Stidjen's Magic

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The crab that could(n’t)

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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!

5 thoughts on “The crab that could(n’t)

  1. Hey Stidj,

    Interesting post – When I was posting my deck, I had just made it for fun and wasn’t actually going to build it in real life, (hence, no wall of text). I didn’t think it was particularly original or anything as I had seen builds like this before, (though not DeCordovoa’s). So I’ll get serious in this post – fair warning, huge wall of text ahead.

    I actually believe it’s very possible to drop Black from the deck. In a sense, going UBG is taking the easy way out – it is dependant on the main 2 colors of Mill after all. WUBG is a whole different story (but probably not possible with basics). Here are some suggestions, but I don’t know how to make card tags on here (I apologize profusely, since I’ll be naming a lot of cards), so I’ll just capitalize the card names.

    Head Games – As you say, this is one of your main reasons why you couldn’t drop Black from the deck. Head Games is actually based off a card called Jester’s Mask, a little known gem from Ice Age. It’s ability is exactly the same as Head Games’, although it does CIPT, thus giving your opponent to react to it, whereas Head Games was a surprise. However, it does offer advantages for the Combo deck, since it means you only need to pay 1mana next turn to activate it, thus allowing you to play other cards to interact with it (i.e. Evacuation, Sunder). With Head Games, that would require 10 mana total.

    Scrib Nibblers is also a very interesting card that I also overlooked. So don’t worry you’re not alone… But I think you’re giving the card a little more credit than it deserves. With a land drop you’ll exile 2, with a fetchland 3, but that’s nothing compared to Hedron Crab which goes 3,6 with each consecutive land drop. I feel like Scrib Nibblers should belong in a much more dedicated landfall deck, like the Vigorous Crab deck in Extended:

    http://forums.mtgsalvation.com/showthread.php?t=218851

    Which is a very interesting take on Hedron Crab Landfall.

    Also, you mention exile being an important quality, but honestly, how effective is exiling from the top of the library? The odds of doing that to your opponent are like what, 1 out of 50 cards? I suppose that goes up to 1/25 (4%) if you use Landfall, but that’s still terribly ineffective. I’d rather go for Exiling cards directly if Gaea’s Blessing is giving you that much trouble (i.e. Extract, Sadistic Sacrament, or better yet, if we’re dropping Black altogether, Jester’s Cap – see the Jester trend here? lol)

    Mind Funeral – of course is irreplaceable. While I love the New Frontiers + Mind Funeral interaction quite a bit, I think the deck can pursue an alternate mill strategy.

    First, I think you can focus the deck on WUG (Bant) colors. I love the Ranger of Eos idea, and there was also the option of Proclamation of Rebirth from the Salvation forums. Another idea (which I credit Raijinnfury from the Salvation forums (another very good deckbuilder btw)) is the idea of Planar Guide + Dryad Arbor to activate and protect Hedron Crab. Both Guide and Arbor are fetchable via Ranger of Eos, and Planar Guide allows the Ranger ability to go off again, fetching another two CMC 1 or less creatures for further abuse.

    But both will probably require a little more support than that, so how about another crazy Landfall enabler – Knight of the Reliquary? I think this can shine in the deck since it does depend on basic lands (Forest/Plains), while being able to run utility lands like Sejiri Steppe, more landfall via Fetchlands (Triple Landfall, if you dropped land), or Flagstones of Trokair and Krosan Verge (Quadruple Landfall, and both replenishing Knight of the Reqliquary’s sacrifice requirement), and a very intersting choice to fetch in the deck, Shelldock Isle. Ghost Quarter is also a very good card to fetch for disruption, especially since it is refetchable, and can enable Archive Trap. Lastly, it can also fetch Dryad Arbor (also a Forest for Knight btw) to combo for more landfall.

    tl;dr, I think it’s an all-star, especially if you decide to drop Black and go UWG.

    So this way, you’ll also be able to run Wargate and Path to Exile. And of course, UWG has friendly manafixing lands while BUG has none. Hope something in that wall of text piques your interest – and I’ll be looking forward to how this deck shapes out.

    By the way, you can call me ‘Jin’. It’s my real name – I tell you this because DLink123 is a really, really bad and uncreative username that I came up with a long time ago. I needed to make a quick username and I looked over to my left, there was a D-Link router, and I decided to go with that. I never thought I’d get so active on Salvation with the username…

    Anyways – good luck!

    • Hi Jin,

      thanks for your elaborate post. MTGS might not be the best place for that, but my blog sure is!

      From top to bottom: wow, hadn’t noticed Jester’s Mask at all. That’s a good card to possibly replace Head Games with. While that would be a good switch, I’m not sure what would happen if I cut Mind Funeral. You see, part of the land-filtering is that you set up a lethal Mind Funeral. I’m not sure how I could alleviate that, but perhaps it could be done with Archive Trap, Mesmeric Orb and maybe even Jester’s Cap.

      Continuing with a Bant-deck, Ranger of Eos, Wargate and Proclamation immediately jump out. Adding one Gaea’s Blessing would ensure Mesmeric Orb won’t mill me, while making New Frontiers double effective. I was thinking that maybe even Amulet of Vigor would be good: my fetches (Expanse, Wilds) would all ETB untapped, I would be able to be the first to profit from New Frontiers, and Jester’s Mask just becomes a six-mana Head Games. Mesmeric Orb, meanwhile, would fill up my graveyard with spicy Proc-targets. Besides the obvious Hedron Crabs and Veteran Explorers, I’m thinking Spore Frog/Kami of False Hope, Scute Mob, maybe even Benevolent Bodyguard.

      Another great option with Mesmeric Orb would be Planar Birth (combined with Amulet of Vigor… jummy!).

      With white, creatures aren’t much of a problem with the ProcFrog-lock and Paths. It’s still a bit sour my deck then would lack a way to control my creatures’ deaths, like Innocent Blood did.

      I would also consider adding a card like Mnemonic Wall, which can ETB with Wargate and Tooth and Nail and retrieve either, or just pick up another big spell.

      I’m not really digging the Planar Guide, although I really like the Arbor-land. I can even Proc her into play each turn, both blocking and landfalling!

      I can’t thank you enough for your insights, Jin! I really feel like this deck could run in the Bant-colors without feeling empty. Sure, black has bomby finishers, but Bant does too: Jester’s Mask is Head Games, Oona is Oona, Mesmeric Orb helps Hedron Crab, and maybe something big like Admonition Angel could function as Ob-Nixilis. Going Bant would mean access to Ranger and Wargate, two cards that would be great for my deck.

      Thanks so much, and I’ll be sure to notify you of anything Robert, his friends and I come up with this Saturday!

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