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How You Alter Your Meta: Tresserhorn

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I've been taking advantage of some of this "alone-time" COVID has offered to update some decks. This time around, I'm looking at an old favorite.


Lord of Tresserhorn has long been a favorite of mine. I opened one when Alliances first came out and just loved it. He stood alone with 59 other cards in a disturbingly bad pile of Grixis (back then known as "blue/black/red") cards. I was careful when I played him to always have at least one Black mana open to regenerate him. He was my "Good Buddy" (10/4 creature) and always promised some fireworks...

And rarely delivered on the promise. The Lord offered no evasion and gave an opponent two cards. This was a miserable trade unless you happened to be working with another player who you knew wouldn't be using those cards against you. Invariably he would get blocked a couple of times, then either Wrathed away or bounced back to my hand in the hopes that I would lose two more life, sacrifice two more creatures, and give an opponent two more cards to do it all again.

A couple of years ago I decided to try again, and came up with this. The plan was:

  1. Make token creatures so I would have something to sacrifice;
  2. Make him difficult to block;
  3. Make him difficult to remove;
  4. Make him hit really hard;
  5. Win!

You just have to look through the deck to see how everything seems to fall into one category or another. The deck wasn't the optimal build, but it was never intended to be that way. The 60-card decks my group plays lean toward low-powered and very casual. If I have the cards, I put them in. If I don't, I try to find adequate alternatives.

After two years, the deck has shown its strengths and weaknesses. Let's look at both and see if we can pump up the strengths and shore up the weaknesses!

Strengths

Evasion. The days of Lord of Tresserhorn being blocked by token creatures are long gone, Temur Battle Rage and Wonder lead the way in this category. I'll discuss Temur Battle Rage in a minute, but Wonder is an all-star. As a creature, it can chump block or be sacrificed when Lord of Tresserhorn enters the battlefield. While there are only five Islands in the deck, Sunken Hollow fills in admirably, and Grixis Panorama defaults to finding an Island unless something else is desperately needed.

Thassa, God of the Sea does a great job here. Not only am I scrying every turn, but for only 2 mana the Lord is unblockable for the turn! In this deck, Thassa almost never turns into a creature, but it doesn't really matter. An indestructible enchantment that isn't a creature is preferred. I'd run a second one of these if I had it handy.

Grixis Battlemage is nice here as well. While it isn't the best way to get through, since it only prevents one creature from blocking, it is a nice package as it does that or allows you to loot. Consider this the weaker version of Thassa that I didn't have.

Rogue's Passage does nice work in this category as well, but you can't really rely on it, since it demands you spend five available mana to make the Lord unblockable for a turn. I would have pulled them from the deck, but the mana base is strong and there just isn't a downside. If I desperately need it, it is there.

Hitting Hard. Something I remembered from playing initially was how often the Lord simply died before it had a chance to swing. This is why I wanted it to hit harder than even its already massive 10 power. I also knew I wanted it to hit faster. Haste was a no brainer for this deck. The Lord was likely going to be a one-shot opportunity, so I needed to make it count. Anger just makes sense for all the same reasons Wonder does. With only two copies of Anger, I knew I needed to buff things up a little so I added Swiftfoot Boots as well.

This is also the section where the real star of the deck steps forward. Temur Battle Rage is simply a monster. In a format where life starts at 20, giving a 10/4 creature double strike can be a one turn kill. Add in the ferocious side of things and the Lord is a 10/4 trampling double striking monster that may be attacking on the same turn it was cast! I would have four of these, or at the very least, four ways to give our Lord and savior double strike, but when I built the deck, this was all I had.

Weaknesses

Token creatures. There just aren't enough of them. I've had too many games where I just don't have the creature count to effectively cast the Lord. Whether the cards in the deck don't provide enough or there just needs to be more of them, the numbers must improve.

Protecting the Lord. I opted to do that with some counterspells and the Swiftfoot Boots. While the Boots work fine, I tried to be ready for the mass removal I knew would be coming, by packing some counters. The intent here, I think, is good, but the combination of too few counters and me rarely keeping mana open is just a killer. Also, I rarely play counterspells, so my meta doesn't assume that I have them. A big bonus some players get is with their reputation. If they normally have a counter, perhaps you avoid playing the card that turn. I don't get that bonus.

Too many steps. This is less about individual cards and more the plan as a whole. For everything to work the way it is supposed to, I need the mana to cast Tresserhorn and Temur Battle Rage, and still keep enough mana up to threaten a counter if someone tries to stop it. This often means that I don't want to cast the Lord until turn six. With the number of creatures this deck, that means I might get Tresserhorn out and swinging to take out one person, but then I'm left defenseless against the other player(s).

Solutions

Dump the counters. They involve too much mana and stop me from playing Tresserhorn earlier. I have four copies of the Lord. Get him out early and hit before they can stop me.

More Double Strike. Temur Battle Rage is great, but we need more of it. Psychotic Fury will get me double strike and even a bonus card draw!

Better token production. Dragon Fodder, Krenko's Command, and Hordeling Outburst are all reasonably costed and will get me the tokens I need.

So where are we now?


Fling is a huge saving in the "Faster" category. Admittedly, you are going to sit with two Red open and hope you don't have to use it most of the time. I would much rather swing in combat again, but if the Lord is threatened with removal or bounce, you can always Fling in response. Two Red mana for an extra ten damage is nothing to scoff at!

Dockside Extortionist is just as good in this format as it is in Commander. By turn three, the Dockside Extortionist will get at least three Treasures and it can be a sacrifice for the Lord of Tresserhorn once the Treasures have been provided.

In addition to the four Dragon Fodders, I also added a single Mogg War Marshal. The War Marshal provides the two creatures needed for the Lord of Tresserhorn, and gives you a third if you can afford the 2 mana the following turn. I love the option that this provides for a deck that can use an extra creature occasionally.

Another upside that doesn't seem like much is Lightning Greaves. Swiftfoot Boots cost one to equip. I know in the greater scheme of things, one mana isn't much, but when the goal is to cast and swing with Temur Battle Rage mana up, adding another mana to equip is the difference between six and seven, and at that stage of the game, that is huge.

I hope you enjoyed my foray into deck tweaking. While I don't expect any of you are running a 60-card casual deck around Lord of Tresserhorn, this peek at looking at the synergies behind decks and how adjusting one knob can move everything else is something that all of us need to be reminded of now and again. The changes in this deck are at least partially due to my metagame and my role in the metagame. It isn't just the cards in your deck that guide how you play the deck and the game, but how you are seen by those you play against and the expectations that come with that.

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

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