[card]Life from the Loam[/card] provides an interesting engine to base a deck around.

At Worlds 2011 in San Francisco, Shuhei Nakamura went 6-0 in the Modern part of the tournament with this four colour Gifts deck:

[deck]1 Blood Crypt
1 Breeding Pool
1 Darkslick Shores
1 Forest
2 Graven Cairns
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
1 Tectonic Edge
2 Twilight Mire
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave
2 Eternal Witness
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 All Suns’ Dawn
1 Consuming Vapors
2 Damnation
1 Doom Blade
1 Duress
2 Engineered Explosives
4 Gifts Ungiven
1 Go for the Throat
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Life from the Loam
3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Punishing Fire
1 Raven’s Crime
1 Rude Awakening
1 Smother
2 Thirst for Knowledge
Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Combust
1 Extirpate
1 Obstinate Baloth
2 Seal of Primordium
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Thoughtseize[/deck]

This is no longer Modern legal, due to [card]Punishing Fire[/card] having been subsequently banned. Before the bannings I built a copy of the deck and had played a bunch of matches with it. Enough matches to learn that I loved it! Whilst the Gift packages available in the deck were strong, my favourite aspect was [card]Life from the Loam[/card] to get [card]Punishing Fire[/card]/[card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] online, as well as using [card]Worm Harvest[/card]. After the bannings I shelved the deck as it mostly used the Fire/Grove engine to win.

Enter Bronson Magnan at GP Lincoln with his new deck which used Life from the Loam as a powerful engine to win. Well, I had to get in on that.

I acquired a copy of the deck, made a few tweaks, and played it two weeks ago in a PTQ. My list can be found here.

My changes from Bronson’s list were small. I added in a [card]Horizon Canopy[/card], as this provides some small protection from [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] as you can Dredge the target Loam in response to the spell. Additionally, as I found when playing, it allows you to kill you opponent just that little bit quicker once you have Loam/Assault online by getting to cast Loam twice in a turn.

I included [card]Faithless Looting[/card] because it just seems made for the deck. You get to cycle through your deck searching for [card]Seismic Assault[/card] while pitching stuff in your graveyard for future use such as [card]Flame Jab[/card] and Loam. The cuts I made for this were the fourth [card]Raven’s Crime[/card], the third [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] and a Land.

I lost my win and in round to make top 8 but felt very pleased with how the deck performed overall. However, I knew I wanted to make some changes. LSV had already begun this process by removing the [card]Countryside Crusher[/card]s and I had to agree with this change. The Crushers are okay but not stellar. What I really wanted to included was the fourth [card]Seismic Assault[/card]. LSV argues against this because, correctly, the second copy really is a dead card, and instead running an [card]Eternal Witness[/card] as the “fourth” copy. However, you basically always win games when you have [card]Seismic Assault[/card] so you really want to see it. With the addition of [card]Faithless Looting[/card]s to the list I felt I could afford to go up the extra copy, especially when I added the fourth Looting into the mix.

I wanted the third [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] back in the deck. The fourth Crusher slot was taken by [card]Worm Harvest[/card]. I had initially wanted to put this card in the deck after seeing Bronson play the deck but got talked out of it. Then LSV talked me back into it.

I made another small change to the mana-base, by removing the [card]Bojuka Bog[/card]. I never got utility from it as a Graveyard Removal spell, it only produces Black mana and comes into play tapped! I did, however, want access to a second [card]Stomping Ground[/card] as you always want be able to get a Red mana source for the [card]Seismic Assault[/card]s. The deck is very mana intensive and ideally you want to get {B}{B}, {R}{R}{R} and {G} from just three or four lands.

My sideboard changes were again small but meaningful. [card]Darkblast [/card]just didn’t seem that great against the field. Good against Affinity, but that matchup is already very strong with a lot of sideboard hate. Jund, however, remained a problem, having the fourth [card]Seismic Assault[/card] in the deck would help but I was also looking for some sideboard slots for [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card].

Otherwise I upgraded the [card]Go for the Throat[/card]s to [card]Terminate[/card]s now I had my copies back and put in a [card]Deathmark [/card]for pesky [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s where the [card]Worm Harvest[/card] used to be.

After all was said and done here is the list I ran at a PTQ last weekend:

[deck]4 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Forest
2 Ghost Quarter
3 Graven Cairns
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Lavaclaw Reaches
2 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Dark Confidant
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Faithless Looting
3 Flame Jab
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Life from the Loam
3 Raven’s Crime
4 Seismic Assault
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Worm Harvest
Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Deathmark
2 Jund Charm
2 Nature’s Claim
2 Obstinate Baloth
2 Terminate
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Torpor Orb[/deck]

How did it go?

Pretty well. I lost in the semi-finals. A rather unfortunate chain of events result in me losing what is probably a favourable matchup to a Modern style caw-blade list.

This deck is incredible strong with outs to many situations and a powerful win condition. I want to spend some time talking about some of the matchups I have played in the last two weeks, how to board and what makes the game good for you.

Affinity

I have played against this deck four times now. It is a very popular deck. Which makes it even better that this is one of the strongest matchups. Game 1 is very dependant on you finding an early [card]Flame Jab[/card] or [card]Seismic Assault[/card] to keep the pesky robots under control. After boarding you bring in 8 cards! Affinity gets so much splash hate from the sideboard it’s surreal. The match is still losable to an [card]Etched Champion[/card] so try to stem the blood loss from your own mana-base. Other than that you should be good to go. I rate this matchup about 70-30 in favour of Loam.

Take out:

[draft]3 Raven’s Crime
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Faithless Looting
1 Dark Confidant
1 Worm Harvest
1 Life from the Loam[/draft]

Bring in:

[draft]2 Ancient Grudge
2 Nature’s Claim
2 Jund Charm
2 Obstinate Baloth[/draft]

If they are not running [card]Etched Champion[/card] you can cut the other two [card liliana of the veil]Lilianas [/card]for [card]Terminate[/card]s.

Splinter Twin

Splinter Twin is the most popular combo deck at the moment and another good matchup. An early [card]Seismic Assault[/card] Game 1 will stop them from assembling their combo. The other major plan is to [card]Raven’s Crime[/card] their hand away, although this can take some time due to all their spells cantripping.

If you are cunning you can use [card]Raven’s Crime[/card] to force the [card]Pestermite [/card]out in your main phase so it can be killed by a [card]Flame Jab[/card].

I have played this particular matchup three times and put it about 60-40 in favour of Loam (though I actually have 100% against it but it feel very tense and very close so I’m not prepared to go above 60 for this estimate)

Take out:

[draft]3 Liliana of the Veil
3 Flame Jab
1 Faithless Looting
1 Worm Harvest[/draft]

Bring in:

[draft]2 Nature’s Claim
2 Terminate
2 Torpor Orb
2 Jund Charm[/draft]

Delver

There are many flavours of this deck. With the RUG version the difficult card to deal with is [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], but [card]Terminate [/card]and [card]Death Mark[/card] out of the board should help easy this match to victory. Most of the other creatures die to [card]Flame Jab[/card] and [card]Seismic Assault[/card] with ease.

The RUW version is trickier as they often run [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] which can cause a headache. Inquisition and Liliana are the best ways to stop this but [card]Tarmogoyf [/card]blocks pretty well. The other problem that some of these decks present is [card]Isochron Scepter[/card] with a [card]Lightning Helix[/card] attached. This is incredibly hard to race. Interestingly you get to play mind games during boarding as if they played the Sceptre Game 1 they will often board it out making [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] useless. Of course then you can go to the next level and your mind explodes.

All Delver matchups want Thrun to come in as they can’t interact with him which makes him a good road-block and finisher.

Here is some example boarding against the RUW version where I have assumed Sceptre has been boarded out. I would put this match again about 60-40 to Loam.

Take out:

[draft]3 Raven’s Crime
1 Worm Harvest
1 Faithless Looting
1 Life from the Loam[/draft]

Bring in:

[draft]2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Terminate
2 Jund Charm[/draft]

Tron

I haven’t actually played against this in a tournament despite it being a very popular deck. I do have a plan again it though–attacking their hand with [card]Raven’s Crime[/card], [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] and [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] is definitely the right way to go. You can also [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] the Tron pieces for fun and profit! Nut draws aside I envision this going happily in Loams favour.

Take out:

[draft]3 Flame Jab
1 Seismic Assault[/draft]

Bring in:

[draft]2 Jund Charm
2 Thrun, the Last Troll[/draft]

Mirror

I played the mirror for the first time in the quarter finals. As the deck becomes more popular, however, mirror matches will happen more frequently. The two builds were not identical–especially in the sideboard where my Thruns were an important edge. There seem to be two modes for the mirror–either assemble Assault/Loam first or draw more [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s. An awkward one to be sure.

I also had an extended debate with my opponent after the match about whether or not to board out [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]s. I was for taking them out, he was against. If you leave them in her +1 may hit an [card]Obstinate Baloth[/card] which can be really icky but it deals nicely with [card]Tarmogoyf [/card]and any opposing [card thrun, the last troll]Thruns[/card]. On reflection it is probably correct to leave at least two in… but then I did win the match…

Take out:

[draft]3 Raven’s Crime
3 Flame Jab
2 Faithless Looting
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Worm Harvest
1 Inquisition of Kozilek[/draft]

Bring in:

[draft]2 Jund Charm
2 Terminate
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Deathmark
2 Nature’s Claim
2 Obstinate Baloth[/draft]

I hope that has given you a feel for how to board the deck. In summary, out goes the untargetted discard against aggro and out goes the little removal spells against control.

I liked my updated version of the deck. Having the extra [card]Seismic Assault[/card] made the deck more consistent. I still want to make some changes. The [card]Worm Harvest[/card]’s only contribution was to cause me to lose 5 life to Bob. You rarely hit your fourth, let alone your fifth, land drop as [card]Seismic Assault[/card] is hungry. As such I would cut this again, probably putting the 28th land back in. Alternatively I might replace it and a [card]Faithless Looting[/card] for two [card]Terminate[/card]s as answers to big creatures. If you want to chat about ideas for changes to the list stick them in the comments or tweet @onionpixie.

The Top 8 for the PTQ this week was three Caw-Blade decks, two Aggro Loam, one RUG Delver, one Twin and one Mono-Blue Fae. I happen to know, thanks to the power of Twitter, that the PTQ held in Seattle had four, yes four, Aggro Loam decks in the Top 8 and it was won by one of them.

As the deck gets onto more radars more hate will appear. I was initially very concerned about [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] taking out the [card life from the loam]Loams[/card]. But in truth this has now happened to be in two games and in both of those I have gone on to win. With [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and [card]Dark Confidant[/card]s you can happily win a beatdown game. Mass graveyard sweepers like [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] are also annoying but still less so than you’d think. As I have now faced, and beaten, a lot of the hate people are currently running I am far less concerned. The worse thing that has happened to me was a [card]Krosan Grip[/card] on my [card]Seismic Assault[/card].

Given the current state of the meta and the available answers to this deck I will be continuing to run in the foreseeable future and I would heartily recommend you try it out.

If, alternatively, you want to run a deck that is extra strong against Loam try Living End. I managed to beat it on Saturday but I honestly think I have about a 10% chance of doing so. Bear in mind you won’t have a great matchup anywhere else though!

I’m going to leave you with an interesting play problem that came up against a Twin deck (hopefully the image quality is high enough. Enjoy!

Against Twin you have entered combat. They are on 6 life. They flash in a [card]Deceiver Exarch[/card] tapping your [card]Countryside Crusher[/card]. Your 4/5 [card]Tarmogoyf [/card]attacks them down to 2 life. You know of multiple [card]Splinter Twin[/card]s in hand (and sufficient mana) so you are definitely dead next turn. How can you win?