his past week I have spent a good deal of time battling extended in the tournament practice room of Magic Online in preparation for the PTQs in my area. I was playing some games with Zoo and I got paired against a blue deck that I assumed was some variant of my Grapeshot deck from last week. I was delighted when I was killed with Hive Mind on turn three two games in a row. My opponent logged off after the match and I did not get a chance to ask for his decklist, so I decided to build my own version and have been getting increasingly satisfactory results with the deck.
Enter the Hive Mind!
Here's how the combo works: A player with Hive Mind out casts Pact of the Titan or Pact of Negation on an irrelevant spell like Ponder. The other player needs to pay for the pact during their upkeep or they lose the game. This is probably the most Johnny combo I've seen in a long time. I'm sure a lot of you will be thrilled with the deck.
I want to include a lot of card selection to make sure I can put the combo together, I also want a good deal of ramp to make sure I can cast Hive Mind early enough for it to matter. Here's a list of the cards I considered playing with.
Hive Mind: This is the focal point of the deck.
Ponder: Ponder is any combo deck's dream. The card selection you get from this spell is really unbelievable. I'm certain that four of this will make the cut in the final list.
Serum Visions: This is the type of deck that wants to play with eight Ponders, and Serum Visions may be the best available alternative.
Ethereal Usher: I want to ensure that I can draw my Hive Mind. Ethereal Usher's transmute ability will work nicely.
Rite of Flame: The newest incarnation of Dark Ritual is a welcome inclusion in any deck that needs to ramp its mana up quickly.
Desperate Ritual: Just another ritual. I probably won't have room for this, but it's good to keep all relevant cards in mind during deck construction.
Seething Song: A very solid ritual. Seething Song allows the deck to go off on turn four very easily.
Pact of the Titan: Combos very well with Hive Mind. This is the go-to win condition of the deck.
Pact of Negation: This is especially nice because it helps us protect the combo. It can also be used as a win condition when we cannot find our Pact of the Titan.
Telling Time: More card selection never hurts.
Simian Spirit Guide: This deck is not trying to achieve a storm count, so this card is probably just a better version of Desperate Ritual.
Remand: Slowing the opponent down to break serve is important in Extended. Remand helps us accomplish this while letting us get deeper through our library in the process.
Repeal: Chalice of the Void for zero is game over if we don't play a card like this. I may leave it in the sideboard, but it certainly belongs somewhere in the 75.
Lightning Bolt: Slowing down the opponent is still very important. Lightning Bolt seemed like a good inclusion to me, but the more I pondered the subject, the more I realized it was only very good in the Zoo matchup.
The list I ended up playing looked very tight on paper. The whole deck costs less than thirty tickets to construct and the deck is certainly capable of winning a lot of matches. I wanted to make sure my sideboard has a good number of answers for any given matchup
I would sideboard as follows in each given matchup:
-1 Ethereal Usher, -4 Seething Song, +3 Repeal, +2 Pact of Negation
Against decks with a lot of counterspells you want to use Tolaria West to find as many Pact of Negation as you can. You can use the Pacts to protect your combo.
-1 Ethereal Usher, - 2 Pact of Negation, -1 Telling Time, +4 Ravenous Trap
-2 Pact of Negation, -1 Ethereal Usher, +3 Firespout
Any slower deck with Meddling Mage or Gaddock Teeg [Bant, Doran, etc.]:
-2 Pact of Negation, -1 Ethereal Usher, -3 Seething Song, +3 Firespout, +3 Electrolyze
-2 Pact of Negation, -1 Ethereal Usher, +3 Repeal
-4 Seething Song, +3 Repeal, +1 Pact of Negation
I took the deck into the tournament practice room on Magic Online and played a few matches to see how things would go.
I lost the roll and kept Ethereal Usher, Pact of the Titan, Seething Song, Ponder, Island, Shivan Reef, Tolaria West. My opponent played a Lava Spike off a Great Furnace on the first turn and I knew I was in for a race. I drew a Pact of Negation, played Tolaria West, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Hellspark Elemental and attacked me down to fourteen. I drew another Shivan Reef, cast Ponder, found nothing and shuffled, played my Island, and passed the turn. My opponent unearthed the Hellspark Elemental and played a Teetering Peaks to pump it up. He attacked me down to nine. I drew a Serum Visions, played my Shivan Reef, and used the Transmute on Ethereal Usher to find Hive Mind. I had the win next turn. My opponent drew for his turn and simply passed. On my turn I played my land, cast Seething Song, took 1 damage off the Shivan Reef, and cast Hive Mind. My opponent fired a Shrapnel Blast and a Lightning Bolt at my face for lethal damage with Hive Mind on the stack. I cast Pact of Negation on the Shrapnel Blast, countering it. And once Hive Mind resolved, I cast Pact of the Titan and my opponent lost during his upkeep. This is why you burn your opponent while they're tapped out on your own turn instead of waiting for something fancy.
I mulliganed to five and was left with Hive Mind, Pact of the Titan, Pact of the Titan, Tolaria West, Island. My opponent played a Goblin Guide and attacked me for 2. The Goblin Guide found a Mountain for me and things were looking a bit better. I drew a Pact of Negation, played my Tolaria West, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Hellspark Elemental on his second turn (they always have it!) and attacked me for 5. Goblin Guide meant that we both saw the Telling Time I was about to draw. I drew the Telling Time, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent unearthed the Hellspark Elemental, played another land, and attacked for another five. I used Telling Time in response to the attack. I saw Hive Mind, Serum Visions, and a Shivan Reef. I put Serum Visions in my hand, Hive Mind on the bottom of my library, and Shivan Reef on top. I got to draw the Shivan Reef off the Goblin Guide. I drew a Mountain for my turn, played my land, and cast Serum Visions, I drew a Ponder and left a Simian Spirit Guide on top of my Library. I cast the Ponder and saw a pair of Simian Spirit Guides and a land, I left both guides on top and drew one of them. I passed the turn. My opponent attacked me with Goblin Guide and had a Lightning Bolt and Lava Spike to finish me off.
I mulliganed to six and kept Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Hive Mind, Shivan Reef, Mountain, Island. I played the Island and passed the turn. My opponent played a Lava Spike and passed the turn back. I drew a Serum Visions, cast it, drew another Hive Mind, and left a Pact of the Titan on the top of my library. My opponent played a Blinkmoth Nexus and passed the turn. On my turn I drew the Pact of the Titan. Then I cast both Rite of Flames, cast Hive Mind, and cast Pact of the Titan for the third-turn kill.
I won the roll and kept Hive Mind, Rite of Flame, Pact of the Titan, Ponder, Tolaria West, Tolaria West, Shivan Reef. I put out a Tolaria West and passed the turn. My opponent played a Secluded Glen and I knew my plan for the game. I cast Ponder and left three lands, including the third Tolaria West, on the top of my library. I played my Shivan Reef and passed the turn. My opponent played a Bitterblossom and passed the turn back. I drew an Island, played it, and used the Transmute ability on Tolaria West to find a Pact of Negation. My opponent made a Bitterblossom token and passed the turn. I drew another Island, and used the Transmute ability on Tolaria West to find another Pact of Negation. My opponent made another Bitterblossom token, attacked for 1, played a fourth land, and passed the turn. I drew a Mountain, played it, cast Rite of Flame, and cast Hive Mind. My opponent played a Mana Leak and I played Pact of Negation, he tried to Spellstutter Sprite the pact and I had a Pact for that also. After Hive Mind was in play I cast Pact of the Titan and the game was over during his upkeep.
Sideboarding: -1 Ethereal Usher, -4 Seething Song, +3 Repeal, +2 Pact of Negation.
I kept Ponder, Repeal, Pact of Negation, Pact of the Titan, Island, Island, Mountain. My opponent suspended an Ancestral Vision and passed the turn. I drew a Remand, played an Island, cast Ponder, and put a Hive Mind securely on top. I drew a Telling Time and passed the turn. My opponent had Bitterblossom for the second turn again. I untapped and drew another Island, played my land, and passed the turn. My opponent made a Faerie token, and passed the turn without playing a third land. I cast Telling Time on his end step and put Rite of Flame in my hand, Hive Mind on top, and another Hive Mind on the bottom. I drew Hive Mind for my turn, played my land, and passed the turn back to my opponent. My opponent made another Faerie token and attacked me for one. I drew a Simian Spirit Guide, cast Rite of Flame, used the Simian Spirit Guide's ability, and cast Hive Mind. My opponent was at the ready with Mana Leak, but I had Pact of Negation. I cast Pact of the Titan afterward, and the game was over.
I lost the roll and kept Ethereal Usher, Ponder, Remand, Telling Time, Shivan Reef, Shivan Reef, Mountain. My opponent played a Steppe Lynx and passed the turn. I drew another Ponder, played Shivan Reef, and cast Ponder. I put an Island in my hand, and a pair of Pact of the Titans on the top. My opponent played a fetch land and opted not to crack it when he hit me for two with the Lynx. It all made sense when he played another Lynx in his post combat step. I drew the Pact, played my Island, and passed the turn. My opponent played another fetch land, cracked both fetches, and attacked me for twelve. On my turn, I cast a Telling Time, he had a pair of Lightning Bolts and the game was over. What an exciting draw for him, though.
Sideboarding: -2 Pact of Negation, -1 Ethereal Usher, +3 Firespout
I kept Firespout, Hive Mind, Ponder, Island, Island, Shivan Reef, Tolaria West. I played my Island and cast Ponder, I found a Rite of Flame, Seething Song, and another Hive Mind. I kept the cards on top and passed the turn. My opponent played a Wild Nacatl and passed the turn. I played another Island and passed back. My opponent attacked for three, played a Tarmogoyf, and passed the turn. I drew the extra Hive Mind, played my land, and used the transmute ability on Tolaria West to find Pact of the Titan before passing. I had the win lined up for the next turn. Unfortunately for me, my opponent played a Molten Rain on my Shivan Reef and attacked for five. I needed red mana but the top of my library just offered up another Seething Song. I passed the turn back to my opponent and he attempted a Lightning Bolt. I went to seven. He fired off a Lightning Helix and I died to the following attack.
Well, that's it for this week's Building on a Budget. This deck has a lot of holes in the current extended format, but I thought it was powerful enough and had enough appeal to Johnnies that you guys might enjoy it. There's certainly a powerful way to use Hive Mind in the current Extended. I'll go back into the lab and see if I can cook anything up. Shoot me an e-mail if you have any ideas.