Like my new author picture? At the SCG Classic Series in Richmond last Saturday I had someone tell me that they read me every week and yet didn't recognize me because my picture looks nothing like me. Which made me realize that the author picture is somewhere around 12 or 13 years old (yeah I've been writing here quite a while—check out my archives!) so it's time to get current. Now if you see me at a Magic tournament there's no reason not to come up and say hi!
For the tournament I ran a B/U Zombie Pod list which is a bit "stock" for me but I chose it for a couple reasons:
- Last hurrah for Birthing Pod in Standard. Birthing Pod is such a Bennie Smith card; I definitely wanted to give it one last shot.
- While Pod could let me durdle to my heart's content I could also beat down and finish games in a timely fashion which doesn't often happen with my midrangey decks.
- Getting some more experience with Zombies seems like a good call moving into the new Standard format.
- I chose blue instead of red because I could run a bunch of Clones. For a variety of reasons Clones are awesome not least of which is because I can Pod up to Massacre Wurm and then Clone the heck out of it. Blue also let me run a singleton Grimgrin Corpse-Born which is a seriously underplayed Zombie and was awesome for me.
I started at 2-0 never dropping a game and feeling good. I then drew against Solar Flare and felt pretty good about being a Zombie deck in the draw bracket I but proceeded to lose the next three games and was quite disappointed after my start. Still I saw a deck very similar to mine make Top 8 in both the StarCityGames.com Standard Open and Classic Series over the weekend so I don't think it was a bad choice. A couple bad breaks some play mistakes and there you go.
After I dropped I jumped into a side draft and took down the whole thing with a R/W deck I called "Bad Rares.dec" featuring Serra Avatar and Hamletback Troll. I first picked Gilded Lotus to help me accelerate to the bad rares and drafted a pretty solid crew of Goblins (along with two Arms Dealer) and white creatures to hold the fort until my bad rares won me the game. Oh and I drafted another Trading Post too—I think I have like eight of them now.
But enough about M13 Draft and old Standard! Right now I'm chomping at the bit to share some Return to Ravnica Standard ideas with you (and even a Legacy deck). Mostly they all involve this crazy kid:
I remember when I first saw this card; it was spoiled in a foreign language so I didn't know what the heck it said. I also figured "Lotleth" wasn't what the actual English name would be. I mean seriously—"Lot leth?" It sounds like Cindy Brady and her lisp trying to say "Lot less!"
I knew it looked pretty good—2/1 for two mana regenerates for one black mana and a bunch of text boded well for some serious value packed into this card. Then I read the translation and realized you could pitch cards to it for no mana cost just pitching and give it permanent +1/+1 counters. Holy crap! It was like Wild Mongrel on steroids!
Oh wait—you have to discard creature cards to add the counters. Okay not quite as good (I'd love to pitch excess lands for the counters) but still—I play tons of creatures in my decks so no problem! And with the new scavenge mechanic each creature can be cashed in for their power +1 in counters. Just slap a Rancor on this kid and go to town!
Wait… He has trample too? I actually went 24 hours before I realized he had trample. Absolutely bonkers! That's just a ton of value on this card.
I knew immediately that I wanted to have a playset (at least!) of this guy. Now I generally try and wait until a set releases before I buy singles since many prices are inflated by hype. Lotleth Troll came out at preselling at $6 and is now at $10. It's so good that I don't imagine it's not going to find a tier 1 deck to live in and everyone is going to want/need a full playset. I was strongly tempted to go ahead and prebuy my set…
… But then I started looking at all the other fantastic rares in the set many of them preselling for high prices justifiably so—they are just that good. There are even a fair number of uncommons that are selling for a couple bucks already. Suddenly I thought for the first time in years…
Should I buy a couple booster boxes?
I used to be a pack-cracker (I wrote about it here); in fact throughout most of Magic's history the way I got my Magic collection was cracking open a couple boxes of new product and trading away the rares I didn't want for the rares I did want. But not long after the advent of mythic rares opening boxes of booster packs became much more frustrating and annoying than fun. So much of a set's value was tied up in the few pushed mythic rares (often planeswalkers) that you sometimes wouldn't even open out of three booster boxes that it was just a massive buzz-kill. Right after Zendikar I went ahead and switched over to just buying the singles I needed from each set and more-or-less resigned myself to having to borrow any of the hot mythic rares I might need for my decks.
Return to Ravnica seems like a massive break from this model. The rares are so good and the good rares so numerous and so pricey individually that it seems a no-brainer to invest in boxes. Not only just to get a fair start on the rares you want and hopefully playsets of the hot uncommons but for once the rares are valuable enough to make trading up for mythics practical.
So after pondering about it for a few days—and watching the preorder price for boxes jump—I went ahead and pulled the trigger on buying a few boxes. I also preordered one Lotleth Troll just to make sure that I won't tilt if I open my boxes and end up with just three. If I get an extra I have no doubt it'll make superb trade bait and I really don't want to tilt on my return to Ravnica. I plan to revel in empty booster packs… Hey it's been a long time but perhaps I'll Tweet opening them again—that was kinda fun some time back!
Anyway back to the topic at hand—taking a good hard look at Lotleth Troll.
A Lot Less?!
If I recall correctly the last time we had a really good Troll in Standard (Chameleon Colossus doesn't count) was Troll Ascetic. Sorry Thrun—you had the misfortune of being printed during Clone-a-geddon Standard so I can't count you as really good. And I didn't even really like Troll Ascetic all that much despite being a card-carrying green mage. Oh believe me I tried but it was super-frustrating in that era to spend three mana on a green "fatty" and not be able to block the two-power aggro creatures that were crushing at the time—not to mention being vulnerable to Pyroclasm—if you didn't also have two mana up and ready to regenerate. That to me made the Troll a "virtual" five-drop and for five mana I wanted to be doing better things.
Lotleth Troll is a "virtual" three-drop if you want to defend against destroy effects or be a chump-blocker but against small amount of regular damage you can pitch cards to permanently protect him while also making him a bigger threat. So he's a two-drop that can often just be run out with no mana left up but you still feel comfortable he'll survive long enough to untap and then really be a pain-in-the-ass to deal with.
It still blows my mind that he's got trample (and is searchable by Mwonvuli Beast Tracker)—what would you have given to have Thrun or Troll Ascetic with trample?!
Of course the most exciting part of this card is the ability to pitch creature cards to feed our Zombie Troll and make him bigger and bigger. But we've got to be careful to properly evaluate the board situation what if anything our opponent will likely do in response and the value of putting a +1/+1 counter on the Troll while moving a creature card from our hand to our graveyard. Pitching two creatures you could potentially cast a little later in the game to try and squeeze in two points of damage is going to seem foolish when your opponent hits the Troll with Cyclonic Rift after you announce his attack. However if Supreme Verdict and Bonfire of the Damned are your primary concerns then rack it up!
Slitherhead seems custom-made for Troll shenanigans being worth two +1/+1 counters for no mana investment (unlike the other scavenge cards). But is it worth the card slots?
When looking at the Scavenge mechanic I think it helps to take a look at them in order of the scavenge cost in mana.
Scavenge 0: Slitherhead (one counter)
As mentioned above super-efficient for what it does but is it enough to make it in competitive decks? Would you play him on turn 1 if you don't have Lotleth in hand? I think you'd need to have some other stuff going on likely Rancor to push this off the bench.
Scavenge 3: Sewer Shambler (two counters)
Three-mana 2/1 Swampwalking Zombie. The size is disappointing but the tribe is right and the evasion might be interesting.
Scavenge 3: Sluiceway Scorpion (two counters)
Decent in Limited and deathtouch is interesting with Rancor but it's probably not making the cut for Standard.
Scavenge 4: Zanikev Locust (two counters)
Scavenge 5: Golgari Decoy (two counters)
Cute as a Lure and a relevant tribe but pretty much Limited fodder.
Scavenge 5: Dreg Mangler (three counters)
This on the other hand might make the cut. A solid size/mana ratio haste (which is awesome in this format) and a relevant creature type all make him reasonable on the front end and the scavenge counter/mana ratio isn't bad.
Scavenge 6: Deadbridge Goliath (five counters)
I'm unsure about this card. It's a rare which suggests that it's been pushed enough to be at least a Limited bomb. It's a 5/5 for four mana hard cast which can often be a good card if it has some extra bells and whistles but it's just vanilla in play and not even a relevant creature type. Six mana is a ton even for a permanent five counter boost… I see this more as a card to pair up with hexproof rather than the Troll.
Scavenge 6: Drudge Beetle (two counters)
He's a vanilla Grizzly Bear with a little late-game kick which makes him awesome in Limited but I'm pretty sure he's not worth it in Standard. I mean c'mon—for two mana you could play Lotleth Troll!
Scavenge 7: Terrus Wurm (five counters)
Scavenge 7: Korozda Monitor (three counters)
A decent body for the mana cost makes this a likely Limited all-star but it's not good enough for Standard.
Again are any worth the card slots? Under ordinary circumstances I think we might lean towards probably not; however there are a couple cards that survive the new Standard rotation that I think we should keep in mind as potentially insane alongside the already insane Lotleth Troll and anything that makes the Troll even better deserves a close look.
Here are the cards I'm thinking about both conveniently Golgari colors!
Both of these cards have potent card-drawing triggers that give you cards equal to the size of the creature it interacts with. Now many years ago I did some interesting shenanigans with a mono-green tournament deck that involved Maro Greater Good and other ways of boosting power (Rancor Scent of Ivy). I called it Marogeyser and it was insane the amount of cards you could rip through in your deck.
Lotleth Troll reminds me a little bit of Maro with Disciple and Garruk filling in the roles of Greater Good…and we even have Rancor around for a few extra cards to draw! What's particularly exciting about building around these combos is that all the cards are actually just really good all their own but together they can produce some killer synergies!
So what about something like this?
- 3 Disciple of Bolas
- 4 Dreg Mangler
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 1 Skirsdag High Priest
- 4 Slitherhead
- 2 Strangleroot Geist
- 1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
We have Slitherhead and Gravecrawler as awesome cards to pitch to our Troll and I even added Jarad Golgari Lich Lord to the mix. In a pinch you can even convert each Swamp + Forest you have in play to +1/+1 for the Troll with Jarad—who cares if you're nuking all your lands if you know you can go ahead and kill your opponent? The Demon from Skirsdag High Priest is a pretty large creature something we might not mind putting scavenge counters and Rancor on not to mention sacrificing to Disciple or drawing cards off with Garruk.
So here's a more Zombie-centric version of the deck:
- 4 Diregraf Ghoul
- 4 Disciple of Bolas
- 3 Dreg Mangler
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 2 Veilborn Ghoul
- 1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Not only does Jarad make an appearance here too but how about Veilborn Ghoul as a juicy nearly pain-free card to pitch to Lotleth Troll? With fifteen Swamps and a steady stream of cards from Disciple you should be able to constantly get any Veilborn Ghouls you pitch back to your hand.
I'm definitely excited to see what synergies there are in the new Standard that can keep Lotleth Troll growing bigger and bigger and kicking all sorts of ass!
Before we leave Standard I wanted to point out a few other fringe cards along these same lines:
Might some of these have a place in our 75? I've been happy with Triumph of Ferocity in my green decks but mostly when I can accelerate it out on turn 2. I don't know but it's something to keep in mind.
Good Enough for Legacy?
Okay so I've gone on quite a bit about the Troll in Standard but I also want to touch briefly on an idea I have for him in Legacy:
- 2 Basking Rootwalla
- 4 Deathrite Shaman
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 1 Necrotic Ooze
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Scryb Ranger
- 1 Ulvenwald Tracker
- 3 Vengevine
- 3 Griselbrand
- 1 Dryad Arbor
Alongside Fauna Shaman I think the Troll can have some fun with Vengevine and Basking Rootwalla. Also the Troll is so chock full of abilities that if he ends up in the graveyard I think Necrotic Ooze would love to borrow some of them! I've thought about going full-on Ooze combo here with Triskelion and Phyrexian Devourer but I think copying Griselbrand's ability is probably good enough.
Also Deathrite Shaman seems totally nuts in Legacy no?
So what do you think of Lotleth Troll? Are you as excited to play with him as I am? What sort of decks are you building with him? Hit me up in the comments!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
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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)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Jarad Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Nefarox Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Yeva Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Niv-Mizzet the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Ghave Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- 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)
- Konda Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)