You Lika The Juice? Thoughts on Snakeblade and SlowDredge Tut

Between Cobra, Sword, and Garruk, you’re talking about decidedly powerful methods of achieving mana and card advantage that harkens back to the most powerful cards in Magic. Plus, bonus Modern decks!

As I wrote a couple weeks back, I’ve
been excitedly brewing up Standard deck ideas, some of which have promise and some of which obviously don’t. And if you’re a fan of Modern, I’ve even
got a special treat for you towards the end of the article!

Anyway, one card I’ve been really interested in playing with in Standard is Garruk, Primal Hunter and a lot of my time has been spent trying to figure
out the best deck to fit him in. So I was pretty excited to find recently that Terry Soh wrote about a new deck his
brother played to a Top 4 finish at the Malaysia National Championship that prominently featured the new Garruk:

Terry wrote quite extensively about Snakeblade, breaking down each card choice and presenting a slightly altered version of his own. In addition to
Garruk, there were a few other things that appealed to me:

1. Utilizing Lotus Cobra (the “snake”) for mana advantage, and

2. Utilizing Sword of Feast and Famine (the “blade”) for mana advantage + card advantage, basically as a Time Walk. There’s a reason why this is
the most powerful equipment choice in CawBlade decks.

So, between Cobra, Sword, and Garruk, you’re talking about decidedly powerful methods of achieving mana and card advantage at a fundamental level that
harkens back to the most powerful cards in Magic—Cobra as your Black Lotus, Sword as your Time Walk, and Garruk as your Ancestral Recall.

With twelve non-land slots accounted for, I went about rebuilding the deck, keeping an eye on what seemed to work in the Soh brothers’ lists while also
thinking through how I envisioned games to play out.

Terry’s revised list went down to one Bird of Paradise as a tutor target for Green Sun’s Zenith, of which he had four copies. Now, Green Sun’s Zenith
is a card I love for adding that redundancy and flexibility to a deck… but to my mind, it offered up a bit of distraction from the focus of what this
deck is trying to do best. We’ve already got the amazing Lotus Cobra in the deck, and Birds of Paradise is one of the best mana cards ever printed, so
it seems to me that Birds supports one of the pillars is trying to do — gaining mana advantage. It also supports the Sword plan with its evasion
ability. Turn 1 Birds into turn 2 Sword is a pretty powerful opener to complement the main plan of turn 2 Cobra into turn 3 Sword, equip, attack,
untap your lands.

So… four Birds of Paradise.

Now, the next thing I want in this deck is to protect my game plan. Mana Leak obviously fills that role and plays especially nice with the untapping
of your lands with the Sword, and I thought maybe a single Spell Pierce in the main would help as well. What else? Spellskite jumped to mind as being
able to both protect your creatures from removal (especially vital when going to equip them with a Sword) and protect your Sword from artifact

As I was rooting through my card boxes, I stumbled across my lone copy of Skinshifter (a.k.a. Nicolas Cage, a.k.a. Beastmaster). Hm… as a 4/4 trampler
or 2/2 flying bird, this dude provides two methods of evasion — which seems like pretty good support for the goal of smacking your opponent with a
Sword! He turned out to be fantastic when I drew him.

For some added redundancy I went with a single Green Sun’s Zenith and a Phyrexian Metamorph, and sprinkling in a few other cards this is what I took to
Friday Night Magic… and won with!

Along the way I beat an Elf deck, a Red deck, a RUG Value Pod deck, and a Caw-Blade deck, along with losing to Caw-Blade. I was pretty happy with just
about everything except for the Khalni Gardens — though if I faced more aggro, perhaps I’d feel differently. I did manage to get one smack in with a
Sword-equipped plant token, so perhaps that made it all worthwhile.

For point of reference, a slightly less Blade-y version of Snake-blade made Top 4 of British Nats, and seems to support Birds of Paradise, Skinshifter,
and no Gardens. I thought hard about Sword of War and Peace, which is obviously pretty amazing against Hawks and Timely Reinforcements, but the Sword
of Feast and Famine’s mana and card-advantage machine is what makes this deck insane. I guess William was using the Preordains to dig for the Swords?

Going forward, this is the list I’m going to test:

I’m going to try a bit more counter-power to “protect the queen,” and move a Nature’s Claim to the maindeck to help win the Sword wars, especially
since the Claim is a much better rip off the top deck after your opponent has equipped his Squadron Hawk with a Sword of Feast and Famine than the

Speaking of that, I’m not sure whether I really need Dismember or not — it wasn’t stellar at FNM, but wasn’t terrible either. I’m going to try the
deck without it for now.

I’d like to test three each Spellskite and Skinshifter, since both reinforce the primary game plan of getting connecting with your Time Walk Sword.

I’m thoroughly under whelmed by Khalni Gardens, and prefer leveraging the considerable mana advantage even more with no comes-into-play tapped lands.

So has anyone else been playing around with Snakeblade (or as Chapin called the British deck, Skinblade)? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

The Possibilities of Modern

I’ve been moderately intrigued by the possibilities of Modern, but when I saw the new banned list a few cards really stood out to me:

Dread Return

Golgari Grave-Troll

Some of you might have been around long enough to remember when Jay Delazier and I discovered Dredge could be a real deck back in 2005 for the State
Champs tournament. I played a Dredge deck to the Top 8, and you can find the account here. Here was the original list:

One of the bucket list items for a deckbuilder with any ego is to be featured in a Mike Flores column about decks — and this thing managed to do just
that for me, with Mike saying:

Check out Virginia’s number five… That’s our own Bennie Smith behind… one of the ugliest decks I’ve ever seen. Bennie is actually a former
Virginia State Champion with B/G. It looks like he figured out how to grab the old lightning and post another B/G States Top 8.

Now it is said that nobody remembers second place, and certainly fifth place is not usually something to write home about, but Bennie’s deck is
genuinely… odd. Running a Stinkweed Imp engine to hold off even the most efficient, sleek, and beautiful threats on a persistent basis, Bennie
can Dredge through his deck to set up a Demonic Tutor-like availability of graveyard options. The selection is extreme in this case when we hit
Dimir House Guard. I am sure that I am not alone in double taking that particular 2/3 for four mana… In Constructed deck?

Now, Mike’s obvious bafflement over this deck is understandable because at the time no one but me and Jay Delazier understood the real power of the
Dredge mechanic outside of Limited, along with the funky “Dredge math” that have numbers less than a playset make a lot more sense when you’re in
Dredge mode. Playing a “slow Dredge” deck is just weird and even after I did well with it, wrote it up, and got briefly mentioned in Mike’s column, it
didn’t really catch on.

It wasn’t until all the funky combo pieces from the Time Spiral block came around that Dredge really took off as a strategy — but as a fast combo deck
instead of the interesting funky slow deck that I really found fun and challenging. Obviously I hated the new fast combo deck — not the least of which
was the fact that everyone else packed a ton of graveyard hate to combat it, which was even more effective against my slow version! And in the older
formats combo Dredge is a constant threat that is almost always prepared for. One of the coolest decks I ever helped cooked up was no longer playable
anywhere, and it made me sad.

Now though, in Modern… with the banning of the mega-Dredger Troll and the combo-kill Dread Return, I don’t see anyone talking about Dredge decks.
Which means, at this point anyway, that graveyard hate will be relatively small (keeping an eye on the Living End deck).

Might my “slow” Dredge strategy have some game in Modern? I certainly want to find out!

Here’s my initial pass, incorporating some Retrace goodness and a few other enhancements:

Vengeful Pharaoh (“King Tut”) seems insane in the Dredge deck since you can run multiples but still get them back into your graveyard immediately
without having to draw through them — many of your cards conveniently dredge 3 or more.

I went up to 4 Loams to help further fuel the Retrace spells, and the sac lands improve the odds of casting turn 2 Loam for value instead of just
dumping a dredge spell into the graveyard.

The Fa’adiyah Seer might bring some head-scratching, but he’s actually pretty awesome here. Not only can he play a role to Loot your Vengeful Pharaoh
that ended up on the top of your deck, he can basically tap to draw a dredge card from your graveyard at instant speed — since the dredge replaces the
draw ability, the “discard if it’s not a land” clause doesn’t apply.

There are a lot of interesting graveyard-centric cards and strategies that you can consider here, like Unearth and Masked Admirers. One thing that
might be cool is running Demigod of Revenge; mill a few copies in the graveyard and get one back with Golgari Thug when you’re ready to go aggro:

Another card in Modern that might play really well with Dredge is Smallpox, which does a ton of heavy lifting in this sort of deck. Not only does it
attack your opponent’s resources (and can be a real blowout if they play a creature before you do), but it provides you with a way to discard a dredge
card to start the dredging, or pitch a Pharaoh that’s in your hand. And Life from the Loam is a perfect card to break the symmetry of Smallpox.
Here’s one stab at such a deck:

Modern is a huge format with tons of cards that could play a role in a Dredge deck. Have I missed any obvious or not-so-obvious choices? Have you
seen anyone else dabbling with Modern Dredge? The comment section below awaits!

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend everyone!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page
where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

I’ve started a blog
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New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:

· Uril, the Miststalker ( my “more competitive” deck)