MTG Arena Zendikar Rising Decks to Try
With every expansion comes potential massive changes and adjustments to the meta. Some of the new cards will be in the “Eh, if I have room tier,” while others will be “Good lord, run this or your deck is garbage” tier. Will any cards be banned? We’re willing to bet that Uro will see a ban before the next expansion (after Zendikar Rising). While none of these decks are guaranteed to be top-tier, we’re looking at what could show up as powerful and useful. This week, we’re talking about MTG Arena Zendikar Rising decks that should wind up being powerful! After all, by the time this drops, the expansion will be live!
Before we talk decks, I want to talk about some of the cards in this set! Spoiler season is over, and it’s time to break into the meta!
Powerful Cards Everywhere
But what are the most powerful cards in this expansion? For my money, the most powerful card in this expansion is black! Agadeem’s Awakening is a Modal dual-faced mythic card, which is part land, part awesome Sorcery. The land can come into play untapped if you pay 3 life, which is amazing. The sorcery, Agadeem’s Awakening lets you return any number of creature cards with a cost of X or less, as long as each card is a different cost from the others. In most cases, we’re willing to bet you’ll get 3-4 creature cards back, more if you have had a bad game/running an annoying Green/Black reanimator deck.
Green has some incredible cards, too, namely Ashaya, Soul of the Wild and Turntimber Symbiosis, even if Turntimber is costly (7-mana). Ashaya makes your nontoken creatures into lands in addition to other types (Forests in particular). On top of that, it’s power/toughness is equal to the lands you control. In a deck with 27+ lands, you can beat someone in the face again and again. It’s a part of a pretty neat combo. Turntimber Symbiosis lets you look at the top seven cards of your deck and put a creature from among them onto the battlefield. If it costs 3 mana or less, give it 3 additional +1/+1 counters. Honorable mentions go to Lotus Cobra (Kobe!) and the Tangled Florahedron since it can be a mana dork or come into play as a land instead.
Blue has a card that is a throwback to something we’re pretty familiar with (Snapcaster Mage). I’d say they’re in the same ballpark in terms of power. I’m talking about the Mythic Rare Sea Gate Stormcaller. It’s a two-cost that has a Kicker of 5. When it deploys, you copy the next instant or sorcery you cast with a converted mana cost of 2 or less. If you Kick it, copy it twice. Bear in mind; the Kicker cost does not add to the CMC of a spell. So you can drop something huge like Sea Gate Restoration and suddenly have 20 cards in hand with no maximum hand size. It can do quite a lot, of that, you can be sure. But that’s enough chatter about strong cards: Let’s look at some deck tech!
My favorite card in White is, predictably, a board wipe option. Ondu Inversion is pure, unbridled destruction. You might scoff at the 8 mana cost, but this will be a one-of almost every control deck. Control decks have to hit land drops, and this card will serve as a land drop or a complete reset of the game if you need it to. You could run it in WG with Ashaya, and board wipe, only you keep your creatures (because they’re now Forests). This will certainly be a useful card in any control deck you can think of. Need a land? Got it. Need to eradicate the game state and reset things? You can do that too.
Finally, red. My least favorite Magic color. Leyline Tyrant is here to make people miserable, and it doesn’t even have a high-cost or a Kicker! A 4/4 Flyer for 4 that makes your Red Mana not leave the mana pool as steps and phases end? Oh lord. When it dies, you can pay as much red as you have/want to deal that much damage to any target (the other player, let’s be honest). If this lasts in play even one turn, you’re bound to see results. Be like me and consider pairing this with Irencrag Feat to get 7 mana to just sit in your mana pool! I’m wondering if it’s going to be possible to do mono-red control built around the Leyline Tyrant for an OTK deck.
Omnath + Uro = WHY?! (4-Color Combo/Ramp)
The next time Omnath, Locus of Creation shows up in MTG Arena, he will have all five colors attached. He keeps getting more and more powerful. I’m convinced he’s going to develop a planeswalker spark, but only time will tell there. What do you get when you combine Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Omnath, Locus of Creation, and Ashaya, Soul of the Wild? Fits of anger. But when you tack on cards like Ancient Greenwarden that let you trigger abilities triggered by lands entering the battlefield more than once, you’re going to melt another player’s life total in a matter of turns. We’re going to constant, annoying damage, have extra combat turns, and, hopefully, start hitting the other player for 20+ each time. Good thing Ashaya doesn’t have Trample, right?
Heck, we can defeat the other player simply by not playing the spells offered up by Valakut Exploration! The more landfall triggers we get, the more damage this could do in one turn! Not likely going to be an OTK, but you never know! Don’t worry, my friends. We’ll get into what exactly I mean. But how do we turn this pile of lands and weird creatures into something magnificent?
I’m glad you asked.
How Does It Work?
This deck runs a wide variety of creatures, a planeswalker, and a couple of spells. Oh, and 27 lands. This isn’t a complicated deck, thankfully. Thank God for rares, right? Our pathway to victory comes in a few ways. We can decimate someone with Omnath, Locus of Creation, and at least 3 Landfall triggers a turn, for example. Omnath only checks that Landfall triggers. It doesn’t require you to play three lands a turn.
We have so many ridiculous tools in this tool kit. Genesis Ultimatum? Got that too. A creature that can become a 30/30+? Got that too. But the key is to figure out which path to success will be the best one. That’s going to differ from game to game, so just knowing what you can do will help you figure out what to do. What we’re hoping to do is get one of those Genesis Ultimatum early, ramp into it, and get us off to the races. That will start most of our combo pieces going.
Genesis Ultimatum is how we hope will get our best cards into play. Then you can cast another one later to help you hopefully find lots of lands to put into play. After you have an Ancient Greenwarden and other combo pieces put into play, you want to drop a five-land Genesis Ultimatum, if at all possible. It’s not likely, but whew, would it decimate people!
Win Conditions Galore:
So if we can get one or two copies of Ancient Greenwarden into play, for example, we can get 2 or 3 triggers of Landfall per land dropped. Ancient Greenwarden also lets us play lands from our graveyard, adding extra value to Fabled Passage. It lets us seek a basic land from our deck and put it in to play tapped (untapped if we have four or more lands). Since we have 8 basic lands, we can double the value of Fabled Passage and keep using one from the grave. Omnath has three abilities, depending on how many times Landfall has activated this turn. The first time gives you 4 life. The second time it triggers, you receive 1 red, green, white, and blue mana to your mana pool. The third time? 4 damage to each opponent and each planeswalker they control.
Sadly, it doesn’t keep proccing over and over each turn that I’m aware of. However, if you replaced Omnath with another one, you could always do it again. That’s not necessary unless you know the other player isn’t going to live through the damage. You can just nickel and dime someone down over a few turns this way without too much difficulty. We’ll cover how to get enough going to do this in one turn.
Next is Valakut Exploration. This is an enchantment with, predictably, Landfall. Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you exile the top card of your library, and you can play that card for as long as it remains exiled. At the beginning of your end step, if there are cards exiled with Valakut Exploration, put them in their owner’s graveyard, and Valakut Exploration deals damage to each opponent based on how many cards are there. If we can get all four Ancient Greenwardens in play somehow, that’s five total triggers of this card’s ability each time we play a land in a turn. Between Genesis Ultimatum and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, we can get quite a few lands in one turn.
Again, I understand that is a very much best-case scenario, and unlikely. But we’re here to dream big! We also have Roiling Regrowth, which has the added benefit of being an instant. For 3 mana (1 green), we sacrifice a land, search our library for up to two basic lands, and put them into the battlefield tapped. If we pair that again, with Ancient Greenwarden, we can play this spell on the other player’s turn, get 4 damage out of Omnath, put a land in the grave, get a few landfall triggers, and play that sacrificed land from the graveyard.
You may instead want to go the direct damage route. Thanks to how much card draw/mana ramp we have, it’s going to be pretty easy to find our two Ashaya, Soul of the Wild cards. She has again, power and toughness equal to our lands in play. That’s going to become a huge number quickly. She also makes our nontoken creatures into Forests, so they count towards her overall total. Even our Lotus Cobra and Gilded Goose cards will bring us closer to glory. However, we want to be able to swing with this again and again.
Enter Moraug, Fury of Akoum. They give our creatures +1/+0 each time they attack in a turn, and it doesn’t read “until end of turn.” Moraug is also a baseline 6/6. His Landfall is pretty nuts, and here’s why. If it’s our main phase and a land dropped, we receive an additional combat phase after this phase. At the beginning of that combat, untap all of our creatures. Imagine getting four or five combat phases a turn! You could something like 8 or 9 combat phases in a single turn.
If you’re attacking with cards like Uro, it’s going to ramp your card draw/life gain over and over again. Each time Uro attacks/is played, you gain 3 lives, draw a card, and play an additional land for the turn. I think you see where that is going. A non-stop flood of ramp in theory! If we’re swinging with our Wardens, Uro, Moraug, and Ashaya, we will smash someone’s brains into paste with little-to-no effort. Consider this:
- Genesis Ultimatum: Look at the top five cards, and put any number of permanents into play. The more lands, the better.
- Roiling Regrowth: Two Basic Lands from your deck.
- Uro: Thanks to Omnath, we can, in theory, hard cast an Uro from our hand, to get one more land.
- A few Ancient Greenwardens: Trigger Landfall extra times.
From there, you just swing again and again, until the other player has either 1. Lost or 2. Gave up after seeing 10+ combat phases line up (not that I blame them). That’s going to be our way to keep getting Landfall drops too. If we swing with Uro and Ashaya over and over, Uro will keep triggering his draw/life/land activations. If we keep hitting land drops, it will trigger a host of other landfall abilities this deck has to offer.
Brief Thoughts on Mana Ramp:
It’s really easy to be in the room where it happens. Gilded Goose helps us generate tokens to sac for land, and Lotus Cobra gives us additional mana of any color anytime a land drops in to play for us. Roiling Regrowth is two basic lands, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, is an extra land whenever he comes into play or attacks. If we can Landfall twice on our turn, we get 1 red, blue, white, green mana for the phase. So it’s going to be really easy to get land, especially after Ancient Greenwarden hits the field. He’ll make all those triggers happen again (except Uro).
4 Ketria Triome
1 Raugrin Triome
2 Branchloft Pathway
4 Cragcrown Pathway
4 Riverglide Pathway
4 Fabled Passage
3 Omnath, Locus of Creation
2 Valakut Exploration
3 Roiling Regrowth
4 Ancient Greenwarden
2 Gilded Goose
2 Turntimber Symbiosis
4 Lotus Cobra
3 Genesis Ultimatum
2 Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
2 Shatterskull Smashing
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
2 Moraug, Fury of Akoum
2 Emeria’s Call
Editor’s Note: This deck originally ran a pair of Ugins, but I’m not sure it’ll be necessary.
This deck will probably change a lot and wind up focusing on just the one Moraug combo. We’ll have to see, though. I love the concept of it, and it’s going to be brutal. It has everything we need, and not a lot of fat that needs trimming. This deck archetype (Omnath Ramp/Combo) is going to exist in some iteration. I hope it’s this one. There’s some fine-tuning that needs to be done. We can add some of the Mythic Modal Lands if we want (this added some since I initially started writing).
It might seem like this deck is kind of on the busy side, and I don’t blame you. But it’s an Omnath combo deck, that’s just how they go. It’s pretty flexible in what it can do. For example, the original design had none of the Mythic Rare lands, but they’re just too good to pass up. They offer optional powerful effects, while also giving us an untapped land for 3 life if we want. 3 life? That’s virtually nothing in this deck.
This is only the start of our MTG Arena Zendikar decks to try out! I’m very excited to see how this meta will shape up, so everything now is hypothetical.
Zareth San Bringing Back Ninjutsu?! (Blue/Black Aggro/Midrange)
A little intro to that title: Ninjutsu is an older ability from the Kamigawa block in MTG. The way it worked is pretty simple. You have a Ninja in play, tapped, and attacking (or just attacking if they have Vigilance). Using Ninjutsu, you could return that Ninja to your hand, and pull a different Ninja from your hand, and into play, tapped and attacking. Thus, the original creature that was blocking is doing nothing, and your new Ninja gets through unimpeded. It made a lot of players salty – in particular, players that didn’t run Ninjutsu. This is going to be one of the really fun decks for MTG Arena in Zendikar Rising.
However, Zareth San, the Trickster doesn’t quite do the same thing. But it’s close enough to be horrifying. We’ll get into the why soon enough. There has been chatter on here before about Blue/Black Rogues from yours truly. This deck is almost entirely different. There are so many new cards that fit into this mold for UB Rogues that we’re excited to see it again. That is until it starts stomping me into oblivion, then I too will become salty. We also discussed UB Flash more recently, but this is just Rogue Tribal Gone Wild (™).
Originally this felt like a would-be mill deck. After all, several of our cards benefit from the enemy having 8+ cards in the graveyard. Do I think we could win via mill? Ehhh, maybe. It wouldn’t be worth the time or effort invested. This is more of aggro/midrange, where we drop sneaky tricks and steal the other player’s cards right out of the graveyard. Or out of play, I don’t judge. Though it’s not a mill deck, the more cards we put in the grave, the greater use we can get out of Zareth San, the Trickster. So let’s talk Rogues!
How Does It Work?
Again, this is not a mill deck per se’, but it can be. We have some real synergy/benefit from putting cards there, but we can very much win without decking the other player down. What’s our major win condition? We will probably find victory with a pair of creatures: Nighthawk Scavenger and Zareth San, the Trickster. The others will help facilitate this, but these are my two favorite bangers in the deck.
Who is Zareth San? He’s a Blue/Black Merfolk with Flash (4/4), with his own Ninjutsu version. If you have a Rogue unblocked in combat, you can tap 4 mana (1 blue, 1 black) and return that Rogue to your hand. In exchange, Zareth San, the Trickster leaves your hand and enters play, tapped and attacking. That way, he’s going to go through unimpeded and drop 4 damage. Whenever he deals combat damage to a player, we can take a permanent from that player’s graveyard and put it into play under our control.
“Permanent” includes Enchantment, Artifact, Land. Whatever isn’t an Instant/Sorcery is fair game! So it is to our benefit to put some cards in the grave, for his sake. Also for our 3-cost black Vampire/Rogue, Nighthawk Scavenger. That’s a Rogue with Flying, Lifelink, and Deathtouch, so he’s a menace. He’s a baseline ⅓, which is mediocre, but his power grows based on the cards in your opponent’s graveyard. He’s “However many cards in the opponent’s graveyard +1”. So he’s at least a ⅓. Now that we know that, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, this IS a mill deck! But there’s no mill tech yet! What gives?”
Trust me, friends. We have a lot of ways to nickel-and-dime the other player down. We have those two beaters that swing hard and heavy, but we also have another fun benefit to having cards in the other player’s graveyard: Lullmage’s Domination! It’s a 3 blue+X card that steals a creature with cost X or less. Sounds expensive, depending on what you’re after! However, if the other player has 8 or more cards in the graveyard. Lets us steal an 8-cost, for example, for 5 colorless mana. Now, how’s that sound?
This leads us to ask: What can we do to make the other player lose cards at a rapid rate? Fortunately, I have the answer!
Milling for Fun and Profit:
Thieves’ Guild Enforcer has to make a return here. After all, it’s a 1 black Rogue that makes each opponent mill two cards when it or any other Rogue we control comes into play. On top of that, if there are 8+ cards in the enemy graveyard, Thieves’ Guild Enforcer gets +2/+1 and deathtouch. With a host of Rogues that cost 1-3 mana in full playsets, it’s going to take almost nothing to start putting those cards away. Speaking of Rogues, hello, Merfolk Robber!
That’s a 1/1 Flying Merfolk Rogue for 1 blue, and whenever it deals combat damage to a player, that player mills a card. You can also sacrifice this to draw a card. But only when the other player (say it with me) has 8+ cards in their graveyard! This actually goes nicely with one of our new spells, Malakir Rebirth, which is also a land, but we want it as a spell. You choose a creature and lose 2 life. Until the end of turn, that creature returns to the battlefield tapped under its owner’s control, if it dies.
That way, you sacrifice it, draw a card, bring it back, and if you have Thieves’ Guild Enforcer is in play, the other player mills even more cards. This also helps you with Rankle, Master of Pranks, where you can target one of your creatures for 1, at Instant speed. Then you make Rankle have both players sacrifice a creature, and yours comes back! Gotta love it.
These aren’t the only mill choices we have. Soaring Thought-Thief is a 2-cost (1 black, 1 blue) with Flash and Flying. If your opponent has 8+ cards in the graveyard, all of your Rogues gain +1/+0. But whenever one or more ROgues we control attack, each opponent mills two cards! Again: MORE MILL!
Don’t underestimate the power of flying creatures. Most decks don’t run them, or only run one or two (unless it’s a flying deck). We aren’t running a lot of control cards. A few of them, but this is mostly “Play Rogues on Curve, Mill/Swing every single turn.” Rogues like Blackbloom Rogue, which, if the other player has 8+ cards in the graveyard, gains +3/+0 (making it a 5/3 with Menace).
Once we have Zareth San in hand, we want to use his power to swap him out for an unblocked Rogue. If you’re feeling fancy and Zareth San doesn’t get blocked the next turn, you can swap him for another in hand, just because! He will let you steal the other players permanents and put them into play for your own benefit. Steal their lands, their enchantments, whatever! The stronger the other player’s deck is, the better it’s going to be for you!
Drown in the Loch benefits immensely on the other player losing cards into their graveyard. It can destroy a creature or counter a spell with converted mana cost less than or equal to the number of cards in that player’s graveyard. For 2 mana, that’s a steal. It’s not amazing in the early game, but closer to the mid-game, it’s so frustrating.
Brazen Borrower can be cast as a spell to bounce a nonland permanent an opponent controls back to their hand, and then it can be Flashed in as a Fairy Rogue! It can only block creatures with flying, sadly. So be aggressive with it. Rankle, Master of Pranks can also make both players discard a card, sacrifice a creature, or draw a card. Always remember, the more cards the other player doesn’t have, the better. Then we just want to attack whenever it’s safe, as often as possible, and drop Zareth San from your hand (don’t cast him unless you can Flash him in on the other player’s turn and are 100% sure he won’t get blocked).
It just feels better/safer to use his power from your hand instead of hard casting him. We have a never-ending supply of annoying Rogues to keep the other player on their toes and can steal several of their creatures/permanents to use as fodder/simply to make the other player give in. We don’t have a lot of huge creatures, but they’re all useful, and remember: Nighthawk Scavenger will get unbearable to deal with.
4 Merfolk Windrobber
4 Thieves’ Guild Enforcer
2 Malakir Rebirth
4 Drown in the Loch
4 Blackbloom Rogue
4 Brazen Borrower
4 Soaring Thought-Thief
3 Lullmage’s Domination
2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
3 Zareth San, the Trickster
4 Clearwater Pathway
4 Temple of Deceit
2 Fabled Passage
4 Nighthawk Scavenger
This is safer and way more enjoyable than UB Flash. Sure, that deck always flashes in the other player’s turn, but this has more utility with all the mill. Plus, we can deal lots of damage pretty safely and reliably steal permanents from the other player. How annoying would it be to turn-after-turn play a Zareth San from your hand, only to do it again in a loop the next turn? He’s a 4/4, so he is a threat, but if he gets through, the other player is boned, less they never put cards in the grave. Thankfully, we can facilitate that and help them lose cards.
It’s a fast deck, and it isn’t as heavy on Rare/Mythic Rares as the previous deck. It runs 12 commons, 25 uncommons, 17 rares, and 6 mythic rares. It’s even half and half on Black/Blue, and the land base is balanced for that. We can really frustrate someone by pinging them with 1 or 2 flyers each turn that the other player can’t do anything about, and laugh as their deck thins out more and more. . . but big flyers/big creatures will be our bane, as will boardwipe. If we lose our creatures, we better hope that we’ve got a handful of replacements. At least almost every card in the deck is a creature. We can come back.
The Dark Order Is Not a Cult (White/Black Aggro/Midrange)
Look, I’m a pro wrestling fan; those kinds of references are just going to slip out. This next deck is going to be terribly annoying to deal with. Clerics are arguably the strongest of the Adventurer classes right now if you ask this humble writer’s opinion. Why? Because of nonsense like this deck. Virtually every creature in this deck adds life and/or +1/+1 tokens or destroys creatures. Put a Cleric in play, gain 1 life (at least), and then add a +1/+1 token to something, and then gain another life from the creature coming into play, which adds yet another +1/+1 token. We gain +1/+1 counters on certain creatures when our allies die, and we can steal minions from the other player’s graveyard.
Then we have one of my favorite new Clerics, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant. What makes him so busted? Whenever he or another Cleric you control dies, return a Cleric with lesser converted mana cost from the grave to the battlefield. Oh, did they kill your Cleric of Life’s Bond? Guess you just fish that Archfiend’s Vessel back from the grave to create a 5/5 demon! What do we do once we’ve gained so much life? We make Angel tokens. That’s right, we also run Speaker of the Heavens.
This is just an obnoxious festival of lifegain, +1/+1 tokens, and grave retrieval. This is a black/white deck, so of course, it has to have Agadeem’s Awakening. It’s my firm opinion that it is one of the strongest cards in the entire expansion, possibly of the year. In the best possible case, it will let us retrieve 5 creatures from the grave and put them into play. What’s not to like?
How Does It Work?
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose had to be in this deck. A deck where we gain annoying amounts of life at virtually every stage of the game? Oh yeah, he had to be here. Whenever we gain life, a target opponent loses that much life, and we can give all of our creatures lifelink through him. Even if a creature dies, if they had lifelink, Vito can turn the tables and give us a nice, easy win. This was already a really strong deck archetype, but it’s been shaken up a lot thanks to Zendikar Rising.
Roughly half the deck are new cards. We combine the new stuff with powerful older tech like Heliod, Sun-Crowned and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun to make every point of lifegain matter. Since Heliod is indestructible, he’s going to keep making our creatures bigger and stronger. Anytime we gain a point of life if he’s in play, a creature gets +1/+1. Make sure the target of that +1/+1 matters though. For example, Archfiend’s Vessel is supposed to die. We want it to die. But when it comes back as a 5/5 Demon, that’s another matter entirely.
Creatures we plan on attacking with deserve the buffs. Speaker of the Heavens Angel Tokens and Drana, the Last Bloodchief are terrific picks. Or Heliod himself. Nullpriest of Oblivion is a great shout too. It has Lifelink built-in, and Menace. This is a deck that either beats someone’s face into bits, or just uses lifegain to punish the other player (through Vito’s passive, causing harm anytime we heal).
But how do we set up annoying combos in this deck? How do we increase our health to unreasonable levels? I’m glad you asked. As a bonus, we have an alternate version of this deck that forgoes Daxos/Heliod and adds Luminous Broodmoth and Village Rites. I love the idea of my Clerics coming back when they die, to just be more annoying. Then when they perish again, we use Agadeem’s Awakening. Love it.
We’re also running another new, amazing card, Bloodchief’s Thirst. For 1 mana, you can destroy a target creature/planeswalker that costs 2 or less. If you pay the kicker (3 mana – 1 black), you destroy any target creature or planeswalker. That is a powerful uncommon.
What an exciting, annoying deck this one is! If you thought Oops, All Clerics was annoying, just wait til you see it with Lurrus of the Dream Den splashed in! He’s not a companion, just added to the deck for extra anger! After all, most of the creatures in this deck are 2-or-less cost, and can therefore be played with no effort from the grave by our favorite Cat Nightmare.
The idea in this deck is to build up so much life the other player cannot hope to possibly get past it. At the same time though, we’re going to trigger that lifegain into something meaningful. In particular, we want more +1/+1 tokens, and to also trigger immediate loss of life on the other player. We can do that from a host of sources. I’m a big fan of decks having multiple outs/win-conditions. WB Clerics fits that bill to a “T.”
We can steal cards from the other player’s graveyard thanks to Drana, the Last Bloodchief, which is not a game-breaker from the outset. It can ruin the day for your opponent if the timing/creature is right. Sadly, the defending player gets to choose the nonlegendary you receive. It also becomes a Vampire, and gains +1/+1 though! It’s still one more card you didn’t have, and it’s not like the odds of you getting something you can’t put to use are high.
WB Clerics is a combo of creating an army of annoying token creatures (Demons and Angels) while also building up life and tearing the other player down. Speaker of the Heavens as an example can be tapped to create a 4/4 flying Angel token if you have at least 7 more life than the start of the game (27). So we just need to stack our life total high as possible! Archfiend’s Vessel, when resurrected becomes exiled, and creates a 5/5 flying Demon in its stead, so we have to look at ways to bring it back.
From there, we want to keep bringing creatures back that die, gain as much life as possible, and put Clerics into play/let them die/bring them back to keep looping our triggers. After all, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant lets you return a Cleric from your grave when it or another Cleric dies (with a cost less than or equal to the one that died). You can just keep cycling things around and around.
Life, +1/+1 Counters and You:
We want that life total to go up as fast as possible. Nobody likes dealing with floods of flying, powerful jerks. Well, we like having them. Cleric of Life’s Bond needs to drop as soon as possible with that in mind. Whenever another Cleric comes into play under our control, we get 1 life. Whenever we gain life for the first time each turn (opponent’s turn counts), we put a +1/+1 counter on Cleric of Life’s Blood. Most of our creatures are Clerics, mind. How do we get life on the other player’s turn though? We don’t have creatures with Flash!
The answer is Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose (in the mid/late game) and Heliod, Sun-Crowned+Daxos, Blessed by the Sun. Daxos gives us 1 life anytime a creature we control enters the battlefield or dies. So if we lose something, and then bring it back via Lurrus or Orah (or Agadeem’s Awakening/Nullpriest of Oblivion for that matter), we gain yet another life. Heliod, the Sun-Crowned gives us a +1/+1 counter to distribute anytime we gain life.
We can also tap 2 mana (1 white) to give one of our creatures (not him) Lifelink until the end of turn. So your opponent swings, we block, give the creature lifelink, and let it die. This is even better if it’s Archfiend’s Vessel (though it already has lifelink) that takes the hit. It dies, Daxos gives us 1 life, it gives us another 1 life for Lifelink, and Cleric of Life’s Bond gets a +1/+1 counter. On top of that, we get the 2 +1/+1 counters thanks to Heliod’s triggers.
If we have Lurrus of the Dream-Den or another revival option, we can just gain yet another point of life/another token. So it’s very easy to gain life. Whenever we gain life with Vito in play, a target opponent also loses that much life. It’s very easy to use him to ping someone down with our lifegain triggers.
With Vito, we could get all of our creatures to attack, give them all Lifelink until end of turn for 5 mana (2 black), and even if they all get blocked, the other player will still die from Vito triggers. Since each individual time we gain life, they lose it, the other player could perish from that. It’s a good thing it’s not “each turn you gain life” or something nonsensical like that.
Bringing Them Back:
The other thing is “We need to keep our friends coming back over and over”. The alternate deck has Luminous Broodmoth as a strategy too, and if I could find room in this, I’d add her. But Emeria’s Call is too good to pass up, as is Agadeem’s Awakening. They offer powerful effects, and can double as lands. That’s too strong. But how do we get our allies back?
Lurrus of the Dream-Den can, once a turn let me cast a permanent that costs 2 or less from the graveyard. Several of our creatures can come back this way. Oh and he has Lifelink too, so he can help us build towards our Angel army. Orah, Skyclave Hierophant we’ve already discussed too. When a Cleric we control dies, we can bring back one that costs less into play. Sadly, if a 1-cost dies, we can’t bring something else back.
That’s just a way to balance the card, so I’m on board with that. But if Cleric of Life’s Blood dies, we can bring a Speaker of the Heavens back, and if Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose dies, we can bring back Nullpriest of Oblivion for example. Speaking of the Nullpriest, it is a 2/1 with Menace and Lifelink. It’s only a 2-cost, but if you pay the 4 mana Kicker (1 black), you can return a creature (any creature) from your graveyard back into play. So Orah/Drana can come back, or Heliod, Daxos, whatever. Sadly if we retrieve Nullpriest, we can’t use that kicker ability, which is balanced, but unfortunate. Finally, the biggest mover-and-shaker of all, Agadeem’s Awakening. If you choose to use it as this, instead of a land, you can bring back any amount of creatures from the grave that cost X or less. The catch is they have to each have a different cost. So you could bring back in one turn, Drama, Orah, Vito, Cleric of Life’s Bond, and Speaker of the Heavens/Archfiend’s Vessel (your pick). If you have a Daxos in play already, or a Cleric of Life’s Blood, that’s going to be stacks on stacks on triggers.
That’s the beauty of this deck: You don’t have to swing for damage if you don’t want! You should, but you don’t need to, if you have the right creatures in play. You can just make the other player lose life when you gain life. But when you’re ready to win, that’s when you want to cast Emeria’s Call. Make your creatures indestructible until your next turn, and create two 4/4 white Angel Warrior tokens with flying. However, Emeria’s Call only makes Non-Angels you control indestructible, so take that into account.
3 Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
4 Archfiend’s Vessel
4 Speaker of the Heavens
2 Bloodchief’s Thirst
4 Cleric of Life’s Bond
3 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
4 Agadeem’s Awakening
4 Nullpriest of Oblivion
3 Heliod, Sun-Crowned
3 Orah, Skyclave Hierophant
2 Drana, the Last Bloodchief
4 Temple of Silence
2 Fabled Passage
4 Brightclimb Pathway
2 Radiant Fountain
2 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
4 Emeria’s Call
4 Mythos of Nethroi
2 Luminous Broodmoth
1 Castle Ardenvale
1 Castle Locthwain
2 Agadeem’s Awakening
4 Branchloft Pathway
4 Brightclimb Pathway
4 Nullpriest of Oblivion
2 Village Rites
2 Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
3 Taborax, Hope’s Demise
4 Speaker of the Heavens
3 Orah, Skyclave Hierophant
1 Drana, the Last Bloodchief
4 Cleric of Life’s Bond
4 Archfiend’s Vessel
4 Indatha Triome
Honestly, I don’t think this deck archetype is going anywhere. There are way too many great Clerics to use. I think it’s going to see action in the Historic meta as well. The alternate deck is pretty similar, except it also uses Eliminate and Village Rites for control options, and Luminous Broodmoth to keep bringing creatures back so you can trigger things at least one more time. It’s a pretty fun deck, no matter what you start off with/what path you want to take it down. You can start banging someone’s face in with Angels early, or just nickel and dime them to death if you know the other player can’t board wipe you or push past your wall of Clerics. It’s up to you! I think you guys will have a lot of fun with the Cleric deck type in Zendikar Rising.
Forsake All Colors (Colorless Midrange)
As soon as I saw Forsaken Monument, I knew shenanigans were going to be afoot. After all, it gives your colorless creatures +2/+2, and whenever tap anything for colorless mana, you get an addition 1 colorless mana. Whenever you cast a colorless spell, you gain 2 life. So, it’s going to be really popular for certain deck types. Like this one! Thanks to reprints like Palladium Myr, we’re going to be able to pump out a lot of mana in short order.
This is a deck where we do a lot of card draw, thanks to obnoxious colorless artifacts, draw lands from our deck for the same reason and in general, beat people’s faces in with cards that have no color. What better planeswalker could we get for this deck than Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? We can use his -X ability with zero fear! None of the permanents we use have a color, so we can use him to our heart’s content.
Do we have a win condition other than pure frustration? I’d like to think so. We can bop people to bits with so many creatures. Myriad Construct, Stonecoil Serpent, Crystalline Giant, if any of these wind up with +2/+2, they’re going to be a threat. When you consider how much mana we can drop for a late-game Stonecoil, it’s going to be terrifying. Also, consider Stonecoil could easily become a 20/20, Reach, Trample, Protection from Multicolored. That damage is getting through.
We have Labyrinth of Skophos to remove attacking/blocking creatures (well, one at least) from combat, and Crawling Barrens to slowly make huge lands that will definitely fight back. This isn’t a fast deck, it’s a deck that slowly crawls forward, building up the possibility of +1/+1 stats, lots of colorless mana, and before the other player knows it, they’re in a tight spot. The longer Crystaline Giant is in play for example, the more powers it can get. Eventually, it can become (thanks to Forsaken Monument) a 6/6 with Flying, First Strike, Deathtouch, HExproof, Lifelink, Menace, Reach, Trample, Vigilance. It’s just going to be an unstoppable monster (Except of course, by direct destruction).
If we want, we can just hit the other player for 3 a turn from Ugin, or we can build up Stonecoils, Giants, and our Barrens to hit them until the game is over. It’s really up to you. The other player has no chance to survive if we board wipe them with Ugin. There aren’t going to be quite as many colorless decks, with the power of Uro lurking. Since Ugin, the Spirit Dragon exiles permanents, they aren’t coming back. Ever. So let’s talk about this easy-to-use colorless monstrosity!
One of the best parts of this deck is that we can run any types of basic lands. Forests, Swamps, whatever. It doesn’t matter. We don’t need any particular color, but most of our lands are non-basic colorless lands. Radiant Fountain, Labyrinth of Skophos, Field of Ruin, Crawling Barrens, Bonders’ Enclave. They each have their own special effect too, that we can use in the right places. Like Bonders’ Enclave lets us draw a card for 3 mana if we have a creature power 4 or greater. Field of Ruin destroys a non-basic land and gives both players a basic land from their deck.
But that’s not the bread and butter of the deck. We have a host of annoying artifacts to play. What makes this deck go fast is Forsaken Monument though. Giving us an extra colorless when we tap for colorless and giving our creatures (colorless creatures) +2/+2? It’s incredible. We also gain 2 life anytime we cast a colorless spell, and we have a bunch of those. We’re going to get life back to come back from sticky situations. But what’s our end-game? Either fast-tracking Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and using him to control the game, or fast-tracking Forsaken Monument, and start battering the other player with our creatures.
We have a few that are going to be tough to tangle with, too. But before we get into the actual meat-and-potatoes of what our creatures do, let’s talk card draw and mana ramp.
We Need Mo’ Allowance:
Fortunately, there are lots of ways for us to start drawing cards for virtually no effort. First up though, it’s Golden Egg, which has you draw a card when it comes into play, for a measly two mana. You can tap 1, sac it to add one mana of any color (unlikely), or you could tap 2, sacrifice it and gain 3 life (more likely). But you draw a card simply for playing this card. If only we could bring it back. But what about new cards that let us draw?
Spare Supplies meets that requirement. It’s the same cost (2 mana) and comes into play tapped. When it enters the battlefield, you draw a card. So again, amazing. Simply by playing this, we get a card. We can tap 2, sacrifice it to draw another card. These are very useful in the early game because it’s not so hard to put these out there. Our next card draw option funny enough also costs 2 mana! It’s Mazemind Tome! It does not give you a card when it comes into play.
Instead, we tap 2 colorless and put a page counter on it to draw a card. When it gets 4 or more page counters, we exile it and gain 4 life out of it. So Mazemind Tome gets 4 cards total, as long as we have open mana for it. We can also gain a card when Solemn Simulacrum dies. It comes out for 4, is a 2/2, and when it comes into play, we can search our deck for a basic land and bring it into play tapped. Through these, we can seek out Forsaken Monument faster. That will give us extra colorless mana, as well as the other effects.
Palladium Myr is another one of our mana options though. In addition to being a fighter (4/4 after Monument), it taps for 2 colorless (3 after Monument). It’s going to make us creating our Stonecoil Serpent and summoning Ugin way easier.
Stonecoil Serpent is one of our best weapons, because of the Protection vs. Multicolored, Trample and Reach. Flying creatures? Not scared. Chump blockers? Heck with ’em. Plus with this deck, we can double our mana thanks to Forsaken Monument. More or less double. It won’t be any trouble whatsoever to make a 20/20 or 30/30 Stonecoil Serpent. After all, it costs X, so you can pay whatever you want for it. It and Crystalline Giant are our main forces. Crystalline Giant can cap out around 6/6 with a host of annoying abilities like we described above. Virtually everything but Indestructible awaits it. But they aren’t our only great creatures. Myriad Construct is one of my favorite new cards to boot, so I’m glad it’s here. If you pay the Kicker (7 colorless total), it comes into play with a +1/+1 counter for each nonbasic land your opponents have. Sometimes, this will backfire. Mono-colored decks won’t have a lot of nonbasics, for example.
But this expansion added tons of them, so the possibility for shenanigans is still there. When this 4/4 becomes the target of any spell, sacrifice it and create as many 1/1 artifact creature tokens as it had Power. So you could very easily overrun someone with 1/1s (that can gain +2/+2 thanks to Monument), and this isn’t a legendary. We can drop two of these in one turn without much stress, thanks to how powerful our mana generation is.
Myriad Construct is our biggest, easiest way to win, thanks to how many non-basics there are right now. So many people are going to be playing with the new Dual Modal Faced cards, which have lands on the back, and will be dropping them into play. Those aren’t basic lands, friends! The only downside is it has to be targeted by a spell. If the other player board wipes, that does not count. But if they get tired of being pinged for 6 damage, they’re going to have to directly target it. Did they try to exile it? That counts!
From there, you just bulldoze the other player with your huge Stonecoils, evolving Crystalline Giants, and tons of 3/3 jerks with bad attitudes. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can help a lot too. Between hitting for 3 on any target, AOE exiling colored permanents, or simply using his ultimate, he brings the pain. His ultimate, for those of you that don’t remember, lets you draw 7 cards, gain 7 life, and place 7 permanents from your hand into play. What a great way to drop several Myriad Construct cards in a row! He’s mostly there because people hate him, and we can easily win with him by turning focus towards him.
3 Myriad Construct
3 Bonders’ Enclave
4 Radiant Fountain
4 Crawling Barrens
4 Stonecoil Serpent
3 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
3 Forsaken Monument
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Field of Ruin
3 Labyrinth of Skophos
4 Crystalline Giant
4 Palladium Myr
4 Golden Egg
3 Mazemind Tome
4 Spare Supplies
I do not think this deck is going to break the meta wide open, full disclosure. I think it’s going to be fun, powerful, and annoying. That’s what I like about it. We can slow down the pace of the game with lands, or beat the other player up with them. We can flood the board with tokens, or smash them to pieces with one gigantic trampling artifact Snake. We can pulverize them with Ugin! Or just swing unmolested every turn with a Crystaline Giant as it gets more and more out of control. We have life gain, board control, card draw, mana ramp, virtually everything you need in a deck! If only Monument weren’t a legendary, though. . .
Scourge of the Skyclaves is Good?! (RB Aggro)
This is a deck I saw posted by Andrea Mengucci, one of the best MTG players in the world for my money. I was already curious to see what a Scourge of the Skyclaves could do, because it’s such a fascinating card. It’s a /, and its health is 20 minus whatever the highest life total is between players. So if both players are at say, 10, he’s a 10/10 for a whopping 2 mana (1 black). But his kicker cuts both players life in half, rounded up. So you could in theory use him to absolutely demolish someone as some kind of 15/15 monstrosity.
This deck is basically classic RB Aggro with a fun new win condition. We can win just with our jerky creatures like Phoenixes, Robber of the Rich, Akoum Hellhound, stuff like that, but Scourge of the Skyclaves? Oh yes. We have enough ways to deal damage to the other player, and we aren’t too bothered if we take damage too. Because just imagine this scenario, my friends:
Scourge of the Skyclaves attacks as, say, a 12/12. Then in response to declaring attack, we drop an Embercleave on him. Now he’s a 13/13 Double Strike/Trample. What if I told you we could easily give him Flying too? It’s also important to mention that Scourge’s power and toughness changes. So if the other player starts healing, it could weaken him, but the weaker both players are, the stronger he is.
We also have reliable ways to make both players lose life every turn and draw cards, in the form of our pal, Stormfist Crusader. Plus we have those fancy Red/Black Dual Modal Mythic Rares that can come into play untapped for 3 life. This is a deck we want to lose life in, after all. It reminds me a lot of a modern meta deck, Death’s Shadow.
This is a deck where you have to know when to be conservative, and when to rush in, lowering both player’s health with aggressive, brutal moves. Then, you swing for tons of damage with Scourge of the Skyclaves+Embercleave and laugh as the other player falls apart.
How Does It Work?
Fortunately, Scourge isn’t our only win-con. We can just bully the other player down early with our Haste creatures, and direct damage to their board. That way, we don’t have to worry about pesky things like blockers. We don’t want that nonsense. However, one thing I cannot stress enough, so I’m going to put it in bold:
Do not cast Scourge of the Skyclaves if either player is at 20 life. Do not do this. He will come into play as a 0/0 and immediately die. Only do this if you can afford to pay the Kicker, and put both players down to half their life.
Even if Scourge isn’t a must-use to win, he’s going to be included in every Rakdos deck that is even remotely aggro. I can feel it. He’s just so potentially powerful. The longer the game goes on, the stronger he can be, no less. We want to combine the Scourge with ways to make sure he’s either 1. Not blocked, or 2. The damage is so massive and gets through anyway. That’s why we have Everquill Phoenix and Embercleave respectively.
Everquill Phoenix can mute the Demon to make him fly over those ground-based dorks. In many cases, this will just mean he attacks without consequences and can win in no time. Barring that, Embercleave can be flashed in during combat, gives Double Strike/Trample, and +1/+1. That damage is going through, short of Protection from Black.
The rest of the deck sets up for this eventuality. We can again, win without him. Constantly pounding the other player and their creatures, and bringing ours back, that’s just a possibility. In more cases than not, we’re going to be harming the other player with aggressive assaults and harming ourselves with our Mythic Pain Lands (Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass, Agadeem, the Undercrypt). Sure, we can use them as spells, and they’d be dandy. But we’d rather suffer. After all, life is pain.
It’s no big deal if we take damage – we can dish right back out. Some of our cards have “deal damage to any target”, and if we’re ahead by too much, we can always damage ourselves to make sure Scourge of the Skyclaves winds up as massive as possible. With that in mind, let’s talk pain!
All the Pain Money Can Buy:
Perhaps my favorite “pain” card in this deck is Stormfist Crusader. Both players lose life equally and draw an extra card. I mean, I’m sad that the other player gets to draw a card on my turn, but each player takes 1 extra damage, regardless of what happens. Stormfist Crusader ensures equality and a higher chance of a very powerful Scourge. It also has Menace, so it has to be blocked by two creatures. If you keep the other player down to just 1, it’s going to be easy poke damage.
Next up is another fan-favorite, Bonecrusher Giant. We can use it as spell to deal 2 damage to any target, and anytime it’s affected by a spell, the spell’s owner takes 2 damage. That damage will add up, so we can afford to be very aggressive with that 4/3 Giant.
Akoum Hellhound isn’t going to be a major source of damage, but it’s consistent. It comes in as a 0/1 for 1, but anytime you play a land it gets +2/+2 until end of turn. That’s not so bad, making it a ⅔ you can be pushy with. Then you combine it with Wayward Guide-Beast, which is a 2/2 that has you return a land you control to your hand whenever it deals combat damage. As a creature with Trample and Haste for 1 mana, this is going to keep you in the Landfall business for the early game.
What would a Rakdos deck be without everyone’s favorite Rogue either? Robber of the Rich is so dang strong. If you have fewer cards than the other player when it attacks, you exile the top card of the other player’s library. You can cast that with any mana, as long as a Rogue attacked that turn. If you turn 2 and turn 3 a Robber back to back, people are going to start feeling the frustration, and the burn.
If we need to harm ourselves, which is a very serious likelihood, play the aforementioned Black/Red Mythic Rare lands, and pay the 3 life to come into play untapped. We probably aren’t going to be using the actual spells they offer very often unless you’re desperate to kill off a pair of creatures or bring a few of yours back from the dead.
We can just use those guys to nickel and dime someone down, and wait for the right opportunity to play Scourge of the Skyclaves. If the other player isn’t rocking a ton of control cards, we can play him early, and pay the Kicker if we want. The Kicker is what makes him the most deadly though. It cuts both player’s life totals in half (rounded up), and if we already have one of our two upgrade conditions for him, it’s lights out. Don’t attack with him if he could die, unless you know the damage will get through (Flying/Embercleave).
That’s the way we win. Make sure he can’t be stopped, and pummel the other sucker in the mouth. After all, he may start as a 0/0, but the lower both player’s health totals are, the better.
4 Scourge of the Skyclaves
4 Shatterskull Smashing
4 Agadeem’s Awakening
4 Stormfist Crusader
2 Everquill Phoenix
4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Robber of the Rich
4 Wayward Guide-Beast
4 Akoum Hellhound
4 Fabled Passage
4 Roil Eruption
This could all just be a front though! If you’re feeling especially spicy, you could beat the other player with just Roil Eruption! By paying the kicker, it deals 5 damage to any target, instead of just 3! Now, this is a deck I’m certain will be appearing in one form or another, but I’m worried. With Uro/Omnath in the mix, Uro/Omnath decks are likely going to be the most popular thing in the whole meta. It’s likely going to lead to a Uro ban, which could maybe slow things down. But this is a wild deck that will no doubt frustrate lots of players when they see that 15/15 demon coming at them without an ounce of remorse.
Be aggressive, but keep an eye on health totals. You want to be lower, as well as the other player, but remember: You can still die! Consider this deck like a game of chicken; which one of you blinks first? If it’s them, they get punked out by a huge demon with a fiery sword. If it’s you, you lose points in Ranked. It takes some work, but I believe in you. You can pilot this, and you can win.
Crab Battle: Omnath Edition (4-Color Mill/Combo)
Okay, so I know we already have an Omnath/Uro deck in this blog. But just hear me out. This one is different. It’s entirely different! I know it still runs Lotus Cobra, Omnath, Locus of Creation, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Unlike the original deck at the top of this blog, we’re not trying to fight the other player. We want as little interaction with them as possible. This deck I’d argue is not only safer but potentially easier to build. Crab Battle still needs some tweaking to make it as fast and powerful as possible, but it’s in a good position right now.
The initial deck idea came from covertgoblue and was further modified by a friend of mine, Red. I have no idea what will change in the Omnath Crab Battle deck because it feels very strong right now. Probably finding room for Shatterskull or something, because we need more removal options. Safe removal options, mind. Red and I have been talking about the Final Form of this deck, which will probably be Yorion Omnath. Why? Because Yorion is this deck’s biggest nightmare. Having to mill down 80+ cards is not ideal.
That deck will make it harder to find the cards you need, just based on how many cards are in the deck, but we’ll revisit the concept in a couple of weeks. Once the meta has sorted out a bit, we’ll be coming back with a new blog, and the decks that are seeing the most action.
However, today, we’re here to talk about a deck that I thought was just going to be a silly meme. I didn’t expect Ruin Crab to absorb my entire morning like this, but here we are. I’ve neglected a lot of things just to play this dumb deck, and I’m very happy with how it’s going. Sure, there are matches that feel hopeless, but more often than not, I feel like I could have won a game I lost. Sometimes, outplay/misplay happens. No need to feel downtrodden over it.
Today we’re here to talk about how to potentially nuke your opponent’s deck in a few moves. As long as it’s not Yorion, anyway. Then it’s more than a few moves. We need a few things to make it happen efficiently though.
How Does It Work?
Again, this is technically a four-color deck. Only one card in the deck uses White Mana – Omnath, Locus of Creation. That’s why we only feature one Plains in the deck, and instead opt for the Triomes that have White mana on them. No sense in having lots of white basic lands when the other mana is far more attractive to us.
Ruin Crab is a card that is basically a reprint/rename of Hedron Crab, and it was awesome. Now that it’s back again as the Ruin Crab, it’s going to be key to one of the most enjoyable decks in MTG Arena for Zendikar Rising. In fact, we can’t make this combo work without him! Ruin Crab has a powerful Landfall ability – whenever we play a land, our opponent mills three cards. The idea is to get a few of our little buddies in play, then dump as many lands as we can each turn.
We need lots of mana to do that, though. We need to be able to cast a few spells to drop extra cards on a turn or two so that hopefully, our final mill bomb will get the other player down entirely. What I’d really like to find room for in this deck is Maddening Cacophony, which mills half the other player’s deck, if we pay the kicker. I think it would be worth it, but it would difficult to slot in. Maybe we’ll just build a mono-blue version or a Blue/Green version. We will see.
Big Things Poppin, Little Things Stoppin:
So we need mana. That’s where our Lotus Cobra pal comes into play. Dropping him on turn ⅔ is an absolute godsend. If we can keep more than one out, it makes things even faster. Why? Because when we drop a land, we receive 1 mana or any color. That will help us get that 1 white for Omnath, or anything else. Ideally, we immediately follow-up with Omnath, Locus of Creation. I understand that’s just not always going to happen, but that’s the best-case scenario.
He has three triggers for when we play land on our turn. After the third one, he does nothing. Ideally, we’ll have multiple Crabs in play for the combo though. But what does Omnath do?
- Gain 4 Life
- Add 1 Red, Green, White, and Blue Mana to your Mana Pool
- Deal 4 damage to each opponent and each planeswalker you don’t control
That 4 mana makes it easier for the next part of this combo: Escape to the Wilds. Escape to the Wilds lets us exile the top five cards of our deck. Until next turn, we can play these cards as normal. We can always play an additional land this turn. If we get a Fabled Passage this way, more’s the better! That’s two more total landfall procs for the turn. Ideally, we either get a Genesis Ultimatum here or have one in hand. That’s the big way to start things up.
Genesis Ultimatum is a card you’re probably familiar with if you read these blogs often. It’s one of my favorite cards of the year, and it packs so much punch for the 7-mana cost. Look at the top five cards of your library. Any of those permanents you can put into play if you wish. All other cards go into your hand. If you’ve already got a Crab or two in play, you could pull a third crab here and four lands. Some quick maths:
Assuming these are your only land drops for the turn with 3 crabs, you make the other player mill 9 cards per land you play. That’s 36 cards, and that’s not counting having Evolving Wilds or Fabled Passage. If you can manage a Uro drop, or one of our two land spells, that’s even more mill.
We should probably talk about our Mana Ramp options, since getting that mana is so important.
Mana Ramping and Removal:
Lotus Cobra is one of the best mana ramp cards without actually giving you more lands. Anytime you play a land, you pick a color and gain 1 of it for your Mana Pool. Even if you drop your fetch lands (Evolving/Fabled), you still get mana! Then you sacrifice those, fetch another land, get more land and mana!
Cultivate lets you search your deck for two basic lands, put one into play, and one into your hand. If you haven’t played a land this turn (or can play another one for the turn), you can drop that one too. Uro of course lets you play an additional land for turn and draws a card as well. Roiling Regrowth feels weird, but it’s amazing. It’s only 3 mana for an instant, and have to sacrifice a Land. Then you search your library for up to two basic lands, put them into play tapped, and shuffle the deck. I tend to sacrifice a land that’s tapped, and I don’t need it for something (RE: You already have multiple islands/mountains/forests in play).
If you have mana, Genesis Ultimatum can give you several lands. Omnath gives four mana for the turn (1 of each color but black) if you played two lands this turn. So we have quite a few options to get more lands, we just have to get starting.
Bonecrusher Giant is our major way to deal with early threats. It deals 2 damage to any target as a spell, and it’s also a 4/3 creature. It’s how I win games where I can’t mill someone down in time. Just swing with four giants until the other player runs out of creatures or life. Brazen Borrower can bounce nonlands back to the owner’s hand, and it’s our other stopping power option. Other than that, simply use Uro as a club.
4 Escape to the Wilds (ELD) 189
1 Plains (UST) 212
6 Forest (UND) 96
3 Omnath, Locus of Creation (ZNR) 232
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (THB) 229
4 Lotus Cobra (ZNR) 193
4 Genesis Ultimatum (IKO) 189
2 Brazen Borrower (ELD) 39
3 Roiling Regrowth (ZNR) 201
4 Ruin Crab (ZNR) 75
4 Ketria Triome (IKO) 250
1 Fabled Passage (M21) 246
3 Fabled Passage (ELD) 244
3 Mountain (UST) 215
3 Island (UND) 90
3 Bonecrusher Giant (ELD) 115
2 Cultivate (M21) 177
1 Evolving Wilds (IKO) 247
4 Raugrin Triome (IKO) 251
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon (M21) 1
This is a deck that has a lot of power. The hardest problem I’ve dealt with is decks that are faster than mine. In particular, WU flyers and three-color Mutate decks were really difficult to deal with. Mono-colored decks can also be a threat, since they don’t have to stress multiple lands types as bad as we do. It’s so important to get your Crabs in play as fast as possible. I tend to mulligan until I get at least one and some blue land. From there, it’s just a Cobra and Mana Elemental away from victory.
That’s what makes the deck so fun! You slowly start milling the other player with land drops, and then out of nowhere, you drop a massive amount of lands in one turn and mill the entire enemy deck down. It will take a little tweaking to make it a force of nature, but it is great and fun in this state.
Angel of Destiny Does WHAT? (Mono-White Aggro/Combo)
Mono-White Aggro is always going to be strong, as far as I’m concerned. However, White gained a fascinating card to go in the deck that does something unusual. White decks aren’t unfamiliar with winning via awkward, weird conditions. Happily Ever After and Approach of the Second Sun immediately come to mind. But we’re here to talk about the strange Angel of Destiny! Whenever we deal combat damage to a player, both players gain that much life.
So how the heck are we meant to win with that?! We’re going to make the other player get stronger and stronger! But, if we have at least 15 life more than the other player during our End Step, each player Angel of Destiny attacked this turn immediately lose the game! It doesn’t matter if the other player has 50 cards in their deck and 100 life! As long as we have 35+ life, we win!
All we have to do is attack with Angel of Destiny once that turn. The Angel has to live, but the card says nothing about dealing combat damage! This deck shapes up, it’s a powerful mono-white deck with tons of lifegain and +1/+1 counters, but should we draw into the Angel, we can win that way. Can this deck win without ever seeing the Angel? Yes, we definitely can!
However, it’s wildly fun to beat players that way. You don’t have to beat the other player. Instead, we can lift both players up before throwing them down at the last possible second. The other player might scoff as they keep gaining life as we do.
Without further ado, let’s make some people salty in a reasonable manner!
How Does It Work?
Do you know what I love about this deck? It’s not super expensive to build (so to speak)! It has 7 Mythic Rares and 11 Rares; the rest are Common/Uncommon. Some of these rares you probably already have (Charming Prince, Castle Ardenvale, for example). We use a few of the newer cards, though, because it wouldn’t work without them!
Of course, we have Emeria’s Call to make our lifegain creatures indestructible in a pinch, but it will be more likely to be played as a land instead. Another fantastic thing about this deck is how inexpensive it is on the mana curve point. About half the deck costs 1-2 mana, with a few cards at the end in the 3-7 range. Angel of Destiny is a 5-cost sure, but we have enough lands.
However, this deck does not rely on Landfall, like most decks in this meta. Instead, we rely on playing creatures and gaining life. Our goal is to have 35 life or more, so we can win via Angel of Destiny. We even have Alseid of Life’s Bounty to make it protected from whatever color we need to get past for the win. While the Angel doesn’t have to deal combat damage, we don’t want it to die mid-flight. We need to preserve it. Since it’s an Angel, Emeria’s Call will not save it.
No Glove, No Love:
Angel of Destiny and cards that help us get going are important to protect if possible. Cards like Speaker of the Heavens, Impassioned Orator, and Hallowed Priest, in particular. How can we stop them from perishing? Alseid of Life’s Bounty is great on the offense, or against targeted removal. We can sacrifice it for 1 colorless mana and give a target creature Protection vs. (Insert Color) until the end of turn. Amazing value for anything that isn’t a board wipe. That doesn’t care what your color is.
Barring that, we have another way to save our Angel. Selfless Savior is just the goodest boy, yes he is! Selfless Savior is a 1/1 dog for 1, that can be sacrificed to get another target creature Indestructible until the end of turn. That way, it doesn’t matter what the other player does, unless they exile (then we want protection vs. color).
Finally, we have Basri Ket, who has a wildly useful +1 ability. You put a +1/+1 on a target creature, and that creature gains Indestructible until the end of turn. I’d still consider sacrificing for Protection vs. Blank, just for the disrespect. These are the cards we need to make sure Angel of Destiny lives long enough to attack. Frankly, I’d avoid casting it until the time is right unless I have a second in hand.
Life Gain for No Reason:
Now that we know our protective options let’s talk about life gain! We need as much life as possible, after all! Speaker of the Heavens is one of the reasons why. If we have 7 more life than our start (27), we can tap it to create a 4/4 flying Angel token. Plus, it has Lifelink/Vigilance, so if the other player has no blockers, we can use it to gain a cheap life point.
Same with Alseid of Life’s Bounty, minus the Vigilance. We have a few ways to get one-casts that give life, like Charming Prince. When it comes into play, we can use it to gain 3 life, Scry 2, or bounce a creature we control out of play until our end step. We can use this to bounce another Charming Prince out and back in for even more life. Revitalize is also 2 mana for 3 life. Skyclave Cleric gives us 2 life when it comes into play. However, what about more regular life gain?
Impassioned Orator, hello, friend! Whenever we play a creature, we gain 1 life, and it stacks with other Orators. Given how many cheap creatures we have access to, it’s not going to be hard, and the Castle Ardenvale tokens count! It doesn’t specify nontoken, after all. Daxos, Blessed by the Sun also gives us 1 life anytime a creature we control enters the battlefield or dies.
One of our creatures doesn’t exactly give us life, but anytime we gain life, it gains +1/+1, the 2-cost Hallowed Priest! It comes in as a 1/1, but that won’t last very long. It is is one of our aggressive/defensive options. As long as the other creature doesn’t have Menace/Deathtouch, it’s going to be something they think twice about. Basri Ket’s ultimate can help us gain life, as long as we have Orator/Daxos in play. Here’s a brief overview of what the 3-cost (2 white) planeswalker does.
- +1: Put a +1/+1 counter on a target creature. It gains Indestructible until the end of turn.
- -3: Whenever one or more nontoken creatures attack this turn, create that many 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens tapped and attacking.
- -6: You get an emblem with “At the beginning of combat on your turn, create a 1/1 white Soldier creature token, then put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control.
Love this planeswalker, but we’re only running one of him. We could always put in our favorite mono-white God instead. If we’re attacking a few creatures this turn (and know it in advance), drop that -2, but frankly, I like this -6 more. He comes in as a 3 loyalty, so you can build him up decently.
Finally, we come to Emeria’s Call. It’s great as a spell, but sadly it’s a Sorcery. It goes nicely with Basri Ket’s -3 because those creatures (aside from Angels) will now be Indestructible. It creates two 4/4 Angel Warrior creature tokens with Flying (4/4). Non-Angels we control are also Indestructible until our next turn. Then we attack with all of our non-Angels, and for each one, we get another creature, which honestly makes us gain way more life. We can also attack with our Angel of Destiny this way, and sacrifice a Selfless Savior or something to protect, and win on that turn. That, of course, depends on your life total, but with enough Orators and a Daxos in play, we could very easily gain 10-15 life in one turn.
4 Charming Prince
4 Speaker of the Heavens
4 Alseid of Life’s Bounty
4 Selfless Savior
3 Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
4 Hallowed Priest
3 Impassioned Orator
1 Basri Ket
4 Angel of Destiny
2 Emeria’s Call
2 Skyclave Cleric
3 Castle Ardenvale
This is a pretty disrespectful deck if I can be honest. If you can squeeze in Heliod, it could be an option for more aggressive plays if you don’t draw into Angel. That’s what’s important: How you act without Angel of Destiny. You aren’t always going to have the most ideal plays and all the cards you need.
Thankfully, this is a deck that gets by just fine without her. We can build a wall of life so high that your average player can’t traverse it. Then we start hitting them with Angel after Angel, and our ever-growing Cleric until the other player can’t afford to block anymore. Many cheap blockers, tons of life gain, this is a deck that moves fast and hits hard. Another card I’d love to put in this deck is Griffin Aerie if we can reliably gain more than 3 life each turn because it would create even more token creatures to attack/block with. But that’s just a hypothetical right now. Either way, I like what it’s doing, and I think you will too.
Crab Battle 2: The Revenge (Blue/White Mill/Control)
Oh, Ruin Crab. You’re so good and nobody seems to care. Well, don’t worry, my adorable little friend. We’ll make them care about you. One of the popular decks I’ve seen is Mono-Blue Mill, and that’s fine. It’s a decent deck, but somehow, I think we can make it a little more annoying. How about we pair our adorable little Crab Pal with Nine Lives? Not enough? Think the deck needs to be more annoying? How about six copies of Nine Lives? Mirrormade will help that.
At its heart, this deck is a mill deck. We want to drop tons of land and make the other player mill. We mana ramp with a few cards, draw tons and laugh as the other player helplessly tries to get to us. Nine Lives will save our game while we whittle down the other player. Landfall is such a powerful ability, and we’re going to take full advantage of it.
A lot of this deck is fairly new too, thanks to a new Jace, Ruin Crab, and some fancy lands. Sea Gate Restoration will play a large role in this deck, giving us no maximum hand size, and a wealth of cards in hand. I’m very excited to play this deck alongside my other decks I’m currently grinding with. It’s going to be more annoying than you can imagine, and I’ll explain some interactions that you may or may not realize are lurking.
What’s so strange about this deck though?
How Does It Work?
Nine Lives prevents a source that deals damage to you, and instead, gives you an Incarnation Counter that you put on Nine Lives. It has Hexproof, and if it gets 9 or more counters, exile it, and you lose the game. However. . . you can have multiple copies out in play. It has a unique interaction with multiple copies of the card in play.
Once a source of damage comes through, you nullify it by the first Nine Lives, and you can put the counter on whichever Nine Lives you want. Then the other triggers of Nine Lives don’t have to go through. That way, you can reorder the triggers of Nine Lives, making certain that you don’t fill up one of the Nine Lives cards. Every Nine Lives can hold 9 counters. At max, we can have six copies of Nine Lives in play. That gives us a grand total of a possible 54 counters to spread around and slow the state of the game down.
This is how we prevent the other player from beating us while we mill. There are two main strategies of mill in this deck, and they’re both equally annoying. The first is easy enough. We play Ruin Crab. From there, every land drop we play is 3 cards off the top of their deck, and we have four Ruin Crabs. If you think you need more, you can always slot in some Glasspool Mimic to make extra crabs.
If you’re worried about finding lands, don’t be! We’re running the popular/annoying The Birth of Meletis uncommon card. It gives us a plains card from our deck, a 0/4 Wall, and 2 life each time we cast it (and we run 3). Combine our base 20 lands with cards that can be played as lands Our second mill objective/strategy is through Teferi’s Tutelage. It makes the other player mill two cards anytime we draw a card. Of course, we have four of those. The rest of the deck is built around this strategy, making it a top priority.
The crabs are there because they’re infuriating, and it’s one more source of mill. Teferi’s Tutelage synergizes with the rest of the deck though. Because of the rest of our deck? More card draw than your body has room for and counters! While we’re running two Sea Gate Restoration cards, we want to cast at least one as a spell, instead of a land. Why?
Card Draw: The Thirst Mutilator:
Whew, doctor! We have a lot of card draw! Let’s focus on that last one we just discussed, Sea Gate Restoration. It is a 7-cost (3 blue), and has you draw cards equal to the number of cards in your hand, plus 1. In addition, you have no maximum hand size for the rest of the game. For a little bit of hypothetical math, if we have one Teferi’s Tutelage in play, and we also have a 7 card hand, we’ll draw 8. That’s 16 cards milled for the other player, minimum. Can we make that better?
Frantic Inventory gets better every time we cast it. We draw a card with it, then draw cards equal to the number of Frantic Inventory cards in our graveyard. We also have Into the Story, which goes from a 7-cost (2 blue) to a 4-cost (2 blue) if an opponent has seven or more cards in their graveyard. Into the Story has us draw 4 cards.
Into the Story/Sea Gate Restoration are not cards we want to combine with Teferi’s Ageless Insight though. That’s for when we have our “draw 1” spells/abilities. It’s a legendary enchantment that reads “If you would draw a card except the first one you draw in each of your draw steps, draw two cards instead”.
I was confused by this at first. It’s a replace effect, so it replaces a draw with draw 2. If you drew 4, (Into the Story) you now draw 2 instead. So you have to be careful about that. But it makes our planeswalkers way stronger.
Now Jace, Mirror Mage and Teferi, Master of Time draw even more. They aren’t our win conditions, but it will help for sure. Teferi’s Ageless Insight will also double the output of Teferi’s Tutelage, since now all of those draw 1s are draw 2s, and anytime we draw, the other player will mill 3. Just think about those sweet numbers.
Other than all of that constant “draw, make the other player mill,” we need to slow them down too.
You Have No Control:
Don’t worry, this is a blue deck, so we’re loaded with options. Stern Dismssal bounces a creature or enchantment of an opponent back to their hand, for a measly one blue mana. We can also slow down some Landfall decks. Confounding Conundrum lets us draw a card (and is an enchantment). Whenever an opponent drops a land, if they played another land this turn already, they return a land back to their hand. Now, for decks that can play tons of lands a turn, it might not be a big deal, but it can seriously slow down ramp in the right situations.
We’re also running that fun, annoying card Whirlwind Denial. For each spell and ability your opponents control, counter them unless its controller pays 4 colorless. Did they drop a bunch of infuriating stacks on the pile for abilities and triggers? Just put a stop to them! We also have Shatter the Skies, which is one of the only reasons I wouldn’t play all of my Ruin Crabs at once. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice one for the greater good. Shatter the Sky, as we all remember, destroys all creatures in play.
Our final useful spell for control is Ashiok’s Erasure, which can be flashed in. When it enters the battlefield, exile target spell (so something that is presently being cast). Your opponents can no longer cast spells with that cards name. When Ashiok’s Erasure leaves play though, they get the initial exiled spell back. If you drop this turn 4 to stop Omnath, that might be game for the other player.
1 Ashiok’s Erasure
4 Fabled Passage
1 Teferi’s Ageless Insight
2 Confounding Conundrum
2 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Castle Vantress
3 The Birth of Meletis
1 Jace, Mirror Mage
3 Stern Dismissal
2 Into the Story
2 Sea Gate Restoration
3 Whirlwind Denial
1 Teferi, Master of Time
1 Castle Ardenvale
4 Shatter the Sky
4 Frantic Inventory
4 Teferi’s Tutelage
4 Nine Lives
4 Ruin Crab
This deck isn’t 100% going to body the 75 flavors of Omnath decks in the meta right now. I see this as a Tier 2 deck that could become a Janky Tier 1. If it gets moving, it’s going to be very hard to stop. There are ways we could change it up though. I’ve considered a Mono-Blue version, but Nine Lives/Shatter the Sky are just too good to pass up. The early game should be a Crab and land drops, and once you can drop a few Teferi’s, start really ramping up the card draw. You can destroy someone’s deck in just a few turns with enough mana and cards in hand. I just wish I could figure a way to slot in some mana ramp to it.
That’s the next adventure.
SCUTE SWAAAAARM (White/Green Combo)
Scute Swarm is a wildly powerful card, and it’s featured in quite a few color combos. But I want to start this off by saying BE CAREFUL. Overdoing this card can leave you crashing your/the other player’s client. A fix is on the way I’m sure, but just be aware of this when you’re being a little cocky. I was going to use the version of this deck that included Blue (for Uro), but I’m betting on him getting banned next week. There’s an announcement coming, so we’re keeping our eyes peeled.
Scute Swarm Combo features half a deck of mana ramp. We have so darn many ways to get extra lands in play. From Ancient Greenwarden letting us play lands from the grave, and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove/Azusa, Lost but Seeking hitting the table, we can very easily fill out our mana pool with zero effort.
Even if we don’t pull that many on a turn-to-turn basis, we have a few spells that will help us seek through our deck for them, and spells that can come in as lands too. This deck is essentially a Scute Swarm/Felidar Retreat combo, where we flood the board with Insect tokens and buff them every time a land drops. However, I want to suggest slotting in Heroic Intervention to this deck. I’m not sure where though. In Best-of-Three, definitely sideboard it. You can cast it as an instant to give your creatures indestructible/hexproof until end of turn. People will aim to board wipe this.
How Does It Work?
“Double, double, double and trouble” – Some witch in a movie, probably
This deck reminds me a lot of cards like Doubling Season back in the day. We’d make duplicates of every token that came into play, and just snowball out of control. This is going to be a deck that goes fast, or doesn’t go at all, and I like that. We need quite a bit of land to make sure this is an unstoppable force of nature. Don’t you worry my friend, we’ve got that.
Imagine that every time you drop a land, yo ucreate a 1/1 Insect token, and if you have 6 lands or more, you create a copy of Scute Swarm instead. Then, on top of that, anytime you play a land, you put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control, and give Vigilance until end of turn. These insects are going to become very big. Then you double that effect at least once for every land you put into play! There are people who will give up just seeing the combo take effect.
If they don’t have board wipe, you can be as aggressive as you’d like with your adorable Scute pals. The only thing this deck is missing is Trample, to be honest. While that’s a downer, we can simply make so many creatures that the other player has absolutely no way to recover from the beatdown we put on them. Before we explain the combo, let’s talk about mana ramping.
A Literal Landslide of Lands:
Ancient Greenwarden costs 6 mana (2 green), and we want him in play as quick as possible. We don’t want to waste many Landfall procs, after all. So how do we get more lands? Azusa, Lost but Seeking is a 3-cost (1 green) Legendary Monk that allows you to play 2 additional lands every one of your turns. For the same amount of mana, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove lets you play one more land a turn and is not a legendary. However, she’s a 2/4 instead of a ½, and the Nymph in question make your lands every basic land type in addition to their other types.
Those two creatures can give us at least 4 lands a turn. It can get higher if we play more than one Dryad, too. We have a few spells to help out as well. Lotus Cobra gives us extra mana of any color for each Landfall proc, making Ancient Greenwarden that much more powerful. We have the staple of Cultivate, which lets us take two basic lands from our deck, put one into play and one into our, which, with these creatures, will just put them right into play too.
We also have Vastwood Surge that we 100% want to pay the 4 colorless Kicker for. Fabled Passage land over and over to keep getting basic lands from our deck (which also means at least two landfall procs per Fabled Passage usage). That’s our mana ramp, and as you can see, we have an absolute pile of it.
Now that the mana is sorted, let’s make some insect babies!
Scute Swarm into Scute Swarm into Scu. . .
Felidar Retreat and Ancient Greenwarden make Scute Swarm absolutely damn unfair. Ancient Greenwarden makes our Landfall procs go twice, so that’s important. Felidar Retreat is an enchantment with Landfall as well. It can do one of two things. It can either make a 2/2 white Cat Beast creature token (boring), or give all of our creatures +1/+1 and vigilance (until end of turn). Now that is exciting. We only have one creature we really attack with though.
Scute Swarm is a 1/1 for 3, but with Landfall. Whenever a land enters play under our control, we create a 1/1 green Insect token. But if we have six or more lands when this happens, instead we make a copy of Scute Swarm. So if you have 4 10/10 Scute Swarms when you drop a land, you get 4 more 10/10 Scute Swarms. If you have at least 1 Greenwarden, that becomes 8. When you consider how many lands we can drop in one turn, this is going to be absolutely filthy. I’d probably hold Scute Swarms in hand and not play them all at once. That way, when they are inevitably targeted for destruction, we can evade that.
At least we also have Emeria’s Call, which we can cast as a Sorcery to give our creatures Indestructible until our next turn. That means we can use it, attack with Vigilance thanks to Felidar Retreat, and the other player can’t board wipe us without exile on their turn. They just have to take a beating, and then a second beating. This is also why I want to slot in Heroic Intervention somewhere. That way, we can save our army on the other player’s turn. I know that board wipes are coming when I play this. I feel it in the wind.
From there, we just ramp down lands, trigger our Scute Swarm and +1/+1 counters over and over, and swing with ruthless aggression. Make sure the other player can’t kill them all, and just keep battering them down. I’d keep at least one Scute Swarm back though, just in case things go south. We have a near endless amount of creatures, so don’t be afraid to play aggressive.
4 Ancient Greenwarden
2 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
4 Branchloft Pathway
4 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
4 Emeria’s Call
4 Fabled Passage
4 Felidar Retreat
2 Kabira Takedown
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Scute Swarm
4 Tangled Florahedron
4 Vastwood Surge
This isn’t a deck that’s going to be banned out anytime soon I don’t think. Unless they can’t find a way to prevent Scute Swarm from breaking the game. It’s amazingly fun, and it’s only real weakness is being hit faster than we can get on the board, or simply being board wiped. Ancient Greenwarden helps us against mill in its own way. If we can come back from mill, it can help us put lands back in play. It’s also a solid defense against land destruction in Historic. This isn’t the only GW deck either. There’s also GW Enchantment +1/+1 decks, which are also neat. They run different from this, or I’d include it as an optional deckbuild.
It’s very much its own beast. This is one of the most ludicrous decks I’ve seen for MTG Arena, thanks to Zendikar Rising. I love it.
Red Deck (Still) Wins (Mono-Red Aggro)
Good lord. It’s hard to believe how few changes this deck truthfully needs. Somehow, it’s consistent and annoying throughout the entire year. That’s not to say there aren’t new, horrifying things to add to the deck, far from it. It’s even more creatures than ever before, if you can believe it. We don’t have need for spells, just creatures and Embercleave. In fact, the only spells in the whole of the deck are a singular Shock, Claim the Firstborn, and Roil Eruption. I excluded Shatterskull Smashing from that list because it’s also a land, and likely how we will use it.
Fortunately, this is not going to be a complicated beast to talk about. But it does have some new, frustrating tech. I’ve been bopped by this particular RDW deck in just a matter of turns. Kargan Intimidator is much more powerful than I initially gave it credit for being. The ability to turn a creature into a Coward (Cowards can’t block) is really powerful. We have all the frustrating things you hate to see on the other side of the board, lumped into one deck.
The only thing missing for my money, is Leyline Tyrant. That’s because this deck moves way too fast to make use of that card. Now, I will be revisiting Leyline in another deck in the next couple of weeks, you can be sure of that. But Fervent Champion, Robber of the Rich, Torbran, Anax, all the hits are here! Thanks to so many of our creatures being incredibly low cost, we can drop that turn 3 or 4 Embercleave, we’re willing to bet. Just send in the clowns, and laugh as they suddenly erupt someone’s life total. Fireblade Charger or Kargan Intimidator into Embercleave is horrifying to see, even worse when you drop Torbran with them.
We hope you didn’t want to have a life total. Red Deck Wins is here to make sure that’s not possible.
How’s It Work?
Do you like always having something to play on curve? No matter what turn crops up, you’re almost assuredly going to drop 1 or 2 (or more) creatures? Then Red Deck Wins is the deck for you! Eight of our creatures cost 1 mana, Eleven of them cost 2 mana, Eight cost 3 mana, and 3 cost 4 mana. You’re going to have options. This is a deck we want to see Embercleave in the opening hand. It’s not going to be hard to drop it quick.
After all, it costs 1 colorless less (down to 2 red) for each attacking creature. When we combine low-cost creatures with Anax’s ability to make more of them based on the dying creatures’ power, we can do so much.
Let’s talk about how Red Deck Wins works. For those of you not familiar, this is a high-speed aggro deck. We mow the other player down with a constant flood of quick, but useful creatures. In the past, the staples of the deck were cards like Fervent Champion, Rimrock Knight, Bonecrusher Giant, and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. Then Anax came along, as did Robber of the Rich. These are all pretty cheap, but useful creatures. Bonecrusher Giant, as an example is a 4/3 that can also be cast as a spell that deals 2 damage to a target first. One of the most aggravating starts, especially if you took a mulligan, is dropping a turn 1 Fervent Champion, and then turn 2 Robber of the Rich. If you had to mulligan, you have a better chance of triggering Robber’s annoying ability. He has Reach/Haste as a 2/2 for 2, and if the defending player has more cards in hand than you, exile the top card of their deck.
On any turn you attack with a Rogue, you can cast spells exiled that way using any type of mana you wish. See how annoying that can be? So frustrating. You can in theory use this to steal your opponent’s key cards to cast for yourself. Bear in mind, that you don’t have to get through with Robber of the Rich. Simply declaring that attack will trigger the ability. You won’t be able to play their lands, but you can cast anything else.
We want to hit the other player as hard and fast as we humanly can, before the other player can respond. One of the stars of this deck that can easily come out of nowhere is Fireblade Charger. They are a new Goblin Warrior, which is a 1/1 for 1. As long as it has an equipment piece, it has haste, but that’s not what we’re doing with it this time around, unless we’re lucky. In addition, when it dies, it deals its power in damage to any target.
Bear in mind, we have Embercleave and Torbran in this deck. Torbran makes all of our red sources of damage gain +2, and Embercleave makes a creature gain +1/+1, Trample and Double Strike. If we set up for this correctly, we can obliterate someone’s lifepoints with the Charger. But how?
(Dodge) Charger? Nah, I’m a Honda Guy:
We’re not going to be able to easily give this little guy Haste, so he has to survive a turn first. So we cast him a turn before we’re ready to maul the other player. We also want Torbran in play for added mustard on the swing. So we declare attack with Fireblade Charger, and whomever else. As many as possible, excluding Torbran likely, so we can get that cheap Embercleave.
We flash in Embercleave to make Fireblade Charger a 2/2 Trample/Double Strike creature, which is, well, it’s okay. We need 5 mana to make this really pop and an ideal hand. We also want to cast as many copies of Boulder Rush (Rimrock Knight) as possible. That gives a creature +2/+0 until end of turn for as many copies of it we have. So if we have all three to cast, that makes him an 8/2 Trample/Double Strike. He can get 20 damage through without being blocked, but if he does manage to die, his Power is going to be targeted onto the player.
I understand that that is ideally never going to happen, but having one or two? That’s more than possible. If somehow, the other playe risn’t dead and the turn isn’t over, you could also use Shatterskull Smashing to kill your Fireblade Charger, and trigger his ability to finish the other player off.
However, Fireblade Charger isn’t the only big-time winner in this deck. Kargan Intimidator is my favorite weapon against those annoying single-creature Mutation decks. He’s a 3/1 for 1, but has 3 abilities, that you can trigger once per turn for 1 colorless mana. You can give him +1/+1, make a creature a Coward (They can’t block Warriors), and give him Trample until end of turn. In fact, him coming into play as a 3/1 (that we make a 4/2 before attacking) makes this much easier. We give him Embercleave to make him a 5/3 from there, with Double Strike/Trample, and slap a few Rimrock Knights onto him. Then you can create a 7/3 or a 9/3. That, with Double Strike, and Torbran’s passive, that adds +2 to each swing with Embercleave.
However, there’s still one possibly greater swing than that, and it is on the side of Anax, Hardened in the Forge. He’s a */3, where * is equal to the Red Devotion we have. So the more Red Mana Symbols on our permanents casting cost, the better. If our creatures aren’t dying, he’s getting bigger and bigger, and then you pair him with of course, a Flashed in Embercleave. If you’re really confident, you can cast Boulder Rush, then actually physically cast the Rimrock Knight to add a tiny bit more damage.
From there, we hit the other player with this kind of huge damage. Having Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is amazing because every single creature is now a major threat. If you have enough spare mana somehow, you can also tap 3 (2 red) and use Castle Embereth to give your creatures +1/+0 until end of turn. We’re just going to swarm the field with low-cost, high-value creatures, give one Embercleave at the end of the game and win. We have a couple of minor spells we can use, but we’re not running many. They’re useful in the early game, but not overwhelming.
A Fistfull of Shocks:
So yes, we’re running 1 copy of Shock. It deals 2 damage to a target at Instant speed, so in the early game? Wonderful. Claim the Firstborn is another one of our one-ofs, which lets us steal a creature, give it haste, and use it for the turn. Just means more damage for us! Or we can use a creature’s passive. Roil Eruption could be used for 3 damage (or 5 with the Kicker), or we can use it to kill our Fireblade Charger to trigger his damage ability. With Torbran, that 5 damage becomes 7, so for 7 mana for 7 damage (or 5)? Not too shabby.
4 Castle Embereth
2 Shatterskull Smashing
4 Fervent Champion
1 Claim the Firstborn
4 Fireblade Charger
3 Rimrock Knight
4 Kargan Intimidator
4 Robber of the Rich
1 Roil Eruption
4 Anax, Hardened in the Forge
4 Bonecrusher Giant
3 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
Though I’m reluctant to admit it, RDW is going to be good in every meta, for what feels like forever. It’s a moderately powerful deck archetype, and it’s always going to be fast and furious. You play low-cost creatures, hit hard, and then the game is over. There are a few ways to play it, with varying speeds and strengths. For my money, this is one of the best versions right now though. I still want to find a spot for Leyline Tyrant though. Maybe I’ll get rid of the instants for it. We’ll just have to see.
Kroxa is Still Relevant (Red/Black Aggro/Control)
This is a deck I’ve been on the receiving end of a few times. It almost never ends well for me. As someone who is spamming Mill until Omnath/Uro get banned next week, it actually helps them. If they can get Kroxa in play early thanks to me, it’s going to backfire hard for me, that’s for sure. What we have here is a Red/Black deck with a ton of heat and potential. We’ve got control spells, annoying creatures, and possible boardwipe. Plus we have that infuriating Terror of the Peaks and Embercleave to go with it.
You’re probably as tired as me of saying “Jeez, Embercleave sure is amazing”, and this is yet another deck it will shine in. Can you imagine giving it to Kroxa or Terror? Do you know what that’s going to do to the other player? It’s going to burst their life total into treats, like a busted candy bag on Halloween. This deck is an answer to so many annoying things in the meta.
We’ve got answers for every deck you can think of: Scute Swarm? Got ‘em. Rogues? We’re going to slow their aggro to a crawl? Most decks think they’re special and OP until they come across Kroxa, and he puts them in their place. That place is second, because Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger thirsts for victory.
This deck has some ups and downs though, in terms of discussion. We’re not using a ton of new cards. That can be a boon to people who don’t have those cards. It’s a great deck to get started with in this new meta and shut down some threats in the early going.
How’s It Work?
We’ve talked a lot about what the new decks can do lately, but this is a classic slightly re-tooled for the purposes of battering the Flavors of the Month (™). Most of our early game is going to be responding to threats the other player drops. You’ll notice that we only have one 1-cost in the deck: Shock. We have four copies of it at least. Shock exists to deal with those really frustrating cards that make a game spiral out of control.
Lotus Cobra? Shock it. It’s what we use to resond to Lotus, Thieves’ Guild Enforcer, Scute, And any other 1 or 2 life creature that is going to otherwise make your game a nightmare. It only exists in the deck for this kind of answer, unless it’s going to 100% seal the deal and win the game.
Our deck has some pretty massive creatures we can play for reasonable mana, too. Tectonic Giant and Terror of the Peaks are ridiculous right now, and slapping an Embercleave on them mid-attack is going to make the other player wince.
Heck, Terror of the Peaks can win the game without actually attacking. Whenever we put a creature into play, it deals damage to any target based on the creature’s power. That means we can play Kroxa after Kroxa from our hand, then Escape it from the grave, and just win!
While our turn 1 is kind of disappointing, turn 2 and beyond is where things spike for us. Robber of the Rich is back if we have a safe way to start pinging at the other player’s life total, and fewer cards in hand. We can also turn 2 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, even though he’ll immediately die. Forcing the other player to discard as a result is amazing. If that player doesn’t discard a nonland, they lose 3 life, making it even better.
We want a Kroxa in the grave anyway, so we can Escape it later. Turn 2 is where a lot of our control options show up too. Bonecrusher Giant’s Adventure Spell, Stomp is 2 mana (1 red), as is Cinderclasm and Fire Prophecy. When I played against this deck, it always had one of these three or four cards, anytime I dared play a creature. Fire Prophecy was the answer to both of my early game Ruin Crab cards. Stomp deals 2 damage to any target, and Fire Prophecy hits for 3 on any creature. You can also put a card from your hand on the bottom of your library – if you do, you draw a card, so that’s additional value especially at 2 mana.
Cinderclasm only hits for 1 damage for 2 mana. . . but that’s 1 damage to each creature. If you pay the 1 mana Kicker, it’s 2 damage to each creature. Most of our creatures will live through this, don’t worry. This can slow down so many of the weak creatures decks we’ll be encountering.
If things get dicey, we also have Storm’s Wrath to board wipe. Well, sort of board wipe. It hits all creatures and planeswalkers for 4 damage. Careful, as this will kill anything you have in play but Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger.
We also have a surprise as a one-of in the deck, especially for Scute Mob decks. Kaervek the Spiteful is a 3/2 for 4 and gives all other creatures -1/-1. It harms us too, but those 1/1s that come into play? They immediately die!
Big Boys Club:
Terror of the Peaks is what enables us to win with way more efficiency if it’s allowed in play. A 5/4 Flyer, it makes spells that target it cost 3 life to cast in addition to other costs. Like we said earlier, it also means whenever we put a creature into play, it deals that creature’s power to any target (the other player’s face usually).
So if you play another Terror of the Peaks? It stacks. Our big combo here is getting one into play, and casting Kroxa over and over. We want to cast one from hand, then escape it from the grave if it all possible. That gives us 6-12 damage right to the other player’s face. We also have a Tectonic Giant, who is another excellent source of free damage.
Whenever it attacks or is targeted by an opponent spells, you can either deal 3 damage to each opponent, or exile the top two cards of your deck. If you exile the cards, you can choose one to play until the end of your next turn. It certainly helps the game spiral out of control.
Ultimately, this is how we win. We swing safely (hopefully) with Terror of the Peaks and Kroxa. We want to use Terror’s free damage to put the other player in kill-range. From there, we want to drop Embercleave on one of our big boys and swing lethal as quickly as possible.
2 Fire Prophecy
4 Robber of the Rich
4 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
4 Bonecrusher Giant
1 Kaervek, the Spiteful
4 Storm’s Wrath
4 Tectonic Giant
4 Terror of the Peaks
4 Fabled Passage
1 Temple of Malice
I like this deck. It’s reliable, has flexibility, and is effective against a lot of the decks in the meta. Now granted, Omnath/Uro can outpower and outspeed this deck, but it can do that to everyone. That’s why I keep saying I think that deck is going to get banned out and soon. Keep me in mind when it happens. But this is a solid, reliable deck where you can stop those early threats, and once the mid-game threats start popping up, we have the ability to come through and steamroll. Don’t be afraid to use those Bonecrusher Giants in an aggressive way. Sure, playing them after Terror of the Peaks is nice, but don’t be scared to use ‘em early and start hammering away at the other player. It’s fun, it’s fast, and whew does it make people mad!
It made me mad, that’s for sure!
More Spells Than Your Body Has Room For (UR Rielle/Spells)
If I thought I could link a Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator video here, I would. Because that’s what this deck is! It’s got what plants crave: Instants and Sorceries! No, of course, it wouldn’t be electrolytes! Don’t be silly. One of the trends in these decks are ones that I’ve personally played and/or been absolutely demolished by. As a player who, right now, runs Mill, this deck was my own personal Hell. The only way it’s remotely safe is if we get rid of their one-off Rielle, the Everwise. Because she’s going to make you very unhappy.
However, this is primarily a Sprite Dragon deck, and it’s our main source of victory. Rielle just offers us another very aggravating path to victory. After all, this deck is built around us putting spells in our graveyard. The more of them that’s there, the better! Sure, it’s better if we cast them ourselves. But if the other player mills a bunch of our instants and sorceries, we can make them pay for it. Sure, they might put up some flying chump blockers for our Sprite Dragon. That’s likely.
But it gains +1/+1 for every noncreature spell we cast, so it’s just going to balloon. Then, we give it Crash Through, which applies Trample, and we see devastating results. Or we could just get around the whole “attack” thing, and deal the damage directly! We’ve got a sneaky little Kazuu’s Fury to work as Fling in the deck. We’ve only got one though, but it will be okay. Don’t worry. We’ve got cards with really cool interactions in the deck, too. My personal favorite is Magmatic Channeler + Rielle, the Everwise.
We’ll get into it straight away though.
How’s It Work?
Prowess is a big part of this deck. It’s a special ability that gives a creature +1/+1 until the end of turn each time you cast a noncreature spell during that turn. It’s going to make some of our creatures really annoying to deal with. So, our main way to win the game is either Sprite Dragon or Rielle, the Everwise. Getting Sprite Dragon out as soon as humanly possible is important, whereas Rielle can show up literally anytime.
She’s a 0/3, that gains +1 attack for each instant and/or sorcery card in the graveyard. On top of that, anytime we discard a card for the first time in a turn, we draw that many cards. So the later she shows up, the better. Sprite Dragon, however, comes in as a 1/1 with Flying/Haste. Each time we cast a noncreature spell, it gets +1/+1 permanently. So we really want to see this turn 2. This could also be dangerous, considering how much removal is in the meta right now.
You may want to hold off until you can cast a few noncreature spells on the same turn, to prevent death via damage, or to drop a Jwari Disruption as a counterspell. People are going to see Sprite Dragon and know what your win condition is, so avoid playing them all at once. Hold one or two back in case of removal.
All of our creatures in the deck synergize well from Instants and Sorceries either 1. Being cast or 2. Being put into the graveyard. So we want to bear that in mind. Thankfully, we have a ton of them in this deck. We want to get these creatures into play, spam spells, and hit the other player very hard in short order. Like Stormwing Entity, being able to cast it cheaper simply by casting Opt is highly underrated. A 3/3 Flyer for 2 instead of 5? That’s a serious bargain. Plus it comes in and lets you Scry 2, and has Prowess!
So even if we don’t get Sprite Dragons/Rielle going, we’ve got options. Stormwing Entity, Magmatic Channeler, plus a few Glasspool Mimics to copy our best creatures, there’s a lot going on under the hood here.
The hardest part of the deck is something I can’t really teach: Knowing when and on whom you target the spells you cast. You don’t want to just waste them, after all. Every spell is useful. Even if you’re just dropping Shocks to weaken a blocker, it’s going to be important. We want our creatures to be strong as long as possible but bear in mind that we want to be able to keep casting. Don’t burn everything unless you’re certain it’s going to end the game.
Big Creatures, Bigger Plans:
While most of the cards in this deck are spells (Instants and Sorceries), the creatures are the real keys to the kingdom. We’ll go through what makes them all amazing one by one. Stormwing Entity is an early-game bomb that we can pretty freely attack with. Not a decks run flyers right now, except maybe some Angels or a couple of Rogues.
We can make it bigger than most of those easily, by simply casting one or two spells. We have so many low-cost spells (RE: 1 mana range). It’s not a bad idea to swing if the other player will “trade” (both creatures take the hit and die) as long as you have open mana. It may make them reconsider a block. If they do block with a creature you’d die to, feel free to drop an Opt or Shock. That way, Stormwing Entity grows for the turn and survives.
When we’re in the late game, we’ve got another possible bomb to make sure our Prowess creatures get bigger (and our Sprite Dragon): Sea Gate Stormcaller. We’re only running one because it’s not necessary (but it is nice). We can kick it (5 mana). Normally, Sea Gate Stormcaller copies the next 2-or-less cost Instant/Sorcery we cast this turn. But if you kick it, you copy that spell twice. You can also pick new targets. So if you have the mana, and drop a Shock, that’s 6 damage, and +3/+3 to all Prowess creatures.
Heartifre Immolator is one of those Prowess creatures. It’s a 2/2 for 2 and will gain +1/+1 until the end of turn for each noncreature spell cast during the turn. However, it’s got something else hiding. You can pay 1 red, sac it, and deal its Power in damage to a creature or planeswalker. He’s a “just in case” you need to eliminate a threat.
Magmatic Channeler does not have Prowess, but it gains +3/+1 if we have four or more instant and/or sorcery cards in the graveyard. That makes it go from a ⅓ to a 4/4, for 2 mana. She also synergizes again, with Rielle the Everwise, you can tap Magmatic and discard a card to exile the top two cards of your library, and pick one. You can play that card this turn. Pair that with Rielle, and since we discarded a card, we can draw a card on top of that. It’s a fantastic way to get more instants/sorceries to play without expending mana for the privilege.
The Brazen Borrower is here to do the same thing it does in every deck: be annoying. The spell version (Petty Theft) bounces a nonland of your opponents back to its owner’s hand. If they steal one of your permanents, you can get it back this way, or simply bounce an attacker back out of play. Lots of usefulness there.
We can win by making our Prowess creatures bigger and swinging each turn, or simply take them to pound town with huge Sprite Dragons. However, we have one card I haven’t really discussed: Kazuul’s Fury. I might slot in a few more of these, because I love Fling-style cards. When you cast Kazuul’s Fury, you sacrifice a creature too. Then you deal that creature’s power to any target. What’s more, Kazuul’s Fury is an Instant! You can play this in response to the other player trying to kill your 19/3 Rielle, the Everwise! That’s what makes this deck so fun. You drop Rielle, she hits the table with enough power to deal lethal damage if she gets through.
The board wipe/targeted removal comes through. In response, pay 3 mana (1 red), Kazuul’s Fury, and sacrifice her. She leaves play, and the other player leaves the game. That’s my favorite way to win with this deck.
Odds and Ends:
Valakut Awakening might be used as a land more, but we can use it as a spell. If our hand is full of crap we don’t need, we can use Valakut Awakening to put those cards on the bottom of our deck and draw that many new cards instead. This is also an Instant, so you can do it on your opponent’s turn to make sure you have a fresh hand of useful stuff on their turn and your own.
Shatterskull Smashing will probably be played as a land, but it’s another one of our amazing creature/planeswalker obliterating spells. It deals X damage divided as you choose between two targets (creatures and/or planeswalkers), and if you paid 6 or more for X, you double the number! So it’s great in a pinch, but better as a land.
4 Fabled Passage
2 Temple of Epiphany
4 Riverglide Pathway
2 Shatterskull Smashing
1 Valakut Awakening
1 Sea Gate Restoration
2 Glasspool Mimic
1 Jwari Disruption
1 Spikefield Hazard
2 Scorching Dragonfire
1 Sea Gate Stormcaller
1 Rielle, the Everwise
4 Stormwing Entity
4 Brazen Borrower
2 Crash Through
1 Kazuul’s Fury
4 Magmatic Channeler
4 Sprite Dragon
1 Heartfire Immolator
This deck can very easily just pound someone turn after turn. With how prevalent these Ruin Crab decks feel, it’s not the end of the world if our Instants and Sorceries get into the grave. I’d rather we cast them, but Rielle gives us an Ace in the Hole. What makes the deck so amazing is how quickly we can send our flyers into the other player’s backline and start hammering away. The more spells we cast, the bigger the Dragon gets, and the better our Prowess creatures are, for a limited time. We can cast cheap spells, give our big creatures trample to ensure damage goes through, whatever you need.
We even have a little bit of removal! Sadly, this deck doesn’t run a lot of counterspells, but the Instants/Sorceries in the deck are what you need them to be. Not using your removal? Throw in counterspells! It’s up to you! But this is the one working for me right now.