MIXING IT UP
So this week I am going to do something a little bit different. Typically I write up about decks that I think are ready for prime time play that you should be able to take out into the multi-player room and have fun with, even if you don't win every single game. Usually I have spent a few games tuning the deck by making sure that the curve works and the mana base is tuned. But I thought with this article we could change it up a little bit.
The times are changing.
Instead of producing a finished deck, I wanted to give you guys an initial deck list and have you help me tune it. Plenty of you guys out there are great deck builders (I know, because some of you routinely pound me) and have plenty of ideas about how to make decks better. So now is your chance to speak up in the forums, help me out with card choices and even produce those little hidden pieces of tech that you want to share with the world! Think of this as the official Part 2 to my How I Create a Deck article.
UNLOVED AND UNWANTED
So as usual, I was trying to think of my next Commander to build around. It took me a little while to realize that I had only built one deck around one of the new legends that came out in the Commander decks. I thought that I should give these guys a little more love and make another deck with one of them. A lot of the legends had seen a ton of play, from The Mimeoplasm to Animar, Soul of Elements. I decided that I wanted to build around one of the lesser played legends. I went through the list of the entities available and found guys like Edric, Spymaster of Trest and Ruhan of the Fomori. While I had seen these guys used only a couple of times, there was only one legend that I had yet to see used as a Commander at all.
First of all, I really like the red body armor. That's not something you see very often, especially on an angel. On top of that she has skulls hanging from a chain around her waist, so she automatically doubles up on her cool points for me.
Tariel is a pretty sweet looking legend and I know that there are a lot of people out there who like to play with angels. So why hadn't I seen anyone using her yet? Let's take a look at the actual card text this time:
Hmmm. Well, the first thing I notice is that her casting cost is pretty steep. 7 mana from a legend that doesn't have access to Green means that most of the time the earliest she will be cast is turn 6, assuming you hit all your land drops and have a mana rock in play. That's not great. She does come with evasion and can hang back and protect you as well, so those are 2 things going for her at least. However, her tap ability is probably what will annoy people the most. See, it has the word "random" in it. That means that if someone has Akroma, Serra Avenger and Ulamog in the graveyard (with Ulamog's trigger on the stack) and you use Tariel on that person, you could end up with Serra Avenger and feel very annoyed without getting to use the other two big guys.
So how do we get around her "drawback"? My first thought was a card like Thousand-Year Elixir. If you have an artifact out there that can untap Tariel, you will be able to raid the same graveyard multiple times! That greatly reduces the chances of you getting a sub-standard creature. There are a couple of other artifacts that perform similar work:
Now I was starting to get an idea. What if I used a lot of creatures with useful tapping abilities? That way I could take full advantage of cards like Puppet Strings! Of course, I am also going to want to give them haste, but Red is pretty good at doing that. The beginnings of a deck were starting to form in my head.
I quickly put together a list of creatures that had useful tapping abilities in Tariel's colors. I added some haste enablers, some control cards, and then went to goldfish a few games, along with play some 1v1 games. The first thing I found was that cards that tapped but required a lot of mana just slowed me down a ton. I decided that any card that required more than 4 mana to activate wouldn't make the cut, so cards like Kiku, Night's Flower were out. On top of that, I was noticing that a lot of the time I had to hold back my creatures so that I could have their activated abilities available, which meant that I couldn't attack with them. Nothing worse than having a beater like Visara the Dreadful in play but not being able to attack with her. So in that regard I decided that I had to find ways to give my creatures vigilance.
Other issues were readily apparent. I initially didn't have enough card draw, and on top of that I was sorely lacking in the ramp department. After some tweaks and twists, this is the list as it currently stands:
You might be able to tell that I originally had a bit of a Sunforger package in the deck, but I took it out because I thought it was too mana-intensive. The deck isn't quite ready for prime time, but it seems like a decent starting point. I am going to go into a little bit more detail about my card choices, along with any issues that I may have with them, such that I hope you guys can pipe up and help me out!
Thousand-Year Elixir, Magewright's Stone, Puppet Strings: Kind of the basis for the deck. If there are some untapping cards that I missed, let me know!
Avatar of Woe, Visara the Dreadful, Tsabo Tavoc: The big 3. They are efficient at killing creatures and can beat down as well with evasion (or at least first strike). The first 2 are auto-includes, but I bet someone could talk me out of Tsabo if they work at it.
Intrepid Hero, Royal Assassin: Death with requirements. The Hero almost always has a target, so I'm pretty sure she stays. However, I have seen the Assassin bring games to a standstill. This can be good or bad, depending on your point of view.
Razia, Boros Archangel, Living Inferno, Vein Drinker: This group is even more restrictive, but can do a good job of getting rid of smaller creatures. Razia is a huge beatstick and has haste and vigilance built in, so I think she stays despite her high casting cost. The Inferno and Drinker don't really work well with the untapping ability during the same turn, but if you wait until another opponent's turn you can use them again to great effect.
Mangara of Corondor, Pentarch Paladin: The good thing about Mangara is that if you are able to untap him with his ability on the stack, you can use him again to remove another permanent. Pretty sweet. The Paladin is repeatable, but not nearly as good. First, his casting cost has triple White, which can be tough. Next, you can pick a color which may not be relevant the next turn. He is pretty restrictive.
Adarkar Valkyrie, Coffin Queen: Limited recursion based creatures. The good thing is that you can save multiple creatures for your use with the Valkyrie with Wrath of God on the stack. Coffin Queen can reanimate, or just clean out someone's graveyard to make Tariel activations better later on in the game.
Dwarven Miner, Dwarven Blastminer, Viashino Heretic: Getting rid of Academy Ruins and Reliquary Tower is good, as is blowing up Dreamstone Hedrons.
Kiki-jiki, Mirror Breaker - Copying stuff seems like it would be good. But this is another card with a tough casting cost, this time triple Red.
Mother of Runes - Grants protection from spot removal, allows blockers to take on larger critters, and can give your big guys the ability to sneak past defenders. Very versatile.
Necrotic Ooze - Seems like it would go well in a deck with a bunch of other tappers. The more cards in the graveyard, the better.
Weathered Wayfarer - Without access to Green, we are usually going to be behind in most mana races. This guy will hopefully help us catch up.
Stonehewer Giant - We are going to need some equipment to help us out, so this Giant will grab what we need.
Stun Sniper - This one is experimental. I liked that it didn't cost much, and could tap down larger threats. With the untappers it can even pick off some smaller stuff like Oracle of Mul Daya.
Urabrask the Hidden, Anger, Fervor, Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, Akroma's Memorial: All of these cards are pretty good. My only problem has been with Anger. Unfortunately I sometimes find that I don't have a Mountain in play to take advantage of his ability when he is in my graveyard. Additionally Fervor is one of those cards that doesn't really do anything by itself.
Oathsworn Giant, Serra's Blessing, Ajani Goldmane: Goldmane isn't bad in that he can pump your guys along with granting vigilance. And if there are no creatures out, you can drop him just to gain a little life and provide another target for your opponents. The Giant grants a toughness boost, which is nice. Serra's Blessing is another card that does nothing by itself, and is pretty much trash if you don't have a creature on the board.
Wrath of God, Damnation, Austere Command, Rout - Pretty much the staples for this kind of thing. Rout is nice and versatile, with the ability to be cast as an instant. These are nice in that they fill up graveyards for Tariel. Other potential cards include Decree of Pain for the possible card draw, and Planar Cleansing for those times when you don't want anything to survive.
Terminate, Swords to Plowshares, Wrecking Ball, Return to Dust, Mortify, Into the Core, Hide/Seek - A decent amount of spot removal here. The only possible problems I can see are that cards like Swords and Return to Dust remove cards from the game instead of sending them to the graveyard where they can be returned by Tariel. But I think that's fine, because we need to have answers to indestructible cards.
Armillary Sphere, Boros Signet, Orzhov Signet, Sol Ring, Wayfarer's Bauble - Obviously getting out lands is better than using artifact mana due to the greater possibility of their destruction through a sweeper. But some sort of ramp is necessary, and that is the reason I am using the Signets and the Bauble. The question is, do I need more? Probably the easiest inclusion is Solemn Simulacrum.
Phyrexian Arena, Sword of Fire and Ice, Bloodgift Demon, Mind's Eye - I found out pretty early on during goldfishing that I didn't have enough card draw. Some of these are pretty standard, but the real question is whether what I have here is enough?
Sword of Light and Shadow Phyrexian Reclamation Volrath's Stronghold - The other main method of card advantage is through recursion. Although the Stronghold makes you essentially skip a draw step, it's still very good. I don't think there are enough creatures to include Oversold Cemetery, but other possibilities include Sheoldred and Debtors' Knell.
Bojuka Bog, Nihil Spellbomb - Sometimes you have to wipe out a graveyard to prevent recursion. The Spellbomb is nice due to the draw ability.
Sun Titan - This Titan works well as limited recursion, and can help with getting back fetchlands as well as stuff like Cabal Coffers and various mana artifacts.
Loxodon Warhammer - Sometimes you just need some life gain. I think just about every deck needs some method of getting back into the game if you get hit hard. Plus Stonehewer Giant can grab it.
Enlightened Tutor - The only tutor in the deck, and I think it's a mistake to just have one.
So here is the little info box regarding the deck as it stands now:
The curve looks pretty good actually. A bunch of that low cost stuff is actually reactive destruction stuff, but some of the cards are actually things like Signets. The cards lean a little bit toward White, but not overwhelmingly so.
So I managed to play 2 games with 4 players, and although I managed to "win" one of them, it was basically on the back of 2 of the opponents conceding. The funny thing was that in that game, another player was using Tariel as well (hey Bogtrog!). That Tariel deck was more of a goodstuff type of deck, using Stoneforge Mystic and Geth to take stuff from graveyards. In the other multiplayer game I got in, someone using Vorosh was able to get out Necrogenesis, Seedborn Muse, Skeletal Vampire and Phyrexian Arena to wipe out everyone's graveyards and make sure no one kept any creatures in play.
So the main issues I can see are as follows:
1) Are the creatures strong enough? Are there enough of them? I did find that there were times where I didn't have a whole lot of board presence, but I'm not sure if that was due to lack of card draw. Also, are there any tapping creatures that I missed?
2) Sticking with the creature issue, 2 of them have triple colored casting costs, Pentarch Paladin and Kiki-jiki. Can this deck support them?
3) Do I need to include more Mountains to support Anger? What other possible changes are there to the mana base that can make things more consistent?
4) How do I deal with the huge amount of mana development that Green decks receive from Primeval Titan?
5) Tutors are one of Black's greatest strengths, but I don't have any. Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor can be included, but what should be taken out?
6) Other issues. I'm sure I'm missing out on some more stuff. Let me know what you're thinking.
I realize that I am missing a bunch of powerful stuff that could probably make the deck more competitive, but I'm trying to stick to a theme. But I guess that's the final question: Is the theme something that can do well? I remember the old Building on a Budget mantra of "Don't be a slave to your theme" so is what I am trying to do too much?
I want to hear all your suggestions people! Let me know in the comments what changes you would make, and I will try them out. Next week I'm going to be doing something a little bit different, but by the following week I should be back with the changes that were made to this deck. I'm looking forward to your ideas!
Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com
CONQUEROR & COMMANDER ARCHIVE