Commander Corner: Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Welcome back,

Its that time of the year again! Spoiler season is upon us, and it’s been a good one so far. With several promising cards, and some busted ones like Day’s Undoing, we are looking at what has the potential to be the best core set ever. It’s always great to go out on a bang. Going into this set, I’ve really been looking forward to one card in particular. A certain planeswalker that aligns himself with blue mana.

en_jM4lpIu9Uy Jace-Telepath-Unbound-Magic-Origins-Planeswalker

Of cource, I’m talking about Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. At first glance, I honestly didn’t know what to think of this guy. He definitely isn’t what I was expecting, but he isn’t bad either. He will make for a useful general, and a hard one to get rid of to boot. For a two mana general, he isn’t bad. His ability to loot for free is nice, and he is super easy to flip. He will most likely always flip the turn you untap with him. His plus ability isn’t stellar, but it can keep you from taking a few points of damage, and keep him around. His minus ability is awesome. Having a [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] on a stick is wonderful and is definitely the best part of him. His ultimate is quite funny, and can make for an interesting path to victory, if you choose to take it. All in all, we can definitely work with him. Lets take a look at what we can cook up with the prodigy of Vryn.

[d title=”Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (EDH)”]

Commander

1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Lands

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

1 Coral Atoll

1 Evolving Wilds

1 Flooded Strand

1 Halimar Depths

24 Island

1 Lonely Sandbar

1 Myriad Landscape

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

1 Polluted Delta

1 Reliquary Tower

1 Remote Isle

1 Temple of the False God

1 Terramorphic Expanse

[/d]

[d]

Creatures

1 Archaeomancer

1 Augur of Bolas

1 Clever Impersonator

1 Clone

1 Consecrated Sphinx

1 Draining Whelk

1 Duplicant

1 Guile

1 Mercurial Pretender

1 Phantasmal Image

1 Sakashima the Impostor

1 Sakashima’s Student

1 Talrand, Sky Summoner

1 Vesuvan Doppelganger

1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter

[/d]

[d]

Instants

1 Blue Sun’s Zenith

1 Brainstorm

1 Coutnerspell

1 Cryptic Command

1 Cyclonic Rift

1 Day’s Undoing

1 Deprive

1 Desertion

1 Dig Through Time

1 Dissipate

1 Dissolve

1 Evacuation

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Gather Specimens

1 Impulse

1 Last Word

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Pongify

1 Pulse of the Grid

1 Rapid Hybridization

1 Rewind

1 Supplant Form

1 Trickbind

[/d]

[d]

Sorceries

1 Acquire

1 Bribery

1 Clone Legion

1 Curse of the Swine

1 Knowledge Exploitation

1 Ponder

1 Preordain

1 Rite of Replication

1 Spelltwine

1 Tempt with Reflections

1 Treasure Cruise

Enchantments

1 Jace’s Sanctum

1 Treachery

[/d]

[d]

Artifacts

1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Eye of Ramos

1 Gilded Lotus

1 Lightning Greaves

1 Runechanter’s Pike

1 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Sol Ring

1 Sphinx-Bone Wand

1 Thran Dynamo

Planeswalker

1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

[/d]

Seems pretty simple. Its a control deck that wins using clone spells to kill your opponent. Almost all of our creatures are clone spells, which can make things interesting. The deck tends to take some interesting lines that may seem a little unorthodox to our opponent. Sometimes you have to let their big monster resolve, only just to get one of our own. Its unique, powerful, and most importantly, fun.

This deck is a control deck first and foremost. There is plenty of card draw, counterspells, and ways to keep creatures off the board, to allow us to get to the late game. When our opponent is starting to slam down their hay makers, we can start copying them. Or whatever else we want to. With a board full of the same creatures, the games will tend to go into a stalemate for a while. We do have a way to alleviate that with some ways to push our creatures through. We can tap down our opponents team with [c]Cryptic Command[/c], or just return them all to their hand with [c]Cyclonic Rift[/c].

If you can’t contain the board for whatever reason, we do have a reset button with [c]Evacuate[/c]. We also have some threats of our own if our clones aren’t getting the job done. [c]Consecrated Sphinx[/c] will usually win us the game in a few turns with all of the cards we will be drawing. [c]Talrand, Sky Summoner[/c] can create a bunch of evasive tokens, which will keep the pressure on our opponents while we cast our other spells. [c]Guile[/c] will just turn our counterspells into [c]Spelljack[/c], which will turn the game around quickly in our favor.

Jace isn’t so much of a win condition for us as he is a great tool for us by helping us get more value out of our spells and keeping us alive. He can also help us push through our creatures by putting combat in our favor instead of having the board locked up. You will never really use his ultimate unless you really need a way to win. Its going to be difficult churning through an opponents deck five cards at a time. It does trigger off of every spell we cast, but it still will take a lot of work to win by milling them out.

This deck does have an issue with hyper aggressive decks. We usually don’t do much on the first few turns, so if somebody get to putting pressure on us in the first couple of turns, we may just get pushed out of the game. We can stall the game out so that we can get going, but it may not be enough some times. As long as we can get to the late game, we should be favored to win.

Thank you for checking out this week’s Commander Corner. If you have any comments or suggestions, let me know in the comments below. See you soon, my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

Tribal Fun in Modern #4: Merfolk Under the Sea

master of the pearl trident art

Welcome back to Tribal Fun in Modern! This week we have even more of an aggro deck than last week. We are going to be looking at the increasingly popular mono-blue merfolk. Lets look at the list:

[d title=”Merfolk (Modern)”]

Lands
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Mutavault
1 Tectonic Edge
14 Island

Creatures
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
2 Merrow Reejerey
4 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergill Adept
2 Master of Waves
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Kira, Great Glass-Spinner
2 Spellskite

Instants and Sorceries
4 Spreading Seas
2 Dismember
3 Vapor Snag
1 Spell Pierce

Artifacts
4 Æther Vial

Sideboard
3 Tidebinder Mage
1 Swan Song
1 Spell pierce
3 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Mana Leek
2 Stubborn Denial
2 Echoing Truth
1 Relic of Progenitus [/d]

Following tradition, I will go over the card choices, strategy, play style, matchup and sideboarding guide, and some different versions of the deck.

Lands

The lands are fairly basic. Since we are mono colored there isn’t much to talk about. As I have said earlier, [c]Cavern of Souls[/c] is great in tribal and really there is no need to be cut. In some very rare situations you may get a hand of [c]Mutavault[/c], [c]Cavern of Souls[/c], and [c]Spreading Seas[/c] but I never got that so it isn’t much of a hindrance.

The [c]Mutavault[/c]s are great because not only do they generate mana, but they become 2/2 merfolk.

The one [c]Tectonic Edge[/c] is for the Tron matchup.

silvergill adept art

Creatures

The [c]Lord of Atlantis[/c] and [c]Master of the Pearl Trident[/c]s are a must have 4-of a piece. Not only do they pump your merfolk but also make them unblockable in tons of games, either because your opponent is playing blue already or because you cast [c]Spreading Seas[/c]. The [c]Merrow Reejerey[/c] on the other hand is not quite as impressive. He is definitely good, but not nearly as good as the other two lords. Sticking with the negatives, he costs three mana, which is high on the curve, and only provides one devotion. One the other hand, he synergizes well with [c]Aether Vial[/c]s and the tap/untap ability is useful, but he is not quite as good as the other lords. Despite this, his effects still warrants his inclusion.

Although some are opposed to him, I find [c]Cursecatcher[/c] is a great card. Not only is he a body, but if he is on the table it basically [c]Time Walk[/c]s your opponent (or at least stops them from playing anything that important for another turn). Even better he can be [c]Aether Vial[/c]ed in and act as a [c]Counterspell[/c] in that situation.

[c]Silvergill Adept[/c] is an automatic four-of. Not only is the extra cost clause easy to fulfill with so many merfolk in the deck, but also it acts as the [c]Mulldrifter[/c] of the deck. Although he may not seem great, pure value makes it so that he definitely needs to be a 4-of.

[c]Master of Waves[/c] is a fairly new inclusion to the deck but he is probably the biggest bomb in the whole deck. Considering that even by just turn 4 you can rack up a lot of devotion, not only will he create a ton of 2/1s, but also he can be a body himself with all of the buffs from lords.

[c]Phantasmal Image[/c] is an amazing and cheap [c]Clone[/c]. He is pretty self-explanatory. Copy an opponent’s best creature, copy your own creature, or [c]Aether Vial[/c] him in to respond to something, he is a cheap [c]Clone[/c].

[c]Kira, Great Glass-Spinner[/c] is a good way to protect your threats. She obviously makes it very hard to remove or even target any of your cards, which is an amazing ability, especially considering that she can be [c]Aether Vial[/c]ed in to respond to something. It is worth noting, of course, that she is not a merfolk.

To finish out our creatures we have 2 [c]Spellskite[/c]s. Of course they are an answer to Twin, but also they help against burn and are great blockers. I think their inclusion is fairly self-explanatory, considering that they are live basically every single matchup, even though they are also not merfolk.

Spells

[c]Spreading Seas[/c] is a staple in this deck. Not only does it help a lot in the Tron matchups and against other greedy decks that need a lot of mana requirements, but it also turns on islandwalk, which many times means that all of our creatures are unblockable (and this likely means you win the game very quickly). On top of all of that, it draws you a card when you play it.

[c]Dismember[/c] is the only removal in the deck. Since the deck is so aggressive, the removal is very light, but this can get the job done.

[c]Vapor Snag[/c] and [c]Spell Pierce[/c] are the control package. [c]Vapor Snag[/c] is a great tempo play and can answer a threat (temporarily). [c]Spell Pierce[/c] is the only counter in this whole mono blue deck, but again it can usually be used as a hard counter or at least a tempo play.

Finally, there is [c]Aether Vial[/c]. It is pretty obvious why this card is so good (and who at R&D put this at uncommon in Darksteel). Not only does this act like lands 22-25, but it allows basically all of the creatures to be flashed in. This is not only a way to be efficient with your mana, but also adds some control elements to the deck as well. Finally, it synergizes very well with [c]Merrow Reejerey[/c], being able to dump out your whole hand very quickly.

So, after praising [c]Cryptic Command[/c] last week, you may wonder why it isn’t included, not even 1, this week. This is not a mistake. No merfolk decks run [c]Cryptic Command[/c] because it is to slow for the deck and the deck doesn’t need/want its abilities. Some other cards I choose not to include were [c]Cosi’s Trickster[/c] as it only really triggers on fetches, [c]Coralhelm Commander[/c] as I felt it was to slow, and [c]Thassa, God of the Sea[/c] because I couldn’t find room for her (even though her power level is definitely on par) and I didn’t want another non-merfolk creature.

gtyb art

Strategy

The strategy, as I earlier mention, is very aggressive. You want to try to get as much damage in as quickly as possible. Since there is so little of a control element to the deck, it is very easy to play. Generally you are removing, bouncing, or countering the first opposition to try to push as much damage through as possible. Generally I keep my [c]Aether Vial[/c]s at two counters because most of my creatures are at two. I’ll let it go up to three when I really need to.

The deck plays a lot like a red or Boros aggro minus the burn. In general, the burn is replaced with effective burn that allows you to push through extra damage ([c]Spreading Seas[/c], bouncing, countermagic, and removal). If you like a deck like UR Aggro or even just RDW or Boros Aggro, then you will likely like merfolk just as much.

The deck’s matchups are somewhat similar to that of an aggro deck. It does pretty well against most traditional control decks, such as Tron and UW Midrange, has more of a 50%/50% matchup against Abzan (it can really depend on the build), RDW and Boros Aggro, and Infect and generally has poor matchups against Twin, [c]Scapeshift[/c], and other quick combos (it is hard for us to interact with these).

Sideboarding

The [c]Tidebinder Mage[/c]s obviously come in against anything red or green (Abzan, RDW, etc.).

The [c]Swan Song[/c] comes in against Twin, Aggro (haven’t quite decided if this is the right choice yet), Control, and anything else relevant.

The extra [c]Spell Pierce[/c] comes in against Aggro, Tron, Scapeshift, Infect, and other non-aggro matchups where you can afford to slow down.

The [c]Hurkyl’s Recall[/c]s come in against Affinity, obviously.

Again the [c]Mana Leak[/c]s come in against decks where you can usually afford to slow down a bit (Abzan, Control, etc.) and Twin usually.

[c]Stubborn Denial[/c]s come in against aggro, twin, and other racing matchups.

[c]Echoing Truth[/c] is usually a catchall, for Twin, Abzan, Aggro, basically anything to fill up the space of a dead card.

Finally there is [c]Relic of Progenitus[/c] for graveyard decks and for [c]Tarmogoyf[/c].

In hindsight I put a lot of spaces for Aggro when I could have filled them up with something more relevant for the even worse matchups, but I can fine-tune the sideboard as I continue to test.

More thoughts

So the big thing I choose not to do with this deck is splash white. A few fetches, shocks, and a playset of [c]Wanderwine Hub[/c] opens up [c]Path to Exile[/c], [c]Harm’s Way[/c], and many sideboard options.

Of course the numbers can be changed too. Even splashing black could be viable. Some specific cards that I decided not to include that could definitely still be good in the deck and in your meta are [c]Thassa, God of the Sea[/c], [c]Coralhelm Commander[/c], and [c]Cosi’s Trickster[/c] (likely in the sideboard). The control and removal packages have some slight wiggle room. I wouldn’t go with more than 11 cards for both removal and control and the deck isn’t a control deck, it is an aggro deck.

There are many sideboard options. As my main resource for sideboards (since I am not very good at it myself) I usually use the compare feature of mtgtop8.com (it is a great website for netdecking and seeing the metagame, most the time at least). That shows you many more options for sideaboards, basically all of which I think are viable, depending on your meta.

There it is, my take on the ever-popular Modern Merfolk deck. If you have any suggestions at all feel free to talk about them in the comments (I do usually respond). Thanks for sticking with me, as today’s article was a little long again, but hopefully interesting.

Thanks!

– Dylan

Commander Corner: Kaho, Minamo Historian

Happy New Year,

I remember when I started Magic, I bought a simple Izzet deck from my friend. It roughly costed me forty dollars and was full of decent stuff, but at the time I was amazed with the deck. It was all about slinging spells, killing creatures with [c]Gelectrode[/c], beating my opponent with [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] and [c]Wee Dragonauts[/c], and eventually locking my opponent out of the game with [c]Isochron Scepter[/c] and [c]Counterspell[/c].

My first change to the deck was adding a copy of [c]Kaho, Minamo Historian[/c]. I remember loving what the card did.  For me, being able to search up any three instants from my deck and being able to cast them at will with her was mind blowing. I remember scouring card after card, trying to find a way to break this card wide open. These small things really brought me into the game and helped shape my future love of the Izzet and blue as a whole. So for this week, I’ve decided to take a look back at one of the first legendary creatures I’ve ever played with. Lets see what spells Kaho can conjure up for us.

download

A remembrance of times gone by, a simpler time, where casting instants and sorceries is all I wanted to do in Magic

[d title=”Kaho, Minamo Historian (EDH)”]

Commander

1 Kaho, Minamo Historian

Lands

1 Temple of the False God

26 Snow-Covered Island

1 Scrying Sheets

1 Remote Isle

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

1 Myriad Landscape

1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

1 Lonely Sandbar

1 Halimar Depths

1 Coral Atoll

1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

1 Arcane Lighthouse[/d]

[d]

Creatures

1 Tidespout Tyrant

1 Talrand, Sky Summoner

1 Sun Quan, Lord of Wu

1 Kheru Spellsnatcher

1 Jalira, Master Polymorphist

1 It That Betrays

1 Inkwell Leviathan

1 Guile

1 Frost Titan

1 Elite Arcanist

1 Draining Whelk

1 Diluvian Primordial

1 Deadeye Navigator

1 Consecrated Sphinx

1 Blightsteel Colossus

1 Archaeomancer

1 Academy Elite[/d]

[d]

Instants

1 AEtherspouts

1 Wipe Away

1 Turn to Frog

1 Trickbind

1 Telling Time

1 Spin into Myth

1 Spelljack

1 Spell Crumple

1 Reweave

1 Ray of Command

1 Rapid Hybridization

1 Pongify

1 Polymorphist’s Jest

1 Peek

1 Ovinize

1 Overwhelming Intellect

1 Mystical Tutor

1 Muddle the Mixture

1 Mizzium Skin

1 Last Word

1 Jace’s Ingenuity

1 Illusionist’s Gambit

1 Hinder

1 Gather Specimens

1 Fact or Fiction

1 Domineering Will

1 Dismiss

1 Diminish

1 Dig Through Time

1 Desertion

1 Cyclonic Rift

1 Counterspell

1 Capsize

1 Brainstorm[/d]

[d]

Sorceries

1 Preordain

1 Ponder

1 Polymorph

Artifacts

1 Vedalken Shackles

1 Thran Dynamo

1 Thousand-Year Elixir

1 Sol Ring

1 Gilded Lotus

1 Eye of Ramos

1 Extraplanar Lens

1 Commander’s Sphere

[/d]

This deck is a bit of an odd duck. Kaho’s ability is interesting and does add a toolbox type of feel to the deck. Its main win condition is getting out a large creature either by casting it, or by polymorphing into it. The deck doesn’t have many creatures in it, and most of the creatures that are in here are incredibly powerful and can attack opponents from multiple angles.

[c]Talrand, Sky Summoner[/c] allows you to slowly build up an army and overwhelm them. [c]Tidespout Tyrant[/c] can out tempo anything your opponent attempts to do by returning everything to their hand. [c]Guile[/c] allows you to turn your opponents spells against them, which can usually get the job done. When brute force is all you need, [c]Blightsteel Colossus[/c], [c]It That Betrays[/c], [c]Inkwell Leviathan[/c], and [c]Frost Titan[/c] will bury them.

Since this deck tends to be rather slow, you don’t really want to be aggressive in the early game. Just take your time and slowly build up your board state. Countering whatever spell is necessary is all you need to do in early game. Let your opponents duke it out while you sit on the sidelines until you are ready. Take your time, you will know when you are ready to step into the ring.

Kaho functions as this decks early game protection. She is exactly what you need in the first few turns, allowing you to protect yourself and answer whatever you need to in the early game. Being able to answer your opponents threats by turning them to frogs and simply blocking them with her is not just funny, its blues way of dealing with large creatures besides bouncing them. Only having access to blue really does limit your options, so you work with what you got. Sometimes turing a [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c] into a sheep is all you need to get the job done.

The addition of [c]Polymorph[/c] to the deck goes a long way to hold it together. Being able to turn your [c]Archaeomancer[/c] into a [c]Blightsteel Colossus[/c] will immediately turn the game around in your favor. The random nature of this ability will not always get you what you want at the time, but the amount of large and powerful creatures will go a long way to assure you hit your mark. It’s a immensely cool mechanic that keeps the game interesting and fun. If the first [c]Polymorph[/c] doesn’t get you what you want, you always have [c]Jalira, Master Polymorphist[/c] as a back up to keep spinning the wheel and get that large creature to clean up the game.

[c]Kaho, Minamo Historian[/c] is an interesting commander. She creates a fun and unique deck that is a bit difficult to build, but is ridiculously fun to play. Figuring out what you need at the right time to deal with whats being thrown at you is a rewarding feeling. It’s a thinking mans deck that can manage to be fun for pretty much anybody that picks it up.

Thank you for checking out this weeks Commander Corner. As always, leave a comment below if you have any recommendations for future commanders you want to see featured. Next week, we build a crew. Happy new year and I’ll see you next week my friends.

-Steven Gulsby

Legacy on Mondays: EPIC Combo

Welcome Back!

So as you all know, I am a huge fan of combo decks in this format. I spent a month writing about [c]High Tide[/c] for goodness’ sake! But this week I want to share a combo deck that is even crazier in some circumstances. I mean, [c]Omniscience[/c] is a helluva card. Before M13 though, we had a blue enchantment that was equally broken: [c]Dream Halls[/c]. For half the mana, both players get a way of going bananas and casting everything just by discarding a card with a common color. The best part of this deck is that it uses that weird, never-player rare from Conflux: [c]Conflux[/c]. Casting [c]Conflux[/c] with any card in the deck in hand allows us to pull of some incredibly broken things. Check out the list:

[d title=”Dream Halls”]
Creatures
1 Bogardan Hellkite
4 Progenitus
Artifacts
3 Lotus Petal
Enchantments
4 Dream Halls
Instants/Sorceries
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Conflux
3 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Ponder
4 Show and Tell
4 Thoughtseize
4 Lim-Dûl’s Vault
Lands
5 Island
3 Ancient Tomb
4 Flooded Strand
1 Polluted Delta
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Underground Sea
Sideboard
2 Pithing Needle
3 Propaganda
2 Meditate
1 Hydroblast
1 Rushing River
2 Spell Pierce
4 Duress
[/d]

The Setup

Like most combo decks, this one packs a plethora of spells to set up the combo turn. The classics like [c]Brainstorm[/c] and [c]Ponder[/c] are of course present, but there is one card here that is strangely good but awkwardly worded: [c]Lim-Dul’s Vault[/c]. The vault is amazing; for just a few life points it lets you set up amazing draws for a few turns.

Another part of the setup that I believe most people ignore is the pre-protection. Having 4 [c]Thoughtseize[/c] main deck allows us to remove some of the opponent’s permission before trying to get a [c]Dream Halls[/c] down. We then have [c]Force of Will[/c] to fight through whatever else they may have. Overall, the potential to have a safe combo is very high in this deck. As you will see in the next section, [c]Conflux[/c] also enables a very safe combo while trying to go off, as it can find [c]Force of Will[/c] while you attempt to kill them.

The Combo

Step 1: Get [c]Dream Halls[/c] in play. This can be achieved by hard-casting it with [c]Lotus Petal[/c] and [c]Ancient Tomb[/c], or by using [c]Show and Tell[/c]. [c]Show and Tell[/c] can also be used to just drop [c]Progenitus[/c] into play, which is brutal. He can also be cast using [c]Dream Halls[/c] if a combo is not available. This can just put away most fair decks.

Step 2: Cast [c]Conflux[/c] using the Halls. Search for [c]Bogardan Hellkite[/c], a [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c], another [c]Conflux[/c], [c]Force of Will[/c], and [c]Progenitus[/c].

Step 3: Discard the Hellkite to cast an Ultimatum, returning Hellkite to your hand.

Step 4: Cast the other [c]Conflux[/c], searching up the same things except keeping the Force in hand and the Hellkite.

Step 5: Repeat using all three [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c] to get the opponent to 5, then for the kill just cast the Hellkite with [c]Dream Halls[/c] for the final 5 damage.

Step 6: GG.

It is really an amazing deck. The fact that you are casting so many spells to win is rather irrelevant; the deck can find a [c]Force of Will[/c] every time you [c]Conflux[/c]. The [c]Progenitus[/c] backup plan is also very effective, especially against fair decks. Fortunately, [c]Dream Halls[/c] is also a state-based effect (I am pretty sure that’s what it is called? Judges, please confirm!), which means that [c]Pithing Needle[/c] and [c]Phyrexian Revoker[/c] are completely ineffective combo hate.

The sideboard also gives the deck some resiliency and backup against other strategies. It is fairly self-explanatory, except for [c]Raging River[/c] and [c]Meditate[/c]. The River is for matchups when lots of permanent removal, i.e. [c]Qasali Pridemage[/c] and friends, will be there to try and slow you down. Normally the land sac doesn’t matter too much, especially for the benefits of being able to hit two things instead of one. [c]Meditate[/c] is for the control matchups when drawing cards is worth skipping a turn. It also goes along quite nicely with [c]Lim-Dul’s Vault[/c] to get powerful combo hands.

Well, that’s all for this week. I hope you like the deck, and maybe you will play it instead of Sneak & Show for more fun and cool wins at your next event. Thanks for reading!

/Peyton

Legacy on Tuesdays, No. 9: A Band of Rogues

Welcome Back!

This week, I wanted to share with you a brew with which I have been practicing for some time now. It is a tribal aggro deck that is capable of amazingly aggressive starts coupled with plenty of disruption to keep the opponent on their toes. However, this tribal crew doesn’t get nearly as many hugs as the Elves or Goblins do… But then again, the Rogues could care less! That’s right, this week’s deck is tribal Rogue aggro. It is amazing at dumping a bunch of annoying evasive weenies that swarm the field while playing lords like [c]Oona’s Blackguard[/c] that turn the dorks into pseudo-[c]Abyssal Specter[/c]s. Before I go any further, let me show you a couple of lists:

[d title=”Legacy Rogues Version 1 – Budget”]
Rogues
3 Frogtosser Banneret
3 Inkfathom Infiltrator
4 Nightshade Stinger
4 Oona’s Blackguard
4 Oona’s Prowler
4 Prickly Boggart
4 Stinkdrinker Bandit
Spells
1 Go for the Throat
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Spell Pierce
2 Snuff Out
2 Smother
Lands
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Island
10 Swamp
4 Underground River
Sideboard
3 Duress
4 Mana Leak
3 Cold-Eyed Selkie
2 Earwig Squad
1 Go for the Throat
2 Faerie Macabre
[/d]

[d title=”Legacy Rogues Version 2 – Monetized”]
Rogues
4 Nightshade Stinger
4 Oona’s Blackguard
4 Oona’s Prowler
4 Prickly Boggart
4 Stinkdrinker Bandit
3 True-Name Nemesis
Spells
3 Bitterblossom
2 Flusterstorm
2 Smother
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Snuff Out
3 Thoughtseize
Lands
4 Underground Sea
4 Island
7 Swamp
4 Polluted Delta
3 Mutavault
Sideboard
2 Duress
2 Mana Leak
3 Cold-Eyed Selkie
4 Faerie Macabre
2 Spell Pierce
2 Flusterstorm
[/d]

The Basics

In general, the rogues operate like any other tribal decks. Play the dudes, play some lords, employ some signature, tribe-dependent form of interaction, then win. Both of the lords for the rogues are only cmc 2, which means that the beats come very quickly with a bunch of cheap evasive rogues. [c]Frogtosser Banneret[/c] is truly amazing when he hits play; the ability to play multiple creatures per turn sans [c]AEther Vial[/c] and maintain a 22-land curve is quite impressive. He also makes it easier to leave up removal and counterspell mana.

[c]Oona’s Prowler[/c] is the best beater in the deck. It will often deny the opponent any form of card advantage, and it goes quite nicely with [c]Oona’s Blackguard[/c] to quickly strip the opponent of cards or risk dying at a ridiculous pace. [c]Stinkdrinker Bandit[/c] is the other lord. Technically, he is not cmc 2, but prowling him into play is incredibly easy. Any turn 1 creature will be evasive, and will almost certainly allow for a turn 2 prowl of this monster. The gain of +2/+1 if a rogue is unblocked is overpowered in a deck where almost every creature is evasive in some way. Don’t leave home without these two!

[c]Prickly Boggart[/c], [c]Nightshade Stinger[/c], and [c]Inkfathom Infiltrator[/c] are the only rogues not mentioned above. They are the creatures that end up poking the opponent to death. All three are simply efficient evasive creatures that couple well with lords to provide the damage push that tribal decks need. For the monetized version, more efficient rogues are used. For example, the ineffable [c]True-Name Nemesis[/c] usurps [c]Inkfathom Infiltrator[/c], and the Banneret bites the dust in favor of [c]Bitterblossom[/c]. The powerful enchantment makes Rogues that fly for a mere 1 life per turn. See the section on differences between the two decks below for more information.

Other than these, the primary difference between rogues and other tribal decks is the amount of usable disruption available. Goblins, Elves, and Humans have basically no serious disruption that they can use due to color differences and a total devotion to the creature plan. Merfolk have countermagic, being mono-blue, but the amazing {U}{B} Rogues can abuse all kinds of lovely disruption spells. I prefer a decent mix of countermagic, discard, and creature removal. [c]Snuff Out[/c] will catch many opponents by surprise, and can swing games in your favor when played correctly. [c]Spell Pierce[/c] is easy to hold up mana for, and [c]Smother[/c] will deal with almost anything threatening or just annoying. [c]Inquisiton of Kozilek[/c] is a great discard spell that is fairly easy to get online.

Differences Between the Standard Version and the Monetized One

The monetized version of the deck employs other creatures and disruption cards that are potentially more powerful. However, the basic premise of the deck is the same. Money cards like fetches, duals, [c]True-Name Nemesis[/c], etc. definitely add something that gives the deck an edge. Does the monetized version win more? Absolutely. Is the win percentage much greater? No. I would not consider the monetized version “better;” it simply has more money cards that add an edge to the deck that cannot be had with cheaper cards. Even so, the “Budget” rogues deck is fun and powerful that will pick up many wins. Try it out and have fun!

That’s all for this week. I hope you have fun beating opponents over the head with the rogues! Too bad [c]Noggin Whack[/c] isn’t more playable or else this would be its deck…

See you next time!

/Peyton

Legacy on Tuesdays, No. 7: Green Grass and High Tides – Part IV

Welcome Back!

This will be the final part of this series about the Legacy combo deck that abuses [c]High Tide[/c] to make oodles of mana and generate an insane storm count. If you have not already, I suggest that you read Part I of the series, which can be found here. This week’s archetype will be Spring Tide, which is my personal favorite High Tide variant. Spring Tide is very versatile; it can be built on a budget for High Tide funsies at the “I’m interested, but I’m not ready to drop the bug bucks for [c]Time Spiral[/c]s and Candelabras of Tawnos” level. It can then be modified with, you guessed it, fetch lands and [c]Force of Will[/c] for a more competitive feel.

Spring Tide abuses the untapping powers of the notorious Pauper fiend [c]Cloud of Faeries[/c] and its counterpart, the awesome [c]Snap[/c]. The latter is normally used to bounce [c]Cloud of Faeries[/c] after [c]High Tide[/c] has been cast, although it is equally happy to bounce an opposing [c]Ethersworn Canonist[/c]. Spring Tide still has access to all of the key High Tide components, since it operates at sorcery speed. Let’s take a look at my current list that I use, then break it down into the benefits and setbacks of the epic Spring Tide!

[d title=”Spring Tide, My Personal Current Build”]
Creatures
4 Cloud of Faeries

Spells
4 Brainstorm
3 Cunning Wish
4 High Tide
4 Ideas Unbound
3 Meditate
4 Merchant Scroll
4 Ponder
3 Snap
4 Spell Pierce
3 Turnabout
4 Preordain

Lands
16 Island
Sideboard
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith
2 Brain Freeze
1 Capsize
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Disrupt
1 Meditate
1 Pact of Negation
1 Rebuild
1 Snap
1 Turnabout
1 Wipe Away
[/d]

Pros

Spring Tide uses [c]Cloud of Faeries[/c] and [c]Snap[/c] in conjunction with [c]Turnabout[/c] to untap lands. The fact that the two former only cost two mana apiece is very relevant. It is, albeit EXTREMELY unlikely, possible to win with two [c]Island[/c]s in play. There is only a 5-7% chance of winning with two lands, and any disruption makes it nearly impossible to win with so few. However, I have pulled off quite a few wins with only 3 lands, which is exceedingly difficult to do with most other High Tide variants. The odds of winning with three lands are not good; I estimate the win percentage at approximately 40% if one attempts to win with three lands. Fortunately, there is an exponential increase in win percentage when 4 lands are in play. With 4 lands, there is a 94+% chance of just goldfishing the opponent. If the opponent lets you get to seven lands, there is a .001% chance that you will lose due to mana constraint. All those statistics are trying to say is that low casting cost untappers are very efficient at winning games faster than other slower variants.

As good as Solidarity is, some of the best elements of High Tide decks come from sorceries. Spring Tide loves [c]Merchant Scroll[/c] for finding another [c]High Tide[/c], a Zenith that has been re-shuffled, a [c]Turnabout[/c] for mana… So many options! It makes the deck run incredibly smoothly. Spring Tide also has all of the best cantrips. [c]Ponder[/c] and [c]Preordain[/c] sculpt beautiful combo hands early in the game, and [c]Brainstorm[/c] is, as always, along for the ride. [c]Ideas Unbound[/c] is another sorcery-speed all-star that gives an efficient 3 cards for 2 mana. It is an okay setup card if played correctly in the early turns. I almost never use it for this purpose, though, as I usually botch my discards in some way.

Spring Tide is also more efficient at generating storm than the other variants. [c]Snap[/c] targeting [c]Cloud of Faeries[/c] generates very fast mana and storm as this effectively makes [c]Snap[/c] add two to storm each time. Although nothing can be “recycled” through a [c]Time Spiral[/c]-like effect, that is often irrelevant due to the sheer number of cards drawn in any given turn through [c]Ideas Unbound[/c] and friends. These numerous draw cards also up the storm count very quickly. Spring Tide also packs a nifty little trick in the board. I use this in my variant, but some others do not. The singleton [c]Capsize[/c] may seem odd in a board full of other bounce effects that are more efficient. However, it lends itself to an infinite combo for both storm count and blue mana. While not necessary for a win, the combo can make it very easy to guarantee one.

Firstly, all four [c]High Tide[/c]s in the deck must have resolved. This is not always possible, but [c]Merchant Scroll[/c] coupled with draw effects can make this easier than expected. Secondly, there must be a [c]Cloud of Faeries[/c] in play with at least eight mana available. Cast the [c]Capsize[/c] with buyback targeting [c]Cloud of Faeries[/c], thus bouncing it to hand. Re-cast the Faeries to untap two lands and tap the lands for ten blue mana. Each time this is repeated, it will net two storm and two blue mana. This can be used for a lethal [c]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/c] or [c]Brain Freeze[/c], whichever is more appropriate.

Cons

There are a LOT of things going for Spring Tide… However, there are a few key drawbacks from which the deck suffers, the most obvious of which, at least from my build, is the budget nature. [c]Spell Pierce[/c] is nothing compared to [c]Force of Will[/c], and the thinning and [c]Brainstorm[/c]-fixing power of fetches is non-existent. Fortunately, those are the only two real money cards in the deck. [c]Flusterstorm[/c] is another probable inclusion, at least in the board, that could better the deck.

Also, this is the only High Tide deck that must fear creature removal. A well-timed [c]Swords to Plowshares[/c] in response to a [c]Snap[/c] will wreck the deck. When both fizzle, if that was the last hope of generating mana, it is game over. Some opponents are savvy enough to pick up on this, but a few not-so-well versed opponents may remove their removal thinking it to be worthless. Creature removal also stops the infinite combo.

The only other real drawback is the reliance on [c]Meditate[/c] and [c]Ideas Unbound[/c] to hit relevant cards. These two are necessary gambles to win the game, but sometimes, just as with [c]Time Spiral[/c], they hit nothing relevant. Other than that, this deck is a smooth operator that will give many opponents a glazed-over look by the time they are dead from a little Faerie and some running water!

Final Thoughts

Spring Tide is a deck that can be improved upon, unlike some other variants that are (almost) set in stone. I have been experimenting with [c]Retraced Image[/c] as a possible inclusion for turning excess lands in hand into more mana that couples well with other untap effects.

I have also contemplated adding a fourth [c]Cunning Wish[/c], given that this deck may be using up 2 or more in any given game if one is needed A) for the kill, B) for the infinite combo, and C) for some other need to save the deck’s butt mid combo. There may be two instances of a C scenario, which might mandate a fourth Wish. This would couple well with 3 [c]Retraced Image[/c] if I were to remove, say, four [c]Preordain[/c]. In an aggro/burn/something without counterspells meta, the [c]Spell Pierces[/c] could be removed for these four.

Also, I’m not 100% sure about [c]Disrupt[/c] in the board. I may want it main decked. It rocks against [c]Force of Will[/c] on a tapped out opponent, and it stops [c]Thoughtseize[/c] from ripping apart the hand early on. However, it is pointless as soon as the opponent accumulates some extra mana to burn. It could be removed entirely from the ‘board in favor of more protection such as [c]Defense Grid[/c].

Decks are constantly evolving, and this is no different. If you try out the deck and have some suggestions, please post some comments! I will hopefully be adding a video to this article soon, so you may want to check this page again in the next week or so for a deck tech. I hope you enjoyed the conclusion to the High Tide series! I hope to see you next week for more eternal craziness!

Cheers!

/Peyton

Legacy on Tuesdays, No. 6: Green Grass and High Tides – Part III

Welcome Back!

In this series, I am covering a portion of the major [c]High Tide[/c] archetypes that can be seen on a not-so-regular basis in Legacy. [c]High Tide[/c] is not a common archetype, but it is a powerful mono-blue deck that comes with built-in inevitability. Check out the article here (Part 1) for a basic description of each of the four major High Tide variants.

This week, the archetype is Solidarity. Solidarity attempts to abuse the untap power of [c]Reset[/c] by winning on the opponent’s turn at instant speed. All the pros and cons of Solidarity revolve around the instant-speed necessity of the deck, but in general the nature of the deck is a bonus rather than a hindrance.

Pros

[c]Reset[/c] is cheap. Mana-wise, that is, although money-wise, it is still fairly inexpensive on MTGO (> 1 tix). This does not hold true for paper magic; sadly the card costs upwards of $15 US in near-mint condition. The ability to untap all lands for a mere {U}{U} is truly potent when compared to a standard land untapper, namely [c]Turnabout[/c] and [c]Time Spiral[/c]. The cheap mana cost also means that it is possible to win with fewer lands. If you control two islands and are about to lose to ANT, you can attempt to win with only a [c]High Tide[/c] and a [c]Reset[/c]. As unlikely as it may seem, that less than 10% chance of winning with so little mana exists.

[c]Turnabout[/c] still holds its place in Solidarity, because it is an instant. Similarly, many of the key High Tide components, such as fetches, [c]Cunning Wish[/c], [c]Brain Freeze[/c], etc. are still totally viable in Solidarity. The mighty [c]Brainstorm[/c] still holds court as an exceedingly powerful cantrip, and [c]Force of Will[/c] is, as always, and ever-present piece of protection for the blue combo deck.

Solidarity is also built to take advantage of some modern staples; the deck’s creator David Gearhart found applications for both [c]Cryptic Command[/c] and [c]Remand[/c] in his list. Normally Cryptic stalls and/or protects while cantripping, which is very useful for gaining more time to sculpt the hand. [c]Remand[/c] has a variety of uses, from stalling the opponent to bouncing a [c]Brain Freeze[/c]. The latter allows for a mill-out with a lower storm count.

Last, and almost certainly not least, is the nature of the deck itself. Solidarity pilots can pick up lots of free wins, metagame dependent. The deck often just takes opponents by surprise, especially if they often have not planned for you to attempt to win on their turn since most players think of High Tide as being a sorcery-speed deck. This also gives the pilot a distinct advantage against players not using counterspells.

Cons

All of Solidarity’s cons stem from one main point – instant speed. Cards like [c]Merchant Scroll[/c] can no longer be used to find combo pieces. [c]Candelabra of Tawnos[/c] and [c]Time Spiral[/c] are both sorceries. Technically, Candelabra could work, but only if cast before the combo turn. It is still unused because it is absolutely a dead draw mid-combo off of a [c]Meditate[/c] or other draw spell. [c]Ponder[/c] and [c]Preordain[/c] cannot be used to sculpt amazing hands for little mana investment.

However, Solidarity deals with each of these issues in its own way. Lack of tutors is made up for with cards like [c]Flash of Insight[/c]. [c]Reset[/c] is an incredibly powerful untap effect. Cards like [c]Impulse[/c] and [c]Opt[/c], while not as powerful as [c]Ponder[/c] and friends, are suitable replacements alongside [c]Brainstorm[/c].

Those are the basics of what makes Solidarity unique. As with most High Tide variants, it has a wishboard, which will be covered after this list:

[d title=”Solidarity by David Gearhart, circa 2009″]

Lands
12 Island
3 Flooded Strand
3 Polluted Delta

Instants
2 Brain Freeze
4 Brainstorm
2 Cryptic Command
3 Cunning Wish
2 Flash of Insight
4 Force of Will
4 High Tide
4 Impulse
3 Meditate
3 Opt
1 Peek
3 Remand
4 Reset
3 Turnabout

Sideboard
3 Disrupt
2 Echoing Truth
2 Twincast
2 Wipe Away
1 Hydroblast
1 Meditate
1 Brain Freeze
1 Rebuild
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Turnabout
[/d]

This was the preferred Legacy combo deck circa 2006, since it was consistent and very powerful. It has since waned greatly with the dawn of Ad Nauseam Tendrils in 2009.

Wishboard

Solidarity, like all High Tide variants, uses [c]Cunning Wish[/c] as a powerful tutor and stabilizer for the deck. This wishboard is perfectly suited for Solidarity. Most standard elements are there; [c]Disrupt[/c] is the only card that is boarded in against control-heavy decks that are vulnerable to it. There is a heavy array of bounce spells, including the indispensably uncounterable [c]Wipe Away[/c], to deal with permanent threats that counterspells have not already stopped. [c]Defense Grid[/c] is sometimes employed by Spiral Tide as further sideboard protection against counterspell decks, but it is the absolute bane of this deck. Same with [c]Dosan the Falling Leaf[/c], [c]Grand Abolisher[/c] and friends. The deck cannot bounce them on the combo turn, since it is the opponent’s turn, and often times the opponent will just re-cast them at the next opportunity. Sometimes this mandates temporarily forgoing [c]Reset[/c] and attempting to win without it on your turn.

Some seemingly odd choices for the ‘board are [c]Twincast[/c] and [c]Stroke of Genius[/c]. Everything else fills a set role, except for these two. Well, except for [c]Twincast[/c]. SoG was the original [c]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/c] before that card’s printing, which was after this deck’s golden age. With no way to re-tutor BSZ directly, only via draw spells, and no way to re-cast [c]Stroke of Genius[/c] at all once its been cast, [c]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/c] is marginally better than [c]Stroke of Genius[/c]. Ergo I would make that change for an updated list.

[c]Twincast[/c] deserves a paragraph of its own. I have never been a big fan of this card for High Tide. Not even as a wish target. Many might think that a copy spell is absolutely perfect for the deck. This theory is just that – a theory. In my experience, [c]Twincast[/c] is not worth maindeck slots. It is WAY too situational, and too often dead, even in the sideboard when I might rather have something like a [c]Pact of Negation[/c] in that slot. When it works, it performs admirably. Copying a [c]Reset[/c] and tapping lands in between the two leads to insane mana production, but also deep knowledge of timing rules. Copying [c]Cunning Wish[/c] might be a little strange since in this list it is a wish target… But heck if I know! It may be prudent to do so at some undefinable situation in the game’s best and craziest format! While I tend to shy away from this “miracle” card, you might try it out and see if it works for you.

Modo user Chemfy shows off a version of Solidarity in this playlist. He doesn’t have the winningest of records, but he does play the deck fairly well. My guess is that he found or perhaps tweaked a list, and then launched right into a few games without a ton of practice. High Tide is a very difficult archetype to learn and master, and each sub-deck has its own small nuances that make it complex and different.

I love that he threw a [c]Hunting Pack[/c] into the ‘board as an alternate win condition when facing down [c]Leyline of Sanctity[/c] or something else that can’t be bounced due to mana constraint, etc. The Pack also allows for potential wins when storm or mana isn’t high enough to cast a lethal [c]Brain Freeze[/c]. Innovation is always welcome to decks like this that may be a touch antiquated or rigid.

Well, that’s all for this week!

Stay tuned next week for my personal favorite variation on High Tide, Spring Tide.

Thanks for reading!

/Peyton

Legacy en los Martes, No. 5: Green Grass and High Tides – Part II

Welcome Back!

Last week, I talked about the amazing legacy archetype called High Tide, which wins by casting [c]High Tide[/c] and drowning your opponent in mana production. That article was just a little intro to the deck (and can be found here if you did not read it), while this article will go a bit more in depth into the nuances of this particular archetype. This week’s segment will be Spiral Tide, which is the quintessential High Tide deck that most people think about when considering the archetype.

This is the most well-recognized High Tide deck out there; ergo, there will be links at the bottom to other articles that are great resources for those looking to try this deck. I am by no means a master of this particular build, and I highly recommend you look at the links for more information.

Spiral Tide – In General

Spiral Tide combines [c]High Tide[/c], the linchpin of any High Tide deck ([c]Duh[/c]), with the insane untapping power of [c]Time Spiral[/c] and [c]Candelabra of Tawnos[/c]. On average this deck produces anywhere from 80-150 {U} in the combo turn, which is combined with draw effects like [c]Meditate[/c] and [c]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/c] to continue to generate storm and mana to “kill” the opponent with either a massive [c]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/c] to the face or, on occasion, [c]Brain Freeze[/c]. The latter is not as viable as it used to be, due to the advent of cards like [c]Progenitus[/c] and [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] that prevent mill-out regardless of storm count. However, it is still a possible kill if there is not enough mana to kill with a Zenith.

[c]Time Spiral[/c] deserves its own paragraph. The card is a powerful gamble. After resolving a [c]High Tide[/c] with 5-6 [c]Island[/c]s in play, a resolved TS is often “good game.” The card not only generates absurd amounts of mana, but it also draws a fresh 7 in order to continue the madness. That being said, sometimes there is absolute crap in those seven. Sometimes mostly land, sometimes all mana producers ([c]Turnabout[/c] or Candelabras), and sometimes just a bunch of [c]Ponder[/c]s that find nothing. Even so, one [c]Meditate[/c] or [c]Cunning Wish[/c] in those seven can easily find enough to win. Be warned: [c]Time Spiral[/c] gives the opponent a fresh hand as well. If the opponent is using blue, which is more than 50% likely, be wary of counterspells. Any untapped Islands they have will also produce more mana, so that 1 island can sometimes hard cast [c]Force of Will[/c]. Although there’s most likely a counterspell in your seven as well; that’s just one of the perks of playing Mono-Blue combo!

This video here contains a great example of how a [c]Time Spiral[/c] can horribly backfire and find nothing:

Too bad! It happens. This is also an amazing matchup for High Tide. A complete lack of counterspells is an amazing bonus for combo decks.

[c]Candelabra of Tawnos[/c]

This card may partially account for the lack of intense [c]High Tide[/c] play. Many people believe that this archetype is the “only” High Tide deck out there, and this card can cost $350 or more in paper. Fortunately, the card is only around $20 or so on modo. It is not a necessary component of some High Tide decks, but the mana production that comes out of this simple 1 mana artifact is insane. It is a 1-shot deal during the combo turn, but it is an integral part of this typical archetype. This card is almost certainly a 4-of for the deck.

These are some of the most distinctive parts of this particular archetype. As stated in last week’s article, there are a few other integral parts that most High Tide decks utilize. That article can be found here if you have not already read it. This is important because the ‘backbone’ combines with the elements here to make the High Tide deck.

As seen last week as well, here is Feline Longmore’s most recent rendition of Spiral Tide. Longmore has been a long time user of the deck, and has some impressive wins.

[d title=”Spiral Tide by Feline Longmore, Top 8 SCG Providence June 2014″]
Artifacts
4 Candelabra of Tawnos
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
Instants
4 High Tide
3 Flusterstorm
4 Brainstorm
1 Turnabout
4 Force of Will
3 Cunning Wish
Sorceries
4 Merchant Scroll
4 Time Spiral
4 Ponder
3 Preordain
Lands
12 Island
3 Flooded Strand
3 Polluted Delta
Sideboard
4 Counterbalance
1 Snap
1 Pact of Negation
1 Flusterstorm
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith
2 Wipe Away
1 Surgical Extraction
1 Rebuild
1 Intuition
1 Brain Freeze
1 Turnabout
[/d]

She made top eight with the deck, although the video featured in the last article showed her losing to CVM. This video is of her win against Joel Herrick in round five of last year’s SCGMinn.

This video is great at showing just how long the combo turn can be, as well as that helpless feel the opponent has as you combo kill them.

That’s all I have for this deck; I suggest that you look at the section below for more information about Spiral Tide. Thanks for reading!

Further Reading:

http://www.mtgthesource.com/forums/showthread.php?20172-PRIMER-Spiral-Tide
http://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/the-game/legacy-type-1-5/established-legacy/combo/179812-deck-high-tide
VERY General information: http://mtgsalvation.gamepedia.com/Spiral_Tide

Threat Evaluation, Part 1: Island, Go

If you are anything like me, then you probably can’t think of February 12, 2014 without a pit forming in your stomach. Most of you that have followed this site know exactly what happened on this date. For those of you that don’t know, this is the day that Pauper Daily Events were discontinued on MTGO.

Pauper was a format with a huge card pool, plenty of room for brewing, minimal cost of entry, and minimal risk of loss. Naturally, this is a brewer’s dream. So your Sunscape Familiar, Thunderscape Familiar, Nettle Sentinel, Goblin Electromancer, Sprout Swarm brew didn’t go infinite enough? Fine. Spend another ticket, and brew another deck.

Then February 12 happened, and a lot of us had no idea what to do. Awkwardly some tried to continue playing 8-mans, but it appears that most have moved on to another format with a broken power-level, non-rotating cardpool, and low financial threshold: Modern.

Being cheap to buy in did not mean that the barrier of entry was low, though. Like wanderers out of exile, players often had to ask themselves what they were up against exactly. Sadly, whenever I saw cards like [c]Tarmogoyf[/c], I would just say I played against “B/G Goodstuff,” when in reality my notes don’t reflect that the matches were against Jund, Pod, Junk, Rock, and myriad other options. Because of my experience with Pauper, whenever I saw a Forest, I ignorantly thought “Stompy.”

This article series hopes to identify the more popular and successful decks, and even some brews, by typical early plays and cards that set them apart from other lists. Here we will start with Island. Again, my naivety led me to think “Ok, Delver.” Actually, I could have been playing any one of the following lists.

The Usual Suspects

If your opponent leads “Island, Go” then you are most likely facing one of these.

Splinter Twin

Not only are you most likely playing this when you see an Island, but also historically you are most likely playing against this in Modern, period. It is often the most common money-maker in Modern Events. This deck aims to resolve a [c]Pestermite[/c] or [c]Deceiver Exarch[/c] turn 3 followed by a [c]Splinter Twin[/c] on turn 4. Each copy of the creature untaps the original, allowing it to create infinite copies and kill you. Unfortunately, all along the way, their burn and soft counters delay you from winning or disrupting.

Tell-tale signs: If you see one of these two creatures, it is most likely too late to identify the deck and construct a counter strategy. I think [c]Peek[/c] is the card that sets this list apart from anything else with Steam Vents.

Variations on Splinter Twin – If you see [c]Breeding Pool[/c] or [c]Stomping Ground[/c], then you may be playing Tarmo-Twin, which combines the combo kill with [c]Tarmogoyf[/c] and has [c]Ancient Grudge[/c] in the sideboard.

If your opponent’s mana-base looks crazy and has things like [c]Razorverge Thicket[/c] followed by [c]Cascade Bluffs[/c], then you are probably playing Kiki-Pod, which will be discussed in another article. The win condition is similar.

Affinity

Now, very rarely will your Affinity opponent leave you any question about what you’re playing against. Just for the sake of completeness, though, some Affinity lists run 1 Island (which I’ve never seen played turn 1) and 2 [c]Galvanic Blast[/c]s as opposed to 1 Mountain and 4 Galvanic Blasts. The 1 basic is there because of [c]Ghost Quarter[/c], [c]Path to Exile[/c], and [c]Blood Moon[/c].

Scapeshift

Ah, the 1-card combo. Scapeshift ramps its mana and rifles through its deck until it has 7 lands in play, and then it targets you with enough [c]Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle[/c] triggers for the win. And 99% of the time they reach 7 lands, they have the [c]Scapeshift[/c]. You thought all along that they spent all their time just digging for lands, but somehow they acquired it as well.

Tell-tale signs: The cards that set it easily apart from Twin variants are [c]Search for Tomorrow[/c], [c]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/c], and [c]Peer Through Depths[/c].

Delver

U/R Delver is a cheap grindy deck that rewards tight play, much like its Pauper equivalent. It has a few points of attack, including [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c] + Burn spells, [c]Young Pyromancer[/c]’s countless triggers, and [c]Delver of Secrets[/c] himself.

Tell-tale signs: It is easy to recognize, as other color configurations with Delver are extremely rare. In case you have any question, though, you can also identify it by its [c]Pillar of Flame[/c]s. No other list plays this.

UWR Control

Utilizing hard removal like [c]Path to Exile[/c] and hard counters such as [c]Cryptic Command[/c] as well as soft removal and counters in the form of burn and [c]Remand[/c], this deck is built to go for the long game.

Tell-tale signs: It is easily recognized in the early game by its kill condition: [c]Celestial Colonnade[/c]. When you see this plus a source of red mana, then you know. [c]Lightning Helix[/c] is also played in very few other lists.

Variations on UWR control – You may see a midrange list associated with [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c], and many players are now opting to play [c]Restoration Angel[/c] and [c]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/c] for the Twin-like kill.

U/R Storm

Prepare to press F6 and sit back or catch up on your snacks, reading, watching Breaking Bad episodes, whatever. For non-MTGO users, F6 tells the game you have no response but don’t want to concede. The critical turn for a Storm player is the one where they play [c]Pyromancer Ascension[/c], Ritual, Ritual, [c]Manamorphose[/c], copy Manamorphose, [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c], copy Gitaxian Probe, [c]Past in Flames[/c], copy Past in Flames, twelve more rituals, their copies, and [c]Grapeshot[/c] for the win.

Tell-tale signs: You know you’re playing Storm, and further, that you had better do something fast, when you see [c]Goblin Electromancer[/c]. Other sure signs are [c]Desperate Ravings[/c] and [c]Thought Scour[/c], as this deck uniquely plays them. [c]Shivan Reef[/c] may be played in U/R Delver, but most likely if you see it, you’re against Storm.

After Careful Consideration

These decks aren’t quite as often played as the former list, but with such an open format, these are quite possible.

Mono-U Tron, “The Well-Oiled Machine”

Whether they have you in a [c]Mindslaver[/c] lock, put you out of the game with [c]Sundering Titan[/c], or resolve a [c]Platinum Angel[/c] that you can’t deal with, the blue-centric Tron deck is a tough one to beat once it gets going.

Tell-tale signs: Whenever you see Islands and Tron pieces, know that you are most likely playing this. What sets this apart from UW Tron is [c]Talisman of Dominance[/c], [c]Solemn Simulacrum[/c], and [c]Spell Burst[/c]. [c]Cyclonic Rift[/c] is featured in the mono-U variant, but often it’s such a blowout that this identification cannot be helpful.

Merfolk

The most appropriately named deck in the bunch, the deck’s creatures are all its namesake. Although this is a blue deck, the disruption is minimal but very effective and serves multiple purposes. [c]Spreading Seas[/c] messes with your lands while filtering cards and making their creatures unblockable. [c]Cursecatcher[/c] messes with your math as you try to race against 5 4/4 creatures you can’t do anything about.

Tell-tale signs: These include Island/[c]Mutavault[/c], [c]Aether Vial[/c], go or turn 1 Cursecatcher. [c]Silvergill Adept[/c] on turn 2 is not unlikely in the event they kept a weaker opener.

UW Control

Since so many powerful cards were added to this archetype in Standard-legal sets, these decks pop up occasionally. Omitting the bolts from UWR control, they max out on sweepers and [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c] instead. Kill conditions often include [c]Kitchen Finks[/c] and [c]Sun Titan[/c] (value!), but sometimes creatures are passed by altogether.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Detention Sphere[/c] tells you that your opponent is not just a mana-screwed UWR player, and an early [c]Mystic Gate[/c] is a good sign as well.

Blue Moon

Popularized at Pro Tour Born of the Gods in Valencia, this part blue devotion, part counter-burn, part-2 of everything else that’s useful mess can be quite tricky to play against, provided it draws the right cards for the right match-ups (and at the right time). The mana-base is very basic Island-heavy with enough red to resolve [c]Blood Moon[/c] and a handful of bolts. Its disruption includes counters and Control Magic effects: [c]Vedalken Shackles[/c] and [c]Threads of Disloyalty[/c]. Finally, 2 [c]Batterskull[/c]s function as the [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]s of the deck.

Tell-tale signs: When you see a red mana source and [c]Spreading Seas[/c], you know you’re against Blue Moon, but another hint is the preponderance of what seem to be sideboard cards in the main: [c]Blood Moon[/c], Vedalken Shackles, Threads of Disloyalty, et al.

Faeries

This deck was supposed to be good. [c]Bitterblossom[/c] was banned for no reason to prevent it from dominating. Still, upon the Faerie enchantment’s un-banning, the deck has failed to take off. Perhaps it is in a state of infancy because most of the lists look like their standard counterparts. Once the engine is revved up, though, a Sword equipped on a Faerie Rogue is quite difficult to beat. Beyond that, there are so many tricks with [c]Mistbind Clique[/c], [c]Spellstutter Sprite[/c], and [c]Cryptic Command[/c] for value. That same Sprite can counter four cards before all is said and done.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Bitterblossom[/c] plus a blue source, [c]Secluded Glen[/c], and often [c]River of Tears[/c] signal Faeries.

Cruel Control

Perhaps the deck most filled with powerful spells in this list, here you have roughly 50% lands and a lot of 1-for-1 until the namesake [c]Cruel Ultimatum[/c] resolves. Most people should just concede at this point, but if you’re into being on the receiving end of [c]Creeping Tar Pit[/c] beats, then play it out.

Tell-tale signs: This is the only Grixis list in Modern, so watch their mana-base for UBR capability.

UW Tron

This deck is not to be considered so much as a Mono-U Tron variant, as the two play rather differently. Like Cruel Control, a lot of powerful things are happening here, and the most powerful of them all is [c]Gifts Ungiven[/c]. Whether it is ramped out with an [c]Azorius Signet[/c] on turn 3, or simply played after the land drops allow, its caster often fails to find two cards, placing [c]Unburial Rites[/c] and either [c]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/c] or [c]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/c] into its graveyard to come out and play on the next turn. Barring this plan, the deck has [c]Wurmcoil Engine[/c]s and a trusty [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] for long games.

Tell-tale signs: The combination of [c]Celestial Colonnade[/c] and a Tron piece or [c]Azorius Signet[/c] are the indicating pieces of the deck.

4-Color Gifts

While the deck looks wildly different from UW Tron, it is helpful to think of them as similar. The four colors are Blue, White, Green, and Black, and in place of Azorius Signet, you have [c]Sylvan Caryatid[/c]. The controlling pieces in place of UW Tron’s sweepers are muchc stronger: [c]Liliana of the Veil[/c], [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], [c]Slaughter Pact[/c], and targeted discard.

Tell-tale signs: What a mess of a deck. The Sylvan Caryatid is a sure sign, and so are things like [c]Life From The Loam[/c], [c]Raven’s Crime[/c], and [c]Maelstrom Pulse[/c] while seeing blue or white.

Ad Nauseam Combo

This deck has three objectives: 1) Ramp to BBW3. 2) Resolve [c]Angel’s Grace[/c]. 3) Resolve [c]Ad Nauseam[/c]. The rest is academic. [c]Simian Spirit Guide[/c]s will generate the mana required to resolve a [c]Lightning Storm[/c] with enough copies to kill you. Unfortunately, [c]Pact of Negation[/c] and [c]Slaughter Pact[/c] make it difficult to win first or interact. Angel’s Grace combines with both of these as well on the kill turn.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Pentad Prism[/c] is the surest sign, but the Theros temples in Esper colors are solid as well. Finally, this is one of the few decks to play [c]Lotus Bloom[/c].

Once In A Blue Moon

These are existing combos that occasionally re-emerge as someone is trying the format out, or newly brewed decks that probably won’t last long enough to be archetypes but could be encountered on MTGO.

[c]Pili-Pala[/c] + [c]Grand Architect[/c]

These two cards together generate infinite mana for a [c]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/c] or simply [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c].

Wizards

Keeping an eye on Travis Woo’s stream, Facebook, or articles will give you a good ear to the ground whenever you encounter most strange decks on MTGO. This one is no exception. “Island, Aether Vial, Go” may look like Merfolk, but watch for a [c]Voidmage Prodigy[/c] coming down instead. A [c]Sky Hussar[/c] activation tells you this is what you’re playing against too. Some variants even throw in Theros block’s [c]Disciple of Deceit[/c] with Sky Hussar to tutor up, yep, [c]Pili-Pala[/c] and [c]Grand Architect[/c].

Mill

This deck is much easier to recognize than it is to beat sometimes, but once you learn some simple tricks like not searching your library for [c]Ghost Quarter[/c] and [c]Path To Exile[/c], it should be cakewalk.

Tell-tale signs: Any card besides [c]Thought Scour[/c] with the milling effect.

Takin’ Turns/The Time Warp

Depending on how their leader, Farfishere, has directed his followers, this can be quick and easy or excruciatingly slow for both players. The quick and easy version ramps into an [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] with [c]Extraplanar Lens[/c]. The painful method is to take approximately 48 turns in a row and milling your opponent with Jace’s ultimate.

Tell-tale signs: Any card that operates like a [c]Howling Mine[/c] played early. Any time you see something that reads, “Take an additional turn,” it’s likely too late. The exception is a turn 3 lucky miracle.

Ironworks/Open The Vaults

It seems that many lists in this article are available for the players that want their opponents to want to quit not only the match but also the game of Magic altogether. Eggs has never been an exception. The deck hopes to ramp to a [c]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/c] with [c]Mox Opal[/c], [c]Etherium Sculptor[/c], [c]Mind Stone[/c], or assembling Tron, and then generate tons of mana for [c]Emrakul, the Aeons torn[/c] or [c]Banefire[/c], creating loops with [c]Faith’s Reward[/c] and [c]Open the Vaults[/c] for more mana and cards.

Tell-tale signs: [c]Ichor Wellspring[/c], [c]Elsewhere Flask[/c], any durdling activities.

[c]Possibility Storm[/c]

Yes, another combo list, but at least this one has the decency to kill you with panache. After resolving its namesake Return to Ravnica block enchantment, a [c]Tolaria West[/c] or [c]Fabricate[/c] will fetch an [c]Ornithopter[/c], allowing the player to cast [c]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/c] (yes, cast, and thus get the extra turn trigger).

Tell-tale signs: A UWR mana-base with combo-like activities: [c]Serum Visions[/c], [c]Sleight of Hand[/c], [c]Peer through Depths[/c]. [c]Idyllic Tutor[/c] or [c]Tolaria West[/c] may come out in the early game also.

UB Tezzeret

This is a blue black control deck that combines the better elements of Cruel Control with the title Planeswalker and a host of artifacts that do not let your opponent play Magic: [c]Chalice of the Void[/c], [c]Ensnaring Bridge[/c], even [c]Trading Post[/c]!

Tell-tale signs: In Modern, seeing a [c]Trinket Mage[/c] is pretty rare. It is safe to assume you’re up against Tez when you do. Also [c]Darksteel Citadel[/c] takes you off a suspicion of Faeries, since a lot of the other lands are the same. Artifacts like [c]Engineered Explosives[/c], [c]Executioner’s Capsule[/c], and [c]Chalice of the Void[/c] are good indicators.

End Step

I hope you enjoyed and benefited from this article. There are some fascinating things going on with Modern prices now because of people buying in to Legacy and Vintage, but Modern is an interesting format with a lot of room for creativity despite its myriad lists. Consider, all of the above lists are just the ones with blue! Four more articles will come in this series. In the meantime, thanks for reading and commenting.

-Drinkard
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