Hello everybody, and welcome back to 'You Choose the Brew,' your favorite deckbuilding reality show! In the last episode of You Choose The Brew, we saw three groups of challengers square off to vie for your affections so as to decide who we'll be working with this year. Pack Rat, Grisly Salvage, and Life from the Loam narrowly edged out their competition and captured your hearts and minds.
Now that we know who our stars will be, it's time to equip them with a full supporting team - and that's where you come in today! There are a number of ways one could imagine these cards working together, and in today's show, I'll be brainstorming the details for rough sixty-something card skeletons to exemplify what each direction entails. You'll be the ones choosing which one to pursue when that's done. Now that you're all up to speed, let's get the show rolling!
Great Cards Think Alike
Last year when we were working with Transmute Artifact, Dack Fayden, and Goblin Welder, our first drafts led to wildly divergent decks reaching from a Reanimator-style combo deck, to very controlling builds. That is somewhat less likely to happen this time, as all three cards already tell us which direction we're going strategically at least to a certain extent: a grindy G/B deck. Life from the Loam and Pack Rat simply have a very clear way they want the game to play out - both are only interesting if you can expect to use them over a multitude of turns, and therefore, preclude us from straying from the path of fair Magic too extravagantly.
As such, this year we're less interested in packages that allow us to implement a specific strategy. Instead, we're going to look towards each individual card's support skeleton to help us figure out how our possible decks could look.
Loamin' for a Livin'
Well, you can't claim that Life from the Loam doesn't deliver on what it says on the package. To make Loam do work for us, we need two things: lands to recur, and some way to make those lands into more than just the tiny little cogs that allow our mana to function. Luckily, the amount of special lands doesn't make that too hard - or rather it's hard to find room for all the options - and co-contestant Pack Rat is already ready and waiting to gobble up any leftover pieces of cardboard. So, which lands should we be looking out for?
Pretty big, pretty obvious. Wasteland plus Loam lock a number of archetypes out of the game in short order, and Wasteland's power level is through the roof to begin with, all while fitting just fine in a grindy strategy that will have abundant access to lands in most games.
A great way to make sure we never run out of Pack Rats (or other threats) even if we dredge through all of them. Also grinds out some decks on its own.
This is one that after a little thought I suspect to turn up in a majority of lists today. I'll go into more detail about the combo when checking on Grisly Salvage below, but as far as Loam is concerned, here's another powerful win condition that's easy to recur again and again.
The cycling lands are the traditional enablers associated with turning Loam into a full-blown draw engine. They're also easy insurance against mana screw while being easy to cycle out of the way when unneeded, and I could easily see a couple of these turn up in most lists - or making their way in during the tuning process.
One of Life from the Loam's strongest partners in crime, so don't expect it to be absent much today. Discarding a land is much less of a cost when you can buy it back in a package deal, and a five-color Mox is just absurd at that point, not to mention how nice jumping to two is in a deck with Pack Rat and Grisly Salvage.
A little clunky and underpowered on its own, Raven's Crime is a super-powerful way to lock up the lategame in conjunction with Loam.
A removal-recursion loop Loam can find on its lonesome and that be completed with Grisly Salvage. Plus, an alternative way to feed our Pack Rats sounds pretty enticing. We'll see how many lists this actually ends up in as it's a pretty defining commitment, but it has brilliant synergy with all three core cards and is very powerful on its own.
To Catch a Rat
Wow, Life from the Loam is really high maintenance! Luckily, Pack Rat is a lot less picky. You can feed it whatever table scraps and leftovers you have lying around, and it'll reliably turn it into more Rats to terrify your opponent with. So what support skeleton does Pack Rat actually need?
Well, the list isn't long - especially with Life from the Loam already part of the central team ready and willing to take care of the mana and card requirements necessary to fuel Pack Rat - but there are a couple of choices Pack Rat pushes us towards simply by how it works. There are two main conditions involved in making Pack Rat powerful: disruption and company.
Pack Rat is a powerful creature, but its vulnerable for a turn or two after deployment because of the mana necessary to use it. As such, anything that clears the way of removal for this critical window until Pack Rat is established and spiraling out of control is something we potentially want. Nicely enough, a sufficient amount of disruption should hopefully help us to slow down combo decks enough to either win the Rat race or take them into a full sleeper-hold.
In this case, with a G/B shell, that means every single one of our decks is likely going to be playing either Thoughtseize (and maybe friends) or go directly to Chalice of the Void like Loam decks have in the past.
The other thing Pack Rat pushes us towards just by its presence are other creatures. If you don't have disruption to protect your Rat, just bleeding it out with a less inevitable threat first is a perfectly serviceable line to rely upon. Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, or any other prime tournament quality threats all apply here. Knight of the Reliquary is one to keep in mind in particular, as she synergizes exceedingly well with just about everything we're doing already.
Use Corpses for Bait
The Golgari have some pretty disgusting things going on for sure but hey, you get your value where you find it, and Grisly Salvage is a very interesting tool to do that. The three things that define this card are it being G/B, the obvious hitting restriction, and the fact that it fills the graveyard instead of moving cards to the bottom of your library like the blue equivalents do.
The color requirements in themselves basically lock up one slot in most likely decklists: a playset of Abrupt Decays. We already know we'll be playing a reasonably fair and grindy game, which means we'll need some way to kill Delver of Secrets and similar annoyances. End of story.
The graveyard-filling part is clearly part of why Salvage is interesting in the first place, what with Life from the Loam as part of the team. Additional ways to profit from the graveyard would harmonize well with both cards.
Nice to discard to Pack Rat, nice to flash back with a Pack Rat token in the midgame, and fills the disruption quota for Pack Rat. Might want to pack these (and probably a Dryad Arbor for Loam synergy).
A clock that comes back for free after turning it over that would also be awesome with the just-mentioned Cabal Therapies.
I already mentioned how awesome it is that a single Grisly Salvage can bring the complete recursion loop online by finding Grove and milling Fire.
Removal we can dredge back after Salvaging it over that requires a lot less commitment than the Fire/Grove combo, especially as it's on-color.
The two main delve cards I can see being of interest for every single version of the deck. Loam and Salvage are both awesome to fuel delve, and we might as well consider taking advantage of that.
Finally, the hitting restriction is the most intricate factor about Grisly Salvage and what will ultimately determine what our final deck is likely to look like. You see, I've never played with this card before, and as such, I'm very unfamiliar as to how many good hits you actually need to make it worth playing. If the necessary number turns out to be rather high, that will automatically push towards a higher creature and spell-land count and force us to move around ratios in the deck to make that work, thereby possibly limiting our deckbuilding possibilities more than I realize at this point. We'll deal with that once I have some impressions from playtesting, however. It does mean we want to favor these kinds of cards in deckbuilding whenever possible.
It's a zero mana removal spell we can pick up of off Salvage and Loam back. Sounds interesting, though we'll have to be careful to not waste too many land drops on things that don't help fuel our rather expensive engines in Loam and Pack Rat.
So these could easily turn out to be the final revolving point for this deck or be pretty minor depending on your voting and what playtesting shows afterwards. Having an Impulse effect that digs five cards deep to find either half of a game-winning combo is pretty strong (we should probably even use Vampire Hexmage for extra-redundancy in at least one focused build). Having said combo be recurable by our card advantage engine is awesome, and given that it's important to find redundant must-kill threats for Pack Rat, well, I guess a 20/20 qualifies, right?
Rather clunky, but she is a hit that helps circumvent Salvage's targeting restriction completely (for a three mana investment, admittedly).
Honorable mention, again, as probably the best land-tutor to hit of off Salvage.
To the Brewery
Now that we have an overview of things we might be interested in doing, it's time to get out pen and paper and start scribbling lists. Here's what I've come up with for your perusal in no particular order. Keep in mind that these are rough sketches, more proof of concepts than anything else. Most of these still haven't made room for powerful non-core cards like Sylvan Library (hopefully we can fit in one or two) and also still have over 60 cards - actually most of my first drafts tend to do that - and the finished product will in each case likely differ quite a bit from what you're looking at here. Additional color splashes, different threat and removal configurations, and all kinds of pieces and packages from above are liable to end up in these lists depending on how the playtesting process goes.
One easy inspiration, while not particularly innovative, is traditional Aggro Loam. There are a couple of ways to approach this, mainly differing by which third color to use (white and red both have one very enticing option each) and which disruption to rely on (discard or Chalice of the Void, basically). Two possible examples:
Chalice and Punishing Fire:
Knight of the Reliquary and discard:
The two versions could even morph into a four color version if testing reveals that that's something that could actually work out space-wise (something I'm somewhat doubtful of at this point).
Another approach would be a simple G/B aggressive deck with a gameplan along the lines of old black-based aggro-control decks:
This kind of deck could also take a page out of Modern's book and become a lot more midrangy, maybe even to the point of stealing another Standard powerhouse in Courser of Kruphix:
Dredgin' and Delvin'
Speaking of aggressive G/B shells, Grisly Salvage and the dredge cards are brilliant delve enablers, and maybe that's what we should be exploring:
I'm not even sure this represents enough card flow to fully fuel this many delve spells in a timely manner (might be leaning too hard on drawing Salvage), so this is one that might experience pretty major overhauls up to and including stuff like a strong red splash for Faithless Looting and Punishing Fire.
The Pox Upon Your House
Given how well Life from the Loam, Smallpox, and Pack Rat all work together (Pack Rat gets better the lower both players are on over all resources), how could we ignore that possibility? Especially given that it even makes almost perfect sense from a flavor perspective!
Bloodghast plus Cabal Therapy is pretty sweet with everything the deck is trying to do. That being said, it might be better off with just Hymn to Tourach and more removal (such as Liliana of the Veil, for example, a card that would likely find its way into the deck at some point given how good it is in a Pox shell).
From The Darkness
And one list I didn't even mention in episode one's overview because I hadn't figured it out yet (that's what the brainstorming is for, after all) - full on Depths with eight must-kill creatures:
Finally, there were two quite sweet things mentioned two weeks ago that I sadly don't think are feasible to really get to work: combining our triplet with either the Nether Void shenanigans that formed another team during that episode, or working them into a Nic Fit shell. In both cases, I have too many theoretical concerns to even believe they can work. Nether Void is just too non-synergistic with Life from the Loam/Grisly Salvage shenanigans to make that worth trying in my opinion, and Veteran Explorer requires too many basic lands given that Loam wants a ton of utility non-basics. We'll be dredging some of them over. There's also the tiny problem that all of those set up and synergistic cards take up room, and we'd end up well ramped without any endgame in our deck other than Pack Rat - a card that loves it when the opponent is limited on mana since that makes it harder to keep up with the Rat army.
Time To Decide
Well, here you have them: the different paths we could send our candidates down. It's now your turn to choose:
The poll will once again remain open until Sunday - choose wisely!