Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Card Breakage: Blood Funnel

Most of the decks I build are designed to maximize the potential of a single card that I think is suitably hilarious. Sometimes this is easy (Beastmaster Ascension? 5 minutes and I had a red-green aggro deck filled with hasty 2-for-1s to make it go off quicker) and sometimes I have to cut down 90 singleton cards. This is difficult to playtest, since playtesting a larger deck means necessarily that your combo card comes up less often, but you eventually see what works and what doesn't. Another thing to make sure is that if you plan on building the deck don't playtest it with expensive dual lands that you can't own, because it will mess up your idea of how good the deck is.

Anyways, let's break Blood Funnel today!

So, this could potentially be a very powerful card, but the downside is a little hard to deal with. Say we had something that generated tokens on each spell, like Lys Alana Huntmaster? But there are only 5 noncreature Elf spells and 6 noncreature Goat-Elf spells [Ed. - The best way to describe any Changeling spell is as Goat-, the second best way being to call them Mutant Ninja Turtles, since there is unfortunately no Teenage creature type at this time], and though we could certainly generate tokens to feed the Blood Funnel this way, this relies on us having 2 cards out and only gives us a slightly reduced cost for a slightly reduced effect. So probably not the best choice.

The obvious way to maximize Blood Funnel is to be casting 2-cost artifacts, since they're now free. And if they're cantrip-ey (like Elsewhere Flask or Mind Stone) then you've got a nice card draw/spell cast engine (a wise man once said that all combos eventually devolve into Tendrils of Agony, an unfortunate truth)

Well, there aren't many 2 cost cantrips, and even then if you draw into a land then the combo ends. Sure, cards like Vedalken Archmage will go a long way, but we'd still need creatures to be saccing constantly.

Perhaps we could add in a Mishra, Artificer Prodigy? This has potential, but just gets around the counter and lets you play Kaleidostone for free, hardly a game-breaker. Also, a similar card to the Blood Funnel is Dovescape, which could generate us some nice tokens, but it's awkwardly high-costing even with Blood Funnel out.

Maybe we could cast come uncounterable things, like using Boseiju, Who Shelters All, or Banefire. But then we're just getting 2 free mana from a card, which though nice isn't a huge deal.

Maybe we're looking at it the wrong way. Let's read the card again and notice that it doesn't prevent you from playing the spell, it just counters it unless you sacrifice a creature. You can choose not to.

Weeellll *steeples hands and chuckles maniacally* what cards like it when you counter/get countered? I'm sure you people in T2 are already pointing to Lullmage Mentor, an excellent choice in that it is also a token generator, which we might need if we ever intend to end up casting a spell or two. What else is there?

A cursory check of Gatherer reveals that Multani's Presence will be a definite 4-of, being in perfect synergy with the deck. If we have that and an Archmage or two out, we'd be drawing 3 cards for each artifact played.

This also lets us ignore the cantrip artifacts, since they're all equivalent. We should still have cards that will be useful in pre-combo circumstances, as well as ones that help us to win. We might notice at this point that we're in 4 colors, which is always an awkward place to be. However, the Signets from Ravnica Block (like Dimir Signet) are excellent fixing, acceleration, and the perfect combo piece for our purposes. Let's throw those in, as well as some other accelerating 2-costs (like Fellwar Stone)

Well, how shall we win? We can always Tendrils, but we only need 1 copy of that in the deck and this will go off fine, so let's look at other options. We might win off of a Lullmage Mentor's tokens, but we can't rely on that either. Storm Entity is helpful, but this is another Storm mechanic and so would rely on us playing it that turn.

That's when we might remember that very forgettable card we saw while drafting, Salvage Slasher. Now here's something we could easily play before or after the combo and it would still be an X/1. It's also an artifact, so it triggers Vedalken Archmage. Lord of Extinction is also nice, but it's a little out of my price range personally, even if it fits with our colors nicely.

Well, with the creature we should include some ways to make sure it can swing for the kill. Maybe toss in a Whispersilk Cloak, some Lightning Greaves, and a Skyshaper or two. You can throw in whatever Equipments work best here.

So, let's look over the deck and realize that it is quite reliant on the Blood Funnel in order to do anything useful. Seeing that, we might be tempted to put in a Sterling Grove, which both tutors for our combo piece and protects it. But this is a pricey card (for me, pricey is anything >2$), and not entirely necessary if we have enough card draw. So let's just throw in some Ponders and Thirst for Knowledges, shall we? This also keeps us down to 4 colors.

So what do we expect to happen when we play? At some point we'll play out some cantrippers like Multani's Presence or Vedalken Archmage, then after that we'll play Blood funnel. We'll start tossing out artifacts until we hit a suitable point, then we'll kill them. Sounds good, let's playtest it in solo mode.

After a bit of toying around with it, I notice that I never want Mishra, Artificer Prodigy, nor Storm Entity. Great, we got rid of a color, that makes fixing so much easier! Also, a lot of the 2-cost artifacts we threw in for fun turned out to be useless, so we tossed those and increased the number of the other ones. We have 2 cards that cost UU, so we increase the fixing on blue mana, and decrease it on green. We never end up casting Thirst for Knowledge, so it's tossed out.

So what about on the play style side of things? After tweaking the deck, we learn how to better play it and come to some conclusions.
-Once it has 2 cantrippers and a single Blood Funnel out it almost always goes off that turn, so we should leave 2 black mana open to cast Tendrils if we ever get in that position.
-We should always play the Lullmage Mentor before casting things, since we don't care about leaving mana open.
-If in a position to, it is always worth it to sacrifice a Vedalken Archmage in order to play Multani's Presence
-If playing against a control deck, we should make sure we have the mentor's counter-ability ready before we cast Tendrils, to stop them hosing us with Mindbreak Trap.
-We also notice that we can't discard fast enough to make the Salvage Slasher attack that turn for lethal, so we might include a One with Nothing (no joke, it's a useful card here) or take out a Lightning Greaves.
-We get dangerously close to milling when we go off, so if we get interrupted or if we are playing a multiplayer game we might be in trouble. To deal with that, let's stick in Null Profusion, which combos nicely with our deck anyways and stops us dying if it comes to that. Our big beasty Salvage Slasher should have shroud at this point, but you might want to toss in an indestructible-granting artifact if you commonly play multiplayer games in which the Wraths (or even the Earthquakes) go off too often. Remember that the way our deck is built means we only need 1 of each card like this, so we don't have to bump too many important things for such insurance

All in all, we have built a nice deck which is also relatively cheap (depending on your definition of good mana fixing for UBG). Go build it and impress/annoy your friends!

Here's the decklist I built. I'm only running 17 lands because I can keep any hand with 2, and several hands with just 1.

Important Bits - 43
4 Multani's Presence
4 Ponder
4 Blood Funnel
2 Lightning Greaves
4 Sun Droplet
4 Dimir Signet
2 Golgari Signet
4 Simic Signet
2 Fellwar Stone
1 Whispersilk Cloak
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Null Profusion
2 Salvage Slasher
4 Lullmage Mentor
4 Vedalken Archmage

Lands - 17
2 Jwar Isle Refuge
4 Swamp
4 Island
1 Forest
4 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Savage Lands
1 Seaside Citadel

Note: There are plenty of other win conditions we could have exploited here. If you have a Tezzeret you could easily move more towards a Time Sieve/Open the Vaults style deck which would rely on casting a bunch of these artifacts into the grave then casting a cheaper Open the Vaults. Or you could decide that Haze of Rage helps your Lullmage Mentor tokens, or even a Merfolk Sovereign/Lord of Atlantis. There's always Brain Freeze as well. You could also try to build that elf/druid deck (throwing in a Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and a bunch of Goat-Druid spells. Unfortunately, Conspiracy only hits creature spells)