Battle Royale Report – Poisoned!

Friday, November 5th – For a long time, this was a Standard deck that cost $5, had solid matchups against Mono-Green Ramp and U/W, and boasted turn 3 kills. Then I added Adventuring Gear which led to fetchlands, and then it got expensive.

For a long time, this was an article about a Standard deck that cost $5, had solid matchups against Mono-Green Ramp and U/W control, and boasted turn 3 kills.

Then I added Adventuring Gear. Adventuring Gear led to fetchlands, and then the deck got more expensive.


Fortunately, fetchlands are dirt cheap on Magic Online! This article outlines the poison deck I played in the Battle Royale yesterday. I finished 1-2, beating Matt Sperling‘s Pyromancer Ascension deck and losing to Gavin Verhey and Todd Anderson‘s Zombie decks.

(I’m still bitter about my match with Todd. Pawn of Ulamog? Really?)

I actually got the idea for this deck a while ago, when I was hanging around First Pick Games, a local Seattle store, and a buddy of mine, Joey, wanted to play some games with his ‘joke deck’ against my U/R Control deck.

Joey played two Forests and Necropede. I took a poison hit, but I was feeling pretty okay going into his fourth turn; I could kill his creature with Burst Lightning, then untap, and play Jace, the Mind Sculptor and start bouncing his creature until I got up to mana for Frost Titan and Destructive Force.

Joey attacked.

“Take it.”

“Wait. Primal Bellows.”

“Um. Burst Lightning.”

“Primal Bellow again.”

“Into the Roil?”

“Vines of Vastwood.”


The next game, on the play, I

stabilize with Jace bouncing his only creature. Joey played Carrion Call during my end step, untapped, and killed me in a flurry of pump spells.


We played several more games, and I lost most of them before we sideboarded. After I got to bring in Pyroclasm and Flashfreeze, I felt more confident… but I was never really that happy about the matchup. When I got home, I began brainstorming some new ideas for the deck.

Obviously, I wanted to play as many infect creatures as possible. If I splashed black, I’d get access to Plague Stinger, Hand of the Praetors, Blackcleave Goblin, and potentially even Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon. The mana for just a B/G aggro deck full of infect creatures isn’t too bad with Verdant Catacombs, Evolving Wilds, and Terramorphic Expanse, but I was looking to use pump spells to kill as fast as possible. A black splash gets you four extra two-drops, but you have to give up Primal Bellow for either Groundswell or Giant Growth. You get Vampire’s Bite, but you lose consistency in your ability to kick Vines of Vastwood while playing another pump spell in the same turn. Vampire’s Bite also doesn’t help you fight Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning.

(One alternative is a slower and more midrange approach with no pump spells and cards like Doom Blade to power your infect creatures through. You can either top the curve out with Eldrazi Monument or Skithiryx. I didn’t pursue this strategy very far, though, because I wanted to my opponents to be dead
right now.


So every two- and three-mana green creature with infect made the cut. The top of the mana curve, however, offered some interesting possibilities:

Tel-Jilad Fallen

– Fallen has a fairly reasonable body, and even if his ability is just “protection from Molten-Tail Masticore,” that ability is going to be pretty relevant in Standard going forward. However, Fallen’s body still isn’t particularly impressive; he’s got virtually six power, sure, but he can’t even tangle with a 1/1 Plated Geopede. Hmm.

Carrion Call

– In a deck full of pump spells that are better than one-mana Lava Axes, all you really want are bodies. It’s particularly nice if your bodies can duck cards like Day of Judgment. Carrion Call is actually a pretty powerful threat, because if you’re untapped, your opponent can’t be sure that he’ll be safe tapping out to destroy the rest of your board.

Corpse Cur

– As good as infect creatures are against players, they tend to leave a bit to be desired if they get into combat with other animals. Corpse Cur can re-buy guys that have fallen in combat, or kick-start a fast recovery if your opponent was able to one-for-one you on turn 2 and turn 3. It’s particularly strong against Red decks.


– Essentially, Searing Wind for five mana that can be Condemned. Pretty hilarious combination with Primal Bellows, if that’s your thing. However, having multiples rot away in your opening hand is pretty bad, and as entertaining as Primal Bellows + Putrefax is, six mana really is pretty slow. The card is particularly bad when you get Time Walked by Lightning Bolt.

Similar choices came up in the choice of pump spells. Once you decide to stick to mono-green and avoid Vampire’s Bite, your choices are essentially Giant Growth, Primal Bellow, Vines of Vastwood, and Groundswell.

Vines of Vastwood essentially has to make the cut because of its efficacy against Condemn, Into the Roil, and Doom Blade. Instead of being embarrassed when your opponent gets like a four-for-one in combat, you can teach them a lesson about using their removal on their main phase instead of taking an extra four damage for their trouble!

I mentioned the deck to Travis Woo, who told me that he had a similar brew that was using Adventuring Gear to great effect. My first thought on Adventuring Gear was that I wanted instant-speed pump spells so that I could simply kill my opponent for blocking wrong, but a couple of quick games with Adventuring Gear showed that with Gear, your opponent was basically always dead; you either kept drawing lands that dealt four damage, or you drew spells. You could also crash through Wall of Omens in one shot with a fetchland. I was sold.

Originally, I was playing all Forests and using Primal Bellows, but then I had an enlightening chat with Cedric Phillips. You see, Cedric is taking the Poison Challenge at Worlds this year – he’s playing poison in all three formats. He’s playing it in Standard, forcing it in Draft, and playing his Standard deck in Extended. So when I asked him what he thought of an early draft of my poison deck, he suggested that I cut Bellow for Groundswell so that I could play Soaring Seacliff to get through the last points of damage. Along the same lines, Cedric suggested Canopy Cover as a way to get evasion, because, let’s face it, getting in with Blight Mamba requires a lot of work.

The final list for Battle Royale:

It’s difficult to build a sideboard for a deck as aggressively linear as this one. Plummet allows you to defeat Baneslayer Angel without having to burn a bunch of pump spells. Gigantiform is actually very good in green mirrors where your opponent will try to clog up the board with a bunch of guys, and you’ll run out of pump spells pretty quickly trying to break through. Culling Dais is for red decks, which are a pretty rough matchup because they can just kill all of your guys without a ton of effort. I actually considered sideboarding Hornet Sting just to kill Spikeshot Elder but went with Dais instead to try and eke out some card advantage. Autumn’s Veil is quite good against the U/B Control decks that have started to crop up.

I put Nature’s Claim in the sideboard because I knew I was going to have to play a match against Gavin. I had no idea what he was going to play, but I was pretty sure that Claim was going to be good against it. As it turned out, Gavin was playing a Vampire beatdown deck, but the Claims were still good against Matt Sperling Pyromancer Ascension deck.

A brief note: Battle Royale decks are designed to cost 30 tickets or less on Magic Online. I used
MTGO Traders

as a price guide:

4 Blight Mamba .05 = .2
4 Necropede .2 = .8
4 Ichorclaw Myr .25 = 1
4 Cystbearer .05 = .2
4 Carrion Call .08 = .32
4 Corpse Cur .05 = .2
4 Primal Bellow .04 = .16
4 Adventuring Gear .03 = .12
4 Vines of Vastwood .05 = .2
4 Misty Rainforest 3.50 = 14
3 Verdant Catacombs 4 = 12
3 Gigantiform .08 = .24
3 Plummet .03 = .09
4 Culling Dais .05 = .2
3 Nature’s Claim .02 = .08
2 Autumn’s Veil .05 = .1

Total = 29.71

As you can see, you can swap in Giant Growth for Adventuring Gear, cut the fetchlands, and build the deck for about five tickets. Or, if you’re balling out of control, you can pony up the dough for an extra Verdant Catacombs. I should probably note that I deliberately avoided the use of Terramorphic Expanse to power up Adventuring Gear; it’s typically pretty bad to have a land enter the battlefield tapped after the first turn.

Brief matchup rundown:

Mono-Green Ramp decks are actually pretty good matchups. Aside from Khalni Garden, they can only avoid infection by trading off their mana creatures, which is pretty good for you. If they manage to get to Primeval Titan on turn 4 and get double Garden, life is pretty hard; if they have Wurmcoil Engine instead, you’re usually in very good shape. (Unless your opponent is scum and has Fog in his sideboard, in which case there’s not a lot you can do if they draw Fog and leave G up.)

Blue-based control decks are also decent matchups. Those decks are quite slow and can only really interact with the board in early turns with Condemn and Wall of Omens. You can embarrass Condemn pretty easily with Vines of Vastwood, and all of your pump can eat through Wall of Omens pretty quickly. Carrion Call is a good trump to Day of Judgment, and really, all you need to worry about is them playing a Baneslayer Angel you can’t get through or using Gideon Jura to soak up all of your damage.

Red decks are pretty bad; you can’t win them all. If your opponent is super greedy and saves all of his removal to use on your turn in response to a pump spell, you can usually blow him out pretty badly with a second pump spell. If they ration their removal carefully, though, you’ll struggle quite a bit.

Midrange green decks are hard to classify as a single category, but broadly, you’re pretty good against the slower decks with Genesis Wave and Oracle of Mul Daya, and you’ll have some work to do against the Elf decks that can trade aggressively and get into a midgame with Fauna Shaman or something similar going. You can come over the top of the Elf decks with Gigantiform, though; it really depends a lot on how your opponent is configured for the matchup.

The Battle Royale occurred on Tuesday.

My first match was against Todd Anderson, who was playing Vampires. The first game went pretty well; he played Viscera Seer, I played Blight Mamba, he laughed at me. I played a couple more creatures and attacked. Todd let one of them through, so I killed him with a flurry of pump spells.

The second game saw Todd’s tech for the matchup come out. When he played Pawn of Ulamog on turn 3, I had no idea how I was going to win. I had a Cystbearer holding down the fort and a Blight Mamba that was slowly working its way through some Eldrazi Spawn, but Todd had Gatekeeper of Malakir to whittle down my team and eventually got Bloodghast and Viscera Seer going with his Pawn. I punted when Todd used Urge to Feed to kill one of my creatures and pump up his team before attacking me; I used a fetchland activation to keep my Adventuring Gear-equipped Cystbearer alive in combat instead of blocking with a different creature and leaving myself Soaring Seacliff as an out. Drawing the Seacliff on the next turn was pretty embarrassing.

The third game was a little anticlimactic; I kept Blight Mamba, Carrion Call, Canopy Cover, and lands. Todd had Gatekeeper of Malakir when I put the Cover on the Mamba, and I drew basically all lands from then on.

My second match was against Matt Sperling. Matt gamed the system a bit; it turns out that you can just build the Pyromancer Ascension combo deck for under thirty tickets online. That’s useful to know. In the first game, Matt tapped out for Jace Beleren, and I killed him on the spot.

The second game didn’t go nearly so smoothly; I lost my team to Pyroclasm and got my next two creatures countered by Mana Leak before Matt untapped and ascended. I started hitting F6 while making some tea; eventually I noticed I was dead.

In game 3, Matt double mulliganed and was never really in it. I traded some creatures for burn spells and then blew up his Pyromancer Ascension with Nature’s Claim while poking away with a Blight Mamba. After a while, Matt’s humiliation was complete.

My last match was against Gavin Verhey. Gavin, like Todd, was playing Vampires. As in my match with Todd, I embarrassed Gavin pretty thoroughly when some miserable 1/1 suddenly got +8/+8 in combat and killed him. I even got to look like a master when I just automatically clicked on his Bloodthrone Vampire as the target for Necropede’s “put into a graveyard” trigger when Gavin was holding Urge to Feed. It was pretty neat.

Gavin destroyed me in the next two games without much effort. I didn’t draw many creatures, Gatekeeper of Malakir kept coming up and demanding that I pay the toll, and it was all over very quickly.

The poison deck is actually a reasonable contender in Standard, assuming that you don’t have to battle a bunch of Zombie decks. The version without fetchlands probably has the best matchups against the format for how much it costs. I encourage folks to give it a try at Friday Night Magic. Let me know how it goes!

Max McCall
max dot mccall at gmail dot com