Ken Adams: Buried Alive in Baltimore

by Ken Adams

Well, it looks like it’s finally become time to break my monkly code of silence and deliver the public some MTG content. I’m not sure what direction to take this column in the future (Metagame synopsis, deck brews, fiancial, stories from the road, or a hodgepodge of all the previous), so if you can sound off in the forums it would be appreciated. Did I mention I despise writing? Seriously, I despise writing more than Geth hates creatures and planeswalkers. Well anyway, here goes, just sit right back and I’ll tell you a tale of a fateful trip that led up to playing buried alive at the Baltimore 5k.

Buried Alive

Over the past month or so my humble Binghamton apartment has become somewhat of a refuge/desert oasis for numerous wandering wizards. Alex Bertoncini, Nate Pease, Harrison Greenberg, and Robby Robinson have all spent multiple days over, brewing, testing, and hanging out. For those of you who don’t know Robby Robinson, let’s just say his journey ended in Erie, PA. Combined with some of the other people that came to test, and the Binghamton locals there has been some high caliber legacy battling going on.

After suffering defeat to the shiny head of Kenny Mayer in an epic Battle of Wits, I decided it was time to bring back my beloved painter grindstone bomberman deck for another go around in Lexington.  I really should have sucked it up and given this deck the Old Yeller treatment weeks or months before, as it performed like a diseased dog. As such I will not post a list of the old deck. It brings back too many painful memories. However, this tournament finally made me realize the deck needed to be changed dramatically to compete. Something else to note about the tournament, both Joe Bernal and Caleb Durward were miles ahead of the curve by playing Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull, although I bet Caleb feels a little silly now for having the new power of the skull in his board. Unsurprisingly, they both top 8’d.

Now back to Painter’s Servant. I had played the version of painter sans the bomberman combo and imperial recruiters, and while the deck was undoubtedly faster I sometimes had problems running out of gas after intuitioning too many win conditions into the graveyard. I also didn’t like auto scooping every game 1 to Emrakul decks. After getting back to Binghamton, I created this deck as an attempt to keep the speed of the of the fast painter deck, but still have enough of the resilience of the bomberman deck. Here’s Young Yeller:

Land (20)

Instant (12)


This version cuts some Intuitons and Elemental blasts from the main deck of the speed version, along with trimming a Top and a Force for the bomberman package. I have long argued against Elemental blasts in the main of painter decks for a few reasons. The obvious one is that sometimes they are dead cards. They open you up to getting blown out by swords even more when you are trying to kill painted goyfs or whatever monster you need to kill to keep yourself alive. In counter wars against decks that are rough matchups like BUG and RUG your mana is very tight and you do not always have the mana up to protect your painter with it after activating a Grindstone. Most impotantly, it is not a card that adds to the speed of the deck, but it is instead a type of answer card. Your answer in this deck is to instead be able to shift gears and whack them with an entirely different combo.

I’m not going to get into all the matchups and boarding with this deck right now since that’s not the point of this article, but I did finally give in to the Show and Tell / Emrakul plan in the board as a different angle of attack, and an actual way to beat zoo. If you want a more in depth article about painter, let me know in our forums.

So this is the part where I would normally tell you how I played this deck at the GP and the SCG Invitational resulting in some sort of splendiferous story of triumph or woe. Well no, it’s not going to happen. I have yet to play this deck in a sanctioned match. After a week of testing in Binghamton before GP Providence I was all set to either play this deck or some U/B landstill deck I had not played a game with and I would probably be playing somewhere on par with Charles Barkley’s golf game.

While I was working the dealer booth at GP Providence, Nate Pease showed me a U/R/W Stoneforge list that he said he got from Andy Probasco. The deck instantly reminded me of the U/R/W Greater Gargadon lists I had played in old extended with much success. In fact, when I found out Nate had only given me a 58 card list I actually added a Gargadon to it to test. The Gargadon was as bad as you think it was. Here’s the deck I played.


The deck felt like cheating. The merfolk matchup was a joke between Lavamancer and Stoneforge. Every other matchup seemed even more favorable, except for dredge which was pretty much unwinnable. Unfortunately, a few poorly timed punts kept me out of serious contention and only let me settle into the top 64. Disappointing, considering how well positioned I thought this deck was for the tournament.

It would have been silly to have put the deck down at this point, so I played it through both the SCG invitational and the Jupiter Games Invitational with a new enlightened tutor board with decent but not spectacular results. I still think there’s a version of this deck that is good for the current format, but I was sick of it and needed to play something new and exciting. Do you want a Stoneforge article? Let me know.

So I had this Buried Alive deck still sulking around in shame after getting mass ridiculed by everyone who was testing for Providence. The deck seemed decent to me, and I’m not sure why I let everyone convince me it was terrible. Test the deck you say? Nah, time to run it cold at a 5k.


The main combo in the deck is to cast buried alive for Necrotic Ooze, Phyrexian Devourer, and Triskelion, and then to reanimate the ooze. The challenge while building the deck was to make Buried Alive and Reanimate not be terrible cards on their own. Reanimate is just fine at rebuying any exhausted monster at a bargain price, as well as comboing with the discard package to put the guy from their opener onto your battlefield quickly. The Buried Alives are a bit more situational, but still have the potential to be explosive without Reanimate. There’s enough cheap guys in the deck that you can usually get 3 Vengevines and be able to trigger them the next turn to aid your beatdown plan. If you don’t have any more creatures in hand, or are out Vengevines, just grab some Bloodghasts. It’s pretty straightforward what you need to get with the Buried Alives in a game situation, and I’d just be insulting you by trying to give you a tutorial about it. Just remember, sometimes it’s better to keep that extra mana critter in your hand to get your vines back after a Buried Alive or to have in hand to start a Fauna Shaman chain. Yes, I punted this exact thing on camera. No, I don’t know what I was thinking.

The Fauna Shaman chain is nothing new, just a port from the old survival decks. If you play a turn 2 fauna after a turn 1 bird or noble you can set up to be attacking with 2-3 Vengevines by activating on your next turn, getting Quirion Ranger, casting it, untapping the fauna, discarding again and getting Vengevine. Then on the opponents turn, you can use the ranger again to untap the fauna and pitch the Vengevine for a Vengevine. On your turn you pitch Vengevine for a Basking Rootwalla, and then pitch the Rootwalla (paying madness) for a bird or hierarch. It obviously works best if you had a Vengevine in your opener. Of course, sometimes you also have the Triskelion or Phyrexian Devourer in you opener, which allows you to discard it for the ranger, discard another guy for the devourer, and discard the devourer for the ooze on your opponents turn. On your turn, you use the ranger with the birds or elf in play to get exactly 4 mana, and proceed to dance all over your opponent’s grave.

Sideboarding is little bit interesting. Before the tournament I talked to Gerry T, and asked if he had any recommendations for the board. Quick story, the last time I asked Gerry for recommendations for a deck before a tournament he gave me an updated painter build with artifact lands and Mox Opals. The deck was running swimmingly until round 5 when I get paired against Gerry playing coincidentally enough Necrotic Ooze survival. In game 2 I got to meet Gerry’s last minute sideboard card, Null Rod. A sun titan getting back faerie macabre was almost enough to take this game via the beats, but alas I could not get past having half my deck blanked by one card. Thanks for the cool deck advice bro. In all seriousness, the Mox Opal plan was amazing and I give him a lot of credit for it.

Back to this tournament. I knew I was running the Natural Orders in the board, and had the confidants set aside. Gerry recommended Big Game Hunter and Shriekmaw for the board. The hunter seemed amazing, getting massive value from a Fauna Shaman. If I played this deck again, I would add the Shriekmaw too. The extra removal is useful for problematic Knights of the Reliquary. Terastodon would be the odd man out, as I never boarded him in. Everyone seemed against putting Confidants in the board, but I knew better. Boarding Bob can make any deck good. Besides, there are matchups where the Bloodghasts are pretty bad.

The basic strategy to boarding is to anticipate graveyard hate by boarding out the Buried Alives and ooze package for the Natural Order plan. This same board plan also works against most non-Blue decks. Against the blue decks, it’s dependant on the counters in their deck and the amount of graveyard hate they are bringing in. The confidants come in against a lot of blue decks and attrition decks. Surgical Extraction was the graveyard hate of choice. Saving the mana over extirpate outweighs the ability to be Mental Missteped. Most of the decks you bring it in against don’t have any counters, plus you pack so many other 1 drops and discard that you will probably have smashed something else into the misstep by that point. The Jitte was in the board to bring in against stoneforge decks in the case that you reanimate one of their mystics, but I never ended up bringing it in against them. It held some additional value against merfolk, butI’m not sure if I’d keep it in the board.

Well, this article has already been kinda long, so I’ll spare you a tournament report. A lot of matches were on camera if you want to go watch them. I’m not sure when I’m going to play another tournament, so I might not have any more reports for you. There are things I care about more than magic right now. Anyway, sound off in the forums about what you want to hear about in the future.

2 thoughts on “Ken Adams: Buried Alive in Baltimore”

  1. This article had the feel of a Futurama movie. If you’d like to see Calculon run down to the scene of the laser gun battle in his Hover-Ferrari, press one. If you’d like to see Kenny Adams write an article about how to dance on peoples’ graves with painter/bomber, press two.

    In honesty, though, well written article. Prahps.

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