The first competitive deck I ever built was Living End. This was back in the “wild west” days of old Extended, and I was trying to play Magic competitively, grinding PTQ trying to crack the big time. I really enjoyed the deck, and it got me within a game of the Pro Tour by making the finals of a PTQ once. It was a quirky combo deck that was one of the few that could match up against the feared Thopter-Depths deck that had both Thopter Foundry-Sword of the Meek and Vampire Hexmage-Dark Depths. Heck, I even sideboarded Boros Fury-Shield for the matchup, which was hilarious when it worked.
Enough reminiscing. More Living End. Amonkhet has made the deck better than ever.
Amonkhet has been good to Living End, allowing the deck to up both the number and quality of its cycling creatures as it digs toward a cascade spell in Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread to dig toward the only spell that can be cascaded into: Living End itself.
There are several ways to build the deck, and the two biggest question marks seem to be whether to run Simian Spirit Guide and/or Avalanche Riders. The former speeds the deck up a turn at the cost of being a “dead” card, while Avalanche Riders can completely blow out games alongside Fulminator Mage.
That said, both come with a cost, namely efficiency and reliability. With up to eight cards that don't cycle to find the combo, the deck is prone to beating itself via mulligans or hands that just don't do anything. With access to more one-mana cyclers in Amonkhet, I prefer to make the deck as consistent as possible in game one, and that's why you'll see the full four Desert Ceradon and Horror of the Broken Lands but no Simian Spirit Guides. Resolving Living End on turn three or four rather than turn two is completely acceptable, especially given that there will probably be more creatures in the graveyard than in previous lists.
With Amonkhet, my list now has a full 21 cards that cycle for one mana or less (Street Wraith). The other new inclusion is Archfiend of Ifnir, which cycles for two just like Jungle Weaver did, but has a much larger impact on the game when needed. When you EOT Violent Outburst and have 30 power in play it obviously doesn't matter, but a surprising amount of Living End games are much closer, grindier affairs than that, and that's where Archfiend shines. The fact you can also just cast it for five mana – something that happens more than you might think – is also pretty relevant.
The sideboard remains largely unchanged, with Anger of the Gods and Shriekmaw dealing with creatures, Slaughter Games and Ravenous Trap – remember, we can't run anything that costs less than three mana, so no Surgical Extraction – for combo decks, Ingot Chewer to fight against Relic of Progenitus and the Brindle Boar/Gnaw to the Bone split against aggressive decks. The other inclusion is Ricochet Trap, which essentially functions as a Pyroblast in this deck – when they try to Remand your Living End, you use the Trap to Redirect Remand to itself, causing the counter to fizzle on the stack and your Living End to resolve.
As a deck, Living End is pretty decently positioned right now. The mass of cycling cards helps insulate the deck against discard, and it enjoys a favorable matchup with almost all creature decks. With Amonkhet, I wouldn't be surprised to see Living End return to the top tables of Modern.
Thanks for reading,
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