TurboLand Again

Feature Article from Michael Flores
Michael Flores
10/25/2010 10:27:00 AM
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What happened to TurboLand?

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 revisit?

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:

 Genesis Wave
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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?

Come on.

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.

And it can happen... for you.

What you care about:

Turboland by Mike Flores
Main Deck
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Oracle of Mul Daya
4 Overgrown Battlement
4 Primeval Titan
Creatures [20]
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Planeswalkers [4]
4 Explore
4 Genesis Wave
Spells [8]
8 Forest (246)
4 Halimar Depths
4 Island (234)
4 Khalni Garden
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Tectonic Edge
Lands [28]
Deck Total [60]

4 Into the Roil
4 Negate
3 Obstinate Baloth
4 Pelakka Wurm
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

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 Wave Mise 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.

The Matches:

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

Game One

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.

He plays Duress and sees he has to Doom Blade one of my Battlements to prevent me from playing Primeval Titan and does. Sea Gate Oracle turns up nothing that will stop the Titan the next turn, and he packs.

Game Two

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.


TWO - Vampires

Game One

I'm manascrewed to start but he doesn't actually put me away. He just has some 2/x Vampires and I am able to hit a medium Genesis Wave into a Primeval Titan. If you are not dead and you can hit some combination of Genesis Wave, Lotus Cobra, Oracle of Mul Daya, and Primeval Titan... Pretty soon your entire library is on the battlefield; which is what happened this game.

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.

All-Star this game was Khalni Garden, which made Gatekeeper of Malakir look quite flaccid.

Game Two

More of the same.

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).


THREE - Boros

Game One

I barely lost this one; I was down to four with a Genesis Wave in hand (would have been huge) when he topdecked a Lightning Bolt with Cunning Sparkmage already in play.

Early on I chose to let him crush me for close to half my life total with a Student of Warfare and Plated Geopede rather than block with my Overgrown Battlements so that I could play my Primeval Titan the next turn. He just had too much damage the next two turns.

Game Two

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).

Game Three

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 assembled the combo with Stoneforge Mystic and had quite the cadre... Triple Tunnel Ignus, Plated Geopede, the aforementioned Stoneforge Mystic and of course Cunning Sparkmage (who knows, maybe even more). I played the Baloth Primeval Titan and multiple Pelakka Wurms.

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.


FOUR - Weird MBC

He was playing a super disruptive MBC deck with main deck Memoricide and Sadistic Sacrament.

Game One

We both kept one landers and proceded to discard.

He got online first with Gatekeeper of Malakir, Abyssal Persecutor, and the aforementioned main deck Memoricide. He predictably names Primeval Titan, but the Titan that was in my hand is already on the ‘field at this point. Genesis Wave catches me up in a hurry to the tune of +11 cards; Jace, the Mind Sculptor -- in this context -- is better than anything he can present and the game is over post haste.

Game Two

I bring in:

2 Pelakka Wurm
2 Obstinate Baloth
2 Negate


2 Oracle of Mul Daya
2 Joraga Treespeaker
2 Genesis Wave

My theory is that he has Memoricide and I need to diversify a bunch of different ways to win the game that aren't just Genesis Wave or Primeval Titan.

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.


FIVE - Mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp

Game One:

Him: Forest
Me: Forest, Joraga Treespeaker
Him: Forest, Overgrown Battlement
Me: Forest, Level Joraga Treespeaker, Lotus Cobra
Him: Forest, Overgrown Battlement, Cultivate
Me: Lots of stuff... Oracle of Mul Daya, second Lotus Cobra, second Joraga Treespeaker, double Explore and a ton of lands.
Him: THIRD Overgrown Battlement, Growth Spasm
Me: My Oracle reveals Genesis Wave so I just attack. He can hard cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn at this point... I “just” level up one of my Treespeakers so I can use the Oracle for Genesis Wave mana the next turn.
Him: “Just” a Wurmcoil Engine
Me: Genesis Wave for 13!
Him: Summoning Trap into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn!

At this point it can go either way. I don't think he can possibly win with any other card but Emrakul (because of flying)... I have more than enough extra lands to live through Annihilators aplenty.

I have a million guys and -- at least before his first Emrakul attack -- a Jace online.

I can 100% Genesis Wave into a Jace and more super gas at this point, which I think means I should win; but it's not certain, not when Emrakul and Wurmcoil Engine are both on the ‘field.

He scoops the game based on lag (wants to re-login)... So we don't know.

Game Two:

This one is conclusive.

I have a double Lotus Cobra draw which sets up a turn three Primeval Titan AND Oracle of Mul Daya that takes out his Eye of Ugin (he was on four lands due to Growth Spasm).

He makes some more mana but I have a Genesis Wave for +6... No Jace, but a sick domino sequence with Halimar Depths thanks to Primeval Titan. Oracle of Mul Daya looks good and I have a Primeval Titan on top.

I set it up like that so I could immediately Mise into Titan if he had All Is Dust (pretty much his only out against my double Titans, Cobras, Oracle all online).

Nope. No All Is Dust. Concede.

Winner! (more-or-less)

SIX - Vampires

Game One:

I am explaining what a mulligan is to my daughter, and why we will take one now.

So somehow I manage to keep a hand that I don't want (Blue mana, no fast action).

He has double Duress + Inquisition of Kozilek, taking double Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Genesis Wave.

I just have some lands, Mise an Explore and get a little more land in play.

He is mostly disruption and is just clocking me with one Vampire Hexmage.

I have two lands left and he hits me with a Mind Rot. I have nothing but he wants to Quicken the clock and plays Liliana Specter for nil.

This is basically a deck I have been speculating, myself. But of course I am still salty at all his dumb discard.

I Mise a small Genesis Wave to advance to a bigger Genesis Wave. I am at this point through 36 cards and haven't see a Primeval Titan yet.

But hey, two Genesis Waves

I race his 2/1 flyer by just attacking him with 1/5 Joraga Treespeakers, some Lotus Cobras, multiple Oracles; all powered up by the fourth Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Game Two:

I keep a Halimar Depths and a bunch of accelerators, two Jaces (aces), but no Green. He takes my Lotus Cobra and I am fairly slow but manage to play a turn four Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He has just a Liliana's Specter and can't kill Jace on the spot. It sets up my next turn of Forest, Oracel of Mul Daya, and bonus Khalni Garden.

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.

Here's another one!

He plays Liliana's Specter... I drop an Obstinate Baloth and he scoops on the spot (Ratchet Bomb two turns off of being able to compete).


SEVEN - Unknown (I think Mass Polymorph... You'll see)

Game One:

Me: Forest, Joraga Treespeaker.
Him: Forest
Me: Forest, Level Treespeaker; Lotus Cobra.
Him: Island, See Beyond
Me: Super dumb sequence that leaves me with:
• 2 Joraga Treespeaker (one leveled)
Lotus Cobra
Primeval Titan
• Six lands
Genesis Wave in hand

He played Mountain and Awakening Zone and conceded when my Genesis Wave revealed a second Primeval Titan.

Game Two:

I put him on Mass Polymorph given his lands, so I sided -4 Explore, +4 Negate.

He did nothing.

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.

I finally played it on the fourth turn, with another Lotus Cobra, an Overgrown Battlement, and Jace in grip.

He had a Lightning Bolt and I let that hit, leaving up GU still.

He did nothing again.

I played Lotus Cobra again; he fought with Mana Leak; I responded with Negate, having ripped a Negate. I then completed the Utter-Leyton with Misty Rainforest post-Lotus Cobra, ready to Counterspell again if need be.

Nothing again.

He conceded the next turn when I used that Negate to force down Jace, the Mind Sculptor.



6.5 wins in 7 matches... 7 wins if you count it hand and fast.

Is this THE BEST deck?

I mean, it's a bit early to say that, but there is definitely something good going on here. Here are some ideas I have to potentially improve the mix...

Elixir of Immortality - The deck kind of wants some life gain, and the card is actually very synergistic with Genesis Wave. Sometimes you are in a spot where you are out -- or almost out -- of serious threats... This can get them back.
Trinket Mage - This is the extension of the Elixir of Immortality. You might want to add Brittle Effigy, even. I can see Explore being replaced by Everflowing Chalice (they are very similar)
Eldrazi Monument - I can see playing one. It makes the deck invulnerable to Day of Judgment (which I thankfully didn't see so far), and gives the deck defense to flyers.
Volition Reins / Roil Elemental - Roil Elemental + Genesis Wave + a ton of lands? Ho ho ho! The issue I have with these Control Magics is the Blue concentration... Though neither one is hampered in the context of a resolving Genesis Wave, of course.

Anyway, that is my new deck idea.

What do you think?


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