I had the chance to get to PaxEast this past weekend! I've shared my Pax experience in the past, and this time around it was much the same. Pax was a chance to meet a lot of great new people and catch up with others I've known for a while. If you have a chance to experience a large gaming convention, I recommend it. There are great times to be had every time you go!
What I really wanted to talk about for this week is how the weekend has changed my decks. I played some Magic this past weekend. I would estimate 25 games or so of Commander, Unstable draft and Brawl, so the decks I brought were really put through their paces. When you consider I loaned Brawl decks and Commander decks out through the weekend, every deck saw significant play! Playing that many games in order gave me some insight into changes that need to happen to each deck. This gives you the opportunity to laugh at my expense and ask yourself why those cards weren't in there in the first place, or voice your recommendations for further changes in the comments or on Twitter! Let's get started!
For those of you who are still reluctant to use or allow silver-bordered cards into your games, just know that no one was opposed to me playing Buzzbark. A few opponents even commented that the interactions with the deck felt like a typical Commander game. If you build carefully, players will be okay with it!
The deck has seen some renovations recently. I discovered that recasting it with the commander tax meant that I would probably only cast it twice or three times in a game. I would want to hold it until it was worth it to cast, so I would wait, and the opportunity would be lost with a mass removal or mass bounce effect. What I wanted was a way to be able to cast it over and over without the Commander tax penalty. I settled on a suite of creatures that let me return Buzzbark to my hand regularly and it has proven amazing! I'll cast Ol' Buzzbark early for just four dice, then for more and more as the game goes on. I've pushed the focus to targeting my creatures, since my opponents like to spread their stuff all over, making it hard to hit multiple opposing creatures. This also meant adding a few cards that provide token creatures. Having 1/1 red Elementals represented by your own token card is a great thing!
The only issues I had was the occasional weakness to flying attacks and Ol'Buzzbark's inability to attack. When you are constantly putting him back in your hand to recast him and throw the foam dice across your board of creatures you occasionally have a rather large Buzzbark who can't attack. The video above gave me a 16/16 Buzzbark and I wanted to swing with him that turn! This would prove true for the token creatures as well, so I plan to add Mass Hysteria and Fires of Yavimaya. I know that Mass Hysteria gives haste to all the creatures on the battlefield, but hey, we are using silver-bordered cards here; I am going for a maximum level of crazy!
Adding to the token frenzy in the deck seems to make sense as well, so Sylvan Offering will get added as well. This will also give me the opportunity to drop dice on my opponent's creatures, given they will have so many of them! With all the tokens around, Dragon Broodmother just makes sense as well – devour a few tokens to make bigger flying Dragons that may also benefit from Ol' Buzzbark's largesse gives me tokens and solves my issue with the lack of flying creatures. Finally, someone said that my board would be crazy when Craterhoof hit the battlefield, and I agreed. Clearly putting one in the deck is the first step to making that happen!
So who gets the boot to make room for 'hoof and friends?
· Animation Module – The effect is too small. Saving a mana for this or rolling the extra die; guess which option I chose every time?
· Insult // Injury – The effect simply wasn't worth the card.
· Fires of Yavimaya – Without using the damage side of Buzzbark, Fires just ends up making creatures hit harder. My tokens with dice seem to hit hard enough already.
· Dictate of the Twin Gods – As much as Zhur-Taa Druid loves it, it was time for it to go.
· Embermaw Hellion – The last of the "adding damage" suite comes out.
Grenzo is a deck that can see cards churn in and out of the deck regularly. If a creature just isn't carrying the load, pull it out and try something new! Over the weekend I was underwhelmed by a few cards. Sword of the Animist made sense to me since it was a way to add land. While it was working, it worked slowly since you had to pay two to cast it, two to equip it and then attack before you could search for a land that would enter the battlefield tapped. I was reluctant to pull it out until I discovered a great replacement. Witches' Eye was another artifact that was just too slow. The deck still likes to set up the bottom of the library, but Witches' Eye was too involved.
With these two cards out, I have room for two cards to come in, but I have four cards I want to add:
· Gray Merchant of Asphodel – I took the card out because the deck become about finding the card and replaying it for the win. With the newer look Grenzo that involves more flipping the bottom card blindly, I'm hoping "Gary" will feel a little fairer. I opted to take out Grenzo, Havoc Raiser to fit it. His abilities just weren't adding to the game as much as I hoped they would.
· Ravenous Chupacabra – Another way to kill creatures seems like a good idea! I took out Cryptborn Horror to make room.
· Twilight Prophet – The card helps me draw more cards off the top, it is a flying creature, and it damages opponents while giving me life! This card is all upside in a deck where Ascend is achieved by turn four or five in most games.
· Soulbright Flamekin – This will be the replacement for Sword of the Animist. Spend six mana and get eight red mana back! That is an extra Grenzo activation! It is also a creature activation that benefits with Heartstone out. Spending three mana to get eight, sounds like a great deal to me!
I saved this one for last for two reasons: my opponents love it and people love to play with it. It offers a ton of ramp, plenty of card draw, several recursion effects, and a handful of big ridiculous plays. The deck just does what everyone enjoys doing and it does it in a way that even a player not too familiar with the deck can work out what they should be doing.
You will note that it has been a while since the deck was updated. This is due, at least in part, to my frustration with the way it has played out. There was a game this weekend that typified my feelings toward the deck. I ramped out fairly quickly and drew into the cards I was looking to play. This time around it was a Howl of the Night Pack. I already had 17 Forests on the battlefield, along with a Doubling Season, so I was looking at 34 Wolves. Another player, Ryan, had out an Angel of Strife. When I got to play the Howl, all my Wolves were 5/2 creatures. I had Baru, Fist of Krosa in my hand to give them all trample and +1/+1 so I was looking at a crazy attack next turn with 34 6/3 trampling Wolves!
Unfortunately, there was a Living Death, and my token horde was gone. The Living Death did bring my Eternal Witness onto the battlefield, so the Howl of the Night Pack went back to my hand. I played it again and waited. Sure, 3/3 Wolves with trample aren't quite as exciting, but there were 36 of them now, so it would still be pretty epic. Cyclonic Rift dealt with them this time. The next round it was the Living Death again. The next round it was a Wrath. The next round it was something else. The deck showed its resiliency by getting to cast Howl of the Night Pack as often as I did, but during that game I saw between 150 to 200 Wolves… that did a total of zero damage. I also got to play a Sylvan Offering, but all of those were dealt with as well.
With a problem like this, the solution is find instant-speed versions of the sorcery cards or to give my creatures haste. Concordant Crossroads and Vedalken Orrery are two solutions to my problem! Heroic Intervention can solve the direct damage issues, so I thought I would try that as well.
Other recommendations made to the deck this weekend include:
· Walking Ballista – You can use the tokens immediately, or in response to someone trying to kill the Ballista, so there are further options
· Wildest Dreams – Having another way to get a few cards back from the graveyard is bound to be a good thing as well
· Lifecrafter's Bestiary – This is slow and steady card draw and the scry ability should not be underestimated. I already think this is close to an automatic include in any green deck, so little convincing is required.
· Sandwurm Convergence – Someone mentioned I was somewhat vulnerable to flyers and suggested the Convergence. I'm not sold, but I'm happy to try it out for a while.
· Reliquary Tower – I thought the card was already in the deck.
With eight cards coming in, eight must leave:
· Adventuring Gear - I thought with all the land that enters the battlefield, this would be good. Adding +2/+2 just isn't all that impressive.
· Druidic Satchel – I'm a sucker for cards that do multiple things. The satchel does several things that I don't really care about.
· Sword of the Animist – This is great in decks that need ramp, but this just isn't that deck. Green has plenty of ways to get land that don't involve risking your creatures.
· Lifeblood Hydra – The life gain never meant much and the card draw from the Bestiary should fill this gap just fine.
· Dungrove Elder – Hexproof big dude was nice, but without trample it was so reliant on other cards to make things happen.
· Creeperhulk – I put this in knowing that Elves and Wolves tend to be smaller, so getting them bigger and giving them trample seemed like a good idea. It still does, but there are other ways and swinging with as many creatures as I have been often means that I don't need to give them all trample.
· Budoka Gardener – It never had a chance to make big tokens, so I dropped it.
· Forest – Dropping a Forest for the Reliquary Tower.
I hope to hear from you about other cards that can be added to these deck that will up the fun!