Sunday, 21 April 2019
Smothering Tithe Wheel .dec
Smothering Tithe is clearly an exciting card for commander where you stand to get a Black Lotus worth of treasure each round of turns. In heads up it is a Lotus Petal generator at base line which is far less impressive. Also being heads up it is more likely that opponents will pay 2 to prevent your treasure, although still reasonably infrequently. After four turns in heads up with your four mana do nothing enchantment you have broken even on mana and are merely a card down! That sounds pretty awful. I guess you can halve that time you are down mana if they pay 2 instead of letting you have your treasure... It is also noteworthy that in cube the average cards drawn per turn exceeds one. While the archetype has a big impact on expected cards drawn per turn with aggro decks being much closer to the baseline one per turn and the slower decks being nearer the two mark. Even so, this baseline average isn't enough to make Tithe good in heads up, we need to empower it directly. While being significantly better than just making a Lotus Petal every turn it is still a way off being a good stand alone card. If however you build around Smothering Tithe it starts to pickup pace in effectiveness rapidly. Big symmetrical draw spells are how to best empower the card. If I fire off a Wheel of Fortune with a Smothering Tithe in play I have come pretty close to a Time Spiral. Sure, it only nets you four mana at most but it does only cost three up front. So that is great and everything but what are we doing with our two card combo that emulates an existing card? How do we turn that into something worth doing? Simply put we cast more Wheel effects. The main difference between the red draw seven and the blue ones is that the red ones don't reshuffle hand and bin into the library. It does not take many casts of a draw seven card to exhaust a forty card deck. Your combo can actually work as a win condition all by itself. As it is a combo that also draws your whole deck you can rely on drawing other supplementary pieces such as an Elixir of Immortality to prevent your own decking death. This means despite being a combo that needs many parts to win with it is still essentially a two card combo of Tithe plus a Wheel effect and then it becomes an engine combo deck that generates mana as it draws through its library.
Elixir of Immortality
Swords to Plowshares
Wall of Omens
Wheel of Fortune
Captain Lannery Storm
Magus of the Wheel (should be Incendiary Command)
Wrath of God
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Reforge the Soul
Fall of Thran
So the plan of playing Smothering Tithe and then playing a lot of Wheel of Fortune cards sounds fairly simple and it is. The difficult part is getting there in time to not be dead against aggro decks or getting it past disruption for the slower lists. Neither white nor red are potent at card selection, hand disruption, spell disruption or really any of the things needed for the latter. Dealing with aggressive strategies is what white does best and red does well too and so that wasn't an issue. If I were at all concerned about that I could have packed more mass and spot removal. The options atop my list of nearlys were Pyroclasm, Lightning Helix, Galvanic Blast, Abrade, Council's Judgement and that sort of thing. It didn't feel like a problem at all and I would likely trim out creature control elements in favour of those that handle disruption if revisiting this build. I also tried using cards that would be effective against both kinds of deck. A Wildfire for example will be a Wrath against the aggressive decks and it will also either devastate a control deck and their mana or it will at least draw out a counterspell. I was strongly looking at Cataclysm for this role as well.
Just as big of a problem, if not more so, as countermagic is enchantment removal. I directly lost one game to an Anguished Unmaking on my Smothering Tithe. Gone with no way to get it back I had a deck full of crap and no way of really winning. Rebuff the Wicked is another heavy handed solution to this. Spellskite is an easier one to stomach but is not without issue. Neither of these help against hand disruption either. While most don't exile it is still a long route to getting your parts back and a massive blow. Also, some do exile and that can be game! Scroll Rack is likely the best solution to this and it isn't a great one. Fortunately we are playing it for a selection of other reasons as well so it is just a nice help. Mostly it is a good way to dig for key parts of the deck but it also helps with decking prevention, card advantage (with the Land Tax combo), card immediacy (handy for use with Tutor), miracle cost reduction, and of course the hand protection.
As mentioned, Boros is not a colour renown for its tutoring. Luckily we have redundancy in Wheel effects and they find more when cast. That just leaves the Smothering Tithe and white can do enchantments. I only used Enlightened and Rector and didn't bother with Idyllic or Wild Research. Idyllic might well have been better than Rector, especially with no good ways to sac off the Rector myself. I could also have gone down the looting route a bit harder with red spells such as Cathartic Reunion, Tormenting Voice and of course the Looting itself! I was fairly happy with the amount of looting, cantrip, scrying, cycling and other general card draw (Scroll Rack) and didn't struggle to have my Tithe in good time. The Rector encouraged me to play bigger enchantments which meant Cast Out as the preferred cover all removal tool and The Fall of Thran over Armageddon. While very cute I should have really combined it with some graveyard hosing from Tormod's Crypt or Remorseful Cleric. Without such things it is rather less brutal, although still potent.
The worst card in the deck was Magus of the Wheel. Mostly I used him as a 3/3 or he was dealt with in some way. I absolutely should have been playing an Incendiary Command in it's place. Khorvath's Fury or even Chandra Ablaze would have been better too. The latter would probably need me to play Burning Inquiry as well to really add up to a full Wheel. The thing all these cards have that Magus does not is that they work right away. Magus only helps you combo kill in one turn if he starts that turn in play. Far too inconvenient and vulnerable to be a viable Wheel option. I knew Wheel of Fate wouldn't cut it for those reasons but somehow didn't use that same logic to rule out Magus....
I played Swords over Path because I didn't want to give my opponents excess lands to pay for my Tithe and survive a Wildfire. I also care nothing about life totals. It might have been nice to have a way of turning on my Land Tax but I can't see that outweighing the perks of Swords. Nahiri was great, she absorbed a lot of attention and gave me a lot of control over the game. Captain Lannery Storm was cute and could be a good alternate win condition with a massive treasure hit. While she had some synergy ultimately she was an off theme card and likely just worse than the cards that directly help your main game plan. If you cut both her and the Magus you effectively render all opponent's creature removal dead. This does mean not adding Spellskite in but that is fine I think. You are probably better off trying to use mana denial plans to play around cards like Anguished Unmaking due to how they cover more ground generally.
You could cut more cards if you wanted to, you could lose the land destruction tools and risk being even more linear. I don't rate this highly, they work very nicely with your Land Tax, your artifact ramp and your Smothering Tithe. They let you play the pace of game you want to play. You could trim down on the aggression control, perhaps lose the Swords, perhaps the Wrath and then try and hide behind a Ghostly Prison or a fiendish Moat if you were so inclined! Riskier but also space saving. You could also just cut down on the luxury cards if you wished. Nahiri is great, loads of power and loads of utility but she is a luxury. Treasure Map is also somewhat in this group. It is quite expensive and slow for the dig it offers. You don't really need the card draw or treasure burst in most games, it is the setup phase of the game you care most about. After the three drop dorks Map is probably the next cut but it isn't one I am keen to make.
Overall I would call this a fairly low powered combo deck. Mostly that comes down to how easy it is to disrupt. It is actually pretty reliable and effective at a goldfish. Where this deck makes up for being a poor combo deck is that it is very able to play a longer game. With all the strong removal cards and the mana disruption it can keep most opposing strategies down for a very long time. It came very close to milling out opponents without the endless mana from Smothering Tithe on multiple occasions. Sadly without any real alternative win conditions the survivability of this combo deck is of limited value. Losing slowly is still losing. I am not sure what threats would make the best inclusions in this deck. Cataclysmic Gearhulk has some all round perks but it is hardly something you can rely on to close out a game. Sigil of the Empty Throne sounds like a better plan and it is not exactly well supported in this list! Brightling might be the most persistent of threats but I think I prefer some kind of land based threat to a creature. Westvale Abbey sadly feels too slow even for this deck and the same is going to be true of Urza's Factory. Emissary of Grudges might be the best creature option but planeswalkers probably do the best job. Karn will make some very large constructs for you but he might exile key cards and die! The same is true of the good Chandra. I think I would go with a token producing Elspeth as a planeswalker win condition as they are the most survivable and put up a good clock when allowed to go aggressive. Ideally I want an enchantment win condition to work with the tutors. I am sure there are plenty of cool and obscure options I haven't thought of that could work. Certainly better than some of my rambling suggestions here! Approach of the Second Sun is usually the cleanest white win condition and it works rather well with Wheels.
The deck is fun to play and pleasantly different. It is not only a unique kind of combo but is also a rare example of a Boros combo. Other Boros combos have to go outside the colours for the support cards they need to make it happen. This one can stay in Boros and still operate sufficiently well. I suspect there will be some good overlap with this combo and others, either existing or that see print later. Given that the parts of this combo make mana or draw cards it is an ideal pairing for any other sort of combo really. If it has key artifact or enchantment cards in it too all the better! Sadly there are as yet not enough functional Wheel effects to consider this build for anything above 40 card library size. With three times as many Wheels you could make this a really strong commander deck. As it stands you would have to find another way to win off the back of your going off. At least in commander each Wheel you do fire off generates substantially more mana!