"It always amazes me to think that every house on every street is full of so many stories; so many triumphs and tragedies, and all we see are yards and driveways."
- Glenn Close
Everyone wants to see the end result when it comes to house shopping. They want to see the marble countertops, the brand new bathroom accessories. The brand new refrigerator catches everyone's attention, as does that big light fixture in front of the entrance. No one ever bothers to ask what the house looked like during construction or checks to see if the contractors did their due diligence when building the initial framework of the house.
Magic players are the same way.
For the most part, we don't want to see the process behind getting a deck to its final form (I'm going to fight the urge to include Cell references and assimilating technology from other combatants to assume a final form. You're welcome!); instead, we like looking at decklists. We like seeing a well-thought out list that has all of the angles covered.
In fact, if a person does well with a list that we didn't feel was in the optimal form, we tend to criticize instead of praise. Think about it: that person just did well with a decklist that wasn't optimized, one that wasn't as well tuned as the other lists that person played against. That shows an understanding of matchups and their own decklists as well as an indication of player skill. Instead, we say "Really? Only three of "X" card? How did he get away with four of that card?!"
Even more often than that, we have others who show us lists that aren't complete/optimized and we shoot them down; this can happen at Friday Night Magic or even in local play groups where we see a list or hear an idea from a friend and immediately shoot it down.
"Too slow, will never work."
"What if they Thoughtseize you?"
"How do you beat Pack Rat/Master of Waves/Stormbreath Dragon/Supreme Verdict? Your idea won't work in Standard."
Just think… if we spent more time trying to flesh these alternate ideas out instead of shooting down anything that isn't an optimized killing machine, we wouldn't get stuck in stale formats where everyone falls in line and plays the same decks. Remember, even the best decks were brews at one point, not the advanced killing machines that they've become today.
Take a look at this list:
- 4 Desecration Demon
- 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 4 Nightveil Specter
- 2 Pack Rat
- 1 Erebos, God of the Dead
If someone showed you this today, of course you'd say "Why the hell do you have two Pack Rats in the sideboard? Especially with two Whips in the maindeck?" Some of you would even question the Temples as well as the Nightveil Specters over the Lifebane Zombies. Instead of noting the good about the deck, we tend to focus on the bad.
Of course, some of these choices are based on the metagame back then, but my point still stands; Mono-Black Devotion wasn't always the optimized mega killing machine that it is now. The main shell is similar/the same, but it wasn't always optimized. It took months of results, tuning, and testing to sculpt the list that you face today.
All of that is meant to say: we should explore our ideas a bit more thoroughly than we currently do. I can't tell you how many people I've heard say "I wonder if Slivers is worth trying" that simply replied "nah, won't work". Upon questioning, it became clear they'd never tried to sleeve the cards up and throw them around, they simply inferred that the deck was unplayable due to a personal thought.
We always want to seem like we're ahead of the game, so we tend to naysay everything to look like we know what we're talking about. It's much easier to say "oh, the person got lucky" when their inference is wrong than to have to admit that their idea/hypothesis was wrong when no one ever does well with Slivers. People hate admitting they're wrong (me too, actually).
So today, I've got some random ideas that I've come up with based on the M15 spoilers. Some are Standard, some are not. Some involve M15 cards, some are ideas that M15 cards sparked (but weren't good enough to be involved in). These are the frames, not the house with vinyl siding and a nice fountain in the front garden. These are in the "dirt under the fingernails" phase decks. Some are not even good, but they're the shells for ideas that I've had.
One of my personal issues is fear of rejection, fear of being told that something I did wasn't good enough. So I have a ton of ideas that I never bother telling others about or even writing an article about because I immediately start poking holes in my own idea, finding issues that I can imagine others telling me. Instead of trying to defend an idea that I start losing confidence in, I simply keep it to myself. Then, weeks/months later, I see a winning/successful list that incorporates at least the central idea that I came up with and have a moment of selfish indignation. "I came up with that first!" But… did I really? I didn't have confidence in it, I didn't flesh out the idea like this person did, putting the time in to learn the deck/matchups; do I really deserve any recognition at all when I couldn't even have the confidence/time to work on the list?
So this is my "ideas" article. I've take some further than others, but they all started with a spark. How much you stoke the embers will determine how big the flame becomes. If you let others stamp it out, then it never had the chance to grow in the first place…
Big Green X's
This card has been noted in multiple articles, mostly for the effect this reprinting will have for the card's price so Modern players can more readily access it for use. The uses in Standard though, have been very few; convoke works really well when you have a critical mass of cheap, good creatures, and Standard isn't as readily abused as Modern in that regard.
However, my roommate TJ and I worked on a G/u Devotion deck with Chord, and the first time he (easily) chorded for a Hornet Queen to shut my Jund Monsters deck down, I was convinced it had a home. While the inconsistencies of Devotion decks are still quite frustrating, the power couldn't be denied.
I've seen a lot of people give the half-hearted "it's ok, but not good enough" response on this card; however, in a devotion deck, there are a ton of times you have a bunch of mana and nothing all that great to do with it. You want to add more powerful cards, but if you start adding planeswalkers/non-creatures, your Garruk, Caller of Beasts becomes less powerful. You've already added Chord of Calling, you can't really afford any more non-creatures. How do you find a middle ground?
Enter Genesis Hydra. A great mana sink that allows you to get a huge creature in addition to a nice permanent, I don't understand why people aren't more excited about this card.
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 1 Clone
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Genesis Hydra
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Prophet of Kruphix
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Soul of Ravnica
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Sylvan Primordial
- 4 Voyaging Satyr
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Prime Speaker Zegana
Another route we could take this idea would be with Deathrite Shaman and Satyr Wayfinder (perhaps with Commune with the Gods) since we need the cheap creatures for convoke, but I didn't dive in that far…
Most of these cards are pretty self explanatory in terms of why I included them, but I want to touch on a couple of points. Soul of Ravnica and Prime Speaker Zegana both give you card draw engines you can search up with Chord of Calling; while Garruk does most of the heavy lifting in this deck, you can't Chord for him. Prime Speaker is the card of choice when you have a decent sized creature on board (like Polukranos) already and Soul of Ravnica is for when you have a ragtag group of mana dorks and need a way to draw cards. If I have action in hand already (or a Garruk in play), I'll go get a Prophet of Kruphix to really push me far ahead. Of course, you need to be careful about removal spells when you do this as well.
Speaking of Burning-Tree Emissary….
On turn 3 (or 2 with a mana dork), you can cast Illusory Angel with the help of Burning Tree Emissary; even still, what can we do with that information?
Well, my first thought was to try to include more free spells to let us cast Angel whenever we want. This meant Ornithopter and Astral Cornucopia. With those spells, you start to want Shrapnel Blast and Ensoul Artifact. Then you want Darksteel Citadel….
Then our deck starts looking similar to the U/R Five deck that BBD played in a Versus video last week:
I tried working on a list that incorporated both concepts (Angel and the artifacts), but it was just too awkward. If you want to build a deck along the lines of the one that BBD played, start with his list and take his advice. It seems more consistent and effective anyway.
I took my list a different route altogether:
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Chandra's Phoenix
- 3 Firefist Striker
- 4 Illusory Angel
- 4 Young Pyromancer
- 2 Keranos, God of Storms
This is my second iteration of this idea; initially, I had this as a RUG list with Scavenging Oozes, Reclamation Sages, and Boon Satyrs. This gave me more uses for the Burning-Tree Emissary mana but also made my manabase worse and made me incapable of playing Mutavault. Without the green side to use the Burning-Tree mana better, I incorporated Firefist Strikers which, when combined with Burning-Tree and Young Pyromancer, actually gets to trigger a decent amount.
Everyone knows you play green when you play Hexproof, otherwise you're going to be depressingly short on hexproof creatures. White is typically next in the queue due to Ethereal Armor and Unflinching Courage, and I don't think anyone's going to convince you that that's not correct.
However, what to do after that? Do you stick with G/W? Do you splash for red and get the exciting Madcap Skills? Or do you add black, a touch of constellation flavor, and have the best possible manabase?
Junk gives you access to two painlands, lands that will always come into play untapped, which is a very big deal in hexproof. While RUG is the combination that has two green painlands, that misses out on the white for the great enchantments, so obviously we're not going that route.
But what does black provide that we couldn't get in G/W?
- 4 Bassara Tower Archer
- 4 Gladecover Scout
- 4 Xathrid Slyblade
- 3 Brain Maggot
- 3 Eidolon of Blossoms
- 2 Eidolon of Countless Battles
This list trades a bit of the speed of Naya for the consistency of the Junk manabase. We also gain a bit of the constellation benefits of Eidolon of Blossoms; yes, I get that it will bite the dust nine times out of ten, but the card you draw (and the time/mana they spend to get rid of Eidolon) helps. Additionally, later in the game, a topdecked Eidolon can snowball easily with the enchantments in the deck.
Slivers And Shapeshifters
My last article contained a poll about which deck I should focus on; the leader in votes the entire time was slivers. You folks love your slivers!
So I took the task for action. Most of what I discovered has been covered by other writers, but here's the list I've settled on (for now):
- 4 Blur Sliver
- 4 Diffusion Sliver
- 4 Galerider Sliver
- 4 Manaweft Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 4 Thorncaster Sliver
- 4 Venom Sliver
- 1 Sliver Hivelord
Mutavault + Sliver Hivelord is fun… in total truth, you have to pick one or the other, and having a sliver creature land is really good. We'll just have to play Chords of Calling as our Hivelords two-through-four.
The sideboard of a deck like this is incredibly tough; you have to know the deck in and out to know what you can afford to take out in any given matchup. You don't want to take out too many slivers, so sideboarding is going to be a tricky dance.
When I thought about how Mutavault gets the full benefit of being a sliver, I thought of another card:
Obviously I won't play Crucible in a deck to make Mutavault a 5/5, but what if that effect could be used for multiple creatures (non-dragons)? I took a trip down to Terrible Town and brought back this fun one:
- 4 Amoeboid Changeling
- 4 Fire-Belly Changeling
- 3 Galerider Sliver
- 4 Lord of the Unreal
- 4 Mirror Entity
- 4 Mothdust Changeling
- 1 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Shadow Sliver
- 4 Shapesharer
- 3 Thundercloud Shaman
There are a ton of routes we can take with this idea, this is just the UWR route. The urge to include cards like Primal Beyond and Sliver Hive were strong, but if we go too hard that route, we can't actually cast Crucible of Fire. Wanderwine Hub and Ancient Amphitheater are nice (painless) additions with all of the "Merfolk" and "Giant" spells we have in our deck.
The idea is obviously to abuse the best lord effects when we can take advantage of them all. Lord of the Unreal felt like it was the best option, though the double blue mana isn't easy with eight non-blue lands in the deck. Drogskol Captain is a possibility if the mana simply doesn't work.
The sideboard is simply a list of cards we could turn to in certain matchups, not necessarily a sideboard I would take to a legitimate tournament.
What if we go green?
- 4 Amoeboid Changeling
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Fire-Belly Changeling
- 4 Mothdust Changeling
- 4 Shapesharer
- 1 Thundercloud Shaman
- 1 Utvara Hellkite
- 4 Woodland Changeling
- 4 Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro
This version uses a slightly more conventional manabase yet a completely unconventional approach. Elvish Archdruid and Sachi both allow us to use our changeling creature base to generate a ton of mana. Utvara Hellkite likes when Changelings attack, but costs a ton. Chord of Calling serves double duty: go get your mana accelerants if you don't have any or use that ton of mana to go get Hellkite and attack with your "dragons".
Thundercloud Shaman makes another appearance here as a great way to control the board, but with the Chords in the deck, it felt a bit overboard to include more than one. Again, we see Crucible as a way to turn our ragtag changelings into big ol' beatsticks.
How about Junk?
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Chameleon Colossus
- 4 Ghostly Changeling
- 1 Gilt-Leaf Archdruid
- 4 Knight Exemplar
- 4 Mirror Entity
- 1 Necrotic Sliver
- 4 Skeletal Changeling
- 4 Woodland Changeling
- 1 He Who Hungers
Here's the thing: this deck simultaneously is the most excited and least excited at the same time. Mark of the Oni seems insane in a deck that plays this many demons. He Who Hungers could be incredible, especially given how easily we get to run Cavern of Souls (for uncounterability); Infernal Kirin is another option if we want to go that route. Knight Exemplar is great (though Path to Exile is a very real card) as well, and Murmuring Bosk works incredibly well with your changelings.
Oh, and before you ask why I'm not running Coat of Arms for the arbitrarily large changelings, that's not how the card works. You only get the benefit once from each other creature regardless of the fact that it's a changeling. I did consider it…
Random Decklists to End The Article
- 1 Blightsteel Colossus
- 3 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 4 Pili-Pala
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 4 Grand Architect
- 1 Treasure Mage
What's the point for this Modern deck?
Obviously Grand Architect + Pili Pala = infinite mana. Staff of Dominance lets you draw your deck, cast Blightsteel and Greaves, and attack. Or you could do it with Kuldotha Forgemaster. Or you could go the Tron route and Mindslaver lock them. Lots of angles here, one of the decks I tried to make into a somewhat competitive/tuned list.
What if we added green to our Tron deck? We get access to Explore and Primeval Titan in addition to Mosswort Bridge to let us cast our big spells. Alchemist's Refuge seems gross in a deck that can generate the amount of mana that this deck can muster. There's a very decent probability that the Explores could/should just be Simic Signets which help fix our mana for Primeval Titan. I'm just in love with Explore, I guess.
- 4 Etherium Sculptor
- 4 Frogmite
- 4 Heap Doll
- 2 Hex Parasite
- 4 Memnite
- 4 Myr Enforcer
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Chief Engineer
This idea came from seeing Chief Engineer in the M15 spoilers. What if we could cast every creature in our deck with convoke? Well, then what if we drew a card every time we played those creatures?
Thus, this is what I came up with. This idea is one that I'd have thrown away without sharing, as it has more holes than a chunk of swiss cheese, but the idea seemed fun and I wanted to explore it. Drawing your entire deck is fun, but it doesn't win the game by itself. Either we can play Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager or we could play Cranial Plating. But if we're tapping all of our artifacts for convoke, how can we attack?
We don't. We use Rite of Consumption to kill.
Sounds fun, but that's about it for this idea. Fun.
I could keep going on; every idea (and search through Gatherer) spawns new ideas. I had a Standard deck back in the day with Mortician Beetle and Quest for the Gravelord alongside Viscera Seer and Pawn of Ulamog. I was thinking about how to combine that with Demon of Death's Gate in Modern as well.
What about including Athreos, God of Passage?
My mind was a terrible thing to waste….
What wacky ideas do you have? What weird things has M15 put into your head, free from the strain of Standard/Modern/Legacy oppressive decks like Mono Black Devotion and U/R Splinter Twin? Every deck starts with a spark; are you going to extinguish that before you ever give it a shot?