Breaking Phage

Too often I would be dealt lethal damage before I could”go off”. The card that finally made the deck work was Phage the Untouchable. No other card in the game has the power to end a game in one turn so reliably, and in so very many ways.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Astute readers will note the date this was published (4/1/2003) and notice the Magic Humor banner up top. Far, far dimmer readers will have to have it explicitly explained to them that every way of accelerating Phage into play here will lose you the game automatically. Check our Ask The Virtual Judge if you need confirmation.

What I will reveal here today is the result of ten years of searching for the pinnacle of Magic immortality; the piece de resistance; the Holy Grail of ultimate Magic attainment – the perfect deck. By definition, the perfect deck theoretically would never allow opponents the opportunity to defeat you and would have a perfect record, regardless of the match-up or random factors such as mana screw.

Friends, I am here today to tell you that I have developed such a deck.

Ten long years it took me traveling thousands of dusty miles across America, visiting backwater shops and other Magic locales and playing countless numbers of games against opponents both worthy and contemptible – but I persevered, and I was successful. Rather than detail the long process involved in developing my lethal weapon, I will merely present to you the final product of the fruits of my labor and provide pointers on how to play it and give details on common matchups.

The End Game

1 Mox Diamond

1 Mox Emerald

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Pearl

1 Lotus Petal

1 Black Lotus

4 Reanimate

4 Hermit Druid

4 Eureka

4 Final Fortune

4 Phage the Untouchable

4 Sneak Attack

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Vampiric Tutor

4 Elvish Piper

4 Taiga

4 Badlands

4 Bayou

4 City of Brass

4 Tarnished Citadel

2 Gemstone Mine

Does not the brokenness of the deck jump out at you? Can you not see the raw power inherent in this build? Not only does this deck end games, it does so at concession-style speeds! There is never a possibility of a match ending in a draw. Your opponents can never deal lethal damage to you! In fact, this deck is so incredibly broken I asked two power experts their take on the deck, the famous German weightlifters Hans and Franz:

Hans:”It pumps… My stomach.”

Franz:”It fires my glutes in a most obscene manner.”

Did you catch that? This deck is so powerful, so hefty that packing it gives definition to your abs and tones your tush to boot! Yes, this Magic deck can actually enhance your standing among the babes… And it works so fast you will have time to cavort between matches!

In case you missed the obvious, let me detail how to play the deck. What you want to do is have an opening hand with Final Fortune or Hermit Druid and the mana to cast either, or Phage and some way to quickly get her into play. If you have neither, mulligan aggressively until you have the pieces. Do you know that a Beta Timewalk sells for nearly $300? Do you know why? Extra turns end games, I hear. Well, this deck carries four of the much, much cheaper red timewalk – and believe me, when you cast this card, the game is over.

All previous versions of this deck contained this card, but my record was not perfect, as I could not reliably ensure that I had it or the mana to cast it early. The deck lacked something…it needed another way to end a game quickly. For a while I tried using the Forbidden Crypt/Tormod’s Crypt combo, but it was far too slow and unreliable. Too often I would be dealt lethal damage before I could”go off”. The card that finally made the deck work was Phage the Untouchable. No other card in the game has the power to end a game in one turn so reliably, and in so very many ways.

The key to using Phage is to bypass her high-casting cost drawback by getting her into play cheaply. Do you know how fast Type I games can go? If you had to wait seven turns to cast her, you would surely be dealt lethal damage before you could get her into play. Well, in my deck I have four separate but equally lethal means of getting her into play rapidly: Eureka, Sneak Attack, Elvish Piper, or Reanimate. Believe me when I say this ends games quickly.

If you don’t have Phage or a way to get her into play but you are holding a Hermit Druid, you can still end the game very, very fast. Simply cast the Druid and activate his ability. Do not concern yourself with the fact there are no basic lands in your deck; you want all of your deck in your graveyard. The Odyssey block showed the awesome power of using the graveyard as a resource, and having your entire deck available to you for your use can only be seen as a plus. There is no way to abuse the graveyard in the above build, but you do not need to in order to be successful carrying out your plan. If you are lucky, you will be holding a Reanimate when you use the Druid’s ability and you can then target Phage in your library. Game over.

Or simply pass the turn. It does not matter at this point; there is little your opponent can do to interfere with your plan.

Another point for consideration is the fact that, at times, you actually can hard-cast Phage from your hand, and occasionally you can do it very early if you have the Black Lotus. I must ask you to refrain from doing this. Do you realize that by using the Black Lotus and Phage you are wasting two cards to get one into play? This is card disadvantage. What will you do if your opponent responds by casting Swords to Plowshares or Unsummon? You have just lost tempo, and a chance to end the game quickly. You may then be forced to play a long game before you can set up the combo again.

And another thing: Don’t even tell me you want to attack with Phage. I have heard this comment over and over again. What if they have blockers? Or Chastise, Gossamer Chains, or Tradewind Riders? All you will do in that case is increase the length of the game. Do not do it, even if they are mana-screwed and have no permanents on the table. They could have Vine Dryad, for God’s sake! Please, be reasonable!

There are some things to be concerned about when wielding this deck; mainly, people with puny minds will harass you and call you unpleasant things. I have been asked many times,”why don’t you just concede?” As if they thought they could beat me! They have absolutely no comprehension. They will call you an imbecile, fool, idiot, or other horrid approximation. They simply cannot understand the beauty of my creation. Normally, I would say that you must be better than them and take it in stride, letting the words slide off your back harmlessly – but I am sick of it. Fight back. Call them names and belittle their mothers. Trash talking has long been a part of the game, and it does no good to let words fester in your soul. Ten years of abuse is too much. I can’t take it any more. I give it back, and then some. I have no more room for bodies in my basement, so let loose your guns and you will be the better for it.

Now, I will detail some of the matchups you will encounter, and how to play them:

Psychatog/Any Control Strategy:

This is a match-up to fear. To play this correctly, you must understand the mindset of the typical control player. Most control players, you see, are actually dominated in life by their parents, and have no actual control of their lives. They desperately try to order and control everything else around them to make up for this glaring lack in their lives, and this carries over to their games as well. You must heap waves of derision upon them, anything to throw them off of their game because they have the tools to stop your plans. They will Duress away or counter your Eurekas and Sneak Attacks and Force Spike or Chainer’s Edict away your Hermit Druids. They will be mistrustful of all your intentions, as befits one unable to escape their parent’s clutches. Point this fact out to them, ask if they need their diapers changed, then cast Final Fortune. With no permanents on the table, they will let it through. Watch them scoop while you do. This match-up is hard, but eminently they will not defeat you.


The average Turboland player has few friends and cares little about outward appearance or other’s perceptions of him. He spends hours locked up in the bathroom with lubricants and magazines. Simply, the Onanist does not play well with others and is so self-absorbed that they pay little attention to those around them. This is all to your favor. While they are busy calculating and fondling their cards and ignoring anything you place on the table, you can”go off” with Phage reliably, provided you do it before turn 4. This matchup is the epitome of fist pumpitudeiness!


An automatic match for you. The typical Sligh player has protruding teeth, a sloping forehead, and drools uncontrollably. They are usually mon.o.syl.lab.ic. Spell this out for them. They won’t understand, but it doesn’t matter. They will hurt you, burn you, kill your Hermit Druids and Elvish Pipers – but they will not be able to stop your sorceries or enchantments. You could be in danger of actually dying to lethal damage here, but if you mulligan until you have Final Fortune, Sneak Attack, or Eureka in hand (along with Phage) there will be no problem. Play it smart, and beware using Reanimate as you could be Lightning Bolted in response if your life total is low even if you are targeting Phage because they will generally be too stupid to understand.

You may actually have to point out to them what happens when Phage comes into play using your combos. Do not be afraid to call over a judge if this is the case.

So, there it is – the deck with a perfect record. Try it and see how you like it, and if you can find a way to further ensure its reliability then let me know. Remember, the key to playing it is that you must stop your opponent from beating you before you can”go off” – anything else defeats the purpose of the deck.

Until later,

Tony Costa

[email protected]