It was the “It Girl” deck of the pre-M11 set; the thinking man's deck... a dog to Jund and RDW maybe, but a deck that would perform against the weapons of choice of, you know, other thinking men. With its Time Warps and many many lands per turn, its caramel-sticky combination of Oracle of Mul Daya and Jace, the Mind Sculptor; its ferocious Indiana Jones-terrifying pit of Lotus Cobras, and its innumerable Plant Tokens, TurboLand positively pooped on decks like U/R/W Planeswalkers with their zero Counterspells; went completely over the top of some of these other decks that would -- in the pre-Mana Leak realm especially -- let them do whatever they wanted, when whatever they wanted was so grand indeed.
It seems that the appearance of Primeval Titan was what changed things so dramatically.
With Primeval Titan's ability to go and get cards like Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, dipping one's toes into Blue for accumulated advantages became, if not no longer attractive, more than was precisely necessary... You could get a lot done with just the Green. The aggressive opponents might still be problematic, but the deck -- especially behind its 6/6 Workhorse for six -- could do so much, and relatively quickly. And given the right sideboard (and a heck of a lot more early game mana consistency), the Eldrazi Ramp inheritors could better defend against RDW... especially with their newly minted Obstinate Baloths. As for Jund? The bad guys had to refit their own decks -- often bending to the inclusion of Slave of Bolas -- just to keep pace with the power of Primeval.
So what happened to TurboLand?
Was it just forgotten?
Was it precisely outmoded, with straight Green just better?
Why try again?
Me, I wanted to investigate if we could go over the top.
As you know from some previous articles, I am very interested in this notion of going completely over the top. Present a game that the opponent can't deal with; that his cards can scarcely understand. Attack on different strata than he is capable of defending against; present problems that exist on a technological level well beyond his limited means.
How are we supposed to do that without Time Warp?
Well, we managed to do that with the Pyromancer Ascension deck without Time Warp! I wasn't sure if TurboLand would translate perfectly, but I had an idea of one new card that might prove the proper tool:
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Previously, Genesis Wave has been played mostly with relatively weak cards. There are just lots and lots of them, and some of them are clear overperformers at particular stages, viz. Llanowar Elves; but for the most part, the Genesis Waves that we see farting out permanents are just making lots of “bad” cards and trying to overwhelm you with them; not “bad” in the sense of “not good” -- because Llanowar Elves is good, and Elvish Archdruid is good, but it seems to me playing over and over against these kinds of decks that at the point that the Genesis Wave comes online, you had best be doing something more impressive than making another Arbor Elf. Yes, Leatherback Baloth is undercosted -- at three -- but when we are spilling eleven or so mana onto the table I am looking for something along the lines of a Cruel Ultimatum or Destructive Force for my Mana Leak bait... Not a stack of cards that will all jump into the graveyard simultaneously in the absence of an Eldrazi Monument.
Speaking of which... Three?
For a deck that almost can't win without a Monument in play... Come on.
So what if we married these disparate forces? The incredible mana engine -- and significantly improved card quality -- of TurboLand with the blowout potential of Genesis Wave? Have you ever seen what happens when a ‘Wave hits when there are Lotus Cobras in play?
I am trying to make the noise that it makes.
It's like “Bleagh” if you can imagine that; but a bit louder. It's horrible. Like Nausea combined with revulsion and hopelessness all rolled together.
The card selection was pretty careful. You want to strike a balance between having sufficient selection and being able to keep Genesis Wave as broken as possible. As such, there are no main deck Mana Leaks... or Mana Leaks anywhere. The only cards that don't fire with Genesis Wave are Explore and Genesis Wave itself; of these, Explore is the card that most often hits the sideboard; especially when you are bringing in other cards that don't work with the ‘Wave.
Of all the cards that need potential explanation, the most important is Halimar Depths.
You'll notice there is no Treasure Hunt here, as there are in most of my other decks recently. Obviously Treasure Hunt is worthless with Genesis Wave; however Halimar Depths is not. The thing about this deck is that it is like The Legends of Team CMU. When it starts to go off, it generates a massive advantage on the battlefield... But is often left with few cards in hand (if any). So you want Halimar Depths either as a random Genesis WaveMise or as a Primeval Titan 187 / attack target to set up the next turn, or even just the next play when you have Oracle of Mul Daya down (and you usually will).
How the deck works:
Fundamentally, the deck can work as a regular Mono-Green Ramp deck... Except with no Eldrazi package. You have the ramp cards putting you to Primeval Titan, i.e. your best card and the Mono-Green deck's best card, and so on... You just have to win with it instead of a gigantic Eldrazi alien because there ain't no gigantic Eldrazi aliens.
The Primeval Titans can't get man lands; they can't get Eye of Ugin for the reload; they can't gain life, nothing like that; they are just very good, but with Halimar Depths, they can help you set up your next turn.
If all you were was a terrible Mono-Green deck, it would be easy to see why TurboLand has so pervasively fallen in popularity versus Mono-Green. However the reason it is worth looking at this deck is that there are three other powerhouse game plans.
1) Utter-Leyton's backup plan. Most people realize the best pre-Scars of Mirrodin Standard deck was specifically Joshua Utter-Leyton's take on Mythic Conscription; super tight; super consistent; four copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. In previous Bant aggro and Bant hybrid decks, Jace was a randomly good card that was either completely discarded or simply sideboarded (various successful builds by Zvi Mowshowitz / Team Mythic, including both the original Mythic deck and their US Nationals Vengevine hybrid), or a card that was primarily there to Confound and stymie U/W-ish Control decks. In Utter-Leyton's deck, the Planeswalkers were actual threat cards. Lotus Cobra >> Jace was an actual thing. You could use it as a machine gun Unsummon while clocking, just for the Fateseal while you had a loose advantage in play, or the bait to get your opponent to tap down so you could kill them with the Sovereigns. This deck can also play an accelerated Jace and try to ride it to an advantage.
2) Jace + Oracle of Mul Daya. While not unbeatable, this combination -- especially when Lotus Cobra is involved -- feels completely soul-crushing from the other side of the ‘field. Jace runs the Brainstorm (or sometimes even Fateseal), the Oracle is always gaining +1 or even +2... and remember this is a deck of nearly 50% mana with additional mana manipulation. You can keep going like this all night... or at least until you set up a Genesis Wave or sufficiently advantageous Primeval Titan.
3) Genesis Wave. This is the unique defining strategy of this version of TurboLand. This is the Time Warps and Avengers rolled into one. Unfortunately, it's not particularly pretty. There has been no room for Avenger of Zendikar so far... So what you see is what you get. But with a sufficient Genesis Wave, that can be a bundle. At the end of this article, I am going to Brainstorm some possible improvements to the deck as presented, some of which would make the Genesis Wave more inexorable... But so far, Genesis Wave -- especially chaining Genesis Wave into Genesis Wave with Jace on the ‘field -- puts you so far ahead the opponent can't compete and flat-out concedes. One of the things that is often going on is that Primeval Titan is the best thing around, you clock with it and sundry little guys while Jace runs the Boomerang on their big thing; or uses the Fateseal to hold your lead. You don't need to be able to do this indefinitely because your leads in this deck -- particularly post ‘Wave -- tend to be in the neighborhood of +10 cards, many of them business cards -- so keeping the opponent clunky for just 2-3 turns should be enough to close it.
As far as I can tell, this is the dumbest thing you can do in Standard. It combines what many people see as the best pure cards -- Primeval Titan and Jace, the Mind Sculptor -- in a single deck. You have tons of mana acceleration and even when you are disrupted, your ability to topdeck something that will catch you up immediately (Primeval Titan; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; or Geneiss Wave) is always there. My daughter sat and watched me playtest this deck. She is over-concerned, generally, with life total, and always thought we were losing when we were behind. Then all of a sudden we would be up 11 cards and the opponent would snap-concede. I am certainly not saying that THIS SEVENTY-FIVE is the strongest possible deck in Standard, but the combination of cards is incredibly strong.
The deck is not yet perfectly tuned. There are question marks as we approach Stage Three. You can be up in double digits and randomly lose to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or even Day of Judgment. Do you have insane recovery potential with your Jace in play? Obviously! But the deck lacks some tactile inevitability in what should be Stage Three.
This one is subtle, but TurboLand is also a Blue Standard deck with no Preordain. It is almost automatically hampered in that it has the mana to play Preordain, but doesn't. But check out the text on Genesis Wave... It's like Expensive Sorcery Master already got me.
TurboLand can play multiple different games, molding the tempo of its play to the opponent. I have played a give-and-go trading style with Red beatodwn decks, raced Mono-Green on the Joraga Treespeaker merits, and run the Tinker beatdown offense on B/U Control; winning each time. That said, like I said, the deck is not perfect. I think that the addition of recursive elements, a Trinket Mage package, or even a lone Eldrazi Monument could improve its performance grandly, once lots of people start trying it.
One deck I did not -- for once -- play against was Pyromancer Ascension. My own baby (or at least the modified burn version of it by Patrick Chapin) was recently declared the best. Last week the decks I tested played a fair amount against Pyromancer... This time I didn't happen to run up against it. I think that a deck with similar virtues, but that has a better permission position and a faster threat (arguably the #1 threat in the format) are things that we should figure out before pushing all the chips into the center.
I played seven matches with the seventy-five as presented at the beginning of this article. Her is how they went:
ONE - B/U Control
I kept a triple Overgrown Battlement draw and played the first on turn two. He played Mana Leak on my first follow up but I had enough mana (four total from three lands and the first Battlement) to run out the third on turn three.
I just have decent acceleration and Mise into Primeval Titan even through his oppressive discard. Oracle of Mul Daya nets me one extra land drop along the way, but no actual card advantage; ho hum; he concedes to the Titan.
His big card was Wurmcoil Engine; he was very aggressively anti-Jace with Vampire Hexmage and Grim Discovery, but on my last turn I played a gigantic Genesis Wave for essentially my deck, which meant that I would 100% hit a Jace. I lifted his Wurmcoil Engine and hammered him into a concession.
My initial mana was a bit clunky (I chose to play a turn one Joraga Treespeaker instead of a Halimar Depths, hoping to Mise an untapped land on turn two... But had Halimar Depths as both my second and third lands), but once I got a little acceleration going I just revealed my whole deck (again).
I turbo'd out an Obstinate Baloth on turn three. He conceded to double Lotus Cobra the next turn in the middle of my Explore + multiple Misty Rainforest sequence. I don't remember what it was going to be, and he never saw it (but it was presumably awesome).
This game was a classic.
It was basically the $16,000 Lightning Helix of random MTGO Standard matches.
I got a ton of mana but he was able to assemble the Basilisk Collar combo with his Cunning Sparkmage. He had multiple copies of Tunnel Ignus early but I managed to dodge most of the damage and keep up a reasonable life total with lots of blockers.
He had deuced the first Wurm with the Sparkmage and ran a Geopede block with Arid Mesa to First Strike down the Baloth, but my Titan got in for a bundle.
I dipped down in life against his Tunnels to get out nine mana to play out the second Wurm and pass; with the Wurm refilling most of my lost life total. Pre-combat he shot the Wurm, predictably; unpredictably I had an un-kicked Into the Roil for his Collar.
There is no move he can make to survive. My life total is up over 20 after +18 in 187 heifers. Re-running the Collar for combat will bring him up to maybe 5... and I have 13 power of Trample in play.
He plays Sadistic Glee and Memoricide both this game, so I sided right. He took three Obstinate Titans with the Glee, but not before I drew one. He set up my game with a pair of lands... But was promptly the victim of Doom Blade.
At that point I was sufficiently ahead to play some Wurms, which of course are masterful in attrition situations.
I am all excited at this point and play a Genesis Wave for only five even though I knew my top card was Genesis Wave (therefore capping the ‘Wave at four total). So of course I also turn over a Primeval Titan, missing; so I get three lands for eight mana.
That said, these are rich people problems. I am a mile ahead with Jace and Oracle; I have a backup Jace, and he is trying to get his Ratchet Bomb high enough to compete at CMC 4.
I did nothing and left open GU on turn two (could have played Lotus Cobra).
I was going for the Utter-Leyton opening. In the Top 8 of US Nationals, the champ left open mana on the second turn despite having a Lotus Cobra in hand to keep Conrad Kolos from playing an accelerator (representing Mana Leak), then played the Lotus + a Misty Rainforest the next turn to keep up the Mana Leak representation.
He did nothing again so I did nothing rather than play the Lotus.
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