For Great Justice!

Posted in Serious Fun on August 10, 2010

Last week was Feedback Week where, in case you missed it, Mark Rosewater detailed just about every way to get in touch with those who make the game awesome and explore amazing parts of the community of Magic at large. I seriously recommend checking it out.

However, this week is the week after Feedback Week—and feedback from you I have! Setting it up two weeks ago, I asked you to help steer the direction of a Standard deck and a general multiplayer deck for my upcoming trip to U.S. Nationals. And before I forget, thank you to everyone who responded and voted.

The end result is a bit mixed so here, first, is the good news.

    What kind of multiplayer deck should Adam run with?

Monsters of the Seas 45.1%
Megrim / Caress + Discard 18.5%
Eldrazi Smashfest 16.0%
Five-Color Allies 14.6%
Something Else 5.8%

My initial response: "Hell yes we're going there!" Part of why I love Magic is all of the throwback references that create stirrings of nostalgia for me. Magic 2011 is home to a bevy of blue creatures that take me back to the first decks I made.

I've talked aboutStormtide Leviathan before, so let me show you one of the various sea decks you sent in:

Dennis Bates's Leviathan Deck

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"Not exactly an original deck list, but maybe it was some assistance to you. I look forward to see what it is you decide to do."

Thanks for the start, Dennis. While your submission is decidedly Standard-legal, (more on that later) we have all of Magic open to us (at least that which I have or can reasonably acquire). Let's start with the things I like:

Here are the things I don't like:

I'll admit: I've been spoiled by the Magic of yesteryear. When I think of a one-blue-mana card draw and filtering spell I think of Brainstorm. When I think of one that costs four mana, Fact or Fiction comes to mind.

We're getting ahead of ourselves though because first and foremost we have an important decision to make: will this deck be a Quest for Ula's Temple deck or not?

    A Temple on Top

I like Quest for Ula's Temple. It has a few neat features that landed it in another reader-submitted deck (for Noel deCordova's From the Lab):

  • You get to see what's on top of your library during your upkeep, whether you decide to reveal it or not (if it's a creature)
  • Once active you get to put a creature into play for free at the end of every turn, not just yours

If you've read some of what The Ferrett and Anthony Alongi provided back through the years you'll agree that both of those features are pretty attractive for multiplayer games. Knowing what's coming up is great if you have ways to change that up, with cards like Crystal Ball or Scalding Tarn—or take advantage of it, like with the namesake quest itself. Moreover, free creatures are amazing in more ways than one since:

  • You can play other spells without worrying about how much our sea life costs
  • Leave mana open for instants like the aforementioned Fact or Fiction and Brainstorm
  • Pay other costs that can be crimping your style (like Propaganda)

Getting that at the end of every turn is just gravy.

Of course, it isn't all glory and gigantic undersea creatures for nothing. Using the quest comes with some drawbacks:

  • Enchantments have a way of being a little Disenchant-ing
  • It takes time, likely three more turns after playing it, to get up and running
  • Everyone is already wise to your crafty plan
  • You really want to see it as early as possible (i.e. it's not always reliable to lean on)

With the mental gymnastics out of the way there is only one clear way to go: questing for the temple all the way, baby! Every deck I received about the Leviathans had Quest for Ula's Temple in it—and I'm confident to run full tilt with it.

While many of the submissions came with a full stock of four quests, I'm more a fan of finding it when I want it. Enlightened Tutor and Idyllic Tutor are both ideal and can play into a subtheme of enchantments for multiplayer.

But first, the Krakens (and Serpents, Leviathans, and Octopuses)! A quick Gatherer search for everything eligible provides our awesome options:

To turn the quest on we'll have to play more creatures than our titanic heavy-hitters. Simic Sky Swallower would lean up towards some green, while Wrexial, the Risen Deep would tilt up towards black. Since we're being greedy let's go with both:

Sorry, there are a lot of cool creatures out there. I want to make sure I'm hitting the trigger for quest counters so loading up on solid critters, and the card filtering to go with them, makes sense.

As I foreshadowed, having a subtheme of enchantments is a nice bonus to working with things that fetch them out. I have a few choice enchantments in mind:

Alright—that's already far too many. You get my point: I could make a deck of just enchantments like these if I wanted to. So, let's put this four-color amalgam together:

A Super-Soaker Adventure

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The various tutors allow us to grab enchantments at will. While Quest for Ula's Temple will probably be the first thing we pick up, Oversold Cemetery works well with our "spell creatures" like Mulldrifter and Sakura-Tribe Elder. Rhystic Study and Defense of the Heart serve as both game-accelerating options as well as flak that should draw fire away from our quest. Finally, just to shoehorn it in, Sun Titan can grab back almost any of our enchantments as well as expired Coiling Oracles or Elders.

Of course, this is just where I ended up—a far cry from the mono-blue deck we started with. Give me your thoughts and tell me what you think!

    The Battle Standard

Speaking of where we started—Standard—there's another deck to be cooked up.

    Which Standard deck should Adam model?

Kelly's Fauna Shaman Toolbox 24.6%
Something Else 21.6%
Frost Titan + Destructive Force 21.5%
You's Primeval Titan + Comet Storm 16.7%
Siira's Esper Control 15.7%

This was a very close spread and, as promised, is the bad news counterpart: I don't get to use my Frost Titans (yet!). For a reminder, here's what the Fauna Shaman Toolbox is all about:

Robert Kelly's Fauna Vengevine

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I love decks with variation, which is probably why I love singleton formats (like EDH) and often go with the "toolbox" route for decks. Of course, since I'm not looking to break into the competitive side of things I have the luxury of taking some liberties with what Robert had put together.

Clearly the plan, according to Mike Flores, is to "start dumping Vengevines with the ability to re-buy them at any point for free cards" by grabbing something like Ranger of Eos which then gives you two small creatures to play. Pretty slick.

The toolbox part comes in with the variety of options to go grab: Baneslayer Angel, Thornling, and Sphinx of Jwar Isle are all featured. Everything else is a pretty standard fare of powerful planeswalkers and effects.

While Robert's plan was certainly a successful one, there are two other creatures that can be bought back on the cheap from the graveyard: Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton.

Both of those cards don't mind if you play Fleshbag Marauder, Bloodthrone Vampire, and Mortician Beetle. Throw in some copies of Fling and it's starting to feel like a complete deck.

Of course, Fauna Shaman allows us to ditch a Skeleton or Bloodghast to go grab specific creatures. Obstinate Baloth, Malakir Bloodwitch, Acidic Slime (featured in Robert's Sideboard), Conquering Manticore, and many different Titans are all options.

One interesting deck idea that came in was a Jinxed Idol + Leyline of Sanctity deck (Thanks Dustin!) With your Leyline out you can "give" the idol to your opponent who then can't give it back. Devious! However, since we're firmly without white (or blue for that matter) at this point the question becomes "Is the risk worth it?"

Here's where I ended up:

Dark Fauna Toolbox

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While it's 61 cards and uses Fauna Shaman, this is a decidedly different riff on a toolbox and graveyard get-back deck than Robert's. Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton both get dumped into the graveyard for a variety of uses:

For the toolbox, Fauna Shaman is stocked with both Obstinate Baloth (great against any discard and nets some life gain when cast normally), and Malakir Bloodwitch, who can block Baneslayer Angel, and swing past her, all day.

Sylvan Ranger and the Borderland Ranger cousin ensure you're always getting a land for our Bloodghasts while Mortician Beetle rides along for the fun sacrifice effects. The real kicker to all this is Fling which, thanks to the overload of creatures, will allow a Bloodthrone Vampire to get big in a hurry—enough to hopefully finish the job.

The sideboard is a collection of useful changes:

I feel like I'm overlooking something but I'm confident this is a solid place to start.

    Critical Mass

Of course, I'm no expert here so I'm counting on you to show me what you think of these two decks. I'm positive there is a lot of room for improvement, changes, tweaks—and things I've completely missed. These aren't final by any means; your suggestions and thoughts will be able to make changes right up until the last minute.

The next time you'll see these decks is either when I meet you at Nationals or you see the final lists the Tuesday afterwards. So what are you waiting for? Show me what you've got!

Join me next week when I practice my scheming and evil laughter together with you!

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