You Lika The Juice? – Shard Candy

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Thursday, October 9th – I meandered down to Richmond Comix Friday for FNM and got my Shards of Alara draft on… I thought the actual drafting went really well. First pack I cracked open, looked at the bottom card and saw it was a foil rare Ultimatum… unfortunately, it was Clarion Ultimatum. I moved on and saw another Ultimatum, this one of the Titanic variety. Win the Game for seven mana? Sure, I’ll bite!

I meandered down to Richmond Comix Friday for FNM and got my Shards of Alara draft on… I thought the actual drafting went really well. First pack I cracked open, looked at the bottom card and saw it was a foil rare Ultimatum… unfortunately, it was Clarion Ultimatum, the one that you target five cards and then go get copies of those cards and puts them into play. Not exactly the strongest in Limited (though I guess it’s a heckuva land-thinner)… so I moved on and saw another Ultimatum, this one of the Titanic variety. Win the Game for seven mana? Sure, I’ll bite! I hated to jump into a Shard on the very first pick, but the card seems just way too powerful not to… What do you think? Would you have done so, assuming there was a reasonable alternative in the pack?

Lucky for me things worked out, as I got a good mix of Green and White cards that came around, and opened up Caldera Hellion in pack 2 and Flameblast Dragon in pack 3 – lucky me! Unfortunately, no Red removal came around, and no Oblivion Rings, so I made do with what I could scrounge (though obviously Branching Bolt and Naya Battlemage are solid), and honestly I don’t think I could complain about this:

1 Akrasan Squire
1 Rip-Clan Crasher
1 Steward of Valeron
1 Druid of the Anima
1 Elvish Visionary
1 Sigil Blessing
1 Woolly Thoctar
1 Qasali Ambusher
1 Branching Bolt
1 Gift of the Gargantuan
1 Naya Battlemage
1 Sunseed Nurturer
2 Excommunicate
1 Hissing Iguanar
1 Drumhunter
1 Resounding Silence
1 Caldera Hellion
1 Mosstodon
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Cavern Thoctar
1 Rockcaster Platoon
1 Titanic Ultimatum
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Naya Panorama
3 Mountain
6 Forest
6 Plains

1 Cathartic Adept
2 Dispeller’s Capsule*
1 Bloodthorn Taunter
1 Marble Chalice
1 Blightning
1 Godtoucher*
1 Incurable Ogre
1 Viashino Skeleton
1 Dreg Reaver
1 Cavern Thoctar
1 Steelclad Serpent
2 Yoked Plowbeast
1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Jund Panorama

* The Capsules came in when battling the artifact shard dudes, and I brought in Godtoucher when I squared off against removal-light decks that relied more heavily on combat tricks and smashing their big beasts into mine.

I was running 21 mana-producers, but the four non-land “extras” were all creatures, and I had some large beasts and the Dragon, so I figured I could use all that extra land. I wonder if I should have maybe cut one or two of them and instead added 1-2 cycling Yoked Plowbeasts, since it seemed a lot of times that I drew metric truckloads of mana and didn’t always draw enough big guys. What do you think?

I ended up somehow drawing my first match after playing like a donkey, and then losing my second match after going long way too long in game 1 hoping to top-deck Ultimatum to break through the creature stall. I forgot to draw a card from Drumhunter one turn, and when my opponent finally pinged away my final life points with a mountainwalker I looked at the top card, and it was my Ultimatum. Dumb!

I finished up 3-1-1 for the night, 5th place as they cut to Top 4, but that was okay; those first two matches went so badly I didn’t feel I deserved to backdoor my way to the semifinals.

Shards of Alara and Standard

So, enough about Shard of Alara Limited… ‘round here, not only do we have Standard Champs right around the corner, but Star City is also running a $5K Standard Open in just a few weeks! It’s time to start brewing up some Standard decks, ain’t it? Let me share with you some ideas I’ve had percolating for the past few weeks.

First up, Stoic Angel. I know the Angel has piqued the interest of a few other Star City writers of both premium and free variety… they mostly seem to view Stoic Angel and the Bant Shard cards as nifty ornaments to hang on the Cryptic Command Christmas Tree. As someone who’s mildly protesting Cryptic Command because of its omnipresence in any deck that even thinks about generating Blue mana, I’ve been more interested in trying other things. First up is my attempt to build a better pancake-flipper. Check this out:

The idea here is that Wilt-Leaf Liege and Shield of the Oversoul makes the Rhox War Monk gigantic individually and gi-normous in tandem. Then we surround I-Hop with a bunch of buddies who also appreciate the size boost, starting with the Angel and working down to Finks and Gaddock Teeg (i.e. Mr. I Got Your Cryptic Right Here). I lament the lack of trickiness here, with only four cards clever enough to play during your opponent’s turn, but the sheer beefy beatdown and lifegain is very appealing.

Of course, contemplating how Stoic Angel beats up on swarmy decks has me weirdly thinking about the days of Winter Orb and Icy Manipulator, only this time locking down creatures. We’ve got ways of tapping all opposing creatures at instant speed (Naya Charm and *grumble* Cryptic Command), and hey! We’ve also got Icy Manipulator available. Here’s a stub of a deck idea I’m still fleshing out if I somehow find the stomach to borrow some Cryptics:

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Naya Charm
4 Rhox War Monk
4 Cryptic Command
4 Stoic Angel
4 Icy Manipulator
2 Tezzeret the Seeker

Figure Icy in your five slot, dropping him on turn five with a mana available to use it. Tezzeret can go fetch another Icy once you crank him once, and your entire deck is set up so that Tezzeret won’t likely be nailed by creature damage. The mana to run this thing is a bit messy, but heck – we’re living through the age where color discipline is limited only by your willingness to hunt down the proper rare lands. Let me tell you, I’m glad I hung on to my playset of Reflecting Pools from way back in the day.

Okay, let’s traipse over to the neighboring shard of Naya, where the deer and the gargantuans roam. One card that I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about is Realm Razer, which surprises me: it’s a frickin’ Armageddon! Maybe the collective shoulder-shrug is due to the failure of the last six-mana Armageddon — Boom/Bust — to make much of an impression, but I see this as a significant upgrade. One of the problems of playing Armageddon is making sure that you have significant board presence to take advantage of resetting everyone’s mana to zero. Attaching a four-power creature to the effect goes a long way towards that goal. Of course, Razer is a little light in the ass, and if he dies everyone gets their lands back, so he’s not exactly game-over.

Remember the Elf deck I played in the Block PTQ a month or so back? I thought that deck might work well as a base for Realm Razer, and here’s what I’ve cooked up:

I particularly like the idea of tucking Realm Razer under a Mosswort Bridge, so that you can play Armageddon at instant speed. Boo-ya! What’s even nicer is, if they kill the Razer your Mosswort comes back into play and lets you Hideaway again. Boo-ya, Part 2! Wilt-Leaf Liege goes a long way towards boostifying Razer’s candy-ass to respectable levels, along with generally ticking everyone’s power up to attaining that magical 10 power worth of creatures.

I’m a little torn on Bloom Tenders in a beatdown deck, but it’s hard to argue with the acceleration it can provide, giving you Razer mana on turn 4, and then being a source of casting spells once your lands have been tucked away in the Removed From Game but Not Necessarily Gone for Good Zone.

On a quick sidenote: I would advise everyone who’s drooling over the prospects of playing their multicolor creature goodies from Shards keep in mind the cycle of Lieges in the last block. I suspect the better ones are going to be quite useful in beefing up your army and gaining advantage in pseudo-mirror matchups. Stoic Angel versus Stoic Angel, with one backed up by a Liege, who wins?

By the way, speaking of that Elf deck I played at the Block PTQ… here’s a list for quick reference:

Tricksy Elves

4 Heritage Druid
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
3 Wolf-Skull Shaman
4 Imperious Perfect
4 Snakeform
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Briarhorn
3 Chameleon Colossus
3 Cloudthresher
4 Mosswort Bridge
4 Mutavault
16 Forest

2 Masked Admirers
2 Vigor
3 Gloomwidow’s Feast
4 Guttural Response
4 Tower Above

It occurred to me that Overrun is in 10th Edition, and I think it would fit perfectly in the deck as a replacement for Garruk Wildspeaker – yeah I know, blasphemy! But hear me out – you can tuck Overrun under a Mosswort Bridge and use it to Giant Growth and trample all your dudes at instant speed! I pulled that off with sorcery Tower Above in the PTQ, and it was awesome. I’m not so sure I want to play little Green men beating down this Fall, but if you’re interested give Overrun a try. Jamie Wakefield would be proud!

Okay, next up is a weird descendent of the deck from Ritchie Proffitt’s Memorial tournament I played.

I was inspired by the Doran/Zur deck, only instead of working Zur I’m going for Sedris, the Traitor King. Without Wall of Roots around though, I’m not so sure whether I should run other mana accelerants since none seem very good right now… Birds/Elves die to Firespout and Jund Charm, Fertile Ground is only reliable when put on a basic land (Fulminator Mage). So I figure I’d not worry about mana acceleration and just play a regular game of Magic until I get to six mana and can drop Sedris.

One question I had when looking objectively at this pet deck though – why not just run Horde of Notions, since Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw and Cloudthresher are already Elementals? Why not indeed… I’m not sure whether this deck would be better or just different? I like the Charms quite a bit, having instant speed flexible spells adds a lot to a deck’s power, and Elementals can’t really get away with that (since the colorless side of their multiland hurts). I think Jund Charm is a great substitute for Firespout, it’s a huge weapon against Faeries at instant speed.

Galepowder Mage is a forgotten gem, it resets Figures, kills Mannequins, and clears away Colossus so your Doran can get his beats on (in addition to the Blink-ness for the comes-into-play dudes). It does die to Firespout and Nameless Inversion, which is a drag… hmm, maybe I should squeeze a few Wilt-Leaf Lieges in here?

Okay, speaking of Unearth and Sedris, I’m sure everyone is kicking around a “reanimator” style deck too. Here’s what mine looks like:


4 Thoughtseize
3 Raven’s Crime
4 Oona’s Prowler
4 Shriekmaw
4 Cunning Lethemancer
4 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Beacon of Unrest
2 Puppeteer Clique
4 Empyrial Archangel
3 Hellkite Overlord
1 Sedris, the Traitor King
(24 lands)

Remember Oona’s Prowler? That little beater terrified me at States last year, and he’s perfect in this deck as a way to pitch your reanimation target once you draw him. Cunning Lethemancer is another decent pitch outlet, and one that punishes your opponent too, so I figured I’d go ahead and add a decent discard package to the mix to both make sure my reanimation happens and to reduce my opponent’s opportunity to respond effectively to the large creature that pops up.

Most people I’ve seen kicking around Reanimator lists seem to be focusing on Hellkite Overlord, and he is indeed a gigantic and mean target – 8 power of evasion and haste, with a Firebreaking follow-through. Plus he can’t be targeted by Terror or Shriekmaw. Sadly though, if he’s wearing a Makeshift Mannequin token he’s going to go down to any random Nameless Inversion or Mogg Fanatic. That’s when I started thinking about Empyrial Archangel, an enormous creature with Shroud who also protects you from inconveniently dying before your monsters can do their dirty work. Get two out there and you are pretty much immortal.

Last up is another “classic” throwback, but on steroids. One of the first Blue decks I ever played was an Ophidian deck after I got worked over by an opponent wielding that card-drawing snake. Of course, I stripped out most of the counterspells and added a bunch of Blue creatures to the mix. Anyway, flash forward to 2008, and what do you know? We’ve got a bunch of new-style Ophids.

Okay, so the ideal is winning the die roll, go turn 1 Birds, turn 2 “Ophie.” Then start drawing cards and keeping the path clear as you go on offense. I chalk Spawnwrithe up as an Ophie since if he gets in a couple hits things are going to go bad for your opponent as each copy keeps multiplying. I wasn’t sure about the Giant Growths, but they work well with both Selkies and Spawnwrithe’s trample.

So that’s what I’m kicking around currently. My “A” deck is Naya Geddon, and I’m hoping to get some good testing in this weekend. What are you all playing around with featuring Shards of Alara goodies?

See you next week…

Bennie Smith

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Listening to:
Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? She & Him
Wise Up Sucker, Pop Will Eat Itself
For Love, Lush
Finding Out True Love Is Blind, Louis XIV
You’re No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun, Sleater-Kinney