Living End

April 23, 2018

Synopsis

Normally, the card Living End can only be suspended, but this deck seeks to abuse the cascade mechanic to cast it immediately. To do this, Living End decks must play all cards that cost 3 or more to guarantee always cascading into Living End. This is a unique deck-building restriction and the deck will often play Simian Spirit Guide in order to interact on curve with its more expensive interactive cards. The deck uses the Cycling mechanic to get creatures in the graveyard quickly as well as draw toward the key cascade spells.  Often Living End functions like a pseudo-control deck, utilizing a land destruction sub-theme and then wiping the board of opposing threats while returning its own cycled creatures.

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Core Cards

The goal of the deck is to Cycle creatures then reset the battlefield by cascading into Living End.  Decks will typically play the best one mana cyclers (Monstrous Carabid, Desert Cerodon, Horror of Broken Lands, Street Wraith) as well as Archfiend of Ifnir. The Archfiend could be replaced with a less powerful one mana cycler (Architects of Will, Deadshot Minotaur) but its ability and evasion make it a potent card in some matchups. The deck will also include 7-8 cascade spells (Demonic Dread, Violent Outburst) and 2-3 copies of Living End. Violent Outburst is the preferred cascade spell since it is instant speed and does not need a target to be cast. Demonic Dread requires more work because it requires a target, which can be a problem against creatureless opponents, but you need to maximize your ability to cascade and this is the next best option. Typically, the deck plays 19 lands and 3 Simian Spirit Guides which leaves room for 7-9 interactive cards in the main deck.

Support cards

Of the remaining slots in the maindeck, 4 usually go to Fulminator Mage as well as 2 for Beast Within. These cards comprise the mana denial package that is often crucial to Living End’s game plan. Simian Spirit Guide allows you to power out these 3 mana cards on turn 2 which can stifle the mana development of your opponent. Against counter spell decks, this plan taxes their mana which is already tight since they need to hold up counter magic against you. Against decks that exploit powerful lands (Tron, Amulet, Scapeshift) these cards are powerful disruptive tools. Fulminator Mage and Beast Within can also be used to keep opponents off of their fourth land, ensuring your newly reanimated creatures do not get hit with Supreme Verdict or Damnation. Beast Within can also deal with problematic permanents such as Meddling Mage or Ensnaring Bridge, and even leaves behind a Beast token which can be targeted with your Demonic Dreads.

The remaining slots usually go to faerie macabre as a way to interact with opposing graveyards or Avalanche riders for additional land destruction.

Mana base

For a 3-colored deck, Living End’s mana base is surprisingly smooth. GBR has access to many comes into play untapped lands for the first few turns of the game including, Blackcleave Cliffs, Blooming Marsh, Copperline Gorge and Grove of the Burnwillows. Often Living End only needs 3 lands to execute its game plan so the deck is afforded the luxury of playing theses lands with minimal drawback. You still play one of each Shockland and 4-5 Fetchlands for conistency’s sake, but rarely is Living end forced to damage itself with its mana base. Most of your cards cycle for black mana with the exception of Desert Cerodon. The only green cards are Violent Outburst and Beast Within, so green mana is less of a priority in the first couple turns. A red/black land ensures that you can cycle any card you draw.

Sideboard

The flexible cards in Fulminator Mage and Faeire Macabre are the cards that get cut the most often. You can trim on cyclers but it is dicey and should probably be avoided. 

The sideboard plays cards that synergize with Living End’s ability to return creatures from the graveyard. You will see cards like Shriekmaw which can answer troublesome creatures that inhibit you pre-Living End such as Meddling Mage, Scavenging Ooze or Eidolon of Rhetoric. Ingot Chewer answers artifacts like Chalice of the Void and Relic of Progenitus.

Faerie Macabre interacts with other graveyard decks and can disrupt opponents’ attempts to sacrifice their board to your Living End (thus returning all their creatures as well) using Arcbound Ravager or Viscera Seer. And Brindle Boar can buy time against aggressive strategies. All these cards work so well in the deck because you gain additional value when they are returned with Living end.

Sideboards also include some copies of Ricochet Trap to redirect opposing counterspells.

Sometimes Living End will play less synergistic cards such as Slaughter Games, Lost Legacy, Leyline of Sanctity, or Leyline of the Void in its sideboard. These cards are targeted toward decks fighting an axis that is difficult for Living End to interact with otherwise.

Strenghts

Living End is typically favored against decks that rely on creatures to execute their game plan. A resolved Living End will end the game as it essential reverses the battlefield in your favor. You are also favored against decks reliant on non-basic lands, as your land destruction game plan is very potent. Living End is also great against targeted discard since so many of your cards are redundant.

Weaknesses

Living has a difficult time interacting on a non-land, non-creature axis. Decks like Storm, Ad Nauseum, Lantern and Burn are hard to overcome without more dedicated sideboard cards.

Sometimes favorable matchups can become unfavorable after sideboard to powerful graveyard hate cards that your opponents bring in against you, such as Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace. You should always keep this in mind for sideboarded games and plan accordingly.

General Tips

If you are casting a cascade spell, but also have extra mana and cyclers in hand, wait until the cascade resolves, put Living End on the stack holding priority and then cycle. This reduces the chances of drawing Living End before the cascade resolves.

Mulligan hands that have 2 or more Living Ends in them. Drawing Living End is a downside in this deck as it means you will have less chances to cascade into it.

Often, games will slow down as opponents hold up counter magic for Living End or deplete you of resources. When this happens, it is sometimes correct to start casting your expensive creatures. They dodge a good amount of removal spells (Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay, Fatal Push) and force the opponent to interact or commit more to the board. Archfiend of Ifnir and Horror of the Broken Lands are especially threatening even on their own.

In the face of one-shot graveyard removal (Nihil Spellbomb, Relic of Progenitus) you can cascade into Living End and pass priority to your opponent. If they exile your graveyard, you can cycle more cards once you regain priority before Living End resolves.

 

The Future of Living End 

For future prints, Living End can utilize any creature that costs more than 3 mana that sacrifices itself. The deck gained a lot from Amonkhet block with the return of cycling and if that mechanic shows up again, Living End will benefit again. The cascade spells and Living End won't ever receive an upgrade though, which puts a cap on the archetype. 

Living End has been one of the premier graveyard decks in the format and will continue to be. The deck can be very good if it lines up well with the format but it has recently waned. The format currently is hostile to the deck but that can change.