Channel your inner Aaron Forsythe with Alara Reborn uncommon Bloodbraid Elf!
Did you know that Worth Wollpert (aka @DJ__Nox)* and I used to play with Talruum Minotaur? Actually to be completely accurate I think that Jon Finkel (aka @Jonnymagic00)*, Worth Wollpert, and I used to play Talruum Minotaur. And by “play” I mean play properly, that is in 60 card decks!
If I remember it correctly I was visiting Worth’s parents’ house (they had just taken us to Outback Steak House — mise) and I was a stud and won the PTQ the next day, beating future friends Adam Katz in the round of 8 and the elusive Matt Wang (aka @MattWang97) for the Blue Envelope. Worth made me pay for all day parking, citing the “big winner” clause, plus his mommy and daddy had taken us to Outback the night before.
Worth didn’t actually have to play in the PTQ on account of being on the Gravy Train but he would stay up all night playing Apprentice with Jonny Magic; the deck Worth liked at the time was a U/R deck with Impulse, Force of Will, Man-o’-War… and then for some reason Fireblast and Talruum Minotaur. It was a super fun deck to play and I ran with it in all the side tournaments that I played in at that particular Pro Tour on account of not making day two (which included a couple of 8-man wins, including victories over such masters as A. Comer and T. Walamies). For his part Worth won the Ohio Valley Regional Championship that year with what can only be described as an Air theme deck including Wall of Air and Air Elemental… but also, you know, also Force of Will and Thawing Glaciers.
Ye olde Counter-Hammer deck:
3 Cloud Elemental
1 Diminishing Returns
4 Force of Will
4 Frenetic Efreet
2 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Suq’ata Lancer
2 Talruum Minotaur
3 City of Brass
4 Thawing Glaciers
3 Nevinyrral’s Disk
2 Time Elemental
This is neither here nor there except as a point of comparison. Brian Kowal recently wrote on my Facebook wall that he was proud of me that I didn’t write about Gnarled Mass in my Dauntless Escort preview on the mother ship. But here? Bloodbraid Elf is kind of like Talruum Minotaur-plus, right? You give up a point of toughness but get a free card and 1-3 mana on the bonus, which can almost be like another card. You probably can’t play Bloodbraid Elf in the kind of deck that Jonny, Worth, and I played it in on account of the multiple colors plus no Force of Will et al, but the Cascade mechanic makes this Blue-ish anyway!
And that’s ultimately what you get – a card that is marginal at best on the stats (but close to the playability line if we expand our horizons to include more haste), but with a significant enough cantrip / Tinker-ish bonus that we can more seriously consider playing it.
Where can I see this fitting in?
The teaser asked you to channel your inner Aaron Forsythe but the previous section spoke to Deadguys past. What about the CMU side of that original Voltron-ic super team?
Cards like this make me think about Aaron due to a deck design principle he taught me in 2000, when he was heavy up with Angry Hermit, the deck that he used to put two Team CMU players into the Top 8 of the US National Championships, which was also one of the highest win percentage decks of the Swiss format. Here is Aaron’s legendary deck:
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Deranged Hermit
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Plow Under
2 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
3 Skyshroud Poacher
3 Yavimaya Elder
4 Arc Lightning
4 Avalanche Riders
2 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Rishadan Port
2 Treetop Village
2 Ancient Hydra
3 Thran Foundry
2 Uktabi Orangutan
From the Napster side I can say that this deck was an absolute terror. Regular Trinity Green was essentially a layup but Aaron’s deck, which could Arc Lightning our permanents was much more difficult to defeat. One of the default ways that Napster would beat Trinity was simply to ignore them and blow up their hand and creatures so that they simply couldn’t ever win, but Aaron built Angry Hermit with a new and different algorithm: Mana and Bombs.
What does “Mana and Bombs” mean?
Look at his deck – There is almost no fluff. The closest thing to filler is Arc Lightning, which is itself a two- if not three-for-one (given the most popular deck being Trinity); and maybe a four-for-one against Napster depending on the Phyrexian Negator situation. Everything else in his deck is a card that he can pull off the top, slam down onto the table, that matters, and matters now… That, or a piece of mana that lets him play faster, viz. Rofellos-into-Plow Under.
Mana and Bombs.
So what does this have to do with Bloodbraid Elf?
I think Bloodbraid Elf might have a nice place in the whole “Mana and Bombs” way of deck design. I was inspired in Bloodbraid Elf’s official preview by our friend Bill Stark:
Try these on for size:
Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Jace Beleren?
Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Sprouting Thrinax?
Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Glorious Anthem?
Bituminous Blast flipping Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Incinerate?
It was the last bit that got my brain moving. I think that Bituminous Blast is, with its slightly more powerful cantrip-Tinker a fine card to start a Cascade chain; these two cards — and possibly more cards in the new set, I make it a point not to comment about unofficial cards for the most part — could be the basis for an Aaron Forsythe-style G/R deck. But Incinerate? I think the deck would rather have something like a Lash Out to help set up even more Cascade goodness!
The tension with Mana and Bombs is obvious when we are talking about Cascade because you really never want to be flipping irrelevant 1/1s once you are in the five mana zone. Therefore I think that the low cost cards are going to be from the Mind Stone and Rampant Growth camp, which have some more long term usefulness, especially in a deck that is looking to top deck bombs.
There may in fact be some synergy between these cards and a Ramp idea I explored with Lord of Extinction over at Top 8 Magic.
Snap Judgment Rating: Playable… Depending on the deck it can range from Role Player to Puzzle Piece if not Flagship.
* Appropriately, I am aka @FiveWithFlores.