Friday, July 20, 2012

My decks #1: Experiment Kraj

It's high time that I give you, the loyal reader, a breakdown of one of my decks.  This deck is not my most powerful, nor my most consistent.  It is completely dependent on the Experiment Kraj staying in play, and there will be games where that doesn't happen.

I've deliberately left out infinite combos from this deck.  Notably, any creature that taps for mana can be used to power an infinite-mana loop with an untap effect, so I've cut the mana creatures.  This is a personal choice to lower the deck's capabilities.  I find infinite combos unfun, and frankly, this deck is capable of taking lots of time.

I've chosen to focus this deck around some of the most powerful tap effects in Magic.  In green and blue, anyway.  Kraj can also borrow abilities from other colors, and using Quicksilver Elemental, you can even get around pesky colored mana activations.

I left some creatures out of this deck because their abilities were good, but not tap abilities.  It doesn't do me any good to have a counter on Silklash Spider, for instance, because I can use the Spider's ability as much as I want.

Also, I am going to test a new way to add card links, using instead of the official Gatherer page.  If someone more script-savvy than myself would care to enlighten me on the process of making the handy popups that the big sites have (I should say mouse-over, not pop-up) I'd appreciate an email.

Kraj's Chosen Path

"Of course it will grow beyond control—it was designed to choose its own evolution."
—Momir Vig

First, some enabling artifacts:

1 Contagion Engine
1 Cauldron of Souls
1 Rings of Brighthearth
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Thousand-Year Elixir
1 Darksteel Plate
1 Lightning Greaves

These are a combination of protective pieces and force-multiplying effects.  The Rings get abused in most decks with planeswalkers, but with some of the creatures I'm playing, getting a second copy of an effect for just two mana is ridiculous.  Engine is very strong in this deck, as a one-sided board wipe and as a double proliferate effect for me.  Finally, Cauldron is just silly with the number of counters this deck can put out--the negative counters from the Persist effect can be wiped out with a positive counter from Kraj, resetting things so the Cauldron can be used again!

Next, some fun sorceries:
1 Praetor’s Counsel
1 Spitting Image
1 Cultivate
1 Green Sun’s Zenith

It's a miser's Cultivate, and might become Boundless Realms out of simple land-greed.  Spittting Image is just too good in a blue-green deck, even though I have very little that works directly with the Retrace.  Counsel is there because my board tends to get blown up, and GSZ is pure value, finding whatever I need.

Only three instants:
1 Voidslime
1 Snakeform
1 CytoShape

Pure utility.  Voidslime counters anything.  ANYTHING.  Snakeform is removal during combat and cantrips too!  Cytoshape is slightly hindered by the 'nonlegendary' clause but it is still very helpful in a lot of cases.

Now, some powerful enchantments:
1 Asceticism
1 Ley Line
1 Inexorable Tide
1 Doubling Season
1 Lurking Predators

LP is not at its best here, with only 38 creatures.  That means 1 in 3 flips will get you a creature (roughly).  It's still free creatures, though, and with your desire to use mana for untap shenanigans, the freebies help.  Tide might be an overkill card, as my creatures with counters are already good.  Asceticism is two layers of protection for my creatures that desperately need it!  Doubling Season is super-good here, giving me two counters instead of one.  I've only got one token-producer in the deck, though.  Ley Line is a secret star in the deck, letting me add counters to things for free and making it so that others hesitate to power up their own awesome creatures.

Here it is, the real fun.  The 38 awesome creatures!

1 Courtly Provocateur - I'm looking forward to messing with other players' attacks. That creature has to attack, untap Kraj, that creature has to block.  Good times!
1 Morphling - 5 good abilities, but mainly the untap and the shroud.
1 Silvos, Rogue Elemental - Beefy, trample, regeneration. Done.
1 Glissa Sunseeker - Totally free artifact removal!
1 Blockade Runner - A fun way to kill someone once Kraj is huge.
1 Scarwood Bandits - Why kill an artifact when I can steal it?
1 Horseshoe Crab - Cheap untap is cheap.
1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder - I've got a lack of flyers, and this helps keep others grounded.
1 Triskelion - Just a ridiculously great card for the deck, with one untapper on the field I have "U/G: ping something for 1 damage"
1 Mindless Automaton - A way to turn the counters into cards.
1 Fauna Shaman - What's better than tutoring once?  Doing it again!
1 Yavimaya Elder - Probably not needed, but it's a habit for green decks.
1 Murkfiend Liege - Broken doesn't begin to describe what this guy enables.
1 Reveka, Wizard Savant - I'm most proud of this addition, because every game where I play it, people have to read it...and then they groan.  I think this card interaction sort of exemplifies EDH.
1 Patron of the Orochi - Mega-untap, and during each player's turn!  Twice!
1 Thornling - Like his blue cousin, gives some great abilities for very little investment.
1 Gilder Bairn - Observe the cycle when this and Kraj are in play.  Counter on Kraj. 2U, double to 2. Add a 3rd.  2U, double to 6.  Add a 7th.  2G, double to 14.
1 Spike Feeder - If I need to gain some life fast, this does the trick.
1 Tradewind Rider - With the three mega-untappers in the deck, this card gets out of hand fast.
1 Beguiler of Wills - It's just so unabashedly overpowered with the Kraj, I get killed within a turn or two of playing it.
1 Kazandu Tuskcaller - It's so fragile, but it churns out so many creatures!
1 Willow Satyr - I had no idea that it was so pricey now, but considering that I can tap to steal a legend, then respond by untapping the Kraj, repeat as I wish, to steal several legends all at once...or so I thought.  As it turns out, if the creature becomes untapped, even before the ability resolves, nothing happens. Alas!  It is also a non-combo with Seedborn/Liege, because while I can choose not to untap it on MY untap, the Liege and Muse untap during other players' turns, which I can't avoid.
1 Genesis - Utility recursion, since things get killed very quickly.
1 Seedborn Muse - This deck, above all others, proves to me that Bennie Smith is right and that Seedborn needs to be banned.
1 Empress Galina - Another way to steal Generals.  Too much fun!
1 Cytoplast Manipulator - Or steal any creature, whatever floats your boat.
1 Forgotten Ancient - Super effective here at adding counters to creatures with great abilities without needing to spend mana.
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent - Good grief, this lets you draw your whole deck very quickly.  One of the best abilities to steal, and as a bonus, you get to return him and Kraj to your hand in an emergency!
1 Fungal Behemoth - Has the potential to be a huge beater, and a free way to add counters to creatures.  Might be too slow/clunky, though.
1 Quicksilver Elemental - Once I've got Kraj powered up, I can have a second?  Why the heck not?
1 Vigor - All due to EDH, this is now one of the pricier rares from Lorwyn.  There's no better use for him than this deck.
1 Locust Swarm - Regeneration AND untapping!
1 Frontier Guide - This is the ability I start abusing first, if I'm given a choice.
1 Suncrusher - Destroy!!!
1 Pili-Pala - In execution, this is an untap effect for one mana, just walk it through slowly.  Tap to add a counter, two mana untap, one floating, tap for a counter, use the leftover mana and one other...
1 Steel Hellkite - Two good activated abilities that can be necessary at times.
1 Knacksaw Clique - Just too much fun to steal cards from other players!
1 Nullmage Shepherd - I put so many untap effects here that I wanted the free Disenchant/Naturalize!

Finally, the lands:

14 Island
16 Forest
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Alchemist’s Refuge
1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Flooded Grove
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Terminal Moraine
1 Yavimaya Coast
1 Reliquary Tower

With a general that costs 6 on the first casting, I'm playing a lot of lands.  This is a very mana-hungry deck, since I don't have any 'free' untap effects.  Nothing too unusual in the choices here, though Minamo is outstanding and the Refuge + Seedborn Muse means that I get to take a turn every time someone has an untap step.  Gets me killed!  Novijen isn't that amazing, but it's a signed foil and it will stay.  End of Discussion.

Here are some cards I've taken out of the deck:

Immaculate Magistrate - It's an easy way to add counters to creatures without needing the general, but it just wasn't doing enough in the deck.
Decree of Savagery - This seemed like an easy choice in the abstract, as it puts counters on everything.
Fable of Wolf and Owl - Fun for decks that are more focused on the two colors, but that is not this deck.
Temporal Adept - A very powerful effect, but unfortunately, just too much mana.
Omnibian - This was a poster child of a card, but ultimately, it didn't do enough for me in the games I played with it.
Anthroplasm - While I really like the idea of putting X counters on Kraj, it just never worked out.
Callous Oppressor - Surprisingly, this is a total non-bo. (Non-combo)  Since the Kraj didn't come into play with this ability, the choice for creature type wasn't made, and therefore, the ability can't be activated.
Drumhunter - I was looking for card draw, and this was just weak.
Gaea's Liege - Awesome yet ultimately not active enough for my tastes.  Very useful to turn their annoying overpowered lands into basic Forests, though.
King Crab - An evil card, but too color-specific.
Magus of the Library - I thought that managing my hand to have exactly seven would not be hard, but it turned out to be more difficult than expected.
Razorfin Abolisher - This might have been good, but when you're trying to leave just the harmless creatures in play, someone tends to throw a Wrath effect and now you're sad, because you saved good creatures for the other team.
Thriss, Nantuko Primus - This might go back in, as +5/+5 is a lot, especially if I can have an untap effect.
Tidewater Minion - Too much for an untap effect that I can't even re-use.
Time Elemental - Too expensive to use multiple times.
Vedalken Anatomist - I wanted this to be a sweet effect to do over and over again, but it was just too expensive to use.
Venomspout Brackus - Being able to shoot down fliers is important, but Arashi is just better at it, if more expensive.
Eldrazi Monument - Making Kraj indestructible is important, but that creature a turn is a big deal.  If the deck stole creatures more consistently (with Beguiler it just might) then this goes back in. 
Akroma's Memorial - Haste is a big deal, and this adds a layer of protection and aggression on top of that.   
Training Grounds - Surprisingly, not many cards benefit from this effect, but it can be handy with others' activated abilities.
Rhystic Study - No one likes the tax man, and I wanted a card that did something in this spot. 
Momir Vig, Simic Visionary - Very powerful, but just too much work, and his presence tends to get a player killed for fear of combo foolishness.
Hermit Druid - Super-powerful, and in a deck that has Genesis, a way to add consistency.  The downside is that this is another classic combo-enabler, and gets me killed. (More than usual.)
Increasing Savagery - A card that dumps all the counters onto Kraj, instead of the distribution I need.  Blessings of Nature would be better, but I don't like the one-shot effects.
Jugan, the Rising Star - I had this in there, and felt like it was awesome tech.  The problem is this: if Jugan is in play, he does nothing to help Kraj.  If Jugan and Kraj are in play, it's very rare for Jugan to die while Kraj lives.  Boardwipe is far more common...which means the Jugan counters are worthless.
Thrive - This didn't seem like it was worth a card.  If I have an untap effect for Kraj, it's basically the same thing.

A couple of cards I should probably be playing:
Magewright Stone - I didn't even know about this card until Sheldon Menery pointed it out on a forum.  I'm not sure if it's better than just playing Soliton.
Leech Bonder - Or this, because there don't have to be counters on your first target, basically making this another untap effect for a blue mana.
Eternal Witness - This is a staple, very useful, but I have to have creatures that do more for Kraj.

I hope you've enjoyed this peek into one of my decks.  14 to go!


  1. I really appreciate reading why the card works. I usually don't understand a cards power/use until I've been blindsided by it and your concise descriptions really help.

  2. I recommend taking this off of the shelf for the latest Gatecrash...

    1. I updated the heck out of this deck with Gatecrash in my Gatecrash Deck Updates article.

      Simic gave lots of fun toys to this deck, and if you happen to have a foil Illusionist's Bracers, then let me know.