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Deep Tracks: Chromium


Hey everybody, welcome to another edition of Elder Dragons Galore! Wait a second, that’s not right. Oh yeah… Hey everybody, welcome to another edition of Deep Tracks! Ok, much better :) Last time, we began our exploration of the five Elder Dragons from Legends and Core Set 2019. It's time to continue our research by tinkering with the esper colored Chromium:
 
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Previously on Deep Tracks we discussed Arcades Sabboth from Legends, and now we’re shifting our focus to Chromium! To start, what similarities can we identify when comparing the two Elder Dragons? First of all, we see an equally atrocious Mana cost and upkeep tax. Booo! Also, like Arcades Sabboth, Chromium is a 7/7 flying Elder Dragon. I like that! The two Dragons share some characteristics, but what sets them apart from one another?
 
Actually, you’ll notice that each of the five Elder Dragons from Legends have different color identities. And, each one is further distinguished by having its own unique ability. For instance, Arcades Sabboth has the ability to “pump” its own toughness stat while Chromium’s special ability is Rampage. Without going into too much detail, rampage is a mechanic that creates very awkward combat situations for the opponent. For example, if an opponent attempted to block Chromium with two 4/4 creatures, let’s say Serra Angel and Air Elemental, it would be a losing exchange for them as Chromium’s rampage ability would trigger and boost his power and toughness +2/+2, making him a 9/9 until end of turn!
 
Creating awkward combat situations… hmm:
 
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Where do we begin?! There’s a lot going on with Chromium, the Mutable. But I think right off the bat we can agree that much like Chromium from Legends, this new iteration of the Elder Dragon has a similar opportunity to muddle up combat. And hey, no more upkeep cost, woohoo! Chromium, the Mutable is a large 7/7 flying Elder Dragon... nice throwback Wizards! His flash ability fits really well into control shells. He's always waiting in the wings, and capable of standing toe-to-toe with the scariest of monsters. He can’t be countered which is helpful against opposing blue (or white; remember, Mana Tithe exists) decks. His discard ability hints at graveyard synergy and offers a slick under-the-radar form of self protection, thanks to instant speed hexproof! And lastly, we find that this time around his casting cost is way more tame and acceptable from a brewing perspective. Impressive!
 
Before we get into decklists, I want to thank everyone who submitted a deck for my Chromium, the Mutable deckbuilding challenge! I received a lot of great original ideas, each one spicier than the next. And it was inspiring to see each deckbuilder display their own personal creativity! That being said, you all made it very difficult for me… I mean that in a good way! Nonetheless, I had to narrow things down. When the dust settled, there were two lists in specific that really held me captive.
 
To get things rolling, let’s take a brisk jog down the streets of… Vintage?!

Vintage

I gotta tell you, I was caught a little off guard when I received a decklist submission tailor-made for the Vintage format! But it didn't take long to realize I was hypnotized by this thought-provoking Esper Control deck:
 
 
Whoooooa now, I know... It's like the Ferrari of Magic decks! But let's keep our sites set on what's really important here: Chromium. There's so much to like about this take on Chromium, the Mutable, and I think an intricate control deck makes a good home for the Elder Dragon. And, from top to bottom the decklist starts with a lone copy of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and concludes with a full playset of Ravenous Trap. Sold!
 
Esper Chromium Force-less Control is packing a lot of power, and features a wide array of staples such as Snapcaster Mage, Mana Drain, Swords to Plowshares, and Mental Misstep. However, it is worth noting that Force of Will was (intentionally) excluded from the control package. One of my favorite things about the deck is the wide variety of classic Magic gems:
 
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Cards like Sol Ring and Demonic Tutor frequently show up at Commander tables, but seriously, can you imagine how busted Legacy would be if any of these cards were legal?! And the fun doesn't stop here; there's also some very cool stuff stashed in the sideboard!
 
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Esper Chromium Force-less Control mixes Old School power with Modern technology, and appears to be a very solid control build. And yes, Chromium, the Mutable rests comfortably at the top end of the curve! Great work and huge thanks to MrMoesis for sharing!

Legacy

After putting the final touches on last weeks Deep Tracks I found myself back in the lab again. I knew Chromium, the Mutable would be lots of fun to brew with, but what in the world was I to do with the original Chromium from Legends? Before we continue our exploration of the new Core Set 2019 mythic Elder Dragon, we’re heading to my favorite playground – Legacy!
 
 
I explained earlier that Chromium is very good at creating awkward combat scenarios. Well, it occurred to me that we have another slightly less intimidating creature in the format that also does a good job of polarizing the battlefield when it comes time to attack or block:
 
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Baleful Strix is a staple in Legacy, and I really love the idea of the bird teaming up with our beloved chrome-plated Elder Dragon to dominate the skies!
 
Initially, I had a couple different archetypes in mind for Chromium. But I settled on the premise that we could piece together a straightforward control deck that simply aims to hardcast the Elder Dragon. And as a result of taking this route, we wouldn't really need to sweat his upkeep tax; by the time we resolve Chromium, we should have more than enough mana to work with. On a similar note, you'll notice that the deck is a little land-heavy (at least by Legacy standards). It needs to be this way if we are realistically planning to hardcast Chromium. Rounding out the deck, Snapcaster Mage and Brainstorm were nearly impossible to not include and really tie the whole thing together. The sideboard features a wide variety of both narrow and flexible options, and allows us to splash more into black for the control mirror match or whenever we see fit.
 
I was pretty happy with where I landed considering how restrictive the Legends Elder Dragons are from a deck building perspective. And it made me realize that brewing with the esper shard in Legacy is actually quite enjoyable because it's a little off the beaten path. But now that I've had my fun with Chromium, it's time to pass the torch; let's get back to Chromium, the Mutable!

Modern

As I hinted before, there was a second user submitted deck that dug its hooks in me. Check out this sweet graveyard fueled Modern decklist:
 
 
If there's any sure-fire way to grab my attention, it would be showing up with a Reanimator style deck. And although EternalBlaze616's deck isn't all-in on the reanimation plan, it incorporates the strategy in a subtle way:
 
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Unburial Rites provides a way to cheat on the casting cost of not only Chromium, the Mutable, but also Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Love it! However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What we have here is a solid overall control scheme with some low-key combo elements. With inclusions like Logic Knot, Think Twice, Esper Charm, Unburial Rites, and (not to mention!) Snapcaster Mage, we have several interesting and complex ways to maximize our graveyard synergies. And we should of course highlight the namesake of the deck, Gifts Ungiven! When it comes to selecting Gifts Ungiven targets from our library, it is usually situational and dependent on the game-state, but I imagine a solid "Gifts" pile would look something like this:
 
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... Maybe-ish, like in the later stages of a game? I'm not going to claim to be an expert on Gifts Ungiven strategies, but I'm sure EternalBlaze616 has it all mapped out! Thanks for sharing such is a spicy deck with all of us, and once again, I really like the incorporation of Chromium, the Mutable here. Nice work!

Standard

I was torn on whether or not to include a Standard decklist this week. However, Chromium, the Mutable actually seems like it could be a viable threat in the format. And, it's no secret that people have been discussing its possible inclusion in pre-existing Esper Control shells. So, to wrap the package up with a nice, neat bow, I've assembled a preliminary decklist:
 
 
For this build of Esper Control I decided to go against the grain and slant the deck slightly more towards B/W. Leaning in this direction opens up access to more of the sweet black and white removal pieces that are currently available in Standard. For example, I really like the synergy between Fumigate and Cleansing Nova and The Scarab God, and if we were base-blue I would be more reluctant to include the double-white sweepers!
 
Speaking of Cleansing Nova, it's not the only Core Set 2019 card on my radar:
 
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... I'm also amped up for some new black additions and a sweet blue reprint! Infernal Reckoning seems very efficient and just plain good in a format where Heart of Kiran, Scrapheap Scrounger, Bomat Courier, and plenty of other colorless threats exist. Plague Mare plays well into our gameplan and is kind of like a black version of... do I really need to say it... ok, Goblin Chainwhirler. And last but not least, I'm happy to see Anticipate will be re-entering Standard. I always did like the efficiency of Anticipate, and it adds a nice level of card filtering and consistency. And... it reminds me of Khans block. Good times :)

Conclusion

As much as I would have liked to unlock some kind of magical combo potential for Chromium, the Mutable, I came to the conclusion that this Elder Dragon is best equipped to play the role of top end control finisher. Granted, we can find some combo-centric avenues like we saw in the Modern Esper Gifts deck. And I think there are more ways we can take advantage of Chromium, the Mutable's discard ability. But for now, we'll have to wait and see what the future holds.
 
Before I take off, here's one more toast to everyone who sent in their creations. This article would not have been possible without your contributions. Thank you!
 
Well, that's it for now. What are your thoughts on Chromium and the newly designed Chromium, the Mutable? Pre-release events for Core Set 2019 are happening this coming weekend. I don't know about you, but I sure am excited!. As always, all comments are welcome, thank you so much for reading, and have a great one!
 
Twitter - @WallofOmens
 
-John


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