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I've been toying around with a silly idea for a while. If you've been listening to our podcasts, I've had a love-hate relationship with a particular card. This card, in pretty much all aspects, is terrible. But I think the jank potential of it can be pretty sweet. So, I'm going to give it a try.
The card I'm talking about, of course, is Old-Growth Dryad. For a single G, you get a 3/3...that also allows your opponents to go fetch a basic. Now, I could maybe see this played in something like Modern Jund or Zoo or something, seeing as a lot of Modern decks run woefully too few basic lands, but in Standard? This effect really is just bad. But I also understand, that at a certain point, giving your opponent an additional mana isn't really that much of a boon; hence, the argument for playing Assassin's Trophy. Which is what we are also doing...running Assassin's Trophy...and Wanted Scoundrels...yes, I'm ramping my opponent. Hang in there.
Basically, I'm designing this deck in a way that I don't really care if they get extra mana, because I obviously just keep giving it to them. My entire main deck is extremely low to the ground, with a top end of 3 mana. It is meant to be packed with value-costed creatures and to swing in for lethal before your opponents can really stabilize. So, let's break down the deck list and figure out how this deck works...that is, if it works.
This list is running about 24 creatures main. We are jamming a play set of Old-Growth Dryad, and a play set of Pelt Collector for our 1 drop threats. Pelt Collector is a great turn 1 play, giving us growth as the game goes on. OG Dryad...is well...aggressive? For our two drops, we are running Merfolk Branchwalker and Wanted Scoundrels. Everyone knows the value that Branchwalker can bring to the battlefield, and its part of the intense card advantage strategy that I'll be going into shortly. Wanted Scoundrels...is well...aggressive? As a 4/3 for 2, it really isn't anything to scoff at. It can trade up well, and it can attack through a lot. It just happens to benefit your opponent when it dies. No biggie.
There are a few more creatures in the deck, as well as some other cards to give us good card advantage. We'll first back peddle a second and reiterate that Branchwalker is part of this lists card advantage strategy. It gives us the opportunity to be a bit more selective of the cards we put in our hand, and can straight up draw us a card if that card is a land. In this deck, that can be extremely important (we are only running 20 lands.)
The other creatures that fit this are our three drops: a play set of Midnight Reaper and a play set of Ruin Raider. This deck is an aggro deck. It is meant to be attacking. As often as you can. So, we want to be able to take advantage of that with creatures that will give us card draw. With similar stats, these cards almost feel interchangeable. Both are 3/2 for 2B, already a decently costed creature. On top of that Midnight Reaper draws us a card whenever a creature we control dies, and we also lose a measly 1 life. Ruin Raider, is a great Main Phase 2 play after attacks, and gives us a Dark Confidant trigger on our end step whenever we've triggered Raid. This effectively puts additional cards into our hand at the cost of life equal to that card's converted mana cost. This is one of the reasons we are trying to stay low to the ground and aggressive.
We also have card advantage in the form of non-creature spells. We are running a play set of Adventurous Impulse and a play set of Shapers' Sanctuary. Adventurous Impulse gives us a way to look 3 deep for finding answers, creatures, or lands. It's a solid play, but I would only prioritize this on turn 3 or 4. We want to be playing creatures in our opening few turns. As for Shapers' Sanctuary, it pairs really nicely with Midnight Reaper in case the creature dies from targeted removal. Shapers' Sanctuary shuts down blue tempo and targeted removal control decks, and since we are running 4 along with all of our other card advantage engines, we'll definitely see multiple copies. Shapers' Sanctuary is a great turn 2 play with a sequence like: Turn 1, Overgrown Tomb into Pelt Collector; Turn 2, Forest into Shaper's Sanctuary into Old-Growth Dryad, swing for 2. Now if they target remove either of your creatures on their next turn from having that extra land, it won't matter. The creature will replace itself, allowing you to take advantage of your opponent's advantage. We have a total of 20 cards that give us a form of card advantage or selection, while also having a huge impact on the game.
So, we are giving our opponent mana... What's our plan when they drop an early threat? We are running a play set of both Assassin's Trophy and Cast Down in the deck. These cards are cheap and effective ways for us to continue to punch in damage and to remove their big baddies. As you can see, this deck really doesn't care how much mana they have. We'll just keep punching face. Assassin's Trophy is also a great answer to the Legends in the set, as well as the troublesome cards like History of Benalia, Teferi, Vivien Reid, Search for Azcanta, etc. It is also a great answer to the enchantment removal we may see like Conclave Tribunal or Ixalan's Binding. Our removal is cheap and its effective.
Since our decklist is light on cost, we are light on lands. A play set of Overgrown Tomb and Woodland Cemetery has made it into the deck, as well as 4 Forests and 4 Swamps. We are also running 2 Memorial to Folly and 2 Memorial to Unity. Memorial to Folly is a great way for us to main deck recur a needed creature, and Memorial to Unity allows us to dig deep in case one of our advantage engines isn't online. Though these lands come into play tapped, I think they are necessary for the overall consistency of the deck.
With as many graveyard matters decks as there are in the format at the moment, Deathgorge Scavenger is needed sideboard include. It can gain us much needed life, and can swing in as a 4/3 when it attacks, depending on what cards it exiles. We also see a pair of Thrashing Brontodon as well. This is just another efficiently costed creature that can continue to help against enchantment control strategies. Against decks that will force us to discard, we are running 2 Nullhide Ferox. Getting a free 6/6 is just what this deck needs, even though it will stop us from playing a few of our other spells. For the decks running more legendary finishers, we also are running a pair of Price of Fame to swap out for Cast Down. Price of Fame gets a cost reduction when targeting legends, but can also hit non-legends as well. Not to mention the Surveil 2 can really come in handy. We also include a pair of Find // Finality. Find is great in those targeted removal match ups, allowing us to get back multiple threats. We'll probably never cast Finality, I just don't see us ever getting to that much mana. I mean, if we do, great, but we really want to win well before that. We are also running 3 Duress against the counter spell control match and a a couple Kraul Harpooners to help take care of late game flyers.
Depending on your meta, I could see some different tweaks that could be made to the list. If white aggro is a thing in your meta, consider running Knight of Malice as a good 3/2 for 2 for your sideboard, it also has hexproof from white, so it skirts around a lot of the white control pieces and even cards like Teferi. If you have a lot of tokens at your LGS, consider Plague Mare for the sideboard, its a great way to give all of your opponent's creatures -1/-1, killing many x/1s that they could have (it also has the added bonus of not being able to be blocked by white creatures). I would also consider trying Status // Statue as a sideboard card, but just be aware that it feels really bad with Ruin Raider, so that might be a cut you make for it in game 2. But, having another huge answer to the spells we are allowing our opponents to cast, or to sneakily kill a creature for 1 mana by granting a creature they are blocking deathtouch can be a game ending blowout. These are just a few possibilities.
I'm ridiculous. This deck is ridiculous. But I have a feeling it might have a shot. With all of the cheap, powerful threats, I think we can really overwhelm our opponents, even when giving them free mana. I don't expect a meta shake up, I'm not even expecting second or third place at #FNM, but I do think you'll win games. And I'll be there with you, laughing the whole way!