Epic Experiment - Melek Turbo Mill
Good morning, EDHREC! I’m Bernardo Melibeu and this is The Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual cards, effectively changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up in front of your own face is half the fun.
In this article we're going to revisit Izzet (revizzet?) with Mr. Maze Runner himself: Melek, Izzet Paragon.
First, let's take a look at his abilities:
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
You may cast the top card of your library if it's an instant or sorcery card.
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell from your library, copy it. You may choose new targets for the copy.
He needs to have as many instants/sorceries as possible to be effective.
He rewards top deck manipulation.
Stuff like Bonus Round is very nice to double up, which might even make a burn build viable.
We aren't as reliant on having him stick around as a Mizzix of the Izmagnus player would be.
6 mana is very expensive, and it'll probably hinder us if we try to rely too heavily on him.
The Old Formula
With that in mind, let’s head to Melek’s EDHREC page and see how he’s usually built:
We have a few ways to recur spells, some cards that rewards you for casting instant/sorceries, and a whole lot of spell-doubling effects. This shows that the average Melek list is very heavily inclined to be a standard spellslinger. The thing that confuses me is the lack of Sensei's Divining Top and Soothsaying as cheap ways to control the top of the deck.
The Epic Ingredients
My biggest problem with the average list is that it feels too easy and generic, just a collection of staples. We need to find a way to separate from the crowd and put our Izzet deckbuilding spirit to good use!
Given Melek's natural affinity for spells and his potential for explosiveness, I wanted to build a deck that utilized spells as win conditions (without simply defaulting to a Storm deck). It was only after seeing the havoc that Traumatize can cause if cast from the top of the library that I knew where I wanted to go. Taking out 75% of a person's deck with one card? Yes please! That's right: IT'S MILL TIME IN THE IZZET HOUSE.
Mill is typically a Dimir thing (with good reason, given the amount of mill staples they have), so why are we trying to do it in Izzet instead? Well, remember when I said that Fork effects are great when they're doubled? Now imagine this scenario: [Last opponent before your turn]: "I pass." [You]: "End of turn cast Wheel and Deal and in response I cast Reverberate off my library." Each player draws 21 cards, 14 are discarded right away, and we draw 3 extra cards while we're at it.
Hi, I'm Melek, and this is Turbo Mill.
Still not impressed? Imagine if we had any of the following enchantments: Thousand-Year Storm, Swarm Intelligence, Sphinx's Tutelage, and/or Psychic Corrosion. Of course, the last two don't copy spells, but the point should still be clear.
There're some good enough mill cards in mono-blue, but in general, they suffer from being single-target and not scaling well into the 99-card library size. Because of that, we won't be using too many of them. In other words, we'll rely on our wheel effects and their support to win by milling everyone out at the same time, rather than focusing on individual libraries.
Without further ado, let's check out our wheel suite. We start with the classic package of Wheel of Fortune, Windfall, and Reforge the Soul. These are all great wheels and there's frankly not much more to say about them! Temporal Cascade is an expensive one, the ability to draw 7 is often worth it. Khorvath's Fury is on the weaker side of the spectrum, but we take what we get, right? Wheel of Fate is the weaker version of the classic Wheel of Fortune, and it's telegraphed very far in advance because of Suspend, but still it's an effective wheel that goes off before on our turn and before we draw. Finally, there's Wheel and Deal, which is good, but which we have to use with caution, because it doesn't draw the full 7 for us.
To support our milling, we're packing a mixture of artifacts and enchantments. Crumbling Sanctuary slows the game down considerably, but we since we attack enemies on this angle, we break the symmetry. Mindcrank also evens the playing field, but doesn't offer the protection that the Sanctuary gives. Psychic Corrosion has the benefit of both helping us chip at our opponent's decks and being explosively powerful when we start chaining wheels. Sphinx's Tutelage is single-target, which isn't ideal, but every bit helps make sure our enemies end up with fewer cards in their libraries than ours!
Playing wheels is dangerous because, most of the time, we spend the mana in our turn, while our opponents can untap with a fresh hand. Because of that, we'll be adding some flash enablers, such as Hypersonic Dragon, Leyline of Anticipation, and the infamous Vedalken Orrery.
The last piece of the
bomb puzzle are the spell-doubling effects, which are divided in two groups: Fork effects, and Swarm Intelligence effects. In other words, one-shots and persistent doublers. The forks have the higher upside, since they scale with the other effects, but are more mana intensive. In order of power: Bonus Round, Increasing Vengeance, Reiterate, Reverberate and Doublecast. The Swarm Intelligence effects have an higher upfront cost and are susceptible to removal, but if they stick, they're less mana intensive while we're chaining wheels. We currently have: Swarm Intelligence, Thousand-Year Storm, Primal Amulet and our commander Melek, Izzet Paragon.
Let's check out how it all comes together!
Melek Turbo Mill
This list isn't using as many mana rocks as one would normally expect. Instead we have a few cost reducers to try and help us chain more wheel effects per turn. Primal Amulet starts as an overcosted mana reducer, but when it transforms it becomes another Swarm Intelligence effect (which is great). Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer are twinsies. Jace's Sanctum is everything we ever asked for, helping to manipulate the top of our deck and reducing the cost of spells.
Since we'll be discarding a lot from the wheels, some recursion spell will go a long way. Bloodwater Entity is usually worse than Archaeomancer, but since we want critical spells on top of our library, so we can draw into them with our wheels, this effect is actually better. Mission Briefing's Surveil also makes it marginally better than its counterpart, Snapcaster Mage, in this spell-heavy deck. Mizzix's Mastery is a game-winning card that needs no introduction, as is Past in Flames. Mystic Retrieval is overcosted for its effect, but being able to flash it back can't be underappreciated.
The last thing to talk about this list is the topdeck manipulation suite. Sensei's Divining Top and Soothsaying are cheap, permanent sources of manipulation. Brainstorm, Dream Cache and Telling Time are instant ways to put cards on top for Melek. The first two give us more control over what'll be on top, since they let us choose any cards from our hand, but all of them are useful to set up explosive plays.
This deck plays as a combo deck at heart, and because of that, our opening hand needs to either be mana heavy or contain ways to dig for mana sources. Remember that, while it'll take some time to start chaining wheels, once we get there, our clock is actually very fast. Even while we're ramping/drawing cards, each turn ticks down the clock 1 card at a time for our opponents. We have a lot of dead cards in the early game (wheels, Forks, etc) so it's important to have a game plan, even if it's just for the first 2-3 turns. For example, whenever possible, we should be holding fetches until Melek is out, so we can shuffle away unwanted cards on top of our library.
By the mid game we need to have that game plan established and should have something on the board, like Melek or Swarm Intelligence effects, to start looking for the mill outlets. Our first wheel effect will probably discard a weak hand and give us something action-packed; by this time, we already have the mana and the board position, so those "dead draws" in the early game are easy to toss away and replace with something new. This is the make-or-break moment: if we get to untap with our board, we'll do some serious damage, but the fact that everyone else also wheeled out of their bad hands might make it hard. This is why we have the flash enablers. Worry not, even if someone destroys our board, the damage is already done! We just drew fresh cards, so now it's time to get up and try again, and maybe we can go off in the next turn cycle.
In the late game, everyone's library is the size of a draft deck and our graveyard is bigger than our library. Do you hear that calling? It's another wheel begging to be copied twice or maybe even thrice! That's probably lethal. However, if the game hasn't gone our way, we luckily still have the right tools to end the game. An overloaded Mizzix's Mastery will surely bring everyone's library down, and after that we can use any of our enchantments, Traumatize, or even the classic Laboratory Maniac to get the win.
This was a crazy one! At some point in the process of making this list it was a classic mill theme, but after seeing the potential in Wheel and Deal, I've become a mill-wheel believer instead. We still could use some of the better mill spells like Dreadwaters, Increasing Confusion, Startled Awake, and Psychic Spiral, but they don't scale super well into multiplayer. Fraying Sanity is another nice option, though I left it out because I didn't like that it sometimes stood there doing nothing.
Both Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are fantastical additions to the list. Baby Jace is a looter that becomes a recursion spell in the late game, and big Jace's reusable Scry/Brainstorm abilities are great for Melek manipulation.
While fun, Thousand-Year Storm significantly underperformed in my first round of testing, and it's the more likely first card to be cut. We do have some Storm elements in this deck, but that enchantments might perform better in a more dedicated Storm shell (pun intended).
It's hard to find balance between all those relevant late-game spells and the early-game stuff that ends up dead in your hand on turn 9. I would advise to focus on finding the perfect balance between Forks, recursion spells, and wheels, to help maintain that balance and cycle away the chaff when you don't need it.
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! Please fell free to leave any suggestions in the comments section. Do you have any questions about the list? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know!