Rant of Valakut: Harmless Hard-Lock Ben Iverach-Brereton January 28, 2019 Rants of Valakut We’ve seen a bit of talk about Experimental Frenzy as a tool for Storm decks to drill through their library, or for aggro decks to power through into the late game, but I wanted to look at a different use for this enchantment in Modern: as a key piece of a hard-lock combo. On the surface Experimental Frenzy plays a lot like the old cards Recycle or Null Profusion; every card you play replaces itself, but you have a much smaller pool of cards to choose from. With any of these enchantments you can quickly churn through large swaths of your library by casting a series of cheap spells. Unlike these older enchantments, though, Experimental Frenzy doesn’t actually draw you any new cards. Instead, it lets you play the top card of your library, but at the trade-off of preventing you from casting the cards in your hand. In practise this ends up being effectively the same as Recycle and Null Profusion, but it has two little words printed on it that always catch my eye: Experimental Frenzy says “you can’t.” I’ve always been intrigued by cards that prevent you from doing something you’re normally allowed to do. Cards like Aggressive Mining and Steel Golem always strike me as fascinating puzzles to try and break, especially since they aren’t game winning on their own. Ever since building my Zedruu the Greathearted Commander deck, which is filled with these questionable cards, I’ve enjoyed toying around with any card that has a massive drawback. Experimental Frenzy is powerful, but it’s really not that different from a card like Aggressive Mining; it prevents you from doing something, and because of that there’s bound to be a way to exploit it. Often, these “you can’t” cards are good targets for Donate or Harmless Offering, since their drawbacks outweigh their upsides. In the case of Experimental Frenzy we are playing a dangerous game, and one that is difficult to set up. The idea is to get a Grafdigger’s Cage into play with Experimental Frenzy out. Whoever controls the Frenzy can no longer cast spells, since Grafdigger’s Cage prevents spells from being cast from libraries and graveyards. That said, here’s the plan: Play a copy of Experimental Frenzy Get a copy of Harmless Offering on top of our library and cast it. We donate Frenzy to our opponent. We play a copy of Grafdigger’s Cage from our hand. We sit back and enjoy a peaceful game, since our opponent can’t cast anything. For additional protection we can also play a Pithing Needle and name Experimental Frenzy. This way our opponent can’t even sacrifice the enchantment. The hardest part of this plan is to find a way to cast Harmless Offering. With Experimental Frenzy in play we can’t cast anything from our hand, so we need to either put the Offering on top of our library or have some way of casting it from our graveyard. Here are a few ways we can set it up: On Top: There are a handful of ways to put a sorcery on top of your library, though in Modern most ways are a bit clunky. The best option is undoubtedly Jace, the Mind Sculptor, though Survivor of the Unseen, Naga Oracle, Sadistic Augurmage and Leashling could also serve this function. Similarly, Noxious Revival, Hag Hedge-Mage and Bloodwater Entity can put a card from the graveyard on top of the library. All of these options are awkward, but without access to Vampiric Tutor or Mystical Tutor in Modern, our options are limited. For the first draft of the list we’ll try Bloodwater Entity and Noxious Revival. It is still tricky to line things up with Experimental Frenzy, unless we’re doing everything on the same turn, but the graveyard interaction does at least work favorably with Faithless Looting, a card we’re almost certainly going to include. Flashback: Getting Harmless Offering on top of the library is a bit awkward, as we’ve seen, but getting it into the graveyard is far simpler. Faithless Looting, Insolent Neonate or Tormenting Voice could be used to discard it, while Snapcaster Mage or Mission Briefing could be used to cast it later. Past in Flames might also be worth considering, too, though it is far more mana than I’d like to invest. For the first draft of the deck we’ll try Faithless Looting, Tormenting Voice, and Mission Briefing. Snapcaster Mage would be great, but I would rather keep the deck on a bit of a budget, and I’d rather spend those resources on the mana base. Plan B: It’s always important to have some redundancy in a deck like this, so in addition to Harmless Offering we’re going to include two copies of Puca’s Mischief as an additional way to give away our Experimental Frenzy. The Mischief is handy for our combo, since we can play it before or after the Frenzy hits the table, but it is a lot of extra mana. Still, it’s nice to have a backup plan for a combo like this. Winning? As for actually winning the game, we have a few options. The main game plan is to win by attacking with Bloodwater Entity and Wandering Fumarole once our opponent is locked out of casting spells, though it is tempting to include a copy of Sky Swallower. The Swallower could serve as an additional way of giving away a Frenzy in a pinch, and is a much faster clock than the Bloodwater Entity, but it’s a very dangerous option. If not used carefully it could give our opponent a lot of extra resources, so it’s probably best left out of the deck. Buying Time: This is far from an efficient combo, so we’ll need time to set everything up. Removal, like Lightning Bolt and Flame Slash, are a good place to start, as well as ways to dig for our combo pieces. Because we’re filling the graveyard with Faithless Looting and Tormenting Voice, we can even include a Conflagrate or two in the deck as an extra way to keep the board clear. The Deck: Creature3 x Bloodwater Entity Enchantment3 x Experimental Frenzy1 x Puca’s Mischief Instant4 x Lightning Bolt3 x Mission Briefing2 x Noxious Revival Artifact3 x Grafdigger’s Cage1 x Pithing Needle Sorcery2 x Conflagrate4 x Faithless Looting4 x Flame Slash3 x Harmless Offering2 x Tormenting Voice Land3 x Desolate Lighthouse4 x Island (335)4 x Mountain (343)4 x Scalding Tarn4 x Steam Vents3 x Temple of Epiphany3 x Wandering Fumarole Sideboard: To Be Determined Buy This List I was hoping to make this deck a bit more budget friendly, but the importance of the fetch lands in the deck can’t be understated; the ability to shuffle away a card with Experimental Frenzy in play is invaluable. A cheaper version of the deck could run Evolving Wilds or Terramorphic Expanse instead, but the extra lands coming into play tapped would greatly slow down an already slow deck. Depending on your play group that might not be too much of an issue. You could also swap out the shocklands for more Basics or a card like Spirebluff Canal to help reduce costs, too. It’s a crazy plan, but this deck might just work. I’m worried that it’s too slow and clunky to function, and I doubt it would ever be competitive, but I’m curious to try it out. This is very much an untested work-in-progress, so if you have any suggestions on how to make it better I’d be happy to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment! And if you’re trying out the deck just remember: don’t cast your Grafdigger’s Cages too early, or you’ll be the one locked out of the game…! Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.