Homunculi? No, Homuncul-US!

Nick Lambert1717599600

Hey there brewers, and welcome to another edition of the Artisan Brewery! This edition, we've taken on another challenge from a somewhat prominent community member: Beth, Queen of Cardboard. We reached out for a fun theme, and she gave us a unique typal challenge with Homunculi. However, when searching up what our options are for the deck, we ended up discovering that there are only four Legendary Homunculus creatures available, and three of them are only Blue. That leaves us with a choice between nigh-impossible limitations, or a less impossible chunk by using Borborygmos and Fblthp. While we here at the brewery are certainly no strangers to a tough build (see our recent mono-blue Fblthp deck), we also want something that we could feasibly use in a random pick-up game at the LGS or a CommandFest. Therefore, it seems that using the three-color option would be the right call.

We Can Keep Our Eye Open

If we do a search for creatures with the Homunculus type in our colors, we get twenty-two total choices. Not all of them are necessarily worth playing, but most of them are at bare minimum worth a second glance. We've seen some of them in our recent decks, like Fblthp, Lost on the Range and Fblthp, the Lost.

Huh, maybe it's just been Fblthp this whole time.

Anyway, there's still plenty of good options for Homuncli to play alongside them. Or at least, plenty of "good" options. Some are strictly better than others, like Aeromunculus to boost itself a bit, or Bonded Fetch as a bit of extra card draw. Component Collector has the potential to lock down a problem creature or enable some of our activated abilities, and Curious Homunculus//Voracious Reader gives our instants and sorceries some extra "oomf" when we need it.

While the Fblthps are arguably the best homunculi available, and most others are of pretty questionable quality, that doesn't mean there aren't also some useful or powerful options. Zndrsplt, Eye of Wisdom gives us lots of card draw if we can get repeated wins of the coin flip, regardless of our choice to run its partner Okaun, Eye of Chaos (which we might as well, but it's not necessary). Referee Squad is a neat little punch at our opponents' annoying attackers, and Jeering Homunculus occupies a similar space but still lets our opponent get their attack triggers. Humongulus gets to be a big butt blocker for ourselves, and both Hazy Homunculus and Furtive Homunculus can be quite sneaky attackers.

Finally, there are a handful of Homunculi that absolutely exist, and that's the most we can fairly say about them without hurting their feelings. We'll still play them, because if we don't, who will? A great example of these admittedly middling creatures is Doorkeeper, which will get us at most two cards milled from our chosen target. While two cards isn't nothing, it's only just that. If we need to replace one of our creatures with another (probably worse) creature, we can use the activated ability on Stitcher's Apprentice. Riddlekeeper works as a somewhat worse Propaganda effect, which we could also run if we're feeling frisky. Unblinking Observer is a worse version of Curious Homunculus//Voracious Reader, but hey, it could be worse. Finally, the worst card draw available in the pantheon of our creatures shows up as Oculus, which has a neat little death trigger with no sacrifice outlet.

There's No Eye in Team

Even with the extra two colors granted us, we still find ourselves at a disadvantage based solely on the lack of Homunculi in the Magic sphere. Long-time readers will know if there's one thing we love more than janked-up brews, it's janked-up brews based on puns. Enter our second mechanic: putting the "us" in "homunculus." One thing our colors give us no shortage of access to is group-hug effects, so why shouldn't we help (read: punish) other players with the deck as well? It's not like group hug/group slug ever bites the person playing it in the butt, right? Right? Well, that's just a risk we're willing to take. Even if it does bite us in the butt, we'll have tons of fun with it, so let's get the party started with some spells that spread the love around.

A good way to start this section off is with the creatures that give our opponents and us some extra things. That can be lands with Avatar of Growth, or Veteran Explorer. Or it could be bonus creatures with something like Liege of the Hollows. After all, who doesn't love fluffy little squirrels? If we really want to spice things up, we could let everyone get double the mana with Zhur-Taa Ancient. However, the most potentially impactful creature in this vein goes out to the one, the only, Braids, Conjurer Adept. The only two non-land permanent types it doesn't let players cheat out are Planeswalkers and Battles, but otherwise anything is fair game.

Next up, we'll hit the enchantments and artifact that we can use to do nothing but help. Much like the creature section, our first focus is going to be on giving everyone extra mana. Dictate of Karametra, Mana Flare, and Heartbeat of Spring are the best possible examples that don't also cause some sort of backlash or negative effect to either ourselves or the other players–but don't worry, we'll bring in the ones that carry a bit of a penalty later. Rites of Flourishing does a great job of putting lands onto the battlefield, and the extra card draw is a strict upside. Side note, the Brewery highly recommends putting it in your green decks regardless of the theme.

Next up is a creature maker for everyone: Rite of the Raging Storm. Everyone enjoys having a five-power trampler, and the fact that they can't come at us for any reason is just… it's just great. Speaking of things that are just great, there are a few more things here that give card draw and nothing else. Howling Mine is an absolute classic, but let's remember that if it gets tapped, nothing happens. In the same vein, a well-timed Dictate of Kruphix can let us get the benefit first, but still give everyone more reasons not to kill us or our permanents. The other "everyone gets extra draw" spells carry something of a downside, so we'll come back to those in a bit.

But before that, we have instants and sorceries from which everyone can benefit. Though, "benefit" will be something of a loose term with some of these. Day's Undoing, The Great Aurora, Guff Rewrites History, and Commit//Memory are all great examples, as they do give the benefit of just giving us stuff, but the stuff we get may be worse that the stuff we had before. Hypergenesis is like a ramped up version of Braids, Conjurer Adept, with everyone having the option to just go ballistic. Over the Top is similar to some of our earlier picks, but instead of removing things to get other things, players just get to slam out some new things. And finally, in a more limited variant, Pir's Whim can let us be choosier about who really benefits from the spell, but we'll likely be able to politic our way into survival with it.

These are all spells that we can probably get away with casting at any time, but it may behoove us to save a few for the late stages of the game. That way, people will remember how much value they get out of keeping us alive, and will hopefully be more willing to delay on killing us as a result. If that doesn't quite happen the way we'd prefer, we can still use them to make some deals to keep specific players on our side.

Et Tu, Bruté?

Our next section takes the trust we've built over the first few spells of the game and slaps it right in the face, but not so much that the trust is totally gone… yet. This is where we put the spells that still have some benefit to everyone, but come with some sort of penalty or pain alongside it. A perfect starting example is Agitator Ant. Everyone likes making their creatures bigger, and if they can't attack us with those big slabs of beef, all the better. Collision of Realms works as a fantastic removal spell but works hard to lessen the sting by letting everyone get another creature in place.

And finally, for this segment, we come to the cards where we ramp and card draw for everyone at the table, while also stabbing and poking at everyone at the table. Fevered Visions is a commander classic, making people have to either take repeated damage, or play a ton of spells with sub-optimal timing. Overabundance is just a happy little mana doubler that also takes life away whenever anyone wants to use mana from their lands. In a less painful way, Academy Loremaster slides into this section. Not only does it let our opponents (and us) get some extra card draw for a mana tax, it would likely work as a good draw engine for us in the later stages of the game, and as a good stall tactic in the earlier ones.

Now, these spells are some we can probably intersperse through the game more intentionally, or aim to cluster in the midgame to help accelerate the game's progress. Again, these can be political if we need them, but the cost for our opponents is going to be higher, so we probably won't get as good of a deal with it as we will with the previous cluster of spells.

Why Am I Hitting Yourself?

Our next section brings us to the juice, the steak, the true heft of the deck: ways to hurt everyone all at once. These involve damage, removal, and just plain old irritation, but we'll get rolling with the damage. The thing to keep in mind for group damage is that it can be spread to more than one type of recipient. For example, Bloodfire Colossus and Exocrine each deal damage to players and creatures, so it's adding insult to injury when we do either of them. After all, who doesn't enjoy being able to remove those pesky token boards?

Damage can also be based on all sorts of weird criteria. Acidic Soil is an absolute bomb in late game, with odds being good that you'll be able to hit everyone for seven or more damage at the cost of just three mana. Heck, that's a steal. Some of these spells can be based on absolutely ludicrous criteria, like Citadel of Pain, Ancient Runes, or Antagonism. Forcing your opponents to take incremental damage unless they damage another player or use all of their mana is just wild. Heck, we can punish people for playing free spells with Roiling Vortex, and if there's one thing we know all magic players love, it's a free spell. There's even a great option for punishing players if they don't agree to give us a card with Mob Verdict. Because if anything is better than punishing everyone, it's punishing everyone except ourselves.

And we'd be absolute fools not to look for ways to give stable damage over and over (and over) again. A relatively new and somewhat newly popular card that does just this is Descent into Avernus. Granted, treasures also come along, but the damage still adds up incredibly quickly, and it pairs very nicely with Ancient Runes since they'll either have to crack the treasures for no reason or take what is effectively double the damage. To paraphrase Peregrin Took, "we've already had one vortex, yes, but what about second vortex?" In this case, a Sulfuric Vortex. After all, another preventative for life gain can only help us, and just smacking everyone for little bits of damage is just chef's kiss.

And as our final group punishment card, let's make casting spells hurt no matter how much, or how little, mana is used. That's right, readers, make room for the big spikey card, Manabarbs! So long as at least one measly mana from a land source is used to cast a spell while this is on the board, pain will accompany it. Having it out when we also have Overabundance makes it even more delicious, since now it's two damage per land tapped.

This category is going to be the one that makes us get targeted by our opponents, so it's the one that we need to be the most careful about using. Some of them can act as a deterrant, like Bloodfire Colossus, so we need to keep that in mind and try to leverage the timing of its activation. Others are more consistent, like Roiling Vortex, and Sulfuric Vortex, so we need to time them to either help close the game faster or help whittle down life totals for our opponents to get easier kills. There's no real way to use these spells to bargain with our opponents since they're all so equal, so their effectiveness will be very largely dependent on our skill as players. Basically, get gud.

Stop Picking on Us!

This final section focuses on the handful of cards that let us either build our own things up or protect ourselves a bit. We'll need to rely on politics much more than usual to stay alive with this deck, but that doesn't leave us totally defenseless. Some good classics like Beast Within, and Chaos Warp keep up with the theme of giving our opponents things, but also give us the ability to remove more irritating permanents from the enemy. Aetherize is probably going to be the best defense spell we get, as it lets us live through some absurd alpha strikes where the rest of our deck can't necessarily. Our only card that's close to a counter spell comes in the first half of Commit // Memory, and has the boost of being a temporary removal spell for non-land permanents. Acidic Slime is a just a solid multi-purpose removal card, not to mention a dynamite blocker. Finally, to make sure we hit all of our land drops or just get to take advantage of our Rites of Flourishing, we can go with Grow from the Ashes, Migration Path, or Cultivate.

Well folks, that's just about brings us to the end of this edition. Some final reminders and advice for you all: be very careful with the group effects that deal negative effects, and make sure they're timed to our best advantage if we want to actually win. If we just want to have the game be faster, then time them to make that happen as well. If we wanted to streamline it to make it more win-focused, we could likely remove one or two of the drawback-free mana doubling spells and instead put in some counters or removal. Regardless of that, it looks like we cobbled together a pretty interesting build here, but what do you think? How would you go about building a Homunculus deck? What are some other typal decks you think are under-represented? Leave your answer in the comments, or just your suggestions for future builds, and we'll see you next time.

Borborygmos and Fblthp


Everybody Liked That a Bit Less

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