We all watched the Pro-tour with baited breath not all that long ago. For starters, Congratulations must go out to Patrick Chapin. I doubt he’ll ever read this article, but the truth is what he accomplished is tremendous. To defeat the world’s best players and win a Pro-tour is the stuff dreams are made of (although he made it look frighteningly easy!). However, in amidst all the talk of Block Constructed decks, did anyone notice that there were hardly ANY of the mechanics from Theros block on display? A block committed to the Devotion mechanic by virtue of being tied to the Gods of Theros…and it was virtually totally ignored. There were very few creatures carrying the Monstrous ability. Constellation got some love…most in the form of Eidolon of Blossoms. Inspired? Tribute? Bestow? These hardly even got a sniff. In the end it was wars waged as Elspeth tokens crushed Elspeth tokens and Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot crippled the hands of countless players. No…the mechanics of Theros were sadly underplayed and it felt…I don’t know…deflating.
Well, I’m here today to try and restore our faith in the little used mechanics of Theros and present a budget worthy Casual Brew that can grind down an opponent (or multiple opponents as the case may be) and find a way of getting you a win from seemingly out of nowhere. The mechanic I’m thinking about is the Inspired mechanic because it is so tempting…so poised with potential…that to not attempt to build a deck would just be wrong.
Now, we have seen that some of the mechanics in Theros are very powerful. Devotion powered out crazy amounts of elemental tokens with Master of Waves, drained buckets of life with Gray Merchant, and pumped out dizzying amounts of mana with Nykthos. No, Devotion is pretty safe. Monstrous is the same way. With Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos running around still Monstrous is a thing and they may be joined by Fleecemane lion as staples of this mechanic. Bestow and Heroic have shown to be invaluable in Draft giving these decks new reach and greater power than ever before. No, these three mechanics are just fine despite not being played much at the Pro-tour. However, Inspired and Tribute, both Mechanics from Born of the Gods have hardly got off the ground.
It makes perfect sense for why Tribute has been largely ignored. In almost every instance the cards carrying Tribute present an option for your opponent to dictate the terms of the creature. This means that you are no longer in control and if you are looking for a desired effect, well, I can assure you that you won’t get it because your opponent is out to put the screws to you. Snake of the Golden Grove is a perfect example because you either get 4 life…or a 7/7. Let me assure you, 100% of the time you will give your opponent the life gain. However, if you REALLY needed a 7/7 to help you block…well…tough, you are out of luck.
Inspired on the other hand actually holds some promise. This is actually an ability that you could use because the only requirement is that the creature untaps. Simply untap. It seems so simple…but yet getting your card to actually untap is pretty tricky. The most common ways of tapping it is by virtue of attacking with it and then on your next turn untapping it. The problem is that usually if you go into combat, something dies meaning you could very well lose your inspired creature. Other options exist like Spring Leaf Drum, Retraction Helix, Epiphany Storm and Claim of Erebos which all allow the creature to tap without combat, but this is extra work for you and harder to set up. So, how to maximize your chances of Inspired without as much set up cost to your deck?
I have long been a proponent of making combat as absolutely miserable for my opponent as I can manage. This means I pack decks full of combat tricks, death touch, first strike, double strike and haste, basically ensuring that my opponent really has to think twice before blocking ANYTHING. Well, Inspired gives you even MORE incentive to pack your deck as full of nasty tricks as you can find so that no one is keen to actually block. With this theory in mind let me share with you a little deck list that I’ve put together to exploit the Inspired mechanic.
The game plan behind this deck is actually pretty straight forward. You are looking to do everything you can to drain off the life of your opponent without attacking , but the creature base in the deck is actually aggressive enough that you can start on the beat down path and not actually take your foot off. All the while you are looking to exploit the Inspired Mechanic as much as you can wrangle.
For 1 drops we have Tormented Hero which is a solid 2/1 for 1 black. Sure, it comes into play tapped, but play him turn 1 and attack turn 2 and you’re pretty golden. Also, when he is targeted he does exactly what you want the deck to do and that is drain the life of your opponent. At 2 we have a couple of bears, namely Sun Guide and Pain Seer. These are both aggressive enough that they can come down early and swing in, hopefully triggering the Inspired trigger on either of them. Baleful Eidolon and Spiteful Returned are technically 2 drops, but are really there for the Bestow ability to basically make something totally unpalatable for your opponent to block. Spiteful returned is also triggered just by attacking, making him just extra value. The last 2 drop is Cartel Aristocrat because when you are missing a way to sneak through, Sacrifice a creature and get in there. At the 3 drop spot we have the bread and butter. Scholar of Athreos is an awesome mana sink and a solid blocker to plug up the ground. Servant of Tymaret is a wily little 2/1 with regenerate that I WANT to block with and need to regenerate in order to trigger the Inspired ability when it untaps after regenerating. The 4 drops are really there as Bestow creatures apart from King Macar, but at 5 we have Gray Merchant and he is a sure fire way to drain out a bunch of life all at once. The spells are pretty tame in a Gods Willing to protect something or more importantly to allow a creature the ability to sneak in for free. Necrobite presents an awful combat trick for your opponent. He will need to play around a situation where you have 3 mana up or risk trading something for a deathtouch creature…who now regenerates. Whether this is Tormented Hero’s heroic trigger, or regenerating a Pain Seer, there is going to be value generated. The last one is Asphyxiate which is a poor man’s Hero’s Downfall. Same casting cost…but much slower and more conditional. Not my first choice, but acceptable considering the financial cost of a playset of Hero’s Downfall.
Some would say that this looks like an Extort deck from Gatecrash and I can’t disagree…except I prefer this model to relying on the Extort mechanic of Gatecrash because Extort rewards you for durdling around with spells and paying the extra mana to drain the life. In this deck there is no need to durdle around. If you have open mana sink into something…like your Scholar of Athreos, attack with your Servant of Tymaret, or cast a Bestow creature to make blocking totally undesirable. You are being proactive and engaged instead of being rewarded by casting derdling spells and hiding.
This deck is weak to decks packed with fliers or with control elements like counter spells and plenty of targeted removal. Oh, and it still gets run over by the pack rat/desecration demon game plan prevalent in Standard, so don’t take it there. Where does this deck shine? Multiplayer variants of all sorts. Free for all, Two Headed Giant, Grand Melee…if any of these formats match what you like to play then this is a cheap and efficient deck that will do work. Life drain is absolutely brutal in multiplayer matchups and this deck is no different.
So, I have done my part to restore faith in the mechanics of Theros…particularly Inspired. Now it is up to you to go forth and Inspire that same belief in your opponents and drain the life right from their souls…without ever attacking! Enjoy frustrating the heck out your opponents because you can bet I’ll be enjoying every minute of it.
Thanks very much…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.
Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791
I love spoiler season! The new cards start to open up so many crazy and neat new ideas to make decks, revisit old ones, and brew up some silly things that I can take with me to my next Casual card night. Well, Journey into Nyx is no different and has offered up loads of fun new ideas already and I wanted to take some time to share some of the Casual new brews I’ve been piecing together even before Nyx drops in May.
The first deck I started brewing up was for our return to “Hobo” night at our Casual card night. I wrote about Hobo night in a previous article, but basically we all agreed that we would play no Rare or Mythic Rare cards in our decks, but we could play commons and uncommon from any set. This really challenges you because many of the most potent spells that we all like to play are Rares or Mythics, so to force ourselves to play commons and uncommon is healthy and refreshing, and usually evens out the power level of the various decks. Yes, this format is usually called Peasant, but that just sounds dull, so we opted to call it “Hobo” and the name has stuck.
My inspiration for the deck came from watching the coverage of the MTGO championships a couple of weeks ago where I saw a Standard take on a “dredge” style deck. The deck exploited the power of cards in the graveyard to deal some pretty healthy amounts of damage and looked pretty exciting, so I sat down to see if I could create something similar for Hobo night.
I started with the auto include cards for this sort of deck, namely Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage. These cards allow me to start to burn through the top of my library to find land or creatures and fills up my graveyard to be used at a later time. These are the “raison d`être” for this deck and need to be there in suitable quantities to fill up your yard, but more importantly ensure you never lack for land so that you can chain together powerful spells as the game moves along.
The next creature that is an automatic in this sort of deck, particularly in a Hobo variant, is Nemesis of Mortals. The 5/5 for 6 mana sees the cost to cast him reduced by 1 colourless for every creature in your graveyard. As a result, you could be casting this guy for much less than the 6 mana in the casting cost without much trouble. However, Nemesis of Mortals gets better from there because his Monstrosity 5 ability gets reduced in cost by 1 colourless for each creature in your graveyard. This guy can very easily get silly big for a bargain basement price thanks to all the graveyard shenanigans in your deck and makes the prospect of going into combat very difficult because it is such a huge monster.
However, what happens when some of my key components end up in the graveyard because I’ve put them there myself? There are a number of ways to return lost creatures to your hand and have them be available to you again. Now, I will be honest, this isn’t the same dropping them onto the battlefield and cheating big fatties into play because you still need to cast the spells again, however it does ensure that you have access to the creatures and a chance to re-use them, which is very helpful. Pharika’s Mender, Odunos River trawler, and other “Raise Dead” effect cards allow you to get your most potent threats back again and force your opponent to burn more removal spells on things that just don’t stay dead.
The final piece is the plethora of Bestow creatures that this deck packs. Bestow has proven to be a very valuable ability in Limited formats, and once again this is a form of limited format. Baleful Eidolon and Nyxborn Wolf can come down early as blockers to plug up the ground and play solid D to get us through to the point where our bigger bombs can take over. Nyxborn Wolf, at 3/1 can trade up to take out larger creatures, but the Eidolon can shut down attacking by virtue of the Deathtouch ability. Once they have served their purpose they can then be brought out of the yard and used to Voltron up another threat and really do some work.
Here’s the deck list.
Hobo – G/B “reanimator”
So, people will point out that this decklist isn’t Standard and my response is, you’re 100 percent correct. However, without much trouble you could make this Standard playable. A few minor adjustments like replacing Sign in Blood for Read the Bones would be the first switch. I could absolutely replace the Disentomb, and Raise Dead with Treasured Finds. So without breaking the spirit of the Hobo deck I could make some adjustments and make it completely Standard Legal, but sifting through my boxes I came across these cards and they did the job just as well and for less mana. It can also be ramped right up to match the Standard “Dredge” decks running around these days making this a decent skeleton upon which to build a more robust Standard deck.
The next deck is entirely Casual based on one of recurring theme in Theros block on Kraken, Octopuses, and other sea creatures. Whelming Wave was given to us in Born of the Gods, and now with the spoilers from Journey into Nyx we have Scourge of Fleets. With these two sweeper effects in Blue’s arsenal the possibility exists for a viable Kraken/Control deck. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
Mono-Blue Kraken Control
The idea behind this deck revolves around the interaction between Archaeomancer and Mnemonic wall and Whelming Wave. When you hit turn 4 you are banking that you have Whelming Wave in your hand and return all creatures that aren’t Kraken, Leviathans, Octopuses or Serpents to their owners hands. Then on turn 5, cast your Archaeomancer or Mnemonic wall, buy back your Whelming Wave and restart the cycle. You will continue to cast the wave and buy it back with the Archaeomancer/ Menmonic Wall interaction as you stall looking for one of your bigger Sea critters. So, hit the Sealock monster and when you wash away your opponent’s creatures Sealock Monster stays and can now attack into a open board. If you get stuck, Sea God’s Revenge approximates the same effect as you wait to piece together the combination and the dissolves are there to protect your creatures, should things get ugly. Scourge of Fleets is another possible sweeper condition that comes with a huge body and is asymmetrical in design, so he’s sort of like Plan C if you need to go down that road. The last pieces of this deck, the Hypnotic Siren and the Voyage’s End are to play some early interference as you set up your board.
Now, you may have missed it, but I stated that this was a Casual deck list. There is no way I’d even attempt to play a Tier 1 Standard deck with this list, but the hilarious interactions between Archaeomancer and the Whelming Wave are well worth the risk. I can’t wait to see the face of my opponent when I repeatedly wash away his stuff as I stall…and then swim across the table with my Sealock Monster and crush him. That would be priceless. It would certainly be entertaining and very flavourful with all that we have seen from Standard.
So, there you have it. Some fun deck ideas that are flavourful, relatively inexpensive, and fun to play. By all means, give them a try and see what think. The Hobo Dredge deck might be really good for a player who isn’t convinced playing B/G Dredge is for them, but once they get the hang of it with this less high octane model might be willing to speed matters up and go play with the big boys of Standard. The Wave deck is just funny and I can’t wait to put it together.
If you have other ideas or more fun ideas for funky decks I would love to hear about them. I`m always working on some new deck ideas that could make playing at my Kitchen table fun, entertaining, and fresh.
As always Keep it fun, Keep it safe…keep it casual. Until next time!