So it turns out I am not that good with a guitar, and she chose someone else over me-someone who apparently had an even more chronic craving for her affections. Check out the deck that won the Grand Prix in Nagoya, in the hands of Yuuji Okita:
”Rise of the Humans by Yuuji Okita”
For those of you who don’t remember, I wrote a short introduction to this deck last week. My list was three cards and some lands off from Okita’s list as far as the maindeck was concerned (-2 Armored Skaab, -1 Izzet Charm, +2 Chronic Flooding, +1 Tracker’s Instinct), but the main strategy is the same.
Like I said then, the premise of this deck is simple: you mill yourself when convenient, and play out creatures to prevent your opponent from beating you while you set up. Those creatures will chump, trade and grind down your opponent’s resources, and then you bring them all back with an Angel of Glory’s Rise. You can hardcast her or bring her back from the dead with Unburial Rites, whichever is more convenient.
This Week’s Breakdown
In today’s article, we’ll look at the deck in a bit more detail, so you can be ready to spin the wheels when you take this racecar of a deck to FNM this week. We’ll start off with a breakdown of the maindeck.
These are the cards that process the fuel and create motion. They put creatures and flashback spells into the graveyard, while fulfilling other functions like:
- drawing you land (Mulch);
- drawing you cards you want to cast (Faithless Looting, Tracker’s Instinct);
- reducing your opponent’s clock, killing an X/3 with Staticaster when you don’t have a Peddler, countering a Dissipate or Terminus, or filtering into more action (Izzet Charm).
4 Chronic Flooding Chronic Flooding kicks your deck into high gear very quickly. If you cast two of them early, you actually have to start paying attention to not decking yourself, especially against decks with Nephalia Drownyard. They fill your graveyard the fastest of all your self-mill cards, but they don’t do anything else. Feel free to board these out in favor of Cathedral Sanctifiers against Zombies. Like people from mountainous areas know: when you’re driving uphill, sometimes you want to stay in a lower gear.
This deck is not just any racecar; it is a Ferrari. It impresses not only with its racing prowess, but also just with the looks. The cool combination of Nightshade Peddler and Izzet Staticaster can completely dominate the board against certain decks. A lot of midrange decks have very few answers to this combo, especially when you can keep bringing them back thanks to Unburial Rites. The reason I grouped them in with the other humans is that together they form the gas you need to hit the road.
While Huntmaster of the Fells might not be the looker the other humans are, it fulfills some very important functions. Huntmaster is a great bump in the road for other aggressive decks that try to race you, and it adds two bodies to the field when it comes into play, which is very important for the “combo kill.”
The combo kill is your plan against sweepers, and it works like your general reanimation plan: you fill your graveyard with a good number of humans. You need the one Goldnight Commander in play or in your graveyard and at least some Izzet Staticasters or the Zealous Conscripts. The more you have of these, the fewer humans you need total, and Huntmaster counts double too. Once your graveyard is full of gas, you turn the key, and step on the pedal:
You reanimate (or hardcast) an Angel of Glory’s Rise; annihilate all Zombies, if applicable; bring back all the humans in your graveyard; and start counting (in a real tournament, you might want to count beforehand). To get your opponent from 20 to 0 in one turn, the turbo has to be involved:
1 Goldnight Commander
Let’s say you have the following in your graveyard when Angel of Glory’s Rise enters the battlefield: Nightshade Peddler, two Izzet Staticaster, two Huntmaster of the Fells, Goldnight Commander and the Zealous Conscripts.
They all enter the battlefield, and Goldnight Commander sees eight creatures come into play: it doesn’t count itself; the Angel was already in play when the reanimation ability resolved; and the Huntmasters bring two wolves along. It gives all your creatures +8/+8 until end of turn. You can then use the Zealous Conscripts to either move a roadblock out of the way or to give your own Angel haste. Then, you can attack with your hasty creatures for 8 + 8 + 11 = 27 damage (or 40 if you attacked with your Angel too).
There are games where just stepping on the pedal is enough to impress, especially when combined with the looks of Nightshade Peddler + Izzet Staticaster. In matchups where no sweepers are involved, just reanimating the Angel once or twice “for value” will be more than good enough.
Last but not least, the wheels that keep the car rolling. For the deck to function, red is the most important color, then blue, then green, then white. However, in some sense, white is the most important to get at least one of, or you won’t be reanimating anything. This makes your mana base slightly complicated, especially when running only 23 lands and the full suite of Cavern of Souls-the shiny rims you need to hard cast an Angel to combo off through counterspells.
I do not like Okita’s wheels very much. It seems like he has a bit too little green mana to cast his Mulches reliably, and he is low on colored sources overall because he liked the bling of the Cavern of Souls a bit too much. Perhaps we can take a page out of another deck from the same tournament, which, like Okita’s deck, also went undefeated on day one of the GP:
”Rise of the Humans by Daisuke Hirose”
Hirose has even fewer green sources than Okita, but he also doesn’t need them as much, as he cut Mulch from his deck. Instead, he plays one extra land and three Pillar of Flames to help in the Zombie matchup. The Shimmering Grotto lets you sometimes hardcast Unburial Rites, but this costs six, and you should have no issues getting the Rites into the graveyard. Otherwise, it is a bad fixer, and I’d rather cut it for an extra Cavern of Souls.
I think cutting Mulch was a good decision for this manabase, though, and that probably helped him get his undefeated record on day one. His not making it into the top eight, or even the top 16, probably has to do with his sideboard. Okita’s sideboard has a much better plan against control decks than Hirose’s or my sideboard had. We’ll discuss this after I present my proposed (and hopefully improved) list.
By cutting Mulch, Hirose had to increase his Izzet Charm count to four to make sure he still had enough enablers in his deck. I don’t know if I would want the full four, because, as I mentioned earlier, while versatile, they are slightly underpowered.
I like adding maybe one or two copies of Tracker’s Instinct over some Charms, as it gives you more action out of the graveyard and helps you find missing “combo” pieces while milling yourself. I’d probably also look to cut some number of Pillar of Flames or move them to the sideboard. While this makes you a tad worse against aggressive strategies game one, Okita still managed to best a traditional BR Zombie list in the finals of the GP. Izzet Staticaster is really good against Zombies, after all.
This would be my list going forward:
”Rise of the Humans by Jay Lansdaal”
This is basically Okita’s and Hirose’s main combined, all the numbers they agreed on, but without Mulches or Pillar of Flames. Instead, I have two Tracker’s Instinct, three Izzet Charm, and a Burning Oil. I also chose to have a Conscripts in the main, because I feel it is important to be able to have the combo kill available game one, and the Conscripts just makes it easier.
Not having Mulches has a few consequences: first, it means we can base our manabase off of Hirose’s, as we don’t need that much green anymore. This lets us cast our spells like Izzet Charm much more reliably, as aside from the Temple Gardens and Caverns, every land produces red or blue. It also means that we’ll have a harder time drawing enough land, and specifically drawing Cavern of Souls against control, which is why I added the 24th land, like Hirose, but made it a third Cavern of Souls.
Mulch sometimes also helped drawing into excess lands we could discard to our Lootings. To alleviate that loss, I added the Tracker’s Instincts and a Burning Oil. The Oil is untested, but I can’t imagine it being much worse than Pillar of Flame, and you can actually cast it if you mill it. If it turns out to be terrible, replace it with Pillar or the fourth Charm.
The sideboard is mostly modeled after Okita’s because it was much better at fighting control decks. With Hirose’s and my old sideboard, you couldn’t really rely on combo-killing quickly, because you only had one or two Commanders. We both had Craterhoof Behemoth as a kill that comes out of nowhere, but that one costs eight instead of the Angel’s seven, and it spreads your Caverns very thin. You want one on Human, which makes you have to choose between Angel or Beast for the second one. Craterhoof is also weak against timely sweepers, as that by itself won’t kill anyone.
Okita’s sideboard has extra copies of both the Commander and the Conscripts available because the one-hit kill is your main avenue to win against control thanks to its resiliency both to counters (thanks to Cavern of Souls) and against sweepers. You need extra copies because you need to be able to find them quickly, as your goal is to kill them either before a Rest in Peace or very soon after destroying a Rest in Piece with Ray of Revelation. Getting the combo together quickly is very important even after destroying a Rest in Peace, because most people who have them in their sideboard have two, and Sphinx’s Revelations lets them find the second one very easily.
In my suggested sideboard, I have only one extra copy of the Conscripts, as it is less important than the Commander, and I needed an extra slot for the fourth Cavern of Souls. Against control you want to draw two Caverns: one to make your Humans uncounterable and one to resolve your Angel. With only three copies in the deck, the risk of milling one too many becomes too high. Also, Geist-Honored Monk can fill in for the Conscripts in a pinch. It might not have haste, but hopefully the +3/+3 bonus to your Staticasters and the creatures you already had in play is enough to get the job done.
I added the Armored Skaabs to my sideboard over the Izzet Charms, partly because I moved one of those main already, but mainly because when I board out Chronic Floodings, I want something that can help me stay alive and fill my graveyard.
I also add the Roiling Temblors if I feel their deck is weak to it-against the WG Human decks and Sacrificial Zombie lists, for example-by shaving an Angel or Unburial Rites, or sometimes a Cavern or Charm, depending on what I feel I need more of in the matchup.
We are pretty well set up in these matchups: they are slow enough that we have plenty of time to set up, and our endgame trumps theirs. On top of that, our Izzet Staticaster-Nightshade Peddler combo is often dominant against them. This is how I sideboard:
On top of that, I board in the Temblors if they have a lot of mana dorks or tokens, sometimes the Conscripts if they try to go big, and the Ray of Revelations if I expect Rest in Peace. To make place for those, I either shave an extra Unburial Rites or two (in case of hate), a Chronic Flooding, and either a Burning Oil or an Izzet Charm, depending on which amount of damage is relevant in the matchup.
You can also bring in or take out the combo pieces depending on whether you think you need them or not (if they don’t have hate or they have a lot of hate or you are running out of time, for example).
Here we board in the cards that help us combo quickly:
I generally add the Ray of Revelations as well (most control is white-based, and is likely to have Rest in Peace). You can start with one Ray of Revelations if you doubt they have hate, but better safe than sorry. To make space, you can cut the last Peddler or shave an Unburial Rites (or both). You can’t rely on resolving Unburial Rites, but I like keeping some in case they don’t have or don’t draw their hate cards, and sometimes you even get to protect it with an Izzet Charm, though this usually only works once though.
This deck is a ton of fun to play, and I suggest you try it at your local FNM. You haven’t lived until you’ve exiled your Zombie opponent’s entire board while adding twelve creatures to yours.
Good luck as always, and see you next week!
iLansdaal on Twitter and MTGO