ChubbyStreams: Lavinia Survival

Introduction

I'm going to try and get back to using TMD as a complement to my streams (as long as @Brass-Man is OK with it). These aren't meant to be indepth primers on deck archetypes or anything of that scope, but I think that these posts are valuable as you don't always get to answer everything when you are streaming. Anyway, I was looking through deck lists from MTGO leagues and challenges as they were the first picture of the post-RNA metagame, when I saw Tangram's 5-0 list. The list appealed to me for a couple of reasons:

  • Lavinia, Azorius Renegade - I have a more middle of the road projection for Lavinia than some. I think she is a good anti-PO, anti-combo Hatebear but I doubt that the format will end up revolving around her or that she becomes a main deck staple in most archetypes. However, one shell that I think she will be excellent in is Survival. For those that haven't played the archetype, I've found some of the toughest matchups to be Pardoxical Outcome and other combo decks. Survival is typically a turn 3-4 deck with either Bazaar into Hollow One or with Survival chaining Vengevines. These combo opponents can essentially ignore the board and aim to combo on turn 2 or 3. Most Survival decks attempt to address this by running either counterspells, Thalias, Stony Silence, Null Rod, Thorn of Amethyst, and/or other disruptive elements. I have the most experience with the BUG variant of Survival, but have been disappointed with Leovold in the PO matchup. The Survival deck often takes a turn off from playing mana producing lands because of Bazaar of Baghdad, so it can be hard to play Leovold in that critical window for it to be relevant. Lavinia costing one less mana is a huge plus. She is less powerful than Leovold as she allows the PO player to cantrip for answers (and doesn't draw a card if removed), but the Survival deck is capable of generating a quick enough clock for the couple of turns that Lavinia buys to translate into a win. And Survival has several ways to mitigate drawing Lavina when she doesn't matter: just pitch her to Force of Will, Bazaar of Baghdad, or Survival. I had initially planned on playing a more boring Bant Survival list with Noble Hierachs and Lavinia but this list was much cooler.
  • Mox Diamond and Riftstone Portal - Here is the spice! The Survival deck sacrifices some tempo in running Bazaar of Baghdad. Yes, it enables you to drop Hollow Ones for 0 mana, bring back Vengevines, filter draws, etc... It's a very powerful land. But a turn 1 Bazaar makes it much harder to follow with a turn 2 Lavinia or Survival as you become dependent on your Moxen (a 1 drop elf doesn't do it). And Bazaar reduces the power of your Survivals since you have fewer Green sources in play with which to chain activations - In general, you want 3-4 green sources, which lets you find 2-3 Vengevines into a Basking Rootwalla into a Hollow One (you need 3 activations to cast Hollow One for zero mana). The combination of Mox Diamond and Riftstone Portal are interesting approaches to both problems. Mox Diamond lets you cast Lavinia on Turn 1 or on Turn 2 if you need to Bazaar on turn 1. Riftstone Portal converts Bazaar into Green mana in subsequent turns for Survival and White mana for a turn 2 Lavinia (if you don't have a Mox after a turn 1 Bazaar activation). And they can even work together to cast a turn 1 Lavinia if your only other land is Bazaar (Discard Portal to Mox Diamond and tap Bazaar for White).

I had to test it out, but I naturally made some changes...

Tweaks

I think it's always valuable to hear about the changes players make to lists and the rationale for those changes. You may end up disagreeing with the reasoning but even if you revert back to the original list, you at least have a different perspective that might be applicable in the future. As such, I want to take time to discuss the changes I make when I take another's list and why I made them. Or maybe I just want to not get laughed at for running 3 Force of Wills. Speaking of which...

  • -1 Force of Will, + 1 MBT, +1 Flusterstorm: Cutting to the chase, Force of Will is awkward in this deck. It's awkward because you only have 16 Blue cards (including Time Walk and Ancestral) which makes it very difficult to Force of Will multiple things, it's awkward because the card disadvantage makes Bazaar of Baghdad worse as you have less cards in hand to work with, and it's especially awkward in post-board games when you side out Blue cards in several matchups. The singleton MBT keeps the number of turn 0 counters the same, but only takes one card out of the hand to do so. I wanted to try the Flusterstorm because of the additional Moxen. This sequence lets you play a turn 1 Bazaar, then follow with a Mox Diamond to keep up Flusterstorm.
  • - 1 Mox Diamond, -1 Treasure Cruise, +1 Sylvan Library: It can be easy to rely on Bazaar of Baghdad when building Survival decks. Whether that's discarding situational cards that are bad in multiples (like Mox Diamond and Force of Will) or playing cards that are dependent on Bazaar to be good (like Treasure Cruise and Deep Analysis). What if you don't draw Bazaar or if it gets hit by Wasteland? You might say this is a corner case, but I play a lot of Vintage with different decks and I aggressively Wasteland my Survival opponents, trying to deny them the ability to use Bazaar and Survival (with sufficient Green mana) as enablers. Do that and the opponent's hand starts to fill up with clunkers like Vengevine, Hollow One, Wonder, etc. I know Cruise is restricted, I know Deep Analysis is great to flashback, and both of these cards are Blue for Force. However, I think you are hurting the deck's consistency and playing into some opponent's hands by adding these cards. Sylvan Library is a standalone powerful card that plays well with the additional Moxen (a turn 1 Library sets you up for a powerful turn 2 and replaces the card you spent on Mox Diamond).
  • -1 Fetchland, +1 Strip Mine, SB + 1 Wasteland: There were Life from the Loams in the sideboard...I had to add Strip Mine and a Wasteland. Really though, Wasteland effects are incredibly powerful right now, both in this deck and from a metagame perspective. Survival has many games that play out like a Legacy Delver deck. You just have 8 Delver of Secrets that happen to cost zero mana and might come with a 4/3 hasty plant attached. Generate a clock, don't die for a couple of turns, win the game. Like with Legacy Delver, Wasteland is one means of helping you reach the finish line. From a metagame perspective, Bazaar of Baghdad is seeing an incredible amount of play and the decks that are running it are making themselves more vulnerable. We already discussed Survival, but the most common variant of Dredge right now runs 4 Bazaars in the main, 6 lands in the SB, 9 Dredgers (not a lot for a dredge deck for those who don't follow such things) and a bunch of counterspells and discard that can't hit a Wasteland. While they can still Dredge once per turn, you are generally able to race an opponent doing that, especially since Lavinia shuts down the opponent's disruption and keeps them from casting their Dread Returns. Against Shops, your SB strategy involves casting Energy Flux and Wasteland facilitates that strategy by removing Ancient Tombs and non-Workshop sources of mana that could pay for your opponent's threats. Like all non-Green sources in the deck, Wastelands make your Survival plan worse but with the Riftstone Portals and Mox Diamonds, I thought this downside was limited. I was definitely impressed by Wasteland during the league play (we faced 3 different Bazaar decks) and would like to get a second Wasteland into the 75.

Other Tweaks: I cut Elvish Spirit Guide, which I remain unsure about. Elvish Spirit Guide allows you to activate Survival an additional time, letting you bin another Vengevine. It makes your Survivals better and is an additional creature you can cast to trigger Vengevine, but it's more card disadvantage in a deck that has so much card disadvantage as it stands. It was also better in the BUG variant as you had things like Deathrite Shaman, Leovold, and Trygon Predator to cast with it. Since Deathrite Shaman has effectively become Mox Diamond and Leovold has become Lavinia, there are less uses for Elvish Spirit Guide outside of Survival. The rest of the tweaks are relatively minor switches based on play style, in my opinion. I like Nature's Claim as I fine Trygon Predator and Reclamation Sage too slow against other Survival decks or Shops. Nature's Claim can be critical for unlocking a Mox Diamond or Survival from a Revoker, or letting you destroy a Sphere to cast an Energy Flux.

Decklist

^ Click on the link if you want to know how much the deck would cost on MTGO (I do this to promote the online format and don't get a cut). There are also links to other decks I've played on Stream.

Videos

The VOD of the live stream is here for those interested: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/367791731

Before it goes away (Twitch keeps it around for 2 weeks), I will figure out how to upload it to Youtube and post the link here.

If you want catch the next stream, feel free to follow my channel: https://www.twitch.tv/chubbyrain1

Conclusion

We got that Trophy! I would have liked to play against Shops and Xerox, but those decks tend to be underrepresented in the MTGO Leagues. At least we got to play against PO and confirm that much of the theory-crafting we did worked. The game 3 against Dredge was frustrating for most of it as our opponent was unable to hit a Dredger off of their Bazaar of Baghdad, but we were unable to find our Wasteland effects until the end of the match. The Leylines of the Void were also awkward and I think could be replaced by Tormod's Crypts. We ended up pitching several Leylines with the Bazaar Loam Engine when a single Tormod's Crypt could have ended the game right there. Those are the two changes to the deck I would consider. Swapping 4 Leylines for 3 Tormod's Crypts and a 2nd Wasteland in the sideboard. Otherwise, I was happy with how the deck performed. Kudos to Tangams on a very sweet concept and sorry we were able to cheese the match with Wasteland. ☺

Comments? Errors? Suggestions? Please let me know.

last edited by ChubbyRain

@ChubbyRain Great post. Really informative and interesting. My idea I was telling you about earlier for Bant Survival follows similar ideology, but goes in a little harder with the Wasteland/Strip Mine plan. I have not tested it, but I am guessing that those pair really well with Lavinia, and overall the format seems weak to that one-two punch. Overall though I think there is potential for a more prison-y Survival build, and I think it probably features Lavinia and Wasteland.

How's your Death's Shadow matchup 😐

Great post, Matt! Absolutely top quality.

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