The 99: Conspiracy Blues
Ok, very little preamble this time. Conspiracy has been out for over a month now and I’m excited to discuss its impact on the EDH format. I bought a box of Conspiracy just to open and I was not disappointed. While many sets have chase Rares or Mythics that carry the value of the set, I believe Conspiracy is valuable just on the merit of its commons and uncommons alone. Sure there is Dack Fayden but when you have the opportunity to crack open packs with a slew of $1-2 uncommons and many cards which are staples of the format, Conspiracy feels like a very solid investment. Added to this, Conspiracy is one of the most entertaining draft formats I have ever played. Conspiracy also brings us several legends to build around. Some are reprints so I won’t mention them here except to say that I predict a slew of Edric, Spymaster of Trest decks to hit your local meta in the near future. As far as the new legends go, we have some interesting options.
Marchesa, the Black Rose is probably the most popular of the new legends. Some people want to build around the Dethrone mechanic while others have expressed their excitement about her synergy with Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. I tried my hand at building a Marchesa deck, ransacking my Nekusar deck for spare parts but the end result wasn’t something I really enjoyed. Perhaps I just didn’t sink enough time into building the deck but my Marchesa deck fared rather poorly in casual matches. Besides the Unleash creatures like Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch, I found it tedious to play a creature and then try to get a counter on them before someone killed them or took out Marchesa. Unspeakable Symbol is the clear MVP of the deck, allowing you to lower your own life total so that Dethrone works in your favor and getting counters on your creatures so they can survive. At the end of the day, Marchesa just felt a little slow for an Aggro deck.
Selvala, Explorer Returned is an interesting choice and one I am still trying to wrap my head around. She can obviously generate a lot of life and mana over the course of the game and there is a part of me that wants to build a true group hug deck with her. Since she is an Elf, I would be inclined to pack in as many of the pointy-eared critters as possible and try to churn out some massive green creatures for my win conditions. I think the life-gain theme warrants a bit of consideration as well and cards like Felidar Soverign could certainly be the win condition in a Selvala deck.
Grenzo, Dungeon Warden is a multi-faceted commander and another legend I have heard a lot of buzz about. Goblin tribal? Reanimator? Voltron? Grenzo lends himself to a variety of builds and I have had several interesting debates about how to build the deck. A fair number of people I spoke to about the deck were interested in running goblins simply because their power is relatively low and it wouldn’t take much to make Grenzo’s ability work with them. You could cast Grenzo for 2, use his ability and flip a 2 power Goblin on turn 3. I wanted to up the ante and go more midrange with the Grenzo build, casting him for 7 mana total the first time and fill my deck with 5 power creatures like Thundermaw Hellkite. I think the thing to keep in mind when building Grenzo is to stick to a set power for your creatures so that the ability doesn’t whiff. Reito Lantern is one of the more valuable pieces of the Grenzo build as it would allow you to consistently reanimate your creatures for 5 colorless mana.
Brago, King Eternal at first glance looks like an underpowered Roon of the Hidden Realm. Without access to Green, Brago misses out on those ETB triggers that give us ramp like Farhaven Elf or allow us to blow up select permanents like Acidic Slime. Still, Brago’s ability is essentially free and when combined with Strionic Resonator and a few mana rocks like Sol Ring, we can infinitely trigger Brago’s ability and abuse all the ETB triggers we can get our hands on. Palinchron would generate infinite mana, Venser, Shaper Savant becomes a one-sided board wipe, Angelic Chorus grants infinite life and creatures like Captain of the Watch yield infinite creatures. Even without the infinite shenanigans, Brago can reset Planeswalkers so they can use their abilities twice in a turn or re-trigger Fiend Hunter to permanently exile troublesome creatures. I haven’t seen any Brago decks running amok yet but I have full confidence that I will in the near future.
Last but certainly not least we have Muzzio, Visionary Architect who, as it so happens, was the legend I gravitated to the most and the commander I chose for this month’s article. Some have called Muzzio the less-powerful version of Arcum Dagsson but I beg to differ. Dagsson relies more on oppressive Winter Orb combos to lock everyone else out of the game whereas Muzzio is a little more open to interpretation and seems to play out a lot more like Mayael of the Anima. Sure, you could make a combo deck out of Muzzio but it would pale in comparison to the precision of tutoring for those artifacts with Dagsson. On the other hand, ol’ Arcum can’t drop a Blightsteel Colossus into play on turn 5 like Muzzio can. I do believe they should exist in the same deck however you choose to shape it. The key card for both decks? Mycosynth Lattice. The deck goes from 75% amazing to full-on broken when you can tutor/flip any card and put it into play. Some of the cards are a little sub par and the curve is high since I want something in the order of a 5-6 cmc artifact in play to get the most benefit from Muzzio’s ability. To that end, I recommend stuffing your Muzzio deck with all the mana rocks you can. I’m lacking a Thran Dynamo but the deck is still in its infancy and I will easily swap better mana rocks in place of some of the equipment which feels rather clunky. I’d also like to include more giant artifact creatures; things in the order of Wurmcoil Engine.
I’m a big fan of including some kind of back-door combo in every deck I build as well: a plan B if your Blightsteel Colossus gets exiled. First on the list is Knowledge Pool and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. When combined, your opponents simply cannot play spells and more often than not, they will simply scoop up their cards at this point. I’ve also included Karn, Silver Golem because of his interaction with Mycosynth Lattice and your opponent’s lands. For 1 colorless mana, your opponent’s land becomes a 0/0 artifact creature and promptly dies. Call me “win more” but Nevinyrral’s Disk and Darksteel Forge is another game state that doesn’t mean an immediate victory but it certainly smells strongly like everyone else conceding the game in short order. While I’d rather win in some kind of “fair” way, it’s nice to have a few backup plans as well.
Another element that really pleases me about the deck is how simple it is to pilot. Rather than rely on a million little synergies or interactions that require you to be an expert Magic lawyer, Muzzio is simple enough that I think even a novice player would be able to pick it up and be successful. I also don’t think Muzzio is a complete lynch pin in the deck. Whereas decks like Zur and Kaalia tend to fall flat without their commanders, I’m running enough mana rocks that I could probably start casting spells from my hand if Muzzio got shuffled into my library or hit with a Bant Charm.
Alright, enough blustering. On to the deck!
Instants/ Sorceries: 18
The Good: This deck is a blast to play. Sometimes you don’t get the right sequence of artifacts from Muzzio’s ability and sometimes you flip a huge Inkwell Leviathan into play on turn 4-5. Save a few cards in the deck it was also rather inexpensive to build and I believe you could make an even more budget version of Muzzio that is still every bit as much fun to play.
The Bad: without its commander, the deck does struggle a bit. All the mana rocks and rituals like High Tide will still allow you cast some of the bigger threats in the deck eventually but without Muzzio, it’s going to be an uphill battle. I’m also playing very few lands to fit all of the artifacts in and I’m hoping the mana rocks will compensate for the lack of real estate in the deck. I’m also more open to mulligans in this deck since all I want is 4 lands so I can cast Muzzio and start abusing his ability. In fact, one of the worst scenarios for this deck is drawing one of the high casting cost cards like Blightsteel and I would certainly mulligan anything that difficult to cast.
Key Cards: Mycosynth Lattice definitely makes this deck go into overdrive and even if you’re trying to build this deck on a budget, I suggest you try to pick up a copy. Being able to choose any permanent from Muzzio’s ability rather than just artifacts is pretty huge. The boost in mana that Extraplanar Lens and High Tide achieve is profound and I recommend those as high picks as well. While less obvious, the shuffle effects from lands like Evolving Wilds are helpful in reordrering your library in case you flip over two artifacts you wanted and have to send one to the bottom of your deck. Academy Ruins also allows you to recur your artifacts with a high degree of efficiency. I’m playing the Urza lands just for fun but they can be powerful and in a deck with very little need of colored mana symbols, I think the inclusion is worthwhile.
Conspiracy is a fantastic set, one I’m both happy to draft and equally excited to just crack boosters. Hot on the heels of Conspiracy, M15 is slated to be released later this month and it seems as though WotC is pulling out all the stops for this one. We get several new planeswalkers as well as a slew of interesting cards to build around. Pre-release is July 12-13th. As always, I hope to see all of you on Thursday nights at 6pm for Commander down at Nu Games!