Explorations #52 - Prison Guards
I've written a whole bunch of Explorations articles, and many of them focus on different deck building exercises. Sometimes I go in depth with a deck, including card choice analysis, game reports, evolution, etc. Sometimes I just throw out a whole bunch of different ideas with brief descriptions. Often during these articles I say something along the lines of, "This deck looks like a lot of fun, I should write a full article on it at some point in the future."
For whatever reason, I don't often manage to do this. I always mean to, but it just doesn't seem to work out. Time keeps on moving forward, and it's hard to back up and take another look at an old deck - even if it's a good one.
Today I'm going to change this trend, and build a deck that I've been wanting to for quite some time - one that I called Prison Guards. I first wrote about this deck here in my M10 set review. Here's the list for reference:
... and here's what I wrote about the deck back then:
"This deck runs just a huge number of creatures that come with built in protection. Here's a rundown:
Guardian Seraph slows down any sort of damage that your opponent is sending your way. Windborn Muse forces them to choose between developing their board and sending their creatures into the red zone. True Believer helps you dodge spells like Tendrils of Agony and Lightning Bolt to the face. Ethersworn Canonist prevents any sort of high-velocity plays for your opponent, fighting things like Ponder into Ponder or a bunch of spells into something with storm. Gaddock Teeg shuts off a huge number of spells that people love to play. Aven Mindcensor prevents any kind of library searching. Qasali Pridemage fights artifacts and enchantments, while Kataki pitches in against artifacts."
I think that sums up the deck pretty well. Play out a bunch of creatures, all of them have some sort of protection, and attack. In a way, you could consider it to be green-white fish. Even though this deck is almost 100% creatures, it brings a wide variety of effects to the table. Before I make any changes with this one, I want to take it out for a few test games.
My only change is going to be swapping out Windswept Heath for a few basics, due to the Extended rotation.
Out: 4 Windswept Heath
In: 2 Plains, 2 Forest
Let's do it!
Game 1 vs U/R Clout/Chandra
I keep a hand that's full off too much land, and start off with Weathered Wayfarer. Villain plays out Coldsteel Heart and then Crag Puca, while I come back with Windborn Muse and get through for some damage. Villain plays Clout of the Dominus on his Crag Puca and I take six, but it seems like I'm the beatdown so I keep getting in for damage.
I use double Oblivion Ring on two consecutive turns to take out Clout of the Dominus and Puca. Mystical Teachings grabs Into the Roil and I ambush a Scalding Tarn with Aven Mindcensor - which is pretty sweet. He plays down Chandra Ablaze, but I just attack for the win.
Analysis: Too much land in this one, although the deck functioned decently. Ambushing a fetchland with Mindcensor is totally awesome, and occasionally a strong play even in Vintage! Hopefully next time I'll get less land, more creatures.
Game 2 vs Naya Allies/Obsidian Battle-Axe
Villain starts off with double Jungle Shrine, and I get turn two and three True Believer. I start to beat down with my 2/2s while villain plays out Obsidian Battle-Axe and then Oran-Rief Survivalist. Thankfully I've played out Windborn Muse in the meantime, and he's having a lot of trouble sending creatures into the red zone.
I play out Guardian Seraph and continue to get in for damage. Villain kicks Burst Lightning in order to take my angel down, but I play out a second copy on my next turn. He gets Kazuul Warlord and Kazandu Blademaster, but I win the damage race pretty easily.
Analysis: Windborn Muse is an absolute backbreaker when I'm up against any kind of aggro deck. Not only does she get in there for two evasive points of damage, but she totally stalls out either your opponent's board development or their ability to get into the red zone. Two games down and Windborn Muse has been great in both games.
Game 3 vs U/G Shorecrasher Beatdown
I start off with Weathered Wayfarer and then True Believer. Villain plays out (Slippery Boggle), Shorecrasher Mimic, and then Favor of the Overbeing - which is a gigantic beating. My only hope is Oblivion Ring, but I take the beatdown before drawing any sort of solution.
Analysis: Weathered Wayfarer has been almost completely useless in every game that I've drawn him so far, I'm pretty sure that card has got to go. Not a whole lot to say about this one, my deck can't really battle a gigantic flying, trampling, and vigilant creature very well.
Game 4 vs Mono Black Control
I curve out perfectly in this one with Weathered Wayfarer, Gaddock Teeg, Aven Mindcensor, and Guardian Seraph. Villain plays out double Mind Stone, but doesn't resolve a single other spell before taking the beatdown.
Analysis: Villain revealed his hand after the game, which contained triple Tendrils of Corruption. Thank you Gaddock Teeg!
Alright, with a few games under my belt I'm going to take a shot at updating my list. There are a few cards that I know want to go.
Out: 4 Weathered Wayfarer, 4 Ethersworn Canonist, 1 Kataki, War's Wage
I've had Weathered Wayfarer a lot so far, and it's never been anything other than a simple 1/1. Ethersworn Canonist is pretty decent, but it just hasn't been maximally useful either. I'm going to run down a bunch of options to fill out these slots. Since I'm going to be removing the Warfarers, my plan is to add a land. That gives us eight slots to fill out.
I'm a huge fan of this creature, and I think this is the perfect deck to try him out in. Since we run pretty close to 100% creatures, the Storyteller will punish our opponent for every non-dude spell they cast.
The only bummer with this guy is that he costs double green, but the mana in this deck is super-easy.
Another way to punish our opponent for even thinking about casting a non-creature spell. Unfortunately this one rotated out of Extended.
Kami of Ancient Law
Decent beatdown stats with the ability to take out problematic enchantments.
Decent mid-game stats with the ability to take out enchantments OR artifacts.
An old-school favorite. This card used to be one of the kings of Standard, but now sells for around 1 ticket. Gains us life, protects the team from certain sweepers, and provides a decent body.
I'm not sure if this card is better or worse than Loxodon Hierarch. It's lower on the curve, and isn't quite as big - but indestructibility is more useful than regeneration, and his ability doesn't require any mana investment.
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Fights dredge decks if you want a weapon against that strategy.
If you're having a tough time resolving your spells, then Vexing Shusher is the solution. Not only does he dodge counterspells, but he has the ability to protect your other spells.
At certain times in Magic's history, Whipcorder has been really good. Goldmeadow Harrier is probably
just better, since it comes down a turn earlier and still provides the sweet tapping ability. Goldmeadow Harrier not only helps us force damage through, but protects us from creatures above our curve - such as the Shorecrasher Mimic that beat me down before.
Tidehollow Sculler doesn't fit into our green-white shell, but is otherwise absolutely perfect for this deck.
... and now to go over a few non-creature options:
Whenever you're playing a deck with so many creatures, Worship becomes an attractive option.
Honor of the Pure
Pretty much every creature in our deck is white, so this is basically Glorious Anthem for two mana.
Umezawa's Jitte/Loxodon Warhammer
If we reach a creature stalemate, then it's often really advantageous to have a few pieces of powerful equipment. Not only does this provide some reach, but it also greatly strengthens the power of your topdecks.
Congregation at Dawn
Speaking of topdecks, Congregation at Dawn ensures that you get exactly what you want, other than Oblivion Ring, for the next three turns.
Based on these options, I'm going to try adding in Goldmeadow Harrier and Heartwood Storyteller.
In: 4 Goldmeadow Harrier, 4 Heartwood Storyteller
... and finally I'll be balancing the lands a bit.
Out: 1 Plains
In: 2 Forest
Let's test this baby out!
Game 5 vs R/U Threaten/Bloodpainter
Villain plays out Ornithopter, I cast Gaddock Teeg, he uses Think Twice and then Electrolyzes Teeg. I come back with Aven Mindcensor, he bring out Orcish Bloodpainter and uses Ornithopter to take down the Mindcensor. I'm able to come back with Guardian Seraph and threaten three in the air.
Villain play out Dominus of Fealty, which is one nasty combo with Orcish Bloodpainter. Thankfully I have Oblivion Ring to take care of the big guy - and then Goldmeadow Harrier. Villain plays out Mulldrifter, a second Orcish Bloodpainter, and then takes down my Goldmeadow Harrier. I play out a second and third Guardian Seraph, and two Ornithopters chump block. Threaten grabs one of my Angels and then sacrifices it to the Bloodpainter. I come back with Heartwood Storyteller and villain concedes.
Analysis: I didn't get either of the new creatures going in this one, but they were both pretty threatening. Villain took out the Harrier immediately, and concedes as soon as I cast Heartwood Storyteller. Let's play another game or two and see if we can get these guys some action.
Game 6 vs Ramp/Landfall Elves
I start off with Goldmeadow Harrier into Qasali Pridemage. Villain spends his first two turns casting Llanowar Elves, but I'm able to send both creatures - he doesn't have any profitable blocks. I add Heartwood Storyteller to my army along with Gaddock Teeg, while my opponent spends some time casting another Llanowar Elves along with Oran-Rief, the Vastwood.
I get in there for some damage, and then Villain taps out for Rampaging Baloths. I use Oblivion Ring to take out the Baloths and attack for the win.
Analysis: It's a bummer I had to give my opponent a card with Oblivion Ring to take down the Baloths, but it's certainly better than facing down a gigantic group of creatures. I felt a little better when he revealed his hand afterwards: Rampant Growth, Harrow, Abundance, and Beastmaster Ascension. Heartwood Storyteller may not have drawn me any cards in this one, but it certainly made my opponent's hand a lot crappier!
Game 7 vs Orzhov Something
Villains plays Mourning Thrull and Leonin Sun Standard - but that's about it. I get True Believer, Qasali Pridemage, Gaddock Teeg, and Windborn Muse. I attack a bunch of times and there's not much he can do about it.
Analysis: Not much to say about this one.
Game 8 vs MGA
I play out Goldmeadow Harrier and Gaddock Teeg, Villain casts Silhana Ledgewalker and powers her up with Moldervine Cloak. I bring out Windborn Muse and Guardian Seraph. Villain attacks and I double block, I guess he didn't see that one coming? He concedes.
Analysis: The deck my opponent played in this one is a lot of fun. I used to play it sometimes back in the Ravnica days. Forests, Moldervine Cloak, Blanchwood Armor, and creatures that are tough to block. Cool deck!
I think that's enough test games to show what this deck is all about. Time to look at a few different versions.
Some Different Looks
The first thing I want to do is reduce the cost of this deck, to produce a budget version. Thankfully this deck is already pretty cheap, so there aren't many adjustments that need to be made. Other than the manabase, we're looking at around $8 for the main deck. Here's the breakdown:
4 Windborn Muse = $1.40
4 True Believer = $2.00
4 Goldmeadow Harrier = $0.20
4 Gaddock Teeg = $2.00
4 Heartwood Storyteller = $1.60
4 Aven Mindcensor = $0.32
4 Qasali Pridemage = $0.32
4 Guardian Seraph = $0.40
4 Oblivion Ring = $0.32
Temple Garden and Wooded Bastion are a bit expensive, but those slots are easy enough to rework.
Out: 4 Temple Garden, 4 Wooded Bastion
In: 4 Graypelt Refuge, 4 Ancient Ziggurat
Given the number of creatures in the original deck, I probably should have been running Ancient Ziggurat anyways. Here's the complete budget list:
One thing that might surprise you is how much this deck has in common with a strong deck in the current Vintage metagame. Yep, believe it or not - people play a deck that looks pretty similar to this one in a format with Black Lotus and Mox Sapphire. Stephen Menendian has written a number of articles on green/white beatdown decks in Vintage. Here's a list:
Doesn't that look awfully fair for a Vintage deck? It certainly does, but this one brings major game. Null Rod shuts down Black Lotus and every Mox variant, Aven Mindcensor prevents any type of searching, Kataki doubles up on the artifact hate, Vexing Shusher doesn't care about (Forece of Will), and Ethersworn Canonist stops storm combo. This deck may not look like much, but it's very well positioned in that powerful format.
I've even seen versions of Menendian's deck that run Heartwood Storyteller. Seriously... in Vintage! If stuff like this is good enough for Vintage, then it's probably good enough for casual Extended. I hope you have fun with some variation on this deck.
Thanks for reading!
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