One of my more common vacations as a child was visiting the Oregon coast with my mom and brother because we were only a three-hour drive away. Ironically it was a coast trip with my brother that got me back into Magic. It's so miserably boring on the Oregon coast that we decided to stop at the Fred Meyer buy some packs and start playing again.
Some of the only milestones on the Oregon coast are the lighthouses all eleven of them! Yes I've been to every single one. Lighthouses are neat but as I get older I understand the affinity that my mom had for them. Thinking back to those visits I can appreciate them more now.
I tell you this story because that's the thought that Desolate Lighthouse invoked when I first saw it. These ties to our lives inside of the game of Magic are awesome. However it didn't take long before I began obsessing over this amazing card and all the decks it may work in.
There's a confidence about my evaluation of this card that gets me excited; it may very well be as dominant as Moorland Haunt if not more so. This is largely due to the addition of miracles which oh by the way happen to be awesome in blue and red.
People often explain how they begin deck ideas and there is a wealth of knowledge about how most people start brewing. If I'm being honest with myself some of my ideas begin with a single attraction to a card (hopefully a good one) while others begin with a game plan or a synergy with multiple cards. When I begin with a card I enjoy I try to think of the best build it would fit in and sculpt my strategy from there. Meaning: figuring out if I'm going aggro control combo etc.
Desolate Lighthouse is a difficult card to evaluate exactly how it will find its place in the metagame because it can fit in any of the aforementioned strategies. I'm a fan of aggressive decks so my first shell is going to be aggro-control. By not using white we have to be careful though. If we cut white we lose our beloved Geist of Saint Traft which may be one of the best creatures in Standard.
It's possible we can be a three-color deck but losing consistency isn't where I want to start with a new deck. U/R Delver has existed in Standard in the past but failed due to a shaky mana base and the need for both a blue and red mana source on turn 1. But it's also possible the deck just didn't have enough tools.
These were my thought processes in coming to this list:
Although it may look like I'm trying to jam all the new cards into the deck for the sake of being new that's not the case. U/R Delver was not very successful on a major scene and although it will be tried again by many I want to focus on being as highly aggressive as I can. Stromkirk Noble and Delver of Secrets were the cards you almost had to open with in that deck; if they got in a couple hits each you were most likely ahead. Vexing Devil is an interesting card and has quite a few polarizing opinions. I'm leaning towards the "he's pretty awesome" side.
If we're talking about our one-drops needing to hit for four-plus each then he fits that theme. Later on in the game when they let him hit the board you have Vapor Snags Galvanic Blasts and even Nightbird's Clutches to push him through. Sometimes both options are bad for your opponent; did we forget this is a 4/3 for one mana?!
One of the most interesting aspects of this deck so far: your nut draws are based on what's not in your hand. If you have an opener with Delver of Secrets Vexing Devil Island Mountain Ponder and Shrine of Burning Rage you probably have upwards of 80% to win the game. You know that five cards in the deck could flip in a turn or two and most likely put you into the 95% range to win.
Removal really hurts this deck so it's worth mentioning. This is the reason I included Shrine of Burning Rage over Stormblood Berserker. It's more consistently lethal. However this is also the reason I decided to run the miracle spells. There needs to be that extra reach and angle that's not coming only from creatures—Shrine of Burning Rage and Thunderous Wrath do that.
Faithless Looting felt necessary to smooth out my draws but also as an outlet to toss a semi-dead Miracle (which will happen on occasion). Faithless Looting also lets us find those last two points of damage in the end game. But know what else does?
One huge issue with Red Deck Wins strategies is that they don't have a late game. This is a Red Deck Wins style deck with far more reach and that's because of Desolate Lighthouse (with a nod to Reforge the Soul). When you're in top deck mode trying to battle through your control opponent's handful of removal you get to loot every turn—forcing them to find a win condition. If you flip an extra turn or have a one-mana five-damage spell with Mana Leak mana up it's your game!
Of course this won't happen all the time. Or even most the time! But if two lands can randomly win you a game or four throughout a tournament it's in your deck for good reason. What this card feels like it says to me is "Draw a card." Too many times with Red Deck Wins an extra draw would've gotten you that extra damage; Desolate Lighthouse will have you saying that less.
Red has some fairly heavy looting more than we've seen before. This has actually been spoken about recently by Mark Rosewater on his Reddit AMA:
"… That is why we've been looking for other things red can pick up. The most recent addition has been allowing red (and blue—it's not leaving blue) access to looting."
Hrm Wizards is pushing red into an uncharted branch of its color pie. Rosewater also compared it to blue so why not use a similar strategy and expand blue's capabilities? That's what we're doing and Desolate Lighthouse is an amazing reason to tip what we already had: Faithless Looting and Ponder. With all that looting the best way to abuse our newfound direction is to also abuse a new ability in miracle.
This is a card that will have more than a few homes in its day; I feel this is the best card spoiled so far (writing this on Sunday evening). Up until now the lights are out in this Lighthouse but the seas are calm.
Keep this on the DL alright?
I feel it's time to update one of my prior decks that I still revisit and test: Hexblade.
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Invisible Stalker
- 1 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 4 Geist of Saint Traft
- 1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
- 2 Thrun, the Last Troll
I've been able to squeeze in a bit of testing with this recently and the best card that I missed before is definitely Feeling of Dread. It's incredibly versatile in this deck because it's great defensively to try and set up a huge swing and even better when getting your Geist's through. The idea of the deck is to keep pressure on and don't let off unless you're the slower deck. In that case you often end up the control deck (not the beatdown).
We've yet to see the U/G "ability land" from Avacyn Restored but I'm guessing it's possible we'll be able to squeeze one or two in if it's what our deck is going for. Moorland Haunt may be tough to beat though and I'm still a little worried about not hitting my mana. But it's a thought to keep in mind.
There are too many things we haven't seen and this set has already been amazing for all kinds of decks.
Desolate Lighthouse will help us see the light.