ditto – noun : the same thing again
I will make not excuse for my extended dearth of posting except to say that election (and post-election) anxiety is a brutal taskmaster. I’m feeling much better now. Almost hopeful!
With the banning of Omnath, Lucky Clover, and Escape to the Wilds in the not-too-distant past, the Standard metagame was blown wide open. Or so I read. I stick to the Play queue, and while it’s infested with pubstomping tryhards blitzing through chumps like me to farm daily wins, it does tend to feature a much wider swath of competition than the competitive ladder. Honestly, I only faced a handful of Omnath decks before he was relegated to the dustbin, so things haven’t looked all that different to me in the last few weeks. Far, far too many rogues, some mono-red and Gruul aggro, green stompy, mill, scads of Yorion and Lurrus decks (both of which irritate me to an unreasonable degree), and all kinds of random stuff: clerics and warriors, landfall of various stripes, even the odd party deck.
Despite the somewhat diverse opponents in the Play queue, I do still try and keep up with what’s being heavily played on the ladder, since it all filters down eventually. Even if I have no chance of handling a strategy, I do like to have some idea of what it’s going to do to me.
It was during this sort of scouting that I saw Esper Doom Foretold decks have apparently made a bit of a comeback. I built an Esper Doom deck after Throne of Eldraine came out, and while it could be fun to play, it felt…icky. Playing the mirror against decks that had been better optimized than mine, it was clear to me that I didn’t want to put anyone else through even my second-rate build of Esper Doom. So while my heart fluttered a little to see Doom Foretold being played again, I knew I couldn’t possibly build the Esper (and usually Yorion-based) versions that were having some success.
But what about Mardu colors – Mardoom, as I call it? I was sure that favorite build of mine was nigh-unviable after it lost so many key pieces in the Standard rotation. Gone were recurrable threat and card-draw ninja God-Eternal Bontu, cost-reducer and backup threat Starfield Mystic, and underrated all-star Oath of Kaya.
What would slot into the deck in place of those losses?
Skyclave Shade was the first piece I settled on. It’s a downgrade from Bontu, but it can be recurred several turns in a row if lands are available, and it could be used as repeatable sacrifice fodder for Doom Foretold (in truth it rarely serves that purpose, but it’s on the table.)
My previous Mardoom deck didn’t play Golden Egg, a staple of Esper Doom decks, but I knew I could add it to Mardoom. Or I could trot out Spare Supplies, which can’t provide a life boost but can dig you a card further when stuck. I’ve experimented with both artifacts, and have settled on the Supplies for now. After losing more than a few games to excessive Treacherous Blessing pings…that may not be the wisest decision.
Elspeth Conquers Death is another staple of Esper versions that I had eschewed previously, but I figured it might be time to slot it in as well. It might be among the first cuts I’d make now, as there are so, SO many cheap threats running roughshod currently that the saga can’t handle.
And since rogues and mill in general are ubiquitous at the moment, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger feels like a strong win condition. Playing Uro’s evil second cousin feels wrong, but the deck has to win somehow, and relying entirely on the Shade or Outlaws’ Merriment would be pure folly.
The deck just felt off when I first started playing it. As the ugly losses mounted, some things were immediately clear: the lack of shocklands made the manabase a sloppy mess, and I didn’t have enough early plays to try and match or disrupt the opponent.
Since sagas make for decent sacrificial lambs to Doom Foretold, I also added some copies of Birth of Meletis (to help a bit with mana) and Elspeth’s Nightmare, the latter of which feels like it is perfectly suited to discombobulate a number of popular decks.
More matches, more losing. Too many decks were playing out multiple threats, and trying to pick them off one at a time, or whittle them down via Doom Foretold, was hopeless. So in came Shatter the Sky and a couple copies of old standby The Akroan War, which I had left out of early builds due to no space and a lack of confidence it would be useful.
Those additions really solidified the deck, and it feels a lot more fun, and moderately viable, now. I’ve played it in its current incarnation off and on for about a week now, and it feels like…well, not home. It feels a bit like traveling to a favorite remote vacation spot and discovering you forgot your toothbrush and don’t have enough pairs of underwear to last the whole trip. Yes, you can gut it out and have fun, but something is going to smell towards the end.
I know the deck isn’t right yet. The loss of Oath of Kaya is, by far, the biggest blow to the deck’s strategy. Treacherous Blessing is still a key component to the deck, so some life gain is often helpful when the Doom Foretolds hide in the latter half of the deck and every spell you play is a rabbit punch. Gone, however, is Bontu, who provided another way of trashing the Blessing. The lifegain off of Oath was a huge boon, and while Birth of Meletis can help, it’s often too little and too late, since it takes 3 turns to gain the 2 life.
Really, the deck seems out of balance. Doom Foretold is now the only way to sacrifice a Blessing, there’s no longer any potentially explosive card draw, and the inability of the Skyclave Shade to block can just sabotage an otherwise solid gamestate. As much as I love seeing people spend (waste?) removal on a Shade while I have 2 or more lands in hand, it’s still a fairly easily removed threat with no evasion.
Perhaps Archon of Sun’s Grace should return, though I’m not sure where it slots in. There are so many good removal spells available (and played) all across Standard that I don’t feel like it’s a good option.
Elspeth Conquers Death could perhaps go, as it doesn’t always have a card in the graveyard to bring back. Skyclave Apparition is tempting over Banishing Light, except leaving behind a token instead of a permanent is problematic for a deck based around Doom Foretold.
Mardoom 2.0 isn’t the medium-rare tenderloin I had grown to love pre-rotation, but it’s it’s still a nicely seasoned strip steak. Whether I’ll continue to tweak it to try and find the perfect rub, or turn off the grill and return to decks that taste more like bowls of oatmeal mush.