Eternal Warrior #19: Breakfast in America

I generally prefer to play “fair” decks in Legacy. You could spill several kilobytes worth of digital ink on the question of what it actually means to be a “fair” deck, as opposed to “unfair”, and the line can be blurry sometimes. Rather than fairness, I propose we start judging Legacy decks on the basis of how silly they are. And what could be sillier than Kobolds?

Today’s deck is a Glimpse of Nature Storm combo deck that has been tossed around for several years, and is known as the “Cheerios” deck. In Magic tradition, combo decks are supposed to be named after breakfast cereals, and in this case all or most of the creatures in the deck cost 0 mana to cast, which looks like the circular shape of a Cheerio. Got it? Ok, boring deckname etymology lesson over.

There are several variants of the deck, but the basic idea is to churn through your entire deck by casting Glimpse of Nature followed by an endless parade of free creatures, eventually killing the opponent with Grapeshot. If you stall, you can use Scapegoat to return the creatures to your hand and resume drawing through your deck. As an alternative win condition, you can use the combat step. Today’s deck will be using Beastmaster Ascension as that alternative. If you own Gaea’s Cradle, you can also borrow a page from Elves’ playbook and finish with Craterhoof Behemoth. It’s all pretty much the same thing in the end if you manage to “go off”. Here is the list I played:

You can goldfish this deck to get an idea how to play it, and I recommend you do so for at least an hour or two to get a feel for it, but the real test is going up against disruption. MTGO players are wary of combo decks in the queues, and decks that can’t handle combo are weeded out quickly. Consequently, you will see a lot of Force of Will and Thoughtseize. The Xantid Swarm can fight countermagic, and Noxious Revival is great against discard. But sideboarding without cutting too deeply into your combo “fuel” is a difficult task. As you’ll see in the videos, I fare alright against discard, but countermagic was too much to overcome.

After playing with this list, I think I gained a new appreciation for combo deckbuilders. What you quickly realize is that this type of deck tends to be very tight on space. You can’t really do anything without a Glimpse of Nature, so your incentive is to play the maximum number of Personal Tutors. But you can’t really go below 28 free creatures, which is effectively 50% of your deck if you consider the Gitaxian Probes to be freebies. You could maybe shave a mana from the list, but it’s tight because you will need to draw into mana while you’re going off. Then you need room for a couple of win conditions. The Scapegoats are great for keeping the run going, but you can’t just jam four of them in your deck, because you’d prefer to have a creature in your hand when you start to go off and draw into Scapegoat mid-run.

It takes months, sometimes years, of constant refinement to arrive at an optimal list like we have with 1-land Belcher Combo. If Cheerios is basically just a worse Belcher, or perhaps a worse Elves depending on your point of view, then there’s no incentive to optimize the list. The argument for it being a worse Belcher deck is that most of the hate cards against Belcher are good against Cheerios too. Stifle on the Grapeshot Storm trigger is even more devastating than on the Charbelcher activation, as the Charbelcher will stay in play and you might be able to activate it later. Null Rod or Pithing Needle effects are effective against both decks, as it’s tough for Cheerios to win without Lotus Petals.

If you are interested in playing this deck, I have a few suggestions:

1. Experiment with changes to the mana base. I often didn’t even want to cast the Skyshroud Cutters, and that being the case, there is no need to run lands with the “forest” type. Four each of Gemstone Mine and City of Brass may be the better way to go. Incidentally, this would make the deck much, much cheaper in paper, if you’re watching your budget.

2. Try playing the full set of Personal Tutors. Any hand without Glimpse or Tutor is going nowhere, so I think you have to go for consistency. You don’t usually want to draw it during a run because in the situations where you could use it to set up another Glimpse, you probably have enough fuel and mana that your combo is going fine anyhow. But so many hands have to be shuffled back for lack of a Glimpse that I’d rather accept a worse percentage on combo success if it means I at least have the chance. Going off and seeing if you can get there is the fun part, after all; why else would you play the deck?

3. Alternatively, you could try out Gamble in place of Personal Tutor. Gamble carries a bit more risk, but it would solve the problem of needing to find both the Glimpse to start your run and the Scapegoat to keep it going. If Mystical Tutor were still legal, the deck would be far more consistent… but of course that format was hideous, so I can’t really recommend petitioning the DCI to bring it back. So Gamble may be the best remaining tutor, and if you don’t like relying on a bit of luck, this really isn’t a deck for you in the first place.

To sum up, you might get away with this deck if your local metagame doesn’t have many top tier blue decks, but I can’t really recommend this online without a LOT more fine-tuning. The people who have worked on this deck in the past haven’t arrived at a consensus list yet, so I’m not sure an optimal list even exists, but if you are up for the challenge then I wish you luck. I’d love to see your ideas in the comments!

You can find me on Twitter @cjwynes.

  1. Personally I find decks like this pretty boring gameplaywise. It’s funny for a couple of games, but mull into keycard: go through the same steps every time gets old pretty fast. This one’s cheap though, so not too bad just for the gimmick.

  2. personally I think you cannot really win consistently playing on 6 cards with a manabase as fragile as the one presented. No interaction at all means that all you can do is win the die roll and you go off by turn three (in legacy at least). That’s why no one is playing extreme (meaning defenseless) combo deck. Even the most aggressive ones play some form of disruption.

  3. I messed around with a deck called Moldy Cheerios, using Glimpse of Nature, Multani’s presence and Chalice of the Void with 0 drops, to draw the deck then Songs of the Damned to kill with Tendrils of Agony

  4. i think you could play some copies of SSG also instead of just elf, that way you don’t always need to hit a petal for red.

  5. I agree the deck is basically a silly gimmick, which is why I thought it would be a fun diversion this week from the usual sort of thing I play. I was concerned about how much of this deck people would actually want to see, since it’s a one-trick-pony, but I figure that doing something like this once in a long while might be interesting.

    Playing “some form of disruption” was a consideration I made, but just didn’t think the deck could support it. Cabal Therapy seems perfect in theory, if I switched to the rainbow-land manabase. But your opponent is going to counter Glimpse, not the eventual kill spell, so you jhave to use the Therapy *before* going off. That means that in addition to drawing Therapy instead of fuel, you are also losing a draw you would have had off a creature you have to play if you need to flashback Therapy. Every form of disruption you could run cuts into the necessary critical mass of fuel for this deck, making it hard to include. That’s why decks like this or Belcher will never be top tier.

    Rock2011 – I saw some lists like that, considered doing that, but felt like the “pure” form of this deck was better for the purposes of the article.

    neckfire – I think I alluded to that during the deck tech video. I would prefer that all the mana sources are able to produce green to cast Glimpse. But maybe a single copy of SSG would be okay just as a bailout in case you got Petal shut down by Null Rod or Pithing Needle effects.