I had big plans for this past week in terms of playing Magic. My loving wife was out-of-state visiting her mom and I have a PTQ coming up this weekend so I looked at this as a perfect opportunity to playtest -- and maybe to head into the local shop for the Rise of the Eldrazi Release Event on Friday night. I mean I knew there would be Rise cards I'd need for May 1st and this seemed like a perfect way to try and collect the commons and uncommons I might need.
And... to some degree this is what I did. Sorta.
Thursday turned out to be the birthday of perennial "shotgun" PTQ passenger and Doran provocateur Randy Tempelaar and while it started out as a playtest session it quickly devolved into quite a festive atmosphere more full of "fun" Magic than serious playtest-y Magic. We grilled steaks we drank tequila we played Magic we ended up wandering my neighborhood at one in the morning... one of us may have even gotten punched in the face! Unfortunately no pumas showed up or Randy's birthday surely would have been complete. I did determine that Single White Guys the Red/White Planeswalker control deck that I've been working on cannot beat Jund and had a very poor matchup against Naya as well - I think it's probably fine for FNM but it's not ready for primetime PTQ play quite yet.
Friday afternoon I had lunch with fellow Johnny Deckbuilder and unfortunate griefer Rick Ashby. We played a little more of the Single White Guys versus Jund matchup and solidly confirmed that it just does not have game against Jund - which is an immediate cause for de-selection right there. In true Johnny fashion I guess we moved on to the next thing which in this case happened to be "building Mono-Black Control." It's an archetype that's near and dear to both of us. For me it's probably because I never know when is a good time to counterspell something - but I can tell when I need to kill something on the field! The deck looked good in principle but that's not always enough as you'll see later in this diatribe.
Friday night I attended the Rise of the Eldrazi pre-release at Compleat Games and Hobbies an excellent game shop here in Colorado Springs that has been doing so well recently it opened a second store mere minutes from my house. Convenience that's all I really ask in a gaming location! And they had a huge turnout; when you have 48 people showing up to play Sealed and you have to set up extra tables in amongst the board game displays you must be doing something right. I completely misbuilt my Sealed pool and I'll blame that on the tequila and the cat and pretty much everything else in that store. First pack: Drana Kalastria Bloodchief. Okay so I'm playing Black - and eventually had a Vendetta and two other pieces of removal to go with it. Solid but ultimately probably a support color. Second pack: Kargan Dragonlord. Red would have been a lot better if it had a burn spell other than Flame Slash (which is good in Limited don't get me wrong but how about a Heat Ray or a Staggershock?) but it had all the spawn-baby-making cards - Brood Birthing and Emrakul's Hatcher etc. Third pack: Kozilek Butcher of Truth. By the end of all the packs I had about eight Eldrazi that I wanted to play including a Skittering Invasion and I figured "Hey! It's the Release Event of this new set that's all about giant Annihilator-y creatures. I should play them." So I pulled in all of my spawn-making cards my Black removal and Drana and built Black/Red Eldrazi. Of course this meant that I ignored the other good stuff I got like Gigantomancer and two Aura Gnarlids... Oh well. I still had a great time playing in a great event and even though I went 2-4 on the night I still got to say "ANNIHILATOR!" in a big robotic voice and really that's what this set is all about right?
Saturday morning rolled around (I slept in a little since I was at the Release Event well past 2am) and I was no closer to determining what I wanted to play for the PTQ the next Saturday. I went back to testing MBC for probably about four hours. Interested parties can request the list and I'm more than happy to give it out but I'm not putting it in this column and here's why: It cannot beat Jund. Not even with my cat playing it. (To be fair my cat is an excellent playtest partner even if she gloats a little in victory.) Even if Jund mulled to five and I was able to wipe the board AND empty her hand with Mind Sludge she was still able to put together a victory before I could cobble together a win condition. She would just topdeck a Thrinax and ride it to victory. Heck I even removed everything but Broodmates and Masters with a Haunting Echoes once - and still lost. She had a good laugh at that. Then she started chewing on the corner of a Raging Ravine.
My cat is somewhere behind me purring away contentedly. Probably remembering all those sick beatings I took playtesting against Jund.
Sunday I resolved to play Jund and just be done with it. I decided to focus on building a fun deck to pack all those cool Eldrazi into instead.
And so we finally get to the title! I thought I was going to forget what I was writing about there for a paragraph. I did ramble a bit.
I decided that if I was going to play giant 10-15 casting cost creatures that all have a cool effect when you cast them there was really no point in cheating them into play. There are so many different ways to generate a ton of mana now so why would you rob yourself of those four cards / that Vindicate / that extra turn? The first thought is the obvious one: Wizards gave us all of these Spawn-generating cards for the sole purpose of casting giant Eldrazi so why not put them to use?
Rare Cost Summary:
Awakening Zone ($5.99 x 4 = $23.96)
Banefire ($2.99 x 2 = $5.98)
Emrakul the Aeons Torn ($12.49 x 2 = $24.98)
Kozilek Butcher of Truths ($15.99 x 1 = $15.99)
Ulamog the Infinite Gyre ($7.99 x 1 = $7.99)
Rares You Could Add If You Had 'Em: Eldrazi Temples are $8 apiece but work just fine as a one-of if you happen to have one laying around; I don't think they're so critical in a deck where you're generating four brazillion Spawn tokens. Eye of Ugin probably isn't that beneficial either. In other news though holy cow get your Awakening Zones now while they're still six bucks.
The mix of the Eldrazi looks to be decent. You definitely want a full set of Hand of Emrakul because it gives you an "early" big beater that doesn't munch too much of your Spawn production. You can easily cast him around turn 4 without reducing the chances of being able to cast one of the bigger guys later. I selected what I thought would be a nice round selection of "big" guys but it's possible that Artisan of Kozilek doesn't play best with the Mythic Eldrazi. Maybe what you want is Spawnsire of Ulamog ($0.99) and all those guys in the sideboard. Ha!
On the surface I like the deck. I like the idea of being able to cast the giant Eldrazi. My problem is what does that deck do while it's waiting for the Eldrazi to arrive? Sure it can make chump blockers like no one's business but that cuts into your productivity as it were. So I started thinking about what other decks make a ton of mana and I remembered the Mono-Black Crypt of Agadeem ramp deck that I talked about in Tribal Thriftiness #95...
- 4 Architects of Will
- 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
- 4 Igneous Pouncer
- 4 Jhessian Zombies
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 4 Vampire Nighthawk
- 4 Viscera Dragger
That deck was capable of generating some large amounts of mana all the while protecting you with deadly creatures and a smattering of removal. You could get up to 15 mana without any issue and you often did. There's nothing to be countered and Emrakul himself can't be countered so this looks like a perfect home for him.
Rares You Could Add If You Had 'Em: Honestly aside from adjusting the mix of Eldrazi to suit your personal collection this deck is fairly rare-free and can definitely stay that way. Putting in fetchlands doesn't help; you have plenty of swampcyclers for that purpose and they actually serve a secondary purpose in the graveyard. Similarly you need all those cycling creatures to power up the Crypt.
The deck needs Grim Discovery; there's not a TON of Tectonic Edges flying around (thanks to Valakut lying low again) but Goblin Ruinblaster is still around at times and this deck NEEDS the Crypt to function now (whereas before you COULD sneak a victory here and there by just attacking with your guys and using Consume Spirit to round out those last points of damage). The problem is you really need all those cycling guys and you need the removal so you need to best judge when it's safe to drop a Crypt - it only needs to survive one turn to be golden. I found it was usually best to go ahead and drop them early if you can in game one and then watch for the frustrated "Ruinblaster without kicker" before dropping them in sideboarded games.
A PTQ this weekend and while I did say earlier I was "settled" on playing Jund I could still pull a Rick Ashby and audible to something else. Guess you'll have to come back in a week and find out. I know I'll be back in a week to find out too.
Until next week...
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