I didn’t even buy too many things for Standard this time, largely because the one obvious include with Birthing Pod (Solemn Simulacrum) is so obvious that it’s quite pricey. So my trade credit (didn’t have real money this time around) bought casual and Commander stuff, getting most of what I really wanted from M12 along with assorted goodies.
But the point isn’t what I bought; the point is what decks I can make out of it. When my order comes in this week, here’s what I’ll be shuffling up for casual fun.
The Of Empires trio was spoiled late in the season, and the official spoiler didn’t have them up originally, so these haven’t been talked about much anywhere. I’m excited about making the deck for a few reasons. First, like Mayael’s Aria and unlike many combo pieces (Helix Pinnacle), each piece is acceptable in multiples. By themselves, the most useful probably is Throne and the least useful Crown, but you can survive drawing the wrong ones for awhile. Second, they curve out nicely. Third, they’re powerful but don’t win on their own. You’re not playing Spot the Combo Solitaire, a type of Magic I normally detest; you can do powerful things with the combined pieces, but they need support, i.e. a real deck.
4 Fangren Marauder
3 Darksteel Juggernaut
3 Seedborn Muse
2 Ezuri’s Brigade
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Voltaic Key
4 Druidic Satchel
4 Crown of Empires
4 Scepter of Empires
4 Throne of Empires
This might be slow, but if Key/Muse/Empires parts show up together, the game should proceed quickly to the cleanup on Aisle Win, as that gives me enough mana to steal creatures while dealing damage to somebody else. The creatures provide both a backup plan and a defense, not only by themselves but as Saproling chumps via Satchel. Ancient Stirrings is perfect here, digging for whichever combo piece I need. Fangren Marauder might not stay in the deck due to costing six, but for now it’s a way to lengthen my stay in the game should my combo draw removal.
If you wanted to make this Standard-legal you could substitute Unwinding Clock for Seedborn Muse, although you’d take a defensive hit. Regardless, it’s always fun to pair artifacts with a nonblue base, and monogreen combo doesn’t show up often, so this should have a refreshing look and feel about it as I try to rule some empires or something.
GRIFFIN KNIGHT RIDER
When I make beatdown decks, they tend to be tribal and/or evasive. I hate having a bunch of quick 2/2s run into a defensive deck and get outclassed; if I go to the trouble of spewing out small creatures, I want them to hit the player regularly. New common Griffin Rider’s theme implies both a tribe and evasion; sign me up!
4 Griffin Rider
4 Fledgling Griffin
4 Griffin Sentinel
4 Makindi Griffin
3 Assault Griffin
3 Zuberi, Golden Feather
2 Mistmoon Griffin
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Honor of the Pure
3 Marshal’s Anthem
2 Culling Dais
4 Griffin Canyon
Like a few tribes pre-Onslaught, Griffins had solid support cards early in its history but not the critical mass of decent creatures. Zuberi, Mistmoon Griffin, and Griffin Canyon are a solid foundation for the tribe, but it goes downhill quickly. Since Mirage block, there have been some playable Griffins, but their color requirements send the deck an odd direction. Zendikar and M12’s Griffins combine for an aggressive flying beats package, one that benefits from Honor of the Pure and Marshal’s Anthem. I’m trying Culling Dais as a test for future aggressive decks that don’t normally draw cards, just to see if cards of its ilk are worth inclusion even if they draw maybe two cards over a game. The tribe is thin enough in monowhite for me to have the slots, so why not find out if the Dais does its job?
The Fledgling Griffin and Griffin Sentinel are underwhelming, but to maximize use of Griffin Rider you have to get a Griffin out ASAP. I’ll gladly include these if it means having a 4/4 flyer on turn 3. Surprisingly, a curve of turn 2 Rider, turn 3 Fledgling, and turn 4 Honor of the Pure totals 20 damage by the end of turn 5. That doesn’t even look right.
“How’d you die?”
“Some Griffins ripped off my face before I saw them coming!”
That’s what I’m talking about.
RITES OF FLOURISHING
I tested an anti-aggro Standard build with this, using Noxious Revival/Reclaim to recur Pyroclasm/Slagstorm and compensate for all the cards I’m giving the opponent. Basically, by the time I’d tune it the important parts would rotate. Not cool. But I already had a different, more casual, and more hilarious purpose for R of F: punishing people for using it. I don’t have every card worked out – I’ve made a decklist just to have discussion fodder – but it starts with Rites, Tunnel Ignus, and Invader Parasite. For unknown flavor reasons, the world of Mirrodin likes to creatively punish the playing of lands. It’s nice compensation for giving opponents the option of playing more of them. Yeah, you can play two lands this turn…and die for it.
The problem I keep having when making this deck is how easily sweepers would fit into it save for my reliance on a 2/1 and a 3/2. This eliminates otherwise fine options like Destructive Force or Slagstorm and might interfere with ramptastics like Terastodon (since I normally burn the Elephants right after making them). Since ideally players are holding lands in their hand, you could combo Rites with Temple Bell and Runeflare Trap to punish them for holding or playing lands. It’s an option, but it comes close to Owling Mine shenanigans I pull off better in another deck. What does this one want to do?
It might want…could it?…possibly…WARP WORLD!
Now, I might resist the urge to break out the old favorite (enough of the group worked with it that there was no point in my having a deck of it), but it wouldn’t be bad here. In Ob Nixilis’s heyday, there was talk of putting him with Warp World for insta-kills. Tunnel Ignus does it better! A lone Ignus will deal an opponent 15 damage for getting 5 lands off Warp World. Unlike Ob, Ignus is in-color, making this list easier. Jade Mage seems like a good fit here, and if Druidic Satchel doesn’t work out in the Of Empires list, it would fit for the same reasons.
This version also would have a sufficiently different focus from previous Warp World decks. The competitive builds focused on ramping so quickly that you locked the opponent out of a meaningful board state. Here, you’re okay with holding the Warp World until opponents have more permanents. It ups your permanent count to have more turns (and therefore more chances to Warp into Ignus), while they increase their odds of Ignus killing them. Meanwhile, they’re taking damage off increasing their permanents. It’s a Warp World win-win.
4 Jade Mage
4 Tunnel Ignus
4 Wildheart Invoker
4 Invader Parasite
4 Stingerfling Spider
4 Arachnus Spinner
4 Arachnus Web
4 Rites of Flourishing
4 Warp World
There’s always been play in the joints with Warp World builds, but this is a bunch of cards I’ve never used with it, increasing the fun on my end. This deck style can get old quickly if it’s too competitive or too samey, but this one has 20 M12 cards, which should be a great way to feel fresh and try out new stuff. Will I go this route? I don’t know. But it would be really fun to use Warp World again.
UPDATE: WEDGE COMMANDERS PART 2
The rest of my order was fleshing out M12 and getting more support for my Commander decks. Since my initial article on the subject was from a card ideas angle, here are some more that I’m incorporating.
Galepowder Mage – With Consume the Meek and Culling Sun, I don’t want to load up on non-synergistic 3-mana creatures, but the 4 slot’s wide open. My ideal use of this would be to protect something from my intended Wrath effect, maybe to cheat a fourth permanent with Razia’s Purification.
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur – Admittedly this isn’t an innovative idea, but of all the decks you could put J-G in, this one combos with Animar on its mana cost and its card draw. I’m okay with overpowered cards if there’s synergy that isn’t available with other cards; there’s a demonstrable reason you chose this card over a different one. That’s Jin here.
Apocalypse Hydra – Has there ever been a creature more explicitly wanting a massive, combo-based cost reduction than this one? As long as Animar has at least five counters on it, a 10/10 Hydra would cost RG. Yum.
Dovescape – As a Gravitational Shift/“world” enchantment deck, this looks to be plenty of fun. If I need creatures, I can pitch my Auras to make them. Since I have 4 cards that make you pay mana per creature that’s attacking me, I’m not worried about giving away Birds. Largely, buying this was an excuse to work with a card I’ve wanted for a long time, but it has enough synergy that it should be fine.
Transcendence – I didn’t go the dirty route with my donations, but this one is not only bizarre but limiting, so I’m okay with it. Unlike suggested dirty donates like Celestial Dawn, I can’t cast this one and wait for someone to give it to. I need to get below 20 life and then give it away as soon as possible, which might be its own politics (you want to get rid of annoying player? Everybody else at the table, hit me!). When I get the card back I need to give it away again so I don’t lose. It’s a mana-intensive card that is likely to backfire on me, but if it’s the only way of killing an overpowering player, I’ll do it. Self-sacrifice through weird cards is the ultimate in Zedruu politics. She’s proud.
Thornling – Don’t you want your commander to have a billion abilities? The +1/-1 and -1/+1 are more relevant with the counters you’re putting on the Oozed Thornling.
Possessed Centaur– All the thresholders have theoretical utility in a Mimeoplasm build, but this one gets special billing for being a four-mana 4/4 with trample and a sweet ability (of all the colors you’d want a tapper to kill, green seems the best). Besides, it was 20 cents.
Masked Gorgon – My basic Mimeoplasm formula is evasion + beef. The Gorgon is splashable at 4B, it’s sizable at 5/5, and for most game states it will be unblockable to 2/5 of creatures. Masked Gorgon’s protection abilities make it a rough approximation of Inkfathom Infiltrator. When your Commander has that ability, you’re gonna do all right for yourself. Also, in an environment where preconstructs have increased the number of three-color decks, color protection is even better than it was. Adjust/bash face accordingly.
Abyssal Persecutor – Moving this over from Tariel. If the Mimeoplasm turns into Persecutor, you can make all sorts of political fun. Let me deal 21 to this player; then you can kill it and stomp on me. Of course, once you do that, the player you’d normally have killed has great motivation to keep your Mimeoplasm and you alive. That can get spicy quickly…
Sphinx Ambassador – Is this a blue staple? This seems to provide massive card advantage, as the guessing game is impossible in a singleton world. If nothing else, it’s a huge flyer.
Fathom Trawl – By its price this isn’t a blue staple, and I honestly have no idea why. In the late game, three nonlands is so much more useful than three random cards, and the midgame doesn’t mind either. Maybe it stayed too anonymous in a set where it was way too slow for anyone to play with. I have no idea, but while they’re cheap I might as well make my blue decks better with it.
And there you have it. Standard is so fast right now (seriously, have you seen Tempered Steel?) that I’m quite content to send all my resources to casual land. Chime in with any thoughts, especially if you’re building an Of Empires deck; I’d love to see other builds of it.