EDH - Building a Rube Goldberg Machine

Orren Mckay • February 4, 2020

I am not a fan of infinite combos in EDH.  I think they feel like a flat and unfulfilling way to win most of the time.  But every now and then you have to listen to the devil on your other shoulder.  In this post I will be discussing building a potentially infinite Primal Surge deck using the Shattergang Brothers as the general.

[Note: for reference, a Rube Goldberg Machine is (according to Wikipedia) "...a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way." Link]

The premise of the deck is pretty straightforward.  Cast Primal Surge, win the game.  Also include options in the deck to repeatedly cast Primal Surge if you are so inclined.  The multiple castings shouldn't be necessary.  Our goal with Primal Surge is that went cast, it will put our entire deck into play (except the cards in your hand). If you can't win with all of your deck on the table, you have made bad choices in your life to get you to this point.  As we are building the deck, we will need to carefully consider the limitations of Primal Surge and take a look at both its wording and the rulings related to the card.

From the Gatherer
From the Gatherer

Primal Surge exiles the top card of your library.  You can put the card into play if it is a permanent.  If you do this, repeat the process until you cannot or do not.  What this means for us deck-wise is that we can only have a single instant or sorcery in the deck, Primal Surge itself.  If we have any others, hitting them when we cast the Surge will stop the process.  

The second thing from the rulings is that if you hit something you can't legally put into play (like an aura) that will also derail us.  With the exception of a couple of auras that enchant lands (because you should always have a few lands in play) no auras will be included in the deck.  The final part of the rulings to consider is how triggers will go on the stack.  It states that any triggers wait to go on the stack until Primal Surge has finished resolving.  This means that Primal Surge has put all the permanents into play and is in the graveyard before any triggers from permanents it puts into play go on the stack.  This allows us to get Primal Surge back with an Eternal Witness that has been put into play with Primal Surge.  I hope by now you are starting to get that Rube Goldberg feel.  It only gets better.

We have two parts of our machine, Eternal Witness and Primal Surge.  Next we need a way to recycle our cards.  The easiest way to do this is to get them in the graveyard then back in the deck for the next casting of the Surge.  Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre both have the shuffle effect we want.  If we put these guys into play using Primal Surge we don't get their "on cast" effects, but that doesn't matter.  The shuffle is what we are after.  Next we need a way to sacrifice them.  In come:  Goblin Bombardment, Phyrexian Altar and Ashnod's Altar.  These combined with the sacrifice abilities of the Shattergang Brothers handle that.

Mana is also an issue we need to consider with repeated castings of Primal Surge. Including Zuran Orb will allow us to toss lands into the graveyard (and then deck) to be put back into play untapped with the next Surge.  I guess it is also an infinite life option if you care about that kind of thing. With us only ever planning on casting one sorcery in the deck, it seems like it should be uncounterable.  Boseiju, Who Shelters All will help with that.  Amulet of Vigor will make it even on later iterations (sac Boseiju with the other lands and it will come back with the Surge and untap with the amulet, ready for the next casting).  Vexing Shusher will give us a little extra uncounterablity redundancy and cover any gaps in the cycle where Boseiju might be failing us.

[Note: at this point in my typing, you can't see it but I have a huge smile on my face thinking about the stack this deck creates.  We aren't even done yet.]

Now that we have the main pieces of the cycle we are creating, it needs to do something horrible to our opponents.  My initial thought was to leave them with no permanents.  

After thinking about it for a while and considering our general, it seemed stealing most of them might be a better option.  Woodfall Primus, Strip Mine and our general do a pretty good job with the destruction end of things.  Throw in It that Betrays and our general again making opponents sacrifice gives us the theft.  Acidic Slime will give us some destruction redundancy.  Sadly it doesn't hit planeswalkers like the primus but no strange slime monster is perfect.  Ghost Quarter goes in to provide a little extra strip mining.  I know this may sound oddly specific, but Massacre Wurm goes in just in case some unforeseen creature strangeness like Sigarda, Host of Herons happens.  You can repeatedly cycle the wurm in your surging to give your opponents creatures -2/-2 repeatedly to get around the "no sacrifice" effect from Sigarda.  Once she dies from zero toughness, the sacrifices can begin in earnest.

A critical aspect of the deck we have yet to address is how to find the Primal Surge.  Drawing it naturally is too slow and unlikely.  Unfortunately, we are limited to permanent based tutoring.  Liliana Vess, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Tamiyo's Journal and Rune-Scarred Demon seem like good choices here.  I am also testing out Wishclaw Talisman as kind of a one-shot tutor for the Surge turn.  We never, ever want to help our opponents so only use it when your evil opponents shouldn't be getting another turn.  The jury is still out on this one.  Razaketh, the Foulblooded, Ring of Three Wishes and Planar Portal aren't bad options either, but they fall on the more expensive side mana-wise.  More play testing will tell if adding the last three are needed or not.  For card selection (and kind of just because) Sylvan Library and Underrealm Lich have also been included.  I find their interaction intriguing.

Getting up to ten mana to cast Primal Surge is the next on our list of issues to address.  Having access to green helps us but we can't take advantage of ramp staples like Cultivate and Explosive Vegetation.  All of it needs to be permanent-based.  Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, Springbloom Druid and good ole' Solemn Simulacrum are definite includes.  Also, note that the card draw when the Solemn dies is a "may" effect, so we don't have to draw if doing so would be bad for us.  Something you need to keep an eye on when you have a deck that should have no cards in its library if things go according to plan.  Throw in Deathrite Shaman and Lotus Cobra for good measure and then a big pile of mana rocks.  Wild Growth, Fertile Ground and Overgrowth are included for more accel and to provide a few extra enchantments to sac to our general if we need them.  They are a little dangerous for our Surge because they're aura's, but keep a land in play to toss them on when you cast Primal Surge and you should have nothing to worry about.

All that is left at this point is to round the deck out with cards that can do interesting things.  Avenger of Zendikar plus a lot of landfall triggers and a Stalking Vengeance can outright kill opponents when you start saccing big plants.  Nesting Dragon should make a swarm of soon to be Dragon Whelps at the same time.  (I just noticed that the hatched dragons don't explode like the whelps...)

A little more redundancy is worth adding in.  Greenwarden of Murasa to back up the Eternal Witness for example.  Dragonlord Kolaghan gives everything haste if you feel the need to attack.  Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is included to give you the chance to even further complicate the stack.  At this point in deck construction, you can pretty much flavor it to your own tastes and embrace your hatred.

I considered going in other directions with this deck when I was putting it together.  It could easily have blue instead of red as the third color.  This would let you play Laboratory Maniac and anything to let you draw a card (Sensei's Divining Top?) to auto win from a Surge.  I ended up not being so crazy about this because someone killing the Lab Maniac would cause you to lose from the card draw.  You could, of course, combat this with having an Alchemist's Refuge or Vedalken Orrery allow you to re-Surge as an instant, but this ends with us building a different machine.

The thought of that stack also makes me smile.

Adding in a Grinning Totem would let you play all of your opponents decks if you were so inclined.  Mana wouldn't be an issue thanks to Gilded Lotus and Darksteel Ingot.  If you remove all of your opponent's lands with the totem, you could also Oblivion Sower to get them into play for yourself.  You'd have to bounce the Sower and actually cast it to get this effect, but that is doable by adding in Erratic Portal or another bounce effect.  I had World Breaker on the short list of cards to include because you could get him back from the graveyard to cast to get his exile effect.  Ghost Quarter and Boseiju, Who Shelters All give us just enough colorless to make him work.

As you can see, there are many ways to go with this deck.  Green and Black or even mono-Green should also be fairly viable.  There are many paths available when building decks on the dark side.  If you have to go there, do your best to get the poison out quickly and return to the light.

1  Acidic Slime
1  Amulet of Vigor
1  Arcane Signet
1  Ashnod's Altar
1  Avenger of Zendikar
1  Badlands
1  Bayou
1  Blood Crypt
1  Bloodstained Mire
1  Bolas's Citadel
1  Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1  Chancellor of the Forge
1  Command Tower
1  Darksteel Ingot
1  Deathrite Shaman
1  Dockside Extortionist
1  Dragonlord Kolaghan
1  Elvish Reclaimer
1  Eternal Witness
1  Farhaven Elf
1  Fertile Ground
1  Fleshbag Marauder
10 Forest
1  Ghost Quarter
1  Gilded Lotus
1  Goblin Bombardment
1  Greenwarden of Murasa
1  It That Betrays
1  Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1  Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1  Liliana Vess
1  Lotus Cobra
1  Mana Crypt
1  Mana Vault
1  Massacre Wurm
5 Mountain
1  Nesting Dragon
1  Overgrown Tomb
1  Overgrowth
1  Pashalik Mons
1  Phyrexian Altar
1  Pitiless Plunderer
1  Primal Surge
1  Prismatic Vista
1  Realm Seekers
1  Rune-Scarred Demon
1  Sensei's Divining Top
1  Shattergang Brothers 
1  Shefet Monitor
1  Sidisi, Undead Vizier
1  Sling-Gang Lieutenant
1  Sol Ring
1  Solemn Simulacrum
1  Springbloom Druid
1  Stalking Vengeance
1  Stomping Ground
1  Strip Mine
9 Swamp
1  Sylvan Library
1  Taiga
1  Talisman of Impulse
1  Talisman of Indulgence
1  Talisman of Resilience
1  Tamiyo's Journal
1  Thran Dynamo
1  Tireless Tracker
1  Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1  Ulvenwald Hydra
1  Underrealm Lich
1  Verdant Catacombs
1  Vexing Shusher
1  Wayfarer's Bauble
1  Wild Growth
1  Wishclaw Talisman
1  Wood Elves
1  Wooded Foothills
1  Woodfall Primus
1  Zulaport Cutthroat
1  Zuran Orb

Shattergang Brothers Rube Goldberg Deck on Tappedout.net