July 07, 2015

Something Fishy

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As with many fine things in life, this story begins with a well-worn copy of a beloved Magic card. I was just a kid, and Spiny Starfish (the secret MVP of my very first blue deck) was a one-echinoderm wrecking crew that churned out as many 0/1 Starfish tokens as I could reasonably pay for.

"That's not how regeneration works," my friend Matt finally told me. School had ended for the day, and we were at the local store for a few quick games before dinner. "You only get a token when your Spiny Starfish actually regenerates. It has to take damage each time. You can't just regenerate it a billion times at the end of your turn for no reason."

"Nu-uh!" I said. "Look at all the little Starfish coming out of that thing! I'm pretty sure it can tear out its spines and turn them into friends if it wants to."

A quick chat with the store owner proved Matt correct. "Now what am I going to block with?" I moaned, shuffling through a loose box of commons on the counter. It only took me a few minutes to find my answer in the form of Homarid Spawning Bed.

I quickly embraced the idea of using my dying creatures as food for the next generation of sea monsters, but it meant that I had to change the complexion of my deck. Back when I thought that I could make as many blockers as I wanted with Spiny Starfish, my blue brew was mostly made up of counterspells, card draw, and a smattering of small fliers. If I wanted to make Homarid Spawning Bed work, I'd have to fill my deck with as much Camarid chow as I could. That meant sea creatures, and lots of them.

Go Fish

In honor of Magic Origins, this week's article is the origin story of my first flavor-based deck. It has gone through a few different iterations over the years, but I'm proud to say that it still exists as a playable (and quite powerful!) Commander deck.

Unfortunately, Past Chas didn't think that Future Chas would ever care about which cards he used when he built his fish deck. That guy was too busy eating pizza and listening to The Ben Folds Five to care about writing anything down. I played the deck a whole lot, though, so while the exact list has been lost, I can get at least 85% of the way there on memory alone. Here's my best effort:

  Go Fish

Oy, there are some embarrassing flavor choices here. Ertai, Wizard Adept has nothing to do with sea creatures, and the only reason he made the cut was because he was my favorite character at the time. I also played a lot of combo cards that didn't do much by themselves. Horseshoe Crab is great when paired with something like Lavamancer's Skill or Phenax, God of Deception, but neither of those cards existed when I put this deck together. Even worse, I ran four(!) copies of High Tide just because I liked the octopus on the Amy Weber version of the card.

Go Fish wasn't without its gems, though. Equilibrium was nothing short of stellar, and the Seventh Edition art with the giant wheel o' fish led to some pretty flavorful table talk. Getting to bounce the biggest creature on the table by playing a Wall of Kelp never failed to amuse me. All creatures are equal in the eyes of the mighty wheel!


Equilibrium | Art by Don Hazeltine

King Crab is another card I still play with today. It's underpowered by current standards, but its ability is surprisingly useful. Against a green deck without much card draw, King Crab can lock down the entire game.

I also love the wackiness of the card's flavor. How can you beat a giant crab that throws green creatures (and only green creatures) on top of their owner's library over and over again? Poor allergy-prone Olivia—let's hope she was laughing too hard to be scared.

Blue Meanies

A few years went by and I began to get 'serious' about Magic. Winning had become important to me, and I was willing to leave my Leviathans and Narwhals behind in order to do so. The two cards that immediately jumped out as perfect additions for the deck were Capsize and Palinchron. I knew that I could combine them with the High Tides I already had to create infinite mana and bounce every permanent on the board.

This iteration of the deck had very little to do with sea creatures, which deeply irked my friend Emily. One of my Vorthosian partners in crime, Emily was the one who had suggested that I add Giant Oyster and Sand Squid to the deck's previous form.

Her response was to build her own sea creature deck. It was called Fishamajig, named after (what else?) a fish sandwich on the senior's menu at Friendly's, a chain of New England diners.

  Fishamajig

If you're going to build your own copy of Fishamajig, make sure you get the Shadowmoor version of Flow of Ideas with the giant fish on it. It's one of the best-looking cards in the deck, especially in foil.

Fishamajig isn't very good, and it doesn't really do all that much, but it has won its fair share of games. Multiplayer Magic is all about looking unassuming enough to make it to the end game with your threats intact, and no one wants to pick on a deck that runs Coral Eel and Walking Sponge. From time to time, the element of surprise works well enough to steal a really satisfying win.

I wouldn't build Fishamajig today without adding a few of the great sea creatures that have been printed in recent years, though. The first one I'd add is my favorite Magic card of all time:

I could write ten thousand words without covering everything I love about Lorthos. The art, the flavor text, the design symmetry, the groans from around the table whenever you play it, the subgame where you get to decide which enemy creatures he gets to hug in his Octopus arms—it's all perfect.

When Lorthos came out, I immediately decided to rebuild Go Fish as a Commander deck. My interest in playing with the most powerful cards that blue had to offer hadn't waned, though, so I decided to opt for a compromise of sorts. The deck runs overpowered cards like Treachery and Sol Ring, but they exist alongside a cavalcade of crazy sea creatures. Check it out:

  Something Fishy

COMMANDER: Lorthos, the Tidemaker

From a playability perspective, this deck really wants both Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots to speed up and protect Lorthos. If the idea of an Octopus wearing boots sounds amazing to you, feel free to add them in. I've personally opted for the more on-flavor Protective Bubble.

If you find the deck too slow for your playgroup, I suggest taking out some of the bigger sea monsters and adding in some Merfolk. Cards like Lord of Atlantis and Wake Thrasher are bursting with flavor, and they'll play better than Tromokratis and Benthic Behemoth on a table when the early game is more of a concern.

As far as basic lands go, I've filled this deck with 26 copies of the bowl island from Zendikar. Lorthos is from Zendikar, after all, and that bowl looks like a great place for the Octopus to lie in wait as it plans its next ambush.

Island | Art by Vincent Proce

My Spiny Starfish and I have a multiplayer battle to win, so that's all for today. Until next time!

-Chas Andres



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