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Fix That Deck! – Fumiko the Lowblood

Fumiko the LowbloodEvery deck starts with a plan, but sometimes our natural inclination to be massive screw-ups gets the best of us.  We could have started with a pretty great list, but a series of many small tweaks and changes over a period of time have ruined something fundamental that was making the deck work, or the deck could have just been bad to begin with, and we never figured out what the problems were.  Either way, there often comes a time when a deck just gets laughably bad and the builder needs to take action to fix that, and that could mean anything from subtle adjustments here and there to tearing it down and starting all over again.  I don’t know if “Fix That Deck!” will become a regular feature here, but I do know it’s a common enough experience among all players and deckbuilders that it has some potential.

 

The Set-Up
When I first got into the Commander format (still known as EDH at the time), I decided to go in relatively hard.  My very first deck was a Scion of the Ur-Dragon build, focused on rolling up with the namesake as often as possible and casting cool dragons when he was otherwise indisposed.  The format was a blast, and I looked forward to building my next deck, waiting for inspiration to strike me.  Whether for good or bad, I ended up participating in and hearing anecdotes of several Commander games where players weren’t as interested in what I felt was the “normal” back-and-forth rhythm of the game, hiding behind protective wards and various utility creatures and repeatedly wiping the board until the game eventually ended in someone’s infinite combo.  I found these experiences frustrating, and started thinking about a way to make players stay engaged in the interactive and combative side of Magic – what I see as the “real” game – whether they wanted to or not.  Fumiko the Lowblood is a card that had been moving between a couple of my decks for several years, but was currently taking a break in my trade binder.  She immediately struck me as the perfect choice for a Commander who could really keep control and combo players off-balance and not bother aggro players much at all.  Knowing that a fair amount of aggression would understandably be directed my way, I dug deep into many of the strange and useful defensive creatures and effects available to my Commander’s color identity, and I felt pretty clever for it.

The deck was rampantly un-good.  I won’t waste space posting the initial decklist here (Commander lists take up a lot of scroll-time, and are a real pain to link up), but you can go to the revision history of the deck on Tapped Out to see the first build and subsequent changes.  Yeah, I had a few quirky dragons and several creatures with good firebreathing effects to hand out damage, but there were a ton of cards that just didn’t do very much at all.  I had lots of trouble making any progress during the course of a game, the threats I had weren’t good enough to overcome the mass of non-threats, and many cards just didn’t work out to be as good as I thought they would be.  I aired my concerns on Tapped Out, with my friends, and in an episode of the podcast.  The feedback I got was very helpful, especially one particularly well-written piece of tough love from a listener.  I went back and forth many times between feeling highly appreciative and personally offended at the tone and content of that post, but the listener was absolutely right:  I had built a non-red deck with all red cards, and the result was appropriately dumb and terrible.  I took much of the advice, and made a great many changes for the better, but still ran into problems.  After getting annoyed during recent games with some of the same old issues coming up, I decided to take another hard look at the deck.

 

Identifying Problems
When it came down to it, the two major problems in the deck’s structure that were still holding it back were the inclusion of cards that were purely defensive, and the inclusion of cards that had a dual defensive/offensive nature but whose non-defensive uses just weren’t useful enough.

Purely Defensive Cards
I need cards that do something, rather than just sit there and stop other things from happening (the type of play I built this deck to discourage).  There were still a number of purely defensive walls left in the deck, having made the cut because I felt they were the top examples of what my color identity could accomplish in terms of defensive creatures, some even going so far as to be inappropriate, based on the modern understanding of the color wheel.  These included AEther Membrane (bounce block), Living Wall (easy regenerating), Wall of Earth (extremely cheap toughness), Wall of Heat (same, plus power), and Wall of Stone (same, minus power).  All of them are really great walls, but that’s it.  None of them perform a single proactive function, so they need to go if I’m really going to reform this deck.  The other remaining purely defensive card was Urza’s Armor (hit me, I don’t care), which really hurt to cut, but I had to stay dedicated to the fix.

Cards that Aren’t Useful Enough
There were also several “cute” ideas left in the deck for effects I thought would work well with the theme.  Cute deck ideas are rarely ever good ideas, and these cards didn’t break any barriers.  Regardless of how useful they looked on paper, they just didn’t work out to be practical or notable in any real games they showed up in.  Cards in this category included Accorder’s Shield (attack and block with no worries), Chaosphere (just to mess with people), Fiery Fall (removal and Valakut support), Rage Nimbus (I think I’ve only activated it once, ever), Snow Fortress (less than once), and Strandwalker (yay spider time).  Dumping these to make room for better cards can only help me.

Basalt Monolith was also cut from the deck, but not because it wasn’t good.  It’s because I wanted to set it aside for a Sharuum the Hegemon Commander deck I’m planning.  I promise any infinite combos that end up in the deck will be purely accidental. (Hey, that sounds awfully familiar – Chewie)

 

Solving Problems
So what should I use to replace passive and lame cards?  Aggressive and good cards, of course!  I’ll just address them alphabetically in the discussions below.

Aggressive and Proactive Cards
Now I’m not talking about suddenly loading up on the most vicious and cutthroat creatures and effects available to the deck.  What I want are cards that can run around and punch people, but are still in touch with the fun spirit of the deck.  For example, it’s not too difficult to dump artifact mana into Eron the Relentless‘ casting cost and have enough red mana available to attack and regenerate.  Grand Melee serves as an extra copy of Fumiko’s most important ability, with the added twist that players can’t just skip blocking and take the damage if they don’t want their untapped creatures getting involved.  Hero of Oxid Ridge will improve my attackers, and also gets annoying chump blockers out of my way.  If I can get up to the mana required to cast Pathrazer of Ulamog, he turns into a terrifying and incredibly hard to block attacker who can really put someone on the back foot.  Reckless Charge can make almost any creature a terrifying attacker, and it’s a single card that can be used twice, which is especially good for a Commander deck that doesn’t have a lot of ways to draw cards.  Slith Firewalker can start running up on people before the game really even begins, and he’s the perfect kind of attacker to have if there aren’t any blockers available.  Tuktuk the Explorer can go back and forth and annoy opponents, and is really nice to have if someone feels the need to wipe the board.

Card that are Just Good
Any other support cards I choose have to be worthy of the deck and the fixes I’m making.  I can’t just add in more things that only amount to more “hey, that’s kind of funny” types of effects.  Yes, Battle Rampart is a wall, but it probably won’t be blocking very often for how useful its ability is.  A suggestion I’ve gotten multiple times for this deck is Insurrection, and considering this is a red deck that would rather win by attacking, it’s high time it got added to the list.  Lightning Greaves is a Commander staple that has somehow eluded this deck all this time, and I decided to remedy that.  With creatures running around and getting into trouble in combat, I think Rockslide Elemental is a cheap way to build a very scary creature, but he’s the one card in this group that will require the most monitoring for true usefulness.  Sword of Vengeance is a great way to make an attacker and blocker that mean business, and it’s not very mana-intensive at all.

Thran Dynamo is the replacement for the Monolith.  I think that’s a decent trade.

 

The Deck
So here’s the full decklist after the changes, hopefully for the better.  Let me know what you think about it in the comments here and on the Tapped Out page.  As of publication, I haven’t played any actual games with it, but I’m feeling very comfortable with the updates and very optimistic as well.  It looks like we’re finally ready to get in there and throw some elbows.

General
Fumiko the Lowblood

Land (38)
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Contested War Zone
Dust Bowl
Evolving Wilds
Grixis Panorama
Jund Panorama
Maze of Ith
15x Mountain
Mountain Valley
Naya Panorama
Quicksand
Rocky Tar Pit
Sandstone Needle
Scalding Tarn
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Shivan Gorge
Strip Mine
Tectonic Edge
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse
Thawing Glaciers
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Wasteland

Creatures (29)
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Balefire Dragon
Battle Rampart
Conquering Manticore
Darksteel Gargoyle
Darksteel Sentinel
Duplicant
Eron the Relentless
Hateflayer
Hellkite Igniter
Hero of Oxid Ridge
Hoarding Dragon
Hoard-Smelter Dragon
Homura, Human Ascendant
Inferno Titan
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Kuldotha Phoenix
Lord of Shatterskull Pass
Mordant Dragon
Palladium Myr
Pathrazer of Ulamog
Rockslide Elemental
Slith Firewalker
Steel Hellkite
Thopter Assembly
Tuktuk the Explorer
Two-Headed Dragon
Valakut Fireboar
Wurmcoil Engine

Non-Creatures (32)
Aftershock
Chain Reaction
Disaster Radius
Expedition Map
Fissure
Foriysian Totem
Grand Melee
Grim Monolith
Heart of Ramos
Insurrection
Jayemdae Tome
Journeyer’s Kite
Lava Flow
Lightning Greaves
Loxodon Warhammer
Mana Vault
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Oblivion Stone
Phyrexian Grimoire
Phyrexian Processor
Predator, Flagship
Reckless Charge
Serum Tank
Slice and Dice
Sol Ring
Starstorm
Stone Idol Trap
Strata Scythe
Sword of Vengeance
Thran Dynamo
Thunderstaff
Worn Powerstone

Have fun, guys.

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14 Comments

  1. Thewachman
    January 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Mike this article was the best article I’ve read this week! I look forward to more content from you.
    -Many Names

    • Mike
      January 28, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Oh word! I’m glad you like it. Honestly, the lack of comments was making me think this one didn’t go over so well, but I guess people just didn’t have much to say.
      I write whenever I feel inspired, but hopefully that will start happening more often than once every several months.

  2. Jonnie
    January 29, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed the article and how the final deck turned out. My problem with EDH in my playgroup is that it has always been super powerful EDH, which would be fine except that is how we play our 60-card decks and they are much more diverse because you can guarantee consistently drawing X super relevant card. So for me playing EDH has become like playing our 60-card decks except with less diversity.

    Your EDH deck is right where I want my playgroups to be, a nice compromise between power and cool cards that I want to play with and actual power. I think people get far to focused going down one path (which to be fair is how this deck was at the beginning of the article).

    As far as the deck goes the only real card that concerns me is Palladium Myr. I find he dies to random board wipes far too often, and in most cases I would rather just have a worse mana-rock.

    • Mike
      January 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, in this configuration I feel much more like I can sit down and play a regular game then jump through a bunch of dumb hoops to do ultimately dumb stuff. You’re right about the Myr. There are better creatures out there, especially considering what all else is in the deck.

  3. Beach
    January 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I question if you need so many mana stones. I tend to max them at 4. You have 7 stones and Palladium Myr. Combined with so much land search (especially Journeyer’s Kite) I think you could afford to cut a couple. I would suggest considering cutting Foriysian Totem (it taps for red, but do you need its second ability?), Mana Vault (how often is it hurting more than it’s helping?), or Palladium Myr (do you need a second Worn Powerstone that gets Wrathed?).
    I also question the Hoarding Dragon, but that’s me worrying that it’d get bounced or exiled and I’d lose the card forever.
    If you’re willing to pay seven to Predator a dude, consider Spine of Ish Sah. Blood Moon or it’s magus would compliment your LD suite. I like Blasphemous Act better than Chain Reaction; I feel it more consistently wipes, but I can see CR leaving many or your dudes alive. Lastly, I would suggest Comet Storm; being able to selectively take out dudes (or players) can often help survive or clear out blockers for a game ending swing with dragons (BLAM!…wrong deck).

    • Mike
      January 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      You’re right that it looks like I did go a little crazy with the mana artifacts, but 7 sources is roughly equivalent to 4 in a regular sized deck, and almost 30% of my cards cost 5 or more. Also, I play with Nevinyrral’s Disk and Oblivion Stone in here, and so do many of the people I end up playing with (in addition to Akroma’s Vengeance, Austere Command, etc.), so the redundancy helps. Journeyer’s Kite and Thawing Glaciers are the only land search that actually gets me extra lands, and the rest are there to have favorable interactions with Valakut (so I have more control over when the bolts happen). I do think I’ll replace the Myr, though.

      Hoarding Dragon is only used to get the best thing ever if I’m really desperate. Because of his shortcomings, I get something that would be really cool to have but won’t leave me heartbroken to miss out on.

      Blasphemous Act is better than Chain Reaction, and the cost reduction makes it easier to play it and follow up with a replacement dragon of some sort. When I get an Act, that change will be made. Comet Storm is also going to come into the deck the next time I sit down with it (I thought I didn’t have any extra copies, but then I found one in one of the Commander precons I don’t play).

      • January 29, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Something that’s always tripped me out about the deck is that you have 15 Mountains and 11 lands that search out Mountains plus the Kite. I understand the interaction with Valakut and all, but something about that seems like you’re including too many fetches and not enough actual Mountains to sustain all of them. But then, I’m also not crunching any numbers or anything, I’m just expressing a gut feeling.

        • Mike
          January 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          In a 100 card deck, I’m not going to draw all of the fetches during the course of the game. At least I hope I don’t, as that would be completely terrible, either because of the worst luck ever or the longest and most miserable game ever. 11 seems like a lot, but it’s roughly equivalent to 7 in a 60 card deck. Right now I’m only missing the R/G Onslaught fetch, and it’ll be going in here if I get one.

  4. ChuChuJelly
    January 31, 2012 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Great timing Mike, I just built my first mono-red EDH deck this weekend and have been running in some of the same deckbuilding issues when using a mono-red general.

    Now, my general is Bosh, Iron Golem, so I don’t have many tips for you that have not already been mentioned. One that does spring to mind is Urabrask. He seems to fit the deck’s theme of ‘getting dudes out of the way and quickly bashing face’. Also as a multi-purpose removal spell you can consider Chaos Warp. (I have not checked the tapped-out history, so never mind me if those were cut earlier).

    Your list does have some ideas for me. Slice and dice, Starstorm and Fissure seem like flexible sweepers and removal, and especially serum tank seem like a great fit for a Bosh deck.

    On the mana artifacts, 5 seems like too little to me, as I’m running about 13 , but then again, Bosh can hurl them at faces if they become excessive, so yeah.

    I enjoyed this article. The writing feels real somehow because I know how this bothered you, having heard it mentioned multiple times while listening to the podcast. I also enjoyed all the linking you did to cards and other sites and threads. If features like these become more prevalent, I’ll surely be visiting the site more often.

    • Mike
      February 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, it makes sense to run a lot of artifact anything for Bosh, since he can just throw them around, and mana artifacts can even help pay for the cost to get thrown.

      Urabrask is a really good call. I’m going to wait on Chaos Warp until I finally decide what I want to do with the Commander precon it’s a part of.

  5. Jfd
    February 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mike,

    Just read it through, great deck idea.

    I also like the idea of the original deck … I agree, the walls aren’t really proactive, did you think about using a secondary resource to make them proactive (I’m thinking of Kyren Negotiations, for example)…?

    Jfd

    • Mike
      February 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Nah, the best I had at the time was a Vent Sentinel and a Warmonger’s Chariot. Like I said, it was rampantly un-good.

  6. Mishraharad
    March 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Would Avatar of Slaughter be fun in this deck ? :D

    • March 22, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      You bet he would. Actually, he already is. Take a look at this right here to see what the deck currently looks like. When I made the round of changes that brought the deck up to that point, I forgot to try to place the shiny Urabrask I had recently traded for, so that’s going to be in there eventually.

One Trackback

  1. By Different Shades of Red on May 11, 2012 at 12:07 am

    […] I was curious to see if he could get it to work. After The Dorks took a crack at fixing it and Mike put the deck up for listeners’ suggestions, I decided I would take a second crack at a mono-red Commander […]

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