A Blast From The Past: “Erhnageddon” Revisited (M:tG)

Being the notorious nostalgia nerd that I am, I am pretty fond of reading through my collection of old “The Duelist” magazines I have reliving the memories I don’t even have, having started playing Magic: the Gathering in the 6th Edition era. Still I always was and am still fascinated by the very early days of the game, when cards like this one ruled and competitive decks were winning acclaimed tournamets with them:

Meet Erhnam Djinn, first released in Arabian Nights:

Yes, back in the olden days, a 4/5 Creature with quite a big drawback (giving an opponent Creature Forestwalk will under normal circumstances make that Creature unblockable…) for just 4 mana was not only a viable card but many ran it in tournament winning decks. Let me recount what I remember about the Erhnam Djinn decks that were both popular and powerful back in the early days of the Magic TCG:

As far as I remember from what I have read, there were two main deck variants running the nowadays pretty lackluster Djinn:

Firstly there were the “Ernham-n-Burn’em” decks, which were splashing red for lots of burn Spells such as Lightning Bolt, Incinerate and Chain Lightning. The basic strategy was to drop Erhnam Djinn quickly powered by green mana accelerators like Birds of Paradise and Llanowar of Fyndhorn Elves and then killing the opponent Creatures, first and foremost the one you have given Forestwalk due to the Djinn’s drawback and alternatively using your burn to push trhough the last bits of damage after you opponent managed to put up his defenses.

The second Ernham-Djinn Deck that was popular back then used white as its secondary color and the basic idea was to summon an early Erhnam, again powered by Birds and Elves, and then follow up with Armageddon, destroying all lands at a point where you have “field advantage” with an, at least back in the days, powerful Creature, Erhnam Djinn, which is why the deck was known as “Erhnageddon”.

Personally, I prefer the Green/White variant because, being a White Weenie player for like ten years or so, it runs one of my favorite white cards of all times: Armageddon!

Well, a lot of time has passed since good old Erhnam Djinn was still considered a powerful card and the Djinn, althouhg it was reprinted in Judgment…

…only few remember him as a staple in many green decks of past times and even less actually play him anymore or at all – for good reason! There has been quite some power creep (I will refrain from showing you a picture of the dreaded Tarmogyf here) when it comes to Creatures and Green is no exception. Meet your modern match, Erhnam Djinn and tremble in fear:

That’s right, an uncommon Creature for 3 Mana that has the same stats as good ol’ Erhnam but devoid of any drawback whatsoever. Well maybe you could consider the requirement of 3 green mana kinda a restriction but there are and always have been plenty of flexible multicolor mana sources such as Birds of Paradise and Dual Lands if we are talking old cards. Speaking of multicolor, there is a Creature that is arguable even better than Leatherback Balot:

While the combination of 3 different types of colored mana you’ll need in order to summon this one may seem a bit hard to acquire, you can easily cast that one on turn 2 with the aid of cards like Birds of Paradise and the more recent Noble Hierarch.

Well, this article is titled “Erhnageddon Revisited” and that is exactly what I am trying to do: In the following I want to present you with a modernized version of the old Erhnam Djinn Decks, which will feature aspects of both “Erhnageddon” and “Erhnam-n-Burn’em” but, due to better alternatives today, without the classsic Erhnam Djinn. Please note that this will be more like a mental exercise rather than being about building and playing the deck I am going to present you with. The simple reason is that I do not have access to the more expensive card contained in the deck. However, as I reall like the retro-feel and nostalgia factor of the deck I am going to elaborate  on and am pretty convinced that it would stand a chance, at least against some of my other old-school decks, I may well print out the missing cards as proxies at some point and give the deck a go!

But without much further ado, here is my Erhanm-less Ernham-Revisited Deck, which I would like to call “Terrageddon”, named after two of the key cards contained in it. Please have a look at my deck list:

Terrageddon:

Creatures…20

4 x Birds of Paradise

4 x Noble Hierarch

4 x Woolly Thoctar

4 x Terravor

4 x Knight of the Reliquary

Instants…12

4 x Lightning Bolt

4 x Swords to Plowshares

4 x Giant Growth

Sorceries…4

4 x Armageddon

Lands…24

4 x Arid Mesa

4 x Windswept Heath

4 x Flagstones of Trokair

3 x Wastelands

3 x Savannah

3 x Plateau

1 x Forest

1 x Mountain

1 x Plains

My Thoughts on the Deck:

The basic premise of the deck is still the same as back in the days of “Erhnageddon”. Use Birds or Elves (Hierarchs in this case) to drop a huge Creature early on, then follow up with Armageddon while having the upper hand on the playing field.

I came up with the idea for this deck when Terravore

…and Fetchlands were still quite new, and I think it is a very powerful twist on the original deck idea of “Erhnageddon”, potentially much more powerful than the original version for several reasons. The main reasons are Terravore and the relatively new Knight of the Reliquary

…who fits perfectly in this particular deck. While the Knight has a handy ability, Terravore may be somewhat more dangerous to your opponent as it has Trample whereas Knight of the Reliquary, who may grow as huge as Terravore in this deck, can be blocked by the lowliest of opponent Creatures, preventing all damage to your opponent.

So what I am trying to do in this deck may  be already pretty obvious to any experienced Magic player who has read my decklist: Birds and Hierarchs enable you to summon either Terravore or Knight of the Reliquary on turn 2. That should in the best case be followed up by a turn 3 Armageddon, which will send a lot of lands to the graveyards, leaving you and your opponent with no lands at all – with the crucial difference that you will have a huge, threatening Creature in the form of Terravore or Knight of the Reliquary while your opponent will in most cases have nothing to oppose it. And if they have, you always have cheap pinpoint removal in the form of the old-school Swords to Plowshares and Lightning Bolts. What is more, Armageddon will not harm your non-land mana sources, namely Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, so you are going to be able to recover from land-sweeping Armageddon faster than your opponent in most cases.

Now if you used some of your Fetchlands, which are a good addition to many decks in general, but are just a perfect fit for this particular deck, your “land-munchers” Terravore and Knight of the Reliquary will be even more of a threat to your opponent.

A card that goes very well with Armageddon I would like to mention at this point is Flagstones of Trokair:

I have been playing this very successfully alongside Armageddon in my White Weenie Deck for years now and I think it would be a perfect fit for this deck as well. Contrary to many “Special Lands” it does not come into play tapped and produces one white Mana, so up to here it is just the equivalent to a regular plains (well except that it is “legendary”). What makes this card so fantastic for me, especially in a deck running Armageddon, is its ability to bring a Plains into  play (tapped) when it is destroyed. As the card does not specify that it has to be a Basic Plains, you can search out Dual Lands with it as well. So if you unleash Armageddon and got one of those in play, you will have quite an advantage over your opponent as you will start with a land in play after the Armageddon. Combined with your non-land mana-producers Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch, recovering from Armageddon should be a piece of cake. I have to add that at times it might be handy to play a second Flagstones if you already have one in play to exchange the two for two more useful cards that count as plains such as your Duals Plateau and Savannah. This way you will have access to lands providing more than one type of mana AND it will up the lands-in-graveyard count, which matters a lot in this particular deck, by 2!

Let us think through an exemplary game and see just how big of a threat Knight or ‘Vore will be after you unleashed Armageddon as early as on your third turn:

Let us assume you go first: On turn one you play a Fetchland, use it to put a Savannah into play with it and summon a Bird of Paradise or Noble Hierarch (in most cases it won’t matter which one). Lands in Graveyard (s): 1.

On turn 2 you play another Fetchland, fetching Plateu. You summon Terravore or Knight of the Reliquary using your Bird or Hierarch. Lands in Graveyard(s): 2.

Then on turn 3 you don’t play a Fetchland but rather Flagstones of Trokair, followed up by Armageddon.

At this point, assuming your opponent played lands on their turns, which is highly likely in pretty much all games, Armageddon will send 5 lands to the Graveyard. Along with the 2 Fetchlands you sacked earlier, the lands-in-graveyards count will be at 7 at this point (or even higher if your opponent has been using Fetchlands as well, which is a pretty common thing to do…) which means your Terravore will be an impressive 7/7 Trampler and a Knight of the Reliquary will be even a 9/9! I would doubt that the opponent will have much of an opposition at this point in most cases. And even if there is a blocker to oppose the non-Trampling Knight, the cheap Creature removal you are running in the form of Lightning Bolts and Swords to Plowshares should be able to take care of that. And remember, you played a Flagstones of Trokair, which put a land into play for you when it was destroyed by Armageddon. This means you will be starting your next turn with 2 Mana sources, the land and your mana-Creature. Drop another land on turn 4 and you are ready to summon yet another Knight, Terravore or even “just” a Woolly Thoctar!

Speaking of Thoctar: Even if you don’t have a Terravore / Knight of the Reliquary at the ready to be played on your second turn, you can always opt for Woolly Thoctar and then play Armageddon on turn three. Even if it does not benefit from or interact with lands in graveyards, it would still be a massive 5/4 Beast which would give ye ol’ Erhnam Djinn a run for his money. So Thoctar is your backup plan if you don’t happen to draw either Knight or ‘Vore.

One last card I would like to mention is Wastelands. I decided to run more lands than I normally would in a deck with rather low overall casting costs like this one, just to be able to include some Wastelands. In most matchups it won’t be hard to find a target for this excellent destroyer of non-basic lands and when you use it you will not only take out a bothersome opponent non-basic land, but also up the lands-in-graveyards count by 2 while you are at it!

One last thing I want to mention is Giant Growth. I should probably swap that for something more useful, but I like to have such an old-school one-casting-cost trio as Swords of Plowshares, Lightning Bolt and Giant Growth. Plus Giant Growth can allow you to deal the 20 damage needed to obliterate your opponent fast enough before they are able to recover from Armageddon. Especially on a trampling Terravore. Or on a flying Bird of Paradise!

Well, unfortunately some of the cards needed for this deck are missing in my extensive card collection. First and foremost the three Savannahs and the Terravores and Knights of the Reliquary. The latter two have dropped in value considerably as I have just realized to my pleasure. I might soon grab playsets of both Creatures and just print some proxy Savannahs because this deck not only scratches my ever-present nostalgia itch but also has real potential in my opinion – at least in the semi-casual “environment” I am playing…

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