“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” —
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I know I spend a fair percentage of my column inches on bad beat stories or grousing about my ill-luck at opening booster packs and such. I don’t write about those to throw myself a pity-party (at least, not primarily for that reason), but rather as a communion, a spiritual gathering of all of us that get crushed by Lady Luck often enough to feel she’s a spiteful wench. Today I’m pleased to offer up some tales from the opposite end of the spectrum, to proclaim that yes, you do get to cash out that karmic bank sometimes when you least expect it.
I’ll begin my story with trying to settle on a deck to play for the Nationals Qualifier. Some of us were trying pretty hard to get a solid list together for Warp World, a deck I wrote about some weeks back. A funny thing happened when we first tried it outâ€”it curb-stomped Jund like nobody’s business, over and over and over again. That’s a pretty good start for a rogue strategy! Second, the hot new deck coming out of the recent PTQs was Super Friends, a deck that ran a bunch of Planeswalkers, a permanent that conveniently whiffs on a Warp World resolution. Lastly, the U/W Control decks seemed to lean pretty strongly along the “tap-out” side of things, and if they tapped out at the wrong time, a Warp World would end things even if they didn’t immediately end things by just putting them incredibly behind. I had a gut feeling we might have stumbled across the hand grenade of the format.
Now there was some divergence in opinion in how to best build the darn thing; Josh, who was doing most of the Warp World testing, was solidly behind a three-color build, splashing Black for Ob Nixilis to get the occasional insta-kill. Josh also pioneered a surprisingly good recruit from ROE draft: Jaddi Lifestrider. Not only can he tap a bunch of Eldrazi Spawn tokens for bou-coup life, but did you realize he has a freaking eight toughness? That’s incredibly tough to fight through. So in Josh’s build, if you Warped and didn’t happen to win on the spot, you could usually gain so much life that your opponent couldn’t kill you before your assumingly superior board position pulled out the win.
Me, I was concerned about two things: Spreading Seas and Day of Judgment. I was incredibly nervous about playing three colors and getting Spread out of the game early. I also didn’t want to see all the creature-ramping go down the tubes to a Day of Judgment cast the turn before you were going to Warp World. I wanted the stable mana of a two-color version with Eldrazi Monument to shrug off Days and make superior blockers… or occasionally just crash in with my army of weenies through the air.
I also had a few other wacky directions I wasn’t sure were worth pursuing but I wanted to at least try them out. The first one was this:
- 4 Lotus Cobra
- 4 Emrakul's Hatcher
- 3 Jaddi Lifestrider
- 4 Kozilek's Predator
- 4 Nest Invader
- 4 Overgrown Battlement
- 3 Spawnsire of Ulamog
When you Warp World, the odds are pretty good that you’ll Warp into at least one Lotus Cobra, and between the lands coming into play, the Spawn tokens coming into play, and the Cobra landfall triggers, odds seem pretty good you’ll could have the 20 mana available to activate Spawnsire’s ability. Add 3 Emrakuls in the sideboard and you’ve got three turns and a 15/15 flying, protection from spells, annihilator 6 dude to kill them along with everything else on the board. Pretty sure that counts as an instant kill, without dipping into 3 colors.
I also had a reader email me with what he called a random combo: Eldrazi Spawn tokens + Dragon Appeasement. My brain lit up, considering I was working on a deck that made oodles and oodles of Spawn tokens, and one issue we were having with the deck was not actually, you know, drawing the Warp Worlds in time. Of course, now you’re dipping back into three colors again, but the idea of being able to turn mana into creatures into drawn cards felt like some untapped potential. I quickly banged out this list:
The Appeasement is a little bit scary because it takes away your draw step and costs six mana, but you’re already ramping up to an 8 mana spell for Warp, and Appeasement draws you a card for each creature you sacrifice, and you should have a ton of creatures sitting around that can sac for mana, which allows you to play more Eldrazi drones to make more dudes that can draw more cards…
For a Black finisher I went with Tar Fiend, since he plays into the Dragon sacrifice theme, and if you strip your opponent’s hand after you Warp World, odds are good you just won the game even if it takes a turn to attack.
If Appeasement’s drawback is too scary we do have a new card – Magmaw — that can get rid of it if need be, but I didn’t really see where I’d want to fit that card in the maindeck. All Is Dust is certainly another option – which could certainly make things feel almost “Necro-esque” – drop Appeasement, sac a bunch of dudes, draw a bunch of cards, then “Disk” everything away.
Anyway, I had all these Warp World ideas I wanted to kick around, along with what Josh had already tested… but Josh was busy with a new girl in his life, and we just couldn’t get together before the Nationals Qualifier.
By the way, as a quick aside, check out this Warp World deck that recently kicked some butt in a Standard tournament online:
- 4 Siege-Gang Commander
- 3 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 3 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
- 4 Ondu Giant
- 4 Overgrown Battlement
- 4 Wall of Omens
So, without a solid Warp World decklist I was comfortable with, I turned to my go to macro-archetype: G/W/x Noble Hierarch–Lotus Cobra–Knight of the Reliquary–Baneslayer Angel, which I’ve played with quite a bit and have done well with in various forms, from Knightfall to Mythic. The current config is Mythic Conscription, or MC for short, and I can’t help but call it MC Hammer since Eldrazi Conscription is, in fact, a badass Hammer you can’t touch. Here’s the build I tested with:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Rafiq of the Many
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
- 4 Dauntless Escort
- 4 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Lotus Cobra
The Planeswalker config is non-standard because I only own 1 copy each of Elspeth and Gideon, and I was able to borrow 1 copy of Jace2 from my friend Kevin. In testing the deck proved to be quite strong, capable of just some seriously sick plays, but I had to admit some nervousness about the lack of removal. I’m a mid-range guy at heart, and I love to have answers to problems that come up along the way. I know Jace and Gideon can act as removal spells, but sometimes you need to stop early beatdown with something other than your face. It was weird, but this felt a lot like a combo deckâ€”you just played out your cards and hoped to assemble the right combination to just put your opponent away, often from out of nowhere.
Luckily for me, I got offered up a list for an interesting take on Jund that really appealed to me, on quite a few levels. I’m not really going to go into it here and now, because the fellow who sent me the list is planning on rocking it at Grand Prix D.C. and wants to keep the specifics off the radar. I don’t know how many Spikes actually read my column for tech (*crickets*), but I told him I wouldn’t write about it until after the GP, and if he does well hopefully he’ll write something up about it himself. I will say I felt it had an excellent plan that I understood, and felt confident in my ability to execute that plan.
I’ll go into more details next week, but sadly I ended up going 1-2 because of what I consider a couple really bad breaks and likely a couple misplays. It definitely wasn’t because of the deck, which I think is an awesome build for Jund.
Despite the disappointment after the second loss, I was determined to still have some fun that day. I’d not yet had a chance to draft Rise of the Eldrazi, so I quickly signed up and shortly thereafter we fired it off.
So first pack I open up, set aside the basic land, set aside the token card, and slowly reveal… hello, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn! Well, I just paid for my draft. I flip through the pack to see if there could possibly be some other insane card for Limited that might make me ship Emrakul, don’t see anything, and pass the pack. I wonderâ€”with Emrakul first pick, first pack, could I possibly draft a deck that could realistically cast that guy? I mean, if you’re going to have a shot, getting that guy as the very first card and then bending the rest of your draft to that goal, I suppose you could get there. I decide to try, and focus on nabbing any sort of mana acceleration possible. I start dabbling in Red, which I know has some Spawn makers and of course removal, but then I nab two Stalwart Shield-Bearers and contemplate going Green/Red/White looking for mana-fixing and mana-acceleration.
Pack two there’s nothing there better than a Growth Spasm, which is awesome considering my plan so far. I then get shipped Deathless Angel! Man, dude must have totally been locked into his non-White colors (unless I suppose there was a foil rare or Mythic he snagged instead). Okay, so I’m definitely playing White and try to focus more on that color, only nabbing later-game Red stuff like a welcome Emrakul’s Hatcher.
Pack three I set aside the basic land, set aside the token card, and slowly reveal… hello, Gideon! I blink a few times to make sure I’m seeing rightâ€”not only is Gideon an expensive chase rare, but he’s obviously a bomb Limited card and I happen to be playing Green/White with a splash of red. He’s perfect! I glance through the rest of the pack to note what I’m passing, but I don’t really remember any of it. Gideon!
This is what I drafted:
Green: Joraga Treespeaker, Ancient Stirrings, Spider Umbra, Aura Gnarlid, Growth Spasm x2, Sporecap Spider, Living Destiny, Ondu Giant, Wildheart Invoker, Kozilek’s Predator, Haze Frog, Nema Siltlurker
Black: Curse of Wizardry
I obviously nothing to complain about the draft, not only did I get some crazy expensive Mythic rares, I got some bomb rares on top of it, and even a random Blue rare card late. I felt like I executed my plan very well; nabbing lots of Green color-fixing and acceleration, some white defense, and a splash of red for good later-game spells.
This is what I ended up building:
1 Joraga Treespeaker
2 Growth Spasm
1 Sporecap Spider
1 Ondu Giant
1 Wildheart Invoker
1 Kozilek’s Predator
1 Guard Duty
3 Stalwart Shield-Bearers
1 Gideon Jura
1 Deathless Angel
1 Emrakul’s Hatcher
1 Valakut Fireboar
1 Rapacious One
1 Reinforced Bulwark
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Skittering Invasion
1 Hand of Emrakul
1 Spawnsire of Ulamog
1 Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn
I realized pretty quickly that I was being a little silly maindecking the “ramp to Emrakul plan” — if my opponent was playing any way of dealing with a mass of 0/1s, then drawing Emrakul was a dead draw. After game 1 my plan was to sideboard this way unless I wasn’t worried about mass removal:
Missing Hellion Eruption the first time around was quite dumbâ€”my initial thought was I don’t want to sac all my Spawn dudes because I’m trying to ramp to Emrakul! Then I realized that you can just cast Hellion Eruption and win the game the next turn…
Here’s where I ask those of you who have a good grasp of ROEâ€”did I butcher my build or no? I’m pretty sure I did, but thankfully all my lucksack bomb rares carried me to victory. Still, I’d like to learn something from my first foray into the format since I’m pretty sure I can’t count on most drafts going like this.
My supernatural good luck carried through to my prize packs, where I found, to my great joy…
A Vengevine?! YAUS!
As I left the Convention Center, I called Josh on the phone. “I won!” I said, and he was confused. “You won… the draft?” “Well yeah, that too, but… I won the day!” After I told him the cards I cracked, he agreed.
Before I wrap up this week, I’d like to end on a humorous note. After the announcement on Archenemy on Monday, I thought up a terrible, terrible pun that was so bad it was hilarious. Everyone I told it to groaned but they were laughing too. I just cooked up what I thought would make a funny Magic-themed comic strip utilizing the bad pun, so if there’s anyone out there who does this sort of thing (I’m thinking of Lotus Cobra Is Evil specifically), below is the scene and the dialogue. Enjoy!
The Archenemy stares out of his tower window as thunder & lightning crashes, a smile on his face. He throws his head back and his Evil Laugh echoes through the night.
“Slave!” he bellows. “Bring me my Schemes. It is time for world domination.”
A trembling slave appears with a deckbox. “Sir,” he squeaks. “I took the liberty of swapping in premium versions of your cards. Now your Schemes are all foiled.”
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Jacques Le Vert (lots of legends, good stuff)
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (DRAGONS, RAHRRR!!)
Halfdane (Clone â€˜n’ Kaldra)
Reki, the History of Kamigawa (more legends than you can shake a stick at)