Given the linear, creature-progression-based nature of Kaijudo, it's highly unlikely that a truly viable combo deck will ever emerge (barring some unforeseen broken interaction). Top decks will include various two or three card interactions that are particularly beneficial in certain matchups, sure, but I'm not talking about small synergies here. I'm talking about all-out, balls-to-the-wall, make-the-opponent-cry combo decks.
For Magic: The Gathering, Wizards intentionally allows powerful combos to exist, provided those combos require mana-intensive high cost creatures and spells. For example, you can gain infinite life and make infinite huge dudes in Standard right now with a combination of [ccProd]Archangel of Thune[/ccProd], [ccProd]Fathom Mage[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Horizon Chimera[/ccProd]. You won't see that "non-bo" taking down any tournaments, but it's a fun easter egg for players to mess around with. In Kaijudo, these kinds of loops are virtually nonexistent.
So, when I saw Paul Clarke's choice of deck for the Torrington KMC, I was taken aback.
Paul Clarke's "Kurragar OTK"[ccDeck]3 Chief Many-Tribes: 1 Razorhide: 3 Bronze-Arm Tribe: 3 Deepwood Druid: 2 Necrose, Nightmare Bloom: 3 Tatsurion the Champion: 3 Skaak the Stinger: 3 Oktuska the Infused: 3 Kivu, Ingenious Shaman: 2 Heretic Prince Var-rakka: 2 Khordia, the Soul Tyrant: 3 Kurragar of the Hordes: 3 Sprout: 3 Bottle of Wishes: 3 Reap and Sow[/ccDeck]
A quick glance at this deck may leave you puzzled, but it's actually got a very straightforward mission statement: untap with [ccProd]Kurragar of the Hordes[/ccProd] in play.
Virtually every creature has an "enters the battle zone" trigger. In most cases, that trigger puts the top card of your deck into your mana zone. Which triggers Kurragar's Ancient Call ability. Which has a high chance of flopping another mana ramp guy. Which triggers the ability again. Rinse and repeat.
The idea here is that you often kick off the initial sequence by rowing your mana drop for the turn, so when you eventually whiff with Kurragar and hit a spell, you'll have enough mana up to cast that [ccProd]Sprout[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Reap and Sow[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Bottle of Wishes[/ccProd], which will likely kick off the process yet again. [ccProd]Khordia, the Soul Tyrant[/ccProd] can trigger multiple Ancient Calls at once if you happen to have creatures in the bin, and [ccProd]Kivu, Ingenious Shaman[/ccProd] can help to retrieve more combo pieces from the row without slowing you down.[ccProd]Heretic Prince Var-rakka[/ccProd] caps off the strategy. Paul's thought process here was that if your Ancient Call sequence ends with a Heretic Prince after you've already dropped four or more free creatures into play, giving them all Fast Attack can allow you to alpha strike for game seemingly out of nowhere. If the opponent doesn't know what your deck is trying to accomplish, you may be able to catch them off guard with this interaction.
This is a pretty sweet brew, and if nothing else, should be commended for originality. The problem? It can't win a KMC. Paul understood this, and put out a disclaimer right at the outset that random blockers and shield blasts were diluting his combo, so he thought it made more sense to throw away those elements entirely and hope to dodge rush. Unfortunately, he ended up losing his first two games.
The problem with this deck goes deeper than a susceptibility to rush. This deck doesn't want to be attacked before turn seven or eight, period. In round one, Brian Durkin came in on Paul with a bunch of birds backed up by Finbarr and the damage was too great. With people playing Megabugs, Fire Birds, and even big 3 drop Williams like [ccProd]Sword Horned[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Lost Patrol[/ccProd], you can't afford to sit on your hands for so long. From a conceptual standpoint, this deck has a way to win, but it's severely lacking in the department of ways to not lose.
Enter: Ancient Tempest Turbo
Any regular reader of this column is aware of the Hine brothers' love of [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd]. He was the focal point of the deck we concocted for the Championship, and we're always trying to find new ways to abuse him. When Tyler saw Paul's deck, he immediately knew he wanted to take the lessons learned from our Sharknado deck, and mesh them with the central Kurragar combo. After some tweaking, here's what he ended up with:[ccDeck]3 Razorhide: 3 Rusalka, Aqua Chaser: 3 Bronze-Arm Tribe: 3 Deepwood Druid: 3 Skaak the Stinger: 3 Oktuska the Infused: 2 General Finbarr: 2 Kivu, Ingenious Shaman: 3 Squillace Scourge: 3 Kurragar of the Hordes: 3 Sprout: 3 Mesmerize: 3 Reap and Sow: 3 Bottle of Wishes[/ccDeck]
You'll notice I like to slap the word "turbo" on the end of fun decks. Makes them seem scarier!
This version of the deck does away with some of the more "all-in" aspects, but it still has plenty of tools for Kurragar to work with. The Fire section has been removed, bringing it back to its Sharknado roots. You lose out on a nice ramp guy (and extra double breaker) in [ccProd]Tatsurion the Champion[/ccProd], but that's alright. [ccProd]Heretic Prince Var-rakka[/ccProd] is a little flawed as a finisher for this combo anyway. You never want to draw him, since you need to prioritize hardcasting your other fatties, and he doesn't unlock the most important colors if you row him. You need to include at least 2, so you're not dead when opening with one. Even then, though, you may be playing with one in your shields unbeknownst to you, and you'll never be able to win before you're overtaken. Even if you do hit him after a long string of successful Ancient Call flips, you might need to battle through [ccProd]Eternal Haven[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Twilight Archon[/ccProd]s, not to mention shield blasts that obliterate your whole team. It's too unstable. Squillace is the replacement finisher, and he puts in plenty of work.
The whole point of Sharknado was to beat the opponent down with your little guys while hopefully tempoing them out with Rusalka and Finbarr. Before your opponent can stabilize, you drop the Scourge and winning is elementary from there. The problem was that Sharknado was a deck that very much depended on specific early game progressions. You needed to be breaking shields prior to summoning [ccProd]Squillace Scourge[/ccProd], otherwise you ran out of gas and didn't have enough double breakers to actually kill the opponent. The addition of Kurragar in Ancient Tempest Turbo goes a long way; you now have some breathing room. Since you have the ability to spit out a bunch of free shield breaks in the late game, stumbling in the early game isn't such a death sentence anymore. [ccProd]Razorhide[/ccProd] and Rusalka are still included, but more as deterrents to other decks that want to attack. [ccProd]Razorhide[/ccProd] eats all the birds, and [ccProd]Rusalka, Aqua Chaser[/ccProd] is pretty playable at any stage of the game. You simply need castable cards that can withstand early beats.
The midgame turns revolve around trying to amass the ideal combination of ramp guys that can get you to 9 mana as soon as possible. Druid, Skaak, and Oktuska give the deck more midrange oomph than Sharknado ever had in the past. Necrose, from Paul's version, has been removed. It has some cute possibilities, essentially acting as another copy of one of your small ramp creatures if they die, but this deck already has enough split cards as it is. Too many multicivs spoil the batch.
A Darkness spell was added to make the color ratios a little more manageable, and while it's not a ramp spell, it's a potent one. [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] has a nice home here. You couldn't play it before since you were dependent upon hitting a 3 drop that could break shields, but now it fits perfectly. Historically, combo decks have gotten wrecked by discard spells. While that's still true here to an extent, you can also make good use of [ccProd]Mesmerize[/ccProd] as a pre-negator. Pluck away your opponent's offensive creatures and force them to play at your pace.
With these changes, the deck has a much more favorable matchup against Dragon decks (of both the Greed and Butt variety). Control matchups are winnable but a bit of a coin toss. Forget about beating rush.
This deck still has a very rough time against rush decks. This deck is still a work in progress. This deck cannot win a KMC with the cards we have available unless it plays Esper Haven decks (with no discard...for some reason) every single round. Still, it's a really fun idea, and I wanted to show Paul Clarke some love for introducing the concept to the masses. The central premise is a cool one, and I'll certainly keep it in the back of my mind as new sets are released. Give it a try if you want a deck that will pique the curiosity of onlookers at your Duel Days!
Be sure to check out the ARG Circuit Series for Kaijudo in Columbus, Ohio on October 13!
Until next time, Play Hard or Go Home!