Oozing With Potential

I make alot of decks that never see the light of day, for two reasons mostly. One, at least 3 out of every 4 is either just plain bad, incredibly weak to a certain strategy, or does something similar to an existing deck, but in a more cumbersome or complex fashion. Two, the more obvious reason, is that Constructed is constantly shifting with scores of results going up every week from Grand Prixs, open event circuits like the SCG series, and MTGO, the hive mind of Magic. I make something, and two weeks later it is either outdated, nullified, or been discovered and refined by the masses. Needless to really state, being a brewer is a tough job these days.

Despite all this, I still come up with ideas, if only to keep my mind fresh, or to occupy myself while bored somewhere(driving, working, trying to sleep, watching tv, etc). Every so often I do hit upon something original, or at least somewhat so, but I’m not going to reveal a refined list here, partially because it does not exist yet, and partially because it’s rather pointless. What I am building on is a shell, with a number of strategies that could be plugged into it. What cards get the call is based on personal choice and the meta.

It all started when I was watching the SCG Open: Kansas City, and the feed featured some sort of Necrotic Ooze combo deck with Grim-Grin and Bloodline Keeper. I’m sure you had heard of it, in fact there was a deck tech on it @ http://www.starcitygames.com/events/coverage/deck_tech_ooze_combo_with_jaco.html.  The real deal in this deck isn’t really the Ooze combo, though it is a nice way to win. The shining star in the list is Civilized Scholar. Combined with the Ooze, as long as you dump a creature card, it untaps to let you loot again since it cannot transform. In a deck with a minimal amount of non creature spells, one could dig quite deep, and perhaps more importantly, fill an entire graveyard with creatures very, very quickly.

This concept was new to me, and totally fascinating. There is no deck in Standard that truly tries to take advantage of a bin bursting with bodies. Suddenly all sorts of cards that I had been wanting to try jumped out at me. Splinterfright, Skaab Ruinator, and Kessig Cage Breakers are all powerhouses in the right environment, and the Ooze + Scholar combo was a good start. Still, the allure of just playing the lethal part of the Ooze combo seemed like a small thing to jam into a deck that wanted almost exclusively dudes anyway. I assembled a list of support cards and other things I’d just like to try out.

  • Birds of Paradise
  • Viridian Emissary
  • Merfolk Looter
  • Civilized Scholar
  • Jace’s Archivist
  • Spellskite
  • Deranged Assistant
  • Solemn Simulacrum

Concepts to try

  • Skaab Ruinator
  • Splinterfright
  • Laboroatory Maniac
  • Mirror-Mad Phantasm
  • Kessig Cage Breakers
  • Postmortem Lunge
  • Birthing Pod
  • Grim-Grin combo

Wow, thats quite a robust list of cards. Some seem to play well together, while others actually run contrary to each other(Splinterfright and Skaab Ruinator). Also, the support cards are all Green and Blue, while the card they seek to prop up is double Black. There are a number of different ways to assemble a deck from these ideas, some more risky than others. The core strategies can be broken down into a few sub categories.

  • Grim-Grin combo
  • Skaab Ruinator recursion
  • Laboratory Maniac/Mirror-Mad Phantasm
  • Kessig Cagebreakers/Splinterfright

All of these ideas can’t really be supported in the same list, or at best, will cause the deck to be too unstable, and as a result it would be very difficult to discern from a given hand the line of play to take to achieve victory. Perhaps if Birthing Pod is a part of a list one could cram more ways to win, or make one of the plans a tertiary strategy in case the primary line fails. I could see Skaab Ruinator being a fine tertiary plan.

“In the unlikely event of engine failure, cast 5/6 flier for UU1 until opponent stops moving. The Ruinators will be provided, and can be found in your graveyard. Have a nice day.”

The Easy Way

Let’s start simple with taking the existing Grim-Grin deck and tinkering a bit. I don’t like Unburial Rites at all here. Despite having the ability to make 2/2 fliers and 5/1 ground beaters, this list strives to be a combo deck, and should be built as such. Postmortem Lunge provides an extra layer of protection, and a hasty kill out of nowhere. No, it doesn’t have flashback, but that is mostly irrelevant, and gives the deck reach it would not otherwise have, AND surprise value, the bane of control players everywhere. Having a Rites sitting in the yard allows an opponent to play around it, and occasionally gives them a turn to remove the Ooze if Skythiryx isn’t present to provide haste. Also, there is no more need for White mana, so an entire color goes away.

Next, adding the Laboratory Maniac/Mirror-Mad Phantasm/Memory’s Journey combo does wonders for this list. It adds a viable tertiary win condition that will actually get there with a high relative frequency, since you’re probably only shuffling your Ooze into your deck since someone is breaking up your engine, and we are assuming you did draw the Phantasm at some point since you’re looting so often. With removal used on the Ooze, it is likely that the Maniac you shuffle into your zero card library with the single Memory’s Journey that is now in your yard will win the game, especially when backed up by the numerous Looter effects to respond to removal on the Maniac. Drawing the Phantasm itself isn’t bad either, as activating it will likely result in assembling some or all pieces of the Grim-Grin combo, and also makes good the Postmortem Lunges we have already inserted(which can also be Journeyed back into your deck with the Maniac, making for three game ending spells in a row).

The Hard Way

Designing with an engine like this can be challenging to say the least. It tests your discipline heavily, as it’s easy to try to do too much when you have such a powerful engine. The first question we must ask ourselves is, do we want to keep the Grim-Grin combo intact, or just use Ooze + Scholar to dig very, very deeply. Can the deck support playing big beaters that fuel a slower, grindier game like Splinterfright and Skaab Ruinator(which run contrary to each other). The biggest question is, do you include Birthing Pod?

The answers are all…maybe.

This is why I don’t have a refined ‘best’ list to give you. Really what we are looking at is probably three different decks being fueled by the Ooze; a dedicated Grim-Grin deck with tertiary Maniac win, a middle of the road deck that plays Cage Breakers and Splinterfrights with tertiary Maniac and Ruinator wins, and a super greedy deck with Birthing Pod that features Grim-Grin, Cagebreakers, Splinterfright, Maniac, and Ruinator as ways to win. Certainly sounds like fun, but determining the actual numbers of cards becomes mind bogglingly hard after a while. Increasing the chance of utilizing one path usually decreases the other two by a small amount, and it adds up fast. I don’t include the Maniac here, as it is only three cards and the card count can’t really be increased. The only point to consider in relation to the Maniac is the use of Postmortem Lunge. Without it or the ability to give Ooze haste, it loses enough potential that it could be cut.

So where to go from here? I’m extremely interested in this concept, which seems good anytime the meta looks the way it does now, with very little Red, and several midrange decks that don’t have lots of removal or disruption to pick you apart. Also, the rest of Innistrad will likely make the self mill deck better in some fashion, be it solidifying the method by which one wins or by adding more ways to win(though as we can already see, the deck can be crammed to the gills already). As far as I know, a list with even a single Necrotic Ooze has never placed in the top 16 at any major event in this Standard, but expect to see perhaps not these specific strategies, but the engine that makes them work, being played somewhere. There is just too much potential here.

If you ever built a deck based on an Ooze engine like these in this Standard, post your list if you want, comment on what I’ve suggested, or call me an idiot. Any of those are fine.

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