Thursday, July 12, 2012

DotP Decks: Ancient Wilds

For the fourth article in my DotP deck series, I’m breaking down Yeva’s “Ancient Wilds” decklist. Where Garruk’s mono-Green list in the game was more or less a stupid green beatdown deck, Yeva’s list manages to be infinitely more interesting to play and to re-design. While the list is certainly packed with creatures, and no shortage of fatties among them, the deck is slower and more deliberate than you’d expect from a Green stompy deck. The signature card of the deck is Roaring Primadox, which bounces a creature back to your hand every upkeep. Most of the other creatures have some kind of “enters the battlefield” ability so that upkeep bounce effect winds up being more of a boon than a hinderance. You get a lot of mileage out of bouncing and replaying cards like Wood Elves or Elvish Visionary, while late-game you explode onto the board by repeatedly casting Thragtusk or Wolfbriar Elemental each turn.

Here’s the list, per the DotP game, with unlocks:

2x Bond Beetle
4x Roaring Primadox
1x Thragtusk
2x Acidic Slime
2x Ambassador Oak
1x Awakener Druid
2x Elvish Visionary
1x Primordial Sage
1x Stingerfling Spider
2x Taunting Elf
1x Terastodon
1x Wolfbriar Elemental
2x Wood Elves
2x Yeva’s Forcemage

2x Ring of Kalonia
2x Beast Within
2x Giant Growth
1x Overrun
1x Wild Pair
1x Wurmweaver Coil

25x Forest


1x Acidic Slime
2x Briarpack Alpha
2x Caller of the Claw
1x Carven Caryatid
1x Elderscale Wurm
1x Elvish Visionary
2x Erratic Portal
1x Eternal Witness
1x Fauna Shaman
1x Gaea’s Revenge
1x Herd Gnarr
1x Lurking Predators
1x Manaplasm
1x Momentous Fall
1x Natural Order
1x Pelakka Wurm
1x Primal Surge
1x Primordial Sage
1x Stingerfling Spider
1x Thragtusk
1x Vengevine
2x Wild Pair
1x Wood Elves
1x Yeva, Nature’s Herald

Right. So. In playing this deck, I’ve noted some clear strengths and weaknesses.

The deck is very synergistic and has numerous built-in value engines that if left unchecked will almost always win out in a long game. The Roaring Primadox engine is very slow to get rolling, but once online you can do some of the most powerful and effective things I’ve seen any deck in the game do. Bouncing a Thragtusk and recasting it every turn, for instance, can pretty much win most games on its own.

As I mentioned, this game plan is slow to start and takes a while to get rolling. Roaring Primadox and Wild Pair, especially when combined, will inevitably, eventually bury your opponent’s in an insurmountable avalance of card-advantage-fed fatties. Unfortunately, this usually means you’ve got to massively over-extend and risk getting blown WAY out by a Wrath of God or some other disaster. Even worse, you’re handing any Insurrection-playing opponents a likely win.

But, every strategy has it’s fatal flaw, and mono-Green creature decks have long been terrified of mass removal spells. Most often, Green decks try to shore up their weakness to Wrath effects by killing as quickly as possible, giving the opponent less time to find and cast their sweepers. This deck definitely isn’t that kind of deck, though.

The best way for this particular deck to play around mass removal is to stick a Primadox and something like Ambassador Oak or Thragtusk, which you then recast every turn. It’s easy to keep your hand full of stuff to play post-Wrath if you’re busy just casting the same Thragtusk over and over.

The other major weakness of the Ancient Wilds deck, aside from sweepers, is fast aggro. There isn’t a lot of early defense to this list, and you really can’t afford to chump block with your Bond Beetles and Elvish Visionaries the way you could in most decks, as you’ll need them around to bounce and drop with your Primadox. You’ll find yourself most often using Giant Growths to pump your blockers, rather than your attackers, as keeping a blocker alive is usually worth more to you than pushing through 3 extra damage.

Another major component of the deck is Wild Pair. By itself, Wild Pair can do some pretty cheatyface things, while providing potentially backbreaking card advantage in the process. Of course it also very much encourages you to overextend into that Wrath, but whatever. Anyway, Primadox and Wild Pair are both fantastic value-generators by themselves, but sticking both at once will absolutely win games.

Finally, per my own rules, I’m obliged to keep Yeva herself in the deck. Finding a way to make Yeva relevant and worth running was tricky, because in the actual DotP game, I frequently find casting creatures at instant speed is not often all that useful. However, I think I managed to find a way to improve her usefulness somewhat.

Here’s what I came up with:

2x Bond Beetle
2x Elvish Visionary
1x Thornweald Archer
1x Fauna Shaman
2x Wall of Blossoms
1x Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
1x Champion of Lambholt
3x Wood Elves
2x Eternal Witness
2x Wolfir Avenger
3x Roaring Primadox
1x Yeva, Nature’s Herald
1x Acidic Slime
1x Seedborn Muse
2x Thragtusk
1x Duplicant
1x Avenger of Zendikar
1x Craterhoof Behemoth

3x Emerald Medallion
1x Beast Within
1x Momentous Fall
1x Natural Order
2x Wild Pair
1x Lurking Predators

23x Forest

The shell of the original list, and quite a few specific card choices, are very much intact here. Despite the similar appearance, there’s really a lot going on “under the hood” here.

First off, Wild Pair. I bumped the starting number of Wild Pairs up to two, and carefully balanced the creature base to better accommodate Wild Pair’s function. I made sure that every single creature had at least one suitable Wild Pair target. In fact, only the Craterhoof Behemoth/Avenger of Zendikar pair is truly a “wild pair” – every other creature has more than one possible pair.

Next, almost every creature in the deck has an “enters the battlefield” effect, to make Roaring Primadox’s “drawback” into a feature, not a bug. The exceptions include:

Fauna Shaman - She finds the Primadox for you, and when you get tired of bouncing one creature, you can pitch it to find something more relevant. This deck is already sort of a toolbox deck anyway, and toolboxes need good tutors to find the right answer at the right time. Fauna Shaman does this exceptionally well.
Yeva, Nature’s Herald – Here because this is her signature deck.
Seedborn Muse – My big concession to Yeva, this makes sure you always have mana open to Flash in a dude.
Wolfir Avenger – Because I needed something with a total combined power/toughness of 6, to Wild Pair with Duplicant/Seedborn Muse. Flashing in Wolfir Avenger as a surprise blocker and Wild Pair-ing in a Duplicant at the same time is a dream I can’t wait to live.
Roaring Primadox – How we abuse ETBF effects. Duh!

The only real ramp the deck has to speak of are the 3x Wood Elves and 1x Somberwald Sage. However, when playing this deck, I have found that casting more than one thing a turn is crucial quite often, and as great as Wood Elves is, Emerald Medallions should go a LONG way to speeding up the deck overall, and allowing for multiple creature-drops per turn. The Medallions will be especially helpful if you ever wind up with two active Primadoxes at once. They also help you get a Wild Pair down quicker.

The other non-Creature spells should be pretty clear. Beast Within is a near-universal answer to whatever ailes you – use it wisely! Momentous Fall is just a powerful draw spell in case you wind up running out of steam. Natural Order is a bomb way to cheat out something scary early on. And Lurking Predators is just awesome in a deck that’s nearly 50% creatures.

I must apologize up front for the use of Avenger of Zendikar – anyone who plays EDH regularly probably groaned when they saw it in my list. However, I’d already decided to replace Overrun with the more appealing Craterhoof Behemoth, when I realized I needed a 5/5 to pair with it for Wild Pair purposes. After scouring Gatherer for relevant 5/5 dudes to accompany Craterhoof to the prom, I came across Avenger of Zendikar. Despite it being played out in EDH, it was just such a perfect fit for what I was looking for, there was no way I could not use it. It’s a 5/5 so it finds/gets found by Craterhoof Behemoth and it makes shitloads of creatures, which is exactly what the Behemoth wants to see when it comes into play.

It was just such a perfect confluence of synergy that I had to use it, no matter how much eye-rolling it might garner.

Anyway, the deck is like a interlocking puzzle – change one creature in it and the whole Wild Pair math gets thrown off and you have to make other changes to make sure you’re still able to Wild Pair when you need to. The trick is to make sure, if you do replace a creature, to choose a replacement with the same total power+toughness.

A lot of stuff got cut, as usual, but only a couple of cards were really difficult to cut.

At one point I had 2x Mwonvuli Beast Trackers in the deck, along with a janky subset of Trample/Reach/Deathtouch/Hexproof guys. Finding creatures that had the right keyword ability AND the right P/T numbers to keep the Wild Pair math intact proved… daunting. The only mono-Green Hexproof creature that fit the bill was Thrun, the Last Troll, but I didn’t want to add yet another Mythic to what’s supposed to be an accessible casual deck. Along those lines, the best possible choice for a Trample target was Primeval Titan, of course, but that was definitely out for the same reasons as Thrun. I really wanted Soul of the Harvest as the Trample target, but finding another 6/6 to pair it with was tricky. Vigor, Rampaging Baloths and a second copy of Soul of the Harvest were about the best options, but in the end I felt like just cutting Soul of the Harvest was the right call.

As for Reach and Deathtouch, Thornweald Archer and Acidic Slime filled those roles, and both managed to stay in the deck. Acidic Slime is just to versatile an answer to pass up, while Thornweald Archer turned out to be a great fit because it provides great early game defense and Wild Pairs for E. Witness or Rofellos, both of which could prove to be critical targets.

So, I decided to scrap the Mwonvuli Beast Tracker toolbox and just run Fauna Shaman instead, as she can find ANY creature I need.

Finally, I also had Overwhelming Stampede in as a back-up to Craterhoof Behemoth, but after a while I decided that would like be overkill, and between the two, going with the Creature over the Sorcery seemed like the right call, given the themes and strategy of the deck.

Because by now you’re trained to expect this…

The accompanying Planar deck!

Bloodhill Bastion – Makes the whole “slow” thing less of a problem.
Grove of the Dreampods – Free dudes is exactly what this deck wants more of.
Horizon Boughs – More lands, or another Seedborn Muse effect. Both highly relevant.
Isle of Vesuva – Free token dudes.
Karasha Foothills – Excellent with all the ETBF effects. I’m dying to swing with a Thragtusk while on this plane.
Llanowar  More mana for when you actually pay for your dudes.
Murasa – Ditto.
Turri Island – Not free, but cheaper. Close enough.
* Reality Shaping – One free dude.
* Morphic Tide – Unless you’re up against a dedicated token deck, you should come out way ahead.

For the most part, the Planar deck is designed to simply kick the existing deck’s game plan into overdrive. What you’re trying to do eventually should just start happening a lot sooner, one way or another.


No comments:

Post a Comment