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Breaking Through – Being Erratic

Whenever a new set comes out, I find the biggest risk, highest reward cards and gravitate to them. At the end of the day, consistency is king in Magic, but high risk strategies do have their time and place. There is always a cap to how risky you can get, but there are also ways to reduce that risk in a meaningful way.

For example, how many of us would play with a card that was simply, “heads you win, tails you lose”? Probably not many, because not only is that high risk, but it also isn’t much fun. The type of risk I am talking about are those cards that require a great deal of commitment and support to deliver the payoff. For example, remember back to [card]Puresteel Paladin[/card].

[draft]Puresteel Paladin[/draft]

On the surface, we have a 2/2 for 2 mana, which is about as far from risky as you can be, so what made this card qualify as risky? Well, the strategy built around the Paladin was so heavily invested in a turn 2 Paladin that without it the deck would fail miserably. If you stuck a turn 2 Paladin and he lived, the deck could do explosive and unfair things, but if your Paladin died, or you never drew it, you were playing 1/1 Germs for two mana.

Compare this to a card like [card]Garruk Relentless[/card]. Is Garruk good? Yep. Is there a chance not drawing Garruk would lead to your deck not functioning properly? Probably not. Cards like Puresteel Paladin require a larger devotion of deck space because they are build-around-me cards.

Dragon’s Maze has a lot of these build-around-me cards. Some, like [card]Possibility Storm[/card], are a little more quirky than they are powerful while others, like [card]Beck // Call[/card], have extremely powerful applications. Today, I want to talk about the various [card]Erratic Explosion[/card] variants that exist in Dragon’s Maze and explore their possibilities.

History Lesson

Some of you out there might not have a clue what an [card]Erratic Explosion[/card] variant is, so allow me to explain. At the time, the most popular strategy for the card was to put [card]Draco[/card] on top of your deck somehow and Explosion the opponent for 16 damage. Now, 16 is obviously not 20, so additional burn spells or help from your opponent’s fetchlands were needed, but it was generally game ending.

If you peruse the Dragon’s Maze file at all, you see a lot of these scaling effects similar to that of Erratic Explosion. While they may not be the same card, they abuse metrics that you do not need to invest mana in, making them potentially very strong. With Erratic Explosion, the average number you hit probably comes out to 2 or 3 so if you manage to find a way to increase that to 16, you are likely not paying for that spike in power at nearly the same rate that you should be.

16 damage probably costs about thirteen or fourteen mana based on common standards. Erratic Explosion costs three mana, so unless the setup you are investing in (in getting Draco on top of your deck) adds up to some 10 or 11 mana, you are getting a discounted deal. That is exactly what the following cards offer as well:

[draft]Blast of Genius
Morgue Burst
Flesh // Blood[/draft]

Normally, it would be above average for a set to have a single Erratic Explosion in it, let alone three. If you remember back to Rise of the Eldrazi, I was pretty invested in [card]Explosive Revelation[/card]. Emrakul was in the same set, so it seemed like the perfect time to relive Draco-Explosion. Well, the combo and the format were not as friendly as I would have hoped and the deck never did anything. Hopefully, one of the above three cards does though, because having a little combo in your life just feels right!

Speed Vs. Consistency

Ah, the age-old debate. Generally, these two metrics have been pitted against each other. Occasionally, a deck comes that is both fast and consistent, and it tends to be the best deck—but usually, as the speed of a deck increases, the less consistent it becomes.

Now remember that earlier we were talking about the appeal of Erratic Explosion is saving so much mana for the effect. The cost you are paying is not just 3 mana (unless you are extremely lucky), because usually some other cards or abilities need to be involved to make sure you get your desired result.

So, at first glance, you might look at [card]Blast of Genius[/card] or [card]Morgue Burst[/card] and scoff at the six-mana price tag, but think about it a little more. Erratic Explosion gave you output for 3 mana and a card, but the input was technically random. Neither Blast of Genius nor Morgue Burst are random. You might be paying a little more mana, but you are paying for both input and output; you are paying for consistency.

In order to achieve the same result as Blast of Genius, in addition to Erratic Explosion you would need to cast [card]Sift[/card] and likely a [card]Brainstorm[/card] to ensure Draco is sitting on top. That is at least 3 cards and 8 mana. You could argue that Erratic Explosion could win as soon as turn 3, which is fair, but in order to do that reliably, you need so much additional set up that will likely occupy your turn 3, 4, and 5 anyway. So, despite the fact that your card is technically cheaper, you are likely not assembling the combo any faster with that advantage.

On turn 6, when I cast Blast of Genius, I only need to make sure one thing is true and that is that Draco is my hand or top 3 cards of my deck. Compare that to the task of making sure Draco is exactly the top spell of your deck, and 3 additional mana is nothing.

Morgue Burst is a little different in that you do not get the card advantage you do with Blast, but you get 100% confidence in your output. There is no guesswork or crossing of the fingers. If you target Draco in your ‘yard, you will be doing 16 damage. Getting creatures into your ‘yard is much easier than getting them on top of your deck as well, so this is also probably worth the three additional mana.

Boom Goes the Dynamite

Naturally, when you’re interested in using any of these types of cards effectively, you want to have good knowledge of the best rate plays you can make with them. In other words, know your boom booms! I am not excited by discarding [card]Izzet Charm[/card] to Blast of Genius. Is it a valid play, sure, but I want to be the guy flipping Draco over.

For Blast of Genius, the set of cards that you want to be discarding is rather simple to nail down. The card cares about the converted mana cost, and that is something that (usually) cannot change about a card. So, with a quick browse through Gatherer, here are some of the cards that work well with Blast.

[draft]Army of the Damned[/draft] [card]Army of the Damned[/card]: Dealing 8 damage is nice, and Army has the additional benefit of still being a spell in your ‘yard for later. This is the most expensive flashback spell and could be a decent choice.

[draft]Blasphemous Act[/draft] [card]Blasphemous Act[/card]: The big draw here is that you have a 9-mana spell in your deck without actually having a 9 mana spell. Blast of Genius can fit nicely into a control shell less dedicated to combo shenanigans, and this might be the best pairing for the card there.

[draft]Enter the Infinite[/draft] [card]Enter the Infinite[/card]: Quite simply the most expensive card in Standard, so it offers the most pure damage potential. Obviously you need to weigh if having the access to 12 damage is worth having a useless card otherwise, but I am sure some will conclude that answer is yes.

[draft]Ghoultree[/draft] [card]Ghoultree[/card]: This guy is interesting because, again, we have a card that usually costs less than what is printed in the upper right-hand corner. This also works well with Morgue Burst, so we will be talking about it again in the near future. Essentially, if you wanted to run [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] in creature form, this is your tree.

[draft]Worldspine Wurm[/draft] [card]Worldspine Wurm[/card]: While this is a little bit cheaper than [card]Enter the Infinite[/card], it is both a creature (which could matter if you find a way to cheat it into play) and it has a recursive element. In other words, a single Worldspine Wurm could be discarded, tutored up, and discarded again to win the game. 12 damage from Enter the Infinite does not change the traditional clock, and yet in that world, you would need two total copies of the card in your deck. If you decide you are running four copies of either card, this might not matter, but an extra copy can make the difference if you don’t.

If you look at Morgue Burst on the other hand, the set of cards it works best with can be a bit tricky to figure out. While you can look up things that cost 8 or more in Gatherer, looking up power does not quite tell the same story. Power is a variable number that can be different at different times. Here are a few examples I found:

[draft]Ghoultree[/draft] [card]Ghoultree[/card]: This guy actually has the highest printed stats in Standard at the moment, which I found alarming. He just so happens to work with graveyard-based strategies already, making him especially appealing here, because he could be 10 to the face or he could be a one-mana 10/10.

[draft]Griselbrand[/draft] [card]Griselbrand[/card]: While only hitting for 7 damage with Morgue Burst, this is likely the best creature in the format to actually reanimate.

[draft]Splinterfright
Boneyard Wurm[/draft] [card]Splinterfright[/card]/[card]Boneyard Wurm[/card]: These are the guys I was alluding to earlier when I said finding the best creature can be tough because power is dynamic. These would not have shown up in any Gatherer search for big power creatures, but they offer potentially the biggest amount of damage. Basically, if you get 20 creatures in your graveyard, which is a task that should be made simpler considering you were already looking to get at least 1 specific creature, then drawing a [card]Morgue Burst[/card] becomes lethal. And, if the ruling is the same as [card]Golgari Grave Troll[/card] was, this will count itself as one of the creatures in your graveyard. Grave Troll would get the +1/+1 counter from counting itself in the graveyard despite now being in play, which is where I draw that logic from, but let me know in the comments if that is incorrect.

Wrap Up

Standard is unfortunately not a big priority for me right now, with a Modern GP and a Block Pro Tour both fast approaching, but I definitely want to try out some of these strategies when Standard rolls around. Right now I just have random notes and scribbles about the deck, but actually playing some games at some point sounds fun. If anyone remembers my Emrakul + Explosive Revelations videos, I hope to do much of the same! Thanks for reading!

Conley Woods

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