Two weeks ago on Eternal Warrior, I covered a 5-color Humans deck that I felt was a good metagame call in a blue-heavy field. The main reason I liked the deck initially was Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. But one of the hidden heroes of that deck was Cavern of Souls. Not only does the card fix your mana in a very color-greedy deck, but it strikes right at the heart of the blue decks by forcing your threats or hate bears through their countermagic. What other tribes and strategies might have a use for Cavern?
To help see where and how we might want this card, let’s look at the places it currently shows up in Vintage:
Bomberman – This creature-based combo deck uses Auriok Salvagers to recur Black Lotus for infinite mana. The kill condition has historically been looping a Spellbomb. With both the Lotus and the kill condition being artifact spells that can be returned to hand with Salvagers, the Salvagers themselves are the only part of the combo weak to countermagic. Cavern has been a natural fit here. In some paper metagames, Bomberman players will actually use as many as three copies. Here’s a list from a recent event in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, using three Caverns. This list also makes use of Cavern to push through Trinket Mage, tutoring for the artifact half of the combo, or for Tormod’s Crypt or Grafdigger’s Cage in post-board games.
Magus Bomberman, by Brian Kelly
Goblin Welder – Decks built around Goblin Welder are a great way to fight Workshops. However, a Shops opponent will often lead with Chalice of the Void set to 1. Cavern is used in these decks to force Welder through a Chalice. It can then weld away the Chalice to resolve other key 1-mana spells if necessary. Although that matchup is the primary reason, there are plenty of Mental Misstep in the format, and players will normally toss them out there pretty liberally. Resolving Welder against blue is pretty nice if you are trying to assemble Vault-Key. If one half of your combo is countered, you may be able to force a Welder onto the field to get it back, whereas Yawgmoth’s Will — assuming you find it — runs into both hard counters and the commonly played soft counters such as Spell Pierce and Flusterstorm.
Blue Angels – This deck’s creature base gives it a strong resemblance to the UW Flash decks from the fall 2012 Standard format, and plays like a hyper-powered version of Caw Blade. In addition to the namesake Restoration Angels, the deck typically packs some number of Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique to blink with the Angels. With both V-Clique and Snappie being Wizards, some lists have opted to run a couple copies of Cavern. This list, which made Top 8 of a Team Serious Open in Ohio back in May, omits Snapcasters but chooses to run fellow Wizards Aven Mindcensor and Trinket Mage. I also like the appearance of Spell Snare, a card that seems like it should be a very good hard counter in the format but appears to be underplayed online.
Blue Angels, by Andrew Morrow
Honest-to-God Tribal Decks – The traditional power-tribes of eternal Magic are Elves, Goblins, and Merfolk. Thanks to Skullclamp being legal in Vintage, these decks are at least marginally playable in Vintage. Goblins kinda-sorta was a deck many years ago, but has basically fallen off the map recently. Top 8 appearances since the printing of Cavern of Souls have been few and far between, but when it shows up, Cavern is naturally there. Ditto for Elves. Merfolk, on the other hand, got a ton of press by winning 2013 Vintage Champs, and have enjoyed a bump in popularity. Joel Lim’s path to the title took him through Oath, Delver, and Four-Color Control in the elimination rounds, all blue decks that are popular in some form on MTGO right now, so maybe actual fins-and-all Fish could be a legitimate choice right now?
One of my pet formats over the past few years has been Legacy Tribal Wars. It has a small but devoted following and runs a weekly PRE. In that format, you are required to play 20 creatures of a single type. I have probably brewed up a hundred tribal decks or more, and have a natural affinity for trying to make the tribal concept work. With that in mind, are there any other tribes that could see play and get value from Cavern of Souls? You would want access in-tribe to at least two of the following: a combo element, disruption in the form of hate bears, or a powerful creature to close out the game in a couple of turns.
The tribe that strikes me as most similar to humans in this regard is spirits. You have several disruptive options including Kataki, War’s Wage, Spirit of the Labyrinth. Eidolon of the Great Revel, and Eidolon of Rhetoric. The latter three cards are relatively new to Magic, and haven’t been fully explored as of yet. Adding Geist of Saint Traft gives the deck a bit of punch. There are some flaws here, most notably the Theros Block spirits being vulnerable to Nature’s Claim, but the disruptive power and quick closing power are both there.
Since you would be playing blue, it would likely occur to you that Spirit of the Labyrinth is a nombo with your best card-draw spells. There are a few cards that give you advantage without actually “drawing” extra cards. Fact or Fiction puts cards directly into your hand, as does Gifts Ungiven. These are both a bit expensive for an aggro-control deck, however. I have encountered a Blue Angels deck online that is playing Fact or Fiction with Spirit, but that deck is much more suited to leaving up four mana and shipping the turn than a hypothetical Spirit deck would be. It’s an idea I’ll be working on, though it may be awhile before it’s ready for prime time.
Before I go, I want to thank those of you who took the time out to comment and message me online about the Humans deck. The deck appears to have a devoted following, and I must say I had a fun time playing it. There are many players who have been working on the deck and developing it in the paper metagame over the past year. If you are interested in their work on the deck, be sure to check out the thread on the Mana Drain forums.
I had a long discussion online with one of the deck’s driving proponents, and a creator of one of its variants, about what I liked and didn’t like about the deck. I think my biggest complaint is that the tutors were low-impact because of the absence of a combo-kill. I suspect I would enjoy playing a more aggressive variant of the Bomberman deck… if it weren’t for playing on MTGO. Online, looping for infinite mana will be a time=consuming pain in the rear end. There’s a reason I hated the Eggs deck in Modern! If you have a deck suggestion for something along these lines, I’d love you to mention it in the comments, and maybe I’ll be able to try it out for a future video set.
You can find me on Twitter @cjwynes.