Eric’s Crab Shack

WRITTEN BY

[Editor's Note: Hello PucaTraders, this is Jonathan. In one of my calls with Eric, after talking about site business we wandered onto the topic of this deck which Eric has been doing well with. We talked about what it would look like for him to write something for the site and I was excited to get my hands on it and publish it. It's great to have some strategy content to share with you from one of our own. Enjoy!]

In the days since Fastbond has been unrestricted, there have been many brewers who have had their creative juices flowing, and rightfully so: Fastbond is one of the most powerful cards ever printed, perhaps the closest that Green has come to the power level of the Power Nine (I see you, Channel). 

Although it's been a month or more, no one appears to have broken it yet. Ziasbond is climbing to 5 percent of the meta, and functions as a tax/graveyard value shell seeking to abuse Crucible of Worlds. But other than that, traction has been somewhat slow for the card. In some ways, this makes sense: When you cast Fastbond, you spend one Green mana and one card to give your lands an ability that Moxen get for free. Fastbond also introduces some tension in your deckbuilding: the more Moxen you run, the less relevant a resolved Fastbond becomes. Decks in Vintage are notoriously land-light as well, a characteristic of decks that run the game's highest-impact cards with the lowest relative CMC. You can't just jam Fastbond into any deck and expect it to perform—the deck needs to be built to support it and exploit its power.

Another deckbuilding consideration is that you have to do something with the extra lands you play. Let's pretend you play a Forest and resolve Fastbond, then immediately run out the three remaining lands in your hand. Achievement unlocked! But what now? You have three mana on turn 1, but only two cards left in hand while your opponent has a full grip. You need to make sure that those last two cards are good enough to win the game. T

The best solution to this problem I've found is combo. We can play 19 bounce lands before dropping to one life, which means we can get 19 landfall triggers on turn one. There are three cards with CMC three or less that can kill immediately with 19 land drops. They are:

  

Hedron Crab is the most powerful since it costs only one mana—18 mill triggers should run our opponents out of cards after they've drawn their opening seven. While technically Horn of Greed doesn't kill someone per se, drawing 18 cards on turn one is a virtual kill. Retreat to Hagra is perhaps the tidiest kill condition—simply dropping your opponent's life total to zero while gaining back any damage you take to Fastbond. This philosophy has worked very well for me, recently Top 8'ing with it a Vintage Challenge. Since then, swiftwarkite2 has done the same.  

Decklist here: https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/visual/2376029

Let's dive in and look at the cards, segregated by category of effect. 

Bounce Land Package

  

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds

This is the powerhouse land that allows this shell to work. Since Fastbond and Hedron Crab are only one mana, it's easy to resolve them on turn one and follow up with Oboro, granting you all the land drops you need. Here are some other things to keep in mind: 

  • It's usually better than Golgari Rot Farm since you can run play it as a normal untapped Island and then use it later once you assemble the combo, instead of holding it in your hand until the moment you go off. 
  • It can't be Wastelanded if you have any mana up even if it's tapped, since you can bounce it using colorless mana and the return-to-hand effect doesn't require a tap, so you can just activate it again if you have mana.
  • Oboro can "filter" all mana to Blue, since you can always bounce with colorless and replay it, tapping for Blue. 
  • It's Legendary, but worst-case scenario any extra copies you draw are Lotus Petals, which is still great.
  • It's usually the best target for Crop Rotation.

Similar to Oboro, you can bounce Rot Farm or Simic Growth Chamber repeatedly with a Fastbond in play. It's great to have access to these if you're expecting Sorcerous Spyglass or Thalia, Heretic Cathar to disrupt the Oboro loop. It's also totally fine to just play them out if you really need mana—just watch out for Wasteland

Glacial Chasm

Since Fastbond is keyworded as damage, this negates all damage you would take from it. Therefore, this allows you to go truly infinite with your land drops, which is relevant if you need to mill them out with Hedron Crab and you've already taken some damage. It's also a protective shell against fast creature decks like Dredge and Survival, but unfortunately won't save you from life loss from Tendrils of Agony.  

Crop Rotation

If you're already flooding on bounce lands, this can get Glacial Chasm once you've assembled the loop. It's great bait against land destruction, it can filter Green mana into other colors you may need, and grab a Tabernacle in the sideboard. Its downsides are rough though: It costs us a land which means tutoring for Glacial Chasm will cost us two lands, and it can be countered. Be careful with this if you think they have countermagic, since the land is still sacrificed as an additional cost to cast. Consider this a flex slot in sideboarding. 

Quick note: This deck is usually fast enough that it can combo off while still at 18+ life. For this reason, it might be correct to move Glacial Chasm and Crop Rotation out of the mainboard. It sucks to see Chasm in your opening hand, especially when you could t1 kill them if it was a bounce land. 

The Payoffs 

Hedron Crab, Retreat to Hagra

I mentioned before that Hedron Crab is our premium kill because it's only a one-mana investment. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

  • If you think they have delve cards like Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time; flashback cards like Snapcaster Mage, Dreadhorde Arcanist, or Cabal Therapy; or if they're playing graveyard decks like Dredge or Survival, it's often correct to hold this in hand until the moment you're ready to go off or mill yourself if you need to make land drops and it has already resolved. 
  • Milling them out and passing with zero cards in their library has almost always ended the game for me, only once has someone won the game on upkeep with zero cards in the library (they had bolt and I was at one).
  • No one plays Emrakul, but if they do just prioritize Retreat to Hagra over Crab.
  • Crab is really good with Surgical and Ravenous Trap. Vintage decks are notoriously threat-light, and many simply can't win without one or two specific cards. Milling and extracting a Paradoxical Outcome, Dreadhorde Arcanist, Dark Depths, Ichorid, or Tendrils of Agony is often enough to win you the game.
  • I've been surprised how many games I've won playing a "fair" game with Crab. Even without Fastbond, if you have a couple Crabs in play a fetch land can mill 12 cards a turn. That really adds up, especially in grindier games. 

Retreat to Hagra is the next best payoff card. It's amazing that it both gives us life and drains the opponent, thus allowing us to go off even if we've fallen to one life, since you can stack the life gain trigger to resolve before Fastbond's damage. This is relevant in games that go long, since at a low enough life, Crab will cease to be a viable combo kill (without Glacial Chasm). Even the deathtouch clause is occasionally relevant, allowing Hedron Crab to trade favorably with Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Dreadhorde Arcanist, etc if you have a fetch land or crop rotation.

Horn of Greed was my favorite payoff card for a long time, since it's by far the most fun, but Narset makes this too much of a risk to run for now. 

Defensive Cards and Interactive Spells

Daze, Force of Will, Flusterstorm, Duress, Mental Misstep, Spell Pierce

     

There is no better deck in magic for Daze. Period. 

This deck is designed to kill on turn one, which when Daze is at its best. Playing Tropical Island and Fastbond, then bouncing Trop to Daze their Force of Will is a tasty treat, and almost always enough to end the game. When Fastbond resolves, that Island nets you an extra mana as well. It's also extremely relevant that it doesn't require a pitch card, since we don't have the time or support cards to refill our hand like a control deck would. I started with two of these, but almost immediately went up to four, and would now play eight if I could. 

Cast Fastbond, Misstep your Misstep = Legal high.

Hot take: Force of Will is the worst counterspell in this deck. The card disadvantage is a major downside, and we don't have access to as many draw spells as control decks do. With that said, having access to a couple Force of Wills is pretty important. Even though we're gunning for a t1 kill, there are other decks in Vintage capable of the same. Disrupting a Paradoxical Outcome, a Dark Petition, or Tinker is often necessary to even see our first turn. Force is better on the draw, so it can be considered to be flex spots for sideboarding on the play.

The Ramp

 

  

Every slot allocated to mana rocks is a slot deprived from lands. With that said, fast mana is helpful, especially for the hands that contain the three CMC payoff cards like Hagra, or disruption that requires mana.

The Tutors

   

DT and Vamp should be considered to be Fastbonds five and six, but of course, assemble any pieces you're missing. Mystical Tutor usually get Ancestral, but can also put countermagic in your hand if you need it (or even a DT in a pinch). Merchant Scroll has been decent, but is not great if you've already found Ancestral. Consider this a flex spot. 

Draw spells

     

This deck is incredibly hungry for draw spells. It does have more combo pieces that it needs to see than most decks in Vintage, and when it's forced to run out disruption to prevent an opponent from winning, it often will then lack it to defend the combo. I tried to avoid running Preordain because it feels like too small a payoff, but I reluctantly admit that having one might be correct.  

Timetwister serves a dual purpose: It almost always assembles the combo on the spot, and shines against control decks that typically have more cards in hand than us. The prevalence of Narset and Leovold make it slightly less powerful than it would otherwise be, but it's still worth including in the 75.

Lightning Round! What's not included and why

Yawgmoth's Will: Too slow
Dig Through Time: Too slow
Treasure Cruise: Too slow
Bolas's Citadel: Dead without Fastbond
Windfall: Bad on draw
Exploration: Low impact
Strip Mine: Too slow
Wheel of Fortune: Not worth stretching to Red
Pact of Negation: Too narrow
Time Walk: Low impact
Regrowth: Too slow
Courser of Kruphix: Too slow
Crucible of Worlds: Too slow
Narset, Parter of Veils: Too slow

The Sideboard

4x Surgical Extraction
3x Ravenous Trap
2x Mindbreak Trap
2x Pithing Needle
3x Hurkyl's Recall
1x The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale

 

Jeskai: 

Out:
1 daze

In:
1 mindbreak trap 

Shops: 

Out:
1x misstep
2x fluster
1x preordain
1x duress

in:
3x hurklys
2x pithing needle (for wasteland)

 

Paradoxical Outcome: 

Out (draw):
Timetwister
2 Daze
Crop rotation
Glacial chasm
Preordain

Out (play):
Twister
Crop rotation
Glacial chasm
Priordain
Merchant scroll
gush

In:
2 mindbreak trap
4 surgical (for PO) 

Dredge

out:
duress
3x force of will
preordain
misstep
mystical tutor
gush
merchant scroll

in:
surgicals
rav trap
pithing needle
tabernacle

NOTE: If you're comboing off with crab, and see a creeping chill, subtract 12 from your life total. If you can't kill them with the life remaining, hold off and let them dredge themselves more while you dig for surgical, crop rotation, glacial chasm, or retreat to hagra. 

 

Ziasbond: 

Out (play): 

Preordain
Merchant scroll
Timetwister
Gush
Mystical tutor
2 flusterstorm
Glacial chasm
Crop rotation

 

Out (draw): 

Preordain
Merchant scroll
Timetwister
Gush
Mystical tutor
2 flusterstorm
Glacial chasm
Crop rotation
2 Daze 

In: 

2 Hurkyls Recall
3 ravenous trap
4 surgical 




White Eldrazi: 

in:

1 tabernacle
2 Pithing needle 

out

2 Flusterstorm
1 mental misstep

I hope this primer has been helpful or interesting, I've played about 300 matches with this deck but I feel like it still has plenty of room to grow and evolve. If you have comments, suggestions, or feedback of any kind, I can best be reached on Twitter. 

Thanks for reading!

Eric Freytag (@SamuraiFunn) is a PucaTrade co-founder with a spark for deckbuilding.

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