Most of the deck ideas I come up with (if not all) are total garbage. Sorting out the moderately playable from the humorously awful is almost a fulltime job requiring countless hours of testing and the willingness to abandon a bad idea mid-stride. I was so happy with the performance of my U/W control deck, the one we talked about last week, that I decided to see if I could keep the streak going. Surely I could take that creativity and apply it to something more exciting like, say, Fauna Shaman? One weekend and four strange deck iterations later, I wound up with a U/B SpeedMill variant that still isn’t even very good.
But hey, if we didn’t discuss our failures we’d never learn anything, and so it is with great humility that I relate this story of the weekend’s playtesting.
It all started when I sat down with Cam of the Mournland over AIM and asked him to help me come up with a way to “break” Fauna Shaman. As I’ve said before, the card has seemingly infinite possibilities and I couldn’t wait to play around with it.
The Idea: I’d play Fauna Shaman coupled with cheap creatures like Birds of Paradise and Hedron Crab. Using the Crab to mill myself, I’d fill my bin with Unearth creatures to toss at my opponent. Who doesn’t want to huck 5/5 Extractor Demons across the table for 3 mana?
The Pitfall: Playing Hedron Crab and Extractor Demon in the same deck as Fauna Shaman and Hell’s Thunder is a touch mana-prohibitive. Even Birds of Paradise and Harrow couldn’t save me from my overambitiousness some days, and nothing is worse than not being able to cast your spells.
The Idea: Cam suggested Sedris, the Traitor King as a means for opening up my unearth options, and my imagination instantly ran with it. I envisioned “combo-ing” out with a Sedris in play and 4 Bogardan Hellkites in the graveyard, and set out to build a deck that could do just that.
The Pitfall: This was a joke and a half. I’d have been better off actually trying to raise my own actual army of zombies. For one, I needed to rely on Hedron Crab to flip Sedris into the bin, and Rise from the Grave, a 5-mana black sorcery, to get him out again. Once I finally got him in play, that was only half the hard part done. I still had to Unearth the Hellkites and hope they could deal lethal damage, provided there were enough of them in the graveyard to begin with! Yeah, this was a mess.
The Idea: It occured to me that if I’m going to all the trouble of getting a creature into the graveyard just to bring him back by cheaper and more effective means, I should probably just make that creature my win condition, shouldn’t I? So, I set out to identify the best creature to make the target of Rise from the Grave. This led to a pretty interesting discussion with Cam of the Mournland about whether Empyrial Archangel was better in that deck archetype than Sovereigns of Lost Alara + Eldrazi Conscription. I was arguing in favor of the Angel, saying that Shroud made her capable of being re-animated on turn 5 by a tapped out Reanimator player without much fear of reprisal, while Sovereigns would be much weaker in that capacity.
The Pitfall: While I still don’t think Sovereigns is the best target for Rise from the Grave, I guess I got proven wrong about his overall effectiveness. Empyrial Archangel just didn’t have the meat on her bones in a lot of situations to get the job done.
(Note: ^^I ran a google search for Tier 1 Type 2 decks and found something called Next Level Fauna combining Cam’s ideas to use Fauna Shaman to search for Ranger of Eos, and Sovereigns. Props to Cam for being closest to the mark in “breaking” our card.”)
(Also Note: By this point in my deck’s “evolution”…it isn’t even playing the Shaman anymore. Or green…)
The Idea: At this point, I realized two very important things. One – the only key part of all these decks that was working relatively reliably was the damn Hedron Crabs. Two? Traumatize and Haunting Echoes were legal in the current Standard format. So, I sat down trying to craft an old-fashioned TraumaEchoes deck. The shell started off very U/B control, with a lot of creature destruction and counterspells. As it turned out, I was always missing my mark for holding off the big threats, so I wound up taking out most of my answers and replacing them with ways to up my speed, like Jace’s Erasure and Divination.
The Pitfall: There are still many. Sometimes the deck is fast enough, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it draws what it needs, and sometimes it doesn’t. As much as I’d like to say this is a competitive deck, I’m not sure it’ll ever even come close to reaching that level. I’ll post the final list here, and you folks can leave comments, suggestions and criticisms as you like.
Hope you liked this little glimpse into my Magic creative process.
- 6x Swamp
- 4x Island
- 4x Drowned Catacombs
- 4x Scalding Tarn
- 3x Verdant Catacombs
- 4x Misty Rainforest
- 2x Haunting Echoes
- 4x Sign In Blood
- 1x Traumatize
- 4x Consuming Vapors
- 4x Into the Roil
- 3x Diabolic Tutor
- 4x Archive Trap
- 4x Jace’s Erasure
- 2x Jace’s Ingenuity
- 3x Divination
- 4x Hedron Crab