Good Phytohydras!

Posted in Building on a Budget on June 4, 2008

By Ben Bleiweiss

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Building on a Budget! I'm the real Ben Bleiweiss, not some evil undead non-budget building so-and-so who left me defenseless against a horde of crazed weasels last week! How I escaped is a story of MacGyveresque proportions, and is too long to relay in this column. Let's just say that I hope my eyebrows can grow back after being nibbled off ferociously.

So I leave you for one week, and what do I find? The Rotten Tomatometer for my column!... is at 100% for a deck that uses the lowest poll choices, goes so far off a budget that the ticket-total hits three digits, and barely breaks even at 50/50. Yes, you all loved this monstrosity:

Evil Phytohydras Stage 4

Download Arena Decklist

Well guys and gals, let's take out the parts of this deck that just plain ol' don't work—namely, the non-budget cards, and the cards that you didn't vote for! You didn't want much tutoring or hand discard, and you did want more mana acceleration and more of a rounded "not only Sprouting Phytohydra to win" strategy. Therefore, the following cards are coming out:

Out: 2 Blood Crypt, 1 Bloodstained Mire, 3 Graven Cairns, 3 Overgrown Tomb, 4 Stomping Ground, 2 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, 1 Wooded Foothills, 4 Damnation, 4 Duress, 3 Liliana Vess, 4 Diabolic Tutor, 1 Ancient Grudge

This leaves most of the commons and uncommons (which can be had very cheaply) and the following cards at a premium value:

Cost: 16 Tickets (14 to go)

4 Goblin Sharpshooter: 2.5 each (10)
3 Bitter Ordeal: 1 each (3)
4 Sprouting Phytohydra: .75 each (3)

Kodama's Reach
This column operates on a budget of 30 tickets or less using Magic Online prices (but you already knew that, right? Hello, to my three new readers this week! Email me for a fabulous prize!) Now, this is a three-color deck, though right now black is a minor splash (Bitter Ordeal). Green is the color of mana-fixing and acceleration, so it is fortunate that we are already in this color! There are a lot of mana-fixers to choose from, but the two I want to go with in this case are Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Kodama's Reach. Why did I pick these over Llanowar Elves, or Search for Tomorrow?

First, this deck needs to get to eight mana a lot of games, so I can play Sprouting Phytohydra and Bitter Ordeal on the same turn. Second, I have spells that have , , and in their mana costs. Just adding more Green to my pool won't help me gain access to all my colors of mana, so Llanowar Elves, Wall of Roots, and Vine Trellis are out, on those accounts. Kodama's Reach both accelerates and fixes, and it does it two lands at a time. This makes it a natural for going from to Æther Flash in one turn. Sakura-Tribe Elder is preferable over Rampant Growth or Search for Tommorrow for two reasons: A) It can chump block, to buy me part of an attack phase against an aggressive deck, and B) it can be sacrificed to untap Goblin Sharpshooter in a pinch.

In: 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder, 3 Kodama's Reach (.25 each, .75 total)
Total Cost: 16.75 Tickets

Goblin Sharpshooter and Sakura-Tribe Elder do not make an alternate win condition on their own. I'm not going to win with a couple of 1/1 creatures on the board, unless I have support. I need a creature that will work well with the other components of my deck—untapping the Sharpshooter, feeding off of extra Sprouting Phytohydras, fuelling Bitter Ordeal, and surviving Æther Flash. What fits the bill for all of these? Greater Gargadon, that's what! This deck can certainly get an all-mana draw (with eventually twenty-two lands, six signets, and seven other mana-fixers), so the Gargadon can eat extra lands to come down early. It can eat creatures to untap the Sharpshooter, eat extra Sprouting Phytohydra tokens if I don't get the full combo to deck my opponent, and combo with Bitter Ordeal to remove X cards from my opponent's library, where X is the number of permanents I choose to sacrifice.

Timing Rules Primer: When Greater Gargadon is suspended, you can sacrifice an artifact, creature, or land to remove a suspend counter from Greater Gargadon. However, removing a counter is part of the effect, not the cost. This means that until you resolve unsuspending the Gargadon, you can keep activating the "sacrifice" part of the ability (the cost), even if it is more than the number of counters you have left on the Gargadon! So, if you have five counters on the Gargadon, you can sacrifice fifteen lands to it, as long as you do not let the triggered ability that would cause you to play the Gargadon resolve.

Mogg War Marshal
Greater Gargadon

I pair up Mogg War Marshal with Greater Gargadon, because it can remove three counters from the Gargadon—plus it is more fuel for Goblin Sharpshooter, and can chump block up to three times against attackers, making it a potent offensive and defensive creature.

In: 3 Greater Gargadon (3 each, 9 total), 4 Mogg War Marshal
Total Cost: 25.75 Tickets

My last additions are three Blasting Stations. If I have a Sprouting Phytohydra and a second creature in play, I can shoot that creature at my Sprouting Phytohydra, making a second Sprouting Phytohydra. This causes Blasting Station to untap, as the second Sprouting Phytohydra comes into play. I can then shoot Sprouting Phytohydra #1 at Sprouting Phytohydra #2, repeating this cycle. This will allow an infinite (or arbitrarily large) number of creatures to go the graveyard, allowing me to play Bitter Ordeal for my opponent's entire deck. If I have a Sharpshooter in play as well, I can deal Sharpshooter damage for each Sprouting Phytohydra that bites the dust.

Since I don't need seven Goblin Sharpshooters / Blasting Stations, I take out one of the Sharpshooters to reign in the budget a little, and add in three Blasting Stations. Blasting Stations also work super-swell with Mogg War Marshal, since I get three shots from the ol' Goblin and its two buddies.

Last, I put in eight Mountains and eight Forests, because three Swamps should be plenty with the extra Signets, Reaches, and Tribe-Elders.

Out: 1 Goblin Sharpshooter (2.5 Tickets)
In: 3 Blasting Station, 8 Mountain, 8 Forest

Good Phytohydras Mark 1

Download Arena Decklist

Game 1: KatzKlawz (Blue-Green Mana Ramp)

He casts Dawn's Reflection and Seedborn Muse, and I get Sakura-Tribe Elder, Kodama's Reach and Greater Gargadon. I then drop Mogg War Marshal, and go down to two lands to get the Gargadon into play, allowing me to start swinging in for game-altering life totals. He is forced to chump-block, both with the Muse and later with a single Hunting Pack token. Eventually my Gargadon gets through for the win.

Record: 1-0

Game 2: Vissago (Morphs)

Dream Chisel
Vissago gets a draw of triple Dream Chisel, meaning that he can start dropping morphs for zero mana. I get Goblin Sharpshooter and Sakura-Tribe Elder, and put Greater Gargadon on suspension. I kill the first morph (Akroma, Angel of Fury) by shooting it twice with Sharpshooter, sacrificing my Elder for the second shot. I then hurry Greater Gargadon into play and follow it with Æther Flash! This shuts down Vissago's morphs, and he draws an Ixidor too late to make a difference in the game.

Record: 2-0

Game 3: Drunkensushi (Snakes)

Drunkensushi drops Murmuring Bosk, and follows it Mutavault, Fertile Ground, and Vesuva, copying Mutavault. I get a draw with almost all lands, plus an Æther Flash. He Diabolic Tutors for Naturalize to kill my Æther Flash, and then drops Seshiro the Anointed. I get Goblin Sharpshooter, and he drops Taurean Mauler, and swings in with his Seshiro the Anointed, plus a 4/4 Mutavault. I suspend Gargadon, and am forced to bring it into play to keep from dying to a (now) 5/5 Mauler, a pair of 4/4 Mutavaults, and Seshiro the Anointed himself. He gets Faith's Fetters, neutralized my 9/7 creature, and kills me. I do get to sacrifice multiple permanents on my turn, though, to both drop Gargadon, and play Bitter Ordeal for nine!

Record: 2-1

Game 4: Maikelchen (Blue-Black-White Blink)

I drop double Sakura-Tribe Elder and Mogg War Marshal, and Maikelchen blocks my War Marshal with a surprise Wydwen on turn four. I go into defensive mode, dropping Goblin Sharpshooter, which is returned to my hand three times (twice from Repulse, once from Riftwing Cloudskate). I eventually land it and kill his Riftwing Cloudskate through a Momentary Blink by sacrificing both of my Elders. He suspends a second Riftwing Cloudskate, and I drop triple (!) Æther Flash. He kills my Goblin Sharpshooter with Last Gasp, but I return with Sprouting Phytohydra and Bitter Ordeal, decking Maikelchen and winning the game.

Record: 3-1

Game 5: jerry510 (White Weenie)

I get a quick draw with double Mogg War Marshal, Greater Gargadon, and Æther Flash. By the fourth turn, I have four Goblins, an Æther Flash, and a Greater Gargadon with five counters on it, as I ran two of my goblins into his Raise the Alarm tokens. He concedes, as it looks like he has no creatures that will survive Æther Flash.

Record: 4-1

Even though I'm 4-1, I've only won once with the Sprouting Phytohydra combo. This is ideal for the method acting approach, but is not ideal for this being a Sprouting Phytohydra deck. The truth is, the combo requires a minimum of three cards to get going (Æther Flash, Sprouting Phytohydra, and either Goblin Sharpshooter or Bitter Ordeal), and often more (Blasting Station plus another creature). I'm not guaranteed to get a three-of, a four-of, and a six-of in from my deck in any given hand, so this deck really, really needs tutoring to work well. I know that it wasn't the most popular vote, but we're talking about a deck that needs to assemble pieces, and the need in this case is extreme.

I add back in four Diabolic Tutors and three Swamps, and take out a Bitter Ordeal (since adding the Tutor makes me have six effective Ordeals in the deck), the Blasting Stations (which have been less than great so far, if you have noticed), two Mountains, and a Forest.

Out: 1 Bitter Ordeal, 3 Blasting Station, 2 Mountain, 1 Forest
In: 4 Diabolic Tutor, 3 Swamp

Good Phytohydras Mark 2

Download Arena Decklist

Game 6: Adner (Mono-Black Liege)

I get a suspended Greater Gargadon on turn one, and Mogg War Marshal on turn two. Adner plays Sickening Dreams, discarding Liege of the Pit and forcing me to sacrifice my token (I allow the War Marshal itself to die naturally, so I can have the token as an attacker). I suspend a second Greater Gargadon, and he suspends Nihilith. I take the opportunity to play an Æther Flash—and Adner drops Slithering Shade, pumping it to keep the 0/1 creature alive. I take this opportunity to play a SECOND Æther Flash, and then sacrifice to get my first Gargadon into play! My 9/7 slips by the Shade, and the Nihilith falls straight from the board into the graveyard as a 4/4 that immediately takes 4 points of damage. Adner is forced to Zombify his Liege of the Pit to stay alive, but I simply sit back and wait for him to sacrifice his Shade and die by his own sword.

Record: 5-1

Game 7: Godlike. (Black-Blue Control)

Consult the Necrosages
I drop Mogg War Marshal, and Godlike. answers with Ravenous Rats (I discard a Signet). I then drop Goblin Sharpshooter and pass the turn. He plays Phyrexian Arena—and on my turn, I kill his Rats and swing for 2, dropping another Signet. He hits me with Consult the Necrosages (I drop a Swamp and a Sprouting Phytohydra), and I draw and play a second Goblin Sharpshooter. He Consults again, this time to draw, drops a Signet and a bounceland, and passes the turn. I play Æther Flash (the last card I kept in my hand the turn I was hit by Consult), and then top-deck Sprouting Phytohydra to go infinite with my Sharpshooters.

Record: 6-1

Game 8: Lephos (Sunburst)

Lephos drops an Energy Chamber on turn two, and follows it up with Suntouched Myr on turn three. I get Sakura-Tribe Elder and double Mogg War Marshal, and start building up a hand with Diabolic Tutor and Sprouting Phytohydra in it, content to just chump-block for a long while. Lephos gets out Rod of Ruin, and starts picking off my guys two at a time—one with Rod of Ruin, and one with an ever-growing Suntouched Myr. Eventually, I am forced to drop Sprouting Phytohydra to stay alive.

He starts building his army with creatures like Joiner Adept and Sylvok Explorer, whereas I draw a Bitter Ordeal, but still do not have the Æther Flash or the second Sprouting Phytohydra to combine with the Diabolic Tutor in my hand—if I draw either/or, I win, but without either one, I am basically stalemated against the board (I can't get Goblin Sharpshooter because of Rod of Ruin). Lephos then drops Skyreach Manta, and I am forced to tutor up Mogg War Marshal to stay alive. In turn, I draw Æther Flash (a turn late!), and have one turn to draw either a second Tutor or a Sprouting Phytohydra to win. I draw a Mountain, and concede.

Record: 6-2

This is where I stopped evolving the deck—Evil Ben did a lot of testing last week, and this week I've come to one conclusion—this deck is fun to get to the point where you win, but the act of winning takes a day and a half! With multiple triggered abilities each go around (Æther Flash triggering, Sprouting Phytohydra coming into play, Sharpshooter untapping, Bitter Ordeal triggering), it takes a long time (in actual time, not in turns!) to win each game, making it sort of unfun for both you and your opponent. This deck was fun to tinker around with, but sometimes it's just not as fun to play a deck as it is to come up with it, and prove that it can have a good chance to win. So with this 6-2 record (Hey, I'm not counting that 10-0 from last week—Evil Ben cheated!), I hang up the reader's choice of Sprouting Phytohydra and set my sights on someplace I haven't been in a few weeks... Standard! See you in seven!


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