“There has been an awakening? Have you felt it?”
Supreme Leader Snoke.
What’s the most embarrassing way to lose a game of magic?
I’m not talking about having a momentary loss of judgment or a brain fart that leads directly to your loss. I’m not talking about mana screw/flood into oblivion where you aren’t really participating in the game to start with. I’m talking about the most embarrassing way an opponent can deal you the deciding blow. We each have a story, a way we’ve lost, that makes our internal rage meter crank to 11 and has us researching to see if murder will get you a 6 month ban from the DCI.
Some people hate being milled out. They watch as their library diminishes with mute impotence while raging inside.
Some people hate losing to a sudden combo. They feel like they’re winning for most of the game only to see they’ve fallen into a trap and die on a single turn.
Others, losing via “unlikely combat.” Think of an army of mana dorks suddenly made large by a series of Gavony Township activations, or a Birds of Paradise taking to combat and comically carrying a Batterskull across the field of battle to smash you in the face.
Me… I hate dying to lands.
Death via mana source isn’t a constant of Magic. Creature lands aren’t a thing we find in every block, and it’s pretty rare that we get to see the likes of Natural Affinity effects (Nissa printings not withstanding). That said, the card that turned me down this path, Rude Awakening, is one I’d be happy to see never reprinted.
All of this leads me to the deck I’ve been working on. If dying to a land is the most “embarrassing” way to lose a game of magic, then what way is worse than losing to a basic land? And of all the basic lands to lose to, losing to a Forest has to be the worst, right? If you’ve only been playing Magic for the last five years or so, you may not recall a time when playing a turn one Forest was thought of with disdain. Green cards were for “little kid’s decks” (thankfully, Wizards has taken steps to drastically improve green’s power in recent years).
If you want to make your opponent rage, if you want to hit them in a way that makes them want to hurl their deck across the room, pretend they’re Sauron and summon the Ents. Send those Forests into battle.
The Forest Awakens by Travis Hall
The deck plays like this: first, you ramp. Then, you play an Embodiment. Eventually you cast a very, very large Animist’s Awakening with an Embodiment in play (and hopefully a Sylvan Advocate too). You attack with a bunch of angry lands and your opponent hates you and everything that is good in the world.
Embodiment of Fury/ Embodiment of Insight: The cards that make the deck work. Historically, we have paid about two mana to turn a land into a creature for a turn. These creatures do it for free, and they grant the land/creature haste to boot.
Mina and Denn, Wildborn: While Oracle of Mul Daya this card ain’t, the ability to play it and get ahead in the land race is still powerful. It can even help grind out a win in late games, letting your bounce and replay lands to trigger the Embodiments.
Sylvan Advocate: This may be my favorite card from Oath of Gatewatch. It looks so innocuous at first, so harmless. But, in a dedicated ramp deck, he jumps from “cute” to “he’s going to kill me!” pretty quick. And then, you see that lovely little line of text, “land creatures you control get +2/+2” and you get a warm and fuzzy feeling. Sylvan Advocate plays the “Luke Skywalker” role in the deck. He may not be much to start, but once he completes the Hero’s Journey, he’s a walking, talking badass Jedi.
Oblivion Sower: Another way to get a mass amount of land into play, attached to a 5/8 beat stick. While relying on your opponent’s deck to provide you with lands isn’t exactly the avenue you would want to build a deck around, Oblivion Sower is a diverse way to attack the “I want a bunch of lands to enter the battlefield” dilemma, especially since it is the only way (outside of a Spell Mastery-ed Animist’s Awakening) to put a mass amount of lands onto the battlefield uptapped. And again, it’s also a 5/8.
Animist’s Awakening: The game ending combo with the Embodiments. Spell Mastery should be easy to activate with your early game ramp, allowing this to be game ending in many places. It also scales nicely, as if the first Awakening doesn’t kill them, it should leave you with enough lands in play to make sure the next one does.
Magmatic Insight: When your deck is almost 50% lands, you need a way to convert those resources into the cards necessary to fuel your combo. Since Wizards doesn’t love us and failed to reprint Courser of Kruphix (I still miss you, bae), and you don’t want to stretch your manabase to tap into Treasure Cruise, this is about as good as you can get in standard. It also fuels Spell Mastery (win).
Cards to consider:
Landfall creatures: These would probably take the deck in a different direction, and I’m not too keen on playing a bunch of creatures that fold to Kozilek’s Return with the landfall trigger on the stack.
Undergrowth Champion: Okay, maybe this guy is good enough with landfall to make it worth the risk. I had hopes for this card when it was spoiled, but thus far it has been too slow and fragile to see play.
Devour in Flames: This deck prefers to combo out as fast as possible, but I could see a version that offers a more controlish build, and this would definitely be the removal spell of choice in such a deck.
Elemental Uprising: It activates Spell Mastery and allows for a more aggressive start, but I’m not sure it’s worth it in the long run (though I do love that Embodiment of Fury gives the creature trample).
Nissa’s Renewal: Better suited for the sideboard. I love the life gain in a format with Abzan Aggro and Atarka Red, but if I’m paying six mana to toss some lands onto the battlefield, I want them to come into play untapped.
This feels like a strange way to attack the format. While it may not prove powerful enough (or fast enough, given the ever present Atarka Red deck), it attacks from a unique angle and allows for a big finish. If nothing else, it should surprise some people the first go round and lead to some great stories.
If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day. You can also hear me on the Horde of Notions podcast on occassion, discussing deck ideas for FNM level events and the PTQ grinders.