Tales from the Crypt

Posted in Building on a Budget on November 25, 2009

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

My last few columns have been received very well. I was especially excited to see Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry in over 75% of the undefeated Extended decks at Worlds! (The combo was known and the columns were more a product of these decks being tested than the decks were a product of the column. I deserve no credit.) Looking at budget options for Extended is something that really gets my mind churning, but a lot of readers have asked that I turn my attention back to Standard this week.

In all honesty, I had not given a great deal of thought to Standard over the last few weeks. I don't particularly enjoy playing with or against Jund decks and the current Standard metagame is full of them. I heard whispers of a deck that Traumatized itself in Standard and started to get interested again. There has been a lot of buzz around Crypt of Agadeem amongst my readers and I was anxious to see a decklist. I asked some friends about the deck and they told me I could probably find Shouta Yasooka's list on a lot of forums.

Crypt of Agadeem

After about two minutes of hunting I found the initial list that did well on Magic Online and started formulating possible changes based on metagames.

Crypt of Agadeem

Download Arena Decklist

The deck is fairly straightforward. The plan is to fill your graveyard with creatures by cycling and milling yourself with Hedron Crab and Traumatize. On turn four, five, six, or seven you will find yourself in position to activate Crypt of Agadeem for a large amount of mana, you use the huge amount of mana to unearth tons of monsters from the graveyard and bash your opponent for lethal damage or lethal milling with Extractor Demon triggers. If you need extra mana you can unearth Fatestitcher and untap the Crypt of Agadeem.

Hedron Crab
Extractor Demon

I was really happy when I found the decklist. The concept looked very powerful and the total cost of the deck was less than fifteen tickets without the flashy fetchlands and Magic 2010 duals. I decided to play a few matches with the deck and get a feel for the archetype. I was having a lot of trouble against the Boros decks that seemed to be popular, but I was very impressed with the overall power level of the deck. I decided to play some matches with a budgetized mana base to see how things went. I added some Jwar Isle Refuge and took out the more expensive lands. The integrity of the deck seemed like it was still intact and I felt confident there was a powerful budget deck in the works.

The most expensive card, Traumatize, actually seemed to be the worst card in the deck. I found that most hands were very capable of winning the game by turn six without Traumatize. Traumatize seemed to ensure a win on the next turn, but I wasn't particularly impressed with a turn six win when I wasn't applying or defending pressure. The deck was putting up a reasonable amount of turn-five wins and I thought Tome Scour was probably a better choice. Playing Tome Scour and a chump blocker on turn five seemed like a more likely route to victory than playing a Traumatize and crossing my fingers. I decided to go through Gatherer and make a list of all the cards I wanted to include.

Hedron Crab: I felt confident that Hedron Crab was a forced to be reckoned with in this type of strategy. Virtually all draws that result in a turn five or earlier kill have a lot to do with the crab. I know I want four of this.

Tome Scour
Viscera Dragger

Viscera Dragger: This also seemed like an obvious inclusion. I want to have a good number of cyclers in the deck so I can find key pieces of the combo. The unearth ability is a huge bonus. This also seemed like an obvious four of.

One mana cyclers (Monstrous Carabid and Architects of Will): Architects seem like an auto four-of because they cycle off any land in the deck. Monstrous Carabid is a likely four-of, but I'm sure there will be versions of the archetype that do well without a full playset of the five mana insect.

Monstrous Carabid
Architects of Will

Extractor Demon: The win condition. Most games are won when you unearth lethal damage and swing the old-fashioned way. Pesky strategies like turbo fog may feel secure against a graveyard onslaught, but they fail to answer the milling victory condition that the demon presents. Most winning turns present the opponent with multiple win conditions. If your opponent has a way to stop the damage you can simply stack the unearth end of turn triggers correctly and mill the remainder of your opponent's library. Angelsong is not an answer to this deck.

Grim Discovery: This was likely the missing piece of the puzzle. Getting back a milled Crypt and a dead Crab seems like the best deal ever. Often you will simply ensure a land drop and pick up a creature with cycle. Card advantage always feels nice to me, even in a deck that almost ignores that facet of the game entirely. Easy four-of.

Grim Discovery
Rotting Rats

Rotting Rats: Another important piece of the puzzle. Sometimes Extractor Demons get stranded in your hand and its absolutely necessary to use your rats to bin the 5/5. The disruptive element presented by these is also quite important. If your opponent starts with an aggressive draw they are likely to ditch something relevant to the race. You get a chump block and a card, this is quite good in this type of deck.

Corpse Connoisseur: I feel like this is another key piece to the deck. I want to ensure I have enough Extractor Demons to win. This gentleman ensures I have the graveyard I need on the turn I go off.

Corpse Connoisseur

Fatestitcher: The ability to untap and retap Crypt of Agadeem for absurd amounts of mana is really important. The Fatestitcher is also a "free" leave play trigger for milling opponents with Extractor Demons.

Tome Scour or Traumatize: I'm not overly impressed by the role of either card. I feel like Tome Scour may be a better choice because of its casting cost, but I think the best judge of this contest will be match results.

Blister Beetle: This card was not included in the original list. Blister Beetle seems like a very strong answer to the Noble Hierarch and Steppe Lynx problem. A turn-one Steppe Lynx will always be a problem, but the Beetle does something to help remedy our weakness. I want to find room for this somewhere in my seventy-five (likely in the sideboard)

Blister Beetle
Fleshbag Marauder

Fleshbag Marauder: This is a similar choice to the Beetle. Fleshbag can't target a specific small target, but when I played this card in Block Constructed I would randomly nab Battlegrace Angel all the time. The modern-day iteration would be Baneslayer Angel, I imagine Fleshbag may be a prime defense against an aggressive Putrid Leech also.

Kederekt Leviathan: I really don't like this card here. I feel like this is precisely the type of thing that doesn't make much sense. At the stage in the game where this become relevant the opponent can likely replay lethal damage after everything is bounced. This will give you another turn to try and go off. Unfortunately, one turn only digs us one card deeper. I can do something very similar for one mana with a cycler. This seems like a reset button that doesn't quite get the job done.

Kederekt Leviathan
Sedraxis Specter

Sedraxis Specter: If I were able to play red I would certainly include this card and a very real threat that preoccupies an opponent while you set up the win. Sedraxis Specter is very powerful right now. This is a card that surprises me with how strong it is in the current metagame and how little it gets played.

Pyroclasm: A good sweeper for a version of the deck that plays with red cards.

Removal: I've always been a pretty big fan of removal for early beats followed by a massive beating of my own. I feel like the removal spells probably belong in the board because they're really only effective against half of the field. (Boros and Jund) Nevertheless, having access to cheap spot removal that deals with Putrid Leech, Lotus Cobra, and Steppe Lynx is very important.

Grim Discovery

I was particularly impressed with Grim Discovery. I liked the "chump block until I win" feel of the deck and I felt like Grim Discovery was always a welcomed two for one. I thought about Expedition Map for extra copies of Crypt of Agadeem, but I eventually decided that the huge number of cantrips and Grim Discovery were enough to ensure I drew the game winning land.

I put together the following list and played a few games.

Crypt of Agadeem

Download Arena Decklist

After about twenty matches with the deck I was really impressed by its awesome Johnny flavor. I feel like this was an archetype I've wanted to build since unearth was printed and I had forgotten about it by the time Crypt of Agadeem had been printed. One of the most exciting inclusions in the list is Fleshbag Marauder. I thought a lot about what belonged in that spot. I still wanted to give Blister Beetle a try, but Fleshbag did quite well. This is a spot where I would love to have Shriekmaw.

I felt I had made some mistakes when changing cards in the deck, though. Tome Scour was fine, but I realized that the auto next turn win of Traumatize was probably too good to leave out. I didn't want to play four of a card that cost five in a deck with twenty lands, but the deck plays eight cantrips and four Grim Discovery. The twelve cantrips essentially make the deck forty-eight cards. Having twenty lands in a forty-eight card deck seemed reasonable, when you take the Grim Discovery into consideration there's only more justification for the Traumatize. I tried making the swap to see how the deck fared. Here's the list I started fooling around with.

Crypt of Agadeem

Download Arena Decklist

I liked this list a lot better. I was happier with the Traumatize than I was Tome Scour, but I still didn't love the card. I added a fourth Fleshbag Marauder and took out one copy of Traumatize. The deck worked out beautifully and I did quite well in the next few matches I played in the Tournament Practice room on Magic Online.

I ended up removing the fourth Fleshbag Marauder and third Traumatize for a few Blister Beetles in the main.

Here's the final list!

Crypt of Agadeem

Download Arena Decklist

If you're interested in putting some more money into this archetype I suggest playing the following list.

Crypt of Agadeem

Download Arena Decklist

I hope everyone enjoyed this look at a new and inexpensive way to battle in your local Standard tournaments. I strongly suggest that newer players go out and pick up a version of this deck. Playing Magic well is learned by playing outside of your comfort zone. Getting an opportunity to play a deck that doesn't follow the normal path to victory gives you a lot of insight into strange strategies that might be employed by your opponents. I hope this column satisfied those that were eager to hear about Crypt of Agadeem. And I hope everyone else sends me an e-mail or hits the forums to talk about what they want to see in the near future.

Happy Brewing!

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