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Category: Thraximundar

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Thursday at GDC: Thraximundar Test Drive

Hello, loyal readers, and welcome to GDC.  Just as a quick FYI, I’m giving thought to moving the regular Wednesday update to Thursday in order to be able to better leverage reporting on my regular mid-week games.  (I *could* save the reports for Friday, but I’m old, and if I don’t type up results as soon as they happen, I’ll end up leaving out about 90% of what happened.  No bueno.)  What say you all?  Let me know in the comments if you absolutely can’t go without a regular Wednesday fix.

Anyway, the coffee has kicked in, so let’s do this!

THRAXIMUNDAR – 1, AVENGER OF ZENDIKAR – 0

Ahhh…man, that feels good to say!  Avenger is rapidly approaching a place for me that rivals Bennie Smith’s hatred for Seedborn Muse; I recognize how good the card is, and I play the card in multiple decks, but I’d be raising a glass to the RC if they axed it this month.  It’s no different than Insurrection; it costs a bunch, but when it comes down, the game always seems to end on the spot, or at the very least, break badly in that direction.  Case in point – Last night, one of our regulars went from an empty board to attacking with over 400 power worth of creatures in the space of a single turn.  That’s just back-breaking to have to deal with. 

…unless you’re sitting on Thrax’s Little Helper, anyway:

“Sweat plus sacrifice equals success.”
-Charles Finley

Just after 7PM, we seated a table of five last night at our local LGS (Worlds Apart Games in Amherst, MA) for the first of two fantastic games.  I shuffled up Imshan’s Thraximundar list for the inaugural test run, set to face down Garza Zol (tribal vampires), Ulasht (a fairly strong tokens list), Atogatog (cycling!), and Hazezon Tamar. (A straight-up ‘Dune’ theme deck; the general is a mock-up from Magic Work Station with a picture of Paul Atreides, and it makes Shai Hulud tokens…so awesome.) 

Things got off to a relatively normal start.  I didn’t have a ton of early gas, but Solemn Simulacrum found me the gas I needed to build into an early Consecrated Sphinx.  AtogAtog hit an early Fluxuator and began drawing through his deck at a blinding pace, while Ulasht immediately hit Garruk and began pumping out tokens.  Garza wasted no time on a Decree Of Pain to wipe the board and draw a bunch of cards from the rampant tokens, but my Sphinx had filled my hand with gas by then.  I dropped Blatant Thievery, forcing Hazezon to sacrifice a freshly-minted Fires Of Yavimaya and netting myself a Volcanic Island, Ulasht’s Garruk, and a pair of Greaves.  Various small attacks were interspersed throughout, and life totals steadily and evenly dropped.

Ulash rebuilt around a frightening board position featuring Moldgraf Monstrosity and Sword of Feast and Famine, forcing me into my own Decree Of Pain before long.  The Sword was causing Ulasht to explode out into a serious lead, using the land untap to create a boatload of tokens each turn through various channels.  By now, Garza had tabled, along with Falkenrath Noble,  so I pointed Consuming Vapors in that direction, Recall-ed Decree and Blatant Thievery, and took the troublesome Sword, a minty-fresh Phyrexian Reclamation, and a *very* threatening Invigorating Boon.  (Ladies and gentlemen, please take this moment to verify that your sarcasm detectors are functioning properly.  Thank you!)  Ulasht tabled what could have been a game-ending Beastmaster Ascension, but was not quite able to attack with enough creatures to immediately activate it.  Hazezon tabled Hazezon, and Garza decided enough was enough, tutoring up and popping O-Stone to reset the board.

I had tabled Liliana Vess prior to the Stone, and had tutored up Steel Hellkite, figuring on a quick way to deal with the tokens from the two decks leveraging them.  Banking on the fact that Hazezon wouldn’t find a way to make his incoming horde of sand warriors hasty, I played the dragon and passed.  Ulasht played In The Web Of War after looking at his hand thoughtfully for a minute, and passed.  Hazezon untapped, tapped the top of his deck and pleaded, “C’mon Urabrask!”, but was forced to settle for eleven lazy sand warriors and a 6/6 sand wurm that gained +1/+1 from Oran-Rief.  Atogatog cycled a bunch of stuff.  Garza Zol hit the table again.

I untapped, drew, and looked at a hand of Grab The Reins and the Recall-ed Decree Of Pain.  At this point, I knew Ulasht was up to something.  Seeing the deck in action last week, I knew it was capable of an explosive combo finish on the back of Mana Geyser into Spontaneous Generation, with a smattering of Eternal Witness thrown in for overwhelming measure.  With the Hellkite and a hasty Thraximundar, I could swing in for twelve damage, but he was one point out of reach at thirteen, and the Hazezon counterattack would wipe me out.  I decided to bank on the cycled Decree to cover me, sent the Hellkite at Hazezon to clear out the denizens of Arrakis, and passed to Ulasht.

Ulasht untapped.  “Well, I guess this is my all-in play.”, he proclaimed.  Green Sun’s Zenith for seven brought in Avenger Of Zendikar.  I breathed in.

Shared Animosity?”

He was tapped out with no sacrifice outlets.  I smiled. 

“Seems good.”, I said.

He attacked with the team. 

“How big are those things each?”, I asked. 

“Like 20 or 21 power each.”, he replied.

“What are you at?”, I asked, grinning and tapping seven red mana.

.  .  .  .  .
Overall, this build is what I was hoping to see in a mid-range Thrax deck.  I did make a few concessions for the build I ran last night; Recall is a card I’m tossing into many of my non-green builds these days for obvious reasons, and Blatant Thievery was a nod to the fact that while the deck is good at forcing people to sacrifice creatures, it is a bit weak in dealing with problem enchantments, and I wanted to have an out in the deck there.  For the most part, though, I kept with the list as presented, and I really enjoy it.
WHAT IT DID WELL
-Finding answers
-Maintaining a steady flow of card draw
-Flexibility
These were the weakest points of my original list, so this was a fantastic change.
 WHERE IT COULD SEE IMPROVEMENT
-Mana acceleration/fixing
-Heavier sacrifice theme/leverage
As is typical in this color combination, you have to shuffle, draw and pray that you get about four mana sources in your opening hand, which should carry you long enough to draw into more.  If not, it can be a coin flip, and you might end up stuck on three lands for enough turns to end up hopelessly behind.  I might consider finding a few more mana rocks of some sort to add in to smooth things out and make it easier to hit general mana in a reasonable amount of time.
The sacrifice theme is really enjoyable to play.  Part of the issue last night was that I spent most of the time playing defense instead of being a proactive threat and turning Thrax sideways, and I was facing multiple token decks.  That tends to force you into tutoring up Decree Of Pain instead of leveraging Smallpox or Innocent Blood.  I think more seat time will show me if this is strong enough as is, or if more sacrifice will make it a better all-around deck. 
All in all, I really enjoy this list.  I’ve got some tinkering to do to fit it to my metagame, and there are some solid includes that have been suggested that I’d like to give a whirl as well, (How’d I miss Slithermuse the first time around?) but for the most part, this is a very enjoyable deck to play that also maintains a nice competitive edge and can stand up to the field.  I’ll update as I play it some more.  
I think I’ll be giving Tribal Zombies another shot at my next testing session.  Next up here, however, we’ll be looking at the Sisters Of Stone Death list I’ve been threatening to reveal, as well as some accumulated play results. 
Thanks again for reading!
—>DJ 

POSTSCRIPT:  No…I didn’t come anywhere near winning that game.  The funny thing about letting a deck cycle creatures for two hours is that Twilight’s Call becomes a pretty massive beating when it finally comes down.  Garza Zol was also doing a much better job than the rest of us managing both life and resources; in the end, Hazezon and I bowed out quickly, while tribal vampires finally overwhelmed Atogatog with flyers.  Great game all around!

Friday at GDC: Patrick’s Zombie Tribal list, and I’m a terrible player…

Happy Friday, y’all!  It’s great to be here; this has been a grueling week, and I’m looking forward to…well, probably a grueling weekend, since the Christmas season brings about a billion and a half obligations with it, as well as some seriously un-finished shopping.  (Okay, okay…some seriously un-started shopping.)  Still, I’ll take holiday parties over work any day of the week, so let’s get to it. 
CROSSED WIRES ARE CROSSED
We’re going to post Patrick’s co-winning Thraximundar deck list today before we get to looking at the play-testing results of Imshan’s list.  Why is that, you ask?  Simple – my brain is suffering from mild sleep deprivation as of late, so I grabbed Patrick’s deck list instead of Imshan’s when packing my bag for the Wednesday EDH night this past week.  As a result, I have some seat-time with that deck, so I figured we would get it up and discuss a bit, and leave the other list for another day. 
DISCLAIMER: Good lord did the play-testing go poorly for this deck this week.  I’m sure the list is good, so either I suck at Magic totally, or I lost a bet with the God Of Shuffles.  The takeaway here is basically to stay tuned for more play-testing on this deck too.
THERE…PRETTY AS A PICTURE…
Full disclosure time – Patrick is one of my closest, oldest friends, and the number-one Friend of GDC both in readership and comments posted.  We’ve known each other since middle school, went to college together, he was in my wedding, and we’ve been in a band together for the better part of the last twenty years.  Before anyone cries foul, Patrick also went out of his way to submit multiple lists to me for the Thrax contest.  His first list was on a similar slant to Imshan’s list, and as a result, I asked Patrick to get outside of the box and show me what he could do with a straight tribal zombies list.  Patrick is one of the best deck builders and players I’ve ever met, and currently has an EDH deck stable that includes a minimum of one deck for every available color combination out there.  He knows his stuff like no other, and dove right in, coming up with the following list, replete with a full explanation of inclusions, synergies, and an overall deck strategy.  It was this level of detail that won him a co-slot in the winner’s circle. 
Let’s start with the list:
GENERAL – 1
CREATURES – 25
ARTIFACTS – 6
PLANESWALKERS – 1
INSTANTS – 6
SORCERIES – 16
ENCHANTMENTS – 7
LANDS – 38
2 x Island
2 x Swamp
…and there it is.
ACH!  ZOMBIES!
In asking for this list, I was much less concerned with the general’s role in the deck.  He would see play for sure, but I was far more interested here in the creature type printed on the card, rather than the abilities in the text box.  I was also up-front in that I wanted a deck that wasn’t just another theme deck, but maintained playability and could stand up to the average deck in the format.  He started with the manabase I had posted as part of my original list, added Unholy Grotto and Crypt Of Agadeem for some added recursion and acceleration, and went from there:

“THE CARD YOUR DECK IS BUILT AROUND:
That’s right…you’re now running a Rooftop Storm combo deck.  Ok, well sorta.  The way I see it, Zombies go like this:

BLACK-because that’s what 99% of Zombies are.  If you want a second color you go into…
RED-because they really want haste, and also Deathbringer Thoctar!  From there you can either go into…
WHITE- for Necromancer’s Covenant or…
BLUE-for Rooftop Storm or…
(if you’re uncreative you can go into…)
GREEN-for ummmm…mana ramp?

So anyways it’s really either Mono Black, Black-Red, or a tri-color.  If you’re in Blue you obviously are there for Rooftop Storm, so let’s break the s**t out of that thing.”
Absolutely.  I’m not crazy about Innistrad as a whole, but Rooftop Storm was the standout card of the set from my perspective, both from a flavor perspective, and also because of the discount you get for Thraximundar.  Those of you who say my original list will note it was in there for the general alone.
So I’m down here.  Lead on-

“THE CARDS THAT BREAK ROOFTOP STORM:

-Leyline of Anticipation

Rooftop Storm lets you play guys for free.  You know what goes well with that?  Being able to play your guys as instants.”

RECURSION:

-Empty The Catacombs
-Soulquake
-Evacuation
-Infernal Caretaker

Hey look, a handful of free Zombies!

-Patriarch’s Bidding
-Living Death
-Twilight’s Call
-Balthor The Defiled

As long as one of the zombies coming in is Noxious Ghoul, nothing except zombies will survive.”
Solid.  I love the inclusion of the mass-bounce spells, as I’m getting discounts all around re-playing my zombies, and these get around problematic shroud creatures.  It takes the deck and spins it in a slight combo direction, working up to a critical turn where everything is bounced, the zombies are all replayed for free, and ideally are hasty and can swing for a bunch all at one.  The mass grave recursion is clearly a must in a tribal deck like this, and I’m all about my Living Death.  This should be a great engine.  

“TECH!

Tombstone Stairwell
-Vicious Shadows”
Makes perfect sense.  Tombstone Stairwell and Vicious Shadows go in well, giving me some extra value from what ends up in the yard, and a bit of a damage boost when they head out the door at end of turn.  Let’s face it…tribal decks sometimes need the boost in damage in the face of superior (in most cases) creatures and strategies, and Shadows is thematic and custom-made for a deck like this.
Patrick notes that protection is going to be key:

“COUNTERS:
The paradox here is that by going more tribal, you should probably run more counters.  Since theoretically you’ll have Rooftop Storm out, you should theoretically be able to keep counter mana open.
-Cryptic Command
-Dismiss
-Hinder”
This makes sense.  If we’re going all-in on Rooftop Storm as a strategy in these colors, we’re going to need to protect it.  If it gets destroyed, I’m basically limited to Recall, Skull Of Orm, and…er…
…uh…
Crystal Chimes?  Seriously?  That’s it? 
This is why I’m always in green, folks…
Anyway, Patrick continues on to flesh out the choices he makes, and we end with a solid list; haste from Anger and In The Web Of War, creature buffs from Akroma’s Memorial and Eldrazi Monument, and a host of supporting card draw and mana fixing/acceleration, and some strong game-breakers in Insurrection and Time Warp.  Seems like a solid mid-range tribal deck on paper.
SO HOW’D IT GO?
In a nutshell, terribly. 
Now again, I don’t blame the build at all; I fully blame my luck.  I was able to play two games with the deck.  The first was against a Riku deck and a very competitive Kaervek list, and the second was against the same Riku deck and (if memory serves) Tolsimir Wolfblood.
In game one, I kept a hand that had enough land to get me going, a Phyrexian Arena, and a few minor zombies.  I figured the Arena would get me to where I needed to be, but the Riku player decided to Krosan Grip it, despite the Kaervek player having his own Arena and a Crucible Of Worlds with a fetchland in his yard.  I found myself tossing out chump-blockers to block Kaervek while the Riku player was inexplicably busy committing suicide by playing things like Kozilek, Butcher Of Truth and doing nothing else.  He died to Kaervek damage in short order; I found no gas or threats and was not far behind. 
Game two saw me stall out on the three lands I started with in my opening hand until about turn nine.  At that point, Kozilek had come back down and Annihilated Tolsimir out of the game, and I was faced with losing two-thirds of my permanents in the next attack phase.  Scoop!
I think the main lesson learned was that while this deck has some solid competitive elements, it’s not a tier-one list by any stretch.  (To be fair, I didn’t ask for one to begin with!)  While it does have some control elements, it has a very hard time dealing with non-creature permanents, and due to the theme, it needs to be drawing and playing a ton of cards to stay competitive.  Against a dedicated tier-one strategy, I think it needs to go a step further and be able to get one of the mass-bounce or mass-reanimation pieces going quickly as well, or else it ends up playing out sub-par threats with minimal disruption, and that’s not going to go toe-to-toe with a dedicated strategy. 
In any case, these were not good examples, and I know I need to get some more seat time with the deck to really feel it out.  Patrick himself said that this list was really only a starting point, and to experiment and tune from here; my intuition tells me the zombie count needs to go up, as does the card draw, and perhaps some added acceleration and/or mana fixing.  We will see.  
Oh…and this guy:
COMING UP NEXT TIME
We’ll talk a little bit about the debut of creatureless Sisters Of Stone Death.  (spoiler: it’s a blast to play!)  I swear to god we’ll also get more seat time and reporting from both Thrax decks as well.  If I’m feeling particularly saucy, I may audible to something completely unrelated to tear apart as well.  We’ll see how the wind blows on that one. 
Happy Holidays!
àDJ

Friday at GDC – Imshan’s winning Thraximundar list; Also, generaldamagecontrol.com is in the house!

Hey team-

Happy Friday!  We’re diving into Imshan’s winning Thraximundar decklist today (and it’s going to be a long post), so I’ll keep the intro short; some of you may have noticed, but we’re now officially online at http://www.generaldamagecontrol.com/!  Update your browsers…or don’t, because the old way still works too.  (I’m nothing if not a slave to the old school…)

So…on to the goods!

IMSHAN’S THRAX REDUX

For those of you just tuning in, we just put the wraps on a deck redesign contest featuring my failed Thraximundar list.  For those who don’t know him, Imshan (a.k.a. Sinis) is one of the Commandercast crew, as well as a regular on the Official EDH Forums.  He was one of two co-winners that stepped up, deconstructed my terrible list, and resurrected a far superior offering.  Today, we’ll take a look at what he did, and where we ended up.  (spoiler: It’s somewhere that decks don’t suck…)

I had asked for a list that had a significantly stronger internal synergy; one of the problems I tend to have in my decks is that I fall into the “good stuff” trap like there’s no tomorrow.  From Imshan:

“My offering will take Thraximundar in a sacrifice themed direction aiming at synergy with Thraximundar’s second trigger with some minor zombie and skeleton action.  Sacrifice effects have always been decent, and they play into Thraximundar’s text with relative ease.”

Killer.  When I first built my initial list, I was focused on the fact that Thrax’ has haste (I’m a big fan of actually getting a chance to use my general from time to time…), and I keyed in on the ‘sacrifice’ ability as the real draw.  Honestly, I could care less about the +1/+1 counters being added; I really only had visions of Ulamog and Darksteel Colossus dropping dead at the sight of him.

But what about the rest of the deck?  Why does it suck as bad as it does?  I’m sick of sitting around doing nothing.  Fortunately, Imshan has my back here:

“At first glance, I think you’re running a lot of really high curve creatures.  Deepfire Elemental and Scourge of Kher Ridges are pretty off-theme, and are really pricy for what they do.  Skeletal Vampire is also really pricy, and even though it’s got some sacrifice goodies on deck, it’s unpalatably expensive and weak.  High cost creatures are better served in a reanimator-style deck, where the costs are typically cheated and their come into play value is extracted multiple times.  Here, their expense is unwelcome.   Additionally, Thraximundar is easily a win condition; the fatties don’t necessarily contribute to that, and are not quite capable of substituting for it as some other choices are.  Cards like Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter, etc. are spot on; they sacrifice if you evoke them, are low curve, they do stuff.  Playing them as permanent bodies can help for chump blocking, or other sacrifice mechanics.  Some expensive creatures such as Steel Hellkite and Avatar of Woe serve purposes that suit their costs.”

Right on…guilty as charged.  What else?
  

“You’re also running a few cards that I like to think of as ‘mono-colour fixers’ that really shine in single colour decks that don’t have a particular piece of the colour pie, but require the missing mechanics to work.  Specifically, Phyrexian Ingester and possibly Duplicant are costly and could be substituted for cheaper and more synergetic substitutes.  These guys are great in mono-blue, but black has a ton of good cheap and synergistic creature removal, making these guys a tad redundant.  Similarly, Oblivion Stone shines in decks without other board wipe options, but is redundant or even bad next to Damnation, Decree of Pain, and others.”

…He’s good.  😉

Finally, Imshan explains the master plan:

“To help all this stuff out, I’m going to recommend some low curve creatures, draw, and especially sacrifice-removal.  I’ve also included more graveyard hate, which is where people usually get more gas.  Power through synergy.  Here is the updated list, with new additions in bold and explanations after.  There’s lots of room to change stuff around, and find a spot for Rooftop Storm.  Explaining the cuts would take a lot of space, but I generally removed cards that I thought were just too high mana cost and didn’t generate enough value.  The mana base is spectacular, except Keldon Necropolis and Crosis’ Catacombs, which is too costly to activate effectively and a lousy temp-loss respectively.”

I love it.  Power through synergy.  This is exactly where I wanted to head with this deck to begin with.  Here’s the list:

General

Creatures – 25

Enchantments – 4

Artifacts – 5

Planeswalkers – 1

Sorceries – 18


Instants – 9


Lands – 37
2 x Island
2 x Swamp

Halimar Depths

There we go!  This list does a ton of things better than the original one did.  Right off, the overall CMC average of the deck probably dropped by about three or four with the substitutions Imshan made, which makes this thing so much easier to get off the ground.  He also did a far better job than I did at really adhering to the ‘sacrifice’ theme, getting in with cards like Chainer’s Edict, Innocent Blood, and Gatekeeper Of Malakir that I just glossed over for more standard-color inclusions.  I managed to miss completely that in this deck, a card like Geth’s Verdict manages to be removal and creature pump at instant speed, and he’s spot-on with the inclusions.

I somehow also managed to miss the awesomeness that is Curse Of The Cabal and It That Betrays in my first pass.  For someone like me who tends to be head over heels for big, splashy, expensive-as-hell cards, this is absolutely inexcusable.  I can’t wait to cast these things!

He does a great job of upping my graveyard hate, which is important in any metagame (and especially so in mine), and I get to retain Rooftop Storm with the zombie subtheme, so I’m stoked there too.  And he pulled some of my janky land inclusions for better ones that fix mana (Grixis Panorama) and open up swampwalk (Urborg), so both are welcome.

All in all, Imshan did exactly what I wanted to see in a revision, and I couldn’t be happier with this thing.  Thanks very much for the help, Imshan!  I really appreciate it.

Coming up shortly, we’ll get into some playtesting results with this badboy, and then move on to Patrick’s co-winning straight-up zombie tribal list.  We may get a bit off-topic between then and now, though – I have a few bones to pick with some recent happenings, and a story or two to drop as well.  (I’d hate for you to think I’ve gone soft already…) 

As always, thanks for dropping in, and stay tuned!

—>DJ

Cyber Monday – The Thrax’ winner(s) and the Gifts Given donation

Good morning, everyone.  Happy Monday!  As I sit here at home, getting started with the holiday shopping season by having the furnace people do an emergency servicing on my boiler to stop it from spewing carbon monoxide into my basement, I figured I’d toss out an early update on the Thrax contest winners and the Gifts Given donation.

(Aside: Owning a home is awesome.  And by “awesome”, I mean “I’d rather schedule a root canal and a colonoscopy on the same day.”)

First off, the donation.  Currently on the way to sunny Canada is this guy:

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest, even if you didn’t submit a full list; the sideline conversations I had with some of you on deck construction were pretty cool.  Hope this helps the cause, Andy!

THE CONTEST WINNER(S!)

With an “s”.  I’m good like that:

Imshan, (aka Sinis) from Commandercast
-Patrick, (aka Mr.P, Bloodpuppy11, and a host of other aliases…), good friend of GeneralDamageControl

These two took the challenge of re-building my failed Thrax’ list in two different directions.  Imshan deconstructed my original list, pulling out quite a bit of overpriced chaff and tuning it to run quicker and more resiliant.  It’s leaner, meaner, has *way* more synergy, and…you know, it actually does stuff now, which is a 100% improvement on the original.

Patrick submitted multiple lists (awesome, by the way), and I chose a killer ground-up reimagining of a dedicated Zombies tribal list out of the bunch as the best.  I was taken with the fact that, while I don’t typically build tribal lists, this one was strong in synergy and looks to be able to stand against some pretty strong decks, and no other list I received went dedicated tribal, so it wins on style points as well..  Outside of the box, and I dig that. 

So both of you have won the contest, and you’ll both be getting custom alterations as a result.  I’ll be doing dedicated posts for each deck coming up in the next few days, with notes from the designers, thoughts, and hopefully some real-world test drive results.  The finished alterations will be featured in the future as well. 

Thanks again to Commandercast, and to everyone who helped by pitching in with a list here.  I really appreciate it, and I’m sure the Child’s Play team will as well.

Stay tuned…

—>DJ

Black Friday – Thrax’ Decklist Contest Deadline

Hey, y’all…hope all is well, and you’re enjoying turkey coma hangovers, braving the Black Friday shopping (crazy), or…er…working.  Yeeaahy…

Just a quick note – The Thraximundar Conundrum Contest is winding to a close by the end of the day today, so please – If you’re sandbagging a list, E-mail it to me ASAP.  Commandercast Andy gets the donation e-mail tomorrow with no exceptions.  It’s been a little quiet this past week, and I’m dying to ship a Tropical Island in his direction.  Can you help me do it?

Busy day today folks, so carry on.  I’ll be back next time with a look into some of the Thrax’ decklists, and some announcements on winners and altered cards chosen as a result.

Happy holidays!

—>DJ

Among The Living – The Thraximundar Conundrum Contest

As promised, here is the Thraximundar list that is giving me a headache:

CREATURES – 24

Duplicant
Solemn Simulacrum
Steel Hellkite
Avatar of Woe
Butcher of Malakir
Deepfire Elemental
Skeletal Vampire
Fleshbag Marauder
Promise Of Power
Massacre Wurm
Mulldrifter
Phyrexian Ingester
Scourge of Kher Ridges
Shriekmaw
Kagemaro
Trinket Mage
Phyrexian Metamorph
Consecrated Sphinx
Sphinx Of Uthun
Defiler Of Souls
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Rune-Scarred Demon
Ingot Chewer

SPELLS – 38

Coalition Relic
Darksteel Ingot
Sol Ring
Expedition Map
Sensei’s Divining Top
Phyrexian Arena
Fact Or Fiction
Syphon Mind
Blue Sun’s Zenith
Wheel Of Fortune
Mystical Tutor
Liliana Vess
Demonic Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Crystal Shard
Phyrexian Reclamation
Goblin Bombardment
Nihil Spellbomb
Minion Reflector
Spinal Embrace
Grab the Reins
Delirium
Savage Beating
Wild Ricochet
Word Of Seizing
Insurrection
Slave Of Bolas
Beacon Of Unrest
Praetor’s Grasp
Cauldron Dance
Twisted Justice
Grave Pact
Oblivion Stone
Life’s Finale
Barter In Blood
Black Sun’s Zenith
Damnation
Decree of Pain

LANDS – 37

Scalding Tarn
Polluted Delta
Bloodstained Mire
Crumbling Necropolis
Badlands
Underground Sea
Volcanic Island
Watery Grave
Steam Vents
Blood Crypt
2 x Island
2 x Swamp
2 x Mountain
High Market
Miren, the Moaning Well
Volrath’s Stronghold 
Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Shinka, The Blood-soaked Keep
Temple of the False God
Academy Ruins
Keldon Necropolis
Phyrexian Tower
Strip Mine
Terramorphic Expanse
Evolving Wilds
Command Tower
Reflecting Pool
Mystifying Maze
Vesuva
Tolaria West
Crosis’s Catacombs
Bojuka Bog
Halimar Depths

I SWEAR THIS IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE – 1
Rooftop Storm

So you can probably see that there’s a soft ‘sacrifice’ theme going on here, with a ‘good-stuff’ list hiding badly beneath it.  Really, I wanted to take a legend who passes the “Hasty or Indestructible?” test and apply a shell based around him or her in a ‘general-centric’ manner.  I was aiming to fill these colors out to begin with, and I’m a sucker for any body that can side-step indestructible opposing creatures.  Thrax’ should be cast early and often, and pump up quite a bit while running head-long at Ulamog for maximum value.

The deck really seems to suffer from running out of steam.  I think it comes out of the gate well enough, and just ends up hitting a wall and keeling over somewhere after the first board wipe takes out any sort of initial board position.  I’ve spent a few games just sitting, drawing one per turn and watching as things spiral out of my control, before just plain losing.

AREAS OF CONCERN

1) Theme

I feel like I may not have gone in hard enough in this area in favor of playing other good-stuff cards.  Some things cross over well (Goblin Bombardment and Grave Pact) and some are solid when they work, while also enabling some interesting play choices (Twisted Justice), but there are so many knee-jerk includes like Kagemaro, First To Suffer and Insurrection that are great cards, but don’t really have synergy with the general. 

2) Fuel For The Fire

Looking closer at the breakdown, there’s not a ton of draw, and a good chunk of it is high-costed; my early options seem limited to Wheel Of Fortune and Phyrexian Arena.  For a deck in the three best colors for draw, this seems pretty off.  I guess Mulldrifter hits early and on theme, so that’s good, but it still seems light.  Acceleration and mana-fixing seem a bit on the weak side overall too, which is probably why I broke with my tried-and-true 36-land tradition.

3) Back To Synergy

I feel like I may have been blinded by too many cool things to have missed a lion’s share of synergy that would push the overall power level up to where I want it to be.  I guess I have Phyrexian Reclamation and Crystal Shard to get some value out of certain creatures, but that’s kind of weak-sauce now that I really look hard at it.  There’s no strong draw or recursion engine at all to speak of.

MOVING FORWARD

So I’m looking for help with a redesign.  I’m pretty sure I want to focus on a strong deck with good synergy based around the general.  I know there are cards I’ve missed, and maybe some I *should have* missed.  I wouldn’t mind if the deck went heavier on instants and abilities for maximum flexibility.  I also don’t want to just rebuild another good-stuff deck…I want “power through synergy”.  Most importantly, I need more gas in this thing.  Running out of gas sucks when you’re talking zombies, after all.

Zombies Tribal is completely okay, as long as it meets the criteria I’ve laid out here.

(Speaking of…yeah, Rooftop Storm can probably go if it absolutely HAS to…)   

DANGLING THE CARROT

I had made mention that I’d offer up something to the person that can help me out of my mess here.  I’d like to keep my promise, so I’m offering up an acrylic paint alteration of the card of your choice to the person who presents me with the new decklist I decide to run with.  (Hopefully y’all saw my Progenitus alteration, so I’m not fooling around here…I do know what I’m doing.  Mostly.)  If you can put a list in front of me that hits all the marks and pulls me out of my slump with Thrax’, I’ll pony up for any card with a street value of $10 or less, and put any sort of alteration you’d like on it.  If you absolutely are dying to have your copy of Xiahou Dun done up borderless, I’m glad to do it, but you’ll need to send me a copy.  I’ll pay shipping and insurance in that case.

As a side bonus, all submitted decks and ideas will will be posted in a future article here.  And since I’m in a great mood today, I’m upping the ante for a great cause; if you haven’t wandered over to Commandercast lately (and you should), Andy and crew have jumped on board with “Gifts Given”, a fantastic donation project to Child’s Play, a charity aimed at helping improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world.  I’ve been trying to come up with a way to donate, so here it is:

FOR EVERY DECK SUBMISSION, I’M MAKING A DONATION OF $5 IN CASH OR CARD VALUE TO GIFTS GIVEN. 

Send your deck submissions directly to me via E-mail here.

Note: Andy is closing the donation period by the end of the month of November to be able to have time to manage and submit the donation, so please have your lists in a few days before the end of the month.

Who’s got my back?  It’s for a great cause.
—>DJ

Of EDH, The NFL, And Incredibly Dubious Cross-References…

Things are slowly getting back to normal in GDC land today.  Power came back on last night in time to be able to hand out candy to the massive hoard of kids that show up in my neighborhood.  Pleasant surprise there.  Other bonuses include, but are not limited to:

-Heat
-A hot shower
-Ability to flush toilets

You know…the little things.  Tuesday is looking up all around.

Moving on, I’ve got a few things in the works that I wanted to drop a line on before giving y’all some actual content today.  I want to make good on my promise to really piss some people off, so I’ll be tackling a few hot-button topics in the coming days; in no real order, I’ll be hitting the dreaded “Tuck” ability, why I’ve decided the command zone is a terrible thing, and general douchebaggery in EDH.

For today, though, we’re ordering ‘lite faire’, so I thought I’d introduce my current decks.  Stay tuned at the end for a few chances to do my heavy lifting for me help me with a pair of problem builds. 

Without further ado (and now with 110% bad NFL references)…

The ’72 Miami Dolphins (The Perfect Season)

Teysa, Orzhov Scion

I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting Teysa to come in at the top of the heap, but after looking at the current crop of decks, I discovered that she was the only undefeated deck I have.  Created to be a decent contender for normal games, the deck is a top-down design based on the fact that Teysa exiles things.  This is the top of the heap as far as what I look for in a general (followed closely by ‘hard to kill’ and ‘hasty!’)  In practice, I discovered that black and white offered me a fantastic blend of top-notch removal and a decent helping of tutor/draw.  It’s all about tokens, and features the machine-gun Darkest Hour combo.

The ’76 Pittsburgh Steelers (The Steel Curtain)

Venser, Shaper Savant

Also known as “Douchebag Blue”.  I was on an ‘instants rule!’ kick, which intersected with a Perfect Storm of an intersection of losing to a really obnoxious Geth deck and the whole GenCon Erayo debacle I detailed here.  The result is a totally potent, completely boring and obnoxious control deck packed with counters and steal effects.  It’s just designed to run defense and shut down other dominant decks.  (It’s also an excuse for me to play my copies of Mana Drain and Timetwister.  Hey…I’m nothing if not shameless.)  Important note: it makes Patrick announce every card he plays with “Permission to play XXX?”  Even lands.

The ’08 Detroit Lions (Goose-Egg, Baby!)

Radiant, Archangel

I won’t beat around the bush…this deck sucks.  It’s a throwback to a moment where I decided that I needed to A) build a theme deck, and B) feature only old-school obscure foil generals.  I can’t help but feel that I’m doing a great disservice to this poor lady every time I shuffle the deck.  It just flat-out loses even low-powered fun games.  Still, I’m a softie at heart, so it somehow has managed to avoid the axe several times.  Fun Fact: I’ve never been able to play the copy of Baneslayer Angel in the deck I yanked from a pack at the M10 Prerelease.  I think it’s because she’s too embarrassed to come into play.   

The ’85 Chicago Bears (The ‘Fridge In The Endzone)

Kresh the Bloodbraided

This is a bit of a barn/tribute to Sheldon’s infamous Kresh build.  It’s a strong good-stuff build that is designed to have the correct answers to the right threats at the right time, and then be able to Fling a enormous Berserk-ed Kresh or Vulturous Zombie at someone’s head for lethal at an opportune moment.

And no…it’s the foil Shards version, not the new FTV art.  No…hell no.

The ’04 New England Patriots (The Sum Of Its’ Parts)

Intet The Dreamer

Near and dear to my heart due to it being the first general I ever built around when I started playing the format.  I’ve deconstructed and rebuilt this deck several times over; the original build was heavy on cards that I have learned to frown on, like Sundering Titan and Wildfire.  Now, it’s kind of a good-stuff pile of role-players like Acidic Slime and Dominus Of Fealty that aren’t superstars on their own, but come down and do the right thing at the right time.  I find myself frustrated repeatedly that the deck doesn’t seem to do much and doesn’t have a closer, but I’m not sure what to do with it, and it seems to continue to work well in spite of all of this.

The Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and Houston Texans (The Expansion Teams)

There are four decks that have recently or are in the process of springing up out of new additions to my collection:

Kaalia Of The Vast

The only deck of the four to see action as of yet.  I hate to say it, but it’s a fairly linear build.  WBR control based around Kaalia’s ability to vomit huge dragons and powerful demons onto the battlefield.  Oh, and maybe an angel if my draws suck.  She doesn’t break new ground, but I just wanted a red-zone deck, and she’s a blast to play.  Fun Fact: I lose any semblance of self restraint when I play this deck, shoot the moon as soon as possible, and nearly immediately establish myself as the overwhelming dominant threat at the table.  Can’t help it.  It’s like crack…I know it’s terrible to do, but I keep going back for more as soon as I can.

Hazezon Tamar

I fully blame Patrick for this one.  We were discussing the pricing on the old Legends generals, and Hazezon came up.  I thought for some reason that he had been reprinted in Chronicles.  Patrick corrected me, and I developed an instant uncontrollable urge to add another old-school general to my stable.  That, and I realized that it was a great way to finally make use of the foil Doubling Season that had been sitting in my binder for a long time.  The last cards are showing up in the mail, and I intend to kick the tires as soon as possible.

Angus Mackenzie

This deck is currently Angus in a red sleeve, followed by 99 empty black sleeves.  But goddammit, I needed a way to put a leftover Tundra, Tropical Island, and Savannah to use, and goddammit, it’s another old obscure general.  An expensive, old, obscure general.  Seriously…it’s a freaking Fog stapled to a Grizzly Bears.  Why the hell is this worth a $20 bill-plus?

I need to get over this OCD-can’t-handle-having-unused-duals-lying-around crap I’m suffering from.  And then take that money and invest in Google…

Sisters Of Stone Death

This one is only a few cards more fleshed out than Angus, but I’m excited about it.  For one, I love the art, and I’ve been dying to build another two-color deck.  Most importantly, she adheres to ‘DJ’s Rule Of EDH General Selection’.  (No, not that one.  Or that one.  Or that one.  Yup, the “Exile” one.  Man, I need to revise my rules here.)  Besides, red-zone generals are never bad.

Look to follow along as the build for this one materializes.  I’ll be asking for help and guidance along the way, so here’s your chance to guide me towards the promised land.

Here’s your *other* chance, and my last deck:

The OaklLos Angel…er…Oakland Raiders (Whatever.  You love to hate them, no matter what they’re called, right?)

Thraximundar

*This* is the deck that’s going to get our attention as a group first.  I’ve had it together for a while now, and it has seen play, but I can’t for the life of me make it run worth a damn.  I wanted to put together a red-zone deck that leaned toward removal and focused on playing and using the general, but had some serious staying power; kind of my Kresh build, but one that actually, you know, attacked.  And before anyone asks, yes…this was Tetsuo Umezawa good-stuff before it became what it is now.  Of course. 

The main problem is that it just doesn’t seem to do a damn thing.  It kind of ramps, kind of draws some cards, and leans on a minor sacrifice theme.  Sometimes it gets in for some damage and makes someone sacrifice a dude.  But most of the time, I find myself staring at an uninteresting hand and an uninteresting board position, and I end up feeling very unfulfilled.  I feel like this deck and this general in these colors should be straight-awesome; as it is now, it’s just like the Raiders; a place where former role-players go to die, and a deck that just ends up being disappointing.
Next time, I’ll post a deck list, some background and theory, and I’d love for some input from anyone out there who feels like getting in there.  In fact, I may make it interesting and put up a little something for the person who can turn this list around for me.  Let me see what I can do there, but it’ll be worth-while.

Until then…

—>DJ

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