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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
May 03 2016 11:00am
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Deck 1 Accursed Witch

  

What a cool card!

Usually how it goes down is it swings once, the opponent (correctly) estimates that the flip side is less harmful than soaking up 4 combat damage a turn, and so they trade with it in combat. Then, once flipped, you use it to some marginal advantages for the rest of the game. Hardly broken—but not insignificant.

The life drain to me isn't worth building around (although I guess you could go the Ajani's Pridemate route if you wanted). I'm more interested in the other half, reducing the cost of targeted spells, and then viewing the gradual drain as an unexpected bonus. What spells does each color want to cast that target the opponent? From worst to best:

Let's just slice the cream off the top and make a black-red burn deck! A slow one with lots of mid- and late-game spells, so as to give the witch a chance to shine.

Once we make the decision to have a midrange deck, we can remove Lightning Bolt for Bolt of Keranos, Diabolic Edict for Consuming Vapors. Then we can start adding the expensive, impractical spells we don't usually get to, like Cone of Flame, Flame Wave, and Sorin's Thirst.

Fire Servant    

The early game will be about making 1-for-1s with incremental bonuses. Point a Magma Jet at a creature; manipulate your library. Cast a Lunge or Tribute to Hunger; manipulate the life totals. Steam Blast is here preferable to Pyroclasm, even if not eligible for a cost reduction, because it helps us whittle down the opponent's life—drops in the bucket that our other burn spells add to.

Once we get to four mana (and Rakdos Signet helps us to, in games we don't have a turn-two creature to burn away), we have Accursed Witch mana. And after that, we have all our truly fun spells.

Fire Servant is one of those "always wanted to use that" cards, and it combines with a surprising number of our spells. Charmbreaker Devils gives us late-game reach. My favorite card in the deck ended up being Toil/Trouble. We usually just cast the Toil half by itself—welcome advantage in the early game, and the life loss is mitigated by our life gain spells. But sometimes, Trouble can pull wins out of nowhere, especially when paired with the Fire Servant. And the option to fuse can be brutal, especially when combined with our witch! Which, come to think of it, is thematically relevant, because witches are where the phrase "toil and trouble" comes from in the first place. (But I would have ran it anyway.)

 

 

Deck 2 Speaking of Curses

Curse of Stalked Prey

This deck started with the question, how could I put Curse of Stalked Prey to use? The starting place is evasive creatures with relevant power. Tormented Soul is too weak for my preference, and Inkfathom Infiltrator is too hard to cast. Preferable are cards like Dauthi Horror and even Nezumi Cutthroat. Where do we go next, though? Most people would say "to 3-cmc creatures," but I found something better still at two mana, thanks to Shadows over Innistrad: Olivia's Bloodsworn.

   

She has evasion. She has a relevant power. She's easy to cast. And her haste makes her a great play after a Prey is already on the table. Combined with Squealing Devil, we have enough post-Curse options that are still castable pre-Curse to make this premise worthwhile.

Why are we so focused on two-mana creatures, though? Why not run the three-mana Flamewake Phoenix? Because we also want to cast it before our three-mana curses, Curse of Chaos and Curse of Shallow Graves.

So here's how the game usually goes:

  • Turn 1: Either do nothing or (on the draw) burn out an opposing creature.
  • Turn 2: Cast any of our 16 two-drops. Ideally a Dauthi Horror or Nezumi Cutthroat, but if Olivia's Bloodsworn or Squealing Devil is the only one in your hand, that is still a fine play.
  • Turn 3: Either—
    • Cast any of our 10 curses. (Which one to prioritize depends on your hand and the opponent's deck.)
    • Cast another creature.

Turn 3's choice isn't as simple as it might seem. Before you decide, consider:

  • Will you deal more damage over the next two turns if you cast your second creature first followed by your Curse of Stalked Prey, or the other way around?
  • How likely is the opponent to destroy a creature?
  • How likely is the opponent to block a creature? (Fear and flying are not guaranteed evasion, after all.)
  • Does your hand desperately need the filtering afforded by Curse of Chaos, or is it satisfactory as-is for now?
  • Are the zombie tokens from a Curse of Shallow Graves helpful right now? (They might be made irrelevant by a Wall of Razors, for instance.)

Usually, if you have both a creature and a curse in hand, the ideal third turn is to drop the creature first and save the Curse for later—but usually is not always. Weigh your options. In a deck where almost everything is always castable, you have to figure out the optimal sequence.

We need some removal, so let's make it synergistic. Instead of Doom Blade, let's use Throat Slitter, since we're already getting unblocked. And instead of your Shatter of choice, let's use Flamespeaker's Will! It can trigger as soon as we want it to, and it's (slightly) useful even against decks with no artifacts.

Throat Slitter  Flamespeaker's Will  Relentless Assault

My favorite trick of the deck is Relentless Assault. It not only doubles the damage we deal, but it also doubles the Curse triggers, since each is attack-based.

 

 

What seems on the surface like a rapid aggro deck with no late-game reach actually has a little resilience. Throat Slitter lets us take down the big creatures that Flame Slash can't, and Squealing Devil helps us finish that damage race. Especially when it's bounced and reused by the Throat Slitter!

 

Deck 3 Angelic Purge

Every time a card is printed with "sacrifice a permanent," a sensor goes off in my brain. "Is Hatching Plans viable yet?"

We've already had a few cards that do this, such as Perilous Research, Drinker of Sorrow, and Crack the Earth, but generally not enough to reach critical mass. And no, I don't consider any of the "sacrifice an enchantment" cards to be playable as of May 2016. (OK Endless Wurm is cool, but Hatching Plans doesn't make sense in that deck. I realized that one over five years ago!)

We're still not at the point where I feel comfortable running four Hatching Plans—but I've got two in here, which is a start.

So we're sacrificing permanents. What other cards are worth sacrificing? In a black-red deck, we've got Sarcomancy, Tuktuk the Explorer, and such, but we're in blue-white already. How about:

Flagstones of Trokair  Ordeal of Thassa  Roc Egg  False Prophet

The False Prophet is my favorite in a vacuum, but in practice, he's at loggerheads with every strategy I wanted to build around. His exile clause prevents the leaves-play triggers of Surveilling Sprite-types, his removing the opponents' creatures often makes Angelic Purge's removal redundant, and removing my own creatures is often undesirable. Still! I may return to him one day.

Perilous Research    

The route I ended up with is a bit similar to the previous deck's sensibility: drop cheap evasive creatures then pump them up. The difference is that here I am running one-mana, one-power guys, which blue certainly excels at. Gudul Lurker and Triton Shorestalker are as evasive as it gets, and to flesh out the curve, run the 1cmc flier of your choice. (Mine is the nostalgic Flying Men, but I admit that strictly-better options exist.)

Here we will pump them not with curses but with the above-mentioned Ordeals. No matter what else we do, a Shorestalker wearing an Ordeal is a viable threat. But it's nice having the added flexibility of being able to sacrifice the Ordeal early (and yes it will still trigger). Better still is when that early sacrifice accomplishes something else, either exiling a permanent with Angelic Purge or drawing two cards with Perilous Research.

We can borrow a trick from the previous deck by running Mortal Obstinacy. Although here, it's even better! Not only is it pump and optional removal, it's even an extra way to remove our own Hatching Plans in a pinch.

We can protect our creatures with Confound and Meddle—worth doing, since we often invest multiple resources into pumping up a single one of them. And I'm running two Journey to Nowhere, but only two, since we do have the Angelic Purges for creature removal don't forget.

 

Have fun, and see you next time!