Pandemonium is one of those cards that everyone gives consideration to, but that rarely works out in practice. The reason why Pandemonium often fails to achieve the desired results is because it is a very potent double-edged sword. Your opponent can use Pandemonium just as well you can, and often will do so first since you have spent the majority of your mana to cast Pandemonium itself.
Traditionally, there have been two successful types of decks that have employed Pandemonium:
- Straight Combo: Pandemonium, when it was first released, worked quite well with the Nemesis enchantment Saproling Burst. If you play a Pandemonium and then a Burst, you can deal 21 damage immediately by making a 6/6 creature, letting Pandemonium resolve, making a 5/5 creature, letting Pandemonium resolve, and repeating this until you get down to having six 1/1 creatures in play at once.
- Aggro-Combo: This is the typically the red-green deck that has Primal Forcemage, Norin the Wary and haste creatures. Strike hard, strike fast, and get double immediate damage out of your haste creatures. This way, they can definitely hit for damage before they die to Pandemonium from creatures on the other side of the board.
Each of these deck types has had mixed success, for the reason that Pandemonium cuts both ways. For every game that you get the Norin the Wary / Primal Forcemage / Pandemonium draw (and keep the Forcemage alive), you have a game where you drop Pandemonium, and your opponent responds by dropping ten power worth of creatures to the board and either burns you or all of your creatures out of the game.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how the deck looks this week:
The typical removal of all the cards from the departed color of the week. In this case, I also yanked out the Momentary Blinks – without the Blue flashback ability, they would be a lot less efficient in the deck.
First, I added in bouncelands, signets and basic lands for red or red-white.
Next, I put in four copies of Pandemonium. The deck is going to be built around the card, so I mightaswell get 'er in there.
In: 4 Pandemonium
Next comes the creature base. Here's the tricky part! As mentioned above, the main uses for Pandemonium are in Combo or Aggro-Combo. This deck is not a combo deck in any shape, way or form. As you've seen from Rescue Me and A Blink in Time, this deck is just pure aggro – I drop creatures, swing, save my creatures from dying in combat with other aggressive creatures, and just keep going to the fences until those fences are smashed down. There are plenty of fancy tricks, but those tricks are based around coming into play and leaving play, and not around built-in Giant Growths or broken enchantments that make huge creatures.
- Calciderm can't be targeted by Pandemonium (when an opponent plays a creature).
- The white rescue creatures can save your other creatures from being hit by Pandemonium.
- The white rescue creatures can bounce themselves and recur Pandemonium damage. Six mana with either a Stonecloaker or Whitemane Lion is 6 damage a turn, at instant speed.
When approaching the puzzle that is Pandemonium, I felt that working around the "it costs four mana to play Pandemonium" drawback was essential. To this effect, I already have Jötun Grunts in the deck – guys that can easily be played the same turn as Pandemonium, and who deal 4 damage for two mana under those circumstances. This left me wanting to stack the deck with more high-power, low-cost creatures.
Keldon Marauders immediately came to mind. I faced a red-white-blue Rescue / Blink deck featuring these guys a few weeks back, and it struck me how efficient the Marauders were in that deck. This build can use the Marauders as a recurring Lava Axe (one damage when it comes into play, plus three for an attack, plus one when it leaves play – preferably with a Rescue creature).
I also wanted to try out Volcano Hellion. Six power for four mana is huge, and Volcano Hellion can kill virtually any creature that my opponent can put into play. Sure, I won't often be able to pay the echo on this monster, but I can always bounce it back to my hand during my upkeep with Stonecloaker or Whitemane Lion, and then reuse it to kill another creature later. Plus, it's great with Pandemonium – it can do six to my opponent's dome, plus kill an opposing creature, plus survive virtually anything my opponent can drop back with Pandemonium the following turn!
To round out the deck, I included 3 copies of Sparkmage Apprentice (which I had alluded to last week when I took out Icatian Javelineers) and 2 copies of Stingscourger (to replace the departed Riftwing Cloudskate).
Game 1: Cloyd (B/G Thallids)
Cloyd starts out by dropping a couple of early Thallids, but I get Aven Riftwatcher on turn three and Stingscourger on turn four to bounce one of his guys. He drops down Sporesower Thallid, and I use Stonecloaker during my upkeep to bounce Stingscourger (and avoid paying the echo cost). After playing another land, I drop Stingscourger again, bounce his guy. He drops Sporesower Thallid again, and follows him with Arena. I get a second Aven Riftwatcher, and drop Pandemonium. On his turn, he uses Arena and kills my Stingscourger, and then drops a two-power Thallid to kill my Stonecloaker. On my turn, I swing with Aven Riftwatcher, drop a second Pandemonium, and drop Jötun Grunt to burn him for 8 and win the game.
Rules Aside: In this game, Cloyd used Sporesower Thallid to kill one of my creatures during his main phase. After the game, I pointed out that Arena can be used after attackers are declared. As written:
", : Tap target creature you control and target creature of an opponent's choice he or she controls. Each of those creatures deals damage equal to its power to the other."
Game 2: UNCIVLIFE (R/B Control)
I double mulligan and get stuck on a one-land hand until turn five. Once I draw a second land, I am able to make a run at the game with Keldon Marauders, Jötun Grunt, and Whitemane Lion. However, he gets down Kaervek the Merciless, and I have no way of recovering from my slow start at that point. I do manage to get UNCIVLIFE down to 6 before he kills me.
Game 3: Lowpressure68 (Mono-Red Storm)
Once again I take a mulligan, but this time my six-card hand is pretty juicy. Well, Lowpressure68 begins the game on the draw, and casts Rite of Flame (), Rite of Flame (), pitches double Simian Spirit Guide (), and then plays Empty the Warrens with storm of two to make six Goblins. He then proceeds to take two points of mana burn.
Rules Aside: Removing Simian Spirit Guide from the game to get mana is an activated ability of the card, and is not a spell!
On my turn, I drop Jötun Grunt. He attacks with all six Goblins, and I block one putting me at 14 life. I pay the upkeep on my Grunts (thanks to his double Rite of Flame!), attack for four, and drop Keldon Marauders (15-14). He attacks with all five goblins (15-11 – another block), and passes the turn. My Jötun Grunts die, and I attack with my Marauders (12-11) and drop another Jötun Grunts. He attacks with his four Goblins (12-8). During my upkeep, I stack the upkeep on Jötun Grunt first, and Keldon Marauders second. The Marauders resolve, die from Vanishing, and deal a point of damage to Lowpressure68 (11-11). I've now got the first Jötun Grunts and the just-deceased Keldon Marauders in my graveyard, allowing me to upkeep my second Grunts! I swing in (11-7), play my third land of the game, and drop Aven Riftwatcher (13-7). A second Aven Riftwatcher the following turn seals the game in my favor.
Notice when I dropped land #3 that game – around turn five! So far, I've taken three mulligans in three games and been short on mana one game. In addition, I've drawn double Pandemonium two of the three games (never got up to four mana to play it Game 3). To solve these mana issues, I decide to take out one Pandemonium and add in one Mountain.
Game 4: James227 (Slivers)
I get Sparkmage Apprentice and deal a point of damage to James227. He drops Spined Sliver and Spinneret Sliver. I attack with my Apprentice, and he blocks with his Spinneret Sliver. I stack damage, bounce Sparkmage Apprentice with Whitemane Lion, and then drop it back down to kill his previously-blocking sliver. I drop Stonecloaker to bounce my Sparkmage Apprentice and to get some flying damage in, and he answers with Might Sliver. I bounce it with Stingscourger and then drop another Stonecloaker. He lands Might Sliver to the board again and follows it with Fury Sliver and Fungus Sliver.
In the end, I'm facing down three 4/4 double-striking creatures and a 5/5 double-striking creature. My plan of attack is to come in through the air and use rescue creatures to buy time. This plan works perfectly—on the next-to-last turn of the game, I'm at 13 life facing down those four creatures. I play Aven Riftwatcher to go to 15, attack with a Stonecloaker (bringing him to 4), and pass the turn. James227 attacks, and I block with my Aven Riftwatcher and my Sparkmage Apprentice. His first strike damage kills the Riftwatcher, bringing me to 17 life. I then take 16 points of double strike damage, go to 1, untap, attack for 3, and use Whitemane Lion to bounce my Sparkmage Apprentice. When the littlest 1/1 that could comes back down, the Sliver threat is ended!
One problem with playing the Rescue versus Rescue match is that both of you know the other will be using cescue creatures to keep your guys alive during combat. We both sit for a while, playing vanishing guys (including a life-pad with Aven Riftwatcher) and building up forces with rescue creatures every third turn. After I build up a lot of mana, I drop Pandemonium. He drops double Jötun Grunt to take me down to 8, but I drop Volcano Hellion and Calciderm on the same turn to smash him for 11 to the head! On his attack, I play Stonecloaker to bounce my Hellion, kill his Stonecloaker, and set myself up for a massive attack. On my turn, I swing in with Stonecloaker (he still had the Grunts, so attacking with Calciderm was futile), drop Volcano Hellion to knock BigLandoz down to three, and pass the turn. He draws, gets Whitemane Lion, and uses it to bounce itself three times to deal 8 damage directly to my head, killing me with my own Pandemonium.
Game 6: bigjim80 (Green Fat)
He suspends Durkwood Baloth on the first turn. I have him dead before the Baloth unsuspends! I play Sparkmage Apprentice. He plays Llanowar Elves. I swing, he doesn't block, and when he attacks I drop Stonecloaker. My turn, I drop face down Akroma, Angel of Fury and swing for 3. On turn four, I drop Sparkmage Apprentice, swing for 5, and end-of-turn drop Stonecloaker bouncing my Apprentice again. On turn six I turn Akroma face up and kill him.
Game 7: Manxset (R/G Aggro)
He gets a fast start with Kird Ape, Dryad Sophisticate, and Mire Boa. I end up at a stalemate at 4 life and drop Pandemonium to clear out his board. Calciderm knocks Manxset to 10, and I'm set up to recur Stonecloaker the next turn to finish off the game. Unfortunately for me, Maxset draws Lightning Serpent and plays it for 5, dealing enough damage to me with Pandemonium to win the game.
Out of the three games I've lost, two of them have come down to last-second damage races where I lost the exact turn before I was going to untap and win. Because of this, I want a card that will help me race against both creatures and life totals. Luckily, red-white has the perfect tool for this – Lightning Helix. To make room for the Helix, I take out three Jötun Grunts and a Keldon Marauders.
Game 8: dcrichards2 (U/G/R Wildfire)
I get Aven Riftwatcher, then Calciderm, then a second Aven Riftwatcher. He casts Annex, then Wildfire, killing my entire non-Calciderm team and my entire board aside from a Boros Signet. I swing him down to one, drop a Plains, and pass the turn. He plays Mwonvuli Acid-Moss on my Plains, and I respond by playing Whitemane Lion and bouncing my one-counter Calciderm. He has no answer to my 2/2 creature, and I go on to win.
Game 9: Spookytooth (G/W Aggro)
I drop early creatures, and he uses Utopia Vow to neutralize them. I use rescue guys to neutralize his neutralization methods, and eventually I am using Stingscourgers, rescue creatures and Akroma all over the place to run over his forces.
Game 10: Colintology (Modified A Blink in Time)
We both get stuck around four mana, but Sheer Pandemonium can make a lot more efficient use of no mana than A Blink in Time. He plays creatures, but I keep bouncing them back with Stingscouger and Whitemane Lion. This allows me to build up several creatures to the board against his none, and eventually I overwhelm him with guys and Lightning Helix.
He gets double Rite of Flame / Stuffy Doll on turn three. I use Stingscourger to put the Stuffy Doll back in his hand, and then bounce my goblin with Stonecloaker and follow it with Calciderm. He plays Volcano Hellion to kill Stonecloaker, and I bounce his 6/5 guy with Stingscourger and get in there with my 5/5 untargetable dude. When he comes back with the Hellion, I Whitemane Lion my Stingscourger, bounce his dude again the next turn, and finish the game with Lightning Helix.
Game 12: Bkton (Slivers)
He is playing the Dormant Sliver / Firewake Sliver build, but I kill his Firewake Sliver with Sparkmage Apprentice, use Stingscourger and rescue creatures to bounce his key Slivers, and then drop Pandemonium with him at 9 life. He kills a couple of my guys with Dormant Sliver and smaller Slivers, but I play Stonecloaker (bouncing itself) at the end of his turn, and then double Stonecloaker in my turn to finish him off.
After this game, in which I drew Volcano Hellion, I realized that the big guy just wasn't working out all that great in this deck. I really could never pay the echo on him, and since he could never attack, he was a wasted slot in a deck that wanted to be all aggro. To remedy this, I put back in Jötun Grunt—I missed the Grunts the past few games, and realized that I had taken the wrong creature out of the deck for the Helixes.
Game 13: Drahcirone (G/R Aggro)
I get a quick start with Keldon Marauders and rescue creatures. When he's at 10 life, I drop Pandemonium, allow him to drop his smaller creatures, and then untap and drop Jötun Grunts and Keldon Marauders to deal 8 to his head. He can't deal with the bruisers, and dies after a turn of chump blocking.
Game 14: Ktafin (R/U Suspend)
He gets multiple Riftwing Cloudskates, and I get multiple Aven Riftwatchers. He suspends Deep-Sea Kraken, and I engineer the game to a point where it has one counter left. I then cast Stingscourger. This puts the Stingscourger on the stack (not in play yet!), which triggers removing a counter from his Kraken. His Kraken unsuspends, and comes into play. Then, my Stingscourger comes into play and bounces his Kraken! This ends his hopes of coming back, and I end the game at 40 life to nothing.
Game 15: 1cube1wheel (U/B Control)
He gets double Last Gasp, double Darkblast, and Dark Banishing. Targeted removal is a huge problem (for its user) against a deck packing multiple rescue creatures—every time he tries to kill a guy, I use Whitemane Lion or Stonecloaker to save my creature. On the sixth turn, he uses his last card in hand (Mana Leak) to counter Pandemonium, and that leaves me open to play Jötun Grunts with my last two mana. The Grunts get rid of his Darkblasts, and my creature force comes into to win the day.
Sheer Pandemonium was a lot of fun to play—probably the most fun of the three rescue-creature based decks from the past three weeks! All three decks were definitely aggro-oriented, but this one was just all-out burn-your-opponent dead aggro. Because I have several two-drops with three and four power, it was not unusual to drop Pandemonium, untap, and then burn out half my opponent's life total with creatures!
Next week, we say goodbye to white for good – all four W/X decks have been built, have come, and are now gone! And as white leaves, black comes back for our red-black build. But what deck will it be? Last week I ran a poll to determine that deck. Here are the results!
|What should be the focus of the black-red deck for Week 8 of 10?|
|Madness – In demand since Time Spiral!||2053||30.3%|
|Null Profusion – It flows well into Week 9!||1648||24.3%|
|Pyrohemia/Circle of Affliction – The family that damages together stays together!||1262||18.6%|
|Haakon and Friends – Now fortified with Blood Knight!||1010||14.9%|
|Greater Gargadon – Just add one part Mindslicer and two parts Phyrexian Totem!||806||11.9%|
See you all next week!