Thursday, June 30, 2011

Devour for Lunch: Damia, Sage of Stone Deck Tech

Devour for Power is the first deck where I’m tuning and building around the “other” general. Don’t get me wrong: The Mimeoplasm is an excellent card, and quite hilarious and awesome. But for me, Damia simply makes a compelling argument – she draws cards. The astute reader will have noticed by now that I have a noticeable weakness for drawing cards. I’ve lost games because I chose the option of tapping out to draw more cards rather than playing something more relevant.

Damia is no slouch in that department either. She’s not so straightforward as, say, Arcanis the Omnipotent. It takes a bit more work that just tapping her to benefit from her ability. Specifically, you want to have as few cards in hand as possible – the emptier your hand is, the more you’re going to draw. So she is somewhat of a build-around-me general, but only to an extent. By playing lands and casting spells, you’ll eventually empty your hand anyway. But just because it’ll eventually happen naturally doesn’t mean we can’t and shouldn’t find ways to enable the process a little more.

As you’d expect by now, I’m going to start with the actual decklist for Devour for Power.

1 Damia, Sage of Stone

1  Acidic Slime
1  Artisan of Kozilek
1  Avatar of Woe
1  Brawn
1  Butcher of Malakir
1  Dark Hatchling
1  Desecrator Hag
1  Dreamborn Muse
1  Eternal Witness
1  Extractor Demon
1  Fleshbag Marauder
1  Gravedigger
1  Lhurgoyf
1 The Mimeoplasm
1  Mortivore
1  Mulldrifter
1  Nezumi Graverobber
1  Patron of the Nezumi
1  Riddlekeeper
1  Scythe Specter
1  Sewer Nemesis
1  Skullbriar, the Walking Grave
1  Slipstream Eel
1  Solemn Simulacrum
1  Szadek, Lord of Secrets
1  Triskelavus
1  Troll Ascetic
1  Vorosh, the Hunter
1  Vulturous Zombie
1  Wonder
1  Wrexial, the Risen Deep
1  Yavimaya Elder

1  Buried Alive
1  Cultivate
1  Dimir Signet
1  Fact or Fiction
1  Golgari Signet
1  Grave Pact
1  Lightning Greaves
1  Living Death
1  Memory Erosion
1  Minds Aglow
1  Oblivion Stone
1  Relic Crush
1  Rise from the Grave
1  Shared Trauma
1  Sign in Blood
1  Simic Signet
1  Sol Ring
1  Spell Crumple
1  Stitch Together
1  Syphon Flesh
1  Syphon Mind
1  Tribute to the Wild
1  Unnerve
1  Vow of Flight
1  Vow of Malice
1  Vow of Wildness
1  Windfall

1  Barren Moor
1  Command Tower
1  Dimir Aqueduct
1  Dreadship Reef
8  Forest
1  Golgari Rot Farm
8  Island
1  Jwar Isle Refuge
1  Lonely Sandbar
1  Rupture Spire
1  Simic Growth Chamber
1  Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
11  Swamp
1  Temple of the False God
1  Terramorphic Expanse
1  Tranquil Thicket

This deck is unique among the five in that I have a good deal of experience in playing this color combination, and this deck even functions much the same as my old Vorosh deck, albeit in a greatly diluted fashion. My original idea started with Genesis combined with creatures with built-in sacrificial effects. Specifically, the Evoke and Echo mechanics. The two best colors seemed to pair up with Green seemed to be Blue and Black, mostly just because Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw are two of my favorite cards ever, and they’re absolutely perfect for Genesis abuse.

This deck doesn’t include a Genesis, but it easily could have (and should have, IMO). However, there are some anti-synergetic themes at work here. On one hand some of the mill cards seem to want you to mill yourself, others only mill your opponents. Some creatures depend on a full graveyard to get huge, but there’s lots of Zombify and Regrowth effects that will shrink these creatures if used.

One word on the Incarnations. Trample and Flying are both excellent forms of evasion, but I can’t help but suggest adding Filth to the mix. Either replace Wonder or Brawn, depending on your preference, or just add him along side both. If you can find room for Urborg in your lands, you’ve just made your whole army unblockable.

Then, there are the utter turds like Slipstream Eel. While a certain amount of this is to be expected, there’s actually more to love than you’d think. They even met us halfway and threw in a Mulldrifter (but not a Shriekmaw).

Of the new cards, this one seems to have drawn the short end of the stick, mostly… however it does have the three best Vows in the cycle. Intimidate, Flying and Trample are all great forms of evasion, unlike First Strike and Vigilance on the Red and White versions. But the flip side to that is that we got the two worst Join Forces spells. Minds Aglow is absolutely GREAT when you’re not the one casting it, and I’ll happily draw some cards off other people’s mana, but I have never, EVER wanted to actually cast this spell in all the games I’ve drawn it. And that’s the better of the two! Shared Trauma is horrible. No one will EVER want to pay into this, unless they’re playing a deck built around abusing graveyards, and then you’re just helping them, which could turn out bad for you.

Tribute to the Wild has just proven vastly ineffective at dealing with problematic Artifacts or Enchantments. In my experience, my opponents will ALWAYS have a Signet or something to sac instead of their Sword of Fire and Ice that’s beating you to a pulp. Nice try, but no. Putrefy and Krosan Grip will get the job done far more reliably.

Spell Crumple is out on the grounds that I don’t like countermagic, and particularly Hinder-esque stuff that can tuck a General. It’s fine if you have some cutthroat Zur player or something, but in a truly casual fun-oriented group, Spell Crumpling someones Kaalia will simply make games less fun for everyone.

Skullbriar is badass, but totally out of place in this deck. I moved him over to the Ghave deck where he’s been far more relevant and benefits from the fact that you can put counters on him in response to a Wrath to “save” those counters for future use.

Sewer Nemesis and Riddlekeeper are neat, but not great. I actually really like the design on Riddlekeeper, and I think he’ll have a comfortable home in my Wrexial deck for sure. Sewer Nemesis is just big and stupid and I am not a fan of the card at all. If he had Swampwalk or something, maybe. He can get scary with a Wonder and/or Brawn in the yard, but it’s still too iffy and unreliable for my taste. Of all the times I’ve seen him on the battlefield, he’s just been a big Wall.

Scythe Specter I actually like a lot. He’d probably fit better in the Wrexial deck, too, but I’m going to leave him in this build for a while, just to see how he does. So far I’ve only connected with him one time and everyone just pitched a land – but eventually someone’s going to be forced to pitch a big Dragon or something and it’ll be glorious!

The Mimeoplasm fucking rocks. There’s no way in hell he’s getting cut, even if I do prefer Damia as the centerpiece of the deck.

As for the reprints, Devour for Power packs the biggest wallop. Eternal Witness, Solemn Simulacrum, Living Death, Grave Pact? Okay, sure! A few of them are somewhat perplexing choices for this specific deck, though. Solemn Simulacrum is fine here, but we’re in Green and have access to so much ramp that Sad Robot seems like he really belongs in one of the decks that DOESN’T have access to ramp. He should have been in Kaalia and/or Zedruu instead, as this deck can just as easily make do with Kodama’s Reach or Skyshroud Claim.

Or, my favorite ramp/utility combo: Mwonvuli Acid-Moss. Killing a problematic land (Volrath’s Stronghold, Kor Haven, Gaea’s Cradle, etc.) while ramping a bit is great, and even if you just set them back one mana by popping a basic, you’re getting ahead or catching up by two, but more often than not, killing one of their lands and ramping by one is just plain better than simply ramping by two.

Another issue is Sign in Blood. We’re in Blue, so we have access to so many draw spells that are just plain better, and I really just don’t see what made Sign in Blood more attractive than even just Divination. The option to target an opponent to force them to draw two and loose two life seems blatantly irrelevant. I seriously don’t see any realistic possibility of actually decking someone with this. It just boggles my mind that they didn’t put Deep Analysis in this slot.

But that’s okay, cause that’s what I put in. Deep Analysis is a fantastic choice for this deck because it’s fairly often that you’ll need to discard a few cards at some point, and you will rarely mind discarding a Flashback draw spell if you have to.

Other great options for beefing up your draw package include Frantic Search. One of the many broken “free” spells that made Urza Block so infamous. Plus the discard “downside” is a lot less of a drawback when you pitch an Incarnation and Deep Analysis to it.

Intuition is also good, or so I hear.

Just don’t go TOO overboard with the draw spells, as our general is also a card-drawing machine. It’s important to have a few for those times you can’t cast your general, or can’t get her to stay on the board long enough to trigger.

Aside from drawing cards, exploiting graveyards is definitely a major theme here. We already have Genesis as a means of exploiting our own, as well as Eternal Witness.

Rise from the Grave is fine, but Beacon of Unrest is almost strictly better. I also recommend most or all of the following: Geth, Lord of the Vault; Puppeteer Clique; Sheoldred, Whispering One;  and Coffin Queen have all proven themselves to be potent tools of reanimation.

On the removal front, we’ve got Fleshbag Marauder and Dark Hatchling for killing dudes. Fleshbag is excellent, but the Hatchling is far less exciting. I already mentioned Shriekmaw and that’s my #1 pick for the Hatchling’s slot, but Bone Shredder also fits nicely – it’s easy on the mana curve and Echo plays just as well with Genesis as Evoke does. For mass-removal, look no further than Kagemaro, First to Suffer. He’s great for getting rid of stuff that doesn’t die to the usual Wrath effect, and as a creature, he’s endlessly repeatable with Genesis.

Big Game Hunter is another tech-y piece of removal that synergizes nicely with the deck’s themes.

Duplicant is also an extremely potent form of removal as well, and absolutely needs to be in the deck.

Blue allows for the option of using theft as a sort of removal. The two best “control magic” effects I’ve found are Treachery – always great as another “free” spell from the Urza block, and Sower of Temptation. I usually find the Sower to be too fragile for use in EDH, but the high number of sac outlets and the multiple ways to recur creatures makes her far more playable here than she’d normally be.

Another option that appears to have become far more playable with Damia than before, is Overtaker. This spellshaper turns any card in your deck into Ray of Command. I’ve already mentioned we’re going to have plenty of sac-outlets, so it’s pretty likely you won’t even have to give the creature back when you’re done with it. Furthermore, you won’t really mind pitching a card to a Spellshaper, since Damia will always refill your hand!

There are plenty of other Spellshapers worth looking into, but my favorite (other than Overtaker) is Dreamscape Artist, a blue guy that slings Harrows like mad. Weird, but cool, and you definitely can use the mana! Outside of blue, my top candidates for black and green are Urborg Syphon Mage and Dawnstrider respectively. Repeatable mini-Exsanguinates and Fogs seem playable.

But here’s where discarding your own stuff really gets interesting. First up is Null Profusion, or as it was originally known, Recycle. It’s a high-risk, high reward card, but the potential of this Enchantment combined with Damia makes it quite exciting. Every turn you discard down to two, but you’ll draw back up to seven the next turn. Even just making your land drop for the turn is a cantrip!

Also great are the Dreams from Torment – Insidious, Nostalgic and Turbulent are all vastly more powerful when combined with Damia’s draw potential. Insidious Dreams in particular is amazing. Simply cast it on your upkeep with Damia’s ability on the stack, pitch your whole hand (or as much of it as you like) and sculpt the absolute best possible seven-card hand you can – it truly feels like cheating stacking 5 or 6 carefully selected cards on top of your library knowing your guaranteed to draw all of them right away (Watch out for a well-timed Plagiarize, though!).

Turbulent Dreams is pretty mediocre usually, but it and Nostalgic Dreams can just turn a few lands into gas very cheaply.

A great piece of tech for Damia is a little card called Seedborn Muse. Now, on her own the Muse might not even make the cut… but combine her with Leyline of Anticipation, Vedalken Orrery or Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Now you can just draw up to seven, lay a land, and say “Go.” At that point everything you do is instant speed, and you can just flash stuff into play in response to things. Flashing in a blocker during combat, or casting Turbulent Dreams at your opponent’s end of turn step…

And it only gets better in multiplayer. Every opponent’s turn is another opportunity to untap and empty your hand, so you can draw more on your next turn! Add in the aforementioned Null Profusion and you can easily cast two or three spells on every single opponent’s turn and never run out of cards in hand.

Magus of the Library has never once crossed my mind as playable… until now. Damia pretty much guarantees you will have seven cards in hand most of the time, so for once the Magus actually becomes very reliable and easy to work with. The fact that he helps you accelerate to Damia is just icing on the cake.

Mimic Vat is obligatory, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. For the record I accidentally put two copies in my deck, but that’s just how good it is. If I were allowed to run two copies of one single card, it’d be Mimic Vat.

Same goes for Primeval Titan – It feels stupid to suggest this guy, and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I think I’m clever or original throwing his name out there. I realize that if you OWN Primeval Titan you’d probably be playing him without needing me to tell you to. But, for the sake of thoroughness, I’m running him in my build, so I feel like I must give him a mention.

I do have good reason to mention Grave Titan and Frost Titan. I tested Grave Titan a bit, and found him to be less stellar than I thought he’d be. I don’t think he’s TERRIBLE, but he’s not good enough that I’d really recommend him. If you have a hole that needs filling, he can do that much quite well, but I just never got much value out of him.

Frost Titan, on the other hand, is probably worth trying out, but I haven’t felt like I needed him here. He does make a game-ending target for Rite of Replication though, and since Rite is definitely going in this deck, Frost Titan could feasibly come in handy.

So anyway, Rite of Replication is damn near a must in any deck with Blue in it. Same goes for the new hotness, Phyrexian Metamorph. Body Double is another very good Clone-variant that is both thematically appropriate and quite powerful. The Mimeoplasm is like a Body Double on steroids, and he might be enough for you, but I like the original, too.

As for the sacrifice outlets I’ve mentioned but not specified, it’s probably no surprise that Greater Good is among them. A fantastic card drawing engine for green, this deck makes good use of it by stealing opposing creatures and then feeding them to Greater Good for more cards.

Another one is Dimir House Guard, a key role-player in this deck. Why wouldn’t I just run a hard tutor like Demonic Tutor? Well, the House Guard most often transmutes for Grave Pact, Greater Good or Damnation, and honestly most of the time those are the top choices for Demonic Tutor anyway. But the Guard also doubles as a sac outlet, which is great against certain decks anyway, but also is fantastic to drop right before you cast Living Death. Sac everything to the Guard so that you get it all back with the Living Death.

Another good tutor that is less obvious than Demonic, is Diabolic Intent. I cannot tell you how many times the “drawback” of sac-ing a creature to this has actually been a boon. It’s especially great when the sacrificial lamb is Keiga, the Tide Star or a stolen Yosei.

One cool card I tried out but ended up being underwhelmed by is Diviner’s Wand. This Equipment plays of the fact that Damia is a Wizard and draws lots of cards. When you drop Damia into play, the Wand equips for free, automatically, which is nice. Then when Damia refills your hand, she becomes huge, often 7/7 or better, making her a legitimate threat in the red zone. But yet, somehow, I couldn’t really get the Wand to work for me. It’s still a cute trick, so I mention it here anyway.

Pernicious Deed is another of those super-obvious “Good Stuff” inclusions, but what can I say? This is meant to be a control deck, and the Deed gets it done dirt cheap (okay it’s actually kinda pricey money-wise and mana-wise. Just go with it, okay?).

Profane Command is another all star, usually reanimating your guy and killing theirs.

If you just need a good, solid threat, there aren’t many things better than a Simic Sky Swallower here. He makes a great finisher that is hard to answer without a Wrath effect.

With Damia and Greater Good as massive draw Engines, I’m looking at Psychosis Crawler as a way to turn that supposed card advantage into a legitimate way to kill opponents. It’s highly unlikely it’ll get there all the way from forty, but an opponent with life in the teens could easily die in a single turn to the Crawler, if you have Greater Good on the board.

Early game creatures usually will include stuff like Shadowmage Infiltrator that provide small, unassuming bodies to attack and block with, that also draw you cards now and then. SEE ALSO: Ohran Viper, Cold-Eyed Selkie or Vedalken Heretic.

Ramp guys like Sakura Tribe Elder and Wood Elves are a must as well.

I also run both Indrik Stomphowler and Acidic Slime for reusable, creature-based answers to Enchantments and Artifacts, with the Ooze in particular making a great blocker.

Sometimes with this deck, you’ll draw stuff you’d rather have in your graveyard, like Genesis. You could play him and hope he dies in combat, but that opens up the possibility of an opponent RFG-ing him somehow, which could really blow. I like Undead Gladiator as a way to get him straight into the ‘yard from my hand. This little zombie is great, though, interacting with Big Game Hunter or other Madness cards, turning a usesless land in hand into something else, etc… he’s a bit slow and costly, but I’ve gotten great use out of him.

Ana Battlemage is another janky card that seems to work wonders for me. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve cast this guy with the blue kicker and targeted an opponent with exactly three cards in hand. And the black kicker has come in quite handy numerous times as well. Particularly good against Infect guys like Blightsteel Colossus – give them a taste of their own Poison! Even more fun is using it against a huge Kresh the Bloodbraided – dying to general damage from your own general has got to be the most humiliating way to lose a game of EDH.

If you max out your reanimation capabilities with cards like Geth and Sheoldred (and I recommend you do!), River Kelpie can be an awesome draw engine. Works wonders with Retrace and Flashback spells too, so look at how many of those you wind up with.

If you need addition creature removal, I’ve already mentioned Damnation, and that is the first place you should start. Life’s Finale is a great budget alternative, though, and especially if you’re running Geth and Puppeteer Clique.

I have always had either Barter in Blood or Consuming Vapors in this deck. Both are exceptional in different situations. Sometimes I’ll have Barter in Blood when I’d rather have Consuming Vapors, but I think Barter is the overall best choice, especially in a creature-centric multiplayer metagame. Against Voltron generals like Uril and, to a lesser extent, Rafiq – Consuming Vapors is often better. Just pay attention to your meta – if you have a player that frequently puts all his effort into sticking one guy, go with the Vapors, but for everyone else, use Barter.

Finally, if you have room for Equipment, there are some great, but obvious, choices. Pretty much any of the five Swords are wonderful, with even the worst of the bunch – Body and Mind – being acceptable here, because stocking your opponents graveyards can help out a lot. Light and Shadow is probably the overall best here, with Feast and Famine narrowly beating Fire and Ice for second best. War and Peace is fine because you’ll almost always be gaining 6 or 7 life when you hit with it, but if you have any kind of discard going, the “war” half won’t do much. I’d really only run this one if you have a R/W deck in your meta.

Nim Deathmantle is probably the single most popular piece of Equipment in EDH that isn’t named Sword of ‘something’ and ‘something’, and of course it’s no slouch here, as we have a general we’re very keen on protecting while our opponents are likely just as keen on killing her. If you have the Seedborn Muse out, Nim Deathmantle make killing Damia quite tricky without a RFG effect.

As for lands, the obvious duals and Volrath’s Stronghold apply here as usual. However, I also recommend Phyrexian Tower – part sac outlet, part accelerant. Also, High Market and even Miren the Moaning Well are superb. Urborg is helpful if you have Sheoldred and Wrexial in the deck, and especially Filth! But truly, Volrath’s Stronghold will be a clutch card in many games, so if you find it being blown up too often, maybe try Crucible of Worlds or Life From the Loam.

Creeping Tar Pit and the other manlands are great, if you have some badass Equipment for them to carry. I’ve had games that came down to my Treetop Village going to town with a Sword of Fire and Ice being the only thing that saved me from doom. Without solid buffs, they might not be red-zone material, but they also give you uncounterable dudes if you have to worry about countermagic too.

Really many of my suggestions are fairly obvious. That’s because I really think the best way to build this deck is in the “Good Stuff Control” mode, with just a slight concession to things that interact well with Damia. Other than the Dreams, Seedborn Muse, the Flash Enablers and Magus of the Library, all of these cards are things I was already playing in Vorosh. But that’s the thing with Good Stuff – it’s all pretty much the same. Bribery, Prime Time, Consecrated Sphinx, etc… obvious, but still totally worth it!

Last but not least is Zedruu... actually it probably will be least because that's the deck I have the least experience with, and the fewest ideas for, but I'm sure to come up with a few interesting ideas, at least.


  1. This is amazing! Could you possible post the final decklist that you decided on?

  2. Sure, once I settle on a build I will post the list, but I'm still swapping cards in and out pretty frequently.

  3. Great article! I look forward to seeing your final list.

  4. Thanks, keep checking back, but it might be a while... I'm still trying out various ideas. The thing is, with most of these articles, I managed to have too many ideas to fit into a single list, so I'm having to just try stuff out, see what works and what doesn't.

    Rather than just posting MY list and saying this is what works, I'd rather throw out a whole bunch of ideas and let you, my readers, figure out what excites you and what will actually fit your metagame and play style.

    But, once I feel like my lists are more or less "finished" I'll post 'em anyway!