ello and welcome to Jund Week! I'm going to try something new this week and focus on deck evolution. I decided early last week that I wanted to start working on a devour deck for this week's article. I needed a deck that produced absurd creature counts. I've already touched on Jund and that concept here. I've been playing a lot of Magic lately, and I've started to see a lot more Elfball decks popping up on Magic Online. Elfball has the ability to just barf upwards of twelve creatures onto the board as early as turn three. I really like decks like this and appreciate their extremely high raw power levels. Most Elfball decks look something like this:
Unfortunately, though, Elfball suffers from some major problems. A well-timed Wrath of God really ruins your day when you play the Elf deck. It's hard to get into the game without going all-in, and you really can't play around Wrath of God without losing a lot of value. I also needed to add the devour mechanic to the deck. I needed a solution.
As I was devouring my Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday it hit me. Tar Fiend! The Elfball decks produce absurd amounts of mana and don't have anything to do with it, and they make tons of dudes that can just be Wrathed away the next turn. The more I thought about it, the more fun I imagined it would be. I made a rough list while dazing about on a serious tryptophan high.
Sidenote: My family fried a turkey this year! If you've never had fried turkey I have to insist that you find it, immediately. It was not only the best turkey I've ever had, but quite possibly one of the best foods I've ever had. I totally roleplayed as a Tar Fiend and devoured what was probably a two pound leg plus an additional two servings of this bird.
Anyway here's the list:
Delicious Turkey Day Concoction (First Take)
Delicious Turkey Day Concoction plays a lot of inexpensive creatures that will hopefully chain into an Elvish Promenade. Once you play Elvish Promenade you can use Heritage Druid's ability to create a ton of mana. You can then use this mana to make a massive Tar Fiend and empty your opponent's hand or you can sacrifice a large number of tokens to a Skullmulcher to continue searching your library for the game-winning Tar Fiend.
Heritage Druid: This is the card that makes the deck tick. Definite four-of.
Nettle Sentinel: Combos well with the Heritage Druid, also serves as an efficient beater if the game turns down that path.
Devoted Druid: Accelerates you mana quickly and promotes exceptionally aggressive draws.
Llanowar Elves: One mana mana-producers are really efficient. If I could play more Llanowar Elves I would. Unfortunately, I can only play four.
Bramblewood Paragon: The paragon is important when I fall back on plan B (swarm my opponent with Elves). This turns every token into a relevant threat and makes creature vs. creature matchups a lot better.
Elvish Promenade: Promenade is great for the beatdown or combo plan. It makes a lot of guys to attack or block with and if you have a Heritage Druid you can use your tokens to make a lot of mana, which you can use to play a Tar Fiend. The tokens are also excellent fodder for your devour creatures.
Imperious Perfect: Maybe a little too expensive for the deck, but it seems like its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. I could see myself cutting these, but I could also see them shining as among the best cards in the deck.
Manamorphose: I don't particularly like the argument for playing a 56-card deck. Cards like Manamorphose make for difficult mulligan decisions and can skew judgment. However, in a deck like this, you need Manamorphose to play your Predator Dragon, It also serves as a "free" way to untap some Nettle Sentinels.
Tar Fiend: The big play. Tar Fiend is what this deck wants to be doing with its fourth turn. You can produce a huge threat (I'm talking 20/20 huge) and empty your opponent's hand; from that point it's pretty hard to lose.
Springleaf Drum: Sometimes you need more mana. Springleaf Drum works incredibly well with Nettle Sentinel and is a fine accelerator. Drawing more than one Springleaf Drum is pretty awful, though, and any hand including both of them should probably be mulliganed.
Skullmulcher: I think Skullmulcher is very powerful, we don't always have a Tar Fiend in our hand, but sometimes drawing a new grip is just as good as taking away your opponent's. This card is on my watch list; it may end up being very powerful, or it may not.
I played some games with the deck in this state and had very mixed results. Some games were incredible. I successfully played a turn-three Tar Fiend and made my opponent discard their hand in one game. There were, however, some flaws in the deck. I went back to the drawing board and tried to find what wasn't working.
My deck still had a big problem with Firespout. I could race Wrath of God (especially on the play), but even getting two for oned by a Firespout was usually bad enough to put me out of the game. I decided to check gatherer and see what I could do to fix the problem. One card in particular immediately jumped out at me.
Prowess of the Fair: Prowess of the Fair is a really nice security blanket. It helps protect us from Firespout and Wrath of God, it works well with our Skullmulcher, and it makes combat math a lot harder for your opponents. I decided to cut the Predator Dragon and some Manamorphose. Because I cut the cantrips I decided to add another land. Here's what the list looked like.
Delicious Turkey Day Concoction
Delicious Turkey Day Concoction (Second Take)
I played a few games with this version of the deck. When I played Prowess of the Fair it was very good and I wanted to add a third one to the deck. Unfortunately, my mana seemed really bad without the extra Manamorphose and I wanted to add the second, third, and fourth copies. I needed something to cut.
Skullmulcher seemed like a good idea in theory, but every time I played the card I was losing the game. It's pretty hard to combo out the same turn you play Skullmulcher in this deck, and I think you probably want to be doing better things with your time and mana. I added the extra Manamorphose and a third Prowess of the Fair. I looked at the decklist and decided that I could probably go back down to eighteen land. I needed an extra one-of, so I searched Gatherer for a while. I found a gem...
Commune with Nature: The nature of a deck like this makes Commune with Nature exceptionally strong. It can find the game winning Heritage Druid or Tar Fiend better than most cards in the format. The deck is playing enough creatures to make whiffing a very rare occurrence. I want to play four of these and see how it works out.
I decided to cut three Imperious Perfects and one land to add Commune with Nature. I fiddled with the numbers a bit, and the third decklist looked like this.
Delicious Turkey Day Concoction (Third Take)
I played the deck in this form for about fifty games. It is a blast to play. Here's a rundown of what kinds of hands you want to keep and what kinds of hands aren't really worth your time:
1. Hands that include a Heritage Druid along with enough Elves to activate are almost always keepers.
2. Hands that have Elvish Promenade and at least two other Elves will probably be good enough to get there. The deck's Elf count is high enough that you can expect to draw a third Elf by the time it's necessary.
3. Hands that include Prowess of the Fair with one or zero creatures are always mulligans.
4. It's all right to assume the Commune with Nature will be something of value. If you don't make this assumption, you'll be mulliganing far too often.
It's important to remember that you're playing aggro and combo at the same time. If it looks like you're about to combo into a huge Tar Fiend, that does not mean you can afford to miss damage with your Elves. It may sound obvious, but I know most people have been guilty of not attacking with a 1/1 because they're about to make a 12/12. A lot of times you end up sitting there in the endgame with your opponent at 1 life while you're kicking yourself.
I think this version is really well tuned. The only other card I could see being a good addition would be Overrun. If you have the time to test it I would highly recommend trying the big green sorcery. If your play group doesn't play with any board sweepers, then you can probably cut the Prowess of the Fair for some extra Imperious Perfect or an Overrun or two. If your play group plays with a lot of board sweepers then you might be better off trying a different deck. Hope you enjoyed my Thanksgiving budget deck, and I'll see you all next week.
If you're looking for a more dedicated devour deck, check out this list that was sent to me by Braden L.:
2 Predator Dragon
3 Hissing Iguanar
4 Dragon Fodder
3 Thunder-Thrash Elder
4 Soul's Fire
4 Bone Splinters
2 Grave Pact
4 Marsh Flitter
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Elemental Mastery
2 Festering Goblin
Braden's deck can make a huge Nantuko Husk, put Elemental Mastery on it. Use the Aura to make a ton of guys, sacrifice all the guys to the husk and then shoot a Soul's Fire at the opponent for around 30 damage. When I saw this deck I had to include it in this week's article—it was too much in the spirit of Jund Week not to.
If I were going to play Braden's deck I would probably try to find some Sprouting Thrinax and perhaps play a Torrent of Souls or two. I really like where he's going with this list, and I think there's a lot of potential in this area. I played the deck a bit yesterday and had a blast with it. It's also nice that it costs under eight tickets to build on Magic Online.
Have a good week and wish me luck at Worlds!