nfortunately, I couldn't play in States last Saturday. I did, however, get a chance to go down and take a look at what decks were doing well. It seemed like a huge portion of players decided to bring green Eldrazi Ramp decks to the table. My guess that the format would be removal light was spot on. Even the Naya decks topped out at three copies of Journey to Nowhere.
I'd like to keep pushing the limits of decks that take advantage of just how removal light the format currently is. I've had a lot of requests for Kiln Fiend decks since the release of Rise of the Eldrazi and I'd like to make good on promises I made to a few readers.
Kiln Fiend struck me as an incredibly strong card the very first time I saw it. It found a home in my Block red deck the day I saw it was previewed. I used to worry about spot removal and think that Kiln Fiend was too much of a liability to build a deck around. Green Eldrazi decks bring me a lot of comfort. Kiln Fiend has a huge amount of potential as long as people are winning with removal-light decks.
Cards like Distortion Strike seemed very narrow to me in the past. It felt as if Distortion Strike was only good with my Kiln Fiend. While it happened to be very strong there, I didn't think it was quite worth the slot. Scars of Mirrodin helps us expand the applications of Distortion Strike. Precursor Golem's spell copying properties look like a drawback on the surface, but we can build our deck in a way that takes advantage of this.
When you cast Distortion Strike on your Kiln Fiend and your opponent doesn't have removal you're getting in for at least 10 damage. If you happen to have a burn spell to go along with the Distortion Strike, then you're getting in there for a lot more.
When you cast Distortion Strike on a copy of Precursor Golem and your opponent does not have a removal spell then you're getting in there for a total of 24 damage. That's more than 20, so there may be a lot of games where you slow-roll these two cards until it seems as if your opponent is spent. These two cards alone will be enough to take the game.
Trinket Mage has been one of my favorite cards since its original printing. I'll be happy to include this card along with a diverse variety of zero- or one-mana artifacts to search up in a pinch. Cards like Brittle Effigy, Chimeric Mass, and Everflowing Chalice all seem like they would pull their own weight.
Chimeric Mass is one of the best Trinket Mage targets ever printed. Putting an X/X creature onto the battlefield that can't be hit by sorcery-speed removal is pretty impressive. A lot of decks cannot actually deal with things at instant speed. If the game goes late enough you may end up with an absurdly large Chimeric Mass that's worthy of a Distortion Strike.
Brittle Effigy is a nice removal spell. It hits card like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and any of the Titans. I watched a bunch of games played by people that had chosen to include Trinket Mage in their decks. One of the most common ways a game was lost by these decks was their inability to find a second copy of Brittle Effigy. I decided it was worth the slot to include a second copy of this spell.
Everflowing Chalice is another nice target for the Trinket Mage. Sometimes, you just need more mana. If you're stuck at four lands and you have a pair of Precursor Golems in your hand then you'll be happy you included this type of effect.
We want our Kiln Fiend to be as deadly as possible, so we need to play a good number of spells in addition to our creatures and Trinket Mage targets.
Preordain is a shoe in. It works beautifully with our Kiln Fiend and it helps us sculpt our hand. This type of deck often wants to engineer certain combinations of cards that deal exactly lethal damage to its opponent. A card like Preordain gives us the card selection necessary to put these combinations together.
Lightning Bolt is an obvious four-of. It's quite reasonable to kill someone at a very early stage of the game by aiming a Lightning Bolt at his or her face while you have a Kiln Fiend in play. Think about it. It's turn three and you have a pair of Mountains and an Island in play. You cast Distortion Strike on your Kiln Fiend and your tapped out opponent shrugs and lets the spell resolve. You cast a pair of Lightning Bolts targeting your opponent and attack for 11 points of damage. Your opponent will have taken a total of 17 damage on the third turn and will be forced to spend the next turn killing the Kiln Fiend or simply lose to the rebound of Distortion Strike. Your opponent will be dead to any burn spell you draw into even if he or she manages to find the removal spell necessary.
Staggershock has a lot of synergy with the Kiln Fiend. It's also a great card. Three mana for 4 damage is a fine deal in my book. The fact that it grants you an extra 6 power over two turns if you have a Kiln Fiend on the battlefield really pushes it over the top for me. I'd be happy to play with a full four copies of the card in a deck like this.
I went ahead and included a play set of Foresee in here too. I still don't see many people packing this card, but I'm confident that it's powerful enough to see play. The card selection you get off a single Foresee is game breaking. I'm happy to include four copies of this in my deck.
Here's the main deck:
You'd be surprised how often a Precursor Golem simply goes unanswered and you get to attack twice for the win. I played a few games with the deck and I won the majority of them by simply casting a Golem in the mid-game and having it go all the way.
I haven't even gotten to the most exciting part of this deck yet, though. Did I mention that it becomes a Pyromancer Ascension deck after sideboarding? That's right! Your opponents will sideboard in a bunch of removal to deal with your Kiln Fiends and you'll get to turn into a creature-light machine designed to combo out.
Pyromancer Ascension won't be very difficult to turn on in a deck like this. Take a look at the sideboard first.
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 See Beyond
4 Burst Lightning
1 Treasure Hunt
2 Call to Mind
When we want to transform our deck we make the following changes:
-3 Trinket Mage
-2 Brittle Effigy
-4 Precursor Golem
-4 Distortion Strike
-1 Everflowing Chalice
-1 Chimeric Mass
+4 Pyromancer Ascension
+4 See Beyond
+4 Burst Lightning
+1 Treasure Hunt
+2 Call to Mind
After sideboarding the deck looks like this:
Post-Sideboard Distortion Fiend
That's a pretty reasonable Ascension deck. It shouldn't have any trouble winning when your opponent sideboards in a bunch of removal to have a chance against your Precursor Golem beats. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of this archetype. I had the deck sleeved up and ready for tournament play by the end of the Magic 2011 Prerelease. If you're unsure how the deck works make sure you read my original column on the archetype here.
The deck loses access to Time Warp, but it plays a lot more burn spells, so it's able to kill its opponent with burn at a much more impressive rate.
I like to shuffle my whole sideboard into my deck and take out fifteen cards. This way you can keep your opponent guessing. Maybe your opponent thinks you're going to turn into a Pyromancer Ascension deck and is planning on taking out his spot removal and bringing in cards like War Priest of Thune or Back to Nature. You can simply leave your deck the way it was in Game 1 and your opponent will have been double bluffed by your transformational deck.
I haven't built a deck with a transformational sideboard in quite some time. I'm happy I get to share something like this with my readers. The transformational sideboard is a classic high-level deck-construction trick. When building decks, it's important to think about other decks that attack from different angles that happen to share a good number of cards with the deck you're currently building. You have a huge advantage in Games 2 and 3, as long as the cards that beat the two decks are different.
The Hulk Flash deck designed by Billy Moreno that Steve Sadin used to win Grand Prix–Columbus is probably the best example of this. In the first game the deck was dedicated to a combo that allowed the pilot to win on the very first turn of the game by using Flash to put a Protean Hulk onto the battlefield. Hulk Flash was a known archetype going into the tournament and most players had a lot of cards in their sideboards that would give a Hulk Flash player a very difficult time. Cards like Leyline of the Void, Tormod's Crypt, and Stifle were in almost everyone's fifteen. Billy decided that Hulk Flash was the best deck for Game 1 and that it would be silly to play anything else. However, the real brilliance was found in Billy's sideboard. After the first game Billy's and Steve's opponents would inundate their decks with a lot of cards that were only good because they intended to stop the Hulk Flash Combo. Billy and Steve would sideboard out their combo and bring in efficient creatures like Quirion Dryad that had synergy with the high number of cantrips that would be played in a combo deck of that era. The deck is still remembered as one of the most powerful decks ever created for a specific format. I once asked Steve what it was like to play that deck and he said every match was like walking into a boxing ring with a machine gun.
Both decks may look a bit weak at first glance, but the true power of the decks is their surprise factor. Playing a seventy-five like this forces your opponent to make decisions. Often times, your opponent will guess wrong and lose the game as a result. It becomes very hard for most players to win a match wherein they've already lost a game to guessing wrong about the composition of your deck after sideboarding.
Scars of Mirrodin will be available on Magic Online by the time I write my next column, so I'll be able to write up some match reports for next week. I plan on exploring the options available for a Mimic Vat deck next week and I'd love to hear your ideas. Perhaps we can repeatedly throw copies of Putrefax at our opponent. Perhaps we can make a metalcraft deck that uses cards like Trinket Mage and Lumengrid Drake alongside Precursor Golem. Be sure to hit the forums or shoot me an e-mail to share your ideas.