About half of my time in school I was a zombie in the back of class building decks in my head. I doubt any of my teachers could have seen that my daydreams would eventually double as a career. I don’t want to undercut the value of my education, but if you have something different you love doing of questionable productivity, I say go for it.
My education has been important though. Earning my marketing degree taught me a lot about promoting my ideas, ChannelFireball, and the Magic community. Public speech, psychology, math, and more—I am putting these all to use not just in my column here at CFB, but all throughout my life.
My point is, if there’s something you love doing, keep doing it and see where it takes you. Everything we do leads us somewhere, so what might feel like play at the time might actually be good, hard work, and you won’t necessarily find out until much later. For all of my years of single-minded card playing, very little of that was careful planning to get to where I am now. Some of it was, but I mostly just played Magic until I got here. It could be Magic, it could be something else.
This week I am keeping the Return to Ravnica brews coming. I have done some work in the past week with new, powerful decks, and I am bringing in some updates from last week’s decks.
Return to Rampnica
They call me the Timmy of competitive Magic. Timmy loves doing the most powerful thing possible with disregard to cost. He is often considered a casual player. While I build decks to win, I can’t lie that I love going over the top with giant monsters.
What can I say, I was born with a Vizzerdrix in my shadow!
Return to Rampnica it is!
Ramp loses a lot of useful pieces—but so did everything else. We do have some awesome new pieces too. Here is the ramp deck I have been working on this past week. It still needs work, but it is seriously more advanced than most things I have seen out there so far:
In the early game we have Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Arbor Elf, Farseek, and Ranger’s Path to ramp us. Lingering Souls buys time. Thragtusk buys time. Wolfir Silverheart pairs with our ramp creatures to provide massive power/toughness to the battlefield. Armada Wurm comes down as a serious blocker and threat. Angel of Serenity is our top-end, and the card is absolutely ridiculous. Finally, we have Vault of the Archangel to take over the game once we have a board advantage.
Let’s talk about some of the important cards:
Armada Wurm is comparable to Broodmate Dragon—and Broodmate Dragon was crazy, crazy good. This guy doesn’t have flying, but he also survives Mizzium Mortars, which could overtake Bonfire of the Damned in popularity.
This provides less p/t to the field than Wolfir Silverheart, but doing it over two bodies is crucial. There isn’t really a card that gets value on this. It’s huge. It blocks, it attacks. Armada Wurm is going to make waves in Standard.
Vault of the Archangel is my colorless land of choice in ramp now. Why? If you haven’t played with or against the card yet, you will find out soon. Lifelink and deathtouch are both excellent abilities that work incredibly well in this deck.
Armada Wurm and Wolfir Silverheart both provide ludicrous amounts of power per mana, but they don’t block fliers. As a ramp deck this can be a problem, because we are usually behind in life from the early game. Vault of the Archangel solves this problem.
The turn after we play Armada Wurm, our opponent is facing down a TWENTY-POINT LIFE SWING. It’s a similar story with Wolfir Silverheart. That kind of action can swing a race real fast, and make up for lost ground given up in the early game as we ramp while getting attacked.
Deathtouch is especially good with Lingering Souls. The combination results in a lot of flying, deathtouching spirits. These will be good at blocking [card delver of secrets]Delvers[/card], [card wolfir silverheart]Silverhearts[/card], and [card restoration angel]Angels[/card]. This is serious late game power from our land.
Well, this card is absolutely bonkers. BETTER THAN [card elesh norn, grand cenobite]ELESH NORN[/card]. Yes, I said it. This card might be straight up better, before even considering that it’s not a legend. This card is actually RIDICULOUS in multiples! The second one will bring back the first one, which will bring back the second one, which will bring back the first one. A lot of decks are going to be stone dead to that in the late game.
When we play this we can sweep our opponents’ tokens, or exile their three best (or only) creatures. This card basically stabilizes the board the instant in comes into play. If they kill it, no worries. Our opponents’ creatures go straight back to their hands, which gives us plenty of time.
We can also exile our own Thragtusk or Armada Wurm (living or dead) for this if we need the added insurance. Any way you look at it, this card is both incredibly powerful, and incredibly flexible. It’s going to be hard for me to not jam 4 of these.
You might have noticed that I’m not playing Restoration Angel. I was playing it, but it was too weak. We often have a window on the third or fourth turn to fill our curve with it, but if we play it then we get no value off the blink ability.
Later in the game, sure we can blink our Thragtusk, Armada Wurm, or whatever—but we are in good enough position then that I don’t want a 4-drop I can’t play in the early game. At that point we could cast anything right? Might as well play either more big fatties or a card that actually has an impact in the early game.
The Future of Return to Rampnica
The deck is promising enough that it is one I’m likely to keep working on. It might turn out to be the deck I play this season, but it is too early to tell on that. I will keep working on the deck and report back in the coming weeks.
Alright, interrupting the good times with some bad news.
There was a time when Epic Experiment would have been good, but that time is not now. Instant/sorcery combo decks are too slow, too fragile, and too inconsistent. This card can’t see itself, can’t see lands, and can’t see creatures. Creatures are really, really good, and something that any deck wants to play.
I hate to say it, but Izzet Experiment is not viable in Standard as a top deck. It might be something you could take to an FNM and do okay with, but it’s not a good use of my time to work on something I don’t think is viable.
Poor Epic Experiment. At least it got tried out. And who knows, maybe someone else will make a winning deck with it, but that’s not going to be me.
The most viable deck of mine from last week was the Izzet Aggro deck featuring all-star Guttersnipe. If I was looking at playing Delver post rotation it would for sure be in a blue red shell. The Izzet cards work really well together to make an aggressive and flexible deck.
Here is my updated list with consideration to Gerry Thompson and Max Tietze, although by this point, Izzet Delver is already becoming a hive mind deck of the community.
Goblin Electromancer is just so good in this deck. He curves into Talrand’s Invocation perfectly, which is much faster and aggressive than Talrand himself would be in this deck.
The card works really well at bringing down the cost of Desperate Ravings, which can let you burn through your deck really quickly.
I think this deck is really, really good, and maybe I am in league with the enemy by helping to develop a deck that I am probably not going to play with in tournaments—but if I know the enemy, I can know how to beat them.
This is actually my #1 gauntlet deck right now. If one of my new brews can’t hang with U/R Delver, it’s out!
I wanted to highlight an idea that came to me via literal little kid Natty Leof through my Facebook feed. The idea is a Junk Frites deck that uses Mulch and Grisly Salvage to set up a quick Craterhoof Behemoth, or other big fatty.
I found the deck inconsistent at reanimating due to the inability to splash for Faithless Looting. Faithless Looting was really important in faciliting old Frites decks. Once more shocklands come out next block to power this mana base plus Faithless Looting, I am going to take a look at this deck more seriously.
If this deck tickles your fancy, you might want to try Lotleth Troll. That card fits with the aggressive plan and works hard at trying to fill Faithless Looting’s hole.
One nice interaction that did come from this deck is Scorned Villager with Gavony Township. Scorned Villager was a staple in Innistrad Block Constructed, and is actually one of the more reasonable ramp options available, despite his weaknesses.
This is a deck I will revisit after Gatecrash.
Burn at the Stake
Although Epic Experiment was an Epic Failure, I still like Burn at the Stake. I worked on a WRb Burn at the Stake deck at the beginning of the summer that turned out to be a little weak, but I think the deck could be viable now.
First of all, I was playing the deck before Krenko’s Command, and that card is really important for making the gears turn. Goblin Rally is also an important piece that represents 12 damage by itself in conjunction with Burn at the Stake.
Finally, shocklands! Yes, people are going to be playing from 18 life now. This isn’t all the time, but the potential difference between six creatures and seven creatures for a lethal Burn at the Stake is huge.
I want to thank Thomas Kuster for messaging me about his version of the deck, which reinspired me to work on it some more. Here is where I am at:
Battle Hymn might look a little unusual but Burn at the Stake is actually kind of hard to cast. Also, we have a lot of things to do with our mana, and an extra 4+ mana goes a long way towards victory.
When giving this deck a spin, look for opportunities to get fateful hour with Gather the Townsfolk. Sometimes you can drop right down to 1 life, untap, Gather, Battle Hymn, Burn at the Stake, pyew pyew pyew. In other words, KAAAMEEEEEHAAAAAAAAMEEEEEE HAAAAAA!!!
When you don’t get Burn at the Stake the deck can win purely on the backs of Intangible Virtue and Vault of the Archangel. The deck is actually pretty reasonable—it is kind of slow and vulnerable to [card bonfire of the damned]Bonfire[/card], but it is consistent, and has a one shot kill that decks can’t always defend from.
My play style has me leaning towards a ramp deck, but this deck is a ton of fun and reasonable. Will this be the deck I play this season? I don’t know, but I am excited to find out.
If you have to pick from this article, definitely build the ramp deck, and definitely build the Delver deck. Both of these decks are strong. If you are looking for something different, build the Burn at the Stake deck. It’s pretty good and attacks from an angle most players won’t be expecting.
Next week I am planning to take a look at the Modern format. [card valakut, the molten pinnacle]Valakut[/card] has been unbanned, and Pro Tour Seattle is coming up, which features the new format. I am going to be working towards my recommendations for the Pro Tour over the next month leading up to this tournament.
Questions! Comments! Think there’s something I missed?