Welcome back to another edition of the 60 Card Challenge! For those joining us for the first time, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. A while back I realized that all my casual 60 card decks seemed to hover between 61-65 cards, and it was killing me. So I started to make the hard cuts and document them all, hoping to find some shareable lessons or deckbuilding truisms or something. While I was at it, I also kept track of any updates I made to throw those into the discussion as well.
But that’s not all we’re gonna do with the deck this time. Note how it says Step 1 up there in the title. But I’m going to take a cue from my rambling cohost and be all cryptic about it for now, so you’ll just have to keep reading. Now that we’re all up to speed, let’s talk about the deck.
I did a pretty in-depth Cardshark article on the evolution of my MassKill deck way back in 2008. If you’d like to read it, it’s right here. Hey, there’s actually an even older one from the deck’s infancy in 2004 right here. For those that don’t want to take the time, I’ll recap quickly. Try to keep up.
Originally, I wanted to build a deck that made Wrath effects asymmetrical. Mind you, this was a very long time ago. There was no Undying. There wasn’t even Persist! I had the Penumbra dudes. Their shadows jump out at you when they die, which is just terrifying! Then I had the Symbiotic dudes, who have a serious bug problem. I don’t wanna off your guy, his killer head lice will attack me! Ew! But that was about it.
There were a few tricks of course. Mirari’s Wake made my leftover dudes bigger to end games more quickly, not to mention the boost in mana production it afforded me. Caller of the Claw after a mass removal could net me an army of bears. Hunting Grounds was there to let me drop my expensive dudes for free, and Mind’s Eye was there to let me keep drawing dudes to drop. And of course, I had a cute little instant-win where I cast Rout at the end of my last opponent’s turn and then cast Biorhythm on my turn.
There were a few tweaks after that, like removing Akroma’s Vengeance to make room for cards that didn’t blow up the artifacts and enchantments in my deck. Myojin of Cleansing Fire and Hour of Reckoning don’t do that, and they both fit with the theme! But all in all the deck stayed roughly the same until Shadowmoor brought me Persist.
Ah, persist. If nothing else, it gave me Kitchen Finks. They’re so awesome. Also, Woodfall Primus gave me some extra removal and Twilight Shepherd even helps with the overall theme! But the truly great persist card is actually Cauldron of Souls. It lets me get my Symbiotic and Penumbra guys back AND get their shadows and killer head lice! And at some point I added in Genesis and the Penumbra Spider. The various combo pieces (Mind’s Eye/Hunting Grounds and Biorhythm) came out over time to make room for the persistent creatures and more utility like Safewright Quest. Oh, and I snagged Martial Coup after Conflux came out.
So that brings us up to date. Here’s the list as it existed before I started making the cuts. At the moment, it’s sitting at 62 cards. This should be a quick fix, right? Right you guys?
The Cuts & Edits
So where to start? First things first, I realized I wasn’t actually using my Horizon Canopies. Like ever. Not for mana production, not for card draw, nothing. I’m sure it’s because I’m bad at this game, but that’s not the point. Why have something in the deck if I’m never going to use it? Oh look, a pair of Stirring Wildwood! Let’s go ahead and make that trade. Man-lands are always good against mass removal anyway, right? And while we’re making easy changes, I snagged a Novablast Wurm from a pack of Worldwake (instead of a Jace, of course). Let’s go ahead and knock out one of the incredibly expensive Symbiotic Wurms to make room for him!
Let’s check out the stack of cards I’m wanting to add, shall we? I always wanted to give Heartmender a try. In a deck where I can give everyone persist, it seems like it could be completely ridiculous. But since I just want to test it out, I’ll just throw in one copy and see what happens when I draw it. Oh man, what else comes back from the graveyard? Yes Nether Shadow, but he doesn’t go in every deck I build. I’m talking of course about the mother of all badassed auras, Rancor! I’ve got two of those I’m not using (for some incredibly stupid reason), let’s toss those in. Oh yeah, I traded for another Martial Coup too.
Well that puts us at 66 cards. What should I cut? Twilight Shepherd is pretty expensive and needs three white mana, I think she can drop to a one-of. But what else? I wonder…
Okay, I’m going to be completely honest here. I have no idea what possessed me to make this next cut. This was done a long time ago, and I absolutely can’t remember. I know at the time I had a reason behind it and I’m pretty sure I even consulted with at least one other person (whose identity is concealed to protect them, and not just because I can’t remember who it was)! But as my dear departed old grandmother used to say… it fell off. I cut out not only the four copies of Safewright Quest, but also a Forest! It could have had something to do with the fact that the Quest was essentially just a landcycling card that was virtually useless in the late game. Or it could be that I picked the wrong week to stop… oh just click the link.
So there you have it. Here are the changes spelled out for you to see them easily, and to break up the wall-of-text monotony of the post:
-2 Horizon Canopy
+2 Stirring Wildwood
-1 Symbiotic Wurm
+1 Novablast Wurm
+1 Martial Coup
-1 Twilight Shepherd
-4 Safewright Quest
But wait! Magic 2011 came out after this was finished (told you it was a long time ago) and I found myself with a pair of Mitotic Slimes. Holy crap those are awesome for this deck! And while trading with Mike (I think) I found a Gamekeeper! When she dies, it’s as if you got a free Polymorph, sort of. Not only is that pretty cool, but it helps justify removing those four decidedly non-creature Safewright Quests, right? Right? Cut me some slack here, I’m trying to make myself not look like a complete moron in my own write-up.
But if I’m going to add in those three cards, something’s got to come out. Mitotic Slime is a 4/4 for five mana that gets me two tokens, then four tokens. Symbiotic Beast is a 4/4 for six mana that gets me just four tokens. Somebody take me to Staples, because that was easy. And you know what? I drew the Heartmender once, maybe twice total, and it never mattered. Not once. So out it goes, before it even gets to appear in a deck list. Sadness. Here are those last-minute changes for completion’s sake:
+2 Mitotic Slime
-2 Symbiotic Beast
So we’ve got the deck down to 60 cards. We’ve incorporated lots of new cards and mechanics. We’ve something we don’t understand and pulled out our only land search, but at least our curve isn’t quite as terrible as it has been in previous iterations. So that leaves us with a deck that looks like this:
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Penumbra Spider
2 Penumbra Kavu
2 Penumbra Wurm
2 Mitotic Slime
2 Symbiotic Elf
1 Twilight Shepherd
1 Novablast Wurm
1 Symbiotic Wurm
1 Woodfall Primus
The last time I played it I had a good amount of fun blowing up the world. Mana wasn’t really a problem, I could trade in combat and come out ahead every time, I used wiped the board and immediately triggered Mosswort Bridge. All the things I wanted to happen did happen. So we’re all good, right?
Actually no. I miss all the little bizarre combos that used to be in the deck. I’m sad that I don’t have more crazy stuff that triggers when creatures die. Don’t even get me started on Undying and the spirit-creators in Innistrad! But there’s just not room for all the nifty cards I want to add. I’ve had an idea for a very long time now that I wanted to turn the MassKill deck into an EDH deck. There are so many dudes that create tokens when they die and so many dudes that come back again and so many dudes that do other things. There are way more than enough wrath effects, and even some that work really well with tokens!
And now that I’ve finally finished writing the 60 Card Challenge article for the deck, I can take the next step. The next article in this series will be a brainstorming session of sorts. I’ll name off the cards that have been rattling around in my head and the reason that I think they might be good (depending on how many that ends up being, there might be more than one of these) and we’ll all pitch in and talk it out and figure out what’s good. So keep an eye out! Thank you all very much for reading and uh…go play some Magic!