Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rebuilding Five Color

In "Decks that I once loved" I mentioned the possibility of rebuilding my beloved 5-color Reveillark deck with Momentary Blink. I intend to do just that, right here and now. You can click back for the description, but I think I'd better post a longer description anyway, so don't bother.

This deck is a derivative of the five color control decks that populated Lorwyn Shadowmoor block and standard. The engine that makes all this possible is the lands.

Reflecting Pool
Vivid Creek
Vivid Marsh
Flooded Grove
Sunken Ruins
A first turn vivid followed by a reflecting pool allow you to produce any color of mana you want. If all you're playing is a Celestial Purge you don't even deplete counters from the vivid. Significantly less appreciated but probably almost as important are the filter lands, they provide enough monochromatic mana that you can comfortably play your spells without worrying about depleting your vivid counters. Your mana works fairly smoothly considering, you only really have to worry about the all taplands or all filterlands draws. Combined they form the sort of deck that will actually play Cryptic Command alongside Cloudthresher and Cruel Ultimatum.

Take a look at those cards. We've got UUU alongside GGGG alongside UUBBBRR. That's a lot of colored mana. But it's surprisingly easy to accomplish. Let's say you started with a Vivid Grove, into Reflecting Pool into Flooded Grove. Right away you can make GGG or GUU without removing a vivid counter. If you follow up with a Sunken Ruins you've got cryptic command mana up while being well on your way to a turn seven Cruel Ultimatum (you can filter G into UU into UBB without touching your reflecting pool or losing a vivid counter). I never had the filter lands that I would have needed to build the best version of the deck, but I was plenty able to muddle along on vivids and Reflecting Pools and whatever duals I could scrape together.

Once you have that manabase though, it's a call to put the most powerful cards you can find into the deck. Like Cryptic Command and Cruel Ultimatum. The consensus best versions of the deck went with a control strategy, stalling until they could hit ultimatum and basically win. I also didn't have the cryptic commands and I've been terrible at playing control whenever I try, so I went with a different strategy.

Magic has been printing a ton of creatures with excellent comes into play abilities recently. Ever since Wizard's R&D figured out that creatures were more fun that spells, so why don't we stick spells on creatures so people can do both? The other thing that happened was that in Shadowmoor they printed the keyword persist. Take a gander at these guys:

Kitchen Finks
Murderous Redcap
Glen Elendra Archmage

Those are all amazing cards. Look at Finks. He's a 3/2 for 3 that gets you two life. That'd be a draft card if not constructed playable. But then he comes back as a free 2/1 that gets you two more life. So for three mana you're getting a dude now, a dude later, four life, and a point of card advantage, since they have to kill it with something. Or take Murderous Redcap. Without he looks like a worse Nekrataal, but he gets to persist and hit something else. Lemme describe a bit of a tournament game I played with this deck.

[Edit: I told the story incorrectly the first time]
Him: turn 3 Jace Berelen, draw a card.
Me: Murderous Redcap, killing Jace.
Him: Turn 4 Garruk Wildspeaker, make a beast token. I attack Garruk with Redcap, he blocks, I use the one damage from the persisting redcap to finish off his 3/3 beast. Second main phase I play another redcap and kill Garruk.

At the end of that exchange I had a 1/1 and a 2/2 on the table and he had drawn one card. Planeswalkers are incredible card advantage engines. It's not often you can one up them so well.

Right away you can see the appeal of putting all those cards into one deck, never mind that they span the color wheel. And once you have them in that deck you start looking for ways to repeat the effect. I started by running such oddities as Turn to Mist and Makeshift Mannequin (and even odder ones) to repeat the effect. Watching a red deck fight past a Kitchen Finks only to have it revived to trouble them further is heartbreaking. Unless it's your Finks, in which case awesome.

And then I added Reveillark. At first I didn't want to, I had to be persuaded to. My brother Caleb rightfully stated "That card does everything your deck wants to do and more". Never mind the lack of combo with Kitchen Finks, he was entirely right. Once Reveillark hits play, your opponent has two choices, but they're all bad. He can kill it. If it leaves play though, the other player is gonna get something amazing back. Two Murderous Redcaps are better than Flametongue Kavu any way you slice it. Or Two Mulldrifters for an airforce and a full hand. Or he can ignore it. It's still a 4/3 flyer for 5 mana, he's on a clock. Reveillark immensely boosted the power level of the deck.

I still kept some Turn to Mists and Mannequins. Nothing says dream crush like telling your opponent that he's gonna eat both those options.

That's the soul of the deck. I've had numerous other cards in and out of the deck, some of them jankier than others. Wrath of God, Cruel Ultimatum and Broodmate Dragon jibed with the traditional forms of Five Color Control. Flickerwisp, Cauldron Haze and Sedraxis Alchemist did not. And those are just in the current version.

...Yeah, current version. Remember the part of this article where I intended to do more than just talk about what the deck was? Let's get to the part where I start building the future version. Might not even finish, the whole description thing took longer than I had expected. As the deck's core, I'm definitely going to include the following cards:

3 Kitchen Finks
4 Murderous Redcap
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Reveillark
4 Mulldrifter

I've got another Finks and another Archmage, but they got looted to go in other decks. I might loot them back, but let's see what other options I have first. Now I'm planning on extending the deck into, err, extended, so I've got other wonderful creatures of ages past to use. A quick list of potential candidates:

Venser, Shaper Savant
Eternal Witness
Mystic Snake
Hellhole Rats

Acidic Slime
Civic Wayfinder (or variants)
Siege-gang Commander
Whitemane Lion

And those are just cards that have a good comes into play ability. There are plenty more cards that merit consideration. (Sakura-tribe Elder, Dimir House Guard and Ninja of the Deep Hours leap to mind). Additionally, there are a number of infinite combos that I could include, notably:

Project X:
Crypt Champion
Saffi Eriksdotter
Soul Warden
(infinite life)

Body Double
Murderous Redcap
Greater Gargadon suspended
(infinite damage)

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
(infinite combat damage)

Either the Reveillark is a piece itself of the combo or the elemental gets back pieces your opponent might have dealt with. Any one of those combos is enough to build a competitive deck around. But that's the problem. It's fine to build a casual combo deck around a combo you discovered, but stealing combos from tournament decks is hardly casual friendly. And in any case I tend to get bored with combo decks easily. Still, they're good to keep in mind.

Ok, that's enough for now. I'll get to actual deck lists tomorrow. I promise.

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