Spring has well and truly sprung, Planeswalkers, and we find ourselves in the traditional season of love – a season when all of nature is cajoling us to follow our heart’s desires. It’s appropriate, therefore, that our tale today concerns one of my own personal passions.
This is a story about how one love, whilst frustrated, gave birth to a new one… and it takes place in the crazy, mixed-up world of the Modern Format.
Wild at heart
A small proportion of you might have stumbled across my personal blog, a place which used to house my Magic ramblings before Manaleak gave them a home; an even smaller sliver of the audience may actually have drafted Cube with me.
If you belong to either of those constituencies, there’s a good chance that you are aware of my feelings for Wildfire.
When playing Magic, I love to do powerful things which rewrite the rules of the game. Frequently, those things involve imposing my will on the board state: no, you may not have creatures or no, I don’t like all these lands are my typical pronouncements. Wildfire, when one’s deck is appropriately set up to break its symmetry, is the poster child for this type of effect.
- I’ve played every flavour of Wildfire in every Cube I can get a seat in
- I’ve played its stout, durdly cousin, Destructive Force in a previous Standard, reshuffling all my sweepers and lands repeatedly with Elixir of Immortality until my opponents asked if my ‘win condition was just PURE GODDAMN BOREDOM’ and disconnected
- …and most of all, I’ve tried to make it work in Modern.
Wildfire seemed perfect to me. Modern is a format with a plethora of artifact acceleration and resilient threats – just the kinds of cards I would need, on my quest to burn down my opponent’s board states for fun and profit. Alas, it was not to be.
To say I was gutted is an understatement.
All I want to do is smash up the world on my terms – and in a way that no-one can do anything about. Is that so much to ask?
Having the last word
Mucking around with another old favourite, Abrupt Decay BUG, I was looking for other options which might punish opposing Blue mages – but rather than a neat addition to my toolbox, what I found was rekindled hope.
Here was an effect which resolved a range of my issues: it eliminated large creatures alongside the weenies, whilst sneering at countermagic and regenerators – like Thrun – who had so smugly ignored my Wildfires.
Of course, there was a flipside.
My artifact-ramping plan, which had gone so deep as to employ Firewild Borderpost in order to create a manabase which survived Wildfire, was much less attractive.
With the exception of Darksteel Ingot, if I used artifacts I’d be developing a board which would inevitably be wiped clean… not a great proposition.
If I wanted to abuse Obliterate, I’d need to solve two problems:
1. Find some fast ramp options which didn’t set me up for a huge loss of resources post-Obliterate.
2. Identify some permanents which would survive Obliterate to deliver me a game winning advantage.
I read the powerful sorcery once more, carefully combing through the words…
And just like that, we were off to the races.
From Wildfire to Wildspeaker
Garruk was the key to a strategy which quickly emerged thereafter.
He could accelerate me from 4 to 6, or from 5 to 7 if I had a follow-up land drop, but that was still a tad short. I was going to need to get more oomph from my lands if Garruk’s untap ability was to carry us to Obliterate in good time.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time roaming the Modern format, so I was aware that Garruk had been popular before: initially in Death-Cloud decks, but more recently in Green Devotion strategies abusing Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.
Untapping Nykthos was certainly a route to muchos mana, but was it the right one for a deck aiming to cast a giant Red sorcery? I stopped to consider my options for reliably obtaining access to Red in a predominantly Green deck.
The last piece of the puzzle would be Green-intensive Permanents which stuck around after Obliterate.
That sounded a tall order in the abstract, but surprisingly, it just… wasn’t.
As hit after hit for my criterion emerged from Gatherer, I gaped; was this how Mike Long felt, all those years ago, when he insisted that R&D had pre-built his Prosperous Bloom combo deck in Mirage Block?
I could scarcely believe that these cards didn’t exist for the sole purpose of enabling the interaction I was researching. Predator Ooze in particular was practically the card I would have designed to order, had I been flown out to Seattle and made a Wizard-for-a-day.
Throwing some more quality ramp cards into the mix, alongside a set of Harmonize for much needed draw power, I arrived at the following decklist:
An incomparable feeling of satisfaction
For an early draft, this deck is delightfully effective – and piloting it provides an emotional high I’ve rarely experienced from a non-Blue strategy.
Plan A involves peppering the board with resilient permanents and blasting out an early Obliterate. Here’s a typical line the deck affords us:
This isn’t an isolated nut draw, either: different permutations involving early Birds and Treespeakers can easily deliver a 4th Turn Obliteration, and even without Garruk, as humble a tag team as Young Wolf and Kitchen Finks can be enough to carry the game when the opponent finds themselves suddenly without resources.
It’s also common, on Nykthos-powered turns, to end up with Green mana floating after dropping the sorcery – which, if you’ve sand-bagged mana creatures, can be used to summon them and ‘restart’ the game at a significant advantage.
Where my original Wildfire brews lacked a coherent Plan B, this deck makes ample provision for the games which don’t involve a turbo-charged board wipe.
Against a wide range of ‘fair’ decks, simply summoning resilient creatures is surprisingly effective. The impact is multiplied when Garruk is around, offering up the promise of a timely Overrun with his ultimate ability. Some of my opponents have found Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage unusually lacklustre, in the face of a Young Wolf into Strangleroot Geist into Predator Ooze draw.
Still, full-scale Obliteration is where it’s at with this deck – and almost nothing in Magic feels as good.
The bad news
The deck has a couple of niggling problems.
Firstly – and potentially fixably – it doesn’t quite see enough cards each game to be as consistent as I would like. My next experiment will be to make this switch:
While this will cut down the first turn mana potential of the deck by a fraction – and leave us fewer resilient creatures to combine with Obliterate – it will improve both our card flow and the average power of a Nykthos in play. That might be a worthwhile trade-off.
Secondly – and perhaps irretrievably – this deck is an almighty underdog to combo. If your opponent cares about things other than board position, like ‘rituals’ and spells with the ‘storm’ ability for instance, you are going to have a very bad day.
This is a bummer, but decks since the beginning of time have had bad matchups. I’m prepared to suck it up, in exchange for the times when I get to ‘stone-age’ a player who felt safe behind a hand of Cryptic Commands.
The World is your Graveyard
I’m having a ball with this strategy – and if I can improve its consistency a little, I might even take it to some tournaments.
Of course, the average Manaleak reader is overflowing with ideas… so if you spot a way to put this over the top before I do, why not take it out for a spin?
You’ll be sporting a Joker-esque grin in no time.