“And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these wurms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they’re not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.”
“I want to beat Thragtusk! I don’t know how to do it.”
“You wanna know how to beat Thragtusk? They gain five life, you mill them out. He sends his team into the combat zone, you send them into the Fog. *That’s* the *DURDLE* way! And that’s how you beat Thragtusk.
Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I’m offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?”
I’m going to share a decklist with you today. I’m not sure I can “recommend” this list, as this deck is not for the faint of heart. It will make people hate you. It may cause some “friends” to plot your death and even good-natured gamers will want to violate your corpse with a rusty claw hammer.
Standard has a problem. A five mana problem that gains five life and leaves a 3/3 behind when it leaves play. We are living in the Age of Thragtusk and the Era of Mid-Range, where WOTC has lifted a giant middle finger to aggro. It seems every deck is built around overpowered creatures and combat, whether it be the aforementioned “Most Important and Bestest Card in Standard” or one of the other misfits. The standard rogues gallery: Geist of Saint Traft, Restoration Angel, Olivia Voldaren, Thundermaw Hellkite, Sublime Archangel, and Angel Of Serenity.
Most matches are determined by playing the best creatures and riding those that survive to victory. On episode 58 of Horde of Notions (it should be out around the time this is published) Brad Nelson talked about how no one is able to “go under” Thragtusk and win with true aggro decks, so the format has become a collection of decks that “go over” the top and win big. If Standard is a knife fight, it seems most players are just trying to find a way to hide a rifle in the waistband of their sweatpants.
Well, there may be another way. If you can’t go under the Great Wall of Thragtusk, and everyone else is trying go over it, why not just … walk around the damn thing? Sometimes, you don’t win by bringing a gun to the knife fight. Sometimes, you win by choosing not to fight at all.
Travis Hall – War Games
(Yes, I’m still naming all my decks after movies. Also, special thanks to Andrew Magrini, @A_Magrini, for starting this endeavor by suggesting I fool around with mill, and for helping me along the way.)
Yes, that’s one great, big pile of rage-inducing non-interaction. Like Eggs (or Second Breakfast if you prefer) in Modern, this deck just does its thing and ignores you for the most part. Your opponent casts creature after creature, the most powerful and format shaking beasts Magic has ever seen, only to watch helplessly as you tap a couple Forests and render all his work for naught. His blood pressure rises ever higher, as he slowly realizes all his angels and beasts and dragons are irrelevant, and he might as well be playing with himself. He found a way to bring a gun to the knife fight, only to discover that you’re a thousand miles away about to rain fire from above.
Turbo Fog isn’t new. It’s always there, on the outskirts of the format as a Tier 3 deck that occasionally causes a table to flip at FNM. It’s usually held in check by a too-fast aggro deck, a popular burn deck, or a good control deck. Fortunately, as standard exists right now, none of those decks seem to exist in abundance. Thragtusk has warped the format around it in such a way that it may finally be time for Turbo Fog to take a seat at the Tier 1 Table. Thragtusk is notorious for presenting 3 facets that you have to deal with, the 5 life gain, the 5 power, and the 3/3 it leaves behind. It is very difficult for any deck to interact in a way to consistently beat all three without join Team Tusk themselves. The beauty of Turbo Fog is that it flat out ignores all three.
Most games go like this: you spend the first 4-5 turns Thoughtscouring, Think Twice-ing, and Divinationing to get a comfortable number of Fog effects. Most decks aren’t really putting any pressure on you until turn 5 or so, and even if they are, you have 20 life to work with. Around turn 5, you’ll start playing Fog effects. Over the next few turns you’ll use Jace, Memory Adept or Increasing Confusion to slowly mill their deck away.
Just look at how this deck interacts with Patrick Chapin’s (most recent) best cards of the format list from Starcity:
8. Cavern of Souls – who cares?
7. Thundermaw Hellkite- who cares?
6. Angel of Serenity- who cares?
5. Geist of Saint Traft- who cares?
4. Sphinx’s Revelation- who cares (it may actually help me out)?
3. Jace, Architect of Thought- doesn’t really care, maybe they draw something good?
2. Restoration Angel- who cares?
1. Thragtusk- who cares?
Card ChoicesCyclonic Rift: This functions as a catch all bounce spell that doubles as Fog 12-15. Properly timed it can set an opponent back 2 turns. It also doubles as an anti-hate card, and an efficient way to retrieve a Jace or Otherworld Atlas that has been Oblivion Ringed. Fog, Druid’s Deliverance, Clinging Mists : I’ve gone up and down on these, but 11 seems to be the right number. Like Cyclonic Rift, if you time it right Clinging Mists can shut some opponents down for 2 turns. Snapcaster Mage: A strong, versatile card. 90% of the time this is primarily used to flashback Thoughtscour or Divination. Jace, Memory Adept: Ignore the cost in the corner, as this guy might as well cost 3UUG. I almost always cast him with mana up to Fog so he stays around. His draw ability helps, but most of the time he’s just popping your opponent for 10 cards a turn. Otherworld Atlas: You never really want to draw more than one of these. It seems like most decks aren’t packing very many ways to deal with non-creatures right now (other than Oblivion Ring/Detention Sphere). Unless I need to find a Fog immediately, I usually charge this 2-3 times and start drawing as many as possible. A great effect in their clean up as most decks seem to stop playing creatures after they get about 3x lethal on the board (people fear a Wrath effect I suppose). Increasing Confusion: It’s not uncommon for me to fire this off very early for 3-4 cards, just to get it in the graveyard (just watch out for decks with Deathrite Shaman). Late game, it’s not that difficult for this to finish off an opponent for the final 14-16 cards. Witchbane Orb: There are a few problematic cards this answers. Slaughter Games, Rakdos’s Return, and direct damage spells can be very difficult for this deck. Fortunately, it looks like all three may be waning in the format. Dispel, Negate: These come in against the blue decks. The number of counters is definitely on the upswing in the format, but Essence Scatter (which is almost laughable against this deck) is the most preeminent to see play. You can expect a solid 6-8 counters after game 1 and these are great at getting the necessary spells to resolve.
Problem CardsDeathrite Shaman: I’ve had a lot of opponents side in graveyard hate to try and fight this deck, and while it can be annoying, it’s really not THAT big of an issue. The Little Elf That Could though, he is a great big pain in the ass. His life loss ability doesn’t target, so he dodges Witchbane Orb. If I’m playing a deck that has these (or I suspect that they might bring them in from the board) I try to start preventing damage while I’m at a comfortable life total (10+) so I don’t die to Shaman drain over 4-5 turns. Blood Artist: This is another “alternate damage” sources that can get past your arsenal of Fogs. Fortunately, Witchbane Orb can answer this one, as can a few well times Cyclonic Rifts.
Burn: All of it. Game 1 is almost unwinnable, and games 2-3 depend on either an early Witchbane Orb or timely Dispels. I don’t expect to see much of this deck, but it has a presence online (it is dirt cheap to build). The card you’re most likely to see is Bonfire of the Damned, so keep that in mind when deciding how much damage you can take before you start chaining Fogs.Slaughter Games: You can usually survive the first one, but if they hit multiples, you’re in serious trouble. Elixir of Immortality: I don’t see this anywhere in the meta, but it’s a straight kick in the teeth if your opponent has it for some ungodly reason.
I’m not saying that the format will devolve into Fog mirrors (THAT would be hell, pure hell), but the format, as it exists right now, has a Turbo Fog-shaped-hole in its heart. With the ever increasing importance of creatures (especially ones with battlefield dependent enter the battlefield abilities) we might be best survived by ignoring the red zone and attacking from a different angle.
It may finally be the time where the right action is inaction.
“A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” – Joshua
If you like my articles or suggestions, you can follow me on Twitter: travishall456. I throw around random observations and deck ideas every day. You can also check in with my weekly rogue ramblings on the Horde of Notions podcast: http://www.hordeofnotions.com/.