Explorations #51 - Let's Strike Twice
So last week Kathryn and I flew down to Florida for my grandmother's 90th birthday party. It's truly amazing how 'with it' she is at ninety. She's just as sharp as I ever remember her being. I'll consider myself extremely lucky to be that with it at ninety. Hell, I'll consider myself lucky if I'm that with it when I'm SIXTY!
Anyway, down in Florida my aunt has a ridiculous place right on the water. She also has a brand new jetski, and man can that thing fly. So there I am, out there pushing 70mph across the open water. Look out world, here I come! At these speeds it feels like even just one more mile per hour will send me flying off into the ocean. As the waves rush by and the sun beats down, a thought pops into my head: "I should make a deck with a ton of double strikers."
Here's a list of pretty much every creature with double strike:
This is an efficient double-striker on the low end of the mana curve. Boros Swiftblade has seen play in zoo-style decks in the past.
It's hard to imagine how we ever kill someone with Bushi Tenderfoot, but if we do then he level-ups into a pretty ridiculous creature. If we run an equipment sub-theme, then maybe we can actually make this happen?
Ahh Future Sight. A minimum pump of RR or RRR is required to make (Char Rumbler) exciting at all. It's a shame that this guy costs four with such a strong red commitment, since our colors will likely be stretched pretty thin in this deck.
One-time combo piece in Project X, Crypt Champion is a pretty decent creature on his own - especially in a list full of creatures.
Take a look at one of the most powerful slivers ever printed.
One of the biggest beatings ever printed, Dragon Tyrant stares down menacingly from the top of any mana curve. The RRRR upkeep also prevents reanimation.
Boros Swiftblade v2.0. One additional mana for an additional point of power.
If we end up running a significant equipment theme, which is highly likely, then Kor Duelist becomes an awesome one-drop.
This is the first double striker in the list that's dipped into green. Seems like a solid option.
Rafiq of the Many
Rafiq is a ridiculously powerful card, and has the ability to grant double strike (along with +1/+1) to anyone on your team under the correct circumstances.
Rakdos Pit Dragon
Another red intensive card, but not nearly as much so as (Char Rumbler). The Pit Dragon gets a LOT better when we hit hellbent.
I guess this was probably the original double striker?
Many players lived in fear of Rockshard Elemental during Onslaught-Legions-Scourge limited. If your opponent connected with a morph, this is NOT the guy you wanted to see. Eight damage is no laughing matter!
Requires double-white, but brings double strike along with evasion - which is a pretty exciting combination.
Are you feeling lucky?
The Slaughtermaster is a great double striker, which saw some play in Jund Aggro decks after Alara Reborn hit the scene.
This guy is decent as a double striker even without any goblins to put into play for free.
Taking a look at this list, we've got a decent number of options. There are more available double strikers than I thought. The strongest options seem to be in red and white. Here's my first thought for a core of creatures:
4 Kor Duelist
4 Skyhunter Skirmisher
4 Hearthfire Hobgoblin
4 Boros Swiftblade
That's only sixteen creatures, we're going to want to round out the list with more, but this is a decent base to start from. One reason I like this creature core is that we're solidly in white with just a bit of red. We're going to be playing Extended, so it's really easy to make a solid two-color deck with consistent mana.
Remember earlier when I told you that I had a thought jump into my head: "I should make a deck with a ton of double strikers"? Well, that wasn't my complete thought. Here's what my complete thought was: "I should make a deck with a ton of double strikers AND Glory of Warfare." The other reason I'm a fan of the red-white base is for the aforementioned Shards of Alara junk rare:
When double strike is in the picture, Glory of Warfare is more like +4/+0 than +2/+0. I'm going to brainstorm a few more cards that can help round out our theme. I'll start with equipment:
Bone Saw / Shuko
If we're going to come out of the gates as quickly as possible, Bone Saw or Shuko are the quickest options. Shuko seems better for this deck, since each equipment will likely be attached more than once.
More powerful than Bone Saw or Shuko at the cost of an additional mana - which is probably worth paying in this deck.
Ridiculously powerful equipment once we get it going. Lifelink helps to fight other aggro decks, reach in trample helps against decks trying to chump block.
If we end up running a major equipment sub-theme, then maybe this will be good. I don't think so though.
Costs three mana, but once we get it going it turns any creature into a huge threat. The downside is probably not a huge deal for a deck like this.
In a deck with lots of double strikers, +1/+1 is almost always significantly worse than +2/+0.
Doesn't help boost power, but prevents removal and gets creatures in there ASAP.
Unfortunately we're probably not running a significant number of Warriors or this would be perfect.
Sigil of Distinction
Fantastic in the late game, terrible in the early game.
Probably just a more expensive version of Bonesplitter for this deck.
Banned in Extended, but perfect. Run it in Classic.
Sword of Fire and Ice / Sword of Light and Shadow
Now we get to the big boys. These swords are each ridiculously powerful in their own way.
Likely even better than the swords. You probably already know how ridiculous good this one is.
This deck may actually run enough Soldiers to make this equipment awesome.
Doesn't pump up power at all, but this make sure our damage gets through and our threat is tough to remove.
... and now some other options:
An unblockable threat. Doesn't double strike, but swings equipment with the best of them.
I've always loved this card, and she's just never been as good as it seems she should be. Maybe she's good in this deck?
With an equipment sub-theme, Goblin Assault provides a strong late-game effect. 1/1 haste creatures are bad enough, but much worse while swinging powerful equipment.
I'm not sure if this is better or worse than Goblin Assault, but it's definitely more expensive. Kicking this card would be amazing though, huh?
Do we want to tutor up equipment in this deck? Probably not.
Seems like a solid one-drop for this deck. It can swing with equipment early and pump the team late.
Nobilis of War
Costs five mana to get going, supercharges our attackers in a serious way though.
Here's my first shot at a decklist:
So I went with the creature core described above and then added Soltari Priest and Serra Avenger. I'm also running a seven-card package of singleton equipment. These additional creatures and the specific equipment package is highly customizable, and this is going to make a great budget deck towards the end of this article. Before then though, let's hit up a few test games and see how it goes.
Also for today I'm going to adopt the Hero/Villain terminology that is popular when reading or writing about poker and see how I like it. Godot also uses it, and I think it's probably a lot better than "he" or "opponent", which is what I have used in the past. Let me know what you guys think of this style in the comments!
Game 1 vs Primal Forcemage
I have to start off with an unfortunate mulligan down to five lands. Villain plays out Pendelhaven and Llanowar Elves, talk about a classic opening! I cast out a turn two Soltari Priest and then turn three Sword of Fire and Ice - by then he has played out Primal Forcemage and Uktabi Drake. Double Might of Old Krosa powers up the Drake and I take 15 out of nowhere! What a beating.
I get through with Sword of Fire and Ice and take down the Forcemage. My only hope is to go down to one and then regain some kind of control, but Villain has other ideas in mind. He doesn't pay for the Uktabi Drake, casts a new one, and takes me down.
Analysis: I had some decent equipment action going on in this one, but the mulligan to five combined with my opponent's fast start made this one a really tough fight. Maybe I should run something like Path to Exile in this deck - it sure would have saved my hide in this game.
Game 2 vs Pyromancer Ascension
I start off with another mulligan in this one, and then get going with Kor Duelist and Hearthfire Hobgoblin. Villain plays out Pyromancer Ascension and then takes down my newly Sigil of Distinction-ed Kor Duelist with Lightning Helix.
I play out Glory of Warfare, Serra Avenger, and get in for some decent damage. Double Intimidation Bolt slows things down considerably though, and takes out both my Hearthfire Hobgoblin and Serra Avenger. I rebuild with Soltari Priest and Boros Swiftblade, but my Glory of Warfare goes down to Naturalize.
Goblin Assault comes into play, and Villain uses double Needle Drop at the end of my turn to power up Pyromancer Ascension. He's close to dead, but his next turn consists of Captured Sunlight, Manamorphose, Electrolyze, and Naturalize on my Goblin Assault.
Loxodon Warhammer comes off the top and I suit up my Boros Swiftblade for plenty of damage and the win.
Analysis: Towards the end of this game I was land-flooded and holding extras in my hand. This is sometimes a valid tactic, but make absolutely sure that you do not use this tactic with fewer than five lands - this game is a perfect example of why. You need enough mana to cast and equip Loxodon Warhammer in a single turn, in order to get bailed out from under an activated Pyromancer Ascension.
I'm a big fan of the deck my opponent brought to this game, and I'd love to build a version someday. Accelerators, cantrips, utility, etc. Awesome with Pyromancer.
This deck definitely needs an adjustment in the mana department, there's not quite enough access to red mana. There's really no downside to running Rugged Prairie in this deck, so in go four copies:
Out: 4 Plains
In: 4 Rugged Prairie
Time for another test game.
Game 3 vs Mono Black Control
I start off this one with ANOTHER mulligan, which seems crazy since I'm running twenty-four lands and the curve is so low. I keep a hand with double Goblin Assault and Jitte, since it seems like better than what I would get at five.
Turn one I lose Umezawa's Jitte to Villain's Duress, and then Boros Swiftblade goes down to Ravenous Rats a turn later. I get Goblin Assault online along with Grafted Wargear and start attacking with some 4/3 creatures. I lose Skyhunter Skirmisher and Sword of Fire and Ice to Okiba-Gang Shinobi, which is a total bummer. I lose the race by one turn.
Analysis: I'm not really sure what's going on with the mulligans in this deck so far. I'm running twenty-four lands and only have a few cards that cost more than two mana, but it just hasn't worked out so far. In all three games I've had either too many or two few lands, seemingly at every step of the way. I think it's got to be just a small sample size, so let's play a few more games.
Game 4 vs Cloudpost
Finally, I don't have to mulligan! My deck has a reasonable curve this time with Kor Duelist, Boros Swiftblade and then Sword of Light and Shadow. Villain plays out double Cloudpost, Crucible of Worlds, and Tower of Fortunes, The game doesn't last long once Sword of Light and Shadow starts double striking.
Analysis: In this game my opponent spent his whole time laying out machinery for the long game, but wasn't able to get it going before dying. This is how it goes when aggro defeats control.
Game 5 vs Slow RW
I don't see anything at all from Villain in this game. I play Kor Duelist, Soltari Priest, Hearthfire Hobgoblin, and then cast and equip Umezawa's Jitte. One attack phase is all that it takes.
Analysis: Not much to say about this one. Double striking with Jitte is a total beating.
Game 6 vs Dark Depths
I play Kor Duelist, Villain plays Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Vampire Hexmage hits the table and I'm staring down at a 20/20 that I can't deal with. I had a sweet job, but I can't compete with that.
Analysis: This deck has no out whatsoever to the sweet Dark Depths draw. Maybe I should add some?
Game 7 vs Unearth/Outlanders
I start off with Boros Swiftblade, but Villain stares him down with Goblin Outlander. I bring out Skyhunter Skirmisher and double Soltari Priest, putting a two-turn clock on the board. Villain has the ultimate backbreaker in Suicidal Charge and wipes my team clean. He plays double Zombie Outlander, cycles Absorb Vis, and then really brings some heat with Shambling Remains and Brackwater Elemental. I try to rebuild with Serra Avenger, but it's too little too late.
Analysis: I played like a complete donkey in this game, over committing (BIG TIME) to the board and losing my entire team in the process. I was watching Survivorman while playing this game though, and I was a bit distracted watching Les Stroud build up a thorn barrier to keep lions at bay overnight. He is one tough dude.
Hit the Road
Alright, enough is enough. Time to give this deck a few outs to 'really bad stuff'. There are two basic options: Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring. I'm going to go with Path to Exile in the place of Serra Avenger, which just hasn't been fantastic so far.
In: 3 Path to Exile
Out: 3 Serra Avenger
The other update I want to make to this list is the addition of Mind Stone. This deck doesn't have a whole lot to do on turn two, and Mind Stone should help us start equipping creatures sooner.
Out: 2 Plains, 1 Glory of Warfare
In: 3 Mind Stone
Time for some more testing.
Game 8 vs RG Something
Villain starts off with Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise (another classic start), I play out two lands and then Mind Stone. He casts Scythe Tiger and then doesn't end up sacrificing a land, which I'm assuming is a misclick. Bummer.
I come back with Skyhunter Skirmisher, but Sparkmage Apprentice takes the flying cat thing out. Goblin Assault starts churning out creatures, and Villain taps his accelerators to play Kazuul Warlord and Chandra Nalaar on back to back turns. I try to get through to take down Chandra with a path to Exile on the Warlord, but can't do it in time to stop the big ultimate ability. Thankfully before this all goes down I manage to equip Sword of Fire and Ice on a Goblin token, which gives me something to work with.
This time I didn't extend too far and am able to come back with Skyhunter Skirmisher and Kor Duelist. Villain plays out Ant Queen, but Glory of Warfare brings a million damage into the red zone and I win the game.
Analysis: I wonder if I would have been able to win this game if my opponent hadn't miscliked through his Scythe Tiger. I think so, but I'm not 100% sure. I likely would have taken a hit from that creature, but I'm not sure if I would have taken two. I finished the game at five life, so that would have made all the difference.
Time to turn this deck into something that the more financially conservative players will be able to shuffle up. Let's take a look at the cards that will need to be replaced.
Out: 4 Arid Mesa, 4 Rugged Prairie, 4 Sacred Foundry
The manabase runs twelve expensive lands, but we can rebalance this after replacing the other expensive cards.
Out: 1 Umezawa's Jitte, 1 Sword of Fire and Ice, 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
These three pieces of equipment run between $5 and $7 per copy, so we're going to need some cheaper alternatives. The deck already runs other equipment, so I'm going to take this opportunity to consolidate a bit.
Out: 1 Sigil of Distinction
In: 2 Loxodon Warhammer, 2 Bonesplitter
Path to Exile currently costs just under $3 per copy, which is pretty extreme for an uncommon - so I'm going to swap those out for Oblivion Ring. Path is the more powerful card in the abstract, but Oblivion Ring deals with a whole bunch of different things.
Out: 3 Path to Exile
In: 3 Oblivion Ring
Glory of Warfare costs just over a ticket each, and that's not TOO expensive - but I'm going to swap them out anyway. I'm going to try out Spectral Procession in this slot instead. The lack of defensive ability with Goblin Assault was actually a major liability, so this seems like it may be refreshing.
Out: 2 Goblin Assault
In: 2 Spectral Procession
Time to balance out the mana. I'm going to add in Battlefield Forge, which is cheap now that it has been replaced from Standard - seemingly never to return.
In: 5 Plains, 3 Mountain, 4 Battlefield Forge
Here's a quick cost breakdown, with prices courtesy of MTGOTraders.com:
4 Kor Duelist = $0.32
4 Skyhunter Skirmisher = $0.20
4 Hearthfire Hobgoblin = $0.48
4 Boros Swiftblade = $0.32
4 Soltari Priest = $0.48
3 Oblivion Ring = $0.24
2 Spectral Procession = $0.40
3 Glory of Warfare = $0.60
1 Grafted Wargear = $0.12
3 Bonesplitter = $0.36
3 Loxodon Warhammer = $2.10
3 Mind Stone = $1.20
4 Battlefield Forge = $2.00
That's a total of under $9. If you want to make it even cheaper, then take out Loxodon Warhammer for Bonesplitters and Grafter Wargear. Battlefield Forge can be removed for Terramorphic Expanse or just basic lands.
Let's test out the budget version.
Game 9 vs Jund Goblins
Villain starts off with Dragon Fodder, but I come out firing with Bonesplitter, Soltari Priest, and then a second Bonesplitter, double equip, and attack for six. Villain casts Executioner's Capsule, but doesn't have enough mana to activate it on the same turn - which lets me attack in for another six damage. I cast Skyhunter Skirmisher and move one Bonsplitter over, which gets the concession.
Analysis: I think the budget version works better than the non-budget version!
Game 10 vs GW Something
I play out Kor Duelist, Villain plays Safewright Quest. I play Soltari Priest, he plays Watchwolf. I'm getting ready to play Loxodon Warhammer and my opponent concedes.
Analysis: Not much to say on this one, not exactly sure why this dude quit. I guess he doesn't like Soltari Priest? I hadn't even cast the Warhammer yet. Maybe he was scared of my third land drop?
Game 11 vs Blue Mill
I cast Kor Duelist and Soltari Priest, Villain plays out Islands and then Grimoire Thief. I stick Skyhunter Skirmisher, and then try to cast another one but run into Cancel. Villain plays out Memory Erosion, but I don't have to cast any spells to beat down with some pretty decent creatures.
Analysis: Sometimes this is how aggro vs control goes down. The aggressive deck is able to get some threats onto the board before the control deck is able to get countermagic online. If the aggro deck is lucky, then they can ride those early threats all the way to lethal damage.
Game 12 vs Honor of the Pure Warden
I start this one off with a mulligan. Villain leads off with Soul Warden, and my first play is Boros Swiftblade. Honor of the Pure comes down for Villain; I come back with Kor Duelist and Grafted Wargear, swinging in for ten damage. Strip Bare takes care of Kor Duelist, which is not something that I saw coming at all.
Bonesplitter turns my Swiftblade into a legit threat, and Villain is forced to chump block with his Soul Warden. He topdecks Oblivion Ring and takes down my Swiftblade. I untap and cast Spectral Procession, which gets the concession.
Analysis: Honor of the Pure is a really good idea. It's not well-made for this budget deck, since it costs about $3 per copy - but it's probably better in the original deck than Glory of Warfare. If I were to shuffle up this deck in the future, then I'd probably try out that replacement.
That's A Wrap
I'm pretty sure that it was a big mistake to not include Bonesplitter in the original list, and the budget version is definitely really happy to have it. It's a one-drop in a deck without many one-drops, and doesn't require a huge mana commitment to get going. Sometimes with Loxodon Warhammer or one of the Swords, it felt like I had to spend a whole turn or two just to get my first creature suited up. Bonesplitter can often be cast/equipped alongside whatever else you happen to be doing, and it doesn't feel like a big tempo loss.
Overall I think that this deck worked well for what I was trying to do. It certainly brings the double-striking pain. It's a lot of fun to play, especially if you're a fan of sending guys into the red zone. There are a lot of decisions to make with this deck. Should you cast a creature or drop a piece of equipment into play? Should you spend mana to equip or to deploy another threat? Just who exactly should be swinging that Warhammer? How many creatures should you commit to the board? If these questions sounds interesting to you at all, then definitely give this deck a chance. At least shuffle up the budget version, it's the same price as two booster packs!
Thanks for reading!
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