|How should Ben evolve the Kithkin Militia Deck?|
|Straight Kithkin, with no sub-theme.||2947||33.8%|
|Kithkin and Giants. Giants like helping their little friends!||2697||30.9%|
|Kithkin / Soldiers. Let's see how big those guys can get!||2400||27.5%|
|Kithkin and Rebels. This would reallllly gut the Kithkin Theme deck though!||679||7.8%|
So we'll be evolving the Kithkin Militia Theme Deck with the focus being mostly on Kithkin themselves. We want to turn our starting stack of sixty cards into a finely-honed deck capable of winning a majority of games. In order to get there, we'll definitely have to cut out some of the chaff and bring in substitutes from the sideline.
Before we get started, let me share with you the following e-mail I got a week ago:
Dear Ben Bleiweiss,
When you're building and playing decks for Building on a Budget, you actually have an account with all the cards on it already, don't you?
You mostly eyeball and assume that the commons and uncommons won't be too much of a problem. Here's my challenge to you, in one of your upcoming columns, assume you start with an empty account and then try to collect all the cards needed. Discuss how much time and money you actually ended up spending. And not just for the initial decklist, keep track of how much time and money would be needed to track down the changes you make as well. I think it would be a most enlightening column.
Well Zachary, you are correct—normally the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast provide my BuildingonaBudget account with a foursome of every card available online. Whenever I swap cards in and out of a deck, I check multiple sources online to see the price of the cards being changed, so that I am sure that the cards I am using remain in budget. However, you are also correct in saying that I normally do not have to put the time into tracking down these cards—they are already in my account.
So imagine my surprise when I logged into my account to start playtesting for this week, and found that, oops! someone had forgotten to load up any of the Lorwyn cards into my account! This left me with three choices:
Don't write my column this week, and let Scott Johns and Kelly Digges take turns playing "Human Piñata" with my strung-up body.
Switch this column with another one that didn't involve Lorwyn cards, which would make the "Reality Fracture" riots of 2006 seems like a cakewalk.
Dedicate this column to one Zachary at Iowa State, jump onto my personal Magic Online account, and write this column by buying and tracking down all of the cards needed on my own time and money!
Well Zach, thankfully for you I don't like having my body smashed repeatedly with large sticks, or being chased down the street by people with pitchforks, so this one's for you bud!
My first stop was the Magic Online store, where I bought the Kithkin Militia theme deck. This took about one minute to do, and the deck arrived in my account in under 15 seconds from time of purchase.
Total Cost: 1 theme deck
Total Time: 1 minute, 15 seconds
Although I knew that certain cards were not going to make the first cut out of the deck (Goldmeadow Dodger, anyone?), I wanted to get a feel for how the deck played, and to see if some of the marginal cards (Kithkin Harbinger, Surge of Thoughtweft) were better than I gave them credit for in my initial evaluation.
Game 1: LaurensDaddy (Blue-Black Tappers)
He gets Royal Assassin and Frozen Solid, but I put the Assassin into the Oblivion Ring, and start swinging with two-power Kithkin. He kills a couple of my guys with Sudden Death and Tendrils of Corruption. I then get Kithkin Harbinger, and use it to fetch Thoughtweft Trio (championing the Harbinger itself). When the Trio bite the dust, I then can immediately fetch up a Changeling Hero. My Hero goes all the way.
He starts with a Stinkdrinker Daredevil on turn three and starts dropping huge Giants from turn four onwards. I manage to stabilize the ground with Thoughtweft Trio, Wizened Cenn, and a Knight of Meadowgrain (9 points of first strike defense) until he gets out Hamletback Goliath and follows it with a Thundercloud Shaman for five. This kills all of my creatures (Wizened Cenn dies, making my Thoughtweft Trio a 5/5 with 5 points of damage, causing them to die). I manage to stay alive a turn by using Crib Swap to take out his humongous Hamletback Goliath, but I die a short turn later.
Game 3: Mossflowr (Elementals)
He's playing every color except for white, and he gets down a Flamekin Spitfire on turn four. I have out Wizened Cenn, Kithkin Greatheart, and Goldmeadow Harrier equipped with Runed Stalactite. He starts dropping Æthersnipes, and I am forced to put Flameskin Spitfire into the Oblivion Ring to keep him from taking out my entire team (he is now at eight mana, and can start shooting down all my guys one by one).
I get my team back onto the board, and start racing him with Kithkin Greatheart, now equipped by Runed Stalactite (making him a 5/4 first striker—2/1, +1/+1 and first strike because he is now a Giant, +1/+1 from the Stalactite, and +1/+1 from Wizened Cenn). Goldmeadow Harrier keeps Mossflowr's Elementals from being able to attack or block effectively, and my small guys go all the way.
It's time for the first round of changes, and so far I know which cards have performed well—Goldmeadow Harrier has kept my opponents from being able to engage in combat well. Knight of Meadowgrain has been a great weenie creature the time I've drawn him, Wizened Cenn has made my combat math work out terrifically, and Oblivion Ring is a "get-out-of-jail-free" card in case I'm stymied on offense.
To make room for them, I take out some of the more dodgy (get it! Goldmeadow Dodger? Get it? Ok, put away those piñata sticks, folks) cards from the deck. None of my guys is really large enough to take advantage of Battle Mastery. Kinsbaile Balloonist is a Limited trick, and Pollen Lullaby is more for a defensive deck. I also cut a Plains (since most of my guys cost two or one mana), and a Shields of Velis Vel (Surge of Thoughtweft seems much better for this deck, which is offensively oriented).
In: 1 Goldmeadow Harrier, 3 Knight of Meadowgrain, 1 Oblivion Ring, 2 Wizened Cenn
Out: 1 Battle Mastery, 1 Goldmeadow Dodger, 2 Kinsbaile Balloonist, 1 Plains, 1 Pollen Lullaby, 1 Shields of Velis Vel
Cost for Changes: 7 tickets (1.5 for Wizened Cenn, 1.25 for Knight of Meadowgrain, .4 for Oblivion Ring, .1 for Goldmeadow Harrier)
Time for Changes: 6 minutes
Total Cost: 1 theme deck + 7 tickets
Total Time: 7 minutes, 15 seconds
Game 4: Thordonn (Merfolk)
He keeps a one-land hand with a bunch of two-drops and never draws a land. This is why I try to mulligan any hands with only one land—even though the rest of your hand looks great, if you don't draw a land, you just plain lose. If you're running 24 lands in a deck, and you have 53 cards left in your deck (60 cards minus your original seven), you have less than a 50% chance of drawing a land on your first draw phase (53 cards left, versus 23 lands left). To make this point, I get Goldmeadow Stalwart, Wizened Cenn and Goldmeadow Harrier, and they go all the way quickly.
Game 5: chhaymam (White-Green Enchantress)
He gets Seal of Primordium and puts Griffin Guide on a Scryb Ranger. I Crib Swap the Ranger, which doesn't create a 2/2 flying token (since Crib Swap removes from the game, and removed-from-the-game creatures don't hit the graveyard). He then puts Verdant Embrace on his 1/1 changeling token. I throw the token into the Oblivion Ring, removing it from the game. He attempts to use Seal of Primordium to kill my Ring, but this accomplishes nothing. Token creatures that are removed from the game cease to exist. This leaves him with only 2/2 Yavimaya Enchantress (would have been 4/4 with the Seal and the Ring on the board), and I am able to run him over with my 3/3 guys (thanks to Wizened Cenn).
Remember game 4? Well, I don't listen to my own advice, and I get stuck at one land. I was seduced by a first-turn Goldmeadow Stalwart (with a Wizened Cenn in hand), but I fail to draw land number two until turn four. By this time, he's played Boreal Druid, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, and Elvish Promenade to have six Elves in play. They are followed by back-to-back Imperious Perfect, one of which I manage to Oblivion Ring. My feeble attempts to stay alive with Knight of Meadowgrain are met with Eyeblight's Ending and Terror, and I die in a rush of 2/2 Elves.
Game 7: mmmbeer (???)
This isn't a very fun game. I triple-mulligan (three hands with only one land), end up with a hand with no lands, and concede. I definitely want to add that 24th Plains back in, and get a few more Goldmeadow Stalwarts into the deck.
This change is easy—Goldmeadow Stalwart is essentially Isamaru, Hound of Konda for a Kithkin Weenie deck, and those two guys were an auto-include in any White Weenie deck of years past. To make room for them, I take out a pair of Kithkin Greatheart (which still are viable with the number of changelings in the deck), the Kithkin Harbinger (this deck is heading towards redundancy, and not a toolbox format, which makes tutoring for one specific Kithkin an ill-fated proposition), and the Runed Stalactite (if I want more equipment later, I'd probably be better off with the old standby of Loxodon Warhammer).
Cost for Changes: 3 tickets (1 for Goldmeadow Stalwart)
Time for Changes: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
Total Cost: 1 theme deck + 10 tickets
Total Time: 9 minutes, 45 seconds
Game 8: solomoriah (Red-Green)
This game showcased the power of Kithkin Militia! I get a first-turn Goldmeadow Stalwart, follow it with a second-turn Knight of Meadowgrain, and then have a third-turn Stalwart and Wizened Cenn. This leaves me with 11 power worth of creatures on the board on turn three (!!!), and I finish the game on turn five.
Turn one: Goldmeadow Stalwart
Turn two: Swing for 2 (18), Knight of Meadowgrain
Turn three: Goldmeadow Stalwart (need to play this before the Wizened Cenn, since the Cenn is the only other Kithkin in my hand), Wizened Cenn (need to play this before combat to get my guys their +1/+1 vitamins), swing for 6 (12)
Turn four: Swing for 11 (1)
Turn five: Overkill
Game 9: The Fist (Black-White)
He gets turn-one Icatian Javelineers, and I answer with Goldmeadow Stalwart and Wizened Cenn. He gets stuck on two lands, and I drop another Stalwart and a Goldmeadow Harrier. This keeps his Javelineers from being able to block and ping, enabling me to swing with the rest of the team and kill him quickly.
Game 10: Kargdane (Blue-Black Snow)
If you've been following the coverage of State Championships or Grand Prix–Krakow, you'll recognize this deck as one of the top-tier Standard decks out there right now. You can see the list played by Matej Zatlkaj, Top 8 Finisher at Grand Prix–Krakow this past weekend, here.
I get turn-one Goldmeadow Stalwart, turn-two Goldmeadow Harrier, turn-three Wizened Cenn, turn-four Goldmeadow Harrier and Knight of Meadowgrain. I have a feeling that his deck doesn't have any mass removal, and is a straight copy of the version played at the Grand Prix, so I don't need to worry about overcommitting to the board—I just have to outrace him drawing Shriekmaw. Well, I am able to tap down any blockers he throws out over the next few turns and run him over with 3/3 creatures. Shadowmage Infiltrator and Venser, Shaper Savant can only delay my win, as he can't keep a creature untapped to attack or block with.
I get a slow start, with only Avian Changeling on the board. He plays Rune Snag on my hardcast Goldmeadow Stalwart (just drawn) on turn four, and then follows with Tidings. I play Cloudgoat Ranger, and he tries to answer with Serra Sphinx. I put his flyer under the Oblivion Ring, and he's dead two swings later. This is the first time I drew Cloudgoat Ranger in eleven games, and it was just as good as I thought it would be—6 power for five mana.
Game 12: ziggy97132 (Kithkin Mirror)
I get Goldmeadow Stalwart, followed by Wizened Cenn (which is quickly becoming my favorite play in all of Magic), Kithkin Greatheart, and another Wizened Cenn. My first Cenn trades with his Blade of the Sixth Pride. He gets down Dolmen Gate, Windbrisk Heights, Militia's Pride and Runed Stalactite before the game is over, but his creature-based permanents are no match for my actual creatures, and I run him over on turn five with Surge of Thoughtweft.
Game 13: briefcandle (Mono-Green Scryb & Force)
It's a very back-and-forth game with him getting down double Spectral Force and me getting Goldmeadow Harrier, double Changeling Hero, and Wizened Cenn with some other 2/2s. The game is decided when I misclick and block a Spectral Force with 7 power worth of creatures instead of 8, allowing him to kill two of my guys for free. It was actually a shame that the game ended this way, because we had a real back-and-forth of trading off creatures until that point. One note I make—once again I drew Cloudgoat Ranger, and it was amazing to drop a 3/3 Giant and three 2/2 Kithkin (thanks to Wizened Cenn) to the board all at once.
I'm extremely happy with Cloudgoat Ranger, and also very happy with my power/toughness enhancing effects. There hasn't been any one given MVP for the deck so far (everyone has contributed very well), but Wizened Cenn just seems fantastic—there are very few lords out there at two mana (Lord of Atlantis? Bad Moon?), and one that pumps your creatures plus is on curve for your drop (two for a 2/2) is fan-utterly-tastic!
In fact, I seem to be winning a lot of games by making my creatures larger than my opponent's creatures (and therefore harder to block), so I decide to go with some Glorious Anthems for the deck. I also like Cloudgoat Ranger better than Changeling Hero, so I swap out the two changelings in the deck for Rangers numbers three and four.
This is an extremely long game, in which he gets double Wrath and triple Calciderm and recurs Calciderm four times with Whitemane Lion and Stonecloaker. I get triple Glorious Anthem and double Wizened Cenn, and between those and Surge of Thoughtweft, I make blocking an impossibility for him. Early in the game he gets me down to 1 life with judicious use of Temporal Isolation on my Knight of Meadowgrain, but I have Oblivion Ring to take care of his Isolation, and start swinging back with my 5/5 lifelinked first striker, allowing me to damage race. Eventually he has a couple of turns where Calciderm is not on the board, and I am able to get back up to a comfortable 15 life.
After a long, drawn-out game, I finally come out on top by dropping only one creature to the board at a time (after his double Wrath), and making him deal with that guy before dropping another one—this way, I don't lose card advantage to his Wrath of God. This strategy works, as any guy I drop to the board is at minimum a 4/4 creature (Glorious Anthems), and even though he Disenchants one of the Anthems, my Knight of the Meadowgrains go all the way by the end of the game.
So far, so good. I'm extremely happy with how the deck is working so far, and I'm able to beat both control and other weenie decks pretty effectively. My losses (that didn't involve mana screw) have been to midrange decks with huge creatures—Giants and Scryb & Force. I think that Kithkin Militia can have better game against those as well. There is still room for tweaking in the deck to make it even better, so next week we'll take a look at the changes we can make to give Kithkin Militia more of a chance against large creature decks...without sacrificing the game it has against weenie and control decks.
See you all in seven!