So, this weekend the StarCityGames.com Open Series will be right here in my hometown of Richmond! To say I'm stoked is an understatement—if you've been following my column (and my blog) then you know that times are tough at the Smith house and that I've been trying to find a roommate for a while now. The few leads I've had haven't panned out, and until they do I've pretty much had to do zero traveling for Magic events. Even for this one right here in Richmond, I'm going to have to work my part-time job on Sunday rather than play cards.
Still, I cleared the whole Saturday so that I could finally play in an Open, bask in my favorite competitive format—Standard—and I'm especially looking forward to seeing what new brews people come up with using Dark Ascension.
…wait, what's that?
Well, of course I'll be going to Anna Marie's father/daughter dance for her Girl Scout troop! When is it?
…February 4th huh?
Okay, so I suppose I don't have the whole day cleared—just the whole day until about 6 pm, when I'll need to clear out, pick up my daughter, change into my suit, and go to the semi-formal dance.
Which means I'll have the Power of Irony on my side. If I had the whole day and evening cleared, then I'd go 0-X on the day, but since I'll need to leave right around the time when the Top 8 will nearly be settled, wouldn't it be ironic that I'd need to drop from the tournament despite going undefeated?
I just had a flash in my mind, Scott Pilgrim-style: suddenly, a sword juts out of Scott's chest—Scott's earned the Power of Irony! Only instead of Scott Pilgrim it's me…
Of course, to best harness the Power of Irony, I need to make sure I'm not playing something too janky, or the Power of Bad Cards might overwhelm the Power of Irony. So I think, for Saturday, I'm gonna set aside my new Necrotic Ooze deck for now.
Instead, my attention is shifting to Glissa, the Traitor.
Now, I keep hearing people talking about how good Ratchet Bomb is in this format. Two of my Magic friends who did well in the Washington, DC Standard Open have both mentioned they wish they'd ran more Ratchet Bombs. Post-Dark Ascension, with token decks obviously pushed hard in the new set, I can't imagine Ratchet Bomb isn't going to be even better.
Now, we can max out at four Ratchet Bomb, or we can push things even further! I know a lot of people are thinking about recurring the Bomb with Sun Titan, but me—when I think of Recurring Ratchet Bomb, I think of Glissa, the Traitor! I've tinkered around with Glissa decks since she was first printed, and nearly every list features some number of Ratchet Bombs. It's the perfect card to pair up with Glissa—pop it off, kill some number of small creatures, Glissa triggers, get back the Bomb and maybe another artifact or two.
The Glissa/Ratchet Bomb synergy got some street cred recently when brewmeister Conley Woods won Grand Prix Orlando with his Wolf Run Rock deck that included Glissa, with Green Sun's Zenith to find her, and a couple Ratchet Bombs. Here's the decklist for reference:
- 4 Solemn Simulacrum
- 2 Acidic Slime
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Grave Titan
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 1 Glissa, the Traitor
Over on ChannelFireball, Conley wrote about this deck and how he basically brewed it up when he arrived in Orlando and was unhappy with the deck he'd decided to play prior to getting there. He didn't really talk specifically about Glissa outside of mentioning that Kibler suggested adding one to the deck, though he did say that he “didn't want to try anything too crazy.” In his follow-up article, Conley talks about limiting the number of cards that seem great in theory but are untested: “Glissa, the Traitor made for a great one-of because of Zenith, and she ended up being insane, but imagine if she were lackluster and I had 3 or 4, things might have gone poorly.”
Ended up being insane—insane sounds pretty good, no?
In the coverage for Orlando, Blake Rasmussen talked with Conley about the deck and here's what was said about Glissa:
“Glissa enables a ton of cool plays in the deck, the most relevant of which is the interaction between Ratchet Bomb and Glissa. Against Delver decks, which are pretty much all twos, ones and zeros, Ratchet Bomb and Glissa can combine to form a repeatable board sweeper.
“But even without regrowable Wraths, Glissa can gain a ton of value just from bringing back something as simple as a Solemn Simulacrum.
“Woods told a story about a match against a control opponent who had three 2/2s in play from White Sun's Zenith. Woods said he ‘baited' out a Dissipate with Grave Titan—odd as that sounds—to ensure he could resolve a Glissa. Suddenly a Day of Judgment from his opponent would have brought back two Solemn Simulacrums and a Nihil Spellbomb, making it actively bad to cast.”
“Ratchet Bomb made a lot of waves this weekend. The prevalence of so many token-producing cards and flip cards means that a single Ratchet Bomb can often wipe an opposing player's board without a single charge counter. Conley Woods recognized the power of Ratchet Bomb and decided to take full advantage of it, going so far as to include Glissa, the Traitor in his deck to recur the game-breaking artifact.”
So, we know Ratchet Bomb was apparently really good for the metagame a few weeks ago, but what about now? With the release of Dark Ascension, isn't it a brand new format? Yes, things are going to shift—but my hunch is that the decks Ratchet Bomb is good against aren't going anywhere. For one thing, the Richmond Open is just one day after Dark Ascension releases, so any chase cards from the new set are going to be difficult/expensive to acquire. A lot of people's cards might be in transit if they didn't preorder from StarCityGames.com to pick up at the tournament site—and don't you regret that choice now!
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad aside, the card that seems to be on everyone's list of top cards from Dark Ascension—if not the #1 card—is Lingering Souls. Some of the top players of the game are talking about this card showing up in all sorts of decks, not just B/W Tokens. Huntmaster of the Fells is another super-hyped card—one that, once it transforms, becomes a zero-cost permanent alongside the token it made, perfect for sweeping aside with Ratchet Bomb. And since I imagine Delver of Secrets and Moorland Haunt are going to remain powerhouses of the format, I think it's pretty clear that Ratchet Bomb is likely to continue being something worth playing… and replaying.
So, we've got our Ratchet Bombs and we've got Glissa to keep it coming. What else do we do in green and black? Do we just rock Conley's deck? Well, Conley's deck is basically a ramp deck, and I don't really enjoy playing ramp strategies, so that's out of the question. I'm pretty good at midrange decks, so this naturally leads me towards thinking about all the great value creatures available in black and green, which then naturally leads me to thinking about Birthing Pod.
Now, I've got trepidations about playing Birthing Pod. As I pointed out in my column A Green Mage's Lament, no one but Reid Duke seems to be able to win with it. But playing with Glissa gives a Pod deck greater resiliency if your opponent guns for the Pod (and they will).
There's another good reason to play with Birthing Pod: the new creatures with undying. This ability seems tailor-made to go with Birthing Pod, allowing you to actually expand your board presence rather than trading up creatures, a significant improvement to the incremental advantage you're hoping to win with. A lot of people are justifiably gaga over Stranglewood Geist, but some are also talking about how good Young Wolf is:
“Young Wolf deserves a second look. Sleep on him if you want to...
“[A card that is] going to be overlooked by a lot of people is Young Wolf. You would think that after Doomed Traveler, people would learn, but so far it looks like most people are bashing on this guy all the same. Are you kidding? Really? You really think a 1/1 flier is better than a 2/2 ground creature? Yeah, of course Doomed Traveler is in a better color; it is in the color that has Doomed Traveler! Green has gained Young Wolf, Strangleroot Geist, Huntmaster of the Fells, and much more. The balance of power is changing! Young Wolf is much more exciting for a Mono-Green Aggro deck but should be kept in mind in any Green Sun's Zenith deck, as it is just fantastic against creature swarms by land.”
“Strangleroot Geist is just loony. Seriously. You can tell he is going to be awesome on rate alone. A 2/1 haste for two... sure. But you also get a 3/2 body for free? That guy is really, really good.”
I know I have Scott Pilgrim on the brain, but whenever I read the words Young Wolf I think Young Neil.
So, if we're on the Pod plan, we need to pay attention to what creatures of value are available at each point of our curve. I'm going to be focusing on black and green creatures, but I'm going to list blue creatures too, because there's a good chance I'm going to want at least a dash of blue mana in my deck for Spellskite and Phyrexian Metamorph—two cards I love in Glissa decks that don't absolutely need blue mana, though it's nice to have the option of paying blue for the Phyrexian mana cost.
- 1 cc: Young Wolf, Hex Parasite
- 2 cc: Strangleroot Geist, Spellskite, Phantasmal Image, Viridian Emissary, Blood Seeker, Phyrexian Revoker
- 3 cc: Phyrexian Rager, Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage, Geralf's Messenger, Wakedancer, Æther Adept, Deceiver Exarch, Viridian Corrupter
- 4 cc: Solemn Simulacrum, Phyrexian Metamorph, Dungeon Geists, Master Thief, Tower Geist, Entomber Exarch, Skinrender
- 5 cc: Acidic Slime, Vorapede, Morkrut Banshee, Stingerfling Spider, Clone Shell
- 6 cc: Wurmcoil Engine, Massacre Wurm, Grave Titan, Primeval Titan; Mikaeus, the Unhallowed; Frost Titan, Geralf's Mindcrusher, Brutalizer Exarch
- 7 cc: Sheoldred, Whispering One; Chancellor of the Spires, Phyrexian Ingester, Sphinx of Uthuun, Rune-Scarred Demon, Myr Battlesphere
So, after a lot of thinking about all these card choices, here is the deck list that I've come up with:
- 1 Hex Parasite
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 2 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Spellskite
- 2 Sylvok Replica
- 1 Wurmcoil Engine
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Phyrexian Rager
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 1 Trinket Mage
- 1 Vorapede
- 4 Young Wolf
- 3 Glissa, the Traitor
- 1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
Okay, let's look at my creature choices by mana cost:
1 cc: Four copies of Young Wolf seem like a great way to get the party started, either by holding the fort against aggro decks or starting the beatdown against the control decks. Hex Parasite serves many functions, such as eating planeswalker loyalty or resetting charge counters on Ratchet Bomb, but the primary goal is to make the undying gang nearly immortal. I'm only running one because I've got a way to find it at three mana.
2 cc: Four copies of Strangleroot Geist is a great way to continue the good time party that Young Wolf started—either holding the fort or serving up the early beatdown. I'll eventually want to Pod Wolf into Spellskite to get that into Glissa artifact recursion, it does such a great job of protecting Glissa and Birthing Pod from removal. Phantasmal Image is a killer of hexproof legends Geist of Saint Traft and Thrun, the Last Troll as well as larger reanimated varieties, and also lets us jump up higher on the Pod chain. Also, it's awesome to just Pod Young Wolf into Phantasmal Image copying a creature with undying, so when it dies it comes back and can copy something else with a +1/+1 counter.
3 cc: The first thing I'll be Podding Strangleroot into is Trinket Mage for Hex Parasite, and once that's done then Phyrexian Rager for a card is the next choice. I'll talk a little bit about Sylvok Replica below.
4 cc: Solemn Simulacrum is pretty much the Birthing Pod standard bearer at this mana cost. Since we're not a ramp deck, we're not necessarily going to want to play a ton of them, but it's an artifact that we can recur with Glissa and get a lot of value out of it. The Metamorph offers the same value plays as Phantasmal Image while also being an artifact you can recur with Glissa.
5 cc: I want to run more Vorapedes because he is a huge beating, plays both offense and defense, and trample is going to be great in a field full of weenies, but I sculpted the decklist more and more got cut. I'm hoping that the Birthing Pods will have the Vorapedes show up quite often. It's nice to have an alternative to Acidic Slime at five mana that can be an actual game-winning threat.
6 cc: At first I just wanted a bunch of Wurmcoil Engines here, something I can cash out with Pod and still maintain board presence while being an artifact to recur with Glissa. But I also have to realize how awful it would be to Pod into Wurmcoil and then have my opponent cast Vapor Snag on it. Taking a clue from Conley's choice of Grave Titan, even if it's hit with Vapor Snag you still have some tokens that can block Geist of Saint Traft. The token creatures even have some Pod value for trading in for Young Wolf or the Hex Parasite.
7 cc: Sheoldred, Whispering One—is there any other real choice here? Nope. With a Spellskite to protect her, she's a total, grade-A badass!
Other card choices: Tragic Slip seems like a total slam-dunk for a Pod deck. Sword of War and Peace is a card that's so good right now, I wish I could squeeze more copies in, but one miser's in the main and one in the board will have to do. Again, potent artifacts are something you want in a Glissa deck.
Alongside recurring Ratchet Bombs, recurring Sylvok Replicas sounds like a good deal as well. In his column The Innovator's Guide to Dark Ascension Standard: Part 1, Patrick Chapin wrote:
“Ray of Revelation, in particular, seems important, as it is just going to be brutal against Tokens and Humans, destroying Honor of the Pure, Intangible Virtue, and Oblivion Ring. Humans and Tokens are two of the strategies that appear to have gained the most, so getting extra percentage against them is going to be important.
“Ray of Revelation is an extremely exciting new addition that has me looking at going all five colors. Honor of the Pure is by far the biggest problem for Grixis out of Humans. Oblivion Ring is also effective, and Angelic Destiny can occasionally lead to blowouts. Ray of Revelation is so good against these cards, it is sickening. I am literally sick to my stomach thinking about the brutality. I am not sure I can even go on writing this article.
“And yet I must.
“Ray of Revelation in a deck with Curse of Death's Hold is just going to maul tokens, and the threat of plays like these will likely force Token decks to choose slightly more modest builds, or the blowout-centric new brews will lose.”
I think the sideboard choices are pretty self-explanatory, but feel free to comment if you have any questions about my reasoning, or if you see something I'm missing!
So What About Grafdigger's Cage?
What about it? Seriously, I don't care. An overhyped and overpriced sideboard card, I don't anticipate seeing many of them showing up the day after Dark Ascension releases.
So, here's the deck I'm playing Saturday. I'm going to be doing testing Friday night, so I'm sure some numbers will be adjusted, and there might even be a few new cards showing up, but I feel pretty good about the concept, execution, and its place in the metagame. What do you think? Is there anything I'm missing?
With any luck (and with the Power of Irony on my side) I'll X-0 most of the Swiss and be in a position to scoop a good friend of mine into the Top 8 where he'll go on to win the tournament as I go off to dance with my daughter!
If you're going to be at the Richmond Open, track me down and say hello! Hope to see you there.
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
I'm still looking for a roommate, so if you know anyone looking for a place to live in the Richmond, Virginia area please get in touch!
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!
I've started a blog, it's not Magic-related but you may find it fun to read and comment on. I update at least once a week so check on it often and let me know what you think!
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):
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)