Sunday, May 9, 2010

Archaeology: Decks that I once loved

As I write this I"m slowly being crowded off my desk by stacks and stacks of Magic cards. Their piles are slowly tipping over, spreading out, encompassing more territory. It's time to do some cleaning. Today I'll be going through some of the old decks I built, got bored with and left stacked on my desk.

Let's start with: Ovinomancer!

Deck Name: That Ovinomancer deck.
Short version: Blue White Control.
Long version: This was a deck I built shortly after Lorwyn came out. The essential combo is thousand year elixir with a number of cards that tap to do stuff. If you have the elixir out you can drop Ovinomancer, tap it to sheep an opponent's creature (destroy it, replacing it with a 0/1 sheep token) and bounce back to your hand before they can do anything, and especially before you have to bounce three basics. That's the silly combo. More devastating is with Mangara of Corondor. Her ability reads (Tap; remove Target and CARDNAME from the game). Note that her removal happens when the ability resolves. With her and a couple untap effects (like on the elixir or the Rimewind taskmages which are also in the deck) you can stack several remove her from the game triggers and remove multiple permanents of your opponent's for only one of yours. Or you can save her with Momentary blink and do the same thing next turn. The deck also features Heidar, Rimewind Master who can be used to bounce multiple permanents of your opponent's if you've got the untap effects. The rimewind guys require snow permanents, so this is the deck that got all my snow lands, including the Scrying Sheets and the Mouths of Ronom.
Why this deck didn't work: Well, unless you get the combos together you're running a deck that just has suboptimal cards. Ovinomancer in particular is pretty terrible on it's own. The other problem is that it tries to be a control deck with very little in the way of control abilities. Very few counterspells, a couple of guys that tap your opponent's guys down, a couple pestermites to slow them down. It often becomes a race to get your combo down, and if you don't get it right away they'll run you over. Even with other casual decks.
Judgement: To be rendered into parts. Possibly build another, better deck along those lines.

Deck name: Soldiers
Short version: White weenie
Long version: Soldiers is one of the first decks I ever built. It's got a lot of speed and power, which is why I keep it around, even if I don't play it that often. The current version has a bunch of small guys (Elite Vanguard, raise the alarm tokens, goldmeadow harriers, Soltari Foot Soldiers) at 1 and 2 mana, then uses lords at 3 mana. (Field Marshal, Soltari Champion). It's also got the potential turn four insta-gib of Preeminent Captain and Mirror Entity. (Turn three lay the captain. Turn four attack, drop the Mirror Entity into play with the captain's ability and before damage pump all your creatures to 4/4.)
Why this deck didn't work: Actually, it works rather well. The only reason I don't play it that often is that white weenie isn't exactly the most exciting strategy, and that the deck is generally better than whatever casual deck my opponent is fielding. I like to keep it around for revenge beats when someone humiliates my latest "best deck ever".
Judgement: Gonna keep this one around. Could use some updating.

The next stack isn't actually a stack. It's stuff that should go in my binder, or at least my big box o' jank (where I keep my crappy rares). Moving along.

Deck name: Five color control
Short version: Actually, it'd probably be better described as five color reveillark.
Long version: Remember when Reflecting pool and vivid lands meant that you could jam any sort of spell you wanted into a deck and still have it work? This was my take on that general archetype. I went with a slightly different approach; 4 Murderous Redcap, 4 Mulldrifter, 4 Kitchen Finks, 2 reveillarks and a number of odder spells to accomplish the same think (Flickerwisp, turn to mist, makeshift mannequin). The upshot was a midrange deck with tremendous ability to grind out card advantage. Naturally, it was a blast to play. This is one of the few really competitive decks I've built, I live hours from the nearest tournaments so I usually make casual decks.
Why this deck didn't work: Well, when playing in actual tournaments I got knocked out my merfolk, and mana barbs. Still I think the deck was plenty competitive. Also, the manabase never really clicked the way I wanted it to; I had all the reflecting pools but I never had enough of the rare dual lands I would have needed.
Judgement: gonna refurbish this one. Too much fun to let go. Maybe with the momentary blinks I took out of that other deck...

Deck Name: Arcum Dagsson
Short version: Arcum Dagsson combo/control
Long version: Arcum Dagsson is one of my three favorite magic card names to say. (Seriously, try it. Pretend you're a motorcycle. ArcUMMMMM DAGsson. For the record, my other two are Gargadon and Crypts of Agadeem). But anyways. What the deck does is it tries to get Arcum Dagsson (admit it, you just did it) and March of the Machines in play. Arcum Dagsson taps to let me sac an artifact creature and search up a noncreature artifact. So if I just have Arcum himself out I can lose an ornithopter that I didn't pay for to begin with and get an icy manipulator. Or something. But with march of the machines out as well, every artifact becomes an artifact creature that let's you search something up. Like, say Akroma's Memorial. Which comes into play as a 7/7 flying first strike vigilance trample haste pro black and red angel. And it gives your icy manupulator and such those abilities too.
Why it didn't work: Well, it's at least a two part combo, both of whose parts cost 4 mana and neither of which can be searched for. The control elements are a lot better since I built that blue white deck about ten months earlier. Still, even when the deck does work it's a one trick pony, and they get boring after a while.
Judgement: Scrap it. I might make a Dagsson based EDH deck. Nobody playing EDH hates and fears Arcum Dagsson yet, right? Right?

Deck name: That mono green deck
Short version: Nissa Revane stompy before it was cool, dammit.
Long version: Tom LaPille once said that Nissa Revane was a lot more important in the development tournaments than it was in the real world. Since the real world hadn't seen Zendikar much at all yet, I figured it was the real world's fault, and started looking at the card. You know what? A dude every turn is actually a pretty good +1 ability, nevermind the possibility of huge repeated lifegain. Ignore the ultimate. So I tossed together a proxy deck with Nissas and Garruks and a bunch of standard aggressive green creatures (River Boa, Lotus Cobra, Great Stable Stag) and topped it off with Overrun. The deck performed pretty consistently.
Why it didn't work. ...then people started winning 5ks with it, and other people took notice and suddenly it wasn't my special metagame innovation anymore. This made me less interested in playing and tweaking the deck. Also, I played it to the point where just beating down with huge green creatures wasn't exciting anymore.
Judgement: Gonna scrap this one. Proxies aren't much fun anyway.

Next we've got a stack of sorted but not yet put away multicolor cards. Sorting multicolor cards is always annoying; if you want to quickly be able to find a card you've got to sort them into so many fiddling annoying categories. Moving along

Deck name: Snakes on a Plane!
Short Version: A blue green aggro deck, with a couple tricks.
If you can't guess from the name, it's a theme deck. For snakes I've got basically one of every kind I have. For the plane I've got Predator Flagship. For Samuel L. Jackson I've got Teferi, mage of Zhalfir. He's big, he's black, he's a beating and he's even got relevant flavor text: "To save this plane, he must forsake all others." Granted it's not an exact match but I defy you to find one closer.
Why this deck didn't work: Actually, this one works about as well as a theme deck ever does. it has a consistent curve and strategy, it's playable without sacrificing the theme. Because honestly, what was there to that movie besides snakes, a plane and Samuel L. Jackson?
Judgement: Gonna keep this one around. Need to tweak it so I can fit my Cobra Trap in.

Another stack of semi-sorted random cards...

Deck Name: Reaper King
Short version: Five color Elder Dragon Highlander.
This is my original EDH deck, updated numerous times. It started as a Nichol Bolas three color deck, but went to five when I got my hands on a reaper king. The scarecrow theme was cut not that long after when it became apparent that people were too afraid of my Reaper King to let it do anything. The deck featured numerous powerful cards and effects, but never had a strategy to unify them, which means I never actually got around to winning with the thing. I also spend an inordinate amount of time mana fixing and accelerating, which isn't all bad. I derive a positive pleasure from getting my mana to work well. Once I realized that I wasn't winning with it, I moved away from that as a goal and towards "Cards that make me happy when I see them."
Why it didn't work: You mean in addition to that whole paragraph? Well, playing a deck of "cards that make me happy" doesn't usually win you the game. A deck that sports the full on five part nephilimbo can't be accused of being too competitive. And as far as formats go, EDH tends to be very competitive.
Judgement: Gonna tear it apart. On the other hand, I still like most of the creatures. Maybe I'll build another EDH deck around dropping huge monsters on the table. I could use that Shiny progenitus as the general. That'd be something. Not a winning something, but something nonetheless.

Well, that's about all of my desk that I want to clear off right now. Still can't find that card with my dentist appointments on it, which was really what I was looking for. Judging from the contents of my desk you can expect at least one more blog post of this nature.

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