Last week I discussed the win-win game theory model of budget Magic. This theory posits that you win even if you lose, because moral victories count when your entire deck costs less than your opponents one-drop.
Now let’s look at a deck that manages to roll all of my advice points into one ball of roguishly good fun. (Gameplay videos at the bottom as long as I can figure out how to link them!).
The goal of this deck is to beat your opponent with a fast, unblockable weenie attack that is also (hopefully) forcing specter-style discards. For maximum impact however you need Oona’s Blackguard on the battlefield and counters on your critters. Really, how often is that gonna happen? Forcing discards is therefore not the primary win condition, because most opponents have enough removal to avoid being spectered to death.
Notorious Rogues (Modern)
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Evolving Wilds
3 Earwig Squad
2 Infiltrator Il-Kor
4 Inkfathom Infiltrator
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Oona’s Blackguard
2 Stinkdrinker Bandit
1 Echoing Truth
2 Mana Leak
4 Morsel Theft
3 Notorious Throng
2 Read the Bones
1 Echoing Decay
2 Geth’s Verdict
2 Murderous Cut
2 Nihil Spellbomb
The main battlefield tactic is to swing every turn no matter what your opponent is putting on the board. Don’t stop attacking. Only in later turns should you consider playing a chump blocker to stop an attack or two. Swing even if it looks like death is imminent. If you have Curiosity down or play Morsel Theft, you may well draw into a win condition. This deck loves come-from-behind victories. Like I said in the intro article, we are not trying to land a Pro tour spot with this deck – we are having fun!
The potential win conditions are Earwig Squad landing with prowl and removing a key combo piece your opponent needs, or landing Notorious Throng after a big hit. If you land Notorious Throng for its 6-mana prowl cost, you should win the game. Stinkdrinker Bandit is another card that can win the game the turn it lands if you already have several hands on deck.
What else? Ah yes, the quicker picker-upper. The ‘defense-wins-games’ win condition is to resolve AEtherize when your opponent is swinging for their big kill move. It will normally take them two turns to rebuild their army and you win in the meantime. If you don’t think bouncing two 6/7 Goyfs and then killing someone with a couple of 2/1 guys is your idea of fun – well … you and I aren’t gonna be friends.
Some combination of Stinkdrinker Bandit, Earwig Squad, Notorious Throng, and AEtherize is enough to win a surprising number of games with this very fun to play and very cheap to build deck (under four tickets!).
T1 – Play a basic land. Watch your opponent play an expensive fetch land. Be a bit jealous but smile knowingly because you are going to win with a cheap-as-chips deck whereas they are eating tuna out of a can because their deck cost them a month’s rent.
T2 – Play an Infiltrator or Oona’s Blackguard and hope it’s not removed. Hah! Don’t count on it. A safer move is play Invisible Stalker but that only turns out well if you are holding an Earwig Squad, a Morsel Theft to sneak in more damage, or Curiosity to draw cards with.
T3 – Play Blackguard or Earwig Squad. Your opponent may have an army breathing down your neck already. Don’t panic. If you played a critter on turn two and swing with it this turn, then your ideal play here is Earwig Squad. Resolve it, go get a cup of coffee and take an obnoxiously long time to study your opponent’s entire deck list. Gaze longingly at all the amazing land cards they have. Remove the three most expensive cards in the deck, the ones they are eating tuna because of. Exile them. Make a faux-polite comment like ‘oh i got lucky’ when in fact you want to say ‘ha! eat it sucker!’ (Actual advice: take a key combo piece or their best removal cards, I’m lookin’ at you Abrupt Decay).
T4 – Resolve an Infiltrator. If Blackguard is still there then you swing for 5-ish damage and force one discard. Then play another critter plus Morsel Theft. But you can also play Notorious Throng or leave the mana open for an AEtherize.
T5 – If all the above happened, you are set for the win by turn T6 or 7 latest. The cheap casting cost of your critters means it is possible to lose them all to a sweeper but rebuild and still win. Please play Earwig Squad here if you haven’t already. That should be obvious – never save the big guy for later, always resolve it for prowl cost on T3 or ASAP to remove a combo piece (and also consider what’s not visible in your opponent’s library, because if you only see three Path to Exile, they are likely holding the fourth).
The unblockable guys: Invisible Stalker is great and there are a few ways to grow him in this deck. Even at 1-power the prowl cost comes online often enough to make him a worthwhile addition. Inkfathom Infiltrator and Infiltrator il-Kor are responsible for maybe 70% of the damage inflicted to opponents. They are your bread-and-butter guys. Love and respect them.
Oona’s Blackguard: A mixed blessing. Weak overall as far as lords go. Potentially awesome when you get some build-your-own specters going. But normally this guy just soaks up removal. Because of that, don’t think of it as your win condition. More likely it’s the card you play to distract your opponent while you are working on your other win conditions. Having said that, if your opponent can’t get rid of this guy after a few turns, you normally win the game.
Earwig Squad: This guy is a house. Tears up combo decks. I find that the effect is worth the 3-mana prowl cost. Even if you never swing or only chump block once, doesn’t matter. Still worth it.
Stinkdrinker Bandit: This a new addition to the deck as I played Cloak and Dagger for a while. Bandit is an obvious keeper and combined with the unblockable critters he helps make up for Blackguard being a weak lord. This card makes Invisible Stalker way more playable.
Notorious Throng: All kinds of awesome. Play this with Blackguard down and you normally win. Play this for its 6-mana prowl cost and you should always win. An extra turn? How do you not win when you have an extra turn? Of course, hard to do in practice which is why I only run 2-3 of them, not a full set.
Morsel Theft: This card does a ton of work in this deck. I smile every time I draw it. Keeps me in a lot of games I might lose otherwise.
Curiosity: This works fairly well. Best played on Invisible Stalker but I’ll throw it on anything if I can safely draw one card with it and then hope for more. Results in wins if you play it on Invisible Stalker early and they don’t have a sweeper.
Read the Bones: After experimenting with Dream Salvage and Distant Melody, I went back to this industry-standard, ISO-20,000 classic. I like Read the Bones better than Foresee because the name is awesome to say, and that double-eyeball lady on Foresee freaks me out. If you look at the Foresee lady for more than two seconds you’re eyes hurt.
AEtherize: Ssssh! Don’t tell anyone but I side this in almost every game. It’s a bit slow but believe me it works. I have won many games because of this card. It is so good I almost didn’t want to mention it in this write-up. It’s My Precious and I want to keep it secret. I can hear you saying, ‘yeah but there are lots of sweepers in Modern that destroy everything and they can’t be regenerated.’ Ok fine but those cards are not nearly as fun as giving your opponent back a fistful of cards that they can look at helplessly on their screen while you beat them to death the next turn with some 2-power guys.
Extirpate: Another attempt at a combo-buster, but without Duress or Despise to pick out cards, it’s seems too hopeful that what you need to strip will end up in the graveyard. I may pull this out for one of the alternate cards listed below.
Nihil Spellbomb: Because emptying your opponent’s graveyard when they need it is almost as much fun as Aetherizing their attack.