The article you are attempting to view is only available to StarCityGames.com Premium Members.
(If you are having trouble viewing this content, please consult this FAQ.)
Let's talk about Collected Company.
The card dominated Standard more than any other in recent memory, forming the backbone of the best decks in the format for nearly a full year with a brief interlude for G/W Tokens. It has since become a staple in Modern too, part of a variety of decks that have consistently performed well in that format.
While I was surprised to see the card perform so well in Standard (I didn't expect there to be the necessary volume of good creatures to go with it), its success in Modern is no surprise to me. The much larger format has plenty of good hits, more than enough to support several decks built around the card.
I've been playing with several such decks recently, most notably Modern Elves, and that experience has given me more insight into exactly how these decks are built, what structural problems they have due to being built around Collected Company, and how the various archetypes built around the card go about mitigating those problems.
- 4 Devoted Druid
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Nettle Sentinel
- 1 Vizier of Remedies
- 4 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
It's time to explore the anatomy of a Collected Company deck.
If we're playing Collected Company, we need to be playing a lot of creatures. That's the easy part. Creatures are great and spells are stupid. (Except in Storm!)
"Wait...I just had an idea..."
The numbers can vary, usually between about 26 and 34, and I don't want to get into the exact math behind it because it's not very instructive. We all know and accept that we want something in that range to maximize the power of our build around card.
The less explored issue is the curve of those creatures. In Standard, it was easy to start your curve on two and cluster your curve between two and three so that you hit more powerful creatures on average with Collected Company.
However, doing so in Modern would be disastrous. The first three turns of the game are incredibly important, and if you consistently fall behind in the early developmental stage you're going to have a hard time winning games. Any creature deck must include a healthy number of one-drops to compete.
Needless to say, these mana creatures are weak hits off Collected Company, so to compensate, we'd prefer to have a lot more three-drops than twos. This works quite well since the mana creatures accelerate into those three-drops, leading to a natural curve. Look at Todd Stevens's G/W Company list from last weekend:
- 2 Aven Mindcensor
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Ramunap Excavator
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
It has eight one-drops, all mana creatures, only five two-drops and a whopping sixteen threes. That's not an accident. The three-drops are more powerful on average than the twos and make Collected Company a more potent card. With enough mana accelerants to consistently cast them on Turn 2, you have a deck that utilizes its build-around card well while not relying on it to have a strong curve.
The temptation here is to shave as much as possible on one-drops to reduce the chances of hitting them with Collected Company, but the mana creatures are incredibly important to how these decks function and I would almost never play fewer than eight. Right now I'm looking to add even more than that to my Elves list, even though the options after Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves are...less than ideal. (Boreal Druid? Yuck.)
The Stumbling Block
The mana accelerant / three-drop / Collected Company curve is well-known at this point, and obviously quite powerful. However, the hole in the curve at two presents some problems when things don't go exactly according to plan.
Unfortunately, our jerk opponents like to kill mana creatures on sight (rude). "Bolt the Bird" has been part of the Magic lexicon since long before I started playing, and I'm basically an old man (kids these days, uphill both ways, get off my lawn, etc.). How often do these decks have to take a turn off because their mana creature dies? In my experience, too often.