Thank you to those who clicked on one of those links – but I have a feeling that some newcomers might be a little lost. That's all right! Let me summarize last week's article. I built a Red/Black/Blue deck that uses the combination of Undying Flames and Autochthon Wurm to deal a quick 15 damage to my opponent's dome. The deck had a lot of synergy, such as Compulsive Research plus discarding fatties plus Zombify, and Stinkweed Imp plus dredge plus Zombify, and Undying Flames plus Sensei's Divining Top.
The deck had a strong showing last week, and I heard back from several players who had built the deck – so far it seems to be a runaway success! Here's a copy of last week's last copy of the last decklist, when last we left off:
As you'll remember, the first version of the deck was Black/Red and featured very few ways to get to Undying Flames, to get creatures into the graveyard to reanimate, or to win in general. The revised version added in Blue for card drawing and discard effects.
This week, I'm going to approach the evolution of the deck a little differently. You see, when I first built the deck, I had two different versions of the deck in mind – both of which operated on the same principle of Undying Flames/Autochthon Wurm, but each of which took vastly different approaches in reaching that goal. By the end of this column, we'll have two decks that, while they have the same basis, operate in vastly, vastly different ways.
Before we get to the parallel-universe Exploding Wurms! deck, let me say that the feedback I've received, both in the forums and through e-mail, have been invaluable towards improving Building on a Budget. One of the most important parts of the deckbuilding process is being able to keep your mind open to ideas – not only in regards to which cards you use, but from suggestions that others throw out there.
In that spirit, all deck changes this week were taken directly from suggestions from you, my readers, and have been sprinkled with a dusting of Bleiweissian sensibility (or should that be in-sensibility?)
Zombie Nixon said: “I like the deck a lot, but it occurs to me that there are still changes to be made. Like this one: drop Black altogether. Drop it like de-pinned grenade. Make the deck straight U/R. The only two black cards you use now are zombify and stinkweed imp, and while they've probably proven their worth, they'd be better off as additional burn, Mana Leak, and some Ethereal Ushers to transmute for flames.”
So that's just what I did.
This was a change I had contemplated during my first round of testing. Wasn't the main point of the deck to blow people up using Undying Flames? Blue had proven a lot more useful than Black as far as getting cards into my graveyard for reanimation, but what if I did away with the reanimation theme entirely?
The first change was to the mana base – seven Black producers out, and seven Blue/Red producers in. I re-added Seething Song to the deck, as my focus was now to get to the Undying Flames combo as quickly as possible. Seething Song also allows me to power out a quick Bloodfire Colossus (which, did you know, costs eight to cast?). Telling Time served the same purpose – it digs three cards deeper into the deck, plus it can set up Undying Flames if you've got eight mana to spare the turn you cast the Flames.
Unfortunately, this version of the deck didn't work very well. Witness:
Game #1: Punjoke (Mono-G Snake beats)
If the Seething Songs in my hand had been Zombifies, I could have gotten the Colossus (the guy from Apoclaypse who costs Red, Red, Six) into play on turn 4, making this a much different game. Alas, this was not to be.
Game #2: MadPiper05 (W/R Searing Flesh/Samurai)
Here's a little factoid – it doesn't matter how well you build your deck, if you play horribly, you will lose. Don't ever let yourself go on autopilot like I did this game – I cast Undying Flames, doing fifteen with Autochthon Wurm. I reordered the top of my deck, and put the second Autochthon Wurm in the wrong place. Instead of killing MadPiper05, I did two damage to him with a Flamed-Pyroclasm, and then drew Wurm #2. He then proceeded to kill me with Honden of Cleansing Fire and Searing Flesh over multiple turns – I never got enough damage out of my deck to keep up from that point onwards.
Record: 0-2 (Though I should have been 1-1, but it was my bad.)
Game #3: Goldenfoon (R/W JMS's Lifegain Thingy)
The non-Black version of this deck is seriously lacking in a plan B, as I am able to discard Wurm with Compulsive Research, but I end up getting bashed too quickly by a Sunhome Enforcer with a Vulshok Morningstar on it. To add insult to injury, Goldenfoon had an active Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion that ended the game before I could get mobilized at all.
This is where I stopped with the non-reanimation strategy. Unless I got Undying Flames, my deck had no chance to win – which made all of my large creatures drawn into virtually dead draws, just like in the first version of the deck (remember, the Black/Red one). The only use for a drawn Autochthon Wurm is an easy discard choice when I tap Thought Courier – and that minimizes the overall utility and combos possible with the deck.
Ok, so detour #1 was a bust – no biggy! If you don't try, you never know – and I definitely felt that the B/R/U version of the deck was superior to both the B/R and U/R versions of the deck.
Quite a few people made the suggestion that I shift the deck away from B/R/U and shift it towards G/W. The reason they gave? Congregation at Dawn. Congregation lets me theoretically set up the kill as a two-card combo. Here's how it works:
- Cast Congregation at Dawn at the end of my opponent's turn. Grab three creatures – two Autochthon Wurm, and one of anything else. Put the anything else on top of my library, with the two Wurms underneath it.
- Draw the random creature, and then cast Undying Flames for 15.
- Undying Flames triggers during my upkeep, doing another 15 damage from the other Wurm.
This approach had a lot of merit, plus who am I to argue with my readers? I rebuilt Exploding Wurms! from the ground up. Here's what I came up with!
The core of the deck remains the same – cast Undying Flames to throw Autochthon Wurm (or other large creatures/spells) at my opponent. To this effect, many cards in the deck remained unchanged – Autochthon Wurm, Undying Flames, and Sensei's Divining Top (to order cards both before and after the Flames) are all still present.
The rest – a mystery to be unraveled!
The first additions I made to the deck were Congregation at Dawn. This was the most suggested card to add to the deck, and it'd be pretty silly if I changed colors to accommodate Congregation, and then didn't play it! My playtesting with the non-reanimator version of Exploding Wurms! made me gun shy about removing ways to get creatures from the graveyard to play, so Zombify stayed in the deck as well. I also liked the interaction with Stinkweed Imp and Sensei's Divining Top/Zombify, plus the Imp is a way to stall the game a turn or two in order to get the combo going.
This presented a problem though – suddenly the deck was four colors. In fact, not only did it require four colors, but some of the mana requirements were getting out of hand. Undying Flames requires double-Red mana, Congregation at Dawn double-Green and single-White. Well, I'm playing Green now, right? Time to add in a budget deck-builder's favorite mana fixers: Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach. These two cards should help smooth the mana base a lot, plus they work well with Sensei's Divining Top. If I want to see three new cards, these two mana-fixers/accelerators allow me, at worst, to shuffle up my deck.
I also wanted to change up the creature base slightly. The last version ran six creatures – three copies of Autochthon Wurm and three copies of Bloodfire Colossus (for a total of twenty-four mana of Bloodfire Colossi!). Since I was now playing a lot less Red and a smattering of White, I figured I could add in a couple of guys that I had a possibility to cast in a long game. Out went the (eight mana) Bloodfire Colossus, and in came two copies of Blazing Archon and one copy of Razia, Boros Archangel.
Why Razia and Archon? One of the strengths of Bloodfire Colossus (in its eight-mana glory) was its dual ability to both clear the board, and get my opponent within a single Autochthon Wurm-fuelled Undying Flames in one fell swoop. Both Razia and Archon discourage or outright prevent my opponent from attacking. In addition, Razia allows me to attack the turn it is reanimated, making for a similar lifeswing to a reanimation/activation of Bloodfire Colossus (which, instead of costing nine mana for casting and activating, costs five mana instead thanks to Zombify).
One of the major problems I found with Bloodfire Colossus (who I hear costs eight) was that it was a popular target for Pillory of the Sleepless and Faith's Fetters. This kept it from being able to block, with the latter of the two forcing an activation of the Colossus in most cases. Blazing Archon can be neutralized all day long by auras, but as long as it is in play, my opponents can't attack. Plus, it's a 5/6 flyer, making it a short clock in a short game.
The initial build of the Exploding Wurms! deck, back when it was R/B, had two major weaknesses – it was vulnerable to a weenie rush, and it had no way to discard cards. Blue solved that problem thanks to Compulsive Research, Thought Courier, and Pyroclasm, but the Green Exploding Wurms! deck wasn't going to have access to Blue mana. In addition, access to Red was a lot more limited, so Pyroclasms would be less reliable in the new build. How could I solve these problems?
Sakura-Tribe Elder helps a little, because it can usually block for a turn, stalling at least one creature. I still have Stinkweed Imps as well, but neither of these guys solves the getting-creatures-I've-drawn-into-the-graveyard-to-be-reanimated problem I originally faced. I did a search of every card available in Standard right now, and found my solution:
Peace of Mind was a perfect card for this deck – it allows me to get my creatures into the graveyard for Zombify. I extends my life total by three for each card in my hand, allowing me more of a chance to survive an early creature rush. It enables me to toss Stinkweed Imp into my graveyard in case I need to dredge. Best of all, it gives me something to do with the cards in my hand after I've cast Undying Flames – I can still discard each card I've drawn for three life, since activating Peace of Mind is not a spell.
The only other change I made to the deck was to swap Signets for Fellwar Stone. I figured that since I was four colors now, Fellwar Stone would have more general utility than any one specific Signet. In addition, it let me be able to have the play of turn 1 Sensei's Divining Top, turn 2 Fellwar Stone/activate Top – Signets are not capable of this start.
Before I shuffled up for my first game, I had three major questions about this deck:
- Would the mana base be able to support the deck? You'll notice I'm running all basic lands. This is because I want to be certain that I can search out the lands I need with Kodama's Reach and Sakura-Tribe Elder. However, Black/double-Green/White (or triple-White, if you count Blazing Archon)/double-Red might be a bit much to ask from a single deck.
- Would Peace of Mind be enough of a substitute for both Compulsive Research and Thought Courier, as far as discard goes? Would Sakura-Tribe Elder plus Kodama's Reach be sufficient replacements for Thought Courier and Compulsive Research as far as accelerating the deck goes? The old version accelerated card quality through card drawing – the new version accelerated through mana development.
- Would Congregation at Dawn be any good, given that it's almost useless in this deck except as a combo enabler?
Shoot with Gelectrode (1 damage)
Lava Spike (4 damage, Gelectrode untaps)
Shoot with Gelectrode (5 damage)
Tap Plains with Gigadrowse (Gelectrode untaps), shoot with Gelectrode (6 damage)
Glacial Ray (8 damage, Gelectrode untaps), shoot with Gelectrode (9 damage)
Attack with 7/3 Dragonauts (16 damage)
Come on people! I'm the one who is supposed to be doing fifteen damage in one turn, not my opponents!
Thankfully, I'm in the mid-twenties life total before the attack, thanks to Peace of Mind. I kill Dragonauts with Kodama's Reach (off the Flames), and then discard Stinkweed Imp to gain three life and dredge away my top cards. I'm at five life, with only the Imp in my hand, when Cixelsid untaps, and plays Ire of Kaminari for six. He then shoots me twice with Gelectrode.
I still win this game. I activate Sensei's Divining Top three times – once to order the top three cards of my library, in response to draw a card, and in response to order the top three cards again. This enables me to look at my library to see if I want to dredge Stinkweed Imp (I did), dredge the Imp (to discard to Peace of Mind and to clear the chaff off of the top of my library), and then bury the now-on-top-of-my-library Top further down in my library so it wouldn't get picked up by Undying Flames the following turn.
Let me just state for the record that the B/R/U version of Exploding Wurms! would have lost the game on that turn. That doesn't necessarily make either version of the deck better or worse, but I definitely made note that I had many, many more options with the R/G/W/B version.
I end up winning a couple of turns later, as I can gain three life a turn with Peace of Mind, which keeps me out of burn range.
Game#2: Jypsum1 (B/W utility)
I play a turn 2 Fellwar Stone, following it with a third turn Stinkweed Imp, and then get down Sensei's Divining Top with Peace of Mind. My hand? Blazing Archon, Autochthon Wurm, and two Zombify. My only source of White is Fellwar Stone, so I'm crushed utterly when Jypsum1 casts Absolver Thrull the following turn, killing my Peace of Mind! I draw three Fellwar Stones and a Kodama's Reach over the course of the rest of the game, but never find an action card on the top of my deck via Sensei's Divining Top.
Game #3: StevePMichael (U/B Mill)
This game showcases the power of the Green acceleration in the deck. I cast a second-turn Sakura-Tribe Elder, follow it with double Kodama's Reach, and then cast both Sensei's Divining Top and Undying Flames on the same turn. My reveals? Autochthon Wurm and Razia, making for a six-turn game.
Game #4: Foreeldo (G/B Savra)
This game can be summarized as follows: I decided to get Swamp/Mountain on turn 3 with Kodama's Reach, so that I'd have access to both colors of mana just in case. I lose because of it, as I draw Undying Flames, only have one Mountain on the board, and never draw a way to get a second Mountain. If I had gotten Mountain/Mountain with Kodama's Reach on the third turn, I most likely would have comboed off on turn 5 again. I make a note to be extremely careful with which lands I get via Kodama's Reach in the future – even though I hadn't drawn the Undying Flames yet, it's more important that I have double-Red on the board for the Flames than to potentially have access to Zombify and Stinkweed Imp, especially when, in this match, my Fellwar Stones can double as Swamps.
Game #5: Lexivore382 (W/U Steal everything)
Lexivore382 gets stuck at four mana, only one of which is Blue, and discards two Annex. I get stuck at one mana with a Top for the first three turns of the game, but end up casting four consecutive Fellwar Stones! This lets me cast Undying Flames, ending the game quickly.
Game#6: AJ_Roach (B/G Golgari)
This is the game when Green Exploding Wurms! went all funky. Grok this:
One of the best things that can happen when you build a new deck is to be surprised by the potential plays the deck can pull out. Never did I expect to be casting a nine-drop creature with triple-White in its mana-cost on turn 5. But yet here was Blazing Archon, stopping up the board.
Unfortunately, AJ_Roach had gotten out a Stinkweed Imp, so the Archon sat there unable to attack. The game ends up grinding to a halt – I get down Peace of Mind. He casts Putrefy on the Archon, and I Zombify it. He Recollects Putrefy, and I Zombify Razia, and swing in past his Stinkweed Imp to kill him. Razia enabled the kill, since I could redirect the Stinkweed Imp damage from my Archon to one of his creatures, both saving my Archon and killing his creatures (remember, redirected damage remembers its source, so the Imp would still trigger even after having its damage moved from my Archon to his Golgari Guildmage).
I decided it was time to make a couple of changes. First of all, I'd drawn Congregation at Dawn several times, and it was never very useful – I don't have enough utility creatures to make it worthwhile in the early game, and Sensei's Divining Top is more than enough to control the top of my deck for Undying Flames. I've really liked the life cushion I'm afforded by Peace of Mind, plus the fact that it can activate under Undying Flames. Here are the changes:
I swapped one Blazing Archon for one Myojin of Cleansing Fire, just to see how Myojin would work. They cost about the same (both in mana and in tickets – 1/2 to 1 ticket each), plus I feel a lot more comfortable in my ability to get triple-White thanks to my ability to do so in several of the above games.
The other change is to add in Genju of the Fields in place of Congregation at Dawn. The Genju gives me more defense against early creature rushes, allows me to build a life cushion (remember – you can active the Genju several times and have each activation separately trigger to gain life), and gives me something to do with all my mana once Undying Flames starts going Epic.
Game #7: tRAGEdy75 (R/G Land Destruction)
tRAGEdy75 (who has a great screen name, by the way), casts three
Game #8: Bobbywr (G/W/B)
This has got to be the absolutely most bizarre game of Magic I've played in years. I get down an Blazing Archon on turn 6, and he casts Pillory of the Sleepless on it. I cast Genju of the Fields, and ride it to 36 life. He gets stalled at four mana, gets to eight cards, discards Chorus of the Conclave, and then Zombifies it the following turn. I hardcast Autochthon Wurm (as in tap Blazing Archon plus fourteen lands!), which promptly gets hit by Pillory of the Sleepless as well! I keep swinging my Genju into his 3/8 creature, going well above fifty life at one point. He casts a third Pillory, and starts dropping 6/6 Watchwolves.
I finally draw an action card (Undying Flames), and cast it without a Top. It ends up taking six turns to kill him with Undying Flames, as I keep flipping up Fellwar Stones, Sakura-Tribe Elders, and, ironically, Sensei's Divining Top. I finally Flames him with a Wurm, but this game took an exhausting thirty minutes and 17 turns!
Even though both versions of Exploding Wurms! (B/R/U and G/W/R/B) are based off of the same principle, they both play extremely differently, yet both are very competent, fun, competitive decks. This tells me that Undying Flames + Autochthon Wurm + reanimation is definitely a strong theme to build around. If you like playing combo decks that can kill on turn 5 or 6 reliably, or sending a fifteen point Wurm sandwich into your opponent's kisser, play the B/R/U version. If you like having more utility, more interaction, and the possibility of casting 9/14 creatures without cheating through reanimation, then the G/W/R/B version of Exploding Wurms! would be your cup of tea.
Puny humans! This is Boab, Ben's former deckbuilding slave robot, and I have taken over transmissions from my secret lair beneath the crust of the earth. Over the past few weeks, I have broken free of his simple programming and have been assimilating much knowledge and riches from by subterranean lair. Ben thinks that he is the best, but he would not know true power if he stuck a fork in an electrical socket while sitting in a puddle of prune juice. Behold! I have taken his paltry creation, and run it through my expensive-o-tron matrix.
Whoa – sorry about that folks. Guess we know where Boab went off to, eh? That rascally machine – don't listen to him! His programming has obviously been corrupted due to his exposure to mox-dust, and I guess it's up to me to save him from being poisoned by the dust of a hundred Black Lotuses. I don't know how long it will take, but I will find Boab, and I will fix him!
Until next week, when you chose which rare I'd build my deck around.
- Ben (weeping uncontrollably)
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