A few weeks ago I wrote about how we as players need to constantly review our decks to see how they are playing and move cards in and out of them accordingly. This article is a result of that one, and will be a brief look at the actual changes I’ve made to decks due to this practice.
You may recall that I have a Sharuum the Hegemon deck, and in that article a few weeks back I talked about how it needed some work. To reiterate a little bit I found while I was playing the deck that one thing or the other that would help me to win the game was not happening. I would get my ramp and removal, but not my card draw. I would get my card draw and removal, but not the ramp, and so on. I made the determination that the deck really needs to be slimmed down and focused on what it needs to do. Note that the deck list in the link above is not necessarily up to date. Cards have been rotated in and out with set releases, etc… Perhaps in the future I’ll maintain each deck list that I post with all of the changes.
This is where I ask myself some questions:
What does the deck do? The deck combos out using any three of six potential cards, including the commander.
How do you find the pieces of that combo? I find the pieces by drawing cards, tutoring, and otherwise cycling through the deck as fast as possible.
Once you have the pieces how do you cast them? Given that the safest play to avoid disruption is to cast the entire combo on one turn, I need a fair amount of mana to be able to pull that off. I believe the cheapest I can get the combo off for is ten mana. To accomplish this as soon as possible, I have an inordinate amount of mana rocks.
Finally, how do you protect yourself while you are attempting to find/cast your combo? In most decks the answer would be creatures. However, in order to minimize the impact of the opponent’s creature removal spells, I decided to make this deck nearly creature-less. I have exactly three creatures, including the commander, and all three are part of the combo. Without creatures to protect me, I have to rely on removal. Lots and lots of removal. Also, it is worth noting that since my opponents can’t use their creature removal on me, then at least some of that will go towards the other opponents. Note that counter magic can also be considered as a kind of removal, and there is some of that in the deck as well.
Since the previously mentioned article I have played the deck a couple more times, and I have come to the same conclusions each time. I need to focus the deck in order to make it better. With that in mind I finally sat down with the deck and sorted it out into a few piles; combo pieces, mana rocks/lands, removal, counter magic, tutor/card draw, and other. In my experiences with the deck I have found that most of the time, counter magic has little impact most of the time, particularly some of the more restricted counters. I knew that I would be looking at these cards for replacement. Other than that, it was pretty much the “other” pile that saw the most replacements. Here are the cards that I took out, and why.
Squelch is one of those restrictive counters. Granted there aren’t many spells that accomplish the same thing, but I found myself holding this card for extended periods, and when I would cast it, the impact wouldn’t be all that great.
Rebuff the Wicked is another restrictive counter. I liked the idea of having a counter in white, that way I could tap out, leaving a single white open and my opponents might expect a Path to Exile or something, but they certainly wouldn’t expect a counter. Again it sat in my hand a lot of the time and had little impact.
Tainted Aether is one of the cards that I was actually very excited to play, in fact it comes up in several articles I have posted. When I found that it doesn’t create the same loop with Sharuum as I thought it did, I still loved it because of the interaction with the opponents’ creatures. It worked incredibly well. However, in focusing the deck to it’s goal, I found that this card is actually working against that goal. The combo simply cannot happen if this card is on the battlefield. It would be very painful indeed if I had my combo all assembled, but couldn’t cast it until I found an enchantment removal to get rid of this piece.
Humility is another card I was very excited to play given the creature-less nature of the deck, however, it also has the same drawback as Tainted Aether. If this card is in play then I cannot combo out for a win. I have to wait until I find enchantment removal.
Reins of Power just didn’t fit in with the deck at all. I thought it would be fun to use given that I don’t have any creatures, but in the end my deck doesn’t care about your life total, so stealing your creatures and hitting you with them would do practically nothing unless it was able to kill you outright.
With space in the deck for a few new cards, I wanted to add cards that would impact the overall strategy of the deck. I think my mana base is pretty good, so as far as that aspect is concerned, I’m not worried about it. I chose only cards that would help me dig for my combo or that would help protect me from the opponents.
I have many kinds of removal, but it is mostly focused on creatures. Oblivion Ring increases my removal spells, but also allows me to branch out to other types of permanents.
Evacuation is a great option for creature removal… particularly if there is a creature like Avacyn, Angel of Hope on the board. Indestructible? So what?
I might play the deck at tonight’s game, but I don’t know yet. I don’t like to bring it out all the time because some people don’t like playing against a combo deck, and I have to respect that… sometimes.