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Raging Levine – The Scientific Method

Hey folks, and welcome back to the [card]Epic Experiment[/card] lab. If you remember from last week, we were doing some pretty crazy stuff with a [card]Riku of Two Reflections[/card] deck featuring Epic Experiment and lots of cool sorceries and instants. I received some wonderful advice from friends that I think will help me take this deck to the next level!

Local L1 and very silly friend Elliot Raff sent me his list for what I’m now calling “Riku’s Experiment,” due to me being bad at naming things. His list looks like this:

General: [card]Riku of Two Reflections[/card]

[card]Eternal Witness[/card] [card]Nivix Guildmage[/card] [card]Palinchron[/card] [card]Boundless Realms[/card] [card]Call to Mind[/card] [card]Cultivate[/card] [card]Decree of Annihilation[/card] [card]Empty the Warrens[/card] [card]Epic Experiment[/card] [card]Eternal Dominion[/card] [card]Explosive Vegetation[/card] [card]Far Wanderings[/card] [card]Farseek[/card] [card]Gamble[/card] [card]Growth Spasm[/card] [card]Guided Passage[/card] [card]Kodama’s Reach[/card] [card]Mind’s Desire[/card] [card]Obliterate[/card] [card]Past in Flames[/card] [card]Praetor’s Counsel[/card] [card]Rampant Growth[/card] [card]Reap and Sow[/card] [card]Recollect[/card] [card]Recurring Insight[/card] [card]Regrowth[/card] [card]Reminisce[/card] [card]Rite of Replication[/card] [card]Rude Awakening[/card] [card]Search for Tomorrow[/card] [card]See Beyond[/card] [card]Skyshroud Claim[/card] [card]Spelltwine[/card] [card]Time Spiral[/card] [card]Time Warp[/card] [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card] [card]Autumn’s Veil[/card] [card]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/card] [card]Brainstorm[/card] [card]Early Harvest[/card] [card]Firemind’s Foresight[/card] [card]Fork[/card] [card]Frantic Search[/card] [card]Harrow[/card] [card]Hunting Pack[/card] [card]Increasing Vengeance[/card] [card]Long-Term Plans[/card] [card]Muddle the Mixture[/card] [card]Mystical Tutor[/card] [card]Peer Through Depths[/card] [card]Reiterate[/card] [card]Reverberate[/card] [card]Stroke of Genius[/card] [card]Turnabout[/card] [card]Twincast[/card] [card]Arcane Melee[/card] [card]Burgeoning[/card] [card]Exploration[/card] [card]Future Sight[/card] [card]Mana Reflection[/card] [card]Mirari[/card] [card]Alchemist’s Refuge[/card] [card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[/card] [card]Desolate Lighthouse[/card] 14 [card]Forest[/card] 12 [card]Island[/card] 9 [card]Mountain[/card]

Context-wise, Elliot plays at a shop in our area with what I’ve heard is a very competitive Commander crowd, so he has more infinite mana combos than I generally like. You have to adapt to your environment, though, so don’t judge this list based on the power level of your local group. There is a lot we can learn from Elliot’s list in our list’s context, though. I spoke to Elliot at a PTQ we were both judging recently, and he told me unequivocally that “you HAVE to play [card]Future Sight[/card]!” The more I think about it, the less I disagree.

I’ve been down on [card]Future Sight[/card] as a do-nothing ever since cutting it from my Cube, but Commander is such a different context (you don’t usually get rolled on turn 5 just because you played a permanent with no impact on the board) that we obviously have to see the card through a different lens. Being able to blast through our deck with the large amount of mana we can generate on any given turn makes it easier for us to win the game. At least, I think it does.

Elliot’s list contains way more basic lands than ours, which means he can much better leverage [card]Early Harvest[/card]. I’ve been underwhelmed by [card]Early Harvest[/card] since the first time I flipped it without [card]Nivix Guildmage[/card] in play, and even with any kind of repeatable copy effect the spell often does very little. Since I’m a huge fan of consistent mana, I like our nonbasics, so I think we should probably cut [card]Early Harvest[/card].

Other cards from Elliot’s list I think we should include:

[draft]Call to Mind
Recollect[/draft]

Being able to rebuy on a small [card]Epic Experiment[/card] or an important spell that got countered is clutch. Sadly, we don’t get to go [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card]-crazy in this format, but we could still use another [card]Regrowth[/card]-type effect.

[draft]Empty the Warrens
Hunting Pack[/draft]

I mentioned that I was unhappy with our win conditions last week. I don’t love [card]Palinchron[/card]-related combos, mostly because I have very vivid memories of my friend Dan comboing out on me at summer camp. I remember describing it later as Dan shouting, “PALINCHRON PALINCHRON PALINCHRON,” and killing me. These are good compromises in terms of not being too abusive (like [card]Palinchron[/card]), too similar to our other win conditions that use other peoples’ permanents ([card]Bribery[/card], [card]Blatant Thievery[/card], [card]Eternal Dominion[/card]), or too awful (like [card]Undying Flames[/card] currently is.)

Although, maybe I’m too hard on [card]Palinchron[/card]. If this deck is for a more competitive playgroup with its [card]Nivix Guildmage[/card] combos, then perhaps [card]Palinchron[/card] is okay. I do have a French foil [card]Palinchron[/card] in real life, and I’m itching to do something with it. [card]Palinchron[/card] won’t make it into this version of the deck, but I’ll certainly continue to evaluate whether or not this is a contradiction in my philosophy.

[draft]Spelltwine[/draft]

This card somehow fell out of my list. I’d really like to bring it back.

[draft]Arcane Melee[/draft]

I think I can safely say we break the symmetry of this effect, given that we’re the ones with instants and sorceries. We have to be careful not to make too much hay of effects like these, though, as they generally come attached to permanents, which don’t play so well with [card]Epic Experiment[/card].

[draft]Burgeoning
Exploration[/draft]

These are both great ways for us to get extra lands out of our hand and into play quickly, making it even easier to cast an enormous and hilarious [card]Epic Experiment[/card]. Exploration is heavy on the wallet, though, and [card]Burgeoning[/card] is a fantastic multiplayer card. It should be obvious which one we want to include.

[draft]Mana Reflection[/draft]

I’m on the fence about this one. On the one hand, it’s fantastic. On the other hand, it’s almost… too fantastic. In the post-[card]Primeval Titan[/card] world, it seems like every green mage is playing this one even if they weren’t before. I’ve heard Level 5 Judge and Commander RC member Toby Elliott say a few choice words about it before, but in this deck, I feel like it’s too perfect not to include. We want to cast the biggest, baddest X-spell this side of the Mississippi, and [card]Mana Reflection[/card] is the best way to do it.

[draft]Mirari[/draft]

This was also in an early draft of this deck, but it never made it into the final reel. I think I need to reexamine the lack of [card]Mirari[/card].

[draft]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/draft]

I always like to include one card that is sort of a haymaker in order to make sure Commander games end. In this deck, this is that card. Sure, it’s worthless when it flips off [card]Epic Experiment[/card], but it shuffles right back in so that we can blow someone’s mind with it later when we’ve got enough (read: arbitrary amounts of) mana. If it’s the last card in our deck, we can blow everyone’s minds with it!

So what else has piqued my interest recently as far as this deck goes? Well, let’s see:

[draft]Personal Tutor[/draft]

Not to be outdone by other, better tutors, [card]Personal Tutor[/card] actually has a place in this 99. It does one thing we obviously need it to do: it tutors for [card]Epic Experiment[/card]. If we’ve already got [card]Epic Experiment[/card] in our hand or we’re setting up to recast it, putting a particularly spicy sorcery on top of our library will give us a guaranteed hit.

[draft]Cloven Casting[/draft]

My friend Ryan (of Chaos Stack fame) mentioned this card to me earlier today while we were en route to Harvard’s Natural History Museum. (I’m not normally a fan of taxidermy, but there were some really cool beetles there, and if you like whale skeletons, they’ve got whale skeletons aplenty.) The obvious upside is that it lets us copy a large Experiment for just one mana more. Sadly, I don’t think there are a lot of other uses for it in our deck, so I think I’m leaving this one on the sidelines for now. Costing seven mana and being a permanent aren’t properties that endear this one to me.

[draft]Goblin Electromancer[/draft] [card]Arcane Melee[/card] Jr. here is one-sided and doesn’t have the awful “costing a jillion mana” stigma that cards like [card]Stone Calendar[/card] and [card]Mana Matrix[/card] have. [card]Helm of Awakening[/card] is also worth considering, but I’m not a fan of making everyone’s spells cost less.

[draft]Oracle of Mul Daya[/draft] [card]Exploration[/card] be damned; this is the real deal. I thought of this card while contemplating [card]Future Sight[/card]. It’s a creature, sure, but it only costs 4 and it allows us to speed up our journey toward a truly [card]Epic Experiment[/card].

[draft]Temporal Fissure[/draft]

This was also in the original draft of the deck, and I think it deserves consideration. It’s another huge haymaker, but it’s not a game-ender, so I feel a little awkward about it. It’s kind of like [card]Armageddon[/card]ing without knowing if you can win the game straightaway—it’s not necessarily fun, and it might severely backfire.

With all this talk of cards to include, we’ve got to find some cards to exclude. So who are we not impressed with?

[draft]Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius[/draft]

I do love playing a Dracogenius, (in fact, I may or may not have reanimated one in Cube last night), but I don’t think it has much of a place in this deck. It only serves as an unfun infinite source of damage if we get infinite mana, and if we do that, I’d much rather start an Experiment.

[draft]Ranger’s Path[/draft]

One [card]Skyshroud Claim[/card] is enough, and once we start going off, it seems like we run out of lands to find rather quickly.

[draft]Early Harvest[/draft]

Like I said above, we’re too short on basics for this to work well for us. Maybe in another version of this deck.

[draft]Undying Flames[/draft] [card]Eternal Dominion[/card] is one thing, and I know we like to have Epic spells in our Epic Experiment deck, but sometimes Epic doesn’t mean good. Our spells vary so wildly in CMC that I don’t think we can afford for this to be the only spell we cast for the rest of the game.

[draft]Hypersonic Dragon[/draft]

Going off on other people’s turns just hasn’t seemed worth it to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but for now I’d also like to make sure we don’t add too many permanents to this deck, and I think we’re in danger of that.

So we’ve opened up five slots. I think that if we subtract those cards, we can add the following:

[draft]Arcane Melee
Burgeoning
Mana Reflection
Empty the Warrens
Hunting Pack[/draft]

I think this version of the deck will be able to do a lot more winning. I should have some time to record videos of actual games being played soon, so keep an eye out for those. Next week we’ll be back to a guild theme week, so it’ll be two weeks before you see another article about this deck, but videos are forthcoming. See you next time!

-Eric Levine
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@RagingLevine on Twitter
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