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By: spg, spg
Jul 05 2009 11:03am
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Explorations #30 - Casual Deck Doctor: K-Dead

A couple of articles ago I asked for deck submissions that I could use for a 'casual deck doctor' article.  I was really pleasantly surprised with the quality of the entries that I received!  I think I could have written a decent article about just about any of them.  I will definitely be doing this again in the future (unless everyone hates this article!), so send your ideas to spgmtgo@gmail.com.  If I end up using your entry, then I'll ship over two packs of the latest set (or another set that's still on sale of your choice).

A Starting Point

Here's the entry that I decided to use this time around, from Stephen Howland, the recipient of two packs of Alara Reborn:

Hello. I'm a Tim. I love giant creatures, and I've been know to devour perfectly healthy rhox brutes just because I've got a predator dragon coming out and I can't stand the idea of it going hungry. With this in mind, I've keyed in on a few cards from Conflux that really get me excited. Fusion elementals! The art alone would make me play these animals, but the fact that you're getting 8/8 for five makes these guys my new favorite card. They work decently without a 5-color mana base via Kaleidostones if you can get them out at the same time, so I've been trying that online. Walls and plowbeasts stall for me while removal and cancels are supposed to keep me alive until I get my elemental out.

This hasn't worked at all. Part of it, I'm sure, is that I'm a terrible player, but the other part, from what my gut tells me, is that it's simply not smart to try and stall your opponent while you await turn 5, 6, or 7 depending on your draw and luck to lay down an 8/8. However, I haven't given up yet because I really love the cards. If I figure out a way to get the kaleidostones working consistently, I'd love to throw in Progenitus and a few children of Alara, but as it stands, I feel like this deck is doomed.

Fusion Elemental Kaleidostone

On the other hand, because of the 5 color requirements, I think it also provides an experienced deckbuilder a great opportunity/challenge to tune it up to the point where it's more consistent and maybe even get it to win a game or two. Because of the kaleidostones, it might be fun to go mono-something for consistency and then drop the elementals as kill cards once a k-stone is out. Maybe monoblue to completely control the board until you're ready to drop the 8/8? Then something like a mask of riddles to make sure the damage gets through?

Here's my list as I remember it
4x Fusion elementals
4x Kaleidostones
4x cancel
4x o-ring
4x crystalize
4x white \/ blue borderposts (forget the name)
4x wall of denial
4x sanctum plowbeast
1x maelstrom nexus (not sure this belongs here, but I opened it in a sealed swiss)
4x naya hushblade who I switch now and then with the 2/1 that becomes 3/2 first strike, forget his name, bant sureblade maybe?

because of the K-stones, you could call it something like "K-dead" of K-Fed or something, because a cool name is half the battle.

Let me know what you think!


Where We Go From Here

My plan here is to put together the decklist he included, try to tune it up a little bit, and then hopefully explore a few different directions we could head.  Sound good?  Now, SteveH (I'll call him SteveH so it isn't as confusing between the two of us) didn't include any lands in his deck so I'm going to fill those out.  Here's the first list to test out:

Original K-Dead
Alara Block Legal
4 Fusion Elemental
4 Wall of Denial
4 Sanctum Plowbeast
4 Bant Sureblade
16 cards

Other Spells
4 Kaleidostone
4 Cancel
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Crystallization
4 Fieldmist Borderpost
1 Maelstrom Nexus
21 cards
4 Esper Panorama
9 Plains
10 Island
23 cards
Fusion Elemental

I went with Bant Sureblade instead of Naya Hushblade as specified in the original list, since the Hushblade is the only green in an otherwise white/blue list.  I also kept the lands pretty straightforward, so let's see how this deck plays out.

Game 1 vs Five Color

I start off with Plains and a Fieldmist Borderpost, follow up by Esper Panorama for an Island into Bant Sureblade.  My opponent starts off with a Panorama into his own, Reliquary Tower, and then a Mistvein Borderpost.  I get in there a few times with my Sureblade.

He brings Woolly Thoctar into play, but I have Crystallization.  He uses Jund Charm to take out my Sureblade as I play out a Wall of Denial.  He uses Blightning, but I have two Plains to discard away.  He gets Stun Sniper into play, and I use Kaleidostone into Maelstrom Nexus.

Before I get to use the Nexus, Deny Reality sends it back to my hand and brings Worldheart Phoenix into play.  He also adds (Rakda Mar) to the mix.  I use Oblivion Ring to take care of Rakda Mar, and then Nicol Bolas comes into play and takes down my Fusion Elemental.  I have another Oblivion Ring to take care of Nicol Bolas, and then two more Crystallizations for both Woolly Thoctar and Fire-Field Ogre.

He casts a Fusion Elemental of his own, and then Child of Alara.  I use another Crystallization to stay alive, but before long his Fusion Elemental is eating my Walls of Denial.  I cast a few Sanctum Plowbeasts, get Maelstrom Nexus into play, and then cascade into some total crap.  He brings down another Fusion Elemental and beats me down.

Analysis:  We're only one game in, and I already have a pretty good idea of the problems with the strategy that this deck brings to the table.

Bigtime Intermission

The way I see it, there are a few different signs that indicate we should consider some major changes to what we're going for here.  I was going to play a few more games with the original version of this deck, but I think I'm just going to work on this now.  This may sound like I'm bashing SteveH's original deck idea, but that is not my intention at all.  I'm just trying to give my read on the situation!

So here's a list of signs that lead me to believe this deck's core strategy is barking up the wrong tree:

The first sign I want to discuss is that we're basing out deck on a combo that's reasonably tough to put together, and isn't even THAT great once we've assembled it.  During this one long test game I managed to use Kaleidostone into Maelstrom Nexus twice and also Kaleidostone into Fusion Elemental, but neither play had much of an impact on the board at all.  There are only four copies of Kaleidostone and four copies of Fusion Elemental in this deck, so the odds of assembling the combo are fairly remote without any way to tutor or filter through cards.

When it really comes down to it, landing a Fusion Elemental just sometimes isn't THAT good.  Sure it's an 8/8, which is a huge scary creature, but it can be chump blocked all day.  He doesn't have evasion, is fairly easy to remove, and doesn't provide any other utility.  This doesn't mean that Fusion Elemental is useless, far from it, but it definitely does not shine in this deck.

The second sign that our strategy is flawed, is that this deck is not positioned to take advantage of the central combo.  Usually if you're building a whole deck around some central concept, you want completing the combo to either seriously strengthen your board position or provide some synergy with the rest of your deck.  Kaleidostone into Maelstrom Nexus or Fusion Elemental doesn't really accomplish either.

Our deck is not setup at all to take advantage of the cascade mechanic, so Maelstrom Nexus isn't very powerful.  Fusion Elemental is a big 8/8 creature, but we only have four copies of Cancel to use to protect him.  If we're going to run a small number of win conditions, then we want to be able to protect them - or we want them to protect themselves.  Morphling is a perfect example here, the activated shroud ability allows superman to protect himself from harm like Path to Exile or Terminate.  If our opponent gets a playset of Path to Exile, or any other removal, then there's almost no way for us to win, which brings me to the third sign.

In addition to this, Fusion Elemental is also inherantly an aggressive creature.  As mentioned above, he doesn't fly or protect himself.  He doesn't destroy permanents and isn't tough to block.  What he does bring to the table is some serious raw power.  This means that he is much more at home as part of an aggressive strategy.
Fusion Elemental
There's got to be a better way!

The third sign that our strategy is flawed is that we only have one way to win.  There are really no other ways that we could ever really win a game than to hit Kaleidostone into Fusion Elementals.  We can't even hardcast the Elementals, we've only got four total Kaleidostones to bring them into play - and once those are used up, that's it.  I suppose we could get lucky and cascade a Sanctum Plowbeast into a Fusion Elemental, but the odds of that are not exactly in our favor.  I guess we could also beat down with the four Bant Sureblades, but that is not exactly an intimidating strategy.

The fourth sign was really brought to light in this one game that I've played thus far - there isn't a good reason to not just cast the Fusion Elemental the old fasioned way!  I mean, my opponent completely out-Fusion-Elemental-ed my Fusion Elemental deck!  He just went ahead and cast these guys, while I was stuck screwing around with Kaleidostones.  In other formats, this may not be the case - but in today's world of ridiculously easy mana, access to one of each color is not really a problem at all.

Remember that due to Kaleidostone we're also paying seven mana to get each Fusion Elemental into play instead of the traditional five.  Remember above where I mentioned that Fusion Elemental is inherantly an aggressive card?  Well, as far as I can tell Kaleidostone is inherantly a controllish card.  I can see setting something up to exploit its "draw a card" ability, or maybe finding some way to get it into play for cheap, but filtering seven mana through it to cast something that costs five doesn't really seem like the path to victory.  This isn't the kind of thing we can afford to spend time/mana on in an aggressive deck.

The final sign that our strategy is not fundamentally sound is that we're running a list with many one-for-one answers in a world of two-for-ones.  There are tons of cards around Standard and Block these days that are two-for-ones, effective two-for-ones, conditional two-for-ones, or more-than-two-for-ones.  Here's a quick list:

Bloodbraid Elf (and other cascade cards)
Maelstrom Pulse
Spectral Procession
Elspeth, Knight-Errant (or pretty much any Planeswalker)
Broodmate Dragon
Cryptic Command
Cruel Ultimatum
Ranger of Eos

... and there are a whole bunch more.  It's very hard to fight cards like this with one-for-one removal like Crystallization or Oblivion Ring.  This is a tough way to fight.  It's always a lot harder to find solutions than it is to find problems, and in this environment it's particularly difficult.

Alright, so while I think the strategy of this deck is kinda wack (for all of the reasons discussed above), I think there are some things we can do to make it better if this is the idea we really want to go with.  It is a casual deck after all, and maybe you really just want to go with this setup.

First I'm going to take out the Sanctum Plowbeasts.  This deck's mana is pretty easy at only two colors, and having a 3/6 defender for six just isn't very good in this environment.

Bloodbraid Elf

Out:  4 Sanctum Plowbeast

Next I'm going to take out the Maelstrom Nexus, since this deck is not setup at all to take advantage of it.

Out:  1 Maelstrom Nexus

I'm also going to takeout the playset of Bant Sureblade, which don't make a lot of sense unless we're really bringing the aggression.

Out:  4 Bant Sureblade

Alright, so this opens up seven slots in the maindeck that we can fill out with some new options.  Here's what I want to try out:

In:  3 Courier's Capsule, 2 Inkwell Leviathan, 4 Martial Coup

And then I want to rebalance the mana a bit.

Out:  4 Esper Panorama, 1 Plains
In:  4 Seaside Citadel, 1 Island

Here's the new list:

Original K-Dead v2
Alara Block Legal
4 Fusion Elemental
4 Wall of Denial
2 Inkwell Leviathan
10 cards

Other Spells
4 Kaleidostone
4 Cancel
4 Oblivion Ring
4 Crystallization
4 Fieldmist Borderpost
4 Martial Coup
3 Courier's Capsule
27 cards
4 Esper Panorama
9 Plains
10 Island
23 cards
Inkwell Leviathan

These changes should strengthen up this deck quite a bit.  I've added another awesome control card in Martial Coup that doubles as additional win conditions.  I've also added some card draw in Courier's Capsule, and a real traditional control finisher in Inkwell Leviathan.  The Leviathan protects himself with shroud, has islandwalk for evasion, and tramples if there's no Islands in play on your opponent's side.

The other card I considered adding was Jhessian Balmgiver.  Not only can this guy Samite Healer away from damage, but can also help to get Fusion Elemental through the

Let's try this deck out with these changes.

Game 2 vs UR Aggro

My opponent plays out Riverfall Mimic, (Cloud of the Dominus), and starts the beatdown.  I play Kaleidostone, can't Crystallize the Mimic, and then pass the turns.  Crag Puca hits the table to powerup the Mimic and I take some more beats.  I Crystallize the Puca and bring Fusion Elemental into play.  Cracleburr comes into play and I go down, all twenty damage from that one Mimic.

Analysis:  Shroud is really bad news for this deck.  I had Fusion Elemental in play and was almost powered up to Martial Coup, but this deck was just too quick for me.  I had a second Fusion Elemental in my hand with no way to cast it.  It's a bummer when a real threat that can't be dealt with via Crystallization comes down before Cancel mana.

Game 3 vs Naya Aggro

I start off with Kaleidostone, my opponent plays out Cerodon Yearling and gets in there for two.  I bring a Borderpost into play alongside Courier's Capsule, and my opponent casts Woolly Thoctar.  I use Oblivion Ring to take care of the big 5/4, fire off Courier's Capsule, and bring another Borderpost into play.
Clout of the Dominus

Another Cerodon Yearling hits the table and gets through the red zone, but I get Fusion Elemental in play and start swining.  I connect twice and then Cancel a lethal Sigil Blessing on Cerodon Yearling to buy a turn that allows me to cast Martial Coup and then swing with five 1/1 dudes for the win.

Analysis:  I guess that this is pretty much the best way for this one to go down.  I used Kaleidoscope to power out a huge 8/8, controlled my opponent's aggression, used a little card drawing, and won with Martial Coup.  Not too bad!

Let's Think About Fusion

Rather than continuing on with this version of the deck, I'm going to turn this one deck into two.  I was planning originally on trying out a few different mono-color lists to see which one works the best with the Kaleidostone+Fusion Elemental combo, but I think it's really time to get on with our lives!  SteveH really wanted to do two things: attack with Fusion Elemental, and then use Kaleidostone to bring out some big guys.  He even mentioned Progenitus.  I think that I have some good ways to capture the themes he was going for - but in a few different decks.  Let's start off with Fusion Elemental.

To me, if you want to beat down with Fusion Elemental then you want to start your deck off with quadruple Smokebraider.  Instead of using Kaleidostone to filter seven mana into Fusion Elemental and a card, why not go for the Elemental beatdown?  Primal Beyond and Smokebraider makes turn three Fusion Elemental an easy reality instead of the product of a narrow combo.

I'm usually not a huge fan of decks built around total linears, but I think that Elementals is a bit of an exception.  Why?  Because the Elemental deck is very, very customizable.  SteveH is a Tim and loves Fusion Elemental, so taking a look at an Elemental deck seems like a great way to go.  In today's Standard it's easy enough to put together a five-color manabase, and there are lots of fun and different Elementals to swap in and out.  Sure Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw are hallmark Elementals, but there are tons of fun ones out there depending on what exactly you're going for.

Here's a rundown of many different Elementals.

Fusion Elemental
Giant 8/8 for five mana, easy enough to cast with a five color manabase.

Discussed above, awesome acceleration, color-fixing, this guy does it all.

Flamekin Bladewhirl
In this deck, Jackal Pup without the drawback.  Not sure if this is something we want or not.

Flamekin Harbinger
Turns our next draw into anything we want.  Not bad for just one mana, chump blocks too!

Brighthearth Banneret
If reducing the cost of Elemental spells by one colorless mana is something we want to do, then this guy will help out a lot.  Doesn't do anything for Fusion Elementals or other spells that only require colored mana.

Creature removal that's Elemental themed, probably won't play too well with Smokebraider.

Heartlash Cinder
If we go for an aggressive deck with a strong red theme, then Heartlash Cinder is a solid option.

Hellspark Elemental
Very aggressive ala Heartlash Cinder, but doesn't require the devotion to red - just a splash.

Stigma Lasher
Requires RR on turn two to be really exciting, but weakens cards like Kitchen Finks and is just an overall beating.

Ashenmoor Gouger
This dude is basically just a 4/4 for three mana in an aggressive Elemental deck.  Not bad at all.

Bogardan Firefiend
I've been a big fan of this guy since Weatherlight.  Gets in there, has strong two-for-one potential.

I've always wanted to play with this guy, and I think today will be my chance!  If we run enough red and blue creatures, then Crackleburr provides some awesome utility.  Those abilities can really get us out of some tough situations.

Possible two-use Rampant Growth on legs.  If we run a budget deck and need a way to get different lands in play to support mana colors, then we may be interested in this guy.

Costs double-white which may be tough for this deck, but Flickerwisp provides a lot of different tricks - especially with Elementals that have 'comes into play' abilities.

Fulminator Mage
This guy takes a big hit from the M2010 rules updates, and as always LD is frowned upon in the casual room.

Hell's Thunder
Awesome aggro card, should tide us over until Ball Lightning in the next core set.  If you didn't know Ball Lightning is an Elemental!

Incandescent Soulstoke
Awesome Elemental lord, and very key for this deck.  Allows us to run some extra high casting cost card, since we can just haste them into play with the Soulstoke.

Requires a -1/-1 theme, but I just wanted to bring this guy up as one of my favorites.  Check out the article I wrote about him here.

Rockslide Elemental
This guy sounds like fun, not sure if this is the correct deck though!

Another card that seems like a blast, but we may want a dedicated deck for this one.

Ashling, the Extinguisher
Another awesome Elemental that seems like he wants his own deck.  I always meant to build around this guy, haven't had the chance yet.

Another favorite Elemental, may be worth keeping around as half-creature, half-combat trick.

Lightning Elemental
I was playing with this guy on the new XBox Live MTG game, and it's amazing how hard it is to actually accomplish anything with him.  Youthful Knight holds this guy off for hours.

Bounce is always fun, and the Evoke ability makes any creature more playable.

Nova Chaser
This guy is a total badass.  10/2 trample is always fun, and with any luck the champion ability can be a positive instead of a negative due to comes into play abilities.

When this card was first spoiled, I thought it had a chance of making it into blue decks at the time as a way to battle other control decks.  If we're planning on dumping out our hand quickly, then Slithermuse could be a cool card-drawer.

Horde of Notions
Fusion Elemental's BFF.  This guy seems to do it all, including resurrecting your 8/8s.

Lord of Extinction
Who knew this guy is an Elemental?

Probably the most useful of all Lorwyn Elementals.  Who doesn't want to draw two cards and have a 2/2 flying creature?

The other top Lorwyn Elemental.  Terror is awesome, it's even better with 3/2 and haste.

Another dude getting cut down a notch with the M10 rule changes.

Requires a decent green commitment to be any good, but is awesome if we decide to go that route.
Lord of Extinction

One of my favorite budget alternatives to Demigod of Revenge.  Fun, aggressive card.  Persist works awesome with Incandescent Soulstoke.

Another awesome creature, we want to build a specific deck around him though.

Tough to tell if this guy is more useful than Nevermaker without playing a few games.

Requires a huge green buy-in, but this guy is a house.

Probably the most useful elemental removal other than Shriekmaw.

If we get this guy into the red zone, then it's probably tough to lose the game.  Huge monster, reusable removal, solid.

Supreme Exemplar
What the Hell is up with this art?  I love this card though, and have always wanted to play it - so now seems like the perfect time.

Alright, this is a huge list.  Hopefully this gives you a good idea of just how versatile the Elemental tribe is.  I'm going to put together a URbgw Elemental deck designed to run around Fusion Elemental and Crackleburr.  Here's the list:

I stuck mostly with blue and red for this one, since I wanted to try out Crackleburr.  This deck runs a decent number of high casting cost cards, but Smokebraider and Incandescent Soulstoke should help to smooth this out a bit.  There are also a bunch of evoke creatures to make the mana curve a little easier to deal with.  Makeshift Mannequin is a pretty sweet reanimation spell that brings every creature in the deck back to life.

This deck should satisfy SteveH's need for some Fusion Elemental brutality!  Let's take this into a few test games.

Game 1 vs BU -1/-1 Counters

I start off with Smokebraider, but my opponent has Scar to turn away my possible turn three Fusion Elemental.  I cast Flamekin Harbinger for Incandescent Soulstoke while my opponent plays out Dusk Urchins - and then deal a quick ten damage with Soulstoke on a huge Supreme Examplar!

My opponent attacks with Dusk Urchins and I trade with my Flamekin Harbinger, trading a creature now for some future potential card advantage.  Snakeform plus Scar takes down my Soulstoke, and I evoke Mulldrifter to draw into the second land I need to play another Smokebraider.  Soul Snuffers hits the table and takes out Smokebraider, but I'm able to hardcase a Horde of Notions.

Snakeform plus Agony Warp takes down my Horde of Notions, but I topdeck Fusion Elemental and run the 8/8 out there.  I use Makeshift Mannequin to bring back the Horde of Notions and beat down with the 8/8 and the 5/5 for the win.

Analysis:  This game was a huge breath of fresh air.  Not only was Fusion Elemental plenty easy to cast, but I was one Scar away from getting him out there on turn three.  I also connected for ten in the air with Supreme Exemplar!  Whenever that happens I'm having fun playing Magic.  This definitely seems to be an Elemental deck that SteveH has a strong chance of liking!

Game 2 vs RDW

My opponent starts off with Ghitu Encampment into Boggart Ram-Gang.  I play out Smokebraider, who eats Incinerate, and then anther Smokebraider who lives long enough to help my Fusion Elemental into play.  My opponent concedes.

Analysis:  I guess this version of RDW didn't have many ways to deal with an 8/8 creature?  If he blocks with Ram-Gang then he's just a 5/5...  I guess my opponent didn't want to stick around and find out.

Game 3 vs Mr. Mulligan

My opponent mulligans down to zero cards in about 0.1 seconds total.

Analysis:  I didn't even think it was possible to click that fast!  Doesn't this always happen to you when you have the perfect hand?  I had the best hand yet.

Game 4 vs Necroskitter Control

I start off with Smokebraider into Fusion Elemental, but my opponent has Terminate to take down the 8/8.  He plays out Stun Sniper and takes my Smokebraider out of the equation.  I play out double Crackleburr while he gets Necroskitter and Phyrexian Rager into play.

I play out Incandescent Soulstoke and use Crackleburr's ability to take down the Stun Sniper.  Oblivion Ring removes my Soulstoke, but I get another Smokebraider and keep firing with the Crackleburr - taking down Phyrexian Rager and then sending three to my opponent's head.  Voice of All comes down on red and I'm a bit land flooded.  Another Necroskitter hits the table.

I topdeck Fusion Elemental, which means that I have three creatures that are both red and blue.  With Crackleburr this is an awesome combo.  Remember how I said I was mana screwed?  Well I've got ten lands in play, so here's what I can do.  I pay RR and tap three to deal three to my opponent.  Pay UU and untap three to bounce a Necroskitter.  Pay RR and tap three to deal three more to my opponent.  Pay UU and untap three to bounce the other Necroskitter.  Pay my final RR to deal three more to my opponent for a total of nine this turn.  Finished him off.  Sweet!

Analysis:  This was the first game where I had seen Crackeburr, and they ended up being awesome.  That last turn of "nine to you, bounce three dudes" is some serious power!  Maybe I'll try putting together a deck based completely off of Crackleburr at some point in the future?

Alright I've combo'd Fusion Elemental with Crackleburr successfully, I think it's about time to move on.  This deck plays out really well, and it seems like something SteveH could have fun with.  Not only do you get to power out Fusion Elementals, but you also get to power out other huge creatures - and there's plenty of customization available here.

If you do decide to play this deck moving foward, I'd recommend adding in a playset of Shriekmaw - this guy is as good as advertised, and one of the main issues with this deck is lack of removal.  I'd recommend removing Aethersnipe, but then you'd need to rebalance and decide if it's still worth running Crackleburr.  I'll leave this as an exercise for the reader.


Ok so now that we've got the Fusion Elemental part of SteveH's deck split covered, it's time to take a look at the Kaleidostone half.


To me, it's easy to be excited by the prospect of WUBRG with Kaleidostone and forget about the fact that this artifact draws you a card!  If you're going to be using the five-color ability, then you might as well abuse the fact that Kaleidostone draws you a card as well.  I'm going to put together a deck with the goal of abusing both aspects of this little two mana artifact.

Here's what I want to start out with.

In:  4 Kaleidostone, 4 Etherium Sculptor, 4 Esperzoa

These twelve cards give us a reusable draw engine as well as access to a flying monster.  Esperzoa can get through for four in the air while bouncing Kaleidostone to our hand each turn so that we can cantrip over and over.  Etherium Sculptor works to make the whole thing cheaper, which will let us cheat on our curve a little while making some cool recursion stuff possible.  With two Sculptors in play, we can bounce and recast a Kaleidostone each turn for free - which creates a sweet one-sided Howling Mine effect.

Alright, so we know how to draw some cards.  What are we using WUBRG from our Kaleidostones to cast?  Well for starters, how about...

In:  4 Maelstrom Archangel

Maelstrom Archangel is an amazingly powerful card that costs one of each colored mana to bring into play.  We can bring this feminina online via Kaleidostone, but it's easy enough to make a manabase that can just cast her straight up.

SteveH wanted to run some huge powerful cards, and Maelstrom Archangel gives us a way to do it.  How about this toolbox of awesome cards to bring into play via the Archangel?  Here's a quick list:

In:  1 Progenitus, 1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, 1 Time Stretch, 1 Platinum Angel, 1 Cruel Ultimatum, 1 Inkwell Leviathan, 1 Sharuum the Hegemon

SteveH wanted Progenitus, so I gave him Progenitus!  This section of the deck is very customizable.  Feel free to substitute in any huge bombs that you feel like playing.  Maybe try out the other Ultimatums, the new Akroma, Magister Sphinx, Empyrial Archangel - whatever!  Your imagination is the limit here.  Personally I'd try to stick mostly with cards that are at least theoretically playable without the Archangel if it comes down to that, but that's definitely not a requirement.

From here we can add in some various Esper cards to get us to the point where we're crashing in with Maelstrom Archangel.

In:  4 Sphinx Summoner, 3 Mind Stone, 3 Sanctum Gargoyle, 2 Path to Exile

I've added in a whole bunch of different artifact-centric cards (Sphinx Summoner, Sanctum Gargoyle) to play off of the base of Esperzoa/Kaleidostone/Etherium Sculptor.  Sphinx Summoner can help tutor up the ideal card for Maelstrom Archangel (assuming it's an artifact creature) and Sanctum Gargoyle can increase our recursion possibilities and resiliance.

So after all of this I ended up with a U/W/B control deck with Kaleidostone and a different WUBRG monster.

I think if SteveH is interested in embracing his Tim side and utilizing Kaleidostone, then this deck should be just what the doctor ordered.  Time to test it out!

Game 1 vs White Weenie

I start off with Vivid Creek into Etherium Sculptor and my opponent plays Loyal Sentry.  I get Mind Stone and Esperzoa, my opponent starts bringing some beats with Rhys the Redeemed and Glorious Anthem.

I swing with Esperzoa, but Pacifism ends that party temporarily.  I'm able to bounce and replay the Esperzoa in order to start sttacking again.  Spectral Procession and Ajani Goldmane comes into play for my opponent, and he's able to double his army with Rhys!  I use Sphinx Summoner to search up Platinum Angel to bring this guy into play.

Eventually I end up down at -89 life while trying to figure out a way to win.  I resolve Cruel Ultimatum and my opponent is down to four life, but he starts gaining again with Ajani.  I have a lot of action going at this point:  three Etherium Sculptors, triple Esperzoa bouncing triple Sanctum Gargoyle each turn, firing off triple Mine Stone!  I was trying to draw into Progenius, but my opponent drew Oblivion Ring when I had about twenty cards left in my library.

Analysis:  I had all four copies of Maelstrom Archangel in my hand at the end of this one, and they were unfortunately useless.  It's a major bummer that I wasn't able to dig into Progenitus in this game, I was so close to pulling it off at -89 life!  I think this deck may want somethng like Scourglass in order to take care of situations like this one?  By the end of this game I was facing down about a million flying creatures, it's tough to get out of that one...  Pithing Needle would have helped in this one, and is a cool and versatile card.  May be worth a couple of maindeck slots?

The other card that makes sense to think about in this deck is Master Transmuter, who can half Tinker/half Welder artifacts from your hand into play.  This babe is so much fun, you've got to think about adding her to pretty much every deck with a bunch of artifacts.  It's also amazing to look at Master Transmuter after seeing Haunting Apparition, can you BELIEVE the same guy did the art for those two?

Master Transmuter Haunting Apparition
Game 2 vs RB Aggro

My opponent plays out Mogg Fanatic and I get Etherium Sculptor out on turn two.  He plays Hellspark Elemental, which I take down with Path to Exile, and then I bring Mind Stone and Esperzoa into play on my side.  I get in there for a turn with Esperzoa and then Fanatic ping + Volcanic Fallout takes down both of my creatures (Esperzoa and Etherium Sculptor).

By this point I'm up to five lands and bring Maelstrom Archangel into play.  My opponent casts Blightning and I've got a hand of Progenitus, Inkwell Leviathan, and land.  The next turn I connect with Maelstrom Archangel and then get Progenitus into play.  My opponent concedes.

Analysis:  This one went very well, and my deck did most of the things that it wants to do.  Sending a Maelstrom Archangel through the red zone unblocked is just about as good as it gets, and is just Magic at its best!  I got a major rush while my opponent tapped down black and red mana (oh no Terminate...), but then all was well as Blightning came out and I had extra cards to discard.

Normally I would play a few more games here, but this article is already sooooo long.  Time to wrap this one up.  I would also normally include budget versions, but I really need to get to bed =).  If you're interested in seeing further evolution/budget considerations of any of the decks in this article then please let me know in the comments!


Phew, this was a long one!  Well when I started out on this, I didn't expect to take the deck's combo apart and create a new deck based on the two separate components - but that's what ended up happening.  I had imagined more of a linear evolution with maybe a couple of different ideas of directions to head, but ended up with three separate decks.

What did you guys think of the different looks in this article?  Did you like the direction I took SteveH's deck or do you think I missed a version that's closer to his original idea of mono-color + K-Stone + Fusion Elemental?  Do you like the idea of casual deck doctor articles or should I scrap the idea?  Personally I really liked it a lot, but I'd love to hear some feedback.

Hopefully this one gave you some good ideas for decks you'd like to play.  I had fun writing it, and came up with plenty of more ideas to try in the future.  If you have a deck you'd like me to start from then send in your lists with an explanation and maybe it'll be the basis for a future article.

Join me next week for an article on a bunch of different topics.

Thanks for reading!

Steve Gargolinski
th1ckasabr1ck on MTGO


Nice article by Windcoarse at Sun, 07/05/2009 - 18:55
Windcoarse's picture

I really enjoyed this article. My only issue is that this article started out as a casual deck clinic but came up with non-budget decks in the end. I would prefer to see budget decks in articles like this over decks with $100+ manabases. This complaint aside I still found your article very entertaining and easy to read. Thanks for sharing it.

Thanks for the feedback man, by spg at Sun, 07/05/2009 - 19:26
spg's picture

Thanks for the feedback man, I'll be sure to include more budget versions in the future.

It's the Thought that Counts by Katastrophe at Mon, 07/06/2009 - 03:20
Katastrophe's picture

Let's face it, I'm not building either deck. Fusion Elemental doesn't excite me as much as it does SteveH. But I gave this article five stars for the thought process - the story it told. I had a similar experience to SteveH recently. I had heard on a forum that Spawnwrithe + equipment = awesomeness and I wanted to try it out. But I'm kind of bad at deck building. And their lists were all standard legal, but I wanted to play it in classic. So I shuffled up some Lightning Bolts, Berserks, uh.... Warhammers, one Jitte, Taiga and Savannah, Kird Ape, and some other random crap. And I got slaughtered even in the casual room. Sometimes my opponents would just play one removal spell and then goldfish me. Horrible. So I can appreciate being in love with a certain card and having to debug a mess of a deck. In my case it was too much equipment, not enough hands. But when I "fixed it" I was left with a sub-optimal zoo deck. So the deck died.

^ not my submission for another CDD. I've got two other decks I'm trying to decide between. (I told you I'm no good.)

SteveH, if you're reading this, I have some card recommendations, even though I'm no good. First, I'll assume you're absolutely set on Fusion Elemental and the standard format. I'm sure Magic R&D would be happy to know that you actually paid 5 mana for FE. Actually, you paid more like 7, which is kind of a fair deal for an 8/8. You don't want a fair deal! You want to steal that 8/8. As long as you're using a support card to play FE you should try some better ones. Steve nailed it - Smokebraider is the best. But Smokebraider only works on elementals. If later on in your Magic future you fall in love with the next Progenitus be sure to try Elvish Piper, Dramatic Entrance, or Impromptu Raid. These cards also help you play around control decks if you're into advanced strategy.

hey doc (short for casual by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 07/06/2009 - 04:02
Anonymous's picture

hey doc (short for casual doctor)

this is the first time i read one of your article and i find this really interesting. deck building is something i am having a hard time learning. so i'm really happy to come across this one. i like how you dissect the decks and go from there. consider me a fan.

I thought I’d also have a go by Flippers_Giraffe (not verified) at Mon, 07/06/2009 - 13:43
Flippers_Giraffe's picture

I thought I’d also have a go at making a Fusion deck after seeing your article as it looked like an interesting card to build round. My build is below I would swap the last Shield for another Qasali but I only have one at present.

So how does it work, well there is enough coloured mana from the Elves and Fertile Ground to hard cast the Fusion Elemental on turn 4 most games, and when you don’t have it in hand you can use Mayael, I wasn’t sure about her at first but she is really good when you trigger her in response to your opponents attack,they have no idea whats going to be blocking their creature. I’ve not missed with her in over 20 games today since I made the deck.

I made this deck to be very affordable I could add better cards like Birds for the Druid and swap the Safeholds for Finks but that would push the price well over a lot of peoples budgets.

Over the 20 odd games I won about 50% which isn’t great but I had lots of issues getting the mana settled while keeping it cheap, since then my win rate has shot up and I’ve found it a very fun deck to play. I’ve never Seen any one play Mayael.

Qty Card Name
4 Druid of the Anima
3 Elvish Harbinger
4 Fertile Ground
3 Mayael the Anima
4 Woolly Thoctar
2 Spearbreaker Behemoth
4 Fusion Elemental
1 Maelstrom Archangel
3 Mosstodon
3 Safehold Elite
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Shield of the Oversoul
4 Oblivion Ring

4 Forest
4 Mountain
4 Plains
3 Savage Lands
4 Vivid Grove
4 Jungle Shrine

That's a cool list man, I've by spg at Tue, 07/07/2009 - 07:30
spg's picture

That's a cool list man, I've been looking for a deck to run the real Mayael in ever since I made that one with Mayael's Aria a while back. Seems like a fun (and cheap) casual deck.