On the Value of Haste, or, How to Win More Often When You’re a Timmy with a Token Deck

If he were kosher for EDH, I'd totally use him as a General.

If you look at my Magic player psychographic profile, you’ll find me pretty squarely in the Timmy camp: I love big spells, I love big creatures, I love big effects, and my primary motivation when playing Magic is to have fun while turning cards sideways with my friends. But I have a Spike streak as well: I like to win, because I was raised to be competitive. Not all my games—my greatest Magic knowledge is Socratic: I know that I don’t know—but I like winning at least half of them when I’m up against decks that are at a similar power level to mine. And when I lose because of play errors on my part or really poor deck-building, it bothers me.

Here’s a dilemma, however: I don’t like playing too much disruption, and I don’t like to win in a way that I think is unfair. I don’t like to blow up lands, for example—I’ll generally explode lands that generate my opponents just a little too much advantage like [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card], [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card], [card]Kor Haven[/card], or [card]Academy Ruins[/card]; I’ll even blow up a vanilla land if I see somebody’s about to get their [card]Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund[/card] or [card]Thraximundar[/card] out and kill me in 2 turns with General damage. You get the idea. But I’ll also blow up somebody’s Gaea’s Cradle just so I can drop my own. A lot of Timmy. A bit of Spike.

And the Timmy part of me wants to win with cards that generate overwhelmingly positive tempo on my end, as opposed to cards that generate negative tempo for my opponents. Land ramp. Efficient creatures. Cheating creatures into play. Flooding the board with tokens. Protecting my dudes with shroud and regeneration mechanics, or efficient graveyard recovery, like [card]Cauldron of Souls[/card]. Barfing up my graveyard back onto the battlefield with [card]Living Death[/card] or [card]Patriarch’s Bidding[/card]. The Spike part of me recognizes that I need some disruption, though, so most of my decks include various cards that can spot-remove troublesome permanents, as well as a bunch of board wipe. But my happiest wins tend to be the ones in which I either generate so much positive tempo for myself that I end up killing everyone in one fell swoop (which is why I like token decks so much), or in which I take advantage of everybody else’s positive tempo in one big push for glory, such as when I play [card]Cultural Exchange[/card] or [card]Insurrection[/card]. (Insurrection, by the way, is by far my favorite red card of all time, though [card]Reverberate[/card] is right up there, too.) I’ve discovered that winning with my [card Oona, Queen of the Fae]Oona[/card] and [card Savra, Queen of the Golgari]Savra[/card] decks aren’t quite as satisfying for me, because those decks are far too high-stress and far too disruptive for them to be strictly fun, so I rarely play with them.

Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
A centaur whose steely (stony?) brow is outmatched only by his steely abs. And yes, that is a very large war-axe he's carrying. No, he's not happy to see you.

Last night, I almost won with my [card]Stonebrow, Krosan Hero[/card] weenie [card]overrun[/card] deck. I almost won twice. And in the last game, I had overwhelming board advantage. My big dudes were pooping out little dudes like mad: I had [card]Spawnwrithe[/card], who had managed to spawn 7 other copies of himself; [card]Rampaging Baloths[/card] with [card]Primeval Titan[/card] out; [card]Dragon Broodmother[/card], which is one of my favorite cards in multi-player EDH, ever; [card]Master of the Wild Hunt[/card] with a couple of wolf tokens out; [card]Brawn[/card] in my graveyard; and big bad Stonebrow was out himself. On top of all that, I had successfully cast and resolved [card]Verdeloth the Ancient[/card] kicked 18 times. I could’ve killed the entire table three times over, especially since Ginger had brought everybody’s life totals down with [card]Heartless Hidetsugu[/card]. I swung with most of my dudes, but I couldn’ t do anything with Verdeloth and my horde of saps.

And I lost because the next turn, James cast [card]Do or Die[/card] targeting me, and then the turn after that, hit the table with [card]Exsanguinate[/card] for 7, dropping my life total to 4. My friend Jona then mopped up by killing me with a Level 2 [card]Nirkana Cutthroat[/card] equipped with a [card]Whispersilk Cloak[/card] and then won the game the next turn with an unblockable [card]Lord of Extinction[/card].

Thing is, I could’ve won the game if my creatures had haste. Haste usually isn’t a huge factor in EDH games, but when the objective is to take down the entire table in the red zone, haste is invaluable. Haste is positive tempo like whoa for a deck like mine: it means I can swing NOW, right after I’ve dumped all my mana into creating dudes, instead of waiting for a whole turn, during which somebody can [card Wrath of God]wrath[/card] the board, or throw a [card]Choice of Damnations[/card] at my face.

My Stonebrow deck currently only has two ways of giving my dudes haste: [card]Sarkhan Vol[/card], and [card]Fires of Yavimaya[/card]. Both of them are good, but I need more, especially since neither green nor red give me any ability to tutor enchantments. If I wanted to be optimal, I’d craft a [card]Rith, the Awakener[/card] deck, since that one white mana symbol in its casting cost not only opens up a lot of answer cards that red and green typically lack, but it would give me access to other good stuff, like [card]Academy Rector[/card] and [card]Enlightened Tutor[/card]. But I like my Stonebrow deck, dammit, and I want to make it work, because he’s hilarious. I want to win with my hilarious deck. So I’m now going to make room for the following:

  • [card]Survival of the Fittest[/card]: this deck isn’t too fond of pitching its own creatures into the graveyard, but [card]Brawn[/card] proved to be last night’s all-star, and having a way to tutor him to hand and then throw him into the graveyard? Sounds good to me.
  • Speaking of [card]Brawn[/card], his crankier and hastier buddy, [card]Anger[/card], needs to be in this deck, too.
  • You know what’s awesome in any deck that loves the creature beatdowns, especially when the creatures it generates are pretty vanilla? [card]Akroma’s Memorial[/card]. I’ve been waffling over its inclusion in this deck, and I think last night pretty well proved its value.
  • One more haste mechanic: [card]Fervor[/card].
  • And let’s be honest here, I need to run more disruption in this deck. I wouldn’t have died if Jona didn’t have his Whispersilk Cloak. I have a [card]Woodfall Primus[/card] and a [card]Krosan Grip[/card] in the deck, but that’s not nearly enough. [card]Terastodon[/card] and [card]Viashino Heretic[/card], I choose you!

I’m pondering throwing in an [card]Asceticism[/card]. On one hand, I don’t really care about the weenies dying or being targeted. On the other hand, cheap, repeatable regeneration and global [card Troll Ascetic]troll shroud[/card] in this format is pretty amazing. I’m leaving it out for now, because I don’t know what to chuck in favor of it.

[card]Genesis[/card] could be good, too—he’d be a nice way to recover a creature I had to pitch into the ‘yard with Survival, or after somebody wraths the board, but I’m going to playtest more and see whether I really need it.

Here’s the current decklist for my Stonebrow weenie overrun deck. (My first Stonebrow deck was a wall o’ fat deck, and it’s pretty fun, but it’s not especially efficient and needs a lot of fixing.) I can’t tell yet, because I still need to playtest this extensively, but I think the changes I’ve made are going to be make my deck a bit more resilient against my opponents while still mostly focused on generating positive tempo for myself. Thoughts? Suggestions? Mockery that I’d even build a Stonebrow deck in the first place? (As my friend Caedmon said when he saw the card, “Oh God, that’s a general that does one thing, and one thing only.”) Bring it on.

2 responses to “On the Value of Haste, or, How to Win More Often When You’re a Timmy with a Token Deck”

  1. Yeah, I’m realizing more and more the value of haste in EDH. If anything, it’s more important in multiplayer, simply because there are so many more turns that your poor creature has to sit there doing nothing until it can attack. I’m currently reworking Uril to add a solid package of haste cards, because unless the table is exhausted, he doesn’t stick around that long. Much better to have a Fires of Yamivaya on the table, cast Uril, drop Rancor on him, and swing for a quick 9 then have to keep my auras in hand until I can cast them right before attacking.

    Jenara, however, likes people to take as many turns as they like, especially when Seedborn Muse is on the board. The longer she has to wait, the scarier she gets.

    • Jose likes to run [card]Mark of Fury[/card]. With that and [card]Mesa Enchantress[/card] out, he was pretty much guaranteed to draw at least one extra card a turn. He’d sometimes enchant his own Enchantress if he couldn’t get Uril out just so he could draw a card.