2005 Championship Deck Challenge – Captain of the Leaky Armada: The Glare and Its Players

Welcome to the 2005 Championship Deck Challenge!
In years past, Jim Ferraiolo has produced decks on the cutting edge of Standard technology, earning numerous players Top 8 berths at States, Regionals, and Nationals alike. This year he’s participating in Control week and serves up a new flavor of Opposition-esque goodness for your consideration.


In his Ravnica set review, Mike Flores termed Glare of Subdual as the potential “flagship of a very leaky armada”. Even though I know this to be true, there has to be some worth in exploring the archetype for States, amiright? I was charged with the taxing assignment of designing a deck for Control Week, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let the readership down with anything less than my best! There’s just one tiny issue: preliminary testing indicates that the various Guilds of Ravnica have deemed control obsolete. I even saw a street sign whilst touring the City, and it seems that they’re declaring this to be a beatdown format, as most infant formats begin. Oh well. If I can’t work out a pure control deck, I’ll at least bring something to the table with a controlling element at the very least. I’ve got something else that I’m working on that’s much more control-oriented than what I’ll offer here, but that deck kind of still has its bandages on after the surgery.

Before I start talking cardboard, I always like to talk concepts first. There’s a big problem with designing a deck around Glare of Subdual, and it’s a shockingly obvious one. Ready? Come on, aren’t you dying to know?

Glare of Subdual is not Opposition

Whoa, hold the phone. It’s not? No. It’s not. It’s a ton worse and there’s really nothing that can be done about it. Not being able to tap opposing lands with your creatures entirely eliminates the “lock” aspect prevalent in every other Opposition deck. This is huge. It means that incrementally accumulating a large team of guys while an opponent sits helpless isn’t going to win anymore. Let’s not forget that the colors required to play a Glare deck aren’t conducive to protecting one single fragile enchantment either. They’re printed some help, sure, but it costs five mana to play and it does nothing for you most of the time. More on that card later.

Since we’ve determined that Glare != Opposition, there have to be some fundamental strategic adjustments to make the deck viable.

Winning must happen in the mid-game rather than the late-game

Since a Glare deck is not afforded the luxury of time, it must have a way to win before the opponent can draw an answer that either removes the enchantment, or worse, sweeps the board of creatures. There are many spells in the format which “disrupt” (putting it mildly) a Glare of Subdual deck to the point where I wonder if the very concept is even remotely viable. In no particular order, the opponent could have Wrath of God, Kagemaro, First to Suffer, Cranial Extraction, Hideous Laughter, Pithing Needle, Wildfire; the list of cards which wreck the deck is long and distinguished. I’ve made some adjustments that help to counteract the effectiveness of mass removal against the deck, but really the best tactic is to win before you lose. God, that sounds like such genius. I wish I could trademark that statement.
Win Before You Lose, Kids.

Mana control is vital to success

I don’t see many Glare decks winning games unless Hokori, Dust Drinker is prominently involved. It’s a guarantee that with mana creatures and the power of Convoke at your disposal, you’re going to be able to operate under Hokori much more comfortably than the opponent. The Dust Drinker gives the deck a mana control element, slowing the opponent’s ability to respond before they are overwhelmed. Some have suggested pairing Seedborn Muse with Hokori, but this is a little too cute of an idea with not a ton of real benefit. It’s not what Hokori does to you, it’s what it does to the other side of the table.

The deck has to be able to win without Glare of Subdual on the table

Green and White don’t have a lot of card searching or card drawing available, and there will be times when the deck simply does not cough up a Glare of Subdual. There will be times when you cast a Glare of Subudal and it gets instantly removed, too. In these cases, you need men on the team that can swing on their own and stand tall in a fight. Men who’ve been in the trenches and know the ravages of war. Men who… uh. That’s why loading a Glare deck full of token producing spells and tiny creatures is not a fantastic idea; 1/1s are good for tapping stuff down, but they go down like Glass Joe in combat.

So with all of these concepts in mind, I built the following:

Birds of Paradise / Llanowar Elves

Ahh, the crucial mana accelerants found in every Opposition style strategy for years. The only debate is to whether eight or seven is the right call, as one usually hates drawing them late. Since we don’t want games to go late and really want them on the first turn, I’m going with eight. As for the former best card in the format (and he still might be), Sakura-Tribe Elder doesn’t really stick around to tap stuff, so the nod goes to my homies from Llanowar.


A 3/3 for two mana with no drawback can’t possibly be bad. Although you’ll miss his spot in the curve a fair bit, this quick little clock is worth his weight in gold against slower decks. Watchwolf doesn’t win in a fight vs. a samurai, but he’ll most likely be swinging free as this deck gives White Weenie a good firm rogering anyway.

Carven Caryatid

The new Wall of Blossoms is capable of holding down the ground and fits naturally into the Glare strategy. More aggressive variants might replace Carven Caryatid with another three-drop, but I really like the cantrip effect in a deck that otherwise lives completely at the mercy of the next pluck. You never know how far down that Glare of Subdual is; this wall blocks a ton of stuff and helps you to draw the money card.

Scion of the Wild

This guy has been bananas for me. For the low cost of three mana (easily attainable even under Hokori), this monster often ends up an 8/8 or larger. It’s almost a certainty that Scion of the Wild will take the largest chunk out of the opponent’s life total if he’s not killed on sight. All of the newfangled White Weenie, White/Red, White/X decks simply roll over to his awesome girth. I used to have four in the deck, but four would make The Man a little nervous.

Hokori, Dust Drinker

Quite simply, I don’t think a Glare of Subdual deck would even be possible without this Kamigawa Legend. Without a mana control element of some kind, the deck may not have enough time to get the job done. Hokori is also a star against Islands, and a Glare deck wouldn’t stand a chance against a control strategy without him. It’d be Glare without a prayer. Ha haaaaaaaaaaaaa…

Loxodon Gatekeeper

Kismet on a 2/3 body doesn’t seem too bad, so I’m giving this lil’ elephant a go for the time being. He may eventually lose the slot to his much beefier 4/4 cousin, a.k.a. Ravenous Baloth The Second. Loxodon Gatekeeper fits in with the overall strategy of the deck and makes Hokori into an even bigger hassle for the opponent. I really don’t think I’d play him if he were a 2/2, but that extra point of toughness makes a big difference in the era of two point damage removal spells.


Gleancrawler seems to be the only good way that one can handle the threat that mass removal poses to a deck like Glare. The creature power to cost ratio is fine at six for six and the sucker has trample to boot, so he’d be decent even without the triggered ability text. Being able to bring back creatures that are lost to Hideous Laughter / Pyroclasm / whatever is a huge boon for a deck that has no way to recoup cards or board position in a hurry. There should also be two more Gleancrawlers in the sideboard of a Glare deck, and that’s really the only sideboard card I’m sure about going forward.

Glare of Subdual

The deck’s namesake and the centerpiece of the whole shebang. It taps stuff, people.

Scatter the Seeds

Convoke is a really cute mechanic and one that works great under Hokori. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many convoke spells worthy of play except for the three already present in this deck. Scatter the Seeds is often cast on turn 3, so you’ll have five live bodies before Glare of Subdual comes down on turn four. It’s also got great synergy with Scion of the Wild, for reasons that are obvious.

Chord of Calling

Chord of Calling primarily serves as the fourth and fifth copies of Hokori, but it can also fetch a huge Scion of the Wild for extra pressure when needed. The mana cost is never an issue; there are always Green men lying around waiting to be conscripted into spellcasting duty in this deck.

Sundering Vitae

A Naturalize that can be cast on the sly? Sign me up! Nobody really knows for sure what the format is going to look like yet, so I think maindecking a couple of answers to artifacts and enchantments makes great sense. I’m sure that it’ll hit a Suppression Field or Glorious Anthem or Eye of the Storm or Umezawa’s Jitte or… like I said, plenty of targets.

Sideboard Options

I think it’s kooky to start talking definitive sideboard cards without knowing anything about how the format is going to shake out in the next few weeks. I do think that there’s a ton of flexibility possible in this deck’s sideboard with just the Green and White cards available, to say nothing of the possibilities if Sakura-Tribe Elder were added along with the Birds of Paradise for a more multicolored approach. Here are some cards to think about when considering potential matchups:

Privileged Position

I used to have a couple copies of these straight up, but they went dead far too often and I absolutely hated drawing them in the early game. They’re really only good for protecting Glare of Subdual from enchantment removal or deflecting kill spells away from a huge Scion of the Wild. I sense that they’d be fairly good if one expected a lot of new school B/G decks packing Putrefy and targeted Black removal, but I haven’t seen any good builds of B/G to date.

Loxodon Hierarch

This little chubbster is excellent against the R/W Boros Guild / Weenie strategies as the power and toughness come correct and the life gain is great against their array of burn spells. Add the regeneration of all your guys into the mix and he’s already making a strong push for maindeck inclusion. Wait your turn, pachyderm.

Nullmage Shepherd

Having reusable artifact / enchantment removal can’t be a bad thing, but I’m not sure on his survivability. He would be a bona fide All-Star against a deck like White Weenie, taking out many a Glorious Anthem or Suppression field as they sat helpless. But his deck smashes that deck already, and I don’t know if Nullmage Shepherd is better than Sundering Vitae against anything else. I just thought I’d mention it for the future as paying the cost to activate is not a problem at all.


There definitely need to be four copies of this card between the maindeck and sideboard of any Glare-based deck. Yes, I know Wrath of God comes out earlier than Gleancrawler. What choice do you have though? Promise of Bunrei? I like the 6/6 man a lot more, thanks. If it wasn’t apparent, this is not a particularly resilient deck. One board clear frequently ends the game, and I’d like to have at least some insurance.

Ivory Mask

When you put on the 99.44% pure Ivory Mask, vicious Cranial Extractions are turned aside and sadly, you will no longer be able to tell the opponent just when and where he obtained his Gifts. Awww… The more I play with this card, the more I like it. I’m pretty sure I’ll find some room for these in the final sideboard, but the number remains a mystery at present.

Wrath of God

Once enchantment removal comes in for games two and three, you’re not going to be able to solidly rely on tapping stuff down to stop it from hitting you in the face. Sometimes, stuff just needs to die. Wrath of God has been making stuff die since I’ve been playing this silly game.

Vitu-Ghazi, The City Tree

I’m going to be totally honest here folks – Don Vitu is really bad. I have to tap five things to make a 1/1? Are you kidding me? The only reason I’m even mentioning it is because it’s uncounterable token production and if some crazy mono blue counter strategy comes up… never mind… I can’t even be serious. Next.

Hunted Lammasu

Yeah, I used to have him the maindeck before I discovered that I liked Scion of the Wild more. A 5/5 flier that gives the enemy a 4/4 ground pounder isn’t that big of a deal when you have a) a ton of guys to gum up the ground and b) an enchantment that taps said 4/4. He still might make the sideboard as a quick clock against slower decks.

Devouring Light

This card may end up a necessity against stuff like Kokusho and other large Legendary men, since enchantment removal in games two and three will inhibit your ability to tap the big dogs down. If Loxodon Gatekeeper ends up not working out, Devouring Light will likely be the next card I end up testing in the maindeck.


What the format will look like for States is really anyone’s guess at this point. I can assure you that there’ll be plenty of White based weenie decks that’ll either be straight up Vanilla Ice or paired with Red or Green for that extra pizzazz. Since this is the only thing I’m really sure about, it’s the only archetype I’ve paid more than lip service to in testing. So, I’ll say a few semi-informed words about that matchup and then a few more ill-informed words about the others. If anyone pretends to be anything other than ill-informed about the majority of new Standard matchups, they are big fat liars.

White Weenie / White Red / White Green

This is likely the only decent matchup that the Glare.dec has, but who knows – come States time these White-based weenie decks could constitute 40-50% of the format. There are some problem cards here that are common to most builds – Suppression Field being the main offender. Paying two mana and tapping one of your guys to tap one of theirs doesn’t sound like a winning proposition, hence the need for maindeck Sundering Vitae. The Glare deck is very good on the ground, but very weak in the air. The amount of damage you take early on will simply depend on how many fliers they get out. Most of these decks haven’t been able to fit enchantment removal into the main yet, so Glare of Subdual can simply lock it up for you. Game one has favored the Glare deck pretty heavily in my testing, but in sideboarded games, you’re going to have to deal with Terashi’s Grasp at a minimum.

The Glare plan loses a little bit of its luster when they have answers for it, so I’ve been playing with Wrath of God and extra Gleancrawlers out of the board. This change keeps the matchup less dependant on Glare and still solidly in the G/W deck’s favor. That said, there are still a lot of builds floating around out there, and I surely haven’t tested against all of them. Nobody knows what the best decks look like yet, so keep that under advisement.

Gifts Control

A lot of how this matchup goes will depend on the speed of your draw vs. their draw. If you come out of the gates quickly, you can win in a smashfest. If you come out slowly and they get a bunch of mana and successfully casts Gifts Ungiven, there’s almost no way out. They have mass removal, frequently have countermagic, and can tutor up answers to almost every question your deck can pose. Not a matchup that I’d care to face, no.

B/G Goodstuff

Unfortunately, the Glare plan has a hard time getting it done in game one due to Putrefy comprising the first four cards that begin any B/G decklist. Dark Confidant is another problem that can’t be tapped into submission; your best hope is that they just kill themselves with it. Plague Boiler, despite being utterly horrible, may also make appearances against the Glare player. Obviously you’ll need to kill it before it blows, or else… yeah. At its roots though, the B/G deck is still based on the attack step, and so you’re going to have at least a shot of winning (you can force them to use Putrefy on Scion of the Wild, thus opening the way for Glare of Subdual, you can get a creature advantage and then drop Hokori, etc.) It’s hard to say exactly how good or bad the matchup is as the core cards comprising this young archetype still aren’t etched in stone.

Mono Black Aggro (Hippie.dec)

Your men are certainly going to be bigger than theirs, and they have no way of dealing with Glare of Subdual once it’s out and about. The Glare deck’s man generation also outshines the black deck’s ability to remove them, gradually resulting in a favorable situation as the game grows longer and longer. Hypnotic Specter can be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world if it does touch you a couple of times. G/’W decks are used to living from pluck to pluck, after all. Nezumi Shortfang is the real killer here, since your hand does empty rather quickly and there’s no way to get rid of The Rack once he flips. Better win before you lose [tm], in that case! Oh God, there it is again!

If I were a betting man (which I’m not – [tm] Gabe Walls), I’d say that a properly played Glare of Subdual deck could land you into the Top 8 on October 22. States is traditionally a creature-dominated format, and playing a deck which controls and taps kids down sure seems like a good call. Such a call could also leave you phoning home for a one-way ticket to The Bean Bracket. There’s something about the deck and its inherent vulnerabilities that just gives me the willies, but that could be my own personal bias speaking. I have classically shied away from decks with an “Oh Well!” factor. You know, when someone casts something that you can’t stop or deal with in any capacity or casts something which utterly wrecks your entire gameplan / board position / life total. You just throw up your hands and go “Oh well!” That’s kind of how I feel when playing a Glare deck. If you’re the kind of man that can deal with being kicked in the groin every so often, you just might find some joy here.

Me? I’ll probably be enjoying something else, unless I can get a sideboard together that solves the majority of the weaknesses inherent in this strategy. As always, ideas and critiques are welcomed in the forums.