Destroy Everything

When I make Legacy decks I like to see what sorts of cards used to be made that haven’t been made in a long time (and possibly will never be made again, so Legacy / Vintage is the only place they can live). One of these cards is Armageddon. They were making Armageddon variants right up till Time Spiral (with Boom // Bust) but I think they realised that its hard to put a price on destroying multiple lands and that a lot of casual groups (like mine) were banning mass LD because it’s not very fun to have a card that says “stop the game, then start it over again in five turns (except for the player who was prepared for this card to hit)”. One of the nice things about competitive formats like Legacy is that people can’t really complain about what cards you use as long as you’re ultimately trying to win (Shahrazad was banned in Vintage because people were just using it to prolong the games rather than win).

Anyway, Armageddons were a dollar each and I didn’t really know what else to use with it (I didn’t just want to try and budgetize Stax or White Weenie), so I looked at other options. Global Ruin seems cool but its buddy that makes it worth trying to get domain (Collective Restraint) was surprisingly expensive. I guess there are people playing 5 color Commander decks online… isn’t that meant to be a social format? Each to their own I guess.

Instead of just trying to destroy lands, then, why not destroy everything? I know white is usually the color of balance / fairness / trying too hard to purify things (look at the flavor text on Barren Glory), but when I write it out like that, destroying everything really feels red to me. And Wizards agrees, making cards like Worldfire, Decree of Annihilation, and also some that don’t cost a stupid amount of mana – Jokulhaups and Apocalypse, which are the key cards in this deck. Ok maybe Jokul doesn’t quite destroy ‘everything’, but as if anyone uses enchantments. And we’ve got plenty of creatures willing to play the Slash Panther role to deal with Jace (this was a serious tactic used in Vintage a little while ago).

The key to taking advantage of the Apocalypse is to have some creatures hiding in safe places like the suspend creatures waiting in the exile zone, ready to come out and mop up the opponent while they’re trying to rebuild. Since this is a creature deck, it can also ‘play fair’ without even blowing up the world and just see if anyone out there can deal with a 4/1 first striker.

The Deck

4 Tinder Farm
4 Dwarven Ruins
4 Pinecrest Ridge

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Shivan Sand-Mage
4 Giant Dustwasp
4 Keldon Halberdier
4 Durkwood Baloth

2 Faithless Looting
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Apocalypse
4 Jokulhaups

This deck comes to $4. The most expensive card is the Birds at 30c each, but it’s the kind of card that you will probably use in other decks especially if it gets reprinted in Standard – I already had four of them. You can add more money to the deck with better lands and/or Greater Gargadon (which can eat up your permanents that were going to die to apocalypse anyway) but I figured this is the sort of deck that you want to keep as cheap as possible, just as a ‘fun’ deck.

The mana, surprisingly, works out here. Pinecrest Ridge was originally put in partly to fit in with the theme of using extremely janky cards, but in this deck I would rather have my land tapped on the second turn than on the first turn so then I can begin with my accelerator. You rearely need to tap it down a second time until you’re ready to destroy everything. Search for Tomorrow is also a good fixer as it brings in the land untapped even when hardcast so you can use it straight away to suspend something. (It doesn’t really matter when you suspend as long as it’s within four turns before you blow up… unless you’re trying to play fair instead, then you want to be suspending asap).

In my last Legacy deck I also used lands that sacrifice themselves for extra mana – if the spell you cast is going to win the game anyway, you don’t really need the land any more, or in this deck, you’re going to lose the land anyway when you blow up, so you may as well get something out of it. That deck used the depletion land and crystal vein because speed was more important and it also wanted to cast some three drops, whereas in this deck mana fixing is more important and there are no three drops. In this deck, sometimes you have the mana to blow up everything but you still wait because you want the opponent to put out more cards from their hand first. If they know what’s coming, they could keep a swamp and Reanimate in their hand while their creatures are safe in the graveyard.

The creatures were chosen mainly for being the only suspend creatures in their colors. Pardic Dragon could be good but sometimes gives mana / timing issues and could take forever to come out. I used to have Strangleroot Geist in place of the Dustwasp which allows this deck to fight better early on / fairly and still works with Jokulhaups but unfortunately it doesn’t work with Apocalypse since that exiles it. I don’t mind presenting my opponents with removal targets like birds and geist early on, since my ‘blow up everything’ spell doesn’t take out their hand so if they manage to draw a land, they can still use their removal in the post apocalyptic stage and kill the moppers.

I didn’t want to use too many copies of faithless looting in this deck since it sometimes takes all the cards in your hand to go off adequately so you end up just discarding what you drew. You don’t want multiples of destroy everything spells and there are already eight in the deck, so you don’t have to play fairly too often. The other utility here is Lightning bolt, mainly used for killing enemy creatures to buy you another turn alive, because I had the space for it, I hardly ever put removal in the decks in this blog and felt like a change.

Practice Matches

My first game was against what appeared to be a mono black domain deck (using ravnica shocklands). They played some value creatures like kitchen finks and gatekeeper of malakir that got tangled up with the geists I used to have in the deck, then conceded when I cast Jokulhaups to blow up about six of their lands.

My second game was against an interesting combo – they used Buried Alive to search for Phyrexian Devourer, Triskelion and Necrotic Ooze, then reanimated the ooze (in this case, with Zombify). The ooze doesn’t have the devourer’s triggered ability of having to die when it gets to seven power, but even if it did, they could respond to the trigger by putting more counters on and then firing them at the opponent with the trisk ability. However, they decided to search up their eldrazi instead (they told me they wanted to see if they could win without their combo). I blew up all the lands before they could reanimate anything, but they managed to draw four more lands before my leftover creatures finished trying to kill them, and they would have won if it’d been the real combo.

They challenged me to a rematch, this time burying alive for the real combo. I was a turn later than I would have liked in getting the mana for Jokulhaups but they didn’t have a reanimate spell in hand and spent their next turn tutoring for it, so I got to blow everything up and they never drew enough lands to get back in the game. Afterwards we chatted more about crazy combos (isn’t it nice to make new Magic friends?) and then I was tired so I didn’t test the deck again that night.

Game Over

Sometimes when you have the basic idea for a deck it takes a few tires to figure out exactly how you want to implement it, but it’s nice to see it running smoothly enough in the end.

Next week instead of a new deck I’ll go back over the decks I’ve made so far, except the Standard decks that aren’t legal anymore. Give them another go or two and see what we think of them in hindsight. Until then, enjoy the spoiler season and keep a lookout for the Gatecrash cards that you really want to see used in a deck.



Tribal Keyrunes

The old Tribal format required you to have twenty cards of the same creature type. Keyrunes are not a creature type, but there are twenty in this deck (five different keyrunes, four copies of each). This deck is Standard legal. I wonder if Gatecrash will bring us keyrunes of the other five guilds? It seems likely for the sake of completing the cycle and adding enough mana fixing to the set, but there’s only so many different combinations of power, toughness and abilities they can use. I guess Orzhov = 2/2 lifelink, Dimir perhaps 2/2 unblockable (it’s not strictly better than flying), Simic I have no idea, Gruul maybe a 3/2 trample, and Boros can’t be first strike because Rakdos already took it, but double strike is not a great ability for a card that can’t carry auras or equipment very well. Whoops I seem to have got way off track.

So what are we going to do with so much mana? (I’m not planning on beating people to death with keyrunes, though that might be the way to go on odd occasion. It’s nice to be able to pick the right tool for the job though it would be better if we usually had enough mana to activate ’em all). A lot of giant creatures we might want to cast don’t fit into our budget, are better off reanimated than hardcast, and don’t give enough guarantee of winning the game. Nicol Bolas is not the most friendly guy around either. I have always wanted to try Army of the Damned especially now that people aren’t using as much mass removal. But there are even crazier ways to win, like Primal Surge.

There are a few ways to Surge. You could run three or four copies with no other instants and sorceries and hope that when you cast it, it doesn’t fizzle too quickly by running into another surge. Back when M12 was legal you could run a single surge with four Rune-Scarred Demon to fetch it and be guaranteed no fizzle. This deck tries to do something similar by using four Diabolic Revelation and one surge as the only instants or sorceries. You can Revelation for X = 4 to take out the other three copies (yes, your hand is a weird place to hide cards) as well as getting the Surge which can be cast the following turn with no fizzle. It then flips up the lab maniac and visionary to win straight away. If there is a problem with this approach (like you’ve already drawn both visionaries or you think the opponent has instant speed removal for your maniacs), you can always choose not to flip your entire library and win with the door (which is really there for win con redundancy) or bash them with twenty keyrunes.

Topping off the deck is Gilded Lotus. Even a deck with twenty keyrunes sometimes needs a little help getting from zero to ten mana fast enough so that you don’t die in between setting up the win and actually winning. Lotuses are $1 apiece, the single Primal Surge is almost $2, and all together the deck comes to $7.

The Deck

4 Plains
4 Island
5 Swamp
4 Mountain
5 Forest
4 Evolving Wilds

2 Elvish Visionary
2 Laboratory Maniac

4 Azorius Keyrune
4 Golgari Keyrune
4 Izzet Keyrune
4 Rakdos Keyrune
4 Selesnya Keyrune
4 Diabolic Revelation
1 Door to Nothingness
4 Gilded Lotus
1 Primal Surge

Practice Matches

I played a couple of games in the just for fun room yesterday, but had to leave midway through the second game when it looked like I might have been able to win. So today I decided to play until I won a game with Primal Surge. I lost at least four times. One game I didn’t have double black for diabolic. Some games I didn’t draw enough lands to be able to get out keyrunes quickly (or at all). It doesn’t seem right to get mana screwed in a deck with fifty mana sources. Some games I’d have enough mana to cast diabolic, but not enough life to survive a turn so I’d have to leave mana open to fight with keyrunes instead and eventually get worn down. One game I was going to Door my opponent, but they Oblivion ringed it. Another player kept ringing my keyrunes. I saw a few interesting decks out there. Some had Invisible Stalker with Ethereal Armor (one of which soulbonded the stalker with a Nearheath Pilgrim). One of them soulbonded a Thragtusk to a Silverblade Paladin, then used Selesnya Charm to let the giant Tusk trample over my keyrunes.

The first player I beat was using a really weird deck which had a bunch of ramp spells, a Curse of Bloodletting, and a Falkenrath Exterminator. I played pretty conservatively around the Exterminator so it wouldn’t get any counters, even though they Geistflamed one of my Visionaries. I had drawn both visionaries which would have slowed down a surge win, but I had drawn a Door so I figured I’d aim towards using that instead. They had an Abundant Growth and used it to cast an Ethereal Armor on the Exterminator though they hadn’t been picking up any white sources with their Farseeks. Then they Mark of Mutiny’ed my lab maniac that I’d played as a blocker and hit me for 14. However once it had returned to me they didn’t have a way to get through it the turn after so I played my gilded lotus and door to nothingness and they conceded. They told me they’d been waiting to draw Fling all game. It was they weirdest deck / player I think I’ve ever played against.

The second player I beat was using a red/green humans deck. I got a fast start with a third turn keyrune, fourth turn Lotus plus extra keyrune while they started off slowly with no real plays until their third turn Riot Ringleader. However, they followed that up with a Mayor of Avabruck and a Splatter Thug which would have been just enough to wipe me out if I’d taken a turn off to diabolic. Keeping mana open for the keyrunes forced them to play more conservatively which gave me time to get out enough mana to cast a diabolic and an elvish visionary on the same turn (I had drawn three diabolics already so I cast one for X = 3 and grabbed the last diabolic, primal surge and the visionary as blocker, hoping I didn’t topdeck the other visionary). The visionary made his sacrifice getting splattered by the thug, and I cast surge the turn after putting my whole deck onto the field and winning with the lab maniac as planned.

Game Over

This was one of my weirder decks and it required a bit of thinking to figure out if I could leave mana open for the keyrunes I wanted to activate or if I had a chance of going for the win, but it was fun to play and freaked out my opponents in true Johnny style (I got a few comments when people saw keyrunes in all the colors of the rainbow). By a nice conincidence, the fortnightly timing of this article means the Christmas season will be done once it’s time for the next one, so you won’t miss out on any budget workshop – I’ll see you back here at the usual time next year. Perhaps it’s time for another Legacy deck. I don’t have anything planned yet.

Merry Christmas and happy new year to you all!


Lost in the Zone

Several years ago, WotC defined three player archetypes based on the main reasons people play Magic. They had Timmy (who wants to have fun), Johnny (who wants to be creative) and Spike (who wants to win). Some players believed that they had missed out on another player archetype and called him Dave (who wants to piss off other players). WotC eventually acknowledged the existence of Dave, filing him as a subset of Timmy known as ‘Griefer Timmy’. Today’s deck is a bit of a Dave deck. It comes in at $2.50.

Back in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor days there were a couple of powerful cards which could combine to allow you to buy back a counterspell – these were Cryptic Command and Nucklavee. Choose to return your own Nucklavee to your hand, replay it on your own turn to get your Cryptic back, and repeat. M13 allowed us to do pretty much the same thing with two much worse cards – Lost in the Mist and Archaeomancer.

Roughly as hated as counterspells is land destruction. The combination of Acidic Slime and Deadeye Navigator will allow you to wipe out multiple lands every turn by blinking the Slime and then re-pairing it with the Navigator. If you can’t find a Navigator, Conjurer’s Closet will still allow you to blink once per turn. Elvish Visionary and the previously mentioned Archaeomancer also like being blinked.

Rounding out the deck, apart from the lands and ramp cards, is all-star Cyclonic Rift. It can be cast early to prevent you taking too much damage, then returned with Archaeomancer and overloaded later in the game. You can cast it after destroying the opponent’s lands so they can’t re-cast the cards that got returned to hand, or cast it at the end of their turn and be ready with a counterspell next turn when they try to re-cast.

The Deck

12 Forest
13 Island

4 Elvish Visionary
4 Archaeomancer
4 Acidic Slime
4 Deadeye Navigator

4 Cyclonic Rift
4 Farseek
4 Ranger’s Path
Conjurer’s Closet
4 Lost in the Mist

Practice Matches

First match was against w/u aggro. Their creatures weren’t very good, and I bounced and blocked a few, but I never drew an archaeomancer, closet or a navigator, so I lost to mana flood (while they never seemed to need more than two mana for anything).

Second match was also against w/u aggo. They made a cavern of souls set to human, but I destroyed it with a slime. They O-ringed my slime (a dangerous move) and beat me down to 1 life with exalted creatures but then I drew another slime, blew up the ring, and blew up another land. They chose to trade with my slimes / visionaries and so the board ended up with their two human tokens and my one slime. I had to hold ctrl to cast ranger’s path retaining priority so I could counter it with my own lost in the mist to bounce one human token and stay alive. After I cast another slime and a closet to bring them down to one land, they conceded.

Third match was against g/w aggro. They got a slow start despite having a couple of mana dorks and an ajani, because there was no forest for arbor elf to untap. They tried to make their elf really big, but I had a cyclonic rift to reset their board and then went into the slime / closet combo and they conceded.

Game Over

I’ll probably play some more games with this deck later on and let you know how they went in the comment section. I’ll be back just after the Mayan apocalypse with the last post for the year, and then it’ll be holiday season followed by Gatecrash spoiler season. Sounds good to me!


Morning Coffee

Slumbering Dragon is a card that captured the imagination of many players when it was first spoiled in M13. It’s a very flavorful card – as the first four folks come in to loot his treasure he begins to stir and by the time the fifth comes in he wakes up and unleashes his fury. Some players have taken advantage of the fact that he’s a one mana dragon with cards like Descendants’ Path and Call to the Kindred to summon really big dragons like Utvara Hellkite. But in this article I’ll be ripping off a slightly different well-known strategy – giving him some coffee to wake him up sooner, in the form of Increasing Devotion and Blessings of Nature. Falkenrath Exterminator also likes coffee. He likes it mixed with blood. Slumbering Dragon likes it blacker than the blackest black times infinity.

Those four cards are all from the previous Standard, but Return to Ravnica brings a whole bunch of new baristas to try out, like Corpsejack Menace… that dude is a freakin’ coffee machine.

The Deck

4 Transguild Promenade
4 Gavony Township
4 Rakdos Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Swamp
1 Mountain
6 Forest
2 Plains

3 Slitherhead
4 Slumbering Dragon
4 Falkenrath Exterminator
4 Fencing Ace
4 Sewer Shambler
4 Corpsejack Menace

4 Grisly Salvage
1 Chromatic Lantern
4 Increasing Savagery
4 Blessings of Nature

Let’s start at the top. The mana base may not look great, as this is a four color deck, and you’re welcome to try and improve on it with rare dual lands if you own any. But before buying the cards I solo tested this deck and found that it didn’t run into serious mana issues. I’ll explain the principles I followed to design it.

Transguild Promenade seems expensive for a land, but the more colors you are running, the more it increases in value. Evolving Wilds, on the other hand, doesn’t do as much for a struggling mana base. For example, if you had a swamp, forest and an evolving wilds, you might search for a mountain but then draw fencing ace, or search for a plains and then draw exterminator, or it might even turn out that you actually needed another forest for Increasing Savagery. I’d rather cover more bases by using guildgates. But I want to make sure that at least half the lands in my deck come into play untapped so I have a chance to cast my spells on the curve (or immediately after topdecking a land). If all your lands come into play tapped then you’ve basically given your opponent a free Time Walk at the start of the game.

So which guildgates should I use? Why choose a Rakdos Guildgate and a Forest rather than a Golgari Guildgate and a Mountain? Well, because the first configuration will allow me to play Grisly Salvage, and the second won’t. I have no R/B costs so I’m happy to run four Rakdos gates and only use one color of mana at a time (it’s only a drawback when I want to cast multiple cards in one turn, like a dragon followed by a shambler). I have only one G/W cost and by the time I’m activating the Township I’ll probably have a Forest anyway, so I have no problem running Selesnya Guildgate.

So with such strict color requirements why a I running the Township? Because it’s a really good card. It can’t be easily removed or interacted with, and it’s repeatable, so it’s a very reliable source of +1/+1 counters which this deck runs on, allowing you to fight against more controlling decks that have ways of dealing with your one-shot effects. And the Corpsejack Menace literally makes it twice as good. (And if nothing else it can still tap for mana – there’s plenty of colorless mana in mana costs in this deck. That’s what makes utility lands so great, they’re useful even in the worst case). At $1 apiece, the four Townships make up half the cost of this $8 deck, but I already owned them from a previous deck (-:

The final piece of the mana puzzle is Chromatic Lantern. It instantly washes away all mana problems apart from your lands coming into play tapped. However, it’s got a bit of an upfront payment and it’s a ramp card, but I’ve got nothing at five mana to ramp into except an un-miracled Blessings of Nature, so I don’t want too many Lanterns. (It would also be funny if I drew it in game 1 and the opponent assumed it was a key part of my strategy and sideboarded artifact hate against it. Not that I’ve played any sideboarded games recently).

Ok, now onto the cards that actually do the work. I’ve already mentioned how great Increasing Savagery is at waking up a Slumbering Dragon in one turn, but don’t forget it also has flashback. With Corpsejack Menace, flashing it back gives any creature enough power to call itself Phage, and all of my games so far have been won by a single creature attacking for over 10 damage. At 40c apiece, Savagery is the second most expensive card in the deck (it’s come down since Innistrad block constructed stopped being a format).

One way to get Savagery into your graveyard to flash it back is with Grisly Salvage. This card is a real multi-tool, putting scavenge creatures into the bin as well as finding the key cards of your deck like Corpsejack, Township or the coffee drinkers. I wouldn’t put Slitherhead into an ordinary aggro deck since black has more aggressive creatures and green has better creatures that don’t care if they die (like Young Wolf), but when Salvage is involved, it’s literally free value, and if your opponent never attacks into your slumbering dragon then slitherhead can team up with blessings of nature to wake it up. Scavenge creatures don’t mind a bit of coffee if no one else is around to drink it, because even if the opponent kills the now enlarged creature then you still get a benefit out of it later. And don’t forget Sewer Shambler’s swampwalk, ’cause being unblockable wins games.

If my deck is all about putting +1/+1 counters on creatures, I want to have more than eight (like the dragon and exterminator from the original deck). Eight-of means you might never draw one in some rare games (though Salvage alleviates this problem) and since creatures are fragile I will often want to draw more than one. Fencing Ace is less picky about what it drinks than the dragon, it’s happy to have auras instead, but it will still double the effectiveness of any +1/+1 counters placed on it. Why does it have to be a white card, though? Well I already needed white in the deck for gavony township, and there’s only three cards in the deck that explicitly produce white mana so it’s not distorting the deck too much. It would have been harder to cast the red double strike alternative (Markov Blademaster) because of the heavier color weight in its cost.

Practice Matches

First game was against a Golgari deck. They used Abrupt Decay and Tragic Slip to exterminate a couple of Exterminators, and also Decayed a dragon that had finally grown big enough and was on a suicide mission to trade with their Vraska anyway. They didn’t use their Vraska very well in my opinion. Firstly they never used the -3 to kill off my Corpsejack Menace that their other removal couldn’t kill. Secondly they built Vraska up to 8 counters before ultimating so she would still be alive (what’s the point of that? She’s not going to do anything useful for three more turns after that anyway, may as well get the assassins a turn sooner. I didn’t even notice they did this at first since I assumed her ultimate cost -8). It ended up being an intense showdown…

They were on 20 life with no cards in hand and had an 11/11 Slitherhead thanks to a flashbacked Savagery, a korodza guildmage and a Jarad that was still a 2/2 despite such a long game and them casting Salvage. They also had the three assassins. I had a 9/9 dragon (it was awake), a Corpsejack menace, an exterminator in my hand, a slitherhead in my graveyard, a township and five other lands, and was on 15 life. I’d taken some damage at the start of the game because I didn’t want to chump with my slitherhead, I thought it would do more later on (and I was right, it ended up chumping that 11/11). So I was planning on casting exterminator, scavenging slitherhead onto it, killing an assassin, leaving the exterminator and corpsejack to block the other two assassins, attacking with the dragon for 9, hoping they didn’t draw a removal spell, and then townshipping and attacking with the dragon for the final 11 (thanks corpsejack) the next turn. But then I realised that they had enough damage to kill me with the non assassin creatures! I would have had to still make the 3/3 exterminator and use it to kill Jarad so they couldn’t fling the giant slitherhead at me (they didn’t have enough lands to sac two to raise Jarad, cast him again and fling the slitherhead all in one turn). But that would mean I’d have to keep all of my creatures back to defend against the assassins. (On the plus side, if they did alpha strike me, the attacks would make the dragon big enough to kill them in one hit the turn after – thanks corpsejack).

However, it all ended up being irrelevant as I topdecked an Increasing Savagery. So I scavenged the Slitherhead onto the dragon instead, Savagery’ed it to make it 21/21 and killed them in one hit in the air (-:

Second game was against a mono blue creature based mill deck. I saw Shriekgeist, Mindshrieker and Crosstown Courier. They also drew some cards with Alchemist’s Apprentice and Divination but I don’t know what they were looking for. They milled a Shambler into my graveyard which I scavenged onto an exterminator and used it to kill all their creatures. Then I made some really big creatures and attacked them. The funny moment of the game was when they used Chant of the Skifsang on my dragon, so even if I could wake it up it wouldn’t have been able to do any damage anyway.

Third game was against a Rakdos control deck. It ended up being a heartless summoning deck but they didn’t cast the namesake card until their last turn. I started off with a Slitherhead and a Falkenrath Exterminator. They didn’t cast anything for three turns so I suspected a sweeper and was right, they used Barter in Blood. It wasn’t really a 2-for-1 though because slitherhead wants to die. But the sad thing was I then topdecked Blessings and couldn’t miracle it. I got out a corpsejack menace, they got out a bloodgift demon, I got out an exterminator and scavenged slitherhead onto it (before attacking with the corpsejack, so if they traded I’d still get two counters). They didn’t trade, instead used disciple of bolas on their next turn to sacrifice the demon. I could have cast a big counter-making spell (had multiple in hand) but figured they’d just chump block with the disciple, so I killed the disciple (with exterminator) instead and attacked with both creatures putting them back to 11. They Severed the Bloodline on the Exterminator and cast their namesake enchantment, leaving only one mana up. So it was fairly straightforward to hardcast blessings of nature onto corpsejack menace and one-shot the opponent on the empty board.

Game Over

Although it looks like a weird deck it ended up being really fun to play (that might be partly because I got easy opponents). Golgari definitely got a lot of the cooler cards and strategies from the last two blocks and I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see them show up in this column.
Till next fortnight, have fun.



Aggro decks are usually good choices for the budget player considering that they often use common creatures and spells to play a straightforward game of attack, clear your guys out of the way, burn you for the last few life points. However, there have been times when really good rares or even mythics have made it into aggro decks, like Eventide’s Figure of Destiny. Right now your wallet shouldn’t hate you too much as long as you’re not packing Thragtusk and Angel of Serenity, but there are still plenty of pricey cards out there like Gravecrawler, Silverblade Paladin and the shocklands.

This deck eschews such options in favor of everyone’s favorite tribe, humans. Since creatures are your main source of damage you want to make sure you have plenty of them. They have been chosen for their stats, mana costs and ability to trigger Champion of the Parish (still a dollar each, but if you already have them from a previous deck, the rest of the deck is $2 all together). Most of them can also wear a Bonds of Faith if there are no enemy creatures to put it on (goes well on enemy Thragtusks if the opponent can’t blink them, so you don’t have to deal with the 3/3 token) but don’t Bond your Reckless Waif or Cloistered Youth if you’re planning to flip it!

The Deck

9 Mountain
8 Plains
4 Evolving Wilds

4 Champion of the Parish
4 Reckless Waif
4 Cloistered Youth
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Kessig Malcontents

4 Pillar of Flame
4 Silver-Inlaid Dagger
3 Bonds of Faith
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Brimstone Volley

You can replace evo wilds with Clifftop Retreat but it costs extra.
You’ll need to decide whether to use your burn spells and auras to remove enemy creatures or to do extra damage. If you get a rare opportunity to use Morbid then it might be correct to aim your brimstone volley straight at the opponent’s face for 5.
Don’t forget about the life loss on the back end of the Cloistered Youth and accidentally kill yourself.

Practice Matches

First game was against a Rakdos control deck. After mulliganing to four, copping a ton of removal and not drawing any of my own, I lost a close race with a Nighthawk.

Second game was against Esper tokens. They didn’t seem to get any token spells, only lords, auras and card draw, so I won in five turns.

Third game was against an Izzet pile (looked like it had been made from the leftovers of a draft). However piles can beat you – especially this deck that works better when the opponent doesn’t use many creatures. I got a bit mana flooded, my only creatures were two Champions that were eventually annihilated with fire.

Fourth game was against another Izzet deck, I got an aggressive draw (champion into gather into bonds on a gather token) and fought my way through a couple of electromancers and a chemister to still win on the fifth turn.

Fifth game was against a Frites deck that got a flashbacked lingering souls and cast a bunch of acidic slimes to fight off my slow draw and destroy all my mountains and equipment and eventually hardcast a craterhoof for the win.

Game Over

Still got a bunch of weirder things I’m working on but decided to go with the cheapest and simplest option for this fortnight (the more a deck costs, the worse you feel if it ends up sucking). We still got a while to go before Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze spoilers to come though so feel free to experiment, it’s always a good time to be playing Magic.


DIY Eldrazi

To my regular readers (if I have any): Sorry about the lack of a post last fortnight. It was caused by a combination of illness, lack of money, and no good deck ideas. Innistrad and Return to Ravnica are great blocks, but a lot of the powerful (and expensive) cards have already been figured out and are hard to compete with. Maybe I’m just too critical of my own ideas. Fortunately I still have records of my ‘failed’ ideas and I might try to ressurect them for future columns.

I ended up throwing today’s Modern deck together at the last minute based on an old Ravnica card that I’ve always wanted to use. It’s had a pretty mediocre performance in the non-competitive room – sometimes it stumbles on itself and is a turn too slow, or sometimes the opponent has removal (why are they always trying to ruin my fun?) I decided not to do detailed match reports for this deck since it plays out pretty similarly each time and doesn’t interact much with the opponent until it has a makeshift Eldrazi out.

On the other hand, last month’s deck ‘Dork Tower’ has done much better in that same room against the Standard field (I didn’t end up making a sideboard for it, but maybe I will someday). In at least ten games, it’s only lost three times – once to a red player who kept removing the dorks, once to Mizzium Mortars after a slow start, and once to Jarad flinging a Ghoultree at me after a slow start. Most opponents just concede once you go Increasing Devotion into Collective Blessing (my most common approach to winning). There were only a couple of times I didn’t get to use any of my big spells and had to settle for township beatdown. My most recent game was against a Shrieking Affliction deck who couldn’t deal with the turn four Essence thanks to manawolf followed by a bunch of dorks.

The Deck

12 Island
4 Plains
4 Adarkar Wastes

4 Cursecatcher
4 Judge’s Familiar
4 Academy Researchers
4 Auratouched Mage
4 Sovereigns of Lost Alara

4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Talisman of Progress
4 Pentad Prism
4 Eldrazi Conscription

So you can see three creatures here that allow you to cheat the cost of Eldrazi Conscription. Academy Researchers is the cheapest, but requires you to have the aura in your hand. The Sovereigns and the Mage, on the other hand, only require it to be in your deck – no problem! Of course they cost six mana so you might need to store two mana in the prism if you want to bring them out on time. The Talismans can also ramp, I chose them over the signet so that if you tap out to cast one, you can use its mana to cast one of the many one mana spells here.

Sovereigns also prefers that you have a creature ready to attack immediately, rather than waiting a turn to attack by itself (especially since you won’t get to trigger annihilator when you put conscription into play with sovereigns) so that’s why we have the one drop creatures. These creatures can also protect you from removal spells or stop an opponent comboing off, though in hindsight eight of them might be a bit much and a hard counter such as Turn Aside might be preferable.

That pretty much covers it. This deck came to $11. One of the nice things about Modern is you can find cheap dual lands, even these rare painlands were only 30 cents each. The Serum Visions account for $4 of the price, but they will retain their value as long as ponder and preordain are banned in Modern. Sleight / Visions main job is often just to make sure you have the right amount of mana, but can also help you search for a win condition if you don’t have one in your opening hand. I have never ramped so high as to be able to hardcast conscription, but if you have it in hand without researchers or vice versa you can always dig to try and put the pair together.

Game Over

Half the fun of being a Johnny is to be able to draw visible reactions from your opponents. You might lose that effect a bit on Magic Online but you can still imagine the look on their face when you cast your humble grey ogre on the third turn and suddenly it’s an Eldrazi. Sometimes people will actually comment on it in chat and it makes it all worth it.

Sadly, the From the Lab column is on hiatus on the official Magic site and that is one reason why I’m trying to bring more Johnniness into this column. Unlike BoaB though, we can expect FtL to return in some form, soon. Looking forward to it!


Dork Tower

Today’s Standard deck is based around small creatures that tap for mana, commonly known as mana dorks. Dork Tower is also the name of a webcomic. The dorks are the real star of the show today, acting as both fuel and finisher with the help of a big enchantment from Return to Ravnica. I can only show you the deck today, and give you the playtest results next fortnight. In exchange I will also show you a casual Modern deck that is built around a cheap mythic from RTR.

The Deck

12 Forest
4 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Gavony Township

4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Arbor Elf
4 Scorned Villager
4 Dawntreader Elk
4 Borderland Ranger
4 Mentor of the Meek
4 Essence of the Wild

4 Increasing Devotion
4 Collective Blessing

Even the mythic here is only a dollar apiece, so I don’t think the deck will cost much. I’ll give you the actual price next fortnight along with a sideboard once we have some idea what people are playing.

Collective Blessing is the most straightforward win condition here. It’s like a repeatable Overrun without the trample, and caused quite a reaction from my opponents at the prerelease. Bringing it out on turn 3 with three mana dorks is certainly possible, which means you now have 12 power on the board (hopefully you were not on the draw otherwise your dorks could get swept away by a 1 point bonfire on their third turn… but who plays that card?)

Essence of the Wild won’t do anything for the creatures that helped to cast him (aww), but he will turn every future creature you cast into a 6/6 – hopefully you will still have some dorks in hand by the time you cast the Essence. They won’t have their original abilities (so you won’t get a land from your ranger, for example) but they will have the Essence’s ability so if your first Essence dies the new guys can carry on his legacy. Casting Increasing Devotion after the Essence means you get five 6/6’s for five mana. Isn’t it nice how people think that green and white are the ‘fair’ colors?

The Mentor’s job is to help draw you into a win condition if you don’t have another one in your hand. It won’t be able to draw you cards if you have a Blessing or an Essence out. Sometimes it will be right to hold onto a dork until next turn when you will have the mana to draw a card off it. If you cast Increasing Devotion, you can draw as many cards as the creatures you make, until you run out of mana.

The final, resilient win condition (apart from just beating down with 1/1’s and 2/2’s with no outside help) is the Township. Most land destruction is pretty terrible these days, so nothing is stopping this card from eventually turning every dork into a realistic threat. If you have enough mana you can even activate two or more of these a turn, so I have no problem with running four in the deck. You can mess around with the mana base if you want to run some additional nonbasic lands (Grove of the Guardian seems decent) but I don’t think Temple Garden will be affordable for budget players.

The Other Deck

12 Mountain
8 Island
4 Izzet Guildgate

4 Mothdust Changeling
4 Fire-Belly Changeling
4 Shapesharer
4 Taurean Mauler
4 Moonveil Dragon
4 Utvara Hellkite

4 Pentad Prism
4 Seething Song
4 Crucible of Fire

This deck’s +3/+3 enchantment is a bit cheaper than what you get in Standard, but in return we have to only use dragons as creatures. The changelings from Lorwyn will do fine here. The new Hellkite from RTR also wants you to hit your opponent with dragons, preferably ASAP, so this creature base makes sure that we have some dragons ready to attack as soon as it hits the board.

Unfortunately our changelings don’t tap for mana, so instead we have to store it up in the Prism or get it in one shot with the Song to be able to bring out the Hellkite in a realistic time frame. You can also use these to bring out and pump up the moonveil dragon who is happy to help out any other small creatures you have sitting on your side of the table.

The mana here looks a bit dodgy but red-blue lands are always expensive, even painlands, so I’m keeping it as budget as possible. The final cool interaction is where your Shapesharer turns himself and other creatures into copies of Utvara Hellkite for a turn so you get multiple triggers for each dragon that hits the opponent. Within a couple of turns you would have enough dragons to wipe out multiple players even in a game of Commander!

Game Over

Well, you’ve seen the entire visual spoiler of Return to Ravnica now, and had a chance to play some of the cards at the prerelease. You’ve seen my take on a way to build around a couple of the new cards, now I’m curious to see what you have come up with. I’m also looking forward to acquiring the new cards and seeing how many players I can bulldoze with a bunch of 6/6 creatures. Tune in next fortnight to find out!