What a weekend! With GP Orlando behind us and a flurry of talk about Khans of Tarkir fresh on everyone's lips, it's time to hop in the brewing tank, and this time, you all are in charge!
Last week I invited you all to submit a Standard brew that costs less than $100 to buy both the maindeck and the sideboard. The winner would receive a foil playset of Khans "clands" to commemorate their victory and as a way for me to thank you for 100 consecutive articles here on StarCityGames.com.
First off, let me start by saying that I had no idea how many of you would respond. My last prized contest in the summer of 2013 had an impressive response, but this one had nearly double the entries. It surpassed the first contest within hours. To me, this means that brewing is alive and well in the world of three-color good-stuff and the Spike-centered coverage of the world of Magic. For every brewer who responded, a hundred more wait in the wings, sharing their ideas with the friends and teammates at the shop, at school, at work, and anywhere else they can. I mean, even the other day, I was walking through Kroger, the local grocery here, and overheard the meat department discussing a Modern brew out in the open! Wicked awesome!
Second, I want to thank everyone for their heartfelt entries and sharing your prized brews with me. This took a lot of work, and I acknowledge that you had to take time out of your busy week to share your lists and strategies with me, and I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to read and enjoy them. The range of decks ran the gamut from the hyper-aggressive to the painfully slow, to the combo decks and midrange brews we've come to expect in this splash-heavy environment. I was impressed with how creative you all got to stay within the $100 mark, and it seems like most of you enjoyed the challenge.
Thirdly, the quality and number of submissions you presented to me made it very difficult to choose just one winner. Although only one will get the prize, I have selected four decks to share with you to not only acknowledge these players for their contribution, but to show everyone a new idea that they hadn't considered so they can take their brewing skills to the next level. I will share them in order.
Okay I made an entry too, so I'll get mine out of the way first.
Matt's Entry: Ouchantment - $99.57
By Matt Higgs
- 4 Cruel Sadist
- 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 4 Kheru Bloodsucker
- 4 Brain Maggot
- 4 Grim Guardian
- 4 Herald of Torment
- 4 Spiteful Returned
Before I announced this competition, I actually had the original version of this deck on standby, but after testing the original and deciding it may have been the worst deck I'd ever played, I audibled. This list retains some of the vestiges of the first list, including the basic interaction.
When Eternal Thirst enchants a creature, you get a +1/+1 counter when something your opponent controls dies. If, say, a creature has a +1/+1 counter and my opponent controls an X/1, I can remove the counter to kill it, thereby adding another counter to the creature Eternal Thirst enchants. Pay another black, kill an X/1, get another counter, and repeat ad infinitum. Cool, right?
The original version was clunky and lacked much of any way to close the game (and not die before assembling the combo), so I decided to shift to an enchantment-based shell that contained the interaction on the side only because both pieces triggered the deck's primary damage condition, Grim Guardian. Grim Guardian is a workhorse, great in multiples, an effective blocker, and it's inexpensive to buy. Kheru Bloodsucker, one of the other originals, gives you value when your Grim Guardian dies, as well as your Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Brain Maggot, Spiteful Returned, and Herald of Torment add to the enchantment count. Cruel Sadist makes its own +1/+1 counters; although this could have been Gnarled Scarhide or even Viper's Kiss or Crippling Blight, a continuously growing 1/1 that also combos with the first strategy seemed fine. Besides, I wouldn't have saved much money.
The deck used to feature a boat of Thoughtseizes, but that sorcery had to be rude and skyrocket in price overnight. Instead, Sign in Blood fills its place, alongside the original combo pieces and a handy Whip of Erebos, which itself is a significantly more expensive purchase these days. I like Sign in Blood here because, especially in multiples, it can just kill a crippled opponent. The sideboard contains a neat four-toughness creature that happens to generate its own counters as well as Agent of Erebos and Erebos himself, both enchantments that can help in given situations. Life drain decks don't like the opponent to gain any life, so I imagine that will be just as useful as the Greed effect stapled on.
Although I hold an obvious bias for my list, the ones you sent it were far superior in many ways. Let's count them down!
4th: Tymaret's Stockpile by Kayure Patel - $98.17
- 4 Black Cat
- 2 Gravedigger
- 4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 4 Necromancer's Assistant
- 1 Necropolis Fiend
- 1 Soul of Innistrad
- 2 Underworld Cerberus
- 3 Nighthowler
- 4 Tymaret, the Murder King
While Kayure's deck and my deck share Gray Merchants and Swamps, our strategies differ fundamentally. I wanted to highlight Kayure's deck because it was what I believe to best version of a Stockpile deck I saw. Tymaret, a Zombie, can be discarded to Necromancer's Stockpile, gain a Zombie, which can then be sacrificed to return Tymaret to your hand to be discarded again! This circle does cost four mana, but I still think it's worth noting. Kayure's build otherwise combined powerful value generators like Underworld Cerberus and Soul of Innistrad with Empty the Pits to create an endless flow of zombies and card advantage. Gray Merchant of Asphodel keeps aggro decks in check, and the ability to Whip back anything allows for some wonderful lategame staying power. The sideboard reaches into cheap removal and end-game power in the form of Agent of Erebos and Purphoros. All around, Kayure made a unique, fun deck that creates fun by making Zombies and drawing cards!
3rd: U/W Devotion by Jeffrey Chinn - $72.95
- 1 Dauntless River Marshal
- 3 Herald of Anafenza
- 4 Hero of Iroas
- 2 Mardu Hordechief
- 1 Soul of Theros
- 4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
- 4 Hopeful Eidolon
- 2 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
Jeff's deck highlights one of my favorite cards from Theros Block, Ephara, God of the Polis, in a highly synergetic and aggressive build. With seven one-drops and a slew of relevant two- and three-drops, his white-centric deck churns out a surprising number of tokens and gets him cheap cards to replace them on the back of Ephara. Thankfully, despite the speed and efficiency of his deck, the spells are all pretty efficient, acknowledging the power of surviving the long game in our current format. Eidolon of Countless Battles is a great source of devotion and does a great job of smashing one creature through, allowing for mid-combat blowouts on the back of an instant speed Dictate of Heliod or Raise the Alarm. The pieces have been here since Khans of Tarkir was spoiled, but Jeff's brought them up. I'd play this deck at an FNM. And to top it off, he had a whole $28.00 of play!
2nd: Block or Die by Oliver Beaumont - $99.43
- 4 Dragon-Style Twins
- 4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Two-Headed Cerberus
- 4 Nylea, God of the Hunt
Oliver's plan is simple: attack with a double striking creature. If you don't have the removal, I pump it for a lot and you're dead to a Lightning Strike or your own painlands. Oliver's list is as straightforward as you can get; nine playsets make up his spell count, but it's clear that each was chosen with care. Twenty creatures each have their own role to play. Satyr Wayfinder fills your yard for delve and also finds your third land. Prophetic Flamespeaker and Two-Headed Cerberus are functionally similar, though the Hound is an inferior version by far. The Flamespeaker has the benefit of, after first-strike damage is dealt, delving a Become Immense for the regular damage round. Dragon-Style Twins are the ultimate finisher. Become Immense on the Twins is an immediate game over. Nylea, God of the Hunt helps push through all that boosted damage. I also like Dragon Mantle and Inferno Firsts as strange, underpowered Rancors as they perform a similar function and something else in return. The sideboard is just as crisp as the maindeck. Ranger's Guile is a great solution for the flurry of burn and removal that your opponent will surely side in, and Blinding Flare helps push through a double striker for lethal damage. Anger of the Gods is a great way to clear the board for a combat on a pumped creature or as a way to hold off an early swarm before deploying your own. Arc Lightning is a strong all-around spell for the same type of decks, and its ability to mimic Lightning Strike in the late game is great. I applaud Oliver for his clean choices and building; he squeezed out every drop of his $100, using it to "buy" playsets of critical mythics and high-power rares.
Finally, we have the last deck. This deck embodies the unique, exciting spirit of brewing that we all strive for, and more than any other deck I received, it reflects the contest's goal.
1st: Temur Enchantress Combo Mill by Josiah O'Neal - $66.93
- 4 Chasm Skulker
- 4 Embodiment of Spring
- 4 Hornet Nest
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 4 Eidolon of Blossoms
- 4 Perplexing Chimera
Josiah had a fascinating, but believable method to create advantage through Chasm Skulker, enchantments, and Altar of the Brood to protect himself and his creatures long enough to get triggers sufficient to mill his opponent.
Josiah's core involved Altar of the Brood and permanent-based spells that emulated typical instants and sorceries coupled with enough draw and filtering to put the right spells in his hands. Altar of the Brood is a card I've been brewing with since literally minutes after it was spoiled, but Josiah took it in a completely different direction.
Aggressive Mining can drive card draw to push a Chasm Skulker high enough to warrant significant Squid tokens on the Altar of the Brood trigger, and Eidolon of Blossoms provides a blocker and a cantrip. The cheap fonts and Embodiment of Spring allow cheap alter triggers and ways to force lands onto the battlefield after you start Mining. Perplexing Chimera, while also being an enchantment, offers you outs to targeted removal or planeswalkers, while offering little to the opponent once the Chimera is in his or her hands. Reclamation Sage can smash an Aggressive Mining to allow land placement if needed, or it can be turned against a damning Banishing Light that's slowed the flow of cards down. Like Chasm Skulker, a full set of Hornet Nest gives multiple Altar triggers when it dies (or takes significant damage), but it's still good by itself. Every card in Josiah's deck is good by itself and it helps dig through the deck towards the end goal of having multiple Altars in play and milling your opponent for double digits each turn just by casting spells.
The sideboard includes cards like Hooded Hydra, which can be lategame token generators or win conditions within themselves. Coral Barrier is another two-permanents-for-one spell, and Temur Charm handles the average problems any deck might encounter, though I imagine its Mana Leak mode is its most useful one. Murderous Cut is easy to hit in this deck thanks to the number of sacrificed permanents, and Bitter Revelation is a slow, but budget-friendly way to dig for your cards. It's also the cheapest list I featured today; all in all, Josiah hit the nail on the head with this super-fun, high-functioning combo deck. Great job!
Again, thank you to everyone for submitting your deck ideas and rest assured that each one was enjoyed.