It's that time of the year again the time when things change and everybody is excited about what's to come. No not Christmas. Jeez this is a Magic website! Also do you own a calendar? I'm talking about fall set release obviously (how about calling it Worldchange and making it a holiday?).
Nothing makes me want to brew more than new sets coming out and the fall sets are always special for two reasons. First and foremost every fall Wizards sets out to explore different kinds of interactions which means new directions to brew. Secondly it's when my interest in Standard peaks simply because the environment changes so completely and for a short while Standard is very much like Legacy where almost everything that has solid foundations is viable.
To celebrate Worldchange what would be more appropriate than checking out some of the sweeter interactions coming out of Innistrad? I'll take look at some of the interesting things that can be done with the new set and work myself through the formats from Standard all the way up to Vintage to see how some of the new goodies can be put to work.
For those that were hoping to see my opinion on the bannings check out the bonus section. With all the fun things to explore I'd much prefer celebrating the new than moaning about what's gone.
What you want me to get on with the celebration? Tired of hearing me talk about old stuff and lost things? All right let's get into the Worldchange spirit and crack some wrapping paper!
The first flying bits of paper reveal ... a Birthing Pod? Damn that isn't even a new card. Some more flying paper later—a Skaab Ruinator. Really? How's that interaction innovative anymore? The Innovator was on that weeks ago!
Skepticism established the unwrapping continues. Out comes a Civilized Scholar—what a bummer. Discarding Skaaby to a Looter to effectively draw a card? That's the great revelation? How the heck is that ... wait there's another packet left. Time enough to vent the frustration after that right? The paper crumbles open and reveals ... a Necrotic Ooze.
At that point is your mind as blown as mine? Or do you not have any idea what's going on leaving you still expecting more? Let me part the veil:
- 2 Molten-Tail Masticore
- 2 Spellskite
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Civilized Scholar
- 1 Kessig Cagebreakers
- 2 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Looter
- 4 Necrotic Ooze
- 4 Skaab Ruinator
- 1 Skirsdag High Priest
- 1 Splinterfright
- 1 Vengeful Pharaoh
- 2 Viridian Emissary
- 1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
There are actually two interactions I want to abuse here. First there's the rather simple Birthing Pod into Skaab Ruinator plan. Accelerate make a two-drop turn it into a 5/6 flyer. Make more two-drops and turn them into 5/6 flyers too. If you start podding on turn three thanks to a Llanowar Elves most people should have a lot of trouble with the horde of early Mahamoti Djinns. Looters let you turn not-yet-castable Skaabys into useful cards or just discard fat to stock the graveyard to either cast the Zombie or power up Necrotic Ooze.
The real punch this deck packs is when you set up a rather particular game state that can conveniently also be podded into. If you haven't figured it out yet please take the time to reread Civilized Scholar and Necrotic Ooze. If it's a piece of arcane rules knowledge you're missing to get excited here we go: If a non-double faced card would transform it doesn't. That means once you have a Scholar in the graveyard and a Necrotic Ooze without summoning sickness in play every creature card in your deck suddenly has cycling zero.
Once that happens the possibilities are endless. You get to find and fuel any number of Skaab Ruinators. Splinterfright will become very large quite rapidly. Ooze will be accumulating abilities at an absurd rate. Having a Molten-Tail Masticore that doesn't make you discard and won't run out of fuel seems particularly inviting to me though Skirsdag High Priest being online together with Birthing Pod should also provide for some fun activity. Vengeful Pharaoh will turn attacking you into quite the hassle (and jump back into the yard next turn for free). In short all kinds of shenanigans are bound to happen. You'll also draw into Birthing Pods at a much-increased rate should you feel the need and will only miss a land drop if you actually want to (considering the deck is nothing but creatures lands and Birthing Pods).
Speaking of Pod that's obviously the most efficient way to get the Ooze digging. Turn a two-drop into a Scholar turn the Scholar into an Ooze and voila. Go nuts. That's not the end of the chain though. Assuming your opponent understands what's going on the Ooze surviving should mean they're unable to kill a creature right now. So next turn you use the Ooze to fill your graveyard then Pod it away for a Kessig Cagebreakers. If you get to swing with those they'll free a lethal wolf pack from the local zoo to rip your opponent to pieces. Note that the best draw here actually just wins on turn five (land into Birds turn 2 Scholar turn 3 Pod it into Ooze turn 4 fill the yard and Pod into Cagebreakers turn 5 break some cages and skulls).
One modification to think about here is to add a Grimgrin Corpse-Born a Bloodline Keeper and a Skinshifter to the deck giving you the ability to win on turn 4. If you manage to hit all of them looting with the Ooze it turns into an arbitrarily large trampler and swings for the win immediately (assuming you have G available). Definitely something to consider though I'm not sure it's actually needed.
The pieces are good enough in a deck full of weird utility creatures to at least take it into consideration though. Skinshifter already seems better on its own than Skirsdag High Priest and Grimgrin should find enough fuel to make a reasonable threat even if you just happen to draw it. Bloodline Keeper isn't the best but a 3/3 flyer that can make guys isn't really that bad either. And while the combo isn't a consistent win because you will stall out by drawing lands at some point (The reason I didn't include it yet. Mass Skaab beatdown seems plenty good enough in most games honestly.) the costs are sufficiently minimal that giving it a try might just work.
Note that old Pod-favorite Phantasmal Image can also do some work here. It retains all the undercostedness that has made it awesome before and cloning a Civilized Scholar will give you the same super-cycling power Ooze does. Just some food for thought.
The really nice thing about the Ooze-Scholar combo is that both pieces aren't horrible on their own allowing you to just play as a Birthing Pod midrange deck if you don't get to combo out. Sure a 4/3 for four is nothing to write home about but it isn't the worst either. The Scholars on the other hand are actually quite potent either beating for five a turn while looting against control or trading for just about everything after looting which will also put cards into the yard ready to make Ooze awesome.
The rest of the deck helps enable the synergies discussed so far. Merfolk Looters will filter into what you need while dropping Skaadys into the yard for later use and preparing Ooze to come out awesome even while Spellskite will make it much harder for opponents to keep Ooze offline. Both also happen to be two-drops the ideal cost to start podding with if you don't have a Scholar. Acidic Slime Wurmcoil Engine and Sheoldred round out the deck allowing you to climb up the Pod chain the traditional way for significant value should everything else fail (say the opponent starts the game with a couple of Nihil Spellbombs).
The deck does a lot of absurd things has a ton of synergy and can attack from a multitude of angles between comboing powering out a bunch of Mahamoti and simply playing beatdown.
While the list will clearly need some refinement and testing—I'm not a Standard player after all—the raw power and flexibility are quite enticing. The mana base in particular is a bit awkward with only five untapped green sources to cast your accelerators. Nonetheless I think this has potential and there is at least one example of me being ahead of the curve in spite of not playing the format ( as far as I know this is the first article ever to propose Twin-Blade ).
Ready for your next gift? I'm not sure how well you'll like it; it just doesn't feel perfectly right yet. Add to that the completely new metagame and you get something that might be terrible or quite fun and powerful. I'm just not sure yet. Maybe I shouldn't give it to you. But I just can't resist a good old-fashioned Gifts:
Yes once again the mana base looks... interesting. I know. For the moment I hope the power of duals and fetches in a format without Wasteland will keep it together helped by the good old snake. Basically what you're planning to do is create a situation in which you're dredging Loam every turn to fuel some retrace spell while turning Burning Vengeance into a machine gun that keeps the board clean while the opponent dumps his hand to Raven's Crime. There are only three Vengeances because it's pretty bad (not to say useless) before you're retracing and you're generally not doing that before you cast a Gifts Ungiven.
The Gifts package in detail: Gifts is really the heart of the deck and will allow you to assemble whatever retrace shenanigans you need. Raven's Crime is the go-to (including Urborg in your Gifts pile will make sure you have enough black mana) because it will make the opponent's resources dwindle at the same time as killing their stuff once you get a Vengeance out.
Flame Jab is actually quite good against a number of aggressive decks though because dealing three is so much more than two in a format that should have quite a lot of Zoo right now. Something like Elves really doesn't like to get Spark Sprayed again and again either way.
Oona's Grace will allow you to shock while drawing cards (so that you don't end up being Loam-locked).
Wurm Harvest finally is both a pretty fast win condition and a powerful effect to flood the board with blockers. So those are the places your main plan is trying to get you to. In addition to all this you have the ability to set up Academy Ruins and Engineered Explosives if all you need to do is repeatedly sweep the board.
Eternal Witness and Noxious Revival allow you to Gifts for a Burning Vengeance by getting both of them once you're ready. One of them in hand actually allows you to assemble the full engine off a single Gifts. The Horizon Canopies in the mana base also interact well with the whole idea of Loaming a lot as they provide another way to keep drawing cards while Loaming every turn (although you're conceding your land drop) and can set you up to double-Loam should that prove necessary.
Other than that we have a few defensive creatures removal and discard to buy time until your late game can kick in most of it in nice mixed-up configurations to allow you to Gifts for it should you need to (sadly I haven't found any similarly efficient replacements for Kitchen Finks—ideas welcome). If you enjoy long complicated games in which you win by locking your opponents out from all sides this deck should be right up your alley.
All of this isn't mad enough to celebrate Worldchange? Let's go positively manic then!
Once I had a little game
I liked to crawl back into my brain
I think you know the game I mean
I mean the game called 'go insane'
The card that does seem really sick with the mad professor is Demonic Consultation. The problem? It's only legal in Vintage and even there as a one off. Not perfect conditions for abuse to be sure.
Happily there is something that allows us to Consult anyway: Divining Witch. We will admittedly still have to pay seven to get there (1B for the witch 2U for the Maniac and 1B for the activation naming Mons' Goblin Raiders) but the trick here is that it still works turn four without acceleration while leaving us with mana to cast a cantrip and win on the spot (or you could just Consult on upkeep I guess).
The Witch also has another advantage over Leveler: it not only helps us get rid of our library it also summons up the Maniac if we don't have one yet. It can also get tricky and fulfill the role it was probably meant for originally tutoring up protection like Force of Will before going for the win if we suspect either removal or the opponent winning faster.
Another card that seems much better than Leveler to get insane in the brain like the labmaster likes it is Thought Lash. Yeah I'll wait while you read that Alliances beauty. Now that definitely isn't the kind of card I'd usually want to put in my deck but once losing our library is more of a goal and less of a catastrophe it's actually quite decent.
Try killing someone through damage while Thought Lash is out. Doesn't work so well does it? If you drop a Thought Lash you'll have time to find some protection before running a Maniac out there. Once he's sure to stay in play it's time to prevent the next forty-something damage cantrip and mark up one for the good guys. This is what I'm at so far:
Gitaxian Probes and Thoughtseizes give you a lot of ways to make sure you know the opponent can't kill your Maniac before you decide to get rid of your library for good Force of Will and Misdirection help keep him safe if you can't get rid of all the removal while all the disruption also makes sure Storm doesn't simply win first in the new Misstep-less metagame. Cantrips and Probes also allow you to dig for missing pieces fast while turning into instant win conditions once your library is safely gone (something that makes Probe particularly good here as it doesn't force you to have any additional mana for the instant win).
The rest of the deck is all tutoring and some mana acceleration (because turn four is definitely a bit slow). I particularly like Lim-Dul's Vault. It's an underappreciated tutor that finds whatever piece you're missing and has some synergy with both Lash and Witch as they allow you to get rid of the chaff you had to put on top.
Now you should try this little game
Just close your eyes forget your name
Forget the world forget the people
And we'll erect a different steeple
This little game is fun to do
Just close your eyes no way to lose
And I'm right there I'm going too
Release control we're breaking thru
Ah Vintage. I so love being able to talk about Vintage. Let's see how many hints you need to figure out which Innistrad card I'll be talking about. Imagine yourself shaking a present to figure out what's inside before you open it:
I) I was very tempted to make use of unrestricted Fact or Fiction here (awesome decision by the DCI!)
II) If Gifts Ungiven were still unrestricted I'd definitely be talking about another Gifts deck.
III) The deck I'm going to present won't run Gush but it probably still won't like playing against Workshops that much.
IV) There'll be Intuitions around.
Now you start peeling of the wrapping paper slowly slowly to savor the feeling of a new toy—do you know what you're getting?
(Click to reveal!)
How is that card even real? I mean sure I don't think I've figured out how to totally break it yet but getting a large part of Yawgmoth's Will with the Recoup already included somehow doesn't seem fair. Luckily that as fair is just another word for bad in Vintage. This baby might just be what Intuition needed to become as ridiculous as Gifts Ungiven and deserve the ban-hammer (somehow "restricted-hammer" just doesn't have the same ring to it does it?). I mean when you were Gifts-ing for Recoup and Will you didn't get all that much more than what Intuition will do for you when you include a Past in Flames right?
The problem here is obviously that you don't get to replay Lotus with Past in Flames and that was one of the most common Gifts targets. On the other hand Rituals do quite the fine impression if necessary and combining Gifts with Rituals instead of Mana Drains has already been proven to work back when Gifts broke. Why wouldn't Intuition be able to fuel some similarly spicy kills now that you get a free slot in your piles from not needing Recoup anymore?
This is the kind of thing I've been thinking of:
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Necropotence
- 1 Yawgmoth's Bargain
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Brainstorm
- 2 Cabal Ritual
- 1 Chain of Vapor
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Gifts Ungiven
- 1 Hurkyl's Recall
- 3 Intuition
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 4 Duress
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Past in Flames
- 1 Ponder
- 2 Preordain
- 1 Tendrils of Agony
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
Basically the plan is to play like the Ritual-Gifts decks of old with a slightly worse enabler (because it can't be used as a draw engine against control) that also has the benefit of being slightly cheaper (which is definitely neat). There are a few Cabal Rituals because you can't just always fall back on Lotus with Past in Flames as you would have with Will and Cabal Rituals already seem pretty spicy considering they produce as much mana as Lotus would once you hit threshold (which Intuition alone gets you to halfway).
Now there is no standard win pile with Intuition in the same way that there never really was one with Gifts. (Though Recoup Tinker Walk Lotus was quite the simple cutie. Flames Tinker Ritual should do a fine impression now that Blightsteel has naturally shaved a turn off the clock) It all depends on how your hand and graveyard are set up already.
The two endgames the deck will follow the most are an Intuition that leads to a Yawgmoth's Will or Past in Flames (Or in some situations both. Though that is probably mind-blow territory.) that produces lethal storm and ends with Tendrils of Agony or one where your disruption ruins the opponent's hand and you Intuition up a Blightsteel Colossus pile (which ends the game less immediately but also needs a lot less setup). The Rituals add the sweet capacity to fully abuse Bargain and Necro both of which should let you draw enough cards to execute a Tendrils or Tinker kill without the need for any additional enablers.
Some Intuition piles I think will come up quite a bit:
The classic pile I also used with Gifts a lot. This just gives you the will to win when everything else is already in place.
If you need a bounce spell right now (e.g. Blightsteel Colossus).
Flames Tinker Ritual
As mentioned above this is probably the cheapest Tinker pile. Remember that some extra mana/cards might allow you to Time Walk for the win. Note that Cabal Ritual is generally just worse than Dark Ritual in this particular pile as long as you're not planning to play other stuff too.
Necro Bargain Demonic
How do you want to die? Assumes a lot of available fast mana though.
Ritual Past in Flames Demonic
Assuming a Ritual or two already available this is probably the standard Tendrils-kill pile.
If you have a few Moxen and some mana but no Rituals to power up storm this should fix a lot of problems.
There are probably a million more relevant piles but these should at least take care of winning. I'll leave any others for you to figure out. Half the fun of playing with Gifts came from the absurd piles you had to build that allowed you to win with nearly nothing. Let's hope Intuition becomes similarly fun now!
Overall you're just playing a typical combo-control game. Cast some disruption draw a few cards then Intuition during the end step and win after untapping. Other than pointing out the potential for this kind of deck I don't think there is much more for me to say here.
Those interested in Vintage in the slightest will have figured out how the deck works shortly after the decklist already and everybody else likely stopped reading once I started rolling out Intuition piles at the latest. Those of you still reading have fun doing sick things with blue instants again!
That's All Folks
Well here you go. A present from Innistrad for every one of you whatever formats you play. Let me know what you think (sorry for having been so silent in the comments lately by the way. Real life interfering with MTG doesn't make me a happy camper) and enjoy what the Planeswalker Bunny has brought for you.
See you next time everybody. Until then Happy Worldchange!
Bonus Section: All Those Bannings
As said I just couldn't help but at least say something about the DCI's latest intervention.
The Modern bannings are pretty much what I expected and largely necessary if the format is to be the fair new world I believe they want (told you the list would get longer soon enough) though I'm pretty sad to see an Eternal format in which I don't get to play any efficient library manipulation.
They could also have unbanned a few of the fairer cards we're not allowed to have fun with especially Ancestral Vision. That card honestly doesn't seem scary in a format with few ways to efficiently interact early against combo and Zoo firing on all cylinders.
The best way to fix the problems with Modern would be to move the cutoff by the way. Counterspell does a lot to make sure there is some control present to keep combo honest.
As for Mental Misstep leaving Legacy as much as some seem to be excited about it I'm pretty unhappy with the banning. For one it does seem like a really bad idea to remove Misstep after the good combo players have already started to learn how to play through more free disruption. Something as powerful as Misstep forces decks to evolve and especially for combo decks that generally means they not only become more resilient to the particular card in question but to disruption in general. While that might not have been enough to push them through omnipresent Missteps it makes every other way to fight them much worse. By removing the new check on the balance those who have already figured out how to beat Misstep will be far ahead against more regular disruption to the point of threatening to break the barrier keeping combo from making Legacy massively unfun. (Note that this doesn't come from a notorious combo-hater. On the contrary. Too much resilient combo is bad for the format.)
Secondly the format will become faster which is not a direction bannings should move it in. New cards and player's creativity will take care of that quite well on their own. The quest in Eternal formats is generally to keep the format from becoming too fast; at least that's my experience.
Finally at least here in Europe blue hasn't been dominating in any way close to what I would see as ban-worthy. Yes some StarCityGames.com Opens have had pretty wicked Top Eights. That hasn't been the case here as far as I'm aware. Maverick (G/W midrange) as well as Zoo have been putting up results and the death of Goblins has been hugely overstated as far as viability is concerned. (Considering my test results and seeing the deck in action against Misstep I observed it was far from dead. Every authority claiming its death kept people from playing it anyway though.)
Sure just about everybody was playing Missteps. That has to be kind of the point of giving all the colors a way to interact with the stack right?
That being said maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the American metagame was right and Europeans just didn't play the blue decks (well) enough. The point is we can't be sure. If half the world is beating Misstep and the other half can't seem to do so that doesn't mean we should ban. It means we should wait till the coin has landed and there's a final result on how unbeatable the card actually is. Legacy is notoriously slow to adapt but some non-blue decks were finally coming around. Now we'll never know what the final verdict should have been.
I know many will disagree with me here but I find it telling that quite a few of the people disliking the ban aren't blue control players (like me) but those who prefer running non-blue decks (and complain that they have no way to keep combo from killing them before their real disruption like hate bears comes online). If Misstep was so bad for them and made blue so much better than everything else why do they want it back?
In short: Banning Misstep might have been right. Doing it now seems premature and threatens to open up a whole different can of worms. Let's hope we aren't seeing the first trickles of a coming avalanche here.