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Much Abrew: Smeagol Wants His Precious (Historic Brawl)


Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Much Abrew About Nothing. Smeagol, Helpful Guide is one of the most interesting new legends from Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth. While it's a "the Ring tempts" you commander on its face, it also supports a strange mix of mill, aristocrats, and landfall synergies thanks to its ability to steal lands from the opponent's deck repeatedly when we're tempted by the Ring. Sneakily, it's also the best legend to lead a deck full of all nine Nazguls since the Nazgul are one of the best ways to be tempted by the Ring. How does this weird mix play in Historic Brawl? What sweet tricks can Smeagol, Helpful Guide pull off in his quest for "my precious"? Let's get to the video and find out on today's Much Abrew About Nothing!

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Much Abrew: Smeagol, Helpful Guide

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Discussion

  • Personally, my record doesn't really matter to me a whole lot in Historic Brawl. The format isn't really about being as competitive as possible; it's about doing cool things and having as much fun as possible. That said, part of having fun is having a deck that can win once in a while, and our Smeagol deck meets this criterion. Overall, we played 13 games with the deck and won seven, giving us just better than a 50% match-win percentage. 
  • As I mentioned before, Smeagol, Helpful Guide is actually a super-unique legend to build around because it supports several different themes that aren't typically related. Most obviously, it's a "the Ring tempts you" commander, rewarding us for filling our deck with as many "the Ring tempts you" cards as possible by ramping us and milling our opponent whenever we're tempted by the Ring. It's also partly an aristocrats-style self-sacrifice commander since Smeagol will be tempted by the Ring on our end step if a creature dies during our turn, so we really want a creature to be dying each turn to maximize Smeagol's potential. But it's also a Golgari landfall commander. Since we'll put a land from our opponent's deck into play every time we're tempted by the Ring, Smeagol offers a way to potentially trigger landfall cards multiple times each turn. And this land-stealing ability also makes Smeagol a weird ramp commander since we'll be able to use all of those big lands to cast some big finishers. Let's quickly look at each of these packages and how they relate.
  • The Ring Tempts You: We're playing essentially every "the Ring tempts you" card in the Golgari colors because the most powerful thing Smeagol, Helpful Guide can do is trigger multiple times each turn as we're tempted by the Ring. This includes all nine Nazgul, which are shockingly strong in our deck, to the point where I think Smeagol might actually be the most powerful Nazgul commander. Since the Nazgul grow every time we're tempted by the Ring, Smeagol's ability to let us be tempted on our end step offers additional Nazgul value, and the extra lands we get from Smeagol let us quickly flood the board with more Nazgul
  • Aristocrats: The aristocrats aspect of Smeagol, Helpful Guide is interesting. If we can sacrifice a creature during our turn, we're rewarded by ramping and milling with Smeagol on our end step. While we are far from an aristocrats deck, we do have some synergies to make sure we have a creature dying each turn, like Reassembling Skeleton offering repeatable sacrifice fodder for removal like Bone Shards, Bone Splinters, or card draw with Deadly Dispute, or mana from Ashnod's Altar. On the other hand, unlike a true aristocrats plan, we're not really looking to win the game with sacrifice synergies; instead, they mostly exist to power up our ramp-and-landfall plan.
  • Landfall: One of the most powerful things Smeagol does is let us put a land into play (from our opponent's deck) every time we are tempted by the Ring, which leads to some interesting snowball potential. We get a land every time we are tempted, which then gives us more mana to cast more "the Ring tempts you" cards to get even more lands until we eventually pull super-far ahead of our poor opponent. Apart from just casting things with our extra mana, this also makes Smeagol a sneakily powerful Golgari landfall commander. Cards like Lotus Cobra and Tireless Provisioner give us extra mana as we steal our opponent's lands, Tireless Tracker offers extra cards, and Scute Swarm is a surprisingly strong finisher, in part because it can flood the board with copies of itself and in part because if we managed to make a bunch of Scute Swarms, they turn into excellent sacrifice fodder for our Aristocrats plan.
  • Ramp: Finally, Smeagol's ability to steal a bunch of our opponent's lands makes it an interesting ramp commander. While we're not really a true ramp deck overloaded with big, expensive finishers, we do have a few. Plus, even if we don't have one big expensive card to play with our extra mana, the lands Smeagol snags from our opponent let us play multiple spells each turn, which is almost as powerful, especially if those spells let the Ring tempt us to keep the Smeagol snowball going. 
  • Speaking of finishers, I want to mention a couple specifically because they work extremely well with Smeagol. While most of our wins actually come from overwhelming our opponent with value and small creatures like Nazgul and Scute Swarm, we do have two super-synergistic finishers that take advantage of an aspect of Smeagol we haven't really discussed: milling our opponent. We are very much not a mill deck. Outside of Smeagol, Helpful Guide and Altar of Dementia as a sacrifice outlet, we aren't playing any mill cards at all, so the odds of us actually milling all 100 cards in our opponent's deck is pretty low. The good news is we don't need to mill our opponent's entire deck to get value from Smeagol's milling ability thanks to Shadow of the Enemy and Eldritch Pact. Shadow of the Enemy is a hilarious way to take advantage of not just Smeagol milling our opponent but also the extra lands it gives us. We can cast it for six mana and essentially steal all of the creatures from our opponent's graveyard, and then use our extra lands to cast them. While it can be a bit hit or miss depending on the matchup (it's pretty bad against decks like spellslinger or control with few creatures, but it's shockingly powerful against creature decks), it is a great addition to Smeagol. Really though, Eldritch Pact is even better. For seven mana, it makes a target player draw cards and lose life equal to the number of cards in their graveyard. While we do occasionally use it for card draw, it's most often just a seven-mana "win the game." Thanks to Smeagol's ability, it's pretty easy to mill 20 or more cards, which fills our opponent's graveyard enough that if we target them with Eldritch Pact, we kill our opponent on the spot!
  • So, should you play Smeagol in Historic Brawl? I guess it technically depends on what play style you enjoy, but for me, the answer is an easy yes! Smeagol is a much more unique commander than it looks at first glance. It has a ton of sneaky synergies and turns some bad, unplayed cards like Eldritch Pact into super-strong finishers! The other thing I love about the deck is that it offers a ton of flexibility. This build does a little bit of everything that Smeagol supports, with the primary focus of being tempted by the Ring. But Smeagol can be a dedicated ramp deck, a dedicated landfall deck, or a full-on aristocrats deck, so there are plenty of options to customize it for your play style. The deck's only drawback is that it's not super budget-friendly, with 44 total rares and mythics, but almost half of the rares and mythics are in the mana base (including all the MDFCs, which I count as lands). If you play a budget mana base, you can easily get the deck's cost down near 20 rares and mythics, which isn't bad considering you are playing a 100-card deck! If you like unique, synergistic Historic Brawl decks with tons of flexibility and customization options, I think Smeagol, Helpful Guide is one of the most fun and perhaps even best new commanders from Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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