It's not a dream. It's not a hoax. It's not an alternate reality, a fake-out, a false start, a bait-and-switch, or any other practice illegal in the 48 contiguous states. It's time to evolve the Fun with Fungus Time Spiral theme deck!
Like most other theme decks, Fun with Fungus is a loosely-knit collection of ideas and possibilities. There's a smattering of several different themes running through the veins of this package of sixty cards. Let's take a look at them, shall we?
Theme #1: Fungus
There are many cards in this deck which tie into this theme. Thallid, Thallid Shell-Dweller, Deathspore Thallid, Thallid Germinator, Sporesower Thallid, and Savage Thallid all have the “remove three Spore Counters: Make a Saproling” mechanic. This mechanic is both a strength and a weakness. It's a strength in that every third turn, you can make a free 1/1 creature, based on your initial investment. It's a weakness in that two out of every three turns, those counters are utterly useless.
Other cards which contribute to the Fungus theme are Sprout (look ma! No hands!), Thelon of Havenwood (making spore counters count every turn since '06!), and Verdant Embrace (making creatures into Verdant Force on the cheap).
Theme #2: Turning smaller creatures into larger ones
This is the second, more prevalent, theme in the Fun with Fungus theme deck. There are several cards which turn your little mice into Marrow-Gnawer, the Rat with a Taste for Revenge. Aside from the aforementioned Verdant Embrace, Thelon of Havenwood and Thallid Germinator, there's also Strength in Numbers, Might of Old Krosa, Fallen Ideal, Pendelhaven, and Pendelhaven Elder. I guess we can also lump Herd Gnarr in here, as it is made bigger whenever you remove those three spore counters to poop out another Saproling (how else do you think they reproduce!).
Theme #3: Killing stuff!
Those are the three main themes of Fun With Fungus. There's a couple of other cards in the deck, so let's give them the star treatment quickly, shall we?
- Dread Return: In the deck because with all the token generation, you stand a very good chance of being able to flash it back. However, Savage Thallid and Sporesower Thallid are your two largest creatures, and neither of them costs much more than Dread Return itself. Reanimation spells are best used to cheat mana costs (bringing back Akroma, Angel of Wrath, on turn four), so the uses for Dread Return are pretty minimal. Given that there are only four copies total of the above-mentioned fatties in this deck, Dread Return does not look long for this world….
- Claws of Gix: Wasn't this in the initial build of that other Theme deck I evolved? In that deck, Claws of Gix was there as a way to up your storm count for free. In this deck, Claws of Gix is there to gain life from the multitude of creatures that you'll be generating off of all your Thallids.
Wormwood Dryad: Why in tarnation is this card in this deck? What purpose does it serve? It's a mystery, and only you can solve it! E-mail me using the link at the bottom of the column with your explanation about why Wormwood Dryad was included in the Fun with Fungus deck, and whoever comes up with the best/funniest explanation gets their answer printed in next week's column!
- Swamps/Forests: I have no clue why these are in the deck either…. Oh wait, they let you cast the spells. I like casting spells, fellow wizard!
So what are my initial impressions? This particular theme deck is pretty straightforward, and the themes are all interconnected. You want to drop a bunch of guys who make other guys, pump up both the guys who make guys and the guys who were made from guys, and then kill the guys your opponent has so your guys and your other guys can get to the guy across the table and winning ensues!
I do see several problems with the deck, but that comes with a caveat: Theme decks are designed to be tinkered with. What's the fun in opening up a fully-tournament worthy deck out of a box, and not having to come up with cool ideas and neat combos on your own? Ok, Spike in the back, you sit down. The rest of you, each theme deck can take on your own personality. You like Thallids? Take out some of the kill or pump, and put in more Thallids. You like creature kill? Take out some pump and put in more destruction! You like pump spells? I like Pump much better than DDR, thankyouverymuch.
Second, the deck is very low on creatures. Counting Sprout, there are 23 creatures in the deck, meaning that roughly one out of every three cards will yield you a creature spell. The deck has literally no way to kill an opponent outside of attacking with creatures, and a majority of the creatures are intrinsically weak on the power/toughness to mana-cost ratio. Three of your guys have defender, nine of your men are 1/1, and the deck can't exactly pump out a quick swarm to beat down an opponent with, which leads to:
Turn 1: Played as a 1/1 creature.
Turn 2: 1/1 creature.
Turn 3: 1/1 creature.
Turn 4: 1/1 creature that can make another 1/1 creature.
Turn 5: You have two 1/1 creatures that can attack.
The payoff for playing a first-turn Thallid is not spectacular. This is not to say that all Thallids are bad – it's just to say that the Thallid mechanic needs a lot of help to get off the ground. Thallid Germinator,
Let's get some practice games under my belt before I start making changes to the deck.
Game 1: William11ngu (U/W Suspend)
He gets Deep-Sea Kraken, but doesn't have much else going. He bounces a couple of my early Thallids, and gets Deep-Sea Kraken down to one suspend counter. In order to deal with Deep-Sea Kraken, I Sudden Death my own Saproling. This removes the Deep-Sea Kraken from the game permanently, and ends his offensive threats for the game. My Thallids eventually overwhelm him.
Game 2: Cwampthing (U/R Control)
I mulligan a one-land hand, and end up with a second six-card hand with two Swamps and no Forests. Luckily, I draw Pendelhaven on turn one (I'm on the draw). He ends up mana flooded, and doesn't get much going due to a lack of spells, and a plethora of mana. I beat half his life total out with Sprout plus Pendelhaven, and then drop Savage Thallid to finish the game.
Game 3: Schappi83 (Five-Color Good Stuff)
Schappi83 is playing an 80ish-card five-color deck with a whole bunch of Good Stuff (Mortify, Putrefy, Kaervek, Lightning Helix, etc), and a ton of bounce lands, dual lands, and land search. He gets mana flooded, gets 16 lands to the board, and I still can't kill him. I kill Kaervek and two Razias (go Sudden Death) but eventually succumb to Zombify on Razia.
Game 4: Bestjett (U/R Izzet)
Notes about Game 4: Man, I wished those Thallid Shell-Dwellers were Wall of Roots, because at least I could have started busting out my 4/4's a turn early. It mattered, because I never got past three mana this game.
Game 5: Mieyebo (Slivers)
Well, the games that I won consisted of me getting bad mana draws, and my opponents getting mana-flooded. In the games I lost, I got worked over pretty well. This deck needs help. My mana needs fixing, I need more ways to deal twenty damage to my opponent, and I need some way to help my Saprolings and Thallids go from schoolyard jokes to playground bullies. Going into next week, I leave you with this list of Standard-legal cards that make Saprolings. Can you guess what's coming next?
Standard-Legal Cards that generate Saprolings:
Fists of Ironwood
Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII
Scatter the Seeds
Supply // Demand
Ulasht, the Hate Seed
Verdeloth the Ancient
Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
As a special feature over the next few weeks, I'm going to be going set by set and pointing out the cards that make great additions to any budget deckbuilder's portfolio. I'll be separating the cards into two categories: Essentials and Specialized. This basically means as follows – the Essentials are cards that, if you're playing that color, you'll probably use over and over again. Examples of Essential cards are Naturalize, Volcanic Hammer, and Izzet Boilerworks. Specialized cards are cards that aren't at universally played as Essential cards, but have their uses. Examples include Warp World, Mark of Eviction, and Chastise.
This week's set? It's Time Spiral time! I'll list the cards by color and note whether they are Essential or Specialized. All cards on this list cost two tickets or less. For a primer on how to find the best prices using Magic Online, please refer to my Buying on a Budget article. Most of the commons and uncommons on this list can get gotten at 16-for-a-ticket and 8-for-a-ticket, respectively. Most of the rares are either 2-for-a-ticket, 1 ticket, or 2 tickets each. I've included some highlights of some really good deals I found searching around the rooms. Happy bargain hunting!
Knight of the Holy Nimbus
Magus of the Disk
Mangara of Corondor
Serra Avenger (1.25 tickets each!)
Magus of the Jar
Sage of Epityr
Walk the Aeons
Whispers of the Muse
Empty the Warrens
Jaya Ballard (2 for 1 ticket!)
Magus of the Scroll (2 for 1 ticket!)
Mogg War Marshal
Might of Old Krosa
Search for Tomorrow
Spectral Force (1 Ticket! Get these now before Planar Chaos, if you like green.)
Stonewood Invocation (1 Ticket)
Thelonite Hermit (1 Ticket, and you might see these in a column sooner rather than later….)
Wall of Roots
Lightning Angel (2 Tickets)
Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
Mystic Enforcer (2 for 1 ticket)
Shadowmage Infiltrator (2 Tickets each – Buy of the Week!)
See you all next week, and until then have Fun with Fungus, and explain that razzin'-frazzin' Dryad to me!