Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 4 - "G/R Dinosaurs and Wurms Primer"

Hello gang and welcome back to the latest edition of the Cardboard Witch.  As regular readers may be aware I've recently been working on an ongoing series about deck archetypes in SoM booster draft; "Gotta Catch them All".  Now that we've finished with the most obvious archetypes in the format I thought it might be fun to look at one of the "rogue" strategies that seemed to develop in real-time several *weeks* after SoM was released; G/R Dinosaurs and Wurms.  I have to admit that when the set first came out I didn't give this deck-type much of a second glance until local drafters Meyer Mechanic and Lucas Ma showed me otherwise, at least a month before Ari Lax went 2nd at GP Nashville with a similar idea.  Since then it has become a regular part of the rotation at our local drafts; appearing at least once every other night and sometimes more frequently than that.

Description:  In a format that's primarily about artifacts, weenie aggro rush decks and fast cheap spells to kill those cards sometimes the best idea is to go retro and force out a giant Green Dinosaur on turn 4 or 5.  Another example of a "classic" deck archetype finding it's way into SoM limited, G/R Dinosaurs is all about dominating the board with on-color Fatties and daring your opponent to do something about it.  This deck actively metagames against all the artifact hate in SoM simply by choosing to use G/R "widebodys" to push it's way to victory; often making it's opponent's best spells ineffective or marginal at best.  Typically this deck will also have some form of mana acceleration to ensure it can cast all of it's giant monsters; either mana Myr or Horizon Spellbombs.  Finally while this decktype is usually chained to Red because it offers a pile of removal and another "Dinosaur" in the Flameborn Hellion I've also played against G/W and G/B versions of the build.  Most of the key cards in the build are Green so it's mostly a question of where you get your removal; Red has more than either Black or White and it's generally easier to draft this combination because of that.

Key Cards:  This deck is primarily comprised of 3 key parts; giant monsters, mana ramping cards and removal.  To that effect you'll want to prioritize these cards higher in your draft order to ensure that you get them.  Additionally I've found that toughness boosting equipment and a few chump blockers/walls make the deck considerably more effective.

Top end commons in this build are obviously going to be mostly removal cards; Galvanic Blast, Sylvok Replica, Perilous Myr, Shatter and Turn to Slag should all be on your immediate radar.  Tumble Magnet is also decent in this build as a way to buy time until you drop a fat dinosaur into play but it's generally less effective here than in a weenie rush (Infect/Metalcraft) deck and shouldn't be chosen ahead of the 5 listed removal spells.  As far as creatures go Alpha Tyrranax and Molder Beast are the "Dinosaurs" from the deck's title and both are incredibly important for this deck archetype.  Early on in SoM drafts I found that both of these cards would consistently table but that is simply no longer the case now that people know how strong this deck is; be prepared to take Molder Beast between picks 3-6 and Alpha Tyrranax by about pick 9 these days.  Mana acceleration is also very important to this build making it important to value on-color mana Myr and Horizon Spellbombs pretty highly; I'm not going to first pick these cards but I won't blink about taking them between picks 3-5 if it's necissary.  Off color mana Myr are also useful in this build but shouldn't be drafted quite as highly, pick 6 or later would be a reasonable time to grab them.  As far as equipment goes both Sylvok Lifestaff and Strider Harness have decent value here but are nothing special.  Accorder's Shield and Bladed Pinions on the other hand can be GAME breaking when combined with a huge "Fattie" and should be drafted slightly higher than usual as a result.

In terms of uncommons this deck again values removal quite highly; Arc Trail, Oxidda Scrapmelter, Slice in Twain, Contagion Clasp, Acid Web Spider, Necropede and Rust Tick are all viable early picks for this build.  Depending on how many artifacts you have Embersmith and Barrage Ogre can also be strong but usually I find it difficult to get enough artifacts to make either particularly effective.  My favorite uncommon "beatstick" in this archetype is probably the Bellowing Tanglewurm; not only does he make your other Green creatures a little bit better he's also a pretty good value at 5 mana in his own right.  Golem Artisan and Darksteel Sentinel are both legitimate options in any beat-down deck with enough mana to use them so they work out decently here; although the Artisan is clearly the better card by miles.  Of course the Artisan remains vulnerable to artifact hate but he's simply too good to pass up in a deck like this simply because you prefer your finishing creatures to be Green.  As far as mana excel goes the Palladium Myr is better in this deck than almost any other deck in the format because you can actually jump ahead TWO turns and drop a 6CC monster on turn 4 with it; something this archetype has in abundance.  Oddly enough most of the uncommon Equipment cards in this format have very little added value in this archetype; although it can be fun to put a Darksteel Axe or a Grafted Exoskeleton on a Molder Beast.  Ditto for Trigon of Rage; if your creatures aren't being blocked this deck is winning and unless they have Trample increasing their power doesn't help much when they *are* blocked.      

As far as rares go in this archetype the key remains to be open minded and take what the packs are offering.  While the best rares in this deck are going to be on-color monsters like Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Engulfing Slagwurm and even Liege of the Tangle don't ignore powerful game finishers just because they're artifacts!  Chimeric Mass, Steel Hellkite , Myr Resevoir, Molten-Tail Masticore, Wurmcoil Engine and Precursor Golem work *very* well in a beatdown deck designed to ramp mana.  Otherwise you should be drafting all of the usual suspects; Kuldotha Phoenix/Ezuri's Brigade (who cares if you have Metalcraft?), Koth of the Hammer, Spikeshot Elder, Contagion Engine and Mimic Vat.  Additionally while many decktypes have trouble squeezing value out of Cerebral Eruption and Asceticism they're both very strong in properly built versions of this archetype.  Finally in terms of rare equipment this deck probably gets the most value out of Nim Deathmantle and Sword of Body and Mind although it's perfectly acceptable to "just make your creatures bigger" with Livewire Lash or Strata Scythe.    

Over-rated Options:  Surprisingly as archetypes go G/R Dinosaurs and Wurms really doesn't have a lot of trap cards.  Pretty much everything you'd *think* would be good in this deck is and it's pretty rare in my observation for people to build this deck wrong.  One common mistake I have noticed is players over drafting  Carapace Forger who has low overall synergy with this build.  Most of the time once you have enough artifacts in play to make him a 4/4 you'll already be casting monsters much larger than that.  In this deck he's pretty much "just a bear"; which is fine but doesn't warrant an early pick.  Untamed Might is basically a win more effect in this deck, if you're getting through with 6 power Dinosaurs making one 11 power for a turn isn't usually necessary.  Scoria Elemental and Ogre Geargrabber are both pretty much unplayable; even if you have the mana to cast them they just aren't any good.  I've occasionally seen people try to stuff a Myr Propagator into this build because it has a strong mana base but ultimately I'd advise against it; this deck has much better things to do with it's mana than spit out 1/1 Myr.  Finally I pretty much hate Platinum Imperion even if I have the mana to cast it; losing an 8 mana creature to a Shatter is more than I can handle without going on tilt.  Obviously like any big artifact you can totally play the Imperion and win games with him; I just wouldn't value him nearly as highly as most people do in this build.

How does it Win?:  The single biggest reason this deck is successful in SoM booster drafts is because it's very difficult to kill/control multiple 3+ toughness colored creatures in this format.  Once you push that to 5 toughness it becomes nigh-impossible.  This deck has two basic phases to it's game; early on it plays defensively by killing enemy creatures and developing it's mana base.  Then on turn 4 or 5 it starts throwing out monster fatties turn after turn.  The idea is that while your opponent may kill the first couple "Dinosaurs" you play eventually he'll run out of removal that can handle them all.  After all you can only draft so many copies of Arrest/Turn to Slag/Flesh Allergy and cards like Arc Trail/Grasp of Darkness don't help much against a 6/5 Dinosaur dragging around an Accorder's Shield.  Once you finally do stick/protect one of your finishers it's simply a question of attacking until your opponent runs out of blockers; dominating the board with a huge creature is a time honored tradition in Magic and once again Scars proves itself to be no different than previous formats.
Back-Half All Stars:  While in truth most of the creatures in this deck originally qualified as "back-half all stars" it's increasingly becoming harder to find value while drafting this archetype.  With that being said however there are still some pretty strong cards this deck can abuse that other players haven't discovered yet.  In Red both Assault Strobe and Flameborn Hellion certainly qualify as bargain picks as they're typically even available after picks 10-12.  The Hellion isn't as good as Green's various "Dinosaurs and Wurms" but he doesn't do a half bad impersonation if someone stole all your fatties during the draft.  While I wouldn't go out of my way to draft a ton of Assault Strobes, 1 or 2 copies aren't exactly *bad* in a deck full of 5 and 6 power monsters.  In fact the last game I lost to this archetype in draft featured a Molder Beast with an attached Bladed Pinions who'd been targeted by an Assault Strobe.  When my opponent sacrificed 2 Spellbombs I went from 16 life to -3.  Green gives the archetype a number of wonderful Sideboard options that typically hang around in packs almost forever; Ezuri's Archers, Tel-Jilad Defiance and Withstand Death are all perfect examples. Even better; there's a reasonable argument for *maindecking* 1-2 Wing Punctures in this deck and they are consistently available around picks 9-11.  Another undervalued option would be Infiltration Lens; your opponent can only choose to "not block" a 5+ power attacker so many times before he's dead.  The larger the attacking creature the more likely it is he'll be forced to "chump" block to avoid damage and thereby fill your hand with cards.  Finally both Flght and Panic Spellbomb work exceptionally well in this archetype; allowing you to "slip" Dinosaurs and Wurms past opposing blockers on a wim while buffing the Molder Beast's power in the process.  Panic Spellbomb is of course better in the G/R version of this deck simply because you can draw a card in the process of eliminating an opposing blocker for a turn.  Depending on the draft table both the Lens and these Spellbombs can be picked up as late as 9th or 10th picks.

Overall Rating:  In my opinion this deck is potentially the most powerful beatdown deck in the format and if you're the only one drafting it at an 8 man table it's frightfully easy to compile.  On the other hand this deck requires very specific cards to function (Molder Beast/Tyrranax come to mind) and if you end up sharing these cards with 1-2 other drafters your evening could be a disaster.  Additionally the entire philosophy behind drafting this deck is to take Red removal early and Green "Dinosaurs" later because nobody else wants them; as the deck becomes more popular this will be increasingly difficult to pull off.  As a result I can't feel comfortable giving this deck a higher rating than 6 out 10, although on a good day with little competition at the draft table it will clearly outperform that rating.

Well folks there you have it, the 4th part of our series on SoM draft deck archetypes; G/R Dinosaurs and Wurms.  As always thanks for reading and join us again next time on The Cardboard Witch.  I really have no clue what deck to write about next so I might spend some time drafting tonight/tomorrow to gain some inspiration.  Until then everyone, keep it weird.


  1. You could say this build is dynomite!

  2. Q: Why did the Archaeopteryx catch the worm?

    A: Because it was the earliest bird!

  3. To quote the immortal "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons:

    "Ladies and Gentelmen, these are my readers"

    lol, the sad part is I laughed at both of these jokes.