You Didn't Need Those Lands Anyway

Posted in Reconstructed on August 28, 2012

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.

What I learned from this week's deck submissions is that many of you really enjoy destroying your opponents' lands.

I guess it's fair: nothing is more fun than making sure your opponents can't do anything and are forced to sit there under your heel while they die to a squadron of 2/2s. Mmmm, tasty. A plate of delicious, delicious sorrow drizzled in tears and seasoned with curse words.

But let me back up first.

After two years of Scars of Mirrodin jousting around Standard and hitting things with swords, it's finally time to begin bidding it farewell. Next week marks Return to Ravnica previews, and at that point there's no going back: I'm done with Scars of Mirrodin.

But first, a parting article. Before your brain gets busy drooling all over its cerebral cortex thanks to cards like the new charms and guildmages, it's one last time to skinny dip in the Quicksilver Sea and see what happens.

I asked for you to send in decks containing underplayed Scars-block cards and I received well more than a hundred submissions for this week's challenge, with all kinds of exciting cards. Everything from Shape Anew to Rage Extractor to Myr Turbine came up in decklists—and you'll be able to check out some of those later on.

However, one card had far and away the highest number of submissions. I'm all about giving you what you want to see, and if I received so many submissions using a single, unexpected card, then how could I not feature it?

Get ready friends. It's time to put on some Liquimetal Coating!

Yuriy Slabicky's Liquimetal Land Destruction

Download Arena Decklist

The Battle Plan

This isn't really a land destruction deck. It just so happens that sometimes you destroy a land every turn starting on turn two.

How does this deck work? Well, it's all built around the innocuous artifact Liquimetal Coating.

Liquimetal Coating

The Coating allows you to turn anything into an artifact with no mana activation attached to it. It also happens to be that we here at Wizards have printed a lot of aggressive artifact hate just in case something from Scars block got out of hand.

That means that sometimes you can get this to happen:

At that point, it's pretty easy to lock your opponent completely out of the game. With nineteen cards that can destroy artifacts, including four with flashback and also Snapcaster Mage to help out, your opponent is going to be in a hole deeper than a time vortex.

Of course, sometimes the game will go long. You can't always have a turn-two Coating. Until then, there's the huge problem of holding all kinds of useless Ancient Grudges and Smelts in your grip. The good news is that, even if your opponent has built up plenty of lands, you still have a bunch of cheap, instant-speed Vindicates—provided you can find a Coating.

It really is Coating or bust with this deck. One of my goals is going to be to make it a reasonable deck even if it doesn't draw Coating, but with such a high density of artifact removal spells necessary you're always going to have some games that end with three Smelts in your hand. That's just the tradeoff of trying to use Liquimetal Coating. Fortunately, the games where you do draw Coating are truly outrageous!

Liquimetal Coating | Art by Johann Bodin

Deck Breakdown

Let's quickly run through all of the cards in the deck so we can try and figure out what to keep and what to replace.

Liquimetal Coating

This is the card the deck is built around, and you want to draw it every single game as early as possible. Playing four is mandatory here. The real question as we look through the rest of the deck is how we can make finding Coating more consistent and how we can help the deck win without Coating. Fortunately, there are some good answers for both of those pressing questions.

The Artifact Removal

This category is fairly broad, but it's worth lumping all of our options in here so we can determine the advantages to each.

The deck currently has Acidic Slime, Torch Fiend, Manic Vandal, Ancient Grudge, and Smelt—not to mention a pair of Snapcaster Mages. My instincts say that's probably a bit too much. When a deck is a third of cards that are situational, it really compounds your bad draws. Even with "just" fifteen pieces, in the games where you do draw a Coating you're still going to have enough artifact removal in your hand to fire off at least two or three. That should set your opponent back plenty far enough.

So, which should we remove? Let's rank them and find out!

At the top of the list certainly sit Ancient Grudge and Acidic Slime. Grudge's repeated uses gives you double the destructive effect when your engine is online, while only taking up one spot in your hand. Slime is a 2/2 deathtoucher that can kill other permanent types on his own, making him more versatile even though he's at a higher cost.


Ancient Grudge
Acidic Slime

The weaker links here are Smelt, Manic Vandal, and Torch Fiend. Smelt is completely dead most of the time without Coating, and alongside Ancient Grudge you don't want to have too many in your hand. While it does contribute to your best draws, the Birds draw isn't that likely and also, as you'll find out soon, Birds has its own problems here. Smelt does have the advantage of being able to be Snapcastered, though.


Manic Vandal
Torch Fiend

While Fiend and Vandal are both creatures, which is a nice advantage, they're slower and don't let you do much else in a turn. Vandal also doesn't have the instant-speed benefit. On the other hand, the mana cost isn't so important. They both curve fine after a turn-two Coating.

Overall I would rather have creatures than Smelt most of the time, but Smelt works well with Snapcaster. I think it's best to pull a mix here, leaving a couple Smelts and six creatures behind.

Argent Mutation

Argent Mutation is pretty much exactly what I think of when I imagine a do-nothing card. Granted, in this deck it very much does something—but that something is pretty narrow.

For three mana, you can upgrade one of your Smelts to hit anything. The card is just so weak on its own and so slow that I'm really not interested in playing it, even though it helps spend those Smelts out of my hand. I'd rather have something like a Bonfire of the Damned, Whipflare, or Ponder to make the game go longer and/or help me find a Coating.


Bonfire of the Damned

Snapcaster Mage

A little added redundancy while providing you reuses on other cards we might want to add (like Ponder) is nice to have around. While I don't know that this deck wants the full four, I could certainly see adding a third if more instants and sorceries (like Ponder—you might be able to guess where this is going) are added.


Snapcaster Mage

Birds of Paradise

Birds is very conducive to this deck's best possible draws. If I wanted to maximize this deck's ability to win with Liquimetal Coating, I would probably play a different version of this deck with tons of artifact removal, eight or twelve one-drop mana creatures, four Ponders, and some large card-drawing spells.

Birds of Paradise

However, the deck I am trying to make and that deck are quite different. That one completely crumbles if it can't find a Coating. If you want to go all in, building a deck like that is easy. In fact, I'll even give you the spell base I'd start with if you want to try it:

4 Acidic Slime
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Torch Fiend
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Liquimetal Coating
4 Smelt
4 Ancient Grudge
4 Ponder
2 Amass the Components
1 Crushing Vines

In the deck I'm trying to make for this article, I want to be as consistent as possible. I don't really need one-drop mana acceleration, and I definitely can't afford to have my mana accelerator Pillar of Flamed or Arc Trailed. In fact, I'd really like to be able to play Whipflare. For that reason, I'm not so excited about Birds in this deck. I'd rather play Rampant Growth if I wanted an effect like that, since it plays better toward my late game and doesn't accidentally die early on.

Deadeye Navigator

I definitely want to have some kind of top-end threat in this deck, and the fact that Deadeye works so well with Acidic Slime and Manic Vandal (provided there's a Coating around) is extremely attractive. It's not even too shabby with Snapcaster Mage either. On the flip side, Deadeye is a dud-eye if you don't have one of your enters-the-battlefield creatures around.


Deadeye Navigator
Consecrated Sphinx

While there are a lot of good six-drops around like Frost Titan, Inferno Titan, and Consecrated Sphinx as well, I'd rather have something a little less expensive I can top out with on turn five. Jace, Memory Adept is actually pretty reasonable, since you can buy a lot of time once Coating is active to mill out your opponents.

However, I'm looking for a card that is also good without Coating, and a card that caught my eye here is Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. She can lock down problematic threats, lets me dig a little, and has a game-ending ultimate for this deck. While she isn't a creature, she fills enough roles that I'm happy playing a couple here.


Jace, Memory Adept
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

A New Coat of Paint

Many of the cards I wanted to add I've already mentioned above, giving you an idea of what I want to do. However, there are a few cards I haven't brought up yet that I'd like to add.

Huntmaster of the Fells

This deck is looking for cards that are powerful on their own and cards that buy time, both of which Huntmaster provides. A turn-two Rampant Growth into Huntmaster is plenty scary, and doesn't need a Liquimetal Coating anywhere. Better yet, the Huntmaster dancing around diverts your opponent's attention, giving you more time to find a Coating.


Rampant Growth

To top it all off, if you're able to start constricting your opponent's mana base with Coating, Huntmaster can easily begin to flip back and forth each turn. That should ensure your opponent can't get back into the game.


I mentioned this in passing above. Simply put, the item this deck lacks is consistency and you absolutely must find a specific card to crank some of your cards online. Ponder is basically tailor-made for fixing both of those problems.


I similarly mentioned this card earlier, but didn't go too deep into detail. In essence, one of this deck's weaknesses is fighting a bunch of mana Elves early on. Even if you get a Coating active, you certainly can't mana screw those decks. Additionally, Geist of Saint Traft can be a major problem if your opponent has removal for your string of 2/2s, so a card to clear that off the board is crucial. Whipflare does a lot of strong work here, despite your deck being full of small creatures.

With those additions and all of the aforementioned changes, that brings the decklist to this:

Never Start a Land War on Mirrodin

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What you have here is a fun (well, for you, at least) deck that could easily take down your local FNM. If you can draw Liquimetal Coating early and the mana comes together, then you're in good shape against practically every deck. I also have some more good news: if your opponent was relying on the card Birthing Pod, you're probably going to be in okay shape.

Your sideboarded games mostly play out the same as your mainboarded ones. There's not a lot you tweak from your core plan, save for a few extra removal spells... unless you transform!

If your opponent is packing a lot of artifact hate, it's just not worth trying to get your Coating engine online. You can struggle with it, but in the end you're just going to wind up with dead cards and not enough impact. Since you typically aren't sideboarding a lot anyway, you fortunately have plenty of room to change things up!

While your opponent is setting up to fight your Coatings you can sideboard into a plan with a lot of powerful five-drops and just overwhelm your opponent on the power axis. The sideboard ramp spells might look a little weird, but they're important for ensuring you can cast your five-drops quickly enough to put your opponent under pressure.

Honorable Mentions

Looking for some other Scars-block focused decks to try out for its swan song? Take a look at some of these!

Asher Stuhlman's Turbo Slag Fiend

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Ryan Smith's Rock the Catzbah

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Mike KeKnee's Rage Extractor

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Antônio Faillace's Curse of Knowledge

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Michael Graham's Shape Anew

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Ian Diamond's Infinity Welder

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Tom's Turbine Clock Combo

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Ricky Bernet's Jor Kadeen Tokens

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Kyren's Furnace Control

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Johnnie Alexandro's Golgari Mindslaver Post

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Tim's Mono-Brown Clock

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Greg D.'s Red Node

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Anonymous's Anvil Control

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Jarad's Challenge

That's it for Scars of Mirrodin! Go out there and have some fun with Liquimetal Coating for the last few weeks you can. (In Standard, at least.)

In two weeks, it'll be time for another Return to Ravnica preview card! The card I'm showing off is Golgari and happens to work well with the already-previewed Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord from Duel Decks Izzet vs. Golgari. (Which releases this week and I helped playtest—go check them out!)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord | Art by Svetlin Velinov

Build a black-green deck containing Jarad. Keep in mind that no cards from Scars of Mirrodin block or Magic 2012 will be legal—use only Innistrad block, Magic 2013, and previewed Return to Ravnica cards for this challenge!

Format: Future Standard (Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, Return to Ravnica, and Magic 2013)
Restrictions: Build a Golgari deck containing Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Deadline: Tuesday, September 4, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Send all decklists via email by clicking the "Respond via Email" link at the bottom of this article

You might want to wait until next week to come up with something for this challenge so you get to see some more Return to Ravnica cards. Or don't. Either way, get those decks into me—I'm excited to cover some of the first Return to Ravnica decks you will have the opportunity to look at!

Until then, if you have any comments or questions on this article, feel free to send me a tweet or post in the forums. May you give Scars of Mirrodin a good few final weeks.

Next week, I'll be back with a Zero to Sixty article where I show off a Return to Ravnica card—and the first card I designed to see print! You won't want to miss it.

See you then!



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