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Surviving Varchild


Earlier this month I talked about a game between my Ol' Buzzbark deck, Teysa Karlov, and Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor. After watching the Varchild deck do its thing, I spoke to Will about the deck.

I am completely enamored with decks that can attack you in different ways, and the Varchild deck has that in spades! Let's start with a look at the deck and go from there!

The Blueprint to Victory

Varchild, Betrayer of Kjeldor comes at you from three different angles. The first and most obvious is Varchild herself. She doesn't have any special abilities that allow her to do damage, but everything she does is predicated on her doing combat damage. If you are running Varchild, you are planning to do combat damage with her, so why not really ramp up that damage?

The second angle involves the Survivor tokens. When Varchild falls, you suddenly have several Survivor tokens at your disposal. While the first angle involves creating a single powerful attacker, the second angle gives you a wide angle to swing from. Your opponents have been working to find ways to stop a single huge creature, then they are forced to try and deal with a large army of desperate Survivors who will do anything to stay among the living.

The third angle is a little less obvious. As long as Varchild doesn't fall, the Survivors stay under the control of your opponents. Those Survivors can't block or attack you, so your opponents are left with two options: sacrifice them for some benefit or attack one of your other opponents. If I can convince my opponents to attack each other with Survivor tokens, it is just less damage I need to do to bring the game to an end! If it means those opponents also happen to take out each others' creatures, even better!

The danger with the third option lies with the fact that you are relying on your opponents to do what you want them to. All things being equal, wise opponents will realize early on that attacking each other is just hastening both of their deaths and simply leaving the Survivors to sit and not do anything is a better plan. Many players have heeded the call and are running several sacrifice outlets in their decks. Whether your deck needs it or not, you should be running at least two or three sacrifice outlets. Between opponents stealing your creatures or gaining life because of lifelinking creatures doing damage or a myriad of other reasons, you will want a way to deprive your opponents of your creatures. If your opponents are doing this, giving them Survivors is just giving them fodder for that outlet and that isn't helping you.

The Cards that Make it Happen

Will's version of the deck has a strong focus on the first angle, the Voltron maneuver. There is a metric f***ton (I believe this is the official measurement for such things) of equipment, enchantments, and even a land, that are all there to help Varchild get big and hit for damage. I found six ways to give Varchild trample, eight ways to give her haste, and five ways to make her unblockable. Varchild can also have deathtouch, lifelink, first strike, double strike, indestructible, vigilance, shroud, and hexproof. Each of these either helps to keep you alive or Varchild alive to continue to lay the beat down.

Will also includes one of my favorite cards: Helm of the Host. Making copies of Varchild is just delightful. Now you can swing at two different opponents or just really load a single opponent up with Survivors. I don't know how that works if one of them leaves play while the other one stays, but the whole idea that it could happen just makes me happy!

Will also isn't willing to leave when they get the Survivors up to chance. They have three different cards that allow them to get Varchild off the battlefield just long enough to take control of all the Survivor tokens, then get Varchild right back on the battlefield! Why choose one angle of attack or another when you can just do both!

How Effective is It?

Having seen this deck in action a few times now, the most obvious trait is that it runs fast. Varchild costs only three mana and can often get in a hit or two before everyone has defenses up. Once that happens, Varchild is usually suited up to dance around (Whispersilk Cloak) or through (Chariot of Victory) those defenses. Bedlam or Furnace of Rath really moves games along as well. If no one is blocking, then Varchild and the Survivors can really pack a punch. If damage is being doubled, then blockers quickly disappear and life totals start to dwindle very quickly.

There are a few special mentions I want to talk about here. Chandra's Ignition is a perfect fit for a deck that is running a Voltron commander. Haunted Cloak costs three to cast and only one to equip. Vigilance, trample, and haste are three excellent abilities all on one piece of equipment. People are finally starting to discover Trailblazer's Boots. That card just makes a creature unblockable since everyone is running nonbasic lands now.


I'm going to make some suggestions to you if you are thinking about running this deck. Will and I have talked about changes to the deck, and they are pretty happy with where it sits on the power level. The deck is currently strong enough that it demands answers from the opponents fairly quickly. They are concerned that going too much stronger will make for less fun games and that makes good sense. Keep in mind your group with some of the suggestions below.

Saying Goodbye is Hard to Do. We can find a little room in the deck by taking out some of the equipment. Equipment that gives shroud prevents you from piling more equipment on so that could go. Equipment that only pumps Varchild probably doesn't do enough. There are eight ways to give Varchild haste and six ways to give her trample. I'd be okay going to five. Also, I like my land counts at 39 or 40. That's more of a personal thing, but I like to see a land drop until turn six and I don't want to rely on my ramp to get me to six mana on turn six.

Flickering Varchild. Will has three ways to get Varchild off the battlefield long enough to get all the Survivors back on their side. They have chosen what I think are the three best options, but three out of 99 are tough odds. I went digging and found Safe Haven and Voyager Staff. Both options are one time use cards so I'm not thrilled with them, but if you want to up your odds, they are out there.

Air Attack. Flying in with Varchild will dodge a lot of blockers. It also wouldn't hurt to have a few creatures that can stop an air assault. Fleetfeather Sandals and Bladed Pinions can both reduce the vulnerability. Khorvath Brightflame adds a creature with flying that makes Varchild fly if you want to try something a little different.

Smashing things. I'd like to see a little more artifact destruction. Rather than reduce the cards that work with Varchild, I would want to look at Destructive Tampering or Fury Charm as cards that can destroy artifacts or aid the Varchild beating. Two for ones are a great thing. Sword of Sinew and Steel make Varchild bigger and even tougher to stop, while destroying an artifact and a planeswalker in the process. And check it out, the artifact and planeswalker don't have to be controlled by the person you just damaged!

Smooth landings. I really like the clean mana base for the deck, so now I'm going to make some suggestions that will muck it up. Castle Embereth is an easy add. The Castle series of cards are easy additions in mono-colored decks since there will be so many basic lands. There is almost no downside to throwing this in and when the prodigal Survivors return home, it doubles their strength. Spinerock Knoll makes one of your cards almost free and an opponent taking seven damage should happen pretty quickly with this deck. Desert of the Fervent adds a little flexibility to the deck. Finally, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle seems to just make sense when you are running more than 30 Mountains.

Note that most of these lands enter the battlefield tapped. You probably don't want too many of those cards in your mana base, so be a little selective about what you put in.

The Fun Stuff. This is the part where I suggest cards that probably make the deck worse, but I think bizarre fun stuff could ensue. Skullclamp on your Survivors will likely give you a ton of card draw to find all the big haymakers. A little more exciting than the Clamp is Embercleave. Attacking with your Survivors will likely make this cost two Red mana. Equipping it to Varchild makes her into a 4/4 double striker with trample! You'll be wrapping up games in no time! If you want to go truly crazy, try Assault Suit! Varchild swinging everywhere except for at you, and doing it every turn! The downside is that without controlling Varchild, all those Survivor tokens can now come at you. It seems a small price to pay for the lunacy that would ensue!

I want to thank Will for letting me share their deck. Watching the deck do its thing made me recognize that it was outside of anything I would have considered, and I like to bring some variety to all of you when I can.

I'd love to hear about any other suggestions you might have. Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter!



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