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Shadow12721

In full disclosure I've never played against that list or one quite like it - but typically the crux of Meren's power is how you choose to mulligan and which lines of play you seek out in your first few turns. In other words, a generic "good hand" and luck of the draw will often not serve you well, as opposed to thinking very critically about your opponents' weaknesses and proactively seeking out the best ways to address their individual strategies.

For example, some games against certain lists I ignore all else and look for Null Rod ASAP, because the disproportionate advantage it provides vs. artifact combo / ramp (i.e. Rashmi, Eternities Crafter combo) is simply so strong that every other line of play is just not worth it in comparison. On the other hand, against something like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard it is usually crucial to find removal or a boardwipe as soon as possible. So, your opening hand / mulligans / early tutors should reflect the line of play you believe is most likely to win you the game (again, a generic "good" hand will usually be the incorrect choice - it needs to be "good" for the specific matchup)

Initial impressions looking at the Ramos list:

  • Our average CMC is far lower, our 0 and 1 drop count is far higher, and we run many more mana dorks than the opponent. Thus, the problem is probably not speed - we should accelerate much harder out of turns 1-3 than Ramos by virtue of this alone. Therefore, the problem must lie with the line of play after the opening turns (as opposed to playing against some combo lists, where matching speed with speed is the crux of the issue)
  • Ramos' average CMC is high and creature count is relatively low. Its nonland mana source count is also relatively low. This tells me that Winter Orb, Tangle Wire, Nether Void, and Thorn of Amethyst are high-value early game plays. These drops are absolutely priority number one against high-CMC decks as they single-handedly destroy their tempo.
  • Being 5 colors and lacking much artifact and creature mana production, a fast Contamination lock would be very problematic for that pilot and may possibly simply win us the game. If you have Meren out and a tutor up, it's probably safe to just go for this right away, given the lack of spot removal in Ramos.
  • Ramos packs a lot of planeswalkers and fairly little creature removal. Planeswalkers tend to be over-costed if you can activate them only once... this, combined with the lack of creature removal means we are probably safe to swarm out with creatures and simply attack / destroy them ASAP. Therefore, we can overextend a bit in order to keep the opponent's board presence from blowing up too much. Assuming we have tax effects in play as well, it should be possible to more than keep up with the opponent's rate of dropping threats.
  • Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is not something I would spend deck slots to address. Losing a few cards off the top doesn't affect our board, doesn't limit our draws, etc. and your opponent should only get 1-2 activations off before this dies. The likelihood it exiles exactly the right silver bullet at exactly the right time is small enough that I'm not worried about it from game to game - especially if you are playing multiplayer.
  • Ramos seems to play high-value enchantments to accelerate hard and enable high-value plays. Therefore, flexible spot removal or creatures with "destroy-enchantment" effects are going to have increased value here. Tax effects still take preference in the early turns, since locking your opponent out BEFORE he drops enchantments is prefereable. But, given there are 10 high-value enchantments in the list, it's worthwhile to pack at least one answer to enchantments (using Survival of the Fittest, Worldly Tutor, etc).
  • On the other hand, creature removal is OK but probably not the right play to seek out ASAP as many of Ramos' creatures have ETB effects or haste so we can't address them quickly enough - and it doesn't slow down their gameplan enough. That said, as you reach the mid-game a Grave Pact with instant-speed sac outlets gives you great power to address Ramos as he hits the battlefield (but, at this point you should already be ahead).

In summary, we are much faster than this list and it at least appears to me that bogging him down in the opening turns of the game would give us plenty of time to setup a lock or establish fantastic board advantage.

Was this a 1v1 game or multiplayer? If multiplayer, did the rest of the table not use any removal?

September 22, 2017 1:03 p.m.

davester00123

Agreed! I will be testing Phyrexian Revoker in place of Lili #2 for now - I think this provides us with a powerful new tool to answer combo, and one which is easily tutored, casted, and recovered. Good suggestion!

September 22, 2017 1:22 a.m.

davester00123

Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip is on my watch list and at or near the top of my potential options for being cut. From luck of the draw I unfortunately just haven't seen her that much in my games so my sample size with her is pretty small so far (hence my lack of a good, straightforward answer). She's objectively slower than I'd like, though I'm torn because of the strength of her flip side. However I'd say that she is one of the cards most likely to be cut in a future revision due to her tempo - just waiting on a few data points to confirm this. Good catch!

September 20, 2017 11:07 p.m.

jeannieboef:

I think the question with Spore Frog is: what is the problem we encounter that this seeks to solve, and is it worth spending our Meren triggers bringing this tool back over the alternatives? By spending resources recurring Spore Frog, it means we aren't utilizing a Reclamation Sage, Fleshbag Marauder, etc. so we should be sure it's the right choice.

Spore Frog seems to shine best as an anti-aggro strategy against a single aggro deck (since he can't protect you from multiple). The price paid is your Meren trigger each turn. If your meta is such that this gives you the space to win the game, I think there is nothing wrong with the choice - but keep in mind that Spore Frog doesn't deal with problems permanently and requires a continuous stream of resources (Meren triggers) to maintain. So, it is worth examining whether Spore Frog handles the problem better or worse than simply adding more removal (either that which is already in the list above, or alternatives like Infest, Drown in Sorrow, Fatal Push, Snuff Out, Go for the Throat, etc)

Yes! Living Plane has benefits outside of the combo. Off the top of my head:

  • (a) It gives all lands summoning sickness so helps with our goal of slowing down the game (works ESPECIALLY well vs. fetchlands!)
  • (b) It makes lands vulnerable to Grave Pact, Fleshbag Marauder, and other similar effects which we run quite a few of (I'm heavily considering Pox since this makes it even better than it already is)
  • (c) It goes pretty wild with Gaea's Cradle

September 20, 2017 1:30 a.m.

Hi UnleashedHavok!

Thanks for posting on / upvoting my Meren primer, really glad you liked it :) Just following up with you to see if there are a few ideas I can help with - trying to stay in tune with your current deck flavor, and keep all the suggestions pretty cheap :)

  • Acidic Slime - How often do you find you target lands with him? I always thought he was a little steep for the effect, and something like Sylvok Replica did 95% of the job for 60% of the cost
  • What's your experience with the "pump" creatures like Bloodthrone Vampire, Lotleth Troll, etc.? I find that even with recursion engines, it's hard to have enough cards to actually feed them well enough... maybe it would be more useful to use these slots for more utility creatures (removal, ramp, etc.) and then....
  • ...look at something like Beastmaster Ascension to go alongside Dance of Shadows! Seems like your wincon is a big alpha strike with creatures, so this might be a great alternative/addition. Note that Beastmaster Ascension gets the counters upon declaring attacks, so if you swing with seven creatures in one combat, they will all get +5/+5 that combat.
  • Focusing on strong wincons like that would also let you turn Mortician Beetle into Elves of Deep Shadow (of course, I don't see many creatures in my playgroup so maybe I'm undervaluing that card)
  • Scavenging Ooze sticks with your pump-to-win theme but adds some targeted graveyard hate
  • To help speed up card draw - how about Fecundity? I assume you're playing more creatures than your opponents (and have recursion!) so this can help speed up the mid-game slog that usually happens in B/G. Foster is another option, but a little slower.
  • Duskwatch Recruiter  Flip - I have no experience with him, but maybe this would be a good place for him
  • Manglehorn is just so good as removal, and to slow down your opponents
  • From Beyond seems a bit slower than Awakening Zone in an opening hand for a similar effect
  • Cryptolith Rite turns everything into Birds of Paradise!
  • Maybe Bone Shredder over Nekrataal?
  • What about something like Doomgape as a swing-in fatty over Scourge of Nel Toth? Both seem combat-focused, but Doomgape gains you life and is harder to block
  • How often do you use Altar of Dementia? Would something like Ashnod's Altar be more useful? Probably comes down to whether you need ramp or card draw more at that stage of the game.
  • Ghirapur Orrery might be interesting tech to play with, but depending on your playgroup it could go either way. Never used it personally but it seems like it could be fun
  • Aluren is on the steep side of "budget" but would be SO GOOD HERE (assuming your opponents aren't heavy on the creatures too, it's symmetric!)
September 17, 2017 10:31 p.m.

golgariizzet

Of those, Pox is the one on my "Maybe's" list, and I'm seriously looking for a way to fit it in because it's just so good! As for the rest, they generally fall into the following categories:

Too slow and/or too expensive: Blood Artist (no combo in the deck, doesn't affect the battlefield at all), Black Market, Bontu the Glorified (tries to do too many things, but does none of them very well), Lotleth Troll, Deadbridge Chant, Deathreap Ritual

Not proactive / assertive for our gameplan: Spore Frog, Mesmeric Orb

Re: Westvale Abbey  Flip - colors are too important the first few turns, so we can't really afford any colorless lands unless their activation rate is extremely high or utility is essential to deck function. The distinction is NOT whether a land is good, but rather whether it's necessary to win. I've lost a lot of games being stuck on colorless lands that were "good" but only that.

September 15, 2017 8:47 p.m.

Paladin_11111

I will take a look! I do not really have experience building Atraxa however, so not sure how helpful I will be.

Pygmyrhino990

It does at first! However since we're running so lean, it turns out that we only need 2-3 counters anyway for Meren to "turn on" for us. Which means, she gets there pretty quickly anyway! So I think it might be a stronger advantage to focus that slot on ramp or lockdown.

99ghosts

Good luck my friend, if you like Hokori then I suspect you'll like this! Hope you enjoy it :)

September 15, 2017 12:46 p.m.

Thanks for the kind words Paladin_11111 :)

I used to run Smokestack, but took it out - I discuss it a bit in my "Individual Card Selections & Notable Exclusions" section under the "Stax" heading, but long story short waiting a full turn cycle for it to turn on PLUS costing 4 is what drove me away. I think if it cost 2-3 with the wait clause, or cost 4 but started immediately with a counter, it would probably be here, since it would be quick enough to really be running smoothly. I'm not totally convinced yet that cutting it was the right choice considering how much acceleration we have (so it can land T3 pretty regularly), but so far I haven't been missing it too much and it's made for a lot less clunky early hands!

...Fingers crossed they someday unban Braids, Cabal Minion (at least in the 99), since it's exactly what we'd want from Smokestack... starts working immediately (instead of waiting a full turn), very tutorable as a creature, and easily recycled with Meren!

September 9, 2017 4:55 p.m.

goblinguiderevealpls

Think you're going a little overboard here, I'm not trying to offend you if you play Meren differently, it just looks like there are a few things we disagree on is all.

This is a "Primer" specifically because no one else builds Meren this way, and thus it deserves some extended discussion on construction and play. The whole point of making this a Primer is to show why it is different than the norm - not to do more of the same! If I were running largely the same build as everyone else, there would be no reason to make a Primer, there are enough of those already for midrange Meren. But since this is more or less completely different, I've taken the time to explain and share it with everyone.

Beyond that, the best way to judge the list is via actual playtesting - I've played plenty of games with "standard" Meren and plenty with the list here. If you (or anyone else) is on the fence about which to pick, theorycrafting is not the way to go. Proxy & sleeve up both versions and see for yourself which you like better!

On Speed: Stax may not win quickly, but it must still be fast. You need to start locking the game at T2-T3, and then consistently be causing more oppression in the subsequent turns if you don't want your opponents to just play through it and win anyway. There isn't time to durdle around placing a bunch of counters on Meren and not locking the game - if you do this, someone will just win in the meantime. Consider even your Vampire Hexmage + Dark Depths combo - in a 4 player game, that's a 6-turn clock at best to deal 120 damage - assuming no chump blockers, no exile removal, no bounce, etc. (and 6 turns is an eternity). So even though the combo "lands" quickly, even at its best it (a) doesn't actually win the game quickly, (b) doesn't accelerate your boardstate, and (c) doesn't lock the other players out. That's why I'm not playing it! In my meta, if you are not interacting, then there is almost a guaranteed combo win T2-T5 (unless there's an atypically unlucky draw). Such is the pace of CEDH combo and there is no room for 6+ cmc fatties in an opening hand if you want to remain relevant.

As to the rest, all I can say is that I think you should try the list before you criticize it how you have. I think you will find that it's much stronger and more oppressive than the "norm" you are referring to! Good luck!

September 9, 2017 1:12 p.m.

goblinguiderevealpls

Long story short, that's because this deck is alarmingly different from the herd and that is the whole reason I've gone about writing this primer :)

Virtually every other Meren primer is some blend of midrange / goodstuff with most of what you've listed. I've tested and tried out all of those options and I just don't think this is the strongest way to build her... it results in a slow and slogging list without much potential to tango with fast combo. But, Meren can be so much faster and more potent if you are willing to step out of the comfort zone of "normal" and try this list out!

In regards to the recommendations - most of those options are just not fast enough. Turns 1-4 are where CEDH games are largely set, and focusing on accelerating hard, locking down those turns, and transitioning reliably out of them, is what I've found to win games - much more than goodstuff. The "standard" Meren staples (Bane of Progress, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, etc) are strong in theory but they just don't land quickly enough and you simply lose a lot of games because of it. Even The Abyss falls into this category - it hurt me to unsleeve it, but at this point the CEDH format and the rest of this list outpaces it so much that it's just not worth the 4cmc and long payoff period. Regarding Damnation specifically, it isn't there because Yahenni's Expertise is often the more efficient choice vs. the lists I see (i.e. Yisan swarm, etc).

Typical Meren lists are lucky to break an average 3.5 CMC, or 3.0 if they're lucky. Compare this to fast combo in CEDH which often hovers right around 2.0 or even lower - it's no wonder conventional Meren lists have a hard time keeping up! With the list in this Primer we're hovering right around 2.2, which means we're actually fast enough to keep pace with combo but still have the card quality and value engines to give us great control in the mid to late game.

It looks different because it is, I encourage you to give it a shot!

September 9, 2017 3:57 a.m.

Shadow12721

I recently cut Earthcraft which is, in most cases, a better Cryptolith Rite (Earthcraft effectively bypasses summoning sickness to all your creatures!). I've recently removed it, but I'm not sure yet whether I'll put it back. Two things I was considering at the time: (a) I run a lot more dorks than I used to, and for those creatures it offers no benefit since they already tap for mana; and (b) I was in need of additional fast spot removal. Earthcraft / Cryptolith Rite are very strong, just a bit slow, so I'm not sure yet on whether one will come back! I will make an update post if I do.

I'm running Dismember over Fatal Push and Tragic Slip for two reasons: (a) it's less restrictive on colors (usually we're tight on so conserving them where possible is helpful), and (b) a little more flexible on valid targets (permanents dying or leaving the battlefield can be restrictive, especially if trying to do this as a combat trick). These two are definitely in consideration! Just haven't decided whether I need more creature spot removal yet - my playgroup tends to run a lot of noncreature combo, so Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Beast Within, etc. are serving me well there. Don't forget that the board is typically wiped pretty clean between all the symmetric sacrifice effects (like Merciless Executioner) so spot removal is usually only needed for the most troublesome or worrisome creatures.

Re: Planeswalkers - I mention it in an above comment, but in short, combat damage. We keep field wiped pretty clean of enemy creatures so simply attacking into planeswalkers is the easy way to go and I've never found myself needing PW-specific removal. Planeswalkers are also pretty uncommon in CEDH in general so it's not something I pay a lot of specific attention to. If your opponent has planeswalkers and lots of defenders out, then something went wrong earlier in the game and that's where you should direct your attention/tuning (as opposed to putting in PW removal).

Paladin_11111

I only run ~8 ETB effects! There are lots of creatures but not many are actually triggered on ETB. Panharmonicon is fairly slow & high-CMC, but most of all, it relies on other cards to have any effect at all - which is a big risk to take when our goal is to take over the game by T3 (and therefore can't afford to draw any duds in opening hand). I think it might have a better place if we were running a lot of degenerate creature combos here, but for the same cost we could just cast 1-2 other spells and have a guaranteed immediate effect instead! So in summary, it's less what Panharmonicon can do for us, and more about what we have to give up for that card slot and 4 mana.

September 8, 2017 11:03 p.m.

fhowe36

Not a dumb suggestion at all! In fact I used to run Pestilence in this very list, but found it was a little too slow for what I needed (my Changelog is one of the few things I haven't had a chance to add to the main post quite yet). Ultimately, Yahenni's Expertise ended up taking that slot - I found that a very efficient one-time wipe with a free spell tacked on was so much faster and more efficient than having the option to continuously wipe the board. Also consider that the first wipe for -3/-3 ultimately costs 7 mana on Pestilence! So, I don't run it anymore, but you might give it a shot to see if you have similar experiences to me (test it out against things like Yahenni's Expertise and Infest to see what gives you the best results).

smiffdemon

Best of luck :)

September 8, 2017 12:45 a.m.

MarvelousBreadfish

We don't really run any combos around Ramunap Excavator or Life from the Loam so we can't really max out their potential. Typically the creatures I'm trying to find room for are those that either accelerate us out of the gates (high-value mana dork), or offer some way to oppress our opponents more quickly/reliably (or in a new/different way). These do neither, so although I think they could be useful in a vacuum, I don't know how well they would actually help secure a win outside of some niche situations.

Good call on the Sylvan Safekeeper! It has been on my "Maybe's" list for a long time (though I didn't put it up here), but I haven't yet been convinced on it. It does protect Meren, but in many cases I'd rather her just die than sacrifice our own lands. Since we stall out the game pretty hard, opponents using removal (aka turns, under Winter Orb or the like) on Meren means (a) they aren't actively advancing their own win condition, and (b) we have more time to advance the rest of our boardstate. I'm hesitant to sacrifice lands to protect her since we operate quite well without her and lands are arguably even more important. Plus, with many mana dorks, stax effects, and tutorable Gaea's Cradle, we typically curve out faster than our opponents (we can't recast her indefinitely, but recasting her once or twice is much better than losing one or two lands and giving up the competitive edge).

Permafrost

Check out my section on "Win Conditions"! Minister of Pain combos with Living Plane for a powerful one-sided Armageddon. At other times, there are enough utility creatures running around (mana dorks, Dark Confidant, tokens, etc.) that he is still useful as a mini-boardwipe. I was unsure about the inclusion at first because -1/-1 seems subpar in theory. But in practice I have been surprised at his effectiveness, often tutoring him up even without the combo ready since the wipe is very useful. And, if the combo does land, that usually means it's Game Over.

Compare this to the popular Necrotic Ooze + Phyrexian Devourer + Triskelion combo that relies on cards with no real play value except the combo itself... they still see play despite being useless without the assembled trio! Minister of Pain is very useful on his own AND fits nicely with our combo, so he fits quite naturally in the list.

Viscera Seer is OK, but only once you have some sort of boardstate established. If we had a few extra slots then maybe it'd be here, not sure. But as it stands, I prefer to devote 1-cmc to mana dorks to accelerate hard, then 2-3 cmc to stax pieces to ensure our threat density is high enough to actually stop our opponents from winning immediately T3. Opening-hand Viscera Seer doesn't really do either of these for us!

September 7, 2017 9:56 p.m.

smiffdemon

On luck-of-the-draw I actually haven't seen Umezawa's Jitte all that often, but the times I have it's been very good and I've been impressed with it. It basically does everything we need:

  • Spot removal (hits black creatures unlike Shriekmaw)
  • Incremental lifegain to counteract our many sources of pain ticks
  • Fast clock to end out the game once we've fully stabilized

In some sense it's the Cryptic Command of equipments and the versatility provided at such a cheap cost is what makes it so good. That said, it is not a card I will typically spend a tutor on (lockdown or the Living Plane combo is almost always the better find). Topdecked however, it is usually quite strong! I recommend giving it a try if you haven't already.

Profet93

I've more or less migrated everything here, so go ahead and take a look! There are some sections I plan to add in the coming weeks, but the bulk of the material is now here.

September 7, 2017 2:58 p.m.

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[PRIMER] Death & Staxes: Competitive Meren EDH

Commander / EDH FireStorm4056

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