Serious Casual. Seriously.
By HKKID on May 19th, 2005 · Filed in Casual · Comments not available just now
Bringer of the Black Dawn
Tooth and Nail
Disciple of the Vault
Three of these things are a lot like the others,
Three of these things are kind of the same,
Can you guess which one is not like the others?
Because it's time we play our game
It has long been known that casual and competitive players live in completely different worlds... And you thought I was going to go take Casual Week off! A casual Magic player would take one glance at the above list, read the silly little Sesame Steet ditty, and say "Disciple of The Vault is clearly the odd card out because it's the only one on that list not banned in Prismatic." Luckily, A competitive player would also name Disciple, but the logic would be the T2 banned list rather than Prismatic.
Either way, I rigged the problem so you would get it correct, so congratulations for finding the right answer! Today, I'm taking a page out of the casual player's handbook and talking about 5-Color-Green. No, seriously, I'm going to talk about 5-Color-Green.
I'm sure everyone has at least some experience with the deck. The general concept is to use the core Green cards in the format to churn out mana of every color, fueling 5/5s with incredible abilites or powerful sunburst cards. In addition, Gifts Ungiven works as a sort of toolbox utility, fetching whatever specific cards you need, often in conjunction with Eternal Witness. Here's the deck I've been playing recently.
I remember the first ever 5-Color-Green decklist I looked at. I had been reading up on the results of the Paris Regionals, and the (then) just emerging T2 metagame. I was playing Tooth and Nail at the time, so my response to the new deck was "meh, scoops to Sundering Titan," and I didn't even bother giving it another thought. I'm back again to give it another thought, so lets take a look.
Green is THE most important color. Excluding only the Bringers (which you will never hardcast anyway), Green is the only color with a double color cost (Eternal Witness). More importantly, Green is also the color you need to cast all 12 of your mana fixers. Once you have Green mana, you have access to mana of other colors, but you've gotta get Green first.
After green, the second most important color is Blue. Gifts Ungiven, Condescend, and Echoing Truth are Blue. Short of Artifacts and Bringers, you're basically playing a Blue-Green deck with one Cranial Extraction. Whenever possible, you want to try and leave one Blue mana source untapped. An open Island leaves the threat of Condescend in the air whereas an open Forest, does nothing particularly useful.
I was pleasantly suprised during playtesting that mana issues were not as severe as I had initially feared. 15 total green manasources in the deck gives it a good deal of stability, and supporting those with 12 manafixers allows you to rapidly develop a three or four color manabase with little difficulty.
There's not much to be said about Cranial Extraction. I highly reccomend you name Sundering Titan against TAN. Meloku is a solid bet against Blue, and Death Cloud is typically the optimal play against black.. Other big ticket items for a recurred Extraction include Bribery, Plow Under, and Rude Awakening. Oh yeah, and in the mirror, don't make the common mistake of naming Gifts Ungiven. Pick Eternal Witness first, and gifts second.
Waaaaay back in Magic history, people agreed that Ivory Tower was a card to reckon with. It had good synergy with the popular Library of Alexandria, and three extra life every turn for 0 mana is a good way to keep from dying. This effect was so powerful that Ivory Tower would become restricted, and players were limited to only using one of them in each deck they played. Imagine how insane the Tower would have been if it gained 5 life a turn without the pesky hand size requirement! That's Clearwater Goblet for you. It's a bit clunky to get operating, but an active Goblet on the table can very rapidly push your life total completely out of anyones range.
One of the biggest flaws in my initial draft was an inability to deal with the "sheer numbers" approach. I could handle a single large beatstick no sweat, but Rude Awakening killed me every time. Thunderstaff was my answer. I'm still up in the air on Thunderstaff versus Ghostly Prison but I opted for the Staff because it doesn't require white mana and it permanently shuts down all sorts of trouble like Thieving Magpie or Beacon of Creation tokens.
Speaking of answering creatures, you'll never guess what Duplicant is for... The only interesting thing to note about Dupes is that he has great synergy with my next card, Echoing Truth. Truth is very strong. It provides an answer for those hard to deal with tokens if you're lacking Thunderstaff, gives you partial protection from Bribery, and has great synergy with CIP dudes like Eternal Witnes and Viridian Shaman.
Of all the spells that make this deck tick, the most important is Eternal Witness. More relevant than even Gifts Ungiven, the ability to reclaim spent cards is an important part of any modern Green deck, but even more so one with cards as powerful as those in 5-Color-Green.
Gifts Ungiven is the multipurpose answer card. Generally, you are going to search for the three most relevant spells in your deck and an Eternal Witness. Some people prefer to include All Suns' Dawn or Revive just to ensure you get what you looked for, but I'm not nearly as fond of this approach. Gifts obviously works best if you've got Eternal Witness in hand, but even not, it's still quite a powerful card.
Counterspell is a distant memory of a happier time for standard players. Even the best counter in the format, Mana Leak, gets snubbed in my decklist. Yet oddly, Condescend earns 3 slots. The reasons are twofold. First, it only costs a single , unlike stronger counters such as Hinder or Quash. Secondly, It can be used either early or late, depending on when it's needed. You can stop a second turn Umezawa's Jitte or a 10th turn Rude Awakening with a Condescend, whereas Mana Leak stops only the former, and Rewind only the latter. If you really think it's useless, cast it for X=0, and take advantage of the scry 2.
The last of my utility tools, Viridian Shaman, got the nod over Splinter mostly because he's cheaper. He also has better synergy with Echoing Truth, but I've already mentioned that.
Eternal Witness may be the card that makes the deck tick, but the best reason to go with 5 colors (as opposed to one or two) is Etched Oracle. Ancestral Recall meets Synod Centurion, and without the pesky drawback. Were it not for that annoying Sunburst requirement, he'd be the best four drop in magic, ahead of the likes of Ravenous Baloth and Masticore. The real clincher, though, is how bad the rest of the card drawing is in T2. Thirst for Knowledge is the most played card draw spell in standard, and Oracle beats that senseless.
If Etched Oracle is your down and dirty workhorse, then Bringer of the Blue Dawn is your thoroughbred that you take to the pagent. It's big, it's splashy, and if you keep it around for two turns, it even out draws Oracle. Problem is, it costs 5 mana, and it sucks if there's a Vedalken Shackles anywhere. That said, at a 5/5 for 5, it's a HUGE beatstick, and is a serious threat in the combat phase.
Vampiric Tutor is great. For a mere two life you get to find the card of your choice, giving you the perfect answer to whatever is going on. A Vampiric Tutor every single turn is INSANE. Fortunately, that's exactly what Bringer of the Black Dawn is. As soon as he hits play, you can topdeck EXACTLY what you need, every single turn. Condescend if you've got dominant board position. Duplicant if you're getting smashed by a Kokusho. Eternal Witness every turn just because that's cool. If the two spare life thing is starting to catch up with you, might I reccomend that you draw a Clearwater Goblet?
To really stop a weenie rush, you've got to control the combat phase. That's exactly what Meloku, The Clouded Mirror does. One of the nice little bonuses to playing a deck with tons of mana acceleration is that you've got tons of land available for bouncing. Meloku completely dominates the aggro matchups, and can buy you critical turns for that Clearwater Goblet to work. Even in the control matchups, having a Meloku in play essentially leaves you immune to Plow Under, which is often very relevant.
The Duplicant in the sideboard serves the same function as the one in the maindeck. He gets rid of creatures. Big annoying ones like 5/5 Black dragons or 11/11 indestructibles. He's none to shabby against smaller decks as well, but if you've got a bunch of weenie players in your metagame you're probably better suited to using Pyroclasm.
Sundering Titan is really bad news. Essentially the Tooth and Nail matchup often becomes a question of if you can get a Cranial Extraction before they can get a Titan. Fortunately, with three more on the sideboard you rely less on getting one via Gifts Ungiven.
The second of the relevant gifts card in the Tooth and Nail matchup is Sacred Ground. It doesn't do anything about the nasty 7/10 body, but at least it protects you from the LD effect. Because of the vulnerability of this deck to LD effects, I have three Sacred Grounds on the sideboard, but against Tooth and Nail I'd only bring in a single one to act as a Gifts Ungiven target.
My third card in the anti TAN suite is Blood Moon. Obviously deactivating the Urzatron is good. It unfortunatly decreases the effectiveness of City of Brass and Tendo Ice Bridge, but that's a small price to pay for turning off the mana acceleration.
The Anti Blue suite is actually very impressive. Finding Boil, Defense Grid, [card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[card] and Dosan, The Falling Leaf via Gifts is espescially nasty. If Blue is extra heavy in your environment, Boil is the one to play multiples of because it both eliminates the permission threat as well as the Vedalken Shackles threat. Boil is also instant speed, so it works great if your opponent is tapping out for a Thirst for Knowledge at your end of turn.
The anti-Green tech is Hibernation. By itself, Hibernation isn't very impressive or effective at all. But when [card]Hibernation bounces your Eternal Witness along with all the opposing green dudes, you suddenly have a soft lock. The green guy probably still has ways out of it (like Cranial Extraction), but it greatly reduces the number of things you have to worry about.
The anti-Artifact suite is Naturalize and Splinter. Splinter got the nod ahead of Oxidize because it has a different name than Naturalize and a more powerful overall effect. Killing one copy of Sword of Fire and Ice isn't very effective. Killing one copy and Cranial Extractioning the rest away is pretty darn nice. Naturalize gets used simply because against random decks, Enchantment removal can be nice. This is casual week after all, so everyone is using Zur's Wierding, Ghostly Prison, and Nightmare... all in the same deck.
Close but no Cigar
Well, I've covered all the cool stuff that DID make it, but what about interesting stuff that DIDN'T?
Ghostly Prison. Got beat out by Thunderstaff but overall still an acceptable choice. Useful for holding back attackers, or at least making that Mono-U player tap a bunch of lands so you can Boil his arse back to Alpha.
All Sun's Dawn. Bad overall choice for this particular build of the deck. I've got 18 Green spells, 12 Blue spells, and 2 Black spells. There just isn't enough multicolored punch to make this more effective than Revive.
Revive almost made the deck. The general thought was to Gifts Ungiven for two "business" spells, a Revive, and an Eternal Witness. I used to use one for a while before deciding that I'd be better off just using a fourth Etched Oracle in its place.
Plow Under. Plow has really good synergy with Bringer of the Black Dawn. You drop a 5/5 creature, almost guaranteeing you've got a serious board advantage, and follow that up next turn by Plow Undering your opponent. Great on paper, but not so great in practice. I've found that for the "just maintain board position" strategy, it is often equally effective to find Condescends with your Bringer, and it saves you a few deck slots.
Sensei's Divining Top. I still hate this card. My current build of the deck has a full 61 cards that all mean business. I can't even concieve of cutting any of them for Divining Top, and if you're using it, that means you're cutting out important business cards. That's probably not a good idea, even for a casual game.
Engineered Explosives. For the longest time, these were in. Eventually they became Thunderstaff. I sacrificed the ability to kill Artifacts and Enchantments for a much more permanent solution to small creatures. In a metagame with no LD you could easily pull 3 Sacred Grounds off the sideboard for Explosives.
Wrath of God. Having a universal answer to creatures would be nice, espescially since it kills the always annoying Troll Ascetics. Unfortunately, the double White commitment just killed using Wrath as a 4 of, and going Gifts-Witness-WOG takes up a full three turns worth of mana. Those are some hugely bad tempo decisions, and often can lead directly to losing the game anyway.
Pyroclasm. There's no real reason not to use Pyroclasm. It's cheap, it's efficient, and its easy to get . The downside is that it bumps off your Birds and Witnesses, but that isn't SO huge of a problem. I simply didn't think mass weenie removal was needed, and did not bother including a card to do so.
There you go. A serious look at a casual deck. 5CG won't be winning a Pro Tour any time soon, but it's good enough to win you an FNM this Friday. Have fun.
By HKKID on May 19th, 2005 · Filed in Casual · Comments not available just now