A couple weeks ago I discussed 14 different decks made possible by Mana Confluence, and I asked which one people wanted me to talk about in more detail. Based on the feedback, I decided to talk about 'Mutant Lifegain Launch' this week, a deck built around Master Biomancer, Launch the Fleet, and Archangel of Thune.
After testing it more this week, I made some changes. Here is the current list:
DECKID=1200992How each Card Functions in the Deck
Elvish Mystic is the most efficient mana accelerant in the format, allowing us to ramp to three mana on the second turn. It also provides another body to Launch the Fleets with. Casting Courser of Kruphix on the second turn off Elvish Mystic is pretty easy. Literally any land in the deck will allow this to happen. Casting Brimaz, King of Oreskos on the second turn, however, is a bit trickier. You need one of the four Temple Gardens or one of the four Mana Confluences in addition to another white land, of which there are 16 total. Brimaz is just so good in the deck that it is worth the added mana difficulties to fit him in there.
The Mystic not only ramps you to three mana but also allows your follow-up plays to come down a turn quicker. The ideal curve is Elvish Mystic into Brimaz, King of Oreskos into Master Biomancer into Launch the Fleets for a fourth turn kill.
If you don't have an Elvish Mystic in your opener, your second turn play is still very strong. Voice of Resurgence and Fleecemane Lion are next in line.
Voice of Resurgence does so much for just two mana. First off, it provides a decent size body to start attacking with. Secondly, it forces the opponent to play their spells on their own turn instead of on yours, which means they'll be even further on the backfoot if their game plan is to react to what we're trying to do. Thirdly, it can play offense or defense, blocking opposing early plays from other aggressive decks and affording us time to set up our more powerful cards. Lastly, it produces a token that synergizes well with the deck's overall game plan. The token gets bigger if Master Biomancer is in play, grows considerably when you cast Launch the Fleet, and also when you attack or block with Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Voice of Resurgence is just very good in this deck!
Fleecemane Lion is the next premier two-drop. The deck's primary game plan is to beat down, and Fleecemane Lion beats down harder than pretty much any other two-drop in the format. It also provides a nice mana sink in the later turns if the game begins to stall out. Against controlling strategies it is often correct to monstrous Fleecemane Lion instead of committing more threats to the board. This way if they Supreme Verdict your board, your Lion survives. If you also have a Voice of Resurgence, you get an Elemental Token and are pretty much already recovered from the board sweeper before they even say go. :)
In most scenarios you want to cast Brimaz, King of Oreskos as quickly as possible. It's the threat that produces the most damage and it also sets up our premier four-mana play in the form of Master Biomancer. If you curve one right into the other, your cats begin as 3/3 creatures. This combination is very good on offense or defense, affording six points of damage immediately and eleven points of toughness to attack through. The Cat Tokens also remain relevant as they allow us to Launch the Fleets for one more and also make the Elemental Token from Launch the Fleets one bigger.
It is worth noting that if we're on the play and get a second turn Brimaz, King of Oreskos off an Elvish Mystic, the opponent will often block our Cat Token with their Sylvan Caryatid, assuming it's a freeroll. We can then Selesnya Charm the Cat Token to make it big enough to kill the Caryatid. This play comes up when our follow-up play is Voice of Resurgence or Fleecemane Lion post-combat since in those scenarios we have the extra two mana for the Charm. If we have the Master Biomancer, it's still better to just slam it down and get in for six with Brimaz and a 3/3 Cat Token.
Courser of Kruphix is our Backup Plan in case we don't have Brimaz, King of Oreskos. The Courser does a few important things for us. First off, it keeps the top of our deck filled with action, which is extremely important for this deck. Most of the games I've lost have been to flooding out, despite only running 22 lands.
Another thing the centaur does for us is provide a source of life gain for Archangel of Thune. Every time you play a land with the Angel and Centaur on the battlefield, it instantly becomes a Gavony Township. Even better if it's free from the top of your library!
Master Biomancer works well with any creatures, but it's especially synergistic with some of the cards in this deck. Most notably, he produces 3/3 Soldier Tokens off Launch the Fleet and 3/3 Cat Tokens off Brimaz, King of Oreskos. He also buffs up an Elemental Token from Voice of Resurgence and also makes every creature you play after him much better. For instance, sometimes you have a hand with extra Elvish Mystics, Voice of Resurgences, and Fleecemane Lions. Master Biomancer turns these otherwise outsized bodies into creatures that are still able to stand toe-to-toe with opposing mid-game creatures.
Another nice thing worth noting is that masters are cumulative and non-legendary. So if you curve Master Biomancer into another Master Biomancer, the second one will already be a 4/6 and every creature entering the battlefield thereafter will get +6/+6. That's a pretty fierce Elvish Mystic, Soldier, or Cat Token!
Rounding out the curve is Archangel of Thune. The primary synergy is with Courser of Kruphix, allowing you to immediately pump your team off the centaur's life gain ability. It is also especially important in conjunction with our token-production theme. Master Biomancer pumps the tokens when they first enter the battlefield and Archangel of Thune continues to grow them. If you curve Master Biomancer into Archangel of Thune, she starts out as a 5/6 flyer. Can anyone say Baneslayer Angel!
As far as spells are concerned, the hallmark spell of the deck is Launch the Fleets. The primary combo is with Master Biomancer, but as has also already been mentioned, it works well with Archangel of Thune and also with Voice of Resurgence. Much like most of the other (non-Brimaz) cards in the deck, Launch the Fleets works well in multiples. For instance, let's say you start off with early action in the form of Elvish Mystic into Courser of Kruphix but then your only action cards left in hand are a pair of Launch the Fleets. You can go ahead and cast launch for two this turn and follow it up with a launch for four on the following turn. Just be sure to hold a land in hand for when you draw Archangel of Thune so you can play it and gain the life off Courser of Kruphix to immediately pump your whole team.
Rapid Hybridization plays a variety of roles in the deck. It's our primary answer to otherwise problematic creatures such as Master of Waves, Stormbreath Dragon, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa. Our deck can handle a vanilla 3/3 frog lizard quite nicely since most of our important creatures have four toughness (Courser, Brimaz, Biomancer, Archangel). It can answer any of these large threats for a single mana, allowing us to keep applying pressure while the opponent is usually struggling to stay in the game. It can also blow out a creature in response to a pump effect of whatever kind.
The other important use for Rapid Hybridization is on our own creature. This comes up in a few different ways. The most straightforward way is in response to a removal spell. If we draw too many copies, this is a way to keep the pressure on while facing down removal. It's also frequently worth using on your own Voice of Resurgence, turning a 2/2 into a 3/3 and an X/X. This play often comes up on the swing-back turn after I cast Launch the Fleets and attacked with everything. The opponent then sends his creatures back at me and suddenly for just one mana I have a 3/3 frog lizard and a 4/4 elemental ready to block. I will also often upgrade a soldier or Cat Token (or Elvish Mystic) once Master Biomancer is on the battlefield because then we're talking about turning a 1/1 into a 5/5.
The last spell in the main deck is Selesnya Charm, which also survives multiple purposes. It can produce a Knight Token, which can be 4/4 if we have Master Biomancer. Also if we cast Launch the Fleets, you can target Master Biomancer with the +2/+2 mode in response, thus making the tokens into 5/5 creatures as I did here:
And hopefully you don't get blown out on the following turn like I did:
Between Rapid Hybridization and Selesnya Charm, we have a handful of answers to opposing monsters and even more answers in the sideboard.
3 Spell Rupture
This addition originally came about after losing a match to a flurry of Fog effects from a Maze's End deck. I kept thinking to myself the whole match "if only I had a single counter I would win the game on the spot". It is also good against most of the midrange and controlling strategies, stopping a removal spell, a giant monster, or a planeswalker. It would be in the main deck if it stopped Supreme Verdict, but at least it counters Elspeth, Sphinx's Revelation, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa.
3 Rootborn Defenses
Speaking of stopping Supreme Verdict, this is our answer to mass removal and it also has utility in large creature fights (either figuratively in combat or literally with Setessan Tactics). We have enough token generators to be able to get value out of it a reasonable amount of the time, and the timing of the card's populate ability is also relevant since we will often have a Master Biomancer in play by the time we cast this card and hence the token would get a bonus and be larger than the token it is copying. It also protects against the minus ability on Elspeth, Sun's Champion, which makes it an ideal card in the Esper matchups.
3 Nyx-Fleece Ram
These were originally Fiendslayer Paladins and then became Unflinching Courage, but eventually I decided that our three-slot was already pretty filled up and I was more in need of a good two-drop in the matchups where the life gain was important. The ram blocks most opposing aggressive creatures, and it combines quite well with Archangel of Thune once we get that online.
2 Setessan Tactics
I wanted more ways to get rid of opposing creatures and this way provides the most value. It will often slow you down unless Brimaz is involved (vigilance for the win!). Our creatures are about as big as they come at each spot in the curve, so granting them +1/+1 will usually allow them to fight down anything of lesser or equal cost while also surviving the fight. It's especially good against Monoblue Devotion decks, often allowing you to clear out their entire board with a single card.
2 Banishing Light
Sometimes you just want an all-purpose answer. It handles Thassa, God of the Sea as well as Master of Waves from the blue decks. And it will take care of Elspeth, Sun's Champion out of Naya and Esper decks, among other things (including Detention Sphere).
2 Selesnya Charm
In matchups where the mode of killing a big creature is relevant, these are usually very good since all three modes have utility. It's possible all four of these should be main deck, but I'm not sure what to cut.
Other Cards to Consider
This keeps coming to mind as a card I want to experiment with in this deck but haven't yet. It pumps the Master Biomancer +3/+3 instead of +2/+2 we get from Selesnya Charm. It can also temporarily answer the problematic creatures that Rapid Hybridization usually answers or protect our creatures from removal. It's similar to Selesnya Charm in the fact that it has three relevant modes to our plan, but the question is which among the versatile spells are most important and worthy of the deck?
Being able to protect an important creature for just one mana will often translate into a Time Walk of sorts. The opponent expends their whole turn casting Banishing Light or Hero' s Downfall and we counter it for just one mana with Gods Willing. We don't want too many narrow effects like this in our deck though since drawing too many of them and not enough threats is one way the deck can lose to itself. These were originally in the sideboard before I added Spell Rupture, which serves a similar role, so they didn't seem necessary anymore. I would also usually rather have the versatility afforded by Simic Charm. Not enough testing has been done yet to know for sure that the charm or Spell Rupture is actually better than Gods Willing though.
I think Spell Rupture is slightly better than Negate. They are each much easier to cast than Dissolve, and each can counter most of the things we want to stop. Supreme Verdict is the one big one we cannot stop, but only Rootborn Defenses stops that one.
The life gain works especially well with Archangel of Thune since each creature removed will trigger the angel again. It feels wrong to not have any copies of these in our 75, so it's very high on my radar of cards to add back in. If graveyard decks such as Golgari become more prevalent, this would be a card I'd recommend adding.
These started out in the main deck because you first strike them, triggering Archangel of Thune, which pumps the whole team. They eventually got cut for Courser of Kruphix which accomplished the life gain objective while also mitigating the flooding out problem the deck was experiencing. So I moved them to the sideboard where they eventually got replaced by Nyx-Fleece Ram. It's possible they find their way back into the deck somewhere, but for now they are on the outside looking in.Conclusion
I've been experimenting a lot with various directions for this deck to go. The deck is super fun but can still use some improvement. My win rate on MTGO is usually very high when I'm playing a good deck, and it has only been moderately high with this deck. Granted, I've been solving most of the problems as I go, but I'm not yet confident enough to say this is the best deck in Standard. I think it has potential to be and that is has more room for improvement than most of the more established decks.
After this weekend I'll be preparing for Grand Prix Chicago (Standard), so that will be my primary focus. I'm also in the process of learning the Playwire recording program, so Standard videos may be on the horizon in the not-so-distant future. Would this be a deck you'd want to see in action?
If you have any questions or suggestions about the deck, let me know in the comments.
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter