Over the holidays, I took some much needed time off from work and, truth be told, didn't do a whole lot. As someone who's got a full-time job and a part-time job along with kids, maintaining a house, and sometimes—but not as often as I'd like—playing Magic, having some time free and clear from alarm clocks, appointments, and schedule was a welcome relief. I used it to decompress and recharge the mental and emotional batteries from what's been a tough year in many ways.
One thing I did over the break was to take some stock on me and Magic. Even though I've been able to pull back a little bit on the hours I'm working and have been able to make some Friday Night Magics, along with occasionally getting to play Magic with my roommate Chuck, I've concluded that I probably need to go ahead and invest more into Magic Online. I first started playing Magic Online when I took over the original MTGO column over at Magicthegathering.com and played quite a bit for over a year, but after that gig came to an end—along with the sweet "god" account Wizards let me use during that time—I started dialing back my playing until I was mostly just drafting occasionally and playing Commander once that format popped up online. It was hard for me to justify investing in digital cards when keeping stocked with real life cards for Standard was so expensive.
But I realized recently that I could really do myself a lot of good if I at least invested in having a tier 2 deck to play online in the practice rooms. One of the awesome things about Magic Online is that you can always find a game no matter what day or what time. If I had an hour to burn before I was going to pick up the kids, I could run a quick game. If I needed to wind down after a long day at work before collapsing to bed, I could run a quick game.
It wasn't necessarily to get good with a deck online and win online tournaments with it, but rather just to immerse myself in the metagame to see what people are playing and common lines of play. I have a fair amount of natural talent (along with muscle memory from playing for 20 years), but when I actually sit down to play in Magic tournaments, the mistakes I make from being rusty and out of practice always keep me from doing as well as I know I can. I used to kick a lot of local ass back when I got to play somewhat frequently. Magic Online might be able to help me with this.
I had just started rolling this idea around in my head when I was pondering giving Modern a try. I have to confess to not being overly interested in Modern since I gave it a try when it first came out. At first, I was enamored with the idea of building a sweet G/W deck around Greater Good, and after working on it a little bit, I took it relatively cold to one of the first Modern PTQs about a year ago. And got crushed. Like not win a single game in three rounds crushed. After dropping and feeling pretty down on the format, Kenny Mayer salvaged some enjoyment for me after I noticed he was playing a pretty sweet Mosswort Bridge / Summoning Trap deck with Primeval Titan, so I birded his games the rest of the afternoon and watched the craziness ensue.
Even so, as the format matured I began to lose what little interest I had in it. The top decks appeared to be Jund, Scapeshift, Jund, U/W, Jund, Melira Pod, Jund, Tron, and Jund. I found Melira Pod just mildly interesting, but having to wade through a bunch of Jund decks just did not strike me as very fun.
Then one day recently I realized… Necrotic Ooze is Modern legal! If you've been reading me for a while, you know I tried my damnedest for the two years Necrotic Ooze was Standard legal to brew a tier 1 deck around that card. I had a lot of fun with it but no real success and was sad when it rotated out of Standard recently (especially since Lotleth Troll seemed like such a perfect fit).
The most potent combo I could cook up with Necrotic Ooze in Standard was getting the Ooze infinitely large by copying the abilities of Bloodline Keeper and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born in the graveyard. The challenge then was punching through chump blockers to connect and win the game, and I tried a variety of different ways to do that. If you're new to the column and are interested, feel free to Google "MTG Bennie Smith Necrotic Ooze" and see what pops up.
But Necrotic Ooze gets better the larger the card pool, so there had to be a better combo in Modern! It didn't take long to find one: Devoted Druid + Quillspike! What was particularly exciting about these cards was that they were actually cheaper than Necrotic Ooze, so you could play them early in the game if you needed a chump blocker with Quillspike or acceleration with Devoted Druid.
Of course, there was still the issue of getting your arbitrarily large Ooze to connect with your opponent. In Standard, my best option had been Skinshifter—letting you turn your Ooze into a 4/4 trampling Rhino along with all the other special abilities—but as I perused the card databases for trampling in Modern, one card jumped out at me with horns blaring:
Thornling! This Swiss army knife of green creatures not only was a perfect Necrotic Ooze card—trample, haste, and indestructible!—but Thornling itself was also a damn good card on its own against Jund, the main villain of the Modern format. One valuable lesson learned while tinkering with Necrotic Ooze decks was to ensure that the combo pieces were decent enough cards to win on their own. I've won many a game with a bunch of Vampires churned out by Bloodline Keeper or Grimgrin just dominating the board with each attack. And back when Jund was terrifying Standard, I crushed it many times by getting a Thornling out on the board! Not only could I play a couple actual Thornlings, but if one's in the graveyard, my Oozes can play the part of honorary Thornlings too.
Suddenly Modern felt interesting to me!
It occurred to me that outside of the mana base, it probably wouldn't be too expensive to assemble the Necrotic Ooze deck online. And if I went ahead and bit the bullet and bought the main part of the mana base—Woodland Cemetery and Overgrown Tomb—I could use them for a Standard deck too. Kibler's Golgari Fight Club deck has been having some success in Standard, and it's certainly right up my alley. I could probably pull that deck together without hitting my wallet too hard so long as I went without the planeswalkers.
So I bought some tix, hit up some bots, and soon enough had a rough first draft of Necrotic Ooze online ready to go. The first game I played with it was in the Anything Goes Constructed room. I annihilated my opponent, and after his somewhat angry comment when I got Grim Poppet and Devoted Druid in the graveyard with Necrotic Ooze on the board and destroyed all his Elves, I realized I probably should have been in the Tournament Practice room.
Oops. Sorry dude.
Over the break, I logged in a fair number of games with my deck. Against Jund or any other creature-centric deck, I did pretty well. Against non-interactive combo decks, I did abysmally. One matchup, Epic Experiment Storm, I felt particularly helpless against and have been trying to figure out whether there's something I can do outside of Duress.
Here's where my online deck currently stands:
- 1 Grim Poppet
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Necrotic Ooze
- 4 Quillspike
- 2 Thornling
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
If you're not familiar with the central combo, here it is:
In the graveyard you have Devoted Druid and Quillspike, and on the battlefield is Necrotic Ooze. Tap the Ooze with the Druid's mana ability to make a green mana, and then untap the Ooze with the Druid's untap ability and put a -1/-1 counter on the Ooze. Spend the green mana on the Quillspike ability to remove the -1/-1 counter and give the Ooze +3/+3 until the end of the turn. Repeat to make the Ooze however big you want.
At this point, you can hopefully attack with the Ooze and win providing there are no blockers in the way (which is why adding Thornling to the graveyard for trample helps). Grim Poppet's ability can clear away just about any creature on the board, and Wickerbough Elder's ability can nuke a bunch of artifacts. You can also cash out some of the +3/+3 buffs for -1/-1 untaps to either generate a bunch of green mana or some other tap effect for profit (such as Fauna Shaman or Deathrite Shaman).
I feel that this is really close to something powerful. There are some limitations due to what I have available online compared to what I own in real life. For instance, if I sleeved this up in real life, I have some Twilight Mires and Kitchen Finks I could add to the mix.
I went through some card databases and found a fair number of other interesting cards to consider in just black and green (in order to keep using the mana base I have available online).
These cards fail the test of being decent cards without Necrotic Ooze, but they both can just flat out win the game on the spot if you get them in the graveyard alongside Devoted Druid and Quillspike. Blightspeaker can also search out a Rebel… Is there a decent Rebel in Modern that costs three or less? Big Game Hunter maybe?
Two of the combo pieces are searchable with Green Sun's Zenith, so I'm not sure if Birthing Pod is the right call (especially since it's so painful). If GSZ makes the deck, then Dryad Arbor becomes a strong consideration. Leafcaller would be one way to change all that green mana I could generate into any color mana.
So if I can generate a ton of mana, here are some potential creature-based mana sinks. Spawnsire is intriguing—for 20 mana I can start raining down Eldrazi from my sideboard!
That Epic Experiment deck makes me think I need something other than Duress in the board to handle non-interactive combo. Right now I think the best bet might be Cinderhaze Wretch (which gives some untapping for -1/-1 redundancy), maybe even a copy in the maindeck.
Other Possibly Relevant Activated Abilities: Sakura-Tribe Scout, Scattershot Archer, Rag Dealer, Ulvenwald Tracker, Viscera Seer, Lotleth Troll, Magus of the Library, Nezumi Graverobber, Undertaker, Withered Wretch, Imperious Perfect, Reinforced Bulwark, Somberwald Sage, Bloodline Keeper, Glissa Sunseeker, Mindless Automaton, Tree of Redemption, Unliving Psychopath, Deity of Scars, Helldozer, Triskelion, Carnifex Demon, Avatar of Woe, Griselbrand
All of these are pretty self-explanatory. Feel free to add to this list in the comments below!
A few other thoughts:
Pack Rat + Fulminator Mage: The price of Fulminator Mages online will probably keep me from running them there, but I have a playset in real life and can't help but think it might be a solid way to destroy Tron. Play Fulminator Mage, sac it to destroy a land, play Necrotic Ooze that can also be sacked to destroy another land. If you get a Pack Rat in the graveyard too, you can spend three mana and pitch a card to make a copy of Necrotic Ooze to nuke lands at will. Pack Rat might be too cute, but I think in real life a maindeck Fulminator Mage with a few more in the board is probably the ticket.
Garza's Assassin: If I end up going back to Bloodline Keeper / Grimgrin, Garza's Assassin becomes an interesting way to potentially fuel Fauna Shaman activations. With enough life to work with (hello, Tree of Redemption), you could fetch up every creature in your deck if you want to. This is probably stretching things a bit, but it's something interesting to think about.
When I get back online, I think I'm going to give the decklist a few tweaks and run this:
- 1 Grim Poppet
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Cinderhaze Wretch
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 2 Lotleth Troll
- 4 Necrotic Ooze
- 4 Quillspike
- 1 Thornling
- 1 Wickerbough Elder
Please let me know what you think in the comments below, especially if you're pretty familiar with the Modern format. I'd really like to whip this list into shape enough to be at least a potential metagame spoiler if the stars align right.
Happy New Year!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)