Saturday, 17 November 2018
Golgari Dark Depths .dec
This is a nicely placed combo deck for cube. It has multiple things working in its favour that push it above and beyond where it feels like it should be. I am reluctant to call this a tier one deck but it probably is after all the cube specific factors are taken into account. So the main thing working in this decks favour is not needing to lean on black tutors to piece the combo together. This means you can use key early picks to take the premium black hand disruption. Heavy black combo decks really struggle to get Vamp and Demonic along with the disruption they need and this can easily ruin them. This is why, despite having all the needed tools for combo, most black decks need to also lean on blue so as to have appropriate disruption to force through and protect the combo. Black is simply not deep enough in cheap quality tutors and discard. This combo however is mostly about lands and perhaps some dorks and so it can entirely lean on green tutor effects for those, many of which outclass the black ones when used just for the types in question. With that in mind you can pickup the premium black disruption early and not miss out on your good tutors.
Being mostly about lands is another perk for cube as there is far less good disruption that hits lands. There is also very little that will exile lands so to fully shut this combo down you have to kill the lands and then use something else to exile the graveyard. That is all a bit much and so most decks will try and find solutions to Marit Lage instead. The next big edge this combo deck has is that it isn't blue which means you will have to fight less. Dimir is always pretty popular as is blue in general. Most combo decks use blue and there is often overlap in the support cards desired so being a combo deck out of blue is a great place to be.
This deck had so much redundancy it felt like playing a constructed deck. I always had my parts and in good time. I won more games than not by just going off a second time after my first go was handled. It is not the quickest deck in terms of potential speed. It can do turn three wins with a god draw but it needs the Mox to do so if using Thespian Stage. I could have thrown in elements like more cheap ramp and burst mana and haste giving effects to try and speed it up but it just didn't feel necessary. Your hand disruption and removal options are solid and your general survivability is good. I would rather consistently threaten lethal on turn four or five in a safe way with a robust deck than have the potential to do quicker kills either at the cost of a slower average clock or just having a bad and flimsy deck.
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Inquisition of Kozilek
Grapple with the Past
Into the North
Life from the Loam
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana of the Veil
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Temple of Malady
2x Snow-covered Forest
2x Snow-covered Swamp
My absolute favourite part of this deck was getting to play with Snow-covered lands! On more than one occasion I went Into the North for a basic. I love an excuse to run exotic lands for legitimate reasons no matter how tiny. The list makes great use of the self mill effects open to Golgari. Most find lands or land and creatures so they are already helping dig for your combo however they pair up nicely with some recursive elements in the list to act as even more value and card selection. They ensure that you see a significant portion of your deck is fairly short order. It is not just tutor effects that are empowered for lands but also recursion effects! There is also a mild delirium component in the list. I had initially planned a backup of Emrakul but decided to go pure at the last minute. As such the delirium support is perhaps a little over polished and over the top but it doesn't feel like it detracts from the list as it is. Given how cube games go I would recommend finding space for an alternate win condition like Emrakul, the Promised and or Ishkanah. You might be able to get away wish splashing red for Kessig Wolf Run and some more man-lands. It looks a bit ugly but it scales with your other land support and allows you to trample up the Marit Lage making your primary win condition more effective as well. This change would require a higher land count I am sure. It would also slow the deck down with more lands entering tapped.
Not only did I avoid playing the black tutors but I also avoided Crop Rotation. Turns out when your lands don't all tap for mana and need a bunch of sacrificing you don't want to be blowing up your own lands where possible. You don't need the speed of Rotation and so the card neutral Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map feel a bit better. In many ways this list is a control deck that just happens to have a combo win it can pull off quickly, a little like Splinter Twin in that regard. I won many games through a combination of hand disruption, spot removal and a planeswalker keeping things safe and in check while I gained value from cycling lands. It didn't really matter how the game was actaully finished, it had been won before that point!
Eternal Witness is a pretty important card as it is the only way you have of getting back non-creature non-land cards which is basically all of your disruption and answers. If you just mill away the answer you need you are going to need to get it back with Witness which isn't ideal but is way better than no option at all. Luckily the deck is able to pack some of the most cost effective disruption and answers in the game so even when you tack on an extra 1GG to the cost it is still viable.
The land enchantments are surprisingly handy allowing you to turn on your Dark Depths as a mana producer. This gives you greater freedom in how you play out your lands which is surprisingly relevant. While they are helpful for general fixing they only shine (one mana cantrip mana rock!) when you pair them with the Dark Depths. Normally I would not be so keen on putting in that much direct support for one card into a deck but given that you should expect to have the Depths in every game and fairly quickly it feels well worth it. Indeed without one of the Growths you are often having to use a tutor that could have found Depths or even Stage to find you a mana source.
I like how this list isn't one that leans on mana dorks what with everything being so cheap. This makes mass removal options more appealing and this can be a pretty big help in clearing the path for your 20/20! I ran Deed for the coverall but Deluge and even Damnation are likely better tempo choices. Or you could go in the other direction for a slower coverall in Ratchet Bomb. Unlikely better than Deed but does give you some room for delirium tinkering if needed. You could run some mana dorks and they would be fine but you are going to need more things to sink mana into and more card draw to make them worth it. There is not loads of suitable stand alone draw for this list, the best sources of value are all focused around the land synergies. Dark Confidant is nice but easily dealt with and a little painful. He makes the mass removal weaker again like the mana dorks. Night's Whisper is the only card draw I was sad not to be able to find room for. Returning to the mana dorks briefly I would much rather play Explore and Exploration style cards as they speed up the combo far more effectively and are less easily disrupted.
Doomfall is a surprisingly nice catchall card for this kind of deck. The poor mans Collective Brutality. I would consider that to make up for shortfalls in hand disruption. You really need to be able to hit spells and that limits your good options. Other than the discard, which is continually getting better positioned, this list is chock full of redundancy. There is a tonne of solid removal in Golgari that covers you against all permanents. There is also plenty more card quality and self mill if needed from Vessel of Nasceny to Oath of Nissa. Once you have your combo cards it is pretty hard to be cut. This is a rare example of a combo deck you could take to 50 or even 60 card deck size and not have it tank in viability. It would be weaker as with almost all decks but it would not become unplayable, it would not tank like the other combo decks nor even suffer as badly as most aggro decks. Overall the deck is great. It is powerful and consistent and dangerous. It is hard to shut down and it has loads of build options and directions. It is pleasantly open to draft and has all the good feel of a blue combo deck to play.