Forgotten Harvest - Morphing Faceless Menace
(Cabal Executioner | Art by Rebecca Guay)
So You Went and Got Faceless Menace...
Good day everyone! You've happened upon yet another Forgotten Harvest, where we feature those cards that see play in 300 or less decks on EDHREC. For today's installment, we're going to try something a little different in celebration of the new Commander 2019 decks. Normally, I would talk about some weird deck built from scratch using hyper-underplayed cards, but today, I'll be starting with an already-assembled deck. Specifically, it's the newly-released Faceless Menace preconstructed Commander deck. The goal here will be updating the deck by adding in only cards that meet the hyper-underplayed requirement above. The hope is to increase synergy and potentially free up generally good cards for use in other decks.
Step one in this process is selecting the theme, and through that, the commander. These preconstructed decks are designed to be capable of going many different directions, especially when looking at the new cards introduced in the set. As there are several hyper-underplayed cards in the Morph theme, I'm shaping Faceless Menace into a deck even more focused towards flipping creatures face-up.
That obviously means selecting Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer as the commander. With the Morph theme in mind, I set to work stripping cards out of the deck, removing cards that were obviously not in keeping with the theme. But since I'm limited to only adding cards that see little play, a lot of the generic removal and mana base, while not optimal, survived the cut. If I wouldn't be able to replace it with something better or more on-theme, I left it in. Here's the remnants of the precon:
Stripped Faceless MenaceView on Archidekt
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This frees up 18 slots for new Morph-tastic additions! Time to see what we can drum up to fill out the deck.
From Onslaught to Tarkir
Morph has been one of those fan-favorite abilities to come back over and over again. Personally, I know I'm a big fan from all the way back in Onslaught block. While the original Morph-er Ixidor, Reality Sculptor comes in at 451 decks on the site, his tool of choice, the Dream Chisel, is an eligible inclusion at only 228 decks. This artifact will help add some redundancy to Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer's cost-reduction effect, potentially allowing us to squeeze in multiple face-down plays in a turn; it's always an auto-include for me in this theme.
Speaking of redundancy, Obscuring Aether is an excellent second Dream Chisel, reducing the costs of face-down creatures even further. It even has the added bonus of being able to flip face-down and turn into a 2/2 should removal come its way. Obscuring Aether only sees play in 195 decks right now, which to me seems low.
Before there was Ixidron, there was another card, from back in Legion, that had power and toughness that scaled with the number of face-downs in play. That card is Primal Whisperer. Seeing play in 149 decks, this card can become a real problem card if left unchecked. The best part is that it checks all face-down creatures, not just yours. That means that when Ixidron does come down, Primal Whisperer can get HUGE!
For this deck, I generally tried to stay away from Manifest cards. The benefit of knowing the top card of your library is so great when working with the typical occurrence of the ability, and it really does require more scry and similar effects to properly abuse. However, this didn't stop me from sneaking in Ethereal Ambush (90 decks). This hyper-underplayed gem is just too much value not to include in any Simic build that cares about face-down creatures. It's all in the card type: getting two 2/2s at instant speed, with the potential to flip them face-up later on, is just too good!
I have to say I was puzzled not to see Pine Walker in the preconstructed deck. No matter, though, because we can add it in right now. Appearing in 85 decks, this card can potentially wreck an opponent's attack. Not only do you get any effect from the Morph, but also an untapped blocker. Wonderful!
All this talk about getting cards face-down. Let's talk about some cards you'll want to flip face-up! First on the list is the epitome of high risk/high reward. I'm talking about Ebonblade Reaper, in a whole 83 decks on the site. It's clear to see where the risk and reward come from, but there are some options for cheating the system. For instance, after getting your Reaper through for the initial attack without losing life, using some expert Morph timing, you can use Vesuvan Shapeshifter to do it again the next turn. And the next turn, and the next turn, and the next turn...
Hystrodon, from Onslaught, has to be one of my favorite creatures with Morph. Played in 244 decks, this beast is excellent as a one-of Morph-er in a deck. The curiosity on an opponent's face when you lay down a lone colorless 2/2 shows the political opportunity available to you. But in this deck, surrounded by other face-down 2/2's, the cheap Morph cost for the creature underneath is a bargain few will expect. Plus, card draw is always good!
Then there's the duo of Morphing Clerics, Headhunter and Cabal Executioner. Both are fun surprises for your opponent to uncover after blocks are (or aren't) declared. And like Hystrodon above, these creatures don't require being flipped back face-down to be effective. The threat of discard or creature loss is enough to help control combats. They see play in 51 and 74 decks, respectively.
The three creatures above are all about slipping through defenses. But what about creatures that you want to flip face-up after they're blocking or blocked? Soul Collector certainly seems like a good option for that. Wait until a creature with 3 toughness or less blocks the face-down Collector, then spring your trap and nab the opposing creature when it hits the bin. I think the 175 decks this card sees play in is low, especially given the "rattlesnake" effect of leaving it untapped.
Next up is Serpentine Basilisk, coming in at a measly 25 decks. This almost-Deathtoucher can provide some excellent, unexpected removal, should an opponent make the mistake of engaging with it in combat. Like many of the creatures above, it has a benefit to being left face-up as a warning to possible attackers.
Sometimes, it's just best to go big. I mean really big. Huge, even! I'm talking Krosan Cloudscraper huge! In 160 decks, this behemoth is really just in here for the surprise flip, immediately going from a 2/2 to a 13/13. This card is perfect for removing an attacker or blocker, but also can serve if you manage to get it past enemy lines. I know there are some that will say its lack of evasion is a problem. And you're right! It's a good thing we have...
The key to this deck, like any Morph deck, is skill in navigating combat. One of the best things we can do is help our face-down 2/2s get through for some damage. Crafty Pathmage seems like exactly the right card for that job. Coming in at only 29 decks, the Pathmage is a superstar in Morph decks. There's nothing like guaranteeing your Ebonblade Reaper makes it through to hit an opponent for half their life. Minamo Sightbender (26 decks) provides just about the next-best rate when making a creature unblockable, and serves to add some redundancy to our combat strategy.
But, as we discussed, there are some face-down creatures that you want to ensure meet another creature in the red zone. For that, we can rely on the previously-discussed Satyr Piper (33 decks). When you want to whole team to enter pitched combat with an opposing force, I recommend Joraga Invocation. This pump spell benefits the whole team, ensuring that each of them will get at least one blocker. A great help for cards like Soul Collector and Serpentine Basilisk, it sees play in only 53 decks.
Rounding out the deck, we have some additional cards that work well with Morph, the first one being Backslide from Onslaught. Played in 169 decks, this instant will help you get another flip from your Hooded Hydra or Nantuko Vigilante. A great tool in any deck with face-down creatures.
A little more off-the-wall is Thought Harvester. This Eldrazi plays off of all the colorless face-down spells you're casting to slowly eat away at your opponents' decks. Played in 270 decks, this card could be a real menace given all the free face-down spells Kadena can provide, disrupting any top-deck manipulation from your opponents.
Here's the final deck, with our new, underplayed additions:
Kadena Shell GameView on Archidekt
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It's Morphin' Time!
Well, that's about it for this issue of Forgotten Harvest. What did you think of the precon-editing article? Let me know your thoughts below, along with your questions, comments, and snide remarks! I'll be on there to talk about why I cut the cards I did, or how I couldn't make it through the article without making a Power Rangers reference. Are there any other precons, C19 or older, that you'd like to see modified using only hyper-underplayed cards? Or any cards, commanders, or strategies that meet the criteria for a future article? Let me know. I love suggestions! Thanks for reading!