Blog Elemental – Constructing Preconstructed

I have a running list of ideas I’d like to make into interesting articles, article series, or even a weekly column. The”Magic blog,” unsurprisingly, was on this list, and so is another idea I’m planning to try out when Fifth Dawn reaches Magic Online…

Blog Elemental – Constructing Preconstructed

June 18, 2004

Betrayers of Kamigawa has wrapped and traveled to Editing land. It will be a few weeks until the next assignment starts up and at least a month until I know my official credits. As a result, I find myself with more time on my hands than usual. When I have time on my hands I think. When I think, strange things happen.

I have a running list of ideas I’d like to make into interesting articles, article series, or even a weekly column. The”Magic blog,” unsurprisingly, was on this list, and so is another idea I’m planning to try out when Fifth Dawn reaches Magic Online.

My thought is to take a Fifth Dawn preconstructed deck and start playing it, slowly swapping cards out to replace with new cards of my choice. I’m interested to see how a preconstructed deck, which is obviously inferior to almost any deck in the Casual Constructed room, can slowly evolve into something worth playing.

People have tried this experiment in the past, or at least something reasonably similar. Unfortunately, the temptation of someone starting with a preconstructed base is to re-create the deck rather than evolve it. A seasoned pro might look at the”Stampede” deck and think,”Okay, that’s a Red/Green aggro deck. To make a R/G aggro deck in today’s Standard here’s how to build it…” This isn’t the wrong approach, but a) that’s not an approach that will resonate with a newer player actually trying to turn a preconstructed deck into something playable (which happens all the time), and b) it misses out on an opportunity to find hidden gems in the precon decklist. Besides, I would be aiming to create a fun deck to play, not necessarily a killer tournament deck.

I like the idea of really going in with an open mind, allowing myself to be swayed by quirky cards and neat card interactions. My Stampede deck might actually become a dedicated Rite of Passage deck, or a mono-Red”haste” deck, or a creatureless Red/Green Goblin Cannon deck. The seeds for all of those, and a lot more, are sitting in the Stampede deck waiting to take shape. It would be interesting to see where my own muse would lead me over time.

I also picture the deck evolution to happen over weeks and dozens of games rather than just eye-balling the decklist and shuffling a few times. A slow evolution is more powerful for the newer player, I think, and it allows readers to chime in with ideas during the process. My Diary for Doctorjay series took a pretty similar approach and probably lay the groundwork for this”constructing preconstructed” idea.

So that’s the plan as soon as Fifth Dawn finally makes its way to Magic Online. If it doesn’t sound entertaining, bear with me since I’m pretty confident it will be worth reading. At the very least you will have further window into the very odd way I approach deckbuilding.

The question now is… which preconstructed deck? Stampede? Nuts and Bolts? Sunburst? Special Forces? When in doubt, I lean on randomization. As July draws nearer I’ll roll a four-sided die, ask my wife to choose a number from one to four, or throw the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit novels into the air and see which lands closest to me.

Blog Elemental – In Search of Kaldra

June 17, 2004

I think the first question a deck trying to summon Kaldra is going to face is how many pieces of Legendary Equipment it wants to use. Steelshaper’s Gift allows a deck to have a single copy of the Helm of Kaldra, Shield of Kaldra, and Sword of Kaldra, so I think that is going to be the most commons solution, and certainly the most elegant. On the other hand, all three cards are significant (if pricey) boosts to any creature, so it’s not inconceivable to include multiple copies along with extra creatures to equip. Empyrial Plate is a nice addition to a deck like this since it does something useful with those extra copies of Kaldra pieces stuck in your hand.

The second question to answer is how many creatures are in the deck. If you use too many, then you might as well make a White Weenie Equip deck, which is drifting pretty far from a pure Kaldra deck. Also, you will probably win through creatures wielding Kaldra’s toys long before you ever get to summon Her (I have decided Kaldra is a”her”). A creatureless deck, on the other hand, is often going to be putting killer Equipment into play for no reason and is veeeeerrrry reliant on all three being in place at one time. March of the Machines helps here a little, I guess.

Finally, like so many cards I build decks around, any Kaldra deck needs to a) survive long enough to pull off its trick, and b) have loads of mana available to get everything into play.

With these questions in mind, here is how I would first approach summoning the almighty Kaldra. My answer to the first question is to use few copies of the Equipment to make room for mana acceleration and defense. My answer to the second question is to use a small core of creatures who are meant to block faithfully until Kaldra shows up.


Standard-legal deck

4 Wall of Hope

4 Leonin Den Guard

4 Wall of Swords

2 Ageless Sentinels

4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Steelshaper’s Gift

4 Rampant Growth

4 Wing Shards

2 Pulse of the Fields

2 Helm of Kaldra

1 Shield of Kaldra

1 Sword of Kaldra

4 Elfhame Palace

4 Windswept Heath

14 Plains

2 Forest

I should probably work harder to include Tel-Jilad Justice, Oxidize, or Naturalize into the mix. My decks aren’t usually dictated by any sort of metagame, but that doesn’t mean I have to be completely ignorant of the fact that lots of non-tournament decks use artifacts thanks to the Mirrodin block. I guess you could drop the Ageless Sentinels, Pulses, and Heaths for four Tel-Jilad Justice, one Forest and three Plains if you need them and/or want to make the deck truly inexpensive to build.

My enthusiasm for decks rarely lasts, but right now I’m feeling very antsy for Fifth Dawn to reach Magic Online so I can try this sucker out.

Blog Elemental – The First Gray Shade of Dawn

June 16, 2004

There are sixty-five artifacts in Fifth Dawn and only twenty cards of each color, so it’s hardly fair to do all of the artifacts in one menu installment. Here are my faves through roughly the first half, letters A through I.

Class IV (Cards I like that others are talking about or using)

Blasting Station

Truth be told, I like all of the Stations. My wee deckbuilding voice tells me to make a deck using all the Stations together in a combo deck in addition to decks around each of them individually. Yes, I love card cycles that much. Even still, I am more attracted to Blasting Station than Grinding Station (the other Station included in today’s arbitrary division of artifacts), because of an innate love of pingers like Goblin Sharpshooter. Blasting Station gives some creature control and direct damage to mono-Green and mono-White weenie decks, and has obvious synergy with Patriarch’s Bidding. The combination with Myr Incubator is just silly.

Crucible of Worlds

Enough has already been said about this card. It does something relatively unique in Magic, which is attractive. I don’t feel the need to try every conceivable use exhaustively, and I’m not as attracted to making a Seismic Assault deck as everyone else seems to be. No, I want a Green thirty-land Land Deck using Stalking Stones and Blinkmoth Nexus as the only unstoppable”creatures.”

Energy Chamber

My reaction to this card is remarkably similar to Power Conduit; there are just too many options here to pursue, so instead of getting inspired I get de-motivated. I wish there was more to say, but mostly – just like with Power Conduit – my mind shuts down. One day I’ll make a deck focused on charge counters, and both cards will sit front and center along with the faithful Coretapper.

Class III (Cards I like that no one else seems to like)

Fist of Suns

I’m not sure if the Timmy side of my personality has gotten stronger in my old age, or if I’ve always been this focused on doing Big Things(tm) with Big Spells(tm). Either way, Fist of Suns certainly appeals to me. I want to cast Winds of the Plague and Searing variety. I want to summon Darksteel Colossi and Phage. I want to do a database search for cards that cost seven mana or more and cram them all into one deck with Fist of Suns smiling happily at the center. Of course, a straight-on Phage deck would be fun too.

Class II (Cards I really like that others are talking about or using)

Helm of Kaldra

I admit it, I’m a total sucker for cards like these. The Nightstalkers that summon Spirit of the Night, the Dark Supplicant who prostrates himself for Scion of Darkness. Heck, even Kyuscu and Spitting Drake’s quest to become a Viashivan Dragon. I love ’em all! If I fail to see one in the Casual Constructed room of Magic Online, I am jumping all over a deck whose sole purpose is to get a Kaldra legend token into play.

Class I (Cards I really like that no one else seems to like)

Ensouled Scimitar

Sort of like the Helm above, my interest here is primarily a flavorful one. Bottom line: I think Ensouled Scimitar is a cool idea. The only problem with it – a problem that was less true when Dancing Scimitar showed up in decks a few years ago – is that five-toughness just doesn’t go as far as it used to. Maybe this fits into the Unstoppable Wall deck, or it’s part of a mono-Blue aggro-control deck, or a Pestilence-type deck, or maybe it’s in some wacky deck that switches its creatures’ power and toughness (Myr Quadropod anyone?). I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to find a deck for Ensouled Scimitar.

Note that probably my favorite card included in this artifact bunch is Guardian Idol. I just love how easily the Idol slips into so many of my decks. So why not include it on the menu? For me, these menus are a list of cards I may want to build a deck around. Guardian Idol is super spiffy, but not of the build-a-deck-around-me ilk.

Blog Elemental – Up All Night

June 15, 2004

I think I like theme decks more than the average fellow. In fact, here’s a quick recap of my first year of Magic:

My wife and I bought a single Ice Age starter and divided it into two thirty-card piles. After playing those”decks” for about three months, I was finally convinced to start buying additional packs. Then, one fateful day, I discovered singles at the local card shop and life as I knew it ended. For the next six months, I made a series of hundred-card theme decks along the lines of”The End of the World,””Four Seasons,””Gremlins,””Elephants,” and”Day and Night.” Those thematic games, with Sarah and I huddled around our dining room table, are some of my happiest Magic memories.

It’s amazing to me that even in that primitive first year of Magic what most attracted me about the game was its flavorful goodness. I had thought today I would make some Beacon of Unrest decks, but instead I’m turning to times of yore for a good ‘ole fashioned theme deck.

My theme decks have become sixty-card creations, but are still the one place where I dip into every card Wizards has printed. I remember that first year paying through the nose for Pale Bears simply because they fit into my”Arctic” deck. In fact, over the years here are the theme deck”rules” I’ve developed for… well, myself:

  • Normal constructed guidelines apply (maximum four of each card, sixty-card minimum, etc.).

  • You can use any card printed for Magic, including Unglued, Starter, and Portal cards, although certain cards can be banned or restricted for a particular theme.

  • The deck must be playable (it needs to have at least an outside chance of winning games).

  • Every card except basic, dual-, and pain-lands must fit the theme.

Trivia fact: Beacon of Unrest is the only card in Magic to have the word”unrest” in its name. Since I’m up late tonight, here is a stab at a Beacon of Unrest theme deck…


Theme deck

4 Restless Dead

4 Wake of Vultures

4 Nightmare

2 Duskwalker

1 Spirit of the Night

4 Helm of Awakening

4 Beacon of Unrest

3 Cruel Revival

2 Recurring Nightmare

2 Head Games

1 Darkness

1 Restless Dreams

1 Tortured Existence

1 Chime of Night

1 No Rest for the Wicked

1 Malevolent Awakening

24 Swamp

Blog Elemental – A Creepy Shade of Dawn

June 14, 2004

Today, for no reason whatsoever, I’m continuing my Fifth Dawn menu with a look at the Black cards.

Class IV (Cards I like that others are talking about or using)

Mephidross Vampire

Big and flavorful. The deck that a few folks have mentioned that appeals to me uses Red and/or Blue pingers to ensure a steady flow of +1/+1 tokens. It also occurs to me that Mephidross Vampire, Forgotten Ancient, and Energy Chamber start to form one serious headache of a deck.

Relentless Rats

I almost didn’t include the Rats on this list because they are currently so popular. Then I realized how much this card really does make me smile. Like a lot of folks, I want to toss twenty or thirty of these into a deck and see what happens. To me, though, it’s the support cards that make Relentless Rats decks interesting. If you can only use a small handful of nonland, non-Rats cards, how do you make those cards count? Speaking of which, here is another fun use for Brass Herald.

Class III (Cards I like that no one else seems to like)

Currently nothing to see here.

Class II (Cards I really like that others are talking about or using)

Bringer of the Black Dawn

It’s big, it’s cool, and I named it. Already I’ve brainstormed a number of decks using Bringer of the Black Dawn.”Toolbox” decks, those decks with a single copy of spells with ways to go grab them, have always appealed to me because of the ability to never feel completely lost in any game. It’s also hard to grow bored with a toolbox deck since they do so many different things. The problem, just like with this fella, is that cards which enable toolbox decks tend to be really popular so my interest wanes quickly.

Class I (Cards I really like that no one else seems to like)

Beacon of Unrest

A glance at my Mirrodin menu demonstrates how much I like reanimation cards. If I can dedicate a month of deckbuilding to Betrayal of Flesh, I can certainly get enthused about Beacon of Unrest. What is particularly interesting about the Beacon, though, is the ability to animate a) non-creature artifacts, and b) opposing creatures and artifacts. Pack a deck full of discard and you’re bound to find something tasty to use from your opponent.

So four White cards and four Black make the menu. I am nothing if not consistent.