Five Color Stream Control with Sam Black

Sunday morning before my first draft for Grand Prix: Washington DC, I sent a message to Emma Handy and Autumn Burchett — my team for the upcoming Mythic Championship — about a weird way that I realized you could draft UG in MH1.

I said that the key was Everdream and that if you got it early, you could draft around splicing it on Weather the Storm and loop your deck with Stream of Thought. It was all theory crafted, but when I got a second pick Everdream an hour later in my first draft, I decided to try it out.

My first pass at GP Washington DC

I knew that it was a weird deck and would take some effort to figure out exactly how to build/draft it, but I’m always happy to explore even if I’m drafting at a GP. There was a lot that I got wrong. I thought Spore Frog was part of the deck and played too many cards that were bad early. I didn’t do well, but it was clear there was something there.

Preparing for the Mythic Championship

I started exploring it on MTGO. I quickly realized that Everdream itself might not be necessary if you have enough ways to draw cards. What I really needed was more mana, so I decided Springbloom Druid was the most important card and tried to draft five-color control whenever I opened a Springbloom Druid.

At some point, I think I probably started a draft with a Smiting Helix, which was always one of the best cards in these decks and tried to draft five-color without Springbloom Druid, eventually taking some Fountain of Ichors to make my mana work. Fountain played out great and I realized that between that and the fact that I could always table every Talisman, I could always make my mana work even without Springbloom Druid.

Fountain of Ichor

So after trying to draft control whenever possible for around 20 drafts, I figured out that I could probably get the deck every draft if I wanted. I started forcing it from P1P1 no matter what I opened. I’d almost always get my build wrong by a card or two, but after forcing it for around 20 drafts in a row I was confident that I could always do it and that I’d learned what to prioritize.

I’d been losing pretty often when I started doing this, but by the end I was winning 70% of my matches over my last 10, 20, and 30 matches. Not over the top amazing, but enough that I was satisfied planning to do it at the PT and a bit better than my lifetime win percentage.

I decided I was definitely drafting this way in Barcelona, and I said it was the first time I’ve ever known my limited deck for a PT/MC before knowing my constructed deck.

I taught Emma and Autumn how to do it, ran through a couple drafts with Autumn on Discord, and then with Emma at our apartment in Barcelona.

We all forced it on the first day of the PT. I went 3-0 and each of them went 2–1, and all of us felt that we had very good versions of the deck.

Now, I’m going to teach everyone else, but I want to be clear about something:

I’m doing this for historical record and about the fact that this was possible. It’s amazing to me that I was able to force a draft strategy that was, as far as I know, completely off everyone else’s radar, and only possible because the tournament was so long after the set release that I had the time to work it out.

You can try it out, but it’s very possible that the fact I’m writing this article means it’s no longer possible to draft. The entire strategy is based on knowing exactly what you can expect to table — so you can draft from the beginning knowing which two cards you’ll end up with out of each of your first five packs. I have no idea what happens if two people try to do this at the same table because it literally never came up.

How it Works

The basic idea of the deck is that you have inevitability against everyone, and good versions of the deck will be able to spend approximately all of their mana every turn of the game from turn 2 on.

The deck will almost always be heavy blue. It will usually be heavy green or black, sometimes both, but it’s probably better to pick one. I almost always have a white splash, and I’m usually either red or black, but it’s fine to be both.

You want to prioritize removal because you have to fight the other players for the removal spells. Most of the other cards you want will table.

Early on, you’re looking for bombs and archetype cornerstones, then removal, then card draw/smoothing, then other things as needed.

Ideally, you want your deck to be built around a splice card: Splicer’s Skill or Everdream. These are both uncommons, so you won’t always get one, but they’re both relatively low priorities for other people, so I think you can get over half of the total copies that are opened. Having multiples is great if you can get them, but I’m not excited about the third Splicer’s Skill.

A great example of the deck…

Surprising card and rules interactions

The splice cards are great because your deck is mostly instants and sorceries, but there are several cards in the set that make them even better than you might realize:

String of Disappearances

String of Disappearances is a great card in this deck because it’s a cheap way to buy time and generate more value out of creatures that you have with ETB abilities. In addition, it’s a cheap card to splice onto, so when you pay UU to copy it you get the splice effect again, so for 3WUUU you can bounce your own Wall of Blossoms and your opponent’s creature and make two Golems with Splicer’s Skill.

Stream of Thought

When you replicate Stream of Thought, you also copy your splice effect. I’ve spent 4UUUU to mill myself for 4, reshuffle 4, draw 1, then do all that again many times.

When you cast Trumpeting Herd, you can splice on the rebounded casting.

Weather the Storm

When you splice onto Weather the Storm or Wing Shards, you copy the splice for all the storm copies.

Magmatic Sinkhole

When you splice onto Magmatic Sinkhole you can delve more than 5 to reduce the cost added by the spliced card as well.

Most versions of this deck are splice decks, but if you don’t see a splice card, you have options, you just need to remember that you’re playing a long game and you want to take advantage of all the mana you’ll have throughout the game. This means you’ll need to prioritize things that let you spend mana. Mostly this means card draw, but I’ve called Birthing Boughs the secret third splice card.

Now for the important part…

Full Pack 1, Pick 1 Pick Order

Winds of Abandon

Deep Forest Hermit Winds of Abandon Dead of Winter Hexdrinker
Smiting Helix Crashing Footfalls Urza, Lord High Artificer Genesis
Plague Engineer Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis Kess, Dissident Mage Firebolt
Fallen Shinobi Everdream Future Sight
Watcher for Tomorrow
Splicer’s Skill Reap the Past Ice-Fang Coatl Sling-Gang Lieutenant
Kaya’s Guile Nether Spirit Wall of Blossoms Twisted Reflection
Settle Beyond Reality Pyrophobia Magmatic Sinkhole Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Regrowth

Prismatic Vista Springbloom Druid The First Sliver Crypt Rats
Exclude Urza’s Rage String of Disappearances Blizzard Strix
Defile Regrowth Wrenn and Six Trumpeting Herd
Serra the Benevolent Scour All Possibilities Fact or Fiction Rain of Revelation
Pondering Mage Sword of Truth and Justice Birthing Boughs Mob
Mox Tantalite Fountain of Ichor Ransack the Lab Astral Drift
Mother Bear Graveshifter Munitions Expert Diabolic Edict

Talisman of Curiosity

Eladamri’s Call Talismans Thundering Djinn
Spell Snuff
Force of Negation Archmage’s Charm Squirrel Nest Aria of Flame
Force of Despair Lonely Sandbar Tranquil Thicket Stream of Thought
Cave of Temptation Ingenious Infiltrator Tribute Mage Krosan Tusker
Wing Shards Waterlogged Grove Putrid Goblin Rotwidow Pack
Man-o’-War Fiery Islet Seasoned Pyromancer Lesser Masticore
Arcum’s Astrolabe Silent Clearing Sunbaked Canyon Thornado

Igneous Elemental

Twin-Silk Spider Snow-Covered Lands Shenanigans Igneous Elemental
Soulherder Dismantling Blow Force of Vigor Forgotten Cave
Secluded Steppe Barren Moor Winding Way Weather the Storm
Reprobation Prohibit Lava Dart Recruit the Worthy
Nature’s Chant Spore Frog Nimble Mongoose Generous Gift
First-Sphere Gargantua Umezawa’s Charm Undead Augur

This list is intended to be as complete as possible. I tried to leave off all the cards I would never want in this kind of deck, so I even included sideboard options. The pick order is based on a combination of how important the card is and how likely I am to see more of them, and a lot changes based on the needs of your deck.

Putting All the Pieces Together…

When I’m drafting I keep a mental checklist of all the things I want my deck to have:

  • Early interaction to not fall behind
  • Hard removal to avoid dying to a giant trampler or something similar
  • Some way to deal with an opponent going wide
  • Good fixing and acceleration (usually 3-4 artifacts/druids)
  • Card advantage
  • A source of inevitability. This is tricky, but involves a combination of bombs/ways to end a game or splice cards and usually either Regrowth + Stream of Thought, or two copies of Stream of Thought
  • A way to gain life

Along the way, I’m trying to round out my curve and sideboard and to figure out my color balance.

Different versions

I’m trying to determine whether I’m heavy green (Springbloom Druid, Wall of Blossoms, Trumpeting Herd, Mother Bear) or light green (Weather the Storm and Regrowth) and whether I’m heavy black (Defile, Ransack the Lab, sideboard Putrid Goblin) or light black (Twisted Reflection, Smiting Helix, Mob). Rarely I might be somewhat heavy white for Wing Shards or red for Lava Dart and Igneous Elemental.

In general I’m assuming I won’t want to pick snow cards unless I get an early Dead of Winter, but if I get Ice-Fang Coatl or Blizzard Strix I’ll try to take a few lands when they’re very cheap. Iceberg Cancrix is not a card that I like here because it turns on removal without meaningfully contributing to my game plan.

Settle Beyond Reality

Settle Beyond Reality is the most important common, but once I have one, there are other commons I’d take over a second unless I have a few creatures with good ETB abilities.

The deck is extremely fun to draft because the value of everything is always changing. You’re essentially aiming for a certain constructed deck and trying to pick up all the pieces along the way, rather than just trying to get as many copies of your top cards as you can.

Almost every deck ends up missing some fairly important piece somewhere. Even though all the tools are there and most people aren’t fighting you for most things you need (or there are a lot of replacements), there are still just a lot of different cards you’re hoping are opened at your table. Something’s going to be missing, and you need to figure out how to adjust your deck to deal with that problem.

Weather the Storm

For example, if you don’t have Kaya’s Guile or Smiting Helix, you want to look for a Weather the Storm you can table, but if that doesn’t happen, you probably won’t be able to gain life, so you’ll need to be extra careful about early interaction.

Regarding Stream of Thought, I usually target my opponent when I have the game locked up and either that kills them or the next one will, or when my deck is already only cards I want. Winning is super incidental, it can just as easily happen to come down to attacking with a Pondering Mage or Fountain of Ichor.

If you don’t have Regrowth and only one Stream of Thought, you want to consider whether you want to play a counterspell to give yourself a way to loop your deck (by replicating Stream of Thought and countering the original so that the copy can shuffle the original and the counter back into your deck) or whether you can reliably beat your opponent without needing to loop infinitely (which you usually can).

There’s definitely a learning curve to drafting this way, since it’s hard to know what you need if you don’t know how these decks play out. But I’m really glad I put the time into figuring out how these decks work, because going into a PT draft knowing that I was valuing cards completely differently from everyone else at the table and knowing I could get the deck I wanted was a unique and amazing experience.

Editor’s note: this deck was recently featured on our brand new Twitter account, Limited Decklists. If you want to try your hand at drafting this deck, check out our draft simulator.

2 Comments

  • Avatar
    frederico np August 8, 2019 3:51 am

    this is the kind of content i am happy to see online. keep it up please

  • Avatar
    JP August 22, 2019 5:50 pm

    fantastic article! very clever wizardry, Sam. i was completely undervaluing splice by not understanding the possibilities.

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