few weeks ago I had the pleasure of previewing Curse of Stalked Prey, an interesting new enchantment from Innistrad. This past week I received an email from a reader who has discovered what is probably the best way to abuse the new enchantment.
I had assumed that Curse of Stalked Prey would be best suited for a swarm-based aggro strategy when I had initially seen the card. Cards don't always play as expected, though. Curse of Stalked Prey has a secret. If we include Curse of Stalked Prey in a deck with Invisible Stalker, then our opponent will be put on a fast clock, and there's not much he or she can do about it.
Equipping an Invisible Stalker with a Sword (say, Sword of Feast and Famine) was one of the most talked-about interactions for Constructed with Innistrad. Nowadays, everyone is well prepared to deal with Swords. Ancient Grudge has become commonplace, and it's difficult to gain an edge when your strategy is dependent on a card that your opponent wants you to play.
Curse of Stalked Prey solves that issue quite handily. I don't see any enchantment removal in people's main decks or sideboards. Perhaps there's a one-of Naturalize here or there, but it's certainly not like the days when everyone had Nature's Claim in their sideboard.
What really sold me on this deck was Thrummingbird. A Thrummingbird can get out of hand very quickly with a Curse of Stalked Prey enchanting your opponent. You can stack the two triggers as you choose. Choose to put Thrummingbird's proliferate trigger on the stack first, then put Curse of Stalked Prey's trigger on the stack. Curse of Stalked Prey will give all your attacking creatures that connected a +1/+1 counter upon resolution of the ability. Then the proliferate trigger will put another +1/+1 counter on all of your creatures that have counters. The proliferate mechanic also works very well with Bloodcrazed Neonate, Falkenrath Marauders, and Shrine of Burning Rage.
Invisible Stalker is still the best two-drop to have with a Curse of Stalked Prey. Most decks have no answer to a growing unblockable guy with hexproof. I've had some games where my opponent has had a Black Sun's Zenith in hand and, despite hitting all their land drops, they were always a turn behind being able to kill the Invisible Stalker. They didn't want to waste the Zenith early just to shrink my guy, but by the time they were forced to do so, they had to tap out at a late stage in the game and get destroyed by a Falkenrath Marauders.
Bloodcrazed Neonate is another two-drop that combos nicely with Thrummingbird and our other proliferate cards. If you're able to acquire Stromkirk Noble then I would recommend playing it in this slot over the more expensive Vampire. Stromkirk Noble has become a very sought-after rare, so they can be hard to come by. The card is a big upgrade, though, so if this deck appeals to you then I would try to acquire a playset.
Falkenrath Marauders hasn't been talked about a lot. These guys close games very quickly. It's a card that demands a removal spell immediately. It also combos nicely with our proliferate shenanigans. These gentlemen are the cleanup crew.
Neurok Commando is a very real card that I expect to see make an impact on Constructed before it rotates out of Standard. It's untargetable, which makes it a huge beating against decks that don't play creatures. Unfortunately, most decks play a good number of guys these days, so I don't want to play more than two of these, because draws with multiple Commandos can be clunky.
Volt Charge was practically designed for this deck. The proliferate mechanic increases the number of +1/+1 counters on our creatures, and having a removal spell to clear the way for a Neurok Commando or Bloodcrazed Neonate can be very important. A lot of the time you have an Invisible Stalker and Curse of Stalked Prey, but your opponent has a fast start and is able to race you. Playing a good amount of spot removal makes your deck very difficult to race with. It also helps when the spot removal speeds up your clock in the process. Speaking of speeding up the clock, a lot of the time it's correct to dome someone with a Volt Charge and get an extra +1/+1 counter on the Invisible Stalker. Just do some quick math and you can see whether casting a Volt Charge on your opponent changes the race math in a way that makes you win the game a turn or two faster.
Curse of Stalked Prey | Art by Christopher Moeller
Curse of Stalked Prey is the key card in this deck. If we draw this, then the deck is very difficult to lose with. Unfortunately, when we don't draw the enchantment, we're often left with underpowered cards. We want to play four copies of Curse of Stalked Prey to maximize our chances of drawing it. We'll also play some library manipulation and card draw to help further increase our chances of finding the key enchantment.
Ponder is the best library manipulation card in Standard. Having a turn-one Ponder will greatly increase your chances of having a Curse of Stalked Prey for the third or fourth turn. Ponder also helps the deck find key cards at the right moment. Did your opponent finally stabilize with a Day of Judgment? Go fishing for a Falkenrath Marauder and force your opponent to find another removal spell. A lot of the time you're using Ponder to dig for a Negate or Mana Leak when you have control of the game and want to use countermagic to prevent any haymakers from ruining your day.
I said it last week, but I don't mind saying it again: Geistflame is a very real card. Even the control decks have targets these days. Geistflame lets us find card and tempo advantages in places that we probably wouldn't look. A lot of the time that single point of damage can close a game. Opponents will be careful not to fall below 4 life against a deck with red cards, but using a Geistflame to put them on the magic number is often something they cannot afford to use a card to stop. It's also important to note how strong this card is against Inkmoth Nexus.
Tezzeret's Gambit is another card that fits this strategy very well. Drawing cards is always good, but drawing cards and pumping up your team is even better.
I finished off the deck with a healthy dose of countermagic. Four Mana Leaks and two Negates should be enough to ensure that we've found a counterspell by the time our opponent has found a sweeper to deal with our Invisible Stalker.
I included a playset of Sulfur Falls to make sure the mana works out, but you can replace them with two Islands and two Mountains if you're unable to acquire the rare land from Innistrad.
Here's the decklist once I put it all together.
Blue-Red Curse of Stalked Prey
The sideboard is pretty rough, but Shrine of Burning Rage is really incredible in post-sideboard games when no one has any way to interact with it. I've begun including these in the sideboard of my Burning Vengeance decks. A reader, Bjorn, suggested that I try this card in a deck like this. It's been incredibly impressive.
Magic Online is Innistrad-ready now, and I'm happy to bring back game reports. I've had a chance to play two matches with this deck and I'd like to share them with you!
I won the roll and chose to play first. I kept Ponder, Thrummingbird, Mana Leak, 2 Island, Sulfur Falls, and Mountain. I played an Island and cast Ponder. I saw two lands and was forced to shuffle my library, then drew Curse of Stalked Prey. My opponent played a Forest and passed the turn. I drew a Tezzeret's Gambit, played Sulfur Falls, cast Thrummingbird, and passed the turn. My opponent played another Forest and cast Rampant Growth. I drew another Ponder, cast Curse of Stalked Prey, attacked for 1, made my Thrummingbird into a 3/3, and cast Ponder. I kept Mana Leak, a land, and Falkenrath Marauders on top in that order and drew the Mana Leak before passing the turn. My opponent cast a Solemn Simulacrum, searched up a land, and passed the turn back to me. I drew the land, attacked for 3, made my Thrummingbird a 5/5, and passed the turn. My opponent attempted to cast a Primeval Titan, but I had the Mana Leak, so my opponent just attacked for 2 and passed the turn. I untapped, drew Falkenrath Marauders, played my fifth land, and cast the Marauders. I attacked for 7 and made my Thrummingbird into a 7/7 and my Falkenrath Marauders into a 6/6. My opponent untapped, drew, and conceded.
Sideboarding: -2 Geistflame, -2 Neurok Commando, -4 Bloodcrazed Neonate, +4 Flashfreeze, +4 Shrine of Burning Rage
I kept 2 Shrine of Burning Rage, Volt Charge, Invisible Stalker, Falkenrath Marauders, and 2 Mountain. My opponent played a Rootbound Crag and passed the turn. I drew a Mountain, played it, and passed the turn. My opponent played another Rootbound Crag and passed the turn. I drew a Tezzeret's Gambit, cast Shrine of Burning Rage, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Birds of Paradise and a Viridian Emissary before passing the turn. I wouldn't have sided out 2 Geistflames if I knew my opponent had Birds of Paradise, but some of those lists just run one copy of Birds, so it's probably fine. Right on time, I drew Geistflame. I played another Mountain, cast another Shrine of Burning Rage, cast Geistflame on the Birds of Paradise, and passed the turn. My opponent played a fourth land, attacked for 2, and cast Thrun, the Last Troll. I ticked up both Shrines, drew an Island, and cast Tezzeret's Gambit for four mana, charging up the Shrines with proliferate and drawing two Islands.
After I passed the turn, my opponent attacked me for 6 and passed back. I drew another Invisible Stalker, played an Island, cast Invisible Stalker, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked me with both guys again, and I chump-blocked Thrun with my Invisible Stalker. I used the flashback on Geistflame to kill the Viridian Emissary. My opponent searched up a land and passed the turn. I continued to charge my Shrines, drew a Sulfur Falls, played it, cast another Invisible Stalker, and passed the turn. My opponent played a sixth land and attacked me for 4, but I chump-blocked again.
After that my opponent cast a Primeval Titan, and I knew I was going to win. I cast Volt Charge targeting my opponent, doubly charging both Shrines, and was able to kill my opponent with the Shrine activations.
I lost the roll and kept Invisible Stalker, 2 Bloodcrazed Neonate, Volt Charge, Mana Leak, Island, and Sulfur Falls. My opponent played a Darkslick Shores and passed the turn. I drew a Tezzeret's Gambit, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Swamp and passed the turn back. I drew a Ponder, played my land, and cast Bloodcrazed Neonate, but my opponent had a Wring Flesh on my end step. My opponent played a Ghost Quarter and passed the turn. I drew another Tezzeret's Gambit, cast Bloodcrazed Neonate, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Snapcaster Mage and used the Wring Flesh to kill my Bloodcrazed Neonate again. My opponent attacked me for 2, played a fourth land, and passed the turn. I drew Curse of Stalked Prey, cast Invisible Stalker, and passed the turn. My opponent cast Forbidden Alchemy on my end step, then attacked for another 2, played a fifth land, and passed the turn. I cast Curse of Stalked Prey, attacked for 1, made my Invisible Stalker a 2/2, and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Grave Titan and the game wasn't really close.
Sideboarding: -2 Falkenrath Marauders, -4 Bloodcrazed Neonate, +2 Neurok Commando, +4 Shrine of Burning Rage.
I mulliganed two hands that were very Thrummingbird-dependent and ended up with a bad draw that didn't pan out well. I lost without doing much.
It's unfortunate, because a Shrine of Burning Rage with practically anything to back it up is almost impossible for the blue-black deck to beat. I still think it's correct to mulligan aggressively for an Invisible Stalker / Curse of Stalked Prey draw or a Shrine of Burning Rage when playing against Blue-Black Control, even if it didn't work out this time.
I hope you all enjoyed this new take on Curse of Stalked Prey. Remember to hit the forums or shoot me an email with any ideas or feedback.