Week of Brews #5: Scooby Clues

When the early leaks revealed that cards from Shadows over Innistrad were going to make something called Clue tokens, I was incredibly skeptical. First, this was a new type of token, something that seemed destined to clutter up your board and offer very little relevance. I immediately doubted the leaks and, when Clues were officially spoiled, I thought they would be incredibly clunky in practice and one of the stupidest ideas WOTC ever put on cardboard.

Okay, so, I was wrong.

I love Clues. Love ’em. Me and [card]Tireless Tracker[/card] have become best bros and I’ve actually tweeted to MaRo that I sincerely hope that the conclusion of the “mystery” aspect of the story started in SoI does not mean that we won’t be blessed with more Clue generators in Eldritch Moon.

Also, I’m like 95% sure this solves the contraptions problem and we’ll get [card]Steamflogger Boss[/card] when the next block is revealed to be set in Kaladesh.

But, I digress.

Having fallen in love with Clues, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to maximize their value in Standard. Starting with a base green deck is a given, as [card]Tireless Tracker[/card] is the easiest and best way to generate a ton of Clues currently available to us. Choosing between blue and white as the secondary color was difficult, but I opted for blue, and the insanity that [card]Erdwal Illuminator[/card] and [card]Ongoing Investigation[/card] can quickly generate.

Finally, I dipped into red. Why? Because, what else are you going to do with a ton of Clue tokens?

[deck title=Travis Hall – Scooby Clues]
[Lands]
3 Evolving Wilds
4 Lumbering Falls
3 Yavimaya Coast
3 Wandering Fumarole
1 Westvale Abbey
4 Cinder Glade
2 Island
1 Mountain
3 Forest
[/Lands]

[Creatures]
4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Erdwal Illuminator
4 Tireless Tracker
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
2 Whirler Rogue
[/Creatures]

[Spells]
3 Confront the Unknown
4 Ongoing Investigation
3 Weirding Wood
3 Ghirapur Aether Grid
4 Ghirapur Gearcrafter
2 Second Harvest
1 Tamiyo’s Journal
[/Spells]
[/deck]

[card]Ghirapur Aether Grid[/card] has had the temerity to pop up in Modern decks without first seeing Standard play. That’s just something we shall have to remedy. This deck is built to maximize the number of Clues and their usefulness. Once you get 6-7 Clues on the board with an Aether Grid, you can start doming your opponent (or mowing down their creatures, yay for flexibility).

[card]Tamiyo’s Journal[/card] provides an additional means to utilize Clue tokens, though you can often draw into the cards you need via the clues themselves. [card]Second Harvest[/card] can be played to devastating effect once you have enough Clues (or Thopters) available.

[card]Confront the Unknown[/card] acts as a pseudo removal spell that doubles as a late game victory condition. Yes, I have given a Thopter token +20/+20 with this, and it is at least three times as awesome as it sounds.

You also have the tried-and-true standard win-con known as [card]Sylvan Advocate[/card], quite possibly the most important creature in the format. Boosting [card]Wandering Fumarole[/card] and [card]Lumbering Falls[/card] is no joke.

Overall, this deck feels like most decks that feature cards from the first set of a block. It’s exciting, but it may need the second set to fully flesh out the themes and provide enough high impact cards. Still, this is a blast to play.

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day.

Week of Brews #4: The Modern Monster

Banning [card]Splinter Twin[/card] has opened up Modern in a way the format has needed for a long time. Before, tapping out as early as turn 3 to play a creature meant that you risked your opponent winning on the spot. With that anathema now regulated to Modern’s seedier history, creatures that cost more than two mana may start to see relevant play.

So, let’s play.

If Nahiri currently holds the title of, “the one true bae” then following close behind as my favorite pet card from Shadows over Innistrad is [card]The Gitrog Monster[/card]. The Fearsome Frog offers both a unique engine and a win-con sized body rolled into an efficient 5 mana package. He offers a sizeable body, larger than even [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] most of the time, and he’s fairly difficult to kill (outside of [card]Path to Exile[/card], but that’s why you run discard spells, yo).

[deck title=Travis Hall –The Modern Monster]
[Lands]
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Windswept Heath
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Vault of the Archangel
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
3 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
2 Horizon Canopy
3 Forest
2 Swamp
1 Dakmor Salvage
[/Lands]

[Creatures]
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Courser of Kruphix
3 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Oracle of Mul Daya
2 The Gitrog Monster
1 Primeval Titan
[/Creatures]

[Spells]
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Thoughtsieze
1 Raven’s Crime
1 Darkblast
1 Path to Exile
2 Life from the Loam
3 Edge of Autumn
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Dismember
1 Unburial Rites
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Stony Silence
2 Pithing Needle
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Path to Exile
1 Creeping Corrosion
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Sometimes, you just want to play all the lands.

Thing I’ve learned with this deck: [card]The Gitrog Monster[/card] combined with fetchlands is absolutely stupid. As such, I geared the deck around getting as many lands onto the battlefield as painlessly as possible. Once you get The Terrible Toad and [card]Life from the Loam[/card] going, it becomes a very real possibility that you could deck yourself if you’re not careful.

This has been a common play pattern: Gitrog in play, you dredge Life from the Loan (draw a card because you dredge into a land). You play [card]Life from the Loam[/card] returning 3 fetchlands from your graveyard to your hand. You play a fetch and crack it (draw a card) returning [card]Life from the Loam[/card] (dredge into a land, draw a card). Play your other fetch and crack it (draw a card). Replay [card]Life from the Loam[/card] to grab more lands. You basically drew 4 cards for 2 mana, AND, at the end of the turn, if you have more than 7 cards in hand, you can turn every one of those lands into a spell! When you discard due to the Clean Up phase, you draw a card. Since you’re still in the Clean Up phase you’ll keep doing this until you choose to stop discarding lands.

This is version 1.0 off the deck, but I wanted to maximize the land interactions with my creature package. [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card] may not seem like an all-star, but he holds off most early creatures until you can get Gitrog on line, smooths out your draws, and even nets you some life (especially if you get Oracle or Gitrog in play for multiple land drops a turn).

Lotus Cobra, if it survives even one turn, can accelerate you into your end game as early as turn 3. Seriously, it’s not all that uncommon to untap on turn three with Cobra and play both [card]The Gitrog Monster[/card] and Knight of the Reliquary/Courser of Kruphix.

In fact, this deck plays out so many lands and generates so much mana, that I’ve seriously considered running [card]Ob Nixilis, the Fallen[/card] as an alternate win condition. If feels like I have access to so many cards through Gitrog and so much mana, that I’m still missing out on maximizing the list. We’ll have to keep trying it out, but there is definitely a place in Modern for [card]The Gitrog Monster[/card].

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day.

Week of Brews #3: The Grand PP

There is a routine to being a brewer. Whenever a new set is spoiled, I have a handful of cards, or powerful interactions, that I take out of storage (storage being that part of your brain you return to on elevators, waiting in the checkout aisle in the grocery store, or while stuck in traffic) and I run through the new set to see if these pet cards of mine have found the counterpart they need to jump from the shadows to tier 1.

I usually find a card or two to run with for a time until I decide that nothing has been broken, and lock my pet cards away for 3 more months. At this point, I’ve probably done a Gatherer search for [“Creatures” + “:” + “Modern”] more than any person alive (in case you’re wondering, a search for “:”shows you any creature with an activated ability, perfect for those of us waiting for the one day when the [card]Development[/card] team slips up and [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card] becomes the most powerful card in all of Magic).

This time though, I think I’ve found something exciting.

[deck title=Travis Hall –The Grand PP]
[Lands]
4 Lumbering Falls
4 Breeding Pool
1 Hinterland Harbor
4 Misty Rainforest
5 Forest
1 Stomping Ground
3 Island
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Pili-Pala
4 Duskwatch Recruiter
4 Wall of Roots
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Spellskite
4 Grand Architect
1 Valakut Invoker
2 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
2 Eternal Witness
2 Kitchen Finks
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Collected Company
4 Chord of Calling
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
3 Dispel
1 Eternal Witness
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Scavenging Ooze
3 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
2 Courser of Kruphix
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

The [card]Grand Architect[/card] and [card]Pili-Pala[/card] combo is nothing new. It’s been around the kitchen tables for years as a 2 card infinite mana combo. The biggest problem has always been finding a supporting cast to make it worthwhile. I think the last two years may have finally given us the cards necessary to make it a worthwhile attempt in Modern.

First up, [card]Collected Company[/card]. The word on the street is that this card is busted, already contributing to the format’s OTHER most popular infinite combo. [card]Pili-Pala[/card] and [card]Grand Architect[/card] both are at play here, and casting [card]Collected Company[/card] at the end of your opponent’s turn can set up the infinite mana combo. [card]Spellskite[/card] and Kira do a great job of insulating your fragile combo pieces from removal (and both are/can be pumped with [card]Grand Architect[/card] to beat down in a pinch).

The other card that plays so well with the combo is [card]Duskwatch Recruiter[/card]. Once we get all that mana, how are we going to use it? [card]Duskwatch Recruiter[/card] with infinite mana allows you to dig for every creature in your deck. It can also be sued to dig for the combo if you’re missing a piece, can be hit off [card]Collected Company[/card], and just all around fits like a glove.

At this point, you can cast everything in your deck, or you can just cast [card]Valakut Invoker[/card] and dome your opponent with all the damage necessary. Some decks use Emrakul, and I have one in the board in case you have a frisky opponent with Cranial Extraction-like tendencies, but I prefer the crispy, clean method of turning your opponent to cinders.

As a last caveat: this deck is fun, resourceful, and a delight… unless you’re playing on MTGO. I’ve won quite a bit with it, but you have to get very good at making your clicks, otherwise you WILL time out.

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day.

Week of Brews #2: Madness? This is Innistrad!

There is no great genius without some touch of madness. – Aristotle

I’ll be honest, I was severely disappointed with WOTC’s choice of direction for Madness in Shadows Over Innistrad. I’m an Old Fogey, I got to play with the Madness cards the first time around. I was around to play with [card]Arrogant Wurm[/card]s and [card]Basking Rootwalla[/card]s and my little green-mage-heart was looking forward to returning to those glorious days.

And then they print zero green madness cards. Bummer.

Not to be deterred I decided to give the red cards a whirl, especially since they play so well with my new lady love, Nahiri.

[deck title=Travis Hall –RW Madness]
[Lands]
4 Needle Spires
4 Battlefield Forge
1 Caves of Koilos
2 Drownyard Temple
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Swamp
6 Mountain
5 Plains
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Eldrazi Displacer
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
3 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
2 Linvala, the Preserver
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Lightning Axe
4 Tormenting Voice
2 Avacyn’s Judgment
3 Declaration in Stone
4 Fiery Temper
1 Pyromancer’s Goggles
4 Nahiri, the Harbinger
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
3 Hallowed Moonlight
2 Quarantine Field
1 Chandra, Flamecaller
2 Kozilek’s Return
2 Radiant Flames
1 Linvala, the Preserver
2 Eldrazi Obligator
2 Tragic Arrogance
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

This deck looks to exploit Nahiri to the utmost. Her +2 ability works well with the Madness cards, and your token [card]Drownyard Temple[/card]s. Her Ultimate may not find an instant-win creature, but finding Linvala and [card]Goblin Dark-Dwellers[/card] is nothing to sneeze at, especially since they return to your hand for more shenanigans. Linvala especially is slowly starting to see some much deserved play.

Also, remember that Nahiri can search for an artifact, and recent Standard all-star [card]Pyromancer’s Goggles[/card] plays well with both [card]Tormenting Voice[/card] and a discarded [card]Avacyn’s Judgment[/card].

If Nahiri is the main attraction for this deck, the [card]Eldrazi Displacer[/card] is the sidekick. Your creature suite focusses on Enters the Battlefield effects, all of which can pay off huge with Dispalcer (who also provides a fair bit of defense against [card]Nantuko Husk[/card] and [card]Ormendahl, Profane Prince[/card]).

Also, let’s be honest, if you’re playing red, you’re playing Chandra. WOTC finally did it, they gave us a great Chandra.

Surprisingly, in playing this deck on MTGO, you will win a fair number of games with [card]Needle Spires[/card]. Your burn does a good job of keeping the board clear and [card]Needle Spires[/card] can flip a switch once you’re ready to enter beatdown mode.

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day.

Week of Brews #1: Ever After

Ever After is an insane Magic: The Gathering card.

In the modern era of Magic, we’re lucky to get a decent reanimation spell for 4 mana. More recently, the bar has seen to be set at 5 mana. For 6, [card]Ever After[/card] effectively nets you two spells for 75% of the cost.

This may not seem like much, but it’s enormous.

So, how can we break this? In older formats, you can start by looking at 2 creature-card-combos like [card]Reflector Mage[/card] and Kiki-Jiki, but I’ve been turned off to older formats since WOTC decided to remove Modern form the Pro Tour (don’t ask, still fuming). While Standard doesn’t seem to offer any “Instant Win” combos ([card]Eldrazi Displacer[/card] and [card]Brood Monitor[/card] would still need [card]Zulaport Cutthroat[/card] for example) it does offer some intriguing possibilities. We could go for utility, we could go for awesome enters the battlefield interactions ([card]Dragonlord Atarka[/card] and [card]Dragonlord Kolaghan[/card] was an early favorite), or we could reach further into our bag of tricks for something… nasty.

Let’s put 20 power on the board for 6 mana, shall we?

[deck title=Travis Hall –Magic Marriage]
[Lands]
4 Hissing Quagmire
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Drownyard Temple
1 Blighted Fen
2 Evolving Wilds
6 Forest
4 Swamp
[/Lands]

[Creatures]
4 Sylvan Advocate
2 Den Protector
4 Tireless Tracker
2 Catacomb Sifter
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
4 Thought-Knot Seer
2 The Gitrog Monster
4 Woodland Bellower
[/Creatures]

[Spells]
4 Vessel of Nascency
4 Ever After
3 Ultimate Price
1 Spatial Contortion
1 Ruinous Path
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
3 Duress
2 Transgress the Mind
3 Languish
3 Virulent Plague
1 Ruinous Path
1 Netcaster Spider
1 Caustic Caterpillar
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

While the deck finds its center with [card]Ever After[/card], this is just as much a [card]Woodland Bellower[/card] brew. Fetching up [card]Sylvan Advocate[/card] gives you at least 10 power (not counting the boost it may give [card]Hissing Quagmire[/card]s hiding in your land pile) across 2 creatures, both of which are immune to the most attractive mass removal spell in the format right now, [card]Languish[/card]. Cast [card]Ever After[/card] with two [card]Woodland Bellower[/card]s in the graveyard and you suddenly have a board presence big enough to kill your opponent in one swing.

If you have a surplus of clues, or you have a land or two to drop, you can fetch [card]Tireless Tracker[/card].

You can fetch [card]Catacomb Sifter[/card] if you want some extra blockers. Early builds even had [card]Duskwatch Recruiter[/card] (a card it still may be correct to include as a 1-of).

In the board, you can fetch [card]Caustic Caterpillar[/card] to deal with [card]Fevered Visions[/card], [card]Always Watching[/card], or [card]Pyromancer’s Goggles[/card].

[card]Vessel of Nascency[/card] fills your graveyard (though you’ll often just fill it with Advocates and Trackers through gameplay, both of which are fine to return with [card]Ever After[/card] as well). In the first build I used [card]Gather the Pack[/card], but I found the deck a little land hungry, and the Vessel does a good job of finding the needed land while also providing the versatility of picking a creature if that’s your fancy.

Once you add the Vessel, you add a couple of [card]Drownyard Temple[/card]. One you add a couple [card]Drownyard Temple[/card] you notice that [card]The Gitrog Monster[/card] would fit in there as a great 5 drop that’s also nuts to return with [card]Ever After[/card]. And then you go to 4 [card]Drownyard Temple[/card], and notice that you’re running a ton of colorless mana sources, so maybe [card]Thought-Knot Seer[/card] would be another good creature on the curve that is fantastic to return (stealing whatever they have to answer your [card]Ever After[/card]). You see how this just flows into itself? It kind of plays that way too.

Overall, this is a fun deck that packs a wallop.

If you like my suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: @travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day.

Nahiri Naya

Harbinger. Noun.
1. A person who goes ahead and makes known the approach of another; herald.
2. Anything that foreshadows a future event; omen: sign

When I first saw Nahiri spoiled, I believed she would be the best card in the set (spoilers: she’s not, that title belongs to [card]Declaration in Stone[/card]). Her primary ability fits the set thematically, the +2 ability being what we commonly call “rummaging” (which would make a great keyword), a great way to enable Madness. Unfortunately, I found Madness cards to be wanting in the set, and very few of them are good enough to see play. Her -2 effect is powerful, but tricky. And her ultimate is dependent upon finding the biggest, baddest creature (or artifact…. how… interesting…) in the format to charge into battle.

Basically, Nahiri is a riddle, the deepest, most rewarding riddle in the format.

Solving this riddle won’t be easy, and her mana cost is restrictive, sending us into a color combination more known for early beats than strategically waiting to drop a game-ender. And, looking to go three colors in this format is akin to fighting a land war in Asia. The mana is awful, horrible, and not just because we are rotating from a format where the mana was pristine and beautiful. Going three colors in this format isn’t fun, but it can be made to work, especially if one of those colors is green. And, it just so happen that the nastiest creature to sneak onto the battlefield happens to be in green too.

With that in mind, let’s let Nahiri have a go at Naya.

[deck title=Nahiri Naya by Travis Hall]
[Lands]
4 Needle Spire
4 Battlefield Forge
4 Canopy Vista
2 Cinder Glade
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Forest
1 Mountain
2 Plains
1 Wastes
[/Lands]

[Creatures]
4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Tireless Tracker
2 Den Protector
3 Eldrazi Displacer
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
1 Sigarda, Heron’s Grace
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
1 Dragonlord Atarka
[/Creatures]

[Spells]
4 Nahiri, The Harbinger
1 Arlinn Kord
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
4 Declaration in Stone
1 Avacyn’s Judgment
3 Dromoka’s Command
4 Oath of Nissa
[/Spells]
[Sideboard]
1 Radiant Flames
3 Kozilek’s Return
2 Avacyn’s Judgment
1 Dromoka’s Command
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
1 Chandra, Flamecaller
3 Stasis Snare
1 Linvala, the Preserver
1 Arlinn Kord
1 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

[card]Chandra, Flamecaller[/card]: We finally get a good Chandra! Chandra is the premier controlling Planeswalker in the format (possibly even better than baby Jace after rotation). She does everything a good planeswalker should, and majorly impacts the game the second she hits the table. Also, her draw ability works well with Clue tokens, as you can stock your hand before pitching it to the graveyard if you are digging for an answer.

[card]Dromoka’s Command[/card]: I hope this doesn’t get lost in the excitement of the new set. [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card] is still a great card, and one of the best answers to one of the premier cards in the format, [card]Always Watching[/card] (just wait, you’re going to hate that card by the time it rotates).

[card]Oath of Nissa[/card]: [card]Oath of Nissa[/card] versus [card]Traverse the Ulvenwald[/card] is the “Pepsi versus Coke” of MTG for the next year. I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer, but there’s definitely a “more correct” one, and that answer is going to fluctuate for each deck. Given that I gain no appreciable value from Delirium here, I decided to go with Oath, as it gives a more consistent value.

[card]Dragonlord Dromoka[/card]/[card]Dragonlord Atarka[/card]: The premier beefy beaters (sorry Ulamog, but exiling 20 cards just ain’t good enough) in the format, until we find out whatever it is that Nahiri is Harbingering. Both of these should be easily recast if you snatch them into play with Nahiri, or fine if you draw them naturally.

[card]Sigarda, Heron’s Grace[/card]: I’m a big fan of this card and the army it can bring to the table. If you untap with her, you should be able to overwhelm most board positions in a turn or too. She blocks [card]Archangel Avacyn[/card] and [card]Mindwrack Demon[/card] for days and protects you/your humans from targeting. This card is being underrated right now.

[card]Eldrazi Displacer[/card]: You know that little intervening “TAPPED” clause on Nahiri’s exile ability? Well, this is a way around it. Three mana (one colorless), tap down a creature at the end of combat, untap, drop Nahiri and exile the creature. It also helps that the value of displacing has increased exponentially with the presence of [card]Westvale Abbey[/card] and the demon it brings. Why only 3 copies, you ask… time for a quick aside:

[card]Declaration in Stone[/card] is good. Really good. Better than you think. By far the best removal spell in Standard. As such, we may need to rethink the way we brew to combat the DiS problem. If you are paying more than 2 mana for a creature, you’re losing tempo if it gets DiS’ed. This is obvious. But, playing 4 copies and opening yourself to getting 2-for’ed is absolutely devastating. It may still be right to play out multiple copies of a creature if you see an opponent playing white mana… but it may not. Another way to combat this is to choose to run 3 copies (or less) of some of your more expensive creatures. Basically, 3 is the new 4, as long as DiS is in the format. End aside.

[card]Tireless Tracker[/card]: Four copies!? Didn’t I just say that this is verboten? Yeah, but this is that corner case. [card]Tireless Tracker[/card] works well as a alter drop if your opponent has already DiS’ed a few of your creatures, taking advantage of the Clue tokens you have already been gifted. This card is the king of grinding, able to provide unreal card advantage if left unchecked and a very powerful beater if you flip the switch and start sacrificing clues.

[card]Arlinn Kord[/card]: I like Arlinn, but I’m not wild about her (I resisted the urge to make a joke about “flipping out” there, I should be commended). She just dies so easily. Too often, it’s make a wolf, Arlinn dies. Four mana for a 2/2 wolf just isn’t enough. Still, she is a powerful planeswalker that deserves to be explored and does real work against control decks.

[card]Kozilek’s Return[/card]/[card]Radiant Flames[/card]: [card]Westvale Abbey[/card] is a helluva card, and people want to smash face with a 9 power, flying, lifelinking, indestructible demon. Many of these people are going to try and use tokens to get the requisite 5 creatures to sacrifice. We don’t like those people. [card]Kozilek’s Return[/card] may not do as much damage as [card]Radiant Flames[/card], but it can be cast after your opponent resolves an end of turn [card]Secure the Wastes[/card] for enough tokens to summon Ormendahl. Hence, the split.

This may all be for naught. Nahiri, while intrinisically powerful, may not be ready to shine yet. But, that title, “The Harbinger”… it is foreboding. It makes us a promise. It promises something to come. It promises something to behold.

It may not yet be Nahiri’s time to be the best card from Shadows Over Innistrad, but we’ll see what happens when the Eldritch Moon begins to shine.

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 [card]Horde of Notions[/card] podcast, discussing deck ideas for FNM level events and the PTQ grinders.