Well hello there, it’s Brewer’s Kitchen with part two of my brewing experiments around Ruin Crab.
In my first deck, Crabshift, I experimented with Scapeshifting and reanimating lands with The Mending of Dominaria to produce huge amounts of landfall triggers. The deck is great fun to play and pushes Ruin Crab and Arena to its limits, but while brewing I stumbled on a hidden gem that sparked an idea. I immediately opened a new deck and threw three cards in: Risen Reef, Scute Swarm, and Arcane Adaptation.
When Risen Reef or another elemental enters the battlefield, we either draw a card or put a land into play off the top. The land triggers Scute Swarm, which normally creates a 1/1 insect token, but by naming Elemental with Arcane Adaptation, the token gains Elemental as an additional type, so now it triggers the Risen Reef again, with a chance to put another land onto the battlefield. In an average deck of 60 cards/24 lands, we have a 40% chance to hit one and continue to go off each time we get a Scute trigger. Now, that’s a sweet combo to get some value… but oh wait there’s more text on Scute Swarm?
“If you control six or more lands, create a token that’s a copy of Scute Swarm instead.”
So every land we hit creates another Scute Swarm, for each Scute Swarm we already have, which all trigger Risen Reef for more lands… which gets us even more Scute Swarms, which will all trigger the Reef again, and OH GOD! So many bugs!
After the Scute invasion, we are left with all our lands on the battlefield and the rest of our library in our hand. Both circumstances come in handy when looking for a win condition… since this army of insects only barely make it through summoning sickness before we draw for our next turn and have our Arena head explode.
Our way to win by putting all our lands onto the battlefield is Ruin Crab (I mean… obviously). We can’t die by drawing from an empty library if our opponent does it first.
Our way to win by having our library in our hand is also pretty obvious: Thassa’s Oracle.
But what if we don’t have the mana to cast the Oracle? Of course, we are also playing our trusty Lotus Cobra to produce a bunch of mana while we are comboing off.
The rest of the deck can be split up into cards that support the combo and cards that find combo pieces… and Uro, because Uro.
Cards that support the combo
Glasspool Mimic: Pretty much every creature in this deck is great to copy. A second Ruin Crab makes you mill your opponent twice as fast, multiple Lotus Cobras give you all the mana in the world, and don’t even get me started on all the value a second Risen Reef can net you. Doubling up s a land makes the Mimic perfect for this deck. Always play the Mimic before you cast a second copy of a combo piece (Risen Reef, Scute Swarm), since the combo pieces will be more valuable if your opponent wipes the board.
Ashaya, Soul of the Wild: Ashaya makes every nontoken creature trigger landfall, which makes our combo creatures start the combo by themselves when they enter the battlefield. Creatures being Forests brings several other upsides like being able to tap for (G) or being immune to certain removal like Banishing Light, Brazen Borrower, Planar Cleansing, and even Doom Foretold. Ashaya itself gets absurdly large once we get our engine going and triggers Risen Reef, since she’s an elemental. Do not cast Ashaya into an opposing Blood Sun… trust me, I learned that the hard way!
Ancient Greenwarden: The Greenwarden is expensive at six mana, but after we’ve ramped it out, we double all of our landfall triggers. It synergizes with Ashya to create a Panharmonicon effect for your creatures, since they now count as lands entering the battlefield. The Greenwarden also allows us to play lands from our graveyard, thereby looping Fabled Passages or playing MDFCs (Glasspool Mimic, Turntimber Symbiosis) as lands from the yard. A 5/7 elemental with reach is not an easy threat to handle for some opponents as well.
Cards that find the combo
Finale of Devastation: This deck often finds itself in the position where one creature will trigger a chain reaction that leads to a victory, especially once we’ve played the Adaptation. We are looking to assemble our combo pieces as fast as possible, and Finale of Devastation allows us to find our missing piece and put it right onto the battlefield. Most of the time we are casting it for one (Ruin Crab) or three (Risen Reef, Scute Swarm), but if the game goes long then we always have the option to ramp hard enough to cast it x=10 to just overrun our opponent with our army of Scutes and Crabs.
Turntimber Symbiosis: This doesn’t guarantee us finding our missing combo piece, but seven cards is enough to make sure that we should at least hit something in our 29 creature deck. Being a land on the flipside reduces the opportunity cost to where Symbiosis being a little inefficient doesn’t matter that much. We do only play two copies, because despite the option to play it as a land, it does not count as a land on top of our library for Risen Reef. We also don’t want to take too much damage from our lands, since we don’t have much protection from aggro.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath: We play Simic, we play Uro… I know, pretty boring. This deck can make good use of the extra land drop, and a creature entering the battlefield can trigger our combo with Arcane Adaptation (triggering Risen Reef) or Ashaya (triggering landfall). Uro is also the only way to make use of our graveyard besides Ancient Greenwarden. We can safely exile almost all the cards from our graveyard, since only lands matter.
Now that I have explained the combo, it’s time to see it in action. As usual I’ve recorded and edited some games that show off how to pilot this deck. Don’t worry, I’ve edited out the endless amount of clicking that goes into this combo. This video is time stamped to start right where the gameplay begins, so we jump right into the action.
The fight against Arena
Arena has a hard time with this deck. The first problem is the insane number of Scute Swarms we create while comboing off. It’s not quite infinite, despite the cool name for the deck, but even 100 tokens can push Arena to the limit, depending on the device you are playing on. While in paper, we could just shortcut the combo by creating basically infinite tokens (since we win or lose the game this turn) and putting all our lands from our library onto the battlefield and the rest into our hand, on Arena we have to play around the limits of the software. Besides the token problem, we have an even bigger one which isn’t as obvious: Our stack will take too long to resolve. If we accept every Risen Reef trigger to put a land on the battlefield, we will end up with several hundred triggers on the stack. Even once we have emptied our library Arena will still go through every Risen Reef trigger and every Scute Swarm will create new Reef triggers. This will gradually take away from your chess clock and deplete your timeouts for the turn. If you accepted all the Risen Reef triggers, you better make sure to have a Ruin Crab to mill your opponent out, since you will not get priority back to cast the Thassa’s Oracle once the stack has resolved. However, for some reason I had games where I got my priority back in the second main phase, so if you have the untapped lands to cast the Oracle then you might be good. Arena sometimes gives you a warning to “Take another game action or the game will end in a draw”, even though we are developing our board and milling our opponent. It has not happened to me yet but I guess you will just draw the game before the stack has resolved, which seems pretty sketchy to me from a rules perspective (I’m not a judge though).
To play around all of this, just make sure to decline Risen Reef triggers once you are sure to empty your library, and make enough mana along the way to play an Oracle and pay for taxing counters (Mystical Dispute, Censor) if you expect them. It also helps to go to Arena’s settings and enable “Auto Order Triggered Abilities”, to avoid having to click even more than you already are. My last tip to optimize the combo is to get a deck tracker (I use untapped.gg) to keep your land count and chance to have a land on top of your library in mind. This helps you decide if you have enough lands in your library to mill your opponent out with Ruin Crab, if you don’t have the mana or Lotus Cobra to play an Oracle to win the game.
If you want to be extra sure
You’re probably wondering: what’s our plan if we empty our library and get our Thassa’s Oracle countered? We just say good game and concede in shame… but if you want to play around that, you can include a Bala Ged Recovery or Pact of Negation.
Bala Ged Recovery gets our Oracle back from the graveyard and doubles up as a land for matchups where we don’t expect disruption. I almost included it in the deck, but I found that protecting the combo didn’t come up and instead it slowed me down several times by coming into play tapped, or not counting as a land on the top of the library for Risen Reef triggers. Pact of Negation lets you counter the opposing counter for free, but feels very clunky in other scenarios. If you expect a very control heavy meta, I suggest cutting Ancient Greenwarden for these. You only need them as a one-off, since you’ll end up with every card of your deck in your hand. Ancient Greenwarden is powerful but as bad against control, as counterspells and removal are good against it.
Wrapping it up
I hope you had fun on this two-part journey through my brewing process around Ruin Crab. Check out the previous article if you haven’t yet, and be sure to take these bad boys for a spin if you have the Wildcards (I don’t want to encourage you to craft The Mending of Dominaria or Arcane Adaptation if you are short on wildcards!). I’ll see you again with a fresh Kaladesh Remastered brew in a week or two.
Until then, stay safe and keep on brewing!