Love and Monsters

Posted in Reconstructed on November 12, 2013

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.

When it comes to building decks, I love taking on a challenge.

Possibility Storm combo? Sure, bring it on. Stax in Standard? I'll try and make it work.Gutter Grime midrange? There's a deck there somewhere. After all, you know what they say: shoot for the moon, and if you miss you'll float through an empty void forever, slowly dying of oxygen deprivation.

...You know, in hindsight, I never really got why that phrase was supposed to be aspirational. But anyway, that's why, when it came around to be time for Monstrosity Week, I knew there was just one thing I really wanted to do: attack with the largest monster I could.

Colossus of Akros | Art by Zack Stella

Yes, that's right—this week marks the time to roll out Colossus of Akros. If you've been waiting for the week I try and crunch in for 20 with a single creature, then this is the week for you.

I received several cool Colossus of Akros submissions, but this one struck my fancy the most. Sent in by consistent ReConstructed reader and deck submitter, Qoarl, it puts the titanic Colossus in a Mono-Green shell. Let's take a look!

Qoarl's Colossal Ramp

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    The Battle Plan

Make Colossus of Akros monstrous and attack. That's it, right?

...okay, so there might be a bit more to it than that.

At its core, this is a mono-green devotion deck. Filled with ways to build up the board to enhance Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, what sets this deck apart from similar decks is that it has many creatures that specifically ramp up its mana. Eschewing cards like Scavenging Ooze in favor of cards like Karametra's Acolyte and Axebane Guardian allows this deck to really churn out a ton of mana quickly.

While you do have the potential to just land an early Colossus of Akros and press the monstrification button, this deck isn't solely focused on that. And while you are bending to include Colossus, you need some creatures to sit on the ground, threatening your opponent and fighting off your opponent's swarms as well. Even if they just serve as a distraction to buy time for your eventual goal, they're already doing plenty.

This deck is doing well on having multiple avenues of attack—and the goal of revising this deck is going to be to hone those paths even further, while all the while streamlining the mana-acceleration package. Let's get started!

    Deck Breakdown

Which cards have the colossal might to stay and which don't have the strength to stay around? Let's go through the deck and break it down!

The most integral part of any ramp deck is its ramp package. All of the Colossus of Akroses in the world won't help us without the little green men to help get us there before our face is smashed in by Ætherling.

The goal of any ramp package is to get us ahead on mana quickly, while also being resilient. How does this fare?

Well, it is definitely good at getting ahead on mana fast. Elvish Mystic kicks you off on the first turn, and is exactly what you're looking for in a one-drop. Sylvan Caryatid is tough to kill off and blocks well, plus it's a defender for Axebane Guardian—more on that in a moment. Voyaging Satyr isn't breaking any speed records on his own by being a two-drop mana accelerator, and unlike the Caryatid he isn't resilient—but he more than makes up for it by being able to untap Nykthos.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is the ramp engine nestled among the lands and an absolute powerhouse. With four green mana symbols in play, it puts you ahead an extra mana—and every further symbol pushes that count higher. Any land that gives you more than one mana is usually pretty strong, and Nykthos is certainly no exception.

When you have a Voyaging Satyr to untap it with, you can go completely crazy. With a Voyaging Satyr and five total green mana symbols on the board, a Nykthos can generate eight mana! (A net total of four extra.) While the Satyr may look unassuming, he's actually one of the most important ramp cards in the deck because of his Nykthos interaction.

Axebane Guardian is even slower as a three-mana ramp creature—but quite often he taps for two or more mana. In multiples, he's especially crazy, quickly propelling you to ten+ mana. Keep in mind Sylvan Caryatid is a defender as well, which makes the Guardian even more potent.

Finally, there's Karametra's Acolyte. The Acolyte is the most expensive of the bunch at four mana, but it does make a ton of mana—assuming you get to untap with your four-drop. It promises great acceleration, although it is a little unwieldy.

Out of all these accelerators, Karametra's Acolyte is the only one that isn't quite filling what I'm looking for. I really like the massive acceleration—don't get me wrong there. However, at four mana, I'd love it if the effect was a bit more resilient to removal or did something else.

Fortunately, there's an answer for just that.

Xenagos, the Reveler accomplishes that goal nicely. Also sitting at four mana, he makes a comparable amount of mana. But unlike the Acolyte, he can also conjure up tokens, which lends you some added ammo if you need to go on the offensive when this deck isn't quite in Colossus range yet. Furthermore, another great benefit of Xenagos is that you can use the mana ability right away and refund what he cost to play, letting you drop your hand onto the battlefield even faster.

And to top it all off, the ultimate is even worth building up to—you may just hit a Colossus of Akros for free!

You might notice that this deck is mono-green and Xenagos requires red mana—and you definitely want to be able cast him on time. Sylvan Caryatid, Axebane Guardian, and a set of Stomping Grounds help out some, but I'd love another source—and fortunately, there's a good option that gets a card into the deck I wanted anyway: Gatecreeper Vine.

The Vine is a defender for Axebane Guardian, helping that creature ramp up even faster. It can find you the Mountain you need. And, as a bonus, it also lets you strip a couple lands out of your deck so you draw more nonland permanents—meaning more cards to increase your devotion!

So, to sum it up: Xenagos, the Reveler and Gatecreeper Vine in. Karametra's Acolyte out. Now let's see what we're going to do with all of these ramp cards!

[card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card]

Polukranos, World Eater is definitely one of the most powerful monstrosity cards in Theros. A four-mana 5/5 puts the pressure on fast, and its scaling ability to monstrous is incredibly potent... especially with all the mana this deck can generate.

With the massive amount of mana on your side, Polukranos will in many cases be able to clean up your opponent's board. I don't know how many worlds Polukranos has actually eaten, but in this deck he can certainly regurgitate a world of hurt on your opponent.

While Polukranos, World Eater is legendary, I'm still happy to play all four. If your opponent doesn't kill him then he or she is going to be in trouble, and being able to use that monstrosity ability again on another copy is plenty powerful.

I'd actually like a couple more cards in this space of cheap creature that puts serious pressure on the opponent. The card of choice here? Arbor Colossus. Not only is it a five-mana 6/6 with plenty of upside abilities (it even has monstrosity to support Monstrosity Week!), but it also has triple green in its mana cost for your devotion. Plus, it adds to the burgeoning Colossus theme. Perfect! I'll play two.

Ah, the Colossus! Huge and indestructible, this card is certainly a game ender. While there are answers in the format being played for it (like Detention Sphere) it's actually fairly tricky to deal with for some decks. If it hits the table against, say, Mono-Black decks, they are very hard pressed to deal with it. Sure, they can Thoughtseize it away early game—but if you draw it late thanks to a Garruk activation or similar, you may just be able to flop it down and threaten impending doom.

Getting to ten mana actually isn't that tricky in this deck. Your accelerators do a pretty impressive job at that. However, there are only so many eight-drops that require ten mana to use that one deck needs, so I'm going to cut one Colossus of Akros and move down to three. You rarely want the second one, and drawing two early really clogs up your hand. Still, this is one of the most fun parts of the deck—crush people with your Colossus!

Garruk, Caller of Beasts is absolutely superb in a deck like this. He serves as a massive source of card advantage in a deck without any other way to draw more cards, digs you to more ramp or a Colossus, and threatens a game-ending ultimate. He's essentially a must-kill threat, and there's very little I'd rather do for six mana. He even has two green mana symbols to up your devotion!

I'm actually happy playing four Garruks. Once I land one and activate his +1 I should have plenty more to do, and if the opponent kills him I'm happy to cast another. Let's add in the last one.

While Nylea doesn't accelerate you, she does serve a couple great roles. First of all, it isn't hard to get her to be a 6/6 for four mana—that's certainly worth looking at on her own. But something else fantastic she does is give you an excellent mana sink for all of the mana you produce. A real danger with any ramp deck is that you'll draw all acceleration and no action, or vice versa. Any card that helps bridge that gap is worth looking at.

Nylea, God of the Hunt definitely does that. If you just have a fistful of Polukranoses, she still helps you out. If you only have a bunch of mana creatures, she can use those accelerators to push through a ton of damage. Either way, Nylea is a nice fit. I'd like to add in a third.

This cheap instant is a nice trick to protect your largest threats. Considering your Colossus is indestructible and hard for most decks to deal with, Ranger's Guile ensures it'll stick around on the battlefield.

However, while cute, Ranger's Guile is a little too situational. Remember: each card you play comes at the cost of drawing another in its place card. While Ranger's Guile would be nice in some situations, more often I'd rather have a card that ups the deck's primary game plan, increasing devotion or adding a threat to the board. Ranger's Guile has to go, at least from the main deck—it could be a reasonable sideboard option.

Besides just having a wide range of abilities to choose from, Bow of Nylea does have a few things going for it. First of all is the great deathtouch ability. In conjunction with Polukranos, you can attack and activate monstrosity to easily kill off all your opponent's creatures. It definitely helps your creatures attack unhindered.

However, none of Bow's abilities are really what I'm looking for in this deck. Gaining 3 life is nice for buying time, but that's not worth a card and the consistent mana investment. While the Bow is great with Polukranos and Nylea, it's not enough to get me to keep it in the deck.

With all of those changes made, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's of Monsters and Men

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There are a couple routes you could take this deck down if you wanted. If you wanted to move more into red, you could definitely look into Domri Rade and make the deck more like Makihito Mihara's deck from Pro Tour Theros. I'm not even playing Temple of Abandon or a singleton Gruul Guildgate because I didn't want to sacrifice any ramp speed, but you could certainly Gruul-ify this deck up.

While I wasn't playing cards like Burning-Tree Emissary strictly for devotion because they didn't do enough on their own, there could also be a build with Karametra's Acolyte that is even more devotion-centric worth exploring.

Regardless, if you've been wanting to cast Colossus of Akros, this is how I would recommend doing it. There's nothing quite like attacking with a 20/20 indestructible—have fun!

    Honorable Mentions

Which other decks were big enough monsters to catch my eye? Let's take a look!

Itou Kazunari's Respiratory Insufficiency

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Angelica's RUG Genius

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Tony Youssef's Brushstrider Selesnya

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Andrew Kasper's Walled Forest Fire

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George Wolfe's Midrange Monsterhouse

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Masato Ichimaru's Artisan of Akros

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Sean Calvo's Debt and Tactics

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Akinori Nakano's Ancient Monsters

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    Little Talks (About Standard)

It's hard to believe, but the year is starting to wind down! There are only four more new ReConstructed articles until the new year—and once we get back, it'll be just about time to kick off with Born of the Gods.

In two weeks, there's another open spot—and I'll be making that the final Standard ReConstructed of the year. So let's be sure to take a look at whatever you really want to see happen in Standard! Here's your mission:

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Pick an underplayed card in Standard and build around it
Deadline: November 18, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by clicking on "respond via email" below. Please submit decklists using the following template. (The specific numbers below are arbitrary, so please don't feel a need to use them—it's just how an example of how a decklist should look when laid out.)

Yourname's Deckname

20 Land
20 Land
4 Creature
4 Creature
4 Other Spell
4 Other Spell
4 Planeswalker

You can take "underplayed" to mean whatever you'd like—it could be something you thought would make a larger splash but didn't, the card you always try to work into your decks, or even a weak card you've found a way to make work. Send them my way—I'm interested to see what you can come up with!

Speaking of sending things my way, if you have any thoughts or feedback on this article, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to send me a tweet or post in the forums with your thoughts and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week with a combo take on Standard. Until then, have fun attacking with 20/20s!


Gavin VerheyGavin Verhey
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When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he wanted a job making Magic cards. Ten years later, his dream was realized as his combined success as a professional player, deck builder, and writer brought him into Wizards Ramp;D during 2011. He's been writing Magic articles since 2005 and has no plans to stop.

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