Battle And Door

Two of Adam’s favorite Magic cards are in M13: Battle of Wits and Door to Nothingness! See the decklists he’s already brewed up with these two cards if you like playing unusual Magic decks.

The rumors of my demise…

They’re true!

If you’re paired against me after M13 becomes legal, your path to victory just got a whole lot easier. There is a very good chance that my deck will not be very competitive.

I browse the spoilers as they become available, preferring to trust the mothership as opposed to any rumor mill. I remember when Giant Solifuge was a 4/3. So I see a nifty card here and there, then my jaw drops when one of my absolute pet cards is spoiled.

Whenever I draft a particular cube for the first time, one of the first questions I ask is, “Is Door to Nothingness in your cube?” The answer is usually no (only Anthony Avitollo is awesome enough to share my love of the Door) and usually comes with some sort of mocking, “Are you serious?” Look. I’m serious. I LOVE Door to Nothingness.

I don’t know why I love the Door so much given that I play the game of Magic primarily as a competitive outlet. I suppose that a part of me realizes that we all play Magic because it is an enjoyable game to play and that exploring paths other than the optimal route to victory can be enjoyable as well. Let’s just say that Door to Nothingness is rarely the optimal route to victory. But it sure is a rush.

So my mind was going crazy trying to think of some way to “legitimately” slam the Door in Standard; I quickly realized that my options will get a ton better once we enter the colorful world of Return to Ravnica. Then Wizards dropped another bomb.

Really? It’s as though someone at Wizards REAAAAAAALLLY doesn’t want me to win any Magic: The Gathering tournaments any time soon.

My first actual encounter with a 250-card deck was in the hands of current Wizards employee Mark Globus. I still remember the Emerald Charm that dashed his hopes of a blue envelope. I was also part of the rather large crowds during William Jensen GP Top 8 run. I’m sure others have told of his exploits at GP Minneapolis in 2002, but it was as awesome as advertised. At the time, my Magic Online collection vastly outpaced my real life collection, so I was only able to build it on Magic Online, but I loved not having to shuffle. I finally managed to build a Battle of Wits deck in real life during it’s time in Ninth Edition, even playing it in States one year (0-2 thanks!).

While playing Battle of Wits decks is generally a blast, the logistics of playing a Battle of Wits deck are quite monumental. First, you have to acquire essentially four decks. If you don’t have a 4x collection of Standard, it can be quite imposing. Second, shuffling a Battle deck is NOT easy, especially in a set amount of time. If you do end up deciding to take the plunge, practice your shuffling as much as any actual testing you do with the deck.

In addition, I strongly recommend some shortcuts. First, do not play shuffle effects unless you truly need them to function. Play Life’s Finale over Black Sun’s Zenith, don’t play something like Elixir of Immortality, avoid narrow Tutors (such as Treasure Mage / Trinket Mage), and I would even consider trying to avoid green for the current format, as Birthing Pod and Green Sun’s Zenith are two of the appeals of playing green. Furthermore, do not sideboard normally. First, the cards you bring in/take out don’t come up as often. Second, searching through your entire deck for the perfect card to take out is simply too time consuming and not worth the time.

Shuffling is quite the chore. I might play a sideboard with very narrow cards and just pick up a stack and take the first X nonessential cards I see. Another option, and the option I will take if when I play Battle of Wits at FNM is to simply not sideboard. Remember that you’re not the only person at your Magic tournament. Being the last one done every round because you can’t mechanically operate your deck may not get your penalties (it should in a large tournament), but it does make the tournament experience less enjoyable for all.

The M13 Prerelease was rather eventful for yours truly. After some combo cubing with Matt Kranstuber, I busted open some new packs to play Sealed. The first rare I saw was Boundless Realms, and I was all excited to open a Door to Nothingness. A few packs later, I was down to my last rare. As fate would have it, I opened this gem:


I’m not the type of sicko that would sleeve up 200 basic lands and a Battle of Wits, so I slogged through the actual Prerelease with a normal deck, wondering at what could have been…..

I’ve heard quite a bit of talk about Battle decks, but I haven’t seen so much in the way of decklists. The closest I’ve seen is Matt Kranstuber stream some BoW-less Battle decks. Kranny is a wonderful human being, and his podcast is well worth your time if you are into podcasts. If you are going to Battle, Kranny’s shell seems like the most obvious place to go. Playing a control deck affords you the most turns and the most draw steps, and your “win condition” is easily taken care of. While that is one way to take the deck and likely the most obvious, I want to go a different direction.

True story, I had to make some fairly difficult cuts. One might think that with so many cards, you can play everything, and while that is somewhat true, you can’t play ACTUAL everything. For example, I went without a Trinket/Treasure Mage package (I know, I know…) and slimmed down the red to just a single Huntmaster of the Fells and some sideboard Ancient Grudge. The biggest cut I made was likely Diabolic Revelation. Given that it can Tutor for a bunch of Battles, it would seem like it was worth it. However, I’m not really in the market for ANY Tutor. And this seems like a terrible Tutor. At six-plus mana, I don’t think I can justify a card that doesn’t win the game. If I want a huge, over-the-top, non-board-altering card, I’ll go with Praetor’s Counsel.

There are probably too many 8000 mana cards in the deck (because why not?) and not enough stuff like Elvish Visionary and Viridian Emissary to help get you moving. It’s really important to be able to churn through your deck, as many of your cards rely on a healthy graveyard. If you were to play a normal control deck, I would say that you could play as few as 235 cards, but with this deck and the desire to mill yourself, playing a few more is much safer. Because of the shuffling hurdles you have to jump through, I really only recommend this deck for Magic Online. There are a few too many search effects for this to be practical for a paper tournament. If you want a more practical version for real life events, I recommend this:

This is basically closer to a “standard” version of Battle of Wits. You could probably do without the red mana, but how else can you justify four Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker? That dude is awesome! This deck clocks in at 238 cards, which will be enough to trigger Battle of Wits in all but the craziest of games. You also have the option of just casting/reanimating a Sun Titan chain or an Elesh Norn. Or Nicol Bolas. I like this list for paper tournaments simply because the only shuffles are Evolving Wilds, Solemn Simulacrum, and cards that put Battle of Wits into your hand.

But wait! There’s more!

I’m still in love with Door to Nothingness. While I entertained the idea of a 250-card Door to Nothingness deck, I feel like the mana is not remotely good enough in Standard to even approach the deck. While the mana will get better come fall (presumably with Return to Ravnica), it’s unfortunate that both Diabolic Tutor and Rune-Scarred Demon rotate out with M12. We are probably experiencing the best time for Standard Battle of Wits that we’ll have given that there are the maximum (usually) seven sets legal in Standard AND that we are unlikely to get Tutors of the quality of Diabolic Tutor or Rune-Scarred Demon while Battle of Wits is in Standard. As for making a 250-card Door to Nothingness deck, five-color mana bases don’t exactly work with 60-card decks in Standard these days. To further complicate things, Battle decks have a higher amount of natural variance, as you can draw quite a few more unique hands…

I suppose its 60 cards for our Door to Nothingness deck.

I’m not going to lie; I’m really proud of this decklist. It’s probably a pile of garbage, but I think I’m really clever for coming up with this shell. Without further ado…

Just in case one ten-mana card wasn’t enough, I’ve spliced it on to another unplayable ten-mana card! You’ve never seen a more fun kill condition for a Primal Surge deck! The basic idea is to use one of your Rune-Scarred Demons to search for Primal Surge, which happens to be the only non-permanent in your deck. Once you use Primal Surge to flip your deck, you can use Clock of Omens to untap your Door to Nothingness. Given some Gilded Lotus mana, you should be able to easily slam the Door the turn you Primal Surge.

If you find yourself needing too much Gilded Lotus mana to play the Primal Surge, you can use excess artifacts (Solemn, Talisman, and Metamorph) to untap the Lotus as well. The sideboard has a pretty nifty transform package of Stonehorn Dignitary and Venser, the Sojourner in case getting to ten-mana is a little bit too unreasonable. I haven’t figured out how to beat a Mana Leak (oh Duress, why must you be a spell?), so unlike Battle, the time for Door to Nothingness may be in the future.

With that, I’d like to thank AJ Kerrigan for allowing me to steal his “Thank God It’s FNM” theme. Before I go, if the cube is on Magic Online as you read this, there is a fairly high chance that I’m streaming my adventures with the cube. To give you a taste of what I enjoy drafting, I’m somewhat upset that Door to Nothingness is not in the cube. During Cube Week on Magic Online, I will be streaming weekdays starting at 9 PM EST at minimum. I have a host of fantastic guests to Skype in during the week, and I am looking forward to lighting tickets on fire. Tune in here!

See you there,
Adam Prosak