The Flashy Play: Living Ends
By Frank Shaskus on May 1st, 2007 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now
I am a straight line, by the book kind of guy. I follow a few rules that usually work out okay for me. I try to be nice to others. I pick up after myself. And I don't dig up graves. I just don't. I don't even own a shovel just to avoid the temptation. That was not me pricing Bobcats at Tractor Supply Company last Wednesday. He may have looked like me. He may have given my address to the salesman. But he was not me. I have no interest in using a four hundred horsepower earthmover to disrupt the interred.
But if I were to dig up graves I'd probably use a tool that came packaged in my first TSP league. Living End lets you dig up whatever is sitting around in your graveyard and throw it out on the board. No muddy shoes, dirty hands, or clothes to burn. Plus it throws everything that occupied the board into the cool, inviting, freshly churned earth. The catch? You have to wait until turn 7 for the boom.
I am an impatient man. When I want to dig up a body I want to dig now. I may be dead by turn seven. Heck, in the incredibly fast world of Standard, I will be dead by turn seven. So after my league I put Living End on the shelf, and waited. As I will now make you wait while I dig up some personal experiences.
Living End is the nerfed version of Living Death. If you struggled through the PTQ scene in the late nineties you still have the scars from this monstrosity on your backside. But for those of you who did not have to winter that dark time know this: Living Death was legal at the same time as Survival of the Fittest (and Recurring Nightmare). Imagine spending three or four turns getting the absolutely perfect graveyard. A few Spike Feeders, a couple Tradewind Riders, and maybe an Avalanche Riders for seasoning. Garnish with a Verdant Force and serve a plate of beating. If they couldn't counter and they couldn't kill in four turns they were given the opportunity to learn all about triggered abilities. Sadly this was during my college years, which prominently featured dinners made of condiments and laundry done quarterly, so I could not afford the manabase. (This was also when I learned an important lesson: While you can sell plasma multiple times in a week, doing so is a bad idea. Being unable to bleed is a profoundly disturbing party trick.)
So we return to the present, and Living End. We have seven turns until the boom and we need to cut that down. We have two options available to us. We can fiddle with time counters (Timebender, Clockspinning) or we can get around the whole suspend thing with Sins of the Past. Given that I am neither a patient or decisive man I opt for both, since this also allows me to Living End several times a game. (The third option, just waiting, should only be used as a last resort. Why pay retail?)
We also need to load up for the boom. Living End on an empty graveyard is a wasted opportunity. The options available to us are blue card sifting or green dredging. The previous paragraph probably gave you an idea of which way I lean.
Pros: The big advantage of green dredge is that it can work in massive swoops. You plow half your deck into the graveyard in four turns. Green has no shortage of castable fatties in its own color as well, should things not work out just right.
Cons: Green has no time counter mojo, so waiting is usually what you do. And there is already an excellent Green Black Dredge deck that is way better than the end result here.
Pros: Excellent discard/card cycling. Plenty of time counter mojo. Creatures with flashy effects. And you can run your own Teferi!
Cons: Not a lot of castable fatties. Blue does not lend itself to chump blocking. While it is much more selective about what goes in your graveyard, it is not so hot on the volume.
I chose Blue, although if someone gives Green a try, chime in on the forums - I'd like to see how it goes. (This will also let me steal ideas for a Hypergenesis deck.) I ran ten draw/discard type spells to get me to the Living End as well as populate the yard. Magus of the Bazaar is the ideal turn two play, with incredible repeat digging power. I have never lost a game (to a Thallid deck) with the Magus on the second turn. Compulsive Research and Careful Consideration round out the drawing. Always remember that you can use Sins of the Past on either of them if you have not drawn your hammer. I also ran four Clockspinning and two Timebenders to give me a decent chance of blowing up on turn four or five.
This deck is mana heavy, because with all the filtering you rarely are stuck with a flood. While the reliance on signets worries me a little, being able to skip ahead a mana drop is crucial when your game plan consists of winding the clock and then waiting a while to see how it turns out. The earlier the clock is wound, the less chance they have to respond.
The fun part of this deck is setting up for the Living End turn. If you like making the Flashy Play then choosing the ten(ish) boom creatures will be exquisitely enjoyable for you. You can go for the instant kill with Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Razia, Boros Archangel, and some Hellkites. You can also go for control with Faceless Butchers, Riftwing Cloudskates, and Tidespout Tyrant. Heck, just go infinite with Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Saffi Eriksdotter, and Crypt Champion if that is your thing.
Mix and match kill conditions until you find one that is right for you. Share your ideal 10ish creatures in the forums, because we'd all like to see them. Me, I went for some off-color goofiness. I really liked the synergy between Juniper Order Ranger and Triskelavus. Skeletal Vampire also plays nicely with the Ranger and can be hardcast if thing go terribly, horribly wrong. With the Triskelavus, my Clockspinnings actually retain some value. The other creatures I put in to clear the way for my army or steal some tempo.
Note: Magic Online does not handle Juniper Order Ranger correctly. |
When it comes out of the graveyard it only adds counters to creatures
that were on top of it in the graveyard. So always discard it first.
My favorite MTGO reactions to a resolved Living End:
"Huh. I don't think I can stop that."
"Your deck has too many rares for the casual room loser.
I have already blocked you, so don't bother responding."
Hemorrhoid * has lost the connection.
I can only hope you get feedback of similar quality.
* name changed to protect the ignorant
Here is quick guide for evaluating your opening hand with this deck:
Magus and the mana to cast it: Keep
Everything else: Think.
Because you potentially have ten spells you can't cast, you really, really can't count on drawing what you need. So if you don't have a turn two play or any card filtering you are in a whole mess of trouble, because there can be a whole lot of junk lying in wait. Some decks are resilient and can make just about any draw work. (Red/Boros/Burn) Deck Wins, White Weenie, and the like can usually count on playing a card every turn. But with a fragile deck like this it is most important to always play the right card every turn. Mulligan intelligently, it is the only way to respect yourself in the morning.
When you play the deck your goal is to land the Magus turn two. Signets are nice and set up the turn three suspend, but on the play the Magus is almost always the stronger play (unless you believe you have less than four turns, in which case go for the signet.)
The major advantage you get from playing the signet on the second turn is that you represent a different deck. Dimir Signet on turn two says wildfire or Dralnu. Green will try to not overcommit to the board, which may buy you a turn. Weenies may overload the red zone which makes the Living End more effective, but does not do much for your odds of getting to cast it. But neither of these advantages offsets the ability to see three cards a turn. So go with the Magus. (I can beat dead horses in a graveyard article. It is in my contract. (I originally typed that gravyyard. I share this with you because it tickles me so.))
The big disadvantage of Living End as a creature kill condition is that it lacks surprise value. If your opponent is literate (which is usually a safe assumption) they'll see it coming a mile away. Giant Solifuges, Blanchwood Armors, and Griffin Guides will all magically appear, secure in the knowledge that they have three turns to work with. We'll want to get that down to one. The strongest play this deck makes is Clockspinning with buyback, then Clockspinning again. Preferably during your opponent's attack phase (against weenie/burn), end phase (against control), or in response to an Aura.( Hi Griffin Guide). If the Magic Gods look upon you favorably you will do this in response to Teferi, bringing in your own Teferi. And your opponent's tears will burn like acid upon his cheeks.
As always, the Flashy Play comes with the warning that this is a casual deck. You won't win them all, but when you win you'll win big. And isn't that the point of trying for the flashy play?
So go on and grab your reject rare binder. Dig up all the dismissed fatties that have lain unused, buried beneath cards that are cheaper, better and more expensive. Let them see the light of day and swarm the board pulled along by Living End. Here's hoping you find where the bodies are buried.
And get a nailbrush and some moisturizer, because graveyard mud is hell on your hands.
Not that I'd know.
This is the line I wanted to start the article with. If I had a time machine I'd go back to Kamigawa just to give it a try:
"One of the hardest things you will ever do is protect your family from ninjas. (Hint: Turn on the lights so they have no shadows in which to hide. Also: Floss Regularly.)" A better writer could have made that work in context.
Bonus box in a box
This deck is a lot more aggro then the R/W version from last time. It plays less causal and more mean. It also wins a decent amount without pandemonium. (But Stoker into Lavacore is a beating when Pandemonium is down).
By Frank Shaskus on May 1st, 2007 · Filed in Standard (Type 2) · Comments not available just now