After mentioning it in my last article, I decided to put some work into trying to build Turbo Fog. This is a pretty serious deckbuilding undertaking, and I have a lot of respect for people who can do it well. It's very hard to figure out how many Fogs, engines, other card draw, finishers, lands, and everything else you need. Getting the balance right is really important and functions quite differently from building other decks.
I started with a Bant shell like the deck I discussed in my last article. As a reminder, that was:
Before playing the deck, I made some changes. I realized Druid's Deliverance doesn't protect my planeswalkers, so I cut it for Clinging Mists, which is awesome if you can sculpt the game such that you end up at fateful hour. You can use shocklands to help with this, but it's risky/scary and tells your opponent what you're doing, so they can attack with just a few creatures, negating the benefit of locking them down.
I started with something like this:
This build was mostly inspired by the deck I saw at Grand Prix San Antonio and Bant Control, and I think it's largely doing the wrong things. Sphinx's Revelation and Otherworld Atlas play very badly together. If you ever get Atlas going, your Revelations are pretty close to bad Stream of Lifes. I took a deck that was designed without Otherworld Atlas, decided Otherworld Atlas was a better engine, and then just stuck them in rather than fully rebuilding the deck around them. Using Fogs to buy time to take over a game with Thragtusks, planeswalkers, and Sphinx's Revelations is a reasonable plan. I don't know if it's the best approach, but it has some internal consistency.
I was more interested in using Fogs to build some kind of Howling Mine combo style deck. I remembered from my last time playing Turbo Fog that the deck was largely a Time Warp deck, so I'd probably want four Temporal Mastery (even though it's dramatically worse since you generally want to cast Time Warp as late as possible, which defeats the purpose of miracling it most of the time).
Also, feedback on my last article from Travis Hall and Michael McDermott pointed me toward Cyclonic Rift and Reforge the Soul. In the late game Cyclonic Rift becomes the biggest Fog, but it also deals with problematic permanents (Detention Sphere, Hellrider, Deathrite Shaman) to some extent. Reforge the Soul helps push toward being a combo deck since it can find pieces and aggressively mill the opponent.
I built something like this:
I felt like I had something going with this deck. I thought I might have broken it. When I played against people on Magic Online, they got excited. The deck wins in really flashy ways when it wins, and it can easily feel hopeless for your opponent. The idea is to play an Atlas and use Fogs to buy as much time to put counters on the Atlas as possible, then use the Atlas to chain Temporal Masteries together, then use Atlas + Reforge the Soul + Jace, Memory Adept to deck them, which you can do pretty easily. You'll notice that I'm not playing Elixir of Immortality or Psychic Spiral anywhere. It wasn't needed because most of the card draw is symmetrical and Jace can make up for any extra cards you drew with Tamiyo, Architect, or by taking extra turns.
The deck has a few major weaknesses. It relies very heavily on resolving an early Otherworld Atlas, and often I'd find myself in positions where I had to cast Reforge the Soul and just hope it drew me into a Fog. Sometimes I needed it to literally be Fog because I wouldn't have the mana for Clinging Mists.
Also, the mana in this deck is a lot worse than the mana in Bant. Evolving Wilds is really bad. Splashing Reforge the Soul in a deck that's a color pair that doesn't want to be together in the first place is extremely awkward all around. This is one of those decks that will work a lot better with Gatecrash.
My sideboard plan against aggressive red decks of boarding in Searing Spear for Hellrider and Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk as life gain spells to buy time didn't really work. I wasn't really trying to win with those, and if I cut Reforge the Soul, my plan fell apart because I didn't have enough engines and those decks are generally built to be able to beat those cards anyway. I couldn't find a better life gain card though.
That led me to this:
Izzet Charm is pretty exciting. It definitely does things I want to be doing. You're often looking for different specific cards at different stages in the game, and it's a card that helps forgive bad deckbuilding decisions. If I played too many Fogs, I'll just discard them more often. Also, it's an excellent counterspell in matchups where you need them because people will usually spend all their mana when they're drawing so many extra cards. (It's not as good as I'm making it out to be—you usually don't care about them resolving spells, you only really care about forcing through your own spells, which it's very bad at.)
The one Increasing Vengeance is about as cute as it gets. The plan is to use it to copy a Farseek or discard it to Izzet Charm early, and then later, if you ever miracle a Temporal Mastery when you have a lot of mana in play, you should basically win on the spot by taking three extra turns. Honestly, it's there because I forgot that Reverberate is legal. Reverberate is the counterspell I wish Izzet Charm was since it's great at forcing your spells through can copy opposing Sphinx's Revelations. It also works well enough with Temporal Mastery.
This deck didn't work to solve the major issue of the reliance on Otherworld Atlas. Izzet Charm just doesn't see that many extra cards. Maybe if I had Faithless Looting or Forbidden Alchemy as well, but I didn't know how to find room for all that.
I decided to try Bant again because Reforge the Soul was a frustratingly high variance card when it wasn't being used largely as a Mind Sculpt at the end of the game and the mana in RUG was so awkward.
I came to this:
Here I added Divination and Sphinx's Revelation to help draw cards when I didn't have Atlas and Psychic Spiral to make up for the fact that I was drawing so many cards and didn't have Reforge the Soul.
I fundamentally still didn't have enough engines.
The old Turbo Fog deck I played had Howling Mine, Jace Beleren, and Font of Mythos, and it really needed all of them. There are other engines available in Standard right now, but they all cost four or more: Jace, Garruk, Primal Hunter, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and Staff of Nin. I'm playing some of them, but I think what I might be learning is that what I have to do is what the original Turbo Fog deck that I saw in San Antonio was doing: build the deck to use Fogs to abuse planeswalkers rather than using planeswalkers to abuse fogs.
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of Fog as the end game in Turbo Fog. After all, that's what it's named for. I'll just play enough card draw that I can cast all the Fogs. Ok, then what? You need to not only have a clear end game in mind but must build and play to it. "My goal is to use Fog and Temporal Mastery to ultimate some planeswalkers" is probably a better goal than "I'm going to use planeswalkers to draw more Fogs so that I can cast a lot of Fogs."
So where does Otherworld Atlas fit in that framework? I think it's a planeswalker. If you give it time to build up, at some point it reaches an "ultimate" where you draw enough cards to (ideally) take all the turns. It has the advantage of not being vulnerable to creatures but the disadvantage of not doing a lot to defend itself (or, by extension, you). If you're playing planeswalkers anyway, they're already going to be under attack, so that advantage is relatively minimal. It's possible that Otherworld Atlas, despite being the best Fog engine, is simply not the best planeswalker engine and doesn't have a place in the deck with the reformulate purpose.
Basically, there are two ways to think about what the deck wants to do from here: one is, "I want to go off with Temporal Mastery, so I need an engine that draws extra cards every turn so that I can chain them. Otherworld Atlas is the best for this, but I need a backup—enter Jace, Garruk, and Tamiyo." The other is, "I want to win with planeswalker by buying turns to use their abilities more" as I discussed above. Ultimately, I think planeswalkers don't do the first role well enough. They're too expensive to function as an engine since you need to make sure you hit your lands and you often need to start Fogging early.
I'm not sure that Sphinx's Revelation is where I want to be with either deck.
Another reasonable card that I haven't been using is Snapcaster Mage. For the most part, he's an expensive Fog, but the first Snapcaster Mage is pretty reliable as a three-mana Fog in the late game, and if you're siding in counterspells, he gives you more of them. He's particularly sweet if you're using something like Divination so that he can also draw cards. Again, it's a problem of space, but it might be very stupid not to be playing any. Also, I could move further in with Thought Scour as an engine for Snapcaster that might also give me more chances to miracle Temporal Mastery—I could potentially combine that with Feeling of Dread as a Fog.
Another question is Supreme Verdict. Is it a good Fog that deals with Hellrider and sometimes buys you multiple turns? Honestly, I think it's not. Too often your opponent has a Thragtusk, an undying creature, or (worse yet) a haste creature, so it's just an expensive Fog that doesn't prevent all the damage. I'm pretty sure Supreme Verdict doesn't belong here except as a dedicated answer to the few creatures that have abilities that don't require them to do combat damage to cause problems (Hellrider and Deathrite Shaman).
At this point, I still don't even know what colors I want the deck to be. I'm not interested in Reforge the Soul if I'm all about planeswalkers because it's just too many fives. The only reason I really like white is for life gain. Izzet Charm and Counterflux seem pretty good, and I'm curious about Chandra, the Firebrand to copy Temporal Mastery. I think I want to be red, but I could potentially splash white as well if needed, especially if I want to try Thought Scour / Feeling of Dread.
Let's start there. As I try to build this deck, I start with four Farseek because I want to cast my planeswalkers early, four Fog, four Thought Scour, three or four Snapcaster Mage, four Feeling of Dread, four Temporal Mastery, 24-26 lands, and I begin to realize a few things. It's not going to be easy to fit enough planeswalkers, and where am I on Garruk, Primal Hunter? I need a lot of green to reliably cast Farseek, but I also need double blue for Snapcaster Mage and all my planeswalkers. Without Breeding Pool, this mana is really awkward.
I'm splashing Fog, Farseek, and Garruk. That just looks weird. It might not be wrong, but it's odd. Also, I'm looking at things like one Dispel, one Divination, one Cyclonic Rift, and one Psychic Spiral. Those all make a lot of sense to me. I think I'm mostly using Garruk to draw cards, and I need Psychic Spiral to win since I'm milling myself so much. I like the options the others give me with Snapcaster Mage, and just being able to deal with a permanent or counter a spell seems pretty nice (Dispel could just as easily be Negate, but that's not the issue).
I'm also starting to realize that I think I want Thragtusk, particularly if I'm playing Garruk. He's great at blocking for my planeswalkers, and I really think I want to some life gain. Also, if I'm playing Thragtusk and Snapcaster Mage, could I maybe get some Restoration Angels? They would let me block fliers to protect my planeswalkers, and they'd be really good at eating creatures. I can go a little low on land with Thought Scour maybe, and I probably don't need all four Feeling of Dread.
I only have four Fogs; if I don't draw one of them, these Snapcaster Mages don't work. Can my deck do what it's trying to do? What about Temporal Mastery? Maybe that's the cut. If all I'm really doing with it is tick up my planeswalkers, it might just be an overcosted Fog. It certainly doesn't work well with Snapcaster Mage. I do think I like having one or two so that I can ultimate Garruk and attack without passing to let my opponent play Supreme Verdict though.
I have some reservations about the curve at mana, but maybe something like:
- 2 Chandra, the Firebrand
- 2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
- 1 Jace, Architect of Thought
- 1 Jace, Memory Adept
- 2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
These look much more like decks, which makes me wonder if the Fogs will feel out of place.
Anyway, despite the fact that I wasn't able to get Turbo Fog to the right place in time for this weekend, I still look forward to working on it in the future. Even if it isn't good enough, it's an awesome deckbuilding project. Check back soon for videos as I continue to work on it!
Thanks for reading,
@samuelhblack on Twitter