Preludeâ€” Fellowship of the Midrange
It’s a sad time to be a midrange Magician. As I sift through the data leading up to The Biggest Magic Weekend of All Time here in Richmond next week, it feels like the format ultimately boils down to two axesâ€”aggro decks and Jace decks. I’ve never been fond of aggro decks because I hate getting in a spot when your opponent stabilizes and you’ve run out of gas and are living off the topdeck. Inevitably that arises from a mistake I made in the very early part of the game from not maximizing the damage dealt, and I’m left trying to figure out a way to squeeze the last few points of damage out of cardboard. God forbid my opponent plays something to gain a bunch of life like a Baneslayer Angel or Wurmcoil Engine.
On the other side of the spectrum are the Jace decks, which make me cringe looking at them. The decklists looks so flimsy, so threat-light, filled out with a bunch of search, acceleration, and a few ways to try and protect your threat once you actually find it and can play it.
It makes me really nostalgic for States last year, where I got second place playing an awesome G/W midrange deck that was chock full of threats all up and down the mana curve.
Turn 1, Noble Hierarch. Better have an answer…
Okay, turn 2, Lotus Cobra. Better have an answer…
Okay, turn 3, Knight of the Reliquary. Better have an answer…
Alright, turn 4, Master of the Wild Hunt. Better have an answer…
How about turn 5, Baneslayer Angel. No answer? Aw, that’s a shame; now take your beating…
Today it feels totally different. If you’re not playing aggro, you’re fiddling with your deck for a few turns, and then you play a threat and hope it’s not Mana Leaked or bounced by Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
God I hate that card. So many times when I’m tinkering with deck ideas, inevitably I’ll add blue to the mix for some of blue’s
awesome cards (like Sea Gate Oracle, Creeping Tar Pit), and suddenly Jace is there in my face, demanding an answer to the questionâ€”
why aren’t you playing me?
He’s so ridiculously over-the-top powerful, you might as well be asking,
why don’t you want to win?
The other day I caught some of the
Fellowship of the Ring
on TV, where our heroes are forced into the Mines of Moria. It’s one of the coolest scenes in all the films (and of course the books), the prototypical dungeon-delving adventuring party that set the standard for countless fantasy novels and Dungeons & Dragons sessions over the years. It’s the first time we get to see the Fellowship battle and show themselves to be true badasses, hacking down countless Orcs and dispatching the mighty cave troll.
Then the Balrog shows up, and everyone runs because… what the hell are you supposed to do against
And it struck meâ€”Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the mother-effin’ Balrog of Standard.
It’s like all the various and sundry deck ideas I brew upâ€”some of them are Merry and Pippin and obviously goofy and just for fun. Some of them are like Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli and capable of kicking much a** under normal circumstances, like a Friday Night Magic. On rare occasion I brew up a Gandalf the Grey, who at least gives the appearance of being in the same class and maybe capable of taking down a PTQ or States. But you know what? Ultimately they all look like chumps when Jace the Balrog shows up, cracking the Fateseal whip, burning with the Brainstorm hellfire.
Run, you fools!
still working on
what to play at the StarCityGames.com Open this weekend and the Grinders for the Invitational. I’ve been trying to find Gandalf the White, but so far it’s all Balrog abyssal breath in my face, burning down the house. Sigh.
Accelerate, Accumulate, Appreciate
On a positive note, I’ve been doing my best to cook up some fun and competitive Elder Dragon Highlander decks to have on hand as well, and this week I’d like to talk about my latest creation. Ever since Scars of Mirrodin came out I’ve been dying to build a proliferate deck because proliferate is an awesome mechanic, and there are a ton of different counters that you’d love to add more of. Not just +1/+1, -1/-1, and charge counters, but level up, loyalty, divinity, and wish counters, too. Now, I usually build my decks from the top down, starting with the general and building around that. Occasionally though, it’s fun to build from the bottom up, when your general might not even be relevant to the master plan.
First, let’s look at the stars of the show.
Thrummingbird, Contagion Clasp, Throne of Geth, Steady Progress, Inexorable Tide, and Contagion Engine
Yep, there’s only six in the entirety of Scars of Mirrodin. I presume that we’re going to get more over the next two sets, but for now this is it. Because there are only five reusable cards with proliferate to use in my proliferate deck, I’m going to include more tutor-type cards than I usually do.
Now based on these cards we’re obviously going to need blue in our deck. With infect and poison being a natural complement to the proliferate strategy, I initially figured I’d want to run green, blue, and black, which of course would mean Vorosh, the Hunter as my general. But I also strongly considered running five colors, since adding planeswalkers like Nicol Bolas to the mix would be awesome with proliferate; heck maybe I could run one of each planeswalker! There were also some sunburst cards that would be better if you were playing with more than three colors (Clearwater Goblet, Etched Oracle).
As my stack of cards to consider grew to unruly proportions, I decided that, for now, it might be better to restrict my colors back to Vorosh. Conveniently, Vorosh himself works well in a proliferate deck, giving himself +1/+1 counters. Removing the red and white cards and cards that would be better in a five color deck, I then made two pilesâ€”cards that provided counters themselves, and cards that managed counters (either by moving them, adding them, or removing them). Obviously some could go in either pile, but I figured the bulk of the cards in my deck should be from the first pile, while I’d limit the other cards to synergies and powerful effects. Here’s what I ended up selecting for my deckâ€”
Cards with counters:
Vorosh, the Hunter, Tainted Strike, Sun Droplet, Lighthouse Chronologist, Everflowing Chalice, Coalition Relic, Dusk Urchins, Kitchen Finks, Spike Feeder, Magistrate’s Scepter, Grafted Exoskeleton, Lux Cannon, Trigon of Infestation, Spike Weaver, Glen Elendra Archmage, Wickerbough Elder, Tezzeret the Seeker, Black Market, Djinn of Wishes, Cauldron of Souls, Draining Whelk, Mirrodin’s Core, Vivid Grove, Vivid Creek, Vivid Marsh
There were a surprising number of cards here that are just really good EDH cards period but become extra good with proliferate, cards like Everflowing Chalice, Sun Droplet, Coalition Relic, Spike Weaver, and Black Market.
Clockspinning, Crumbling Ashes, Power Conduit, Leech Bonder, Necroskitter, Blowfly Infestation, Serrated Biskelion, Gilder Bairn, Serrated Arrows, Forgotten Ancient, Skeleton Ship, Doubling Season, Novijen Sages, Grim Poppet; Novijen, Heart of Progress, Llanowar Reborn
Tons of powerful effects and synergies here with all the various counters. One card I’m on the fence on is the ever-popular Doubling Season. While it normally does crazy things with token creation, it also does a nice job of doubling counters. The problem of course is that Doubling Season’s effect is not a “may” effect, so especially with effects that add -1/-1 counters, I’m a little concerned at the lack of control. Still, I suspect the upside far outweighs the downside.
Of course, there are cards you’re going to want that don’t necessarily play directly into the proliferate theme, though many ended up getting cut to make room. Since Voltaic Key plays nicely with some of the proliferate cards, I added Trinket Mage to go get it and also tossed in a package of utility one-drops as well. I decided to go the Elixir of Immortality route to reuse cards in the graveyard rather than Yawgmoth’s Will, but that might not be correct. Here’s how the deck currently looks:
1 Vorosh, the Hunter
1 Maze of Ith
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Sol Ring
1 Voltaic Key
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Ivory Tower
1 Tainted Strike
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Sun Droplet
1 Crumbling Ashes
1 Lighthouse Chronologist
1 Sylvan Library
1 Power Conduit
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Contagion Clasp
1 Throne of Geth
1 Leech Bonder
1 Coalition Relic
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Trinket Mage
1 Krosan Grip
1 Dusk Urchins
1 Eternal Witness
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Bowfly Infestation
1 Steady Progress
1 Spike Feeder
1 Serrated Biskelion
1 Gilder Bairn
1 Magistrate’s Scepter
1 Grafted Exoskeleton
1 Lux Cannon
1 Serrated Arrows
1 Trigon of Infestation
1 Forgotten Ancient
1 Spike Weaver
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Wickerbough Elder
1 Vhati il-Dal
1 Skeleton Ship
1 Inexorable Tide
1 Doubling Season
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Black Market
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Djinn of Wishes
1 Cauldron of Souls
1 Draining Whelk
1 Contagion Engine
1 Novijen Sages
1 Grim Poppet
1 Decree of Silence
1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
1 Mirrodin’s Core
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Rupture Spire
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Breeding Pool
1 Tropical Island
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Vivid Grove
1 Llanowar Reborn
1 Gaea’s Cradle
1 Vivid Creek
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Dimir Aqueduct
One card I think I’d like to work into the mix is Opposition, given the two creatures I have with the untap mechanicâ€”Gilder Bairn particularlyâ€”that would combo very nicely with Opposition. Do you think Opposition would be worth the card slot for those interactions? Another option would be Puppet Strings.
Some card interactions of note:
I’ve wanted to get these two together for a while, and this deck seems like the perfect place to do it! A nice lethal, one-two punch.
Necroskitter + a ton of stuff
Particularly good with the aforementioned Vhati/Skeleton Ship combo, but there are a ton of other ways for the deck to throw around -1/-1 counters. It’s particularly nice when a creature is otherwise going to die to activate your Serrated Arrows to add a -1/-1 counter to facilitate the ride over to Skitterland.
Seedborn Muse + Magistrate’s Scepter
You know I think Seedborn Muse is overpowered in EDH and deserves the banhammer, but until nobody plays with him, I might as well play him, too. In fact, maybe I should abuse the card so badly that the RC takes notice? This combination — along with maybe a Voltaic Key and Contagion Clasp — might do the trick!
While not quite as sick as the above combo, still pretty ridiculous (especially with Key or Clasp as well).
Wickerbough Elder/Grim Poppet + Cauldron of Souls
I love me some Cauldron of Souls, not least of which because it can also save creatures other players control (why yes I do have a Necroskitter on the board, mwuhahaha!). While there are a handful of ways to add -1/-1 counters to these two critters in the deck, making them practically immortal is one of the best.
Clockspinning + Inexorable Tide
I had a couple more buyback spells to combo with Inexorable Tide, but they all eventually got cut to make room for other stuff. Clockspinning stays because it does double duty, offering counter management and a steady supply of tidal proliferation.
Djinn of Wishes + Sensei’s Divining Top/Sylvan Library
I’ve wanted to add Djinn of Wishes to an EDH deck with library manipulation for a while, but being able to cheat more wishes provides the perfect place to pull the trigger.
Novijen Sages + Forgotten Ancient
It’s kinda like Mind’s Eye, only you can cash in the card-draw whenever you’ve got the mana. I’ve also gotten some sad looks around the multiplayer table when I’ve moved Forgotten Ancient’s counters over to Spike Weaver.
Decree of Silence + Power Conduit
I originally added this to my stack of cards to consider because I thought this started with three counters, kind of like fading, and removed a counter each time it countered something. It wasn’t until I actually RTFC that I saw it actually added counters and eventually sacrificed when you accumulated them. Almost got the boot until I realized I had some ways to remove those counters in the “counter management” stack. Power Conduit is obviously a pretty sick one — especially with Seedborn Muse out there! Booya! I’m not sure if Decree ultimately sticks around, but it’s worth checking out.
Some of you might be curious about cards that didn’t quite make the cut, so here are some of them.
This was a difficult cut, but when trimming my higher-end stuff, I figured single points of damage weren’t big enough effects in EDH to be worth it.
I remember the old
“Horsecraft” Tempest Block deck,
which was as brilliant as it was ridiculous. I thought having him in here would be pretty much a slam dunk but ended up cutting for the same reason as Triskelion.
Seemed like a no-brainer initially, but I started worrying about its poor interaction with persist creatures, Spike Weaver, etc.
A victim of mana curve considerations but still on the bench. Obviously pretty ridiculous to keep adding divinity counters to use each turn.
Initially liked its ability to give out -1/-1 counters and also to wipe them off some of my own creatures but eventually decided it was a little too slow, clunky, and situational.
Orochi Hatchery, Riptide Replicator, Spawning Pit, Lightning Coils, Triskelavus, Sekki, Seasons’ Guide
Each of these created different types of token creatures, which struck me as a bit of a bookkeeping headache considering I don’t have all the token cards I’d need to represent them all. Decided to stick with just 1/1 Insects with infect from the Trigon of Infestation to support proliferate with -1/-1 counters and poison.
Not enough “oomph” for the card slot.
Seems really, really slow, though it might make a five-color version.
Got cut in favor of more reusable effects of this sort.
Pretty sweet but also got cut in favor of more reusable effects of this sort.
When Triskelion got the boot so did this. On the other hand, Mephidross/Triskelion
rather ridiculous. Maybe I should reconsider…
I’d love to level up this guy with proliferate, but as I moved towards more permanents and less spells, his usefulness waned.
I love Heartmender, but like my issues with Doubling Season in this sort of deck, I don’t like the lack of control and how I can’t
remove -1/-1 counters from creatures I may want to keep them on.
Mana curve considerations and the clunkiness of the hard-cast hitting my -1/-1 lovin’ critters.
No room for Squee/Krovikan Horror shenanigans that would make this card ridiculous.
This card would love to be in this sort of deck, but being slow, clunky, and only a one-shot doomed it.
If I had room for more evasion-boosters this might have made the cut.
This is on the bench because the effect is obviously powerful, and I have a lot of permanents that can take advantage of it. Just barely got cut from the initial list.
I’m looking forward to rocking this at the StarCityGames.com Open Weekend! What do you thinkâ€”did I miss anything? If you think I did, check out the poll* at the bottom of the column.
Thanks to everyone who participated in my poll last week regarding searching for Ice Cauldron in EDH. I’m actually working on building an EDH deck that specifically takes advantage of Ice Cauldron, and of course that means reliably trying to find that card, so thanks for all the suggestions! In the first poll I did using a Google Docs form, I accidentally created an extra space for readers to type stuff into, and since there wasn’t a question for it, I got all kinds of fun and interesting stuff, so I decided that would be a regular feature of my polls, what I call “rock the mic” — a freeform place where you can amuse me, shock me, or ask me questions. Below are some of the comments from last week’s open mic and my responses.
Weeaboo? [I was testing the mic for you. Also, first! —LL]
The lion sleeps tonight?
“…but Skullclamp makes the world go round!”
It’s difficult to argue against that.
Moar Unyaro BEES, sir
*slaps forehead* Of course!
Cause it’s like I’m in some sorta crazy time warp where Ice Age was just released and Ice Cauldron is good with Fireball.
You mean… Ice Cauldron + Fireball is
Going to Nashville, hope to see you there
Alas travelingâ€”especially to a Sealed Luck eventâ€”is something I can’t do much of. Hope you did well!
Lost a game to this card many years ago in a 20+ player game. Thank for reminding me… 🙁
Please, tell us the story in the forums!
And the Trogdor comes in the niiiiiiiiiight!
With a name like that I’d guess she’s likely not a hottie…
Represent the divorced dads like us, Bennie!
Happy to! 🙂
What you get when you bottle Necrotic Ooze and store it in Sheldon Menery cellar for 10-15 years.
My name is Geek, I put them on as a shocker. Man, I love these blue blockers. YEA!
I got nothing.
What kind of mana does Ice Cauldron produce for Reaper King? I’m still not sure what the purpose of Ice Cauldron is.
#1 – The first rule of Ice Cauldron is: you do not talk about Ice Cauldron. #2 – The second rule of Ice Cauldron is: you DO NOT talk about Ice Cauldron.
Right-hand coffee, left-hand cactus, keep it straight.
Words to live by.
Make more EDH tool kits!
You liked â€˜em? I’d be happy to! Anybody else want more?
Pie vs. Cake. Who wins?
Pie. Definitely pie.
Hello… either Adrian Sullivan or
That 70’s Show
A man with missing fingers plays a strange guitar
More nuggets of wisdom!
Ice Cauldron’s seriously an amazing card: there aren’t many ways to end up with two “hands,” but I love each and every one of ’em!
YES! Stay tuned…
Much better than measles.
I smoke on the mic like smokin’ Joe Fraser, the hellraiserr, raising hell with the flavour!
Wu-Tang Clan in the hizzouse!
Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones and favorite foods!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to friend/follow me at:
New to EDH? Be sure to check out my EDH Primer:
My current EDH decks:
Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferating madness)
Marrow-Gnawer (Relentless Rats are back!)
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon (Poison Apocalypse)