Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #112: Reaching…

States is approaching. The forums are rife with decklists. I’m going to add a few — built around Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach. This combination allows for some powerful mana acceleration. Right now, it has the same feel that my early Tooth and Nail decks had. How meaningful is that? Well, I wrote about T&N before it won any of the various National qualifiers… maybe I can stumble onto a golden Green deck before States this time as well.

States is approaching. The forums are rife with decklists. I’m going to add a few – built around Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach. This combination allows for some powerful mana acceleration. Right now, it has the same feel that my early Tooth and Nail decks had. How meaningful is that? Well, I wrote about T&N before it won any of the various National qualifiers.

Sakura-Tribe Elder slows early beats and accelerates mana – a feat that Diligent Farmhand tried but could not accomplish. As for Kodama’s Reach – although I hate to say it, Kodama’s Reach may be the best three-mana Green color fixer ever printed. Considering how much I love Yavimaya Elders, that’s quite a concession.

If I were to play in States tomorrow, I’d play one of these decks – probably the B/G version.

A quick caveat: I aimed these particular builds against a broad field instead of loading them up against Affinity. The Affinity matchups are a bit iffy game one, but would get better with more maindeck Oxidizes and other cards that may be dead against other decks. If you expect 10%-30% Affinity at your States, these seem fine. If you expect 50%+, tweak them.

The core of the deck is pretty simple. Four Elders and four Reach accelerate and fix your mana, allowing you to reliably play two (or more) colors. Solemn Simulacrum appears for more control-oriented builds, otherwise he is redundant and expensive. Beyond that, Green contributes Eternal Witness and some mix of Oxidize and Naturalize. If you think Affinity will remain huge, Oxidize gets the nod. I’m currently playing Naturalize, because I’m both hoping to dodge Affinity and because certain CHK enchantments, such as Ghostly Prison, are problems. And… because of the Intruder Alarm combo decks. (Seriously.)

Depending on the deck, Plow Under is a strong possibility. With the various mana fixers, you can reliably cast Plow Under turn 4. What is not certain is whether turn 4 is fast enough to make a difference. In testing, Plow Under is getting mixed results.

I have included some sideboarding ideas for each individual deck, but since the season is barely open, no hard and fast sideboards. In general, of course, the standard Green anti-Affinity stuff still does the same thing it did in block. Karstoderm is still solid against non-artifact decks, and better than he was in block. I also think that Naturalize should be a standard inclusion main and sideboard, since enchantments are back and some combo decks live off them (see below.) Boseiju, Who Shelters All, may be sideboard material. The land is either great or pathetic, depending on how control decks shake out. That remains to be seen.

A final sideboarding note: I’m thinking of dusting off a Damping Matrix or four once again. It shuts down Affinity, parts of Big Red, Ironworks and various other combos.

Playtesting takes time. So does work, and it’s harvest time on the farm. My playtesting is incomplete. Since I cannot provide complete playtest results, I’ve included poetry instead. Haiku, in honor of Kamigawa.

Green White Reach

Leaves amongst the snow.

Bright new growth promises a

Rude Awakening.

Green/White seems to have the most reason to run Solemn Simulacrums. It wants opposing decks to overcommit, then it clears the board with Wrath of God. Having an additional blocker – and more mana – is good. The deck also wants to power up to six mana to drop finishers and to play Pulse of the Fields repeatedly. All of these argue for Solemn Sims. They also argue against Ghostly PrisonPropaganda effects drive your opponent to under commit, so Wrath is less effective. (That said – Propaganda effects are always good, and you want them, in the sideboard at least, against Rude Awakening decks.)

More importantly, G/W decks with lots of mana can run Yosei, the Morning Star and do something with it. In most control decks, Yosei is a big beater that stops the opponent for a turn when it dies, but few decks can really take advantage of that Time Walk turn. However, the G/W build should be able to hit six mana and drop Yosei, followed by Kodama’s Reach and Wrath the next turn – and Rude Awakening on the turn where the opponent is locked down. A practical alpha strike, the turn after Yosei dies, is one thing that makes Yosei more attractive in this build that in some others.

The deck has a strong desire to stall out an opponent, ramps to five mana easily and runs a decent reset. This combination means that it seems reasonably happy running Plow Under. Against everything but Affinity, wasting turn four to Plow Under is fine.

Here’s my current list. The starred cards are those that I am still changing back and forth. This deck is still evolving.

GW Awakenings

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

3 Solemn Simulacrum

4 Eternal Witness

3 Viridian Shaman*

2 Troll Ascetic*

2 Pristine Angel

2 Yosei, White Dragon guy

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Wrath of God

2 Naturalize*

3 Plow Under

2 Pulse of the Fields

3 Rude Awakening

3 Elfhame Palace

2 Blinkmoth Nexus

6 Plains

11 Forest

No Oxidize in this list. The Troll Ascetic is testing the concept that fast pressure can take better advantage of Plow Under, but I’m not too sure about them. Something like Oxidize or Tel-Jilad Chosen might be better. Creeping Mold keeps asking for Naturalize’s slot, but against Ravager, Naturalize is slow, Mold is awful.

The sideboard could have Sacred Ground, although the Elders and Kodama’s Reach probably make that unnecessary. Ivory Mask could make the sideboard, along with Circle of Protection: Red, Oxidize, Reciprocate, Tel-Jilad Justice, Imi Statue, and maybe Oblivion Stone. The deck could even play Tooth and Nail to target the two Yoseis, plus maybe a Darksteel Colossus or so. With the mana acceleration the deck packs, it can hit the T&N mark fairly quickly.

Elfhame Palace? Hey, we don’t need no stinkin’ one-drops!

Playtesting results are not worth anything, yet. Playtesting this deck seems to bring out the strangest games – for example, twenty-land Affinity hitting it’s first eight(!) land drops, or getting triple Disciple, no Black mana draws. Yes, this build beat Affinity, but I need another set of games to see how much the flukes mattered. Wrath and lifegain make big red’s job hard, and this seems to have a consistent advantage. The main problem is that game one against Ironworks comes down to having a lot of luck – namely drawing all your Naturalizes and having a chance to use them.

G/B Reach

O’er the night dark forest

The evening star’s light shines

In a cloak of clouds

In my last article, I argued that decks have to contend with what an opponent is doing. The G/B build tries to control and disrupt the opponent, then win. The deck seems perfect at maximizing Death Cloud, one of the most powerful disruption cards in the format. It should ramp up to Death Cloud mana, then wreck hands and creature base, while the abundance of land fetchers should provide it with the ability to recover faster.

My finisher is Kokusho, the Evening Star, which combos extremely well with Death Cloud. Kokusho is a beating – especially in a deck that can be reasonably expected to drop it as early as turn 4. Because of its leaves play ability, having multiples in hand is never that bad. I have often won the game with Kokusho, and even done so without ever attacking. Play Kokusho, play another, play a third and Witness for one in the graveyard – opponent scoops.

That said, I may have to go with Horobi, simply because of the Affinity matchup.

I played two Nezumi Graverobbers for a brief period. It was an interesting experiment. Against control, he was another cheap, two-power creature that might sneak under countermagic and provide some pressure. When he’s flipped, he is just insane with Kokusho, Elders and Eternal Witness – in addition to beating down. Graverobber is also an answer to other Eternal Witness decks. That said, Nezumi Shortfang might be a better option against control, but Rude Awakening and Tel-Jilad Chosen are battling for that slot.

Cranial Extraction is solid against Tooth, the combos and much of the field – and in the mirror it gets the opponent’s Kokushos. It is really only bad against Affinity. Finally, I am liking the Rend Flesh over Echoing Decay, although it is slow. Echoing Decay is better against Rude Awakening decks, but Death Cloud helps control their land counts. Rend Flesh kills all of Affinity’s creatures, while also killing Arc-Sloggers and Kumano, Master Yamabushi. With all the mana ramping, the extra mana isn’t too painful.

I was running two Night’s Whisper. That has become Plunge into Darkness now. It combos well with Kokusho and the Witnesses.

G/B Reach

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Rend Flesh

3 Barter in Blood*

3 Death Cloud

2 Plunge into Darkness

2 Naturalize

2 Cranial Extract

2 Oxidize

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Eternal Witness

2 Viridian Shaman

4 Kokusho, the Evening Star

2 Rude Awakening

13 Forest

7 Swamp

2 Mirrodin’s Core

No, Distress is not present. It may find its way into the sideboard, but Distress is double Black. This deck can reliably get a Green for a turn 2 Elder or turn 3 Reach, but the mana just won’t support an early Distress (and you don’t want them late) without running a full set of Cities of Brass – and probably other five-color lands. With Death Cloud and Night’s Whisper, you cannot take the pain Cities cause. Cranial Extraction or Nezumi Shortfang are the next best alternative to Distress, and I might try upping the number, or at least including the extras in the sideboard.

Other sideboard cards would include the new Infest replacement, Hideous Laughter, if weenie decks become powerful. Echoing Decay or Terror may appear, along with Oxidize and maybe Tel-Jilad Justice for the Affinity matchup. Horobi, Death’s Wail is also worth testing against Affinity – but it is only good if Affinity has no way of targeting Horobi (something my Affinity builds have.) Moving on, extra Cranial Extractions come in against Tooth and Nail, and probably Boseiju or Nezumi Shortfang against control decks (Boseiju if you play Rude Awakening.) Uba Mask might also be an option, although that requires a lot of playtesting before I’d be comfortable with it.

The Affinity matchup is harsh, but in playtesting my opponent kept getting draws like this. Turn 1 Aether Vial, turn 2 Arcbound Worker, Vial Disciple, Frogmite, Frogmite, Thoughtcast, Myr Enforcer, Enforcer. The Ravager hit next turn. No, I did not win. Other than Affinity, I was getting good results, but against a variety of decks. We ended up playing this against my R/G build (below), and other funky decks. Playtesting against random decks is nice, but it wastes time.

This is my current choice for States, although my favorite deck to play is a bit further down.

R/G Reach

A crimson dancer

Leaps from bough to leafy bough

Smokey says “Only You!”

Red/Green Reach decks are merely an update of the R/G Freshmaker decks from MD5 Constructed season. They still play a mix of cheap burn and beatdown creatures, finishing with Arc-Slogger and friends. The friends, however, are new.

I am not at all sure about this build. I like the balance of speed and power, but some cards need a lot more playtesting. For example, I like Magma Jet early in the game, but later in the game, Glacial Ray spliced onto other Rays is fine (not to mention that Kodama’s Reach is also Arcane.) Moving on, Kumano is a great finisher, but the deck does not have any evasion. I cringe thinking about having my opponent play White Weenie – and dropping a pro-red Auriok Champion on turn 2. Of course, with Kumano, you could still probably still win the race just going to the head – and I would not expect to face White Weenie after round three. (Last minute edit – I played against a noted deck designer running White Weenie last weekend. It was playable.)

Kumano is nuts, and was the reason I was running 24 lands. I even considered adding Talismans – you always have something to do with the mana. I started with 2, and climbed to three copies of Kumano – he’s even useful in multiples in the mirror. However, Arc-Slogger has a bigger butt, and you can have several Sloggers in play at once.

R/G is very tempo-based, and I’m not sure I have a really strong feel for the rhythm of the new Type Two. Originally I had 4 Stone Rains, but I really only liked them against a three-color Death Cloud deck. Stone Rain just doesn’t affect tempo enough. I like this build against Affinity, and am reasonably happy with it against most decks, but I don’t know about the mirror. I’m also running hot and cold on Plow Under in this build – it is alternately amazing and total crap.

Anyway, here’s my take on G/R.

G/R Reach

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Hearth Kami

2 Tel-Jilad Chosen

4 Eternal Witness

2 Arc-Slogger

3 Kumano, Master Yamabushi

4 Kodama’s Reach

4 Electrostatic Bolt

4 Magma Jet / Glacial Ray

2 Creeping Mold / Naturalize

2 Plow Under

2 Rude Awakening

11 Forest

11 Mountain

1 City of Brass

Sideboarding should be a continuation of the last block. You will want the usually stuff against Affinity, and probably Pyroclasm against weenie beatdown. More Naturalizes are probably needed against enchantments and combo decks. More land destruction – and possibly Boil and Flashfires – against control. Naturalize against combo. And so forth. The trick isn’t listing the options, it’s cutting them down to fifteen. I’ll leave that for you.

Against Affinity, R/G does what R/G usually does – namely burn stuff and kill their creatures. Maindeck Moriok Riggers can be a pain if not killed quickly, but they can be chumped. Against other decks, Plow Under is a better boot to the head than Stone Rain ever was – and best on turn 4. I seem to be beating most other offerings, but those other offerings are not necessarily updated (I was playing against whatever people wanted to test – my deck was pretending to be a gauntlet deck here.)

U/G Reach

By the placid seas

Forest limbs stretch to the sky

Iron does not rust

Nope – I don’t have a strong decklist. I don’t even have a solid archetype. Or, I should say, I don’t have a decklist that beats both Affinity and the other decks.

Unlike the other S-Tribe Elder decks, which integrate well, Blue/Green seems to be at odds with itself. The Reach / Elder combos want to tap out early to power out lands. The Blue counterspell contingent wants to hold mana open for counters. Green/Blue does not have the broad sweepers that take advantage of the extra mana the way Death Cloud, Wrath and Kumano do. You could pack in Engineered Explosives and Trinket Mages, but then the deck is getting awfully big – even without having any win conditions or counters in the mix.

The U/G deck could model itself on the Crystal Witness decks from block which combined control and artifact removal and eventually won with Rude Awakening. That looks promising here. Alternatives to Rude Awakening are scarce – neither Blue nor Green have an amazing monster your want to power out.

If you don’t like the Witness shell, you could try to build some form of Turboland (Azusa plus Meloku, the Clouded Mirror) and try to make a hoard of little fliers – all of which die to Pyroclasm and Hideous Laughter. That’s almost as bad as my Zur’s Weirding combo decks. Back to the Crystal Witness shell, I think.

U/G Reach

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Eternal Witness

2 Viridian Shaman

2 (big finisher)

2 Rude Awakening

4 Echoing Truth

4 Condescend

2 Naturalize

3 Hinder

4 Kodama’s Reach

2 Gifts Ungiven

2 Engineered Explosives

2 Bribery

9 Island

12 Forest

1 Boseiju

1 Swamp (for Engineered Explosives)

I’m experimenting with playing one or two copies of Boseiju, Who Shelters All, in control decks like this. In the mirror, this forces your spells through. Against other decks that are trying to use Boseiju, it acts as a Wasteland. With all the mana acceleration, Boseiju shouldn’t hurt your development any. Maindeck Creeping Molds are another method of getting rid of opposing Boseiju’s.

Finding something to put in the “big finisher” slot, to provide an alternative to Rude Awakening, is a difficult question. Keiga is big, but it rarely finds any targets worth taking – except maybe Darksteel Colossus. Mike Flores mentioned Mahamoti, of the Shrapnel Blast-proof butt. You could even try stuff like The Unspeakable, Rhox, Tornado Elemental or Tidal Kraken – in this deck the mana works, even if the creatures don’t. I am also trying Bribery – which works pretty well even against Affinity, if you live that long. It might be possibly to just use 2 Rude Awakening and 2 Bribery as finisher, and add two more counters to the deck.

Sideboard: Bribery comes in against Tooth and Nail. March of the Machines, Annul and/or Imi Statue against Affinity. Naturalize against combo. Troll Ascetics are another sideboard card – although they could end up in the maindeck. It depends on whether you expect to face Hideous Laughter and Flamebreak or removal that targets.

Playtesting results are mixed, but I don’t know whether that is because the deck is badly built or not. I keep tweaking it, meaning that I really cannot post matchups.

5 Color Green

The Rainbow arches

In brilliance across the sky.

Light without focus.

This deck lets you power out each of the Shrines. Having all five in play at once is a huge beating. Even a couple are really, really good.

Wait – stop throwing things. It was a joke. Okay? A joke.


I think we need to play Birds of Paradise in this deck – despite the problems that can cause with Big Red. Five color decks need all the colored mana they can get – so S-Tribe Elders and Kodama’s Reach may not be enough.

Playing a five color deck does give two advantages. First, it lets us play with cool cards from all colors. Second, it lets us build in a lot of cool combos. Yes, I know that only the first is relevant to States, but if you are going the five color route anyway, you can play:

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Intruder Alarm!

I saw this early, and didn’t put it in my set review, hoping to surprise people with it later. Of course, everyone has heard of it now, but it is still nuts. With Intruder Alarm and one other (non-legendary, power >0) creature in play, if you can cast Kiki-Jiki, you will win the game. Kiki can create an infinite set of creatures – each new creature triggers Intruder Alarm and untaps Kiki-Jiki. And all the creatures have haste.


(It just seems appropriate for Kiki/Alarm – the bananaphone thing is catchy and kinda cute, but not useful in any way.)

Ghostly Prison is not a problem with Kiki, since you probably have an infinite selection of either hasty Birds of Paradise (to pay for attacking) or an infinite set of Thought Couriers to dig for a Viridian Zealot. Sure, Hideous Laughter and Echoing Decay / Truth could be tough – but you are playing a deck with counterspells, after all.

So what else can we do with five colors of mana? Etched Oracle is one option, if we need a card drawer, but Etched Oracle and Kiki-Jiki are not a combo. The Bringers are a better option – and allow us to play Mindslaver games as well.

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

3 Eternal Witness

3 Viridian Shaman

1 Viridian Zealot

2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker

1 Bringer of the Blue Dawn

2 Bringer of the White Dawn

1 Duplicant

2 Thought Courier

4 Kodama’s Reach

2 Gifts Ungiven

1 Peer through the Depths

1 Zombify / Beacon of Unrest

1 Mindslaver

1 Engineered Explosives

3 Intruder Alarm

3 City of Brass (Forgotten Orchard?)

11 Forest

3 Mountain

2 Island

2 Plains

2 Swamp

Gifts Ungiven is pretty good in this deck. Imagine trying to split this: Kiki-Jiki, Eternal Witness, Zombify and Intruder Alarm.

Imagine living long enough to have the mana to use those cards.

Okay, so the deck’s a pile. It tries to do too much – and doesn’t do enough against other decks. It needs counterspells or discard for protection. It needs Oxidize. It needs – heck, it needs Dregs of Sorrow. It needs the opponent to triple mulligan and then do nothing for five turns. The only saving grace is that Sundering Titan will never, ever resolve against this deck (because you will scoop in response to it being cast.)

But when it works, it’s beautiful.

“…consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds….” R.W. Emerson.

Okay – the correct quote is foolish consistency.

Looking at the 5 color decklist, I’m beginning to think that the Shrines idea can’t be that much worse. How many opponents will play Tranquility, after all? Let’s see.

Reaching for Enchantment

3 Birds of Paradise

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder

4 Eternal Witness

3 Viridian Shaman

4 Honden of Seeing Winds

2 Honden of Night’s Reach

3 Honden of Cleansing Fire

2 Honden of Life’s Web

3 Honden of Infinite Rage

2 Wrath of God

4 Ghostly Prison

2 Rude Awakening

1 Naturalize

2 Darksteel Ingot

3 City of Brass (Forgotten Orchard??)

11 Forest

1 Mountain

2 Island

3 Plains

1 Swamp

Okay, I haven’t playtested this at all. I’ll have to proxy it up and take it for a spin. It looks like the kind of thing I’d enjoy – really bad, but a complete hoot if it ever gets going. The kind of thing that people stand around asking what I’m playing, and if I ever win, razz my opponent mercilessly.

addition: I lied. I couldn’t resist proxying it up and playing it. It would really benefit from added card drawing, like Thirst for Knowledge. On the other hand, it did actually win several games. Ghostly Prison is looking better and better. The best games were ones against a more traditional Crystal Witness deck, but one that ran Time Stop. I was playing around counterspells once again – a part of Magic that has been missing. The downside was that his deck had Annuls – and the splash damage from recursive Annuls is considerable in a deck that runs lots of enchantments. Those games took forever – close to an hour per game. However, I was pleasantly surprised (okay, amazed) to find that the deck has a winning record against the field so far. I figured that this was just a random fun deck, but it actually worked. (Although I haven’t played enough against Affinity.)

And yes, people did stand around watching, and losing opponents did get heckled.

The real lesson of the five colored decks was that the Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach combo allows you to build a very solid mana base quickly. It also allows you to splash third and fourth colors for important cards, and to be able to reliably play those cards. I could easily see splashing Black into my R/G Elder deck for Cranial Extraction, or white into R/G or G/B for Ghostly Prison. The mana base can handle it.

I’ll have more test results soon. I’ll post anything worth mentioning in the forums, or next article.


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