In Memoriam

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First and foremost, apologies are in order for missing a week. I don't know whether our mighty, benevolent editor, @the_Stybs is going to post two articles this week, or just skip one and proceed as normal, but regardless, I plan on returning to a normal schedule.

Unfortunately, the reason that I missed a week was due to the death of a good friend. He was someone I'd known since grammar school and had a profound impact on the way I looked at the world. This is the guy who first introduced me into the world of gaming. Over the years we went through all manner of board games, card games, and video games, did all kinds of really, really dumb things, and went through all the other trials and tribulations of childhood and early adolescence. Importantly, this is the friend that first introduced me to Magic, a game that has introduced me to people from all across the United States even the world. It's humbling to think of just how profound an impact one person, one thing can have on your life; how different things would be.

In the aftermath of all of this, I was given my friend's old collections of cards and games, and while digging through them I stumbled onto this gem:

We'd both been collecting cards since around Mercadian Masques, but started actually learning the rules just after Odyssey had been printed. As such, more than a few of our games degenerated into his Stone-Tongue Basilisk versus my Iridescent Angel. Those were the days! The days when we'd splash Hypnox in mono-white decks off of four Abaondoned Outposts; when games revolved around Seton's Desire and Frantic Purification instead of Wild Mongrel and Psychatog; when we traded away all the Mutilates and Nantuko Shades we opened because Black was the evil color, and neither of us wanted to be evil.

Looking forward, I don't know what else this game is going to do for me in the future. but I know for sure that I don't want to forget what it's done for me already. I know this may seem a little ridiculous, but I don't want this Stone-Tongue Basilisk to go unplayed. I don't even know if my friend touched his cards since we graduated 8th Grade and started growing apart, but I'd to think that he'd be happy that his Stone-Tongue Basilisk is still beating face. I'd like this guy to act as a reminder of the important things: where we all start, why we play the game, and that, in the end, it is just a game, and it's supposed to be fun, not matter how seriously you take it.

If you've been reading for awhile, you might recall that, recently, I've started working on building a deck for each color combination. Ideally, each of these decks will have its own unique identity, and play differently than each of the others. You'll also recall that the two colors I was looking forward to building least were Blue and Green, because of just how similar all of the "good" decks in those colors are.

Now I've got a Stone-Tongue Basilisk in need of a home, and I think that a mono-green deck is a great place for it. Stone-Tongue Basilisk is pseudo-removal in a color that doesn't get much of it. It's a reasonably interesting effect to build around, and is an interesting take on the color. With that in mind, I want to try to build a Stone-Tongue Basilisk theme deck. The problem is that Stone-Tongue Basilisk is only one card in 99,yet I want to play with it all the time. Otherwise it's not really a theme deck, is it?

Let's start the deck with a copy of each of the nine basilisks in our color combination, and see what that gives us to work with:


So, based on this, it seems that our theme is going to be deathtouch guys, and leveraging that ability to our advantage in the combat step with effects like Lure. The biggest problem with this plan is going to be the sheer number of cards that you have to invest to generate a single combat step where you can generate an advantage off of these abilities.

Stone-Tongue Basilisk makes that kind of effort worth it, because you can get multiple creatures out of the deal with his Lure ability. Since most of these Basilisks come with deathtouch attached, we're looking for ways to Lure things into the way:


The trick here is to find as many repeatable Lure effects as possible so that you can generate incremental advantage over multiple combat steps by picking off creatures. Because of that, cards that are normally pretty abysmal are perfectly reasonable, like Nemesis Mask and Tempting Licid. One interaction I'm pretty excited about is the one between Genesis and Shinen of Life's Roar/Tempting Licid, since that lets you at least pretend that you've got some resiliency.

Grappling Hook, though, that's an unexplored dimension. First strike plus deathtouch is obviously insane, though admittedly less so when you have the "destroy at end of combat" version of deathtouch. Still, that's an interaction that's worth building around, since deathtouch gives utility guys a little more value and first strike is reasonably difficult to come by in Green. Similarly, when your opponents know that you're trying to Lure/deathtouch their guys to death, they'll just attack with any important creatures. Haste is a powerful ability that will let you prevent that!

First Strike and Haste

Now, as I said before, first strike doesn't help with the creatures that have a delayed trigger version of deathtouch so what can we do to help those? Well, how about indestructibility or regeneration? Having these mechanisms to protect your guys gives you resiliency to sweepers and makes most of your deathtouch guys much better. Here are some of the better ways I could find to protect my guys:


I don't really want too many cards with this kind of effect, since they're only really good when you've already got a Deathtouch engine of sorts going. Also, since two of them are repeatable and dodge most any kind of removal, you'll generally only need to see one over the course of a game to really take advantage of it.

At this point, we've only got 27 cards out of the 60 or so non-lands that most decks start with. Remember that we haven't even chosen a Commander for this yet! After quite a bit of thinking, Seshiro the Anointed is what I decided to go with. Snakes are sort of like basilisks thematically, and a number of them have the same deathtouch/delayed-trigger deathtouch interactions. Finally, and most importantly, the Ophidian ability Seshiro gives your Snakes is an awesome way to take advantage of the Lure effects that the deck is built around!

Bring on the Snakes!

Now, these Snakes are how you’re actually going to win the game. Having a double anthem as your Commander means that even just a Cobra Trap can be incredibly threatening if you untap and cast [card Seshiro the Anointed]Seshiro[/card]. The worst card here, by far, is Sosuke's Summons, simply because it's very difficult to rebuy. I figure that if your Commander is a Snake himself, then you can probably get back the Summons just about any time you'd need to, and any other Snakes are pure value.

That's the real backbone of the deck, the pieces that are going to make it play differently than the rest of the decks I'm working on. Now the most important question is what utility spells will give the deck the most game against the field. The deck is built to handle creatures reasonably well, so most of the utility is going to focus on making sure that you have ways to interact with decks based on spells and other permanents, rather than creatures.


Most of these are reasonably straightforward, so let's focus on the more interesting ones, shall we? I don't see how you could have a Basilisk/Snake/Deathtouch deck without Triumph of the Hordes as a finisher. Poisoning them to death with Snakes is just incredibly appropriate once you've poisoned all their creatures.

Hall of Gemstone is a card that knew was very good in this format, but never knew quite how good until I played with one of the local's mono-green decks. That card just straight up shuts down multicolor decks. It shuts off counterspells, and makes decks choose between casting ramp spells, creatures, or efficient answers. This guy does it all, but is reminiscent of Contamination locks. People get to play the game, but they don't really get to play very much. The card is very good, but be careful when you choose to run it; there will be backlash!

Sylvan Library is a card that is certainly on most people's radars, but you really can't say too much about it. The card is, in my experience, better than Sensei's Divining Top in Green decks, since it actually generates card advantage, rather than being just a really good source of card selection. Generally, I find that if you pay less than 8 life to a Sylvan Library over the course of a game, you're probably doing it wrong. There's also the reasonably well known interaction with cards like Abundance and other replacement effects. Since you didn't actually draw the cards, you don't have to put any back!

Last, because this is green and a more beatdown deck, you have to be able to get out of the gates quickly. The mana base and ramp spells have to do a lot of work here; they need to be consistent enough that you can curve out aggressively, but give you longevity and resiliency in longer games. Here's what I've got as a pretty typical manabase for non-ramp Green decks:


There are a few lands to note here. Hall of the Bandit Lord and Yavimaya Hollow give the deck additional copies of effects that it really wants to have access to. Cycling lands like Tranquil Thicket let you artificially increase the land count in your deck, which is important in any strategy. I'm of the opinion that decks should run as many spell-lands as they can, so that you don't feel bad about running enough lands in your deck. Finally, Buried Ruin is here for the awesome interaction with Snake Basket and Orochi Hatchery.

Now let's take a look at the finished deck and see what it looks like!

[deckbox did="a131" size="small" width="560"]

That's it! A deck that's built around a card with a lot of meaning attached to it, and one that I'll be trying to work the kinks out of for some time once I assemble the cards for it. One approach that I thought about some, but then discarded was to go Black/Green for Sisters of Stone Death as the Commander. Going black gets you some powerful cards like Gift of the Deity, or Glissa, the Traitor. The problem, in my mind, is that once you go black there's too much temptation to move the emphasis away from the combat step. I'm curious to hear what you guys think a better approach would be, or if there are any sweet cards or interactions I missed! I'll be working on this for the forseeable future, so be sure to let me know!

Carlos Gutierrez
@cag5383 on Twitter

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