It’s round 4, game 3. I look down at the board: nothing but 16 lands and a stacked graveyard on my side, an unleashed Spawn of Rix Maadi enchanted with Dark Favor on my opponent’s side. My hand consists of Psychic Spiral, Epic Experiment, Temporal Mastery and a couple of ramp spells. I’m on 7 life. I look at my opponent – twelve-year-old Dylan. He’s at his second FNM, with his friend hanging over his shoulder and his mother in the other room doing needlepoint. Easy choice.
“You got me bud! Well done! Good games!” I extend the hand and he can barely contain himself long enough to shake it before running out to tell his mum that he beat The Judge. Meanwhile, having fallen to 1-3, I dropped and shuffled off to the back room to draft. How did we get to this point? Did I unlock any achievements along the way? I’m glad you asked.
(OK, so I’m going to assume you asked. If you didn’t, this would be a really short article and KYT would put me in The Box again. It’s dark in there, and I think someone left Justin Richardson in there weeks ago and kind of forgot him. It smells of rotting troll.)
This format still feels very wide open. Having seen the Epic Experiment brew that made top 8 at the Missouri State Championships, I was determined to do something with that card. It was on my list of achievements anyway, and the card just looked like so much fun.
Target 1: Cast Epic Experiment FTW
That was a start. Now, which deck to use? There was this amazingly fun-looking brew that won with one of my favourite draft cards from AVR – Dreadwaters. It was very tempting, but ultimately the author’s assertion that it was pretty casual on top of his record with the deck (2-3) made me look elsewhere. Travis Woo had, well, a distinctly Woo Brew that looked spicy as heck but…a little too fiddly for me. All combo decks have an inherent risk in that you sometimes don’t draw enough of your set-up or any of your kill cards, but this deck seemed more susceptible to that.
I was momentarily tempted to brew something with Burn at the Stake until I realised that you actually have to cast it from hand (or have tokens already in play) for it to work optimally. That’s because you have to put all spells revealed with Epic Experiment on the stack at the same time (in the order you choose), and the additional cost for Burn at the Stake has to be paid before any token-makers you might flip have resolved. This left me scrambling for the best way to build the deck.
Then Mike Flores happened. My respect, even admiration, for Mike is hardly a secret, but it’s not often that I end up playing his decks. His style is often very different from mine. When he suggested his Epic Experiment brew at The Funnest Deck in Standard (SCG Premium required), I was slightly sceptical. Until I saw that it won with Psychic Spiral and one of the worst cards to open in Avacyn Restored: Reforge the Soul. Sold. Of course that also opens up another achievement:
Target 2: Beat someone with Psychic Spiral
A short aside. I was opening some prize packs from AVR one evening. Pack 1: Entreat the Angels. Good start. Then I got a Bonfire of the Damned. Next pack, the rare was Wolfir Silverheart…but wait! A foil! A red miracle foil! Could it be? Is it…Reforge the Soul. Ugh. There might as well have been a giant trollface on it. Ever since I opened it, I’ve been dying to find a deck for it.
What really sold me on the Flores list though was the sideboard plan. A complete transformation to troll the ever-loving heck out of people? Oh hell yeah. Jund and Zombies are pretty popular right now, and being able to completely mess up their first Slaughter Games appeals to my sadistic side.
Being me, I had to make a couple of changes to the Flores list. I absolutely hate having to play Desperate Ravings for one thing, and Increasing Vengeance just seemed too good to pass up. The addition of Increasing Vengeance would help me to go after another achievement:
Target 3: Take at least 3 turns in a row
Here’s what I ended up playing:
Basically you want to ramp to 9 or more mana, cast Epic Experiment and hope to flip at least one Temporal Mastery and a Psychic Spiral. Make sure the Spiral is the last spell to resolve. You almost always want to copy Temporal Mastery with any Increasing Vengeance that you flip. Remember that if for some reason you left enough mana untapped, you can let Vengeance resolve and then pay to flash it back targeting the same Temporal Mastery, giving you 4 extra turns.
What you take out depends on the matchup. Experiment, Spiral, Reforge and Devastation Tide come out against most decks. If your opponent is much faster, leave in the Tides and take out Ravings and one Vengeance.
I spent the better part of Friday morning (since I had the day off) trying to convince Mark not to play the control deck he was planning to play. It’s not that the Shaheen Soorani Esper list was BAD, but Mark is not exactly known for his swift play. He was dead-set on playing it for some reason (no accounting for taste…) and of course we ended up paired in the first round.
Round 1 – Mark Butt with Esper Control
Despite knowing what I was playing, Mark declined to counter my ramp spells and instead chose to wait for the Psychic Spiral. Probably a very good plan if you’re maindecking Negate or Dissipate, not so much if you’re relying on Syncopate. I knew he was holding one, so I waited the extra turn and left up the one land to pay for his Syncopate. I figured if he had Negate main, I was losing to it anyway. As expected he had the Syncopate, and my Experiment flipped ramp, Increasing Vengeance, Temporal Mastery, Devastation Tide…and a concession from poor Mark. Well, the Epic Experiment caused the win, that’s good enough!
Despite having played Magic for several years, one thing I’ve never really felt the need to do is shuffle in all fifteen cards of my sideboard and then take 15 out. That’s likely due to the fact that I primarily play FNM-level events, but also I’ve never really needed to. With this deck and its wholesale transformation plan in the board I figured it was a must. Whether he noticed my sideboarding or not, Mark didn’t know what was going on when I played turn 4 Huntmaster of the Fells. He had obviously sideboraded completely wrong (bringing in Negates among other mostly-useless spells) and was now trying to figure out on the fly how he was going to win. I was relatively sure he would have left in some sort of removal as he probably didn’t have enough to bring in, so I didn’t want to overextend. When Thragtusk and Niv Mizzet joined the party, another concession was forthcoming.
Round 2 – Mike White with Rakdos Zombies
This would be a tight one. Mike’s a VERY good player (and would beat me in the finals of Game Day the next day) and according to the Flores article the deck has trouble with aggro. Regardless, I made a good effort in game 1 and was only undone by an unlucky discard to Desperate Ravings (taking the freshly-drawn Devastation Tide that would have kept me alive) and a complete inability to find an Epic Experiment.
In went all 15, out came the combo. It was in this game that I discovered just how powerful Huntmaster of the Fells is with Temporal Mastery and instants, especially when your opponent has none. With the aid of a Farseek, I played a turn 3 Huntmaster with only a Blood Artist and Rakdos Cackler on the other side. Mike added more threats but I passed my next turn, flipping Huntmaster and taking out his Blood Artist. With no good attacks Mike would pass back, so at the end of his turn I cast Think Twice fully expecting to flash it back as well. However I revealed a Temporal Mastery, which of course I would cast. Huntmaster flipped, I played a land and passed the turn to myself, flipping him again and on my turn drawing…Temporal Mastery for my third turn in a row! Needless to say I won that game.
So we’re down to game three. I’m taking an early beating but I have spent turn 4 casting Ranger’s Path and in my hand two Thragtusks lie in wait. That should stem the tide long enough to…what? SLAUGHTER GAMES? Ugh…please name something else, Mike…PLEASE. You haven’t seen the Tusk yet, please get it wrong…
Round 3 – Josh Blanchard with Jund
Mono good players tonight it seems. Josh unfortunately got flooded in game 1, allowing me to get up to 11 mana and copy my Epic Experiment for 7. When I drew a second Experiment off one of my Reforge the Souls, the writing was on the wall. It’s not much fun beating a flooded opponent, even with this deck.
Game 2 was very strategically deep. After an early Slaughter Games naming Epic Experiment left Josh wondering what the hell I was playing THIS week, it came down to a Huntmaster battle. Josh got his down first but I was holding a Think Twice, so I was pretty sure I could keep him from passing the turn to catch me out. He tried to do just that, and I drew my card. I went to turn the tables on him but ran into a Searing Spear. My Thragtusk was outdone by his Olivia, my Niv Mizzet ate a Dreadbore, and we were tied at 1.
I went back to the combo plan for game 3, thinking he would have left the Slaughter Games in and would likely name Thragtusk. Sure enough he had an early Games, but he wisely named Temporal Mastery having seen it in my deck in both games. Removing the Masteries doesn’t completely ruin my plan but it does hamper it. On 6 life, I got the Experiment off but didn’t hit a Spiral. Instead I had to copy Reforge the Soul, leaving Josh with 2 cards in his library and no permanents in play (thanks to a Devastation Tide). I couldn’t bear to look at his graveyard, but I hadn’t seen any haste creatures or a Rakdos’s Return all match. If only 2 copies of Searing Spear were in his yard, I was dead. I had a Devastation Tide in hand to save me from creatures. He untapped, drew…and Speared me twice.
Round 3 – Dylan Donnelly with Rakdos Rakdos
Which brings us to the match at the start of the column. Game 1 was just terrible as he got a second-turn Bloodcrazed Neonate and third turn Stromkirk Captain, then put a Dark Favor on both. Of course I couldn’t find the Devastation Tide. Game 2 my creatures just ran him over. And game 3…well, you can see how that ended above. Winning another round would have meant nothing to me, but it meant the world to that kid. I had my fun.
The deck was an absolute blast to play. Even after sideboarding into what is basically RUG Midrange, it’s still a ton of fun because your opponent probably doesn’t see it coming. If you think they are expecting the switch, you just don’t make it. NEXT LEVEL!
The Inaction Injunction was largely ineffective and could have been Thoughtflare, Thought Scour or even Inspiration. Maybe a Sleep or two could have helped against the aggro decks. The third Psychic Spiral in the board literally never came in, and should probably be a Kessig Wolf Run instead. Since you don’t have enough board options to take out the ramp spells, you might as well have something to do with all that mana right?
There were times during the night when I could have taken MORE than 3 turns in a row, but it seemed too risky. Despite Psychic Spiral doing some work in the games where the combo came together, it never actually won me the game. Can you take this list and get more achievements? What changes would you make?
Some new additions from various social media outlets this week:
I have a suggestion for an achievement. How about ramping to Worldspine Wurm and sac-ing it and one of its Wurm tokens to Jarad in one turn and without dealing any previous damage.
Straightforward enough. Only problem is that we’d need to do it over 2 turns or have 17 mana. How about we take out the “ramp to” requirement and just sac Wurmrakul and a token to Jarad?
Josh B Pearsall
Kill someone with a door to nothingness that you used at least one keyrune to open. If you use it using one of each bonus points, if you do it using only keyrunes, ultimate super bonus ninja points.
The Key and Door deck? Oh man, that’s just the sweetest idea, maybe ever. Totally adding this one.
Resolve Serra Avatar with Trostani in play. Sacrifice Serra Avatar to Jarad. – These ideas came about during episode 56 of Horde of Notions, and they sound hilarious. I’ll be going after them and a bunch of other lifegain achievements at FNM this week! What lifegain-related achievements can you come up with, and which ones can you get?
I’m always happy to get suggestions and hear your own experiences in the comments or on Twitter. This is about maximising our fun and challenging ourselves with deckbuilding. It’s even more fun if we all work together!