As I was driving to a tournament with a friend recently, I was discussing the merits of Sulfuric Vortex and how it got around Worship, since it was loss of life, not damage. My friend differed, saying it was damage, not loss of life. I put $5 on my assertion.
Guess who paid for the burritos at Taco Bell?
There was a time when I could name every card by color, casting cost – even artist. That was several expansions and many thousands of brain cells ago. For those who caught that error in my last article…Well, you aren’t getting any burritos. I don’t have that kind of cash handy.
Prescript, Part 2
I’ve got a choice of visiting my girlfriend and attending the Oregon State-Washington State football game or my favorite Magic tournament of the year, as, sadly, they’re both on the same date (I should have checked the calendar beforehand).
The things I do for love. No States for me this year. Man, I thought I was due this year.
I’ll just have to win it in 2004.
But my absence won’t keep me from working on decks for States – after all, the High Plains Drifters are depending on me for really bad ideas.
This, of course, segues into the meat of the article. I’ve been playing around with decks built around Isochron Scepter, which may be almost Flametongue Kavu broken – the unusual uncommon you’d trade a good rare for – or just tantalizingly almost-broken.
In Standard, there are a large number of good targets – the best for the Scepter are Terror, Boomerang, Mana Leak, and Shock. It has been pointed out that you have the potential for a hideously broken combo with a first-turn land, Chrome Mox, Isochron Scepter, and Boomerang. The odds of getting that five-card combo in your opening hand are about 1.7%.
Not good odds… But I like the concept. I’ve always had a fondness for mana denial strategies, and, hey, we might have something here.
No Soup For You
4 Chrome Mox
4 Isochron Scepter
2 Guerilla Tactics
2 Shrapnel Blast
4 Mana Leak
4 Stone Rain
4 Molten Rain
4 Grid Monitor
2 Lay Waste
2 Seat of the Synod
4 Great Furnace
2 City of Brass
2 Shrapnel Blast
3 Sulfuric Vortex
The deck is pretty straightforward. In a perfect world, we get the five-card combo on turn 1… But in the event we don’t get that, we have powerful land destruction elements, which can be cast on turn 2 thanks to Chrome Mox, buying time until either a) lockdown can be achieved via Boomerang/Isochron Scepter or b) you imprint a good burn spell on the Scepter. Shock is the primary target, but Guerilla Tactics is acceptable as well and Shrapnel Blast will work quite nicely – hence the large numbers of artifact lands in the deck. I’ve been splitting the difference, but suspect the best way would be to commit to one or the other of the two, not both.
What the deck is lacking is a good card drawing engine. While blue has a lot of card drawing effects, the best are creature-dependent (Thieving Magpie, Curiosity, Coastal Piracy). With multiple cards with imprint, you run the risk of emptying your hand and running out of gas really early. Alas, poor Peek, I hardly knew ye.
This, however, does open the possibility of using Ensnaring Bridge and making this a Bridge-centric deck. I’ve toyed around with the idea, but I’m not ready to commit to it. If I was to add the Bridge, then I’d definitely add four Shrapnel Blast as well.
Grid Monitor is the lone creature du jour, a Terror-proof (but not Shatter-proof) body that’s cheap and hits hard. I’m not completely sold on this guy – he could be replaced by possibly Viashino Sandstalker or Slith Firewalker, two creatures I really like, but they’re very fragile. So for now, the Monitor makes the cut. If imprinted burn proves to be better, it just might go out entirely.
I wish I had a Black Vise wannabe to put in the deck. Sadly, Wizards has not seen fit to even give us a Viseling. I’ll just have to make do with what we have.
The sideboard has Shatter for Affinity-based decks (and, hey, it’s imprintable, too!), Starstorm for the Goblin hordes, Flashfires for Equipped White, MWC and R/W Slide, two extra Shrapnel Blast if you need the burn and Sulfuric Vortex for most other control decks.
When the deck clicks, it’s a house. When it doesn’t… Well, that’s why I’m not ready to declare it Tier I just yet.
Now, in an Extended deck, we have all sorts of insanity available, but the targets that stick out in my mind are Counterspell and Accumulated Knowledge. Goodness! Imprinting either of these cards is just nuts. Counterspell locks down an opponent almost completely, and AK can provide you with an Ancestral Recall a turn.
The best place for this combo? You could drop it into a Psychatog deck, giving you access to not only Terror but Vampiric Tutor and Diabolic Edict, however, I think mono-blue control is the best place for it.
4 Isochron Scepter
4 Chrome Mox
4 Force Spike
3 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Mana Leak
3 Cunning Wish
1 Mana Leak
1 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Scrabbling Claws
1 Mind Bend
1 Memory Lapse
The deck is built along the lines of old-school mono-blue – plenty of counters and card drawing, using the Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge engine, and a few very hard-to-deal-with creatures, your friends and mine, Masticore and Morphling. The mana base seems a little low – only twenty-two lands – but with Chrome Mox to speed the deck up, twenty-two feels right.
The maindecked Annuls may seem out of place, but it provides early defense against two otherwise hard-to-deal-with threats in Cursed Scroll and Pernicious Deed, which you’ll see out there in a few decks, methinks. I had some slots open, so I’m experimenting. Boomerang or Unsummon might fill this slot if the versatility of bounce proves to be more worthwhile.
The sideboard – I’ll be the first to admit that it’s really in the early stages. I filled it with good targets for both Cunning Wish and the Scepter – cards like Memory Lapse, Gainsay and Mind Bend, for example, and multiple copies of Chill (anti-Sligh) and Scrabbling Claws (anti-graveyard recursion).
I don’t know if this deck is going to light Extended on fire, but I like the concept. I’m not ready to call this a great deck for States, either. For States, I think the best decks, right now, are mono-black and mono-blue affinity-based decks.
But I could be wrong. It’s been known to happen once in a while.