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By: Rob Rogers, Rob Rogers
Nov 22 2007 12:16pm
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Desolation Giant

In my Endless Whispers followup article, I asked for suggestions on what to write about next. Adam Adamant suggested following up on a Desolation Giant deck I'd mentioned, as well as one built around Homarid Spawning Bed. I'll start with the Desolation Giant deck here and see if you can help me to fine-tune it, in particular adding some cards from Lorwyn.

I originally built this deck in the Standard format that preceded the arrival of Lorwyn. That build contained a few Ravnica block cards, notably Boros Signet and Lightning Helix. For the sake of simplicity, I've replaced those with alternatives from the Time Spiral block for the current build. It's Standard legal, but doesn't currently take advantage of any Lorwyn cards.

The key card for this deck is obviously Desolation Giant. This is one of those mixed bag, tricky cards that you're not likely to want to drop into every deck. At 3/3, he's not a huge powerhouse. Much more often than not, you'll want to cast him with the Kicker. Casting him that way, the card is similar to an expensive Wrath of God that gives you a 3/3 Giant creature in its wake. You'll generally only want to case him without the Kicker when you have no other creatures in play or when you don't mind losing the ones you have. And even if you do pay the Kicker, you're often not at a huge advantage. Yes, you have a 3/3 creature while your opponent has none, but you've also likely tied up all or most of your mana. The trick to casting Desolation Giant is to make sure that your opponent is desolated more than you are.

Keldon MaraudersCreatures that you don't mind losingOur giant poster boy works nicely with creatures whose deaths don't pose a major loss for you. These include early weenies that you're through using (like maybe a Raging Goblin, for example), but also creatures that are on their way out anyway. To help hold down the fort in the early game, my current deck runs several copies each of Keldon Marauders and Aven Riftwatcher. At worst, these can hold down the fort for a couple of turns before their Vanishing ability makes them go away, and each offers you some benefit just by coming into existence and then leaving. They're quick, efficient beaters and your opponent generally won't want to spend a lot of resources on dealing with them (since they're going away due to Vanishing anyway), often helping to stall things a bit.

Whitemane LionRescue creatures
Another strategy I'm experimenting with here is the use of "rescue" creatures--the white creatures from Planar Chaos that have Flash and that force you to return one or more creatures to your hand when played. In the current build, to test things out a bit, I'm running three copies of Whitemane Lion and a single copy each of Dust Elemental and Stonecloaker. These cards play very nicely with (Keldon Marauder) and Aven Riftwatcher, allowing you to return them to your hand and recast them with a fresh supply of Vanishing counters (while also taking full advantage of their "come into play" and "leave play" effects an additional time). They also allow you to replay a Desolation Giant when the time is right. I'm not fully convinced that they are the right choice for this deck, but they're in for the time being.

Creatures that you won't loseNow here's where the deck gets a little trickier. The big disadvantage to casting Desolation Giant, whether you add the Kicker or not, is that he'll destroy all of your other creatures. But what if that isn't such a problem? My current build of the deck involves several creatures that can, in different ways, survive his arrival.

Saltskitter is one of my favorite aspects of this deck
. On its face, this is kind of an oddball card that can be difficult to get into play and use successfully. But it works very nicely with Desolation Giant. When you cast the Giant and have Saltskitter in play, you'll end up with two effects on the stack: the Giant's "destroy all other creatures you control" (or "destroy all other creatures") effect and the Saltskitter's "remove Saltskitter from the game" effect. Just make sure that the Saltskitter's effect resolves first, and at the end of the turn you'll have both the Desolation Giant and the Saltskitter in play, making for a powerful attack next turn. Another neat aspect of this card is that if the Saltskitter is tapped when it's removed from the game (if, for example, you attacked with it), it will still come back into play untapped. That's pretty handy, especially if your opponent doesn't have a handful of creatures to make it disappear again. One thing to keep in mind is that no matter how many you cast, you'll never end up with more than one Saltskitter in play. They'll take turns bouncing each other into the removed from game zone. That's often not a bad thing, but it's something you don't want to be surprised by. Also, when Saltskitter is out, your rescue creatures can perform a "double rescue" by returning one of your creatures to your hand and simultaneously sending your Saltskitter to the removed from game zone, which can be handy against global effects or when you have lots of damage on the stack.

Stuffy DollStuffy Doll
Stuffy Doll is expensive to cast, but it also works very nicely with this deck. Desolation Giant destroys all other creatures (or at least all of yours), but Stuffy Doll is indestructible and doesn't mind being destroyed. This is definitely a creature I'll consider cutting for the next version of the deck (while he's handy for blocking and for pinging your opponent, there isn't the kind of synergy here that you get when combining Stuffy Doll with something like Pyrohemia, Volcano Hellion, or even Outrider en-Kor, but for right now, Stuffy can be handy to have around. I own two copies and am currently running both of them in this deck.

Foriysian TotemActivated creatures
Another handy kind of creature to run in this deck is the kind that's not a creature at all, at least until you pour mana into it. For this deck, in this build, that specifically means the on-color "man lands" Ghitu Encampment and Forbidding Watchtower, as well as the appropriate totems, which also serve as much-needed mana acceleration: Thunder Totem and Foriysian Totem. The lands are handy to run, especially since this deck doesn't have much to do on the first turn and so the "comes into play tapped" disadvantage of the lands isn't a major concern. The deck needs to accelerate to 6 mana (including two red and two white) fairly quickly in order to drop its first Desolation Giant on the table and the totems help with this. In addition, the turn after you drop the Desolation Giant, you can often have a very effective attack by moving in with the giant itself, a Saltskitter and one or two totems/"man lands." Activating them doesn't make your Saltskitter leave play, either, which can be handy.

Viashino SandscoutCreatures that return to your hand
I just thought I'd note this in case anyone suggests it. At one point, I had several copies of Viashino Sandscout in my deck. The theory was this: He would let me get in some quick damage in the early game, but wouldn't die to Desolation Giant because he would be in my hand the turn I cast the Giant. In theory, his Haste would augment my attack the turn after Desolation Giant went into play, and if I had enough mana, I could even cast the Sandscout right after casting the Giant, allowing him to attack unblocked. In practice the Sandscout worked very poorly for me. Yes, he would often allow me to get in a couple points of extra damage, but this is a slow deck in general. More often than I'd like, the fact that he bounced back to my hand meant that I would have to discard something. And because this deck is slow, it needs occasional blockers, something that the Sandscout can't help with. Finally, he had really poor synergy with the Saltskitter. So I cut him out of the latest build. If his big brother Viashino Sandstalker were still in Standard, I might sing a different tune--the additional damage he causes (and for just one more mana!) makes it kind of worth overlooking the downsides. But the Sandscout just didn't work with this deck.

Other factorsI've tackled a lot of the key cards from this build above. Other cards in the current build include:

  • Ghostfire and Rough/Tumble: for removal.
  • Prismatic Lens: for additional mana accceleration/fixing.
  • Spirit Loop, Undying Rage, and Griffin Guide: as auras you won't have a problem losing when Desolation Giant hits the table (because the first two will go back to your hand if sent to the graveyard and Griffin Guide will give you a creature token). I'm not sure I'll hold onto these in the final build, but I've got one of each in the deck right now for giggles and experimentation.

My build
Here's the version of the deck I'm testing now: 

Desolation Alley (Standard), Submitted by Rob Rogers

3 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Dust Elemental
1 Griffin Guide
4 Saltskitter
1 Spirit Loop
1 Stonecloaker
3 Whitemane Lion
4 Desolation Giant
4 Keldon Marauders
1 Undying Rage
3 Foriysian Totem
3 Prismatic Lens
2 Stuffy Doll
1 Thunder Totem
2 Rough/Tumble

2 Forbidding Watchtower
1 Ghitu Encampment
4 Terramorphic Expanse
8 Mountain
9 Plains 

Where to go from here?
The deck is fun to play as is, but it's not exactly ripping its way through the casual room. If I win half my games, I'm doing well. And it seems like some Lorwyn cards might spice things up a bit, but I'm not sure which ones. Is it worth playing Stinkdrinker Daredevil to help accelerate out the Desolation Giant? Is there any cool combo involving the two Champion shapeshifters? Am I missing something from outside of Lorwyn that would work nicely here? Should I drop in a Pandemonium or four so that I can get repeated value from the Saltskitter ability? Or is that more likely to burn me? I'd like to know. I'll base the next build on your feedback and will write another article detailing the changes and taking it for a test drive.

Here are a few ground rules:

  • Format: Let's keep this one Standard legal. It wouldn't be too hard to make this one a Time Spiral block deck (the main loss would be the Ghitu Encampment and Forbidding Watchtower, and if I get enough feedback in that direction, I'll go that way. But for now, I'd prefer not to push this deck into Extended territory.
  • Price: As it stands, this is a very inexpensive deck. I'm sure adding Wrath of God or some powerhouse cards to the deck might make it win more games, but I'd like to keep it on the cheap. If I'm missing something really, really good for the deck and you think it's worth the price, let me know, but in general, let's at least take the price into account when recommending cards.
  • Keepers: This is a Desolation Giant deck, so it should go without saying that I'd like to keep Desolation Giant in it, but I'm saying it anyway, just in case. Beyond that, I'm not married to many cards in this deck, although I'm pretty strongly inclined to keep Saltskitter in there. I have fun with that one and it's not seeing a lot of play, so I think it's a good one to keep.
  • Explanation: Please include a sentence or two to let me know why you think your suggestion will work well for this deck, just in case I don't grok your meaning at first.


Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your suggestions. Oh, and in case you didn't get the "Desolation Alley" reference? It was a shout-out to this movie.


Pushing the Mudbuttons by Adam_Adamant (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 11/27/2007 - 18:39
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Hmm okay feeling somewhat responsible for this, let's see if I can find something to help it out

Mudbutton Torchling from Lorwyn seems useful an expensive 1/1 at Red and two but does 3 pts of damage dying off so doesn't much matter if you pay the kicker or not.

Epochrasite is a cheaper 1/1 that comes back tougher than it left but the time delay might be a killer there

 It looks like Adarkar Valkyrie should be useful but I'm thinkin git's probably too expensive to be useful


by Adam_Adamant (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 11/27/2007 - 18:38
Adam_Adamant (Unregistered)'s picture

Hmm okay feeling somewhat responsible for this, let's see if I can find something to help it out

Mudbutton Torchling from Lorwyn seems useful an expensive 1/1 at Red and two but does 3 pts of damage dying off so doesn't much matter if you pay the kicker or not.

Epochrasite is a cheaper 1/1 that comes back tougher than it left but the time delay might be a killer there

 It looks like Adarkar Valkyrie should be useful but I'm thinkin git's probably too expensive to be useful


by urzishra (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 11/24/2007 - 20:24
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oops i meant oblivion ring...not stone..heh

by urzishra14 at Fri, 11/23/2007 - 14:22
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they used to be cheap.. by why no equipment?.. they serve the purpose of your enchantments but don't go away due to a deso giant.. Loxodon Warhammers (I know they are 2.50 plus right now.. i picked mine up way before they jumped) makes more since.. then at least the spirit loops and undying rages.

why not something like Ressurection?  or something like Claws of Gix where you can gain a few life as the creatures are dying.. Seems like the Changling Hero would be a good fit for the deck.. when used with the CITP vanashing creatures it can serve multiple purposes. Oblivion Stone is pretty much a necessity right now.. gets rid of problematic anythings.

Giant Harbinger by hamtastic at Thu, 11/22/2007 - 21:12
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At .14 each, the Giant Harbinger is a completely necessary card, especially since your kickered giant costs RRWW2 it fits the curve nicely.

I've been working on a giant deck myself, and the think I've noticed about it is that it's really hard to survive that long with the deck.  Lorwyn seems to have an inordinate ammount of global creature pump effects that make small creatures hard to kill with cards like Pyroclasm.

Merfolk have their lord, Green and white both have global +1/+1 effects as well as lords, and Elementals really fast.

The deck will need acceleration + something to do with that accelerated mana later: Mind Stone (.86 each for now, but I expect they'll drop with Weatherlight bringing them at common).

Fun deck though! 

Good Article Bad Deck by iceage4life at Thu, 11/22/2007 - 14:36
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I liked the article overall btu find the deck to be pretty meh.  Desolation Giant is a fine "build around me" card but it's no Mind's Desire.  The deck needs other things to make it work and raw synergy is not always the answer.  For example, the Marauders.  Sure the work well with the Lions and are not affected by the giant but this is no aggro deck.  Rough/Tumble is fine but is it needed with the giants for mass removal?

As you mentioned with Stuffy Doll, many cards in the deck seem to be in here simply because they don't care about desolation giant.  Sure you get Spirit Loop back but why run one in the first place?  Wouldn't running fewer creatures be an easy way to have synergy with the giant instead of running sub par cards like Spirit Link and Marauders.

Where to take the deck?  Not sure could make it more giant tribal using Lorwyn cards.  Could also make a more controlling deck with fewer creatures but making them larger.  Oblvion Ring also seems to an auto-include post Lorwyn.

Good luck with the deck hope it turns out well.