Friggorid, Standard, and Coldsnap
By Sean DeCoursey on July 11th, 2006 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
Yawgmoth's Will is arguably the single most powerful card ever printed for use in constructed magic. It's so powerful in fact, that some have argued for banning it from Vintage, the only format it's legal in. The only counter-argument offered is usually "We don't ban cards in Vintage". Playing cards directly from your graveyard is that broken of an ability. All of which really makes me wonder what the hell Wizards was thinking when they printed a new (well, almost) version in Standard. Even if it will only be legal for a few months. (Author's Note: I'm not saying this is Will v2.0, but rather that Haakon is to Standard power-wise as Will is to Vintage, and that he's stupidly broken, but whether that turns out to be Psychatog broken or Skullclamp broken remains to be seen.)
Abusive Dredge in Standard. That took long enough.
Dredge is exploited much, much more in Extended and Legacy than it ever has been in Standard. One of the biggest reasons is that in those other formats, Dredge translates directly into card draw, either from putting spells with Flashback into your graveyard, or lands that say "Draw a card" on them in your yard. Or, in one particularly famous case, it gives you free creatures and free discard spells.
I'm gonna get played in standard! But in Standard, you really don't get anything more out of Dredge than simply gaining card selection. I.e. the ability to choose what card you draw. There are some other neat things you can do with lifegain, and you can build up a big hand full of lands pretty easily, but there really isn't that much to actually DO with that stuff.
The release of Dissension and Coldsnap have changed this. The Rakdos frequently have discarding cards as part of the cost for their abilities, and Coldsnap brings us Haakon, Stromgald Scourge and some other random Knights that don't really matter, because limiting Haakon to just "Knights" is pretty weaksauce. Now Dredging brings you nifty card and creature advantage in addition to card selection.
You've also got an absolutely stupid enabler and breaker of Haakon available in Saviors of Kamigawa. No, it's not Jitte. In fact, it's a card that's never been played in a single tournament deck. The combination of Haakon and this card is going to be an absolutely huge hit with the casual crowd (think Reya big), and is strong enough to see play in Standard, Legacy, and possibly Extended (I say possibly Extended because the amount of graveyard hate in that format right now is at an all-time high). But I'll get to that card in a minute.
Aggro, Control, Combo, or Prison?
There are actually several ways to build the Haakon/Dredge deck in Standard. First, you're going to need some discard outlets to put poor Haakon into your graveyard in case you accidentally draw him. I would DEARLY love to use Drekavac for this, but the stupid "non-creature" clause in his rules text precludes that option. This leaves you with Avatar of Discord, Delirium Skeins, Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace, Mindslicer, Rakdos Guildmage, and Compulsive Research as options. Of these options Skeins and Guildmage are easily two of the best as the deck is naturally removal light and always happy to see disruption of the opponents' hand. Next, we're going to need some Dredge cards to fill up our graveyard. Stinkweed Imp and Golgari Grave-Troll have the highest Dredge numbers, but unfortunately they're both creatures. We can already play creatures from our graveyard, so drawing and playing more of them is less hawt than it would be otherwise. Darkblast however, is a great, great card for this deck, helping to stabilize the early turns against Gruul, Boros, and Hand in Hand. Life from the Loam is another excellent choice, as it ensures that we hit all our land drops, which is important since, unlike Extended and Vintage versions of graveyard aggro, we're actually planning on casting our spells.
Fun Fact: Stromgald Crusader is immune to the following spells: Lightning Helix, Condemn, Mortify, Devouring Light, Faith's Fetters, Pillory of the Sleepless, Glare of Subdual, Searing Meditation, Dark Banishing, Befoul, Eradicate, and Seal of Doom.
One of many, many decks that will Next up we need some card draw. Let's see, we're in Green and Black, and we're largely creature based... Ohran Viper anyone? Dark Confidant doesn't actually draw cards, he reveals them then puts them into your hand. This means you can't trigger Dredge with him. You really, really want to use Blue for the two Research spells, since the drawbacks on both of them are things you either don't care about or want to be doing anyway, but having eight draw spells actually slows the deck down, mainly because you don't have any super cheap discard outlets to ensure Dredge spells will already be in your yard. That and the fact that you actually need mana to cast spells making sacrificing a land on turn two for some Dredging a rather poor idea.
feature this bastard child of Ophidian
and Thicket Basilisk.
I'm going to present two lists now, one has tons more raw power, nifty tricks, and synergy. It's also much, much more unstable and very inconsistent. This is not the version I recommend people begin playtesting into tournament decks. (Here's some foreshadowing, I'm going to look like a moron for writing that last sentence in just a few short paragraphs!)
Like I said, the deck can do absolutely stupid and ridiculous things... or it can crap all over itself and die horrifically. It's excessively dependent on keeping an Ashes of the Fallen in play, and the mana base is almost more likely to kill you or mana screw you than it is to give you what you're looking for. A lot of the synergies are multi-layered and practically scream "win more". On the other hand, you've got a metric ton of card draw, selection and recursion, with more in the sideboard. And you also have a nice combo lock in the board thanks to Zur's Weirding + Gristlebacks + Ashes + Haakon (Or you could just go weirding, Rix Maadi, Haakon, Golgari Brownscale). Four card locks, even when all most of the pieces have to do is be drawn and discarded or just plain tossed into the yard generally leave a bit to be desired in the consistency department. By the way, just in case you're wondering, Dredge is a replacement effect, which means you can Dredge under a weirding just fine while your opponent can't draw. And honestly, if you've got an Ashes in play, creatures in your graveyard are exactly the same as creatures in your hand.
Talk about boosting a bad rare...
Speaking of Ashes of the Fallen, I'm sure several of you have clicked on the card by now, and mostly looked at it and Haakon and either gone "Wow, that's incredibly dumb power-wise." Or said "Huh?" For the "Huh?" crowd, this is how it works: Ashes of the Fallen gives every creature in your graveyard the creature type of your choice in addition to any other creature types they may have, but only while they're in your graveyard. Previously this was kind of thing was relevant only for stuff like Patriach's Bidding and Soulshift. Now it's extremely relevant for Haakon. Haakon says "while Haakon, Stromgald Scourge is in play, you may play Knights from your graveyard." With Ashes of the Fallen out and set to "Knight", all of the creatures in your graveyard are Knights. This means you can play any creature from your graveyard. Any creature at all. Starting to get the idea? For example, Simic Initiate now reads: "All creatures you play now have Kicker: G, this comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it." Creatures with comes into play, leaves play, and self sacrifice abilities can do some very, very sick tricks provided you have the mana to pay for them. For example, Thermopod, Ornithopter, and Lightning Serpent. Infinite mana and Trample damage, here I am. Add [/card]Wild Cantor[/card]s and Izzet Chronarchs or [/card]Maga,Traitor to Mortals[/card] for extra win conditions and infinite mana of any color. Blood Funnel might also finally have found a way to pay for its cost with Ornithopters or some such. Compulsive Researchs and Sifts for one and two mana can fill up your yard pretty fast if paired with some Dredge spells. Rite of Flame + Dredge powers out an early Thermopod, too. The comborificness is startling.
Fun Fact: Stromgald Crusader has protection from the following creatures. Ghost Council of Orzhova, Loxodon Hierarch, Firemane Angel, Windreaver, Watchwolf, Selesneya Guildmage, Azorious Guildmage, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Descendant of Kiyomaro, and Angel of Despair.
But I'm not a combo player, so I'll leave that territory to others to explore. The Haakon/Ashes combo does something that beatdown players have long adored, and haven't had in Standard since Skullclamp was banned. That something is better card draw than any control deck paired with complete immunity to board sweepers. This next deck looks more to take advantage of those two facets while pursuing greater consistency, speed and disruption of the opponent at the same time.
A funny thing happened during testing though. The casual/fun style deck performed about 70 billion (ish) times better than the serious streamlined version. So I spent a few minutes wandering around trying to figure out just what the hell just happened to my self-ascribed tourney deck building genius abilities. I ran a bunch more goldfish games with each deck, and the Dredge lists piloted by Bennie Smith and Tom Harle, I realized something. The typical Dredge deck wants to utilize its card selection advantage to out-threaten and out-land the opponent until it can win the game with a big Troll or Svogthos. To do this it just wants to Dredge, and Dredge, and Dredge, and have a decent number of options while Dredging.
This deck doesn't want to do that. What you want to do with weird Ash Knights is to quickly dump about half your Library into your 'yard then cast spells directly out of it. Then use the card advantage generated thereby to overwhelm your opponent with bad cards. Lots of bad cards. This is why Dredge creatures are among the best spells available for a dedicated Dredge deck, and among the worst for the dedicated Knight deck. Another nifty bonus of this strategy is that you get to overextend like crazy on a regular basis, because outside of Final Judgement, every sweeper in Magic is just going to delay your attacks for a single turn. And as an added bonus you get to actually draw spells that don't have the word "Dredge" written on them.
Wizards can print something to make So after a bunch more testing and some refining to cover my more paranoid instincts, I came to another conclusion. The deck wasn't doing enough to abuse the Haakashes combo. And I needed to put some lifegain in as well. Originally I'd thought that running four Firemane Angels in the sideboard would be enough, that however, turned out to be an incorrect assumption on my part. There were also some issues with Paladin En-Vec or Hand of Honor carrying a Jitte. The problem wasn't that they'd kill my dudes with the counters, that could easily be remedied the next turn with some mana. The problem was that the Paladin was unblockable and would just outrace my guys. All of these problems get addressed pretty handily with the addition of one single card: Gristleback, the little Baloth that couldn't. He's green, so no protection worries there. He can sacrifice himself, so no Jitte counters for my opponent. Finally, this little guy can gain you anywhere from four to nine life a turn depending on Bloodthirst and available mana. The downside is that to fit him in I had to cut the Moldervine Cloaks. The upside is that the Angels could now be cut from the board freeing up more space for hate. Ghost Quarters were added to combat Heartbeat's singleton Mountains and Swamps and to prevent 'Tron decks from you know, assembling the 'Tron. Nightmare Void was also added as an additional way to say "Screw You" to control based and combo strategies. One of the weirder things about this deck is that you're playing primarily Blue/Black and the only removal you have main or side is Darkblast. However, the fact that your guys essentially win any combat phase where they take down at least one opposing creature, because they're invincible bionic men, is a significant boost for you in that department.
any card good, I'm living proof.
v2.0 and Beyond
Here's the final list I came up with for this deck. At least from limited testing against everything that's being played now, this doesn't really lose to much if it gets a good draw. I'd like to emphasize that "good draw" bit. With the right draw, it's like playing a Legacy deck in Standard. With a below average draw it's like getting smacked in the face with a '57 Caddy by the Incredible Hulk. The Zur's Weirding lock, letting you switch from aggro-control into prison, is just brutal and really puts the deck "over the top" in a lot of matchups since you simply, kind of accidentally almost, just win when you draw it. Of course, it's useless a lot more often than that, which is why it's in the sideboard. The biggest problems this deck faces come from unblockable/evasion creatures (mainly Cloaked Dryad Sophisticates and Azorious Heralds). And from Zoo decks that manage to outrun your blockers then outburn your lifegain. Which with so many White creatures in Zoo decks is less often the case than it would be otherwise. Go go Gadget protection boots. B/W can be a problem depending on how many Pro: Black dudes they have, Gristleback is an MVP in this matchup, as is Stomphowler out of the board. Green Fat for the win.
The Weirdings in the board give you the option to go prison against combo and control, and depending on how the metagame shapes up, they could turn into anything from Shadow of Doubt to Giant Solifuge to Putrefy to Woebringer Demon. Or they could turn back into Angels. And don't laugh at the Demon. Recurring one sided Abyss's are hawt.
The blue might very well be a red herring in this deck that is interfering with what it really wants to do. It's entirely possible I've got the build completely wrong and going straight Golgari with Phyrexian Arenas, more mana critters, a full Viper complement, and possibly some Avatars of Discord is the way to go. I normally like to present more refined and better tested decks in my articles, but it's kind of tough coming up with a new archetype before the pre-release has even happened, so cut me a little slack on this one, okay?
Fun Fact: Hashakon also works pretty good with the following tricks: Recover spells (from Coldsnap) Dowsing Shaman + Enchantments, Toshiro Umezawa + Instants, and Izzet Chronarch + Instants & Sorceries. Or in older formats, Eternal Witness + anything.
Haakaternal, format scourge
That's it for Standard, but at the beginning of this article I also mentioned that I thought Haakon might be able to play nice in Legacy as well. I'm not sure exactly what deck he would go in, but this is a pretty doable opening hand: Haakon, Stromgald Scourge, Lion's Eye Diamond, Polluted Delta, Infernal Tutor, Bloodstained Mire, Mox Diamond.
Turn one: Play LED, Delta, pop Delta, fetching Bayou, play Mox, pitching Mire, cast Tutor, pop LED for BBB, find Life from the Loam with Tutor, cast Haakon from your graveyard, pass the turn.
Likely? Not so much, but I can't help but think there's at least a Tier 2 Legacy deck waiting to be made from Haakon, LED, and Dredge. Or maybe with Survival of the Fittest. I mean, it's not like the last Black spell that cost three mana and had to do with playing stuff from your graveyard was broken. I think Ichorid crowds Haakon out of the Extended metagame - well, that and people maindecking the black pit and the white sunrise to deal with Ichy and every other GY-based Extended deck.
But if you did want to do something in Extended, I think Death Cloud would be the card to build around. Death Cloud was a great deck at stabilizing/controlling the board then accelerating into a big Cloud to wipe out the opponent, then it would stall on its draws or just draw a bunch more acceleration into nothing. At which point the opponent would draw a bunch of relevant cards and kill the Death Clouder. The combination of Dredge and Haakon looks like a good way to change all that. Or maybe it'll get creamed by all the graveyard hate everyone is running.
By Sean DeCoursey on July 11th, 2006 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
About Sean DeCoursey
Sean Decoursey is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he served with the 2/124th Infantry from 12/02 through 03/04. He attended Truman State University where he was a member of the rugby team which ranked in the top ten nationally three times. Sean graduated with a degree in Justice Systems and now lives in Kansas City, where he works as a Financial Advisor.