Over a week ago now, I decided to quit worrying about my online rating and how badly I was doing in PEs and leagues and just play Magic. I had played in a number of Morningtide PEs, a league or two and done some drafting. It was time to build something around those cards. I just didn’t want to build the same thing as everyone else.
The first step was to look over the cards for which I had playsets. The commons and uncommons were not very interesting. I wanted to try the rares.
Thanks to a precon or two, I had a playset of Reveillarks, and I had played and tested both combo and control builds. I have written about that, and other people have as well. Nothing new there.
I had a playset of Knowledge Exploitation. Zowie. I don’t have more than singletons of most of the rogues that could make a Knowledge Exploitation deck work. More importantly, it seems like a sideboard card — with my luck I’d end up building a deck around it, then face some kid with an Elementals deck with no useful instants or sorceries. Truth be told, though, it was the total lack of exciting rogues that kept me from building a deck around Knowledge Exploitation.
I do have a playset of Countryside Crushers. I have opened them in a number of Sealed events, and in a draft when I was already Red. That said, lots of other writers have discussed Crusher decks. I moved on.
It turns out I don’t have any other playsets of Morningtide rares. I have one threesome: Rustic Clachan. Nifty. I could play Kithkin. Well, in theory I could, but I was looking for something fun to play. I never have that much fun with White Weenie.
“I never have that much fun with White Weenie.”
You know, that’s the sort of straight line that comedians around the country would sell their souls for, but this is a family site, so I can’t use it.
Next, I looked at the rares of which I owned two copies: Mind Shatter, Declaration of Naught, and Sigil Tracer.
I headed back to the Crushers.
The Crusher deck is pretty straightforward. You want to play a lot of cheap stuff, since you will never draw more lands with a Crusher in play. The main question is whether you want to go mono-Red or splash some other colors.
Red and White is not very synergistic, at least not with Crusher. The R/W Lorwyn dual exists, but it needs Giants to come into play untapped, and Giants and mana shortage is not a highly recommended combo. Crusher / Kithkin works really well in theory — cheap guys and an undercosted monster that makes sure you draw Kithkin, not lands. Well, it works right up to the point where you try to build a manabase that can reliably drop Kithkin on turns 1 and 2, and Crusher turn 3.
Red and Blue don’t even have a good dual in common, and few decks can run off Shivan Reef and Terramorphic Expanse. UR can make a nice control deck, but control decks really want to keep playing lands endlessly, not turning them into +1/+1 counters.
Red and Black equal goblins nowadays, but I don’t have a lot of good goblins. The few I do have, like Siege Gang Commander, don’t like self-inflicted mana shortages. You can see where this is going.
Red and Green can make a good deck — but the one that works is Mana Ramp / Big Mana. Crusher fits in that like a mink coat at a PETA rally.
This was the article that I had written once, then lost to a corrupted file. The similes in that version were much better.
I decided to play mono-Red, with burn, some man lands, some Crushers, and whatever little guys I had. Josh Silvestri wrote a primer for the archetype — look there for an in-depth breakdown. I simply threw together whatever I owned and headed for the casual play room. Here’s the deck.
1 Ghitu Encampment
1 Keldon Megaliths
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Countryside Crusher
1 Emberwilde Augur
1 Taurean Mauler
2 Greater Gargadon
4 Rift Bolt
4 Shard Volley
4 Sulfurous Blast
The Emberwilde Augur was not so much tech as cool. It’s foil, and I like playing foils online. The singleton Mutavault and Ghitu Encampments, on the other hand, are heavily tested. I tried playing with none, then with all I own, and all I own is better.
My first stop was the Casual Play room. I don’t usually test tournament decks there, but this wasn’t quite tournament quality and I wanted to see how it would perform.
I played five games. Several of them were against untuned decks, many of which were trying, well, I have no idea what. It turns out a whole bunch of burn and some fast monsters tend to just win. I did lose one game when I was mana flooded, and one game when I apparently misclicked on Browbeat and decided to lose five life so I didn’t have to draw cards. (I also remember targeting incorrectly once, a long time ago, and having my opponent draw the cards. Browbeat is a marginal card — mainly filler for cards I don’t have — but it is a lot worse when you misclick with it.)
It was pretty clear that this deck did not belong in the casual play room. I headed for the Tournament Practice room. The main downside to the Tournament Practice room is that you can only play matches there — which means sideboarding. I know what sort of tech is showing up in mono-Red sideboards: Sulfurous Blast against Faeries, Manabarbs against Reveillark combo, Boldwyr Heavyweights for the mirror match, etc.. I had the Blasts maindeck, and did not own the other cards. I decided to skip the sideboard — I’ll just finish game 1, then get a soda while my opponent sideboards.
I’m just playing for fun, so why not?
Games against real decks went about as expected. When my deck was fast, the “set your opponent on fire and toast marshmallows” plan worked just fine. When it hiccupped, or I drew a ton of mana, the other decks did whatever it was they did to win games.
I did slaughter a lot of Faeries, though. That was fun. Way back when I was a kid, we once killed moths with an aerosol can of hair spray and a lighter. Same sort of effect.
I can see how a decent version of this deck might be quite competitive. To make it, though, I would have to shell out a couple bucks for the Ghitu Encampments, plus another $50 or so for another three Mutavaults. I’m sure I will, someday, but I’m in no rush. I can play a lot more Magic with what I already have.
Just for kicks, I took this into the multiplayer room and joined a Two-Headed Giant game. On MTGO, 2HG is a bit different — you can see your partner’s hand and share a life total, but you just attack the person straight across from you. Your partner can’t block creatures attacking you, Islandwalk has no effect if only the opponent diagonally across from you has Islands, etc. Still, multiplayer is a lot of fun, even when you are trash typing instead of trash talking.
The first game, my opponent was apparently playing a four- or five-color deck, without the benefit of many multi-colored lands or mana fixers. I had no worries about my creatures being blocked, and he did nothing but soak up damage. A deck like mine can have problems doing 40 damage, but not when the opponent is totally defenseless.
I played a couple more multiplayer games. My opponents were not quite so badly color or mana screwed, but I think we won them all. I learned two things. First, Sulfurous Blast is bugged in multiplayer. It should do three damage to each player, but it only does three damage to each team. The other thing I learned is that Taurean Mauler is nuts in multiplayer. He is even better than Forgotten Ancient, the previous gold standard for multiplayer grow-a-fattie creatures, because he is even cheaper. He never lived long, but he was frequently a 6/6 or more by the time I could untap with him the next turn.
The deck was fun, but I wanted variety. I went back to the deck construction screen and started looking at Morningtide cards.
I had one copy of Idyllic Tutor and one of Stonehewer Giant. These are both tutors, for enchantments and equipment, respectively. I had previously built a deck around an enchantment and a piece of Equipment — Enduring Renewal and Deathrender, to be specific. At that time, I had built it around those cards, plus Martyr of Sands.
With Renewal in play, you equip the Martyr with Deathrender, then sacrifice it to gain life. If you stack the triggers correctly, you get the Martyr in hand, then back in play equipped with the Deathrender, and you can keep that up until you run out of mana. I put that combo together for an Emperor game. The group I usually play with does not allow Emperors to have infinite combos, but this is not infinite. It is just really annoying.
People were even more annoyed when I hit 100+ life, then dropped Serra Avatar and had Power Matrix in play. “Go ahead,” I told them. “Kill one of my flankers, so I can attack with my 108/108 flying, first striking trampler. In the mean time, I’ll add more counters to Ajani.” They conceded.
Note: if you want an infinite combo with Martyr, Renewal, and Deathrender, add Carnival of Souls. A four card infinite life combo built around Carnival of Souls is worth a ton of style points. For that matter, so is killing the table afterwards with Bitter Ordeal.
Of course, most of those cards are not yet available online, so I had to build a different deck. I came up with the following.
4 Ancient Amphitheater
4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Foriysian Totem
2 Prismatic Lens
4 Wrath of God
3 Enduring Renewal
1 Idyllic Tutor
1 Sacred Mesa
1 Oblivion Ring
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Brion Stoutarm
2 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Stonehewer Giant
1 Adarkar Valkyrie
Akroma is in the mix because she is a fine finisher. The deck can generate the mana to cast her fairly reliably, and it can occasionally pop her out via Deathrender. The Adarkar Valkyrie is present because she combos well with Fanatics, SGC, and so forth — and because I have a foil I wanted to play.
One definition of casual: playing the cards you want to play, not just the cards that win the game.
The Foriysian Totems are a mix of mana acceleration, additional Red sources and a method of winning when you have somehow gotten Renewal in play, but have no creatures to cast. That’s important because, with Renewal in play, you will never draw another creature. Resurrection is another method of getting around Renewal.
I should mention that Totems also survive Wrath.
Brion Stoutarm was initially included because I thought I could equip him, then have him sacrifice himself, etc. It was simply a case of failing to RTFC. However, he stayed around because he fit the curve nicely, the lifelink ability was quite good, and because he provided a distraction. I had opponents Thoughtseize me, see pretty much the entire combo and take Brion instead of a piece.
The Sacred Mesa and Oblivion Ring are present mainly as targets for the Idyllic Tutor. I would probably run more Idyllic Tutors if I wind up with some in drafts or sealed events. I’m not sure I want to spend hard currency for them, or even spend the time necessary to trade for them. I will, however, play a couple of them if I get them.
As usually, I first took this deck off to the Casual Play room. I won five straight. I can’t say that I did so because my combo was amazing, or that It was extremely consistent. Instead, the deck won on pure power. Several games were won simply because having plenty of mana and Siege-Gang Commander is a very powerful combination in itself. Brion also proved surprisingly useful, mainly as a beater, and my Wraths did what Wrath usually does against creature decks. In fact, I won just one game with any part of the combo — and that part of the combo consisted solely of Mogg Fanatic, Enduring Renewal, and seven Red mana.
It was reasonably clear that this deck did not belong in the casual room, so I took it off to the tournament practice room. This meant a sideboard, but I kept it really simple: 3 O-rings, 3 Crovax, 3 Disenchant, 3 Sulfurous Blast, 3 Tormod’s Crypt.
The games here were a bit more challenging. I am writing this over a week since they happened, and I cannot remember a lot of them, but I do remember one in particular. I was playing against what was basically a Dralnu deck, with Bitterblossom in place of Dralnu. He had a ton of counters and managed to stop most everything I could drop. I did, however, manage to bait him and get Sacred Mesa to stick. It soon became a race between Bitterblossom and Sacred Mesa. That would usually not be much of a race, except that he had Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and lots of land in play, and cast a full playset of Tendrils at my dudes. Damnation also shot down my entire fleet at times. In the end, though, I ended up doing over 80 points of damage with little flying horses and won the game. Game 2 was anti-climactic: he was short on time, and my deck was fast. I exploded out of the chute and he made a few misclicks when trying not to squander his clock, so I killed him.
This deck was good, not great, in the tournament practice room. I think I managed to combo once, in five matches. In many games, Deathrender could have been as effective if it had been a Vulshok Morningstar. In a number of other games, I had the Renewal in hand, but since I could win by just beating with the dudes, I never needed to cast it.
I did take this deck to the multiplayer room for some 2HG as well. I only remember two matches. The first was against a pair of players that had a pair of decks that worked perfectly together. My partner was playing GB Elves. He opened with some fast elves, and Loxodon Warhammer. I was land screwed, but managed to resolve a Lens, then two Totems and a Siege Gang Commander. Unfortunately, our opponents both played Islands, while one played a pair of Gauntlets of Might while his partner played a pair of Cloud Keys. The Keys player had played one copy of Time Stretch already, then another on turn 5 (for us / turn 7 for him.) Because of the Gauntlets and Keys, that player was able to Twincast it, while his partner also made a copy for himself. That team then used Pyroclasm to get rid of blockers, then cast March of the Machines and killed us with animated mana accelerants.
The pair claimed they had not coordinated their decks. That is possible, but some players reached different conclusions.
The deck won the other two multiplayer games I played it in, but I don’t really remember the details. I think we won a tough match against a Doran build, and I think I combed in another game. It does not matter — I was more than ready to try another deck.
I didn’t have a playset of Maralens, or other interesting Morningtide rares, but I had been tempted to try a Storybrook Schoolmaster / Intruder Alarm deck since the spoiler appeared and I certainly had a playset of Schoolmasters. I figured that a Merfolk build would be interesting, since it would have Islandwalk to battle control and other Blue decks, and should have enough weenies to hold back Doran until I could combo out.
The combo, of course, was Schoolmaster and Intruder Alarm, coupled with something with a “tap a merfolk” activation cost. I decided on Drowner of Secrets, although I also built an Opposition version. The Drowner was more fun — the Opposition version might be something I’ll try in an Extended tournament sometime.
Infinities of Fishies
4 Adarkar Wastes
2 Wanderwine Hub
4 Flooded Strand
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Azorius Chancery
4 Summon the School
4 Intruder Alarm
1 Force Spike
4 Drowner of Secrets
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Stonybrook Schoolmaster
3 Merfolk Looter
3 Merrow Reejerey
2 Judge of Currents
1 Lord of Atlantis
I don’t have any Grimoire Thieves, so I stuck a couple extra Summon the School and the Lord of Atlantis in slots that might have held GTs. I also only had two Wanderwine Hubs at that point: the current version has four copies. The Azorius Chancery was not so much tech as shiny, but it proved pretty solid. One game I had it and a Reejerey in play on turn 5, and I cast three straight Adepts, followed by Ponder and a Summon the School, and still had Remand mana up.
A note: I deliberately ran Ponder over suspendable Ancestral. This deck wants specific pieces quickly, not just more cards. It is not a control deck, it’s a combo deck, so fast digging beats slow card draw.
Once again, I started in the casual play room, to try the concept out. I won five straight, all on turn 5. Three times I comboed out; the other times I won with a bunch of big fish.
It was clear that this deck could handle the tournament practice room, so I added a sideboard and headed that way. The sideboard was the other three Lords of Atlantis, Counterspells, more Force Spikes, Repeals and some other cards which I don’t remember: I don’t have a copy of the sideboard handy. It was pretty generic.
The first game in the tournament practice room was against a good Dredge build. Just on a theoretical level, you should be able to predict the outcome. I have a glorified Millstone deck, which falls back on a slow beatdown strategy. Dredge does insane things, quickly, and putting cards in its graveyard actually helps it.
No contest. So much a no contest I didn’t bother with sideboard cards.
Game 1 I had a turn 5 kill ready. Unfortunately, Dredge was on the play and killed me turn 3. Game 2 I had Remands and Repeals, and actually managed to fight off enough critical cards to win with Merfolk beats, in what was probably the unlikeliest win of the day. Game 3 — well, see game 1.
The second match was against Some Level Blue. Game 1 I got out a bunch of Merfolk, and he played Tarmogoyfs. I found Reejereys and chained Adepts — then ripped Lord of Atlantis for the win. Game 2 he focused on stopping the Lords, and I managed to slip the combo in and decked him. Surprise!
The next match was against a UG Tron deck. Game 1 we battled back and forth, and I had Drowner, Looter, and a Reejerey in play, with another Reejerey and two Intruder Alarms in hand. He dropped and activated Mindslaver, but did not yet have recursion. He took my turn, Looted away my good cards, attacked himself to tap my guys, then cast Intruder Alarm to lock me down. On his turn, he traded a Tolaria West for Academy Ruins and got ready to Slaver lock me next turn. Unfortunately for him, I ripped the Schoolmaster and comboed him out.
I went 3-2 or 4-1 in the tournament practice room and did pretty well in 2HG, but the deck is not consistent. Too often, I would get the combo without a Drowner. I needed another way to tap my Merfolk, and Opposition seemed the perfect answer. I started testing the following build. I had intended to offer it for the last week of Extended PTQs, but the crash that wiped out this article last time also ate my playtest time. The deck still needs tuning before it is playable in a real tournament, but it has potential.
Alarmed by Fishy Opposition
4 Adarkar Wastes
1 Azorius Chancery (premium)
4 Flooded Strand
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Wanderwine Hub
3 Intruder Alarm
3 Force Spike
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Stonybrook Schoolmaster
4 Drowner of Secrets
4 Merfolk Looter
3 Merrow Reejerey
Like I said, it needs some tuning, but it is interesting to play. I’m not sure how it does against Dredge, and both Pernicious Deed and Shackles cause frowns, but it is not impossible. On the other hand, a deck like this will have timing issues on MTGO, and I don’t like playing Opposition in the multiplayer room, so I probably won’t play it much.
I have other decks to build.
“one million words” on MTGO