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August 25, 2010

12

Ertai’s Meddling: Stampede of Beasts (m11)

by Dredd77

Welcome to another installment of Ertai’s Meddling, the occasional series where we take a preconstructed deck and use it to create a new, stronger casual/playable deck. For many, the “intro pack” is their introduction to deckbuilding, taking out cards they don’t like or that don’t seem to work, and replacing them with others from their collection. As always, there are two fundamental rules we’ll observe:

Today’s patient is Stampede of Beasts. A Green/Red deck from Magic 2011, it scored a 3.75/5.0 on account of some glaring weaknesses to the overall deck structure. Here’s the card list as you’d find it tight out of the box:

And before we begin here’s what we learned about the deck from our playtesting and analysis:

Today we’ll be making two versions of Stampede. The first will keep it’s colour scheme intact- unlike Reign of Vampirism, the off-colour here is an asset, not a liability. The second iteration of the deck will be full-on mono-Green, trading burn for rulership of the red zone. Let’s get started!

Deck One

Looking over the card list for Stampede, a few things jump out with regards to card selection. First, the designers got a lot of things right here- the deck isn’t asking for an overhaul, but could certainly benefit from some tweaking.

First, let’s address the state of the burn package, a bit lacking in the original version. As any Red mage will tell you, burn serves two main purposes- blocker removal and direct damage- both of which are a perfect fit for the creature-centric Stampede. In the early-to-mid-game, it’s generally more efficient to clear paths through your enemy’s defenses for your beaters, and then once you get within striking distance of winning some burn to the face makes for a superb finisher.

Stampede has a small quantity of some very efficient burn (Lightning Bolt, Chandra’s Outrage, Fireball), but then mixes is some poorer choices (Fling, Lava Axe) as well. Fling is a great card in the right environment, but the inclusion of only one Act of Treason here means that it’s a very fragile combo to get off with maximum efficiency, and is an easy cut. Lava Axe does a nice bit of damage, but it’s slow, expensive, and not especially versatile. It needs to go, too.

Some other cards to lose include Nature’s Spiral, which is very conditional- by itself it does nothing to directly advance your game state, and instead relies on you losing something to be effective. Plummet is similarly risky- if your opponent has nothing in the skies, this is a dead draw. Since burn kills fliers too, Plummet is out. Finally, we’re cutting Back to Nature, also because of its conditionality and risk of a dead draw.

Turning our attention next to the creatures, we have less cuts to make here- most of the choices are solid enough already. The first offenders to get a pink slip are the two Runeclaw Bears. A 2/2 vanilla for 2 in Green just doesn’t cut it at all. We’re also firing Sacred Wolf– we like the untargetability, but its 1-toughness marks it as too fragile to be useful here (it’s a more threatening blocker, and this deck doesn’t want to be defensive).

Next, we’re pulling the Unicorns. Although in theory their “lure” ability seems useful, we’ve found as often as not in practice that it doesn’t justify its spot, and we’re usually wishing for something better. A 2/2 for 4 that’s designed to usually die the first time it attacks? Not for us.

Lastly, though there are worse choices than a Greater Basilisk, we’re cutting it anyway. Deathtouch is best on a cheap Weenie like the Deadly Recluse. Bigger bodies like the Grave Titan generally find it superfluous, and besides, we have something else in mind for the Basilisk’s slot.

Summed up, our Cut List looks like this:

That leaves plenty of room for some additions to the deck which will make it more efficient and effective.

For one, it allows us to bolster the burn suite, so we’ll add some more Bolts and Outrages to increase our threat density. Our last noncreature tweak is to slip in another Cultivate. One of the biggest vulnerabilities to the original Stampede was its reliance on fatties with minimal ramp to get them out. A second Cultivate will help both with mana fixing (making sure you have Red and Green sources out) as well as quantity.

For Green to be most effective, it is vital for it to get its end-game critters out while the opponent is still in their mid-game. That usually means finding other ways to get mana, and the Llanowar Elves are a classic staple here. The deck offers two- we’re going to want four, so that about half the time we should be seeing one in our opening grip. Additionally, the Elves offer some insurance against losing a Forest when we play an Awakener Druid, making the loss less painful to take.

Next, we need more threats in the early game, where we scalpeled out those Runeclaw Bears and the Wolf. M11 has brought us a superbly efficient one in the form of Garruk’s Companion, a 3/2 beater with Trample. Although the dedicated casting cost of GG makes them a little harder to cast, with 2/3 of our lands being Forests (plus the Elves), we should seldom have a problem getting them out early.

Lastly, about that Greater Basilisk… We’ve opted instead to go for a singleton Acidic Slime. It, too, has Deathtouch, and with that ability the loss in power and toughness matter a little bit less, plus it gives us some versatility to kill an Artifact, Enchantment or even a Land if need be. It’s a one-of and won’t come up reliably, but it’s nice to have some flexibility on occasion, and the Slime fits the bill for the same casting cost.

Here’s our Add List:

So there you have it, a Green betaer deck with a stripe of Red through it for burn. Keep the lane clear of blockers, get out your fatties as quickly as you can, rack up frequent flyer miles in the red zone, and finish with burn to your opponent’s face if need be!

Deck Two

For our second alteration, we’ll be going for a fan-favourite: “Mono-Green Beats.” The lure of the deck is compelling enough to be a kitchen-table favourite since the dawn of the game, and with good reason- it’s generally easy to assemble and play, and smashing in with huge nasties has a very primal appeal.

If you’ll forgive the unflattering comparison, though, making any mono-colour deck is a bit like inbreeding: the dominant genes come to the fore, but it leaves a lot of vulnerability to things not in that spectrum at the same time. For this version of Stampede, it means having to let our creatures do almost all of the talking, as we won’t have any burn to lean on to clear the way.

First, we’ll start by clearing out the cards we won’t be using, which means everything Red and some of the cards we considered to be weaker options from before:

Without Red’s burn, our beasties need to be bigger and badder than our opponents. Not only that, but we need to get them out sooner. Since we already have so many large threats, let’s begin by adding in a couple more Garruk’s Packleaders. Not only are they capable bodies on their own (and a tolerable deal at 5 mana for a 4/4), but more importantly they’ll be giving us steady card advantage throughout the game. With four in the deck and lots of ramp, we should rely on seeing them most every game.

The aforementioned Garruk’s Companions are even more lethal here- no chance of having to delay their casting because you drew a Mountain instead of that second Forest! We’re adding a full playset here, as only a set of Leatherback Baloths from Worldwake would be more of a slam dunk for the slot, and we’re not using that set (though feel free to!).

To aid with ramping, we’ll be adding two more Llanowar Elves to bring our total to four. Although modest and unassuming, early Elves ramp can get us racing almost right off the blocks here. (If you’re reaching for your Worldwake binder after our mention of the Baloths, by the way, grab four copies of Arbor Elf too while you’re at it. They’ll fill the same function as the Llanowar, but the “untap a Forest’ ability synergizes better with the Awakener Druids).

Moving on to the noncreature spells, we’ll be adding three more Cultivates for the same reason we’ve added the Elves- it’s critical to the deck’s success to outpace your opponent’s mana production, so that when they’re playing a 3/3 body, you’re getting ready to drop one of your fattie Wurms. Additionally, each time you cast a Cultivate, you decrease the likelihood of drawing Land in subsequent draws (since you’ve pulled two of them out), which increases your draw quality. It’s a slight increase, but every bit helps.

We’ll also be adding in two more Giant Growths. If creature clashes were important before, they’re even moreso now- no more clearing the path with a well-placed Lightning Bolt before swinging in. Giant Growth is a time-tested way to take down your opponent’s larger blockers, keep one of your own alive through your enemy’s burn, and add in some extra opportunistic damage here and there when opportunity presents itself. Having four is a no-brainer, and if you manage to bring your Overwhelming Stampede on-line, you might consider casting a Growth on your biggest creature to up the across-the-board bonus to the rest of them!

Our last two adds are somewhat conditional, since we’re going almost all-in on aggression: a second Nature’s Spiral and Whispersilk Cloak. Since we’re relying on our critters to do all our killing for us, it stands to reason our casualty rate will be higher without the burn package- Nature’s Spiral isn’t so bad here, as a little ‘catastrophe insurance’ against a Doom Blade or the like. And the Whispersilk Cloak is a solid piece of equipment that can all on its own break any board stalemate. On the right creature, the Cloak becomes a “deal with or die” situation for your opponent, and there won’t be many who mainboard Artifact hate as a matter of course.

In summary, here’s our mono-Green Add List:

Thanks again for joining us as we Meddled with Stampede of Beasts! What did you think? What would you do- or what have you done- differently? Had any success with a different build? Any horror stories or tales of glory? We’d love to hear them!

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. troacctid
    Aug 25 2010

    In both versions you maxed out on Llanowar Elves. Some strong, aggressive three-drops would go well with them. (Another good reason to jump into Worldwake for Leatherback Baloth.)

    It would be nice to include the decklist after your modifications.

    Reply
    • Aug 26 2010

      That’s a great observation- a turn 3 Leatherback Baloth is one of my least-favourite things to see, since I am usually a control-based player who enjoys a bit of time to get set up. The problem here was that I was hamstrung by a terrible lack of quality 3-drops in M11:

      1. Awakener Druid (which can be decent, but prefer to play on turn 4 so the Treefolk has haste)
      2. Brindle Boar (a mere 2/2)
      3. Sacred Wolf (which would actually be better as a 2/2, but instead is a poor 3/1)

      Aaaand… that’s it (barring R/MR rarities). I maxed out on the Elves in this case as acceleration for the curve’s top-end beaters, but you’re quite right- it would be vastly improved by some more immediate threats. I’d considered devoting more space to ‘recommendations from other sets,’ but thus far have been hesitant to due to space considerations. I may need to revisit that.

      I like your idea on the decklist. For the initial list I simply screencap from the Mothership, I’ll look about to see if there are any decklist tools for WordPress.

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Reply
  2. Sep 17 2010

    I’m looking forward to seeing more of this series; for the past few sets, I’ve been really underwhelmed with the preconstructed decks. It’s nice to see something going deep into them and showing some options for expansion (which apparently I’m too thick to consider on my own). My girlfriend has been making noises about starting Magic, so this may be the perfect place to start.

    Reply
  3. Hireling
    Sep 19 2010

    I’ve been recently playing “Deck One” of the meddled version of SoB, and I’m running into ramp up issues. Is anyone else having the same problem?

    Side question: Can the treefolk created by the Awakener Druid attack on the same turn that it enters the battlefield?

    Reply
    • Sep 19 2010

      SoB shouldn’t have too many ramping issues consistently, after adding another Cultivate and a pair of mana dorks, while trimming some of the expensive fat. That said, the deck still has a little bit of a hump to get over before it blossoms (mainly when you get out a 5-CMC Packleader). If your meta needs you to be faster, you might try and cut in a couple more mana dorks (thinking Arbor Elf, as we’re maxed on Llanowars) or Cultivates, or ‘break up the chunks’ a bit by cutting Chandra’s Outrage for the more flexible Fireball. Keep us posted!

      As for the Druid, it depends. Was the Forest you selected in play at the start of your turn? If so, it can attack. If not- summoning sick. I’ll almost always try and play these with a Forest open so I can ambush in with a ‘hasty’ 4/5 Treefolk.

      Reply
      • Hireling
        Sep 19 2010

        Thank you for the ideas. I’ll add in two more Cultivate and a Fireball, dropping 2 Chandra’s Outrage and 1 Lightning Bolt. I get weenie rushed quite often in my meta. So much so that I’m considering Pyroblast, but then I would wipe out all of my own little guys.

        I thought “entering the battlefield” triggered summoning sickness. I’ll be sure to target a forest that started the turn on play. Also, does the Awakener Treefolk trigger Garruk’s Packleader?

        Reply
        • Sep 19 2010

          The key to prevailing over a weenie rush is to outlast it. They’ll be playing with weaker, cheaper cards to storm you with them. If you can outlast the initial surge, you’ll usually break the back of the deck and can win at your liesure. Card advantage can be incredibly good at this, so Pyroclasm is definitely worth considering. Let your opening hand guide your play! If you have a Pyroclasm early on, don’t play your weenies. Hold them safe in hand, or dole out one or two to try and get them to play more of theirs. Let your opponent get you down early- personally I’d be happy to throw away at least 10 life this way if you can get them to really overcommit. Then if you lay out a ‘Clasm and it takes 3-4 of their weenies in one shot, you have a huge advantage they’ll have a terrible time recovering from (as someone who’s often piloted RDW and Naya Allies, I know how devastating sweepers can be).

          Not so sure taking out a Bolt is a good idea, though- those are excellent spot removers and can blunt an early rush. Chandra’s is an easy cut in that meta, as Fireball can also yield card advantage if you have enough mana, which you should with some good ramp.

          With the Druid, the card itself only references the actual Druid ‘entering the battlefield.’ Your animated Forest, so long as it was one you played earlier in the game, can bach in immediately. Alas, because the 4/5 Treefolk the Druid creates already entered the battlefield earlier (as a simple Forest), you don’t get any benefit out of the Packleader. When something changes permanent type, it doesn’t enter the battlefield all over again.

          Aside from some early burn, the other way to defeat Weenie is to outpace it. Green is awesome for this- if you’re tuning for your meta, you might even try and squeeze in some extra ramp in the form of a few Harrows. Take early hits from their Weenies without worry- once you start dropping the 3/3 and above beaters, without a boatload of removal or burn Weenie will grind to a halt.

          Reply
  4. Hireling
    Sep 20 2010

    Wow! I didn’t expect this much strategy advice, but I really appreciate it. So based on that, here’s what I’ll be bringing to the table this week vs. the weenie hordes.

    16 Forest
    8 Mountains

    3 Fireball
    4 Lightning Bolt
    2 Pyroclasm

    3 Cultivate
    2 Giant Growth

    4 Llanowar Elf
    3 Garruk’s Companion
    2 Sylvan Elf
    2 Awakener Druid
    2 Giant Spider
    2 Garruk’s Packleader
    2 Spined Wurm
    1 Acidic Slime
    2 Yavimaya Wurm
    2 Duskdale Wurm

    Reply
    • troacctid
      Sep 20 2010

      Your deck in general has the appearance of a good draft deck. Lots of cards that are insane in limited, but very few that I’d consider good in constructed. This is presumably a side effect of making the deck entirely out of M11 commons and uncommons, of course. It should be fairly obvious where you can upgrade a lot of your cards–for example, Vigor (or Ant Queen, Pelakka Wurm, Steel Hellkite, etc.) would easily swap in for Yavimaya/Duskdale Wurm without a second thought. Ditto for something like Leatherback Baloth.

      Most conspicuously, though, you definitely need to swap in two more Packleaders for the Spined Wurms. Packleader is sooo, so much better.

      Reply
      • Hireling
        Sep 20 2010

        I couldn’t agree more. I’m just getting back into the game and have a very small pool of cards. But I am making a list and either trading for or purchasing singles if they’re reasonably priced. Thanks for suggesting some replacements for the wurms. I’ll definitely look them up.

        Reply
        • Sep 20 2010

          If your meta is truly Weenie-heavy as it sounds, the other thing I might consider is cutting 2x Giant Growth and adding in 2x Pyroclasm. Having four of any card in your deck means a 47% chance of seeing it in your opening draw. Growths are nicely versatile, but situational and also somewhat vulnerable to getting two-for-oned (“I cast Giant Growth on my Elves” “Okay, I Doom Blade them.”). If you’re getting constantly flooded, it might be better to play for the Pyroclasm and sweep their board early.

          What’s useful about this is that not only can this blow them out early, but it also has a very depressive effect on their play. If they know they are susceptible to sweepers, they’re likely going to hang on to a critter or two they might have cast, to be able to rebuild. This means their Weenie flood should slow a little in the early game- once bitten, they’re twice shy, so to speak, about overcommitting their board.

          Reply
          • troacctid
            Sep 20 2010

            Could even go with Earthquake over Pyroclasm to have more synergy with the ramping in the late-game. Or Fault Line if you play a lot of multiplayer.

            Reply

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