Recently I wrote an article called 'So Long Lorwyn/Shadowmoor'. That one was a bit of a lament on the latest double-block about to rotate out of Standard. Part of the article consisted of a discussion of some decks based on cards about to rotate that I never managed to fit into a full article.
While looking back through some of my archives for ideas for this article, I realized that I'm building up a whole stockpile of old decks and ideas that aren't making it into articles. I just work through too many different ideas to write an article about every single one. One solution is to write an article every now and then that highlights a few of these decks along with old school match reports and analysis. I'm going to try out the idea this week and if people like it then I'll definitely use it again in the future.
Also I'll be honest. I'm in the middle of the woods as you're reading this and have been there for about two weeks, assuming I haven't been eaten by a bear or something. I didn't want to miss an article this week though, and this was a way for me to get one together with a whole bunch of old information as a starting point. Even more importantly, I think the content is really good and didn't want it to go unread in a file that only I look at.
While I've gone through and updated the information a bit below, keep in mind that these decks were developed and played during the olden days.
Enough rambling, let's get started with deck numero uno.
There are some linear mechanics/themes in Magic that are just too powerful for their own good from a deckbuilding perspective. Take a look at something like Goblins during Onslaught block. There are some cards in that linear that are just so powerful that it's almost impossible to NOT run them if you're playing any significant amount of Goblins.
Can you imagine running Goblins during Onslaught block without Goblin Piledriver? What about Goblin Warchief? How about Siege-Gang Commander or Gempalm Incinerator? Keep on going down the line of powerful Goblins and hopefully you can see my point. I'm not trying to say that there are no choices to be made while constructing a Goblin deck, there are certainly a few - but it really narrows the amount of adjustment room that your deck has.
Say you're putting together a decklist and really like Siege-Gang Commander, so you add four copies. That card just gets so much better with Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Warchief that it's hard not to add them. Next thing you know, whatever deck you were putting together has turned into a Goblin list. This probably leads to a more powerful deck, but how many Goblin lists do we really need?
This has always been kind of a pet peeve of mine. There are so many cool, cool cards that are stuck in strong linears and never have the chance to break out into a new kind of deck.
But this isn't how it has to be! Once in a while you see a competitive deck with a minor linear theme, but it is much more rare to see a deck that utilizes multiple linears. Today I'm going to try to combine the aforementioned affinity linear with storm. Affinity lets us play a whole bunch of cards on the cheap (or for free), and storm lets us do something truly awesome after casting a whole bunch of spells. Seems like they might do well mashed together into one deck, no?
For reference let's take a look at an example Affinity deck and an example Storm Combo deck:
Not a whole lot needs to be said about Ravager Affinity. Not only did I discuss it a bit above, but it was a very popular and powerful tournament deck for a long time. It can play a million strong threats in about two seconds, play most of its spells for free - and just assaults your opponents at a blistering pace.
Chances are you're also familiar with storm. Let's take a look at a few storm lists:
Perilous Storm is based around using Perilous Research/Hatching Plans to draw a bunch of cards, play a bunch of acceleration (Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Lotus Bloom, etc.) to pump up the storm count and then cast a huge Ignite Memories or Empty the Warrens. You then sit there and cross your fingers that Ignite Memories hits for enough to kill your opponent or that your Empty the Warrens tokens get through for lethal before your opponent can recover.
Here are two more storm combo decks that you might be more familiar with:
Alright so now that we've taken a look at an Affinity list and a few storm combo lists - what's the goal for this Affinistorm deck? The basic idea is to keep the explosiveness of Affinity and add more mana accelerators and storm finishers. Instead of sending our storm effects to the graveyard, we'll use cheap (or free) affinity cards to up the storm count and stick around to beat down afterwards.
The base of this deck is going to include pretty much every "affinity" card played in the Ravager Affinity list above: Artifact Lands, Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, and Thoughtcast. On top of that we're going to add some acceleration/card draw typically played in combo decks and then a few storm finishers.
First let's figure out what finishers to use. Let's take a look at some potential storm finishers:
Basically impossible to hardcast, requires huge mana to get going, also requires Dragons.
Empty the Warrens
Solid card and very versatile. Can be cast early on with a storm of two of three for some serious early pressure without completely extending. Can also be cast on turn five or six with a storm of seven or eight for a threat that needs to be dealt with immediately.
Not even really a finisher. Requires an unbelievable storm count to really have an effect towards winning the game. Could potentially be used to clear the way for Myr Enforcers and Frog Mites. Pyromancer's Swath supercharges this card. Definitely a finisher if we can get two copies going.
Just a terrible version of Grapeshot. Instant, but can only hit creatures.
Haze of Rage - Can finish of your opponent with attackers at instant speed. Tough to use with Sorcery-speed acceleration.
Not technically a "storm" card, but potentially a big, hasty beater.
Solid storm finisher. Obviously fairly hit or miss. This card is a lot of fun though, could be good for a few slots.
Basically requires moving the deck towards a milling strategy. Not synergistic at all with the affinity creatures.
Fantastic card, requires six total mana and double blue which can be tough to generate.
Some of the 'finishers' are tough since we won't be generating quite the storm count of most dedicated storm decks. It's going to be tough to get to storm ten to finish off your opponent in one shot with Tendrils of Agony. Storm of four or five with Tendrils is probably much more common. Thankfully we've also got affinity creatures coming down as part of upping the storm count to try to deal with your opponent's remaining life.
In this 'mini-storm' situation, I'm not sure if Ignite Memories or Tendrils of Agony is better. Ignite Memories has a wider variance in damage dealt, whereas Tendrils of Agony is always good for two points per copy. Tendrils of Agony also pumps up your life total for when you get drawn into a slightly longer game beating down with your affinity creatures. This is usually a losing situation though, and it's not likely that the extra life will save you.
Here is the first rough list that I tried, just messing around randomly with the deck editor on MTGO:
This list is very rough; it's really just me adding random cards without much thought. Tendrils of Agony is almost definitely incorrect in this list, and the Shadowblood Eggs are basically there to support it. Also eighteen lands are very light, even with all of this acceleration. Affinistorm definitely wants to hit its first three or more land drops. I'm going to revisit this deck after a few games for sure.
Game 1 vs Mono Black
My opponent starts off with Sensei's Divining Top and Withered Wretch. Even with the Top, he misses a turn three land drop. He doesn't do much else other than beat with the Withered Wretch. On turn five I play Frogmite, Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Myr Enforcer, Empty the Warrens, and Storm Entity. I get in for 6 and my opponent casts a Hypnotic Specter that won't save him from my team.
Game 2 vs UB Something
I start off with Seat of the Synod, Shadowblood Egg, and Lotus Bloom. My opponent plays Rathi Trapper and I suspend a second Lotus Bloom. When the first Lotus Bloom unsuspends I follow up with double Frogmite, Thoughtcast, Myr Enforcer, and then double huge Storm Entity. These two guys go all the way.
Lotus Bloom unsuspends and I play Thoughtcast and Frogmite, pop off double Shadowblood Egg and Chromatic Star, cast double Rite of Flame, Myr Enforcer, and then double Storm Entity. Fortunately for me my opponent had gotten in for one with his Drudge Skeletons the turn before, so I get in for a bunch. Weed Strangle takes out a Storm Entity and I get in for a bunch again. I end up hardcasting Tendrils of Agony (one copy) for the win.
This deck might be off to a 3-0 start, but this UB deck that I played twice was pretty sub-par and the mono black one was probably even worse - so take that for what it's worth. Time to make a few changes to this deck.
The Shadowblood Egg/Tendrils of Agony package was pretty bad I think. Initially I had designed this as a Tendrils list and then never broke the ties completely as I moved more towards Empty the Warrens/Storm Entity. Tree of Tales came out and I added Darksteel Citadel, increasing the potential affinity count in the early turns. Tendrils of Agony is replaced with Ignite Memories, which is much much easier to cast and arguably better - Tendrils of Agony was the only card in the deck that required double mana to cast.
Back to test games.
Game 4 vs Mono Black Control
I start off by playing various Artifact Lands and suspending Lotus Bloom. My opponent plays triple Rakdos Signet into (Sengir Nosteratu). I combo off on turn four, casting TRIPLE Thoughtcast that gets me absolutely nothing. I end up having to settle for two Frogmites and a 5/5 Storm Entity with triple City of Brass and double Darksteel Citadel in my hand. I didn't even use my Lotus Bloom for mana - if only those five lands had been anything else at all.
My opponent comes back with Pyroclasm to take out my Frogmites. We trade beats for a while until I play a 2/2 Storm Entity, which gets hit with Strangling Soot. He plays Phyrexian Rager and Hypnotic Specter. I have one chance to hardcast Ignite Memories and hit something huge, but Swamp is not huge.
Game 5 vs Red Jaya/Torchling
I start off by playing Seat of the Synod and Lotus Bloom. My opponent plays Mountain, Mogg Fanatic, and Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. I Thoughtcast on turn three and here's how my turn four goes:
Lotus Bloom resolves.
Play Chromatic Star.
Play Frogmite for free.
Cast Rite of Flame off of Chromatic Star.
Cast double Seething Song.
Play Myr Enforcer for two.
Cast a 7/7 Storm Entity.
Cast Empty the Warrens for sixteen Goblins.
I throw all those guys out there and hope my opponent doesn't have Pyroclasm. All he has is Torchling. Again, I didn't even need the Lotus Bloom mana - that's two games in a row. Maybe I've got a little bit too much acceleration?
Game 6 vs Mono Black
My opponent starts off by mulliganing down to four on the draw, so this one should be easy. I play Vault of Whispers, Chromatic Star, and Lotus Bloom on turn one. He plays a Swamp. I play Great Furnace and a second Chromatic Star on turn two, he plays a second Swamp. On turn three I play Darksteel Citadel and pop both Chromatic Stars for double Thoughtcast. My opponent plays a third Swamp.
On turn four I play Lotus Bloom, Darksteel Citadel, Frogmite, Frogmite, double Rite of Flame, Seething Song, and then Storm Entity (7/7) and Empty the Warrens for sixteen. My opponent concedes. Once again I didn't even need the Lotus Bloom mana.
Game 7 vs Red Aggro
I play Great Furnace, Chromatic Star, and Lotus Bloom. My opponent plays double Slith Firewalker. I'm getting beaten down pretty hard and draw every single land in my deck trying to get a combo together. I end up popping off double Chromatic Star just hoping to draw Thoughtcast into Empty the Warrens and Storm Entity or something, but just get more land. I make the mistake of looking at the top few cards of my deck: Ignite Memories and Empty the Warrens. Bummer.
Game 8 vs Red Something
I start off with double Great Furnace and Lotus Bloom. My opponent plays a few Mountains and Keldon Megaliths. When the Lotus Bloom goes off I have two Great Furnace, Seat of the Synod, and Darksteel Citadel in play. I cast double Frogmite, Rite of Flame, Seething Song, Empty the Warrens, and Ignite Memories. My opponent concedes. Needed the Lotus Bloom that time!
Game 9 vs BG Rock-ish
My opponent plays Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama's Reach. I end up comboing on turn four with Lotus Bloom, double Frogmite, and Myr Enforcer into Empty the Warrens for eight. My opponent has a Decree of Pain to cycle, which obviously sucks for me big time.
I attack with everything I have and have one last chance to win with four copies of Ignite Memories, but only get my opponent down to three - who comes back with Kokusho, the Evening Star. He lays down Loxodon Warhammer and quickly goes back to a life total that's not going to be easy for me to take down to zero. He eventually beats me down with Kokusho.
Game 10 vs Orzhov
I open with double Vault of Whispers, Darksteel Citadel, and Chromatic Star. My opponent plays out double Orzhov Signet alongside Orzhov Basilica. I use Chromatic Star, Rite of Flame, and Seething Song into a 3/3 Storm Entity and eight Goblin tokens.
Storm Entity gets hit with Condemn, but I get in for a bunch. Double Faith's Fetters brings my opponent up to a life total that's going to be tough to reach. I keep swinging and get my opponent down to eleven when Angel of Despair hits the table. I lay down Frogmite and Myr Enforcer, swinging my opponent down to one life. I can't get through anymore and get beaten down by Angel of Despair and Skeletal Vampire.
There's nothing more brutal than not being able to sneak through just ONE more damage. A hardcast single copy of Ignite Memories probably would have done it.
Game 11 vs UW Control
I start off with a bunch of artifact lands, Chromatic Stars, Thoughtcasts, and double suspended Lotus Bloom. My opponent plays a bunch of Islands and Plains, not doing much of anything at all. On turn four he plays Silver Knight. On my turn four the two Lotus Blooms come into play and I cast double Frogmite, Myr Enforcer (which gets (Counterspelled)), Rite, double Storm Entity (8/8 and 9/9), and twenty Goblins from Empty the Warrens.
There are few options here if you want to change the deck a bit further. One weakness of the deck that you can try to fix up is the lack of reach. After comboing off there's not a whole lot that you can do to your opponent if your combo doesn't get the job done. The affinity package helps this a bit - it's a whole lot easier finishing games with a few 2/2s or 4/4s mixed in with your Empty the Warrens tokens. Pyroclasm might not finish you off completely, but Wrath of God still will.
Burning Wish is a potential option with something like Tendrils of Agony in the sideboard for matchups where you don't think attacking through the red zone is your best options. Of course this just moves us closer to playing a TEPS list. Another option is to add something like Shrapnel Blast - a card that is very useful in the post-combo game state. Of course this just moves us closer to playing an Affinity list. This deck as it stands now is positioned pretty cleanly in between these two archetypes.
All in all I think that this was a fairly successful attempt at mashing together two related linears. This deck has a potential huge turn fours without having to go all-in to achieve them. The backup plan of Frogmite and Myr Enforcer obviously isn't great, but it's significantly better than what most combo decks have going for them. Is this deck better than Affinity? Definitely NOT. Is it better than TEPS? Definitely NOT. But it is a lot of fun, and a great example of a deck somewhere in the middle. It does have some good attributes of each deck, and is a ton of fun to play.
Looking back on this deck, I still really love this idea. Some players in the casual room will balk at anything resembling affinity at all, but hopefully they are able to see the beauty in topping off that deck with storm spells. Manamorphose seems like it might be good enough for a slot, although I'm not sure what it would replace. If you have an opinion, leave a comment below!
Prerequisite: Izzet Guildmage in play, Desperate Ritual and Lava Spike in hand, and RRR3 available.
Cast Lava Spike targeting your opponent and splice Desperate Ritual onto it.
Target the Lava Spike/Desperate Ritual with Izzet Guildmage's 'copy sorcery' ability.
Let the Guildmage's ability resolve. You now have two copies of Lava Spike/Desperate Ritual on the stack.
Let the first copy resolve. Your opponent will take three from the Lava Spike and Desperate Ritual will add RRR to your mana pool.
Use this RRR to activate the Guildmage's 'copy sorcery' ability targeting the original Lava Spike/Desperate Ritual (which is still on the stack).
If your opponent is dead then stop, otherwise repeat from #3.
The cool thing about this combo is that all of the cards involved are marginally useful. Combo decks are often full of somewhat useless pieces of cardboard (or virtual cardboard) that combine holistically to pull of some totally sweet kung fu. I mean Illusions of Grandeur, are you kidding me? Donate? Why would you EVER play those cards? They're terrible!
Now I'm definitely now saying that Izzet Guildmage or Desperate Ritual is the cream of the crop, but they're not just dead and useless without their combo buddies. I'm always up for a good Izzet deck, so I decided to throw together a list.
There are a few different ways to go, but I think that I'm going to concentrate on a heavy Arcane theme. I've never played a deck with an Arcane theme, and since I'm going to be splicing for the combo anyways - why not add in some more Arcane synergy?
All of the cards required for the combo are decent in some sort of Izzet burn or counter-burn list - so I'm going to brainstorm a bunch of cards for that sort of deck (an Izzet/Arcane burn/counter-burn list):
2/2 beater for two at worst, extra damage out of some direct damage in the middle, and an infinite combo enabler at best.
Three damage for R isn't a deal you get very often these days. It's also Arcane and part of our infinite damage combo.
Not really that great of a card, but can speed things up a bit I guess? It's Arcane and can also be spliced, part of the infinite damage combo.
Alternate win condition in a deck with lots of direct damage/instants.
On turn five I play Reach Through Mists with spliced Glacial Ray to take out the Doppelganger. On turn six I cast Wee Dragonauts and Izzet Guildmage. On turn seven I cast Reach Through Mists with spliced Glacial Ray and Desperate Ritual - followed by Char. I swing for a bunch of damage, untap, cast a few more spells, and then swing again for the win.
I play Izzet Guildmage and take out Looter il-Kor with Glacial Ray. He comes back with Life From the Loam on his Polluted Deltas. I cast out Wee Dragonauts and start the vicious Izzet Guildmage beatdown. My opponent casts a second Looter il-Kor and I use a Lava Spike/Glacial Ray splice to take it out, swinging for a bunch with my Dragonauts and Guildmage. After combat I combo off for the win.
Game 3 vs Cloudpost
My opponent spends his first four turns playing either Cloudpost or Vesuva with only a Tower of Fortunes for non-land. I play out Wee Dragonauts and then splice Glacial Ray onto Lava Spike two turns in a row for a bunch of damage. My opponent plays out Thought Dissector and Solemn Simulacrum, but dies before he gets to really do anything.
Game 4 vs Cloudpost Rematch
This is a rematch with the previous Cloudpost deck - afterwards he spent a few PMs complaining about not getting any colored mana, and I'm always up for another game.
This time my opponent starts off with Snow-Covered Forest, (Snow-Covered Island), and then Sylvan Scrying for Cloudpost. I have to Reach Through Mists for some land and then play out Wee Dragonauts.
My opponent taps out for Oblivion Stone, so I hold back the other Wee Dragonauts in my hand and instead cast Reach Through Mists with a spliced Glacial Ray and Laval Spike - dealing five with the spells and five with the attack.
Oblivion Stone takes out my Dragonaut, so I cast another one. My opponent plays Urza's Factory and (Tower of Murmors), and then concedes.
Game 5 vs GWur Enchantments
I start off with Izzet Guildmage and a few Reach Through Mists while my opponent plays out a few (Utopia Sprawls). On turn four I'm ready to combo off for the win, but unfortunately my opponent played Ivory Mask during his turn! My deck has basically no way to win with an Ivory Mask in play.
Things don't get any better with Story Circle, which is set to blue for some reason, not that it matters. I do nothing for a while and eventually he Idyllic Tutors for some Hondens and takes me out.
Game 6 vs Blue Brain Freeze
I start off with double Island and then Izzet Guildmage, who ended up doing a lot of damage throughout the game. My opponent plays out a few Islands and I cast a Reach Through Mists/Desperate Ritual splice followed up with Char. I swing with the Izzet Guildmage for a few times and then attempt to combo off for a few turns (via a few drawn Desperate Rituals), but my opponent has (Counterspells) and (Mana Leaks).
By this point I've done a decent amount of damage and am one turn away from finishing off my opponent when he casts Perilous Research at the end of my turn, followed up by Foresee. He drops a bunch of Ornithopters and a Spellbook, casts Retract, plays a bunch of Ornithopters and a Spellbook, and then casts Brain Freeze. I go down to eight cards in my library, but have enough gas to finish off my opponent without concern.
Here's a quick note about playing Arcane spells against control that isn't completely obvious. Make sure to Splice the cards you actually want ONTO the ones you don't care about. If you splice Glacial Ray onto a Desperate Ritual and they cast Counterspell then you only lose the Desperate Ritual and can recast Glacial Ray, hopefully forcing it through their counter magic.
This is a pretty cool deck, and it's been fun to play so far. I've won games in three different ways out of only five total games. I've burned my opponent out, I've used my combo for infinite damage, and I've beaten down with Wee Dragonauts.
There's one card that has been a disappointment: Peer Through Depths. Every time I've had it in my hand, I'd have traded it for a generic burn spell. The only positive effect it's had so far is the Arcane classification - and that isn't really that great. I'm going to swap it out for Lava Dart, a card that has fantastic Synergy with Wee Dragonauts, which have been key thus far.
Out: 1 Island, 4 Peer Through Depths In: 1 Mountain, 4 Lava Dart
My opponent plays Llanowar Elves, I take it out with Lava Dart - and then my opponent concedes...
Game 8 vs Thornbite Staff Goblins
I start off with Izzet Guildmage, and my opponent plays Thornbite Staff and Goblin Warchief. I take out the Warchief with Electrolyze and then take out another Warchief next turn with a makeshift Electrolyze (Reach Through Mists with a spliced Glacial Ray).
I beat down for a while with my Izzet Guildmage while throwing some burn to the face. I cast Electrolyze into the infinite combo and burn out my opponent.
Game 9 vs TarmoRack
My opponent starts off by taking out a Glacial Ray with Thoughtseize and then casting Tarmogoyf. I cast a topdecked Glacial Ray to take out the Tarmogoyf, but unfortunately stall on two lands. Smallpox doesn't help my land problems at all and double Oona's Prowler hits the table. I have to use all of my burn to keep the Prowlers off the table. A new Tarmogoyf hits the table - I don't have an answer.
Game 10 vs RW Something
I play turn two Izzet Guildmage and turn three Wee Dragonauts. I swing on turn four and my opponent taps out to Char my Izzet Guildmage (for some reason). I cast triple Lava Dart and then flashback all three, giving my Wee Dragonauts +12/+0, enough to swing for the win.
Looking back at this Izzet list makes me really want to shuffle it up again. I love any deck that features a "grow" component, and beating down with an inflated Wee Dragonauts is always fun. If I run this deck again, there are some cards to definitely thing about adding in. Lava Dart isn't Extended legal anymore, so there's some room for play in this deck. How about one of these as a replacement?
Alright, that about does it for this week. Hopefully you guys got some enjoyment out of reading about these old decks. Maybe at some point in the future I'll evolve these with some modern day technology. Do you guys like reading these articles at all? Or is somewhat-outdated material like this something I should just send to the cutting room floor? Let me know in the comments!
Hopefully I'll be back next week, assuming I make it through my two week long backpacking trip!