avin was feeling a little under the weather, so I offered to cover for him this week.
A few weeks ago, Gavin challenged all of you to put together a Modern-legal theme deck that would compete on the FNM level. You responded with a mountain of decks that I found overwhelming. The creativity and just sheer volume of decks was amazing!
A lot of the decks were leaning to the completely competitive and practically ignored theme, while others slavishly followed a theme and simply had no chance at being competitive. Thankfully, there were plenty of you who stayed true to theme and still had amazing decks! One of my personal favorites came from Dr._Who_in_Seattle:
Dr._Who_in_Seattle's Brimaz Barrage
What the Deck Does
The deck uses its components to win games. It gets plenty of creatures on the battlefield and attacks for the win before an opponent can do anything to stop it. This deck is a whirling dervish of goodness. Actually, far better than Whirling Dervish. The Dervish isn't all that exciting, while this deck gets the creative juices flowing. So how do we improve on this?
The Little Kitties
The deck is reliant on single-casting-cost cards to get through early damage, which appears to make sense. With nineteen one-drops, you should be able to deal 12 damage before the end of the fourth turn. This should end most games very quickly.
But most games is not ALL games.
The problem is that the deck is reliant, over-reliant really, on these tiny kitties, expecting them to do the "lion's share" of the work. This just isn't going to happen. With this many small creatures, there is no way to get the win in the later stages of games.
This is why we are going to take out the Wild Nacatls and replace them with four copies of Purphoros, God of the Forge.
Purphoros can be seen as a controversial change, but consider it for a moment. Even in a deck where Purphoros will never be a creature (he is the only red permanent in the deck), this indestructible enchantment adds 2 points of damage to every opponent you face, every time you add a creature to the battlefield. With the number of creatures in the deck, Purphoros will likely be able to add 10 points of damage to each opponent without any real loss of power to the deck. Purphoros is also less of a strain on your mana base, since you won't be needing the red source of mana until the mid-game. Wild Nacatl wants that red source the turn after it enters the battlefield.
While I like a white Kird Ape as much as anyone, Loam Lion just doesn't offer anything else. If you draw it after turn four, it is practically useless (unless you have a Purphoros in play!). I'd like to replace it with four Nacatl War-Pride.
The War-Pride is bigger, so it is better defensively than Loam Lion, but where it really shines is on the attack. With the War-Pride, you simply pick the opponent with the most creatures and attack that poor sap! Assuming your opponent has four creatures in play, and you have Purphoros, you just did 8 damage to all your opponents, and you haven't even included any combat damage yet! The War-Pride is a buzz-saw with Purphoros, leaving your opponents cringing, wishing they didn't have what they thought was a solid board position!
Savannah Lions is the weakest of the bunch, which explains why Dr. Who opted to go with only three. While they round out the one-drop package of the original deck, with the new additions to the deck, Savannah Lions just doesn't offer enough. One white mana for a chump blocker and 2 damage is tolerable, but my choice would be an all-star in the new deck: Firecat Blitz. The Blitz keeps the Cat theme of the deck while offering plenty of options to work with Purphoros. Six mana into Firecat Blitz means 8 damage, plus whatever extra you can do with the red kitty tokens!
The real kicker is the flashback. Under normal circumstances, sacrificing Mountains for such a short-term gain is a mistake. Who gives up their mana base for 1/1 Cats that don't even stay past the turn? The benefit here is that the flashback is the kill move. Even sacrificing only three Mountains means 6 more damage. With the 8 from the initial casting cost, you are only 6 away from the win! As long as Firecat Blitz is in the graveyard, your opponents have to constantly recalculate their life totals, based on the number of Mountains you have on the battlefield. In the meantime, the Nacatl War-Pride is ramping up the damage!
I am a fan of Steppe Lynx, and Dr. Who's mana base does what it can to give you two land drops in a turn when possible. While this is great, the changes we are making to the original deck are going to make it difficult to land a white mana early in the game, when the Steppe Lynx is at its best. I do still want the early presence the Lynx offers, and I want to stay with the Cat theme, so I opted to replace the Steppe Lynx with four Penumbra Bobcats.
The Bobcat is slower than the Lynx but it plays an interesting style of defense. With Purphoros in play, your opponents are more reluctant to attack you, preferring to attack others. The Bobcat can block and bring his black shadow on to the battlefield, along with 2 more damage. The Steppe Lynx's ability to get bigger is nice, but the Bobcat's ability to spawn a replacement defender and deal 2 bonus points of damage to every opponent wins me over here.
The Pridemage brings a bonus when a single Cat attacks and is useful as a way to take out artifacts and enchantments, but that white mana cost just isn't going to work in the new deck. I'm replacing the Pridemage package with Naturalize. The new deck isn't looking to add a single power and toughness to one creature as a way to win, so I don't see that as a loss. While I'm disappointed to drop a Cat from the theme, Naturalize gets the job done, at the same two mana cost, but now at instant speed!
The Bigger Package
Other than a bigger body, Fleecemane Lion offers little else. Rather than pay a monstrous monstrosity cost, I opted for Waiting in the Weeds. This card keeps us on the Cat theme and gives us more Cats for Purphoros to love. In a worst-case scenario, Waiting in the Weeds nets you only two Cats and 4 points of damage, but with the mana base we have in mind, I suspect you'll be getting six Cats every time you cast this.
The benefits go beyond just the 2 points of damage each Cat offers with Purphoros on the battlefield. The Cats stick around and make great defenders. Our deck will need to play defense for a little bit and Waiting in the Weeds is a great way to do that. Another benefit is that your opponents may end up with many little green Cats, too. When you realize just how well this works with a Nacatl War-Pride, you will likely finish off all your opponents with 20 points of damage in one turn!
Brimaz is a great card in the deck, offering some reach in the mid-game the deck desperately needs. In the new deck, though, Brimaz doesn't offer nearly as much reach. I like that the King of Oreskos brings a Cat Soldier with him wherever he goes, but the double white cost just isn't going to be effective with the changes.
Flame Rift offers that reach we are looking for. An extra 4 points of damage to each opponent can be just what was needed to put your opponents in range of a flashed back Firecat Blitz!
(Photo Credit Bonnie Bruenderman)
As well as the Flame Rifts, I also included Jedit Ojanen of Efrava. Brimaz is cute with his 1/1 Cat Soldier, but Jedit brings a 2/2 Cat Warrior with forestwalk. While Brimaz costs less, with the ramp package we are running, Jedit Ojanen should prove to be even better.
Speaking of ramp, we will need a ramp package. Many of the cards are expensive, and some have heavy color requirements. I've added Cultivate and Harrow to make sure that the ramping starts early and gets us the mana we need quickly and efficiently.
Finally, I've added two Worldly Tutors. The deck is very dependent on Purphoros, so adding two Worldly Tutors effectively gives us six copies. In a pinch, it can also find one of our other creatures to really get the damage rolling.
So how does the deck look with our tweaking?
Bruce's Ballroom Blitz, minus Brimaz
Why it Rocks
With the modifications, the deck will ramp quickly, drop a Purphoros as soon as possible, then let the rest of the cards take over. You will likely find that over a single turn or two, you will be able to do all the damage you need to do to take out multiple opponents, or just one if you are playing in a duel. The deck is no longer Modern-legal, but it is a blast to play and I'm sure you'll have a great time with it!
Some of the other decks I considered:
Phyrexianingester's Kitties from the Sky
Kensan Oni's Puss in Boots
Zakb6's Puss in Boots with Axe
MinscAndBoo's Crazy Cat Lady
Breaking from the Blitz
I hope you enjoyed today's take on competitive theme decks! If you've been looking for a way to startle your friends, tell them you're playing a deck that involves flaming balls of feline! They won't look at you the same way again!
There's no challenge for this week; Gavin will be back and soldiering on with a juicy preview article, assuming I haven't cost him his job. But in the meantime, if you have any thoughts on this article, more general topics you'd like to see covered, or otherwise, feel free to let me know—I always love to read your feedback. You can either post in the forums or send me a tweet and I'll be sure to take a look at it. I may be a little slow to respond; there are always so many great articles on April 1!
Talk with you again next week!
Bruce's games invariably involve a kitchen table, several opponents, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun playing Magic, then you are doing it wrong.