Tribal Attractions: Ooze Confidence
- Gianluca Aicardi
Sometimes it's cool to build a deck around a small tribe that doesn't invite linear strategies – something that was actually true of Ooze until Ravnica Allegiance changed their slimy game for good.
Ooze is really not one of the most discussed creature types in the game. It started to show up quite early on (at least according to the revisions from the Grand Creature Type Update), with its first representative dating back to Legends. It was clearly meant as a homage to the gelatinous cube of Dungeons & Dragons, as well as to John Carpenter's The Thing and its many cinematic and literary precursors, all those amorphous blobs that will devour and digest anything that's placed in front of them, growing bigger in the process.
The first instances of Oozes in Magic were far from alluring, though. In fact, if we're going to be perfectly honest, they were freaking unplayable messes. Also, despite green being set to become the subtype's main color (currently 19 out of 27 Oozes are green), only two of the first seven Oozes were in that color, the others being red or black.
The tribe was later adopted by the Simic guild of Ravnica, resulting in the first interesting card bearing the type, Experiment Kraj, which is also the first legendary Ooze and the first blue Ooze (these two characteristics, for some reason, kept going hand to hand). The first Ooze that saw consistent play and could be called a bona fide good card is Acidic Slime from Magic 2010. The first to attract major competitive attention is Scavenging Ooze from the original Commander set, later reprinted by overwhelming popular demand in Magic 2014.
This process of progressive improvement of the species culminated (for now) in Ravnica Allegiance, which simultaneously gave us two of the greatest Oozes ever printed, including a tribal lord.
Biogenic Ooze is the perfect curve-topper for the tribe, it permanently grows all the Oozes, starting from right away, and it creates more and more of them, also starting from right away. It's the kind of threat that needs to be dealt with asap, since it can spiral out of control fast. As for Vannifar, the new leader of the Simic Combine and strict believer in the Adaptionist philosophy. She is, well, Birthing Pod on beautiful protoplasmic legs. She appears to be R&D's attempt to reintroduce Pod strategies in Modern without actually unbanning the Pod. Of course, she's frailer than an artifact, giving the opponent opportunities to dispatch her in game one already (though, fortunately, they need more than three damage). At the same time, as a creature, she's easier to abuse. Resilience apart, something like Fauna Shaman would always play as a strictly worse version of her noncreature counterpart, because you could activate Survival of the Fittest multiple times per turn, rather than just one. But there are more ways to untap Vannifar than there were to untap Birthing Pod, leading to amazing single-turn transmutations from CMC 2 to CMC 7, thanks to a show-stopping sequence of Bounding Krasis, Breaching Hippocamp, Zealous Conscripts and Woodland Bellower (fetching a second Bounding Krasis).
The printings of these two latest Oozes contributes to an improved lineup of five optimal specimens, which is what's needed for a proper Tribal Wars deck. Along with Scavenging Ooze and Acidic Slime, the fifth member here is the less celebrated Predator Ooze, mostly dismissed because of its triple green cost, but in truth a pretty solid three-drop, great both as a blocker and as a growing threat, especially if helped by Hardened Scales.
The Goo Goo Girl
Let's put these top-notch Oozes together and make a Modern list.
|4Misty Rainforest||4Scavenging Ooze||4Utopia Sprawl|
|4Windswept Heath||4Predator Ooze||4Hardened Scales|
|4Breeding Pool||4Prime Speaker Vannifar||2Lightning Greaves|
|1Glen Elendra Archmage|
The five chosen Oozes nicely curve out from CMC 2 to CMC 5. A minor Aura ramp is included to accelerate toward the top-end, and the excess mana can be dumped into Biogenic Ooze later. The apparent issue with this curve is an overabundance of CMC 5 creatures. The candidate to replace some of the Acidic Slimes is Experiment One, a strong card that's easily the second most played Ooze after Scavenging Ooze because it fits perfectly the Green Stompy archetype.
Problem is, Experiment One doesn't work as well within an Ooze deck, where most every other creature starts small, so chances are it won't be able to evolve past a 2/2 body. Granted, it's still a one-drop that will benefit from Biogenic counters in late game, turning them into free regeneration. It wouldn't be wrong to run it, per se, but I feel like Acidic Slime is able to solve many situations for you and it's a better top deck. In fact, I like how the Ooze tribe features built-in answers to artifact, enchantment and graveyard strategies, as well as some lifegain, plus some amazing stopping power. It sure skews toward midrange this way, but this is a list that's all about getting out as many Biogenic Oozes as possible, using Vannifar to convert earlier creatures into the marvelous slime lord. Which is the reason why I included some little helpers in the form of a couple Bounding Krasis both as a low-impact three-mana station (though an undeveloped Predator Ooze can be happily sacced too) and a way to jump ahead skipping that station entirely; Breaching Hippocamp does the same at CMC 4, while Glen Elendra Archmage doubles as protection against sweepers that aren't Supreme Verdict.
As for Lightning Greaves, I generally like it in midrange builds where you want to make sure key creatures stick around but also to hurl them at the opponent's side of the table without delay. It's a bit awkward on Vannifar, because then she won't be able to let the various Fish untap her, but it's valuable to preserve Biogenic Ooze, and it's most effective on Predator Ooze, which has the flaw of starting very small and taking one full turn to start growing.
World of Goo
Not all the remaining Oozes are bad, anyway. There are at least a couple of others that went unmentioned and deserve some respect. One is certainly The Mimeoplasm, the first mythic Ooze ever, and one of the only three Legendary Oozes (and blue Oozes) along with Kraj and Vannifar. First printed in the same Commander product that generated Scavenging Ooze (though not within the same precon deck), it has two fatal flaws where Ooze tribal is concerned: it requires a very specific gameplan involving some form of self-milling and a lot of devoted slots and it's not Modern-legal.
The other is similarly combo-prone, demanding for a build-around approach too, except one that hijacks less of the deck, so it could be attempted in Tribal Wars. I'm referring to Scars of Mirrodin's Necrotic Ooze, a Johnny favorite that doesn't do much if unsupported (it could now copy a dead Vannifar's ability, but it's still not enough).
Unlike The Mimeoplasm, Necrotic is Modern-playable, but its plan is more suited to Legacy nonetheless. And this is how we could build it.
|4Misty Rainforest||4Bloodhall Ooze||4Chord of Calling|
|4Windswept Heath||4Scavenging Ooze||4Faithless Looting|
|3Verdant Catacombs||4Necrotic Ooze||3Entomb|
|1Savannah||1Prime Speaker Vannifar|
|1Tropical Island||1Acidic Slime|
|1Cavern of Souls||4Devoted Druid|
|1Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth||1Anger|
|1Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker|
|1Vizier of Remedies|
What we want to do here is we want to put Necrotic on the board while Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Anger and Devoted Druid are in the graveyard. This way, Necrotic can copy itself (since it's not Legendary), and each of its copies can do the same, then they can all untap themselves and attack as hasty 3/2s. The nice thing about this combo is that it can't be easily stopped by killing Necrotic, because it can just untap itself and start another chain from there, and it can do that in response of the first two spot removals. The bad thing is that it's not too easy to pull off, as it's essentially a four-card combo. It would become a two-card combo by using Buried Alive, but that's a slow spell that takes one entire turn to resolve, doing nothing in the moment. Plus, you'd still need to account for Kiki-Jiki ending up in your hand, or else include multiple copies of him, which is not ideal. By going with Entomb and Faithless Looting you use faster, more manageable spells, while banking on the inherent ability of Devoted Druid to land herself on the yard. This also suggests the inclusion of her companion piece Vizier of Remedies, which creates a secondary win condition by going infinite in presence of a Biogenic Ooze.
What will the future of Ooze tech hold, then? They can certainly use a good, all-purpose four-mana member to give Vannifar an in-tribe station outside of Necrotic Ooze's build-around-me neediness and Chaotic Goo's coin-flipping nonsense. And maybe a seven-mana Ooze to Van-Pod into. I mean, one that's not laughably awful.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.
Tribal Attractions Archive
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