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Born in the great gaming state of Wisconsin, Jason was fated to be a gamer. Too young to drink Beer (well, not anymore) and lactose intolerant so he couldn’t eat the cheese, Jason turned to AD&D (1st edition). After that, many systems were dabbled in until he found his home in piles of cardboard. Since then he played at least 6 CCG’s and may be learning to play Harry Potter if he finds some free time and a few bucks (donations welcome).
Thanks for welcoming me back!!! It has been a long break and, except for cleaning up, I haven’t touched a single magic card in months. I am, however, about to get back on the cardboard crack wagon and I will be starting a new article today (since I am home sick). These 6-month breaks will probably become a yearly event since I am now coaching high school debate.
I had planned on getting my feet wet slowly by starting in on a few of the pez-able Kami-block cards. Then I checked my e-mail and responded to the first pez group post in ages. All of a sudden I had already typed over 1,000 words so it just kind of makes sense to transform that e-mail into my reintroduction article. Then someone on the yahoo group mentioned that there was a PEZ Cephalid Breakfast build on the net and it dovetailed so nicely with the recursion deck I was working on that my first article back has become, in keeping with my normal form, a monster. The best part is that the article will give me a chance to create a type of deck building tutorial to examine how you go back to the drawing board when ideas don’t match up to reality.
I also want to say that, in requesting permission to post e-mails and decks, I have received some incredibly kind responses from readers of my past articles. I really don’t feel that I deserve the accolades. When I review my old writing and my deck lists I am often dumbfounded by the things I wrote. Some of my advice has just been lousy and some of my decks were worse. Having said that, I do enjoy writing them and Magic is a great form of mental exercise. Writing these articles gives me a chance to articulate my ideas and it puts them into perspective so I can see the flaws and challenge my assumptions. I appreciate the fact that so many of you have enjoyed the ride with me. Having said those horrible things about my articles I should add that I recently bought my very own copy of Pojo’s Unofficial Total Magic the Gathering and my chapters in that book were very good – it helped recoup a great deal of self-esteem. Once again, thank you all for your kind comments and I will work hard to live up to your expectations.
The Revenging Druid
Anyway, there I go mouthing off without getting to anything really important. Let’s start right in, I will make [comments inline]. Let me just repost parts of Matt M.’s yahoo group post (keep in mind that this is for a commons only format):
[I will call this deck, Revenging
[+4 Twisted Abomination]
[+4 Lay of the Land]
[+3 Rites of Spring]
[+4 Lotus Petal]
[There was some additional discussion at this point. The short version is that I also love Avenging Druid but I prefer going Blue/Black for my reanimation builds. Here was Matt’s response:]
back - Huzzah! Well, it's certainly good to hear
from you Mr. Chapman.
[I am not yet old enough to be called Mr. Chapman
thank you very much]I
won't ask how life's been treating you
[it has been great]
but I will be glad to listen if you want... Onto
magic, To start, let me
list that deck that Jason was talking about. For
[I will refer to this deck as
notes on the changes can be found below]
[+4 Obsessive Search]
[+4 Twisted Abomination]
So I'm trying something different.
You can't get more reanimate spells, but you can get
better search/tutor spells if
your willing to look through your graveyard
instead of your library. This is the theory where
the Druid deck begins. First, Druid gets better the
earlier you cast it, hence the 12
mana elves to help it
out on turn 2.
[Assuming that you draw into it by
turn 2 – remember that it is essentially a 3 card
combo of Avenging Druid, Exhume, and creature in the
graveyard which assumes the Druids can swing
whatever the aggro
player can cast by turn 2 isn't big enough to kill
Druid (Ritual/Skittering Horror and
rare). If they do have a big creature (or any
creature) they'll be attacking with it because
they're agro (dUH). And,
even if they do keep their creatures in the upright
position for blocking, presumably because they know
what you're setting up for, they just gave you a fog
[Only if they leave
multiple blockers where one would be enough.
Remember, they don’t have to kill your druid, they
just have to stall him].
You win against agro anyway by making them skip
attack phases. Thirdly, I found a card that makes
this combo exponentially better:
The Reason for Reanimation (my response that became an article)
Anyway, you were working on a deck and I am here to give an alternate take. The basic formula of this type of deck (Reanimation) is that big nasty creatures with bad breath are good. They scare your opponent and also beat them to a pulp (you can use a strainer to just get the juices). The traditional downside to big creatures is that they cost a lot of mana, by the time they hit the board they are no longer as scary because you are already pulp (or juice). Reanimation effects, however, attempt to work around the casting cost issue so they can take advantage of the bad breath and big beats. Reanimation also serves another purpose; opponents need to worry about your creatures staying dead.
What ends up happening with most of these builds, however, is that you have all of your eggs in one basket. Instead of having hordes of attacking baddies you only have the Mama Baddie. While Mama Baddie may be big and bad (by definition) she also represents your only hope for the future. While you may be focused on the win condition, the entire deck is actually built around a single card (in this case Exhume). To complicate matters further Exhume isn’t a standalone card, you must also be able to find a fatty in the graveyard. Most Reanimation decks have this problem – they allow for very few play options. This may seem to make the deck building more difficult but it is actually a blessing in disguise. It allows for an obscene amount of focus during the design phase, plus any flexibility (additional kill cards) that you can add is just gravy not a necessity.
In my mind, the point about deck focus is what makes Blue card drawing the clear winner over Avenging Druid. If I build the deck around the Druid, and probably Mulch, I have to include support for him. Before I worry about Exhume I need to worry about getting the Druid into play and then I need to worry about Exhume. Once the Druid issues are dealt with I still don’t have a solid way to guarantee finding an Exhume.
Here is what I would do in order to build a single focus deck based on reanimation (and including only commons). Except for the lack of Demonic Consultation I may like it better than my Turbo-Mate build.
Crash of Rhinos
The CoR is obviously one of the better finishing cards since it swings for a full 8 points and has trample. I would like to support it, however, with another finisher since this will give me 8 total targets for Exhume. After all, without a target Exhume is useless. For this purpose I include Twisted Abomination. It is big, it has regeneration, it can pitch itself, it can find the mana needed for Exhume, and it can be hard cast. Those are some huge pluses to including the Abomination in the deck. In fact, I would say that it MUST be a key component of the build.
Dragon Wings is a little less helpful. Originally, I had included Waterfront Bouncers (although Thought Courier would be more focused). The problem with these cards is that they decrease your hand size by 1 which becomes problematic with the mass discard effects from Frantic Search, Tolarian Winds, and Careful Study. Dragon Wings, instead, allows me another 2-cost card draw as well as a little pick-me-up for our finishing fatties.
The card drawing element is pretty simple. Frantic Search ends up being the biggest standout because it plays for free. Often you can pitch one of the finishers and then draw into an Exhume. Deep Analysis is really only useful for its Flashback cost and I would seriously consider dropping it for a 1 cost search spell like Mental Note (if you feel gutsy, which you must if you play this style of deck), Serum Visions, Portent, or Brainstorm (my preferences are in that order – Portent is better than Brainstorm since it is tantamount to digging deeper in your deck). It is a hard call to make. The deck would really like to have 12 total first turn plays, playing this deck is a race and every turn counts. On the downside, Deep Analysis is really good with so much discard. If I were to keep DI but still wanted more 1 drops I would have to look at either Tolarian Winds (I suppose I could run 3) or Impulse which is just too important to any deck that needs thinning.
I tested the deck 8 times and only once did it not draw into a finisher on the board (meaning that I had played Exhume) before turn 5. The results were: Turn 2: twice, Turn 3: once, Turn 4: 4 times, Turn 5: once. That seems pretty fast and consistent to me and it is at least 1 turn quicker than using the Druid or Rites of Spring (first shot is on turn 3). The truth is, however, that there are many decks capable of the turn 4-6 kill, or finding an Edict or Counterspell by that time. Even if you can score the combo on turn 2 you won’t win until at least turn 5 so really the deck isn’t much faster than anything else but it is a lot of fun to play.
For a little defense, I would drop the Wings and Deep Analysis for stuff like Disrupt, Rites of Refusal, Miscalculation, Dispersal Shield, Aether Burst, Fade Away, or Dragon Scales.
The benefit of the Druid deck is that it gives you plenty of chump blockers to slow down the opponent’s agro strategy and allows for a little more utility. The flip side, however, is that it has limited means to generate an early Exhume draw which means games will last longer overall. The deck will also tend to be less focused and less stable. For my money I would always play a deck which forces my opponent to get the right draws rather than rely on my own deck to out draw my opponent.
As for tricks with Avenging Druid the pickings are slim with all commons decks. As you have discovered recursion is fairly weak without the killer finishers you find among the Rares. I would look to Flashback and Threshold effects first since they match well with the Druid’s ability. I also like Haunting Misery decks. The best bet, in my book, is including the Druid ability and Recursion as a backup to an otherwise straight accelerated green strategy.
As I mentioned, the most pure example of gross Reanimation decks is Cephalid Breakfast. In the standard version it wins on turn 2 but it runs an insane number of rare land and mana sources. Heck the whole deck is all about Rares – except for the central engine that makes it run. Major props have to go to Jyuan83 (and also to Belzebozo for his supportive posts)for realizing that Cephalid Breakfast can go on the Slim Fast plan and become a Peasant build. Simply realizing that a Rare heavy combo deck can be altered for the PEZ format takes a lot of vision. Actually turning it into a playable (though still in the testing phases) deck is genius. The thread is at http://www.starcitygames.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=273660
As mentioned, the engine of Cephalid Breakfast is the interaction between the en-Kor and Cephalid Illusionist. You may recall that one of my favorite PEZ decks uses the en-Kor ability (which is free and can be used an infinite number of times to create a damage shield even without any damage on the stack) to pump a Task Force to insane size. Well a similar trick works with the Cephalid Illusionist. Each time you target the Illusionist with the en-Kor ability you mill three cards from your deck. Viola, your entire library suddenly becomes your graveyard. Now all you need is a finishing creature (or spell) and a way to Reanimate it.
Before I go into details with the deck I should point out that less than 48 hours has passed since I was even introduced to the idea that Cephalid Breakfast is playable in PEZ. I would guess that changes and refinements will be made by myself and others.
Here is my current version of Jyuan83’s build (there are only VERY minor differences):
The deck plays out like this (real example):
Starting Hand: Swamp, Blood Celebrant, Cephalid Illusionist, Nomads en-Kor, Impulse, Unearth, Commune with Nature
Turn 1: Swamp, Blood Celebrant (turns out I didn’t need him)
Turn 2: Island, Cephalid Illusionist
Turn 3: Lotus Petal, Nomads en-Kor, Target the Illusionist and mill all but 3 cards (since I will have to draw next turn), Unearth my Necratog
Turn 4: Flashback Defy Gravity, Remove all the creatures in my graveyard to pump the Necratog, attack with Necratog (25/26 flyer)
That should give you an example of how the deck works. You may have noted the 1-of’s but in this case they are okay because they will be in my graveyard so I will have access to them at will. The key is that you are forced to mulligan into either the Illusionist or the en-Kor, you cannot afford to start the game without one of the combo cards in hand. My experience shows that there are additional considerations, primarily color fixing, that may need to be taken into account when deciding whether to mulligan. That is pretty much the same as the standard version of Cephalid Breakfast; you must mulligan aggressively.
The sideboard should look for useful creatures that can be sacrificed, I like Cabal Trainee and Teardrop Kami, since you need to make sure that enough critters are in your graveyard. Also, and more importantly, you need to look for Flashback cards. I think Prismatic Strands is a great way to help protect the Necratog since the en-Kor can provide the Flashback costs. Also, Flaring Pain and Canopy Claws can be useful for people who have answers other than killing your ‘tog. According to Jyuan83 the deck is playable, averages Turn 5-6 wins, against most other PEZ decks but gets rocked by any deck with solid targeted removal (this is the main reason I like Prismatic Strands in the SB although if they are smart enough to blow up an early Celebrant you may be in trouble).
Overall, this is a much less stable and a much slower deck than the real version of Cephalid Breakfast. That’s okay because it is a really great idea, a lot of fun, a perfect example of Recursion/Reanimation builds, and a great example of thinking outside the box. I believe that it will get better as more people look at it and work to improve it.
Well, my first article back certainly wasn’t a walk in the park or an easy reintroduction into the world of the written word. Still, it was a lot of fun and a much more rewarding (and addictive) experience than I had anticipated. While the focus was on dedicated Reanimation decks the real lesson to be learned is about deck building. Just like writing this article it isn’t always easy and it can be a lot of hard work but if you keep trying you can end up with something really great (at least I hope this article was great, I think it was).
Next week I promise that it will be shorter (well, it probably will) and I plan to go back to my original intention which was to write about the Kami-block and to pay homage to the Genju. Until then, good luck on your deck builds and special thanks to Matt M. and Jyuan83!!!
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