If you know me at all, you could have guessed that I have had an eye on the black and green cards from Shadows over Innistrad. In the past, I have had friends call me "Swamp Thing" because of my affinity for Swamps, specifically how they interact with Forests. Basically, the idea of The Rock, or a deck built to grind out advantages over time, sounds sweet to me.
You get to build with strong individual cards, including solid removal, threats, and disruption. But on top of that, your shell gives you wiggle room to do cool things. Maybe you have some neat synergy you want to showcase, or maybe you have a mini-combo to assemble. Because you are neither winning fast nor allowing your opponent to win fast, these packages tend to come up more often and matter more.
For example, I have talked about my B/G ramp deck from GP Orlando many times, and within that deck was a single Glissa, the Traitor and a single Ratchet Bomb. Green Sun's Zenith created more virtual copies of Glissa, the Traitor, which was nice, but typically the combo would assemble itself as the game went on and I saw more and more cards. Glissa, the Traitor also happened to return Solemn Simulacrum and Sphere of the Suns while being formidable in combat, so I could justify a single copy as it really didn't detract from my primary game plan much.
Most synergy packages or themes are going to require more card slots than just a single Glissa, the Traitor and a single Ratchet Bomb, as we tend to not have many tutors in Standard. Recently though, that has changed. Not only do cards like Oath of Nissa exist, which improve the rate at which you find a specific card, but Traverse the Ulvenwald was printed, which is one of the most powerful tutors we have seen in Standard in quite some time. Worldly Tutor would arguably be too strong, and once Traverse the Ulvenwald is online, it's twice as good as Worldly Tutor.
Before I got ahead of myself, I wanted to see what the new Golgari hotness was in this set. Golgari has been responsible for things like dredge in the past, which was an obvious linear, so exploring delirium in its most condensed form might lead to something. We want to build around the linear without being slaves to it and playing things with delirium just because they have it.
With that in mind, here is where I went with a base shell:
The idea here is simple: We are an aggressive deck with a rather diverse set of card types to enable delirium as quickly as possibly. We haven't gone all-out with cards like Gather the Pack, which could be strong, but we have made an effort to diversify our card types and to play incidental enablers, such as Mindwrack Demon and Autumnal Gloom.
This shell has merit, but it is certainly more on the aggressive side. In fact, Traverse the Ulvenwald didn't even make it into the deck, as most of the cards are redundant and there was not a lot of free space in the deck nor in the curve. If you are curving out with this list, you don't get to play Traverse the Ulvenwald, and if you do have extra mana, you'd rather spend that playing a tapped land or activating Autumnal Gloom most of the time.
One of my favorite styles of decks is one in which a ton of options come together to form a cohesive deck. The best example of this is Birthing Pod. If you draw hands with a Birthing Pod deck before it was banned, you will see a mishmosh of mana creatures, midrange dorks, various situational one-ofs, and a few pieces of removal. Any five given cards might look like a total mess and yet, the deck plays out pretty well as a midrange deck. The real genius is when that midrange deck gets to tutor up the perfect hate card against you or possibly just combo off for a billion life out of nowhere. Because Birthing Pod allows for so many options and lines of play, it can break from its normal midrange game plan to adapt to nearly any situation.
Because the deck is Modern, most of the cards are individually strong, although that becomes a little more difficult to replicate as you move to Standard's smaller cardpool. While looking up cards for this list, I noticed a ton of viable options at two, three, and four mana that all made a lot of sense. In addition, Hangarback Walker fills all of the roles, which is especially nice as it is also our only artifact to fuel delirium.
None of these two-drops are bad. Granted, you probably would be playing your Relentless Dead in some sort of zombie deck and Asylum Visitor in some aggro or discard deck, but both cards are worthy of Standard play.
We removed these cards from their most natural habitat and instead have created a bit of a collage, or greatest hits album. On turn two, if we play an Asylum Visitor, or Sylvan Advocate, or Hangarback Walker, despite all of those cards being very different, our opponent is going to feel pressured. Their value on turn two is relatively similar in a vacuum. Meanwhile, in the late game, when I have all of my tutor power online, the difference between Asylum Visitor, Sylvan Advocate, and Hangarback Walker is immense. Most decks will not have access to all three of these because they maxed out on four for the early-game impact, but we now have access to three powerful but wildly different cards in our deck. This gives us more options and more ways to adapt while still maintaining that early game cohesion.
If we wanted to be more aggressive and less midrange, we could switch back to a setup like the list above, with lots of four-ofs for maximum consistency and early power. But if we wanted to be more robust in the late game with a list that can adapt to most situations, we instead could really push the tutor power of Traverse the Ulvenwald. Also, remember that the card functions as Lay of the Land without delirium. That, combined with Oath of Nissa's ability to find land, theoretically allows us to shave a few mana sources. Instead, I made those lands utility lands for late-game Traverse the Ulvenwald to grab. This should help ensure we hit land drops while giving us something to do with our mana in the late game.
A cool mini-combo in here is Relentless Dead getting back Fleshbag Marauder every time it dies, creating a tough spot for creature decks.
I am not entirely sure on the removal breakdown, but sorcery was our least-needed type, as Traverse the Ulvenwald supplies that, so I went a little heavier on instants and 'Walkers than I would have otherwise. In theory, while there are only a few instants, sorceries, artifacts, enchantments, and 'Walkers, getting two of those into the yard alongside a creature and land is a reasonable goal.
I even drummed up a sideboard for this one, as I think the power of a tutor/toolbox package is better shown with a sideboard. You can see just how many cool toys we get to grab in various matchups, from Minister of Pain against tokens to Gaea's Revenge against control, and yet we don't have to find room for three or four copies of either card. This is especially critical for cards like Hermit of the Natterknolls, which is probably not worth three or four slots in the 'board, as it only comes in against a narrow set of decks, but finding room for one of them is easy, and it's still a must-answer against that narrow set of decks.
Of course, a tutor like Traverse the Ulvenwald is going to get stronger as you extend to more colors. Adding white or blue to the deck is going to expand the range of options you have. White seemed most appealing as a third color, so I wanted to round up some of the better offerings when we do go Abzan.
There are some solid additions here. A card like Lantern Scout is just not going to find any room in my deck when I need to include multiple copies of it, but as a one-of that can totally blowout aggro or burn decks, I can get behind that.
And this deck might not be aggro, but it does have a reasonable clock. No one would ever call Birthing Pod an aggro deck, and yet when it played a Noble Hierarch into a Kitchen Finks into a Tarmogoyf, it still felt like one when you were dead on turn five.
While our disruption is a little weaker than Thoughtseize, our creatures are things like Hangarback Walker and Mindwrack Demon, which beat down quickly and sure seem like aggro cards in many match ups.
Of course, finding any two-color deck in Shadows over Innistrad Standard might be a rarity. Instead, Jund or Abzan are likely to be the two most likely places where Golgari shows up. That said, the manabase of a two-color deck does have some perks, and neither list has easy-to-manage color requirements in its costs.
Standard is looking like a ton of fun and brews are coming in from all over the place. Once the set becomes available online, I will be brewing and jamming plenty of games! In the meantime, if you will be at Grand Prix Albuquerque, definitely say hi! Until next week, thanks for reading!