Hello everybody, welcome back to another installment of EDR! We’ve been gone for a while but we’re back with more for your favorite format. A lot has changed since last I wrote, with the biggest change being the update to the banlist – Leovold, Emissary of Trest was banned and Protean Hulk was unbanned.
I do not believe Leovold should have been banned. He was an absolute powerhouse and got many early game locks, but that’s what competitive commander decks are designed to do. If it was a problem for most playgroups, they could simply stop allowing him as the Commander. Leovold is far less broken in the 99, and is relatively healthy for a format where everyone is trying to draw ridiculous amounts of cards. But banning him out of the format entirely is making the game a little less fun in its own way – there are many people who enjoyed playing the deck and only used it when their playgroup felt it was fair.
But moving on to even bigger news since more people will be using this card than were using Leovold – Protean Hulk! The insanity that is the big meatloaf should never be underestimated and it’s a wonder that the Rules Committee unbanned this card in the first place. Hulk can’t really be compared to anything except a Birthing Pod with more versatility and the ability to win games by itself. Today I’m going to be running a breakdown on Protean Hulk and why it’s good, how it works and what you can do with it. I’d like to enter with the caveat that these combos will be pushing your deck to CEDH (competitive EDH) levels of power and may make your playgroup hate you.
First a little history of Protean Hulk: released in the Dissension set of the original Ravnica block, Hulk was a pretty popular casual card for a while. Then Legacy discovered exactly what they could do and birthed the advent of broken Hulk shenanigans, Flash Hulk. But don’t take my word for it, here’s a link to the deck on the Mothership when it crushed a legacy GP back in 2009 – http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/steve-sadins-flash-hulk-2009-02-19
What was it that made the deck so good? The card Flash is the other half of the namesake combo, and does a few important things. First, Legacy is a format of efficiency, and no one is going to be casting a 7 mana creature that doesn’t immediately impact the game. So we need to find a way to make it cost less. Flash makes it cost a measly two mana at instant speed, which means it can get down early and when your opponent has their shields down. The other important piece is that we need to get Protean Hulk to die, and Flash has you covered there too. Thanks to the wording on it, you can simply decline to pay the extra mana for your creature and it dies instantly. This means you get immediate death trigger on your Hulk and can assemble your menagerie. They key part is that you can assemble any number of creatures with total CMC 6 or less, giving you access to a wide range of potential creature based combos, many of which can also just win the game outright.
If you want to know the various win conditions of Flash Hulk decks you can find them online, but most of them don’t translate as well to a singleton format. For EDH, what options do we have? First off is Cephalid Breakfast, which is probably the best win condition for your deck. This is an old school combo that uses the targeting ability of Nomads en-Kor to poke your own Cephalid Illusionist infinite times until you’ve milled yourself completely, and then acquire a win condition. Since those two are only 4 CMC, this leaves you room to also grab Grand Abolisher to ensure that no one tries to interact with you while you assemble your win condition. For this deck you’ll want to be packing a Narcomoeba since it gets put onto your battlefield when you mill it. Then with three creatures in play you can flashback Dread Return to reanimate a creature in your grave that wins the game. If you target Necrotic Ooze you have several possible options – Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Mogg Fanatic let you make infinite Oozes and sac them all for infinite damage. Devoted Druid and Channeler Initiate can make you infinite mana to put infinite counters on your Ooze and ping them to death with Walking Ballista. If you don’t want to target the Ooze, there is always the classic win-condition from Oops All Spells! that targets Angel of Glory’s Rise which can reanimate Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Laboratory Maniac with backup from Grand Abolisherto let you tap to draw and win off of the Lab Man.
The reason Cephalid Breakfast is likely the best win condition for a Flash Hulk deck is because of the pieces it uses to win. These pieces are often found in other combo decks that rely on similar methods, such as Hermit Druid combo or Buried Alive combo, meaning you can run multiple other methods of winning the game that fit a similar plan in case Flash Hulk isn’t found or gets stopped. Hermit Druid will mill you out completely just like Cephalid Breakfast and you can follow the winning path from there. Buried Alive is a bit different though. It puts three creature cards into your graveyard, meaning you’ll need a way to reanimate them or at least one of them. The preferred method is Necrotic Ooze because, again, it goes well with the other pieces of your deck. You can grab Kiki and Mogg Fanatic like earlier, or you can do Walking Ballista and Phyrexian Devourer. Devourer lets you exile cards from your library to give it counters, and Ballista then lets you remove those counters for damage. With these two abilities you can just churn through your deck until you have enough counters to kill all of your opponents.
Second you have the classic Reveillark + Karmic Guide loops as a path to victory. First you want to Flash Hulk and fetch Karmic Guide (or backup Body Double which functions as a second Guide for the purposes of this combo) and a 1 mana creature that lets you sac creatures for free such as Viscera Seer or Carrion Feeder. Karmic Guide or Body Double will get you back your Hulk which you can sac to your Seer or Feeder, letting you Hulk out again. This time grab Reveillark, sac the Guide/Double to your 1 drop, then sac Reveillark to it as well and get back the Guide/Double as well as some small creature that helps you win the game. You could in those Hulk tutors finish out the CMC list with Disciple of the Vault and any 0 toughness 0 mana artifact creature (Walking Ballista) which dies since it has no toughness and can be reanimated with the Lark. This loop lets you trigger the Disciple infinitely until your opponents are dead. You can also do this without Lark by starting the combo the same and the second time grabbing Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and Walking Ballista to also infinitely damage your opponents, though Mikaeus is expensive and doesn’t do much outside of the combo and likely will not be able to come down early enough to help any other game plans you might have.
Lastly, we have the Hulk as Mayor of Valuetown. This is not about using Hulk to assemble a lethal combination of creatures but rather to constantly recur it so that you can bury your opponents under the mounds of value you’ll be tutoring from your library. This is absolutely the least powerful way to use Hulk but it is the most fair and least likely to get you hated out of your table. Expect to see this in decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Karador, Ghost Chieftain and various Gruul strategies where the goal isn’t to win at instant speed but rather grind out with the Hulk and win through sheer card advantage. The Gruul decks may also simply use it to grab another meatloaf with which to beat your skull. Your mileage may vary since meatloaf does not make for a good beatstick.
Here is a link to my own personal Flash Hulk list with the disclaimer that it is definitely not optimized at the moment and I do not own many of the cards necessary to make it so (more dual lands and broken mana rocks mostly) http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/thrasios-and-tymna-join-the-avengers/
That’s all for this week folks. I’m glad I could walk you through this incredibly fine dining experience and hope you enjoy this little peak into exactly what goes into making a Tier 1 CEDH combo deck tick. I love to play CEDH so I thought this would be a fun excursion for the series. I will mostly keep EDR focused on high-powered casual environments but if you really enjoy looking at CEDH more let me know and I can come back to it in the future!
Until next time.