The Angry Scientist

The Story

While sifting through a pile of cards that I found in one of my drawers a couple weeks ago, I stumbled across a set of cards that forms a kind of combo:

 

For those who don’t follow Vintage, Doomsday Maniac is a real deck in that format. A couple years ago, Stephen Menendian attempted to port the deck over to Legacy. But since you can’t put Black Lotus into your piles in Legacy, another way to get Laboratory Maniac into play without much initial mana requirement was needed. This is where Unearth comes in. Menendian’s original list could get Maniac into the graveyard with either Mental Note or Predict, then bring it back with Unearth and win off a draw spell.

For reference, here is a deck list I pulled of tcdecks.net, as played by Menendian himself:

4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Brainstorm
1 Mental Note
1 Predict
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder

1 Laboratory Maniac
4 Doomsday
1 Unearth

1 Chain of Vapor
3 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
1 Misdirection
1 Pact of Negation
3 Spell Pierce

1 Cabal Ritual
4 Dark Ritual

3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
3 Island
2 Swamp
4 Underground Sea

Sideboard:

3 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Spellskite
4 Dark Confidant
2 Cabal Therapy
1 Devastation Tide
2 Massacre

The deck never took off, and to be honest, I don’t think it was good. But, as everyone knows who has ever touched the card, Doomsday is a lot of fun. When compared to the more traditional Doomsday Tendrils lists, it’s also clear that this deck benefits from a rock solid mana base. In preboard games, this deck is simply mono blue before combo turns. Verdict: Cool deck, but susceptible to pretty much any direct interaction.

So there I was, with Maniac and Unearth staring at me and this deck in mind. Now, one thing about me; I like to jam games with whacky decks. I like it a lot. I also like tuning decks and trying to find new strategies. Further, I was certain Dig Through Time could be worked into the deck in a much better way than into traditional Tendrils of Agony decks. As we all know, Dig Through Time fuelled combo decks can do very strong things and enact a lot of pressure.

I didn’t take me long to throw a list together and start goldfishing it to see if the deck could reliably go off when left alone. At first, I was not impressed. I liked how fluently the deck could chain Digs, but it just seemed too many resources were needed to actually win. However, that was in part due to my laziness. I didn’t remember the exact list and didn’t look it up either, so I was missing Predict, which is integral to the deck’s ability to go off.

When playing with Predict in the deck, it was much easier and simpler to go off. Having figured that out, it didn’t take me long to arrive at this:

The Maindeck

4 Brainstorm
4 Dig Through Time
1 Predict
3 Thought Scour
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
4 Preordain

3 Flusterstorm
4 Force of Will
2 Wipe Away
3 Cabal Therapy

1 Laboratory Maniac
3 Doomsday
1 Unearth
3 Rain of Filth

3 Island
1 Swamp
2 Bloodstained Mire
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Underground Sea

This is not a finished product, but I’ve been liking it so far. Despite not being completely polished, I still wanted to share this, in part because the deck is a lot of fun to play, but also because I’m interested in your feedback and ideas.

Coming back to the list, this deck looks a lot like OmniTell to me — we have a bunch of card draw, some interaction, some combo pieces, and mana sources. I will delve deeper into the similarities and differences between these two decks later, but first let me elaborate on a few choices that might stick out.

Most glaring is probably the fact that this deck is quite low on actual combo pieces. It doesn’t even run four copies each of Doomsday and Rain of Filth! With all the cheap card draw and selection the deck has, I have found that finding combo pieces is generally not the problem, as we can’t go off too early anyway.

Further, one might think that Dark Ritual would be better than Rain of Filth. Since the deck needs four black mana on the combo turn anyway (Doomsday + Unearth), this is generally not the case. Dark Ritual, of course, is much better in multiples. But one copy of Rain will generate enough mana most of the time, so additional copies being useless doesn’t hurt. If anything, we get more cards to put back with our Brainstorms. I am certain I have won many more games because I had Rain rather than Dark Ritual than I lost because I didn’t have Dark Ritual. The one thing that speaks for Dark Ritual is the fact that it allows for more explosive starts, but I have not found this to be an issue either.

One might also argue that Dark Ritual is less all-in than Rain, but that’s almost never true. If we have Dark Ritual, our opponent can just let Doomsday resolve and interact once we’ve built the pile, leaving us dead almost always as well. That being said, Dark Ritual does enable some pass-the-turn-piles, which Rain doesn’t really support. I heavily dislike passing the turn after casting Doomsday though, and the additional mana Rain generates usually eliminates the need to spread out the combo over several turns (unless we’re missing a way to draw into the pile, which barely comes up).

Then, we have nineteen one-mana draw spells, none of which are Sensei’s Divining Top. Without all these, the deck probably wouldn’t function. Not only do they enable Dig Through Time as early as turn two (two fetchlands, a Probe and Thought Scour), they also act as combo pieces. One copy of Thought Scour was needed for some piles anyway and I quickly noticed how great the card is with Ponder and Brainstorm, allowing us to be very flexible with those even without Fetchlands. It’s also nice to mess with an opponent’s Brainstorm or Ponder when they try to hide cards from discard spells.

Regarding Top, I actually started out with some copies in the deck, but I didn’t like them much. Not having them might be wrong, but I’m pretty happy with the card drawing portion of the deck. If I wanted to experiment a bit, I’d probably start by cutting some copies of Gitaxian Probe.

Next up, we have the interaction this deck brings. Four copies of Force should be a given in this kind of deck, so no need to discuss them. Maindeck Flusterstorm, on the other hand, is likely underplayed, considering how strong it is right now. Pretty much every deck currently in the top tier of the format relies on Instants and Sorceries to some extent, and Flusterstorm is pretty good at stopping those.

I originally had Thoughtseize in place of Cabal Therapy, but I like Therapy much better. Not only is it incredibly strong to be able to trade for multiple copies of a card, the lifeloss from Thoughtseize was also quite relevant. I had several games where I couldn’t go off because my life total was too low between Gitaxian Probe, Force of Will, Thoughtseize, fetchlands and my opponents’ creatures.

To round out our interaction department, we have two copies of Wipe Away. Am I convinced that’s the correct choice? Absolutely not. Do they pull their weight? Most certainly. It’s nice to have some maindeck catch-all answers that get around everything. I could also see the deck running something more specific, but then I’d have to find out what problem actually needs to be solved. At this stage in testing, there is not enough data to determine that though.

Finally, there’s the manabase. I like having at least the four basics we have right now, but that number could also go up to resemble the current OmniTell manabase more closely. I am not sure if the two Bloodstained Mires are correct, maybe they should just be additional blue fetches, basic Islands or dual lands. But I don’t find myself being unable to fetch what I want often, so there’s that.

Now, before we get to the current sideboard, let me show you how to actually win:

The Piles

Rain + Doomsday + Probe + Probe

-requires UB + 6 life post Doomsday, which means we need at least three lands

Thought Scour
Laboratory Maniac
X
Unearth
Gitaxian Probe

(all piles go from top to bottom; X denotes any random card, we’re just milling this with Thought Scour anyway.)

With this pile, we Probe into Thought Scour, which we then cast to mill Laboratory Maniac and the other random card we put in the pile, drawing Unearth. We then Unearth Maniac and draw the remainder of the deck with the Gitaxian Probes.. The Probe in the pile can be anywhere, so long as it’s not one of the cards we mill with Thought Scour.

This is the only combination of cards that works with less than four lands in play. If we substitute the Probes in our hand with other cantrips, we need just one additional land; if one of them is a Brainstorm or Thought Scour, we don’t even need the Probe in the pile.

Rain + Doomsday + Probe:

-requires 1UUB + 2 life post Doomsday, which means at least four lands

Predict
Lab Maniac
Unearth
Thought Scour / Brainstorm
X

This pile, with its variations, is the most common one. We use Probe to draw into Predict, cast Predict to mill Maniac and draw Unearth plus the draw spell of our choice. We then Unearth Maniac and use the Thought Scour or Brainstorm to win. If we have a draw spell other than Probe in hand but no additional mana, we can just put Probes as the last two cards of the pile, allowing you to still win off 1UUB post-Doomsday. If we’re at 14 our more life before casting Doomsday, this also means we get to keep mana for Flusterstorm up, at least if we have a Probe in hand. If we already have Predict in our hand, Lab Maniac becomes the top card and we can put another random card in the bottom slot.

Rain + Doomsday + Probe + Probe:

-requires 2UU + 6 life post Doomsday, which means at least four lands

Lab Maniac
Probe
Thought Scour / Brainstorm
X
X

First off, don’t be intimidated by the life requirement of this pile. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s quite mana intensive because we are hardcasting Laboratory Maniac here. We can certainly use this pile for less life and more mana. This pile beats graveyard hate, which is nice, but rarely relevant. It also works with just one cantrip, but that would require us to cast Predict along the way, which means it’s way more mana intensive:

Rain + Doomsday + Probe

-requires 3UUU + 2 life post Doomsday, which means at least five lands

Predict
X
Maniac
Brainstorm / Thought Scour
X

Of course, there are many more piles we can build; sometimes we have one of the combo pieces in hand, which generally saves mana, sometimes we want to place a disruption spell in our pile. But as I alluded to before, these are almost always variations of the Predict Unearth pile where we have more than one cantrip in hand. It’s also worth noting that we can use all these piles as pass the turn piles without a cantrip in hand, but that only works if we don’t have to use Rain of Filth to cast Doomsday. I feel building piles with this deck is much simpler than with Doomsday lists featuring Tendrils, because there are much fewer moving pieces.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to the list:

The Sideboard

3 Young Pyromancer
2 Carpet of Flowers
2 Dread of Night
3 Pyroblast
1 Tropical Island
2 Volcanic Island
2 Nausea

Looking at three lands in the sideboard, one might say I am wasteful. But let me explain. Young Pyromancer is a better sideboard plan in this deck than any other deck I have ever played. The deck naturally has more than 40 instants and sorceries, allowing us to take full advantage. Cabal Therapy is in the deck anyway, and also works pretty well with Pyromancer. Pyroblast is dearly needed against Miracles because it counters their creatures, and it’s good to have against OmniTell as well. It’s simply not reasonable to play all these cards with just one land that taps for red in a Thought Scour deck in matchups where our opponents might or might not have a couple of Wastelands. Further, as I elaborated before, there’s not really room for additional lands in the maindeck either. If there was another sideboard card I really wanted, I’d probably cut a Mire to fit one of these lands in the maindeck, but so far, this seems alright.

Our next package is Carpet of Flowers plus Tropical Island. Carpet might not be needed, but it allows this deck to start snowballing resources very early on. I’ve had multiple games where I cast all four copies of Dig Through Time by turn four, all thanks to Carpet. Another thing that Carpet has going for it is replacing Rain of Filth in postboard games against blue, allowing us to take a hybrid approach with both Doomsday and Young Pyromancer in the deck, while supporting both of them. I originally had Carpet because I was playing green for Abrupt Decay anyway, but even without them, Carpet remains a very high-impact card that justifies a Tropical Island in the sideboard.

Finally, we have the creature removal. It’s not completely clear to me how to split these cards, nor how many the deck actually wants. What I do know is that the choice comes down to Dread of Night, Nausea / Shrivel and Massacre. Dread of Night is clearly the best card against Death and Taxes and Monastery Mentor, although I don’t know yet if we even want them against the latter.

Nausea and Shrivel are pretty much more of the same, only they can kill nonwhite creatures, which might be relevant against Elves, Phyrexian Revoker out of Death and Taxes & Young Pyromancer tokens. Massacre kills actual hatebears, but with this deck’s digging power, we can usually double up on Dread of Night in time anyway.

I have not done extensive testing yet, but I did play a decent amount of games. Here are my conclusions:

The Matchups — Miracles

So far, it seems game one is favourable. They tend not to have enough interaction to go toe-to-toe with our deck’s raw power. Thanks to Flusterstorm and Thought Scour, we are much better at both enabling Dig Through Time and resolving it, plus they have fewer copies of the card to begin with. It also doesn’t help them that we have Wipe Away to get rid of a Counterbalance that slipped through our Forces and Therapies.

After sideboarding, they have way more relevant cards. They get more creatures, they get more disruption and they have fewer clunky, useless cards. This is one of the areas where my testing has been lacklustre, but I think boarding out the Doomsday package is correct here, doing something like this:

-1 Laboratory Maniac
-1 Predict
-3 Rain of Filth
-1 Island
-1 Swamp
-3 Doomsday
-1 Unearth

+3 Young Pyromancer
+2 Carpet of Flowers
+3 Pyroblast
+1 Tropical Island
+2 Volcanic Island

The Matchups — OmniTell

Before sideboarding, Doomsday Maniac and OmniTell are very similar, but we have an edge against most lists due to maindeck Flusterstorms and faster Digs. What happens after sideboarding ranges from being close to us completely crushing them, depending on what they bring and how our draws line up against theirs. I’ve been really liking a hybrid approach here, pressuring them with Carpet-fuelled Young Pyromancers while also having the option to combo them:

-3 Rain of Filth
-1 Thought Scour
-2 Wipe Away
-2 Island
-1 Swamp
-1 Doomsday
-1 Preordain

+3 Young Pyromancer
+2 Carpet of Flowers
+1 Tropical Island
+2 Volcanic Island
+3 Pyroblast

The Matchups — Storm

In short, this matchup plays out quite similarly to OmniShow. But they have a much faster combo than us. In exchange, we have significantly more disruption than they have, plus their disruption is limited to discard, at least in game one. I’m not sure what their best plan is supposed to be against us, but it probably involves Xantid Swarm. Either way, I like boarding the same as against Doomsday:

-3 Rain of Filth
-1 Thought Scour
-2 Wipe Away
-2 Island
-1 Swamp
-1 Doomsday
-1 Preordain

+3 Young Pyromancer
+2 Carpet of Flowers
+1 Tropical Island
+2 Volcanic Island
+3 Pyroblast

The Matchups — Death and Taxes

Game one revolves almost exclusively around our ability to keep Thalia, Guardian of Thraben off the battlefield. It’s way too taxing on our resources to allow us to go off through it, but thankfully we have Force of Will, Cabal Therapy and especially Wipe Away, which gets rid of Thalia even through Mother of Runes. After sideboarding, we can completely lock them out of games thanks to Dread of Night. They only have a couple of creatures that can live through two copies of Dread and we also have some additional sweepers in the sideboard. So far, I have been boarding like this:

-1 Force of Will
-3 Flusterstorm

+2 Dread of Night
+2 Nausea

Unfortunately, these are all the matchups I have gotten to test so far, but I’m looking to test against Sultai and Grixis variants as much as possible within the next couple days, in order to be able to give you an update next week.

The Upsides (and Downsides)

As mentioned before, I think this deck plays out very similarly to OmniShow, seeing as it’s basically the same shell. Both decks are pretty much mana sources, some disruption, and some combo pieces. Let’s look at the differences.

Point Doomsday Maniac: Fewer combo pieces required

Doomsday is much closer to a two card combo than Show and Tell is. Doomsday can be a one card combo, but that has not come up for me so far. However, Doomsday is never a true two card combo because it’s too mana-intensive to work without Rain of Filth. Show and Tell does nothing on its own, but it can be a two card combo with Emrakul. This requires you to pass the turn though, which makes it not much better than a natural Doomsday pass the turn win.

This leaves both cards as three card combos, the difference being that Doomsday works with a grand total of twenty cards in the deck (not including scenarios where you can cast Dig post-Doomsday thanks to Rain of Filth), whereas Show and Tell into Omniscience needs either Cunning Wish or Emrakul to have a guaranteed win. To be honest, though, Dig Through Time works almost always as well, and the value of casting disruption for free is also undeniable.

On top of this, Doomsday needs less combo pieces in the deck. The way I see it, Rain and Doomsday fill the same slots as Show and Tell and Omniscience, while Laboratory Maniac and Unearth occupy the slots that Emrakul fills in OmniTell. This leaves one Predict in Doomsday versus three to four copies of Cunning Wish in Omni. I am not a huge fan of wishboards, and Cunning Wish is very clunky. I consider the cost of playing one Predict much lower than that of playing three Wishes. In addition to that, Doomsday Maniac gets to play additional draw spells in the slots that are freed this way, so it gets away with playing fewer copies of the primary combo pieces as well.

Point OmniTell: A more resilient combo

With Doomsday, we can straight up lose to a disruptive spell during the process of playing out our pile. With OmniTell, they have to counter the first spell we cast, otherwise we begin to benefit from Omniscience immediately by casting free spells. Further, the amount of interaction that’s relevant against Doomsday Maniac is much greater — creature removal is live against us, graveyard hate is relevant and if an opponent finds a way to meddle with our library post-Doomsday, we will have a huge problem.

On top of all these things, Show and Tell can be cast off Boseiju, Who Shelters All. While we always have to fight every single piece of countermagic our opponents have and can’t go off through Counterbalance, OmniTell can straight up ignore those things. I consider that a huge point in favour of Omni.

Point OmniTell: A smoother manabase

There’s not much to argue here. OmniTell functions entirely off basic Islands, and while Doomsday can also win with just basics, it always requires the second colour. But if we’re being honest, OmniTell is almost never Mono Blue anymore anyway. There are often discard spells, Pyroblasts or creatures somewhere in the 75, which means the mana is really only slightly better for postboard games.

Point Doomsday Maniac: A full sideboard

I think this is a big one. Omni has to run several dedicated Wish targets to make Cunning Wish worth playing. On the other end, if you decide against running Wish, you can’t combo fluently enough anymore, so that’s also not an option. As I said when talking about the sideboard, it is not set in stone, and there is a possibility that some lands have to be switched around.

Further, I also think this deck makes better use of its sideboard cards, given how much stronger Young Pyromancer is in Doomsday. It’s not only that we can replace combo pieces with Carpet of Flowers, which is absurdly powerful in general; Unearth, Thought Scour, Cabal Therapy and Young Pyromancer also work incredibly well together. This means the combo pieces actively support the secondary plan we bring from the sideboard.

I have not figured out which of these factors carry the most weight just yet, but I think Doomsday Maniac is a refreshing change to the mono blue Dig Through Time combo shell, so I want to see how far we can go with this. Before I leave you, let me tackle a few more options for the deck that I have decided against for now.

Most importantly, it might be good to have an additional Doomsday kill in the deck. I have spend a lot of time trying to include a Tendrils of Agony kill, rotating several cards through the deck along the way, but it’s unrealistic to pull them off without support from another engine spell or without adding multiple cards to the deck we wouldn’t want to draw at any point outside of a Doomsday pile.

When discussing the deck with @wonderPreaux, I mentioned the possibility of a Sensei’s Divining Top, Helm of Awakening and Tendrils of Agony kill (Helm lets us loop two Tops for free to create an arbitrarily large storm count). He immediately suggested Grapeshot in place of Tendrils, which I think is a much better card to have in the deck. Not only is it much cheaper to cast, it also has value outside of the combo turn, being able to kill off annoying creatures. The upside here is that Top is a reasonably card to play anyway, so the combo only takes up 1 1/2 slots. Further, this kill uses neither the graveyard nor does it involve a creature. It can also kill without ever resolving Doomsday, which is certainly valuable. Just be careful not to enable your opponents’ decks with Helm.

Another card that is often brought up when people discuss Doomsday Maniac is Chromatic Sphere. I didn’t realise this at first, but it was brought to my attention that the card drawing effect of Sphere is part of its mana ability, meaning we can play Sphere first, then get Laboratory Maniac into play and immediately activate Sphere to draw into an empty Library without giving our opponent an opportunity to interact. I have not yet encountered scenarios where this would have actually made a difference, but they might occur frequently enough in some matchups.

Of course there are many more options, especially in terms of potential sideboard cards, but these are probably the most relevant ones.

Now, I feel I have presented the deck as well as I could, but there are certainly things I am missing. What is your first impression of the deck? Have you played something similar? Do you think it’s just a pile and I wasted your time? I’m looking to continue working on the deck for at least another week, so please let me know what you think. You can contact me in the comments below, on Twitter (@JonLX) or at mtgthesource.com (Jonathan Alexander).

Thank you for reading!

J

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