Tribal Thriftiness #6 – These Giants Have No Steroid Scandal

It’s January, and as has happened every January for forty years, a young man’s thoughts turn to… football. Ah, the playoffs. To celebrate, Dave builds some team-based decks for the NFL’s equivalent of the Littlest Team That Could.

In honor of this weekend’s impending NFC championship game, I’ve decided to focus this week’s column on the two teams who will be playing: the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants.

All right. Let’s start with the Green Bay Packers. Hrm. There aren’t any “Packers” in Magic. There are a few “Packs,” but exactly ONE of them is Standard-legal right now – Wren’s Run Packmaster. Could build a deck around Wren’s Run Packmaster and Wolves … but there appears to be only ONE other Wolf in Standard – Tundra Wolves in Tenth Edition. I guess we could fill out with Changelings …

That seems like a cop-out. What else? Green Bay’s colors are green and yellow. We’ve got green in Magic, but no yellow. And a Green deck seems more appropriate to the New York Jets, if anything. Packers fan are called “Cheeseheads,” maybe a deck built around the new-fangled The Cheese Stands Alone? What’s it called, Barren Glory?

This theme stuff is harder than I expected.

Thankfully, the Giants are much easier.

Giants: Improving On Offense

One of the things that’s been said by all the football pundits is that the New York Giants are on an offensive upswing. Eli Manning has had several good games in a row, and their running game has been excellent. An offensive Giant deck, therefore, also needs to be on an upswing.

Giants, as you’d expect by the name, are a big lot. The good side of that is that their stats tend to be high, with the smallest Giant coming in at 3/3. The bad side is that you are expected to pay a healthy premium for your big beater. By that time, your opponent may have had a chance to affect the board in such a manner that even your biggest boys aren’t enough to tilt the game in your favor.

So how can we cheat? If we’re expected to play Giants, we’ll definitely want Sunrise Sovereign ($1), as he gives a huge bonus to all of our other Giants. The problem is, he costs six mana. How can we pull parallel with the guys using smaller creatures who are dropping their generals at three mana?

One option is to use Red’s fast mana to try and push our curve down. Seething Song is gone from Standard, but we still have Rite of Flame, as well as Simian Spirit Guide, that can generate a few points of bonus mana to speed us on to Giant dudes. The other is to play Stinkdrinker Daredevil, which will make all of our Giants cheaper, but will have a giant “Incinerate me” sign painted on his tiny Goblin forehead.

If we couple some fast mana with the cheaper Giants and the Daredevil, we can build a deck that can build big guys, hopefully that overmatch the opposition’s creatures.

4 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
4 Blind-Spot Giant
4 Bloodrock Cyclops
4 Thundering Giant
4 Thundercloud Shaman
4 Sunrise Sovereign

4 Rite of Flame
4 Crush Underfoot
4 Incinerate

4 Keldon Megaliths
20 Mountain

Some comments on card choices:

Stinkdrinker Daredevil, Rite of Flame: As noted earlier, these are the cards that will enable us to power out Giants at a fairly brisk pace. It also will help that the most expensive guy in the deck is Sunrise Sovereign, who only costs six mana.

Blind-Spot Giant: A Giant with stats better than its mana cost, being a 4/3 for three mana. His drawback should be easily negligible in a deck with twenty Giants.

Bloodrock Cyclops: We want to be attacking with this deck anyway, and he starts out as a 3/3 for three mana.

Thundering Giant: The haste essentially offsets the cost of this guy by a mana (or so), and gives you potentially 11 power attacking on turn 5.

Thundercloud Shaman: Originally I was going to leave him out, until I realized that he only dealt damage to non-Giant creatures. While this means he could take out your own Stinkdrinker Daredevil, it’s also incredibly likely that he’ll be giving you a great chance of alpha-striking in for a LOT of damage.

Sunrise Sovereign: +2/+2 and trample is SO much better than +1/+1 and islandwalk, for instance. He costs six, which is the real reason we’re running all that mana acceleration.

Crush Underfoot, Incinerate: Cheap blocker removal will ensure that we can swing in with the team. Crush Underfoot will always do at least three, and possibly a LOT more.

I’m not sure if Keldon Megaliths belong or not, but I’m willing to give them a shot.

Giants: Strong on Defense

Sure, their offense is improving, but it’s really the Giants’ defense that’s held them in games. Their secondary may be beat up, but their defensive line might be the best in the nation, and can get after opposing quarterbacks in a hurry. A defensive Giant deck, therefore, needs to be able to take care of the opposition and set up for a victory down the line.

Thundercloud Shaman is part of the backbone here – a guy who can clear the other side of the board and leave your defensive players intact. We’ll actually want to use Simian Spirit Guide here in addition to the other mana cheats, because we’re invariably going to be using more expensive creatures like Bloodfire Colossus, which can again clear the board, and can also outright win games.

4 Stinkdrinker Daredevil
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Thundercloud Shaman
4 Sunrise Sovereign
4 Giant Harbinger
3 Bloodfire Colossus
2 Hammerheim Deadeye
1 Boldwyr Intimidator

4 Giant’s Ire
4 Rite of Flame
2 Crush Underfoot

24 Mountain

Some comments on the cards that are different between the two decks:

Giant Harbinger: One of the important things about this deck will be the ability to fetch up the specific Giant you need – Bloodfire Colossus fills a different role than Thundercloud Shaman, for instance.

Giant’s Ire: It’s much more likely that you’ll get into a spot where you’ll want that last bit of direct damage; Giant’s Ire even replaces itself in most cases.

Giants: Many Offensive Weapons

As a bonus, I thought we’d take a look at one of the previewed Morningtide cards, Stonehewer Giant.

Stonehewer Giant – 3WW
Creature – Giant Warrior (R)
1W, Tap: Search your library for an Equipment card and put it into play. Attach it to a creature you control. Then shuffle your library.

What I REALLY like about this guy is that he can use his ability mid-combat. You can set him attacking, and then fetch up something before blockers are declared to make him even more mighty – or unblockable. You can set a whole team attacking, and then search up a killer Equipment after blockers are declared. You can search up a protective Equipment in response to someone’s removal spell (Runed Stalactite, say, in response to Eyeblight’s Ending). It makes him VERY flexible, and also means that you will want a variety of Equipment for him to search up, if at all possible.

Stonehewer Giant’s price as of right now is unknown, but due to the amount of Equipment in Standard, I think you can expect that it will be in our price range.

The real question about building a deck around Stonehewer Giant is whether you want to focus on the Giants, the Warriors, or the Equipment. White gives us some decent Giants – Jotun Grunt, Lairwatch Giant – and if we want to keep the Red around, it means we can use Brion Stoutarm ($4) if he fits into the budget. Many of the Giants are also Warriors, which means we might gain some benefit from other Warrior cards in Morningtide. But you really want Stonehewer Giant for his ability – otherwise he’s just a generic chap.

Let’s start the Equipment ball rolling with this guy, also previewed for Morningtide:

Obsidian Battle-Axe – 3
Tribal Artifact – Warrior Equipment (U)
Equipped creature gets +2/+1 and has haste.
Whenever a Warrior creature comes into play, you may attach Obsidian Battle-Axe to it.
Equip 3

This hefty battleaxe gives us reason to prefer Warriors to Giants, surely, as the free Equip and the haste means that we can mobilize an army of warriors for no additional cost. And there are a fair number of good white and red Warriors for us to choose from:

4 Stonehewer Giant
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Stingscourger
4 Bloodshot Trainee
4 Mogg Fanatic
2 Brion Stoutarm
2 Sunrise Sovereign

4 Obsidian Battle-Axe
4 Runed Stalactite
3 Whispersilk Cloak
2 Deathrender ($3)

14 Mountain
9 Plains

Some words about the card choices:

Keldon Marauders: A big Warrior that deals a fair amount of damage for its mana cost. The haste provided by Obsidian Battle-Axe will mean that he’s still a good draw somewhere in the mid-game.

Stingscourger: Bouncing a potential blocker is a pretty good ability – and with the Axe, even if you don’t pay his Echo cost, you still get a fairly hefty attack out of him.

Bloodshot Trainee: Between the Battle-Axe and Deathrender, you have six ways to turn his ability on just through Equipment.

Mogg Fanatic: Neither a Giant nor a Warrior, but certainly a fun way to trigger Deathrender and bypass the mana cost of the bigger guys. Plus, a little additional removal never hurts.

Brion Stoutarm: Due to the Equipment, you’ll likely be getting pretty good value for the guys you sacrifice. Don’t forget he’s also a Warrior, so the Battle-Axe turns his ability on immediately.

Runed Stalactite: Better than Leonin Scimitar because of the ability to turn your guy into a Giant to be pumped up by Sunrise Sovereign.

Whispersilk Cloak: In a perfect world, this would most likely be Loxodon Warhammer, but due to its price tag ($7.50 even for the uncommon Mirrodin ones), I’ve had to leave them off. If you happen to have some of them in your collection, feel free to replace the Cloaks where applicable. Whispersilk Cloak DOES at least give your Equipped man unblockability, which means that you can search up the Cloak in combat before blockers are declared and squeeze your guy through to victory.

Giants: So Who Do You Go For?

You’d think with all this talk about the Giants, that I’d be sitting home this weekend, glued to my television, rooting for the Giants to get into the Super Bowl. Actually, I was born and raised on the East Side of Cleveland, and I go for the Browns, so my football attention span is more of a “if nothing else is going on” than a “drop everything” right now. I’m much more likely to catch the Gunners play Saturday morning than I am to watch the NFL playoffs.

But unfortunately for football of all types, there’s this little thing called the Morningtide Pre-Release happening this weekend. I’ll be in Philadelphia, hanging out around the scorekeeper’s table, chatting and trading and doing whatever else happens to come up. I definitely recommend heading out to Pre-Releases — they’re a great way to get your hands on the new cards before they’re available for sale, and the price tag ($30) is pretty reasonable for what you get.

If you’re going to be in Philly, stop by and say Hi! (And don’t tell me what happens in the Arsenal game, I’m DVR’ing it.) Otherwise, I hope you all enjoy your Pre-Release weekend, wherever you end up.