Welcome to another edition of the 60 Card Challenge! This is a series of articles where I (Chewie, in case you missed the link up there that says “by Chewie”) discuss my previous inability to have 60 card decks. Since I play almost exclusively multiplayer, I felt that I could get away with having more cards in my deck because I usually had more time to draw out of any problems. Well that’s just sloppy. So a long time ago, I started going through all my decks, determined to get them all down to 60 cards. While I was at it, I kept a record of any changes I made to them, whether it involved getting them down to 60 or not. In fact, I still keep track of changes I make so I can include them in these articles. I decided to start every deck with 22 lands (I know it doesn’t seem like enough but I needed a baseline from which to start, and we are talking multiplayer casual here) and go from there. At the end, I’ll finish up with any lessons I might have learned about the deck, casual deckbuilding in general, or even myself as a player. Now, on to this edition’s deck!
I don’t know about you guys, but I really loved the Shadowmoor side of Lorwyn. I mean it, it was awesome. I loved the way it was a twisted image of Lorwyn. I loved the insane things you could do with all the hybrid mana. And I really loved Wither and Persist along with the running gag of -1/-1 counters. When I saw Kulrath Knight I very nearly pooped myself, I’m not gonna lie. What? I’m a grown man, shut up.
Anyway. I thought it was great that I could instantly pacify an opponent’s creature just by giving it a -1/-1 counter. That just seemed like way too much fun, so I proceeded to build a deck around this whole theme. At first, basically everything came from Shadowmoor, since it was the latest block and where the counter theme was strongest. Here’s the deck, before I move on.
As for the rest of the deck, it’s pretty simple. Kulrath Knight is completely ridiculous, as stated before. Midnight Banshee and Soul Snuffers chuck out a ton of counters. Grim Poppet loves getting more -1/-1 counters, since it can then redistribute them. Quillspike can clean counters off of my creatures and hit someone really hard. I mean really hard. Like dang. The Hatchling can lose any counters that end up on it without any help from the Quillspike. And Necroskitter just gives me creatures all the time. “Here’s a dude, want another? Have another dude, then I’ll give you two more. Don’t you like dudes? You can have all the dudes! Yay dudes!” He’s a helper.
The noncreatures are all about interacting with counters. Tossing out a Scar at the beginning of combat when I have a Kulrath Knight on the board is a lot of fun. Scarscale Ritual is a great cheap way to draw some cards. Incremental Blight kills a lot of things. Pyrrhic Revival is great, because everyone gets all their creatures back…but they still can’t attack or block! And Blowfly Infestation is completely nuts once it gets rolling. Much like Screams from Within, once it starts I’m going to wipe every 1-toughness creature (that I don’t control) off the board. I only had one Crumbling Ashes, but it seemed like a great single to throw in the deck. It also makes a wonderful pair with Necroskitter, essentially giving me one of my opponents’ creatures every turn so long as I can keep the -1/-1 counters flowing.
By the time I got around to working on this deck again, Scars of Mirrodin had already shown up, bringing with it two more amazing creatures that dealt with -1/-1 counters. The Carnifex Demon can just throw them around to everyone at will, and the Skinrender hands out three at a time, making the Cultbrand Cinder look like a complete tool. Since I had a Demon and two Skinrenders, I had to add them in. This meant I had to cut out five to get all the way down to 60 cards. Of course, the Cinder had to go, I just talked serious smack about him. Since Skinrender is so much more powerful than the Gwyllion Hedge-Mage, I knocked out two of those to make room. And since the Carnifex Demon can give out counters at will, I cut out one each of the Midnight Banshee (three was just too many and too hard on the curve) and the Soul Snuffers (mandatory -1/-1 to everyone isn’t always ideal, you know?). At some point, I got my hands on two more Cabal Coffers, so of course I had to remove a couple Swamps to make room for them. So here are the changes spelled out explicitly.
-1 Cultbrand Cinder
-2 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
+1 Carnifex Demon
-1 Midnight Banshee
-1 Soul Snuffers
+2 Cabal Coffers
So that’s pretty cool. But when I was writing up the new decklist for this article, sitting on my desk was a pair of Contagion Clasps. Then it hit me – Proliferate! How had I missed it all this time? Hey dummy!
So I set to work trying to figure out how to fit in a few effects to proliferate all these -1/-1 counters. Of course, those two Clasps had to go in. Another great proliferate spell in black is Grim Affliction, and of course it fits the theme of the deck beautifully. Plus it’s an instant, so I threw in two to try it out. I thought about throwing in a Contagion Engine or two, but a) I don’t have any more and 2) it’s a hard on the curve in this deck. Also, I have plenty of ways to throw out -1/-1 counters already. In other news, I thought about putting in a couple of Pith Drillers, because they only cost four mana and two life! Then I realized that Skinrender only costs four mana anyway, and gives three times as many counters! So I decided I really liked Skinrender and went up to a full four copies. After all, there’s no sense in having two good ones and two stupid Pith Drillers. I really felt bad about having only one Gwyllion Hedge-Mage because they are really good, especially as a three drop, so one of those came back in.
But with all these additions, I’ve got to do some serious work to get back to 60 cards. Scarscale Ritual is really great…when it works. Other times it’s just a large pain in the hand. So I removed one of them to reduce the frequency of that little problem. Since I added in two Grim Afflictions, I removed one of the Scars, just so I don’t overload on the cards that just throw out counters. I also realized that I’ve outgrown the Tatterkite. It was a neat trick at the time, but there are much better cards to go in the deck. Also, there’s Voracious Hatchling. Lifelink is nice, but that’s about all it’s got going for it. Sure it can remove counters, but that isn’t really much of a concern anymore, just like the Tatterkite. So here’s the list of changes from this Hey Dummy realization, followed by the current decklist.
+1 Gwyllion Hedge-Mage
+2 Grim Affliction
+2 Contagion Clasp
-1 Scarscale Ritual
-2 Voracious Hatchling
So there it is. What sorts of lessons are there to be learned here? First off, try to remember this one thing: No matter what a stripper tells you, there’s no sex in the champagne room. None! While that has absolutely nothing to do with this article, it is sound advice that you should all bear in mind.
Now, as far as this 60 Card Challenge is concerned, there is one thing to remember. While Magic does new things with every set, the design space is decidedly NOT infinite. There’s a reason that every block has old returning mechanics rather than only new ones, after all. If you have a deck built around some sort of broad mechanic or concept (like -1/-1 counters, for instance), you can rest assured that it will most likely return at some point in the future. Unless they figure out that it was horribly, horribly broken (see Cascade, at least in my opinion) or too closely tied to the flavor of the block to ever return (see Bushido), then you might be out of luck.
Not only do old mechanics and whatnot return, but new ones pop up that interact well with them! This is the second 60 Card Challenge deck in a row that benefitted from the appearance of Proliferate in the return to Mirrodin. Sometimes, much like this one, they might be fairly obvious. Other times they’ll be more subtle, like how the Champion mechanic works really well with my Crimson 187 deck. You just have to be sure to keep your eyes open.
One last thing – keep an eye on your card quality. Don’t let “pet” cards blind you. I really loved Tatterkite in this deck. No really, I did. It was great. Soul Snuffers couldn’t touch it, Pyrrhic Revival got it back as a freebie, and it ignored Carnifex Demon. But when you think about it…so what? Sure it does cute things in the deck, but of course there are better cards that do better things, so the flying scarecrow had to come out. Also, don’t fall into the trap of the shiny new card. I was all set to throw some Pith Drillers in the deck, because they fit the theme and I could cast them a turn earlier thanks to the shiny new Phyrexian mana! But Skinrenders come out on the same turn and drop three counters on an enemy creature, so why would I want to replace them with a more expensive creature that does less? Because it was new, obviously! Thank goodness my brain restarted and my card evaluation skills kicked in. Just be sure that yours does too.
So that’s that. What do you think? Did I take the proliferate addition far enough? Or too far? As it stands right now, I can’t really think of anything I’d want to add in. Oddly enough, the deck is pretty much right where I want it. Of course, I might be completely missing something that makes perfect sense. So if you have any questions, suggestions, concerns, or plausible plans for world domination, just leave me a comment! And of course, keep an eye out for the next 60 Card Challenge, when I bust out another, yet completely different, mono-black deck that has gone through a whole mess of changes over the years. Unless I change my mind, that is. Thank you all very much for reading and, uh…go play some Magic.