The Dralnu Deck Challenge

Posted in Feature on November 8, 2006

By Chris Millar

Dralnu Lich Lord
Welcome to the Season Finale of the Dralnu Deck Challenge! For those of you who are just tuning in, allow me to explain what's going on. Two weeks ago, I announced that the WizOs were going to be hosting a deckbuilding challenge and they wanted me be the final judge. I ran a poll featuring a number of fine Johnny cards, and you, the readers, selected Dralnu, Lich Lord. Many of you built decks around the Time Spiral legend, and the WizOs ran another poll to determine which of the decks were your favourites. You voted! After narrowing the field down to the top eleven (or each person that received seven or more votes), I made another round of cuts, down to six.

Without further ado, let's see what the finalists came up with! Each entry will be followed by comments the deck's designer (in black), by me (in, say, blue), and by the ever-crusty Gleemax, of Brain in a Jar fame (in plum).

Honourable Mention

mattginsberg: "As I'm sure many people have discovered, it's tough to play around Dralnu's permanent-sacrificing drawback. So why not let your opponent have to deal with it? This deck works by giving your opponent the Lich Lord, via Donate or a Spawnbroker, and then goes one-sided Apocalypse on them with a big-ol' Fireball. Spawnbrokers are sure to find a target thanks to the Forbidden Orchards, but just in case you have to hold on to Dralnu for a couple extra turns, Hatching Plans makes for a juicy sacrifice target. The deck also managed to find space for a fun little Reweave engine, turning a Signet into a Colossus or a Hatching Plans into a Form of the Dragon plus three cards! As well, Drift of Phantasms buys us some time early and helps us finish with a toolbox of three-mana spells."

Chris: That's one way to neutralize Dralnu's drawback! He's your problem now, sucker! As they say, it's all fun and games until someone's replacement ability causes you to lose all of your permanents. I like how you can either donate the Lich Lord and blast him with burn (causing severe perm-loss), but if that doesn't work you can just use him yourself to send a seemingly endless amount of direct damage at your opponent's head and/or nugget and/or dome.

The inclusion of Tinker and Darksteel Colossus loses mattginsberg some points on my heretofore unknown judging criterion, the "purity of concept." While having random "I win" combos in your deck may fly with the leather-jacket wearing, motorcycle-riding tournament crowd, I feel like it takes the focus away from the task at hand, namely showing off what Dralnu, Lich Lord can do. In a similar vein, while you'll find no bigger fan of Reweave than me, I don't know if it really has a place in this deck as it stands. With nothing to splice it on to, you will end up having to pay full price for your 'weaves, something that won't make you too happy when you pay six to turn your Rakdos Signet into another Rakdos Signet. I might spend those few slots on cards that will help you survive in the early game, like Last Gasp or Mana Leak.

All in all, though, I think mattginsberg did a very nice job.

Sadistic Gleemax: Giving Dralnu to your opponent? Matt's almost as mean as I am. I suspect that he spent a considerable part of his youth stuck in a jar.

rureddy31: "As you can see, I designed a B/G/u/w Rock-style deck to maximize the card advantage generated by Gifts Ungiven as well as Dralnu. The goal of this deck is to get a Dralnu in play against decks that won't burn him out (luckily, very few decks in Extended run much burn). Once he is in play, the card advantage will roll in. Gifts Ungiven is completely broken with Dralnu. Whatever you need, Gifts can find it. Gifts no longer reads 'Search for four, get two,' but 'Search for four, get all four.' Whatever you need to wreck your opponent, you get. Zombify is also good in some situations where you want to Gifts for creatures. Genesis also fits into this mould. All in all, this is a strong, competitive deck in Extended. Dralnu truly is a Rock Star."

Chris: rureddy31 gets maximum points for submitting a deck that looks like it has a lot of game. Gifts Ungiven seems like the perfect card to pair with Dralnu. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. It reminds me of Vintage decks that allow you to put Recoup in your Gifts piles. Therein lies the problem. We've seen decks like this before, so I've got to deduct some creativity points (I don't know, how about five of them?). Loxodon Hierarch and Pernicious Deed are fine cards, to be sure, but I would like to see them replaced with instants or sorceries so that Dralnu is more relevant to winning the game (maybe Crime // Punishment and Ribbons of Night?).

Sadistic Gleemax: At least it wasn't Dralnu-finity.

Detektor: "This deck pulls off the impossible by using Dralnu to slow down the combo. That is, you can play the individual pieces on different turns, rather than having to have the three necessary spells in hand at one time. The deck dumps cards into your graveyard with Glimpse the Unthinkable, Cephalid Coliseum, and Sift Through Sands, then snatches the pieces back when you need them with the Lich Lord. The transmutable Dimir Infiltrator can set up an early defense or get combo pieces by transmuting for Merchant Scroll, Glimpse the Unthinkable, or Peer Through Depths. Teardrop Kami, Pemmin's Aura, and Minamo help you to use Dralnu many times in the same turn. Pemmin's Aura is a nifty little enchantment that not only lets your Dralnu untap, and protects your Unspeakable from assassination attempts, but can also hugely increase the amount of damage The Unspeakable deals. Also, just for the sake of awesomeness, I'll note here that the Unspeakable beats Akroma in a straight-out brawl.

Chris: Ooh, very nice! I like the idea of Dralnu summoning The Unspeakable. This seems far superior to my own attempts to get Kaho, Minamo Historian to do the same thing. Including Pemmin's Aura is wise. I would probably try to fit in the fourth Reach Through Mists and some more land, since you will need a minimum of six-mana in order to perform the unspeakable ritual. Other than that, good job!

Sadistic Gleemax: Unspeakable. Unthinkable. Unplayable.

lord_kaede: "First, you gotta know that you don't have to worry about running out of tricks: Dralnu will get them back for you. What? They're removed from the game? That's where Pull from Eternity and the Wishes come into play. After you play your Gauntlets you'll have a lot of mana for some Consume Spirits. Got countered? Reuse it from the graveyard. Got countered again? Pull it back and let the drama begin. Allow Dralnu to pwn your opponent's life. And you, of course, have Boseiju. And you don't have to worry about losing life, since you'll be winning with an uber amount of it."

Chris: I like this one. Pull from Eternity and the Wishes allow for near limitless Consume Spirit recursion. This is a pretty pricey proposition, so I feel like Gauntlet of Power is a fine choice. My only concern is (once again) that the deck won't have enough mana. Six blue sources don't seem like enough if you want to cast Remand or Repeal in the first few turns of the game. Terramorphic Expanse or the Onslaught fetchlands could solve this problem while still allowing you to maintain the high Swamp count necessary to max out Gauntlet of Power.

Sadistic Gleemax: I would like Gauntlet of Power more if I had hands.

cooljeanius: "Strategy: Give Dralnu to your opponent with a Spawnbroker or Sky Swallower, then deal damage to it with pingers or drain spells to make your opponent sacrifice stuff. If they sacrifice creatures, you can steal them with Lim-Dul. If they start abusing your Dralnu or you want it to flashback your own stuff, you can get it back with a Boomerang."

Chris: Similar to mattginsberg, cultist cooljeanius seeks to give Dralnu to the opponent before damaging him directly. Cooljeanius doesn't splash red for burn spells, instead using black's life-draining spells to accomplish the same goals. Limiting the deck to two colours makes it much easier to get the mana you need when you need it. Lim-Dul seems like a fine tag-team partner for Dralnu, whether you "donate" the Lich Lord or you just him to recur your removal spells. The one problem I see is that if you send Dralnu to your opponent and then ping him, your opponent will just sacrifice Dralnu himself. While it's not the worst result in the world (you get a Spawnbrokered creature, your opponent gets nothing), it's not very efficient. I'd rather see more copies of Ribbons of Night and Psionic Blast in the deck. Still, the deck seems fun and very playable.

Sadistic Gleemax: Twenty-four lands? Sounds like a "jeanius" to me.

And the Dralnu Challenge Award Goes to ...

Phelios_san: "I like goblins. Particularly, I like goblin tokens. A nifty bit of trivia that some people may not remember is that good ol' Dralnu likes goblin tokens too. More specifically, he likes to reanimate them as zombies ... and go crusading around the world with them. The goal of the deck is to use Dralnu and his crusade in combination to make massive amounts of goblins, turn them into zombies, and beef them up with the Undead Warchief. A few alternate win conditions have been included. With a Cloudstone Curio and Goblin Warchief on the field, Akki Rockspeaker can bounce another copy of himself over and over again to ramp up for a large storm bonus on Empty the Warrens. Mogg War Marshal can also be bounced should a Rockspeaker or Warchief not be available.

Dralnus Crusade
"Should a Mogg War Marshal or Akki Rockspeaker be needed late game but has been killed off, toss a Footsteps of the Goryo at it and then bounce the creature back to your hand via Cloudstone Curio. What can you recast with Dralnu? Toss another copy of Empty the Warrens out on a later turn for even more goblin fun. If need be, flashback a Brightstone Ritual or Fireball to take care of any creatures or shave off your opponent's remaining life points. Having a large number of tokens should take care of any problems with Dralnu's sacrifice ability, and having Dralnu's Crusade on the field will help out your little tokens."

Chris: Wow, I'm very impressed. There are tons of cool little combos in this deck. I like the combination of flashback and storm. Phelios_san even scores some flavour points with the use of Dralnu's Crusade. Dralnu's creature type is even relevant with the addition of Undead Warchief! My only quibble is that Dralnu himself doesn't seem essential to the deck, since many of the deck's incredible tricks don't require Dralnu at all. On the other hand, Dralnu enables or enhances some other nifty tricks.

Sadistic Gleemax: I'm sorry for being so mean. I just broke up with my girlfriend. She's a spleen in a bucket and we were very much in love.

Congratulations, Phelios_san! You may pick up your prize at the front desk.

Join me next week for more legendary fun! And more prizes!

Chris Millar

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