Nemata

This one is at the request of my friend Nik Zitomer, the fungus guy. He wanted me to do a deck tech on a fungus deck, and Nemata is my Saproling/Fungus fun deck, that is surprisingly able to win games. I built the deck because I love tribal, and upon seeing Nemata’s ability, and knowing a lot of cards, fungi especially, that either created or dealt with Saprolings, I couldn’t resist. I had a Saproling tribal subtheme in one of my other decks, which gave me an opportunity to pull those cards and co-opt them for Nemata, where they were more useful and thus more fun.

Naturally most of the deck revolves around cards that create Saprolings. There aren’t any actual Saproling cards in Magic, only Saproling tokens. Most of the creatures that create Saprolings are Fungi, which gain spore counters on their controller’s upkeep and have an ability that removes spore counters to create Saprolings. The deck is not at all optimized—for instance, Coat of Arms would improve the deck significantly, and Adaptive Automaton would probably be a good addition, along with any permanent that gives my creatures trample. But the point isn’t to win as many games as I can; the point is to get a bunch of adorable Saprolings and occasionally turn them into an army that stomps all over my opponents.

Fungi:

Feral Thallid

Fungal Behemoth

Mycoloth

Psychotrope Thallid

Savage Thallid

Spore Flower

Sporemound

Sporesower Thallid

Sporoloth Ancient

Thallid

Thallid Devourer

Thallid Germinator

Thallid Shell-Dweller

Thorn Thallid

Utopia Mycon

Vitaspore Thallid

Most of these interact with Saprolings, although not all of them do. Some of them, while they don’t create Saproling tokens, still get spore counters, which can become Saprolings if I have Sporoloth Ancient. Even those that wouldn’t normally get counters can get them with Sporesower Thallid in play.

Other Creatures:

Dreampod Druid

Elvish Farmer

Jade Mage

Thelonite Hermit

Verdant Force

Verdeloth the Ancient

All of these creatures do interact with Saprolings, either by creating them or by buffing them. Earlier versions of the deck had some creatures that were just good for the deck, but I decided to take them out in order to make the deck more on theme.

Saproling Creators:

Druidic Satchel

Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII

Greener Pastures

Night Soil

Saproling Cluster

Sporogenesis

Verdant Embrace

Scatter the Seeds

Sprout Swarm

Fungal Sprouting

Saproling Symbiosis

Spontaneous Generation

Naturally I want to make as many Saprolings as possible, in order to take full advantage of Nemata’s ability. With enough Saprolings, I can swing all out at an opponent, sacrifice the ones that get blocked, and kill him with the remaining ones, which are now huge.

Interactions:

Doubling Season

Fungal Bloom

Life and Limb

Overwhelming Instinct

Parallel Lives

Primal Vigor

Bloodscent

Second Harvest

Parallel Evolution

Cards like Doubling Season and Second Harvest are pretty obvious: They increase the number of tokens I’m getting. Doubling Season has the added advantage of also increasing the rate that apore counters are placed on my Fungi, essentially quadrupling the number of Saprolings I can make. Life and Limb, of course, turns my Forests into more Saprolings, but it also turns my Saprolings into mana. Overwhelming Instinct gives me card draw, which I probably need to replenish my field. Bloodscent allows me to sacrifice a single Saproling in order to get the rest of them through, enabling me to swing in for the win even against an opponent who has a stronger board presence.

Buff:

Tower Above

Predatory Rampage

Overrun

Hunter’s Prowess

Enlarge

Tribal Unity

Sylvan Might

Strength of Cedars

Stampede

Resize

Primal Boost

Might of Old Krosa

Might of Oaks

Giant Growth

Echoing Courage

Awaken the Bear

These cards are vital to the function of the deck. They allow my harmless little Saprolings to get big enough to deal actual damage. Even without Nemata in play, something like Overrun can buff my Saproling army enough to take out one of my opponents.

Removal:

Krosan Grip

Naturalize

Unravel the Æther

Bramblecrush

Skyreaping

Removal is necessary, even in a fun deck—perhaps especially in a fun deck. If one player is dominating due to one or two cards—for instance, because he has an Akroma’s Memorial, or a Dictate of Erebos—there’s not much of a chance for me to remove that player from the game, so my best bet is ensuring I can remove his problem cards. While I can’t do much about Avacyn, I have the potential to handle just about anything else, ensuring a fair game for everyone.

And there’s the deck. Nothing too overpowered, just a lot of good synergy and adorable Saprolings. I took it to the card store to play at Friday Night Commander, so I could see it in action. Admittedly the deck I was playing wasn’t exactly the same as the decklist I have, since I just threw the deck together from cards I had on hand and haven’t gotten around to ordering the better pieces, but the core of it was the same.

The first game, I was playing against Leovold, Nekusar, and Daxos the Returned. Nekusar actually arrived late and we allowed him to bubble in the first three turns, during which he played a few lands and a signet. Daxos I’d played against before, with my Kaalia deck, and the Leovold deck I’d glanced through before the start of the night, because he was borrowing it from a friend of mine.

Leovold stole my Verdant Force, earning my enmity. I’d gotten out Nemata on Turn 5, and cast the Verdant Force the next turn, which would have netted me a ton of Saprolings over the course of the game. Leovold wound up with 11 before losing the Verdant Force, and he only lost it because he attacked with it…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

With Leovold on the field, Nekusar’s main wincon was fairly useless, since Leovold prevents all opponents from drawing more than one card per turn. So, Nekusar played Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker, and Pestermite. It’s an infinite combo which sees play in Modern. The basic idea is to copy the Pestermite using Kiki-Jiki’s ability, which allows you to untap the Kiki-Jiki with Pestermite’s enters-the-battlefield trigger, allowing you to get another Pestermite, ad infinitum. The tokens all have haste, and are exiled at end of turn; so you swing out for the win, since you can create an arbitrarily large number.

I’d had a Spore Flower since Turn 2, slowly accumulating spore counters, and when Nekusar tried to end the game, I removed three of them to prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. The Nekusar player was at 39 life, and the Leovold player had potentially 38 damage on board, with the Nekusar player tapped out, as long as I sacrificed all my Saprolings so his would get Nemata’s buff—because she buffs all Saprolings, not just those I control—and cast Tribal Unity for all my mana. Leovold also had a Duskmantle Seer, so it would probably be fine, but we wouldn’t know that until his upkeep; if Nekusar revealed a land to Duskmantle Seer, he wouldn’t lose any life, and we’d be screwed. So, I attacked him with my one Saproling that could attack, bringing him definitively into killable range.

Leovold attacked, and I dutifully created three more Saprolings, sacrificing them along with the two I’d gotten from Utopia Mycon, which had been out since Turn 1. That was enough to eliminate the Nekusar player, leaving just myself, Leovold, and Daxos.

Daxos was building up a decent boardstate, including Cathars’ Crusade, which I initially took out of several decks because it’s such a headache to keep track of, but have been putting back in so I can use it to troll my fellow judges. Being a deck that generated a number of tokens, Daxos of course had some difficulty representing how large each token was, since normally they would all be the same size but Cathars’ Crusade was throwing off the math.

I knew Leovold could kill Daxos if I cast Tribal Unity, which I had in hand, and sacrificed the four Saprolings I had on board; that would give all his Saprolings, eleven total, a bonus of +11/+11 until end of turn. I indicated this to him, also pointing out that if he attacked me, I could just use Spore Flower’s ability to Fog again. After he declared attacks—all at Daxos—Daxos said he’d kill Leovold next turn then scoop to me if I saved him. While I was considering this, he tried to talk Leovold into changing his attacks to me. I determined that, with the mana I had available, I could make three Saprolings with Nemata’s ability, giving me seven total that would be able to attack on my turn. After Daxos killed Leovold, he’d have three blockers. Between sacrificing the three blocked Saprolings and casting Tribal Unity for seven, there would be forty-four damage getting through, which was more than lethal. For me, the knowledge that I could have won was enough to get me to honor my initial agreement; I am, after all, a woman of my word. Plus, in a casual game with no prize support, there’s no quantifiable difference between knowing you could win, and actually winning. My deck had the wherewithal to win on its own; I’d agreed to let Leovold kill Daxos; the most advantageous path for me would be to uphold my agreement, and thus prove myself to be a reliable ally. Daxos chose to block several of Leovold’s attacking creatures, including Verdant Force, thus killing them.

With Daxos dead, we were at a stalemate, because Leovold had Experiment Kraj, and Nemata had +1/+1 counters on her. He cast a Stunt Double copying my Spore Flower, and later got a Lighthouse Chronologist. He’d put a +1/+1 counter on Utopia Mycon using Kraj, and thus was able to activate Utopia Mycon’s ability to sacrifice seven of his Saprolings to produce seven blue mana after casting Lighthouse Chronologist, leveling him up all the way.

At that point he had two spore counters on his Stunt Flower Double, so I swung all out, knowing he’d need to block or die. He had to block with all but two creatures in order to keep me from killing him; the two he chose to keep were Experiment Kraj, because it allowed him to continue to create Saprolings; and Stunt Double, for the Fog effect. Five of the Saprolings he blocked with also survived, since I sacrificed the ones they were blocking in order to pump the rest.

The next turn, I swung again, forcing him to use up his Stunt Fog. He then misplayed, casting Villainous Wealth rather than Mind Grind for 17, which would have milled me out, since he’d already Traumatized me, and I was at 31 cards in my library, only 13 of which were lands. Because he misplayed, I was able to swing in the next turn for the win—just as time was being called.

The second game, I was playing against Athreos and Sliver Overlord. That game started off much slower—no Turn 1 Utopia Mycon or Turn 2 Spore Flower. My first play was actually a fungus on Turn 3, then on Turn 4 I was able to cast Sprout Swarm and pay its Buyback cost. I really like that card. It seems underpowered—two mana for a 1/1? Five mana if you pay the Buyback? But with Convoke, it becomes easier to cast each subsequent time, and you can cast it multiply times in a turn. Sure, five mana for a 1/1 is a bit much even as an activated ability, but since I don’t have to invest actual mana to get the effect, it evens out.

On Turn 5, Athreos was able to sacrifice his Quest for the Holy Relic in order to tutor out Loxodon Warhammer and attach it to his commander. Slivers took eight commander damage, among other combat damage. The next turn, Athreos cast Silverblade Paladin, soulbonding it to Athreos, and swinging for another sixteen commander. Slivers blocked four of it, just enough to survive at twenty commander damage and five life. He then Fetched, bringing himself down to four.

On my turn, I had four Saprolings that could attack, along with a few creatures, one of which I didn’t really care about, since it was one I’d decided to purge from the decklist but hadn’t gotten around to physically replacing. I case Predatory Rampage, giving my guys +3/+3 until end of turn. Since Slivers had four blockers, I attacked with my four Saprolings and the dude I didn’t care about. None of them actually died, since Slivers’ largest creature was a 2/2. Even though I’d just killed him, he did me a solid by destroying the Loxodon Warhammer, which actually dragged the game out quite a bit.

Several turns later, with eight Forests in play, I used Utopia Mycon’s ability to sacrifice a Saproling to create a mana, then cast Enlarge on Feral Thallid, followed by Fungal Sprouting in order to get 13 Saprolings. I should have attacked with my 13/10 trampler but was so excited about my Saprolings I completely forgot.

Athreos attacked all out; after blocks and combat damage, his commander’s ability resolved, and I chose not to return Silverblade Paladin or the other creature to his hand, in the hopes that he wouldn’t be able to play enough creatures to keep me from killing him next turn. With fourteen Saprolings on the battlefield and the mana to re-cast Nemata, who’d been killed the first time I tried to play her, I had enough to deal the thirty-five damage necessary to kill him. Unfortunately he boardwiped, and since I was at three life, there was no way I would recover in time to save myself.

Overall, the evening was a smashing success. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to play a janky deck that isn’t designed to win. Although it was neat to win the first game, and almost win the second, that wasn’t the best part of playing the deck, which should be obvious given that I gave up a guaranteed win for what seemed at the time to be my certain demise. Teaming up to prevent the Nekusar player from killing us with his infinite combo was definitely the highlight of the evening, and it was pretty cool that my janky deck was able to do that. Unfortunately there wasn’t time this past weekend to play against Nik’s Ghave deck and see who could fungus harder, but perhaps we’ll get another chance at some future event.

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