Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Laboratory Maniac Deck

Laboratory Maniac
I am a big fan of the pure decks from a design point of view as you can use some maths to aid your build. Burn decks and rush mill decks are examples of these kinds of pure decks that do only one linear thing. As such they can be reduced to mill or burn per card and mill or burn per mana. With that knowledge you can know which your best cards are and you can tweak the ratios of the filler cards to give you a consistent and optimal clock. This is a rather silly deck and not quite as pure as the burn or mill decks but it should be all sorts of fun to design and play with.

The idea is simply to win through drawing cards. Although you rely on getting your Laboratory Maniac into play before you deck yourself the fact that you plan to draw through your deck means you don't need to bother assembling your combo, it will just appear. What it does mean sadly is that you have to include a card that has a 3 mana price tag and draws no cards which hurts your overall possible draw per mana and per card. This deck will be a lot slower than the mill or burn options but it does have some perks as well.

Hieroglyphic IlluminationWith this list we are aiming for a turn seven kill. That will mean we need to draw through up to 28 cards with a total of 28 mana. We are assuming we start with seven cards in hand, this deck really shouldn't mulligan! As such by turn seven we will have 26 or 27 cards in our library if we had done nothing. That means we will need to draw through 27 or 28 cards so as to actually trigger the Lab Maniac. You could look to do this with just things that cycle for one if you wanted but that would mean you were getting nothing else done. Cycle for one cards are nice to consider as they are a simple 1:1 ratio of draw to mana cost. It would also fail to take into account the card and mana cost of the Lab Maniac. The card cost isn't huge, even with laying seven lands and being on the play you will have five spare cards so to speak as everything else replaced itself. As such we already have a way to improve the deck. We have up to five slots where we can allow a card to not replace itself if we are able to improve on the cards per mana or cards per card. A nice simple example of this is to put in a Careful Study. It is twice as good as a one mana cycle card if you can afford the card disadvantage.

We mostly want cheap cards, ideally loads and loads of one drops so that we can reliably spend out mana every turn. That being said we are planning to go to seven lands meaning we are able to pack a few expensive cards if we want. A Fact or Fiction clears five cards for four mana and is therefor slightly more effective than one mana cyclers at depleting your library. It also should get you at least two cards which in turn will allow you to include more things like Careful Study.

Demonic Consultation
If we just play draw effects plus our Lab Maniac we are going to be cold to so many things stopping our combo not to mentioned out raced by anything at all quick. We are going to have to use some of our deck to help us stay alive and to protect the Lab Maniac itself. This will take away form the purity of the deck a little but ultimately won't stop this exercise being useful. We still need the right averages so we can still tailor the best balance using some math regardless of whether or not we are playing a Force of Will. Testing might reveal we need more or less protection/disruption but the maths will always be there to tell us how to balance the list around what else we want.

I have kept this list mono blue for purity and simplicity sake however I am pretty sure that the inclusion of Demonic Consultation is a must if you are seriously considering playing a deck like this in any sort of cube setting. You can pull off a turn two win with a Mox, a Gitaxian Probe and a very lucky Consultation. With something like an Impulse or scry you could look to setup the Consultation to one-shot your library too.

Mental Note
13 Lands

4 Ux Sac
9 Islands

27 Spells

Gitaxian Probe

Careful Study
Mental Note

Serum Visions
Strategic PlanningPortent

Visions of Beyond
Conjurer's Bauble
Slight of Hand

Strategic Planning
Compelling Argument
Arcane Denial

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

Frantic Search
Laboratory Maniac

ForesightCryptic Command

Time Warp
Temporal Manipulation
Force of Will

Treasure Cruise

This is my first draft for the list however there are many many more potential options to refine and tweak it with. Overall this list has an average CMC of just below one (assuming the cheapest modes on the top end) which is about 1.3 average CMC per spell. That means you have the mana for 21 spells on average by turn seven. This means you need 26/21 (roughly 1.25) draw/mill per cards on average to be able to deplete your library in that time. Sadly for this list to get to 1.25 draw/mill per card on average you have to assume the top end performance from most cards. The reality is more likely to prohibit some of the most potent effects from being safe plays. You can certainly add some more draw to the list but it will not be high draw per mana as the best of those are in. There is a little more wiggle room in the cost than there is in the draw aspect of the build at least. Putting in more draw would also mean losing a number of the safety cards like Force of Will and Spellskite which would drastically reduce your ability to win.

Serum VisionsDue to how this deck works and the cards in it you have to make more some assumptions as to how cards are working and what they are doing. With pure decks you can do math on I am always as conservative as possible with the stats so as to over engineer the deck so to speak. Overshooting your targets is good as it means the deck will perform better! In this deck I am willing however to forgo some of my conservative aims and let certain aspects of the stats slip below the requires par. This is due to how a lot of the cards work for you. The card quality stuff greatly helps ensure you sift through your list only having to play the very best cards to get the job done while getting few bad draws. This means you can expect the performance to be better than the average. Also cards like Time Warp can generate you a chunk of free mana. Unless they are countered you are getting at worst a zero mana cycle. Any other lands or ongoing effects will scale very well with these otherwise top rate cards in the list.Considering them, as with the Frantic Search, to be zero mana cards is a little bit imperfect as countermagic will upset that but it isn't an unreasonable fudge.

Visions of BeyondLastly we will take a quick look at the expenditure rate of cards. We start with seven and use one a turn in land drops meaning we will be out of gas by turn seven if all our non-lands just cycle. Worse than that however we have a number of cards in the list that don't even cycle such as the Spellskite and the Lab Manic himself. We will need to offset the loss of these cards with things that generate them so that we are not always out of gas after turn seven. Visions of Beyond and Treasure Cruise help massively in this regard even though they don't work early or with each other that well. There are incredibly few cheap two for one or better draw effects. If you cannot get enough draw without cutting card disadvantage effects like the Careful Study then you will have to play more top heavy things like Fact or Fiction and look to cut other clumsy top end things, perhaps the oh so good Time Warps.

Self Mill is a mixed blessing in this list. While it is incredibly potent in depleting your library for the cost it is not a safe way to play unless you know where you Maniac is. You do have the Bauble as a way to get the Maniac back if he finds himself in the graveyard but it is more a solution to hand disruption than your own self mill. The more safety effects like the Bauble you have the more reckless you can be with self mill. The cheap ones cycle and mill so little you can often set them up to be safe with Ponder and the like. Compelling Argument is a new gem for this deck that lets you do whatever you need at the time, it is the best flex card for the list. For just two mana it can lop 5 off your deck or it can cycle for a nice cheap one mana. When you have some gas and the Maniac in a known place you can go ham, if not you can play safe.

Arcane DenialCantrip countermagic is great. It lets you safely buy time against all kinds of threats while still working towards your own goals and not costing you cards. The deck is very light on ways to live and so you really want to get good value out of them. Censor may be a worthy addition being either a counter or a cantrip. Spellskite, on of your few other interactive cards, doubles up as a wall to calm early aggression in addition to protecting the Maniac when his time comes. The only other defensive tool you have is the Jace. He helps with your aim should he get to loot and will offer more draw and some protection should he flip. While one of the more cuttable cards he is easily one of the most powerful too. I would love to fit in some better kind of disruption. With both Time Warps you can look to play Cyclonic Rift or Crush of Tentacles as you should reach the required level of mana in time. While both fantastic survival tools both really hurt the deck for being expensive and not progressing the game plan.

This list should perform a lot better than it looks like it should! It will have plenty of very good matchups and isn't totally cold to anything. It is a pure race deck that is slower than a creature zerg deck, a burn deck or a rush mill deck. While it may be the slowest of the options for linear and uninteractive game plans it has one big thing going for it. Drawing cards is a good thing to do before it is a win condition! For one, it means you can fit in some disruption without hurting youself and thus offset your speed issues. You will have a lot more control over the flow of the game with all your selection. You will see your whole deck and quickly meaning that despite having relatively few tools to slow your opponents or force through your combo it doesn't matter as you will typically have access to all of them by turn seven. This deck is a combo engine deck but it is also still very like a burn deck or a pure mill deck. It should be a lot of fun to draw your way to the win and should entail a lot of play skill, especially compared to a burn deck!

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