A lot of people ask me why I “give up” on a particular deck. The phrasing always confuses me. Just because I’m not actively working on a deck doesn’t mean I’ve given up on it, just like I’m not necessarily abstaining from treadmills if I’m not on one at the moment (though, given my burgeoning midsection, that might be a fair assessment anyway).
“Hey Caleb, I saw you were eating sushi the other day and now you’re not. Why’d you quit? Do you not like sushi anymore?”
I play a lot of Magic, and after so many games with a given deck I need to switch things up. Fortunately, Magic is a game of infinite variation. And that’s usually what it takes to get me back on an old favorite—a new variation.
I’ve looked at all kinds of crazy takes on Nic Fit over the years. The deck is unique in that a lot of cards that aren’t normally playable in Legacy (or any other format) are viable because, thanks to Veteran Explorer + Cabal Therapy, it breaks the normal rules regarding mana curve. If you’re shredding the opponent’s hand before blowing up his board with Pernicious Deed, pretty much any old 5+ mana win condition will do the job, and most innovation boils down to another interesting way to kill someone from a won board state.
It’s rarer that new technology gives us alternate ways to build the deck with new game plans and strengths and weaknesses. Baleful Strix gave us the blue count to experiment with Force of Will. It also gave us enough value creatures to play Birthing Pod, which is arguably its own archetype.
The other day, someone in my Twitch chat linked me to some true innovation with interesting implications. This might not be his exact mana base, as I’m going from memory, but the idea is intact:
BUG Nic Fit, by anonymous
The mana base is a little light on colored sources, and I almost never like Volrath’s Stronghold in these decks since it takes up a spell slot and at that point I’d rather just have a Grave Titan. After all, whatever you’re getting back with the Stronghold is bound to be worse than Grave Titan. This is one of the rare lists where Stronghold has merit, but we’ll get back to that in a second.
The Green Sun’s Zenith package is fairly typical. Sagu Mauler is a fresh one, similar to the Thrun or Sigarda in older lists. Obstinate Baloth is playable, but only just so, and since Thragtusk is so good against Miracles I think it’s the superior card. While it’s nice to have a four-drop, it’s not like Obstinate is that much better than the three-drops that the deck is running.
Titania, Protector of Argoth has been showing up in a few lists, and it’s easy to see why. There’s almost always a random fetchland to get back, and later in the game it can create a very lethal army out of nowhere, especially since most players hold a fetch or two as a shuffle effect anyway. Getting back a Dryad Arbor to sacrifice to Cabal Therapy makes for some sick value as well.
Sensei’s Divining Top is great in this deck due to the piles of extra mana and above-average number of shuffle effects to reset the top of the library. In my BUG list, I cut Top to make room for a set of Ponders, which upped the blue count for Force of Will and helped fill the graveyard for Treasure Cruise.
This is also a Cruise list, but it gets away with running Tops due to the Satyr Wayfinders, which produce value by themselves (a land drop and sacrifice fodder for Cabal Therapy) even before being counted as Treasure Cruise enablers.
The Wayfinders really are an inspiring bit of technology, and the incidental mill has a ton of implications for the Nic Fit archetype. In this list alone, it helps find Therapy to flash back, acts as yet another “shuffle” effect for Tops and Brainstorms, and fills the graveyard with targets for Eternal Witness/Deathrite Shaman/Volrath’s Stronghold/Scavenging Ooze. Imagine a build with Recurring Nightmare!
Or just scroll down.
In past builds, I fluctuated wildly on the correct number of Brainstorm, but zero is the right number. This deck needs to be developing its board state during the early turns, and if you’re cantripping you’re falling behind and losing. In the late game, if the opponent answers Pod, maybe it could be sweet, but even then we might as well have a threat in that slot. When you have a Birthing Pod, the actual contents of your hand don’t matter because you can win by transforming your on-board material.
It seemed like no matter when you draw it, early or late, Green Sun’s Zenith fits what the deck wants to be doing better. And if we up the number of Green Sun’s to at least three we can afford to run a Dryad Arbor, increasing the deck’s turn-one play count and consistency.
Recurring Nightmare has always been an insane draw here since the deck naturally accrues 187 creatures in the graveyard, similar to a Cube deck. Still, because slots were so tight I never had the space to experiment with more than one copy. Here, with the addition of Sidisi and Sylvan Wayfinder, we have more value creatures and more efficient ways of binning them. This lets us up the Recurring Nightmare count and increase those midgame blowouts.
My one concern with Wayfinder is that it’ll inevitably mill the card you want to Pod for, but I think the risk is worth the effect. And we still have multiple value creatures at each stage.
I’d like more games to test Sidisi, but so far it has been surprisingly solid even when it doesn’t combine with Recurring Nightmare, Satyr Wayfinder, or Pod. It’s not as immediate or consistent as Deranged Hermit, but it also costs less, doesn’t have echo, and fills the graveyard. I don’t expect it to see play elsewhere, mostly because few decks run enough creatures. Still, it is powerful enough, it turns on delve, and it is blue for Force of Will.
If I cut Sidisi, it’ll be for Sower of Temptation.
One weakness of the above list is that it doesn’t have a tutorable answer to True-Name Nemesis, and because of that I might need to up the Pernicious Deed count. On paper the deck has ways of killing equipment and gaining life, but hard-to-kill evasive threats have been problems for the deck in the past. In fact, Creeping Tar Pit is one of the reasons the deck runs Acidic Slime (the other being that deathtouch makes the 2/2 body more relevant than a Wickerbough Elder or Reclamation Sage).
Orzhov Pontiff is the best tutorable answer to a True-Name because it also handles Young Pyromancer and friends as well as some nasty-looking Elf boards. It means going into white, but Siege Rhino is an exciting reason to do that anyway.
A few months back, a gent by the name of @BlakeNJudge Tweeted at me with a Pod list that looked kind of similar to what Gleicher and I were meddling around with, but he cut the Veteran Explorers for more dual lands and a tighter curve.
I didn’t like his card choices, but he was right in that playing enough basics for Veteran Explorer is a serious deckbuilding cost, decreasing early-game consistency because you may or may not have all your colors. This means more mulligans and more stumbles.
In some matchups, like the old RUG Delver lists that relied on Wasteland and Daze for disruption, having a pile of basics was a good first step toward winning the game. Against the new UR Delver decks, you’re only playing around a one-of Price of Progress, and stumbling on a color in the early game is much more likely to result in a swift death.
There are definite advantages to avoiding Veteran Explorer altogether, especially if you have enough cheap creatures to fill out a tighter list.
Here, the access to white has a lot of nice options. Stoneforge Mystic gives the deck a proactive plan against creature strategies, and it’s a solid value card to boot. Sin Collector aids the discard strategy well, and it’s the perfect complement to Kitchen Finks in that one of them should be good at any given time—similar to Murderous Redcap and Glen Elendra Archmage in the BUG version.
Wayfinder has less synergy here than in the previous lists, and without graveyard synergies it becomes a bad Sylvan Messenger. That said, Siege Rhino is new and interesting enough to test this anyway.
Speaking of Siege Rhino, a third copy might be better than the Restoration Angel, though Resto blocks fliers and opens up some interesting lines.
If I did play Veteran Explorer here, it’d be for Academy Rector. Not just to tutor the usual Recurring Nightmare, Pernicious Deed, Sylvan Library, or Oblivion Ring, as you could always just play more of those effects and cut out the middle man. After all, Podding into Rector still takes a full turn before you can cash in that sweet value, assuming you don’t have a Therapy handy.
No, I like the idea of tutoring up something sweet, namely Primeval Bounty. Bounty is borderline good enough in a Veteran Explorer deck anyway, and cheating it into play leads to some very lopsided games.
And we’re back to Satyr Wayfinder. I still like how it interacts with Recurring Nightmare, and between Volrath’s Stronghold, Reveillark, and Sun Titan we have an above-average number of cards that value a stocked graveyard. If we weren’t on the Pod plan, we could up the number by running some number of Lingering Souls to dredge into the ‘yard.
It’s possible that this list should have Titania for sheer power concerns, but the five-drops I’m running are much sweeter with Recurring Nightmare. Reveillark has the potential to “go off” with Satyr Wayfinder, dredging into more Cabal Therapys and Nightmare targets.
I love the enchantment bullets, and I’m considering a second Rector. Playing and Podding it away is much better than Podding for it and waiting a turn to gain value.
The Stoneforge Mystic package swaps out the Sword of Fire and Ice for Batterskull, mostly because this deck is much more capable of powering out a fast Batterskull if it’s drawn naturally. In fact, a turn one Veteran Explorer into a Phyrexian Tower can turn-two the thing.
The main card missing that I’ve seen in other Sun Titan lists is Bone Shredder, and it is the most elegant way to turn Sun Titan into a 187 creature. That said, I have a lot of problems with the card on its own. Sometimes, even Shriekmaw isn’t good, and that’s a much more powerful card. Also, echo is a nasty ability to have in your Pod deck, as you’d rather spend that mana playing and activating Pod.
Wayfinder is a new card with non-obvious synergies, and we’re still learning where it’s good as an incidental value card and where it needs to be built around. When we consider how good it is at enabling delve, and the fact that it can filter for powerful nonbasics, it’s possible the card earns a spot as a permanent Legacy staple. Imagine nabbing a Grove of the Burnwillows while binning a Punishing Fire, or a Wasteland while binning Life from the Loam.