Being zapped is a bizarre sensation.
I remember doing something very foolish when I was in high school. At the science fair one year, one of my fellow students had the supercharged idea of creating an electric generator with the motor of a microwave and miscellaneous household parts. After school, he wanted to
show off demonstrate the power of this generator. So in our high school's warm, autumn gymnasium, three or four victims and I held hands in a circle as the experimenter licked his pointer and touched the lead.
It felt like a convulsion across my arms. We each bolted our arms inward as the current raced through us and began instinctively shaking our hands wildly, as if to wick the last bits of charge off. We laughed and described the weird, non-electric feeling of the jolt. I should add that you should not try this at home. Arcing electric current, no matter how tiny across your heart, is a bad idea. Leave it to us professionals.
The strangest thing about getting a shock is that, at least for me, I did feel energized. You skip around and thank your lucky stars that you're ok with a big smile on your face.
Zaps can be insightful, I suppose.
Curiosity has always been a great combo card, and its reprisal in Innistrad brought it back into the Standard cannon. Several months ago, I noticed (as I'm sure many of you Johnnys did, too), that Curiosity goes particularly well with a little zapper: Lobber Crew.
Because Curiosity triggers off any kind of damage, Lobber Crew is the perfect manaless pinger that facilitates the use of drawing cards. As Lobber Crew can also be untapped without additional cost, it would stand to reason that we should fill any deck that uses it with multicolored spells. When I first put this list together, Return to Ravnica was fresh on players' minds, and Gatecrash and "Sinker" were just twinkles in our eyes. As such, much of the meat of any three-color combination would be sorely lacking. So I waited.
Now, with M14 on the horizon, I believe I've assembled two hearty versions of the deck, each with lots of defense and ways to access the spells you need. Bzzt!
And version #2!
For both, I wanted to stick pretty hard to the theme; everything but Curiosity itself and the lands would trigger Lobber Crew's untap. Roughly half the draws would produce a cantrip then, and I'd want to keep them cheap enough to continuously activate them. Thus, your draw engine becomes your win condition. A 0/4 can stop all the Voice of Resurgence and non-Smiter aggro your opponent tosses at you, though with Mizzium Mortars becoming the primary damage-based removal spell in the format (from what I've seen), the four toughness is not as impregnable as it once was. Still, four each of Lobber Crew and Curiosity helps ensure the frequency and effectiveness of the combo.
The USA list is designed perhaps a little more favorably against control matchups. There are fewer creature destruction spells, and all twelve possible Charm slots are filled. It's designed to slowly give you the upper hand with continuous damage and negating the threats your opponent does resolve. More than the other, it has the option to go big with Aurelia's Fury or Sphinx's Revelation—two spells that when fed an extra card each turn can reliably rack up the land count and guarantee a hefty cast. Boros Reckoner is good, as always, and makes an effective battering ram against a stubborn defense.
CRUSA's sideboard is choc-a-block with counterspells, hard(ish) removal, and Assemble the Legions for true control matchups that might be unable to deal with a resolved enchantment like this. The sideboard for CRUSA is a little more transformative, moving full control postboard and relegating situational and temporary removal to the board. I will point out that there is no graveyard hate in this sideboard, which is a theme-based choice. By all means include Rest in Peace and friends if you perceive that as a threat at your local scene; I just left it out as a mono-colored drag.
The Grixis list, perhaps the more fun one in my opinion, offers all the one-for-ones you could hope for through swift, hearty removal. Curiosity ensures a full grip keeps Warped Physique at maximum power, and nearly every spell can remove something. Nightveil Specter, a card I've been continually impressed with in Return to Ravnica block, shows up here in a risky Standard jump. It blocks 2/2s profitably, true, but it also grants you another card each turn for little effort. In a pinch, its evasion also makes it an effective Curiosity target.
The Grixis deck's sideboard is a bit more diverse. Woodlot Crawler is a favorite of mine from a flavor and interaction standpoint. It blocks Voice of Resurgence and its tokens for days, and it can stonewall all of the biggest green bruisers that make a Grixis mage pout. Rakdos Charm, aside from being one of my favorite sleeper Charms, gives solid graveyard removal first and foremost. The other modes pale in comparison here. Counterflux, the only card to appear in both sideboards, answers the unanswerable.
Izzet Staticaster gives the deck more ways to deal with little creatures—X/1s namely, but it can also keep Aetherlings in check, even if just a little bit. Being hit by a 7/2 is a little better, right? Ok, I might be reaching. Most of the removal in the deck can hold off an Aetherling for a couple turns. Sire of Insanity, still one of my favorite spoils from Dragon's Maze, shuts down every late-game deck. Lobber Crew chips away at planeswalkers, so resolving this monster will send your opponent into a topdecking scramble. Sure, you lose your own hand, but what do you care? You can draw at will with the Crew.
Both decks share a few core cards. Frostburn Weird is still a great early defender and fills in where Augur of Bolas might reside if this wasn't a multicolored theme list. It's still a decent Weird to put the Curiosity on, too, as it can be tricky to block in the early game with some mana open. If you can take out an early creature if they block, it's done its job. Snapcaster Mage, although technically not multicolored himself, can dredge up any instant, all of which are multicolored. He still surprise blocks Geist of Saint Traft and X/2s and always will. Ral Zarek is a favorite utility planeswalker of mine (if you couldn't tell). He gives us free untaps for the Crew for a draw or lets you push through another Curious creature past a blocker.
I have playtested the Grixis version significantly more than the USA version; it's older, for one, but it also contains much more promise. In aggro matchups, targeting and removing the few real troublemakers was often sufficient to start pinging away. The generic mana setup sometimes left me with the old "triple buddy land" hands, but without many early drops, they often worked themselves out. I like this deck a lot against midrange decks, too, as their threats are fewer and more powerful, but Warped Physique always had juice and the ramped up removal dealt with anything my creatures couldn't. This is not a fast deck; you are pretty much relying on Lobber Crew to get your wins. As such, protecting it is very important.
Sideboarding is an important decision, and my current sideboards may be incorrect depending on the metagame surrounding you. The USA version sports some ways to protect my team (namely Boros Charm, which I always seemed to Curiosity draw in time). By far this deck's weakest matchup is B/G/X. Abrupt Decay, Putrefy, good old Tragic Slip, and Murder (yeah, some decks play it) can wreak havoc on your plans and leave your hopes dead in the water. The Aristocrats is a nearly impossible matchup; both the red and green versions outraced me every time. I'm not sure if some other kind of plan is required to deal with those decks.
Both decks are still works in progress, but I'd recommend the Grixis version right now. Oh, and I tried a RUG version, too, but it included Borborygmos Enraged with Curiosity and 30+ lands instead. Needless to say, I went to bed very shortly after that misstep.
I don't know about you, but I am very excited for M14! With about half the set spoiled, I've already got my eyes on lots of exciting decks for the summer season. Dragon's Maze gave me some goodies, but not like this! Between Slivers, Mutavault (one of my favorite lands ever), and even Shadowborn Apostle, everything's got me excited. I can't wait to show you some brews for Standard at its yearly zenith!
Before you go, I want to extend a bit of a proposition to you all by telling you one of my oldest wishes for my Magic life. I've always loved variants of Magic, whether it's in deck construction, play style, rules, or in more intangible ways like flavor or some completely non-card related exploration. Mark Rosewater is often quoted as saying that "restrictions breed creativity," and I agree (ironically, he denies creating that quote.)
I've always loved the idea of hosting a variant "league" at my local shop. Each month, we'd have a certain set of deck restrictions. Our playgroup would build according to those restrictions, we'd play through the month, tallying wins and losses, and the winner would get a prize each month. This would do three things.
First, it would prevent netdecking and would require planning and design on the deckbuilder's part to make the deck fit into the strictures of the month while still maintaining their own flavor and preferences. Second, play would be based on skill and deck construction, something that might slip to one side or the other in higher-tier formats. Third, it would be a nice way for people to use old or otherwise unused cards in a way they never thought possible in a format that suddenly makes them valuable and sought after.
Now, time, commitments, and wavering interest have put this dream league out of my grasp. But I'm comfortable here, aren't I? Maybe...maybe you folks want to do this?
My proposition is that starting next week I would add a certain set of rules to create a deck. Playtest it with your friends, online, or with strangers at your store. Share your love of wild brewing with a group of like-minded players that want to build and play for the fun of building and playing! I would post the deckbuilding parameters at the end of my article every other week. You have two weeks to create a deck and either post it in the comments or (preferably) email it to a dedicated email address where I can review it. I'll pick my favorites, post them with your name and design idea, and then everyone can see what a good brewer and thinker you are!
For example, I could require a Standard Pauper deck that must have all five colors or a Scars of Mirrodin Block deck without any block themes (artifacts or infect).
Does that sound like something you want to be a part of? Let me know in the comments below! I hope you'll give one of the Lobber Crew decks a try this week; you might just toss one into the endzone.
Until next week, don't forget to untap!
CaptainShapiro on Magic Online