by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Toon Kingdom makes a competitive Yu-Gi-Oh Toon deck build possible.
Yu-Gi-Oh. I used to play this trading card game with about the same frequency as breathing. Then, the game became all about one or two top archetypes at a time. Each would have a shelf life of about a month. After that, everything got reprinted... except some random common from like 2005 that was never reprinted and became like 10 bucks a pop. The rest of the decks could be had for a week worth of lunch money.
OK, perhaps that's a slight exaggeration. But, due to the extremely erratic nature of Yu-Gi-Oh’s metagame, investing in Yu-Gi-Oh cards long-term has often not been a smart play. That is, unless you wheel and deal like a Dark Magician… (That was lame, I'm sorry.)
So, why in the holy name of Dark Magician Girl would I be returning to write about the duel monsters?
Nostalgia does strange things to our recollections of intrinsically worthless things. Toons were my introduction to Yu-Gi-Oh with the Pegasus starter deck. As much as I loved the concept of them, they cost you most of your life points just to play them.
In the early days of the game their sheer power level was enough to win your local tournament by accident on occasion. But as the game grew and the power level of many other cards went berserk, Toons became a fond memory, a deck you built "Just For Fun."
But, Toon Kingdom...is certainly a game changer in making Toons competitive!
First introduced in the Yu-Gi-Oh GX anime, Toon Kingdom teased duel monsters fans with a potentially dangerous new way to play Toons. But they never printed it into the actual card game, until Dragons of Legends 2. They would reprint it as a rare in 2018, too, in the Legendary Duelists: Ancient Millenium set. The reprint gets you a crappier-looking version of the card for about half the price of a secret rare Dragons of Legends version when going by 2020 prices.
What's particularly nuts about this version of Toon Kingdom is that it's actually better than the anime version.
When you activate this card, remove from play the top 5 cards of your Deck. This face-up card's name is treated as "Toon World". If a "Toon" monster you control would be destroyed by battle, you can banish the top card of your Deck instead.
When this card is activated: Banish 3 cards from the top of your Deck, face-down. This card's name becomes "Toon World" while in the Field Zone. Your opponent cannot target Toon monsters you control with card effects. If a Toon monster(s) you control would be destroyed by battle or card effect, you can banish 1 card from the top of your Deck, face-down, for each of those monster(s) instead.
The original Toon World?
Activate this card by paying 1000 LP.
How exciting. But, to play the lovely Toon Dark Magician Girl or Toon Blue-Eyes White Dragon, you had to have this Toon World continuous spell card on the board. But now, Toon Kingdom makes them almost indestructible.
There is an important distinction between the anime and “real world” versions of Toon Kingdom. The original Kingdom banishes the top 5 cards of your deck, BUT they are face-up. The new version only banishes 3, but they are face-down. Because they are face-down, you can’t do anything with them. No Different Dimension shenanigans. Once they’re banished face-down, they’re gone forever.
I think the trade-off is worth it, though, just because you have Toons that basically can’t be destroyed by battle or by card effects. They can’t even be targeted by card effects. Even the classic Raigeki doesn’t kill them, as long as you banish one card for each one that would otherwise be destroyed.
Another major distinction is that Toon Kingdom is a Field Spell in “real life” whereas the original was a Continuous Spell Card. This means you can use Terraforming to search it out, not just Toon Table of Contents. Since you’ll be banishing cards from your deck left and right, redundancy is important.
So now the question is, are Toons now suddenly tournament-playable after so many years? Let’s see what other Toon support Dragons of Legends 2 has unleashed.
Toon Ancient Gear Golem? This is a cute card. Ancient Gear Golem was a really powerful monster back in the day. Is it going to see play? Probably not.
Toon Rollback lets you attack a second time! Sounds good enough, but no one’s taking anything out to make room for it in their 40.
Shadow Toon sounds pretty awesome. You can inflict damage equal to the ATK points of an opponent’s creature right to your opponent’s face. But it's a bit too situational.
Toon Mask? It's a free Special Summon, even out of the deck! But like Shadow Toon, it's totally dependent is what your opponent is playing.
Toon Briefcase? The Briefcase is pretty sweet, though, as it’s sort of a Trap Hole that returns the monster to the deck. Comic Hand is a Snatch Steal if you have Toon World/Toon Kingdom.
Mimicat, though? We have a winner!
If you control "Toon World" and a Toon monster: Target 1 card in your opponent's Graveyard; if it is a monster, Special Summon it to your side of the field, or if it is a Spell/Trap Card, Set it to your side of the field. You can only activate 1 "Mimicat" per turn.
A Monster Reborn that can bring back spell or trap cards!? WHAT!? Give me a playset right now!
Dragons of Legend 2 isn't the only newer set to provide good Toon cards, though. With the Shining Victories set, in came a powerful new Toon monster: Red-Eyes Toon Dragon. Yu-Gi-Oh players know how busted Red-Eyes Black Metal Dragon became. This is a pretty strong Red-Eyes Dragon, too, letting you Special Summon any Toon monster other than another "Red-Eyes Toon Dragon" from your hand once per turn.
With the Dark Illusion set, Toons keep getting better. Toon Dark Magician may be the best of the Toon monsters printed so far! The best part about this Dark Magician is that he can summon a Toon monster directly from your deck! He also has the ability to search out a Toon Spell or Trap card from your deck, including Toon Kingdom! It also doesn't hurt that he can attack your opponent directly for 2500 !
In particular, you're going to want to get a Red-Eyes Toon Dragon. You can then use the Toon Dragon's ability to summon yet another Toon Dark Magician from your hand and repeat the process! In effect, you can combo off a bunch of summons in one turn just like the classic Six Samurai decks and many other competitive decks today.
We’ve established that Toon Kingdom and Mimicat are the main draws here. Red-Eyes Toon Dragon and Toon Dark Magician make for a great top-end boss monsters to build around. Most of the other cards are cute and sound good on paper, but don’t quite make the cut if we're going for consistency and overall power.
So, what’s a cool new competitive Toon deck going to look like? Tons of people brew Toon decks constantly. But there are so many permutations, and there doesn’t seem to be an optimized, competitive Toon build out there quite yet.
You’d want to start with a deck list like this:
3x Toon Cannon Soldier
3x Toon Gemini Elf
3x Toon Masked Sorcerer
2x Toon Mermaid
2x Toon Cyber Dragon
3x Toon Dark Magician
3x Red-Eyes Toon Dragon
2x Comic Hand
3x Pot of Duality
3x Toon Kingdom
3x Toon Table of Contents
1x Bottomless Trap Hole
2x Call of the Haunted
2x Dimensional Prison
2x Toon Briefcase
Toon Summoned Skull is a classic Toon monster that usually sees play in Toons, but Toon Cyber Dragon is a newer option you can play instead. The Cyber Dragon is probably better, though, since you can Special Summon it in the same way you could a regular Cyber Dragon.
The monster line-up doesn’t look overwhelming, but since they can all attack directly if your opponent doesn’t control a Toon, they don’t have to be overwhelming on power. Also, remember that you can just banish a card face-down if they would be destroyed. There’s enough defensive cards in the deck to deal with any major offensive threats from your opponent.
Answering Great Reader Feedback About Building a Toon Kingdom Deck
Over time, I’ve received some great reader comments about building their own Toon Kingdom decks. One reader suggestion is to use the continuous Spell card Field Barrier to protect your Toon Kingdoms. I feel this would be a good card to consider for the sideboard, especially against decks with enough firepower to continuously blow away cards in your Spell & Trap Zones.
Another reader suggestion is to use a different draw card in place of Pot of Duality. This is because you can’t Special Summon monsters in the same turn as playing Pot of Duality. However, this wouldn’t be the first Special Summon happy deck to play Duality. This is because Duality lets you choose one card from among the next three.
You could use Upstart Goblin instead of Pot of Duality, which gifts your opponent 1000 LP to draw you a card. This isn’t my favorite option, but Upstart Goblin has been used for years with much success. There are other options, such as Jar of Greed. But since you can unleash some powerful direct attacks with Toon monsters, the life gain for your opponent may be a moot point.
Will a Toon Kingdom Deck Be Able to Win at Local Tournaments?
Frankly, I don't see Toons winning anything serious anytime soon. But, they have a chance in being a lot of fun and winning on the pure strength of Toon Kingdom on occasion. I just can't see them being consistent enough to be worth sleeving up for an actual Advanced-level tournament.
While this isn’t a competitively optimized list, it is a place to start your Toon Kingdom deck. You can substitute whatever Toon monsters you find most useful. Also, keep in mind you have your XYZ monsters and Link Monsters at your disposal, something that Toons never had before. As an archetype, Toons are continuing to look a lot scarier with each new set release that includes them.
Will Toons ever again become consistent enough to actually win tournaments as they could in the early days of Yu-Gi-Oh? That’s quite hard to say, considering you could end up banishing all of your Toon Kingdoms by accident. That is unlikely, though, with how many ways you have to tutor them out. Also, there's enough copies of your monsters and support cards to keep from burning through all of them.
While I don’t plan on just building Toons myself and playing Yu-Gi-Oh again, it’s been a lot of fun to watch Konami continue to give one of the original Yu-Gi-Oh deck archetypes new life. You never know what they’ll reprint or support next.
Of course, you can always play a Toon deck on Duel Links. But, that's a whole different article!
Here are some other Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game articles you may enjoy:
- Yu-Gi-Oh Blackwings Deck Profile
- Can a Gladiator Beast Deck Still Be Competitive?
- GOAT FORMAT! - Intro to the Format
- Fire Princess Burn - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh! Deck Profile!
- The Legendary Fisherman - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh Deck Profile
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
In North America, Yu-Gi-Oh began in late March 2002 with Starter Deck: Yugi and Starter Deck: Kaiba. Today, we’ll be looking at the Yugi deck! While Starter Deck Yugi didn’t have a monster with quite the power of Kaiba’s Blue-Eyes White Dragon, there are some sweet cards in this starter deck.
Let’s get right into it!
Baron of the Fiend Sword
Curse of Dragon
Dark Magician (Ultra Rare)
Doma The Angel of Silence
Gaia The Fierce Knight
Giant Soldier of Stone
Man-Eating Treasure Chest
Neo the Magic Swordsman
Sorcerer of the Doomed
The Stern Mystic
Wall of Illusion
Winged Dragon, Guardian of the Fortress #1
Book of Secret Arts
Card Destruction (Super Rare)
Change of Heart
Dian Keto the Cure Master
Soul Exchange (Super Rare)
Sword of Dark Destruction
Dragon Capture Jar
First, we’ll look at the “boss” monsters of the deck: Dark Magician, Summoned Skull, Gaia the Dragon Champion, and Curse of Dragon. Dark Magician is only 2500 ATK for two tributes, but he’s iconic, and would later have a lot more support. There are actually many ways in this deck for him to actually beat Blue-Eyes and his 3000 ATK, too. Meanwhile, Summoned Skull is 2500 ATK for only one tribute. While he has far less defense, you’re not looking to play these guys in defense mode!
Gaia the Fierce Knight (2300 ATK) and Curse of Dragon (2000 ATK) are pretty underwhelming tribute monsters, but if you happen to have Gaia the Dragon Champion and Polymerization, they make a decent Fusion monster. Even with only 2600 ATK, you could summon him with the necessary monsters in hand, not just on the field.
Also, they happen to be pretty sweet ways to get rid of opposing monsters that you steal with Change of Heart or Tribute with Soul Exchange. At this point, they were still very playable monsters, too.
Ancient Elf is a 1450 ATK, 1200 DEF Light Spellcaster, which at the time was pretty average. Ansatsu is a level 5 Earth Warrior with only 1700 ATK and 1200 DEF. He’d be one of the first monsters out of every Yugi deck as I remember. Baron of the Fiend Sword was decent though, a level 4 Fiend with 1550 ATK and 800 DEF.
Beaver Warrior is familiar to many Yu-Gi-Oh anime fans, but with only 1200 ATK and 1500 DEF, this Beast-Warrior had trouble being competitive. Celtic Guardian is also an iconic Yugi monster, with only 1400 ATK and 1200 DEF. Still, a lot of people played him just because of Yugi.
Despite being one of the worst creatures in the deck, Claw Reacher and his 1000 ATK and 800 DEF is actually one of the more sought after creatures from the Yugi deck! It’s because this is his only printing. So, this is a card you may have been pretty quick to toss in the old days, but he’s pretty collectible now, especially in 1st edition
Doma the Angel of Silence isn’t particularly good, but people still collect her in 1st edition. 1600 ATK and 1400 DEF aren’t bad, but she’s a level 5, requiring a Tribute to Normal Summon. That’s not really so good.
Dragon Zombie has a whopping 0 DEF, but with 1600 ATK for a level 3 monster, he was certainly playable at the time. People really loved this guy, I remember.
Feral Imp is yet another iconic Yugi monster, but his stats are pretty mediocre: 1300 ATK and 1400 DEF. He was playable in the LOB days, though.
Giant Soldier of Stone is an iconic Yugi monster that was actually very playable. With 1300 ATK and 2000 DEF, he’d actually get some attacks in sometimes. This big guy actually saw play for quite awhile.
Great White was a pretty fair monster, too, with 1600 ATK. The 800 DEF was bad, but you didn’t play the Shark to be in defense, of course.
Magical Ghost actually has the same stats as Feral Imp, but a Dark Zombie. He’s mediocre
As bad as Mammoth Graveyard is, with only 1200 ATK and 800 DEF, I always really liked the art on this guy. I think a lot of people did.
Man-Eater Bug is one of the really good effect monsters in this deck. There weren’t a bunch back then, and plenty of people would run three of this guy. He’s a flip effect monster that destroys a monster on the field. Just make sure your opponent has something to blow up, or he eats one of your own guys or even himself - which is kind of weird. If you needed an answer for Blue-Eyes, he’s one.
I’ve always loved the flavor of Man-Eating Treasure Chest and with 1600 ATK, he was actually a decent monster at that time.
Mystic Clown has 1500 ATK and 1000 DEF. Those aren’t great stats, but he’d beat a lot of stuff at that time.
Mystical Elf has a lot in common with Giant Soldier of Stone, not only a classic Yugi card, but she also has 2000 DEF. 800 ATK is pretty lousy, but she held down the fort.
Neo the Magic Swordsman was one of my favorite monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh for a long time, and with 1700 ATK, he was playable.
Silver Fang is the Wolf version of Mammoth Graveyard. Great art, and really mediocre stats: 1200 ATK / 800 DEF.
Sorcerer of the Doomed 1450 ATK / 1200 DEF
The Stern Mystic is a Yugi deck exclusive. With 1500 ATK and 1200 DEF, his stats aren’’t that bad, but he’s a flip effect monster. His effect is interesting, in that he turns all face-down cards face-up so you can look at them, then puts them back without any effects activating. It’s actually an interesting card in the context of the time, as he could prevent you from falling into something bad. He’s also better than most of the other monsters in the deck.
Trap Master was actually extremely good at the time this deck was printed. You didn’t have Heavy Storm, which was in Metal Raiders, or Mystical Space Typhoon in Spell Ruler. His 500 / 1100 stats are pretty blah, but his effect was really good at the time. You had to be careful, though, because if your opponent had nothing face-down, you’d have to select one of your own face-down cards when he’s flipped. But that’s usually not going to be an issue.
Wall of Illusion is one of the best monsters in the Yugi deck. With 1850 DEF, he was a really nice wall, but his effect made him even better. Any monster that attacks him returns to the hand. The Wall was a staple stall card for a very long time, I believe until 1900 ATK level 4 monsters with drawbacks came later beginning with Gemini Elf. Sure, most tribute monsters people actually played ran it over, but at a major loss in tempo. One of my favorite Yugi cards and strangely would still be annoying to run into in modern Yu-Gi-Oh! (Some link monsters wouldn’t even kill it, mind you.)
Winged Dragon, Guardian of the Fortress #1 is Blue and he’s a Dragon. Sure, he only has 1400 ATK and 1200 DEF, but… well, he looks nice in a binder.
The last creature in the deck is Witty Phantom, an OK fiend with 1400 ATK and 1300 DEF. Nothing special
Wow, monsters were pretty underwhelming back then, weren’t they?
Book of Secret Arts was a pretty popular equip spell at the time, as a Spellcaster-Type monster equipped with this card increases its ATK and DEF by 300 points. It made Neo the Magic Swordsman 2000 ATK, which is pretty nuts. Of course, Kaiba’s La Jinn the Mystical Genie of the Lamp (the best level 4 beater at the time with 1800 ATK) got up to 2100 ATK. (People stuck this on Maha Vailo later to great effect, too.)
Card Destruction was an awesome spell that would be later semi-limited and then limited to one copy per deck. While it could technically benefit your opponent, discarding your hand and drawing that many cards could be greatly advantageous to you. You had to be careful in trying to hold onto things in your hand because you never knew when this was coming.
Change of Heart was one of the more busted Yu-Gi-Oh cards of all time. And I loved it. You could steal any monster of your opponent’s until the end of turn. It didn’t even matter if it was face-down. This was particularly fun with flip effect monsters. Your opponent’s Man-Eater Bug could eat itself. (Again that’s horrible). Really, though, you basically used this to get a free Tribute monster or to steal your opponent’s boss monster and whack them in the face with it… before turning it into a free Tribute monster.
Dark Hole literally sucks all of the monsters into a black hole and there’s much sadness, usually mostly for your opponent.
I’ve never really liked De-Spell, because it targets Spell Cards on the field. At this point there weren’t many that you’d play face-up other than Equip spells. But before things like Mystical Space Typhoon, this was actually really playable. Heck, I think people played it into Spell Ruler era to get rid of Mage Powers and Axe of Despairs and what not. But in these early days, you were just using it to kill Swords of Revealing Light. That’s really it.
Dian Keto the Cure Master gives you 1000 LP, which is honestly pretty good if you’re stalling. They say life gain doesn’t win games, but as someone who used to play one of these in like every deck ever, it actually does.
Fissure was one of the best removal cards at the time. In fact, it really was the only one besides Dark Hole and Raigeki in spell form. It destroyed the monster with the least ATK that your opponent had, but a lot of times, that was still something you needed gone. Many a Blue-Eyes have fallen to a lowly Fissure.
Last Will is actually an extremely good card. If a monster on your side of the field was sent to your Graveyard this turn, your can Special Summon 1 monster with 1500 or less ATK from your Deck once during that turn. You could play 3 copies of this for awhile, and it’s been banned forever. While it doesn’t look that bad on the surface, play with three copies of it and you’ll see why it’s so good.
Monster Reborn is one of the most iconic Yu-GI-Oh cards, and it was rightly banned for years. Bringing back a monster from your own graveyard is fine, but from your opponent’s graveyard? In Modern Yu-Gi-Oh, this card was unbanned simply because it’s just not as busted anymore. This was pretty dumb when it wasn’t limited. Fortunately, that was like for a month - if you cared about lists, which most people didn’t.
Soul Exchange is a card that saw play in competitive Yu-GI-Oh for years, especially during the Monarch Control era. I’m pretty sure it was limited to one per deck at one point, because using your opponent’s Monsters to summon Monarchs is pretty mean. Sure, you don’t get a Battle Phase during the turn you use it, but that price is worth paying.
Sword of Destruction is a pretty good Equip spell that gives a Dark monster 400 ATK, but it loses 200 DEF. Who even cares about the DEF?
Yami increases the ATK and DEF of all Fiend and Spellcaster-Type monsters by 200 points. That’s pretty important in this deck. This field spell alo decreases the ATK and DEF of all Fairy-Type monsters by 200 points. That can be relevant, I suppose. Suddenly, a lot of those weaker monsters become incredibly average.
Trap Cards Breakdown
Dragon Capture Jar was specifically made for the Kaiba matchup. This continuous trap card was actually pretty good at keeping the mighty Blue-Eyes White Dragon at bay.
Reinforcements was a pretty sweet combat trick kind of trap. Giving a monster 500 ATK until end of turn was going to win you a lot of battles. It would make Dark Magician trade with Blue-Eyes at the very least.
Remove Trap looks great until you realize that it only destroys face-up trap cards. Bye, bye, Dragon Capture Jar! Although, there’s another really good continuous trap card we’ll get to in a moment.
Reverse Trap is actually a pretty nasty card. I’m not sure how many people played this competitively, but it’s actually really, really mean. It turns all increases into decreases and decreases into increases. It could really screw your opponent over, which is awesome. In this very early meta, this was actually a really good card.
Trap Hole was actually really powerful at this point in Yu-Gi-Oh. Face-down traps were so hard to get rid of that this was a great way to deal with bigger monsters being Normal Summoned. It didn’t hit special summons, but if you happened to have three of these, you could make your opponent miserable.
Ultimate Offering is probably the best trap card in the whole deck, and it got pretty busted later on. It’s been banned for a long time. With a low cost of only 500 LP, you can Normal Summon or Set an additional monster. This card was super busted until it finally got an errata that said you could only use this effect during your own main phase or your opponent’s battle phase. Otherwise you could just use it whenever you felt like, which is pretty stupid. This card would be out of control in today’s Yu-Gi-Oh, which is why it’s going to stay banned. Back then, it wasn’t broken, just really good in the right deck. This card could help you catch up from behind on the field very easily. The cost was just so low.
Waboku is a card that’s still good, actually. It stops all Battle Damage inflicted by opponent’s monsters. However, your monster still does. So, when battling two creatures with equal ATK, you’d actually win the battle. It’s such a good card that’s seen competitive play forever.
Improving the Yugi Starter Deck
For about a month after this and the Kaiba deck were released, you could play 3 of any card. But in May 2002, there was the May 2002 Limited list, which covered these decks and Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Limited were Exodia the Forbidden One and the Exodia pieces, plus Change of Heart, Dark Hole, Monster Reborn, Pot of Greed and Raigeki. Limited to two copies were Card Destruction and Swords of Revealing Light.
So, if you were to improve this deck, what would you do? First, you’d want to bring the deck down to 40 cards. We also really only have LOB to work with. There’s a few ways we could decide to go. We could choose a defensive strategy to stall out until we draw 5 pieces of Exodia, or we can try being more offensive and summon Gaia the Dragon Champion. Thing is, Card Destruction is just going to kill your Exodia pieces. Gaia beats everything but Blue-Eyes, but those two Tribute monsters are going to clog up your hand..
Really. the best way to go is actually to buy 3 copies of the Kaiba deck and get 3 La Jinn and 3 Battle Ox, which were the best level 4 beatstick monsters back then. Make sure you get staples like Raigeki and . Then, buy 2 more copies of the Yugi deck so you can load up on Fissures, Giant Soldiers of Stone, Man-Eater Bugs, Neo the Magic Swordsman, Trap Masters, Trap Holes, and Wabokus. You’ll only play like one Summoned Skull for a tribute monster and just play a grindy game that can stop more complex strategies easily. Believe it or not, Blue-Eyes, great as he is, was pretty easy to stop back then.
This great May 2002 deck list from the Format Library is probably the best deck you could build back when it was just Starter Decks: Yugi and Kaiba and Legend of Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
3 Battle Ox
2 Giant Soldier of Stone
3 La Jinn Mystical Genie of the Lamp
3 Neo the Magic Swordsman
1 Summoned Skull
3 Man-Eater Bug
3 Trap Master
2 Wall of Illusion
1 Change of Heart
1 Dark Hole
1 Monster Reborn
1 Pot of Greed
2 Swords of Revealing Light
3 Trap Hole
This deck can pretty much deal with anything you’d run into. Bigger creatures would usually fall into Trap Holes or be done away with by Fissure or Raigeki. It’s actually a really skill-intensive format since people who played competitively were usually playing pretty much the same deck. The game’s early days were actually pretty interesting.
How would you build a place a deck based off of Starter Deck: Yugi?
by Phoenix Desertsong
Can Gladiator Beast Bestiari & Friends Still Impact Competitive Yu-Gi-Oh?
But nowadays, Bestiari is unlimited. So why has no one seemed to notice that there’s a chance for Gladiator Beast decks to be competitive again in 2019 and beyond?
What made Bestiari so good? Gladiator Beasts have this crazy ability that allows them to swap out with other Gladiator Beasts from the deck at the end of the damage step of a combat that monster has been involved in. While there are bigger Beasts and other very useful Beasts, Bestiari was the primary engine of the deck. Not only can he destroy a Spell or Trap card on the field (face-down or face-up) when he’s tagged in from the deck, but he’s the necessary piece for a Contact Fusion into Gladiator Beast Gyzarus. Not only does he have 2400 ATK, but he destroys 2 cards on the field when he enters! Then, he can tag back out after combat and get you two other Gladiator Beasts!
Gladiator Beasts really were a cool archetype because there is actually a lot of important decision-making and strategy to playing the deck properly. But as new and quicker decks hit the scene (Blackwings FTK for example), Gladiator Beast decks sort of took a back seat. So, in the world of Xyz overlays and Pendulum monster insanity, could they still be competitive?
The last time a Gladiator Beast deck won a major tournament was 2014. Check out this list that won the Bulgaria National Championship in June 2014.
Main Deck (40 Cards)
2x Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear
1x Coach Soldier Wolfbark
1x Gladiator Beast Bestiari
2x Gladiator Beast Darius
2x Gladiator Beast Equeste
2x Gladiator Beast Laquari
1x Thunder King Rai-Oh
1x Book of Moon
1x Dark Hole
3x Fire Formation - Tenki
3x Forbidden Lance
3x Mystical Space Typhoon
2x Black Horn of Heaven
1x Bottomless Trap Hole
1x Compulsory Evacuation Device
2x Dimensional Prison
3x Gladiator Beast War Chariot
2x Mirror Force
1x Needle Ceiling
1x Solemn Warning
1x Torrential Tribute
2x Vanity's Emptiness
Extra Deck (15 Cards)
1x Chimeratech Fortress Dragon
1x Gladiator Beast Essedarii
2x Gladiator Beast Gyzarus
1x Gladiator Beast Heraklinos
1x Abyss Dweller
2x Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King
1x Daigusto Emeral
1x Diamond Dire Wolf
1x Evilswarm Exciton Knight
1x Gagaga Cowboy
1x Gem-Knight Pearl
1x Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1x Number 101: Silent Honor ARK
This deck isn’t even playable as constructed anymore, as the banned & restricted list has changed a bunch, I didn’t recall Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear joining the deck along with Fire Formation - Tenki. But I was pretty much gone from Duel Monsters at that point.
Using input from another top 8 list from a Lisbon, Portugal Regional tournament earlier that year, I’ve come up with this revised list
Main Deck (40 Cards)
1x Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Bear
3x Gladiator Beast Bestiari
2x Gladiator Beast Darius
2x Gladiator Beast Equeste
3x Gladiator Beast Laquari
1x Gladiator Beast Retiari
2x Thunder King Rai-Oh
1x Book of Moon
2x Fire Formation - Tenki
3x Forbidden Lance
3x Gladiator Proving Ground
1x Mystical Space Typhoon
2x Pot of Duality
1x Raigeki / Dark Hole
1x Black Horn of Heaven
1x Bottomless Trap Hole
1x Compulsory Evacuation Device
2x Dimensional Prison
2x Fiendish Chain
3x Gladiator Beast War Chariot
1x Mirror Force
1x Solemn Warning
1x Torrential Tribute
Extra Deck (15 Cards)
2x Gladiator Beast Essedarii
3x Gladiator Beast Gyzarus
1x Gladiator Beast Heraklinos
1x Abyss Dweller
1x Brotherhood of the Fire Fist - Tiger King
1x Bujintei Kagutsuchi
1x Diamond Dire Wolf
1x Gagaga Cowboy
1x Gem-Knight Pearl
1x Lightning Chidori
1x Maestroke the Symphony Djinn
1x Steelswarm Roach
Or really whatever XYZ Monsters you want really.
This revised deck-list is just a starting point, but right away, you can see it is considerably different than the last world-beating list that Gladiator Beasts enjoyed.
Let’s go through what makes this deck tick.
The Fire Fist package is cute but is actually a nice little addition to the deck. Gladiator Beast Darius and Gladiator Beast Laquari are Beast-Warriors, so Fire Formation - Tenki is a really nice card to have. The extra 100 ATK is something, but adding one of your Darius or Laquari to your hand is even better. The Tiger King is a useful Xyz monster to have around, too.
Having 3 copies of Bestiari means that we can run the three copies of Gyzarus in the Extra Deck. Really, what made this deck so blasted good is something you can do again.
Darius is really cool because he can Special Summon a Gladiator Beast from your graveyard when he enters the field from the deck! While the effect is negated, you can easily grab a dead Bestiari for a quick Gyzarus summon. Really it’s just a great way to recycle Gladiator Beasts that were destroyed back into the deck. With 3 Bestiari, Darius becomes more important than he has been in years.
Equeste is similar to Darius, except that the Beast goes to your hand, not the field. In some cases, this is even better.
Laquari is the big beater of the deck, as he becomes a 2100 ATK beater when he’s summoned from the deck. He’s also the primary piece of contact fusion summoning Heraklinos.
One Retiari has been a staple in Gladiator Beasts decks for a long time. His ability when summoned from the Deck is to remove 1 card from your opponent’s Graveyard. While this isn’t always relevant, it can mess up a lot of strategies. It’s the most expendable of the Gladiator Beasts, but having one is necessary so that you can have enough different Gladiator Beasts with different names in the deck.
Thunder King Rai-Oh was limited to a single copy for a time, but now he’s back to two copies allowed per deck. What makes him so good in Gladiator Beasts is that he shuts down players being able to add cards from their deck to their hand. While this seems really bad with Gladiator Proving Ground in the deck, Gladiator Beasts decks have been playing Rai-Oh for years due to his other ability: you can sacrifice him to negate a Special Summoning. So while you may have a dead Gladiator Proving Ground or Fire Formation - Tenki in hand sometimes with Rai-Oh on board, that ability to stop a special summon is too big not to play!
Onto the spells, Book of Moon is a staple. In Gladiator Beasts though, it’s even better as it can allow you to flip a monster into face-down defense position so you can survive a combat with a bigger guy. Gladiator Beasts are one of those unusual decks with which it’s sometimes advantageous to deal damage to yourself during combat. Being able to tag out is how this deck functions, after all.
We’ve already gone into Tenki, so let’s discuss another staple in Forbidden Lance. Having had the chance to play with Lance years ago, I’ll say it’s probably the most important combat trick in the deck. Having a monster lose 800 ATK is huge. But it can also save your creature from a Spell or Trap card, too. It’s one of the most versatile quick-play spells in Yu-Gi-Oh. Awesome card!
Gladiator Proving Ground is really bad with a face-up Rai-Oh on board, but the rest of the time, it gets any of your Gladiator Beasts to your hand.
Usually, Gladiator Beasts decks play 3 copies of Mystical Space Typhoon. But since we have 3 Bestiari and so many other important spells and traps, we had to cut down to 1. Two more copies could be put in the side deck for certain match-ups.
While Pot of Duality is no longer limited, two copies in Gladiator Beasts are enough. It’s such a Special Summon happy deck that Duality can cost you a turn. But the card selection Duality provides is worth running it. After all, you don’t have to tag out every turn. However, in today’s game, I could see replacing these with the two MST we cut. I’d have to playtest this build a ton in order to answer that question.
The trap cards are pretty much all classic Yu-Gi-Oh staples. Gladiator Beast War Chariot is the only one that needs special explanation. This card has always been powerful, but negating the activation of an Effect Monster’s effect is activated AND destroying that monster is very powerful. The only drawback? You have to have a face-up Gladiator Beast on the field. Seems fine and better than ever.
What About the Other Gladiator Beasts?
There are other Gladiator Beasts that used to see a lot of play, but aren’t in this deck. Let’s see if they still might belong, at least out of the Side Deck.
Gladiator Beast Hoplomus. A base DEF of 2100 is nothing to sneeze at, and when he’s summoned from the deck, it’s 2400 DEF. He’s basically just a wall, but there are still plenty of monsters that can’t beat 2400 DEF. Still, he’s not as good now as he was in the Gladiator Assault days.
Gladiator Beast Murmillo. This little fish has a powerful effect: destroy 1 face-up monster. With only 800 DEF and 400 ATK, and being Level 3, he’s just not the best main deck option anymore. Still, he blows a guy up, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Gladiator Beast Samnite. Being Level 3 is what hurts Samnite these days. He also brings a Gladiator Beast from your Deck to your hand, which while good, is just another bad combination with Rai-Oh. He requires the deck to be built differently than what we have right now.
Gladiator Beast Secutor. This little guy can actually summon TWO Gladiator Beast monsters. It’s a shame that he hasn’t seen play in years. But, with only 400 ATK and 300 DEF, he's really weak. The payoff can be worth it, though. Still, he may be worth a shot in place of Retiari in some match-ups.
The primary issue with these 4 guys is that none of them are Beast-Warriors. If we were to eliminate the Fire Formation Package and a Proving Ground, they may all fit. But would the deck be as good without the added card advantage? Maybe, maybe not. Only playtesting can tell us.
Can Gladiator Beasts Compete in 2018 and Beyond?
Since 2014, I have seen Gladiator Beasts decks occasionally win an odd tournament here and there. Nothing major, though. I really feel as bigger and more explosive archetypes have been released, Gladiator Beasts just sort of got left behind. But there’s still a lot of power in this deck.
Also, it’s possible that the Fire Formation package isn’t even necessary. Perhaps our old Gladiator Beast friends that we haven’t included - Hoplomus, Murmillo, Samnite, and Secutor, in particular - actually belong instead. My feeling is to include them in the side deck, along with other meta-busting cards and see what the best build shapes up to be.
While I won’t be building this deck anytime soon for myself, I feel like there are plenty of duelists out there who’d love to give the old Gladiator Beast toolbox a spin again. The deck is extremely inexpensive to build nowadays. Why not?
Did you ever play Gladiator Beasts at any point? Is this a deck you would ever build again, just to play it for fun? Let us know in the comments!
Here are some other Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game articles you may enjoy:
- Yu-Gi-Oh Blackwings Deck 2018 Profile
- Is a Toon Deck Now Competitive with Toon Kingdom?
- GOAT FORMAT! - Intro to the Format and Original Aggro Control Deck
- Fire Princess Burn - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh! Deck Profile!
- The Legendary Fisherman - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh Deck Profile
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Boros Affinity in Pauper?
Pauper is a highly competitive tournament format in Magic the Gathering. It is a format of only common cards, with a relatively small ban list. For years, the format really shined on Magic Online, but now, it has become supported in Paper Magic, as well. What's great about Pauper is the sheer amount of competitive decks you can play. This particular deck, a Boros Affinity deck, once went 4-0 in a Daily Event. While this list we’re looking at today is from 2013, the archetype is still very viable.
The best part about this list, is that in MTGO terms, the deck only costs about 10 tix. As you'll discover though when we peruse the list, about 8 tix of that is for the 2 copies of Pyroblast in the sideboard! In paper, it's a mere $40 or so. This is a ridiculously cheap deck!
Affinity was always a strong archetype in Pauper, but wasn't getting 4-0 in Daily events until this list popped up. So, what makes this Pauper Affinity deck different? Let's take a look!
The Deck List!
4 Ardent Recruit
4 Vault Skirge
4 Court Homunculus
4 Porcelain Legionnaire
4 Glint Hawk
3 Auriok Sunchaser
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Prophetic Prism
2 Lightning Bolt
1 Flayer Husk
4 Great Furnace
4 Ancient Den
3 Boros Guildgate
1 Vault of Whispers
3 Stone Rain
2 Lone Missionary
2 Journey to Nowhere
2 Flame Slash
2 Smash to Smithereens
While this is not a typical Affinity deck, having Artifacts does indeed matter quite a bit here. Starting off with our Ardent Recruit, we have a 1/1 guy that has a Metalcraft ability that gives him +2/+2. Metalcraft is attained by having at least three artifacts on the battlefield. Since the artifact lands (Great Furnace, Ancient Den, and the lone Vault of Whispers) count towards activating this ability, you're most often going to be getting a 3/3 creature for 1 mana!
Vault Skirge is a Pauper stalwart. For 1 and a Phyrexian mana (black or 2 life) you have a 1/1 flyer with lifelink. With the one copy of Vault of Whispers in the deck, it's possible to cast it without paying the 2 life. But being an artifact itself, as well as having lifelink, it's worth paying the life just for the creature (especially if casting Skirge gives you Metalcraft!) Having four of these in the deck guarantees a pesky 1/1 flyer with lifelink that gets better with the equipment in the deck!
Next we have four Court Homunculus. The Court Homunculus is similar to Ardent Recruit, in that it costs a single white mana, except that it gains +1/+1 as long as you control any other artifact. What's especially interesting about him, though, is that he himself is an artifact. If you simply control another Court Homunculus, it becomes a 2/2.
If that wasn't enough, we have a full playset of another Pauper favorite, and one-time Tempered Steel stalwart, Porcelain Legionnaire! For two and a Phyrexian mana (White or two life), you get a 3/1 with first strike. Being able to play him on Turn Two is ridiculous, and he himself is also an artifact!
Glint Hawk is a fun little card which used to abuse Mox Opal when it was legal in Standard. But the Hawk became relatively forgotten outside of some Pauper Affinity builds. But in this deck, Glint Hawk works well with the several 0 drop artifacts in this deck. Also, if you would miss a land drop anyway, you can bounce an artifact land back to your hand in order to replay it. The Hawk is a 2/2 flyer, so this down-side really isn't too bad. You have a full playset of these, as well.
The last creature is a trio of Auriok Sunchaser. It's a 1/1 for 1W, but its Metalcraft ability gives it +2/+2 and flying! A 3/3 flyer for 2 mana is pretty silly.
As if the deck couldn't win with just its creature lineup alone, the non-creature spells are pretty interesting, too!
The first one is a zero drop, Bone Saw, an equipment that has an equip cost of 1, and gives the equipped creature +0/+1. Seriously, though, you're rarely going to care about equipping this. Mostly, it exists to more easily activate Metalcraft, and to give you something to bounce for Glint Hawk.
Next is a full playset of Bonesplitter. It's probably the best equipment in Pauper outside of perhaps Armadillo Cloak. It's a staple in White Weenie, which has been a very competitive strategy in Pauper over the years. Bonesplitter costs only 1 to play and only 1 to equip. It gives a creature +2/+0, and with the flyers in this deck, you can get in some cheap evasive damage very early on!
Galvanic Blast is an okay burn spell until you see that it deals 4 damage to target creature or player if you have Metalcraft! Without Metalcraft, it's just a Shoc. But with how often you’ll have Metalcraft, the 4 Galvanic Blasts can almost win you the game on their own! Paired with the 2 Lightning Bolt in the main board, you have plenty of both removal and direct damage.
Lastly, we have Prophetic Prism and Flayer Husk. Prophetic Prism is a two-drop artifact that draws you a card when it enters. It also allows you to filter your mana, which is very important in this deck!
The Flayer Husk is a Living Weapon equipment that comes into play with a 0/0 creature token attached to it. The Husk gives its equipped creature +1/+1, so it's a nice cheap creature. When the creature dies, or you find a better target for the Husk, it gives that creature +1/+1 for an equip cost of 2. It's not quite Bonesplitter, but it works well.
The mana base is 7 Plains and 1 Mountain, with 4 Great Furnace (the red artifact land), 4 Ancient Den (the white Artifact land), 3 Boros Guildgate (red/white), and a single Vault of Whispers (for help with casting the Vault Skirges).
As is the case with many Pauper decks, the majority of the cost of the deck comes from a single card in the sideboard. In this case it's Pyroblast. Basically, what Pyroblast does for a single red mana is counter any target blue spell or destroy any blue permanent. If you don't want to spend the $8 or so to acquire them, though, you could probably just switch them out for 2 more copies of Lightning Bolt.
The rest of the sideboard is typically Pauper staples. 3 Stone Rain lets you keep decks off of their most important lands or colors. 2 Lone Missionary can be boarded in against more aggressive decks or burn decks. Gaining that 4 life can certainly be a big deal in certain matchups, especially where this deck will need to race often.
For creature removal, we have 2 Journey to Nowhere, 2 Flame Slash (which deals 4 damage to target creature, but is at sorcery speed), and the aforementioned Pyroblasts. We also have Electrickery, which with its very cheap overload cost murders all 1 toughness creatures on your opponent's side of the board. Lastly we have Smash to Smithereens, which is played in many sideboards in other formats. It's excellent artifact removal that also deals 3 damage to that artifact's controller, all for 1R!
Impressions of the Deck
It's easy to see how this deck wins. It requires very little mana to get going and can survive land destruction and artifact destruction, since it plays plenty of copies of 1 and 2 drop cards. The most expensive card casting cost wise in the deck is technically Porcelain Legionnaire. That will be boarded out in certain match-ups anyway!
The best part about this deck's creatures is that they are bigger than their mana costs would lead you to believe. There are plenty of flyers in this deck, and the Bonesplitters alone can lead to some very quick damage. The creature line-up can hold down both the air and ground quite well!
Also, the deck has a nice burn package in it. The only thing I'm not crazy about in the deck is probably the lone Flayer Husk. I'd personally run a third Lightning Bolt, and I'm not sure the deck needs the Vault of Whispers or a fourth Legionnaire, either. If I removed these, I'd max out the Bolts. The main reason I feel this way is that 4 Blasts and 4 Bolts in some combination can kill a player outright. But the list, as is, should work fantastic, as it proved in that Daily Event.
Side-boarding doesn't look too hard with this deck, either. Honestly, the sideboard probably will only be relevant in mirror matches or against Delver decks. The deck is quick enough that it can win in a hurry. I can see card advantage perhaps becoming an issue, but each card you play delivers a ton of value. Also, the power of each card you can swing with makes up for that. You don't have to overextend yourself with this deck in order to win, which I really like.
This deck picks up where White Weenie really started failing. As long as you have that single red source and Metalcraft, this deck can beat you in the air, on the ground, and with pure burn spells. I still want to see 4 Bolts mainboard, and this is something I'll be playing around with myself.
If you're looking to get into competitive Pauper, this is the deck to try, I'd say! Minus the Pyroblasts, you're looking at a maximum $6 investment. Not much to lose here, especially since the artifact lands are the majority of that expense, and they're always good to have in Pauper! Plus, you may have the majority of the cards already if you've been playing online for awhile, if not all!
Congrats to twoduckcubed for authoring and piloting this 4-0 to victory! Here is the deck list!
If you’re looking for a newer, albeit more expensive (30+ tickets / $70), version of this Boros Metalcraft deck, check out this tournament winner piloted by Klybby in October 2017.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
If you’ve been playing Magic: the Gathering since around the Theros set, you may remember a card called Spellheart Chimera. So, Enigma Drake from Amonkhet (and Magic 2019) may look very familiar. Both creatures fly and their power is equal to the number of instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard. Whereas the Chimera has 3 toughness and trample, the Drake has 4 toughness, but no trample. Which one is better?
Spellheart Chimera decks weren’t exactly top-tier winning lists back in the day, but they were fairly competitive. They would win a local tournament here and there. They also performed decently on Magic Online. Being a three-mana creature, the Chimera could come down rather quickly and start swinging for some real damage. The trample was particularly effective. But, a simple Lightning Strike would bring it down. So, you had to time playing the Chimera correctly.
While the Drake has no trample, it has an extra point of toughness. This puts it out of range of a lot of burn spells and even some other removal. But, really, it’s the same card as the Chimera, especially when you consider there’s a creature in the same set that has great synergy with it: Cryptic Serpent.
This uncommon is actually seeing Legacy play, specifically in Delver of Secrets decks that play a ton of spells already! And it’s for good reason. Even though the Serpent costs 5UU to cast, his cost decreases for each instant or sorcery in your graveyard. It’s actually fairly easy (especially in Legacy) to get a 6/5 for 2 mana. While he doesn’t have trample, and is a fairly vanilla creature otherwise, that’s a lot of power for a tiny mana investment!
With Spellheart Chimera, you didn’t have another creature in Standard that could pair so well with him. But many solid spells entered Standard such as Magma Spray, Fiery Temper, and Lightning Axe. Not only can these spells do some quick damage, but also fill your graveyard. Fiery Temper is particularly good for Lightning Axe, since when you discard it, you can just cast it for its Madness cost.
Sweltering Suns is a version of Anger of the Gods that you can also cycle for a card, so it’s rarely a dead draw. (Note having 4 toughness saves the Drake from Sweltering Suns!) Standard would also have Anticipate to help filter through our deck to get the right cards, plus Cathartic Reunion and Take Inventory to draw cards and fill our graveyard, too. Censor is a great permission spell that can also cycle for a card, too!
Another creature that works well in an Enigma Drake deck is Bedlam Reveler from Eldritch Moon. He's seen play in Standard, Modern and Legacy. Like the Cryptic Serpent, he also gets cheaper to cast for each instant and sorcery in the graveyard. Then, not only does he have prowess, but when he comes into play, he makes you discard your hand and draw three cards. While this sounds like a drawback, in this deck, it’s certainly not!
Here’s what an Amonkhet Standard Enigma Drake Deck would look like. Here's a U/R Drake list on MTG Salvation. I’d have built it about the same way.
4 Enigma Drake
3 Bedlam Reveler
3 Cryptic Serpent
3 Cathartic Reunion
4 Fiery Temper
4 Lightning Axe
2 Magma Spray
3 Sweltering Suns
4 Take Inventory
4 Aether Hub
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Wandering Fumarole
Of course, most of this list wasn't Standard legal for long. But, looking at this list, I saw this being easily adapted for Modern. It would probably look something like this:
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Enigma Drake
2 Bedlam Reveler
2 Cryptic Serpent
4 Serum Visions
3 Cathartic Reunion
3 Fiery Temper
3 Lightning Axe
2 Sweltering Suns
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Wandering Fumarole
4 Steam Vents
4 Scalding Tarn
In this case, we turn it into more of a Delver-type deck, since you really want to have that creature down on Turn One. Also, unlike Spellheart Chimera, Enigma Drake is out of Lightning Bolt range. It’s also out of Anger of the Gods range, which is a common card for Modern. Likewise, Bedlam Reveler has 4 toughness to begin with, and the Serpent has 5. But while this deck wants all of these guys, we run fewer copies since we’re trying to get in early damage with the Delvers. Also, the Modern deck can run better draw power in Serum Visions and Opt.
But fortunately for Enigma Drake, he'd get yet another shot in Standard, making another new friend in an old Goblin favorite.
Enigma Drake in Magic 2019 Standard
Still, could an Enigma Drake deck be competitive in Standard? Despite getting some more tools in Hour of Destruction, it didn't really happen during Amonkhet block. It didn't really do much during Ixalan block or Dominaria, either. But, it was reprinted in Magic 2019 and gained a valuable ally in Guttersnipe!
Finding out that Enigma Drake was in M19, I decided to look and see if someone actually built a deck with these two. In fact, I found a U/R Spells list on Tappedout that fit the bill perfectly!
4x Enigma Drake
3x Hieroglyphic Illumination
3x Lightning Strike
4x Magma Spray
3x Supreme Will
4x Spirebluff Canal
4x Sulfur Falls
2x Search for Azcanta
2x The Mirari Conjecture
2x Primal Amulet
This deck would lose a ton to the October 2018 Standard rotation, but it gave a much different approach to the deck. It has Cycling elements that replaced the Madness elements of the Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon sets. Guttersnipe gives the deck an extra burn component, which is really helpful.
This deck also has a powerful endgame with The Mirari Conjecture to copy a big Banefire and Primal Amulet to speed up your spellslinging and give you another way to copy spells. It's a pretty sweet build.
But alas, it would lose so much so soon...
Enigma Drake and Kiln Fiend in Modern
I always felt strongly that there would be a space for the Drake in Modern. In fact, a Modern deck with Enigma Drake would become competitive. But it took a rather different approach.
In Modern, Enigma Drake made a couple of new friends: Kiln Fiend and Thing in the Ice. It resembles a Kiln Fiend / Nivix Cyclops deck in Pauper, one of the better decks in that format. Here's a list that has gone 5-0 in matches in several competitive Modern leagues on Magic Online.
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Thing in the Ice
1 Young Pyromancer
3 Enigma Drake
2 Dive Down
1 Gut Shot
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
1 Vapor Snag
1 Disrupting Shoal
4 Temur Battle Rage
1 Blood Moon
2 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Spirebluff Canal
2 Steam Vents
2 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Flame Slash
1 Young Pyromancer
2 Blood Moon
1 Enigma Drake
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
To save a little money, the 4 Sleight of Hand could be replaced with 4 Opt, which wasn't in Modern yet.
Basically, Enigma Drake becomes a back-up plan to Kiln Fiend. It also is out of reach of Lightning Bolt, which the Fiend isn't. Whereas Kiln Fiend requires you to cast a lot of spells to do a bunch of damage in one turn, the Drake turns your spent spells into power. So it's a really nice synergy you can't do in Pauper, since Enigma Drake is an uncommon.
Yes, Enigma Drake is a competitive Modern card. I still like my sort of midrange brew that I had early on, but this Kiln Fiend deck is really sweet.
What do you all think? How would you build an Enigma Drake deck?
At one time, Blackwings were one of the more powerful deck archetypes in Yu-Gi-Oh. But since mid-2014, a Blackwing deck has only had a strong showing at a major tournament a few times. In late 2018, however, that would finally change.
With the release of Assault Blackwing - Raikiri the Rain Shower in 2015, and later Chidori the Rain Sprinkling, the deck gained two new boss monsters in the form of a powerful Level 7 Synchro monster. Also, several very good Blackwing monsters were printed between 2015 and 2019, including Blackwing Full Armor Master, giving the deck new tools with which to be more consistent.
Now armed with a top 3 Blackwing deck list from November 2018 we can bring you a 2019 Blackwing Deck Profile! The additions to the Blackwing family from Legendary Duelists: White Dragon Abyss definitely make their presence felt!
Let's check out that November 2018 Blackwing deck list and see the strategies and must have cards for a Blackwing deck in 2019.
Main Deck (40 Cards)
3x Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
3x Blackwing - Auster the South Wind
1x Blackwing - Blizzard the Far North
3x Blackwing - Bora the Spear
1x Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind
3x Blackwing - Harmattan the Dust
1x Blackwing - Kris the Crack of Dawn
1x Blackwing - Oroshi the Squall
3x Blackwing - Simoon the Poison Wind
3x Blackwing - Steam the Cloak
3x Radian, the Multidimensional Kaiju
1x The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots
3x Allure of Darkness
3x Black Whirlwind
2x Called by the Grave
1x Monster Reborn
3x Pot of Desires
2x Phantom Knights' Fog Blade
The best Blackwing decks from the past couple of big tournaments used strategies nerfed by recent Forbidden and Limited list updates. But, with the release of White Dragon Abyss, the deck gained not only a new boss Synchro Monster in Full Armor Master, but also Blackwing - Simoon the Poison Wind and Blackwing - Auster the South Wind.
Simoon the Poison Wind is a Level 6 Blackwing, but if you control no monsters and he's in your hand, he can do something cool. You can banish 1 other "Blackwing" in your hand and put a "Black Whirlwind" from your Deck face-up in your Spell & Trap Zone. Then, you can either send Simoon to the graveyard or Normal Summon it without tributing. However, that Black Whirlwind must be sent to the Graveyard at the end of the turn and you take 1000 damage. This is worth playing, though, because you can get any Blackwing with less than 1600 ATK from your deck when he's summoned. He's a pretty cool new engine for the deck.
Auster the South Wind is a level 4 Blackwing tuner with only 1300 ATK and 0 DEF, but his effects are really good. He can't be special summoned, but when he's normal summoned, you can target one of your banished level 4 or lower Blackwing monsters and Special Summon it. That's prety powerful and has great synergy with Simoon and even Allure of Darkness! Also, when Auster is in the grave, you can banish him to get one of a couple effects. The first doesn't matter in our case, as it deals with Black-Winged Dragon. The second effect, though, places 1 Wedge counter on each of your opponent's monsters that doesn't have one. This is very relevant, thanks to Blackwing Full Armor Master, which we'll get to later.
Many older Blackwing monsters that were once staples in the deck such as Shura the Blue Flame and Zephyros the Elite are no longer seeing play in this deck. But, one Blackwing from Breakers of Shadow from early 2016 still is, Harmattan the Dust. This level 2 Blackwing monster isn't a tuner, but he can be special summoned from your hand if you control a Blackwing other than Harmattan. You can only special summon one Harmattan per turn this way. But, the cool thing about Harmattan is that when he's normal or special summoned, you can target one other Blackwing monster you control and add its level to Harmattan's. This allows for some pretty cool Synchro shenanigans.
Kris the Crack of Dawn is a level 4 Blackwing with 1900 ATK that has the ability to be special summoned if you control another Blackwing monster other than another Kris. It also has the distinguishing ability to be unable to be destroyed by spell or trap cards once per turn. I play the full three copies because he's so easily Special Summoned and he's a nice beatstick.
There's also one Oroshi the Squall, a level one Tuner from Dragons of Legend. Not only can you special summon him if you have another Blackwing on the field, but if you use him in a Synchro Summon, you can change the battle position of one monster on the field. Not bad!
One copy of Blizzard the Far North helps you to set up Synchro Summons - a third copy always ends up usually being extraneous and a second is just too slow in today's game.
There's one copy of Gale the Whirlwind, of course. This guy was once limited to a single copy because of how he once overran the Yu-Gi-Oh metagame. You really only need one in today's game with all of the other Blackwing tuners you have access to.
Bora the Spear is simple, and is easily Special Summoned as soon as you control another Blackwing. He also inflicts piercing battle damage on creatures in defense mode, something that makes a lot of difference with Kalut’s ability. He's been a mainstay of the deck from the very beginning.
Lastly for the Blackwings, there are three copies of Steam the Cloak, a pretty useful Synchro Monster that leaves behind a level 1 Tuner token when he leaves the battlefield.
Steam the Cloak also has another neat ability that you can use once per duel:
"If this card is in your Graveyard: You can Tribute 1 monster, Special Summon this card from the Graveyard. You can only use this effect of "Blackwing - Steam the Cloak" once per Duel. If this card Summoned this way is used as a Synchro Material Monster, all other Synchro Material Monsters must be "Blackwing" monsters."
There are plenty of Blackwing Synchro monsters in our extra deck, so running two is worth it. Also, if you don't use that ability, you can use Steam to make any Synchro monster you want, as well as the token. This is just a good Blackwing monster.
In addition to the Blackwings, there are three copies of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, just because it's one of the best cards in the 2019 meta! What it does is pretty awesome!
"When a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects (Quick Effect): You can discard this card; negate that effect.
● Add a card from the Deck to the hand.
● Special Summon from the Deck.
● Send a card from the Deck to the GY.
You can only use this effect of "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" once per turn."
There are also three copies of Radian, the Multidimension Kaiju. Radian has popped up in past Blackwing decks. What does he do?
You can Special Summon this card (from your hand) to your opponent's side of the field in Attack Position, by Tributing 1 monster they control. If your opponent controls a "Kaiju" monster, you can Special Summon this card (from your hand) in Attack Position. You can only control 1 "Kaiju" monster. Once per turn: You can remove 2 Kaiju Counters from anywhere on the field; Special Summon 1 "Radian Token" (Fiend-Type/DARK/Level 7/ATK 2800/DEF 0), but it cannot be used as a Synchro Material.
That's a lot of text! Basically, though, you can deal with a problem opponent's monster. Sure, you give your opponent a 2800 ATK monster, but then you can summon your own Kaiju if your opponent already has one. It's cute tech, really. The Kaiju counter ability we don't have to think about here.
The last monster in the deck is a single copy of The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots. He basically exists as a way to get a copy of the Phantom Knights' Fog Blade from your Deck to your Hand. Also, we run a copy of the Link Monster Phantom Knight of Rusty Bardiche in the Extra deck, so Special Summoning him is actually possible.
Onto the Spell and Trap cards!
What has made Blackwings such a consistent deck in the past is the existence of the continuous Spell Card, Black Whirlwind. This card was so powerful that it was restricted to one copy in decks for a very long time.
But, Black Whirlwind has been at 3 copies for quite some time now. However, as Blackwings have had trouble keeping up with newer archetypes, it seemed fair to unlimit this key card to give Blackwings a fighting chance. It’s definitely done just that!
Getting to tutor up any Blackwing with less ATK points than the one you just normal summoned is excellent. Having two or three on board at the same time is absolutely ridiculous - which is why it was limited in the first place. But even though once again we have the full three copies at our disposal, they're really back with Rai-Oh.
Allure of Darkness is a useful draw card, but it requires you to banish a DARK monster from your hand in exchange for two cards. Still, since you can play three copies, it’s well worth trading a monster for 2 more cards. Ordinarily I'd run three, but it was limited to 2 back in the day, and with a bunch of Light monsters in the deck, two copies is enough.
The spell card lineup is rounded out by a copy of Monster Reborn, two copies of format staple Called by the Grave, and three copies of Pot of Desires.
The only two trap cards in the deck are two copies of Phantom Knights' Fog Blade. Here's what it does:
Activate this card by targeting 1 Effect Monster on the field; negate that face-up monster's effects, that face-up monster cannot attack, also monsters cannot target that face-up monster for attacks. When that monster leaves the field, destroy this card. You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 "The Phantom Knights" monster in your GY; Special Summon it, but banish it when it leaves the field. You can only use this effect of "Phantom Knights' Fog Blade" once per turn.
Extra Deck (15 Cards)
1x Assault Blackwing - Raikiri the Rain Shower
1x Assault Blackwing - Sohaya the Rain Storm
1x Black Rose Dragon
1x Black Rose Moonlight Dragon
1x Blackwing - Nothung the Starlight
2x Blackwing Full Armor Master
2x Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe
1x Borrelsword Dragon
1x Knightmare Unicorn
1x The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche
2x Wee Witch's Apprentice
Blackwing Full Armor Master is a very powerful new level 10 Synchro Blackwing. He's really not that hard to summon in this deck, either. He has 3000 ATK and DEF and can't be affected by other cards' effects. Each time an opponent's monster activates an effect, you put a Wedge counter on it. Then, once per turn, you can target 1 monster your opponent controls with a Wedge Counter and take control of it. Then, once per turn, during your end phase, you can destroy all monsters on the field that have a Wedge Counter. Talk about a big finisher, something Blackwings never really had.
What's great about Full Armor Master is you can steal one of your opponent's monsters, and use it to attack or create a Synchro or Link Summon. Then, you nuke your opponent's monster zones at the end of the turn. That's just mean. Plus, not many things can beat him, either.
Raikiri the Rain Shower is definitely a strong Blackwing monster and one of the more powerful Blackwing Synchro monsters ever created. It can wipe out your opponent's side of the field in a hurry. Once per turn, Raikiri lets you destroy up to as many cards as you control other Blackwing monsters. Being able to become a Tuner is pretty much gravy.
Taking the spot that Armed Wing once occupied in the Extra Deck, Nothung the Starlight from Premium Gold: Return of the Bling actually does some pretty cool things. Not only does he deal 800 damage to your opponent upon being summoned, but he also causes one of your opponent’s monsters to lose 800 ATK and DEF! Also, when he’s face-up on the field, you get to Normal Summon an additional Blackwing monster each turn! This is another huge addition for Blackwings since 2015, and not sure how other players have overlooked him!
While not technically a Blackwing (he’s a Warrior), Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe, also from Return of the Bling, is definitely a nice addition to the Blackwing Extra Deck. Interestingly enough, you still need a Blackwing tuner to summon him. Here’s what he does:
You can target 1 Level 5 or higher Winged Beast-Type monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it. During either player's turn, when your opponent activates a card or effect that targets only this card, or when your opponent targets this card for an attack: You can target 1 other "Blackwing" monster you control that would be an appropriate target; that card/effect/attack now targets the new target. You can only use each effect of "Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe" once per turn.
That’s a lot of text. Basically, once per turn, you can just get back one of your Winged Beast-type Synchro monsters into play (there aren’t any other Level 5 or higher Winged Beasts in this deck). If that wasn’t good enough, once per turn, you get to change an opponent’s attack target to another Blackwing you control. Wow.
Are Blackwings Still a Top 8 Deck?
While Blackwings didn’t Top 8 any major tournaments in 2016, they did make an appearance in 2017 and early 2018. There was also that top 3 finish in November 2018, and they have the tools to at least be competitive once again in 2019 and beyond.
Being my favorite archetype from my old playing days, it would be fun to see a Blackwing deck list like this make some waves going forward. Blackwings keep getting more support over the years, too. Does this mean Blackwings will be a Top 8 threat going forward? It's possible!
Blackwings may not be the fun "troll" deck that Toon Kingdom allows you to build, but Blackwings have the ability to pull out some very quick wins. It seems that Blackwings may once again have a chance to pull out more upset tournament victories in the future, especially on the local game store level!
Here are some other Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game articles you may enjoy:
- Is a Toon Deck Now Competitive with Toon Kingdom?
- Can a Gladiator Beast Deck Still Be Competitive in 2019?
- GOAT FORMAT! - Intro to the Format and Original Aggro Control Deck
- Fire Princess Burn - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh! Deck Profile!
- The Legendary Fisherman - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh Deck Profile
Magic the Gathering Amonkhet Standard Deck - Four Color (4C) Approach of the Second Sun (AKA New Perspectives Combo) Deck Tech
by Phoenix Desertsong
As a Magic: the Gathering player who loves instant win conditions built into cards, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m a big fan of Approach of the Second Sun. It’s a deceptively simple win condition that this Amonkhet sorcery offers, too.
It costs 7 mana to cast (6W) and gains you 7 life. That doesn’t sound worth it, except if you haven’t cast a copy of Approach of the Second Sun during that game, you get to shuffle your deck and place it 7 cards from the top. If you already cast Approach of the Second Sun, however, you simply win the game.
Yes, it sounds simple enough. But 7 mana is a lot to pay for a card that really just gains you 7 life the first time you cast it. Fortunately, the Amonkhet set offers not only ways to ramp your mana, but also draw a whole bunch of cards thanks to the Cycling mechanic. There’s a neat little trick to make a whole bunch of mana in this deck, which will hopefully get you enough mana to cast Approach of the Second Sun twice in a single turn! Part of it has to do with a 6-mana Enchantment called New Perspectives, which is why some people have come to call this build New Perspectives Combo.
While there have been many builds of Approach of the Second Suns built in the early going, the most consistent and successful so far is this 4-color Approach of the Second Suns deck piloted by ksk0601 in a Magic Online Competitive Standard League to a 5-0 finish!
4 Vizier of Tumbling Sands
4 Shefet Monitor
1 Sphinx of the Final Word
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Haze of Pollen
4 Shadow of the Grave
4 Renewed Faith
1 Approach of the Second Sun
4 Weirding Wood
4 Cast Out
4 New Perspectives
1 Fetid Pools
2 Fortified Village
4 Irrigated Farmland
4 Scattered Groves
4 Sheltered Thicket
4 Drake Haven
2 Kefnet the Mindful
4 Angel of Sanctions
Essentially, this deck focuses on Cycling a bunch of cards, gaining life, and preventing combat damage long enough to cast your win condition card twice. Let’s break it down, starting with the creatures.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands is a great little creature who can untap permanents (such as your lands) and be cycled himself to draw you a card, and untap a permanent. Shefet Monitor is a 6 mana creature, but he can be cycled for 3G to not only draw you a card, but put a basic land card from your deck into play. It’s especially important that this card doesn’t come into play tapped, so you can tap it for mana right away.
Sphinx of the Final Word plays several roles in this deck. First of all, he can’t be countered, and gives you a 5/5 flying presence. He is also hexproof, so he’s extremely difficult for opponents to remove. But the best thing about the Sphinx is that he makes instant and sorcery spells you cast unable to be countered. With only a single copy of Approach of the Second Sun in the deck, you have to ensure that it doesn’t go to the graveyard.
Non-Creature Spell Lineup
Traverse the Ulvenwald has been proven to be a good Magic card, and it’s particularly strong in this deck. For only a single mana, you can get a basic land card into your hand. However, once you have 4 card types in your graveyard, you can add a creature card to your hand instead. It’s a cheap little tutor that can do a lot of work for you.
Haze of Pollen is essentially a “fog” effect, meaning that it prevents all combat damage in a given turn. It costs only 1G to cast and you have the option to cycle it for 3 mana. This flexibility will come in handy as the game progresses.
Shadow of the Grave is one of my favorite cards in this deck. It costs 1B to cast, and is in fact the only Black card in the deck. It’s well worth running, though. What this little instant does is allow to you get back every card that you cycled or discarded that turn. This is pretty nuts, and actually combos well with an Enchantment that we’ll get to shortly.
Renewed Faith is a 1W instant that gains you 6 life. But you can also cycle it for the same amount and instead have the option to gain 2 life. It’s a very solid card when you consider how valuable gaining life in this sort of deck really is.
There’s only a single copy of Approach of the Second Sun in the deck. This seems incredibly risky, but fortunately, this one copy should usually be all you need.
Moving onto the Enchantments, we have 4 copies of Weirding Wood from Shadows Over Innistrad. Not only does this card enchant a land and allow it to produce two mana of any one color, but it also makes a Clue token, which you can trade in for a card later. This card is a great combo with Vizier of Tumbling Sands to ramp your mana.
Cast Out is a 4 mana enchantment with Flash. It can remove any nonland permanent your opponent controls. This is not the cheapest removal around, but it’s a catch-all that is very useful in a deck like this where you’re working towards a very specific goal. It also has a very cheap cycling cost of a single White mana, so it’s pretty much always going to net you card advantage.
New Perspectives is an Enchantment that costs a whopping 6 mana (5U) but actually does quite a but in this deck. When it comes into play, you draw three cards. That’s already pretty solid. But it’s the second thing that it does which makes it good for this deck. When it’s in play, and you have seven or more cards in hand, you can pay 0 for all cycling costs.
While having 7 cards is a lot, with all of the card draw in the deck, and Shadow of the Grave getting you back a lot of cards, this is an attainable goal. In fact, getting this enchantment out is what really allows you to get enough mana to win the game in one turn. If you can keep cycling enough cards to draw into your Approach of the Second Sun twice, you have a strong chance of winning.
Unsurprisingly, the mana base is full of rare cycle lands from Amonkhet. There’s one copy of the Blue/Black Fetid Pools, 4 copies of the White/Blue Irrigated Farmland, 4 copies of the Green /White Scattered Groves, and 4 copies of the Red/Green Sheltered Thicket. The last one is particularly strange, considering that there are absolutely no Red mana costs in the deck. But they are mainly in here for the cycling ability.
There are also 2 copies of Fortified Village, which will often come into play untapped since there are so many Plains and Forests in the deck (the cycle lands have basic land types.) For basic lands, there are 5 Forest, 1 Plains and 1 Island. It’s a solid mana base.
This deck is setup to draw a lot of cards, stop combat damage, and gain life, all to get to cast one card twice to win the game. The deck can’t really win otherwise. However, in cases where you run into an extremely aggressive deck or a control deck that won’t let you resolve Approach of the Second Sun, there are ways in the sideboard to win anyway.
Two copies of Dispel and three copies of Negate help in the counter wars that could occur as you try to resolve Approach of the Second Sun. Negate is also useful in stopping planeswalkers dead in their tracks.
Drake Haven is a particularly cool card. This 3 mana Enchantment allows you to pay 1 colorless mana to make a 2/2 flying Drake token whenever you cycle or discard a card. This means that the cycling engine of the deck can stay intact, even in aggressive matchups. These can replace the slow 6-mana New Perspectives in those types of match-ups.
Kefnet the Mindful is one of the Amonkhet Gods, and the one that is hardest to get online. But as long as you have at least seven cards in hand (not hard to do in this deck), you get a 5/5 indestructible flyer. His draw a card ability can be useful, too, even if you do have to return a land you control to your hand.
Another great weapon to have against more aggressive decks is the 4 copies of Angel of Sanctions. It does something that the Enchantment Cast Out does - remove a nonland permanent your opponent controls from play - except on a 3 / 4 flyer. Angel of Sanctions also has Embalm, so even after it dies, you can end up making a token of it that does the same thing. It’s a good replacement for those Enchantments when you need to remove opponent’s threat while also giving you a way to do damage in the air.
Thoughts on the Deck
This is a pretty cool deck that takes full advantage of the cycling mechanic cards in Amonkhet. It basically stops your opponent from winning just long enough for you to say “I win” by playing a 7 mana card twice. What I really like about this particular build is the sideboard, which allows you to adjust the deck based on the match-up. Having only a single copy of your main win condition is risky, but with the number of cards you can draw, it shouldn’t be hard to get it into your hand during the course of a game.
There are other ways to build an Approach of the Second Sun deck, of course, but the New Perspectives Combo build seems to be the most consistent way for it to work. After all, this deck did go undefeated in matches in a competitive Magic Online tournament.
Not only that, but Saffron Olive of MTGGoldfish went ahead and played a version of New Perspectives Combo in his Against the Odds video series. While the end result hardly surprises me (he went 5-0 in on-video matches), it proved that this is a deck that actually works! Notably, his sideboard contains 3 copies of Radiant Flames instead of 3 of the 4 Angel of Sanctions, and I think this might be a good choice, especially in a deck that can produce 4 colors of mana!
How would you build an Approach of the Second Sun deck? Is this a deck you’d like to play, especially now that it’s been proven to actually work?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Looking for a great budget Magic the Gathering deck to play in Modern? We were happy to come across this gem of a Budget Modern Jund deck that cost YouTuber TOTALmtg only 29 event tickets on Magic Online! It can be had for about 39 tix as of February 2018.
While it's a bit more expensive to build in paper, around $170, it's a great way to build a Jund deck on a budget. I mean, most of us don't have the cash to drop on a playset of Liliana of the Veil or Tarmogoyf, do we? So, this is a pretty solid Modern deck under $200.
Here's the deck list:
3 Bloodhall Ooze
3 Pain Seer
4 Putrid Leech
3 Sprouting Thrinax
4 Managorger Hydra
1 Olivia Voldaren
3 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
NON-CREATURE SPELLS (17)
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Temple of Abandon
3 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery
2 Nature's Claim
2 Rending Volley
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Golgari Charm
1 Gruul Charm
2 Feed the Clan
Here's TOTALmtg playing the deck against G/W Enchantments in Magic Online.
Thoughts on the Deck
Bloodhall Ooze was played back when Jund first became a deck archetype in Shards of Alara Standard. This Ooze gets bigger and bigger very quickly, especially if you have a Green and Black permanent on the board on a consistent basis. This can become a 3/3 very easily after a single turn. It's pretty underappreciated now, but it is definitely one of the best original Jund cards out there.
Pain Seer was heralded as the "Budget" alternative to Dark Confidant, a Jund staple. The problem with the Seer is keeping it tapped on a regular basis. Still, he is as good as "Bob" (named so since the original art depicts Magic expert Bob Maher) when he is able to untap. He may seem quite underpowered for Modern, but in a budget shell, he's really the best option for the card advantage he can provide.
Putrid Leech was one of the cornerstones of Jund for a long time. Paying the 2 life is well worth it when you can punch in with the Leech for 4 damage. This is just a really good creature that just doesn't get much love anymore.
Sprouting Thrinax may cost 3 colors of mana, but when it dies, you get three 1/1 tokens out of it. Essentially, you can get 4 "cards" by casting one. Of course, if he gets exiled, you don't get the tokens. Very sad. And yeah, Path to Exile existed back in the original Jund days, too. Still, his synergy with Bloodhall Ooze, and the fact that he can trade with an opponent's creature and still net you value is pretty neat.
Managorger Hydra is an awesome card. You benefit from it getting bigger when anyone casts a spell, which is awesome. This gets out of Lightning Bolt range very quickly, and even Dismember has problems with it after a certain point. And you can't chump block it because it has trample. This did some work in Standard and people are trying to break it in Modern. This is perhaps one of my favorite cards from all of Magic Origins.
Olivia Voldaren is actually a one-of in a lot of "real" Jund decks, and for good reason. Not only can she pick off little creatures and swing in for a lot of damage, but she can ping bigger ones and steal them! She's not getting the love she once did, but she's still awesome!
Goblin Dark-Dwellers is just an awesome card. Usually, you're going to want to target Blightning or Putrefy with his ability to get the most value from him. Being a 4/4 keeps him out of Lightning Bolt range, and having Menace means he can only be blocked by 2 or more creatures. He's just oozing with value.
The rest of the deck is very similar to a more expensive Jund deck. There are 3 copies of Duress in place of the usual Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek (there are 3 copies of Inquisition in the sideboard, actually). There are the 4 Lightning Bolts and several Terminates. Four copies of Blightning and two copies of Putrefy hearken back to the old days of Jund, when Blightning was one of the best cards in Standard. Forcing your opponent to discard 2 cards and take 2 damage for only 3 mana is still a pretty good deal!
There's also one copy of Chandra, Pyromaster, someone we've seen as a one-of in Jund decks before. Her 0 ability provides nice card advantage, and her +1 can be relevant more often than not. While her ultimate isn't something you're aiming to do in this deck, it's nice to have.
The mana base looks random, but it's actually well-balanced and the shock-lands Blood Crypt and Overgrown Tomb are necessary to give this deck the speed it needs to keep up in the Modern format. Without fetchlands, this deck isn't quite as quick as traditional expensive Jund decks. But it makes up for that by color-fixing pretty well, at the cost of having a lot of lands come into play tapped.
The sideboard is full of answers to many different matchups. It can deal with artifact-based strategies like Affinity, go-wide aggro strategies, and take out bigger creatures that this deck couldn't otherwise handle.
Overall, while I don't see this deck winning tournament after tournament, it's a fun deck to play with solid synergies throughout. If you're looking to build Jund on a budget in Magic Online, this is definitely one to try. In paper, it's pretty cheap for a Modern deck and the pieces are all worth picking up if you're foraying into the format.
Again, thanks to TOTALmtg for this awesome deck!
A review of the Magic: the Gathering Duel Decks: Mind vs Might, featuring classic Legendary Creatures Jhoira of the Ghitu and Lovisa Coldeyes.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Many Magic: the Gathering players were a bit underwhelmed by the release of the deck lists for the Mind VS Might Duel Decks. There was no one real "chase" card in this particular product, which has been the case in many past Duel Decks. For example, Duel Decks: Blessed vs Cursed has both Geist of Saint Traft and Gravecrawler, two very good cards in competitive play. The most expensive card at retail with the release of these new Duel Decks? Coat of Arms at around $5.
Granted, this and some other cards in the deck were a bit more expensive before the announcement of these Duel Decks deck lists. In particular, Beacon of Tomorrows was an $8 card from the Fifth Dawn set before the reprint, and is now about $1.50 for the new printing. Both Coat of Arms and Beacon of Tomorrows do see Kitchen Table Magic and Commander play. But these couple of cards were hardly worth buying a $25 Duel Deck.
However, these Duel Decks have a lot more to them than the retail value of the individual cards. Let's take a look and see if it's worth buying the Mind VS Might Duel Decks, even just for fun.
Mind Deck List
2 Goblin Electromancer
2 Young Pyromancer
1 Jhoira of the Ghitu
1 Jori En, Ruin Diver
1 Nivix Cyclops
1 Spellheart Chimera
1 Talrand, Sky Summoner
1 Sage-Eye Avengers
1 The Unspeakable
1 Deep-Sea Kraken
3 Reach Through Mists
1 Desperate Ritual
2 Peer Through Depths
3 Rift Bolt
2 Sift Through Sands
2 Empty the Warrens
1 Shivan Meteor
1 Temporal Fissure
1 Mind's Desire
1 Firemind's Foresight
1 Volcanic Vision
1 Beacon of Tomorrows
4 Swiftwater Cliffs
The Mind deck is based around Arcane spells and being able to use Jhoira of the Ghitu's ability to suspend your bigger spells so that you can cast them for "free" later on in the game. Let's take a look at Jhoira, as her ability is the reason that this deck is constructed as it is.
Jhoira of the Ghitu was originally printed in Future Sight and was later reprinted in Modern Masters. This alternate art foil version will be greatly sought after mainly because she is a very powerful leader in Commander. For only two mana, you can exile a nonland card from your hand and it gains suspend. You then put 4 time counters on it. Each one of your upkeeps, you remove a time counter from it. Once the last one is removed, you can play it for free. If it's a creature, that creature gains haste.
Obviously, you need to sort of plan ahead as you suspend these cards, especially if they happen to be sorceries that may be better played situationally. Fortunately, a lot of the cards in this deck are going to be fine to cast whenever they get cast. Also, many spells in the deck have suspend on their own.Note also that you can suspend as many cards as you have mana to pay for Jhoira's ability. You can do some really fun things with this gal.
In Commander, you're usually going to suspend a major threat like Blightsteel Colossus or something like it. But in this deck, the power level is dialed back quite a bit to make for a more strategic experience. There's actually quite a few interesting things this deck can do and some very useful cards within.
Goblin Electromancer is a very useful creature that helps your instants and sorceries cost 1 less to cast. This is especially helpful in getting your early game spells cast a turn earlier than they would otherwise. There are also two copies of the popular Young Pyromancer, who gives you a 1/1 Elemental token whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spells. This is a nice reprint, although the Pyromancer was just reprinted in Eternal Masters, as well.
Jori En, Ruin Diver isn't an exciting creature, but this Legendary Merfolk Wizard lets you draw a card whenever you've cast your second spell in a turn. This is nice value, especially in a deck like this where casting two spells in a turn is going to be fairly common. Nivix Cyclops is a cool little creature that can get very powerful, and is actually a key part of a Pauper deck called Izzet Blitz. Spellheart Chimera is another creature that gets very powerful as the game goes on, feeding off the instants and sorceries in your graveyard.
Talrand, Sky Summoner is one of the most hated Commanders around due to the fact that he creates 2/2 fliers whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell. He's a turbo charged version of Young Pyromancer, essentially. He's particularly good in this deck, as well.
So one dimension of this deck allows you to get value off of your early game spells. The rest of the creatures are ones that you may get the most value from suspending them with Jhoira's ability.
Nucklavee may cost 6 mana for only a 4/4 body, but he can get you back both a red sorcery and a blue instant spell to your hand when he enters the battlefield. This is amazing value if you can suspend him with Jhoira, as by the time he hits the field, you should have cast enough spells to have valid targets for both parts of his ability. This is an especially good creature to pair with Jhoira, since you can then suspend those spells again.
Sage-Eye Avengers isn't an exciting card from a competitive Magic player's point of view, but in this sense, this is a great creature to suspend off of Jhoira. Not only is he a 4/5 with Prowess (which gives him +1/+1 until end of turn for each instant or sorcery you cast that turn) but whenever he attacks, he also allows you to return a target creature to your opponent's hand if its power is less than Sage-Eye Avenger's. When pitted directly against the opposite Might deck, this is a great tempo play.
The Unspeakable is a Legendary Creature from Champions of Kamigawa that gets new artwork. He has particularly great synergy with Arcane spells. Not only is he a 6/7 flyer with trample, but whenever he deals combat damage to a player, you get an Arcane spell back to your hand. At 9 mana, he's pricey to cast, although well worth it, and especially valuable when paired with Jhoira's Suspend ability.
The final creature in the deck is Deep-Sea Kraken, who himself has Suspend. While he gets 9 time counters when you suspend him for 2 colorless and a Blue mana, each time an opponent casts a spell, you remove a time counter. The cool thing about this ability is that if he's suspended with Jhoira, this ability still applies. That means you can suspend him for 4 turns with Jhoira and potentially get him on the board well before then.
On his own, the Deep-Sea Kraken costs 10 mana to cast. But he's a 6/6 that can't be blocked. If you're going to suspend any creature with Jhoira, this is a great target.
So the creature line-up, while it doesn't blow anyone away, is pretty well-chosen for the theme of this deck. Properly deployed, these creatures will keep up the tempo and provide value, especially when Jhoira is suspending them for a big finish.
But the creatures are only half of the story. There's a bunch of good non-creature spells in here, too!
Mind Deck: Non-Creature Spells
As I mentioned earlier, there are a good number of Arcane spells in this deck, which provide great synergy with the Unspeakable. But there are also a few good spells with Suspend, including a card that sees a good amount of competitive play.
Quicken doesn't look exciting, but this cantrip allows you to cast a sorcery at instant speed. This can be pretty relevant, and is a trick that's been used in competitive play in the past. It's a decent card. Reach Through Mists just draws you a card for a single Blue mana, but it's at instant speed, so it can not only allow you to move your deck along, but also provide instant dividends with your value creatures on-board.
Desperate Ritual is a particularly great card for a couple of reasons. Not only does it give you 3 Red mana for 1R, but it also has Splice onto Arcane. This means you can pay 1R whenever you cast an Arcane spell, such as Reach Through Mists, reveal it in your hand and add its effect to the spell you're already casting. The best part about this whole process is that you get to keep the Ritual in your hand. So even with only one copy in the deck, you can use it multiple times in a game quite easily without ever actually casting it.
Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens are cards that serve a similar purpose. They both have Storm, meaning that they get to copy themselves for each time that you cast a spell in that turn. Grapeshot is a particularly powerful card that can win the game by itself, and Empty the Warrens can create a lot of Goblins at once. There are enough other low-cost spells in this deck that makes casting these for a great amount of value fairly easy.
Peer Through Depths is another Arcane spell. This one lets you look at the top 5 cards of your deck and choose an instant or sorcery card from among them. Then, put the other cards on the bottom of your deck. This is a great way to essentially not only draw a card, but also select a spell for a given situation. It's especially helpful to seek out one of the bigger spells in your deck in order to suspend it with Jhoira's ability.
Snap is a particularly nice inclusion in this deck for a couple of reasons. First, this is the first time it's been printed since Urza's Legacy. Also, this card is just really good. For two mana, not only do you get to return a creature to its owner's hand, but you get to untap up to two of your lands, as well. Essentially, this makes Snap a "free" spell. Not only is this good against aggressive decks, such as the opposing Might Duel Deck, but also good for Storm count for your Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens. It's also just good for tempo purposes. The new artwork on this card is cool, too.
Rift Bolt is a very good burn spell. You may wonder why a sorcery speed spell that costs 2R for 3 damage is good. It's the Suspend cost that's good, only a single Red mana to wait a turn to cast it. In Pauper and Modern, running four of this is like running 8 copies of Lightning Bolt, the most efficient burn spell of all time. With three copies in the deck, you're only one copy away from a playset of this very good spell.
Sift Through Sands is yet another Arcane spell, but this one has a really nice ability attached to it. For 3 mana, you get to draw 2 cards, but you have to discard a card. But, if you also cast a copy of Reach Through Mists and a copy of Peer Through Depths in the same turn, you get to play The Unspeakable right out of your deck! Of course, if he's already in your hand or suspended, you're out of luck. But it's a really nice way to get a big creature out in a hurry!
You may have noticed that we've mentioned Jhoira a lot in this review. While this deck definitely functions better with her Suspend ability in play, these higher-end spells of the Mind deck can do some cool tricks on their own.
Shivan Meteor is a five-mana spell that deals 13 damage to a target creature. But you can alternatively suspend it for 2 turns by spending 1 colorless and 2 Red mana (1RR). It's actually pretty cute to suspend it, as your opponent may hold back from playing their best creature until it resolves. It's a cool card, although you probably won't ever see it played competitively.
Temporal Fissure is an interesting card. It costs 5 mana to return a permanent to its owners hand. This sounds exceptionally bad until you see that it has Storm. With a high enough Storm count, this can actually return most of your opponent's cards to their hand, including their lands! This card does actually see a fair amount of Commander play, although mostly in Mizzix of the Izmagnus decks, where it can often be cast for a single Blue mana. It's not really the best card to Suspend, honestly, but it does do work in the right situation.
Mind's Desire is a really fun card. At 6 mana with Storm, it may not be the greatest card to Suspend. But played correctly, you can cast a whole ton of instant speed spells on your upkeep in order to increase the Storm count. What Mind's Desire actually does is quite fun. You shuffle your library, then exile the top card of it. Until the end of the turn, you can play that card for free. It doesn't take much of a Storm count to make this card really good. Unsurprisingly, this is a very popular card in a number of Commander decks.
Unlike the past few big spells, Firemind's Foresight is a great card to suspend with Jhoira. It lets you search out an instant with converted mana cost 1, one with 2, and another with 3. The obvious combination here with this deck is to search out a copy of Reach Through Mists, a copy of Peer Through Depths, and a copy of Sift Through Sands. That way you can guarantee getting The Unspeakable out of your deck and onto to the battlefield. But there are plenty of spells you can get with this card. Seven mana might be fair for this effect, but it's really wise to suspend this with Jhoira if you get the chance.
Volcanic Vision is actually a pretty cool card to suspend with Jhoira, too. It costs a whopping 7 mana to get back an instant or sorcery card from your graveyard. But the bigger the spell, the more damage it then causes to each of your opponent's creatures. It's obvious that this spell was chosen to combat the Might deck, which is a creature-happy deck. It's yet another Jhoira-friendly card.
The last non-creature spell in the deck is a pretty good one, Beacon of Tomorrows. This is a card that was over $8 with its original printing, and for good reason. Not only does it grant you an extra turn for 8 mana, but it also shuffles itself back into the deck. This is a card that's commonly seen in Jhoira of the Ghitu Commander decks, and it's easily the best spell to suspend with Jhoira in this deck.
Thoughts on the Mind Deck
Honestly, this is a fairly well constructed deck, especially when taking into account the deck opposite it. Since these decks are tuned to face one another head-to-head, I think the card selections make a lot of sense. While there isn't a ton of "money" in this deck, there are plenty of useful cards to add to one's collection. I think this deck is actually pretty good for half of a pre-constructed product.
My main issue with the deck, while it has enough firepower to keep up with the Might deck, does somewhat depend on Jhoira being in play to suspend the bigger spells. It looks like a fun deck to play, nonetheless.
Of course, many Magic players buy this for the "bang for the buck." While there are good cards here, the only "money" card is Beacon of Tomorrows. So will the Might deck pull through on that end?
Might Deck List
2 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
2 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Kruin Striker
1 Radha, Heir to Keld
1 Talara's Battalion
1 Relentless Hunter
1 Zo-Zu the Punisher
2 Ambassador Oak
2 Cloudcrown Oak
2 Gorehorn Minotaurs
1 Rubblebelt Raiders
1 Lovisa Coldeyes
1 Kamahl, Pit Fighter
1 Boldwyr Intimidator
1 Guttural Response
2 Rampant Growth
2 Sylvan Might
2 Call of the Herd
1 Increasing Savagery
1 Beacon of Destruction
1 Beast Attack
1 Roar of the Wurm
1 Coat of Arms
4 Rugged Highlands
There are some really good cards in this deck throughout the list. Let's start with the creatures, beginning with the face card of the deck, Lovisa Coldeyes.
Lovisa Coldeyes is one of those Legendary Creatures from Coldsnap that has proven to be a pretty cool "build-around-me" Commander. Like a fine wine, Lovisa has aged pretty well, since the creature types that she assists with her ability tend to get new support on a regular basis. While not a super popular Commander, not a lot of players today probably have ever heard of her.
She's not that exciting on her own, a vanilla human who's a 3/3 for 5 mana. But she grants each creature that a barbarian, berserker or Warrior +2/+2 and haste. Notice that this would apply to your opponents creatures as well, but that's a minor downside if you give Lovisa enough support. But as this isn't Commander, and Lovisa is just another card in a 60-card deck, let's see how this Red/Green deck looks overall.
Skarrgan Pit-Skulk isn't a household name. But it's a solid, efficient creature for only one mana. If you cast him after an opponent has been dealt damage that turn, his Bloodthirst ability activates and he comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on him. He's a good little Warrior, and he only gets better with Lovisa Coldeyes.
Burning-Tree Emissary doesn't benefit from Lovisa's ability, considering that he's a Shaman. But providing you one Red and one Green mana when he enter the battlefield makes him well-worth playing in an aggressive deck like this. Ordinarily this would be a cool reprint, although the Emissary was just reprinted at common in Modern Masters 2017. Still, two copies of this guy are quite welcome in this deck.
Kruin Striker is a great creature for a deck featuring Lovisa. Not only is she a warrior, but whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, the Striker gets +1/+0 and trample until end of turn. With Lovisa in play, the Striker becomes a 5/3 with trample under this scenario. That's quite a lot of power for only two mana. While not a common fixture in Lovisa Commander decks, in a 60-card Constructed deck, this is a good choice.
Radha, Heir to Keld is a classic Elf from Time Spiral, so this is a welcome reprint. Not only does she add two red mana to your mana pool whenever she attacks, but can also tap herself to give you a green mana. Add to that Radha's a Warrior, and you have a solid inclusion in this deck.
Talara's Battalion is one of the cards in this deck that was actually worth a few dollars before this reprint. Originally printed in Eventide, this Elf can't be cast unless you've cast another green spell that turn. Honestly, though, this isn't that big a deal when you consider the Battalion is a 4/3 with trample for only 1G. Lovisa and these Elf Warriors are going to be fast friends, although you won't see them in a Lovisa Commander deck, obviously. But this is a card that's been worth more than many people realized.
Relentless Hunter is a 3 mana Warrior with an ability for 3 mana to gain +1/+1 and Trample. She has great synergy with this deck, although she's hardly exciting.
Zo-Zu the Punisher is a crafty Goblin Warrior that punishes players for playing lands, dealing two damage to a player whenever that player lays down a land. The idea here is that the Might deck will be able to deal enough combat damage to the opponent that taking 2 damage here and there won't be that much of a drawback.
Ambassador Oak is a particularly cool card in a Lovisa-powered deck. Not only is he a 3/3 Treefolk Warrior himself, but he brings a 1/1 Elf Warrior token into play along with him. With Lovisa in play, that's a 5/5 and a 3/3 with haste for only 3 colorless and one Green mana (3G). This is definitely one of the better creatures in the deck.
On the other hand, Cloudcrown Oak is a bit underwhelming, a 3/4 with Reach for 4 mana. While he isn't "bad" per se, and is perfectly fine in a Treefolk deck, it seems like there could have been a better choice here. My thought is that the Reach here is to combat the fliers that the Mind deck can create with Talrand, Sky Summoner. They're nice role players in this deck, but hardly exciting.
Gorehorn Minotaurs is essentially a bigger version of the Pit-Skulks, 4 mana 3/3 Warriors with Blodthirst 2. They fit the theme of the deck, of course, but are often just big dumb beaters that can potentially be 5/5 when cast.
Rubblebelt Raiders is a Warrior originally from Gatecrash that can be cast with either Red or Green mana. While the Raiders didn't see much competitive play in Standard, this is a creature that can get really big in a hurry. Whenever the Raiders attack, you put a +1/+1 counter on it for each attacking creature you control! While this ability sounds awesome, the Raiders don't have trample, so they can be chump-blocked all day. Still, in this deck, this is a nice creature to combine with Lovisa's ability.
Kamahl, Pit Fighter is a staple in Lovisa Coldeyes decks, and it's not hard to see why. Not only is he a Barbarian, a creature type that Lovisa boosts, but he has haste on his own, and has 6 power. The downside is that he has only a single toughness. That seems awfully fragile for a 6 mana creature. However, he can tap to deal 3 damage to a target creature or player. That's a powerful tap ability, and one that he can use immediately, even without the assistance of Lovisa's haste-granting ability. He's fragile, but he's exactly the kind of creature you'd expect to see in a deck centered around Lovisa Coldeyes.
The final and largest creature in the deck is Boldwyr Intimidator. He's a whopping 7 mana to cast, but this Giant Warrior is a lot of fun. His first ability is that Cowards can't block Warriors. Hmm, since when was Coward a creature type? Turns out that his second ability makes a creature into a Coward until end of turn. For only a single mana, that's pretty cool. Since this deck is primarily Warriors, that could prove extremely helpful. Also, the Intimidator has another ability that can turn a target creature into a Warrior for 2R. This guy is a great addition to this deck, and so it's little surprise that a lot of Lovisa Coldeyes Commander decks play this guy, too.
Overall, the creature selections make sense from a purely tribal standpoint. But outside of the raw power, none of them are all that exciting. Like with the Mind deck, the Might deck really seems to revolve around the face creature of the deck, in this case Lovisa Coldeyes. If you don't have Lovisa on the board, you have to depend on pure power and toughness to bash through the Mind deck's defenses before they can out-tempo you with their spells.
So, with this in mind, do the non-creature spells allow this deck to go over the top and pit direct damage against card advantage? Let's see.
Might Deck: Non-Creature Spells
Firebolt is basically a better version of Shock. It costs a single mana to deal 2 damage to a target creature or player. But, it can also be cast again from the graveyard with Flashback, for a hefty cost of 4R. While 5 mana is a lot to deal 2 damage, it is well worth it if it is all you need to win the game. It can do the job.
Guttural Response is actually a fairly sought after uncommon, originally printed in Shadowmoor. It gained new artwork for these Duel Decks. So why is it so good? For either a Red or Green mana, you counter target Blue instant spell. The Mind deck is loaded with Blue instants, so this is a natural choice. But it also just happens to be good in Modern, a format in which there are plenty of Blue instant spells flying around. It's good for this deck, and a good $1-plus card to have in your collection.
Rampant Growth is straightforward: get a basic land card into play tapped and shuffle your deck. It's a good way to accelerate your mana to get your creatures out more quickly. It's just a solid card that sees play in all kinds of formats.
Sylvan Might is a nice pump spell. It costs 1 and a Green to give a target creature +2/+2 and trample until end of turn. The trample is especially important in this deck, as many creatures in the Might deck don't have trample. Without trample, all the power in the world doesn't matter if an Elemental or Drake token is sitting in its path ready to block. It also has flashback for 2 colorless and 2 Green (2GG), which is especially useful late in the game.
Call of the Herd is an old-school card that was perfectly fine back in the day - 3 mana to make a 3/3 Elephant creature token. You can then cast it again with Flashback from the graveyard for 3 and a Green. While this is a fair card, it's hardly exciting. While it fits the theme of the deck, there are far more powerful token generators out there that could have taken this slot in the deck.
Increasing Savagery, on the other hand, is very good. For 4 mana, you get to put 5 +1/+1 coutners on a target creature. It also has Flashback for 7 mana. The cool thing is that if it's cast from the graveyard, you put 10 counters on that creature instead. As long as you target a creature with trample, the game is probably going to be over once this is cast.
Harmonize lets you draw 3 cards for 4 mana. In Green, that's awesome. This card has been reprinted to death, but it's a really nice card to have around in your collection. It's still worth around $1.
Beacon of Destruction is nowhere as good of a card as Beacon of Tomorrows is in the Mind deck. While this Beacon shuffles into the deck like its extra-turn taking counterpart, all this does for 5 mana is deal 5 damage to a target creature or player. Sometimes this 5 damage will be extremely relevant. But you could probably do better than this.
Roar of the Wurm is 7 mana to create a 6/6 Wurm token. That hardly seems exciting. However, its Flashback cost is only 3 and a Green for the same ability. It's hardly a bad card, but not the most exciting thing to have at the top of your mana curve.
From a value standpoint, outside of a couple of $1 uncommons, this deck looks pretty bad. Fortunately, the final non-creature spell in the deck is at least a good one. In fact, Coat of Arms may be the best card in the deck outside of Lovisa Coldeyes. Despite being printed so many times, Coat of Arms has retained a $5+ price tag again and again. What this artifact does is give each creature a +1/+1 boost for each other creature that shares at least one creature type with it.
This math can get pretty confusing. The beauty of this card is not only does it boost each of your Humans for each other Human on the battlefield, but it also boosts each Warrior for each other Warrior as well. So, if you have two Human Warriors and a Human Shaman on the battlefield, they each gain +2/+2. While Coat of Arms can benefit your opponents, as well, the tribal synergy in the Might deck is strong enough that once this hits the board, it will be difficult for most other decks to compete with the raw power you'll suddenly have at your disposal. Of course, if the Mind deck has a bunch of Elemental and Drake tokens on the board already, that could prove to be a problem, as well.
Thoughts on the Might Deck
From a thematic standpoint, the Might deck is fine. It does rely heavily on Lovisa Coldeyes and its burn spells to keep you in the game against the Mind deck's card advantage engine, but it can compete. Value-wise, this deck isn't all that great. It's synergistic from a tribal perspective, but it's a deck that has plenty of room for improvement.
The alternate art Lovisa Coldeyes is awesome, though, and will teach a lot of Commander players that she exists. Guttural Response is a nice reprint, and there are some other useful cards in here like Coat of Arms and Harmonize that are worth having.
Overall Analysis of Mind VS Might Duel Decks
The Mind deck is definitely my favorite of the two Duel Decks. Jhoira is a great Legendary, and this Duel Deck has rekindled interest in her as a Commander. There are a lot of good reprints in the Mind deck, as well, especially Beacon of Tomorrows. So what about the Might deck? While I love Lovisa, she works better as a Commander, not really as part of a 60-card deck. It was a cute concept, though, and I'm sure players appreciate another chance to get Coat of Arms. These are definitely not the better Duel Decks to be released in recent years and are definitely a disappointment. But I will say I do appreciate the crafting that went into the Mind deck. I feel that the Might deck was underpowered, not just in terms of monetary value, but gameplay value, as well.
Would I buy the Mind vs Might Duel Decks? Personally, I would look to acquire the alternate art single cards as singles. I'm not sure that the $25 MSRP is worth it. Granted, you can usually find these Duel Decks for $20 at big box stores and online. Even the decent Nissa vs Ob Nixilis Duel Decks, which contains two very good planeswalkers, can be had for $15! The Blessed vs Cursed Duel Decks have two extremely good cards, and can be had under $20 as well.
If you manage to get ahold of the Mind VS Might Duel Decks at a price point around $15, then you actually make out with Beacon of Tomorrows, Coat of Arms, two really nice looking foil promo Legendary Creatures, three copies of Rift Bolt, and a copy of Desperate Ritual, plus some semi-valuable collection filler. The rest is a bunch of essentially free cards.
Would I buy these Duel Decks for $25? Absolutely not. Around $20? It's doubtful. At about $15 or under? I'd consider it. Otherwise, I can just buy the cards I'd want from this deck as singles.
It's not hard to find a copy of the Duel Decks: Mind vs Might for under $20 on Amazon.
You can also find a copy of Mind vs Might for between $15-20 on TCGPlayer.
Will of the Masses, the white-green Intro Pack for the Magic 2015 Core Set, is certainly among the better of the five Intro Packs for this set. It has one of the better rares in the set, Hornet Queen. The Queen alone was as high as $6 a copy in 2015 due to being widely played in Standard at one point. The cover card is another fascinating rare in Phytotitan.
As it is an Intro Pack, however, there are some themes that you can see that Wizards may have stretched a bit in this Core Set, especially with the Convoke mechanic. You'll see more why this is a bit stretched at the common and uncommon level as we analyze this list.
2 Sunblade Elf
2 Selfless Cathar
1 Wall of Mulch
2 Oreskos Swiftclaw
2 Midnight Guard
2 Living Totem
2 Will-Forged Golem
2 Siege Wurm
2 Seraph of the Masses
1 Hornet Queen
1 Gather Courage
1 Titanic Growth
3 Raise the Alarm
2 Devouring Light
1 Nissa's Expedition
1 Sanctified Charge
1 Meditation Puzzle
2 Triplicate Spirits
2 Feral Incarnation
First of all, this deck does a lot right. Sunblade Elf is going to be a 2/2 almost all of the time in this deck. His ability for 4W to inspire the troops (give all your creatures +1/+1) can be relevant late game. Selfless Cathar is an okay creature. Oreskos Swiftclaw is a vanilla, but a 3/1 for 1W is perfectly good and playable in this setting. Wall of Mulch is a bit random, but it can sacrifice itself for a single green mana to draw a card, so no harm there. Midnight Guard is an interesting 2/3 creature. as well.
The next three creatures are cases of where Convoke goes right in Magic 2015. They are all common creatures, Living Totem, Will-Forged Golem, and Siege Wurm. Because they can be Convoked, they can be cast for considerably cheaper. Living Totem starts as a 2/3 for 3G that gives another one of your creatures a +1/+1 counter when it enters. Tapping just a couple of creatures makes it a 2-drop. The Will-Forged Golem is a 4/4 for 6, which doesn't sound great, but with Convoke it can become a lot cheaper. The Siege Wurm is a 5/5 for 5GG, but again, he has Convoke, and not much can deal with a 5/5 single-handedly.
You might think, well, why would I want to tap my creatures to cast another creature? Sometimes you simply will find that you're not attacking for a variety of reasons. Why not tap those creatures that would otherwise just sit there to bring out some more powerful creatures?
Keep in mind also is that we're talking about common-level Convoke creatures. That's pretty cool to see. It's especially exciting for new players to realize that they can get some of their creatures out more quickly than they might have otherwise first suspected.
So, kudos to Wizards on designing these creatures. But there are a couple of examples later of where Convoke isn't so playable. One comes right away in the form of the next creature on the list:
Seraph of the Masses is a cute card. It's an angel (yay) but it costs 5WW to play (wah). Oh, but it has Convoke! The Seraph has power and toughness equal to the number of creatures you control! There's a problem with this. There was a card in a past core set called Crusader of Odric. She cost 2W to play, didn't have Convoke, but did the same thing. Geist-Honored Monk from Innistrad cost 3WW, had Vigilance and brought two fliers with it.
Oh, but this Seraph has flying! Yes, that's relevant. But 7 mana is a lot for a flyer that might be a 4/4 or 5/5 when it lands, especially if you have to tap down your creatures to do so. In Limited, this can work out alright. But in a Constructed deck, even an Intro Pack, there are usually better options to play. However, she does happen to work well alongside the last creature we'll be taking a look at...
Hornet Queen was first printed in one of the Commander 2011 pre-constructed decks. She was brought into Standard with Magic 2015. You might wonder why a 2/2 flyer for 4GGG (7 mana) is so good. She costs the same as the Seraph and she doesn't have Convoke. But, she has other things going for her.
First, she has deathtouch. Secondly, she brings four 1/1 flying creature tokens with deathtouch in with her. OK, she combos well with the Seraph - that's certainly true. But wouldn't you rather have a swarm of death-touching Hornets?
All in all, I'm not crazy about the Seraph. But for an Intro Pack, it's a pretty solid creature line-up that shows off some of the better things that the Convoke mechanic has to offer.
Onto the non-creature spells, we start with Gather Courage.
Gather Courage is a reprint from the original set that first introduced Convoke, Ravnica: City of Guilds. It's a decent card. For a single green mana, it gives a target creature +2/+2 until end of turn. What makes it more than simply a weaker version of Giant Growth (which is +3/+3) is that you can essentially cast it for free simply by tapping a green creature you control. Interesting that it was moved up to uncommon from its original common rarity. It would be nice to have more than a single copy of it in this deck, but that rarity bump is the reason for this.
Naturalize is your typical 1G destroy a target Artifact or Enchantment at Instant speed. It's been reprinted tons of times. Titanic Growth is 1G for an instant that gives a target creature +4/+4. Giant Growth is usually better, and it was still in Standard when this deck was first released.
Raise the Alarm is a great reprint from Ravnica: City of Guilds. It's a common that for 1W makes 2 1/1 White Soldier creature tokens at instant speed. It's fantastic for giving you creatures to tap for your Convoke costs, and being White creatures, they help you with your White mana requirements. There are 3 copies of it in this deck. It's a very playable card that sees Modern play in Black/White tokens, and has seen Standard play whenever it's been in the format.
Devouring Light is yet another Ravnica reprint, with awesome new artwork. It has Convoke, which means that it combines perfectly with Raise the Alarm. For 1WW, you can exile a target attacking or blocking creature. This is very strong removal when you figure that you can potentially play this card for zero mana. Very strong card. There are two copies in the deck.
Nissa's Expedition was a new card from Magic 2015. It's a sort of ramp card, allowing you to search your deck for up to two basic lands, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library. It's slightly better than a card like Cultivate, which lets you search out two lands, but one of them go into your hand. Five mana seems a bit costly for a ramp spell, especially at sorcery speed, but it does have Convoke. It was never great in Constructed, but has seen play in some Commander decks.
Sanctified Charge is another new card. It costs 4W for an instant that gives creatures you control +2/+1 and first strike until end of turn. This is an interesting combat trick, although 5 mana is a lot. Dictate of Heliod from Journey into Nyx is a better combat trick, and that's an Enchantment with Flash that boosts your creatures by +2/+2 as long as it remains in play. But it's not a bad common, and it's an okay Intro Pack card. The first strike is especially nice, as it can turn would-be trades into wins for you.
Meditation Puzzle is one of the Convoke cards that makes me scratch my head a little, but I see why it's in here. It's a common Instant for 3WW and Convoke that gains you 8 life. That's quite a tempo swing, and there are people that have enjoyed playing cards like Angel's Mercy - which gained you 7 life for 4 mana. It's a great Limited card, but I don't typically like it in Constructed unless you're specifically playing around a lifegain or tempo theme.
Triplicate Spirits is a Convoke card I can get behind a bit more. It costs 4WW for a Sorcery that makes three flying 1/1 spirits. The Convoke cost makes it a bit easier to stomach, though. I like this card more than Meditation Puzzle, certainly, and getting fliers is pretty cool. I do feel it's a bit slow for Constructed, though.
Next we have Overwhelm, which is basically Overrun with Convoke. There's an obvious problem with that. Having to tap down creatures to help pay for an effect that boosts your creatures by +3/+3 until end of turn seems a bit counterproductive. Plus 5GG is a lot for that sort of effect, especially when you don't gain trample as most Overrun type effects do. I'm simply not a fan.
Feral Invocation rounds out the mana curve all the way up at a whopping nine mana (8G). However, it does make three 3/3 beasts and it does have Convoke. At the time, though, the two "Surprise Centaurs" of Fated Intervention from Born of the Gods were simply more cost-effective. I would play that over this at Sorcery speed. Were it Instant speed it would be a cute combat trick in an Intro Pack. But at Sorcery speed, it's just very slow.
The list finishes out with 13 Forests and 12 Plains, for your typical 25 land in an intro pack.
"Will of the Masses" has a lot going for it. It shows off some of the cool things Convoke can do, by helping you amass forces that can do some serious damage. But the higher end of the curve is clogged up with what I feel are rather inefficient cards like the Seraph and some of the high cost Convoke cards. I like what Triplicate Spirits is doing and gaining 8 life out of nowhere with Meditation Puzzle is cute, but overall it's a bit of a disappointing finish to what starts out as a pretty cool list. The top end of the curve needs work, so I'll give this a B-minus as far as intro packs go.
The final verdict is that this may be the second- or third-best of the Magic 2015 Intro Packs, with Flames of the Dragon being the best of the bunch. For awhile, though, when Hornet Queen skyrocketed in price, this was the most valuable.
Previously, I looked at a Blue/Red (U/R) Delver deck that was making waves in Modern. At the time, it was relatively budget, about $250 in paper with the majority of that price being Snapcaster Mages. As the prices of Snapcaster and Serum Visions were rocketing out of control, however, that list was no longer budget whatsoever. In mid-2019, that list would cost much more at $350.
The good news is that there is a Modern U/R Delver deck that emerged on Magic Online that is about $165 in paper (as of 4/2019) that went 4-0 in a Modern Daily back in July 2015. It's still a solid list to consider now. Plus, the price is still about the same as it was in 2016!
Here is the list as piloted by Nielsen333 on Magic Online.
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Young Pyromancer
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Vapor Snag
2 Forked Bolt
2 Lava Spike
2 Mana Leak
2 Mutagenic Growth
1 Spell Snare
1 Spell Pierce
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Shivan Reef
Young Pyromancer has been a perfect combination with Delver of Secrets since the Delver deck archetype actually began in Legacy. While Modern's non-creature spells aren't quite of the power level of Legacy, making an army of 1/1 Elemental creature tokens every time you cast an instant or sorcery is extremely powerful. With the Delver deck being mostly about tempo in Modern, having a constant army of chump-blockers and pingers is going to be the foundation of this deck's success.
In place of Snapcaster Mage is a much more aggressive creature from Khans of Tarkir, Monastery Swiftspear. The Swiftspear has already seen plenty of play in Standard, Modern, and Legacy. With her Prowess ability, though, she can become quite a formidable presence on both offense and defense. With spells properly timed, the Swiftspear can deal powerful blows that would put stalwart red creatures like Goblin Guide to shame. With Delver flipping into the flying 3/2 Insectile Aberration, Delver now has more of an aggressive flair than its many tempo components would lead you to believe.
At the time, this list eschewed the typical (more expensive) inclusions of Gitaxian Probe and Serum Visions. This build used more affordable draw options Sleight of Hand and Peek. While the Scry ability of Serum Visions is somewhat superior to Sleight of Hand, this was a more budget way to get basically the same thing done. But, with the reprint in Conspiracy 2, Serum Visions are now about the same price as Sleight of Hand, making them a good substitute for the Peeks if you can get them. Gitaxian Probe has since been banned, as well.
Lightning Bolt and Vapor Snag are the burn and tempo all-stars, respectively. Remand and Mana Leak are the primary counterspells. The rest of the non-creature spells are interchangeable with those in the sideboard. In the board there are: 3 Molten Rain, 3 Rending Volley, 2 Dispel, 2 Electrickery, 2 Negate, 2 Roast, and 1 Forked Bolt. This assortment allows the deck to adjust to many different kinds of matchups.
Also, like previous incarnations of Delver in Modern, the deck doesn't need fetchlands. Steam Vents and Sulfur Falls aren't exactly inexpensive nowadays, but they are certainly less than a playset of Scalding Tarns.
If you're looking for a budget Modern deck, this version of Blue/Red (U/R) Delver should be a great place to start.
Read more Magic the Gathering Modern articles here.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
While Inspired never became a mechanic with the fuel to become its own deck archetype, the Born of the Gods “Inspiration-Struck” Intro Pack contains a lot of useful cards. When it was released in February 2014, most of these cards were limited all-stars. Also, the cover card, Arbiter of the Ideal, is a fine inclusion in many Blue-based Commander Decks.
Let’s take a look at the list and see what we’re dealing with:
2 Aerie Worshippers
1 Arbiter of the Ideal
2 Black Oak of Odunos
1 Breaching Hippocamp
2 Deepwater Hypnotist
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Forlorn Pseudamma
1 Horizon Scholar
1 Insatiable Harpy
2 Returned Phalanx
2 Servant of Tymaret
1 Shipwreck Singer
1 Siren of the Silent Song
2 Sphinx’s Disciple
1 Triton Shorethief
1 Warchanter of Mogis
1 Curse of the Swine
1 Evanescent Intellect
1 Oracle’s Insight
2 Retraction Helix
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Siren Song Lyre
1 Springleaf Drum
1 Thassa’s Bounty
The two rares in the deck are Arbiter of the Ideal and Curse of the Swine. Both are fairly decent cards. Let’s take a look first at the cover card.
Being an avid Commander player, I immediately saw Arbiter of the Ideal’s potential when the card was first revealed. A 4/5 flyer for 4UU is perfectly reasonable with as good of an Inspired ability as it has. Whenever the Arbiter becomes untapped, you reveal the top card of your deck. If it’s an artifact, creature or land card, you may put it onto the battlefield. The only downside is that it gains a manifestation counter, which makes it an enchantment in addition to its other types.
To be fair, that’s not really a major downside depending on what it is you decide to put down. It’s also a may effect, which is always nice. Not only do I love that it’s a Sphinx and has gorgeous artwork. But with the top-deck manipulation available in the Commander format, this is a pretty powerful engine for playing free big stuff.
As far as Constructed is concerned, though, it’s a bit high on the curve. It’s a card that a lot of the more competitive players may overlook, because it’s just too slow in a format that has so much removal flying around it. But it’s a fantastic little card in Commander, and is definitely a fantastic card in this Inspired-based deck. It would later find a home in many Phenax, God of Deception Commander decks.
Phenax’s ability gives all creatures you control the ability to tap to mill the X top cards of target player’s library where X is that creature’s toughness. This combines very well with the Arbiter’s ability, as 5 toughness makes it worth tapping. Then, every time it gets untapped, it can get back a card with its ability. It’s a really nice interaction.
Curse of the Swine, on the other hand, has been played in Standard. While it’s not the most efficient removal, the fact that it exiles and not destroys target creatures is important. It’s a way of taking care of the Indestructible Gods and anything else that your opponent would benefit from its “when it dies” triggers.
The fact that the opponent gets a 2/2 Boar isn’t really that relevant if what you’re removing is a major problem. The fact that it has an X cost means that this card only gets better the more you remove with it. It is at sorcery speed, of course, because at instant speed, this effect would be ridiculous. It’s a Constructed-playable card, though, that’s for sure. It also sees play in Commander, as well. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a staple, being played in literally thousands of Blue decks.
The rest of the deck, though, is another story. Despite having some of the prettiest artwork I’ve ever seen on some Magic cards, it’s basically a bunch of cards that would work well in a Limited deck, but not in Constructed. However, there is a copy of Springleaf Drum in the deck. Not only does this little artifact work well with Inspired, but it’s just a good card in general.
The best creature card in the deck is Siren of the Silent Song. Not only is this Siren a Zombie (meaning it’s playable in Grimgrin, Corpse-Born Commander decks), but it’s a 2/1 flyer for 1UB (1 colorless, Blue, Black) with a solid Inspired ability.
Whenever it becomes untapped, each opponent discards a card, then puts the top card of his or her library into his/her graveyard. If you can get multiple copies out on the board in a control deck, not only does the 2 damage in the air matter, but if you’re running Phenax, God of Deception in the deck, it can tap without attacking.
Now that we’ve established that Phenax is amazing with the Inspired ability, here is my advice for improving upon this deck: build a blue/black control deck! OK, Arbiter of the Ideal would have come out for Consuming Aberration with the Gatecrash mill deck all-star still in Standard at the time. But hey, getting 4 Sirens is a good start, and Curse of the Swine would be in there, too.
If you’re using this deck as a beginning to a casual deck, this list is a good starting point. However, you could get all of the cards you’d need as singles for significantly less than buying this deck as a sealed product. Considering that new copies of this deck can sell for more than $25 online, it’s worth staying away from. Really, the foil Arbiter of the Ideal was the draw at the time, but today they are only about $1. And Born of the Gods boosters were actually valuable at the time, being in Standard, because everyone was trying to crack their playsets of Temple scry-lands and Courser of Kruphix.
Out of the box, this deck itself is a bit underwhelming. It doesn’t really have anything that exciting and the two packs of Born of the Gods probably won’t get you your money back. As a deck, it’s not really too strong, and gets probably a C from me. It maybe deserves a C-plus for trying to put as many Inspired cards in it as possible. In any case, it’s not the best of the decks, by far.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Let's take a look back at the Magic the Gathering Born of the Gods Event Deck, Underworld Herald! This deck was released in February of 2014. is a mono-black deck, which isn’t a surprise considering how powerful mono-Black devotion decks were at that time in Standard.
While there is only one card with Devotion in the event deck for Born of the Gods, it's full of Bestow creatures. Many creatures in this deck saw Standard play at the time. When the entirety of this deck was legal in Standard, it had some real value rares within it!
Let’s take a look at the Underworld Herald deck list:
1 Agent of the Fates
1 Blood Scrivener
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Desecration Demon
1 Erebos’s Emissary
1 Herald of Torment
3 Mogis’s Marauder
1 Pack Rat
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
3 Spiteful Returned
3 Tormented Hero
2 Xathrid Necromancer
NON-CREATURE SPELLS (10)
2 Bile Blight
3 Doom Blade
1 Fated Return
1 Gift of Orzhova
1 Hero’s Downfall
2 Ultimate Price
2 Dark Betrayal
2 Gift of Orzhova
2 Pharika’s Cure
2 Staff of the Death Magus
Considering the time that this deck is from, there are some pretty darn good rares in this deck. Agent of the Fates is a solid little Black Heroic card that has some ways to activate it in this deck. While it never really became popular in Standard, it probably was underused relative to its power level.
Blood Scrivener helps you get a couple of cards if your hand is empty at a minimal cost of 1 life. While it’s not the most exciting card, it’s a creature with upside. Those are usually pretty good, and this one still sees some play in EDH.
Crypt Ghast doubles the production of your black mana. It also has the Extort mechanic on it. This Gatecrash mechanic allows you to pay either a white or black mana any time you cast a spell. If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain that much life. It’s become a staple in many Commander decks and was quite good in its Standard heydey. Crypt Ghast is probably the most valuable rare in the deck today.
Desecration Demon was the best rare in the deck, by far, when this deck was released. It is a monster that proved to be the primary beater in mono-Black Devotion decks. When “Underworld Herald” first released, this card alone took up a good chunk of the deck’s value. While its drawback is significant, forcing your opponent to sacrifice a creature to stop it from attacking is also quite meaningful.
Also, each time your opponent stops it from attacking, it gets bigger, too. As if a 6/6 flyer wasn’t enough, this Demon was often going to be swinging for 8 damage or more in most games. The Demon never really panned out in Modern, because there are enough flyers in the format that can easily chump block it. Somewhat ironically, Desecration Demon was reprinted in Modern Masters 2017, despite seeing almost zero play in the format.
Herald of Torment proved to be a decent Bestow card in Black. It’s a 3/3 flyer on its own and as an Aura, the Herald gives +3/+3 and flying. While you lose 1 life during each of your upkeeps, it’s a small price to pay for that amount of power in the air. While it was never a money card, it was a useful role player in Standard, for sure.
Pack Rat is a very playable card that can pump out copies of itself by ditching an extra card in hand and paying 2B. Also, the Pack Rats get bigger the more that you have in play. It’s a deceptively simple card with a flavorful concept that proved to be extremely good in Standard. Heck, it’s still played in casual Rat decks everywhere! Pack Rat also continues to see occasional play in the Modern format.
The last rare creatures in the deck are two copies of Xathrid Necromancer. It’s super useful for when your Human creatures die by replacing each of them with 2/2 Zombie tokens. The Necromancer even replaces himself! Really, the only drawback is that the tokens come into play tapped. It’s a shame that this guy hasn’t found a good home in any other format, because he’s really a superb card.
In the non-creature spells, you have Fated Return and Hero’s Downfall as rare cards. Fated Return is a pricey reanimation spell, but it makes the creature coming back indestructible. Still, it’s not so great as a Standard card, but it works well in Commander. On the other hand, Hero’s Downfall is simply excellent removal that you would definitely want more than one of in a deck.
Where's Gray Merchant of Asphodel in the Born of the Gods Event Deck?
The most obvious exclusion in this deck is everyone’s favorite mono-Black Devotion staple, Gray Merchant of Asphodel. That choice actually is not a mistake. The reason for this is that Wizards decided to include a different Devotion-based card in Mogis’s Marauder. Whereas “Gary,” as he’s often called, makes you gain X life and an opponent lose X life where X is your Devotion to Black, the Marauders give X creatures intimidate and haste until end of turn where X is that same number.
To anyone who has witnessed the power of Gray Merchant of Asphodel, it’s understandable why people are confused about that omission. But there’s a good reason for it. Wizards went out of their way to try a new take on a mono-Black deck that didn't involve Devotion. It's an aggressive build, built around Xathrid Necromancer and a bunch of Human creatures. Tormented Hero, Mogis’ Marauder, and Rakdos Shred-Freak are all Humans. Therefore, this makes the Necromancers extremely good and allows you to be extremely aggressive. Spiteful Returned, a Bestow creature from Born of the Gods, is actually decent enough as a creature, as whenever it declares an attack, the defending player loses 2 life. This is a super aggressive deck.
There’s also a pretty good removal package in this event deck with 2 Bile Blight, 3 Doom Blade, 2 Ultimate Price, and 1 Hero’s Downfall.
The sideboard includes more removal, plus 4 copies of Duress for control purposes. The 2 extra copies of Gift of Orzhova to complement the one in the deck could prove useful if you’re playing this deck as is. Cremate is nice for messing up Graveyard-based strategies, but little else (although it draws you a card, as well). The Staff of the Death Magus is kind of a cute addition, as well, rewarding you by playing Swamps and black spells and giving you 1 life for each.
Improving the Born of the Gods Event Deck, In Context
The first obvious thing about this deck is that it’s combining two distinct strategies: an aggressive approach with the Human/Xathrid Necromancer combination, and Bestow. For Devotion purposes, Bestow is extremely useful as a mechanic. Honestly, this deck can work as-is, but it’s not quite strong enough in a serious competitive setting.
First of all, Agent of the Fates is a really nice card, a 3/2 creature with Deathtouch, and there are ways to make it work pretty well with the Bestow abilities in this deck. It’s also a Human, which works with the Necromancer. Blood Scrivener is a bit too situational, and would probably be our first cut. Crypt Ghast is super cool, in that it can double mana, but one copy in an aggressive deck probably doesn’t cut it here.
Desecration Demon is an auto-keep, and a second copy could easily replace the Ghast. Erebos’ Emissary is an interesting little Bestow card, but a third Desecration Demon replaces it easily on the curve. If you’d rather not build around the Demons, two more Necromancers would slot in nicely! The reason for more Necromancers should be obvious: the more Necromancers, the more tokens you acquire!
Herald of Torment is OK, but it’s another slot better occupied by a Necromancer or a Demon. The Marauders might be okay, especially if you’re maxing out the Human potential with Necromancers. Pack Rat is nice, and good in mono-Black devotion in general, but not in this particular build. It’s still super solid if you go a different direction, though. Cacklers are fine one-drops, as are Tormented Heroes, even if the Heroic ability is never relevant. Rakdos Shred-Freak is a bit sub-par on average, but super good with the Necromancer.
For non-creatures, the removal count is fine except for there only being one Hero’s Downfall. Fated Return is too pricey and situational to be worth main-boarding, so that’s an easy swap. Gift of Orzhova isn’t bad, and helps devotion, but another Hero’s Downfall or perhaps a Herald of Torment (which gives you more value) is probably better here instead.
Of course, you could go the more traditional route of mono-black Devotion decks, cutting Shred-Freak for more Pack Rats, cutting the Marauders for Gray Merchant of Asphodels, and cutting the Necromancers for Demons. But I think the mono-Black Humans route is much more interesting, and it’s possible to run 4 Necromancer and 4 Demon in the deck.
Also, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is simply too good not to run in a mono-colored deck. Three copies should do the trick. Here’s the revised Underworld Herald deck list with these upgrades.
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Desecration Demon
2 Herald of Torment
3 Mogis’s Marauder
3 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
3 Spiteful Returned
4 Tormented Hero
4 Xathrid Necromancer
NON-CREATURE SPELLS (9)
2 Bile Blight
3 Doom Blade
2 Hero’s Downfall
2 Ultimate Price
In the end, this is the list I would have gone with at the time. It keeps the Human factor alive, with the Marauders still in, cutting the more fragile and situational creatures with more heavy hitters. The Agent was nice, but it was 1 Human, replaced by two more. I also flip-flopped the count of Tormented Hero and Cackler. There’s still enough Bestow in the deck to make the Tormented Heroes sort of relevant. Of course, if you’re looking to go super-Human and not wanting to spend on the Demons, replace the 4 Demons with 4 Agents of the Fates.
As for the sideboard, I’d cut the Gifts of Orzhova for two more Herald of Torment, if you’re going to keep going to Bestow route. The Staffs are silly, and Pithing Needle could take their place to shut down activated abilities. Cremate is also pretty sub-par and Thoughtseize is strictly better than Duress if you can afford them. Sideboards really depend on your meta, however, so go with whatever works against your meta. Heck, Gild might even have had a place in here.
Overall Value of the Born of the Gods Event Deck
In the context of when this deck was released, the Underworld Herald event deck looks really good on the value side of things. At the time buying multiple copies of this deck was not a bad investment, if you planned to flip the cards immediately. Desecration Demon and Hero’s Downfall looked to be Modern-playable, but only Hero’s Downfall has really ever seen any play at all in the format. As good as Xathrid Necromancer was at the time, he’s pretty worthless now, mostly due to there being an extremely common promo version of him available.
When this deck was first released, I gave the Underworld Herald Event Deck a B for play-ability, but an A for value. I really liked the different take on mono-Black, without automatically resorting to Black Devotion. However, what’s killed this deck in the long term is that shortly after this deck’s release, in October 2014, there was a major Standard rotation that gutted the deck. The big value cards from the Return to Ravnica block and Magic 2014 (Desecration Demon and Xathrid Necromancer, plus the Rakdos creatures) were no longer legal in Standard.
In late 2016, you could still find sealed Underworld Herald Event Decks available for a price around $20. Unfortunately,there were only three rares, Crypt Ghast, Hero’s Downfall, and Pack Rat, that continued to hold $2-3 price tags.
From a strictly “bang for your buck” perspective, this isn’t a good deck to buy as sealed product today. This deck is not going to make back your $20, although Crypt Ghast and Pack Rat will likely continue to gain in value as time passes. A Commander reprint of Crypt Ghast has slowed its growth, but Pack Rat remains un-reprinted.
In any case, the Born of the Gods Underworld Herald Event Deck is a fun deck to play. As the upgrades above show, there are several different ways to build from this shell. My recommendation would be to build the deck from scratch, however, since it would be cheaper to do so that way.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
In my Magic deck brewing madness, I wanted to brew a deck around a few bulk rares that seem to work well together: Ghirapur Orrery, Midnight Oil and Key to the City. The best way to do this was to build a Madness deck. In the end, Midnight Oil ended up not being a key component to the deck, although it has drawn me enough cards to be useful enough that its drawbacks don't matter.
Having no hand size is fine with Ghirapur Orrery and Asylum Visitor drawing you cards when you're Hellbent (no cards in hand). If you play it right, you can actually create a decent amount of card advantage for yourself.
Before we go any further, let's take a look at the deck list:
4 Falkenrath Gorger
4 Asylum Visitor
4 Furyblade Vampire
2 Bloodhall Priest
Non-Creature Spells (22)
3 Avacyn's Judgment
3 Cathartic Reunion
3 Harnessed Lightning
3 Key to the City
4 Fiery Temper
2 Ghirapur Orrery
2 Midnight Oil
2 Murderous Compulsion
4 Foreboding Ruins
4 Smoldering Marsh
The creatures basically chose themselves for the deck, because we need lots of Madness cards. Falkenrath Gorger is not only a 2/1 with no drawback, but he gives your other Vampires madness. While this seems pointless with Asylum Visitor and Bloodhall Priest both having Madness already, it means that the one Vampire we do have that doesn't have Madness, Furyblade Vampire, gains it. This turns out to be very, very important.
Asylum Visitor is only 1B and she's a 3/1 that can draw you a card when you have no cards in hand. You only have to pay 1 life for this, too. Believe me, she will draw you cards. Considering how aggressive she is helps, too.
Furyblade Vampire is probably the best creature in the deck! She's a 1/2 Vampire creature for 1R. At the beginning of each combat, you get to discard a card to give her +3/+0 until end of turn! That's not a drawback at all, since so many cards in this deck have Madness! Also, having Trample is actually quite relevant as 1/1's don't help anybody much against the Furyblade.
There are only 2 copies of Bloodhall Priest in the deck because running more ended up clogging up my hand in playtesting. Two copies are enough because the true value of the Priest is when you have no cards in hand. A 4/4 for 4 is OK, but her Madness cost is only 3 mana. Then, if she enters the battlefield or attacks when you have no cards in hand, she deals 2 damage to a target creature or player. This effect has won me games by itself. You would think more would be better, but really, you end up just getting a 4/4 for 3 most of the time. While this is good, you're trying to move so fast that sometimes you need another spell instead of her.
The non-creature spells are what really make the deck work! Avacyn's Judgment is decent in the early game picking off 1 or 2 toughness creatures, and late game this can deal 4-6 damage pretty easily with its Madness cost!
Cathartic Reunion both enables Madness and nets you 3 cards. The full four copies were too much. At times, you even end up discarding your third copy, but it's a great card.
Harnessed Lightning isn't a Madness spell, but it's just too good to not play three of. The energy does make a difference, too, as you play more in a game. And it's instant speed removal!
Fiery Temper is one of the best spells in the deck. You're often going to just send the 3 damage to your opponent's face. In this deck, Temper really is just Lightning Bolt.
The last Madness spell in the deck are 2 copies of Murderous Compulsion. I'm thinking these should just be Unlicensed Disintegration. While Compulsion is a Sorcery, if you happen to discard it for Madness, you get to play it at instant speed. However, Unlicensed Disintegration is probably better overall, so I may switch these two spots to that card. As I build a sideboard, I may shift these in there to combat more aggressive decks in which Midnight Oil really doesn't help me.
Speaking of Midnight Oil, there are only two copies of this strange, but often useful Enchantment. In some matchups, Midnight Oil is great, as you can draw extra cards and play around its drawback of having no hand size. Also, it's ruled that if you play a second copy while one is on the board, you get to set your hand size to the second copy, which is very helpful. Plus, even with no hour counters on them, you still get to draw cards!
But wait, there is another drawback! Whenever you discard a card, you lose 1 life. This is kind of bad, but it can be fine if you're going to win the game anyway. But you can see why we only want 2 copies. You also don't want to be drawing all these cards, because you can actually kill yourself with these triggers (although it only happened to me once).
Also, extra copies of Midnight Oil can be dead in your hand and cost you the game by not being another spell that you need instead. Being four mana means that you won't always want or need to cast it. The good news is, that you actually don't mind discarding to hand size if you have the mana to cast your Madness spells. Also, there are some other synergies with other cards as you'll see in a moment.
Ghirapur Orrery is a really good card that pops up in Vintage Stax on Magic Online. While its a symmetrical effect that can benefit both players by dropping extra lands, it benefits you more to speed up your land drops just so you can get them out of your hand. Then, when you're out of cards, you get to draw three cards. Yes, your opponent gets this boon as well, but you're usually moving quickly enough that they just die anyway.
Do keep in mind that you want the Orrery trigger to activate instead of your Asylum Visitor's, if that's the case. Again, you only want two of these, because they are 4 drops in an aggressive deck. Plus, you don't really need more.
Then there's Key to the City. This card a great Madness enabler and a great way to consistently push through 3 or 4 damage that can't be blocked. Also, whenever it becomes untapped, it can draw you a card. If you stack your triggers correctly, you get 4 cards off of Orrery and the Key instead of just three. This card is really good, and you really don't mind having multiples. A fourth copy may end up coming in out of the sideboard. It's a good card in other decks, but in a Madness deck it's particularly powerful.
Final Thoughts on the Midnight Madness Deck
This deck seems pretty solid, but it hasn't been played against the Top 8 decks just yet. It really needs a sideboard, and as I said, Unlicensed Disintegration would definitely be in there. A fourth copy of Key to the City should be in there , too. Midnight Oil seems like it's a good card in the deck, but I wonder if it's even completely necessary to the deck's success. I'm not entirely sure just what to add otherwise and am very open to suggestions.
If anyone wants to give this deck a spin and finds that the list needs to be adjusted (the addition of Chandra, Torch of Defiance, perhaps?), please let me know what you've found! This deck is cool and while I'm not sure it's Tier 1, I think it's good enough for a Friday Night Magic run.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
At one time in late 2016, Tallowisp from Betrayers of Kamigawa was getting a lot of attention. At first glance, this Spirit's effect seems cool. As we dig deeper, we'll see it's actually a pretty cool card. With Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon introducing some powerful Spirits to Magic: the Gathering, this card is definitely worth a look.
Basically, whenever you play a Spirit (or Arcane) spell, Tallowisp allows you search your deck for an Aura card and add it to your hand. So, does Tallowisp trigger itself? Sadly, the wording of its ability doesn't allow it to count itself when it enters the battlefield. This is because it already has to be on the board for its ability to take effect. However, Tallowisp has a 1/3 body, which is solid for 2 mana. The 3 toughness is relevant in Modern, which is a format with plenty of 2 power creatures.
Tallowisp is already a decent card on its own, and it calls for decks to be built around it. With U/W Spirits already a decent deck in Modern, it seems fair to see how a Modern Spirits deck built around Tallowisp and efficient Auras would work out.
There have been some successful deck brews in the past built around Tallowisp. One that caught lots attention was a Modern Bant Tallowisp Shoal deck that utilizes Shining Shoal and Unflinching Courage. As cool as it sounded, it wasn't really the flavor I was going for with our deck.
We wanted to keep the deck in two colors and make it purely tribal. At first, a deck which featured Geist of Saint Traft as the main creature. But as we look over the newer Spirit creatures, we'll see that we can take this U/W Spirits deck in a much different direction.
U/W Tallowisp Spirits & Auras (Modern & Casual)
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
3 Selfless Spirit
2 Spell Queller
3 Drogskol Captain
Non-Creature Spells (28)
2 Ethereal Armor
4 Path to Exile
3 Hyena Umbra
3 Azorius Charm
2 Steel of the Godhead
1 Angelic Destiny
4 Flooded Strand
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Prairie Stream
Some Quick Thoughts on the Deck
While Geist of Saint Traft is great, running four copies in the deck makes it feel too one-dimensional. Yes, the Geist is hexproof, making him easy to load up with Auras. Also, the 4/4 Angel that you get when the Geist swings is nice. But building around him makes the deck very dependent on him, and therefore somewhat inconsistent. So, let's spread the Spirit love around!
Mausoleum Wanderer is really, really good. It's good against Burn and Control, especially when it grows to 2/2 or 3/3. As a consistent one-drop it can mess up quite a few decks. Heck, against Tron it can stop Ancient Stirrings! It's so versatile in the Modern format, and while people who have already played Spirits in the format know this, it's not really well-known JUST how good this guy is!
Rattlechains is sweet. Not only does he make you able to cast Spirits at instant speed (oh hi, instant speed Wanderer!) but when he comes into play, you can make a target Spirit hexproof. This is super important against all of the removal in the format.
Everyone knows how good Selfless Spirit is. Making your dudes indestructible is just really, really good.
Notice how all these Spirits so far have flying? That's awesome, because even though 1 or 2 points of damage doesn't seem relevant, it all adds up!
Tallowisp is the card that inspired this deck list in the first place. There were four copies in the list initially, but 3 turned out to be fine. The 4th copy was often redundant during playtesting. The tutor ability is extremely relevant and it was activated in every game in which I played this deck. Also, being a 1/3 means it walls 2 power creatures all day! Also, it's actually pretty good to suit up with the Auras, as I found.
Spell Queller was just too good to not include. Not only is he a quasi-counterspell, but a 2/3 flyer is awesome. I only needed two copies at first, but I may adjust this number later.
One inclusion that you probably wouldn't expect is Drogskol Captain. The cool thing about him is he pumps your other Spirits by +1/+1 and gives them hexproof. He doesn't give this to himself, but if you get two Captains on board, this deck becomes EXTREMELY hard to deal with. With everyone in this deck except Tallowisp able to fly, it's pretty awesome.
So what do we seek out with Tallowisp? There are two copies of Ethereal Armor and three of Hyena Umbra. The first strike is important in many cases and Ethereal Armor just gets better and better with each Enchantment you cast. The Umbra has totem armor, which gives your guys an extra protection against removal.
Steel of the Godhead is a two-of and it's the second-best equipment in the deck. While white creatures only get the lifelink, blue creatures are unable to be blocked. White and blue creatures get both abilities and an additional +1/+1 for each color. It's pretty awesome.
The last Aura is Angelic Destiny. While this is not a card you'd typically expect to see in Modern, it is relevant. Getting +4/+4 and flying is good enough, but you get first strike, too!
To protect our gameplan, we have Path to Exile to deal with problem creatures. There are 3 copies of Remand to keep up our tempo, too. I like these better than Mana Leak in this deck, as the extra card really helps. There are also 3 copies of Azorius Charm. I chose the Charm because of its versatility. It can draw you a card, give your creatures lifelink, or bounce a creature to the top of an opponent's deck. The lifelink really does matter, too, especially against burn and aggro.
The mana base is extremely simple. Prairie Stream is extremely good, believe it or not. You can even fetch it with Flooded Strand and the deck plays enough basic lands that it comes in untapped. I may adjust the mana base later on, but it seems pretty solid as symmetrical as it already is. Mystic Gate, the white/blue filter land, actually would probably be a good inclusion, but who wants to spend money on those?
This isn't a final version. It doesn't even have a sideboard! But it's already worked extremely well in playtesting. It would be worth tossing in copy or two of Threads of Disloyalty, which can steal creatures with converted mana cost 2 or less, into a sideboard. It's a nice target for Tallowisp to fetch. It probably also doesn't hurt to throw in a copy or two of Geist of Saint Traft. An Aura-based deck doesn't feel complete without him, although it seems to function well despite that.
While I'm not sure how it will hold up against the top 8 decks, it has a chance to win some games. For now, I'd say it's a purely casual deck. But it has the pieces to be a very, very strong Spirit deck. If you decide to play "real" U/W Spirits in Modern, this is a great starting point.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Gleeful Flames Event Deck for Dark Ascension is a Mono-Red deck built around lots of direct damage. Let's look at both the deck on its own, as well as what is useful to take away from the deck for use in the future.
4 Forge Devil
4 Goblin Arsonist
4 Goblin Fireslinger
4 Goblin Gaveleer
3 Torch Fiend
Non-Creature Spells (28)
4 Brimstone Volley
1 Curse of Stalked Prey
2 Faithless Looting
4 Goblin Grenade
3 Infiltration Lens
3 Haunted Fengraf
2 Inkmoth Nexus
The creature line-up in this deck is very simple. They're all small creatures that can do more damage than their initial mana cost may suggest. Forge Devil is good for taking out your opponent's smaller creatures, but at the cost of 1 damage to you. Goblin Arsonist is a bit better card, as it deals 1 damage to either a target creature or player when it dies (giving it great synergy with Goblin Grenade!)
Goblin Fireslinger has a tap ability to deal one damage to a target player, an okay ability, but nothing special; however, it is also a Goblin, so it's good with Grenade. Goblin Gaveleer is a little 1/1 with trample that gains +2/+0 for each equipment attached to it. Torch Fiend is a nice 2/1 that can sacrifice itself for artifact removal. Hellrider is the boss monster of the deck, a very good rare from Dark Ascension that not only is a 3/3 with haste, but it also causes 1 damage to your opponent each time one of your creatures declares an attack, making all of your little Goblins much more dangerous.
For the non-creature spells, you have a full line-up of Artillerize. With it, you sacrifice a creature and deal 5 damage to a target player or creature. When your little Goblins outlive their usefulness, this card really comes in handy. Brimstone Volley is a 3 drop burn spell that can deal 5 damage with its morbid ability. This makes it combo very well with Artillerize, cards like Torch Fiend that can sacrifice themselves for an effect, and of course, Goblin Grenade.
Curse of Stalked Prey is one of the more underrated curse cards which allows your Goblins to gain +1/+1 counters each time they deal combat damage to the enchanted player. Faithless Looting allows you to draw a couple of cards and discard two cards that aren't currently useful to you, and it also has flashback, meaning you could easily discard the second copy of Looting if you draw it and use it again later.
Goblin Grenade may be the best card in the deck, allowing you to for one mana and the sacrifice of a little Goblin to do 5 damage to anything. Infiltration Lens is an interesting little equipment that draws you two cards any time an attacking creature becomes blocked. It's cheap to play and has a cheap equip cost, making Goblin Gaveleer more of a threat and allowing for easy cheap card draw to keep you ahead of your opponent in card advantage.
For the mana base, you have 3 Haunted Fengraf to start. Fengraf is interesting in that it can get creatures back to your hand from the graveyard by sacrificing it and paying 3. The only time that this would seem necessary, however, is if your Hellrider is destroyed and it's the only creature in your graveyard. That mana would be better spent elsewhere, it seems. However, the 2 Inkmoth Nexus are an interesting inclusion. They don't seem to fit into the general theme of the deck, but replacing two copies of the Fengraf for 2 more Nexus could make for an onslaught of flying infect creatures. It's a curious choice for this deck, though.
The sideboard is pretty darn good, though.
2 Act of Treason
4 Arc Trail
2 Gut Shot
3 Into the Core
3 Torpor Orb
Honestly, I think the Arc Trails are better suited for the main deck and Gut Shot may be, as well. Into the Core is nice artifact removal. The one copy of Dismember may help you take out that one big threat and the two Act of Treason can help you swing for game. Torpor Orb is a great inclusion, as well, as it helps you shut down pesky enter the battlefield effects.
My main issue with this event deck, besides the fact that it is a nice cheap budget version of Red Deck Wins is that there are cards in it like Inkmoth Nexus that don't fit the theme of the deck. I'm not a big fan of Torch Fiend and Forge Devil, either, as it seems to me that the direct damage spells are what will win you the game in the end.
Having two copies of Hellrider and a couple of Arc Trails in the main deck seem like a better strategy. Overall, though, the deck is pretty balanced. I just think it needs to be played more aggressively than the main deck would suggest. The Torch Fiends seem better in the sideboard. Torch Fiend is decent only because it's a one-drop (it makes you wish Raging Goblin were still in Standard!)
Overall, when this deck was first released, it was well worth your $20 investment if you wanted to play it in Standard before Return to Ravnica dropped in October 2012 and more than half of the deck was no longer playable in Standard. Heck, it was good to have a Goblin deck to play casually.
But really, it was always nice for the 2 copies of Inkmoth Nexus, which are $25 a piece as of November 2016. So if you spent $20 back in the day for these, you did well for yourself. Today, Gleeful Flames decks can be found online for roughly $60.
Here's what's still playable in Modern and elsewhere, with their rough market value as of 11/1/2016:
2 Inkmoth Nexus - ~$24 each
3 Torpor Orb - ~$2.50 each
1 Dismember - ~$2
4 Goblin Grenade (M12) - ~$1.75 each
2 Faithless Looting - ~$0.50 each
2 Gut Shot - ~$0.25 each
Even today, these decks are still worth purchasing just for those few cards. Even though the rest of the deck is pretty much bulk, Gleeful Flames has stood the test of time for value, that's for sure!
As a deck, however, today it's really much better to scrap it for spare parts, although it's still a fun little deck for casual play.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
An Interesting Take on Burn at the Stake
On Rebuilding the Deck, we'll take a look at some interesting, but fairly successful decks of the past and try and revive them in Modern or some other Eternal format. Today, we're exploring creating a Burn at the Stake combo deck in Modern.
During the Magic 2014 Standard season, there were a lot of combo decks built around the sorcery, Burn at the Stake. Some of these decks were relatively successful in tournament play. However, as many combo decks are, they can run inconsistently at times - the "draw the wrong half of your deck" syndrome.
Burn at the Stake really only needs a few untapped creatures to be successful. You tap any number of your creatures and Burn at the Stake deals damage to a target creature or player equal to three times the number of creatures you tapped.
For those that wanted to play Burn at the Stake, but hated the inconsistency of combo decks, there was a Boros aggro version called Haste Stake. This deck didn't enjoy a long life due to the fact that half of the cards in this deck rotated out of Standard as of the release of Theros. Still, it was worthwhile to check out the fun interactions that Hellrider, Ogre Battledriver and the token cards provide.
This particular list went 4-0 at a Standard Daily Event on 8/16/2013. It was brewed and piloted by Magic Online user Scrubbi.
Haste Stake (M14 Standard)
4 Ogre Battledriver
4 Young Pyromancer
Non-Creature Spells (24)
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Faithless Looting
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Lingering Souls
4 Krenko's Command
3 Burn at the Stake
1 Reforge the Soul
4 Blood Crypt
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Dragonskull Summit
2 Godless Shrine
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Slayer's Stronghold
4 Wear / Tear
4 Legion Loyalist
2 Rakdos' Return
2 Assemble the Legion
2 Ratchet Bomb
There's a lot of good stuff here, but since no one in the world is playing this Standard format anymore, we'll have to port it over to Modern. Can we do that and still have it be effective? Also, you may notice that there is already some Black mana in here. We'll be taking advantage of that in a bit.
First, let's see what made this deck work!
As with all of the successful Burn at the Stake decks, Young Pyromancer is the heart of the action in this deck. While the instants and sorceries are far different than a typical Stake deck, they work just as well as any others in creating Elemental tokens off of Pyromancer. In fact, the majority of them are token generators themselves.
Where this deck truly is different, however, is in its inclusion of full play-sets of Hellrider and Ogre Battledriver. Hellrider, obviously has been an aggro favorite for quite sometime and it's not hard to see why, Having haste on a 3/3 is not bad for 2RR. But whenever any of your creatures attack (even if you don't swing with Hellrider himself) upon declaring attacks, each of your creatures deals 1 damage to target creature or player. This damage, in the aggressive decks he has been played in, can often prove to be lethal damage.
The most notable card here, though, is Ogre Battledriver. While he has not gotten much love yet from competitive Standard players, he is very much at home in this deck. While he himself does not have haste, Battledriver gives each of your creatures entering the battlefield +2/+0 and haste, This of course includes tokens, meaning the Young Pyromancer Elemental tokens will enter as 3/1's with haste. While they will not retain their +2/+0 boost, Battledriver makes every one of your tokens that much more dangerous.
This is where the deck really gets interesting. Present are the 4 Krenko's Command, 4 Faithless Looting, 3 Burn at the Stake, and 1 Reforge the Soul common to Stake decks. The Commands give you 2 1/1 tokens plus the benefit of Pyromancer's own token. 4 Faithless Looting helps you card filter, and they are also able to be flashed back. Reforge the Soul is useful for refilling your hand while also possibly dumping your opponent's most useful cards in the graveyard,
But as you've already noticed this is not a blue/red deck with Goblin Electromancer and Battle Hymn, which serves as the primary engine along with Pyromancer with the main win condition in order to reach the amount of untapped creatures for a one-shot kill with Burn at the Stake. No, this is a deck that focuses on tokens, specifically sorceries that only generate tokens. This strategy still interacts perfectly with "Young Pyromancer.
Note that there are no Epic Experiments to help solidify the win condition, nor any draw power beyond Looting to get you the pieces you need for the Stake combo. In fact, looking at the non-creature line-up, Burn at the Stake looks as if it is only a tiny part of this deck's win potential.
Instead, you have 4 Intangible Virtue to instantly make your elemental and goblin tokens bigger. But they are not alone. Full play-sets of Gather the Townsfolk and Lingering Souls allow you to make even more cheap creatures and abuse Pyromancer's token-generating ability. Plus, having access to black mana in the deck means you'll be able to flashback the Souls, making yet another token with Pyromancer! The other part of Lingering Souls is that those tokens have flying, allowing for evasive damage that can easily become quite relevant.
The Mana Base
The mana base in this deck is a bit complex. The combination of buddy and shock lands are crucial in allowing this deck to constantly have access to the colors which it needs to win consistently. The 4 Blood Crypts, 2 Godless Shrines, and 1 Isolated Chapel are in here to mainly be able to flashback Souls as well as provide black for the two sideboard Rakdos' Return,
The inclusion of a single Mutavault I find to be a bit perplexing, There's no tribal theme to this deck, so it seems to be in here only to act as one more cheap creature if you need it for whatever reason.
Slayers' Stronghold is a great utility land that gives a target creature +2/+0 vigilance and haste until end of turn. While it won't be used all that often, used on the right creature, it can force an awkward block or two, and if your creature survives, it will still be untapped and able to block..
Deck Strategy and Sideboard
The main goal of this deck is to get out Young Pyromancer along with the many token-producers in the deck. Having out Intangible Virtue makes those tokens scary very quickly. You also have Hellrider to make them ping upon attacking and Ogre Battledriver to give them haste and an extra 2 power until end of turn.
Burn at the Stake becomes almost an alternate win condition, as your tokens may often be enough to finish the game on their own.
The sideboard has some interesting cards in it that definitely help in some popular match-ups, Wear / Tear is a fuse card that would eventually see tons of play in Modern. It's very powerful in that it can for just 3 mana destroy both an enchantment and artifact, Either side of the card is powerful enough on its own, so it easily makes a good play against artifact and enchantment heavy decks. It's also an instant, which is quite good.
The play-set of Legion Loyalist is an interesting and relevant inclusion. It's good in aggressive match-ups where giving your many tokens first strike and trample can really matter. With your tokens becoming bigger through Intangible Virtue and Ogre Battledriver pumps, alpha strikes suddenly become a bit less risky for you.
The 2 Rakdos' Return take advantage of the black mana already available in the deck, and provide a way for you to both discard your opponent's hand and deal some damage to their face, They were great against control match-ups and decks like mono-green and Naya Blitz in past standard formats that depend on combat tricks in hand to do a bunch of their damage. Some of these types of decks still exist in Modern, as well.
Assemble the Legion is another nice way to make tokens, although I'm not sure of the exact match-ups in which boarding this in would be helpful.
Ratchet Bomb is a tricky card in this deck. Since your tokens are all 0-drops, you can set this at one easily. If you find you have to set it to two, keep in mind you'll lose your Young Pyromancers and Intangible Virtues. However, you may find board-states where losing Pyromancer and Virtue actually don't matter if your token army is big enough.
If you already owned most the mana base for this deck, you could easily build it under $100 in either paper or online. The dual lands are the biggest investment. At the time, this definitely qualified as a budget deck. However, besides Pyromancer, Battledriver, and the shock lands, most of this deck as useless in Standard past October 2013.
At the time I first reviewed this deck, I felt that a Modern brew of this deck may work. We've never seen a widely successful version really emerge. There was a Mono-Red Tokens deck built by Corbin Hosler, however. It only runs one copy of Burn at the Stake in the mainboard, and I've refered to this build in trying to port this strategy over to Modern. Still, there is hope that we can keep the core of Haste Stake intact while speeding up the deck to keep its flavor.
What Needs to Go and What Can Stay
Young Pyromancer is awesome and proven in Modern. These guys are staying no matter what. In fact, in that Mono-Red tokens deck we just mentioned, they were the only creatures! Hellrider is a great creature, but he's a bit too slow for Modern at 4 mana. That's not where you want to be in an aggro deck. Also, Ogre Battledriver proved to be a bit too slow even for Standard except in the sort of md-range strategy that Haste Stake was going for. It was mildly effective in that format, but Battledriver simply isn't fast enough for Eternal play. Both of these guys have to go and be replaced with swifter options.
In rebuilding this deck, I considered going a Goblin-oriented route. Legion Loyalist is a Modern playable card. Goblin Guide is proven in Eternal formats. Reckless Bushwhacker from Battle for Zendikar could do a bit of what Battledriver did. Goblin Bushwhacker is a nice complement to that strweatgy that could take the place of Hellrider. I even considered Goblin Rabblemaster. But forcing your Goblins to attack every turn isn't where I want to be at all with this deck. I'd be better off just running Goblins! 8-Whack, which has that name for the Bushwhackers, is actually a decent Modern deck. But that's not what I was trying to build.
We still want to have Burn at the Stake, as that's our main win condition. As 5-drops, we have to consistently build up to these. Reforge the Soul can stay, since it has Miracle and won't always cost us five mana.
Intangible Virtue is fine in White Black Tokens, but not going to work in a strategy that really needs to streamline and focus on building up as much Red mana as possible as quickly as possible. In that line of thinking, as much as I want to keep Lingering Souls, we really don't want to be splashing black for just them. To keep our mana base more consistent, the deck really ends up building itself in a mono-Red direction.
After making all of these cuts, I figured adding 4 Lightning Bolt and keeping a white splash for Raise the Alarm (an instant speed Token producer) and 4 copies of Boros Charm (one of the best spells in Modern in my opinion).
The sideboard had to change entirely. I used Corbin Hosler's board from his Mono-Red version because it has some great things going on in it.
2 Crumble to Dust
3 Defense Grid
3 Gut Shot
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Shattering Spree
Crumble to Dust hits greedy mana bases by exiling nonbasic lands and potentially cutting off a player from one of their colors. Defense Grid makes it near impossible to have opponent's counter our shenanigans during our turn. Gut Shot deals with problem 1 toughness creatures by being able to pay 2 life instead of 1 mana. Shattering Spree can kill a lot of artifacts at once, making Affinity sad. We can tweak the sideboard as we see how this deck needs to cover its weaknesses.
The other way I was going was to go straight combo. We would add in Manamorphose and Battle Hymn to speed up card draw and mana production in place of the Bushwhackers and Faithless Looting. We would also cut the burn for more card draw in Gitaxian Probe and Infernal Plunge will trade a token for 3 more Red mana. Also, we'd be cutting Raise the Alarm and Boros Charm to go straight Mono-Red. In the process we'll add 2 copies of Hordeling Outburst, which costs 3 mana but gives us 3 tokens. The other 2 slots will go to a card from Hosler's deck, Haze of Rage, which not only has Storm to make itself more powerful, but Buyback, as well!
As it turned out, I brewed and playtested three different versions. The first version was an 8-Whack sort of build and it was really not sure what kind of deck it actually was. My second build was about the same as Corbin's, except it had 3 Burn at the Stake and only one Reforge the Soul. I also kept a Boros mana base by keeping Sacred Foundry and adding Inspiring Vantage from Kaladesh. This way I kept in Raise the Alarm, but cut the Bolts and Charms.
At first, I found this build did a LOT better. It won the first match I played with it two games to one. Manamorphose and Gitaxian Probe were awesome. While I didn't get an actual kill with Burn at the Stake, I did deal 15 in one game and finished off the game with tokens. The other game I won I won with all tokens. I won the next match with just beating down with tokens. I kept drawing my Reforge the Soul in my opening hand or off of Manamorphose/Gitaxian Probe, which was extremely annoying. But I did cast it once off of a Battle Hymn. Infernal Plunge was awesome too, helping me to continuous ramp into more token producers. This deck seemed really solid!
But then it started drawing the wrong half of the deck and it kept losing.
My third attempt was to go mono-Red and basically do what Corbin's deck is trying to do, except with 3 copies of Burn the Stake and only 1 Reforge the Soul. With this deck I just drew my Stakes and not much else.
I really wanted to keep the spirit of Haste Stake. But it really wasn't happening. So in the end, I ended up with Corbin's original deck.
4 Young Pyromancer
Non-Creature Spells (38)
4 Battle Hymn
1 Burn at the Stake
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Faithless Looting
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Haze of Rage
2 Hordeling Outburst
2 Increasing Vengeance
4 Infernal Plunge
1 Krenko's Command
2 Past in Flames
4 Reforge the Soul
2 Crumble to Dust
3 Defense Grid
3 Gut Shot
3 Relic of Progenitus
4 Shattering Spree
Corbin Hosler's Mono-Red deck can make a lot of tokens and a lot of mana. When I playtested it, the deck relied too much on comboing off, either by getting the one copy of Burn at the Stake, or making more tokens than your opponent can handle. I found too much inconsistency, which is why I wanted to make my own brew in the first place.
Basically, if you want to play a Burn the Stake deck in Modern, Corbin Hosler's build seems to be the best. It can win spectacularly, but lose horribly too, especially when you draw no lands or draw all the wrong cards. But Corbin builds great decks and I've seen what it can do when it's running well. Sharp play, plus a little bit of luck, will let this deck win more than it loses.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Looking for an unusual but competitive deck that you can build for about $100 to play? Blue/Black (U/B) Colossus may be the deck for you! The deck is named after the deck's strongest creature, Metalwork Colossus. This archetype has posted strong results in Magic Online and has been piloted by multiple players.
Here's the decklist:
4 Glint-Nest Crane
1 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Foundry Inspector
2 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Metalwork Colossus
3 Metalspinner's Puzzleknot
4 Prophetic Prism
4 Spatial Contortion
4 Cultivator's Caravan
2 Hedron Archive
3 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
4 Aether Hub
1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
2 Inventors' Fair
4 Sanctum of Ugin
2 Spawning Bed
3 Spirebluff Canal
3 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Harnessed Lightning
3 Incendiary Sabotage
2 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Lashweed Lurker
Glint-Nest Crane is extremely good in this deck. It's going to essentially draw you a card whenever he enters the battlefield. But he can get even better as you'll see later.
Scrapheap Scrounger is an interesting one-of. He's a 3/2 for 2 mana, however, which allows him to crew the Vehicles in the deck. His recursion ability is a bit tricky to use as this is primarily a mono-Blue deck before dipping into the sideboard. But Aether Hub and Cultivator Caravan can provide the black mana if you need it.
Foundry Inspector may look like a simple artifact lord, but he's actually one of the key creatures in the deck. Not only does the +1/+1 help your creatures and vehicles, but being 3 power means that the Inspector can crew the vehicles you need, too.
Elder Deep-Fiend has already proven to be a good creature. With his alternate Emerge casting cost, you will be tapping down 4 permanents a lot. In this particular deck, he's a great way to finish off the game. As it turns out, there's a fairly quick way to get him into your hand and onto the field long before you would think he could.
A full playset of Metalwork Colossus may seem like overkill considering that he's an 11 drop. But there are plenty of noncreature artifacts in the deck, including the Vehicles when they aren't being crewed. It doesn't take much to make this a 10/10 for relatively cheap. The recursion ability can be useful, but since you have Sanctum of Ugin in the deck, you'll be able to get another copy to your hand as soon as you cast him. Sanctum also allows you to get any other colorless creatures in your deck, too, which could often be Elder-Deep Fiend. The earlier you can get down a Colossus, the more quickly you can cast a Fiend for 2 Blue mana. Likewise, when you cast a Fiend, you can go get a Colossus.
Non-Creature Spells Breakdown
Metalspinner's Puzzleknot and Prophetic Prism both offer card advantage by drawing you a card when they enter the battlefield. This is essentially how you ramp up into a Colossus in the early game by using their combined converted mana cost. It helps that the Prism can fix your mana, too, which is very helpful when you board inthe red cards from the sideboard. Also, the Puzzleknot can be sacrified to draw you another card. The life loss usually isn't going to be that relevant.
Spatial Contortion is a versatile card in this deck. This deck has plenty of colorless mana sources. Not only can you use it as a removal spell, but since there are high-toughness creatures in this deck, the extra 3 power can help you win the game out of nowhere.
Cultivator's Caravan not only is a solid mana rock, but he can punch in for 5 damage when he's crewed. This vehicle shouldn't be underestimated. Plus, he can tap for mana as soon as he comes down. Hedron Archive is another piece of mana ramp that can be cashed in later for cards. Better yet, its converted mana cost of 4 helps you get the Colossus down faster.
Panharmonicon is an awesome artifact, and it's getting plenty of deck brewers excited. Here's the first time we've seen Panharmonicon at the heart of a competitive Standard deck. There are so many enter the battlefield abilities in this deck between the artifacts and creatures that having 2 copies of this will let you copy them once or even twice. Even just copying the card draw of the Puzzleknots and Prisms is worth casting the Panharmonicons for. Plus, having a 4 CMC is yet another way to ramp out the Colossus.
Rounding out the spells is one of the best Vehicles in Kaladesh, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. 5 mana for this much power is proving to be good across several different Magic formats. The 3 damage is pretty relevant, and with Panharmonicon, you get that ability twice (a third time if you control two Panharmonicons). Also, having a 5 CMC means that a Colossus is a lot easier to cast. Having Skysovereign as part of a 1-2 punch means you can do damage in the air and on the ground.
Aether Hub is proving to be a very strong land. While you can only use the color fixing ability once, usually once is enough. Geier Reach Sanatarium is a useful one-of that allows both players to "loot." With the card advantage that this deck already has, this will usually benefit you more than the other player. Inventor's Fair is both a colorless mana source, and another way to seek out a Metalwork Colossus if you need one.
We've already discussed the benefits of Sanctum of Ugin in this deck, and that's why there are a full four copies. There are also two copies of Spawning Bed, which is both a colorless mana source and a way to create three 1/1 Scion tokens later in the game. Whether you choose to use them to attack or pop them for mana depends on the situation. There are also three copies of the red/blue "Fastland" Spirebluff Canal. This appears strange until you look at he sideboard, which has several Red cards which would be difficult to cast with regularity even given all the mana fixing in the deck. The mana base is rounded out by 7 basic Islands.
Ceremonious Rejection counters any colorless spell, of which there are many in Standard. Harnessed Lightning gives you a way to deal with some problem creatures as you ramp up to your bigger creatures. Negate is pretty self explanatory, and is a great way to deal with opposing vehicles, as they start out as non-creature spells. Incendiary Sabotage may be a double-Red spell (@RR), but sometimes, sacrificing an artifact and dealing 3 damage to all creatures is just what you need to get the board state under control.
Thought Knot Seer is useful against control decks, taking your opponent's best answer out of their hand. It's also very good with Panharmonicon, of which there is a third copy in the sideboard. Rounding out the board is Lashweed Lurker, which puts a nonland permanent back on top of an opponent's library. This is a good answer for things like Emrakul, the Promised End which would otherwise be difficult to remove. The third Panharmonicon also makes your Deep-Fiend better by allowing you to tap down 8 permanents instead of 4.
As a budget deck, this is a pretty good one, and it's been able to make several top finishes in competitive tournaments. As the season progresses, you may be able to get some of these cards inexpensively enough that the deck as a whole may actually cost you less than $100. If I were to choose a deck until Battle of Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch rotate from Standard, this would be my pick.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Blessed VS Cursed may turn out to be one of the more valuable Duel Decks we've seen in recent years. This is even though there are only two "money" cards between the decks. One of the cover cards, Geist of Saint Traft, makes up the majority of the value. The popular Zombie Gravecrawler adds a bit of value in the Cursed deck, as well. The other cover card, Mindwrack Demon, would even end up being worth his drawback and see some Standard play.
As set preview cards included in these decks have shown, they usually end up being Standard-playable. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Polukranos, World Eater and Oblivion Sower were big hits. Even Zurgo Helmsmasher ended up being a big hit in Commander. As Delirium decks would prove to work in the long run, the Demon would actually be valuable for a time, too.
While the Geist is the “big deal” reprint in the decks, there’s a lot to see in these decks. First, we’ll take a look at the denizens of Innistrad fighting off yet another Zombie invasion.
Blessed is a white/blue deck that utilizes several cards with the Delirium mechanic. Delirium abilities activate whenever you have four different card types in your graveyard. We’ve seen the power that a creature like Tarmogoyf can have in Modern. He cares all about card types in your graveyard, too. So does this deck show off the mechanic‘s potential?
1 Cathedral Sanctifier
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Doomed Traveler
1 Nephalia Smuggler
1 Moorland Inquisitor
1 Thraben Heretic
1 Captain of the Mists
1 Chapel Geist
2 Elder Cathar
1 Emancipation Angel
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Tandem Lookout
1 Village Bell-Ringer
1 Mist Raven
1 Slayer of the Wicked
1 Tower Geist
1 Gryff Vanguard
1 Spectral Gateguards
1 Dearly Departed
1 Goldnight Redeemer
1 Voice of the Provinces
1 Bonds of Faith
2 Gather the Townsfolk
1 Momentary Blink
1 Sharpened Pitchfork
1 Butcher's Cleaver
1 Increasing Devotion
1 Eerie Interlude
1 Pore Over the Pages
1 Seraph Sanctuary
4 Tranquil Cove
You can’t talk about this deck without talking about Geist of Saint Traft. This hexproof guy was one of the best creatures in Standard as long as he was legal in the format. He’s a decent force in Modern, too.
Outside of the 4-color Modern Zoo decks, he’s been an important piece in Blue/White (U/W) Control and Bant Midrange. Also, he’s become a staple in the Bant Knightfall/Reliquary Retreat Combo decks. He’s also very good in Commander.
What makes him so good? Every time he attacks, he brings a 4/4 Angel into play. While you have to exile the token at end of combat, it’s hard to deal with 6 power from one attack. He’s just one of the better creatures ever printed in Blue and White.
One of the preview cards is a solid card called Eerie Interlude, which is basically an improved version of Ghostway, a valuable rare from Guildpact. The difference with Interlude is that you get to select the number of creatures you “blink.”
With the amount of enter the battlefield effects the Blessed deck has, it's a good fit. But considering Ghostway has before tried to be a real deck in Modern, this card could prove to be very good someday. While it hasn't caught on in the way that Ghostway did, the potential is still there for it to be a part of a good deck.
Eerie Interlude is functionally better than Ghostway. Choosing what creatures to exile really matters. You can “blink” Geist as he attacks, so that he can’t be blocked and killed, while “blinking” other creatures like Cathedral Sanctifier and other creatures with useful ETB (enter the battlefield) abilities. In Modern, Flickerwisp already does a good job in Blue/White Control letting you reuse your creature’s abilities in much the same way. This costs 2W and gives you even more flexibility.
There are two other preview cards in this deck. Pore Over the Pages is an interesting draw card. After untapping two lands, it essentially only costs 3 mana. Drawing three and discarding one is fine, too, especially in enabling Madness cards. It wasn't quite good enough for Standard, though, being at Sorcery speed. However, the card does see some play in EDH.
Topplegeist is a nice little card. A 1/1 flying Spirit that taps a creature when it enters is already good enough. With Delirium active, you get to have Topplegeist tap a creature every upkeep. This makes this Spirit better as the game progresses.
The rest of the deck is a good mix of Humans, flying Spirits and token generators. Increasing Devotion is one of the better token producers, as you get two uses out of it with Flashback. Dearly Departed is a rare Spirit that’s actually better off in your graveyard. As long as Dearly Departed is in the yard, you get a +1/+1 counter on each Human that enters the battlefield under your control. This really helps out Champion of the Parish, who gets a +1/+1 counter each time a Human enters the battlefield under your control, too.
Lastly, I’d like to mention a relatively forgotten Blue rare originally from Avacyn Restored, Captain of the Mists. His ability allows him to untap every time you get a Human into play. But with the Captain, he has a tap ability for 1U that allows you to tap or untap a target permanent. If you use the stack properly, you can use his ability multiple times in a turn. If you have the mana, even casting a Gather the Townsfolk can help you get 3 activations in a turn. His only real application outside this deck has been in Azami, Lady of Scrolls Commander decks - since he’s a Wizard that Azami’s Wizard tribal theme can use. Within this deck, he could do some work, though.
Cursed is a blue/black deck that also cares a bit about the Delirium mechanic. Overall, the deck has a decent Zombie-centered strategy.
1 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Butcher Ghoul
3 Screeching Skaab
2 Diregraf Captain
1 Scrapskin Drake
2 Stitched Drake
1 Unbreathing Horde
1 Abattoir Ghoul
1 Driver of the Dead
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Havengul Runebinder
1 Makeshift Mauler
1 Relentless Skaabs
1 Harvester of Souls
1 Mindwrack Demon
1 Tooth Collector
1 Appetite for Brains
1 Human Frailty
1 Cobbled Wings
1 Victim of Night
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Barter in Blood
1 Dread Return
2 Moan of the Unhallowed
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Compelling Deterrence
4 Dismal Backwater
Mindwrack Demon is definitely an interesting card. A 4 / 5 flyer for 4 mana is decent. But if you don’t have 4 different card types in your graveyard, he smacks you in the face for 4 life each turn. This makes for a very situational creature.
He just seems a bit too awkward for most decks to really take full advantage of his somewhat above average stats. But in a deck focused around the Delirium mechanic, he's definitely playable.
As was said in the introduction, these Duel Deck preview cards tend to do something in some format. But in this deck, he’s not even the best monster, though. He's a Demon in the middle of a Zombie tribal deck!
As for the other preview cards, both are fairly interesting. Compelling Deterrence has a Disperse-type effect, except it only works on opponents’ permanents. In most cases disperse would be a better card, since you can return your own nonland cards to your hand to dodge removal. If you control a zombie, however, that player also discards a card.
In a Zombie-happy deck like this one, it’s not a bad card. It just wasn't great in Standard against a deck with Madness type cards. Still, this card has found itself in more than a few Gisa and Geralf decks in Commander.
Tooth Collector is the counterpart to Blessed’s Topplegeist. This Rogue costs 2B to cast for a 3/2 body, but brings along a -1/-1 to an opponent’s creature. With Delirium, you get to do this on each opponent’s upkeep. This is a card that’s definitely good in the Blessed vs Cursed matchup. But on a value scale, Topplegeist seems much better.
Gravecrawler is a welcome reprint. A 2/1 for one Black is plenty good, but the best part about the Crawler is that you can recast him from the graveyard as long as you control a Zombie. That should almost never be a problem in this deck. His price tag definitely saw a hit with the release of this deck, which allowed more players to acquire their copies of this highly-playable Zombie creature.
There are some other notable rares here, as well. Harvester of Souls is a staple in many black Commander decks. Unbreathing Horde, likewise, is a staple in many Zombie Commander decks, and is also a casual favorite.
Havengul Runebinder does a lot of work for Zombie decks, as well. For just removing one creature card from your graveyard, you get a 2/2 Zombie token, plus a +1/+1 counter on each Zombie you control. That’s a ton of value for 3 mana late in the game. Sever the Bloodline is a card seen in some sideboards, even now in Modern. It’s really good against tokens, in particular. Just exiling one creature for 1BB isn’t bad.
A couple of uncommons are worth noting as well. Dread Return is one of the best reanimation spells of all time. It’s only legal in Legacy, Vintage, and Commander, but it does a lot of work in those formats. It’s banned in Modern for a reason. Diregraf Captain is less exciting, but is a must have for any Blue/Black Zombie deck. The Deathtouch and +1/+1 boost for your Zombies is great. But each time another Zombie of yours dies, target opponent loses 1 life. There are infinite combos in Commander that utilize this guy.
As far as fun factor playing these decks against one another, the matchup seems pretty fair on paper. I’m always in favor of the deck playing Geist of Saint Traft, honestly. If you’re thinking of buying 4 copies of Blessed VS Cursed just for the Geist, Gravecrawler, Champion of the Parish, and other useful cards, it’s worth your $20 a piece. Eerie Interlude feels like it’s way too good, especially in Modern with creatures like Reflector Mage and Bounding Krasis hanging around on the competitive scene. These Duel Decks are well worth the purchase, in singles or in playsets.
The "Concerted Effort" intro pack from Oath of the Gatewatch is another take on Allies, this time in White & Green. Is it better than the Red & White approach of the "Desperate Stand" deck?
Gladehart Cavalry is the cover card of this intro pack. They cost a whopping 5GG - a total of seven mana. But when the Cavalry arrive, they offer quite a bit of Support. With Support 6, the Cavalry distributes a +1/+1 counter on each of up to six other target creatures. While this is pretty useful, it's important to recognize that you actually need the six other creatures to take full advantage of this ability.
The other cool thing about the Cavalry is that you get a second benefit, as well. Whenever you have a creature with a +1/+1 counter on it die, you gain 2 life. While this is purely incidental lifegain, you never know when you'll need those extra 2 points of life to keep you in the game.
Onto the rest of the deck!
2 Cliffside Lookout
2 Expedition Envoy
2 Kitesail Scout
1 Oran-Rief Invoker
2 Kor Castigator
2 Makindi Aeronaut
2 Kor Sky Climber
2 Shadow Glider
2 Joraga Auxiliary
1 Veteran Warleader
1 Saddleback Lagac
2 Relief Captain
1 Steppe Glider
2 Expedition Raptor
1 Angel of Renewal
1 Gladehart Cavalry
2 Shoulder to Shoulder
1 Allied Reinforcements
2 Lead by Example
1 Immolating Glare
1 Mighty Leap
1 Iona's Blessing
2 Isolation Zone
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Tranquil Expanse
The other rare creature in the deck is Veteran Warleader. The Warleader has been decent enough in his time in Standard so far. The more Allies you play, the stronger and tougher the Warleader gets. With this deck leading up to the Cavalry charging the way, the Warleader's abilities are pretty congruent with this deck's strategy. In the late game, gaining trample is a big deal, whereas first strike and vigilance are useful abilities at any point in the game.
Whereas the Red/White "Desperate Stand" deck focuses on the Cohort mechanic, this deck focuses on the Support mechanic introduced by Gladehart Cavalry.
Joraga Auxillary is one of the Support creatures in the deck. She's 2/3 for 1GW, with an ability that costs 4GW for Support 2. While it's a useful ability, that's a lot of mana for giving out two +1/+1 counters. Saddleback Lagac is a 3/1 for 3G, but his Support 2 ability comes as an enter the battlefield trigger. Relief Captain at 2WW has a 3/2 body, and an enter the battlefield ability of Support 3. It's perhaps the most efficient of the Support creatures. There's also Expedition Raptor with Support 2, but he's a 2/2 flyer for 3WW - not exactly the most efficient creature.
In addition to the support creatures, there's two copies of Shoulder to Shoulder, a 2W sorcery with Support 2 that also draws you a card. The instant Lead by Example is 1G and also has Support 2 but doesn't draw you a card. Having Instant speed is really good to have as it can be a combat trick.
Support is on the slower side as a Mechanic and really requires you to consistently have two or three other creatures on the board to take full advantage of regularly. But whereas Cohort requires you to consistently tap two creatures for a generally underwhelming effect, Support adds power and toughness fairly quickly, even if it doing so often takes up entire turns at times.
The rest of the deck is made up of generally uninteresting other Ally creatures: Expedition Envoy being the best of them. Isolation Zone is the other interesting Oath of the Gatewatch card in the deck. It costs 2WW to cast, and it can exile a target creature or enchantment an opponent controls until the Enchantment leaves the battlefield. It's Stasis Snare without Flash and for one more mana that can also hits enchantments. It's not the most efficient card in the world, but it gets the job done.
Improving the Deck
Support is an interesting mechanic, and in a Limited environment (draft and sealed deck) could be pretty good to build around. But from a Constructed standpoint, it's a bit underwhelming. The best direction to go with this Green/White Allies archetype is to run something similar to this Green/White Allies deck that actually placed second at a Wyoming States tournament. It's fueled by Collected Company to accelerate getting more Allies into play. That list, which includes Kor Bladewhirl and Lantern Scout, is probably the direction you would want to go when upgrading the creature line-up.
Green/White Allies is definitely a playable deck, but the creatures with Support are generally not good enough to be played competitively. Also, while Gladehart Cavalry is a solid card in a vacuum - and is pretty good for Elf decks in Commander - it's a bit too high on the curve and offers too inconsistent a benefit to be a "boss" monster. Ally decks should focus on creatures lower on the mana curve. If you want to splash Red, you can even include Reckless Bushwhacker, who gives all your creatures haste and +1/+0 if you've cast at least one other spell already that turn. There's also Firemantle Mage who has the Rally trigger to give all of your creatures Haste whenever another Ally enters the battlefield.
If you want to play Allies, this isn't necessarily the strongest deck to start with. In comparison with the other Intro Pack, it probably holds up fine. But besides Expedition Envoy, Kor Castigator, and Veteran Warleader, there isn't much to build off of out of the box if you're looking to beef this deck up.
The "Surge of Resistance" intro pack is a Red/Blue deck featuring the evergreen Prowess mechanic and introduces the Surge mechanic from Oath of the Gatewatch. Surge is an alternate casting cost for a number of cards in the set which becomes usable once you've cast at least one spell in the turn. Spells with Surge also often have secondary abilities which add additional value to the reduced cost.
Tyrant of Valakut is a perfect example of this mechanic. He usually costs 5RR to cast for nothing more than a 5/4 flyer. But if you are able to cast him for his Surge cost of 3RR, he also deals 3 damage to a target creature or player. He becomes fairly playable.
But the deck has some other goodies, as well.
3 Lavastep Raider
3 Umara Entangler
2 Stormchaser Mage
2 Reckless Bushwhacker
3 Goblin Freerunner
2 Cloud Manta
1 Cyclone Sire
2 Jwar Isle Avenger
1 Windrider Patrol
1 Tyrant of Valakut
Non-Creature Spells (15)
1 Boulder Salvo
1 Ugin's Insight
1 Roiling Waters
1 Rolling Thunder
1 Grip of the Roil
2 Comparative Analysis
2 Containment Membrane
2 Pyromancer's Assault
1 Blighted Gorge
1 Evolving Wilds
Before getting on to the Surge cards, we should take a look at the other rare in the deck, Ugin's Insight. At first, this looks like an odd inclusion. But with the Surge costs available on many of the creatures in this deck, you'll get to scry for much more earlier on in the game than you ordinarily would.
For example, the Tyrant has a converted mana cost of 7, but you can cast him for 5. This means Ugin's Insight Scrys for 7. Being able to have more of a choose over the 3 cards you draw is pretty useful. It's an interaction that's not clear on the surface, but it's a pretty decent one.
The Surge Cards!
Goblin Freerunner doesn't look all too exciting as a 3/2 for 3R, even with Menace (can't be blocked except by two or more creatures). But with a Surge cost of 1R, this becomes an above-average creature. You can't ask much more from a common rarity creature.
Reckless Bushwhacker is reminiscent of Goblin Bushwhacker from the original Zendikar set. In fact, he's almost the same card. On his own, he's just a 2/1 with Haste for 2R. But if you play him for his Surge cost of 1R, he also gives all other creatures you control haste and +1/+0. The original Bushwhacker was probably better, but this is still a pretty good card. Also, being an Ally makes him very useful for that archetype, as well. (Note: Goblin Freerunner is also an Ally, but that's not relevant in this particular deck).
The other creature with Surge in the deck is Jwar Isle Avenger, a 3/3 flyer for 4U. However, his Surge cost is 2U, making him an efficient, if not exciting, evasive creature.
Boulder Salvo looks pretty inefficient as a 4R burn spell that deals 4 damage to only creatures. But with its surge cost of 1R, it becomes quite useful. and in fact, even above average.
Grip of the Roil is an okay card as a 2U instant that taps down a creature until the end of your opponent's next turn and draws you a card. It's significantly better, though, for its surge cost of 1U. Comparative Analysis is likewise somewhat mediocre as a 3U instant to draw target player two cards, but at 2U for its Surge cost, it becomes an Instant speed Divination. It's not exciting, but it's a lot more playable.
Containment Membrane is an Enchantment that for 2U is fairly meh. This aura keeps a creature from being unable to untap during its controller's untap step. What makes this one playable is that it has a Surge cost of only a single Blue mana. It suddenly looks fairly good.
While none of these non-creature Surge spells are super exciting, they become slightly more efficient versions of effects that have existed on previous cards. In the Two-Headed Giant format they were originally created for (a format where 4 players play in teams of 2), these are actually really good spells. In an ordinary two-player game of Magic, they still serve as fairly useful cards in a deck that wants to cast multiple spells in a turn.
There's another benefit to playing Surge spells. This deck features two copies of the Enchantment, Pyromancer's Assault. Each time you cast your second spell each turn, it deals 2 damage to target creature or player. It's not limited to Surge spells, either. While it's not the most efficient enchantment in the world, if both copies in the deck are on the field at the same time, a 4 damage clock is very quick.
Other Notable Cards
Probably the best card in the deck, and certainly most valuable, is Stormchaser Mage. Even in a set full of good uncommons such as Oath of the Gatewatch, this Mage is the best creature with Prowess printed to that point that isn't a Rare (Abbot of Keral Keep) or a Mythic Rare (Monastery Mentor). Flying and haste on a 1/3 two mana creature is good enough, but for each noncreature spell you cast in a turn, he gains +1/+1. Most times, he's going to be at least a 2/4, if not a 3/5.
When you combine him with one-mana creatures with Dash such as Zurgo Bellstriker and Lightning Berserker, you can deal a lot of damage in a hurry, His best partner in Standard was his Prowess buddy, Monastery Swiftspear. While the Swiftspear has continue to see significant play in Modern, Stormchaser Mage sadly has not, even despite all of the support Wizards have received from the Dominaria set.
The other notable card in the deck is Expedite, a one-mana Red common that gives a target creature haste and draws you a card. It's very similar to a card from years back in Shadowmoor called Crimson Wisps. The only difference is that this instant doesn't make the creature red, which is usually not that relevant. It's a card you'll want to have a full four copies of in the deck when you look to upgrade it.
Upgrading the Deck
As Intro Packs go, "Surge of Resistance" is pretty easy to upgrade. There are a lot of unexciting creatures in the deck that can be easily replace. Jori En, Ruin Diver is a good creature candidate to replace the rather inefficient Pyromancer's Assault enchantments.
While she doesn't deal damage when you cast your second spell each turn, you get to draw a card instead. In a surge deck, not running out of spells to cast is extremely important. As she's a Legendary, you don't really want to run more than 2 or 3 copies since you can only control one at a time.
Monastery Swiftspear is probably the next best card to add to the deck. If you plan to play the deck in Modern, though, she's played in Modern and even Legacy.
Having Haste herself, she's the perfect complement to Stormchaser Mage and any cards with Surge. She also has Prowess, benefiting from the same spells you cast to boost the Mage.
Speaking of Prowess, Abbot of Keral Keep is a creature from Magic Origins. The Abbot is actually perfect for a Surge strategy, too. While he lacks Haste, he makes up for it by exiling the top card of your library when he enters the battlefield. You have the choice to cast this cast that turn - or risk losing it forever.
But, with a deck with alternate Surge casting costs, you'll more often than not be able to cast what you reveal with the Abbot. Be sure to wait to drop your land if you can before casting the Abbot, so you don't just permanently exile a land. This is essentially like drawing a card and fuels the Surge strategy immensely. The Prowess is relevant, too.
You'll also want to replace the inconsistent Boulder Salvo, expensive to cast Rolling Waters and Anticipates with Fiery Impulse from Magic Origins, or a comparable Burn spell. While there's nothing wrong with Anticipate, you don't really need a card selection spell with Jori En and Abbot lurking about. Also, adding two more copies of Expedite to the existing two will make the presence of Comparative Analysis unnecessary, too.
We are cutting a lot of Blue spells, but this is okay since we're adding Jori En and a couple more copies of the Stormchaser Mage. In the long run, it evens out.
If you don't want to invest in the Monastery Swiftspears and Abbot of Keral Keeps, you can alternative choose to play Lightning Berserker and Zurgo Bellstriker instead. These creatures have Dash, which allows you to cast a creature, usually for a lower mana cost, give it haste but return it to your hand at the end of the turn. Dash actually works quite well with Surge, as having to recast them can greatly benefit you.
Which line of play is better in the long-run? What Abbot can reveal can be more inconsistent. Also, the Prowess of the other two can make them more consistently powerful. But both ways can work. Also, having to recast creatures turn after turn can preclude you from playing other spells in addition. But some combination of all these can work if you can't get play-sets of Swiftspear or Abbot altogether at once.
Being a Red/Blue deck, you can't go wrong with Wandering Fumarole. While an investment of 4 mana (2UR) sounds like a lot for a 1/4 man land, you can instantly change this guy into a 4/1 if your opponent is wide open. Best of all, if your opponent then casts a burn spell or other spell that would kill it, you can instantly switch it back to a 1/4, which may not be enough to do away with it then. The ability to fix for your Red and Blue mana alone makes it worth playing, in addition to the "pain land" Shivan Reef.
As a starting place for an aggressive Red/Blue deck that highlights the benefits of the Surge mechanic, "Surge of Resistance" does a fairly good job.
The "Vicious Cycle" Intro Pack for Oath of the Gatewatch is a Black/Green deck featuring the Eldrazi Dread Defiler. The Defiler is a 7 mana creature (6B) with above average stats (6 power, 8 toughness) and a powerful ability. For 3C (3 generic, 1 colorless), you exile a creature card from your graveyard and target opponent loses life equal to the exiled card's power. With the high power of creatures available in this deck, it's a powerful ability that can finish a game in a hurry.
As you may suspect from this deck's "boss" creature, this deck interacts a lot of the time with the graveyard. And with such a powerful ability, you'll want some big creatures in the graveyard to fuel the Defiler.
2 Carrier Thrall
2 Loam Larva
2 Rot Shambler
2 Stalking Drone
1 Essence Depleter
1 Voracious Null
2 Netcaster Spider
1 Null Caller
1 Broodhunter Wurm
1 Smothering Abomination
2 Seed Guardian
1 Kozilek's Pathfinder
1 Brood Monitor
1 Baloth Null
1 Dread Defiler
Non-Creature Spells (12)
2 Bone Splinters
2 Oblivion Strike
1 Vines of the Recluse
1 Altar's Reap
2 Corpse Churn
1 Grasp of Darkness
2 Natural Connection
1 Pulse of Murasa
1 Blighted Woodland
1 Evolving Wilds
2 Fertile Thicket
For those already familiar with Battle for Zendikar, you'll be familiar with Smothering Abomination. This 4/3 flyer for 2BB has appeared in a number of competitive decks early on in its life already. While you have to sacrifice a creature at the beginning of each of your upkeeps, you get to draw a card whenever you sacrifice a creature.
With the number of Eldrazi Scions you'll be sacrificing in this deck, this should net you more than a few extra cards. He can always sacrifice himself to draw a card if you have nothing else you want to sacrifice. Plus, he's 4 power so he's a good target for Dread Defiler's ability.
One of the more interesting Oath of the Gatewatch cards in the deck is Essence Depleter. Being a 2/3 for 2B isn't bad for an uncommon creature. But it's the ability for 1C is what makes this particularly could. For a minimal investment of only 2 mana, you can drain your opponent for 1 life (gain 1, opponent loses 1).
It's a great way to sink in mana you otherwise might not be using, but needing to have those pure colorless sources can prove to be tricky with the deck as currently constructed.
Another notable uncommon from Oath of the Gatewatch is Seed Guardian. When he dies, he replaces himself with an X/X Green elemental creature token, where X is the number of creature cards in your graveyard. This obviously gets better as the game goes along.
The primary issue with this deck is that outside of the deck's numerous sacrifice outlets, the only other way to directly put cards into your graveyard to fuel the Defiler and Seed Guardian is Corpse Churn. This 1B instant puts the top three cards of your deck into the graveyard and even gives you the option to return a creature card from your graveyard. The cool part about this is that you get to return a creature that was put there by this card's effect, too. So there's no worry about accidentally throwing away your Dread Defiler, since you can get him back with this.
One of the quickest ways to upgrade this deck is to introduce the very useful enchantment From Beyond. Not only does this get you a free 1/1 Scion token every turn that you can sacrifice for more mana, but you can sacrifice From Beyond to search out one of your Eldrazi, such as Dread Defiler.
To fuel the graveyard, it's probably good to have another copy of Smothering Abomination. You'll also want some top end threats such as Oblivion Sower or World Breaker to make the Defiler's ability more threatening.
These two Eldrazi are pretty menacing The Sower is a big presence and can steal opponent's lands, too. World Breaker helps to exile one of your opponent's more important cards while being a 5/7 with reach.
There are 4 copies of Wastes, the colorless Basic land, already in the deck. But you'll probably want at least a few more. Also, a couple more copies of Blighted Woodland provide a stable source of pure colorless mana that can give you additional mana ramp in the late game. Also, Grasp of Darkness is solid removal that you can easily add a few more copies of to the deck.
"Vicious Cycle" does provide a useful base from which to launch a Green/Black Eldrazi deck, but it may not be the most consistent at winning with the Defiler. The deck depends on you being able to cast your bigger creatures before your opponent has any way of dealing with them. Eldrazi Ramp has already proven to be a playable deck, especially when you add creatures such as Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder to the mix.
Adding White allows you to exile creatures with Silkwrap and Stasis Snare and fuel the Stranglers and Blight Herders. Also, White gives you access to Eldrazi Displacer which has an infinite combo with Brood Monitor and Zulaport Cutthroat to drain your opponents to death.
There are plenty of different directions you can go with this deck, but honestly the best top end finisher you can choose is Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. As a starting place for a Green/Black Eldrazi deck, it's solid enough, offering a good balance of useful creatures, mana ramp, creature recursion and removal. But there's plenty of room for improvement.
The Twisted Reality Intro Pack for Oath of the Gatewatch features Deepfathom Skulker as the cover card, leading a mono-Blue Eldrazi deck. This deck is the perfect introduction to the new colorless casting cost requirements. As its "boss" creature, the Skulker can make one of your creatures unable to be blocked for only 3 generic mana and 1 colorless. What is that diamond symbol mean exactly? Read on to find out.
Also in the deck is the very useful creature, Endless One, who has an X casting cost. The more mana that you pump into him, the bigger he gets, meaning he only gets better as the game goes along.
Let's take a look at the deck list and see how effective this intro pack's game plan really is.
1 Endless One
1 Prophet of Distortion
2 Salvage Drone
3 Blinding Drone
3 Mist Intruder
1 Tide Drifter
3 Cultivator Drone
2 Eldrazi Skyspawner
1 Ruination Guide
2 Gravity Negator
2 Murk Strider
1 Thought Harvester
2 Kozilek's Channeler
2 Walker of the Wastes
1 Deepfathom Skulker
1 Kozilek's Pathfinder
1 Bane of Bala Ged
2 Spatial Contortion
1 Titan's Presence
1 Adverse Conditions
1 Scour from Existence
1 Blighted Cataract
1 Evolving Wilds
Having 10 copies of what is Magic's 6th basic land is really where most of the value is in the deck. Wastes is a colorless basic land that allows you to cast and use the abilities of creatures that require purely colorless mana. That is what the diamond symbol means: pure colorless mana.
This is the major rule change that came with Oath of the Gatewatch: generic mana and colorless mana are no longer the same thing. You can still use any color mana to pay for generic costs (those without a diamond). But Wastes and other colorless mana producers are the only way to pay for these "diamond" costs.
This deck runs 29 creatures and none is better suited to this deck than Walker of the Wastes. Since you have 10 in the deck, this 5 mana trampling Eldrazi can become an extremely powerful threat in the late game. With other big threats like Bane of Bala Ged and the Deepfathom Skulker, not only can you hit for major damage, but draw cards in the process.
The creatures range from the one mana Prophet of Distortion (who can draw you a card for 3 and a colorless) up to Kozilek's Pathfinder (a 5/5 that has an ability to prevent a creature from blocking it that turn.) In between, the creatures have various useful abilities, most of which require the colorless mana from Wastes and other sources such as Eldrazi Scion tokens and Kozilek's Channeler
There are very few non-creature spells in the deck. Two copies of Spatial Contortion double as a pump spell for your larger creature and a removal spell for your opponent's smaller creatures. Titan's Presence is an excellent removal spell in this deck since every one of your creatures is either colorless or has Devoid (which makes it colorless.) Adverse Conditions stops two of your opponent's creatures for a turn, giving you a chance for a final strike. Scour from Existence is 7 mana, but it can exile any permanent, which is quite useful.
This deck is a pretty good start for an Eldrazi ramp deck. There are a couple of directions you could go with it. You could focus on staying Mono-Blue, or add in Green and/or Black to diversify what you can play in the deck.
The most obvious potential additions to the deck would be Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Kozilek, the Great Distortion. Kozilek is particularly good in this deck, since the colorless mana abounds in this deck. The new Kozilek refills your hand, so timing is critical when you play him. Having menace (making it unable to be blocked by only one creature) is obviously good at making him a top-end threat. Additionally, being able to counter spells by discarding cards with converted mana cost X helps make the deck a lot more resilient.
You can also max out with four copies of Endless One to make the deck more aggressive. By adding black you can use Wasteland Strangler to deal with opponent's creatures, further improving your board presence.
Reality Smasher is an upgrade over Walker of the Wastes. While it doesn't gain power from Wastes, it has Trample and Haste. It's also very tricky to remove due to the fact your opponent must discard a card to resolve a spell that targets it.
But the best card of all for this deck is Matter Reshaper. It's only 3 mana (2C) and when it dies, you reveal the top card of your library. If it's a permanent with a converted mana cost of 3 or less (including lands) you put it directly onto the battlefield. It could even be another Matter Reshaper. If not, you still add that card to your hand. A creature that always replaces itself with another card is super strong!
Thought-Knot Seer is another creature you could consider. It allows you to steal the best nonland card from your opponent's hand and exiles it. Once the Seer leaves the battlefield, target opponent gets to draw a card. Notably, in multiplayer games, you can choose a different opponent from the one you originally targeted. In any case, it's a strong card if you want to go more of a control route with the deck.
Overall, this is one of the better Intro Packs released in recent memory. The 10 Wastes alone account for a good chunk of the deck's value, not to mention you get the two packs of Oath of the Gatewatch along with it. Of all the Oath of the Gatewatch Intro Packs, this would be my pick of the five.
by R.A. Rowell; Co-Owner of Intent-sive Nature & the Brand Shamans network
Horrors are among the scariest creatures in Magic, hence their creature type. Is it possible to build a Horror deck that can be fun to play casually and can actually hold its own in a competitive tournament? Here we have a Modern-legal Horror tribal list utilizing one of the most powerful Black creatures in all of Magic.
4 Fume Spitter
4 Despoiler of Souls
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
3 Creakwood Liege
3 Phyrexian Obliterator
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Go for the Throat
4 Raven’s Crime
4 Wrench Mind
2 Hero’s Downfall
2 Phyrexian Arena
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
The Budget Obliterator
Phyrexian Obliterator is a $30-35 card, but he is the heaviest hitter in the entire deck. Requiring a whopping 4 Black mana is no problem in a mono-Black deck. Not only is this a 5/5 with trample that you can play on turn 4, but every point of damage dealt to the Obliterator requires the player dealing it to sacrifice that many permanents. This includes damage from combat or a source of damage such as Lightning Bolt. Once he hits the board, only something like a Dismember, Go for the Throat, and Hero’s Downfall can deal with it. The latter two aren’t played much in Modern.
If you don’t want to shell out the money for 3 copies of Obliterator, though, there is a Horror you could consider. Canker Abomination is a 6/6 for only 4 mana, however, he gets a -1/-1 counter put on him for each creature your opponents control. The upside is that he is both green and black - although you only need black mana to cast him. With the amount of creature removal you have in this deck, it’s rare your opponent will have many creatures to power him down much.
The Rest of the Creature Line-up
Fume Spitter is a useful 1-drop creature that can sacrifice itself to put a -1/-1 counter on a target creature. This is useful for eliminating opponent’s creatures with one or fewer toughness. It’s also a useful way to weaken opponent’s creatures that may otherwise prove to be an issue in combat with your other creatures.
Gatekeeper of Malakir obviously isn’t a Horror, but he’s useful enough to play in this deck. He costs 2 Black mana for a 2/2 but by paying an extra Black mana when casting him, you can force your opponent to sacrifice one of their creatures. You need another early drop that gives you advantage, and this is it.
Despoiler of Souls is a 3/1 for only 2 mana who’s also a Horror. The Despoiler can also come back to the battlefield from the graveyard by removing 2 creatures from your graveyard and paying 2 Black. He can’t block, but you’re going to be on the offensive with this deck, so it doesn’t really matter.
Creakwood Liege is a 4-mana creature that can be paid for with either Green or Black mana. He also boosts your other Green and Black creatures by +1/+1. What makes him particularly good, however, is that during each of your upkeeps, he may make a 1/1 Green and Black Wurm creature token. With a Liege on the board, this token actually gets +2/+2. Also if you have more than one Liege on board, each one gets +4/+4, making them 5/5 creatures.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel is the big finisher. He makes your opponent lose life equal to the Black mana symbols in the casting costs of permanents you control. You also gain that much life. While he costs 5 mana, the swing in life points is definitely worth it with the amount of black mana symbols in the creatures you play in this deck. It’s also why Obliterator is so good - the 4 black mana symbols in his cost alone mean an 8 point life difference. The Gray Merchant also counts his own 2 Black mana symbols in his own casting cost.
In the best case scenario, you play Fume Spitter (without sacrificing it) on turn one, a Despoiler of Souls on turn two, a Gravekeeper of Malakir on turn three, a Creakwood Liege or Phyrexian Obliterator on turn four, and a Gray Merchant of Asphodel on turn 5. That’s 10 or 11 life your opponent will lose and you will gain. The game is essentially over at that point. Just having a Liege or Obliterator on board is enough to make the Gray Merchant worth playing.
If you don’t have the creatures to play, Raven’s Crime and Wrench Mind are discard spells that will limit your opponent’s options. Raven’s Crime has the distinction of being able to be played from the graveyard for a single Black mana and discarding a land. It makes drawing lands in the late game more palatable. If you have the money to replace them, Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are much more consistent discard options. You really only need 1 or 2 copies of Raven’s Crime for the Retrace ability to be useful.
Dismember, Go for the Throat, and Hero’s Downfall give you multiple ways to deal with creatures. Hero’s Downfall can even hit planeswalkers. Phyrexian Arena costs you 1 life each turn, but also draws you an extra card. There are two copies in the deck, so there will be games in which you’ll be able to play both. Gray Merchant’s lifegain should easily make up for the life loss and the extra cards are quite helpful in making sure you can stay ahead of your opponent.
The mana base is quite simple - 3 copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to allow you to take advantage of all of those black mana symbols and turn them into extra mana, and 19 Swamps. If you don’t care about the deck being Modern-legal, Cabal Coffers is a pricier and more efficient way to produce Black mana. Coffers only cares about how many Swamps you control, but there isn’t a Modern-legal printing of it, and it is considerably more expensive.
You may also consider swapping one or two swamps for Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This makes your non-Swamps into Swamps - as well as making everyone else’s lands into Swamps, so you do want to keep this in mind.
If you do decide to go the Urborg route, you may consider swapping a couple of Raven’s Crimes and Wrench Minds for Funeral Charm. It is a one-mana Black instant that is legal in Modern due to being included as a Timeshifted card in Time Spiral. Not only does it let you force an opponent to discard a card at instant speed, it also has two other options: give a creature +2/-1 until end of turn or give a creature swampwalk. Both of those other abilities are relevant in this deck.
Is this deck good enough to fare well at a competitive Modern tournament? With Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek it could well be. Liliana of the Veil is probably better than Gatekeeper of Malakir, too, but she’s extremely pricey. You don’t see Creakwood Liege very often and Despoiler of Souls is certainly no Dark Confidant, but for a Horror tribal deck, this is as good as it gets.
Any suggestions on how you might improve this deck? Any other kind of deck you’d like us to build? Let us know in the comments!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Rallying Cry Intro Pack for Battle for Zendikar is a Red and White deck based around the Ally Tribe. The cover card for the deck is Hero of Goma Fada, an Ally that allows your creatures to become indestructible.. Joining him in the deck is Angelic Captain, who when attacking along with other Allies, becomes a force to be reckoned with! Does this Intro Pack offer a well-rounded approach to testing out the Allies archetype, or does it fall short?
Check out the video review to find out!
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