December 17, 2015

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Going Rogue: Flinging Death

Hello and welcome back to Going Rogue, where winning isn't the goal but it often happens anyway.

I read recently that Patrick Burt was looking for a path to Mardu glory. Well Pat, today is for you.

What would you say if I told you about a deck with Phyrexian Unlife, but no Ad Nauseam?

How about Lingering Souls and Bitterblossom, but no Intangible Virtue or Siege Rhino?

And then if I told you that deck ran shock lands and Spellskite to intentionally hurt itself, and then dealt 20+ to the opponent in one shot?

Okay, maybe this wasn't the Mardu deck you needed, but it just might be the silly Mardu deck you deserve.

What is going on here?

Simply put, this is a combo deck dedicated to getting Death's Shadow as big as possible, and then flinging it at your opponent's face for a one-shot kill. And since 12 damage isn't enough to get the job done, we need to take a page from Ad Nauseam's book and get ourselves extra dead first.

Enter our self-killers. Throughout Magic's history, we've been given cards that offer enhanced effects for the additional cost of our own life. Here, we are going to turn that downside right-side up, and voluntarily lose a ton of life while progressing towards our win condition.

Thoughtseize, together with Inquisition of Kozilek, offer some of the game's most versatile interaction, stripping the opponent of their resources while our own gameplan ticks forward. This isn't the fastest deck in the world, so keeping our opponent off their game matters bigtime.

For bodies that do manage to hit the board, Orzhov Charm offers us a great way to deal with them. If they're only beaters, it may actually advance our plan further to take a few hits first, but especially in the case of a utility creature like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, or a game-ender like Deceiver Exarch, we are going to happily trade in some life to get them out of our way. Meanwhile, its 1-mana recursion option is great in a deck with a 1-mana win condition.

Bitterblossom, together with Lingering Souls, gives us blockers to hold the game together, fliers to chip in for small damage to ensure our opponent is in range, as well as bodies for Plunge into Darkness to consume, should we need to manage our life total and/or dig deeper than we could normally afford.

Speaking of Plunge into Darkness, it also offers us some much-needed digging to find our pieces. Surprisingly, when combined with Faithless Looting, this deck digs with the best of them, despite its lack of blue spells.

Before discussing exactly how it all comes together, let's take a look at the full list:

The gameplan is simple. Strip their hand of counterspells, Abrupt Decays and unmanageable threats with disruption. While lightly applying pressure with tokens, dig for a Phyrexian Unlife and keep it on the board with Faith's Shield. Play a Death's Shadow, Plunge into Darkness down to zero life and get a Fling. If necessary, use Orzhov Charm, Thoughtseize or Spoils of the Vault to get your life below zero (and therefore continuing to grow the Shadow), and then throw it at your opponent for the win.

There are a lot of cute synergies that help this deck tick, beyond just those that reward you for losing life. Faithless Looting + Lingering Souls is almost reason enough to be playing Mardu, for me. It's nice too that thanks to Orzhov Charm, you can throw away your Death's Shadows, and instead recur them later and even "go off" at instant speed.

The sideboard opens up some strong options as well. Leyline of Sanctity is a staple in any combo deck, and in this case also does wonders against Burn, meanwhile Stony Silence and Torpor Orb help contain some of the other top decks in the format. Extra copies of Faith's Shield are great against BGx players, or RWx decks to protect yourself from Abrupt Decay, and Blood Moon is easily playable in this deck as you only need a single Plains and a single Swamp for everything that needs doing. And finally, if your opponent is playing the sort of deck that's hard to interact with at sorcery speed, Lightning Axe gives you a discard outlet to set up a nimble Orzhov Charm-recursion win, or if they're running cards like Runed Halo (or more likely their own Leyline of Sanctity), you can swap out Fling for Artful Dodge, and do your 20+ damage the old-fashioned way.

This concept is by no means an original creation, however I think the pieces fit together well enough in this build that I'd be happy trying it out at an FNM. Lulz wins are best wins.

So what do you think? Too farfetched? I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with how the deck operates, and I've assembled a list to playtest over at here: Flinging Death.

That just about does it for this week. Tune in next week when we revisit the transformational sideboard with an emphasis on one of the coolest cards that never worked out, Isochron Scepter. Until then, have fun, and may the force be with brew.