RB Selfmill-Sacrifice | THB Standard
With the release of Theros Beyond Death it quickly became clear that Elspeth Conquers Death is one of the best cards in the set. After abusing EDC in the UW deck that dominated the World Championship, I set my sights on another Theros card I saw some potential in - Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger. Even though this card costs 4 mana once it escapes the graveyard, it’s untargetable by ECD, because it’s converted mana cost is 2. When deckbuilding, I often try to look at cards that interact favorably with others in the format, and this was definitely the case. I scoured the spoiler for some other cards that could support Kroxa. Tymaret Calls the Dead came up. I haven’t seen this card played before, but something that mills you for six is obviously something you want to combine with a card that has Escape 5. I tinkered a bit with the shell and this deck was born:
We’ve played the deck in our house for a bit in preparation for the Mythic Points Challenge and this is where we landed. There’s still room for tuning, but I was happy with the final version. What we use is a standard RB Aristocrats shell with cards like Priest of Forgotten Gods and Mayhem Devil. What's a bit unusual is that we’ve cut the Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven combo. I believe that without Trail of Crumbs, this whole combo just doesn’t pull enough weight. It will surely feel good from time to time if you combine it with Mayhem Devil, but both Cat and Oven are weak on their own, and we’re already pretty low on raw card power level due to Kroxa synergies. Speaking of those, Tymaret Calls the Dead incentivizes you to play as many creatures/enchantments as possible and unfortunately Witch’s Oven doesn’t check those marks. Once we realized Gutterbones plays the role of recursive one drop well enough, we were happy to drop the Cat + Oven combo. I’ve seen similar lists trim on Priest of Forgotten Gods, but I actually think this card is in a pretty good spot right now. Mono Red usually plays only 4 Bonecrusher Giant as their main deck removal, so this card lives more than it usually should against aggressive red decks. Dream Trawler is a card that poses issues for us, and this is a solid answer, although not amazing or anything - it still needs a turn to activate, so your opponent can sculpt a game plan around it. Without Oven we also needed more sacrifice effects, so we ran four Priests.
There are some other two drops people run, like Dreadhorde Butcher and Slaughter-Priest of Mogis. Those two are aggressive cards, and this is more of a midrange deck. You will win the games by creating card advantage with your graveyard recursion, Priest of Forgotten Gods and Castle Lochtwain and eventually close out by chipping away with cards like Kroxa, Gutterbones and Mayhem Devil. Our secondary two drop is Mire Triton. Ondrej likes to compare this to SIlvergill Adept, because milling two is similar to drawing a card in this deck. It’s also a Merfolk! Obviously this card isn’t as great as Adept, but it still creates value, slots into your curve well and the 2 point lifegain can come in handy.
Like I mentioned, this deck is built around Tymaret Calls the Dead. We have only five non-lands that don’t trigger it, so don’t be afraid to jam it with an empty graveyard. Worse comes to worst you will have an extra card to escape. The curve of Kroxa into Tymaret Calls the Dead into escape Kroxa is super strong. This means you will end up with 8 power in play on turn four, or possibly 10, if you manage to draw a Fabled Passage. The other three drops are Mayhem Devil and Woe Strider. They obviously combine well together, but you don’t want to overload on three-drops, so we don’t have the full playset of either. Escaping Woe Strider also isn’t trivial, because you will be spending lots of cards to escape Kroxa. Murderous RIder fits nicely too, because it's a creature for Tymaret Calls the Dead that doubles as a removal. The curve ends at 4 with a pair of Rankles and a singleton Akroan War. Rankle works well with the rest of the deck, providing both sacrifice and discard outlet. All mixed in a pretty flying package. Akroan War has been the card that surprised us the most out of this deck. It did so well we ended up adding it to our Jund Cat sideboard. It stops any aggressive deck in its tracks, because it steals the biggest creature and eventually sweeps their board. We’ve settled on one copy in maindeck, because it obviously does nothing against non-creature decks, but we’re happy to bring out more from the sideboard.
The rest of the deck is rounded up with non-creature spells. We went with three copies of Claim the Firstborn and two copies of Angrath’s Rampage. Claim is quite good against creature decks, but as with Akroan War it falls short against non-aggressive ones. Important interaction to note is hasting up your own creature with it. I’ve won plenty of games by escaping Kroxa, giving it a haste and smashing for an ungodly amount of damage. Rampage is a versatile card, this deck doesn’t have much problem casting it and it even triggers your Mayhem Devil. Like I mentioned, Dream Trawler is an issue for us, and this is a solid answer, while also being able to remove problematic cards like Lucky Clover.
The manabase has been pretty solid. I thought I would have more issues casting Kroxa, but it has been pretty trivial so far. Having 12 dual lands is nice. Fabled Passage also plays an utility role of filling up your graveyard and triggering Mayhem Devil. 4 Castle Lochtwain has also been working out well, I haven’t had issues with it coming into play tapped and it helps when you flood, which occasionally happens.
As always, sideboard rounds up the numbers of cards we already have in maindeck. As for the rest, Duress helps against UW, Temur Reclamation and even against Fires, because all the cards you care about are non-creature anyway. Redcap Melee + Dragonfire is our anti-red package that worked so well here that we put it into Jund Cat list as well. Frenzy is an easy swap for our maindeck Akroan War in grindy matchups. Noxious Grasp and Murderous Rider are mostly for Tamiyo, which kind of hoses our whole deck, so we wanted to be prepared for it. Embereth Shieldbreaker is for Lucky Clover decks, it plays a straightforward role, but does it well.
Mono Red In - 3 Redcap Melee, 1 Scorching Dragonfire, 2 The Akroan War, 1 Murderous Rider
Out - 2 Rankle, 2 Ancrath’s Rampage, 3 Gutterbones
On the draw, you should keep 2 Gutterboness in, and board down to zero Murderous Riders. This matchup is pretty favorable. For Arena, we always want to be ready against Mono Red, because it’s super popular, so I try to build the sideboards with that in mind. You might lose some games to quick swarm, but in the postboard games, you can rely on Redcap Melee to stop that and take over the game with your powerful cards. Mono Red can’t really interact with Kroxa once it hits the battlefield, so even though it’s a blank early on, we still keep 4 copies. UW In - 2 Duress, 1 Angrath’s Rampage, 1 Frenzy, 1 Murderous Rider, 1 Shieldbreaker
Out - 3 Claim the Firstborn, 1 Akroan War, 2 Priest
Not losing to Dream Trawler should be your priority. We even bring in the Shieldbreaker to kill the Birth of Meletis token to have an easier time with our sacrifice effects. The 0/4 Wall is also a great blocker, so Shielbreaker comes in handy. Worst case scenario, we have a medium beater. This is the matchup where Gutterbones shine, because UW doesn’t attack your graveyard, and it’s easy to chip in some damage to bring the Gutterbois back.
Temur Adventures In - 1 Ancrath’s Rampage, 2 Noxious Grasp, 2 Shieldbreaker
Out - 1 Akroan War, 1 Murderous Rider, 3 Gutterbones
We want to be the aggressor here, because their deck’s lategame is unreal. We maximize our answers for Lucky Clover, because that card is almost unbeatable. Gutterbones gets blanked by Heart’s Desire, so it gets cut. Bant In - 2 Noxious Grasp, 1 Murderous Rider, 1 Ancrath’s Rampage
Out - 1 Akroan War, 2 Priest, 1 Claim
Rampage is in a weird spot of being a good card, but getting blanked easily by Tamiyo. We tried to remedy the Tamiyo issue by loading up on planeswalker removal spells. Claim the Firstborn might look bad against deck with few creatures, but stealing big Krasis, escaped Uro or even Nissa land can have a huge impact. You don’t want to draw multiple copies so we board down to two.
Jeskai FIres In - 1 Murderous RIder, 2 Akroan War, 2 Duress, 1 Ancrath’s Rampage
Out - 3 Claim, 3 Mayhem Devil
This matchup is alright. You try to get in some damage early, disrupt their creatures with removal and then finish up with Kroxa triggers. Postboard you have even more interaction and the Akroan War, which is pretty great, because it wreaks havoc on their side of the battlefield.
In - 2 Duress, 1 Frenzy, 1 Rider
Out - 2 Ancrath’s Rampage, 1 Claim, 1 Akroan War
Well, the sideboarding for this matchup isn’t ideal. You will still be left with a bunch of dead cards in your deck. Boarding in Murderous RIder against deck with 3 creatures isn’t exactly what you want, but maybe they will bring in Nightpack Ambusher, and you will randomly kill it. Luckily, this deck isn’t very popular, because we’re hoping to dodge it. This matchup is pretty bad.
In - 2 Shieldbreaker, 1 Rider, 2 Akroan War
Out - 2 Anrath’s Rampage, 1 Claim, 2 Rankle
We try to maximize our answers for Korvold with extra Murderous RIder and two copies of The Akroan War out of the sideboard. I feel like this is one of the worst matchups, because their engine is stronger than ours, Kroxa gets blanked by Cauldron Familiar and Korvold just beats us.
In the end, we felt this deck was a bit weaker than the Jund deck we submitted. I don’t regret the decision, because I managed to get 10 wins. Still this deck is pretty fun and a breath of fresh air. Chris Kvartek also got 10 wins with a similar deck, so it definitely has potential.
Hope you enjoyed reading my article. See you next time!