Last summer I started working on a deck with Hedron Crab. I saw it posted on wizards.com – Landmill 2.0 – by Noel DeCordova and was enchanted, but as always, I wanted to give my own spin on it. The deck was already quirky as-is, but not enough for my taste. Also, it contained a card from Unhinged. Ugh. Then someone on MTGSalvation’s Casual forums posted a similar decklist and I just couldn’t resist anymore. Sadly, the Crabs couldn’t hold their own and neither did the deck. Today I tell the story of the little crab that couldn’t, and how I’m looking to ditch the n’t.
The crab that couldn’t
I can’t remember much of how the deck looked. I do know I wanted to do way to many different things, and I compromised the deck’s core as a result of it. For example, playing a creature like Veteran Explorer prompted me to put too much emphasis on sacrificing creatures. I added cards like Altar of Dementia and Cabal Therapy, which in turn forced my hand to add Bloodghasts. Every step I took was two steps in the wrong direction, so to speak.
From both Noel and the thread I took some ideas, quickly accumulating to more than sixty cards. The deck needed to stay strict and uniform, but I diluted it too much. Sure, all the pieces connected, but to work, I had to eject a bunch. This led to a disaster that I averted by just killing the deck. Another thing was that the deck played like a combo deck, but it was too slow most of the time to win before getting killed, and the disruption was not suffiient to live longer and to win eventually.
Something about a crab
I had long forgotten about my ventures on the beach, trying to work things out with Zendikar’s finest crustacean. Then fellow deckbuilder and vocal subscriber to my blog, the man known as DLink, posted a deck that was eerily similar to mine. It, too, tried to abuse the interaction between New Frontiers and both Archive Trap and Mind Funeral. The list was very focused, but it lacked a vital part that my deck used to have: a way to win if your opponent doesn’t play by your rules and just declines to search lands. While this does make New Frontiers better, it makes milling a lot harder.
My way of trying to win when milling wasn’t an option was to use your big mana to churn out lots of Faeries with Oona, or to just landfall-kill with Bloodghasts and Ob Nixilis. This way, the opponent is presented with a lose-lose situation.
Perhaps it is now that I understand the deck better. It is indeed a combo deck, but one that needs setup and helps the opponent along the way. New Frontiers, Rites of Flourishing, Weird Harvest and Veteran Explorer help the opponent building up. Even harder is the fact that the opponent is usually the first to profit from your efforts to win the game.
I read DLink’s post, replied myself, and the deck nestled itself in my mind again. I couldn’t let it go; it was my baby that I helped create a while ago, and why should I just give up? What’s stopping me from picking up where I left off, learning from my mistakes, and starting anew? That’s right – nothing.
Reconnecting to my inner crab
After I read that, I quickly found the original thread and article by deCordova. Moreover, since the deck was made (and dismissed) before Worldwake, I missed Noel’s second ‘landmill’-deck; Renewed Nibbles. I’m not sure what I thought when I saw Scrib Nibblers for the first time, but I’m not too proud of missing his obvious synergy with my dismissed deck.
The core deck strategy started forming in my head. Mill a bit with Crabs and Rats, then go big with New Frontiers and kill with Mind Funeral. It was perfect. Archive Trap was there, lurking in the background, trying to snatch thirteen cards dirt cheap. Prosperity could act very similar to what it does in ProsBloom – fueling your combo while endangering the opponent. And I was dying to try out Head Games, as another tool to beat opponents reluctant to search. This way, Mind Funeral can kill with a cooperative opponent (New Frontiers) and with a stubborn one (Head Games).
Now I needed the rest of the deck, and from the multitude of options that presented itself, naturally, problems arose.
Taking everything I could crab
I marked the dependance on Hedron Crab as a potential problem. Tutoring came up as a solution, and while green has some options there as well, so did white. I’m talking Ranger of Eos and Wargate. Note: this was before I have Weird Harvest a good look. Ranger could pick up any combination of Crabs and Explorers while Wargate scales to pick up everything, ranging from lands, Crabs and Rats to possible finishers like Oona and Ob Nixilis.
Now let’s talk mana. You’d say a deck focused on mana wouldn’t be have too much trouble with the mana, but I think you’d be surprised in a bad way. You see, New Frontiers needs a lot of basic lands, something that doesn’t mix with a demanding mana base. Wargate isn’t what you call free of restrictions. I will have a hard time fitting enough basics and manafixing into this deck, not to mention my wild ideas that keep coming up.
Other than those cards, the best card white provides would have to be Path to Exile, for it’s synergy with Archive Trap. Another card I found was Ruin Ghost, but that’s probably too out there.
So I took a look at the would-be core of the deck and thought of what could be cut. Black could leave, I kept thinking, but every time I corrected myself: Head Games wins games, and I can’t get around that one. Same goes for Mind Funeral, pretty much the card that prompted this whole deck. Scrib Nibblers is a second landfall-miller, which makes him pretty crucial as well, making every landdrop more worthwhile. Sure, New Frontiers eliminates a lot of the lifegaining, but it’s still a bonus Crab. Also, exiling is important – dare I say very important – against two of my friends, one who plays Demigods and the other who slings Gaea’s Blessing. And ofcourse there’s appearances from Primal Command, Hellspark Elemental, Mystical Teachings, Rune Snag, Sun Titan… You get the point.
Eliminating black was hard (impossible, actually), crossing white of my mental list was just as hard. You see, I really like Wargate. It tutors so good, and for pretty much anything I can wish for! Let’s take a look at the other available tutors:
Diabolic Intent comes closest, but it requires you to sacrifice a creature. Should be no problem with Veteran Explorers and such, but still. Also finds lands, which Weird Harvest doesn’t do, which searches for just creatures. Can find my bombs, but can’t put them into play. Also, helps the opponent, which means I have to be careful timing it. This again points to Cabal Therapy, which means I’m treading on a slippery slope, the same one I dropped down the first time I built this deck. New Frontiers only finds you land, while Noble Benefactor is another let’s-all-have-some-fun card like Weird Harvest.
The best card that equals the raw power of Wargate is, in my opinion, Tooth and Nail. It has a pretty hefty mana-pricetag however. Where Wargate is a flexible tutoring bottle of glue, Tooth and Nail is more like a blunt warhammer. Sure, you can swing left- or right-handed, but your still swinging a damn warhammer!
The crab that
could tries to
So for now, I’m still torn on the whole white-issue. I want to play white so hard that there’s not much stopping me, I fear. My hopes are based on blue filtering (Sea Gate Oracle, Preordain), flexible lands (Terramorphic Expanse and his extramarital brother Evolving Wilds) and New Frontiers. Time – and testing – will tell how this mumbo-jumbo fares. Moreover, I hope this saturday night Robert and his friends can point me in the right direction.
I could go on more, but I won’t. Instead, I look to the help of my good friend Robert and helpful citizen DLink – feel free to jump in and help me out! Oh yeah, and DLink, if you read this, please post in your thread so we can get the ball rolling there. This deck is such a blast, there must be people out there who are as interested in this deck as we are. So if someone’s reading this, check here and let us know your thoughts.
One more thing
Last time I wrote about two decks-to-be: Galvanoth and Glissa. I built one – Galvanoth. After I’ll play it this Saturday I can write something meaningful about it. Today, Hedron Crab and friends got in the way. No worries Glissa, I have all the pieces right here. You shan’t be forgotten. So you too, my faithful readers, don’t despair. Every topic I promised will be written about. It all depends on time and prominence in my mind. Right now this idea took over, but there’s plenty to write about the two G’s, so that’s gonna happen eventually. Thanks for reading!