I’m Charlie: I like spicy food, needlessly complicated plans and sharp objects!
I’m Eliot: I have a disturbing obsession with efficiency, lightning fast carnage, and I spend my days with all the kids your mom warned you about.
Welcome to WHEN SUDDENLY, the column for under appreciated generals! Here are the rules and qualifiers we follow when we make decks around cards you normally would wipe your ass with. I’m Charlie and he’s Eliot and we’re here to make decks with terrible cards!
1. Generals are meant to be played, not to languish or lolly-gag on the sidelines. No matter how objectively bad, gloriously niche, or down-right odd the card is, it deserves to be on the front-lines, cackling insanely. Playing a general for their colors only is strictly forbidden.
2. To most of you this might be painfully obvious but our lawyer says we should cover our asses just to be safe. All generals must by EDH legal.
3. The decks must be focused around the general – again, this reiterates the point made in number one. The term ‘build-around’ has long carried a pejorative taint in the MTG community, most unfairly. We’re taking the term back, as the saying goes. The decks must be focused and consistent – you should have a reasonable chance of victory in any EDH pod with the decks we craft.
How We Picked This General:
I would like to say, up front, that this was Charlie’s girlfriend’s fault. Despite wielding her Zur the Enchanter deck like a scalpel, she’s a mono-black player at heart. That is to say, empathy during game play is not one of her strong suits.
During a beer run one night, the three of us started shooting the shit about cards that make terrible commanders. A flurry of generals tainted the air: Atogatog, Lady Orca, Axelrod Gunnarson. I think some leaves wilted from the trees we passed.
Then she said: “Maralen of the Mornsong.” I’m sure it was just my imagination but I thought I heard a celestial mic dropping in shock, or an ambulance three blocks away slamming into a fire hydrant.
There was a stunned silence. Counterpoints leapt to mind and to mouth: She gives too much advantage, she dies when someone across the street sneezes, she takes too much life…
Then Elliot said: “Ob Nixilis, Unshackled.”
So remember, blame Charlie’s girlfriend, not us. It was all her idea.
And that’s the genesis of Maralen’s School Of Disappointment and Pain. It went through a couple drafts, between Eliot and myself…
Common Objections to this General
We have heard a number of objections to Maralen, ranging from how she operates in a political game like EDH to her fragile, birdlike body. We’re going to address some of these objections here in a mature way that doesn’t involve telling anyone to jump in a caldera filled with hellspawn.
*Small body. Let’s face it: Maralen showed up to the combat potluck with an empty paper bag and an apologetic grin. With a 1/3 body, Maralen isn’t winning any punching contests – she dies to lightning bolt, for chrissakes. This rules out general damage as a ‘oh shit’ button or alternate strategy. If you are attacking with Maralen, something is horribly wrong or you are very bored indeed.
*She gives tutoring to EVERYONE. This is the crux of most objections to Maralen: Why would you play a creature that not only helps ALL of your opponents, but actively GIVES them the tools to shut her/you down? Nine times out of ten, the first time Maralen comes down people will use her tutoring to grab removal or counters and off her before your next upkeep – you just gave them a free card of their choice. This isn’t so bad early game, where people might conceivably grab ramp spells or creatures but in mid-late game states people run pell-mell for combo-pieces.
So we had the general and the starting point. Use Maralen of the Mornsong to get what you need and punish everyone else for doing the same. But how does a deck grow from this?
To start, we had a whole flirtatious fling with infect and poison. We lacked faith in Maralen’s killing potential and were desperately looking for an alternate win condition.
We figured poison (backed with proliferate’s board-control potential) would allow us to sit back and enjoy the show. After all, save for Melira, Sylvok Outcast there is no answer for ten poison counters in EDH – deader than dead. Additionally, the thinking went, poison would give us the ability to ‘mark someone for death’ and sit back and let the other players either cripple each other or kowtow to us in order not to die.
So poison was ultimately nixed.
We pitched that idea and slumped back to the drawing board, like Wile E. Coyote. What was the heart of this deck?
After reflection, the answer was obvious:
Control and Combo
The combos now come hard and fast and do not stop until someone gets a head shot. Turns four through seven are when Maralen really comes into her own – that’s early for a multi-player format like EDH.
Maralen lives on fast and dirty combo drops. She depends on wrecking her enemies before they can respond. Believe me once they stop laughing at Maralen and see whats happening they will respond brutally.
That in mind you have to make your alpha strike count. Most of the combos revolve around two cards and some solid redundancy, the theory being that even with Maralen’s help, this is still a combo-oriented black deck that can kill multiple people quickly. Hence cards like Tatterkite being in the deck. Nobody is going jump into Defcon 1 because you played that hunk of junk…but it is still a combo piece, albeit a less noticeable one than Triskelion or Mikeaus,the Unhallowed.
Don’t get us wrong: we have a few three card combo’s but most of the cards just stack up on top of each other into an overwhelming death trap. That’s really what we have here a horrible death trap type combos, ones that don’t depend on attacking or playing spells. Most of our combos are state-based, which makes them harder to interfere with. Besides, if the combos don’t do it, the life loss from Maralen can combo into a game winner by itself (See below).
Our combos start with a classic Triskelion Yeah that’s right you see where this is going. Triskelion is just to tool box not to use and can be set off in so many awful ways. This little artifact is notorious for its tenancy to go infinite at the drop of a hat, so its a natural starting point.
Next wait for it a horse workhorse what even is this card, Gandalf on his internship shoving magic rocks in robot horses? Work horse is a goofy little thing that can spawn endless waves of mana that powers a number of other card in the deck. I will now touch on two of the big enablers in the deck Mikaeus, the unhallowed Mike drop! Oh yeah also we have Mephidross Vampire because we hate you (he and Triskelion are old drinking buddies.)
So, that’s one of the core combos, but there are others that are less ornate. Mikeaus is just as happy to see Tatterkite as he is the other cards named above – paired with a Nantuko Husk or Altar of Dementia can make for a surprise milling or ultra creature victory. Bitter Ordeal can remove key unforeseen threats and combos, or when paired with infinite sacrifice antics, double as a surprise win condition. Another combo (and one that is a bit more high-risk) is the synergy between Wall of Blood and Rite of Consumption, which unlike all the other card combos in this deck, can only really kill one person reliably, but is easily the cheapest of all the assembled combos.
Don’t you go thinking, though, that all the combinations in Maralen are creature-based. Bloodchief Ascension has been a winner since it was printed (And you should have no trouble getting it active) and makes a great little permanent loop with Mindcrank.
Those combos are fairly straight forward so let me dig into some of the meat here. To make Maralen work you need some control and protection. Lethal vapors, Ensnaring Bridge and Defense Grid help clamp down the playing field and force your foes to make hard choices. Its all about limiting board options and denying spells. To discourage unwanted advances there are a few cards that are low-resource but highly efficient detergents. No Mercy is a much under-valued old card that insures anything that hits you won’t live to do it again. Glacial Chasm stops all damage except from itself, and life is basically pocket-change in EDH anyway.
It should be obvious why you need to do this but for those not fallowing along lets break this down real quickly.
Maralen needs her chess pieces to go off and build off themselves. The ideal situation with this deck is to start the game with one half of a two card combo in hand (the odds are actually fairly decent about this), resolve Maralen or another tutor’s search and win anywhere from turns 4-10, depending on the atmosphere.
Also if you lose the tutoring you have to rely on the Random Number God to build those combos yourself. In short: protect the daemon-elf (explaining the otherwise inexplicable but wonderfully named Horror of Horrors and the usual suite of magical footwear to keep our general…kicking). Maralen enjoys charging players life and money for breathing ‘her’ air. For example:
Seizan, Perverter of Truth, wound reflection and Bloodchief ascension magnify the damage player must take every turn from Maralen. Suddenly instead of taking an easy three damage you are taking ten or more then taking damage from Ob Nixilis and thats just for having a turn.
Finally you know that everyone is going to be tutoring, punish them! Ob Nixilis, unshackled and Painful Quandary force your enemy to to cripple themselves when they have to tutor and once they have that perfect card they have to cut themselves to even play it.
On a final point just because your foe’s have to play Maralen’s little game does not mean you have to Necropotence or Dark Tutelage let you draw cards to spite Maralen and her big dumb face. Yes, you’re bleeding, but you’re managing to tutor AND draw – which is more than your opponents can say.
So here is our little monster child all grown up and ready to wreck your face, don’t like that? Well I am pretty sure Maralen did not ask for your opinion. The power to be able to tutor every turn is monstrous and with black let everyone else tutor is… well its dangerous but manageable. Besides danger is kind of a thing with black anyways, and its not so bad if you get low health just go infinite and suck someones blood out or whatever it is you do when frightened, grumpy or bored.
Finally I guess we can all agree that there is a fair and sane god watching over us because Maralen is not black/blue.
Behold the deck!
Maralens Horrible School of Pain
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