Ertai’s Meddling: Deadspread (Scars of Mirrodin)
Thank you for joining us today as we release the next installment of the ever-popular Ertai’s Meddling series! Today we’re putting Scars of Mirrodin’s Deadspread firmly in our sights, and seeing if we can’t salvage what is a promising mechanic from the somewhat mediocre intro deck it’s been given. As ever we’ll be invoking the rules of Ertai’s Meddling, to make sure that our finished product is something fun and easily obtainable for everyone. That means:
Deadspread was the showcase deck for the new Proliferate mechanic, and had a lot of promise. Get some conters on the board, proliferate like crazy and finish off your decimated opponent. At least, that was the plan! As you might expect, the execution was perhaps a little shy of the mark.
Here, too, are the raw materials that we have to begin with:
For this Meddling, we’ll be making one version of the deck. Frequently Meddlings in the past have made an improved version of the deck, then used its components to make a mono-coloured variant. This won’t work well for Deadspread- as the first set in a new block, it’s tools aren’t fully developed yet, and we need all the Proliferate we can get. A second deck could be made that would abuse all the charge-counter artifacts we have to play with, but for today’s purposes we want to arrive at a very tightly-focused proliferate deck that makes the mechanic work.
One of Deadspread’s weaknesses is in the early game- the deck took so long to set up its own engine that it left you vulnerable and exposed. A suboptimal creature selection didn’t help matters any, either. Instead, we’re going to make sure every body on the bench earned its place on the team.
Fume Spitter: These are a perfect delivery mechanism for getting that crucial first -1/-1 counter on an opponent’s creature. Not only are we keeping the two we have here, but we’re adding two more. By way of additional disincentive to your opponent to engage in early hostilities, we’ll also be adding a playset of Necropedes. This will give us a very solid early start at whittling down our opposition’s forces and setting up for truly hideous proliferates.
Maritime Guard: Gonzo. These are reasonable enough defensive bodies, far better than the equally-costed Coral Merfolk for the purpose, but just not worth a card slot here. We’re expecting to have to weather some early storms, but would rather respond with a withering defense that makes them pay for every inch than just a 1/3 damage soak.
Thrummingbird: Absolutely critical to our war effort, that we add in two more to complete the playset should come as no surprise.
Moriok Reaver: Off to the bread lines. A 3/2 body for three mana might be typical of Black’s poor creature efficiency, but it’s not going to be typical of this deck. He does little and adds even less.
Darkslick Drake: If our primary objective is to clear the opponent’s board with proliferated -1/-1 counters, our secondary win condition will be in the skies. Deadspread out-of-the-box gives us two directions here: Darkslick Drake and Sky-Eel School. The School gives us card quality and an extra point of power, but dies to a Bolt. The Drake is a point weaker in the front-end, sure, but in return gives us card advantage, a beefy back-end that needs a Flame Slash or Turn to Slag to kill, and is a mana cheaper overall. The choice is clear- the Drake takes it, and we’ll bring in two more to keep him company.
Skinrender: As much of a no-brainer as the Thrummingbird. We’ll add in another pair of them to bring our total up to a respectable three.
Harbor Serpent: Out. It’s a nice body, but it’s just a fat defender for much of the game if your opponent isn’t playing Blue. We have better options.
Carnifex Demon: We very seldom consider cutting the rares in a deck, and especially when they are such a good fit such as here. Carnie stays.
Now, let’s move on to the noncreature component.
Twisted Image: Too cutesy for our tastes, it occasionally hits paydirt bt killing any 0-power creature, or setting up a kill on an asymmetrical beater, but it’s just not worth a card here, cantrip or no.
Culling Dais: Although we don’t like the initial investment (sacrifice a creature), it’s hardly insurmountable and with all the proliferation going on, a miser’s copy here is not out of place.
Doom Blade: Holy Maloney, they’re cutting the Blade! Sad to say, but the deck’s going to have to do without its services. Deadspread didn’t put much stock in the card to begin with, as it could be argued that there’s little difference between a one-of and a none-of (unless you have tutor effects, which we don’t). It’s hard to find room here, and if the deck works well it shouldn’t need it with all the other removal it packs.
Contagion Clasp: Mission-critical, and we’re adding another. Multiple copies can be redundant against opponents not packing artifact hate, but it’s a cheap way to get a counter started all the same.
Throne of Geth: After all the cuts we’re making in the artifact allotment of the deck, it only makes sense to pitch this one, too. A good outlet for dried-up Trigons or Necrogen Censers in the stock list, almost useless in ours.
Necrogen Censer: Cut. Cute and clever direct damage source, there’s just no room for it in the more streamlined Meddling list.
Steady Progress: Another of the deck’s no-brainers, we’re bumping this up to a full playset here. A ton of uses, and the cantip effect is a solid bonus.
Instill Infection: The problem with the original Deadspread was the difficulty it had getting those initial counters on with reasonable ease. Instill Infection makes that simple, but it’s not an inexpensive option. Too often we were reliant on getting this spell out to start the initial crack in a creature’s armour so that we could proliferate it to death. In our Meddled version, it should be a stronger option- with the other ways to get that initial counter, we’re no longer as desperately dependant upon it, which means we can play it at more convenience times. We’re rounding out the playset here as well.
Trigon of Corruption: Not an easy cut, and one we’re still second-guessing. That it costs six mana to get your first -1/-1 counter was probably the deciding factor, though it has such strong synergy with the deck overall. It might be worth cutting an Instill Infection to cheat this in, but for now we’ll be keeping it out.
Sorcerer’s Strongbox: Is it bad that cutting this made us deleriously happy? Our most-hated card gets the pink slip. With eight cantrips in the deck (plus the Culling Dais), we’re in fine shape for card drawing.
Trigon of Thought: We agonised over the Trigon of Corruption, but this one was far easier. Five mana is just too much, even if it does give us cheap cards.
Contagion Engine: Expensive, but soooo wickedly worth it when it goes off, this one stays.
And there you have it! The deck should have no difficulty getting out an early-game setup, with so many options in the one- and two-drop slots. Fume Spitters and Necropedes will be your -1/-1 counter vectors, either eliminating early nuisances on their own or weaking them enough to wipe them up with a well-timed Steady Progress. What’s more, these early critters are useful at most any stage in the game, as they begin the decaying process for one of your foe’s fresh critters as well. You’ve got pleny of ways to proliferate, and with the cantrips in the deck you should be seeing quite a number of cards to get you what you need. Finally, you have conventional beaters to roll up your opponent and pass through their ragtag lines. The Skinrender and Darkslick Drake will take a few turns to kill your opponent, but many times they’ll have already had a few pecks from a Thrummingbird to get them started.
Here’s our final decklist.
As always, we’d love to hear from you about your expeirnces with this Meddling or one of your own. And of course, the contest for Ertai’s Meddling is still open. We hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as we have, and we’re already looking forward to getting our hands on Metalcraft to finish out Scars of Mirrodin!