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November 26, 2011


Whispers of the Muse: Aaron F’s Eldritch Onslaught (Innistrad)

by Dredd77

Welcome to another eidition of Whispers of the Muse, our popular deckbuilding series which uses preconstructed decks as a starting point.

When we say ‘popular,’ we mean it in the literal sense- this is a feature that is both for and by the readers. We’ll post the scenario, then it’s up to you to chime in with thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments!

Today’s Whispers features a deck from the Innistrad, the beguiling Eldritch Onslaught. Here’s the letter we recieved from Aaron F.:

I had never even heard of the concept of self-mill before this pre-con, but it seemed like such an interesting idea from your review that I went right out and picked it up. Unfortunately, I was playing against an opponent who had some finely-tuned decks, and I didn’t have near the same success as you had in the playtests. In fact, I didn’t even win once out of 6–7 games. It usually wasn’t even close.

This didn’t discourage me—rather, it made me want to tune it up! I don’t want to change the feel/strategy of the deck, just make it more effective/reliable/competitive. Oh, and I’m not worried about block-legal, but if we can keep it standard-legal that’d be cool. Here are my thoughts so far… 

One thing that always made me sad was seeing cards without flashback—cards that I wanted or needed in my hand—go tumbling into the graveyard. A way to combat that would be by adding more flashback spells and more resilient creatures. One idea I had was Chandra’s Phoenix, which is not only evasive but very hard to keep dead when red burn is available. I also figured I’d add cards for a full playset of Burning Vengeance, which will increase my shot of drawing one, and hopefully even more than one since they stack so nicely. More Geistflame for cheap flashback/burn, more Charmbreaker Devils for card advantage… 

I’m not averse to adding some rares if they’re not too expensive (Devil’s Play seems nice). I also considered going full-on Grixis and splashing some black (maybe via dual lands like Dragonskull Summit and Drowned Catacomb instead of just swamps?) to accommodate Forbidden Alchemy and its flashback cost… don’t know on that one, though the card filtering would definitely help keep what I want where I want it, hand vs. graveyard. If I added Black, I wonder about including Reassembling Skeleton, who doesn’t care if he gets milled into the graveyard. There’s the big downside of him being slow (tapped) coming back from the graveyard though…

Lastly, I’m curious on everyone’s thoughts on a reliable mana-base. With Terramorphic Expanse no longer standard-legal, would it be worth investing in three more Sulfur Falls to make a playset with the singleton copy I have now? Land like that isn’t cheap and aren’t flashy to buy… but maybe it’s a good, solid investment if it can help stave off mana lock/flood, which is never, ever, ever fun.

So: what to lose, what to keep, what to do! I’m all ears. I forgot to add, I do have one copy of Mirror-Mad Phantasm which could fit into this deck. I’d like to know everyone’s thoughts on if it’s a good idea, and if so how many would be good.

For reference, here’s the stock decklist.

So what does everyone think? If you were modifying the deck, what would you see cut? What would you replace it with? And how would you construct a competitive Eldritch Onslaught? Let us know in the comments!

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gnome
    Nov 26 2011

    If you want to keep the deck ‘budget’ then the easiest change is to cut the ‘do nothings’, and the slightly weaker cards and add in more of the better ones to improve consistency.

    -2 Fortress Crab
    -2 Merfolk Mesmerist
    -1 Cellar Door
    -3 Dream Twist
    -1 Ghoulcallers Bell
    -1 Into The Maw of Hell

    +2 Armored Skaab
    +2 Merfolk Looter
    +1 Devil’s Play
    +3 Geistflame
    +2 Chandra’s Pheonix

  2. Aaro
    Nov 27 2011

    I think I’m with you on nearly everything, except I’m kind of attached to Dream Twist. 😛 I like its flashback (at a cheap cost) for its synergy with Burning Vengeance and Grasp of Phantoms…

  3. Nov 27 2011

    Also, I’m curious what a version of this deck would look like without worrying about cost too much. Say I had $40–$50 to improve this deck (so, probably no 4-of Snapcaster Mage, haha), what would it look like?

    Here’s my latest decklist…

    4 Armored Skaab
    2 Chandra’s Phoenix
    3 Charmbreaker Devils
    4 Deranged Assistant
    2 Murder of Crows

    Instants/Sorceries (all have flashback):
    2 Devil’s Play
    3 Dream Twist
    4 Geistflame
    2 Grasp of Phantoms
    2 Rolling Temblor
    2 Silent Departure
    2 Think Twice

    4 Burning Vengeance

    12 Island
    11 Mountain
    1 Sulfur Falls

  4. outhouseinferno
    Nov 27 2011

    If you plan on playing more Magic in 4-of constructed formats, you may want to think about the additional Sulfur Falls. They can go in any future casual decks that needs blue/red.

    As cool as the additional mill is, I’d feel more comfortable having extra burn like Shock or Incinerate over the Deranged Assistants.

    Desperate Ravings may want to come back in, since if they discard a Chandra’s Phoenix, it’ll just come back, right? More of Think Twice wouldn’t hurt for extra flashback, too. Both of these will give you a lot of Burning Vengeance activations.

  5. Nov 28 2011

    I think I probably will spring for some Sulfur Falls. I played this deck 5 or 6 times this past weekend and had a few times where I ran into mountain-lock where I had just one mountain to 4 or 5 islands (Chandra’s Phoenix’s normal cost and Rolling Temblor and Devil’s Play’s flashback costs are all red-intensive and uncastable with just one mountain). And since I’d like to take this deck to a Friday Night Magic sometime, this would seem a good step to take.

    Because of how expensive some of these flashback spells can get, I actually like the mana ramp the Deranged Assistants provide more than their mill…

    Desperate Ravings might be a good idea. Net, it’s a card draw AND a mill for the same converted cost as Think Twice, which just draws you a card. The only thing that irks me about it is the possibility of randomly tossing away something I want to play but can’t yet. But I really like the idea of more card draw! Maybe I could add in some Desperate Ravings and drop some Dream Twists…

    After playing it, I had some interesting realizations.
    • the mountain-lock issue I mentioned above (there’s more red than I thought here)
    • though vulnerable to chump blocking, Charmbreaker Devils can be real beasts when you start pumping them, BUT…
    • their “return an instant/sorcery card at random to your hand” isn’t optional, which I actually didn’t like at times, for example when I have Burning Vengeance out and want to trigger it by casting from my graveyard.
    • Deck is vulnerable to graveyard hate (opponent dropped a Nihil Spellbomb on me once). Obviously.

    So, better and better! Still room for improvement though. Any other advice is welcome!

  6. Brad
    Nov 28 2011

    Just a quick thought, this kind of deck loves Delver of Secrets a turn 1 delver has a 50% chance to flip in some cases and it puts then on a short clock. if you run a decent number of creatures also dont be affriad of cackling counterpart 3 mana copy of murrder of crows and a important block can be a blow out. also turn 1 delver turn 2 flip turn 3 cackling is a VERY short clock

    id say 4 delvers and 2 cacklings if space permits

    • Nov 28 2011

      I like it, Brad. Will try to find space for both!

  7. Fran
    Nov 28 2011

    Oh, how I love this deck. To make it better, first:

    Remove weak (self-)milling:
    -3 Deranged Assistant
    -2 Merfolk Mesmerist
    -2 Armored Skaab
    -1 Cellar Door
    -2 Curse of the Bloody Tome
    -3 Dream Twist
    -1 Ghoulcaller’s Bell

    Remove weak creatures:
    -2 Fortress Crab
    -1 Pitchburn Devils
    -1 Scourge of Geiger Reach

    Remove weak removal (ha):
    -2 Grasp of Phantoms
    -1 Into the Maw of Hell
    -2 Silent Departure

    That’s 23 cards, which means 23 slots for useful stuff. Let’s:

    Add more of your main win condition:
    +2 Burning Vengeance

    Add more card draw:
    +2 Desperate Ravings
    +4 Forbidden Alchemy
    +2 Think Twice

    Add more good finishers (all very affordable):
    +2 Charmbreaker Devils
    +1 Sturmgeist
    +1 Devil’s Play

    Add more control elements:
    +2 Dissipate
    +3 Incinerate
    +3 Mana Leak
    +1 Rolling Temblor

    There. As budget as it gets, but not entirely bad. Most importantly, fun as hell.

    If you’re feeling adventurous (or have the appropriate dual lands), mix in some Swamps and Shimmering Grotto to make full use of Forbidden Alchemy and you can swap 3x Incinerate, 1x Harvest Pyre for some copies for 1x Doom Blade, 2x Go for the Throat and 1x Sever the Bloodline.

    • Nov 29 2011

      Interesting changes… That’s maybe more drastic than I wanted to go, but it could be a foundation for a brand new deck!

      I’m definitely all for “fun to play” – that’s my main measure of success in deckbuilding, even beyond wins/losses (though winning more often than not does usually have something to do with it being fun). 😉

    • Nov 30 2011

      fran, i’m trying your version out. what would you recommend for the number/type of swamps/duals? also: what does this deck try to do primarily? draw as many cards as it can and throw burn out when possible while building to a finisher? am i trying to set up a particular board state or just race through my cards? it plays a bit different to the un-ertaied intro deck above (which played like boring crap in my opinion).

      • Fran
        Nov 30 2011

        You’re basically a control deck. You can win either by burning them to death with flashback spells (with two Burning Vengeances out, you need to cast only 5 spells from your graveyard to win) or with big, efficient creatures. You also have Devil’s Play as an early-game removal or late-game finisher. Burning Vengeance is also used as removal, along with counter-magic, sweepers and black spells. With 12 flashback-able draw spells you’ve got insane draw, meaning you can sift through your deck pretty fast.

        About creatures: This budget version has the insane Charmbreaker Devils, the evasive Sturmgeist, and Murder of Crows, a Serra Angel that draws you free cards. Some other budget-friendly options include Frost Titan, Steel Hellkite or Precursor Golem. Anyway, If you’ve got a spare Wurmcoil Engine, Olivia Voldaren or Batterskull lying around, you can always add them in. The deck can afford to have only a handful of creatures, thanks to all your draw spells.

        Since you’re going to run 3-color, you should run 25 lands. Good duals for this deck are Sulfur Falls, Blackcleave Cliffs, and Drowned Catacomb. Shimmering Grotto also helps. I actually run even a few R/G and U/G duals for the Ancient Grudge and Memory’s Journey in my sideboard.

  8. Maciej
    Dec 2 2011

    I have played around with this deck and enjoyed the heck out of it! First of all, I would go for predictability. Burning Vengeance? Give me a full playset. Silent Departure and Dream Twist? Likewise. I ditched the two artifacts and Merfelk Mesmerists and threw in some bargain-priced skaabs (a pair of Maulers and Drakes, with one Goliath to boot). The Scourge of Geier Reach and the weaker Devils also went out; their spots were taken by a pair of Laboratory Maniacs (potentially a very fun safety net in a self-milling deck) and a lonely 2011’s Magma Phoenix – a 3/3 flier with a three-damage bomb built in can come in handy, and I can still recover it even if it gets milled. Ideally, I would like to have a Skaab Ruinator there, but right now it costs about as much as a discounted precon deck here, so I’ll do without it.

    Sure, it’s still a kitchentable deck, but it’s fun as all get out – especially considering that the cards which I used to tweak it cost me only about 2 or 3$.


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