I have found it. I have seen the light. Bant is the way to go for my little crustaceans. Jin (DLink) showed me in the comments of my previous blogpost that black was unneeded, and that the two biggest arguments for black – Head Games and Mind Funeral – could be averted using other cards. Jester’s Mask is Head Games, while Mind Funeral is negated by Archive Trap, another punisher for those who fetch, search and shuffle. And Robert, faitful source of ideas as he always is, gave another pricless tip. I’ll show you below with which cards I’m going to make the final deck.
As I did with Robert the last time I had a deck with a lot of ideas, I made a table of all my cards using converted mana costs for rows and card functions as columns. This gives me a better idea of my up-and-coming deck, at least more than a list of every possible card I thought of. Besides, every time you review your deck-to-be is another filter for you to remove useless chaff. I’ll try to review the most important cards in an insightful manner.
Crab and friends
The centrepiece of the deck looks to be Hedron Crab. This deck is looking to achieve a mill-kill on the opponent using Hedron Crab fueled by fetching and land-acceleration. A land-fetcher like New Frontiers also threatens a doubly-so effective Archive Trap for the opponent (double, since you mill thirteen on top of the lands they searched up).
The first problem with black, in the context of this deck, was that it didn’t offer protection. Comparing white to black, black gave me Hedron Crab’s brotha-from-anotha-motha Scrib Nibblers and brute instrument Ob Nixilis, while white offered versatily and recursion. The best recursion tool for me was Proclamation of Rebirth, since that also lets me get back Veteran Explorers. From there, a Ranger of Eos-toolbox is never far away.
I already namedropped Veteran Explorer. Other creatures for the toolbox are Fog-effects (Spore Frog, Kami of False Hope), protection (Benevolent Bodyguard, Burrenton Forge-Tender), more land (Krosan Wayfarer, Groundskeeper), other win conditions (Scute Mob) and card selection (Sage of Epityr).
The best part, however, is what Robert came up with. Well, he came up with Proclamation as well, but I did too, so that doesn’t count. He mentioned Dryad Arbor, and I was sold. It’s a legal Rebirth-target and a landfall-trigger smushed together. I’m still trying to find a way to use her Forestyness in a way that isn’t a fetchland, but I’m sensing I won’t have to. Imagine hardcasting a Rebirth for one Dryad and two Crabs and popping a fetchland afterwards. That’s eighteen cards already, and a great way to recover from a sweeper-effect.
The mana and the lands
With Hedron Crab being at the heart of the deck, it’s not difficult to see the deck needs land, and lots of it. Already mentioned were Veteran Explorer and Krosan Wayfarer, of which I like the former more since he finds more land and has the threat of Archive Trap with him. Another thing is that he finds me land while occasionally killing an x/1 in combat.
At two mana we have Sakura-Tribe Elder, another instant-speed landdrop and chump blocker. I have a lot of these kinds of personal landfetchers available, like Harrow and Primal Growth. Kicking Primal Growth with Veteran Explorer? Sheesh. The only thing I have to keep in mind that I can’t run too much landsearching, because it’s both a lousy topdeck most of the times, and I run the risk of running out of cards. Sure, I’ll play somewhere between 24 and 30 lands, but some of those lands won’t be basic (say 4 Seaside Citadels and 6 Terramorphic Expanses and/or Evolving Wilds, and three-or-so Dryad Arbor); on top of that, I’ll draw a few lands naturally during the game, also reducing the amount of lands I can dig up. If I draw a hypothetical four lands during the game, that leaves thirteen basics in my deck given 30 lands, and only seven basics given 24 lands. (Luckily, I’ve found that I can reuse played lands; more later on.)
I don’t know if Sakura was in my first list, but Rites of Flourishing sure was. It’s a global Exploration-meets-Howling-Mine that digs me towards ‘combo-pieces’ while accelerating the emptying of my opponent’s deck. However, maybe Prosperity is better used for this, and I’m better of dropping extra lands with Oracle of Mul Daya. She’s a classic example of a card I wanted to play so many times, but that left the deck just as many times. I feel this could be her place to shine.
At five-mana-and-X, I have Perilous Forays and New Frontiers. The latter is probably in, while the former could be. It’s very synergistic with the sacrifice targets. Also, notice how it doesn’t say ‘basic land’ but ‘card with a basic land type’? I’m looking at you, Dryad Arbor. Again. But not in the you-could-get-a-restraining-order-for-that kinda way.
The latest addition I want to talk about is a card that wouldn’t be in here if it weren’t for my tardiness: Lotus Cobra. This relatively cheap mythic – seriously, why is Loco, as I’m gonna call him, not like $ 40? – came up when I was Googling various cards. I noticed how combo-ish he interacts with New Frontiers. Pay X+1 mana, get X mana back; mill (3X)*Y cards, where Y is the number of Hedron Crabs you control. Looks intelligent, right? I’m currently awaiting my last two Cobra’s, which should come in tomorrow.
To end this segment, I give you a combo, and a Noel deCordova-one at that. I’m not going to use it, but it sure is filed in my mind under ‘possible future use’:
Lotus Cobra + Bloodghast + Perilous Forays
When researching this deck, if you will, I came across a similar list with Hedron Crabs and Archive Traps as the only mill-cards, trying to trick the opponent into fetching using Path to Exile. So while that deck did have access to Rangers, it didn’t even have Dryad Arbor and Proclamation. Do I need more mill? Probably not. Still, there are options to be discussed.
Let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, a friend had a milldeck himself. While various parts kept changing around, there was one common component in all his builds – Mesmeric Orb (queue villainous music). I dreaded the card. I hated the card. Being a control player, most of my decks had an inherent weakness for his deck – it never seemed to not have the turn two Orb! Not wanting to resort to cards like Gaea’s Blessing like he did, I kept looking for other good answers but hardly found any. The Orb quickly became my arch-nemesis, and so I got a curious birthday-present once (actual card displayed for reference):
The story ends when Jeroen decided to give his deck a new spin, removing the Orbs. While his deck lost a bit in power, it made up for that by not annoying the crap out of me. Thanks!
But now, I might need those Orbs myself. I might have to step over to The Dark Side and side with the evil forces I once cursed. Mesmeric Orb makes New Frontiers very, very deadly, since you basically double it’s milling effect. One well-positioned New Frontiers (I’m talking Hedron Crab, Mesmeric Orb in play and Archive Trap in hand) could very much be lethal. In fact, one each of Crab, Orb and Trap means a X=9 New Frontiers is lethal (milling 27 from Crab, 9 from Orb and 13 from Trap). Sure, that’s a lot of mana, but you can also just chain Frontiers into another with Cobra mana. Also keep in mind that the deck should work its way up to eleven mana (two green and X=9) faster than most decks.
I talked about Archive Trap quite a bit, so I’m not going into that one again. I consider Trap to be almost uncuttable from the deck.
Last up is Soratami Mindsweeper, crossing the line between landfall and milling again, this time as an enabler as opposed to an abuser (Hedron Crab). Mindsweeper is, on top of being an enabler, a great blocker. Also, I see Dryad Arbor-shenanigans. Block with Arbor, bounce it and mill two? Nice.
The glue that holds the motley crew together
A weird tri-color milling concoction needs a lot to go right to win. That’s why we need materials to find whatever we need at the exact right time. I’m most excited about Sage of Epityr, mostly for his Proclamation-synergy. That is why I fear a card like Preordain, while better in the abstract, wouldn’t fit the deck as much. Besides, with all the fetching that goes on, Sage acts a lot like, say, an Impulse for five. Except you don’t get a card, but you get a dude. The sad part is that I actually had to order three Sages because I used all but one as proxies.
At three mana, I have two possible targets: Sea Gate Oracle and Noble Benefactor. Oracle has a medium-sized butt and digs a bit first, but Benefactor only does his job in death, and does so for each opponent as well. This has one big advantage: while thet search for any card, I get Archive Trap and punish them. Sadly, Noble Benefactor is much better when I can control his death, and right now combat seems to be the only place for him to die (except Perilous Forays and Primal Growth, but I’m keeping an eye on mana-searching effects). Opponents can just attack, I block with Benefactor, and they get to search and play something second main phase. Sure, their library goes -13, but their hand and perhaps board increases. Rusalka’s (especially of the Martyred and Drowned variety) are options, but perhaps too far away from the core of the deck.
No, the best options in this category are both white: Ranger of Eos and Wargate. Scroll up if you want to read about the insanity of mister Ruel; here I’m gonna analyze Wargate a bit. I liked Wargate the moment I saw it. At first I wanted to try him in my 5CC Angelfire Control. You can amp him up to improve the Maelstrom Nexus-cascades, and you just get a land when you cascade into him. Unfortunately, there was no space, but here I’m definitely gonna do some squeezing to fit him in, if possible. He literally finds anything, from Crabs and lands (Dryad Arbor!) to Cobras, Rangers and Oona. The only crucial card it can’t find is Proclamation (and another card coming up later), but that’s about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lone Eternal Witness would be able to find her way into the deck.
I originally wanted to try Tooth and Nail too, but I thought Ranger/Wargate would be a lot better. It’s not like I’m trying to assemble a combo of two creatures: I just want some Crabs and start milling.
(Skipping Proclamation of Rebirth here… scroll up if you want to hear about how awesome that card is again.)
The deck should be a well-oiled machine with the above cards. Those cards still need a few big cards, big in a certain sense. Some decks need big dudes to finish the game, some decks need one big spell. Here are my big cards I’m looking at to close the job.
First up, we have Lady Oona, the Mother of all things Faerie. She is a mana sick, a decent-sized flyer (wait, since when did 5/5′s become decent-sized?) and a token-generator against aggressive decks. More importantly, she can mill, and she does so in an exiling fashion. This means she presents a way to beat Gaea’s Blessing-like shenanigans in two ways: combat, and exiling the troublesome cards. I suspect I’ll be a 6WUG-Wargate a lot in the late game.
A supposed centerpiece of the previous incarnation of this deck was Prosperity. The deck, however, didn’t handle Prosperity the right way, often opening up the coffin for me to lay in a few turns later. This makes me scared to use it, but it is a great way to close the game. What beats Gaea’s Blessing besides exiling? Letting them draw themselves to death!
You see, having a four-color deck can be troublesome. However, since I added Lotus Cobra to this list, getting one black mana is significantly easier to accomplish. Mind Funeral combined with the basis of landfetching by opponents presents a lethal threat with Head Games/Jester’s Mask. I’m not sure if the double black-sporting Head Games could join Mind Funeral in this little splash. Jester’s Mask has synergy with Wargate going for it (meaning I need only one copy) while Head Games has unpredictability, doing what you want it to do the same turn you play it. The suckerpunch of Mind Funeral and Head Games is too powerful to ignore, so I’m gonna add it one way or another. What beats Gaea’s Blessing besides exiling and letting them draw themselves to death? Stick those nasty reshufflers in their hands!
The term ‘utility’ is one I use mostly as a catch-all term, meaning the cards in question all have unique effects that can’t really be grouped anywhere else. I’ll name each one and briefly address their unique effect. I won’t go into detail about these cards – they’re basically a long shot away from the core of the deck, and all cards have serious issues about them that make it all but certain they could end up in my final sixty. So here’s just what they do, and where their interactions lie.
Amulet of Vigor – very good with all the lands that enter the battlefield tapped (and that’s a lot), pretty insane with New Frontiers, and straight up combo with New Frontiers and Lotus Cobra.
Mask of the Mimic – works good with the sacrifice ‘kill me!’-theme in the deck and can fetch another Crab in a heartbeat. The drawback is ofcourse the danger of getting two-for-one’d, and needing two dudes in play, one worth copying.
Ruin Ghost – a creature that Blinks lands. I suppose he does his thing nicely, but he really needs Lotus Cobra and Tideforce Elemental besides him to get nasty.
Weird Harvest – a combo piece of yore, fetching tutors for fetching Heartbeats and Traitors. I fear here, Weird Harvest would only come in if I needed a ninth Ranger or Wargate, but hey, stranger things have happened.
My last nonland category is removal, of creatures and otherwise, and defensive cards that don’t remove cards. Diving into the removal, we have two very synergistic cards in Path to Exile and Temporal Spring. Path has a built-in threat of Archive Trap, even when it isn’t there. Temporal Spring needs milling to work at full power, but when it does, it’s a Vindicate. Destroying a permanent for three mana is rarely a bad thing.
My previous deck had Moment’s Peace, yet another card that got dragged down by the deck. It should’ve been good on paper, but without a decent clock (as far as a mill deck has a clock), Moment’s Peace can have ten flashbacks, it still can’t save you. I don’t know how it would perform in the new version of the deck.
Speaking of ten flashbacks, Constant Mists basically has that. You can sacrifice a land to ensure your offenders meet a timely cloud of fog each turn. I’m not sure on the pecking order of these four defensive measures, but I suspect it’ll be a combination of Paths and Springs, not Moments and Mists.
Being someone who hates proxies and moving your one playset of <name card> around inbetween games with different decks, I only play with real cards. Proxies are just there for cards I’m about to receive or when I’m into heavy testing. This means that while I have some fetchlands in decks here and there, I had to acquire them again. This makes me looking for creative outs to spending a lot of time and/or money and/or cards on cards. For example, Mirage has a decent cycle of allied fetchlands if you can’t afford their Onslaught-offspring. Luckily, I managed to scramble four Rainforest together, including various Ravnica-duals I can fetch. I also have black lands in there, should I decide to go that route. I think one Swamp and Lotus Cobra is enough.
There are the cheaper fetchlands: Terramorphic Expanse, Evolving Wilds, and even Krosan Verge. I had to look that one up when someone mentioned it, but it looks insane. The lands are pretty much in order, but the biggest issue here isn’t fixing.. The biggest issue is fitting enough basic lands in here to make all the landsearchers viable, while still playing enough manafixing lands to compensate for the high density of basics.
The rest of the lands isn’t much to take not of. You have your basic lands, your Seaside Citadels, and that’s pretty much it. I need basic lands and fetchlands with a sprinkling of (Ravnica) duals; there just isn’t room for more.
* * *
This concludes another lengthy post at Stidjen’s Magic. You can expect more on this deck, and there is some other news in the works. More on all that later – goodnight!