You Lika The Juice? – Building a Better Summoning Trap

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Friday, November 27th – When I submitted my column last week, I was bouncing between playing my Pyromancer Ascension/Summoning Trap deck, my Eldrazi Goblin deck, and Takagi Yui’s Rite of Replication deck for FNM… Then I watched the video deck tech with Conley Woods from Worlds, and I fell in love with Magical Christmasland.

When I submitted my column last week, I was bouncing between playing my Pyromancer Ascension/Summoning Trap deck, my Eldrazi Goblin deck, and Takagi Yui’s Rite of Replication deck for FNM — and, depending on how well it did, taking it to the Jay Coffman Memorial Tournament. Then I watched the video deck tech with Conley Woods from Worlds, and I fell in love with Magical Christmasland.

Acidic Slime. Rampaging Baloths. Violent Ultimatums… and Mold Shamblers?! Of course I had to play this beast, so I pounded out the decklist based on watching the video of the deck laid out:

The Cruel Ultimatums (and the three basic lands needed to run it) seemed positively… well, insane, strikes me as the appropriate word, though “overly optimistic” is the more polite term. Conley himself mentioned playing four of them was probably wrong, and that three was the correct number. Now, I’m nowhere near the caliber of player as Conley, who I’m guessing is good enough to survive long enough for Cruel to make that big of difference, but for FNM I decided to cut the Cruels and lands. This left room for Grazing Gladehart (which I was urged to try) and a couple of Duresses. Other than the sideboard tweaks, I played the deck as is.

The first round I played against Boros Bushwhacker and got steamrolled the first game. Game 2 I got turn 2 Cobra and turn 3 Gladehart before my opponent had the mana to cast the Bolt he obviously had in his hand. He was torn which card to kill, and after saying “this is probably the wrong choice, but I’ve seen that card do some crazy things” he killed the Cobra. The Gladehart ended up netting me 8 life, keeping me at a comfortable 17 when I dropped a Rampaging Baloths, and soon I had an army of 4/4s to join him. The last game he had to mulligan, but his six were total gas. My life totals went 20-18-9-2-dead. He even did 2 points to himself. Ouch.

The second round I played against Jessica running an interesting Bant homebrew built around Sigil Captain, Allies, and Emeria Angel. I struggled in game 1 while she came out the gates pretty fast, and she unfortunately didn’t draw or need her non-basics so the Ruinblasters I drew were pretty horrible, and her fliers were unconcerned about the Acidic Slimes. While my demise was not as quick as the last round, it didn’t take too long. Game 2 I had to mulligan, and Jess came out the gates even faster, quickly assembling what was lethal on the board. I needed to draw a miracle – and sure enough, it was Ob Nixilis smiling at me, who along with the Harrow in hand, an Expedition and two sac lands dealt 21 points of damage from nowhere to steal the game. Whew! In the final game Jess had two lands and two Noble Hierarchs to start, but stalled on land made worse by my Ruinblaster. I managed to crank out an early Violent Ultimatum to pick off her threats, and then topdecked another one to pick off her Hierarchs and remaining land. She scooped it shortly afterwards. Man, I kinda felt like I’d been playing Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker!

Round 3 I play against Jund, who slowly 2-for-1s me to death in game 1. Game 2 he mulligans, gets the awkward mana draw, and Ruinblaster stalls him long enough for Jund’s Ultimatum to put the game away. Game 3… well, let’s just say he didn’t mulligan, didn’t have mana issues, and just annihilates me. I drop out, play some EDH with my Sharuum Equipment deck (go-go Kaldra!) and end up winning a really long, drawn-out battle. A little vindication, but to say I’m disappointed in Magical Christmasland is an understatement. Of course, three matches obviously isn’t a good judge of a deck’s potential, but I just felt like it was a total struggle against Bushwhacker and Jund, like I had to be a Conley Woods to turn those matches around. I really, really liked the manabase – the Cobra/KHE/Harrow engine really made playing those big expensive spells a snap. It was the early/mid-game stuff that seemed so lame – Cobra, Slime, Shambler, and Ruinblaster are pathetic early creatures when facing down the format’s early and hard-hitting beaters. I did not have confidence in this deck – so what would I play at Sunday’s Jay Coffman Memorial tournament?

I was sent a message from Giannis Lat, the guy whose top-performing Summoning Trap deck got everyone’s notice recently. He mentioned he was still working on the deck, he liked the ideas I’d had for it, and that he had cooked up this number that had been doing well for him:

I came really close to sleeving this up and running with it. I already had a lot of these cards already sleeved up in my earlier Summoning Trap attempts. Wall of Reverence and Baneslayer Angel is a heckuva one-two mid-game punch to the gut against aggressive decks. I even liked the nice Harrow-into-Negate mana surprise potential.

Something bugged me though… what was bothering me?

Then I realized – there was no creature removal. In my recent Summoning Trap decks, the lack of creature removal was just lethal. Visions of that unanswered Knight of the Reliquary setting up Valakut to mow down my poor Sphinxes of the Steel Wind gave me shivers.

Late Saturday night I went about trying to pull together the Pyromancer’s Ascension/Summoning Trap hybrid deck idea – with fresh “tech” of Rites of Replication. Laying the cards out, it just looked terrible, with very little wiggle room because you wanted fours of all your instants and sorceries to be able to turn on the Ascension reliably (and early) enough. I was really, really tired too, after spending a lot of time raking up leaves that day and then putting in four hours at my part-time job.

I had the cards together for Mono-Red Monumental Goblins, so I went to bed that night figuring I’d be doing funky aggro Sunday.

I woke up inspired! The manabase/mana engine in Magical Christmasland was awesome – and a perfect fit for what I was trying to pull off with my Summoning Trap ideas. Magical Christmasland could either “combo” quick with temporary Cobra mana to power out a big spell, or he could be on the ramp plan and simply accelerate into having enough mana to play the big spells. Why couldn’t I do the same thing but replace Ultimatums with Summoning Trap?

Well, one problem was that I had about 25 minutes to drive to the event and merge two decks together. I grabbed Magical Christmasland and a stack of cards that included the remains of my previous Summoning Trap decks and ran into the tournament area to sign up and start de-sleeving and sleeving up.

Unfortunately, I’d only grabbed a single Path to Exile and was missing or short some other cards, so this is what I ended up running:

I was also inspired with the name of the deck. I took the heart and soul of Magical Christmasland (the manabase/acceleration) and added in Sphinx of the Steel Wind, which has protection from Red and Green… the colors of Christmas! Thus, the Sphinx is “anti-Christmas” and so I started calling him (and the deck) The Grinch.

First round I’m paired against Anthony, the guy running the Valakut deck that so badly destroyed my Summoning Trap deck a few Friday Night Magics ago. When he drops a turn 1 Valakut, I start to worry a little bit, but the Magical Christmas-lands get me an early Summoning Trap into Sphinx, and I follow up with Acidic Slime on one of his two Valakuts to make sure the Sphinx can put it away. Game 2 he mulligans into oblivion, and I just beat him down with Cobras until a big gun arrives. We play a third game for kicks and he destroys me.

The second round I play against an Esper deck, chock full of artifacts. The guy mentions he almost never plays Standard Magic, but he wanted to play in the charity event. I have to double-mulligan and get stuck on two lands for way too long, keep drawing KHEs but no lands or fetchers to help. He lets me live long enough to try and get some sort of board presence, but then he figures out he can bum rush me with everything and kill me. The second game is better, we go back and forth a bit, but he draws a bunch of Executioner’s Capsules and I draw Stags, Ob Nixilis and eventually a Steel Wind, and that’s enough blanks on his part for me to pull ahead. The last game I get the crazy mana-acceleration draw and Trap into a fast Sphinx. I end the game at 49 life.

Round 3 I play against Jund, and he just destroys me with fast Leech beatdown and an avalanche of 2-for-1s and burn. The second game I thought I had a chance when he Bolts my turn 2 Cobra and I play a turn 3 Stag. It smacks twice and then he hits it a Burst Lightning with kicker. I smile, play Grim Discovery to get back a sac land and the Stag, who gets replayed. Jund hits it with another Burst Lightning. I play another Grim Discovery (getting back the sac land again)! “Got another Lightning?” I asked, and he just shakes his head and plays Broodmate Dragon. D’OH! My Stag looks a little silly now, but I rip a Summoning Trap and cross my fingers for the ambush. The only creature in the next seven cards is an Acidic Slime… ouch. Dragons eat my face.

Round 4 I play against “Mono-Cascade,” I get a slow start he quickly buries me in card-advantage and leaves me flailing about with no hand. Game 2 he totally throws away when I need to get back a fetchland with Grim Discovery (and no creatures in the yard) in order to play a fourth land, and he responds by hitting me with Esper Charm – so I’m able to pitch a creature and get it back with Grim. He slaps his face the second he cast it realizing his mistake, and I manage to get a board presence out before he can strip away my hand. The last game we both come out reasonably fast, and it comes down to me having six mana and a choice between Summoning Trap and Rampaging Baloths. He’s got a couple cards in hand, so I’m pretty sure whatever I don’t play will get stripped from my hand on his turn (or during my draw step). Now, Summoning Trap into Iona or Sphinx would be awesome, but if I whiff on it I’m totally blown out of the water. I decide to go with what I know and play the Baloths. Sure enough he strips my hand the next turn, but doesn’t have anything to stop the Baloths. I rip a fetchland off the top of my deck and play it without cracking it, getting a 4/4 now and a potential 4/4 during his end step. He Bituminous Blasts one 4/4 but I make another one, and when I draw Harrow I go nuts with 4/4s and eventually beat him down. The Baloths are a surprisingly effective source of card advantage there…

Before the fifth and final round, I’m informed I can draw into the Top 8, something I haven’t had the pleasure of doing outside of FNM in a long, long time. My opponent and I intentional draw; turns out he’s playing Naya Lightsaber, a deck I feel the Summoning Trap deck probably has decent game against.

First elimination round I’m playing against another Jund deck and we have two epic brawls – on paper, it seems like this deck should have pretty good game against Jund, but earlier it sure didn’t play out that way. This time things went more like they should, with him eeking out a victory and me riding a Steel Wind to victory. The last game he hits me with two Blightnings, but I’ve set things up so that I’ll have the mana to cast the lone card left in my hand – Summoning Trap! I cast it… and whiff, sadly putting Acidic Slime into play. A couple lands off the top in the next few turns, and my run is over.

Turns out Naya Lightsaber beat two Jund decks on the way to winning the whole tournament. I’d like to extend a special thanks to Jessica Sheets, and Wizards of the Coast, for providing very generous prize support for the Jay Coffman Memorial tournament. Everyone who played went home with a very nice prize, and between the tournament and the Silent Auction nearly $2,000 was raised for the Massey Cancer Center in Jay’s name. And thanks to Tommy and Frank for putting together the event, it was a great way for old friends and new to come together, remember Jay, and have fun.

I have to say I’m very pleased with how my Summoning Trap deck has come together – it feels like it’s doing powerful, unfair things, which is a big change from the usual mid-range stuff I seem to gravitate towards. I think it’s probably got some natural strengths against Naya Lightsaber, a deck I’m sure will be on the rise after Worlds and will surely see play at States. I also think, with some tweaks, it should have a favorable matchup against Jund, a deck I’m sure a lot of people will continue to play. Here’s how it looks currently, with suggestions from some talented Magicians this week and more than 25 minutes to pull together the cards:

The thing that might raise an eyebrow is — why cut down to 3 Harrow? In the course of playing the games, I realized between KHE, fetchlands, and Harrows, I was actually at risk of running out of basic land targets, especially if I drew a fair number of them early on. In one game I actually had to fetch just a single land off Harrow in order to have a target for the fetchland in play, held at the ready for landfall. Yes, you can actually over-ramp with this deck, and I’m considering some options for squeezing in an extra land or two.

So why did Harrow get the short-shrift? First, the fetchlands were just awesome as mana fixing and landfall triggering at instant speed. Simply top notch. The KHEs were similar, and it was often the correct play to leave one full charged in play and waiting until you needed landfall triggers at instant speed.

The Lotus Cobras were stellar. Sure, they ate a lot of early removal, but that’s okay – if they killed the Cobra, odds improved that the Stag and other creatures would stick. If they didn’t have the removal? Well, that’s where Magical Christmasland comes into play, letting you pull off absurd turn 3 or turn 4 maneuvers. I can almost hear Burl Ives chuckling…

Harrow works great as a landfall trigger, but it is occasionally awkward, and overall seems to be less fun to draw in multiples than the other engines so I think 3 is probably the right number. I may also try Knight of the Reliquary instead. What do you think?

Seeing Traumatic Visions popping up in some of the control decks from Worlds got me wondering about trying Sylvan Bounty. It would obviously work well in helping to fix the off colors, and once you get to six mana – easily and quickly done in this deck – gaining 8 life at instant speed might be a real help in buying time against the speedier decks. I just thought of the idea this morning so I’ve really had no time to explore the idea, but I figure I’d toss it out there to see what you all might think.

I’ve got a week before States, and I’m excited – I think I got a real contender here, one that not too many people are playing and it certainly seems to be off most of the columnists’ radar currently. On paper it looks like it should have excellent game against the G/R/x decks that are currently ruling the format. I’m really looking for constructive feedback from any of you who might be interested, hit me in the forums or send me a message or email.

That’s it for this week; I hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday weekend if you live here in the States.

Take care!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

New to EDH? Be sure to check out my EDH Primer, part 1, part 2, and part 3!

My current EDH decks:
Doran the Siege-Tower (toughness matters!)
Baron Sengir (Evile Vampires!)
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary (big mana spells)
Sharuum, the Hegemon (equipment.dec)