Speaking of deckbuilding evolutions, last week I decided to draft myself a Golgari deck as a starting point for a Standard deck. I ended up liking the Mortipede-Gaze of the Gorgon interaction so much that I used it as the major theme for my ensuing deck. After five games and a few card changes, here is where I left off:
People posted a lot of good feedback on the Boards with regards to cards that don't fit the Mortipede idea along with other cards that do fit. Many of these ideas matched my own thoughts as well. Before I can make changes, though, I want to see how this new configuration plays online.
Game 6: Black/Blue/Green Milling
Game 7: Green/Black Doubling Season
Another fun game, and another one I lost. I had an early Sakura-Tribe Elder to match his Elves of Deep Shadow and Civic Wayfinder. My first Mortipede died to Keening Banshee, and my second Mortipede died to Last Gasp. I put out another Elder, then Trophy Hunter to kill his Banshee. Brainspoil killed my Hunter, but I brought it back with Vigor Mortis. He played Doubling Season, then played his own Vigor Mortis to revive his Banshee and kill my third Elder. I had enough mana to kill his 4/4 Banshee and attack. I followed that up with Strands of Undeath to empty his hand. He topdecked Moldervine Cloak on his Wayfinder and we stared at each other for awhile. My next two draws were land, though, and his next two draws were Fists of Ironwood (four tokens) and Shambling Shell (two counters). I died with him at six life.
Game 8: White/Red Samurai
Game 9: Mono-Blue Control
My opponent mulliganed to four cards, then got stuck on two lands for several turns. When he tapped out to play Kraken's Eye, I dropped Golgari Rotwurm. After I hit him once with the Rotwurm, I tried Strands of Undeath on it but he had found a third land for Hinder. A fourth Island showed up, bringing Mystic Restraints, so I sacrificed my Rotwurm. Helldozer hit the table next. The Dozer hit my opponent once, twice, and when he tapped out for Higure, the Still Wind to block, I had Disembowel for the win.
Game 10: Black/Blue Ninja
I played a quick Golgari Signet, then Greater Mossdog, then Golgari Germination. My opponent had two Dimir Signets and Dark Confidant. I killed it with Last Gasp, then played Sakura-Tribe Elder. He played a second Confidant. I was sort of hoping he would attack with it so that I could sacrifice my Elder for a Saproling token to block, but he never fell for it and instead drew two land off of his Confidant. Ninja of the Deep Hours showed up next while I played Trophy Hunter (I sure draw him a lot for only one copy in my deck... and I still have barely drawn Gaze of the Gorgon). He double-blocked my Hunter, but I Disemboweled his Confidant before damage was assigned. That was pretty much game, and my next attack sealed the victory.
Roaring to Life
Okay, the deck is still winning, which is a nice bonus. As odd as it may sound, though, it's not winning in the ways I would want it to win. Game 8 is the only one of the bunch in which my deck played the way I had hoped it would when settling on Mortipede as an idea. The other two victories were because of cards I consider pretty non-essential, and my losses were to cards that should probably be in my deck. Time, I'd say, for a change or two...
OUT: 1 Junktroller
The two problems with Junktroller are that it can't attack and has zero power. Yes, it helps stall while I find the mana for Mortipede and its tricks, and yes, it can help reload my deck with cards like Last Gasp and Gaze of the Gorgon. Yet this is pretty minor compensation for a four-mana, non-flying, 0/6 defender that will never kill opposing attackers. Will-o'-the-Wisp provides more reliable defense for one mana, and Dancing Scimitar is both more intimidating and able to attack for the same cost. Neither of these cards feel like a good fit for the deck I'm making, which means that Junktroller is definitely out. As for the graveyeard-restocking stuff, Recollect would be an overall better card for this effect if I feel I have room for it.
OUT: 1 Bramble Elemental
Bramble Elemental is a tougher card to drop than you might think. I've fantasized through seven draft games and ten Standard games about enchanting my Elemental with Strands of Undeath. It's never happened, which is no surprise given that there's only one Elemental and three Strands. So now I have to decide whether to add more auras and additional copies of Bramble Elemental or drop my lone copy. Both Fists of Ironwood and Moldervine Cloak sound juicy for a Mortipede deck, and for about an hour I thought this was the direction I would go. The thing is, my deck already has a pretty high mana curve, so adding cards of five or more mana sounds suspiciously like a death knell. It's easiest to drop one Elemental than do a bunch of deck gymnastics to have it succeed in my deck. Moldervine Cloak, though... Yummy. I may have to come back to this idea.
OUT: 3 Stinkweed Imp
Could I really be dropping Stinkweed Imp? The Imp is a strong Standard card for defense and for filling my graveyard, and one I find myself using in a bunch of different deck ideas. What I'm realizing more and more, though, is that I'm afraid to use dredge with this deck. I don't want Mortipede to get milled into my graveyard, or Last Gasp, or Vigor Mortis, or Gaze of the Gorgon, or Strands of Undeath, or... You get the idea. Dredge, I'm realizing, in general is sort of a scary proposition for my deck, and a dredge cost of five is darned near terrifying. The question for me is whether this spells doom for the other dredge cards in the deck, Shambling Shell and Greater Mossdog. See? I told you two weeks ago that whatever Golgari deck I made wouldn't be the normal dredge-focused fare.
IN: 4 Shinen of Life's Roar
IN: 1 Vigor Mortis
I keep coming back to the fact that it was the first card that I picked in my draft deck and that every time I play it I smile. Using it on Shinen of Life's Roar sounds pretty good as well. I suppose the deck might start to get crowded enough to make Vigor Mortis unseemly, but right now I want to draw more copies rather than less.
My deck now looks like this:
Now I'll hop back into the Casual Decks room of Magic Online to see how the deck performs.
Game 11: Blue/Black Reanimator Control
Game 12: Black/Blue Dimir Mill
I guess it was a milling deck, since it used Circu, Dimir Lobotomist and Psychic Drain. Then again, it also used Umezawa's Jitte, so go figure. Anyway, I played a Sakura-Tribe Elder and Civic Wayfinder into play then got two Mortipedes countered by two Mana Leaks. My opponent played Circu and made me discard two cards via Consult the Necrosages. I topdecked Golgari Rotwurm and started attacking. After he Psychic Drained me for four, I drew Last Gasp to kill his legend. He played Jitte, I played Strands of Undeath to make him discard Mikokoro, Center of the Sea and Szadek, Lord of Secrets. Two more attacks and he was dead.
Game 13: White/Green Weenie
For the third straight game, I had a turn 2 Sakura-Tribe Elder. I killed his second-turn Selesnya Guildmage with Last Gasp, then cast Shambling Shell and Greater Mossdog. He made a Phytohydra, but I had another Last Gasp to kill it. After that, I enchanted my Mossdog with Strands of Undeath, making my opponent discard Lure(!) and Naturalize. I attacked with my Shell and Mossdog. He drew land. I attacked again, dropping him to four life. He drew, looked at his card, and conceded.
Game 14: White/Red Boros Weenie
He had a Sensei Golden-Tail and I had a Greater Mossdog. A Boros Swiftblade learned bushido while I enchanted my Mossdog with Strands of Undeath to hold it off. A Skyknight Legionnaire hit me, but as least I had stalled his ground attack. Things got better for me when I played Shinen of Life's Roar, then killed his Swiftblade and Sensei with Gaze of the Gorgon. A second Legionnaire joined the party, while I drew and played Mortipede. I hit him down to four life, praying for a Last Gasp. Instead I drew Vigor Mortis, which didn't help against his fliers so I died on his next attack. I guess Lure effects don't help as much when an opponent is using flying creatures with haste.
Game 15: Mono-White Token deck
Okay, so things are looking up. Strands of Undeath, Gaze of the Gorgon, and Lure critters are starting to play heavily into games. Right now I'm more certain about what I want to take out of the deck than what I want to add. Basically I'm going to look at taking out the cards that don't play into the Lure vibe and use those slots to patch a few holes I see in the deck. After that, I think that I will have nullified most of the “noise” distracting me from Mortipede and I'll be better able to decide what my deck needs to increase its winning percentage.
OUT: 1 Greater Mossdog
I sort of telegraphed this move earlier by saying that dredge has less of a place in my deck than most Golgari decks. Greater Mossdog is certainly a solid creature choice as Hill Giants go, but he's basically playing the role of filler in my deck, and while a 3/3 body is nice to have around, I can certainly do without more four-mana cards. Strands of Undeath, Gaze of the Gorgon, and Vigor Mortis all make Mortipede and Shinen of Life's Roar better. Greater Mossdog... not so much.
OUT: 2 Golgari Signet
Golgari Signet, Selesnya Signet, Gruul Signet, and Simic Signet have much less chance of being used in Constructed decks over their other guild counterparts. Why? Because any deck relying on Green automatically has access to the best mana-acceleration and fixing in the game. Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama's Reach, Llanowar Elves, Elves of Deep Shadow, Birds of Paradise, Utopia Tree, Rampant Growth, Farseek, Civic Wayfinder, etc. etc. etc. - These cards provide significant benefits other than just mana-acceleration and mana-fixing, either because they're creatures or because they thin land from your deck or both. I added the second Signet last week because I was only adding cards already in the deck and knew that I need some sort of mana-acceleration in a deck relying on expensive spells. Now I'm not worrying about such restrictions and can think about what mana-acceleration, if any, I want besides Sakura-Tribe Elder.
IN: 3 Civic Wayfinder
So why Civic Wayfinder? First, it has a respectable body for three mana, able to both attack and block with some effectiveness. This is important for a deck using auras and other effects that require me to attack and/or block with my creatures. Second, I'm almost guaranteed to reach four mana once I've successfully cast a Wayfinder, which isn't true for, say, Llanowar Elves or Rampant Growth. Finally, it has a comes-into-play effect that is a nice bonus for a deck using reanimation like Vigor Mortis and the other card I'm adding in this round of changes (see below). I'm guessing that between Sakura-Tribe Elder, Civic Wayfinder, and twenty-four land that I have plenty of mana to play my tricks. In fact, I may find myself mana-flooded now, which is something to watch.
OUT: 1 Golgari Germination
Golgari Germination actually has nice synergy with some of the cards I'm using. If my Lure creatures are going to die, it's comforting to get something back for them. Sakura-Tribe Elder gives me instant-speed blockers if I need them, and extra tokens are always a welcome addition to a deck hoping to win through creature damage. The problem is that Golgari Germination doesn't have enough synergy with my overall game plan. It doesn't fill a particular hole or need for the deck in the same way Civic Wayfinder does, nor does it directly benefit my Lure tactic. This makes the Germination a “nice to have” and “fun when it shows up” sort of card, but not something upon which I'm particularly relying.
OUT: 1 Golgari Rotwurm
IN: 2 Golgari Guildmage
This may be too preemptive, but I'm thinking that with all of the mana I'm likely to have access to that Golgari Guildmage will be a welcome addition to the deck. It directly enhances the effectiveness of my Lure creatures with both of its abilities, and it gives me something to cast early in the game. I also like that I'm upping the creature count in my deck since I'm still relying on cards like Strands of Undeath and Gaze of the Gorgon to not sit in my hand uselessly. If I like these two copies, I can easily see adding one or two more.
The deck feels like it's coming along. As I said, I feel like I've now gotten rid of the “noise” in the deck and can focus on maximizing its central themes.
Game 16: Green/Red Beatdown
My opponent had a Sakura-Tribe Scout and Sakura-Tribe Elder while I had Civic Wayfinder and Shambling Shell. He blocked my Wayfinder, then killed it with Shock after I put a +1/+1 counter on it. Both sides of the table were now clear. He filled the void with Sokenzan Bruiser while I played Mortipede, then enchanted it with Strands of Undeath. He blew his last card in hand - a Naturalize - to kill my Strands, and for awhile we beat on each other with our two creatures. I had a ton of land, so when I drew Golgari Guildmage, the game started to swing my way. Shambling Shell started recurring while the Guildmage kept adding counters to my Insect, and by the end of the game I had a 9/6 Mortipede and won.
Game 17: Green/White Selesnya tokens
I kept a hand with Shinen of Life's Roar, three Civic Wayfinders, Gaze of the Gorgon, a Forest and a Swamp. I missed my third land drop, but the good news was that my Shinen ate his Llanowar Elves and reminded my opponent that playing 1/1 guys wasn't a good idea. I think the Shinen paralyzed him, or at least stalled him long enough for me to find my third land and start pumping out Civic Wayfinders. He played Fists of Ironwood on my Shinen and killed it with both tokens, but I played Vigor Mortis. Sosuke, Son of Seshiro eventually killed my Shinen for good, but not before I had played all three Wayfinders, plus Shambling Shell and Mortipede. Neither Scatter the Seeds nor Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree would save him, and my opponent quickly lost.
Game 18: Green/Blue Aggro-Control
Oh man was this a cool game. He had a first-turn Traproot Kami while I had a Sakura-Tribe Elder, Civic Wayfinder, then Shinen of Life's Roar. My opponent played Trained Armodon, then put Fists of Ironwood on it, then drew some cards with Compulsive Research. I killed everything but the Armodon with Gaze of the Gorgon, then played Shambling Shell. He played Belltower Sphinx to block and I added a counter to my now 2/3 Shinen so it would survive. My last card in hand was Vigor Mortis, so I let him keep milling me via the Shinen and kept dredging up the Shell to add counters to it. Eventually I was low enough on life that I added a counter to make my Shinen a 4/5, then used Vigor Mortis on it to block his counterattack. He attacked, I killed something (I forget what) with my Shell, then made my Shinen 5/6. My opponent now had his Sphinx, another Traproot Kami, and Carven Caryatid to my big Shinen and Wayfinder. With the Vigor Mortis out of my hand, I decided to draw instead of get my Shell, and I drew Gaze of the Gorgon. Down went his blockers, and my Wayfinder dropped him to eight life. I was pretty confident that I could now kill whatever he played as long as he wasn't using bounce in his deck. Apparently he wasn't, because he drew a card and then conceded.
Game 19: Mono-Green Snakes
Game 20: Black/Blue Ninja
When he put a first-turn Plague Beetle on the table, I knew something peculiar was happening. It all made sense once he ninjutsued his Beetle into a Skullsnatcher the following turn. I played two Forests and a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Thankfully he attacked with only his Beetle on the next turn, so I blocked it with the Elder, then fetched a Swamp. A Civic Wayfinder hit play for me next, but it died to Last Gasp. I killed his Skullsnatcher with my own Last Gasp, then played another Wayfinder. Strands of Undeath hit two cards in his hand, but Nekrataal killed my Wayfinder despite its Regeneration. He had two more cards in hand, so I cast a second Strands on his Grayscaled Gharial. Two Mortipedes followed for me, one of which died to the blocking Gharial. My Mortipede and his Nekrataal traded attacks for awhile, then I played Shambling Shell. The Shell allowed my 'Pede to survive a blocking Ravenous Rats, but unfortunately his Nekrataal became Mistblade Shinobi to bounce my 5/2 Insect. I replayed my Mortipede and Shambling Shell, and my opponent mistakenly recast his Nekrataal, killing his Shinobi. Three +1/+1 counters later, I had a 7/4 Mortipede that couldn't die to Last Gasp. Two attacks with it and I won.
Now that's more like it! Sure I had another five-game winning streak, which is nice to see. More importantly, unlike my first five wins, this time I was winning on my own terms. The deck is now performing how I want it to perform, making my opponents' lives miserable with Lure effects and creature enhancers. Also, despite the fact that my deck has changed considerably, I'm still keeping several of the peculiar choices begun in my Golgari draft deck. For example, I was thinking that Shambling Shell would get cut next, but it proved itself too valuable during that last batch of changes. Last Gasp has also held off Putrefy admirably.
Sadly for Strands of Undeath, however, its time has come.
OUT: 3 Strands of Undeath
What I've noticed about Strands of Undeath in my games is that, yes indeed, it costs four mana. Strands effectively costs five mana, actually, since I would need to be desperate to cast it without leaving Regeneration mana open. Too often my Strands-enchanted creature dies somehow, whether it's to Last Gasp, Nekrataal, Putrefy, Faith's Fetters, or the like. Regeneration just isn't as great as it once was. Also too often, I dredge a Strands into the graveyard never to be seen again. I appreciate its discard quite a bit, but it also seems like about one mana too expensive for me to happy with it. All of that said, it would certainly stay in my deck if I didn't think a vastly superior card could replace it (insert foreshadowing here).
OUT: 1 Gaze of the Gorgon
Gaze, on the other hand, has proven its worth. It's messed with an opponent's side of the table or regenerated a key creature often enough that I want it in my final deck. The problem is that it also costs four mana, and also has a tendency to vanish into my graveyard. It's still a mighty cool trick for a Lure deck to have but, like I said, I think I've found something slightly better for a lower cost.
IN: 4 Moldervine Cloak
In all seriousness, I think the answer in my Lure deck is not to necessarily make my creatures regenerate, but to make them instead a lot tougher and meaner. Equipment is one solution, but I like that my deck isn't currently using any artifacts. Besides, Moldervine Cloak is a Golgari card and this is a Golgari deck. Its dredge cost is relatively minor and unlikely to mill my critical cards away. It also allows me very realistically to play a Shinen on turn 2 and a Cloak on turn 3. That's a 4/5 attacker with Lure on the third turn, for those keeping score at home.
A couple other housekeeping items..
OUT: 1 Helldozer
I think I would have kept Helldozer through to the end simply because it was one of the two rares I happened to draft, but the Message Boards last week were surprisingly down on him. It's true that he does nothing in particular to help the Lure concept except as a big body, and his land destruction ability has no other support in the deck. I like him because it's fun to dredge him into my graveyard and then play a surprise Vigor Mortis, but that doesn't occur very often. No, dropping Helldozer means that I have now banished all of the Big Fat Fellas that made my draft deck so potent. The transformation is complete; My draft deck is now a Mortipede/Gaze of the Gorgon inspired Golgari deck.
Interestingly, dropping Helldozer means that my decklist is a Rare-Free Zone. That's the first time any deck evolution has whittled away its rares without replacing them. Neat.
OUT: 1 Trophy Hunter
Some people will notice that Trophy Hunter has been huge - both literally and figuratively - in several games. For a deck like mine that can generate a lot of mana, the Hunter is a superb answer for fliers. The question, though, is whether I've lost all that often to fliers. A simple Last Gasp or Disembowel helps out at instant speed, never mind the fact that I can remove many non-haste fliers with Lure creatures. Right now I would rather tighten the deck in other ways, shift Trophy Hunter into the sideboard, then decide whether I regret my decision. I may very well decide that my deck needs a maindeck answer to flying creatures, but right now I think there are more significant holes.
IN: 2 Golgari Guildmage
You wouldn't know it from reading my most recent game logs, but I was frequently praying to draw a Golgari Guildmage. My deck has been very good at stockpiling land since the addition of Civic Wayfinder, and with five or more mana the Guildmage makes my deck ridiculously good. Going to kill my guys? Use its Black ability. Thinking about blocking or, better yet, do you have to block? Use its Green ability. With ten mana - something I've hit routinely - things get even sillier. Also note that a Guildmage makes a very fine 5/5 third-turn attacker as well.
Also, one small adjustment to my mana with the inclusion of Moldervine Cloak and the emphasis on early Green mana:
OUT: 2 Swamp
IN: 2 Forest
The deck I'll pick up and play next week looks like this:
Is the deck finished? I don't think so. In fact, here is a list of the things currently bugging me (no pun intended) about my Mortipede-inspired deck:
- It can't deal with opposing artifacts and enchantments. At all.
- It seems ridiculous to not use the best uncommon in Ravnica: Putrefy, and yet Last Gasp has worked really well.
- I'm worrying about dredge again with both Shambling Shell and Moldervine Cloak in the deck and wish I had more ways to take advantage of cards in my graveyard. Right now there's Vigor Mortis, Golgari Guildmage, and... that's it.
- Speaking of Vigor Mortis, I'd like to fit in a fourth copy without dropping the overall creature count if possible.
- Will fliers be a problem and, if so, how much of one?
Those are concerns for another day, however. A day like, say, next Monday. Until then, speak up on the Message Boards about what you think should or shouldn't happen with the deck. As always, your feedback is very important to me and I always enjoy reading it.
Think hard and have fun,