I’ve been brainstorming for this Battle Royale for the last couple of weeks, ever since Craig asked if I was interested in participating. Of course I was; I actually love building decks. I knew there were things I wanted to try, things that I wouldn’t actually spend much time on under normal circumstances, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so.
The first deck I built was an aggro Red Green snow deck, which I was certain would meet all the monetary constraints of the Battle Royale. The deck was full of commons and uncommons that weren’t in anything yet; hell, I even cut Ohran Vipers without much regret. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to cut the Scrying Sheets, which were one of the main cards I wanted to explore in the new format. After browsing the bulletin board, I quickly realized that I’d be well over my spending limit with this deck, and not even getting to play something really interesting.
Normally, when I’m building a deck, there are all kinds of constraints taken into account throughout the process. Typically, the constraints speak to any given deck’s viability. Are the cards legal in the format? What demands do metagame forces place on the deck? One thing I never worry about is the cost of the cards. It’s a strange and frustrating limit for me to have to pay attention to. So of course, I put the Battle Royale on the backburner, considering some random ideas during the past couple of weeks, but mostly working on fully endowed Standard decks that would enable me to actually earn some spending tix online.
The most recent constraint on my deck building? I’ve been trying to break Counterbalance and Sensei’s Diving Top. It’s true, not a lot needs to be done to make these two cards a game-winning combination. With a little attention to the arrangement of your decks mana costs, and to the mana costs significant in the popular decks, Top and Balance easily become an extremely frustrating-to-play-against disruption engine. The first few steps in breaking Balance and Top have been explored already. Mori’s deck from Japanese Nationals increases the effectiveness of the Dreidel by including Dark Confidant (and to a lesser extent, sometimes shuffler, Muddle the Mixture), another card that wins games in tandem with Top. Other decks have used Coldsnap’s Scrying Sheets to fill that card advantage role. Certainly, there’s not much incentive to not have both Bob and Sheets in the same deck. Muddle the Mixture also smooths out the Counterbalance side of the plan, tutoring up the game breaker in the appropriate match-ups.
I’ve wanted to push things further – to really find out how broken a Balance Top deck could be. These kind of explorations tend to have pretty funky results. The first thing I looked for were cards that affected the top of the library. With no Brainstorm available anywhere in sight, the most appealing options were Reclaim and Congregation at Dawn. Reclaim was quickly pushed aside after fitting Counterbalances into Greater Gifts became an exercise in ineptitude (I’m just not familiar enough with that deck to go making changes blind… actually, the major limiting factor here is my MTGO budget. I can’t really afford to put together I deck I don’t know the quality of.) So I built a U/G/w control deck with a Congregation package of Hierarch, Meloku, Keiga, and Simic Sky Swallower to support the glut of two- and three-mana spells already feeding Counterbalance. I lost one silly game where I countered a Wrath with Congregation, then played Meloku still floating the Hierarch for more Wrath protection. My opponent played a Meloku to kill mine, then another to kill me. Probably I should’ve floated the four and the five until I could play SSS with a ton of Balance food floating. The deck also had the Sheets engine with a set of Into the Norths to kick it off. Not sure if the deck is any good, but the core is definitely strong.
The next deck I built was U/W Sheets, Balance, Top…and Story Circle. The idea behind the deck is to supplement Counterbalance with extreme board control elements. Of course, the non-Battle version has Wrath, but since this Royale is more of a “with cheese” affair, I’m just going to show you the budget version.
Here’s the decklist:
Here’s the card-by-card analysis with pricing for everything that needs it in parentheses:
Compulsive Research – Mike Krumb said the card was bad in the deck because it clears the top of your library when you have Top and Balance in play. That’s true, if you screw up. But usually when you have the combo out, Research sits on top of your library and counters lots of three-mana spells. It also drastically smooths out your early game and helps dig for answers to problem cards that have already resolved.
Faith’s Fetters – The catch-all, and the best card available at four mana when Wrath is out of your budget range.
Millstone (2 for 1) – The moneyed version wins with Yoseis. This build has Ironfoots for beatdown, but the Millstone is an excellent win condition in control and Counterbalance mirrors. The one maindeck can be found with Muddle.
Sensei’s Divining Top (1) – Has refused an interview today. Such a primadonna.
Condemn (2 for 1, or 1) – Just the most efficient way to deal with all kinds of attackers.
Counterbalance (2 for 1) – The nail in the coffin.
Phyrexian Ironfoot (4 for 1) – The guy is huge and made of snow, but he doesn’t melt when it’s hot in the kitchen, or crack under extreme pressure.
Scrying Sheets (8) – The card advantage produced by this thing starting fairly early in a game is absurd. This also helps fuel your Compulsive Researches, ensuring that you always have land to pitch.
Boreal Shelf (4 for 1 to 8 for 1)
In the sideboard I wanted some actual hard counters and efficient win conditions for control match-ups. For aggro decks, I didn’t want much, and Repeal seemed like an effective catch-all for whatever my Battle Royale patsy ends up playing. The sideboard cost about 2 tix. The maindeck rings up at about 23 – 24 tix. With a little work, everything can be had for 25. I’ll let you know how it all works out next week.
Until next time,