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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 31 2018 11:16am
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 KUMAGORO: Let's build a deck where Primeval Bounty is well-exploited! I always liked that card, never found (or actively searched) a proper home for it. It seems it may have multiple angles of approach, but I have no idea where to start, so your move. I'll just say we can already write off fetching it with Academy Rector because that's 15 tix apiece.

 GENERALISSIMO: Well, my initial reaction is A) it's green and costs 6 mana, so ramp should probably be involved; B) it benefits from lands coming into play, so the ramp should probably be of the land-searching variety; and C) it gets better the more spells you can cast, so cheap cards that cantrip would be good.

 KUMAGORO: Well, the interesting thing is that it does something useful for anything you do, as long as you cast/play something. So we can decide to treat one or two of its effects as incidental and focus on the other(s). And well, in a tribal deck, we'll have 20 creatures and 20+ lands anyway, so two of its effects are already guaranteed to have a good chance of happening during any given turn. The token-making might be where the most value is, though. So we might use something that makes sure we cast a creature every turn. Cheap creatures that return in hand? Stuff like Kor Skyfisher, where the bouncing is part of the cost, or something that necessarily returns in hand at the end of any turn, like creatures with dash, or makes something else returns, like Stampeding Wildebeests?


 I always like land-searching ramp because it thins the deck and it's hard to counteract. Nature's Lore is a favorite, then Cultivate. Sakura-Tribe Elder could put us in Snake, which aren't bad at ramping with Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro and of course Lotus Cobra, which is affordable enough right now (and it's a card that can easily be useful off-tribe elsewhere).


 Do you like Snakes?

 GENERALISSIMO: I actually played with a Snake deck a little while ago that would probably be a decent fit for Primeval Bounty; it used Sakura-Tribe Scout, Retreat to Coralhelm and Bouncelands to get infinite landfall triggers. The combo aspect proved to be a bit too slow and click-heavy for use on MTGO, though.


 KUMAGORO: Oh, I never played with Retreat to Coralhelm and I'd love to! But I think we should first decide how to approach Primeval Bounty. Do we want to run multiple copies of it, or try and fetch it? It's not actually bad in multiples, but you have to have the mana for it (which I guess won't be a problem with the Coralhelm setup). To fetch it, the only other things that come to mind besides Academy Rector are Enlightened Tutor and Sterling Grove, but do we even want a white splash at this point? We're already in Simic, albeit the blue might be a splash itself for Corahelm and maybe Mystic Snake? If Academy Rector is out of the question and nothing else seems particularly attractive, let's just play it as a Modern Tribal Wars deck, shall we? And if we enter in business with the Snakes, I wouldn't say the tribe is solved, but there certainly are half a dozen of them that are clearly a cut above the others for general purposes, cards like Lorescale Coatl, Ohran Viper, and Patagia Viper.


 And if we seek a repeatable spell to trigger Primeval Bounty counters again and again, Snakes have Sosuke's Summons sort of in-tribe. Or maybe something with buyback, so it's game over once the Corahelm combo kicks in? Speaking of which, I think I'd want Patagia Viper just to have a flyer to put the counters on and attack immediately.

 GENERALISSIMO: OK, I know you said you'd love to play with Retreat to Coralhelm but I'd really, really prefer not to. Even if the nature of the MTGO clock didn't make the infinite combo something of a liability, it's also really tedious and unfun to execute (and to watch); and to make the combo at all reliable would require running more Sakura-Tribe Scouts than I think is a good idea, since they get significantly worse in multiples. Plus, when it's not going infinite, I don't think Retreat to Coralhelm is actually very good; scrying and tapping/untapping are nice and can certainly be useful, but how many times do you need to do it to justify spending three mana and a card on it.

Modern Simic Snakes sounds like a fine idea to me (I just looked up the price of Enlightened Tutor and for some mysterious reason I would definitely prefer to not go in that direction). As far as the choice of Snakes goes, I think the core of the deck should be Sakura-Tribe Elder, Lotus Cobra and Coiling Oracle as a solid base of acceleration that synergise well with each other.

 Beyond that, there are quite a lot of reasonable choices in the tribe; Wasteland Viper, Ambush Viper and Winged Coatl can be used as pseudo-removal if you want to take a defensive stance; Lorescale Coatl and Prowling Serpopard are both fine for beating down; and Ohran Viper, Patagia Viper and Mystic Snake provide nice value. I also like Hooded Hydra and Seshiro the Anointed as ramp payoff for when we don't draw Primeval Bounty.


 I think my deck will look something like:


 The biggest difficulty in designing the deck was finding the right balance of land and spells so that Lotus Cobra and Sakura-Tribe Scout can be effective without the deck just flooding out 90% of the time, which is something I don't think I accomplished well in my previous attempts at a Snake deck. Adventurous Impulse, Opt and Memorial to Unity are here to mitigate that problem by having the potential to turn into either a land or creature when the situation calls for it.


 My Retreat to Coralhelm deck had the entire playset of Sakura-Tribe Scout, plus a couple of Skyshroud Ranger to help facilitate the combo but I've reduced that all the way down to just a pair of the Scouts because, while they have the potential to facilitate extremely explosive beginnings, they're bad in multiples and they make land-light hands even worse. This also reduced the incentive for bounce-lands, which in turn reduces the risk of those really unpleasant hands with an overabundance of bounce-lands.

 I was originally going to use Search for Tomorrow for the potential turn-one suspend, turn-two Lotus Cobra, turn-three tons of mana until I realised the Lotus Cobra trigger from Search would come in the upkeep, which is not so useful. Instead, I decided on Harrow for similar reasons, as it actually generates mana on the turn it's cast with a Lotus Cobra in play. Plus, with Primeval Bounty it's essentially three +1/+1 counters and six life for just one mana. Crystal Shard is a card I really love (possibly more than it deserves) so it wasn't very hard to convince myself to add it but it works well with Coiling Oracle, Patagia Viper, Mystic Snake and Primeval Bounty to get repeated triggers, so I think the inclusion is well justified. Only one copy though because it falls into the same category as Primeval Bounty of cards that don't do anything on their own; plus too many non-creature, non-land cards makes Adventurous Impulse bad.


 I wasn't able to fit in any Ohran Vipers or Sosuke's Summons, which I would have liked but... well, it's a deck of finite size and I couldn't cram absolutely everything in there.

 KUMAGORO: Looks like a cool build. Enlightened Tutor doesn't actually cost that much, I bought my couple last month for less than $1.5 apiece, now it's a little more than $2, just like your Badlands (yeah, yeah, I know, lands make for a better investment). I mean, Academy Rector is $13 apiece! Anyway, Modern is fine by me, we can play it sooner than if we built for Legacy (since there's the Halloween Special in its place in October), and I've a feeling our lab's builds will always be better suited to the less dangerous subformats in any case. Plus we won't have to agonize over the inclusion of Green Sun's Zenith, which would have been great in the deck.

 Cobra, Oracle and Elder are absolutely expected and indisputable. I also like the other choices, with the possible exception of the two Scouts, which feel like overkill in a build that doesn't really need to go crazy with the ramp, and doesn't pack any Scout-related combos (by the way, I can easily picture Corahelm being annoying to play; in fact, as much as I liked the idea in theory, I was about to ask about the clock issues). However, I've just built the deck, tried a solitaire, untapped on turn four with 10 available mana and nothing to play. I'm not entirely sure, and I want to test it more thoroughly before deciding (this time we should actually do playtesting, not just rush the list into the tournament and hope for the best), but right now I veer towards cutting the two Scouts and replacing them with maybe a low-cost Snake with deathtouch, plus a non-Snake, since your build has 21 of them. In fact, I think I want to play one big finisher more. I like Hooded Hydra enough, has great synergy with Seshiro, but I don't think either of them is a proper endgame, especially since we don't pack any way to sacrifice the Hydra and bring about an army of little Snakes to overwhelm the opponent (in other words, we may not pass the Dryad Test).

 And let's face it, Primeval Bounty is cool, but there's a reason it never became a build-around card: it doesn't do anything really explosive, just a lot of very useful stuff with a longterm payoff (or at least that's the impression, I might change my mind once I played with it some more; in this sense, it's a good thing we're pressuring ourselves to do something with it). The turn you spent six mana on it, you're most likely to pass without having accomplished a thing. As I'm coming to realize, the counters are actually its most effective weapon, because they can engineer a finisher out of nowhere, whereas its Beasts are still merely medium-sized vanilla dudes. So our best bet may be to give a couple shots of counters to Patagia Viper and attack for a bunch in the air. Ideally, then, I'd like to add something with similar built-in evasion, but also able to exploit all that mana. I looked into Simic's finest and, unfortunately, Simic Sky Swallower has shroud, not hexproof; but Sagu Mauler seems actually pretty attractive as a Bounty's counters carrier. It's more or less evasive, can't be easily dispatched, and gives you the option to cast it for three mana in a pinch.


 But looking at those payoff cards (and I'm really resisting the temptation to play Progenitor Mimic, which I find very powerful but not particularly fitting), you know what's another thing this deck really wants to do? Draw a bunch of cards! Prime Speaker Zegana looks at the highest power, so doesn't really apply, but Tishana, Voice of Thunder looks at the number of creatures, and that's exactly our thing (Regal Force would generate the same result, since all our creatures are green). Alternatively, Urban Evolution might be a good one-of, if we don't want to go overboard with the casting costs. I think we should get the feel of our average mana production before deciding. But we can also already cut one Hydra as the 21st Snake and replace it with an off-tribe complement like Sagu or Tishana.


 Minor qualms about your build: I don't think Adventurous Impulse is Modern-worthy. I mean, it's a strictly worse Oath of Nissa. I suppose in your build it doesn't make much of a difference, since you can't return it in hand and you don't have planeswalkers (but at the very least, it's a permanent to sacrifice when required, like to annihilator or something). So maybe you just didn't want to spend the tix or so for the playset. But I already have it, and one thing I'm certain of is that I want to play at least a couple Nissa, Steward of Elements here. I just realized I lost the chance to play her in Standard just when I discovered how great she is, so there's no way I won't jump at the chance while playing Simic in Modern, especially in a deck where she might enter the battlefield already able to essentially hit the opponent for ten. And she synergizes with Coiling Oracle.


 Mana base: too many taplands for my liking. I'll surely cut the Memorials and one Lumbering Falls (possibly both: do we need such a subpar creatureland?) to make room for my Verdant Catacombs. I also think there's too many things that search for basics and too few basics (the ratio is actually 14 basics searched to 7 physically present). I like Oboro, I like Crystal Shard (we should commit to play cards that aren't usually played; cfr. Sagu, and Primeval Bounty itself), and Harrow is a no-brainer in a landfall deck. Not sure I like Opt, it feels like another Standard card. Those are probably the slots I'll devote to Nissa. The deck might like better some card-drawing with flashback, like Think Twice. Remember flashback triggers Primeval Bounty. Speaking of which, as flavorful as it is, at the end of the day Sosuke's Summons feels clunky. A copy of Sprout Swarm would serve us better.


 GENERALISSIMO: After some testing, I don't think I fully considered the implications of using Lotus Cobra as a ramp card. It can provide a really explosive burst of mana in the first three or four turns but, once you empty your hand and get into the late-game, the upper-limit on how much mana the deck can produce tends to be lower than other kinds of ramp decks. All that is to say, I think you're right that Hooded Hydra is not an effective end-game and that the deck needs more raw card-draw. If the deck tends to top out at around six or seven mana, Hooded Hydra is too often just a hopelessly inefficient, medium-sized beater and unfiltered drawing is more useful than usual since hitting further land-drops extends the effectiveness of Lotus Cobra and more of anything is useful once a Primeval Bounty is in play.
 That being said, I'm not sure I like Tishana, Voice of Thunder as a solution. It's certainly got an extremely high power-ceiling but I'm pretty wary of high-end cards that require you to have a good board-presence to do anything because, while they're great when you're ahead or during board-stalls, they're terrible at turning around losing games. Plus, ramping with a couple of Sakura-Tribe Elders and a Harrow into a quick Tishana doesn't sound too good to me. Instead, I'm more inclined to add mid-cost draw spells such as Harmonize, Tidings or the Urban Evolution you mentioned.


 To be honest, I'm not super happy with Adventurous Impulse either but it's the only thing I could find that did what I wanted as a one-mana filtering card that could turn into either a creature or a land and Oath of Nissa is such an extremely marginal improvement (much less marginal if you've actually got planeswalkers in the deck) that the extra cost was impossible for me to justify. Plus, I wanted the Impulses for a Standard deck.

 I've also got to agree that I went a bit too far with the taplands. My thought with Lumbering Falls was that fixing plus an outlet for extra late-game mana was worth it, but a 3/3 hexproof only really excels against hard control decks, which are extremely few and far between in Tribal Wars, so I'll probably follow your lead and either reduce or completely remove them. I do think the deck really benefits from some lands that ameliorate flood though; if you don't like (Memorial to Unity), I also thought of Arch of Orazca, Blighted Cataract and Memorial to Genius.


 I think the number of basics is fine – I'm not super worried about the situation of having all seven on the field and wanting to search up more – but it's on the low end of acceptable and you could certainly add one or two more.

 KUMAGORO: I think you're looking at Tishana (or Regal Force, whatever rocks your boat; I'd just go with the Simic card for the Simic deck) the wrong way. It's not a solution to not having the right card at the right moment, certainly not early on. That kind of solution needs to be more radical than just adding one card out of the sixty (by the way, I realized you followed Robin88's recipe of running 62 cards for your Boar deck; what pushed you to do it there but not here? I think I'll never feel comfortable doing it). What Tishana fixes is that moment you dropped your hand and still is not enough. Let's face it, our topdeck mode is bad. Tishana impacts a game enormously, as you've seen in our test where I was at one life, dropped Tishana, quickly took control of the board against an opponent with an exhausted hand. I'd never run more than one copy, I'd never want to see her in my hand too early, but the deck needs to give itself at least one chance to reverse the course of a game with that kind of effect. Not to mention, at that point Crystal Shard becomes really invaluable. Of course I might have a better way to dig for Tishana in the midgame via Nissa, which I'm sure you'll never try out because it would be like admitting my Aristocrats deck was better – I'm actually ready to admit it wasn't, but this is a kind of deck I'm more familiar with. I remember playing a Cobra ramp I had devised with RexDart, and with just one Cobra on the battlefield we were able to chain multiple Skyshroud Claim then untap and cast either Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or Simic Sky Swallower on turn 4. Good times.

 As for poor Hooded Hydra, I think it's just okay. It's not a finisher, but it's a way to have a larger Snake that stays around, buys time, potentially give Tishana more drawing fuel. What you say about the Cobra ramp is true, but the Hydra's real flaw is that we can't control its death, so we have to rely either on lethal blocking (which might suggest dropping it as a smaller creature) or on the opponent rushing non-exiling removal.
 I'll keep testing 20/21th of your team, but running a second Seshiro in place of one Hydra is probably the correct call, since Seshiro weaponizes all the little Snakes we'll have around and we'll keep drawing. Hell, even Honored Hydra is probably better, since it's more cost-efficient and has trample and a very aggressively-costed recursion.

 But I'm toying with the idea of playing more Patagia Vipers in those slots. I think Patagia is crucial for several factors: as already noted, we want a flying body to carry Primeval Bounty's counters, but we also want more creatures on the board to boost Tishana's ETB and protect Nissa (at least, I do), and in general to decentralize threats, which plays into Primeval Bounty's general approach.

 Here's what I'm testing these days. Land choices (say no to taplands!) and Oath-for-Impulse aside, it's just -3 Opt, -1 Hydra, -1 land, +3 Nissa, +1 Sagu Mauler, +1 Tishana.


 I was looking at the buyback cards that are legal in Modern. Mystic Speculation is the cheapest, just 2U to scry 3 at will. I'm not particularly attracted to it, but it could be a good singleton to trigger Primeval Bounty, synergizes with Coiling Oracle, etc.


 GENERALISSIMO: OK, let me talk about the 60 vs 62 cards thing first, because I think it's a pretty interesting peculiarity of deck-building for the Tribal Wars format. I'll be the first to admit that I probably sometimes use 62 cards as a crutch when I'm not being disciplined enough to make the last two cuts to a deck, but really you should only go up to 62 when you're damn sure that the 20 tribal cards are the worst 20 cards in your deck. By going up to 62, you're still making it slightly less likely that you'll draw any of your individual cards but it can be worth it if it means you're slightly more likely to draw one of your better cards. So, for the Boar deck, I've got an overall lower chance to draw the critical Living Death but a higher chance to draw non-Boar cards such as Faithless Looting, Insolent Neonate and Anger of the Gods, which make the deck function better than drawing too many Brindle Shoats, Gristlebacks and Archetype of Endurances. I'm not at all sure that the Snakes are the weakest part of this deck, however, so I don't want to go above 60.
 My argument is that Tishana can impact a game enormously but she can also be a seven-mana Elvish Visionary if the opponent just Wrath of God'd or you've had to trade off creatures against an aggro deck. I do think there is space in the deck for super powerful, conditional cards but we've actually already got enough of them; Seshiro the Anointed can range anywhere from adding a dozen or more power and toughness to the board and drawing multiple cards to being a vanilla 3/4 for six mana; Primeval Bounty itself can potentially add multiple bodies and tons of power to the board but sometimes it's going to be a six-mana Nourish. My suggestion if you want to run Tishana is to cut the Seshiro for other, more consistent Snakes; I can certainly agree with you that more Patagia Vipers would be a fine choice.
 As far as buyback cards go, I was a little tempted by Mystic Speculation too but I think that, without a Bounty in play, spending either a card or three mana for scry 3 is just too anemic to include, and scrying fundamentally suffers from pretty serious diminishing returns. I'd either go for the Sprout Swarm you mentioned earlier, as convoke means that it only gets better the more you're able to cast it, or a copy of Whispers of the Muse since, at worst, you can at least cycle that away for U.

 I have to say, I'm pretty jealous that you have access to fetchlands for this Lotus Cobra deck.

 KUMAGORO: I think your argument against including a single card that might be awesome, on the grounds that it might also not be, is flawed. The simple counterargument is that you should always try and include cards with the potential to be awesome and game-ending; in fact, ideally the entire deck should be made up of such cards. By the same logic, Elf decks shouldn't include Craterhoof Behemoth or Ezuri, Renegade Leader or, case in point, Regal Force; and yet they do, and they win games because they do.

 The more concrete counterargument is: you include conditional cards capable of changing the course of a game when not including them makes your deck more likely to peter out (by taking the chance to occasionally get a bad draw with the chance to occasionally get the draw that solves your game). And petering out is the real issue with this deck. It has great odds of orchestrating an explosive start in terms of mana production. But then what? Just wait for Primeval Bounty to take over the board one trigger at a time? Once your opening hand is depleted, no amount of Opt or Whispers of the Muse (which I don't like for reasons I'll elaborate below) can correct that situation.

 The more I look at this build, the more I think Elves is the blueprint we should, if not follow, at least examine closely to find points of contact and weaknesses to overcome. But Elves has a definite advantage over Snake: its ramp contains built-in anthems. You play a bunch of 1/1s that give you a ton of mana, but then you'll find those 1/1s have become 2/2s or 3/3s in the meantime. Oftentimes, this is enough to overwhelm the opponent. But no Elf list is content to actually structure itself this way. Even when they're not strictly combo, they always feature three or four key cards that either are game-ender (Ezuri, Behemoth), or get you closer to an endgame (the Regal Force case). Of course, if the plan isn't thwarted. But isn't that true of any deck with a clear gameplan? I mean, isn't any creature-based plan always thwarted by sweepers?

 And I don't think we have enough of these tide-shifting cards. In fact, I don't think even my build has anything that, when everything went as planned, I'd want to draw into more than Tishana. Seshiro is close (by the way, he's not vanilla on an empty board; he's still able to draw you cards by himself), but he's fragile, his benefit is bound to be dealt with before it repays itself. The times when that doesn't happen, though, you get much closer to winning, so that's why a second Seshiro might be worth the risk, just to increase the odds of capping the initial burst of mana with something that brings some degree of inevitability to the board.


 As for Opt and its brethren, and why I think Whispers of the Muse is a damn trap. To me cycling, or cantripping in a way that's 95% just about getting to the next card in line, works in two cases only. The first, and most effective, is with combo decks that are simply trying to effectively play with fewer than 60 cards. That's why Street Wraith and Gitaxian Probe are so good. Of course they aren't your regular cantrips, because the Wraith may get reanimated later and the Probe gives you invaluable information about the opponent's plan. Whispers of the Muse just replaces itself, without other effects. Unless you've got to six mana, in which case it works like an active Arch of Orazca. But this brings us to the second archetype that benefits the most from these kind of draws: blue-based control. Classic draw-go decks operates entirely during the opponent's turn. And since you can't succeed at control without card advantage, they have multiple ways to replenish their hand; some of them will be stuff like Glimmer of Genius or Chemister's Insight, but even a mere cantrip can be good to reach the critical mass of card advantage that makes the deck work to begin with. Problem is, do we expect a frequent situation where our Snakes will have six free mana to payback Whispers of the Muse? Draw-go would do it in the opponent's end of a turn that ended uneventfully, but we can't wait for the opponent, we're almost entirely proactive. And Lotus Cobra boosts mana production almost exclusively in our own turn anyway, especially without fetchlands (or even with just four, like in my case). Then Whispers becomes just 100% cantrip, and since we're not exactly a combo deck either, why should we running a card that we'll have to spend one mana on just to get to the next card? I mean, theoretically every deck could benefit from playing with 56 cards. But I'm not convinced it's necessarily true in practice, particularly when it means having fewer tools available (this brings us back to the 62-card theory, I guess). And sure, a never-ending Whispers keeps triggering Primeval Bounty, which is the reason why we're entertaining buyback cards to begin with. But this entails a board where we have Primeval Bounty, something to put counters on, and nothing else we want to play rather than Whispers with buyback. I don't know, it feels way more wishful thinking than just envisioning Tishana dropping when there's three or four other creatures on the board (by the way, under Primeval Bounty, that'd be two cards drawn even on a creature-less battlefield. Just saying).
 Going with a card by card comparison, my current build actually differs from your draft in just three areas:

  • one Hooded Hydra was replaced by Sagu Mauler, and I'm confident that's just a superior creature;
  • the three Opts were replaced by Nissa, Steward of Elements, and this I also think it's better for the deck: for a slightly higher cost (but the deck has plenty of cards to stay busy with in the first two turns, anyway) you get a digger, a finisher, a source of free card advantage, and a focus of attention for the opponent, which is something planeswalkers don't get enough credit for, as they typically save you 5-6 life;
  • one land was replaced by Tishana, and that's just impossible to contrast, because it results in the apparently loopy choice of having fewer lands in favor of a seven-mana card.

 GENERALISSIMO: I've got a new version of my deck:


 I agree with your assessment that the deck's biggest problem was running out of gas after a good start and that the answer is card draw but I chose to add a playset each of Ohran Viper and Harmonize plus a – somewhat speculative, admittedly – Kefnet the Mindful.

 Ohran is obviously extremely powerful if it can connect with the opponent and, even when it can't, it at least trades for almost anything. I went for Harmonize over the more powerful but more expensive alternatives because I think four is a pretty critical amount of mana for the deck; all the two-mana ramp Snakes lead naturally into a four-mana spell and a Harrow with Lotus Cobra results in a perfectly Harmonize-sized leftover, plus it provides a good chance of being able to cast more than one spell after untapping with a Primeval Bounty in play. Drawing cards and getting extra landfall triggers makes Kefnet a fairly clear choice for the deck, but I am concerned that the attacking/blocking restriction will be too difficult to fulfill a little too often.

 To make space I ditched the under-performing Hooded Hydras, the Mystic Snake and Crystal Shard – that leaves my version of the deck with absolutely no interaction, which I'm not exactly thrilled about – and the Adventurous Impulses – there are just too many nonland, noncreature cards in the deck for it to be a sufficiently reliable card. I also trimmed one of the Primeval Bounties; I tried to resist for a while since it's the build-around card, but I just had too many Bounty-into-Bounty-into-lose games to want the whole playset. Plus, since I'm adding more draw, I should actually still see a Bounty more often.
 I really think you're underestimating Opt. With an opener of two lands, Lotus Cobra and Patagia Viper, Opt digs you an extra two cards deep to hit that critical third land and, in the late game, it digs you an extra two cards deep to find something else to trigger a Bounty. I guess this probably says something about the difference in how we both approach the game in the same way as our disagreement over Tishana does; whereas Tishana can be amazing or terrible depending on the game-state, Opt is basically never going to be amazing or terrible, it's just consistently solid.

 KUMAGORO: Cool new version. Ohran Viper is a great creature and should be a fixture of any Snake deck. I'll remain on the previous build, though, just replacing the definitely out-of-favor Hydras with a third Patagia Viper and a second Seshiro. Our respective lists are differing quite a bit now, but still have 17 Snakes in common (you keep having 21 Snakes for some reason). Honestly, I'm not sure the couple of Scouts is still warranted, since they only really contribute if we drop them on turn one, and they're a terrible draw later. I guess they can still serve the Cobra, and they're a quick Beast-trigger under Primeval Bounty, but so is Wasteland Viper, which is probably more useful in general. I won't mess with the ramp so late in the process, though.

 I've considered cutting one Bounty myself, to make room for other stuff, but I'm glad you're the one who did it, because this way I can pass for the one who's more devoted to the theme (plus, I'm not really sure what to replace it with). I think we can establish that when a build-around card is this expensive, running three is acceptable. Kefnet is an unexpected, interesting choice. I can't really say what I think of it because I've never, ever seen him played. Seems a bit strange to put a card that partially requires a full hand in a deck that has the known issue of exhausting the hand too quickly, but I guess Kefnet can somehow replenish your hand over time. And of course he's a landfall enabler, though I'm increasingly not sure landfall is really that crucial to victory in our deck after the first few turns.

 Still not sold on Opt (maybe I didn't get the math; wasn't Adventurous Impulse digging deeper than Opt to search for lands in the early turns?), but I'm pretty sure I'm going to envy your Harmonizing. Final build here, and good serpentine luck to us.


The two lists were entered into Tribal Apocalypse 406 on October 20.
Here's Generalissimo's video commentary of the event.


 KUMAGORO: I gotta say, in that dire situation with the pack of Pack Rats, Primeval Bounty helped stand it for so many turns more than an average deck would. Too bad it came too late.

 GENERALISSIMO: Yeah, it wasn't bad. I got absolutely stomped by Elves.

 KUMAGORO: We could use some form of removal. A thing I wanted to add last minute was Snakeform. Snake decks use it traditionally because the cantrip part grows Lorescale Coatl. Plus it's in their colors. Plus it's called Snakeform!

 GENERALISSIMO: I see your Vorthos is speaking again.

 KUMAGORO: But really, serious players actually used that one! It's documented! (All right, that was Kaleidoscope. But still mihahitlor's choice.) Of course there's always Beast Within.

 GENERALISSIMO: You could also use Cyclonic Rift as mild disruption in the early game or a potentially game-ending ramp payoff.


 KUMAGORO: Ah! You only won because of your extremely illegal Patagia Vampires!

 GENERALISSIMO: Well, they are very good at going for the throat. I think I probably won because of my superior drawing power though.

 KUMAGORO: Damn, I knew Harmonize was the right call.

 GENERALISSIMO: It certainly shone in the crucial Primeval Bounty mirror. It just hits the sweet spot of powerful but not too mana-intensive and is a great way to ensure you're getting more Bounty triggers.

 KUMAGORO: Pretty peculiar for a deck that includes blue to resort to green for drawing; but after all green is indeed the second best color for drawing in modern Magic. Though I believe Harmonize was originally a blue spell that got color-shifted. [One trip to Gatherer later] Yep, it's just Concentrate, from Odyssey: same text, different mana symbols. And it's in Eighth Edition, so Modern-legal. The deck is more green than blue, so Harmonize remains the first choice, but I guess this means we could run a fifth copy if we wanted.

 GENERALISSIMO: A fifth copy might make more sense than the Kefnet that I was playing since it's a more direct and reliable way to draw cards. I would be pretty tempted to go for Tidings instead of Concentrate though but I'm not actually sure if that's good advice or just my unquenchable greed for drawing more cards talking.


 KUMAGORO: Like last time, poor testing for me. I got the super-Rats (once again the tournament winner), then a mirror, then a bye. And, alas, I never drew into Tishana a single time in the entire event, sigh.

 GENERALISSIMO: Unfortunately, this event was kind of unsatisfying as a test of the deck for me too. As useful as facing each other is for the vital purpose of fueling arguments over whose version is better, I'm not sure the Primeval Bounty mirror is the most important matchup to learn more about. The Elves matchup seemed bordering on unwinnable – it's a more explosive ramp deck with a combo finisher, so you're immediately on the back-foot and even if you can stabilise with a Bounty, you might lose to infinitely-large trampling Elves anyway – and, while the Snakes did a good job of clogging up the ground to prevent the Slith getting out of hand with +1/+1 counters, beating an opponent who went from being mana-screwed in one game into mana-flooded in the next was not the most rigorous test for the list.

 KUMAGORO: Anyway, this is definitely a skill-intensive deck, but fun. My final take is that I want to play it again.

 GENERALISSIMO: Yeah, this is the happiest I've ever been with a Snake deck. It feels like I've got a much better handle on how to build with Lotus Cobra and Sakura-Tribe Scout consistently, which is where I think my previous dalliances with the tribe failed.

 KUMAGORO: But, as much as it pains me to admit you were right, I'll need to replace Oath of Nissa with Harmonize.

 GENERALISSIMO: It really does warm my heart grow my ego to hear you say that; Harmonize was a fantastic addition to the deck.

 KUMAGORO: And Ohran Viper, too. But I still think Nissa, Steward of Elements can do good here (maybe just one or two copies, though), being a deck where you can drop her for large amounts of X right away. Unfortunately, she only showed up against you, where she wasn't relevant enough (plus, I misplayed her badly). Against a deck that didn't have that kind of stalling power through lifegain and chumpblocking, 10 damage out of nowhere might have felt more threatening, providing an outlet for winning that's not about having a gigantic army to attack with on turn 15.
 I'm also increasingly thinking that the deck needs more flyers – which means Winged Coatl, because the only other flying Snake in Modern is the horrible Spire Winder (not that in Legacy we would be better off, since there's only Ribbon Snake as a further option, and that's even worse). But I'm also considering a couple of off-tribe options like Glen Elendra Archmage (the Primeval counters reset her persist) and classic finisher Meloku the Clouded Mirror, who's landfall-friendly. What do you think?


 GENERALISSIMO: The Archmage seems fine but I'm generally pretty skeptical of noncreature-only countermagic in Tribal Wars; it's not bad or anything since nearly everyone's got at least removal it can stop but I'm not sure how many times you'll be able to get good use out of resetting the persist on it.

 KUMAGORO: Honestly, I didn't even care about the countermagic ability. To me the Archmage is just a flyer that can escape non-exiling death to keep being the choice base of operation for Bounty's counters.

 GENERALISSIMO: Meloku is something that I ran in my Retreat to Coralhelm Snakes deck and... I honestly can't give you a very coherent rationale for it but it's a card that feels like it consistently underperforms. A flying finisher that creates flying tokens to defend against aggression or limit the effectiveness of spot-removal seems like a slam-dunk but I just never found myself excited to cast it. Maybe the cost of returning in lands is just too much of a liability, even in a landfall deck...or maybe my half-remembered, super subjective feelings of playing the card are not very useful...
 Anyway, might I suggest Consecrated Sphinx or Mulldrifter for off-tribe flyers? If Harmonize is good, even more spells that say "draw cards" might be better.


 KUMAGORO: You've really gone card-drawing mad, uh? Mulldrifter is fine but it doesn't come with a specific angle that justifies its off-tribe inclusion the way the Archmage and Meloku do (being somewhat uniquely helped in this deck by Primeval Bounty and Sakura-Tribe Scout, respectively). As for the Sphinx, well, that's not exactly a revelation, it's one of the maybe three freaking best blue creatures in the game! It would really feel like reaching for the low-hanging fruit to me. Besides, my idea would be to have more flyers that we can drop on our way to Primeval Bounty. Another one I'm considering is Tradewind Rider, as a more powerful, more versatile Crystal Shard (I know you'll say that it's bad on an empty board).

 GENERALISSIMO: Yeah, but Tradewind Rider is bad on an empty... hmph, well, it's also not Modern-legal!

 KUMAGORO: Oops. I meant to say I've considered it until I found out it's not in the Modern pool (it really went that way back when I was still deckbuilding, and now I had already forgotten about it). But speaking of off-tribe flyers, wow, during your final round your Kefnet was awake all match long! He even attacked once! Triumph!

 GENERALISSIMO: Like I said in the video, I forgot he had flying too.

 KUMAGORO: I figured you just wanted the indestructible barrier.

 GENERALISSIMO: I did most of time but it would probably have been correct to attack with him on that last turn. Since I had all those Patagia tokens to chump with.

 KUMAGORO: Oh well, I forgot Nissa can't put enchantments in play, I even made a whole plan about it, only to see it blow up in my face. In that game where I had a very early Nissa ready to ultimate, things could have gone very differently if I didn't mess it all up. We should have someone else pilot our decks.

 GENERALISSIMO: Someone who reads their own cards, maybe.

 KUMAGORO: Yeah, that would help. I'm pretty sure good players do that all the time.

 GENERALISSIMO: I guess the big question now is whether you were happy with the deck as a home for Primeval Bounty, since your desire to play it is what started this whole endeavour.

 KUMAGORO: I am. I mean, Elf would probably be better, but that would be a case where the presence of Primeval Bounty would feel more forced, as we obviously would include Ezuri, Renegade Leader too, and consistently pursue that route ignoring Primeval Bounty entirely. The shell we built is one where Primeval Bounty really is your main way to win.

 One could try other green ramps, but Snake fits because it has cards like Sakura-Tribe Elder that are good in the late game with the Bounty in play, because they're able to trigger it twice while thinning the deck in the process (the reason why I was always cracking the Elders during our confrontation). Maybe the question at this point should become: will this deck work without the Primeval Bounties? What kind of card would you put in their place, and what strategy would you take with the Snakes at that point? Which I guess means: did the presence of Primeval Bounty affect our deckbuilding much, or was the Snake shell just accommodating enough to begin with?

 GENERALISSIMO: Well, I didn't feel constantly unhappy to draw the Bounty, so that at least is a good indication that it fits the deck, and I also didn't feel like the deck was worthless without it, so I don't think it warped our card choices much. Looking back over my decklist, I don't see any other card that I would immediately want to take out if I ditched the Bounties.

 As far as what you might replace it with (without trawling through Gatherer to look up every potential powerful card in Modern), my instinct is just to go for planeswalkers. I'm not sure exactly which ones, but you could definitely construct a potent cocktail of Garruks, Nissas, Jaces, Tamiyos and Kioras. They do a similar job of grinding wins in the long-game but with more mid-game utility and less dependence on your top-decks to be effective.


 But do you think Primeval Bounty is a card that's actually worth building around?

 KUMAGORO: Reasoning in terms of effectiveness, I'd say no. With access to six mana in green you could do much scarier things. But most of them would feel tacky in comparison. The Bounty is a class act, it makes for a stylish win. And it does feel powerful once it's going. But it's never going to be a surefire, cutthroat win. It basically wants you to extend the game until it's online, then extend it further until it accumulates enough board advantage to reach inevitability. It belongs in the same family with Doubling Season, big enchantments that don't impact the board right away, so at first they force you to essentially ramp into nothing. Except then Doubling Season is more easily able to seal the deal in a number of very broken ways (most notably via planeswalkers), while Primeval Bounty is just beginning to build a game of advantage that you don't even know exactly where will lead. It would be a more playable and played card if at least it triggered its effects once by entering the battlefield.

 GENERALISSIMO: Or cost just a little less; six mana really is a lot of mana.

 KUMAGORO: All right, kids, that was it. Join us next time when we'll tackle the still mysterious world of GRN Standard!