Sprouting Souls

Posted in Building on a Budget on December 15, 2010

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Sprouting Souls was one of my favorite decks I've ever designed. My friend, Jon Keefer, used to regale me with stories from his casual group:

"My opponent Day of Judgment my board when I had a Sprouting Thrinax in play. I untapped, cast a Torrent of Souls, and bashed for 14. It wasn't even close."

The Extended portion of Worlds is in the books, and it looks like there's an opening for Sprouting Souls to sprout once more. A lot had happened since two years ago, the deck gets a massive boost in power when exposed to the Extended card pool.

Torrent of Souls
Bloodbraid Elf

The most important addition available is Bloodbraid Elf. Bloodbraid fills just about every role you could imagine. The deck thrives on token generation. Bloodbraid generates "tokens" in a sense by dropping multiple threats onto the battlefield off a single card. It's always nice when you realize that the card with the most synergy for your deck is also the most powerful card in the format.

I began working on this deck a little over a week ago. Initially, it looked a bit wonky. In time, it started looking more and more like a Jund deck that actually had a plan. That has always been my issue with Jund; The deck never looked like it had a plan. Someone simply decided to mash together all the best cards available in the format and they called it a day. This deck takes the most powerful tools available to Jund and uses them to achieve a specific goal.

Maelstrom Pulse has always seemed clunky to me. Good players play around it enough to prevent any backbreaking two-for-ones. Sure, it answers just about everything, but I'd much rather have a real plan. I wanted the new Sprouting Souls to be its own entity, not just a budget version of the Extended Jund decks.

The namesake card, Torrent of Souls, is one of the most powerful cards available in Extended. It's especially powerful when combined with cards like Goblin Assault, Nest Invader, and Sprouting Thrinax.

Here's the list I've been using recently:

Sprouting Souls v.2.0

Download Arena Decklist

The list isn't perfect, but it's very powerful, given how easy it is to acquire all the cards. I'll start by explaining the card choices.

Blightning wasn't in my original list, but a friend urged me to give it a try. After a few games of testing it was clear to me that Blightning needed to be in the main deck. There are a lot of games where the opponent mulligans and you happen to have a Blightning in hand or on the top when you cast a Bloodbraid Elf. These games are very easy to win. Blightning never feels exceptionally powerful when you're the one casting it, but being on the other side of the table makes its power significantly more apparent.

Dragon Fodder is, well, fodder. I wanted another token generation card in the two-mana slot and this seemed like it fit the bill. Bitterblossom would probably be better in this spot, but that card is going to be very difficult to trade for, especially with Extended season right around the corner.

Garruk Wildspeaker is very easy to trade for these days. The card is always very powerful, but it works especially well in a deck like this. The Overrun ability is almost always enough to close the game and the stream of 3/3s can be very difficult for most decks to deal with.

Lightning Bolt is another card that the original deck would have absolutely loved. The deck doesn't want to use more than one mana on spot removal spells, so having access to the best one-mana removal/burn spell ever printed is pretty nice.

Putrid Leech may not generate tokens, but in the world of two-mana creatures, 4/4s are about as good as it gets.

Nest Invader is a great addition. It provides two bodies for a single card and it can help ramp into some very powerful things. Turn three Bloodbraid Elf or Garruk Wildspeaker is enough to put most decks out of the game.

Sprouting Thrinax is obviously the best creature a deck like this could ask for.

Goblin Assault plays a very interesting role. A lot of players think this card is bad because players can simply leave their creatures back to block. Ervin Tormos was the first player to explain how Goblin Assault works in a top-end aggro deck.

"It makes other aggro decks play defensively," Ervin explained, "when they start blocking, it gives you time to do more powerful things than their deck can accomplish." Well put, Ervin. This seems like the kind of deck that can use that logic to its fullest potential.

I needed to build a sideboard, the matches that have caused me the most trouble are Elves! and Steel Artifact. I scoured Gatherer for cards that would do well in both matches and I was pleasantly surprised to find Arc Trail. It's a new card, I've been playing with it in Limited and Standard for the past few months. Arc Trail does an excellent job neutering the super aggressive starts that can be achieved by both of these decks.

It wasn't enough against Steel Artifact, though. The deck put a lot more power on the table than I did, and it did so at such a pace that I couldn't keep up. I needed a card that got me back into the game regardless of my previous board position.

Then I found Fracturing Gust. If ever there was a card that simply said, "I win" against Steel Artifact, it would be named Fracturing Gust. I started siding out my Goblin Assaults and Dragon Fodders for Fracturing Gusts and Arc Trails. Suddenly, the match-up felt very good.

Faeries hasn't been a problem, but the games I lose usually involve more than one Cryptic Command. The same can be said about Five- or Four-Color Control. I decided that Guttural Response was the best card for this slot.

I rounded out the sideboard with a playset of Duress to help my combo match-ups. The combination of Duress and Blightning is usually enough to finish off combo players before they can assemble their big finish.

That being said, I've also taken some time thinking about ways to beat Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It may sound crazy, but I feel like Sarkhan Vol may be the next step for this deck. I haven't tested it yet, but it seems at least as powerful as Garruk. It's nearly impossible for the Polymorph decks to beat a resolved copy of this card.

Here's the final deck list with a sideboard:

Sprouting Souls v.2.0

Download Arena Decklist

I'd like to share some games I've played in the Extended heads-up tournaments on Magic Online.

I won the roll and kept Nest Invader, Bloodbraid Elf, Bloodbraid Elf, Savage Lands, Blackcleave Cliffs, Forest, Mountain. I played my Savage Lands and passed the turn. My opponent played a Creeping Tar Pit, and passed the turn back. I drew a Lightning Bolt, played my Blackcleave Cliffs, cast Nest Invader, and passed the turn. My opponent played an Island and cast Bitterblossom. I drew a Torrent of Souls, cast Bloodbraid Elf, flipped into Goblin Assault, attacked for 5, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mutavault and passed the turn.

I drew another Savage Lands, cast another Bloodbraid Elf, flipped into Sprouting Thrinax, which my opponent countered with a Spellstutter Sprite. I attacked with my team and my opponent double blocked a Bloodbraid Elf and took 6, going down to 8. My opponent played another land, and passed the turn. I drew a Blightning, went to my combat step, my opponent cast a Cryptic Command tapping down my team and returning Goblin Assault back to my hand. I cast Blightning and Lightning Bolt to put my opponent at 1. My opponent died to Bitterblossom the next turn.

-1 Garruk Wildspeaker
-2 Torrent of Souls
-3 Dragon Fodder

+4 Guttural Response
+2 Duress

I kept Putrid Leech, Sprouting Thrinax, Sprouting Thrinax, Savage Lands, Copperline Gorge, Forest. My opponent played a land and passed the turn. I drew a Blightning, played my Savage Lands, and passed the turn back. My opponent cast a Bitterblossom on turn two and passed the turn. I drew a Vivid Crag, played my Copperline Gorge, cast Putrid Leech, and passed the turn. My opponent made a token and passed the turn back. I drew Guttural Response, attacked with my Putrid Leech, and elected not to pump (I was playing around Disfigure/Nameless Inversion). I cast Sprouting Thrinax and my opponent let it resolve. My opponent made another Faerie, played a fourth land, and passed the turn. I drew a Mountain, played it, and attacked with both creatures. My opponent took it, and I decided to pump this time around.

I figured that if my opponent had a removal spell in this spot it would mess with Cryptic Command mana. There was no countermagic for my Sprouting Thrinax, so I can assume an opposing hand clogged up with bigger spells. My opponent took the 7 damage. I cast Sprouting Thrinax in my second main with a red mana up. My opponent tried a Cryptic Command, but I had the Guttural Response ready. My opponent made another Faerie token and passed the turn. I drew Duress, cast it, my opponent cast a Cryptic Command countering it and tapping my team. I cast Blightning and played my Vivid land before passing the turn. My opponent made another Faerie token and bashed again. I drew another Blightning, attacked with my team, and Blightninged after combat. My opponent conceded after the draw step.

Faeries is a pretty good match-up for this deck. Sprouting Thrinax is especially strong here. The Faerie deck has a lot of trouble with such a huge portion of your cards.

I lost the roll and kept Sprouting Thrinax, Lightning Bolt, Torrent of Souls, Bloodbraid Elf, Vivid Grove, Savage Lands, Mountain. My opponent cast a pair of Memnites and a Court Homonculus on the first turn. I drew another Sprouting Thrinax, played my Savage Lands and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Steel Overseer, attacked for 4, and passed the turn back. I drew a Vivid land, played it, cast Lightning Bolt on the Steel Overseer, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mox Opal, cast Tempered Steel, and attacked me for 10. I drew a Swamp, cast Sprouting Thrinax, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a second copy of Tempered Steel and attacked me with everything. I died.

-3 Dragon Fodder
-4 Goblin Assault
+3 Fracturing Gust
+4 Arc Trail

I mulliganed down to six and kept Nest Invader, Sprouting Thrinax, Fracturing Gust, Vivid Grove, Swamp, Copperline Gorge. I played my Vivid Grove and passed the turn. My opponent cast an Ornithopter, Memnite, and Mox Opal, played a land, cast Steel Overseer, and passed the turn. I drew a Lightning Bolt like a champ, played Copperline Gorge, cast Lightning Bolt on the Steel Overseer, and passed the turn. My opponent played another land and cast Master of Etherium, attacked for 3, then passed the turn back. I drew a Forest, cast Sprouting Thrinax, and passed the turn. My opponent played a second Master of Etherium and sent the team. I traded the Sprouting Thrinax with the Memnite and got my three tokens.

I drew Bloodbraid Elf, cast it, flipped into Nest Invader, and passed the turn. My opponent played Tempered Steel, attacked with the team, I chumped both Master of Etheriums, and passed the turn. I drew for my turn and cast Fracturing Gust using the Nest Invader token. I gained 10 life, bashed with my team, and passed back to my opponent (who only had two lands in play). After the draw my opponent conceded.

I kept Arc Trail, Bloodbraid Elf, Blightning, Savage Lands, Mountain, Forest, Forest. My opponent opened with a Court Homonculus and passed the turn. I drew another Bloodbraid Elf, played my Savage Lands, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Steel Overseer, attacked for 2, cast a Memnite, and passed the turn. I drew another Arc Trail, played my land, cast Arc Trail killing the Homonculus and Steel Overseer, and passed the turn. My opponent played a third land, cast Master of Etherium, attacked for another 2, and passed the turn. I drew Torrent of Souls, cast another Arc Trail killing Master of Etherium and Memnite, and passed the turn back to my opponent. My opponent played a fourth land, (odd for a deck with only 17) and cast Ranger of Eos, finding a pair of Ornithopters and casting both.

I untap, cast Bloodbraid Elf, and flip into Blightning. I elect not to attack and simply pass the turn. My opponent attacks with the Ranger, and I trade with my Bloodbraid Elf. I cast another Bloodbraid Elf on my turn, flip past a Fracturing Gust, hit a Sprouting Thrinax, attack for 3, and then passed the turn. My opponent cast another Steel Overseer, and passed the turn. I attack for 9, cast another Sprouting Thrinax, and pass the turn back. My opponent concedes when I cast Torrent of Souls the next turn.

The deck does very well in the current Extended metagame. If you're looking to play a non-budget version I would probably go with this.

Non-Budget Sprouting Souls v.2.0

Download Arena Decklist

Questions and comments are always welcome on the forum or in an email.

Happy Brewing!

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