A Dance of Dragons

dance with dragons

by Cameron Pryde

In my circle of friends, the thing that counts for the most isn’t winning – it’s how you win. We play with casual restrictions, but the dangers an aspiring player can face are far from modest; a turn-six Day of Judgement paves the way for a Silverblade Paladins, two Knight Exemplars and a Knight of the White Orchid smacking you in the face for lethal damage.

Alternatively, a lucky turn seven Primal Surge into two Worldspine Worms, a Gaea’s Revenge and an Akroma’s Memorial can put an abrupt end to match. So what does one do when the most spectacular win is the most prized?

Primal SurgeWorldspine WurmGaea's Revenge

Unleash the dragons, of course!

Utvara HellkiteBalefire DragonMoonveil Dragon

The story behind this deck begins the night of the release of Return to Ravnica. Myself and two other friends each bought a booster box and opened them simultaneously. As the post-trading dust settled, I was left with three Utvara Hellkites and no idea what to do with them.

Fast forward two weeks. >>>

I’d just taken apart a few decks in favour of building new ones. With enough sleeves for a final deck, I decided to put the Hellkites to use. I decided to build (surprise surprise) a dragon deck. I went looking online for anything with “dragon” in its name (original, I know) and happened upon an unexpected sorcery – Dragonstorm.

Dragonstorm

For nine mana (what a price tag!), Dragonstorm allows you to search your library for a dragon card and put it into play. A little expensive for a tutor, but not unmanageable. What turns Dragonstorm into the foundation of a tournament-winning deck (2006 world championships, to be precise) is the keyword Storm.

For those unfamiliar with the mechanic, a card with Storm gets copied for each spell anyone cast before it on a particular turn. Back in the Time Spiral block, Storm was generally used with th Suspend mechanic. This allowed you to cast multiple spells for little mana on a single turn. Let’s take a look at one of the top decks from the 2007 world championships courtesy of Patrick Chapin, for a little demonstration of storm’s power:

Land:

4 Fungal Reaches

Molten Slagheap

12  Snow-Covered Mountain

Spinerock Knoll

Creatures:

4 Bogardan Hellkite

Other spells:

Dragonstorm

Grapeshot

Incinerate

Lotus Bloom

Pyromancer’s Swath

Rift Bolt

Rite of Flame

Shock

Tarfire

The aim of the deck, which is listed here without sideboard, was to Dragonstorm into enough Bogardan Hellkites to instantly kill the opponent. Backed by suspended cards that were set-up prior to the Dragonstorm itself, like Lotus Bloom and Rift Bolt, and the mana-ramping Rite of Flame, the deck exploded in a mass of scalding Lava Axes to win the match.

Dragonstorm 

Lava AxeLava AxeLava AxeLava Axe

Lacking many of the cards that make up the deck and wanting a certain amount of originality, I chose a different route than suspend: Mono-red Ramp. While red doesn’t focus quite as much on mana acceleration, falling far behind green, there is still enough to comfortably ramp into a Dragonstorm. After several hours of fiddling around with my collection and adding in few cards that I traded for, I had the core of the deck:

Lands:

22 Mountain

Creatures:

4 Dragon Hatchling

3 Utvara Hellkite

3 Simian Spirit Guide

Other Spells:

4 Dragonstorm

4 Pyretic Ritual

4 Seething Song

4 Geosurge

A 50-card skeleton of a deck.  I settled on 22 Mountains, since the deck will need plenty of land in case of dire straits (i.e. actually hard-casting one of the dragons) and to get the Dragonstorm going. Splashing another colour might seem tempting (oh hello there, Day of the Dragons),

Day of the Dragons

but due to the very red-intensive costs involved in the ramp, I decided against it.

In terms of racking up the storm count, M11’s Pyretic Ritual makes a fine starting point, turning two red mana into three.  This leads into the original Mirrodin’s Seething Song, which brings it up to five. A Geosurge, so generously printed in New Phyrexia, deducts four but adds seven, bringing the grand total to eight, just one short of a Dragonstorm. Not to worry – the versatile Simian Spirit Guide from Planar Chaos can be exiled from your hand to get that final push. Once you hit the requisite nine red, it’s time for a Dragonstorm.

But why have the Return to Ravnica mythic dragon as the win condition? Well, unlike its direct-damage cousin, the Utvara Hellkite has the neat ability that plops out a 6/6 Dragon token each time a dragon of your attacks. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 0/1 flier or a 10/6 double-striker (Dragon Tyrant) – you get the token either way. Even the tokens themselves make more dragons!

Sure, it doesn’t have the raw instant power of Bogardan Hellkites. But there’s something to be said for getting nine flying beatsticks just for swinging with three creatures.

However, this deck has a pretty big weakness: it’s extremely fragile.

A well-placed Negate or Silence after several ramp spells can mean a pretty embarrassing loss. The solution? More dragons! If you can’t pull off a Dragonstorm, then you need other stuff to play.If two of the Hellkites are in your hand when you have to search your library, you’re out of luck.

I settled on three dragons more to put into the deck. The first, armed with a prohibitive mana cost and some awesome flavour text, is Ancient Hellkite.

You have to shell out seven mana to get it onto the battlefield, where it sits around with a 6/6 flying body.

Its value, however, comes from the ability to deal one damage to a creature when it attacks for one red mana. This clears the skies of spiders, spirits and – though I wish I was kidding, birds. There are some strange tribal decks in out playgroup.

As a note, I’d ideally throw a playset of Thundermaw Hellkites into the deck to serve much the same purpose. However, since I wasn’t willing to spend $116 on four cards, I gave it a pass.

Anyway, the second dragon serves much the same use: to wipe out any creatures they may have on the board. Introducing more fantastic flavour text in the form of Balefire Dragon, another flying 6/6.

While the Ancient Hellkite’s ability was pinpoint and would ideally be used against creatures that would get in the way, Balefire Dragon, if it connects, generally incinerates all their creatures.

Balefire Dragon is even better with the third dragon I chose to add to the deck, Moonveil Dragon.

Another standard-legal scaled scourge, the Moonveil  adds a generous twist to your typical Firebreathing. Instead of simply pumping itself, it pumps everything you control. Sort of like a Super Shivan Dragon.

Moonveil Dragon Shivan Dragon

Oh noes!

Even if your opponent has managed to get a couple Wall of Denials out on the field, or other big reach/flying blockers, the Moonveil turns even the smallest of dragons into a huge threat. As for the bigger dragons, it gives them the final boost they need to finish off your opponent. At the absolute worse, it’s a 5/5 flier that you can hit your opponent with repeatedly.

At the time I built it, I threw in four Iron Myr and called it a day. More mana accel and chump blockers against aggro couldn’t hurt right? I then proceeded to test the deck out.

One of the most memorable games I had was against a good friend who happened to be running an Izzet deck. I managed to Dragonstorm, putting three Utvara Hellkites and a Balefire onto the field.

My victory was assured…. Right?

The bugger miracled a Devastation Tide.

This leads me to one of the bigger flaws with the deck:

After the huge combo has been pulled off, your opponent gets a turn to react. A friend of mine playing mono-black vampires tossed out two Hideous Ends and effectively neutralized my board. A Planar Cleansing left me with nothing but a couple of Geosurges in the graveyard.

If only there was some way of attacking with the dragons the turn they came into play.

Hmmmm…. Maybe a keyword associated with red?

I quickly took out the Iron Myr and replaced them with three copies of Mass Hysteria.

Though it’s a bit of double-edged sword, giving haste to all creatures for one mana is too good a deal to pass up. The advantage of such a low cost is that you don’t even need to play it turn one – if you have a tenth red mana floating around turn five, you can ramp the storm count even higher, swinging for a sudden but lethal swarm of dragons. As Balefire Dragon says, “Die boldly or die swiftly – for die you will.”

Those of you who have been keeping track may have noticed that I took out four creatures and added three enchantments. The 60th card?

Koth of the Hammer

What’s not to like?

His +1 gives you a creature that can serves as an attacker or the last little bit of ramp you need.

His -2 can easily give you enough to cast a dragon (or a storm of them), even potentially paying for himself to rack up the storm count.

Finally, his emblem allows you to put extra mana to good use, killing their creatures and burning the opponent until they’re extra-crispy.

The final decklist, with some tweaking:

A Dance of Dragons

Lands:

22 Mountain

Creatures:

4 Dragon Hatchling

3 Utvara Hellkite

3 Simian Spirit Guide

2 Ancient Hellkite

2 Balefire Dragon

2 Moonveil Dragon

Other Spells:

4 Dragonstorm

4 Pyretic Ritual

4 Seething Song

4 Geosurge

3 Mass Hysteria

1 Koth of the Hammer

This deck is certainly not invulnerable. A Counterspell, a Duress, a boardwipe, a Riders of Gavony and a Levitation – the deck is extremely fragile. A lack of Dragonstorms or even dragons can easily lead to defeat, as can a hand with no acceleration.  However, though it may not always win, the deck provides a memorable, fun, and impressive victory when it does.

It’s not how many times you win that matters in casual. After all – it’s the stories that you get to tell later and the memories of crazy combos and bizarre beatdowns that make it all worthwhile. So leave the lightning and legends, the counterspells and changelings, the fireballs and faeries, the elementals and Eldrazi to your opponents. You’re winning with dragons!

RB Aggro

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

The Standard metagame seems to be slowly stabilizing and fortunately for those of you who held onto your Zombie cards: You are
somewhat rewarded.

Gravecrawler Geralf's Messenger Falkenrath Aristocrat

At the recent Grand Prix San Antonio, Red/Black Zombies was the winning deck. It was triumphant in the Finals against the mirror.

A lot of people wrote off Red/Black aggressive decks due to the insane popularity of Thragtusk. How this creature only requires 1 green mana instead of 2 in its casting cost is beyond me!

Thragtusk

Really? 1 Green? no color commitment at all?

Also, a lot of Green/White or Reanimator decks also tend to play cards like Centaur Healer which further impeded RB decks. The life gain added to a body that is hard to attack through without trading is rather frustrating.

The Standard default aggro creature type in Black has been Zombies and they are out in full force in this deck:
4 Blood Crypt
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Dragonskull Summit
1 Mountain
4 Rakdos Guildgate
7 Swamp

24 lands

4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
3 Hellrider
4 Knight of Infamy
3 Thundermaw Hellkite

26 creatures

4 Pillar of Flame

4 Searing Spear
2 Victim of Night

10 other spells

Sideboard

2 Appetite for Brains
3 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Cremate
2 Underworld Connections
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Zealous Conscripts

15 sideboard cards
It’s somewaht odd from what we are accustomed to,but Red provides the ‘fatter’ creatures. Hasty fellows like Thundermaw Hellkite, Falkenrath Aristocrats and Hellrider. Each able to almost single-handedly end the game on their own (especially Hellrider). Two of which have evasion, one of which taps down all opposing would-be blockers.

The MVP?

Well, remember Black Knight?

Black Knight

Think of this little guy as a Black Knight v 2.0.

Knight of Infamy

He is very much improved in the sense that he can render a somewhat harmless 2/1 or 2/2 into a 3/1 or 3/2 and have him crashing into your opponent’s 3 toughness or less defenses.

Barring that, he can simply attack himself past annoying creatures, which aside from Thragtusk are usually white. The other good news is that he does indeed block things like Silverblade Paladin and one of my personal favorite creatures (Loxodon Smiter) pretty well (barring Rancors, of course) . He’s also immune to everybody’s 2 favorite Angels as of late: Serenity and Restoration.

You have your Shocks and Lightning Bolts in the shape of Pillar of Flame and Searing Spear.

Pillar of Flame   Searing Spear
Spear, despite being a strict downgrade to cards like Lighting Bolt and Incinerate is still the best Instant burn option available for its cost.

You’ll note that Brimstone Volley is absent from this deck. That’s how tight it is! We need to be casting Geralf’s Messenger on turn 3 or laying down a Rakdos Guildgate in anticipation for a Turn 4 Hellrider or Aristocrat.

While the decisions this deck needs to make may seem obvious to most, they are at times anything but. Also, we notice a certain resurgence of Victim of Night as the ‘heir apparent’ to Doom Blade.

Victim of Night  Doom Blade
Somewhere DoombladeGuy is doing a little dance!

It seems bad in the mirror but it his the bigger dudes just fine. The concerned creature types being Dragon and Devil last time I verified.

Normally I would not be half excited about a deck such as this. It does seem to bring about change and that is almost certainly a good thing. The Thragtusk dominance was becoming somewhat worrisome. Yes, there is that Blue and white flash deck, but that thing is basically another Delver deck.

The manabase seems super stable. The deck plays 12 ‘dual’ lands as well as a singleton Mountain. The 4 Caverns are very nice. They allow us to cover our bases for when we need the red mana for Hellriders or Thundermaws. By default however, they are usually set to the creature type most commonly referred to in the Walking Dead…

For those of you who don’t watch the show or read the comic, that creature type is Zombie.

Yep! Those guys.

Featuring 8 aggressive 1-drops almost guarantees us this deck won’t be blocking much (ie: almost never). I Also think that Zombies has finally found their 2-drop of choice. Another thing I didn’t mention earlier about the Knight,but he does also attack profitably through Augur of Bolas. A fact that cannot go unnoticed versus more controlling decks. Augur is rather annoying to a lot of the aggro decks that attack with 2-power creatures early on, this being one of them. Knight of Infamy circumvents that and allows your deck to keep moving forward.

The ‘burn’ itself is intensified via Falkenrath Aristocrat. If you ever need to do that extra damage you can sacrifice Geralf’s Messenger into it. Those 2 creatures also provide this deck with great resilience to sweepers such as Supreme Verdict. Will this force more copies of Terminus in control decks?
Only time will tell…

A small little on the side note:

You can indeed attack with Falkenrath Aristocrat on its own to get the benefit of Knight of Infamy‘s Exalted trigger then sacrifice the Knight to the Vampire. He’s only human after all! This is sometimes a key play to factor in if it seems that you would come up short to close out a game.

Sideboard Options

The deck’s sideboard is somewhat not what we are accustomed to.

Vampire Nighthawk?

Vampire Nighthawk

Well … it seems to be more of a control card than an aggressive one.

However, he does not die to opposing Pillars and does gain us enough life to race the other aggro decks. It is after all a 4-point life swing. He can also finish off some troublesome planeswalkers if nee be. But that’s almost never really our primary concern.

Appetite for Brains?

Appetite for Brains

Finally a deck that plays it!

I personally have always wanted to play this card for a while now. I envisioned it being in a kind of blue-black zombie-based aggressive deck  that would allow you to flash it back with Snapcaster Mage of course. Not sure if that deck is ever going to see the light of day though.

Underworld Connections ?

Underworld Connections

Underworld Connections is a fun one.

It allows us to simply build up our hands up as control decks remain more passive. The loss of life on this could not be any more inconsequential. You can drop more creatures than need be (ie: overcommit) and still be able to refuel later on.

Cremate?

Cremate

Cremate is a cool little card here.

Decent in the Mirror and pretty nice versus reanimator decks. They don’t ‘need’ to reanimate, we don’t ‘need’ to remove guys from the graveayrd. It’s just an upside. Something will end up hitting a gaveyard. We’ll just draw off of it. Seems fine!

Bonfire of the damned is back?

Bonfire of the Damned

Really? Why didn’t I get the memo?

I know this card has gone somewhat unnoticed up until recently. It’s still one of the best ways to ‘blowout’ your opponent’s side of the board. It remains great versus the GW aggressive decks or human builds and heck, even versus mono red. It’s also probably the only miracle you would expect to see in this kind of deck. Although, personally I could never get used to performing top deck Miracle checks in black-based decks. (Black being the color of despair and thus why they can never really Miracle).

Zealous Conscripts

Zealous Conscripts

Because, well, why not?

Use it to grab a reanimated fatty for the final points of lethal or even an Angel of Serenity  to attack with and sacrifice  into your Falkenrath Aristocrat (depending what’s removed from the game under it). It gets even better when used on opposing Thragtusks as you will get that beat token if he dies.

In Conclusion …

Sure this list is not 100% perfect but it was the right call for that anticipated metagame. You can get turns such as:

Turn 1 : Gravecrawler
Turn 2:  Swing, 2 x Diregraph Ghoul
Turn 3: Swing,cast Geralf’s Messenger
Turn 4 :Hellrider, swing, multiple Hellrider triggers and win!

Good times! For you, at least.

I prefer this to a monored build since the creature quality is really improved and the burn is often times utility than burn to the face. Overall the deck is more ‘resilient’ to a lot of hate and has that extra reach in that it can win out of seemingly nowhere.

The instant speed removal is nice against annoyances such as Sublime Archangel, which can sometimes allow the GW decks to race us. The Angel being another reason we may want to side in Vampire Nighthawk or Zealous Conscripts against, but it’s usually taken care of by Searing Spear of Victim of Night.

It’s also amazing how Thudermaw Hellkite was ill-received in the beginning since it had a 30$+ price tag attached to it. Now it seems to have legitimately reached those heights once again. Your opponent thinks he stabilized with a few Lingering Souls tokens?

Think again! here comes mini-Hurricane Dragon to clear the way!

If you have grown tired of seeing the same old cards being cast for about 1-2 months now, I recommend you give this deck a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Be good and don’t forget your triggers!

G/W Mayor

by Zac Clark

Around 5pm I’m walking down my stairs to check the mail one last time. I’ve got some cards coming in the mail that I need for decks tonight. Curses! Foiled again.

I meet my Jersey pal Paul coming up the stairs. We spent most of yesterday deck-teching RDW’s and GW Aggro. It was an intense day of testing and at times frustrating. Paul and I differ in opinions on cards often. I have to remember that he’s not dealt with the meta over the last 2 months. I’m excited to see him back in the game.

RDWs matches his play style so we built a deck with some fun secret tech. The GW Aggro deck I’m playing is much the same as the one my buddy Matt Jones has been talking up. I’m super ready to play a beat down deck. After weeks of trying to build a rogue deck to match well versus the meta it’s time to play with Rancors and Silverblade Paladins.

Rancor Silverblade Paladin

Thinking is for IDIOTS! Haha!

GW Aggro Mayor

 

4 Cavern of Souls
6 Plains
2 Gavony Township
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Forest
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

22 lands

4 Knight of Glory
3 Sublime Archangel
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Mayor of Avabruck
3 Doomed Traveler
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Silverblade Paladin
3 Dryad Militant

28 creatures

1 Selesnya Charm
3 Faith’s Shield
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Rancor

10 other spells

Sideboard
1 Faith’s Shield
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Elite Inquisitor
3 Selesnya Charm
2 Purify the Grave
2 Erase
1 Dryad Militant

15 sideboard cards

One last thing before we leave… I switch to my vintage MATT JONES T-Shirt to channel the Obliterator himself. I’ve been listening to Manowar and Rancid’s black album (2000) all day. I AM THE BEATDOWN.

Still a blue mage at heart though, I tell Paul to not tell anyone about my deck choice on the train and that before the tourney I’m testing American Control. I’ve removed the Niv-Mizzet and added Chandras. As I expected, that’s enough to get some heads turning. “What is that card in your hand?” Kadar Brock (local at my LGS) exclaims.

“Justice League of AMERICA!” I laugh as Paul crushes me with his RDW. I play the store’s other Zach in a couple of games of Modern. The only deck I have is Fish. Modern at the Twenty Sided Store is funny because so few of us have decks that I’m a factor in the metagame. I haven’t even been able to play a Modern tourney yet. Still, I enjoy the format and really look forward to playing some soon. Zach rocks Living End. Both decks are kind of hilarious… I cast a bunch of Merfolk lords that all pump each other. Zach cascades to Living End and all these cycled creatures switch from the graveyard to play. We trade games back and forth, basically whoever goes first wins.

“STANDARD PLAYERS! PAIRING FOR ROUND ONE NOW IN THE BACK!”

Here goes nothin.  It’s a full house and space is as tight as the play here.

???

My round one opponent got severely mana-screwed and asked me privately to not mention him in my report.

Suffice it to say I won this match without any opposition. I respect the wishes of this player and although I’m sort of bummed I can’t talk about the match, I’m totally ok with being asked to keep a match off the record. Slightly bummed though, because I was looking forward to talking this cat up. In GP Philly we spent some time between rounds testing our decks and those games he pointed out a play flaw that I used to win in the next round.

That said, even though I like winning, mana-screwed opponents (especially one who I like to play against/consider a classic foil) is one of the worst and most awkward ways to win. I never know what to say. “I’m sorry” seems like I’m being a jerk. It’s shitty for everyone involved. Now if this was some big time tourney or even something with a Top 8 at 20ss I’d be a little happier. I’m slightly somber though as my first run with this deck was null. I have no idea how it really does versus his deck.

Result:

1-0 match 2-0 games

HT Bant Control

I had some time between rounds to scout and to grab a coffee. Right next to my round one, I watch a furious match up between a GW Midrange and a Bant Control deck.

I felt pretty good about my macthup versus control but that Mid Range deck scared the BeJESUS outta me. I wondered who won the match as pairings for round two told me the answer: HT was piloting the Bant list.

The games where tight as I took game one on the back of two Faith’s Shield to stop his tempo plays (Azorious Charm) on my Silverblade Paladin.

The second game got dicey as I got him low then he cast a Thragtusk. Thankfully the next turn I drew a Selesnya Charm to give my double striker Trample and +2/+2, thus sealing HT’s fate. After the game HT was all smiles though. He was telling me how tough FNM was last week. He mentionned that he’d just spent the $400 to complete this Bant deck only to 0-4 with it last week. My heart sank… I know that feeling (F^&% you, American Control!). My advice was to play it a lot and learn the match-ups. Often times piloting the same deck over and over will teach you how to win against the other decks. I’d rather be a good player with a deck that’s a little under on win percentage than a terrible one with the top deck.

Bant is a solid deck and I think it has the interaction that stand to see it as an archetype long into the block. Sphinx’s Revelation goes a long way into this.

Results:

2-0 match 4-0 games

Richard Tan – JUND

Richard and I know each other from being at the shop all the time, but this is a first for us. I’m living high on the Aggro Wagon. Also my low curve and only running two colors means last week’s getting severely mana-screwed 5 games in a row isn’t happening. Things are looking good for me. I’m ready for some hardcore GW aggro on JUND midrange action!

Richard mulls to six. I groan. I like my hand, but I really am sick of my opponents getting manas-crewed. He keeps. I rushed out Champion… he killed it with Pillar then I played a Knight of Glory and followed with a Silverblade… once again Faith’s Shield saved the day as I got in with my dudes and avoided removal.

Faith's Shield

Game two RT mulled to 4. I want to cry, now. He keeps a hand with no land… and ironically almost stabilized vs. me via Huntmaster and Pillar. If that would have happened, I think I’d have lost my mind.

We play a third game for the hell of it and he takes it.

Results:

3-0 match 6-0 games

I look over at Paul he’s 0-2 playing Tim A. They’re on game three. I decide to walk over and see how it looks. Paul’s had a rough day. 1-2 vs. Tony Loman then Jordan Morgan got him in the second. Now I look at Tim’s hand and life. 6 cards 6 life. Supreme Verdict, Land, Sphinx’s Revelation, Sphinx’s Revelation, Tamiyo, Azorious Charm.

Paul’s in for a rude, rude awakening. Tim wipes the board clean, Paul responds by frowning. Paul TOP DECKS… nothing of interest… Tim plays land and Tamiyo. Over the next few turns he Revelations into Revelations (DIRTY!) and Ultimates Tamiyo. I think Paul, had a slight aneurysm when Tim cast Revelations and put it back in his hand. We all shake our heads. Paul eventually scoops. Everyone has a good laugh, including Paul. Tim compliments him on his Archwing Dragon tech, which won him the second game… his deck had few answers for it.

Nick Heppding – CraterRamp (Hoof there it is!)

Looking at the pairings I was relieved to see I’d be playing Nick. It’s been a bit since we faced each other in Standard. (See epic rage quits.) Seriously though, if I had to be on the other side of the table from anyone, I’d like to face a friend in the finals. Especially one that needs the store points as much as I do.

“So I’m gonna need those Deathrite Shamans back now,” I jest

“Ha, split packs, play for points?”

“Seems like a plan.”

I have no idea how his deck works… I could have watched the games he played to see but I was busy chatting and stuff. Game one he goes to 1 life. Rushes out a Craterhoof Behemoth with the help of mana dorks and swings with Lingering Souls tokens and Behemoth for lethal… I am Jack’s total lack of big butt blockers.

Game two looks the same.

I have him the next turn and Whoops! the ground rumbles and I’m dead! Ok now, I know how the deck works. Looked like there was a reanimator package too but he didn’t need it. Theses were fast games. I think I spent more time shuffling and waiting for my opponent to decide to keep/mull tonight than actually play.

THAT’S MY STYLE OF MAGIC!

I play the game fast and put my opponent on the “Are you finished yet? I’d like to attack all out again!” plan. Pretty effective. The deck likely has trouble against midrange but Sublime Archangel and Faith’s Shield have things to say about that.

Final Results

3-1 match 6-2 games

There won’t be a TNM report from me next week. I’ll be going to Lisbon to play in GP Lisbon.

Why?

Well Magic in the USA has just become too much of a scene, bro. I need to see what’s up with these huge Euro GPs. Seriously though, a friend and I are running all around Southern Europe and playing/eating/drinking/being otherwise solid representatives of a nation that could use a little international polish.

If you tune into my other Twitter Feed @Rockertycoon, all the non-magic stuff with be there. I’ll switch over to @HotcBlog on Fri/Sat/Sun for Event coverage and fun pictures. I may have enough down time to post some thoughts and what have you. I’ll be back in time for Early Friday Draft at 20ss. Expect some great stories and maybe I’ll even take down the whole damn Grand Prix like a boss.

Until Then,

If you can’t beat them, build a rogue deck that does!

Izzet Ingenuity

by Jackson Haime

I don’t know about everyone, but I have personally been noticing a disturbing trend along within Magic. No, I’m not talking about the fact that Craterhoof Behemoth has gotten his time in the spotlight. Nor am I talking about the fact that with the combination of Thragtusk and Da Hoof, I have to splash green or just pour my tournament entry fees down the drain.

I’m talking about how damn expensive it is getting to beat the cards in each block as they come along.

Let’s take a count shall we?

The Bant Control deck that was run by Jacob Thiessen at the Starcitygames Standard open ran 9 creatures.

3 Angel of Serenity

2 Snapcaster Mage

4 Thragtusk

Each of those creatures is within the 23.00- 23.99 dollar range. At lowest that is going to run you 207$ of cold hard cash to just fill up the creature slots. That’s a hefty price to pay for less than 1/6th of a full deck. I digress, let’s look further into the list.

1 Garruk, Primal Hunter

4 Jace, Architect of Thought

Alright, so 5 planeswalkers in a single deck. Garruk isn’t much of a price hog, (At only 9.50) meanwhile you are dropping 35-40 on a single Jace. Four of our little Architect is going to run you a cool 152$. 161 if you count Garruk.

Take note kids: we are paying 368$ for this deck so far. It’s not about to get cheaper any time soon. Onto one of the cheapest parts of Magic: the land! That’s how it works right? You can pick up 200 forests for 10$.

1 Cavern of Souls: 19.50$

Oh.

4 Hinterland Harbor: 40.00$

Wait… my wallet is already empty!

4 Hallowed Fountains: 62$

4 Temple Gardens: 60$

Total price for the land (Not counting the ones that cost 5$ or less): 181.50$

We are currently at 549$

Luckily, Jacob didn’t have a huge taste for expensive spells and is only going to cost us 105$ for all of the instants and sorceries. Just in case everyone has the money to buy a brand new booster box on hand.

654$ For the deck. That’s not even counting the sideboard, which will set you back: 188$ Meaning a total of 842$ for the entire deck, sideboard and all. That is only counting the more expensive cards. Seeing as you can buy 10,000 magic cards for less than that. [Link]http://www.ebay.com/itm/HUGE-MAGIC-GATHERING-LOT-OVER-10-000-CARDS-YARD-SALE-FIND-LOOK-/170937928758?pt=Trading_Card_Games_US&hash=item27ccb1cc36 [/link] (I wasn’t joking) I am starting to feel like decks are becoming a little expensive to play for the “average joe”.

Sure, I could copy a net deck and clean house at Friday Night Magic. Then again, I don’t think my girlfriend wants me to blow anymore pay cheques on Magic cards.

What can we, the common Planeswalkers do against this sort of cash having? Surely not everyone can buy their way into victory? Well, I welcome you all to the Izzet guild.

It’s time for some Izzet Ingenuity.

Lands:

10 Mountains

10 Islands

Creatures:

4 Goblin Electromancer

1 Nivmagus Elemental

1 Nivix Guildmage

1 Niv-Mizzet Dracogenius

2 Mercurial Chemister

1 Charmbreaker Devils

1 Talrand, Sky Summoner

1 Guttersnipe

Spells:

2 Dual Casting

3 Brimstone Volley

2 Teleportal

2 Reforge the Soul

2 Izzet Charm

4 Index

3 Thunderous Wrath

2 Mizzium Mortars

2 Cyclonic Rift

2 Talrand’s Invocation

1 Devastation Tide

2 Spelltwine

1 Epic Experiment

Okay, so this isn’t exactly the most conventional decklist that one expects to see in Standard play. In fact, I can confidently say that I have never played against anything close to this deck, but hell, it works. It just isn’t the easiest boy to steer.

Part 1: Take notes.

I’m not kidding when I say this, take notes. Or get really good at keeping numbers in your head, because this deck counts on being able to predict when a miracle is coming and not spoil it.

Take for example, Thunderous Wrath.

Thunderous Wrath

It dishes out 5 damage for 6 mana. Sure it can counter the Thragtusk life-gain, but for more mana than it took them to PLAY the Thragtusk. The opponent just got mana advantage and a 5/3 creature. Even if you are going first, hard casting this spell means that you are going to be a sitting duck while Thragtusk can take a swing at you. (Either this or you are going to be facing down a 3/3 and an opponent with more life.)

The other way to play this? Use your Index and keep notes. If you play an Index you should know exactly when you can smash the opponent with a “miracle” that you saw coming from 5 cards away. If you’re paying 1 mana for the sake of slashing the opponent’s life total down by 5, you just showed Lightning Bolt that thunder can beat it.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there is a lot of card draw in this deck  as well as a lot of discarding. Between the Mercurial Chemister’s 2 draw, Niv-Mizzet’s free cards, Reforge the Soul, and the cute little Nivix Guildmage. You are bound to spoil a miracle aren’t you?

Not if you don’t keep track of those cards you won’t.

Let’s say a Thunderous Wrath is within the 5 cards you index and you place it 3rd. This turn you have to make sure that you aren’t going to spoil that miracle. You can use effects to draw up to 2 cards, but no more unless you want to spoil the surprise. The way that you win with this deck is by knowing that the miracles are coming. In fact, you win by not making them miracles at all, they are all just part of the grand plan that is the Izzet mind.

** A special note about the Devastation Tide.

In this deck there are actually 3 in my personal sideboard (I didn’t include this as it is simply made of cards that I happen to own.) They aren’t the best cards out there, but do include cards such as Cyclonic Rift’s that can shatter the opponent’s field and not your own. That being said, unless it is terribly late game and you have the biggest creatures your deck can muster out there, this deck doesn’t exactly use many permanents. Kicking everything that an aggressive deck is throwing at you back to their hand is often worth the cost in this deck, and dropping it against an army of tokens is simply hilarious.

Part 2: Why am I paying?

One of my favourite parts about this deck is that I never seem to be paying as much as my opponent in any given Arcane Melee. Of course, a great amount of this comes from the Goblin Electromancers that are in this deck.

Goblin Electromancer

Only having to pay 5 for an overloaded Devastation Tide can make it a game changer way earlier than it should be. That isn’t the only way that this deck avoids paying the costs that your opponents will have to. We already spoke about the fact that you are going to know when miracles are coming, and that you should be able to whip out your biggest spells without having to pay the biggest costs, but there are three ways of saving left:

1. The Epic Experiment:

Epic Experiment

Sure, this card is a gamble, I know.

I have both won and basically lost a match by whipping this thing out in order to bring down heavy hitters. That being said, with the combination of Goblin Electromancers and knowing what is coming (hopefully) most of the time, you should be able to destroy an opponent with a turn 6 Epic Experiment that allows you to play anything in your deck.

Turning up three Thunderous Wraths and rocking the opponent for 15?

Thunderous Wrath Thunderous Wrath Thunderous Wrath

Yes please!

Being able to combo that Brimstone Volley with the one in your hand?

Sure.

Emptying your hand and dropping a reforge the soul for free?

Gladly.

There is only one of this card in the deck because in a deck based around drawing you should be able to find it.Also, comboing Epic Experiment into itself is a really stupid idea. (X = 0)

2. I’ll take that back please

There are two things in this deck that allow you to snatch your powerful cards back from the graveyard and hit the opponent again.:

The most prominent of these is the Spelltwine, which allows you to raid you and your opponent’s graveyards. Whether that involves stealing a mana-ramp decks’ Farseek , or adding more burn spells to the might of your own to finish off a longer game.

The more chaotic of the two grave-saves is the Charmbreaker Devils.

At the beginning of each one of your upkeeps you can make your opponent grab one of the cards that hit them earlier in the round and hand it right back to you.

Almost more fun than it is useful, but a Thunderous Wrath at that point in the game is a way to end it.

3. Dual cast EVERYTHING:

This one is of course more obvious than the rest, but only having to pay a single Red mana to whip out a burn spell a second time is a game changer (especially for Miracles).

Dual Casting

Alright, I am going to be honest, this deck could use some improving for those who are willing to drop a decent amount of money.It is more of a budget deck. The point of a budget deck is notto make it so that you replace the Snapcaster Mage, but making sure that you build a deck that doesn’t NEED him. The Izzet guild might be improved with him on their side, but they are doing fine on their own.

All for less than one tenth of the price!

Grixis Mid Range

by Zac Clark

It’s a creature-based highly interactive format out there, kids!

Rest assured we are a long way off from solving it. The trend in decks seems to be pointing toward control strategies that abuse Thragtusk and Miracles. On the fringe we have Zombies, RDWs, Azorious Aggro and Jund (in no particular order). Following the formula for a format where if all things are equal (and we know they are not) Aggro beats Control beats Midrange beats Aggro, there are a lot of deck building options out there.

I broke down the viable color combos and the only colors that get the shaft right now are WBR (Oros) and WBU (Esper). These combos have no mana fixing (the kind green offers) and only one shockland each (Blood Crypt and Hallowed Fountain, respectively). For now, I’ll stay away from those choices.

I believe that surprise is the biggest ally you have during these early rotation tourneys. Some folks still don’t know what each deck does and plenty of others are waiting to ‘counterspell’ cards you aren’t even playing. If you play a rogue deck you can often get by on skill and surprise if you can pilot your deck well.

I looked around for a color wheel that was underplayed in the last month. After looking at the top 8′s from states and a few TCG Player/SCG events: Grixis Control is the underdog by a wide margin. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for this but really explaining to you why a deck isn’t performing is about the last thing I want to do.

But hold on a sec!

Grixis (BRU) has really powerful cards, some of the best removal in the format and it’s got blue mana! Blue mana means blue cards, and we all know that blue cards mean… countermagic. I don’t have to tell you that the single most powerful thing you can do in this game is tell your opponent, “NO!” It’s pretty much the greatest interaction any deck can achieve.

 

 

Grixis? Don’t see many creatures here.

 

With that in mind I started working on a midrange deck that can beat control. After a night of tinkering I have this:

Grixis Midrange

1 x Stensia Bloodhall
1 x Swamp
2 x Desolate Lighthouse
4 x Dragonskull Summit
4 x Blood Crypt
4 x Drowned Catacomb
1 x Mountain
2 x Sulfur Falls
4 x Steam Vents
1 x Island

2 x Desecration Demon
3 x Falkenrath Aristocrat
2 x Thundermaw Hellkite
1 x Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
3 x Snapcaster Mage

2 x Essence Scatter
3 x Rakdos Keyrune
1 x Mizzium Mortars
2 x Sever the Bloodline
2 x Dreadbore
1 x Murder
1 x Rakdos’s Return
4 x Pillar of Flame
3 x Syncopate
1 x Cyclonic Rift
2 x Dissipate
3 x Jace, Architect of Thought

Sideboard
1 x Bonfire of the Damned
2 x Tormod’s Crypt
3 x Slaughter Games
2 x Clone
2 x Ultimate Price
1 x Liliana of the Veil
1 x Witchbane Orb
2 x Jace, Memory Adept
1 x Negate

Lands being a pretty boring mix of tap lands and shocks with a pair of Desolate Lighthouses and a Stensia Bloodhall to get in that extra damage/ draw you into more threats and answers there’s really nothing special going on here.

Creatures

Creatures on the other hand are all pretty interesting.

Let’s start with:

Snapcaster Mage

Snapcaster Mage
This dude hates zombies, he makes all our removal spells come back one more time, and he can recycle our already cast Mizzium Mortars and Cyclonic Rifts and he’s a ‘snap’ blocker in a pinch. He is full on utility and he’s working overtime in this deck. Someone get him a tool belt already!

Falkenrath Aristocrat

Falkenrath Aristocrat
Did I mention that Snapcaster Mage is a Human?

There’s really not much in this format that can disrupt a Flying 4/1 haster with the ability to become indestructible. What’s your Thragtusk have to say about a blood thirsty princess Leia coming at Jace’s  neck after you left him wide open like that? Thragtusk doesn’t say much, he’s pretty shy and from what I hear he can’t look up more that 15 degrees. I’m guessing he never even noticed.

Desecration Demon

Desecration Demon

Totally underrated for his drawback.

This is actually the reason I like this card in this deck. He’s early beats if you’re playing against control. Unanswered he can win you the game in a couple of turns (3×6=18 plus 2 from a Pillar of Flame) your opponent can make him useless as a blocker by sacking on his/her turn (watch out for Gravecrawler/Lingering Souls interactions) but for the most part he’ll be making your opponent waste resources (and likely more than one) to stop taking damage from this demon.

Thundermaw Hellkite

Thundermaw Hellkite

Nothing says lovin’ like following up a four drop haste flyer with a five drop haste flyer, that removes all blockers.

Thundermaw is the real deal! 5/5 to the dome or your opponent’s Planeswalker friends. He’s a no brainer in this format and he’s not gonna be taking a break anytime soon. He’s undercosted, over-abilitied and ready to melt faces.
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

One of this bomb is a wonderful way to finish the game.

You’ve read this everywhere – untapping with this card … blah blah blah … win the game. It’s true in most decks and even truer here. Use that mana to hit your opponent, draw answers to his/her threats, kill his/her threats, smash him/her for five and then draw another card. THAT! MY FRIENDS … IS WHAT THIS GAME IS ALL ABOUT!
Spells
There’s so much to talk about here. What to include, how many, what doesn’t work that well, what is awesome and which spells to only one of. If I were a weaker man, I’d have this deck at over 100 cards. There are sooooooo many great spells in this format and this part of the deck is easily convertible to your local meta but this is what I think will work the best this Tuesday at my LGS.
Meet the Singletons:

Rakdos’s Return

Cyclonic Rift
Mizzium Mortars
Murder

Why just one of these incredibly powerful spells?

First off Rakdos’s Return is borderline situational. While it will always do some damage, it won’t always clear out your opponent’s hand. We never want to start a draw with one of these and definitely not two of them. If we want to do it twice in a game (seems good) we have our friend the Snapcaster Mage to help us out. X=3 is a pretty sweet number to hit early we can even do that on turn four with help from Keyrunes.

Mizzium Mortars
Mortars is underwhelming as well but in the right instance it can save lives.

Swarms, Angels, you name it! Five is the magical toughness to have in this format and Mortars punishes players for thinking otherwise.

Cyclonic Rift was the hardest to cut to one. End-of-turn Rift into Main phase Rakdos’s Return sounds liks the best thing since single- serving cheese in neat little cellophane wrappers. In the end though, I decided that more countermagic over board control would be the way to go. I could be totally wrong though…

Murder
Murder is great as a one of because it just does what it does … straight-up-no-joke kills a creature at instant speed.

Sometimes you need a surprise creature kill card, Murder does the trick without any awkward restrictions. If a creature needs to die now,you have Murder for it. There are plenty of other options for creatures that can afford to be on the table until your next main phase.

What the Deuce?

My two-ofs are a little more useful against all the strategies out there.

Dissipate
Sever the Bloodline
Essence Scatter
Dreadbore

Dissipate

Dissipate is the same solid counterspell it was before, but now with the graveyard being a new place to retrieve threats it’s extra relevant.

Countering Unbrial Rites, Angel of Serentity, Geralf’s Messenger and even Gravecrawler means that they will not be coming back to ruin the card economy you’ve worked so hard to develop. Countering Thragtusk makes him little more than a wasted five mana (knowing that your opponent can’t Rites him back to stay in the game is pretty sweet).

Sever the Bloodline

Sever the Bloodline is wonderful for the same reasons that Mortars is great, plus it exiles the problem and it has flashback.

Effectively countering a late game Rites and making sure your opponent can’t use those creatures with Deathrite Shaman. Sever kills the Angels we were worried about as well effectively nullifying American Tempo decks  if they don’t play other threats (if it does our board has answers).

Essence Scatter
Essence Scatter is really well positioned as only tribal decks (zombies and humans) are using Caverns to effect.

It’s also massive boost in tempo if played at the right time.

It kills Geist of Saint Traft before he becomes a problem. Other targets include but are not limited to: Ash Zealot, Silverblade Paladin, Thragtusk … you know creatures that meaningfully mess up your plan.

Dreadbore
Dreadbore similarly has such a great role in this deck.

Planeswalkers are hard to deal with. Having a way to interact directly with Jace/Tamiyo/Liliana/Vraska is totally clutch. And tempo-wise two mana is pretty cheap for something they spent three to five mana on. Planeswalkers can ruin your day, best be safe!  If your opponent doesn’t rock them, s/he’s prolly got creatures. If you think s/he doesn’t and does and you wasted your Dreadbore on a creature, DON’T PANIC!!! Snapcaster Mage is an all-star.

Third Card’s the Charm

Rakdos Keyrune
Syncopate
Jace, Architect of Thought

Rakdos Keyrune

Rakdos Keyrune, while certainly the best of the cycle has a few great reasons to be played heavily.

The first is that Terminus, Mutilate, Supreme Verdict, Mizzium Mortars and I don’t know other sorcery speed mass removal spells are really being played (mutiliate is a stretch) right now, are all cards. Rakdos Keyrune laughs at these spells. You know what else it laughs at?

Thragtusk

And his little Beast tokens. Having RK on the board renders a lot of creatures worthless to attack into you. Which is just dandy since your opponent now has to cast spells pre-combat to get you to tap out to counter his spells and then attack. It’s not going to win you every game, but by God, it’ll stall out the fast decks and give the control decks nightmares.

Syncopate
Everything I said about Dissipate can be applied here. Only it can happen on turn two. This card punishes your opponent for trying to bait your counter magic with cheaper spells.

Jace, Architect of Thought

Jace, Architect of Thought is simply card advantage against control decks.

Not to mention a Dreadbore can now be used on a creature once you kill his Jace with yours. Jace slows down aggro decks so you can crush them with your flying horde of awesome. And if you get to ultimate him, a free Dracogenius plus whatever else your opponent has stashed away is super sick.

FOUR MORE … CARDS

I had to get an election joke in there somewhere.

Pillar of Flame

Only one card makes it to the four slot. A card that smashes Zombies, mana dorks, hits opponents and planeswalkers from time to time … again. It’s super-relevant because of its attention to the graveyard. Having this plus a Snapcaster in your opener should help you against most aggressive decks. It’s also easily sided out during control match ups, and surprisingly useful versus midrange decks.

The Sideboard

A mix of combo hate (Slaughter Games, Witchbane Orb, Negate) control hate (Jace, Memory Adept, Negate) .

Geist of Saint Traft hate (Clone, Liliana of the Veil).

Graveyard hate (Tormod’s Crypt, Slaughter Games) and something to kill more creature based mono decks (Ultimate Price, Bonfire of the Damned). Like I said: before the meta is pretty healthy and no one deck is ruining the scene. Your sideboard needs to be the most important part of your deck and highly versatile.

FNM Promo for December 2012

The new FNM Promo for the Month of December has been revealed and Storm deck players everywhere can now rejoice!

This is a cool little premium for those planning to play in the Modern format in the coming year which will now be an officially sanctioned FNM format. (Great news for those that are tired of the current Standard metagame)

So don’t delay… Go Play at a local FNM Event near your and support your local brick and mortar store!