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Zendikar Rising Standard Set Review with Ali Aintrazi
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Spreading Squid

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In this experiment, we grow a horrific squid to massive proportions and then unleash a swarm of its skulking babies upon our opponent.

Magic 2015 won’t be the next set to hit shelves, but it is coming up soon, and with it comes the newest Duels of the Planeswalkers. To show off some of the new features, Wizards showed off a bit in this video over on IGN. The collection and deck-building features are pretty exciting, but in sharing those elements with us, Wizards also shared a few Magic 2015 previews. Take a look at Gathering Magic’s M15 spoiler page for more of what was revealed, but I’ll be focusing on one particular card today. Take a look at this screen shot:

As you can see, these previews aren’t exactly high-quality. Mock-ups exist across the web on some spoiler sites, but in case you’re having trouble reading Chasm Skulker—that one new rare right between Nullify and Esperzoa—here’s the text:

2u

Chasm Skulker

Rare

Creature – Squid Horror

Whenever you draw a card, put a +1/+1 counter on Chasm Skulker.

When Chasm Skulker dies, put X 1/1 blue Squid creature tokens with islandwalk onto the battlefield, where X is the number of +1/+1 counters on Chasm Skulker.

1/1

Now, Lorescale Coatl, despite requiring an additional color, has better base stats than this Squid Horror. The Snake vs. Squid debate will have to wait, however, as the Skulker brings quite a bit of additional upside: Its death conjures an army of baby Squids, and the babies have islandwalk. Wizards of the Coast has been backing off a bit on landwalk over the past few years, but apparently, that’s on hold for this set, which appears to have more than one card that generate islandwalking Squid.

The reason for using landwalk less is the variance. Against one opponent, a creature with islandwalk will be unblockable, while against another opponent, the aforementioned creature may as well not have the ability. Again, though: Apparently all that is on hold.

Drawing Cards for Cheap

Brainstorm
Every card drawn is another +1/+1 counter for our Squid. That means it grows by +1/+1 on each of our draw steps! That’s not particularly exciting, but all we have to do to speed up the process is draw more cards.

Unfortunately, drawing cards is very powerful and therefore tends to be a bit expensive. Concentrate, for example, draws us three cards and puts three counters on our Squid, but it costs 4 mana at sorcery speed. That’s not the worst deal, but there are certain types of cards in Magic that let us draw more cards for less mana: cards that draw for the card selection they offer rather than for the card advantage.

Careful Study lets us draw two cards for only 1 mana! That’s a much better ratio than Concentrate, and those two cards drawn are all the Squid would care about. However, we then have to discard two afterward, which is actually card disadvantage considering we had to expend the Careful Study to gain the effect.

Frantic Search offers the same effect, but it does so for a virtual 0 mana rather than Careful Study’s 1. Compulsive Research costs 3 but gives us three cards, though we have to discard either two or one land. In addition, both of these are instants, allowing us to use them as combat tricks with a Chasm Skulker in play.

Speaking of card-drawing instants for small amounts of mana, let’s not forget Brainstorm. It’s a permanent Giant Growth for our Skulker, and we still gain all the normal upside of a Brainstorm.

Other Attackers

Cold-Eyed Selkie
I wish I could just play twelve Chasm Skulkers in a deck like this. Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind is another creature that triggers on our draws, or we could just go ahead and run with the Lorescale Coatls, but I’m going to stick with all Islands today and go with a different strategy.

Cold-Eyed Selkie has islandwalk just like our Squid babies, and it even draws cards for the Skulker. To make our Selkie unblockable and to set ourselves up for the potential of a huge army of unblockable 1/1s, we have Spreading Seas. Not only can it have the random upside of taking an opponent off a particular color of mana, but it toggles on our islandwalk evasion. Oh, and, of course, we draw a card.

Now, our Selkie may be unblockable, but it’s still only a 1/1, and that’s a bit embarrassing considering that its draw trigger scales according to its size. If I could graft the draw-to-get-a-+1/+1-counter trigger onto the Selkie, I would, but there are other ways to grow it. Theros’s Ordeal of Thassa gives out +1/+1 counters like crazy, scaling up the number of cards we’re able to draw with Selkie while also, eventually, giving us two more cards from the Ordeal’s own trigger.

Ordeal of Thassa also happens to be quite good on Chasm Skulker, as the Skulker’s own counters will let us trigger the draw ability early, thus generating more counters, and all those counters may eventually turn into 1/1 Squid.

A couple copies of Overbeing of Myth play well on the theme and will potentially be massive in our deck full of draw spells.

Bringing It Homelands (in The Dark)

What I really want to do with this deck is pop the giant Squid for a bunch of baby Squid and then swarm my opponent with islandwalkers. These two cards will help me do this:

Homarid Spawning Bed
Sunken City

With Homarid Spawning Bed, we can pay 1uu and sacrifice our Chasm Skulker to turn all its +1/+1 counters into 1/1s with islandwalk, thus turning on our Spreading Seas and letting us close out the game. Oh, and we’ll also have three bonus 1/1 Camarids. Playing a card just to sacrifice a creature seems sketchy, but I’m just super-worried that my opponent won’t let my Skulker die.

One copy of Sunken City also sits in the deck. Hall of Triumph seems almost exclusively better, so feel free to replace it, but come on—Sunken City is far more flavor-appropriate for an army of Squid.

While Sunken City will potentially pump up a Selkie for extra card-draw—and while that may be well worth it—I’d usually save the enchantment for the killing blow with a bunch of unblockable 1/1s. That’s both so the opponent doesn’t see it coming and so I can avoid that uu upkeep cost.

If you really want to go with the sea-creature theme and want another way to pump up the 1/1 army, take a look at Tidal Influence.

Bottom of the Sea

A few more cards round it out.

Lonely Sandbar
Mizzium Skin Though I’m running Homarid Spawning Bed just to sacrifice my Chasm Skulkers, Mizzium Skin is here just to save them. Cold-Eyed Selkie and Overbeing of Myth are worth saving, too, and Mizzium Skin can save one or more of our creatures for just u or 1u.

Lonely Sandbar I usually skip over discussing the lands in my decks despite putting a bit of thought into which ones would work best, but Lonely Sandbar is notable here for its ability to pump a Skulker mid-combat. Also, with all the draw power, we won’t need as many lands, as they’ll start clogging up our hand. Hitting the first several land drops is important though.

Terramorphic Expanse Like Lonely Sandbar, part of Terramorphic Expanse’s role is to prevent us from having too many lands. While the Sandbar can trade itself off for another card, the Expanse pulls a land from our deck early, thus reducing our chance of drawing a land. However, its more powerful function is letting Brainstorm play to its full potential—when we put two cards we don’t want back, it’s kinda depressing to then have to draw those two cards over the next couple turns. Terramorphic Expanse can fix that.

Coral Barrier – This is another M15 card that makes a 1/1 Squid with islandwalk. It’s a 1/3 for 2u with defender that brings with it the aforementioned Squid token. Its 1/3 body allows us to block while we’re counterattacking with our Squids and Selkies, both big and small, and we can use the extra 1/1 to chump-block if needed while we set up.

And that’s the deck! I almost went with a version that touched red for some more random draw power and an explosive finish. If you’re interested, give the following cards a try, and make sure to have Purphoros, God of the Forge on the battlefield when you sacrifice Chasm Skulker for all those tokens.

Purphoros, God of the Forge
Desperate Ravings
Reforge the Soul

If you’ve ever wanted to send your baby Squid out of the chasm, past the Homarid Spawning Bed, through the Sunken City, and straight into your opponent’s domain where Seas are Spreading, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson

@Silent7Seven

fissionessence at hotmail dot com


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