Ertai’s Meddling: Stampede of Beasts (m11)
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:
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!
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!
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!