play already. Is Fiery Bombardment acceptable if you’re sacrificing, say, Boggart Ram-Gang for another three damage? Is it worthwhile to just have it as a static Incinerate generator that uses dying creatures as fodder?

Well, it could be, but that wouldn’t make for a very fun deck.

Fiery Bombardment’s best friend has to be Mindwrack Liege ($2). It plays into the idea of the deck (getting creatures into play), has a decent Chroma value itself, and gives you an instant-speed (albeit expensive) source of “surprise damage”. The standard Red three-drops, Ashenmoor Gouger and Boggart Ram-Gang, are still good value in this deck, where they can act as an Incinerate on their way out.

Rare Cost Summary:
Fiery Bombardment ($1.00 x 4 = $4.00)
Mindwrack Liege ($2.00 x 4 = $8.00)
Pardic Dragon ($1.00 x 4 = $4.00)
Akroma, Angel of Fury ($5.00 x 2 = $10.00)

I especially like Murderous Redcap in this deck. He comes into play, deals 2 damage, Bombards for 2, comes BACK into play thanks to Persist and does another 1, then Bombards AGAIN for 2, for a total of 7 damage. Sure, it’s eight mana all said and done, but it’s only one card, and you have flexibility as well. Red Akroma gives you a big finisher that’s hard to take off the field, and who can still Morph early if you need another early creature. I don’t think you will, though.

Rares You Could Add, If You Have Them: Obviously Demigod of Revenge ($12.50) is huge in this deck, for much the same reason as Murderous Redcap is – because you can get him back and reuse him over and over. Pre-combat, with one Demigod in play and a second in hand, you’re going to do a LOT of damage. Deus of Calamity ($3.50) is another great five-Chroma guy to sit at the top of your mana curve, although I like Akroma better. Stigma Lasher ($6) could be used to replace Pyre Charger; he’s especially expendable once he’s turned off your opponent’s lifegain.

Next week we’ll tackle Primalcrux and Light from Within, so we can dedicate some column inches to the CCCP, which has been on the sidelines for a couple of weeks now.

Back In The CCCP

First, let’s dispense with the formalities: The purpose of the CCCP project is to build a Cube based as much on the “Greatest Hits” of commons as possible, without necessarily excluding amazing uncommons as well. 50 cards in each color, 20% uncommon, 60% creatures.

When last we left the CCCP, we were discussing Blue creatures. After suggestions in email and on the forums, here’s where I’m going to start with the Blue creatures:

1cc: Faerie Squadron, Flying Men, Martyr of Frost, Mothdust Changeling, Trickster Mage
2cc: Aquamoeba, Cloud of Faeries, Fathom Seer, Merfolk Looter, Spiketail Hatchling, Waterfront Bouncer, Willbender
3cc: Drift of Phantasms, Man-O’-War, Ophidian, Spiketail Drakeling, Shaper Parasite, Suq’Ata Firewalker, Trinket Mage
4cc: Fencer Clique, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Steamcore Weird, Thieving Magpie, Wonder
5cc: Air Elemental, Mulldrifter, Riftwing Cloudskate, Scrivener
6cc: Shoreline Ranger, Vedalken Dismisser

There’s a little of everything that Blue creatures can do in there. Some card drawing, some bounce, some funky tricks, and of course some decent flyers. And I certainly see a lot of the Blue common and uncommon creatures that I have hated seeing on the other side of the board, that’s for sure.

With the Blue spells, I don’t want to just focus on Blue’s countering and card-drawing abilities. It would be too lazy, I think, to just fill up the slots with stuff like Mana Leak. That being said, I also don’t want to EXCLUDE famous cards simply because they fall into those two categories. What’s the right balance between lazy card choices and being true to the project? Let’s find out.

1cc: Annul, Brainstorm, Chain of Vapor, Disrupt or Force Spike, Gigadrowse, High Tide, Mental Note, Mystical Tutor, Opt, Piracy Charm, Pongify
2cc: Arcane Denial, Boomerang, Counterspell, Impulse, Legacy’s Allure, Mana Leak, Merchant Scroll, Remand, Think Twice
3cc: Capsize, Dominate, Psionic Blast, Thirst for Knowledge, Tinker
4cc: Deep Analysis, Foresee, Inspiration, Ray of Command, Rewind
5cc: Allied Strategies, Force of Will, Gush, Thoughtcast
6cc: Confiscate, Opportunity

As you can see from the list, there are quite a few uncommons on it, and quite a few card-drawing cards and counterspells. What’s great? What’s missing? Put your thoughts in the forum.

Next week: We’ll finish up the Chroma cards, add some Blue spells to the CCCP, and digest whatever new Shards of Alara information has been released. I can’t tell if I think the Shards excitement is solely being generated by itself, or if I think it’s founded in a really good set. Only time will tell! But that Ajani Vengeant release promo certainly has me ready for Shards of Alara!

Until next week!