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When the Stars Align

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There are a lot of cards in the current Standard environment that haven’t seen much play, despite seeming quite powerful. One in particular that caught my eye is Empty the Pits. It’s an instant army that can be deployed at the end of your opponent’s turn to immediately set up a lethal attack. However, the quadruple-black mana cost isn’t well suited to the wedge-focused format Khans of Tarkir has produced. You also need to some way of filling your own graveyard to get full value from the card.

Not one to be put off so easily, I set out to build a deck around the card that could be built on a relatively tight budget. Although the list I ended up with is pretty far off from what I originally had in mind, I kind of like it anyway,

The Creatures

Brain Maggot
Brain Maggot may be less effective than Thoughtseize at permanently getting rid of a problem card, but being able to trigger Eidolon of Blossoms and Doomwake Giant for just 2 mana makes it worth the downside. It can also be essentially a free card if you reveal it with Kruphix's Insight. Even if your opponent uses a removal spell on the Maggot to get his card back, that’s a removal spell he won’t have when you start dropping the real threats.

Between Hornet Queen and Empty the Pits, this deck has some pretty intense mana requirements. Satyr Wayfinder can help with that. It finds you an extra land, and it often allows you to choose between a couple different options. Speaking of lands, don’t be distracted by the white mana symbol on Sandsteppe Citadel. It’s just there as a second budget-friendly dual land.

Courser of Kruphix is the least budget-friendly card in the deck, but it’s worth it. It’s among the most commonly-played cards in Standard at the moment, and there’s a very good reason for that. Playing lands off the top of your deck is a great way to gain a little card advantage here and there, and the life-gain is a nice bonus, especially against aggressive decks.

Eidolon of Blossoms is the probably the best reason to load up your deck on enchantments. Whereas Courser of Kruphix can gain you an extra card every once in a while, Eidolon of Blossoms will provide a constant stream of card-draw. With over one quarter of the deck triggering its constellation and six more cards that go find enchantments, it’s not hard to keep the cards coming.

Doomwake Giant will immediately clear away any tokens your opponent has assembled from cards such as Goblin Rabblemaster and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Trigger it more than once, and you can wipe out much more than that.

Hornet Queen is among the best top-end creatures in Standard. If you’re on defense, you can take out five creatures with just one card. On offense, you have a flying army that can’t be taken out by just one or two removal spells. In fact, the power of this card on your opponent’s side of the field is another big reason Doomwake Giant is so valuable in this deck.

The Spells

Commune with the Gods
Commune with the Gods digs through your deck for whatever creature you need to fill in your curve. Whether you need a Courser of Kruphix to cast next turn or a Hornet Queen to close out the game, Commune with the Gods can find it for you. It also fills up your graveyard quite nicely.

Kruphix's Insight costs 1 more mana than Commune with the Gods, but it gives you a chance of getting some real card advantage. Getting three enchantments in six cards isn’t particularly likely, but you’ll gain two fairly often.

Whip of Erebos is great at returning your creatures for one last trigger, whether that be Hornet Queen’s tokens or Doomwake Giant’s creature-killing power. Giving your army lifelink is also not to be underestimated.

Murderous Cut is a solid removal spell, especially in a deck that can fill up the graveyard so effectively. Since it’s an uncommon, it also boasts a much more reasonable price tag than Hero's Downfall. Killing a creature for just 1 mana at instant speed is something not many cards can match.

Extinguish All Hope is a card that has grown on me a lot since it was first printed. In a deck like this one, it’s effectively a Plague Wind that only costs 6 mana. With the number of creature-heavy decks in Standard at the moment, this card can be an insurmountable setback.

Playtesting

Abzan Midrange — Game 1

Siege Rhino
My opponent started the game off with a Temple of Malady. I played a Forest, and my opponent played one of his own.

I cast Brain Maggot, taking a Courser of Kruphix, but my opponent had a second one, which he cast.

I cast Commune with the Gods, taking Courser of Kruphix.

My opponent attacked with his Courser and then cast Siege Rhino. I cast Courser of Kruphix and played a Swamp from the top of my library.

My opponent cast Whip of Erebos and attacked with both of his creatures. I cast Murderous Cut on the Rhino and blocked his Courser with mine. I cast Kruphix's Insight, grabbing Doomwake Giant and Eidolon of Blossoms. A Jungle Hollow gave me 2 life, and I attacked for 1 with Brain Maggot.

My opponent cast Commune with the Gods, taking Soul of Theros. He attacked with Courser of Kruphix again, and I blocked once more. I cast Eidolon of Blossoms, drawing a card. I cast Satyr Wayfinder to grab a land and hit for 1 with Brain Maggot.

My opponent swung his Courser in to mine again to gain 2 life. He cast Hornet Queen and passed the turn. I cast my Doomwake Giant to kill his tokens and draw a card.

Empty the Pits
My opponent passed the turn with no play, and I cast a second Doomwake Giant. My opponent killed the first Doomwake Giant with Murderous Cut in response. I cast Brain Maggot, and my opponent cast a second Murderous Cut on my second Doomwake Giant. I stole his Soul of Theros with Brain Maggot and ended my turn.

My opponent cast Sylvan Caryatid and passed the turn. I cast Commune with the Gods, choosing not to get anything, and I ended my turn.

My opponent cast Banishing Light, exiling my Eidolon of Blossoms. During his end step, I cast Empty the Pits for 21. He conceded.

Game 2

Hornet Queen
The game started off with lands for a few turns until I cast Courser of Kruphix on turn three.

My opponent used a Windswept Heath and then exiled it to cast Murderous Cut on my Courser. I cast Commune with the Gods, grabbing Whip of Erebos.

My opponent cast his own Whip, and I cast Eidolon of Blossoms, drawing a card.

My opponent cast Soul of Theros. I cast Courser of Kruphix, cast a Brain Maggot, and exiled another Soul of Theros from my opponent’s hand.

My opponent attacked with Soul of Theros, and I took the damage. He cast Elvish Mystic and passed the turn. I cast Hornet Queen and passed the turn.

My opponent cast a Queen of his own and passed back. I cast Satyr Wayfinder, finding a Forest. Then I cast Doomwake Giant, killing my opponent’s tokens.

My opponent cast Banishing Light on Doomwake Giant and passed the turn. I cast Eidolon of Blossoms and drew two cards. Then I cast Whip of Erebos and drew two more. I passed the turn.

Doomwake Giant
My opponent cast a second Hornet Queen and passed the turn. I cast Extinguish All Hope, killing all my opponent’s creatures as well as my own Hornet Queen. I then activated Whip of Erebos, bringing back Hornet Queen. I attacked with everything, dropping my opponent to 16.

My opponent cast Courser of Kruphix, whipped back his own Hornet Queen, and hit me for 2. I cast Courser of Kruphix and Brain Maggot, drawing two cards for each. Brain Maggot exiled my opponent’s Satyr Wayfinder. I attacked with my four tokens, and my opponent took the damage. I killed the opposing Courser with Murderous Cut and passed the turn.

My opponent whipped back his second Hornet Queen, making four more tokens. I activated Whip of Erebos to bring back Courser of Kruphix and draw two cards. I cast a Courser from hand, drawing two more. Finally finding my other Doomwake Giant, I cast it to wipe my opponent’s board and attack for the win.

Wrap-Up

This deck can churn through its library alarmingly quickly, making keeping track of the number of cards you have left in your deck surprisingly relevant. It can sometimes have a little trouble closing out games, but Empty the Pits can do it singlehandedly. After playing a few games with this list, I might even try to find room for another copy. Putting 40 power in tokens onto the board at instant speed will almost always end the game.

I have a feeling the deck might struggle slightly against aggressive decks, although Courser of Kruphix certainly helps out with that, and a good sideboard could also mitigate the problems you’d face in that matchup. Overall, this deck is fairly solid, with a lot of big opportunities for card advantage. If that seems like your kind of thing, give it a try at your next Friday Night Magic.


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