Nathan Fons is a relative newcomer to the Armada Games EDH League (he's been playing with us for the last 4-5 months or so), but he's already made an impact on the environment with a couple of interesting decks and a philosophy of play that captures the sportsmanlike attitude we like to promote at the shop. He's always excited about the format and was thoroughly excited to see Olivia Voldaren when she was first spoiled. He finally put it together a few weeks back, and it's his “play rough” deck. It is indeed a little rough, but for the most part eminently reasonable.
Nate's other deck is Zedruu the Greathearted. I don't think the deck has any of its own win normal conditions other than Illusions of Grandeur and Delusions of Mediocrity. It plays the whole Propaganda suite (Collective Restraint, Ghostly Prison, Windborn Muse) to keep armies from attacking him while he's drawing cards and eventually stealing your stuff. My one complaint about that deck is the Illusions of Grandeur/Venser, the Sojourner combo, but at least he's not playing Thought Lash as well. Otherwise, it's a challenging deck to play against, nicely balanced and capable of doing lots of good stuff.
Back to the seemingly-appropriate-for-Halloween-week Olivia, it's clear from this build that Nate wants to get early artifact mana in order to get Olivia online and active early. If I were to level a criticism of the deck, it'd be that it seems a little “all-in” on Olivia, although you'll see later that he has some stuff that doesn't involve her and can be pretty swingy. I obviously think the deck is pretty cool, or I wouldn't be featuring it. Let's get to the breakdown:
Olivia herself is a single-card strategy, not only in what she can do, but what she might prevent someone else from doing. In a game I was playing with Nate during last week's League, I held off from casting Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre (likely target being his Swiftfoot Boots) because he had enough to take it and bash back with it, which would have been moderately uncomfortable. Of course, you also have to be careful with Olivia if you're playing any Vampires of your own (Butcher of Malakir) or Changelings, since they make it cheaper for her to seduce them.
Basilisk Collar: Olivia the pinger loves Basilisk Collar just like Cunning Sparkmage did. Swapping the Collar over to something giant that you just made into a Vampire and stole also seems pretty good.
Coalition Relic: Perhaps it's just the availability, but I'm surprised I don't see this played more. I'll note that foils have been out of stock for a while, so if you want to tradesies for any of them, let me know.
Darksteel Ingot: One of my problems with artifact mana is that it gets destroyed when someone inevitably cracks an Oblivion Stone. The Ingot doesn't suffer the same fate as its brothers, so it's a good choice.
Lightning Greaves: If you're going all-in with your General, then protecting it is a good idea. She doesn't really need the haste since her abilities don't cause her to tap, but with some of the Equipment in the deck, she can also get into the Red Zone.
Nevinyrral's Disk: Black/red is notoriously bad at dealing with enchantments, but the Disk is pretty good at covering that weakness.
Quietus Spike: This is a choice I'm not overly fond of, but I suppose it can really keep the high life-gain decks in check.
Rakdos Signet: Ramp in his colors. The art creeps me out for some reason.
Sensei's Divining Top: Nate early on demonstrated that he knows the EDH way to Top—on the turn of the player to his left, reserving the right to change his mind if something significant happens. It's the way to play the card in the format so that it doesn't become a huge time-waster. I'm happy to report that most EDH players have learned how to do it this way.
Skullclamp: The best card he has to combo with this is obviously Bitterblossom, but there's almost no time that Skullclamp is a waste. People are eventually going to blow up your dudes, so drawing cards helps you come back.
Sol Ring: The amount of artifact ramp in this deck leads to a level of consistency in getting the deck's engines running early. There might also be enough that even if it comes out early and gets wrecked, there's more coming later anyway.
Swiftfoot Boots: Someone should do a poll to see if folks could only play one of Greaves or Boots, which would it be? I think for me, it'd probably be the Boots. Sure, the Equip cost is greater (I guess more importantly, non-zero), but I'm a bigger fan of hexproof than shroud.
Sword of Feast and Famine: Its abilities are great, but protection from the best color in the format (green) pushes the card over the top. I'm pretty sure it would still get played even if it didn't have the discard part.
ARTIFACT CREATURES (3)
Duplicant: This card has been out a long time, so I've been surprised that I've recently had to answer a number of times the question “What happens if I Duplicant someone's General?” The answer is that they can choose to put it in the Command Zone, which means it won't be in the Exile Zone and subsequently not Imprinted on the Duplicant. Duplicant will be 2/4.
Solemn Simulacrum: It occurs to me that with the success of the “strong, central female law-enforcement character” trope created by USA Network's “In Plain Sight,” starring Mary McCormack (one of my absolute faves), other networks are trying to capture the same magic. Prime Suspect, starring Mario Bello, is very good and she's very good in it, though I understand it's suffering in the ratings. Conversely, Poppy Montgomery's “Unforgettable” hasn't quite delivered—but I've heard the show is doing relatively well ratings-wise. I hope Prime Suspect hangs on. It has that gritty feel that Hill Street Blues pioneered and Bochco continued with NYPD Blue, with deep character development that feels real, not contrived. Its Executive Producer, John McNamara, also produced a number of episodes of “In Plain Sight,” so we'll see what happens.
Triskelion: Obvious classic combo with Mephidross Vampire. I'm not sure if Nate intended to put in the combo (he doesn't really have many other board-wipes), or realized that the Vampire is really good with Olivia and figured he might as well throw in the Trike also. I'll have to ask him.
LEGENDARY ARTIFACTS (1)
Anarchist: There are any number of good sorceries to get back with Anarchist. I remember putting him into my early Living Death decks. It's a horribly misnamed card, though. The Anarchist shouldn't really be bringing repeatability, now should it?
Avalanche Riders: There are some really good lands in the format, and Avalanche Riders will take care of them. I still think that without real recursion tricks, I like Ravenous Baboons better. For one, the echo can be uncomfortable, and two, how often are you going to take out a basic land anyway? Sure, I suppose the option is good, but it's not going to come up often enough to justify the additional cost. I guess there might be a situation where haste is relevant (like late game, post-wipe, with Quietus Spike in play), but not often.
Fulminator Mage: More destruction for icky lands, like Academy Ruins, Cabal Coffers, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Gaea's Cradle, not to mention grabbing the point for blowing up Maze of Ith or Mystifying Maze (yeah, Maze of Shadows is on the list too, but it doesn't get played).
Godo, Bandit Warlord: Often when I see him played, he always fetches just one thing. In this deck, I suspect that he'll be a great deal more situational.
Graveborn Muse: The living Phyrexian Arena, I like this as an outside-the-box choice for the deck. There are a few Zombies in this deck, but unlike in a dedicated Zombie deck where it's part of a powerful engine, this will likely get left alone in order to hold removal for ‘better' creatures, quietly creating some card advantage.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker: If there is a card that defines “shenanigans,” it's K-J. I'm not a fan of the FtV art. It makes him like kind of constipated.
Mephidross Vampire: Add extra counters to Olivia? Don't mind if I do.
Pyre Zombie: I'm not quite sure where he's going with this choice. I haven't seen the card in play in the five or six games I've faced this deck. Maybe it's just Nate's nod to some classics of yesteryear.
Shriekmaw: Simple, direct, effective. And good to copy with Kiki-Jiki.
Skeletal Vampire: Ditto. You can get a whole little flying bat army going.
Phyrexian Arena: The amplitude of the advantage is low, but the wavelength long.
Vicious Shadows: One of the cards that makes this a “play rough” deck, Vicious Shadows will trigger often with all the sacrifice outlets running around here. It's an optional trigger, but I think if you're going to play it, you use it. I suppose there might be some politicking to do “hey, I won't damage anyone if you leave me alone,” but that's a line I would never fall for, since the Vicious Shadows is still just going to be there to kill me at will. If you're going to play VShad, you're going to have to accept the target hat, and not necessarily in just the current game. People will remember.
Wound Reflection: Wound Reflection can be a “kill you out of nowhere” card. If someone asks me to name a douchey combo, Sorin/Magister Sphinx + Wound Reflection is always near the top of the list. This is another card (and those that combo with it) that players will have long memories for.
Chaos Warp: A Commander card that certainly gets played in other formats, Chaos Warp is marvelously flexible. I kind of like spinning the reels when someone casts it on me. It's like Christmas, because you never know what you're going to get. Hopefully it's not tube socks.
Consuming Vapors: I'm hot-and-cold about this card. There are lots of token-creators in the format and lots of small, utility creatures to sacrifice. Against decks like Mimeoplasm or Uril, the Miststalker, which might be focused on getting out single, huge creatures, it's a complete blowout, but I think that will often be the exception, not the rule.
Into the Core: I guarantee that you will rarely be without targets in an EDH game when you cast this. In fact, you'll almost always have to pick which of the targets are the two best.
Reiterate: Buyback can be spendy, but often worth it. Copying what someone else spent loads of mana for can always be fun.
Vampiric Tutor: Gotta fetch stuff.
Wrecking Ball: Instant land destruction. Dogs and cats are searching the classifieds for apartments.
Karn Liberated: This inclusion seems like “Karn is pretty kewl, think I'll play him.” I'm a fan.
Liliana Vess: When was the last time you saw her ultimate go off? It's been a long, long time for me. She usually just tutors up stuff and then goes away.
Aftershock: Nate here shows his bias for some of the classic cards. I like the outside-the-box thinking. Again, flexibility is good.
Beacon of Unrest: The Beacon is a good single card strategy in black. Like with Into the Core, you're not going t be left wondering if there will be good targets, you're going to have to choose the best.
Beseech the Queen: “Dear Queen. Give us stuff. Kkthxbye.”
Chain Reaction: How often will Chain Reaction be better than Blasphemous Act? Obviously, by better I mean “more relevant.” I haven't seen Chain Reaction too often need to do more than 13 anyway, and I doubt you're casting Chain Reaction when there are only 3 or 4 creatures in play.
Chainer's Edict: As with Consuming Vapors, I wonder about the value. I think it's a pretty rare situation that someone has out an awesome creature but nothing else.
Demonic Tutor: Right into your hand. Boom.
Diabolic Tutor: Right into your hand, but costs two more. Less Boom.
Profane Command: He's running Coffers/Urborg, so this can definitely be a kill shot late game. The other modes are all nicely situational. This is a card I haven't played much, and I keep wondering why.
Sever the Bloodline: In this format, Sever the Bloodline is obviously a token-killer. Aether Snap obviously doesn't work for Nate because he wants to keep counters on Olivia. At two more mana, I might like Tsabo's Decree better because it's an instant (and has the discard part), and generally you're only targeting one person anyway. I suppose it could be awesome if two people had Avenger of Zendikar going.
Void: I think the discard here is a real bonus, but I love the flexibility of the card. You get creatures and artifacts from everybody (even your own, so be careful), even if you only get the discard from one person.
LEGENDARY LANDS (3)
BASIC LANDS (19)
The only land comment I'm going to make is on Kher Keep, which seems to be a pet card of Nate's. He keeps calling it the best card in his Zedruu deck. The rest of the lands are pretty self-explanatory, but I'll note the “I'm not giving anyone else points” not-having-of-Maze of Ith. Maze would seem like a defensive card for a defensive deck, but in something that's aggressive like this, it's nice to have that little bit of backup and be able to send your guys into battle.
I hope everyone had a suitably spooky/candy-filled/excuse to wear odd clothing Halloween. Thanks to Nate for sharing his deck, and we'll see you next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.