Now You See It, Now It’s Mist: Playing Tricks on the Pauper Daily

Illusory Tricks is a fun deck to play. Looking at the mana base, you might think it’s similar to Delver. You’d be wrong. For one thing, Tricks doesn’t really do counterspells. We’ve got a couple dispels, but honestly, we could mostly care less about them. The real idea behind our bag of tricks is to keep the opponent guessing; we’ve got off-color ramp, overloading hexproof, snags for tempo and charms for faeries and elves – there’s a little bit of everything and that’s just how we like it. And faeries? Sprites? No thanks. We like our flyers to hit for 4 or more, and we’ve got the tools to make it happen.

All of which is to say, it might look similar to other decks, but I think it has some unique play and a different kind of power in the current meta than most decks. Check out some of the previous articles on the deck for some more discussion.

Here’s the current list (updated June 3 2013):

[d title=”Illusory Tricks”]
19 Island

4 Krovikan Mist
4 Dream Stalker
2 Stormbound Geist
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Cloudfin Raptor
2 Fathom Seer
4 Spire Golem

4 Piracy Charm
4 Vapor Snag
4 Ponder
4 Counterspell
1 Oona’s Grace

4 Coral Net
4 Hydroblast
4 Reef Shaman
2 Serrated Arrows
1 Hindering Touch

I took Illusory Tricks for its first daily ride earlier this month, after about 20 or so practice matches. There’s room for tuning, I think, but for the moment, the deck is remarkably similar to its first iteration. I’ll talk some more about tuning potential after the recaps.

Round 1: Illusory Tricks vs Stompy


We’re off to a rough start in this one, losing the first game in less than 2 minutes when we don’t hit our 2nd land. We have good sideboard tech, though, adding 4 coral nets, and taking out 2 phantasmal bears and 2 mizzium skins. The bears die to everything (e.g. Quirion Ranger), so we can’t depend on them. The mizzium skins are much more use against a deck that wants to kill our guys, whereas Stompy really just wants to hit us in the face, so they come out as well.

In game 2 our land is much better, and once we finally flip our Delvers, we’re off to the races. Our opponent misplays pretty hard, though, discarding cards to Coral Net instead of just letting it be the straight removal it should be (pro tip: unless you REALLY have a lot of useless cards in your hand or lethal on board, discarding to coral net to keep your dude alive is probably the wrong move). Not only does he discard, but he bins a Hunger of the Howlpack, a card that would have gone morbid on his Silhana Ledgewalker with great gusto. After that, it’s easy to ignore his 1/1 ledgewalker, charm and snag anything else he tries to buff, and fly over for the win.

Game 3 we keep one land again, but it works out much better than it did in game 1. Not that we draw a second land right away, but we have no less than 6 1-drops to work with, so we don’t mind. 2 ponders and a shuffle later, we hit our second land, and things go much better from then on. We pretty much get coral nets and piracy charms to deal with his stuff, manage to flip 2 delvers at once (again), and as soon as we dream stalker our way to a 4/5 cloudfin raptor, it’s GG from our opponent.

Stompy is a tough match-up overall. We do have better sideboard options for it than it does for us, though, and a lot more unpredictability. Our opponent undervalues his ledgewalkers in this match to our benefit, because they’re the real card we have to worry about and play around, especially when they go to 4/4 and higher from howlpack and other buffs.

Round 2: Illusory Tricks vs Goblins


Outside of us faltering and goblins taking advantage, this is a significantly better match-up for us than the stompy match-up. Piracy charm kills most goblins, and we have lots of ways to block his creatures and deny his removal that make it hard for him to make good combat decisions.

Bouncing Sparksmith in game 1 is an easy tempo win, especially when we’re nailing him for 7+ every turn. We bring in hydroblasts and take out mutagenic growth and stormbound geist; we don’t want to shock ourselves in this match-up, and we do want to block his ground creatures.

Game 2 see goblins overextend at the beginning, but killing an annoying amount of our creatures as well, to the point that the board is clear and we’re both top-decking. We top-deck a lot better than goblins do, though, hitting spire golem, cloudfin raptor, and dream stalker. He hits another Sparksmith, but puts himself to 4 to kill our raptor, and can’t stop our spire golem from killing him in the air. Props to the goblins pilot, adamtetlow, for being a good sport, and we end up chatting quite a bit about the deck after the match.

Round 3: Illusory Tricks vs Delver


I was actually dreading this match-up, though I knew it was unavoidable. Delver is an incredibly potent and popular deck, so we were bound to run into it at some point. Unfortunately, in all my practice rounds, I didn’t meet it a single time, so I went into this match cold. It is, surprising to me, a better match-up than I thought it would be.

Game 1 is a learning experience for me, trying to figure out what Delver has that I really need to worry about. The answer, it turns out, is really only 8 cards. Spire golems and Delver himself. Nothing else in the deck is remotely threatening (Dream Stalkers block Frostburn Weird for days), so we actually don’t have to worry about too much. I take an early lead in this game, but we quickly stall out with comparable air battalions. He draws a ridiculous amount of cards with Accumulated Knowledge. We draw them the old-fashioned way, and save up until we can play a bunch of cards at once, making him try and sort out what he wants to counter and what he wants to let resolve. At some point I just decide we’ll try and beat him on the clock; this may be what leads him to conceding the first game despite still having plenty of life and 12 creatures on board (to our 5). We have nothing worthwhile to bring in from the SB for this match-up, so we submit our deck as-is and hope we can keep stalling.

Game 2 we get kicked, countered, and faeried to death, as Delver loves to do. It’s a much, much faster game than G1, but we do get his clock down to 9 minutes in the match.

Game 3 sees us do exactly what we want to do. Get our airforce on the board without much disruption, and then tempo / remove his creatures to get in for lethal. It’s not quite that easy, but by the time he stabilizes he only has 3 life left, and eventually we manage to draw more creatures than him, including a dream stalker to pump our raptor on the table, and he concedes. He still has over 5 minutes on the clock, so we don’t get to fulfill our dream of running him out on time, but that’s okay. It just makes our win feel more legitimate. And now we’re 3-0!

Round 4: Illusory Tricks vs Boroskitty


I was surprised to see Boroskitty in the daily, but I had played with it a few times (with absolutely zero success), so I was probably more prepared than most. The match-up is okay, I think, and I know how I want to play it. Luck isn’t on my side, though. We mulligan to 5 cards in game one, with 2 Krovikan Mists in hand, but he immediately bolts one and so we’re stuck with a 1/1 flyer, who isn’t doing much. We do have a nice time chatting with our opponent about the deck while he whollops us, ending the game with 23 life.

We take out our piracy charms and vapor snags (they don’t hit anything we want to hit, really), and bring in coral nets and hydroblasts. Coral net is okay, but not great, since he can bounce his guys pretty easily most of the time and drop the enchantment.

Game 2 we keep a one-land hand with a delver and ponder in it, playing out the ponder first to see if we can hit a land-drop. We don’t see a land, but we’re lucky enough to shuffle into one for our next turn. Boroskitty really gets me off my tempo; there’s enough removal that I leave protection up, then the removal never comes, and I’ve failed to develop my board properly. In the meantime, I give Kitty plenty of time to bounce things and draw things and get even closer to finding the removal I’m already sure he has anyway. On top of that, his flyers do a pretty good job of getting in our way as well (2/3 is pretty beefy when it’s on wings), but eventually we develop an airforce to tromp his, after he draws a lot of lands but no answers.

Game 3 we’re still not sure about our sideboard plan, but don’t make any additional changes. He hasn’t seen our coral nets yet, so hopefully we can kill a few of his guys by surprise. We’re on the draw and hit one land again, and keep it with a hand full of nothing but one-drops. We hit our second land right off the bat anyway, and it seems like just the kind of aggressive hand we want to have. We have two 1/2 raptors and a delver on the table by the end of turn 2, and I feel pretty good. We play a ponder hoping to see something to flip both our delvers, but instead see 3 creatures on top that seem worth keeping, so we don’t shuffle. I feel pretty good when we dream stalker into double 4/5 cloudfin raptors; I feel less good when he starts journeying them to nowhere. Without our raptors, our board state looks a ton worse than it did, and our delvers, who we’ve had on board since turn 3, still haven’t flipped.

I won’t give away the end. That’s what that video up there is for. Suffice to say that for it’s first time in a pauper daily, I feel like Illusory Tricks handled itself very well.

Wrap-up Thoughts

As I said at the beginning, I like the deck and it’s really fun to play. I also think it’s competitive, and I’ll definitely run it in another daily some time. I love the Dream Stalker / Cloudfin Raptor interactions, and the illusion sub-theme is pretty fun, too. When you draw a dream stalker with 4 mana in play and a cloudfin raptor on the table, it’s great fun to pump the raptor to 4/5 and still finish with an island untapped. That said, it could probably use a little fine-tuning.

I don’t love the phantasmal bears or the dispels. I really like the fathom seers, even more than I thought I would, but I don’t want 4 of them. I’d like to find 2 other illusions to bring in, but I don’t know what they would be. I’m not really fond of the suspend guy or any of the other morph illusions even though they are the best options. David Shaffer commented that he might try a singleton inside out, which seems fun. Hitting for 5 with a dream stalker seems good to me, especially as a cantrip.

We have good match-ups across the board, almost. Our toughest matches are against Crypt Rats, since we can’t stop them from coming into play and we can’t stop them from completely killing our board. This means MBC is tough, UB Trinket is ridiculously bad, and Deluxeicoff’s Grey Ghost (dontlaughitworks.dek) probably slaughters us as well. Aside from those decks, though, we aren’t afraid of much. The deck can goldfish turn 4, so it can kill fissure decks before they get going, and it has a good variety of tricks and blockers to stop aggressive strategies too.

Hopefully you enjoy the idea of the deck, and the videos of my run in the daily. Did I make any silly plays? How about masterful ones? Leave some comments and let me know what you think. Is this Tier 1 material, or just a decent tier 2 deck at best?