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By: jay85, Jay Nelson
Apr 23 2015 11:00am
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Living End

I'm going to be upfront with you, I was a little skeptical taking Living End into a Daily event. I guess I'm one of those people who think this deck is, oh, I don't know what the right word is to describe it... a gimmick, perhaps?  I never considered it a "real" deck; something that can actually be competitive and take down tier one decks like Burn and Twin. Let's just say I had my doubts about this.

So yeah, I'm skeptical of Living End. So why did I want to run it through a Daily event? I'm not sure. Maybe I've been in the mood to try new things. Or maybe because I just love combo decks. I like them more than Control decks, which is weird 'cause when I first started playing Online all I wanted to play was Azorius and American Control.

 

This is the list I will be using in the Daily. At a glance I would suspect a lot of people wouldn't understand how, or more specifically, why this deck works. On the outside the deck looks like just a pile of junk cards. I look at the creature base and I wanna yawn. Where's Siege Rhino? Snapcaster Mage? The Delver of Secrets?

Digging a little deeper into the deck and I see that my main source of removal is Beast Within. Really? Is that the best we can do here? Well, I guess Abrupt Decay won't technically work since the deck can't really have anything less than three mana or else you won't be able to Cascade into Living End 100% of the time.

 

Violent Outburst Demonic Dread

These are the integral combo pieces needed in order to win. The goal of the deck is to cycle a lot of creatures into your graveyard and then cast either Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread. Since there is nothing in the 75 that is less than three converted mana cost you will always Cascade into Living End. Sounds easy enough. 

 

Deadshot Minotaur Monstrous Carabid Street Wraith

These spells are the meat of the deck. If these guys saw play in any other deck they would simply be called creatures, but in this deck they are better known as "cyclers". The whole point of Living End is to use their abilities and cycle them into your graveyard, drawing a card in the process. Once you feel you got enough of these boys in the 'yard you cast either Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread for the win.

 

Pale Recluse Twisted Abomination Jungle Weaver

They're big, they're bad, and as Travis Woo likes to say, they win games. Most decks will run playsets of both Jungle Weaver and Pale Recluse. I opted for just three a piece and I will get to my reasoning a little later in the article. What I really like about Pale Recluse is that she fetches for a Forest or Plains. We are running a slim 18 lands here, and I'm one of those players that likes to hit my land drops every turn. Pale Recluse helps in that endeavor. Instead of the fourth Recluse I went with a single copy of Twisted Abomination because it can cycle for a basic Swamp if need be.

 

Simian Spirit Guide

Simian Spirit Guide is a nice feature to the deck. I like that it can throw our opponents off. They only see us with two untapped lands, there's no way we can combo off with Violent Outburst, right? Wrong. Simian Spirit Guide is a neat little trick for when the opponent thinks it's safe to flash in a Snapcaster Mage or Vendilion Clique at the end of our turn. And in those kinds of matchups who says we can't just hardcast him and use him as a beater?

 

Avalanche Riders

I don't own Fulminator Mage. If I did I would replace Avalanche Riders for it. This is a budget list. I'm not saying Avalanche Riders are bad. I think they are just fine. All I'm saying is if you got Fulminator Mages then run 'em instead.

 

Architects of Will

So this is the reason why I'm not running playsets of Pale Recluse and Jungle Weaver. I want to make room in the deck for Architects of Will. I really like the idea behind this card and the Architects remind me of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the sense that you can kind of fate-seal your opponent. That, or you can target yourself with their ability and manipulate the top of your library to set up your next few draws. If you are put into a situation where you need to rush your combo without a ton of creatures in your graveyard, then Architects of Will can buy you a couple turns in order to beat your opponent by forcing him or her to draw cards that may be dead against you.

 

Beast Within Shriekmaw

Beast Within is your removal, and I hate it. With a deck like this you really need something that can deal with problematic permanents like Rest in Peace. I think this spell is fine in formats like Commander, but with Modern as aggro as it is right now I just really don't want to give my opponent a 3/3 to clock me with, especially since I don't have any way of getting rid of the token except for Living End and Shriekmaw.

Shriekmaw is our way of dealing with some troublesome creatures. Unfortunately, it can only destroy nonartifact, nonblack creatures. With how popular Junk is, and with Jund climbing back up from the dark to be a contender once again, Shriekmaw just doesn't have a whole lot of targets. It should also be noted that Shriekmaw's ability when it enters the battlefield is not a may ability. So yes, you will have to destroy one of your own creatures with Shriekmaw after comboing off if it came back with Living End. The same is true with Deadshot Minotaur if you boarded in Faerie Macabre. It's not that big of a deal, but you should definitely keep it in mind so you can properly sequence your turns to minimize the chances of it happening.

 

Vault of the Archangel  versus  Kessig Wolf Run

Some decklists run Kessig Wolf Run while others have chosen Vault of the Archangel. It may be up for debate on which one is actually the better option but I chose the Vault, and here is why. When playing this deck you will be taking a lot of damage from your opponent and your own shocklands and from cycling Street Wraith. A lot of games you will feel like you are going to lose right before you combo off and win. I'd much rather cast Violent Outburst on my opponent's end step and then attack with my creatures, giving them Lifelink to put me out of reach from a suspended Rift Bolt or a mere Lightning Bolt once my rival untaps his lands. Not every game will you be able to swing for lethal after comboing off. I want to gain a crap load of life so I don't die to a little burn spell.

Kessig Wolf Run, to me, just seems like another "win more" card. It is true that with Kessig Wolf Run you will probably be able to take your opponent down in one giant swing, where without it you might not. I've thought about this for a while and I concluded that it doesn't really matter all that much in the end. I never tested with the Wolf Run, just the Vault, but after playing Magic for as long as I have I know what my play style is and I would much rather try and stabilize with Vault of the Archangel than to try and one shot my opponent. I don't like the idea of me investing all my mana into one creature with Kessig Wolf Run just for my opponent to kill it in response with Murderous Cut or exile it with Path to Exile. At least the Vault gives Lifelink and Deathtouch to all my creatures, and that is why I think Vault of the Archangel beats Kessig Wolf Run in this debate.

 

Sideboard:  

 

Faerie Macabre

This guy is brought in against things like Dredgevine, UW Gifts, and Snapcaster Mage decks; not to mention the potential mirror match. Older versions of the deck ran Leyline of the Void, but without Birthing Pod around anymore and Storm not really seen in tournaments currently, I don't think the Leyline is that vital. Usually there will be a couple things in your opponent's graveyard that you may want to exile. Faerie Macabre is best in that scenario.

 

Brindle Boar Gnaw to the Bone

Bring these in against Burn. Obviously you will want to replace Street Wraith for them. Both of these guys can be good against aggro matches, as well. Borrow a tip from Scapeshift players and use Brindle Boar as if it's a Sakura-Tribe Elder. Block with it and then sac it before damage is dealt. Gnaw to the Bone will buy you so much time against aggro that you should be able to combo off before they can defeat you. These two are, without a doubt, the best cards in the sideboard.

 

Anger of the Gods

This is also used mainly against aggro decks. Though, I'm actually not too sure if it should even be in the sideboard. I encourage you to play around with some other choices and see if there is anything else that would be a better option. However, I will say this about Anger of the Gods, it is probably your best answer to Dredgevine. Being able to exile all their Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts will be huge for you, and will probably win you the game because of it.

 

Ingot Chewer

Affinity hate, plain and simple. It's also fine to bring in against Aether Vial decks.

 

Ricochet Trap

Because Living End is such a linear archetype we don't really have a way to interact profitably against Control. It is rough trying to push Living End through against an opponent whose Islands are untapped. When they cast a counter spell you cast Ricochet Trap and redirect the counter to the Trap. Ricochet Trap will resolve and their counter spell will be countered because it will no longer have a legal target. It's also cool that because the counter will fizzle your opponent will not draw a card off their Remand or Cryptic Command.

 

Slaughter Games

Slaughter Games is great against Scapeshift, Ad Nauseam, Splinter Twin, and anything else that needs a specific card in order to win. Usually I wouldn't say Slaughter Games is that great against Scapeshift since most players will side in alternate win conditions (even maybe shaving some of their Scapeshifts for them). But in Living End it is truly awesome. You name Scapeshift and remove all copies from the game. How can they now possibly win with Inferno Titan or Obstinate Baloth? Living End will sweep them into the graveyard and you'll have an army of Minotaurs and Carabids.

And now, without further ado...

Round One:

Round Two:

 

Round Three:

Round Four: 

(Note: Game 1, Turn 13, if you are wearing headphones you might want to turn the volume down. It gets a little loud for a second. Sorry about that.)

 

Conclusion:

Ok, ok, this deck was pretty darn good. I get it. I may not like that it doesn't do a very good job interacting with our opponents, but really, it doesn't have to. It's so powerful it just goes over the top of whatever you're playing against. I remember a while ago I heard Darkest Mage say that the only two ways to really play Modern is either with Combo or to just go over the top of your opponent with something like Tron or Amulet of Vigor. Though I kind of disagree that Modern is not actually that uniform, I still never forgot that.

Living End is the best of both those worlds, though. Its combo is so over the top it's ridiculous. But it's not like other combo decks where you just goldfish and play solitaire. It's different. There is never really a time where you can just "go off" and your opponent can't do anything but sit there and watch you play their favorite game without them. Living End is not that kind of combo. It's more along the lines of, "I cast Karn Liberated, your move." And also similar to, "I cast Hive Mind with Pact of Negation in hand. Go." Once you combo off and Living End resolves your opponent may still have a fighting chance, but let's be honest, that line of thinking is usually just false hope.

But the big question for me is, Do I like the deck? Actually, I don't really. Sure, Living End took me to a flawless victory, but I don't know, it just isn't my kind of deck. I like to have a little more interaction against my opponents besides just land destruction and janky removal like Beast Within. Why I like Splinter Twin and Scapeshift more is because those decks allow me to switch gears and become more controlling if need be. Living End really only has one game plan, and if your opponent can deal with that then I feel you are kind of dead in the water.

Though, I do have to say, the deck is very budget friendly. If you replace Fulminator Mage for the Avalanche Riders like I did, then the deck is really only about $40. Even cheaper if you already own some of the cards. I know very few will have the creatures, but if you're like me and already have the mana base, then it is a very cheap deck to win with. In fact, my winnings from the Daily pretty much paid for the whole deck! That's a pretty darn good return on my investment.

Right now the deck is flying under everyone's radar. They're not prepared for it with the necessary hate cards in their sideboards. If graveyard shenanigans become popular then I'm afraid Living End will suffer from it. Even if Storm makes a resurgence Living End will be collateral damage because the same cards that beat Storm will also beat Living End. Cards like Rule of Law and Ethersworn Canonist will hurt.

So, if you're looking to restock your inventory with boosters, then Living End will do a good job in doing that for ya. I feel like I played the deck sub optimally, and yet I still rocked the tournament.

Until next time, thanks for reading my article and watching my videos! 

9 Comments

Hey! Enjoyed your article. by olaw at Thu, 04/23/2015 - 13:06
olaw's picture
5

Hey!

Enjoyed your article. Like you I always think of Living End as a fringe deck that I don't often take that seriously but it can't certainly put up results. A big problem is that some hate cards do really heavily shut you down, such as Leyline of the Void (which might of been what your opponent was mulliganing for in Game 3 of Round 1). Otherwise it does attack from a very different angle which can be hard to handle.

Some things that I think are worth mentioning in your deck tech. Demonic Dread can't be cast without a creature to target, which can be a problem against some decks. Some decks run a Dryad Arbor to be fetched up for that purpose. It's also the reason that Beast Within, though sometimes a janky removal spell, has extra utility as a way of creating a target for Demonic Dread.

Thanks for the comment, olaw. by jay85 at Thu, 04/23/2015 - 20:27
jay85's picture

Thanks for the comment, olaw. I do mention the limitations of Demonic Dread in one of the videos, but it was just in passing. I like the idea of Dryad Arbor to help in making Dread better. I never saw the Dryad in a decklist and I never thought about adding it. I may just do that because there are times where I have to keep passing the turn in hopes of my opponent casting a creature.
Also, I just want you to know I really enjoy your article series Becoming a Modern Man. You provide great content! Thank you for that.

Thanks man. Keep up the good by olaw at Fri, 04/24/2015 - 16:23
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Thanks man. Keep up the good work.

It was a living end kind of by JXClaytor at Thu, 04/23/2015 - 19:41
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It was a living end kind of day today.

Yes, it was a great day to be by jay85 at Thu, 04/23/2015 - 20:32
jay85's picture

Yes, it was a great day to be Living. I'm glad you came away as the champ in Overdrive! Have you had a chance to try out Living Twin, yet? I think the hybrid Living End/Splinter Twin deck would be absurdly awesome.

I actually played Living Twin by JXClaytor at Fri, 04/24/2015 - 03:02
JXClaytor's picture

I actually played Living Twin during the last round of PreTQs on mtgo. If I recall correctly I went 3-2, the deck was a blast, and it plays really well, I'd try it again, because it is capable of doing some absurd things.

I like combo decks that have multiple paths to winning. Turn off my graveyard? Here's a bunch of exarchs. Turn off my twin, here is a living end.

It was awfully nice.

I've briefly tested out by olaw at Fri, 04/24/2015 - 14:47
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I've briefly tested out Living Twin. I haven't really been blown away with it - just because you can get really awkward hands where you draw two Twins with nothing to do with them etc.

That said I would like to test it out a bit more. Having an alternate win condition in the deck does seem strong.

Some play advice: When by Dawwy at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:13
Dawwy's picture

Some play advice: When attacked by two Goblin Guides with a cycler in hand, after the first one hits nothing you can always cycle the card for a chance of getting a land.

You're right. I didn't see by jay85 at Tue, 04/28/2015 - 12:47
jay85's picture

You're right. I didn't see that line. I also should've let the clique resolve in round 4 before casting violent outburst. That was pretty embarrassing. I was just so happy he tapped out that I rushed it. Lol