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By: AnimalWedding, Jan (bipedaltiger)
Dec 16 2011 9:51am
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Mercadian Masques is finally out and it seems like no one’s queuing up for the release drafts, which leaves most of the desirable cards in the set relatively inaccessible. Even the exciting Tooth of Ramos is valued at nearly a ticket, which has put me off from building my tooth-themed deck.

Tooth and Nail Tooth of Chiss-Goria Barktooth Warbeard

So why not take this unique opportunity to continue playing with older cards? I’m from Maryland, home of the blue crab, which might have something to do with my love for one particular blue crab from Zendikar: Hedron Crab.

Hedron Crab

This guy saw extensive play when he first came out, not only hitting opponents for unprecedented mill to casting cost ratios, but also the owner’s own deck for graveyard shenanigans. Outside of the old (Mind’s Desire) Brain Freeze deck, the Crab represents one of the fastest and most flexible mill options in the game, able to deck people out by turn 4, or hit the board late game for silly combos.

While people usually reach for blue and black when killing libraries (and who would blame them?), I thought it would be a bit more unpredictable, and therefore more interesting, to try Bant colors (GUW). In fact, Hedron Crab would be the sole mill card in the deck, while the rest of the deck plays support. I was particularly keen on one game-ending combo, Armageddon and Second Sunrise, which let me fill in the holes with cards that could work with both. Knight of the Reliquary was an obvious choice, feeding not only the Crab, but also Second Sunrise, while also benefitting from Armageddon (sans Sunrise) if an alternate win condition was required. His ability to retrieve a fetchland was also crucial.

Armageddon Second Sunrise Knight of the Reliquary

Harrow is another obvious choice, as is Zuran Orb. Tormod’s Crypt would make an Armageddon and Second Sunrise one-sided, providing a soft win condition if needed, and it also prevents pesky Eldrazi from reshuffling the graveyard. Trinket Mage fetches both the Orb and Crypt. Perfect!

Trinket Mage Zuran Orb Tormod's Crypt

The deck just explodes if one or more Hedron Crabs are in the opening hand, but what if the Crabs die or need fetching? Two Rangers of Eos fixes the tutor problem, and Reveillark can offer some recursion for the Crabs. Luckily, it also can bring back dead Knights or Trinket Mages. Bonus! I threw in a pair of Mulldrifters to take advantage of this sleek engine. Ponder, Compulsive Research, Mystical Tutor, and Sensei’s Divining Top round out the deck sifting, and I threw in Wrath of God as a buffer against aggro.

Ranger of Eos Reveillark Mulldrifter

Here's my final list:


There’s nothing more exciting than synergy, and this deck has that in spades. To review, let’s take a look at the possible winning combinations in the deck:

Hedron Crab(s) + Armageddon/Zuran Orb/Knight of the Reliquary/Harrow + Second Sunrise
Knight of the Reliquary + Armageddon
Armageddon + Tormod’s Crypt + Second Sunrise
Reveillark + Beats

And yes, I have won with each of the above methods, rarely on turn 4, occasionally by turn 5, and usually by turn 6 (I usually play it safe and account for possible reshuffling and/or instant speed removal, which requires waiting a turn or two).

Some tips on playing the deck:

It is generally wise to avoid using fetchlands for as long as possible to increase the output of Second Sunrise.
Second Sunrise can also be used to accelerate when used in conjunction with fetchlands. I have used this method to accelerate into the Armageddon combo by turn 5 or 6.
Second Sunrise is also amazing at saving creatures, and when a Hedron Crab comes back, the Landfall still triggers off any land that might have gone to the graveyard in the same turn.
Certain archetypes will almost never run graveyard reshuffling, like Red Deck Wins and Elves. If a Cloudpost hits the table, however, it is usually safe to assume the worst and expect at least one of the 3 reshuffling Eldrazi to be contained inside. In cases like these, don’t pop the Crab combos until you draw into a Tormod’s Crypt.
Two Hedron Crabs will win the game against the average 60-card deck with naught more than two fetchlands and Second Sunrise. 8 times 6 is 48 (counting when the fetchlands originally hit), which is usually enough. This is also how to win the game by turn 4 if the opening hand allows it.

Some alternate card choices:

Crop Rotation

This might actually be better than Harrow, as it’s cheaper to cast, and it finds fetchlands. In fact, the only thing Harrow has over this card is that Harrow accelerates, which is occasionally useful.

Flooded Strand

It might be useful to run 1 or 2 more fetchlands, but this one is pretty expensive and the 4 Misty Rainforests have been good enough for now. Remember there has to be a critical amount of actual lands to fetch or you run the risk of having no more lands to fetch.

The first version of this deck actually ran this over Armageddon, and it was actually better in a few cases, acting as a pseudo-Wrath. With Knight of the Reliquary on the table, this is especially deadly as their remaining creature likely won’t be as powerful as your massive Knight.


Brainstorm is amazing, but it doesn’t dig as well as Compulsive.

Crucible of Worlds

I actually made another Crab deck with Crucible of Worlds and Azusa, Lost But Seeking, and when it worked, it was absolutely ridiculous. I’d replace the Harrows if Crucible sounds like a better option.

Elixir of Immortality

Given the singleton copies of some of the cards in the deck, like Tormod’s Crypt, it might be beneficial to have a reshuffle option that can be fetched with Trinket Mage.  It’s also great against other mill decks.

A budget build:

My version of the deck might be a bit prohibiting to the less invested player, so I will offer a much cheaper option. In order to keep the dual count low, I reduced the colors to only 2, white and blue, and therefore focused the deck more on destroying lands and bringing them back en masse. 

Joe's Crab Shack Lite
A budget concoction for Casual Classic
4 Hedron Crab
4 Trinket Mage
4 Mulldrifter
2 Ranger of Eos
2 Reveillark
1 Body Double
17 cards

Other Spells
4 Ravages of War
4 Second Sunrise
3 Ponder
3 Wrath of God
1 Planar Birth
1 Tormod's Crypt
1 Zuran Orb
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Sol Ring
20 cards
9 Plains
10 Island
4 Terramorphic Expanse
23 cards
Planar Birth


I haven’t tested this build out myself, but it should be pretty consistent in theory.

For those who’d like to see it in action, I took a random set of games that showcase the deck against a wide range of other decks.

Game 1: Casual Survival of the Fittest Goodstuff

You can see here I experimented briefly with Accumulated Knowledge before switching back to Compulsive Research for the higher upfront draw power. The game starts innocently enough with both players laying down small fry. The other player clearly had no idea as to the true nature of the deck as he commented “thanks” as I milled a few cards with Hedron Crab. This is an inherent advantage of playing little-known combos like this! His deck was graveyard based, but I was interested in milling everything at once, not just a few cards a turn.

There wasn’t a whole lot of subtlety to this game; setting up with Ranger and Knight went undisrupted and the game ended before the opponent could do anything substantial. While I’m certain I could’ve pulled this off a turn earlier (with two copies of Second Sunrise in hand), I waited until Turn 6 to ensure that I had enough because I was too lazy to do the math.

Game 2: Mono Black Upkeep Effects

My opening hand is ambiguous but promising enough. I usually start planning for the long game (turn 7 and beyond) if I have none of the combo pieces in my opening hand. Ranger is a bit slow and Trinket fetches Zuran Orb, but the only help I have in finding a Second Sunrise is that Sensei’s Divining Top.

This game went a bit slower than I had wanted due to the opponent’s Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale, but since The Rack probably won’t kill me for a long time, I wasn’t too worried. I actually had to cast a Second Sunrise early while popping some fetchlands because I was mana screwed. I keep my Crabs alive, leaving only a little bit of mana each turn for digging through the deck for combo pieces, or even more land. 9 cards a turn isn’t too shabby when you’re only looking at 29 cards left in the library.

Luckily, one of my Compulsive Researches hits another Sunrise and I’m finally able to go off on turn 7.

Game 3: GUW Goodstuff

While the last two games saw my combo being relatively undisrupted, this next game proved to be a bit more of a challenge. To begin, my opponent lays down a formidable Library of Alexandria. I know immediately that I’m going to have to act swiftly if I want my combo to work. The chance of being disrupted only increases as time goes on with Library refueling his hand. Two crabs in the opening hand ensure that I will at least be taking out a large chunk of cards just from playing lands.

When my Compulsive Research gets Mana Drained, and the opponent drops a foil Consecrated Sphinx directly afterward, I start sweating a bit. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to be running global removal (through a brief perusal of his massive graveyard, it appears his only board control cards are Swords to Plowshares and Karn Liberated), so when I lay down the Knight of the Reliquary, he can likely only hit one of my Three Musketeers.

Apparently not realizing the power of the Knight, he exiles one of my Crabs. Fortunately, by this point I’ve already milled so many cards that the Second Sunrise I top is enough to mill the rest with Knight feeding it.

Game 4: RW Life Gain Goodstuff

I apologize for calling all these decks “Goodstuff” decks, but honestly I don’t know what else to call a deck that plays assorted good cards without a strong underlying theme. This one had a light life gain motif, but it really didn’t seem to extend beyond some creatures with life gain and Lightning Helix. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just struggle to categorize these kinds of things.

This was definitely a game where I had to pull out almost all of the stops. Seeing most of my early threats removed, I had to start planning for the long game. My opening hand wasn’t even particularly fast anyway, containing mostly card draw with almost no combo pieces. His Battlegrace Angel worries me slightly, but not enough to start wishing for a Wrath of God. My card sifting nets me a Zuran Orb which could be great in a pinch. Once my first Hedron Crab is exiled, I realize that the only way I’ll be able to get anywhere is by clearing the lands and bringing mine back while the opponent’s get exiled with Tormod’s Crypt.

Luckily, I draw into some Second Sunrises with Compulsive Research, and the stage is set. The Zuran Orb essentially resets the game as well, bringing me back up to a respectable life total while throwing away lands that will come back anyway. He attempts to Disenchant the Orb before I Armageddon, but I don’t worry too much because Second Sunrise will just bring it back. Now with my opponent sporting only 1 land and 1 card in hand, the stage is set for my combo, and the Ranger of Eos I find with the Top seals the deal.

Why play this deck?

While neither Hedron Crab nor mill are unfamiliar concepts, I know from the comments (mostly positive) that people have made that Second Sunrise is still obscure enough that people generally don’t expect it.  Likewise, the one-sided Armageddon is also hard for people to prepare for, and Reveillark is almost never used anymore. Sure, Painter’s Servant with Grindstone is easier and faster, but it is the humble opinion of the author that casual magic should encourage creativity and interactivity rather than recycling commonly known archetypes. There's nothing more satisfying than watching jaws drop (including my own!) at how explosive this sneaky combo can be.

Next time: Breaking Overlaid Terrain?!


Mill? Ugh by laughinman at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 13:38
laughinman's picture

I dislike mill decks, but your avatar is still awesome.

nice by Stu Benedict at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 13:56
Stu Benedict's picture

pretty cool deck

I experimented around with Planar Birth quite a bit ...

I had a BW version that usually won off Ob Nixilis, when all my lands came back into play ...

I also had a RW version that used Emeria Angel & Countryside Crushers ... also took advantage of Devastating Summons

Had some pretty sick plays with Balance in both of those decks

Awesome! by AnimalWedding at Fri, 12/16/2011 - 16:25
AnimalWedding's picture

Ob Nixilis is a beast, and probably a safer/faster win condition than with mill.

bransm's picture

So I've been a long time Magic player but only recently stepped onto the MTGO scene (I've had an account for a little over a month now). What's more, is that I've only ever played "kitchen table" Magic.

I say this because I've been scouring the internet looking for unique deck ideas for Legacy and Modern (of which I've NEVER EVER played). I have no idea what I'm getting myself into and recently just purchased the Boltslinger deck offered by WotC just so I could test the Legacy waters. Anyway, I found this article and this deck really intrigued me. Much like laughinman above me, I too dislike mill decks but I really like the approach that this deck takes. Maybe I just haven't been around long enough to see what mill decks are "supposed" to look like, but I really am intrigued by this (so much so that I created an account just so I could submit a reply).

So, after my long-winded introduction, I've got a few questions. Please keep in mind I'm new to this whole Legacy thing..

1) Does Soratami Mindsweeper have a home here? With the crab, you can essentially mill 5 cards for 1cmc while having a presence in the air (albeit a small one).

2) Walk the Aeons. It's buyback doesn't seem too bad when you have a Second Sunrise.. but you would need a lot of mana to pull this off..

Anyway, I'll just leave it at that (I've taken enough of your time already, haha). But I enjoyed reading this article and pondering the possibilities!