The prospect of playing white weenie or snakes didn’t thrill me as Kamigawa block season began, so I started looking for alternatives. Never before have we had so many playable Legends and I couldn’t resist trying to make a playable deck out of them.
I’ve seen several other legend-heavy deck lists in the past couple of weeks, especially green and red. I went a different direction to get some mass creature removal without having to play Final Judgment, and the best block creature removal is in black.
So here’s what I came up with:
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Iname, Death Aspect
3 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
2 Kodama of the North Tree
3 Kokusho, the Evening Star
2 Reki, the History of Kamigawa
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
3 Hideous Laughter
4 Kodama’s Reach
2 Time of Need
2 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
2 Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper
1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
3 Cranial Extraction
4 Hero’s Demise
1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Wear Away
The main engine is Iname, Death Aspect to put things in the graveyard and Goryo’s Vengeance to get them back out. Usually I put a Kokusho and a Kagemaro in the yard. Kokusho, of course, can swing for the win if they don’t have an untapped flyer and a Vengeance’d out Kagemaro gives me instant access to a creature sweeper. The ideal development is to play Iname early, say turn 4 given some early acceleration, and dump Kagemaro and Kokusho in the yard. Then turn 5 either top for another Kokusho or Time of Need for it, turn 6 cast Kokusho, turn 7 attack again and Vengeance for the 10 life swing.
I know just reading this that progression seems hard to pull off but it’s actually not that uncommon. What is more common against the weenie hoards is playing early chump blockers aka Elders and working up to Hideous Laughter mana. Cast that to clear the board, then start developing threats.
Jitte in the main is really just to kill my opponent’s Jitte’s. I was running without them until recently but they’re just too big a threat and I don’t want to main deck Wear Away to deal with them. I had Pithing Needle in the board until recently but I decided I’d rather just give in and play Jitte myself. Since mine is a creature based deck it makes sense to play the best equipment ever.
Cranial Extraction in the board is mainly to deal with threats I can’t handle any other way. Mainly I have Sway of the Stars and Gifts Ungiven in the crosshairs for potential Cranial targets but I also expect to see a lot of random decks with threats I otherwise wouldn’t be prepared for.
A few unconventional choices:
Miren, the Moaning Well is great for sacrificing a Kokusho which came out through Goryo’s Vengeance. It can also keep me in the game while I hunt for a Hideous Laughter or Kagemaro against fast aggressive decks.
Untaidake is additional acceleration and it actually works out quite well. Sometimes it backfires and keeps me from playing a turn three Reach but for now I’m keeping it in. I might just go down to one but the only way Untaidake is useful is if you get it early, which is why I went with two. If I get it late and already have one on the board I can just keep it in my hand and either bluff the Hideous Laughter or use it to make Kagemaro bigger.
Reki is actually a pretty effective card drawing engine with all the Legendary spells I have. After drawing a couple of cards with him my opponent will often kill him, drawing fire from the bigger creatures to come.
I don’t have specific percentages but white weenie is a tough matchup, especially if they board in Hokori. Every build I’ve seen runs Hokori in the board rather than main and that gives me a better chance in game one. Hokori is one of the main targets for the Hero’s Demise in the board. Celestial Kirin usually works to my advantage since they’re only going to be blowing things up in the one, two or three cc slots and the only losses for me in those brackets are Jitte and Reki. In the testing I’ve done it tends to make them hold a creature or two back until the Kirin dies, which just gives me more time to find an answer.
Game one is just about an even matchup. Games two and three are dicey, depending on whether or not they get a turn four Hokori and whether or not I have a Hero’s Demise or Hideous Laughter with some land untapped. If I don’t it’s pretty much game over since Kagemaro won’t come out if I’m only untapping one land per turn. My only other out if they cast a well-timed Hokori is to hold cards until I can discard Kagemaro and then Vengeance him back into play and sacrifice him in the same turn.
Samurai of the Pale Curtain is also a problem since it shuts off the reanimation engine and stops Kokusho from triggering. For awhile I was boarding out Goryo’s Vengeance against WW but that proved to be a mistake since I can usually get a Kagemaro activation or Hideous Laughter to sweep the board of Pale Curtains. I’ve found it’s better to keep the Vengeances in as the threat they present is something the WW player will have to keep in mind, especially if I can get the combo off early in game 1.
Indomitable Will and Blessed Breath are problems for me as well but the Saviors versions aren’t running those spells anymore. Very good for me. It depends on which builds they run and whether or not they realize how big a threat Hokori is to me.
Snakes are tough if they get the early Seishiro but otherwise it’s a good matchup for me. They all tend to die to Hideous Laughter unless Seishiro is out, and Kagemaro is also tough for them to deal with. That and snakes don’t tend to fly so Kokusho is a real problem for them.
The snake decks with more of a control aspect present bigger problems. I played against such a control version and faced turn three and four Cranial Extractions, turn three for Kokusho and turn four for Goryo’s Vengeance. Needless to say I lost that game.
The new contender for the Kamigawa block throne is Black Hand. The attractiveness to playing this deck is that it has a good matchup against white weenie, but I can’t see that it offers advantages against the rest of the field which you don’t get with snakes. Games against Black Hand are similar to those against snakes. Generally I either power out fatties that they can’t deal with or, if they get a fast start, I wait for them to overextend and Kagemaro away their threats.
Hero’s Demise is good against snakes as well since without the Legendary snakes they’re just 1/1’s.
The card I dread seeing from the board of either snakes or Black Hand is Nezumi Graverobber. If I can’t Vengeance threats back out of my graveyard I have to resort to the pure “acceleration into beatdown” strategy, plus work around the possibility of having my opponent steal one of my big beaters.
I haven’t done any testing against Sway of the Stars or the variants but I’m expecting Cranial Extraction will make their life difficult.
I have tested against an older Gifts Ungiven/renanimation deck and did well with it most of the time. Again I expect Cranial Extraction to be good after sideboarding and in game one I’ll just have to force through enough fatties to win.