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What the Heck Does a Tranquil Frillback Do Again?


Everybody does it.

We all... "All"? Let's go with "most of us occasionally" squint at cards. Sometimes ask to pick one up to look at it directly. Often - usually, if you're YT - we just pretend we know what they do and keep going with our plan at large. Chugga chugga.

After all, if we don't know what a card does, how important can it possibly be to the outcome of a game? Just keep chugging along! That's what we think, anyway.

Just earlier this week, my friend [REDACTED] sent me the uw deck she plans to use to win a berth to the Regional Championship. "Don't get mad," she started. "There are some positive number of Jace, the Perfected Mind."

But it wasn't Jace that I had to ask about.

"What's that blue card next to Deduce?" [in the digital deck pic]

This person went on to describe Disruption Protocol. I knew what that one does, but couldn't squint small enough to read the text based on the digital format layout. That's not one I would have had to check... Partly because I've used it myself in some Blue-based control decks prior to the Reckoner Bankbuster ban.

But have you seen some of these Green cards?

They're a riot.

Some might cause a riot!

Nissa, Resurgent Animist... especially with Aftermath Analyst

Nissa, Resurgent Animist
Aftermath Analyst


Nissa, Resurgent Animist is a card that I should probably have close to my heart to begin with. It is, after all, a Green 3/3 creature for three mana. In case you didn't know, some years ago I made a high performing Constructed deck revolving around this card:

Gnarled Mass

It doesn't look like much in 2024, but Gnarled Mass was the anti-tech that held the whole then-format together. White Weenie Pro Tour winner Paul Rietzl famously said that he played 2/2 creatures at every casting cost...

Isamaru, Hound of Konda
Samurai of the Pale Curtain
Kitsune Blademaster
Hokori, Dust Drinker

... So my strategy was to just play a 3/3 so that his disciples at the PTQ level wouldn't tap four to lock me under their [2/2] Hokori, Dust-Drinker.

That all worked out and I won my PTQ and my deck went on to Top 4 the last Grand Prix of the season in the hands of Gerard Fabiano. My devotion to Gnarled Mass went on to become a running bit to the point that the nice editors in Renton, WA made sure to give me any Green 3/3 for three as a preview card, even years after I had a regular column at the Mother Ship.

MURASA BRUTE - which, to my best recollection, never cracked a Constructed seventy-five, is just one example.

Anyway, if someone said they played "Nissa" against you in Standard... No one would fault you for imagining this card:

Nissa, Ascended Animist


But there's a 3/3 for three version from Aftermath that is one-half of one of the most powerful engines in the format. WHO KNEW? Am I right?

The other half of the "combo" (Aftermath Analyst) is actually the stronger card individually. A 1/3 for two mana actually does a decent job of holding down the fort against beatdown, if you can believe it. At basically any point, you can sacrifice Aftermath Analyst to generate a quick burst of card advantage (and life).

There are multiple decks that use these two cards together, but all of them play a lot of the common land cycle from Streets of New Capenna.

Brokers Hideout
Cabaretti Courtyard
Maestros Theater
Riveteers Overlook

So, when you sacrifice your Aftermath Analyst, whatever sacrifice lands you had in the graveyard all come back, and you get a few life, and you get to search up however many basic lands [again]. This process helps to buoy your life total through opposing offense while generating quite a bit of card advantage, even in the most boring contexts.

When the two creatures are together, though? A RIOT ENSUES.

All that land entering the battlefield - first from the graveyard, and then from all the basics triggers - generates a burst of Nissa mana, even if lands are entering the battlefield tapped. By the way, Aftermath Analyst is an Elf. So is Nissa herself!

See where this is going, yet?

As I said, there are a number of decks that use these cards together, including some that break the sixty card rule and recruit Slogurk, the Overslime and the Kamigawa Legendary Lands. However a good old sixty-card version focusing on basic lands only is the current performer.

For example:

There is a lot of stuff going on with this list, not the least of which is Kellan, Inquisitive Prodigy (who is apparently Oko's kid, according to a video I watched yesterday?) doing his best Growth Spiral impression. Growth Spiral was banned in Standard, remember!

In the end, you can generate a huge amount of card advantage and burst mana, allowing you to play a giant Worldsoul's Rage. How is anybody going to stop that?

What I like about this deck is that it is perfectly positioned for a metagame where the default Game 1 Counterspell is No More Lies. You can just play slowly, hit your land drops, and basically resolve everything you want to success in the third stage of the game. This deck goes completely over the top of most mid-range strategies, and can defend itself with a wide variety of weird point removal and below average sweepers that are somehow perfectly appropriate to the context of the deck itself.

Hecks yeah, two damage to everyone for three mana! My guys all have three or more toughness!

Vampires' Vengeance

There is also some Frillback action in the sideboard... But more on that in a second.

2 (and 3)

Aftermath Analyst, Nissa, Resurgent Animist


Oh Look! A Red Card!

Imodane's Recruiter

If you've played any Standard at all since Murders at Karlov Manor you probably know what this card does. It buffs Novice Inspector, gives Boros folks a bursting payoff to Gleeful Demolition, and in very narrow circumstances, even supplies a couple of bodies for a future attack turn.

That's all in rw.

You know, the most popular deck, more-or-less.


Did you know that Imodane's Recruiter has some context in an otherwise mostly green deck?

Sure, Standard Domain Ramp has always had a little Red. The kicker on Archangel of Wrath; the Mountain-presence on cards like Ziatora's Proving Ground... Which historically was mostly to get a discount on Leyline Binding.

Here, Imodane's Recruiter is the only Red card - a one of - but at least there is a Red card! But no basic Mountain; even with access from search spells like Invasion of Zendikar // Awakened Skyclave.

What's the deal with this one-of? Is it just a fun-of?

Um... Depends on your definition of "fun".

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Sometimes you get an Atraxa - with her vaunted lifelink - and still manage to lose the next turn before she ever gets to gain you seven life. Do you know what Imodane's Recruiter has to say about that?

"Well, what about eight?"

Herd Migration

Has there ever been a less scary card that (when not busy fixing your mana and Counterspelling a future Lightning Strike) draws four extra cards and puts like fifteen power in play?

In my recent experience most people have just been digging for a basic with this Staple, because they know that all that's going to happen is that you turn on a Temporary Lockdown (or some similar) that otherwise wouldn't have any text.


In a single Big TurnTM you can cast a Herd Migration and an Imodane's Recruiter... And just kill the opponent. That's north of 20 damage in a single turn!

"But that's a bazillion mana, MichaelJ!" you might exclaim.

Domain Ramp has no shortage of extra mana! As a result, it can easily get around the default Counterspell in No More Lies to resolve its threats. Its problem - in Control matchups - is actually being able to win. Opponents with sweepers, spot removal like Get Lost, and powerful Planeswalkers have historically been able to just let Domain resolve its threats and then deal with them while gaining card advantage on the off turn.

One card's worth of haste - especially when you can dig for it with an Atraxa that is going to resolve - can be the difference between a blowout win and a grinding, though inevitable, loss through deck exhaustion. And again, sometimes just getting haste with Atraxa is going to save you because, you know, eight life.

The Main Event: Tranquil Frillback

Tranquil Frillback is a card that... Well... I really should have known what it did.

When I won my RCQ a few weeks back, I only lost three games in seven played rounds; and two of the losses were to mistakes I made on the table. The one "legitimate" loss was to a deck that I didn't think I really could lose to: Golgari Midrange.

That one game loss - and a near-loss in another game - all came from my opponent drawing multiple copies of Tranquil Frillback.

This card is like the uber Gnarled Mass let's be honest. It's a 3/3 for three! But those kickers are all relevant, and generate anything but tranquility.

Vorthos Police:

Actually, if you think about historical Magic: The Gathering cards referencing tranquility, rather than your emotional state when the opponent casts one, the card is pretty consistent. See also your second story, below.

Tranquil Domain
Die, enchantments, die!

The first time I lost to a Tranquil Frillback it stole my Memory Deluge. I was really counting on that Memory Deluge to lock out the game against a deck with grinding card advantage. But nope; exiled. The second one? Exiled by a second Frillback. How lucky!

Here's an example of the grinding card advantage that defines this era's look at The Rock:

I think at one point my opponent gained extra life but that didn't bother me as much as losing an extra four or eight cards.

The second time it was relevant was in Game 2, when my back was kind of against the wall. The enchantment-killing kicker took out my Temporary Lockdown, which returned Deep-Cavern Bat and some other nonsense to the battlefield.

I learned my lesson for Game 3 and sided out all my Temporary Lockdowns, even though they do good work against the theoretically card advantageous Bat; and where exile is a good place to stow a Mosswood Dreadknight. The potential downside risk of having a future sweeper stolen by a Bat that I thought I had already dealt with was just too much.

Golgari Midrange is - I couldn't believe it either - one of the better performing decks in Standard right now. Its pocket life gain and robust toughness make it a solid foil for Boros and Red Decks. Basically, everything generates card advantage, so anyone trying to grind it out one-for-one is going to have to get pretty lucky to succeed.

Most of all, between the Frillback and Gix's Command - which can kill an Ezrim through Hexproof while getting back any of its other high leverage threats - the deck has surprising game against the relentless advantage-building and positive tempo of the best deck in the format: uw Control.

This is kind of a long way of saying, "You kind of have to know what a Tranquil Frillback does if you plan to win one of these things."



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