You all can at least partially blame me for Squirrel Week. When Mark and Aaron asked me to submit an audition piece for this column, I was allowed to choose any deckbuilding topic using Odyssey, the newest set at the time. I chose--you guessed it--Squirrels, and ever since the two of them have plotted Squirrel Week. It would have happened eventually anyway, because Mark is the one sneaking Squirrels into Magic (something I didn't know when I wrote my audition . . . go Lady Luck!), but I kind of egged him on.
The fact that I picked Squirrels shouldn't surprise you if you have read my previous articles. I love themes, and Odyssey brought with it enough Squirrels to make a theme deck featuring two of my all-time favorite Magic cards: Deranged Hermit and Squirrel Wrangler.
Today's article is not a theme article, per se. Instead, I am going to discuss the making of a “normal” Squirrel deck. That is, if you want to dazzle your opponent with Squirrels because it's funny, because you're weird, or just because you're looking for a change of pace, then today is your day.
I focus on Standard because I want newer players to ponder the wonders of Squirrel decks. If you play with pre-Invasion cards, the ideas here should still be relevant. Besides, the next two weeks I'll be focusing on older sets (oooh . . . foreshadowing).
Squirrels: The Essentials
Any self-respecting Squirrel deck obviously starts with Squirrel cards. Almost all of my own deck creations include four copies of 1) Chatter of the Squirrel, because it's cheap and fast; 2) Squirrel Nest, the most reliable way to make loads of Squirrels; and 3) Squirrel Mob, the king of Squirrels.
I also use at least two copies of Acorn Harvest, because it acts as a super Chatter later in the game (preferably after Squirrel Mob is on the table). Whether I climb to three or four copies depends on the deck.
After that, my choices vary widely. Druid's Call and Nantuko Shrine can combine with other tricks to produce ridiculous amounts of Squirrels. I won't discuss or use Nantuko Shrine today simply because I have featured it before, but many Squirrel decks can be built on the shoulders of the Shrine alone.
Krosan Beast is terrific if you can reasonably expect to reach threshold. The problem is that it works at cross-purposes with the flashbacking Chatter of the Squirrel and Acorn Harvest, so you have to work to keep your graveyard full.
Similarly, Nut Collector is insane when you have threshold. I often throw in a single copy despite its cost, because 1) I think every creature type deserves a "lord," and 2) it's named Nut Collector, which is funny.
If you happen to be building a strict theme deck, you will probably want to dip into almost all of these cards, as well as Might of Oaks (the Urza's Legacy, version), Monstrous Growth (the Portal Second Age, version), and the amazing Squirrel cards before Odyssey. Might of Oaks sometimes sneaks into my nontheme Squirrel decks, too.
Although Squirrels make up the core of any Squirrel deck, the Standard versions need help in order to impress your friends. Below are ideas for support cards and the different ways you can take a Squirrel deck.
Squirrels: Their Forest Home
If you have a pack of Squirrels sitting in sleeves and are wondering what other goodies that green--the color of Squirrels--might provide your deck, there are plenty of options. Think first about utility spells like Creeping Mold, Nullmage Advocate, and Druid Lyrist, because Squirrels by themselves can do nothing to stop opposing artifacts or enchantments. They also pretty much suck at protecting themselves, which may warrant Spellbane Centaur or Sylvan Safekeeper. If you are worried about opposing fliers, try a spell like Hurricane. Finally, if your friends play Pernicious Deed, slap four copies of Bind into your deck, because Squirrels hatePernicious Deed.
The fun starts once basic utility is out of the way. Parallel Evolution can usually double your Squirrel count. When you scratch your head and think "How the heck am I going to win with Squirrels?!?", think Overrun, Centaur Chieftain, or even Lure.
You can also build a deck whose main goal is to make a lot of Squirrels . . . period. In this case, Epic Struggle is your win condition, and cards like Folk Medicine and Symbiotic Deployment help you get there.
In addition, if your Squirrel deck is monogreen there's no reason to avoid artifacts. Coat of Arms can make mighty big Squirrels, while Mirari can add bunches of Squirrel-creating spells to the stack. I can also envision a Squirrel deck that uses some combination of Grafted Skullcap, Ensnaring Bridge, and Meekstone to throw a barrage of expendable Squirrel troops at an opponent while keeping you safe from harm.
Squirrels: The Other White Meat
Of course, green's allied colors--white and red--can spruce up a Squirrel deck significantly. In white, the most obvious additions are Glorious Anthem; Glory; Mirari's Wake; and Pianna, Nomad Captain, all of which can make a Squirrel army look like a real army. I also like Eladamri's Call, which can fetch Squirrel Mob, or single copies of Nut Collector and Krosan Beast.
A green-white deck can also use Squirrels to grind the game to a halt. Blessed Orator, Lashknife Barrier, Diversionary Tactics, and Worship combine with Squirrels to stall most opposing creature-based strategies so that you can set up something tricky later in the game (something involving Phyrexian Altar or Test of Endurance, perhaps?).
My favorite Squirrel enhancers in white, however, are 1) Equal Treatment, which not only acts as defense but also can double the damage of an assaulting Squirrel attack, and 2) March of Souls, which neuters more impressive opposing creatures while actually improving your own little dudes by giving them flying.
Red's single-best addition to Squirrels are burn spells like Firebolt, which give your deck a way to remove blockers and deal those last points of damage. Rites of Initiation can also be particularly scary in a Squirrel deck. My favorite Squirrel trick in red is Book Burning, which solves that pesky threshold problem.
Squirrels: Embracing the Dark Side
Green's opposing colors--black and blue--provide similarly wacky fun. The best reason to include black in a Squirrel deck is for discard or creature removal as a supporting strategy. Braids, Cabal Minion happens to love hanging out with Squirrel Nest, and Last Laugh provides the same chain reaction craziness that I discussed during Token Week and the Deck Challenge I.
Squirrels happen to be expendable, and black is excellent at making use of expendable critters. Quagmire Druid solves opposing enchantments, while spells like Dredge and Diabolic Intent can make good use of extraneous Squirrels. I am particularly fond of Reprocess for turning large numbers of Squirrels into large numbers of cards.
As with almost any strategy, blue adds more to Squirrel decks than perhaps any other color. You can make a "Counter-Squirrel" aggro-control deck, a tempo-based deck with cards like Aether Burst and Temporal Spring, or a threshold deck with cards like Merfolk Looter, Mental Note, and Careful Study. Most evilly (and boring, in my opinion), you can combine Squirrels with Opposition.
Don't feel like you have to wander the expected route with blue. Wonder can find its way to your graveyard to create a "Flying Squirrels" deck, Keep Watch is about as Squirrel-friendly a card as they come, and Unnatural Selection can make any deck a Squirrel deck. Finally, Cultural Exchange can nab you something tasty like a Spiritmonger--all the while giving your opponent a measley Squirrel--and the artwork makes it a fun theme card.
Squirrels: The Final Frontier
If more than one of these ideas appeals to you, there is no reason to limit yourself to a two-color Squirrel deck. Especially while Invasion block is around, you might as well go crazy with the number of colors you use. I particularly like Order/Chaos as a combination defensive/offensive card for Squirrel decks, and have recently tried to put Guided Passage to good Squirrel use.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas with which to get started. Below you'll find some of my sample Squirrel decks, although you will undoubtedly think of additional ways to become "One with the Squirrel." Mmmmm . . . Squirrels.
Next week: My least-favorite block ever.
Jay may be reached at email@example.com.