The most interesting and entertaining thing about Magic, besides actually playing the game, is building new decks and then tinkering with them as you come up with new and better ideas. There’s one deck I have, one of my personal favorites actually, that has a particularly interesting story in this regard. To start with, I didn’t actually build it. In fact, except for 3 old precons I’ve heavily customized (2 of them only have some basic land left over from the originals), it’s the only deck I own that I didn’t personally build from scratch. Several years ago, my co-host Brian gave me a deck as a birthday present. It was Red and Green, with several big beefy creatures and multiple odd little themes going on inside. The way the deck was built was pulling it in a number of different directions, but I think Brian did that on purpose to give me a choice of starting points for further customization.
The story of the first major evolution of the Killer Instinct deck can be found in an old article I wrote for CardShark. It didn’t take long for it to become one of my core “signature” decks. I love playing it, and other players in the game usually find it amusing as well. As great as the deck feels, there was still a little something that bothered me about it. Here’s a more recent snapshot:
You can probably already see what’s going on here. Of the cards that can’t be filtered out of the deck , fully half of them (16 non-creature spells plus 7 non-basic lands) are duds when Killer Instinct is on the battlefield. Not only that, but the Mul Daya Channelers, who help me plan ahead for strategically using my search effects, just sit there like lumps when those cards are on top of the library. For a long time, I didn’t know what to do except deal with it, play around it when possible, and try to come up with some better ideas in the meantime. This turned out to be one of those cases where the best answer kept eluding me because it was too obvious: replace all the non-creature spells (except Killer Instinct, duh) with creatures. Let’s look at it card-by-card, since that’s how my thought process went:
Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse
I know I could cut these down and replace them with more basic lands to find, but I want to maximize the possible thinning effects I have available to me at any given time. Besides, the ability can also be used to “re-roll” my library at instant speed if I know the top card isn’t a creature and I have a Killer Instinct trigger coming up. I’m going to leave these just the way they are.
At instant speed, for very cheap, I can search my deck and get a land out of it. Not only does this directly help with the thinning and filtering, but I can also use it to “re-roll” my library. Evolution Charm also has two other interesting modes, but there’s a problem: I almost never use them. So the grand majority of the time, I’m paying 2 mana for an effect I know I can get for 1, and from a card that I don’t think is very good. I can improve this.
-4 Evolution Charm, +4 Krosan Tusker
Krosan Tusker is easily one of my favorite cards ever. It’s an instant-speed Divination in Green for crying out loud, and years before even Counsel of the Soratami was printed. Sure, one of the cards will always be a land, but a deck that particularly enjoys getting land will love you forever if you include a set of Tuskers. The only thing that makes me even slightly hesitant about this change is the frightening realization that someday, probably in the near future, I will actually attack with a Krosan Tusker.
That’s not funny. Go to the next card.
Okay, a little bit of removal, a little bit of direct damage, and a way to manipulate the top card of the library. In terms of replacement, there really isn’t any creature in Red or Green that can cover all those roles by itself, so I’m just going to have to make a choice about what’s more important to the function of the deck. Immediately, I lean towards the damage/removal aspect. The manipulation also becomes less important in the context of this overhaul, as the fundamental changes are decreasing the potential for misfires. There are a lot of different possibilities, but I decide to settle on just one.
-4 Lash Out, +4 Mudbutton Torchrunner
This substitution could have been a lot of things, and is the most likely to change in the future, but I’m going with something cheap and simple that can deal 3 damage. Other cards I considered for this switch include Ember Hauler, Shock Troops, Keldon Champion, and some others. I’m going to keep an open mind about it as I continue to play the deck.
Search for Tomorrow
This is a really good card. Not only does it pull land out of the deck, but it ramps up my mana position on the board (it even brings the land in untapped!), and is a first turn play if I don’t have a Greenseeker in my opening hand. The suspend trigger can be stacked to resolve right before a Killer Instinct trigger, or even between two Instincts in case the first one flips a dud. Honestly, this is the hardest card to cut from the deck, but I need to stay dedicated to the theme. I’ll make sure I do the slot justice by filling it with another really good card.
-4 Search for Tomorrow, +4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
I recently acquired a set of Elders as part of an impulse buy on the internet about a month ago. Before then I only ever opened/owned a single copy, which I ended up trading to someone (because what am I going to do with only one Sakura-Tribe Elder when no one wants to trade them away?). Anyone fortunate enough to have played with the Elder back in the day knows how good it is, and its cheapness and ability to activate at any time help make up for the fact that I’m losing something as good as Search for Tomorrow.
I made one more change: -1 Homura, Human Ascendant and +1 Bogardan Hellkite. I did this because I got a fancy copy of the Hellkite from Knights vs. Dragons and wanted to move Homura to my Fumiko the Lowblood Commander deck.
So there you have it! I’m really excited and optimistic about the changes I’ve made here, and I really look forward to the next several chances I get to play the deck and see how it feels. Leave some comments here and let me know what you think.
Have fun, guys.
[Chewie’s note: Here’s the final decklist for all to enjoy!]
3x Battlefield Scrounger
2x Bogardan Hellkite
3x Mul Daya Channelers
3x Ondu Giant
2x Pelakka Wurm
4x Penumbra Wurm
3x Skarrgan Firebird
4x Krosan Tusker
4x Sakura-Tribe Elder
4x Mudbutton Torchrunner
4x Killer Instinct