by Charles Trottier
Hey, I’m Charles. I’m from Montreal and am mostly renowned around here for spicy brews and strategy. For this first article, I won’t focus on competitive play, but on a list that will perform and impress your local FNM. I’ll let you enter into my thought process for building this sweet original decklist.
As usual, all started with a conversation regarding what could have potential in Standard. One card came out: Havengul Lich. Havengul Lich is one of those cards that has those desired shenanigans going. Oh! Didn’t I tell you? I love finding shenanigans and messing up with the group of players I play with to find some sweet interaction they need explanations to. That said, I know I wanted to build something around a graveyard-based recursion of some sort. One interaction that came across my mind was the Heartless Summoning and Priest of Urabrask combo. With Heartless in play, Priest’s mana cost basically becomes one Red mana. Also with the -1/-1 he dies as he enters the battlefield. You cast him for R, he dies giving you RRR and you then use RR with the Lich to bring him back giving you RRR as many times as you want for “infinite mana”.
Of course, checking out the Gatherer database, I realized that Priest is currently out of Standard. I had to find something else, but remembered this interaction as it will become useful. As a matter of fact, Heartless Summoning would bring somewhat of a much needed mana acceleration aspect to the desired shenanigan.
The idea was implanted.
What was the best deck and angle I could build involving around Lich and Heartless combo. The first aspect I thought of was the mana. Often you will see that manabase is the key to a deck being viable or not. Mana curves and tempo are too important to ignore. Still speaking of the deck, Rooftop Storm came to mind. The idea was simple: what if we can just recreate a Melira Pod kind of layout in Standard?
Some old Modern T3ch !
If we could just use a triggered ability of some sort to make creatures enter the battlefield and deal damage somehow to the opponent. For this idea, Rooftop Storm seemed perfect, it was enabling a combo. By putting Havengul on play, activating it and bringing a bunch of Zombies back from the grave without paying their mana cost.
I brainstormed some more and here was the result :
To use Havengul Lich at maximum capacity, we needed to find a way to fill the graveyard.
The main colors also had to be Blue and Black for the deck to work. Diregraf Captain was our way to deal that needed damage and we could bring back any zombies sacking them into Grimgrin for damage. Geralf’s Mindcrusher also brought us an alternate win condition by milling our opponents. Unburial Rites as first color splash, being easy with the incredible manabase brought by this set would make the self-milling strategy more efficient. Also to back the Lich up, as Jarad’s Orders would be the perfect tutor. Armored Skaab seemed to be one of the stronger card of this archetype, just like Gravecrawler. The first, self-milled 4 for U, which is what seemed to be needed for the deck, but most of all allowed to bring a milled Gravecrawler back into play. Gravecrawler had the advantage of not needing any sacc outlet with a Heartless on the table. Remember this, because eventhough this first take created a fun deck, this was only the first step towards a bigger picture.
As expected, Rooftop Storm was too highly costed and running multiple copies just felt like a hand cycler such as Faithless Looting was required. Jarad’s tutor seemed pretty good, but it was also highly costed. In a game with 3 copies of Rooftop Storm and Heartless Summoning each made me see the inevitable truth that lies in this combo deck:
I had to go red.
The idea of Faithless Looting brought us our second angle on this deck take.
Both drawings are cool, but I still prefer the original.
Here is what the brewing gave place to :
Jarad’s Green requirement proved to be too much.
Seeing as Rooftop Storm was expensive, but still insane when in play, the number of copies went down to one. More card draw was included as well. The basic zombie entering the battlefield layout remained but Diregraf Captain was replaced by Flayer of the Hatebound and Burning Vengeance.
One was better at getting brought back by the Lich, and the other easier on the casting cost. Althought, the best thing to come out of this list was the : ‘Machine Gun”. Burning Vengeance paired with Heartless Summoning (which is not a natural expected pairing) just proved to be much broken with Gravecrawler. Basically, with a zombie on board, you play it similar to the Priest combo. You just cast your Crawler from the grave using its own ability then Burning Vengeance will deal 2 to any creature or player.Then Crawler will enter with 0 toughness and be sent right back to the graveyard for you to shoot some more targets.
This was just way too good.
A while ago, in Scars of Mirodin Standard, there was some decks trying to base themselves on Burning Vengeance and flashback draw spells. Filling the graveyard, cycling spells and Machine gun comboing was the way to make it all happen. Althought, what would Heartless Summoning be used for? Well, Gravecrawler needed some friends to get the combo going. the Lich was still good, but the remember that Armored Skaab ? Filling the grave for 1 Blue mana (with Heartless in play) and enabling the combo seems to be the perfect fit.
Also, he becomes a great target to simply block and be brought back with Havenghul Lich.
This is my final take on the deck:
by Chuck Trottz
In essence, your main plan is to self-mill, get the combo going and do some damage by flashing back spells on the way. It is a Burning Vengeance deck, with the “Machinegun” combo. Izzet Charm can also protect your combo with the help of Syncopate and can also act like a 5th – 6th Looting or even as Pillar of Flame number 3-4. Tamiyo, is simply there to deal with threats by buying you some time. She can also become an alternate win condition: her ultimate with Pillar of Flame being quite ridiculous.
Post-side, you have responses to the graveyard hate. As a matter of fact, you just transform the deck into a full-on Heartless Summoning deck, gaining acces to cantrips and also bigger and better threats that don’t rely on your graveyard. Of course, you still o keep Havengul Lich in for value.
This is a deck with a lot of choices to be make, but mostly is an alternate way of playing the game. If you are tired of doing UWRFlash/RB Aggro/GW mirror matches then you should definitely give this deck a try at your next local FNM.
Until next time, with more Shenanigans to come,
– Chuck Trottz, Montreal’s own Rogue Deck Builder.