spent the majority of my weekend playing Scars of Mirrodin Sealed. The new set seems like it will be incredibly fun in Limited. Throughout the weekend I heard a lot of musing about the state of Constructed after the rotation. It's hard to approach a new format blind, though.
We have no decks to work with. We don't know what our opponents will be playing. We have to make assumptions about which cards will or will not find their way to the top tables. There are a lot of things that seem obvious to me. I think it would be best if we started with those.
Path to Exile is no longer in Standard. A lot of cards that may have been "good" before the rotation just got a lot better. For example, Doom Blade and Day of Judgment are now the only two cards that could possibly threaten your Titan. The Titans from Magic 2011 were already pretty impressive, but the lack of Path to Exile really pushes them over the top.
This week I'd like to test the limits of the new format. The more people talk, the less removal people are playing. The idea of curving well in creature-based decks has become increasingly tempting as the power level of creatures rises. Most deck lists I see are completely devoid of removal.
When deck building, I like to punish opponents for falling into deck construction traps like this. Pyromancer Acension was a perfect example. At the time, everyone was running far too much creature removal. I could get away with playing a deck that may have not been on the power level of White-Blue Control or Jund because every non-red opponent had eight to fifteen cards that were virtual blanks against me in the first game.
So how do we punish people for not playing removal? If you recall, I mentioned a combo that was sent to me by a reader in my preview column for Myrsmith. Lester Hawkes built an interesting combo deck that used Myr Galvanizer with Splinter Twin.
Here's how the combo works. You need Myr Galvanizer, Splinter Twin, and any mana-producing Myr. You cast the Splinter Twin on the Myr Galvanizer. Tap the enchanted Galvanizer to make a copy, tap the mana-producing myr to use the untap ability of the copy, tap the enchanted Galvanizer to make another copy. Use the mana Myr to untap all your other Myr ... rinse and repeat. You will have infinite, infinite/infinite Myrs in play ready to attack thanks to the haste granted to copies by Splinter Twin. Remember, if you're at a tournament and you've demonstrated the infinite loop you can ask your opponent if he has any action and you can fast forward and name a number of times you'd like to loop the combo.
The most important thing when you're playing a combo deck is putting your combo together. I want to play a lot of card manipulation. Modern Standard gives us a number of fair ways to do this. Long gone are the days of Vampiric Tutor, but cards like Preordain are worth their weight in gold when you're attempting to assemble a combo like this. Other cards that I would consider playing are Riddlesmith and Foresee. Riddlesmith is one of those cards that almost scares me. I feel like any deck that heavily relies on inexpensive artifacts will very easily be able to construct one or more combos in a single turn. My good friend and vintage master, Ashok Chitturi, is already brewing up a number of vintage decks that abuse the power of this card. I could see this card getting really big. It's strange, though. I don't really know how many artifacts I have to play to make it worthwhile. I feel like I'd want at least twenty, if I could have more that would be awesome. We'll see how the rest of the numbers work out before we go ahead and include the Riddlesmith.
The second most important thing when you're playing a combo deck is staying alive. Your combo deck will likely be faster against a dummy opponent than any non-combo deck, but opponents can often disrupt you. Lightning Bolt seems like the most obvious inclusion on this front. Galvanic Blast is another card one might consider. Galvanic Blast is one of those cards that you don't need to play with a lot of artifacts. As a "Shock" it's quite good. If you happen to stumble upon metalcraft, though, well then it's a one-mana Flame Javelin. Perilous Myr is another card that seems like it would do a fine job of keeping us alive. It can gum up the ground for extended periods of time alongside a Myr Reservoir. Mana Leak is great card in the time-buying game. I normally feel wary about including a card like Mana Leak in a deck that has a number of plays that it wants to tap out for on the second turn. The high density of twos has actually made me like the Mana Leak a lot in testing. The deck has no shortage of two-drops and I often find myself being able to cast a two-drop and leave the mana open for a Mana Leak. Even more exciting is how well Mana Leak can protect our combo.
Successful combo decks have almost always been resilient. Myr Reservoir allows us to power through any amount of removal our opponent might be able to muster. It's also important to note that an aggro backup plan is not out of the question. People may look at the list and say things like, "it's just a pile of 1/1s; how will those ever win if your opponent disrupts the combo?" Truth be told, I would have been one of those people about two years ago. Then I had the joy of playing with and against the Extended Elfball deck. Playing against the deck made me realize how much I had to sit back and leave mana untapped. I could never play a threat because my Elfball opponent would combo off and kill me the second I tapped out. So instead of tapping out I just sat back on my mana and hoped that they went for the combo prematurely. There was only one problem with that plan, though. When I sat back and focused on disrupting the combo I found myself getting swarmed by an army of 1/1s. Eventually, after a good amount of practice, I found a careful balance of aggression and disruption. That's one of the greatest strengths of a combo deck. A combo player attacks the game from a different angle. Players, even great ones, will often make missteps when playing against combo decks, especially combo decks they're unfamiliar with.
Lets Talk Numbers!
Myr Galvanizer is an obvious four-of. It acts as a lord for all of our creatures and it has an explosive interaction with Splinter Twin. If I submitted this deck without four copies of this card I would be absolutely crazy.
Splinter Twin isn't necessarily a four of. Four mana combo pieces can often exist as two- or three-ofs. Drawing two copies seems really unexciting. I'll play three copies and rely on my card manipulation to find one.
Perilous Myr was an all-star for me in Limited all weekend. I've already celebrated a few furnaces with this gentleman and it's pretty awesome. Sam Black won a car playing a Goblin deck that was aggressive without really doing anything. Mudbutton Torchrunner and Boggart Shenanigans allowed Sam to attack his opponent while he defended himself. Perilous Myr seems especially exciting with Myr Reservoir. I feel like it would be incredibly difficult for an opponent to attack us on the ground if we had an engine like this in place. This card provides the deck with a reasonable backup plan to the combo. I want to play with four.
Silver Myr and Iron Myr are pretty unexciting. They allow us to combo, though, so we need to play at least a few of them. I don't really like playing with cards on this power level, but I just try to think about them like Rampant Growths. There isn't much removal in the format, so they might actually be better. I'd also be ecstatic if my opponent decided to drop a removal spell on one of these immediately after I played it. I'll just play three and three to see how it goes.
Myr Reservoir is exactly the card I want when I'm trying to build a deck like this. It allows me to be frivolous with all my cards except the Splinter Twin. I don't mind just running a Myr Galvanizer out there even if I know my opponent has a Doom Blade in hand. I'll just dump my hand and pick up scraps from my yard every turn thereafter. It's also nice with the countermagic. You can leave open counter mana and use it to activate the Myr Reservoir if your opponent doesn't play something worth countering.
Preordain is a necessity in any combo deck these days. It lets us get pretty deep and it lets us put unwanted cards on the bottom. I played a lot with my Pyromancer Ascension deck and I wasn't sure whether I liked Ponder or Preordain more. That's how good this card is. I like R&D switching Ponder to Preordain. It's on the same power level and it speeds up the game. Every time someone shuffles with a Ponder and presents you have to shuffle their deck and the whole process usually takes more than a minute. Preordain is quick, easy to understand, and free of suspicion.
Lightning Bolt just makes me so happy. It does everything. It kills creatures. It kills players. All for one mana. I've spoken at length about this cards inclusion in everything that plays Mountains. My opinion hasn't changed at all.
Foresee is under-appreciated. I played Foresee as a three-of in my Ascension deck and I always did very well with it. Others cut the Foresee in favor of cheaper cards like Treasure Hunt, but that's not what I wanted the card in that slot to do. I already had a lot of cards that were cheap cantrips. I wanted something that gave me everything I wanted and gave me a lot of it. Foresee does that. People first-pick this card in Limited and they never dreamed of first picking a Divination. Somehow, though, people think Divination is Standard worthy and Foresee isn't. I understand that it's competing with Jace, the Mind Sculptor at the same mana cost. Jace is certainly better in this deck, but decks that have no way to protect the planewalker may be better off with Foresee.
I've already spoken a lot about how much I like Mana Leak in this deck, I think it warrants a four-of slot. In fact, I liked the Mana Leak so much that I decided to include a pair of Negates to supplement the disruption package.
I'd like to reiterate just how few cards actually interact with us. The only non-red instant speed removal in the format is Doom Blade. This type of strategy is very strong until people start finding new ways to interact at instant speed. This deck is obviously very strong against mono-green ramp and it obviously struggles against red decks. I'd be interested to see what you think of the deck. It's very easy to put together, and it's a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn't want to attack with infinite infinite/infinite Myrs?
Find a Launch Party Near You!
Find a Launch Party Near You!
Make sure you find a Launch Party if you haven't had a chance to play with Scars of Mirrodin yet. The set has a ton of awesome interactions and the Limited format is an absolute joy to play. Keep your wits about you!