Today’s Whispers of the Muse (our community-feedback deckbuilding series) comes to us by way of Henry S, a player relatively new to the game but already keen to try out his brewing skills. In possession of two heavily Green decks, he’s looking to fuse them into one powerful set of 60 cards. Of course, suggestions from outside the card pool never hurt, either! Says Henry,
I’m the sort of person that enjoys creating new decks and my next idea is something I’m very unfamiliar with: a trample deck.
I will be basing the the deck on a synergy between Garruk’s Teeth of the Predator and Archenemy: Trample Civilisation Underfoot, both of which, as you know, are green decks excelling at pumping out the fatties. I’m a player that likes speed, so I would the deck to be as quick as is possible.
Combining both of these decks will allow me access to several large creatures (two Molimo, a Vigor, Verdant Force, and Kanahl, Fist of Krosa) but, being that I would like some of my own changes in the deck, I am currently holding a Liege of the Tangle that I would like to put to use, although I’m not sure here to put it or how start the deck in general.
Back in August, Ertai’s Lament broke an exclusive that Ultra Pro was releasing a line of deck obxes in conjunction with Magic’s Archenemy, designed to hold two decks and the over-size Scheme cards that came with the set. Ultra Pro had a similar release for last year’s Planechase, and we were excited to have a better way to organise these decks. We’ve been big fans of what Ultra Pro has done with the Duel Decks containers in the past, and of their sleeves in general, so we had high hopes that these would be a great addition to the precon library.
Unfortunately, they proved to be quite the disappointment. It seems that perhaps to cut down on production costs, rather than create a new box model to accomodate the needs of the decks, they instead used their standard size box and ‘make it work’ through jamming a removable folded plastic fitting from inside of it.
It’s hard to imagine that a company would issue a product that actually dissuades you from using their other products, but perhaps the most disappointing aspect of these boxes is that they will only fit the Archenemy decks if you don’t have them sleeved. If you’re as meticulous about the condition of your decks as we are and sleeve everything, you’ll have to be content with buying four of these boxes- two for the decks, and two for the Schemes. Unsurprisingly, any two top-loading Ultra Pro deck boxes will fit snugly inside the Archenemy box (as they do with the Duel Decks deck boxes).
Through our dealings with Ultra Pro customer service, we’ve been won over and continue to be huge fans of their products. But unless you’re willing to plunk down for four of these boxes, or settle for storing your decks unsleeved, you may want to give them a miss.
Hits: Very attractive presentation
Misses: This product needs a complete redesign. This product should be able to store two 60-card decks in sleeves as well as their respective sleeved Schemes. The flimsy insert design is an unusual misstep for Ultra Pro, trying to jockey off of an existing mold to avoid the expense of creating a proper one
FINAL GRADE: 2.5/5.0
UPDATE: We also ordered some Planechase deck boxes, and upon their arrival found them to contain 60 regular sleeves and 10 larger, Plane-sized ones. This indicated a flaw in our understanding of the product- they’re not designed to hold two decks, merely one each. Thus, 60 sleeved cards will fit in a box, but you have to break them into two piles.
Just to be fair, we took a 60-card sleeved deck and sleeved oversize companion cards, and put them in one of the boxes. Here’s what we found:
> The “folded insert” option is inelegant, and holds the 60 cards of the deck quite sloppily
> The room for the oversize cards is also over-spacous, so they will rattle around quite a bit in the back
This supports our initial observation that Ultra Pro seemed to take an existing box mold (for their Duel Decks products), and jury-rigged it to “feature” the Archenemy/Planechase decks. Out conclusion (and grade) stands- unless you’re an absolute purist for storage, or a collector at heart, you’ll have better options than these. Heretofore we’ve stored our oversize cards in an empty Intro Pack box, which workes perfectly well. In some ways, better actually…
Still, it would not have been fair to let our misconception stand. One deck box, one deck. We do love that Ultra Pro is trying, but there is room for improvement. The single biggest change we’d recommend? Lose that dreadful folded insert, and make them like they were designed to hold the cards.
As always, your mileage may vary…
And so it’s come to this. A week of pooling and cutting, arranging and tinkering, and all the labour to be decided on a mere three games with Sam. Those who’ve read from the beginning have experienced our colour selection, choice of removal, card advantage and Land options, Creatures, and final assembly of the deck.
When we began this project, it was to take the cards of three Artifact-focused preconstructed decks (Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine, and Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret’s Tezzeret) and combine them into one 60-card hybrid with which to take the field against Elspeth’s deck. When we analysed and playtested Elspeth’s deck, we found it strong in the early game with a decent removal suite, so a slower Artifact theme had its work cut our for it.
At the eleventh hour, based on advice from readership I stripped out a Swamp and added a Mistvein Borderpost, which I had previously cut from consideration, to bolster the mana base of the deck.
Sam and I took them to battle, and here are our notes.
At last we are ready to assemble the Mad Machinist’s Mash-up! Over the past week, we’ve taken the cards from three different Artifact-based precons (Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine, and Duel Decks: Elsepth vs Tezzeret’s Tezzeret deck), and pared away cards in search of making a cohesive whole.
As we said in the beginning, we won’t always make the same choices that you might, and we’re certainly not against being wrong on occasion, but the end result should be a deck that blends the strengths of all three, capable of holding its own even moreso against Elspeth’s deck in the Duel Decks. In our next (and last) installment of this Trickery, we’ll be taking the Mash-Up to battle against her mono-White deck. So let’s go deckbuilding!
Once again we return to the lair of the Mad Machinist, and continue our Frankensten-like work on a hybrid deck combining the best elements of three different preconstructed decks! In the past three episodes of Ertai’s Trickery, we’re looking to build a powerhouse Artifact deck out of the 180 cards afforded us by Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine and the Tezzeret deck from Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret.
By the end of today’s column, we’ll have our second round of cuts comeplete, and ready to start deckbuilding! All that remains are critters, counters, and miscellany, and we’ll hit them all today!
Welcome back to the next installment of our latest series, Ertai’s Trickery! Our goal is simple: make a solid 60-card deck out of a very limited card pool: Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine and Tezzeret’s deck from Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret. In past episodes we settled on a colour scheme and began to look at removal. Next, we’ll be looking at ways to get the most out of the 60 cards we settle on.
Welcome back to the next installment of Ertai’s Trickery! We’re back in the machine shop, exploring the considerable number of trinkets and artifacts we’ve salvaged from Metallic Dreams, Assemble the Doomsday Machine, and Tezzeret with an eye to assembling the most powerful, most lethal, and most foe-crushing collection of 60 cards we can, before leading them to bloody retribution against that most nettlesome, meddling Planeswalker, Elspeth! Muahahaha!!!
Sorry, got carried away there for a moment. Anyway, in our last installment we made all the easy, colour-based cuts. Since the Mad Machinist’s Mash-Up is going to be Blue/Black, we’re now down to only those cards that will work within that framework, but we still have way too many for a deck. It’s time for the next round of cuts, and some difficult decisions.
Today we’re excited to introduce a new occasional series to the website: Ertai’s Trickery! Whereas the Meddling series follows very specific rules with an eye to refining an existing deck within its own framework, Ertai’s Trickery throws such stodgy methodolgy to the wind. No, what you’ll find here is the offbeat, the oddball and the extraordinary, and we’ll be beginning today with the start of a mash-up deck.
The genesis for this feature came from one of our readers, Jars, who had this to say:
One suggestion that you might want to try in the near future: since you already have all these Wizards-made decks (Intro Packs, Duel Decks, etc), what say you to doing a mash-up of sorts? I mean, use cards from another precon to tweak and improve this deck. For example, use the “Assemble the Doomsday Machine” Archenemy deck or “Metallic Dreams” Planechase deck to give the Tezzeret deck a boost. I know that you have specified your procedure of editing decklists (e.g., no adding rares) but this might be a good thing to try.
The more we thought about it, the more fun the idea sounded. But then we thought, “hey, why limit ourselves to just two? Since we have all three of those solidly Artifact-based decks in our library, let’s see if we can’t come up with something truly wicked. So Planechase’s Metallic Dreams, Archenemy’s Assemble the Doomsday Machine, and Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Tezzeret’s Tezzeret deck came down off the shelf and were dumped into one large pile.
Welcome back to the last installment of our Archenemy review series! Over the past two weeks we’ve mucked about in the graveyard, tinkered with gears and cogs and danced in the rubble, but today we’re taking wing and soaring aloft on some of Magic: the Gathering’s most beloved and iconic creatures.
In short, here be dragons!
And not just any dragons, mind, but a clutch that will scorch and torch their way across the red zone, causing your opponent’s life to drop almost as quickly as his Llanowar Elf soiled itself watching them fly past.
The Dirty Half-Dozen
Two-Headed Dragon: The disruptor of the bunch, it can’t be blocked by less than two creatures, making it much harder to chump. Should you find yourself (momentarily) on the back-foot, it can block up to two critters as well. Oh, and it has firebreathing.
Flameblast Dragon: This one’s a nasty sniper, adding some targeted removal (or just some extra damage to your hapless opponent) to its arsenal.
Kilnmouth Dragon: Another dragon with a snipe-effect, this one uses the Amplify mechanic to hideous advantage.
Hellkite Charger: Not only equipped with haste (surprise!), the Charger can let you get in two attack phases each turn.
Ryusei, the Falling Star: Ryusei’s abaility triggers when he heads for the graveyard, a very lethal kiss goodbye.
Imperial Hellkite: A utility trickster, the Imperial has Morph and can be used to tutor up- guess what- another dragon.
And there they are, the crown jewels of the deck. But they’re far from the only dragons present- Scorch is absolutely silly with them:
2x Dragon Whelp
Well, those last two aren’t precisely dragons, but their Changeling ability ensures that they, too, can be used for Amplify or tutored by the Imperial.
Although pricey, it’s a strong tribal assortment which is rounded out by a few utility creatures (most notably Dragonspeaker Shaman, Fierce Empath, additional Morph beaters to sufficiently camouflage the Morphing dragon). It has a daunting mana curve, as is to be expected, but Scorch does a lot of things right in giving you the ability to deploy your air force at a competitive pace.
Over Here’s the Runway
So if the dragons are the apex of the deck, what constitutes its support structure? A solid deck trajectory can be constructed thusly:
Blow Up the Early Game: Your opponents will generally want to squeeze about a crop of one-to-three drop creatures to harry you with. Let ‘em. Sweeper effects like Savage Twister, Volcanic Fallout, Breath of Darigaaz and Fireball will punish them. Chandra’s Outrage and a pair of Branching Bolts will provide spot-removal. The Skirk Commando and Marauder pull double-duty, acting as damage and a body. And in a pinch, Dragon Fodder can deliver a few chump-blockers while you get through the crucial early game.
Ramp: While slinging fire and keeping their attackers’ heads down, don’t forget to ramp for the dragons. A turn 2 Gruul Signet is optimum, and the Thran Dynamo can help, too. A Dragonspeaker Shaman is a gift, use him wisely by keeping him out of harms way between your third and sixth land drop (or equivalent mana base via artifacts). A pair of Seething Songs can also get a Dragon out by themselves as early as turn 4.
Rule the Skies: By now you should now start to break even, with your enemy’s ranks thinned and some ways to get those critical dragons out of your hand. Play early ones with the Whelps when you can, then drop the bombs. Dragons are deal-with-or-die creatures, and all of them reward you for aggression.
There aren’t many extraneous cards in Scorch. Battering Craghorn, Gathan Raiders and Dragon Breath seem to be there just to fill spots. The Breath is particularly disappointing- essentially Firebreathing + Haste in a deck where a number of the creatures allready come with Firebreathing as a standard feature, with the usual vulnerability of being a Creature Aura.
What You See Is What You Get
Like Trample Civilization Underfoot, this deck is very straightforward, and in keeping with the flavour of red can be very much feast or famine. Fast, aggressive decks in particular can eat your lunch with a bad draw, or if you don’t get a dragon out in time. On the other hand, an early Seething Song and/or Dragonspeaker Shaman can put your opponent on a very fast clock. If taking the occasional shambling loss in exchange for some glorious, wings-of-death victories is a draw to you, you’ll feel right at home with this deck. As for me, I tend to prefer a bit more consistency.
Final Grade: 3.25/5.0
Eager to play the part of dragon-mad Sarkhan Vol, I suited up behind the Archenemy Scorch the World with Dragonfire deck and challenged Sam to the customary three matches. Given the choice of weapons, she chose to play one close to her preferred means of play- Green/White, the Trample Civilization Underfoot deck.
I was excited at the prospect- the last deck I playtested was the Trample deck, and while I admired its efficiencies, I didn’t find it very entertaining. Seeing how it managed in her capable hands would be helpful to gain additional perspective. After a roll of the dice, Sam would be on the play.
As is typical with the Archenemy deck suite, we get off to a slow start for the first couple turns, first with basics (her Plains, my Mountain) then getting a little fancier (her Mosswort Bridge, my Kazandu Refuge). Sam opens turn 3 with a Watchwolf, and the game is on.
The Watchwolf’s first attack is thwarted by a Branching Bolt- with a handful of burn, I’m not afraid to set the tone early. Turn 5 sees reinforcements arrive as Sam plays a Wickerbough Elder, and I respond with a Chameleon Colossus enchanted with Dragon Breath, going right in for the attack. Sam’s down to 16, I’m at 21.
Sam then plays Primal Command, opting to gain 7 life and tutor a critter from the deck. She clears off the Dragon Breath with the Elder, and attacks for 4. This leaves me free to bring in the Colossus for another 8 the following turn, after having nothing to play from hand. It’s now 15-17, slight edge to me.
Turn 7, and Sam’s busy with another critter- this time a Feral Hydra who greets the world as a 5/5. Again I keep it close, Fireballing the Hydra on my next turn. Our two beaters in play keep passing each other midfield, carving off life four at a time.
Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer appears the turn following, and now I am in trouble. His added power triggers Sam’s Mosswort Bridge hideaway, and she reveals another Forest. Normally laughable, but Molimo welcomes the addition. The turn after that adds another legend- Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, which I hit with Chandra’s Outrage immediately. The two damage to Sam brings us even at 9-all, and my turn 9 play is simple Fires of Yavimaya.
Sam proves hard to kill, however, when she casts Heroes’ Reunion on turn 9 alongside a Hunting Moa, which adds its counter to the Elder. I cast a Dragon Whelp, but am dismayed when she responds with a Pale Recluse.
Sam begins to give away the game here, though, with a pair of ill-advised attacks when she miscounts the land I have in play not once, but twice, and my Chameleon Colossus eats both her Wickerbough Elder and Molimo (though in fairness, I had to sac my Fires of Yavimaya to keep the Colossus alive on the latter one). In return, her Recluse opts to trade with my counterattacking Dragon Whelp. By lucky turn 13, it’s an 8-6 game with a mire in the middle.
Sam falls prey to some nasty sweepers in the next few turns, keeping her side of the board relatively clean. Volcanic Fallout sends the Moa and a fresh Leaf Gilder to the dustbin. I set up for the kill shortly after when I Breath of Darigaaz for one, killing her lone blocker (a Sakura-Tribe Elder which she wisely sacs) to clear a path for the mighty Colossus. Alas, its luck has run out as she shows a Path to Exile.
The standoff continues for a few more turns, a far longer than usual game, but eventually I mise an evasive critter (a Furnace Whelp) and see the job done.
The next two games prove to be a study in contrasts, and a possible clue to the streakiness of the Scorch deck. They’re also much quicker affairs.
Sam again is off to a solid start with the creatuers. Her first five turns see her fairly well-stocked, with a Selesnya Guildmage, a Shinen of Life’s Roar, a Wickerbough Elder (which will turn out to be the play of the game), and a Fertilid seeing play.
Having seen no real dragons last game, I’m flush with them now, keeping a hand that had two and drawing far more quickly than I would have cared for into two more. But by turn 5 I’ve only managed a Gruul Signet and Furnace Whelp. Sam’s turn 4 Wickerbough Elder tragically smashes my Signet, though, and I see my dreams of dragon mastery slipping away.
I manage a second Signet on turn 5, but the damage is done, I’m too far back to catch up as Sam adds a Nantuko Monastery and Pale Recluse to the board. I get some chumpers out- a Fierce Empath and Taurean Mauler- but when Sam alpha strikes on turn 8, I just don’t have enough bodies. All in all, a very disappointing outcome.
Our final match shows me a bit of a dilemma in my opening draw. I open with two dragons, a Dragonspeaker Shaman, a Seething Song and a pair of Mountains in hand. I like what I see, but having only two lands make it an uncertain prospect. Red being the colour of chaos, however, I decide to roll the dice, and am well rewarded by drawing into land two my next three turns.
Like clockwork, the Shaman hits the table on turn 3 (after a turn 2 Dragon Fodder I picked up), and the Flameblast Dragon takes its rightful and majestic place at the head of my Goblin army. Sam’s luck has run out- by now all she’s managed is a lowly Sakura-Tribe Elder, and I’m considering the game more or less done.
But Sam is playing a deck that refuses to die. She Oblivion Rings the Flameblast on turn 5. Fogs on turn 6. Plummets the Hellkite Charger on turn 7. And grasps a bit more life with Heroes’ Reunion on turn 8. Eventually, Ryusei’s persistence pays off, though, and however valiant a defense, Sam falls to the inevitable, scooping on turn 8.
That third game in particular is worth a second look. It speaks both well and ill of the Trample deck that it was able to stubbornly cling to life against three dragons, particularly since two of them were eliminated by the time Sam fell.
New players in particular are often drawn to cards like Heroes’ Reunion and Fog. And playing in circumstances like the game above would tend to reinforce their justifications of such choices. Of course they’re good cards, the reasoning might follow, they bought me two whole turns against your dragon army!
The problem is, they’re quite right to say so, and having such ‘safety net’ cards can be a welcome comfort while learning an unfamiliar game.
It often takes experience, though, to show that like a comforting child’s blanket or favourite stuffed animal, there comes a time to leave them behind. Experience is what compels us to ask, well, what did we do with those two extra turns? And what problems did we solve?
Hanging on for hanging on’s sake accomplishes very little. Rather than buying another turn in hopes of drawing a solution… why not just draw the solution instead? Imagine if that Fog and Reunion were replaced by a pair of Plummets. Not only would you have bought yourself another couple rounds, you might even have turned the game around and won it. In Sam’s case, though, all it let her do was… draw another card.
It takes time to get that experience (I kept a tight grip on my own particular comfort-food, Stream of Life, for quite awhile when I started playing), and new or inexperienced players should always be encouraged. Sometimes just a probing question or two are all that’s needed to start them thinking. Wouldn’t you rather have drawn another Plummet?
That said, this matchup spoke very well to Trample Civilization Underfoot. It may have disappointed in the third match, but in both of the first two it was cranking out the beats with ruthless precision.
That’s all for now. Scorch was a fun ride to play, but did appear a bit inconsistent at times. Join me in two days when I dissect the deck, and see how it’s put together!