Some time last week, as I was getting in bed, because that's usually when I get creative (that, and in the shower), I was thinking of some crazy combination of cards for a new deck that involved Bridge from Below, Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, and a bunch of zero-mana creatures. You would have access to Mox Opal to cast the avatar even faster, hopefully for two mana, putting your opponent down to ten and attacking with zombies…
Oh and since you're playing Memnite and Faithless Looting (gotta dump Bridge from Below somehow), might as well play Vengevines!
I could just imagine the hands this deck could make. Not pretty. But the idea of bringing back my beloved Vengevines was appealing. Remember, I toyed with Vengevine a lot back in 2014.
Vengevine can't go without its friend Lotleth Troll, and so I retrieved my old Dredgevine deck to give it an update. In the meantime, Hollow One got printed, and the black-red deck designed around it got a lot of success. So I built a hybrid between these two:
After Cheerios and Turbo Vizier, I just had to play a deck that also had a potential to win on turn two.
Hollow Vines attacks on two different angles: It tries to put big creatures (Vengevine, Hollow One) in play in the first couple of turns while flooding the board with recursive creatures (Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam, Flamewake Phoenix). The other cards are the glue to make the deck stick together. It took me a while to figure out the right formula to have a balanced deck that can have explosive starts, be reliable in the long game and not be too clunky.
The star of the show. Everything in this deck is made to have a Vengevine in play on turn one or two. Unless your opponent has a Path to Exile in hand, they're usually tough to deal with. They hit hard, they hit fast, and they never really stay dead for long.
They allow the deck to be able to kill on turn two:
Turn 1: Land, Faithless Looting, discard Vengevine x2, cycle Street Wraith, play Hollow One x2, attack for 8.
Turn 2 : Attack for 16.
That's not the only setup where the turn-two win is possible, and it's still pretty unlikely, but it happens sometimes. A turn-three win is definitely more common and it's likely you see a few of them in the videos.
To reliably bring back Vengevine, you need free creatures. If they're big, it's better of course. Hollow One requires a package to be able to be played early, but that's a package you'd be playing anyway: Insolent Neonate, Faithless Looting, Lotleth Troll. Street Wraith is the only card that needs to be added to the deck that wouldn't otherwise go in a Vengevine deck.
I tried Burning Inquiry in the early stages to allow a turn-one Hollow One more often. However it was only good when you played it on turn one, and you didn't discard your 4/4. Every other time, you would prefer to have a creature, any creature, to either have something to discard to the troll or to bring back Vengevine, and that's why the creature count in the deck is so high.
While it might look underwhelming, Memnite plays an important role in the deck. Being able to play a second creature for free is crucial if you want to reliably bring back a Vengevine by turn two. Play a Lotleth Troll on turn two, discard a Vengevine, play Memnite, bring back Vengevine (Lotleth Troll counts for the first creature played). Hollow One doesn't always cost zero so this is the kind of consistency you're looking for. I tried cutting them and I always found myself regretting it.
Lotleth Troll was an auto-include when I put the deck together. It's great with both Vengevine and Hollow One and also with Flamewake Phoenix. It grows to huge proportions and players relying on graveyard hate to stop you usually lose the big trampler. Having 38 creatures in the deck is a plus when you need fuel to pump it.
Noose Constrictor is a downgrade to Lotleth Troll as it doesn't get +1/+1 counters, but it has reach, and it has proven to be useful against Mantis Rider. For the sake of consistency, I wanted an extra discard outlet in your deck on a creature body.
The newborn vampire does everything. It's a discard outlet, putting Vengevines in the graveyard from your hand, reducing the cost of Hollow One and it's a cheap creature to bring back Vengevine. The menace ability is a bonus that you can use in the late game when you're unearthing a Scourge Devil.
Street Wraith was the biggest question mark of the deck when I started testing it. How many was the right number? The deck isn't running any kind of interaction with your opponent (except for blockers) so it relies on its starting life total to survive. Losing two life to cycle is relevant and the upside had to be worth it. Running only 18 lands and 4 Faithless Looting is a reason good enough to play at least 3 of them. I didn't find the use to play 4 of them, as drawing them in the late game is usually pretty bad.
Along with Vengevines, Scourge Devil, Bloodghast, and Flamewake Phoenix will trigger Prized Amalgam. Blooghast is the all-time super star of graveyard strategies and I see no reason why it wouldn't be here. Flamewake Phoenix has a spot in this deck as well as it has a lot of friends to bring it back: Lotleth Troll, Hollow One, Vengevine, Noose Constrictor, or even Scourge Devil.
Scourge Devil is the latest addition to the deck. I was looking for another way to bring back Prized Amalgam, and everything else was underwhelming. I tried Gravecrawler again, but it was just not impactful enough. In a deck with 4 Memnite that are mostly around to make the deck work (and deal a couple of damage), you'll be happy if you can make them deliver the last beating for a bit more damage.
By now you should know that this is one of my favorite creatures of all time. The deck can't run any blue mana to hardcast them, but you have enough ways to bring them back.
Drawing, discarding, flashing back… I've said enough about this card in the last four years not to have to repeat myself here. Faithless Looting is the main reason this deck can work.
I love this deck. It's something I could totally see myself submitting for a high-level tournament. It's good, it's explosive. On a good day, nothing can stop it. It also runs all my favorite cards. It's quite resilient to graveyard hate, much more resilient than Dredge (or Zombie Loam), as it can just hardcast its creatures and they can hit pretty hard on their own.
It has very good matchups. If you want to beat Tron, here's your list. It's too fast, can ignore Relic of the Progenitus, Karn can't take care of a full board. Ancient Grudge in the sideboard helps you against Wurmcoil Engine. Burn also is hard to lose. When they have a Goblin Guide and plan to burn you out in three turns, you have 4/3's and 4/4's attacking back. The race is usually close, but it's in your favor.
Control matchups are also good as they have a hard time dealing with the recursive nature of your creatures. When they pack Path to Exile, Celestial Purge, Rest in Peace and Settle the Wreckage, then you start having trouble. The fact that it can goldfish on turn three or four regularly makes it a tough matchups for any deck that needs to set up.
Storm can be rough as you can't really interact with them and they are more consistent than you. I'm still looking for a way to improve our chances in that matchup.
The deck mulligans quite well, and you'll find yourself mulliganing quite a lot. Just like most explosive decks, the downside is that sometimes your hand will be missing a piece and you'll end up doing nothing the whole game (or not much), but that's the price you have to pay.
In any case, it's super fun to play and I'll play it again. I hope you enjoy the videos, and try the deck if you can!