Brewer's Corner: Spellslinger

May 6, 2018

Introduction:

 

Hello, and welcome to the first installment of my new article series, Brewer’s Corner that I will be attempting to upload every week or two. My name is Tyler, otherwise known as Neverlucky online. In this series, I would like to uncover the jankiest cards, combos, or deck ideas to make them a reality. These articles are for older players looking for some new and interesting spice to brew around and for newer players to pick up a deck and have fun, even if these aren’t going to be the most competitive.

 

In this installment of Brewer’s Corner, I would like to discuss a strategy, not very known, called Spellslinger. The objective of this strategy is for you to gain advantage through instants and sorceries, instead of creatures and planeswalkers. While most Spellslinger decks use creatures as finishers, the bulk of the deck is spells. Spells in this deck have more than one role, as every spell you cast is either ticking down Thing in the Ice, filling your graveyard with spells for cards that care about spells in your graveyard like Cryptic Serpent, or simply delving them away with Treasure Cruise. So not only do we get to play great spells, but it turns on other powerful cards as a free side-effect! So let us start with the spells.

 

  

Core Spells:

 

In Frontier, we have powerful instants and sorceries in the form of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. These spells allow us to gain insane card advantage which finds us more spells to cast, or find us our finisher. In many Frontier decks, people play Dig over Cruise because of the synergy with Torrential Gearhulk, who cares about instants. In spellslinger, we are not running the 6-drop so the extra cards from Cruise are valued. Those two cards, and possibly Painful Truths, are our most powerful options for pure card draw... But besides card draw, we also have to think about what our opponent's gameplan is going to be. Creatures are a huge part of Frontier so naturally, you need to pack your Spellslinger deck full of the best removal to keep up. The best removal is cheap, has few restrictions, and possibly grants other benefits: the best example of this in Frontier is a 1-mana black instant called Fatal Push. Revolted, this removal spell kills most creatures from turns 1-4 and is as cheap as it could be. Any deck that runs black wants this card (it is one of the most played cards in the format!), as it just deals with so many of the threats you are afraid of such as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; Siege Rhino; Anafenza, the Foremost; Smuggler’s Copter; and the list goes on and on. Other 1-mana options include Fiery Impulse, which is often a lightning bolt in a deck with so many spells, or Wild Slash which can also be used on the opponent's life total or Planeswalkers.

 

 

 

After you’ve added those, Kolaghan’s Command is a very versatile card that allows you to 2-for-1 your opponent with discard or regrowth, and if they have Smuggler’s Copter or another artifact out then it can be a huge blowout. It allows this deck to deal with Saheeli Combo (killing Saheeli in response to her targeting Felidar Guardian) or Marvel (if they miss the first roll). The grindy abilities added to its versatility makes it one of the strongest removal options - there is a reason we are in Grixis!

Some other choices for removal are Abrade, Lightning Strike, Cast Down, Walk the Plank, and Vraska’s Contempt. Abrade is an all-around good card, as it deals with pesky Copters and any other artifact or small creatures. Lightning Strike is another choice as it deals the same 3 damage but it also gives you some reach in the long game - here I would recommend Abrade over Lightning Strike, but there’s always room for more testing. Cast Down or Walk the Plank are good choices if you’re expecting larger creature decks, however, both have their downsides as Cast Down is unable to hit Thalia, Heretic Cathar or Anafenza, the Foremost, both being premium threats in Abzan Aggro. Cast Down, however, is instant speed and doesn’t have the same taxing effect that Walk the Plank has with double black. Walk the Plank hits most creatures in this format, with Merfolk not seeing any play. The downside of Walk the Plank is that it’s at sorcery speed and costs double black, which is relatively difficult in a 3-color deck. Finally, Vraska’s Contempt for a slower metagame, where UBx Control and Jund Delirium reign on top. Vraska’s Contempt hits all of UBx Control’s creature threats and Planeswalkers, while exiling creatures such as Scarab God and Goblin Dark-Dwellers stops them from being returned.
 

Cantrips:

 

We've already talked about how you want to be constantly casting spells... so why not

 

spells which draw you more spells? Cantrips are defined as any card, usually a cheap one, which replaces itself by drawing a card or searching for a card. Cantrips allow you to filter through your deck and to 'bottom' or put into your graveyard cards you don’t need, which lets your find your important cards powering up your creatures that care about spellcasts. Choice of cantrips is largely dependent on what creatures you are running, but our Spellslinger deck runs 4x Strategic Planning and 4x Opt. Opt is your basic cantrip - it lets you look at card and replaces itself, and at instant speed. Strategic Planning does the same thing, except it allows you to look at 3 cards and allows you to put 3 total cards into your graveyard (Strategic Planning being the third).

 

A few other options for cantrips include Cathartic Reunion and Magmatic Insight, both of which allow you to pitch the cards you don’t need to draw into cards you want. However, in the late game if you topdeck them with no cards in hand or with only cards you want to keep, then they become a dead card, so it may be up to you and to the speed of your deck. If you want to be casting Tasigur, the Golden Fang consistently on turn 3 or 4, then Cathartic Reunion and Magmatic Insight may be just right for you! If you are a deck that wants to grind out with removal and Treasure Cruise, then Cathartic Reunion and Magmatic Insight may not be the best choices.

 

 

 

Protection:

 

Finally, you need ways to protect your powerful creatures. Because you play so few creatures, one removal spell could ruin your entire deck, so it is important to play cards that protect your creatures. One way of doing this is through countermagic: cards like Spell Pierce, Negate, Stubborn Denial and even Reduce // Rubble are all cards that protect your board on the stack. The second way of doing this in Frontier is hand disruption. While Frontier’s hand disruption is weak compared to Modern with no Inquisition of Kozilek or Thoughtseize, Collective Brutality is still a very versatile card which is relevant in a surprising number of matches. Atarka Red is a good example where all three modes can be used to take a burn spell, kill a creature, and create a four point life difference. The final way of protecting your creatures is with hexproof/indestructible effects. Generally, you only see these cards in Temur (URG) or other green-based Spellslinger decks as cards like Heroic Intervention and Blossoming Defense but they can blow your opponent out.

 

A different way of approaching the problem of removal spells is playing recursion. We already mentioned that we wanted Kolaghan's Command for this Thing in the Ice decks, but Claim // Fame is another good recursion and Liliana The Last Hope can bring back our creatures as well, making the opponent's removal less relevant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creatures:

 

Our deck is about spells, but creatures are how your deck will win. Enigma Drake and Thing in the Ice are two creatures with synergy who can end the game quickly. Take a look at the creatures you want for your Spellslinger list and then find the spells that build around them. For example cycling spells, such as Censor, would be good in a Cryptic Serpent deck because you don’t need the cast trigger to reap the benefits. However, they are not good in a Thing in the Ice deck because when you cycle them, they don’t count towards its ticking down, so we would favor something like Opt instead.

 

Decks:

 

Matt Murday has been playing these type of decks for a while now, and because of that I’ve decided to use some of his decks to showcase some of the creatures and spells these decks use. Here is his Thing in the Ice deck:

 

4 Bloodstained Mire

 

2 Claim//Fame

2 Collective Brutality

3 Fatal Push

1 Geistblast

3 Island

4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

3 Kolaghan's Command

2 Lightning Strike

2 Liliana, the Last Hope

1 Mountain

1 Negate

4 Opt

4 Polluted Delta

2 Reduce

1 Smoldering Marsh

3 Spirebluff Canal

4 Strategic Planning

2 Sunken Hollow

2 Swamp

4 Thing in the Ice

3 Treasure Cruise

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

2 Walk the Plank

 

Sideboard:

4 Cryptic Serpent

1 Disdainful Stroke

4 Fevered Visions

2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

2 Radiant Flames

2 Yahenni's Expertise

 

 

This deck is packs a huge punch with 4 mainboard Thing in the Ice and 4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy which are both easily flipped. This deck plays like a tempo deck, either protecting your creatures until they become either 7/8s or planeswalkers, and returning them all with cards like Liliana, the Last Hope and Kolaghan’s Command. Claim // Fame fits in perfectly as all of the creatures mainboard have converted mana cost 2 or less. The +2/+0 can also allow you to get in for the last points of damage, flip a Jace the turn he comes into play, or to gain some life back with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Geistblast is another really sweet card that doesn’t see play at all outside of this deck and can do incredibly overpowered things such as copying Treasure Cruise - drawing 6 is no joke! All in all, this deck is very sweet and, having tested it many times, found that it has several good matchups against much of the metagame, and with a deck like this we can change it around if there are ever decks we need to find new answers to! I’m not going to sit here and talk about this deck all day, as it has the same instants and sorceries I talked about above.

Here is another version of the Spellslinger deck also made by Matt Murday:

 

1 Abrade

 

4 Bedlam Reveler

4 Bloodstained Mire

3 Censor

3 Collective Brutality

4 Cryptic Serpent

2 Duress

3 Fatal Push

1 Flooded Strand

2 Island

4 Kolaghan's Command

3 Lightning Strike

2 Mountain

1 Murderous Cut

4 Opt

4 Polluted Delta

2 Smoldering Marsh

3 Spirebluff Canal

4 Strategic Planning

1 Stubborn Denial

2 Sunken Hollow

1 Swamp

2 Sweltering Suns

 

Sideboard:

1 Collective Brutality

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Essence Extraction

2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

2 Rending Volley

2 Stubborn Denial

1 Summary Dismissal

2 Sweltering Suns

3 Transgress the Mind

 

This deck aims to do something different. This deck is a little more all-in on filling the graveyard. Lots of removal and a flexible set of cycling cards allow this deck to quickly fill the graveyard in order to lower the cost of Bedlam Reveler and Cryptic Serpent, both are massive threats that trade or eat most of the format’s commonly played creatures, while also dodging most of the commonly played removal in the format like Fatal Push and Lightning Strike/Abrade. This deck doesn’t want to put stuff on the board to gain value, this deck actually wants to keep stuff off of it. By killing every creature they play, your graveyard is slowly getting bigger, all while you are cycling aggressively and cantripping. This version doesn’t want to play Treasure Cruise as it delves away your cost reduction, instead, it plays Bedlam Reveler, a Treasure Cruise on a body 80% of the time. Other than the cycling cards, the deck is very similar to the Thing in the Ice deck, with a few minor changes.

 

Conclusion:

 

I would like to end this article stating that over the course of a few weeks, I have a 56 percent win rate with my Thing in the Ice deck over 25 matches, against some of the top-tier decks, including Atarka Red and Abzan Aggro. In the hands of someone better (there are many people who fit this role), this deck could really go far. This shows you the power of brewing in Frontier, and how Frontier is still a very unexplored format. I hope you try out brewing a Spellslinger deck and testing it, if not, then I hope you can use some of these strategies or cards in your decks. This has been Neverlucky, and happy brewing!


 

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