In Magic, there are all these slang terms for what a deck is supposed to do. Ramp decks, for instance, go "big" or go "over the top," meaning they plan on playing bigger things than what you can deal with. A lot of aggro decks attempt to go "under" the opponent, meaning they are too fast to catch up with. Decks like Abzan often are said to go "through" the opponent, meaning they don’t go over or under the opponent, they just kind of power through whatever they do. Siege Rhino isn’t much for finesse. Some decks, like control decks or grindy engine decks, go "long," meaning they drag the game out until their superior endgame can win.
There’s one more classification that crosses my mind, though. It's one you don’t necessarily see that often, but it’s one that is near and dear to my heart ever since Lingering Souls was printed back in Dark Ascension. It’s called going wide. The idea is that you flood the board with many small tokens or creatures, and then you Joe Budden those tokens and Pump it Up. It doesn’t matter that your opponent’s cards are all bigger, or that your creatures can’t trade with theirs in combat—you just overwhelm them by the sheer numbers. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger might be a big baddie, but it still can only block one Goblin token at a time.
It all started here:
Josh Utter-Leyton, 9th place in a MOCS a week ago
What looks on the surface like a fairly normal Atarka Red deck actually has a lot of surprising choices. For one, Josh upped the land count and then added in Pia and Kiran Nalaar. That gives the deck a little more longevity. If your opponent stifles your ground aggression, you can just take to the skies with some Thopter tokens. Pia and Kiran Nalaar also synergizes well with both Reckless Bushwacker and Atarka’s Command. Post-board, you can surprise them by sideboarding in Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, a card they are likely not prepared for.
Then, this beauty happened:
Cloute24, 5-0 in a Magic Online League
This list basically took all the sweet things from Josh’s deck and jammed them all into the main deck. I started to test some with this deck, and it only took a few matches before I was hooked.
My Current List
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is absurd. What started as a sideboard card in Josh’s deck is now a 4-of in the main deck and not only that, but it's easily the best card in the deck. It’s hard to fully appreciate just how good Nissa is without playing her, but I am blown away by how powerful she is. It makes sense that the -2 ability would be strong with prowess creatures and a lot of token generators. What may not be obvious, and it certainly wasn’t to me at first, is just how great the +1 ability is and how easy it is to ultimate her.
Decks like Mardu, Mardu Green, or Jeskai Black have a really hard time attacking through a Plant token every turn. They usually have only a handful of creatures in play at a time, sometimes just one or none. Sometimes you have to plant your feet and play a little defense against those strategies—thankfully, I know just the card for the job. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.
The endless swarm of Plant tokens will hold off their Shambling Vent advances long enough to tick Nissa all the way up to 7. Plants vs. Zombies never felt so real. Then you can draw a bunch of cards, gain a bunch of life, and turn the tables on them.
Against decks that play Crackling Doom I almost always tick up Nissa exclusively. They have to expend so many resources to keep her from going ultimate that they usually end up losing to the rest of your cards in the meantime. Ticking down just makes you vulnerable to losing her to a Crackling Doom and those decks play so much removal and have so much life gain that even having a bunch of 2/2 Goblins isn’t game-breaking against them.
Generally speaking, I cast Nissa on turn 3 over almost anything else. I’d rather Nissa than Hordeling Outburst, for example, except in matchups where I desperately have to race. Even then, Nissa on 3 is still better. You get to tick up once, make a Plant, and then tick down twice over the next two turns, which deals quite a bit of damage, especially if you have something like a Reckless Bushwhacker or Atarka’s Command to seal the deal.
The sideboard allows for us to transition into a bigger deck. You can add in a 24th land, cut out Pia and Kiran Nalaars, and bring in Thunderbreak Regent, Sarkhan the Dragonspeaker, and Goblin Dark-Meme-Dwellers and just go bigger. Goblin Dark-Dwellers with Roast is a phenomenal combo against Abzan. There’s nothing quite as savory as Roasted Rhino.
Dark-Dwellers is so good. Seriously. All the spells in this deck are great to flash back. You can use Dark-Dwellers to rebuild a board with Hordeling Outburst, kill a creature with Roast, Fiery Impulse, and Outnumber, or even have it serve as extra copies of Atarka’s Command to blast them that way.
What I love most about this deck is the surprise factor. Win a quick game 1 and game 2 you see a bunch of Arashin Clerics and Radiant Flames. While those cards are still fine against you, they don’t match up that well against Dark-Dwellers and Thunderbreak Regents. I had a game where my opponent was over 40 life after a Radiant Flames with Soulfire Grand Master combo. I won that game very easily by simply grinding them out with Nissa, Dark-Dwellers and the like. This deck isn’t an aggressive deck. It’s more of a midrange deck that can win the game really fast. The deck is powerful, fast, and resilient.
But most of all, the deck is just plain fun.