The latest iteration of the Armada Games EDH League (League #14 for those of you keeping score at home) is undergoing an interesting test: we're banning Primeval Titan.
This eight-week experiment will take a look at how a metagame will respond to the loss of one of the most commonly played and powerful cards in the format. The first thing I want to tell you is that this is not a prelude to Primeval Titan getting banned. While ubiquitous and strong we (the RC) don't find it particularly format warping. In fact its ability to get especially non-basic lands opens more possibilities rather than fewer. Sure there are yawn-worthy fetches of Cabal Coffers/Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth but getting a good spread of lands opens us to the epic-level plays we've all come to know and love as the hallmark of the format.
I actually just casually threw this idea at League Chairman and Armada co-owner Michael Fortino some three months back. We started discussing other in-League bans but came back around to the agreement that if we threw too much into the mix we wouldn't get a good read on exactly what had caused what. We wanted to focus on Prime Time. It might be that next time around it's Consecrated Sphinx or bringing a card off the Banned List.
A great deal of EDH gets played at Armada. It's a fertile and ripe testing ground for things since there are shop regulars both heavily invested in and observant about the format. There's enough consistency in the player base not to mention the presence of Michael and his brother Aaron to allow us a good read on how things evolve. The other good part is that the players are eagerly willing to help test out things. As soon as we announced that Primeval Titan was going to be banned for this League players took it out of their decks—even though there was nearly a month before the new league started.
Crazy Play of the Week
This wild confluence of events occurred in open play last week as Kresh the Bloodbraided and I sat down with Sean (Kaalia of the Vast) Chris (Thraximundar) and Michelle (Omnath Locus of Mana). I wasn't much of a presence in the game early on with Omnath guiding most of the action. Michelle was playing only a few gives-Omnath-trample cards so we were pretty much all living by chump blocking. There had been some other back-and-forth but it was to a point of "deal with Omnath or die." At a certain point Omnath was 59/59. Chris managed to direct some kind of kill spell at it to which Michelle responded with Momentous Fall. She was only on about ten mana so her turn wasn't too wild with Dungrove Elder Concordant Crossroads and one other reasonable large guy—and then she discarded 60 cards. This is when I knew I was going to get out of hand her Crossroads being a great help.
I cast random cheap guy to go along with other guy I had in play which happened to be Kresh just in case one of them got killed before the Victimize I cast resolved. Victimize didn't sacrifice the creature as a cost—it was part of the resolution. The two cards I targeted were Flayer of the Hatebound and Lord of Extinction. They came into play tapped but still domed Sean for the kill on the Flayer trigger. I then sacrificed Boom Tube to Grim Backwoods (triggering Kresh) so that I could bring it back with Makeshift Mannequin killing Chris (Michelle's immense graveyard providing more than enough Lord of Extinction chow). The now untapped and hasty Lord of Extinction (which is an Elemental if anyone cares) and Kresh battled into Michelle. She had to block both to survive which she did but had no answers on the next turn and ate 100+ damage. If I ever had doubts about the Flayer they are long gone. Imagine if Stalking Vengeance had been hanging around as well; I could've killed people at the other tables.
Replacing Primeval Titan
I was running Primeval Titan in six decks so I needed to come up with replacements for each because I don't really have a plan for who I'm going to play in any one week—I generally leave it up to my mood. I had a great number of choices. For the most part I went with the theme of the deck instead of trying to replicate what Primeval Titan does since while it's powerful when I draw/cast it it's not really the wheel around which any deck rotates.
Animar Soul of Elements: My first thought was Man-o'-War since it's cheap and can buff up Animar while removing a blocker (and he might eventually make it into the deck anyway). I considered Artisan of Kozilek because with enough counters on Animar he's free (and brings back something). Then I realized there were enough creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers that a gating creature might be interesting. I'd love to be able to recast small things like Civic Wayfinder and Coiling Oracle to get Animar larger have huge effects with Terastodon or Woodfall Primus as well as recharge guys like Spike Weaver Spike Feeder Stingmoggie and Woodripper—while getting a 7/7 trampler.
Intet the Dreamer: Monday Night Gamer Armada Employee and Official Florida Judge Who Makes Me the Least Sad Todd Palmer got a taste of playing Intet last week (our Monday Night RPG group was one short and it happened to be the one who doesn't play Magic so we pulled out the 100-card decks for some poolside action). Todd got an understanding why I don't play it much. It's really good but it's really difficult to play well. I'm pretty sure I play it wrong more often than I play it right. Anyway one of the pieces that Intet is missing is removal. It's more of a "take charge of the environment by being a threat" kind of deck. My first thought was Cloudthresher. It has flash so you can hold it back for when you need it or need to hold mana for a counterspell. It has the mini-Hurricane. You can evoke it in an emergency. It just wasn't what I needed. I quickly settled on Terastodon with creatures being the least of Intet's worries. I'm not really running any viable recursion for it so in a deck that otherwise plays pretty rough it seems fine.
Kresh the Bloodbraided: Kresh is the one of these decks that I thought could use a near-replacement for the land fetching of Primeval Titan. I went through a number of the smaller guys that I'm not already playing like Sylvan Ranger or Wood Elves but I eventually got to Seedguide Ash. He doesn't give the same enters-the-battlefield benefit for land fetching but with sacrifice outlets like Greater Good Goblin Bombardment and Disciple of Griselbrand it feels like he'll more than be worth it (adding Mikaeus the Unhallowed for additional tomfoolery). Kresh has a land range about ten-to-twelve for which he's really hungry and Seedguide Ash will certainly be a factor in getting there.
The Mimeoplasm: Here was the greatest deal of flexibility. Primeval Titan was really only in the deck to be part of the blue/green deck "ramp package" along with Coiling Oracle Oracle of Mul Daya Yavimaya Elder Cultivate Growth Spasm Rampant Growth Solemn Simulacrum and Skyshroud Claim. Until later in the game The Mimeoplasm can live a little cheaper than most decks. This was actually one that I went directly to a card and stuck with it: Geralf's Mindcrusher. Milling other players—to get fatties into their yard for putting into the mimeograph not to mill them out—is what the deck wants to do. The Mindcrusher does that extremely well and undying sure doesn't hurt.
Phelddagrif: Also a little mana-hungry I think it has enough of the ramp package that it won't miss Primeval Titan too much. It's a "hand size matters" deck so I want another Maro-guy. I thought briefly about Renegade Doppelganger but that felt a little iffy. I also thought about Riptide Mangler which can get something's power although not its abilities. Monday Night Gamer and EDH Leaguer Keith Bogart was making quite a bit of hay in his "copy stuff" deck with Cryptoplasm so I figure I'll give it a try. Copying Overbeing of Myth seems reasonable. Copying Psychosis Crawler seems downright bonkers. I'll have to be careful because six (plus Phelddagrif makes seven) creatures are legendary. Interestingly enough Maro isn't but the Maro Sorcerers are. And if Spine of Ish Sah is animated by March of the Machines all kinds of insanity happen.
Riku of Two Reflections: I haven't rebuilt this since I shipped my copy off to a friend but if I did I'd probably replace it with Duplicant. Riku loves copying creatures and Duplicant loves to get rid of your opponents' really good creatures for good.
Rith the Awakener: I started flipping through Rith and couldn't find the Prime Time. I walked back into the office and looked at the file on the computer (yes I have all my decks listed complete with configuration control)—and there was no Primeval Titan in the Rith deck. I guess I just didn't think it went with the theme of "Rith and her Soldiers" so I left it off. Just goes to show you that not every deck needs it I suppose. Or that I had run out of foil Primeval Titans (as of the moment I wrote this there were two each of M11 and M12 Japanese foil Primeval Titans in stock—hurry while supplies last!) by the time I built this deck.
Karador Ghost Chieftain: I've moved this one out of alphabetical order since you'll see below that I talk way more about this deck than the others. This is probably my new favorite deck but it just gets wrecked so badly by graveyard hate (which still not enough folks are running—although I'll give props to EDH League regular Chris Kruse for trotting out Mnemonic Nexus) that there's always a risk that I'll be a non-factor in a game I play. Nonetheless I love the interactions in the deck.
My first thought was Bone Shredder because in addition to helping make Karador cheaper he'll go away (due to echo) so that I can conveniently recast him from the graveyard. My second choice was Kessig Cage Breakers which feels like it would alternately be really good and really bad. I also thought of Feed the Pack which again provides the ability to get a creature into the graveyard for recasting. Some guys with cycling came to mind like Elvish Aberration and Twisted Abomination again to be part of the graveyard filling but they seemed less than spicy. Mycoloth came to mind making quite a number of guys to get sacrificed to Vish Kal Blood Arbiter but in the end I settled on the card that I had originally thought about for Kresh: Skullmulcher—because I think the card draw in the deck isn't all that great (besides the greatest Greater Good).
If you haven't seen the Avacyn Restored trailer it's full of Angels. This got me thinking that maybe Karador could be getting an overhaul. There are 16 Angels in the deck and I'm wondering if they all need to move out into some sort of heavenly theme deck (something white/blue with Spirits?). It would give me some design space to make Karador a true toolbox deck. The only reason the deck became Karador and his Angels is that I liked the Angels and wanted to play them together. If I were to take out all the Angels it might look something like this:
Angels Out: Admonition Angel Aegis Angel Angelic Arbiter Baneslayer Angel Blinding Angel Deathless Angel Emeria Angel Exalted Angel Fallen Angel Guardian Seraph Linvala Keeper of Silence Requiem Angel Sunblast Angel Victory's Herald.
Doomgape: I've wanted to try playing this guy for a long time. He goes with the theme of filling up the graveyard and the life gain isn't to be sneezed at.
Ghave Guru of Spores: Most folks think of playing him only as a general but why not? He's a build-around guy so I'd have to avoid that temptation. He'd be a strong maybe since I might also consider some kind of Dredge theme.
Ghost Council of Orzhova: Another outside-the-box choice since it's also a pretty good general.
Grave Titan: I have a few extra foil versions of this so I'd like to squeeze it into decks.
Sakura-Tribe Elder: Cheap helps get Karador there earlier ramps the land.
Sheoldred Whispering One: The card speaks for itself really.
Wall of Omens: A little more card draw.
Wall of Reverence: A little more life gain.
Woodfall Primus: If you're making a toolbox deck you can't go without the best tool.
Wurmcoil Engine: The amount of creature kill in the deck is a little thin so having an additional deathtouch creature might be worthwhile.
Making the creature changes might also lead to re-evaluating a few other card choices. The average casting cost here is a little lower than the Angels so maybe Greater Good is a replacement for Lurking Predators. As I mention with Knight of the Reliquary there might be quite some rethinking regarding the lands. With the Knight does bringing in Crucible of Worlds pay any kind of dividend? Do I start playing with Groundskeeper or Cartographer? Terravore?
Sometimes little things make a large difference. You can see how the small thought exercise of simply removing Primeval Titan just for the eight weeks of the League has led to a pretty sizeable (potential) change in one of the decks considering Embracing the Chaos in new (or at least different) ways.