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February 2, 2013


Whispers of the Muse: Max’s Deathfed/Grave Power (INN/DKA)

by Dredd77

Although Innistrad block is now gone, it is far from forgotten! While many of its cards continue to see constructed competitive play, casual players too are using the flavourful designs from the sets to spur their own creative deckbuilding. Today’s Whispers of the Muse comes from just such an environment.

For those new to the site, Whispers is an occasional feature where a reader submits a deck they’ve been working on based on a preconstructed deck, and looks to tap into the wisdom of the crowds for advice and suggestions. Our request today comes from Max J., who is looking to modify a self-mill/graveyard matters theme based on the Deathfed Event Deck from Innistrad and Dark Ascension’s Grave Power Intro Pack. He had the following ideas and deck list in mind:

  • I’d like this to be budget friendly.  If I get the money, I’ll maybe get dual lands like Breeding Pool or Hinterland Harbor.  Otherwise, the only dual lands I’ll be using are Guildgates.
  • I’d like this to be Modern legal.  Keep in mind that I’m a kitchen-table player, so this doesn’t have to be crazy good, but I have a very good friend… and I really need to beat him. Additionally, this needs to be reasonably good at stalling.
 Here’s the decklist:
14 Forest
10 Island
P.S. Should I splash Black (or just have Birds of Paradise) so that I could Flashback Spider Spawning or add Forbidden Alchemy?

What do you think? If you were rebuilding the deck, what advice would you give Max? What would you keep? What would you cut? And what other cards would you bring into the deck?

22 Comments Post a comment
  1. mcc1701
    Feb 2 2013

    While normally not great, add 4 evolving wilds and 2 swamps. The evolving wilds are good because they thin your deck. While this usually doesn’t matter, due to the nature of the deck you improve both the contents of your draws and milling.

    You DEFINETLY want 4 deranged assistants and 4 dawntreader elks, and maybe add a mulch or two. The mana curve for this deck is low, and with them you can run 20 lands pretty easily.

    Ghoul tree is another decent inclusion, especially against GY hate. If someone plays rest in peace when you have a splinter fright and a ghoul tree out, the splinter fright will die and then be exiled, while the ghoul tree won’t care.

    A single mirror-mad is great for self milling as well, though run only 1-2.

    Two cards I advocate are artful dodge and creeping renosaunce. Both have flashback, with creeping renosaunce filling your hand with creatures if your opponet killed them all, and artful dodge letting one of your biggest beaters swing in to win the game. I much prefer this card over levitate or chasm drake.

    Flying is a big weakness in this deck, and for that tower Geist is a shoe-in for this deck. Only one more mana than a vanilla 2/2 flyer, it not only replaced itself in your hand, but adds another card to your GY. Milling is great, but filtered milling is even better.

    If you are trying to stall and play late-game, then these cards will help:
    Gnaw to the bone. Expensive, and does nothing in your GY, but when cart will easily fill up your hand, and more. At end of turn, just toss your excess creatures to your GY. You don’t want many, just 1-2.
    Archeomancer: in your GY it is just another body, and if you play it you can return a spider spawning, mulch, tracker’s instinct, grim flowering, etc to your hand.

    Three more cards to consider: Memory’s journey, cackling counterpart, and gnaw to the bone. Memory’s journey is for when you just milled three splinter frights to your GY, or when you want to get a couple spells or auras back into your library. Cackling counterpart gives you another splinter fright or goultree, and if you run only a single mirror-mad, you can put your entire library into your GY(do not try unless you have a memory’s journey so you can last a few more turns). Lastly gnaw to the bone will make you VERY hard to kill.

    • mcc1701
      Feb 2 2013

      I meant to say grim flowering not gnaw to the bone in the middle of the post

  2. Naïveté
    Feb 2 2013

    How about:
    -3 Forest
    -3 Island
    -2 Acidic Slime
    -2 Levitation
    -4 Tracker’s Instincts

    +4 Evolving Wilds
    +2 Swamp
    +2 Deranged Assistant
    +4 Forbidden Alchemy
    +2 Tower Geist

    • mcc1701
      Feb 3 2013

      I forgot about forbidden alchemy. It is a good card, but is it better than tracker’s instincts? From your hand the advantage is obvious, but from the GY it is much harder.
      Mulch, tracker’s instincts, and forbidden alchemy all do similar things, but you have to balance it with creatures. You can mill yourself out easily if you have 4 of each, but that means less creatures in your deck.

      As a side note, I recommend cackling counterpart over Wreath of Geists if you have 4 splinter frights AND 4 boneyard worms. While wreath of Geists can make any creature a boneyard worm, if you either a boneyard worm or splinter fright then cackling counterpart is better. Having 2 8/8 tramples that EACH mill you each turn is generally better than 1 16/16 trample, especially when you take into account removal and that it has flashback too, so it isn’t dead in your GY.

      • Naïveté
        Feb 3 2013

        Thanks, I’ll do that. Good point.

    • Naïveté
      Feb 3 2013

      For a total decklist of:
      11 Forest
      7 Island
      4 Evolving Wilds
      2 Swamp
      4 Boneyard Wurm
      3 Dawntreader Elk
      4 Deranged Assistant
      4 Armored Skaab
      4 Splinterfright
      2 Tower Geist
      2 Chasm Drake
      2 Kessig Cagebreakers
      3 Wreath of Geists
      4 Forbidden Alchemy
      2 Bonehoard
      2 Spider Spawning

      • Naïveté
        Feb 3 2013

        Sorry, I was adding on to my previous comment

  3. Laurent
    Feb 3 2013

    I’ve actually turned this deck into a kitchen table Peasant version (no rare, no mythic, just 5 uncommons and the rest being commons and basic lands) that turns out very well : the win con is…*drum roll*…Spider Spawning x 3 and Boneyard Wurm x 2

    I’ve used the self mill strategy to death (if you excuse this flavourful choice of words) by running 4 Armored Skaab, 4 Screeching Skaab, 4 Deranged Assistant, 2 Forbidden Alchemy and 4 Mulch. Then I’ve put 3 Avacyn Pilgrim as mana acceleration then sacrificial blockers. I used to play also the Young Wolf as an early drop to beat, then block, but I’ve changed it for the Avacyn Restored sacrificiable alchimist when it was released : that one being irrevelant here, it can easily be replaced by 3 Splinterfright and 1 Ghoultree.

    The idea is to play 25/28 creatures, and keep the number of spells low. I’m a big fan of Tracker’s Instinct over Mulch, as it avoid you losing a much needed creature in a self milling strategy : self-milling, yes…but you still need a beater. Mulch helps you in the early game, Trackers’ Instinct in the mid : I would put 2 Mulch and 3 TI in your build myself+3 Forbidden Alchemy (or any other spell you can think of instead), and only creatures next.

    In your build, I wouldn’t play the Spider Spawning : you don’t play enough creatures to make it really efficient. Instead, put it in your sideboard, as it can be a good surprise card.

    4 Evolving Wilds are a necessity, even if you play 4 Hinterland Harbors : thining your deck is crucial, so to get your creatures in the graveyard more easily.

    • Naïveté
      Feb 3 2013

      Thanks for the advice. I’ll take out Spider Spawning. …I guess it’s a bit mana intensive, too.

  4. Jacopo Sassi
    Feb 3 2013

    I have a modified version of Grave Power and it’s definitely the deck I like to play the most. My suggestion are:

    -2 Deranged Assistant(nice card, but we’ll reach a good milling engine even without him)
    -2 Chasm Drake ( Overcosted, there are better ways to provide evasion)
    -2 Levitation (See above)
    -2 Spider Spawning (You don’t have black for its flashback cost, so most of the times it will end up being milled to the gy and be a dead card)

    +1 Dawntreader Elk (fantastic card, it’s a bear on the battlefield, a ramp when needed and a body in the graveyard)
    +2 Artful Dodge (Best way to let one of your fat beaters through, it has flashback so it’s useful even if milled)
    +2 Ghoultree (in this deck it can be a 10/10 for two mana, enough said. It’s lack of evasion hurts a bit, but that’s what the Dodges are for)
    +3 Tower Geists (a 2/2 Flyer which draws you a card and lets you choose what card goes to the gy, for 4 mana? Sign me in! It’s a staple in a self mill deck, enchanted with a Wreath of Geists it will win you games alone)

    • mcc1701
      Feb 3 2013

      I would keep 4 deranged assistants, not just because of their milling, but because of their mana. I almost never run less than 24 land in my decks, but this deck is an exception. Boneyard wurm, dawntreader elk, mulch, splinter fright, wreath of geists, cackling counterpart, deranged assistant, and usually ghoul tree all cost 3 or less mana. Besides the low curve, you have mana fixing, so it comes out to:
      4 Evolving wilds
      16 island/forests
      4 dawntreader elk
      4 deranged assistants
      2 mulch
      For a total of 30 mana/land cards.

      If you aren’t in love with spider spawning(like me) I would drop it, and not mess with forbidden alchemy either. It smoothes the mana a bit, and something to consider is dropping bone hoard. A good card sure, but taking it out has a couple of advantages:
      Your deck becomes standard-legal
      Artifact removal becomes dead in their hand
      It prevents overlap(2 wreath of Geists, 4 worms, 4 splinter frights, etc)

      In certain matches, against another self-mill or a creature heavy deck the bone hoard can be great, but usually it will just be an over costed boneyard wurm/wreath of Geists.

      One last thing, don’t forget one of the most powerful self-mill cards there is: mirror mad phantism. Having just 1 in your deck makes a big difference, but it also allows for an interesting combo. Add mirror-mad which is great on it’s own, cackling counterpart which is also good on its own, and memory’s journey, which just one works in the deck well. Now all you do is create a tolken of mirror-mad and activate his ability. Tada, your entire deck is in your GY. However it is important to have memory’s journey in your deck to ensure you last at least 3 more turns, otherwise a simple fog will lose you the game…

      • Naïveté
        Feb 3 2013

        Argh!!!!! I completely forgot about Bonehoard! I’ll take that out and add in one more Merfolk Looter and another Artful Dodge. The assistant may produce mana (and have awesome flavor text) but I prefer filtration, and evasion is always nice.

        • Naïveté
          Feb 3 2013

          …and take out one Artful Dodge from the sideboard and add another Mulch.

  5. Naïveté
    Feb 3 2013

    Let’s see:

    11 Forest
    7 Island
    4 Evolving Wilds
    2 Swamp

    4 Boneyard Wurm
    4 Dawntreader Elk
    2 Ghoultree
    4 Armored Skaab
    4 Splinterfright
    3 Tower Geist
    2 Merfolk Looter
    2 Kessig Cagebreakers

    3 Cackling Counterpart
    4 Forbidden Alchemy
    2 Bonehoard
    2 Artful Dodge

    And a sideboard of:
    2 Artful Dodge
    2 Mulch
    3 Tracker’s Instincts
    2 Mirror-Mad Phantasm
    3 Grim Flowering
    3 Memory’s Journey

    Does this seem good? 24 lands, 25 creatures (I put in the Merfolk Looter because it’s like a repeatable Tower Geist), and 11 spells. The only thing I’m wondering about is whether I should switch 1 Forbidden Alchemy and the 2 Bonehoards with the three Tracker’s Instincts.

  6. Icehawk
    Feb 3 2013

    Just wanted to say, don’t worry about the pricey dual lands. Guildgates and whatever you come across in Duel Decks, the summer precons like the Commander set, and all will give you plenty budget friendly options with plenty of other cards.

    Plus with Green you get access to lots of ramp and blue plenty of drawing. The only real money I’ve spent on lands is one Glacial Fortress I really really really wanted for my Bant EDH deck and a few guild gates.

    Plenty of good advice above. Won’t bore you with repeating stuff.

    • Naïveté
      Feb 3 2013

      Thanks, Icehawk, for the advice. I now know that I’m not condemning my deck to not being the best that it could be.

  7. Feb 3 2013

    The topic came right on time for me. Today I was composing a standard legal deck out of Grave Power starter. Here is my deck sketch. It had zero playtesting so far. Any comments are appreciated. I’d be glad if my list helps someone.

    Lands: 22 (with mulch, deranged assistants, elks and low mana curve I hope it will be fine)
    4 x Evolving Wilds
    10 x Forest
    7 x Island
    1 x Simic Guildgate

    Creatures: 27
    4 x Ambush Viper
    4 x Armored Skaab
    3 x Boneyard Wurm (if only I had more splinterfrights…)
    4 x Dawntreader Elk
    3 x Deadly Recluse
    4 x Deranged Assistant
    2 x Ghoultree
    2 x Kessig Cagebreakers
    1 x Splinterfright (should get more of those)

    Spells: 11
    2 x Artful Dodge (unblockability for big beater + flashback)
    2 x Gnaw to the Bone
    3 x Mulch
    2 x Tracker’s Instincts
    2 x Wreath of Geists

    Sideboard: 15.
    3 x Acidic Slime (if you are against artifact/enchantment heavy strategy)
    3 x Elgaud Shieldmate (if your creatures badly need hexproof)
    3 x Fog (not sure about that one)
    1 x Laboratory Maniac (alternative win condition if game goes very long)
    2 x Tower Geist (to be replaced by 2 more lab maniacs)
    3 x Wingcrafter (if you need more evasion or defense against flyers)

    • J Ray
      Feb 4 2013

      Andrey, just wanted to let you know that your list helped me out a ton when I finally decided last night to give this deck another go. Your build is great, and I was able to add 3 more Splinterfrights for the full 4. Play-testing it, it won every one of it’s matches.

      Deranged Assistant is a good ramp early on, and another card in the yard. Gnaw to the Bone has saved me so many times it’s not even funny, and when casted then flashed right back can buy you a lot of much needed time. The Ambush Viper I really liked, because who doesn’t like being surprised by a flashed-in 2/1 deathtouch? 🙂

      I’d really like to say Artful Dodge is crucial to this deck. Even if it’s in the graveyard, you can surprise an opponent when your 19/19 Splinterfright (thanks to wreath of geists, which was a nice inclusion) becomes unblockable from flashback and swings in.

      • andreyboytsov
        Feb 4 2013

        Thanks for your reply. Nice to hear that. Actually, I still did not test that deck whatsoever, so your response is very helpful to me.

        Today I got second Splinterfright and 2 more lab maniacs. Perhaps, splinterfright will replace one of the skaabs or wurms. Lab maniacs will go instead of 2 tower geists.

        I totally agree about artful dodge. Gnaw to the bone saved me many times as well, granting at times 40+ life swing in 2 casts. I guess, ambush viper can be especially surprising against flyer if you have unpaired wingcrafter on the field.

        I am still not sure what to put on sideboard instead of fog (or, maybe, just leave fog where it is). I really want to keep the deck creature-focused and leave only creatures on sideboard. Obvious choice might be additional shieldmate, lab maniac and slime, but I still have lots of doubts. Did you use sideboarding with this deck? I’d appreciate if you let me know your experience.

        • J Ray
          Feb 4 2013

          I haven’t played since it was rocking faces last night. It won 3 out of 3, most were 2-0 wins with ridiculously giant Splinterfrights and Boneyard Wurms. I’m considering using it for FNM, that’s how impressed I was with it.

          Some cards I’ve been considering for sideboarding:

          – Dungeon Geists – keeping a creature tapped for good to make sure your beater gets through, as well as a flying 3/3 isn’t so bad.

          – Parallel Lives – If you want to run Spider Spawning or more Cage-Breakers, Parallel Lives could be another game ender in that aspect.

          – Tower Geists – I like your idea for them, and at 4 mana it’s a great 2/2 flyer and a draw/discard.

          – Acidic Slime – Good, utility on a stick.

          – Mirror-Mad Phantasm – This creature really can get your whole library in the GY (theoretically), so I’m running with just one.

          – Memory’s Journey – Like many have mentioned above, when playing with Mirror-Mad Phantasm, Memory’s Journey will keep you around a few turns longer to seal the deal.

          – Pithing Needle – This can be essential for shutting down some of the more brutal GY-hate cards, like Tormod’s Crypt.

          – Cackling Counterpart – Saw someone above mention it, and now I’m considering it for my side-board. It could get you two giant Splinterfrights/Ghoultrees on the board at once, or 3 if you can cast the flashback again.

          – Grim Flowering – I used to run this in my side-board, but with mixed results. It can help in the right situation.

          – Ghoul-Caller’s Bell – Another card I used to run, if you get one out early enough it will speed your milling up a little.

          – Rogue’s Passage – Not a creature, but a land that will make a creature unblockable for a turn. Sometimes that’s all you need.

          Sorry for the giant list of cards. These have been what I’m considering, and will probably end up trying combinations of all those until I find what’s working best.

          Again, thank you so much for posting that build. That frame-work helped me bring the deck back to un-life!

          When I do get a sideboard decided, I’ll try and let you know. I do like your sideboard, and looks like it would be perfect for keeping the GY stocked. Hexproof from the Shieldmate helps as well.

          I would say give the Fog a shot for now, it’s can be handy time to time. And let me know, because then I may want to run it. 🙂


          • andreyboytsov
            Feb 5 2013

            Thanks for plenty of good ideas!

            Here are some of my thoughts:

            1. Pithing needle looks like perfect addition. I should get 2 of those for sideboard.

            2. Cackling counterpart also looks very good. I don’t have any of those either, so I completely forgot that option.

            3. Rogue’s passage or 2 can be in the mainboard just in case you run out of artful dodges. Perhaps, I’ll include both rogue’s passages that I have.

            4. Parallel lives look too narrow in current build (only for cagebreakers), but if you add spider spawning and cackling counterpart, it should work really well.

            5. Spider spawning requires splashing black for flashback, but with good set of double lands it should not be that much of a problem. I guess, it might be worth trying in the mainboard. My friend once half-jokingly suggested me to run essence of the wild with spider spawning (I guess, even better with kessig cagebreakers).

            6. I did not have much luck with grim flowering so far. But if it works for you – why not.

            7. Memory journey is OK, but IMHO there are just too many better candidates for the slot in the deck. If you decide to go with memory journey, you might also want to take a look at creeping renaissance.

            8. Ghoulcaller’s bell fits the topic, but, once again, looks like there are just better candidates for the slot. The same can be said about tower geists – once I got 2 more lab maniacs, they lost their place even in the sideboard.

            9. Mirror-Mad phantasm looks interesting.

            10. Dungeon geists might work. I never thought of that.

            11. Invisible stalker with wreath of geists is deadly. However, if you don’t happen to draw any wreath (or mill them both out) the stalker will be just minor problem to your opponent. I ran stalker in casual build, which had bonehoards and buried ruins to get those bonehoards back. In this case stalker was almost guaranteed to get a bonehoard.

            Please, let me know how the deck works out. I am really interested.

  8. Varo
    Feb 3 2013

    Apart from the mighty Ghoultree, i think it is a good idea to swap the levitations for wingcrafters, they also count towards the creature in the graveyard total.

    Artful dodge is a blast when combined with the ghoultree, so i recommend adding at least 2.

    On the other hand, having played a deck very similar to yours, i found that half the matches were won by Spider Spawning, and if you want to play it, you can add Elves of the deep shadow, they ramp at a little cost, allow you to play black flashbacks and are themselves cheap bodies to fill your yard.

    Last but not least, play 1-2 Gnaw to the bone if you really want to stall. Hell, even if you don’t want to, play it. By playing 2 copies, i sometimes got to 100 life from a bad position, that card is nuts.


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