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Rogue Report – Wake Up and Smell the Eldrazi

 

Damn it feels good to be a deckbuilder.

I’ve finally started building random wild decks again. The last meaningful constructed season, Extended, had some fun things going on (like Gifts Ungiven piles) but the format was so powerful that you didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver. Sure there were fun ways to attack both Zoo and Dark Depths, like the BW Smallpox deck that made the top eight of Grand Prix Houston, but the restraints on deckbuilding were still intense. If you couldn’t survive a turn one Thoughtseize, which a lot of my crazy decks couldn’t, you probably weren’t going to do very well.

Sure, Standard has its own monsters that have been tearing up the early Magic Online PTQs. Both Jund and UW have been dominating the pre-Rise field. Hopefully the Eldrazi come equipped with enough tools and toys to help us out.

There’s one toy I can’t help but put into every one of my decks lately. I keep finding myself messing around with green cards and tokens, so you know what that means

 

Awakening Zone 

I was going to write about some random decks I’ve been building lately, but I wasn’t sure how to frame the article. I looked at them to see what they had in common, and literally all five of them had Awakening Zone and I just hadn’t even noticed before. My point is that it’s not like I sat down intending to write an Awakening Zone article; the card just crept into every one of my decks! I’m beginning to think this card might be legitimate.

So, where to start?

First, Some Fun

The following decklist isn’t going to win any awards soon, but it was the first place I started. The deck actually sprouted from a recent Rise of the Eldrazi draft deck I had where I cast Shared Discovery three times in one turn (thanks, Mnemonic Wall!). I wondered if the wannabe Ancestral Recall could possibly keep some green creature deck fueled.

I did a Gatherer search to see if Rise had any other cards that could support this green + blue strategy that will probably be filled with a bunch of cheap cards. That’s when I saw Unified Will. This is a card that I never would have looked at had I not been thinking in terms of Shared Discovery. I look at a card like this and wrinkle my nose. However, once I saw Unified Will I knew I had a theory. Deprive also fit right into this deck, as I was likely going to have creatures that made mana anyway, so bouncing the land wouldn’t be much of a problem.

When a new set comes sometimes you just have to try the silly strategies. It’s a pretty low investment of time and effort to throw a deck like this together and play a few games. It probably won’t work, but if it does you’re in a great spot. After playing about a dozen games, this is where I last left the list:

 

The mana is not great, but with Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch it usually works itself out. Eldrazi Temple is kind of a gamble, but when it works it’s pretty cool. There are games where you look dominating by chaining some Nest Invaders into Shared Discoveries, all while you Unified Will the relevant spells they play.

There were two walls I ran into that stopped me from going down this road. There were obstacles I hit that I couldn’t see getting around easily, and my time and effort would be better spent elsewhere. First, Shared Discovery is juuuuust awkward enough not to be very good. Four creatures is a lot more than three creatures, and it’s not hard to fall short. Even when you do get to Shared Discovery, it’s often on the same turn that you played a creature. That means that you tapped your land for creatures, and your creatures for your spell. That means you often don’t have counterspell mana open the turn you Shared Discovery. Since the creatures you’re tapping make mana, it’s almost as if Shared Discovery costs more like 2U to cast, which while good, isn’t actually worth all the work.

The second reason I walked away from Unified Will was Earthquake. This strategy gets so utterly demolished by Earthquake. It’s pretty depressing when it happens. Sure you can counter it, but that shows the general weakness with the deck. The counterspells don’t work with the rest of the deck at all, so if you get a hand of no counterspells, your deck gets pretty well destroyed by mass removal. Then, if you do draw a hand with some counterspells, they aren’t advancing your strategy so you end up doing a lot of nothing.

This deck was teaching me about the Eldrazi, though. Testing with a spread helped me see which ones I liked. Fifteen mana is a lot more than ten mana. I think Kozilek is going to end up being the best Eldrazi, though the Artisan is also pretty awesome.

Stepping on Conley’s Toes

Our own Conley Woods wrote a Polymorph article a few days ago, so I don’t want to go too in-depth on the strategy, but I wanted to touch on a version of the deck I have been messing around with. While playing it I even got the feeling of “I shouldn’t show this to anybody because it’s too good,” but ultimately I know I’m just kidding myself. I’ve had much more success when I share my lists with people than when I don’t. Now that I’ve sufficiently hyped this list far beyond what it deserves, here you go:

You may be noticing a trend – I also like Ancient Stirrings. After finally playing the card in Limited I’ve fallen in love. The card is seriously legit – it grabs lands! More on why I like this spell later, but I really like it in this deck because of the synergies I’ve run into with Halimar Depths and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in that it’s kind of like a shuffle effect. Meanwhile, it helps you dig for cards that matter to you like Khalni Garden or an Eldrazi.

That’s also what I’m trying to do with this version of Polymorph: actually cast my morph targets. The better strategy might be the way of the Woods with See Beyond shuffling your fatties back into the deck, but I have larger ambitions. When Polymorph just doesn’t work out I’m going to go long and toss a Hail Mary to the Michael Jordan of Eldrazi deep in left field. (I believe this is the only sports reference I’ve ever made in my writing. Riki and Zaiem will be proud. Go team that we like!)

Once again, Eldrazi Temple sometimes just gets in the way, but it’s more necessary here when you’re trying to get to fifteen mana. You need all the help you can get at that point. Everflowing Chalice is what makes this whole thing possible, though I do want to let you in on a little secret. Again, I had the urge to keep this secret, but I’m sure people are talking about it in other places anyway. What I’m trying to say is,

Garruk can untap Eldrazi Temple.

 

Eldrazi Temple 

Holey bologna Batman! Now THAT’S what I call mana! If you can get Garruk and two Eldrazi Temples going, you now have eight Eldrazi mana just between those two lands. Eight! Add in the other two mana you had to have to cast Garruk, and you’re just a hop away from a Kozilek. This is a strategy that deserves more looking into beyond any Polymorph shenanigans.

Speaking of PMS (see what I did there?) I want to take this moment to talk about my relationship with rogue decks. I often get people coming up to me, especially when a new set comes out, and saying “you’re going to love my deck I built around (card X)!” While I’m genuinely interested in seeing what craziness they have going on, the rogue decks I’ve really enjoyed in the past have all been built around an inherently powerful card. I don’t often take Archmage Ascension and jump through a bunch of hoops to make it work. To try to better explain myself, here’s a list of some of the rogue combinations I’ve really liked:

Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, and reanimation (Makeshift Mannequin eventually, though I started with just straight-up and illegal Zombify)
Mishra, Epochrasite, Coalition Relic, and Triskelavus
Gifts Ungiven, Reveillark, and two-power creatures
Scapeshift, Steppe Lynx, and Knight of the Reliquary
Nantuko Husk, Caller of the Claw and Wirewood Herald, or Promise of Bunrei and Orzhov Pontiff

The thing about my combos is that the less I’m building around a single card the better off my decks tend to be. For example, the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite combo deck I played was full of synergy beyond the combo. Kiki-Jiki was good with any other creature (and pretty insane with Reveillark) and Reveillark was good with Trinket Mage and friends. Even the worst card in the deck, Pestermite, worked well in a deck with Gifts Ungiven, Mana Leak, and Thirst for Knowledge, and had just the right mix of disruption and aggression to actually work beyond the combo.

So while I can really appreciate the Pyromancer’s Ascension deck or the Enduring Ideal deck, it’s not really my style.

That’s why I feel so weird playing around with Polymorph. Traditionally I have hated this card. The idea of playing a combo deck that is all in on one card that is countered by instant speed removal, not to mention traditional counterspells, makes me sick. This is also why I originally despised the Vampire Hexmage and Dark Depths combo – each card is pretty terrible on its own, and there’s very little synergy with these cards outside the combo. It’s not like your Dark Depths was doing anything outside of Vampire Hexmage besides the incidental combo with thirty unused mana.

Except that sometimes, despite what my feelings tell me, these combos end up working. Sometimes they even end up being really good, and I don’t see them coming because I don’t like the idea from the start. Which is pretty sad for a “rogue” deckbuilder – I couldn’t even appreciate a 20/20 on turn two. So that’s why I’m now trying to open my eyes to a 15/15 on turn 4.

The World is Better than Ever

With (black rare from the new set) Mono-Black Control is back everybody! I hear this every time a new set comes out, and I’m sick and tired of it. I was listening to the Top8Magic podcast and I heard BDM suggest than maybe with Consuming Vapors, Mono-Black Control can be a real deck again. This was literally ten seconds after Mike Flores just finished explaining how, unlike Tendrils of Corruption, Consuming Vapors does not have to go into a mono-black deck. Yet, for some reason, even good sane people have this tendency to think in terms of Mono-Black Control for no reason. A part of people just think that, because the deck was good in the past, the strategy might work again, even though there is no incentive to just run Swamps! I’ve never heard anybody say, upon the revealing of a good new black card, that “Blue/Black Control is back!” even though we’ve had multiple seasons with a good Blue/Black Control deck. People just want Mono-Black to work so much.

The same thing happens every time we get a new Anarchist. Warp World is back! Hey Nucklavee, thanks for making Warp World a contender! Except that Warp World has never really been a contender. It’s always had the same problems. What happens if you don’t draw Warp World? What happens if they counter or make you discard Warp World? What happens if they kill you before you Warp World? What happens if they cast Wrath of God before you Warp World? Heck, what happens if you actually make your position worse after casting Warp World?

That’s why I was not at all excited about Mnemonic Wall bringing back Warp World, and I knew I would never touch the deck. It just can’t work. It hasn’t worked in the past, so there’s no reason it should work now.

Except that we’ve never had a set this incredibly good for the card Warp World before. Seriously, I’m trying to find the words to describe what this set did for Warp World without being disrespectful. Warp World likes a card that can turn into multiple permanents on the board all by itself. Warp World likes mana. Warp World likes cards that are meaningful post-Warp World. Warp World, meet Eldrazi spawn.

Spawn tokens do everything you want in this deck. They accelerate you into Warp World while the extra ones turn in to permanents. We’ve got a whole class of cards like Kozilek’s Predator and Emrakul’s Hatchling that are just dying to find a Warp World. And find one they did:

Again, Awakening Zone finds its way right into a deck. I really like the Zone in this deck because it’s a way to affect the board without being threatened more by a Day of Judgment.

You’ll also notice this is my second list so far with Eldrazi Monument. I was trying to solve the problem of not drawing Warp World, and often times getting an Eldrazi Monument to stick is just as good. The card is incredibly powerful. You also get the added bonus of it putting you into an much better position post-Warp World, especially if your opponent hits a Baneslayer Angel or Sphinx of Jwar Isle. It’s cards like Eldrazi Monument that make me think this time things could be different. This time the Warp World deck might actually be competitive.

Kozilek serves almost as a second Warp World. He’s not as good, and you’ll find that you can still lose games after casting an Eldrazi, but he’s still pretty awesome. Balancing the manabase to fit in Eldrazi Temple while still being able to hit RRR consistently (because nothing is worse than being in a perfect Warp World position but being short red) is important.

I am currently playing without Mnemonic Wall. I’m finding that just casting a Warp World once puts you so far ahead that there’s no reason to keep it going. Hitting an Eldrazi Monument has to be just straight-up better than hitting a Mnemonic Wall anyway. However, if you wanted to add Mnemonic Wall, then it’s easy to just add an Island for your saclands. Also, if you go that route and you want to be fancy, try playing a [card]Kazandu Refuge[/card]. Infinite Warp Worlds = infinite life!

I also think there’s another version of this deck that looks mire like Eldrazi green, but with red mana. The Eldrazi Spawn makers become better overall creatures like Master of the Wild Hunt and Siege-Gang Commander. I think you have to lose the big-mana Eldrazi plan, but Warp World is probably still devastating in that deck. It’s worth a shot.

All Together Now

So what have we learned so far? Awakening Zone is good. Eldrazi Temple and Eldrazi are good. Ancient Stirrings is good. What happens when you put all these things together into a shell that’s already proven itself to be somewhat effective?

Finally, a true Eldrazi green deck! Eldrazi Green hasn’t seen much success lately, but anytime somebody talks about the deck you hear about how Eldrazi Monument is their best card. This deck gets crushed in certain matchups, except for the games it has Eldrazi Monument. This is where Ancient Stirrings come in. The card does wonders for this deck by greatly increasing your chances of finding an Eldrazi Monument.

Toss in some Eldrazi and now you can even find threats with Ancient Stirrings. I’ve found that the Eldrazi creature strategy works really well in this deck because there’s hardly a better outlet for your mana than a Kozilek. The deck can hit hard from so many angles with rough beaters like Leatherback Baloth and Master of the Wild Hunt, board-breakers like Eldrazi Monument, and game-crushers like the Eldrazi. I’ve got the four-way split to see which ones I like, though with only one Eye of Ugin you’re probably better off just sticking with one or two choices.

I know this list is far from ideal (3 Leatherback Baloth can’t be right) and there are cards that are unfortunately missing (like Momentous Fall) but this list has been doing things I like. I think an Ancient Stirrings-fueled Eldrazi green deck is going to be very competitive come Standard PTQs. I’m not sure if the Eldrazi monster plan is worth it, but the green base is so hard-hitting and powerful that I’m convinced there are some combinations of cards that will work.

The All You Can Eat Zone

So there you have it, a smorgasbord of decklists featuring some shiny new toys. These lists aren’t perfect yet, but I like where the ideas are going. Will the standard metagame allow Awakening Zone to have its day? I sure hope so. The card is very powerful and lets you do some pretty crazy things. Then again, if people start playing more Earthquakes then I might be sad casting Noble Hierarch on turn one.

Maybe it’s time for me to build some non-green decks for a change. We’ve got a PTQ season and Regionals coming up fast, so I better hustle. Hopefully we’ll find a way to take the big dogs, Jund and UW, down with style. Here’s hoping you can feel the joy of untapping Eldrazi Temple with Garruk.

Thanks for reading,

Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on Twitter
Zygonn on Magic Online

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