AJ_Impy's picture
By: AJ_Impy, AJ Richardson
May 22 2009 12:18pm
Login to post comments

Welcome, gentle readers, as we once again turn to the odder side of the multicolored format. Alara Reborn has been released onto the server, bringing with it a big boost to the Aggro side of the format. It is now easier than ever to have a hasty, evasive or hard to block 3-power threat on turn 2, with the Blades potentially outdoing even Watchwolf in their potency. Aggro decks also have a new lord: Alongside the boosting power of Tolsimir Wolfblood, Juniper Order Ranger and Wilt-Leaf Liege, comes Knight of New Alara, which has the advantage of boosting Naya Hushblade and Bant Sureblade to 6/5 monstrosities, propelling Woolly Thoctar to a jaw-dropping 8/7, and for those who like really, really big casual powerhouses, Fusion Elemental becomes 13/13 and Progenitus 15/15. More on everyone's favourite protection from everything legend later, but for now the problem of Aggro remains. What do you do against a deck that fast?

Firespout Terminate Lightning Helix

In addition to the removal already in the format, Alara Reborn has brought an old, dear friend back to us. With Hit/Run no longer guaranteed to take out a creature thanks to Behemoth Sledge, Veinfire Borderpost and their brethren, Rakdos gets a welcome boost with the ultimate 2-mana kill spell. Terminate is back, and if you want to stay alive long enough against the turn 1 2-power, turn 2 3-power, turn 3 4- or 5-power, turn 4 pump everything and kill you curve, it's a vital weapon in your arsenal. Alongside best early game sweeper in the format Firespout and the inimitable Lightning Helix, it might just keep you in the game. Bearing in mind Lightning Helix, it raises another key point: Lifegain. Kitchen Finks remains one of the best creatures in the format on offense or defense thanks to its excellent power to cost ratio, its ability to eat two bits of removal or chump block twice, but especially for the +4 to your life total whilst doing that. It's one of the last creatures an aggro deck wants to see, the cheaper cost giving it a relevancy even Loxodon Hierarch struggles to match, as when Hierarch hits, they either have or are about to have Liege mana. What you need against Aggro is time, time to get your wraths into play effectively, time to get your own game plan into gear, time to outlast their rush and change the situation on the board. Every point of life gained is time added to the clock, provided that the lifegain is attached to a tangible benefit, be it a hefty body or a random spell of 3 or less mana. If you want to annoy Aggro, cascade Captured Sunlight into Kitchen Finks.

Kitchen Finks Loxodon Hierarch Captured Sunlight

We acquired two more mass removal spells in Alara Reborn, Soulquake and Lavalanche. Neither of them can get rid of a Woolly Thoctar before you hit seven mana, although Lavalanche is only the second X-spell in the format capable of going directly to an opponent's face. Neither of them is fast enough to really help against the current crop of creatures, so for that we're going to have to get creative. Is there a better way to stop a charging Woolly Thoctar on turn 4 than to drop a Progenitus in front of it at instant speed?

Cheatyface would be proud

Here's a little deck I concocted with the aim and intention of circumventing the high mana cost of certain creatures, ambushing my opponent out of the blue, and generally turning games on their head out of nowhere. The core of the deck relies on two cards, one a certifiable 'Kill me or Die' 5-mana 5/5 evasive Mythic, the other a somewhat random spell from Dissension. Aethermage's Touch enables us to dig four deep to find a creature, put it play and, if it lives, attack with it and return it to hand. To maximise the benefit we get from it, we have a suite of creatures with comes into play abilities, with the only two that don't glean benefit from simply showing up being powerful enough to make the one attack they may get a game-ender:


Maelstrom Archangel Aethermage's Touch Progenitus

Our removal suite encompasses the finest 2-mana kill cards in the format, backed up by Void, with Angel of Despair to add in vindicate effects, occasionally on turn 4 at instant speed. We don't need to hit the Angel to do damage: our creature suite runs Kitchen Finks, Coiling Oracle and Broodmate Dragon in addition to those already mentioned, all of which can do interesting things to combat math. Even the Oracle acts as a quasi-Deep Analysis, with one creature in play and another card in hand or land in play, to be followed up if it survives by returning to hand to net another card later. Adjust the lands according to budget, and voila.

Post sideboard, we refine against aggro with Firespout and Ends of Odds/Ends to help sweep the field, and against control with Guttural Response and Odds of Odds/Ends, which is a hard counter when played on a counterspell, together with the land suite of Tolaria West to tutor up Boseiju, who Shelters All, which enables us to force through Aethermage's Touch for a win condition or Void to destroy his win condition and/or purge his hand.



Anathema to Anathemancer

Now, my esteemed fellow Kaleidoscope writer Lord Erman has recently pointed out the impact Anathemancer is likely to have on the format. In two excellent articles he looked at one way to reduce the danger from this potential scourge by running two-color guild decks with a minimum of nonbasics, assessing the advantages of each guild in turn. That led me to think: If two colors, why not one? What is the best deck that can be built on the ultimate budget mana base of pure basic lands? Now, if we're playing a pure mono-hybrid deck, we're sacrificing quality for consistency, eschewing all the gold in favor of having everything upfront. This pushes us more towards aggression, as we simply can't match the card quality of those with broader manabases. Let's see now: Aggro strategy, ostensibly inferior cards, still winning regardless... Yeah, we're going red.

Now, we've all, or most of us, seen how fast Gruul and Naya decks can be. In order to outpace them, we need something unexpected, something that speeds up our clock by a turn whilst being innocuous enough to not warrant removal itself. We eschew the three power of Boggart Ram-Gang for the fours of Hearthfire Hobgoblin and Ashenmoor Gouger. In terms of lieges, we go for the one which turns every spell into a free bolt, Balefire Liege. We add in Murderous Redcap for removal and face burn, Tattermunge Maniac for a fast start, and Deus of Calamity for an efficient body and a devastating effect on manabases. Giantbaiting gives us a handy Ball Lightning, but what's our lynchpin? What keeps all these cards useful in a world of Pillory of the Sleepless, (Pure) and Void? A little 2-mana 1/1 by the name of Sootstoke Kindler.

If you get a Kindler to stick, Your opponent will be under considerably more pressure than he thinks he is. Acting as an impromptu Fires of Yavimaya, every piece of undercosted fat you play will be in the red zone as soon as it arrives, shaving time and life off your opponent and making it harder for him to stabilise. This deck really shines against budget multicolor manabases: Between their lands coming into play tapped and your own haste, you're effectively 2 turns ahead, and that's an advantage not many decks can recover from. As a bonus, Anathemancer, Fulminator Mage and Ghost Quarter are essentially blank to you, and Exotic Orchard is Blood Mooned. Even if an opponent succeeds in resolving a Teferi's Moat or gumming up the ground with Wall of Denial, all is not lost: we have a pair of Call the Skybreaker which, coupled with the ranged burn from the Balefire Lieges, should keep us competitive even if we do get drawn into a long game.

Post-sideboard, We have Guttural Response to deal with control builds, and Mirror Sheen to render moot any Cruel Ultimatums, Blightnings or similar targetted fun. We have Firespout to deal with any aggro deck faster than us, and Din of the Fireherd as another stalemate-breaker against decks that keep us at bay in the long game.

Red Deck still wins
A Monocolor Kaleidoscope aggro deck
4 Tattermunge Maniac
4 Sootstoke Kindler
2 Hearthfire Hobgoblin
4 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Murderous Redcap
4 Balefire Liege
4 Deus of Calamity
26 cards

Other Spells
4 Fossil Find
4 Giantbaiting
2 Call the Skybreaker
10 cards
24 Mountain
24 cards

Sootstoke Kindler


Abusing the Exception

Now, keeping a deck to one color of mana is one thing, but that isn't the limit to which we can take this format. The fundamental rule of Kaleidoscope is that all nonland cards are multicolored. If we want to avoid color, then there is only one course of action open to us: The all-land deck. Those of you who follow my occasional column on the Art of Tribal Wars will know that I like throwing in the odd landless tribal every now and then, just to show it can be done. Here we turn to the opposite extreme, and believe it or not, it IS possible to win with this. (Just don't run it in the queues. Ever.)

Zoetic Cavern Stalking Stones Urza's Factory
Our principal win condition is one which some K-scope control players are integrating into their own decks: Urza's Factory. We use the Cloudpost-Vesuva engine, along with a few Temple of the False God to power it up quickly, filling in the mean time with other creature lands such as Dryad Arbor, Zoetic Cavern and Stalking Stones. we pump our manlands and tokens with Novijen, Heart of Progress and add lethality with Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion. Of course, we'd stand no chance whatsoever if we didn't have some means of removal, so we run a brace of Arena, to remove anything smaller than our creatures or tap them down at the cost of a kobold from Kher Keep or Saproling from Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree. We minimise the impact of our opponent with a singleton Prahv, Spires of Order and empty his hand at the cost of excess lands with a one-ofRix Maadi, Dungeon Palace. We tutor for these with a set of Tolaria West, paying our diverse mana costs with the budget 5-color lands Mirrodin's Core, Rupture Spire and Shimmering Grotto, the last of which acts as a handy mana sink to filter the Cloudpost excess.

Kher Keep Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree Arena
Dark Depths is a shoe-in for this deck, but I was unable to secure one for testing purposes. The deck has little trouble generating a lot of mana quickly, particularily using Tolaria West for Cloudposts, so the indestructible 20/20 flyer would be a perfect foil here. 



That's all I have for you this time. When next I put virtual pen to digital paper, I'll be exploring some of the new directions Alara Reborn can take the format. Until then, do broken things with golden cards.


ok by Scartore at Fri, 05/22/2009 - 18:04
Scartore's picture

I so wanna play the land dec!!!

land deck looks really fun, by me myself and i (not verified) at Fri, 05/22/2009 - 20:07
me myself and i's picture

land deck looks really fun, but i cant imagine it ever winning. maybe bring it down to 52 lands, and some more removal.

yeah, since you could only by Anonymous (not verified) at Fri, 05/22/2009 - 21:40
Anonymous's picture

yeah, since you could only play 1 land per turn...

The land deck is fantastic, by Lord Erman at Sat, 05/23/2009 - 04:38
Lord Erman's picture

The land deck is fantastic, just the kind of deck I would expect from AJ_Impy (as creative as it can be). But I also agree that it needs some real removal. You can still play a creatureless deck with 20 or so removal and lifegain and then 40 lands to do the trick.

As for Dark Depths, I was also thinking about a fun deck that uses it + Trace of Abundance to protect it from LD + Mayael's Aria to win instantly (well, almost instantly). The rest of the deck could be all sorts of protection and also Supply/Demand to fetch Mayael's Aria. That would also be a nice & fun deck.


Removal is the big issue here... by AJ_Impy at Mon, 05/25/2009 - 12:34
AJ_Impy's picture

...and fortunately we are not entirely without options whilst staying true to the 60-land concept. A Snow engine using Mouth of Ronom and the snow duals would trade early game speed for better hitting power. Another option is going for a full set of Rix Maadi and adding in Keldon Megaliths, but unfortunately there isn't a madness land, and the lands which work brilliantly well in the graveyard rotated out of Extended and thus Kaleidoscope. There are directions his deck can be taken with the addition of nonland cards: A few weeks back I demonstrated a 40-odd land Retrace deck along a similar principle.

Howeer, the strength to this style of deck is blanking so many cards your opponent has: A single multicolored spell switches his Errors and other counters back on, and a single multicolored permanent re-enables his Pures. Worse, because he has no other targets, he would most likely have an answer in hand instead of cursing futilely at its unexpected impotence. One compromise answer might be Assault/Battery, unique as it is in the format.

To address the salient point on one land a turn by the anonymous poster above, it's worth remembering that Zoetic Cavern helps out in that regard, often managing a 2-for-1 in trading with an opposing creature or drawing a wasted removal spell as it accelerates you as well.

The land deck has won: I use a general rule of thumb that if I can't get at least a handful of wins in the Casual room as a bare minimum, a deck isn't fit to see print.

Dark Depths and Trace is amusing, a cheaper form of Helix Pinnacle aside from forced sacrifice or Vesuva legend rule shenanigans, and there are a lot of other Kaleidoscope-legal tricks with the Depths. You can animate it with Genju of the Realm or Woodwraith Corrupter/Unstable Frontier and then hit it with Fate Transfer for an instant 20/20, which is great fun in response to removal aimed at the animated land. I love the idea of using it with Mayael's Aria for EOTMLYL.