You Lika The Juice? – Cauldron (Persistence, Part 2)

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Wednesday, April 30th – Last week I wrote about the Persistence mechanic, touching on some ideas and concepts that I hope inspired some of you to give the Persistence cards a try. In the deckbuilding forums I’ve seen a lot of folks adopting my Juniper Order Ranger idea into Persistence engines.

“I feel my game has been dipped in pixie dust and thrown to the randy unicorns.”
Craig Stevenson

While Mr. Stevenson does a fantastic job herding cats and making them look good (i.e. editing all of Star City’s writers), he also turns a helluva phrase. This sentence made me chuckle, then go back and read it again. Chuckle again. Finally, I decided it’s one of the funniest little phrases I’d read in a while. [Heh, cheers Bennie! — Craig.]

I’m not sucking up… I’m a writer so good wordsmithing amuses me. I now hope that Unicorns get the Treefolk treatment at some point so I can make a deck called Randy Unicorns.

Last week I wrote about the Persistence mechanic, touching on some ideas and concepts that I hope inspired some of you to give the Persistence cards a try. In the deckbuilding forums I’ve seen a lot of folks adopting my Juniper Order Ranger idea into Persistence engines. Checking the Star City sales database, it’s listed #19 most sold Standard Uncommon the past week; 297 still in stock for 50 cents, so get ‘em while they’re cheap!

I ended last week’s column with a tease about a deck built around Cauldron of Souls. In Ben Bleiweiss column, The Financial Value of Shadowmoor, he had this to say about the Cauldron:

“This is my pick for sleeper hit of the set. Fantastic as a casual card, and it also has the advantage of only having a “tap” ability (no mana cost) to activate. Anti-Wrath, and lets you get a double shot out of any creature you have.”

While I think Ben was referring to this card as a “sleeper” purely on its financial value and likely growing appeal among the casual card, my suspicion is that it will make the crossover to tournament decks as well. Its effect is very much worth the one-time five-mana investment, especially since you can use it over and over again.

Cauldron of Souls very much reminds me of another five mana artifact that did a nice job of bringing creatures back from the dead without spending mana: Lifeline! Back in the days of Usenet, I made some waves by writing extensively about pairing Survival of the Fittest with Oath of Ghouls, so once Lifeline was released I immediately jumped on the idea of using Lifeline:

B.L.T. (Badass Lifeline Tech)

4 Survival of the Fittest
3 Lifeline
3 Oath of Ghouls
1 Carrion Beetles
1 Elvish Lyricist
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Skyshroud Elves
3 Wall of Blossoms
1 Spike Feeder
1 Bottle Gnomes
1 Coffin Queen
1 Spined Fluke
1 Ghitu Slinger
1 Treasure Hunter
1 Raven Familiar
1 Viashino Heretic
1 Bone Shredder
1 Spike Weaver
1 Tradewind Rider
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Gravedigger
1 Mogg Bomber
1 Radiant Dragoons
1 Fallen Angel
1 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Deranged Hermit
3 Gaea’s Cradle
2 Phyrexian Tower
3 City of Brass
2 Thran Quarry
4 Swamp
8 Forest

Like any good Survival deck, the list was loooooong on the onesies. One of the things I made use of in this deck was the echo creatures with coming-into-play abilities, because they’d self-sacrifice if you didn’t pay echo and go to the graveyard to come back from the Oath, or pop right back into play with Lifeline (provided you had another creature in play). Either way, you’d get the comes-into-play benefit over and over.

Echo here reminds me a bit of Evoke nowadays… You can easily see the allure Blink decks had for me, letting me play tons of creatures with comes-into-play (or, occasionally, leaves play) abilities. Seems to me that Cauldron of Souls is a natural addition to Blink decks and especially the “Turbo Blink” archetype I worked on before and after State Champs last year.

TurboBlink v1

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Galepowder Mage
3 Harmonic Sliver
2 Masked Admirers
4 Mulldrifter
4 Shriekmaw
4 Stonecloaker
4 Wall of Roots
4 Momentary Blink
4 Saffi Eriksdotter
2 Plains
4 Brushland
2 Horizon Canopy
4 Shimmering Grotto
2 Treetop Village
4 Vivid Meadow
4 Yavimaya Coast
1 Pendelhaven

2 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Masked Admirers
4 Riftsweeper
3 Slaughter Pact
4 Wrath Of God

TurboBlink v2

4 Birds of Paradise
2 Deadwood Treefolk
4 Galepowder Mage
3 Maelstrom Djinn
4 Mulldrifter
4 Riftsweeper
4 Shriekmaw
4 Wall of Roots
4 Momentary Blink
4 Saffi Eriksdotter
2 Plains
4 Brushland
2 Horizon Canopy
4 Shimmering Grotto
2 Treetop Village
4 Vivid Meadow
4 Yavimaya Coast
1 Pendelhaven

3 Brine Elemental
4 Riptide Pilferer
4 Stonecloaker
4 Vesuvan Shapeshifter

I wrote about the deck quite a bit in the original column, but as a recap basically the deck was all about abusing Momentary Blink, with Saffi Eriksdotter functioning as a “free” Momentary Blink when the creature is going to die, and Galepowder Mage functioning as a slow-roll, reusable Blink provided he gets to attack. The deck was incredibly powerful but struggled with mana problems and sometimes felt like it just fell a tad short.

With Shadowmoor, I think the deck has the tools it needs to step up to the next level. Here’s how I’d bring the deck into the new Standard:

Friends of mine will surely laugh at this deck since it’s got my fingerprints all over it – chock full of utility creatures and recursion. Maindeck Riftsweepers? Well, consider this: nearly half of the winners of the City Champs finals played Faeries running Ancestral Vision, and a good number of Merfolk won and many of them ran Ancestral Vision. Various Blue/Green concoctions are running it. Richard Feldman Spectral Vision deck is named after the spell. People have certainly caught on to this card in a big way, so I suspect there will be plenty of occasions to use the Riftsweeper’s ability in the coming metagame… and if nothing else, it can shuffle your Momentary Blink back into your deck once you’ve flashed it back.

Maindeck Wispmare seems to be another natural metagame inclusion due to the huge amount of Bitterblossoms running around out there.

I’m a little torn between Aven Riftwatcher and Kitchen Finks… right now I’m leaning towards the Riftwatcher because of its flying ability, but I’m considering trying out the Finks. If nothing else, I’ll probably run a couple Finks in the sideboard just to really bury everyone who’s feeling like Dan Paskins now that Flame Javelin is out there.

Let me just say, God bless Wizards for bringing back Reflecting Pool; I didn’t mind the Shimmering Grottoes in earlier versions of TurboBlink, but I was also running Birds and Walls of Roots so the extra mana to color fix worked out okay. Reflecting Pool + Vivid Lands = Good mana, yay!

Okay, now for a really funky Cauldron deck for those of you more interested in engines as opposed to incremental card advantage.

Obviously, Pestermite gets targeted by the Cauldron, sacrificed, and comes back into play to untap the Cauldron; sadly, even with a Juniper Order Ranger in play, you can’t do this infinite times, as the Persist ability’s -1/-1 counter always appears first. What I do like about Pestermite is its surprise value and a way to combat anti-graveyard hate; if your opponent is representing Extirpate, flash out Pestermite end-of-turn and tap down his black source of mana, then on your turn untap and go off with your Cauldron. While you’ve got the same sort of Persist shenanigans I talked about last week – Juniper Order Advocate + Nantuko Husk + Redcap or Finks – this time the Cauldron (along with Pestermite) opens up your options with Mulldrifter and protecting the Ranger himself. I also highly recommend Saffi Eriksdotter as a way to protect Juniper Order Ranger, which some folks have criticized as being “fragile.” While it’s just as vulnerable to Shriekmaw as the next green or white creature, doesn’t a four toughness account for anything anymore?

Next up, I wanted to revisit Twilight Shepherd from last week. While I like the Baubles in the deck, the Mind Stones didn’t seem to work especially well after playing the deck quite a bit, and the Martyr of Sands/Order of Whiteclay elements seemed clunky. Despite the Order’s four toughness, it was remarkable how often I just didn’t want to attack with him, which made his Q ability much less appealing.

Strip out the cute and add some beats, Tarmogoyf-style! In the original version of Bauble Shepherd I often didn’t want to use my Baubles before the Shepherd hit the board because they’d get stranded in the graveyard, but playing with Tarmogoyfs makes them cantrip power and toughness boosters. Another side benefit of adding Goyfs in this deck is that, between Llanowar Reborns and Juniper Order Rangers, I’m going to win the Goyf fights.

I was initially going to add Momentary Blink here in order to act as a reset for the Persist gang, and then work the manabase over in order to get some blue for the flashback, but then I remembered Turn to MistTurn to Mist is actually a perfect addition to the deck, since I imagine I would hate having my Tarmogoyf — or, worse yet, my Twilight Shepherd — stolen by Sower of Temptation. Turn my guy to Mist and at the end of the turn he comes back home to Daddy. And of course there’s the whole thought of moving their lone chump blocker out of the way as a surprise, then swooping in to attack with a big ol’ Cloudthresher. I’m not yet sure whether this would be a positive net change from running Blinks but we’ll see.

I’d like to find room for another Saffi or two to help protect the Juniper Order Ranger, but since I’m not playing with an engine here the Rangers aren’t quite as necessary, especially with the Reborns and Mists to knock off -1/-1 counters.

So, Persist fans out there, let me know what you think! What sort of decks are you creating with Persist? Have you tried out any of my builds? It’s one thing to play a deck of your own creation; it’s another to get someone else’s perspective when they give it a whirl.

Next week, I plan on digging into some of the hidden gems found in the City Champs Finals Top 8 lists. We all know Faeries finished huge, islandwalking Fish rode in behind them, with plenty of high places for a lot of the usual suspects. But way down the list were some very interesting decks indeed! I’d like to look at a few of them and see what Shadowmoor can do to make them even better. As a preview, I’d like to say I really loved this spicy mono-Green number to a sixth place finish in Baltimore:

Gauntlet Green by Winston Dong
6th Place – Baltimore City Champs Finals

1 Chameleon Colossus
3 Cloudthresher
3 Dauntless Dourbark
1 Panglacial Wurm
1 Razormane Masticore
2 Verdeloth the Ancient
4 Wall of Roots
4 Gauntlet of Power
4 Harmonize
4 Into the North
4 Lignify
3 Primal Command
2 Summoner’s Pact
2 Mouth of Ronom
1 Scrying Sheets
21 Snow-Covered Forest

2 Brooding Saurian
1 Cloudthresher
2 Deadwood Treefolk
2 Hail Storm
2 Naturalize
1 Primal Command
3 Razormane Masticore
2 Utopia Vow

I love that they’ve got the Sample Hand Generator available to see how the decks pull. For kicks, I did a few off Winston’s deck:

Opening Hand: Wall of Roots, Lignify, Harmonize, Primal Command, Razormane Masticore, two Snow-Covered Forests.
Draw into: Dauntless Dourbark, Snow-Covered Forest, Wall of Roots.

Not bad, assuming you don’t want to Lignify something right away, turn 2 Roots, turn 3 Dourbark, turn 4 Wall of Roots, Lignify somebody and attack with Dourbark (Lignify makes him a 5/5 trampler, big enough to smash through the blocker). Next turn you can either drop the Masticore, Harmonize for some more cards, or Primal Command. Yeah, that’s a pretty good opener.

Another one:

Opening Hand: two Wall of Roots, Lignify, Dauntless Dourbark, three Snow-Covered Forests.
Draw into: Gauntlet of Power, Mouth of Ronom, Primal Command,

A nearly identical start, only this time you’ve got Gauntlet out to further pump the Dourbark, with a Command to go get another big gun.

Speaking of big guns, did you see the tricky Panglacial Wurm in there? I say tricky because I can see something like an instant speed Summoner’s Pact, go fetch some creature, but while you’re searching your deck go ahead and play the Wurm. Seven mana ain’t no thing. And he’s got trample too – in a world filled with infinite chump blockers, I’m all about trampling over those little faerie bastards.

The reason I picked this is because it’s one deck I think could make fine use of Woodfall Primus; eight mana should not be a problem.

No disrespect to Verdeloth, but it seems to me that Howl of the Nightpack is just a better card in terms of sheer power on the board for the mana. Verdeloth really needs a Gauntlet out there to make him worth the effort; Howl is definitely nuts with a Gauntlet since each Wolf is a 3/3, but Howl will still give you at least 5 or 6 2/2s. There are some cases when Verdeloth is better, like if you’ve got a ton of mana and rip a Summoner’s Pact off the top, or if you need another Treefolk to give your Dourbark trampling… maybe it would be more correct to run 1 Verdeloth and 1 Howl?

I’m torn on the Snow package; I’m not sure whether I’d want the Mouths and Scrying Sheets, or whether I’d rather have Mutavault. Mutavault is a Treefolk after all for Dourbark’s trampling. Not running Snow gives you ability to try out the Sapseep Forests, which seem like a decent way of adding some minor utility while keeping your Forest count high. What do you think?

By the way, what’s up with only four Treefolk in Shadowmoor? The Treefolk tribe was already struggling to make a dent in the metagame with only 31 cards to choose from. Granted, faeries only had 34 to choose from, but I think we can all agree that the faerie tribe was juiced up on the power curve quite nicely… and they got eleven new faeries in Shadowmoor?! Granted, not many of them are good enough to bump the faeries currently on the roster, but one of them is Oona, one of the best blue and/or black creatures to come down in a while; and one is Faerie Macabre, a card that should see some serious play in Classic formats and might make a splash in Standard (for no mana, you can make a dent to Reveillark and Swans combo). For the Treefolk, the only one that might see play costs eight mana. Eight mana!

Alright folks, that’s it for this week! Hope you enjoy the Shadowmoor release parties this weekend and snag you a nice and shiny Vexing Shusher – the more of that card that’s in circulation, the happier I am!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com