You Lika The Juice? A Tale Of Two Glissas
I've been inspired by Ali Aintrazi and Michael Rooks and have decided to buckle down and stick with Glissa the Traitor in Standard. For me there's no greater joy in Magic than to do well in a tournament with a rogue deck that I've either cooked up on my own or have developed with a handful of friends. The peaks of Magical happiness were winning Virginia States with Gaea's Cradle-fueled Blair Witch Green (the precursor to Trinity Green) making States Top 8 with the very first Dredge deck and making the finals of States with G/W Midrange featuring Lotus Cobras and Knights of the Reliquary before either had really taken off. The rush is a mix of deckbuilder's pride with the buzz of playing something you know your opponents are underprepared to beat. I get tingly even now just thinking about those glorious run-good days!
Of course succeeding with a rogue creation requires hard work—the ability to see the potential that others might have missed and the dedication to support the idea by finding the right cast of cards. However even the most potent tight list also needs the environment to be right—if your angle of attack is a dog to the hot deck of the moment or suffers splash damage from popular metagame answers you're going to go down in flames.
I've recently noticed that my deck brewing over the past few years has been particularly ADD—I jump from idea to idea to idea getting briefly excited enough about something to cook up a decklist tinker with it a day or two and then dump it for the next idea. The problem of course is that some of the ideas are good ones deck kernels that should be hammered out and forged into a weapon worthy enough to take to battle. Ideas that just might provide that elusive rogue buzz I constantly seek but so rarely find lately.
One example is Grand Architect. During the all-too brief run of The Johnny Fever Project last November a couple of us cooked up decklists featuring this interesting blue creature. My initial build featured Grand Architect alongside Enclave Cryptologist Thrummingbird and a slight proliferate theme. StarCityGames.com Talent Search alum and Muse Vessel author Brandon Isleib took it a slightly different more tempo-oriented direction and had a bit more success with it than I did in some local tournaments but I knew there was some potential power there. Unfortunately for me I set the deck aside for other things; eventually Mirrodin Besieged came out… and then Ali Aintrazi hit pay dirt with his version at the Washington D.C. SCG Open kicking ass and providing much needed spice to the mind-numbing wall of Caw-Blade RUG Control Boros and Valakut snoozers.
The same tournament also provided Michael Rooks some well-deserved attention. Rooks is an incredibly gifted Magic player who plays locally and brews up some potent rogue concoctions that often leave opponents smiling as they lose. His Furnace Celebration deck got a Deck Tech feature in the StarCityGames.com coverage and then his deck got some well-deserved love on MagicTheGathering.com's Daily Deck column; while his 82nd place was respectable in such a large tournament it doesn't reveal the fact that he scooped the last round to a friend playing an easy matchup because he had slightly better tie-breakers and had a shot of placing into the money so his actual record should've been somewhere in the low 30s (and actually even better than that if not for a big play error that led to his second loss).
What's awesome is that I've seen Rooks working on this deck for months now and he's turned it into a well-oiled machine—much better than his initial sketches of the deck. The thing is he was convinced there was power to be harnessed in Furnace Celebration alongside the Spawn token cards from Rise of the Eldrazi and he kept shifting around the supporting cards until the deck became a crazy killer. It's inspiring to see that dedication bear fruit and it's humbling to realize my shortcomings in that regard.
I think Glissa has a lot of potential and while my success with it so far has been limited I think with a little more work I might have a contender on my hands. For those interested in the previous incarnations of the deck I first wrote about herhere and then again here. This is what I played at last week's FNM:
- 1 Blightsteel Colossus
- 3 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 1 Myr Battlesphere
- 3 Perilous Myr
- 1 Sylvok Replica
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
- 3 Vengevine
- 3 Viridian Emissary
- 4 Glissa, the Traitor
If you've been following the deck's evolution you'll notice that I ditched the Ezuri's Brigade which I briefly thought was the “answer” I'd been looking for in ramping up the deck's power. Eventually I came to my senses and realized – duh – you're playing Fauna Shaman; your four-drop should be Vengevine. I also decided at the top end of the artifact-bomb scale to go with Myr Battlesphere and Blightsteel Colossus over Spine of Ish Sah since Spine doesn't really end games like those guys do. Plus the beauty of BSC is if you draw him too early you can ditch him to Fauna Shaman to go get your Vengevine and then later Forgemaster for it if you get set up. I'm proud to say I got my first BSC victory this past weekend totally surprising my opponent by tinkering him into play.
I started off strong with 2-0 and then made some ridiculously stupid plays against a really good three-color planeswalker control deck to totally throw the first game in the toilet. First I cast Doom Blade end of turn on a freshly cast Frost Titan without two extra mana up when I could've waited until my turn to do so. Ugh. Later I blocked Gideon with Perilous Myr targeted the two damage to my opponent and redirected it to Gideon to knock off loyalty counters. Turns out Gideon's zero ability makes him immune to combat damage and damage to his loyalty something I should've realized if I'd spent a second thinking about it. Double ugh. He crushed me that game… game two was a nail-biter; I got some early Fauna Shaman/Vengevine action but Gideon came down to buy him time to claw out of the bind he was in giving Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Celestial Colonnade time to kill me through the air and make me realize I desperately needed air defense—1/1 Birds aren't the only thing to worry about from the sky.
I won the next game and then ran into a Valakut buzz saw crushing me in two quick and brutal bloodbaths. After sideboarding he laughed as I took away his Primeval Titans with Memoricide and ripped his Inferno Titan tearing me apart with it.
Finishing the Swiss at 3-2 I went to my car dropped off the Standard deck and brought back my Commander decks. Then it was announced I squeaked into the Top 4 on tiebreakers (wth?) so I ran back and nabbed my deck again. My semifinal match was against the same Valakut deck that crushed me before so I crossed my fingers and hoped for karma to smile on me. I get curb-stomped in game one in stereotypical Valakut fashion. Game two karma seemed to shine my way as Eric mulled twice and hoped to draw out of color-screw but proceeded to stall out while I drew a relatively decent beatdown hand.
Then karma the fickle b— turned on me!
My opening hand on the play was two Forests and five spells that all cost three mana or more. I figured the only chance I had against Valakut was to have a fast start so I mulled to six. This time I had two of the three Swamps in my deck and four green spells I couldn't cast so I mulled to five. This time I had no lands so I mulled to four. Tectonic Edge as my only land plus relatively expensive spells forced the mull to three. No lands and no two-drops mull to two. Ditto mull to one…
Acidic Slime. Are you kidding me?
I mulled to zero just to dot the exclamation point and scooped Eric into the finals. While it felt awful going through that epic mulligan disaster I have to admit it's one of those badbeat milestones I can always pull out and share when appropriate. It's a good storytelling nugget to have on hand.
As I opened my three prize packs I told karma she owed me a foil Tezzeret for that ridiculous display of nastiness but instead she shipped me a Green Sun's Zenith which softened the blow a little bit. Since it's my fifth Zenith I tucked it into my Commander stock of cards right next to Glissa Sunseeker and her stack of potential 99.
By the end of the weekend I had my new Commander deck…
Dear Future Commander Opponents:
You can blame Aaron Forsythe.
Back in January he threw this mondo combo out on his Twitter feed—
Now being awfully fond of the color green in Magic I've made quite a few different mono-green Commander decks in my time—Azusa Lost but Seeking… Kamahl Fist of Krosa… Reki the History of Kamigawa just to name a few. Glissa 1.0 is in my “Commander box” of legends but I'd never really considered her until Aaron dropped that spark into my creative juices.
As is easy to tell I love me some Spine of Ish Sah which is certainly a midrange-lover's dream card. I'm not sure if it's ever going to be any good in Standard but it's certainly awesome enough in Commander that I've ordered five extra copies to go in various decks. However nowhere is it going to shine nearly as well as alongside Glissa Sunseeker.
Now to occupy Glissa's time before I can draw and/or cast Spine of Ish Sah I figure why not add in some ways to make her ability more than just a way to destroy random artifacts.
Ashnod's Transmogrant Liquimetal Coating Myr Landshaper—come on down! The best synergy of course is Liquimetal Coating which can make any problematic permanent an artifact that can be knocked down with Glissa. Transmogrant is a one-shot way to deal with a creature while Myr Landshaper helps Glissa turn into a Strip Mine machine.
Of course being able to use Glissa to nail a permanent once per turn is decent but not spectacular so I figured I'd add some more juice—Seedborn Muse you sick and broken card come on down! Umbra Mantle come on down! Thornbite Staff you turn any mass creature die-off into an artifact-smashing Mardi Gras party.
One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that Glissa's ability is tied to mana in your mana pool so you need some mana management in your deck. Omnath Locus of Mana seems like a decent way to keep mana floating and open between turns. Manlands such as Mutavault and Mishra's Factory are nice mana sinks to dial down the mana in your pool as is Voltaic Key.
What was interesting as I built this deck was realizing that the cards I had to synergize with my commander's ability really didn't take up too much space leaving me a lot of room for other strategies and good cards. Since green doesn't offer up much in the way of tutoring for key artifacts I figure the best bet would be to focus on some card-drawing and nothing draws cards like Greater Good! Since I had the room I decided to add some good cards that could just be totally bonkers with Greater Good—Rancor Skullclamp Berserk Empyrial Plate Nim Deathmantle (!) Deathrender (!!) Weatherseed Treefolk Psychosis Crawler Multani Maro-Sorcerer; Masumaro First to Live; and Mossbridge Troll.
Psychosis Crawler (brains!) is just sick with Greater Good out there and I have a foil one too which prompted me to make sure I included my DCI foil Mind Stone (BRAINS!) with its cool brain art in the hopes to get both artifacts out on the board at once just for style points—the Mind Stone can even feed the Crawler and ping my opponents.
I rounded the deck out with green good stuff—Survival of the Fittest; Genesis; Eternal Witness; Yavimaya Elder; Citanul Hierophants; Chameleon Colossus; Brooding Saurian; Kamahl Fist of Krosa; Lurking Predators; Tornado Elemental; Krosan Tusker; Praetor's Counsel; Woodfall Primus; and Terastodon. Recently I decided to try running three Panoramas in monocolor decks—since they tap for mana on their own you can keep them in play until you need to shuffle your deck after using Sylvan Library Sensei's Divining Top or Scroll Rack.
It all seemed to come together perfectly high-powered but looking like tons of fun and capable of fun and memorable haymaker plays:
1 Glissa Sunseeker
1 Diamond Valley
1 Urza's Bauble
1 Mishra's Bauble
1 Sol Ring
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Voltaic Key
1 Crop Rotation
1 Green Sun's Zenith
1 Ashnod's Transmogrant
1 Ivory Tower
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Empyrial Plate
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Survival of the Fittest
1 Scroll Rack
1 Mind Stone
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Sylvan Library
1 Malachite Talisman
1 Thornbite Staff
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Myr Retriever
1 Omnath Locus of Mana
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Crystal Ball
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Myr Landshaper
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Krosan Grip
1 Eternal Witness
1 Umbra Mantle
1 Ondu Giant
1 Citanul Hierophants
1 Power Matrix
1 Chameleon Colossus
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Greater Good
1 Brooding Saurian
1 Weatherseed Treefolk
1 Cauldron of Souls
1 Seedborn Muse
1 Memory Jar
1 Venser's Journal
1 Psychosis Crawler (shiny foil brain)
1 Multani Maro-Sorcerer
1 Masumaro First to Live
1 Salvaging Station
1 Lurking Predators
1 Dreamstone Hedron
1 Mossbridge Troll
1 Tornado Elemental
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Spine of Ish Sah
1 Praetor's Counsel
1 Woodfall Primus
1 Thawing Glaciers
1 Jund Panorama
1 Bant Panorama
1 Naya Panorama
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Treetop Village
1 Mishra's Factory
1 Mystifying Maze
1 Deserted Temple
1 Winding Canyons
1 Blinkmoth Well
1 Mikokoro Center of the Sea
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Strip Mine
1 Gaea's Cradle
1 Okina Temple to the Grandfathers
20 Snow-Covered Forest
What do you think? Are there any other Glissa Sunseeker synergies I'm missing for a mono-green deck?
- Earlier this week I got a tweet from a Magic player who was lamenting the fact that his special Grand Prix Nashville deck box containing R/G Extended cards had been stolen at the StarCityGames.com Open event in New Jersey this past weekend. I assumed he had checked with the SCG staff's lost and found to see if it had been turned in and he said he had not. While the tales of thieves at large Magic events sadden and horrify us all one thing that I've learned from working the events is that most Magic players are honest and kind—a lot of time when they see someone's Magic deck box or backpack left unattended they'll bring it up to the staff who can make sure the cards get returned to the owner. In this case I sent a description of what the guy thought he'd lost forever to Nicholas Sabin who soon confirmed that the staff from Edison had indeed recovered that property and would ship it back to the player. So if you're the guy who turned those cards in you've made someone's day this week and for the entire Magic community—thank you!
- I've talked about wishing there were Magic character plushies before but the general response has been that there are not enough female players out there to support them. On the Monday Night Magic podcast this week Tristan joined me in saying that he too would buy them. Come on plushies!
- Favorite tweet this week: @MattGourley: This burrito is so good it's being played by Colin Firth.
- I was shocked to see what Candelabra of Tawnos is going for this week after the success of the Time Spiral deck in the Legacy Open last weekend. I own one that I've used in my casual decks for years and years—I was playing during Antiquities and it was one of those elusive cards I really wanted but was never able to acquire until several years after it was out of print. I'm sorely tempted to unload it while its red-hot but sentimental reasons have been holding me back. What do you think?
That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format building your first deck or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements Randomness Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy Griefing Staples Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists) :
- Savra Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)
- Vorosh the Hunter (proliferaTION)