Howdy howdy! I’m supposed to be practicing the new sealed format to prepare for Grand Prix Montreal. I was ready to spend the last week grinding sealed queues online and then come here and tell you what I’d learned. But then something funny happened over the weekend. I sat down for a BTT draft at the Shop von zwanzig Seiten, first picked the very sweet Hero of Leina Tower, got passed a Tromokratis, and settled into a comfortable blue-green draft archetype of some sort. As I unfurled the final new Born of the Gods pack (seventh pick in a seven-person pod), a flash of gold caught my eye. What is this? Why, it’s a Chromanticore! Never look a gift Core in the mouth, right?

If you’ve been reading fellow Hipster Zach Barash’s column (and you should be!) you’ll know he’s done some exploring of the Chromanticore archetype in BTT draft. I’ve enjoyed watching Zach draft those decks, play them, win, and write about it. I’ve also been on the receiving end of Chromanticore beats from Hugh Kramer, Grade Nine. Which is to say, I was happy to try my hand and harnessing the Rainbow Coalition. There’s no feeling quite like the moment in game one when your seemingly blue-green opponent sacrifices a Burnished Hart and fetches a mountain and a swamp. “Oh shit.”

spaceballs

There goes the planet.

When I picked up old Chrome Dome, my deck was otherwise just a decent pile of blue and green cards: Hero of Leina Tower, Tromokratis, Pheres-Band Tromper, Vortex Elemental, Meletis Astronomer, and Chorus of the Tides. Knowing that everyone else in the draft chose not to taste the rainbow, I figured the mana fixing would be open. I had passed two Peregrination already, which I hoped would come back around. Oddly enough they didn’t. In the BNG pack the only “fixing” I got was a late Satyr Wayfinder. But my deck looked decent enough even if I stayed blue-green and chose not to play Chromanticore. That seems like a good place to be—flexible enough to splash extra colors if the fixing comes around, but ready to abandon it for a safe two-color deck if not.

The first Theros pack rewarded me handsomely. My first two picks were Polis Crusher and Sylvan Caryatid. I had to restrain my fist-pump when I saw the caryatid. “Doing it!” I said to myself. Daddy Cyclops isn’t exactly a great combo with Chromanticore, having protection from enchantments and all, but he’s a good backup reason to splash red in a blue-green deck and a solid win condition on his own. (Aside: I had the pleasure of Eye Gouge-ing a Polis Crusher online this week, and boy does that feel good.)

For the rest of pack two I was able to pick up a couple Traveler’s Amulets and a Nylea’s Presence, plus a Nessian Asp and some other good stuff. Pack three I opened a Thassa’s Emissary and then got passed a Shipbreaker Kraken. Don’t mind if I do! That’s another good use of excess mana. Burnished Hart is so important for this deck and fortunately one came around to me. I rounded out the deck with tons of good cards. Here’s where I ended up:

I told you I was Chromanticore

Creatures (16)
Hero of Leina Tower
Vortex Elemental
Sylvan Caryatid
Meletis Astronomer
Burnished Hart
Nyxborn Wolf
Polis Crusher
Horizon Chimera
Pheres-Band Tromper
Nylea’s Emissary
Thassa’s Emissary
Nessian Asp
Chromanticore
Shipbreaker Kraken

Spells (9)
Traveler’s Amulet
Nylea’s Presence
Fate Foretold
Feral Invocation
Time to Feed
Lands (15)
Forest
Island
Mountain
Plains
Swamp

Sideboard (17)
Tromokratis
Horizon Scholar
Chorus of the Tides
Satyr Hedonist
Satyr Wayfinder
Nemesis of Mortals
Ordeal of Nylea
Time to Feed
Oracle’s Insight
Crypsis
Hunt the Hunter
Savage Surge
Glare of Heresy
Asphodel Wanderer
Grisly Transformation
Flamecast Wheel

Overall, blue-green was wide open and I was incredibly lucky to be passed some insane cards. You probably can’t expect to get this lucky very often, but the huge number of strong cards provides an interesting study in how to build this kind of deck.

Threats

First off, I am overflowing with threats: Chromanticore, Shipbreaker Kraken, Tromokratis, Polis Crusher, Nemesis of Mortals, plus two Nessian Asps and a Horizon Scholar. I don’t want to play all of these. So which ones do I pick? The two asps are in for sure, as the card gives you so much and asks so little. Shipbreaker Kraken is just better than Tromokratis, even though both are fantastic finishers. If I want to stick to two colors and avoid all the splashing, I could see playing both blue beasts, but only one seems necessary. In the end, I chose to play Chromanticore, because seriously, do I even need to explain? Once that was decided, Polis Crusher hopped in the bus and I didn’t have much room for the other big stuff.

into-the-core

We’re going deep into the core now.

If you want to be boring and stick to two colors, that’s fine and would probably be quite strong as well. Burnished Hart fuels Nemesis of Mortals or Tromokratis just as well as it enables Chromanticore.

Support

If you want to survive until you can cast six or seven mana spells, you need support creatures, removal, lifegain, or something to prolong the game. This pool is somewhat lacking here. A Nylea’s Disciple or Sedge Scorpion would have been nice, but I can’t exactly complain about the power level of the pool. The deck does have some good early plays. Meletis Astronomer and Sylvan Caryatid are simply fantastic in this deck. Both come down early, block reasonably well if that’s necessary, and fuel the rest of the deck. Caryatid obviously fixes mana and ramps into a turn four Nessian Asp to stablize. Astronomer can chain bestow creatures into a river of inevitability. In one game, I targeted the astronomer with Fate Foretold and the heroic trigger revealed Thassa’s Emissary. A few turns later, I tbestwoed the emissary and revealed Chromanticore.

Cheap mana fixing also helps fill up the early turns of the game. Assuming you aren’t just dying to aggro, playing amulets and presences will fix all your mana easily. Burnished Hart is great, especially when you can use it to block on turn four and then sacrifice it for the lands to be able to bestow a Chromanticore on turn five.

Vortex Elemental and Hero of Leina Tower help provide some extra early plays that are still good in the late game. Vortexy does a good Sedge Scorpion impression. The hero doesn’t do much on the early turns, but you can get some extra value off Fate Foretold and Feral Invocation, or even Time to Feed, if you have extra mana. What makes the hero so great in this deck, though, is that once you get up to seven or eight mana, the hero is insane. All the bestow and targeting effects give you a huge mana sink to make Hero of Leina Tower into the biggest threat of all. You probably won’t have much mana to pay X if you are bestowing Chromanticore, but spend seven mana to give the hero +4/+4 and have it fight an opposing creature? Sounds good! And at worst it can chump block a turn three Minotaur Skullcleaver if you are really concerned about your life total.

spirited away

Time to Feed or Chromatic Lantern

I chose not to play the Ordeal of Nylea, even though it works well with astronomer and hero, because I felt I had enough fixing that was more reliable and I didn’t need to pump up small creatures. Vortex Elemental isn’t the best ordeal target, either. Satyr Wayfinder also staying in the sideboard because it’s awkward when you don’t have graveyard synergies. If I had gone the safe route with Nemesis of Mortals then maybe the satyr would be a good defensive body to absorb an attack and fetch up a land. But it is especially bad when I need to fix multiple colors. What if it reveals two of my splash lands and I have to send one to the yard? I’d rather just have the amulets.

Mana

Speaking of amulets, let’s talk about the mana base. This is your normal fifteen-land Shipbreaker Kraken deck. It took me a while to come up with this exact configuration. My natural instinct is to be suspicious of cutting lands in almost all limited decks. I can’t stand those fourteen-land boros aggro decks people play. I don’t like to cut lands for cantrips that much in limited, but I will cut lands for cards that replace lands. For example, my crazy Modern Masters affinity deck with three Etherium Sculptors only needed fifteen lands. And likewise here, three Traveler’s Amulets do a good job replacing a land or two. Add in the three cantrip enchantments, the Sylvan Caryatid, and the Burnished Hart, and this deck was never short on mana. It can be dangerous to rely on mana fixing like Opaline Unicorn that is easy to kill, but amulets and Burnished Hart almost never get destroyed before they do their work, and Sylvan Caryatid has hexproof.

It’s not like this deck couldn’t afford to run more lands, as it has plenty of ways to use excess mana, but I wanted it to be streamlined. The first cards to cut would probably have been some of the four drops. But Pheres-Band Tromper is a great card that can win with a bestow or just on its own. The main cost of fifteen lands (with three splash lands) is the lack of islands. That’s why I cut the Chorus of the Tides. Vortex Elemental is also hard to cast early, but again, it’s a card that retains value in the late game despite being a one drop. The only double-blue spell in the deck is Shipbreaker Kraken, but by the time I have six mana I should be able to pay the double blue.

In the end, this deck ended up basically being a normal blue-green deck with some amulets swapped out for some lands to splash Chromanticore and Polis Crusher. In play the deck was fantastic. I split the finals of my draft pod. I cast Chromanticore in three games and won each of those pretty much instantaneously. The only time I drew the rainbow warrior and could not cast it, I was already winning that turn anyway off a Nylea’s Emissary bestowed on a Pheres-Band Tromper. I did lose one game to an aggressive minotaur deck that curved out perfectly while I kept a hand with one land and two amulets. I was able to hit all my land drops and use all my mana, but I was too far behind and died to Portent of Betrayal. Meletis Astronomer was super good, and Hero of Leina Tower was always free value.

If you get the chance to draft Chromanticore, go for it! The deck is incredibly fun to play, and the mana fixing is not that hard to get. If nothing else, you will go down in style! Good luck! I expect to hear a lot more stories like this in the coming weeks.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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