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Dreck Tech: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Mana

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

I’ve been friends with Joey Pasco, co-creator of Yo! MTG Taps, for 20 years. In that time, we’ve been through all the ups and downs that 2 best friends can go through. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve woken up with paramedics over us on the dining room floor after drinking coffee and chasing it with multiple energy drinks. (OK, that was just me) But if there’s one feeling we’ve shared more over the past 2 decades, it’s nostalgia for the mid-nineties. Joey and I first bonded back in 1994, whilst in the daring, controversial play called “Pinocchio,” being the adventures of a young wooden boy who nakedly wears his swelling lust on his face for the world to see or something.  We chatted a bit during the rehearsals, but I distinctly remember the cast party after the shows, where Joey brought all his Nirvana CDs and played them loud, as the moment where I thought, “Yeah, this dude is awesome!” I’m happy to report that my hunch about Joey was correct. (does anyone actually still say “hunch?”) for joe

Unlike some people who use nostalgia as an excuse for inertia, Joey and I, like Pinocchio, are all about growth. That doesn’t mean we don’t relish every opportunity to wax nostalgic about some of our favorite experiences. Joey in particular has an uncanny ability to recall past events. Not only am I fairly certain Joey still has his receipt for the first Foo Fighters album, my guess is he could tell you what he had for breakfast that day. (according to Joey, the receipt is still in the CD case, and probably Toaster Strudel)

For me, nothing is more nostalgic than casting big fat green creatures. As I said in my first article, I stubbornly battled with my Mono Green Ramp deck for years, refusing to conform the deck to the limitations of the new “Type 2” format, now known as Standard. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way this archetype became one of the punchlines to the joke, “What terrible decks do new players play?” (Burn being another one), and one thing I’ve worked very hard to do in my pursuit of perfection as a Magic player is to not let nostalgia overrule common sense when it comes to selecting decks.

Thanks in part to the addition of Ken Nagle to Wizards R&D, Green’s reputation as a legitimate inclusion in competitive decks has been restored. According to Nick Vigabool’s awesome statistical breakdown of Standard, 4 of the top 5 most played cards in Standard are Green, and 2 of those creatures are mana dorks. This fact makes the 14 year old boy in me smile. Then, that same 14 year old boy sees Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and wonders, “how big can we actually go?” Next, the 32 year old me asks the 14 year old me, “don’t you wish this cards was legal when you were desperately seeking a way to summon Polar Kraken?” The 14 year old me then says, quite sternly, “quit all this babbling and get back to finishing your article!”

Sorry, 14 year old me. And, seriously, stay off my lawn.

A few weeks back at FNM, I channeled the 14 year old me’s desire to go bigger and hardcast Worldspine Wurm several times. It was an incredible feeling. In fact, one of those times I hardcast Worldspine Wurm AND activated Monstrous for 9 on my Polukranos. How did I do it? It looked a little like this:

Now, before readers start bombarding this article with comments about how terrible this deck is, the truth is that there are loads of problems with this list. I was interested in developing some sort of deck abusing Thassa’s Ire and Nykthos from the moment Thassa’s Ire was spoiled. A Mono Green Devotion shell seemed the best fit for the combo. I took this deck to FNM and went 1-3, winning only against a GW aggro list with Selesnya Charm as it’s only removal spell. Additionally, I knew of the existence of the Block Deck from Pro Tour Journey into Nyx that abused the combo with Market Festival, although I never bothered looking at it (and still haven’t until just now honestly. The deck was piloted by Josh McClain and was called Infinite Blossoms. Can’t find an exact list though) and dismissed the card out of hand. One of the keys to developing new decks is to look to previous lists for templating purposes, and I failed to do that with this deck. Looking back, I wish I had included Market Festival in the list.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, some people might not be aware of how this interaction works. Here’s a basic, ideal turn-by-turn for this deck.

T1: Island, Thassa’s Ire
T2: Breeding Pool untapped, Satyr/Follower (either one is fine)
T3: Nykthos, Polukranos
T4: Forest, Arbor Colossus
T5: (Devotion = 6) Tap Nykthos for GGGGGG, use 3 to cast Courser. Untap Nykthos with Satyr, use 2 to activate Nykthos for 8, (9 Green floating) play 2nd Nykthos, use 2 to activate Nykthos for 8 (15 Green Floating), use island and 3 floating to untap Nykthos, use 2 floating to tap Nykthos for U if you have Satyr, or UU if you have Kiora’s Follower…

It’s obvious where this idea begins to fall apart. Unless I have a decent Blue Devotion count on top of a HUGE Green Devotion count, the combo begins to produce diminishing returns. This is where the Market Festival plan proves to be superior to what I was attempting. 15 Green mana on turn 5 is MASSIVE though (assuming no removal prior) and makes the Blue feel absolutely unnecessary. What I liked about this deck when I was designing it is that, even if I don’t have the combo, I have a pretty threatening Green Devotion deck that has the potential to go bigger than anything else in Standard. The worst card in the deck was clearly Kruphix. The card is absolute garbage, and should only be played by Commander players. Even then I don’t recommend it.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and during the coverage for the Las Vegas SCG Open I was treated to Glenn Jones playing a FASCINATING G/B Devotion deck that seems to be the kindred spirit to the deck I was attempting. More importantly, the deck made me wonder why I was ever bothering with Thassa’s Ire to begin with! Unfortunately I don’t have access to Glenn’s exact list, but I can see what he’s going for from the SCGLive coverage video.  I don’t really see why the Black is even necessary in this deck. Also, Eidolon of Blossoms is obviously strong, but I want to go BIGGER! Using a few of the new toys made availble from M15, here’s what I’m currently working on for SCG Fort Worth (known by the geographically challenged folks at SCG as “SCG Dallas”):

Like Glenn’s deck, this deck essentially guarantees a turn 3 Polukranos. More importantly, this deck allows me to do the one thing I’ve been saying Garruk was printed for me to do, and that’s to cheat a Worldspine Wurm into play. This is a ramp deck that would make my 14 year old former self proud.

I’m really curious to see how well Life’s Legacy works. My initial thought was to include 2 of them, but I’m not completely sold on it yet. There is always the possibility of sacrificing Worldspine Wurm to it, getting 3 5/5 Wurm tokens, and drawing 15 cards. Seems ideal, maybe too much so. Likewise with Genesis Hydra. The ability is strong, but the card is just AWFUL if you blank on it’s ability. I’ve never actually played with Chord of Calling before honestly, so I’m not sure if it’s a good fit here. With all the mana this deck can generate it feels like an obvious inclusion, but I wonder if a 4th Garruk and a 3rd Arbor Colossus (or even a Hydra Broodmaster) would be a better fit. One benefit to having Chord of Calling in the list would allow for more of a toolbox sideboard with cards like Reclamation Sage and Skylasher.

Another card that I was hesitant to include in this list, but ultimately went with 4 copies of, is Courser of Kruphix. With 23 lands, and 0 scry lands, Courser is not going to be as valuable here as it would be in Jund Monsters or other decks with 8+ scry lands. However, as long as Standard continues down the increasingly aggressive path it is currently on, a 2/4 body that occasionally gains life is one of the key components to surviving an early swarm. In a control-heavy metagame, however, Boon Satyr could easily replace Courser in this list.

With U/X Control on the decline, and aggro decks dominating the format, now is as good of a time as any for a deck like this to shine. If I were to play it prior to M15, I would replace the 2 Chord of Calling, Genesis Hydra, and Life’s Legacy with 2x Arbor Colossus and 2x Boon Satyr. I don’t like to post sideboards with these decklists since metagames truly are regional, and building sideboards is an important skill for players to develop themselves. Skylasher, Mistcutter Hydra, and Sundering Growth are a few great places to start, however.

Thanks for reading! Next week on Yo! MTG Taps! we’re going to dissect the full M15 spoiler, and the week after that I’ll be back to explore if any opportunities to create broken combo decks exist in Standard once the format reaches it’s maximum cardpool.

Yo! MTG Taps!

PS For yet another look at ways to break Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, check out Mike Keknee’s latest Modern brews on this very site!

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