Hello again and Happy Holidays! Hope you have been enjoying the new contributors, content, and features on The Academy this month. My gift to you this week is a new deck list I have been playing for the last month that is not only competitively competent, but fun!
Thus far it has garnered me a couple Top 8′s (though I was handily butt-conquered by the likes of E. Hustle and our very own JustMeBaby) in just two PE showings. While my decks are usually pretty solid, they rarely are easy or enjoyable to play. For a change, I just wanted to have a good time, regardless of how or where I finished in competitively.
Initially, I intended to include the recent Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combo. After some testing this proved to be surprisingly disappointing. Popular factors like Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares made the combo more often a protracted waste of effort, all-too-fragile and easily disrupted. I did, however, find the notion of prioritizing and optimizing land compelling.
At heart, I am quite partial to playing “aggressive non-counter control” decks. By this I mean I prefer to play pedigreed creatures and optimal removal: cards that function on a broader overall spectrum. Specifically, I have been carrying a torch unapologetically for Armageddon and Ravages of War for some time now. But alas, we parted ways on what was born from the rubble of my Hex/Depths deck.
This is the deck I have been playing (and loving) for the last month plus:
"Timber" by so many trolls
(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)
Don’t Fence Me In
At first glance you may be thinking, “Hey”¦ There’s not even much Landfall in this deck, buster!” This is very true, namely because there’s only so much Landfall available at the moment (who knows what Worldwake will bring). I will go into more detail on the Landfall’rs that made the cut later, but before we do so I’d like to point something out:
This deck, by no means, needs Landfall. It simply abuses it.
You may notice that, despite being “Doran, the Siege Tower-colored” in build, the deck doesn’t play the traditional compliment of variform mana creatures: Birds of Paradise, Elves of Deep Shadow, Fyndhorn Elves, Llanowar Elves, Noble Hierarch, etc.). My experience with the aforementioned gaggle of one-drops is as follows: great early, a dead draw late. Additionally, while mana acceleration in the form of creatures grants you attacking and blocking, they’re susceptible to removal. I wanted security with my mana for this particular deck (which is why Wall of Roots made the cut). My needs were more specific than just “mana.” I wanted land! Lots of land! So in the end, I took the road less traveled.
As you can see I opted to include a reasonable-sized suite of creatures and sorceries that directly put a land into play. With a Landfall’r on the table, any of these cards (which typically would be worse than ripping one of the aforementioned mana men) suddenly becomes as good if not better than drawing an actual spell. In this sense, the deck has no blank draws. Typically, once the deck gets going, I pray for rain.
Sakura-Tribe Elder, Solemn Simulacrum, and Yavimaya Dryad provide an instant return on your investment. Knight of the Reliquary is like a Real Estate Agent on steroids, muscling up and fueling your Landfall’rs while fetching whatever land you desire and/or require. Yavimaya Elder offers double insurance for hitting vital land drops, occasionally stalling the ground for fear of additional card advantage. Eternal Dragon is a two-mana fixer that can dominate the late game. Treefolk Harbinger reliably fetches and/or fixes mana, accesses Nameless Inversion, acts as a speed bump against early beats, or becomes an aggressor after summoning Doran, the Siege Tower to the top of your deck.
The two less likely candidates of the bunch are Avenging Druid and Hunting Cheetah. I have met many a furrowed brow when one of these guys hits the table, but I assure you they are very, very good at what they do. Moreover, they’re Landfall enabling fiends!!!
Now, I didn’t want to go too overboard with the noncreature land fetch. At one point, I was trying out Harrow, Kodama’s Reach, and even Hunting Wilds. These proved to be a bit gratuitous, filling space that could be better utilized. After considerable testing, Edge of Autumn, Farseek, Nature’s Lore, and Three Visits were more than enough, fitting perfectly in the curve.
Before we head to greener pastures, let’s highlight the star of the show: Scapeshift. If you ever have this card in conjunction with even one of the more marginal Landfallers at your disposal listen carefully for the death rattle issuing from your opponent’s IP address. It facilitates a two-card Combo with Ob Nixilis, the Fallen. At the very worst, Scapeshift thins your deck as it fetches your battery of abusive lands. (And let’s not forget the style points and satisfaction that come with a Scapeshift win!)
The list of cards of Landfallers is a short one indeed. Including the unofficial Vinelasher Kudzu, there are only six cards featuring the mechanic, all of which are creatures. They are as follows, in order of brutality/utility:
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen is by far the most crushing Landfall’r in the deck. Played prior to a land drop, Ob will start the bleeding from moment one. His ability ignores Moat, puts him outside the range of conventional damage-based removal, and is lethal with Scapeshift. My only advice to you is: do not run this guy out unless you have a land to play after!!!
Rampaging Baloths tops off the curve, playing second fiddle only to good ol’ Ob. While I do not normally advocate high-cost creatures in this format- you’re dead before they hit play against Aggro/they’re sure to be countered against Control- this guy is a rare exception. As a 6/6 trampler for six, feel free to get him down ASAP (land drop or not). Churning out 4/4 beasties for every land that hits the table pushes him far past the threshold of fairness.
Next in line is Emeria Angel. This is a superb example of a creature that functions both aggressively and defensively. The tokens it generates serve as fodder while Angel maintains the pressure. Again, you might want to hold off playing this card until you can trigger its ability.
A great barometer for a card’s value is how much effort your opponent puts into getting rid of it. Grazing Gladehart is one of these cards. To be frank, I was surprised by how efficient this guy (antelope?!?!) actually is. Fragile he may be, but with the gross number of fetch lands the deck plays, expect a net gain of three life at the bare minimum.
I have never been fond of Vinelasher Kudzu in aggressive decks. He’s one of those “you better play me in your first three turns” cards. However, in this particular deck he gets scary, fast. At two-mana he’s ideal as a cheap threat that thrives off of the decks ability to access multiple lands per turn. There have even been a number of times I’ve managed to push his stats well into the double digits.
Last but not least is Lotus Cobra. While the other Landfallers fart out tokens, bulk up for battle, or fluctuate life totals in your favor, this snake in the grass seems a bit lackluster by comparison. This is, of course, until you play a fetch land on Turn Three and explode into a Baneslayer Angel or a Mind Twist for four. He effectively reduces the cost of all your fetch spells and eases all of your mana woes, again giving you a warm (or cold, rather) body in the early stages of the game.
Beyond Scute Mob, the remainder of the creatures have no direct interaction with lands whatsoever. They’re simply really good and flesh out the deck. The motives behind their inclusion should be fairly obvious. The only one worth really highlighting is Aven Mindcensor.
Bottom line, deck manipulation is the lynch pin of this format. This means that Mindcensor, an instant-speed evasive creature that limits if not counters your opponent’s access to their deck, is significant hurdle to overcome for many decks without a bevvy of removal. It can entirely negate opposing fetch lands. It can remove the disadvantageous clause of Path to Exile. It sneaks through cracks against Control. Truly, it’s fast becoming one of my favorite creatures out there.
Play this guy, and often!
All The Right Tools
One of my favorite things about playing these colors is, what I lovingly refer to as, the “Ulti-Removal” spells. Maelstrom Pulse, Mortify, Pernicious Deed, Putrefy, and Vindicate are by far the most versatile removal spells out there. Back these with the White trifecta of Oblivion Ring, Path to Exile, and Swords to Plowshares and you are well-equipped to kill, maim, and wound whatever you like.
With RDW and Gobbos posting Top 8′s in droves these last few weeks, I made sure to double up on the creature control in the form of Chainer’s Edict, Crime // Punishment, Doom Blade, Nameless Inversion, and Damnation (for good measure). Depending on the meta, some of these could easily be benched or moved to the sideboard. Thus far, they’ve worked just fine.
To shore up my Game One against Control and Combo, I am playing Duress, Thoughtseize, Gerrard’s Verdict[/card], and Hymn to Tourach alongside Mind Twist. Duress is almost always a blank against RDW and Gobbos, but I just can’t bring myself to cut it without axing Thoughtseize. In my sad, little neurotic mind you just can’t have one without the other. (Shrugs”¦)
The deck manipulation is nothing out of the ordinary, although I will say Sylvan Library is quite good in a deck that shuffles this much. I’ve called the audible and put Primal Command (a card I have long deemed “slow”) to combat the soon-to-be multitudinous Rec-Sur and Reanimator decks freshly armed with a new bag of dirty tricks.
(Some of the above spells are most certainly suspect to change. This last weekend I hedged my bets against RDW and Gobbos, cutting Duress and Thoughtseize for Condemn and a main deck [card[Contagion[/card]. Much to my dismay the Red Tide had quite unexpectedly receded and gave way to six rounds of Control and Living Death matches. *Dry heaves)
Home and Garden
Whereas most decks play lands as a necessary evil of this confounded game, this one rather enjoys its bounty. The mana base is fleshed out with the best of the best for its colors. There are six basics in total (to jive with Tainted Pact). Also, I am playing all but one of the fetch lands. Only a few things deserve detailing:
Golgari Rot Farm and Selesnya Sanctuary maximize your available mana and are recursive Landfall triggers. If you have yet to play a land when you Scapeshift these are prime candidates to pull. You can bounce a fetch land and net two extra Landfall triggers. Perhaps you need an active Karakas to foil a Legend. Feel free to find and use a Wasteland to disrupt your opponent’s mana.
Treetop Village is the solitary manland in the deck, and a fine one at that. I considered Nantuko Monastery, but the lack of color production and cost and conditions of its activation seemed wrong (as did Mishra’s Factory).
Vesuva is the last “techy” land I’d like to point out. Versatility often comes at a price, and speed is a slight inconvenience for a deck that reliably accelerates its mana. Clone away, especially those opposing Legendary lands!
The sideboard is of this deck has gone through many iterations. This is the latest, and hopefully last, incarnation:
Aura of Silence is a contingency against the slew of new ridiculous enchantments in Exodus. Combined with Kataki, War’s Wage and Krosan Grip, it’s also an effective weapon against artifact-heavy Control and Combo decks.
But my favorite of favorites is the aptly named Horn of Greed. Despite granting a mutual advantage, Horn should put you considerably farther ahead in cards. It’s beyond awesome in the Control match up.
Well I’m entirely out of cheesy section headers, as well as things to say about this deck. It truly is a blast to play, dense with synergy, and more than capable of holding water in a tournament environment. I wholly encourage you give it a try and usher in the New Year with a hearty lumberjack’s laugh as you smite your feeble foes.
In closing, ChrisKool and I want to start up something akin to a 100 Card Singleton Player Run Event. We are well aware that a large number of players in the community find it difficult to participate in the Weekend Challenges due to the favorable US time slots currently in effect. With this in mind, we could easily try to find a middle ground and make this a fun and worthwhile endeavor for fans of the format.
We were thinking we could coordinate a start time and fill up an 8-Player Queue. If we could manage to fill up two, the finalists of both flights would then battle it out in a 2-Player Queue. The Academy would be more than happy to offer some sort of support if this is something that interests the community. Plus all the Queues on MTGO will be half off after December 23rd (see Wizards’ announcement)! We are entirely open to suggestions. Just contact me or Chriskool and let’s make it happen, Cap’n!
Travis R. Chance (so many trolls)