M14 is almost here!
This is shaping up to be a really fun Core Set with a unique, almost old-school feel and deep Limited and Constructed applications, and I know that you and your pals have already dug in trying to find the best and cutest interactions that these two dozen cards provide. I’ve plunged head-first into the pool myself and I’m pumped to bring you what I fish up!
Before I dive too deep, I want to quickly address last week’s article and, more specifically, Edward Bear’s comment.
“I don’t have a list currently handy but when I went to GP Quebec City in February – shortly after Gatecrash came out, so before Dragon’s Maze – my friend played a Monogreen Control deck based around Roaring Primadox and ramp. Elvish Visionary and Acidic Slime recursion with the Primadox, Dryad Militant messed with the graveyard as well as being a 2/1 for G, and Bramblecrush and Ghost Quarter made a mess of a few decks. He ended up going 3-5 and one draw with no testing and not much knowledge of the format at all. Maybe you can come up with a similar deck?
I usually cover two decks each week, and the ones I wrote up last week just so happened to be the colors I chose. Mono-black and Mono-red are indeed viable choices. There’s no question that Zombies, Burn, or some combination of efficient creatures and life loss can all manage a game effectively.
But Edward’s comment got me thinking. “Mono-green Control.” It doesn’t even sound right when you say it. “Mono-bllllgggreeen Control.”
Land destruction, an avenue for green to be more controlling, has generally been an unpopular and unsupported strategy. The power of land destruction has been pulled back from its Ice Storm, Pillage, and Stone Rain days to be a bit of a niche archetype/gameplan meant for the kitchen table and the “Just For Fun” MTGO room. One of my favorite decks back in my college days of Magic was my Mono-red “LD” deck, and it was very much my deck. It was built around Stoneshaker Shaman, which was a bit more important back in the days of mana burn, and my deck was filled with ways to bleed off my red mana turn after turn, e.g. Dragons, equipment, and Goblin Balloon Brigade. But I digress.
Edward’s idea, spawned from a friend’s last-minute brewing before a Grand Prix, hinges on Bramblecrush, a card I’ve cherished since blowing someone out with it in an Innistrad draft a couple years ago. It is Ice Storm for one more mana that hits more targets. Acidic Slime, the go-to Ooze (go-tooze?) for green land destruction, was also along for the ride in his brew. Destroying permanents and preventing your opponent from advancing their board feels very controllish, and so does drawing cards. This has never been green’s strong suit, so seeking card advantage elsewhere seems to be a good line of attack. Planeswalkers have been value engines since their release, and the three green ‘walkers we have now (or will have in a week or so) will suffice to provide the fuel for an actual win condition.
With M14 banging at the gates, I’ve added some of its offerings to help us. Into the Forest we go!
That’s right, twelve mana dorks. With
Llanowar Elves Elvish Mystic coming into town, we are back to having an unconditional mana ramp for G (Arbor Elf requires having a forest and uses the stack.) This deck wants to get its removal and planeswalkers online ASAP, and guaranteeing (or at least making likely) a mana dork in the opener is the best way to get there.
Scorned Villager and Elvish Archdruid each fought for this spot, but I eventually settled on the Villager. Little Red Riding Hood has the potential, by herself, to ramp you to five mana on three. The same thing would require two one-mana rampers. It is unlikely she will flip on turn two, but she has the potential to, and that’s worth a little something. Elvish Archdruid does the same thing when alone, and making my Elves a little stronger is not especially exciting. There was just a bit more promise in the Villager, so I wanted to take her off the Standard bench and give her a try.
Predator Ooze is actually a pretty strong control creature; against aggro, it is almost impossible to smash through, and adding either a +1/+1 counter or a Rancor will give you X-for-1’s on defense. Once the board is cleaned up, the Ooze is nearly unstoppable in the red zone. Because we’re Mono-green, casting the Ooze on turn two is a piece of cake, even getting an attack or two in before your opponent musters the troops.
Acidic Slime, as mentioned before, is a neo-classic two-for-one. You will hit another card when you cast this, and it’s likely you’ll get another in combat. Deathtouch makes the Ooze, well, deadly on offense or defense. I’ll add another note on this Ooze later. Thragtusk, that beautiful beast, is pretty darn good on turn three, and it can either help you stabilize against an aggro deck or provide the fuel to finish your opponent off. Thragtusk is still around for two more months and that beast will rumble around until the very last day.
Eight planeswalkers, all sharing the same subtype, might seem excessive, but Garruk has an ironic side-effect. Despite the fact that Garruk has the beasts of the wild on his side and he hits the gym for about nine hours a day, he is pretty fragile. Garruk Relentless, the most versatile of the three, can make plenty of wolves or swat away an early attacker, often giving his life in the process. On the black side, Garruk can help you find the Acidic Slime or Thragtusk you need to punish their lands or stay afloat. The deck has enough creatures that his ultimate can make even your lowly Elves reasonable brawlers. Garruk, Primal Hunter, the most Standard-friendly incarnation, has the draw potential we need. Resolving Garruk and then Thragtusk (meaning he’ll stay around after -3’ing) is just the best feeling in the world for a Mono-green deck. A full grip of Acidic Slimes, planeswalkers, and Bramblecrush will put a smile on your dirt-covered face. (Author’s note: Slime is an anagram of smile). Our biggest walker, Garruk, Caller of Beasts Sr., is here on a bit of a trial run. I think he’s plenty good for slower midrange decks that run off bruiser/value creatures. Here, he lets you get himself and a five-drop out on the same turn. Who knows how much play he’ll end up seeing, but here’s his first test, albeit a suboptimal one.
Bramblecrush, frankly, is a lesser Acidic Slime. I can get to four mana a bit more easily than five, but neither is too difficult given a decent starting hand. Bramblecrush is great, but it doesn’t do as much when you’re behind as Acidic Slime, and it provides little synergy to the deck. Its lack of power and toughness makes it a bit more of a liability than I’d like. However, you can still Bramblecrush on turn three and Acidic Slime the next turn, and Bramblecrush can smite a planeswalker so it has other uses. Just don’t expect it to win the game by itself.
Although this isn’t an aggro deck, there are still tons of reasons to include Rancor. First, it helps half my creatures effectively get in the red zone. Arbor Elf and Elvish Mystic aren’t making anybody shake in their boots during combat, but trading a mana dork for an X/3 is just fine once your mana is fully deployed. Predator Ooze becomes much more menacing when it can’t be chumped, and, thanks to Deathtouch, Acidic Slime need only assign one point of damage to its blocker before throwing the rest at the blocker’s controller. Any token, too, becomes much more formidable with a Rancor aboard. It just goes to show that you needn’t be an aggro deck to make use of this persistent little buff.
All Forests and a Mutavault to slap a Rancor on. One colorless land has occasionally thrown me off my mana a couple times, so perhaps it should just be another Forest. It would bring the financial cost down, too. Bear in mind that Mutavault can activate itself when needed. A Devour Flesh could just catch the land instead of your beefy Predator Ooze.
The sideboard is a little shaky; they’re almost all creatures, and each can pull its weight in the right situation. First, Skylasher is in here on a bit of a lark. This deck has almost no way to deal with fliers, and if you run into an errant Delver, you’re going to be hard-pressed to squash it. Will Skylasher fix the non-existant Delver matchup? Well, enough people try it, so why not. Strangleroot Geist helps you not only move into aggro territory, but it also gives you another creature that survives a Wrath effect or two combats. You can often cast it and a mana dork on time, so against those hyper-aggressive matchups where you need to two-for-one their bears, the Geist is your Spirit. Scavenging Ooze is the deck’s Rest in Peace, or perhaps Deathrite Shaman. Junk Reanimator will have a lot of trouble outpacing a Scavenging Ooze, so protect it as best you can once it’s out.
Witchstalker is one of my favorite new spoilers from M14, and it’s a doozy in the right matchup. It’s great when your Predator Oozes aren’t. Having trouble with Azorius Charms or Detention Sphere? Deal with it! Tragic Slip got you down? Not anymore! Witchstalker’s very reasonable body combined with hexproof will give removal-happy mages a run for their money. It’s no Voice of Resurgence, but it sure is a doozy. Look for Witchstalkers to fill a lot of sideboards after its release. Pithing Needle and Cavern of Souls are fairly self-explanatory anymore. Cavern on Ooze is probably your best bet, landing a Predator Ooze or Acidic Slime through a Syncopate or Dissipate. The Pithing Needle? You know when you’ll need it.
In playtesting this deck’s sideboard effectively dealt with aggro, but it did have some trouble against midrange and ramp. Once they played extra lands, my LD package looked a bit silly, and their better creatures would rampage in all the same. Control was a worthy opponent, and I lost to non-Supreme Verdict versions like Mono-black and Grixis. Zealous Conscripts is a big hit against me. I’m not sure if the deck has a place in the metagame, but it sure has a place in my heart.
This was the main deck I wanted to bring you this week. By now, I’m sure you’ve reviewed the entire M14 spoiler and gobbled up every last release. It won’t be long before you get to play with them this weekend at a prerelease.
Oh, speaking of Prereleases, I am hoping (operative word: hoping) to drive down from Louisville to attend the Prerelease event StarCityGames is holding in Roanoke, Virginia. It’s a bit of a drive, but I’m going to try to make it down there for Saturday’s 10:00AM Sealed and then stick around for the 3:00PM Two-Headed Giant event. I’ll be there with my Commander decks, my Limited sleeves, and my Cube if you’re able to come! Prereleases are my favorite Magic event of all, and getting the opportunity to play on my home court should be a real thrill. I hope that if you’re in the area and you’re not quite sure where to go come Saturday, you can come out to the StarCityGames itself and sling cards. My boss, Cedric Phillips, will be there, and I’d love to meet you and play alongside you!
Also…well, this is embarrassing, but I’ll also be in need of a 2HG partner. If anyone is up to the task, I await your teamwork!
The entries for last week’s deckbuilding contest have been pouring in, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your kind notes of encouragement and your excellent, well-thought-out decklists. I’ve gotten some real gems in there, and I’ll reveal my favorites next week, along with my own format-friendly submission. Keep ’em coming! If you all could get them in before July 14th, that’d be great! Next week, I’ll also have another Variant League idea to try out. For those who missed out, I’m looking for decks that meet these criteria.
Format – Standard
- Every card in your deck must be either multicolored (non-hybrid) or colorless (artifacts and lands).
- The deck must contain at least two cards from each of the ten guild color combinations and no more than eight cards from any one guild color combination. For example, you could have two copies of Sphinx’s Revelation to fulfill your Azorius count, but playing four Spike Jesters and four Hellhole Flailers would prevent you from adding any more Rakdos cards.
- Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and each three-color fuse card do not count towards any guild but can still be used. Two-color fuse cards can be cast for only one color (like hybrids), so I’ll exclude them on principle, even though ideally you’d probably cast them together.
- Normal deckbuilding rules apply (minimum 60 cards, no more than four of any card beside basic lands.)
- Sideboards aren’t required.
I added in a little more on the third bullet, as I neglected to go into detail about Fuse cards. If you’ve happened to submit a deck that misses these criteria honestly (e.g. you’ve already submitted and it contains a Hybrid or Fuse card or two), don’t worry about rewriting the deck and resubmitting; if your general idea is strong enough, we can just replace the errant offenders in our head.
Oh, I almost forgot! Before I go, here is a
deck brew pile based on one of the worst cards in Gatecrash, Skygames. No explanation needed; the name says it all.
I’ll bring you my report on the Prerelease event next week, hopefully with a few pictures, and I hope to see you there! Until then, don’t forget to untap!
CaptainShapiro on Magic Online