Before I hit you with the sick tech (but not really too sick, just sick enough to be interesting, lets be honest) can I just announce my hatred for the name “[card]Turn to Frog[/card]”? I just sure hope it never gets cast on my [card]Elite Vanguard[/card], ahem, my “Man with Sword.”
Anyway, back into the land of no-rants, it is about time we talked about some Standard ideas. Lately we have been going over some principles of deck building, but have for the most part, eschewed specific lists in favor of more theory driven content. This is not just a coincidence of course. With SCG Seattle, Nationals, the TCGPlayer Invitational, and GP Pittsburgh all within the next month and all focusing on Standard, it is difficult to talk about specific cards or decks when you are not sure what you are going to end up playing and you have a team that may or may not know either. Luckily, the time has come where some of those choices have begun to weed themselves out a bit.
These decks aren’t necessarily bad, but they do lack that finishing touch to propel them into stardom. Maybe it is a building flaw, or maybe the metagame is just slightly off from a point where such a deck could shine, but regardless, the deck eventually moves into the safe zone where there is a higher chance it does not get played than it does. Of course, that open-endedness means that someone other than me can very easily figure out what needs to be changed and then proceed to do so. I can only hope that happens, but in order to get to that point, lets start with a concept.
For most of the time I have been playing competitively, the idea of a stall deck that essentially kept an opponent from winning via the most common of ways, the attack step, has existed in one form or another. There have been loose adaptations of the decks, like Owling Mine, which used just enough disruption to win with its faster, more combo-esque clock, but then there have been slower, more steadfast concepts, where a [card]Howling Mine[/card] and a [card]Gaea’s Blessing[/card] were all you needed to win.
[card]Jace Beleren[/card] offered enough incentive for a “TurboFog” list at one point that happened to get popular a few years ago, and then the most recent successful use of the strategy came at the hands of [card]Tezzeret the Seeker[/card] and [card]Open the Vaults[/card]. Whatever the application specifics though, casting a [card]Fog[/card] has most likely been there and done that.
M12 did not look like the friendliest set for TurboFog effects. [card]Safe Passage[/card] was finally leaving Standard and there was no reprint of [card]Howling Mine[/card] or even [card]Jace Beleren[/card]. These factors, along with a few others, probably pushed the idea out of most people’s minds, had it even entered there in the first place. However, there was one specific card that happened to spark my eye: [card]Rites of Flourishing[/card].
[deck]4 Jace Beleren
4 Rites of Flourishing
4 Temple Bell
4 Archive Trap
3 Blunt the Assault
4 Safe Passage
2 Beast Within
3 Into the Roil
4 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Khalni Garden
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Razorverge Thicket
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Sunpetal Grove
4 Torpor Orb
1 Into the Roil
1 Beast Within
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
2 Creeping Corrosion
1 Nature’s Claim
The Explanation (and much needed it is)
So what does [card]Rites of Flourishing[/card] do for this type of strategy that is so appealing? Well first and foremost, the [card]Howling Mine[/card] effect is obviously one that is greatly desired. [card]Font of Mythos[/card] was powerful enough that it could win games as the only Mine in play, but for the most part, you are looking to get 2 or 3 Mine effects in play to really take over a game. [card]Rites of Flourishing[/card] is just another one to add to the list in that respect, and options are always better for the deck builder.
What Rites does that is more unique though and really allows Green to become a focal color of the strategy (typically TurboFog lists are just UW) is the [card]Exploration[/card] effect. One thing that has constantly plagued Fog lists is that their mana to operate is so commonly stretched by needing to advance their proactive plan of playing more Mine effects or mill cards, while simultaneously staying strong in their reactive plan or having [card]Fog[/card] available during treacherous turns. This often led to a situation where you were not able to play [card]Howling Mine[/card]s, or [card]Font of Mythos[/card], or [card]Jace Beleren[/card], etc, until you also had [card]Fog[/card] back up. If this was even just 2 turns off of when you otherwise could have cast the Mine effect, that was 2 less cards that had been “milled” and 2 less cards deep to find more Fog effects and continue staying comfortable.
Meanwhile, [card]Rites of Flourishing[/card] allows you to immediately go up a land when you play it, which means for a potential turn 4 Mine effect (as they all cost 3 these days) plus 3 available mana which can cast all but your most top end Fog effect. Turn 4 is about the time that Fogs become critical to your survival as well, which makes this sequence all the more important.
Rites can be a little awkward against Valakut, as they are the better ramp deck of course, but with a timely Leyline, even that can be mitigated to a large degree. Speaking of Leyline….
[card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card] is your most important card in match ups that seem strong against [card]Fog[/card] effects in general. Decks like Mono Red or Valakut really need to be able to target you in order to properly play around the Fog effects you have in store. Consider the ability of the card to stop discard spells or even weird things like a [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] from time to time and it begins to be apparent that the card is not quite as niche as it appears. Vampires is a deck that would typically have issues with Fog effects, but due to the power of [card]Kalastria Highborn[/card], they actually have the inevitability in the match up if you do not have access to Leyline of Sanctity.
Of course you can always board it out in match ups where it is not relevant or only mildly irrelevant, but taking game losses to Valakut, MonoRed, or Vampires in game 1 situations is not the best of ideas considering that they will have sideboard options against you to improve the match up further. Unlike most decks that absolutely need a Leyline in their opening hand, this deck can get away with just drawing and casting it at a later point in the game, which is nice. Of course, to justify that you really need a solid hand, but that is a given.
The Fogs are mostly self-explanatory but there are a few interesting things to note about them. [card]Fog[/card] is the most needed one, as 1 mana is just such a huge edge on everything else. [card]Safe Passage[/card] is a card that can stop things like [card]Shrine of Burning Rage[/card] or [card]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/card] for a turn should you not have a Leyline down just yet. This might seem like it doesn’t come up, but because you are OK drawing your Leyline, it actually does quite a bit.
[card]Safe Passage[/card] is not able to protect a Jace, which would seem like an issue, but it actually almost always is beneficial to us. Remember that unlike most Jaces, ours basically always go +2. In addition to that, we are drawing enough cards that we are more than likely going to draw an additional Jace. Once you consider these things, if they are attacking a Jace that has 5, 7, even 9 counters on it, we are essentially getting an additional [card]Fog[/card] effect from our Jace. Of course the ultimate on him is nice, but not getting there is also fine. I think that in testing I probably went ultimate with Jace only 3 or 4 times yet I won many more games than that.
[card]Blunt the Assault[/card] is interesting because it can be something like [card]Stonehorn Dignitary[/card], but the issue with that guy is his poor interaction with so many cards in the format. For example against [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card] he is awkward, as they can sneak in for 4 or more damage that way. Against manlands he allows them to use their mana for other things as opposed to tapping a lot for no gain. Against Splinter Twin, if you play him, they simply choose not to go off in the next turn. And against [card]Captivating Vampire[/card]… OK just kidding. Instead of all of that mess, you have an equally costed card that pulls you out of near-lethal range from burn spells or the like (again, assuming no Leyline in play, which really does solve a lot of these problems), is solid against manlands and Splinter Twin, and after the second copy is cast, essentially gives you a 3 Fog effect for the cost of 2 type of scenario.
[card]Into the Roil[/card] and [card]Beast Within[/card] are both nods to things like Splinter Twin or other problematic permanents (the [card Leyline of Punishment]Red Leyline[/card] comes to mind, even if no one plays it). The numbers on these two catch-alls can certainly be switched, but the [card]Into the Roil[/card]s were intended to give you a play on turn 2 that bought a little time while still being fine later in the game. [card]Beast Within[/card] is a better card in this list in general, as it has minimal downside, but it does cost 3 mana which is where the majority of your curve begins anyway. Still, those 5 or so slots can certainly be adapted as you see fit.
[card]Archive Trap[/card] is an interesting card in that it is not 100% necessary but adds value to your deck in very tangible ways. If you look at the construction of the deck, theoretically you could just wait out an opponent who is drawing 3 or 4 cards a turn until they eventually deck themselves. However, once things like removal spells for your enchantments, or the very real possibility of you running out of Fog effects enters the picture, you need a way to tilt the scales further. One option is to abuse a card like [card]Elixir of Immortality[/card], but my issue with that is that when you are operating on all cylinders, it is good, but outside of that, it is pretty lousy against non-Red decks. [card]Archive Trap[/card] on the other hand, can randomly lead to early wins against a deck like Valakut by either randomly stripping enough Mountains, Valakuts, or Primeval Titans from their deck, or another scenario that could come up is just drawing 3 [card]Archive Trap[/card]s which should beat just about any deck in combination with your Howling Mines.
[card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card] was in the list for quite a while to add support to this milling concept, but it was eventually deemed too clunky. Five mana is a lot to spend when you are required to leave open Fog so often and unlike little Jace, he is harder to replace and does not tick up in loyalty when executing the game plan you want to see happen. In addition, if you have a little Jace in play, because it is almost never dying, you have to actually play a second Jace just to legend rule your first one BEFORE casting the Memory Adept so that it can actually stick, which is not the greatest use of mana or cards.
The lands seem pretty simple to gauge with really only [card]Khalni Garden[/card] being the land that does something besides make mana and its purpose is pretty blunt. As for the sideboard, it is by no means finalized, but it needs to shore up various issues like [card]Acidic Slime[/card], combo decks, and burn based aggro decks. None of those are unwinnable in game 1, but supplementing our answers to it seems better than not.
The Hand Off
I think this deck is certainly viable and in the right configuration could be quite good. My issue with it is that I do not have it to the level that I would feel comfortable with for something like Nationals and I do not have the time to dedicate to only it while I let decks with even more potential sit on the shelf gathering dust. Given infinite time though, I do think Turbofog is well enough positioned in this metagame to be a real contender.
Hopefully, someone out there has his or her interest sparked and can take the torch that I, as well as many more I am sure, have lit in this instance. I am sure there are forums with excited builders discussing this idea, looking for that one missing piece. Maybe I found it but missed something else, or maybe both parties have glossed over it, but regardless, this is a different style of deck that could end up being really good with the right TLC.
I will see everyone in Seattle this weekend should you be out here. Chances are I won’t be able to beat a Fog deck, so if you play me… do the right thing! (Just kidding). Alright, good luck to everyone battling around the world this weekend and good luck with the deck!