Welcome back to Valuable Lessons. This week, we'll be talking about a (possibly) overlooked card from Magic 2014. Cards like Fiendslayer Paladin, Lifebane Zombie, Archangel of Thune, Doom Blade, and Kalonian Hydra have all been discussed at length by now.
I'd like to explore the possibility of Into the Wilds as a Constructed engine. The card seems weak at first glance, but I've had an Oracle of Mul Daya in play before, so I'm going to go ahead and give it the benefit of the doubt.
I'm not the biggest fan of Fog decks, I've even called the Maze's End Fog deck a “gimmick” in the past. However, Into the Wilds offers up a new tool for the Maze's End deck that could, ultimately, push the deck into the realm of serious competitive strategies.
Let's think about it for a second. Howling Mine effects are notoriously strong when coupled with enough Fogs. Into the Wilds, while not quite a Howling Mine, offers at least a percentage of that effect. The thing that really impresses me about this card in the Maze's End deck is that it actually accelerates you to victory while passively producing card advantage. It increases the value of your Fog effects and Terminus by decreasing the likelihood that you'll be topdecking lands significantly. In a deck like Maze's End, where you're often replaying Maze's End from the fifth or sixth turn forward, it's tremendously strong to make sure the top of your deck is super live.
In fact, I have a lot of trouble imagining a scenario in game one where I'm untapping with Into the Wilds with at least one spell in hand and losing the game. Sure, Nephalia Drownyard and Acidic Slime pose some problems, but Crackling Perimeter in the sideboard lets me punish the slower decks by pinging them to death with a never-ending chain of fireballs.
The End As We Know It
The mana base is largely based on what I've seen in the Standard Maze's End decks on the internet. There are a few things that I could be happy to change, though. I'm not sure if I need two copies of some of the Guildgates, especially Rakdos Guildgate. Sure, Acidic Slime is a Magic card, but I expect most decks to cut it, at least from their main deck, when Magic 2014 becomes a reality. I already chose to play a pair of lands that I could play untapped, and I think this gives the deck something it was severely lacking. I try to slowroll these lands as long as possible in most cases. Augur of Bolas and Gatecreeper Vine are fine turn three or turn four with Fog mana in most cases. Try using the untapped land on turn six when you go with Urban Evolution, this will allow you to leave Fog open while still accelerating to victory with Maze's End. Again, I'd have to test a version with only one copy of Rakdos Guildgate before I was able to definitely say if it was worth cutting, but I like the idea.
One copy of Think Twice and one copy of Divination is a test to see which spell I should be playing two copies of. Divination is significantly more mana efficient in a deck that always has something to do with its mana, but Think Twice works well with Terminus and lets me leave open Fog mana so I don't give my opponent a chance to unload their Ghor-Clan Rampager(s).
I think four copies of Augur of Bolas are a slam dunk in a deck like this. Augur comes down and blocks right away. On subsequent turns, opponents will often try to go over the top of your Augur with Ghor-Clan Rampager. This set up awesome Fog turns and often leads to you being able to eat an additional attack later on before you need to chain Fogs together. It's also worth noting that Augur of Bolas thins your deck of spells, increasing the power level of Into the Wilds. Ideally, your Augur is grabbing a Fog if you have one or zero in your hand and grabbing some type of card draw or a Terminus if you already have two Fog effects.
Gatecreeper Vine isn't quite as good as Augur of Bolas, but the card helps fix the deck's mana and provides a chump blocker that often represents an extra turn before we need to use Fogs repeatedly. I could see the number of Gatecreeper Vines in the deck going up or down. Playing one copy and making room for a fourth Terminus sounds pretty awesome, but playing three and cutting a land is also a very reasonable game plan. Another idea worth testing is changing the non-Gate/non-Maze's End lands into basics so they can be searched for with Gatecreeper Vine to ensure you'll be able to curve out as necessary while playing Fogs.
The current set-up for the Fog package seems pretty straightforward to me. I prefer my Fogs to cost two mana, Safe Passage is nice to prevent finishing blows with things like Skullcrack having a chance of making people's sideboard, but I think I can afford to only be playing three copies of the more expensive spell.
Terminus is so good in a deck like this. In fact, I really want to find room for a fourth copy in the main. I feel like Terminus is a better card than Supreme Verdict for this deck, especially when Geralf's Messenger, Strangleroot Geist, Voice of Resurgence, Blood Artist, and even Xathrid Necromancer are probably going to see a reasonable amount of play. I like my wraths to be Hallowed Burial and I like them to cost one white mana.
Urban Evolution is incredible in the Block-Constructed version of this deck, which I've played with a lot. I'm not sure if we want four copies of this card, but I think Into the Wilds does the same thing in many ways. Right now we're on a three Into the Wilds and three Urban Evolution split. I could see playing four Into the Wilds and two Urban Evolution, but then I would likely want a Sphinx's Revelation or Jace, Memory Adept or two in my sideboard.
I don't hate the idea of playing Saruli Gatekeepers in my sideboard. The card gives me exactly what I want against the Burning-Tree Emissary decks. It's a lot easier to cast than Supreme Verdict, it's just the right size, and compliments my Fog effects nicely. I do want the fourth Terminus and I'm not sure how many slots I can devote to aggressive matchups that are likely already quite good. That being said, I think Saruli Gatekeepers is definitely worth testing.
It's always worth testing the possibilities available when a new set is released. This deck seems to offer a lot of power and, despite a few nightmare cards that see play, I believe this deck could easily rattle off a nice chain of 3-1s or 4-0s in Magic Online Daily Events. The deck is extremely easy to acquire the cards for and should be a masterpiece for FNM slinging.
I'll revisit this strategy once we've had a couple of weeks with Magic 2014 to reassess its power and see what we need to change in reaction to whatever happens from now until then.