"But Beatrice did have a face - and an interesting one. It could be said that she looked like a buck-toothed Indian brave. But anyone who said that would have to add quickly that she looked marvelous. Her face like the face of Malachi Constant was a one-of-a-kind a surprising variation on a familiar theme - a variation that made observers think Yes - that would be another very nice way for people to look. What Beatrice had done with her face actually was what any plain girl could do. She overlaid it with dignity suffering intelligence and a piquant dash of bitchiness."
- Kurt Vonnegut The Sirens of Titan
I would just like to note that before I knew who he was or what Limited Resources was or he took me out for a steak dinner the first time I visited the fine city of Seattle Washington I was already a fan of Marshall Sutcliffe; I "met" Marshall on Magic Online and automatically hit it off with him seeing as he had taken his handle from The Sirens of Titan (one of my three or so favorite novels).
(The Sirens of Titan along with Matthew Lewis's The Monk is a book I try to re-read once every year. It's an intelligence test. The Sirens of Titan will erase your illusions and teach you the meaning of life if you let it; Becker though thinks the oft-mislabeled SF/satire is too depressing.)
This is an article about hopefully looking beautiful via Vonnegut's "variation on a familiar theme" – maybe something a little bit different if recognizable...but marvelous in its own way. Hopefully at the end you can echo the sentiment that these builds would be another very nice way for Primeval Titans to look.
Before we continue while I very much respect the awesome power of Primeval Titan the reason we are on this topic is an echo of Lauren Lee's mandate: There is a wider world than Delver of Secrets my friends; what else can we talk about? What might we play if we weren't myopically focused on a 3/2 flyer for U?
- 4 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Borderland Ranger
- 4 Dungrove Elder
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 4 Strangleroot Geist
- 1 Wolfir Silverheart
I cut a Plummet from the previous builds in order to play Karn. I was never really siding more than two Plummets anyway so three is already rich people problems. Karn is a big game and this deck has enough mana to support the ginormous guy.
I must say this deck has really grown on me. I play a couple of hours of MTGO per day usually working on new variations and brews; but recently I have kept coming back to MGA. This deck has a quality I learned from Patrick Sullivan. It's just satisfying to play.
MGA fills the baseline of being competitive. It is "a good deck" and can compete with pretty much anything. Fights against reanimator strategies like Frites can be stressful but there is nothing like pulling out the third on a Plummet on their Griselbrand (did it twice last night)! Most little creature decks lay down for Havengul Lich + Perilous Myr so when you manage to race thanks to Dungrove Elder and the evasion push from a Sword of Body and Mind you end up feeling pretty good.
Does this touch onto that "I feel smart" sense we talked about RE: The Rock last time? I think the danger is there but the difference is that the tools are actually present here. It's not so much the difficulty of grinding out small advantages as it is finding the right path with what you've got. You can win a lot of close games with judicious choices on Green Sun's Zenith (can I stick a Wolfir Silverheart to poison him out) and restraint can be as rewarding as boldness (GSZ for five on Acidic Slime over six for Titan when what you need is an answer more than a sledgehammer).
MGA has two distinct plans and the ability to up-shift from beatdown to battlecruiser is one of the most exciting capabilities in the format IMO.
You can actually go crazy with multiple different games that start on turn one Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves...turn two can yield a Green Sun's Zenith for Strangleroot Geist or you can run out a Dungrove Elder or Sword naturally. I generally prefer to tap for Dungrove Elder on the second turn rather than a Sword if given the option but it really depends on what color your opponent shows you on turn one and how likely you think it is you can crush him with the Sword in your hand. For instance if your opponent shows Mountain and you have a Sword of War and Peace even if you can play it (and a Sword of War and Peace is in theory good against the fruits of a Mountain) the fact that you can draw a Shock Galvanic Blast Geistflame or any number of other instant speed removal spells in response to the equip portion...double plus ungood.
You can win lots of games just on the fast plan or you can force the opponent to tap at which point you can switch gears sharply to call up the ramp plan.
MGA actually has a lot of the same kinds of stuff as a conventional Wolf Run Ramp deck. We don't have Rampant Growth or Sphere of the Suns but remember Green Sun's Zenith for Llanowar Elves is very Rampant Growth-feeling (and functionally ramps the same amount at the same curve point). Anyway an eight-pack of one-drops also makes for some good ramping. The ability go something like...
Turn one - Birds of Paradise (two mana).
Turn three - Solemn Simulacrum (five mana)
Turn four - Play a land jumping from five to six...tah dah! Primeval Titan.
So basically you can approximate a lot of what a real ramp deck can do but you are hitting the opponent all the while with fast guys plus you have a whole different set of highly effective killers in Dungrove Elder. Sometimes Dungrove Elder is even bigger and more attractive than Primeval Titan when you draw a Green Sun's Zenith in topdeck mode. In a sense it is the bridge between the two plans: fast enough and ferocious enough to contribute to beatdown; big enough to matter late a beneficiary of all that ramp even as a cheapie.
The truth is all this awesome sauce comes at a price; and that price is largely being mono-Green specifically almost all Forests.
When Gerry talks about crippling a Ramp deck with two Ghost Quarters he is talking about us. We have all of one Inkmoth Nexus and one Kessig Woof Run...nothing "wrong" with that but you have to assume Primeval Titan is setting us up because we aren't going to get the combo pieces naturally very often.
Now when I was all U/W Delver a few months back I would sometimes encounter an opponent on G/R Jackie Lee or perhaps Naya Aggro. I won the vast majority of those matches but the games I lost I usually lost to the card Galvanic Blast; yes to de facto Shock. They can kill your Delver! No such capability in this deck unless you want to talk about boards.
That said the ability to present Dungrove Elder combined with the multidimensional twofold plan is a compelling set of trade-offs. I found myself ably – and even happily – competing with all different decks in Standard and the one thing that I found initially surprising (but ultimately made sense) was a heavy advantage against other Wolf Run Ramp decks. This might seem a bit non-intuitive but it makes sense based on the Invasion Block B/R Mirror Match Principle:
When two decks have the exact same end game the faster one – rather than the one with more card advantage – is generally favored.
Put another way we both go to Primeval Titans for a Wolf Run finale; he might have more fireworks along the way but we both have about the same amount of Ramp and essentially the same end game of limitless mana powering a Wolf Run. The difference is that when we get to that end game-a-end game we have eight more life thanks to Strangleroot Geist and company. Plus Sword of Body and Mind really messes up his math!
Now speaking of "other Wolf Run Ramp decks" I switched gears this week to work on a different set of ideas and incentives. I am less comfortable with this deck but there is no denying its power. In terms of pure power I have it comparable to Frites and much more powerful than basically every other Standard deck. Powerful isn't "better" necessarily; it's "powerful."
You have the Wolf Run package (albeit abridged as in MGA) you get a host of specialty lands to ensure your Primeval Titan resolves (and help you race when it does) and you have a good defensive suite that includes both blockers and removal.
But what you get in addition – that pushes you over the top – is any number of lucky ducky hallelujah moments.
Here is my take on Naya Miracles:
- 4 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Borderland Ranger
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 4 Primeval Titan
Operationally the deck inherits some of the limitations I picked up tuning MGA (white is the strong second color so we don't have consistent red mana for Galvanic Blast defense our Wolf Run package can be disrupted by just 1-2 Ghost Quarters) but in trade-offs we have a viable – and cast-able – Miracles package.
The sauce here is "you don't have to get lucky" on your miracles (but it is still awesome if you do). A Ramp mana base puts you in a position to easily Broodmate Dragon your Entreat the Angels (and comparatively early) and you can just cast your miraculous removal spells if you want. When the videos come out early next week you will see that I often forego a miraculous Terminus with Primeval Titan in play (so I can get the attack in for damage card advantage or future turn setup)...and then just Terminus as a hard-cast later the same turn.
Power - The deck can present a level of power that is unchallenged by other even allegedly powerful decks. Like you can be up against a mid-range Planeswalkers deck kind of shrug at his ever increasingly mighty (allegedly) board spike a Titan make a bunch of Angels and just go over the top of him. You can make the argument that the deck wants a little space for a certain Grand Cenobite (6/6 Angels!)...but between the ramp-enabled Angels Karn and the regular old Primeval-powered high end I have not missed the Praetor.
Life Gain - Naya Miracles is "rich" insofar that it can Time Walk an opponent's graveyard and previous turns with repeated (and accretive) Locus triggers or play a typical catch-up game on Timely Reinforcements...buying time in a shell that if it gets to where it wants to get is always going to trump the opponent on power level. Because even Griselbrand has to respect a Karn.
Miracles - As with any respectable miracles deck this one pulls out a fair number of games that seem like they should have gone the other way. Back against the wall behind a Titan so low – and facing down a Nexus alongside a ton of lands – so that even if you topdeck a Titan it won't be enough and even if you topdeck a Terminus you're still dead? Will six or so 4/4 flyers do sir? Exactly! As a side note most green decks can't answer a Consecrated Sphinx at all; I like the fact that you can sometimes Miracle up an answer on the cheap. This has never come up for me but I am guessing many IRL opponents without MTGO prompts will simply miss a draw trigger.
Cavern of Souls - As in we have them main. I don't know why other Wolf Run players haven't found a way to incorporate these fundamentally. You know what's awesome? Having all your spells resolve. The big blue control match ups are favorable because 1) they typically can't keep pace with your relentless stream of battle cruisers and 2) your Solemns and Titans consistently resolve putting them behind.
Galvanic Blast - As in we don't have any; even though we have a heavier red component our deck can't really support fast removal. We need to rely on Locuses to buy time rather than removing early game threats like the Junya Iyanaga school of Wolf Run might have. I'll be honest with the min/maxers out there: This deck isn't Delver and you probably don't beat Delver half the time; that is true for most decks (including for most of you Delver variants). Every time I've beaten Delver I could detect the steam coming from the other side of the vast digital gulf of the MTGO Internet. "Nice Miracles" followed by a d/c – you know how it is. Because if you play a fair game with them they are going to lap you.
Miracles (again) - The dual-edged sword! This deck copes with drawing multiple miracles famously. Like I said you can just ramp up to hard-cast Terminus followed by the Broodmate Dragon setting on Entreat the Angels...but your draws can still be clunky.
I like playing against most decks. You have a sense of inevitability. Even decks that should be able to compete are going to fall short on some power metric and you are either going to set up a God-turn with Titan or cover the board with 4/4 flyers. Your overall card quality is great and between Glimmerpost Timely Reinforcements and Huntmaster of the Fells you are superbly set up to absorb straight beatdown. There are two large chunks of the metagame that you will essentially always level.
The only down-side is that "Delver" is not in either of those two chunks.
I would position Naya Miracles towards those who play FNM in an area where people complain about any Delver decks being played; where the typical opponent is a ponderous mid-range board control deck or a no-frills attacker. While I certainly think you can win an Open with MGA I think to do the same with Naya Miracles would take a bit of fortune...but I guess you are exactly the right deck with the right attitude to take advantage of that!
Just a word of caution...Zealous Conscripts is a thing; a very powerful thing when you are in the business of summoning Primeval Titans. While both the decks discussed today have access to a red splash I didn't feel they were constant enough to pay Conscripts of my own (but maybe that is wrong). Just be aware that they might be coming down for you and grab lands accordingly.
P.S. Bella Flores will return next week with Naya Miracles videos :)
P.P.S. Apparently there is this card Crushing Vines we should consider. If you are mostly bringing in Plummet to deal with Consecrated Sphinx I don't know that the extra mana in MGA is a big deal. I can see for playing 2 in each sideboard with swaps on Plummet and 1 Ancient Grudge + 1 Ray of Revelation respectively. In the latter case especially we have good crossover capabilities and can overload with up to eight Acidic Slimes if need be.