Clue Grids and Crazy Toads

Posted in How to Build on April 7, 2016

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

One of my favorite things in the world is building decks with a brand-new Magic set—and doubly so if it's just after Standard rotation.

Why? Well, a new array of options is available! Cards that were staples of the format are rotating out, recent cards that flew just under the radar are poised to surge upward, and, of course, a whole new host of cards are entering the fray as new challengers! If you like building decks, it's one of the best times of the year.

There are so many strategies to build—and so many synergies to break!

You may have noticed that my DailyMTG compatriot (and absurdly charismatic editor) Blake Rasmussen recently wrote an article highlighting some synergies you can pull together with Shadows over Innistrad cards. He wrote that to tantalize you and get your mind racing...and now it's time to build with some of those synergies!

They're all totally valid strategies, but there are two I'd like to zoom in on today. By the time you finish this article, hopefully you can walk away with some sweet decklists and some inspiration of your own for the new Standard format.

Ready? Well, let's go!

The Clue Grid

Let's say you've been hard at work investigating the madness that's on Innistrad. You want to know just what's happening at the other end of that insanity!

You walk past flights of estranged Angels and crazed Vampires. You move across the steps of Hanweir and Nephalia. And finally, you find the true villain of the Shadows over Innistrad storyline!

Is it Avacyn?

Is it Nahiri?

Is it Sorin?

Is it Jace?!

No, no, no. You've put all of the pieces together. You know who it is. You kick open the door and find the clearest source of Innistrad villainy there is: Ghirapur Æther Grid!

Okay, so maybe that's not quite how the Magic creative team drew it up. But that's definitely what this deck aims to do!

You see, Clue tokens are mostly just vectors to provide you with cards. We needed a card type to represent a temporary clue on the battlefield, and we chose artifact. A reasonable choice.

But that means you can also use them for their artifact synergies—and that's where Ghirapur Æther Grid comes in!

If you keep your Clues around, for every two Clues you have, you can start pinging. And considering Shadows over Innistrad basically hands out Clue tokens like Halloween candy (appropriate, I suppose), it's easy to amass a ton of them in no time—and completely deprive your opponents of any creatures they might have...and then their life points will quickly follow.

Here's one take on what that could look like:

Gavin Verhey's Clue Grid

Download Arena Decklist

This blue-red clue control deck uses Clues as its main path to victory! Outside of the occasional Wandering Fumarole beatdown, this deck has a firm plan: control the game, and then win on the back of your Æther Grid.

One of the great things about this strategy is that Clues are also a form of card drawing! If you can't find what you need and are forced to cycle some Clues, it's no big deal: you can always play the control plan and win the long game.

Tamiyo's Journal and Trail of Evidence can quickly get out of hand here, especially with their good buddy Erdwal Illuminator. Producing two Clues at each trigger is a force that's tough to deal with! It's either an added damage off Æther Grid or an endless stream of cards that your opponent is going to have a real tough time dealing with.

Tamiyo's Journal can also go find any missing pieces you have by sacrificing Clues—including your one Reclusive Artificer to finish off your opponent's board. You could also include one big creature (such as Ulamog) to have access to that as well.

Looking to tweak this deck and make it your own? One other option is to add green. Both Tireless Tracker and Weirding Wood are solid investigative additions on the Clue front, and you also gain access to additional mana-acceleration creatures and some big extra finishers like World Breaker if you're looking for them.

Above all, though, this deck sets out to do what it intends to. And really, what could be more fun than slowly and excruciatingly pinging your opponent to death?

Crazy Toads

"Okay, so we have this idea for a gigantic monstrous toad..."

I'll never forget when the creative forces behind Innistrad pitched the design team on a gigantic, monstrous toad—but it definitely ended up creating one of the most memorable cards in the set.

It's definitely an unusual card, and it does quite a bit—so how can we take best advantage of it?

Well, as Blake noted, there are a number of synergies with our Froggy friend. And while there are plenty of more "typical" versions (or as typical as anything involving a giant Frog is, really) you can build with delirium and self-mill, I wanted to go the full-on wild route with Magic Origins sleeper Molten Vortex!

Molten Vortex lets you turn the lands in your hand into damage. The Gitrog Monster says if a land goes into your graveyard from anywhere—not just the battlefield—you draw a card. Groundskeeper can get your lands back to your hand.

It doesn't take much effort to assemble a truly crazy machine.

Gavin Verhey's Crazy Toad!

Download Arena Decklist

There's plenty of fun to be had here!

Image courtesy of Blake Rasmussen

In addition to the aforementioned combo (and I mean, who doesn't want to pay 1RG to deal 2 damage and draw a card over and over again?), it's also just an efficient midrange deck. The Gitrog Monster hits hard on its own, Mindwrack Demon has that fifth crucial point of toughness in this format that deals with a lot of 4s, and the Deathmist Raptor with Den Protector engine is poised to make a comeback here.

Yes, that's right: good old Raptor and Den Protector are at it again. But it really makes sense this time around—and especially with some of the self-mill going on. You can dump cards into the graveyard for Protector, including Raptors that can come back. Gather the Pack is not a card you might have expected, but it's one of the best ways to mill yourself. Plus, you even draw a card for every land you mill while you have a Gitrog Monster out!

Now, this is the most ambitious version of this deck because it splashes red for Vortex. However, you could very easily convert this into a straight Black-Green Delirium deck! If you're looking for something else to try, you can cut out the red and play cards like Inexorable Blob, Moldgraf Scavenger, and more Mindwrack Demons.

Midrange decks like this are always viable choices, and ones that take advantage of the graveyard have proven time and time again to be effective. And now that we're on Innistrad once more, why not take advantage of the situation and fully reuse your debris? It's the perfect time.

Love and Monsters

It feels good to be brewing new decks. It feels good to have a fresh set of synergies to explore. And perhaps most of all, it feels good to be back on Innistrad!

The set is full of all kinds of connections you might not expect at first blush. How many colors should you be playing? Which new mechanics are going to hit? Which tribe will emerge on top? I can't wait to see your take on how to play it—and how this format evolves over the next several weeks!

If you have any thoughts or questions about these decks or just about new Standard at all, feel free to reach out to me! You can always contact me by sending me a tweet or asking me a question on my Tumblr.

Enjoy Innistrad, and talk with you again soon!




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