If you think back about six to eight months, you probably remember me advocating some five color control strategies in Standard. The concept of jamming all of the best cards together is nothing new but in this case, going all five colors offered an additional bonus beyond just the best cards of each color, but the best card of all of those colors as well: Chromanticore!
While it proved to be a little too gimmicky for the shell, Chromanticore had some real benefits it brought to the table. First of all, both flying and lifelink are extremely sought after in Constructed at the moment and Chromanticore has both. Vigilance is also quite nice, particularly when bestowed. In the five color control list, this was use on Courser quite often to create a huge threat that would "survive" Supreme Verdict when I needed to cast it. Again, while that particular deck might not have needed that use, other decks certainly could.
Basically, AEtherling just ended up doing what I needed Chromanticore to do, only better. It made sense that the deck should have the best and most powerful closer available to it and just being five colors was not reason enough to dip into any rainbow manticore type. It was nice to test the card though, as no other real list gets to see Chromanticore in play and know just how strong it can be.I tucked away the colorful beast for a time where it might shine a little brighter.
Flash forward to the testing process for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. Team TCGplayer was hard at work on a few of its stranger brews, including things like Villainous Wealth Fog lists and a different take on Jeskai Ascendency combo. Surprisingly, one of my ideas had begun to pick up support around this time, which is not something I often expect early on in testing.
Because my ideas tend to be a little more radical in nature, I generally expect to need to hone them and prune them a bit before people start to get excited. The first version of my Monoblack Control deck for Pro Tour Montreal had four copies of Diabolic Revelation in it with only a single copy of Griselbrand. The thought process was that I could run four of this tutor that would duplicate as a black Sphinx's Revelation once Crypt Ghast was online and it would not be stuck in my hand as often as an eight or nine-drop would be that I could just go tutor up.
Well it turns out that spending the turn that you successfully untap with Crypt Ghast doing nothing to effect the board leads to bad times. Even if I resolved a Diabolic Revelation for three or four cards, I was giving my opponent another turn to draw an answer to Crypt Ghast and leave things like Griselbrand stuck in my hand.
Eventually, I wised up and just played four copies of the big demon in my deck. He offered the same powerful card draw that Revelation did while also being a difficult to deal with 7/7 flying lifelinking machine. A win condition and card advantage engine all rolled into one was nice. Plus, it turned out that just playing Griselbrand the hard way was still extremely strong in Standard, despite no decks taking advantage of that at the time.
Early on, the burden usually falls on me to prove that my ideas are worth pursuing, but the team really had my back this time and people independently began testing one of my brews and giving positive feedback. I had managed to turn my team on to the Chromanticore!The Deck
I actually started our testing process by exploring another five color control deck just as I had played earlier in the year. Supreme Verdict and Sphinx's Revelation both being gone was a big drag, but with enough charms and Chromanticore around, who knows? Chromanticore once again proved to just be a worse finisher than most planeswalkers did in the same shell; a shell that was not very impressive in and of itself, so I quickly moved on.
Around the same time I was independently working on another idea that used Temur Ascendency as a control killing enchantment that offered plenty of card advantage and surprise value. Naturally, four power creatures were a priority for me so I scoured Gatherer in search of all that was available. Chromanticore once again came up and I wrote it down, not expecting it to do much other than look funny on my open notepad.
Were five colors that crazy though? Not control, but something that utilized creatures? In 2009, I made the first Top 8 of my career in Pro Tour Honolulu. The format for that Pro Tour was Shards of Alara Block Constructed and I piloted a five-color aggro deck in it. Granted, cards like Putrid Leech, Bloodbraid Elf, and Rhox War Monk were around then, so the payoff was quite high. And even though many of my lands came into play tapped, Noble Hierarch helped to catch me back up to curve. The deck was certainly sweet.
At the end of 2012 I had some success in Grand Prix San Antonio with another five color creature deck. This time I dipped into some gimmicks with Unburial Rites but it was a concept I had used before with Makeshift Mannequin. This time I used Avacyn's Pilgrim and Farseek to offset the slow and painful nature of my mana base.
Again, the concept is relatively straightforward. You play all of the best undercosted and efficient creatures in the format and Overload your opponents with threats. You would have some of your own removal of course, but we really want to be putting our opponent's on the backfoot here by playing the scariest thing on the table each turn.
If look at the list I just posted and my deck from Honolulu in 2009, you can tell that the common theme is these absurd creatures that seem to only ever be printed in multicolor blocks due to their extreme power level. And Loxodon Smiter is a hell of a card, but have you seen Savage Knuckleblade? Khans of Tarkir has introduced the exact type of environment where these all-in powerful creature strategies stand a chance.
If the mana works, we have plenty of awesome creatures to choose from. Remember that I began this whole kick off with Temur Ascendancy, so I was specifically looking for awesome creatures with at least four power. Here is the list I decided to jot down:
Anafenza, the Foremost
Ashcloud PhoenixBoon SatyrChromanticoreHooting MandrillsIllusory AngelJuggernautKeranos, God of StormsMedomai the AgelessPharika, God of AfflictionPolis CrusherPolukranos, World EaterPurphoros, God of the ForgeReaper of the WildsSagu MaulerSavage KnucklebladeSiege RhinoSliver HivelordSoul of RavnicaSurrak DragonclawThassa, God of the SeaUnderworld CerberusZurgo HelmsmasherXenagos, God of Revels
We don't have anything here that comes in at two mana or less, at least naturally, but from three mana on up there are plenty of awesome creatures to choose from. Who wouldn't want to play a Siege Rhino with haste that also drew you a card by the way!
I definitely wanted to access some mana fixing and acceleration like my past five color lists have used and luckily Sylvan Caryatid is just the best thing ever. And Rattleclaw Mystic is not too far behind. Obviously he is not helping us cast everything in our deck, but it gets to attack and pull off neat morph tricks in return.
With that out of the way, it is all about picking the best creatures for the job. Savage Knuckleblade and Siege Rhino are the obvious choices, but where else could we go? I really liked the idea of Butcher of the Horde picking up a useless Caryatid in the late game and doing something with it. And if it has haste with Ascendancy already, you could commit those resources to something like lifelink, which is just absurd on a four-mana five-power creature.
Anafenza is the next closest thing to Savage Knuckleblade and I initially started with three copies of the legend, but drawing multiples was often very bad for me. Sometimes the first one can be tough to cast on turn three anyway. But ultimately, drawing a threat that you can't cast with this deck is just awful, so I made sure there was not more than one copy of any legend in the deck.
With that, we ended up with the following list:
Now there are a lot of different directions to go here, but this was the one that seemed most promising. If I had to assume one change in the dark it would be to drop one Chromanticore for one more Lightning Strike, but unless the metagame shifts to less Abzan, I am not sure that is a needed change.
At one point in time we added Anger of the Gods to our sideboard, which might be the correct call. Outside of your mana creatures - which you would avoid running into a turn three Anger in most situations unless advantageous - nothing in your deck actually dies to the three damage. This means we can go over the top of decks like Abzan with more threats while having recovery tools against hyper aggressive decks like monoblack or monored, not to mention a heck of a lot of life gain!
The deck often looks like it is going to play a turn behind due to lands coming into play tapped, but a turn two mana creature will solve this for you and you have a reasonable number of untapped sources to help you out. From there, even if you are only casting a three-drop on turn three and not your four-drops due to another tapped land, your threats even at three mana are very real. Imagine a Temur Ascendancy comes down and then good old rhinoceros follows that up the very next turn!
Oh and Chromanticore, how about that thing? Well, one of the few abilities that Chromanticore naturally lacks is haste. Playing one into a board of either Temur Ascendancy or Xenagos is just brutal as you get your eight point life swing (or 16 in the god's case) and you still have a lifelinking first striker on defense due to vigilance! While you do not bestow regularly, it does come up, especially with unmorphed Rattleclaw Mystic, which leaves you protected from sweepers even.Wrap Up
This idea was very close to being my choice for the Pro Tour, but ultimately I was struggling with one or two matchups that I was not comfortable with being weak against at the PT. Having access to both Anger as well as Abzan Charm really does stretch your removal quite nicely though. Arbor Colossus is probably your biggest issue when playing this list, so just be sure to have answers for it somewhere (hence the Reprisals in the board).
If you do any tweaking to the above list, even if it is just to the sideboard, be sure to reevaluate the mana base as every small change matters. Maybe you want to swap a Nomad Outpost for a Mystic Monastery when you swapped Thoughtseize for Stubborn Denial. Or maybe not! The deck can be very tough to figure out perfectly, but it is also a heck of a lot of fun along the way.
And remember, Chromanticore bestowed on Chromanticore...get that #Chromantitron!