Hello Premodern people!
With Land Tax gone, you might be wondering if Parfait can be rebuilt with some new “engine”, or if the Oath of Druids part of the deck can be used in another shell. The Oath package of Shard Phoenix and Ancestor’s Chosen is a very sharp tool against the top aggro decks of the format: Sligh, Goblins and Elves.
The package is a mere six cards, but it puts some restrictions on our deck since we cannot play any other creatures, and we probably want to include a couple of Gaea’s Blessing. Playing Oath of Druids encourages us to play some amount of Enlightened Tutor to find it, which in turn encourages us to include other combos or synergies based on enchantments or artifacts. With this in mind, let’s have a closer look at a support card in some Parfait builds: Sylvan Library.
Even without Land Tax, we have a good amount of shuffle effects with Gaea’s Blessing, Enlightened Tutor and fetch lands. That helps with card selection, but to get more out Sylvan we’ll have to abuse the peculiar way it interacts with draw replacement effects. The rules text of Sylvan Library reads: At the beginning of your draw step, you may draw two additional cards. If you do, choose two cards in your hand drawn this turn. For each of those cards, pay 4 life or put the card on top of your library.
Now, consider a draw replacement effect, such as Abundance, with rules text: If you would draw a card, you may instead choose land or nonland and reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a card of the chosen kind. Put that card into your hand and put all other cards revealed this way on the bottom of your library in any order. We can apply the replacement on both our regular first draw and on the extra two cards from Sylvan. But if we replace the extra two cards, we don’t draw them, and so we don’t have to pay any life. Magic! With multiple Sylvan Library, we even get to stack the effect (but it happens sequentially). Note, though, that if we choose to draw our normal card for the turn, but replace the extra cards from Sylvan, we still need to pay four life.
Draw replacement cards
With Abundance, we thus get to “draw” three cards per turn for free, and for each we can choose creature or non-creature. A bit reminiscent of the Tax-Rack engine, eh? Four mana is a lot however, and we cannot start profiting until the turn after, unlike with Scroll Rack which can be used immediately. Moreover, Abundance doesn’t do much in itself (it’s a shame, because the flavour and the Rebecca Guay artwork is so sweet). A one-shot alternative to Abundance is Pursuit of Knowledge, but it’s equally expensive and not very good on its own.
There are a handful of goofy draw replacement cards that don’t do much for us: Parallel Thoughts, Mangara’s Tome and Forbidden Crypt. Honorable mentions: Aladdin’s Lamp and Obstinate Familiar. The remaining, and most interesting draw replacements, are the Words cycle cards from Onslaught:
They all curve naturally after a Sylvan Library, and only cost one coloured mana, so they are easily splashed. Their effects are all powerful and quite interesting to build around. I think Words of War is both the most powerful and the most versatile of the five. It’s a win-con, it affects the board and it’s often good even without Sylvan Library in play. The card has seen some play as a win condition in Enchantress.
Like all discard effects, Words of Waste is more situational, since we cannot get any value out of it the opponent is out of cards in hand, and it doesn’t help us if we’re behind on the board. It’s a powerful effect, though, perhaps as a sideboard card against control or together with The Rack?
Words of Wilding is adorable, and in the right colour. Two activations together with Sylvan Library, and we can take down a Phyrexian Dreadnought. I’d love to see the Sylvan-bear-engine at work, but I can think of too many situations where a bunch of bears are not enough to turn around an unfavourable board position. Moreover, Words of Wilding is not great alongside Oath of Druids.
Words of Wind may look unimpressive at first, but has the most potential to do crazy things. With Sylvan Library, we get a mini Upheaval every turn, which has the potential to lock the opponent to a single land. Bouncing your own stuff can be a benefit too, as we’ll get back to. This card has also been used in some Enchantress versions.
Lastly, we have Words of Worship. This one’s pretty solid. If we have stabilized somewhat, five life a turn can be enough to single-handedly beat Sligh. With Sylvan Library, we can skip the draw and gain a whopping 15 life a turn, or we can draw one card and gain six life. If we gain 15, we can draw three cards for the following next turn, for a net cost of one life.
I’m not a fan of posting completely untested decks, but here we are, so take he following lists with a grain of salt and consider them as sketches to develop further.
My first idea is a rather straightforward modification of the Pyrostatic Oath deck, adding Sylvan Library and swapping out Sulfuric Vortex for Words of War, plus some other minor changes based on armchair reasoning. If you haven’t seen this deck before, by the way, it’s a really ingenious one. It was originally created by Flint Espil, who also wrote a tournament report in the Facebook group, with an equally ingenious layout by Phil Nguyen.
On paper, I don’t like Sulfuric Vortex in the original deck, though—it doesn’t affect the board, it doesn’t get us ahead in the damage race, and life gain effects are not that prevalent anyway for this to be a main deck card. Words of War just seems better to me, and it synergizes well with Pyrostatic Pillar, since even without Sylvan Library we can cast a virtual Shock each turn without Pillar damaging ourselves. Costing only a single red mana is a plus as well, so I figure we can cut a few Mountains (and so I also swapped out Fireblast for Lightning Blast).
Next up is a deck loosely built on the GW Prison Oath archetype, see here for a recent decklist example. I cut the Sphere of Resistance to make place for more copies of Sylvan Library, Words of War and Words of Worship, to give the deck another angle.
This deck runs Enlightened Tutor, so we could assemble the combo of Words + Sylvan more actively than in the Pyrostatic Oath deck. Mox Diamond enables Oath of Druids or Sylvan Library on turn 1, and helps with the red splash, but I’m not certain that it’s worth it, given the card disadvantage. I started out with Abundance as well in this deck, but it seemed clunky, and I figure that if we can stick the Sylvan combo for a few turns, we could just win the game with Words of War.
The third and last deck, if I dare to call it that, is all over the place. It resembles previous Gush Parfait decks, but here with Sylvan Library as an engine of sort, with Pursuit of Knowledge and Words of Wind for synergies with Sylvan. Pursuit of Knowledge can fill up the hand for Ivory Tower, and with the life gained we can lock out our opponent’s draws with Zur’s Weirding, or draw extra cards with Sylvan Library (note that with Undiscovered Paradise we can gain four life per turn). Note that Zur’s Weirding is kind of a nonbo with Sylvan Library though, since you need to pay life points with Sylvan for the cards that your opponent let’s you keep, if you don’t put them back, if you chose to draw extra cards.
Words of Wind is experimental, but the idea is that it can deal with any on-board threat, and with Sylvan we can eventually lock down the opponent to one mana. There is also some synergy with Tangle Wire, which can be recharged with a bounce. The counter package of a pair of Daze is minimalistic, but I felt that the deck cannot afford to run Foil—too many bad openers and it doesn’t go well with Ivory Tower.
You may note that the manabase is a stretch, with only nine Island and four Flooded Strand for Gush, and fewer green sources than ideal. The Plains is quite bad, but enables Swords to Plowshares more consistently on turn 1. To remedy the mana somewhat, we have the full set of Portent, which makes for more keepable hands.
I haven’t sketched a sideboard, but I believe we want e.g. Winter Orb versus control decks, as it has great synergy with Gush, Mox Diamond and Undiscovered Paradise. If we want to splash red and black cards in the sideboard, we can swap a Brushland or two for City of Brass.
This deck has my head spinning. I want to go in all sorts of directions, e.g. going all in on Words of Wind and Tangle Wire. I don’t know how to fit everything, so I’m considering skipping the Oath package altogether (but then we might need to include some Pyroclasm and/or Engineered Plague instead). If we drop Oath of Druids, Black Vise and Spontaneous Generation are interesting win-cons. Tsabo’s Web and Wall of Blossoms seem good with Words of Wind and Tangle Wire.
It’s clear that Sylvan Library cannot play the same role as Land Tax, as part of a card advantage engine. I think it has a lot of potential, however, especially with Words of War. I also expect Oath of Druids to see play in different shells. The above deck lists are mere food for thought, and I’m sure that the Premodern hive mind will come up with something better. There are many other routes to explore as well, e.g. Enchantress.
Until next time,