Monday, 4 June 2018

Thallid .dec

I have been working on this list since the Dominaria spoilers. Thallids are something I have a special soft spot for as they were my in my first ever deck back when I was a snotty kid. Upon seeing the offerings Dominaria had I suspected there would be just about enough to make a cube deck that was competitive. This particular design challenge took me a little longer than usual and sadly, although not at all surprisingly, we lost a lot of Thallids and fungi along the way. My first build did go Elvish Farmer and Nemata deep in my usual go full polar to test a new deck way. I even got a few wins with the thing, the deck, not either of those cards!

Slimefoot, the StowawayObviously I was not winning by slowly developing a board and popping out saprolings every third turn. That strategy is going to get hard countered by almost everything else in the cube. I concluded that the only way I was going to get to play with Verdeloth, Sporesower Thallid and Sporoloth Ancient was by making an EDH deck. It is certainly the most tempted I have been to dip into the format. The price of Elvish Farmer suggests that a lot of EDH players also feel Thallids is a good direction in the format! Certainly it feels like a joke tribe which might get you left alone which is typically the best way to win all against all games. I may even try and make a Thallid EDH article complete with list at some point. This however will be the last mention of it in this article.

After my deep all in Thallid build and seeing the futility of the spore counter dorks first hand I was still unwilling to give up on the slow saproling generators. I tried a proliferate theme to boost production rates but this was arguably worse. It was win more when it worked out which was rare, it was even more all in than the previous build and it had less interactive capabilities with proper removal spells replaced with things like Grim Affliction and Contagion Clasp. Then it all sort of clicked and I worked out how I should try and build a deck that plays as many saproling and fungus cards as possible and here is a rough idea of what it should look like;

Saproling Migration25 Spells

Tukatongue Thallid
Utopia Mycon

Vampiric Tutor
Fungal Infection

Saproling Migration
Fists of Ironwood
Cryptolith Rite
Song of Freyalise

Sprout Swarm
Scatter the SeedsFungal Plot
Sporecrown Thallid
Deathspore Thallid

Blood Artist
Zulaport Cutthroat
Jade Mage

Slimefoot, the Stowaway
Maelstrom Pulse

Spore Swarm

Tendershoot Dryad
Scatter the Seeds

15 land including
Westvale Abbey

Song of FreyaliseThe breakthrough was not the use of the Cutthroat and Blood Artist, due to Slimefoot and the built in sacrifice outlets on many of the saproling generators it meant that they were always the planned win condition. The coming together of the deck was the use of Cryptolith Rites, Song of Freyalise and Earthcraft. Obviously you only need one of these cards and ideally not more than that. Once you have one in play however things get out of hand very quickly. The deck feels like an elf deck that trades a bit of burst at the start of the game for rather more resilience in the mid and late game. I was really impressed at how mad things got in no time at all. I kept mistiming my Song of Freyalise thinking I should hold it for a turn so that I get mode III when I expect to have the critical mass and would then seem to always end the game in mode II. Not much of a hardship I grant you. Ideally I would replace one of these three or have some sort of looter to cope with excess better. Smuggler's Copter sort of works but is a bit off theme and in an over populated spot on the curve. Faithless Looting would be a lovely addition but seems like a bit excessive as a splash! Saproling Cluster feels like an significant over investment unless you happen to have the Skullclamp active and easily fueled. I think that probably I should just suck up the curve issues and play something like Eternal Witness and Collective Brutality over one of Earthcraft / Rites and the Thoughtsieze or something like that. Earthcraft is certainly the harder to build with as it needs basics and restricts your mana base options. It also makes you want to play things like Wild Growth for the extra abuse which would be nice when it comes up but likely just leaves things a bit too thin.

Westvale AbbeyThe mana base is already pushed as it is. Westvale Abbey is impressively good in this list and easily the best utility land. I considered a Ghitu-Vazi splash but the card is just too slow to be worth it, I would rather just coloured sources to help the consistency. Gaea's Cradle is the other biggy. The card is obviously nuts and helps your game plan loads. It is also however a liability if you are a 15 land deck with colourless lands, two colours and a strong desire to always have a basic Swamp and Forest in play. I wanted to make room for Traverse the Ulvenwald in this list to soften the blow of running just the 15 lands, I think it would be of great value to make the room for it if you do also try and pack Cradle on this low a land count.

The list leans fairly hard on Skullclamp which in turn is the biggest incentive to go white. Stoneforge would be a lovely addition to this list although once you open those flood gates Lingering Souls also seems like a good thing and then you might need to find some more generic sac outlets and less in the way of saproling specific ones. You are probably going to wind up just an Abzan token deck at that point. A big part of what makes Westvale Abbey so strong in the deck is that it is like a free (in the sense of slots) sac outlet come finisher. I commonly one shot people with a Westvale from hand, instantly saccing off five things and doing nearly 10 worth of drain (often Slimefoot is one of the drainers and he won't drain for all 5 of the sacrificed things necessarily) and then the nine from surprise Ormendahl! Although Skullclamp is important it is not essential. Fungal Plots is some help in this department and if you are super brave Psychotrope Thallid is even better draw than Plots. Ultimately I am playing the Plots more as all round utility, it makes and sacs tokens and gains life and cards! It might not be efficient but it does damn near everything! If I really wanted more draw I reckon I would lean on something meaty like Yawgmoth's Bargain. The mana is no issue and the deck can comfortably support the life loss. While very fun I don't think you need to go that deep, the deck was powerful enough that I was able to get it done with my natural draws a lot of the time.

Jade MageSo, with Rites, Song and Earthcraft established as my means to abuse tokens in green I needed payoff. That comes in the form of Slimefoot and Jade Mage. Really all I needed to do for this deck was look at Slimefoot, he is the complete package and directs the way towards the best game plan. Rather than waiting three turns for a saproling you can just dump mana into these things and make as many as you need. It does not take long for that to get very out of hand as obviously each token made with something like Rites in play means even more mana next turn for yet more dudes and so on and so forth. You ignore this deck for long and it very quickly floods the board, and critically in a way that costs no extra cards. You can be sat there with a couple of tokens from a Fists plus a Jade Mage and with an Earthcraft plus a few turns you have 14 Saprolings and the Jade Mage. You can literally do that on turn five with just the three named cards and lands. Even if you eat a Wrath of God you only took a two for one on the Mage and the Firsts of Ironwood, you still have the lands and Earthcraft and the rest of the tokens came free. If they don't have mass removal or kill you first they are super dead to the exponential tide of saprolings! I should probably find room for the Selesnya Guildmage in this list over something like Sporecrown Thallid. Infact, that isn't even close, I absolutely should. It is like not including a combo piece for no good reason. "I don't need this Pestermite, I'll be fine with just Deceiver and Zealous Conscripts..." So yeah, play Guildmage. You can even with with it using the Overrun mode as you have several ways to access white mana even if your lands don't help you. I won't bother to change the list, mostly laziness but also to reward those who read the articles!

Tendershoot DryadSporecrown Thallid is the easiest cut in this deck, you are not really trying to attack for the win, you can but it isn't route one and a static +1/+1 actually makes fairly little difference it turns out. What it is quite good for is making your stuff more robust. This is nice but if you are in the market for that kind of thing you might aw well just run Spellskite or Heroic Intervention! Tendershoot Dryad on the other hand felt a very reasonable include. It is a nice stand alone power card you can go for if you are getting controlled and it is an otherwise decent support card. The +2/+2 is devastating and ends games very quickly. As does the rapid and ongoing production of extra saprolings. Dryad needs to be killed on sight really. Despite the low stats and vulnerability it offers enough power and synergy to feel good in the deck.

The last cut I made on the list was Vitalspore Thallid. Much as sac outlets are in demand in this deck there is no need of haste, certainly not at the cost of a saproling, and so a 1/1 body for 2 starts to look highly naff compared to alternatives. It seemed wrong cutting Thallids for cards like Bloodthrone Vampire and so I ended up just being light on sac outlets. With the many routes to victory this deck has it didn't feel like a big issue although it is a refinement I would like to be able to do. You can be super techy and Pulse your own saprolings for the Blood Artist drain kill at least! Not needing haste is how this list is able to catch up to elves in speed and feel so similar. Your kill will typically be through sacrificing stuff and draining to death and it is rather harder to defend against than an elf overrun kill. The Blood Artist cards also offer some protection against mass removal, insurance rather than protection but still. The turn slower this deck is in the early game is balanced by the turn quicker in which it levies the killing blow! Obviously that is a pretty loose claim and entirely depends on what is going on in any given game. A boost on turn one can go nuts and provide way more than a turns worth of speeding up.

Sprout SwarmThe convoke cards provide a little bit more pseudo haste and give you some nice midgame burst. Sprout Swarm is often pseudo value too acting as another Jade Mage, all be it a pricey one. Ideally I would like another 3 or 4 mana token producer but the options are weak or situational. Yavimaya Shepherd is one of the best options and it is not exciting. Rith's Charm is the best but it is all sorts of awkward to cast, you might as well go for Spore Burst! Many of the four mana options look pretty busted in the right place, you can get loads with a full hand should that be your situation. Loads if you have a full board. You can even go nuts on conditional cards and seek to lean on what your opponent has in hand for your chance at loads of saprolings for a mere four mana! All nuts at best case and all four mana turn skipping levels of bad at floor level. A level far closer to the expected value! Sprouting Thrinax is actually the best three mana saproling card but without a reliable non-saproling specific sac outlet in play you cannot tap into that wealth of juice. It is almost tempting to run the red splash for Thrinax and Faithless Looting but it would need further support such as Cabal Therapy etc.

Deathspore ThallidThe Vampiric Tutor ties the deck together and feels pretty important. Not just because the deck is combo in nature nor because it leans hard on Skullclamp but also because it is just a chock full synergy list with few out cards. This is partly why Eternal Witness would be a helpful tool to have as well. I would absolutely run Demonic Tutor if I failed to pick up Vamp despite the bogged down two slot. Maelstrom Pulse and Thoughtsieze are your generic interaction tools and are showcased here as they are the broadest range within those kind of cards. Being a combo deck Duress is also a decent call. There are plenty of cards you can look to run in these slots, you want to keep it streamlined but you do need some interaction.

Deathspore Thallid is great for that bit of free bonus interaction and did steal a few games just by turning some cards into Arc Lightning. It is fairly strong mid to late game removal, offers further utility through being a sac outlet and is bodies in play to generate mana and drain triggers. Fungal Infection is similar but much lower impact. It is a rather polar card but with this list having so few viable one drops it seems well worth it. Blisterpod made the cut for much the same logic, you just want to be able to get some bodies into play early so that your Rites style cards do something! The only other actual old school style of Thallid in the deck is Utopia Mycon which is also really good. It offers utility like Deathspore but is a one drop and has greater resilience.

In trying to build a tribal deck I wound up building a combo deck! As far as tribal decks go it is one of the most complex to play with only certain iterations of goblins being harder. It is super fun to play with for sure. Loads of mana, loads of stuff, and not as much risk to mass removal as many such things are. I thought I was making a joke deck and somehow made a pretty decent deck considering it is 2.5% actual Thallid. Saproling Migration is the reason the deck is now viable and indeed why Cryptolith Rites etc are all that bit better. With one or two more cheap and potent saproling token generators were printed in green or black this kind of list might even be drafting cube worthy. Fists of Ironwood is a necessary evil, it is such a long way from Saproling Migration. It is not the level of card we are after! Perhaps I should look to go full combo and go for a squirrel theme. I hear Squirrel Nest works well with Earthcraft? Chatter of the Squirrel is certainly more the kind of token generator I am after in the low end of the list too! Again, at that point we are going the same was as the generic Abzan token deck just without the white, and again we come up with the issue of needing a more multipurpose sac outlet. So until we work out what that looks like just run a list like this, like this but with Selesnya Guildmage included!

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