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Lost Archives — Decks
The Cereal Decks: Fruity Pebbles, Wheaties, and Cocoa Pebbles
Written by Nicholas Rupprecht
huckster@imsa.edu


Enduring Renewal (Enchantment, 2WW, Play with the cards in your hand face up on the table. If you draw a creature card from your library, discard it. Whenever a creature goes to your graveyard from play, put that creature into your hand. Ice Age rare)

Goblin Bonbardment (Enchantment, 1R, Sacrifice a creature: Goblin Bombardment deals 1 damage to target creature or player. Tempest uncommon)

Any player new to Magic would love to own this pair of cards. The reason why should be obvious to anyone who remembers his or her early days: it is a combo. All you need to do is add any creature that costs 0 mana (of which there are no less than 6). Simply have all three in play, sacrifice the creature to deal one damage to your opponent, return it to your hand, cast it, lather, rinse, repeat. Infinite damage. Such combos (like the infamous Ley Druid-Paralyze-Lotus Vale-Overgrowth infinite mana monstrosity) are usually too fragile for tournament play. However, this combo soon gained notice among Pro Tour players, becoming one of the most successful deck archetypes of the PT-LA 3 Extended Qualifiers in late 1997 and early 1998. This column will examine the reasons for its success, its evolution, and two of its recent successful variants.

What Makes It Stand Out?

To answer this question, we must first understand why do most combos of this sort usually fail. The aforementioned Druid Infinite Mana Loop serves as an excellent example of this. Its first problem is you need to draw four different cards (each of which is restricted to four per deck) for it to work. This means that you will rarely, if ever, draw the entire array during a single game. Also, it is easily disrupted. If any of its components is destroyed/countered/discarded, you're back to square one. The final nail in its coffin is that it involves enchantments that target permanents. If the permanent perishes so does the enchantment on it.
The Renewal-Bombardment combo shares some of these weaknesses, though to a lesser extent. The engine here takes up a mere 3 cards. Not only that, but your deck can contain more than 4 copies of one component- the 0-costing critter. In addition, all three components are either enchantments or artifacts and thus highly fetchable through Enlightened Tutor. Also, unlike the Druid Mana Loop, it involves no local enchantments (although this problem is admittedly less common). However, it is still disruptable, and this obstacle needed to be overcome for it to succeed.

Thre Three Parts of a Combo Deck

A combo deck like this generally needs three parts to work well. The first is the kill mechanism. In our case, it's Renewal, et al. The second component is the acceleration to get the combo out faster. Usually this comes in the form of searching through the deck for the kill mechanism, but often also includes mana acceleration. The third component is the stall. Essentially, it's how you keep yourself alive until you "go off." The creators of the Renewal-Bombardment deck (which came to be called Fruity Pebbles) found a way to implement this portion while avoiding disruption: counterspells.
Fruity Pebbles, from LA Pro Tour Qualifiers (Gerald Budzinski)
Creatures (5)
1 Phyrexian Walker
4 Shield Sphere
Spells (38)
1 Ancestral Knowledge
4 Arcane Denial
3 Counterspell
2 Disenchant
4 Enduring Renewal
4 Enlightened Tutor
4 Force of Will
4 Goblin Bombardment
4 Impulse
4 Lotus Petal
1 Recall
3 Tithe
Land (18)
4 Island
2 Plains
4 Plateau
4 Tundra
4 Volcanic Island

Fruity Pebbles's merge with a classic control deck created a type of deck called a synergy deck. This concept describes a deck where two very different types are combined and work together well. The addition of blue added Impulse to the deck's searching power while protecting the combo. The red/white/artifact part provided the possibility of a quick combo kill, early defense with Shield Spheres and Phyrexian Walkers, and good board control like Pyroclasm and Disenchant. Also this particular combo worked better with control than most becase of its improved consistency.

PT-Los Angeles 3 Qualifiers

Here is a fairly standard Fruity Pebbles deck from the LA 3 PTQ's:

For Fruity Pebbles, the norm was much like this deck: 10-15 counterspells, 8-10 search cards, 4-6 0-critters to round out the combo, around 2 general board control cards (usually Pyroclasm or Disenchant), and 3-4 Tithes. Tithe worked especially well in Fruity Pebbles for two reasons: it thinned out the deck, making the combo more accessible, and it could search for dual lands, inproving the deck's mana consistency. I like this particular Fruity Pebbles because it utilizes the raw speed of Lotus Petal and combats disruption with Recall.

However, Fruity Pebbles still had problems. Two are adequately illustrated by these quotes:

Fruity Pebbles, from Pro Tour Chicago 1999 (Kai Budde)
Creatures (5)
1 Phyrexian Walker
4 Shield Sphere
Spells (36)
3 Arcane Denial
4 Brainstorm
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Enduring Renewal
2 Enlightened Tutor
4 Force of Will
4 Goblin Bombardment
4 Impulse
3 Mana Vault
4 Tithe
Land (19)
2 Adarkar Wastes
2 Flood Plains
4 Plateau
4 Scrubland
4 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island

"For anyone who mocks Fruity be forewarned, in the hands of a good player it can be deadly . . . put this deck in the hands of a scrub and you can still win games but you will never qualify." -Bruce Cowley during PT-LA 3 Qualifiers

"Pebbles had to develop the board . . . was vulnerable to aura of silence and disenchant . . . had a . . . fragile mana base, needing to cast spells across three colors . . .." -Lan Ho after PT Chicago 1999

Not only that, but swarm decks became faster and faster. Pro Tour Jank, a White Weenie deck enhanced by red direct damage, combated Pebbles with speed and Disenchant. Fast beatdown decks received a number of great cards in Tempest and the following expansions, such as Jackal Pup, Cursed Scroll, Mogg Flunkies, Carnophage, Hatred, Goblin Lackey, Elvish Lyrist, Rancor, etc. Tempest also gave players Wasteland, which hurt Pebbles's multi-color land base. Finally, Pox decks gave Fruity Pebbles serious problems with their massive amounts of disruption.
To survive, Fruity Pebbles needed to grow faster. A few counters and utility cards were traded for more search cards and fast mana. By the time PT Chicago arrived, Fruity Pabbles did quite well against the now-slower environment. The deck shown below is a fine example of how the archetype had evolved by the time of Pro Tour Chicago in December 1999.

Wheaties, from Pro Tour Chicago 1999 (Justin Gary)
Creatures (22)
3 Academy Rector
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Ghitu Slinger
1 Krovikan Horror
2 Monk Realist
1 Shield Sphere
2 Spike Feeder
1 Spike Weaver
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Verdant Force
1 Vine Trellis
4 Wall of Roots
Spells (14)
2 Duress
1 Enduring Renewal
1 Goblin Bombardment
1 Oath of Ghouls
4 Recurring Nightmare
4 Survival of the Fittest
Land (24)
4 Bayou
3 City of Brass
3 Forest
1 Grassland
2 Phyrexian Tower
4 Savannah
4 Taiga
3 Wasteland

However, several players found ways to improve Pebbles by combining it with other successful archetypes. One such hybrid developed by Team Your Move Games using Recurring Survival is called Wheaties (note: I have also heard it called Trix, and I'm not sure which is correct). Recurring Survival worked incredibly well with Pebbles for many reasons. Rec-Sur could easily grab a walker from its deck, or an Academy Rector to fetch an enchantment. Therefore, it could run fewer copies of the combo without suffering; it was flexible enough to win with or without it. Here is one example of a Wheaties deck that fared well, but like its parent Rec-Sur, different decks could vary so much that there was no set pattern for deck construction.
An even more successful version also showed its face at PT Chicago. It was built similarly to a Fruity Pebbles deck, with one minor difference. Instead of using counters, it used Necropotence to draw numerous cards, lay down the combo, and win. The deck benefited from better mana than either of its relatives at PT Chicago (using 3 colors instead of 4). Also, it could win very quickly after playing Necropotence. At its debut, the new deck, called Cocoa Pebbles, placed well, sending one player to 9th place and another to 7th. Shown below is the Top Eight Cocoa Pebbles deck.

At present, all form of Fruity Pebbles are doing quite well. Cocoa Pebbles even shows promise as a dominant deck type. At any rate, these decks are all fun to play and very tournament viable.

Cocoa Pebbles, from Pro Tour Chicago 1999 (Tony Dobson)
Creatures (10)
4 Academy Rector
2 Phyrexian Walker
4 Shield Sphere
Spells (28)
1 Aura of Silence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
3 Enduring Renewal
4 Goblin Bombardment
1 Mana Vault
3 Mox Diamond
4 Necropotence
Land (22)
4 Badlands
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Peat Bog
3 Phyrexian Tower
4 Scrubland

Note: This article turned out to be pretty long, as I was examining three different archetypes. Future articles will be more focused and thus either shorter or more detailed.

Nicholas A. B. Rupprecht
a. k. a. Prince Nick Fibonacci of Rupprecht


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