Sometimes there comes a card that just screams at you. Not necessarily a sleeper card, or some gem in the rough, but just a card that you are particularly attached to and you need to try it out. For many people, they have these awful fascinations with cards and then build some sweet Commander deck around them and have a grand ole time. I do not really have much time to play Commander, so instead of trying bad ideas in a casual setting, I just go ahead and try them in the same setting as your Monoblack Devotions and UW Delver.
Of course, that means a lot more ideas that fail miserably, but success is that much sweeter as well.
One of the cards that has created this fascination for me is Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. The card has a very unique set of factors that push on you during deckbuilding. Obviously you want to be playing a deck with a lot of creatures, but you also want to take advantage of the fact that Yisan is a tutor. This means he finds cards that exist only as a single copy in your deck and would otherwise not come up often.
The biggest problem with a strategy that contains so many one-ofs is that there tends to be a lot of inconsistency. You draw a niche card when it does not do anything and it is the worst feeling in the world. Imagine drawing Judge's Familiar on turn six or a Faerie Impostor ever. That is a pretty big downside to running a deck with so few cards that are the same.
On the other hand, with that many unique cards in your deck, you tend to have an answer to just about every situation somewhere in your deck. The issue then becomes getting that somewhere to be your hand or in play when it matters.
The best deck to pull this off with consistency right now is Birthing Pod in Modern. If you look at a good Birthing Pod deck, whether that be Melira Pod or something else, you are going to see a good eight to 12 one-ofs in the deck and probably another handful of two-ofs.
The way Pod is able to manage so many unique cards is that it has multiple engines to access one-ofs no matter how deep they be in the deck. Birthing Pod is a reliable and resuable way to find interesting creatures for interesting situations. Similarly, Chord of Calling adds even more consistency to the deck by giving you an instant speed tutor to supplement Pod and to help out when you don't draw the namesake artifact.
If you have not been living under a rock for the last month, you will know that one of the more exciting cards in M15 is Chord of Calling, one of the same engines played in Modern and one that has previously been used to piece together combo decks like Project X. If we were to combo this with the tutor-ability of Yisan, which is somewhat similar to Birthing Pod already, maybe we can get somewhere!
Beyond tutors, the other way to improve consistency is to have the cards all do like things. You see this in a lot of hate bears decks. Even though hate bears all tend to have some very specific text about some weird things, the fact that they all are usually cheap, aggressive creatures allows them to join forces and do something. In Birthing Pod, you see a very similar thing where all of those one-ofs at least happen to be creatures, so even when variance hits and you can't assemble your combo, you can just beat down the old fashioned way.
Compare this to a deck like Enduring Ideal. That is a deck that runs a lot of one-ofs but they do not form a coherent plan without Enduring Ideal. You will quickly realize this when you draw Form of the Dragon and cannot actually cast the card. Some of its cards synergize well, but for the most part, Enduring Ideal is a deck that needs its namesake to win games. The same is not true for Birthing Pod.
If we can come up with a deck that is able to utilize multiple tutors to improve consistency and can win games without setting up some elaborate combo, we might have something. Because it is Standard, we might not need a combo at all. After a quick search through the archives, here is my initial list for Yisan.
Yisan, the Wandered Bard is very interesting as a tutor engine. Normally, when you use a tutor, you get whatever class of card the tutor grabs. Mystical Tutor for the same instant every time and win the game. Demonic Tutor for whatever you want and go from there. Some tutors are more restrictive in nature, like Birthing Pod. Over the course of a game Birthing Pod is going to grab basically everything you could want, but in any given situation, you are going to be restricted with certain options based on the mana cost of your creatures in play.
Yisan takes this all to another level. Like Birthing Pod, the criteria for your targets is going to be restricted with each activation, but unlike Birthing Pod, it is difficult to predict just where those criteria can take us. If you play with Yisan, should you be looking to tutor up specific six-drops? Probably not, because that would imply that Yisan had sat in play and activated for six turns already, which means you probably should have or could have won by now.
Instead, it would make sense to focus on low drops with Yisan, as those are the ones he is most likely to find before either dying, or winning the game. Of course, you easily could get a Yisan to a point where he has too many counters and you have no creatures left at that cost, but that is very unlikely to happen.
I think you want to have a nice stable base of one-cost creatures to kick things off with. Every single time you untap with Yisan in play, you are going to be able to grab a one-drop. It is the most common result of Yisan. Two's are going to come up every time that a Yisan activated for one and lived an additional turn. Because your Yisan managed to untap the first turn, there is actually a reasonable chance of this coming up. As a result, you need a good mix of twos as well.Exploring the BUG
I chose black and blue to pair with green due to the strength of their low-end creatures in terms of utility. White and red have some strong options early, like Fleecemane Lion or Firedrinker Satyr, but most of their option just attack or block in cooler or better ways than the next. You do not find many cards like Dakra Mystic that provide a ton of utility as the game drags on without really getting involved in combat.
Of course, a more combat oriented version of a Yisan deck seems perfectly viable, that is just not where I was envisioning going. Within the BUG perimeter then, I wanted to lay out a few of the options that I jotted down while going through the card database, but for one reason or another did not include them in the above list. These are probably all viable options in one way or another.
OnesCloudfin Raptor Experiment One Festering Newt Gladecover Scout Gnarled Scarhide Hero of Leina Tower Hypnotic Siren Realmwright Thrull Parasite
TwosBaleful Eidolon Bassara Tower Archer Battlefield Thaumaturge Chief Engineer Corpse Hauler Deadly Recluse Duskmantle Guildmage Frostburn Weird Gatecreeper Vine Generator Servant Gyre Sage Kalonian Tusker Korozda Guildmage Quickling Satyr Wayfinder Skylasher Sylvan Caryatid Tidebinder Mage Wall of Mulch Zameck Guildmage
ThreesBiovisionary Chasm Skulker Herald of Torment Hornet Nest Illusory Angel Master of the Feast Mogis's Marauder Nighthowler Nightveil Specter Nyx Weaver Varolz, the Scar-Striped Vorel of the Hull Clade Xathrid Necromancer To Combo or Not to Combo...
One of the features of Birthing Pod is that it is able to piece together two to three cards and just win out of nowhere. It does not care what life total its opponent is at or what the board state is like, it just gets three cards into play and then wins. In our list above, we do not have that as an option. Instead, we grind out opponents with a toolbox engine and just win the old fashioned way.
That does not have to be the case though.
There are a few very interesting ways to win the game that are a little more fancy than just attacking for 20. As far as I see it, with Chord enabling us and Yisan pitching in where he can, we have two real options in terms of combo finishes, should we want to include one.
The first is a relatively well-known trio that involves the following cards:
Horizon Chimera + Fathom Mage + Archangel of Thune
With these three cards, you get the ability to draw as many cards as you want and gain that much life, all while increasing the size of your creatures that much too. Fathom Mage is a may ability so you can choose not to deck yoursefl and win the game shortly thereafter.
Yisan is not all that helpful with this particular combo as it involves two different four-drops and a five, something Yisan only dreams about. That means we essentially only have four Chord of Calling to find three unique pieces to win with and we are not utilizing the namesake card we came here to play.
All of that points me at a different combo. Biovisionary is quite the intriguing card but it has not seen any serious play. In Journey into Nyx, Polymorphous Rush was printed which allows you to turn any number of your creatures into a target creature. That means that with a Biovisionary out, three other creatures of any kind and Polymorphous Rush in hand, you can win the game on the spot (or at the end of your turn at least).
While it is not as elegant as Modern combos, it is at least an alternative. Also, because only two specific cards are needed and the other cards can just be anything, it is actually relatively easy to assemble the pieces. The harder part here is making sure you do not lose any Biovisionary copies to removal before your end step.
This is clearly a combo that you seal a game with and not one that sneaks up on people, but it allows you to win games nonetheless.
My gut tells me that the creatures at your disposal are good enough that you don't actually need to go the route of an alternate win condition in the form of some combo finish. Maybe these are easy enough to fit into your list that they are worth it, so they are worth exploring at least.Wrap Up
I am having a lot of fun brewing with M15. The Pro Tour is just around the corner and I will be off to test with team TCGplayer here in just a few days. While Yisan is probably not making the cut for anything we play at the pro tour, who knows? And even if not, there are dozens of other cool cards to explore so I am looking forward to it. Until next time, thanks for reading!